Archive for the ‘21st Century Skills’ Category

Here’s the follow up to the story of the student who faced expulsion for running a Facebook study group for his chemistry class.  He was not expelled but does have to take a course in academic honesty.  In addition, he’ll get a zero for the homework, which counts as 10% of the grade.

This sounds like a triumph for digital natives over digital immigrants.  But, unlike when I made the first post, now I’m not so sure what I think.  I talked to some of the teachers I was working with this week, and they pointed out that unlike a face to face study group that usually has 5 to 10 members, this group had 146 members.  And, the follow up article makes a crucial point: “The professor had asked that students perform their work independently.”

That sentence hit me hard because I am always arguing that the piece where the immigrants can have an influence on students is in the ethics department.  There is certainly no way that we could argue that working with a group of students in Facebook could be considered doing your work independently.  And, if it was an unstated assumption, then I could back them up.  But, in this case, the professor stated that he expected independent work. Doesn’t he have a right to punish students who violate that stated expectation?

I suppose we could argue about the expectation itself.  We live in a networked world in which the traditional view of a solitary student studying seem outdated.  We live in a world in which students will be working collaboratively to solve problems.  But, we also live in a world in which, now and then, you are expected to work alone.  We live in a world in which we are expected to do the right thing even when no one is watching.  In this case, considering the prof’s expectations, the right thing to do seems to be that you work alone.

I think the most frustrating part of this for me is that we are hearing everything second hand.  The first article did not mention the fact that the prof expected them to work alone.  And, that one sentence doesn’t give enough information: work alone on projects? work alone on homework?


Brenda Dyck, over at wwwedu, posted a link to this article about a Canadian college student accused of cheating because he organized a Facebook study group where students worked together on their homework. Turns out it is the university’s responsibility to make sure that students do their own homework. As the students rightly point out, there are many face to face study groups in which students are working on homework, but none of them have been expelled.

To me, it seems like a clear case of the “digital divide” between young people and adults, with the latter having a misunderstanding of social networking. I’m impressed that students are using Facebook for more than just idle chatter. In addition, I would guess that these future chemists will be collaborating with others throughout their careers so they are getting a good start on that skill as well.

Maybe part of the concern is that once the homework problems are posted this semester, students in future courses won’t have to actually do the homework. Hmm…you mean the instructor might have to find new problems? Or reconsider how to teach the course using Facebook as part of the curriculum rather than banning it?

Just a quick post as I’m out the door for a digital storytelling workshop.  Watched John Adams last night and enjoyed it.  It opens with the Boston Massacre and I was reminded of a media literacy lesson that I did with middle schoolers.  We took a look at Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the “massacre.”  Rather than an historically accurate depiction, it is a propaganda piece, designed to further rile up the mobs against the British.  Here’s a good description of the inaccuracies of the picture.

I am reading Dee Brown’s The American West.  It’s a compilation of short, illustrated pieces the Brown wrote in tandem with photo editor Martin F. Schmitt in the 1950s.  Despite being pretty familiar with the history of the West, I am still finding some great new tidbits of information as well as new ways of considering that history.

Last night, I read two different passages about how Easterners were lured into coming out West.  I thought both were excellent illustrations of media literacy.  The first dealt with a sketch created by in 1869 by artist Henry Worrall called “Drouthy Kansas.”  You can read the whole story at the Kansas Historical Society’s website. Media literacy figures in because of the comment made by several Kansas farmers, wiped out by the drought and grasshoppers that came in the mid-1870s.  As they headed back East through Topeka, they stopped to talk to Worrall and suggested that it was the “diabolical seductiveness of that picture” that convinced them to come to the state in the first place.  This illustrates the power of the visual to persuade.

Another similar story comes from Kansas.  Western speculators often used the power of media to attract Easterners to new towns that were really nothing more than some marks on the ground.  Brown writes:

John J. Ingalls, Massachusetts lawyer, was attracted in 1856 by a colorful lithograph of Sumner, Kansas Territory.  When Ingalls arrived, he found little but platted kansas prairie.  In later years, as senator from Kansas he recalled the attractive advertisement as a chromatic triumph of lithographed mendacity.”

I turn again to the Kansas Historical Society’s website for Ingall’s story.

I would like to start by saying that I love my job. Right now, I am preparing for a digital storytelling workshop that I’ll provide over the next two weeks. It is Windows based so I fired up the Dell laptop I’ve got and have spent the last few days playing with PhotoStory and MovieMaker.  I’ll post both video sonce they’re uploaded to YouTube.  (I’ve got them on TeacherTube but didn’t have any luck with embedding them.)  First, I’ll reflect a little bit on the process.

I should start by confessing up front that I use Mac computers exclusively and have even managed to avoid Backpack. I had done a little work with MovieMaker but had only every seen demos of PhotoStory. I was prepared to like the latter program but was sure I would be unimpressed with MovieMaker. I was wrong.

First, I should say that I did like PhotoStory. I drew from digital photos that I already had available and it took about three hours to put together a fully narrated story with a music soundtrack. The only problem I ran into was in using the built-in music creator. I really liked the idea, but it crashed my computer each and every time I tried to save the movie file. I finally resorted to a public domain song I already had and the export worked just fine. Editing was easy, and I’m very happy with the final results.

This morning, I was up early prepared to tackle MovieMaker. I drew on the only material I’ve got: my yard. I shot all the video with my Flip Camera since that’s what my workshop participants will have available. I’ve used the Flip with my macintosh and had only so so results. It seemed much easier with MovieMaker. I just imported the files I had saved from the camera, renamed them, then did some basic editing. A few titles and then I needed some music.

