Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Resistant to Change?

See if this applies to you?

old snow shoes, new snowshoes, how hard is that???

BubbleShare: Share photos - Easy Photo Sharing

Many of you are probably thinking it is a no brainer, new snowshoes! Well, I am going to make a connection here from old wooden snowshoes, comfort, a known quantity and any new technology, uncomfortable, an unknown and new, just plain new.

Why did I drag my old snowshoes out of the basement to go snowshoeing with friends?
They were there.
I knew how to use them.
I knew they would work.

What was my purpose for snowshoeing on a winter day?
I wanted to go snowshoeing on a windy day when the ski lifts were not operating.
I wanted to be with my friends.

What were the results?
I grabbed my ski poles, for balance and breaking trail.
I put on my snowshoes.
I hiked perfectly in the snow.
I slipped and slid all over the ice.
My friends did not slip and slide with their new and improved technologically tuned snowshoes.
This is pretty funny, you are the geeky girl and you have the oldest equipment!

What did I think after the trip?
All during the hike my friends commented on how unwieldy my old snowshoes were.
Several people commented during the hike, oh are those your grandfathers snowshoes?
I did slip and slide out of control on the ice while my friends with the new 'technology' were able to move through snow and ice with ease.

How does this relate to technology and our classrooms? We need to plan. We take out the tried and true. It has always worked. It will work again.
We continue on until someone in our network, asks us to join them. We may be reluctant, we may go along with them giving the excuse that we don't have time to try something new, the old way has worked..... but I ask you to ask yourself.
Why are you doing something?
What is your purpose?
How are your results?
After you reflect will you do this the same way again?

That is all we can ask of ourselves, if we can affirm that what we are doing is the best and we have the results to prove it, then that is all we can ask of ourselves. However, if we have a network where we can share and reflect and try something new, compare the results then that may be the best that we can do for our students. Are you still resistant to change?
Not me, I purchased some .... some new pink ultra modern snowshoes!
LLBean photo.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meet a 21st Century Learner, a prosumer, a student!

For the past couple of months I have worked with 100 eighth graders as they navigate their way through a private Ning, a social network, we created for their language arts classes. We followed the protocol of creating gmail accounts for the students based on a special gmail account. The end result is that the students do NOT use that email to receive any communication. The communication from teachers and students takes place on the Ning. (This in effect is due to the CIPA regulations for students under the age of 14. )

The Ning was created as a walled garden where students can practice their online skills in a supportive environment. The skills we are teaching have to do withinternet safety, cyber citizenship, appropriate use of content, specifically looking at Creative Commons and how to find music, images and video that is available for shared use. The language arts teachers use the site for writing prompts and soon will open it as a forum for discussing a grade level novel. The clever name of theNing is grade8ourspace .

Students spend class-time working on their writing prompts, they reflect and comment to other classmates instead of the teacher being the only one to comment on a prompt. Students soon realized that they could use the site all hours of the day or week, including weekend days and they were posting their own writing prompts for their peers. I have to admit that I thought their prompts generated much more conversation than the prompts about character development. However, if we don't start with character development, there may not be the next level of writing!

Here are some examples of student prompts :
Relationship problems?
Where do you go? Who do you talk to? Who will listen? Will they understand? Why don't they care? Doesn't anyone feel the same way?

Feeling alone and depressed.

Many teenagers between the age of 13-18 go through depression. It could because of parents divorce, friend fight, losing a boyfriend/girlfriend or living in regret.
There were 22 comments in response to this.

What is your idea for the 8th grade trip?

I would like to get some good ideas for the meeting we have with Mr.G, so what are you ideas?

What is your fear?

My fear is falling off tall things like cliffs or the stage or the thingy on the rock wall. And spiders they are just creepy and gross!!!!!!

Each student prompt had about 20 responses, or 20% of the students. The teacher prompts had the full class of students responding and then students responding to other students.

