Tuesday, July 21, 2009

T4 Teachers:

I hope your summer has gone well. I have tried to leave you alone as much as possible, so that you may recharge and return for the new school year refreshed and ready to innovate!

You may pick up your laptops at the IT Department at the Central Office, starting at noon on Thursday, July 23. Please pick them up before the end of the business day on Friday so that you can acquaint yourselves with them before the start of the T4 Technology Coach training.

Trainings will take place July 27-31, for a total of 20 hours. Each day will have two fifteen minute breaks and one hour-long lunch break. Training will NOT take place on July 30.

Before the July 27-31 training, please complete the following tasks:
- Create accounts
- Read articles
- View videos
- Join T4 Ning groups

1. Teachers should create accounts in the following websites and send their usernames to Noah Tonk (noaht@susd12.org) and Emily Mann (emily.mann@pimaregionalsupport.org). If it would help you to make a list of passwords for the accounts, please do so.


Gmail & Google Docs







2. Please read the following articles:

Collaborate or Die: The Future of Education

The Future of Education: Is it Web 2.0 or Not?

Disrupting Class: Student-Centric Education is the Future

3. Please view the following videos:

A Brave New World Wide Web

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

4. Finally, on this Ning, please be sure that you have joined the T4 Coaches group and the school-level group appropriate to your teaching position.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. You may reach me easily via email, or by calling me using the Google Voice widget on this page or the phone number you can find in my emails. Thank you for doing everything that you do. I look forward to working closely with you this year as you explore new ways to encourage your students to learn using active participation and collaboration. See you next week!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran, Citizen Journalism, and the Future of Education

Those of you that know me understand that I am a news junkie, especially concerning American and world politics. I've been following the crisis in Iran rather closely over the last week and a half or so, and have been struck both by the revolutionary nature of these events and by the manner in which we have been able to experience them. Those of us who have been around for a few years remember some key revolutionary events in the world of international affairs, and not all have been successful: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the massacre in China's Tienanmen Square, the standoff in Moscow that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the 1979 revolution that brought the current government to power in Iran in the first place. In each case, there were official representatives of news media whose video and still image documentation established iconic memories for those of us familiar with those events.

Recently, I was listening to the podcast of the Slate Political Gabfest, with Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz, discussing the recent crisis in Iran as a result of their disputed election results. It was a winding discussion (indeed, the episode was titled "The Kitchen B***h, perhaps alluding to the wide range of topics discussed), that spent a few minutes on the way we've been getting our information regarding what is happening in Iran. Because the mainstream media has been either kicked out of the country or detained, and the official state media is muzzled by the Guardian Council, much of the information regarding the current state of affairs in Iran has been obtained through monitoring Iranian Twitter posts and uploads to YouTube. The discussion touched on the crisis within journalism today, referencing falling newspaper subscriptions and the numbers of people who are abandoning official news media for online blogs that cover the news of the day. The concern is, of course, that without an unbiased, independent news media (I'm aware of the controversy surrounding the word "unbiased" and I'm not addressing that now), there is no way for the public to get accurate information. Indeed, the Gabfest addressed this point directly, making note of the fact that there is no clear way to distinguish between Iran-related posts on Twitter that are legitimate communications from the streets of Tehran and those that spread mere rumor.

One of the Gabfesters, Emily I believe, commented that this perhaps is the new role that journalism must take if it is to survive in the 21st century world of Web 2.0, the role of "aggregator". She discussed that traditional journalism finds sources for stories and then reports on them, and then postulated that the "new" journalism might consist of analyzing 200 posts on Twitter, cross-referencing them with the latest uploads to YouTube and discussions on Facebook and then determining what is the "truth", with an eye on reporting that for us, in order to help make sense of it all for the average consumer of information.

This was the point that got my head spinning, because I couldn't stop thinking of what it might imply for the future of education.

One of the biggest criticisms of education and the pedagogical study of it is that it is an "ivory tower" business; that some of its theories and practices are interesting, but of no practical use in today's classroom, with teachers overwhelmed by class sizes, misbehavior, helicopter parents, and what has been characterized as a national obsession over test results. Yet, everyone agrees that the era of fads in education must end if we are to move forward with effective, data-driven strategies that produce results; such a pursuit of strategies must by necessity rely upon university studies and peer review to be seen as legitimate. The proper application of classroom technology is perhaps a way to bridge this "educational divide" between reality and expectations.

