Monitoring Wikis

I have had elementary students on wikispaces wikis for 3 years now. Over those 3 years, I have learned much about how to work the system to most thoroughly  monitor everything the kids do–creating or making changes on pages, wiki-mailing one another and participating in discussions on other students’ pages. Recently several people in my county have asked for help, and so I tweeted out an older page I had created with some tips and tricks. There you can find a sample parent note and a permission form.  Then, several folks in my PLN had comments or questions, so I thought I’d share what I do here.

First, for those of you new to wikis, (or unfamiliar with creating web pages or sites), let me give a fairly easy analogy.  Each wiki is sort of like a folder–it is a central place where the owner or organizer can add different sections, much as a folder can hold only a few or many papers.  The wiki is the container, and the pages created on that wiki are all inside of that container.  (It’s like a folder that has papers inside.)  What I typically do for my classes is create a group wiki, and give each kid their own separate wiki, and then connect those by listing each student on the main wiki. I then link that student name to that specific child’s wiki. So I nest the names of other folders within the main folder–or wikis connected to the main wiki. (See William’s wiki–he has clearly named the lists he has connected to in his navigation pane.) For example, under his cluster map is a list of the pages he has created, under that is a list of links (webpages) he likes, and then a list of school wikis and then other student wikis.

Screen shot 2010-02-12 at 2.23.26 PM

As you set up a wikispace for your class, think through how much you want to monitor, how you’ll use the space, and how you want your students to interact. The way you organize the space will DEFINITELY impact how the students support and talk to each other.

I typically set up the students with accounts on wikispaces, as it is extremely easy.  Simply create a list of student names and accompanying passwords in a spreadsheet and upload it as you  use the “usercreator” in the “manage wiki” area. I typically name the student logins with their first name and our school initials–paulacres would be mine, for example. Then I create the passwords all the same to begin with so that logging in for the first time is easy.

As I create the student accounts, I attach MY email to each one. I use a trick that works with a gmail account so that every single wikimail the kids send comes to MY email account. The trick is this:  each student email is mygmailname+studentname@gmail.com.  So, if I had a child named Drew, and my gmail account is whiteclass@gmail.com) the email I attach to the drewcres account is whiteclass+drewcres@gmail.com.  (Google mail does not recognize whatever comes after the +symbol, but it still sends that mail to MY account.) Then, I set up my gmail account to be forwarded to my school account and also set up a rule to send all wikispaces messages to a folder on my computer so it does NOT stay in my school account OR my gmail account and they are all located in one folder that I can read with or without internet access. As they come in, it shows who is sending the wikimail AND who the wikimail is addressed to, so I have a clear record of who sends and receives the mail.

I spend some up front time creating each student wiki and setting up the main page for accessing each one (such as the Crozet 5th math page).  Since I create it, I then have the ability to accept or deny other members of this wiki. I begin by inviting the named student to the wiki and making him or her an organizer so they can do the same, and they have the ability to change the appearance of their wiki.

At the top of the wiki is a tab called notify me.  As the teacher, I want to be notified of ALL changes on the entire wiki, so I make sure I set it so that I get notified of ALL changes in both the discussion tab and on the pages, wiki-wide. Make sure you don’t select JUST the changes on the home page as you create each student wiki.

When I introduce wikis to the students and have them login the first time, I give them certain rules AND also have them change certain settings on their wiki.

First, we all go to the account settings together, and

1. they select the correct time zone,

2. change the setting about wikimail to “ONLY allow private messages from other members of wikis I belong to

3. change email private messages to YES

4. change email monitored changes to YES.

With those settings, as the teacher, I get notified of every change made and every email written and sent.

Secondly, I tell them the following things:

1. This wiki is set up under the umbrella of you as a student at Crozet Elementary School so any rule in place here at school is in place with the wiki–appropriate behavior, language and courtesy.  Using t he wiki or wikimail, you are a representative of Crozet School and you have to make sure anything you do will be okay with your parents, your teacher and the principal.

2. EVERY single email you send or receive comes into my email box, so know I have a record of every single thing you read and write.  Make sure you are being an appropraite representative of Crozet Elementary school.

3. I show them the history tab (on the wiki I created to house the links to their wiki) so they clearly see every change I made and the time stamp.  I tell them this is a feature in every wiki page, so they can never do anything without a record being kept. I explain it as a safety feature for them–so if someone claims they messed up their page, the history can show they did not.

4. I tell them they can never delete an email they send or receive.  They are to archive EVERYTHING. Again, this is for THEIR safety, so that if they are accused of sending a nasty email, I can show the accuser they did not. (I remind them here I will also have copies in my mailbox.)

5. I also say that if I EVER find they have deleted an email, they will be off wikispaces immediately, (since I can no longer tell parents they have followed the rules without exception.)

With the freedom I give them to create their own pages, they WANT to be on wikispaces, so I have had very few problems with any child NOT following my rules. I HAVE had two children (including my own grandson) call me at home almost in tears letting me know they accidentally deleted a wikimail and apologizing profusely and begging NOT to be kicked out of their wiki.

Now the cautions.

I put no students on wikispaces without a signed parent permission.

I go over the rules numerous times, and have kids repeat them back to me. They also know they are to follow our school and county AUP rules as they work on their wikis.

As they realize they can wikimail YOU, they will.  Be prepared to respond to (perhaps) frequent wikimails from kids, especially at the elementary level.  For me, that’s good–in our recent bout of 9 snow days in a 10 day period, I was in touch, at least several times, with 3/4 of the students currently in class with me.

