Well this just made my day ...

Linger is a student in my AP Calculus class. She does some of the most exceptional work when she is scribe. She recently published her Developing Expert Voices project. Lani left her this comment:

Hi Linger!

What a great introduction!

"The questions that I chose are of interest to me, and I chose them to challenge myself. My goal for this project is to learn something new and to be able to teach you, the reader as well. Yes, becase "together, we can learn.""

I really appreciate your wanting to move out of your comfort zone. And from your reflection, "Now I am twice amazed, because I got to make the problems on my own and I got to understand it in a different point of view.", it was definitely worth the effort!

Your problems were of interest and your explanations clear and valuable! I personally really liked the music to accompany my learning; just the right touch -- helping to move calculus out of "gross" as was your intent! :-)

You mentioned that you learned math and about yourself from this project. Do you find one more valuable than the other and why?

Kudos to you on your learning and teaching!

My very best wishes,

Here is her reply ...

Hi Lani, thank you for your comment!

I find learning about math and learning about myself equally valuable. I'm a very competitive person and I saw this project as a competition where I was against myself.. and that is the best kind. Because it's not like being in a team, where people have to pull their own weight to keep things balanced. This is the type where you're all in or you're not. It's the kind where you know how well you did, and you've got no one else to blame.

Mr. K told us the other day that he made us do all these things (blog, project, other assignments) so that we learn in many different ways. It doesn't matter what you're learning as long as you know how. He wants us to become life-long learners, and I think, on my behalf anyway, he succeeded. I really value this project, and our AP calc blog. Mr. K's job is to teach, and he did it well.

This project taught me a lot.. yes, math was the main point but learning about myself was a double bonus ;)


Galleries of Thought

I'm not happy with this post; very rough rambling thoughts. I once had a professor who said: "You don't know what you think until you write it down." When I started writing this I had no idea I was going to end up where I did ... and it doesn't really end. It just sort of stops. I decided to capture these thoughts and maybe work on them some more over the next little while. Bear with me. ;-)

I took a trip down the rabbit hole that started with Sheryl's post about the upcoming Time 4 Online conference in New Zealand. (An interesting title in light of Dean's recent post.) The conference is all free, all online and open to anyone who wants to participate. Sheryl's giving a keynote presentation and so is Derek Wenmoth. (So soon on the heels of the Webheads In Action Online Convergence there's lots of good stuff to listen to.)

As I stumbled along I found this video from the The Guardian newspaper website in the UK. They did a Weekend: Web 2.0 Special back at the beginning of November (lots to read and listen to). In the video they interview the people who created wikipedia, craigslist, bebo, flickr,, netvibes and more. They asked them: "What is web 2.0?" and followed up with what they thought web 3.0 might be.

Their answer?

(This is the way I paraphrase it.) Web 3.0 will eliminate the browser. The internet will permeate our daily lives through something like our cell phones but it will be much more powerful. The iPhone may be a faint glimmer of such a device. I think it will be smaller, easier to use and wireless access will be ubiquitous, fast and cheap (free?).

Lots of excellent educational content is being shared on the net. We have online courses for high schools (password and username: demo) and universities as well as high quality student generated content that will continue to be of value to students in the future.

Once access is cheap, fast and ubiquitous and students have access to all this content at their fingertips we will have to change the way we teach. Teachers will no longer be able to resist changing their pedagogy. There will be no more validity(?) to statements like: "What I've always done works fine. My students are learning from me. Why should I change?"

As I try to weave the use of web 2.0 tools into my teaching one of the questions I ask myself is "What can I do now that I could not do before?" But you know, we don't really need these new tools to improve our teaching. We need to ask different questions. Not "What is 6 times 4?" but "How many ways can you multiply two numbers to get 24?" Not "Are there seasons on Mars?" but "What season is it right now on Mars? Is there any time of the year you could comfortably wear a t-shirt and shorts on Mars?" Not "List the parts of a cell." but "Design your own version of a cell that efficiently takes in food and excretes waste? Include a diagram of all the parts and describe how they work together."

