Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things That Have Me Thinking-Nov 28

Wanna know more about my Things That Have Me Thinking series? Read more here.

Practical PBL-The Challenges of Ongoing Assessment: Problem-Based Learning is growing in its use thanks to multiple resources available. However, one of the challenges that remains is how do we ensure each student in the groups "pull their weight?" Assessing student participation has always been a sticky subject for me. Rewarding or punishing kids with grades and scores doesn't sit well with me. This article lays out several different methods of assessing participation in PBL lessons. Most seem effective but I still wonder, are there better ways?

The Art Of The Explanation: I dunno if you know anything about Common Craft but their videos that explain Web 2.0 tools, the economy and even Zombie attacks are wonderful. Lee LeFever has written a book explaining...well...explanations. Filled with ideas and practical advice on how to communicate better, it is one that is on my list for a few folks for the holidays. So what has me thinking are the ideas of communicating our ideas. How can we teach kids to communicate better while still using things like social media and asynchronous communication tools?

Six Tips To Help Teachers Move From TechnoPHOBE to TechnoFab: This blog post from my good friend Jennifer LeGarde is one that I have been passing long to folks for a little while now. Her advice here is solid and really practical. Best part of it all is it's so true. Meeting teachers where they are, providing time to play and listening are just a few of the tips that are so simple but mean so much. So what has me thinking are what are some other ways to help technology and technology professional development more approachable and what can I do to provide better technology PD for my teachers?

Google Search Literacy Lesson Plans: One area that many students are weak in is search. Moreover, how to do an effective search for information and how to vet information once they find it. Google is a starting point for many students. But the shear amount of returned results there can be overwhelming and kids ability to search effectively can go out the window. Google has developed several lesson plans addressing everything from picking the right search terms to understanding search results to narrowing search results and more. Each area comes with a beginner, intermediate and advance lesson plan so these could be used K12. So what has me thinking is, why are we down this path anyway? Why are we still not doing a good job of teaching kids where their information comes from and why are we still not doing a great job of teaching kids good search literacy skills? Seems to me that it is as important as any other subject kids learn.

That is what I am thinking. What about you?

Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 Edublog Award Nominations

It's that time of year again when the Edublog Awards aim to recognize the best Bloggers, Tweeters and Products. The process to nominate is simple and you can read about it here.

I hope you will check out all those that I have nominated and all those nominated by others. The lists of winners and nominated are great ways to build your network and find new voices to follow and read.

For 2012 I wanted to nominate those that I have seen making change either through their blogs or conversations and who are really making a difference in the Edu Space. These are educators who are sharing great resources, pushing everyone to think differently or helping others grow and change where they are. These are the people doing great work and are a model for us all.

Best Individual Blog-The Principal Of Change, George Couros

Best Group Blog-Connected Principals

Best New Blog-Android 4 Schools, Richard Byrne

Best Edtech/Resource Sharing Blog- Kleinspiration, Erin Klein

Best Library/Librarian Blog-The Adventures Of Library Girl, Jennifer LaGarde

Best Administrator Blog- Dr. Cook's Blog, Dr. Spike Cook

Best Twitter Hashtag- #NTChat

Best Free Webtool- Livebinders

Best Open PD/Unconference/Webinar Series- Simple K12

Lifetime Achievement- Tom Whitby

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Think Globally, Act Locally

I have had the honor and privilege of spending the last week in Doha, Qatar at the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) Conference. This has been an incredible learning experience for me. Reflection is a big part of my learning so I have many thoughts, and ideas going through my mind...

Global Thinking-While here I have been exposed to so many different parts of the world and heard about how education works (or doesn't) in all corners of the global. This is the first, true, International conference I have been to. While some organizations call themselves International because they have affiliates abroad, the issues at the conference are far from International. The conversations here were much different than anything I have had the chance to take part in before. While many referenced their home country, their thoughts and ideas were more global in nature, especially when it came to discussing how to ensure every child everywhere has access to a high quality education. We are all in this together. All of us have a moral obligation for the education of all kids, I believe. So the more we can do to reach out and help out kids in other parts of our countries and the world, we should jump at the opportunities. 

Scalability And Adaptabilty-Part of WISE is recognizing and awarding projects that are truly innovative, life-changing and scalable. In the past projects like MIT Open Courseware, a radio education project for farmers and rural Nigeria, floating, solar-powered schools in monsoon-prone areas of Bangladesh and many more have been highlighted. Any of these and the other WISE Award winning projects could be scaled and adapted to work in any part of the world where access to a high quality education is needed. But it wasn't just the WISE projects that this could be done with. The philosophy and fundamentals of WISE could be applied anywhere. The idea of bringing together major players in education to talk, discuss and debate is already happening, just on a smaller scale with events like #Edchat and Edcamps. Teachers sharing what is working, what isn't and how we can all be better for kids. 

Focus On Now With An Eye To The Future-One of the questions some of the moderators here liked to ask the various panels dealt with (most of the time surrounding technology) where we will be down the road. Questions like "Where are we going to be in 10 years, 15 years, 20 years with teaching/education/learning?" are easy to answer. We will be somewhere different, doing something different. The challenge is defining the different. Instead of asking questions about the future, we have to question the present. Questioning the future is easy. If it doesn't come true or something doesn't happen, no big deal. Questioning the present is a much harder task. We have to examine what we are doing now and where we are going now, keeping an eye to the future of course. But we have to constantly be evaluating what we are doing now and asking, how can we be better better? In terms of technology, it doesn't matter where will be in 5/10/20 years. The devices, systems and processes that will be in place will be different. So instead, let's think about it like the tool it is and think about how that all fits with pedagogy and learning and how we can make those two things different and better using technology, regardless of how the technology changes. 

