Saturday, May 3, 2008

ahhh Summer

Well its a bit chilly here in NY today, but summer will be upon us soon. For many parents our kids will be out of school soon which poses a whole host of dilemmas. Child care while you go to work, camp, vacations. My son's school releases on June 10th! Yes folks he gets almost 3 months of summer vacation. What is a parent to do!

I am a firm believer in "get outside and run and play until you collapse, then take a bath and go to sleep" and then do it all over again the next day. Since I work, camp pretty much has that covered for me-THANK GOODNESS. But the question at hand is "What do I do with my lil one when the weather is bad, or money is tight or the car is broke?" VIRTUAL FIELD TRIPS. Take your kid on a virtual field trip and discover a world of endless learning and possibilities. Here are some good examples:

Visit a real farm! I like this one for the younger kids. The movies are real, the farmers are real and there is a lot to learn about farms.

Go on an adventure! These are free online expeditions that allow you to engage your children with journal entries, photographs and data.

Greatest Places Online. Online adventures around the world with real time reports. The photography here is beautiful.

Get electrical Good lessons but for an older student.

Learn about the Liberty Bell Nice photos and good content on a subject that is rarely taught in school.

I will continue to add links as I come to them, but feel free to comment and offer suggestions to other sites.

Changes in the workplace...prepare our kids

Increasing I hear more and more folks saying that their work day is structured differently. Here is a link to another blogger who talks about it They have the ability to work from home, from Starbucks, from a park as long as they have an Internet connection. I think that the typical "office" has begun to shift dramatically but by the time our school aged children reach the work force the concept of an office, with paper, paperclips, scissors, white out and a water cooler will be few and far between. Let's face it, more and more people I work with ask for things digitally and those things aren't even stored on our computers. All important documents that I need are in Google Docs. I can access my work anywhere anyplace. I am not even wedded to my computer, just a connection. The water cooler is now facebook, myspace, ning or any other social network. The boundaries of the water cooler are no longer confined to the walls of the office. People can connect, collaborate and communicate with like minded folks all over the world. The water cooler is global.

As parents/home schoolers/educators we need to teach our students/children to use these tools in a safe and responsible environment. I know I have talked about this before, but I can't drive home the point enough that our kids are going to rock this world one day and we need to teach them to use this power that is so accessible to them in a way that will make a positive change. Not having discussions about using the Internet in a safe way is doing them a disservice. If your child's school is not showing them the ways, then offer to teach an isafe course to the PTA. Get the word out there that our kids are cybercitizens who need to act in a safe and appropriate fashion.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Starting a conversation

Today I had the privilege to hear Tim Magner speak at a MOUSE conference in NYC. I thought he was very good. His PowerPoint moved at a quick pace (which held my attention), he was funny, his answers to the participants questions were thorough and his passion for Technology in schools was clearly evident. There were a few things that he spoke about that struck me as very interesting when thinking about our schools, our students/children and the 21st Century. He talked about School 2.0 and its importance in our children's lives. I liked the analogy that he gave us that talked about a doctors office years ago which had 1 nurse and a doctor who examined, diagnosed and prescribed to today's doctor's office which has a multitude of employees who have very technical jobs. It really showed how things have changed. He said the workforce used to see the majority of students head off to blue collar jobs and a small percentage went on to be doctors, lawyers and heads of companies, but today that has all changed.

I found an article in the Wall Street Journal where Tim recommends some books to read. I have a read a few of them already, but I think, perhaps the others are worth looking into. Here is the list:

  1. "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms," by Will RichardsonA public school teacher looks at how to take these Web 2.0 tools and begin to use them in the classroom. The book is more practitioner-focused but gives a nice overview of what Web 2.0 and social collaboration models are, how they facilitate types of interactions and how to use them in school.

  2. "Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative," by Ken Robinson. Robinson identifies and explains what he feels is the creation of an unnatural separation between arts and sciences, and creativity and intelligence. He believes this separation is enforced in formal education. He addresses how we need to re-engage with kids in different ways to encourage them to tap into their creativity. Robinson spends a lot of time talking about finding your medium, and we are seeing that digital tools are the medium of choice for a lot of students.

  3. "Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/School Partnerships," by Anne T. Henderson, Vivian Johnson, Karen L. Mapp and Don Davies It can be difficult to create a strong relationship between parents and the school. The authors talk about engaging with your school from a parent perspective. Part of the thesis is using technology as a platform to transform how we deliver instructions and communication. We must have a mechanism that enables parents to stay involved, and technology provides a tremendous medium to communicate.

