Featured 21st Century School

Be sure to check out the Teach 21 blog for Bolton Elementary. The address for the teach21 blog is http://teach21bolton.blogspot.com/.

Throughout the school year, Bolton staff is having conversations about what needs to be done to have future-ready students. They are learning how to motivate and inspire students through the use of technology. This blog is written by the school’s technology facilitator, Sam Walker. Sam is documenting the thoughts, fears, excitement, and successes of bringing Bolton into the 21st Century. If you get a chance, please click on the teacher blog links on the left hand side. They are just beginning their journey and it is an exciting one!

Taking Care of Business

Today I had the pleasure of hearing David Warlick speak to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System Technology Facilitators. As always, I was inspired, amazed, and reminded that no matter how much I think I know, there is so much more to learn!

David was gracious and allowed me to pick from a menu of thoughts, ideas, and past presentations. The recipe made one heck of an overview of where we are, where we should be, and ideas for what others are making possible.

My takeaways:
– Knitter (like Twitter but without the joining and following)
– Machinima (creating movies/videos using Second Life/video games and video editing)
– Scratch (I had downloaded this programming software for kids recently but did not understand how to use it until today)
– Companies are already creating wearable technology

What is a network?

At last night’s ISTE Welcome Session right before the keynote, we were addressed by and introduced to several of the people on the Board of Directors and staff. As this was the third year I have attended this session, I expected to get the quick run down of NECC events and such-informative but dry. I was thrilled to be mistaken.

Although we did have some dryness at the beginning, the NECC conference hired Brad Mongomery to be the Master of Ceremonies. What fun! His light-hearted sense of humor put the crowd at ease and he was able to do something most people cannot: get a room of several hundred people to have authentic conversation with each other. Through a series of exercises, we formed groups of 5 or 6 and responded to several prompts. Even those who do not like “touchy feely” were participating.

But what had the greatest impact for me was how he described what a network is. He did so by sharing what a network is not:

  • It is not “Hi. My name is…”
  • It is not “Here is my business card.”
  • It is not “What can you do for me? What information can you give me?”

Authentic network is a relationship. It is finding about not only the professional but the personal aspect of other’s lives. We bring who we are (which by the way is EXACTLY what James Surowiecki talked about in the keynote) and to be part of the network we have to connect on all levels.

So Brad gave the audience homework. Instead of asking the “Hi, how are you?” when you sit next to someone, you should ask “Outside of work, what takes up your time?” You may hear the question a lot this year at NECC but I hope you take the time to ask and answer! Create your own wisdom of the crowds. Create a network.

Thanks to my group of new friends from the session: Claire, Angelita, Dave, Benjamin, and Jose. It was a pleasure!

Creating a Personal Network in Second LIfe (Live Blogging)

Group presenting is the DEN (Discovery Education Network) council in Second Life (SL). None of them had met in real life until this weekend. They work together regularly in SL. DEN in SL was born in 2007.

Next Wednesday they will have a newbie event in SL. They bring in various speakers to present including Steve Dembo (teach42). They had a Halloween party last year. They have hosted 65 formal events but that does not include the many informal events in the DEN. Events are posted in SL, they have a Google group.

2007- 56 events with 566 participants

Communication anytime/anywhere- 24 hour professional learning

Create a visual of your network- post them for understanding

Second Life has the possibility to help students who are homebound but presenter said that she personally does not believe SL is ready for students.

Book: A Beginners Guide to Second Life- can only order online; Second Life for Dummies also very good

Looking for Wednesday workshop presenters- think about volunteering

NECC: Opening Session (Live Blogging)

James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of the Crowds

Tap into collective intelligence

wisdom of the crowds + new tools = radical transformation

jellybean experiment- how many jellybeans in the jar?

  • no one person comes closer than the group guess
  • the more they do this as a group, individuals begin to get closer

Who wants to be a millionaire?

  • phone-a-friend
  • poll the audience (gets it right 91% of the time)

Racetrack example

  • prediction machine in action
  • look at odds- in the course of a season, crowd of betters can forecast the winners

Google- founders realized that there is a hidden talent beneath the surface

What does it take to make a crowd wise?

  • some way to group judgements (aggregate the information to get group decision)
  • diversity (the fundamental characteristic)-cognitively diverse in the way they approach and solve problems; best of the best group is out performed by the random group; other diversity (age, experience, culture, geography, discipline); less likely to make the same mistakes (homogeneous group: the more they talk, the dumber they become-echo chamber); appoint someone to become the devil’s advocate (originated in the catholic church)-cannot have the same person as the devil’s advocate all of the time
  • independence-want people to think for themselves; imitation works a lot of the time; have to get people to get beyond imitation; best group decisions come from conflict rather than consensus (differences of opinion can make us smarter-have a good fight; even if the answer is not your answer)

Technology allows more people to contribute and say what they really believe in their hearts.

Time flies…when did I get old?

Today I feel as though I am officially old. At 6:00 p.m. today, my favorite class (1st grade) graduated from high school. Our flower girl was part of that class. As I watched each of my former students walk across the stage, I could still see them as a first grade student. Some look the same only taller. Others were unrecognizable.

As the ceremony drew to a close, I thought to myself…how different is their first grade classroom from the first grade classroom of today? Sadly, I would say not much. Yet, as you stand outside wading your way through the graduates and their families, you can see all of the different ways these students are communicating. But we are not using it in most classrooms.

To the Western Alamance High School graduates of 2008, I salute you. To those who were in Miss Hamilton’s (I wasn’t married then…) first grade class, I am so proud of you. You are the best!

