Archive for April, 2007

Use Teacher Leaders To Maximize Technology Integration

light bulb

This year I have spent time working in a school district as part of my university duties. I have realized that there are teacher leaders and there are respected teachers. There are teachers who are well respected for what they do in their classes but they have very little influence on other teachers. There are teacher leaders who informally have much much influence in the school. Being an outside to the district, it has been hard to know who is whom.

I worked with many respected teachers but these teachers did not serve as central expansion into their grade level, team, or school. Although they did fantastic technology-based learning projects with their students, the word never got out. Their brilliant learning lights were hidden behind the doors of their classrooms.
I did work with a few teacher leaders. As soon as they found out about a great technology integration application, they would tell others or bring them in to see it. The other teachers would follow the lead of the teacher.

If you are in a school, identify those teacher leaders and concentrate on them. They can become the biggest advocates for integrating technology. They can create meaningful ripples throughout the building. If you have a respected teacher who is also a teacher leader, then help that person’s light to shine brightly throughout the school.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007



Varied Technologies or a Hammer?

Hammer and nails

Abraham Maslow said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.”

How often do you expose teachers to many different technologies with specific subject area examples? The exposure needs to be more than a brief written description, the teachers need to hear, see, and use it. How often do you go beyond a “The Power of PowerPoint” workshop to an “Improving Students’ English Skills through 14 Different Technologies” workshop in which teacher get to try out many different technologies?

How do you expose teachers to these technologies in such ways that they see how their students can use the technologies to progress in the standards? How do you expose teachers to newer technologies in such ways that they see the advantages of using those technologies in their classroom? How do you expose teachers to newer technologies in such ways that they see how easy the technologies are to implement in the classroom?

Do you show them shiner hammers or different tools?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Better Rubrics Guide Student Learning

Rubric - Vague or Standards-Based

I have seen many pre-service students’ rubric and I have seen many classroom teachers’ rubrics. Many are not educationally meaningful.

Some common problems in analytic rubrics (each part gets a score instead of one score for the whole rubric which is holistic):

They are not standards-based. Most rubrics focus on an activity, not standards.

Categories are so general that it is difficult to know how to rate a student who only does some parts of it. Example: The student will write a five paragraph essay in which the topic is well defined, there are three distinct reasons, there is strong supporting evidence for each reason, and there are clear transitions.

Stage or level descriptions are vague. “Shows proficiency” means nothing to a student, neither does “above average performance.” What are the specific traits of each level? (Many online rubric makers are horrible in this part of a rubric.) Can a student read these and know exactly where he/she is and why?
Criteria is not specific enough to be measured. “Has few errors”- does that mean twenty, ten, five, or two? “Includes many examples”- Again, does that mean twenty, ten, five, or two. State exactly what you mean (If you do not know, then eliminate it!)

Non-Weighted categories do not emphasize their importance. Are all categories worth the same points? For example, on the NYS Writing rubric, all categories have equal weight; your ideas only count as much as appropriate vocabulary or grammar or organization. Expressing good ideas is the point of writing. Weight the most important elements.

Academic wording. Instead, word it in students’ language. Avoid educational jargon but do include critical standards-based vocabulary such as “compare.”

Not including columns to the right for peer assessment comments and student’s self assessment comments. Students can use the columns to have others’ assess their work and for themselves. When they can revisit the comments, they can be sure of the areas in which to improve.

You can use a good rubric as a pre and post test!

Do your rubrics real guide students in knowing exactly what is expected of them? Can students constantly self-assess themselves and be confident of their ratings? Get out your word processed rubrics and revise them to be powerful learning tools.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Do Your Students Ask for A Refund For Lack of Learning?

Standards Progress or Money Back?

There is a commercial in which a person at a play feels the play is horrible and asks the actors for her money back.

Can your students get their money back from your class? Yes, they may like doing exciting projects, surfing the web, seeing your dazzling PowerPoints, creating posters, watching movies, working in groups, enjoy the class discussions, being entertained, having fun in your class, and listening to your jokes. However, do the students learn enough about the standard today to “pay” for attending the class? Do you move them a substantial distance within the standard each day? Do they walk out of class each day saying “Wow, I now know more about….” or “Wow, I now can do …..” in terms of a standard?