Some readers will scoff at this notion, and rightly so. Like many of you, I work in a school district where there are many computers. Many of them work, many don't, and the rest work very slowly. Regardless of their working condition, it may seem as though there simply are not enough of them to contribute effectively to our students' education. As Steve Hargadon writes,
Hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, have been spent on outfitting schools with computers, and most of us would appropriately claim that the impact on student achievement has been little to none. But I would submit that, as happened in our business culture 20 years ago, a set of technologies that actually transform our traditional methods will become the driving catalyst for ubiquitous access to computers at school. What we currently have are computers purchased and maintained largely by school business offices, relatively divorced from teaching methodologies, and either not in a quantity or in a condition to allow overworked teachers to change their teaching methods. Driven not by technology vendors or unproven theories, Web 2.0 instead seems likely to change education precisely because it is a disruptive external change.
The key "disruptive innovation" then, is not the actual possession of computers, but is rather what we can learn from the so-called Web 2.0 that will transform education in the digital age.

Lately, there has been much discussion of the "prosumer." The idea is that, along with our attempts to focus in education on producing citizens who can think critically about the world around them, the consumer has evolved into a being who is not merely "consuming" what is fed to them by the media and the marketplace, but is actually participating in the process. Matt Federoff, of the Vail School District, discusses this concept as a twist on the creation vs. consumption dynamic; that the new citizen is one who consumes multiple sources of information, synthesizes it with a personal flavor, and then re-publishes it as his or her own creation, producing a new source of information for others to consume and digest.

Sorry, kids. Life is a research paper. :-)

This is not an old concept, but is a new twist on an old idea. John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler, in their article Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, argue that
instead of starting from the Cartesian premise of “I think, therefore I am,” and from the assumption that knowledge is something that is transferred to the student via various pedagogical strategies, the social view of learning says, “We participate, therefore we are.”
Think about how many times you have attended a lecture, viewed a television show, or listened to the radio, but didn't really get it until you had the opportunity to construct your own learning through discussion with others. If this is such a powerful tool in education, why are we so focused on clinging to the old methods? Just a few weeks ago, I sat through a day of lectures on how ineffective the lecture model has become in 21st century education. It was an irony that did not escape me as I slowly felt my brain sliding into disuse as the day progressed - indeed, that is one of the few things I remember from that day.

What can be more effective, then, than teachers coming together to share and debate best practices amongst themselves, in their own method of "peer-review"? Like Bazelon's "new journalism" that seeks to aggregate hundreds of Web 2.0 primary sources in order to help sort the wheat from the chaff and create a vision of how things truly are, perhaps it is time for educators to seize the opportunity that online collaboration and social networking presents and use it to develop a grassroots method of professional development. Steve Hargadon writes
I see an incredible educational renaissance coming, where the excitement around collaborating with other educators that was largely accomplished by meeting at annual conferences starts to take place every day. Where a teacher can find other teachers with the same interests and passions, meet "live" in Elluminate, start sharing lesson plans, and even bring their classes into collaboration. I see a day (soon) when the individual educator, pursuing a niche topic of interest that he or she loves and that excites him or her as a learner, can be brought in as a guest speaker to a class on the other side of the world. Where anyone who cares about something in education can start a weekly or monthly meeting in Elluminate to share and brainstorm that topic.
The really interesting part, of course, comes when we involve the student. And why wouldn't we? If we are training our students to be collaborative, critically thinking workers in a 21st century democracy, isn't the use of Web 2.0 an essential part of their education? We have labored for years to step back and "facilitate" instead of focusing on direct instruction, to give up our place as the sage on the stage, and yet we have either clung to that model or struggled to incorporate it into our 19th century style of one-size-fits-all monolithic education. Many modern conferences on educational technology provide a back-channel chat room in which participants or observers can "discuss the discussion" and learn both from listening to the panel at the front of the room and from discussing it with other participants online in real time.

As a former classroom teacher, I recognize the dangers in attempting this in class with teenagers or other age groups. They'll talk about other things! They'll make fun of me/each other! They'll be sexting in class! The thing is, don't we do the same thing and get through it with a deeper understanding of the topic anyway? (well, minus the "sexting" of course!)

