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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

iPhone Use - November 28, 2007

iphone twitter

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Monday, November 26, 2007

iPhone Use: November 26, 2007

iphone camera

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

iPhone Use: November 25, 2007

iphone inspiration

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

iPhone Use - November 24, 2007

iphone shopping

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Thinking Routine

I've been spending a little time re-reading and reviewing Tom March's new article on WebQuests. I mentioned it early.

One of the sections that I am reflecting on heavily is about the Thinking Routines. Tom shares three "formats" that are frequently used in classroom. The one I like best, because it fits my personality and style, is See > Think > Wonder.
  • What do you see?
  • What do you think about that?
  • What does it make you wonder?
This format lends itself to discussion and reflection. The suggested use is with art, or museum trips. However, with very little imagination, it can be broadened. Twenty years ago, in a different setting (youth minstry), a friend and I published something we called a magalogue (part magazine, part catalogue) called So What? It was aimed at what we thought were important issues for the church to consider in the wake of the scandels of the 1980s. The concept of the magalogue was to answer the question, "so what?," and explain why some things in life really are important. We were going to add a second publication called Who Cares? directed to youth workers, who cared about young people.

Anyway, I have never forgotten what motivated me in the 1980s in working with kids, and the guiding question, under which I evaluate most things, is "So what?" What difference will this (whatever "this" is) really make in the life and growth of those affected by the "thing." In education, I find myself asking this question everyday. New reading program...so what? New leadership in the system...so what? New standards from the state...so what? NCLB...so what? If the answer to "so what?" becomes something that effects my values, beliefs, purpose, then I fight for what I think is right. It is how I live with no regrets.

As I said, I have been thinking and reflecting on the Thinking Routines Tom mentioned. I have developed my own, which when I am in the classroom again (see future entries about my desire to return to the classroom) I think I can use consistently with my students.
  • What's Up? - Identify the issue. What are the "sides of the story?"
  • So What? - Why is this issue worth our time and consideration?
  • Who Cares? - What difference does it make, or could it make in your life to make a difference?
I can see myself wrapping everything I do around these three simple questions. I can also see myself influencing my students to developing a way in which the can begin to think critically on a topic. I am trying to find out more about the Thinking Routines Tom briefly discusses.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks To Tom March


Tom March and Bernie Dodge are, in my opinion, the brilliant minds behind using the internet/web for student learning.  They are the inventors of the WebQuest.  Those of us who have ever attempted to use the web for teaching and learning are indebted to their research and contribution to taking a mess which we call the Web, and streamlining it for increased engagement, time on task, and instruction.

When I was completing my Ed.S. degree in Instructional Technology at Valdosta State University, I wanted to do my action research on what I believed was missing from the WebQuest after 10 years of use.  My working title was, "Helping the WebQuest through Puberty: What Needs to be Added to the Online Teaching Model."  The proposals I submitted were denied and tweeked, mainly because there was little (ok, there was none) research on the use of RSS, wikis, blogs, and podcasts for educational use in 2005.  My original premise was that students at the middle school level were either missing the necessary cognitive levels or there were steps missing in the original model of the WebQuest.  My hypothesis was based on March's definition of a "true WebQuest" and the experiences I had in facilitating WebQuests in my classrooms.  I was not allowed to pursue my hypothesis, because there was no research or otherwise empirical evidence already in acceptable publication on which to base my theory.  Blogs were not academically sound.  So I created a rather benign action research study on whether WebQuests led to higher level thinking skills in students.  You can read my research here if you are hard up for reading material.

This week Tom has shared his thoughts on the need to revisit the WebQuest in a Web 2.0 culture.  It is an excellent article.  It is the information I was hoping I could research in my action research project, but was denied, due to the "newness of the tools that have no research basis."  So thank you Tom, for updating how the WebQuest format and process combine instructionally sound theories with a student-centered approach to provide a tuly educational experience for students.

Tom has this fantastic ability to combine theory with practice as well as anyone I have ever read.  I had the honor of a two-day seminar with Tom in Rome, Georgia, USA (Shorter College) in 1997 to learn about this new tool - Filamentality, and the WebQuest, Sampler, Treasure Hunt, Scrapbook, and Hotlist. 

Thank you Tom.  I have already begun to take new notes on the WebQuest, thinking routines, and CEQALL.  These are among the things I was trying to get the opportunity to research.  After I left the classroom for the media center, I let it sit.  Now that I am actively pursuing a classroom position again, Tom has given me that intrinsic motivation to learn more and implement my understanding with future students. 

