Reflections on EduCon 2.1

NOTE: This was written yesterday in the post-conference, pre-flight moments that I had on the train from downtown to the airport. Since my flight didn’t arrive in Lansing until about 1:30 AM last night, I was just now able to put the finishing touches on it. Hope it makes some sense…

Sunday, January 25, 2009

As I catch the train back to the airport, I have a few minutes to compose a quick reflection to EduCon. All in all, I found the weekend to be highly engaging, both in the “techie” sense of learning about some new digital writing tools and angles to think about teaching, especially copyright and assessment. Also, it was a great opportunity for professional networking, and I finally met many of the people I had only read or heard online.

Yet, I also leave in some ways slightly disappointed — not because of the conference itself, exactly, but because I am beginning to really wonder, deeply, about the work that we do as educators and why the changes we seem to clamor for are not happening. Big questions, I know, but ones raised at the conference, and ones I will write my way into thinking about below.

So, first a few points that I want to highlight.

First, a tool. Along with the professional conversations and connections that emerged — with many thanks to Bud — the one new tool that I picked up was TweetDeck. I have been on Twitter for a long time, finally syncing it up with my phone last fall. I understood the value that others found in using Twitter as a part of their personal learning networks, yet the interface that I had (as a sidebar in Flock) was still not useful for me in the sense that I could not really stay on top of tweets and really see what was going on. A number of people this weekend were using TweetDeck, and I downloaded it, finding it to have a clean and fun interface. It notifies me when new tweets come in (a feature I may have to turn off since I get email notifications already that sometimes drive me nuts). I am still not quite sure if and how I will introduce Twitter as a digital writing tool to my pre-service teachers this spring, but I can see it as a part of our writing project network this summer, so it is good to have this tool as an option.

The second point came from the session by Kristin Hokanson and Renee Hobbs about clearing up copyright confusion. Paul, Christina, and I talked on and off after this session about how we just didn’t understand fair use and how the idea of “transformation” both strengthens arguments for having students do compelling work with copyrighted material, but also makes us wonder what it means for something to be “transformative.” Still, there are a number of resources that I need to explore on the Media Education Lab website and think more about the implications of this, especially as I move to teach digital storytelling this spring. Also, check out TTT from a few weeks back as another entry point into this conversation.

The third point that came clear in a session today about assessment by Konrad Glogowski. Wow, he made assessment seem so straight forward. My take away from this session: We are never, ever going to be able to measure digital learning in a standardized assessment. I know that everyone is trying to figure this out, including the most recent attempt by Microsoft and others. And, I think that those types of tests can measure some particular 21st century/digital writing skills. Yet, he talked about the dispositions that students need to have for 21st century learning, and the ways that teachers need to reply to students in order to give them substantive feedback. Tests made to be taken on a computer and never seen by human eyes are just not going to measure these dispositions.

There were many other great sessions, and I am just going to have to look back over my notes to think about everything from them. But, for now, my final point comes from the combination of many speakers that we heard over the weekend, especially those on the panels. I begin this point by saying that all of these individuals are highly-accomplished in their fields, all deserve our respect, and I listened attentively to what they all had to say — from local school district officials to professors to consultants. They all made empassioned, although sometimes different, calls for innovation in education. Prakash Nair, for instance, has collected a number of them in his 30 Strategies booklet. Powerful to hear, useful to think about.

Yet, in all of these conversations, all of these ideas, I am still just not hearing that we are going to actually do something. Yes, the teachers at SLA, and others in other schools with pockets of innovation are doing things, and that is incredible given the odds that some people face. So, in the week of the most historic innauguration in our lifetimes, I am still sadly disappointed — and perhaps becoming a bit cynical — that anything is ever really going to change. Why? Because “the system” (with scare quotes intended, because it was called that throughout the weekend) is actually not failing. It does exactly what it was designed to do — segregate, relegate, castigate.

There are others who have captured this idea with more data to support their argument and eloquence to bring the point home. So, I know that what I am saying here is not new, or revolutionary, but this weekend I just felt the sharp pain of having little to no power to enact change, despite the rhetoric of change and good examples of pockets of innovation presented this weekend. Sorry, just had to vent a bit there.

