Monday, December 24, 2007

Before the Conceptual Age can Arrive

My wife and I decided to take some quality time to visit one of our local educational centers, The Roberson Museum and Science Center. While there, the Edwin A. Link Exhibit really spoke to me, so much so that I went to get a piece of paper and pencil and copied down some of the quotes around the room. Here is one:

Americans have long been fascinated by speed, motion, and any kind of vehicle that can explore new places.

We also have a recurring, if not constant belief in progress. The latest technologies often seem to have the potential not just to make life easier but solve large social problems.

The first half of the 20th Century these two themes - the romance of motion and belief in progress through technology came together in the idea of the airplane, and created an exciting concept.

The Air Age would be a time of peace and prosperity made possible by this new technology.

Before the Air Age could arrive, pioneers would have to explore and improve the technology, making it safe and demonstrating its usefulness.

There are many educational pioneers of today exploring and improving the technologies of the 21st Century, in order to make it safe and demonstrate its usefulness. We are fighting virtually the same battle today instead this time it's over a different kind of technology and with a different social problem.

Who are the pioneers of today?
  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Administrators
  • Parents
  • Business Leaders
  • Politicians
  • Community Leaders
Perhaps there are others but I would imagine that to be a true pioneer in the midst of these exciting times that not only do you recognize the urgency and need to change but you act on them as well. The pioneers will blaze the path and the rest will follow in time. Unfortunately, it will take time and unfortunately some will take a fall.

According to Daniel Pink's, A Whole New Mind, we are transitioning from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Many times transitions and times of change are marked with distinct dissidence, fear, and radical behavior. So it seems to me that before the Conceptual Age can truly arrive, todays pioneers will have to continue to explore and improve the technologies of the 21st Century, making it safe and demonstrate its usefulness. It would appear that history is repeating itself.

A book called Who Moved My Cheese talks briefly about different personalities and how they deal with change. According to Dr. Spencer Johnson, author of Who Moved My Cheese, there are three stages of change:
  1. Stage 1 ~ Preparing People for Change
  2. Stage 2 ~ Gaining Change Skills
  3. Stage 3 ~ Achieving a Change
A true pioneer, David Jakes, has put together a nice foundational plan for schools to begin dealing with this transition into the 21st Century. His plan seems to follow these three basic stages of change and outlines how school districts can begin to handle the transition effectively and in such a way that the staff will feel safe and find usefulness in the tools. Wesley Fryer, another who continues to blaze the path focuses in on very specific points in our educational system that needs to change.

During such times I would like to think that I am on the side of the pioneers handling the change in a way that will help blaze the path. I gotta tell ya though, I am riding on the coat tails of many others through this journey. I certainly feel that I am living and teaching during exciting times, and I look forward to the next year of growth.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Life is Good

Gavin and Daddy
Originally uploaded by Watch Dog
Need I say more?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wobble Wobble

Life for me is so much about balance. Here we are steam rolling our way into the holiday season and I feel like the guy who is spinning the plates on the end of those rods and needs to keep them spinning so they don't fall. Wow, careful, get that one, quick that one is starting to wobble. You get the picture.

Is every teacher running frantically to keep the plates spinning? I would love to know the secret so I can be an effective 21st Century Teacher, Husband, Father, and Learner.

Ahhh, quick that one is getting ready to fall, spin, spin, spin.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Writer's Reflections

1. What insights have you learned about yourself as a writer since participating in the blogosphere?

Writing forces me to slow down in the midst of the storm of information. A year ago I would not have even considered myself a writer outside of the daily grind of teaching. Sure, there were lesson plans, writing comments on report cards, creating a to do list, or writing out the bills, but never a time for true reflection. Reflection happened on the drive home, not on paper and surely not on the infamous W.W.W.

At this point, I truly reflect on my teaching by taking the time to write, and boy does it take time. The act of writing forces me to think through my thoughts succinctly, which has never been a strength of mine. It is a challenge but going through this experience I find myself being a much more effective teacher of writing.

2. How has participating in the blogosphere changed your perspective about your own writing?

I think deeply about my writing and take a great deal of pride in what I post. Do I think of myself as a professional author? No way! But, I do feel that I can contribute to the conversation at some level. At this point, I at least view myself as a writer with something to say where before this experience I don't think I would say that.

I have learned that this could be more than a one way form of communication, although when I first started posting on this blog I felt that I was talking to myself.

