Friday, July 21, 2006

DOPA... I couldn't come up with a better word to describe the U.S. Congress

Some of you have been hearing about the DOPA or Deleting Online Predators Act that has been making its way through the House of Representatives and is now in Committee in the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Ted Stevens the Senator from the state of Alaska that has called the Internet, " a series of tubes." What DOPA does is forces all schools to implement filtering software to keep students from accessing all types of social networking and chat room sites from school or public library computers. Within the last year there isn't a school in the country that hasn't has its share of problems with 'myspace' or other social networking and chat room sites, but to completely filter these sites from all schools is not only impossible, but is not in the best interest of education and our students. At the same time schools are just learning how to integrate these types of sites into the classroom for an educational benefit.

As schools and public libraries have implemented 'filtering' software to keep users from accessing certain sites, particularly pornographic and social networking sites, there has been a flood of 'proxy servers' that have sprung up that allow the users to bypass any of the filtering software that may be in place on the network and allow users to access these sites. It is also short sided to think that students will not access these types of sites when at home or at a friends home without the adult supervision that is available at school or the library.

Some, may not agree with the analogy I am going to make here, but I think it is applicable in this setting. Underage drinking, premarital sex and other issues have been around for many, many years, but any efforts to curtail teenagers from engaging in these activities has been unsuccessful. In response, we have integrated curriculum into our schools to teach students the dangers of teenage drinking, unprotected pre-marital sex and how to best protect themselves if they do engage in these behaviors. I would suggest that we do the same thing with social networking and chat room sites. We need to educate students how to use these tools in appropriate ways integrated into the educational process. This is exactly what we are doing with the new Global Communications curriculum at Capuchino. Educational Security expert, Larry Magid, expressed these concerns in a recent column on CBS's web site.

In the interim, I would suggest that you become more informed about how to appropriately use social networking sites in your class. A good first start is to use the message boards that are part of the School Loop system. Another way to get started is to create your own Bloglines account and subscribe to a few blogs (maybe this one!) and start to see what kind of information is available on a daily basis. If you want to learn more about how to do this, keep an eye out on this blog or send me an e-mail.

I would also encourage you to send the members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and e-mail, expressing your concern over DOPA.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

TED Conference - A view from the BIG thinkers!

Each year the biggest 'thinkers' in the world converge on Monterey, California to share what they believe will be the biggest issues society and mankind will face in the coming years. This is the conference where Al Gore outlined his newest Global Warming theories to the world. This is the 'TED Conference.' (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

So, you are asking yourself, why is he writing about this? What does this have to do with education and technology integration? Well, there were two speakers at the TED conference this year who spoke about issues that relate directly to the use of technology in schools. While these speakers didn't outline solutions to the issues surrounding tech integration or the newest gadgets available to us, what they did do is discuss how education as a whole is changing and how technology has advanced and its relation to society.

Sir Kenneth Robinson is the author of "Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative" and is a leading educational scholar in Great Britain. The video on the TED Conference site is about 15 minutes in length and outlines some of the issues schools and education in general must face in the next 5-10 years. In the short video he lists three themes that will effect education and the educational process. First there is 'evidence of human creativity.' Second, everyone has an interest in education, but no one really knows where it is going and therefore cannot plan for the next educational structure. And third, all children have a capacity for innovation and education.

A few of the points Robinson makes are especially important to remind ourselves of when integrating technology into our teaching repertoire. The first thing to remember is that the 9th graders that enter the SMUHSD this year will graduate from high school in 2010 and if they work until the current retirement age, they will retire in 2055. In the next 30 years, more people will graduate from our educational systems than have graduated in the entirety of the previous history of our educational system. And finally, we need to have a new conception of 'Human Ecology.' Our current educational system has 'stripmined' human minds for the commodity to be successful in an industrial economy. In the future, this won't work!

