Friday, March 31, 2006

What's in a name?

· 11 comments

As I participate in more and more podcasts and even occassionally get talked about in other's podcasts I hear people struggling with how to pronounce my name. I'm not really upset about it, and please feel free to call me Darren. Only my students call my Mr. Kuropatwa and they usually shorten it to simply "sir" or "Mr. K." No one has yet gone so far as to mispronounce it, as it has been in the past: Kur-patch-nik, Kerch-a-patch-a-kor-ic, Kur-awp-twa, Kleopatra, kuerchapotakupatwhatchmacallit. So, as a public service announcement, here's how to pronounce "Kuropatwa." ;-)

Kur-o-pat-wa has 4 syllables.

Spelled phonetically its:
cur (like the first syllable in "curtain")
oh (as in "Oh my gosh!")
pat (like the diminutive form of "Patrick" or "Patricia")
wa (as in the first half of the word "what")

Here is the Odeo audio

... and here it is as an mp3 file:

For the record, the name is of Polish origin. In Polish the "w" would have a "v" sound. I don't speak Polish. In English "Kuropatwa" means Partridge so you might say we're the Partridge Family. Unfortunately (or fortunately) none of us were ever on that show. ;-) And finally, if you're interested in an English/Polish translation tool, you can find one here.

Cheers!
Darren

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Resonance and Dissonance

· 2 comments

It's taken me several days to write this. I finally just had to hit the [Publish] button or I never would have finished it. ;-)


"People will change their habits quickly when they have a strong reason to do so, and people have an innate urge to connect with other people ... And when you give people a new way to connect with other people, they will punch through any technical barrier, they will learn new languages — people are wired to want to connect with other people and they find it objectionable not to be able to."
The World is Flat (page 63) by Thomas Friedman

Quotes like this are why I think Friedman's book resonates with edubloggers. It's just this type of connection, amplified across the globe, that blogging facilitates.

The thing is though, not all my students are interested in making these connections. Some of them are so exceptionally shy, lacking in self esteem or simply disinclined to participate beyond the classroom walls. Some fear putting themselves "out there," speaking up, asking a question or adding their voice to the conversation. Others just can't be bothered. "So what if I lose a few marks? As long as I pass."

There's also the fact that while a number of young people today are digital natives, many are not. And they don't want to be. They don't see that there's anything in it for them. Everyone is different. They bring their unique set of aptitudes and abilities with them into my classroom. I try to teach them all.

Blogging has been an incredible opportunity for my own professional and personal growth. It has ignited a spark raging torrent of creativity, effort and learning in many of my students. And for some of them, it's an albatross.

Will asks To Blog or Not to Blog?

I don't read much about the kids that aren't engaged. And I'm wondering to what extent that happens as well. And further, I'm wondering to what extent they compare to the adult educators we're trying to teach about these tools who choose not to engage. The simple view is that this is generational, that kids are more available to the tools because they live in a connected world or because, well, they're kids and more open to new stuff than adults...but is it?

I'm going to save commenting about the adults for a future post, but as Will implies, the simple view is wrong. For example, Ewan shared, in our most recent skypecast (58 min 9 sec. Start listening at 17 min. 10 sec.), an observation about a news reporter younger than he (a self described digital native) whose job it is to know and report about youth culture yet is completely unaware of web 2.0 tools.

In every blog supported class I have taught I have students that don't engage; they refuse to participate. Some of my kids hate blogging. Some love it. Some of them, leaving my class, push the teacher (scroll down to the second comment by Kristin_R) in the next course to provide a blog. Others very much do not want a class blog. (The link is to an mp3 file [14 min. 16 sec.] from my Whiplash! workshop. Start listening at 13 min. 10 sec.)

Barbara Ganley picks up this thread at her blog and asks: Does blogging leave anyone out? Later in the same post she answers:

Teaching is never about a single approach, a single strategy--it is constant improvisation, a constant questioning. The learning environment is naturally fluid, and I must be hyper-aware of what's going on at all levels of the learning, ready to respond with an adjustment here or there.

...

