Tag Archives: education

No Such Thing As A Free NING? … Look What I Found!

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This post is dedicated to all of those NING users, like myself, that are wondering if a paid service from NING is an option to examine, or is there still a free alternative? After all, I have always like the price of free. In this free posting I share my epic  one hour journey as I searched for a free NING. While I relate my travels, I do uncover a possibility by the end of this post!  Join me on twitter (@mjgormans) and please continue to read as we possibly uncover a free like NING entity!  Enjoy… – Mike

Yes, it is true!  By now you are aware that NING will be changing its marketing policy with a new emphasis on a pay service as outlined in this recent article from CNET. Perhaps the new charges will be well worth it and should even include enhanced features! While this is very possible, my first reaction to this news was to search for services that are already a lot like the NING I have always enjoyed. I even wanted to find it  at a price I have become familiar with. For me, that includes a hosted service that  costs less then one cent.  So, like many of you may have already done, I searched and searched!  I read tweet upon tweet! I even looked through Blogs from people much more knowledgeable then myself. I realize that replacing an already existing  NING site may be almost impossible. I was only looking for a site that may help those wanting to set up a small professional development learning community.

I of course found open source  Drupal, and Elgg! There is even Dutch software called Barnraiser.  I am sure these are awesome community building software pieces, but like the people I share with; I am an educator. I integrate technology to engage learners!  I need a service that provides the server, hosting, and ease of use. Of course Facebook could be an option for those clever individuals able to convince the proper individuals in their learning communities to unblock it! But then some school officials are afraid of Wallwisher, a very strange fear for those who enjoy building walls! I did come across a message from Posterous that gave an encouraging message that stated it would be building a NING Blog importer! I felt I was getting closer!

Now I know there are a lot of social networking sites but I was looking for one that reminded me of my free old friend. In my final minutes of this dedicated hour I stumbled upon  Webs.com.  On their site they state, “We provide all the tools you need to create a professional looking website in just minutes. Create a site and community where anyone can connect and collaborate“. There was the C word I had been looking for! There was even a button to learn more. The text kept telling me what I wanted to hear, “At Webs, we provide all the tools you need to create a professional-looking website in just minutes. Add a blog, forum, calendar, photo gallery, video gallery and much more. Want to turn your site into a social network? No problem! You also have the ability to add members and create personal profiles so you can turn your site into a community where friends, colleagues and family can connect and collaborate“. I kept reading the included features; over 300 templates, easy to use page editor, organize and share photos, show and share video, communicate through blogs and forums, set dates and events on calendar, and access and add widgets from around the web. I set up a site and it asked who I would like to invite to my community! There was even the option and the ability to add new communities! You  may wish to look at over thirty video tutorials that are available at the web site.  Best of all the price was free and included up to 40 mb storage.

No, I am not sure if  Webs is the answer to the loss of a free NING, but it does have  some of the same capabilities.  Even if it is not a NING replacement it  appears to be a pretty powerful web site builder. There are even education templates complete with areas for assignments, handouts, and resource.  My hour of searching had ended and I will allow you to  be the judge if I even came close to accomplishing my goal. I am happy to say that the only cost to me was 60 minutes!  By the way if you have any comments, alternatives, or suggestions… please share. It doesn’t cost a thing!

Thanks for joining me for another venture into the world of 21st Century Learning. You can follow me twitter (@mjgormans) and the only cost is my follow back so I can learn from you! Please take a moment to subscribe by RSS or email and you are always welcome to visit me at my 21centuryedtech Wiki!  Have a great week! – Mike

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NCAA Bracketology: Classroom Lessons Never Taught. It’s Madness!

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Welcome to a midweek post with my mix of educational ideas with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It is amazing the impact that the NCAA tournament has on students. In this reflection I would like to share a story and dream about educational transformation.  We must learn to put into practice some of the best lessons never taught!

It was twenty minutes before the first school bell would ring, signifying the beginning of another day of learning. Students were beginning to enter and fill the classroom.  There was air of extreme excitement as the teacher looked from nook to corner. It was a typical room filled with students, desks, chairs, and a few computers. This morning seemed to be different from the others. The teacher stood perplexed, in awe of an  amazing event that was beginning to unfold. Students were using computers and  printers to produce what appeared to be a complicated worksheet. Some kids were on the floor while others were seated at tables eagerly filling the paper out! Their eyes were filled with inquiry and enthusiasm as they completed the graphical sheet from top to bottom! It was definitely a worksheet experience like no other the teacher had ever witnessed! Upon closer inspection the teacher realized the students had searched for and found the new NCAA Basketball Brackets.

