Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cell Phones in Learning: Disney Style

Geography, mapping skills, and attention to details are key to solving clues as you help Team Kim Possible stop 7 major villains from taking over the world. Each villain is in a "country" in Epcot. You're job is to learn about the culture so as to solve clues to prevent the bad guys from completing their quest for world domination.

Disney World in Florida has an attraction based in Epcot called: Disney's Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. It's a mystery game where individual or a team follow clues to different locations in one of seven world culture stages. Clues are communicated via cell phone.

I visited a Kim Possible station, where upon registering for my family, the KP Team member gave us a cell phone. Using its video capabilities, one of Kim's friends directed us to our destination: Japan. Each adventure is composed of about 5 quests, which took us throuhout the cultural center. At designated hotspots, we used the cell phone to activate more clues such as a baby robot peeking out of store shelves, a monkey statue rising out of the water, and spirits inhabiting a glowing chimney.

The kids loved the experience. They plowed through the clues, never allowing frustration at a subtle hint or evidence to deter. Each adventure took 30 to 40 minutes to complete, and the kids never tired. Japan, Great Britain, China, and Norway. We visited museums, stores, and restaurants. Each had history to tell and another clue to solve.
While Disney's approach might seem to some as too complex, it's not when you consider the power of Web Quests. Cell phones with internet access turns webquests into mobile activities through out the building and beyond. Every team, not each student, needs a cell phone to use. This elliminates the concern of access for everyone. It's even possible for one person, the teacher, to input data on the phone and give out instructions for the next step in the exploration. Students moving around, exploring their surroundings to connect abstact concepts to their world, is a powerful learning experience.

More pictures from my adventure in crime fighting.
Webquest Resources:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Classroom Walkthroughs: Supporting Teaching and Learning?

Classroom walkthroughs are an effective means to support powerful learning for all stakeholders. The intent is that administration, and teacher leaders, visit all classrooms 2 to 4 times a week (depending on building size), and time in classrooms is 3 minutes. The intent is to support and monitor school improvement initiatives for good instruction and learning.

Teachers benefit from administration understanding the challenges and celebrations of instruction. There is a deeper knowledge of what resources instructors may need. Most importantly, reflection sessions after several visits can lead to teachers realizing their effectiveness and areas to expand their repoirtore of tools.

The role of administrator is observer coach, not evaluator. Doing walkthroughs raises awareness of areas of good practice, where systems are being implemented, and support needs. Administrators and observing teacher leaders deepen their knowledge by asking questions based on the lesson's objective(s) and assessment.

Students are the big winners as initiatives are implemented as intended, and instructional practices are honed. The result is that the educators get a good sense of what's really working, what needs to be changed, and what should be let go.

Walkthroughs support the addage: What gets monitored gets done. Too often initiatives are "implemented." Teacher leaders spend many hours planning and in-servicing the staff, or paid consultants conduct workshops, and then behind closed doors the initiatives are paid lip service. Which leads to another addage: This too shall pass.

There are good resources available. One is The Three Minute Classroom Walkthrough.
Another resource is this info packet, included is a walkthrough form.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Must keep new teachers well fed

Of the many workshops I do, my favorite group to work with are new teachers. Each year I do 3 to 4 sessions on Differentiated Instruction for districts and my organization. For the record, I like working with veterans too. But there's something critical about supporting new teachers. It's a desire to help them maintain their passion, optimism, and idealism about what's best for kids. Veterans have established support networks and know where to get support, or have figured out how to manage. New teachers deal with so much in the first several years. One article cites a report that says 30% of teachers leave the profession after 3 years, and 50% after 5 years.

During my first 3 years of teaching, I had 2 informal mentors, a department head and another colleague. They took me under their wings, and got me involved in professional development such as an Essential Schools conference, the Great Books course, and the National Endowment for Humanities program. I learned so much from these experiences. The core concepts that I took to heart is that I don't know what I don't know, therefore there is always something I can learn to sharpen the saw (Stephen Covey) of my practice, and there are endless ways to connect learning for students. In subsequent years, each new school I worked at a veteran teacher stepped up to guide and continue my education for effective instruction. The life lesson I gained was that my turn would come to support others. That time is now.

President Obama called on the American people to volunteerism. In schools across the country, veteran teachers and other educators need to reach out to those new to the profession. Even in schools where a mentor program exists, new teachers can always use extra perspectives.

The experience is mutually beneficial. The impact for students...


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Reflections about Web 2.0: Cell Phone use for learning

Whenever cell phone use in the classroom comes up, there's excitement about the possibilities for learning and engagement. Inevitably roadblocks are raised because of the potential abuses or inequity of resources. Suddenly the energized conversation bogs down and is mired in the "why it's not possible." Reminds me of the conversations around using the Internet for learning 15 years ago. The unknown, or rather "unfamiliar", can be the biggest obstacle to the richness and freedom that comes with possibility. In this case, using cell phones to support student learning.


