Saturday, September 16, 2006

K-12 Online Conference

K-12 Online Conference

In October, an online conference will be available for educators interested in learning more about technology in the classroom. It is being hosted by some of the master educators in technology. Here is the description from the website, or click the link above:

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.” A call for proposals is below.

There will be four “conference strands”– two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in podcast or screencast format and released via the conference blog.

Proposals for presentations are now being accepted for K12 Online 2006. We’ve automated the process using a web form. Please use the form for all submissions.When you’re ready to submit a proposal for K12 Online some of the things you will be prompted for are:

1) An abstract of what you will do. Please keep the abstract to less than 250 words.
2) The strand you’re submitting for.
3) How do you plan to produce your presentation? (podcast, screencast, video, PPT, blog etc.) Remember, your presentation must be viewable online once it is posted to our servers.

If you can, please include illustrative or exemplary links for your idea that would be helpful. Also, please include links for any past work you have online as well.
The submission deadline for all abstracts is September 30, 2006. All proposals will be vetted by a blind review committee. You will receive an acceptance notification no later than October 6, 2006.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Beginning the Journey

I took the plunge – I sent off my initial fee for National Board Certification (NBC). I am excited about the prospect of the process. I've read through the 200+ page instructions for certification in English/Language Arts - Adolescence and Young Adult. I believe that I can complete the process, however, I'm nervous of the organization that is needed to get each and every part correct – from the bar codes, each form, to the style of writing and length of reflection. I waver from confident knowledge of my strengths as a teacher to the panic of the overwhelming requirements.

I've done several things to help me in this journey. First, I purchased The National Board Certification Workbook: How to Develop Your Portfolio and Prepare for the Assessment Exams by Adrienne Mack-Kirschner. I have found this a good guide in reading the huge document of the instructions. She has helped me with the initial organization and read-through of the instructions, down to how to divide, highlight and sticky note the important stuff in the instructions. I also signed up in Yahoo groups for the support of other ELA-AYA candidates and successful applicants. In addition, I put a notice out to the MiddleTalk listserv and received several private emails of encouragement and support. Finally, I have talked about the process with my husband, who will be my major supporter, encourager, and video taper. He very blasely stated, “Of course you can do it” - like there was no question of success or failure.

The one area I need to work on immediately is documenting my reflection of teaching. After 11 years of teaching, in some very challenging environments, I automatically and constantly reflect on what is working and what needs to be changed. I have long term plans, but the concrete plan for the next class isn't finalized until the end of class – recognizing that I may need to reteach, modify or accelerate my plans. For the needs of NBC, I need to be more consistent in documenting this process that naturally goes on in my head. Though, in retrospect, this blog is my reflective teaching made visible.

However, recently on the MiddleTalk listserv, there was a discussion about the use of blogs for teachers. Some teachers stated that they have been asked, by their school/district, to take down their blogs, In some cases is was a simple classroom blog, though others had blogs for the non-teaching part of their lives. I am usually cognizant that whatever I type can be read by the world, however, I'm not always on the look-out for how it can be misconstrued. As one teacher stated, whatever you say can be used against you.

I found a couple of interesting websites on journal writing or reflective practitioning.

Writing and Keeping a Journal - by InFed
Reflective Writing for Better Teaching
NCPublic School - Self-Assessment: The Reflective Practitioner
The Reflective Practitioner - through model buidling
Keeping a Reflective Journal

My brother gave me a journal years ago, which would be a good starting place for a novice journaler - by Journals Unlimited, it is a "Teacher's Journal" with specific prompts.
Teacher's Journal

national board certification


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cool Links

Math Solutions - lessons in math for grades K-8

Michigan Curriculum Integration 2006 Work Groups - tech lessons from a summer workshop

The Ron Clark Story - author of The Essential 55, and subject of a TNT movie with Matthew Perry

Syber-Silverstein - a poetry site of animation created by middle schoolers

Monday, July 10, 2006

Blogging Greenhorn

Two years ago, at NECC 2004, I saw a bunch of people with t-shirts that said something like, “I'm blogging.” I went to a session to see what this blogging thing was all about. I opened at blog at and made a commitment to blog – which was my first entry. I've been blogging, on and off, for two years now. I'm still a greenhorn, as there is so much I need to learn. However, I understand the basics of a using a blog, I this year, I had my 10th grade students blog about The Catcher in the Rye. It was a semi-closed blog, only the registered students could comment on the blog, but it is viewable to the public. If you are interested, go to: Porath English 10

I had the privilege of showing several people how to create a blogger blog at NECC 2006. I've been excited about the possibilities that I haven't explored yet. I learned about Technorati this year, and how to tag my entries. I've been using it to search for other people's entries about NECC.

I still need to learn how to use RSS feeds though. It was talked about a lot, but I either need to spend several hours playing with it, or have someone walk me through it. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who knows how to use it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hits and Misses at NECC06

The conference center – it was huge, but well-organized and easy to get around. All the sessions were in the same area, rather than traipsing from hotel to hotel. The rooms were big enough. For the first time in 6 years, I was able to attend every session I wanted to see and none were closed because they were too full. I loved the Sails Pavilion, it was a good meeting place, and because the Poster Sessions and Student Showcase was easy to find and get to, I viewed more of them then I usually do.

The city of San Diego – What a great city for a conference. The public transportation is assessable and easy to use. We didn't need to rent a car and were able to get every place we wanted to go – the zoo, Fry's electronic, and the ballpark. Our hotel was just a few blocks from the trolley and getting to the convention center was easy. Overall, the people of San Diego were friendly and helpful. We had several conversations with complete stranger just because they initiated. There was so much to see and do that we wished we had planned to stay a few more days!

Keynote speakers - Dewitt Jones was tremendously inspirational; I would have liked to listen to him more and see a few more photos. The $100 laptop was an intriguing proposition, which, when I first heard about it, I didn't believe would actually happen. But after listening to Nicholas Negroponte, I believe he has the passion and the drive to get it done, and I strongly support his project.
Concurrent sessions – Every one I went to taught me something new. And not just from the speakers, but the audience engaged with questions and suggestions. Overall, I feel that I have learned more this NECC then last year.

Open Source Lab – In the past, there were some Open Source email stations. This year there was an entire teaching lab. Very cool!

Opening 4th of July Reception – This evening was stupendous! The food, fireworks and fellowship truly set the tone for the conference. It was great to see all the families, and everyone was friendly and talkative. It was a nice way to wind down from end-of-the-year school stress and get focused on the conference.

Meeting MiddleTalk(Web) People – I've been talking to these people for 5 years on our listserve, I finally got to meet a few. Technology is a cool thing.

Online content – Most session presentation handouts are online, along with blogs and podcasting that extends the conference past the 3 days. It also cuts down on the amount of paper we need to carry home. Having the session outlines online also helps me choose the sessions I want to see. I think it has also cut down on the people walking out of sessions a little.

