Two posts diverged in a feed reader, and I took the one marked Unread.

My apologies to Robert Frost. And to be accurate, I actually took two posts marked Unread.

I have had two blog posts saved in my Bloglines account for what seems like eternity. They are too good to mark as read, yet they are blaring at me with each stroll past. I have no idea what to do with them. They make bold statements that educators should hear, yet they can be inflammatory each in its own right without thorough discussion of the context.

So in the spirit of sharing my current thoughts, here are the two things Darren Draper and Sylvia Martinez have published on their blogs that have me pondering:

Darren posts this graphic from Carl Glickman’s Leadership for Learning: How to Help Teachers Succeed

Sylvia posts this quote from Alan Kay –

“Virtually all learning difficulties that children face are caused
by adults’ inability to set up reasonable environments for them. The
biggest barrier to improving education for children, with or without
computers, is the completely impoverished imaginations of most adults.” – Alan Kay (Scholastic Administrator, April/May 2003)

Both make awesome points and serve to inspire the bendable and tick off the rigid. Which one can you relate to the best?

I realize I have not hashed these two things out very well in this post. My goal was to archive them on my blog so that I would be forced to discuss them with others or at least revisit them together on a regular basis until I get it all organized in my head. If anyone wants to discuss/debate the content and context, comment away. Otherwise, these remain in my head until further notice.

Don’t be an academic Uncle Rico!

You remember how smart you were in high school? You know, headed to Ivy League if it weren’t for that one teacher who hated you or that one bad test day, or not enough money or ….. Yet, you were every bit as smart as any Ivy Leaguer. Right, Uncle Rico?

Well, now is your chance to prove it. You are older, wiser, more self-controlled. What better time is there? Derek Baird over at the Blended Edu blog reminded me that Yale University had joined the OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement. They announced it in September of 2006, but they are now stocking the system with courses. Seven departments at Yale offer courses: Astronomy, English, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, and Religious Studies.

The best thing about this system is that you have free access to the lectures and course material through the Open Yale site. You get the chance to virtually audit the course. How cool is that? You never leave your (insert where you are on the computer, with iPod, etc.). You choose when to study. You challenge your friends and co-workers to see if they can handle the rigor of an Ivy League course. Or, you impress them by doing it anyway when they say no thanks. You can’t necessarily move your family to Yale, but you sure can take advantage of this.

Open Yale is the direction schools are headed with content (minus the “free” attached to ALL of it). The OCW movement is but one group offering the ability to be a lifelong learner from talented, brilliant, academic minds. Consider iTunes U. Harvard, Yale, Texas A&M, Stanford, and more are filling your iPod with academic lectures, videos, and notes just in case you want to take advantage of them during your self-directed learning. Once again, it is free. These schools are also using the iTunes portal for students who show up in person, so consider the fact that the information you are getting is current and you have one heck of a deal on your hands.

Here is what I am thinking. You have a few high school students who are very bright. They are ready for the D1 university challenge, so they think. Why not corral up a few of them and put together a PLN that meets before school, after school, during a study period, or even virtually. Work through a course with them so they can see what university work is all about. They will either prove their muster or realize it is time to step it up. Regardless, what the Open Yale site says is the goal of the project stands very true in this instance:

This approach goes beyond the acquisition of facts and concepts to cultivate skills and habits of rigorous, independent thought: the ability to analyze, to ask the next question, and to begin the search for an answer.

We hope these courses will be a resource for critical thinking, creative imagination, and intellectual exploration.

I could not say it better myself.

This is learning for the love of learning. Challenge for the intrinsic motivation. Intellectual stimulation as a voluntary mental workout. When did these things get left out of the standards in school? Oh, yeah. When they were not on the test. What an opportunity this is!

So, anyone up for the challenge? I think the Philosophy course PHIL 176 – Death is out for me. Will it be Poli Sci or Religious Studies? RLST 145 – Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Hmm. I think I might have found a winner.
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Online Learning Sites by Grade Level

Rolla Public Schools in Missouri has a neat little section of its website where it archives links to online activities by grade level and subject area. I thought I would share it here as both a resource for my staff but also a nice little archive for me as well. Thanks RPS!

