Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where to share?

I have a lot of student work that I'd like to share. 
Of course, I want to share it with parents. 
I'd also like to share with interested people in the education community. I know that for me, one of the best ways the Internet has completely made teaching easier and more enjoyable is by giving me access to what other teachers and students are doing. When I see student work that I like, I am quick to think of ways to adapt it to my students and my school. 
While I want to share, I also really want and need to be efficient. Share smarter not harder.
I'm here to tell you that I have tried several strategies already including blogs, nings, wikis, a password-protected site called edline for which our school pays a yearly subscription fee...
I'm starting to feel like an online litterbug of sorts, putting my things all over and not keeping them neat and organized. That is one issue for me, being organized and having things make sense in terms of navigation and layout, as well as being visually appealing. The other issue I face is that no matter where I share their children's work, very few parents take the time to go look at it. I think that this is because technology is not yet fully integrated at our school; it is seen as an "extra." That is a topic for another post, though.

I decided to ask my PLN on twitter what they do.

Here is what they said:

It looks like everyone is finding different things that work for them. 
Here are some examples I like. 
Langwitches    I like how organized this site is. Everything in one place and easy on the eyes. Silvia has multiple blogs and places she shares, but they are all linked here to the main site. You could probably spend days reading this amazing blog and following links, and get yourself a thorough education in technology integration at the elementary level. 
Cliotech's wiki This wiki impresses me with the way it is organized. It also seems to be a really complete site with so much in one place.
A table of contents Here's an idea. Put all your stuff all over the place, but then catalogue it with links in a "Where's all your stuff?" place. 
Vicky's wiki Another excellent example. She really uses the wiki and linked blog to communicate to students and parents as well as to show what they're doing. It makes sense and is all in one place and easy to navigate. This is the idea I was trying to emulate when I started my school wiki this year.
All of these examples represent an amazing amount of work!

I have this blog, which I really want to keep as a professional space. Obviously it is public and any parents can easily find it, but its purpose is not to communicate to parents. I also started a blog (which I will not link to because I haven't kept up with it)to share lesson plans and projects with students/parents, as well as a wiki in progress(with the same intended audience- students and parents). I also post work on edline and share samples on various nings. I suppose it is part of my desire to focus that I want to have all of my work in one place or at least all linked to one place. Or maybe I should just let go and post things all over the web and let google take care of it for me.
Where do you share?

Monday, January 26, 2009

FETC Session: Digital Portfolios

Digital Portfolios
Kati Searcy

One of the concurrent sessions I attended at FETC was a session on Digital Portfolios. I'm not sure of the need to actually blog notes from the session, as any good presenter shares his or her session online. But, since I sometimes enjoy taking notes, I figured I'd share them here. Here are Kati's presentation slides as well as samples and additional resources on digital portfolios. 

Traditional Assessment:
•Recall or Recognize
•Meets need of teacher
•Multiple choice, fill in the blank, true/false, matching (forced choice)
•Summative, not formative
•Indirect Evidence
People in room asked to discuss what %age of assessments at their school are traditional assessments, answer is 60-80% or more. 
Authentic Assessment
•Measures ability using real-world challenges
•Students construct own responses rather than select
•Students choose task/student-structured
•Direct evidence
Selecting your portfolio medium: 
•paper-based vs. digital/online
lots of reasons given why it is better to move away from paper-based portfolios and move toward digital portfolios:
-minimal storage
-easy to create/back-up
-can be reproduced, shared
-long shelf life
-increases tech skills in a meaningful way

Disadvantages of digital
-access to equipment
tech skills with younger students
can be difficult for one teacher to orchestrate esp. w/younger students (process not usually as much an issue as tech troubleshooting)

Ultimately, we want the best of both, traditional and authentic. 

What is a portfolio?
A collection of student work over a period of time
purposefully selected by student
demonstrates how and what student has learned and how they feel about it
conveys a students abilities, experiences, achievements, etc.
A portfolio is a creative means of -
sharing artifacts
sharing information
sharing ideas about learning
setting goals

What can be in a digital portfolio? 
-scanned handwritten work
-Photo documentation of activities, field trips
-games/products students have created
-written reflections
-document science experiments (video, photos, etc) [here she showed an example of a science experiment her students did with potatoes, they took pictures and made a video w/animoto showing all the pictures of the experiement--very cute!]

wiki- set up teacher account, give student access 
Advantages of web-based:
-read-world audience
-continue documenting learning outside of school

Disadvantages of Web-based portfolios:
-maintaining student anonymity
-if you have inconsistent access to Internet at your school
she recommends Inspired Classroom (said to google it - I did, but couldn't figure out which of my google results had to do with web portfolios?)
My note: I don't see these as disadvantages. I am lucky to have consistent Internet access at school, and I think this is yet another way to teach students 21st century skills, how to represent themselves safely and appropriately online.