Wireless Access - I could blog during sessions and post immediately.

Volunteer Staff – They were friendly, helpful and easy to find.

Roomier vendor show – Although there was a lot of vendors, the area felt less crowded and easier to get around, even with the people with rolling-carry-ons.

Food – You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a Starbucks, with overpriced coffee and sweets, then add Mrs. Field's. With obesity rates skyrocketing, why are these the only kiosk vendors? The Cafe Express in the Exhibit Hall has slightly better fare, yet also very overpriced – an $8 sandwich with only meat and bread? Every NECC has had trouble with providing quick, yet nutritious lunches on-site. I don't want to miss a session, just to find lunch, so bringing snack foods are a necessity. The coffee breaks this year were scheduled at odd times – in the middle of sessions. The continental breakfast tables were hidden in the vendors and hard to find.

Closing Session – Although Kathy Schrock's presentation was interesting, I would have liked to see one with a little more umph and cheer-leading for the work we do as educators. Many of us are going back to schools and districts where we are working in isolation and in an uphill battle. I would've liked to seen a presenter with a lot of energy that would fire-up the audience to make the commitment and changes needed. Generally, I felt let down by the closing session. Even the preview of Atlanta was weak, there was no excitement or energy to the presentation. In the past the committee members made funny and enthusiastic skits, songs and presentations – and freebie tokens never hurt (bottles of water, flip-flops, beads etc).

Best Buy Bags – Best Buy gave away the largest and most useless bags in the world (and irritating). I saw them dumped throughout the conference center. The T-shirts were nice though.

Exhibit Hall – Designate an area for the vendors who are presenting complete free services - like Reading is Fundamental, The Department of Education,, Target, Google etc. I wasted a lot of time talking to vendors just to find out that the service or product costs more than what my school could afford. Plus, I probability missed some good resources because I assumed they were fee-based. Also, extend the exhibit hall times. It is hard to justify to a principle the time spent in the vendor hall verses sessions. It would be nice if they didn't always compete.

Friday, July 07, 2006

NECC06 Using Public Service Announcements with Students – Kathy Schrock

Kathy Schrock began her presentation with flashbacks of well-known PSAs of the past. From the “this is you brain on drugs” to the ones from the 50s. But there were also ones that backfired, such as the VD one of the 1970s.

Students can create PSA and should consider the elements:
Main point
Specific action to be taken
Atteniton getting techniques
Visual and audio elements used

Technical Guidelines
30 seconds log or less
Grabs attention

Lesson plans and units resources:
Point of view 2004: Why Vote
iLife Lesson: Public Servie Announcement
NCTE: Campaigning for Fair Use
PE Central: Health PSA
Adobe Digital Kids Club: PSA
Media Awareness Network
Vivian Nationales unit

Student produces-videos
Hard to find good quality examples
Use broadcast TV and online TV Site

Techniques for Students:
With graphic or video, remember the rule of third.
The angle of the shot can show importance of the shot. Students need to think about the purpose.
There are several shot types – establishing (to show location), medium (with focus on the main object), and re-establishing shots (to reconfirm the location).

She then showed some student examples of PSAs. Made by Hawaiian students about Surfing: The Anti-drug, a fifth grade video of the use of weblogs in education, the right and wrong of safety etc. She highlighted some winners of a PSA competition. They were quite professional looking.

There are some great ideas here – could I actually

Applause for ISTE, CUE and the entire conference – clapping is so 90s. The audience was asked to turn on their cellphones and show the light (ie bics at a concert).

NECC06 This Ain't Your Mama's PowerPoint - Nicole Daigle, Lafourche Parish Schools with Stephanie Delaune, NBCT and Dean Guidry


The PowerPoint of their presentation will be available soon.

Interactive PowerPoint Presentations
The are teacher made and student controlled that places the responsibility for mastering the material directly into the hands fo the learner Good for students who miss content, need more support, or for extension. There are many types – non-linear, media based etc.

They showed many different examples of PowerPoints that they have used in their classroom. One was a subtraction presentation that has a word problem, the equation, and three choices. The place value presentation showed how to group numbers with blocks. There is a feature on PowerPoint (slide-show mode) that is a “pen” tool, that will allow you to write on the slide shown. There were lots of other examples, which was neat to see what PowerPoint can do that I never thought of. The animated clips they use are from a fee based site called Animation Factory

I can't really describe the presentations, as they had a lot of different ones that could do different things. Some of the teaching games they showed rivaled the expensive software programs available downstairs. Obviously, you can also embed video in a presentation. Some presentations taught an entire lesson, such as the three branches of government. The content, video, and quiz are all together. Object boxes will allow the user to type in text as they view the presentation. The games presented included “Game Time” that flashes pictures that students respond to. Then also is Jeopardy.

This will probably be obvious to many people, but PowerPoint can hyperlink within itself. That is how non-linear presentations are made. Good tip!

There is a searchable database of PowerPoints available at the district's website LaFourche Parish Schools: to: Offices

LOL @ NECC06 - Saul Rockman with Michael Jay, Susan McLester, Heidi Rogers and Elliot Soloway, Gary Bitter

Wow, very strange but interesting and funny session. These notes are a little hard to read, and at times, difficult to tell the fiction from the non-fiction. It would be great to extend this conversation further and pick these people's brains. I apologize for any confusion, but that's how I felt through most of the session. I hope, once it sinks in, it'll make more sense.

Life is like high school with money – Kurt Anderson
Hope is not a strategy – Thomas ?

Saul Rockman talked about his company's research on ubiquitous, one on one computing. The research motto was “give me ambiguity or give me something else.” They will be talking about the research finding about laptop projects that never were released. Such as – when laptop program are introduced, the price of housing went up and the SAT scores went up. It makes sense – richer people were wooed to areas and generally, wealthier people have smarter kids. As W.C. Fields says “Give me and unfair advantage.” Another result of laptop programs is the number of inappropriate sites accessed by kids – boys and girls. However, when you look at the likelihood of events – more kids will try and begin smoking then kids who will be abducted by website contact. So,one conclusion – people worry about the wrong things. There was an increase incident of shoulder injuries with laptop programs, because students feel that the wheeled bags are “nerdy” in the high school.

Faith-base Technology (of laptop programs)
There is a belief that it will make a difference. An annual tithing for purchases. Elevation of the tech coordinator. The trinity of hardware, software, and professional development. Finally the Ten NETS Commandments.