But, I also vent in the context of my airplane reading of Don Tapscott’s latest book, Grown Up Digital. He makes a pretty compelling case that all those who bemoan the amount of screentime and lack of effective communication skills that this generation will have are wrong. Hurray to that. More importantly, after debunking the critics, he also makes it clear that business that are not adapting to the Net Generation are fading fast (for instance, he cites the corporate culture of Best Buy as one that has adapted to the Net Gen, and Circuit City as one that has not). In fact, the book has an entire chapter on education, ending with the chapter with descriptions of “2.0 Schools” in which individualized learning plans, laptops, and personal attention are the norm. The implied message is, of course, that other models of schooling will soon fade away. Perhaps… Perhaps not… But, certainly something to think about given all the conversations in which I have participated this weekend, especially the many led by SLA students as well as the studnets that Antonio Viva skyped into his session.

So, in terms of digital writing, and teaching digital writing, where does this weekend leave me? Well, along with making a new commitment to participate in Twitter and, as Bud says, “not dissappear,” I am also going to begin thinking about how to really get my pre-service teachers to write, learn, and collaborate with the tools that I introduce to them — blogs, wikis, and Google Docs — by engaging more with each other. Even though I have been using these tools for years, I am still not confident that I am enabling a writing community in the best way that I can. And the one key theme that I got from being at SLA, listening to the teachers and students at the conference, and the whole idea of EduCon was that we need to really see students for who they are and help them grow individually and as communities. The tools are just a part of that process.

With all this in mind, I now have to turn my attention back to more writing for the books, planning for class and my students’ midtier placements, and getting a writing project up and running. I look forward to continuing a most busy, and engaging, semester. Thanks EduCon and SLA — I appreciate the opportunity I had to learn with you this weekend, and those yet to come in the future.

Notes from 21st Century Assessment

Notes from 21st Century Assessment Session

Konrad Glogowski

  • What we know about assessment
    • Assessment is the tail that wags the curriculum dog
    • Grades with substantive comments have the most impact on
  • What impact does a blogging community have on the role of the teacher?
    • Reflecting on what happens in the classroom, both online and off — show how much you have learned
    • Noticed that the students were engaged in talking with the community, but not by communicating with the teacher
      • Students saved docs, printed them and gave them to the teacher offline
      • But, they were interested in conversations with one another
    • Is this evidence of learning?
      • Not in the sense of “data” that is measured on a test
      • Rubrics, too, only focus on what they can not do and not on what they can do.
  • Current Models
    • Metaphor of acquisition moving to a metaphor of participation to metaphor of knowledge creation
    • Assessing learning of what is taught in test conditions (behaviorist) to assessing learning as individual sense-making through problem solving and demonstration through projects and writing (cognitive constructivist) to assessing learning as building knowledge with others in a situated context of a community and with real-life problems using resources and represented in a variety of forms(sociocultural)
    • Most of us would want to be in the socio-cultural paradigm
    • Suggestion One: Sociocultural Assessment Practices
  • Models for the Future
    • All of this is woven together, like a mat
    • There are no specific goals, and what they use to
      assess student progress is a narrative, learning and assessment are dynamic and continuous
    • If there is no score, what are they working towards?
      • Rubric combined with narrative response
    • Focus on what students can do, not just the deficits
      • Individuality, learning as holistic, inquiry-based,
        draws from family and home
      • When children see that teachers, families, peers, and others see value in their work and that what they do have meaning, then wonderful things will happen
    • Children who are valued with do valuable learning
    • The government of New Zeeland is looking for learning
      dispositions that invite students to investigate and collaborate
  • Two common dispositions
    • Resourcefulness and agency
  • What we need to do with assessment:
    • Feedback — timely and substantive
      • “Needs to provide information related to the task or process of learning that fills a gap between what is understood and needs to be understood” — missed citation
      • Where am I going, how am I going, and where to next?
      • These three questions can work at different levels: task, process, self-regulation, and self level
    • Self-assessment — and peer assessment, to some degree
    • Revisiting episodes of competence — need to do this more intentionally
    • This creates spaces for conversation about learning
  • Example: how to grow a blog — flower metaphor
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • How will I nourish it and help it grow?
    • Questions
      • What makes me unique?
      • As a blogger and writer, what will I do?
      • How will I support my peers?
  • Frequency of blog posts as compared to quality of writing and impact on the blogging community
  • Discuss how their own blog post has impacted their own learning and the community by using a “ripple effect” diagram
  • Questions
    • What is the role of the teacher in the 21st century classroom?
    • What are your experiences with assessment as a student?
    • What are the benefits of a learning story approach? What are the drawbacks?
    • To what extent do your current assessment practices promote resourcefulness and agency?
    • Detailed and timely feedback can be time consuming — how do we do it?

