Coming of Age

Mark Ahlness wrote a post about a week ago called Riding a bubble and watching my back. I started writing a comment ... it turned into this post ...

Mark articulated something I've been struggling with for a while now ... for me it's the tension between sharing what I've learned and the positive impact it has had on me and the consequent phenomenon of being regarded, by some, as a leader.

This is a very difficult role within the building that I work ... I measure what I say, when I say it and who I say it to. Questions rattle around in my head: "Will this be the object of another conversation in the staff room (which I do not frequent)? Will this be regarded as arrogant and overbearing ... the listener thinking I'm imposing my views on them? With this be viewed (again) through a lens that regards my offer of help or the sharing of my enthusiasm as really just another(?) attempt at self-aggrandizement?"

Here's a thought I shared with my wife (probably be a blog post soon) along the lines Mark articulated:

A year ago there were many fewer educational bloggers. The community was small. Passionate, enthusiastic, motivated, sharing people. Anyone who put forth an idea, or even better, a resource to share had their work/idea accepted in the sharing spirit it was given. I can remember the first workshop I gave just after I started blogging. The night before I sent out an email thanking the people who had shared their thinking and resources, unknowingly, with me.

There are a lot more educational bloggers now. The community has ballooned and continues to grow. The camaraderie that came from the sharing spirit (which still dominates most discussions) is being questioned. And while maybe that's a good thing, it hurts those that are just doing what they've always done; trying to share what they've learned. Perhaps selfishly -- in the hope that someone will reciprocate that sharing -- but essentially following the collaborative ethos that has permeated educational blogging.

It's not about groups and networks (the definitions of which should not be made by a single person and accepted without question) -- it's about community. The community continues to share and grow -- and in that growth we have arrived at an uncomfortable coming of age.

K12 Online - The Kick Off ... and a touch down

The web is abuzz with excitement following yesterday's keynote presentation by David Warlick and the Fireside Chat we had with him less than 12 hours later.

You can watch David's keynote, read people's contributions to his wiki and keep up with the distributed conversations across the web by hitchhiking to the conference.

The rest of this, I think, is going to be hard to follow. I haven't blogged much in the last several months and I'm just letting loose a stream of consciousness ....

I feel an powerful sense of satisfaction and gratefulness. I've been working on this project for months ... it's incredibly gratifying to see it start to come to fruition. The quality, depth and passion of the presenters and presentations is astounding. David spoke with passion, sincerity, authenticity and a genuine concern for the education of teachers and all our children. David sitting in the park giving his address was interrupted twice. Once by a jogger out with his dog; he just ran by. Then again by an older lady who stopped to chat with David and talk about what he was doing and who he was speaking to. What a beautiful metaphor for what this entire conference is all about.

We've been having this conversation here for what feels like a long time now. Months for some of us, years for others. This conference is about those conversations but it's about a lot more than that. It's about the joggers out with their dogs who pass by with barely a glance ...

  • All of us who have immersed ourselves in the world of online learning, 21st century education, web 2.0, education 2.0, whatever you want to call it ... we all have those colleagues who we'd like to see join the conversation but don't. They're caught up with other things. They pass us by with barely a glance in the course of their day. They pass us by without realizing that the little webcam was a window to the world.

It's about the little senior citizens who stop to chat, maybe derail the conversation briefly, but at least they start asking questions.

  • Their curiosity draws them in, without their even realizing that in that brief moment, they can touch people all over the world. Just by the fact of their curiosity they can impact people they've never seen. They see there's a window to the world there, intellectually they may understand it, but they don't "get it" until the world touches them back ... like in an Elluminate room where over 170 people drop in over the course of an hour. Some have questions and they're looking for answers; some have answers and expertise and they're just looking to share it; some are just curious ... they drop in just to listen and soak up the atmosphere ... the energy of all these people that span the globe, connecting and learning by talking and sharing. How can we make our little corner of the world a better place by helping more kids get better and more deeply educated, in a world where the only constant is change and the rate a which things are changing means we don't even know what world we are preparing them for?

I keep telling my students over and over again ...

Learning is a conversation. If you're not talking to someone about it ... you're not learning it.

There's a real conversation stretching across the globe, right now, that a year ago I never imagined would be possible. There's real deep, meaningful learning going on that we'll all be able to bring back to our daily teaching practice as we continue to reflect on it. But how do we get that jogger (our colleagues and neighbours) to slow down and look in the window? Maybe even go so far as to chat a while by the fire? How do we get our senior citizens (parents, grandparents, entire families) do to more than just express a passing interest in someone who seems up to something weird?

