"Why did you start blogging with your classes ....

.... what we're you hoping to accomplish?"

I've been interviewed a few times now about how I use blogs as educational tools in the classroom. Invariably, this is the first question.

This is my answer.

And for the icing on the cake, I found this in the Pre-Cal 20S chat box tonight:

3:53 PM Jan 30, 2006 IP 161:148

Thanks to all of my classmates. The podcast came out even more amazing than I thought!

John D. A.K.A JawaJuice - #12
5:31 PM Jan 30, 2006 IP 77:216

Yeah thanks to everyone of you. I'm gonna quote Mike Winchell from Friday Night Lights: I love all of y'all. I'm going to miss this class.

stePhANIE 8:31 PM Jan 30, 2006 IP 161:63

aww i'm gonna miss you guys...

Natasha 9:47 PM Jan 30, 2006 IP 77:26

Awww I'm gonna miss you guys alot

Natasha 9:49 PM Jan 30, 2006 IP 77:26

well maybe I'm see some of you guys in other classes


Pod Capsules

Thursday was the last day of class for my pre-cal classes. It's been a great ride! To celebrate we left ourselves "pod caspules" instead of "time capsules." ;-) The grade 10 students couldn't get enough of the microphone (10 minutes, 31 seconds). The grade 11's were a little more reserved (4 minutes, 26 seconds), although there's a really interesting comment by the last student who speaks.

Click on the links below to find the podcasts posted on the class blogs. Please leave comments to my grade 11 students on their blog, Pre-Cal 30S, and my grade 10 students on their blog, Pre-Cal 20S. Leave comments to me here.


Thanks to everyone who has been leaving comments on my class' blogs. You're having a greater impact than I can ever tell you!

To answer some of the questions you've been asking:
The recording and post-production was done using Audacity (cross platform compatible, free). I composed the music myself using Garage Band (came free with my mac). (Carole, I can't tell you how I smiled when you said you liked the music. ;-))

Flickring Brilliant!

Alan Levine and Brian Lamb are at it again. Flickr as a presenation tool! The metaphor this time? Blogs as science fiction pulp novels. Flickring Brilliant!

(Thanks to Leigh Blackall for the link.)

I just read on Brian's blog that the release of the presentaion is a little premature. He said they're "still working on the audio" and more content. (WOW! There's going to be more content -- with audio!)

Brian asked people to wait before looking in on the presentation until it's finished. I've disabled the link to the presentation and will reactivate it when Brian and Alan are done. My appologies to them both for letting the cat out of the bag early. ;-)

I just "heard" from Brian. He says "the horse has the left the barn" so I've reactivated the link.

One of the things that most struck me about the presentation was the non-linear navigation using the flickr tag structure. This got me thinking about some math applications ... how many permutations of this presentation exist? How many different workshops can you build into a single photo set? ... a game, or math review, find your way through a flicker maze of picture puzzles using a unique tag set. Each image is a "problem" to solve in order to follow the right link and escape the maze. Something along the lines of this, but better. ;-)

LEaRning can bE fUn!

Bud Hunt wrote (Lost) a post that got me thinking. (Y'know what they call a mathematician who goes south for the winter? .... a Tan Gent. ;-))

We're planning our next Pi Day (March 14, 3.14) celebration (we eat pie at 1:59 and 26 seconds; 3.1415926.... and tell bad math jokes -- like the one up there^) around the Mystery Coin Hunt. I got the idea from MIT last year. We've got 6 students on the committee already, one of whom helped out last year. This year we'll run two hunts concurrently; one for students and one for teachers and alumni. (Last year a teacher team won and the students felt cheated.)

I've been tossing around another idea based on Dan Brown's website. The idea would be to have a group of students design a web hunt similar to Dan Brown's where the solver has to solve a problem from each unit we've studied in the course. Each solution would lead to the next problem until the entire course had been reviewed.

I've also been quietly lurking on this blog. I hope to one day find the time to figure out a way to apply to my math classes the kind of educational gaming that Jean-Claude Bradley does with his Chemistry classes at the University of Drexel. (Drexel is fairly well known in math circles.)

