Learning 2.0(.2) A Colorado Conversation

Session 1 — Shifting Literacies

asmith@lps.k12.co.us — Anne Smith

kleclaire@lps.k12.co.us–Kristin Claire

What changes have we made in our classrooms and why? Cultural changes. Permission to change, try new things, push the boundaries. Focus on BIG QUESTIONS –constructivist teaching methodology. Kids have power and control over their learning.

Less of us teaching and more of the kids learning. Empower the kids in the classroom. Learn SKILLS rather than just CONTENT. Critical thinkers, collaborators, problem solvers.

Staff development and (technology) is KEY to success. Collaborate, pedogogy behind the methods.

reading/writing/speaking/listening have to look different in a 21st century classroom. NCTE–new literacies.


Transparent learning environment–invite the world in. Blogs have varying levels of privacy. Blogs archive the kids’ work over their high school careers–show that for college applications, etc. Portfolio of work. Synchronous and asynchronous learning. Clock and walls don’t matter. Anytime, anywhere learning.

Blogging guidelines–what is good? What is bad? Have the kids generate the guidelines. They hold each other accountable. Fishbowl with live blogging (inner circle/outer circle). Kids who don’t normally speak up are empowered to “speak up” on a blog.

Cover it live–live blogging, check this out. Clear expectations, hold them accountable.

Blogging as a reflective piece–metacognition. Slow down and think about what you’re doing.

Scribe posting–students take notes for the class. Absent students can read, review. Kids lead that.

Podcasts–This I Believe–embeddable players.

Personal Learning Networks. Google reader, subscribe to newspapers & blogs. Kids read and respond on their own personal blogs. What mattered? How does it relate to me? How does it relate to this class? How does it relate to the world around us? AUTHENTiC. Present the PLN entries to class.

How is my classroom organized?

Personal philosophy statement. Write their own statement. Everything else goes through that “lens.” Give broad, philosophical questions, quotes to brainstorm. Respond to all literature, etc. through that lens.

Using wikis— Help them articulate their own interest and passion rather than giving the question to them.  Give examples and let them go. Welcome page must have their personal philosophy statement. Wikis can include multimedia (music, video, photo, links). It’s a living, breathing document. This portfolio of learning can include all of their classes and continue over the years.

Session 2–Powering Up the Writer’s Workshop

Mike Porter and Mary Vedra

Notes taken on PowerPoint–need more upload space.

Roundtable Discussion

Voicethread.com (comment on pictures, see K12OnlineConference 2008)

Creative Commons (copyright) Yahoo search, Flickr creative commons

e-magazines (openzine.com)

JING-le Bells & Whistles

Okay, so let me start by saying that I LOVE this cool (and FREE) tool called Jing. You can download it here. Did I mention that it’s free? Choose your OS, Mac or Windows. It’s super-easy to install. While you’re getting it set up, be sure to register for free accounts on Flickr.com and Screencast.com if you don’t already have them.

Let’s start with a simple “how to get started” training, shall we?

Here’s an incredibly cool way to enhance your Jing screencasts–allow viewers to add comments! This video shows you how.

Here’s a helpful blog with instructions to embed your Jing screencast into a blog entry.

And here’s a short screencast showing how to use the text tool on still images.

Time to play…..what can you Jing today?

National Board Certification

File under: Have I Lost My Mind? and What Makes Me Think I Can Pull This One Off?

So just to make sure I don’t run out of things to do this school year, today I applied for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I’m pursuing the English Language Arts certification for Adolescence/Young Adults.

I stumbled upon information about NBPTS in the summer of 2007, tagged it in my del.icio.us account and revisited the site last summer. I wondered why southern Colorado school districts were not listed as participating with any kind of incentives for teachers to become board certified. From what I learned on the website, it would be a tremendous professional development opportunity. But should I invest the time and effort if there would be no (financial) benefit in the end? Should I just go ahead and do it anyway because it would make me a better teacher and would be the smart thing to do? The idea got shelved for the time being. Then a couple of weeks ago, we received a flier at school about an information meeting at CSU-Pueblo. Another teacher and I decided to check it out. Apparently, state law has changed and effective 2009, National Board Certified teachers in Colorado will receive an annual stipend. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about the money. But at the same time, I don’t mind getting paid what I’m worth.

