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Junior Online Model United Nations: Connecting masters and apprentices [guest post]

jrO-MUN Logo

The Online Model United Nations (O-MUN) program is not only a powerful model of global conflict resolution and community building for students. The fact that the traditional Model United Nations (MUN) academic simulation can now take place online makes O-MUN a powerful example of the evolution of Connected Learning principles (see Scott’s post on Connected Learning). And if O-MUN exemplifies the Connected Learning principles of interest-powered, academically-oriented, peer-supported learning, then Junior Online MUN is a powerful extension of this third principle, in particular. It has transformed peer-supported learning into a global mentoring network.

Junior O-MUN epitomizes apprenticeship in the 21st century. Technology tools such as Edmodo and Mightybell provide the means for middle school delegates and their upper school mentors to come together online where the teaching and learning can occur as part of the fabric of their social lives; where the lines between the academic, the personal, and the social are blurred; where the formal and informal co-exist.

Junior O-MUN epitomizes apprenticeship in the 21st century. Technology tools such as Edmodo and Mightybell provide the means for middle school delegates and their upper school mentors to come together online where the teaching and learning can occur as part of the fabric of their social lives; where the lines between the academic, the personal, and the social are blurred; where the formal and informal co-exist.


Junior Online MUN
(jrO-MUN) is the middle school branch of the O-MUN program. It is specifically designed for students in the middle grades to collaborate and debate with a global network of middle school students and upper school mentors using online community platforms (e.g., Edmodo, and Mightybell) and educational software (i.e., Blackboard Collaborate).

BbC Chat

Through pre-debate collaboration and during the online debate itself, jrO-MUN student leaders provide mentorship and support as young delegates navigate the language and procedures of MUN diplomacy. The chat feature of the Blackboard Collaborate debate room is one example of how O-MUN leverages tech tools to facilitate this kind of interaction.

These technology tools provide the means for young people to come together online where the teaching and learning can occur as a natural extension of their social lives. This is apprenticeship in the 21st century. Technology has freed O-MUN to operate outside of the traditional barriers of geographical location and financial burden, as well as the limitations of school-based learning, which requires everyone to sit down together in the same room at the same time within the constraints of the same school schedule and calendar of activities and often subject to teacher availability. Now, in the jrO-MUN program, student masters and apprentices can interact online to prep for and debate global issues – anywhere, anytime.

When middle school delegates sign up for monthly global debates, they are supported by a team of upper school MUN mentors from the global O-MUN community who serve as jrO-MUN Assistants under the supervision of the jrO-MUN Secretary General and Deputy Secretary Generals, as well as O-MUN Founder & Director, Lisa Martin.

Debate prep follows a monthly cycle of collaboration. Middle school delegates are introduced to the global issue debate topic by the jrO-MUN student leaders, who curate a Mightybell collection of resources. Via Edmodo, the younger delegates introduce themselves and the country they will represent, while continuing to suggest research links for Mightybell. As the debate cycle moves ahead, the delegates post country policy statements and eventually propose resolution clauses for the debate, connecting with each other to build alliances and develop arguments. Meanwhile, MUN directors have the luxury of simply observing the Edmodo collaboration, as the team of jrO-MUN Assistants pick up where the lone teacher would traditionally have operated. The Assistants post and reply alongside their young apprentices in the jrO-MUN Edmodo Group, providing individual feedback and group-wide updates, all the while modeling the language and practice of diplomacy.

Edmodo and Mightybell support the jrO-MUN Groups/Communities where the collaborative MUN debate preparation takes place.

Edmodo and Mightybell support the jrO-MUN Groups/Communities where the collaborative MUN debate preparation takes place.

The social context of apprenticeship in this model is essential and the online platforms make this possible. Young delegates have access to a variety of veterans, helping them to understand that there are multiple ways of thinking about international diplomacy and helping them to appreciate a diversity of perspectives to global issue problem-solving. Young delegates have the opportunity to observe others grappling with the issues and completing various tasks in the debate prep cycle. They also see the mentor feedback provided for others so they can self-correct. In this way, the middle school students come to understand that learning is a process but also that there are benchmarks indicating success. Compare this to the limited impact of a single MUN teacher-coach (sometimes managing 30, 50, or even 80 delegates) and the exponential nature of the advantages becomes even more apparent. In fact, even if a student moves to a new school, they can enjoy the continuity of the O-MUN program and the O-MUN community. The jrO-MUN mentoring model derives many important characteristics from the fact that all participants are embedded in a community of practitioners, all practicing and discussing the target skills.

