Thursday, November 26, 2009

Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

General Thanksgiving

By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America


WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Monday, November 23, 2009

Moving Forward in Difficult Times

Something to remember to help keep us moving forward during these difficult school budget times, especially as we take the final steps toward our 6th Grade Campus and its 21st century learning spaces:

"Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people"

~ Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

Saturday, November 21, 2009

5 Tiers of e-Communication and e-Collaboration

Came across this awesome blog by Dr. Bryan Setser, CEO for North Carolina Virtual Public School, on L.O.L. Leaders On-Line:

How do you keep up with all of the emerging Web 2.0 tools out there? How do school leaders make decisions on which ones to use and which ones to abandon due to cost, usage, and/or issues out in school districts? Check out the blog this week about how these decisions can be made across tiers of user groups in your school districts.

Tier 1: Your school district has a website, uses email, blogs, and does a great job with paper mailers and flyers home to the community. You advertise in the local paper, and you have conducted some virtual meetings using and You may have even used for a few lesson plans and/or to video conference. You know you are using some of the tools, but you feel like you just don’t have time to learn all of them, and it is just easier to pick up a phone and/or go see someone in person. In short, you need a plan to communicate and collaborate that moves your organization into the 21st Century.

Tier 2: Your school district uses all of the Tier 1 tools, but you also use , , and . You are trying every new Web 2.0 tool out there to micro-blog, and your district is investing money in collaborative tools like and/or . You even have purchased a learning management system like and/or may even be trying to use your own sites across your district. You are all over the place, but you are trying to keep up with collaborative tools to communicate and connect with all of your stakeholders. In short, you need a strategy to accomplish your key meetings, conferences, and professional development opportunities while striking a balance between innovation and security with your technology director.

Tier 3: You have looked at all of the tools in both tiers, and you are starting to think about how to strategically use them. You have seen the recent branding sites on of the North Carolina Virtual Public School – ; The North Carolina School Board’s Association – ; The North Carolina Association of Educators – ; and the North Carolina Association of School Administrators – . You have also read the recent time magazine article on How Twitter will Change the World,8599,1902604,00.html , and you realize that you need a “tweet deck”- , a file social application - , and a strategy built around key events, meetings, and projects.

In addition, you realize that you don’t just want to upload your twitter icon to your website, you want to integrate your twitter strategy with key board meetings, following experts in the field, promotions, and parent sign ups to provide instant access to school events and proceedings.

Your organization also realizes it needs internal messaging and file sharing. You have looked at Wimba’s collaborative suite , and you realize that you can have instant messaging on their pronto tool and have the ability to chat, talk, videoconference, and share applications desktop to desktop. Someone on your team also recommending for a similar experience to and you are weighing a cost, benefit analysis as we speak.

Can’t afford wimba yet? Your district has a strategic team and you’ve also decided to pilot some applications in Google under where you can also use these feeds to make your strategy more robust and still keep costs down: . And you have formed a team to look out for products like this one to integrate the very best features of and into your sites like and where you can manage all of the communications and collaborative content as well as conduct formative learning assessments with students.

Meanwhile your district’s technology team is making tiered list of which ports and places to pilot innovation and how such efforts will be monitored and leveraged to impact student learning. A robust discussion is also beginning on the appropriate levels of ,, and for targeted, focused use across the district.

Tier 4: You are incorporating all strategies in the three tiers above, but you also want live classrooms that you can archive for anytime, anywhere professional development. does this process through its live classroom component as does and , a free tool for live classroom use in a virtual world.

You then decide that these live classrooms need a place to reside, and you archive them inside of free e-learning communities like and/or These are your first moves towards e-learning communities where learners and leaders can interact inside of an e-portal in order to use free open source tools and share closed source tools to certain groups of users: community, teachers, etc.

A tier four district is starting to build capacity for anytime, anywhere learning, and it is starting to create succession planning with learning objects, decisions, charts, and 2.0 feedback objects that allow for training, re-induction, and archiving of important processes and documents beyond a Web 1.0 level. Moreover, this organization is becoming a learning organization. It looks at security breaches, usage levels, and value add applications for student learning to track progress and success of slowly, yet strategically opening the networks. In addition, the district is starting to look strategically at 1:1 devices across tiers of users to make your students more mobile and accessible to content.