Earlier, I said:

As you set up a wikispace for your class, think through how much you want to monitor, how you’ll use the space, and how you want your students to interact. The way you organize the space will DEFINITELY impact how the students support and talk to each other.”

The “how much you want to monitor” is crucial. I have over 50 kids with their own wikis. Many of those  kids create prolifically–so I spend some time EACH evening going through my email folder, checking out what they have done. By giving kids their own wikis, the amount of interaction may be reduced, in some ways. My goal, 1st semester, is to get them to be facile with creating pages.  2nd semester I push the collaboration and working together.

Please feel free to leave a message here if you want more support 1:1 or have more questions.

Choosing How to Engage

If you do a google search on “essential learnings” you will find many school systems use this terminology. Maybe it isn’t grammatically correct, but if you do a search on dictionary.com for “learnings”, up comes learning as a noun, and nothing there says it can’t have an s.

But you know what?  In this context, (and this is my opinion, spoken as a n American who has the freedom to voice my opinion) I don’t think it’s really as important as some comments yesterday seem to imply.

I believe those of us who participate in EdChat want to talk to other educators about substantial topics.  I was the person who submitted question # 4 and I am extremely sorry it precipitated the nitpicking it did.  Good conversation was all that was behind MY submitted question, “What should be the essential learnings that students get from attending school?”

So, in the interest of moving beyond those who want to talk about grammar, I’d like to reword it a bit to say

“What should be the essential outcomes students take away from our lessons?”

and I’d like NOT to waste #edchat space on talking about whether learning is correct with an s or not. I did NOT intend learning to be synonymous to “lessons” as someone suggested. To me, they are two very different things.

I personally plan to ignore any comments made about that or yesterday’s edchat tweeting.  I am not going to engage with those topics.

I care about what others have to say about the chosen topic–what they think should be what kids carry away from school.

I’d like to suggest everyone do the same so we can concentrate on the topic at hand, but it is an open conversation and people can absolutely do as they please.

I simply will choose not to engage in conversations that address grammar or EdChat practices during the chosen topic conversation..

I’m like Steven (@web20classroom) in that my typing does not indicate my intellect, and I spend time on my blogs, wikis and untimed writing proofing and re-proofing to make sure I don’t post misspelled words. So, prior to the speediness of typing tonight, I’d like to ask in advance that you consider the medium and not make judgements about my intellect or thougthfulness based on my poor typing skills.

Let’s choose to engage in conversations around what we believe are the “take aways” kids should carry away from school.

Thanks to all the folks who donate their time to help facilitate EdChat in whichever way they do.  I appreciate the chance to talk and listen to the many people who participate.

And, thank you all for engaging me in thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations!

‘SNOW WAY (to keep up with #edchat!)

Dear snow: Back off. Thanks, Chad

was a tweet from a friend of mine today.

AMEN!  I have had MORE than enough!  It’s Wednesday–we haven’t been to school this week, and this weekend they’re calling for even MORE snow!   AAGH. . . enough complaining.

Last night’s Edchat was WILD. . . I used  tweetgrid to follow it–ahem–to TRY to follow it–and could not even begin to read that fast. Is it time to morph it?


Last week Matt Guthrie and I tried to have what he called “pregame” conversations on our blogs, and we hoped postgame conversations would occur as well. Both of us got a fair number of responses on the blogs (curriculum overload and grade fog) and I believe it DID make a difference in the chat.  This week Chad Sansing and I tried it with the top two topics and while folks read both, not much conversation occurred this time on the blogs. (
Chad’s and mine)

Last night (or yesterday at noon), several folks discussed perhaps keeping the same topic for two weeks to allow for those “after-the-fact” revelations we all have, or to have an opportunity to respond to the thoughts we didn’t catch the first time around. That told me I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed by this fast-paced, furious spate of great thoughts flowing.

BUT, on the other hand, others were saying they loved the fast and furious pace– one person even tweeted me and said that’s why she loved Edchat–and that she would love to have this buzz from her faculty room.  (Wouldn’t we all–but, for me, a bit more slowly so I could think about my wording some as I responded!)

Yesterday, I saw some folks in the edchat stream on my Tweetdeck get in a snit about edchat being all about technology (which I don’t see it being.) They were saying it’s worthless if it doesn’t address education (which it certainly does, IMHO). I’m not sure where they were getting their info. . .

So, all that having been said, obviously #edchat is valuable.  Obviously, people are looking for the conversations.  Obviously, the conversations cause reflective thinking and, according to edchat comments, further change, BEYOND the chat.

A HUGE thanks goes to Jerry Swiatek for archiving the chats so folks can go back to them, and Tom Whitby and Shelly Terrell for organizing them, and Steven Anderson for setting up the polls each week! If you have more questions about Edchat, see Tom Whitby’s recent post explaining it.

So, my questions are:

Is there a need to change the format to allow more actual conversation to occur rather than a fast spate of comments and people either retweeting with a quick YES! or responding to one sentence declarations?

If people choose to blog about the topics, could we have a place on the archive wiki to post our blog addresses WITH the topic it addresses so folks could have further reading? OR, would that be better on the PLN ning, as Matt suggested last week?

Could/Should we do a topic two weeks in a row?  Would that help?

Is there a better tool to use than Twitter for conversations such as we are looking at having with a large group of educators?

And, last, but certainly not least, am I trying to improve something that doesn’t need improvement?

Would love to hear your thoughts. . .