“When I first started MUN many years ago, I learnt primarily from my senior delegates, since there is only so much time a MUN coach can offer. Looking back, I now realize the importance of guidance from strong MUN role models in becoming a strong delegate. Now, as a senior delegate myself, jrO-MUN allows me and other experienced high school delegates to engage in this “pay it forward” system on a far larger scale. Through the jrO-MUN program, experienced MUN student leaders give tutorials on essential MUN skills such as composing and delivering opening speeches. Furthermore, via the social learning platform Edmodo, jrO-MUN Assistants help delegates through the process of researching, writing country position statements, collaboratively composing resolutions, preparing arguments and anticipating counter-arguments, and finally through lobbying and the culminating debate. The jrO-MUN program enjoys all the advantages of Online MUN, but it is perhaps even more relevant to these younger delegates because they get strong guidance from experienced mentors, without needing to worry about monetary or logistical burdens.” - jrO-MUN Secretary General Rohan Sinha (Taipei American School, Taiwan)

The jrO-MUN program pushes past traditional boundaries of time and space to bring together masters and apprentices to solve global issues. In the example below, Edmodo allows Jasper, who will represent India from his home in Taiwan, to be mentored by Omar, a jrO-MUN Assistant and the Deputy Secretary General of Africa regional debates, who lives in Egypt.

“There’s something very motivating about being part of the online MUN community – perhaps it’s just the kind of dedication that O-MUN attracts – but among our delegates, there seems to be a constant drive to participate, and more importantly to improve. It’s been humbling to watch the zeal with which even our middle school participants approach MUN preparation and debate. I’ve seen complete novices transform into confident delegates in the space of a year. The passion and leadership that O-MUN fosters is truly inspirational to me … as I’m sure it is to our many delegates, too.” - jrO-MUN Deputy Secretary General Sheyna Cruz (Singapore American School, Singapore)

“Mentorship is one of the most crucial and integral parts of the jrO-MUN program because it ensures the quality of our debates and allows delegates of all levels to further their knowledge. The quality of mentorship is one of the key factors explaining the quality of jrO-MUN debates and the success of this program in general. Increasingly, jrO-MUN mentors are graduating from the pool of previous jrO-MUN participants. At this point, it’s just an amazing cycle: experienced MUN delegates continue to raise the standards and expectations of jrO-MUN debates while the younger generation of delegates strives to attain and exceed the standards set by the previous generation.” - jrO-MUN Deputy Secretary General Jessica Chen (Taipei American School, Taiwan)

Through this junior online program, MUN delegates are gaining extra MUN debate preparation, practice, and performance as well as the opportunity to network and collaborate with middle school and upper school students with whom they may well debate face-to-face at future MUN conferences around the world. For example, around 40 students who participated in the November jrO-MUN Global Debate from as far afield as Jordan, India, and Taiwan are looking forward to continuing their collaboration in person at a February MUN conference to be held in Singapore!

jrO-MUN Tutorial: Pre-conference practice session prior to a traditional f2f MUN conference

Online MUN was not developed simply to increase MUN student numbers and events. It was developed to take advantage of new educational technologies in order to build a global community that more closely models the true purpose of the United Nations. To paraphrase the United Nation Charter Preamble, the role of the UN is to provide us with the ability to build community, unite our strength, and work together for a better future and the advancement of all.

The most critical aspect of O-MUN program growth thus is this very deliberate and explicit cultivation of a culture of mentorship. Connecting masters and apprentices has been every bit as important as simply starting students earlier with MUN. By creating a cross-divisional mentoring network and building bridges between middle school and upper school MUN participants with open source technology tools, O-MUN is able to unite their strengths and work for the advancement of all.

Previously in this series

Kristin Rowe is the jrO-MUN Assistant Director and Middle School MUN Coordinator at Taipei American School, a THIMUN O-MUN Partner School. O-MUN Taiwan operates under the directorship of Darby Sinclair, the Upper School MUN Coordinator. Together, they coordinate Taipei American School’s annual junior MUN Conference (TASMUN). 