Why change? Why now?

**This is also being posted on http://wsfcsintouch.blogspot.com

For the past several months, I have been preaching to district and school level technology staff that we must spend a MINIMUM of 15 minutes a day learning new information. This will not keep us ahead of technology and learning but it will help us keep the pace. Each day, I find myself spending more and more time (mostly at home much to my husband’s chagrin) and it does get my head “spinning” to quote Carol Grandy.


During my time last night catching up on my Google Reader and my Twitter feeds, I came across the video above on YouTube. Although I have used other videos to discuss change and the 21st century skills, this may be my new favorite. I have now watched it several times, stopped and started it, and written down a few notes…


“Every device turned off is potentially a turned off child.”

By school board policies, we ask our children to check their devices at the door. We worry about the cheating and the lack of attention paid to school work. As I read David Warlick’s post on AUP dated today May 8, 2008, I found myself cheering for a school who is thinking outside of the box and connecting kids rather than disconnecting kids. Here is what he said…

Then, taking a minute to thumb through the April issue of Technology & Learning Magazine (Welcome Kevin Hogan), I ran across six schools in Brooklyn who have given cell phones to their students — a total of about 2,500. Each phone is preloaded with with 130 minutes of talk time. Students can be rewarded with additional minutes for good behavior, attendance, homework, and test scores.

Kids are living in the “NEARLY NOW” It is not quite synchronous. It is a place to reflect, research, and repeat. It is a great world for learning.

Don’t we want this for our students? Don’t we want this for us? As educators, we need the time to process the information coming at us and then reflect on what it means to us. If that becomes part of our daily practice, we can model it for our students.

“We have a classroom system when we could have a community system.”

No matter what your politics are, we ALL know “it takes a village.” Our system is trying to focus on developing Professional Learning Communities. 21st Century Skills call for global awareness. We need to think big not small.

“If I want the students to make global connections, give the tools to the teachers first. Provide them with opportunities [for global connections].”

Our kids are starting to understand global connections. It is time to get our teachers to rethink the possibilities. As I moved from my classroom to a school-level position to a district-level position, my eyes were opened to my community and that allowed me to have a better understanding of my roles and responsibilities. Students and teachers will benefit from connecting with others. It can be the most powerful staff development/learning environment. A great example of this is Twitter. As I began to use Twitter, I quickly was in touch with educators from around the world. Suddenly, I heard about projects and resources being shared by classrooms from different countries, states, and systems.

21st Century Learning is not about memorizing facts. Do you know how to find information, validate it, synthesize it, leverage it, communicate it, collaborate with it, and problem solve it?

This became clear to me a little over a year ago when, at NCaect, Will Richardson spoke and posed the question, “Is it important to memorize the state capitals or know how to find the answer?” Karl Fisch states in his “Did You Know 2.0” video that by 2010 information will be doubling every 72 hours. How can kids memorize information (all new information) every 72 hours? Isn’t it more important to teach students how to harness the power of information, evaluate it, and communicate it?

“Teach a man to fish…”


How exciting! I want to be part of a community that is focused on learning for all. Why change? Why now? Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says, “Teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by teachers who do.” I plan on working for schools for a long time. Hope you’ll join me!

Multitasking or Just a Mess?

I read a great post today on Your Brain on Multitasking from Creating Passionate Users. It seems as if I am never doing just one thing at a time anymore. It seems worse when I am on the computer! I forever have multiple windows in Firefox (or IE at work), Twitter, Skype, and of course email. My Blackberry or office phone ringing. And people wandering in and out of my office to talk or ask questions. Yet, at the end of the day, I wonder why I accomplished nothing on my “to do” list! At times I think my multitasking actually keeps me from getting work done. In the midst of figuring out what to next, time slips past me. The post on Your Brain on Multitasking talks about being mindfulness. Being present to the task at hand rather than looking to the other things needing to get done actually saves time.

This will be my mid-year’s resolution…Hope I do better with this than my new year’s resolution!

NCaect now NCTIES (conference thoughts)

Well, as always, I had good intentions to blog throughout the conference. Instead, I spent time talking with board members, feature presenters, and conference participants. There was a great buzz throughout the 3 days of conference.

My first great experience at the 2008 NCaect conference was going to the Charlotte airport to pick up Leslie Fisher and Deneen Frazier-Bowen. These featured speakers had never met each other but in a matter of minutes had made several connections and were talking like old friends. These women are at the top of their field so it was an honor just to sit back and listen! Deneen spent the first 2 days of conference in character (Edy, Julio, Maria, and Joanne-their blog is http://learningconditions.blogspot.com) going around and talking with participants as well as a special trip to Concord Middle School to talk with students. Julio managed to surprise Leslie during her preconference– it was about 3 minutes into conversation before Leslie realized that it was Deneen. She was not the only one fooled!

A big thanks to Kevin Honeycutt for letting me take part in his preconference– a totally unplanned moment but fun! As he was sharing Twitter with the group, I sent a tweet in reply to him which spurred him to ask me to speak. I almost forgot how much I enjoy presenting at conferences.

Finally, the EduBloggerCon mediated by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and David Warlick was the beginning of a great conversation! I am amazed at the number of people who have decided to follow me now on Twitter. It really is about making the connections and building the network. These are people I would never have had the opportunity to bounce ideas off of or just talk shop. We talked about issues regarding students in the 21st century and how to get teachers to get on board.

Big thanks to all the teachers, administrators, directors, and vendors who made the conference a success. Scott Smith, the new NCTIES president, was awesome as this year’s conference chair! Only 363 days until the NCTIES conference in Raleigh!