Saturday, September 16, 2006

K12 Online Conference

I want to take this opportunity to invite you to this Online Conference. I believe it will be a very valuable experience and am looking forward to the presentations.

K-12 Online Conference 2006


Announcing the first annual "“K12 Online 2006″ convention for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year'’s conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30- Nov. 3 with the theme "Unleashing the Potential." The K12 Online 2006 blog has just gone live.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Real Reading In The Middle

Northwest Kidder Middle School has started the Real Reading in the Middle (RRIM) literacy program with consultants Linda Hinkle and Penny Vogel who are with the Michigan Coalition of Essential Schools.

RRIM is designed to foster academic achievement and intellectual abilities, as well as the social and ethical development of middle level students, in the context of a caring classroom community. What makes RRIM unique is the opportunity to integrate Language Arts and Social Studies through the use of rich, relevant literature, and the intensive two year staff development component for participating schools that supports staff in the explicit instruction of reading within and beyond the language arts classroom.

This first training session was recorded in the Media Center of KMS on August 30,2006 during a Professional Development Inservice prior to the beginning of school. The inservice has been divided into three sections for convenience.

Below are links to:

Michigan Coalition of Essential Schools

RRIM Session 1A recorded 08/30/2006
Duration 1:03:49
RRIM Session 1B recorded 08/30/2006
Duration 1:01:02
RRIM Session 1C recorded 08/30/2006
Duration 27:58

Monday, August 28, 2006

Civil War Muster Embalming Impression

It's been several weeks since I have updated this blog. I have been working around with my Moodle site for school, enjoying some vacation with my family and most recently I attended the Civil War Muster that is presented by Cascades, Inc. at Cascades Park in Jackson, Michigan.

I took the opportunity to bring along my MiniDisk recorder and have recorded several conversations with reenactors that were doing impressions for the spectators as well as reenactors that took the field in the Battle of Chickamauga. I will be preparing the recordings and will be sharing them here and with my classes during our Civil War Seminar.

Today's podcast features a topic that was cutting-edge technology during the civil war, embalming. Most soldiers were buried on the battle field, but some were preserved and sent home. The reenactor I spoke to actually does embalming and decided to share the knowledge he has gained about embalming during this time period. While the topic of embalming may seem morbid, the families of the fallen soldiers would welcome the opportunity to bury their loved one at home. I hope you find this impression as interesting as I did.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Moodle in My Classroom

I've been reading about and playing with an installation of Moodle. Moodle, for those who might not know, is a Virtual Classroom Environment or a Classroom Management System. This is to say that Moodle is open-source software that allows for conversation and collaboration among all those in a particular classroom setting. This is especially interesting due to the probable passage of DOPA (Deleting On-line Predators Act) in the U.S. Congress. The passage of DOPA will limit the ability of teachers and students to use commercial web-based social network applications that have students create an on-line profile. Moodle then becomes a very important tool that schools and teachers can use to allow students the opportunity to develop 21st century digital literacy skills as Moodle can be hosted by the school. (for more about digital literacy skills, refer to Will Richardson's and David Warlick's books)

The most current installation of Moodle (v1.6) allows for all of the Web2.0 functions are becoming powerful tools in the 21st century classroom. Weblogs, Wikis, and Podcasts are all available. This helps calm some of my fears of the limitations DOPA will create in my classroom. I will be interested to see what my school's IT team will implement and if Moodle or someother LMS is used to provide these important tools to students and staff.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Power Of RSS

As I have read

"Raw Materials for the Mind: A Teacher's Guide to Digital Literacy" by David Warlick and

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

I have come to experience and see the power of RSS or Real Simple Syndication.

RSS is a distribution system that has been compared to our more familiar newspaper or magazine subscription format. When you subscribe to a magazine, the magazine is delivered to you. You don't have to go to the publishing center and obtain your copy. It is sent out to you and you can easily enjoy the contents of your favorite publication. How many magazines or newspapers would you subscribe to if you had to do the running around to get the content you are interested in? Probably none or not very many. The content would still be valuable to you for whatever purpose you use it for, but the frustration and bother to search out this information might decrease your enthusiasm to seek out the info. This is very similar to what you had to do to seek out your information on the internet. You might find some sites that had exactly the content you were looking for and would check back often. The only problem being, you had to visit each individual site to gather the digital information. Enter RSS and aggregators.

