Flat Classroom Opened My Eyes!

The Workshop

Today, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a workshop happening in San Antonio at NECC 2008 even though I am not there. I responded to a tweet earlier in June about being a virtual member of Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay’s workshop on Flat Classrooms. And I had forgotten about it, until yesterday when Vicki emailed me to remind me to be there this morning. I love the power of the Internet that allows us to volunteer for projects happening somewhere besides where we are physically. I thought I knew lots about online and collaborative projects, but participating in one “live” was more than I ever expected. My eyes are now wider open to flat classroom projects than before!

So today, we were in the workshop together via Ustream. First, we learned about their projects including Flat Classroom, The Horizon Project and Digiteen. They led the NECC participants in a simulation of setting up a flat classroom project with roles and responsibilities. Then we started talking about the tools and using the tools of worldwide collaboration. And all the while the virtual workshoppers could see and hear what was going on in San Antonio and add to the chat in Ustream. We went into Ning to meet each other first. We made introductions on Ning using the Comment Wall application. See my Ning page here.

Then, we went to the class wikispace to collaborate with our team members on the tasks we had been assigned. Prior to the session, Vicki and Julie had assigned all of us to teams using colors. Give it up for the Green Team!

Derek Olson—6th Grade teacher from Minnesota

Nancy Pratt—Technology and Instructional Specialist from Arizona

Julian—from ISTE

Laurie Fowler—Professional Developer from Alabama

Here is my team’s page on Uploading.

We ran into a few glitches at first. We had 2 pages for the Green team and had folks editing on both pages. Then we discovered this and moved the content all to the “official” page that Vicki and Julie had set up for us. It was really neat to see Nancy figure out that she was working on a different page than the rest of the Green Team. And with the magic and wonder of wikis, I was able to go and pick up the stuff she had put on the other Green page and copy it into our “official” page. She saw me doing this and commented on how cool that was. And then Derek and I were on the same page and had a wiki war. (A wiki war is when two (or more) people are trying to upload and edit a wiki page at the same time.) So one of us had to get out of the editing mode so the other could get into it. And the cool thing was that the history tab in the Wiki helped us make sure we got all the stuff we were trying to put up simultaneously. The three hours literally flew by and all of a sudden it was time to stop. L But we have these cool spaces and relationships started so hopefully we can continue to explore and experiment in these online places.

Stuff I learned about Wikispaces during this workshop

Although I have used wikispaces for over a year, I learned lots of stuff today that I didn’t know. Here is a little of what I learned:

  1. · [[toc]] will make an automatic table of contents
  2. · How to use history, discussion, and notify me tabs
  3. · The importance of tagging wikis
  4. · That wikispaces will let you set up templates
  5. · Can embed live stream into wiki using embed code
  6. · Can lock page so only administrator can change stuff
  7. · Using a tag like turnin so I will know when student work is ready to be graded

Reflections on the Workshop

At first, I was unable to get into the chat but I could hear and see Ustream of the session in San Antonio, but I was very frustrated because I didn’t want to be a lurker, I wanted to be able to talk to others in the chat room. After I tried to log in using the Ustream account I had, I ended up making a new account so I could get into today’s chat. Also, during this time, Vicki was sending me IMs over GTalk to try and get me in. Very cool how we can use all the tools and keep going through our toolboxes when a tool doesn’t work for us.

While the “real” class was doing the simulation in San Antonio, those of us online started playing with the wiki at Vicki’s suggestion. My first edit was just changing the title but before long I was changing stuff and adding links and adding to what others had put on the page. I was an editing maniac before the rest of the Green Team even got on the Wiki! It was very engaging and really drew me in. I hope that I can use similar strategies to engage teachers in using wikis when I do professional development sessions on them. I think the key is to get right in and start playing because with the history tab you really can’t screw it up too badly.

