Friday, November 6, 2009

Educate for a Changing Landscape

How can teachers and schools ensure that their students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy?

Teachers and schools need to educate for change in order to ensure that students are learning what they need when it comes to Technology and Information Literacy. Students needs to be flexible and adaptable. They need to be able to develop and follow process models as well as organizational and problem solving skills. These habits of mind are more important than applications of fleeting duration.

In addition to the ability to adjust to changing landscapes, students need ample facility with existing technology tools to develop the confidence to explore available technology resources. A frequent response to a how-to questions is that "It's intuitive." This is only true if one has some experience to draw upon. Therefore, providing opportunities to gain experience using a variety of applications for a range of purposes may build a skill set that allows students to easily transition for older to newer technology.

It makes sense to choose tools that further learning outcomes. As the learner outcomes change, the tools will change or be used in new and creative ways. Thus, it makes sense to look closely at learning outcomes in a course and draw upon the tools that support those outcomes. If the tools do not support learning, they are superfluous. It may be that teachers need to alter learner outcomes in looking at the 21st century.

It seems that it is the overall learning outcomes which should be the highest priority. With clear 21st century outcomes, choosing appropriate tools to meet these outcomes will follow. As a variety of different high-tech and low-tech tools can be used for any particular purpose, it not important to teach any particular application. Appropriateness and effectiveness are the operative words. Encouraging diversity ad creativity in selection will ensure that students have a range of technology experiences.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whose Job?

Communal Responsibility

Teaching the standards for 21st century literacy is the responsibility of the entire community including parents, administrators and teachers. However, some party needs to identify, organize, distribute responsibility, monitor and assess the process. I would advocate for the model used by the ISB ESL Department.

Step 1: Delineate the essential understandings as well as knowledge and skills.
Step 2: Do a curriculum audit to determine where these understandings are being developed in the present curriculum.
Step 3: Review the audit to determine where the remainder of the skills and knowledge will best support and deepen understanding of existing unit outcomes.
Step 4: Develop specific units to fill in curricular gaps.
Step 5: Document where 21st understandings will be developed and skills and knowledge with be taught and they will be assessed.
Step 6: Monitor and adjust based on formal and informal assessment data.

Collective Agreements

The challenge this dynamic model, because it is not a fixed system, must be adjusted whenever units change. In addition, the technology tools will change, more easily accomplishing more complex tasks. Therefore, One must caution against a system that focuses on teaching particular tools. Communication, collaboration and negotiation will be necessary to keep the system working effectively. Awareness, action and assessment are natural outgrowths of an increasingly sophisticated community with respect to 21st Century literacy. A new literacy program is already in gear as ISB educates members of the community and provides opportunities (such as the tech masters program) to use technology in new ways. Eventually, it may make sense to have a K-12 symposium with representatives from the parent community to determine expectations, document where these are already being met at home and at school and seek ways to meet those that are not now addressed.

Images from this link:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HS ESL Discussion Rubric

Making thinking visible to ESL students will spur them on to success! ESL students can improve their discussion skills with guidance, practice and reflection. Ironically a metacognitive discussion about discussion skills can be linguistically complex for the target ESL students. A long list of "rules" can be also difficult to keep in mind while juggling so many bits of information, struggling to follow a discussion and groping for the words to communicate ideas. Images with emotional impact can serve as effective reminders about good discussion practices.

To create an effective presentation, one has to
1) seek a recovery program for illegal users of copyrighted images;
2) overcome the temptation to include lengthy text - either oral or written - which detracts from the visual;
3) get rid of unwanted baggage keeping only the most valuable pearls;
4) delude oneself into feeling enough confidence to persist in figuring out how to use a new tech tool;
5) beg or borrow a microphone from a trustworthy neighbor;
6) resist any temptation to bolt after the 10th retake by duck taping oneself to the chair;
7) reserve judgment until after the presentation premier in the classroom;
8) despite a short fuse, revise based on reflection and feedback;and
9) abandon all restraint to celebrate when the presentation really works!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


"The possible uses for screencasting are endless; these include providing course orientations, delivering instructional lectures, providing feedback, and encouraging student collaboration." Jacquiline Mangieri, PhD in Online Education

Screencasting provides the exciting possibility of individualized learning both within the context of the classroom and the greater on-line community. Teachers can create resources that students can access in their own time and at their own pace. Students can demonstrate their understanding through audio and visual modes in school or at a distance.

