Friday, November 28, 2008

Student Podcasts!

I have been reflecting lately on my digital destination due to this year's NYSCATE theme of "Discovering Your Digital Destination." I've been thinking about how much my personal learning has evolved and how much my teaching has changed. I've realized I owe it all to podcasting. Yes, podcasting.

I have met some fantastic people through the many podcasts I have produced. My PLN has grown in ways that were impossible only a few short years ago.

We were one of the first to use podcasting in eduaction and have been spreading the word since our first podcast nearly 3 tears ago. We have created a CD that outlined how to use podcasting in the classroom. We no longer have that available.

I have begun to write a book about student podcasts. I was inspired by David Warlick to do this. I do not consider myself a write so it should be interesting. I am going to try to self publish it online. It was through this self reflection and seeing where my journey has gone that gives me the confidence to try my hand at writing this book.

I will begin the process of asking my network for help with this endeavor. So, if you could tell me how you have used podcasting in your classroom or school I would really appreciate it. You can tell me stories of your experiences or even a colleague. I would be very interested in the information.

You can comment here or twitter me at mdionne. Here is a list of podcasts I am involved in.

The TechPodZone
Room 531
Hall Pass

Thanks so much for being part of my PLN.

Access Denied!

I recently gave a presentation at the annual NYSCATE conference. The topic was Personal Learning Networks. My discussion was more about what my PLN has done for me and my teaching and learning than about how to create and use a PLN. You can see my presentation at the NYSCATE Wiki. I used google docs for the slide show. I also tried to backchannel, but the wireless connection was not very good.

My partner could not make it this time. Rob Hansen tried to connect from home via Skype, but again the Internet connection did not work well enough for us to use it. I was disappointed about the lack of a good Internet connection. There were two activities that we could not demonstrate because of it.

During the conversation I realized a couple of things. One was that there are an awful lot of people who are seeing actual web 2.0 activities for the first time. The second thing I observed was that most people there were frustrated with their abilities to use these tools online because they are being blocked at school.

I see this as one of the major roadblocks if not the major roadblock that we face. Why? This is something that we can control. I do believe in some level of filtering, but not excessively. Especially when educational tools are blocked.

I attend several tech meetings during the school year with techies from all levels. So far the reasons that I am hearing for the excessive blocking are."That's my job", and "We need to protect the kids!". Once you get into a discussion with them you can tell that the real reason for this behavior is to protect their job. Why do we let this false sense of security trump our kids education?

There are some people who take this as a challenge. I believe there is more energy spent trying to stay ahead of the kids than there would be educating them. I think it is hypocritical of us as educators to out right ban the use of technology when we can educate the kids to use it appropriately. We believe kids can be taught higher order thinking, math, science, etc., but we can't teach them how to use the Internet appropriately?

Fear should not rule here. I think if you create a culture of trust you can get so much more from your students. Once students are taught how the technology should be used in schools they will for the most part behave accordingly. Yes, you can point to a few every now and then that will cross that line but then deal with it. Way to often we make blanket policies to deal with individual problems.

I believe you should trust, but verify. This actually takes less time than waiting and watching for violators. Some techies are proud to say that they beat the kids at their game. I wonder why you need to play the game at all!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Personal Learning Networks!

When I am asked, "How did you figure that one out?", I answer with "It's the network!" Now I don't have the large group of people to point to like the guy in the phone ad, but they're there.

Personal Learning Networks (PLN) have been around and discussed forever. People have coined many phrases to describe this concept. No matter what you call it, it's the social aspect that makes the network so valuable.

Our networks used to consist of mostly physical tangible resources and people. They consisted of our colleagues who were close at hand. In fact, our network was geographically centric. The closer the resource or person was to you the more you relied upon them. The only time your networked area grew was when you physically moved. Occasionally your network expanded for a brief moment when you used the phone. This was very rare because most classrooms did not have a phone and still do not.

Now your network is not bound by physical location or geographic area. We can work with anyone from anywhere. We just have to reach out. Whenever I do reach out I am astounded with the number of people willing to share.

I am presenting at NYSCATE, NY State's annual tech conference next week. My topic is PLN. I will be discussing the tools I have used and implemented in my classrooms. Here is a link to my presentation. I will post the entire presentation after November 25th.

However I would like to discuss some personal experiences I have had since I've jumped into the "Network".