My children and nieces are coming home with homework questions like the first of each pair above. I ask them questions like the second in each pair. I think of Blooms Taxonomy and try to ask questions from the top of the pyramid. With the suite of new tools online this same avenue of thought leads to new ways for students to deeply and meaningfully show their mastery of material they have learned in class. Those that haven't mastered the material the first time around often do when they have to create content that educates.

Simply reframing the questions we ask can lead to powerful learning experiences. When we get kids to create artifacts that educate they end up working through every level of thought in Bloom's Taxonomy. What teacher doesn't want their students to do that?

In the classroom students erase their mistakes. They cover their work when I pass by to check in with them, embarrassed to reveal possible errors or afraid I'll uncover their lack of understanding. When kids publish their work online everyone (teachers, peers, parents, others) can peek in at a gallery of their thoughts. Learn from both the mistakes and the exemplary work others.

More and more I find the value of using blogs, wikis, podcasts and the full suite of other tools my students use rests in making their thinking transparent to me and each other. In the galleries of their thoughts we discover what they really know and the specific nature of their misunderstandings. I learn what about my teaching has added to their confusion and what metaphors provided fertile ground for their developing understanding. Wading through the galleries of their thought I become a better teacher and they become better learners.

I've never articulated it quite like this before but this notion of creating galleries of thought rings true for me. As teachers everywhere continue to explore the new pedagogies emerging in the use of new tools to publish student work online we are all creating galleries of our students thinking. We browse through these galleries, sometimes quickly, sometimes lingering over an elegant solution or a brilliant mistake, and doors open to conversations that would otherwise never take place.

Every teacher has asked questions of their classes, trying to get them to share their thinking only to be met by a wall of silence. Sometimes it's the same few students who answer every question. Contrast that with them all publishing their work online, wandering through each others thinking, asking questions of and getting answers from each other, engaging in discussions where every voice is equal and every voice is heard.

In the past I've used two guiding principles for orchestrating my students learning ecologies:

(1) What can I do now that I couldn't do before?
(2) Watch it. Do it. Teach it.

And now ...

(3) How can I get them to make their thinking transparent?

I've got to do some more thinking about this ...

K12 Online 2007

Announcing the second annual "K12 Online" conference for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice! This year's conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, October 15-19 and October 22-26 of 2007, and will include a preconference keynote during the week of October 8. This years conference theme is "Playing with Boundaries." A call for proposals is below.

There will be four "conference strands"-- two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in any of a variety of downloadable, web based formats and released via the conference blog ( and archived for posterity.

Week 1
Strand A: Classroom 2.0

Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterises teaching and learning in the 21st century. Teachers and students are contributing to the growing global knowledge commons by publishing their work online. By sharing all stages of their learning students are beginning to appreciate the value of life long learning that inheres in work that is in "perpetual beta." This strand will explore how teachers and students are playing with the boundaries between instructors, learners and classrooms. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes.

Strand B: New Tools
Focusing on free tools, what are the "nuts and bolts" of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning? This strand includes two parts. Basic training is "how to" information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced training is for teachers interested in new tools for learning, looking for advanced technology training, seeking ideas for mashing tools together, and interested in web 2.0 assessment tools. As educators and students of all ages push the boundaries of learning, what are the specific steps for using new tools most effectively? Where "Classroom 2.0" presentations will focus on instructional uses and examples of web 2.0 tool use, "New Tools" presentations should focus on "nuts and bolts" instructions for using tools. Five "basic" and five "advanced" presentations will be included in this strand.

Week 2
Strand A: Professional Learning Networks

Research says that professional development is most effective when it aims to create professional learning communities — places where teachers learn and work together. Using Web 2.0 tools educators can network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support. Presentations in this strand will include tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; concrete examples of how the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) are being used; how to create a supportive, reflective virtual learning community around school-based goals, and trends toward teacher directed personal learning environments.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities
Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice. Playing with boundaries in the areas of copyright, digital discipline and ethics (e.g. cyberbullying), collaborating globally (e.g. cultural differences, synchronous communication), resistance to change (e.g. administration, teachers, students), school culture (e.g. high stakes testing), time (e.g. in curriculum, teacher day), lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, control (e.g. teacher control of student behavior/learning), solutions for IT collaboration and more -- unearthing opportunities from the obstacles rooted in those boundaries -- is the focus of presentations in this strand.

