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I got an email today announcing that there is a new Chief Academic Officer in our district. Her name is Dr. Judith Elliott, former Assistant Superintendent for School Support Services in the Long Beach Unified School District and former Chief of Teaching and Learning (what a great title) for the Portland Public Schools.

What were the first things I did when I heard this news? First, of course, I googled her. From following some of the links, I find that she is a strong advocate for Response to Intervention (RTI), which supports a three-tiered approach to intervention for at risk students. There are several articles, an interview, a page selling her books, and even a YouTube video of Dr. Elliott, talking about intervention and addressing the needs of all students. She also has served as an advisory council chair of the RTI Action Network.

I searched on Google News and Technorati for her, but to no avail. A Wikipedia search brought up another Judith Elliott, from Canada. The announcement has not yet appeared on LAUSD’s Website either,  although there’s several articles about the budget cuts. I did find a website at http://judyelliott.com/ It looks like it’s been under construction for quite some time. On EasyWhoIs, a site that allows you to look up who has registered a domain, it appears that a Judy Elliott registered that domain. I wonder if this is the same Judy Elliott. Maybe she’ll start a blog some day. :)

Now all I need to do is find out what a Chief Academic Officer does. Learning about the many positions at the top is quite a job in itself. I hope good things will come from this appointment.

Cross-posted at my Newsletter blog at http://ld6.blogspot.com

Today is National Teacher’s Day. Here’s the good news from straight from Google via Mike Lawrence at CUE:

 

Google Teacher Academy - at the Googleplex
Mountain View, CA
June 25, 2008
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Applications Due: May 28, 2008
http://www.google.com/educators/gta.html
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Since today is National Teacher Day, we thought it would be the perfect day to announce that Google’s FREE training program for K-12 educators is back at the Google headquarters! Outstanding educators from across the country (and beyond!) are encouraged to apply for the Google Teacher Academy taking place on Wed, June 25, 2008.

Learn more about the program and apply online!

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Google Teacher Academy
June 25, 2008
Mountain View, CA

Applications Due: May 28, 2008
http://www.google.com/educators/gta.html
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I hope many of you decide to apply for this amazing learning opportunity. It’s great to surround yourself with such a wonderful community of passionate learners! I highly recommend it as an outstanding experience.

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Last week at InfoTech, LAUSD’s student led technology conference, I offered a workshop on Web 2.0 tools in the classroom to a roaring crowd of 6 people. (I think we either need to only offer student presentations, or find a way to free up teachers so they can attend the workshops offered.)

I focused on building professional learning networks in my presentation, because I think that’s where most educators need to begin. I know that’s the way I began; reading and commenting on a few blogs, listening to a few podcasts, and growing my network of smartness by tapping into people that were referenced on those blogs and podcasts.

Nowadays, educators have so many options in the way they can connect with others, that it’s at once wonderful and overwhelming. My advice to my attendees? Sample some of them and choose one that works for you. Learn that one tool, play with it, use it. Then move on to something else. Don’t feel obligated to do it all at once.

With that, here is the wiki page I shared with my participants:

http://readwriteweb.wikispaces.com/

I’ve had this wiki for almost two years. It’s where I have gathered all my learning on Web 2.0. I’ve updated the front page. The rest is in dire need of updating….

A few years ago, I agreed to write an online course about email. It was based on our previous email system, EPals. Even at the time I wrote it, I threw in a few articles written about the Pew Internet study about how email was considered by teenagers as something to be used with old people. I also made the last of the six sessions one about using collaborative tools like blogs and wikis as part of the process. The class was approved and then we switched to Google Apps for Education.

Now I need to rewrite the class. As I look at what I’ve written just two years ago, I am amazed at all that’s changed. I can’t just write a course about email anymore. Email is just part of a collection of tools that we use to communicate, collaborate, and share. Even with Google Apps for Education, I don’t consider email as the most important part of the set of tools. Together with docs and the calendar sharing, it’s a move in the right direction. Add the ability to sign up for other collaborative tools that allow students to be contributors of their learning to a network of producers, and the world opens up.

