Monday, May 11, 2009

Speculation on the Power of the Web

It is still too early in the evolution of the Web to say with certainty where its ultimate power lies. At this moment, it is less than an infant, only a little more than a technological zygote. What it eventually becomes is open mainly to speculation, but there is one power it exhibits already in its nascent state. Like technology itself, the Web is overwhelming us with the intensity of its exponential growth and evolution. In barely a couple of decades, it has become an integral player in the shepherding of mankind, and yet in as little as another decade or two, its power may be such that it is no longer recognizable as the beginning entity it is today. The Web can well be considered as part of the “Future Shock” Alvin Toffler wrote about almost fifty years ago, but it is more of a shock than anyone could have imagined then.

The tendency of most people is to think linearly: It has taken mankind a few thousand years to reach our present state of technology, so in another few thousand years, we will be perhaps twice as far along as we are now. But technological (and Web) development and evolution are not linear activities. They are products of geometric progressions, and as Ray Kurzweil points out in his book, The Singularity is Near, by the time a geometric progression makes itself known, it has already become a raging torrent. Such is the ongoing state of the Web. It is at the beginning of a geometric torrent, doubling and doubling and doubling again. This doubling is of information, the very essence of everything in the Universe itself.

Power? In the immediate decades to come (not in thousands of years), man’s assimilation and technological use of information will be several thousand fold what it is now. Many people in generations alive today will experience what this means. The individual, in a newer, better, more durable form, need no longer die, and the Web may well become another world, literally, in which we live, without limitations, essentially forever. It will transcend the banality of religions, and many advanced thinkers believe it may evolve into its own eternal version of Heaven or possibly, though hopefully not, Hell. In any case, the Web’s power most certainly heralds the possibility, and even likelihood, of a wondrous future for the puny, insignificant and fragile little creatures that currently comprise mankind.


Safety Online

Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

Today’s students have two powerful tools at their fingertips—mobile phones and personal computers. These students are the original digital natives. Technology is their world. However, until they are mature enough to use these expensive gadgets appropriately, it is the responsibility of schools and parents to guide and protect them. On their web site, THE X LAB, Mac OX addresses Internet safety for children. They identify education and supervision as being “the two most under utilized techniques for insuring safe computing.”

Educating children to the problems and perils, so they know what to avoid and what to look out for.
Parental supervision of a child's activities on the Internet, including Web surfing, downloading, and participation in chat rooms.

Teachers and administrators recognize their responsibility for students’ safety at school and take steps to assure that students are following and learning safe guidelines when using the Internet. At home, parents must assume this role. Many parents are knowledgeable and diligent about keeping up with their child’s online activities. Too often, however, parents are not equipped to do this. Consequently, schools need to be prepared to educate the parents about the ramifications and possible dangers that result from some online behaviors and provide access to guidelines for safe computing at home.

This responsibility includes netiquette and cyber-bullying. We try to teach our students how to handle bullies face to face in day-to-day school activities—on the playground, in the hallways, the gym and dressing room. In one school, a second grade teacher taught his students how to assume an aggressive stance, look an individual in the eye and tell the person that they didn’t like what they just said or did. The teacher had a cue, and on cue the students stood up and went through the drill several times a day. Knowing how to respond and being able to show that they were not an “easy target” reduced the reports of bullying from his students by about eighty percent.

Online bullying is different. There isn’t anyone to look in the eye. That’s what makes it so easy to take place. Making sure that students are aware of what constitutes cyber-bullying is fundamental. Many students do not realize that some of their activities, done without thought, can be considered cyber-bullying. Defining online bullying as part of the AUP and having a published procedure for students to follow whenever they feel that they are being bullied will send the message that such activities are not acceptable and will be addressed by those in authority. Knowing what their rights are and how to respond can keep some students from becoming easy targets.

Also of consideration is the nebulous area between home and school. Incidences of cyber-bullying that occur in this area must be addressed as well. When children are bullied, whether it occurs online, via mobile phone or in person, they need to know their rights. Electronic bullying is more problematic since the source can be difficult or impossible to find. Where does the school’s jurisdiction begin and end? If bullying originates from a home computer but comes onto campus, does the school have the authority to act? Will including strict rules in the AUP/School Rules make it possible for schools to take action whenever action is needed?

