Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Power of Ideas: Stories from Students

I have had the great honor this week of participating in the Discovery Education Network's First Annual Summer Institute held in downtown Chicago. We have participated in awesome presentations by Hall Davidson and Will Richardson. We have learned how teachers and students are blogging, podcasting and telling digital stories, and are sharing and exchanging our ideas for integrating these technologies in the classroom.

One such example of exemplary student work comes from the Mabry school in Georgia. Principal Dr. Tim Tyson runs an annual "movie" festival, and the projects are outstanding. I recommend that you take time to watch this year's award winning "presentation."

I was most inspired by the student interviews. Students shared their impressions about the process of creating their projects, such as the planning and productions, and the questions they still had as a result of telling their stories. The student learning is clearly evident. This learning will not be easily forgotten. Thank you Dr. Tyson for sharing these student perspectives!

Another project in the works at Mabry is the Global Learning Collaborative, advertised as: "An international collaboration to nurture ambitious, creative, independent problem-solvers who will make the world a better place." Visit http://mabryonline.org/ - and begin thinking about how you can use these ideas with your students -- let's all work to make the world a better place!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer time.... and the living is easy ... or maybe not?

It's summer time in the Staff Development Lab, and we've already hosted several "re-imaging events" in preparation for the coming year. I truly appreciate teachers taking time out of their summer vacations to spend a few hours updating their software. One benefit of updating over the summer, is that teachers get time to explore changes and improvements in preparation for the fall. And, often the question is asked, "Will there ever be a year that we won't have to do this?"

Technology changes rapidly. As new features are written to make software "do more," and improvements are made to hardware, it seems that this is not likely to happen. The computers purchased five years ago, can still compute... but are limited to computing with 5-year-old technology tools. An example would be the recent decision from Microsoft to no longer support the development of Internet Explorer for the Macintosh operating system. If you have used IE to visit websites recently, you may have noticed some unexpected results when trying to retrieve information from some sites, since websites seem to be getting more "sophisticated" and require features available in only newer web browsers.

Overall, most update sessions have gone very smoothly, while others have been a bit "bumpy" as extra time is needed for those who haven't yet backed up their data, or are challenged by hardware glitches. Summer is often more laid back and a perhaps a tad more flexible for most teachers coming in, so having the time to work through the challenges and glitches now, rather than in the fall, certainly helps.

All in all, my favorite part of the process is hearing the stories... what vacations are planned or were taken, family "happenings" or events that have taken place (weddings, births, graduations, engagements, etc.), as well as technology triumphs or challenges that occurred during the year. I also love the time that is spent connecting... "Where/what do you teach?" "How long have you been at Stevenson?" etc.

So, for the most part, the living is easy in the lab these days, and when not particularly easy, I appreciate the opportunity to spend time catching up.