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Change doesn’t come easily to me.  My desks have been in the same configuration for that last 5 years, and I don’t really feel like changing them any time soon.  If I can’t change my room layout without much tribulation, imagine the difficulty I encountered in changing how I teach.  But like chipping away at a dam, once I started to change, it became easier and easier to continue to change.

The three areas of biggest change for me have come in:

  • Allowing the use of the internet
  • Collaboration
  • Personal Learning Network

          Using the internet

Now to be fair, I have always allowed my students to use online resources, I’m not an idiot, but I always found the sites for them, made sure they we useful, accurate, and free of false information.  I always told myself that I was protecting them from the big bad internet.  This course has shown me that I was actually putting my students at a great disadvantage.  There is almost more value in teaching the students HOW to find the information than there is in teaching them the information itself.  I worked with my schools media specialist on creating a lesson to teach kids how to do quality searches and how to evaluate the sites they find.

 

       Collaboration

While group work wasn’t new to my classroom, thinking about the importance of the collaboration process, as opposed to the final produce, was.  Previously, my focus with group work was to make sure everyone got along so that the project got finished on time.  After coarse one I redesigned a mapping project I use in my class to focus on working well as a group.  The students had the task of assembling a map puzzle and then gave them a short time to view a map on the board to select cities and geographical features to put on their map blank.  They had to come up with a plan for how they were going to quickly and efficiently select things to put on the map.  The pressure of only having a short time to view the map forced the to be efficient and have a good group plan.  Here are two videos of the students working together on the project:

 YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

          Personal Learning Network

The education program at my collage was hyper-competitive.  There was a great deal of pressure to be the best and outperform your peers.  In some ways this was good, because it made me self-reliant.  However, it also made me feel like I always had to do it on my own, with no help from others.  Course one opened my eyes to finding ways to connect with other educators to find help and get ideas.  My PLN has started small.  I follow a few blogs, and I have only tweeted for help once, but I am getting better.  I have a colleague who is really good at it, so I use her as a resource as well. 

Here is a link to the blog Teacher Reboot Camp which has some great sources for building a PLN.

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Next year our school is beginning the process of becoming a 1:1 school.  Our roll-out grades will be 5 and 6, adding several more grades each year.  As part of our preparation for roll-out we revised our RUA.  The following project is a composite of the results of this revision process and some of my own personal thoughts.

One thing I would like to highlight about this RUA is our attempt to bridge the gap between school and home.  As we prepared for going 1:1 next year, we spoke to several schools that said they have had problems with parent push-back about using the computers.  Some of the major parent concerns were:

  • Students using the computers nonstop at home
  • Students gaming when they should be working
  • A variety of concerns about social media and the risks involved

These are just a few of the things we heard from other schools.  IN our RUA we attempt to deal with some of those issues right up front by talking about what are the parent’s responsibilities at home concerning the use of laptops.  Hopefully this provides parents some tips about how to deal with their concerns and make the process soother for everyone involved.

The one part of my project that is not actually included in next year’s RUA for the school is the Media Release.  This has been an area of concern for me for some time.  I want to use students work and images online for collaboration and to create an authentic audience for my students.  However, without a clear policy, this has always occupied a moral grey area for me.   In general, I have erred on the side of caution and not posted work, but I know that needs to change.  I wrote, and included on this draft, a media release that is part of the RUA.  This media release is an opt-out program, where parent have to let the school know if they wish to not have their student’s image or work published online. 

Here is the RUA:

SFMS Technology Responsible Use Agreement

SFS is pleased to offer students access to computers, communications systems, the Internet and an array of technology resources to promote educational excellence. These resources should not be used for commercial, political, or personal entertainment purposes. Each student is responsible for his or her use of technology, whether school-provided, parent-owned, or personal; at school or elsewhere.  Students must recognize that the SFS Christ-like Attitudes (see Page 4) are just as important when using technology out of school as when interacting with people at school. School personnel and parents must work together to educate students about their responsibilities and to establish expectations when using technology. 

Access to technology at SFS is a privilege, not a right.  Access to these services is given to students who agree to act in a considerate and responsible manner. Students must comply with school expectations and honor this agreement to be permitted the use of technology. 

