Friday, December 12, 2008

For A Friday: My Blog Wordle

Yesterday, in a sophomore English meeting, we broke into small groups to identify themes in quotes we all collected from our common reading: Proust and the Squid. With my partner, a conversation began to take shape around these questions: at what point does English class become effective communication class? In an English class, is the highest priority a students' development as a pen-to-paper/finger-to-keyboard writer? Or, is it more important for students to engage with and grasp the concepts and complexities of stories and essential questions? How important is the act of writing? Is dictating to a computer the same? Is it of equal value to us if a student does a better job expressing the complexities of an idea with a multimedia project vs. a written essay? And more questions along those lines. Of course, we have no answers...that's good. But the discussion of awareness of one's own use of language and the visual-ness of the digital world reminded me of what I'd seen on some blogs lately: Wordle. What a cool way for a student/writer to get a sense of the kind of words they use and how they create a certain kind of impact. Here's a Wordle for this blog:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just Read Some Books And Call It A Class

Today at lunch, several colleagues and I were discussing a unit in our freshman and sophomore English courses known as the limited free choice book project, which equates to varying levels of choice depending on the teacher. I like to think of the way I frame the project in my class as "guided" free choice. The book choices are not limited or governed by me, but I move the students through a process focusing on making an informed choice about the book they're going to read.

Anyway, what I want to post about today is what I offered to the group over teri-tofu and chicken long rice soup: a class that was simply independent reading and blogging. This idea comes after a very successful three weeks of guided free choice reading and blogging in my class (and a free choice project). After the process of choosing books, we studied facebook and came up with a protocol for leaving comments and expanding others' ideas with conversation. This led to some really impressive student blogs. In addition, we studied the elements of books: first chapters, centers of gravity, questions that authors seem to be trying to answer in their chapters, metaphorizing, amongst other things. It didn't matter that we weren't reading the same stories because we had a common language for talking about literature. Along the way, students get a sense of their reading interests, strengths, and challenges, monitored and guided by me when necessary. I used the metaphor of a book universe that they create and explore. And it was all about using brain research to scaffold activities offering students differing paths to literacy and expert reading.

So many heads in books.

So, for the course I'm imagining, my colleagues challenged me on whether students could read graphic novels, children's books, Twilight and Harry Potter. The classic questions. So I thought I'd have them read from all genres: fiction, non-fiction, classic, graphic novel, fanfiction, etc., in any order they please. This is going to lead me to learning more about fanfiction, as well as books that accompany video games.

Are there courses like this out there? What do they look like? How well do they work?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Schools Of The Future Debrief Part 2: Innovation Management

I keep thinking about the concepts from Don Richardson's breakout session on "innovation management," in an attempt to transfer them to my K-12 school context. Richardson is Microsoft's Innovation Manager and is responsible for making the capturing of new ideas part of the work flow process at Microsoft. Their biggest fear is that good ideas walk out the door everyday just because somebody decided not to listen. He made the following claims before describing Microsoft's "idea grab" system.

-Research and development does not mean innovation. Innovation needs a shared framework.

-The best ideas come from inside organizations but have no process for being nurtured.

-The least amount of good ideas are generated externally.

-It's important to have a culture of innovation.

Microsoft's Process Looks Like:

Sounds a lot like the elements of critical thinking to me. So any employee can access this innovation process via portal/social network/collaborative workspace. And each idea gets entered, tracked, tagged, and peer reviewed as it moves its way through the process.

What if I had something like this interactive innovation database as part of my class curriculum? Students could enter ideas for learning opportunities and environments, and we could collaboratively work on them. The course would be collaboratively designed and amorphous.

In this spirit, today, I asked a student that I know is interested in architecture to think about and sketch his ideal classroom. We'll see what I get.

Or what if we had something like this as a network of teachers in a school (or across many schools). We'd build curriculum collaboratively. I could go back to ideas of teachers from 10 years ago and work with them with a fresh perspective. Maybe the school just wasn't ready for the idea, but now they are...

Don pointed to some examples in education:
Cosmic Blogs - for younger students
Lego Mindstorm
Both are examples of what Richard called "open innovation."

Other examples and ideas?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Schools Of The Future Debrief Part 1: "Disrupting Class"

Micheal Horn was the first keynote speaker at the conference (and one that made an impression on me), there to discuss the ideas in his book Disrupting Class, co-authored with Clayton Christensen (link's to their blog). Horn began with the question: why do successful organizations fail? This anchor question led to a discussion of the theory of disruptive innovation. Basically, that technology moves faster than what people need and/or want. So real innovation happens when there are areas of non-consumption that are ripe for a new model, new way of being. And this led to his discussion of technology in education.

He says, and so does all of the latest education research that I've been reading, that computers in classrooms have essentially failed, they haven't made a difference. At best, the most digital of conventional schools are simply digitizing the same old teaching and learning techniques. Or, they're cramming disruptive technologies into old paradigms. Sure, small gains have been made in small pockets (charter schools mostly). But on the whole, not much meaningful innovation in schools.

In his slides he presents an argument for 50% of education being online by 2019, using some pretty complex graphs and charts. The basis for this contention was mainly the usual suspect: mandates vs. the way we really learn. And, that what are disruptive technologies now will reach innovative status in education by 2019 or so. In online education, as the technology and vision catch up, it's easy to see that I could teach all 18 students in my sophomore English class, for example, according to their individual learning styles and needs, and I could track those learning needs, and teach them how they learn best and how to be the best learner they can be.

