OLÉ & RML - After the show ...

We began our winter break today so this will be my last post for the next week and a half or so.

As I said earlier, the feedback from last Friday's workshop has been overwhelmingly positive. So much so that I hesitated to publish it here for fear it would sound like bragging. I'm publishing it nonetheless for two reasons:

    (1) I always encourage my children and students to brag about their accomplishments — we shouldn't be afraid of sharing what we do well.
    (2) I'd like to keep a record of it for my own reference. In some ways I've begun to think of this blog as my personal mental filing cabinet.

In the areas of animation, content and satisfaction the ratings were universally the highest possible.

These were the responses to Please comment on any positive aspects of this workshop:

  • »You touched on many valuable areas, but most valuable aspect was the different ways to use a blog site.
  • »Your passion is infectious. Show up at [our school] in a month and see it in action.
  • »Tons of info. Almost too much.
  • »I am excited by the possibilities offered by these technologies. I'm looking forward to experimenting with this over the holidays.
  • »Great eye-opening experience. Thank you Darren!! Please keep me updated at [my email address]. It would be [good] to have some interesting and insightful discussions about the future of learning using blogs with some of our colleagues. This discussion needs to take place. Thanks again!!
  • »This was great! I did not know how to do any of this before today. I need to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
  • »Fantastic!
  • »You are an extremely knowledgeable presenter — and an obviously committed educator.
  • »Great tango metaphor! Your enthusiasm and practical down to earth classroom examples are profound! Having your "skyped" guests online was very enlightening.

These were the responses to Please comment on any negative aspects of this workshop:

  • »None (x3)
  • »Create a second workshop on creating your blog. We know that we want to use it. Help us make it.
  • »Not enough time to play.
  • »None other than running out of time. I suspect this could be a 2 day workshop.
  • »So much in so little time — I needed more time to practice in order to remember what I did.
  • »Too much info for one day! Could have spent 2 — more slowly.
  • »Perhaps for Windows users one might explain Mac minimize and close functions. Need more time to absorb many of [the] features, but you definitely cause participants to think!

These were the responses to Any additional comments, compliments, concerns, complaints, confusions or anxieties?

  • »Please send me links/tools you have that you didn't post on this site.
  • »Baby steps will get me there.
  • »WOW! So much info, so little time. I'll really need to play with this.
  • »Thank you for you passion and enthusiasm — I'm going to give this a shot and see where it goes.
  • »I would like to present this to my department and my administrators. I would like to propose to have you come in to do a presentation to either my admin, my team, and/or the leadership council at [my school].
  • »Thanks Darren!
  • »Our dialogue over lunch will I'm sure prove beneficial so we can meet the needs of all students and teachers in our division. Thank you for your frankness and willingness to push the envelope. Great job!

In the week following this workshop there have been a spate of new blogs in our little corner of the edublogosphere. I'd like to encourage any readers of this blog to drop in and leave folks encouraging comments. You'll accomplish two things by doing so:

    (1) Tangibly demonstrate how blogs bring the world into your classroom on a daily basis.
    (2) Foster the growth of a new edublogger. Let's give them a warm welcome to the edublogging community!

Here are the new blogs that came about directly because of this workshop:

One comment that came up several times orally was that teachers wanted a step-by-step walk-through setting up a blog on Blogger. One of the things I really like about Blogger is their straightforward, simple interface. However, there are a lot of things to consider as you work your way through all the settings. I think I'll write an abridged version of Rip, Mix, Learn that does just that. I'm doing another OLÉ, & RML double header in January and again in February — that'll be my testing ground. ;-)

Have an excellent holiday season; and remember, spread some good cheer in the comments to our new edubloggers! ;-)


2005 EduBlog Awards

Check out the results from the 2005 EduBlog Awards. If you're not reading any of the blogs on this list you should at least drop in and check them out. Also, take a look at the stats page. It's interesting to see how close some of the races were, but more interesting to visit the sites of all the award nominees. This will give you lots to read over the holidays. ;-)

OLÉ & RML - Thank you to all my friends!

Friday's workshop went exceedingly well -- the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. More on this in my next post.

Anne, Sheryl and Clarence I can't thank you enough! I think the most dynamic aspect of the entire experience was your contribution via Skype.

Anne was with us the entire day! She danced the tango with us and she shared how she used blogs with her elementary students and now with her high school students. The description of the collaboration she did with Will's journalism class really opened everyone's eyes to the potential of this technology. I've been mulling over a way to establish a similar link between an elementary school and my classes here in Winnipeg. Although I had known about Will's and Anne's classes working together, hearing how they had orchestrated the experience has planted a seed in my brain as well. Anne told us how a typical elementary student, when given any writing to do, tosses it off quickly in order to be done with it ASAP. In this collaboration, because they were writing for high school students, they wanted to impress the high school kids and poured time and energy into their writing like they had never done before.

Anne also talked about the emotional impact that a global community can have on a single child by sharing with us Patrick's story -- a young man in grade five whose greatest wish was to pass grade five. The community responded and so did Patrick.