Expectations:

  • I will use information and communication resources in a respectful, accountable, honest, legal and responsible manner for learning and education.
  • I will protect my digital identity, and the digital identity of others.
  • I will adhere to copyright laws and respect the intellectual property of others
  • I will use resources in a way that does not disrupt learning.
  • I will take good care of all technology resources entrusted to me.
  • I will also follow division and classroom expectations and guidelines related to technology.  The Middle School expectations are listed below:
  • I will keep my passwords secret and not attempt to learn the passwords of others.
  • I will properly log in and log out of school computers.  If I find a computer that has not been logged out, I will either tell a teacher or log the previous user out before using the computer myself.
  • I will use my network storage space only for school-related files.
  • I will only print school-related assignments or information and I will do my best to conserve paper. 
  • I will only use school computers for school-related tasks.  I will not play games, download images or other files, or use email for personal use without permission from a teacher.
  • I will respect the school’s internet filter and not attempt to get around it with proxies (like “vtunnel.com”) or hacking.  If I happen to access a site with content I know is inappropriate or that should be blocked, I will inform a teacher without showing the site to other students.
  • If I find a lost USB drive, camera, phone, iPod, or other device, I will give it to a teacher or the MS Office.
  • I will not download or run any executable files (*.exe, *.msi, *.bat and other types) on school computers as these may carry viruses.  I will not attempt to install any applications on school computers.
  • I will treat all school computers and other technological devices with respect and not use them in a way that will result in damage. 
  • I will not eat or drink anything but water in the computer labs, SMC, or around any other computers.
  • I will not send harassing, embarrassing, or insulting messages to anyone in the SFS community, either from school, from home, or from another communication device like a phone or iPod.  
  • I will report violations of these guidelines to protect the privilege of technology use for all students and for my own safety and the safety of others.

 

Parent-owned Laptops:

Students in 6th grade in 2011-12 will be expected to bring a computer to school every day.  This parent-owned computer will be an integral tool in the learning process. In future years, this “1 to 1 Laptop Initiative” will expand to other grades.  Laptop computers are excellent tools for learning, but can also tempt students to make poor use of their time.  Certain rules apply to the use of these laptops in the Middle School and these rules will be adjusted as necessary as we continue to expand their use.  The following rules will be in place from the start of the year.

  • Students will not use parent-owned laptops at school without teacher supervision.
  • Parent-owned laptops will not be used
    • at school before 8:10
    • during passing time between classes
    • during morning break, unless in a teacher-supervised room
    • during lunch, unless a teacher is directly supervising
    • in the cafeteria
    • at school between 3 and 5:15 pm, unless a teacher is directly supervising
  • Laptops (with AC adapters) should be brought to school fully charged and ready to use at the start of each school day.
  • Game-playing, movie-watching, or any other non-curricular activity at school using parent-owned laptops is not allowed unless a teacher specifically gives permission and supervises.
  • Students are responsible to keep their parent-owned laptops in secure locations at all times.  The school will not be responsible for theft of unattended laptops or other tech devices.
  • Required software, including anti-virus, must be installed on parent-owned laptops and kept up to date.

 

Parent supervision at home:

We expect and encourage some level of parent supervision of technology use at home.  The following tips may help parents ensure that technology is being used appropriately and is not a source of distraction or means for inappropriate behavior.

  • Students should use computers, mobile phones, and other communication devices in common areas of the home, not in a student’s private bedroom.
  • Parents should require that schoolwork is complete before students use technology for gaming, chat, or other entertainment purposes.
  • Parents should limit the total amount of time spent using technology.
  • Parents should reserve the right to take away the student’s privilege of using technology.
  • Parents should be personally informed about and involved with the particular uses of technology that the student engages in.  Parents should know what kinds of music and movies are being downloaded, what sorts of games are being played, and who a student is conversing with online.
  • Parents should require their children to add them as “friends” on social networking sites such as Facebook.
  • Parents should model appropriate use of technology and digital citizenship.  This includes respecting intellectual property and copyright laws.

 

Media Release

Be aware that student work and/or images may be published online for educational purposes.  Full names will never be attached to any image published.  By signing the technology agreement, you accept these terms.  If you wish to opt out of this, it is your responsibility to contact the school with your concerns.

Misuse of Technology:

Misuse of computer or technology resources, whether school-owned or parent-owned, will result in disciplinary action in accordance with our normal discipline policies.  Additional disciplinary measures may be needed to address particular forms of misuse and may include loss of administrative rights on computers, removal of unauthorized or distracting software, installation of monitoring software, or a suspension of the privilege of using technology at school for a limited time.

Students will be given detailed guidelines and expectations on safe and appropriate use of technology and online resources.

Students and parents need to read and sign the technology agreement at the end of the handbook and return this to their advisory teacher.

