2010 MVU Online Learning Symposium

Notes from 2010 Michigan Virtual University Online Learning Symposium
November 9, 2010 at Michigan State University

Opening Keynote: Steve Midgley, Deputy Director of Education Technology, US DOE

  • Context
    • National Technology Plan (released just today), Four Components: Mobility, Social Interactions, Digital Content, Print to Online
    • This does not mean that we will have a “teacherless” curriculum, but the online marketplace offers many interesting opportunities
    • How do we find the right content and connect it with the right student with the right teacher at the right time?
    • Challenge from President Obama: “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”
    • The crucial thing about this is that if you graduate every student in the pipeline today, we will still not meet this goal. Stats show that many students are not graduating from high school, so this implies that many people need to get re-engaged. This will only happen with online learning.
  • Content
    • Teaching, Learning, Assessment — Infrastructure — Productivity
    • Assessment the way it is working today is pretty fouled up
    • Using $350 million to develop new, next generation assessment
    • DARPA project to assess Navy ensigns “in the field”
  • Learning
    • Some major points
      • 21st century expertise
      • How people learn
      • Personalized learning
      • Universal design for learning
      • Informal + formal
    • Social search — more people go to YouTube from Facebook than from Google
      • What does it look like in a social context that is professional?
    • New models (Netflix/Blockbuster) — what does this look like in education?
  • Assessment
    • Major points
      • Measure what matters
      • Embedded assessments
      • Real time feedback
      • Persistent learning record
      • Universal design
      • Continuous improvement
    • New models of assessment being developed being developed
    • NOTE: I haven’t read up much about this, but there is information about it being distributed through MDE and other news outlets.
  • Teaching
    • Main points
    • What does “highly effective” really mean in an online environment?
    • Connected
    • Online
    • Informal + formal — we can’t organize in ways offline that we can online — some technologies require connectivity to work at all (e.g., Wikipedia)
    • Inspired
  • Questions and Answers
    • Wikipedia — many schools block it, and then students are expected to use it in college to get started with research — this is crazy
    • What other “spaces” can we create for teachers to share ideas and resources? What is officially sanctioned by the state, and what is not? What is the role of textbook publishers and other research-based work to integrate with teacher knowledge?
    • We can’t test everything that we say we want kids to learn, only certain things, and some kids are learning more at different times and in different ways. So, then the question becomes what happens to kids as they figure out seat time/credit hours?
    • Intellectual property — how do teachers’ ideas get recognized in these online spaces? Creates problems with copyright and fair use. Creative Commons and Open Courseware as one option, but also some states and districts have earned RTTT money and are sharing through other avenues.

Conversation with Michigan Online Teachers of the Year

  • What has surprised you about online learning?
    • The personal connection, the human touch. Part of this is about the evolution of the internet and how we use social networks today. It is very easy to develop the relationships.
    • When you never see students face-to-face, and you are teaching 125 a semester, when someone writes that “you are my favorite teacher” — that is motivating. The additional thing that surprises me is the connections that you make with your mentors and how much of a factor that they play in their students’ lives.
  • What are your major apprehensions?
    • The fact that the technologies continue to change. Need to keep on top of things, for instance with the 21 Things for 21st Century Educators. (NOTE: I am not so sure that I agree with this statement — I think that there are generally principles about online learning and digital literacy that we need to know, but that we get way too caught up with the tools.)
    • If we don’t teach kids how to use their mobile phones properly, how will they learn these life skills? (NOTE: Again, I am a bit concerned about the tone that we take when we assume that we, as educators, have the “right” answer about how, when, and why we use the tools. Not that I disagree with the principle that we invite them to use these devices and applications, but I do worry that once we co-opt the digital tools and spaces that they are familiar with, we are changing the purposes and audiences for which they write and work).
    • Assessment is built in to the system — the fact that student time online is logged.
  • What are the roles that teachers and students play in the process of online learning?
    • If you are just introducing it, you have to give it time. Initially, it depends on the success of the students that are there — highly motivated kids are successful and motivate other kids to continue working, too.
    • This is rewarding for teachers — we enjoy having the opportunity to teach in a more flexible model. Old model was to have AP kids in advanced classes and remedial kids in other courses (kind of a dumping ground, without mentor support). We have now moved to a model where most students who are in our courses actually get to work and achieve a passing grade.
    • We can bait the hook, but students need to bite. People talk about the way that online learning is better because it offers students new opportunities as compared to what they have experienced in school. This is especially true for students in credit recovery. Still, they have to be motivated and self-directed. (NOTE: So, in what ways does online learning really change the paradigm? That is, if students are reluctant to engage in school, for whatever reason, does the flexibility of online learning really overcome the negative feelings that they have towards school?) Can you meet them online through Skype and Adobe Connect or other similar tools?
    • What are your strategies for connecting with online students? It is not about loving your subject, it is about loving your students. Students see it and recognize it, and they reciprocate.

