Friday, February 29, 2008

Connections

Sitting here at home reflecting on a great week at the IL-TCE Conference and specifically what I learned as I prepared and presented my presentation. Of course I had the advantage of being the teacher, so I learned the most out of anyone in the session.

The presentation itself was on tagging. Well, not exactly tagging. It started with the act of tagging and using it on the low end of Bloom's Taxonomy to categorize and sort information. My goal was to move beyond that and use the technology to get kids to get to higher order thinking in comparing and contrasting, analyzing, and synthesizing information.

One of the examples I used was comparing 2 tag clouds of past presidential speeches:

Easy to see some shifts in focus over the course of a presidency. My point was - which is more interesting and impactful for a kid? Telling them what happened during a presidency or giving them some clues to the mystery and letting them find out for themselves?

I don't want to go through the whole presentation, you can see Mike Bachrodt's backchannel of it here.

Anyway, here is what was reinforced for me by doing this presentation. Connections.

I keep coming back to this theme in my educational career. Life and learning is about connections. These conferences are about connection people and ideas. My classrooms should be about connecting kids to ideas (and to others).

So as I am talking about all of this I am suddenly reminded of James Burke. He had a TV series called Connections, another called The Day the Universe Changed (used it in earth science class), and wrote an article for Scientific American.

Wikipedia describes the Connections TV series as:

Connections explores an "Alternative View of Change" (the subtitle of the series) that rejects the conventional linear and teleological view of historical progress. Burke contends that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting in rational self-interest with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries' actions finally lead to.
You can totally see an example of this at the site Reconnections with James Burke.

This way of thinking is what my presentation really was about. Taking something traditionally linear (text) and tearing it apart and putting it back together in a new way (non-linear) to gain a new understanding through new connections.

I made some new connections as well - I just found a way to link tagging, to tag clouds, to Bloom's Taxonomy, to higher order thinking, to connections, and eventually to James Burke. I am pretty confident that he would understand and appreciate how I got there.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yes, I am alive

Wow - almost a month from the last post until now. I just submitted the State tech plan - that has dominated my life for the past 2 weeks. It is incredible that the state makes us do all of this for a document that nobody will ever read.

I have pretty much completed my district tech plan (that is right - I wrote 2 plans - because the state one is that worthless)

I have also been working on my presentation for the ICE conference. Finished that up too (thanks Charlene and David for the tips and feedback!)

I am looking forward to getting back to reading and educating myself again. Google reader just got the "mark everything as read" treatment.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Answers to Questions

In my last post I talked about the questions I was about to ask over 100 teachers in my district about over-arching tech questions. It was a great chance to hear what they are thinking and to share with them my philosophies about what tech should look like in our schools and my philosophies about how it impacts instruction (or doesn't). If you are interested in the responses you can find them here: http://www.hcthiele.com/QA2008.pdf

I used a tag cloud to give a visualize the common terms that were used to answer each question. The most common terms throughout the document are:

Made at tagcloud.com
I think this will be a helpful document. It gives me a good idea of the feelings of members of the district and raises even more questions for us to answer. The result of this, and other work this year, will be a 3 year comprehensive technology plan - getting close now.