Susan McLester – Technology and Learning Magazine - American Innovation
Americans are innovators. Susan highlighted some actual but silly patents issued recently, such as a Barca-sizer (an arm chair that exercises you), a game bird decoy (with two sided bird and optional tail), a hair braider that is also a goldfish sorter., the tripless jump rope (that is cordless), the cow belch capture, a simulated wedding cake (low-calorie). She then humored the audience with ideas and pictures of innovations that haven't quite made it – 360 degree head wearable camera, brass knuckle purse, reintroduction of truly white paper, and the voodoo apple. In addition, the school within a school concept just didn't work like the initial idea promised. Innovation is important and especially crucial for education - for all players -teachers, students, and parents.

Heidi Rodgers and the NETS for Parents
She explained why she is qualified to give this presentation – her son has given her a lot of experience. Parenting has changed a little, but the goal is the same – to survive. Pre-birth technology parents – listening to music, ultrasounds and videos. Technology Parents are aware of the change – virtual field trips and storage devises. Pre-K Tech Parents – secrutiy (pager, cellphone), entertainment (gameboy), education (software).

8-12 Grade Tech Parents
Need to know what is real verse edited and be aware of location. Communication tools – MySpace, (go and be her friend). Kids have multiple emails addresses and so should parents. Cell phones – Iming – etc need to be understood by parents
Parenting is not for sissies!

Michael Jay –Educational Systemics - A break through in data driven educaiton
Complex application reuire the educator to have knowledge of complex math etc. 4 year research project to help teachers understand how to use data. Professional development didn't work as there in no funding and the correlation does infer causality. It is not reflective practice but rather refractive practice. The analogy in science, is that data is bent when it goes through more dense material. So we have to turn to an old technology – 3D glasses. He showed an overwhelming page of data that is incomprehensible. Then, with the 3D glasses – t shows “Give more tests”. Another example “leaves these Children Behind.” And another, “Duck and cover.” “Gender bias detected . . . change gender.” “Just between you and me, teach to the test.” Just as the drive-thru changed the way we eat . . . we need and educational break-thru. Key features of the new curriculum: have it your way, made to order etc. The implications – no need for PD as teachers just do as they are told, etc.

Elliot Soloway – Computers in kids' hands
There is different types and level of humor. He related the story of his spoiled 17 year old daughter who gets anything she wants verses his 21 year old son who is a jazz guitarist. “Pico” conversation – quick conversation in seconds rather than minutes. Shows he is getting old. He wanted to go to the movies, look up the times in the paper – daughter thinks it weird, you can do in on the internet. She text messages, and he doesn't – to get a laugh, he texts “whatup.” When he gets texts back, he doesn't understand the language. Screen size – current kids don't complain about the small screen size, adults (digital immigrants) want bigger. So, adults think that every kids needs a computer, so, like Maine, most people go for the laptop. But, were is the researched based data that supports this program. How does research really work in schools? When many schools are just happy to get the kids to attend, and the kids are at poverty level and living in homeless shelters. The current culture of education is to get as many computers out to kids as possible without the support of research. It seems to be the right thing to do.

NECC06 Beyond Acceptable Use: Developing and Implementing a Plagiarism Policy - Debbie Abilock

The Ethical Researcher -

Knowledge Quest is the print and online journal for the American Association of School Librarians

Having a policy in place is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to understand why and how plagiarism is happening in order to correct the reasons plagiarism is happening. And is isn't just the kids that are plagiarizing – teachers and administrators borrow and adapt lessons without giving credit.

-Everybody understands the problem
-A policy will solve the problem
-The problem belongs to ... (English teacher, librarian etc)
-Students understand academic standards

Why develop a policy?
Identify the problem
Create buy-in by all stakeholder
Set the tone (punishing verses teaching)
Define the responsibilities
Outline the disciplinary procedures (redoing, giving zeroes)
Identify the teaching strategies (ethical use of information – if 1st graders copy info from the encyclopedia, because they don't understand the)
Map the curriculum context

When is it the problem?Respond to a crisis or chronic concern (usually prompted from an event. However, if we realize that 50-60% of high school students plagiarize, then we, as teachers, need to be more proactive.

What is the problem?
Plagiarism is a situational problem. Therefore, just teaching rules does not take into account the context of the work. Every rule has an exception, so we need to teach kids the reason behind the rules. There is also a high pressure cultural expectation of competition for money, career, success etc. In the news, we constantly hear about cheating and drug doping in sports, so much so that it is almost expected. Shattered Glass, a movie about Steven Black, who invented articles for the newspaper he worked at. A good movie to show to kids and talk about the reasons behind it.

Sometimes a policy may encourage cheating. When the kids feel that the assignment is too long, too difficult, or without enough time – they will resort to cheating. At home, there are also mixed messages being given. There is a varied amount of parent involvement – from purchasing materials to the parents doing the work. Cultural differences influences the view of plagiarism.

Template for a Plagiarism Policy - (You MUST read this site – it has so many great examples!)

Ideas to discuss and questions to address:
Inspire and anchor: On what principles does this policy rest?
Build consensus and leadership: Who owns the problem?
Clarify and resolve differences: What concepts and strategies are taught?
Convert concepts into behaviors: What responsibilities and rights are identified?
Develop a response plan: What disciplinary process is to be followed?
Develop an ongoing prevention program: What proactive teaching supports the policy?
Interrelate policies, programs and practices: How does this fit with other work?
Plan for change: What is the policy review process?
How many of us were taught how to use information ethically or how to teach students how to use information ethically? It is a little like the elephant in the room, we try to avoid it by assuming kids know what to do, not assigning work so kids can't plagiarize. However, even within plagiarism policies there is plagiarism going on. From
The policy should reflect responsibilities – students, teachers, administrators and parents should be involved in the creation of the policy. We need to examine all the different possibilities – tutoring, group work, pdf citing, dating of websites, websites that quote other sources. By giving just a list of MLA citation rules, there are so many weird exceptions to the rules and with technology, new sources that aren't addressed. How much information is public domain and common knowledge – people's definition of these things are different.

Instead of just a policy – think about developing a response plan.
How do we weigh intention of the plagiarizer? In the news lately, many authors have been sited for plagiarism, such as Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Kaavya Viswanathan. We need to look at how we are working with kids. Many schools just ask students to sign a policy or listen to a leacture about Plagiarism. We need to show examples, help students learn how to “unplagiarize” something. Also, we need to address the issues that encourage plagiarism – time pressures, work load, redesign assignments (though this doesn't always work), assign in-class work, foster a workshop approach, build a culture of critique, build in checkpoints, keep portfolios of student work and work for an authentic purpose.

Wikis and blogs encourage building on ideas and linking to other's ideas. Ms. Abilock believes that blog especially encourage citing sources because in a blog, hyperlinks are expected and easy to do. Plus, if something isn't credited, someone will comment on it.

Schools need to interrelate all their other policies, such as acceptable use policies, selection policies for library books or website recommended links, honor code, and student handbook. Too often, these policies are created by different groups at different times without linking.