Online Model United Nations: Raising our voices [guest post]

My first contact with Online Model United Nations (O-MUN) was in my sophomore year of high school. At the time, I approached the program with some degree of caution; after all, although I had done a substantial amount of Model United Nations (MUN), I had never heard of its existence online. MUN was supposed to be in real time, face-to-face, wasn’t it? How was an online MUN program even possible, let alone practical?

The extensive MUN program at my school had already served me well. By the end of my sophomore year, I had done MUN in three continents and I wanted more. However, clear barriers existed which prevented me from acquiring more experience. After all, traveling expenses, geographical distance, restrictions on face-to-face meetings, and time off school ultimately set a conference limit and a school only has so many human resources.

O-MUN1                                         OMUN2

The Online MUN debate platform is a Blackboard Collaborate room, where traditional elements of a f2f conference are replicated online – for example, delegates raising their placards to indicate they are ready to take the floor. O-MUN student leaders run monthly Tech Check sessions for new delegates and students quickly adjust to the debate room environment.

My first online conference, however, was the game-changer. With the friendly accents of delegates from over four continents, with the sheer intensity of debate over the South China Sea archipelagos, with the voices of students my age hungry to make a positive difference, a feeling of belonging stirred within me. I felt connected to a group of people who, like me, were filled with raw idealism in hoping to help others. I was empowered – I could now influence and be influenced by change-makers from over fifty countries.

With Online MUN I can debate multiple times every month, and with far greater authenticity due to the international nature of the program. It is not uncommon to be in a committee with delegates from three continents, some of whom are directly tied to the conflict in question. In my opinion, it is this democratization of a more authentic MUN experience that separates the MUN of today from the MUN of tomorrow.

The middle school delegates of jrO-MUN (Junior Online MUN), many of them new to MUN, are particularly appreciative of the way this online simulation is democratizing the MUN experience. They recognize that jrO-MUN brings an authentic experience of international diplomacy to their fingertips. They see that jrO-MUN is giving them a voice. Middle School delegates who are fully capable and passionate about debating are often denied early MUN access due to resources. They may have to wait their turn while older students take up travel team positions and have their overseas adventures, but junior delegates no longer have to wait for a genuinely globe-spanning MUN debate.

OMUN3

Secretary General, Rohan Sinha, sets up the interface for a Security Council simulation. Junior O-MUN is also integrating crisis scenarios into traditional face-to-face debates using the O-MUN platform, an exciting addition to middle school MUN programs.

Over the past year, as jrO-MUN Secretary General, I have had the opportunity to lead and learn from students all around the world; from my laptop at home in Taiwan to the lecture halls of Georgetown University in Qatar and the assembly halls of The Hague in the Netherlands. More than ever before, I realize the power of exposure – early exposure – to different voices with shared passions. O-MUN sets the stage for this chorus.

Previously in this series

Rohan Sinha serves as the Global Secretary General of Junior Online MUN (jrO-MUN), the middle school partner program to O-MUN. Currently a high school junior at Taipei American School, Rohan started MUN in seventh grade and since then has debated in conferences in Taipei, Berlin, New York, and Qatar. He also founded and leads his school’s International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, after having won the Gold Medal at the college iGEM competition at MIT with the NYMU Taipei team.

The nuts and bolts of online debating [guest post]

THIMUN Online Model United Nations evolved around (mostly) free and open source technology tools and today revolves around three, interrelated parts: our website, our Blackboard Collaborate suite of conference rooms, and our social media network. Each of these pieces plays a part in creating an online community that is both student-centered and capable of delivering information in a timely fashion. Much of O-MUN’s development has been experimenting with this combination of pieces, finding ways to make them work seamlessly with each other, and searching for other options when they have not.

Website: Our current website feels a little bit like a driving a Ferrari – way too powerful a machine for someone who just got a driver’s license. Our website is run off a Drupal platform: not exactly user-friendly, but full of possibility. We burned through our wiki and our WordPress site in a matter of months. As we grew and attempted to add more functionality to our website (something we felt was important because we didn’t want the program driven entirely off Facebook), these two options filled a need but quickly became too limiting.  Currently we run our blogs and debate registrations off our new home, and we hope to include messaging, forums, and additional program websites in the future. Students and MUN Directors are encouraged to register on the site and, once approved, may then sign in, click on a debate event, and register to debate. Goodbye Google Surveys, a system we outgrew and that was becoming far too cumbersome for our needs.