During school vacation, I received an invitation to another ning. The Ning was created by one of our students. I joined and was happy to see a decidedly different ning. The student had invited all the 8th graders and teachers. The Ning was created just because she could. I asked if I could interview her about this and she agreed.
This is what I learned. Darian started the Ning because she was bored. She thought up the name based on her personality. She send out a broadcast notice to join her Ning to all in the Language Arts Ourspace Ning. So far about 20 people have responded. She mentioned that it was a place to hang out and have conversations about anything anyone decided to write. At her site, the members started a couple of groups. One student has added a series of videos about "Who will sit with Josh?" This is a spin off of a YouTube series about a boy and his life. Another group that has started up is Save the Wildlife,A place to talk about animals... and environment!! About our planet and other things to like recycling!!
Darien mentioned that her creation of this Ning will probably help her in the future when she is working. I asked some questions about being the creator of the site and if she had a plan about how long she would keep the site alive,( probably forever) and if she knew how to make the site private or how to block people. She confessed that she saw those were possibilities but hadn't read how to do that. I shared some tips with her and she made some changes.

What does all this mean and how does it relate to schools, teachers, curriculum and content? The ourspace for language arts Ning, social network, was received well by the students and teachers. Many of the students began their own prompts and participated in replies to multiple questions on the language arts Ning. This was allowed and monitored. Once Darien realized the power of the network she then created her own social network to reflect her personality. Darien also confided that another student she knew created a family Ning for her own family. I don't believe we can restrict and confine learning to our school day hours. I am hopeful that with more Web 2.0 tools and less emphasis on school control, that we will open the pathways for our students to participate in their own form of on demand learning. How can educators use the current online real estate for projects to continue 24/7 learning? What are some projects that make sense for our digital learners? What are the tools we can provide? What are the connections we can offer? Once we share these kinds of tools we can't close Pandora's Box, why would we want to?

I want to thank the students at my middle school. I learn so much from them each day. We are on this journey together. The names were changed for this blog post. You know who you are!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A stunning video listen to the voices.

This video is an excellent video to watch prior or after a book talk on Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael Horn and Curtis W. Johnson. The SEEDLINGS were honored to have Michael Horn with us on Thursday March 5, 2009 to discuss the implications for all educators, students and parents.
Sharon Betts offered up this video as a reminder to us about who are customers really are.

What do you think?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Conquering a Challenge!

 Cross-posted at Techlearning.com
Two years ago I tried something I had never tried before. I entered the Mt. Dew Vertical Challenge ski race. My first race was all new to me. I had never raced on skis, never in a slalom and never in a crowd of all ages from 5 year olds to 70 year olds. My heart was pounding when I reached the gates during my first race in 2007. My purpose was to have fun, but in the process I discovered the same kind of feeling many of us have when we encounter something new and challenging.

In January 2009, at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, I raced the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge slalom course. My youngest son raced at the same time I did, he was on his snowboard trying to best his record. I started out with him, but soon was pretty far behind him, but I keep at it.  I was almost as nervous as the first time I raced and throughout my race I talked my way through the slalom course to the  bottom. I kept reminding myself that I could keep going fast and not to slow down until I was past the finish line.   By the time I was at the end of the slalom course and still standing, I was thinking about whether I had beat my old record and if I had improved. My goal for the entire year had been to beat my previous time, and since I moved into a new age group I hoped I could be first in my age group.

While I was racing this year, I was reminded  that when I am presenting to others, I have to imagine that there are some in the audience who are feeling nervous, scared, and probably that "just get me out of here before anyone notices how little I know feeling". I think all presenters who are mindful of that nervous feeling will be able to reach some timid members in the audience and encourage them to try something new with purpose.

I am happy that I have kept at my own Vertical Challenge for the past three years. I am happy that each year I have gotten a little bit faster. I am happy and surprised to report that I did win my age group, FIRST PLACE. I have a medal to prove that I won, but just knowing that I kept at it was enough for me. As much as I enjoyed winning, I am confident that I will remember the nervous, heart pounding sensation that accompanies trying something totally new and out of my comfort zone. If I can take that to each professional development event that I am involved in and share, I hope those in the audience will gain some confidence that they too can conquer any challenge. I will be right behind you!

Oh, by the way, my son not only won his age division but was the fastest snowboarder on the mountain! Way to make his momma proud!