Children using cell phones to chat or pass answers is as challenging to deal with as those students who pass notes and conceal text books or notes during tests. During a test, if we're walking around the room, proximity inhibits cheating of "any" fashion. I can't imagine any instructor sitting behind their desk while administering a test. Can you? It's not that I don't trust my students, movement around the classroom helps keep them focused and makes me available to offer guidance, not answers.

For those industrious students who think of and plot out innovative ways to circumvent the rules, I want to find ways to channel that energy for "good." Thinking about it now, those kids are our future engineers, inventors, scientists, and teachers. No, I'm not implying anything shady here. Those occupations require ingenuity and thinking outside of the box.

Concern for misuse of cell phones is a serious issue to problem solve. The approach to finding answers could be best effective if we look for ways how to do, and not let fear or unfamiliarity forces us into a U-Turn.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Think 23 (23): Wrap Up: Reflect on your journey

The primary concept I learned from this experience is how powerful these tools are for communication as part of an elaborate interconnected community. Blogs, rss, wikis, Delicious, Flickr, Bloglines, and other tools can work together. There is space for authorship along with collaborative data production. The journey from Thing 1 to Thing 23 was so consuming with learning and reflection that with completing the steps myself, I might have become sad that it's over.

But, it's not over. I'm enjoying so much reading other participants' blogs and responding to them. Plus I have more ideas to explore, go back and deeply use what I'm learning. It's simply not over.

As I consider how to implement many of these tools, a new chapter opens, new adventures await, and I am excited like a college graduate is for the possibilities that stretch ahead.

Thing 22 (23): Create a wiki

This is lots of fun. I could not see a use until I created one. Just doing that and collaborating with others is helping me understand. Experience helps. I tried the host WetPaint. So far the pages are definitely easy to create, edit, and publish. Now that I've fiddled with it, I'm thinking of using it for several projects I'm working on in the areas of Differentiated Instruction and Project-based Learning. As soon as either begins to unfold, I'll add a link to them.

Thing 21 (23): Learn about Wikis

Comparing the Hemisphere helped me understand how children could be involved, with teacher supervision. It's a collaboration between students in NY and Austrailia. The asynchronous approach is effective, along with the sharing of data gathered at each site. With a clear purpose, I see how this approach is a great way to ferment thought and reflection. I'm continuing to digest this concept, as I want to look for ways to implement. By the way, I could see this used for some of our internal logging of events. Can it be set up like bulletin boards that shield non-participants from seeing anything? That's not the common approach I wish to do. It is an option that would be useful at times.

[Addendum]: Got my answer while doing Thing 22. Sites can be private where needed. Learning is a great Thing.

Thing 20 (23): Podcasting: Locate and subscribe to podcasts

I think I did Think 19 and 20 together. Already had iTunes installed. The podcasts sites listed previously, I subscribed to. They are:

iTunes has the feature in its settings to delete previous downloads so as not to fill-up your computer or mp3 player, or iPod. I'm liking it. I prefer Podcast Alley because it has variety beyond education. Other topics are sometimes great places to find education related ideas for students.

Thing 19 (23): Podcasting: Learn about podcasting

This is really nice. Exploring, I found several that I'm interested in. I have iTunes. What are other options if I want to switch? MyYahoo has it, but can you play those offline? The ones I picked are:
This is a great way to stay abreast of topics for interest, work, and learning. It's so easy to do, once you get started.

Thing 18 (23): Online Productivity pt.2

Slideshare could be helpful. Certainly it's a way to not reinvent the wheel. The thing to be careful of is quality control. Like the web, anyone can post anything and call it whatever they want. It's another opportunity to teach students good research skills and to review closely the information for accuracy. It's a great tool.

I do a lot of work on Differentiated Instruction. This is an interesting way of explaining. Well worth using.

Thing 17 (23): Online Productivity pt. 1 is nice brainstorming tool to web out ideas. It's quite intuitive. I like it better than Inspiration as a form of thinking out ideas. Learners who are visual will appreciate this. Teachers will find this as a simple means to show how concepts and ideas are connected. Just discovered that has a blog for learning more about it. Think I'll explore it, starting with this video:

Thing 16: Online Productivity

Google Docs is a great collaboration tool. I use it in my work, with a writer's group I facilitate--Deadwood Writers-- and for personal use. In fact, as I work through 23 Things I'm keeping a record of my thoughts in a Google Doc. Which is why you see so many rapid posts :)
What's also nice is that the files can be exported in a variety of formats to share with others. Great tool for students to use. They can make the teacher a viewer to track progresss, or a co-user to post guiding comments and questions. Students have email of their own, particularly middle to older kids. Younger kids could, with parental permission and monitoring. It's a way to get them writing.