Ok, I’m going off topic this week.  Or rather, back to last week’s topic.  I know I should move on and talk about the power of the internet, but something happened in the news this week that pulled my attention and reminded me of a question that has been bothering me.  I should have tried to answer this question in last week’s post, but I took the easy road and avoided it.  So this week, no more excuses, here we go:  when is it the school’s responsibility to step in and enact punishments for cases of cyberbullying?

I read a headline on CNN this week that said something like “13 Year Old Suspended for Facebook Post.”  Immediately my hackles were raised. I wasn’t upset because the school suspended her, but because I was SURE that the media was going to make a big deal over the school doing the job it is supposed to do.  See, at this point in time (before watching the video) I was convinced that it was always the school’s job to step in.  We have to protect the school community, right?

Ok, so watch this video and keep an open mind.  Fair warning, it is 12 minutes long, but it is important to watch the whole thing.

 YouTube Preview Image

So obviously the girl made a mistake, and we could talk all day about her right to privacy and whether she gave up that right by posting it publicly (which I clearly she did), and whether that justified the school stepping in (which I’m not quite as sure about).  What is the litmus test for when the school steps in? 

Oddly enough, I think the voice of reason was the crazy lawyer lady.  I was appalled by the school that turned the student away that was asking for help.  In my opinion that was criminal.  However, I find myself as equally appalled that the school suspended this 13 year old girl.  Let me be clear, what she wrote was terrible, and there are probably several posts that could be written about how disturbing it was that she thought it would be “funny,” but I do think that the school overstepped its bounds.

Back to the lawyer; she spoke of a middle road between these two instances; a grey area that while hard to define, is exactly what schools need to be doing.  In my past experiences we defined this grey area as any time that the bullying crossed over to the school environment.  If kids were talking about it, discussing it, acting on it, or it affected their ability to feel safe at school, we stepped in.  There are clear drawbacks to this approach.  If we became aware of something, but weren’t actually observing any change in behavior in the students, we felt we couldn’t step in and do anything.  There is no more helpless feeling than that.  I still agree with this approach, but I wonder if there isn’t more to it. 

So now for the cop-out part of my post.  I still don’t feel like I have the answer to this question.  So like a good teacher, I admit I don’t know the answer and ask the class what they think.  Where DO we draw the line and step in on cyberbullying?

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“Now, we have talked about this many times, what are you supposed to do when someone is cyberbullying you?”

“Stop, block and tell,” she says. 

“That’s right, so why did you respond?”

 Long silence………..

This is a conversation I am sure we are all familiar with.  Student A comes to tell you that student B is writing nasty things about them.  When you question student B they tell you that student A started it; a never ending cycle.  The most frustrating part is that they know the right thing to do.  They have sat through the assemblies, small group discussions, and they have seen the videos. 

So why does it seem that they never actually listen to what we tell them?  I always thought it was just immaturity, but after reading Danah Boyd’s article, “Bullying” Has Little Resonance with Teenagers, it is clear there is more at work.

I had never stopped to think if the problem was with us as educators (duh!).  We aren’t speaking the same language they are.  This helps me make sense of the conversation described above.  They HAVE sat through the presentations by teachers, and ARE capable of parroting back the correct things to say when prompted by the word “cyberbullying.”  They may even understand on some level that what they are dealing with is cyberbullying, but not on the level that counts.  Not on the level that prevents them from hitting the reply button. 

So how do we fix the problem?  I think we need to roll up our sleeves and get involved.  We need to bring the social media platforms into our classrooms and incorporate them into our curriculum.  “But Facebook is banned at our school!” you say.  “Our principal forbids us from being friends online with our students!”  Hurdles to overcome, yes, but not impossible to get over.  There is a wealth of ideas out there about how to use social media effectively in our classes.  Here are just a few sites:

If we can make the case for usefulness in the classroom, we can convince administrators to allow us to use social media.

How does this help us on the cyberbullying front?  By bringing it into the classroom, it allows us to have the conversations with our kids while the issue is occurring.  We can act as moderators, ending problems before they get blown out of proportion.  Most importantly, it allows us to model appropriate use to our kids.  These kinds of intentional interventions have clear benefits.

However, there are other ways that social media in the classroom help with cyberbullying.  Our presence online can act as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior.  I call this the “Grandma effect.”  I am friends with my grandma on Facebook.  She is a sweet and wonderful woman, and I would hate to have her see something negative that I might write about someone or something (not that I am inclined to do so) and it is frequently in the back of my mind when I post. 