The teacher watched students engaged in a true spirit of collaboration, as they learned from each other some interesting facts about various college teams. Geography was a main topic, as students discovered using Google Maps, the location of various universities. The teacher could hear students compare and contrast strengths and weakness of the various competitors, while others children used mathematics to perform some comparative scoring.  There was a massive research symposium, as students looked on the internet to find out what the experts of the newly found science of “Bracketology” thought!  Some students came to the teacher ready to present their reasoning for their selections and amazingly showcased their persuasion skills. Any observer would have been amazed by the thought, creativity, and reflections that the students were able to share. It appeared that that the students were in control of this special learning experience. They had created their own lesson with an engagement based on their interest in the real world. It was much like watching a game of neighborhood baseball long before the advent of sanctioned  leagues and teams.

The twenty minutes were soon past as the bell  rang, and announced yet another day of learning. The Brackets Papers were put away, while the room came to a silent halt. Students left their collaborative groups and sat in their individual seats. They pulled out a worksheet, some only half filled out, assigned  from the day before. The teacher initiated a lecture entitled ” Making Predictions Using Compare and Contrast”. The students  appeared to listen as they took notes. After all this was an important standard to be repeated for a test. What a change the bell had made.  The March of Madness was over.  It was now a time to learn!

Thanks for joining me on another reflection of 21st Century Learning! Please take a moment and follow me on Twitter (@mjgormans), I will return the favor and we will learn from one another. You are also welcome to visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki filled with free and amazing resources. As you make your pick for the NCAA Basketball Tournament make sure the real winner is your facilitation of 21st century educational transformation! Put the kids in center court!  Please feel free to leave any comments and have a great week – Mike

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Sweetsearch: More Than A Free Search Engine For K12 Education!

Imagine a powerful search engine created for students containing sites that have that have been evaluated and approved by a staff of Internet research experts. I am sure you would consider that a sweet search engine, which is what this post is all about. Welcome to another posting guaranteed to facilitate educators committed to transforming education and instilling the twenty-first century skills. Thanks for stopping by and ,as always, please follow me on Twitter at (mjgorman), I will return the favor and we can learn from one another. Also, be sure to visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki filled with great resources. Now enjoy this sweet information!- Mike

Sweetsearch is owned by Dulcinea Media, a company committed to supplying students with a search engine that returns results that are accurate, reliable, safe, and understandable. Instead of having students sift through millions of web sites, the research experts, educators, and librarians at Dulcinea have created a database of 35,000 sites that students have access to in their searches. As a result, SweetSearch excludes results from unreliable sites that rank high in other search engines.  This allows  students to choose the most relevant result from a list of credible returns, rather than having  educational time wasted on unreliable sites. Since Sweetsearch is powered by Google, it does allow the ability to toggle results between Google and Sweetsearch.

While Sweetsearch is valuable for trimming down results, perhaps its greatest strength is  hidden in its other valuable resources. It is the addition of these extra ingredients that makes Sweetsearch a rich tool for the 21st Century classroom. One such valuable resource is  Sweetsearch Biographies. This portion of the site allows users to filter profiles of more than 1,000 inspiring people by profession, gender, and race/national origin. They can be  viewed in a profile created by Dulcinea Media (for those individuals in their database) followed by a search results page for the person. Another must visit area in Sweetsearch is the outstanding collection of web-links referred to as Sweetsites.  This is a selection of great web resources for classroom use that are free, intuitively organized, and accessible. There is a section for teachers with resources for elementary, middle, and high school. There is also a similar section for students also arranged by elementary, middle, and high school.  Sweetsites will help satisfy the rich appetite necessary for supplying students with engaging resources intent on facilitating 21st Century learning.

The related site, Finding Dulcinea, is just as sweet! At this site, the first area to explore is Web Guides . This section provides a road map for exploring hundreds of topics online. It includes links to some of the best resources, ordered logically, and woven with narrative, insights, and research strategies. The Web Guide categories include a good selection of  academic subjects, as well as health, technology, careers, and other topics. Another section, titled On This Day, covers a broad array of intriguing historical events. Once again it  links to some outstanding online resources that give a full description of the event – what led up to it, what happened that day, and most importantly, what has happened since. These articles contain citations to the on-line resources where the information was found.  The Happy Birthday section of the site celebrates inspiring people, both historic and contemporary. These people are from all cultures and walks of life. The articles contain a biographical profile that links to accurate and reliable online information about the person. The last major section, Beyond the Headlines, provides a total view of topics in the news by cohesively weaving together information from multiple sources. It attempts to give students a  total picture by offering opposing viewpoints on controversial topics.  Be sure to read the  Finding Dulcinea Blog, explore the Finding Education Website, sign up for the newsletter, and watch a video that outlines all of the web site’s features. Finding Dulcinea is also available in Spanish, a great resource for foreign language and ESL classrooms.

