Notes from “Partnering Students, Parents, and Teachers Through Technology”

The second in a series of workshops from NWPM colleagues at MRA 2008, these are notes from Portland Middle School teachers Amanda and Garth Cornwell’s session on “Partnering Students, Parents, and Teachers Through Technology.”

  • Begin with questions from the audience:
    • How to get younger students to access technology on their own?
    • How do parents react, what do they want?
  • Our Hopes
    • To demonstrate daily uses of technology that serve a variety of purposes
    • To aid students, parents, and colleagues in realizing the technology of potential
    • To equip students with the skills that they will need
    • Michael Wesch vide: “A Vision of Students Today
  • Our Plan
    • To share the tech tools that we use with students and parents
    • To discuss why it is important to integrate technology when we feel like we are “giving up” time for content
    • To discuss how flexibility is the key, because teaching with technology always yields surprises
  • Students
    • Shared Drive
      • Create hotlists in word that students can click to for computer lab assignments
    • District Digital Dropbox
      • Track changes in word sometimes works with middle school students
    • Wikis
    • Nicenet
      • Classroom discussion forums
      • Good for access at home and school, because it is all online and doesn’t require a specific word processor (files lost, incompatible formats, etc)
      • Watching for IM language and asking students to express themselves more clearly
    • Google Docs
    • Podcasting
      • Buy inexpensive MP3 recorders
  • Parents
    • Blogs and Edline
    • Lack of participation and interest in training sessions
    • Considering teaming up with local libraries
    • Be persistent and specific
  • Teachers
    • Open yourself up to learning with your students
  • Our learning
    • Small, simple steps can be beneficial
    • Honor the time of the student, parent, or teacher coming to learn
    • Listen to input from students
  • Lessons and Student Work
    • Book discussions

Note from “Blogging — Maximizing Writer’s Notebooks with a 21st Century Dimension”

Here are notes from my Crossroads Writing Project colleagues, Lavon Jonson and Sonja Mack: “Blogging — Maximizing Writer’s Notebooks with a 21st Century Dimension.”

  • Background
    • Bringing blogging into the traditional process of using a writers notebook
    • Writing with your students encourages them to write (Graves, etc.)
  • Blog Growth
    • In April 2007, 70 million blogs, 90% by teenagers
    • In four years the growth has been phenomenal
  • Rationale for use in the classroom
  • Why use blogging in the classroom?
    • To share items from writer’s notebook (used to share it in a circle on the floor, now we do it on blogs)
    • Edublogs forums (support video)
  • Blogs to check out

    What we’ve noticed from our students

  • All students are able to contribute
  • Comments are more heartfelt

Randy Bomer’s Keynote about New Literacies

Notes from Randy Bomer‘s keynote at MRA 2008:

“Writing Transformations: How New Literacies and New Times Invite Us to Rethink Composition”

  • Literacy is changing, literacy as design
  • Obstacles: accountability measures and deficit thinking
    • If we are constantly trying to fill in gaps, we are not moving into the future. Looking at education from a deficit model results in damaging education.
    • You cannot move toward the future from a deficit model
  • Spotting deficit thinking
    • “these kids”
    • “s/h/they have no language/culture/experience
    • “culture of poverty”
    • finger-wagging to parents
      • Varieties in deficit thinking
        • Individual ability/genetics
        • Culture
        • Poverty
        • Language
        • Mass and popular culture
    • Examples
      • Paying kids in NYC for grades to “compete” with what they could earn on the street
      • Motives for teaching that see children as coming from deficient lives
      • See the book: The Evolution of Deficit Thinking edited by Richard Valencia
    • New literacies are not just about machines.
      • Texts call attention to how they are made, how they work materially, and why
      • Thinking about the design of text and interaction with it
      • Spencer Schaffner‘s “five paragraph essay” picture (can’t find image online yet, here is his blog)
      • Habits of minds and material
    • Design as a literacy practice
      • Two phases of the writing process:
        • Generating writing in the notebook — used design as a way of thinking about content
        • Publishing — used design as a way to think about how to publish their work
      • Examples of student work
        • Map of the zoo with narrative annotations
        • Story that was drawn out into a graphic novel/comic page, and by drawing was able to add more detail
          • Bomer claimed that the students wrote more on the days that they drew, and students generated more by working in two modalities
        • Brought in pictures and used cropping Ls
        • Transferred pictures that were cropped and focused in on small components
          • Mother’s image from one image
          • Necklace from another
        • Texts in new literacies may be single pieces that are loosely joined
        • Making Journals by Hand by Jason Thompson or Memory Keepsakes or Artists Journal Sketches by Lynne Perella
        • Design Decisions
          • What pathways are the readers going to take?
            • Box, journal, notecards

Rather than see these children and what they could do from a deficit model, we enabled them to produce texts that mattered to them and developed new literacy practices.