Take a stand against cyberbullying

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We must teach our children that silence, when others are being hurt, is not acceptable. Learning to recognize cyber-bullying as bullying is the first step in teaching them how to react, which means not merely refraining from being involved but also reporting an offense when it happens to someone else. In the end, our children will be safer online and offline as well. We will have helped create a generation of good cybercitizens, who control technology rather than being controlled by it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Copyright Confusion

Do we as a global society need to rethink copyright laws?

I had always thought that I had a basic understanding of what copyright should mean to me as a student and teacher, for years thinking of the subject in black and white terms. Whatever applied to my needs was surely outlined with straightforward rules and guidelines. Now I find the copyright and fair use regulations sending me adrift through a vast sea of gray -- and with a great deal of confusion, major contributors to which are the increased volume and variety of creative work produced and its easy availability via the Internet.

Expecting the general public, global society, to adhere to rules that are confusing and seemingly contradictory at best, is an exercise in futility. If the copyright law is to succeed in what it was initially established to do, “protect works of intellectual property” and remain in line with the values of the First Amendment of the US, “emphasizing that sharing ideas and information leads to new knowledge and innovation,” the global society will need more common understanding and agreements regarding its rules and regulations.

The Creative Commons organization has opened the door to the increased sharing and access of intellectual property by making it easier for owners to release some of the rights regarding the use and distribution of their work and making it easier for users to have access to those works.

What's our role as educators in copyright usage in schools?

Doug Johnson speaks from the viewpoint of a media specialist or, as he refers to himself, a Copyright Counselor. He puts forth the idea that the focus of copyright instruction should be “changed from what is forbidden to what is permitted.” He points out that educators often “over-comply with copyright law, and even forgo using legitimate teaching tools and techniques for fear of violating copyright,” hence the need for educators to be knowledgeable of the Fair Use Doctrine.

Our role as educators is to make the rules of copyright as clear as possible for our students. Teaching by example as often as possible is the most effective way. Johnson points out that students are mostly uninformed and that the more they are made aware of the laws, the more their attitudes toward illegal downloading and copying will be affected. Once students are able to think of the copyright guidelines from the point of view of the producer and consumer, they will be more able to approach the problem with mature attitudes. Johnson points out that “as students become content creators themselves,” they become more likely to develop empathy toward other content creators.

Does ISBs AUP take this issue into account?

Copyright is referred to in ISB’s AUP, but copyright is a very large umbrella covering a lot of territory. Can it be fully addressed in one policy?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Shadow of Privacy

Is there such a thing as privacy online?

First of all, what is privacy? One definition given (on-line) is:
a. The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others.
b. The state of being free from unsanctioned intrusion: a person's right to privacy.

There has been much talk about individual digital footprints, but what about our digital shadow? Our footprint is left from online activity that we initiate ourselves. We sign up, post, upload, share and on and on. What about all the times we are the "stranger in the background of the picture?" What about all the times someone forwards an email message to everyone in their list of contacts? I come from a small town, and I must have the names and email addresses for about half the residents there through forwarded emails. That means that they also have my name and address which are being sent to people all over the world on forwarded email messages that go on forever.

In reality, there is no such thing as privacy online. With effort and constant vigilance, a person might be less in the view of others. However, if one chooses to surf the internet, use email, have a blog or a site on Facebook or otherwise engage in ‘social networking’ you have compromised your privacy.

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, if you have signed up for Internet service, you have an ISP. Your ISP provider can connect your IP address with information you provided at registration to reveal the person behind the IP address. Your search history can be tracked and stored using your IP address. It is possible that a search engine could reveal the IP address behind a particular search or series of searches. If your ISP revealed the account information behind the IP address your identity could be linked to your search history. Google has a collection of videos with advice for protecting your privacy online. They assure the public that they do not/cannot trace or record your IP address, but there are always others who might.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse also gives this tip: It's a good idea to avoid using the same web site for both your web-based email and as your search engine. Email accounts will always require some type of a login, so if you use the same site as your search engine, your searches can be connected to your email account. By using different web sites for different needs -- perhaps Yahoo for your email and Google for your searches -- you can help limit the total amount of information retained by any one site. This makes me wonder about Gmail, Google Reader, Google docs, and iGoogle. Should we be using all resources from the same web site?