I am sure you will find in both Sweetsearch and Finding Dulcinea sites that are rich in content, high in 21 Century calories, and diverse enough to please all appetites for learning. Please feel free to share your findings as you continue to explore the exciting 21st Century Education menu of items. As always, please follow me on Twitter at (mjgorman). I will return the favor and we can learn from one another. Also be sure to visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki filled with great resources. Have a sweet week! – Mike

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Free Software To Make That Flip Video Experience Even Better!

Ever had trouble getting those flip video files into Windows Movie Maker or your preferred video editor? This midweek post of 21centuryedtech focuses on a free piece of software that really does make integrating the Flip Video camera with Windows Movie Maker easy. Outside of that, it is truly a great video and audio transfer program that has a multitude of uses in student and teacher productions of movies and podcasts! Try this and other great ideas and resources found at the 21centuryedtech Wiki! As always follow me at www.twitter.com/mjgormans – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

It really is time to do a double flip for your Flip video camera as you find ways to integrate with free Windows Movie Maker. I recently purchased 30 Flip Video Camera for student use!  They have been a hit as have the movies that students have produced. While others may not, I did experience problems with the Flip Software (too simplistic) and using the video files on various computers and networks. I did a triple flip when I found the free product Any Video Converter.  This powerful yet free video converter application makes video and audio conversion quick and easy. The application can clip any segments and optionally merge and sort them to make a creative movie. Even more, Any Video Converter Freeware can crop frame size to remove any unwanted area in the frame ,just like a pair of smart scissors. It can convert almost any video format:  including DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV, AVI, MPEG-I, DVD NTSC , DVD PAL, Flash for Video (FLV), AVI Video and Customized WMV movie formats. It also supports any user defined video file format as the output including avi, mp4, wmv, swf, flv, mkv, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, mpg (PAL or NTSC), mp3, wma, ogg, aac, wave, m4a. This means that youtube, iPod, Zune, PSP, iPhone, 3GP Phone, and MP4 player are all covered. And if that’s not enough, it is also lightning  fast, even over a network.

Now about that Flip camera integration! It really is as simple as using the Flip Video Camera as a portable drive!  Just plug the Flip Camera into the computer’s USB port. Then open up Any Video Converter. Next select Add Video. It is then simple to use the easy interface to find the drive of the Flip Video Camera . Now , open the drive and select the desired videos.

 

Once the videos are selected a selection must be made from a pulldown on the right regarding the correct output format. For Windows Movie Maker the choice is customized WMV movie. Note that there are many other formats to pick from including ones that will work on the Mac, Mobile phones (including the iPhone), Flash, and portable video players.

There is even an Output folder on the bottom of the menu with various choices. The built in default is to have the program build an Any Video Folder in the user’s My Documents Folder. This can be great for network use that automatically sends user files to the user  network folder. Since Any Video Converter  can convert multiple files quickly and easily, you and your students will be editing using Windows Movie Maker or your preferred video editing software in no time. Take a moment to explore and learn about  and the download this free and useful program. While I have described its integration with Flip Video, you will find its power something you will find other reasons to do summersalts over!

Have fun and keep coming back ,and as always visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki! – Mike  (http://www.twitter.com/mjgormans)

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EtherPad – A Free And Easy Collaboration Tool : No Sign Up – No Log In

Welcome to another mid week posting highlighting a Great Web Catch. Collaboration is one of those important 21st Century Skills for students and a needed process for teacher planning. Recently EtherPad, a plain and simple collaboration tool, was purchased by Google to be incorporated in the Google Wave product. This review covers the strengths of EtherPad and how it will continue to live in the open sources world and as a foundation for Google Wave. As always visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki for even more resources to transform today’s education for tomorrow’s needs! – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

EtherPad has been known as a valuable tool, allowing instant  and  easy collaboration for students and teachers.  As the site proclaims, “Etherpad is simply the most frictionless way to get people on the same page.” The real attraction to EtherPad is the lack of requirement for a user account, sign in, or email. As you are aware, this is a definite plus in the educational setting.  The collaboration is easy!  All that is needed is a visit to http://etherpad.com and  a press of a button called Create Public Pad. After this quick process, a new public pad is created for the user in Etherpad . The user then shares the URL  for the pad with up to sixteen others. What ever is typed from where ever, is displayed on the page in real time. There is even a chat window!  This is a great tool for those that need to bring up a quick collaboration tool on the fly. It is useful in the classroom for students to communicate point of need help in Project Based Learning, collaborate as a group, keep teacher aware of group progress, communicate beyond walls, and interview authors and experts. It allows teachers to collaborate on text documents, keep meeting notes, and draft plans. EtherPad allows each line entered by a collaborator  to have a different number for easy reference. Authors are also given color codes and can even be given a label or name. Best of all, work can be saved and exported as an HTML, plain text, bookmarked file, Microsoft Word, PDF, or Open document. Different revisons can be documented and a time slider is provided to show when revisions are made.  Users must be aware that the only way  to keep open pads private is to safeguard the URL. For this reason private information should not be shared. Take a look at this list of frequently asked questions and view a tour of the product. Recently, EtherPad’s creator AppJet was purchased by Google for the new Google Wave product.  It is currently going through a restructuring to an open source format. It is also being used as a foundation for Google’s soon to be publicly released Google Wave  product.  While it is a goal, Google Wave doesn’t yet have all the functionality of Etherpad. The people at both Google and Appjet are confident that in the long term users will be pleased with the transition to Google Wave . In the mean time, Etherpad is a great way to introduce plain and simple collaboration and may allow you to soon catch the Google Wave! – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