As Bomer talked, I appreciated his perspective on new literacies as “avoiding the deficit” model of thinking. This adds a new twist to the discussions of new literacies that I have been reading about recently, both because it honors the socio-cultural perspective that NLS has developed over time and also addresses issues about about accountability and assessment by hitting it head on by using the research on deficit thinking to support the idea that approaching literacy in reductive ways really contributes to poor literacy practices.

Meme: Passion Quilt

Kevin tagged me to continue Miguel‘s Passion Quilt meme.

Cool! Given that I have been reading about memes in Lankshear and Knobel’s New Literacies, this was timely.

So, here goes:

Images from my ENG 315: Writing in the Elementary Schools Courses, Spring 2008

Why these images? Well, they highlight some of the conversations that we have been having this semester in ENG 315 about the teaching of writing. As I view these images, I am reminded both of how much I enjoy teaching teachers how to teach writing and how much these students learn over the course of a semester as they work together in class, assist in local schools, and become writers themselves. I am very much looking forward to their final projects in just a few short weeks of class.

All right, now for the fun part. Miguel provides three simple Meme rules:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

And the five people that I am inviting in to the meme:


OLPC Keynote from SITE 2008

Sorry that it took so long, but getting back to another crazy week finds me now, on the Friday might before MRA 2008, catching up on SITE.

That said, I have one final set of notes and reflections, and this keynote was a good one. Dr. Antonio Battro, the Chief Education Officer for One Laptop Per Child delivered an excellent keynote address and post-keynote discussion. Highlights from both are here, followed by my reflections.

Also, FYI, I have update my presentation post from a few days ago, and it now includes a podcast of my session.

Here are the notes from the keynote, followed by notes from the post-keynote discussion, and, finally, my reflections:

The Cognitive Challenges of the One Laptop Per Child Program
Antonio Battro, Chief Education Officer One Laptop Per Child

  • OLPC (and per teacher)
    • Sharing knowledge is a dialogue, and this is the essence of OLPC
    • The machines may change, but education must evolve
  • History
    • Nicholas Negroponte
      • 1960’s architecture of the machine
      • In Paris, Battro spent some time with him and in the early 80’s began thinking about deploying machines in remote countries
  • Five OLPC Principles
    • Child ownership
      • This is the key, as the child and the teacher own the computers and they are given to them as a gift
      • It is difficult to understand for many ministers of education, because they want the school to own the computer — not the child or teacher
      • When we go to the highest levels of the governments that we work with, this is the first obstacle that we have to overcome
      • Uruguay is the first country to adopt OLPC for the entire country, and the machine was produced in Shanghai
        • The machines arrived during the last week of classes in November and there was discussion about what to do
          • One group said that we should give the machines to the teachers with a workshop and when classes start again in March, the kids can get them
          • Another group said that this is not the OLPC idea — we should give the machines to the children tomorrow (and this is what happened)
          • 10,000 students received the machine
          • Doing research on children and teachers who get the machine with no formal training (this is the last time that this will happen since all the children will have machines next year)
    • Low ages
      • In many countries, the idea of having digital skills is meant for adolescents and older students
      • For OLPC, kindergarten is too late and we have designed a machine that is for early ages
      • The interface is adapted very well for a child even before they learn how to read and write
      • Uruguay is starting in kindergarten because they have seen so much success with the 5 and 6 year old children
      • This motivation to start early came from Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert
        • In about 1960, Seymour Papert said that all children will eventually have a computer
        • This was a crazy idea, but he was a prophet (he developed Logo)
      • Piaget
        • Constructionism (how the child constructs reality)
          • Learning to learn
          • Children teach — this was a very profound idea, too
            • At five years old, children are very good teachers and OLPC will have millions of teachers around the world
      • Howard Gardner
        • Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century
          • The human mind has evolved a number of separate organs/information-processing devices
          • Taking human differences seriously lies at the heart of the multiple intelligences perspective
            • We do a different kind of construction for each intelligence
              • Digital intelligence (“the click option”)
                • Everything boils down to a simple question: to click or not to click
              • What happens when a child makes a mental calculation (Hideaki Koizumi, 2006)
                • The frontal lobe is activated by mental arithmetic
                • The frontal lobe is not activated when using a calculator
                  • So, what could it being doing instead?
                  • His dream is to write a book with Hideaki Koizumi about the activation of the human brain when teaching
                  • Knowing that someone else doesn’t know something and then teaching it — this is an amazing human capacity, and children can do this
    • Saturation
      • Every child has a machine and it is like a vaccination
        • Once you have good trials, you have the obligation to vaccinate everyone or else the vaccine will not work
          • This idea was presented by Jonah Salk (correct name?)
        • We prefer to have a whole town or region saturated
          • One example: in a setting with all the ministers of a country where he took at picture
    • Connection
      • Ability to connect with other users
      • The computer is not a tool, it is an environment
    • Free and open source
      • Multiple languages for the machine
      • 100 books for the machine
  • Conclusion
    • Our approach has moved from education for the few and privileged (image of Greek forum) to one computer for all the children (image of a girl with the machine balanced on her head)
    • This is hope, justice, and peace
  • Questions and Answers
    • How might this affect countries that are not democratic?
      • OLPC is non-profit and incorporated in the USA
      • OLPC will go everywhere and try to join the education efforts in the country that we work with
        • Some places need an extra push
        • We are teachers without borders and many of our people are volunteers
      • Peru — putting machines in the most remote areas of the country
    • Bill Gates idea that technology will not solve the problems — we need teachers and electricity. How do you respond to this?
      • Battro discussed his experience as a medical doctor and the eradication of disease (saturation)
      • Also, OLPC is not about machines; instead it is about education (we must have water AND education — education today is about having a computer)
        • If you introduce the computer as a technical, colonial invention, then you are reducing education
        • Education has a value in and of itself, not just as a tool
        • In many difficult places today, there are lots of struggles but the governments are willing to give the computers out