They give you 40 minutes. How far do they move in terms of the standard (or performance indicator) in those 40 minutes? How far have you taken them academically in a week? How have you used technology to facilitate their learning? How have you used technology to make them aware of their learning progress? How many students could ask you for a refund for a lack of their academic movement?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


A Dynamic Constantly Improving Standards-Based Curriculum Made Easy with Technology

Curriculum Static or Changing

I remember the huge curriculum binders that dictated what I was to teach. The binders were so big that I rarely opened them. I knew the same curriculum had existed for many years. The pages were yellow with age.

Now teachers can create curriculum and constantly update it through technology. The updates do not have to be at the end of the year but they can be within any unit. Imagine a word processed curriculum that all teachers of the same grade level have access to. As they go through and teach the standards-based curriculum unit, they can add what worked and what did not work for them; they can add their formative assessments and the summative assessments that they used. They could even include class averages for the various experiences based on the team-agreed to rubric. They save the updated curriculum file back for everyone to see. As their colleagues look at the original curriculum and the learning experience suggestions made by their colleagues, they can consider their colleagues’ suggestions. They may think about a modified experience and modify it even more. As each teacher reads over other teachers’ comments and adds his or her own comments based on what actually happened in the classroom, the curriculum becomes dynamic. The curriculum is not removed from the classroom. It is not a stale document on the shelf. It is a living document of what is successful for students.

If each teacher spends even five minutes writing down his or her reflections on the unit and there are four teachers at that grade level, there will be a wealth of standards-based successful and non-successful strategies to consider for next year. Each year the curriculum’s learning experiences can be modified to be help more and more students to be successful. The curriculum will never yellow with age but constantly be refreshed. It will better help students achieve the standards as it changes.

Are your curriculum documents static or dynamic? How do they reflect your and your colleagues’ growing wisdom about what learning experiences lead to the students’ achievement of the standard?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Keys To Meaningful Teacher Technology Integration

Trainer or Teacher Independence

The following are a list of suggestions I have for anyone helping a teacher to learn a technology application in a one-on-one or small group setting. The following are based on the philosophy of helping to make the teacher independent in technology use.

Explain how this application will benefit their students’ learning. Do not hype the benefits of the program but do be realistic. Inspiration helps in organizing ideas. Students who use it do not necessarily become great writers.

Provide meaningful exemplars . Showing elementary teachers an example from high school is not very meaningful. Showing the teachers a Science web when they all teach English is not very meaningful. Have the examples show higher level thinking skills, not simply factual information. Show many diverse examples.

Never touch the teacher’s computer. Always have the teacher use the keyboard as you talk the teacher through it. You can point to a key but you do not touch it. If you are repeating a command that you have previously done, wait to see if the teacher can remember it before you begin pointing.

Always focus on the most common uses of the program. For example, teaching “RapidFire” in Inspiration is a very common use of the program. I once watched a trainer teach every minor command in Inspiration even though the trainer did not teach “RapidFire.”

Build on skills. Have the teachers create mini-projects that incorporate previous commands/skills. “Let’s close down Inspiration and have you start from the beginning to create a timeline.”

Have the teachers create something real for their classroom. Making a web of their vacation plans may be motivating for teachers but they probably will not encounter many of the issues that they would if they were applying it to their classroom. If they create materials for their students, they feel that they are being productive.

Identify common mistakes in using the program. “Make sure to click on the appropriate box before you go to change the shape….Remember the graphic cannot be edited, so save the original file.” It is the tiny little things that stop teachers dead in their tracks so build those into your “training.”

Help the teachers brainstorm classroom uses. Before you end the session, have the teachers brainstorm various ways they can (will) use it in their classroom. Have the teachers share their ideas with each other. You can suggest ways to make the use even more educational powerful.

Volunteer to support them in their class as they use it. Do not teach the lesson for them. Be there to gently guide them if they need help. An exception is if you teach the first class and then they teach all the other classes. The purpose is for them to be independent, not dependent on you.

Check in with the teachers and be available for help as they continue on their own. You can call, email, IM, or videoconference with the teachers to provide additional support and to encourage them to do more advanced projects. One teacher and I exchanged three emails as she moved to a more complex project.

How do you help your teachers to be independent in their technology use?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Classroom Observation of Student Learning- Listening to Students

Question mark

As teachers we hear and see so much in the classroom but often we do not record that information so that we can reflect on it to see patterns.

Select a standard to observe for in the next two weeks. Select a key component of that standard. Select a performance indicator or indicators (what students do to demonstrate the standard to a proficient level).