Lunch Keynote: Milton Chen, Senior Fellow and Director Emeritus at George Lucas Educational Foundation — “Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools” and Edutopia

  • Interesting note — Chen was born in Negaunee, and his father was a mining engineer
    • “I am here as an accident of history” — China was an ally, and my father was able to come to the US and learn about mining at Penn State, and my parents were married in 1945, although my mother didn’t arrive until 1949. They didn’t plan to stay in the US, but the stayed and I was born in 1953.
  • Imagine an Education Nation: “A learning society where education of children is teh highest priority, equal to a strong economy, high employment, and national security, which rely on education.”
    • The book is a “curation” of many resources from Edutopia; interesting that the magazine has been discontinued; e-books now outsell print books
    • “I think this is the first decade of the twenty-first century for education.” — we are at the tipping point.
    • Innovation — the key to creating an education nation; it is a “must do” than a “nice to know”
    • Bugscope
    • Google is 12 years old, YouTube is 5 years old, Edutopia YouTube Channel
    • Clay Shirky — we are witnessing the biggest change in human innovation and creativity in history; every media that we have ever known is now on a device in our pocket next to every other media
  • These are old ideas… Dewey
    • “From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school… within the school itself while, on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning at school.” The School and Society Lecture, University of Chicago, 1899
  • 6 Leading Edges of K-12 Innovation
    • Thinking
    • Curriculum and Assessment
    • Technology
    • Time/Place
    • Co-Teaching
    • Youth
  • The Edge of Our Thinking: Ending the Education Wars
    • From the either/or to both/and hybrids
    • Phonics and whole language
    • Arts and core curriculum (opening minds with the arts)
    • Learning in nature and technology
  • Curriculum Edge: Globalizing the Curriculum
  • Technology Edge
    • We want all students to use technology; weapons of mass instruction (one-to-one is the weapon that we need to employ)
      • We need to reduce the 1:6 student/computer level to a one-to-one (it can be done for $250 or less, per year)
    • iPod, iListen, iRead: EUSD iRead Program
      • Technology is only technology for those who were born before it existed
      • Using the iPod as a device to record students’ own voices reading: the “missing mirror” in literacy instruction
      • This is not about just getting to the standards, this is about having kids learn more, and learn earlier
      • Have students see how other students are learning; what are the different paths that other students take and how can we learn from this public learning process?
  • The Time/Place Edge
    • Getting kids out into the community for place-based learning
  • Co-Teaching
  • The Greatest Edge: Today’s Youth
  • What is your definition of a great school?
    • Make it short, make it measurable — are the kids running into school as fast as they are running out of it; are the kids so excited about their work that they do not want to leave school?

Closing Keynote: Richard Ferdig, Kent State University

  • Building the plane while we are flying it — and that’s OK
  • Is K-12 online learning academically effective? — this is not the right question
    • Example of TV and video games — not good for kids, right?
    • Actually, depending on the TV or game, it is good for you.
    • Asking the right question — when are courses taught “better” online as compared to face-to-face?
    • Quote from USDOE: “On average, online learning students performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”
  • So, the better question is “When is online learning academically effective?” or “Under what conditions is online learning academically effective?”
    • How is online more effective? What are the conditions under which it is more effective?
    • Is “X” technology better for learning? — Sometimes (under certain conditions)
  • So, when is K-12 online learning academically effective?
  • So, what do we look at?
    • Student and Teacher
      • With teachers, we know that a teacher has a significant role in mentoring students through their online experiences
      • Highly qualified teachers matter in virtual schooling as well
      • How can we get highly qualified teachers?
        • Professional development — because not any teacher can teach online, they need particular skill sets for teaching online — engaging parents and mentors, using virtual school resources
        • Teacher education is not the answer — they are not working with K-12 online schools. Do they have virtual internship programs? Most teachers leave colleges of education without any preparation to teach online.
        • Lack of PD opportunities – not all have online experiences, only 21% had a customized experience
        • Does PD work — sometimes. PD only works when teachers take charge of their PD experience.
        • PCK — talk about teacher knowledge for practice, in practice, and of practice
        • Classroom — inquiry — community
        • Suggestions/Recommendations:
          • Record and reflect on exemplary practice
          • Ownership of the PD model, using innovative means and tools
      • Does online learning affect student retention?
        • Retention is a significant problem, and they drop out for different reasons such as their own individual reasons, or institutional reasons. This happens at key transitions points, students are myopic, and there are disconnected understandings about what is happening and why.
      • Solutions
        • Better communication
        • Individualized instruction
        • Additional mentoring
        • Connections to jobs
      • Why did it work?
        • Accepted by peers
        • Accepted by online teachers
        • Learning styles were met
        • Connections to real world
        • More opportunities for expression
        • In short, all the reasons they dropped out of their F2F school is why they succeeded online
  • Understanding Virtual Schools
    • 80/20 — most of what happens across states is common, although there are some unique features depending on the state
      • Partnerships — including school, university, research, and evaluation
      • Exponential growth
      • Retaining both students and teachers
      • The funding dilemma/opportunity
    • Best practices
      • Engage in attention on pedagogy, innovation with technology, etc.
  • What are some ways to get to better practice?

Reflections on the day

Along with all the technology interests that I have had over the years, my formal introduction to online learning began around the turn of the century when I was trained as an online instructor with the Michigan Virtual High School. Because of a variety of reasons, not the least of which was starting grad school, I taught my last online course for them in 2002. Given my continuing interests in online and hybrid models of learning — especially in professional development for teachers — it was good to come to the conference today and get reconnected with the state of online learning.

