Saturday, July 28, 2007

Any Resemblance?

I've been thinking about ways to allow the kids to have a presence on a personal blog without using an actual photograph. One idea was to edit the photos to make them look like pencil drawings. I still may do that. But, wouldn't they have some fun with these avatars? As far as I can tell, the program is easy and clean.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Speed Matters

Speed Matters is trying to:

identify educators who would be interested in talking about their vision of what they could do if every child had home access to a computer with a real high speed connection (think FTTH [fiber to the home] with speeds of 30 mbps or more).

To contribute ideas visit

You can also test the speed of the last mile of your Internet connection and compare it to other countries. Here is my result. Not too shabby compared to Canada, Germany, and Iceland. Whoa...what's up with Japan?

Here's my vision...
I am a teacher. If every child had high speed access, I would disregard the textbooks. Children would learn and work collaboratively on real problems posed by other children. They would speak directly to experts, work with primary sources of information, create new content for others to learn, and navigate the read, write web with intelligence, finesse, and responsibility. Their parents and extended family would participate in their learning no matter where they live. They would learn diversity by communicating with children across socioeconomic and physical boundaries. They would start to solve the world's problems with dialogue across these boundaries, as well. They would debate, argue, agree, and disagree passionately with support from an endless supply of sources. They would learn how to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable sources. They would use this power to create new ways to communicate and change the world.

You are my hero, Bernie Dodge

One of my third grade colleagues creates the most interesting, exciting learning environments for her students with great colors and clever motivating ideas. I'm jealous! Bulletin boards have never been my strength. In fact, I've just had to resign myself to pre-made posters and colorful kites. But, I must thank my friend, Anna, for her input on this one. We were brainstorming Web 2.0 bulletin board ideas and this web emerged. Yes, I know it is not very colorful. But, I like how the words just POP out.

By posting the words on this board, I force myself to apply these technologies in my classroom in the coming year. My students have been blogging for the last two years and Google is an everyday tool. However, in the coming year I hope to expand the student blogs and have the class explore some kid-friendly alternatives to the Google search engine. As I consider podcasts, wikis, and Scratch, I realize that I have a lot of creative thinking to do, not to mention coming up with an effective way to teach all these tools without side tracking the curriculum too much.

At just about the moment when my head was about to explode from all this thinking, an old friend surfaced on the KidCast Podcast. (No, I'm not really a personal friend of Bernie Dodge, Father of the WebQuest. But, the first time I tried to use QuestGarden, I sent him an email and he responded personally. I found that very cool. He was in the Peace Corp, too. Also very cool.)

HEY!!! Why am I hurting my head struggling with how to spoon feed my students when they could be feeding themselves? That's it! I'm going to make a WebQuest to introduce these tools and let the children teach themselves and each other. Once they're all comfortable with the tools, they can decide how we should use them creatively and educationally in the classroom. They ALWAYS come up with better ideas than me. I'll post the link when it's finished. THANKS BERNIE!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Strengths 2.0

Doug Johnson of Blue Skunk Blog recently posted about Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. This book is targeted toward business readers. But, as Doug points out, it really applies to anyone who is a creator of ideas. I thought it might help me figure out how to get my teaching to "stick".
I often read business books that I think will help me in the classroom. In addition to Made to Stick, I recently read Strengths Finder 2.0. The book includes access to an online test to identify your top five strengths out of a list of 34 themes and ideas for action. I wasn't too blown away by my top five, but I did find them interesting from a professional perspective.

Learner, Achiever, Futuristic, Ideation, Intellection.

My guess is that many teachers have the "learner" strength. We love to learn and teaching gives us the chance to be a lifelong learners. Futuristic certainly explains the interest in technology. I love ideas, but don't always follow through. For that, I need to buddy up with an "activator". Intellection doesn't necessarily mean I have a great intellect. It just means I like to think. (Hmmmm, I'll have to think about that.)

