A Little Vacation Time

After the BLC conference, we took a few days to travel around southern Maine and the Cape Ann area before heading back to the real world. Our first two nights were in a gorgeous Victorian bed and breakfast called Angel of the Berwicks. We’ve stayed in several B&B’s over the years but this is by far the best we’ve ever come across. Ben and Sally have a true gift – making everyone feel like a part of their family. Breakfast was scrumptious; we’ve never had a 3-course breakfast before: homemade muffins, fresh fruit, hot entree – with a different menu every morning! If you ever have a chance to visit North Berwick, Maine, we highly recommend the Angel of the Berwicks. It’s a short drive from Kennebunkport, Portland, and other beautiful areas.

BLC11 Day 3

The final day of BLC and my brain is exhausted! BLC is one of the best conferences offered and I’m thankful I’ve been able to attend 3 times. Now I just need time to process everything! Here are the conference strands (sorry, should have posted this earlier!):

  • Designing Rigorous and Motivating Assignments Across the Curriculum
  • Nurturing Creativity, Curiosity, Empathy and Courage
  • Teaching Global Communication Skills
  • Contributing to Professional Learning Communities
  • Crafting Vision and Managing Change

Today’s keynote speaker was Rob Evans, a clinical psychologist from Wellesley, MA. He presented a very interesting talk about adults in schools grappling with change. He pointed out that schools are good at helping students change but they don’t do such a good job with helping the adults. In a very humorous way, Dr. Evans described how school boards and administrators are eager to help their schools change but are amazed at the resistance encountered from some of the faculty. He talked about what people react to about change is not the event, it’s the meaning of the event. When asked to make changes, people experience:

  1. loss (what I believe in is devalued)
  2. confusion (not sure what is expected; why there must be a change)
  3. conflict (changing from one mode to another begets conflict; the “I’m right but you’re wrong” thought process)

Dr. Evans pointed out that teachers do their best to avoid conflict. This is excellent for working with students but not always the best for dealing with adults. The difference between the corporate workplace and schools was mentioned often. In schools, everything tends to be personal; educators don’t tend to be able to separate work from personal. The corporate world is able to do this.We should be able to say, “There may be a better way of doing this,” without the other person taking it personally. Dr. Evans pointed out that if we are able to disagree in a compatible way and have these direct conversations, we have a much better chance to move forward with change. He said that when there is change, people have a right to know why they need to change, what needs to be done, and how it will impact them.

He ended by telling us to “lighten up” – don’t try to do everything we learned at the conference! Now, if I can just remember those words of wisdom . . .

BLC11 Day 2

Thank goodness for peanut butter crackers! There was no time for lunch today-too many good sessions to attend! First session was about iPad apps and I got a few new ideas:

  • Spel It Rite
  • StoryBuilder
  • SentenceBuilder
  • iThoughtsHD (mindmapping)
  • Corkulous (idea board for collecting, organizing, and sharing ideas)
  • ShowMe (interactive whiteboard – record voice-over tutorials and share them online)

Another session was presented by a second grade teacher who talked about students as teachers. His students used flip cameras to teach their classmates a skill. The recording was completed at home, then shared with the class. The tutorials can be found on his Globetrotters wiki page. Think of all the skills occurring as the students created the videos: sequencing, fluency, presentation, planning, vocabulary, and much more. I think something similar would be equally as successful with our students.

Dr. Stephen Wolfram presented the afternoon keynote. He demonstrated Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha (mobile app is available). What he showed was absolutely incredible! I know that some of our upper school students use Wolfram Alpha but I really think it could benefit our Lower School.

BLC11 Day 1

What a fantastic day! Thank goodness the hotel is selling something quick for lunch because there are too many good sessions to take time out to actually sit down somewhere and eat something decent! We started with Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard University. He talked about what happens in a lecture (or rather what doesn’t happen). Lectures transfer information from the instructor to the student but how much does the student really retain. Not much! Students learn to parrot back information and there is a definite lack of retention. Professor Mazur has changed his way of teaching to what he calls peer instruction 2. The steps are:

  • Speak (he gives some information)
  • question
  • poll (done on a website he and others have created; driven by data collection)
  • discuss
  • repoll
  • explain

He had us do a physics problem about thermal expansion following the above method. What I noticed with me is that while he was “lecturing” (giving us background knowledge), I had to struggle to keep my mind from wandering. I kept pulling myself back because I knew we were going to discuss our answer with our neighbor. We were told to try to convince another person that our answer was correct. There was a lot of thinking and collaboration going on. When you have to “prove” something to someone else, you do try harder. Wonderful implications for the classroom!

Every session I attended today was excellent. I need time now to start going through all the information I’ve gathered. I was interested in one session where we discussed the SAMR model; something that I was introduced to at the American School in London.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s sessions bring!

Orchestrating the Collaborative Classroom Workshop

This morning I attended Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s Orchestrating the Collaborative Classroom workshop. It was 4 hours of non-stop fantastic information! She based her subject on Alan November’s The Digital Learning Farm. Silvia provided numerous tools (the instruments) and gave examples on how to use them to transform learning. (In this video, Alan talks about the role of the student as contributor).

