A Week in the Life

October 30, 2010 at 8:05 am | Posted in 21st Century, Collaboration, Digital Citizenship, Global Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Shift, Web2.0 | 2 Comments
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This post was first contributed to a collaborative blog for the pilot elementary Flat Classroom Project, A Week in the Life at http://elementaryflatclassroom.wordpress.com/

The first official week is finished and I’m beginning to feel that I can manage this project, and I am still excited about the possibilities and opportunities that are ahead. Granted, I have told myself that this is a pilot and I’m in my first year at my new school and I will do the best I can. But that’s not an excuse; it allows me stay focused on the project’s purpose, the present and not evaluate myself daily against the “big picture” or enormous possibilities in my mind. Reflection occurs, not judgment.

This week we established student user accounts and began writing and reading to share about ourselves and begin conversing with other students. Students learned how to use Edmodo, comment thoughtfully and many students began using proper punctuation and attempted correct spelling more than in daily classroom writing.

I also introduced the project and what they would be doing in groups with students around the world. I think some students grasped the idea, but most will have to understand what the project is about as we go along. (My students are 8 and 9 years old.) We also have a collaboration going with classes in Japan and Canada, and because it’s a year-long project we will also collaborate with them over the next 7 weeks to maintain and nurture that friendship. It is one more challenge for my students though, to sort out who we are working with and when- but I believe they will be able to manage that. I’m planning to set up bulletin boards for each collaboration this weekend to hopefully provide visual anchors.

This coming week I plan to introduce the students to the wiki, have them gain individual access to the wiki and establish the groups with discussion of each group’s focus. I decided to provide a group notebook for each group with essential questions, project timeline and empty pages for notes and diagrams during group work discussions. I realize this is low-tech, but I think it’s a scaffold that will allow them to focus on the group task and communication more. It may also provide a tangible bridge to a digital collaboration. Baby steps.

In reflecting on our first week, I’ve observed students eager to connect with other students in Edmodo by reading and commenting. In group reading, we had great discussions about similarities and differences between the book characters, settings and events and our lives. As mentioned above, I saw students beginning to attend more to the mechanics and message of their writing in comments. We also discussed and practiced digital citizenship.

One of the biggest benefits during these first weeks is connecting with other teachers in the project by sharing ideas and answering each other’s questions. I loved the GoogleEarth tour created by and shared from a teacher in India. It travels to all the schools in the project and being able to use it has saved me time creating my own.

I remain enthused about participating in this project and awed with the implications of what we are trying and all we can learn from this. If I can remain focused on the core and purpose of the project and stay patient with my skill-level and learning my students and I will benefit immensely!


My First Flat Classroom Conference Experience

February 28, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Collaboration, Conference, Presentations, Shift, Web2.0 | Leave a comment

From my table by my apartment window in Madrid I virtually participated in a conference this week that was held in Mumbai where I met and interacted with educators and students attending there as well as other virtual participants. I am not new to global collaborations and communicating with other classes via video conference but this experience transcended those with the depth and quality of the experience. The Flat Classroom Conference (part of Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis’s Flat Classroom Project) is not just students and educators from around the world gathering virtually and physically to collaborate and share. It transcends that wonderful experience with the depth and importance of the tasks at hand. This year’s theme was Opening Up Education “… a chance to explore what is happening in education globally and for participants to debate/create new solutions based on exposure and interaction with other ideas, particularly influenced by the circumstances in India.”  

I felt fortunate to be working with Team6. I missed their work on the first day  due to my actual work schedule but on the second day I jumped in and they shared their pitch slideshow which they were completing and asked for feedback. I was so impressed with their “first draft” in terms of the quality of the idea, how they presented it, the comprehensive coverage of their idea in the presentation and that four students who had met 24 hours before for the first time could collaborate so well. Beatrice, JeongMin, Will and Arjun shared how they were also surprised with how well they worked together- they thought it was “destiny.” They also asked me to contribute by recording a description of the manifestation of their project in the world as a very short story. I was surprised and pleased with this invitation and later, when watching their presentation live in Mumbai via uStream, I felt firsthand the excitement of this project when I heard my recording (that I recorded and sent 3 hours earlier) in a presentation given in Mumbai.

During those few hours working with this group I learned some new technical skills related to collaborating in real time with someone far away, but more importantly how exciting it can be to work with engaged, intelligent, altruistic young people. (As an elementary educator I know how rewarding working with younger children is but haven’t worked this closely with teens before.) We collaborated through Skype chat and file transfer, Etherpad for the working script document, and email. Their project was chosen as one of the top three requiring them to create a video presentation of their idea the next day.

