K12 Online Conference: Impressions So Far

My 20 Korean won regarding the K-12 Online Conference presentations I’ve watched or listened to so far.

General Impressions:

1. The Need for Classification of Presentations into a “Beginners – Advanced” Continuum

That heading pretty much says it all. K12O has a wildly diverse audience, and apparently an equally diverse group of presenters. Some of the presentations offered little that was new for me, but surely useful for others. A “101 / 201 / 301 / 401 / Post-graduate” type classification scheme might help us navigate more efficiently.

2. A Focus on Creativity in Presentations

I’m as guilty of screencasts and talking-head/endless voiceover as the next person, so this is aimed at me as well as anybody else. (And Dean’s to blame for this wish 😉 ) Simply put, it would be nice if we all aimed for more design, style, and production values in our presentations. Since we’re all marching into this new territory together, and since the tools are all new, it’s understandable that we’re trying them all out – screencasts, Voicethreads, Ustreams, Slideshares, video podcasts, whatever. But it would be nice if we elevated the creative aspects of presentation to a higher level of priority, and aimed to entertain as much as to inform. I’m talking structure, visuals, audio, the whole shebang. And again, I’m as guilty as the next guy. You have to agree, don’t you, that more artistry would make us all happier, yes?


If All My Classes Did This:

Using Toondo and other comics-making and graphic organizer websites in the classroom.

Learn to Blog: Blog to Learn: Anne Davis

Anne nicely identifies her audience in her first sentence: “This is for those new to the world of blogging.” Like Karen Richardson, Anne also keeps her video short, and simply gives an overview of the companion wiki for this presentation. Well done, Anne!


Crossing the Copyright Boundaries: Karen Richardson

A nice, short overview of a more elaborate wiki walking teachers and students through the current copyright minefield. Looks good, and nice and short – 5 minutes!

Sustained Blogging in the Classroom: Jeff Utecht

Getting beyond the “I have a blog” stage. Similar to Dean’s focus on quality. Jeff argues against blogs as journals (posting about “my cat fluffy,” as one of the Hawaii students said in a Skype talk last year during the 1001 Tales). Jeff and I are on the same page here. I’m setting up my high school English students, school-wide. But Jeff and I differ on this: he focuses on students and teachers conversing on the blogs, while I’m hooking my high school students into claiming their blogs on Technorati, subscribing to real-world blogs based on their interests, and linking to them – with full expectations that those real-world, “open range” bloggers will follow the trackbacks to student blogs, and start connected conversations with the world.

Jeff doesn’t specify what grade levels he has in mind, so maybe he’s not thinking of the secondary level – high school – as I am.

Jeff shares Mark Ahlness’ grade 4 classrooms reading each others’ blogs (and in some cases, adult edublogs!) as Sustained Silent Reading time, and encouraging students to reply. Bravo to Mark for allowing blog-reading during SSR. I’m still pushing that in our own SSR time in the high school.

Jeff moves to discuss Clarence’s redesigning of classroom space to create physical conversation places, but I’m unclear how that connects to sustaining blogging.

The last half of Jeff’s presentation keeps its focus on the elementary level, so I scanned across it. It contains solid ideas for setting up conversational blogging networks globally.

Something I wish we would try more of is not peer-to-peer blog conversations – students reading and writing with their own age group – but more vertical designs. The idea of each age reading the blogs of those one year older, and writing about what they learn on their elders’ blogs to an imaginary audience of readers one year younger, creates a continuous chain of Vygotskian reading in the “zone of proximal development,” and writing-to-teach that produces the best learning. My head is not there right now, but it seems a very pedagogically powerful way to design K-12 blogging.

On a side note, check out the YoungWriters07 wiki “New Zealand Chrissy” and I put up a couple of weeks ago for a currently active and already quite large list of links to blogging classrooms of all ages and grades. Korean, Kiwi, Aussie, Thai, American, and Canadian classrooms (and only my best Korean bloggers, not the whole class – more of Dean Shareski’s influence on quality) are there for the connecting. List your own bloggers there too. It’s open.

Then Jeff shares some blogging rubrics and assessment strategies. Worth a watch for those wanting to get beyond “just blogging.”


Design Matters: Dean Shareski

Vital. The focus is not about tools, mercifully, but about standards of aesthetic and conceptual quality. I’ve already written about this in other posts, and haven’t stopped thinking about it in my own daily rounds as teacher, tech integration specialist, and English department head.

Brian Lamb, Alan Levine, and d’Arcy Norman’s “More Than Cool Tools.”