So, it’s back to hours of rewriting for me. Sigh. It’s a good thing. It’s growth. I hope the people who want the class rewritten think it’s okay to write a class about more than email.

As I attempt to organize my thoughts for a workshop for my colleagues in the instructional staff at my district office on graphic organizers, I realize I need to clarify my thinking about graphic organizers. Maybe writing a blog post will help.

Our district focus was to investigate tools that help students organize their thinking to improve their organizational skills and their writing. As a leadership team, we explored the different tools being used in our classrooms that would then be presented to the instructional staff. We discussed three tools:

  • Thinking Maps® is a tool that the district English Language Learners department has embraced for grades K-5. All elementary teachers have received professional development on using Thinking Maps® in the classroom, and have been encouraged to use it in all content areas.
  • Make Sense Strategies is a collection of graphic organizer templates used at the secondary level by Special Education teachers and students.
  • I suggested Inspiration/Kidspiration as a digital tool that is being used by some classrooms in our district. I also mentioned that there are many free, collaborative tools on the web for creating graphic organizers, such as Bubbl.us, MindMeister, or Cmap.

There seems to be a disconnect in our district as students move from elementary school to secondary schools. Students understand the 6 basic maps in ThinkingMaps®, but since many secondary teachers aren’t aware of the terminology, they don’t make the connection explicit for their students. For example, a double-bubble Thinking Maps® diagram is very similar to a Venn Diagram. Somehow, we need to make sure that the connections are made. My own opinion, which really wouldn’t count in this situation, is that we should just use the standard terminology for graphic organizers across the curriculum, not something that is copyrighted and proprietary. Since that isn’t going to happen, at least we need to make sure that teachers at all levels know the equivalent terminology so they can help students make those connections. Hmm, perhaps that should be part of the focus of my workshop on Monday morning….

The ELL curriculum staff presented ThinkingMaps® about a month ago to our staff. The Special Ed staff presented Make Sense Strategies to our staff a few weeks ago. Now it’s my turn on Monday morning.

There is so much I want to share, and so little time to do so. I want to highlight powerful features of Inspiration and Kidspiration, but I also want to expose them to the wealth of free resources available on the web.

I think Inspiration and Kidspiration are wonderful, flexible tools that are very affordable in California with the CalSave/LAUSD district wide pricing structure (less than $20 a copy). However, as someone pointed out at our last leadership meeting, these tools have been around for quite some time and are not being used by very many teachers. There are many reasons for this, many of which that have to do with limited access and emphasis on technology in our classrooms. I think the newest editions of Inspiration and Kidspiration are very powerful, with many added templates, graphics and features that help students focus on their thinking and writing in very engaging ways. I want to show our staff these new features, since many of them haven’t even looked at these tools for at least 4 years since the last workshop. The last workshop used older versions of these tools and was done before I was part of the team. I’m not sure what was presented or how it was framed. I’ll present some of these features:

Grapic Organizer of Inspiration Features

However, will this be enough to encourage our district instructional staff to promote the use of these tools in the classroom? I’m not sure.

I’ve been bookmarking resources on Del.icio.us tagged with either graphicorganizer or graphicorganizers and I am amazed at the wealth and rich variety of resources on graphic organizers. There are the free and easy collaborative web tools like Bubbl.us, Gliffy, and Mindmeister. Also, the open source downloadable software, Cmap, can connect through a server to other users to collaborate on a common map. In additions to these, there are an astounding amount of downloadable templates for a number of different scenarios. Some examples are Tools for Reading, Writing, and Thinking, Education Place’s Graphic Organizers, Printable Graphic Organizers, and TeacherVision Printable Graphic Organizers, which are just a few of the many resources available. Then there are the flash based generators, such as those at ReadWriteThink and ClassTools.net With so many resources available, why are we paying for a system like MakeSenseStrategies, or even ThinkingMaps® (I can already hear the gasp of the district supporters), when the tools we need are readily available for free? Are we paying for a packaged system - a uniformity - a defined and scripted curriculum? I’m sure there are very logical arguments for buying these programs, but I think we could do better for much less money. Of course, I won’t be explicitly conveying these ideas Monday morning, but I am going to briefly show the possibilities through sharing these resources …at the END of my workshop on Inspiration.