In addition, Horn listed areas of non-consumption in education, just waiting for a little educational entrepreneurship:
-Credit Recovery
-Drop Outs
-AP courses
-Schedule Conflicts
-Homeschool and Homebound Students (over 2 million of them today)
-Small Urban and Rural Schools

He goes on to name areas of global education non-consumption:
-3 million worldwide that don't attend primary school
-200+ million worldwide that don't attend secondary school
-Budget Pressures
-Barriers of distance, security, and infrastructure

Finally, Horn named some examples of places and companies that seem to be getting it:
-K-12 ed in Dubai
-Mobile Solutions

Now excuse me while I go start planning my online school:)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jam Session Learning

For me, going to a conference is not really about the conference, per se, it's more about the juxtaposition of the travel, conference events, visits with friends and other schools, and mostly stepping outside of individual school context for a fresh perspective. So while I'll go on to post and share about some specific conference sessions and related reflections and ideas, I first want to frame those posts with some of the extracurricular experiences I had while spending 8 days in my Washington state hometown and commuting by ferry boat each morning to the Schools of the Future World Summit hosted by Microsoft.

One of the highlights of my trip (besides the conference) was spending an afternoon and evening with two of my best friends. The three of us went to school together K-college, and spent just about every free minute outside of class in any given basement, writing music in the form of several permutations of rock band. We called ourselves Injured By Green, then Wish Cotton Was A Monkey, then The Chucks.

I bring this up for two reasons:

1. In the process of writing the literature for my MEd Plan B, I came across a metaphor for learning in the 21st century that I've been expanding ever since: "Jam Session Learning." So I talked about this with my buddies, one the leader of a development group for a high profile technology company, the other a professional jazz musician. Amongst a lot of ideas, several floated to the surface for the purpose of this post.

First, having a band sticks out to all of us as one of the most significant learning experiences of our "school" careers. Our jam sessions were a time and place to debrief and process all the information we had gathered during the day or week, and make something new, make sense of it. And for contrived school projects, we had a natural group of diverse learners playing off each others' strengths and compensating for challenges. We remembered taking our English class vocabulary list and writing song lyrics around them. Similarly, as high school freshman, it was hard to get into the music scene in our little county, so we decided to put on our own rock show, giving our band a place to play. In the process, we had to acquire a venue, rent a PA system, hire the bands, market the concert, and have a cause. We did all of this ourselves, and by the end of the show, each band (6) walked away with over $1000 and we donated truckloads of food to our local Food Bank. Funny that we didn't really think anything of this experience until later in life, as I'm hearing about schools like Hip Hop High and High Tech High. The concert bleeped on our collective radar screen when a Facebook group popped up for people throughout the years that had in some way been a part of the music scene in our county, and the concert was the subject of random reminiscing. These are concepts that I plan to explore in more depth as I synthesize my conference week and blog here.

Reason #2. I haven't blogged much lately. I think it started to feel like it wasn't part of my job, just something extra. I'm going to grad school full-time and teaching full-time and expecting a child for the first time. But mostly I've let myself get stuck in a place that David Foster Wallace describes in "The Nature of the Fun." Basically, he describes how writing starts off as really fun because it's honest. Soon, once an audience develops, self-consciousness challenges the original fun. The writer has some expectation of the audience's expectations, and just like that, the writing becomes "shitty."

So every year, my band entered the school talent show. Freshman year, we were the defending champions. During the rehearsal, there was a double controversy with our performance. First, we wanted to play two songs but were only allowed one. Second, we had a particular lyric that was objectionable to the school, not because of any "swear" words just because of the idea. Naturally, we problem solved and made a tough decision. We used a cymbal roll to make two songs into one; and, we said we'd change the lyric, but on stage, we didn't change it.
I'm not inspired to be inappropriate, but after the SOTF conference, I've realized how significant this blog is to my professional development and how important it is to remember the nature of this fun.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Socrates Would Go... 2.0

I've been dropping knowledge from Proust and the Squid in just about every conversation for the last week or so, and using the research and questions to drive my lesson planning. I'm only 90 pages deep but just finished a section about Socrates's protests of written language. It's not in front of me to quote (and I gotta blog when I have time) but he essentially said that written language will destroy the memory, for one, and that it gives words and ideas an authority that they shouldn't necessarily be afforded. Dialogue, on the other hand, requires memorization and analysis of all hitherto cultural knowledge, and leaves ideas up for challenge and revision. Wolf points out that Socrates's concerns are the same as our modern concerns about digital literacy and communication.

But there's a different comparison that has me thinking and questioning. She also points out that Plato, all the while, is putting Socrates's dialogues to writing. He had a better guess at what might be possible with the written word. Socrates didn't live long enough to see writing past its infancy. That's where I find myself and my school one year into a one-to-one laptop initiative. There are so many issues: distraction, bullying, superficial knowledge, reliance on Google, memorization-what's that. And there are maybe just a few places where the integration of technology has made better, after the cost-benefit analysis, teaching and learning. And mostly, I think we find ourselves doing the same things, just digitally.

I find myself in a funny place, between the two camps. I love my noteback and paperback, but don't have whole poems or books memorized. I can see the benefits of digital literacy, but how do I balance it all, helping my students navigate a new form of communication meaningfully. Sometimes it feels like a lot of guesswork, in the company of Plato, I guess I can deal. I think Socrates would have a blog too, since the written word has been networked. Authority of voice and content is a different matter now. Conversation doesn't necessarily entail only the auditory.

Can't wait to make it through the next few chapters and the discussion of how to purposefully teach new and old literacies.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Bawds of Euphony"

Today, we had a Sophomore English: Critical Thinking sub department meeting. There are ten of us, and we take turns each meeting running through a lesson from our respective class. Hopefully, the lesson leverages our one-to-one laptop environment in some way. The lesson today was a critical thinking exercise using Wallace Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

The subject of this post is not really the lesson, rather, something that came up within the activity. A very 21st century question. The activity had us in partners, posting ideas about a stanza to a Moodle forum, where other sets of partners answer meta questions about our original ideas.

My partner and I had stanza ten, which includes the phrase "bawds of euphony." Better look that one up. As a phrase search, Google takes us straight to a scholarly (or maybe pseudo-scholarly) essay explicating the stanza. There we go. Being the fun-loving English teachers we are, we continued the activity by looking up each words individually in the dictionary. These definitions helped us form our own idea.

