Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TPACK ch 9 Science

When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it is tied to everything else in the universe.

John Muir (1838-1914) U. S. naturalist, explorer.
Science is not formal logic–
it needs the free play of the mind in as great a degree as any other creative art.
It is true that this is a gift which can hardly be taught,
but its growth can be encouraged in those who already posses it.

Max Born (1882-1970) German Physicist. Nobel Prize, 1954.

Reading this chapter, I am struck by the fact that science and teaching science implies that people will use technological tools in their studies. It is not enough to learn about a microscope, you get to actually use one! It is a tool for a purpose! I love this.
I also love how science embraces technology to simulate events or conditions that may not be easily understood in "real life" or else impossible to simulate. This allows people to see and experience a scientific phenomenon without having to "be there".

One of the most striking sentences in this chapter was on page 198: Using something new means risking failure. YES. We as teachers cannot model that we are afraid to fail. It is often more educational for our students to watch us as teachers process and learn something new, because it models for them that we are not born experts, we are humans, capable of error, and capable of error correction. Anticipating how to use technology is hard and calls on teachers' knowledge in many different ways. YES. It requires us to start at zero and build...much like we require of our students. Teachers need to mine their own internal resources--their knowledge of science, of students, and of pedagogy--to anticipate and prepare for what will likely happen when the technology is used. YES. Take out science, insert any content area. Activate the schema, trust yourself as an educator, push through the barrier of the "unknown" and work with your students to make it the "known".

Some great tips for making the unknown the known:
  • Give them time to play with the technology
  • Teach about the technology ahead of time (frontload)
  • Identify possible fail points, anticipate them, and reassure the students that this may happen and it is ok
  • Make the learning space a place where it is ok to try it out, learn about it, and share

One of the most powerful moments of my first semester this year was at the end of the movie project...when I had the kids all add their new-found expertise to a wiki called tutorials. All of their hard work learning the technology was validated and they use this space as a reference. My students were empowered, and they each contributed something to the wiki. They owned the fact that it was hard to learn all these apps and programs to make a movie...but they did it.

One more really good thread from the chapter: understanding student misconceptions is essential to adjusting teaching practices. In other words, you know what they don't know and that is a dynamic that changes with every class. Understanding where to "fix" the errors is the true teaching...not covering content or slogging through a chapter, but finding those misconceptions and dealing with them.

There are so many possible errors, and so many possible tools to use. The assumption is the teacher will never stop learning. I like that. The assumption is that we need to not be afraid of the unknown, and modeling how we come to know is essential. The assumption is we as teachers need that pre-service modeling of not being afraid of technology and we as teachers need master teachers to model for us. YES.

Link to Rhonda's reflection.

Link to Jake's reflection.

TPACK Ch 7 Mathematics

Einstein: "My mind is my laboratory."

Confession: I am afraid of math. However I LOVE the idea of fractals! My brother plays with fractals a lot, and the evidence of fractals in nature is just my cup of tea.

So, how do math teachers make decisions about tech? I liked the idea of an "as needed" basis--give the power to the teacher to know when to use the programs available.

I like the human element in math. That is what makes sense for me. I can do my taxes. I can make a garden bed. I can design a room. This basic investigation of pattern and relationships makes perfect sense to me. For me, visualisation is essential.

That is what a good math teacher porbably does: makes patterns and relationships "real" or "evident". Imaginative openness. I like that a lot.

Click here for Kim's reaction.

Click here for Lisa's reaction.

Monday, March 23, 2009

fab collab

Session 2 of meeting with my colleague. The student sample is due next week. Based on his input I will make a movie that shows the equipment, uniform, safety, and basic skills of a physical activity. The example we discussed was snowboarding. He gave the framework for the storyboard when he explained how he would teach it. He also drew on the board which helped me visualize that kids can use maps of plays, and moves, to help illustrate their activity.

I am still looking for a good model video and it must be out there. Unless...I am the one to make it. Being an idealist can sometimes be time-consuming.

I was wicked stressed about the video part for a week. One computer is in the shop. This one I am on now has Windows Movie Maker. It is easy to use. I shot a video blog tonight and am figuring it out. So now I am not so stressed. I have a storyboard, and I talked to an expert. He's going to help me with the actual day, too--by letting me take over the gym. This makes me feel much better. He also agreed to use the Tandberg unit to have conversations throughout the year.

So, all in all, a great meeting. Looking at my notes, I have everything I need now to make a student sample. It will be on snowboarding. That is the activity I am going to model.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This was recommend on Teachers.Net as a good level 2/3 literature text.

k-6 literacy education TPACK ch. 3

It is our responsibility to teach kids to read.