Teaching as Learning

I joke with my kids (honestly) about not knowing everything. but sometimes I think they believe I really do.  They see me as smart, and they like learning with me. I am a human being to them because I frequently say. “I don’t know, figure it out.” or “I don’t know, let’s see if we can find out.”

I believe kids want to relate to their teachers as a human being–there’s certainly enough research out there to show that the relationships between teachers and students are key to successful learning. There are so darn many ways we distance ourselves from that, though, as we work in the classroom. First, when we say to a child, who may have been misbehaving, “And what is Ms White’s rule about that?” (when it’s Ms. White doing the talking), how corny is that?  WHO in real life refers to themselves in the third person?

Then there’s the “I like” people.  “I like how Johnny is showing me he’s ready.”  “I like it when Susie raises her hand.”  I like it when. . . blah, blah, blah. . . What do kids learn from those types of “reinforcing statements”?  That school is all about what the teacher likes and if you don’t do it, you’ll get in trouble.  Best to play along and do what Teacher likes.  (If you don’t believe that kind of thinking is pervasive, please go read ONE Junie B Jones book. Her teacher’s name is “Mrs.”) If I could outlaw ONE practice in school, it would be that one–because that simple statement makes it ALL about the teacher, and does NOTHING to help the child understand why the BEHAVIORS matter.  (And I believe half the time they really don’t.)

Suppose, instead of “I like,” the teacher said, “Johnny is showing he’s ready by having his book out and waiting quietly.”  or “Susie’s hand up shows me she has something to say.” or “Wow, when you all sit quietly, it’s so easy to hear the speaker .” or “When you sit quietly and listen when someone is speaking, your behavior shows you are a kind person ”  (or courteous, or care about what they have to say…) Suppose the feedback had everything to do with the kid and ALSO everything to do with how the behavior impacts the rest of the group, constantly reinforcing that one does NOT go to school by him/herself, that we are part of a group and that we need to co-exist in that group to be successful in school. Because, I also believe that no child (initially) comes to school, saying “Today I want to be unsuccessful here.” Part of our job is to ensure success–after mistakes, maybe, because they are part of the learning cycle, but we need to ensure success MORE than failure.

Teaching IS learning–about ourselves, about our students, and yes, about our content as it changes and grows through the diligent work of geographers, and mathematicians, and scientists, and educators, and everyone else all over the world.  And learning IS a hub. . of feelings, thoughts, ideas, caring, sharing, growing, thinking, reflecting, mistaking, trying again, designing, talking, working together, redesigning, hypothesizing, working alone, generalizing, creating, etc., etc., etc.

When a child brings a test to me and I glance over it to make sure they didn’t skip any questions, and I see that they worked a problem correctly in the work space, but circled the wrong answer on the multiple choice part, I am REMISS if I don’t ask them to recheck their answers. The test is not about me playing “GOTCHA” but instead helping them to develop habits that will reduce those kinds of careless mistakes. The test is a place for them to show what they know–and if it is standards -based, it’s not about playing around in the grade fog of catching them in mis-marking something they clearly showed they know.

When Pam Moran, my Superintendent, asked,  “How do we use tech to shift from district hierarchies to leadership nodes and hubs connecting people in the learning web?” I paid no attention to the “how do we use tech to” piece–I read and began to think about the “shift from” part.

When I read @dennisar asking, “How do I co-create with my students?
” and answer his own question by saying, “I ask them to create personal meaning from class activities by using their own choice of digital tools for learning logs.” and saw Melissa Techman’s response:

@mtechman love your question re co-creating – I’m going to start with posting goal or topic and then stepping off-stage to join them in exploring/making/presenting

I realized I often do that with my kids–I often pose a problem that I KNOW is rich–but that I may not know the answer to initially.  What I do know is that I can figure it out, I can (probably) beat them timewise doing it, and I will both hear and figure out some great questions along the way as we struggle together with a challenge I have set forth. So I shift from, as Pam says, a hierarchy of me posing the problem to a learning hub where other leadership hubs emerge as people begin to work together to figure out the problem.

As I looked at the twitpoll for this week’s edchat,  I realized that, for me, # 1 and 3 were closed questions–a yes or no or simple list, unless we get to the HOW.  In #1, WHAT we teach is dictated. . . can we talk HOW we would emphasize what should be emphasized instead?  I want to figure out the HOW of school reform. . .

  1. With an overloaded curriculum, what should be emphasized and what should be eliminated?
  2. What are the advantages and drawbacks to single gender classrooms?
  3. Should the current system of grading be outlawed an replaced with something more “21st Century?”
  4. How do schools and districts help retain quality educators?
  5. How do educators deal with the question of “Friending” students on social media sites and applications?

And I realized, I want to learn the HOW from other people.  I want to struggle with others to verbalize how schools should change to meet the changing needs of the world and our students.

And then I read  this post by @JerriDKrusse and this ending:

To summarize, I think the reason so many reform efforts have had problems is because they do not address the fundamental issues at hand in education. Most importantly is the role of and decisions made by the teacher. Instead of giving teachers shiny new stuff (whether that be superficial strategies, or technology), we must address teachers’ fundamental views on learning and how to build student knowledge so that it is deep and transferable. (something that can be done with or without the use of modern electronic technologies).  Until we try to modify fundamental teacher beliefs about teaching & learning, our reform efforts will be wasted.