It was as though Anne was actually in the room with us. She shared her thoughts on how to respond to negative comments or students posting controversial material. She participated in the lively discussion we had about the reliability of bloggers as a source of information. Anne also participated in the blogging section of Rip, Mix, Learn by commenting on the teacher's posts in The Playground. She made real the message she shared about how to orchestrate the participation of a global community in the comments to students posts. Anne you were unreal! I just can't thank you enough!

Sheryl skyped in (we had them both on a conference call -- I just learned how to do that with skype the day before the workshop.) She talked about how teachers can overcome the anxiety of learning and adapting technology to their practice. She made this really powerful statement: You can't give away what you don't own. She went on to describe how owning technology isn't about owning hardware, it's about owning the knowledge and know-how to facilitate learning. Her voice came through the speakers so clearly -- her message came through even more so! Sheryl, you are one fantastic lady. Everyone who walked out of my workshop said the same thing. Thank you so much!

Clarence is the master of the timely skype call. We had just had an in depth discussion of ways in which blogs and other read/write tools can be integrated into both the elementary and high school classes when the middle school teachers started asking: "Do you have any middle school examples?" I said: "You need to speak to Clarence." Skype rang and there he was! Clarence uses a very different blogging model than I do -- each of my classes has one blog for the entire class; Clarence has each student maintain their own blog. It was really eye opening to hear about another model from the man who had developed it. Clarence mentioned, in almost an off the cuff, matter of fact way, that his class uses their blogs to interact with students in Saskatchewan, Korea and Australia. Another powerful example of how blogs bring the world into the classroom every day. Clarence talked about how his students are learning not just curricular content but also the differences between cultures who have different assumptions and celebrate different holidays. He also shared with us how he dealt with students who tried to publish personal (controversial) content about members of their community and the powerful educational discussion this led to in his classroom. Clarence, your contributions were simply outstanding! I don't know how to thank you in a way that is comparable to what you shared with the teachers in my workshop.

Dean skyped in too. He had a crazy busy day and I didn't think he was going to make it. Unfortunately we had trouble connecting (something with skype?). Nonetheless, with everything he had going on he tried to participate. It was the fourth skype call into the workshop -- I think their heads were spinning. ;-) I'm grateful for the effort you made Dean.

I've run out of superlatives. My friend's impact was dramatic and I can only say you'll never really know how appreciative I am -- thank you.

OLÉ! - My Tango ...

The workshop I'm doing on Friday has two parts.

Part 1 is called OLÉ! - Orchestrating a Learning Ecology (or Learning the Tango). Part 2 is Rip, Mix, Learn. OLÉ is the philosophy, pedagogy and concrete steps I take to orchestrate my students Online Learning Environment. I'm using The Tango as a metaphor for how I do this. The Tango consists of only three steps, but they combine in infinite ways such that each dancer dances their own tango. The read/write tools I use on my blogs are few; blogs, RSS, social bookmarking, flickr and chatboxes. But they can be combined in infinite ways such that each teacher can orchestrate their own learning ecology.

OLÉ is the heart and soul of how I blog with my students. RML is the toolbox; the technological literacies. We'll tango for about an hour and half. We'll be ripping, mixing and learning for the rest of the day.

The part I'm most excited about is the fact that four people have agreed to skype in and join the conversation over the course of the day: Sheryl, Dean, Clarence and Anne. You just know that's going to be a party! And a hearty thank you goes out to Mr. McNamar for sharing his tango in the comments to my earlier post.

The last post on OLÉ is called What If Your Blog Was Gone? It was inspired by Konrad Glogowski's recent experience. I solicited feedback from my students by posting two questions for them to answer. Their responses are entirely their own; I didn't prompt them in any way. They did some really powerful writing.

As always, comments and suggestions for improvement are encouraged and welcome. ;-)

It's Catching

The idea has germinated ... now it's growing ... if you could see my face right now ... (smile) ...

Miss Nicholson is Erin's student teacher -- isn't that cool?

S1 MathHiring a Scribe
By Miss Nicholson

Hello there everyone!

I have been so busy trying to prepare fun, but meaningful, math lessons for you that I haven't checked out the blog for a while!

The scribes who have done their duty have been doing a great job of listing the activities that we do in class, and Anne (the scribe before this post), has taken "scribing" to the next level by also including the content of what we learned. This is the scribe's job- to help those who missed class by providing them with the information we learned; and to help those who were in class but who, for some reason, missed an answer or some notes.

So... when it's your turn to be scribe, try answering these questions in your blog:

What did we do in class today?
What did we learn during these activities?
Was this new information or something I've seen in math or another class before?
Was the material difficult or easy to understand?
Is there something that I still don't understand and could ask my classmates to explain?
Did anything else happen during class that would be fun to keep a record of?

That's all for now! Just one quick reminder that your unit test will be on Wednesday!


Anne posted this today:

Bud's post about his accident really made me pause and think. First, I am so glad that he is OK. I know hugging his daughter and enjoying those Christmas lights will absolutely be the best medicine possible..

