Archive for May, 2006

Cole Academy Staff Learns to Blog

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

I asked the participants these three familiar questions. Here are their answers.

What is a blog?

It’s a weblog. Web + log = weblog. we blog.
Messages posted on the internet.
It could be your opinion… a diary kind of.

What is the read/write web?

It’s the difference between reading information and producing web content.
Others are shaking their heads.
We’ve got nervous laughter…

How do you think you might use these technologies with your students?

The principal: I’d like to see interactive applications on their sites for students to explore and learn.
Cut down on paper.
Offers no excuses for missed homework.
Create skills they can use for the rest of their life.

So, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but this group is firing on all cylinders.

-Mark

Blogs and The Read/Write Web for Edward B. Cole Academy

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

This afternoon I am presenting a three-hour Introduction to Blogs and the Read/Write Web workshop for the enterprising teachers of Edward B. Cole Academy in Santa Ana. Here is our agenda with links.

Blogs and the Read/Write Web – Part I
Edward B. Cole Academy
May 31, 2006

Agenda
Handout
Slides

Welcome and Introductions

Overview of Blogs and the Read/Write Web

Hands-On with edublogs.org
- A 3 minute intro to WordPress
- Posting (in detail)
- Editing your sidebar
- Presentation (in detail)
- Admin Panels Walk Through
- Comments
- Log out and log back in
- Further discussion

Demo of RSS and Other Read/Write Web Services (time permitting)
- RSS with bloglines.com
- Wikis with wikispaces.org
- Social bookmarking at furl.net
- Image sharing at flickr.com
- Podcasting at podomatic.com
- And many, many, more…

Reflection and Evaluation
- http://edtech.ocde.us/surveys/

The last few read/write web trainings I delivered were once again focused on Blogger, so I used Build a Blog as a demonstration tool. However, today we are using WordPress (via edublogs) again, so I can use this blog for some demonstrations. :)

Social Constructivist Theory and Video Games in Education (a KAM for Walden University)

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

I think it is also time to share my most recent paper at Walden University. Final approval from my assessor is pending, but as we’ve been back and forth a few times, we both expect this is a final draft.

I’ve already completed all of my coursework and residency units. This is one of the three Knowledge Area Modules (KAMs) I must complete prior to beginning my dissertation. People who are not affiliated with the university often ask me what a KAM is, so I dug up this brief description from the KAM Curriculum Guide:

Walden doctoral-level study requires mastery of broad conceptual and historical knowledge (Breadth), in-depth understanding and analysis of theoretical and practical issues (Depth), and the ability to apply integrated knowledge to problems of professional significance (Application). As a Walden student, you will demonstrate achievement of these competencies through completion of a series of six KAMs using the specific curriculum guides that follow this introduction.

Each KAM is intended to allow sufficient flexibility to assure you a high degree of personal and professional relevance. A KAM demonstration is a comprehensive paper, which presents your mastery of the core of the social and behavioral sciences and of the advanced academic, professional, and scholarly areas that relate to your field. Each KAM demonstration must be integrated and related in such a way as to demonstrate not only your understanding of the theoretical basis of your field but also your ability to take the theoretical and move it to the practical.

Throughout the KAM program, primary emphasis is placed on integrating contemporary theory with professional practice. The linking of theory and action can produce new avenues of scholarship for reflective practitioners. While working through the reading and assignments, always keep this theory and practice theme in mind.

Another theme found throughout the KAMs is an emphasis on understanding the relationship between professional practice and social change. The broad context within which we live, think, and work shapes our professional experience. At the same time, our actions within that social system can transform society itself for the betterment of humankind. Completing KAM demonstrations provides the foundational knowledge and skills necessary for writing the dissertation and shaping your role as an agent of social and professional change.

The Core KAMs describe how societies change (Societal Development), how individual mental and emotional processes develop (Human Development), and how organizations
and institutions function (Principles of Organizational and Social Systems).