Perhaps Chris Yeh sums it up best when he asks
How effective will lectures be when students learn by grazing on tens or hundreds of information feeds each day? How will they react to printed textbooks, when they believe that every document should be editable, commentable, and infinitely shareable? What is the meaning of the word "classroom" when video and mobile devices transmit the majority of knowledge?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Digital Scholars Rally

At last count, we had approximately 343 Digital Scholars who are on track to receive an updated HP mininote laptop on April 27. This new laptop has a larger hard drive, runs XP and has more memory (so it runs faster than the last one), a larger screen and an integrated webcam, among other improvements. Today we had a rally at Desert View and brought Sunnyside HS students in to join their Jaguar brethren to celebrate the achievements of these Digital Scholars. Check out the pictures below.

Monday, April 6, 2009

TLAT Virtual Meeting, Week of April 6

If you do NOT have a Gmail account, please visit http://mail.google.com to obtain one for this activity. Thank you.

Please read the following article:

Once you have read the article, please click on Comments below these instructions on this SUSD technology blog, log in using your Google (Gmail) account, read any preceding Comments, and add your own. In your Comment, please respond to the following questions:

  1. Please write a general response to the Adopt and Adapt article. How does this article pertain to the future of educational technology in SUSD? Feel free to respond to previous comments' responses to this prompt.
  2. What is going well with the technology in your classroom? If you have things that are NOT going well with technology in your classroom, please email me privately.
  3. How has the use of technology in your classroom changed the way that you teach, run your classroom, or use resources for instruction?
  4. This question is intentionally open-ended and is aimed toward the "advisory" portion of your mission. What training would you like to have, and what training do you think would be valuable for the teachers at your school? We plan to use these responses as a guide for planning for this summer and for next year.
Thank you for taking the time to complete this. You have until noon on Friday to submit your responses as part of your role on the TLAT team and/or as someone who has been assigned an instructional cart. I know that we do not have school on Friday - I'll be here in the office to read your responses, and if you need additional time after Thursday, you can have until noon on Friday. :-)

Agenda Items for April 20:
  • Quick check-in: technology issues at SSHS and DVHS
  • Lesson plan using technology (please check your email for additional information regarding this. It will not be due on April 20.)
  • Department Delicious accounts (see Academic Technology Newsletter #1)
  • Future of technology in SUSD
  • Training opportunities
  • Summer CTE curriculum work

Twitter in the Classroom?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Free document cameras

You can apply for a grant for a free document camera for your classrom at www.samsunggrants.com. Take a look and give it a try!

Noah Tonk
-Sent from my Windows Mobile smartphone

Principals blogging


I found an interesting podcast and accompanying articles about a principal who is using blogging as a way to stimulate conversation among school stakeholders and promote transparency. In case you are interested, please click below:


Academic Technology Newsletter #2

Academic Technology Newsletter #2
April 3, 2009

Academic Technology Bytes
Two or three thoughtful & provocative articles offered as digital food for thought.

Students See Schools Inhibiting Their Use of New Technologies
The article argues that students are eager for more technology use in the classroom, but are frustrated that teachers and administrators don’t seem to be embracing its use in the classroom for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to move out of our comfort zones, from teachers to IT personnel to office staff.

Six Technologies Soon to Affect Education
Article summary of a report from the New Media Consortium listing “the emerging technologies that will shape K-12 education in the near future.” The technologies are grouped in the report according to their likely time-to-adoption – click through to read the article and get a head start.

Technology Lead Teacher Initiative
San Antonio school district presents its results with using the “lead from the back” philosophy of spreading technology through the schools with the use of teacher-leaders in this web-based video.

District Technology News
Brief roundup of what’s been happening with instructional technology in the District.

  • Jamila Nassar, of the SHS Counseling Department, has been developing a list of counseling resources for students using Delicious.com, and was quite pleased to see what we have done with Delicious and department integration. Take a look at what she and others have created, here: http://delicious.com/sunnysidecounseling.
  • On April 27, hundreds of upperclassmen at DVHS and SSHS will receive a new laptop through the Digital Scholars program to honor their commitment to excellence in SUSD. You will be able to track up-to-date information regarding the numbers as they come in here: http://www.susd12.org/node/1384.
  • Approximately 80 high school students are participating in a pilot program for the ReadingPlus online reading remediation program through our partnership with CSC Learning. You can see the kinds of things they are doing in the classroom and online by clicking here.

