Mrs. Vance Goes To School

Learning and Teaching with Technology

EdubloggerCon – Digital Storytelling

Posted by MrsVance on June 28, 2008

EdubloggerCon Breakout session two – Digital Storytelling as THE Disruptive Change Agent for the 21st Century Learning Revolution

facilitated by Wesley Fryer

Oklahoma Voices has a focus on veterans.

Need to help teachers get practice making digital stories themselves so they can then do digital stories with others.

Could begin with videoing a speaker that is already coming into the school. Ask “Can I non-commercially record and share your story on the internet?”

Must train the students (and teachers) about how to interview – PBS has a learning package about this – DVD – Ken Burns talking about the documentary film making experience. Contact local PBS station to see if we can get more information about this.

Good resource – any book on geneology – lists of good open ended questions – how to elicit the story from the interviewee.

Share with the school board – local rotary club etc.

Seesmic (child of twitter and YouTube)

Use Creative Commons Licensing.

Big power in state-wide initiatives like Oklahoma Voices – provides credibility for project in case of adversity from administration board etc.

Additional resources here


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Model Schools Conference

Posted by MrsVance on June 28, 2008

This has been a very busy summer so far. Minor surgery, family vacation, Model Schools Conference and now NECC. Before I get too far away from it and don’t feel like writing it, I want to say something about the Model Schools Conference.

This was my first year to attend and it was very impressive. I was familiar with the Rigor and Relevance framework, but this was an opportunity to really delve into what it might mean in my classroom practice.

If it is possible to distill such a conference into a few thoughts here they are:

  1. We have the responsibility to insist on a rigorous curriculum for all of our students.
  2. Many of our students have no interest in participating in a more rigorous curriculum.
  3. Our students will participate in a more rigorous curriculum if they find it personally relevant.
  4. We must develop relationships with our students in order to know what they find personally relevant.
  5. We must also help our students to develop aspirations for their futures.
  6. Aspirations = having dreams for the future while being inspired in the present to work to achieve those dreams.

Next week I will take some time to really think about what I am going to do differently this year. For now I know that I will be contacting my students this summer to begin establishing the relationships that will allow me to plan for rigor that my students will find relevant.

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The Google Apps – Edublogger Breakout Session

Posted by MrsVance on June 28, 2008

Facilitated by Kevin Jarrett

Project w/ grade 8 – sludge test – have google apps team edition – really designed for businesses – where individuals already have email accounts. Kevin used his own domain and created dummy emails for his students – students never accessed these emails. Students took to it very well.

Probably better to use Education Edition – allows import of student lists – more administrative control.

Ideas – scripts, student newspapers, any kind of paper – online grading

google teacher academy resources

Resource about setting up educational spaces vs. social spaces – danah boyd (spelling??)
Connie Sitterly – Pencrest – (spelling??) Doing entire district – good example

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Why I Can’t Read…

Posted by MrsVance on June 8, 2008


I grew up reading anything and everything. When I was about seven I was hospitalized for appendicitis. After spending a few hours reading all of the signs I could get my eyes on, I finally thought to ask for books. Just imagine, sick child, worthy request, my library was stocked for the next several years.

Mostly I read fiction. The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, Jane Eyre. And many many that I will never remember.

The characters in these books were as real to me as any person. I gladly gave up sleep and play to spend time in their company. While current day all night reading sprees are very few and far between, I still love a good story.

But I fear this early and extensive immersion in fiction has left me with an impaired ability to read non-fiction critically. The willing suspension of disbelief that is so necessary to the enjoyment of fiction is a handicap when reading non-fiction. I am working to develop a more robust ability to read critically.

I wonder what this insight should mean for my teaching. For my sixth grade reading students I should probably encourage more non-fiction reading. Does anyone else have this problem, and how do you handle it?

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Awesome End of Year Display

Posted by MrsVance on April 1, 2008

Last year I came up with an awesome, baseball themed display for the bulletin board near my classroom.

The words say, “Rounding Third and Heading for Home”, which was a popular expression of recently deceased Reds radio announcer, Joe Nuxhall. This phrase is also posted on the side of the Great American Ballpark downtown (Cincinnati). The students are familiar with it and know it refers to coming to the end of something.