Notes from “Using Social Media to Define the New Humanities”

Notes from “Using Social Media to Define the New Humanities” – Antonio Viva

  • Thinking about new humanities
    • Context, conversation, collaboration
    • How do we educate our students for success in the web 2.0 world?
    • Can we harness the power of social media to provide students with a vehicle for exploring and creating original content?
  • Old School Creative Writing
    • Genre based instruction
    • Anthology as primary class text
    • Student work not published
    • Blogging/journaling
    • Assessments were traditional and rubric based
    • Mostly fiction and poetry
    • Workshop style with peer editing and review
    • In depth study of literary elements and terms as a vehicle for creation
  • What is the basis of the new humanities?
    • Richard Miller’s presentation to MLA, December 2008
    • See Digital Digs for a reflection and embedded video
  • Personal paradigm shift
    • Communicating instantly and globally
    • English is about human expression
    • Humanists should be at the cutting edge of this
    • Multimedia composition
  • Why should we reconsider thinking this whole thing? — connecting to panel discussion last night
    • Creativity, collaboration, and courage
    • Schools should be a place where student generate ideas
    • Ability to try out new ideas
    • Fostering new humanities rich environments
    • Provide opportunities for students to convey concepts and original ideas through thoughtful technology rich collaboration
    • Schools should be about communication
  • The WA Mash – Worcester Academy Mash Up
    • What do we want to communicate?
    • To whom and how best do we communicate this message?
    • Model after and as an outlet for creative writing publication
  • Publishing Tools
    • YouTube
    • Flickr
    • Facebook
    • WordPress
    • Twitter
  • Conversation with students about WAMash
    • How do you get students engaged — turn some of the control of creating and sharing content over to the students
    • What have you learned as a part of taking the class?
      • More technology
      • Enjoy writing more
    • What does it mean to be a writer?
      • Before, I considered writing as an essay style, but now it has really expanded my horizons about writing and there are more ways than just essays and school work
      • What has changed for me is that I am a lot more willing to put myself out there for people to examine and I was questioning my own ability, but there are so many ways to express yourself in writing. I am more able to accept criticism now and having a good support group from peers and teacher.
      • For the past few years, just writing essays, now I have learned that I can express myself more; writing from different perspectives
      • Before the class, I thought that it was limited and you had to just write, but now I realize that writing is more about expressing and getting the word out there about something that you care about because people will listen. Writing is important, and I respect it. It is more of an art than I thought it was.
  • Thinking about change
    • Change needs to be organic — comprehensive school change does not work
    • It will cause chaos — people will not be doing substantive and good work with students
    • Establish a culture for creativity, innovation, and the appetite to try new things are the norm
    • Support the inventors, creative thinkers, risk takers, and innovators with resources, PD, and public accolades
    • Don’t follow the trends, create them

Clearing Up Copyright Confusion Session

Copyright Confusion Session

Kristin Hokanson with Renee Hobbs

  • Exercising fair use demands an expanded conception of literacy that includes mass media, popular culture, and communication skills
  • Copyright confusion — the end has arrived with the  Code of Best Practices for Fair Use
  • Purpose of copyright: to promote creativity, innovation, and the spread of knowledge — Article 1, Section 8 of the Contitution
    • Copyright was not designed to have forceful restrictions
  • How teachers coped
    • “I am going to do what I want”
    • “Close the door”
    • “Hyper-comply”
  • Problem — the educational use guidelines are still confusing
    • These are negotiations between media companies and educational groups
    • But, these “guidelines” are not the law — these documents give them the appearance of law, but they are not and the guidelines have a negative effect on education
  • Transformative use
  • Creative Commons looks at owner’s rights
    • Lessig’s idea — let’s give the owners some options
    • But, users still have rights under fair use, too
    • Think of Creative Commons as an owner right and fair use as a user right
  • TEACH Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act have limited fair use
    • No teacher has ever been sued under fair use — but cease and desist letters are used to create fear and uncertainty
    • This is all the copyright holders can do — not really force you to take something down
  • Almost all parodies are protected under fair use
  • There are fair uses that are not transformative, too
    • Some can be illustrative, so long as it benefits society more than it harms the copyright holder
    • All fair use is based on informed opinion — did we make a good faith interpretation, especially for educational purposes
    • Fair use is an interpretation that we, as educators, are obligated to do under the law

Notes from Opening Panel Discussion of EduCon 2.1

Notes from opening panel discussion at EduCon 2.1

Panel Discussion @ The Franklin Institute — “What is the Purpose of School?” Come to the Franklin Institute to see a group of societal visionaries speak about their vision of the purpose of school in a panel discussion.