Another reflection is that with the Ustream audio running in the background of my computer, I really felt like I was there in San Antonio with the rest of the class. I was working on my computer and adding to the wiki but I could hear what others were saying (at least those closest to the microphone!). And, I even heard someone play a video that I had just uploaded to the Green Team wiki over the Ustream. The connectivity that high speed internet and easy video and audio streaming tools allow us is mind boggling.

And at the end when NECC folks were coming up and giving their reflection on video, I saw Kim Vance from Cincinnati come up and talk and I realized that she is in my Influencer Online Book group that we are doing with Scott McLeod from CASTLE in Iowa. What a small world!

Open Eyes, Use Content and Collaboration to Build Community

This workshop really opened my eyes to the collaboration that the web 2.0 tools can encourage. And it reminded me, too, that it is about the content and the collaboration, NOT about the tools. The relationships we encourage students to make with one another and students around the globe are much more important than which tools they choose to communicate that message. Thanks to Vicki and Julie for including us “non-resident” NECC folks in this session! It was a very valuable learning experience.

Laurie’s Professional Reading List for Summer 2008

After responding to a post by Will Richardson on Weblogg-ed, I came up with a summer reading list for myself. I know that I probably won’t get to all of these but it’s good to have a list of books to read for professional growth.

• Influencer by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, and Ron McMillan
• Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky
• The Learning Game by Michael Barber
• Whatever by Mark Treadwell
• Five Minds of the Future by Howard Gardner
• Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
• Brain Rules by John Medina
• The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
• Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin

So we’ll see how it goes and how much I get read.

Professional Development Meme

This blog post from Miguel Guhlin has him being tagged with a professional development meme for the Summer of 2008. It looked interesting so I am going to do it, too.

Here is the meme that Clif Mims sent to Miguel:

Summer can be a great time for professional development. It is an opportunity to learn more about a topic, read a particular work or the works of a particular author, beef up an existing unit of instruction, advance one’s technical skills, work on that advanced degree or certification, pick up a new hobby, and finish many of the other items on our ever-growing To Do Lists. Let’s make Summer 2008 a time when we actually get to accomplish a few of those things and enjoy the thrill of marking them off our lists.

My PD Goals for Summer 2008

  1. Participate in the summer book group sponsored by CASTLE and Dr. Scott McLeod where we are reading, Influencer. Assessment: Reading the whole book and being a faithful participant in the online discussion in whatever format it takes. Posting to my blog about the experience.
  2. Complete the online course for Online Course Development sponsored by ETLO and eLearning Alabama. Assessment: Having a completed 6-week course on Reading and Web 2.0 and creating a Moodle Course Shell for it.
  3. Blogging on my personal and professional blogs at least once a week, but try to comment on other blogs I read daily at least 3 times a week. Assessment: On August 31, 2008, I should have at least 13 weekly posts on Fresh Fowlers and Magistra’s Musings. On August 31, I should have over 60 comments in my coComment account.

I tag these folks:

Katie Kinney, Jeremie Kinney, Sandra Hornig, Elizabeth Whitehead, Lisa Clayton

Book Review–How Dan Pink gave me a Whole New Mind!

I loved this book!  It was an interesting read that drew me right in from the introduction. And I read it in a day which is saying a lot since I don’t usually feel drawn to non-fiction, nor do I usually tear through it like that. 

The premise of the book is that we are fast leaving the Information Age and left-brain dominated thinking behind and moving toward the Conceptual Age and right-brain dominated thinking; and that this is a good thing.  Daniel Pink then explores what he terms the Six Senses.  Each sense gets a chapter of discussion and then is followed by a portfolio of activities for readers to explore their concept of that sense.

And without further delay, the senses are: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning

In the chapter on Design, Pink states, “We may not all be Dali or Degas. But today we must all be designers.” (p. 69) This struck me right between the eyes because I would not consider myself an artist, yet through my computer work and my scrapbook layouts, I would consider myself a designer. And even if I don’t become the next Isaac Mizrahi or Kate Spade, by developing my sense of design can help me learn to solve problems, understand others, and appreciate the world around me (p. 74). 

