Saturday, March 31, 2007

21st Century Skills and The Vocational World

Did you know traditional "Vocational/Technical" programs have changed their official name to "Career and Technical Education" (CTE)? Some folks are probably saying, "It's been that way for years, idiot!" (I actually know this, having worked in a school district for six years now - HONESTLY!) But it's important to recognize that the name isn't the only change as of late; folks are now taking a hard look at how to best structure these CTE programs to benefit not only students who wish to head straight to work after high school, but also to prepare students for a career track that will continue through college and beyond.
Here in ACSD 14, we have the opportunity to revamp our CTE programs prior to opening a new high school and community college complex.
As a member of the CTE Program Advisory Council, I was fortunate to attend an expert panel discussion last week, during which several distinguished business leaders from the metro-Denver region helped define the "employability skills" we need to instill in our students before they leave our schools.
Here's a sample of said skills/qualities:
  • effective communication
  • critical thinking
  • multi-tasking
  • teamwork
  • tech-savvy
  • work ethic
  • trustworthiness
  • trainability
  • cultural awareness

While no member of the panel actually mentioned the term "21st Century Skills", it sure looks like a list of all the things global learners exemplify. Another hot topic was the ability of students to locate reliable information and apply it in the real world. As reliable information is completely circumstantial, doesn't this mean we need to reexamine our internet policies? Should we really work so hard and spend so much money establishing elaborate filtration systems, rather than teaching and monitoring responsible internet use?

In addition, every panelist stressed the importance of creating a culture of excellence and setting high expectations. I couldn't agree more. Here's a great quote from Charles Maldonado, an executive at Denver International Airport: "You wanna be cutting edge, sharpen your skill set." We live in a world of instant gratification, and it's hard for a young adult to recognize that the real world doesn't always work that way. You're gonna have to pay some dues to become the boss; it won't happen overnight. Much like school, you work hard to pass or excel in math class only to move on to the next math class (and the next, and the next), but it takes perseverance to finally get that diploma or degree. And while you might not use all the math you suffered through, you will use all the experiences and developmental skills you gathered along the way.

I'll close with this quote from Paul Ludwig of Suncor Energy, who said at this new school, "one of the key factors must be to teach students how to learn." Sounds simple, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

Let's give it our best to create students who are ready for the real world outside the school walls.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Visualizations of 21st Century Global Learning

The creativity of 21st century educators humbles and energizes me. It is truly exciting to be involved in the endeavor to begin to investigate new ways of engaging current and future generations of learners. I found these two visualizations that for me have captured what our challenges are and what great opportunities await us. Take a look. What do these visualizations evoke in you?

The first is from Karl Fisch, Arapahoe HS. He produced this to show to the Arapahoe HS staff for a school year kickoff. Be sure to check out Karl's blog:

Did You Know? Shift Happens.

This next one comes from Jim and Tom. You can view their website at:

Shake It Up!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cyber Bullying and Public Schools

This week a prominent blogger described the recent death threats she has received through comments on her blog and in other places on the Internet. Bloggers rallied to her defense, including many prominent edu-bloggers. Andy Carvin, PBS Teachers blogger, proposed a day dedicated to stopping cyber-bullying. Stop Cyber-Bullying Day is tomorrow March 30, 2007. What this means for educators and non-educators is open to interpretation, but Carvin lists the primary goal is "to talk about it." There is no curriculum or set of activities, but a couple of activities are suggested: (1) create a anti-cyber-bullying podcast or PSA and upload it to the Internet (iTunes or youtube) and tag with stopcyberbullying or (2) ensure that the topic is covered in class Friday using materials from or or

I also recommend that those of us working in public schools take it a step further. Evaluate your school board policies to determine whether the policy covers "cyber-bullying". If the policy does not cover this topic encourage your board to take on this issue. There are several recent articles on this issue, including a discussion by the National School Board Association. This is an emerging issue for school boards, but is pertinent and timely and cannot be ignored.

Scott McLeod of Dangerously Irrelevant and Schoolhouse Gate has informed me that he plans to blog tomorrow on the legal aspects of addressing cyber-bullying and has a podcast covering some of the issues. Watch for this blog. Check for the tag: stopcyberbullying. Spread the word.

Thanks to Scott McLeod for the picture.


Algorithm: An algorithm is a method, like a recipe, in that by following the steps of an algorithm you are guaranteed to find the solution or the answer, if there is one.

Teaching and learning in the 21st Century may not have a clearly defined algorithm. However as witnessed by the postings on this blog the "recipe" for 21st Century global learning certainly is a process that has many ingredients that may lead us closer to finding the solution (if there is one). While Ma and Pa may be a bit off, they do have a recipe that is intriguing. Check out their algorithm by viewing the video below.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Do words and pictures define time?