I do have significant concerns about the commercialization of online learning and how models like MIVU, Blackboard, textbook companies selling products, charter schools and other organizations who are working, in one way or another, for a profit versus the model of open courseware, collaboration, hybridity, and free or opensource web-based tools. This is a significant wedge that continues to grow. For instance, I set my courses up with a wiki, invite students to use free tools for collaboration and bibliography management, and engage with a variety of other tools. contrast this with the subscription that my university pays for to use Blackboard, including all the proprietary tools and content management.

One of the resources that I was reminded of, and I know I need to continue my participation in, is Edutopia. Milton Chen talked about the many ways that educators are innovating, and that the “internet makes learning international.” It’s been one year since I was invited to be a moderator of a group on Multimedia Literacy, and I need to get involved again.

Also, the implications for professional development for online teachers has just as much, if not more, resonance with our needs for traditional professional development. One of the main points that I will take from the final talk by Richard Ferdig is the fact that teachers, like students, need customized, just-in-time learning opportunities to find out more about how to teach and learn in their own context. I hope that we are doing some of that with our work this year in the CRWP/CGRESD partnership, and I look forward to seeing results from that work.

It was an interesting day, especially in the sense that this conference was one that I chose to attend because it was outside of my normal areas of conference-going, yet remained on the border of them and moved my thinking forward in new ways.

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Notes from Harvey Daniels’ “Best Practice Across the Curriculum”

This morning, I am pleased to be a part of Littleton Public Schools’ Adolescent Literacy Institute, and I am able to participate in Harvey “Smokey” Daniels’ keynote, “Best Practice Across the Curriculum.” Here are some notes from his session:

  • Goals for today
    • Define “Best Practice”
    • Consider the missing link: student collaboration
    • Watch video of kids working together
    • Introduction to Inquiry Circles
  • Books: Best Practice, Content Area Writing, Subjects Matter
  • 91& of the time, 6th graders spend their time listening to teachers talk of doing commercially prepared seatwork (Pianta et al, 2007)
  • What’s missing?
    • Engagement
    • Curiosity
    • Content
    • Thinking
  • Best practice
    • In 1993 when we worked on the first edition of this book, we were thinking about how other professionals look at the “state of the art” in their field and consider what is “best practice.”
    • Sadly, it is now showing up in “best practice” workbooks
    • So, what is “best practice?”
    • Coverage vs. Inquiry
      • Cover the curriculum (a “curriculum of mentioning”) vs. slowing down and going deeper, screened content
      • Atheoretical vs. driven by learning theory (whatever you subscribe to, all theories agree that students must act upon information in order to make it their own)
      • Assigning reading and writing vs. modeling reading and writing
      • No strategy instruction vs. explicit strategy instruction
      • Backloading instruction vs. frontloading instruction (Jeff Wilhelm)
      • Little or no support during reading and writing vs. time, activities and tools that support students (before, during, and after)
      • Textbook-based vs. variety of texts
      • Teacher chosen topics and assignments vs. student choice and responsibility
      • Solitary vs. social
    • See Consortium on Chicago Schools Research
      • Students in interactive classrooms had nearly 1/3 more gain in achievement than non-interactive classrooms
    • Small group work
      • Groups of four seems to be the magic number for group work
      • Small groups are lifelike
      • In small groups, we are smarter
      • Small groups generate energy for challenging work
      • Small groups make the most of diversity
      • Small groups bring “best practice” teaching to life
      • Small groups help us differentiate instruction
      • Employers increasingly require small group skills
      • Linda Darling-Hammond’s book on Powerful Learning
      • Social skills predict earnings better than test scores
    • Common Core Standards
      • “Engage productively and respectfully with others”
    • How do we get predictable and positive outcomes from students?
      • Make personal connections
      • Get them to know each other
      • Mix up the groups periodically
      • Know who can, and can not, work together
      • Teaching them to ask follow-up questions
    • Modeling an open inquiry
      • Studying the future
  • Points to consider when thinking about collaboration with Google Docs
    • We spend our weekend grading student papers while they are out — how can we invite them to collaborate?
    • Students often get information from only one source — how do we help them find more?
    • Solitary vs. social — how do we effectively structure group tasks to involve everyone?
    • Asking follow-up questions — how do we teach students to really interact with one another and ask pertinent, empathetic follow-up questions?

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Notes from Thursday Afternoon Sessions at SITE 2010

A smorgasbord of sessions from SITE 2010 with the notes I was able to catch from each (some more than others)… enjoy!