The white object in the area of the pitchers mound is a piece of poster board designed for use with dry erase markers. We kept a count-down of the number of days left in the school year.

I loved this display and so did the students. I am having a horrible time thinking of something just as good for this year. Any ideas?

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Joy Vampires

Posted by MrsVance on March 19, 2008

Vampire Bat
Justin. “Vampire Bat.” Flickr. 03Jan2006. Flickr. 19 Mar 2008 .

Yesterday on the New York Times Freakonomics blog, Stephen Dubner asks, “How can the U.S. black-white achievement gap be closed?” I am not sure any clear answers emerge (better preschool preparation, longer school day/year and merit pay for teachers are some proposals that may have supporting data.)

But what caught my attention was the the statement by Andrew Rotherham, co-director of Education Sector and a member of Virginia’s Board of Education, that “good teachers teach; they don’t resort to drilling kids, rote memorization, or other strategies that suck the joy out of learning.”

What exactly does it mean to say that “good teachers teach”?

Is rote memorization never a good learning strategy?

Should students never be drilled?

I have seriously missed something. There is a wide-spread consensus (at least in the edublogosphere) that rote memorization is bad. I just am not sure why. Certainly it should not be the only learning tool employed. But it is one learning tool with which students should be familiar and able to utilize.

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Memorization: Lost Art or Useless Skill?

Posted by MrsVance on March 10, 2008

Emotiv HeadsetSwift, Thor. “emotiv_15.jpg.” fickr. 13June2007. 10 Mar 2008 .

Recently I began a graduate program in Education. In the next few weeks I will begin a project investiging the following question…

In a world in which students have ubiquitous access to computing power and connectivity/bandwidth is it redundant for students to memorize any information? Or in such an environment is memorization even more necessary so that students can compare (and thus validate) what they find on the WWW and beyond?

I could really use some feedback on the structure of this question as well as links to any well reasoned arguments on either side.

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I Can Only Hope to Have Such Problems!

Posted by MrsVance on February 12, 2008

It seems like it would be a great idea to have the opportunity to extend the learning hours with our students using online tools. Or at least it did seem like a great idea until I thought about it in terms of interacting with my most challenging student(s) beyond the normal school day.

The main thought that is running through my head when I look back over all these questions is, where do we draw the line? Or even, do we draw a line? What I mean in this respect is if we were to achieve our goal, if we were to have technology (in particular web 2.0 tools) widely used within education then would teachers actually welcome their students to contact them? And converse in the way I do with the adults and teachers I am connected with over my twitter network and similar things online. The reason I find this a difficult question to answer is that although in a traditional school environment this type of communication (especially that outside of the school walls) is discouraged (at least on a relatively large scale) we are proposing change to this system, and a big change at that. Does this mean that the principles associated with the current system should be changed? Or I should probably say, adapted? Should the door be left closed to student – teacher communication both in and out of school? Should it be left open? Or should there be some sort of compromise?

Personally I really can’t answer this. It may be because I’m not a teacher, and I don’t really know how I’d feel about the students in my class contacting me, and hanging around in the places on the web I have found so sacred at times. And let’s face it, there’s always going to be at least that 1 student sitting in that class that gets on your nerves that bit more than the rest of them… does this mean they would do the same within your own personal networks? And should all this mean that a line needs to be drawn somewhere with the use of these tools (at least in the classroom)?

The italics are mine, the caveat is from Sean “The Bass Player”, on the Students 2.0 Blog. And it is a good cautionary thought as I move ever closer to having the pieces in place to enable this type of interaction. But I suspect that most students will choose to use the tools when it is easier for them to use the tools than not. And I suspect that they will not really want to spend a huge amount of time hanging out with the teacher, even in an online environment. Sean also notes

Student ed tech types are lone wolfs, we just generally don’t come in packs; … Online I need to be in contact with adults in order to be a part of the networks that I am so fond of because I can’t connect with a lot of other students. This is mainly due to the fact that it is outside of what the average student normally does online.

Isn’t that why many, if not most, of the adults in the edtech world are online as opposed to comfortably dealing with the teacher next door?

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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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