Let the Learning Begin

Let the Learning Begin

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Getting ready to travel to Boston is always exciting, but tonight it is especially so because tomorrow is the first day of BLC10 – the pre-conference. If you haven’t been before, but are joining us this year, get ready for the learning experience of a lifetime. Alan November has a knack for collecting energetic, innovative, inspirational advocates for education. This will make the eleventh year that they have converged together for one week during the summer months to push, stretch, and invigorate the path of educators from all over the world. All levels and disciplines are represented; superintendents, university professors, principals, and technology coordinators learn elbow to elbow alongside classroom teachers. The challenge to improve our methods for the sake of students is palpable. The discussions are rich and passionate.

The presenters from last year left a lasting impression on me and I have been able to continue sharing the learning on their blogs. Check out some of these before you arrive to taste the variety:

Darren Kuropatwa – A Difference
Lee Kolbert – A Geeky Momma’s Blog
David Jakes – JakesOnline!
Angela Maiers – Angela Maiers Educational Services Putting Learners and Learning First
Lisa Thumann – Thumann Resources
Liz Davis – The Power of Educational Technology
Sara Kajder – Real Reasons to Write (Sara started this blog after presenting her first session at BLC08 – powerful!)

Jeff Utecht – The Thinking Stick After following Jeff’s blog for years I was finally able to both hear him in person and meet him at #BLC09

Lorraine and Jeff Utecht

The list is endless really as so many participants also blog and share.

Get ready to make connections that will move your career path to a deeper level. If you need help along the way, look for the smiling faces in blue November Learning shirts. I look forward to meeting you.

Choices

Choices

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Last summer, I had the opportunity to work with a lovely group of educators from the Montcalm School District. They invited me to lead a two-day teacher workshop on using technology in the classroom. Recently I had a chance to visit their schools and talk to a few of the teachers that participated in the summer training. I’m glad I did. I was pleased to learn that the teachers were using some of the ideas and tools we had discussed in the workshop. It felt good to know that I had a small part in bringing about changes in their teaching strategies.

Mrs. Ruggles is an example of a teacher willing to change and take a risk. She had the self-confidence to tell her students she didn’t know everything! She took a risk and let her students use technology even though she didn’t know everything about the tools. She was willing to let her students independently learn how to use the technology. She is a great example of how to develop independent, life-long learners.

Mrs. Ruggles is a middle school and high school teacher. One of the assignments that she gave to her art students was to create a poster of an artist of their choice. She had different elements that needed to be included in the assignment: history, favorite work, impact and other information about the artist. She changed her assignment by allowing students to choose how they would present their artist. Imagine, giving the power of choice to students! She pointed them to some online tools and provided some ideas of what they might produce. The students could do the traditional poster if that was their choice.

I was amazed at some of the projects the students produced. Also, some students chose technologies that the teacher hadn’t suggested. The samples she showed me included:

· A presentation created in Prezi (prezi.com)

· A traditional poster board that the student took a picture of and posted it on the web.

· A “mock website” for an artist

· A Glogster poster (glogster.com)

· A PowerPoint Presentation posted on Scribd.com

Choice is important to all of us. We want to have a say in our destiny. These projects illustrate the power of giving students a choice. They did excellent work and should be proud of what they have accomplished.

Teachers are often threatened by technology and change. They sometimes feel that they are being forced to change what and how they teach. This project illustrates how technology can be used in meaningful ways and is a small step in a much larger picture. I look forward to seeing more great projects from Mrs. Ruggles’ class.

Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom

Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom

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In this video presented by Mobile Learning Institute, Alan tours his hometown of Marblehead, MA and comments on the historical global vision of his community.

Find more videos like this on NL Connect

Alan challenges us to think about the emerging role of “student as contributor” and to globalize our curriculum by linking students with authentic audiences from around the world. (For more on this topic read Alan’s article, Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm.

He also discusses three myths regarding the impact of technology on student learning:

Myth #1: Technology is going to be the great equalizer of society.
In reality, technology is actually polarizing society.

Myth #2: The Internet is going to provide a diversity of opinion. We will have an input of ideas from around the world and generally have a better educated society.
In reality, people are going to the web to get their “version” of the truth.

Myth #3 Technology is going to make kids smarter.
In reality, it’s a distraction. Overall we are missing out on critical thinking.


Questions:
1. What types of real jobs can we give our students? Share your stories.

2. What do you think about Alan’s concept of authentic work and the shift of control from teacher-centered classrooms to student-centered?

3. What are your thoughts on the three myths? Do you have any myths of your own?

Tutorial – Introducing Poll Everywhere

Tutorial – Introducing Poll Everywhere

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Poll EverywherePoll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com) is a service that allows groups of individuals to vote within user-generated polls using a mobile phone’s text messaging capability or a simple web form. This system has quickly become a part of major presentations given by Microsoft, Cisco, MIT and more because of its ability to capture an audience’s thoughts and understandings at a given moment in time. This reason alone makes Poll Everywhere a powerful classroom tool.

We have created a new handout on our resources page which can be viewed and downloaded here. For a brief introduction to the Poll Everywhere service, we have created a video that is available on TeacherTube and YouTube.

Maybe I’m the Slow Kid

Maybe I’m the Slow Kid

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On the CAST web site they introduce Differentiated Instruction by stating:

Not all students are alike. Based on this knowledge, differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning so that students have multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas.

Teachers some times think they are being asked to “water” down the curriculum and that differentiated instruction is for the special education or slower students in the class. It is really for everyone. The recent cold weather brought me to a great example of differentiated instruction on a personal level. When I want to know the weather forecast for my city I always use the National Weather Service (NOAA) web site (www.weather.gov).

During may last visit to the site, I thought this is a great way to look at differentiated instruction. People like different representations of the weather. You may like one or more of the following four or more ways the weather is represented on the weather.gov site.

Method One:

Images and brief text:

weather-1

This is a pretty typical way the weather is represented in the newspaper and on popular weather websites. It gives you a nice glance at the five day forecast.

Method Two:

More days, but all text.

weather-2

Notice that you get a little more detail. It takes a little longer to read the forecast than to look at the images.

Method Three:

The big picture using radar and Satellite Images.

weather-3

A bigger picture and more complicated. You have regional radar and wide satellite images and if you know weather patterns or watch the radar loop, you can see the movement of storms.

Method Four:

This is the forecast I use. It makes the most sense to me. You can find it under “Additional Forecast and Information” the third listing on the left, Hourly Weather Graph.

weather-4

You will get these two graphs and five more. The two graphs shown here show an hour by hour view of the temperature, wind chill, dew point, wind speed, wind direction, and wind gust. The other five graphs show more data. I like it because I can view the change in the forecast over time.

How does this relate to differentiated instruction? If you read through this long-winded (pun intended) post, you most likely thought of the method you like best. You picked the one that gave you the information you needed to know and a way you can grasp what the weather forecast is for the next few days.

I happen to like Method Four. Then again, maybe I am just the slow kid in the class. Wouldn’t it be great if we took the power of technology to help represent information in different ways for different students? Instruction using audio, video, text, animations, pictures, or a combination of all of them. We don’t need to create all the content. Some is created and if we learn to share we can all create part of it.

Jim

PS Special thanks to Brian Montgomery from the National Weather Service for teaching me more about weather than any science teacher I ever had in school.

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