Archive for the “Teaching” Category
The school I work at recently received a large state grant to develop an online curriculum that can meet the needs of at risk students. One of the positions needed is a person who has experience developing online courses with Moodle and has been a classroom teacher working with at risk students. The job will require recruiting and training 20 teachers, who will develop the curriculum content. The using the content develop an online curriculum that will help at risk and special ed students earn high school credits so they can graduate from high school. I meet all the requirements of the job and hope to be able to take on the position.
I also decided that developing this grant is a process which can be developed into a presentation at edtec conferences. Other educators would be interested in how the grant was developed and implemented. So to keep a record of the process I am going to blog about it.
Our school has a new curriculum director and she was hired just before school started. She is over seeing this grant and another as well as all the other responsibilities she has. So, it has not be easy to have a long conversation with her about all the questions I have about how developing this online curriculum will work. She has already hired a person who will help me (if I get the position) develop the Moodle end of this. He is not an educator and has no experience with Moodle. His experience is in databases and assessment design. He will help develop the assessment part of each course.
The grant group has started a Google Wave as a way to communicate about issues, meetings, and ideas. So far the group has found Wave very useful and will use it in the training process.
This blog will also be a way for me to work out ideas and questions I have.
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Pete Reilly is an education blogger that I make sure I read as often as possible because he gets me thinking. His recent post titled An Inconvenient Truth was not about global warming, but about the disconnect between educational mission statements and how they are embodied in schools.
When the exective director of the school system I work in called together a group of teachers and supervisors to write a vision statement it was more about what we now do than a vision of where we want to be. The school system serves special ed students so developing 21 century work place skills was not something we thought about. Once the process was complete we all went back to doing our jobs pretty much the way we always have, not giving much thought to the process we went through. I can not tell you what our vision statement is.
The staff at the school are generally dedicated teachers who work with some very difficult students in isolated classrooms and it would be helpful if at least once a year we reviewed the vision statement that brought us together for a couple of weeks.
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T.H.E. Journal reports that Texas is leaving the door open for schools to purchase electronic textbooks in addition to paper books.
While this change does not take education to the totally open and flexible iTunes purchasing model as some would prefer, it does provide significant flexibility to districts. In addition, it opens up the Texas market to a large number of companies that heretofore had no chance to compete. For the basal publishers that have owned the market, creativity and flexibility will, or at least should, become a new mantra.
California’s e-learning proposial is stil being sorted out.
There are already worrying signs that California is trying to go digital on a shoestring. Traditionally, publishers provide schools with a complete package: student textbooks, teacher’s guides with sample lessons and tests, and teacher training courses. In the emerging model, teachers must assemble their own package, combining e-books with free course “wikis” (shared online resources any user can update or revise), and networking with other teachers over the web to share best practices. It’s a new responsibility some would prefer to avoid.
The digital divide needs to be closed not just in hardware, but even more important in what to do with the hardware and software. Most teachers are not online in any significat way and and have never created a wiki or blog. Schools will have to open up their filtering and the 19th century modle of edcation will have to be scraped.
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As I was looking through my Authors@Google subscription this morning I found a talk by Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. The bank give micro-loans of a few dollars to the poor of Bangladesh who then use the money to start businesses in their villages. The bank has been so successful that 7 million people in Bangladesh now receive loans and the rate of repayment is 98%. I learned about this bank through my wife, Nena, who read Yunus’s book. As I listened to Yunus’s talk about how the bank works I was struck by his approach to teaching the poor of Bangladesh how to start and run a small business. The bank doesn’t “teach” business skills, they believe that everyone is an entrepreneur and all a person needs is someone to believe they can be successful.
They I read Pete Reilly’s blog post The Wolves of Learning.
Our natural curiosity is like a wild animal; it hunts where it needs to in order to satisfy its deep hunger. As children, we awaken each day with an insatiable appetite to learn. It is in our early years that we are “wolves of learning”. There is a deep, DNA-based, natural connection between learning and survival; call it the burning relevance of the empty stomach.
Pete writes that we have domesticated “the wolves of learning” and children now expect to be feed with out going on the hunt. Unlike Yunus, our education system does not believe that everyone is a natural learner and entrepreneur. We believe that children need to be taught and teachers have the answers. As Yunus has shown that is not true. Or as Pete says,
Let us find ways to give our children back their birthright, their natural curiosity and facility to learn. There have to be ways that we can organize our learning institutions to accommodate individual curiosity and the standardized curriculum. I believe that thoughtful educators can create environments that are less restrictive and provide much more natural habitat for learning. Let us find ways to foster the wildness and thrill of learning again. Let us answer the “Call of the Wild”.
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The 1:1 wireless laptop classroom is still in the process of being developed. Jake (IT) and I put a package together of 12 Lenovo netbooks, an HP for the teacher, a mimio capture system, and an LCD projector. The classroom has 12 special ed students who learn differently. At the present time there are 8 desktops in various stages of usefulness.
I have been working weekly in the classroom introducing different Web 2.0 tools to the students and the teacher. The students have epal email accounts, a Delicious account and the class has a wiki. The teacher is very excited about the laptops and is eager to learn about integrating technology into the curriculum. She will be going to the MassCUE Technology Leadership Symposium with myself, Jake and 3 other teaches. None of these teaches have been to an edtech conference. If their first exposure to several hundred educators excited about the changes technology can bring to education is anything like mine, their approach to teaching will be changed.