After the meeting, there was no doubt in my mind that I am going to pursue this program. The only question for me was “Is it the right time?” I have several responsibilities at school (as if teaching isn’t enough work) and with the exception of selling concessions for the Junior class to raise prom money, I wouldn’t give up any of them. Then there’s the whole idea of having a family and home to care for. That’s the part really matters, right? My daughter is a senior this year, and there are lots of things going on in her life right now. Mom isn’t doing well and needs more help. My sister has taken on the majority of those tasks because she does not work outside the home, and she lives closer. But in no way should all of Mom’s care fall in her lap.

My husband and I talked it over last night and decided that I should do this. So I spent the morning reading more information online. After a relatively simple application and a rather painful hit to my credit card, I received confirmation that my application has been accepted. The part that really worries me is this: at the meeting yesterday, we learned that only 49% of the teachers who pursue National Boards are successful in their first attempt. I think it’s a great thing that this is not just a “rubber stamp” addition to your resume. You don’t just jump through the hoops, pay the fees, and get the credentials. If you get this, you’ve earned it. You are not just another teacher.

Well, it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. That’s a good thing. I’m determined to be part of that 49%. Wish me luck.

1:1 Laptops–week 1

So we’re in full swing at school this week, and the laptops are everywhere. It’s really cool to have these tools in the students’ hands. We’ve had a few glitches, but from what I’ve seen, things are running pretty smoothly. We still need to add a couple more wireless access points to some areas of the building and an antenna to the roof so that the modular classrooms have access too.

What I find interesting is that when the kids walk in the classroom, the first thing they do is whip out their laptops. Yeah, we will use them a lot, no doubt. But it’s a TOOL. Not everything depends on that one tool. If only they were that ambitious about opening a book….an English teacher can dream, can’t she?

Stay tuned as we continue our adventures in 21st century learning.

Ready or not….

Another summer rapidly disappeared, and it’s time to get back in the classroom. Lately almost everyone I see who knows I’m a teacher asks the classic question, “Are you ready for school to start?” Well, yes and no. I’ve worked a lot over the summer to prepare materials in Moodle for my classes, but I have tons more to do. I’m ready–sort of. Of course, I can’t just stay in prep mode all the time.So, ready or not, here we come.

I’m really  excited (and a little bit nervous) about the huge technology initiative our district is implementing. It’s sooooo cool. High school students will each get a laptop. Teachers will have tablet PC’s, and all elementary and middle school classrooms have Promethean interactive boards. How cool is that?!

We’ve spent the summer training and preparing for the new year. I know there will be a huge learning curve for all involved, but what an awesome opportunity. We’re preparing our students to thrive in this century using the tools of this century. For the most part, I think a lot of schools do a great job or preparing kids to do quite well for the 1980’s. You have to admit, the 80’s did have some good points, but I really don’t want my children educated that way. I’m so glad I work where I do. I’m glad our school board and administration have a vision and the courage to follow it–to take risks and make this step. I think other districts may wish they were doing something like this, but I don’t see it happening just yet. BTW, before anyone (like anyone reads this blog anyway……) gets any wild ideas about our district having a lot of money and resources, let me clarify where we stand. Last I heard, our district is the third-lowest funded school district in Colorado, and Colorado is pretty low on education funding too. By no means do we have tremendous amounts of money to spend. This technology initiative has taken a lot of creativity and determination on the parts of many people in our district. It would have been very easy for us to join so many others in simply wishing we could do something like this—get technology tools in our students’ hands, train our staff, and so forth. We coiuld have become discouraged and left the idea sitting there on the table in the board room. But that didn’t happen. And we’re all the better for it.

So, everyone, ready or not, time to saddle up. Be confident and try some new things with your classes. Have some fun and trust yourself. Be willing to make some mistakes and learn from them. The question isn’t “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” It is “What’s the best thing that can happen?”