I’m a big fan of the KAM writing process, though I must admit it’s been a bumpy road as a learning process. I am not completely proud of these KAMs in the sense that I felt restricted by the format, and I know I’ve cut a lot of corners in order to be done. (Actually, the fact that this is necessary may actually be the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from pursuing my PhD.) In particular, I am uncomfortably conscious of how “quote heavy” these papers are. I look forward to making more of an original contribution with my dissertation.

I’ve learned a lot of content, and a lot of process, from completing these two KAMs this year, but as I share these, I hope you’ll all keep in mind that these are the road to a dissertation, and are not dissertation quality themselves.
I am sharing these in the hopes that they might benefit a colleague in search of information on this topic, not as exemplary writing samples. ;)

So, with disclaimers out of the way, my most recent KAM is an exploration of social constructivist theory and digital game based learning (or video games). In the breadth portion I focus on the seminal works of John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, and Jerome Bruner. In the depth I dial in to the contemporary work of David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt Squire, and Constance Steinkuehler from the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Games, Learning, and Society minor. (You may notice the conspicuous absence of James Paul Gee in this paper, but I dealt with his work in a previous KAM, also offered below. And unfortunately, I haven’t gotten round to writing about Richard Halverson and Betty Hayes yet.) In the application section, I designed (and delivered) a three hour professional development session meant to help educators apply these theories in their own classrooms.

Core Knowledge Area Module Number 1: Principles of Societal Development – Social Constructivist Theory and Digital Game-Based Learning (120 pages)

The paper above builds on the work I did in a previous paper. I actually did the KAMs out of order, and completed KAM 2: Principles of Cognitive Development first. In this KAM, linked below, I began in the breadth section by focusing on the theories of Jean Piaget, his student Seymour Papert, and educational technologist (and overt constructivist), David H. Jonassen. Then, in the depth I was able to tie these theories into the work of Mark Prensky, James Paul Gee, and Clark Aldrich, 21st century authors writing about the use of video games for education. Finally, the application section was my first three-hour professional development session teaching educators about these theories. (This is definitely the clumsier of the two papers so far, and I expect my third will be the best of the bunch… and I’m sure my dissertation, which will include elements of each of them, will be better than all of them.)

Core Knowledge Area Module Number 2: Principles of Human Development – Constructivist Theories of Cognitive Development and Digital Game-Based Learning (90 pages)

I hope these will be useful to some of you, and if anyone has any comments to share after reading these, I will of course appreciate any constructive criticism.

Wikis for Teachers

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately and there are a few pieces I can share here. This one seems particularly apt for a blog post. Because Wikispaces.org is offering free wikis to CUE members, I was asked to write up a one page article on why this might be a good thing and how wikis might be used in education. Using some material from my upcoming article in the Gifted Education Communicator and turning to Warlick and Richardson for additional inspiration, what I came up with is more like two pages… and I’m sharing a slightly edited version here. Wikispaces is also offering free wikis for teachers, so this is still relevant to any educator who reads this post. :)

To encourage the use of wikis in education, Wikispaces is offering free wikis to teachers. But, what does this mean for you? What is a wiki anyway, and how can a wiki be used in education?

Wikis are websites that can be quickly edited by any visitor. The term wiki comes from the Hawaiian word wiki wiki, meaning quick or fast, and if you can use a word-processor, you can edit a wiki. Most wikis allow a user to simply click an “edit” button in order to start editing the page just like any other document. Text can be added, changed, or deleted… as can pictures, audio, or even video. One visitor can post a new thought, which can then be improved upon by subsequent visitors. If a wiki is ever abused, used inappropriately, or vandalized, the next visitor can revert back to an earlier version of the page.

The Wikipedia, at wikipedia.org, is the best example of a wiki. The Wikipedia is a collaboratively edited online encyclopedia with over a million entries in English and nearly a million users world wide. It has the capacity to become something like the repository of all human knowledge because anyone from any walk of life can contribute his or her expertise. The Wikipedia is vigilantly moderated and some users become passionate about contributing and maintaining accuracy and high standards. The Wikipedia works because the “white-hats” out number the “black hats” by orders of magnitude; if someone posts inaccurate information or vandalizes a page, it is quickly reverted to a previous more authoritative version by another visitor. The nature of the Wikipedia makes it a natural place to begin discussions about information literacy, verifiability, and bias in a text.

