Saturday, July 28, 2007

RAW WWW 2.0 Smackdown: David vs. David

Who needs Goliath? David is taking on David, and they are both giants. Everybody involved in this discussion is going out of their way to be polite and respectful to David Warlick and David Thornburg.

To me, it's a slam dunk, it's a pin in less than 30 seconds.

Warlick.

The semantics of "exactly what IS web 2.0" (gag me) aside, Warlick has made the leap to a qualitatively different way of viewing education in the 21st century. Interesting that Thornburg, in his initial comment, made a typo there.

It is a fascinating conversation that needs to be read and followed. It is being gone over again in another post by Warlick. His post is great, but most will be drawn to the comments - as in the one that started it all. Add the posts to your aggregator. Note the action is all on Warlick's blog.

I mentioned making a leap. That is exactly what those standing stoutly behind Warlick have made. And that is what the Thornburg proponents have not made.

A leap.

Of faith.

That many have made and are raving about.

Where I teach, 99% of the educators have not made that leap. The gap between those who have leapt and those who cling to the cliff of 19th and 20th century education widens every day. There are some still sitting on the fence, but many big name folks I started out admiring back in the early nineties when I blazed a few edtech trails have, sadly, stayed put.

For those who look back, it's a little sad and depressing. But those moving on will not look back for long, because they might miss a key, an important road sign, or a beacon to light the the way to a new path for education.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 6:17 PM   2 Comments

Monday, July 23, 2007

5 Whys

danger!
  1. Why can I not go here from school?
  2. Why is it so hard to get past this?
  3. Why is there no educator making decisions on this?
  4. Why is it my job to request access to it?
  5. Why has nobody else where I work realized it's blocked?

...for those who can go...
enjoy
Scott McLeod

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 3:48 PM   13 Comments

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07

I just finished up a series of posts describing blogging with my third graders this past school year. I color-coded links in the posts, to indicate which blog was referenced, and since those colors did not show up in all rss readers (in Netvibes select "Show website"), I list them here:

Blogging through 2006-07: Intro
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 1
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 2
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 3
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 4
Blogging through 2006-07: Conclusion

Blogging through 2005-06
For a similar trip, but a year earlier, the posts below chronicle my first year blogging with third graders, 2005-06. It was a different ride, being the first year and all:

Blogging through the school year, part 1
Blogging through the school year, part 2
Blogging through the school year, part 3

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 11:01 AM   0 Comments

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07: Conclusion

This is the last post in the series:
Blogging through 2006-07: Intro
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 1
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 2
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 3
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 4

Written a month after the end of the school year, the series was my attempt to chronicle some of the high and low points of blogging with my third graders. My initial purpose was to provide a helpful guide to other teachers who wanted to maybe get some ideas or pointers about using blogs in an elementary school classroom. However, once I got started, I realized how useful it was going to be for me to go through the exercise, both in remembering and in planning. My focus changed then to highlighting what was most important to me. If it can still be a help to others, then great. A few ending thoughts:

  • The numbers. By no means is this high statistics, but last night I wondered just how many posts I had written on my classroom blog this year versus last year - and then of course, how many posts the students in those classrooms had written. Even with multitude of variables in play here, I've done enough research and statistics to know that there are enough important variables in common to say there is something going on here:

    2005-06 classroom blog:
    Teacher posts - 56
    Student posts - 340

    2006-07 classroom blog:
    Teacher posts - 29
    Student posts - 711

    Same number of students, same ages, same gender distribution, similar academic strengths, same number of computers in class. The 05-06 class started blogging one month later, but the 06-07 class still has a month and a half left for summer blogging. What does this mean? Well, it looks to me like the students wrote more, and the teacher wrote less. This is good :)

  • Obstacles. I said in the Intro that this was the most frustrating year I've ever had using computers in my classroom. There were two big obstacles to being able to use the computers and the Internet they way (I think) they should have been used:

    The Filter. I requested the unblocking of hundreds of sites - almost all of them wikis and blogs. I can't begin to calculate the hours spent, the frustrations felt, or the amount of wind taken out of my sails (and my kids'). Changes to the filter were made without notice, warning, or explanation. Access to educational content I wanted to use in my classroom or for professional growth was determined by noneducators. Bad enough, but when I was asked to justify - to noneducators - the educational purpose of access to certain sites, well... it was really hard to carry on at times. The lack of professional respect was incredibly discouraging.

