Sunday, October 18, 2009

Innovation Workshop and the Time Sync Question

This past Friday, the MAGPI team organized our first-ever Innovation Workshop at Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit. Approximately 36 educators and technologists took part in this program, which lasted from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. - - - seven and a half hours of technology integration!

Even though I was facilitating all of my workshop sessions remotely, it was great to get to know the educators and technology specialists who attended. Here's a brief snapshot of some of the things we accomplished that day:
  • MAGPI's Executive Director, Greg Palmer, was onsite and gave a 30 minute overview of Internet2, the K20 Initiative and MAGPI.
  • I conferenced in from my Baltimore-area office and talked about the various applications that educators can take advantage of over Internet2, including: interactive video, digital library and media sources, simulations, educational games, remote instrumentation, and more. Take a look at the innovation workshop link list to learn more about these specific applications.
  • We broke the group into teams of four and each team got to spend 15 minutes in each of the following demonstrations: experimenting with the virtual reality development lab equipment, exploring NOAA's island in Second Life, placing/receiving calls on videoconferencing gear, and an online tour of the K12 Community on MAGPI's new website.
  • After lunch, the educators spent two hours with me taking an indepth look at videoconferencing in the classroom. We took a virtual field trip to Gemini Observatories in Mauna Kea, HI, and talked about best practices for using videoconferencing in the classroom. During our second hour, we talked about how to plan collaborative projects that use interactive video and brainstormed project ideas. Meanwhile, the technology specialists were spending time with UPenn staff members learning about IPv6, unified communications, troubleshooting H.323 and multicast applications.
  • We ended the day with a virtual panel discussion featuring educators who had successfully created collaborative projects. We were joined by Marilyn Puchalski who discussed the We Want the World to Know project, and Allison Carpenter who talked about the Murder Mystery Project and States of Matter project.

One of the most exciting things that came from this workshop was the formulation of a potential collaborative project idea for schools along the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The project would involve schools located in the watershed areas and along the bay to collaborate through data collection and videoconferencing, so students in one area can see how the actions of their community affect other communities located 'downstream.' I was also thrilled to hear about a new service-learning course offered in Souther Lehigh School District that will be able to take advantage of the technologies we discussed to enrich students' inquiry and project-based learning.

Since I was facilitating all of my workshop segments remotely (and there was a bit of a predicament with the camera set-up in the room - - they were mounted in the back of the room and I was looking at the back of people's heads most of the day), it was tough to gauge participants' reactions to the event. Admittedly, it was a lot of information to digest. Our hope for the workshop was to expose participants to the different applications (specialized uses of the network :0)) available to them and inspire/excite them to want to take on a project. Hopefully, we accomplished that without overwhelming. If you attended, we would love to hear your feedback.

At the end of the day, one technology integrator asked me "What would you say to a teacher who said they just didn't have time to try and integrate this technology?" If I'm honest, I'd have to say I don't have a really good answer to that question. As much as we say that integrating technology enhances (and in many cases, can supplement or even substitute for existing learning activities in the classroom), it by no means makes the educator's life easier the first time out. If they are new to the technology, the educator has to learn how it works. After that, they need to think critically about how it makes sense to use the technology to help accomplish their content objectives. It's definitely a time sync when you're learning it. Even if you are an educator lucky enough to have a fantastic technology support network, you're going to need to put some time in. Not to mention that there are so many interactive technologies to choose from; it can certainly be overwhelming to learn about them and become the 'networked teacher.'

But the initial time investment pays off - - exponentially. Not only are your students more engaged in technology-rich learning environments, but you have increased opportunity for authentic, inquiry and project-based learning. Interactive technologies flatten classroom walls and allow you to tap into additional knowledge networks, bring leading experts into your classroom and virtually excpose your students to places and things they might have never seen. So no, I don't have a good answer to the time question except to say the more you use technology in the classroom, the less time it will take to plan for using it.

Adding to the time crunch issue? We really can't start with the technology when planning classroom activities. We have to use backwards design and start with the learning objectives: what is it that I want my students to walk away with? Then think about how we will know students have achieved those objectives... and THEN think about the learning experiences and how technology can mediate those experiences. Again, not really a time-saving strategy - - but one that will make sure our integration efforts are effective and meaningful.

So, interactive technologies in the classroom have leveled geographic barriers. But we're still figuring out time zones... and time syncs...

Networked Teacher Image from: blog

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections on the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009. Spending the day with such creative innovators and entrepreneurs was such a treat. Energy pulsed through the conference and it was impossible not to drink the kool aid or take the red pill (as one panelist suggested).

According to the website, the Summit is "a two-day conference which promises to embrace the same values it champions: innovation, creativity, collaboration, shared learning, technology and open source thinking." The sessions I attended today focused primarily on alternative workforce development/management, innovation in education, social networking trends and alternative educational models (i.e. internship/mentorship, project-based learning, civic engagement).

