Sunday, March 18, 2007

Maddie's Minute- A Learning Experience

In my wandering and wondering around the blogsphere I found Think:lab. The gents name who runs the blog is Christian Long, but I refer to him as the father of Beckett, with whom I have become quite fond. You see, Beckett is new to us here on this planet having just been born on September 6, 2006, and is finding his way around the world with the guidance of his parents. His father has dedicated himself to documenting his life and has provided a special way for us fathers to see what our relationship really means from another father’s perspective and alas, I believe we may see what it means to the children themselves. The blog “Beckett-to-be" apparently came from some frustration of paper and pencil.

Christian writes in his Think:lab profile:

“Beckett-to-Be” blog – We first learned that Karla was pregnant on New Years Eve day…and the daydreaming began immediately. After failing to keep several hand-written journals of my soon-to-be-father experience, I finally realized that a blog would not only offer a great way to keep track of the experience, but it’d eventually allow our child’s grandparents and family to keep up-to-date on his evolving life. Hence, the name of the blog: a testament to the fact that he’ll always be growing, exploring, changing, and ‘be’coming."

I, like Christian over a year ago, found out that I was to be a father (again) sometime in January- frankly the date escapes me- and while I was sitting on the couch watching the tube and keeping up on my RSS feeds, I came upon “Beckett-to-Be” blog. I giggled, smiled and even shed a little tear here and there as I read each passage and entry. Christian must be a pretty good guy and frankly, I think this man would be the type of character that I would like to have as a next door neighbor. We don’t have next door neighbors- in the United States sense- here in China, but if he lived nearby I think I would like to shoot the breeze over the proverbial back fence and let our kids play together.

When I discovered this blog, which I still read, I passed along a note to my wife. She had never blogged before and was a bit “anti-blog” as I spend a fair amount of screen time at work and she was wondering why I would do so at home so much. Nonetheless, I just dropped her a line with the url and a note that said, “this is really nice”. Next thing I know, my daughter Madeline (who is now 3 years old going on 35) now has “Maddie’s Minutes”. My wife Amanda was inspired and motivated and is now an avid blogger too! As I sit here typing this she is on the other couch doing her entries and working on her school work.

I have heard over and over that common sense would tell us that by making a work tool a life tool, we guarantee full implementation and useful application to the work environment. Just give the teachers computers to use at home and work and you will see increases in the classrooms. Show them how to apply their knowledge to their world and you will see them showing the very same (and probably more) applications to the educational environment.

Wanna see an example? should be your target. Leave her a comment and let’s see who else we can inspire and pass this powerful tool along to the children in our classrooms!

Thank you Christian for the inspiration and the efforts with your son Beckett! He is one cute kid! I hope that Amanda and I can be blessed with another healthy and intelligent child like we have with Maddie!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Don't be Stuck. Just Avoid the "School" rut!

Doug Johnson has a great way to ending a blog that often makes me thing and explore a bit more. His Sunday quote is a great one (see below). He then goes to make me explore Will Richardson's blog and his entry Stuck.

A Sunday quote for contemplation:

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Will Richardson on his Weblogg-ed entry Stuck writes: "This whole School 2.0 thing is the crux of it. There’s this niggling feeling in my brain somewhere that at the end of the day, I’m totally missing the point. That for the most part, we’re all missing the point." What's our "endless immensity of the sea," Will?

Will Goes on to write:

My learning and classroom learning look very different. I will never enter another physical classroom as a “student” again, and that’s by choice. That physical space just doesn’t cut it. And schools are all about physical space. And control. And content.

I am not sure I can be much help to Will. I will say that it is sure fun to engage people in this conversation and see where it all goes. Talk about rocking the world of a classroom teacher when they start interacting with some drawings and text surrounding School 2.0. But Will, maybe it is more than school. Really you are writing (I think) about your own learning! Isn’t really LEARNING 2.0? Get out of that "school" rut!

In fact, I think it may be LEARNING 2.0 beta! We discussed this at a meeting I as at last week with a bunch of technology folks trying to develop a conference framework. We came up with in a short period of time Learning 2.0 beta: Communications, Collaborations and Connections. A pretty good start if you ask me!