Make a spreadsheet with the students’ names going down alphabetically (a class list). Going across the spreadsheet make a column for each time you want to observe for the performance indicator. For example, you might have five columns for “uses the inquiry process to solve problems” and they are labeled I-1, I-2….” (observation times) or “I 4.18, I 4.22…..” (observation dates). As you walk around your science room, you listen to the students talk about the lab that they are doing. You listen for phrases such as “What if….”, “What will happen when…..”, “What other possibilities are there?”, ” What else could cause ….”, and “When have other similar reactions happened?” Each time you hear an inquiry question or phrase you record it on your paper or computer spreadsheet. After a few days, you look to see the patterns based on what you have been observing in the classroom. If you find that you are not hearing inquiry type questions and statements, you might want to ask the students inquiry type questions such as those generated by Marilyn Austin. You can help students to develop the ability to ask questions, connect previous knowledge to this experience, investigate, put information into a larger context, and ask questions that move this experience to a higher level. You can move them from “We have a lab to do” to “How can we solve this problem?” through your observation of their inquiry skills.

Do you assess those skills that are critical to your students on a regular basis through classroom observations? Do you then reteach or refocus to help them grow more in the skill?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


How Do We Help Prepare Students for Their Life-Long Learning?


Elementary school prepares our students for middle school. Middle school prepares them for high school. High School prepares them for college. College prepares them for a job. So who prepares them for life? When do we prepare them for their future? Our fixation on having students’ pass academic tests but still not knowing the basics of life is sad.

My father used to complain that I went to college for four years and still did not know how to hold a hammer. He was wrong!! I went to college for eight years.

Do we help to prepare students for their future in terms of being a life-long learner? Do we provide opportunities for them to weight their decisions within the classroom? Do we provide opportunities for them to self-assess when they have to create their own “rubric”? Do we provide opportunities for them to set their own goals and measure their own progress? Do we provide opportunities for them to think of both pros and cons for situations and then make decisions? Do we provide opportunities for them to solve real-life problems?

We can use technology to bring the world into the class for our students so that their learning experiences are not academically-sterile but real-world complex!

How do you prepare your students to be life-long learners? Will their know how to hold a hammer (have life-long learning skills) after your class?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Flower Metaphor for Student Assessment and Accountability

Flower Metaphor

I like to take flower pictures. Depending on where I position myself in relation to the flower, it can be in the shadows or in the bright sunlight. Depending on my viewpoint of straight down, from the side or from the ground up, the flower looks very different. I may take a picture of a bunch of flowers or of one single flower. As I change a backdrop, the color of the flower may change and a light area becomes dark. At no time has the flower changed but each picture of it can be very different.

A flower is a good metaphor for assessment. An 80/100 on a test may be a horrible score, an average score or a very high one. An essay rated on the state writing rubric may score a 3/6 although the ideas in it are brilliant. A single state test does not show the many dimensions of student learning overtime.

Flowers are constantly changing just as our students, hopefully, are in their learning.

Let’s create flower albums of many different views of student learning for a single standard. Let’s look at the student’s progress from many different positions, angles, and backdrops. If we only concentrate on a few flowers (standards), then we can show the student in all his/her glory!

So how many different views of student learning do you have at present ? Use a spreadsheet or database to collect your various flower pictures of learning. Think of having your students create an eportfolio to highlight their many blooms.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Student Centered Assessment System- Course View

Student Centered Assessment System

My present view of an assessment system that depends on technology to provide the learner with a robust picture of his/her learning progress. At any given moment, a learner such as Alan can see his state test results, class grades, and all formative comments that are focused on a particular standard. He has a well rounded comprehensive view of where he was, where he is now, and where he still has to go in terms of the standard. Since his teacher also has access to this information, the teacher can provide scaffolding to help Alan be more successful in the standard. In addition, Alan can see how far he has progressed in his personal goals for the course and in his life long goals.

What is your view of an assessment system that helps students instead of just giving them grades? How have you implemented it with technology?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Shulman’s Student Accountability as Narrative

Accountability Story One Dimensional or Multi-Dimensional

Shulman offers seven pillars of assessment for accountability (telling the story of each student). Shulman, L. S. (2007). “Counting and Recounting: Assessment and the Quest for AccountabilityChange

1 Become explicit about the story you need to tell and the rationale for choosing it.

2. Do not think that there is a “bottom line.” What does any instrument measure and not measure? Assessment is only meaningful in the larger context.

3. Design multiple measures (array of instruments) to avoid narrowness of scope

4. Work on combining multiple measures. Develop rules for deciding how to display, organize, and aggregate the indicators.