School Leadership that Works - Robert J. Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian A. McNulty
(from ASCD)

We need to create a culture of trust within our schools, rather than the culture of competition that now tends to happen.

An audience member stated that a policy statement needs to be under two pages, because anything longer than that will not be read, so what would be the main points that should be in a statement. Ms. Abilock stated that it isn't the policy itself that is important, but rather the process that goes into the statement, and the fact that it needs to be reviewed yearly, not just written by a committee and enforced by the teacher. In addition, the policy will not solve the problem – the entire culture need to change to teach students how to think ethically about using information. And, this can't just be a beginning-of-the-year thing, but needs to be a constant focus throughout the students' careers.

Does honesty build ethos and credibility? An audience member mentioned an author who didn't credit her researchers until she was questioned about her sources. Ms. Abilock stated that almost every non-fiction author have researchers, but they are hardly ever credited.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Web of Connections: Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything – Will Richardson

Weblogg-ed -

Mr. Richardson related the story of a blogger who challanged himself to trade one red paperclip for a house within a year. The trail of trades was tremendous – from a party keg, to a truck, a recording contract to a year's rent in a house in AZ., to a afternoon with Alice Cooper, and a movie role with Corbin Bernstien. The other trend is Anime of a mash-up – several forms of media (clips from actual anime cartoons and blending with music and audio). What can we do with tools like this?

Imagination is key - and the web is the mode that imagination will be shown. By 2015 over 2 billion people will be connected to the internet. And the fact the web is becoming a read/write vehicle (also known as the Web 2.0). Tim O'Reilly stated that we are at a turning point. When we look back in 20 years, we will see the tremendous growth of content and innovations that are happening right now.

Technorati is a great web site to search and learn about the newest innovations and blogs.

The web is linking ideas. Groups of people can now connect quickly and easily using the web. Even the most unusual groupings are possible like veggiphetti (graphetti on growing things). The web also encourages conversation. Thomas Friedmans, in the World is Flat calls people now the Uploaders – as people are sharing information in droves. Lawrence Lessing, the author of “free Culture” states that we do not realize the impact that the read/write web will have in the future.

So what does this mean for educators?
There are so many possibilities – we just need to recognize it. Right now there are almost 70,000 blogs for education. 25+ million kids are creating content online, of varying qualities. We need to harness that creativity and energy. Mr. Richardson showed an example of a podcast from Matthew Bischoff, and He podcasted about technology when he was 13 and from his bedroom – the enthusiasm in his voice was contagious and showed he has a true sense of audience. Another example shown was Mr. Richardson's daughter's weather recipe book done in flickr. Now that Tess's work in online, over 1,000 people have read her book. It has created an enthusiasm in her to write more – even in a blog. She can publish and create things that teaches other people. Finally, a Scotland school's homepage is written entirely by the students in the school. Again, they have a sense that the audience is world-wide. A Pre-Cal examples shows students being scribes fro the class and adding their own notes, problems and examples on the wiki. Think about how that changes the curriculum, that the audience is not just the teacher at the end of the day, but the world.

The web is also about building connections around the world. Kids know it to! They recognize that the authors, publishers, and creator don't have to be “some rich person in New York” but anyone can do it.

It's all about imagination! How can our own learning be enhanced by these tools. The classroom is no longer the four walls, but the world. So that lead to some big changes, which are being implemented in some areas already.
The classroom is not the four walls – it is the world. Many classrooms continue to look the same as about 100 years ago. Our methods haven't changed – kids in desks, chalkboards/whiteboard etc. However, MIT CourseWare
shows a new way of looking at teaching. There are hundreds of courses available, for free. It is a independent tutorial, that includes video lectures and MP3 files. This expands the classroom to wherever the connection is.
Change is idea of “do your own work” to learning “how to work with others.” With wikis and other interactive sites, it isn't an individual contribution. It is the collaboration of people from many different areas. Wikipedia is one example. We can't just ban it, like so many others are apt to do.

The Web changes texts. Many textbook companies are quite unhappy about this, as sites can be created to take the place of the $60 textbook. This sites also include multimedia capabilities. Wkibooks is an example. There is over 17,000 “books” available which are created by people with knowledge about the topics.
Teachers need to become connectors. Teachers' jobs need to change from the dispenser of knowledge to a guider of resources. Mr. Richardson highlighted his students' blog about The Secret Life of Bees, in which the students were connected to the author in their discussion. become “DJ” - Again, guiding students to resources when they need it. Including the students in the planning.

The Web changes learning. Mr. Richardson stated that through his blog, he has been transformed in his teaching and thinking. We can learn anything, anywhere and at anytime. In Phili – soon, the entire city will become wireless. The Learner decides what, when, where and how he/she learns. Our current schedule forces kids to be learners from Sept to June from 8-3 each day. It will become “Nomadic learning” that travels with the learner. 43 things a site where you can connect with people who what to learn the things that you want to learn. Social networking – you can connect to people who are interested in the same ideas as you. On flickr there are over 200 photos about NECC 2006. There's several blogger updating people on the session. The audience also changes from “hand it in” to “publish it” which changes the audience for the work. Itunes includes hundred of podcasts for K-12 education, that can teach others, just as it is a learning experience for the creator.

The Web Changes Literacy. It is not just “reading” from a text. It is no longer linear. There's hypertext, multimedia etc. Do we teach kids how to read in these new environments. David Weinberger says that the value of a text on the web is now where is points to. In addition, kids need to know how to look beyond the
The web changes computing. Open Source is changing how computers work – the web is becoming the platform. Jumpcut can edit video on the web. Almost any application can be available on the web.
To what extent do these changes demand we rethink our curriculum and the way we teach? How does the student and teacher role change when anyone can publish? How do we redefine literacy?

The challenges:
Fear is the biggest obstacle to the changes that need to be made. MySpace is now the most populace country in the world. As teachers, we need to understand the content and reason students are drawn to this. Compare the commercial available on TV, the movies kids watch and the music to the stuff available on MySpace. Why should we be afraid of MySpace? We need to be teaching kids how to use MySpace, not just blocking it. Show kids how to deal with the predators and advertising.

'Change is inconvenient.” – Al Gore. Public education is becoming less relevant to the students. Students are looking for alternatives other than the brick and mortar classroom. When something new comes in, schools react by taking it away.

Mr. Richardson spoke at a superintendents meeting. In his blog, he asked what people thought superintendents need to know. The responses include the fact that students have changed, technologies have changes, the environment in the classroom must change to engage these new students – and not just small pockets of change, but visionary leadership that makes institutional change.
The final thought – be imaginative. Take your own “red paperclip” back to your school district to start trading for the change that is needed.