This sticks out to me. As a k-12 teacher. As in, I accept it as my role for every grade. And I teach Spanish! That does not matter. If a kid cannot read in my room, that becomes the focus for me as their teacher. Everything else can follow.

How, when, why? to use technology to teach literacy. Great questions, and I feel I can answer them as they apply to my content!

Teacher preparation can vary...widely. My own preparation came not at the hands of an undergraduate ed. department, but in the field: Maine Migrant School (three years), Christian Fellowship School (three years), and then back to Maine and the public school and I began formal classes. One tech, one methods, one name it...I took them one by one.

But really the teacher training came from watching excellent teachers and modeling after them. And that is what I think should happen in teacher training programs: a true apprenticeship to a series of master teachers.

The focus has changed from reading traditional paper based text to reading multiple renditions of text--on the screen, on the phone, on the Leapfrog! Technology avails media-rich texts to all ages. Therefore, processing and reading strategies also change. How hard it is for teachers to adjust? I've said it before...our current crop of near-retirees have that solid, traditional, reading and writing pedagogy down. However, I have seen it again and again: fear. Fear when faced with the unknown, the new. My mother is a prime example. (She was my teacher for years, the first and the best!) She now has a blog, a web shop, Twitter, and Facebook! It onl took us 8 years...but now she is not afraid. And she is closer to 70 than 60. So I know it can be done but it takes time. And in her case, investment with return. (She sells her products mostly to people in Ireland, Japan, and other far away islands...)

I love how the chapter says that literacy is a moving target that must be re-defined constantly. Wicked problem again! But so true. How do we get kids to interpret, how can we activate schema, or create schema for them? It takes a creative, dynamic, flexible facilitator to have words make sense, but to go back a step, to have LETTERS make sense and SOUNDS make sense.

The value of developing a continuum really struck me. What is this magical framework and how can we apply it to each kid? I detest the benchmark testing but I want to know what they hard it is to develop a continuum for each student. I wonder if I need to do something in Spanish from levels 1-4 and have that in place.

Also valuable: "reading, writing, and oral language develop concurrently and interdependently from and early age from children's exposure to interactions in social context." This is really how I try to teach Spanish language. Socially, in groups, lots of practice, lots of laughter.

How to create environments where students are MOTIVATED to learn? I try. Plants, tables instead of desks, which sometimes get shoved out of the way. Circle time weekly, share outs, everyone has their picture on the wall. The idea is: this is YOUR space to learn and place. I asked for bean bag chairs for net year. Food, healthy food, is a major theme. The idea is come, relax, be. Create, share, reflect, learn. Audience. Make the learning "invisible"--no circle tests.

Facilitating social interactions when teaching reading and writing is quite easy with technology...we use Wordles, wikis, blogs to share and reflect.

We use cameras, video, digital. We make stories. We talk about ourselves.

Chapter 4 TPACK

The days run away like wild horses running over the hills...

This chapter really hit home with me with the idea that technology needs to be taught in tandem with content. (I think the same of needs to be taught as a language, yes--but a language of what? To do things with! Not endless worksheets but movies, poetry, art critiques.)

A nice continuum of describing an English teacher: sequence curriculum, choose texts, use frameworks to understand content. How can teachers use tech to help students engage in learning? There are so many changes in tools--yet luckily the canon does not change--so teachers need to be prepared to roll with the changes as they make curricular choices. This can be scary for non-TPCK people to come to terms with. The fact that student engagement these days is firmly rooted in multimedia, and that students are expected to be digitally literate, implies that teachers must also understand the power of digital media and digital literacy.

How does this translate to teacher training? First, develop training programs where tech is integrated (much like this course!) Focus on content-area specific tech integration skills and MOST IMPORTANTLY create spaces and opportunities for pre-service teachers to observe and experience the "blurring between, intersection and integration of [content]-specific technological, pedagogical, an content knowledge." (p.91)

Now, my mentor teacher in the earlier days did not teach with technology, but she was an excellent model for me. I watched her interact with students and learned a lot about the teacher-role for a teenager. She never lied to her kids about anything. "I think you are just being lazy," she would say. And that kid would nod and agree. No cajoling, no pleading. She failed a lot of kids the first quarter and met with every single parent and explained to them: "Look, you want your kid to be able to read and write?" When kids crawled out of the very depths of hell, those forties and fifties of the first quarter, and ultimately earning 80's and 90's by the fourth quarter....well, the proof was there. She was an excellent, strict, funny, honest, brilliant teacher. I digress from technology but the point is she was GOOD and I had ACCESS to her. More pre-service teachers need more ACCESS to REALLY GOOD MASTER TEACHERS.

