Way Beyond WebQuests with Gary Stager

Session at NECC 2007 with Gary Stager of Pepperdine University called “Way Beyond WebQuests and Information” on Wednesday at 8:30am.

  • “Information is the smallest piece of education.”
  • “If your dominant theme in technology education is looking things up, it should come as no surprise that kids look up inappropriate things.”
  • On the democratization of the web and resistance in schools, “Schools think all kids are potential felons or imbeciles.”
  • On the accuracy of Wikipedia, “The greater the passion on a subject, the more accurate the Wikipedia entry.”

Stager is quite concerned about the promise and pitfalls of the new web. This was a refreshing session to hear after all the web 2.0 stuff at NECC. He challenged me to think and be critical about the orthodoxy of web 2.0.

Stager’s suggestions: The Pulse, FanFiction.net (kids are writing real things; it’s time to move past the 5 paragraph essay)

Who Should I Vote For? A webquest alternative

The educators in the room completed this exercise (link). Stager provided us with a photo of an Iraqi campaign poster he spotted in Australia. We were supposed to answer the question, “who should I vote for?”

Give the activity a try yourself. This works really well with two people and two computers. Share your info and collaborate to find out. I personally found the activity addicting. I felt like a detective, and (as he predicted) one question led to another.

The only English on the sign was the number “740”. When searching, we had to add other terms to find anything useful. It requires that you use pre-existing knowledge. This resonated with me because in our experiential school, we’re supposed to work with the fact that our kids come into the room with experiences and knowledge (and now I have a practical way to practice it).

Stager says the activity has been used as a faculty kickoff, with kids (one group was planning on learning Arabic to read the sign).

Were the Chicago Seven martyrs?

Is Ned Kelly a hero?


You could take up an entire semester with this one! Micronations are tiny made up countries. Some founders write elaborate histories, make currency, and form governments.

Edward R. Murrow said

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.

about television.

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Redesign Research with Social Bookmarking

Lucie deLaBruere from St. Albans City School in rural Vermont. 11:00am Tuesday. Lucie also contributes to Infinite Thinking Machine.

Furl for research: it can export formatted Works Cited pages.

Teachers ask Lucie about social bookmarking, “so what?”

  • Work smarter not harder
  • Collective and collaborative knowledge
  • Wisdom of crowds
  • Redesign assignments for increased critical thinking

Lucie’s notes are available online at PBWiki.

Search a social bookmarking site instead of Google

Firefox has a delicious search utility (see image at right), which can make the search faster. I tried googling the term first, didn’t find what I wanted, then switched the search engine right there in Firefox — no retyping.

Find bookmarks by people like you

Pay attention to the other tags beneath the name of any search result. For example, in the search for free clip art, the first result has also been tagged as “graphics” and “design”. Look for people who tag things like you!

Use one del.icio.us account

Have a single class of students find and post to one del.icio.us account. This is how you can send them off to “do research”. The goal is to post relevant pages to the del.icio.us account.

An interesting little side effect: a page can be posted only once to a del.icio.us account. The first kid to tag it wins.

Have students highlight then bookmark

Highlighted text on a page automatically becomes the description text.

Students should tag with topic and their name

Let’s imagine you’ve got kids searching for information on alcohol abuse. Send them off on the web to search. When they tag, ask them to add their screenname to the tags they choose to add. I might tag something “pregnancy alcohol abuse megan”.

When you as a teacher go back in del.icio.us, you can “grade papers” online. Hit a kid’s tag and see everything he/she tagged.

Great session!

Lucie was an excellent presenter who moved at a great pace for me. I’d definitely hear her speak again.

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Open Source Mindmapping With FreeMind

Open source software is doing gangbusters! I’m sitting in a hands-on open source lab on mindmapping using a tool called FreeMind. There are about 50 people in here using recycled laptops provided (presumably) by the open source playground people to build mind maps. The software is pretty slick looking on first glance. Here’s a screenshot from FreeMind:

I’m willing to bet that fewer than 5 of these people have ever used Linux before (or will use it ever again). However, I’m pretty sure a good number will try out FreeMind at home because it’s available for Windows and Mac OS X.

I think the coolest impact of open source software is how it’s available on closed source operating systems (really, I mean Windows in this case). A woman walked in a few minutes after the session started, opened her Windows laptop, downloaded FreeMind, and followed along. That’s powerful!

