Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Research Model Graph

How's that for an exciting title???!

I've been working on revamping my research handouts this week, with a big overhaul of how I present the entire process.  I'll post more about this when I upload the handout later today or tomorrow, but basically I've been rethinking the Big 6, which, in my opinion, has some drawbacks (sacrilege, I know!), and trying to incorporate a combination of Kuhlthau and Jamie MacKenzie's  questioning strategies.

As part of the revamping, I created this graphic to help students visualize the process. The grayscale version will probably photocopy better.

BookJam: The Digital Book Report Contest

Since I'm currently working on the Animoto book trailers with a group of 10th graders, I was all excited about this until I read the rules:  limited to students in the U.S.   Oh, well!

But here's the link for those of you in the States.  From the site:

Have your students pick their favorite book or a book from your lesson plan and create a song, performance, or debate. Get creative and win! Use music, props, and costumes! But make sure that it covers the core standards. We’d love to see rap songs about grammar, interactive presentations highlighting setting and symbolism, plays about conflict starring Hester Prynne to Harry Potter, and whatever else you and your students dream up!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coolest World Clock Ever!!

From Poodwaddle. It's not just a clock, but counts down (or up!) population, diseases, U.S. Debt, deaths (and causes, and more.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Assessing Student Research Readiness

I'm taking Michele Luhtala's Emerging Technologies class on EdWeb.  She recently shared the Google Forms assessment she uses with her students.  I had been thinking about doing something similar, both as a way to better help students and to document the library program. Ever a believer in not re-inventing the wheel, I somewhat modified her form to my own purposes.

I'll use this both for the MYP personal project students AND the DP extended essays, but, really, it works with any extended research project, and is a great way to tell if students are actually ready to start the process, or if they are floundering.  It allows librarians to target specifically those students who need more help.

Send me your email if you'd like to make an editable copy of this for your own use, though I made it public, so you should be able to add it to your own Google docs.

The link above sends you to the spreadsheet. Here's how it looks as a form.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prezi: I'm Determined to Figure This Out

I've decided I want to convert all my  lessons on Power Point to Prezi, so I've started playing around with it.  I get the gist, but I struggle in creating the path.  I can never click past the first three steps.

Anyway, I'm presenting to parents about MUN tonight, so I created a quick Prezi.  The free educator account removes the Prezi watermark, which is nice.  I also love that you can download your finished Prezi, so you don't have to rely on a good internet connection (always a big IF here in Mongolia!)

Here's my (somewhat simplistic) result.  For the two embedded groups, I wanted to zoom in on the individual phrases/skills, but gave up trying to get them in the path.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thinking in the Rut

 Caveat Emptor:  This is not the most coherent post I've ever written.  It's me (trying) to think through stuff I've been reading, my current plans for the library program, and how it all comes together.

Lately I've been chewing over an exchange Doug and I hada post of his, and one of Will Richardson's, as well as Sugata Mitra's new TED talk. (I'll embed it below).

I worry a lot that educationally, pedagogically, after 25 years of teaching, I'm in a rut.  We have all these wonderful new technologies with the promise to alter profoundly  the way we teach and to empower student learning.  I certainly work to harness that power, but am I using it to keep doing the same old thing?  Worse, am I actually standing in the way of student progress?

There's a  quotation on my computer desktop from a now-forgotten speaker:  "Teachers have the right to hide in a cave, but they don't have the right to drag students with them."  Reading over my earlier post today and thinking about my plans for the DP students,  I started wondering, "Is this really giving students the tools to become independent, self-motivated learners?  Am I putting myself too much front and center, rather than guiding students towards engaging with the material in meaningful ways?"

I look at those plans, and they don't seem that innovative to me.  True, they're new for the school, and certainly for the students.  But are they just variations on a theme, and are there better, more student-centered, ways I could be using these tools?

Undoubtedly, yes.   Will's comment that "reforms are hampered by the lack of teachers who can teach in progressive ways," should strike a note in all of us.  It is all too easy to stay in the rut, because the rut (usually) takes you safely to a known destination.  It is a (seemingly) guaranteed outcome.  Except, like the story I told Doug, staying in the rut can sometimes leave you upside down in the ditch.  If teachers keep doing what we've always done, our educational system is going to end up in the ditch, and we'll find ourselves replaced by computers.

Fortunately, and this is a rut I'm proud to stay in, I've always been one to listen to students, seek their feedback, and implement their suggestions. So an integral part of this new(ish) approach I'm taking will be to question students about what worked, what they think could be done better, and ideas they have for improvement.  Whether we ourselves are all that innovative, if we see ourselves as co-learners with the students, as sojourners on the same path, we open ourselves to new possibilities.