So the question is: how do we teach critical thinking if students have easy access to somebody else's (an expert's?) critical thinking?

It doesn't work to say "don't use those sites." That'll be as effective as scaring students away from Sparksnotes.

Finding somebody's thinking isn't the same as doing your own thinking.

My initial idea was, well, you do the activity. Then, you teach students how to conduct a scholarly search, find some materials, and hold them up to the class's discussion to identify similarities and differences.

BTW - that's a pic of an albino blackbird

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reinventing My Job

Well, I've been busy, and the blog was one of the first things to neglect. But I've realized that its penchant for helping me reflect and synthesize is actually exactly what I need. So I'm starting with what I'm doing for my school this year and the big questions for each project.

Leading a pilot of Tablet PCs in a school of all Macs. (This is also my M.Ed. plan B).
What do students and teachers gain/lose in a cross-platform environment?
What will it take to support?
What kinds of learners will benefit from a different interface? And how?

Coaching 10th grade teachers in their first year of teaching in one-to-one laptop environment.
What kinds of technology enhanced activities support good teaching and learning?
What do we need to know about reading and the brain when we consider online texts and materials?

Stay out in front of new and effective tools, practices, and research while being one of four Technology Resource Teachers in a high school with more than 150 teachers and 800 students in the one-to-one program.
How to balance?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I've spent the last four days working pretty much non-stop on two final presentations. Up until I started this graduate program, I really hadn't used Powerpoint or Keynote very much, as a presenter or a teacher. But the slideshow format has been extremely popular with my instructors, giving me some time to fine-tune my skills and thoughts about the use of this tool. What I realized first, actually it was just reinforced, I already thought it, was that slides can be the most agonizing method of presenting information when they're full of bullet-points that get read back to you.

Luckily, I remembered a book that Howard Levin mentioned in a session at this year's Kamehameha technology conference in Honolulu: Presentation Zen. Promptly, I bought the book and started reading. I love the guidelines about not asking people to read slides and listen at the same time, including no more than six words per slide, and using high quality images that demonstrate ideas. Finally, Reynolds explains that if you don't need to be there to explain the slides, the material shouldn't be communicated in the form of a presentation.

What I've learned and practiced has me excited to bring presentations into my curriculum. Working on my own presentation has been the perfect critical thinking exercise, the decisions about the precision of words, the search for just the right image to convey emotion and idea, not to mention that preparedness to speak that all this preparation instills. And I'm wondering if there are others out there that use presentations as this kind of thinking exercise?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dewey For Dummies

This is education philosopher week in my grad program. And I'm busy working on an essay in which I'm supposed to examine, based on my readings, the role of independent schools and their intersection with public interest and purpose. The philosopher that's been most interesting to me is John Dewey, not because of his timeless influence on American schools but because of the contradictions between his philosophy and the way it's interpreted and put into practice.

Watered down, my understanding of Dewey's philosophy is that education has no end; it's an end in itself. The more education a person has, the better equipped he/she is to make decisions and live life based on a broad, global perspective that empathizes with the most peoples' needs and ideas. His explanation of the interdependence of the individual and society reminded me of my recent rereading of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind and its discussion of the same interdependence, not the individual, not the whole, something else. Dewey attempts to do away with the usual duality in education.

In practice, Dewey's vision looks like a series of ever-expanding, diverse experiences (ideas and interactions included). And what strikes me, based on my experience as a public school teacher in the NCLB era, is that this is exactly what public school is not, in many cases. Diversity is valued as a buzz word but not a reality; variety in ideas is neglected for practice of testable skills and aptitudes...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

After A 4-Month Vacation

It's been exactly four months since my last post, at which point I was feeling like I'd lost my focus. Originally, I started this blog to figure out whether it was viable to use with my students. It was/is. Then, I joined in with others writing about educational technology. That still interests me but it's confining as I'm not really a tech person; I'm a teacher, and now I'm getting an M.Ed. in private school leadership. I can feel my role and perspective transforming daily.
I've missed my blog the whole time but also felt as though it had taken time away from some of the things that I love and need for balance, namely surfing. But the graduate program has helped me see blogging differently. And being a student again in a program that's condensed an entire year of course work into six intense weeks has taught me a lot about myself as a learner, and even more about being a student in the 21st century. Needless to say, I have a lot to talk about, perfect time to revive WatsonCommon.
Related to keeping this blog, what I know about myself is that I need routine and commitment. I can't just say I'll post when I have something to post. So my renewed commitment to this blog is 500 words (max), 4 times a week. We'll see how that goes…
I want to start today by relating one thing I've been experiencing as a student, and hopefully some of you (if you're still out there) will have some anecdotes to share too.
A few weeks ago, I skyped from Hawaii to Boston with my colleague as he was giving an introduction to web 2.0 tools during an edtech conference session. He wanted me to talk about my favorite web2 tool and give some examples of how I use it. I went with wikis because I think they're so flexible, easy, and secure. I talked a little about global collaborations I've been a part of, and I described how I'd started a wiki for my grad school cohort (the same 29 people go through all the courses and Plan B action research project together). I thought the cohort could share resources and notes, follow up with more discussion, and organize a resource to use forever. It' been a great exercise for me to see how students make use of the wiki. For the first five weeks (remember, only six), the wiki was me taking notes, occasionally somebody would send me something they thought would be worth posting, and I would post it. But late last week, and more and more this week, others are starting to post links and ideas. The lesson for me is that when I ask my classes to use wikis, which I've done a bunch of times, I don't really know what I'm asking them to do because I had never done it until now. Does anybody else have experience using a wiki? I think it's different than using it with a professional learning community.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Wife Wrote The Post I'd Been Working On. And I Had A Blogger Format Blowout

My wife made her first iMovie as part of the learning differences/student support fellowship work she's been doing this year. The film asked students and teachers to address the same four prompts:

1. Describe a successful learning experience.

2. Describe an unsuccessful learning experience.

3. Describe the steps you take to learn something new.

4. An effective learner is...

Some thought-provoking patters emerged, as summarized in my wife's post.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Remixing Curriculum: An Interview With Lisa Stewart

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco. The areas of focus were: brain plasticity, learning styles, reading development, emotional responses, and mindsets. If you're interested in more details in these areas, I've been posting my notes, albeit slowly, to Watsoncommon. What I want to write about in this post is a question I asked at the conference for which there wasn't a research-based answer.

