Archive for category school 2.0

Loving to Learn and Learning to Share

lightbulb.head.ideasI have to admit that sometimes I take a break from learning.  Sometimes life is so busy that I just cannot find the time to read through my Google Reader or finish playing with those new tools that I bookmarked.  At the times where I am not being proactive in my own Personal Professional Development (PPD), I do not feel that I have anything important to add to my Personal Learning Network.  While socializing on there is always an option, it is never my top priority so when I get stuck in that vacuum where new ideas dare not enter, I don’t participate much.

I actually feel like less of an educator, and that I have less to offer to the education discussion when I get caught in that vacuum.  I have this deep need to be a part of the conversation and have analyzed why a lot in the last month.  It’s not because I like chit-chatting with my friends online (that’s fun but it’s not why I have a PLN), it’s not because I like adding followers and friends to my network, it’s because I love learning.  I love new information and the ideas that come from it.  I love the feeling I get when the light bulb goes on, and I solved a problem for making my classes better or helping a student.  I love the rush of exploring an idea to my full limitations.

I have made a commitment to add something that I think will help the conversation about education grow, and will drive me to learn on a daily basis.  It’s a year long responsibility so it’s not to be taken lightly. I want to be able to share what I learn with my PLN and colleagues, and in order to do that I need to learn something new everyday.   I am literally pushing myself to be a better person and educator by committing to this project.  I hope that a lot of us who attended ISTE10 or who are getting rejuvenated for the next school year can all commit to loving learning and helping our kids feel that energy.

note:  Project to be announced at the end of the holiday weekend

Flickr photo by Cayusa

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I.T. Departments Should Support Student Morale

I am blessed to work at one online school where the IT department is not encumbered by district pressures and our students have full access to almost anything that our teachers deem important to the learning process.  Not all educators are so lucky.

Most education discussions about IT departments are usually centered around privacy and safety concerns.  I want to raise another one.  In an ideal world the IT department should support student morale, especially in online learning where the student is so often isolated from hands on help.

I know they are there to make sure things run smoothly.  To support staff.  To keep kids safe.  To appease parental concerns.  All of these are really important and make their jobs more complex than any one of us from any one segment of the school can fully understand.  However, in the age of online learning, I hope that schools begin to hire IT professionals who think about students first.  I’m sure this sounds naive, and maybe it is, but I’m looking at this strictly from the student’s perspective.

Scenario #1:

I am an online HS student, I do not log in everyday to work on my assignments, my motivation is in question by my teachers, it takes a lot of my teenage will power just to make it through my favorite gaming and social networking sites to get to my school’s LMS.  I log onto an assignment. My teach sends me to some new site to work on some quiz. Its pretty easy, I go through a series of vocabulary questions, some multiple choice, a few short readings, and now I’m an expert (kinda) at one tiny portion of my schoolwork.  According to the site I am on, I’ve spent 17 minutes and 20 seconds to complete this quiz and I scored 130/130.  Great.  I’m done.  Hmmm, why is my gradebook not recording the score I just earned?  I email my teacher to let them know what happened.  The teacher says they emailed the IT department to check on what’s wrong, why is the website not communicating with the gradebook like it should?  My teacher gave them my contact info.  I never hear back from them.  Its been a week.  I email my teacher “what’s going on, I still dont have a score for the U3 Reading Quiz?”  My teacher says they will contact IT again…my teach get back to me in two more days.  IT says the site didn’t work right, and I have to retake the quiz.  In fact, all 10 of my friends have to do the same thing because it messed up for all of them.  My teach says that IT will work on it.  I redo it and move on to the next unit.  A similar problem happens with a similar assignment using, what I think is, the same site but just new material.  I complain again.  My teacher contacts IT again.  I have to redo it again.  Jeezzz, I’m not redoing it again.  I will just take the zero, this is ridiculous.

Scenario #2

My teacher told me to email tech support.  She said that one of the assignments the course developers built in Unit 5 is having problems and the teacher can’t do anything about it.  I email them.  They never respond.  Well, since they aren’t responding, and I told my teacher, guess it means I don’t really need to do this anyway.

Scenario #3

My teacher keeps emailing me about how to save this doc into some file format thingy so they can read it.  I just don’t get it. For some reason I keep uploading it but my teacher can’t open it.  Teach told me to contact my tech coordinator.  I did.  They helped me save my essay to something called Rich Text Format.  I sent it into my teacher and he said it was great.  Sweet.

IT needs to be good at communicating with kids.  They need to think about how ALMOST all problems that come into their department effect a student. There needs to be a clear set of procedures in place when an issue is filed by a teacher or student and that needs to be communicated to the complainant.  Online students feel isolated.  They need constant reinforcement, encouragement, engagement, and morale boosting….even from the IT department.