Is it a silver bullet?  Of course it isn’t, but it is a step in the right direction.  We need to stop being afraid of social media and embrace the benefits these tools provide, intentional and unintentional.

By emrank from Flickr

The problem with copyright is that it is so difficult to enforce.  For every person actually prosecuted for copyright infringement, there must be thousands who never get caught.  It’s like jaywalking; people know that they shouldn’t do it, but consequences are so rarely meted out that there is little motivation to follow the rules.  So how do we instill on our students the importance of following copyright? 

The first (and probably most effective) is to model the appropriate use of copyrighted material.  By making sure that we, as role models, are following the guidelines, we can have a powerful influence.  By building these guidelines into our projects, we can make it habitual in our students.  But until the importance is conveyed in a meaningful way, students will still disregard copyright in their private lives.

That is why we need to be sharing stories like the one in this article by Wesley Fryer.  By Showing students the real-world consequences of copyright violation, like the story about the high school track students from the article, we can begin to connect students to the importance of the concept. 

When do we start?  As soon as possible.  This needs to become second nature to students, so waiting until middle school or later simply won’t work.  Working with sites like Creative Commons should begin as soon as kids are working with computers to create work for the class.  As technology works its way into younger and younger classes, so should the discussion about copyright.  In fact, in some ways, I think students are better equipped to understand the topic at an earlier age.  The concept of “mine” and “yours” is well established pretty early on in schools.  This relates back to my first post for this class.  Copyright needs to be built into character education, and by doing so, we can shape not only better students, but better people.

by zimpenfish from Flickr

In my post last week I talked about the need to link digital citizenship with character education;  the basic idea being that if you are a “good person” in real life, you should be a “good person” online.  So when it came to this week’s post about privacy I initially took a rebel view.  I read the article about the lack of real concern over online predators, and the article that was all upset about Facebook changing its privacy settings to store our data, and my response was, “meh.”  Who really cares if the ads on your Facebook site target you?  Is it really a bad thing to see advertisements that show goods and services that you might actually be interested in?  That was going to be the gist of my post this week.  But in my further reading on the topic, my mind has been changed.

In retrospect, I may have been a little idealistic in my last post.  Sure, it would be great if everyone was a good person and never made any mistakes, but I know that is not realistic.  People will always make bad decisions, and when that bad decision involves the internet, it can be next to impossible to make things right.

This point was driven home for me in an article on msnbc.com (http://on.msnbc.com/hwOnkb).  In the article, Bob Sullivan warns about our general apathy towards digital privacy.  In a section called ‘The End of Second Chances’ Sullivan quotes a privacy expert Larry Ponemon as saying:

 ”The end of privacy is the end of second chances,” Ponemon said. “Some people may think I’m just being a cranky old guy … but the thing about what made this country great is our ancestors came with nothing. They didn’t have a reputation, positive or negative. They could, like my dad, go to Arizona and become a dentist, something he couldn’t do in his home country. The ability to reinvent ourselves has made great fortunes. The ability to do that today is significantly diminished because of all the information that is attached to us. Could we have another Thomas Edison now, who dropped out of elementary school in his first year (at age 7)? Maybe not.”

We need to be concerned about digital privacy for this very reason.  People need to be able to rehabilitate their image, and a lack of privacy hurts that process. 

The answer to this problem is complex.  Sullivan likens it to a herd mentality where people are not concerned about the issue because no one else is.  He suggests the responsibility falls on the government to legislate the issue, and I agree.  The right to privacy is inherent and should be protected, and it shouldn’t be the responsibility of people to have to protect themselves.  I am not saying people shouldn’t have a way to share information, but the default setting shouldn’t be that they have to share that information; it should be a choice.  If people don’t have a choice about how to control information about themselves, we can never move on from our previous selves.  I know that I am not the same person I was in high school and I would prefer not to be judged as if I were.

The internet has made the term Personal Computer obsolete.  There is very little about our computer use that is personal anymore.  Everything we do online now is logged and stored for future use by some marketing company, or scanned over by some future employer.  You can’t make a comment about a friend’s photo, talk about the dinner you ate, or which movie you are going to see without worrying about how it might be interpreted.  None of this is particularly new to me, but it is important to reflect on how it impacts me as a teacher, and how it will impact my students.

From a personal standpoint, I think it is extremely important to monitor one’s digital persona.  My credibility is at stake with every new item put out for the world to see, and it is important to remember that it isn’t only future employers who are out looking for information, my students have the same access that any future employer might have.  But all of this boils down to common sense.  I have no great revelation to add to the rule “if you don’t want your mom to read it, don’t put it out there.”  This is something that we have been telling kids for years, and doesn’t really seem like it needs a whole blog post to cover.  For me, it seems like it is more important to figure out how to turn the table on this issue and make our digital footprints work for us and not against us. 