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It’s Free, Engaging, Creative, and Project Based : Make or Take A Virtual Fieldtrip or Book Review and “Meet Me At The Corner”

Wow, what a response I recieved on both the Blog and Wiki on the Intel free resources for assessing 21st Century skills. If you liked that, I promise you will enjoy some upcoming postings on simular materials. This new posting has been designed to get the right side of your brain flowing by introducing you to a creative site designed to engage students. It also addresses standards, promotes Project Based Learning, and enhances 21st Century Skills. I reccomend you take a look at the my review, and the site. I am certain it will bring you to an amazing corner that has been produced especially for students. As always feel free to respond, email ,and visit my 21centyredtech Wiki. In fact, take a moment and join! – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

Every once and a while I am introduced to a truely unique and innovative site that has great implications for 21st century learning. The most recent site that fits this bill is one called Meet Me At The Corner. The site is dynamic and interactive, encouraging  individual expression and participation through video submissions from children worldwide. Donna Guthrie, the website producer, is committed to creating a community of children, who learn the art of self-expression and storytelling through video. Guthrie is not new to education. She is the author of more than twenty award-winning books for children. Donna has also taught kindergarten through fifth grade in both public and private schools in Pennsylvania and Colorado and is a visiting professor at Colorado College where she teaches children’s writing.

The website focus is geared toward  students and standards  in elementary and middle school. At present time, Meet Me At The Corner has a collection of close to one hundred  short virtual fieldtrip episodes  hosted by students and filmed on location.  The episodes are written and video is filmed by students. The footage is then sent to Meet Me At The Corner, and Donns’s crew edits and posts a final production that is truely professional and engaging for students. In keeping with educational standards, each episode has a related material that has questions to answer from the video, creative activities,  weblinks that focus on the topic, and possible books for reading. Topics are fund and of high interest. One interesting example includes  juggling from an expert in Brooklyn, be sure to scroll down below the video to see resources to integrate. How about this interview with an astronomer in San Diego? The episode and related resources could most certainly take care of some science standards. Write and submit a fieldtrip, and some of the language arts standards are covered. If students collaborate as a group on a project, then those all important 21st Century Skills can also be addressed. Take a moment and have students explore and uncover their community resources. Perhaps your students will find an author such as Robert Sabuda, a famous pop-up book engineer and artist, and create an episode like this  for an authentic audience to watch. Even more resources and information is found at the Learning Corner.

Don’ pass by the Contest Area of the website. Here you will find contests related to current events such as Arbor Day, the holidays, and an on-going writing and poetry contest. This inspiring episode  entitled Paws For Poetry sponsored by the New York Humane Society and Meet Me At The Corner should spark some great ideas. It may even get your school community thinking about possible partners. When visiting the Episode Page you can serach for videos by topic. My favorite topic is the  Big Apple Book Review. This area contains a small collection of books of elementary and middle school books reviewed by students and then produced by Meet Me At The Corner staff. While the collection is small, it provides a great opportunity for students to submit a favorite book and build the collection. Students get a chance to learn the difference between a report and a review. They can work in groups enhancing Project Based Learning as they aquire a wide range of 21st century skills. You will note that only first names are used in the productions. Take a look at this Video Episode that shows how to submit a video podcast for final editing and posting by Meet Me At The Corner staff.

In conclusion, be sure to read the User Agreement on the website  and also check you school district policy on submitting student work. It is important to be aware and abide by policies and procedures both at the site and in your school district. The site has a designated area to sign up and read more about submitting student work. Meet Me At The Corner really does  provide students with some amazing, engaging, and relevant resources. It also invites teachers and  students to become contributing members.  I know the teachers I have already presented the site to have walked away with enthusiasm and excitement. Perhaps you will, Meet Us At The Corner!