Spotlight on YOUR Classroom
The best professional development comes from seeing what the teacher down the hall from you is doing that works.

Sherry “MacGyver” Brown, of SSHS, has this to share:
“I made…(my own)…interactive whiteboard using some chewing gum, baling wire and spit. Okay, it was from Johnny Lee's wiiMote hacks which uses the wiiRemote, an homemade IR pen (parts courtesy of Dollar Tree and RadioShack) and some open source software. Not only is it *portable* (think traveling cart teachers) -- it works on *any* surface (whiteboard, wall, table, floor, student).
Of course, it cost a grand total of $47 to make -- assuming one has the computer and projector already.”


Free Resources on the Web
Websites, pages, or services on the Web that just might come in handy in your classroom someday.

Classroom 2.0
While the “2.0” moniker is certainly getting a little old, this website lives up to the title. It is a social network for educators interested in learning more about and collaborating on best practices for Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. It provides forums for educators to post and respond to questions regarding the use of technology in the classroom, links to interesting recent news regarding instructional technology, links to online teacher resources, and acts as a clearinghouse to post opportunities for teachers to learn more about technology, such as an upcoming webinar with PBS & Elluminate on how to engage students using technology.

Grammar Bytes
Fairly comprehensive & simple to navigate website to help teach and learn English grammar terms. The examples are down-to-Earth and sometimes rather amusing.

While the name indicates something a bit more morbid, this site is a repository of free images that can be downloaded and used with PowerPoint presentations, web pages, or handouts (if we had paper, that is!). Take a look – I searched for the term “school” and came up with 565 images. While you can certainly stick with http://images.google.com, not all of the images you find on Google are royalty-free.

Freeware Spotlight

Free tools to download and use on your computer (with permission, of course!)

Visual Body
It’s only freeware if you count the plugin that must be installed to view it (and it also requires Flash), but I had to include this site. It is totally free and thoroughly amazing. It allows you to explore and manipulate the human body, adding and removing muscular tissue, bone, nerves, and much more to get a 3-D tour of the human body. It must be seen to really be appreciated.

CyberSmart Toolbar
Toolbar for Internet Explorer and for Firefox that provides a wealth of resources for teachers. Provides links to everything from content area knowledge resources to Web 2.0 tools specifically designed for teachers.

Send in your questions regarding technology use for possible inclusion in this newsletter.

What does that “other” button do on my mouse?

Great question! As you can see, each mouse comes with two buttons – one on the right, and one on the left. Most of us (sorry, left-handers!) use the left button with our pointer finger. We use it to click on things and select text. The “other” button, the one on the right, is the contextual menu button. Clicking on something in most applications with the right mouse button, or “right-clicking”, will produce a menu. Right-clicking on the word “menu”, for example, will produce a menu with options to copy the word menu, search for “menu” on the internet, and other options. Right-clicking on an empty area of the desktop will allow you to create a variety of different kinds of documents on the fly. Right-clicking on a web link will give you the option to open the link, open it in a new window, or open it in a new tab, among other options. Try it in various locations and see!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Kaiya Noelle Tonk

Born 2:51 PM, March 25, 9 lbs 3 oz, 9.5 inches long.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Vision of Students Today

I saw this on YouTube and thought it was rather profound in terms of how different our students' education is from our own. Take a look...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Academic Technology Newsletter #1

March 16, 2009
Welcome to the new Academic Technology Newsletter. This newsletter is intended to keep teachers informed about new developments and opportunities using technology in the classroom. I will include links to free software and web resources, as well as links to articles that offer interesting perspectives on teaching in the digital age and information about current SUSD technology initiatives. I understand that your time is valuable, so please feel free to let me know which portions you feel are not relevant and perhaps should not be included in future editions. Conversely, if you found something to be helpful, informative, or thought-provoking, please let me know that you found it to be useful. Have a good week!

Academic Technology Bytes
Two or three thoughtful & provocative articles offered as digital food for thought.

COLUMN: Schools Must Teach Digital Creation & Consumption
Article which argues that "many students begin with 'consumption' and move into 'creation' with digital content" in ways that mirror the continuum from knowledge and comprehension to synthesis and evaluation. Proposes some interesting guidelines regarding how to make smart technology purchases, rather than falling victim to technology fads and spending money on the wrong things.