I want my students to experience a range of learning situations — everyone is expected to complete the same assignments ... Everyone blogs, does digital stories, writes poems and stories, etc. etc. In my five years of classroom blogging, as I've observed here many times, not everyone takes to online work. Some of my students really dislike it. So? Do they all like giving oral presentations? Taking tests? Doing group work? Podcasting? Writing poems? Of course not. Is it important that they do all these things? Yes. Why? Because they have to get a taste of all the options open to them--I talk about equipping them with tools in their toolbox, and then they have to figure out what they'll make with the tools. And the tools are all these strategies and means of expression. As many as we can cover in a semester. It's important that they keep an open mind about what they can learn through trying things that are hard for them--we talk about William Faulkner's "glorious failures" about learning means making mistakes.

Barbara articulates this so beautifully. We all take differentiated instruction as a given. We have to adapt our teaching to meet the varied needs and learning styles of our students. Some of the students in my class are digital natives. In the same way that I differentiate my instruction for auditory learners (we sing, yup, we really do), visual learners (I make extensive meaningful use of colour in my whiteboard use and the daily notes I give) and kinesthetic learners (we dance, honest, we do; sometimes I even make them stand on their desks). In the last 14 months I've also adapted my teaching for the digital learners (we blog, craft digital stories and I'm still working on some wiki ideas).

Is there a dearth of stories about kids failing math, or school in general? No. Kids failing math isn't news. Kids excelling at math, engaging the material and making it their own, kids writing a math text book is news.

Have there been failures in my classes? Yes. It's not a secret and I've freely mentioned it here and elsewhere. But what more can I say? The kid failed. Have I misinformed by sharing only the success stories? I don't think so. This blog is about how I struggle to learn and adapt the technological tools freely available on the web to enhance my students learning. The path I've traveled is laid out in the posts behind this one. I have shared stories about kids who haven't engaged, but in the context of what they are able to achieve when they did make that effort:

  • » Last week a student stopped me in the hall. He had taken Pre-Cal 20S with me last semester. He wanted me to know how well he was doing in his Pre-calculus Mathematics 30S class. He said all his classmates were doing well and attributed it to what they had learned in my class. They're doing well because they're learning hard. As one of them said, they learned how to learn. Of course I feel great about this! But blogging doesn't bring on that kind of success for all my kids. Several "good" bloggers failed that class.
  • » Recently one student dropped my class because of the blog. Although she came back I still don't know how many others dropped for this reason and didn't tell me about it.
  • » In that same post (linked above) I talk about a student who refused to participate in the blog all semester. He finally wrote a single blog post prior to the last class test. What he wrote was so powerful that it is being published in a print magazine.

I don't have any out-and-out, complete, utter disasters to share. I feel that as long as I continue to try to improve the learning for my students their individual failures are just another step on the road to success. These are the "glorious failures" that Barbara spoke of.

I firmly believe that all students are capable of succeeding in advanced math. Their marks measure the amount of time, energy and effort they put into learning; not their intelligence. If you want to know how smart someone is have a conversation with them. (Get them to blog.) If you want to know how hard they're working in school, look at their grades. Learning is largely dependent upon the learner. I have never had an able bodied student fail my class after they have tried their hardest.

Bud writes there should be No Stories Left Behind:

... I value the good ideas and lessons that my colleagues in the edublogosphere are sharing on a daily basis.

The only problem with best practice texts, too often at least, is that they turn classrooms into Mickey Mouse spaces where all goes well and there's never any trouble. Every student in these books finds success in the classroom. At least, that's how the texts present classrooms.

Again, this is not universal; many good texts share failures as well as successes, but not nearly enough.

I do not want this blog to become a text that misinforms as it informs. Nor do I want to read blogs that paint stories of success while ignoring the stories of students lost or unsuccessful along the way.

We aren't going to learn anything by merely telling half of the story. And omission, intentional or otherwise, may blur the narrative.

Now, I'm not saying that this is happening, but ... I want to make a public reminder to myself to tell as much of the story as I can, without shading or blurring information in any way.

You should read the comments to Bud's post. Every one of them addresses another facet of the issues Bud raises.