Have a wonderful week and continue to visit my partner 21centuryedtech Wiki! I am constantly adding resources that I feel are the best for 21st Century educators as they transform instruction in their classroom! While you are at the sight, take a moment to join and become part of a new community of educators! – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

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Free And Engaging Resources At Smithsonian Website – Podcasts, Simulations, Lessons, Oh My!

Smithsonian Education – If you have been to the Smithsonian in Washington DC you may have been overwhelmed by its size! I guarantee you will be equally impressed with its website. In this review I will cover the area of the Smithsonian Website geared for educators. From the Education Page there are many options including Art and Design, Science and Technology, History and Culture, along with Language Arts. Take a moment and look at the unique lessons provided in each of the areas. Such interesting titles as Making Friends with Franklin , Every Picture Has a Story , How Size Shapes Animals, and What the Limits Are , and The Music in Poetry are just four selections in a large collection of lessons and projects. Easy to use data bases allow teachers to access more than 1,500 rich Smithsonian educational resources and align with grade, subject and specific state standards. The Smithsonian’s new student web links has a wide range of activities, web sites, puzzles, hand outs, and engaging facts. The Idea Lab is filled with interactive activities, videos, and simulations involving the massive Smithsonian collection. Smithsonian in Your Classroom Magazine includes lesson plans based on primary sources you can view. In keeping with the spirit of Heritage Months, the Smnithsonian offers these thematically arranged teaching resources from across the Smithsonian. The resources have been selected for their relevance to classroom curriculum and national education standards. They include Black History, Asian Pacific Americans, American Indian Heritage, Women’s History, and Hispanic Heritage. There are even lessons about podcasts in the classroom. In the spirit of virtual field trips there are live and archived conferences that allows kids to interact, view sessions, watch a multi media event, and even ask a curator. The Smithsonian is a great resources, its yours, and its free. Bring its national treasures, collections and resources into your classroom today!

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It’s Free – Intel Provides An Amazing Tool To Assess 21st Century Skills

 

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler an American futurist.

This quote found on the front page of the Intel’s Assessing Project Tool web site gives a foundation  and premise for Intel’s  free educational resource . For those trying to assess 21century skills, this site provides some practical tools and resources to answer this question. Not only does Intel provide a unique interface to construct a rubric, it includes theory, rational, best practices, and outstanding examples. It is more then an assessment tool, if used correctly it allows teacher’s to truely transform their practice using a planning process that starts with the end and involves on-going assessment. Please take a moment to read over my review and explore the links that will highlight some of the outstanding attitibutes of this site. As always, take a moment to visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki .  If you have 21century skill assessment practices to share please post a reply or send an email. I enjoy reading and make it a practice to answer each and every e-mail. – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

The biggest question I get from teachers when conducting workshops on technology integration and 21st century skills remains, “How do you assess the 21st century skills?”  While it is important to make sure content standards are integrated and assessed in student projects, many times the 21st century skills are loosely incorporated and assessed . This leaves students often confused with the attempted integration of  21st century skill, resulting in a goal never achieved. Once again, as most research suggests, it is important that all projects are designed with the end in mind. The conclusion includes both content standards, and the 21st century skills that are to be acheived by students. This end, is a part of the planning process that is communicated to students in the form of a rubric. The rubric must act as a guide while students engage with the project’s on-going process.

This preparation can be time consuming for the educator, which is why I invite you to explore Intel Education’s Assessing Projects Tool. I am a long time fan of the Intel Thinking  Tools. I am just as impressed with the Assessing  Projects Tool.  Intel states, “When assessment drives instruction, students learn more and become more confident, self-directed learners. Assessing Projects helps teachers create assessments that address 21st century skills and provides strategies to make assessment an integral part of their teaching and help students understand content more deeply, think at higher levels, and become self-directed learners”.

The site overview page  gives the benefits of assessing projects, numerous references and authoritive writings,  and some outstanding assessment based websites  based on 21st century education. Learn more about the purpose of assessment, various assessments that go beyond tests, papers, and oral presentations, and how formative assessment which is continuous and ongoing promotes real achievement. Additionally, while higher-order thinking such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, and metacognition, can be a challenge. this tool explores methods for assessing thinking. Last, this tool explores what components are necessary for successful assessment in a school.