Screencasting also allows students to become actively involved in their own teaching and learning. It gives them the air time they cannot always get in a class of 20 students. Research suggests that students need to explain their learning to cement understanding, but an 80 minute period only gives each student 4 minutes to talk if the entire class is dedicated to student explanation.

High School courses rely heavily on written expression as a way to show understanding. For some students, this makes the educational process, which should be exciting, burdensome. The ability to interact verbally can reduce this burden and allow these students to focus on deepening their understanding of the concepts.

Furthermore, screencasts allow shy students, students who process information slowly, perfectionists ESL students etc. time to collect their ideas. They can rehearse their comments before addressing the class or teacher. In fact, students can record over their original podcast if they wish to make improvements. One caution is that these same students are prone to spend entirely too much time this type of assignment. Participation in class is confined to the classroom whereas a screencast can eat up many hours after school. However, students often feel the satisfactory performance is worth the time spent.

Screencasts add to the variety of learning resources available which makes teaching and learning a more dynamic process. Screencasts add personalization, visualization, and voice which are powerful components of any instructional program.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Learning Landscape: Sedate or Stimulate

The age of visual literacy, once called telecommunications, has been well underway for over 50 years. By the 1970's, many children in America were spending far more time each day watching television than any other single activity. This passive existence does not seem to have resulted in an enlightened era. The TV has bombarded children with images that often have appealed more to the lower brain than the higher one.

To provide a curriculum in school that lead to critical viewing is already long overdue. Courses in film have been reserved for university coeds with a special interest in media while adults use television as a sedative for active, curious children. The curriculum suggested by the New Mexico Media Literacy Project mirrors that of the ESL department. The listening and speaking components are well served by the inclusion of media in the classroom. Critical thinking and the language to express these ideas easily translate in written expression.

To interact with this media form provides children with a welcome opportunity to move the movie viewer from a passive spectator to a creative producer. Although creating film is becoming easier, the technology still can be time-consuming and frustrating to use. This, above all, gives the teacher pause for consideration. One must ask if the learning that takes place warrants the time spent. My ventures into digital stories and movie making with the students turned out to be long roads. The goal is to make the process smooth and efficient. Perhaps to begin with a snapshot and build up to the movie just as we have done in this class makes the most sense.

Photograph: "TelevisiĆ³n escolar" by Lord Jerome, and

Monday, October 19, 2009

Upgrading a PowerPoint: Images Create a Universal Language

A sea of parents intensely interested in providing the best education for their children wait expectantly for the school program presentation. However, the fact that the speaker and audience lack a common language obstructs effective communication. Despite the availability of oral and written translation, the voice of the presenter is lost in translation. This is especially worrisome when the emotional impact of the presentation is more important than the informational content.

To ensure that both the translator and audience have access to the information, complete text on the PowerPoint slides and on the hand-outs has been provided in the past - sometimes in both English and the audience's native language. In fact, a narrative description of the program is also provided in the audience's native language. Then, one wonders about the role of the speaker and the translator. It takes a long time to repeat all the written information in two languages. The redundancy is boring as one can see from the the original PowerPoint describing the SIM program.

In order to retain the emotional impact of the presentation, ESL students - who do share the audience's language - address prospective parents and students with honest personal testimonials. Instead of acting as a translator, the school liaison is transformed into a talk show host interviewing each student. The unrehearsed answers and testimonials ring true and touch the hearts of the audience.

Still, the parents clearly want to hear directly from an administrator, admissions officer or teacher. That is the reason they have made the journey. I wonder how I can add anything to the narrative description of the program and the children's testimonials. The evocative images on the presentation from IS Brussels provided an answer. Although higher quality images from student lives at ISB are still needed, the new style presentation, a work in progress, is posted here.

A notes page will be created which is both separate and different from the presentation images. This can be written in both English and the audience's native language. It is important to give the information in English for many read but do not speak English. A translation is always approximate, so the English speaking audience members should have the original copy.

