Why build a Classroom without Walls?

I have had a lot of compliments for my last post on Building a Classroom with out Walls pt. 1. Tonight, I watched a Microsoft commercial that summed up why we as educators need to begin to move in this direction if we have not. Microsoft’s new ad campaign is called “Life without walls.” Take a look…

Kylie at the age of 4 can do something that a lot of grown adults are afraid of doing. One of the collaborators on my survey, Steve Dembo gave the following advice,

Be bold, don’t be afraid. Don’t hesitate to comment, don’t hesitate to befriend ‘big names’, don’t think twice about contacting people directly or replying directly to them. Be active. Don’t be afraid to register for sites, to create usernames or to do something goofy. Don’t be afraid to fail, because you will…. often. Celebrate your successes and do so publicly. Don’t refrain from sharing because you aren’t the first, or because you don’t think it’s worthwhile. Let other people be the judge of that. And give them the option of deciding. You may not think it’s worth sharing, but other people might.

Don’t be afraid of being the first either. If you have an idea, act on it. Don’t wait for somebody else to.

Be active. Be the innovator. Be the change.”

For Kylie’s sake… as Steve says, “Be the change.” Reach this child. They are all in our schools whether we are ready or not.

Creating a Classroom without Walls Part 1

So are you ready to build the foundation for your classroom without walls? We hear buzz words like 21c. learning, classroom without walls, RSS feeds, social networking, Personal Learning Network, blogging, wikis… What does this all mean? To answer that… you as the teacher need to look in to some of this before you ask your students to dive in.

I would like to focus on how you can create a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Daniel R. Tolbin defines a Personal Learning Network “as a group of people who can guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions, and give you the benefit of their own knowledge and experience.” Who needs to be in the PLN? Anyone who can point you to learning opportunities you are interested in.

How do you create a PLN? To answer this question. I pulled the resources of my PLN.  One of the ways that I have created a PLN is through a website called Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging site that wants everyone to answer “What are you doing now?” Seems silly but we educators can take anything and make it an educational tool. Educators from across the world use this site to share resources and ask questions to help further their technology integration skills.

So last night I sent out this call…..

Within a few hours I had all of the results posted here. The responses are so wonderful. Please feel free to read the entire document but I have summerized their responses below.

1. Begin reading educational blogs. Who should you read? Well that is really up to you but I can suggest some great educators to start with. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.

Dean Shareski

Alec Couros

John Pederson

Will Richardson

Vicki Davis

David Warlick

Cathy Nelson

Chris Craft

Jeff Giddens

Steve Dembo

Lee Kolbert

2. Begin using an RSS aggregator to keep up with your blogs. Google Reader is the reader I use. If you like to find out more about it, take a tour. Bloglines is another aggregator that is commonly used. I consider my Reader to be a big newspaper. Everyday the blog posts I am to subscribed all all feed into my Google Reader. All I have to do is open it and all the posts are there just like the articles in a news paper.

3. Begin commenting on blogs. Become a part of the conversation.

4. Instead of keeping your bookmarks on your computer, begin using a social bookmarking site such as Delicious. Lee Kolbert, a Technology Programming Specialist from Boca Raton, FL suggests, “Using an online bookmarking tool, such as Delicious.com, allows teachers to bookmark their bookmarks online and access them from anywhere. From there, I recommend teachers share their Delicious usernames and add each other to their networks. To build a global network, teachers can start to click through and add other users who have similar interests.”

6. Alec Couros suggests, “try microblogging (twitter or plurk). Find other educators that are passionate about social networking. See the resources people share. Have fun. Learn. Contribute. Twitter in education is a type of gift economy. People help each other. People learn from each other. We all benefit.” and “Experiment with other media and social network. Try Facebook. Browse Youtube and TeacherTube. Become aware of how all of this work. Find out how kids are using it.”

When you are ready to try Twitter or Plurk, here are a few tips.

A. Fill out your bio information. People in the education network are more likely to follow you if you have bio information about what you do.

B. Find someone you know or respect in the educational world and begin following the people they follow.

Now go off and explore…. build your network… “If you build it, they will come.” – Field of Dreams

Monologues with Podcasting

Do you students ever experience anxiety over performing in front of the class? Earlier this month I worked with Anne Shealy at Hand Middle School to try and combat student anxiety with performance. She decided she wanted the students to perform their monologue by recording it as a podcast. The students really enjoyed recording because they were able to use an iPod to do so. I asked Anne to reflect on the process and here is what she had to say.

Podcasting is something that I had wanted to try for several years now. I subscribe to several podcasts and felt that there was definitely potential for using podcasting in the classroom. I found the chance when my students wrote monologues in response to Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt.” Students analyzed a character from the story and then wrote a monologue from that character’s point of view. Students performed them in class, but I didn’t see the level of performance that I was really looking for. One boy stood lifeless in front of the room to read his while another girl just begged to go ahead and read hers because she wanted to get it over with. Of course, there were those who love the stage and did a great job hamming it up in front of the class.

By offering the students the opportunity to create a podcast, I was hoping that I would reach some of these students who might not perform well in front of a crowd. I was hoping that they would take risks with their performances that they might not have taken in front of the class. Though I have not heard their finished products, I have hopes that many of the students did just that. The boy who had once stood lifeless to present his monologue was completely engaged with the project. He had received an iPod for Christmas and loves to talk about it. I was able to watch him record his monologue and I definitely saw him move into character and bring life to his presentation.

One of the most interesting parts of this project that Ms. Sansonetti and I both noticed was the level of engagement for all of the students. By using this technology, kids were turned on. They listened intently to instructions regarding how to use it. They knew this was a privilege and they did not want it taken away. They knew that we are planning to post these on the school website so again; they stepped up their level of performance so that they could show their best work.

All of the kids loved it, but here are few comments:

“It was fun because we got to use a cool modern device. It forced me to think about how I presented my monologue and if I read too fast and if I changed my voice well enough to get across how my character was feeling at that time.” Lauren F.

“I thought the pod cast was really fun. It was cool that you never had to use a computer. The micro-mini plugged right into the iPod. I also got to know someone a little better.” Nic

“I thought the podcast was a cool and interactive way to share our monologues. It also helped by faking away some of your nerves of having to perform in front of people” Armanis

“It was fun to change from normal class into technology with the iPods and with Ms. Sansonetti.” Danny

“The podcasting was cool because it let me learn how to do podcasting. It forced me to get into a character and change into another character. Thanks for letting us do the podcasting.” Anakul

“The podcasting was cool. I had fun because I got to hear my own voice.” Jalen

“The podcasting made me very much realize that I needed to project my voice a little more and stop being afraid to talk in front of my friends.” Paris

“I thought the podcasting was easy and fun. Doing that made me read with expression which I would not usually do.” Katie L.

“The podcasting was really fun. Everyone in the class enjoyed it . . . It helped me to practice speaking with good drama and voice and mood because it made it easier without people around to embarrass you.” Collin