When you post information or pictures on one of these (social networking Web) sites, remember that if you want to remove it later there is no law protecting your decision. Unlike a note passed in class, which can be torn in a million little pieces, an Internet posting may not be so easily destroyed. Currently, companies are required to honor posted privacy policies. If a site’s privacy policy says it will remove information and the site refuses, you should file a complaint.

Does ISB’s AUP take this issue into account?

The ES AUP says, Suggestions for appropriate use
· Network storage areas are treated like school lockers. They are respected as belonging to individuals, but are open to inspection by ISB administrators.

· Passwords (to prevent access by unauthorized people into computers) will only be installed on computers when there is a good reason. The Network Administrator will be responsible for installing and keeping a record of all passwords.

ISB’s ES AUP makes no direct reference to privacy online. There is a slight reference to the use of passwords. This policy clearly needs updating.

Mass Collaboration--Are we preparing our students?

In a world of mass collaboration people combine their different skills to explore and solve problems. According to Charles Leadbeater in his newly published book, We-Think: The Power of Mass Creativity, there are five principles for successful mass collaboration: core, contribute, connect, collaborate, create. These creative mass collaboration communities have a social structure. The core group tends to do most of the work, and in the end makes the big decision regarding goals/purpose and projects. There is also the larger crowd of contributors who are less intensely engaged with the project. However their smaller contributions may be as significant as the work done by the core. People thinking in different ways contributing their diverse viewpoints are likely to generate more possible solutions. The larger the group and the more diverse perspectives involved, the greater the benefits. People with different ideas must have a way to connect that allows the free flow of these ideas. Taking this to a virtual world where an open discussion forum, wikis, nings, and even twitter allows these connections to be made. The actual collaboration itself is what presents the greatest challenge. How does a large community of diverse thinkers with diverse knowledge, ideas and values make the most of its diversity without being overwhelmed by their differences? The fifth principle is creativity. The many differing points of view and skills and the ability to think independently come together to form a mass social creativity. Although the lines between expert and amateur, audience and performer, user and producer may be blurred, it is not a free-for-all: it is highly structured.
Wikipedia and Linux are examples. The constant trialing, testing and refinement help to guard the integrity of the project.

How do we prepare our students for a world of mass collaboration?
One of the main reasons I wanted to take these technology courses was to learn what I need to be teaching in my third grade class today to help my students become active and involved members of the society of the 21st Century?

I can see that preparing them to work in collaborative groups is a first step in this direction.

Working collaboratively is not an innate ability. Most children need a great deal of guided practice to be able to develop this skill. The co-operative learning strategies and desired outcomes serve as a basic foundation to prepare students for mass collaboration.

Students practice sharing their ideas verbally with a partner or discussion group learning to listen to what group members say and, take the ideas or thoughts of others and build on them. Working together to solve problems, again having to talk things through, listen to what others are saying and to be able to verbalize their own thoughts. Most importantly, students must learn how to listen respectfully to ideas with which they might not agree and hopefully learn to use diverse opinions as building blocks for new ideas.

My class has been learning to write informational reports. Since we have been studying crayfish in science and have had twelve live crayfish in the classroom for the past six weeks, the students have just finished a collaborative research project about the crayfish. Each student worked with a partner to become the experts for a portion of the research. The whole class then compiled their research results and now each person is writing his/her own report using that information. I can say that this collaboration made the research portion of the project go very well. I was worried that having everyone research the same topic might result in a lack of interest for some students, but having the living creatures seemed to keep a high level of interest and engagement and the students had free choice of the research that they contributed. This research was also used to create a collaborative class Voice-Thread.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Making Tracks

When and where should we be teaching students about their digital footprint?