The success of a presentation only relies in part on the product of technology. The effectiveness of a presentation depends on how the audience interacts with a combination of images, texts and speakers. Therefore, it is important to determine the role and objectives of the technology piece in the larger context before its creation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Photo for Novel Study: Face of the Great Depression

The photograph Migrant Mother, taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936, will be used to introduce the historical context for Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck. This is critical for ESL students to understand the life style of the main characters George and Lenny. The photographer Dorothea Lange was paid by the government to document the plight of the displaced farmers.

The photograph was chosen to be a stamp to commemorate the Great Depression. This women, Florence Leona Christie, and her family were driven from her home in Oklahoma by the dustbowl across the country to do migrant work offered in California. I chose this photograph because Florence conveys a complicated array of emotions such as strength, despair, confusion and determination. Her children rely on her much like the childlike character of Lenny relies on George in Of Mice and Men.

The class has been studying mood, so I will ask student pairs to decide what mood is conveyed by the picture during the introductory lesson for the novel Of Mice and Men. Then partners will create and share short vignettes about what they think was happening when this picture was taken. Finally, students will write a journal entry reacting to the following quote by Isaac Asimov.

No one can possibly have lived through the Great Depression without being scarred by it. No amount of experience since the depression can convince someone who has lived through it that the world is safe economically.” Isaac Asimov

en:Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-DIG-fsa-8b29516.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

From Storyboard to Movie: Effective Discussion Behaviors

Successfully creating a movie with voicethread about discussion behaviors was a satisfying experience since the group was able to overcame many obstacles. The design concept originated with the intent to help ESL students visualize the effective discussion skills. Visual images of teachers modeling the behaviors on the discussion rubric were thought to have a positive impact on the student learning.

The storyboard, filming and downloading progressed quickly and smoothly. However, making a movie proved to be challenging. The card cameras filmed in a format not recognized by the movie making programs available on the school computers. Apparently, the film had to be converted into another format or a program needed to be purchased to edit and splice the film.

Experimenting with the smartboard recorder, photostory 3, movie maker and voicethread resulted in two products. The smartboard recording was the easiest, but the images were grainy and discolored, the movement was shakey and the film was inaudible. The free voicethread option only allowed smaller clips to be uploaded and would not allow any editing. However, the video quality was acceptable on the four usable video clips. Additionally, labeling each clip with the associated discussion skill was simple. The purchase of the higher level software would make this a good choice for this activity.

Further action for me is to try movie maker on the PC as this is the software most available to my students. I thank my partners Rob and Wanyi for helping me learn about digital video options.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Changing W's of Technology

I used to ask WHO can give me the right program, but now I ask WHO can help me choose the right program for my purpose.

I used to ask WHAT technology am I supposed to use, but now I ask WHAT technology will enable students understand my course objectives better.

I used to ask WHEN should I use technology, but now I ask WHEN will technology further learning.
Podius /

I used to ask WHERE should technology be taught, but now I ask WHERE technology can be integrated into my curriculum to further learning.

I used to ask WHY I should learn to use technology, but now I ask WHY specific tech tools help my students understand more deeply.

I used to ask HOW to use the recommended technology, but now I ask HOW technology will enhance learning.

Changing questions changes perspective.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Information Commons

ISB explores options for a middle school and high school library facility and program. An Information Commons merges traditional library and IT services under one umbrella. This center would provide tools and spaces that facilitate learning where students can access, master and go beyond the curriculum. Students could explore unique interests and make their ideas visible to others. A learning center could make peer tutors available for additional guidance, discussion and feedback. Comfortable, spacious, flexible, and multi-faceted, the IC would serve a diverse population.

The photo of The Hub @ WT's, the Information Commons in the lower level of Young Library at the University of Kentucky is one of many available on flickr:


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Single Focus not Double Work

The Metamorphosis Project continues the transformation in technology use in the ESL classroom. Ning last year and wetpaint this year proved engaging and educationally valuable, but these platforms have been short-lived and have not become an integral part of the long-term curriculum - partially because of the demand placed on the knowledge and skills of a single member of the ESL team and because of limited connectivity at ISB in the past.