(I often come away from grad class with an idea that has been modeled in the class. Not explicitly taught but modeled.)

Much has been said about "on-line" learning or distance learning, and the idea that this is how pre-service should learn about tech is off. I agree that face-to-face is key. Whenever I train teachers on how to set up wikis or Flickr, I always request a chat session. It is not as good as face to face but it is live Q and A time and often I can walk the teachers through the steps necessary to do what needs to be done for their technology projects. Live help is essential. Live support is essential. As Meg pointed out, she needed help last week, and where was Mr. Tech Man? There aren't enough Tech Mans to do the job of support, therefore teachers should be helping each other. This ties in with what happened last week with the shut down of the override password. Five teachers called me in the first hour of class to find out what to do. I had no answer because NO ONE had informed me that my override was defunct. Frustrating, yes--but--we happen to have handy, accessible Tech Guys and passwords were soon re-distributed. Empower more people, I say--give more tech power to teachers, train us on the tech-y side! TRUST US.

Reading about mutli-genre project--it struck me that it was not very student-centered and that is really important to me.

ACCESS to content-specific hardware and software is major! I love free tools but invest in some paid ones, too. There is great stuff out there and it takes curious, motivated, forward thinking types to sniff out these new things, try them, vet them, ask for them in classrooms.

There needs to be a digital media lending library--and I think we have sufficient tools in my school, although the cataloguing and distribution could be improved--but the library should have lots and lots of tools that students can use to make, create, edit, produce, plan, present.

There needs to be modeling, transparency, dialog among teachers. Classrooms should be flung wide open and observed. There needs to be a challenge to the "way things have always been". I am not saying to throw out the novel and the teacher who reads to his class as they sit, rapt, before him--think Mr. N.--I am just saying let the teachers talk and share and expect this culture in school, and expect that there will be technology that is effective in making meaning out of English! Let there be cognitive challenges! I learn, you learn, we all learn differently.

The two case studies were quite interesting. The first one really reminds me of the typical questions on my teacher message board. "I need resources on...I would like pictures of...someone share a movie with me..." My response is: why aren't the students looking for this content? If you are studying Spanish artists, don't lay them out on a platter for the students to ooh, ahh, yawn over....make it their project. Ask essential questions and let them find the answers, hammer them out. In a sense, this technology use (as presentational or ancillary) is useful but not really. The second case study is much more dynamic. There is a motivated teacher who sees how non-linear environments can show meaning among texts. What a powerful idea--and one she saw could be represented sans tech, but made so much easier by using tech!

Note: teacher 2 was motivated, saw the value, had assistance, and worked through even though she didn't master the software immediately. She plowed through it. When you plow through a field, things do tend to grow. The focus was not on the tool but the content and how the tool organized it. In the end, her project was incredibly powerful and student-centered! She adjusted as she went to include the tech components as part of her literacy plan.

So, where is this magical tipping point for teacher culture? Honestly, in the next 15 years, as digital natives appear in teacher training programs as a matter of course, the youth will simply tip us in the right direction. And it will take current youngsters like myself to grow old with TPCK in order to train the digital natives.

There is still a great gap in how teachers integrate technology. Time will help fix this. Time and people like our cohort.

Friday, March 13, 2009

blogging FLAME

Today is FLAME in Portland. Foreign Language Association of Maine. A rather unfortunate moniker...foreign is not my favorite word.

First session: the sins of slide shows are evident. Some horrible graphics. I hate to be critical but image-driven slides should contain worthy images. I am looking at a rainbow of bad design.

Sigh. Focus on the content...I am trying. The intro is lasting way too long and there is no interaction. Instructionism....ugh. Actually I just raised my hand and asked a question. This is important to me: dialog.

Finally some good stuff. #9 rainbow slide. Coping!

cultural immersion
educated guesses

-- I like this. It implies coping is OKAY. I tell my students this too. They are perfectionists...they want to do things perfectly. Sorry guys...I would like to speak Spanish perfectly as well...and I have been doing it for 17 years. So...yeah.

Like Zach's learn-programming-in-ten-years spiel.

Create an artificial environment. Simulation.

The idea of being rooted is the value here.

Use your imaginatio and ake a real-life situation!

This session is improving. I am forgiving the rainbows.

Teach the course "on-location" for the whole year.

Real language
Unlimited cultural contexts
Visual, senses, creativity, imagination
UNifies all elements
teaches world skills

personal relaity show
all engaged
create own worlds
see language through their eyes
can't get voted off

Take a flight
Move into a hotel--wow she has some great props here
Find an apartment
Invent neighbors
Represent the city layout
Map drills

THis session gave me lots of good ideas.