There is a lot of talk about digital footprints. Imagine what an enterprising entrepreneur could do if she could design “digital mats” to clean up our tracks every time we take a waltz through the Internet. How do we prepare our students for the idea that “Big Brother" is not only watching, he is listening and keeping a record of EVERYTHING we do online? Young people by nature consider themselves to be invincible. Just like Nathan, many will see no reason to worry or even consider the effects of that footprint—out of sight, out of mind.

By the intermediate level of elementary school, students should be made aware of their "digital footprint." Since I work with third graders, my first concern is making them aware of things they can do to protect themselves when playing games and making contacts on the Internet. Earlier this year, our counselor did a great lesson with my class about using the Internet. One of his first questions was, “How many use the Internet when parents are not at home?” A surprising number said that they did. He addressed things like giving out last names and their specific location. Without being an alarmist, he pointed out that some of that information could be used in a negative way, and that they should always check with their parents BEFORE giving ANY information about themselves online. Teaching our students to be aware of questions they are answering online and what information they should not give would be the first step to building responsibility and awareness for their digital footprint.

Does ISBs AUP take this issue into account?

The ES AUP takes this issue into account if you know what “digital footprint” means. The policy is obviously written for teachers and parents--not kids. The term “digital footprint” or the fact that once something is posted or a site is searched online, “tracks” are left, is never mentioned. If the policy is to guide elementary students and how they use the system, it needs to be presented in “student language” and directly taught whenever developmentally appropriate.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reflections on Creating the Final Project

From the beginning this whole process was a bit scary. I have taken a course in UbD and attended additional workshops given by both Wiggins and McTighe. Writing these kinds of projects is not easy. I found the “Reinventing Project-Based Learning” handout to be a big help, especially the section on “Overcoming Pitfalls” beginning on page 60. Some of the most common mistakes were described, and they were all the kinds of things I tend to do. During the planning of the project, I read this article/chapter several times. Making up my mind on the topic/theme/activity to make into the project was the dilemma.

During the morning, while listening to Susie and Jane speak about technology and project based learning, things started to come together in my mind. Their comment, “Don’t let technology lead. Match the tool to the task,” helped to put everything into perspective. Another thing they said, “Make it (student thinking) visible. Provide opportunity for discussion and questioning.” This seemed to fit perfectly with the inquiry process that is infused throughout the science program.

Since our science program is already activity based, I decided to use the next investigation of the “Structures of Life” science unit. Essential Questions are always difficult to word. With Kim’s help and critical eye, I was able to establish those and the Enduring Understandings. Keeping the technology component grade-level appropriate was the next challenge. Since my class has just completed a project in which they recorded their observations of seeds on a voice thread documenting different stages of seed germination, I decided to continue with this mode for students to make their thinking and learning visible.

For this investigation, students will be observing crayfish. As part of this task, they will photograph the crayfish and write in their science notebooks what they observe. Then they will record their observations using their voice thread with the photograph. They can also use the other record sheets and logs. Students will use writing and speaking to show their thinking about their learning. I am excited to see how the project goes.

“Adopt and Adapt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom” by Marc Prensky

In the Marc Prensky article, I can almost see him jumping up and down, madly waving his hands in time with the expediential speed of the growth of information shouting, “Yesterday! These things: individual computers in the hands of individual students, new curricula, new organization, new architecture, new teaching, new student assessments, new parental connections, new administration procedures—should have all happened YESTERDAY. The ‘digital natives’ are at the gate.” While the data banks of information continue to grow, those of us in education must “move forward the only way possible by combining what we know about technology with what we know and require about education.”

Mr. Prensky demands a great deal of change. There are a lot of ideas about the best way to bring about change. In my limited experience, change brought about from the bottom up is the most effective and enduring. Where is the bottom in education? We’re looking at it, kid. If you think about it, the “digital immigrants” are in charge, and, to some extent, in control of the “digital natives.” How long can this last?

“Living and Learning with New Media: Conclusions and Implications”

The most important point I took from this article was one that made me a little uncomfortable: we want our students to trust us, yet we don’t always show trust in them. This is their territory. This is where they are growing up—“digital natives.”