Tier 5: A tier five organization incorporates all of the previous tiers but now adds mobile applications for learning such as , , and . that they build through the k-12 iTunes portal here s where teachers, students, and parents can access a host of resources. This district is also investing in wireless hot spots and paying close attention to the construction and re-construction of facilities to make learning more portable. Gaming and virtual worlds are also becoming part of the bandwidth discussion at the strategic level as this district seeks to make learning more immersive and engaging. Sites like allows users to immerse themselves in the learning experience and still collaborate over all of the web browsers and related Web 2.0 tools inside of a virtual space. This particular district is also leveraging the 1:1 devices to make learning portable through the and classes that the state provides to all of North Carolina students.

Which tier are you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Twitter up a PLN

One of the primary benefits I have received from becoming a prolific tweetster is the establishment and expansion of my professional learning network (PLN). Prior to my self-learning foray into the world of tweeting, I primarily relied on reading news and relevant blogs through what are called RSS readers, my favorite of which are Protopage and NetNewsWire. But I was still on my own to search and figure out which sites were most beneficial to my professional as well as personal interests. I have been an avid Facebook-er for several years but I find that to be more useful for building and maintaining social connections and communicating with our graduates, rather than as a learning platform.

Then came Twitter, and I like many others only dabbled in it at first still wondering what benefit I would derive in exchange for the time commitment. I walked away from it for a little while but then saw quite by accident what a few other educational professionals were Tweeting about. I was hooked! It didn't take long for me to see the potential learning benefits of selectively expanding who I follow on Twitter and who I allow to follow me. Not satisfied with using just the basic Twitter web site as my platform, I tried several different desk-top Twitter apps until I settled on Tweet Deck for my notebook computer and Uber Twitter for the Blackberry. Both are free and quite easy to get familiar with after a bit of use.

For the past half year, I have been touting the benefits of opening our communications within the district using Twitter, as well as the district Facebook page and our website, where I blog about district-wide interests a couple of times each week (I assume that's where you are reading this). My aim has been to build a more transparent exchange of information that will help each of us grow professionally and become an even closer "family business." But while a few of you have become more prolific in your tweets, the fact remains that most are still waiting for proof that joining the twitterverse will be beneficial.

My twittering experience has opened many new doors, both for relationships with like-minded professionals around the world as well as new ideas for improving my professionalism and job performance. Those whom I have chosen to follow and get regular daily updates from provide links that take me to new learning opportunities. In return, I share my experiences and what I have self-learned with those who choose to follow me. The network (followed and followers) is growing exponentially as I participate in more relevant learning through Twitter.

In the past week, I expanded my use of Twitter to include participating in a couple of one-hour sessions called #edchat (this is called a hashtag that serves to group tweets together that contain it in the message). While the flow of tweets during #edchat is fast, what I have learned and retained each time has been quite phenomenal. These tweetups occur at noon and 7 pm on Tuesdays and anyone can join in or just observe. You only have to enter #edchat in the search window on the Twitter website. Following each session, a log of the discussion can be accessed for those wanting to go back over what they might have missed or identify a certain tweet they want to pursue more information on. So far it's been both a relevant and incredible learning experience.

I also joined a Ning (oh, no, not another idea!) in the past week to expand my options for my PLN. Called the Educators PLN, within this Ning I am able to choose specific topics I'm interested in and join groups that share those interests and exchange ideas. Other useful resources are also posted on the Ning and I have my own personal page to post up anything I want to share that might be a help to others members. The Ning fully integrates with Twitter and the #edchat stream can even be read on one of the pages. I'm still exploring the potential uses of this Ning but so far, it has proven to be beneficial. You can check this out for yourself at

As I mentioned in a previous blog (below) posted earlier this week, we have to become more avid self-learners, especially when it comes to learning about and expanding our use of technology, both with our students in the classroom as well as for our own professional development. Twitter is not an end-product, but a doorway to simplifying the process of reaching out beyond your classroom, school and district walls to like-minded professionals who want to share what is working and what is not. I'm encouraging everyone to continue exploring the potential of Twitter and other social-networking and PLN sources. I'm here to assist and encourage you and we have others on our team more than willing to help you get started. And don't worry if you still don't get it; I'm still scratching my head over how to use and benefit from the new Google Wave!

Here are several places to start or extend your learning journey:

Conquering Technophobia: Web 2.0 Explained: This is a short, handy teacher's resource guide in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this file.

Twittering, Not Frittering: Professional Development in 140 Characters: It's more than just "what are you doing?" Twitter is quickly becoming the super-highway for quick sharing and professional learning.

Oh, the Adventures You Will Have If Only...: More than ever teachers need to be connected in order to make a difference and be relevant in their fields. As school districts continue to increase the use of educational technologies in the classroom, teachers will have to prove they know how to use these technologies to help their students problem solve, evaluate, analyze, debate, critically think, collaborate, and so forth.

