Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Crowdsourcing as a Literacy

Recently a colleague of mine introduced me to an oddball sounding buzzword that made me take notice. "Crowdsourcing", as defined by Wikipedia, is a phenomenon in industry and academia that seems to have one basic principle at its core: many of us are smarter than fewer of us. Ironically, the entry in Wikipedia points to itself as a sentinel example of the collective intelligence of crowds, strangers, teams, competitors, and even adversaries. Apparently this pheonomena predates what we call the information age, but it's the tools of the information age that beg the question - is there an inherent wisdom in wikis and other shared spaces that we are failing to tap into for students and teachers?
To test this theory I visited a site called Nowpublic. com, a prime example of crowd-powered media, a budding movement for citizen journalism. The front page of the website was a living organism, literally rewriting and refreshing itself as I watched. Not like the static, etched in HTML content of other news and information sites. My first thought was, "how cool", followed by, "how scary." I was able to pull up "eyewitness" accounts of the fires in San Diego which are still burning. People describe the smoke in the air, and have pictures and videos that would probably not make it to prime time news.
So how does this fit into the whole concept of "information literacy?" What kind of risks do we have to take if we embrace the idea of "crowd widsom" without some clear mediating authority? I can just imagine some of the conversations I could have with teachers and library media specialists about a thousand reasons why this is not good for students.
Sites that invite equal expression are what puts the "2.0" in Web 2.0. Rather than close the door on something so intriguing, I think we ought to reconsider who we call an expert, and what information we say is credible. Those that penned the earliest accounts of history were often times mere eyewitnesses as well, and they now enjoy the stature of historians. Perhaps now that's a stature we can all enjoy and aspire to: not just in recounting events, but in sharing interpretations of events which reveal the complexity that we hope education attempts to embrace.
We do a lot of work here encouraging teachers to take a serious look at technologies such as wikis and blogs, and other online shared spaces. Rather than debate their value in terms of fact or fiction, perhaps we can reposition them to be less about facts and more about meaning. Because we know that "facts" don't cut it anymore, not in this complex of a society.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Step In To The Future This School Year

There is so much chatter about the 21st century schools, schools of the future, school 2.0, teacher 2.0, classroom 2.0, web 2.0 and on and on. It can be overwhelming even for those of us familiar with the terms. Here are my questions about the future of schools. Is it as random as it seems? Is it in the hands of someone other then myself? What is my role? What does it really mean to the classroom teacher? What is in it for the kids? What do the kids think?

Clearly I'm no soothsayer, but perhaps it means that each each educator no matter what their job, level or subject(s) should take hold of one new technology this year. Something that they haven't used in their work, venture in to the center and see if it might be their future.

My promise to you is that I will try to stay on top of new things, keep trying something new and pass my experiences along. On that topic just last week I downloaded Skype, pretty easily I might add. The only problem occurred when I realized I didn't have any Skype friends (sob) and nobody to talk to (sob, sob). If you Skype (I think it can be a verb) look me up and we can chat (for free!). Lesson learned? No need to venture off alone, take the adventure with a colleague or friend.

So get on board with something new this year. Talk to your peers to see what they know and are involved in. Try a blog, wiki, or podcast. Perhaps Google Earth, Smartboards, or videos are more your thing. What ever it is at the very minimum read about it, look at some examples, attend a conference or read what the experts have to say.

Resources can be found on the Blog Roll and Ed Tech Gurus links on the right side of this page. If some of these technologies are blocked at your school, that's OK, try it at home or choose something doable.

Let's check it out together, we may find that the future of schools is already here!

Sarah Martabano for the Model School Team

Friday, July 27, 2007

40 days left....

...until September 5th.

The beautiful thing about working in K-12 education in New York is our ability to take time for reflection and introspection over the summer months. This time help us define our purpose and focus, or re-focus, our energy for the coming school year.

As a department, at Model Schools, we've spent the better part of the summer, so far, shaping a program that district staff will thrive in. We've taken your suggestions and comments and added our own experiences to crafting a truly dynamic model schools program that will meet the needs of more of our participants in many different ways.

The Models Schools core service descirption and schedule will be published at the end of the summer and our staff is gearing up and eager to see you all again.

We would like to thank you for your continued support of the LHRIC Model Schools program and we invite you to join us in the fall for another year full of exploration and adventure as we shape our instructional technology programs together

Whether you're heading off to the beach, lake, mountainside, city or staying closer to home -- enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Teenage Brain - NECC 2007

The Teenage Brain – NECC 2007

Anyone with teenagers in their family or who works with teenagers knows it is a slippery slope to try to determine what makes them tick.

