Once again, I was WOWED by our guest speaker in ECI 831 on Tuesday night. Chris Lehmann is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. I had just read 2 articles that related: How To: Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning and My School, Meet MySpace: Social Networking at School so I was pretty excited to hear what Chris had to say. This school is only 2 years old and is extremely progressive. Technology is paramount at this school and is used extensively. Students must be selected to attend this school and go through an interview to be considered for admission.

They do a national search and build a network to recruit staff. Check out the qualifications for teaching at SLA:
• Applicants must be PA State Certified or eligible for PA State Certification in their subject area.
• Applicants must be committed to the idea that we teach students first and our subjects second.
• Applicants must be willing to challenge students to work in an inquiry-driven, project based environment.
• Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively.
• Applicants must be willing to work in a diverse environment with students who reflect the rich heritage of Philadelphia.
• Applicants should have a strong background in technology infusion into the classroom and be willing to see their classroom as happening both on and offline.
• Applicants should have an interest in developing extra-curricular activities.
• Applicants should be energetic, flexible, and have a strong desire to work with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students to create a school that reflects SLA’s core values.

Can anyone say “dream job”??

I completely LOVE their strong commitment to communicating with parents. There seems to be a lot of interaction with parents and opportunity for parents to be as involved as they would like to be.

Their mission is also shared openly and students and staff live this mission together: “How do we learn? What can we create? What does it mean to lead?” This commitment to this mission, their philosophy of distributed leadership, and not trying to be everything to everyone, but doing what they do well is refreshing.

The idea of UDL is very interesting to me. I had not heard of it before Tuesday night, but the Center for Applied Special Technology has an excellent definition of it: “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.” I want to spend more time learning about this concept of curriculum design as I am in charge of curriculum development at the law firm that I work at and think this might be useful.

They do have filters in place to monitor online activity, but they still have issues just like every other school. I was surprised when I went to the SLA website that they have the student websites so readily available to the world. It concerned me with how much information students shared here. Maybe they are needless fears that the media has instilled in me, but I nevertheless do have them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the level of technological use at this school is fantastic and will open many doors of opportunity for the students which is evident on the masterpiece websites they have, but there is just a lot of information that we usually advise students (and even adults sometimes) not to post.

There are SO many questions that came to me after the presentation. Here are just a few: I wonder if they have the same problems that we do with technology? What is their Internet policy? What is their view on cell phones and iPods in the classroom? How are they funded? How is curriculum development dealt with (I don’t know how it works in the US, but in SK, we have to follow the SK curriculum and do not have that type of freedom to develop our own curriculum at individual schools – correct me if I am wrong here)? How are personal laptops dealt with? What advice would they have to teachers about implementing technology; 1:1; parent communication; social networking in schools (or as Chris referred to it – academic networking – maybe this would motivate teachers to use it in classrooms!)?

See my fellow classmates posts about Chris’ great presentation: Rosanne, Dave, Corey, Ken, Leah, Marlene, Shaun, Walter

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Wired for Sound!

March 26, 2008

After seeing some of my classmates use Voki on their class blogs, I thought it might be an interesting way to welcome people to my HR social network – The HR Connection. After some assistance from the Ning crew as to how to embed the code, I added the Voki to the main page. It is a pretty cool tool and super easy to use. Give it a try and get wired for sound! I did 🙂

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.voki.com posted with vodpod

I created a tutorial for a group of teachers who have been listening to me rave about the power of networking and how excited I am about this tool or that or some of the fantastic technology leaders that I have been following for the past few months thanks to my Google Reader and Alec’s ECI 831 class. These teachers (like myself prior to January 2008) had no clue what RSS was and had not used Google Reader, but were fascinated by how I knew so much about what was happening with technology in schools (my network made me look so intelligent, I hated to tell them that I wasn’t this brilliant star – it was my network!). I shared my big secret in this little tutorial video about what RSS is and how to setup and use GoogleReader. It was a good exercise for me to go through. I hope they start networking. My new philosophy is share and they will come…

D’Arcy Norman and Brian Lamb were our guest speakers in Tuesday night’s ECI 831 class. They started out the evening by tripping us out with this wacky YouTube video
and then got into the topic of Open, Connected & Social “Repositories”. There was a lot of information shared, so I will just share a few points that really stuck with me.