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iPhone use - November 22, 2007


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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

iPhone Use - November 20, 2007

iphone hahlo-twitter

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Monday, November 19, 2007

iPhone Use - November 19, 2007


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Sunday, November 18, 2007

iPhone Use - November 18, 2007


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Educational System: Blow It Up And Start Anew

As the privatization and school improvement industry ramps up, everyone needs to think about the assumptions embedded what’s being presented. Whenever an edublogger starts talking about organizational change, as I have here, my brain glazes over with the futility of the mere suggestion. So, please excuse me. What I propose is that the “end users” begin to recognize the persuasive techniques that are being used to marshal support for various recommendations, and to feel free to stick an oar in the water every now and then as the opportunity arises to make something good happen, or to learn something that nobody else can tell us. For me teaching is a form of inquiry.

Emphasis Mine
Borderland » Blog Archive » Diagnostic Intervention

Doug Noon's Borderland blog makes for interesting reading. He discusses the limitations of textbooks as a classroom base, but argues effectively that teachers still have to provide the support to make it work, if it can work at all. Read the entire article; it's worth your time.

His final paragraph (above) Doug states the frustration of organizational change. Many edubloggers agree with his sentiment including me.


Why doesn't the group of international edubloggers of note stop what they are doing now, and become the faculty and staff of the International Online School of 21st Century Literacy (IOS21CL).

Here's the faculty.

IOS21CL Director - Scott McLeod
Technology Coordinator - Miguel Guhlin
Information & Media Coordinator - Doug Johnson
International Human Network Coordinator - Vicki Davis
Asian Coordinator - Jeff Utecht
European Coordinator - Ewan McIntosh
Australian Coordinator - Tom March

21st Century History Instructor - David Warlick
Read/Write eBook Literature Instructor - Will Richardson
21st Century Science Instructor - Brian Crosby
"Even Newer" Math Instructor - Darren Kuropatwa
Educational Futurist - Karl Fisch

Note: Due to the exponential growth of information in the 21st century, material prior to 09/11/01 (when USA fell asleep and missed the flattening factor of world economics and education) is unnecessary.

Students (okay parents) would have to pay tuition. But they could use the vouchers they receive because their children's schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress under the NCLB law. International students would qualify for a scholarship - because they score higher than US students already.

There must be a board of virtual education. Regardless of the industry, boards function as the body which plays the role of the skeptic. Therefore I would nominate Tim Holt and Gary Stager. Tim's first order of business would probably be to fire my faculty because they are white males with the exceptions of Vicki and Miguel.

::Must stop - cheek hurts from tongue pressure::

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

iPhone Use - November 17, 2007


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iPhone Use - November 16, 2007


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iPhone Use - November 15, 2007


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How's This for Differentiation?

We are talking about differentiation for our Staff Development this year. My son showed me this video today, and I was laughing so hard the first 3 times I watched I had to watch it again to get all the funny parts of it.

Could this not be a product turned in to demonstrate an understanding of the early years of the World Wide Wide? I think so. How about you? Take a look at 24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot

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Awe! ClusterMaps Has Archived

I was just getting enough red dots that I thought my map looked cool. I write with the intent of reflecting on things I think I can use later, so red dots are not really expected. But it is kinda cool when you see 'X' number of people have been to your blog page. That doesn't mean they are reading the content, but they viewed the page. So, as a way of remembering the past year, I offer the last ClusterMap of the first year. Sixteen people viewed my page yesterday, and three of them were from new places (that I can tell). Alaska, a second dot in Brazil, and the northernmost dot in Canada.

I guess I'll have to write something good soon.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

OLPC - What Could You Do?

One learning child. One connected child. One laptop at a time.The mission of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is to empower the children of developing countries to learn by providing one connected laptop to every school-age child. In order to accomplish our goal, we need people who believe in what we’re doing and want to help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege. Between November 12 and November 26, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. During this time, you can donate the revolutionary XO laptop to a child in a developing nation, and also receive one for the child in your life in recognition of your contribution.