This was truly one of those experiences that engages and challenges a person and left me feeling excited, connected, and inspired. Also, immediately after the closing of the conference I was left with the questions, how can I infuse the spirit and purpose of this conference at the elementary level? How can this transfer to ongoing learning experiences in an elementary classroom? I will first pose these questions to Will, Beatrice, JeongMin and Arjun 🙂

Lastly, at one point in the conference Julie stated, “I’m tired of talk about change” and went on to say that the Flat Classroom Conference is creating and exploring change. I couldn’t agree more.

The world at our feet

August 4, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Collaboration, culture, Web2.0 | Leave a comment
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Retiro Park friendOn my first Retiro run after my US vacation (mostly walking today ☺) I was thinking of the richness of my friendships worldwide, due mainly to the creation of the internet and the worldwideweb. While a first grade teacher in the mid-90s I started looking for a class to collaborate with in the SE United States- so we could compare geography, climate and lifestyles, maybe learn some Spanish and increase motivation for learning literacy skills.  We found 2 classes to partner with via email messages and the teachers of these classes became two new colleagues of mine. While it lacked the depth of the collaborations I have now, the communication and friendship created stirred things up in my classroom and motivated my reluctant writers and readers to take more risks.  Even though we were living in rural New Hampshire, we weren’t limited to our physical environment.

The next year I went to LA to visit relatives and took a side trip up the coast to visit the classes we were still collaborating with, bringing a scrapbook from our class to give each class. During my visit, I took many pictures and video of our partner classes, as well as books they had created for us, back to my class. This face to face meeting added another level to our friendship and collaboration. Reflecting on this created a feeling of how rich my life and professional experiences are. In opposition to what many non-2.0-connected people believe, communication online and belonging to PLNs does not mean one is indoors in front of a computer all day. It is the relationships that are online-based, geographically-based and those that are both that make my life so rich and offer limitless possibilities.

So then I come back from my walk, make a tuna sandwich and sit down to check email and Twitter. I see this post,
twitter post

Click here to view video

Here is a video where Clay Shirky is talking about the transformation of the media landscape, but it is perfectly aligned to how the read/write/collaborative web, even just email, has transformed my life as well as the world.

Thirty years ago I had friends who I had met personally and kept in touch with via postal mail, wall-connected telephone and face-to-face. Now my friends are made up of those I have never met in person, online friends who I have met face-to-face, and those who I know face-to-face but communicate with via email and social networks. The friends who I know personally but can’t see everyday don’t fade away because we are connected via email and facebook. In Twitter, many people who I “follow” I don’t communicate with directly, but benefit from ideas and resources they share. In the last year, I have connected face-to-face with more than a dozen online friends and this created a greater depth to our friendship and it’s so easy now to find people to collaborate with on any idea anywhere in the world.What I want to say, after meandering a bit, is that when I reflect on the many friends I have around the world, while still deeply connected to my friends in the US and Spain, I appreciate the richness of life that is available to me and anyone who seeks it.

Starting the summer working out

June 28, 2009 at 8:39 am | Posted in Conference, Links, Web2.0 | 1 Comment
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It’s not officially summer vacation for me as I work until July 1, then fly to the US for time with family and friends. But summer work hours are 9-2 so I have more after-hours time for summer projects. I’ve started by working out with longer walk/runs and in-between pilates classes work. I’m also working the 7 Habits through text and audio of Covey’s book. But yesterday I virtually followed #ebc09, #necc09 and attended Vicki Davis’s Web2.0 Smackdown session (#w2smack). It was fairly insane and challenging to listen, follow the chat and links, and record links on a word doc- so many windows open at once, a sometimes sluggish PC (my Mac needs a US AppleDoctor) and my ADSL on Spanish siesta mode. It was great to say hello via chat to friends and see my fabulous friend Chris present a few audio tools.

Then I found a blog post by Kris Hagel with the post title, “Following Conferences Virtually Is Like Drinking From a Firehose” I had to laugh- so true. So in Kris’s spirit of sharing, here are the links I compiled from yesterday’s Smackdown session. Thank you Vicki and everyone on the chat who posted the links for us!



http://similar-images.googlelabs.com/ visual lit type activities







Besides Woot.com, there’s 1saleaday.com and dodtracker.com




(Chris Chater’s Audio tools blog http://ecis07.blogspot.com/search/label/Free%20Audio%20Tools)

http://tineye.com/ reverse image search



Kevin Honeycutt’s Web 2.0 smackdown video re his Web 2.0 keychain and album. http://bit.ly/3px1Ql


keychain idea: http://www.twitpic.com/4ornv


smackdown wiki  http://www.edubloggercon.com/Web+2+Smackdown+2009

So excited to be able to actually attend BLC09 and edubloggercon east in 4 weeks! that will be even more fast and furious!