Virtual Learning Communities: A Joining of the Minds – Chris Toy, Brenda Dyck

I searched out the poster session about MiddleTalk because I wanted to meet some other MiddleWebbers. Chris Toy was manning the booth, and it was a joy to finally meet him. He posts so many good ideas and thoughtful reflections on MiddleTalk that I feel like I already know him. It was great to put a face to a name.

As I was chatting with him, several people visited the booth. I very happily boasted about the great professional development available in MiddleTalk and the incredibly supportive atmosphere within our community of learners. It was started about 8 years ago with John Norton and a grant he wrote. It is now sponsored by the National Middle School Association. This is an email listserve that is moderated and can be subscribed to in two formats, the regular email (about 20-35 messages a day) or in the digest version ( I prefer). So, for those of you who did not check it out, see the following websites: (has archived conversations, topic lists, lists of blogs and lots of other great resources) – National Middle School Association – a great organization for middle school teachers. To be a member of MiddleTalk, you must be a member of NMSA.

NECC06 The Tech Savvy English Classroom Revisited (Or, Where are We Going?) - Sara Kajder

Bringing the Outside In -

How is technology transforming the English classroom?

Ms. Kajder wrote the Tech Savvy Classroom four years ago (good book by the way) but she feels that it is now outdated, as the conversations are now past using PowerPoint. So where are we going now? There need to be a re-calibration on how we think about using technology use in the English classroom.

She states that she is not a techie by nature, and has made many mistakes, but has also been able to work in tablet classrooms and handheld programs, so there is a broad range of experience. She quoted Todd Oppenheimer who said that good teachers know when to ignore the new technologies to use the “old fashioned” tools like pens, paper, instruments etc. The technology divide is not just the have and have nots – but rather HOW the technology is being used with students. Quantity does not make for a good program. Students should be doing more then drill and skill programs.

English teacher used to be pretty static – students read books and wrote stories. Over time the definition of literacy and text has changed, and our teaching need to reflect this. Literacy is not just reading – there are so many others – information, visual, numerical etc. Text is no longer just word – a book or anthology. It is the sounds, images, gestures, movements etc situated in contexts, surround by language.

So if a technology is going to be used in the classroom, we need to consider the unique capabilities of the tool and if the tool allows us to do something better than what we are already doing.

Will Richardson – the guru for Web 2.0 – book Blog, Wikis and Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom

Big Ideas of the Session
1)Allows for real writing for authentic audiences and real reasons
2)Mulimodal composition
3)Pushing the definition of literacy
4)Building purposeful and global interpretive communities.

Example – podcasting book talks to record and then edit a book talk for the best 5 minutes of a 45 minute conversation.

Digital Storytelling
Ms. Kajder showed an example of an older woman who created a wonderful memoir of about 3 minutes in about 4 hours that included video, still photos and text. To create a digital story, Ms. Kajder recommends iMovie, as it is the easiest to use, but there are other resources.

A memoir like this is a “Slice of Life” Story that is a retrospective and reflective story. Student writers mirror themselves and reflect what they are and project what they can be. A personal narrative is a school genre that is chronologically structured in a formal 5-paragraph outline that usually doesn't include a reflective component.

Another example of Connor's story about “Practice Makes Perfect” that was a 9 year old's view of his piano recital and the practice that went into it.

Creating a Digital Story with Students (a bit of a retelling of her NECC 2005 presentation Digital Images in the English Classroom - see Archive June 2005

1.Immerse students in the genre reading and writing
2.Pre-write and collect ideas
3.Select, collect and choose a lens/frame – includes artifact search
4.Draft and revise (must have a storyboard before going to the lab)
5.Construct in the lab (have a time limit to encourage students to work quickly)
6.Edit, publish, screen and publish

Fan Fiction –
A site devoted to stories written by the average person, celebrating their favorite authors or styles. People can submit their stories and are peer reviewed. A good site to point kids to for them to share their writing and get feedback. There are stories in response to several canonical texts like 1984, Scarlet Letter etc.

Blogs – most teachers tend to use
What types of activities could be done with blogs?
1)Assign a student a day to summarize the content of the class
2)Discuss the reading assigned
3)Post notes from the class

Cool tip! There is Audioblogger where the person calls an 800 number to record and post their comments. Blogger will also give the option to be private or public with a membership list that only allows the members to post. – chat about websites. Very cool tool, I'll need to ponder how to use it with kids. You type in the website and a chat box pops up so the people viewing the site can talk about it.

NECC 06 Keynote - One Laptop Per Child - Nicholas Negroponte

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) -

Technology is not about teaching – it is about learning. In much of the world, the schools lack well-qualified teachers. In rural areas, some teachers are lucky to have a 6th grade education. In situations like this, we need to get kids to teach themselves. Giving kids computers, rich or poor, and they act the same way – excited about learning. Communication and connection is key. Children don't have the baggage that the adults have and are willing to communicate with anyone. Mr. Negroponte related a story about building 5 schools, with laptop programs, in remote villages in Cambodia. The kids take the laptops home at night and it is the focus of the family. In addition, Maine started an initiative

These two events prompted his idea of a 100 dollar laptop – or a laptop per child. The key of the program is scale – being global is crucial to launch 5-10 million in 2007 and 50-150 million in 2008. This scale allows for large ordering of components that will be cheaper. Then, there were many partners that become involved, such as Google, eBay, AMD, News Corp, Brightstar, Marvell, Nortall, 3M, etc.

A word about laptops – getting to the 10$ laptop is not difficult. 50% of the cost is marketing. 25% is the display and 25% is the support of MSFT Windows XP. The overwhelming memory and running needs of the operating systems make it to overloaded. More is not necessarily different. Moore's Law indicates that the size will shrink, power increase which keeps the price high and stable. Instead, what about standing still and getting the cost down. To get it down to a 100$ laptop, there are no sales, marketing and distribution. The first purchase order was 5-10 million units. The computers will use Linux and reduce the display cost by using a backlight innovation. In addition, the other features would include a human powered input (crank), must have wifi with a mesh network, be rugged, shared memory, and dual mode display (to be usable indoors and in sunlight with a B&W display). The goal is to have the kids do the maintenance. When Mr. Negroponte sent 50 laptops to Cambodia, only one broke in 3 years. However, when the laptop belongs to the child, there is a sense of ownership and pride. The kids in Cambodia polished it, made little bags for them.

Green machine was introduce with Desmond Tuti – it has a crank for human power

Ebook – like a readers or laptop
Orange machine – with rabbit ears for the mesh network
Red machine – display is a little bigger, still with rabbit ears (for heat release)
$100 server
$10 DVD drive
$10 Hard disc
$30 printer
$50 projector

Launch – a chicken and egg problem
Can't convince the people to purchase until the laptop is made, but the makers won't make until the orders are made. However, by Christmas, there should be the first ones manufactured.

