Mrs. Vance Goes To School

Learning and Teaching with Technology

Archive for October, 2007

Studio-like Classrooms

Posted by MrsVance on October 28, 2007

Last week the November issue of Fast Company arrived in the mail. The cover boy is Johnathan Goodwin, “Motorhead Messiah”. This guy modifies standard cars so they get double or triple or more miles per gallon and put out few emissions.

This is cool on many levels. It is even more interesting when you discover he dropped out of school in seventh grade to help support his family.

Certainly/probably/maybe most people who drop out of school in seventh grade (or any grade) aren’t in the process of changing the world. But it is also true that the vast majority of students graduating from our schools will not be changing the world either.

I read Johnathan’s story around the time I watched Clarence Fisher’s K12 Online Conference Keynote Speech in which he discusses the idea of the classroom as a studio. According to the article, ‘After dropping out of school in the seventh grade, he [Johnathan Goodwin] made a living by buying up totaled cars and making them as good as new. “That,” he says, “was my school.” ‘ In other words, Johnathan learned in a studio-like environment.

If we can make our classrooms more studio-like will we have a better chance of inspiring our students to a) want to and b) be able to change the world?

And what are the features that make a classroom studio-like?


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I Could Have Danced All Night…

Posted by MrsVance on October 27, 2007

Recently, my husband surprised me with tickets to My Fair Lady, my absolute favorite show of all time. There is simply no way to see that play and not sing in the shower for weeks.

Tonight is especially bad since I am feeling very Eliza Dolittle like. My week has been very busy – it is the end of the quarter. But in every spare moment I have been working my way through the K12 Online Conference materials. And I am starting to really understand how I can begin to use some of these tools to advance learning in my classroom.

Tonight was the best of all – the When Night Falls Conversations. And really I could easily spend all night in the Elluminate session – not dancing – but talking, learning sharing.

If you are heading in please use the new link . There was a problem with the original Elluminate room. The conference organizers need a big round of applause for all their hard work to keep everything running smoothly.

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Eliminating the Middleman

Posted by MrsVance on October 16, 2007

One refrain that seems to be surfacing in many of the K12 Online Conference discussions seems to be – how do we get other people involved – parents, (other)teachers, administration…

Sometimes the best place to start is with the students. Last year I despaired of interesting the teachers in learning about Inspiration and incorporating it into their lessons. Finally, I took a few days of computer time to teach the students how to use the program and had them create a project about anything they wanted. Most chose to showcase some rap star or another. Which on the surface was a bad thing. But as we progressed turned into a very good thing. Because they wanted to learn how to embed video and audio and links to websites. And because they were motivated, they pushed themselves to learn how to do these things. And they taught one another how to do these things. And they were proud of their finished product and wanted to show their other teachers what they had created.

When the teachers saw the finished work they became excited about Inspiration and asked the students to show them the program. Within just a few weeks two teachers had assigned Inspiration projects. By the end of the year it was just another tool in their arsenal. Over the summer two additional teachers took a class to learn more about how to use Inspiration in the classroom.

Granted not everyone has this kind of access to students and their time. But if you get the opportunity, see what can happen if you start with the students.

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Shushing the teachers…

Posted by MrsVance on October 12, 2007

Last week I ran a training session on Word 2007 for some of the teachers at my school. Overall things went very well.

Anyone who has spent time in meetings and training with teachers could certainly predict that at some point the teachers began to chat amongst themselves. Maybe this happens just as frequently in other professions, but I do not think so.

This training session was in my regular computer lab, using my regular tools, with bodies in the normal seats. At some point I registered that there was too much noise in ‘my room’ and I emitted a series of ‘shush, shush, shush’ sounds. It was a reflex. And I was really embarrassed as I realized what I was doing.

I was reminded of this as I participated in David Warlick’s Fireside Chat for the K-12 Online Conference on Tuesday evening. As a newbie I found this a really incredible experience. But the chat was distracting. There were only a few times when it seemed related to what David was saying. Maybe I am simply a poor multi-tasker. But I really don’t see the value of that format. It seems like a high tech version of someone chatting in the back of the room.

A better format for me was the chat room that David set up for the original keynote. I watched the video first and then jumped into the chat. And didn’t feel like ‘shushing’ anyone!

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What do they need to know?

Posted by MrsVance on October 9, 2007

OK. This blogging thing is certainly not as easy as it looks. I left NECC 2007 in Atlanta this summer with the zeal of a new convert. I was going to do this.

And I did.

Sort of.

Except that the first day of school hit. And shortly thereafter my network crashed. And I still don’t have the new MS Office installed on all of the computers in the school. And we are supposed to be using it for our report cards in a few weeks. So… enough moaning. I have gotten some help and can begin to see daylight again.

But even though the idea of blog writing was completely beyond my capabilities, I have been blog reading and thinking extensively. This past weekend I was able to watch Will Richardson’s Keynote Presentation at UPEI’s New Media Institute via a link on EdTechTalk. (And that in itself was extremely cool!) However, one thing that concerns me is the idea that there is an either/or decision to be made between the old way of doing things and the Web 2.0 way of doing things. In this new reality is there a value to memorizing anything at all, from spelling words to state capitals?

The biggest hurdle to fully exploiting this hyper-connected digital world, is being able to trust/verify the information one finds. CoolCatTeacher covered this extensively back in September. It seems to me that a prerequisite for being able to validate the information one finds on the internet is a deep and broad pool of background knowledge. Our students should be able to compare the information they find to the information they already know. They should start by looking for inconsistencies – the things that just don’t seem to fit into their preconceived notions of what is true and correct. Ideally, as they move through our schools they will narrow the gap between the ideas in their heads and ‘truth’. I know that is just a starting place. But if there is no knowledge that you truly own, then where do you start?

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