This article speaks of “a cultural shift and a certain openness to experimentation and social exploration that is generally not characteristic of educational institutions.” What better way to protect students from any dangers lurking in the waves of technology and easy access to the World Wide Web than to include them in the planning? By letting them know that we trust them and value their ideas and allowing them to take on more grown-up roles, they can teach us about what they are ready to do and learn.

Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education is the Future

Standardization in teaching, though with some variation, has been around since the late 1800s. This is the model that we are all familiar with – the teacher is the master of the classroom, and she/he teaches a selected curriculum to all students at the same time, often frustratingly trying to help the slower students to catch up and challenge the advanced students to race further ahead. Technology is changing this approach, and in the future things will be radically different.

Because technology is developing at a geometric, rather than linear, pace, predicting its specific integration and uses in future education is at least a bit iffy. However, these two authors, give us an imaginative example of a future classroom where, for example, students are learning Mandarin Chinese grammar, using noise-canceling headphones and laptop computers. One student connects remotely with a brick mason and helps him construct a sentence brick by brick in much the same way he would construct a wall. Virtual bricks are color-coded with words on them and when assembled in the correct sentence order, the English words change to phonetic Mandarin, and the two learners read the results together, working on proper pronunciation and tones. (One could suppose that if this student were working with a manicurist, then the words could be written on computer representations of fingernails and toenails.) The point here is that people learn in different ways, and elsewhere in the classroom, the software program might use the more typical and ancient rote method by speaking and repeating the words. The gist of all this is that the learning process should be tailored to the individual student’s most efficient way of learning. The teacher’s responsibility is to “float” around the classroom (which would be welcomed relief to her feet) and function more as a monitor than instructor.

The term “disruptive innovation” could be considered a misnomer, as there seems to be little disruption involved. To me it seems more supplemental in its effects. The authors note that the tendency is for advanced technology to be “crammed” into the existing classroom model – more computers at the back of the class, the establishment of computer labs, bigger, brighter white boards, etc. “Disruptive innovation” means providing technology for learning where no alternatives exist, not merely tweaking education methods already employed. Many schools are simply unable to offer what many students need. Remedial courses, courses that students must repeat in order to graduate, tutoring, home-schooled students, the educational needs of migrant workers’ children and other students whose life situations or health prevent them from attending school regularly and of course providing unlimited challenges for the brilliant students whose hunger for learning and knowledge cannot be met adequately in the classroom – all this hopefully can and will be addressed by the firestorm that educational technology is becoming.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Project Sketch

Project: The Crayfish Chronicles
As part of the FOSS science unit on Structures of Life, students will work in groups to observe crayfish over a period of 4 weeks. They will learn about:
• physical structures of a crayfish and the functions of those structures
• suitable habitat for a crayfish
• if changes in habitat have an affect on the crayfish’s behavior
As students observe the crayfish, they will document their observations via photographs, diagrams, tracking sheets, and daily logs.

Students will collaborate with their respective groups to produce weekly threads reporting their observations and learning. Students will take photos, sketch diagrams and use their daily logs/tracking sheets to document their observation reports. The final student product will be an information report produced by each student tracking his/her learning about the crayfish and its behaviors observed during the 4 weeks.

Essential Questions:
1. What are some of the different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction in living organisms?
2. What do living organisms do when their environment is changed?
3. How do some organisms respond within their environment?

Enduring Understandings:
1. Each plant and animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction.
2. Living organisms may behave differently if their environment is changed.
3. Some animals claim a territory and protect that territory.

NETS--for Students
2. Communication and Collaboration
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital
environments and media.
b. communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media
and formats.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


This article points out the obvious trends in recent years of like-minded people, regardless of their geographic location, seeking out each other over the internet for collaboration and amplification relative to their mutual interests. Thus, we have the birth of the “Collaboration Age,” a new and rapidly accelerating fundamental in learning, brought about by technological advances (whose developmental rapidity is ever increasing) that connect us with unlimited individuals and the unlimited knowledge those individuals possess and are willing to share. Collaboration of course is nothing more than teamwork, consisting of people being purposefully brought together to solve and/or create and in the process hopefully generate additional knowledge. But technology has made a paradigm shift in the logistics involved in setting up the team. The team is now at our finger tips, and should most definitely be at the finger tips of our students. (An attractive bonus outside the team’s immediate focus is that members -- collaborators -- can cross all time zones and be multi-cultured, possibly planting seeds of tolerance and understanding our world so desperately needs.)