An aggregator is much like your mailman or newspaper boy. It is usually software, installed on your computer, that retrieves digital content, like weblogs, podcasts, vcasts, or news sites. Now that you have your aggregator working for you, the RSS address for sites that you visit can be added to your aggregator. Based upon the schedule you determine, the aggregator will visit each of the sites, all on its own, and check the RSS feed to see if any new content is available. If new material is present, it will be delivered to your web browser. You no longer have to point your web browser at each site. The aggregator will check it for you.

I currently have 30 weblogs that my aggregator checks. I am using Sage, which is an extension for the Firefox web browser. When I visit a site I find interesting, I can have Sage check for an RSS feed. If one is present, I can click it and add it to the sites that Sage will visit the next time I request an update of sites. While Sage is working, I can visit other websites, work on something else or sip my coffee. When I am ready, Sage will obediently show me which sites that have updated content and I can look at the titles or the simplified pages. If I wish to visit the actual site, I click the link, and I'm taken there for a closer look.

Will Richardson also suggests time saving use of RSS for teachers. If you are having your students weblog or use a wiki for assignments, you could subscribe to their pages. When they have new content to comment upon or grade, your aggregator would let you know that their work was ready and waiting for you. Now I don't know about you, but many teachers are reluctant to make better use of technology in the classroom because of the perspective that it will only make for more work. If you use the technology for the students educational benefit, why not also be sure you can benefit also. Instead of checking 60 or 90 weblogs or wiki projects, you spend your time giving quality assessment and input to the content that your aggregator brings to you. This might seem like a little thing but don't be fooled. When teachers start to use the technology that is available for their students and for themselves, everyone will win. In the future I want to share what I've learned of how to have your research come to you.

(The ideas shared here have been gained through the works of Will Richardson and David Warlick. I highly encourage you to visit their blogs and buy their excellent books)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Weblogging For School Improvement

I've been reading Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson and am enjoying it immensely. The uses for weblogs that are suggested are some of the same that I had thought of through reflection and reading other blogs, but Will's list also opened my eyes to new possibilities, especially in use by teachers.

The use of weblogs as a tool for teacher professional development makes total sense. I have been following the NECC 2006 Conference through blogs and podcasts of those attending by checking tags at Technorati and HitchHikr and have gained so much even though I was not on-site for the event. It would be sooo easy for our staff to do the same as they attend state, regional or national conferences for their content areas. Many times the school foots the bill for the workshop/conference and the teachers are asked to report back at a staff meeting or in-service day. By asking that the staff weblog about the event, we would have a record of the knowledge gained, a searchable digital source, and staff could recover this resource when it is relevant to their need. Sorry to say, teachers like students, are not motivated to their best effort unless relevance can be shown.

Our school improvement team was approached by a staff member who wanted to act as a "historian" that would record what was accomplished at in-service events, professional development etc... We agreed that this would be a good idea but didn't know how it could really be of applicable value to the entire staff. Now when school starts this fall I will be suggesting that our school improvement historian maintain the record with a weblog that the entire staff can view/comment.

Like many schools, we have monthly department meetings for the core content areas. The department chair could have the meeting and then weblog the information. It would be available to the team members of the department and would be a record of the work done by department members. Archiving of the digital record would allow members to search and refer back to information that was not relevant to them at the time, but has become important to their teaching situation.

Lastly, by having teachers take such an active role in collaboration of information through weblogs, the staff will be providing the students with a model to follow and learn from. When teachers grow, students will know. The experience of learning lasts a lifetime.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wikis, Wikipedia and On-line Content

Andy Carvin in a recent blog gave me more insights on what I will need to do with my students as they create and manage their wiki pages. Andy makes the case that teacher's fears about the quality of on-line sources, Wikipeida and others, actually provides a teachable moment. As students research on-line they need to be taught to look at the information with a critical eye. Is the information offered with citations for the source of the knowledge or is it someone's opinion? By training my students to look for reference citations, I will be providing scaffolding for the basis of their future learning and showing the importance of citing references in their own scholarly work, whether wiki or written.

As my students prepare their contributions to the class wiki, I will be requiring that they provide citations from at least 2 -3 reference sources. This will be good practice for them and will help maintain a wiki that will be knowledge based rather than student opinion.

This will also help meet one of our school improvement goals: relevancy of content.