Even more importantly, Will Richardson, blogger and author of Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms, writes, “If we begin to look at the Wikipedia as another opportunity for our students to contribute what they learn and know to a larger audience… we can begin to appreciate it for the really incredible site that it is” (p. 64).

On a smaller scale, teachers and students use wiki services, such as Wikispaces, to create collaboratively authored class texts. Everything from grammar exercises to essays and from hyperlinks to video projects can be shared on a wiki, with each student pitching in his or her own contribution. Wikis are perfect for student group work, and for teachers who are working together, or who have similar interests. For instance, if one teacher starts a wiki in order to share online resources related to an adopted textbook, teachers all over the school – and all over the state even – can contribute. The more people who contribute, the greater resource the wiki becomes. Wikis are perfect for grade level teams, subject area departments, and professional learning communities because wikis can extend the conversation between face-to-face meetings.

David Warlick, blogger and author of Raw Materials for the Mind: A Teacher’s Guide to Digital Literacy, says, “Avoid training teachers to use sophisticated web editing software. Teachers are not web masters… they are communicators. Help them to communicate” (p. 280). He also advocates student use of wikis for collaborative note taking, for learning journals (or weather diaries in a science class), for collaborating with students in other countries (in a foreign language or social studies class), for online vocabulary or creative writing (in an English class), and for collaborative student generated study guides in any subject (p. 91-97). He even suggests that educational technology coordinators can use a wiki as a support site for a school or district (p. 97).

Will Richardson is interested in student and teacher use of wikis because of the way they facilitate “the purposeful work of negotiating and creating truth” (p. 62), and because they support the philosophy that “the quality of the collectively produced product is more important than owning the idea” (p. 63). When students are using wikis they are “learning how to develop and use all sorts of collaborative skills, negotiating with others to agree on correctness, meaning, relevance, and more” (p. 65). Teachers can develop these same skills, of course, and Richardson suggests that wikis can even be used as “a showcase for best practices, and [as] an articulation tool” (p. 65)

Many traditional assignments, even web-based assignments, can be made more interactive with a wiki. A webquest can become more than a hunt for information if the students need to create the webquests themselves. Imagine if each student posted on (a class wiki) a link to a relevant resource along with questions or annotations – each student would benefit from the efforts of the others. Rather than being worried about using the web to cheat, teachers can now ask students to use the web to collaborate.

Wikis can bring the “member-to-member” philosophy of the CUE conferences online. CUE members, especially those in affiliate leadership positions, can use wikis to communicate, share, and collaborate with fellow members, and thus to benefit from the collective body of knowledge that is the CUE membership. A wiki might serve as an affiliate web page, with announcements of events or frequently asked (and frequently updated) questions, or a wiki might serve a temporary purpose as a collaborative space for a specific project.

It is simple to sign up with wikispaces and it’s very easy to use. Try out a wiki today: www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers

References

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Corwin Press.

Wagner, M. D. (in press). An introduction to the read/write web in Education. Gifted education communicator. Summer 2006, Vol. 37, No. 2.

Warlick, D. F. (2005). Raw materials for the mind: a teacher’s guide to digital literacy. Raleigh, NC: The Landmark Project.

An Update

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

It’s finally time to post an update here. I’ve been keeping my head down the last few months in order to focus on work (lots of trainings lately) and on my PhD – and on keeping my marriage together in the process. In the meantime, I quit caffeine, and started studying non-violent communication (which is something of a misnomer for most people… it could also be called compassionate communication, and sometimes is). As a result of these changes and many others, including limiting time spent blogging and reading RSS feeds, I’ve been able to slow down my daily schedules a bit and do some thinking. A few important things have become very clear and I’ve been able to take some steps toward some big changes.

