Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Personal Learning Network and 21st Century Skills

Photo by Scott McLeod
by John Langley
The 21st Century Skills that educators and students alike should strive for:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-direction
  • Social and Cross-cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy
The 21st Century Skills require a rethinking of the way we teach.  In order to be prepared for the workforce and/or college, students need a different skills set than what most schools are currently providing.  Society has evolved, and education is evolving with it.  Throughout past year, the concept of digital learners has been a recurring theme in my classroom.  Students not only learn differently than what we did, the professions that they will be in will require most, if not all, of the 21st Century Skills.  Students need to be able to take tools/concepts that they learn and apply them to new situations.  That's what we as educators need to do to challenge them - present them with situations where they are stretched.  Failure is a result of Trying.  Success is a result of Failing/Trying until you Succeed.

Keeping up on education, your area of expertise, and the 21st Century Skills used to be a challenge.  One of the most important things a teacher can do is start and maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  If you haven't heard that term yet, you will be inundated with it soon.  Your PLN is your link to information, contacts, a network of global colleagues, etc.
A good start to a PLN is with iGoogle (TeacherTube Video: iGoogle and Building a Personal Learning Network).  Create an iGoogle page and add an education tab, a technology tab, and even curriculum specific labeled tabs.  iGoogle will automatically add popular gadgets to your tabs, and you can add more to personalize it.

After you get your feet wet, a possible next step is to join teacher networks like Classroom 2.0.  There are a plethora of teachers/organizations who are sharing ideas in education and in technology in education.

Finally, join Twitter.  I used to be avidly anti-Twitter . . . until I found out how teachers are using Twitter to exchange ideas, network, and connect.  If you want the latest, greatest info on education, the best source is from the experts in the field.  Twitter is the tool educators are using to do that.  Joe Dale's blog Twitter for Teachers has some video clips that make the whole Twitter thing clear.

There are several tools available to manage Twitter so you don't get overwhelmed and lose yourself in Geekdom for hours on end.  I highly recommend TweetDeck for your pc/mac - very functional desktop to manage your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkIn, etc.  I use TweetDeck on my iPhone.  TweetDeck also allows me to email links to someone I know who doesn't use Twitter.  Once you get really rolling, you can peruse Top 20 Sites to Improve Your Twitter Experience and Your Favorite Education Twitter Hashtags

Just setting up a Twitter account doesn't quite get you where you want to be without knowing what to do and who to get information from.  Shelly Terrell put together an amazing training video: How to Build A PLN Using Twitter.

From there, it's up to you.  Be the model for your students.  Don't expect them to try anything that you aren't willing to try yourselves.  Don't just Talk the Talk - Walk the Walk.  Move into the 21st Century with your students.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Busy time of year--but we need some feedback

Today, we had a training session with Dr. Z. As we get closer to the holidays, it gets harder to make time after school for extra training, seminars, etc. However, tonight's session had smaller attendance than the prior trainings. I'm curious as to the reasons for this. If you have been a regular attendee at the tranings, and could not make it this week, please send me an email to let me know why. I hope we are just dealing with busy schedules. On the other hand, if we are not hitting the target with our training, we need to know so that we can improve the model. Please send me an email at mikewrd042@gmail.com

Monday, November 9, 2009

Farmingdale Elementary

At Farmingdale I have used Google Docs several times to gather input from the students. They prefer using the computer to send me their information over the traditional paper/pencil method. Unfortunately, using Google Docs does not give me the option of really showing the students what they got correct or incorrect.

One of the projects I did recently was to have the fourth grade students tell me what program they would use for a particular project. The programs were all something they had used in the computer lab in the past. Many of the students struggled with that project because they don't pay attention to the programs that we use in class. I tell them what program to open, so that's what they do.

My third graders recently completed a project where they typed in a web address on the internet, then they needed to determine several things about the website they visited: subject of the site (math, reading, etc.), grade level appropriateness (pre-k, 1st, etc.), material available on the site (games, information, worksheets), and determine if there were advertisements on their site and why they were there. The students did okay with the project, but this was another one where there were no hard and fast answers, and they struggled with determining the information on their own.

The fourth graders created their first PowerPoint in technology class. Once the students satisfied the minimum requirements for their presentation, I encouraged them to try out the different options available in the program. I told them to try the buttons to see what they did. The students at the elementary school are not used to having that kind of freedom with a school project. Many were wary of doing "something wrong" in the program.

This year I will be having my fourth graders contributing to a blog website. I will post the web address for my website and that blog page at a later time. I had the students write on a blog last year, and they did enjoy it. What they enjoyed even more was the ability to respond to one another's postings. I have been considering switching from a blog to a wiki so that there is the "threading" capabilities.

I do have more of the technology projects for my third and fourth graders. Kindergarten, First, and Second grade students use their technology class to reinforce the skills they are learning in their classrooms. I use software and websites for the early grade levels. The older students then have a chance to work with more of the programs available.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some examples of technology at the high school

With so many people using websites, wikis, and blogs, it would be nice to create a directory of your work. Please list the address of your site below. I would like to eventually post it on the school wiki as well.

Plainsschoolstuff wiki: http://plainsschoolstuff.wetpaint.com/

John Langley:

Mr. Langley's Digital Classroom http://sites.google.com/site/mrlangleysroom
Mr. Langley's Classroom blog http://mrlangleyclassroom.blogspot.com

Plainsman (yearbook staff workspace) http://sites.google.com/site/pphsplainsman
Thoughts of a Pirate blog http://piratedjlangley.blogspot.com
Lesson Plans and presentations/handouts http://www.casscomm.com/~pirate/school.html
Online book club http://pphsreadingrally.wetpaint.com
Public yearbook forum http://yearbookrocksforum.wikispaces.com
PPHS Yearbook Facebook group (private) http://www.facebook.com/piratedjlangley?ref=profile#/group.php?gid=34811273438

Brian Conklin:
All courses on the same site, including a tentative science club calendar (when it works...)

Emily Chrisman:

My website has links for each class, calendar for big events, list of assignments as they occur, my powerpoints and other documents uploaded to it.

I also text students with reminders - not a blog but is communication
I just created a survey for my students to evaluate my classes. The link to this Google Doc is on my website.

Jenni Durbin:

All of my courses are linked off the main page http://sites.google.com/site/jdurbin5/

Krystal Oh:

website for all classes, including an assignment calendar, links, and attachments of handouts, etc. needed for class

wiki for DEAR postings and peer responses

Google Spreadsheets make collaboration easy!!

Recently, the building RTI team had the task of completing a records review to look for students who are in need of additional supports. Essentially, we had an excel spreadsheet full of test data (ISAT, Explore, and PLAN). In the past, the team would have taken the excel spreadsheets, analyzed the data, and then complete an assessment. Each assessment (there are six people on the team) would have to be reassembled and then re-distributed. This process would have required an additional meeting and a lot of data rearrangment.

Instead, we uploaded the excel data into the google spreadsheet. Each team member was invited to edit the form. With that, the team members could analyze the data, indicate which students were a concern with a yes or no in the cell and add any comments as needed. The result was that each person, working at his or her convenience created a complete document that showed consensus on who needed attention. From there, we could identify the students and enter the next phase of the screening process.

Uploading the data was very easy. We saved time and got great results.

I can see this type of use in the future for any type of data analysis that a team has to do. I'm curious if anyone else has used spreadsheets in class settings, and how those activities could adapted to use google spreadsheets.

What Have You Done Lately

This blog is created for staff to describe how technology is being used in the classroom to expand the opportunities for students. It can also be used to post questions and get technical advice. You are invited to share your experiences.