Just yesterday I stumbled across Bill Kerr's (a colleague from nonscholae.org) website where he's posted resources that he uses to teach computer programming in the context of game design. Something else for me to explore when I have the time.

I've been blogging with my classes for about a year now. A Difference went online about 11 months ago. This is my 100th post at A Difference so I thought I'd do something special.

The title is a puzzle. I will send something "nice" to the first person who emails me the correct solution.

Your challenge:

How is the title tangentially related to π Day?

Happy hunting! ;-)

The name of one of my mathematical heros has "the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end." (There's a spoiler in the comments below.) How is my hero connected to π?

Safe Blogging Resources

Two things happened last week. nonscholae.org was launched (I blogged about it here.) and I received an email from a teacher in the United States. The teacher shared with me how her school was starting to use blogs as educational tools. As this news spread to the community some parents expressed grave concerns about their children's safety online and she asked me for help and pointers to resources. It occurred to me, as I was chatting with some of the other volunteers at nonscholae.org, that this information would be good to share with the larger blogging community. Chances are if you haven't had to access these resources yet, you or someone you know will in the near future.

Here is what I shared. I will update this post as time goes by.

Posts Teachers Use on Their Classroom Blogs
Student's Made This! (Darren Kuropatwa's class policy)
Safe Blogging (Mrs. Simpson's class blogging policy)
Etiquette (Mr. Malandrakis' class blogging policy)
Another Take on Blogging Rules (Ben Wilkoff's blogging policies worked out with his students.)
Tuesday Night Reflections (Ryan Maksymchuk's reflective class blogging guidelines.)

Posts from A Difference
The Fear of Transparency
The Fear of Losing Control
Distrust Breeds Fear
The Conversation

From Bud Hunt's Blogging Wiki
Main Page
Blogging Parent Letters
Sample Blog Acceptable Use Policy
Student Created Blog Policies

From the Free Expression Policy Project (NYU School of Law)
The NRC's May 2, 2002 Report, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet, Agrees with FEPP on Three Crucial Issues ("learning to swim" - thanks to D'Arcy Norman for this link)
There are many more valuable resources here that can be accessed from their home page

Inappropriate Blog Post (6 min. 38 sec.)
      An excerpt from an interview where I discuss how I orchestrate ethical blogging practices in my classes and how I dealt with a student who posted something inappropriate nonetheless.

      A grassroots organization of educational professionals devoted to the responsible use of blogs, instant messaging and other social software in schools.

      A site where teens, parents, teachers and adult bloggers can learn about the benefits of safe blogging.

Stories From the Classroom
Just two clicks ...
A student posts his phone number. It turns out to be a phoney number. The teacher turns it into a teachable moment. - The student's post, The student's follow-up post, The teacher's story

I know there are many more blog posts out there that give teachers and parents the tools to practice and talk about safe blogging. Please email me or leave a comment on this post if you know of or have written such a post and I will add it to the list. I’m particularly interested in collecting class blogging policies that teachers post to their classroom blogs or that are explicitly used in their classes. I’m also interested in collecting “stories” of how teachers have dealt with students posting inappropriate material. Keep those stories coming ...


Note: This post is mirrored at nonscholae.org

My Classroom Has Glass Walls

Several months ago I received an email from Robyn MacBride. She teaches physics in Rochester NY and is finishing her Masters degree in educational technology. She's writing her thesis on how blogs can be used as an educational tool and asked me if I'd be willing to be interviewed by her. I said yes and about two weeks ago, January 10, 2006, we did a skyperview. I asked Robyn if it would be alright to record the interview and publish it as a podcast. She said yes.

In the interview we explore the role of blogs in the past, present and future in my classes. We also discussed issues of internet safety, how I dealt with a student publishing inappropriate content, connectivism, and some of my perspectives on education in general.