3. What are some ways that I am currently helping my students be meta-cognitive reflective writers?
  • Conferencing ~ Using the language of a writer "What are you working on as a writer?"
  • Modeling my own struggles and successes as a writer through Think Alouds
4. What are new strategies which I could implement to help my students be more self reflective about their writing development?
  • Student Blogs ~ focus on one aspect of writing (Mini-lesson daily or weekly)
  • Have students journal about the purpose of conventions as well as their own struggles and accomplishments.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Conversation Between Me and Myself

"Now wait a minute young man, this is not a race the Web 2.0 is not going anywhere!" The little voice said.

"I know but I am so excited to be able to begin a global project with my students, you don't understand." I responded with great enthusiasm.

"Well, you have completely immersed yourself in the ways of preparing our students for the 21st Century and I can sense your obvious excitement. How will you begin your blogging project?" The voice asked.

"Thanks for asking, first I will get parents involved by sending home a letter explaining how the program will work and hopefully they will sign the permission form. Then the immersion will begin," I said with great confidence.

"I see," said the voice skeptically. "Let's not forget about safety because you know that will be the first issue that you will have to convince the community about. Have you thought about how you will handle this very important concern that parents will most likely have?" The voice spoke with grave concern.

"Absolutely! Blogmeister has a nice addition where all posts and comments come to me first before they are posted online."

The voice interjected, "Oh, excellent."

I continued hardly able to catch my breath. "Yes, safety is an important issue and we want to protect our children however, in these noble efforts of protecting our students I think part of my job is also to empower students to make their own educational decisions, to help them realize that learning can take place far outside the four walls of our classroom, that they too can contribute to the global conversation and begin to see themselves as part of a global learning community which will hopefully ignite a passion for learning that I completely lose control over."

"Wow! You have really thought this through, " the little voice said with amazement.

"Actually, everything that I have mentioned has been said before by people much smarter than me, it's just that I have begun to develop my own personal learning network."

With a look of bewilderment, the voice said, "A personal what?"

"A personal learning network. This is where I am able to learn from folks who contribute to the global conversations and the beautiful thing is that I am able to learn when I want because I am not limited by time or a physical space. Learning can take place 24-7-365. Pretty cool huh?" I spoke as if I just scored the winning run in the big game.

"Ok, so what your saying is that not only are your students realizing their learning potential but you are too?" The voice spoke with a little twinkle in the eye.

"Hey, I am a teacher and a learner. We need to own this new way of learning for ourselves before we can ultimately help students through this process."

The voice was hooked, "Ok, I would like to participate in this learning adventure with your students, how can I begin?"

"Follow me, let's go check out our blog."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Personal Powerful Moments

  • David Jake's session on Saturday was worth the price of admission.
  • Designing a digital video with Barb and Sue.
  • Richard Harlin's open source classroom was a mind stretcher
  • Meeting Brian C. Smith and his wife Wendy ~ he has been to Hammondsport, where I grew up, and we know some of the same folks.
  • Great conversation with Stephen, a college professor from Nazerath
  • figuring out Twitter and Ning
  • podcasting to my students from a cellphone using evoca and then posting it on Blackboard.
  • Will Richardson's focus session and being involved in the live UStream TV show.
  • being able to stand on stage with Jean, Dodie, Michelle, and Diane to receive the ePal award.
  • Getting to know Tim DiScipio, co founder of ePals. Thanks for lunch.
  • Working with Rob, the video editing guru.
  • Sitting alone in the back of the Lilac Ballroom watching Marco Torres. I was absolutely blown away by his students work and found myself shedding a tear when he spoke about his own children.
  • Playing the Riverside Convention Center's Steinway & Sons Grand Piano after hours ~ unbelievably crisp tone.
  • Spending time with Jean and having some great conversations.
  • Being able to talk with David Jakes and Will Richardson just before the final Keynote.
  • Some quality time spent with my Uncle Jim and Aunt Bobbie, thanks for the room.
  • Randomly meeting Deb Stephens, a Broome Tioga BOCES employee that works with Macs and digital videos.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

"First the Brain then the Face"

Saturday, November 17, 2007 will hardly be a day I will forget anytime too soon. There I was in the cathedral like lobby of the Riverside Convention Center at 6:50 a.m. feelin' like a kid that woke up early on Christmas morning waiting for his folks to join him. There were a few workers setting up for the NYSCATE Conference but for the most part it was like a ghost town, large building, few people.

Being the good student I am, I found a strategic seat that allowed me to see what was going on and who was showing up. I pulled out the Mac and started fumbling with Twitter when a recognizable face appeared in the lobby. "Are you David Jakes by any chance?" I asked somewhat reluctantly. Sure enough he was and had a seat next to me and we began a conversation.

