Sunday, May 25, 2008

Preparing Students to Succeed in the 21st Century

I often talk about this as a goal. Lately, I've been trying to articulate what this really means. It is easy to say, but what does a school look like that is actually preparing students for the 21st Century?

Many of these ideas are inspired by the 21st Century Skills Initiative.

Preparing students to interact in a global economy.
In order to prepare students to work with an international community of colleagues we need to provide them with opportunities to interact with people from around the world. Teachers also need experiences collaborating globally. Online social networks, such as Ning, Twitter, and even Facebook, provide teachers with a way to meet colleagues from around the world and around the country. These Online relationships provide opportunities for classrooms to connect.

Preparing students to navigate and sift through an excess of information. In order to prepare students to search for and evaluate information, we need to provide them with opportunities to do just that. We need to ask students to find answers to questions and then have them not only share their answers, but also describe their search processes and defend their sources.

Preparing students to contribute to and consume in a media rich market.
In order to prepare students to consume and create multi-media messages, student should be both evaluating and creating Online video, podcasts and blogs. Students need to learn to be both educated consumers and producers of these messages.

Preparing students to tackle new innovations.
In order to prepare students to face and conquer new technology tools, we need to provide them with opportunities to solve their own problems. We can't provide them with step by step directions, but instead encourage them to seek out new tools, figure them out and communicate their learning with classmates.

Preparing students to think creatively, take risks and come up with new ideas.
In order to encourage students to discover new ideas, we need to create learning environments that encourage and support failure. Students must be provided with challenging questions to tackle that don't have obvious answers.

Preparing students for digital citizenship. In order to teach students how to interact Online, we must openly discuss issues of privacy, copyright, and Online behavior. Students need to understand the difference between private and public spaces and how to behave in each place. They also need to learn how to interact Online in responsible and ethical ways. Students need to be given opportunities to share information with a larger audience. They need to be given opportunities to interact Online with classmates in a public space where their behavior and contributions to the community are an important part of how they are assessed.

What else? What does it look like in your school? What are students and teachers doing to prepare for success in the 21st century? What have I missed? I welcome your ideas and suggestions.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This I Believe...

Beth Knittle tagged me for the This I believe meme started by Barry Bachenheimer. I blogged a while back about my Common Principles for 21st Century Schools. I think I lot of what I came up with encompasses what I believe, but here is my latest articulation of those ideas. Thanks Beth for tagging me!

  • I believe that risk taking is essential to learning.
  • I believe in a growth mindset - failure is not a reflection on the learner, rather a reflection on the strategy.
  • I believe in the power of collective intelligence, together we can accomplish so much more than we can alone. We are what we share.
  • I believe that learning to effectively and efficiently discover, evaluate and synthesize information is more important than the information itself.
  • I believe that teachers must be given the opportunity, the time and the resources to experience and assimilate new technologies for themselves before we can ask them to share their understanding with students.
  • I believe that we need to constantly and consistently ask ourselves why we teach what we teach.
  • I believe in the power of educational technology to improve learning, create communities and inspire new thinking (had to include this one since it is the subtitle of my blog :)
So there you have it. I believe in lots more, but that is all I can pull together tonight. Now I have to tag some more people.
What do you believe?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Technology Tutorials for Teachers.

I have created tutorial documents for several Web 2.0 tools and have posted them all on this Wiki:


Please feel free to link, share, or download any of the materials on the Website. I will continue to add to the site and welcome feedback on the tutorials (let me know if anything needs to be edited or changed).

I hope that you will find this resource helpful!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Teachers and students are doing some amazing work
with technology at
Wellesley High School!
This is my first year working as the technology integration specialist at Wellesley High School Most of the projects we have been working on are in their infancy. We are experimenting with tools and learning from our experiences. I am sure that next year these projects will increase in number and in effectiveness. Some departments have been more active with technology than others. This year I am building relationships and working on spreading my resources throughout the building. I am confident that over time I will be able to make more of an impact across the curriculum. I feel very proud of what we have accomplished so far this year. There are exciting things happening here.

Online Educational Networking
Many teachers are using to create Online networks where students can reflect through blogging and interact through discussion forums. These sites have been very successful. Teachers report that students are engaging online in ways that they have not engaged in class. The network is providing a voice for students who are not as vocal face-to-face. Students are motivated to write by a larger class audience and to be more careful with their writing. Subjects such as racism are being discussed in greater detail than they had been previously in class. These networks have been embraced particularly in the English Department. In addition, I have a Spanish teacher who has created a site for her Spanish class. Ning allows you to change the language of the site itself, so that all of the links and directions are in Spanish. At the moment these are private Websites are only visible to the students within each class. I am hopeful that we will be able to open some of these up in the future.