I disagree with the sentiment that "best practice texts ... turn classrooms into Mickey Mouse spaces where all goes well and there's never any trouble." All the research I've read says that students excel in an environment where the teacher has high expectations and sets high standards. These teachers also model what exceptional work looks like by showing outstanding examples to their students. This is the whole idea behind the Go For Gold assignments I give my classes leading up to their exams. We aim for excellence and if we fall a little short of that mark, well, then we know we have done good work nonetheless. I think the same is true for teachers; at least it is for me. I'm interested in what's working in your classes. What have you done to inspire exceptional work in your kids? How did you orchestrate it? How did you set it up? How did you follow up? I see lots of examples of failure every day. Show me the great work your kids have done and help me figure out how to carry over the experience to my own classes. This doesn't mean I don't want to hear about the failures, I do. But I'm far more interested in how you turned them into success stories.

The kind of powerful learning facilitated by blogging resonates with me and with many of my students. For some of them it creates an uncomfortable dissonance. That's a good thing. I believe we learn most when we figure out how to resolve the dissonance provoked by our learning experiences. And all our experiences are learning experiences. Which I guess is my answer to another question Nancy raised recently. ;-)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A del.icio.us idea ... (reprise)

· 0 comments

I started having my students sign up for del.icio.us accounts last semester. I also installed something I call a del.icio.us box on all the class blogs.

We discussed it in all my classes on Thursday. I did a little demo in class. Using a projector I guided one of the students through the process of signing up for an account, installing a browser button and saving a link in del.icio.us. It took about 15 minutes to explain the idea and do the demo.

We began our spring break today, we go back to school on April 3. All my classes have a del.icio.us assignment for the break. They must sign up for del.icio.us accounts and then save at least one link for each unit we have studied, tagged appropriately, for the course they are taking: Pre-Cal 40S (pc40s), Applied Math 40S (am40s) and Calculus 45S (cal45s). They've been instructed to choose links carefully, not randomly. This way for each link one person finds they can get over 20 others that have been just as thoughtfully selected.

I've posted about it to all the class blogs.

Now I'm going to post about it to The Mentorship Project and encourage the mentors to use this as an additional means of communication in the commentary they include with each saved link. ;-)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Encouraging Excellence

· 0 comments

At the begining of this school year I posted about how I was hoping to develop a group of mentors to support my classes through their blogs. In February I started a new blog, The Mentorship Project, to support the the group of mentors I was working on developing. Shortly after that blog was first published I got an email from someone who was interested in being a mentor. This led me to post about it here at A Difference. Lani Ritter Hall emailed me from Ohio after that post and has joined two of my class blogs as a mentor; Calculus 45S and AP Calculus AB.

In the Telling the New Story podcast I participated in last week one of the questions we discussed was "How are blogs transformational?" Well, blogs are transformational when you have someone like Lani as a mentor encouraging excellence in your students. ;-)

It's too early to articulate what impact Lani is having on the students but there is no denying the power of the comments and posts she's been writing. And she's only been posting and commenting for the last four days! I feel that the students in two of my classes, the ones Lani is mentoring, aren't working to their potential. They are capable of so much more than they are currently demonstrating. Here are the contributions Lani has made so far; a prologue to one of the new stories:

  • »She introduced herself to the Calculus 45S class with a challenge.
  • »I had discussed with the students in the Calculus 45S class ways they could raise the level of the scribes they had been writing. The first student who tried to work graphics into his post had some trouble. Lani commented with the solution.
  • »In Winnipeg, in the fall, the migration of the geese is a big event. So many of them pass through the city on their way south that the sky turns black with geese at dusk. My wife and I take our kids every year to watch. The "goose flights" are well known throughout the city. All Winnipegers know about the geese flights. Around the time of the geese flights last year, October 14, one of the students in my AP Calculus class started a remarkable project. By November 10 she had given it up. I don't know if Lani knew about the geese flights but she used the geese to elegantly teach a lesson I've been struggling to get across. (Scroll down to the fourth comment.)
  • »Lani followed that up with another poignant comment.
  • »My AP Calculus class writes their AP exam in about 5 weeks, on May 3. I've got a very rigourous, intense, high pressure review schedule for them that began yesterday. Tonight, Lani emailed me with some plans of her own to encourage excellence in them. You'll have to watch the AP Calculus AB blog to see what she does. She hasn't posted it yet.

