Friday, October 31, 2008

Evolving in a Metamorphic World Part 3

Caterpillar eating my tree
This has become a series of posts. The first two posts are here and here.

Thanks to Cheryl, Amy, Karen, and France for our discussion on this issue on Tuesday. In my last post, I wrote about how we must act like caterpillars to consume as much food(learning) as we can before we are ready to metamorphose into butterflies. The discussion generally leads to questions like, "When do teachers have time to read and learn at a rate that will lead to this metamorphosis?" It got me thinking about caterpillars again. Have you ever watched caterpillars eat? They take such small bites that it is difficult to see that they have actually eaten anything. But over time, they can consume many leaves that larger than they are.

With the tools available to us today, we can be constantly collecting information in small bites throughout the day. We can't wait around for those staff development days when we have hours to dedicate to learning. We need to be efficient consumers of information. In addition, our students need experience with this as well. Kids are more adept at multitasking, allowing them to read in small amounts and process in between opportunities to read. With tools like RSS aggregators, we can have access to information quickly and easily. We don't need to waste time going to search for the information. Let it come to you.

Set aside 10-15 blocks a couple times a day and commit to reading relevant articles or trying one new idea, or writing one new lesson that infuses technology and 21st century skills.

Mark your calendar for one month from today. At the end of the month, look back on how much you have learned and adapted. You will be amazed at your metamorphosis!

Good luck and let me know how your metamorphosis is going!!



Friday, October 24, 2008

Don’t Be the Bat Lady!


A few weeks back, I took my son to a local nature center to see a presentation on Bats. The woman who spoke was a nice woman who volunteered her time to present on a topic she is very knowledgeable about. However, all I could think the entire time she was speaking was, "I could have found this information online in a fraction of the time." Then I got to thinking...

How often in education are we the Bat Lady? We stand up and lecture to our students about the topic of the week. Why? Do we think they will retain much of what we say? I can say that I did not remember much of what the Bat Lady said. Do we fear giving kids the freedom and power to find the information on their own? Do we not trust that they will be able to find it? Maybe they won't. But they will never find it if we don't start teaching them how to be efficient searchers and sifters of information.
I think the Bat Lady would have been better served to excite my son and I about bats and encourage us to learn more. She waited until the very end to play a short video about bats. Why not show it sooner to get us hooked? Why not let us turn the room into a bat cave and determine what we would need to survive? She could provide the information, but we would access it as we needed it, not when she determined we should need it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


You Are What You Think!

I recently watched this video by Charles Leadbetter. It really got me thinking more about what we are teaching and how we are teaching it. I have had many conversations with people about the power of blogs, wikis, social networks, and Web 2.0 tools. I think this video does a great job of expressing what I am trying to get across. As we talk about building global connections and online collaboration, we are really talking about a shared development of ideas. We need to stop promoting an ownership of ideas mentality. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that rarely do our successful ideas develop in isolation. They develop through professional discourse, asking questions, researching others' work, and synthesizing all this information into a new idea. We need our students to do more of this, way more of this.

Instead of writing a research project in isolation, we need to provide opportunities for students to share their research, discuss and adapt their work, and develop new ideas based on their discussions. Instead of worksheets, our students need to think and create. We learn more through creating than we ever do through regurgitating information. The information is out there. We need practice analyzing, organizing, communicating, collaborating.

Share a project you have done recently with your students that focused on these skills. How could you adapt an old project to incorporate these skills in a better way? I'd love to hear what people are doing.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chock Full o’ Computer Tips

I often think of little tips that make computer use much easier and more efficient. Collecting all the tips into a little booklet has been my goal for a while, but it never seems to happen. Here is a link to a blog that has done a great job of pulling together a bunch of tips. Read the comments as well as many readers have added great tips to the list.

Thanks to David Pogue for the post!

I'd like to add one to the list that I find incredibly useful. When you Google a topic and click on one of the choices, it can be hard to find the part of the article that is relevant to your search. Try using the Find feature. On a Windows machine, type Ctrl-F. On a Mac, type Command-F (or Apple-F). This will bring a window at the bottom of your screeen. Type in the word you would like to find within the article and it will take you directly there.

Happy "efficient" computer use! Feel free to share your favorite tips!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Thanks to Steve G. for bringing my attention to this great website.

If you are a user of Kidspiration, Inspiration, or any other webbing software, then I highly recommend It is a web version of Inspiration. The menus look very similar to the software version so the learning curve is pretty easy.

So why use a web version if you have the software version? Access! and Collaboration! You can create an Inspiration web from any computer. You can invite others to work on the web with you. Imagine having students from different schools creating webs to demonstrate how people and businesses collaborate across the globe. Imagine students working on their webs from home no matter what software they have. Imagine going to one webpage and seeing all your students webs.

Here is a sample web created by Belinda and me just for fun:


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Not So New Year’s Resolution

Okay, so this would have been a better post for last month, but hey. Better late than never.

Let's think about what we do. What change(s) do you want to make right now to move your teaching (and your students' learning) into the 21st century. Every one of us can do something to improve, and I know you all do many things everyday to improve your teaching. But let's focus on 21st century learning. Do the changes you make in your teaching help move your students towards the kinds of skills necessary for success in the future?

So, please share. What change(s) will you make today, this week, this semester to ensure that you are providing your students with a truly 21st century focused education?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Is all this Information forming the Tower of Babel?

You have all heard the story of the Tower of Babel. While the story is biblical, it has also become synonomous with all things in which multiple languages cause confusion.

I wonder if the proliferation of information over the Internet is our Tower of Babel? Do we have so much information and so much stress to try to organize all this information in our lives, that we are destined to bring down the tower? Will we reach a point at which our society can no longer handle the amount of information that is being thrown at it?

Of course, I don't know the answer, but I do think that the key to all of this is in how the information is organized. We need to drop our old ways of organizing data. For example, filing in file cabinets. With the amount of information that comes across our desks, it is unrealistic to file it all in cabinets. Our offices would become so overcrowded that we would be pushed right out. So how do we organize all this information?

We need to use tools like RSS Aggregators that push information to us rather than asking us to go to multiple websites in search of the information. I use as my aggregator, but there are many to choose from. You simply add webpages that you want to get feeds from and they feed the news articles from all the added websites into one webpage.

We need to become adept at using search engines to find reliable, up to date information quickly and easily. The different languages in this case are the myriad of opinions and perspectives that we are bombarded by. How do we determine what is the truth vs. what is someone's opinion? Reading multiple perspectives and sources is more important (and accessible) than ever before.

As our students get older, they will be asked to sift through gobs of information as part of their lives. What are we doing to help them learn the skills necessary to do this? Where does this skill fit on the continuum of other skills we teach? I put it very high. How about you? What skills are more important? Which can be pushed lower on the continuum to make more room for this one?