This call encourages all, experienced and novice, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link. Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in “playing with boundaries” in one of the four strands as described above.

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 18, 2007. You will be contacted no later than June 30, 2007 regarding your status.

Presentations may be delivered in any web-based medium that is downloadable (including but not limited to podcasts, screencasts, slide shows) and is due one week prior to the date it is published.

Please note that all presentations will be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:

  • » special needs education
  • » Creative Commons
  • » Second Life
  • » podcasting
  • » iPods
  • » video games in education
  • » specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools
  • » overcoming institutional inertia and resistance
  • » aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards
  • » getting your message across
  • » how web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities
  • » ePortfolios
  • » classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level
  • » creating video for TeacherTube and YouTube
  • » google docs
  • » teacher/peer collaboration

The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who is distinguished and knowledgeable in the context of their strand. Keynoters will be announced shortly.

This year's conveners are:

Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice and for "child safe" blogging practices. He has more than 20 years experience in both formal and informal education and 13 years experience in team building and leadership training. Darren has been facilitating workshops for educators in groups of 4 to 300 for the last 10 years. Darren's professional blog is called A Difference ( He will convene Classroom 2.0.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, a 20-year educator, has been a classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching graduate and undergraduate preservice teachers at The College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is also completing her doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership. In addition, Sheryl is co-leading a statewide 21st Century Skills initiative in the state of Alabama, funded by a major grant from the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Sheryl blogs at ( She will convene Preconference Discussions and Personal Learning Networks.

Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, digital storyteller and change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a "catalyst for creative educational engagement." His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education. He is the Director of Education Advocacy (PK-20) for AT&T in the state of Oklahoma. Wes blogs at ( Wes will convene New Tools.

Lani Ritter Hall currently contracts as an instructional designer for online professional development for Ohio teachers and online student courses with eTech Ohio. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who served in many capacities during her 35 years as a classroom and resource teacher in Ohio and Canada. Lani blogs at ( Lani will convene Obstacles to Opportunities.

If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:

  • » Darren Kuropatwa: dkuropatwa {at} gmail {dot} com
  • » Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach: snbeach {at} cox {dot} net
  • » Lani Ritter Hall: lanihall {at} alltel {dot} net
  • » Wesley Fryer: wesfryer {at} pobox {dot} com

Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we'd really like people to do that ;-) ) or link back to this post (published simultaneously on all our blogs).

Conference Tag: K12online07

Telling the New Story One Year Later

About a year ago Dean brought Clarence, Kathy and I together to discuss David Warlick's idea of Telling the New Story of what is happening in our classrooms. Kathy teaches grades 1 and 2, Clarence grades 7 and 8 and I teach grades 10 through 12. On Tuesday Dean brought us together again to reflect on how our pedagogy has evolved over the last year and where we see ourselves headed in the future.

I really enjoy chatting with Kathy, Clarence and Dean. They're all educators committed to continual self directed professional development with an eye towards making learning more meaningful, engaging and sticky for kids. Dean has just published the podcast over on his blog. He made the graphic. Love that graphic. ;-) If you take the 65 minutes required to listen to the whole thing drop one of us a comment and let us know what you thought.

Cautionary Tale

[From a tweet Bud made.]

This is a powerful story, although for the people in it I'm sure it's not just a "story."

I teach high school and all my classes/students have an online presence through blogs, wikis, flickr accounts and more. I read this with great interest, as a measure against the practices and policies I use with my students to protect their safety. I wondered how easily the same thing could happen to me. This is the way I see it ...

“Who failed?”
I think they all did. The students should have behaved more prudently online. The teacher should have had practices and policies in place to protect the students on- and offline identities. The parent should have started with the teacher/school before going to the attorney general. The attorney general should have directed the parent and school to talk ... but that's the crux of the problem here, at least the way I see it.

No one is talking to each other. They're playing the blame game. No one learns anything from that. Everyone learns from a conversation.