Traditional thinking for some has been that through time all kids are the same. That it's the cultural and societal influences that make them different. New research is out that dispels that as something of a myth. See research data at How often have you had conversations with colleagues and peers trying to determine or defend the value of technology by proving the educational value and it’s measurable impact on learning outcomes? Jukes suggests that the research isn't there because unless the measurements are changed to better align with the wiring of today's kids brains and the way they process information the impact of technology will hever be significant enough to measure. We are using old metrics for these new digital, different thinking kids.

Jukes talks about the importance of understanding and acknowledging that children today are wired differently than we are and were. That "knowing" is an important factor in how we will shape the educational landscape for kids to be successful as they navigate within those new landscapes.

Jukes lists several contrasting attributes between today’s learner and today’s educator that are worthy of some introspection.

1. Digital Learners prefer receiving info quickly from multiple multiplemedia sources. Many educators prefer slow and controlled release of info from limited sources.
2. Digital Learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking. Many educators prefer singular processing and single or limited tasking.
3. Digital Learners prefer processing pictures, sounds, color, and video before text. Many educators prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds, color and video.
4. Digital Learners prefer random access to hyper-linked multimedia information. Many teachers prefer to provide info linearly, logically and sequentially.
5. Digital Learners prefer to network simultaneously with many others. Many educators prefer students to work independently before they network and interact.
6. Digital Learns prefer to learn “just-in-time.” Many educators prefer to teach “just-in-case.”
7. Digital Learners prefer instant gratification and immediate rewards. Many educators prefer deferred gratification and delayed rewards.
8. Digital Learners prefer learning that’s relevant, active, instantly useful and fun. Many educators prefer feel compelled to teach to the curriculum guide and tests.

According to Jukes “it isn’t a matter of who’s right or wrong. It’s not a matter of either/or. This isn’t a matter of them or us. It’s not a matter of which way is better. The bottom line is that children ARE different. Through this understanding we can all do a better job of focusing on relevant and measurable outcomes that are aligned specifically to the students needs of today not yesterday’s kids.

He suggests that by changing instructional styles not changing what is important we can make an impact.

1. This requires more making learning fun and more relevant to kids and their world.
2. This means going faster so they can receive information quickly.
3. This means less step-by-step instruction and more random access, hyperlinked, just-in-time learning experiences.
4. This means less text and more pictures, sounds and video wherever possible.
5. This means providing more opportunities for multi-tasking, networking and interactivity.
6. This means applying what we now know from the brain and mind research about learning.

For the classroom teacher it may mean taking a small step. One day try to do something fun and relevant to kids and reflect on the outcome. Perhaps some material can be navigated more quickly with some differentiation strategies. Movies and pictures are readily available to all teachers, perhaps incorporating more of these in lessons will make an impact.

What ever it means to you, start small and build. We cannot wait for someone else to pave the way. The only way instructional change will happen in a way that will impact outcomes is if we each try to do something in our classrooms and build on it – at the kids pace not ours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

School 2.0 - NECC 2007

Yes, I know it is hard to believe but trust me I heard it at NECC so it must be so. The US Government is actually on the leading edge of the web 2.0 wave according to Tim Magner, Director of Technology of the Office of Educational Technology. There is some compelling evidence of innovation behind Magners words.

They bring us School 2.0, a concept more than anything else. It is an idea of what a digital community is or can be. What a digital community might look like, or could look like with the appropriate planning. The unique piece of school 2.0 for most of us is that it encompasses not only the classrooms and schools but towns with stores, post offices, transportation systems, homes and yes, people.

School 2.0 is a drawing actually and is available on the web at On the page there is also a pdf. file. To help in understanding the concept take a moment to go look at it now.

You will notice in the graphic that the technology is clearly ubiquitous in this school 2.0 community includes not only the tools such as wifi access and computers and administrative systems but a planned infrastructure that supports everything that is necessary in this digital community.

Magner spoke of the upcoming eTools that work in conjunction with the map. There is a digital form of the map that will provide the ability to drill down into any area for a more in depth look at what the area is about what it means to the planning process.

In addition they are creating a very cool web 2.0 tool for drawing classroom or school. By simply clicking and dragging objects such as tables, desks, interactive white boards, computers into the space and jotting down notes in the space to record ideas as you are planning with your design team. The concept here is that often it is difficult to articulate an idea but if you can get it on paper (digitally speaking of course) –it can happen.