The teacher becomes less and less a provider of information and more of a facilitator (“connector”) in the student’s quest for information and learning. How one goes about picking the gems from the trash is perhaps the top consideration. The deluge of information available, much of it dubious at best, must be skillfully pared and filtered for quality, and it is the teacher’s job to guide the student in developing the skills necessary to do this.

Although the author believes the “Collaboration Age” should be instigated into school systems, he seems to fear, perhaps rightfully so, resistance from classroom status quo. Change is frequently difficult for any number of organizations mired in the past, and many schools are likewise so. However, technology is a powerful force, and it is hard to imagine this kind of “collaboration” in learning not rooting itself, if only at a more evolutionary pace (which will still be quick) in institutionalized learning.

Messing Around & Geeking Out: How are my thoughts changing?

Being somewhat removed for the past twenty years from people who are in their teens, my knowledge of middle and high school students and their leisure pastimes is limited. Two sections of “Living and Learning with New Media,” “Messing Around” and “Geeking Out,” have changed my thinking about this age group. It has also given me a name for what I see my third grade students doing.

On a recent field trip to the Thai Red Cross Snake Farm, three of my third graders brought their own digital cameras, and two were using their cell phones to take pictures. On the bus ride there,
another student and her friend played games on her mother’s iPhone. In their weekly journals students are always telling about visiting Millsberry website or their account with Club Penguin. A play-date with a friend always includes “messing around” on some kind of technological instrument.

During parent conferences, a dad proudly told me about the videos that his kids, two highschool sons and his third grade daughter, make and post on their “Space” for him whenever he is out of the country on business trips. My third grade students who have older siblings are ahead of everyone in the class in their ease and use of technology, including me.

"Geeking Out" was especially enlightening. My idea of the “Geeks” has always been the nerdy kids who are the misfits among their peers. From this article, I now see them as kids with a passion. How wonderful to find a passion at such a young age and have a forum in which to express yourself--a safe place to follow that passion.

I think back to Clarence’s comment about PLN’s allowing students to have an authentic audience. Students who are able to connect with peers who have a like interest not only have the opportunity to get substantive feedback, but to feel validated. Isn’t validation what it’s all about?

Finding information online: How do we address truth and bias in the classroom?

Chris Betcher

Even though I use Google almost daily, it was beneficial to hear the search tips that Chris gave. I had never really understood exactly how to use some of the strategies, so it was good to have the opportunity to learn new tricks. His “Five Factors for Evaluating a Website” should be part of every technology literacy program. Teaching our students to be critical--to question, “Who said that?” “How do they know?” “Where do they get their information?” can and should begin at the elementary level. Speaking of the elementary level, the list of Search Engines for K-12 students is a great resource. Having elementary students searching through Google is most often a waste of time. They need search engines that will produce sites that are within their reading level, and sites that offer easy maneuverability.

Wikipedia! Interesting to get a glimpse of how the articles actually evolve. Comforting to know that there are Wikipedia Watch Dogs keeping an eye on the information being posted and keeping it legitimate.

I also liked Rob Rubis’s rule for the ISB middle and high school students, “Use it first, but not last.”

I think that in this world of technology and networking one of the main jobs of teachers is to teach students to think seriously and critically about the information they are reading—not to accept everything as it is presented. Students need to learn how to seek clarification, question sources and verify what they read. This all begins with good, basic reading skills.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Connectivism--Are My Thoughts Changing?

There is just too much in this article to disseminate and I am tired of reading it over and over. These are the major points that caught my attention.

“Learning theories are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned. The need to evaluate the worthiness of learning something is a meta-skill that is applied before learning itself begins.”

