Friday, March 06, 2009

Interested in an interschool, middle-school collaborative project?

The primary audience for this post is teachers and technology facilitators who might be interested in partnering on a Middle-School/Junior High joint English and Social Studies project in April 2009.

AfricaSeventh grade students at Dwight-Englewood School are studying the way in which colonial powers divided up Africa and the lasting effects of these political divisions on the African people. I have been working with two creative seventh grade teachers on planning a project for this unit that would involve sharing information and collecting feedback from students at a different school. While the planning for this is still ongoing, here is what we currently have in mind.

D-E students (two sections working in groups) will be charged with creating an web-based lesson (probably using a wiki) to be completed by the students at the school we partner with. Our students will present maps of the continent of Africa showing various divisions such as cultural boundaries, population, natural resource, etc. Each of our student project groups will also create pages of related content resulting from research on various aspects of the topic such has the specific effect caused by each of the European colonial powers involved.

Your students would be asked to use a web browser to read and comment on this content, which would probably include a guiding question to answer for each content section. At the conclusion of the lesson your students would be asked to reflect on this information and synthesize a response answering how they think Africa should be politically divided including annotating a map of Africa as part of the response. (There is no single correct answer to this question.) After the lesson is completed by your students, ours may do the same final exercise and share the results with your students.

Our students' goal would be to create a lesson that could be completed by your students in one class period assuming each of your students or groups of students working together have access to an Internet connected computer. D-E teachers will help guide
our students to stick with that length, but of course, seventh graders who have little previous experience creating lessons will be doing this so that won't be perfect.

The tools to be used for this have not been completely decided yet, but here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • Content will be created, viewed, and commented on using a wiki. I've had some recent, positive experiences with pbwiki so that will be the first one I checkout to see if it can meet the needs with regard to content security and user management.
  • Your student responses could be through wiki comments. However, there is some interest in providing the option of allowing audio comments to be left by using a tool such as VoiceThread. This might be particularly useful in providing a place for answering the final question that asks your students to annotate a map as VoiceThread allows commenting (text, audio, or video) combined with drawing on an image. We do not have experience using VoiceThread with students yet, and I have not worked on the details nor potential difficulties related to your students possibly needing to register and login to VoiceThread in order to comment so that complication may prevent its use.
As I can work out the technology tool details later, our first priority is confirming we have a partner school so we know this will be a viable project to be started very soon. Therefore, if you are interested in having students at your school participate in this project, please contact me (Bill Campbell) as soon as possible via email (campbb "at", Twitter (@BillCamp), or by commenting on this post (and including contact information in your comment).

Update 3/12/09:
I realize that I forgot to add that if you partner with us and would like our students to provide feedback on something your students create, we would be happy to do so. (Two classes at D-E are doing this project.)

Also, for those of you interested in the book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, I'm reading chapter 5 now, and I realized that the project we are proposing seems related to student-created, instructional content delivered through a "facilitated user network" as described in that chapter.

Update 4/2/09:
We will be using PBwiki to publish content and partner school students will respond via wiki comments. (Still investigating VoiceThread for final question.) Student research on the topic is already under way, and we will introduce the wiki to our student publishers on Monday.

I still don't have a firm commitment from a partner school so if you are interested, please contact me.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Vicarious NAIS conference participation

As someone who uses Twitter to keep on eye on what others interested in education, technology, or both are talking about, I discovered that some of the 2009 National Association of Independent Schools annual conference attendees were sharing the proceedings through blogs and social networking tools such as Twitter.  As a result, I've now had a small glimpse of the conference through the eyes of those others who were gracious enough to share. Since I found some of my vicarious conference participation on Thursday and Friday worthwhile, I'd like to share some of the resources for others who might be interested.

Jason Ramsden (@raventech) and Sarah Hanawald (@sarahhanawald) encouraged live online conversation and blogged notes using the Cover It Live tool during the following presentations. (Click on the name of the blogger to access the notes.  Sessions with two bloggers listed have separate notes from each.)
  • Sarah: Setting a Course for IT Success
  • Sarah: Revitalizing the Veteran Teacher with Peter Gow
  • Sarah and Jason: Opening General Session with Dan Heath, author of Made to Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
  • Sarah: Creating Artists of Learning with Mary Cullinane
  • Sarah and Jason: Michelle Rhee on Reforming Education
  • Jason: Michael Thompson on The Impact of Technology on the Lives of Boys
  • Sarah and Jason: Guy Kawasaki on The Art of Innovation
  • Sarah and Jason: Closing Session with Oprah Winfrey
As you read through the recording of the Cover It Live session, you may notice comments marked with a Twitter symbol Cover It Live twitter symbol and some may seem like a non sequitur.  Those comments automatically appear in the blog session because the author thought that Twitter posts from selected authors or on specific topics might be germane and, therefore, interesting to those viewing the live blogging session.  This relates to the next resource.

Instead of creating a live blogging session dedicated to a particular presentation, many other conference attendees used Twitter to post short messages or quotes of interest while attending presentations.  Many people who posted messages to Twitter before, during, and after the conference marked these messages with the keyword #nais09 (called a hash tag).  That made it easy for people using Twitter during the conference (whether actually there or not) to follow some of the activities. You can see a list of all of the Twitter posts tagged with that keyword using Twitter's search tool.  The entries are listed in reverse chronological order, and people continue make Twitter "micro-blog" posts tagged with that keyword as they write related articles after the conference.  This is how I discovered most of the content about the proceedings. (If you are really bored, you can scroll through the that list of twitter posts and find the announcement I recently made about for this blog post.)

If you have read this far, you might be short on time, but you can quickly read some of the best conference quotes and highlights that were posted to Twitter according to Liz B. Davis (@lizbdavis) in her blog post Gr8T Quotes from #NAIS09.

Thank you to Jason, Sarah, Liz, and everyone else who shared the conference live via the web!

For those who prefer more depth and less conversation, there were also three official conference bloggers:
While I have not had the opportunity to explore all of their work, I did find Jonathan Martin's post "NAIS: Nine Highlights, Takeways, & Observations on Oprah, Rhee, Thompson, 21st. c. Learning, Chicago, and More" interesting.  Jonathan (@JonathanEMartin) also seemed to be a prolific user of Twitter during the conference so I believe he has included the input of others in his writings.

This experience provided me an interesting example of how blogging and social networking can connect people to a traditional conference when people actually in attendance are willing to share.  This is good news for us life-long learners who don't necessarily have the time or other resources to traditionally participate in theses events.

As I find other web resources of interest specifically related to the 2009 NAIS Annual Conference, I will post them under the nais09 tag of my delicious bookmarks, which you can access by clicking here.