5. Remember that high stakes corrupt.

6. Embed assessment into ongoing instruction. Do low stakes/high yield forms of assessment.

7. Become an active site and collaborative site for research on new forms of assessment, technologies to support such work and better strategies for integration of such approaches with instruction.

He feels that “we need a strategy to combine the local with the national and to meld low-stakes assessment with an accountability approach that will be minimally corrupting.

What is your story of your students’ learning? Is it a one dimensional view of state test scores? Is it a one dimensional view of quizzes and tests? Is it a multidimensional view that includes state tests, your tests, formative assessments and students’ goals? How big of a story can you tell at present about any student? How can you use technology to tell a fuller richer story about each learner?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Technology Supporting Or Hindering Learning In Your School?

Technology Supporting or Hindering Learning?

A large district is implementing Acuity testing. Elementary/middle students have to be tested using this online program. Therefore, at this critical time of the year, all computers in a school are being confiscated in order to create labs of computers so the students can be tested. The labs will stay up until all students have been tested on both Math and English Language Arts. Will the testing disrupt the technology-based learning projects that teachers had planned for this year before they knew that Acuity would be implemented? Definitely! Will the Acuity testing help students this late in the school year? No! Will the students be re-tested the start of the next school year? Yes!

How does technology support learning in your school/district? When does it hinder or block learning in your school/district? How can you modify how technology is used so that it better supports student learning?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Standards-Based Growth Report in Buffalo Area Schools

Report Card A or Standards Ratings

“‘Standards-Based Growth Report’ May Replace Grades” tells of schools in the Buffalo NY area that are moving from letter grade report cards to standards-based ones. For example, third grade students would be assessed on nineteen aspects in their English Language Arts Standard. Imagine that students, their parents and their teachers will know precisely of the skill level of each student. No longer will students have the letter grade of an “A” that does not tell what the students’ strengths and weaknesses are. No longer will students receive a letter grade that does not tell how well the students are doing in the standards. No longer will students be academically unknown to the next year’s teachers; with a quick glance at students’ standards’ levels, the teachers instantly have much valuable information on the students. No longer will a teacher be able to spend all year on his/her favorite topic but instead they will focus on the standards. No longer will tests and quizzes cover factual information when the standards require higher level thinking. No longer can parents say that their children did wonderfully last year and are doing poorly this year (“Alan got all As last year so how come he is getting Cs this year?”) since each part of the standard will be assessed in detail. No longer will parents wonder the purpose of any assignment since each assignment will be targeted at the standard.

Standards-based growth reports give reality to the learning experience. For once, students will know how they are progressing in the standards instead of aimlessly going through a course.

In a previous blog, I reported on Marzano’s approach of changing grading to be standards-based. How will you make your classroom standards-based? Your team standards-based? Your school standards-based? Start by sharing this article.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


High School & College University Educators Disagree on What’s Important

High School and College Learning

Mary Beth Marklein in “Schoolteachers, professors differ on what’s important” in USA Today Tues April 10, 2007 IID reports on the ACT’s study which was just released. Some major differences

Math – High School teachers emphasize advanced content while profs want an in-depth understanding of fundamentals (basic operations and applications).

Science – High School teachers emphasize factual knowledge while profs want process and inquiry skills (evaluating similarities and differences).

English – High School teachers emphasize introductions and conclusions while profs do not think it is very critical.

Reading – Both agree on teaching ideas of “main ideas and author’s approach”

Maybe if we could get high school teachers and professors to sit together to discuss common learning goals then students would have a seamless transition from high school to college learning. Have you talked with a college prof recently about common learning goals? Have you talked with a high school teacher recently about common learning goals? Let’s set common goals.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Scientifically-Based Methods vs Action Research

Action Research Not Academic Research

I love to read science articles when they show that a theory that we have held for centuries and has been “scientifically-proven” is now considered incorrect. Pluto is a famous example. Dinosaur “facts” change constantly. Science is a dynamically changing body of knowledge.

So what have scientifically-based methods done for the P12 or even the college environment? How many “fads” have been proven to be successful only to be displaced by the next “fad”? How many millions of academic research projects are done each year? Has education fundamentally changed due to any of this research? Greg Toppo in “Education Science in Search of Answers” USA Today 6D Wed Apr. 11 2007 mentions research “studies that do little to help schools solve practical problems such as how to train teachers, how to raise skills, (and) how to lower dropout rates” Education researchers do not do “rigorous …and important research”. He tells that the What Works ClearingHouse evaluates research studies and finds over 75% unacceptable.