Session BThis session is being presented by the ladies of the MDI ML dept.


Keep the activities REAL to the kids.

Easier to differentiate. YES.

ALlows for creativity.

Living curriculum that changes every year.

Want to focus more on concepts of reading, writing, speaking and listening. the graphic organizers...but don't see a big diff between a textbook with some of their stuff.

The growth portfolio concept is interesting. Not all pieces are asssessed. Have to do a common error sheet. Lots of self-reflection.

I like reflecting on errors.

Session C

Integrated Performance Assessment -- This is how I will "fix" the Spanish 2 midterm project.....

Scaffolding spoken language skills in reluctant speakers

Casco Bay High School uses an expeditionary model. Interdiscplinary model.

IPA is interpretive. Reading and or listening.

Pick a theme.
Find/create text to support that theme
Scaffold the text appropriately for your class
Have students work independently on the interpretive task

Interpersonal. Person to person, small group to small group.

Identify two characters/voices from the text or theme
Assign partner groups and a character voicer to each partner
Give 3-8 minutes (15-20) for students to prepare for their role (take notes, script)
Call time on character prep. Use what you've got!!
Practice multiple times...and switch roles

Presentational. Prepared and performed.

It is here that students make corrections to fluency and pronunciation and grammar.
Identify a final assessment task that pertais to the theme
De-construct the presentational rubric (see actfl) (have kids re-write in kid-friendly language)
Have students perform for the class and assess each other


How does it work? In presenter's opinion, so much scaffolding. Specific task, clear framework. bility to reference notes in preparation for speaking. Different levels of memorization required.


Great energy in this session. Presenter is young, digital native.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

classroom management

My style is derived from the way I was raised, as a part of a larger whole, with a specific purpose. My kids are challenged to create a healthy community. Really, there are only a few Big Ideas here.

Their job: Respect, Responsibility
My job: Routine, Reassurance

Never give up on a kid.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Backward Design--Collaboration Check

This a.m. finally connected with my colleague who is co-designing the unit for next fall. We virtually conferenced using FirstClass chatting. I sent him the links to the integrated unit planner, stage 1, and stage 2.

Turns out he didn't need to look at stage 2. He helped by explaining the vocabulary necessary to understand the standards of his content area.

The unit I have developed with his assistance pairs my high school Spanish students with his elementary students to learn new skills (physical skills) through a cultural lens (Spanish-speaking countries).

In a related nore...My colleague in Santiago proposed a wonderful service project for next year's trip to the DR. Check out the proposal so far. I have images to go along with the proposal, thanks to my student helper Jill. Gracias Jillybean!

The proposal? Team Dirigo kids with Dominican kids in a week long judo school....

Chapter 6 Social Studies

It's a wicked problem. Social studies. It comprises where we come from, what we've done...and it (literally: social studies) involves a lot of research. How to make that fun?

Teach from the top of the revised Bloom's. CREATE.

My professor recently shared this site and it explains HOW.

There is this issue of standards...since social studies comprises so many different disciplines. I wonder about this myself. We talk about this in our literacy meetings. Are there power verbs that comprise the standards that we can use across the board in every class? (Look at Bloom's).

Love how it points out that on-line sources are often unsorted, uncatalogued, and poorly arranged. This makes finding legit info HARD. Looking up stuff ahead of time is key...don't send the kids on a wild goose chase. Narrow it down a bit and use the time well. Develop a context for the identification of resources is good advice.

I like the pedagogical actions that are explained, esp. extending and promoting active and authentic forms of human interaction in technology enabled social networks and expand social experiences using technology. If it is one thing I wish I could magically have in my classroom it is social interaction among diverse groups.

Non-linear learning is evident in TPACK social studies. The availability of information allows the user to pick and choose. In a sense, it allows the use to follow their own paths to understanding. Experts may disagree that this is a valid way of studying history but it is what is happening informally all the time. I want to learn about the history of Zambia, I tart with a search, I end up down the garden path an hour later, caught up in a minor story about a minor sense of Zambia is expanded, and it may not be textbook but it is informed.

How can students develop critical media skills to find their way through the messiness of the internet? This is a great question! I wonder this myself, daily! I find that I have to read and qualify multiple drafts for students before I can accept their research as valid. Indeed, it is a sophisticated and systematic literary approach. It is slow and tedious to teach to freshmen but it makes the rest of their years with me much easier. I start really small...a paragraph, a quote, an image, a source. And these get re-drafted, sometimes 5 times! Knowledge creation by the student requires the assistance of the teacher to engage the student in critical analysis.