It's about an hour long. I know I don't always have that much time to devote to listening to a podcast but if you do find the time to listen questions, concerns, complaints, comments, compliments, confusions, uncertainties and other perspectives are encouraged and welcomed; as always. ;-)

My Classroom Has Glass Walls - the interview

Show Notes
Pre-Cal 40S

AP Calculus AB

Pre-Cal 20S

Pre-Cal 30S

How Will I Orchestrate It This Time?

Karen Cameron

Learning Inspired By Students (the introduction of chatboxes)

Blogging on Blogging (from day 3 -- not the post I was thinking about, but it was the event I was thinking about)

Where Have We Heard This Before (the post I was thinking about came a month later -- it had even greater impact)

OLÉ - My Tango ...

Rip, Mix, Learn

What If Your Blog Was Gone?

Konrad Glogowski

EduBlog Awards 2005

Tools Interiorized (Konrad's post about his class "losing" their blogs)

S1 Math

Consumer Math 20S

Blogging on Blogging (from Pre-Cal 40S)

Blogging Assessment

Pre-Cal 20S Visitor Map

You're Here Let's Begin! (Pre-Cal 20S - my first post)

Blogging on Blogging (Pre-Cal 20S - my second post)

Students Made This! (Pre-Cal 20S - my third post)

Bud The Teacher

Steve Lazar

Rip, Mix, Learn

Bloggers 'R 'Us

A New Level of Functionality and Interactivity (Stories from the chatboxes)

The Evolution of Teaching and Learning (what I'm learning)

George Siemens

Jay Cross

Stephen Downes

New Pre-Cal 40S

Graeme's Massive Notes Post

Editor's Initiative

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Lunch in Alabama

Brainteaser (grade 7 math blog in Alabama - read the comments)

The Scribe Post

Scribe Once Again!!!

A New Level of Functionality and Interactivity (see comments)

Scribe For Today

Learning and Web 2.0 - Ewan McIntosh

I just finished watching Ewan's video presentation that he gave to a large group of student teachers in Scotland the morning following our recent skypecast (we're not just podcasting anymore ;-)). Ewan does an outstanding job of explaining the evolution of the internet from Web 1.0 (read only) to Web 2.0 (read/write). He also surveys blogging and podcasting and discusses what they are and how to effectively use them in an educational context.

There were four points that really struck me.

(1) Ewan's description of himself as a "digital native" is concretely demonstrated with pictures and discussion of his recent presentation at Les Blogs, the blogger conference held in France in December 2005. Everyone one was blogging on wireless laptops while listening to Ewan speak. Ewan, simultaneously is blogging himself and taking in the instantaneous reactions of his audience so he can modify his presentation while in progress. You've got to see it to believe it.

(2) How do we verify the worth of a source information? We used to, when taking a book out of the library, look at the list of people who had taken it out before us. The longer the list and the more recently the book was taken out is a way for all the previous readers to quietly offer a recommendation. Blogging and linking to sources does the same thing live and instantaneously.


(4) At the end, Ewan lists the nine instructional strategies from Robert Marzano's book Classroom Instruction That Works. My dept. has been focusing on implementing each of these strategies, one each year, as part of our BPRIME Initiative. Ewan brilliantly illustrates how each strategy is effectively implemented in the classroom by weaving read/write tools into our classroom practice. This last piece in his presentation was simply breathtaking.

Chapeau, mon ami. ;-)

RSS Ideas For Educators

Quentin D'Souza has put together a presenation called RSS Ideas For Educators. He's giving the presentation twice; at the Leading Learning 2006 Conference in February and again at the 2006 ECOO Conference (Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) in May.

He used a wiki to draft the document and has now copied the whole thing into a pdf file that you can download (RSS Ideas for Educators 1.1). It's an incredible compilation of concrette applications of RSS technology in education. I was flattered that he included some of my work in the links he mentions.

If anyone has been asking you about RSS in education this will make a great companion volume to Will's guide. Drop Quentin a line and let him know what you think.

We learn, not for school, but for life

James Farmer's blog service for schools was blocked by the censors a while back. In the comments to the post he wrote about it a grassroots movement started to take shape. Here it is...

nonscholae.org is a site devoted to the responsible use of blogs, instant messaging and other social software in schools.