And I realized he has it–a fundamental point–until we begin talking basic VALUES of teaching and learning with one another and get down to the nitty gritty of  why we speak to kids in the third person or say “I like” or “don’t smile til Christmas” or any of those other things we do that negate setting up a true learning hub or web, schools won’t change.  We need to discuss what IS a learning hub–do all teachers WANT them in their classrooms, what are the teaching and learning behaviors we value and where DOES grade fog play in all of it?  How do we assess our students for real learning, and where REALLY are the opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, interdisciplinary thought and transfer of knowledge? When do students engage and how can we leverage those instances and those behaviors for more sustainable learning?

What Would You Like To Read? Part 2

Boy, when I asked what people would like to read about, I got lots of suggestions. So I began my book chapter.

I began my book chapter.

And I began my book chapter.

(Yeah, I was having a hard time focusing on one idea.)

So, I wrote 6 pages,, called it “Transformation,” and sent them to Darah.

(I did title my email subject line as “I know this is long, but. . . ” and give him permission to cut as needed.)

But I still felt bad I didn’t/couldn’t focus, and I also knew that everyone else’s had been 2-3 pages, so I felt like I was being Miss Piggy, taking up so much reading real estate.  So, continuing to ponder all the ideas my Twitterfolk had shared,  I slept on my guilt and lack of focus.

And I slept on my guilt and lack of focus.

And I slept on my guilt and lack of focus.

Until I came up with another idea and wrote 3 pages this time, called “The Creation Generation.”  It begins like this:

Many words have been written about Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0, delineating the use in each era as consumers, producers and now collaborators. What our current students have gotten out of their use of technology, though, is that it is easy for them to create—a wiki, blog, a photo mosaic on Flickr, an online presence through sites such as Club Penguin and Webkinz for younger students and Twitter and Facebook for older ones. Heck, we even have students as young as 10 building applications for technologies such as the iPods. Students not only see the web as interactive, and their world as connected (through their phones, texting, chatting, Skypeing and even their DS and PS2 game devices), but they also see it as directed by them—they control how they use it to a great degree.

In this chapter-to-be, I cite  Ira Socol, David Cushman, and Larry Cuban, but I won’t steal any thunder from Darah’s book by posting that writing here. I will tell you, though, that both Ira and David have blogs worth reading, and the influence of me reading their thinking WILL show up in my blog thinking.

But, for those of you who made suggestions–many of which I attempted to incorporate into ONE writing–THAT, I will post here. . . but in bits and pieces, so you don’t have almost THREE THOUSAND words to read in one go.  AND, I offer my sincerest thanks for the ideas.

To begin, this paragraph is for @maryjanewaite who said, “I’d like to read how kids view schoolwork, teachers, technology and use that valuable kid info to change how I do my job” and sort of for @jasondeluca who “would want to read… where are we now? and… where should we be going with use of technology?” (More to come later, Jason!)

A 2001 contest for children to describe “The School We’d Like” clearly showed that “teachers and pupils all over the country (UK) realise that the system is outdated, that it does not allow decent expression of the values of creativity and independent thought that are needed in the new post-industrial world,” said John Clifford. Furthermore, “It proves yet again that young people are not a problem that needs to be corralled and curfewed, but an incredible rich resource of wisdom and creative thinking that we should learn to listen to.” See below for a children’s manifesto of what the schoolchildren of Britain would like to see in their school. The most poignant quote for me was a HS student’s: “Education should not close children’s eyes to the wonder of learning as it presently does, but should give children the opportunity to feed their mind and never get tired of life before theirs has even begun.”

We, the schoolchildren of Britain, have been given a voice. This is what we say:

The school we’d like is:

A beautiful school with glass dome roofs to let in the light, uncluttered classrooms and brightly coloured walls.

A comfortable school with sofas and beanbags, cushions on the floors, tables that don’t scrape our knees, blinds that keep out the sun, and quiet rooms where we can chill out.

A safe school with swipe cards for the school gate, anti-bully alarms, first aid classes, and someone to talk to about our problems.

A listening school with children on the governing body, class representatives and the chance to vote for the teachers.

A flexible school without rigid timetables or exams, without compulsory homework, without a one-size-fits-all curriculum, so we can follow our own interests and spend more time on what we enjoy.

A relevant school where we learn through experience, experiments and exploration, with trips to historic sites and teachers who have practical experience of what they teach.

A respectful school where we are not treated as empty vessels to be filled with information, where teachers treat us as individuals, where children and adults can talk freely to each other, and our opinion matters.

A school without walls so we can go outside to learn, with animals to look after and wild gardens to explore.

A school for everybody with boys and girls from all backgrounds and abilities, with no grading, so we don’t compete against each other, but just do our best.

At the school we’d like, we’d have:

Enough pencils and books for each child.

Laptops so we could continue our work outside and at home.

Drinking water in every classroom, and fountains of soft drinks in the playground.

School uniforms of trainers, baseball caps and fleece tracksuits for boys and girls.

Clean toilets that lock, with paper and soap, and flushes not chains.

Fast-food school dinners and no dinner ladies.

Large lockers to store our things.

A swimming pool.

This is what we’d like. It is not an impossible dream.

‘I know money doesn’t grow on trees and if every school had all these things it would cost thousands of thousands of pounds. But even if one of my ideas was just thought about being made a reality I’d be happy.’ Nicole Rennick, 11.

‘But most important of all was not the fact that the headmaster had ordered the equipment, but that he had listened.’ Holly Mackenzie, 11.

Remember this was written in 2001. I think today, students would STILL ask for a beautiful, comfortable, safe, respectful, flexible, relevant school for everybody, where everybody listened and everybody’s voice was heard.


Mimicry-Ya Got That?