Several weeks before, when I knew I was going to be attending his workshop I began to read through his blog where I had the chance to meet his "brain" and this meeting allowed me to meet his "face."

David's workshop was simply amazing. The experience reminded me of the first time I saw the Grand Canyon; humbling and wordless. You never forget the Grand Canyon after you see it, you are never truly able to wrap your words around it's magnitude and power. At this point, I look forward to taking a few days to process this and continue to move forward. I am so thankful for the learning opportunity and will be wrapping my head and words around the magnitude and power of the Read/Write Web.

Thanks David Jakes!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Times They Are a-Changin'

What else do we need to say that Bob didn't in 1964?

The Times They Are a-Changin'
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
~ Bob Dylan

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Will My Students Be Able to Blog?

In the midst of preparing for a New York State Social Studies Test we have had a chance to send out a few emails to our new friends in Thunder Bay, Canada and France. The students seem incredibly interested in using the ePals program and are very eager to get their first reply.

Also, I have been diligently preparing for my yearly Individualized Performance Review, commonly known as the IPR Project. The premise behind this district initiative is to engage tenured teachers in the opportunity for professional growth where we as educators have an option in what we would like to focus on for the year.

This year I am going to focus on student blogging. I have been gathering my resources and trying to come up with a constructive plan that will allow for the greatest success possible. At this point, I am trying to get District approval for the Project. If this happens I will then need to gather support from the parents to allow their children to participate.

There has been a great deal of work involved to get to this point. I have gathered and read through several research articles, read through Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Webtools for Classrooms, used Susan Pedro's parent letter as an outline for writing my letter to the parents, read through numerous blogs and wikis, and put a plan together "on paper" that I presented to the administration.

In a couple of days I will find out if I will be able to move forward with this exciting project. Wish me luck!

Research Summary - November 5, 2007

Marked Documents

Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration
Yoany Beldarrain. Distance Education. Melbourne: Aug 2006. Vol. 27, Iss. 2; p. 139 (15 pages)
Linda Wells. Reading Today. Newark: Aug/Sep 2006. Vol. 24, Iss. 1; p. 40 (1 page)
How To...Blog!
Linda Lindroth. Teaching Pre K - 8. Norwalk: Aug/Sep 2006. Vol. 37, Iss. 1; p. 25 (1 page)
Blogs and Blogging, Part II
Annette Lamb, Larry Johnson. School Library Media Activities Monthly. Baltimore: May 2006. Vol. 22, Iss. 9; p. 40 (5 pages)
'Blogs' Catching On as Tool for Instruction
Rhea R Borja. Education Week. Bethesda: Dec 14, 2005. Vol. 25, Iss. 15; p. 1 (2 pages)
educational blogging
Laurel A Clyde. Teacher Librarian. Seattle: Feb 2005. Vol. 32, Iss. 3; p. 43 (3 pages)
Using weblogs in the classroom
Greg Weiler. English Journal (High school edition). Urbana: May 2003. Vol. 92, Iss. 5; p. 73

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Flattening Has Begun

So there I was, fumbling through Joyce Valenza's Information Fluency wiki and David Warlick's wiki only to stumble into a wonderful link from MathReflections called Moving toward a Flatter Classroom.

After reading and reflecting on this blog entry I then realized that I too have slowly begun the shift to a flatter classroom. How have I been doing this?

One way is that I have created a class website through Blackboard where I have incorporated a "Discussion Board." There are many limitations to this way of communicating however, it is a good starting point for me to begin to model how to use these tools to have a dialogue.

With that said, students are finding themselves on the Discussion Board posting original stories, original questions that they have, and reflecting on books that they are reading. The shift has begun but very slowly.

These kids are really fired up about writing their original stories and have begun to realize that they do indeed have a voice and a story to tell. The students are realizing that they do not simply need to write and keep their journals buried in the depths of their desk, but they can share. I find that children love to share their stories and due to the lack of time the Discussion Board has allowed the students the opportunity to be heard.

I cannot wait to get permission from all the parents to allow this group to have their own blogs. I believe that their motivation to contribute and take charge of their own learning will increase even more. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 22, 2007

21st Century Learner

For some reason I have been having an incredibly challenging time to blog as of late. There really has been a great deal of innovation going on in my life and the lives of my students, but I simply have not taken the time (it's all about balance) to write about it.