Post-Keynote Discussion

  • Security — some people are worried that the laptops will be stolen and used for illicit purposes
    • Response — the machine isn’t “on the market,” so it doesn’t have a price
    • Also, if it is lost, it can be permanently disabled from afar
    • Finally, the communities that have these laptops know that they are for the children. If adults have them, and they are are not teachers, then it is likely stolen
  • Maintenance — worries about fixing the machines in remote spots
    • Response — easy to open and repair, if it can’t be done at school it can be mailed
    • Eventually, it would be great if people could just take their laptops to any post office and, like other items like keys, they would automatically be sent in for repair and then back to the child
  • Student Use — what is happening for teachers training to support student use?
    • Rapid deployment of laptops and teachers are changing pedagogy quickly, too
    • Teachers are moving from classroom to classroom to see new practices
  • School Architecture — how do the laptops affect this?
    • Changing from desks and rows to tables and chairs in South America

    Printers — why can’t they print easily?

    • Printers are disruptive, ink is expensive, and it encourages old ways of production and transmission of information (worksheets)
  • Support — how can educators help?
    • Need more than just money from big corporations. Family, teachers, and students can use the machines for authentic purposes (USB plug in monitors and probes)
  • Education — there is a consensus that we need to change, but we are working with public funds. Also, many governments see teachers as obstacles, but we see them learning with the students. Teachers are our best collaborators. If all kids have the machine, then they are going to use it all the time. Saturation of laptops is the medical equivalent of vaccination.
  • Concluding comments — this is a project not about laptops, but about students and teachers.


The juxtaposition of us, as educators concerned about social justice and equitable access, sitting in the cavernous conference hall of a casino on the strip in Las Vegas did not elude me. Here we were, with our $1000 (or $2000 or $3000 laptops), writing from America’s heart of conspicuous consumption about how “little green machines” are working around the world to empower youth as producers of knowledge, media, and culture. In a town where one is inundated by only a few views of what counts as culture, we had to buy into that part of the illusion to be able to sit in the room with an educator who is, literally, changing the world from a grassroots level.

Dr. Battro, as both an MD and PhD, shared a unique perspective with us on why the laptops have to be in the hands of every child. What public health officials understand about vaccinations are that they are not helpful at all unless everyone gets them. In that sense, it would not serve to only give laptops to some children, or to stop after this initial roll out is complete. This program is designed to be sustainable, a educational inoculation for generations to come.

My question for him was about the imminent release of Windows XP for the laptop. His response: it doesn’t matter to me. In other words, it really is about the literacies enable by the machine, not the particular tools. I will be interested in seeing how that plays out, especially if XP goes open source.

Well, there was a lot of information from that session. Even as I reread it a week later and half a continent away, on the cusp of another conference, I am still intrigued by the core message that this is not a laptop initiative, it is an educational initiative. This can not be underestimated and gives me pause to think about the ways that I continue to frame discussions of technology and literacy, and reminds me that I need to play with my own children as they teach me about their laptops.

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Reconsidering the “Grammar of Schooling” in a Digital Age

Tom Hanson from Open Education recently emailed me and alerted me to a post about technology infrastructure and professional development in schools.