As I’ve been working on thinking about “LEARNING”  for the project at Thinking About Words Through Images,  my camera has been my constant companion at school.  That’s not unusual, for me to pull out my camera and snap pictures of my students working, but the difference is that I have told them WHY I am taking pictures and some of what I am thinking.  I have shared the link to that wiki, and it’s been interesting–knowing that I am collaborating with educators from all over the world seems to have had an impact on my students. I notice them commenting on each others’ wikis more, offering strategies in class more explicitly and asking each other questions that imply accountability to the community (like, have you finished your  geometry wiki page, I’ll call you tonight to remind you to bring in your iPod, etc.)

But, I wonder– am I seeing these things more because I am looking for specific instances of learning to photograph?

I have learned a lot in the first week of January, trying to take pictures of “learning.” First, it’s HARD trying to capture a still picture of the active learning in which my kids engage. I find myself wanting to describe the pictures, to explain what’s going on, to share the amazing thinking I see in my kids. While the images can capture some of what is going on, I need words as well.  I find myself posting my lessons (both adult and student ones) to the web, describing what happened and what I was hoping to happen. It’ll be interesting to see what I think and how I’m looking at the world through the lens of my camera at the end of the month.

What else I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what age kids are, they still mimic their teacher.

In teaching kindergarten, one of the funniest things to watch was when kids were in “free choice” time and they chose to play school.  I would hear my words coming out of their mouths, just as in housekeeping, I would hear their parents’ words.  It was eye-opening in both situations, and I often changed the ways I worded things based on the feedback I received watching my kids mimic me. (In parent conferences, I often told parents I wouldn’t believe half of what their kid told me about them if they’d promise me the same–because we ALL know that age also has a very active imagination!)

Yesterday was a hoot–the mimicry happened with fifth graders. In my class, when students are explaining their thinking, I often play confused so they have to be more explicit in their explanation and they learn how to explain their thinking more logically, sequentially and in depth.  I check for understanding with the group listening frequently by stopping the explainer periodically and asking the group things like, “Do you understand what s/he is saying?”  or “Did you get that?”  or “Does everybody know what s/he means when s/he says. .. ?”   I guess my most used is, “Did you get that?” Kids in my class don’t hesitate to ask for more explanation because this is part of our day-to-day conversations, AND they see me model confusion and asking clarifying questions.

Ms. White, Tzstchr

In a lesson where these pictures were taken, I was playing my confused self.  I had been taking pictures, but sat down at a table to probe a student who was making an assumption she shouldn’t have been making. Setting my camera on the table, I began asking the child to show me her thinking. After several minutes of interaction, another student picked up my camera and began taking pictures of our interactions. I paid no attention to that and continued with my questions.  She put the camera down, and throughout the next 5-10 minutes, several students took turns picking it up and taking pics as others gathered around to hear the conversation and support the child being questioned if they could. watchingThe pictures they got were pretty good (I had to leave out two because they have students whose pictures may not be put on the web.)

However, the funniest part was Toria taking over the explanation for the child I had begun with and explaining to me the way she saw to work the problem.  (She describes class on her wiki page, MathIDidToday.)   She was showing me her way, and I made her do it three different ways, apparently not understanding each time. (I asked her to, NOT because she didn’t get it, but because she was so adroit at thinking flexibly, choosing various shapes and changing her approach and modeling descriptive language for the others watching.)  By the third time, she was getting a wee bit frustrated with my lack of “getting it”, so she finished and, (truly) standing up, with a hand flourish, asked,  “Ya got that?”

The class erupted in HOWLING laughter. . .that’s why they all left with the red faces Toria describes!

UPDATE: the kid who picked up the camera first just wiki-mailed me and asked if I had ever figured out whether S4 was half of S5 (which was the problem we were working on that’s described in this blog.). I wrote her back this message:

Hanna, I’ll share a secret that you cannot share.
Please read this: http://tzstchr.edublogs.org/mimicry

PW

Her response back to me was simply priceless:

wow that is so cool i have never known but i did notice that you ALLWAYS didn’t get what we were telling you

What Would You Like To Read?

Today I tweeted this out:

I need to write 2-pg paper about schools/technology… ideas? Audience could be anyone-probably mostly educators. What would you want to read? about 9 hours ago from TweetDeck

Here’s the backstory:

So, Let’s Start Writing…..

Collaborative book writing project set to begin.

http://mobilehomeonmainstreet.blogspot.com/2009/10/so-lets-start-writing.html

I volunteered to be one of these writers and am just getting to it.  (Darah graciously is still accepting submissions, so if you’d like to join in, feel free to email him at the email listed in his blog entry.)

And got these responses (newest first):

20.

mwacker @paulawhite 2 ideas, 1) how can tech reduce gender/SES gaps in education 2) protocol/checklst around designing differntiated lessons w/ tech

19.

tperran @paulawhite I would like to read stories from teachers who have effectively integrated a variety of technologies into their instruction

18.

hotei @Linda704: @paulawhite How about how you use Twitter, etc to expand your learning? Agreed!  about 6 hours ago

17.

psbenson @jackiegerstein: @paulawhite projected educational techonology trends for 2010.  about 6 hours ago

16.

johnsonmaryj @paulawhite Hints for keeping up with educational applications of technology? Or what educators on twitter are talking about?  about 8 hours ago

15.

pammoran @paulawhite I’m interested in how tech reduces distance bet learner & learning from 1:25 teach/stu to 1:1 w choice theory focus  about 8 hours ago

14.