I’ll just say that Brian Lamb’s “remix” section beginning at 22.23 and following was particularly “deep” for me. The companion wiki seems unfinished, unless I missed something. It would be nice if it linked to the avalanche of tools and resources in this presentation.

Highlights for me: Google Co-op: embedding its search window (around 23 minutes)
OER Commons: filters searches for k12 domains (around 27 minutes)

Assessment and Evaluation in the Age of Networked Learning: Konrad Glogowski (focus on blogging)

When Konrad speaks about classroom blogging, the world should listen. He’s one of my guiding lights in my own experiments in Seoul. Highly recommended for his quest, like mine, to remove the “schooliness” from blogging-as-homework and make it an authentic, conversational, connective, writerly experience for our youths.

“Cellphones as Learning Tools” by Liz Kolb:

The Cellphone podcasting section had great ideas if you’re not an American abroad in a non-English-speaking country. But that’s my problem. (Well, I suppose our Korean-speaking students could find local services that allow web-based cellphone recording.) Liz has a great series of project ideas for any interested teachers. See 21 minutes and following.

The Cellphone Photoblogging section is also unexplored territory for me, but again, I need to learn if this is free in Korea. Take photos and send them to Flickr, Blogger, or Bubbleshare. Confession time: I don’t know how to send emails with my cellphone. But it’s a Korean model, so it’s all harder than Greek to me. Is it as simple as entering an email address and hitting “send”?

Video Recording with Cell Phone: eyespot.com, jumpcut.com, youtube.com allow free posting and editing of cellphone videos. Nice set of project ideas for this at 35.18.

  • General Project Ideas:
    • Content-related Ringtones: phonezoo.com
    • Logos and Wallpapers for Cellphones: pix2fone.com, pixdrop.com
    • Text Messages: textforfree.com, txtdrop.com, reactee.com
    • More project ideas for Ringtones, Logos, Text Messaging. Some good stuff here at 52.19.

    Cellphones as a Research Tool:

    • See ready.mobi.com to see what websites are accessible from cellphones
    • Flickr, Wikipedia, Yahoo are accessible to find info on the fly.
    • Free reference tools: Google.com/intl/en_us/mobile/sms will answer research questions with text messages?! Text a Librarian at selu.edu/library/askref/index.html is similar. Wow.
    • Plusmo sends RSS feeds to your cellphone.
    • Mobilequery.com free spellcheck, dictionaries software.
    • Mobile-friendly Websites: homeworknow.com (fee), zinadoo.com, winksite.com, mob5.com. Great for homes with no access.

    Digital Assignment Notebook: use alerts, voice recording, etc.

  • Math site: Math4mobile software for cellphones: stats, geometry, can replace graphing calculators?
  • The future: Cellphones as LCD projectors? Scanners? Zip drives? Solar? Coming soon….!

Release the Hounds: Chris Harbeck on ePortfolios and “Unprojects”

Chris is a middle school math teacher trying some very comprehensive, ambitious stuff by setting up ePortfolios for his students. He ties them into Parent-Student-Teacher conferences.

I wonder as I watch why Chris says an ePortfolio is not a “snapshot” of a learner’s learning, but a narrative of that learning across an entire year. James Linzel, my old colleague at Shanghai American School, spurred the idea of exploding the school-year boundaries by making ePortfolios continuous across the years, not within them. That’s something we’re attempting with our blogging Capstone Project, where students will maintain and sustain their blogs from grades 9 to 12, culminating in their last months in their graduating year with a “My Learning Journey” type summative project reflecting on their four year record of who they have become.

I imagine Chris is in a school without the faculty buy-in to keep his students on the paths he creates for them after they leave them. If it’s true, that’s a shame. Another prophet unknown in his own home.

Interesting use of a student’s individual wiki as an ePortfolio. See Video 1, 2.22 timestamp. Students create math portfolios to teach their parents. :)

Chris is re-tooling his approach for this year. He links to his releasethehounds wikispace for more on this.

Chris’ third of four short videos had no sound in my iTunes, so I was your typical lazy-fingered browser: I skipped to number four (we bloggers know how rare our readers use their click-muscles by the paucity of outgoing clicks listed in our sitemeters – so I’m no different).

Number four, on “unprojects,” is great, must-watch stuff. It seems Chris used parts one through three as build-ups to what seems to have been a pedagogical epiphany for him. The structure was effective, but if you have no time to watch all four videos, be sure to at least watch number four.

And kudos to Chris for a well-designed presentation. More than screenshots, nice graphics, and one of the most interesting speaking styles – a soft, but at the same time almost breathless, sort of barely-restrained excitement pulses throughout. Really interesting and very effective delivery. Different, original.

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