Blackboard (Bb) Collaborate Conference Rooms: O-MUN’s first conference room was a 50-seat room that we won in a Learn Central  competition. The following year we were generously provided a room by The Hague International Model United Nation’s office in Qatar (THIMUN Q). When we needed more than one room, they updgraded our license. O-MUN now has 18 rooms, with various parts of the program each having their own specialized room (jrO-MUN, ICJ, Security Council, Asia, France, etc.) This is the only significant piece of kit that we pay for. We have not found suitable alternatives but Blackboard’s pricing structure is madly frustrating and does not adequately address the needs of small, non-profit with inconsistent first-time user numbers. Customer support also can be a bit dicey, particularly if you are not a large institutional customer. Having said that, it offers everything we need and the students find it easy to use!

Symbaloo is the only way I can keep our multiple room links straight.

Symbaloo is the only way I can keep our multiple room links straight

Students log into the Bb conference room as their country using the following protocol +China (name). This allows participants to be placed in alphabetical order. Guests log in as ‘guest’ and sink to the bottom. Moderators/Chairs log in with their name (position), with the exception of Amendments. An amendment student logs in as “amendments.’ When a delegate wants to submit a proposed change to the resolution being debated, she sends it via private message to this moderator. We only use the audio feature in Bb since 30-60 students with multiple bandwidth issues would make video streaming too difficult. You can hear an example of a debate and what it sounds like.

             Debate_Global

Behind the scenes a WHOLE LOT OF ACTION is happening. Students, upon initiation into this moderating world, describe it as a ‘rush,’ ‘wild,’ ‘hairy,’ a ‘multi-tasker’s nirvana.’ All moderators (and it takes a minimum of five to run a debate) are logged into a Skype group for backchannel communication. The tally moderator and the chair are logged into a shared Google doc to track every speech and question and update that in real time. The amendment’s moderator (the most challenging moderating position) is fielding private chats (amendments), copying those into a separate Skype group so that these can be reviewed with the chair, and operating a TitanPad (similar to Google docs) that is pulled into the Bb room via a web tour.  The Chair and Co-Chair calmly officiate over the debate but behind the scenes the tally mod is tracking participation, the chat mods are reviewing ALL private communications to check for suitability and appropriateness, and the amendments moderator is working the Titan Pad. ALL of them are on Skype, messaging hints, calling for assistance, offering encouragement. One or two university students – and usually myself – are present to oversee all of this but it is, for the most part, a student-run show.

And the best part? These students are usually on separate continents. It is very common to have a chair and co-chair from the USA and United Arab Emirates, chat mods from Taiwan and Jordan, an Amendments mod from Nigeria, and a tally mod from Lebanon or Tanzania. Throw in an Assistant Director from Somalia or Hong Kong and you’ll see just how crazily amazing this gets.  In a recent debate, we had participants from over 30 countries log in synchronously for a 90-minute debate on reaching the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal on universal primary education.

Social Media: It all started with Facebook but we do engage with some of our delegates via Twitter, using #omun and @onlinemun to communicate. Students recently set up a Tumblr account to engage in some of the sillier outreach we like to do: photo competitions, videos, and the like. Online Model United Nations has a LinkedIn Business page as well. But it really has been about Facebook. We have regional groups, moderating groups, leadership groups, working groups, and travel team groups. It’s a lot of Facebook but it is where students are. I now use social media like many of my students – friending and unfriending students to form alliances, to get information, and to network. Since email has become oh-so-20th-century to many of these millennials, I am more apt to communicate with them via private messaging than any other form of communication. In the evening here in the Middle East, my computer and iPad ping and squawk for hours as the messaging occurs in a steady stream.

FB  FB_message_SC

So that’s our world, developed fully-online by students from around the globe. But technology is just part of the equation here and, in my opinion, the smallest part of a larger story. The next several blog posts will give you a glimpse into the transformative nature of this program. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from the students who have worked so hard to build THIMUN Online Model United Nations.

Previously in this series

Lisa Martin is a 20+ year educator who has worked in places as far flung as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, San Diego, and, now, Amman, Jordan. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Online Model United Nations and would love to connect with like-minded educators. You can find her just about everyplace online, including FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

The rhetoric of most educational technology ‘solutions’ is vastly overblown

Clicker

Justin Reich says:

if you are building things that are familiar, how are they going to substantially change education?

If our problems are mere inefficiencies – if we need students doing basically exactly what they’ve been doing before but faster – then the gambit of building apps that mirror typical classroom practices will work out great.