Let’s move from academic research to Action Research. How does what you do in your class make a learning difference in your students in the next month in terms of the standards? Try out an instructional method, give several assessments, evaluate the success of the method, and try another method if students are not reaching the success level you want. A simple spreadsheet can be a powerful tool to aid you in your action research. When the class reaches your level, congratulate them. Make your classroom a place where action research makes a real difference in the academic lives of students.

(My 200th blog entry!)

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Some Free Concept Mapping Programs


Thanks to Freeware resources, you and your students can use concept mapping programs in school and at home for free. You can map out your ideas and structure your higher level thinking activities.

Online can create a bubble concept map with ease. Each box has several icons: + to move the icon; X to remove it; color icon to change the color; folder for a sibling folder; folder for a new child balloon; and a paper clip to attach a bubble to another bubble. It is quick to use. However, I did not see how to format the text. The maps can be exported. It is primarily text-based.

Gliffy Online allows you to create three private and unlimited public maps in the free version. Its many shapes are drag and drop. You can change the color of the font and the background of any shape. You can eliminate the background grid. To make it public, click on Share and Public. It appears the closest to the Inspiration program that many teachers are familiar with.

Download Program

Compendium uses a node metaphor. There are drag and drop icons for questions, answers (argument, pro, con) notes, and references (actual docs like pdf, PowerPoint, weblink), strategy, activity, etc. You can easily link from one item to another. Has a great tutorial.

Cmap tools permits a map within a map. A primary item usually has a proposition (phrase connecting one item to another). It is primarily text based. This program is supported by several universities.

Additional programs are briefly listed in Wikipedia

Now you can do concept maps at home, your students can do them at home, and you and the students can do concept maps on any school computer even if it does not have have Inspiration.

Map On! Think On!

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Flickr and Geographically Based Photos for Your Class

Often teachers want to have pictures of a certain location for their classes. The tools built around Flickr provide easy access to geographically based photos. Bring the world into your class and take your students into the world outside te classroom through using Flickr!

Woophy Geotagged flickr

FlickrMap locates flickr pictures on a world map – Search for an image in the world,0,2,k/

Mappr Type in a tag and see on the US map where the most recent photos on that tag are located

As a Spanish teacher talks about Madrid, she can show images from there. As a Social Studies teacher engages students in South American geography, he can show pictures of the Andes Mountains (villages and people). As an English teacher has the students write poems about a type of geography such as lake, they can look at Flickr images from various locations as a writing prompt. As a Science teacher explains volcanic action, she can show students various locations that have a volcano.

Have you found your way to using geotagged pictures in your classroom yet? Are there other Flickr tools you use to use geotagged images in your classroom?


© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Every Two Weeks Formative Assessment Model

Every Two Weeks Formative Assessment Model

I would like to propose a starting point for doing, recording and analyzing formative assessment in the classroom. I call it the “every two weeks” method. Within a two week period you will do a formative assessment on one standard and record that information in a spreadsheet or database. You will record a rating and a quick comment for each student.

By the end of eight weeks, you will have four formative assessments on a particular standard. Since the information is in a spreadsheet or database, you can sort the information to see the growth of each individual student and to see overall class progress. You can review those assessments of an individual student to determine areas of growth and to identify areas for scaffolded improvement. For those students who have grown in the standard you can celebrate their growth and for those students who have not yet shown proficiency in the standard you can plan a structured approach for their improvement. You can see if the whole class is progressing in the standard.

What would this look like in your classroom? You decide to assess English Language Arts Standard 1 Information and Understanding and, in particular, the students’ ability to listen and agree or disagree with the information in a written paragraph. You look at the state benchmark to see the type of passage on the assessment and to see what type writing the students have to do. You think of the content you are covering during the next two weeks and incorporate a listening passage about that content and have the students write a reaction paragraph. You assess the writing according to the state rubric. For each student, you identify a strength and an area for improvement. After you do an analysis of the spreadsheet information, you build into the next listening activity at least one skill improvement activity that will help the greatest number of students. You repeat this similar standards-based assessment activity three more times during the next six weeks (one time each two weeks). Each time you figure out what one area would help the most students to improve in this standards activity and do some activities to help the students master those subskills necessary for success in this standard. You have identified certain students who will receive your small group or one-on-one help within the next two weeks. By repeatedly assessing the same standard and analyzing the results of the state benchmark rubric, you can help your students’ constantly improve in the standard. This every two week assessment model can work with DBQs in Social Studies and the inquiry process in Science. It helps to assess essential repetitive aspects of the standards.