I can't possibly express in words how greatful I am for Lani's enthusiastic involvement in my classes. She's an outstanding teacher and my classes have been enriched by her involvement in the last few days. Right from the start I told her that it was entirely up to her as to how intensely she wanted to engage the students. Obviously, she has chosen a very high level of involvement.

I have two other mentors to whom I'm also very greatful. They are just begining to find their comfort level as mentors. One is one of Sheryl's student teachers from Virginia, Andy Kramer. The other is a former student of mine currently attending University, Gerald. Andy has left a comment for the AP Calculus class and Gerald has introduced himself to the Calculus 45S class.

If any other student teachers, retired teachers, or practicing education professionals are interested in participating in this growing project read this.


Update
Lani has taken another step towards encouraging excellence for the AP Calclus students. ;-)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The New Story

· 3 comments

I just finished reading David Warlick's reflection on the podcast we all (Miguel, Wes, Ewan, Mark, Jeff and I) did on Thursday. This is what I took away from it:

The old story is about "the school board, county commissioners, redistricting, budget and year-round schools;" in short, everything but teaching and learning.

The New Story is about powerful teaching and extraordinary learning. Technology fits in only insofar as it enables and facilitates that kind of teaching and learning. But always the story is about the heart and soul of education -- teaching and learning, teacher and learner, and particularly those instances where they exchange roles again and again. More accurately, it's the story of the heart and soul of humanity; as we all take on the role of teacher and learner at different points in our lives. These human stories that come out of classrooms (of all sorts) are The New Story that needs to be told and has been too long left out of the ongoing discussion about "education" in modern society.

Is this The Story you were talking about Dave? If so, then I think you're right; we're all on the same page. ;-)

Interesting Dilemma ...

· 1 comments

I found this introduction to a scribe post on Mrs. Ingram's Pre-Cal 20S blog:

Sorry I'm late..Had to scribe for Computer Science tonight as well...=(

This could really be a problem if several teachers in the same school have blogs with scribes. The young lady did a great job though! In Computer Science as well.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Great Ideas From the Middle School Teachers

· 5 comments

I had the good fortune to have David Reece, a grade 7 teacher from one of our feeder schools participate in Whiplash! yesterday. You can hear me introduce him to the group in the introductory audio (4 min, Dave's intro is a little more than 2 minutes in) to Whiplash! Dave blogs with all four of his grade 7 math classes and they're producing some really wonderful work. Check out his class blogs: 7-42, 7-43, 7-44, 7-72.

Dave recently got his hands on a smart board and asked me if I knew of any online resources he could take advantage of. I've never used a smart board so I don't, but if you do please let me know by leaving a comment or send me an email I can pass on to Dave.

Chris Harbeck works in the same school as Dave. He teaches four grade 8 classes; 8-16, 8-17, 8-41, 8-73. He also started an enrichment blog called Taking Math to the Next Level. The intro to every post on the site reads:

Math is more than just multiplying, using fractions and using a calculator. It is using your number sense in as many ways as possible. This blog will make you think, then solve your math problems. It will be a great place for you to get ready for your exam in June. Lets work together making math meaningful and fun.

Chris' latest brainstorm? He's developing a new way to use the blogs with his classes. He calls it The Growing Post (more here).

Chris began by modeling what a "Growing Post" should look like, then his kids started producing some incredible work. The way he has woven the entire family's involvement into this project is one of it's most exciting features for me. Just think about it. Each of these kids is sharing their learning with their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and grandparents in order to get a bonus mark. The family offers positive feedback and encouragement and the kids get to show off their learning. Since this is part of the assignment, the kids can brag about their work without feeling embarrassed about doing so. This is idea is so brilliant on so many levels I can't begin to articulate them all. What a way to celebrate learning, involve the family, boost a kid's self-confidence, develop an authentic audience for the students published work, give a kid a chance to show what they know, have a kid keep a record of everything they're learning so they can revisit it whenever they need to, get them reflect on their learning, ..... can you tell I'm excited by this?