Learning Through the 80 Schools Collaboration

May 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Global Collaboration, Literacy, Podcasts, Resources, Web2.0 | 1 Comment
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I’ve collaborated with other schools recently as a tech-facilitator and before now for over 15 or more years as an elementary classroom teacher through email, wikis, blogs, Voicethread and Skype. However, Silvia Tolisano’s Around the World with 80 Schools collaboration I’m participating in now is different in that a template for participation and participant network was already established when I began. Also important is it’s ideal for the teachers I work with who are new to global/online collaboration because the community and template were established and the time commitment allows for easy integration into the established classroom environment. The framework is flexible enough to allow many conversations or a few a year and classroom-based participation or school-wide as we are doing. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to expand my PLN through the contacts I am making while setting up conversations for classrooms. Most of all, the students are excited, engaged and they raise questions for further learning that wouldn’t have occurred to me.


So, why participate? Why make the minimal effort to have a short conversation with students in a class on another continent? For me, the answer is that the students and I feel lifted up, engaged, and want to know more about what our new friends know and think about our world. The social interaction and connection is stimulating. But not all educators are on the same path- what is passionately clear to me is not for everyone, so I feel the responsibility to ask Why? to be able to effectively express my point of view to those who aren’t “in the choir.”

I can start by again sharing the ISTE NETs standards, but these are a bit broad for a starting point.

I wanted to refer to conversations and research so I started with Silvia’s post where she shares the project and links to other related posts she’s written.

I then decided to re-listen to SOS Podcast 2: How does making connections affect learning? With David Carpenter, Jeff Utecht, and guests Justin Medved and Julie Lindsay. Here are a few of the thoughts I came away with:
-Students know how to use tech for entertainment and communication but not as well to communicate and collaborate for learning.
-How well do we value and allow process, sharing and reflection of learning?
-Collaborations create an authentic audience that engages kids in the learning process
-Students can learn how to collaborate globally (as they will no doubt be doing in their future) by doing it.
-Start with the end in mind and if we believe in these 21st Century outcomes we need to redesign what we are doing with our curriculum.

I also found a Wes Fryer post from 2 years ago(!)
Wes shared quotes from Google CEO Eric Schmidt when asked in a WIRED interview, “Google’s revenue and employee head count have tripled in the last two years. How do you keep from becoming too bureaucratic or too chaotic?
His response:  It’s a constant problem. We analyze this every day, and our conclusion is that the best model remains small teams running as fast as they can and tolerating a certain lack of cohesion. The attempt to provide order drives out the creativity. And so it’s a balance.
To this Wes reflected, “The lesson here is that the business world does not merely want to hire listeners and fact regurgitators, but rather thinkers who can collaborate, “run fast” and create innovative ideas which reflect both higher level thinking as well as creativity.”

The SOS podcast was recorded a little over a year ago and Wes’s post was written 2 years ago. While progress is being made and I am inspired every day from contact with those in my PLC, I am also impatient because it seems we’re still just discussing these issues and stalled in this regard in most schools.

As a classroom teacher I would use 80 Schools from the first week of school. First begin to explore the talents and interests of each person in the room but also introduce the classrooms we have access to and the possibilities of interaction with the individuals in those rooms. An 80 Schools Ning and Twitter group would be a great way to share what classes are studying and experiencing that would be beneficial topics for other classrooms. I can see it as a living, thriving collaboration for the entire year.

Finally, just as I have a PLNetwork or PLCommunity, students in a classroom should be growing their own as well- the network within and outside the classroom walls. We need CLNs- Classroom Learning Networks and our 80 Schools collaboration is the first example of a CLN that I have participated in.