This is the education that we need to be passing on to our students.  Not that we should neglect the negative aspects of a digital footprint, far from it, but in teaching kids how to create a positive digital persona, we are actually teaching them how to have a positive actual persona.  We spend a great deal of time on character education, and it seems to me that digital footprint and character education go hand in hand.  We all agree that we need to be creating good global citizens, and for me, that must include being a good digital citizen.  If we can tie these two ideas together in the minds of our students we can contextualize the learning so much more than just saying, “don’t post bad things,” which so often seems to be what we say to students.

This video by Dan Pink is the kind of thing we need to be starting with when teaching our kids about their digital persona:

 

The end goal needs to be that there is no difference between the student in our class and the student online.    

Links for further thought:

http://livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit/38320

http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/02/teaching-kids-to-manager-their-digital.html – This is where I found the Two Questions video 

 

By Ikhlasul Amal-Flickr

It was not easy to find the central theme of my EARCOS experience.  I encountered so many great ideas, from flipping my classroom, to how to close the achievement gap for boys.  It was difficult to find the thread to pull them all together.  The one central idea that kept coming back to me as I reflected after the conference was that all of these concepts focused on engaging the students in a world where there are so many things competing for their engagement.  How do we design units and lessons that will hold their attention and prepare them for life after school?

The unit below is my attempt to answer this question.  I created this unit in collaboration with four other members of the cohort: Jenny James, Lauren Teather, Megan Walker, and Patty Swanson.  We took an existing unit and updated it to include elements of ideas we learned at the conference.  We wanted to include a technology piece, but make sure that it was not a just a substitution for what was done previously.  The tech addition needed to add depth to the project and enhance the learning.  We chose to have the students create videos that take an ancient Greek myth and translate it into a modern setting.  The video needs to capture the core religious concept that was present in the original myth.  This requires students to be able to analyze the original myth and distill the true meaning, and then apply that knowledge to the creation of their video. 

Once they have creates the video they are then required to view and respond in a blog post to the work of the other students in the class.  But their response needs to be through the lens of the characters in their video.  For instance, if their characters had a monotheistic outlook, and they view a video that represents a polytheistic belief structure, they need to respond according to their monotheistic view.  This creates a layer above the creation of the video that has them responding to the world around them from the point of view the represent. 

Finally, the students are required to read the blog posts of others to prepare for a fishbowl activity.  They will have a discussion where they are interacting with others while representing their characters point of view.  To be appropriately prepared for this activity they will need to truly understand the perspective they represent.

So how does this relate to deep engagement?  By having the student take on the persona of the characters in their myth they form a personal connection to the material.  They will need to converse with others, answering hard questions, from that point of view so they really need to “know their stuff.”  Also, by giving them an authentic, critical audience for their videos (their peers) the stakes are raised.  Their peers will be challenging their point of view, which is pretty good motivation to be prepared.  These components combine to create an engaging activity that will hopefully have a lasting impact.   

Project Title:  Mount Olympus Film Festival
 

Standards Met:

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. 

  • Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.

  • Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats

  • Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

Creativity and Innovation

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

  • Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.

  • Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

  • Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.

  • Identify trends and forecast possibilities.

Students Understand Life in Ancient Greece

  • Explain the significance of Greek mythology to the everyday life of people in the region and how Greek literature continues to permeate our literature and language today, drawing from Greek mythology and epics, such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and from Aesop’s Fables.

  • Summarize the contributions ancient Greece has made to modern day civilizations such as religion, the Olympics, politics, shipping, philosophy, & theater

Students Introduced to Other Major World Religious Beliefs

  • Relate the human encounter with the mystery (unknown) to human search for religion

  • Identify the differences between science and religion

  • Understand the role of faith in looking at life’s ultimate questions

 

Enduring Understanding:

  • Students will understand that the idea of an afterlife originated in Greek Mythology.

  • Students will understand that Greeks moved from polytheistic to monotheistic belief.
  • Students will understand that the study of astrology came from the desire to know about their Gods.

Essential Questions:

  • How do religions evolve over time?

  • How did Socrates’ contribution change the perception of Greek Gods?

GRASPS Task:

Goal: Students will learn how Greek Myths represent religious concepts.

Role: Student will personify a Greek mythological figure and represent that character’s religious beliefs.