Try it and see how much your students grow academically!

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Blog as Eportfolio: Using Tags

Eportfolio Blog Tagging
I have mentioned in previous blogs, students can use blogs for eportfolios. The use of tags will allow students to indicate the critical standards-based elements of each blog.

As educators, we want to assess the students’ growth in our subject area standards. However, the students may include various learning experiences that incorporate more than one standard in a blog entry. They may organize their eportfolio around their bigger authentic learning experiences. However, they need to carefully tag each entry and to clue us as to their awareness of each standard.

If students in English class create a blog that demonstrates their labeling a nature trail, they can tag that blog with the appropriate standard key components such as 1.1, 1.3, and 1.5. In the blog, they will insert the appropriate standard component and explain how this aspect of the blog demonstrate the component. (We listened to a nature guide who explained to us the various flowers and trees on the nature path. From her talk, I listed the trees and four facts about each one (1.1-getting information from oral sources). I then researched these trees on the Internet to find two additional facts and to get more details for each of the facts (1.3-getting information from text sources). Then I created a label for each tree in which I included a picture of the tree, its name, and six detailed facts about each tree. (1.5-creating information for others). Here is a sample…… The student then includes a reflection on her growth in each of these key components.

Due to the tags, the teachers can find the standards easily in the students’ blogs and then with the students’ annotations, the educators can see the specific evidence within a larger context. If their blogs are private (them and you), then you can rate them and give them formative feedback.

Do your students tag their blog work for your standards-based assessment?


India’s New Curriculum- How Do You Measure Up?


Richard Hanzelka’s ” India’s National Curriculum Framework Fosters Active Learning” in ASCD’s March 2007 Education Update (pgs. 4-5) reports that India offers five guiding principles for curriculum development:

Connecting knowledge to life outside the school

Ensuring that learning does not rely on rote methods

Enriching the curriculum to provide for children’s overall development rather than remaining textbook-centric

Making examinations more flexible and integrated with classroom life

Nurturing an overriding identity informed by caring concern within the democratic polity of the country

How does your present classroom curriculum compare to these goals? How can you use technology to promote these goals in your classroom?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Videoconferencing and Districts- Sharing Teachers and Globalizing Education

Teach via videoconferencing

Videoconferencing has the power to overcome distances. Many schools are located in rural areas where they cannot provide a quality education at the advanced levels. A very simple solution is for students from those locations to videoconference with an educator who teaches in that advanced level regardless of where the educator is physically located. The technology of videoconferencing is so simple yet there are so many policy and parochial views that prevent its use in education.

With videoconferencing, a teacher can teach to students in any location. Why should we limit a teacher to the physical location of within a school? Why should we assume that one teacher is an expert in all aspects of their subject area? When I was teaching, I would have loved to have had another teacher who knew more than I did about African-American literature teach that part of my course. I would have taught his/her Latin American literature part of the course. Why not have a teacher from Latin American teach the Latin American literature part of the course? Why not use the expertise of each teacher regardless of where that teacher is located?

Maybe we can promote a virtual teacher exchange through videoconferencing! You teach part of my course and I’ll teach part of yours. Our students would benefit so much more than in our present system. We can develop a community of global educators!

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Digital Storytelling or Digital Reports?


In education we rename things and assume that they are better just because we have a new name for them. Digital Storytelling is one of those things. Cave people created visual stories on their cave walls and rocks. Many”ancient” civilizations such as the Mayans have left visual histories. There have been oral storytellers forever. Many of the old stories explained our relation to our universe and explained how we came to be the people that we are today. Today we put sound with pictures in a digital format and we call it digital storytelling.
I would argue that many currently student produced “digital storytelling” projects are digital reports, not stories. They report history from a third person non-subjective non-personal viewpoint. There is no personal voice. There is no story. Most supposed historical “digital storytelling” that I’ve listened to do not show the impact of the past on the students’ present lives (How has our community been impacted by the actions of our “ancestors”?). They simply reported history such as that from a textbook or encyclopedia. The students spent many hours in preparing their story. Is it an effective use of student learning time? (Yes, they are learning to produce something digitally and to develop their presentation skills or 21st century skills but are they learning content to a deeper or more comprehensive manner? If students who produced “digital stories” and those who studied the same historical events from a textbook took the same higher thinking level based assessment, would the digital storytellers score higher?)