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Your Vision of a Gradebook

no gradebooksIf you didn’t have to put A’s and F’s into your gradebook on a regular basis, what would you put in there instead?

Considering that I am pretty active in a Personal Learning Network that is based in Twitter and prides itself on education reform ideals, that my primary job is in a charter school which many associate with reform, and I work in a variety of online programs across the country which is a major face in the changing landscape of education, I often hear people talk about throwing out the gradebook…….but I haven’t really heard too many people talk about what would replace it.

One possibility I can imagine is a school with smaller class sizes where students are graded subjectively on projects or authentic assessment followed up with one-on-one discussions that would help the teacher assess learning as a way of getting rid of letter grades. However, what would we turn into the state or district auditors? Would I just not put in weekly grades and then add in a letter grade at the end of the quarter or semester to give to the powers that be? There are definitely ways around it but in every program I’ve ever worked in, we have to provide a grade based on the same exact A-F scale.

So, if we didn’t have to do that, what would your gradebook look like?

Can you imagine any foreseeable future where we don’t have letter grades that go to our departments, districts, or states?

Lets hear your vision of a gradebook.

Crossposted at TeacherStream, an online learning blog.

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Our Social Experiment Continues

The school year is getting ready to start shortly, and that means time to take our piloted social network to the mainstream school population!

Last semester my assistant principal, a couple teachers and I piloted a private Ning network with the hope of creating a place for students at our online school to meet, share, and learn.  It went really well so we are expanding it to the entire school.  It will be voluntary, but has the capacity to have over 700 students and 30 teachers.  Those numbers are the extreme, but we had 200 in our pilot so guessing we could at least see half of our students on the Ning this year.

We moved the network to a private domain for this year, added a chat application, and are conducting an orientation session that focuses on the network.  This should help us alleviate some parent and student concerns from last year.  Namely, our students didn’t like that they couldn’t chat easily and conducting the orientation gets everyone involved from Day 1.

I have high hopes that the network can be a source of change and create a community of learners at our school.  Right now we have a culture of failure, in both our students and staff.

I’m betting that if students can form better relationships with peers and teachers then they will be more motivated to do the work.  I’m betting that if they have easier access to assistance through peer tutoring and teacher availability then they will complete more assignments.  I’m betting that if they feel like they are connected to something at a deeper level than just logging into classes and doing multiple choice assignments then they will have more success.  I saw evidence of this when I interviewed kids last year about using Web2 and social networking in our school. Now, we just need to expand those opportunities to all of our students and hopefully failure and dropout rates will begin to change.

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‘Plus 1′ Policy for Conferences this Year

I want to call out educators to try and actively promote a Plus 1 policy when registering for conferences this year.  Most of us attend conferences that we feel comfortable in, conferences where we are supported by other like minded individuals, conferences that allow us to take part in conversations we feel pretty knowledgeable in. This was especially true at NECC 2008, and its true in the online conference I am actively participating in right now.

While I was in the backchannel chat today, I thought “wow, everyone in here is ahead of the curve and is pretty sold on what this conference is promoting,” which happened to be Web 2.0 tools.  The theme of the conference isn’t the point, but the fact that we were all chatting away in a gigantic Echo Chamber started to bother me.  There wasn’t anyone on that chat that was disagreeing with anything that was being said, even when prompted to.

The point is, most of us really want to change education.  We aren’t going to do that until we get more teachers, administrators, district personnel, lawmakers, and politicians involved.  To do that, we should invite them places. Get them to witness what we are trying to do.  Get them to argue with us and make us justify why we are changing education in this particular vision.

So, for all the conferences we are planning on going to this upcoming year, let’s either make sure we bring a person that doesn’t agree with us or might not understand what we are doing, or if money is an issue, have them REPLACE us at that conference.  You know they will get more out of it anyway.

This will take some work.  We will have to be unselfish, almost altruistic in some cases.  In other cases we will have to work hard to convince colleagues they should attend and will have to hound them to say yes when they don’t want to work over the summer or write extra lesson plans for a sub.  Whatever it takes. This is easy in the scheme of changing education!

Conferences in the next year that I really want to go to and will make PLUS 1 a reality in: K12 Online Conference Virtual Schools Symposium, Educon 2.1, NCCE 2009 , and NECC 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership recently, largely due to Influencer: the Power to Change Anything, and despite not having any ‘power’ at my job, am trying to influence change.  Thats where printing this idea comes to play.  In the past, I might of just kept it to myself but am trying to influence public discourse in some small fashion.

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