In his example of Story, Pink asks the reader two questions. One we can answer by remembering a fact and one by remembering a story—well guess which one most everyone remembers? Yep, the story one.  Stories are how we remember because our brains have an internal mechanism to remember information in this format because we can place the facts in context and connect emotional impact to them. This quote was interesting to me–“Stories amuse; facts illuminate. Stories divert; facts reveal. Stories are for cover; facts are for real.” (p. 102) I love to tell family stories of growing up and funny things my niece and nephews have done AND I love to scrapbook; thus I figured my sense of Story was already pretty well developed.  However, I do need to see how to use this sense in building a new business and making contacts with people that turn into paying presentations.  In the Conceptual Age argues Pink, stories will be important and if we ignore them we will have problems both personally and professionally.

At first Symphony was a little scary since I have a basic understanding of music as an appreciator and only an occasional creator with my voice and my guitar, but then I saw that it incorporated much more than my first impression of the sense.  Symphony is the ability to put together the pieces into a coherent whole, to see relationships between things not often paired together, to see patterns not obvious to everyone, and to invent new things by trying something in a novel way.  These are exactly the skills we need to be teaching our 21st century students instead of preparing them for tests to measure how effective politicians think schools are.  Hopefully, through my professional development of teachers, I can encourage more people to develop these skills in our next generation of thinkers.

Empathy is the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hears. (page 159) It is a sense that many Americans do not develop because they are so focused on their individual needs and wants, yet it is what makes us human and what brings us joy. (page 165)  Helping other people requires that we develop not only communication skills but the skills of touch, presence, and comfort to be fully present for others when they need us.

I love that Play is a sense!  I often refer to my preparation for a workshop as “playing with cool tech stuff.” And play is more than just goofing off—it is games, humor, and joyfulness.  I love playing games either against myself like crosswords or logic puzzles or with groups like Trivial Pursuit or Encore. 

Meaning came together for me long after I had finished the book, bought another one to send to a friend, and heard that Karl Fisch was going to Ustream his students live Skype Chat with Dan Pink as a culminating activity for their study of the book.  Meaning is that which we live for.  This chapter mentions spirituality and happiness as vehicles for finding that meaning, but for me as an educator I found immense meaning in the opening of a classroom so the rest of the world could see students participate in an amazing conversation about the world in which they live with the author, Dan Pink.  They asked great questions and a few of them disagreed with Pink and told him why. It made me see what every teacher should be striving for in their classroom—students making meaning from their knowledge.

Final thought

After reading this book, I realized that the book StrengthFinders 2.0 in which I had taken an online survey to identify my five strongest traits was a business or left-brain leaning take on the senses described by Daniel Pink.  For example, had identified my strongest trait as Strategic which is very similar to Symphony.  Other strengths identified for me were Learner, Activator, Communication and Connectedness. In these I see various aspects of Story, Play, Empathy, Meaning, and even Design.  I hope that through doing the activities suggested in the portfolio sections of the book I can continue to develop my 21st century senses.

Can Technology Make RTI better?

I pondered this question as I attended two conferences in January.  First at FETC in Orlando, I attended a session on using technology to use the Response to Intervention (RTI) model successfully.  I realized from the get-go it was a vendor-sponsored session so it was going to be about a computer application to handle this aspect of classroom learning.  I needed to know the basics of the RTI model so this was a good session for picking up that necessary knowledge.  However, I was amazed at how the presenters, who were educators but now worked for a software/textbook company, truly believed that a computer program could solve problems of struggling students in reading and math.  This resource was supposed to be used after the teacher had taught the information first and then it was determined that some students hadn’t mastered it.  Then those students were put on a computer to take a diagnostic test to place them on the right computer path for learning the skills they needed.  This was supposed to take the place of face-to-face time with the teacher for 30 minutes a day each week. 