  4. "Don't Bother Me Mom -- I'm Learning!" by Marc Prensky Prensky has coined the terms digital natives and digital immigrants. Technology comes naturally to children since they grow up with it, whereas adults speak technology with an accent. This book looks at what kids can learn from video and electronic games and tries to overcome the natural predisposition against games that parents and educators have. It demonstrates how children use games and provides examples of how teachers can incorporate games in school to take technology to the next level.

  5. "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy," by James Paul Gee Gee's point is to look at games not as a distraction, but consider what you learn from them like complex reasoning skills. He looks at games as a learning paradigm and considers the implications of that kind of a model for education at large. The book considers how to use these particular tools and models as a pedagogue as opposed to an entertainment platform.

  6. "The Flickering Mind, Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology," by Todd Oppenheimer This book presents the other end of the spectrum. Oppenheimer's critique sometimes opposes my way of thinking but is an important counterpoint to some of the overblown hype expounded by tech buffs. This book shows some of the traps you can encounter if technology is implemented poorly or there isn't a clear educational vision for what you are trying to accomplish. There could be a disconnect between technology and the curriculum or the teacher's ability to use the software. There's a difference in using technology for research and to connect rather than using it as a glorified typewriter.

  7. "Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation," by Don Tapscott Kids are interfacing with technology in different ways and as educators we need to understand where they're coming from to fully connect with students. Sometimes we need to retool what we do to connect. This book documents the trend in new media and how young people are interacting with that media. The old ways of standing in front of students and lecturing don't work. Educators need to appreciate that the expectations they had as students are different from the new generation.

  8. "Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century," by David Franklin Warlick Literacy isn't just about reading and writing anymore, it's about analysis and research. This book look at higher level skills and how technology creates an opportunity to access those levels. It takes the idea that the technology changes the way we interact with one another and manage information and says that schools have to deal with this. If technology provides more complex experiences, we have to make sure students can navigate them and be able to take advantage of the types of opportunities technology provides for different levels of engagement.

  9. Partnership for 21st Century Skills, partnership has about 25 or 30 companies and other nonprofit organizations that are developing a framework for defining a set of skills they think are important for students to possess to be successful in the 21st century. The site has case studies and examples. A large part of the focus is dedicated to information, media and technology skills.

For parents and homeschoolers I recommend that you take Tim's advice and start having a conversation about technology, its role's in your child's life and ask whether or not your child's school is a 20th Century school or a 21st Century school. If you think they are in the dark ages then begin to question and rally the community for change. I highly recommend you visit and look at the Transformation Toolkit to let the conversation begin.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Technology across the grades...Part 2

For our First Graders here are some thoughts pulled together from the standards set forth by NCREL

  1. Students know how to start up the computer; locate applications; choose icons to select, open, save, print, and close files; and shut down the computer, monitor, and printer.

  2. Students identify ways that the computer is used at home and in school.

  3. Students recognize that passwords protect the security of technology systems.

  4. Students, assisted by teachers, parents, or student partners, know how to select media formats (e.g., text, clip art, photos, video, Web pages, newsletters) to communicate and share ideas with students in other classrooms.

  5. Students know how to use developmentally appropriate software to collect classroom data, create a graph, identify the questions that could be answered by the information in the graph, and interpret the results from the graph.

Here are some lessons and suggestions for implementing technology into your first grader's education: Lessons in Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science and Art A FREE typing tutorial that identifies keys, posture and begins to allow the student an opportunity to use both hands (no more hunt and peck)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We need to loose weight….for a tree’s sake

My colleague, Lisa Michelle, spoke recently in her blog about the paperless diet. I find this blog entry to be particularly interesting because it speaks to the educator who inherently totes around pounds and pounds of paper. It challenges an educator to shed weight. Paper weight. Why is it that in education we feel the more paper we have the more prepared we are?