If a student told his real ancestors’ story such as the story of a young married English couple who had to fight off wolves to survive in the wilderness of Canada (my great grandparents), that student would be a digital storyteller. Real people, real struggles, real history, real personal relationships to that history, real digital storytelling.

Are your students doing digital reports or digital storytelling? Are they learning the standard more in-depth and more comprehensively through their “digital storytelling”?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


What does Writing mean in the 21st century?

Writing two computers

“We want to develop the students’ writing skills.”

I’ve heard versions of that statement many times. The more I hear it, the more I realize that we have not defined writing.

Are we talking about their communication skills through writing?
Are we talking about their handwriting?
Are we talking about literary writing? (Compare these two works of literature.)
Does writing include visuals and sounds?
Does writing mean expressing ideas or correct punctuation? (Text messaging?)
Is writing an individual or a team effort?
What do we want the students to be able to write? A resume? A comparison of two cars? An analysis of a poem? A 20 page term paper? A sonnet? A business plan?
Are there types of writing that students need to do to graduate but will never use again?
Will they write using a word processor as people outside of school do? Or will they be denied the usual tools of writing in the business world?
Who will peer edit it- someone in the class, district, state, or another country?
How will we assess student writing? By using a state writing rubric in which the ideas only count as much as appropriate vocabulary?
What type of writing do students do outside of school?
What type of writing will they be expected to do once they get a job?

Before we can figure out how technology can help students to develop their writing skill, we need to define what we mean by writing. Have you and your team defined it? Does your definition prepare them for the past or their future? What does your definition look like in your classroom?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Systemic Student Assessment -Probably Not in Your District

Not student’s standard growth

Most schools do not have systemic assessment of students during the course of a year or over years. Most schools keep track of grades but not of students’ standards progress. Grades do not represent students’ standards based learning. For most schools, the only record of progress on subject area standards such as English Language Arts is the the scores on state assessments given every three to four years in that specific subject area. Very few schools actually look at a student’s growth on all of that student’s state ELA assessments.

If your school district does not have any other way to measure the students’ growth in the standards, then you basically have a school district that is not accountability for students’ standards growth. They just pretend they do!
In your course, how do you assess students’ growth in the standards through technology? How can you prove that your instruction/learning experiences have caused an improvement in the students’ progress toward the standards?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Historical Digital Storytelling With Primary Sources

Digital Storyteller site

Digital Storyteller was created by Ben Ferster of the University of Virginia. According to the website, “A digital story combines text and images with narration in the student’s own voice to form a short digital movie. Digital Storyteller is a web-based tool that offers teachers and students frictionless access to digital images and materials that enable them to construct compelling personal narratives. Digital Storyteller was developed as an initiative of Primary Access. The primaryAccess Initiative offers students and teachers the opportunity to use primary source documents to create digital movies (historical narratives) that provide a compelling and meaningful learning experience.” He has designed the program to look like an ipod with handy tabs for the various features such as storyboarding. The teacher sets up this completely online program for his/her class; the students create their stories; and all stories reside on the website.

An example of a story done with this tool is European Exploration.

You can search through the digital movies You can just type in a topic on the left or you can indicate the NCSS time era and then type in the specific topic on the left.

With such an easy interface, your students can create their digital history reports. Imagine if your students created ones of your local unique history to share with others.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Free Social Studies Simulations!

Lincity like SimCity

There are Social Studies simulations that are FREE and are based on well known simulations. They can also be used in other subject area.

C-Evo is similar to Civilization II – runs on windows- last updated Mar. 2007
“C-evo is an empire building game, dealing with the history of humans from antiquity into the future. This includes aspects of exploration and expansion, war and diplomacy, cultivation and pollution, industry and agriculture, research and administration. Players must constantly make decisions such as whether and where to build cities, roads, irrigation and fortresses, whether to form an alliance with a neighboring country or attack it, and whether to devote scarce resources to education/research, warfare, or the well-being of the populace. A successful player manages to find a balance among these choices. The game starts with the development of the wheel, and ends when the first player has successfully constructed a spaceship headed for a nearby planet outside the Solar System. As the game progresses, the player finds that the building of factories, for example, leads to increased pollution, which must be cleared up and can be eliminated through development of cleaner technologies.” (Wikipedia)


FreeCiv is similar to Civilization – cross-platform – last updated Feb. 2007
“Players take the role of a tribe leader in 4000 BC and have to guide their people through the centuries. Over time, new technologies are discovered, which allow the construction of new city buildings and the deployment of new units. Players can wage war on one another or form diplomatic relationships.