It's been some time since I first stumbled across 10x10, but I continue to be as fascinated with the power of the site today as I was then. Surf around a bit on the picture montage, and you'll soon be addicted. But don't let the noodling potential fool you; there is extreme power in the imagery of 10x10 and the methodology behind it.

What's going on in the world at any given time ultimately affects each one of us, and 10x10 affords us snapshots of world events that we probably won't see on our local news. How might students and teachers use this tool?

Here are two activities:
1. use 10x10 to research your birthday - what happened last year on that day in the world that might affect you in some small way?
2. take a look at one whole month or one whole year - without the headlines, can you reconstruct your own narrative to describe what's happened in the pictures? You might even use the web to find the original news stories/events.

If we want to be global learners, we must learn more about the world in which we live, work, and play.

Video Sharing For Teachers

A new video sharing site has popped up on the Internet called Teacher Tube. The site is specifically designed as a social sharing context for educational video content that is "safe". It is being contrasted with Youtube and Google Video with respect to the safety and appropriateness of the content. I took a spin of the site last night and found many hilarious and interesting videos. I think most teachers (and administrators) will appreciate this first video, which is a take-off of the hilarious Sprint network commercials.

Also, checkout this video. It is one in a series created by a teacher (from Texas) that is rapping about mathematical concepts. It is a little hard to hear all the lyrics, but the production is innovative and fun. I think these students might remember these concepts, what do you think?

In addition to these videos, there are videos on teaching concepts (estimating area under a curve or running literacy circles), student videos, and much more. In addition, it is a social site in the youtube model that allows for favoriting and commenting.

Videos can be flagged for inappropriate content as well. How they the site owners will determine what is inappropriate will be interesting. For example, the video I embedded at the top uses a copy right protected song (Push It). Will this video be removed? Should it be removed?

Thanks to Cool Cat Teacher who mentioned this site in her blog

What uses do you see for the content? What about for student work?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

CIPA Blog Launches

A blog chronicling the issues related to the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) has launched. The first five posts have been discussed the historical and legal aspects of CIPA and issues related to filtering.

This will be a good blog to monitor as we develop our students into Global Learners.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Visualize Data (Hey Left Brain, Meet Your Right Brain)

As I recall the left brain is considered to be the half that drives logic, analysis, and linear thinking. On the other hand, the right brain drives creativity. People who think in pictures are right-brained. Daniel Pink has argued in his book A Whole New Mind that the future belongs to folks who can master the skills (attributes) typically associated with the right brain.

The folks over at the Visual Communication Lab have created an application that brings the right brain to bear on a traditionally left brain activity, data analysis. The application, Many Eyes, has the "goal to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social kind of data analysis." That's right, "new social kind of data analysis." Many Eyes has a number of features that encourage collaborative data analysis including, comments, HTML for blogging about your visualization, and requirements that all data are public. For example, I found a visualization that was created by comparing temperature deviations to CO2 levels for the past 420,000 years. This visualization (below) includes 17 comments where other analysts have reworked the data and noticed a variety of patterns. Some of the results are staggering.

Imagine a scenario where students uploaded data that they found on the Internet, created a visualization, and then the class was invited to comment. The student could also blog about their interpretation (or reading) of the data. They could also invite experts or students from other parts of the world to participate in the discussion on Many Eyes. Take this a step further. What if groups of students were collecting their own data and loaded these to Many Eyes. For example, water quality at the South Platte River, air quality in Commerce City by day of year and temperature, or soil pH and/or temperature along a gradient at the new high school site.

Is this Real World?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Skills for a New Century

Students today are entering a global work world where new skills and technological competency play an important role. This new work environment requires collaboration and communication skills that often don't show up in our current k12 curriculum. Read this article from Bob Pearlman on how Project Based Learning can help 21st century learners be more successful and competitive in a global world.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Visual Way to Teach Comma Rules

Jim Coe over at Bionic Teaching has uploaded really cool quicktime files that assist with teaching the comma rules. Every year Jim reminds his student what the comma rules are prior to the state assessment. This year he decided to try to create a more visually appealing and effective presentation method. I think you will find the final files very well done and useful for your own class.

This lesson does two things very effectively for students: (1) demonstrates that technology can enhance teaching and learning and (2) that good design makes all the difference. While the students may not make real-world connections immediately to the value of the comma rules, they are more likely to learn the rules. In addition, these students have observed their teacher using technology in a novel and engaging way. Contrast these videos (they were PowerPoint presentations first) with other methods for teaching the rules. Which way do you think works better for student learning? Did you learn anything new by watching the videos?