Technology Enhanced Collaboration – Schools and Teachers Engaged in Professional Development
Tim Frey, Kansas State University
  • Context
    • Two districts that are 65 miles apart and both rural
    • 20 teachers, K-12 (web cam and stipend)
  • Online facilitation through KState Online
    • Primarily used video postings
  • Project-based professional development
    • Series of relevant tasks that serve as a stimulus for critical thinking and knowledge building (Howard, 2002)
    • Relatively long-term, problem-focused, and integrate concepts from previous learning
  • Design of TEC-STEP
    • Structured a step-by-step intervention project
    • Collaborative learning community
    • Extended engagement in activities
  • Project examples
    • Using webcam to improve reading fluency
    • Student created video for parent/teacher conferences
    • Students recording stories to be “read” to preschool classroom
    • Peer tutoring videos in math via VoiceThread
    • Teachers recording lessons and allowing students to view them as podcasts
    • Using video projector to add to content presentation
    • Social skills modeling and role play
    • FFA recording for presentations
  • Preliminary results
    • Developed collaborative relationships across districts
    • Creating a supportive group of professionals who are willing to take risks
    • Most teachers chose to use the web cam as a part of the project
    • Most projects were student-centered
    • Even minimal project reports were inconsistent and seemed challenging
Developing a Framework for Teacher Professional Development Using Online Social Networks
Kinnis Gosha, Clemson
  • The main point:
    • To develop an application that enhances professional development by harnessing teacher connections on online social networks
  • Current PD process:
    • Required by admin, options given by admin, self-initiated, hybrid
  • Challenges:
    • Teacher diversity and different interests
    • Teacher feedback is inconsistent
    • Milestones vs. Opportunity — some see it as something they have to get through, others see it as a real opportunity to learn and grow
    • Various teacher groups within and across districts
  • Online social networks (OSN)
    • How do I make it? From scratch? Customize existing networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube
    • Do teachers really use online social networks? Do they use them for personal reasons, or professional ones? Would they be willing to participate and give feedback in an OSN?
  • Survey results
    • Many used Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, but in different ways
    • Only about 50% likely to give feedback, and split on comfort level in participation (35% willing, 35% not willing, 30% said it depends
    • Teachers don’t trust Facebook
  • Goals:
    • Fill in domain gaps
    • Learn more regional PD trends
    • Distinguish pre-recession and post-recession PD procedures
    • Recommendation of tool features

Mobilizing Educational Technologies in a Collaborative Online Community to Develop a Knowledge Management System as a Wiki
Nancy Copeland and Anne Bednar, Eastern Michigan University

Digital Storytelling Viewed Through a Post-process Lens
Martha Green, Texas A&M
  • Educational context
    • NAEP Writing Assessment showing 33% proficiency at 8th grade
    • Integrating technology into all methods classes
  • Post-process theory: Writing is public, interpretive, and situated; communication is a cultural activity; reading and writing is an active construction
    • Seeks to use life experiences that students bring into the classroom
    • Places interest in the meaning of the work at the core of the experience
    • Trimbur — university classes have lost the view on the “circulation of writing”
  • Connecting post-process to digital storytelling
    • Adaptation of oral storytelling
    • Intentionality, reflection, self-evaluation, and revision
    • Written to be shared; private to public
  • Methodology
    • Culminating project of the semester
  • Observation
    • Sharing their stories was an important part of their experience
  • Results
    • Pre-service teachers felt empowered by the process of reflecting on a past event and constructing a digital story about it
    • Would use digital storytelling in their own classroom
  • Digital Storytelling Resources from WorldRoom Website

Effectiveness of a Hypermedia Video Case-Based Library for Inservice Teachers’ Professional Development
Mary Cockburn, Purdue

  • Hypermedia resources for pre-service teachers have shown documentd benefits
  • Ten preschool teachers had access to 100 video cases of best literacy practices
  • All teachers felt positive about the use of hypermedia; there was no current resource available and “… it was much better than having to search through Google to find teaching strategies.”
  • Implications
    • Improving in-service PD via hypermedia may be effective
    • Minimal training is required
    • Familiarity with computers is not a prerequisite
    • More research with a larger and more diverse sample is needed

Preparing Teachers to Purposefully Plan Technology Integration that Encourages Curiosity, Creativity, Independence and Collaboration
Dina Rosen, Kean University

  • What does it look like when you are using technology to really encourage creativity and collaboration?
  • Four key characteristics of quality tech integration
    • Learner centered
    • Representation centered
    • Community/real-world centered
    • Build on existing practice

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Notes from Lisa Dawley’s “The Evolution of Teacher Education in a Digital Learning Era” at SITe 2010″

The Evolution of Teacher Education in a Digital Learning Era: Transforming Knowledge in the Global Network