Intel gives you the opportunity to Try It.  Here you can try a Demo to explore the Assessment Library and examine checklists, rubrics, and scoring guides on thinking skills, processes, products, and performances. There is also a video tutorial that allows you to see how features of the Assessing Projects application work in the classroom. You can also view a great animation of the process which helps simplify the process. Explore some example project assessment forms for both the elementary and secondary level. Intel states that assessment strategies can be broken into five main categories. While not all methods within a category are needed, all categories should be included in an assessment plan. The categories included are Strategies for Gauging Student Needs ,  Strategies for Encouraging Self-Direction and Collaboration,  Strategies for Monitoring ProgressStrategies for Checking for Understanding and Encouraging Metacognition,  and Strategies for Demonstrating Understanding and Skill. There is also an area that describes the planning of assessment, the changing of assessment strategies, and some sample lesson plans complete with timeline of project, venn diagram, table, and assessment timeline. I find it useful to use the large selection of pre-made rubics and modify and save them to my Intel Work Space. From here they can be exported as a Word or Excel file.

In conclusion, Intel offers a top of the line tool that is free to educators. There are other tools which I will explore in future posts but I do suggest that anyone exploring assessment of 21st century skills take a look at the Intel Assessing Projects Tool for its ease of use, vast resources of information,  on-line productivity, and theory behind practice. While it acts as a rubric machine, it goes much farther by transtorming educational practice. Please feel free to email or post. I am interested in learning about other tools available for 21st century assessment.  While taking your journey in 21st century education, please visit my 21centuryedtech Wiki. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you – Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

 

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What does the White House, County Music, President Obama, Fine Arts, Steam, Arne Duncan, STEM, and Daniel Pink have to do with 21st Century Education? – Welcome to the Future!

Nasa Historical Photograph

I have lately been  trying to write shorter blogs on a more frequent basis.  Thanks for the positive comments and emails. Your thoughts and ideas are really an inspiration. I am practicing my tweeting skills by tweeting my blog titles  and links under mjgormans. Go ahead and follow if you wish. It has already given me some great ideas for an up coming tweet blog (Do they go together?). I may have a title! This posting is a follow up of a blog I posted at the start of the 2009 school year. I have recently found some extra information on the posting “Welcome To The Future“.  Please take some time, I know if you spend a few moments with the material it will provide you with a message to share with educators and also students. As always, please visit me at the 21centuryedtech Wiki!  for even more information – Mike

I hope I was able to get you wondering about the connection between all the players in the title and 21st Century Learning.  I believe as you read you will see the connection and understand its importance. This posting has been several months in the making and contains some outstanding material for professional development. Please take a moment to  explore and reflect.

 About  three months ago I posted a country music video by singer song writer Brad Paisley. This song and video reminded me that our dreams as educators must be to protect and nuture the dreams of our students.  If you never read the posting or viewed the video I am speaking of, please take a moment from your internet browsing and enjoy. As you view the video Welcome To The Future  keep in mind the important and neccessary mission of 21st century skills and education. I have had the pleasure of sharing this with teachers and students and have always seen people walk away with excitement and  enthusiasm.

Now, the reason for my follow up. I knew the video was powerful but have since found out it made a bigger impact then what I knew at the time of my original posting. I had often wondered what singer songwriter Brad Paisely had thought as he wrote the song. He answered some of my questions in an interview held at the White House. I have included both the blog  posting and video of this White House interview and performance. It was moving to see see the performance in the formal setting  of the White House as President Obama listened, and the camera panned famous pictures such as George Washington and lyrics resonated famous people including Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.  This amazing performance was part of the White House Performance Series ,a program developed to promote arts education. As part of this initative, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been in dialogue with Support Music, an organization dedicated to the promotion of music and fine arts in the nation’s schools. Take a moment to read a recent letter, listen to a conference call (mp3), or read the transcript of Secretary Duncan’s support for the Fine Arts.

This leads me to Daniel Pink , author of A Whole New Mind : Why Right Brainers Will Rule The Future. At a recent keynote, Pink eluded to the idea that STEM education must include the fine arts. Take a look at this amazing video as students use visual Thinking Strategies. These students are part of the program,  Visual Thinking Strategies, a non-profit organization that “uses art to foster kids’ capacities to observe, think, listen and communicate.”  With this in mind, listen to the  TASA 2009 Podcast that includes Pink’s thoughts on teaching to the Right Brain in education. While speaking of adding Arts to STEM, why not call it STEAM ,as proposed by the Ohio Alliance For Arts Education . Enjoy this article  filled with great reflections and resources.

I conclude this posting with one last reflection of another past post. The post referred to another musician, Tom Chapin, with a message that cannot be ignored. Chapin is also a proponent of fine arts education and promotes its neccessary place in today’s schools in order to promote 21 st century learning. I know you will want to share his music video Not on the Test with other educators.

I hope you can see that there really is a connection between the White House, STEM, Secretary Duncan, country music, fine arts, Brad Paisley, Daniel Pink, and steam. It really is a convergent of the right and left brain. It is a partnership that will develop creativity, ingenuity, problem solving, and a new way to look at the world. These are 21st century skills, the very skills our students will need to seek their dreams and continue our dreams. It truely is an amazing “Welcome To The Future”!