How Do We Ensure Our Schools Are Staffed with Technologically Savvy Teachers — Open Education

Unfortunately, in many schools and for many teachers, the above five suggestions simply are not happening on a regular basis. But the reason that most teachers are not up-to-date on technology is that they are simply too overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of their existing schedule to be able to stay up with the technological advances that are occurring…

Therein lies the basis of the problem for teachers. While students in other countries spend more time at school than American children do, most teachers in other countries do not have additional instructional responsibilities during that extra time. Instead, time is built into the school day for teachers to collaborate, to prepare lesson materials, and to receive professional development.

This reminds me of discussions that I have been having for awhile now; to take a phrase from Tyack and Cuban,
we need to reconsider the “grammar of schooling” in a digital age. This
is not a completely new argument, yet it merits renewed attention in
this election year and as OLPC machines roll out across the world. If
we are now considering how the grammar of writing is changing in
digital spaces, so too shouldn’t we consider what happens in schools?

Tom shares some insights into what teachers could do in the rest of this post. Also, he has a great deal of other postings dealing with copyright, open source software, open course ware and other related topics. He’s in my Google Reader now, and I encourage you to subscribe as well.

Three More SITE Presentations: Pre-Service Teachers and Technology

These are the final three sessions that I will attend at SITE before heading home. I have notes on the keynote and follow-up conversation from this morning that I still need to clean-up and process (as well as a podcast for my presentation from a few days ago). I will get that all done later, as I need to catch a plane. So long, Las Vegas!
Technology Use Among Pre-Service Teachers: Implications for Instructions
Stephen Jenkins, Elizabeth Downs, and Terry Diamanduros, Georgia Southern University

  • Not much information know about pre-service teachers and use of technology
    • Lots of info on teen use from Pew Internet
  • Research Question
    • What is technology use for undergraduate pre-service teachers? for daily use, technology vs. F2F, and for communication
  • Tech Ownership
    • Computer: 96%
    • Cell phone: 99%
    • Landline: 28%
    • iPod/MP3: 60%
  • Daily Use
    • Cell phone talking: about 2 hours
    • Texting: about an hour
    • Academics: about an hour
    • Facebook: about an hour
    • Internet searching: about an hour
    • iPod: 45 minutes
    • Email: 45 minutes
  • Face-to-Face
    • Family: One hour
    • Friends: Fours hours
    • Classmates: About two hours
    • Work: About two hours
  • Audiences:
    • Generally prefer phone
  • Purposes:
    • Phone primarily used for quick and serious conversations
    • Private conversations happen F2F
  • Discussion
    • Course development
      • Even though they are familiar with many technologies, they may not be ready to integrate them into assignments

Evaluating the Implementation of the ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators in Teacher Education
Andrew Hunt and Jennifer Hune, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

  • Research Questions
    • How do faculty perceptions of their intended curriculum compare with student perceptions of their received curriculum on integration of technology into restructured courses?
  • Findings
    • We discovered that students were doing most of the things we were expecting them to do, but may not have realized that they were doing it
    • We as instructors have a different interpretation of what it means to have a computer problem
    • With intentional focus, we are able to make sure that we cover all the technologies and that the pre-service teachers understand that we are doing so

Teachers’ Belief Change in a Pedagogical Laboratory
Yuxin Ma, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

  • Motivation of the Study
    • How do we affect teachers’ beliefs about the use of technology in teaching
    • Our focus: A combination of vicarious learning experiences and hands-on technology integration field experiences
    • Beliefs will change after exposure and field experience using technology; have a defining moment
  • Research Questions
    • Does the pedagogical lab experience affect their beliefs about technology use?
    • What and how does it change their beliefs?
  • Pedagogical Laboratory Experience
    • 4 week experience, mostly in university classroom
    • Watch video case study, experience model lesson
    • Look at a model lesson plan to modify
    • On two consecutive Saturdays, we bring in kids and have two pre-service teachers work with two children for a total of six hours
    • Critical incident technique to focus on an “aha” moment
  • Data Sources
    • Teachers’ Beliefs Regarding Technology Use Survey (TBTUS)
      • Student centered learning
      • Self-efficacy for technology integration
      • Perceived value of computers
    • Teacher perception survey
    • Reflective journals
    • Follow-up interviews
  • Results
    • Does the pedagogical lab use affect teacher candidates’ beliefs regarding technology use?
      • Reinforced non-learner centered belief — why?
    • Why and how does the pedagogical lab experience affect change?
      • Insignificant findings in TBTUS
      • Beliefs did change, but not measured by TBTUS
        • Value of technology in engaging students
        • Challenges in technology integration
        • Issues involved in student-centered learning — teacher wanting to keep control
        • Classroom management
        • Understanding learners
  • Conclusion
    • TBTUS may not be sensitive to the changes in our program (22 hours of experience with only six hours of teaching)
    • The belief changes are different
  • Future Directions
    • Provide longer treatment
    • Develop more sensitive measures
    • Train candidates on how to address various issues in student-centered learning

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