If you think that the problems in classrooms are not just about kids doing things a little faster, but doing different things than is current practice, then you need to build things that will be unfamiliar. If your technology is unfamiliar, you need to patiently build a network of educators experimenting with your ideas, reshaping systems – bells, exams, furniture, devices – to accomodate your new technology into a new vision. Initially, these people won’t buy your weirdness; you will practically have to pay them to implement your new ideas.

You, hungry entrepreneur, … you are going to take some familiar feature of classroom experience – the textbook, the flashcard, the lecture, the worksheet, the sticker, the behavior chart – and you will digitize that feature.

Wrapped in a language of transformation and disruption, the ed-tech start-up scene is profoundly conservative.

Our problems in schools go far beyond mere inefficiencies. Are inefficiencies rampant? Absolutely. Can various learning and management technologies help address these inefficiencies? Absolutely. Does merely addressing inefficiencies result in educational ‘transformation?’ Of course not. The rhetoric of most educational technology ‘solutions’ is vastly overblown…

Image credit: Clicker, Tom Magliery

Big Brother would love the Amplify tablet

Amplifytablet

A recent New York Times story said:

[Joel] Klein, the former chancellor of New York City schools and the current chief executive of Amplify, News Corporation’s fledgling education division, will take the stage for a surprising announcement. Amplify will not sell just its curriculum on existing tablets, but will also offer the Amplify Tablet, its own 10-inch Android tablet for K-12 schoolchildren.

In addition to tablets and curriculum, Amplify will also provide schools with infrastructure to store students’ data.

An early look at the Amplify tablet revealed a sleek touch screen with material floating against a simple background. If a child’s attention wanders, a stern “eyes on teacher” prompt pops up. A quiz uses emoticons of smiley and sad faces so teachers can instantly gauge which students understand the lesson and which need help.

“We wanted to use the language of the Web,” said Stephen Smyth, president of Amplify Access, the division that produces the tablet, which is manufactured by Asus.

Outside the classroom, children can use it to play games, like one in which Tom Sawyer battles the Brontë sisters.

I predict (hope) this whole venture will be a complete bust. Not just because the market isn’t exactly clamoring for another Android tablet. Not just because the Android apps ecosystem isn’t as robust for P-12 students as Apple’s. Not just because having historical literary characters battle each other is both educationally dubious and less than engaging to today’s students. The ‘eyes on teacher’ announcements, the built-in ability to monitor students’ screens at all time, the student response system features, extensive back-end ‘data’ collection and analysis, the push-out from the teacher to all students’ screens, pre-loaded tools, filtering software, teacher-created content playlists, one-button device tracking / locking / erasure … nearly everything about this initiative screams replication and amplification of traditional instructional techniques in which teachers are the focal point and students are passive recipients. All of the features touted by Amplify are ones that amplify control over students’ learning with computers. Need further evidence? Here’s a quote from Klein:

The teacher can personalize (the tablet.)  A teacher can also click on and see what skills (the student) has mastered.

Notice who’s ‘personalizing’ the device. Notice who’s using data analytics to monitor skill mastery. Not the student, that’s for sure.

Who’s going to buy these devices? My guess is probably some large, vulnerable urban districts with deep pockets who 1) are susceptible to the big-time sell from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, 2) think that Joel Klein’s work in New York City somehow was successful and worth adopting (despite lots of evidence to the contrary), and 3) think that a desirable feature for student technologies is the ability to lock them down and control them as much as possible. That means even more instances where poor kids will yet again experience being programmed by computers rather than having the ability to use technology in meaningful, authentic, relevant, and powerful ways.

Aurasma: What could you do with augmented reality in your school? [VIDEO]

Last fall I demonstrated a couple of augmented reality (AR) apps to some of my workshop participants at the NESA Leadership Conference in Athens, Greece (yes, we were there during the riots). One of those apps was Aurasma, which allows you to connect digital content with real-world objects. No company-provided cardboard squares to lose, no special paper to print, no what-the-heck-are-these QR codes – just the ordinary objects around you. For example, imagine that you point your iPhone at a picture of a platypus and the Wikipedia platypus page pops up on your screen. Or imagine your students pointing their iPads at a drawing of a DNA helix on the walls of your science classroom and the Crazy Plant Shop genetics game launches. Or imagine a mother at your school’s Parent Night pointing her Android phone at her kid’s 3D clay sculpture and a video pops up of her daughter discussing her art. Or imagine a diabetic student pointing his smartphone at his school lunch and the nutrition menu appears, complete with carbohydrate counts. Or …

I think the ability to connect virtual content with real-world objects holds a lot of learning potential, particularly if we teach kids how to create their own real-world AR objects (and the background content to which those objects link). What ideas do you have for how AR – particularly AR linked to real-world objects – might be used for learning and informational purposes?

