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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Kenya Escape Through Digital Storytelling

Ellen Petry Leanse has a powerful story to tell of her escape from the political unrest in Kenya during the presidential elections over the 2007 Christmas holidays. She and her 12 year old son were there volunteering in an orphanage as well as other humanitarian work.

I first encountered her story January 15th on Guy Kawasaki’s blog as a guest post. Her writing moved me. Something inside of me kept saying to contact her and help her share what she and her son went through. As Google would have it, her email came up in the first try, and by 8:11 AM I sent off a personal plea to her to share her narrative through digital storytelling.

By 9:34 Ellen had taken me up on the offer and we were off on a plan. Since she lives in CA and I live in TX, logistics said the use of Web 2.0 tools were in need. With very little instruction, Ellen had read her blog post over the phone into my GCast account (I gave her my PIN to access it). The recording quality was awesome! My next step was to gather pictures of her events. By 9:57 she emailed me a picture to get my mind rolling with ideas. A trip to her Facebook photo album allowed me to harvest a number of great shots. I visited Flickr, did a Creative Commons search, and borrowed a few very well taken photos from others witnessing the events in Kenya. I was well on my way to helping Ellen and her son. Or so I thought.

Honestly, as I moved through the process, the story began to touch me even more. Then it hit me. Now, it was helping me. I needed to tell her story to others soon, and I had plans to present a professional development session to a private, Christian school. Their curriculum is driven by the Classical Education model(I can hear them shriek from here as I link that to Wikipedia ;). For those not familiar with the model, it is founded on a trivium consisting of the school of grammar (K-5), logic (6-8), and rhetoric (9-12). Students at this school must complete a rigorous course load that includes fine arts, several languages (Spanish, Latin, with Greek as a high school option), and a senior thesis. The thesis is based on a 20-30 minute presentation (after a year of research on a self-selected topic) in front of a panel of professionals and then defend it for a like amount of time from the panel’s questions. And this is high school. Wow! Now consider that they start defending and debating their work in middle school and you have some real world preparation going on there.

Since this was a curricular program unlike many that I had been involved with personally (although I had studied in my graduate work), I knew I needed some professional opinions. Enter Jen Wagner and Vicki Davis. These two ladies gave me advice about the Classical private school setting via email, previous blog posts, and even Twitter. Both offered even more assistance, but they had done such a wonderful job with the digital archives of their blogs sharing their work, I didn’t need to bother them any more. The common thread was found, and I knew what I needed to do. Not focus on technology. Huh?

I decided I was going to use digital storytelling to help drive home the importance of these tools for students to use on their own. My focus was the six senses Daniel Pink shares in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Those senses really drive home the importance of preparing our youth for a continually changing economy.

Classical Education’s focus on logic and rhetoric in the secondary classes are a perfect fit for what Pink has in mind. I zeroed in on Story because it can drive emotion in a person. How you tell a story is so important to how it is perceived/received. The strength of logic and rhetoric from the presenter’s side of the table relies heavily on one’s ability to gain audience buy-in. Story can do that. Story can make or break a case in front of a panel (or classroom). This is what these students are looking for to give them an edge in the world outside of K-12 schooling. As we have read with the articles on over-achievers and their battles to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack for college admissions, Story can be more important than ever.


Here is what I shared with the teachers after presenting Vision of Students Today (both the K-12 and Wesch’s versions), Pink’s views, and renderings of revised Bloom’s:Blog post from Guy’s blog
How to Change the World- Guest Post- “We Got Out of Kenya, But What About the People Who Live There?”_1200867570845This post had an emotional appeal to it for me, but not everyone is as visual mentally when they read as I am. So there had to be another step.


GCast GCast Podcast (Click on MP3 link to hear audio recording.)Add to my PageEllen did a wonderful job of reading her ten minute post over the phone. Not only did this add to the impact of the story, it allowed me to have an audio archive in her voice to build on to the story’s presentation. And…GCast is FREE.


Animoto
Download Video: Posted by woscholar at TeacherTube.com.
This piece is perfect for those wanting a short, visually driven narrative. It delivers the story (without the personal narrative). Animoto offers a VERY easy method to create 30 second videos for FREE and with NO hassle. I find this to be a powerful way to begin a writing session. Use it for the prompt. See what develops.


Voicethread
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=45226″ width=”400″ height=”400″ wmode=”transparent” /]
Voicethread gave me the chance to use the entire audio clip with 25 pictures. As many of you know, the audio commenting feature of Voicethread will be a great way to extend the conversation for Ellen and her son with others interested in what they lived through. I have comment moderation on temporarily until I am sure Ellen is ready for the conversation to take place. After all, it is her story to tell.