Our school district hired Elliot Masie to speak at our Superintendent's Conference this month. I was inspired and moved by his entertaining and informative presentation, but finding myself with a lot to say before, during, and afterwards. However, there was really not much opportunity for that with the format of the teachers sitting in the audience and Mr. Masie out in front. I was then thinking about Will Richardson's comments on the irony of this model of presentation where he mentions his frustrations with this.

Later that week, I then experienced the K12 Online Conference and discovered the incredible links to the 2006 conferences as well. My learning curve had a rather large spike after watching several of last years presentations for the first time. Since then I have really tried to wrap my head around everything that I have experienced. David Warlick's Hitchhikr, I discoverd is absolutely genius and again allowed my learning curve to climb.

Basically, I am on "Innovation Overload," and looking for opportunities to stretch my wings and apply this newly discovered knowledge. My goals as of late:

1. Continue to be a 21st Century Learner.
2. Attempt to be a more effective 21st Century Teacher/Facilitator.
3. Find out what tools will help me establish my own personal social network
a. Second Life
b. Twitter
c. Skype
d. Blogging
e. ???

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ready, Willing, and Able

Ready, Willing, and Able
K-12 Online Conference

I stumbled across Brian Crosby's blog entry about this years K-12 Online Conference and found myself following through the links and spending a couple of hours watching last years videos and reading through the notes for the first time.

~ WOW ~

It seems that each new day brings a wonderful new learning gem. So needless to say I am ready, willing, and able to participate in this years event and look forward to the learning adventure. See ya there!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Wikis in Action

How can teachers save time and utilize their resources among one another effectively? Well, the fifth grade teachers and library media specialist at our school is trying to do just that by using our wiki. I created a PBWiki account several months ago and have been fumbling around trying to find practical purposes for it and I think we now have one.

Objective: The teaching staff will have one place to call their own where we as a building can share our lesson plans, the resources we used, a collection of Internet sites, and a place to share our reflections as well.

I have come across some well developed wikis that has provided a great framework for me to use when beginning to design our wiki.
Wes Fryer
Joyce Valenza
David Warlick

The constant theme that comes up is "time" and there is never enough. I find that even the teachers in our own building struggle to meet and collaborate on a regular basis. I do believe that a wiki could help ease some of that pain but that is just me. I need to somehow build in momentum for this tool with the other teachers to actually get this project off the ground without sounding like an evangelist, which according to my wife, might be my biggest challenge.

I would love to hear from folks who use wikis or if you know of space that has been created where teachers are saving time and sharing resources.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Writer's Workshop

The first several weeks of school are so exciting for me because I get to explore and experiment with a brand new group of students. I observe and listen to every detail and try to use their stories they think I didn't hear when setting up a mini-lesson of some kind.

These kids have taken off with their writing and it seems that I too have become much more comfortable as a "writing teacher." I am still using journals and they are using the infamous no. 2 pencils, but I truly believe that we will have some superb writing this year. A big thank you to those fourth grade teachers, a job nicely done.

At any rate, while setting up my writer's workshop I have been following much of what Lucy Calkin's has to say and enjoying every moment of it. At this point, the students are picking their own topics that interest them and I think that because of this I am getting some authentic stories. During their writing I am in search of what my next mini-lesson will be on and trying desperately to help the "writers" and not fix their "writing piece."

This is all a wonderful journey and I do hope that at some point this year, I will be able to setup a blog for each student to transfer this great learning experience to a global audience.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Going Global with Alan November

I just listened to Alan November's podcast about "Going Global." He mentions that he has had the opportunity to travel to various countries and has witnessed the sense of urgency that teachers have that many American educators may be missing. I believe that during this podcast he was speaking with a principal who asked what he can do to build capacity and instill this sense of urgency that is desperately needed. Alan's response:

1. Skype ~ download skype and begin having conversations with people/educators from other countries.

2. Podcasting Workshops ~ send two students from every class to a podcast workshop with the teacher

3. Blogging~ personal, professional, and get students blogging.

I have heard Alan speak at our school last year, and I have since read The World is Flat and my teaching practice has changed. I am hungry to learn more and eager to let the students "own" the learning. I am still fumbling with trying to make this work in my class but I am taking baby steps and making progress.

I believe American educators are beginning to get it... the more blogs I read the more I am exposed to some incredibly innovative teachers that are blazing the path for the rest of the world. The message is clear: we as American educators have our work cut out for us to be able to empower students to compete in a global community. I am up for the challenge, are you?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Soldiers Demons

Vietnam veterans are still struggling and I wonder what demons our soldiers of today will have to battle.