The Metamorphosis Project itself is a wonderful collaboration amongst the HS tech expert, Dennis who created and demonstrated a model; Andrew who brought the idea from last year's tech conference; ELW partners Elma and Karen Reau who developed the project as well as support from Kim and Jeff. It is the perfect project to blend technology and content. Personal narratives are already taking shape with metaphors ranging from fireworks to butterflies. The digital stories are coming soon!

My hope is that projects using technology as a tool to deeper thinking and greater creativity will be integrated into the ESL curriculum as we,the teachers, gain more confidence with both technology use and with the knowledge that we can let go of some traditional instructional activities to make room for new ways. I understand, after this class, this means to utilize an array of tech tools depending on purpose. One size does not fit all.

The Metamorphosis project requires the traditional written narrative prior to the digital presentation which gives students double work for a single focus. Compromise is part of collaboration, so I am delighted that my colleagues have agreed to experiment with this project and hope that the transformation continues in High School ESL and beyond.

Class Reflection: Adapt, Adopt, Adept

Adapt, Adopt, Adept

Thread at wiki, forum at moodle
Friends at facebook, post at blog
No longer slogging through fog
Thanks to skyped in dialogue

Proffering profiles, responding readers
Streaming subscriptions, twittering teachers
Whether interest ridden or socially driven
No Ning should ever be forbidden

Horizon reports flatworld webbing
Panthernet forums wetpaint wikis
Adding gadgets and posting stickies

Tag at delicious, upload at utube
browse at flickr; networking quicker
Follower's feedback serves as fodder
Digital ducks whirl in water

Ubd, NETS, and PBL
Hanging out and Messing around
But Geeking out deserves a shout
Igoogle, googlelit and googledoc
Now set to talk the talk and walk the walk!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Curriculum: Relevent, Flexible, Personalized

"Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day
and at last we cannot break it" -Horace Mann (1796-1859)

A combination of the Project Based Learning approach and Art Costa's 16 Habits of Mind will prepare students for today and tomorrow. Project Based Learning would provide students with the opportunity to use available techology and other tools to engage with, deepen understandings and contribute insights on issues in the real world. Conceptual understandings drawn from interdisciplinary issues/studies might become the content for authentic real-world projects. The emphasis will shift from instruction to construction and from task analysis to problem solving.

A Habit of Mind is defined as "having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known: dichotomies, dilemmas, enigmas and uncertainties." Project Based Learning approach would provide the problems, dichotomies, dilemmas that challenge students to use strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity and craftsmanship. Costa maintains, "The critical attribute of intelligent human beings is not only having information, but also knowing how to act on it."

These 16 Habits of Mind by Costa and Kallick will help students successfully navigate in a digital age.
1. Persisting
2. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
3. Managing impassivity
4. Gathering data through all the senses
5. Listening with understanding and empathy
6. Creating, imagining, innovating
7. Thinking flexibly
8. Responding with wonderment and awe
9. Thinking about thinking (meta cognition)
10.Taking responsible risks
11.Striving for accuracy
12.Finding humor
13.Questioning and posing problems
14.Thinking interdependently
15.Applying past knowledge to new situations

Teachers: Obsolete or Value Added

As I read one of my favorite Blogs, latest entry in a blog entitled The Tempered Radical by Bill Ferriter, I was hit with the reality that teachers are generally reluctant to engage with technology.
The idea that the face-to-face teacher will become obsolete raised its ugly head with the inception of the personal computer, but I am strangely shocked to fine that this fear is rising in this climate of change. Instead of considering technology a friend, it has been dubbed the enemy.

The purpose of the annual MetLife survey, The American Teacher, was to investigate how teachers are using technology to inform their own practice. Results confirm the huge gap between the digital immigrants, the teachers, and the digital natives, the students. Twenty-eight per cent of the teachers have read or written in a blog and a mere 15% have participated in a network community report in December 2008.

Principals rated higher on the MetLife survey with 42% having had a Blog experience and 22% participating on online social communities, still far from the 59% of the American students who have posted an artistic creation on-line and the 55% who belong to an on-line social community, 47% of whom have posted imaged or photos to share reported in the 2007 report Teens and Social Media sixteen months ago. Based on google stats, these numbers have soared exponentially.