I see this as a great idea in several ways, obvious and subtle.
  • A "needy" student will receive a laptop based on the generosity of someone from the USA/Canada.
    • Students around the world can connect with other students and information.
  • The donor gets one too.
    • Can connect with students around the world.
    • Can get access to WiFi from T-Mobile hotspots ($350 value - pretty cool).
    • First-hand understanding of how the laptop can work, so we can know what the teachers/students from third-world countries can do.
There are a couple things I would like for educators and OLPC supporters to consider:
  • There are thousands of students in the US whose families might be in a similar condition as the students who will receive the laptops elsewhere.  I know we are the most wealthy country in the world, but there are still families and children who live well below the poverty level and go to bed hungry.  Could people who participate in this, somehow donate the laptop they get to keep to a deserving student?  Could something be done in our own country?  I have read the reasons behind not including the USA students in this program, but what about a grassroots effort?
  • Why couldn't T-Mobile, AT&T, or some other wireless service, provide students and teachers with free data packages for use in an educational setting?  Perhaps the use of cell phones in classrooms could take hold if there was no cost to access the web, or IM, or text message during specific times of the day.
Overall, I think Negroponte has a vision worthy of support and participation.  How about you?

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beginning to Wonder

I have read several edubloggers through the years. Many insist that we should be teaching more web 2.0-type of skills, and gaming, and other tech-related things in school.

Familiar arguments go something like this..."Kids power-down when they come to school, and power-up when they go home," or "These kids are teaching themselves how to use these tools," or "Our kids are breaking through million-dollar filters in under an hour," or "Many of our students know more than the teachers when it comes to technology."

So I'm forced to ask the devil's advocate question I have contemplated for about two years: If these statements are true, why would we want to teach it in school? We would just make it a boring topic of study wouldn't we? We did it to literature and history, what makes us think we wouldn't ruin cool technology that kids already "know" how to use anyway?

I understand the need to teach ethical use of technology, but then again, we should be teaching ethical uses of all things, shouldn't we?

Is it that we believe the digital divide will make it impossible for some students to miss out on 21st century technology? Do we really believe the government will have a clue how to make work something as important as 21st century literacy, technology?

I don't know...I'm just thinking of how bad it could be if we made 21st century technology a school requirement, as in a part of NCLB or whatever comes after the next election or two. We still can't figure out who to teach kids to read, let alone become proficient at 21st century technology.

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Go Illini Go! Boom! Boom! Boom!

The Power of the Chief.
28-21 over The Ohio State Buckeyes.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sylvia Martinez's Filter Falacy Article

Sylvia Martinez, from Gen YES, shared a story about how some kids at a high school bypassed their filtering system in order to get to the web sites they needed for their tech teacher to be as effective as he could be.  I loved their dilemma - not was it right to bypass, but what if their teacher got in trouble because they were in his class.  Killer!

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Larry Lessig @ TED - 2007

I watched a Lessig video on CC in 2005.  I found it while looking for original ways to use PowerPoint.  His ppt presentation style is captivating...mainly because the content in his speeches is outstanding.

Anyway, I frequent the TED site after they made their videos available online and through iTunes.  TED, like the iTunesU, provides an education.  I found Lessig's TEDTalk a couple of days ago, and although it was an abbreviated version of another video I watched earlier this year, it is must see.

Read/Write - Creativity - and the language of our kids (re)creation.  Our current law, and interpretation of laws, is "corrosive" to our society, because our culture has the tools to create mashups by using, interpreting, and make-meaning of prior content to produce new content.  Currently, many view this as illegal activity, but, Lessig argues brilliantly, it is the way our kids learn, think, and create.  In other words, their norm is criminal behavior, but it shouldn't be.  Watch the video.  It's only 19 minutes.  There's nothing on TV anyway.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Burning Out or Burning Up?

My wife and I received a church newsletter from "back home" a couple days ago.  In it was a long article about the death of long-time preacher acquaintance of ours.  He was in his upper 80s when he died last week.  Hundreds of people attended the visitation and funeral.  He preached for over 60 years. 

I had the privilege of hearing Larry preach several times.  Once, he preached to a group of preachers, and at the time I was one.  He made a comment that I was reminded of as I read the article: "It's better to burn up than to burn out."  I'll not go into the context at this point...maybe some other time.

In light of my previous post about missing the classroom, I am giving some time to think about what happened to me.  Did I burn up or did I burn out?  I would like to think I burned up.  I just couldn't keep going at the pace I set.  I needed the break.  I felt bad about the fact that I could not keep it up.  I questioned myself, my commitment to my students, and even my continuation in education.  I have been looking for some inspiration over the past few months, and noticed a common thread in the history of the lives of "Hollywood" teachers...Jaime Escalante (Stand and Deliver), Ron Clark (The Ron Clark Story), Joe Clark (Lean on Me), and to a lesser degree Glenn Holland (Mr. Holland's Opus). 

