The New Job Description

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The more that I think about doing something “different” in my classroom, the more that I feel that process should be transparent. Not just for my students and their parents, but also for my administrators. Principals, Assistant Principals, and even Super-Intendants should be aware that there is change happening in the classroom. They should also want that change to occur, meaning that they should actively support it. But the only way that this is going to happen is if we start advocating for it.

So, this podcast is all about how we should be writing our own job descriptions for the jobs that we dream about doing as teachers and presenting them to our administrators. I think that if we take this proactive approach, many will listen and start to think differently about what should be going on in the classroom.

Show Notes:

End of the Year Denouement

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For all of the times this year…

that we have doubted ourselves.

that we have felt like we haven’t made a difference.

that we hoped for more.

that a lesson didn’t go according to plan.

that we have worked toward something that didn’t come to fruition.

that we have been wrong.

We must know that these things are better than any sense of certainty or definitive answers that we can muster. Doubt is the manifestation of powerful reflection. Knowing that we haven’t reached everyone shows us just how many we have reached. Hope for the future is why we are here in the first place. Failure is only a negative when it is uninspired; inspired failure is the birth of the most authentic teachable moments. The direct path toward change can’t always be plotted, even if we are working for it. But, we are changed by the work we do, and that can be enough in most cases. Finally, being wrong is beautiful when we can acknowledge it and strive to make it right.

I had to write this because of all of the great things that I have done this year, I have so many great regrets. I say that they are great both because they are large and because they are valuable to me. I hold them close to me to show me the way forward. I gather them together and wear them as a badge of honor. These are the things I will tattoo across my curriculum next year, the things that I will use to transform my teaching, again.

The Embedded Classroom

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The two wiki project that my students have started to work on have taught me that an open framework that allows for embedded materials is preferable to any all-in-one solution that tries to do too much at once. I also would like to apply this concept to my classroom in a concrete way. My students should be able to embed their knowledge and experience into the framework of the classroom. They should be allowed to use whatever service/method they can to prove that they have learned something.

Show Notes and Links:

Remixing The Classroom

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One of my students came up with an amazing metaphor for how intellectual property should work in the classroom and in greater society. She described the idea that remixing should be like cake making. You buy all of the ingredients and then can prepare any kind of cake you like. Once you have the cake, however, you can’t un-remix it and get back to the sugar and flour. You can also borrow sugar from a neighbor, but generally you give them credit when you are serving your delicious cake. I hope that this podcast outlines such a metaphor a little bit better, but I think that this is the metaphor for creating connections that I was looking for a few podcasts back. If you like this podcast, I recommend the Great Remix Debate. You can also digg this podcast at http://digg.com/podcasts/Discourse_about_Discourse_Educasts_by_Ben_Wilkoff

The Great Remix Debate

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I give all of the credit for this podcast to my amazing students. They were the ones that kept a debate on intellectual property, remixing, and mash-ups going for nearly thirty minutes. They were the ones that came up with the amazing examples to support their points. They were also the ones to inspire many thoughts on creating rules for how we use content in the classroom.

I am now convinced that each classroom of students should decide for themselves just what they want to be done with their content. Should teachers be able to use it for next year’s class? Should teachers remix their content into more polished work? We need to be asking the students to come up with what their own boundaries for intellectual property are, and we need to be teaching them where the boundaries are drawn already.

I have decided to split this podcast up into about 40 chapters because that is how many different ideas were thrown around (mostly by different students). I have attached each student’s blog to the chapters in which they spoke. The one request I have is that you comment on this post and tell us which side won the debate. (Although, I’m sure my students wouldn’t mind if you commented on some of their blog posts either.)

Researching School 2.0

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In creating a wiki for my vision of School 2.0 within a school, I have found that there is quite a bit of research out there supporting 1:1 computing, constructivist teaching practice, and engaging technology usage in the classroom. What is even more amazing is that I didn’t know that this research existed because it has been so universally ignored by much of the proponents of this kind of reform. We must have this kind of research on the tips of our tongues, and we must be ready to spout off both the anecdotal evidence and the numbers to anyone who wants to know more about where education is going. We must also create our own research from our own classrooms. This podcast describes three different ways of achieving this goal:
1. A malleable research model that can assess new types of technology as it becomes available.
2. Survey and reflection of what is working in our classrooms.
3. Comparisons of certifications of mastery.

Show notes:

A Personal Curriculum Post.

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The first piece of my personal curriculum that I have decided to tackle is reading 3 boy coming-of-age novels and starting one of my own. This is not something I have done absentmindedly, but rather with the strange focus of something that has true importance for my life. You see, I keep coming back to coming-of-age novels about boys who struggle within their teen years. All of my favorite books are ones that I can see from the awkward perspective of pubescent life. The only problem is that I don’t know why.