You Might Be a Teacher If…

  • You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line.
  • You get a secret thrill out of laminating something.
  • You walk into a store and hear the words “It’s Ms./Mr.___________” know you’ve been spotted.
  • You have 25 people who accidentally call you Mom/Dad at one time or another.
  • You can eat a multi-course meal in under 25 minutes.
  • You’ve trained yourself to go to the bathroom at two distinct times of the day: lunch and prep period.
  • You start saving other people’s trash because, most likely, you can use that toilet paper tube or plastic butter tub for something in the classroom.
  • You believe the teachers’ lounge should be equipped with a margarita machine.
  • You want to slap the next person who says, “Must be nice to work 7 to 3 and have summers off.”
  • You believe chocolate is a food group.
  • You can tell if it’s a full moon without ever looking outside.
  • You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, “You know, the kids sure are mellow today.”
  • You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.
  • You believe in aerial spraying of Ritalin.
  • You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
  • You spend more money on school stuff than you do on your children.
  • You can’t pass the school supply aisle without getting at least five items.
  • You ask your friends if the left hand turn he just made was a “good choice or a bad choice.”
  • You find true beauty in a can full of perfectly sharpened pencils.
  • You are secretly addicted to hand sanitizer.
  • You understand instantaneously why a child behaves a certain way after meeting his or her parents.

Online vs. traditional learning

Our school district is going to a one-to-one laptop initiative for all high school students next fall. I am lucky to be one of the trainers who will help train the rest of the staff about their new laptops and using Moodle, a popular course management system. We are in a Moodle training class this week, and another teacher was interested in my thoughts about online vs. traditional learning. I am one of the few who has much experience with online classes. I want to keep track of the thoughts I put on that discussion board, so I’m copying my rant here.

Some thoughts on online vs. traditional classrooms….
My online teaching experience has been with adult learners, but honestly, they aren’t all that different from high school students. They may be a bit more mature in some areas and have different issues to deal with, but I still see the same types of learners and trends in behavior that exist with 17-year-olds.

I don’t see classroom teachers becoming obsolete ever. Scratch that—some individual classroom teachers can make themselves obsolete if they continue to work the same old way all their careers. I think that concept would apply to most jobs. My husband has been a lineman for 30+ years. He doesn’t work on a power line or transformer or sub-station today the same way he did in 1980. If he insisted on doing so, he would not have a job.

Sorry–getting off track. Back to the originally scheduled topic of online vs. traditional classrooms….

It takes a LOT of discipline to be an online learner. We’re all seeing that this week, aren’t we? It takes time, handling distractions and interruptions, etc. I don’t think the general population has the discipline necessary to be completely online learners. Teaching is a very hands-on, relationship-building kind of career. I guess if you were the kind of teacher who just writes the assignment on the board and sits at the back of the room reading your newspaper and let the kids figure it out on their own, then you could easily be replaced with an online class and no one would notice you weren’t in the room any more. But do you really know anyone like that? Yeah, it makes for a funny movie, but that’s it.

Frustrations can run high with online courses, especially for those who are less tech-savvy or who have any kind of learning challenge. They give up, disappear, and the teacher may not have any other way to contact the student. If they don’t log in to the class, you can’t contact them. They’re just gone.

Now, online learning certainly has many benefits. One of the greatest that I see is that students can access the material as many times as they want/need to comprehend. They can slow down or speed up through material as best suits their learning needs. In a classroom, most of the time it all happens at one pace.

Students have more time to compose their thoughts when responding to a discussion posting. They tend to revise more, go back an tweak their message a little more, before posting or sending an e-mail. More students participate in online discussions than live conversations in a classroom. We all know the one or two kids who will always answer a question or participate in a discussion. But when you take away the pressure of speaking up in front of a group of peers and give them time to process their ideas, many more students will open up and write their thoughts/feelings/ideas/concerns in an online environment. I’ve watched my juniors do that for the last two years when we blog every week. I guess I would fall into that category too. I would never speak this much in a class.

Another benefit I’ve noticed with online learning is that students will go back and work on something more than once. Again, I see my juniors do that a lot with their blogs. They’ll post one thing, but then later that day or week, go back and add to it. They won’t ever do that with an assignment given to them on paper. They do it once (hopefully), turn it in, and forget about it. They also read each others blogs or discussion board comments, and they write to each other. These same people may never speak to each other in class. Or they may be in different hours and not have the opportunity to comment to each other were it not for the online tools. Online learning opens up HUGE opportunities to expand their learning beyond the classroom walls and time.

We’re very lucky. We’ll have the best of both worlds. We will continue to have face-to-face classes and relationships with our students, and we will have all the power and benefit of online learning tools to add to the experience. What an amazing future we have ahead of us.


Responsible and Ethical Online Practices for Educators


Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of what we can’t control–these are all valid concerns. Many people who do not understand or use social networking tools have fears about them. Some of those fears are well-founded. Yes, child predators have used MySpace to stalk victims. Yes, bad people have done bad things using these tools. Yes, we are obligated as parents, as educators, and as a society, to protect and monitor our most precious resource–our children.

MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking tools are not intrinsically bad. How some people may choose to use them can be bad. They are useful communication tools. Similary, cars are not bad, but some people choose to drive while intoxicated or in an unsafe manner. They use their cars in a harmful and irresponsible manner; however, the cars are not bad. They are useful transportation tools. Most people use their cars safely and in a responsible manner. Most people use their MySpace and Facebook accounts in a responsible manner as well.

These social networking sites are powerful communication tools that allow people to remain in contact with one another, regardless of time or location. Now when kids leave home and their friends to go to college or join the military, they don’t have to “leave behind” those relationships. They can remain in contact. They can share pictures and videos. They keep their relationships alive and thriving by using their social networks.

I feel a responsibility as a parent to have MySpace and Facebook accounts to keep tabs on my teenagers’ online activities and relationships. This excellent blog post by Vicki Davis gives great advice to parents for monitoring their children’s online behavior. The nature of communication allows for many ways to do so. We always pick the best and most efficient way to communicate. Young people (and a few of us older ones too!) are finding that Web 2.0 tools like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and others are often the best, most efficient ways to get our messages out, to keep in touch with others, to build our personal networks.

As an educator, my accounts have become avenues for former students to re-connect with me. Sometimes current students use MySpace to contact me with a question or to turn in an assignment if they were absent from class.

As educators, we are in a “position of trust.” We have a strong influence on the young people entrusted to us. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. Because of that position, we are held under scrutiny, examined by the communities we serve. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Part of choosing this profession is choosing to live under that public microscope. It just goes with the territory. Do I want parents of my students to look at my website? Of course I do! It’s just another place for them to be involved in their children’s education, to get in touch with me. Do I have anything to hide on my website or MySpace site? Nope.

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GIFT= Girls In Fun Technology

Wow–I can’t believe this is really happening or how quickly it is taking off. I have neglected my blog here while attending to class blogs and getting this GIFT program off the ground.

About a year ago, my daughter was bemoaning the fact that she was the only girl in the video class at our high school. I posted a couple of blog articles here about it and got some feedback from girls in one of Ray Davis‘ classes (thanks, Ray). Their answers about why they don’t get involved in technology classes at school was informative. I also tossed the idea out to the WOW2 blog and got a little bite there too. We talked about how cool it would be to have a club or a class for girls to introduce them to different areas of technology and let them build some confidence, explore some new things.

And that’s about as far as the idea got. Just a few discussions, and then it was shelved and forgotten.

About a month ago, a science teacher and I met with some people from GCC, the new cement plant in our area. They want to find ways to connect with the schools and collaborate to bring math and science classes some great hands-on opportunities. Toward the end of that meeting, one of the engineers, Gina, said something about wanting to find a way to get more girls interested in engineering fields.

“Oh yeah,” says I. “We had this idea about a year ago for a program called GIFT–Girls In Fun Technology. And we wanted to start a club or something for girls to get involved in….” Well, all the GCC people were out of their chairs, and for a minute, I thought Gina might kiss me. (just kidding…) They were so excited about the idea, and they have really helped drive this program into existence.

So here we are, a few weeks later, and it’s actually going to happen. Everyone we have talked to about this is totally excited and supportive. I can’t get over the enthusiasm. We have our kick-off scheduled for Oct. 19, and we are having all of the girls from our high school plus the 8th grade girls from the middle school there. We have been making contacts (each person I call has about 6 more people that I should call….this thing is snowballing…amazing!) and getting people from all over to commit to working with our girls. The overall plan is to meet one afternoon a week and have our partners/sponsors come and present information about all kinds of opportunities for the girls. They can get a chance to try out all different activities from technology, math, science, and engineering disciplines. That will run Oct. – Feb. Then for March, April, and the beginning of May, the girls will choose a particular field to explore more in depth. This will be more of a mentor situation, with the girls working on real-world, hands-on projects. Then we’ll have a huge celebration at the end of the year for the girls, parents, partners, and community.

It seems so simple, but, honestly, I alternate between excitement and panic about getting this up and running.

Last night, I was speaking with a friend who is an engineering professor at CSU-Pueblo, and he made the remark that many people would probably wonder why an English teacher is doing this. I told him that it was simple: I don’t want these girls growing up like I did, convincing themselves that they “can’t do” math and science.