ISTE releases draft of new tech standards for students

The International society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has recently completed a draft of its new National Educational Standards for Studentdes (NET*S). The first national standards for students was issued by ISTE in 1998. These standards have been adopted by 45 U.S. states including Colorado (view the states). "The new student standards mark a shift in focus away from 'competency with tools' and toward the 'skills required in a digital world' says Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE. We can all contribute our thoughts to these new student standards by completing an online "refresh survey". Click here to read the draft of the NET*S.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Do the Diggs Dug?

Listible is a pretty cool web service that is based on the concept of Digg. Could you imagine using a technology like this with your students to help them understand the modern collaborative web (Web 2.0 for some) and simultaneously encourage them to solicit real-world feedback?

Join me by voting on the best education technology here and add your own. Share with friends. Click the link below to vote!

Global Knowledge

Test your knowledge of the location of countries. The guys over at download squad categorized this as a "time waster", what do you think?

I learned I probably wouldn't do well on a geographic quiz on Africa.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Leader Talk Blog Launches

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant has launched a new collaborative blog with a group of K-12 administrators from across the country called Leader Talk. Join the conversation and share the hope for the future.

Real World Collaboration

Advocates of 21t Century Teaching and Learning frequently refer to project-based learning, authentic assessment, and real world collaboration. With a quick google or technorati search you can find oodles of classroom examples and definitions of these concepts. However, given that education (to many) does not actual reside in the real world, I wonder if teachers and administrators can clearly point to an example of real world collaboration. I hope we can all point to examples from our we use these with our students and are they compelling? I would love to hear examples of real world collaboration in response to this post.

Here is mine:

Last year prior to the release of CSAP scores (our state assessment), I proposed that we announce the results in a different (or even innovative way). I wanted to make sure that district staff were the first to hear from the Superintendent (they often complain they are the last to hear anything) and I wanted to demonstrate the power of new technologies. After a conversation with my brother-in-law Daniel Sallick of Homefront Communications, I proposed that we do a video news release on the web rather than a standard news release. I needed the assistance of the district video producer and the district application developer. The Assessment Department, Public Information, and Technology Services all had to collaborate and our timeline was short with about 5 days to plan, develop, and launch the news release. I wrote the text, one of the Assessment Department staff created data profiles for all schools, the video producer planned the shoot, edited the script, and created the final video. The district application developer altered the website to allow videos to be played within a page and ran countless tests to guarantee the video would play on the majority of computers. In the end the project ran smoothly and was satisfying as the launch garnered a lot of positive feedback.

Final product

Friday, March 2, 2007

World Video Conferencing

One of my favorite television ad campaigns promotes Cisco System's TelePresence.
This one's my favorite: check out the video. Staring contests are great fun, but think of the possibilities for collaboration, exploration, and interactivity that are created by virtually connecting a classroom here in Commerce City with classrooms across the nation and the globe.
While I'm just beginning to learn about the TelePresence system, I know enough to realize I want something like it in our classrooms.
Is there any teacher who wouldn't like to offer students (let alone him/herself) a chance to build relationships spanning the globe? Now more than ever, we have the ability to equip our classrooms for collaborative learning and real-world problem solving.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Global Learners in High School Math

Darren Kuropatwa is by far one of the most prolific and creative teachers that is generating usable online content and testing emerging technology (and integration ideas). Mr. Kuropatwa is a high school math teacher in Canada that is widely known for his various math blogs. Last year I read the now defunct Ellie's 7th grade math blog (I assume because Ellie has moved to 8th grade). Mr. Kuropatwa used this blog to help teach his niece math. The blog included innovative lessons and opportunities for Ellie to practice skills. A Difference is the blog where Mr. Kuropatwa reflects on his practice and talks about strategies that he is trying with his students. I am blown away and humbled by this individual's extraordinary efforts. He uses wikis, blogs (checkout today's post on probability), vaestro (checkout the thread with the EFL students from about Global Learners), SmartBoards, slideshare, and any other technology he can get his hands on to reach his students and find ways for more effective learning. My hat is off to Mr. Kuropatwa...thanks for providing a shining light.

Please Block Google

Actually, I oppose blocking Google. Wesley Fryer over at the Tech Learning Blog has excellent post today describing how districts that choose to block Google entirely (and all the excellent applications that go with it) are actually putting their students at a disadvantage.

Check out Wesley Fryer's post.

What do you think?

Raising Student Achievement by Closing the Digital Divide

Like many school districts across the country (perhaps including ours) Lemon Grove saw that many of the students and familes they serve did not have access to digital resources. Through a thoughtful plan and process that have bridged the digital divide for their community. They set out to create a digitally connected community of schools, city government, businesses, and families. The Lemon Grove School District is the first to become an education application service provider for an entire community. Visit their link to learn more about this amazing project.