The common thread is that each person "burned up."  Here's what I mean.  Each teacher worked hard, devoted their lives to their students' success, and then needed a break (or time away from what they were doing).  They needed to do something else for a while.  Escalante was an engineer for a while, Ron Clark took a few years away from teaching to raise funds for his own academy (which opened this year in Atlanta), Joe Clark moved schools, Holland took many years to really get the idea that he was a teacher. 

To be gender fair, Erin Gruwell (The Freedom Writers) only lasted five or six years in the K-12 classroom, and follows the same pattern of needing the break after burning up.

You get the idea.  There are times when teachers need a break from their norm.  I wonder if one way to keep teachers in the profession would be to grant a working sabbatical.  Imagine a teacher working six years, then getting a year to work on an advanced degree, lead professional development, or work in the school library.  It could be a time to recharge the battery, contribute in a different way, and learn from other teachers as well. 

I'm ready to return to the classroom, and in my preparation I have been talking to colleagues about it.  Interestingly, the ones I have spoken with appear to be in need of a sabbatical themselves.  They are worn out at best, burned out at worst.  Teachers are counting down the years to retirement, and trying to figure out ways to do it early.  Teaching is hard work, when you do it right.

Have you ever taken a break, or needed one?  Are you burning up or burning out? 

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Missing The Classroom

Background: As a former preacher, I truly believe in the idea that everyone has a gift - that special something, given by God, that helps a person identify what they should do with their life. The gift is that innate desire to do something that you know you would enjoy doing, but may not really understand how the idea came to you. Once you decide to follow your "dream," you are willing to do what it takes to make the dream a reality. When you finally get to live your dream, you experience a personal fulfillment that others doing the same thing do not experience because they may not be living their dream, or using their gift; they are misplaced.

Foreshadowing: I believe my gift is teaching. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in 5th grade. When I was in high school, I went to my counselor's office one day my Junior year, when an announcement was made for those interested in going to college. I went, my counselor was surprised to see me (I must not have been considered "college material" by the "experts"). I was told, "You don't want to be a teacher. Kids these days are terrible." This was 1980. I did go to college, but it was as a ministry major. Once out of school I was what I called a "preaching youth minister." I preached every weekend, but during the week, I spent my time with the young people. I enjoyed the work, but had to find ways to teach, and usually teach young people.

Fast Forward: After a little more than nine years in ministry, I had my fill of adults who were more interested in power and control over the church than service and surrender to Christ. So I left the ministry, did what most former minsters do; and started selling insurance. I did this for a little more than 2 years, and was even more miserable. Then one day at the dinner table my wife said, "You need to quit your job, go back to school, and get your teaching degree." Two days later, I was enrolled in classes.

Current Day: I have been in education for 13 years. I taught one year in a Christian school. I taught Science, Social Studies, and Boys Health in grades 6, 7, and 8. I had seven preps a day, and I loved it. I wish I could have stayed there forever, but I needed to earn more money to support my family and raise my two boys. I went to a public school setting, and have been there for 12 years. I have taught 7th grade Social Studies for five years, Computer Applications for five years, and I am in my second year in the Media Center as a Media Specialist. I have enjoyed my time as a Media Specialist, but I cannot get my mind or heart into the classes I have been taking. I can't get excited about which Dewey Decimal numbers to put on a book. To me, it really is nonsense. This is not meant to be disrespectful to those who enjoy the process of cataloging and classifying books. It is likely their gift. But it's not mine. Mine is teaching.

The Future: I needed a sabbatical from the classroom. Our school has nearly 1500 middle grade students, and every one of them passed my room every day, It was too loud, too much time separating the pushing and shoving in the hallway, and I was beginning to dislike the non-teaching aspect of education. I needed a break. My principal was gracious, and accepted a request to work in the Media Center as a technology person. However, the state of GA requires certification, and only from an accredited program within the state if you are already teaching in the state. I need to get back in the classroom. I have observed other teachers, seen what I would consider best practices from others, and have recharged my battery. I miss the daily interaction with the students. I am back to my 5th grade desire again - I want to teach. The gift and blessing is pulling me back.

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