Instead of promoting teacher use of technology, it is interesting to note that some school districts have rules strictly prohibiting any kind of social networking communication between teachers and students on pain of dismissal. Professor Dean Shareski suggests that the usefulness of teachers is declining compared to the usefulness of connections for students which brings me to my point that the teacher role is to help students learn to use the best tools available to them to reach the highest levels of logical, kinesthetic, linguistic, and creative thinking to produce the most advanced solutions, art, theories, inventions etc. Technology has added valuable tools, so teachers can do their jobs better!

Tech Learning Imps: Adapt or Adopt

To the extent that teachers can close the techno cultural gap, teachers can better relate to and understand their students and the digital environment in which they live. Teacher awareness of and respect for the social networks and special interest groups teens have created on-line - whether they are hanging out and messing around or seriously geeking out - is a prerequisite to understanding our digit natives.

Mutual respect and understanding provides a safe, nurturing learning environment. Though somewhat elusive in a rapidly evolving landscape, understanding definitions for digital media, literacy genres and forms of communication would allow teachers to dialogue with their students about student practices. (As an ESL teacher, it is interesting to note that the MacArthur researchers used functional definitions for genre and defined groups by degree of intensity.) It is similar to learning a second language in order to understand the culture and customs of the users of that language. When a school has a majority interest in that particular culture, it is the responsibility of the educators to develop cross-cultural awareness and understanding.

Those of us who live in a "foreign" environment adapt to life both consciously and unconsciously. The digital demands are so strong that all teachers adapt or perish - a Darwinian imperative. It is virtually impossible to teach at ISB without a laptop in tow. However, to adopt a new language, a person must be motivated and/or have a compelling need to communicate with others who already speak that language. Then, the question becomes how motivated are we as educators or how compelling is our need to adopt this digital culture or will we insist that our tech savy students acclimate to the school's tradition culture.

By maintaining existing school structures, educators can avoid adopting the digital culture, but changing school structures would propel teachers into the digital age. This requires change agents who believe in the power of digital media to motivate, to challenge, and to educate children. People who have already crossed the digital divide, have seen the potential and share their vision will lead the way. Educational networks can and will allow students to have instant and up-to-date access to information; exchange ideas with peers worldwide; and contribute their own creations, inventions, stories to the public domain.

The conclusion of the MacArthur report is remarkable for its simplicity and its wisdom - the best preparation for the future is responsible and constructive participation in the authentic public forum the digital network provides. It is with some apprehension that I envision a new role for the teachers: to throw off the cloak of knowledge purveyors and curriculum developers and take on the mantle of role models and co-participants in what for some of us is "foreign" soil.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where in the World are HS Literature Blogs?

A blog seems perfectly suited to become an on-line Book Club, a way to share understandings and connections. Thus, I am curious to find out how other literature lovers have blogged about books. A cursory search using Google showed few literature blogs for high school students though there are several blogs for high school teachers which are informational in nature. Student participation is limited to asking more details about an assignment. Several blog entries advocate for banning "objectionable" literature schools. The top hit for an IB literature blog is an article accusing IB as being anti-Christian and anti-American. Several booksellers had blogs to convince readers that their products would be engaging. SHELFTALKER: A CHILDREN'S BOOKSELLER'S BLOG does have student comments, but they are one-liners.

I am looking for deeper discussion and closer analysis of literature in my model blog. If you know of a blog for teenagers to collaborate on analysis of text, not just evaluation, I would appreciate the link. One interesting project I did find is "The International Collaborative Literature Project" encourages students in different countries to share their cultures through literature using Moodle. What's moodle? This leads me to my next investigation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Project Sketch: A Metamorphosis

Project Sketch:
Essential Questions:
1. What defining moment in your life led to a personal metamorphosis?
2. How can you effectively communicate your metamorphosis using symbolic language, graphics, music and voice to others in the class and interested people in the larger community?
3. As a result of your metamorphosis what did you learn and how does this connect to themes in Kafka's work?
4. As a result of your project, what did you learn about effective communication?