My father was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in '68 and has only spoken of his horrific experiences a handful of times. When I was a young boy there were nights when I was rustled out of bed by the screams of my father as he was reliving his time in Vietnam during his sleep.

Despite the fact that decades have past he has learned to deal with those demons in his own way and even though I served in the Marine Corps, I still know to not ask. He seems to get along just fine these days but I am sure those demons creep out of the depths in which they are buried from time to time.

Today, a friend of mine opened the flood gates about his demons that he has had to live with from Vietnam. It is so hard for me to comprehend what it must have been like to live through so much death. These stories he told were not scenes from a movie or snippets from a news report; these were stories that my buddy experienced first hand.

We forget, well, I forget that there are men and women in the trenches right now at this moment as I am laying back on a comfortable couch in the safety of my home, while my younger children are tucked into their beds, and my older son is playing video games. I don't want to forget but at the same time I have turned a numb ear to much of what the media has to say about our war on terror.

I live my life as if there is no war going on at all but the reality of it is much different, there is a war going on and I must remind myself of this fact.

I wonder what life would be like if the war on terror was being fought in the streets where I live? I wonder how I would react if foreign soldiers marched around my neighborhood? For all the challenges and problems our country is involved in I am still so thankful to be living in America and to call myself an American.

I am so thankful I have not experienced the horrors of war but there are many who have. I hope and pray that our service men and women who are fighting the war on terror will have a speedy return back to their loved ones and be able to live their lives in peace without the challenges of any war demons.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Where's the Pause Button?

Corning Fountain

Today was just a spectacular day with my kids. Imagine if you will ~ 85 degrees, bright blue skies with cotton candy clouds, a colorfully landscaped courtyard, and the relentless energy of children as they dance in the cold chlorinated water of a 30 foot fountain. The slip preventative cushion floor was a perfect circle about 50 feet in diameter with the geyser directly in the center spouting welcomed water.

My son, who is 3 asks, "Daddy, can I share my toys with the other kids?"

"Absolutely, son. I think that's a great idea," I said with a cool smile.

I am blown back each day with the pure sincerity of my children. My daughter, 14 months, has perfected what I call the monkey walk, and endlessly watches the other children as they skip around the fountain. While standing in the shallow water she bends over to wet her hair and then smiles with an accompanying scream when she finds her brother running by while looking upside down. A moment I wish I had on camera.

Time is moving too fast. I can remember being a young child and it seemed just the opposite; hot endless summers. Can we just hit the pause button? Can we even just slow this ride down a bit? I would like nothing more than to hold my kids while I can and etch that feeling deep into my soul.

This summer seems to be coming to a rapid end and I never really accomplished any of my professional goals. For a while I was bothered with this but before I know it I will be back in the trenches again with my students fighting the good fight. For now, I am wrapping my arms around my kids and can't wait for the next giggle, butterfly kiss, or, "Daddy, will you pick me up?"

Being a parent is such an honor and I am so thankful for the gift. I only hope that I am doing it right.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sum, Sum, Summertime

Summer is here and the time is right for "___________________"
you can fill in the blank as you see fit

There isn't much dancin' in the streets going on here. I have been very busy working my "part time" summer job and haven't had much time to write anything of interest. Although, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through Will Richardson, David Warlick, Wesley Fryer, and Elliot Masie's blogs and their resources.

It's been pretty neat reading the many posts about the summer conferences and the bloggers getting a chance to meet face to face. I have read so much from these guys that they have become somewhat of an icon to me. I am not sure how I would react if I bumped into David Warlick at a hotel, or if Will and his family ran by me in a marathon. I would hope that I would keep my wits about me and extend a simple, "Thank you for all that you do!"

Although I am not writing much on my blog these days I am poking around and trying to stay in tune with what's hot and what's not. Summer does seem to be flying by and before I know it I'll hear the school bells ringing and those little feet scurrying down the hall. At this point, I look forward to the continued wealth of knowledge from our fearless afore mentioned mentors.

~ Let your freak flags fly and keep on keeping on ~ Crosby Stills and Nash

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Star Wars Personality Test

You are Obi-Wan Kenobi

You are civilized, calm, and
have a good sense of humor,
even when those around you don't.
You can hold your own in a fight,
but prefer it when things
don't get too exciting.

Click here to take the "Which Star Wars character are you?" quiz...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Goin' Paperless

Is it possible for an elementary teacher to go paperless?