  • Joel Arquillos — Executive Director, 826LA
    • 8 years in San Francisco schools, dealing with all that happens in the classroom — the purpose of school is to build community and to respect and honor the students that come into our classrooms
      • The best that you can do some days is to help students talk with one another and get through all the big issues in their lives
      • How to help them build the world that they will inherit
      • Then, I began to see that there were other ways of opening the school to the world — working with 826 Valencia
      • Wanted to create a space for students to have an opportunity to work on their writing
      • Connecting the classroom and the community; changing the perception of what schools can be
  • Dr. Molefi Asante — Professor, African American Studies, Temple University
    • First, this is a complex question, the purpose of school, because the purposes given for schools have always changed
      • 17th century — train young white men how to be leaders in the world
      • What should be the purpose of school is perhaps what we should ask
    • One purpose that perhaps should be non-changing is that the purpose of school is inquiry
      • If there is a value to be transmitted by schools, it would be inquiry because inquiry is about openness
    • The notion of knowledge needs to be developed such that we have an understanding that all cultures contribute to knowledge; there is not one perspective on knowledge
      • We might need to redress this whole question about this idea of a monocultural system that has evolved from the Greeks to now; we forget the Chinese, Africans, Indians, and others
    • The purpose is inquiry — just when we think we are set, that is the moment we should inquire even more
  • Kendall Crolius — Founding Partner, The Sulevia Group
    • Creativity — what business leaders say is that the biggest challenge is to keep innovation going
    • Collaboration — more important now than it has ever been, must be able to work in teams by appreciating cultural diversity and other perspectives
    • Courage — confidence; embrace change and challenge the status quo
  • Jeff Han — Founder, Perceptive Pixel and inventor of the multi-touch screen
    • Did really love school, and I had some really excellent teachers
    • We were really well equipped and got to use technology in the classroom
    • Communication
      • Learn how to communicate socially, and also in the sense of sharing concepts and constructing an argument
      • Be didactic, be able to communicate with one’s peers
    • Calibration
      • Look at how teachers can callibrate what knowledge is difficult to understand, what problems are difficult to solve
      • Is this something that is novel? That is a real contribution?
  • Prakash Nair — Co-Founder, Fielding Nair International — Architects and Change Agents for Education
    • There is a huge disconnect between what you see as the rhetoric in school offices and what happens on the ground
    • Six ideas
      • Schools should be a social anchor, a hub that offers value to students and community
      • A place for kids to hang out with all the cool toys: computers, video links, gamers, artists, musicians
      • Generate ideas and not just regurgitate ideas: from architecture to courses
      • Ideas harvesting, bring them to fruition
      • Key player in community’s economic network
      • Flexible, accessible to build social capital: physical and cultural resources for schools
    • Many of these things are happening around the world today
    • How do you enhance the bottom line — accountability for all, and everyone should be pulling in the same direction
    • 30 Strategies for Education Innovation
  • Dr. Stephen Squyres — Principal Investigator, Mars Exploration Rover Mission
    • Two particular purposes for science education
      • Open student’s eyes to what is possible — this is important for those who are going to go into STEM
        • Went to a public high school and realized that teachers were hamstrung in many ways because they couldn’t do everything that they wanted to do with students
        • Space exploration was something that I saw on TV, and not until college realized that there were options for being exposed to those doing space exploration; this is much too late
        • Need to reach students in high school and middle school — expose kids to what is possible
      • To allow people how to understand how things really work
        • Teaching an introductory astronomy course — it is very easy for students to see science as a static body of knowledge to be learned and tested
        • Instead, try to show them what science really is and what scientists can do
        • Start with “what happened on Mars” today in the course
        • Science is a process of uncovering new knowledge, of discovery
        • Opening their eyes to how things really work
      • Collaboration with the Mars Rover — the machines are so complex that no one of us understands everything about it
        • Bringing together the right size group of people for the task at hand that are united by a common passion
        • Everyone has to believe it is going to be great and has to agree to the core, crisp statement of the mission and what we are trying to accomplish
  • Diane Castelbound, Pennsylvania Department of Education
    • Meeting with people everyday from businesses, to politicians, to people in schools from rural to urban and talk to kids and find that they feel schools are failing them all
    • Schools are supposed to create community and civic identity, and failing on that front, too
    • By whatever metric, our schools are not keeping pace
    • How the system is failing our kids and teachers — public education funding system
    • If education is supposed to be the great equalizer, then it is no wonder that we are not keeping up
  • Moderated by Frederic Bertley — Vice President of the Center for Innovation in Science Learning, The Franklin Institute