    My computers. I have 15 student computers in my classroom - all donated - and set up, maintained, and upgraded by me. This is the third year I've had them. Starting in the fall, permissions were changed. Access to network resources was changed. Client images were changed. Without my knowledge or permission. As with the filter, these changes were made without notice, warning, or explanation. As with the filter, if I wanted something returned to the way I had had it set up for over two years, I was asked - by noneducators - to justify the educational rationale for such a change. The net effect of all this was that my students were constantly having to go to different places on our LAN to find their work. It would change from day to day - and from one machine to another! Despite being administrator on all the machines, I was unable to fix or change even the most basic critical functions - like setting up a new printer. Countless hours spent trying to fix things, talking to people, begging for changes... no dice. It was an absolute nightmare.

  • And yet... I'll do it again next year. No question. Yes, it's worth it. There is simply no more powerful tool we teachers can use to encourage and cultivate the literacy skills of our kids - than the blog. Next year I'll add wikis.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 7:33 AM   6 Comments

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07: Part 4

This is part of a series, so far consisting of:
Blogging through 2006-07: Intro
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 1
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 2
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 3
Links to posts from this blog are in green, links to posts from my classroom blog are in red.

  • May, 2007: The kids' writing this month was almost exclusively on their "books" for our school's annual Young Author's Conference. Taking a chance, I posted (actually cross-posted to both blogs, something I did occasionally throughout the year) Publishing Drafts. I encouraged the kids to post drafts of parts of their books, like say a chapter, on their blogs - and ask readers for feedback. Several kids did this, and a couple even got feedback via comments. Will do this more in the future, I think. Mid-month I wrote about My Trip to Toronto, a definite personal highlight from the year.

  • June, 2007: I posted some final thoughts and another podcast on silent reading online in SSR 2.0 - final update. One of the easiest pieces for the kids to write was to talk about their blogs - blogs in general, why they should keep them, why blogs are good, etc - they were all over the map in their approaches to this. It was good: Third graders on blogging. My frustrations with the district filter spilled out once again in Kids too? With little more than a week to go in the school year, I put on Family Internet Night 2 (cross-posted). Finally getting around to getting parent permission for their kids pictures to appear on the web, in a multi media frenzy, I posted a podcast in Good-bye, Mrs. Freeman! , a short video in The Room Twelve Cheer! (crossposted), and 14 pictures in a Bubbleshare slideshow, Here we are... The month ended, appropriately enough, with It's not over. And it's not. It's mid July as I write this... just approved a comment to an article written by one of the kids I no longer teach...

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 10:10 AM   0 Comments

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07: Part 3

This is part of a series, so far consisting of:
Blogging through 2006-07: Intro
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 1
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 2
Links to posts from this blog are in green, links to posts from my classroom blog are in red.

  • February, 2007: Started off the month posting Heroes and Hopes, an attempt to have the kids blog their writing for a school wide prompt. As the month started I began experimenting with letting my reading group read from blogs during silent reading: Is this SSR, 2.0? Actually had a couple of podcasts grow out of the experience. I left blog reading open as an option through the rest of the school year. A couple of fairly successful assigned writing prompts were about Valentine's Day and starting out with multiplication. See student blogs for February (scroll way down) for examples. A couple of kids got comments from other students who had got hold of some nifty animated text generators, which were quite the rage for a while: student blog example.

  • March, 2007: Documenting chaos is the first mention I can find of the disastrous mucking up of the student computers in my classroom. I was, and still am, outraged at the confusion, extra work, and hours and hours of lost learning time caused by this - which had started way back in September. In Back on the blog! I mentioned the kids blogging about their favorite blogs to read. This one was just almost too much - not only did they have to be reading several blogs outside of our class, but I had the bright idea to try and teach them some raw html at the same time, so they could hyperlink to those blogs when they wrote about them: Beyond comments.

  • April, 2007: My blog was pretty quiet this month, except for a couple of Earth Day Groceries Project posts. Meanwhile, the kids did well writing on their Spring Break plans and Earthday, now on to the WASL! Their WASL (our state's high stakes test) blog posts were composed over a five day period, journal-style, then uploaded to their blogs at the end of the week. Still not sure about whether this was useful or worthwhile.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 4:44 PM   4 Comments

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07: Part 2

This is part of a series:
Blogging through 2006-07: Intro
Blogging through 2006-07: Part 1
Links to posts from this blog are in green, links to posts from my classroom blog are in red.