It goes like this:

I was in a session about engaging students emotions with curriculum and leveraging their brain's social needs with activities in class. As you can imagine, the examples covered in the session were things like group work, task-specific stations, anticipatory sets that give students the opportunity to generate the essential questions for a unit. And there was all kinds of brain research to show that these kinds of activities trigger the best hormone balance for long-term, meaningful learning to happen. My question was if virtual social environments and activities also create the same ideal brain chemistry for learning.

Apparently, there is no research in this area yet, according to the presenter. So at my school, this has become somewhat of a guiding question. What are effective practices with technology and what are the results? And there are a handful of teachers who are purposefully employing and reflecting on new kinds of activities with these questions in mind. To frame the creation of these activities, we've been using Marzano's research on effective instruction as structure: Identifying similarities and differences, Summarizing, Reinforcing efforts and providing recognition, Practice, Nonlinguistic representations, Cooperative learning, Setting objectives and providing feedback, Generating and testing hypotheses, Cues, questions, and advanced organizers. Let me know if you're interested in the full article.

Lisa, mentioned in my first guest post, is one of the teachers (she's a technology resource teacher too) designing and implementing activities in her class that not only use the technology but explore these essential questions. The other week, I subbed her class and learned about a remix project that she'd given to her students. It was an opportunity to create a nonlinguistic representation of their understanding of Holden Caulfield. In this podcasted interview, Lisa describes the design of the assignment, some observations of the products, and how it led to a different kind of essay. Also embedded below are some example projects, one of which she references in the interview. The Voicethread blew me away! Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

First Guest Post For Beyond School

Well, I'm supposed to be guest blogging over at Beyond School starting today. But Clay and I are still working out some login problems. So I'm going ahead and posting what I will be posting over there:

How I Came To Blog: Talking Story As Integration

I work as, what we call here, a Technology Resource Teacher. Essentially, I'm an English teacher that's been willing to experiment with integrating technology into curriculum, and I've been asked to only teach one class so during the rest of the day I can collaborate with other teachers on all things tech. The high school side of my school has a brand new 1:1 program this year, and there are 4 others that do what I do to help 150 or so faculty (we have 3700 student K-12). What I quickly learned this year is that no matter how many and what kind of workshops we run, how many emails with links and descriptions we send, or who we bring to speak at our curriculum days (these are all amazing resources!), what works best and what people seem to appreciate most is one on one time to work together and talk story about classes, students, curriculum, and where the laptops fit. So I thought I'd do a little of that here in my first guest post. Congratulations Clay!

Two years ago, I hardly knew what a blog was, and, frankly, I didn't feel the need to spend any more time in front of my computer than absolutely necessary. Then, at the beginning of last school year (06-07), I was assigned to teach an upper level Composition course. Pretty generic title, which really should have read: creative non-fiction essay writing. In an English department of nearly 30 teachers, there was only one other person teaching the course that semester. Our weekly meetings were talking story about writing, student writing, the purpose of writing, authenticity of audience, amongst other Englishy (not schooly) topics. At some point Lisa, my colleague, started to tell me about having her students blog their compositions and journals. She explained the idea of a blogosphere, a network of writers interested more or less in the same topics, reading and commenting on each others' posts. Then, it was the concept of the blogroll, something called Organically, the next move seemed to be to try this thing out for myself and my students. Where blogs seemed like they'd fit best was as digital commonplace books; we ask all sophomore to keep an analog version for a quarter to follow and reflect on essential questions and critical thinking exercises. That sounded good, and Watsoncommon began.

I realized a lot of things during the first few months of blogging. Namely, it could easily take over my life. But I welcomed the intellectual insurgency. I didn't write great stuff, but I had a reason (and an audience of 1, maybe 2) to pay patient attention to what happened during my day, in my class. I needed material. This went on, and in early 2007, my wife stumbled on a wiki where edubloggers and blogging classes were listing themselves.(Do you remember this one Clay?) Near the top: "B"eyond School, where there was a call for blogging classes to collaborate. I replied.

Creating our own 2-class blogosphere was a noble first effort, and some really interesting conversations emerged here and there. What became apparent after this collaboration was that the web 2.0 tools were more powerful than we knew, yet the challenge was the same as ever: getting students to be active participants in their own education. Clay's 1001 Flat World Tales writing project on a wiki came next. Being far more teacher-driven, the students had an easier time moving through the project. But Clay, Michelle, and I spent many weekends skyping at respective odd hours and driving the wiki for the kids. Not to mention we had committed ourselves to a grueling 6 week time frame. In the end, we had an annotated and podcasted trail of breadcrumbs, an ebook, some good stories, some engaged students, and a lot of new ideas for the next collaboration. Now, I'm a week deep in 1001 Flat World #2 with Deb Baker's class in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I'm getting far more sleep this time around.

Since that semester of enlightenment, it's been Moodle, Twitter, Diigo, Ning, the list goes on. Not to mention planning and implementing the vision for our 1:1 program. At some point a couple months ago, I found myself coming full-circle, away from the tools, widgets, and gadgets to stories. The story of collaboration, the story of communication, the story of empowerment, the story of sustainability and stewardship, the story of apprenticeship, the stories of learners. And the stories have me asking these questions:
What is an education?
How can we engage the emotions, passions, and original ideas of students more?
How does a large, successful independent school become a culture of technology?
How can we empower students with an understanding of the way they learn and then nurture it daily?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Okay, I Get It Know: Asynchronous Audio

I sat down to do one thing and ended up doing something completely different. Planning to prep some podcastable media for my guest blogging appearance on Beyond School later this week, I transfered some voice memos that I'd captured on my iPod with my Belkin mic to my iTunes. And I realized that I have 31 untitled voice memo files that at some point I had grand plans for but now sit unrealized. So I decided to listen to a few seconds of each and give them searchable, intuitive titles. Well, a few seconds of each turned in to listening to entire conversations, class discussions, class readings of essays, tour guides from professional development trips, and so on.