Lisa Dawley, Boise State University
  • The Unavoidable Evolution in Teacher Education
    • Travels around the world, others saying that American students are creative; yet, still calls for reform, especially in teacher education, keep happening here in US
    • New US EdTech plan, too
  • Growth in Online Education
    • Over 1 million K-12 kids learn online; 47% increase in the past two years
    • Fall 2007, 20% of college student were enrolled in an online course
    • 45 states offer some kind of state supplemental program online, as well as fully online K-12 programs offered as charter schools
    • Idaho K12 virtual schools — 14,000 students enrolled last year
  • K12 Online Options
    • Moving along a continuum from traditional integrated tech classroom to hybrid course to online tech enhanced schools to full-time virtual schooling
    • Other hybrids exist, including options that are in brick and mortar schools and homeschools
    • iNACOL – The International Association for K-12 Online Learning
  • Effects of online learning report
    • The effectiveness of online learning is tied to learning time, curriculum, pedagogy, and opportunities for collaboration
    • Gives learners control of their interactions with media… move, use, remix, edit, build, chance, click, interact, change…
    • Online learning can be enhanced by prompting learner reflection
    • What doesn’t impact learning
      • Incorporating online quizzes
      • Media combinations don’t matter, but control over them does
    • Henry Jenkins and participatory culture: MIT TV clip
  • Pedagogical Framework from Dawley: Social Network Knowledge Construction
    • Identify
    • Lurk
    • Contribute
    • Create
    • Lead
  • How do we design programs to rethink teacher education?
    • At Boise State, it is only graduate degrees and certificates
    • Fully online for past seven years; students throughout the world
    • Moved from Blackboard to Moodle, integrating web 2.0 tools into portal
    • Integration of videos from YouTube, TeacherTube, WatchKnow
    • Avatar creation through Voki and SitePals
    • Graphic blogs through Glogster
    • 3D learning games such as Conspiracy Code
  • Open source and free content
    • iTunesU
    • 3D virtual worlds: Opensource metaverse, croquet
    • Moodle learning management systen
  • Mobile learning
    • Educational apps
    • Texting
    • LMS access
    • Multimedia
    • GPS-based curriculum
    • In three years, mobile devices will become the main interface used to browse the internet
  • Exergaming
    • State-wide online tournaments for gaming
  • Innovative courses, participatory networks
  • Help lead the teacher education revolution

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Notes from Erin Reilly’s “Remix Culture for Learning” at SITE 2010

The Gap Between Life and Art: Remix Culture for Learning

Erin Reilly, University of Southern California

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Notes from “Blending Online and On-Site Spaces and Communities: Developing Effective Practices”

Notes from “Blending Online and On-Site Spaces and Communities: Developing Effective Practices”

Niki Davis, Julie Mackey, Ann Mcgrath, Donna Morrow, Lawrence Walker, Nicki Dabner, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

  • E-learning blends to discuss
    • Blending physical and virtual spaces
    • Blending teacher’s online learning communities and local communities of colleagues
    • Blending teaching practice online with teachers redeveloping K-12 education
  • Online learning?
    • Learning with and through digital technologies
    • Online courses and resources for teachers, students, and the wider community
    • Online and blended learning is more effective
    • Creating learning communities
  • Characteristics of a learning community
    • Common cultural and historical heritage — build heritage with mediated artifacts
    • Interdependent system — sense of shared purpose and identity
    • Reproduction cycle — moving in and out, legitimate peripheral participation
  • Context of the two studies
    • Teachers participating in a graduate course, geographically dispersed across New Zealand
    • Took the ideas from the class back to their local classrooms, communities, families — need to think about how to value their local communities and classrooms in a way that lets them talk about the process that gets them to the point of participating in the online course
    • Blended learning, then, is a combination of the online class and the communities in which the participants are situated
  • Blending physical and virtual using Web 2.0
    • Doing more with less
    • Maintaining quality and integrity
    • Enriching the students’ authentic experiences
  • New Imperatives
    • Move to larger classes
    • Effectively model ICT as a tool
    • Wanted to model what may be reality in school
    • E-learning lab
  • Pedagogy re-thought
    • Creating a physical space that allows for large group, small group, and individual work that is collaborative
    • Screens around the room can display various screens from students, teacher, or multiple sources
  • Portfolio assessment — not connected to university network, students are able to use it outside of school
    • Grading the meaning that students have made from the process of creating the portfolio

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Notes from “Pre-Service English Teachers and Web 2.0” from SITE 2010

Notes from “Pre-Service English Teachers and Web 2.0: Teaching and Learning Literacy with Digital Applications”

Luke Rodesiler and Lauren Tripp, University of Florida

  • Helping pre-service teachers re-imagine what it means to be literate
    • Tools including VoiceThread, PBWorks, and Xtranormal
    • Theoretical framework including social constructionism, interactional elements of effective literacy instruction and how texts are constructed
  • Primary research questions:
    • What understandings of technology do prospective English teachers receal when they are describing their technology use in public school classrooms?
    • How do prospective English teachers understandings of technology change as they become familiar with Web 2.0 applications?
    • How do prospective English teachers understand the role of Web 2.0 applications in teaching?
  • Data sources:
    • Surveys with open and closed ended questions to gain understandings of their technology use in the classroom
    • Classroom observations of student teachers in context
    • Artifacts of student work, including assignments and reflections
    • Focus group interviews at the end of the semester
  • Data analysis
    • Quantitative analysis of survey data
    • Qualitative analysis of classroom observations, student work, and focus group interviews
  • Findings
    • Student teachers were using technology in narrowly conceived ways
      • Accessing web content to search for and/or enhance lessons
      • Using Power Point to present information
      • “When I was in my internship, YouTube and Google was all I thought of using…”
    • Understanding how Web 2.0 technologies could foster collaboration and support teaching and learning where enhanced
      • Recognized collaborative tools
      • Their own facility with technology
      • Own discourse about teaching
      • Future organization and distribution of student work
    • Collaborative effort — how this experience could work as a method for professional learning
    • Made connections between the affordances of Web 2.0 applications and literacy practices valued in English language arts
      • Potential for student collaboration, revision of student writing, engaging students
  • Conclusions
    • Many students were unaware, yet were nudged toward more nuanced views of technology, texts, and literacy practices
    • We saw a shift in perception from “web-for-consumption” to “web-for-production” (using wikis, for instance)
  • Concerns
    • Lack of computer and internet access in schools
    • Expanding definitions of literacy
    • Personal use of technologies vs. professional use
  • Further questions
    • How can we support pre-service teachers in recognizing the availability of the tools
    • How can we expand their notions of literacy outside of technology
    • How can we help them build their personal learning network