My last piece needed to be high impact. While sorting through the pictures in my office, I dreaded the time it was going to take to choose music for the background. A story this emotional had to have something special. I had my iPod playing in my Altec docking station, randomly choosing the order of songs for me. Since I was concentrating on the photos and the story they were telling me, I was just subconsciously listening to the music. That is, until Brandon Heath’s “The Light” came on. I started humming while I was working. Then the lyrics started coming out (good thing everyone else had gone home for the day). I got to the chorus, and it hit me: “Stay close you people with your broken hearts….as we move toward the light” That was it. Perfect. The good Lord blessed me once again. I fired off an email to Brandon (music minister in The Woodlands, TX) to ensure permission to borrow his song for this cause with the understanding that if he did not like the final product I would pull his music out of it immediately.

Next thing, download Ellen’s audio narrative, edit out parts that fit the pictures and music and yet keep the strong storyline intact. After a bit of time in GarageBand editing the audio and iMovie piecing the video together, I was ready. One week, almost to the minute, after reading Ellen’s post, I found myself presenting her moving story to a K-12 school needing to hear what she has to say and willing to learn about the tools it takes to tell the world.


TeacherTube
Download Video: Posted by woscholar at TeacherTube.com.
Thank you, Ellen, for your wonderful heart and willing spirit. Your words are now a part of the many that hear them from this blog and beyond. I pray your works in Kenya expand the lives of the families you touched there.Thank you, teachers of CHS, for your open minds and hearts. I know you have the best things planned for your students. Your enthusiasm is unmatched by any group I have worked with. I thank you for inspiring me to keep up the faith. We can improve what our students face in the classroom. I will be your willing guide any opportunity you will let me.


Photo Credits from Presentations:
Ellen Petry Leanse
http://flickr.com/photos/tarique/archives/date-posted/2005/02/15/
http://flickr.com/photos/dennissylvesterhurd/
http://flickr.com/photos/iaindc/
http://flickr.com/photos/runningtoddler/
http://flickr.com/photos/lo_/
http://flickr.com/photos/7270375@N03/
http://flickr.com/photos/httpwwwactionpixsmarukocom/
http://flickr.com/photos/bjornsk/
http://flickr.com/photos/paulkist/archives/date-posted/2007/11/26/
http://flickr.com/photos/44222307@N00/archives/date-posted/2008/01/01/
Music in iMovie:
The Light by Brandon HeathTechnorati Tags: , ,

Online Photo Sharing in Plain English

I am double posting this here and here.

To piggyback my previous posts about design and photography and Flickr usage, I would like to offer this short tutorial video about online photo sharing. Thanks to the folks (Lee LeFever) at Common Craft for once again making this an easy to understand topic. So don’t let a little fear of a software program slow you down from joining the fun and learning of photo sharing.
Download Video: Posted by leelefever at TeacherTube.com.

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Google Maps and the Political Machine

googlemaps_politicsThanks to Google Maps Mania for the link, you can view the caucus results for Iowa inside Google Maps to see which precinct voted which direction for their 2008 presidential primary. An even neater use of this is the sidebar that has current topical links to articles, videos, and even a “How the caucuses work” article link. How sweet is that? Those Google guys and gals are some innovative folks. Wonder if it has anything to do with the fact they get 20% of their work week for personal interest research and projects? Maybe? 

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Time’s Googling for Your Grade

internet_famous

A la Dan Pink and his focus on design, Time magazine recently posted an article about students using design to become famous in the Google world we live in. Jamie Wilkinson, educator at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, had an idea. He would teach students how to become famous (or at least their sites) on the Internet. What is the point? Why would these kids care?

As Wilkinson sees it, this is the world in which his students will be competing — a world wide web where almost everyone is “trying to become viral, and constantly confronting savvy online audiences that have razor-sharp b___s___ detectors.”

Software is being used to track the popularity of the student sites. They can even check in on the class blog (Warning: mature language possible) for updates. Wilkinson’s curriculum is designed to give students direction on making their blogs famous and staying on top. But is that enough for the students who are graded basically on how software perceives their popularity? Would they turn that knowledge into a unique design to capture the attention of web users everywhere? When the heat is on and the semester winds down, how much of this new content would come in handy? Or would they just embed a sleazy YouTube video to generate traffic from the work of others?

As Wilkinson goes around the class, asking people to show what digital art they’ve made over the last week, it’s clear these tawdry music videos are the hit of the day. One student reveals that his short video has generated 13,000 views in only a few days. “Wow, talk about selling out,” Wilkinson marvels. “I thought you weren’t going to stoop that low…but you can’t deny the numbers. Look at those page views; that’s amazing!”

Hmmmm. Design? I guess some things never change.  How would the results of this class’s choices change the curriculum next year? Seems like it is an interesting social experiment in itself.  I am thinking some deeper ethics guidelines or morality conversations just might be in order for version 2.  But that’s just me I suppose.

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Using Google Maps to Find a Toilet…and more

woisd_googleHere is a great list of Google Maps links to all types of mash-ups. Look at the clouds, track a package, explore and map the Bible, map 2008 campaign contributions, track terrorism, or even find a public toilet.  You name it, it seems to be a part of this great list.  This might even give you some ideas to try out on your own.

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