There’s a whole world of learning out there that lately I haven’t had much time to tap into. I’ve been “teaching” classes lately -after work, and there are only so many hours in the day. Some of those hours need to be spent with the family. It is exciting to share my learning with others about the connections I’ve made in the Web 2.0 world, and it’s so rewarding when you see some get started…but I need a break so I can do some learning on my own. I want to share all my learning with others, but there seems to be a paradox there. When I’m formally facilitating courses, I don’t have much time left to learn myself. I look forward to the next few months. I’ve decided not to teach any extra courses until after February. I need the break. I think instead, I’ll try to blog about what I’m learning and share my learning that way.

I’m always in awe of those in my personal learning network. They work all day at their day jobs, and still somehow keep up with their personal learning. For instance, I think of those that make up the writing team at the TechLearning blog. Absolutely every one of them is outstanding in their depth and breadth. They do their day jobs, teach extra courses, and still find time to write quality articles and share their learning in so many ways. Congratulations to them for receiving the well deserved award as the best group blog at the Edublog awards.
It’s humbling to surround yourself with so many smart people who have the energy and passion to make a difference. The Tech Learning group of writers are just a few of the hundreds of very smart people I surround myself with by subscribing to their blogs, seeing their tweets in twitter, marveling at what they bookmark and podcast or webcast or ustream or voicethread or capture in images or video or …teach and share with the world. I’m so thankful that I have found this network of educators with whom I share a passion for learning. I look forward to the next few months.

Photo credit: flickr photo The Flag of Times Square by Stuck in Customs

My colleagues and I met yesterday to explore the Obstacles to Opportunities strand of the K-12 Online Conference 2007.

For homework, we were to have watched the Keynote presentation by Brian Crosby. Since only one had seen the presentation (done their homework), I decided to play it for about 30 minutes. I think that keynote is one of the best from the conference. Brian invites us to see what a classroom can look like when a teacher understands the importance of meeting the needs of every child in his classroom. I really appreciate his sense of humor and genuine heartfelt emotion as he explains how technology has made a difference in his classroom. I HAD to play the video! I was afraid they wouldn’t have a chance to watch it otherwise. I think it had the same impression on them as it does on me when I watch it - genuine belief that even here in NCLB land (the US), great things can happen in the classroom despite the mandates, pacing plans and constant assessments. Brian gives us inspiration!

After watching some of the keynote, we were ready to break in groups and watch some presentations then report back to the group. There was a unanimous decision for all 5 of us to pick one video and watch it together. They chose the one on professional development by Sylvia Martinez, but the sound was not too good, and it was hard to watch on a big screen. So we chose the presentation called “Crossing the Copyright Boundary in the Digital Age” by Karen Richardson. We watched the short introduction, took part of the Copyright quiz by Hal Davidson, and watched a Creative Commons video. Most knew about copyright in the digital age, but found some of the presentation resourceful. To demonstrate our learning from the New Tools strand, especially the presentation called Cell Phones as Classroom Learning Tools by Liza Kolb, we set up a low tech podcast using Gabcast and a telephone.

All we did was set up an account on Gabcast, set up a new channel, then called in using the toll free 1-800 number, and followed directions to post a new episode for each person who talked. I could see that my colleagues were excited about the possibilities of using this tool in the classroom. Podcasting doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You also don’t you need expensive equipment to give students an opportunity to practice their oral and reading skills. It was great fun. It’s amazing how the newest tools become easier and easier to use. Here’s our podcast.

