Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wow, that was fast!

We just did 20 hours of pretty serious work together and tonight it seems to have simply flown by. I've enjoyed every bit of it and I look forward to the fall sessions. I'm sure Connie feels the same. This week has actually made me very ready to start the year, a sense I don't always have on August 20. There is a feeling of anticipation and momentum that's been generated this week by the genuine collaboration. Great that the technology is finding its way into everyone's thinking, but the core of this goes beyond that. It's about the power of committed professionals working together to serve the South Portland community well. I'm reminded of a very young Arlo Guthrie's grinning words from 40 years ago last weekend: "We've shut down the New York Thruway, man!" A whole bunch of people came for "peace, love and music" and found out about each other and the power of a shared vision. Woodstock was only 3 days long and its effect lasted years. We've done 4 days - we could change things :)

Good thing this wasn't an assigned reading.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


So the heat is supposed to be turned down today - relief! Interesting parallel with the course, I think. We wait a long time for some nice warm days (remember January?), then we get an intense blast, a heat wave. Here we've been immersed just as intensely in our learning, piling one new thing on top of another, and doing some serious sweating at times. But relief is coming! After today, these modules will come in 3 hour sessions with a week in between them to explore as you see the need. Your blogs have often mentioned the pace of this week, and I agree with those of you who would like a bit more time to explore each new tool. Front loading the coursework this way does have this disadvantage.

So we'll slow down after Thursday. You'll be able to chase those things that interest you most in the "away" time. And you'll have these skills to help you:
- You all know how to reflect on your thinking in a way that invites conversation from classmates via your blogs. Will you invite others in by telling them about your blog when school starts? Might your kids blog before winter?
- You all know how to follow one another's blogs via RSS as well as having other bloggers' and news agencies send you current items of interest. Will you add feeds to your RSS reader as you bump into new sources of dynamic information?
- You all can store connections with great sites you find using Delicious, which makes these bookmarks available to you and to anyone you want to share them with at any computer. Do you see yourself bookmarking other sites between now and September as you surf in preparation for school's start? Can you even resist telling someone else about Delicious? (Favorites are sooooooooooo 20th Century.)
- You all have PortaPortal accounts for setting up quick webpages organized links that are easy to access by your students. Might this be the tool that launches your year with new students and their new laptops?
- By the end of the day, you'll all be using Google Docs to leave NeoOffice behind, to store your files on the Internet instead of one computer, and to work collaboratively with anyone you invite to join you. Things could get different real quick this year!

Remember how overwhelmed you've felt? There's relief in sight - or is it site?? :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 2: Wow!

I am so impressed with this class of learners. Today you worked individually and collaborately, learning about RSS feeds, then took right off setting up your Google readers and finding feeds of interest. Great job. I am glad that the class methodology is working for you. Remember that the class page will be around for a long will Steve and you begin to integrate some new technology tools into your content areas.
Your blog postings and comments reflect your thinking on bigger issues involving technology and the read/write web, too. How do we sift through all the mountain (or muck, as Sandy calls it!) of information to find what is most valid and valuable? My sense is that the more we play in the muck, the less mucky it will be and the more able we will be to recognize what is reliable.
And how do we help our students become better critical thinkers so that they, too, can find information that is current, reliable, and authoritative? We do this by each addressing this whenever we take kids to the web. We go over keywords, website evaluation techniques, etc. We repeat and repeat, so they hear it in all their classes and it starts to stick.
And how do we balance our lives so we get enough sleep but still stay somewhat current in this evolving field? I think collaboration is key here. We share links that are useful, projects that work well with our students, success stories and failures. We each do some of the heavy mucking. I have observed that you are all great collaborators.
Here's to a great Day 3! Remember that we are front-loading this class, so are going through many tools this week. Once school starts, we will have a week between classes and hopefully you won't feel the information overload most of you expressed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Day 1 - Learning with real learners is fun!

What a great first class!! Would you believe I had my usual "first day of the year" feelings before today's class? Almost felt like I should ring the office with head counts, the old pre-Infinite Campus first days. There's always some anxiety in shoving off from shore. Today was a terrific first leg of the cruise.

What made it so gratifying for me was the involvement of everyone. As every teacher knows, there's nothing more dreadful than trying to get learners to engage. Like pushing a rope so often. Not today. It was more like water skiing, being pulled along by the enthusiasm, community, and ideas of the group. "I love technology" (points for whoever can name the movie in which that was sung at a wedding! More points for playing it on your computer for everyone!!) but I love teaching and learning way more.

I don't expect anyone to "get it" (any more than I "get it") in these sessions. I really do think the feeling of swimming in the deep end that most of us talked about at some point is more the expectation. You work hard to keep from sinking but there's fun in the work. If by way of these modules each of you finds one thing that has a positive impact on your teaching, I'll consider this an enormous success. Patience, an open mind, and more of today's genuine engagement will help that to happen.

Thanks, everyone, for a a fun first day.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Read/Write Web and Me

I've been enjoying the Internet since the early 90s. Truthfully, it hasn't always been a joy. Phone modems that lost connection when a call came in on the line; slow loading pages that ended up containing the wrong information; spam, spam, spam in the email box; and annoying pop-ups (Net Flix is bugging me right now as I type this) are just a few of the pitfalls on the good old "information super highway." But on the flip side, there really are too many benefits to the Web to begin to list, and I don't mean YouTube, so I've been connected continuously for about the past 12 years.

The entertainment and information the Internet makes available are worth the price of admission, which isn't bad if you figure it by the minute. And connecting with communities of all sorts has always been a draw. For the past several years, advances in online application development have brought a new dimension to the Web. The ability for anyone to contribute information and/or opinions to share with the world has changed how we all use the Net.

I'm still a bit of a dabbler. I've posted pictures and videos, made accounts with lots of interactive sites including Facebook and MySpace, and tried to keep up with Twitter. I read blogs and occasionally have something to contribute to the conversation, but I'm not a power blogger, for sure. I think I'm still mainly a consumer more than a producer. I see the value of the Read/Write Web in schools, though, so I'm going to continue to dabble, knowing that it's part of the way of life of our students and promises to be ever more important to new generations.

What about you?