Publication and presentation are key when talking about tech integration. Beyond the transitions and fancy effects, what is the heart, the meat of the matter? What is the deep thinking, the deep analysis?

How can students interact with each other to construct knowledge? (Connectivism!)

I love the artifacts, and original docs, available on-line. Recently worked with a colleague in Santiago, DR--taught him what Wordles were, and encouraged him to put in Duarte's (the fater of liberty) letters into wordles to recognize big ideas. He was sooo delighted!

Google earth is a great resource for this chapter as well. Mapping, overlays, can show trends in population, economy, food, migration etc. Amazing.

Schools can reproduce some of the structures that exist in society without reproducing the inequities that are also present in society. I love wikis because each student has a live presence and a discussion board, a place to be, exist. Without over-emphasizing the social conditions of young people's lives, social studies educators can create meaningful experiences by utilizing the technological habits and experiences which frame their lives.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Two proposals are in the works. One for Africa 2009 and one for DR 2010. Both are school-related, one grad school and one high school. Both can be found here in their various stages. I have never been to Africa and the idea is just starting to percolate in my brain. Of course the thought of working with Sugar and getting a feel for the constructionist platform is very motivating. The DR trip is gaining weight and speed in my brain as well. I've led service trips there before. It's not a piece of cake, exactly, but I'm very comfortable there in terms of coordinating logistics.

Two potential adventures.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


If it is one thing I drill into the kids, it's plan it, produce it, present it, and get feedback on it. The feedback is often the best part of the process...

Today...I received a letter with feedback on my presentation at UMF last month.

It was overwhelmingly positive! Here are some highlights:

The best presentation I have ever attended. Very valuable information and entertaining.

The best presentation of the day. I hope you continue this presentation in the future because I will recommend it to everyone I know.

This was the most valuable presentation of the whole workshop. Progressive, full of knowledge and resources, and it was inspirational for me as a pre-service teacher.

[Most useful to me were] the tools to improve my classroom and empowering my students.

[I learned that] authentic audience is key and it is ok to start small.

I've been introduced to several technologies that either I have never heard of or never thought to have used in the classroom.

I'm thrilled with these comments. This work is not tedious but it is dense and there are days I feel overwhelmed with the work load. So these comments are being published here for those days I wonder what the heck I got myself into.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

what makes it worth it

Via Flickr. A student that made an account, posted pictures, and had an avenue to keep in touch. We write back and forth every year or so, just a simple exchange. In his last message (he never made it through traditional school and I never faulted him...he was too creative to be kept in a box) he wrote: "Don't tell anyone but you were the best teacher I had in high school."

Wow....I remember that school....I remember being in a trailer at the end of the line of trailers...never seeing anyone except my dear Mr. Alvarez and my darling students. Darlings because they came in every day wondering what on earth I had in store for them. We read, wrote, spoke, sang, danced, colored, illustrated, scanned and played. We had fun, we did a lot of hard work, and we recorded most everything on film and blogs for posterity. I remember just going for it. Going for my gut feeling of not covering but teaching a handful of usable skills, usable over and over and over and over and over and over again.

And being creative and fun and letting the ideas just flow and encouraging each kid where he or she was at in life and not expecting anyone to complete a worksheet or know a discrete set of vocabulary from a chapter from a book that made no sense to a small-town kid from a dead mill town in the middle of the Maine woods.

This was the first year I taught the words "snowmobile", "fourwheeler", "icefishing" and "hunting". And I knew I had something. I knew I finally got it. Not that my kids are all these Maine kids...I have kids with all kinds of interests...but this was the year I figured out that what the textbook says to do and what I know to do are different. I can still teach the skills but using the context of the students.

Oh, the difference it has made. For me, for them. Discovering together that IDEAS are more important than MEMORIZATION or even SPELLING.

(Spelling is important, yes...but in the big scheme of things I'd rather assess an idea and its execution in full...)

Anyway. Wow. There are days I feel despondent. Will they use these skills? Will they learn something worth keeping from me?

I think this kid learned from me that he was valuable, smart, and creative. And that he didn't need high school to be valuable. He has a tough road ahead of him, making a way that is non-traditional. But as I told him you can do it. You have the brains and the creativity.

In return he tells me I am the best teacher he had in high school. I will take that.

Yes, I care about what the kids learn. But I also know that there is a greater work to be done. A kid cannot learn until he knows he is valuable. Period.

I remember one year having one singular goal for one student. I wanted this student to gain enough confidence to talk in class. It never happened. It nearly broke me. She did not know what potential she had. She was afraid to smile, to speak. Every single day I gave her a smile and a genuine hello.

I don't always accomplish my goals.

But sometimes it happens. Today I feel good.


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