The game ends when one civilization has eradicated all others, when one people has accomplished the goal of space colonization, or at a certain deadline. If more than one civilization remains at the deadline, the player with the highest score wins. Points are awarded for the size of a civilization, its wealth, and cultural and scientific advances.” (Wikipedia)

FreeCol is similar to Colonization- runs on Windows and Linux – last updated Dec. 2006
“FreeCol starts in the year 1492. With a few settlers you build up colonies in the new world. You can also take colonies from rival Europeans. You build up these colonies with help from the king in Europe until they can stand alone without any help form Europe. Then you declare independence from the King and if you can survive his troops attack on your colonies you win the game.

The player can trade with Europe using various natural resources which are collected by your cities or delivered as gifts by natives. In each city you can also build up industrial buildings to convert raw materials into processed goods (which sell for more in Europe). Some industrial building will convert materials into goods useful for running your colony, such as converting wood and ore into tools.” (Wikipedia)

LinCity/LinCity-NG is similar to Sim City – runs on cross platform – last updated Feb. 07
“You develop your city by buying appropriate buildings, services and infrastructures. You have to take care of population growth and various socio-economical balances. The simulation considers population, number of jobs, foods, goods, raw material, services and other constraints like finance, pollution and transports. Various indicators are provided, like mini maps or statistics.” (Wikipedia)

I know Social Studies teachers who have not used simulations because they could not afford to buy 25+ copies of them or get a class license. Now, that barrier is knocked now. Now, SS teachers can engage their students in the complexity of learning. Now they can share their students’ learning successes through simulations.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Cell Phones for Learning (Research by Dr. Kimura)

cell phone

Dr. Midori Kimura of Tokyo Women’s Medical University in Japan said that since 23% of those who own cell phone check their mail at least 21 times a day, they decided to use cell phones as a learning tool. They developed material for the TOEIC (English Language Exam) which is considered a necessity for the Japanese workplace. In their five year pilot study, they have done three experiments in which the cell phone was used as a mini-computer. The students

Year 1. Do practice exercises such as
Yesterday I ____ to the store A. go B. went C. gone D. going
When they typed in the answer, they got an immediate response.

Year 2. Watch a short English video and answer multiple choice questions

Year 3. Watch a short English video with key word captioning and answer multiple choice questions

In each case, those students using a cell phone had the same level of learning as those using a PC.

Students liked that they could use the cell anywhere, anytime, and anyplace. They liked the immediate feedback. They enjoyed the relax atmosphere of learning.

The university overcame the initial problems of download time, frequent recharging of the battery, and expensive cell bills by sending the programs as attachments to students’ email and then students transferred it to their cell phone. Another alternative was to dump the programs to the students’ cell SD Cards.

Some students felt that the captioning distracted from the listening. (I would suggest key words, not phrases.) They found the videos too difficult; the videos came from their textbook CD. (I would suggest that the instructors make their own simpler videos so that they can structure the videos for the specific learning points they want for their students.) They realized that the students needed headphones for their cellphone.

She concluded that the cell phone was an excellent tool for review and practice. The balance of classroom instruction plus cell phone used was a great combination. She did find that females learned better than males through the cellphone

Is there any review material that you could put on cell phone for those who wanted to learn that way? Can practice /help be just a phone call away in your class? Can they do quick reviews at their leisure through cell phone technology?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Open Education Resources as Digital Inclusion

World and Open Source

At SITE Dr. Resta stressed that digital inclusion can take place when there are open educational resources that all can afford. He mentioned these categories:

Digital Library such as Merlot

Open Courseware such as MIT, and UNESCO

Free and Open Source such as OpenOffice (Office equal), GIMP (Photoshop equal), and Tux Paint (KidPix equal),

Creative Commons license so that all can use the material such as CC in Flickr.

Another speaker, Dr. Stuckart of Wanger University, mentioned that the $100 computer is another effort at digital inclusion.

Another speaker stressed that Moodle, Sakai, Joomla,and Carolina are content management systems that are free.

Another speaker, Sean McKay, emphasized that free Edubuntu educational package is available in a multitude of languages. He also mentioned the free open source programs of NVU (Dreamweaver equal), Scribus (desktop publishing), and FireFox (web browser).

So what do your students produce that will help students in other parts of the world? How do your students use open source software to collaborate with students in other parts of the world?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


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