Mr. H, you're teaching many more people than just your very lucky group of grade 8 students! (Do they know how fortunate they are?)

If you haven't yet committed a random act of kindness today, head over to Dave and Chris' blogs and leave them and their kids a comment or two. (You'll find the links to the student's work in the sidebars of their blogs or the class numbers above.)

After Whiplash!

· 0 comments

Both workshops went over really well yesterday. The morning (OLE/"Let's Make A Blog" double header) seemed to go fairly smoothly. At least that's what the feedback forms said. I had 2 hours and had planned for the last 30-45 minutes to be devoted to having the teachers (about 12 of them) build their own blogs. At the start of the morning I said the hardest thing about making a blog is deciding on it's name, so "think about what you'd like to call your blog as we go through the first part of the morning." When it came time to make a blog I asked: "Who would like to have a blog? .... [silence] .... you can always delete it afterwards if you just want to see how it's done. .... [silence] .... I wonder how well received it really was?

There were 4 people in the afternoon for Whiplash! It was a fun workshop to present. ;-) The first hour definitely gave them whiplash. The second hour was given over to learning about whatever interested them at their own pace. We had some really great conversations in an intimate, relaxed, laid back atmosphere and I think everyone got something out of it. What I'm feeling most proud of about this workshop is the modeling I did. We were learning about wikis on a wiki. We learned about RSS on a wiki with RSS feeds. We learned about podcasting while I podcasted the whole thing.

There were a few points where the audio of the some the online resouces I pointed to didn't work. I suspect that's because Audacity was running and using the computer's resources so I had to "wing it." ;-) We also couldn't do the Muddiest Point exercise I wanted to because the permissions in the lab we were working in prevented us from doing so.

You can find the audio archived on the Whiplash! wiki. You'll find it in a table at the bottom of each page. Give it a listen. You'll notice that I broke my "10 minute rule" in the podcasting section. We ended with the Wicked Wikipedia story.

As always, feedback is encouraged and welcome. Please leave your comments here on this post. Thanks.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Over the Pond and Through the Fiber: The Podcast

· 1 comments

I guess we've settled on a name for this collaborative project we began back in January. ;-) We had a great discussion today largely motivated by a recent post by David Warlick. This is what we set out to discuss (submitted by Miguel):

  • »David Warlick talks about telling a new story. I'd like to see us more clearly define it. Is this new future just an amalgamation of new, untried solutions (e.g. digital storytelling, blogging, podcasting, wikis, etc)? How do these fundamentally transform teaching, learning and leadership aside from serving as a big distraction?

Wes, Ewan, Miguel and I were joined by two educators from Washington state, Jeff Allen (Director of Educational Technology at Olympic Educational Service District 114) in Bremerton, Washington and Marc Ahlness (3rd grade teacher at Arbor Heights Elementary School) in Seattle, Washington. David wanted to join us as well but he was travelling at the time we recorded this conversation. We'll try again next time.

As Wes pointed out we've probably raised more questions than we answered.

When we sat down to actually talk about "The New Story," I must admit, I wasn't really clear on what David was suggesting the new story is. By the time we got to the end of the hour I think I both understood the question and, with the help of everyone, figured out a preliminary answer. Let us know what you think ...

Over the Pond and Through the Fiber #2 (58 minutes 9 seconds)

Show Notes

David Warlick's post: Telling the New Story

Darren's Classes in a SuprGlued River (Great metaphor Wes!)

Clarence Fisher's Class, Excellence and Imagination

Bob Sprankle's Class, Room 208

Tony Vincent

Carr, V. H. (2006). Technology adoption and diffusion. Retrieved January, 01, 2006.

The World is Flat (Thomas Friedman's Book)

David Warlick's post again (Boy, you really made us all think Dave!)