I had several issues with this model. First, I think that our struggling students need more adult interaction than any other students.  I think those are the very students who don’t get much attention at home and need the care and concern from their teacher at school.  Second, I have been in labs and classrooms where students take the same lessons over and over and never get beyond the level at which they started because there is not good monitoring of the computer software.  Finally, I believe the RTI model intended the Tier 2 interventions to be in a small group setting with a teacher or paraeducator where students have the opportunity to interact with their peers and a mentor to improve their skills.

At the National Title I Conference in Nashville, I attended even more session about RTI.  I learned more about the model and figured out that the human interaction is part of what makes this model successful for many struggling students.  Some students need small group time and another format for learning and more time to get the skills we teach.  RTI provides this for students in using small group format for Tier 2 interventions where students get to interact with the content in a meaningful way with an adult and their peers. Then when students still need assistance the one-on-one tutor or computer program may be the most appropriate learning environment.

I guess what I learned most about RTI was that it is essentially a good teaching model and technology is not necessary for effective implementation.  I can see how from a teacher’s point of view the computer program doing the lessons, progress monitoring, and benchmark testing would save time, but I still question how effective the RTI model is if delivered solely through technology without the human touch.

Trends from the Exhibit Hall

I am in the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando getting ready to go to some concurrent sessions on Reading and Technology and Special Education and Technology, but while I wait, I thought I’d blog about last night. 

I noticed last night at the opening reception in the Exhibit Hall a couple of trends in what is “for sale”.  Many companies are selling software that “protects” students and teachers from getting to the “bad” parts of the Internet.  Why is it that NO ONE in education can see that EDUCATING students on what is appropriate and not appropriate is a much better way to deal with this than overfiltering the rich content the Internet provides.  As I get ready to do my workshop this afternoon on Web 2.0 tools, I wonder how many teachers will fall in love with free tools that they (and consequently their students) will not be able to access at school or use for lessons. 

The other trend I observed was that everyone sells a test-preparation program “guaranteed” to work.  What does it mean if it works?  That the kids pass the test, but don’t have the skills that working in the 21st century will require?  Something to think about.  How can we use standards to help us integrate technology and engage students rather than use it for drill and practice for passing tests? Okay, I am stepping down off the NCLB/testing soapbox now.

Another trend I saw was mini-computers/word processors–AlphaSmarts have some real competition now and I can’t remember the names of the other products, but they are certainly on the exhibit floor.  Lots of devices with only a few functions so that they are easy for students (and teachers) to use in classrooms.  Durability has also improved a great deal in the last year.  I do wish that we were to the point of selling the OLPC laptops in the US, but hopefully, if the Birmingham City schools in Alabama get to use them, maybe I will have the opportunity to work with that platform with teachers and students in my region.

Finally, I am looking forward to meeting folks from around the country as we do concurrent sessions.  I know I will learn things and hope that I can make some valuable network connections, too. 

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Book Review–Classroom Blogging 2nd Edition

Writing a blog post about a book on blogging, it’s kind of like in Sophie’s World where she is philosophizing about philosophy in a created world of literature.  Okay, so it is somewhat circular, but maybe all knowledge is.

I ordered this book in preparation for my FETC 2008 presentation, Using Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom Learning.   And I loved reading it so much that I finished it in two days and I wrote in the book and took notes.  (Taking notes in books even when I own them is a new skill for me so I still celebrate it!) 


This book explores the history of the web and blogging as well as how we use technology in education.  The chapter on the blogosphere was also helpful; it clarified some terms and concepts for me that I thought I knew but needed more information on. RSS is explained well and gives readers a clear example of what it is. 

I have quoted some parts I really liked and that made me think.  And I added my ideas after the quotes.