No one ever came out and told me that I was bad at math or science or gave me any reason to think I was dumb, but I tell you what, by the time I was in 5th grade, I had convinced myself that only the “smart” kids were good at math and science, and that I wasn’t good at math and science, and therefore, I was dumb. Just give me a book to read or throw a spelling test my way–I’m all over that.

Middle school didn’t make it any better. I had only one science class–7th grade. I hated it. I was so psyched out that I made it miserable for myself. My next science class after that was biology when I was a freshman in college. That’s right–no science in high school for me. I’ll explain that later.

Before I started 8th grade, we were all tested to see if we should be placed in pre-algebra or 8th grade math. I was right on the border to go into pre-algebra, and I was so relieved when they said the class was too full and I would take regular 8th grade math. Even that was bad. (Again, no one ever told me I was no good at this…I just convinced myself.)

So high school….I took algebra my freshman year and geometry the next. I struggled through algebra, and I have no idea how I got through geometry. Honestly, I don’t think I learned a thing in that class. All we did was correct our homework from the night before (meaning we filled in the answers to our homework from the night before) and then were given the next assignment. It’s anybody’s guess how I got a decent grade. I still needed one more math credit my junior year, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of another math class. That was 1981, and our school was offering a basic computer programming class that year that would count for a math credit. SIGN ME UP! I could get a math credit and not have to do another math class–that was the ticket for me! It was challenging, but I’d take that over trig any day!

So now it was time for my senior year. All I needed to graduate were two P.E. credits (I hated gym even more than math or science!), one more elective, and one science credit. I already had 6 English credits in three years (we needed 4) and all the other classes I needed to graduate. I hated the thought of spending my senior year taking P.E. and Astronomy (the easiest science class I could find) just to graduate. I had accomplished the other goals I had set for myself in high school. I had already taken college-prep English and all of the performing arts classes (several times). Why should I stick around for that? It’s not like I was going to be the prom queen or something.

So we called the little Christian college in Nebraska that I wanted to attend, and asked if I could double up on my credits in the fall, graduate a semester early, and start college in January. They said, “Sure! What do you have left to take?” “Uh, well, P.E. and astronomy.” “You’re kidding, that’s it?” “Yup, that’s it.” “Don’t wait until January. Go get your G.E.D. and we’ll see you in three weeks.”

What? I’m going to college in three weeks? But I’m not quite 17 yet! Can I do that?

Well, we got all the paperwork started, and mom took me up to the high school so I could formally drop out. (Yep, kiddies, I’m a drop out.) The principal had a fit. How could I drop out? I was in the top-whatever percent of my class. I was a good student–all A’s and B’s.

Well, everything was set except for the G.E.D. testing. I had to wait until I was17 to take it, which was about a week and a half before college would be starting. The day after my birthday, I went up to the university to take the tests. There were 5 of them–reading, writing, grammar, math, and science. I was terrified of the math and science. tests. I knew that would blow it for me, and I wouldn’t be able to go to college. They wouldn’t let me take all 5 tests in one day, so I had to go back again. I finished early enough the second day that they let me take the last test. Then the grading…I was terrified when they graded the math and science. “Here we go….I’m not going to be able to go to college. I just know it. I’m dumb. I can’t do math and science.” and on, and on, and on….I just kept beating myself up about it.

To this day, I will never figure out how this happened, but it turned out that my highest score was in science (WHAT? How did THAT happen?) and my second highest score was in math. Okay, G.E.D. lady, what’s going on here? How could I possibly score higher in math and science than in language arts? Don’t you know I’m dumb? I can’t do math and science!

Fast forward a bit–I ended up in biology that first semester in college, and I was terrified. It helped that I had a truly wonderful professor, and I studied my butt off for that class. I received a 98% on my first test. (Yes, I still have that test tucked away somewhere.)

Well, at that time, York College offered only 2-year degrees, so I graduated with an Associate’s Degree when I was 18 years old. Of course, I was still convinced that I was dumb because I struggled through math and science.

It wasn’t until 2004, 20 years later, when I finished my Master’s Degree with a 4.0 GPA that I finally began to think that maybe I wasn’t so dumb after all.

I don’t want these girls to be 38 before they figure that out. I want them to know RIGHT NOW that they are smart, that they can do math, science, technology, and engineering.

And THAT is why an English teacher is doing this. I have to. I owe it to my daughter and all the other girls that I can reach.

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