I have seen it time and time again. In the NYCDOE there are teams called “The Inquiry Team.” Their role is basically to import school data into a collection tool and generate a plan for students. I am sure there is much more to it, but this is the jest of it. They (NYCDOE) were smart in the planning these teams, it appears that there is one team per school consisting of 4-6 members (approximately 1500 teams through NYC.) Each member was issued a laptop device so they can work digitally. I implore the efforts of the city to begin shedding paper weight, but where this falls apart is in the translation. Just today I was speaking to two inquiry team members (separate schools, separate boroughs) and found that in their schools it was deemed NECESSARY to PRINT these documents and place in a binder for each of the team members. Why go through the hassle of creating an image for portable device if you are going to print literally hundreds of pages? It just doesn’t make sense. The very point of having a device that contains all the necessary documents is so that can be read anywhere, anytime not to print them.

It is important as parents that conserving paper use be instilled at home. Children should be schooled on recycling, reusing and not wasting this precious resource. Does your child’s school have a recycling program that is actually functioning? I have seen schools talk about their achievements, but I didn’t see the blue container in a single classroom. Does the computer teacher teach students to post work digitally, or are the children “printing just to print?” I am understand that not everything can or should be posted digitally, but it should be a concept that is taught. Using Web 2.0 tools like google doc to post work for collaboration, sharing and peer review is the way to go.

At home, do you have a recycling program? Does your sanitation department discriminate between glass, plastic and paper? It seems almost comical that in the NYC we have a very strict recycling program, my parents have been issued fines for not “sorting” properly, but if you live in a building or building development (and here is the comical part) the enforcement of these strict rules seems to go out the window. Well if you look at the demographics of the city, more people live, work and play in buildings then in single dwellings. So what’s the point? I can put plastic in with paper or glass and no one cares. It is very frustrating to see the signs throughout the city that say “NYC Cares…we recycle! But in essence they don’t. I have through the years found places where I can bring my Christmas tree, paper, batteries and other items for recycling, but these programs should be in place everywhere all the time.

Here is an interesting read about trees and paper. I think it is information that you could and should share with your kids/students:

How much paper can be made from a tree?
Although it seems simple, the answer to this question is really quite complicated. There are many factors which influence the amount of paper that can be made from one tree.
Paper manufactured in the U.S. is probably made of wood fiber. But where did the fiber come from? A whole tree? Wood chips from a saw mill? Old copy paper? Maybe a combination of all three?If the paper was made from a whole tree, how old and how big was the tree? What kind of tree was it?Finally, a lot depends on the type of paper. What is its end use? And how was it manufactured?As you can see, there are so many factors involved, it is impossible to arrive at any one figure. To help explain these variables, let's first take a look at the raw material used to make paper.

Wood fiber--where does it come from?
You may be surprised to learn that about one-third of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. is residue - wood chips and scraps left behind from forest and sawmill operations. These "leftovers" would probably be burned or discarded if not used by the paper industry.Another third of the raw material is recovered paper. Although some papers contain 100 percent recycled fiber, papermakers often combine various amounts of recycled and new fiber to produce the desired quality and grade of paper.Only about one-third of the fiber used to make paper in the U.S. is from whole trees, which the industry calls round wood. It is not considered economical to use large logs for paper when they could instead be used for lumber. For this reason, only trees smaller than 8 inches in diameter, or larger trees not suitable for solid wood products, typically are harvested for papermaking.

Pre-consumer and post-consumer paper--what's the difference?
Pre-consumer recovered paper consists of trimmings and scraps from printing, carton manufacturing, or other converting processes which are reused to make pulp without reaching the final consumer.Post-consumer recovered paper (like old corrugated boxes, newspapers, magazines, and office paper), has been used by the ultimate consumer and is then returned to the mill for recycling.
From fiber to pulp to paper
The amount of fiber in a cubic foot of wood varies greatly from species to species. Hardwoods (broad-leafed species) tend to have greater wood densities than softwoods (conifers), meaning they have more fiber per cubic foot of wood.
When trees are harvested for papermaking, the limbs are removed and the trunk is transported to a pulp mill. At the mill, the bark is removed and burned for fuel or processed to use as garden mulch. The wood is often chipped into small pieces about the size of a quarter, and then broken down further into individual fibers in a process call pulping. The pulping method influences the amount of fiber the wood yields.

Mechanical Pulping
Sometimes pulping is done mechanically by pressing and grinding the wood to separate the fibers. This mechanical pulping process is very efficient. Up to 95% of the dry weight of the wood is converted into pulp. Most newsprint is made from mechanical pulp, recycled fiber, or a combination of the two. Paper made from mechanical pulp is opaque and has good printing properties, but it is weak and discolors easily when exposed to light due to the residual lignin in the pulp. (Lignin is a natural wood chemical that holds fibers together.)