This stuff is good. I've always known in theory that it'd be great to have an audio inventory of all the voices from a class or a conversation. But until today, I didn't understand how it could affect learning. I have a hard time getting into podcasting, in general. Not enough time, long episodes, unfamiliar voices, indulgent subject matter, etc. But all that was totally different when I started listening to familiar voices from my own experiences. I was right back on that trip to see Kent Koth at Seattle U's Center For Community Engagement; right back to that outdoor lecture with a docent at Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park; right back to those student-led Harkness discussions of The Poisonwood Bible; right back to close and active reading of creative non-fiction essays in composition last year. (I'm not even halfway through the voice memos at this point). And as a teacher, it's helping me find that elusive-at-the-two-weeks-before-spring-break center for my curriculum and projects. It's empirical, primary source material straight from my class, and in some ways it's a little different than the way my memory molded the anecdotes. As a student, I can only imagine how helpful this resource would be and the ways in which asynchronous audio can be leveraged as a learning tool.

flickr credit: mishkaoutofcontrol

Friday, March 7, 2008

Is A Culture Of Technology Synonymous WIth A 1:1 Laptop Program?

Today I sat with a colleague and watched a webinar on emerging technologies and how to plan for them in a school context. One of the interesting ideas that was presented had to do with what they called mLearning, the m standing for mobile. One of the tools referenced was the U3 Smart Drive.
Carrying one around in my pocket all year, I had no idea that I could transport more than my files. What I learned is that I can store applications like Firefox and Skype. So the concept is that all I need is my drive, and I can plug into any computer anywhere and access my own apps and settings. Lots of implications. I wonder if there are schools out there leveraging these instead of asking their students/parents to pay for laptops?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

PGC In Australia

I'm not going to lie, Project Global Cooling in Hawaii was really stressing me out. I thought that maybe I had gotten myself into something I wouldn't be able to finish. But students have come to the rescue. We've got a club going. We're starting to gather sustainability projects and post them to the PGC site. Our concert planning continues to move forward. And best of all, PGC has led to new collaborations with schools around the world.

Yesterday's Skype with Jenny Luca's class in Melbourne, Australia came just in time. Lately, my days have been filled with meetings, leaving barely enough time for my own class, and next to no time for professional development 2.0. So thanks Jenny for inviting us to talk with your class about our school's sustainability initiative.

flickr photo credit: emptybelly

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Schooliness is: Open Thread

For awhile I've been reading Beyond School where Clay Burell uses the word schooliness in his description of his blog and personal learning mission. I've always felt like I knew exactly what he meant by it. But I was excited to see Wes Fryer's interview with Clay and his open thread invite to ruminate and define the word. I've actually had a hard time while thinking about it since it could easily become a list of complaints about constraints in our respective school contexts. Here are some of my ideas:

Schooliness is a system where grade negotiation is the main motivator for students to come conference and visit with teachers.

Schooliness is the void between what teachers know about how to learn and what students have to guess about how they learn.

Schooliness is the fear of evaluation when colleagues visit your classroom.

Schooliness is believing that there are certain texts that all students need to read.

Schooliness is teaching English as if all the students are on a literature professor career track.

Schooliness is the assumption that becoming a doctor or a lawyer is the pinnacle of academic accomplishment, and the purpose of secondary education.

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flickr photo credit: duconihilum

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Depth vs. Breadth: English and Technology

Lately, I've had two thought experiments running in my mind, and now they seem to have converged into one theme: depth vs. breadth. First, my life as a technology resource teacher has changed dramatically since the beginning of the second semester. The backstory is that this is our high school's first year with a 1:1 program for freshman, next year sophomore, and so on.

So first semester, there wasn't a lot of action for me, just a few classroom visits to set up blog accounts or help an early-adopter with an innovative project. Besides that, with my reduced teaching load, I had at least a couple hours a day to read and comment on blogs, explore their links and ideas, employ them in my own class, and keep up with my own blog. I felt like I was really in the pocket of the educational technology wave.

Now, my department is off and running, leading the school in the ways they're employing technology: blogs, wikis, moodle, Ning, Diigo, And my calendar no longer allows for that exploration time I described above. This is a really good thing! However, I find myself rushing around a lot, trying to fit it all in: exploration and implementation. And in my own class, I find myself less willing to give myself permission for new ideas to be messy and maybe even fail. Although just identifying this has allowed me to get back to being real with myself.

That's all just about the situation that has allowed me to extend my thinking to the question of breadth and depth in implementing technology in a school. What I mean is I could really get behind a schoolwide blogging initiative, and I could focus all my attention on figuring out how blogs can be educationally transformative in all kinds of ways. Or, is it good to keep pushing and pushing forward. Blogs are great in school, but there must be a bunch of other tools that are just as good and better.

It's easy to see that the answer is both. So I guess the question becomes how do you know when you've struck on something that you should keep around and build on?
Just needed to write it to think about it. I'm happy to surf it.