Silvia showed a number of applications to us and then gave real-world examples of how she uses them with students. We didn’t just listen! We interacted! Many of the tools she shared I have either used or knew about but what made the session so effective is that we were able to see examples of how they were used in the classroom as well as participating in discussions through the actual use of the tools. The notes to Silvia’s workshop are on her wiki.

The Instruments:

Wikis, Blogs, Google Apps, Podcasts, Backchanneling (Twitter, Today’s Meet), Linoit (online stickies; iPad app available), Skype, LiveBinders, Social Bookmarking (Diigo, Delicious)

Today’s Meet, Linoit, and LiveBinders are ones I want to explore further. Today’s Meet would be a good way for even younger students to backchannel (definitely with guidance!). I can think of lots of ways for teachers to use Linoit with students; such as discussing story elements (groups could be in charge of one story element and add stickies, then all could be pulled together on the SmartBoard).

Silvia then talked about empowering learners by having them take on the roles of researchers, notetakers, tutorial designers, curriculum reviewers, contributors to society, collaboration coordinator. She said it’s time-consuming at the beginning, but once students understand their roles, the “concert begins!”

BLC Pre-Conference: Scratch

I was fortunate to be able to attend another workshop at MIT at the Lifelong Kindergarten Media Lab called Happily Ever After: Digital Storytelling with ScratchScratch is a programming language designed for students ages 8 and up. It reinforces mathematical skills, promotes problem solving, and encourages collaboration. We spent the morning collaborating and creating. We were told that we would be pushed out of our comfort zone, and we were! One activity was to work with a partner to create a story. After 10 minutes or so, we had to move to the next computer and continue that particular story. Again, after a few minutes, we moved on. By the time we returned to our laptop, our story was completely different! Although we hadn’t been “taught” the function of each set of blocks, this was a great way to learn quite a bit about Scratch. As we arrived at each new station we really had to do some quick investigating to determine how the scripts worked. This helped us learn more about how to put the blocks together to get the sprites to respond the way we wanted. Next, we were given about an hour to work on whatever we chose. Since attending the Scratch workshop last year, I’ve struggled with how to work with the broadcast blocks so I worked on an interactive story. Didn’t finish, but that’s okay. I’m just pleased that I was able to come up with a simple story with different backgrounds! We had a “show and tell” time which would also be a great way for students to share ideas with others. I can’t wait to introduce Scratch to students!

Edinburgh

What a busy time we’ve had in a beautiful city! Jennifer has been a fabulous guide (she spent a year at the University of Edinburgh) and has provided us with a wealth of information as she led us around the city.

We met with Joe Marshal, head librarian of rare and valuable books collection at the University of Edinburgh. He gave an incredible behind-the-scenes tour. Imagine looking at (and being able to touch) books that are several hundred years old! We learned about the preservation process, saw Adam Smith’s personal library collection, viewed medieval manuscripts, and much more. It was an amazing experience!

The next appointment was with Dr. Fraser Hunter, curator of Roman Antiquities at the National Museum of Scotland. He gave us a tour of some of his favorite exhibits, providing us with the rich history behind each. It was very interesting to learn about ancient Scottish culture. We truly needed more time; there is so much to see in this museum!   

It’s hard to believe that our trip has come to an end. I’m eager to see my family again but this has been a fantastic journey. I’ve learned so much and can’t wait to share information with our faculty. We were lucky to have good weather a majority of the time (showers are pretty common in the UK). I’m already trying to figure out how I can get back to this part of the world!

On to Cambridge

This morning we left London behind as we traveled by train to Cambridge to meet with Starlitt Newman, a librarian at the Cambridge University Library. Before boarding the train at King’s Cross, we had to have our photo taken at Platform 9 3/4, where Harry Potter caught the Hogwarts Express.

Starr gave us a fantastic tour of more than just the library and some of their special collections. She provided a wonderful overview of Cambridge University as we walked through the streets of the town. We learned quite a bit of history as she guided us through Clare College and King’s College Chapel. It’s amazing to realize that Cambridge’s oldest college was founded in 1284!

Starr worked with the Tower Project which catalogued books published in Britain between 1910 and 1919. One of the featured author/illustrators was Arthur Rackham – illustrator of fairy tales, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and more.

After the tour, we explored more of the town then headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow it’s on to Edinburgh.

Reflections from the Week

This has been an amazing week! There are many, many ideas to take back and implement. First, the SAMR model will be the basis for my plans and my goal is to work with the teachers to encourage them to focus on learning as the goal with technology as the tool – not to use technology only because it’s “cool.”

What I would like to focus on in the coming year would be digital storytelling. I’ve used PhotoStory 3 in the lab but there are so many uses that would be beneficial to students in the classroom. However, when we move to Windows 7, PhotoStory won’t work.  I plan to do more using VoiceThread. What I like about VT is the collaborative nature. Last year we focused on just creating a VT but we didn’t really discuss appropriate comments. This is the year to take it a step further and have the students work collaboratively.

Podcasting is another tool that I want to learn more about. I can see numerous uses in grades K-4.

We were also given suggestions for iPad apps along with ideas on using a single iPad in the classroom. I can’t wait to get my hands on an iPad when we return.

A huge thanks to Leah for the wonderful ideas, for working us hard, and giving us the opportunities to explore and create. Having this conference at ASL has been awesome! Everyone has been wonderful; we have been well-fed too!! As an alum, I found it exciting to return to attend the Learning Institute.