I invite you to email, comment, and as always visit the 21centuryedtech Wiki. I also invite you to download  my Welcome_to_the_Future  Document. I put together for teachers who may wish to have their students study the video Welcome To The Future. It contains standards that cover writing, film making, and social studies. I look forward to hearing from you . As always thank you joining me as I reflect  upon and dream about a 21st century educational sysytem that will make a difference for the future of our students!

– Mike (mgorman@sacs.k12.in.us)

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Empathy, Awareness, Creativity are the Goal…Technology is the Tool – Reflections on NMSA09

classroom

Please take a moment to enjoy this thought provoking reflection on the role of technology in education. This article contains my thoughts on the National Middle School Conference 2009 and its potential impact on 21st century learning and technology. It covers some of the featured speakers along with thoughts,  links, and videos to allow you to investigate.  I guarantee you there are priceless links in this posting!

I also want to recognize Mr. Alan Summers and his complete conference team from the NMSA for what will be remembered as an outstanding conference. The Indiana contribution from IMLEA was also evident along with the constant enthusiasm at their welcome area!

I also want to thank all of you for visiting this site and helping it grow. The wiki/blog have attracted close to 6000 unique visitors in about three short months of existence. It has now reached all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 47 foreign countries. Your thoughts, reflections, emails, and invites to the network are so appreciated. Please visit the companion 21centuryedtech wiki for even more resources – Mike

A conference is always what you make of it. Since I am an avid technology conference attender, I decided to check out the technology message at the NMSA09 Conference in Indianapolis. I did not even have to attend a session to get my first taste. After strolling through the vendor area I found the 21 st Century Classroom filled with modern technology along with real teachers and students conducting lessons. Imagine not just lecturing about educational transformation, but creating the real experience for all to see. It is awesome to see that NMSA  takes the time to model what it also advocates.

The NMSA09 Conference had close to 500 sessions with featured keynote speakers of national prominence accounting for many of these. The featured speakers and keynotes I  attended  included Will Daggett, Daniel Pink, and Alan November. As I listened to the three it was evident that the common theme appeared to be empathy, awareness, and creativity was needed for real transformation to happen.

Will Daggett opened with a reminder fto teachers that they really are part of the best educational system in the world. After all, the United States is one of the few countries that attempts to educate all children.  United States schools are involved in a constant battle between excellence and equity. This is a difficult line to walk, but one the United States must continue to engage in.  His constant theme revolved around the idea “Relevance makes Rigor Possible”, a phrase he coined. Daggett then emphasized that U.S. students need to be made aware of the social/economic change happening in the global community. He stressed this need for awareness as he emphasized that today’s students are in a battle for future jobs, and they do not even know it, because no one is teaching them.  The new technology he demonstrated was awesome including both the siftable chip, a new technology manipulative, and SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) which allows for even more computing portability due to a virtual keyboard and a virtual monitor that are both beamed using laser technology. In fact, I did some research and found there is already a portable video projector for the iPhone. Be sure to also check out this virtual laser keyboard!   Daggett then listed five concepts in learning which included: knowledge of one discipline, application of one discipline, application across disciplines, application to real world predictable situations, and  application to real world unpredictable situations. He maintained that schools spend a lot of time on the first and second and very little time on the last three. It was the first time  I realized that the very last step really identifies the difference between project based learning and problem based learning. My mind wandered to this year’s Future City problem. Students are to build short term housing that is sustainable and green for displaced people after an emergency sometime in the extended future. Wow, talk about a problem that is so difficult to answer, nothing is correct, and the possibilities are endless. Parts of the question even contradict each other from an engineering standpoint. Sounds like Daggett’s “applications to real world unpredictable situations” is being practiced in some arenas of education. This leads us perfectly into Daniel Pink’s keynote.