The second line of thinking is similar but has to do with text selection in freshman English. The first comparison is that every new thing for the past few year at least seems to have made sense to put into the freshman curriculum. Now, there's too much, and it's too disconnected. Each of us teachers pick from the menu something different, and leave out the rest. Or else, in the name of being a good soldier, we try to cram it all in. There's talk about a project-based common experience. And there's talk about the value of common reading. And there's talk about whether there are particular texts that freshman need to read. And again, all of it is really good, and it all should be included. So how do you pick the best of what's really great? In the end, I feel lucky that I'm in a place where I get to spend time considering such important questions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And This Is 19th Century Education

I've made it a goal to get back to posting to my blog every school day. So, not knowing what to post today, I took a scroll through my email and came across a strand that seemed to juxtapose nicely with yesterday's post. An 8th grade final exam from 1895 was being forwarded around and discussed. I'm not really interested in what it shows about education then and now, just thinking about the differences and similarities. Here it is:

Grammar (Time, one hour)

1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no Modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb. Give Principal Parts of. lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft deep, 10 feet long! , and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find cost of 6720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
8 Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U. S. History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865

Orthography (Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication?
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, sub vocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u'.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e'. Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Apparently, this test has been in circulation on the web for awhile. It's original intent was to show how education in America had declined since 1895. Here's some more discussion and background.

Flickr Photo Credit: Scott Crouse
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Monday, February 25, 2008

This Is 21st Century Learning

At my school, we're most interested in the question:
How does technology transform instruction?
Well, here's how:
Lindsea started blogging last year in my sophomore English class. Unfortunately, a lot of what she had to blog was my assignments. But the class also had opportunities to start their own conversations on their blogs, and we were lucky enough to blog with Clay Burell's class in South Korea. We were all trying to figure it out.
Fast forward to the beginning of this school year, I noticed that there are new items in my "students" Reader folder. A few students are writing on their own. A few more are using their blogs for other classes.
Lindsea becomes a sophisticated web2.0 regular. She write for Students 2.0 and organizes grassroots fundraisers using her networks.
Then she writes this post in which she describes Project Global Cooling, student-owned collaborative web space, and sustainability at our school. Within the conversation about her post, she connects with a middle school teacher in Qatar. They decide to collaborate. She Skypes with his class at 2:30 in the morning, teaching them about environmental issues in Hawaii, and what we're trying to do about them.
Now, she's planning her senior independent project for next year. Not only is the project going to be for her, but she's designing a project that will lay the foundation for other students here to find their own Personal Learning Networks.

Flickr photo credit: iurikothe
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Curriculum Day With Alan November

Alan November was here to address our faculty and parents on Tuesday, and lead small workshops with various groups yesterday. For the edtech set, it was confirmation of the power of connective learning. What was interesting to me was the discussion of how to get more people engaged in web communication and collaboration technologies, especially in a K-12 school with a democratic leadership structure, 4000 students, and a high school faculty of 150+. Essentially, he laid out six things that should be happening in classrooms:

1. There should be a curriculum review team made up of four students, assigned jobs like: writer, mixer, editor. They produce a podcast each week reviewing the lessons and content.

2. There should be a tutorial design team that creates screencasts for further review. Alan suggested using Jing for screencasting. (I used to use screencast-o-matic, but Jing can do more, and screencasts are easy to embed in a Moodle page or blog or anything else.)

3. Student questions should not be answered by the teacher. Instead students should be charged with finding the answers and using social bookmarking tools to organize resources. In addition, students teachers and students should become expert web researchers and create their own custom search engines for class topics and questions.

4. Three to four students should be official scribes for the class, collaborating to write and share notes in Google Docs.

5. Each class should have a global communications team, leveraging tools like: ePals, Skype, Technorati.

6. Students should manage RSS feeds relevant to curriculum and communications.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Learning And The Brain: Keynote by Larry Cahill Ph.D.

I tried to tap into Dr. Cahill's research on emotional memories in my last post, but here are the notes I took during his keynote at Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco, which also addresses gender, hormones, and brain hemispheres. Some of my notes are in my own words and some phrases are Dr. Cahill's. I apologize for not quoting well here.

Basic Premise: Memory (the brain function) creates self. And, emotion disproportionately sculpts the brain. So, how, again, can we leverage this for effective teaching and learning? And how can this knowledge empower students?

Part I: Background – Brain Mechanism of Emotional Memory
•Memory is active, constructive, and based on orientation. Throughout the building process, perceptions are created.

•Amygdala is the structure in brain that's central for making strong memories of emotional events. It works together with stress hormone response: during and after events, feeds information back to brain. Amygdala works harder in emotionally arousing situations; doesn't care about neutral situations.

•Stress hormones enhance memory storage.

•New technique for measuring response is brain imaging, which is leading to awareness of difference between men/women brain.

•Activation happening on different sides of the brain: right side in men; left side=only women in response to stress hormone.

Part II: Sex Influences On The Brain

What does it mean for education and learning?
•Classical difference, no debate:
On average men can rotate images better (visual fluency).
Women have more verbal fluency.
Many differences on the psychological level.

What about on the brain level?

  • 1970 hippothalmus was difference.
    • Differences are ubiquitous
    • Incluences everything
  • Differences now:
    • Size of brain regions
    • Levels of neurotransmitter
    • Females have lower levels of serotonin
    • Women more depressed 2 to 1; drugs boost it for depression
    • Uncovering differences that aren't understood yet
    • Hippocampus cell experiments with knocking out molecules
    • Results in memory deficits in male mice, not female
    • Cell cultures – differences on this level
      • Neurons die, why?
      • Different depending on where they came from: male or female
Part III: The Blinders Come Off: Sex Influences On Brain Mechanism Of Emotional Memory
Sexes are not two different groups; two groups with overlap
• What are the findings?
  • Right hemisphere is gist of situation
  • left hemisphere better at details
  • Amygdala can be blocked, beta blockers
  • Experiment with emotional story:
    • Females remembered gist
    • Men remembered details
  • There are memory differences:
    • Women have better memory than men in general
    • Better for details
    • Outperform on these kinds of tests
    • Left side is more engaged when emotions are involved
    • What about without emotional stories?
      • Amygdala works with left side in women, right side in men

more notes soon...