I've blogged before about how special it is to be part of an "edublogging family", just like I'm a member of my school family. These extended family groups really add much to your life. Educators are a special breed and I am thankful to be a part of the community.

Anne you're so right! I was really moved by the comments left on my blog when my little girl got hurt in June. Again and again this community comes together to support each other in times of need and most often in our learning and teaching. I know when I'm struggling with something in my work I can find support and answers, good answers, from this community. And it's strange, but I've never seen many of you and yet I've come to rely on you in a very real way. One of the things that makes our community special is the open permeable boundaries between the various groups of us. Blogging has really enriched my students learning but more than that, it has enriched my life in more ways than I can count.

Calling all EduBloggers

I'm doing another Rip, Mix, Learn workshop on Friday December 16. We'll begin the day with an overview of how I use blogs and other read/write web tools in my classes; I call that session "OLÉ" -- Orchestrating a Learning Ecology (or Learning the Tango). I'll post more about that session here when it's done and ready for public consumption. We'll also touch on some of the issues surrounding blogging in the classroom that have been the focus of discussion around here for the last little while.

Like last time, I plan to model for the 20 or so teachers participating, how to use the technology by actually having them use it themselves. Lots of play time. (I learned some lessons from the last RML I did. ;-))

Anyway. I was wondering if anyone would like to join in the blogging section of the workshop which will take place starting at around 11:00 - 11:30 am central time. I'd be interested in having some "visitors from afar" skype into the conversation as well. I think Sheryl will be there and I'd love to have Bud, Clarence, Dean, Will, Anne, Mr. McNamar or Jo drop by as well as anyone else who'd like to participate.

Essentially I'm looking for teachers that have used blogs with their students. I'd like you to answer two questions for the teachers in my workshop:

    »How have you used blogs with your classes?
    »What impact has it had on your students' learning?

This invitation is wide open. If you're interested email me or leave me a comment on this post. Thanks! ;-)

Defining The Issues

Miguel has been asking a lot of good questions (here and here) about the harm blogging in schools may lead to. In one post, "What harm can a blog do?" Miguel shares the concerns raised by Nancy Willard.

Bud has also contributed to the discussion with this post.

There seems to be a proliferation of posts and articles coming out about how much trouble students and teachers can get themselves into by using blogs in schools. (see this, this and that) I'm finding it hard to nail down the issues to a concrete list that we can talk about. So, here is the list I've compiled based on what I've seen posted by Bud, Miguel, and others whose links I've forgotten. Read through the list. Lets add to it if necessary and condense it down to the fundamental issues that need to be addressed -- then lets get into it. ;-)

Issues with Legal Consequences
privacy and personal safety
collusion to commit a crime
establish contact with potential criminals (sex related or otherwise)
copyright/intellectual property
discussion of controversial issues (drug use, sexuality, religion, politics)

Issues for Schools
school image

Miguel and I started talking about doing a group podcast on the issues. We'll all do a gizmo conference call (gizmo to make it easy to record and learn something new), choose a moderator and tackle the issues one by one. If you want to participate leave a comment here with your gizmo ID and we'll set a date and time. Before we do that though, let's define the issues.

Habit of Mind

Dean's recent post The Theory of Relativity got me thinking. Dean writes:

My recently adopted criteria of "Relevant, Engaging and Ownership" as a criteria for learning is definitely in its infancy. I've been saying that teachers need to address the ever popular question of "why do we have to learn this?" as part of how we do business .... I can agree that some things we learn may not completely link to our lives but offer a rich experience that will in some way enhance our lives.

He ends his post with:

So there are times when students may not see the relevance but we need to. So if you believe Calculus is going to be important for kids, make sure that at least you know why it's relevant. Stephen Downes says he's still waiting for it to be relevant. Not sure it will ever be.

That's twice recently that I've read the suggestion calculus is not relevant to student's lives. Lots of people feel that way. Whenever I meet someone for the first time and they learn I'm a math teacher they always reply either:

(a) I hated math; or
(b) I like math.

95% of the time it's (a). I think they've missed the point of what an education is all about.

I've been telling my classes for years now that by the time I'm finished with them at the end of grade 12 I hope they come to realize that I haven't really been trying to teach them math; I've been trying to teach them a habit of mind. Studying mathematics is just the vehicle for that purpose.

I think there are a great many courses we take that are not relevant in the way that Dean or Stephen describe. I also think that the educational value in those courses is the "habit of mind" they foster.

The relevance criterion will be a tough one. How do we determine that a particular course has no value? I think there is value in learning, no matter what it is you are learning. The value is in the habit of mind the learning facilitates. Each discipline facilitates a different habit of mind.

For all that, I think showing kids the relevance of what they're learning is to real life helps to motivate them. One question I ask my classes is:

"Y'know all those police dramas where the coroner arrives on the scene and says, 'The victim was murdered between 2:00 and 2:15 am.' How does she know that? Was she there?"

Well, one way she might have done that is using calculus to solve a first order differential equation. Let's learn how she did that. ;-)