My own children are sitting in classes that are not making these global connections. I'd like to help those teachers join the conversation but I can't; we teach in the same school division ... they don't seem to want my help. The offer is intimidating and creates barriers I would like to avoid. Sure, my kids (and my nieces) have blogs. They know dad is connected globally. They hear me get excited about their projects and the dynamic tools they could use to make powerful artifacts. "But that's not what the teacher wants" they say. K12 Online is a beginning ... there's still a long way to go to get my own children educated.

When you head back to the conference for the next event. Bring a friend. Please.

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K12 Online - When Night Falls

We're in the midst of planing the final event for K12 Online 2006. It's called When Night Falls. The idea is to have a 24 hour long worldwide skypecast - vyew desktop sharing - networking - chat experience. As night falls across the planet, educators across the globe will come online to connect and reflect about their experiences at K12 Online 2006.

For this to work we're going to need some help to keep things going for 24 hours straight. We're looking for a few good educators to help moderate the event. All the details are on the When Night Falls Planning Wiki. Check it out for more information.

If you're unfamiliar with any of the tools we'll be using in this event, not to worry. We're putting together a series of screencasts that will teach you everything you need to know. As a matter of fact, we're having an open, event planning skypecast on Wednesday, October 11 at 2:00 am GMT which is 9:00 pm central time in North America ... my appologies to everyone in the European time zones. ;-)

We're planning a few things to do and learn over the course of each moderator's show, but we also want to keep things fairly loose so that folks can have meaningful conversations. I've always found the best part of any conference to be the conversations had at the coffee break ... this is going to be one helluva coffee break!

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A New Standard for the Hall Of Fame

Over the last week I've been talking to my classes about The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame and what it means to be inducted. The Hall Of Fame is being linked to from a couple of online magazines and being talked about at various PD sessions arround the world. Getting inducted means global recognition of student's work.
The dilemma I've had is that it's becoming harder and harder to determine which posts really belong in the Hall Of Fame. In the past, classes haven't reached this level of excellence this early in the semester. I'm also feeling that students should take more responsibility for evaluating each other's work.
The solution we came up with, in my classes anyway, is that induction into the Hall Of Fame must be the result of accumulating a number of votes. We also discussed who is allowed to vote? Just students in our class or anyone in the world? What about teachers? Do their votes count? The answers to these questions are: Anyone can vote, teachers or students, from anywhere in the world. However one class said that the post must recieve a majority of student votes -- i.e. teachers can vote but teacher votes alone are not enough to get inducted into the Hall Of Fame.
I discussed this individually with each class and each of them came up with slightly different parameters for induction into the Hall Of Fame. To be inducted a post needs:

The class discussion was really interesting. I only thought to turn on Audacity for the last discussion which was with my AP Calculus class. You can listen to it here ... at least you'll WILL be able to listen to it once I get posted ... it's a long weekend in Canada (Thanksgiving) and I forgot to bring the audio file home! ;-)

K12 Online - David Warlick Live in ...

David Warlick has been working hard on his preconference Keynote presentation for K12 Online 2006. And the conference kickoff is getting closer by the second ... as you can see from the new counter in the sidebar over there --> at the right.

David will kick off the conference on October 16. Later that evening, at 6 pm eastern time in North America, 10 pm GMT, we will have our first of three Fireside Chats. David and the four conference organizers (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Will Richardson, Wesley Fryer and myself) will all be in attendance in an Elluminate room.

You're all invited to join us! There will be a link posted to the K12 Online blog. Watch for it ... all you need to do is click it to get in ... remember, everything about K12 Online is free. ;-)

And one more thing ... if you want to join the countdown on your blog here's the code to copy and paste to your blog sidebar. You can edit the colours of the text and background using colour names or their html equivalents ...

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Keynote Begins in</b>
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TargetDate = "10/16/2006 12:00 AM";
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Interviewed by Student Teacher

Jon Klassen is a student teacher at my school. He interviewed me as part of an assignment for his curriculum and instruction class. This podcast was recorded in my classroom at the end of the school day on October 4, 2006. You can tell from the announcements made over the PA system and the sound of slamming lockers as the students are leaving the building. ;-)

Interviewed by Jon Klassen (9.7 Mb, 20 minutes, 6 seconds)

These are the questions Jon asked in the interview ...

Is vocabulary important in mathematics? How do you teach it?

What are your thoughts about technology and calculators being used in the math classroom?

Are there any particular benefits or drawbacks to using graphing calculators?

How do you teach them to "read" the calculator?

How do students learn concepts, particularly math concepts, best?

How do you relate the study of mathematics to student's lives?

What do you do for students who are struggling to understand mathematics?

How do you evaluate your students?

I don't do many podcasts where I talk explicitly about the teaching of mathematics ... the time just flew! Feel free to add to the discussion by leaving your comments below. If you prefer, you can leave me an audio comment. ;-)