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Notes from Doug Hartman’s Talk at MRA 2010

Doug Hartman, from MSU’s Literacy Achievement Resource Center, spoke at MRA 2010 on “The Future of Reading and Writing at the Present Time: Preparing Students and Teachers for the 21st Century.”

Update – 3/30/10 – Embedded Slideshare Presentation

He outlined four shifts that are happening as we continue to think about new literacies and technologies:

  • Shift 1: The technologies students use for reading and writing are changing
    • Linguistic texts to semiotic texts (images, audio, etc)
      • The balance is tipping towards semiotic texts
      • Semiotic texts are increasingly digital
      • Digital texts are ever more online
      • Reading and viewing across these texts
    • Questions to pose:
      • Do our curriculum, standards, and assessments include the range of technologies that our students use?
  • Shift 2: The strategies that students use to read and write these texts are changing
    • Looking for information to supplement what they are able to find in textbooks and is able to find so much more
      • Reading the book, looks up words he doesn’t know, and may use a secondary source
      • Reading online requires different strategies — moving from one web page to another, back to the original, and one way leading on to another; the potential for his comprehension to be expanded is enormous
      • This second type of comprehension places a higher demand on people’s cognitive abilities than typical book reading
    • Types of knowledge for reading: declarative, procedural, and conditional; once online, also adding identity, locational, and goal knowledge. Read more on his Slideshare document. (NOTE: He said that the slides from this presentation will be posted there later today.)
    • Do our curriculum, standards, and assessments include the range of strategies  that our students use?
  • Shift 3 and 4 — ran out of time in the session, but “moment to moment instruction” and “professional development” are the third and fourth shifts

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Notes from Alfie Kohn’s Talk at CMU

Alfie Kohn, an outspoken critic of traditional schooling and standardized testing, spoke at CMU on Wednesday, March 17, 2010. Here are some notes I captured from his talk, “Overhauling the Transmission Model: An overview of traditional versus progressive teaching”