  • November, 2006: With not much experience behind them, I asked the kids to write a bit about their feelings on Report Cards! Borrowing heavily from Jeff Utecht, I put on a Classroom LAN Party to share info with my colleagues in Seattle about the K12 Online Conference. A couple of days before Thanksgiving I asked my kids to write a story after this prompt: "Pretend you are a Turkey. How will you escape being served for Thanksgiving Dinner?" (Turkey stories). This one had always been fun, even before blogging. In a fit of silliness I sat down with my wife one evening and wrote Galaxy - which I will definitely try a variation on with my kids next year.

  • December, 2006: The month started with a Family Internet Night which was pretty well attended. With a week before Christmas Vacation, I posted Holiday Writers describing some very nice writing about the upcoming holidays. The writing ranged from memories, to wish lists for Santa, to fantasy stories, to reflections on the meaning of the holiday. The hardest work in an assignment like this was to define the assignment - with enough guidance, and yet enough latitude to encourage creativity. I assigned several writing pieces this way during the year - this one turned out to be one of the best. A couple of examples from the kids: A Weird Christmas and Christmas Fun!!! There were a few times during the school year when I really lost my "voice" on my personal blog. December was one of those times.

  • January, 2007: I started the new year with a definite stretch, Five Things - in which I "tagged" all my kids to write down five things people probably did not know about them - this all coming from a meme sweeping the edtech bolgosphere, where I was tagged by Doug Noon. About half a dozen kids chose this prompt to write about when I gave them a choice of topics. They did well, but it was a challenge - remember they were 8 and 9 years old. I posted proudly about my students who blogged from home over vacation at The Kids Are Alright. In Am I Nuts? I welcomed back some of my third graders from last year, and created a "Room 12 Alumni" group on our blog. I had by this time given up on the fourth grade teachers in my school setting up a blog for my third graders from last year. I wrote a bit more about this in Bloggers becoming gardeners. By the end of the month, a couple of my kids had figured out how to customize their blogs a little - and ended up showing me and the rest of the class how to do it: Colorful Writers!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 5:36 PM   0 Comments

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07: Part 1

(there is an intro at Blogging through 2006-07: Intro Links to posts on this blog are in green, links to posts on my classroom blog are in red)

The 2006-07 school year promised to be an exciting one. It would be my second one blogging with a group of third graders, and I had learned a huge amount about what worked and what didn't the year before. I also had a lot of new ideas I wanted to try out. This is an attempt to string together some of the important events of that school year.
  • August, 2006: Summers are always the time for me to learn, grow, and write more. Big event for our school was Arbor Heights - a dozen years on the web! Spurred on by this, I created a Wikipedia entry for my school. As summer ended, I was consumed with fear over DOPA passing, and frustrated with school filtering - Worse than DOPA - the Whitelist. Launching the new class blog, I posted Blog for a new year in the new classblogmeister location (new email account for me, changed the domain forward for roomtwelve.com). The new class was all set up and ready to go.

  • September, 2006: Finally said good-bye to last year's class, with Sail on! and on the same day posted Fighting filtering, noting the district blocking of Technorati, David Warlick, Edublogs, my school's wiki, and much more. I was beside myself. Also on the same day, I welcomed the new class Welcome to roomtwelve.com! There was still a huge amount of tech stuff happening at the personal level: Another day, before it really starts. In the classroom there was a lot of word processing practice, learning how to navigate within our local server to open, save, edit, etc... By the end of the month, students were posting their first articles, introductions of themselves - amazing! I wrote about the first day of student blogging in Almost there. Three student examples: Logan, Lindsay, and Riley2.

  • October, 2006: I tried to draw some early comparisons between last year's group and this year's in Amazing start. The first live recording of me speaking put into a podcast was Open House - a podcast! I tried it again at a workshop I gave for my colleagues at wiki work. I was still frustrated about district filtering policies when I wrote Riding a bubble and watching my back - which followed a request to the tech department to be sure a list of several hundred sites were unblocked as part of the K12Online Conference. I assigned a second blog writing piece in Scary Writers, which turned out amazingly well, considering I only gave the kids two 15-20 minute periods in which to write, and then post to their blogs.

    A note about student writing on blogs. We almost always wrote in MS Word first, and then did copy/paste to the blog. We did at times use paper/pencil to generate a list of ideas prior to writing, but usually all writing took place exclusively on the computer. To see our classroom blog with ALL student blog articles listed on the left (from the entire year), in chronological order, follow this link. It's a long page, but there is so much to see!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:51 AM   1 Comments

Friday, July 13, 2007

Blogging through 2006-07: Intro

I don't know how many parts this series will have, if or when I'll finish it, or exactly how it will turn out. I just know I have to write it.