Vivaldi seemed like a good choice. The Mutopia Project had a midi file licensed under the BSD license. I had to convert the midi to wma and used jetAudio, from Cowon to do the conversion.

All in all, I have had a wonderful two days making stories. I put together a wiki page as well.

State report shows many students are not ready for college –

From today’s ASCD SmartBrief, a report that while some 80% of Massachusetts high school grads go on to college, 37% of them are ill prepared and require remediation.  The article quotes a higher ed official and a NJ department of ed official about the report:

“This reports what we’ve known anecdotally for some time, and that is there are certain groups of students that, despite our best efforts, are still not graduating from high school ready to pursue college-level work immediately,” said Eileen O’Connor, spokeswoman for the Board of Higher Education.

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education Jeffrey Nellhaus said: “We hope that the data in this report serves as a catalyst for steps to be taken statewide to improve the academic preparation and performance of the Commonwealth’s public school students.”

Or, maybe now is the moment for us to realize that children and young people and even oldsters like me learn and mature at different rates and are ready for different learning experiences at different times.  I taught one of those remediation writing courses at a public university, where students had three semesters to pass in order to gain admission.  Sadly, some of them took the course three times and still failed.  Some failed because their skills were still weak, but many because they just didn’t want to be there.  I couldn’t help but thinking that we were really wasting their time, time they could have been using to move into the world and learn more about themselves rather than academic writing styles.

I wasn’t ready for my own first experience with graduate school.  I graduated with honors from William and Mary but didn’t really have the necessary passion to be a literature professor nor the discipline to be a full-time writer.  In addition, my personal life intervened, making school difficult.  I dropped out after taking much of the course work and discovering a love for rhetoric and African American writers that I carry with me to this day.   I know what it feels like to fail educationally.  I just wasn’t ready.  I certainly don’t blame WM.   And that doesn’t mean I gave up.  I just had to wait for the right time and the right program.  Later, I found the perfect MA program, designed for writing teachers rather than English professors.  I loved it, and my thesis on literacy continues to inform the way I think about new media.

I finished that degree in 1991; now, 25 years after completing my BA in English at the same school, I’m moving towards completing my PhD.  In those 25 years, I did public relations for an art museum, taught high school and middle school, learned about technology, got pretty passionate about educational technology, and, voila, the perfect PhD program seemed to materialize in front of my eyes.  I was ready, and the education was there.  While I admire young professors who found their passions early on, I’m happy that I waited this time.

OK, I think I’m starting to sound a little mystical here and getting away from the original point:  students are very much individuals, and as much as we would like it if we could somehow guarantee that each one has identical skills and knowledge when they pick up that high school diploma, that simply isn’t going to happen because each person brings her own dispositions, her own passions, her own concerns, her own learning styles to those skills and knowledge.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my vision of education.  I tend to be a pragmatist who tries to work with people where they are, but in my heart, I have a sense that if we really were willing to change everything, school could be this amazing experience, rather than something that kids get through.

So, part of my vision of edutopia includes multi-age classrooms where each child gets the time they need to learn, but more importantly, the room they need to find their passions.  One of the hallmarks of a leader according to Warren Bennis is passion.  I think this is easier to envision at the elementary school level because I think there’s a sense that, at some point if we do it right, all students should be at the same place at least when they hit high school.  At the secondary level, edutopia means that we start redefining “college” and finding ways to blur high school and college experiences.  Helping kids make a plan for the future that makes sense to them and supports them beyond their walk across the high school gym stage.

This is a perfect example of leadership skills in the 21st century. These students know how to take advantage of the media that is available to them. The video below is just terrific!

There are also two websites set up:

Today I am doing a workshop for principals about integrating technology. This is the third workshop with this group: they’ve had the big picture (globalization, 21st century skills), been introduced to some Web 2.0 tools, and now the job is to put all that together and figure out what it looks like in the classroom. If you want a peek at what I’m doing, here’s the link to the wikispaces page.

The page includes a quote from Education Week, January 30, 2008:
“Technologically literate students not only know how to operate hardware and software, they can also analyze the information flowing through it, evaluate that digital content’s relative merit and relevance, and use it creatively and ethically in communicating with others.”

Boy, that’s got to be one of the best summaries of the skills our students need as they move into their lives.  And, according to the article, we are not assessing these skills at all. Oh, there are tests out there, but because NCLB does not require testing, most schools and states are not interested.  Plus, as someone who was involved in Virginia’s SOL technology test, I would argue that a paper/pencil test is not the way to do that assessment.  These kinds of skills must be integrated into everything kids do in school and assessed formatively rather than summatively.

No Limits

An excellent article from my colleague, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach.  I’m am becoming increasingly convinced that getting technology into schools in powerful ways in going to happen one classroom, one teacher, and one school at a time.  And, the best way for that to happen is the way Sheryl is doing it and the way I hope VSTE will do it:  telling stories.

Ben Franklin

I was poking around the web and found Bartleby’s amazing collection of The Harvard Classics.  The cornerstone of the collection is Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography.  The introductory note linked below outlines Franklin’s many accomplishments from printer to writer to farmer to researcher.  He demonstrated lots of 21st century skills!  But he did it in the 18th century.  (So maybe he demonstrated 19th century skills but because he did it a generation before, that made him visionary?)  What are some of these skills?   The ability to reinvent himself as he moved through his life.  A sense of creativity and whimsy. Perhaps, the most fundamental was his ability to efficiently and effectively utilize the research and communication tools available to him at the time.

Introductory Note. Benjamin Franklin. 1909-14. His Autobiography. The Harvard Classics