What does this mean for the classroom? To me, it's just another tool (like MI or learning styles) that highlights human diversity. If I'm senstive to my students' strengths I can better help them appreciate the strengths of others. But, I also remind myself that my students' strengths are still under construction. They need opportunities to try them all.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Teach Web 2.0 Teacher Consortium

Anna (our lower school technologist) and I are building a Wisdom Community within our school. The idea is that a group of teacher volunteers will review social networking sites and tools, conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) and determine creative educational applications. We're planning to start with wikis. We've designed the Teach Web 2.0 Wiki to collect our thoughts and ideas. For now, wiki participation will be limited to members from the school. We hope to open it up to everyone once we have a little more content to share. We welcome discussion posts and email suggestions. We documented the ID process used to create the consortium as part of an Instructional Design course that we are taking at the University of Florida.

An Instructional Design Model for Building Wisdom Communities

WisCom – Instructional Design Model for Virtual Wisdom Communities

Many teachers are unfamiliar with emerging social networking tools. Those who are aware have legitimate concerns about appropriate use in the classroom. Creating a K-12 Web 2.0 consortium of teachers who will research new social networking tools, evaluate their use, and brainstorm educational applications would provide a knowledge framework for those who want to learn more. The goal of this article review was to explore possible instructional design models that would maximize the learning potential of this community.

Most traditional instructional design models are adaptable to a wide variety of instructional situations. All seem to require some level of planning, design, development, and evaluation. Some variation of this process could be applied to create a learning community. But, might there be benefits to custom design methods created specifically for building effective virtual learning communities? This question prompted a search that initially spanned three topic areas: creating virtual learning communities, instructional design methodologies for learning communities, and social construction of knowledge as a pedagogical foundation for instructional design. A number of articles were reviewed that provided a deeper understanding of the pedagogical foundations in constructivist theory and computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). However, the literature was narrowed to focus on two articles, one that defined the educational design of different virtual learning communities, and another that outlined an instructional design model for building wisdom communities.

Categories of Virtual Learning Communities for Educational Design, by Rocci Luppicini identifies the following categories of virtual learning communities: knowledge building, inquiry, practice, culture, socialization, and counseling and development (Luppicini, 2003). While Luppicini does not define an expressed instructional design model per se, he does offer distinguishing characteristics of each type of learning community and necessary elements for successful implementation. These are certainly useful components of design.

Participants in virtual learning communities of knowledge building may initially work independently or in groups with the ultimate goal of contributing the collective information to all participants. Used primarily for formal learning, design elements include active moderators and opportunity for input from outside the community. Virtual learning communities of inquiry bring people together with a common purpose or goal. Everyone shares the responsibility for contributing content conducive to meeting that goal. Also a formal learning environment, members are encouraged to collaborate to meet the goal. Virtual learning communities of practice provide a means for practicing a role or learning a skill or profession. It can serve as an apprenticeship for those roles or professional practices. Designed for a structured, formal learning experience, the goal is to assimilate into the professional practice by collaborating with others while following the structured guidelines. Virtual communities of culture bring together people with similar histories or traditions to share values and customs in an informal learning setting. Virtual communities of socialization focus on participants with common interests who seek to communicate or socialize with other like-minded people. Virtual communities of counseling and development provide group support. Their purpose is to facilitate individual growth (Luppincin, 2003).

Our proposed K12 Web 2.0 Consortium overlaps the virtual communities of knowledge building and inquiry. Knowledge building “allows members to construct communal databases of information” (Luppincin, 2003, p. 411). One group goal is to research and archive information about Web 2.0 applications. Another group goal is to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats posed by various social networking tools and make decisions about their use in school. Inquiry communities apply the principals of problem-based learning. “Participants in problem-based learning work in groups to solve real problems that are often complex and require seeking out a variety of resources to generate possible solutions” (Luppincin, 2003, p. 412). The following design elements should be considered when creating the K12 Web 2.0 learning community: active moderation, focus on learning goals, relay importance of individual expression while emphasizing responsibility to contribute and collaborate, and opportunity for outsiders to participate (Luppincin, 2003).

Once the virtual learning community is defined, and design elements are considered, a formal instructional design process provides a framework for executing the project. New Model, New Strategies: Instructional design for building online wisdom communities by Charlotte N. Gunawardena, et al. defines learning innovation as the “purposeful creation, sharing, and preservation of meaningful, socially constructed ideas” (Gunawardena, et al., 2006, p. 221). It further asserts that “the practical benefits of knowledge innovation include the ability to get the right information to the right people, ensure that knowledge is not lost (even when community membership changes), and enable communities to more readily build on past successes and learn from challenges” (Gunawardena, et al., 2006, p. 221). Knowledge innovation unfolds in phases. Community participants create knowledge. That knowledge is then recorded and accessed by others. Knowledge is enabled once participants know how to use it.