Bebo

MySpace

MSN Spaces

Queensbury High School in West Yorkshire, Scotland

Naked Conversations (Robert Scoble's and Shel Israel's book)

Naked Conversations (Robert Scoble's and Shel Israel's blog)

Mark's Class: Mighty Writers

Class Blogmeister

The Big Picture Company

The MET School in Rhode Island

Curriculum as Mashup (an article by David Warlick)

Fullan, Michael (1998). Breaking the bonds of dependency. Educational Leadership, 55(7), 6-11.

Jeff Allen's blog

I Love This Blog by Anne Davis (actually the post title is "A Math Weblog to Note!")

Pull vrs. Push Education by Will Richardson

World Bridges

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Over the Pond and Through the Fiber

· 1 comments

Wes, Miguel, Ewan and I are doing a second skypecast on how teaching, learning and the education profession are being impacted by the read/write web. (This was our first one.) Wesley posted about it here and Ewan posted there. We haven't even done the skypecast yet and it's rippling through the edublogosphere. (Cool.)

Wes has put together a wiki and online survey to help plan and give focus to the discussion. Everyone is invited to participate by offering suggestions or joining the conversation live. We'll be online tomorrow (Thursday, March 16) at 2:30 pm (in North America)/8:30 pm (in the UK). You can find all the details on the wiki.

Let your voice be heard. ;-)

&pi Day and The Coin Hunt!

· 0 comments

Yesterday was &pi Day! Here's how we celebrate:

Somewhere on the property of DMCI a coin will be hidden. Hidden so carefully and cleverly that it cannot be discovered by chance or simply by looking for it. On March 14, π Day, the coin's location will be revealed buried in a series of riddles and puzzles. Until it is discovered the coin's location will remain a mystery....

Regular updates are can be found on the Math Department's Coin Hunt Page.

The clues were released at 12:30 pm yesterday. As of this morning the coins have not been found. Although one teacher has solved both hunts she hasn't yet found the coin. She's out sick today and is unable to claim her prize. The grade 9's and 10's are really giving everyone a run for their money. I had been feeling a little discouraged about running this event this year. As of this time last week very few people had signed up to play. In the end, we've got over 100 students and teachers participating. There's so much excitement running through the building! It was so cool to see people tearing through the halls looking closely at the plaques, trophies, pictures and other paraphenalia on the walls of the building. One of the things we tried to do putting the hunt together was to get the school community to look at the building with new eyes. And boy, are they ever!

People are making connections about the clues that had never been intended; and they're all good, relevent connections! This hunt is working on so many levels I'm feeling very gratified with the results and the hunt is not yet done! I was so excited to come to work today to see how the additional clues posted on the walls and in the stairwells would effect the coin hunters. Some teachers and students are devoting an inordinate amount of time to the hunt. And the conversations people are having about the hunt are just fantastic!

As you can tell, I'm feeling better about the hunt now. It's a very good week to be teaching math! ;-)

When the hunt is over I'll post a summary of all the crazy things people did looking for the coins.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Alabama Buddies!

· 1 comments

I had the good fortune to sit in on an elluminate session given by Will Richardson called "Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool." There were over 30 teachers from Alabama participating in a session orchestrated by Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, Cathy Gassenheimer, and John Norton. Two hours passed by in 5 minutes. It was the first time I've had the chance to hear Will present; he makes everything seem so natural. He has a very personable and engaging style of speaking. You can't help but feel comfortable as he discusses a suite of engaging ideas followed up with striking examples. There was one comment he made that really resonated with me: "Don't hand it in; Publish it!" I'm going to use that with my students. ;-)

I really appreciated the invitation to join the group from Sheryl. I've had some correspondence with several Alabama teachers and I "bumped" into Jeanne Simpson and Aimee Smith. I also met Suzanne Culbreth who is running 3 classroom blogs this semester. All the teachers in the session were so enthusiastic about blogging in the classroom and made me feel such a welcome member of the group. I had thought I would just sit in and listen but the conversation going on in the chat room was so engaging we all had a lively discussion. (There was a lot of chatter abot wikis too!) It really was a blast! I left feeling pumped up about blogging all over again! Thanks to Will, Sheryl and all my Alabama Buddies! ;-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Mentorship Project

· 0 comments

I've been working on coordinating a group of student teachers and other interested educators to act as online mentors for my class blogs. (I'm also reaching out to former students of mine who are currently enrolled in a variety of post-secondary programmes.)