As elementary teachers its always about the "time," we simply do not have enough of it. Whether its time with the students, time to plan, time to meet with colleagues, time to reflect, or time with our families. You name it there is always some element of our time that is being challenged. By far, the weakest link in my chain is trying to keep all the paperwork organized, and managing this eats so much of my time up relatively quickly.

So I have been asking myself, "Self, what are some ways you could save time?" As I look around my classroom, I am surrounded by an endless sea of paper. I have dozens of 3 ring binders that are jammed packed with great resources, I have a filing cabinet that is complete with 7 years of files for every subject, and endless memos that are neatly "piled" throughout my room.

I have found a scanner that might help. In my mind, I am going to digitize my entire filing cabinet and then upload them to my Blackboard Site for staff, students, and parents. I would have constant access to my files, curriculum, and memos and could then share them as well. I don't know, I simply wonder if I might be creating more work for myself.

"Self, what are some ways you could save time?"

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Never Too Late, or is it?

There are 13 days remaining, 3:00 on a Friday, and my fifth grade students have their infamous Friday Folders. This is when I discover that David Warlick's Blogging site, Class Blogmeister, has recently been unblocked on our school's server. YES!

I couldn't wait until Monday and found myself wishing there were more days left with my students so I could thoroughly get a blogging project off the ground. So, when I got home and started telling my wife about the great news she handed me a copy of Will Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms that I had ordered a couple of days prior. Perfect.

The weekend was intense while I was gathering as many resources as I could find from the Internet and organized some of the information on Mr. Howell's Classroom Wiki. I also found myself clinging to every word in Will Richardson's book and referring to many of the websites he noted.

During this year I have constantly felt this uneasy feeling that we were running out of time. Because of this, I have taught with an intense sense of urgency, not in a maniacal sense, simply utilizing each minute to its full capacity. I have turned a corner in my career and it seems that with every professional conversation I have with other teachers it always leads back to the same topic, "The World is Flat."

Am I insane to even take something like this blogging project on with so few days left in the school year?

Picture posted on Flickr by Misterteacher

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Summer Reading Goals

At this point, the school year is rapidly coming to an end. I will be looking for some part time work for the summer, spend as much quality time with my family as I can, and squeeze in some reading.

Reading Goals for the Summer
1. Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind
2. Alan November's Empowering Students with Technology
3. David Warlick's Classroom Blogging
4. Will Richardson's Blogs, Wiki's, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms
5. Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline

What books are you reading that you could recommend?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

21st Century Skills

  • How do we attract teachers to the idea that the World is Flat and that we are living in historical times?
  • How do we generate momentum and build capacity in a Learning Organization?
  • How do we get those interested in an idea that is so important and revolutionary when they do not view it as such?
  • What needs to happen to create real change in a school?
  • Is it possible to create a shared leadership vision that empowers and enables?
  • What is one thing I can do as a teacher that makes the biggest impact in my class?
  • What is one thing I can do as a teacher that makes the biggest impact in the school?

I would love to share what I have learned about the Web 2.0 with the professional teachers I work with. I see what is happening with the Web 2.0 technologies and the incredible impact it is having on the world and find it fascintating that so many people do not see it. This is all I want to talk about. I am saying, "Let's figure out ways to jump on board and help our students, help our community, help our country, help the world." But, to be quit honest I think I sound more like a mad man than a professional teacher at times.

Always more questions than answers. Ahhh.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Curriculum Mapper on the Way

Our school district is getting ready to use a software program called Curriculum Mapper in order to digitize the entire curriculum. I was very excited to hear about such an initiative and hope that I will have the opportunity to get involved at some level. At this point, the five year goal will be to get every grade, k-12, online and ready to go.

It appears that the actual process of mapping our curriculum will involve all teachers. Perhaps on a monthly basis where we would somehow input what it was we actually taught after the month was completed. To be honest, I am really not sure at this point.

I would really be interested in hearing from anyone that has experienced the digital curriculum map and how it has worked for you and your school.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bloggin' Class

A great site to check out for blogging with students is that appears to be very safe for students that comes with permission slips for the parents.

It sounds like this blogging software can be monitored by other adults in the building so, if you have a huge number of students using this blog you can recruit some help to monitor the responses. Get the librarian, other teachers, and the counselor to help out.

Now teachers are using blogs. Beth did a great job giving us an overview of blogging and the applications for not only our students but personal and professional growth as well.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To Memorize or Not to Memorize

The spelling list for my fifth grade students for the last couple of weeks has been the states and their capitals. I have asked them to not only spell them correctly but be able to memorize each capital as well.