Why I love podcasts and podcasting

April 22, 2009 at 10:14 am | Posted in Collaboration, Links, Podcasting, Podcasts, Professional Development, Resources, Web2.0 | 2 Comments
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I’ve just returned from a stimulating walk/run to and around Retiro Park. It’s a beautiful spring day, paths not too crowded and as I took in some physical exercise I was working my mind as well listening to podcasts on my iPod. I love this and have been doing it for years, on the way to school, around the track at Dover High School, on the gym treadmill, along the beach and now around Retiro Park. It’s a great combination- simultaneous mind and body exercise.podcasting

But I didn’t start with the exercise. I started with a Podcasting workshop three years ago using Audacity. It was easy to do and fun and I was psyched to use it immediately in my grade 3 classroom. So I searched online for examples of podcasting in other classrooms for inspirational ideas. I found Bob Sprankle’s Room208 podcast– one of the best uses of podcasting I’ve ever found. Bob also kept a blog sharing how he podcasts and other related educational insights. Around that time he also started the Seedlings podcasts with Cheryl Oakes and Alice Barr, two other Maine educators. I recommend going into the archives and listen to all the Bit by Bit and Seedlings podcasts.

Anyway, while walking today I was listening to the WholeChildEducation.org podcasts. I’ll have to save many of the brilliant ideas I heard for other posts, but the main points that stood out today are:

•    “Learning is the constant, time is the variable”- in other words we need to focus on best practices for student learning, not on schedules. We also need to move to authentic, integrated learning.

•    Education, schools and caring for our children can best be improved by engaging the community- parents, businesses, teens, and citizens. Everyone needs to get on board. (I also heard this point emphasized by Ewan McIntosh at a workshop in London recently.)

I found the WholeChild podcasts from @Keytech on Twitter who posted this, “EBOOK Engaging the Whole Child: Reflections on Best Practices in Learning, Teaching, and Leadership FREE at http://blog.genyes.com/

But back to podcasts and personal learning. Professionally, I was a lurker for a long time, listening and soaking up ideas and experiences. When I gradually began engaging with others by commenting on blogs and contributing through this blog and on Twitter last summer I moved from a listener/reader to an engaged member of my personal learning network.

As a teacher, after that first workshop I immediately began a podcast with my students. The best thing that came from using podcasting in the classroom was my reluctant writers began asking to stay in at recess to finish writing a story or article that they wanted to record and upload to our site. Writing and speaking became integrated regularly into all subjects and I was holding writing mini-lessons during content area activities.

As a listener, I subscribe to several podcasts so that when new recordings are uploaded, they are automatically downloaded to my iTunes library and then synced to my iPod.

There are many podcasts I listen to, but these are my top favorites:

Room208 Bob Sprankle’s class podcasts
Seedlings and Bit by Bit
SOS Podcast, OnDeck Podcast
K12 online Conf workshops (NECC for example- in fact, anytime a conference records and shares workshops/keynotes, it’s free PD)
EdTech Talk
November Learning
Ted Talks
Notes from Spain, A Year in Europe (both are currently not updating, but all worth a listen)
NPR: This American Life, This I Believe, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
iTunes Univ
Audio Books purchased and downloaded from iTunes Store (I recently listened to Bram Stoker’s Dracula during a winter trip around central Europe)

Please recommend/share your favorite podcasts!

Growing Digital Citizens

April 19, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Posted in 21st Century, Digital Citizenship, Global Collaboration, Internet Safety, Links, Literacy, Planning, Resources, Web2.0 | Leave a comment
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During the last two weeks of school I’ve led digital safety lessons for all classes K-5 in the lab. This was a follow up to lessons at the beginning of the year and last winter for the 5th grade when they started blogging. I was reminded of the need for ongoing digital safety and citizenship lessons and daily teachable moments while in a Digital Citizenship workshop led by John Mikton at the recent ECIS IT conference. This is certainly an area that needs planned lessons (ideally embedded into a relevant project)- not just for our students, but our colleagues and parents. There are several free, online resources for support materials, curriculum lessons, informational letters, and other valuable materials and ideas that can take out a good deal of the footwork when planning. My favorites are listed below, but I also use delicious to bookmark sites, blog posts, and articles as I come across them- not to mention searching within delicious, edublogs or twitter.g5sample1

There are 3 groups to provide ongoing digital education- ourselves, our children and our parent community.

Ourselves: At a recent on-campus professional  development day, my savvy colleague Andrew held a workshop on privacy settings for Facebook. It was well attended and a perfect way to awaken awareness for protecting our digital footprint. I also believe that all educators need further training on the overall issues in this area, in order to seize those teachable moments in the classroom, and prepare for issues that may arise when exploring Web2.0 activities and tools with students.