One of my English teachers has been using podcasting extensively in her level 3 Freshman English class. Her students are very engaged in the project and have produced some excellent work. Much of it is very personal, and so is not being shared outside of the classroom. The teacher reports that the experience helped students think about voice, language and grammar. Students realized they could hear grammatical mistakes when they recorded their work that they had not caught when writing. Students also considered word choice and added details that they realized were lacking. Recording also helped students see the benefit of incorporating dialogue. It also becomes clear very quickly if the piece does not have a beginning, middle and end. Often she has to ask students, with personal and analytical essays, the "so what?" question. With the GarageBand project, students were able to determine whether they had provided the necessary substance to give the writing meaning.

I am currently designing a podcast project with a math teacher for her level 3 freshman geometry classes. We will be starting this in the next few weeks.

Many teachers are using Wikis as classroom websites and for class projects. One of our Physics teachers created a wiki for his senior physics classes. The purpose of this wiki space was to provide an alternative forum for students to participate in class discussions on topics related to energy and on lab reports (exchanging ideas or discussing common problems). The teacher had moderate success with this project and attributes it to the need to encourage or require participation in the future. He is planning to try it again next year.

On of our English teachers did a wiki research project on Mythology earlier in the year with all of her freshmen English classes. Students researched different gods and goddesses and posted their research on the Wiki. She felt that the wiki was a great way to get student work published Online quickly and easily. Students engaged with the visual nature of the project and used the Website to learn about all of the gods and goddesses (not just their own). These sites were used to study for a test on the subject.

One of our History teachers uses a wiki in her AP History class. She posts resources and assignments for students. She also uses it for reference materials during class. Students use the space to write summaries of the different chapters they are reading. Each student is assigned a chapter to summarize. These summaries are posted on the wiki and are used to study for the AP exam. Britta reports that she finds the wiki very easy to use and it has been a very useful tool for both her and her students.

The language department, humanities and science departments are all working (or beginning work) on iMovies. In the language department Seniors are working on a Spanish video to demonstrate their knowledge of the language. They are creating commercials and music videos which give a message of peace or promote useful products for teachers. This is a great project for Seniors, especially at this time of year. They are engaged and are using the target language in authentic ways.

In Humanities class, Seniors are working on a movie project which reflects on their community. Students define their own ideas about community as they complete the project. The video aspect of the project allows them to discover their definition of community in ways that no other medium could do. It facilitates this kind of study and reflection.

Social Bookmarking
One of our Spanish teachers has been using the social bookmarking website to share links with her students. She has found this site extremely useful for the ease in which she can point students to Online resources. It also works really well for teachers who work at multiple computers.

Students in the Bradford newspaper class have started blogging this year. Thus far the blog has not gone public, but students have been writing and responding extensively with each other. There is a level of engagement with these students that we had not seen previously. We hope to open up this blog to the Wellesley Community next year.

This year we created a Sophomore Author Thesis blog where students can share their reflections about the authors they studied for their Sophomore Author Thesis paper. We are collecting student responses so that sophomores in future years will be able to draw on the blog as a resource when deciding which author to study.

Internet Safety
I have been meeting with groups of Freshman during their guidance seminars to discuss issues of Internet safety and cyberbullying. One of our guidance counselors and I have also met with parents to discuss issues of teens and technology. These meetings have been very well received by parents and we hope to continue them next year in the form of a parent drop-in group. We hope to meet monthly to discuss issues of Internet safety and cyberbullying. Both projects have been piloted this year. Next year we hope to roll out this out to more students and parents.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dealing with Negativity

I am a technology evangelist and I love what I do. I truly believe in the power of educational technology to improve learning, create communities and inspire new thinking (hence the title of my blog ;) We are doing great things at my school. Teachers and students are using Ning and podcasting and blogging and iMovie and GoogleDocs and lots more with great success.

At the start of this school year, I blogged about a great book by Robert Evans titled The Human Side of School Change. While I've made a huge amount of progress in my school, I think most would agree, that change is slow. Some people can be very resistant to trying new things. They feel that what they do works and don't understand the need to do things any differently. Sometimes, those of us who's job it is to convince people otherwise, face negativity. While we might understand it intellectually, it still can be hard to deal with.