Non scholae sed vitae discimus
We learn, not for school, but for life - Seneca, Epistulae

We believe that these tools and resources should not be blocked or banned from schools. As educators, we should be familiarising learners with these technologies, supporting and facilitating their responsible use and equipping our students with the skills to keep them safe and savvy in the online world.

It's just been published so the content is a little lean, but the movement is growing. If you agree with the statement I highlighted above lend your support at nonscholae.org.

The Art of Wiki Wiki Teaching

Cool Cat Teacher, in her very first post from December 2005, has given me the food for thought I've been looking for.

Here's and excerpt from her blog where she describes her first experience teaching using a wiki. It began with just her computer science class and then spilled over to other teachers and the rest of the school in just one day! Here she talks about the impact wiki wiki teaching had on the school:

I must say that I was impressed with the biology page. I also was quite pleased with their review material of the Scarlet Letter, King Lear, and their English Exam Review. They have several other projects that are really great. But my amazement came afterwards as I walked through the halls. Two girls attracted my attention with their squealing -- I asked what was up with them -- They were squealing about the English material going on the wikipage! It was going to help them on their project! They were so excited. They practically drove me crazy the rest of the day getting passes to come in and update the information for their exams and projects. Other teachers started coming to me and asking what was going on. They couldn't believe the amount of material synthesized and summarized in one class period!

My last period class heard from the others about the "do it yourself" project and then came the most astounding idea of all -- the 10th grade study hall! http://studyhall.wikispaces.com/ (Don't ask me how we got such a great domain -- I'm not sure.)

Read the whole post and follow the links. Man, my blogroll is getting awfully big. ;-)

Why Do I Have To Learn Math?

I just read an article (Math Will Rock Your World) from Business Week. A few snippets:

Y'wanna get a good job?

But just look at where the mathematicians are now. They're helping to map out advertising campaigns, they're changing the nature of research in newsrooms and in biology labs, and they're enabling marketers to forge new one-on-one relationships with customers. As this occurs, more of the economy falls into the realm of numbers. Says James R. Schatz, chief of the mathematics research group at the National Security Agency: "There has never been a better time to be a mathematician."

Learn math!

How'd ya like a six figure salary?

...new math grads land with six-figure salaries and rich stock deals. Tom Leighton, an entrepreneur and applied math professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says: "All of my students have standing offers at Yahoo! (YHOO) and Google (GOOG)."

Learn math.

D'ya wanna to work on the biggest most cutting edge issues of our day?

This mathematical modeling of humanity promises to be one of the great undertakings of the 21st century. It will grow in scope to include much of the physical world as mathematicians get their hands on new flows of data .... "We turn the world of content into math, and we turn you into math," says Howard Kaushansky, CEO of Boulder (Colo.)-based Umbria Inc., a company that uses math to analyze marketing trends online.

Learn math.

Y'wanna make one of the most significant contributions to the betterment of humanity?

"The next Jonas Salk will be a mathematician, not a doctor."

Learn math.

What are the implications for k-12 education?

Outfitting students with the right quantitative skills is a crucial test facing school boards and education ministries worldwide. This is especially true in America. The U.S. has long leaned on foreigners to provide math talent in universities and corporate research labs. Even in the post-September 11 world, where it is harder for foreigners to get student visas, an estimated half of the 20,000 math grad students now in the U.S. are foreign-born. A similar pattern holds for many other math-based professions, from computer science to engineering.

The challenge facing the U.S. now is twofold. On one hand, the country must breed more top-notch mathematicians at home, especially as foreigners find greater opportunities abroad. This will require revamping education, engaging more girls and ethnic minorities in math, and boosting the number of students who make it through calculus, the gateway for math-based disciplines. "It's critical to the future of our technological society," says Michael Sipser, head of the mathematics department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the same time, school districts must cultivate greater math savvy among the broader population to prepare it for a business world in which numbers will pop up continuously. This may well involve extending the math curriculum to include more applied subjects such as statistics.