Creating a Personal Learning Network with Web 2.0 Tools:
How do educators keep current with the ever changing world of technology? How can Web 2.0 tools be used to communicate and collaborate with peers across the hall and around the world? This website focuses on some of the newest tools teachers are using to support their own professional learning goals. A tremendous resource that you should bookmark right now!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dilbert is Not That Far Off!

While it's easy to see the intended humor in today's Dilbert strip, the message of the strip goes beyond being funny to a growing reality in the education community: in the rapidly changing educational field coupled with reduced funding sources, teachers and administrators alike must find ways to improve their knowledge and skills that go beyond formal education and training. Expecting that new and necessary strategies or instructional techniques must first be introduced through formal professional development will only ensure that schools and classroom instruction remain mired in outdated methods that no longer meet the needs of today's students.

SchoolCenter Picture

Integration of technology is a key area that requires all members of the staff to engage in extensive self-learning and discovery, not only to improve classroom instruction and student learning, but to extend one's professional learning network beyond the classroom, school and district boundaries. The speed of change in technology requires all of us to take the plunge and learn while doing. Waiting for a once or twice annual professional development opportunity is unrealistic and simply guarantees that one will fall further behind, and will find it difficult to adjust instructional techniques to adequately engage tomorrow's students in skills they will need to succeed in a global society: collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.

Every member of our instructional staff - from superintendent to para-professional - must find and organize time to inquire about and learn how to effectively use emerging Web 2.0 tools, including collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Wiki's; social networking tools like Twitter, Ning, Facebook, and Delicious; and other learning tools such as blogs and RSS aggregators. Right behind these are more potential tools that are quickly emerging such as Google Wave. There is no end in site. Web 2.0 actually infers that the web has become interactive (read-write) and thus the only real way of exploring possibilities for the classroom is by doing both: reading and writing. Listening to presentations in sterile PD sessions will merely overwhelm the learner without any real possibility of trying out the new knowledge on the spot. Setting in computer labs learning one new skill per session is time consuming and locks everyone into the same session on the same date at the same time, without regards to the level of knowledge or skills each learner already has. There are many, many easy-to-use guides on the internet and the best way to experience what is out there is to take the plunge. From there, you can join a professional learning network and branch out. At first, it may feel like taking a drink from a firehose but if you persevere, you will expand your knowledge base and teaching/leading skills at a rapid pace.

Immersing ourselves in the internet and learning to use these new tools will move us into the virtual worlds in which the current generation of students live everyday. It's hard to imagine that we can continue to reach and engage our students in the classroom if we remain on one side of the technology divide and they on the other. As time goes on, that divide will continue to grow making it unlikely that twentieth century teaching techniques will be successful with this or future generations.

100 Twitter Feeds to Make You a Better Teacher

Web 2.0 for the Classroom Teacher

Web 2.0 Tools in Your Classroom (slideshare presentation)

Effective Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom


Ning: The Educator's PLN

Classroom 2.0

Ning in Education

Blogger (Google's free blogging site)

Podcasting Tools

Delicious (social bookmarking)

Flickr (photo sharing)


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Purpose of Education?

We seem to be running in circles when it comes to defining the vision of K-12 education. I'm not sure you can get a single group of people to agree on what the purpose of schooling is:

1. Is it primarily intended to prepare students to work in corporate America? Should we be including more focus on vocational and work skills?

2. Is it mainly the goal to prepare students for acceptance into a college or university? Is that why the ACT has become an integral part of our high stakes testing program?

3. Should it be to foster the arts and creativity in students, or develop deep thinking analytical skills?

4. Or should it be primarily focused on developing an appreciation and love for learning, for exploring new ideas and concepts, and for appreciating knowledge not just as a tool for the future but an end-product by design?

5. If it's some of each, how much of each and what has greater importance?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rising Costs in K-12 Education

People like to blame the increased costs for health insurance, retirement, and administrative salaries for the current financial problems schools are experiencing, but aren't these just symptoms of what really has led to rising costs? I offer four closely related events that occurred in the 1960's as the underlying reasons for skyrocketing costs in Michigan:

1. The 1963 state constitution that expanded state government's role in local school districts.

2. The Teacher Tenure Act that was enacted shortly thereafter and made it virtually impossible to eliminate sub-standard teachers.

3. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act that brought the federal government into a new role of overseeing education.

4. Collective bargaining in public schools.

While 2 and 4 tied local school board hands when it comes to keeping costs down, 1 and 3 greatly expanded the administrative requirements in local districts. All four have driven up the cost of K-12 education and have done little to improve the quality.