Monday, September 28, 2009

A Chance to Transform

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are discussing the need to change the school calendar in an effort to increase the number of instructional hours for students in the U.S.
Earlier this year the president stated, "The challenges of the new century demand more time in the classroom." More time in the classroom or more time learning?

While I agree there is a need to examine ways to make certain our students will be competitive in a global economy, I wonder if sending students to school more or for longer hours is missing an opportunity to really transform the ways we offer education and learning.

This issue has many elements to it, not the least of which would be funding, but for argument's sake I'd like to focus just on the issue of time spent in the physical school vs. time spent learning.

What if we expected more learning outside of schools rather than more time in schools? What if instead of trying reform we made an effort to transform schools. Instead of more of what we are doing, what if we looked at something instead of?

Currently NCVPS offers students in North Carolina the chance to take courses and earn credit online. April Patterson is currently the contact for our district. What would happen if instead of requiring more time in the physical school building, we could provide opportunities to take more learning online and look for ways to provide Internet access to all homes in the U.S. It seems to me this might be a better way of preparing students for the future, while focusing on the digital divide in our country. 

I know that there are probably many issues I haven't anticipated, but I wonder if this isn't an opportunity to transform the model of the classroom and take a look at how learning could and should take place in a digital age.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Technology Beyond the Classroom

An advantage to the year-long staff development model is that you have the same participants every session, so there is opportunity to reflect on the prior sessions. This time can be an opportunity to ask questions or share accounts of how the technology was used since we last met.

Today I planned to start off the session reflecting on the September session when we covered RSS and Google Reader. I love RSS and am a big believer in the ways it can be used to make teachers' lives easier. However, RSS can sometimes take some getting used to. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out how best to use it and how to get around in Google Reader. So I wasn't sure what to expect when I asked for teachers to share any stories of how they'd used RSS or Google Reader since our last meeting.

After a few murmured responses a teacher said I taught my husband how to set up his Google Reader account. (laughter) What a great response.

I think too often in the effort to make connections to the curriculum, we forget to connect with the teachers who are people. If educators make connections between the technology and their lives outside the classroom, they'll be more willing and comfortable using the new technology. It's no coincidence some of the better teacher bloggers I've seen recently also have personal blogs they share with their families and friends. If subscribing to RSS feeds to the local paper, sports page or Target encourages checking the Google Reader account, that also has some ideas for teaching, so much the better. I've seen that the teachers who use Skype to communicate with family, then come to Skype workshops are much quicker to put it to use in their classrooms.

It's not about teaching just the technology, it is about giving teachers tools that they are inspired to use in and beyond the classroom.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Twitter and Your PLN

In previous posts I've expressed my interest in Twitter and how it can be a tool for growing one's own personal learning network (PLN). I thought this week I'd share just a little bit of how I utilize it.

Twitter is a great way to connect to other smart, innovative, creative people in your field or with similar interests. I think there are some who have given Twitter a try and decided it didn't work for them, probably because they were not connected to the right people. If you connect to users who are only reporting on the state of traffic or what they had for breakfast that day ("life tweeters"), then you probably won't see the value, and if you follow only celebrities or just your family, I doubt you'll get the full benefits. However, if you connect to users who are willing to share ideas and genuine feedback, then Twitter is a great tool for building a potential personal learning network of other users whose ideas and insight you can benefit from.

Okay, so here are only a few of the nuggets from my last 24 hours or so on Twitter that I hope will illustrate some of what I think the value can be for educators.
And honestly I get good ideas and information from Twitter every day. I've written about the blogs I think educators should follow, so its no surprise that most of the same ones are on Twitter. It is an easy way to be connected and benefit from the resources of many.

You can follow the WSFCS Dept of Technology at and me at

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Voicethread, Even Better

I think Voicethread is great. I don't know that I've seen a better tool that can be used by all levels of students for any subject. I'm continually amazed at some of the great ways educators and students have used this web-based tool. And now (pause for dramatic effect) it has a few more cool features. 

At the end of August, Voicethread announced it had added media from the New York Public Library . In addition to the option to upload this new media from Voicethread, there is also a separate site for the library content at I have included the voicethread that gives an overview of this feature below.

You also may choose to create copies of your voicethreads; useful if you'd like to create a copy for each class to comment on or for backing up a current voicethread before editing. Although there are different options for accounts in Voicethread, all of these additions are part of the free version. If you haven't looked at Voicethread, its well worth checking out.