The second video on the TED Conference site that I would encourage you to take a look at is the presentation from David Pogue. Pogue, is the New York Times technology columnist. Pogue's talk surrounds the idea that the amount of technology around us in our lives has expanded drastically since the inception of the personal computer in the early 1980's. Early on there was a command line interface that only allowed those who had a significant amount of technological expertise use a computer. As time as gone on, the number people using computers and the number of possible user options has increased greatly. With all this increased usage and options, computers by and large have not really become easier to use. Pogue speaks to the average technology user's woes: too many options, confusing user interfaces and the lack of support from technology companies.

Please spend a few minutes and take a look at the TED Conference site and the Robinson talk and Pogue presentation.

If you have any comments, please feel free to add them to the blog post.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Will's Big Shifts: Why are they important to the educational process

I just finished reading Will Richardson's book: "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms." My goal in reading the book was to find a book that the teachers in our new Global Communications program could use as a reference when they are starting to build content for their classes and how to work collaboratively with the other teachers in the program and the students they will be teaching. The first part of the book was what I suspected, it had a lot of great information on content creation and how to use some of the ancillary tools of the 'Read/Write Web.' The strength of the book is in the last 15 pages. When Will perfectly describes 10 'Big Shifts' that will occur in education over the next few years and how the educational dynamic will change.

What are these 'Big Shifts' and how will they change the educational process?
  1. Open Content: Open content means that all of the resources on the Internet are availble to students. In the past, in depth access to resources was limited to having access to a library or other repository of information. Typically, students needed another individual to assist them in this search (Librarian). This is no longer the case.
  2. Many, many teachers, and 24/7 Learning: Students learn from many different sources, not just teachers. They learn by reading different authors or 'editors' on the Internet based on their own interests. As teachers we become facilitators of the available content, not the sole source of it.
  3. The Social, Collaborative Construction of Meaningful Knowledge: The Internet is a social system, it was designed that way when Tim Berners-Lee envisioned it, but it has taken the last 17 years for that vision to be truly realized. Look at the use of cell phones on campus and the number of 'myspace' accounts and you have enough proof that the Internet is a 'social system.' Our job is to bring the innate, social structure of the Internet into our classrooms and beyond, by teaching students to use the tools available to them in socially acceptable and ethical ways. Once this happens, students will use the tools to collaborate and innovate with their peers and beyond.
  4. Teaching Is Conversation, not Lecture: What are the strengths of study groups? To me the strength of study groups was the ability to have a conversation about the course content to assist me in constructing the content in my own way. Lecture constructs the content in one way, conversation allows each individual to construct the content in their own way.
  5. Know 'Where' Learning: For several years I have been telling my students that the most valuable commodity in our society is information. It isn't possessing information that is important, it is the ability to find and access that information and put it to use quickly and effectively that holds the most value in our society.
  6. Readers Are No Longer Just Readers: Students are quick to question their peers, but less willing to question something they read on the Internet. Part of what we should be teaching is the ability to constructively question the material they read from all sources and the skills to validate everything they read.
  7. The Web as Notebook: Blogging, wikis, message boards, collaborative video tools (YouTube), still picture tools (Flickr), podcasting, online slideshows (YouRock). The list goes on and on, teachers and students need to be ready to embrace these tools and use them to become effective communicators. (ESLR reference here!)
  8. Writing Is No Longer Limited to Text: Writing takes on many different forms, whether that be in a blog, a wiki, a podcast, a video, an audio file, an annotated slideshow, etc. The forms of student and teacher content creation are limitless. The best part of this is that many of the ways students can create content and post their work on the Internet are free. Blogger, PBWiki, Wetpaint, YouTube, RockYou, etc. This may be the beginnings of School 2.0, a play on the Web 2.0 theme that the Internet is now a tw0-way communication tool. The synthesis of this is articulated in the Educause article, "Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?"
  9. Mastery Is The Product, Not the Test: What is the greater measurement of mastery? Scoring 70%+ on a standardized test or applying the material learned in class in some useful way. There have been many educational models that have emphasized application of skill to real-world situations, but many have not had the chance to be fully realized because of bureaucratic roadblocks put in place by the local and state boards of education. One of these models is the 'Rigor / Relevance Framework' set forth by William Daggett.
  10. Contribution, Not Competition, as the Ultimate Goal: Cooperative learning, project based learning and many other collaborative educational strategies have been making the rounds through the educational circles for several years now with mixed success. Why? There are always issues surrounding assessment of individual student work in a cooperative / collaborative setting. Some students have difficulties working with others that may / may not be part of their peer group and therefore work to their ability. A new framework for cooperative learning using technology is attempting to work through some of these issues. This is part of what we need to teach students is the ability to work with others from any ethnic or socio-economic group and find the talents in each individual and work to those strengths. This is exactly what the read/write web allows students to do. Students can do this with peers they share the same classroom with, but they can do it as easily with students that are several contenents away. This is the strength of the read/write web, sometimes referred to as Web 2.0, because it allows students to expand their circle of influence and it makes time and location no longer relevant.
Many of these issues will become more and more relevant as time goes on and it is our duty to seek out many of these tools to assist us in preparing our students for the cooperative and collaborative world they will live in the future. Just think, the students that are entering high school this fall, if they work until the present retirement age of 65, will retire in 2055. Do you think they will need some of the skills I have just outlined?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Blogging: Why is it the right thing to do with our students?