If we really are all about schools, teaching and learning then let’s concentrate on the Learning and not so much on the school and teaching part. Will, you’ve directed and taught yourself to learn without the “…physical space. And control. And content.” Isn’t this what we want to instill in (and teach) our students?

Will, I urge you. Don’t be stuck. Move this “Learning 2.0” forward and analyze not the school, but the results we all dream of achieving.

In closing, I go back to the importance of assessment in our schools and what assessment for LEARNING really means. My fall back position is that we really need to come to terms with what learning is, how to measure it and how to teach ourselves and our students how
to manage the learning processes. This is long term goal stuff… not just a one lesson plan topic for sure!

Rick Stiggins of ATI states:

"If we wish to maximize student achievement in the U.S., we must pay far greater attention to the improvement of classroom assessment. Both assessment of learning and assessment for learning are essential. But one is currently in place, and the other is not." (Stiggins, 2002),_Richard_J.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Some Things Just Seem Crazy at the Time!

This is a mirror post from

Pudong Nerve Central Logo“We”- that’s the royal “We”- do weekly podcasts at my school. I started doing them this year from our podcast central sound room (my office) moved to a larger space, as the crowd around the microphone was uncomfortable in my small office, we invited a couple of kids to participate, and poof…. All of a sudden all the adults were relegated to the back of the stage as the kids started creating our weekly podcasts with quality content.

This last Thursday, my creative and focused technology coordinator, Jeff Utecht, came to me and said that he did not have time to get to classrooms to assist the 5th grade kids in the organizational aspects of the podcasts this week. He then handed me his iPod and a voice recorder and to me to just record the podcast and just pass it off to him in the afternoon when we met for a meeting at a location in downtown Shanghai.

COMMON SENSE would tell you that I would organize my thoughts, write a few notes, and get my calendar out to “talk to my audience” about my views on the school operations, our calendar of events and a few tips or tricks about working with the school. All good, but just a retread of ideas we have done before. Instead, I got this crazy idea that I would just stroll around and talk to teachers and students as I did my usual “lap” around the school. The podcast turned out to be a very lengthy 13+ minutes and Jeff cut out a fair amount of stuff (sorry to the teachers and students who ended up on the cutting room floor), but the result was a light hearted, fun and I think repeatable audio trip around the school. Thanks to Jeff, who took the time to paste together the sound files with some fun background music, and thanks to the teachers and students who participated in – impromptu- this podcast! It was a crazy idea that just seemed to work.

Our podcast page is a pretty popular place these days. According to our clustr map we have had over 4100 hits on this page this year! Ok, probably 20 or more are just me, as I check it frequently, make sure all things are working ok, and the kids are using the page appropriately (with Mr. U’s guidance), but even if we subtract 3000 hits we are doing pretty darn well! A few things a that Jeff has done to make the page a fun place to visit beyond our podcasts are a free download of the week from music artists sharing their work on the web. Frequently we get note back from them thank us for sharing their songs. Our recent principal coffee has been podcast and we will do it again later this next month. Hopefully I can get our PTSA to start using this medium to share their information out to our community as well. All in all, it is easy, it is fun and I think it has help change the shape of what we are doing in our classrooms as well.

It seems that more than just our school community is listening in as well. David Warlick wrote about us on his blog "2 cents worth" yesterday! Some of you from Pudong may remember David from his recent evening presentation!

He wrote:

I think that we need to find new ways of assessing the success of our education endeavors, methods that are more relevant to a changing market place, changing customers, and a rapidly changing information landscape. I found a perfect example this morning when I ran across a podcast program from the Pudong Campus of the Shanghai American School. One of their tech people, Mr. Torris simply walked into grade 5 classrooms and started interviewing teachers and kids about what they were learning.

What’s different here is that rather than relying on numbers that describe learners as products, the community is almost literally invited into the classrooms to learn what and how their children are learning and what they are doing with it. This is what I would like to have known about my children’s schools. I’d like to have been part of it — not just an outside inspector.

Thanks David for the nod and the compliment of calling me a "tech person". What a compliment!!