Today I asked my network how they deal with negativity. They came up with some great ideas. I've pasted them below (in reverse chronological order). As always, I'm so impressed with the power of your collective intelligence. Thanks so much to everyone who shared their thoughts!

Page Lennig plennig @lizbdavis "end up like that"
Lee TeachaKidd @lizbdavis Understand that you can't manage others. Try to avoid them. Hard to do.
Page Lennig plennig @lizbdavis tell me about it - after last week's NYT article teachers are worried that by posting assignments online we'll "end up like ... ...
Dominic Salvucci Dsalvucci @lizbdavis I counter w/sarcasm, which gets me in trouble, or silly questions/examples which confuses the negative people.
Christy Tvarok cmtvarok @lizbdavis humor sometimes works, "whoa, i wasn't expecting such a negative response. got anything good 2 say?"
carenpence CPence Icon_red_lock @lizbdavis Keep telling myself...."Breathe...Breathe..." Human nature and my is difficult to let it roll off my back.SMILE
K Christopherson kwhobbes @lizbdavis I've been learning to take negativity directed at me as a way to improve myself. If they are just a - person, I stay away.
Lee Allan Sanders onlineteacher @lizbdavis Meditation is my primary, and forcing myself to wait a full 24 hours b4 actual response/reaction, except I fail sometimes
mountainlaneman mountainlaneman @lizbdavis Thick skin. I go by the rule of 3rd's and know that there is a silent minority that doesn't appreciate my work. Continue goin ... ...
Art Gelwicks ArtGelwicks @lizbdavis Wiffle ball bat.
Jerry Swiatek jswiatek @lizbdavis Liz...if you find the answer, please share!! :) This happens to me all of the time...
Lisa Parisi LParisi @lizbdavis Wish I knew. Please tell me what you find out. Right now, I just smile and walk away, seething of course.
P. Harju Scout7 @lizbdavis (in resp to neg colleagues) I just remember what my mom always told me -- They are just jealous of me.
bransonb bransonb @lizbdavis a friend once told me that "if I continue to have the same high expectations of others as I do for myself, I will always be d ... ...
Michael Richards mrichme @lizbdavis Make sure you check in with positive people and don't let the negativity take over your personality. Life is about balance.
McTeach McTeach @lizbdavis Wait...I don't think I'm making any sense. So very tired...hard to respond in 140 or less...
McTeach McTeach @lizbdavis Remember, negative people spew negativity. It's what's inside. Kind people spew kindness. You are kind and caring. We know that.
Craig Nansen cnansen @lizbdavis some people won't like it or agree with it. Most don't know where we are going or why, until it becomes of value to them.
Craig Nansen cnansen @lizbdavis I have been a district level technology director for 23 years. It's part of the job, I just shrug it off. No matter what you do..
McTeach McTeach @lizbdavis I'd be happy to share! Where shall we start?
Janet Peterson Petersonj Icon_red_lock @lizbdavis Chocolate sometimes, too!!!
Janet Peterson Petersonj Icon_red_lock @lizbdavis AND find a good friend with which you can vent! (Thank you PenceC!! My good frieind!) And then move on!
Janet Peterson Petersonj Icon_red_lock @lizbdavis If in your heart you know what you are doing is the right thing continue to do what you do! Stay positive..change takes 5-10 yrs
Diane Hammond dianeh @lizbdavis Their negative attitudes are rarely meant as personal attacks. In many cases negativity comes from insecurity. Keep smiling!
Colleen colleenk @lizbdavis Just realize that the negativity comes from a lack of understanding on their part (or jealousy/unhappiness) - not your fault.
Michelle Bourgeois milobo @lizbdavis - Good Q! I struggle w/ that too- my advice-remember negativity often comes from fear- accept & acknowledge then grow from that
abdoss abdoss @lizbdavis Smile, but don't feed the neg. If you have to make an excuse to leave. Neg peers are not your fault, don't accept that feeling.
Tech_Teacher13 Tech_Teacher13 @lizbdavis Link didn't come thru here it is:
Tech_Teacher13 Tech_Teacher13 @lizbdavis To not take things personally I keep in mind that I can't be everything to all & I remember the starfish story: http://www.scrapb
Caroline OBannon cobannon @lizbdavis I'm alot like @LParisi in handling that. Don't do face-to-face well. Venting helps immensely! That and plotting. :)
Sebbe D'Hose saint_ethique @lizbdavis just assume they have a bad day and don't nesceserly mean to be mean ;)