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Finding connections between bits of information you gather over time is one of the joys of living.
First bit. I am taking a series of workshop from the Five College Center for East Asian Studies and during the first workshop I learned that for 2000 years the Confucian system of civil service provided a way for men to gain social and economic status. To become a civil servant a man had to memorize the Analects of Confucius, which are several books. If a man could pass a three day long test he could join the civil service and bring honor and money to his family and village.
Second bit. The March 2009 issue of Discover magazine has an article called “Are We Still Evolving?”. The researchers argue that cultural pressure, such as the civil service test, “… in some cultures, certain kinds of intellectual ability may have been tied to reproductive success.”
Third bit. High School graduation rates: Asian 77%, White 75%, Black 50%, Hispanic 53%. Since success in high school is measured by the ability to memorize facts it may be that the students of Asian ancestry have benefited from 2000 years of their ancestors memorizing The Analects of Confucius.
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I was one of about 80 people that tuned into the Will Richardson interview of Clay Shirky today. Will used Ustream to conduct the interview so that it would be streamed live and recorded for later viewing. Of course a chat was going on along with the interview, and Will invited questions from the “audience”. As most Internet technologies are today, it was glitchy and at one point Will lost his Internet connection and had to reboot.
The interview only lasted about 40 minutes and Will only got to two questions. Clay is a very practiced speaker and was to the point in the discussion. The topic of the discussion was about how the concepts in his book affect education. The main point I got from the interview, which I plan to watch again, was that we have had a revolution in the way knowledge is transferred or taught.
If you wanted to learn from Plato you had to go where he was and speak directly with him. After he died there was no way to easily access his teachings and his knowledge died with him. As writing further developed a limited number of book were written, but they were still difficult to access and not many people could read them. Transfer of knowledge was still limited in time and place. When the printing press was invented it made books more available and time and space became more flexible. You had access to knowledge from people who were not even in your country or alive, but direct access to the alive person was still very limited. It could be years before a book became available new knowledge may have been developed by the time the book was published. The telephone, film and TV has made access to knowledge and education even more immediate and accessible. But, from most people the access to knowledge still happens in an education setting.
Clay is suggesting that the reason for physical schools is that it is the most cost effective way to distrubite knowledge to the greated number of people. He goes on to say the a “tectonic shift” is occuring in the way groups are formed, business is conducted and knowledge is trasnfered because of the Internet and social network tools. Today’s interview is an example of the breaking down of the time/place/access to knowledge. Clay was in New York City, Will Richardson was in New Jersey, I was in Belchertown, MA, and the other 80 participants were all over the world. We all participted in a live event that was coordiated by one person for free. Beside observing the interview we were able to ask Clay and Will questions and there was a chat going on with the 80 participants. I did not have to sign up for a class with Clay Shirly at NYU or travel to London to attend a lecture. I am reading his book now and I have read his blog and watched two recordings of lectures he has given. I doubt that I would have had access to the video recordings of his lectures before the Internet. Even if a televison station would have thought it was worth their time and effort to record his lecture, the recording would have been show once or twice and then put in a vault some where at a university for some curious grad student to view it in 10 years.
As the the cost of orgaizating access to distributed knowledge decreases, will students be satisfied with having to travel to a central building to sit in rows and listen to a one-way conversation of a pre-determainded curriculum?
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I listened to two very interesting podcast today from Edtech Talk (they all seem to be interesting). Edtech Talk is part of the World Bridges Network, a collection of educational podcasts anyone can take part in, check their calendar for the latest daily podcast.
The first podcast is “Teachers Teaching Teachers # 98 – Learning to be unschooly” The conversation included teachers and students from around the world and its subject was triggered by a post on Youth Twitter by a South Korean student named Soojin. The term schooliness was coined by Clay Burell in his blog. The podcast discussion focused on how to use the Read/Write web to engage students in authentic learning and not as a fancy worksheet.
From elgg to DrupalThe second podcast, Teachers Teaching Teachers #99 – From elgg to Drupal, was very timely because I have been having a discussion with our executive director and curriculum director about developing a CMS. I have used Moodle for a couple of years, but it was installed on our ISP, which we no longer use. I have looked at Joomla, Drupal, and elgg, but don’t know much about any of them. Bill Fitzgerald from DrupalEd was in on the conversation and his advice for anyone wanting to implement a CMS is to write in one or two sentences the goal of the CMS. Dave Cormier advised to write a very detailed description of what several students would do in the course of a day using the technology. Dave is the teacher who helped developed “A partnership project helping Prince Edward Island students bring the past to life using tools of the future.” A Living Archives uses Drupal.
The good thing is that there are many quality choices for a school based CMS.
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Exposing students to Big Ideas is a great way to get them excited about the world and hopefully school. Even special ed students can get excited by Big Ideas. I showed this TED Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks to the students in the PREP math classes and they wanted to get a Wii remote and try it themselves. The fact that they felt they could get the free software and instructions and make their own interactive white board is encouraging. We have Smart Boards in our school and we have them use them, so they are very familiar with how interactive white boards function. We ran out of time this year to hack a Wii, but I plan to work with the students to do it next school year
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