Types of portfolios:
Working portfolio - work in progress
Showcase portfolio -students favorite pieces
Evaluation portfolio -used to document progress, used for grading

Reflection Requires:
Instruction and modeling, 

What are the strengths of this work?
What are the weaknesses of this work?
What did you learn from this?
What could have made this better?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Getting (and Staying) Focused

It's a little late for New Year's Resolutions, but hey, better late than never! It's a new day!
This past Thursday/Friday I attended FETC. One of my tweets from the conference:
It's not just twitter either. I am in a very different place than I was a year ago. 
Last year when I attended FETC, I had just started this blog. I didn't know from a PLN. I was an island at my school, swimming against the tide, looking for ideas, figuring stuff out-- mostly by myself.  I was at a critical point where things were about to really change, but I was unaware of it.
In one year the changes have been phenomenal. Last year at FETC I had just started reading blogs. I had bookmarked a few and jumped around reading here and there. I had no idea about using an aggregator to read blogs. Now I subscribe to around 70 blogs in my google reader. I have a twitter network of around 400 educators. I have joined some 20 nings that have to do with education. I have connected with, collaborated with and been influenced by colleagues all over the planet. I've been inspired. I've pushed myself and my students in new directions as I've learned from others.

Now, one year later, I'm suffering from overload. Like a kid in a candy store I stuffed myself too full of all the goodies. It's time to go on a diet. I have become frenzied, my energy scattered. In order for my tree to grow and stay strong, I must prune back the branches. It is time to focus. 

I am a believer in the merits of  backwards planning, so I will start with my goals. What is it I really want to achieve?

1. I want to be the best teacher I can be. Ultimately, I want what I do to help me where it matters - in the classroom with my students.

2. I want to do justice to my job as an edtech leader at my school. I would like to develop my leadership skills so that I may help facilitate change.

3. I would like to be a better writer and make a difference, through blogging and other forms of sharing, for other teachers.

4. I want to continue learning, growing and being challenged in my career and my life.

What do I need to do in order to make these goals reality? What is my plan of action?
•Rededicate myself to blogging. I started by giving EdTech Workshop a new look. If you read in a reader, stop by the blog to see the new look. I need to become more succinct, too, and spend less time fussing over each post. There is something to be said for just getting the words out there. Which brings me to my next item.
•In the words of Miguel Guhlin, "Share more." This is hard for me and something I must push myself to improve.  I compare myself constantly -my writing, my students' work, the soundness of my ideas to those around me, and it holds me back. The process of sharing is part of the process of learning and improving. I need to trust that there is a place for me in this edublogopshere universe. Which brings me to my next item.
•Keep my ego in check. I've gotten a taste this year of the egos in the education world. It has been one of the less pleasant parts of my involvement in the blogosphere, but I have as much to learn from it as from anything else. I need to continually remind myself that it's never really about me.
•Let some things go. I am going to cut down my google reader. I know I don't have to read everything in it (and I don't). But seeing all those unread posts, it's overwhelming and sometimes guilt-inducing. It reminds me of all the things I'm not doing. If it's important, and it's going to benefit me in a useful way, I need to trust that it will find me. Between all the links on twitter and others' blogs, plus the shared items in my reader, I have plenty to keep me busy. 
Less IS more.
Along the same lines, I am going to let go of all the nings. I will keep the Elementary Tech Teachers ning, which has proven to be very useful for me, and I will make an effort to be more of a contributor there. I also recently joined a Tech4Learning ning, and I would like to actively engage there as well. 
I'm also letting go of the print magazines I receive, with the exception of The Creative Educator. Not only is it my favorite, but, like the new me, it is focused. It is in-line with my goals and does not cause me to scatter my energies wishing for equipment and software that my school doesn't have. (Note: The Creative Educator is available online, but I prefer to receive and read a printed copy).
I'm keeping twitter!!!!!!!! I love twitter. I don't know if I should get rid of my plurk account or just continue to not use it but keep the name edtechworkshop for myself to avoid possible confusion if someone else takes it. I have no interest right now in updating myself all over the place using ping, although I know some people swear by that. I just really like twitter. I will continue to grow my network there and follow new teachers.

That's my plan. I'll let you know how it goes. 

image credit: Keeney, Carolyn. candystore.jpg. October 25, 2003. Pics4Learning. 25 Jan 2009 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Another Example of Why We Don't Have to "Teach Tech"

I remember reading this post on Melanie Holtsman's blog called "Why am I Surprised?" about how her 5 year-old twins had playfully and independently discovered text-messaging each other with pictures. Digital Natives? 
It's obvious that children approach technology with no fear and a spirit of exploration while some adults are still having trouble getting into the head-space required to really have fun with it.
So here's my example. While I am not surprised, I am pleased and impressed with both the process and the product. I'm going to share one of the little movies my 8 year-old daughter has created while playing on WebKinz. In case you have been living under a rock for a while WebKinz is a virtual world for kids. You must buy a little, stuffed animal in the real world in order to get a code that allows you to adopt the pet in the WebKinz world. Both my kids love WebKinz. They earn money, buy and sell stuff, cook, feed their pets, search for gems, spin the Wheel of Wow, play games, decorate rooms, even watch virtual television. It is extremely safe, creative, engaging, and in my own humble opinion (disagreed with by some), educational. 
One recent morning my daughter was especially engaged in something in the WebKinz World. She didn't want to stop to eat breakfast. When I went to see what she was doing, I thought I'd find her playing a game, but she showed me that she was making a movie. Turns out she bought a movie camera (for 1000 Kinzcash) and, all on her own, with no instruction or previous movie-making experience, was creating digital stories. 