Launch countries – Brazil, Nigeria, Thailand, and Argentina for sure, but other Central American plans along with China, India, Egypt, Mexico, Bangladesh.

Why not the USA?
Don't need a $100 laptop – schools can buy the $400 intel laptop
There are other problems in poorer countries – like no power and health issues

The first trial will be in Nigeria in 2007. The initial price will be about $140, but the target price for 2010 is $50. The important thing is that the price will float, based on the cost of the components. Features will not be added that increases the price. Countries are volunteering to sponsor other countries – or people purchase and donate in another's name.

Side effects of the $100 laptop. Linux will be on the desktop. There's no caps lock key. More consciousness about using human power. No bloated software or unneeded features. Viral telecommunications. Peer to peer learning and

What can you do?
Contribute your ideas to:

If you are personally interested or want a developer board, send e-mail to:

Three basic principles:
1)Use technology to learn learning, not to learn something. To many kids are learning Word or Excel, but not learning to use the computer as the tool it is to be used to learn other things.
2)Teaching is one but not the only way to achieve learning.
3)Leverage children's initiative

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blogging: Reinventing Teaching and Learning in the Information Age - Susim Munshi and Susan Switzer

According to Helen Keller, “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” If Helen Keller was around today, she would not have struggled as hard to be as successful as she was. To achieve the full potential for technology in education we need to change the lens that will look through – we need to be less critical and use more praise. The new fabric of life that challenges our traditions in education and many teachers feel threatened with it as education has spent the last 100 years “perfecting” the fabric of education. Jon Madonna said, “Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow.” (Sounds a little like Good to Great.)

The institutional visions tend to be tunnel (my space – community, school), silo (my silo – not anyone else's) or vertical (hierarchy. This type of vision limits the possibilities with technology. There is a lot of talk about the Internet 2.0 – if this is the future of the internet, we need to create Schools 2.0 that have teachers who guide the students to use the technology that is evident in every day life and prepare them for an unknown future.

According to Alan November, “Blogging is the single most transformative tool.” The control of learning is shifting to more student control, there is more noise, movement, new assessments, and available constantly. The current decision making tools that students are currently using include myspace, AOL messenger and other chat programs. We must be teaching students to teach themselves, as the jobs they will fulfill may not even exist in our current world.

Ms. Switzer then highlighted some examples of weblogs that are available through their own website:

Mr. Munshi encouraged the audience to go to the website to share and use any of the resources available. He also highlighted the Goochland Public schools that require the teachers to blog. He references Alan November's presentation to administrator that asked if the administrators wanted their teachers to use technology (especially wikis and blogs) the administrators MUST also use these technologies.

The handouts for the session was unique – to required the audience to input information and reflect on the information. See Bob Pike from The Bob Pike Group on giving better presentations:

Introducing the Read/Write Web – Tim Wilson

Opportunities for the WebThe internet is the future for technology for education. It is up there with the ancient library in Alexandra and the TV. Web 2.0 is an emerging platform where the web is the platform. There will be a move from a classroom webpage to a weblog. The weblog is instantly updated and interactive – this is what makes it a read/write page. In addition, with RSS (really simple syndication) allows the subscriber to be updated when new content is posted on the weblogs you are interested in.

Compare New York Times and ohmynews. New York Times is written by professional journalists for stories that sell papers. Ohmynews is a Korean online paper with both professional and non-professional writers that brings the daily news to the public.

Encyclopedias vs Wikipedia. Most online encyclopedias are fee based and fairly static. Wikipedia is dynamic – with people who are passionate about the topic posting information. The incorrect information is quickly erased and rewritten. A recent study showed that Wikipedia is as accurate as any published encyclopedias. This would allow students to contribute to the world of knowledge. It is also available in other languages. There is also opportunities for discussion within the article.

Tagging is a way of adding keywords for for arrogation. It allows links between blogs and on going conversation.

When students have a broader audience, they write differently and with more enthusiasm and significance.

How do we keep kids safe while working online?
Keep students on your own network and servers.
Monitor what the students are reading and writing.
Teach appropriate online behavior.
Recognize that young people will encounter unsavory things online, just like in real life.

What professional development is needed?
Avoid the “just in case” PD and look for “just in time.”
Build on the trail blazers so they can show the way for others.
Leaders have to lead – the admin must show what they want in technology.

How to assess student work?
Develop or adopt curriculum standards for information literacy.
Create uniform rubrics for use across curriculum.
De-emphasize individual assessments. (Wikis and blog are interconnected, assessing an individual would be difficult)

Equitable access is important – all students should have the opportunities to work with technology. Consider extending the hours of the school's media center and computer labs to better serve the community. Teachers can give classes on internet behavior or software lessons. Converse about the equity within your own school.

The implications of not getting technology use correctly in school. Change is happening so fast that we can't keep up. We are in a relevance race with our students. The social sites feeds the students' passion – we need to understand what this passion is and how to harness it for education. We should not divide students' “real life” outside of school and what happens within in the classroom. Our “digital immigrant” accent is clear to many students. We need to consider what the job market will look like in the next 10-20-50 years. Students need to communicate across cultures, without time lag for jobs that don't exist yet. There is the potential that students may move on to private tutors rather then public schools.

Tim Wilson's site -

Extraordinary Visions - Dewitt Jones

Vision, passion, purpose and creativity – the four words that sum up how great things happen, whether it is art, business, or education.

His father told him a story – two guys breaking stone. One feels he is just chipping stone, the other feels he is building a cathedral. Our vision of a task, project, idea etc is influenced by our attitude toward it. Dreaming and imagining is an important part of creating passion for the task.

Mr. Jones related the story of how he became a film maker. He was suppose to go to Harvard Business school, but a night of dreaming and talking led him to withdraw his application and go to California to learn how to make films. He, and his friends, envisioned a kayak trip up the coast of Japan. He wrote a proposal to National Geographic, went for an interview with a quickly made demo film. They offered to follow him on the trip and make the film thermselves. He refused this offer. Rewriting his proposal, the president saw Mr. Jones's vision and hired him. When vision and passion combine, anything is possible.

Mr. Jones then shared his photos of the wonderful people and places he saw throughout the world. His narration was a celebration of the very best that this world has to offer.

He started to question the slogans and philosophies that people try to live their lives with. Nature is beauty and passion, not competition, win/lose. There are so many possibilities. There is more than one right answer, which is the key to creativity. There are several right answers, you just have to look at the different perspective. Don't stop at the first right answer. Look for the next right answer. Do so not in terror, but with comfort.

Problems are truly opportunities.

The average National Geographic article uses over 400 rolls of film to get the 30 pictures that are used.

The professional question is “did you get the shot” – not how many good ones do you get in a roll of 36.

Train your technique.
Place yourself where there in the place of most potential
Open yourself to possibilities – things wyou wold never even dream off
Focus the vision by celebrating what is right in the situation
By celebrating the right, we have the energy to fix the wrong.

