Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Dark Side of EdTech??

There is something on my mind...
Those of us who have been drinking the EdTech Kool Aid sing the praises of our gadgets and tools. Integrate! Engage! Connect! Web 2.0! It's all good, if only everyone would do it right. Right? But more and more I find myself wondering if we are simply ignoring another inconvenient truth. Is sustainability the overlooked 21st century literacy?

In this blog post "I Call B.S.," written after TEDxDenverEd this past summer, the blogger complains that TEDx had a "secondary agenda" beyond the realm of pure education.
"Despite hearing from some amazing educators, there was an obvious trend with a political and social agenda. One that I wasn’t expecting and it really caught me off guard. More towards the end of the evening, the presentations were increasingly chocked full of buzzwords like: food justice, activism, organic, global citizenship, green, climate change, social justice, vegatarian, brown, awareness, community, school garden, nutrition, empowerment, global model, and environmental literacy."

As I read the post again, I appreciate his point about education conferences being cluttered with buzzwords that can detract from the most important and enduring value of education- the connection between students and teachers. However, can we really keep separating ourselves from our source? We must have clean food and water to sustain our existence. Education, as important as it is, is secondary to basic survival and quality of life. I fail to understand the offensiveness of an agenda that recognizes that schools must address issues of sustainability if we are to maintain a quality of life that affords us to grow and learn and create into the future. Dr. Tim Tyson, in his excellent post Do We So Easily Fool Ourselves? asks,
"Have we really become this selfish: we demand the good life, all of it. We want it now. We will sacrifice the future to have this moment?"
What does sustainability and selfishness have to do with the "dark side" of educational technology? As technology enables us to do more, think more, share more, create more, connect more and in many cases live a better quality of life, I sometimes wonder if we are indeed sacrificing the future to have this moment?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Writing a Class Mission Statement

Exciting Update: 2016

The course I have created is up and ready!

Check it out here!
If you just want the downloadable materials, they're here (only $2.99!!)

Here is the course trailer:
Mission Possible! How and Why to Create Class Mission Statements from amplifiEDucation on Vimeo.

After working through these ideas and lessons with my own students and other teachers for many years, I am a true believer in the power of helping students take ownership of their behavior and learning through exploring goal-setting, values and mission statements. I learned so much more from authoring this course, and I hope it will be a wonderful addition to your classroom community and culture.

Here is the original post I wrote (in 2010), when I was first beginning to learn about this!

In thinking about the digital portfolios, I have decided that a good place to begin is by having the students in 5th grade and 8th grade write personal mission statements. Since hearing Stephen Covey and his son, Sean Covey, speak about The Leader in Me, a program designed to teach leadership skills to young students, I have had a revived interest in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (and teens and happy kids...they're all the same habits).

Habit #2 "Begin with the end in mind" is the habit that inspired the personal mission statement. This is the hardest habit for me, personally, so maybe I'm projecting, but I think that for a lot of students it is also hard to think of the future. They may not understand how what they are doing in 5th grade or 8th grade is part of the foundation for who they will become.
I like the idea of writing a personal mission statement as a focus for the portfolio because the portfolio is about reflective growth as a learner. What better way to begin... than with the end in mind. Why are you in school? What is your purpose? What are your goals?
I see the personal mission statement as being more general, more direct, than a list of learning goals or, as in the case of a teacher's portfolio, a teaching philosophy. It will not necessarily take the place of these; both could be included.

In trying to craft a lesson on writing a personal mission statement I looked at lots of tools, examples and ideas. This is what I have come up with for 5th grade.
As an introduction to the concept, we will read together our school's mission statement.
We will view this video created by a 4th grade class to illustrate their vision for the year.

Next, we will use wallwisher to collaboratively brainstorm a class mission statement. Students will answer these 3 questions:
-Why are you here?
-What do you most want to learn this year?
-How will we accomplish our goals?
Students will then organize their answers into categories and use each category to create a sentence or two for the mission statement.
That will probably be enough for one day. I see this exercise as a stepping-stone on the path to writing a personal mission statement. I am going to work with 5th grade this afternoon, and I will share results.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Digital Portfolios- Beginning the Process

One of my main tasks this year is to pilot the implementation of digital portfolios. Right now it is an amorphous idea, and I need to (very quickly) make it concrete so that I can go back to sleeping at night.

First steps-
1. Decide to focus on grades K, 5 and 8. --DONE
2. Decide what platform to use for the portfolios. We have decided to use wp multi-user, hosted on our website. Each student will have their own site for their portfolio. --( sites have been set up/are currently being set up. I need to follow up on this and finish creating sites that have yet to be set up.)

Next steps:
-Meet with teachers to formulate a timeline, standards and process for artifact collection and evaluation/reflection.
-explore resources and examples. Formulate a template or templates and a plan for each grade K, 5 and 8.

