Saturday, August 19, 2006

New School Year - New Tech Skills

Well... The first week of school left very little time to get to doing any else but getting the school year rolling. For the most part, the opening of school was pretty uneventful, but there are always those one or two things that pop up that need to be attended to before you can really get the year moving. With a few exceptions, all of the new district teachers were able to access district technology resources on the first day of school. On a personal note, I am feeling invigorated as this year begins (my 19th in the SMUHSD), because I can see that there are enough resources that are free and accessible to teachers that can really make a big difference in teaching and learning.

At Capuchino, we started our new Global Communications course. This course embodies the skills of the read/write web and connects with the student's English and Health/Social Science course. All of the members of the Global Communications learning team met Thursday during the collaboration time to set up communication paths (wikis, online calendars, etc.) and to identify projects where the courses will have significant collaboration. I was really impressed with the energy and the flow of the meeting and felt we are really on the right track with what we are doing.

So, what are we doing? We are all about kids having skills, transferrable skills.

How are we going to achieve this in a way that kids will learn the skills and have fun at the same time?
This is how I presented it to them. I want each one of them to become an expert in something. I really don't care what it is (as long as it is appropriate), but they have to have an interest in it and be passionate about it. The example I gave them was about a fictional punk band called the 'JellyRolls.' I want them to find everything they can read about the 'JellyRolls.' I want them to search the Internet, using search engines, like Google. I also want them to search blogs, using Technorati. I want them to subscribe RSS feeds about the 'JellyRolls' using a newsreader like 'Bloglines' or 'Rollyo.' I want them to use a news feeder to get the latest articles about the 'JellyRolls' latest concert and the reviews of the performance. I want them to bookmark pages on the Internet about the 'JellyRolls' using a tool like or Furl. And finally I want them to take the information they have collected and write about the 'JellyRolls' on a blog they have created. As they publish their blog using Blogger or some other blogging tool, they will undoubtedly come into to contact with other fans of the 'JellyRolls' and a dialogue will take place. This will increase their 'circle of influence' outside of their school or even their hometown, but will make them a 'player' in the global information society.

Do you think these skills will be transferrable into every class we teach?

As the District Technology Coordinator, I want to do what ever I can to encourage you to begin to tap into the enormous resources that are available to you and your students on the Internet and the site communication tools we have.(School Loop and Edline) The best part of all of this is that you don't have to write a grant to find funding for a project or get some special technology to make all of this work, its all available to you with any computer connected to the district network.

So, to encourage you to take part in the unfolding of the new resources available to you, I am going to make the following deal.

1) If you want to start a blog or Wiki with your class, I will come down and help you set it all up and even work with one of your classes to begin the process.

2) If you or your students start a blog or a wiki, I'll subscribe and read it religiously. I'll be the Edublog version of 'Tom' on 'myspace.'

3) I can come to your school site and work with a small group of teachers to help develop a wiki to create online resources for your classes. We can do this with several different wiki or blogging tools.

Is anyone going to take me up on my offer? Call or write me an e-mail if you are even the least bit interested....

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

PEW Internet and Life: What are people doing on the Internet?

The primary mission of this blog is to promote awareness as to what is going on with technology and how it relates to the process of teaching and learning. Most teachers use the Internet to read and send e-mail, do a 'Google' search on a subject for class or use the information on a particular web page for their class. Technology has changed drastically over the past 5 years, the Internet has become a two way communication tool, using message boards, chat rooms, blogs and social networking sites. Many people have a general idea what a blog is and about the 'blogosphere,' but many don't have a good idea of what is really going on in the blogosphere! What is going on right now is the explosion of two way communication on the Internet, using social networking sites, tagging sites, peer production news, etc. Now, I know what you are thinking. There has been instant messaging, chat rooms, message boards, etc. all over the Internet for several years now, what do you mean there is an explosion going on now? The explosion that is going on now is that everyone and anyone can have an Internet presence and create, re-mix and draw new connections to anything they want. Because all of the content is accessible and easy to search and filter, anyone can become a content creator and have their ideas available for anyone to access.

Why am I telling you all of this now? Well, a study was recently released about how people use the Internet and what they use it for. The results will probably not surprize you, but should make you think, how can I use this level of interest to engage my students?

The PEW Internet and Life Project is a group that studies what people are doing on the Internet, which tools they are using and makes some predictions as to what people may be doing in the future. Recently, the group released a study about blogging; who is writing and who is reading this content and how it is effecting the social landscape of the world.

The full report from PEW Internet is here: Bloggers: A portrait of the internet's new storytellers, but the summary of the report is below.

- Blogging is brining new voices to the online world.

- Contrary to the impression created by the press attention on political blogging, just 11% of bloggers say they focus mainly on government or politics.

- The blogging population is young, evenly split between women and men, and racially diverse.

- 54% of all bloggers are between 18-29, yet they only account for 24% of the population online.
Hispanics account for only 11% of the online population, yet they account for 19% of all the bloggers.

- Relatively small groups of bloggers view blogging as a public endeavor.

- The main reasons for keeping a blog are creative expression and sharing personal experiences.
Blogging is usually the first foray into authorship; bloggers blog to express themselves creatively and share personal experiences.

- Sixty-two percent of bloggers did not have a personal website before launching their blog and 54% of bloggers had not published their writing or media creations anywhere else, either online or offline.

- Three in four bloggers (77%) told us that expressing themselves creatively was a reason that they blog.

- Only one-third of bloggers see blogging as a form of journalism. Yet many check facts and cite original sources.

- Bloggers are avid consumers and creators of online content. They are also heavy users of the internet in general.

- In February 2004, approximately 17% of Internet users said they had read a blog, since that time the number of Internet users that read blogs has risen to 39%, accounting for approximately 57 million adults in the United States.

- Bloggers will bring in media from other sources and remix the content they find online to create their own artistic creation.

- Bloggers are major consumers of political news and about half prefer sources without a particular political viewpoint.

- Bloggers prefer political news, and news in general, without a particular political viewpoint.

- Bloggers often utilize community and readership-enhancing features available on their blogs.

- Blogs gain attention, if only at a personal level. Nearly 60% of bloggers had been noticed by others, either through comments posted on their blog or by exchanging links to other sites. Blog writers are also enthusiastic blog readers.

Source: Lenhart, Amanda and Susannah Fox. Bloggers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project, July 19, 2006.

What does all of this mean for education and the use of technology in education? Lots of good stuff. If you look at some of these things, you start saying to yourself, "This is what I want my students to do." So, now I would ask you... what are you going to do with this information and how are you going to integrate it into your teaching repertoire?

Some great first steps:
1) Go back and read some of the previous posts on this blog and look at what interests you and how you can modify, remix or tweak it and use it right away.

2) Create your own 'Bloglines' account, subscribe to a few blogs and read them periodically and find ways to integrate the material you find there into your classes.

3) Take a look at the Capuchino Online Learning Community (OLC) site to get ideas on how to integrate technology into your classes.

4) Talk to the Technology Coordinator at your school or send an e-mail to Kyle Brumbaugh or Dominic Bigue to get more ideas about how to integrate technology into your classes. Start small and work up as you develop more skill.