E-stonia to Longmont: the Wireless World

Just the other day, I heard a truly inspiring story on NPR (you don't know how often I preface my conversations with that phrase!) about Estonia (affectionately referred to in EU circles as E-stonia) and its massive network of wireless internet router/repeater/whatever-those-things-are-that-make-it-work-ers.

To be more specific, Estonia, a country of some 1.3 million folks, is among the most technology savvy places on Earth. Hotmail, Kazaa, and Skype were all developed by groups of Estonian techno-junkies. The next great thing to come from the creators of Kazaa and Skype will be Joost, an internet TV application where users can customize channels and interface (still in testing mode).

Now these are all fairly high-level ideas and developments, but let's consider the latest newsbreak from E-stonia: one can now ride on a public bus across certain stretches of the country (as I recall the 300km stretch from Tallinn to Riga) and maintain wireless connectivity to the Internet through a receiver/repeater on the bus. And the ticket is only a nominal fee greater than the regular price.
By the way, if anyone can find this article, please comment with the link for our bloggers; I've looked all over and can't find it.

E-stonia is no stranger to making technology headlines across the world. For example, the government cabinet operates in a paperless environment (since 2000), and the citizens of E-stonia may now securely cast votes online in elections (since 2005). Here's something citizens of the U.S. might hope for in the future: "in February 2000, the Estonian Parliament approved a proposal to guarantee Internet access to each of its citizens, just like any other constitutional right." And this one really touched me: proposed legislation is published by the government online, where citizens may post suggestions. The country states that some 5% of these suggestions have made it into law. Talk about democracy at work!

Must be nice. Check out the many E-stonia initiatives here.

This brings me to Longmont, Colorado. To be sure, Longmont is no E-stonia (last I checked, Longmont isn't really a country). Longmont has its fair share of tech-junkies that work in Boulder county and beyond. I generally like people and avoid confrontation, so I don't want to ruffle any Longmonter (is this the proper moniker?) feathers.
But here's where Longmont totally rocks: beginning Spring 2007, Longmont will provide wireless internet access to the entire city. For more info, visit the city's site.
Seems like someone over there believes in E-stonia's talk of basic constitutional right to internet access. I was pleased to learn that I wouldn't have to move to E-stonia any time soon; although it looks pretty sweet.

Let's talk seriously about opening the walls of our classrooms - heck, not just our classrooms, but our community - to the world.

Who's with me?

Defining a "Student"

We must first define what a student is in order to determine the skills a student possess upon exit from our institutions.

"A student is one who studies. He is an attentive and systematic observer. A student is one who reads and studies in detail in order to learn and then apply.
He understands the purpose of his study is to:
Understand the materials he is studying by reading, observing, demonstrating, and drilling.
He does this in order to be able to apply what he has learned. He understands his studies have to come together so he can apply the data to a specific result. His ultimate reward is:
The ability to produce specific results or products and do it with ease and do it right repeatedly.
When he can do that he is no longer a student. He is a professional."

Now let's disassemble this definition a bit.

1. A student is "an attentive and systematic who reads and studies in detail in order to learn and then apply."
If our students are to be global learners, they must systematically observe and learn about the world in which they live. First and foremost, our students must be excellent readers and critical thinkers to excel in modern society; because global learners must be able to gather knowledge, learn new skills at the drop of a hat, and apply those skills in diverse environments (alone or with a team, in the home, in the office, on the public transport with wireless connectivity, etc.).

2. A student understands the purpose of study...
So much of the national dialogue on education currently revolves around this concept. How can we make the education of public school relevant to our students? How do we show students that the ability to apply what they're learning in school will, at the very least, make a difference in their lives, if not the lives of others in the global environment? It's not about economic competition, it's about the personal success of each student that walks through our doors daily.

3. "Reading, observing, demonstrating, and drilling", then applying.
This belief reflects the educational philosophy of the 19th century and earlier. While these fundamental skills are critical, 21st century learning requires a total shift of process, in which students are applying skills they already know (technology skills, student/teacher interaction, collaboration) in order to observe, demonstrate and learn. Using the skills that are most familiar and applicable to student life allows teachers to create an environment in which students are learning without even knowing it. Locally, this attitude has best been stated by Dupont Principal Carolyn Meritt, who remarked in the ACSD14 documentary Tools of the 21st Century, "Sometimes I wonder if they even know how much they're learning."

4. Upon attaining a level of applied learning and critical thinking, one then becomes a producer in the 21st century global learner. As stated above, one is no longer a "student" but a "professional". This is what we all want for our students: to graduate from our institutions prepared to tackle any challenge they wish.

Having now analyzed and arrived at some clarity on defining a "student", I feel compelled to share some final words of wisdom from the source listed above:

"There can be many reasons to study: Exam results, status, speed, glory, knowledge, whatever.
There is only one valid reason to study: Studying for understanding, application and be able to produce something of value."