  • You may know if you have been a student or teacher that learning is not simply a process of absorbing information throw at you, but if that is true then it makes sense for this presentation to not be about me just talking at you
  • What I am going to describe for you is a first grade classroom in New England, where kids were studying the Mayflower, and the kids showed up to see that the chairs and tables were pushed to the edge of the room and the floor had an outline of a ship made in masking tape.
    • A classmate comes in and unrolls a scroll from the king — we cannot sail on the ship until we know how big it is. Teacher asks — any ideas for how to figure this out? Figuring out how tall a student is, using him as a measure, then with hands, etc. The king doesn’t know how long the child, the hands, etc are.
    • They don’t get it that day, but they return to it the next day… measure it with the classmate’s feet… he knows the king!
    • Finally, on the third day, the teacher finally introduces the concept of standard units of measurement, and gives them rulers.
    • What distinguishes this lesson, makes it unusual?
      • She took three days to let the students discover this concept; “covering” material makes you feel that you don’t have enough time — this is about “discovering” material
      • There was a rationale, not just “open wide” and here come the facts
      • Basis for life-long learning and problem solving
      • It was connected and inter-disciplinary
      • It was generative and collaborative
      • Invited the children to use their imaginations
      • Both hands-on and minds-on — they were inventing the idea of a ruler and figuring out standard units of measure
  • How might we find teaching and learning more generative if we were involved in these types of classrooms?
  • Middle school example — what questions do you have about yourself? What questions do you have about the world?
    • Looking at questions together to develop themes, then the teacher takes themes from each of the groups and to synthesize what students are saying to look at some overarching themes to intrigue them all. Examples: conflict and war, the future, etc. This becomes the overarching curriculum for the entire school for the entire year. Teachers in this school see them as generalists first, then content area specialists second.
    • The teaching is organized around questions that the kids themselves have asked. The students themselves become scholars, far more engaged in what they are doing than in traditional school settings.
  • High school example — Harvey Daniels and Best Practice High School, Chicago
    • Cross-disciplinary unit on fast food and how it connects to health, economics, popular culture, etc.
    • Read Fast Food Nation and connected it to content in biology related to nutrition, digestion, etc.
    • Students then chose from magazine articles about the fast food industry — animal cruelty, locations of fast food in low-income neighborhoods, etc.
    • Went to restaurants and kept anthropological observation journals of patrons and employees
    • Some became activists around the issue
    • Did they test at the end? No… they kept portfolios of letters, pamphlets, and other materials that they created
  • What can we do in classrooms to make this happen?
  • Setting up a false dichotomy… but one to use as a way to compare/contrast…
    • Traditional — skill and drill (although, “traditional” models in the sense of being “old” is multiage learning and apprenticeship models)
    • A new, progressive way… as exemplified by the examples I offered
      • Differences:
        • Traditional — the purpose is to get the “right” answer and spit it out on demand to the teacher who has all the power and will determine who talks when (the point is not to have an intellectual conversation, but to give the one answer that the teacher wants, the one that she is fishing for)
          • What to Look for in a Classroom (from alfiekohn.com)
          • I want to see stuff from the kids on the walls… but what does it look like? I don’t want all the pumpkins on the wall in a kindergarten room to look the same.
          • How to teach kids to read — a teacher thinking about phonics may look at the phonemes, the progressive teacher will focus on meaning
          • Standardized tests measure what we need least; efforts to improve tests scores lead to less authentic learning
          • Mom asks “what did you do in school today?” Kid answers, “nothing.” He is probably right — he may have had a lot done to him.
        • Old school — bunch of facts and skills. Worksheets to learn how to add, but not applying it.
          • Progressive school — facts and skills are taught in a context.
          • It is easier, not just more interesting, to make sense of this if there is a context… “I think that I could read this if I knew what it was about.”
        • Traditional — no good reason for learning
        • Progressive — create a lesson with and for your students that will engage them
  • When I talk about this in terms of context, problem-based learning, etc… I am referring to the idea that teachers have a collection of facts to but into students’ heads ala Dewey, Freire
    • When the kids have nothing to say about the course, the curriculum… consider the “ten year” question. What is left of your course after a decade has passed? We are creating elaborate snow structures on the last day before spring… it drains right out again if we are not helping students learn in real ways. We are meaning-makers, and we work from a constructivist approach. The best learning is a process of reconstructing ideas.
    • When people talk about making things more “rigorous,” we should be worried about that…
    • We often think that AP courses are the best courses in the high school because they are “accelerated”
    • It almost always works out that when we are trying to “raise the bar” and “close the gap,” we have kids who are poor who are being given more drill and skill while the rich kids are doing more real learning.
  • Last effect of traditional education is the loss of curiosity
    • As kids move into school, their intrinsic motivation dies off as a response to traditional instruction
  • Final question — if everything I have said is true, especially if progressive schools are proven by research to be effective, then why is the traditional approach still so common?
    • It is difficult to do well
    • Not given training in college
    • We teach how we are taught
    • “Any idiot can stay one chapter ahead of the kids”
    • Top down leadership; lack of autonomy
  • Q/A
    • Books: effects of grading, negative effects of homework, negatives of standardized tests, bribes and threats of disciplines
    • Check out Diane Ravitch‘s “Death and Life of the Great American School
    • Question to ask at schools — How do you hope these kids will turn out? Happiness, problem-solving, ethics — these are the things that we care about in the long run and these are the criteria we should set as “standards”
    • Ted Sizer‘s work on the Coalition of Essential Schools
    • The teachers who were glad to have me didn’t need me; the ones who didn’t want to talk fit the model of traditional education


Alfie Kohn certainly stays on message, despite his “digressions.” I first started reading him over a decade ago, saw him speak about five years ago, and have been influenced by his ideas in many ways. There are some points that I disagree on, especially the idea that assessment is — in and of itself — an almost evil force, because I think that we can do assessment in responsible ways that help kids learn and help teachers teach. But, overall, he reiterates the negative data (and anecdotes) about testing, grading, skill and drill teaching, and awards for kids that he has been discussing for years. As I think about writing instruction, especially in an age of technology, I think that we can take some of these ideas and look at how a writing workshop approach can foster student learning in a constructivist manner, one that values the context in which students work and the authentic inquiry that they choose to pursue.

I think, too, that we have to recognize the overwhelming forces that teachers face — it is not just about individual choices inside our own classrooms, although that is important; it is about the structural aspects of schooling and the expectations of our society that place particular demands on schools, teachers, and students. At the end, he began to talk about the socio-economic and political influences on our system of education, and I think that we really need to talk more about these influences because they permeate our classrooms. Teachers can be progressive within their four walls, or their school, but that is not going to create substantive change in the system. It is a start, indeed, but will not change the entire system.

At any rate, I know that many of my CMU students were in the audience, and my sincere hope is that they have gained some insights into some of the perspectives that I bring to ENG 315. I try to alleviate the pressures of grading and invite them to think critically and creatively about what they can do as writers and teachers of writing. I ask them to do authentic writing, both personally and professionally, and I do not rely on tests in any way. Instead, I ask them to write in different genres, for different purposes, and to different audiences. As one student said in class the other night, “This is a lot of work.” Indeed, it is. And, I know that it is overwhelming and that my class doesn’t meet the expectations that they have of what a college course, or a methods course, should look like. Yet, I think that it is valuable work, and I hope that it will encourage them as writers and teachers of writing to be a little more, as Kohn would suggest, “progressive” in their own classrooms.

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Cross Posts from NWP Walkabout Blog on Posterous

Earlier this month, I blogged about some sessions from the Wisconsin State Reading Association on the NWP Walkabout Posterous site and I am (finally) cross-posting them here with links to the original posts… sorry for the delay!