I saw an angel in the stone and just carved to set it free – Michelangelo

Life is about continually finding the next right answer – keeping the vision.
When we believe it – we see it.

In our lives, there is an edge between success and significance. Not just the best in the world, but the best for the world. It takes us past being good professionally into our personal lives.

You take it all in and then give it all back. Take the very best that you are and publish it in your daily life.

Can we find the balance between what we do and who we are? Be able to take it all in and give it all back with grace and humility.

“My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight” (Robert Frost)

Podcasting & Podcatching for the Absolute Beginner – Larry S. Anderson

A Panel of Podcasting
Ted Lai – from Los Angeles County Office of Education
David Warlick – Landmark Project
Lucy Gray – University of Chicago University Schools
Tim Wilson – Savvy Technologist

National Center for Technology Planning

How-to section:
A podcast allows people to subscribe to podasts through RSS that give the person the auto-download of the subscription. It can then be played on iPods, computers and MP3 players.
Podcasting – a term that describes, in a fresh way, the teechnology used to puch (share) audio content from websites down to consumers )clients) of that content, who usually listen to it whenever and wherever they want.
You don't need an iPod, it is narrowcasting (specific), not platform specific, and available from and to everyone. It allows internet users to be more of producers, not just consumers.

The Lucy Gray walked through the process of downloading and subscribing to a podcast. Ted Lai spoke about how podcasting can be used in education. Podcasts can :
Gather content to enhance learning
Provide school and classroom updates
Find or produce “Soundseeing” tours
Dramatize or re-enact key moments in the topic
Produce radio shows
Podcasts can be used for both learning from and sharing knowledge.
need a recording devise – either a microphone on the MP3 player/computer or a digital recorder
a mixer would be handy to help edit the recording
Tim suggests starting simply, then you can purchase more advanced equipment on Ebay.

Most of the good podcasting software is through Mac. So, it may be worth looking at getting a Mac for podcasts, if your school is really interested in podcasting
GarbageBand – easy to use
Podcast Maker

If people have questions, please use the wiki currently being produced, or email Larry, who will pass them on to the panel.

This panel was eye-opening for me. I finally learned how to get a podcast. I definitely need to spend more time exploring the possibilities with what's available.

One Year of QuestGardening: A Crop Report – Bernie Dodge, PhD

PowerPoint Available -

QuestGarden is a website that Bernie Dodge has worked on for the last 1 ½ and was debuted at NECC 2005. He created the site because Mr. Dodge noticed that creating WebQuests took a lot of time, too many technical skills, and resources that most teachers and school do not have access to. In addition, a good WebQuest should include strong pedagogical skills including constructivism, using higher level thinking, and coherence within a lesson. Most teacher also teach, and create Webquests, in isolation and peer feedback helps the Quest be better. Finally, teachers need to store the pages.
Some symptoms of these problems include: Webquests that are uploaded and not updates, many teachers found that the first one was too difficult and won't make a second one, and that fact that excellent teachers may feel that WebQuesting is too difficult and won't ever make one, which is a loss for all teachers.

What is QuestGarden? The metaphor comes from a community garden, where master gardeners work with novice gardeners to create an overflowing garden. Mr. Dodge debuted this website in Feb. 2005 and tested it throughout the spring and summer. He announced it at NECC 2005. There are now over 30,000 users from all over the world. Over 14,000 new WebQuests are available.

Mr. Dodge built into QuestGarden what he would talk about in a workshop, including prompted guidance with each step. It is browser based, so no software is needed. The advantage to this site is that fact that there is an emphasis on sharing resources and aadvice – feedback is easy even when using it as a workshop. It is WYSIWYG and able to upload pics. The basic patterns of WebQuests are available to help ease the design factor.

QuestGarden is available at:

After a quick demo of the site, Mr. Dodge highlighted some of the best WebQuests accessible on the site. He is especially interested in the new developments within the WebQuest structure – using wikis and podcasts. He also looked at the kid-created WebQuests. At first is thought it was a bad idea, then, thinking about the structure of QuestGarden, it might be viable, however, after examining the kid-created ones Mr. Dodge has found that overall, the deep thinking needed is not happening. He is pondering how to deal with this situation, maybe including a student section with a different set of resources.
However, despite some of the problems, Mr. Dodge feels that QuestGarden is fulfilling its purpose – make it easy to create WebQuests, that are truly WebQuests. An activity that helps students to use the internet to get kids to think deeply, evaluate and analyze and apply information.

The future of QuestGarden is promising. It will continue to be free until September 1, 2006. There will be a charge in the future because the amount of information flowing requires server space and bandwith. He is considering 20USD for a 2 year subscription – to encourage people to use and revise their webquests. For teacher prep classes, there will be a 30 day free trial.

There will also be new features. He hopes to allow the WebQuests to be exported into other sites. Many people would like to translate the site into other languages. There will also be more options for peer ratings and feedback, including a mentoring type program. Scaffolding extras (such as art viewing worksheets) and integrated quizzes will be built in too. Finally, there will be the ability to download other's WebQuests to your own space to update and change it to fit your situation.

In addition, the current WebQuest site will be merged with QuestGarden. RSS feeds will be available. There are new design patterns that are and will emerge as technology changes.

Inspiration-like concept map open source site -

Timeliner-like open source site Simile by MIT -

Monday, July 03, 2006

San Diego - America's Finest City

I love San Diego! It is clean, friendly, easy to get around and exciting. As their slogan says, “America's finest city.” Plus, it is extremely dog friendly – which tells you a lot about the people of San Diego. Flying in to the airport was a breeze with a short 8 dollar taxi ride to the hotel – Best Western Bayside Inn, which I highly recommend for its great location (close to the trolley and walking distance to Gaslamp and Petco). Hard Rock was our first traditional dinner with a stroll down the Gaslamp section. As Chris said, “Ten years ago, (well, maybe more) that would have been me” referring to the clubbed out, slick 20-somethings waiting in long lines for the coolest clubs. We were happy to soak in the hot-tub and surf on the wireless internet before bedtime.

Old Town was interesting, though a little like Wisconsin Dells, with its reconstructed historical houses and more stores than one person can shop in a day. However, with a little dose of historic plaques, I could get a good sense of what life was like in the 1860s. I especially liked Casa de Estudillo – imagining my wealthy and historic self waltzing through the courtyard into the fantastically furnished bedroom, guitars playing softly in the background. The first public schoolhouse showed me how far teaching has come as a profession. As a woman, I'm allowed to be married, don't have to clean out the stove and lantern fumes, and get a little more than a 25 cent raise every five years.

