Reflections on Instructional Technology and Media

A Graduation Project for the 21st Century October 25, 2007

Yesterday I had the privilege of co-facilitating a meeting to kick off the planning process for developing a Graduation Project for our school district. NC is now requiring that seniors must submit a graduation project in order to graduate from high school. This will begin with this year’s sophomore class. While the state has given some guidelines for what this will encompass, there is definitely room for each school district to customize it to make it work for their students. Our district is committed to making the project an opportunity for students to demonstrate their proficiency in 21st century skills.

I was asked to come to this meeting to facilitate a discussion on what 21st Century Skills are and how they can be incorporated into the Graduation Project. I decided to take it a step further. I developed a wiki to house all of the resources for the committee and set up and shared a Google Doc for each of the sub-committees. My thought process here is that the teachers and administrators on this committee need to begin to understand the tools that are available to students (and teachers) in order for them to help the students think creatively about developing their product. It went great although there was a funny piece – I had created a blank Google doc for each group to use for collaboration during the meeting, shared it, and in the email told them not to worry about the doc until the meeting. Being the go-getters that they are, many of them tried to open the document and when there were no words on it, emailed or called me to say there was a problem with it. Beginning of their learning process.


T + L 2007 – Nashville October 18, 2007

I am currently in Nashville, TN at the National School Boards Association’s T + L Conference. Below is an attempt to summarize each session I have attended thus far and any big ideas I was able to take away.

Global Learning Initiatives: Building 21st Century Literacy for Student Success in 21st Century Life

This was lead by a team from Broward County, FL. The big idea here is the implementation of GLIDES (Global Learning Initiatives through Digital Education for Students) in all of their schools. The concept here is that each school selects an essential question and then classes or teams of students work together to create a digital product to address one component of that question. Amazing essential questions and amazing student projects! This is one of the essential instructional strategies I need to take back to our district. Powerful learning taking place there!

Social Networking Research & Presentation: Lost Opportunities: What Happens when Districts Disallow Web 2.0 in the Classroom

This was a 2 part presentation. The first part was from NSBA on a study they commission on Kids’ Social Networking Habits. Interesting data. Glad someone is finally collecting some. Part 2 was from McREL on their experiences with going into districts to work with schools on 21st century learning only to discover that most of the tools they need are blocked by the district in the name of security and student safety. Again we see the need to educate students to be safe rather than just blocking. I am getting concerned about our own filtering practices. Time to take another look at what we are filtering. Saw an online resource I was not familiar with –

Keynote Address: Peter Diamandis – The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Create it Yourself

Inspiring, just the way a keynote should be. Peter is the CEO of X Prize and Zero Gravity. Got me thinking that we should do a scaled down version of the X Prize for our school systems to inspire them to rise to the challenge of preparing all students for the 21st century! I would love to see what we could come up with.

Personal Computing: New Solutions for the Classroom @ Web 2.0

Jim Hirsch from Plano, TX lead this session packed full of 21st century learning tools. I love going to sessions like this one because I always pick up a handful of new sites that are so cool but I knew nothing about. Here is Jim’s list. And another one.

New Literacy for 21st Century Students: Reinventing School Libraries for the Digital Age

John Canuel from Jefferson County, CO lead this session. We focused mostly on what 21st century literacies are and how they can be applied to libraries. Sounded to me like the Librarians in Jefferson County are also doubling as Tech Coordinators.


Times are Changing: New Literacies Collaborative

On Tuesday, I was in Raleigh at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at a day-long session on Literacy & Learning in the 21st Century. Below are some of the highlights from this workshop.

James Bell – NC Teacher of the Year

  • Teachers often feel that technology is coming at them so fast and they are expected to use it. They often feel overwhelmed.
  • Students are coming to us submerged in technology.
  • How do educators use the background knowledge and information to engage students?

Tracy’s thought: We waste a lot of time in our curriculum teaching students to do outdated tasks. For instance, Bibliographies – how important is it to really know how to cite a reference in a specific style? Why do students need to know where the period goes and the order the information needs to be in? In the 21st century, isn’t it more important to know that it is important to cite the reference – and to do it ?! Why are we spending time teaching students how to cite in a specific style when they can go online and enter in the required information, click a button and then have the citation come out in whatever style is needed?

We can no longer be just technology smart or technology competitive – we have to lead the world in technology.

Hiller Spires – Professor & Senior Research Fellow, Friday Institute

Research Findings: What Do Students Want Their Teachers to Know and Do?

New Literacies (AKA):

  • multiliteracies
  • new literacies
  • new med
  • media literacies
  • multimodal literacies

FI New Literacies is drawing on research from:

  • Donald Leu – Online Comprehension and Navigation
  • Henry Jenkins – Web 2.0 Literacies – New Literacies Framework
  • James Gee – Game Based Literacies

How is the Internet redefining what it means to be literate in the 21st century?

Afternoon breakout sessions – Music as a New Literacy for Science Learning

This was a fun interactive session. FI’s Curriculum and Current Media Specialist, Lodge McCammon, teamed up with 8th grade science teacher, Nicole Cebula, from Frankin Academy to compose, create, and record songs in which the content is drawn directly from the 8th grade science curriculum and the sound is very modern resulting in a catchy song that students will want to sing over and over again. Ms. Cebula uses these songs in place of notes for some units and films a music video of the song for each class she teaches. The result is a high level of engagement from her students and an increase in motivation to come to school and participate in science. Now, if only we could clone Lodge!!!!

In the breakout session, we created our own music video which you can see here.