One thing I'm hoping, since this is so new for the students, is that their comparative ignorance of how we "should" be using technology will spark new ideas on how we can be using these tools as they do their research and write their papers.  I'm so embedded in education and pedagogy, it's hard to see over the rut; students don't come with the same preconceptions; so an integral part of this whole process will be student feedback before, during and after the process.

UPDATE:  On thinking about the implications of Mitra's talk, it's pretty powerful for libraries and media specialists.  We are all about providing access, then getting out of the way.  I can see where this would be threatening for some content-driven teachers;  if learning is self-organized, they are out of a job.  Librarians, however, would be at the very center of this. I need to think more about this and my angst-driven, somewhat self-centered musings above.  (By self-centered, I mean obviously those worries are still picturing me at the core, instead of putting faith in the students' ability to take an idea and run with it.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Connected Student

My new school is an IB world school, offering a full IB program, elementary through secondary.  Part of what that means for the library is that the 9th/10th graders and 11th/12 graders each have extended (around 4000 words) research projects/papers to write.  I've been working the past week on revising my research approach, with a nod to Buffy Hamilton's Media21 Project, as well as my interview a few months ago with Michelle Luhtala.

Specifically, I want to make social media an embedded part of what students do. I have said before that "digital natives" aren't all that adept at analytical uses of social tools; these will become a key component of the 14 weeks I work directly with the students.  I also want to adapt the Big 6 model, building in some components of Jamie MacKenzie's questioning model.  IB does a great job of pushing beyond standard essay topics into true, exploratory, inquiry-based types of projects.  Students have a difficult time framing good questions, however, so I will build in more instruction on that.

While I wanted them to keep a process blog, the coordinator put a nix on that as too much extra work not directly related to the extended essay, and he has a point; I will watch how it goes this year, though. I think keeping a reflective blog of their thoughts and processes would
  • inform their essay
  • provide them insight into their own learning style/process
  • add positively to their digital footprint
  • be a source for connecting with experts as they create their PLN

I will incorporate the following tools for student use:

iGOOGLE:   Buffy used NetVibes to create student learning portals, but I decided to use iGoogle because it more directly links to each student and the Google apps, while still allowing them to embed resources, RSS feeds and other tools via the gadgets, and to create different tabs/pages by subject.  This allows students to create highly individualized collections of up-to-the minute information.

I'll have them create at least two tabs:  The first will be general organizational info, and their own "fun" stuff: A to-do list, an embedded calendar of due dates, links to important school-related sites, pathfinders, etc.   The second will be their collection of resources, RSS feeds, associated documents, etc.

EVERNOTE:  For gathering online sources, taking notes, sharing bookmarks.

NOODLETOOLS:  For notetaking, citations.

GOOGLE DOCS:  While the nature of the extended essay (each student researches their own topic) doesn't allow for much collaboration, I'll show them the tools, as Google Forms will be useful for students needing to do surveys.    I'll demonstrate the collaborative nature of a Google doc when I have them practice paraphrasing/summarizing as a group.  I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to incorporate Google Docs or wikis into this. If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments!

Obviously, it would be easier for them to share their progress with their advisors if they do all their planning/writing on Google Docs.  I'm not sure if I can ask advisors to create Google accounts just for this.  I am starting to push for the school to adopt Google Apps for Education, but that will take a while.  I'm having a meeting with the head of secondary and the two coordinators, so will definitely bring this up.

RSS FEEDS:  For gathering data, following expert blogs on their topics, etc.  I'm looking into Yahoo Pipes which, as far as I can tell, allows users to aggregate different feeds into one. I'm trying to decide if I want to talk to them about Twitter searches/feeds.  I think I'll do that on an individual basis, depending on their topic and whether I think it would be a valuable resource or not.

One thing I have to be careful about is not overwhelming them with tools.  This seems like a good start, especially for students who have never really had formal training in doing research.

I'm pretty excited about how we have decided to run this, since the entire project is outside their regular course work.  I will offer twice-a-week workshops over a course of 14-15 weeks.  Students will sign up for one of the workshops, and we'll keep track of who attends to ensure they actually get the information.  I can give individual lessons to students who can't fit in otherwise and--you guessed it!--I swear I will create video tutorials on each of the topics to put on the library website.  (I even added that to my goals for this year, so maybe I'll actually do it this year!)

If you have other ideas I could include, I would love to hear them.  Please add them to the comments, or any other comments you have on this plan in general.

As part of this I need to create and/or revamp various handouts.  I will, of course, post those as I go.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Best TED Talks to Make Use of Social Media


An interesting collection of TED talks exploring the use and impact of social media.  I plan to incorporate one or two into the big social researching lessons I'm putting together for students doing their IB extended essay.  More on that soon.