Audience:   A chorus of Greek mythological characters (peers in character).

Situation: Students will watch peer-produced Greek Myth videos and react in character to other characters’ religious concepts.

Product: Create a video that interprets a Greek Myth into modern day languages and setting.

Six Facets of Understanding:

Explain: Students will explain their character’s religious viewpoint in a fishbowl experience.

Interpret: Students will put a Greek myth in a modern setting, preserving the main religious concepts and document this in a video presentation.

Apply: Students need to apply their own character’s religious beliefs to the context of other students’ videos.

Have perspective: Students will understand that these myths are the foundational basis for Western religions.

Empathize:  Students will create a blog post reflecting on another religious perspective.

Have self-knowledge: Students will respond to this question in a fishbowl activity:  How do the various beliefs shared reflect my personal understanding of religious concepts (after-life, monotheism, divine characteristics, etc.).  

Resou

By Eva the Weaver on www.flickr.com

When I hear about the importance of collaboration, I immediately think about students collaborating in my classroom.  I have my students work in groups all the time.  I like to use a combination of informal groups and groups for formal projects.  In general, I think I do a fairly good job of this, but I would like to have my students start to do more collaboration beyond my classroom and start connecting to the world in a more meaningful way.  This was something that I was on the lookout for here at the EARCOS conference and the reason I attended Fred Mednick’s presentation on Thursday titled Practical, Free Global Collaboration

I went into the session think that the focus would be on how to help students collaborate in the classroom and with other students in the world.  Turns out I was wrong; I must have misread the description in the booklet.  The session was actually about a program to help teachers collaborate.  Mr. Mednick has created an online community that allows teachers to connect and share ideas about what they are doing in their classes; sort of a free, online professional development site.  In actuality, the site is not really up and running yet.  He showed us a template he had created and how it might work, and asked if we thought it was interesting, and if we would use it.  If you want to check out his template it can be found at http://earcos.twb.org/

At first I was disappointed.  I wanted to find ways to connect my students to a network for global collaboration, not some soon-to-be professional development.  But it did spark an idea for me that when stated out loud seems almost embarrassing that I hadn’t put it together before now.  If I want my kids to be globally connected for collaborative purposes, I better do the same thing.  I know, pretty obvious right?  But for some reason it hadn’t every occurred to me. 

During Mednick’s keynote address he stated that there are 59 million teachers in the world making teachers the largest group of professionally trained people; seems like I could find one or two to chat with about some collaboration.  He also said that teacher education is about learning from, and for each other.  I really like that idea.  I really like the “for each other” part because it implies a responsibility on our part as teachers to serve the larger community of education. 

Links for further reading:

http://www.teacherswithoutborders.org  -  Fred Mednick’s organization

http://www.connectivism.ca  -  Some theory about learning through connections

www.nasaimages.org

Geoff Green’s keynote address was captivating.  His images and stories were powerful and moving.  His concern for the environment was inspirational and I am sure that there was not a teacher there who didn’t leave wondering about how they could scrape together the money to go on one of his expeditions.  That appears, at first to be the biggest takeaway from his presentation.  Go to the Antarctic and learn about the world.  Clearly this is an unattainable goal for most, if not all people present.  So how do we take that inspiration from his talk today and make it meaningful tomorrow. 

There were several quotes from his presentation that I thought were relevant to the current trend in education.  My personal favorite was is mention NDD: Nature Deficit Disorder.  The point was that in connecting us to the world, technology has disconnected us from nature.  We spend more time on Facebook than we do going on a walk in the park.   So how do we restore the link, and what does this mean for education?

Technology is clearly the answer to the question about the meaningful tomorrow and in answering that question we can restore the link to the world around us.  We all want to inspire our kids to be better global citizens and stewards of the earth, but words clearly won’t get the job done.  By using the vast resources available to us at a finger’s touch, we can take the whole world and make it local.

Case in point: there is a project taking place in the small rural town of Decorah, Iowa.  They have set up a live webcam of an eagle nesting spot.  This cam captures the life of a mating pair of eagles, and has done so for the last 3 years.  The link to this cam is here.  Now students have the opportunity to actually observe eagles in their life cycle, from laying the eggs to hatching, to eventually leaving the nest.  This is a perfect way to bring the natural world into the classroom with meaningful results.  This is not some film strip, or textbook passage, these are actual eagles in the wild.  That has impact on our kids.  Now my students in Korea can make a strong connection halfway around the world to an issue like habitat conservation through the authentic use of technology.  This takes the world and makes it local for the students.

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