Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Web 2.0 Usergroup Update - Meeting #2

I've met with three of the school-based web 2.0 usergroups (2nd meeting). It is nice to work with smaller groups right in their schools. Each meeting has started with a discussion of Will Richardson's Edutopia article, "The New Face of Learning" ... a great start to any meeting! The teachers are both scared and excited to learn more about web 2.0 tools and seem to really enjoy learning together. By the end of the meeting, the teachers are using bloglines and delicious and will be adding to their accounts throughout the next month. I look forward to hearing about their experiences!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Michigan Electronic Library (MeL)

The Michigan Electronic Library recently had a facelift... a new look, more information, better organization, and a section of resources for educators! Some of the resources are available for all to use, however the databases can only be accessed by Michigan residents. I love the primary source documents area and the new Pathfinders section. Featured resources include, MeL Kids, MeL Teens, and eBooks. Good stuff!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Interview with Michael Wesch

Michael Wesch 

A few posts ago (Journey to web 2.0), I linked to a video that was created by Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University.  I just stumbled upon an interview with him at John Battelle's blog that is a good read.  I was fascinated to learn about the field of cultural anthropology.  In the interview, Michael Wesch said,
"For me, cultural anthropology is a continuous exercise in expanding my mind and my empathy, building primarily from one simple principle: everything is connected. This is true on many levels. First, everything including the environment, technology, economy, social structure, politics, religion, art and more are all interconnected. As I tried to illustrate in the video, this means that a change in one area (such as the way we communicate) can have a profound effect on everything else, including family, love, and our sense of being itself. Second, everything is connected throughout all time, and so as anthropologists we take a very broad view of human history, looking thousands or even millions of years into the past and into the future as well. And finally, all people on the planet are connected. This has always been true environmentally because we share the same planet. Today it is even more true with increasing economic and media globalization."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Organizational Meeting for Web 2.0 Usergroup

The first web 2.0 usergroup meeting had to be rescheduled due to school being closed last week. The rescheduled meeting took place after school yesterday. I was pleased with the turnout - 45 people. I did a short presentation to answer the following questions: What is web 2 .0? Why study/explore web 2.0? What is the purpose of the usergroup? How much time will it take? When and where will we meet? During the presentation, I showed them my blog, bloglines,, flickr, and a wiki. I told them all about my own learning journey and how it allows me to reflect on my professional day-to-day activities, find resources, and connect with others.

By the end of the meeting, those that were there seemed to "get it" and the excitement in the room was evident. I recorded the meeting so that those who could not make the meeting could be kept in the loop in an easy way.

Smaller groups were established and a team leader was identified for each group. There are now 12 smaller groups and the rest of the meetings will be held in the schools to be most convenient for the teachers. The meeting topics were discussed and the teachers agreed that the plan is doable. Most cannot wait to get started.

I haven't been this enthusiastic about any professional development I've facilitated over the past several years. It looks like we're off to a great start. The word got out to other teachers today and more have decided to participate. My calendar is full and I am happy.

I appreciate the advice given to me as I planned for the usergroup from Beth Knittle, who has been doing something similar in her district.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

On-line Learning

I spent an intellectually energizing day on Thursday at the "Michigan Online Learning Experience Symposium." The state of Michigan is the first state to include an on-line learning component as a high school graduation requirement. The requirement will be in place for this year's class of 8th graders, so local school districts need to come up with a plan NOW to determine how to best offer students opportunities that will help them be prepared for college and the global marketplace.

The state offers many choices to school districts: 1) Students can take an on-line class that can be teacher facilitated, blended (FTF and on-line), or teacherless (not recommended). 2) Students participate in a minimum of 20 hours of "on-line experiences" in grades 6-12. or 3) on-line learning integrated in all core academic areas. I have oversimplified the requirements, the full details are included in the state's 20-page guidelines document. I was happy to hear every speaker and facilitator speak about the value of the teacher in on-line learning. The most valuable learning experiences occur only with the guidance of a talented teacher.

One of the keynote speakers brought an international perspective, Susan Patrick. Susan is the CEO of the North American Council of Online Learning. She travels to other countries and stated that she is frightened for the US when she sees other countries digitizing curriculum and using Internet tools as a "regular" practice. She said that the US has beaurocratic barriers to online learning -- our educational system is set up with too many rules.

How can we add valuable on-line learning into our current high school structure? Michigan Virtual High School (MVHS) offers many on-line classes for credit with great success. There is a cost for the classes which prevents many districts from offering MVHS classes. For smaller school districts that are not able to offer a wide variety of classes (such as AP courses), these classes provide the perfect fit for the needs of students with needs that are a bit unique from the masses. The students attend their on-line classes at school, and are assigned to a seat in a computer lab for a class period. The classes are facilitated on-line by a MVHS teacher and a mentor is assigned to the students (a local teacher who encourages and supports the students in their on-line class). This set up is a way to fit the online learning into the rules of US schools - attendance, seat time, report card, etc. I would like to see changes in the rules that would allow students to attend online classes much like adults take online classes - anytime, anywhere. High school students may not be all that motivated to learn chemistry on-line at 7:15am in a computer lab.

Although there are challenges to work through in Michigan to make the new online learning requirement authentic, motivational, and worthwhile for students, I really appreciate the leadership of our state in getting the ball rolling. It took a huge amount of effort and collaboration from many people, from Governor Jennifer Granholm, Michigan Superintendent Mike Flanagan, the state Board of Education, Michigan Dept of Ed's Technology Team, our state's technology leaders (REMC Directors, MACUL, MVU, FTL, Learnport) to individual stakeholders (too many to mention).

I welcome conversations on this topic as local school districts in Michigan establish their plans to provide on-line learning experiences to the students of Michigan.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Journey to Web 2.0

I've been spending time planning for the overview meeting for the Walled Lake Schools Web 2.0 usergroup. I am happy with my plan. I have been collecting resources that might be helpful to participants, and stumbled upon a video titled, "An Inventive Video Journey to Web 2.0." created by Michael Wesch, an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. I enjoyed the remembering the days of HTML web programming, and find it amazing that the changes to all the new web 2.0 tools have taken place in the last 10 years. The video is enjoyable!