Gunawardena, et al. identifies five steps in the instructional design process of building wisdom communities. The following is a summary of the WisCom process:
1. Learning Challenge – Participants view a case study, identify a problem, or expose and issue. Design should include open-ended, authentic performance tasks that benefit from sharing opinions. Skill level and prior knowledge must be considered. The communication model should promote creative, orderly discussion and input.
2. Initial Exploration – Individual ideas are shared with the goal of fostering a shared group identity over time. Expectations, ground rules, obligations, and communication avenues are defined and communicated. System for recording is established with provision for feedback cycle. Evaluation method is considered.
3. Resources - Individual perspectives are challenged and negotiated. Mentors with appropriate level of expertise are selected to help facilitate this process.
4. Reflection – Time is allotted for individual reflection and thinking. Some structure and guidance may be provided.
5. Preservation – Share content is recorded and preserved. Concept maps were provided as one useful tool for constructing and preserving knowledge.
(Gunawardena, et al., 2006)

Other instructional design methods may be applicable to components of the virtual learning community. However, the WisCom Model provides enough structure and guidance to initiate and support the development of our K12 Web 2.0 Consortium. The learning challenge for this wisdom community is to research new social networking tools, evaluate their use, and brainstorm educational applications. Each of these goals also represents the open-ended tasks assigned to group members. A context and procedure for identifying and researching social networking tools will serve as the initial exploration. A wiki or collaborative blog could be used as a system for recording. Technology experts within and outside of the school will be selected as potential resources for the project. Once the initial review is complete, time will be allotted for reflection with a structured rubric for completing this process. The wiki can further serve as an archive for the preservation of project outcomes and recommendations from the consortium. It will be interesting to apply the model to this and other projects to determine its applicability to different types of virtual learning communities.


Gunawardena, Charlotte; Ortegano-Layne, Ludmila; Carabajal, Kayleigh; Frechette, Casey; Lindemann, Ken; Jennings, Barbara. (2006) New Model, New Strategies: Instructional design for building online wisdom communities, Distance Education. 27:2, 217-232.

Luppicini, Rocci. (2003) Categories of Virtual Learning Communities for Educational Design, The Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 4:4, 409-416.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

You say you want a revolution...

This is not my first blog attempt. I find that I do much better blogging about topics that can be covered in a few sentences. I'm a high level writer. My knitting blog is easy because I just post pics of projects and brief comments about them. Professional blogs have been associated with specific projects like my students' collaborative blog with preservice teachers from the University of Florida. I ran out of content for my geocaching blog when I ran out of time to geocache. It takes time to maintain a blog. So, why start again with Teach Web 2.0?

Recently, a number of events have converged to light a fire under my keyboard.
  • I just completed an Ed.S in Ed Tech from UF. I tend to get reflective upon completing a major goal (maybe because I actually have a minute to think). I've been contemplating what is really important to me personally and professionally.
  • I learned about and became very interested in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. I realized that children in third world countries will be using Web 2.0 tools to learn. Yet, even the most technologically progressive schools in America remain chained to textbooks and industrial age methods of instruction.
  • After reconnecting with some old corporate friends, I remembered my day-to-day activities...web conferencing, teleconferencing, instant messaging, emailing, collaborating in online workrooms (think wiki). My 13-year old does all of these home... and virtually none of them at school. Is that a good thing? Just about the time I was thinking this, I read Alan November's "Banning Student Containers". Not every social networking tool is appropriate for school. But, many of them could be. Ten years ago my students were creating web pages. Why haven't things changed more quickly?
  • I started an instructional design course toward my Ph.D and recruited a colleague to join me. Two heads are definitely better than one when it comes to strategies for change.
I hope to use this blog for three primary purposes:
  1. Share ideas for teaching for the future.
  2. Share brainstorms and Web 2.0 projects that I'm doing with my own students.
  3. Post papers and assignments related to ed tech.
Here goes...