Oh, and for your viewing pleasure, here’s Matt Mills explaining in his TED talk how Aurasma works. Happy viewing!

Web sites that review education apps

TimeForApps

Apps. Lots and lots and LOTS of apps. Half a million and counting in Apple’s App Store… As iPads and iPod Touches become more prevalent in schools, educators often are overwhelmed by the sheer size and diversity of the apps ecosystem: How do I know which apps are good for my kids? Is there an app out there that will help my students with this learning goal? How can I tell if an app is great or junk?

Thankfully, others have stepped up to help educators curate apps that have learning value. Here is my list of web sites that review and/or share educational apps that work on Apple devices:

The list focuses on sites dedicated specifically to education apps, not sites that include apps and other educational technology resources as well. If you know of an education apps site that I’m missing, please add it to the list.

Does your school organization have a systematic way of sharing excellent learning apps with educators and/or parents? If not, maybe it’s time to initiate one!

[Continuing what I hope will be a month-long wave of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them…]

Image credit: Time for Apps, Bigstock

Focusing on superintendents: 5 technology leadership articles from AASA

AASA logo

Kicking off what I hope is an awesome, seemingly-endless month of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them, today I thought I’d share 5 technology leadership articles from AASA’s School Administrator magazine. All 5 focus on superintendents and feature either my thinking or my research.

  1. Blocking the future (May 2008). Superintendents may not have all the answers but they should at least have the right mindset. Are your leaders’ primary orientations toward enabling or blocking? 
  2. Rethinking technology restrictions in school (April 2012). Prohibition (i.e., overly-restrictive technology filtering and blocking) doesn’t work, whether for alcohol or school technology. It’s also inconsistent with how administrators approach non-technology-related school discipline issues.
  3. Responsibility for asking the right questions (November 2007). Superintendents may not be technology-savvy themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ask better questions.
  4. The most important tool you probably don’t know (September 2011). RSS readers can be incredibly powerful tools for superintendents’ professional and personal learning.
  5. Online credentials: A state of wariness (September 2010). More teachers are getting their principal credentials from online Educational Leadership programs. But are they able to get jobs? This article highlights some of my research and was authored by my primary research partner and CASTLE Co-Director, Dr. Jayson Richardson.

Happy reading!

Digital Learning Day: The aftermath

Dldlogo

Well, yesterday was Digital Learning Day. By all accounts, it was a busy day across the country. Lots of conversation and high-profile events and demonstrations of students doing cool stuff with technology…

Should every school day be Digital Learning Day? Nope. We still need down time from these electronic and virtual spaces of ours, times when we experience the joy of human connection, nature, solitude, reflection (and all of those other things that people say I should be experiencing!). But, nonetheless, we definitely need ‘more digital, more often’ in most of our primarily-analog schools, so it was good to have a nationwide day that reminds us of the power of digital learning.

Here are a few things that caught my eye from the unrelenting stream of educational technology news yesterday:

  1. Instructure Canvas is now available to P-12 educators. If you’re interested in a better learning management system, you definitely should check out what Canvas has to offer. Canvas is free for individual teachers and professors. Set up a Canvas account and start playing around with it for a course; you’ll quickly see why its social media integration and other features blow the doors off of Blackboard or Moodle. Here are some other materials to get you started: overview videoPark City case study, Rockingham case studyteacher data sheetadministrator data sheet.
  2. The online Student Opinion section from The New York Times is full of fascinating commentary and insights from youth. Hear from students 13 and older about learning, teaching, technology, and other issues. Similarly, also see the StudentsSpeak section of the MacArthur Foundation’s Spotlight web site. There is great material at both locations to mine for instruction and conversation purposes.
  3. Speaking of student voice, check out Using media to (re)claim the hood: Essential questions and powerful English pedagogy. Then see I love my city: Youth as community problem solvers and creators in 21st century classrooms. After that, be sure to investigate the other amazing resources and ideas for teaching writing in a digital, hyperconnected world at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is web site. And then, before you collapse from exhaustion from all of this awesomeness, go visit Youth Voices. There, those will keep you busy for a while!
  4. Apparently some students got to testify before the Ohio House of Representatives about digital learning. I love to see tweets like this one or this one. In contrast, I’m not so enthused about tweets like this one (from a district in Alabama).
  5. The current issue of AASA’s School Administrator magazine focuses on P-12 laptop initiatives, particularly issues related to learning, teaching, affordability, and planning. Districts profiled include Mooresville (NC), Pascack Valley (NJ), and a host of others, including Van Meter (IA), Owensboro (KY), and Piedmont City (AL).
  6. Other things that I found yesterday included a great story on students with autism spectrum disorder using Google SketchUp, information about teaching digital literacy through game design, the Oakridge Elementary (VA) blog featuring book reviews written by elementary students, and news about the plan by MIT and Lego to bring robotics and coding to young children.