Learn more math!

"But I don't like math. Besides, I don't need it. I'm going into the humanities or business!"

As mathematicians expand their domain into the humanities, they're working with new data, much of it untested. "It's very possible for people to misplace faith in numbers," says Craig Silverstein, director of technology at Google. The antidote at Google and elsewhere is to put mathematicians on teams with specialists from other disciplines, including the social sciences.

Just as mathematicians need to grapple with human quirks and mysteries, managers and entrepreneurs must bone up on mathematics. Midcareer managers can delegate much of this work to their staffers. But they still must understand enough about math to question the assumptions behind the numbers. "Now it's easier for people to bamboozle someone by having analysis based on lots of data and graphs," says Paul C. Pfleiderer, a finance professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "We have to train people in business to spot a bogus argument."

Ya gotta learn more math!

Yes, it's a magnificent time to know math.

'Nuff said.

3/5 of the Web 2.0 Debate

We had a great conversation last night! I've been getting mail from Wes, Ewan and Miguel about how much fun we all had. (This is the first chance I've had to write anything about it. It's been such a crazy busy day -- TGIF!)

Kudos to Wes for getting us organized and moderating the discussion last night. We had decided to keep the discussion limited to one hour. We cut off our conversation after only hitting on the first three of the five questions.

Thanks also to Ewan (he made the heroic effort of participating at 4 am his time!) and Miguel for including me and their tremendous professionalism. Our positions on some issues are close, on others not. Miguel, Ewan and Wes are all real gentlemen. The level of discussion was entirely focused on the issues. When we disagreed with each other it was always based on the merits of our arguments. I feel fortunate to be part of this group.

We're planning a follow-up podcast in the next week or so to round off the discussion and touch on the last two questions. We managed to work in the replies Bud and John left in the comments to my earlier post. Wes suggested we invite Bud, John and any other interested educators to participate by submitting text or podcast responses to these questions:

  • 4. Will corporate interests (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc) overpower the energy of web 2.0 technologies in their drive to monetize the Internet?

  • 5. How much should our enthusiasm for web 2.0, technology specifically and modernism in general be tempered by the "costs" we hear and know about regarding globalism?

It was really great sharing ideas with educational leaders from two other countries -- I've started thinking of this as the "From Three Countries Across One Big Ocean Podcast." ;-) If anything illustrates how education is going global, the simple fact of the four of us getting together this way to share ideas and learn from each other does.

Email any one of us or leave a comment on this post or Miguel's post or Wes' post or over at Ewan's post. We'll edit them in or play them live at our next get together.

So without any further ado, here it is:

The From Three Countries Across One Big Ocean Podcast

Show Notes
The Other Side of Outsourcing (Thomas Friedman, "The World is Flat" - Video)

John Pederson

Bud Hunt

Excellence and Imagination (Clarence Fisher's class)

Darren's classes: Pre-Cal 20S, Pre-Cal 30S, AP Calculus AB

What If Your Blog Was Gone?

OLÉ (Darren's workshop)

Ellie's Math Blog (Darren's Niece)

Remote Access (Clarence Fisher's blog)

Island Bloggers at the ECML (Scotland)

Luddite Literacy (Wes' podcast)

The Impact of the Gutenberg Printing Press

Korean blog list

Levels of Technology Implementation (LOTI)

Dr. Chris Moresch Ed. D.

Assessment For Learning site

Assessment is For Learning (Scotland)

Scottish Schools Digital Network

Ewan's pilot project (MLFE)

Guidelines for ethical behaviour online (from Darren's classes)

John Pederson's blog post - 2006 Online Edublogger Conference

Ewan's students podcasting

Bob Sprankle - Room 208 (Grade 4, USA)

Ewan's Jordanhill U. presentation

David Muir


Time For Knowledge and Wisdom

Oversold and Underused by Larry Cuban


Open Source Applications (Free): Open Office, Think Office

TECSIG (Technology Special Interest Group - Texas)