Organizing Data
The old way of organizing data was to create data and store it in silos that were very complicated because of all of the metadata that was created to organize/store it. This just doesn’t make sense with the “information explosion” of today and therefore folksonomy is a better solution. I finally understand what a folksonomy is too (for those who are reading this and saying “What the?”, folksonomies are people working together socially to sort things out).

They stressed the power of tagging information. This has really changed how we find information.

Control
Technology is getting much cheaper in most cases, however, higher education is still spending money – is this because the institutions like control and want to limit the use of Web 2.0 tools?

New Phrase
I liked a new phrase that emerged during the discussion “choice fatigue” – so much to choose from; where to start? I think this is a huge part of why there is a very slow integration of technology into educational settings. Educators are already overwhelmed with the things being piled on them and technology is just one more, but it is so complex and there is so much to choose from and learn about, that many teachers turn away from it and knock it down on their priority list. How do we tackle this choice fatigue? Ideas? Thoughts?

Okay, here is my disclaimer: to all of you Second Life lovers out there – you can hate me for my opinions, but that is all they are is my opinions. I am a real technology supporter and lover, but having said that, you will see that my opinions below do not fit with this statement at all. I am very much a newbie to Second Life, so please keep this in mind as you read my first impressions.

I have created my “virtual self” in Second Life (SL) and I have to say, that like my classmate, Dean, I can’t say that it has been that positive thus far. I think I will stick with my First Life – in the real world, with my real self.

One of my issues with SL is personal image. As if anyone creates themselves in a likeness to themselves – it has places for “saddle-bags” and “love handles”, but I think that most people turn those as close to “none” as they can. So far I haven’t seen any overweight people in SL even though studies everywhere say how obese our society is. I tried to make my Avatar similar to my RL self, but as much as I tried to do that, my Avatar is still quite stunning comparatively.

My next issue is having people “walk” onto my computer screen and start talking to me – frankly, it freaks me out! The first time it happened I physically jumped and had to really work hard at not letting out a little scream since my son was sleeping. It is just all a little bit weird. While I am comfortable with web-cams, voice chats, etc. this idea of seeing what others are doing and having someone I may or may not know “show up” on my computer screen seems a little invasive to me.

I also find it difficult, even though I got a list of all of the people in my class that are in SL to tell who is who with all of the strange names and animal Avatars. Some I can hardly tell if they are male or female (not that this cannot happen in RL too)!

And my own weird thing with SL is that I get motion sick when I move my Avatar. I just can’t play games where the movement is rough like that, so I feel nauseous most of the time in SL – this probably doesn’t really improve my attitude towards this product.

We were taken on a tour of SL by Kirk Kezema this evening in our ECI 831 class. It was a little bit frustrating getting all of the kinks out, since we were guinea pigs for such a massive group tour(though it was pretty cool to be a part of something like that too, so thanks Alec for setting it up). There were a lot of issues with people having or not having sound, knowing what we were supposed to be doing, and not knowing general navigation rules. In a technology that is so new and so vast it perhaps would have been useful to have a bit more detailed preparation.

Unfortunately, even after the tour (which was about 2 hours in length), I don’t feel that I know that much more about the actual PURPOSE of SL. I just don’t get it or enjoy it. Is that okay that I don’t get one of the AMAZING tools that we have been introduced to this semester? I still think the technology behind the product is sheer genius, but I just don’t buy into the product and I feel guilty for my own opinions and feelings because I really want to promote all of these technologies, but I can’t do it for this one!

I was really inspired by Steve Hargadon’s post Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education.  He provides a great outline of how things are changing with Web 2.0 and then offers suggestions for how teachers can handle these changes.  He also mentioned these major shifts in learning and education:

* From consuming to producing
* From authority to transparency
* From the expert to the facilitator
* From the lecture to the hallway
* From “access to information” to “access to people”
* From “learning about” to “learning to be”
* From passive to passionate learning
* From presentation to participation
* From publication to conversation
* From formal schooling to lifelong learning
* From supply-push to demand-pull

The only thing that I am still trying to digest is: “The Answer to Information Overload Is to Produce More Information.”  This will take a little more deep thought to get my head around it.

Check out the video that Frank has posted regarding the use of the iPhone in the classroom. It is really amazing!