And, of course, we here at CASTLE were busy too. We launched our new online School Technology Leadership graduate certificate, Master’s, and Ph.D. programs. We also gave our 1-to-1 Schools blog a visual makeover and opened registration for the 3rd annual Iowa 1:1 Institute, an event that focuses on high-quality learning and teaching in P-12 laptop programs. Last year we had over 1,300 participants for the Institute. Maybe this year you’ll join us on April 11!

If you were on Twitter

TrappedDear educator, if you were on Twitter yesterday, you might have found:

  1. this awesome reflection about working with a teacher on technology integration; or
  2. these resources about ‘learning styles’ and whether they’re a myth; or
  3. this list of ideas about how to rethink awards ceremonies; or
  4. this list of 100 free apps to check out for that new iPad you just bought; or
  5. this update about the thousands of new online resources that PBS will provide you starting this fall; or
  6. these fabulous summer reads from The Atlantic; or
  7. these tips for using students’ interests in online video to make ‘book trailers’; or
  8. this story on how student gardens change attitudes and teach nutrition; or
  9. these suggestions for integrating iPads into your teaching; or
  10. this post about self-evident assessment; or
  11. these resources for reworking your acceptable use policies; or
  12. this list of useful web sites for creating outlines; or
  13. these award-winning chemistry videos; or
  14. these instructions on how to make self-grading quizzes; or
  15. this video about students developing their own learning paths; or
  16. these great ideas for doing Webquests in your classroom; or
  17. these tips for effective team teaching; or
  18. these 10 simple cooking tips that you wish someone had told you earlier; or
  19. this story about how teachers are accommodating students’ mobile phones for learning; or
  20. these incredible photos from the space shuttle Endeavor’s final mission.

But you weren’t on Twitter yesterday, so it’s likely that you saw none of this. And, yes, you probably also would have seen someone posting a picture of some strawberries or talking about how they just went to their kid’s Little League game. Or some friendly banter between friends. Or even someone chatting about walking their dog or the great sandwich that they just ate. Good grief, who posts that stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do with their lives?

Instead of being on Twitter yesterday, perhaps you were talking with your neighbors over the back fence. That’s a real relationship, isn’t it? Not like those so-called online ‘friendships’ where people ‘like’ each other. That back fence relationship is great, isn’t it? Almost every day you share little tidbits with each other. Much of it is banal or just friendly chatter, but much of it also is useful: where’s the best place to get this, how can I find that, do you have any suggestions for how best to accomplish this other thing, by the way I saw this thing today that might interest you, and so on. At some point you also realized that those small day-to-day interactions over the back fence about each others’ strawberries and Little League games and dog walks and sandwiches have somehow added up to something more enduring: lasting friendships and a positive interdependency that you never would have anticipated at the beginning.

Because you’re not on Twitter, what you don’t realize is that Twitter is the back fence you share with your neighbors. Except your neighbors are people all over the world who share your interests and passions and can help you accomplish your personal and professional goals. Every day you have a chance to learn from these online neighbors. Every day you have a chance to receive resources that you otherwise never would have found. Every day you have a chance to intersect with people who care about what you care about and are willing to help you be more productive and save time. And much of it is banal or just friendly chatter, but much of it also is useful.

What’s that? You don’t want to be part of a community that shares your interests? You don’t have time to learn? You’d rather not receive helpful resources? Oh, okay. Good for you, I guess.

Why, again, dear educator, aren’t you on Twitter?

Image credit: Twitter

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