teacherspirit @paulawhite What about a paper about digital citizenship?  about 8 hours ago

13.

mmiller7571 @paulawhite re: you paper… I think my teachers would like to hear a success story of integration from 0 to success, practical ideas  about 8 hours ago

12

dlaufenberg @paulawhite re: you paper… I often like the idea of embracing failure as a topic… http://delicious.com/dlaufenberg/embracingfailure

11.

jasondeluca @paulawhite would want to read… where are we now? and… where should we be going with use of technology?  about 8 hours ago

10.

jackiegerstein @paulawhite projected educational techonology trends for 2010.  about 8 hours ago

9.

flourishingkids @paulawhite would want to read about how to use tech in my classroom when limited by resources available or how to get grants for new tech  about 8 hours ago

8.

maryjanewaite @paulawhite I’d like to read how kids view schoolwork, teachers, technology and use that valuable kid info to change how I do my job  about 8 hours ago

7.

pimathman @paulawhite Maybe articulating difference between technology for technology’s sake vs usefulness in learning  about 8 hours ago

6.

irasocol @paulawhite choosing technologies which transform  about 9 hours ago

5.

cmt1 @paulawhite Schools/tech – mentioning all the 21st c literacies that should be pa of the learning landscape  about 9 hours ago

4.

gardenglen @paulawhite I’d like 2 read how & why tchrs have stdnts use technology (as pedagogy tool)  about 9 hours ago

3.

Vonluck @paulawhite Twitter and/or cell phone use in the classroom might be interesting for MS HS teachers, paper on PLCs/PLNs would also be great.  about 9 hours ago

2.

sraslim @paulawhite how about Cushing Academy and their 70 e-readers?  about 9 hours ago

1.

Linda704 @paulawhite How about how you use Twitter, etc to expand your learning?  about 9 hours ago

Obviously I am not an expert on most of these, but a lot of them DO ask for personal experience or opinions.  So, given these (or another topic of YOUR choice), what would YOU like to read?

The Magic of Computing

This morning Scott McLeod tweeted:

We're not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing.

We're not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing.

He was citing a quote from an article in the NY Times, that was discussing computer classes and how they center on programming to the exclusion of “explain{ing} the steady march and broad reach of computing across the sciences, industries, culture and society” which includes letting students use tools they use out of these traditional settings, such as “e-mail, text-messaging and Facebook.”

Now, I don’t know if he was agreeing with the statement, “We’re not teaching the magic of computing” but if he was, I disagree. In any case, I disagree with the statement.

On Sunday, one of my 3rd graders went to a play with his family and then wrote an unassigned and unsolicited review on his wiki.  It was a GREAT step for this kid, so I quickly added a cluster map to his wiki and then tweeted the link out to my followers, asking folks to visit. Not only did I get some great comments on his wiki, but people retweeted me

Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 6

(Thanks @beckyfisher73, @mbTeach, @Raysadad, @langwitches, @rkiker, @MsBisonline, @TweetsfromMrsB and anyone else who RT’d it!)

Within 24 hours, the wiki got almost 100 hits from 6 of the 7 continents!

Owenvisits

Now, these stats are the talk of my kids on wikimail-and the phone–this morning.  And, these kids are all 7-11 year olds. When these kids see that Owen’s wiki has been viewed by people all over the world, does ANYONE think they are not going to believe that writing and publishing on the web is magic?

Even the people who helped me front load this ClustrMap were thrilled with the responses:

Picture 7

My kids are already creating content–both self-chosen and assigned–on their individual wikis. They are using the wikimail that wikispaces offers to communicate with one another inside and outside of school. They are participating with tools in a Digital FABLAB.  They are using and taking home iPods, and reviewing apps they are using on those devices. Students in our school use tools like Voicethread, Skype, and  Scratch and we have a teacher who comes in twice a week BEFORE school to help kids with their online fantasy football leagues. Our students participate in online projects with other elementary students, and our fifth grade is using Edmodo for many classroom assignments. I believe our students ARE experiencing the magic of computing–and envisioning possibilities–in many ways.

When kids say to me,

*”Ms. White, can I text my Dad to see if I can stay after school for the digifablab workshop?” (one that was aimed at TEACHERS!) or,

*”Are we going to use the Silhouette machine in our 2-D geometry unit?” or

*”May I begin our Civil War wiki over spring break?”

our elementary students ARE learning the magic of computing!

And, I am NOT in the only school doing things like this–online projects, Skype, Voicethreads, blogs and wikis are in widespread use among the teachers in my PLN. These may not be widespread practices in all schools, but I believe the pockets of innovation are growing, and the evidence is mounting that these tools are worthwhile and helpful, and beyond that, critical to helping our students live in THEIR world. Students today are learning that digital tools can be used for creation, and not just regurgitation.

Maybe we could be painting these pictures faster, or better, or in a more efficacious way, but you know what? People should be careful about making blanket statements such as the one that began this post (made by Ms. Cuny from the National Science Foundation), AND perhaps folks in positions such as hers should get out in schools more.

Your thoughts?

Losing Our Minds

Everyone should read Deborah Ruf’s book, Losing Our Minds.  Not only does she do an EXCELLENT job of describing giftedness in many different ways, but she also describes different KINDS of giftedness and different ways of meeting those needs in the classroom.  She addresses push in and pull out models, the need for independent studies and when that isn’t necessary. She really makes the delivery of services for meeting the various needs of gifted kids just make sense.