Students in my ELW (English Language Workshop) have studied Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka in graphic novel form adapted by Peter Kuper. An analysis of the text, visuals and literary devices has allowed students to uncover the universal themes. the novella models a sincere expression of personal identity, so in response to this novella, students will communicate their own personal metamorphosis using symbolic language, metaphor, or motif to show connections to the themes in the novella. Students will create and narrate a digital story using PhotoStory 3. They will use their voices effectively to communicate a change in their own identity. They will consider the emotional impact of the story when selecting graphics and music from a variety of websites or they can create their own art which will be scanned into the story frames. The stories will be made available to all other students for viewing and comment in the class on the ELW wetpaint site and students will be encouraged to post them on utube. Students will write a reflection at the end of the project.

Outcomes, understandings and skills: The Project would address Student NET Standards
1. Creativity and Innovation (Bloom's Creating ex. design principals)
a. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
2. Communication and Collaboration
a. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of digital environments and media.
3. Technology Operations and Concepts
a. Select and use applications effectively and productively

The Project would address Teacher NET Standards
1. Facilitate and Inspire Students Learning and Creativity
2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
3. Model Digital-age Working Learning
4. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

1. Psychomotor - perception
2. Affective - understand one's own feelings and express them to the viewer
3. Cognitive
Understanding and Analyzing the Text
Applying understandings to original oral and written text, images, and music.
Creating original oral and written text, images, and music.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hoped to get Connected

"Within its hope, though yet ungrasped
Desire's perfect goal,
No nearer, lest reality
Should disenthrall thy soul."
(from Desire by Emily Dickinson)

What are my hopes for this course? The hopes and dreams I penned a month ago went unrecognized and appear irrecoverable - misplaced in cyberspace. Such is the reality of my own fledgling attempts to use technology. At first glance, the desire to perfect this undulating amalgamation of networks "disenthralled my soul". Upon reflection, the hope for perfection has been replaced with the hope for knowledge, perseverance, inspiration and collaboration toward the goal of becoming a more connected teacher. I had wanted to make ideas and images on the internet accessible to my students, but now I wish to connect my students and myself to a global social network of people, places and ideas through available technology tools. My desire is strong, my mind is open and the time is ripe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shifting Mind-Sets

Like the Sandhill Crane in its winter refuge just outside my hometown, I have finally taken off because a wise woman just said that technology is a mind-set not a skill-set. I have gotten my feet wet but lacked the confidence to take flight. It is inspirational to observe the level of creativity and competence my ISB colleagues have attained, some who were also novices at the beginning of this year. Their willingness to share and support is a tribute both to these teachers and to the collaborative world that networking encourages. Thank to you, I am ready to spread my wings!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bloom Goes Digital

In "Rose Colored Glasses: Random Thoughts on Instructional design" JoAnn Gonzalez-Major, a professor of instructional design shares her companion piece for Churches' 2008 Digital taxonomy. It summarizes group of skills followed  using including examples and possible products followed by tools and techniques. For example, social networking tools such as Delicious is the knowledge/remembering skill level. This work puts the theory into practice. It is an organized way of going at thinking about higher level thinking skills, whether it be through spoken or visual texts on or off line. A utube video clip gives a compelling argument on technology use in the classroom. You can check the video out on utube at I will try to insert the video later.

While a sequence for thinking and learning has much appeal especially to those logical linear types, I am certain that I do not learn in order. I do not even write in order often beginning in the middle of a sentence and then filling in the missing pieces as they occur to me. Most of my students can often deal with the abstract issues while still struggling with the literal due to their limited English language. My mentor in the area of content area reading and writing used to ask, "If students learn in order, do they forget in the same order?" I would opt for creative assignments that demand students construct their own meaning and for issues that challenge students to stretch and share their thinking with others.   Varied and diverse tools available for making meaning open up exciting possibilities for learning. Messy problems without clear solutions and ambiguous issues force students to forge their own unique plans and seek appropriate tools and resources.   In my classes the internet is the first place students look, so to facilitate problem solving I would be well advised to know which tech tools are effective for specific purposes. Bloom's digital taxonomy in a la Jo- Ann Gonzalez-Major  provides another way to view available technical tools and techniques. 

Below is a diagram of the original Blooms taxonomy with its many revisions.  

