They are called The Global Learners. A group of about 26 teachers from across the Adams County School District #14 in Denver. The brainchild of Joe Miller supported by the technical and pedagogical expertise of Dave Tarwater. They are teachers who teach grades 1 through 12 (students aged 6 years to 18+). Each one has a modern laptop with wireless capability, a SMARTBoard, broad access to the internet from their classrooms and the unreserved support of their Director of Assessment and Educational Technology (Joe Miller).
Joe emailed me in March of this year asking if I might be able to come to Denver some time in August. Five months later I found myself in Denver working with this exceptional group of teachers. If you want to see some real read/write web goodness in the classroom scan through some of the posts in their professional group blog Global Learner (isn't that a great name for a teacher group blog?). Then click on their names in the contributors list and see some of the amazing work they are doing with their kids and sharing with the world.
Almost from the moment I met him, Joe did something that really impressed me and set the tone for the three days I was there. I told Joe that I wanted to chatcast every presentation over the two days I would be working with the teachers. We needed to have access to skype in order to do this. Skype was blocked in his district. Joe called the person responsible for opening up skype on the district network. The reply was: "I'll try to get that done." Joe got off the phone and told me what the other fellow had said, and added: "I don't like that answer. I want it done. I'll call him back in an hour and we'll have it done today."
I invited people on my twitter network to join in the chatcasting fun. Terry Freedman (London, England) agreed to "Captain" (coordinate everyone joining the chat in skype and model best practices) the chatcast. We were also joined by Bud Hunt (Littleton, Colorado, US), Claudia Ceraso (Buenos Aires, Agentina), David Jakes (Naperville, Illinois, US), Sharon Peters (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), Jan Stearns (Los Angeles, California, US), Darren Draper (Salt Lake City, Utah, US), Jose Rodriguez (Los Angeles, California, US), Lisa Durff, Hagerstown, Maryland, US), Vince Jansen (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada), Joyce Valenza (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US) and all the ACSD14 Global Learners. I can't thank you all enough for helping me model how easily we can bring a world of experts and expertise into our classrooms on a daily basis. A special shout out goes to Kathy Cassidy (Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada). One of the grade one teachers was talking to me about scaling the practices I was modeling for her students. I told her about Kathy's work and showed her Kathy's website. I suggested she email Kathy to ask her questions directly. Within 30 minutes she had contacted Kathy, received an answer, and had a skype conference call set up for a small group of the Global Learners with Kathy.
I had a twitter "aha!" moment during my time in Denver. One of the teachers was telling me about how he had used logo in the classroom some years ago. I told them logo has evolved into a new type of programming based on lego ... I couldn't remember the name; only that it began with the letter "s" and it wasn't skitch. I tweeted what I was looking for. Less than 60 seconds passed before Chris Lehmann tweeted back that I was looking for scratch. I tried to model the value of twitter by having a screen running throughout the two days at the side of the room displaying my twitter network using twittercamp. As a result of all this twittering goodness several of the Global Learners have joined the twitter community as well.
Another best practice that was, incidentally, modeled by all this was the generosity that characterizes the community of edubloggers. Several people shared their contact information on the wiki and left comments to the Global Learners about what we were learning together. Again, thank you all.
The teachers of ACSD14 are actively pursuing ways in which the many tools available for learning on the internet can positively impact the learning of the students in their classrooms. And they're not shy about pushing back if they think something is all fluff. Below are all the presentations I gave at the conference and where audio had been recorded I've made slidecasts. Listen to the audio about 90 seconds through slide #39 of "What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before?" One of the Global Learners got a little put off and pushed back a bit. We talked more at the break. We shook hands and smiled before I left Denver. ;-)
Everything (slides, video, slidecasts, chatcasts and participant reflections) is archived on the Adams County School District #14 PD Wiki. Here are the slides and slidecasts of the presentations I gave.
Tear Down the Walls.
An introduction to the two days of workshops.
Learning The Guitar or thinking about innovation in education.
A guide to thinking about using online tools in pedagogically meaningful ways with a focus on blogging.
Rip. Mix. Learn.
Another metaphor to pin pedagogical thinking on; a brief introduction to the K12 Online Conference with pointers to archived materials from last year's conference followed by participants free wheeling learning on the topic of their interest.
What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before?
Using two concrete examples (flickr and pbwiki) of using free online tools to create meaningful learning activities we discuss ways to extrapolate this kind of pedagogical thinking to any online tool.
Developing Expert Voices
Mashing up several online tools to create an assessment project that allows students to really demonstrate what they have learned. With a little creative thinking this model can be scaled across domains and age levels.