Our children: The safety lesson for the kindergarten classes (age 6) centered around the CBBC Dongle Rabbit video was followed by a discussion of the messages in the video. With children this young, I focused on one main message: There are many interesting things and opportunities on the Internet, but always take an adult you trust when you explore cyberspace. I did have to take time to explain what “cyberspace” meant, but they very much enjoyed the video and discussion and afterwards drew a KidPix picture showing themselves and an adult viewing something on the web. This time around I’m looking to create some great captioned images from the students to enlarge for posters to display in the lab and around the building. I’m using a variety of topics for the grade levels, but found that the grade 4 students were as excited about creating a captioned image in KidPix as the kinderkids were. During these lessons I’m also mulling over possible lessons for the fall that will be more relevant and tied to their beginning year curriculum. Also, we don’t need to be in the lab or in front of a computer to explore these issues, for example we used role-play and skits during Mikton’s workshop.
With grade 5 we viewed and discussed this video. This was the third discussion in this area as we viewed and discussed this video when we began blogging last winter. I also recently participated in the Sounding Board with a group of about 20 students for the Net GenEd project. This was such a valuable hands-on experience for the students to learn about IT communication issues and how to present oneself online.


Parent community: Every school and organization can reach out more to their community and this is a way to raise parental awareness and build our school community as well. I attended some of these PTA evenings as a teacher and parent in the US and the meetings were usually led by a town Police-tech officer who presented horror stories followed by ways to lock down tech in your home. More effective and positive is holding evenings for parents that educate and inform parents of the wealth of opportunities that tech provides, while also sharing age-appropriate guidance and resources that allow safe use. I have seen evidence of this approach on Kim Cofino’s blog, Always Learning, describing the plan for their parent coffee mornings. When visiting a school’s blog I always look for ways the school reaches out to the community in this regard for positive ideas and approaches. Providing hands-on workshops for setting search parameters in Google or other search engines, etc will be appreciated by parents and a great way to build relationships within the parent community.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to have a school-wide plan for digital safety and citizenship. By this I mean an active curriculum of topics to introduce at certain grades and times of the year. Due to rapid growth in communication technology, this should be reviewed and revised at least once a year, or as needed. One great place to start is with the curriculum established by CyberSmart. Orientation for new staff, ongoing workshops or in-school newsletters and quarterly PTA meetings will be beneficial. Adopting a mascot figure for the school, such as the BBC’s Dongle rabbit, will also provide a focus for everyone and a common vocabulary that encourages awareness daily throughout the school.


Two of my grade 3 gardeners in New Hampshire

I suppose I’ve always viewed digital awareness as a separate, but related, subject. The more we see tech as something that provides tools and opportunities for many kinds of learners, the easier these topics will be to embed into a lesson or teachable moment. It’s like learning to garden and learning which tools are best for different tasks, how to care for the tools and use them safely, as well as the many other skills and concepts we need to grasp in order to sustain and enjoy an abundant garden.

CyberSmart free online K-12 curriculum
CBBC Dongle the Rabbit Be Smart video and rules
Netsmartz Videos and lessons for kids aged 6+
NetNanny Inexpensive, effective Internet Protection software
ISB Parent Technology Coffee Mornings
Beyond Digital Workshops from John Mikton- great resources

Who inspires you?

March 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm | Posted in Blogging, Conference, games, Games-based learning, Links, Podcasts, Presentations, Professional Development, Resources, Web2.0 | 4 Comments
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Blog WordleAfter Ewan McIntosh‘s keynote at the London ECIS IT conference I attended recently, I decided to attend all his workshops. His views on the use of technology make so much sense to me- we have these technological advancements in our world and why not harness their power to create better schools and communities? In my notes from one of his workshops I wrote a quote, “It’s not about technology, it’s about changing someone’s life a bit.” That really summed it up for me. It’s all about joining the conversation, contributing, engaging our students in meaningful learning experiences.

Here are a few inspiring examples from Ewan:

Most of what I’ve learned and applied regarding tech use in education are from these sources of inspiration:

Bit by Bit and Seedlings blog and podcasts:
After my first taste of digital audio recording and editing for publication, I found Bob Sprankle’s class blog and podcasts. I’ve been following Bob, Alice and Cheryl ever since.

Chris Chater– Elementary music teacher extraordinaire and very nice guy. We connected years ago and collaborate and have become friends over the years.

Kim Cofino, Siliva Tolisano and Julie Lindsay– Tech Educators who inspire me. I think they are super-human as they seem to have more hours in the day than the rest of us based on their capacity to share and organize collaborations.

Who inspires you?

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