Archive | July 2007

Congrats, Alabama!

I found the Alabama Best Practices Center site after reading a post on The 21st Century Learning Project by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. I have only gone into a few of the resources there and I plan to go back and discover more. Sheryl and her colleagues in the project were seeking an answer to the question:

How do education leaders effectively promote the knowledge, skills and sense of urgency for 21st Century teaching and learning among all the teachers in their schools?

It was interesting to read Kristi Stacks’ Letter to Parents about using email in the classroom and the obstacles that surfaced. There are so many fabulous resources and ideas at the site. But the area I most want to investigate is the professional development/teacher training techniques. Obviously in our little school of 9 classrooms and 12 full-time teachers (including myself) we cannot hope to set up the kind of “team” structure as in the ABPC. This weighs most heavily on my mind as the new school year looms ever closer. I feel the “urgency” but most of our faculty does not.

This year I hope to be able to spend more time with classroom teachers as a coach and also as a co-teacher to help with technology integration. (That is, if there is a Spanish teacher other than myself for the next school year!) If there is no support structure in place, teachers will not want to take risks. When the wireless laptops aren’t connecting, or the United Streaming video won’t play and the “tech person” is teaching a class, there is not much to encourage them to keep trying. So I will delve further into what worked for Alabama teachers and see if I can glean some strategies that I can adapt for our situation. There are also many success stories on that site that can be shared during our afterschool weekly tech sessions. Professional development and teacher support are critical. I really would welcome any advice or resources that can help with teacher training when the “human” resources are so limited in the school. (I feel like Bartholomew Cubbins!) I can’t entice them into the boat and then leave them without oars.

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Digital Grandparents

I recently came across a link at Mashable that is advertising the upcoming launch of, which is promising to be

…a meeting ground for “modern-day grandparents” and their grandchildren, and will feature information about activities to do with the youngsters, some travel and gift ideas, connect with grandchildren with the site’s interactive tools.

What jumped out at me is the “gift ideas” and that this is a site trying to make the most of grandparents’ spending power. But it also occurs to me that there could be something valuable here, depending on exactly what kind of interactivity is offered. I am thinking along the lines of digital storytelling. How wonderful if grandparents, especially those who live a distance from their grandkids, could upload photos from earlier years of their lives and record a message about them for their grandchildren. How important it is that those stories be preserved! It always seems to be something that we intend to do, but today gets in the way, and we have little time to retell “yesterday” for our kids and grandkids.

I must admit that I am guilty of this myself. I know full well how to record someone’s story digitally, and I really would like to pass on stories that my mother told to my children and their children. Have I recorded her voice or scanned her pictures? No, I am sorry to say I have not. When we introduce the personal narrative project for our eighth grade students, grandparents are always suggested, encouraged, as a story to be told, and yet few students have ever told their grandparents’ stories or shared their own memories with them. It is not something that I feel I can mandate, so I think I need to work more on my motivational skills.
Other info shared on the site: (no source given for these statistics or size of survey)

  • Among grandparents who are online, 91% e-mail, 70% shop and over 40% book travel. More than 80% do these activities via broadband connections. (How many grandparents are online? Any statistics on that?)
  • 87% of grandparents report that passing family values and history to grandkids are among their top priorities. (How can we help children who do not have “digital grandparents” and may be separated by distance or for other reasons? And who are the grandparents who don’t feel passing on family values to grandchildren is important?)

There is the possibility of Bubbleshare, but I believe the audio clip per picture can be only 30 seconds. Maybe that is enough. Photostory seems like a better option, but we need to get the senior citizens connected with the students. I think I really want to look into this for this coming school year’s digital story projects. I am sure that by going back to the edtech community I will find many who have already done this successfully and I will attempt to learn from their efforts.

We have to do our best to prepare students for the future, but they also need to be grounded with a sense of who they are and where they come from, and treasure their connection to the past as well. It’s the circle of life.

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Testing the waters!

I almost hear a melody in the background:

She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was as nervous as she could be
She was afraid to come out of the locker
She was afraid that somebody would see

Those who would admit knowing those lyrics would be dating themselves. They do, however, sum up my trepidation at entering the “blogosphere”. I have been reading blogs for some time, and the conversations have been swirling in my head, causing me to occasionally comment, but more often, lurk, learn, practice, and then try to share with someone else the particular resource or skill. The conversations have opened up new worlds for me. I now feel like I have some very supportive “friends” out there who are willing to share what they know. Instead of the old days of covering your paper so the student next to you doesn’t see your answers, we “students” are now saying, “Look at my paper! This is what I wrote down. What do you think about it? What did you write?” and then, “Are you stuck on that problem? Here’s how I worked it out.” I like learning this way. Does that tell me something about how my own students might want to be learning?

So even though I may not have any great pearls of wisdom to share with the world, and the rest of the blogosphere will not be all a-twitter over my ideas or ruminations, it just may help me to understand better what I read and hear, and so I will write. Through this process I hope to grow and learn, hopefully become a better person, a better teacher who has come a long way from the my first trek down Blackberry Alley. I will do my best to make better use of the vast and ever-growing number of resources at hand,  and by doing so, I hope to enrich the learning experiences of my students.  It’s exciting to be a “life-long learner” !