Franklin Institute founded in 1824, teaching in mechanical arts 2006 – SLA opens in a partnership with Franklin Institute and Philadelphia Schools

Personal Technology Learning and the Teaching of Writing

Today, I will be introducing my ENG 315 pre-service teachers to the idea of developing their “digital teaching persona” and thinking critically about why and how to use technology in their personal technology learning and to become better teachers of writing.

Each semester, I face the act of balancing the introduction of a number of digital writing tools — Google accounts for Gmail and Google Reader, Edublogs, Wikispaces, podcasts, digital stories — and the content of our course which includes principles of the writing workshop, reflecting on a midtier teaching experience, and examining our work as writers.

And, each semester, I find that students initially (and sometimes in their final reflections on the course) say that the first weeks of class are overwhelming in terms of the new technologies.

So, I am thinking about how to make things only “whelming,” not overwhelming, and also articulate why I think that learning how to use these digital writing tools are critical to their success as teachers. Thus, I offer this brief list that I intend to share with my students today:

  • Understanding digital writing tools can be intimidating at first, yet provide opportunities for writers to share their work and read the work of others. This kind of publication ritual is an important component of the writing workshop, and digital writing tools enables students to easily distribute their writing to a wider audience.
  • Understanding and applying technologies to the teaching of writing — as well as understanding concepts associated with them such as copyright and fair use — has become the professionally responsible way to teach writing. Professional organizations such as NCTE, NWP, IRA, ISTE, the Center for Media Literacy and others have moved quickly and clearly in the past few years to show that integrating technology across content areas, including the teaching of writing, is critical for creating students who are literate in a variety of ways.
  • Creating a digital teaching persona — via one’s own blog, wiki, RSS reading, email address, digital portfolio and through other online tools — has become essential for teachers who are increasingly being asked to use these tools as they search for jobs and establish classrooms that use technology in critical and creative ways. By learning these tools in a pre-service methods course, and understanding the ways in which they can be applied as a part of one’s overall approach to teaching, pre-service teachers can enter the profession well-prepared to represent their work to a variety of audiences including students, parents, administrators, and other stakeholders.

My hope is that learning how to use digital writing tools will help my pre-service teachers accomplish these three interrelated goals — providing opportunities for student writers, being a better teacher of writing, and creating a classroom environment that fosters critical and creative writing.

While it is difficult to jump into new technology learning, and I acknowledge that the learning curve can sometimes be very high for some of these tools, my goal this semester is to help students in their learning by offering more time during writing workshop where they can collaborate and I can confer with them.

If you have other ideas about why personal technology learning and the teaching of writing are important, I welcome additional ideas to add to this list so my pre-service teachers can gain more insights into why and how teachers should learn about these tools and ideas.

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Back Up and Running

Well, what a new year it has been for me as a technology learner…

Recently, and I am not sure exactly when, my blog was hacked and turned into a Canadian Pharmacy outlet. Thanks to Aram for pointing that out to me since I pledged to stay off my blog until the new semester officially began.

So, today was spent learning lots about PHP, SQL, and the back end of Word Press. More time than I want to admit, but as my friends on Facebook noted, that’s the only way that you learn.

Given the fact that I was able to save the content of my blog — which I almost gave up on and did a full reinstall of Word Press through Fantastico — I am feeling much better tonight. Odd how we become attached to something like a blog, but I felt like I was about to delete an old friend.

Glad I didn’t have to.

At any rate, this is a somewhat silly post for my first one of 2009, but it is what it is. And, to celebrate, I changed my theme. I will play with that more later. Right now, I need to get a few other things done before calling it a night.

So, thanks again to Aram for the heads up and a reminder to everyone that when your hosting service tells you to update your scripts because they are vulnerable, you better listen.

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