·         Page 26 “J. Allard . . . calls today’s children are the ReMix generation” This was eye opening for me because we have moved beyond Digital Natives into this world of creating personalized online environments and making the information work for us individually. And that my learning or work environment DOES NOT have to look like yours or anyone’s to be effective for me.

·         Page 26 “In addition, learners at these conferences are becoming teachers.  Professional development is becoming a conversation.”

So it makes it hard to have a one-shot program be a conversation, huh? This concept should make all educators realize that ongoing professional development is the only way to continue the conversation about teaching and learning.

·         Page 32 “moving from an education system defined by its limits, to an education system defined by its lack of limits.”  For me, this is huge.  I still see so many small-minded people who want to limit access to students in schools.  Many of these limits are placed on teachers and students by parents and administrators out of fear for safety and fear of legal ramifications.  I can still get excited about learning new things because I have an education system of life-long learning instilled in me.  But many of our students are bored at school because they have to obey the school rules that limit the kinds of activities that engage them outside of education like blogging, wikis, texting, social networking, etc.

·         Page 35 “The teacher is no longer the sole holder of knowledge and wisdom.”
 Amen, brother!  I heartily agree with this.  Until some teachers can let go of their need to be the “smartest” person in the room, we will continue to have classrooms that are very small in terms of knowledge.  Teachers need to understand that with knowledge and information growing at the exponential rates of the 21st century, no one can possess it all.  I am much more comfortable saying I don’t know but let’s Google it to find out more than giving a student the brush off because I don’t know the answer.

·         Page 37 “In the same way that the web might be thought of as a global library, the blogosphere is a global conversation.”  This struck home with me because I realized that if blogging is a conversation then I must begin contributing to the conversation as a producer rather than just consuming it on Google Reader.  Soooo, I have begun to blog on my Blogger and Edublog sites with a vengeance in 2008.

This book also contains great screenshots of blog pages with very detailed explanations of all the parts of a blog which is great for newbies to the blogosphere.  David Warlick also takes the time to explain WHY to have a blog in addition to HOW to set one up in different locations.  I think his information on why to blog and specific ideas on how to use blogging with students is valuable to all teachers who are venturing into the world of School 2.0.

David also explains how teachers can use wikis, message boards, and social bookmarking sites in the classroom.  Again, he provides detailed explanations of how to set up these tools and suggestions for classroom use.

Finally, my Google reader account grew substantially after reading this book.  I subscribed to many of the blogs David listed on pages 124-125, but I was pleased to note that I was already reading some of his recommended blogs.  And on pages 180-181, David includes a list of Notable Education Bloggers from Dr. Scott McLeod of CASTLE and the Dangerously Irrelevant blog.

I would definitely recommend this book to teachers who are already using Web 2.0 tools and to newbies who need a good, solid introduction to these innovative tools.  Classroom Blogging 2nd Edition is available from Amazon.

Longleaf Writing Project

The Longleaf Writing Project is getting ready to do its spring professional book study groups.  I have not been as active in the Writing Project since it changed from the Capstone Writing Project to its current incarnation, but I hope to get more involved in 2008.  I used to be the Technology Liaison for the Writing Project in Tuscaloosa when blogging was still very new.  Now I have two blogs and think I can show others how to set them up and use them for personal and professional use.  Maybe we can get an online group together with some face to face meetings, too.

I would like to suggest studying any of these books:

1. Classroom Blogging 2nd Edition by David Warlick

2. Podcasting for Teachers by Kathleen King and Mark Gura

3. Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works by Marzano et al

4. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson 

As you can see, all of these have technology issues but are also related to writing especially in the online environment.

I am also interested in these titles:

Creating Literacy-Rich Schools for Adolescents (2006) by Gay Ivey and Douglas Fisher 

Teaching Writing in the Content Areas (2005) by Vicki Urquhart and Monette McIver 

Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition (2005) by Eric Jensen 

Hopefully, there will be some other folks in the Writing Project who are interested in undertaking an online and F2F (face to face) hybrid book study in 2008.