As many of you who know me personally already know, the biggest change is that I am leaving the Orange County Department of Education on June 30th. I may continue to do some work for the OCDE (in fact I hope to), but I will be taking a few months off to work on my PhD. Then I hope to start teaching online in the fall for teacher crendentialing and educational technology masters programs. (I’ve already started applying!) The plan is to supplement this with face-to-face training and consulting. It made me nervous, of course, to work this out with my boss and announce that I was leaving. Walking away from a steady pay check isn’t easy, but it sure feels right, and a surprising number of doors have already begun opening for me. I’m now very excited and encouraged about the months ahead.

I’m working on incorporating, probably under the name Educational Technology and Life (or ETL), and will be offering my services as an educational technology consultant, with a focus on the topics I’m passionate about, particularly the read/write web, video games in education, open source software, educational technology planning, and the big one – organizational change, including IT audits, network overhauls, and professional development. In addition, I’ll be training educators on using a wide variety of Windows, Mac, Linux, and web-based software for teaching and learning.

Though I am once again leaving behind an amazing team, I’m particularly excited about the people I am planning to work with, and that I’ll be able to work with in the future… including many of the people I’ve worked with in the past, even my current team at the OCDE… and perhaps including other readers of this blog. Best of all, I’ll be working with my wife on this venture; as a site tech coordinator and professional developer with experience teaching 3rd grade and kindergarden, she’s our expert on educational technology in the elementary grades. (I was originally a high school English teacher and site tech coordinator before moving on to the district and county levels, so I’ve got the secondary grades covered.)

I suspect you’ll see a much more official announcements of the services I’ll offer here soon, particularly if I move forward with the Educational Technology and Life brand and the edtechlife.com URL.

As for my blogging, I hope to continue posting original material here, and expect that the volume of posting will go up again in July, right after the NECC conference, which I’ll be attending and at which I’ll be presenting. I also need to sort out what to do with over a hundred posts I have queued up in draft form that I would either have FURLed if I hadn’t incorporated my FURL content into my blog, or would have blogged if I didn’t feel compelled to actually provide a decent annotation for any link that appears in my blog. I suppose you’ll know when I figure that out.

And when it comes to RSS, I’ve been reading only about once a week… I have about 700 items or so at that point. Once some time has passed, it actually makes it easier to skim through and dismiss items that are not significantly important. I’m still finding it difficult to cull my collection of feeds, though. However, I have updated my bloglines account. You can access my current reading list (of over 400 feeds) here. My subgroups didn’t carry over well, but this should be a good resource for finding feeds relevant to this blog.

Also, I hope to share my next paper here soon. I sent 119 pages on video games as social constructivist learning environments to my current assessor at the university this evening. Once I’ve received final approval, probably sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll post it here, complete with annotated bibliography and all.

Finally, if any of you have any feedback on any of this, particularly any questions or advice concerning my upcoming business ventures, I’d be thrilled to hear it. I’m not only looking for leads, but for people to work with as well, so if you are interested, please leave a comment or email me at my new mark@edtechlife.com address. :)

Once again, thanks for reading.

Thinkfree challenges MS Office dominance

Monday, May 15th, 2006

Thinkfree challenges MS Office dominance (Via Moving at the Speed of Creativity.) I’m still sticking to higher priority stuff for another two months or so, but this was just too good not to share. Wes Freyer posted this about a week ago. I was wondering when something like writely, but for a full office suite, would emerge… and it has.

Direct Link – http://www.thinkfree.com

A big update is still on its way, too…

Introduction to Games in Education, Part II

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Tonight I am teaching Part II of my introduction to Games in Education course. Part I was offered on December 13th and again on February 27th. Part I focused on video games as constructivist learning environments, and educators played the serious game for change, Food Force, hands-on both times. Tonight we will be exploring the social elements of video games in greater depth, including their potential to serve as social constructivist learning environments, and of course, as instruments of social change. I focus on the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, and Bruner, followed by Shaffer, Squire, and Steinkuehler. Tonight the participants will actually play Anarchy Online, a massively multiplayer online role playing (MMORPG) game such as their students probably play. I’m looking forward to hearing their reflections and will share what I can here.

Below is a link to the slides in case you are interested.

GamesInEd2.pdf (22.8 MB)

See, I’ve been working. ;) I also expect to have another update online soon. :)