I wouldn't call myself an expert blogger, I am sporatically writing two blogs, this one and another that is basically a 'hot list' of things I think might be of interest to the students in my Technology Arts courses. Each of these blogs serves a different purpose in my professional life and has made it easier for me to communicate with the various groups of people I need to work with. This blog has technology resources for teachers and ideas on how to integrate them into the classroom. Previously, I was just sending this to the teachers at Capuchino, but I think the issues that are discussed on this blog are of value to all teachers in the San Mateo Union High School District. I discussed the idea with the District Technology Coordinators and they felt like it was a good idea as well.

Now, to the original topic... Blogging with our students.

Why should students blog? Well, there are several reasons, but the most compelling argument is that allows students to have a voice greater than their friends and family. Now, this may not sound like much, but when someone publishes something and they know it is going to be seen by more than just a teacher and a few other students there is a sense of ownership and innate pride that effects the student content. A new Wiki site has been established to assist teachers in finding ways to incorporate blogging into their classes, called 'Support Blogging.'

What blogging does for students: (From Support Blogging)
  1. It helps them find a voice for individual interests that may not have been completely explored previously.
  2. Creates enthusiasm for writing and communication. If students know there is a greater audience, their motivation is enhanced to write and to write well.
  3. Engages students in conversation and learning. Students may find comonalities with students in different grades, in different classes or even around the world. This can have a tremendous effect on students desire to read and write.
  4. Provides an opportunity to teach about responsible journalism and ethics. Maost students do not understand the role of the press and media in our society. By blogging, they become part of the mediascape and learn first hand some of the issues that professional journalists face.
  5. Empowers students to look outside of themselves.
    1. To become life-long learners and become inquisitive about things they are interested in.
    2. Writing and blogging are intertwined and create a transparent society, where all members have a voice and are valued.
    3. Teaches students to trust in others and to accept praise and criticism effectively.
If these issues interest you, take a chance to blog yourself and see what you come up with. If you become comfortable with the format, you might introduce it with your classes. There are plenty of sites that will allow you to create a blog for free, including the one I am using to publish this, We will be using blogs with a group of 9th graders at Capuchino this fall in our Global Communications program. If you want to see what some of the prelimary plans look like, take a look at the wiki we have set up to collect ideas and create the course content.

If this interests you, but you don't know where to start... leave a comment on this blog post and it will e-mail me!


Kyle Brumbaugh
Technology Coordinator
San Mateo Union High School District.