According to Magner these tools are intended to support districts by providing a framework for planning. He stresses that we need to change the way we plan and approach education and that districts need to align technology planning with
school improvement and accountability plans”. If districts are engaged in strategic planning at any level the technology must be included as a significant component of each phase if your school will be ready to meet the needs of the digital community.

One theme of this conference is clear. Contrary to prior beliefs the research clearly shows that today’s kids are wired differently and process information differently than the adults in their lives do. If schools have a hope of impacting educational outcomes, planning must be different, classrooms must be different and perhaps even jobs will have different definitions and parameters. Schools will not be effective teaching digital kids using tradition models of education.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Disappearing Laptop - NECC 2007

One to one computing is a big topic in Atlanta at NECC this week. One school has made significant strides toward making "laptops disappear" in their school. No we don't mean vandalized or stolen, the word "disappearing" refers to to how the laptop blends in with other tools like books, pencils, notebooks that students work with at any given time. The Urban School of San Francisco is a small independent high school. I know you are thinking that of course it can work in a "private" school, but the director of technology, Howard Levin, thinks it will work anywhere and it is a matter or priorty not lack of resources. The Urban School of San Francisco, California's web site is

What the Students Say
56% of the students in this HS say they are more organized with all of their materials in one place, even if they don't have good file management skills, it is all on the laptop.

How would your life be different without a laptop?
"I would be badly unorganized – papers everywhere, stuff everywhere, all my stuff is on laptop – it is important for me..." - Zee

"All my stuff is in one place – my parents are divorced and I live in two different houses. With my laptop my stuff is always with me never left behind. The only thing I wish I could do is google where stuff is in my room -- I really wish I could do that." - Lizzy

"Making the laptop like a pen, paper, or notebook. It is just something else you bring. If you are conscious about laptop then it is a distraction not a tool." - Unknown

"For me it is just Normal - I don't know what the big deal is." - Unknown

Levin says the students don't have the learning curve that adults have,which we already know. He suggests not trying to figure out how to train the kids on the laptops just get it in their hands. Lizzy who we heard from above comments on how she used Inspiration one time for a SS class and then second time did a comprehensive multi-layer concept map to plan a very large research paper she did. "It was pretty easy. Without it I would have had several versions of the paper in draft 1, 2, 3 etc. I would have post it notes all over it and it would be terribly dog eared and torn. Inspiration eliminated all of the chaos and helped stay organized and have her paper done in an efficient way.

Improved Communication

Teacher are often cautious when providing email to students fearing a barage of mail at the end of every day. However in practice - students will always go to each other for help before they go to a teacher so that the teacher questions are very relevant and have more to do with thinking than process or materials. Now students don't have to wait to get answers they can get them quickly and move on.

Teachers archive all class notes done on Smartboards so students can refer back to those notes when doing homework outside of the physical class to reinforce concepts or study for projects, quizzes and tests.

Can record demonstrations of how to use software and websites as a homework activity for students to view as necessary.

Students are doing peer to peer writing, contributing to wikis and blogs as part of their normal writing process. Much of this happens outside of the classroom because they have been provided access to the tools.


Students use probes and probe ware as a normal course of science research with the software on their laptops.

Immediate 24/7 access to software, communication tools (people), information.

The director of technology sent an email to all 9th grade students the first day of the conference asking what they thought about the laptops and how they help them. First of all let's realize school is out for the summer. He received a half dozen video recordings within 12 hours from kids lounging around homes, pools, and cafes who tookthe time to record their thoughts about the laptops. He was then able to easily insert them into his presentation that we participated in the next day. They could not have happened.

Kids can journal using video instead of writing - for some children this is a better way to communicate their thoughts and ideas than writing.

The conclusion for this Director of Technology was that an investment of about $1,200 per studnet has paid off way beyond their expectations and that while the fundng may seem like an obstacle, with technology planning that has educational objectives linked to student performance -- this becomes an essential tool that will be funded.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dissolving Boundaries Project - NECC 2007

Met two teachers from Ireland in this session. This project is a collaboration between students in Northern and Southern Ireland to bring the two politically separate geographic areas together in a variety of projects throught the year.

They use Moodle as the framework for all the work.
Students connect in collaborative writing on wikis they have discussions using video conferencing, computer conferencing and Skype.

WIKI Project Ideas
One collaborative project is story writing. One school write the Plot and the other school writes the story. It is all done online in the Moodle Wiki.

Monster Exchange Project Idea
Another project is "Monster Exchange" which may be familiar to many of us however the Wiki technology brings a real user friendly interface. Student in one locaton draw a picture of a monster and then write a description of a monster. Only the writing is posted on the wiki. The partner school/student will draw a picture (hand or computer) from the written description. In the end both pictures are added along side the writing. Students compare pictures to see how similar and different they are and how the writing could have been edited to bring them closer together.