I also love the book, “Young, Gifted and Black,” by Theresa Perry, Asa Hilliard III, and Claude Steele, as they describe the cultural and democratic aspects to be considered when looking at educating blacks in America.  They make the point that REALLY we have only been experimenting democratically with truly educating African Americans for a short period of time. MANY folks, as African Americans were “integrated” into society in the 1900s –and many still today–question the mental capacity, the intellectual competence of black people, looking at historical academic achievement as “proof”. This book argues that “since learning is fundamentally contextual, there are extra social, emotional, cognitive and political competencies required of African Americans precisely because they ARE African Americans.” (See Ira Socal’s recent post, Crossing America: An Education for a better explanation than I am giving here.)

BUT, what brought this topic to mind is a recent article, “No Gifted Minority Left Behind” in the Richmond (VA) Times that @JonBecker and @mwacker (Michael Wacker) posted.  Our county is currently (as many are) examining the discrepancy between membership group populations and enrollment in special programs such as Gifted, Special Education, Advanced Placement/Honors courses, technical programs, etc.)

So, I asked Michael and Jon: Do you believe that just because say, 70% of your student population is white, 70% of your gifted (or SPED) population should be?

Their responses included the following comments and questions:

becker@paulawhite no, but we should be within a much tighter confidence interval than we are now; extreme disproportionality is problematic.

Me-> 2 years ago our Gifted Advisory Committee did a study on that discrepancy, Jon, and my school was the ONLY one near to that tight confidence interval. However, it isn’t anymore, as I moved schools, and the GTs who came after didn’t continue ID of minorities. (I’ve now been gone from that one 5 years and the kids I identified are mostly gone.)


wacker@jonbecker @paulawhite agreed, its not that clean, but it is an issue, has anyone addressed cultural bias in the tests themselves?

becker@mwacker @paulawhite yes, and most LEAs have moved away from a single test for ID purposes, but that hasn’t made much of a difference.

Me->BECAUSE most people still look at the test score (no matter what test) as most important–behaviors and class work is incidental, and the one snapshot test “MUST” be more valid.

wacker@paulawhite @jonbecker do you use a triangulation data collection method for determining giftedness? Is it just one test or a B.O.E.?

So I responded:

Part of the discrepancy in identification IS cultural in that (and this goes back to my K blog) some cultures ENCOURAGE movement and calling out. Have either of you ever been to a southern black Baptist church? Calling out, responding aloud in group, NOT raising hands and moving is all part of their ritual–so ESPECIALLY kids with those experiences have to be indoctrinated to the hidden curriculum of school (sit down, be quiet and listen)–and teachers see those active, calling-out kids as “misbehaving” so therefore, they CAN’T be really smart. GTs often aren’t aware of cultural differences in behaviors, and most teachers DEFINITELY aren’t!

In fact, I go looking for those calling out/active kids cause it’s a GREAT sign of engagement.

I have a 5th grader right now (NOT minority)whose behavior has interfered with ANY teacher seeing his absolute BRILLIANCE…cause he refuses to “play school.” He wants to learn and he wants his questions answered–and he wants to know WHY he has to do stupid busy work, so he constantly challenges the teachers, which gets him sent to a safe spot. I’m trying to get them to give him a laptop AT the safe spot and see what he does with it. He recently embedded a WHOLE middle school math book on his wiki so others could read it and learn “as much as I did.”

I have another, a 2nd grade minority girl who did the most sophisticated sort of dominoes last year in a class lesson–when I pointed it out to the teacher, her response was “she must have copied.” This year’s teacher is noticing her novel responses.

Then, Samantha Melvin joined in:

melvinauthentic differentiated learning can only take place with authentic differentiated TEACHING –so glad you are sharing this!!

Me->Teachers have to understand that it is not about assembly line work or making everyone part of a melting pot, but separate and distinct individuals with specific strengths and passions. It’s not about conforming but honoring and providing opps for differences and personal strengths to be used and grow.

YES!  about process, not product! Amelvinre we giving them the skills they need to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways? (serving the individual learner)

Great question! Here’s where (IMHO) tech plays a SERIOUS part and meets a HUGE need!

So, when you read the article, what do you think?  ARE we leaving no gifted minorities behind, or are we losing our minds?



Do We Send Him to K or Wait a Year?

Last night @JonBecker and @BeckyFisher73 were tweeting and mentioned me, so I joined their conversation. Jon is struggling, as so many parents do, with whether to enter his son in Kindergarten when his age says he can go or wait a year. He’s tweeted often about his son, so I know a bit about his behavior in some situations.

I have spent over half of my career teaching early childhood, with 17 years specifically being in Kindergarten and/or First Grade or a K-1 combo (MOSTLY K). I have a Master’s in Early Childhood from the University of Virginia that I got in the early 90’s when they actually had an Early Childhood department. I am now a Gifted Resource Teacher and have taught in 6 different elementary schools in our division, from the smallest and poorest performing (at the time) to ones who are extremely advantaged (i.e., the principal can pretty much ask the parents to fund anything and someone will write a check) to ones who are succeeding in all traditional measures to ones with diversity and ones with little diversity.

So, when Jon tweeted that he was looking for opinions, I certainly have one, as I usually do.  🙂

In a series of tweets broken into 140 characters, poor Jon had to read over time as my slow connection allowed me to post.  Here’s what I shared (with some minor additional explanations sometimes):

Let me just say that young boys often enter at a disadvantage…sometimes due to teacher bias and/or inexperience, or traditional school expectations (the not-so-hidden curriculum of sit down, be quiet and listen) which is not only inappropriate, but getting worse and expected more in the schools I’ve seen. I counseled my daughter in law to NOT enter my grandson, an August birthday, into Kindergarten when he was just barely 5, but she did and he’s still struggling…not necessarily ONLY because of the early entrance, but also because he’s a gifted LD kid. He’s one of those who has only had the LD part worked with and most teachers do not give him a chance to show the brains because they can’t get past his disability–or worse yet, the label. He’s an incredibly frustrated kid who hates school, but loves learning OUT of school.