As a final test my students are ready to fill in a blank map of the United States and label all states and their capitals, and yes spelling does count. This is all done from memorization.

After reflecting a bit on this activity I was wondering how important it is to memorize all the states locations and their capitals. I mean if you ask any student where Wyoming is or its capital they will simply "Google it."

The information can be obtained quickly and effortlessly. So why am I spending time having my students memorize this "fingertip knowledge?"

Interestingly enough, I read an article by Elliot Masie about this very same thing. I then searched out his blog and found that he had an entry on September 18, 2006 about "fingertip knowledge" and discussed the idea of memorization and the lack there of in today's world.

For instance, how many phone numbers have you memorized now that our cell phones are with us virtually 24 hours a day? Can you identify the location of each of our states? Do you know all the capitals? Test yourself at this site.

So where do we draw the line? Personally I think that yes, students should still have the opportunity to memorize certain aspects of today's learning. The time should certainly be balanced with explicit instruction on showing students "how" to find information or more importantly figure out if it is "valid." The Web 2.0 definitely offers students the opportunity to delve into the upper echelon of Bloom's Taxonomy but I think there is something to be said about balancing the old with the new.

I would love to hear your ideas about the idea of having students memorize certain bits of fingertip knowledge.

Monday, April 23, 2007


ePals is turning out to be a wonderful experience both for my students and myself as well. Initially, we were setup to communicate through email with Kenya but it never happened. At this point, we are talking with students from Mayo College, in Ajmer, India and another school in Lviv', Ukraine called Gymnasium, "Sykhivsaka"

My students are gaining a global perspective through the emails they are receiving. They are also taking part in sharing the American culture and traditions that we follow by telling their story as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Better than Expected

Integrating Technology into the Curriculum

Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Technology Administrators, principals from all five elementary schools, middle school, and high school, President of the PTA, several teachers, members from the community, and all School Board Members. Oh yeah, and a guy with a big camera that said, "Channel 34 News" on the side.

Little ole Me ~ No pressure ~

I am telling ya, I was feeling very humble to be able to speak in the presence of such educators fortunately, as soon as I started speaking all nervousness disappeared. There was suppose to be another teacher presenting with me but due to an illness I went solo for about 45 minutes.

Wow! What a reception I received. For a moment I felt like a keynote speaker. A dream come true for me.

First, I am long winded, hence the title Anything but Succinct. Second, I have been reading so much and taking in so much knowledge about the mighty Web 2.o that I feel like I can explode. At any rate, I tried to remember to show excitement, to show enthusiasm in my presentation but balance it with a clear voice and a clear focus on student learning rather than the technology.

In the end, I was actually told that my presentation was "succinct," can you believe it? But it wasn't about me, it was about the students and what they had to say through their work. I simply extended their voices directly to those who have the power.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wish Me Luck

I am fired up! I will have the attention of our Board of Education members for about 10 minutes tomorrow night. Our Board Members visit each school in our District throughout the year and the Principal's setup a couple of teachers from each building to share what they have been working on.

When my principal approached me and asked if I would present about what we have been working on with technology my mouth dropped to the floor and I felt like hugging her. But of course I maintained my professionalism and instead I simply jumped up and down while shouting yes, yes, yes....

Topics that I will attempt to cover with student examples are:
1. Podcasts
2. ePals
3. Discussion Board

I signed up for the 60 day free trial of the .Mac account to upload all our Podcasts and iMovies that we have created to use as a link during my Power Point presentation. Wish me luck.

Any other advice?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Reaching for the Stars

I feel like I am at the crossroads of my life, looking back at what I have accomplished and looking ahead at what I have left to do. Being at this point brings with it an infinite number of questions and the grand opportunity to reflect.

While loitering at the crossroads of life my children are in the fore front of all my thinking. How can I be a better dad? How can I be a better husband? How can I be a better man for my children and my family? I am constantly striving to improve on both a personal level and professionally.

~My meager attempts at being a good citizen~

Teach Tolerance Model Tolerance
Teach Humility Model Humility
Teach Compassion Model Compassion
Teach Respect Model Respect
Teach Accountability Model Accountability
Teach Cooperation Model Cooperation

Leadership traits I was taught while serving in the Marine Corps.



Thursday, April 05, 2007

It's 3:26 a.m.

It's amazing what goes through your mind at 3:26 a.m. My daughter finally managed to get back to sleep and of course I find myself "thinking" and not being able to get back to sleep myself.