TECH FUTURES: No More Tech for Tech's Sake
Far too often, we think that if we just buy more computers and more equipment and more software, our students will learn better and acquire 21st Century skills, and our schools will improve on their own through some form of digital osmosis. We need to remember that, without effective teaching strategies and good teachers, computers are just boxes of circuits and wires.

District Technology News
Brief roundup of what’s been happening with instructional technology in the District.

  • Digital Advantage & Scholars Update: Students with laptops can access a tech support request form at http://www.susd12.org/digital-advantage-support-request. Between 350 and 400 sophomores, juniors, and seniors are on track to receive an upgraded laptop in April through the Digital Scholars program.

  • Technology Leadership Advisory Teams: Each high school has a core group of teachers across content areas who have shown leadership and innovation in the area of academic technology. They are at your disposal to help you learn how to best use the technology resources at your disposal by modeling best practices in instructional technology. If you have an idea regarding how to use technology in your classroom and would like help and feedback, ask your principal who the TLAT teachers are in your school.

Spotlight on YOUR Classroom
The best professional development comes from seeing what the teacher down the hall from you is doing that works.

David Todd, a teacher at Sunnyside High School, was facilitating a discussion on the term "megalomaniac" with his class, and discussing historical figures that could be classified with that term, including a Japanese shogun named Hideyoshi and German dictator Adolph Hitler. After deciding on a class definition for the term, Mr. Todd used the Web to find and play a music video for the song "Megalomaniac" from the band Incubus. Afterwards, the class discussed current individuals who may fall under this category.

Free Resources on the Web
Websites, pages, or services on the Web that just might come in handy in your classroom someday.

District Delicious.com accounts

Do you have any content area web resources that you have come to rely on? Did you find a great resource online somewhere? Share those websites easily with other teachers in your subject area with Delicious.com. I have created Delicious online bookmarking accounts with the hope that teachers might choose to log in and add their best web resources in order to build a district-wide library of stellar content area websites. The password for each account is “sunnyside12".

Some accounts only have the basic 15 teacher & student tools that I uploaded to them; the remainder of the resources must come from you. Remember, we can only succeed when acting as a collaborative learning community.

Career & Technical Education: susd12cte, http://delicious.com/susd12cte
Science: susd12science, view at http://delicious.com/susd12science
Math: susd12math, view at http://delicious.com/susd12math
English: susd12english, http://delicious.com/susd12english
Social Studies: susd12socialstudies, http://delicious.com/susd12socialstudies
Special Education: susd12sped, http://delicious.com/susd12sped

More departments and accounts are forthcoming – stay tuned!

Freeware Spotlight
Free tools to download and use on your computer (with permission, of course!)

Google Earth 5.0

The newest version of Google Earth allows you to see the bottom of the oceans and zoom and pan around the Earth with amazing precision and detail. Your science or geography students can see different types of terrain around the world; your social studies students can see concentration camps in North Korea; and your English students can view settings for various novels - especially when paired with GoogleLitTrips.

Google Apps Tip of the Day
Get the most out of the District’s free subscription to Google Apps for Education.

Students can log in at http://www.google.com/a/students.susd12.org. Most students already have an account created for them. They work in a similar fashion to their network logins.

For example:
Andre Rodriguez (fake student) was born on March 9, 1994, and his matriculation number is 012345. Therefore, his Google Apps user name is AndreR030994 (090394 is the six digital numerical version of his birthday), and his password is 12345 (the initial zero in his matric number is removed). His email address is AndreR030994@students.susd12.org. If you, as a teacher, would like an account to experiment with, please send me an email and I will get back to you as soon as possible with your new account information.

Send in your questions regarding technology use for possible inclusion in this newsletter.

From a teacher at Sunnyside High School:

How do we change our default page for the Internet? Can we make it just Google?

You can change your default, or home, page to whatever you like. This is the page that loads whenever you open Internet Explorer on your school computer. Use the written instructions, demonstrated in the silent video here, to change your home page.

Open Internet Explorer.

  1. Click on the "Tools" menu (there are two of them; see the video to find out where they are).
  2. Click on "Internet Options" at the bottom of the menu.
  3. On the "General" tab, enter the web address (URL) of the page you want to load when Internet Explorer first opens (http://www.google.com, for example).
  4. Click on the "Apply" or "Okay" button and close the window.
  5. Click on the "Home" button to test it (hint: this looks like a house!).