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Leveraging Emotions For Learning And Brain-Based Activities With The Cather In The Rye

(This post has been under construction for a week (that's how busy it is here). Hence, the dates are off a bit)

I got back to Honolulu yesterday after attending the west coast Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco. There's a lot to process and disseminate after three days of learning about the latest in neuroscience research and how it's applicable to education and specific classroom practices. Of course, the first people I wanted to talk to about all this were my students. So I shelved Catcher In The Rye for a day (maybe for a few more days) to empower them with some understanding of how they can leverage their intelligences, learning styles, emotions, and the plasticity of certain parts of their brain. Here's what I did:

Monday morning, I announced pop quiz on the first three chapters of Catcher In The Rye.
Brain-based connection:
As they reacted in fear to my announcement, I explained that I wanted to let them in on some secrets about their brain and the way they learn. Their emotional and physical reaction to my announcement was a change in their brain chemistry. Cortizol had washed their brain, hindering their ability to learn and access their long-term memory. The best thing they can do about it is drink water.

I explained that this was a two part quiz, and there was no way to fail. Part 1: List ten summary statements about what they read over the weekend. Look for details.
Part 2: They had to clap out a rhythm together, then go around the circle giving new facts about the chapters.
Brain-based connection:
The rhythm engages the right brain, the summaries engage the left. To do both forces connections between the two hemispheres, which foster better long-term memory learning. Not to mention that it was fun and active. We continued to talk about leveraging their brain chemistry and identifying what they can do for themselves.

Now that I had their interests piqued, I wanted to connect more brain secrets to effectively exploring The Catcher In The Rye, so I asked them to free write about specific emotional highs and lows in their lives. The homework extension was to collect visuals symbolic of their highs and lows and construct a "high/low" collage.

The next day, we had a gallery walk to view everybody's collages. Specifically, I asked the students to look for and record patterns they see in the collages. Next, I asked them to translate their observations into questions about what it's like to be a teenager. They came up with questions like: why are friends so important to happiness? Why are so many emotional lows connected with anxiety over grades? What is the importance of outdoor activities in a person's life? And so on.
My pitch was that now that they are invested emotionally in a thinking about their experiences as a teenager, they are better equipped to interact with the novel they're reading.
Brain-based connection:
I learned that the most effective learning environment for teenagers is social, interactive, and emotionally engaging. Reading, as my students agreed, can easily be none of these if not properly framed. So not that they were engaged, I led them through some active reading strategies that would help create interaction with the text and put them at the center of the reading experience.

more soon...

flickr photo credit 1: krischall
flickr photo credit 2: revcruz

Friday, February 1, 2008

Story of Stuff

A lot has happened in my inbox this week. First, a few Commoncraft videos were passed around and discussed. Couple that with a workshop on creating and podcasting class lectures and multimedia through Moodle, and it's propelled to think more about teachers and students as producers, rather than consumers. So a group of colleagues and I were discussing the premise of Commoncraft, creating simple analogies and explanation of fairly complex concepts, AKA demonstrating understanding. And that rang a bell, demonstrating understanding is that measurable things we're always looking for from students. But it has to be authentic and relevant. So I realized, I guess maybe I already knew, that the work of teachers and students is becoming more about the back and forth creation and exchange of these kinds of learning objects that demonstrate understanding. That's all for Friday.
And, check out this amazing website and 20 minute navigable video: Story of Stuff

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Language Barriers?

Last week, I met with Alexander, head research consultant for the E-learning support project at the National Training Foundation for teachers in Moscow, Russia. He and Gregory, a vice principal he works with, were visiting our campus to learn more about the ways to get technology more integrated into their school culture. Today, I Bruce Schauble and I presented to a group of 26 visiting teachers from Beijing, China. In both cases, we gave a brief show-and-tell of the ways our school uses blogs, wikis, Moodle, and a few other software applications. And what's been most interesting to a few of the groups is the 1001 Flat World Tales Project.

What struck me today was that all of our schools, irregardless of our contexts, are asking the same questions about technology, and we all seem to be moving in the same direction. It's exciting to think about the network of schools that will soon be connected and collaborating. Here are the questions that keep coming up:

How can a school create an environment where technology enhances communication rather than creates a barrier, physical or otherwise?

How do we define responsible (mindful) consumption of media? How much time online is the right amount?

How does a school mandate integration of technology in classes without mandating it?

What does the support system look like for faculty and staff?

How are results measured?

How does a school manage their digital assets?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Notes On First Student-Teacher Course Design Collaboration

Lindsey, of student2.0 notoriety, and I met today for our first work session. Our goal is to design and propose a new kind of course at our school, described on Twitter by Clay Burell. The idea is that students will create their own learning networks and apprentice in an area of interest. So far, we're also thinking that designing, maintaining, and modeling for a student network would be part of the course, as well as aggregating all the sustainability-related work that happens across our campus and figuring out how to best manage and publish it. We plan to podcast our meetings, and I hope we can create and post materials too. Just an update.

Mindful Consumption Of Media And Cyber Sprawl

Since I started this blog and found a network of educators with which I collaborate, it's been a constant dialog with myself about my level of involvement in Web2.0. There are times, for the example, the past month or so, when I'm pretty much uninvolved besides working through my reader. And there are other times when I large chunks of my work days blogging, reading blogs, tweeting, etc. And then I spend weekends and evenings Skyping and collaborating and blogging. It's sort of the job I get paid to do, but sometimes it feels like web2.0 pulls me away from my immediate community and collaborators. And sometimes still, I sacrifice personal time to 'work.' I can see the benefits of balancing my teacher self at school and on the web. And lately, I've been taking inventory of all the places where I'm kind of involved and trying to prioritize and follow through before jumping into another project. I feel good about it, and I feel guilty and uninvolved about it. Okay, so what?

Well, I've written a little lately about structuring my class around communication competency levels, starting with words, then sentences, then dialogs, then paragraph, etc. Using this approach, I hope to teach a little grammar (all encompassing term for usage, conventions, punctuation, etc. And I'm still figuring out what I mean by it in this context), and I hope to help students find their voices by looking at the components. Okay, stay with me.