Sure, I had a pretty tough time in middle school, but everything worked out in high school, if in an overly eccentric way. I always identified with the loners and nerds, but I stopped thinking that those were bad things long ago. Why then do I seem to obsess over the minutiae of teendom. Why do I care if a boy picks up a cigarrete out of boredom or explores his city for the first time? Why am I so concerned with the first time around, when I am at least on my second? Well, in an attempt to try and figure this part of my personal curriculum out, I will be analyzing these books that have left such an impact on my reading life.

For a while now, I have been compiling a list of all of these particular influential books, and here is what I have come up with:

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  2. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green
  3. Looking for Alaska
  4. Catcher in the Rye
  5. Old School
  6. King Dork

I would like to analyze my affinity for each one of these books individually in the hopes of find out why they force me to keep looking that this part of my life with a critical eye. I think that I am both up for this challenge and up for doing something, anything to work through this obsession.

The Perfect Online Professional Development Community

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I have really been thinking a lot about how to create an online community for all of the teachers in my school district who are as passionate about technology integration, reflection and collaboration as I am. The way that it stands, I feel so isolated in my quest for new and more effective ways of teaching. I know this is not the case, that there are probably hundreds of teachers who feel the same way, but that isn’t really much comfort when I don’t know who they are and I have no way of contacting them. I almost feel like I need to send out a classified ad: Young passionate teacher seeks the same in order to learn and collaborate about technology and pedagogy.

I can’t think of a better way to ask for a community than to create one and hope that other people join up. I have already run this idea by a few, more experienced, Edubloggers, Bud Hunt and Karl Fisch. They have both responded pretty well to the idea and are willing to help me get it off of the ground.

After my initial e-mails to my administration and these two great teachers/resources, I thought that there would be no way of stopping such a mammoth idea. My principal loved it, and the feeder area coordinator thought it would work well with some of our other goals. But last night, I received an e-mail from the Web Services manager of my district. In it he said that I should consider using two semi-crippled technologies (Firstclass and SchoolCenter) that teachers in my district are already fairly comfortable with (and the district has already paid for). I say that these are crippled technologies because they have real holes in their capabilities. They just can’t do everything that I want to do with this community.

Even with this minor setback, I have decided that I will not compromise (at least initially) my vision of the “Perfect Online Professional Development Community.” I would like to see just how collaborative, easy to use, scalable, social, and reflective I can make this experience for other teachers. So, without any further explanation, I would like to unveil what I think are the essential pieces of a new generation professional learning community.

A central portal will give you access to the following (I am thinking about using protopage):

    1. A master blog that would guide discussion.
    2. Blogroll
    3. Recent Blog Articles (a la SuprGlu)
    4. Archived Blog Articles (in a newsletter type format)
    5. A Google Earth Mash-Up of all of the school represented in the community
    6. Bios of the teacher bloggers (if they wish to include them) done in a social way so that collaboration is easier (an Elgg.org-type personal page)
    7. A calendar for event planning (Skypecasts, Classroom Demonstration Webcasts, Classroom Picture Flickr Stream)

The other aspects of the community that will not be directly shown on the portal’s front page except for simply linking to them:

  1. A Q+A section for both teaching questions and technical help questions (Ning.com has a great set-up for something like this).
  2. A Digg-Style Article/Website recommender.
  3. A Wiki for success stories of technology integration or improved practice (a little like David Warlick‘s Telling the New Story Wiki)
  4. Walk-Throughs (screencasts) for how to create blogs, collaborate, etc.
  5. A way of dealing with comments both attached to and unattached to their original posts. (co.mments.com has a pretty great strategy)
  6. A professional development bookshelf (akin to either this one or this one)
  7. A way of signing up for an e-mail RSS system for new posts (most teachers check their e-mail religiously)
  8. A belief statements wiki about technology or teaching in general for certain collaborating members or individuals (this could be a running list of belief statements and/or a running list of questions that these belief statements beg to be answered. I also like the idea of using standpoint.com somehow).
  9. A system for sharing lesson plans and ideas (both formatted and unformatted) including a collaborative document center.
  10. A cross-school project starter (partnering up similar teaching styles)

Questions I still have about how to get this done:

  1. How do we get as many different positions represented in this community (principals, core teachers, librarians, elective teachers, etc.)
  2. Should we try to protect anonymity on the blogs?
  3. Just how much do most people know about these technologies? Will it be like starting from scratch for most people? And if so, should I send out a formal (or informal) survey about these ideas (What have you done in your classrooms with technology? Do you like to create you own lessons? How much do you enjoy reflection? Do you want feedback on your classroom ideas from other teachers? How worried are you that this is going to take too much of your free time? How many of you already blog?)?

Well, that is pretty much it. I would like to make this project as appealing and voluntary as possible, so that everyone who is in the community has a lot of buy-in. Let me know what you think of this grand scheme. What is possible and what is not possible?