Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pushing your life's pause button

For the last 10 days, I was up scouring Moose Lake, Minnesota for fish with my 3 kids. Good times to be sure; Hannah (3) caught her first fish and Hailey (8) decided that fish are not that slimy after all and started taking them off the hooks. I am trying to remember if it was Bill Bryson who mentioned that in many ways, an annual summer trip up to a lake fishing gives you a tape-measure of growth of your kids' lives.

Then I returned, which meant checking the cell phone for messages, checking the work phone for messages, checking email, checking Google Reader, checking Twitter, and on down the list. It seems I missed out on quite a bit, which I suppose would be impossible not to do in such a world.

This was the first extended time I've been "unplugged" from my network in 3 years, as the last two summers we were basically vacationless with changes in positions and where we lived. And I have to admit, I'm not sure how I feel right now. Like when people miss an episode of Lost and lament that the whole storyline will never make sense anymore. Or, maybe it is putting in perspective how much a virtual network of colleagues can mean in you life... I mean, it's not as though they can come with you and your 3-year-old in the boat.

I love the graphic below by Jeff Utecht, who describes 5 stages of PLN adoption, a resource we used heavily for the recent course I taught on personal learning networks:

The sage that Jeff already has identified where I am, going through some serious perspective of what I can learn in this lifetime and what I need to live in this lifetime.

Undoubtedly, many Iowa educators will take off on the upward slope of the PLN adoption journey this year, taking the plunge in online tools such as Twitter and RSS aggregators to connect to other thoughts and thinkers out there. Some will fizzle out immediately in the face of other time commitments, and others will find success, adding more and more in their climb. But all who do continue must know there will be a time when unplugging will challenge the important and relevance of the network in their lives.

Friday, June 12, 2009

21st Century Skill: Delayed Gratification (and the Marshmallow Test)

Another TED presentation to look at, and a fascinating one at that. Joachim De Posada looks at early childhood students and their ability to delay gratification. He gave students a marshmallow and promised them if they could resist eating it, they would get an additional marshmallow in 15 minutes.

Looking longitudinally, those that were able to resist were much more successful (he uses the astounding figure of 100% being successful at school), while those that were not able to resist were overwhelmingly not successful at school. This finding was reproduced in many cultures.

Delayed gratification is not a new concept for educators, but it perhaps doesn't get its due. What in the Iowa Core addresses this? And yet, students who can delay gratification are much more likely to be driven by intrinsic instead of extrinsic motivation, display more creativity in their projects, and are more willing to take risks.

The question we have to ask ourselves is how, as educators, do we build students' ability to delay gratification? Again, eliminating grading is the elephant in the room. But while De Posada briefly mentions it, the strategy of distraction is a tangible outcome that we could use. In a nutshell, students that are successful distract themselves from the temptation; they think of other things, they play with their hair or tap their toes or start singing. Anything to distract themselves from the instant gratification.

My wife mentions that with her kindergarten students, it is a constant task to persuade them they don't have to be first in line. Let others go first; you can sing a song or remember the colors of the rainbow we just learned. To teach students to be patient, to not rush, to enjoy the beauty of many moments while others gorge themselves on the rush of an instant is a fine art, a 21st century skill if ever I saw one.

After all, according to De Posada, there is a 100% correlation between delayed gratification and success. I vote for the marshmallow test to be used in the ITBS.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Iowa's AEAs are using Adobe Connect Pro

Personal Note: My blogging will be taking a hit for the next month or so, as I'm teaching an online course on Moodle, Adobe Connect Pro, and also Personal Learning Networks, and then will be hitting the lakes of Minnesota (my kids have challenged me to a fish-off).

Something most educators are not aware of is that the AEAs have been busy developing their long distance learning options. What once was only the ICN has expanded to include Moodle, Polycom, and most recently Adobe Connect Pro (formerly Macromedia Breeze).

Adobe Connect Pro is a synchronous e-learning tool, basically a virtual meeting room that can be a webinar, videoconferencing, e-whiteboard, remote-control screen sharing, or recording for on-demand content. And, we are excited about the possibilities. Not just in terms of online course, but the use of Connect Pro to offer remote help for districts using our Heart database, and also using it as a chance for online communities to gather.

Adobe Connect Pro features many different windows, which they call "pods" (as you can see in the screenshot). Like many other online virtual meeting tools, it has a place for attendees to participate and change status. It also features the ability to share powerpoints, images, and flash movies, and to annotate all of those with its whiteboard tools. Screen sharing can be done by the host or the participants, and can be the whole desktop or restricted to specific windows or applications. Literally, a group around the world can sit and work on the same Excel spreadsheet together.

The program uses VoIP audio conferencing, which we have been very impressed with in our trials. They have the standard chat window and note pod, but also have a place to conduct polls for audience feedback, and windows to share weblinks and file documents that can be downloaded by the guests. And best of all, a session can be recorded for those that miss it. When a session is recorded, all of the pods remain active for participants to manipulate when viewing. So a person who missed the session can still download the files and click on the websites.

Each AEA and the DE have purchased at least 5 licenses for meeting rooms that can hold up to at least 100 participants. To show you the interest your AEA has had with the product, I've met with the AEAs chief administrators, joint directors, and board secretaries about using the product (by the way, congratulations on the baby boy, Andy!), as well as several consultant groups at Heartland, and each group is very excited about the possibilites. And right now, Heartland is offering its first online class to train users how to use the program.

Look to see your AEA utilize the product to cut down on your district's mileage and offer more training, especially with the Iowa Core rollout coming next year.

Screenshot via Technology Teacher blog.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jeffrey, Davidson on 21st Century Skills in the Iowa Core

For schools and educators looking for more guidance on what the role of 21st century skills plays in the deployment of the Iowa Core...

Judy Jeffrey will speak on "Iowa's Path to 21st Century Learning" at the Cyber Summit for 21st Century Skills, tomorrow at 1:00 (Central time). The Cyber Summit, organized by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, is done solely online from June 1-12, and will bring an array of different presenters on 21st century skills in education. You will need to register at their website to attend virtually.

Dr. Z (big hat-tip) also highlights a presentation by Dr. Nadene Davidson, who co-chairs the Iowa Core's workteam on 21st century skills. In the presentation, Davidson gives not only a discussion about the role of 21st century skills, but also gives some historical background on the development of the Iowa Core.