An intersting point was raised about the use of colors on the web site. Orange couldn't be used because it was associated with a political group from the north. Green couldn't be used for the same reason but in the South. Red, Blue and White were associated with the UK so was off limites for political reasons. These seem minor but have major implications when trying to open lines of communications.

Benefits of project:
• Very motivating, great memories from past students
• Elements of sectarianism in school – student comments reflect that they have changed their views based on the project.
• Pupil develop better skills
• Sence of repsonsiblity
• Understanding of others.

Project Web Site:

NECC 2007

Welcome to our NECC reflection Blog.

Join me as I explore the sites and sounds from NECC in Atlanta. If there is something you would like to see or have me investigate email me or comment on this blog (

Please ignor typos and grammar as I'm writing on the fly (creative writing?).


Monday, May 21, 2007

Multi User Environments (aka Second Life)

Like thousands of other Educators, it is safe to bet you have never heard of a MUVE (Multi-User Virtual Environment) or Second Life (aka 2L). While you may be put off by yet a few more acronyms to remember, please hang on for a brief introduction to the concept of multi user environments, links to valuable resources related to the use, value, and future of this rapidly emerging technology, before you decide to tune out.

MUVEs are computer based, three dimensional, electronic simulations similar to the more familiar electronic games called Sims (short for simulation) where your personal avatar (personalized cartoon like character) navigates the environment performing a any number of user defined tasks and actions such as dancing, flying, building, IMing, sailing, watching, listening, swimming, climbing, eating, learning and exploring. The big difference between the Sims and a MUVE such as 2L is these newer environments are part of the Web2.0 tools which means they are web based, shared, collaborative environments where users from all over the planet learn and play together. In the very near future there will be more of a convergence between traditional video games such as "Play Station", "Wii", and Sims into these more collaborative environments.

Below find links to places I’ve found helpful in my exploration of these environments. They will help you become familiar with the technology, get started with your own avatar in 2L, or just to read some of the preliminary anecdotal research on the topic.

For me the jury is still out as to the “stickiness” of this technology. I do believe these MUVEs will be common in and out of schools within five years. The questions is when, how easy will it need to be before it "sticks", and what is the price break point for schools and districts as they consider diving in (again no pun). The steps below provide a sequence for getting started – but feel free to pave your own way on your virtual adventure.

Step #1 - The best way to form your own opinion by starting your own avatar. Go to and start your "free" account.

Step #2 - spend plenty of time in orientation island getting the skills to navigate and change your avatar. It can be embarrasing to walk into a tree or a wall among many strangers staring at you, similar to real life (RL).

Step #3 - Visit some of the Universities or government sites such as NOAA or the International Space Flight Museum for some interesting and safe exporation. While there ask anyone you run into for referrals of locations that might be interesting.

What is Second Life?

LHRIC Summer Workshop w/Peggy Sheehy of Ramapo Central School District

Second Life Blog

Classroom 2L Blog from Suffern Middle School

Classroom 2L Blog from Mrs. Yodowitz's class

Second Life International Conference

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

What's in a Meme?

OK, a "meme" (pronounced theme) isn’t the same as a "name" but it is an intriguing way to look at using blogs in the classroom and students as individuals. The use of memes was briefly touched on in my previous post but now it's time to look at this application deeper.

The definition of a meme, not related to blogging, is "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation." (Dawkins, 1976). A meme in the blogging world is a posting that requires active participation by the blogger and optional participation by the “tagged” blogger. It's often a series of questions that a blogger answers to share some personal perspective or experience on a random topic (QBlog in Blogging 101).

Out on the very big www memes are often quite silly however some really are on the serious side. The relevant question for us is what can it do to improve classroom literacy strategies? Whether you have been tipping your toe in the blogging pool or are contemplating diving right in, memes can make it very real, worth while, and manageable.

Language Arts Example:
As a class or as members of a literature circle in the class students are reading Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. Here is the meme posting for the end of Chapter 5.

Post: May 1, 2007 smartabano
I would like to hear from James and Susan
1. What does the author mean when he refers to “banks” as “Monsters” in this chapter?
2. What characteristics does he use to convey this?
3. How else could the author convey this to readers?
4. Is there anything about banks of the 21st century that demonstrate that they have changed?

I have tagged only two of my students in this particular post and will target others in subsequent posts. This time, only James and Susan will comment on this post following what ever classroom blogging guidelines have been established.


