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."