2/7/10 – Cinch from Coiro and Kajder

I really enjoy it when new technologies challenge me.


Figuring out how to embed a Cinch into a Posterous, as strange as that all sounds, has been a challenge. I thought that Posterous only allowed posting from email, as that is how the technology had been introduced to me. That was my mindset, and I was struggling because I asked Paul how to post a Cinch and he said it couldn’t be done via email. I scratched my head as I worked from my iPhone, moving between Cinch, looking at Posterous on Safari, and reading Paul’s tweets… why not?

So, Gmail wouldn’t let me do it and, until I finally logged into Posterous, I couldn’t figure out how my NWP colleagues had done it. I didn’t see a “Publish to Posterous” button on Cinch, nor did I realize I could compose a “traditional” blog post through Posterous until I did some searching around today after Paul told me it could be done. Couldn’t figure out how at first, but I finally figured it out. It all goes to show that even the techies amongst us have our conceptions of how new literacies work challenged from time to time.

At any rate…

On to the real reason I am writing this post today — the Cinch recordings of Julie Coiro and Sara Kajder speaking directly to an NWP audience about their latest thinking related to reading and writing in digital environments, straight from interviews that I snagged with each right after their presentations at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Conference last week. Thanks to both of them for sharing their time and expertise.


(Additional note: even though the Cinchs are appearing as Flash embeds in my web browser, they don’t seem to be showing up when I actually post this. So, here are stable URLS for each, too. Coiro: http://www.cinchcast.com/hickstro/wsra-2010/21082 and Kajder: http://www.cinchcast.com/hickstro/wsra-2010/21096

2/5/10 – Notes from Sara Kajder’s Session on Bringing the Outside In

1. Instructional challenge – find readers. Engage reluctant readers to create a book trailer via digital movie making in three class periods.

– examining movie trailers and dissecting them
– discussing how to craft a trailer for the book
– creating the book trailer in movie making program (or via the sims and using Jing to create a video)
– “Dr. Kajder, I don’t like to read and write, but I like to make movies… You tricked me!”

2. Instructional challenge – summarizing. Creating podcasts. What do you have to say about this book? It is a synthesis -you need to teach something to the other kids in the room. Then, the entire school votes to decide which podcasts go up on the school website.

– example of fifth graders podcasting about the six traits of writing

– in inviting other people into classroom literature circles via skype

– podcast with an expert (submarines in the American Revolution with Harvard Professor); listened to interviews on NPR as examples

– want to make kids “googleable” for the good, smart work that kids do (ala Bud Hunt), depends on where we save things and how they are archived

– creating visual “mentor text” via iMovie. Choose just a small portion of the text. Recite from the text (checking for understanding) and also thinking aloud with text-go-world connections. It is an assessment, but this is the least “assessy” assessment they have ever done.

– using delicious and diigo with kids to create their reader’s identity. This gives digital readers a way to hold on to texts and show what is important to them.

Many resources and ideas. We need to appreciate the ways in which kids work and play. How do we figure out a way to build curious readers?

Kajder’s “Promise into Practice” Wiki

Sent from my iPhone

2/5/10 – Notes from Julie Coiro’s Session in Internet Reading

Listening to Julie Coiro talk about “How Does Reading and Learning Change on the Internet? Responding to New Literacies” at WSRA 2010

Examing students’ reality of multiple and overlapping literacies – how can we capture some of that same excitement in schools?

She just cited Tom Freidman’s “The World Is Flat” as the source for the phrase “racing to the top.” I didn’t realize that, but sitting here next to Sara Kajder and we both agree that this makes the clear economic focus of RTTT

Online readers and offline readers are successful in different ways. What’s the difference?

1. Identifying important questions – yes, we have a curriculum to follow, but students can ask questions that they are curious about that will likely meet the objectives, too. For instance, why do cats cough up hairballs? As this moves into MS and HS, the questions become deeper and more substantial.

2. Locating information – for instance, finding a website bit then searching within it (can’t rely on a site’s navigation bar alone any more, espe ially with graphical interface). Teach kids to be flexible to take what they know about layout and design to seek out new info. Using kid’s search sites vs regular search engine. What about limited engines or visual searches like Kartoo? Tag clouds?

3. Evaluating Search Results – how many sites found? Who sponsors the sites? What sites may not be available in a few months? How can you tell, in the results, what search terms are used? What disadvantages would visiting the sites have?

— play a game with kids to make the number of search results go down (refining the search) of making it go up. Looking at the number to make it go up or down is a process of adding and subtracting words to refine.
— Teaching about context clues to help students to read URLs — why is it important to know who sponsors the site before you even view it? Do you make predictions when you read inthe Internet? We do so all the time with stories, sometimes in content area texts, and rarely online? Put a label on it — call it predicting, and help them know what they are doing? This can “take all the fun out of searching,” but if helps students pause to think. Need prior knowledge about URLs and how sites are housed. — prior knowledge if the topic used to be critical to comprehending texts, but know google can give you prior knowledge in a snap and bring you to that level.

4. Where do I read first? — am I on the homepage? Like a book walk, help students take the “brain steps” to preview a website. Who is the author?

Great ideas, had planned for two hours, but had to end!

Sent from my iPhone

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