“Chaos is a new reality for knowledge workers. ScienceWeek (2004) quotes Nigel Calder's definition that chaos is “a cryptic form of order”. Chaos is the breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated arrangements that initially defy order. Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks, chaos states that the meaning exists – the learner's challenge is to recognize the patterns that appear to be hidden. Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities.”

Isn’t this similar to what happens in a young child’s brain? Synapses grow and connections get stronger, or synapses are abandoned, and the brain eliminates connections that are seldom or never used. Specialized neurons begin sending messages back and forth making connections and wa-lah! the child begins to take notice of the world around her as her vision begins to develop or she begins to speak.

“Chaos, as a science, recognizes the connection of everything to everything.”

“The capacity to form connections between sources of information, and thereby create useful information patterns, is required to learn in our knowledge economy.”
“Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.”
The article states, “The health of the learning ecology of the organization depends on effective nurturing of information flow.” Then he speaks of well-connected people who foster and maintain knowledge flow. Some of us are very dependent on these well-connected people to do just that. Will they continue to do so?

The description of the cycle of ‘knowledge development” seemed to sum up the idea of Connectivism—that “personal knowledge is a network feeding into organizations and institutions which feed back into the network thereby continuing to provide learning to the individual. “Learners remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.”
The trick is to choose and maintain the right connections and watch for patterns, especially the hidden ones.

Are my thoughts changing? How can they not?

Skyping with Clarence Fisher-Personal Learning Networks

Clarence’s idea of the role of a teacher is to “hook kids up to other people as teachers—connect to others who are the experts.”

As a reluctant blogger, it was reassuring to hear him say that a blog is a place to grow—a place where a community of like-minded people can comment and contribute to our thinking and ideas.

He has done a tremendous amount of work to help his students understand the “bigger world and develop a broader perspective.” As I listened to him tell about requiring his students to read about current technology, news from Africa, global issues and environmental issues, AND write at least once a week about something that they have read, I thought about what an “international education” he is giving his students right there in Manitoba, Canada.

Three things from his talk:

1. “Kids don’t innately know what to do in a blog space.” They need good models to get started, and they need many models to help them see the possibilities.

2. Having the Tabs set for the students assures that they are accessing reliable sources and gives the teacher control over the subject, matter making the time students give to doing the reading worth it.

3. Using a personal learning network to get kids talking to each other, spread ideas and learn from each other also provides them with an authentic audience for what they write.

Hearing from Clarence about his many projects gives me ideas for a wider use of the ES Grade 3 portaportal. Finding suitable reading material online for elementary students is not easy, but necessary to help them along with their own PLNs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why am I taking this course?

Like everyone at ISB, I use a computer several hours each day communicating with colleagues and parents, setting up Smartboard lessons for students, preparing in-class lessons and homework packets, juggling email messages, keeping classroom inventories, etc.

However, for too long now, I have felt that I am only on the periphery of what is happening in information technology. I’ve heard about “Wikis” and how easy and wonderful they are to use. I’ve even been signed up for one for over a year, but it is still languishing out there in the netherworld of the WWW waiting for my input. I’ve heard about “Flicker” and how easy it is to post photos for family and parents of students to view. And of course I’ve heard about blogs. Sometimes I feel that I am the only person with a computer who doesn’t “blog” on a regular basis.

Considering my limited computer expertise and that I teach third graders and am in charge of making sure that my students are on their way to having the information technology skills they will need to be informed citizens of the 21st century, I think it is past time for me to move from the periphery into the mainstream. So, the main reason I need this course is to make sure that my kids are ready with the computer skills and knowledge needed to meet their future.

However, I have many questions regarding their future: What do my third graders need to be able to do? How should they be using computers now in preparation for the fourth grade, fifth grade, middle school, high school, college and future jobs that don’t exist or are not even conceived of yet?

Overall, what I hope to gain from this course is to become more proficient and knowledgeable in the use of computers for myself as a learner, thus enabling me to more competently look for ideas and methods to use computer technology with my third graders that will be developmentally appropriate for them and relevant to their learning.