The saddest part of all this is that the kids will lose out. Not just this class but all the classes in that district beginning now and on into the future. I think this is a sort of cautionary tale for all of us who try to transparently leverage the power of the internet to enhance our students education.

Transparency is important, for all of us. We should be transparent about what we are doing with our students, our administration and the parents in our communities. I wonder if this particular parent would have jumped to involve the attorney general if she knew just how much her child was learning and growing in the rich environment orchestrated by this teacher. I wonder if the school might have looked at this more as an isolated incident amongst many positive experiences students were having in similarly "connected" classes. And I wonder if the attorney general would be so quick to prosecute (although it's not clear from the story that they will) if they really understood just how much and how deeply kids learn in well orchestrated online educational environments.

The mom was upset about a blog post title the teacher wrote ("Myspace words of Wisdom" -- couldn't find a link). She clearly didn't read the post. It's hard to educate the public when all they read is the headline. Maybe, if the parents knew what was going on in the classroom, if they participated in the classroom blog or wiki, they might have read the full post before complaining about it.

Maybe if everybody tried talking to each other before they started pointing fingers they might learn from each other, understand each other better, figure out a way to meet everyone's needs better and maybe, just maybe, the kids would have really learned something ... and it would have stuck.

What's going to "stick" for them now?

Amplifying Serendipity

These are the slides from the talk I gave today at the Manitoba Librarians Conference. In 75 minutes we touched on so many topics that it was difficult to do justice to them all. Right afterwards I thought of many things I wish I had said or illustrated ... c'est la vie, maybe next time. ;-)

Towards the end of the talk I did a quick demo of twitter. The slide where twitter is introduced is captioned "The stupidest idea you've ever heard." In fact, twitter has become my one stop, lightening quick connection to a professional community that educates me and helps me solve problems on the fly. The people I was talking to were intrigued by my ideas about how to use twitter in the classroom. More on this in a future post.

As I promised at the conference today the entire presentation is archived here; the slides, the links (coming soon) and the audio (also coming soon). We didn't get a chance to see the twitter community react to my request to say hello, but say hello they did. Thanks to Rob Wall, Chris Craft, Kelly Dumont, Nancy White and Lisa Durff who tried to tweet out to us but her computer wasn't cooperating. I've cut and pasted the tweets sent our way below.

If any of the librarians in attendance today drop by I hope you'll leave your feedback in the comment section on this post; just click on the comments link at the bottom of this post and join the conversation. ;-)

BTW, when reading the tweets below you should know that they are in reverse order; the first one is at the bottom, the newest one is at the top.

And here are the slides ...

You can also view the slides in full screen mode.

Here are all the links organized by slide...

It turns out the links I embeded in the slideshow are all active in the window above. Some slides have more than one link and some links can be found by clicking on an image rather than text. This is much better than me listing them all manually. (I really love SlideShare.) You may have to click around each slide a bit but all the links work and are accessible directly from the slides above. I checked. For some of them it'll be a little like a treasure hunt. Have fun. ;-)

Update: May 11
I lost the last 20 minutes or so of the audio. I don't know what happened. That's twice now this has happened to me. The question period is irreplaceable. Rats!

I'm going to try to recreate the last bit of my talk over the weekend but I find it always sounds different (better) when I'm speaking to people live.

Update: May 17
I discovered all the links are accessible in the slide show window just as I was about to add them manually. Still haven't finished remixing the audio but it's on my "to do" list. I'll be publishing it soon; perhaps over this weekend.

So. What Can You Do WIth A SmartBoard?

That was the title of an impromptu talk I gave about how I use the SmartBoard in my classroom last Friday; it was our technology professional development day. I captured the audio to demonstrate how I use the SmartBoard to podcast one of my classes. (The podcast is currently moving from here to it's new home here. This move may be the best way to overcome some technical difficulties I've been having.)

The slides here, after the first three, are from a lesson I had given earlier that week. I used them to demo some of the things I do with the SmartBoard. I did almost no editing of the audio. Anyway, not my most polished presentation but here it is, warts and all. ;-)

There are clickable links embedded in the slide show.

Audio (29 min. 45 sec., 28.6 Mb)

Full screen slides here.