NCLB, Title II Part D

My Access

Integrated Learning Systems


PLATO Learning

Compass Learning

Read/Write Web Reading List by Will Richardson

Alan Levine’s blog: CogDogBlog, a recent workshop

Brian Lamb’s blog: Abject Learning, some wiki based workshops

Modern Foreign Languages Environment (MFLE) (Scotland)

Redefining Literacy by David Warlick

Darren Kuropatwa’s blog: A Difference
Ewan McIntosh’s blog: edublog
Miguel Guhlin’s blog: Mousing Around
Wesley Fryer’s blog: Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Our skypecast planning and idea wiki

2006 Online Edublogger Conference

A couple of days ago Will wrote about how Thomson Peterson is organizing a Higher Ed BlogCon and suggested a Lower Ed BlogCon might also be a good idea. John Pederson volunteered to do some of the heavy lifting to get it organized and true to his word he's set up a blog and a wiki with RSS feeds.

John has suggested the month of May (so as not to conflict with the Higher Ed folks in April) for the first ever 2006 Online Edublogger Conference. This is a real grassroots movement so it's going to take a lot of volunteerism to get it off the ground and make it a real success. I think John's still setting up The blog (when last I checked the link failed) but and the wiki are up and running. Drop by, share your thoughts for the planning, find something you're comfortable doing to help get this going -- I can't wait to meet you all in May! ;-)

John has added a forum with an RSS feed. Register here first.

Go For Gold!

The Go For Gold! assignments went out to all the grade 10 pre-cal classes in the school yesterday; due next Friday. On Monday all the grade 11 pre-cal students will get theirs to be handed in the following Monday. That will give everyone a week to do their own preparation for the final exams.

Some of you may be wondering what's a Go For Gold! assignment?!? The idea is to get the students to focus all their energies on learning. Here's how it works:

I reproduce an old exam, slap a cover page on it, and tell the students that they have a week or so to do the whole thing. It's worth 5% of their class mark. (In my class anyway. Other teachers handle the marks differently.) They're allowed to get help from each other, other students in other classes, me, other teachers in the building as often as they like. They can even submit it early, ask me to review it and check if there are any errors. If there are they can redo the work until it's perfect. Here are the Assignment Conditions from the cover page:

  • » You Must Get 100%

  • »You must solve all questions perfectly showing all work; even for multiple choice questions.

  • »You may get help from the teacher as often and as much as you like.

  • »All work must be presented clearly, neatly and easy to read.

  • »Anything less than EXCELLENCE is unacceptable!

Remember, luck has nothing to do with it.
It's all about doing your best!

This is a little different from how I did this last year. Firstly, I was the only teacher doing it; now there's three of us. Also, last year they could only get help from me. This year we've decided to blow that right open and let them get any help from anyone, any way, any time. The stakes are a little higher though. There are only two possible marks for this assignment: Excellent! (100%) or Unacceptable (0%).

The school is buzzing, the kids are excited and after only one day they're working hard at learning. Ba da ba ba baaaa, I'm lovin' it! ;-)


The grade 10's are talking about Go For Gold! in the chatbox tonight. Some of their comments:

6:39 PM Jan 12, 2006 IP 79:88

woah, im getting sucked into the "go for gold" i just cant stop :P

7:38 PM Jan 12, 2006 IP 77:26

haha same here


10:11 PM Jan 12, 2006 IP 161:156

I started on the go for gold assignment, and it's really not that bad! I am liking it so far.. except, I haven't reached the long question part yet...


Web 2.0 Debate

Is our enthusiasm for web 2.0 technologies misplaced? I think that's the essential question Wesley Fryer was talking about in his post Luddite criticisms of technology and modernism on January 4. Wes, Miguel Guhlin, Ewan McIntosh and I are getting together tonight to discuss these 5 questions:

  • 1. Is enthusiasm in the blogsphere for web 2.0 overblown, since the realities of the modern, accountability-driven classroom overpower individual drives for creative innovation?

  • 2. Is there hope for systemic school reform in the United States? Elsewhere in the world?