Jon’s next question: but what if I’m like every other parent and think my child is Uber-gifted “academically?”

Fact is, Jon, your kid has the rest of his life to learn in school-like situations. Do you push him into a system we, as educators, KNOW doesn’t typically meet the needs of the extremes, or do you enjoy him and make sure he gets to be a kid as long as he can before having to face the brutal realities of the world out there at age 5 or 6? Another fact is MANY parents are holding their kids out, so the age of kids in a grade is not only a wider span, but often has more older kids. So, if you enter a young one on time, he may be almost 2 years younger than some in his class. And, what do you do now for his uber-giftedness?  Can you not do that another year and let him grow socially into being comfortable with his emotions and other kids in more able ways?

Another fact is that gifted kids DO grow asynchronously and often their emotions are way behind their intellect–one of the challenges of parents of gifted kids is to remember that their ability to reason and talk and think at a high level is the anomaly-their behavior is often RIGHT ON TARGET for their age. When they temper tantrum or cry or act like a baby out of jealousy of a new sibling, they are simply acting their age. Parents often struggle when the kid talks so much like an adult, or can handle their own in a very sophisticated discussion but then acts in other situations like–OMG–a KID!

(Others joined the conversation here and the rest is a conglomeration of tweets to Jon and others, (with slight modifications to allow for context) and additional thoughts I have had since last night.)

It is CRUCIAL that early childhood teachers be nuturers FIRST and academians second–but GREAT academians who can meet those emotional needs WHILE fostering or extending a love of learning. MOSTLY you want an Early Childhood teacher who dwells on competence rather than deficits. They simply have to recognize the strengths of kids and make that public daily in ways that support the kid, and allow others to see those strengths as well.

Too many times kids, especially active young boys who don’t do the hidden curriculum well, get constantly fussed at for not sitting quietly, for asking questions out of turn, for blurting out answers, for fiddling with stuff, and those constant reprimands from the teacher say to the other kids that this kid isn’t smart. Think about it–isn’t it a sign of intelligence when one WANTS to engage, when one wants to ask questions, when one is so involved in the conversation that conversational turn-taking falls by the wayside, when one is constantly looking and fiddling with the stuff in one’s world to figure out how things work? Well, some K teachers–heck, some teachers in all grades–see their job as one where they are supposed to teach kids to play the game of school and learn how to sit down, shut up and listen. In many schools and most Kindergarten situations, kids are expected mostly to learn how to conform to the teacher’s (and parents’) traditional expectations for school behaviors.

Well, you and I both know smart people often DON’T conform. When that brilliant child needs that question answered and perseveres to ask it, s/he may get put in time out–or a safe spot–or sent away from the group for interrupting or not listening, or not doing what the teacher asked him/her to do. When that happens, tears may come as the kid is outraged at the injustice and/or may be hurt (crushed!) at the exclusion from the group. (Gifted kids also have an exaggerated sense of justice and fairness, too-and situations like this only amplify their outrage.) When other kids see that kid go to time out, or be fussed at constantly, or cry, they recognize these are NOT appropriate school behaviors–and no matter what the circumstances, the child who may be simply TRYING to engage is seen by others as perhaps a “bad boy”, a “crybaby”, “not smart”  or worse.

That’s why I say the teacher has to recognize strengths and display them publicly.  I can chastise my 5th grader in one moment for his misbehavior and in the next talk about WHY I perceive him shutting others out, explaining to the group that he’s involved in his own thinking and input from others may not allow him to work out HIS thinking just yet.I honor HIS style of learning while showing him he may need to adapt his behavior NOT to say “Shut up and leave me alone” to say “I need a few more moments to think, please. Can you be quiet and let me think?”

I spoke all the time to my K kids about how we are not in school by ourselves, but part of a group, so the conversations HAVE to involve turn-taking–and sometimes all of us will blurt out because of our excitement or enthusiasm, but it can’t happen all the time. I point out the REASONS behind the behavior and WHY some conformity is necessary. I speak to why I am asking the kid to leave the group–NOT because I am kicking him/her out, but because I need a few minutes to get the others going on something before we can have a private conversation. (Reread my first two blogs, “Why TZSTCHR? (Teasiest Teacher)” and Rules-Schools Have Too Many!” to see other ways I deal with shaping behaviors while respecting individualism.)

As parents,

As grandparents,

As people who LOVE our kids,

we all want to see our children grow up in happy situations, in places that will be safe emotionally and that will allow them to grow and stretch intellectually. Fact is, school is an institution and the social mores and groups determine (more often than not) which path we take in school.  Give your child the best chance by NOT sending them emotionally insecure to begin with–by enrolling them when they are ready and have the adaptability skills to handle the social/interactive piece of school and the various interactions they will encounter–and that includes traditional situations, various cultures, new situations, schedule changes and evolving routines. You can always push a bit later for the academic needs to be met, but let him/her grow, adapt, learn how to settle in a bit and adjust first. The social needs, for a young immature child, are paramount right now.

PS–the gifted teacher in me HAS to add, “Just don’t let go of the academic needs forever!”