I know, I know....I'm the mom! But, I am pretty impressed with how she came up with the story so quickly and used the different faces of the characters to show the emotions as the story progressed. 

P.S. I used Jing to capture the movie.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seven Things About Me

Thanks, Angela, for tagging me for the "7 Things You May Not Know about Me" meme. I've really enjoyed reading these on everyone's blogs, and it is a good assignment for me to get me back on the blogging bandwagon. Apparently I need a meme a day in order to have something to say.

Here are 7 things you may not know about me- 
1. After I graduated college I rode my bike from Boulder, Colorado to Guatemala. I didn't actually ride the whole way...there were some planes, trains and automobiles involved  (even a boat) but always with the bike, and I did ride much of the way. Someday I may even publish my journal from this trip (don't hold your breath). It is comical and maybe a bit perceptive in its metaphor of life as a bicycle ride. 

2. I was co-editor in chief of my high school newspaper, The Nova Vue. I wrote scathing editorials about such important issues as homework and graduation requirements. Truthfully, I don't remember what I wrote about, just that I was passionately opinionated. Some might say I still am, although I am much more tempered these days. Looking back, I was so immature I probably didn't deserve to be given the job of editor-in-chief, but my teacher, Mr. Moore, put up with me and showed faith in my potential. I never thanked him. Thanks, Mr. Moore. You were a great teacher!

3. I went to college at the University of Michigan. It was a great school, but that was not my main motivation for choosing it. Very important to me, having grown up in South Florida, was to live where it would snow. The morning after the first snowfall of my freshman year I was up early, so excited, trying to wake up everyone in the dorm. I thought we would build a snowman, have a snowball fight, go sledding. My fellow freshmen, who were all from the North, were not amused nor did they have any intention of leaving their warm beds to play in the snow. After 4 years of ice-cold winters I had enough experience with snow and moved to California then, later, to Florida. Now my children feel deprived of winter fun just like I did.

4. I've always worked multiple jobs at the same time and switched jobs frequently. I could never imagine working a "normal" job or staying in one job for a long time. If I go back to my current job next school year (which I hope to do) it will be my 4th year at the same school, the longest I've ever stayed at one teaching job. 

5. While living and teaching in San Francisco, I worked a night job for 10 years as a cocktail waitress at the Warfield and the Fillmore, both legendary music venues. That is where I met my husband. 
The Fillmore -isn't it beautiful?

6. I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for over 20 years. I am not a "real" vegetarian because a few years ago I started eating the occasional piece of fish, mostly salmon. I stopped eating meat after reading this book for a class in college. I try not to be too picky and just go with the flow about food when traveling, eating at friends' homes, etc. 

7. In my true nature I am a night owl. I could sleep late every day if I had my way. I try to make myself go to sleep at a decent hour so that I'm not tired in the morning.

I have read a variation of this post on so many blogs that I don't know who is left to tag. If you have not yet done a "7 things meme" post, you are officially tagged.

Friday, January 16, 2009

One Year and Several Days Later

Time and attention- 
The not-so-secret ingredients that, when showered upon something, cause that thing to flourish.
I started EdTech Workshop on January 3rd, 2008. This is my one-year blog anniversary post. The fact that it is two weeks overdue and my last post before this one is over a month old (and  a meme to boot), well, what does it mean?
Like so often happens in life, I started down the path not knowing where it would lead. I did not know how much I did not know. I had a feeling that it was time for me to start a blog. And so I began. I knew that no one was reading, so I wasn't shy or self conscious. 
Here it is, a year (more or less) later, and I am in such a different place. I have become part of an amazing network of educators I didn't know existed. I feel a connection to my fellow edubloggers. I have more to share than ever before, but for some reason I am having a hard time putting down the words. 
I want my blog to flourish, to be a place of growth, sharing, meeting of the minds, revelations and reflections.  I need to dedicate the time and attention back to blogging. 

To my wonderful readers- I feel like I know you and consider you colleagues and friends. I can't thank you enough for joining me on this path. 
I recently realized and wrote the following:
I always felt set apart from most of the teachers around me by virtue of my ideas and opinions about learning and schooling. Now, with technology to connect me to other educators who share my values, I no longer feel set apart, rather I feel a part of a growing movement of educators using amazing tools and strategies to reach learners and infuse life and excitement into schools.