Thing 15 (23): Revisit RSS feeds

The interconnectivity of Bloglines and Delicious is helpful to know. I begin to see how the web strands meet and support. This is a nice way to start a search for sites and check back each day to mine for useful sites without doing the initial grunt work. The list is already been filtered, although based one popularity, but it gives a more manageable place to begin searching. This would be helpful to students and educators for research.

Thing 14 (23): Experience Delicious

I could grow to like Delicious. I started with importing my bookmarks. Big mistake. There were way to many. So I deleted the account and started anew. Building from the ground up makes far more sense. Far better than trying to catalog what's in the basement. At least in mine, you'd be stuck for months. At my neighbor's it might be years. Starting from scratch and tagging gives me a sense of what I hold as important. I'm also able to learn tagging without committing to any specific one until I fully get it. This adventure of 23 Things is becoming more than I bargained for. Life changing.

Addendum: Tagging is nice. Organizing is much better than the folders I have on my browser. I still am working on switching to going online for my bookmarks. I know that I can have them present as a side panel. I'm not sure I want to give up that screen space. Anyway, this is a delicious experience :)

Thing 13 (23): Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking has been around for awhile. Making bookmarks public is a difficult pill to swallow. I do like the concept from a collaborative perspective. I wonder, and need to do it to learn about this, if I can keep some things private and others public. Or is it best to run two accounts, one for personal and one for private. A problem with that is that some sites would overlap. Sigh. Big Brother has become a fabric of our society.
The advantages to tagging is that it would be far better than the folders. I have useful sites I probably never see or duplicate bookmarking because I forget where they were. An important element is tagging accurately. That will take time, observation, and lots of practice.

Thing 12 (23): Add a Widget

I see how widgets enhance a blog or personal site for reference needs. iGoogle is built on this principle. With a blog, the widget has to fit your need or focus. I'm still learning how to maintain a home page on a blog, if that's possible, so as to post widgets that are always available. Is that possible? I did post the global counter on my blog. With collaboration globally, that could also be used as part of Social Studies units.

Thing 11 (23): Building Community

Commenting is a nice tool. I'm still exploring how to link a community of bloggers, like a club or class. Each person has their own blog or everyone shares in one blog. Perhaps a bulletin board is more suited to what I'm thinking of. Commenting feels good, especially when a response is received. My goal is respond to anyone who responds to my blog. :) And also, comment on others blogs to support a shared journey for learning.

Additional thoughts:
I've been following a couple of blogs through Bloglines (Did I say I love that tool? I'm saying it again). Some get a lot of response. The discussions sometimes get heated, even disrespectful. But you know what? The people are ingaged. Many make conscise points, even if at times with limited logic. I've "watched" read where people with opposing opinions respectfully disagree, and continue their disecting of each other's thoughts, as well as some aha moments. Detentionslip is one such place to check out for current events in education. Warning: Material may suck you into the debates.

Thing 10: Emged and Download a Video

I've used embedding for a Ferris Beuller clip where the History teacher zones out the class with bland instruction. I used it to illustrate the importance for pausing after asking questions. It is easy to do. Copy and paste the script.

I used ZamZar for downloading video from Youtube until I learned about software that does the same thing, but you can install to your computer, and download immediately. It's called Media Replay Capture. I have the suite version that bundles a program to transform the video into common formats used by different video players. After that, I have not gone back to Zamzar.

Simon's Cat is a great series for humor and thinking about the importance of being present in our lives and for family, friends, and students. Simon's Sister's Dog is a great one for on how over stimulation can slow anyone down...:) Bon Appetite!

Thing 9 (23): Online Video

Youtube is great for finding clips to teach concepts, especially the humorous ones like Escalator temporarily stairs, which is where I left my comment. I've found some great science videos by Science on the Brain that I've used with my children to support their learning of the Digestive System. They loved it and found it the difference in making connections to what they had to learn in class. Students could do commentary or upload video essays. Very useful tool.
Final note: Health conscious persons, pop and juice drinkers, and Health instructors should check out the one on "How much sugar is in a can of soda?". Wow, a life changer!

Thing 8 (23): Have some fun with mash-ups and online image generators

These different tools are interesting. I tried a couple such as the sign making and memory game. There is some potential here. I need to explore further to see where it takes me. I made a new header using Spell with Flickr, WB4A. How does it look? Should I keep it? Or let it go...?