Innovation Comes From Within…Or Does It?-Like I have already mentioned there are some really great things going on in education, especially in parts of the world where innovation is desperately needed. Many of these projects grew out of some need that someone saw and they ran with it. So one of the things I have been reflecting upon is how innovation happens within a system. Innovations are disruptions in the system. Systems don't like disruptions. So like a delegate here said, innovation rarely comes from those within the system.If that is the case, what about those in the classroom trying to innovate learning and making great strides? Does innovation and change have to come from outside the system in order to disrupt or can we disrupt from within? 

Now that I have had this experience I am constantly asking myself, what now? What next? One of things that is missing here from these conversations (that could be an easy addition) is action. What are we going to pledge to do now that we have had these conversations and how will we hold each other accountable? I am asking the same questions of myself. I have met people from all over the world, had a number of highly engaging conversations, learned about life-changing projects impacting kids in some of the poorest and underserved parts of Africa and Asia, what am I going to do? How can I do things differently locally, while still thinking globally? 

It really was an amazing experience to spend time halfway around the world from my home, learning with people I might never had the opportunity to learn with. I hope you will check out the WISE Website, learn more about the conversations and follow more conversations through #WISE2012

photo credit: Î’ethan via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Get Connected, Globally-#WISE2012

I have traveled to Qatar for the World Innovation Summit on Education. In it's 4th year, WISE aims to draw together the major players in education to have conversations and create actions to make change in education. Over 1500 people and 100 countries are represented. During the 3 days of the conference folks will come together to talk about access to education, technology, sustainability of educational initiatives and more. As an invited blogger I will be capturing some thoughts and highlighting whats happening (and providing a little bit of commentary too…)

The focus this morning has been on change and innovation. And really, that is the focus of this conference over all. It began with an opening and a charge from Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser to be proactive and opening our minds and our voices to each other. We can all work better and smarter if we just listen to each other. 

That theme was continued through the morning panel, although, I was disappointed in the make-up of that panel. I understand that as part of this conference business is involved. And rightly so. Businesses have a vested interest in education as, in many parts of the world, the purpose of education is to create a workforce. But as an American, listening to a VP from Exxon Mobile talk about how we need to focus on Teacher Training and hear him talk about their efforts in that area, when I definitely don't want business involved in that aspect of education, is a tough pill to swallow for me. But the theme was clear. We have to do things differently. Education is an old institution still operating in old ways. Yet the world continues to push forward. As one panelist said, we have to think about the future as if it is the present when we think about change in education. 

In the morning debate we talked about student voice and the importance of student voice. One thing I do appreciate at this conference is the diversity in voice. We heard from educators from Estonia, Palestine, Jordan, the USA, Australia and more. One thing was very clear. Student voice, no matter the age, the level, or the country is important. 

Yet, there is one thing that becomes more and more clear to me as I listen to all these voices from across the globe. 


We have to be connected educators. 

We have to be connected learners. 

None of the things we talk about that we want to do to change education happens in isolation. And rarely can we make the real change we need to alone. We have to look beyond ourselves and reach out and connect. 

This whole idea of connectedness lends itself perfectly to education. Learning is a social event, yet when kids (and teachers) enter a physical learning space, the social aspect is often removed. Social media is a boundless space that allows for us to connect and learn, together. SOCIAL media is just that. Social. Just this morning I had conversations with educators from 3 continents on Twitter. Social media and getting connected allows us to truly look beyond our classrooms, our schools, and our boarders and get involved in deeper conversations for deeper learning. 

But with all the social and the conversations comes responsibility. Talk is cheap. Actions mean so much more. I really do hope as we move forward with this conference, and our own learning and sharing, that it isn't just about talk. We can formulate ideas here and communicate ideas there, but until we put them into action and do something all our talk means nothing. 

I hope you can follow along with the conversations and share what you are doing to innovate education. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Things That Have Me Thinking-Nov 5

Wanna know more about my Things That Have Me Thinking series? Read more here.

Why I Unfollowed 5000 People-It was really Tony who did the unfollowing and this post is thoughtful, full of things we all need to think about when it comes to our own social networks and social learning. George wrote a follow up post that takes the opposite point of view, both of which have thinking about my own place in my social networks. I see both sides. On the one hand, I couldn't follow everyone who follows me. There would be too much noise and I might truly miss the wonderful conversations I currently have. On the other hand, I see George's point in that we can learn from everyone and we should try to learn from everyone.

A Mini-Course On Network And Social Network Literacy-Howard Rheingold is the guru most people turn to when it comes to learning about critical thinking on the web and better understanding where our information comes from. His idea of  "Crap-Detection" is one that many have embraced and are teaching today. I recently came across a post of his that includes several videos about literacy on the web and within our own networks. I've only watched the first video but I will definitely be spending some time with the rest this week.

The Best Way To Get Unstuck-Seth Godin's blog is full of small nuggets of wisdom everyday. This one hints at my internal learning with my own leadership. His simple and elegant way to get unstuck definitely has me thinking of how I can be a better leader and learner.

The Busy Trap-I saw this one in the NYTimes over the weekend and it was another piece that resonated with me. I find myself saying all the time "I am busy." Even this weekend my sister-in-law asked how I was doing and the answer I had? Busy. But as this piece points out saying we are busy and actually being busy might not be the same. And sometimes we use the phrase "busy" as a crutch or a mask to other problems. It's definitely a must read for anyone living their life in the fast lane but wants to slow down.

The Twitter Fiction Festival-And who says Twitter can't be fun! At the end of Nov. Twitter will be hosting a 5 day fiction festival that invites authors to contribute anyway they want. It could be a series of tweets, a chat or something completely different. (Submit your idea here.) What a great way for a class to take on the challenges of writing fiction, perhaps together, and make it public or let the community take part in the writing.

So that is what I am thinking about. How about you?