K-12 Online Conference: Motivating Student Writers by Fostering Collaboration through Tagging and Aggregating

While this session was presented for students learning English, the stages of this project can be applied to any classroom where teachers encourage reading and writing skills. The presenters have 4 stages to motivate students to find others to communicate with on line.

Through the use of writing on blogs, and then tagging the posts, students find other students with a common interest and communicate with them via the commenting feature. All students use an “anchor tag”, in this case “writing_matrix”, so that they can find other students involved in the project. Additional tags are added to their posts (descriptive words) that tell explain what they are writing about. Technorati is used to help search out the writing_matrix blogs. Once a student finds a blog from the project they comment and initiate the conversation. The synthesis of finding common tags increases language skills and global awareness. They also gain an understanding of their contribution to group learning.

Once conversation has been initiated, tags are organized in del.icio.us. Students can subscribe to the tags which leads to finding what other people are writing based on the tags. Bloglines is used to subscribe to the blogs that they want to continue reading and commenting on.

I would like to work with teachers in our class this summer on incorporating the 4 stages into their practice, as well as the students. The juniors in our school do a presentation in May on a public policy topic. I think the use of tagging and feed readers help students see the relevancy of the work they are doing. This could also lead to good practice around reading periodicals on line.

Perhaps the most important part of this presentation, for me, was the reference to Stephen Downes that the learning in these kinds of projects is ineffable. Since the beginning of our 1:1 laptop project, I have struggled with how to show what students are learning. I KNOW that they have improved their learning, I just can’t quantify it. I know that when they complain how hard writing a blog post is, they are stretching themselves in ways that traditional models wouldn’t. They know that people other than the teacher is reading their work. At the completion of a course, students often give us feedback that while difficult, they really liked the process of blogging, particularly for reflection. They say they truly saw their own growth over time. How cool is that?

Thanks to Vance, Nelba, Doris, Rita, and Saša for this enlightening session.

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K-12 Online Conference: Classroom 2.0 or You Live Where?

Classroom 2.o Keynote by Clarence Fisher

I love how Clarence Fisher wove his story from start to finish. He explained that he has lived in the same town he grew up in but has travelled all over the world through the use of technology tools. I so appreciated his mission statement about teaching comes first and that technology is part of of making teaching better.
Clarence begins with the notion that today’s employers are looking for creative and innovative workers, but that our current model of school is not preparing our students for their future. Enter Classroom 2.0. There are four parts to Classroom 2.0: Pedagogy, Tools, Relationships, and Redefining.

Pedagogy: Clarence states that we must examine the way we teach and what happens in the classroom. Collaboration and reaching out to others to make connections is important. I found that to be especially interesting since the new ISTE standards list Communication and Collaboration as skills 21st Century learners need to have.

Tools: The tools simply help us to with the teaching and learning. He maintains that having a blog space for students allows them to have place to meet and collaborate with others globally (with internet safety of course!) and learn from them. Other tools such as RSS allow students to set up a reading list of their interests and curriculum work. The 9th graders at my school are currently working on presenting their work to their parents for the Student Led Conferences. This year we gave them a choice of what tool they could use. Almost all of them chose to have a blog. Once students have their own space, it could become their work area. They could organize all their tools through their blog.

Relationships: Collaboration means networking. I know that Clarences’ students read and comment on many blogs. What an incredible experience for those students. The authentic audience raises the bar for reading and writing skills. I can only imagine how these students will collaborate with others when they finish school.

I do struggle with how students have relationships with information. Many teachers think that because students know how to use the computer, they know how to find and use information. Assignments which ask students to regurgitate facts back to the teacher also do not help with the information seeking process. It’s easy for students to copy and paste the facts the teacher wants. I think we now have to focus on how to find good information the research process, and stimulate a passion for wanting to find information. I’m not sure that any of these skills can be assessed, and it’s much harder to “grade” these skills, but they are necessary for the future.

Redefine: I like Clarence’s vision of the classroom as a studio. His students have a job and they come to school ready to work in a collaborative environment where it is perfectly acceptable for them to work together on a project. I have noticed that this tends to occur naturally. The students in my school seem to love to work in small groups but still communicate with others in their network via instant messaging tools. Somehow they share the information they have learned.

So why try to asses the technology skills? We were thinking of incorporating the NETS standards into our school but have determined that should not be a separate set of standards, but be included in our daily practice. As Alan November has stated, we need the innovators to keep our country going. Innovation comes from using skills that encourage deep and critical thinking in a global communication network, no matter where it’s located.