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Addressing Truth and Bias in the Classroom
(February 1, 2009)

The question of what is truth is a philosophical one. Google defines the truth as "a fact that has been verified". Who does the verification and how? Can a fact be verified by observation or by faith? That would depend on an individual's perspective. What one person considers the truth may be considered bias to another person, especially when dealing with controversial content.

According to by Wikipedia, the meaning of the word truth "extends from honesty, good faith, and sincerity in general, to agreement with fact or reality in particular. The term has no single definition about which a majority of professional philosophers and scholars agree. Various theories of truth continue to be debated."

Can one trust Wikipedia's definition of the truth when Wikipedia itself reports that many scholars have accused Wikipedia of "systemic bias and inconsistency" due to the nature of the publication. However, it can be argued that it is the structure itself that lends itself to being the most reliable, up-to-date reporting system with eye-witness reports of those most knowledgable about a situation. Information is added and elaborated upon as events unfold. The largest stake holders become the greatest critics of the material, editing and revising content to ensure that the "truth" is revealed. Self-appointed editors manage the content of areas where they have a compelling interest and expertise. Clarence suggested that there s power in this community who come together to dig for the truth.

"Credible sources" are buzz words when looking for the "truth". Although .org may be more reliable than .com, this is not necessarily the gold standard for separating truth from bias. Scientific studies, empirical data, factual information and the conclusions of experts are researched. However, these sources are rarely 100% in agreement. The investigator, often a novice in my classroom, uses logical reasoning to draw conclusions from the information. To complicate matters, the investigator has likely chosen a topic that he or she feels passionately about. In fact, I encourage students to follow their passion. Does this passion result is a greater effort to find the truth or an inherent bias?

Imagine the individual who cares deeply about a subject is dedicated to finding truth. To avoid bias, it makes sense to work with other passionate individuals with alternative points of view. Compelling arguments may win the day. Reporting the truth involves admitting the biases and reporting the truth from multiple perspectives, pointing out the gray areas and areas where further investigation is needed. Is it possible that truth is relative depending on perspective or truth is "the best information available."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Reflection January 26

Creating a profile on the wiki seems like a personal revelation to what may be a public audience. A participant has entrust this private informtion to his or her peers. In doing so, I have cleared the first hurtle towards utilizing a new approach to learning that largely depends upon information sharing.

Personal Networking

Reflection on Personal Learning Networks
January 30, 2009

Getting connected builds confidence given our expert teachers reassurance and clarification. A way to organize my networks, passwords, and usernames is needed for easy access. As I wondered how I to assist my students to do all of these, I was heartened to hear that the teacher can act as the administrator which can simplify student access. I hope I will learn to be an effective network administrator for them.

The possibilities that technology has for my students are infinite. Connectivity and access to the network as well as computer availability have been problems that inhibited my ability to use technology to a greater extent. With the expanded internet system (as I understand it) and web-based sharing, these problems should be solved. My students are making digital stories that they will upload onto u-tube. I realize that I need to make my own story and download it to utube in order to be able to guide the students through this process. As Clarence explained, teachers need to model effective networking behaviors - process and products. Then I need to give effective feedback on-line to each of the students again providing a model for them.

A paradigm shift is in order as I see that personal networking increases socialization and collaboration. The fear that a machine will replace human contact can be allayed as technology networks become an effective tool to foster human connections. An on-line community provides an environment where cross-cultural communiction is valued as members from various parts of the globe come together for a common purpose. The fact that English is a valuable language currency provides strong motivation for students to improve their English language skills and provides a myriad of authentic opportunities to use these skills as my ESL students engage in a cross-cultural on-line communtiy.

Though somewhat hesitant to post ideas publically, I am reassured that successes and failures are valued by learning communities. The courage to put ideas out on line allows for conversations that can enhance focus, clarity, and elaboration. It is constructivist learning at its best - to engage in a community of learners who have expertise and experiences to share from around the world for free. I am convinced that "sharism" is the way forward.

I embrace this new approach to learning with some trepidation as many of my students are so much more knowledgable and comfortable with these tools. However, the support of the technology experts, other colleagues and my wonderful students makes the time right for making this change. It feels as if the juicy, ripe fruit weighs heavily on the tree just out of reach. I am ready to expand my grasp with helping hands in order to taste the sweet nectar of success.