  • Students can provide a deeper more thoughtful response without competition from the entire class or the ability to disappear among the entire class.
  • Students feel important when asked by name to participate.
  • Teachers have the ability to differentiate questions based on student interest or readiness levels.
  • Inform students in advance that “everyone” will be tagged over the course of time (e.g. book, month, quarter) ensuring the process is fair and equal.
  • (li>Tagged students must participate by responding according to posting guidelines
  • Set guidelines for writing responses (e.g., complete sentences, spelling and grammar count, you will, or will not, be graded on your responses, etc.)
  • Make blog posting guidelines easily available for students to refer to, possibly as a resource link in the blog.
  • Decide if other classmates can respond to the tagged answers or if the tagged can then tag other students with questions of their own.

If you try this in your classroom, tell us about your experiences.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Blogging in the Literacy Rich Classroom - Workshop Feedback

Today I was fortunate to work with a very enthusiastic group of teachers and administrators. We explored a variety of applications for using blogs in a literacy rich classroom. We also took a minor segway into planning and guidelines for blogging. Below is our collective thinking on the topic. Feel free to comment on your own experiences with blogging in K-12 education. Many thanks to Victor for sharing his very extensive, well-planned ELA classroom blog (and his baby pictures!).

Our Collective Thinking About Blogging
  • Planning - Be proactive in planning on every aspect of your blog - including making sure building administration is aware and approves of your blogging project.
  • Differentiation/Classroom Management - Consider using “meme” to control the number of comments on any given post and to solicit higher level thinking around a topic by limiting the involvement in the discussion. You can schedule student groups, or invite students based on readiness and interest levels for differentiation. The term "Meme" refers to a unit of information which can propagate from one mind to another. As it relates to blogs - you can invite specific people (students) to respond to a posting.
  • Differentiation/Security - Control the timing and levels of publishing based on student readiness level and security policies within your school/district.
    •Student Assessment - Great way to show progress and improvement in student writing over time.
  • Planning - Be cautious with “meme” in that the people you are inviting to contribute want and can contribute. We thought you may not be able to control this – needs further research.
  • Planning - How spontaneous do you want the blog to be? Should students word process the posting prior to posting?
  • Curriculum - Use blogs as an instructional tool when teaching the writing process – getting ideas, writing a thesis statement, introductory sentences, supporting details, conclusion, etc. Have students submit samples in response to a prompt and have assess the submissions peer to peer assess.
  • Curriculum - Community project blog, each group uses the blog to collect information about what the have learned, continually adding to it as a way to collect notes. In the end they use the information on the blog to create a final project as a paper or presentation.
  • Planning - Decide what type of access you want or are able to provide. (e.g. do students have district email? If so consider inviting students to the blog. This will require a student email account and we suggest only doing this if your school/district has an implemented student safe email solution.
  • Classroom Management - require moderation so that teachers/blog creator will get an email notice and the blog comments/replies will not be published without them allow or delete for posting (consider the time for this task).
  • Classroom Management - Set clear guidelines and instructions for students and post right on the front of the blog.
  • Classroom Management - All blog postings should have students names in the post if you do NOT have them using “school safe & approved” email accounts.
  • Classroom/School Management - Guidelines from Byram blog (Victor’s demonstration) - How do I submit my comment?
    Student instructions: “You are to leave the name, website, and url text boxes blank. After you and your partner write a comment - sign it by typing both of your names (first names only) after your comment. Then you can submit it. Remember, I will not approve any comment that does not do this!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"The Blog", Take One!

No, a "Blog" (noun) is not the same as "The Blob" the American science-fiction film from 1958 depicting a giant amoeba-like alien that terrorizes the small community of Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Imagine a classroom where students eagerly await responses to their writing prompts, where they learn to write with skills that solicit responses from others, where they can become skilled, published writers. It can't be...say it ain't so?...oh my gosh....its...its...its...aghhhhh..its a BLOG!

Yes, a blog can be as mesmorizing for students in it's ability to capture their attention and curiosity as a good movie which is why it works. Teachers are discovering that blogs are an effective tool for capturing the attention, imagination and creativity of their students.
Bloggers (verb for those who blog) can be found everywhere on the web. There are political blogs, social blogs, knitting blogs, college blogs, dog and cat blogs, and yes K12, classroom blogs, and yes , even blog blogs.

The examples below demonstrate that placing as much emphasis on how we teach as well as what we teach makes blogs and blogging great additions to any literacy rich classroom.

Secret Life of Bees Study Guide

Sarah, Plain and Tall

Book Club or Summer Reading

Book Reviews

Learning & Reflection Forum