  • 3. Should schools repurpose their existing educational technology budgets, which largely serve now to support a traditional transmission-based model (pedagogy) of instruction? (And do something radical instead, like pay their teachers more?!)

  • 4. Will corporate interests (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc) overpower the energy of web 2.0 technologies in their drive to monetize the Internet?
  • 5. How much should our enthusiasm for web 2.0, technology specifically and modernism in general be tempered by the “costs” we hear and know about regarding globalism?

The planning for this event has been fantastic! Wes put together a wiki page for us to thrash out the details of our availability, what questions we would address and how we would structure the discussion. A brilliantly practical use of a wiki.

If you have any thoughts you'd like to share on these questions post them here before 10 pm central time tonight (that's when we're scheduled to "skype" together. I'll post a link to the podcast here sometimne after the show.

My Niece

Back in October 2005 I was helping my niece with her math homework. Her parents and I got to talking and decided that I would continue to "tutor" her using a blog. It's called Ellie's Math Blog. Anyway, I just installed a Visitor Map on her blog because it's starting to get some hits from the US. I thought it would be really encouraging for her to see how people from across the world pop in on her blog to see what's going on. (Who knows, she might even learn some geography at the same time. ;-) You don't have to do anything other than visit for a second or two so that the city you're visiting from gets logged. No personal information gets recorded, just the city in which your ISP server is located.

Now if you really wanted to help her learn by leaving an encouraging comment ... well ... that would be outstanding! ;-)

The Evolution of Teaching and Learning

I've recently done a couple of workshops on blogging and web 2.0 in education and I've got a few more coming up. As I talk to people about the powerful learning experiences these technologies foster I have a creeping concern that people are looking at blogs and other read/write tools as a panacea for teaching. While blogs have lightened my load in some respects I find myself spending my prep time in new ways; I'm not working less, I'm working differently. There are a growing number of people beginning to address this issue and I wanted to use this post to track the articles, blog posts and presentations that are having the greatest impact on my thinking in this regard. I'll probably continue to add to and update this post for a little while. Here's what I'm reading and learning about now ....

What I take from all the above is that the essential change brought about by the read/write web is not that teachers and students work less, teachers work differently to foster greater effort on the part of students. The read/write web doesn't make teaching and learning easier. Teachers and students have to think and work differently because the definition of teaching and learning is evolving.

A Teacher Effects Eternity ...

I read this over at the Homeschool Math Blog. I think it's part of a chain letter but it's a powerful idea nonetheless — maybe something for the last day of the semester.

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" she heard whispered "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" and, "I didn't know others liked me so much." were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet Nam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. She nodded: "yes." Then he said: "Mark talked about you a lot."

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

"We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."

Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary."

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: "I think we all saved our lists."

... you never know where your influence stops.

More Math Videos

I love RSS! Some of you may have noticed the RSS feed from the MERLOT mathematics database in the sidebar of this blog. Every time I look in on my own blog I find out about the latest and greatest math resources from MERLOT. You can find MERLOT RSS feeds in other subject areas here (they don't make it easy (read about it here) but it's worth the effort) and learn how to make your own feed box for your blog here. (Thanks Alan!)

I just came across COUNTDOWN; a site with lots of math instructional videos. From the main page:

This professional development web site is devoted to the demonstration and support of effective mathematics instruction. Through the use of indexed video clips and related support materials, viewers can explore specific math concepts at their own pace. Whether you´re an educator brushing up on formulas, a fifth grader figuring out equivalent fractions, a grad student completing a methods assignment or a concerned parent seeking an "electronic" math tutor for your child...this site is a rich math resource available for your repeated use. The video clips found on this site have been edited from hour-long COUNTDOWN shows originally broadcast on Channel 21, the interactive cable access television network in Chicago. Each week, the television program introduces a different math concept through direct instruction and reinforces each lesson with literature, manipulative, activities and related computer instruction. Thanks to cooperative support from SBC, Chicago GEAR UP and Loyola University Chicago, the COUNTDOWN web site has the added benefit of being free. There are no fees or subscription charges for unlimited use of the instructional videos on this web site.