My wife just got back from a conference about adaptive technologies for differentiation. And speaking of words, she was sharing with me the taglines of the different seminars offered at the conference. And there was one that has helped me get this post out of my draft folder: Mindful Consumption of Media. I don't really know what the presentation was about, but just the words, in the context of my class's focus on the connotations of words, struck me. First, the idea of mindful as I know it is the slowing down of attention (I'll have to consult my copy of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind when I get home today), immersion and engagement as attention. I've noticed personally that when I work online, I tend to feel some kind of urgency to get it out there? Probably just me. Then, the word consumption. Do we use this word when we talk about reading books or attending live classes? There's something one-way about it. To me, it implies input without output (is web2.0 different?). Also, consumption is for the purpose of nutrition. I know I get tons of good stuff from the web, but are we teaching students how to watch what they consume and examine what they input? Lastly, media is so different now. I guess I think of media as being just a small part of a class a few years back. Now media of all kinds can make up the majority of a course and its curriculum.
Good to get these thoughts out, still need refining.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Work Flow, Lesson Design, And Differentiation

When I started teaching I used to dread the mundane task of filling out the lesson or unit plan sheet: numbering the objectives, making sure they aligned with state standards, spelling out student objectives, breaking down the activities by calendar, tweaking the rubric to align with everything I just listed, and so on. It seemed to take away from the natural flow of a unit or lesson. And nobody really check on that stuff anyway, except when I put in three years of weeknights to get my "professional" teaching certificate.

A luxury of teaching at an independent school is I you really feel independent in the way I craft lessons. I no longer fill in numbers from a grid of skills and standards. Instead, I try to create as flexible and dynamic of a learning environment as I can, and I look to capitalize on the teachable moments. Not to mention, I have time to work with students individually during the school day. All this sounds great. In fact, I remember saying to myself and to some colleagues from the public school where I began my career that all of the excuses and reasons for students not being able to achieve were non-existent here.

Yet a simple word has changed the kind of attention I'm now paying to lesson design. The word, the title of this post, is work flow (is it one word or two?) I've heard it before but I'm hearing it a lot more now from laptop vendors, software companies, and teachers, and I'm starting to use it myself because, well, it flows. It just a way to define how we work, how we take and idea and turn it into a product. Very appropriate for 21st century learning since it's more about producing. I find myself talking about products: digital assets, learning objects.

Next move, I examine my own work flow. I think it's pretty standard. I have a small moleskin cahier that I carry everywhere. In it, I make lists and webs and brainstorms (I get the graphed paper). Then I have my notebook where lists become prose, then my blog, slideshow, word-processed document. Couple this with the results of my Strength Finder 2.0, and my work flow makes a lot of sense for how I think and my areas of strength. And as I think about the kinds of lessons that I create, they all follow the same framework as my personal work flow.

This is where I find myself as I write units in the second semester. How can I understand my students' work flows and write assignments that allow them to engage in a successful process? Are there steps that need to be in everybody's work flow? How should this affect the way I deliver information?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Reflections On The First Days Of A New Semester With A New Group Of Students

Well, I'm feeling some pressure from Lindsea, and she channeled in some pressure from Clay to get my act together and start posting again. I was planning to. So I'll start with a somewhat counterintuitive observation from the first day of my new class.

I always begin with a new group by having them fill out some basic information on index cards. These cards serve several purposes: they help me get to know the students faster; they can be shuffled and arranged to help create small groups easily; and they can be shuffled for random, equitable questioning. So on the cards I have students write their names, AIMs, something interesting about themselves, a perceived strength in English, and something in English class that's most challenging that they'd like to work on this semester. Overwhelmingly (all but one or two students) wrote that they want to work on grammar. Here, we call it "architecture of a sentence."

I've taken their feedback to heart and am trying a new design in my second semester freshman English course. I'm adapting an idea that came from a colleague's question of what would happen is we set up our courses based around competencies, starting with words, then sentences, then dialogue, then paragraphs, and so on. As a class, I'm arranging each unit in the aforementioned sequence; and individually the idea is that students don't move on to the next competency level until they are proficient in the previous level.

In hopes that this approach will slow students down and help them pay more attention to the precision of language, here's what my class looked like this week: We started by listening to several selections of music, chosen for the singer's unique voice. Students created lists of words that describe the voices they hear ("what is my voice?" is an essential question of the course, and, I think, directly related to word choice and usage). From there, they used Visual Thesaurus to a)learn how to use the resource, and b)see the possibilities of words. They left with an assignment to write a narrative about themselves starting with the first line from The Catcher In The Rye (they don't yet know where the line comes from): "If you really want to hear about, the first thing you'll probably want to know is..."

The next class, I asked them to share their narrative in small groups and to keep a list of the most powerful words they hear in other people's narratives. Then the small groups had to chose five words from all their lists that they feel represent them the best. I collected these words in a document, and we framed them as descriptors and examples of our voice as a class.

The next question (today) is what is our school's voice? To explore this question, I had small groups navigate through the websites of several other independent schools from around the world, creating two new word lists: one list of words that describe the overall impression of the school' site, the second list of words that the school uses to describe itself. Over the weekend, I've asked them to complete the same activity with our class website. On Monday, the plan is to record everybody in the class reading all of our words and to use the recording as a soundtrack to a collaborative slideshow of pictures that represent our voices as individuals, a class, and school. I'm trying to accomplish a lot with this first collaborative mini-project. But my questions are: will this design allow for direct teaching of the architecture of a sentence in context with concrete steps, skills, and scaffolding? And, will the students think mindfully enough about their words, since there's no other consideration, like writing a paragraph, that they accurately describe our voices? We'll see; more to come.

I also have a ton of drafts ranging from cyber sprawl to my visit with Apple and Stanford two days ago. I'm still blogging.