The idea is that the student teachers would be able to follow a class through an entire semester and observe and participate in the evolution of the learning community. They also get to interact with a class of students for a longer term than is usually the case with their field placements. They in turn have access to, and develop an ongoing relationship with, a practicing teacher who can mentor them and answer any questions or concerns they have as they approach and finally participate in their field placements. (They might also walk away with a dynamite letter of reference and a very cool/interesting line on their resumé to bring up in a job interview.) Of course, retired or practicing teachers are also welcome to participate. I recently recieved an email from a university professor in India who might also be interested in being a mentor on my class blogs.

I'm using a "friend of a friend" (FOAF) sort of protocol to verify the appropriateness of potential mentors. All mentors are personally known to me or friends of mine. Trusted nodes on my blogroll network qualify as "friends of mine." ;-) Someone who wants to be a mentor but doesn't meet these criteria can still join the project but I screen them after they reply to an email that looks like this:

All the mentors I've lined up to participate are people that I know personally or that are well known personally to friends of mine. I'm thrilled that you're interested in participating! However, I'm sure you understand my concern for carefully screening mentors who work with my students.

How did you find The Mentorship Project blog?

Do you have a blog I can read? (please forward the address)

Are you well known to anyone on my blogroll? Who?

Are you a teacher?

Where do you work? Does your place of employment have a website where I can find out more about you, perhaps even see your picture? (Please be advised that my students DO NOT post their pictures and will not provide any information pertaining to their real identities, email addresses or any other way of contacting them other than through their class blogs.)

Why do you want to participate in this project? What you you hope to get out of it?

Is there any other information about yourself you can share that will allow me to confirm your identity and your motives for participating in this project?

I realize this may all sound like I'm giving you "a hard time," but again, I'm sure you understand my overriding concern for my students safety.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,
Darren

What exactly does a blog mentor do? Well, to begin with, I envision them "living in the comments" to the blog. Comments from afar have by far the most powerful impact in terms of encouraging the students to ever greater efforts. I've been collecting blog posts that illustrate and underscore effective commenting. So far I've lined up four such posts; the first one by me. (Hey, it's my project y'know. ;-)) I've published two of them to The Mentorship Project blog. The other two will be published over the next week or so. Of course, Anne's written two of the four I've reproduced -- Master Commenter Extraordinaire that she is. ;-) Another one is taken from Lani's Blogging Ballet. (She recently included an eighth act on commenting.)

Anyway, if you or anyone you know would be interested in participating in this project take a look at The Mentorship Project blog and leave a comment on this post or email me.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Whiplash!

· 13 comments

In the last two months I've done 4 workshops, or rather I've redone OLÉ and Rip, Mix, Learn. Next Friday our school is having their annual technology PD day and I've been asked to do two workshops. The morning will be an OLÉ/"Let's Build A Blog" double header and in the afternoon I'm doing something new (for me). It's called Whiplash!

Whiplash! is a fast paced introduction to several read/write web tools that teachers and students can use in and out of the classroom. It's my first workshop on a wiki. Here's the format: An alarm is set to ring at 10 minute intervals; 5 tools, 10 minutes each. At the end of the first hour I expect everyone will have whiplash!

The audio will be recorded and published to the wiki so anyone can come back to listen and participate at their leisure. I'll cut it up into 10 minute chunks and post each one to the relevent section of the workshop. The second hour is where participants can recover and pursue a guided/self-directed exploration of the tool(s) of their choice.

I've heard the word whiplash used several times to describe how workshop participants feel after a fast web 2.0 overview. I came up with the title after reading a post of Alan's he wrote after his 2nd (3rd?) podcasting workshop -- something just clicked.