Also check out what the Utah Education Network has posted on their grade level/subject area links:

K-2

3-6

7-12 

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Daniel Cook is at it again!

If you have a young one at home, I know you watch PBS. I also know they are aware of who Daniel Cook is. Quite the bright young man, Daniel spends his time working with adults learning about their jobs and the things around them. His videos and strong personality kept my son engaged every time it came on the television (all I kept thinking was “Boy that kid would wear me out.”).

Now, Daniel has his own website. He has a Playroom and a Backyard area to for kids to explore, interact, and learn. You will also find episode guides. The guides share a short summary, learning objectives for the program, and contact information of the location that was visited for additional information.

Graphic credit: www.thisisdanielcook.com

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Literacy Practice Through Online Gaming – Early Readers

Interested in some online Guided Reading practice via games? Then you might find Roy the Zebra worth your time.

You will find digital stories that you can scroll through one virtual page at a time. Included with the stories, you will find pre and post questions and literacy worksheets for vocabulary practice. You will also find games that help with alphabetical order, double consonants, high frequency words, singular or plural words, rhyming words, and much more.

If your early readers need literacy practice then this might be the site for you. Give it a try and shoot me some feedback in the comments as to the pros and cons.

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New Week, New Tools, New Lessons

Today was a pretty cool day. I got my first taste of installing an NComputing system. I put it in our elementary library to expand the number of stations available for students to use. The main computer it is running off of is a base model ($500 w/monitor) HP with 2GB RAM and XP Pro. All went pretty smoothly. We used Logictech keyboards and mice and 17″ Princeton LCD monitors for each station.  It would be nice if the directions would tell you that the serial number and product key for the NComputing software was really the one for the little station modules, but other then that things went well.

Then I got to play with another really cool tool. An iPod Touch. 32GB. WiFi. Google Maps. GMail integration. Movies. Podcasts. And more than I can list here. I truly only had a few minutes off and on during the day to mess with it, but I have to say it is one fine piece of electronics.

I figured since I was picking my son up from school today while my wife is away on a field trip with her students, this was a good chance to look cool(er) to my seven year old. I asked him if he wanted to check out the new tool. He said sure and took it from me. Since I was driving us home, I had to hope he could understand my directions since I could not physically show him. I told him where the power button was at and how to slide the Unlock switch over to get to the menu. I commenced to offering several other fine points about the new iPod. He was kind of quiet (actually, he had not said anything during my spiel). I figured the volume must have been up a little on the earbuds, so I spoke a little louder:

“You know, Son, if you want to turn the volume down just slide your finger across the bottom of the screen!”
“Thanks, Daddy. I know that.” (Me internally: What? I just figured that out!)

“Well, in case you want to move around in the video, slide your finger across the top of the screen. The timeline will show up and you can move the cursor.”
“Yes, Sir. I figured that out.” (Me internally: What? I played with that for a bit before I could do that.)

“If you get tired of the movie, you can always click the square on the bottom of the iPod to go back to the menu and then click, I mean touch, Music. Then you can scroll down to the artist or song you want.”
“Yes, Sir. I already did that, too. I’m listening to TobyMac now.” (Me internally: Hmm. New blog post?)

My son has only occasionally played with my video iPod, but the navigation is totally different. He does well on any computer we put him in front of, but the Touch is a different ballgame. Isn’t it? Maybe not for these kids.

So, in summary:
1. I figured out the NComputing system is pretty easy to install and seems to work well in our library setting.
2. The iPod Touch has some incredible features for educational use. I need to explore it more for that purpose.
3. Apple did a phenomenal job on the navigation in the Touch.
4. Never think I will be able to teach my son much about computer-based tools. I need to sign up for lessons from him, instead.

Now, where is that Blue Snowball USB mic that came in this morning. “Hey, Son. Can you show Daddy how to hook this thing up?”