K-12 Online Conference: Inventing New Boundaries

Pre Conference Session by David Warlick

I watched this video twice because there is so much information in it. I am always impressed by how David makes connections about learning and education. My AHA moment was the notion of students being “free agents”. As teachers, we are no longer able to predict what careers students will choose in the future. David uses the example of watching his father get ready for work. He is part of the last generation where students knew what careers were available to them and tended to choose a job similar to their parent. Now due to the change on communications and technology, people are able to work from home or have a business that is essentially on the road most of the time. People can create “as needed” careers. David is a good example of a “free agent”, he makes his living delivering new ideas to teachers. I wonder what my current high school students will choose for careers? And what new ideas they will dream up?

There’s an interesting shift going on right now in the classrooms in my own school. Our students have been generally happy to receive and give back information to a teacher on a one way basis. They are complacent enough to sit in front of Powerpoint or copy notes from the board. But, every student in my high school now has a laptop. And some teachers are beginning to realize that there are some new ideas they can add to their teaching. They are experimenting with communication and collaboration. And, I am hearing something interesting; classes where students are required to use Web 2.0 tools such as Voicethread and Edublogs, complain about how HARD it is. But for the most part, they like it!

So what’s the next step? How do we take David’s three conditions, stir in teacher’s knowledge and produce a community of free agent, self directed learners, who collaborate on their learning? Whew! I struggle with this as it means a change in teaching practice. I see the benefit, I anticipate that others will too. I am looking at the Karl Fisch model of personal learning networks as a means to improve instruction. I hope some of the other K-12 sessions will give me some more ideas to address this question. Thanks David, for such a thought provoking session.

K-12 Online Conference Posts

I am taking the K-12 Online Conference 2007 for graduate credit, which means I’ll be posting to my blog and contributing to the PSU and SAS course page about some of the sessions. I am looking forward to debriefing, in my own head, some of the learning. I also look forward to taking time to reflect, something I don’t often do. It’s amazing how this conference lives on!

Professional Development on steroids!

I am not sure if this is a good thing or not, but I just loved this evening. I attended three professional development opportunities almost at the same time. It was wild and woolly, educational and stimulating!

The first was with David Warlick in a fireside chat on Elluminate. There were over 100 people in the chat room which was hard to follow but the chat can be downloaded for later. Before David came on we were broken down in to small groups in the caht room. That was pretty interesting. I thought David did an excellent job considering he had a million questions thrown at him… He spoke about “reinventing boundaries”. Here’s a link to the chat.

Next came Will Richardson on UStream TV. He gave a demo of what UStream and the chat room can do. This is a very cool new tool that was just released about 2 weeks ago. Be looking for some cool stuff to come .,

And finally Women of the Web 2.0 with David Jakes and Ewan McIntosh. Here’s the chat log and video of the session.

Professional Development:

  • change teacher behavior (change in practice)
  • Increase student learning
  • model professional learning
  • teachers model being learners
  • Make comparison to what teachers know
  • make a personal learning network

Idea from Marie: Power Hour for 1 hour with teachers bi-weekly
Idea from Kern: “Tech Sherpas” Students adopt a classroom

The power of these sessions was the network of people collaborating online. It was wonderful to log in a folks saying hi (many of these folks I have not met face to face). Then while listening, people are talking about all kind of things related to the speakers topic. One of the great questions is “Why aren’t we doing this in the classroom?” This was an amazing hour. I need to read the chat transcript again because so much was going on.

I can’t wait for what comes next!

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K12 Online Conference Keynote

davidw.jpgDavid Warlick gave the keynote for the twitter.jpg K-12 Online Conference this morning. It was great to have chat, Twitter and David speaking. People were commenting and giving help while the presentation was giving.

What I liked best about this keynote is that it speaks specifically to changing the education model. Students are learning as a community. The current model of school does not expect group learning. “The future depends on solving this problem.” I plan to use this video with staff.

Other points I plan to work on with teachers:

  • Changes in the kinds of job we prepare students for
  • Free agents: what a concept!
  • Community of people learning together
  • How we use information has changed and what we can do with it
  • Can our students produce a product that can compete with other products
  • Students remixing content
  • Change is within the grasp of those of us paying attention

Flat Classrooms

  • Info-savy students (need teachers to work info)
  • New Information landscape
  • Unpredictable future

I will be watching and listening to this many more times. Thanks David!

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