Random Thoughts
1. American culture ~ are we our own worst enemy?
2. Competition vs. Cooperation
3. Should I learn Mandarin?
4. What language do they speak in India?
5. Work Ethic ~ What it should be and what it is
6. What will I do today to make a difference for tomorrow?
7. What time does the sun rise?
8. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches ~ yuck
9. Note to self ~ get organized
10. Find balance in all that I do...

It is certainly time to say goodnight but before I go I am going to school tomorrow to deliberately and explicitly find the good. I have been so busy pushing content and teaching strategies that I have taken my eye off the ball ~ make connections, build relationships, ask meaningful questions, and find the good in everyone. That is what my today will look like. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Open House

"Come on in."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Thank You

Thank you Vicki Davis and Dee Martin for your wonderful comments to my blog entry, Webquest. There is something magical about receiving a constructive comment from a complete stranger. Reading the comments validated my thoughts and my opinion. It astonished me that anyone would even take the time to read my blog let alone respond and reach out. I am beginning to get "it." This tool allows us to be a producers on the web and not just a consumer. It allows us to have a voice. Through a discussion there is the opportunity for a tremendous level of learning, and if I feel like this, I can't imagine how my fifth grade students would feel. So again, thanks Cool Cat Teacher and Dee Martin for all that you do. Keep on keeping on.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Friday, March 09, 2007


I participated in one of our school districts workshops called Introduction to Webquests. Webquests seem to be yet another phenomenal way to get young elementary students focused on a meaningful task while using the web to enhance the learning in a way that textbook reading and the traditional classroom instruction could never do.

At this point, I have read enough from Alan November, Will Richardson, and David Warlick to know that the World is Flat and that there is a revolution happening through the evolution of the Internet. We have turned in a corner in history and these gentlemen seem to have a firm grasp and a good view of the possibilities and the implications these changes can make in education.

So, here I am. A teacher, a father, a husband, a brother, a son, a friend, and a life long learner. I can see that the boat is heading out and I really want to get on board but I am so overwhelmed that I am really not sure where the on ramp is.

What I have done:
1. Started a blog (But really I feel like I am writing to myself at this point)
2. Subscribed to a few blogs
3. Purchased a MacBook to figure out how to Podcast
4. Purchased an iPod to figure out how to use with my students
5. Reading constantly about technology
6. Attended a variety of workshops on Technology
7. Member of a Technology Support Group at my school
8. Created a wiki that really has not taken off yet

I know there is so much more, but I am trying to make progress with this learning curve. The challenge for me is that I feel as though time is running out for some reason, or that I am in some kind of race. Is it a race?

So with the wonders of the Web 2.0 I take yet another workshop on Webquests only to discover more great ideas and I am left with the challenge of finding time. Time between my family and work, the constant battle I am sure we all face.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Where to From Here?

I am assuming that if you are a microbiologist you look at the world through the microscopic lens, wondering about the microbes in your area. If you are a Reading Specialist, you probably view the world through the literacy lens. At this point, in my life I am looking at the world through the technology lens and I can simply say there is a great deal to see.

I am hooked, there is no doubt, that the implications of using technology with students is so powerful. I listen to guys like Alan November, who suggests that America's work ethic does not compare to the students around the world. Thomas Friedman, the author of the World is Flat suggests there is a quiet crisis and we, "America" needs to get going to be globally competitive.

I got all this. So, what's next? Where do I go from here? This is what I have done to jump on board the "global revolution." I have:

1. Purchased a MacBook and iPod
2. Created a blog both for personal use and professional.
3. Designed a wiki to collaborate with colleagues on a grant writing process
4. Began recording students writing samples with the intent to create a podcast.
5. Subscribed to a few podcasts.
6. began reading other blogs and leaving comments.
7. Created a bloglines account.

Where do I go from here? Do I keep on keeping on? I think at this point I need to create a vision of where I would like to go on a professional level. I would love to continue pushing the bounds of my limited knowledge base and continue to appropriately challenge my students.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My First Wiki

I created my first wiki today to use with my students. Unfortunately, the site is being blocked when students attempt to access the site from school. I have requested the filter lifted from this particular wiki and hope the district will consider. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I have followed the directions from "Cool Cat Teacher" on how to tag and I would like to see if it works.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


So, I have been searching for the answers to my questions.

1. Technorati
2. Bloglines
3. RSS
4. Podcasting
6. Wikis

Of course after reading through these links I was left with more questions than answers. Such is life on Web 2.0.