(FYI, I figured out how to embed flash players in Wordpress. I used a plugin called CoolPlayer. After installing in it my wordpress plugin directory, a flash button appeared in my editor. After clicking that, I copied the url of the flash file in the box, put in the size I wanted and viola! I’m learning little by little. )

My colleagues and I are learning together from the K12 Online Conference 07. Each week, for 5 weeks, we are meeting together to discuss the keynotes from each strand and also to view presentations together ala lan party style that Jeff Utecht started last year at the 06 conference. Our first meeting was November 7th. Together, we watched the Pre-Conference Keynote, Inventing the New Boundaries, by David Warlick. The conversation that came from watching the keynote address was rich and deep, as we thought about the possibilities of inventing new boundaries in education. I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote, but enjoyed even more the conversation of my colleagues after watching the keynote together. I recorded the conversation as a podcast and also invited more conversation through a gabcast channel. If you would like to add to the conversation about the pre-conference keynote, please leave me a comment and I will give you the information to call and leave your comment on the gabcast channel.

Lately, many in the edublogging community are conducting “unconferences” in their conference presentations. An unconference is when participants are given a topic to consider and have a conversation about that topic to further their learning and deepen their understanding. The one I remember most is the Edubloggercon at NECC07, in which I participated. It was an amazing learning experience! Many of the wonderful episodes that Wesley Fryer is publishing on his Speed of Creativity podcast, and David Warlick on his Connect Learning podcast model the “unconference” type of presentation. I think this type of presentation is very effective in deepening the understanding of what we are learning. I’m glad to have experienced that process first hand with our first lan party, watching the Pre-Conference Keynote from David Warlick.

Direct link to podcast episode.
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Like a Key

This is a post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for a few months. I decided to post it even though it’s older, because it documents my thinking and reflection on sharing the learning about Web 2.0 tools. The online Read/Write Web course I mentioned has already finished, and I am hoping that the teachers that took that class are beginning to enjoy the amazing opportunities for learning afforded them by the Web 2.0 tools they are using.

Here’s my post from several months ago…

I’ve been thinking about the online Read/Write Web course I’m about to teach on Blackboard. It’s a beginning course to allow educators to explore the new possibilities of Web 2.0. In reality, in this course, we just brush the surface of what is possible. I know from the previous time I taught this class (my first experience with being an online facilitator for my district), that the teachers came away overwhelmed and in awe of all they could do.

Key to Open Door of LearningHowever, as I’m going to tell my new group of participants tomorrow in our initial face to face meeting, this course is like a key to a door that you will open. You can peek in, but to really go through the door, you need to do some learning on your own. I started thinking more about this after reading Will Richardson’s blog post, Diving in Part 2. Will talks about encouraging teachers to use the new Web 2.0 tools to fuel the fire for their own personal learning, whether that be about mountain hiking or education and pedagogy. Teachers often need to see the connection that connected learning has for their own personal life so that they can see how these tools can be useful for their students.

I’m eager to begin the journey through the door with the participants in my class.

Photo credit: Unlock by CoolFreaK on Flickr Creative Commons Search

I am co-facilitating a salary point class on the K-12 Online Conference. (The other facilitator is Jose Rodriguez, in District 5. I really am enjoying working together with him on this as we expand the boundaries of professional development for our teachers.) This week, our focus was the Classroom 2.0 strand. Participants were to view one of the Classroom 2.0 sessions, then reflect on their learning. I wanted to model using some of the new collaborative tools that are being used in the K-12 Online Conference. I made a Voice Thread for reflecting on the presentations. However, only two people showed up for this week’s face to face session. The others missed the meeting. (Next week, I’m sending out reminders!)

We watched Jeff Utecht’s Sustained Blogging in the Classroom. There was good content there for keeping blogs going in the classroom. Often, we start blogs, but then drop them after a short time because the pedagogy in our classrooms doesn’t support using them. Jeff offers some tips for keeping them going.

I’ll add my reflections to the voice thread, and all are invited to also add their reflections. If you already have a VoiceThread account, just add your comments below. If not, the presentation below will ask you to register for a voice thread account. After registering, you can add your reflections to the voice thread. It’s a fun way to learn!

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