FreeMind may be a nice alternative to Inspiration. I need to play with it some more to see if it’s suitable for the middle school set. Either way, open source has arrived.

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Algebra and Geometry Model Lesson

This is one of the model lessons at NECC, set up as if a teacher were teaching a regular lesson to students. The central floor had room for 25 students equipped with laptops, a smart board, and a teacher. In this case, the teacher was Marsha Sanders-Leigh from Georgia Tech.

Marsha showed the class and audience a sample lesson on circles and ratios using Geometer’s Sketchpad. I’ve never used the software before (Kate Small may just come down here and shoot me because she’s been telling me about it for almost a year now).

For the visual learner, Sketchpad is incredibly useful. It helped me see the relationships the teacher was presenting. I think Sketchpad is probably a nice add-on for math classes, however I should add that what she taught could be done with pen and paper — it’s a matter of the approach taken in teaching.

As a model of teaching, I see now the challenge of working both with a large class and lots of unfamiliar technology. After the initial aha moments with Sketchpad, this quickly became a lesson in working through the technology. One “student” went to the board and worked through the problem on an on-screen graphing calculator. The teacher told her what buttons to press and honestly, it lost my attention.

I have a few really cool takeaways: Geometer’s Sketchpad rocks. TI makes a smart board version of its graphing calculator called SmartView. Marsha started the lesson by finding and acknowledging the experts in the classroom — and pointing them out to the newbies (I thought this was a cool class management idea).
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NETS Refresh Session at NECC

The first NETS for students standards were releasd in 1998, after 2 years of development. The new standards have been in the works for a year. Feedback has come from all 50 states and 22 countries.

The NECC session (at 8:30 on Monday morning) was a review of the process ISTE used to re-form the NETS for Students. Key folks involved in the process each had a chance at the mic.

For the refresh, ISTE realized they were really defining what students need to do to “learn effectively and live productively,” said Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE.

Major categories of the standards are:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

NETS for Students may have had its grand opening today, but it’s already been applied. Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay applied them in their Horizon Project this past spring. At EduBloggerCon on Saturday, I learned that the Horizon Project met all the standards.

Check out the 2007 refreshed NETS.

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NECC Buzzword Bingo

So you’ve made your plans for seeing NECC this week. You’ve mapped out every workshop, lecture, poster, and Starbucks to visit while in Atlanta. But you’ve forgotten one thing: your bingo card.

To spice things up a bit, consider playing buzzword bingo along with me. Here’s how it works: Print out the following bingo card and carry it with you around NECC (or any other edtech event, for that matter). If you get 5 in a row, stand up and holler, “Bingo!” because you’ve just won.

Oh — and bingos from the exhibit hall floor don’t count — that’s too easy.

authentic learning win-win forces of change Second Life bleeding edge
web 2.0 social networking learning communities podcasting NCLB
formative assessments smart classroom differentiated instruction frameworks empower[ment]
lifelong learners redefining literacy pedagogy staff development authentic assessment
standards-based curriculum wiki leverage top down synergy

This buzzword bingo is based on the business version of the game and described on Wikipedia.

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Did Anyone Notice? NECC + Gay Pride

So, as I’m planning my schedule for the NECC, I just realized a huge conflict: NECC pre-conference events are on Pride weekend. How am I to watch the parade and hear the opening keynote?!

A little background on both events: The National Educational Computing Conference, NECC, is in Atlanta starting the weekend of June 23. Atlanta’s annual gay pride celebration and parade are going on at the same time. This is great: just as 18,000 of my closest teaching friends descend on Atlanta, the gay community whoops it up for a weekend of celebration!

The highlight of the weekend-long festival is the Pride Parade on Sunday. Marchers step off at 1pm from the Civic Center MARTA station. You may find this map of the parade route useful. The best spots to watch are along Peachtree St. near the intersection with 10th St., all the way to the end of the route in Piedmont Park.

Even if you’re not gay, consider watching the Pride Parade. A word of caution, though: the crowds watching the parade get more raucous the closer you get to the end. If you want to drop in to see what’s going on, I suggest you try the intersection of Peachtree St. and North Ave.

If you’re coming into town for the conference and want to skip the Pride celebration, avoid of Midtown Atlanta (from North Ave through 14th St).

Happy Pride!

(Photo credit: Apexdv’s Photostream on Flickr)