Alan continues to be a major influence on my thinking about the meaningful use of technology in education. I was heavily influenced by his recent offering: New Learning Technologies Buffet. At first blush it looks like a list of links he used as prompts in his presentation and to provide an after the show resource for folks who wanted to come back afterwards to digest things at their own pace. But he's clever that Alan, look at the survey tool he built into the presentation under the Introduction and Overview section and again at the end of the Break. How's that for tailoring your presentation to your audience? Thanks to Darren Cannell, I put a survey tool into my workshop too. ;-)

Anyway, that really got me thinking. There are a number of people doing these overview type presentations all over the place: Alan, Will, Brian, D'Arcy, David, Bud, Clarence (he's the best; he does ALL this stuff with his students!), Dean, Anne, Lani, Leigh, Jim, and many more. Now the way I see it, the underlying theme to harnessing the power of all these tools is collaboration. Wouldn't it be cool if we had a modular, plug and play workshop that we all contributed to? Anyone could edit it and tweak it to their personal preference whenever they gave the workshop becasue all versions are automatically saved on the wiki. Wouldn't it also be cool to have the audio of everyone's presenation archived on the site so that anyone could visit at their leisure and listen to a variety of perspectives on how to integrate read/write tools into their teaching? Wouldn't it be facinating to see what happened when two or more people were giving the same workshop on the same day and how the two groups and presenters interacted with each other in real time?

When this idea first occured to me it struck me as very exciting. As I continue to work on Whiplash! it struck me that organizing materials for a presentation is a very personal thing; everyone has got their own personal style. I thought I'd throw the idea out anyway and see what comes of it. If the idea has merit we'll end up with a modular, plug and play workshop made by people from all over the blogosphere. If not, then this post will be quietly ignored. ;-)

I'm still assembling material for the workshop so it's unfinished. I'll probably finish it sometime this weekend (like late Sunday night) and continue to "tweak" it until Thursday night. If anyone else would like to play along the password to edit the wiki is, you guessed it: "whiplash!" (Don't forget the exclamation mark.)

Are Mistakes Reflections of the Students or the Teacher?

· 5 comments

Nancy over at Random Thoughts writes:

Are the mistakes of my students a reflection on me and my teaching?

In a comment to my previous post, Bronwyn indicated that they are. In the not-too-distant past I would have agreed with her; I felt that if my students appeared to be less than perfect, it somehow meant I was not a "good" teacher. But now I have to say that I don't agree.

Learning requires the active participation of the learner. Unfortunately, many students see learning as something that someone else does to them.

I think that a student's published work is a reflection of the student. When they do a good job it reflects well on them and when they don't it doesn't. The real "blog juice" is the global audience. When kids finally realize that what they write is being read and talked about by people across the globe they are inspired to do better work; they want to make a good impression. This is why I think it's so important for teachers to emphasize the fact that publishing to a blog is publishing for a global audience. Students need to be reminded many times before they "get it." This is the main reason all my class blogs have Visitor Maps. They were installed, but invisible, for the first two weeks of the semester. When the map links went live the students were able to "see" their audience immediately.

As for student performance being a reflection on the teacher, well, it is. That you encourage and orchestrate the publication of student work is an act of bravery in our profession. Many educators have a fear of transparency. Those that don't are powerful examples for their students (and colleagues).

If anyone judges your work through your students work then they should look at the work of your very best students. The ones who followed your lead, took your advice and engaged you and the content you teach. That would be an authentic example of the learning opportunities you create for your students. It also stands as a model for other students to build on; and we all need good models to look up to.

Keep up the good work Nancy!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

An Extraordinary Act of Public Obediance

· 2 comments

This has nothing to do with education. It's simply brilliant. Obeying the speed limit. An Extraordinary Act of Public Obediance. It's a 5 minute video. The best part comes at about 3 minutes 45 seconds in. Watch for it.

Hmmm ... I said it has nothing to do with education but maybe it does. Isn't this what our school system is designed to produce? And isn't it also the way some people react?

Learning about learning ...

While walking ...
Best viewed "full screen." (Click on bottom right corner of any video when playing.)

With pictures ...
Best viewed "full screen." (Click on bottom right corner of any image when playing.)

Curating discoveries ...


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