Week of: June 9, 2008
- LOY Profile Series
Carole Colburn teaches real-world lessons in Michigan.
- What's New
NBC News' iCue is a free, online, collaborative learning community that incorporates gaming, discussion, and video resources. Created by NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News,iCue stands for Immerse, Connect, Understand and Excel.) iCueuses the CueCardmedia player, flash card, note-taking tool, and trading card. The patented "flip card" technology lets users watch streaming videos from NBC News and then "flip" the CueCard over for additional information. Users can "snag" CueCards and store them in personal resource libraries where they can add opinions and exchange comments about content with their iCue friends.
- Leader of the Month
John Long, Technology Program Specialist, School District of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Fla.
District Snapshot: 11th largest school district in the United States with 166,116 K12 students; roughly 140 languages spoken in the district.
- What writing crisis?
One educator's take on texting and teens.
- What's New
The new Smart Talk Español Station from Educational Insights (www.edin.com) is an interactive language tutor for beginning Spanish-language learners and Spanish literacy programs. The Smart Talk Español Station teaches students 450 "must know" Spanish vocabulary words. Students slide a photo vocabulary card onto the station to have three modes of interaction with the device: Word, which lets kidshear the Spanish word associated with the picture, Learn to hear the word used in context, and Quiz button to get questions about the target word.
LOY Profile Series
Leader: Carole Colburn
Technology Literacy Teacher, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, Michigan
School Snapshot: 1,200 students in grades 6–8; one of two middle schools in an 8,450-student district located in south-central Michigan.
There is nothing ambiguous about Carole Colburn's mission at Highlander Way Middle School in Howell, Michigan. She wants her students to learn—and to be empowered to help others—by working on projects that immerse them in their community. Technology is simply a conduit to make that happen.
One such undertaking is PROJECT: HOUSE (Helping Out Underprivileged Students Everywhere). Developed by Colburn and district colleague Chris Eldred, the project marshaled students from various classes to raise awareness about Habitat for Humanity. Colburn's Technology Literacy students analyzed the Livingston County Habitat for Humanity Web site and created PowerPoint slide shows designed to compel viewers to volunteer or to donate money. Communications Arts students wrote and produced skits about what it might be like to need a Habitat home. Applied Technology and Art students from nearby Three Fires Middle School designed dollhouses and miniature furniture to reflect the look and feel of a typical Habitat home. At the end of the project, students raffled off the dollhouses and donated $800 in proceeds to the Livingston County Habitat for Humanity.
"I wanted to make connections between students and community members and also instill a sense of civic responsibility in the students by having them work with a charitable organization," says Colburn, who runs the nine-week elective at HWMS.
According to Howell Public Schools superintendent W. Charles Breiner, Colburn is a "dynamic force in our teaching faculty," adding that she is "conscientious, articulate, knowledgeable, precise, highly effective, studious, innovative, and forward-thinking in her pedagogy."
Colburn's other classroom projects follow a similar template as PROJECT: HOUSE. There's PROJECT: SKILL (Student Knowledge Inspiring Lifelong Learning), which had students teaching technology skills to local senior citizens. For PROJECT: SERVE (Students Everywhere Respecting Veterans Everyday), students produced multimedia presentations about veterans' organizations and also videotaped several interviews with local veterans. Their work was shown at a student-organized "Day of Honor and Tribute" held at the school.
Assessment is authentic. Students write reflective essays throughout the project; they also help each other tweak their work via peer evaluations. In addition to posting work on her Web site, Colburn stages a "Day of Authentic Assessment" in which students showcase what they've learned to parents and students from other classes.
Colburn's methods have reaped benefits for students. "First, they get to examine their skill and knowledge level in relation to technological tools," Breiner says. "Second, they get to apply this knowledge to real-world problems; third, they get to work with others to assist others in making the world a better place."
And when it comes to getting involved with community, Colburn walks the talk. In addition to presenting at numerous conferences, Colburn mentors her colleagues at an after-school technology camp offered twice a month. And if that weren't enough, Colburn has served as mayor of Dansville, the small village where she lives, for the past eight years.
Last Byte: "Carole's mind is always busy forming the next project, finding a way to involve the community and kids."