I know Clarence will like this one and my niece will too. ;-)

A New Blogosphere is Born!

I received an email yesterday from one of the teachers who had attended my OLÉ & RML workshop in December. Mr. H teaches grade 8 math at one of our feeder schools. He's set up his own little blogosphere which he'll be introducing his students to next week:

The Main Portal:
Sargent Park's Grade 8 Math Zone

The Class Blogs
Sargent Park 8-16 Math
Sargent Park 8-17 Math
Sargent Park 8-41 Math
Sargent Park 8-73 Math

Drop by and leave him a comment -- I know he'd really appreciate it. ;-)

How Will I Orchestrate It This Time?

The way blogging fits into my instructional design has undergone dramatic changes between last semester and this one.

Here is a comparative list:

Winter 2005 Fall 2005
I post links to reviews, instructive animations and quizzes.

I post blogging prompts often using images from flickr.

Students post reflections on their learning.

I had students do a Muddiest Point exercise on the blog once.

I post links to reviews, instructive animations and quizzes.

I occasionally post blogging prompts. Not using images from flickr often enough.

Students post reflections on their learning.

We've done a few Muddiest Point exercises.

I've been more explicit about ethical blogging and internet use.

Students post links to reviews and other learning resources in the del.icio.us boxes.

Students (and occasionally me) interact in the chatboxes. They often help each other out with homework.

Students write a scribe post for each class every day — this has morphed into them essentially writing the textbook for the class in their own words.

My AP Calculus class is using blogs to write their own digital story.

Students have the option of writing an acrostic instead of a Blogging on Blogging reflective post.

Students have the option of editing the textbook instead of writing a reflective post — this is another way to get them to reflect on their learning. ;-)

I've used the blog to have the students communicate with a substitute teacher before a class I was away from.

I've also used the blog to give an online class when I was away.

I've got them learning problem solving by playing games I post to the blog each Sunday.

Just before the holiday break I added a Visitor Map to each blog.

Now this wasn't all part of the plan back in September; the students pushed me and I added the functionality of chatboxes. Other teacher bloggers shared their work and frustrations, pushed me and gave me ideas. The students have really picked up on the pull vrs. push idea of learning. (One of them said so explicitly [Kristin_R].)

But all of this evolved over the course of our learning together. I'm wondering how I'm going to orchestrate it with my three new classes beginning in February. Here's what I'm thinking ...

Day 1: Discuss Sysiphus. The scribe posts begin.

Week 2: The chatboxes appear.
(Should I wait this long?)

Week 3: Begin digital story assignment with a larger class; students work in groups of 2 or 3. Deadlines must be VERY firm.
(Will this work?)

Week 4: Begin instructional video assignment. Make the deadline flexible to accommodate different groups having access to the equipment.
(I'm anxious about this one.)

Week 6: The del.icio.us boxes appear.
(Is this too soon?)

Week 9: The Editor's Initiative is introduced.
(This should be about half way through the course.)

Week 12: The acrostic post is introduced.
(Should I wait a little longer for this?)

I want to introduce the students to these tools carefully so as not to overwhelm them. Of course this "measured" introduction of tools may be too slow; some of them will have "graduated" from my classes this semester and may demand access to the entire suite of tools immediately — an interesting "problem" to have. ;-)

Looking back, that's an incredible amount of growth in they way I'm using read/write tools with my classes! And I've made no mention of a wiki idea I'm still playing around with. I wonder what the saturation point is? How much is too much? It looks like I'm doing a lot but actually I'm not — the kids are! It'll be interesting to see what changes and growth come out of working with 3 new classes of students. Many of them will be expecting the blog because it's become common knowledge in the school about what's going on in mine and Erin's classes. Some students have begun asking their teachers to start blogs for their classes. I know of a few teachers in my school and one of our feeder schools that have already created blogs for the new year. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see them.)

I think 2005 was the year of the blog. 2006 is shaping up to be the year of the edublog. ;-)