Thing 7 (23): Share Your Photos Online

This was easy to upload (Detente). I noticed that you can send out guest access to non-flickr accounts. Perfect for classroom field trips. Post the pictures as private for friends, and then send out a guest access to parents. Keep the access live til the end of the year, and then take off the access to start anew with the next group. I run my kids' school website. I'm going to talk to the principal about this. A lot easier and more secure than posting pics on the website. Give teachers more control and access for their students and parents.

Thing 6 (23): Photos and Images - Explore Flickr

From RSS to Flickr, the momentum builds. I've heard of this site of course. Just never took the time to reflect on its uses. Listening to the video clip opened the possibilities. It's a solution to photo sharing in the family, for clubs and organizations, and that's just in the "private" option. I could explore this for use with my kid's school. I think it would be a way to author a site for class field trips. If each teacher did their own, they could give parents a "guest" access. That way the password can be changed each year. It would be a way to post pictures of students working, that parents would check to see the great things going on.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Thing 5 (23): RSS: Subscribe to Blogs

RSS subscription process was potentially frustrating at first. I'm glad to have learned how to use Bloglines, and its bookmarking capability. When I couldn't find an icon, I used the Bloglines bookmark. Frustration avoided. The blog search engines were a bit difficult to decipher, but it's getting easier to use, as I understand search terms to use. It's not the same as a normal search. My next challenge is to reduce the rss to the ones I can manage staying up-to-date. This is great for getting info sent to me without my having to seek it out. I'm excited to use this tool to stay on top of things.

Thing 4 (23): Learn about RSS

I'm trying two blog readers. Google Reader and Bloglines. Not sure which I'm going to like. I may go with Google in the end as I have several access tools through that portal, which would make it more convenient. But for this exploration I will try bloglines as requested by the course. I didn't realize how I was already using RSS feeds through the google portal, or igoogle. I'm very intregued by the process.

Addendum: I LOVE Bloglines. It's bookmarked, its on my smartphone, it's soooo addictive. The look and feel of it makes it easy to navigate to the blog feeds I want to keep up on. I am happy :)

Thing 3 (23): Blogs in Education

There is much to think and learn about. gives many blogs in education. I've created a blog seeking a purpose within my work. This list is very helpful. One step seems to be to not think in terms of what I can contribute. That's daunting when you consider how many knowledgeable people are out there. What do I have worthy of contribution? Yet, if I expand my thinking in terms of what do I wish to learn and explore together with others, the experience is less daunting. It's an exciting idea to explore concepts for purposes of mutual growth. Very much like a conversation over snacks, thinking and planning with others creates great synergy. I'm looking forward to exploring this more deeply.

Think 2 (23): Become a Blogger

I struggled with blogging early on. Didn't see a context for work, and wasn't sure I want to have a journal that the "World" could potentially see--Big Brother. The article from Web 2.0 and the video from that section was illuminating in seeing multiple ways of using blogs. Ironically, I have a blog, which I've debated how to use. Now I have direction.

Thing 1 (23): Learn about Web 2.0 pt.2

Video: Pay Attention

Dendrites are growing! OMG! This is just the video I need in my work with staff on differentiated instruction and instructional needs by diverse learners. I love the section, among others, about cell phone use as an instructional tools. Many high schools in my area ban cell phone usage by students in their buildings. It's a fear-based mentatlity because of the potential problems, rather than considering the values to teaching and learning. Simply amazing. It's given me direction, and more important, reflection on how I can incorporate into my practice and modeling for teachers, and how to help my young children grow and learn. Looooove it!

Thing 1 (23): Learn about Web 2.0 pt.1

Reflections on: A day in the life of Web 2.0 by David Warlick

Wow! The use of blogs and wikis as a colloaboration tool is amazing. I think back 10 to 12 years ago, the stone age, when I started an online classroom. My students used email, forms, and bullitin boards to communicate, or rather to post information. The article showed how now all stakeholders of schools and districts can "contribute" and "shape" information for the betterment of all parties. This allows for students to broaden and deepen learning by exploration and contributions. Love the use of RSS feeds for updates on blogs and pod casts for parents and students. And of course for cross-curricular collaboration by staff, the system is amazing. What will we have in 2 to 5 years that takes this process further? Until then, I can't wait to learn more about RSS feeds!

Web 2.0

Finally, I get to start a journey that I've been chomping at the bit to do. RESA-23 Things. It's an experience I highly recommend others to embark. Learn about tech tools for collaboration, reflection, and learning. What will follow is my journey through the 23 modules that delve deeply into "some" tools. There are more than the 23 things, but this experience brings clarity, illuminates the possibilities of tools to start with. Making the invisible, visible, more tools become apparent such as the social networks.

You're welcome to ride along if you prefer. I appreciate comments and thoughts as it will help my own thinking along this journey. Time to start...