Daniel Pink, the author of  A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, described the increasing  role of right-brain thinking in the new  economies and describes the skills  individuals and organizations must possess in this outsourced, automated age. Using brain research, Pink advocates that left brain (orderly, logical, and linear) thinking, while still important, is no longer adequate to survive in the 21st Century global economy. He attributes this theory to the role Asia now plays in the global economy with automation being software driven, and abundance of material in the market place. In essence, routine work is disappearing! Pink advocates that educators prepare kids for their future (right brain), not our past (left brain).He suggests including skills in our curriculum that cannot be outsourcedor automated. He includes such abilities as design, story telling, symphony (ability to see big picture), empathy, play, and meaning. One example used was Google’s idea to allow its employees 20% percent job time for self direction. From this effort, such big projects as G-Mail, and Google News have evolved. Finally, Pink suggested some ideas he feels educators should reflect and implement. Number one, explore the new metrics. IQ only accounts for 20% of success. We need to make sure we are measuring the right things. The next concept involves “getting real about STEM. Pink stressed that STEM must include the Arts because students must be taught to see. Engineering firms want people who have passion, are willing to be  life-long learners, are systems thinkers,  have multicultural values, and can understand interdisciplinary context. The third suggestion is to rethink motivation and look at intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. The fourth idea really caught my attention as Pink suggested moving problem solving out of the terrarium and putting it in the forest. He described the terrarium as an environment  that is much too clean, organized, and not real world. Problems should involve clarification, identification, multi-disciplines, several answers, non-perfection, exploration, challenge, and relevancy. Last, Pink suggests that artistic educational programs must be facilitated, encouraged, and practiced across the curriculum. China has an emphasis that states “Creative Arts are not a frivolous luxury“.  I am anxious to bring the arts concept into my next STEM presentation! Have a little fun fooling your left brain by having your right brain look at this Fedex logo in a different and unique way.

Different and unique  is a great way to describe Alan November. I had the honor to introduce this master of storytelling and thought provoking educational reformer. November emphasized that it is not the technology that will make the change happen, even asking participants to cross it off the program title. He stressed that kids need to be able to learn and use tools at school that are  available in their homes. Education must understand that blocking certain websites is actually contributing to a lack of student awareness of proper and valuable web usage. It is important that the skills we teach today outlast technology change. November emphasized student creativity  as he made the audience aware of Jing and Math Train TV. He also demonstrated a math search engine entitled Wolfram|Alpha. Enter your question or calculation and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and a growing collection of data to compute the answer. While some schools may want to block this because using it could be considered cheating, November suggests allowing students to use it so they instantly know if they are right or wrong in a computation. He then suggested that students create their own multimedia story to explain the process. He also shared an exciting video about sixth sense work using technology. You maybe interested in exploring information on Web Literacy located at November Learning. Located at this site is a great collection of resources to teach students about using the web to retrieve information. Students have a chance to learn there is really no Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and that Christopher Columbus was not born in Sydney in  Australia in 1951, even though it says so on the web! November also covered the Way Back Machine, and Easy Who Is, to further validate web resources. All of these resources are explained on November Learning. Alan November is truly one of our time’s great thinkers in education and I recommend attending his BLC10 conference in Boston this summer. I have had  the honor to both present and attend. It is a truly an amazing conference that will give you plenty of opportunity to reflect and acquire resources. Perhaps November’s most intruiging statement was that employers are seeking the skill of empathy as they hire. It would be interesting to see who has that concept in their standards beyond definition and  vocabulary!

I did have a chance to attend some other sessions that were truly outstanding. Jim Wenzlof presented a valuable session entitled Read It, Write It, Say It. He introduced innovative ways to use Diigo,  and Skype for teaching literacy. He suggested techniques to allow students to make movie trailers for books using Audacity, PhotoStory, and iMovie.  He also introduced the websites  Lit2Go, Itunes University, and the Story Starter. My favorite was a collaborative site called EtherPad. If you haven’t seen it give it a look! I also had a chance to see the state of Indiana’s new educational service presented by Gary Bates from the DOE called The Learning Connection. It is a service for Indiana educators interested in designing lessons, assessments aligned to standards, or wishing to collaborate and connect with other educators in the state of Indiana. Indiana educators, take the time to register now at The Learning Connection. I also had opportunity to talk with the people at both ePals and NSDL. These are two great organizations that understand 21st Century learning.  I plan to become  more familiar with both in the near future. I appreciated the time and energy both Dr.  Kimberly Lightle from NSDL and Victoria McEachern from ePals spent with me.

As I close I want to thank all those people who attended my session on 21st Century learning. It was my intention to deliver a dynamic presentation to you. I appreciate how nearly 90 people made room for everyone in a room designed for 50. I also hope that the many who could not get in will at least take advantage of the handout sheet left at the door. As promised, the Power Point will be available on the wiki under Presentations. Thank you for all of the kind comments and I hope all of you keep in touch.

Overall it was a truly amazing conference. I was only able to see it from my limited perspective but I can  tell you that it was one of the best I have ever attended. The goal is always to find at least one new idea and I surpassed that with an improved vision for transforming education in the 21st century. I am excited about NMSA10 in Baltimore as I  hope to learn  and contribute even more! Again, thank you to the great staff at both NMSA and IMLEA along with the countless volunteers and presenters. I feel it was a great “Welcome To The Future!” Please feel free to visit the 21st Century Ed Tech Wiki. Your comments, suggestions, and emails are always welcome! Keep up the great work at using technology to facilitate empathy, awareness, and  creativity! They just may be the most important unwritten standards.

-Mike

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