San Diego Zoo was everything I anticipated, and more. We purchased the best value ticket, which allowed us all day access tot he skyrider and busses. Definitely worth it. We first took the airel view of the park and caught our first glimpse of the panda – wandering, off-exhibit, through its backyard. The polar bears were not swimming, but rather munching on carrots and strolling around. Finally, we stood in the 30 minute line to see the pride of the zoo – the pandas. The baby was hung up in the tree, mama was hiding in the back of the exhibit, but papa – he was happily munching on bamboo, front and center. After just reading, The Lady and the Panda by Vicki Croke I was deeply touched with this exhibit, and even more impressed with Ruth Harkness's journey to discover and protect these wonderful creatures. The other highlight, for Chris, was the two exhibits of meercats. We also stopped at the cafe by the pandas for lunch and was surprisingly impressed with the food, for a captive audience it was tasty and not too overpriced. The end of the night was capped off with the acrobatic show entitled Jewels of the Rainforest. The basic gist of the the story was to encourage humans to help protect the rainforest. The bungee birds and gymnastic butterflies were wonderful.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Taking Initiative

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told. ~Victor Hugo

This past month, as advisor to NHS/NJHS, I prodded the students through the process of organizing a health fair. When the day finally arrived, we had 15 exhibitors and the majority of attendees came from within our school community. The goal of the fair was to get the larger community, outside of school, to see what health, fitness and wellness resources were available. Overall, for the first health fair at school, it was successful. The exhibitors stated that they enjoyed the opportunity to network with each other and our own students learned a lot. However, as a NHS/NJHS activity, I was frustrated by the lack of initiative exhibited by the students, which set me pondering – how do we teach initiative?

One of the four pillars of NHS/NJHS is leadership, which does include demonstrating initiative in promoting school activities. But what does that mean? According to the definition of initiative is: The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task; enterprise and determination.

Let's look at follow through. In the classroom, teachers give assignments and a due date, students turn in work and the teacher grades it. Once the grade is given, the assignment is over. This is the typical cycle of education. So if there are mistakes, are students expected to follow through on their learning - to make correctly, enhance their learning and truly take the assignment to its completion? In my experience, most students don't even bother to read my commentary on an assignment unless I specifically assign revision with a due date.

The next part is energetically. That would indicate that someone is doing something with passion or interest. Again, quite often students complete work because they have to, it may be on the test, or its for a grade. Many students don't feel they need to complete work if “it doesn't count” towards the grade. Why has the grade become the goal rather than the learning?

So, the big question is, how do we “teach” initiative? Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” This sounds more like it needs modeling rather than teaching.

"Do it right - Do it now" by

Monday, January 23, 2006

Homework: Responsibility verses Compassion

It is a question that every teacher has, what do you do with students who don't complete their homework? A couple typical responses are:

Give them a zero – they weren't responsible with their time.
Give them more time, but deduct points for late work.
Keep them in at lunch/recess/after school until the work is done.
Grade only what is completed.

When I first started teaching, I believed in the first response. It was the students' RESPONSIBILITY to get the work done. My responsibility was to assign it. Like most first year teachers, I had an idealistic view of the classroom. Smiling children, hanging my every word about the elements of literature, eager writing in their notebooks and pondering the author's meaning. I was also naïve. I came from an educated family that valued reading and writing. My mother had been a secretary, our school librarian, and then later she worked at Waldenbooks. Our house has more books than most families read their entire lives, and I loved it. As a child, I played school with my dad, who was a dutiful and polite student. Then, my first year, I encountered students completely different from me. Some had farm chores from school's end to dark. Others didn't have a single book available in the house, much less a dictionary or encyclopedia. Some didn't have a parent at home. Yet I was going to teach them responsibility by assigning them homework.

At my next teaching job, the situation was completely different. These students were extremely privileged and could have almost anything they wanted. However, it was an oral culture, not one of literacy. Students much preferred talking over writing, and usually not speaking in English. As a middle school team, we agreed that daily homework would be 50% off for being late. Projects or writing would lose 10% each day it was late. This seemed to make more sense to me. It allowed the students to have a bad day, but still make it up. However, it was a nightmare for me trying to keep track of who turned what assignment in on what day.

As I made another move, the policy of -50% for daily and -10% for projects was unworkable. These new students had not been held accountable for due dates. If I enforced that policy, I would be facing many upset parents. With teaching four grade levels and three subjects, I felt I didn't have the energy to re-educate both students and parents, especially if other teachers did not hold to the same policy. The end result was lists of names of the board for incomplete homework. The week before mid-quarters or quarterly report, there was a flurry of work turned in – some almost four weeks late. How did that help students' learning? How did that help me accurately assess their learning? Not even to mention trying to grade so much late work was driving me crazy. The following year was better, as we added some staff who expected more timely work. We also rewrote the homework policy in the handbook explaining the purposes of homework. Here is the written policy from that school:
  • “Homework is an essential part of formal education. Meaningful, regularly assigned homework helps students reinforce what they learn in class, master various skills, and develop interests in different subjects. Homework is not simply “busy work” to be done at home—it is a learning activity that increases in complexity as the student progresses from grade to grade.
    Homework is usually of the following nature:
    Drills and additional practice to strengthen new skills and clarify concepts in the classroom. Completion of unfinished classroom assignments.
    Work on projects of a short-term or long-term nature.
    Research activities in locating facts and data.
    Independent reading for pleasure and enjoyment.
  • Parent AssistanceParents can aid in their children’s education by creating a positive “homework environment” at home, one that encourages the child to do his/her homework, while having a positive attitude about it. It is important for students to have a quiet, well-lit place to study at home. When homework is not assigned, parents should encourage their children to use the established study time as a recreational reading period.
  • Amount of HomeworkAISV teachers assign homework to supplement, complement, and reinforce classroom instruction. Homework will be tailored to the students’ needs and capacities, and will not be unreasonable in amount. Homework is given at the discretion of the teacher and varies in amount depending on grade level and course. Upper School students may have as much as two to three hours an evening, depending upon factors such as upcoming tests, papers, projects, and assigned readings. The AISV staff will coordinate testing and projects to ensure equitable loads.
    There will be times that students are expected to stay after school to work on group projects or to do research.”

In my current school, there is a stronger culture of homework. The school is older – 75 years old – and based on the American philosophy of homework. The minority of students who regularly skip homework are followed up through parent phone calls, conferences, and keeping them in at lunch and after school. Other teachers also support these tactics, which generally keep students on track. When students transfer to our school from other countries, this is one of the first culture shock they experience. Many school experiences around the world do not involve homework. The learning is supposed to take place in the classroom, not at home. Also, for some poorer countries, there aren't enough supplies to allow students to take books home.

Here are some good links to get you talking and thinking about homework:

Recent Research on Homework: an Annotated Bibliography
Rethinking Homework: Dr. Cathy Vatterott
Focus on Effectiveness