Process, thoughts, and ideas:
-Met with 8th grade language arts teacher.
We assigned tasks:
•Teacher is responsible for creating a rubric for the language arts section of the portfolio.
•Teacher is responsible for deciding on required work samples to be included in the portfolio.
•I am responsible for creating a template and a timeline.
We discussed having each student present their portfolio at the end of the year to a group of adults (parents, principal, teachers, representative from high school, etc).

-I really like the idea (from 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens) of formulating a personal mission statement. I envision this as the home page of the portfolio. I have discussed this idea with the 8th grade LA teacher and the 5th grade general studies teacher. I ordered the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens workbook and have started exploring online tools for learning about and creating a personal mission statement. One site I plan to explore in further depth and possibly use with students is this one from Franklin-Covey. I need to reserve some time in my schedule to plan this lesson.
Ideas: share the mission in writing, view the mission in wordle, student reads the mission statement on video as the intro to themselves and their work.

-I have begun creating my own professional digital portfolio. As I work with students I will be doing many of the same steps they are doing. For example, I will also work to define my personal mission statement.

-I need to learn how to format the wordpress sites in order to design a template for each grade level. I have scheduled time with Silvia to work with me on this.

-I briefly spoke and brainstormed with Kindergarten teachers. We need to meet again soon to formulate a plan.

-I have been bookmarking examples and resources on delicious. I need to make time to explore these to mine for ideas.

-I started a digital portfolio group on the Curriculum 21 ning as a way to connect with others who are at various stages in this process. Please join me there.

Now that I've taken the time to document some of the things that I have done, I feel a little bit better. There is much to do, but it is about the process (and the product) but more about the process (and sharing, documenting, and reflecting on the process).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A New Blog

At the end of last school year, I wrote the post "Off the Mat" with some thoughts about a new blog I wanted to start. Today I created it, and would like to invite any interested readers to check it out. I love EdTech Workshop and plan to continue blogging here with the topics of education and educational technology.

The new blog is a more open space for me to explore things I think about. I will probably write a lot about yoga, parenting and other things that don't really fit with the EdTech theme.

Effort and Ease

In yoga, the word "asana" refers to the physical postures. Most of the sanskrit names for the postures contain the word asana, as in trikonasana (triangle pose) and vrksasana (tree pose). In each asana, the yogi seeks the balance between effort and ease.

I have been thinking about this idea in my "off the mat" life, specifically work. I need to find the balance between effort and ease in my professional life.
If you've been reading my blog, you already know something about my work and the changes that have been occurring at my school. When I compare the use of educational technology at the school today with when I started working there four years ago, I am pleased and a bit amazed.

Everything at work is great. We have a new head of school who really "gets it." I get to work with Silvia Tolisano, who is brilliant, and I learn from her every minute we spend together. I work with my good friend, Kim, the best technology assistant in the world, bar none (really, assistant is the wrong title for her, she is so much more than that). Our teachers are blogging on brand new macbooks, our website has evolved from a static site to a dynamic hub of communication, I am charged with the exciting task of working with students and teachers to begin the process of digital portfolios. I have increased my skills and abilities to the point where I could go almost anywhere from here. In short, I have gotten pretty much everything I ever wanted.
So why do I feel stressed and overwhelmed? And what am I going to do about it?

I need to find that place between effort and ease. There is so much to do. I have long lists of blog posts I want to write. My google reader overflows. I can not keep up. I want to do have the time to do things properly. Every task takes time. I feel rushed and pressured, and I feel that my co-workers don't understand why I can't always stop whatever I'm doing and run to show them, for the 50th time, how to reset an airport when the signal goes weak or rename a printer that has lost its network connection. And before you suggest I create a "how-to" sheet, please understand that I did that years ago.

I love my work. What I don't love is the feeling of anxiety that keeps me up at night, the feeling of being spread too thin, my energies scattered. My eyes hurt. I don't even know if I believe in the power of educational technology as much as I once did.

Effort- I work hard every day. I try to keep up, keep things working, and continue to grow. I learn from my mistakes. I reflect after every lesson, every encounter, every situation. I am there to help, and I try my hardest to respond with patience to every person who approaches me. I am a team-player, and it is not just luck that I get to work with people of the caliber of Silvia and Kim. My to-do list overflows. I do my best to prioritize, strategize, and share.

Ease- I remind myself to stay in the moment. I breathe in and out. I try to remember that, ultimately, my job is not so much about technology (try to tell me that when things aren't working, though); my purpose for being where I am is to build relationships. It is about helping people. I can only do so much. I need to have faith-- in myself, in the students, in my colleagues. I must make time (and space in my brain) for rest and relaxation. Worry has no place in the picture. It doesn't add to my productivity. If people don't understand what I do all day, that is not my problem.