Chemical Pulping
A second pulping method is chemical pulping, in which a chemical/water solution dissolves the lignin to help separate the fibers. The absence of lignin means that paper made from chemical pulp is stronger and less prone to discoloration. The pulp yield from chemical pulping is much lower, though, since the lignin has been removed. Chemical pulps are used to make shipping containers, paper bags, printing and writing papers, and other products requiring strength.The type of paper being produced determines what pulping method is used. Remember the paper you used when learning to write in kindergarten - the paper with the very wide rule lines? This paper was grayish in color, and you could actually see bits of wood in the paper. Kindergarten writing paper and newsprint do not require high strength, brightness or purity, so mechanical pulps are probably the best choice for making these types of papers.Papermakers combine mechanical, chemical, and recycled pulp in varying amounts to produce the highest quality paper required by the customer from the least possible amount of fiber.Some people say that it takes "17 trees to make a ton of paper." This might make you believe that if a ton less paper were used every year, then at the end of the year, 17 more trees would remain standing.This is really an oversimplified conclusion. Many of the trees used for papermaking would be harvested or die anyway, even if not one piece of paper were produced. Many are already dying, and must be removed to improve the health of the forest. It makes good sense for papermakers to use these trees for wood pulp.

But in general...
As you can see, it is impossible to know exactly how much paper can be made from one tree.
But let's assume that the following paper products have been produced using 100 percent hardwood. A cord of wood is approximately 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high. A cord of air-dried, dense hardwood (oak, hickory, etc.) weighs roughly 2 tons, about 15-20 percent of which is water.It has been estimated that one cord of this wood will yield one of these approximate quantities of products:

· 1,000-2,000 pounds of paper (depending on the process)
· 942 100-page, hard-cover books
· 61,370 No. 10 business envelopes
· 4,384,000 commemorative-sized postage stamps
· 460,000 personal checks
· 1,200 copies of National Geographic
· 2,700 copies of an average daily newspaper

Source: A Tree for Each American, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, DC

Here are some important forest facts:
Each year, the U.S. forest community plants some 1.5 billion seedlings. That's an average of more than 4 million new trees planted every day!
More than 5 new trees are planted each year for every man, woman, and child in America, and millions more regrow naturally from seeds and sprouts.
There are more trees in America today than there were 70 years ago.
Trees are a renewable resource that will keep growing and growing. Unlike nonrenewable resources such as minerals, forests regenerate naturally, and good forest management by companies, governments, and landowners increases their abundance.
"How are Trees Grown for Paper?" Tappi. 10 Apr. 2008 .

So where is all this going? Schools are meant to teach our students, and they do, but as parents we need to teach our child as well. Showing them ways to recycle, ways to reuse, ways to do things digitally can have a profound impact on our environment in years to come. We are turning this Earth over to them and their children and we need to teach them well. By the way April 22nd is fast approaching…Earth day and my birthday :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Have you heard of blurb?

So what is Blurb? I stumbled upon Blurb recently and was in awe of the functionality of this online bookmaking site. Unlike the traditional photo upload/book creating site this site has an added layer that takes it into another realm. Imagine creating a book rich with text, rich with photos, rich with collaboration? Yes, collaboration. Once you begin your book you can invite collaborators to view, edit and add a creative flair to your book. Experts from around the globe can help author your book…or not. It’s your choice as the author. Imagine the possibilities. A family trip with multiple family members from varying places can collaboratively work on a book, add photos, add comments, text, and dialog and ultimately order it to preserve their memories in a hard cover, bound book. A teacher can have students post poems, short stories, illustrations and generate a class book that surpasses any “notebook.” A yearbook can be created breaking the “traditional” mold of what a yearbook looks like. Blogs can seamlessly be imported from the host site and created into a book. The possibilities are endless.

Another interesting concept that blurb introduces is the option of having your book available for sale to the general public. Unlike the traditional sites, once your book is created it becomes available for sale through the site. Now I am not sure I would want to spend $50 on someone’s baby book, but the picture book of Kenya really caught my eye. The pictures were stunning.

So parents, I ask you “What are your plans this summer?” Why not break out the camera, photograph your child’s way through the summer and have them journal, write poems, add dialog. What a great learning tool for children. The fact that they will become published authors is reason enough for them to want to write. It may be easier then you think to get your kid to do some work this summer after all!