— Megan Pennoni, HWMS science teacher
The AVerVision SPB550 visualizer offers high-end features at an affordable price. Educators can use the high def 1080p output resolution with HD monitors and projectors, and even the smallest spec shows up with the 20X AVer Optical Zoom. The software (which is included) lets users share over a local area network, annotate, capture images, and record video with audio. The built-in 4" x 3" lightboxlets teachers display slides, negatives, and other transparent documents. Avermedia.com
SAFARI Montage has added the Managed Home Access feature to permit teachers and students to access SAFARI Montage from their homes for the first time. This not only frees up teachers to create lessons at home, but now schools can upload original video content for parents to watch from their home computers. Schools can now share streaming video from school plays, school board meetings, football games, and more. The Managed Home Access will have virtually the same features as SAFARI Montage.
Leader of the Month
John Long, technology program specialist at Florida's Palm Beach County School District, has put up impressive numbers over the years. Of all of Long's professional achievements, he is perhaps best known for his digital storytelling academy. In 2002, he formed the MOD (Multimedia on Demand) Squad, an enthusiastic group of tech-forward educators. The MOD Squad got to work training 50 teachers in the district to compose multimedia stories and to teach their students to do the same. In exchange for attending the academy and completing two projects, participants received digital goodies to bring back to their classrooms.
Long's first academy produced such compelling results that he conducted four in the 2002-2003 school year. During that time, 350 teachers were trained and 141 schools received equipment.
In fall 2004, Long and his colleagues created a "tech ambassadors" program, in which two teachers from each of the district's elementary schools are trained to be on-the-ground tech mentors. Ambassadors receive incentives such as laptops, LCD projectors, and digital camcorders, plus a modest stipend and in-service credits. He also worked with classroom teachers to successfully incorporate those technologies into instruction. Under Long's guidance, the district has become a leader in successful tech integration.
Learn more at: www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us
What writing crisis?
The recent study "Writing, Technology, and Teens," conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the College Board's National Commission on Writing, was welcomed by many of us who teach writing. Unlike some of the handwringing press the report received with worries that texting lingo like LOL and OMG are turning up in term papers, I found much to be optimistic about.
Consider the numbers below (see box): While most students report that writing for school assignments can be arduous, they also express real satisfaction and accomplishment when such pieces are recognized for communicating ideas effectively and skillfully.
Yes, students admitted that their informal communication style sometimes find its way into their academic writing, but they also seem to understand the differences and purposes for their various forms of communication. Most importantly, they understand the importance of learning to write effectively for school and are already doing it for a variety of other purposes.
What I found from this study was a profile of students who are connected socially, write prolifically, and motivated by communication that has a real purpose and audience. One particularly interesting focus group were the "super communicators" that the authors termed "multi-channel teens." They typically communicate daily through a variety of tools including text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking sites. For many of these teens social networks like Facebook or MySpace form the hub of their communications.
Technologies being embraced in a growing number of classrooms try to tap into these motivations. Blogs and wikis provide students with a potential audience and an opportunity to link to online relevant material. In my four years of using blogs in the classroom, I have seen this first hand. But the tool itself doesn't make it happen. The audience must be cultivated. These multi-channel teens are not impressed by being online, but they do value frequent feedback from peers, from teachers, and especially from outside experts and students. Teachers can use new social networks like ning.com and Classroom 2.0 to find other teachers, students, and experts who would be interested in collaborating. And as more students and teachers join these networks, the possibilities continue to grow. This spirit of collaboration can extend to the writing process as well through the use of wikis.
So what are kids looking for from educators? According to this study, they know they need to be challenged to produce more "lengthy, logically structured writing." They understand the importance of this skill to their future and don't even consider the enormous amount of text-based communication they are producing to be writing, but like some of their other types of communication, they want more feedback, choice, relevance, and an audience. "In teens' own views, those who can figure out how to tap into their distinctive, situational communications behaviors and connect them to the process of learning how to write will have taught them an invaluable lesson that will improve their lives." Are we ready to take on this challenge?
86% of teens believe good writing is important to success in life.
93% of teens them write for themselves.
58% of all teens maintain some sort of social networking profile.
50% of teens say they sometimes use informal writing styles instead of proper capitalization and punctuation in their school assignments.
38% say they have used text shortcuts in schoolwork such as "LOL" (which stands for "laugh out loud").
25% have used emoticons in schoolwork.
Qwizdom's new Q7 Presenter Tablet, available August 2008, comes with some smart new features. Teachers can view notes, student response data, and private requests for help—as well as randomly call on a student from her class list. Teachers can use the Q7 Presenter Tablet with the tablet by itself or with a student response system. Pre-orders are being accepted as of June 2008.
Science students can build and program real robots using the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics toolset. To complement this program, Vernier is releasing a NXT Sensor Adapter that lets users link Vernier probes to the robots. There are over 30 Vernier sensors to measure everything from temperature, force, light level, UV level, pH, and more.