At the end of the 2005-06 school year, after a phenomenally exciting first year blogging with my third graders, I wrote three posts. The idea was to track the progress of the kids' blogs, my progress as a teacher using blogs for the first time, and so on:

I mention them here again because maybe this will be useful to somebody. There are a lot more teachers blogging with their kids now, and if there's something here to help a teacher get started, or plan, then great.

It was also good for me to go back a little and get some long term perspective.

In 2006-07, I blogged again - with a different group of third graders, using classblogmeister. The kids were wonderful writers. They took to the medium so easily, more easily than the 2005-06 class - but it always happens that way. Kids are just getting tech savvy so much earlier.

I also had an incredibly exciting year personally, from presenting at the K12 Online Conference, to being awarded a $10,000 grant for technology in my classroom, to presenting virtually and live at the IRA National Convention in May, 2007.

And yet in the things that mattered the most to me this year, working with my kids on computers, and trying to be a good steward of web 2.0, well... it was the most frustrating year I've ever had. I have never been so angry.

Taking a deep breath now, and looking forward to Part 1, maybe tomorrow.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 6:11 PM   5 Comments

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Getting away and perspective

Cape Flattery 1 My wife, a good friend, and I just returned from a brief birding get-away to Cape Flattery, where we literally stood on the northwest tip of the continental US, looking out west into the vast Pacific Ocean. We were lucky enough to see tufted puffins, nesting murres and pelagic cormorants, a sea and river otter, oyster catchers - and a host of other fabulous living things, perched a hundred feet or so above the crashing waves. It was take your breath away fabulous.

Tatoosh IslandLooking out past Tatoosh Island and all the nesting birds so close to, and yet so far away from the mainland was amazing. I felt hopeful again. I got to take a breath, maybe regain my long term perspective.

I've been struggling with this need to write about my hurdles from this past year using technology in my classroom. I have not tried yet, because the wounds and anger are still too deep and fresh. I think I can now - soon, anyway.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 3:30 PM   0 Comments

Friday, July 06, 2007

Summer Bloggers and Community

A few of my third graders are continuing to blog over the summer, even though school is out, and I'm no longer their teacher. I still check, edit a little if necessary, and approve all content added to their blogs, including comments. Which is why I write this now.

One of the wonderful things about the tool I use, David Warlick's Classblogmeister, is that there is a community that comes with it. Students stay in touch with other students - in large part because of the familiarity with the tool - they all know how to comment, where to look for new stuff, navigation is the same, etc. It's nice, it lets teachers and kids concentrate on their writing, and not spend a lot of time trying to figure out a new navigational system.

But what really sets it apart is the teacher community and the conversations that happen in it. The meeting place for that community is a good old 1.0 Internet form, the discussion list. There's a very active group (open to anyone) at Yahoo! Groups. Much support, problem solving, questions, and so on. And every once in a while somebody comes along and just amazes everybody with what they've discovered, or in this case, developed.

Adrian Bruce posted Positive Comments... Animated :), as a way to embed little animated flash reinforcers in comments. Works wherever you can use html, like here:


Award Courtesy adrianbruce.com

Award Courtesy adrianbruce.com

Award Courtesy adrianbruce.com

I just added these little gems to comments of some of my kids:

Nifty stuff, beats the heck out of scratch and sniff stickers :) Thanks, Adrian!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 5:02 PM   1 Comments

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gasp!

From a comment left on David Warlick's post, "It Isn't Easy":

In my district, We want our teachers to use blogs BUT we as instructional
technology leaders in the district don’t blog so what are we saying to the
teachers? … I need to lead by doing and after NECC I am more willing and
invigorated to continue the ‘discussions’ with the district gate keepers.

If this were written in 2003 or 2004, I would have been excited.

If it were written in 2005 or 2006, I would have been encouraged.

But this was written in the last half of 2007, and I am flat out shaking my head in dismay and anger. So far to go and so little horsepower to get there...

must work outside the system

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 8:47 PM   4 Comments

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Class of 2016 - a few pics

I just posted this on the classroom blog for my third graders at roomtwelve.com These few pics are just a teeny snapshot of the year, but I smile every time I watch it. They were (are!) an extraordinary group, and they will do well, they will go far:

This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 6:55 PM   0 Comments