Although I'm still synthesizing all that I learned, here are some of my favorite take-aways from the conference (expect longer posts on some of them when I have time to expound!):
  • Jane McGonigal (evening keynote) suggested that game developers should aspire to win the Nobel Peace Prize in the next 25 years.
  • The Freemium Business Model (term coined by blogger Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and shared by speaker Paul Wright of Micco World.)
  • Breaking the Cube Panel Discussion: virtual companies, virtual assistants, co-working and making the office obsolete (Food for thought: how will the future of virtual companies affect how we prepare students for the 'real world?' What implications does the concept of the co-working have on education? What role does interactive video play? How about advanced networks? Check out Shift101 and Conjunctured for more on co-working)
  • Redefining the internship model... empowering interns in the work place and making them vital parts of teams... is a virtual intern an extern? How do you manage, mentor and supervise virtual interns? Love the cool cities model and had no idea the UPenn participated in InternU. Need to think about how to succesfully integrate interns into educational program development at MAGPI.
  • Can't wait to try out Google Wave -- sent Google a request but would love to get an invite from someone! :0)
  • Myrikal - - what a fabulous story and talented young woman. How can we foster and nurture such creative individuals in an urban public school environment? And how can we build on her story and inspire others? Young Virtual Artist in Residence Program via interactive video? (Any suggestions about funding?)
  • Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) suggested that everyone explore their curiousity - - which is a much more friendlier term than passion - - and that will lead to innovative entrepreneurship.
  • Still not sure what this crowd sourcing thing is all about - - and a little bummed I missed that session.
  • Co-creation and creative participation seem to be key ideas to all kinds of creative initiatives. People like to contribute. (thanks for the tweet @spragueKS)
  • Pennsylvania is last of the states in terms of new entreprenurial ventures with new entreprenuers according to latest data from the Kauffman Foundation... Ouch...
  • Work is changing: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing -- virtual and coworking situations need to support all. Again, how does this affect career preparedness and what IS the role of technology in education?
  • Where does global education, preparing 21st century students, global networks and how to build global student-based creative economies play into all of the above? Thinking about Thomas Friedman's "flat" concept... how does it translate?
  • Definitely need to rekindle MAGPI's relationship with Innovation Philadelphia... How do/can advanced networks and educational technology applications affect creative economic development?
Just a little food for thought and some of the things that are going to be on my mind for a while... For other thoughts on the summit, search #gcecs2009 on Twitter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are your students ready to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT and LEND A HAND against extremism and hunger?

Each year, MAGPI partners with several outstanding non-profit organizations to design interactive educational programming. One of my all-time favorite organizations to work with is The Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, and I am very pleased to announce our annual collaborative program: The STAND UP. SPEAK OUT. LEND A HAND! Project.

In the winter of 1945, on the day of her liberation from six years of Nazi rule, Gerda Weissmann clung to life at the end of a 350-mile death march. She weighed 68 pounds, her hair had turned white, and she had not had a bath in three years. She survived with courage, grace and dignity

Gerda Weissmann Klein, renowned motivational speaker and Holocaust survivor, teaches each one of us about tolerance, understanding and making a difference. Gerda Klein’s spirit helped her survive six years under Nazi rule; through her story, and her unique perspective, she continues to help each one of us to understand the dangers of hate and extremism.

Students involved in STAND UP. SPEAK OUT. LEND A HAND will hear from Gerda during a special interactive videoconference event and then embark upon their own service learning projects. Each participating school will be tasked with designing and implementing a service learning project that combats social issues in their community.

In order to maintain an on-going dialogue over the course of the project, each class will create a wiki page and posting bi-weekly updates on their projects. Once a month, schools will be assigned a partner class who will review and comment on their wiki page (and vice versa). Students will then reconvene via videoconference to share their service learning projects with the Klein Foundation during a celebratory "Project Collaboration Videoconference" in March. We will break schools into smaller groups for project sharing to encourage dialogue among students!

Here are the project dates - - mark them on your calendar:

  • You are the Messengers to a Time I Will Not See:
    A Conversation with Gerda Weissmann Klein Videoconference
    December 10, 2009 * 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Supporting Your Students in their Service Learning Projects
    Teacher Workshop Videoconference
    January 21, 2010 * 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Student Service Learning Projects
    December – March
  • Service Project Celebration
    Student Sharing Videoconference Event
    March 24, 2010 * 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Students/Classes will be assigned to a 50 minute interactive period during this time.

It's a three-month service learning challenge. Are your students ready to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT, and LEND A HAND against extremism and hunger?

To register for this program, please visit the program website.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't miss out on this year's Digital Flat Stanley Project!

Just wanted to make you aware that registration for the 2009-2010 Flat Stanley Project is now open (and closes on October 15th!)! We hope that you and your students will participate!

What happens when a normal boy finds himself flattened by a bulletin board and is sent through the mail to places all across the country? Your students can find out during this fun project, based on the 1964 book written by Jeff Brown! Classes across the country will participate in this project and send their Flat Stanleys around the USA to visit different students. Every journey, one school’s Flat Stanley will visit another partner school. Students will take their new flat friend on different adventures near their school and record the adventures on a wiki page. At the end of each journey, partner schools will meet via videoconference for 30 minutes to greet one another, discuss their hometown and experiences with their flat friends. At the end of the project, Flat Stanley will have visited 4 places and - - and so will your students! Last year more than 130 classes participated! Make sure your class doesn't miss out! This project is open to students in grades K-3.

If you participated in the project in the past, there are some changes this year. Due to increase in postage fees and tight budgets, there is NO scrapbook component to this project (so we'll just be mailing Flat Stanleys in envelopes - - no worries about large packages!) Instead of creating physical scrapbook pages, each class will be creating a wiki page for each of their journeys. Of course, you and your collaborating teacher for a journey may choose to send things to your partner class about your location, but this is not required.

We have a new registration system this year as well. In order to register for the Digital Flat Stanley project, you must work with your technology coordinator to get set-up in our new system. Here are the steps:
  1. Have your videoconference/technology coordinator go to, click on “log in” and then either log in using their existing MUSE username/password (if they have one) or click on “create new account.” When an account is created, it may take up to 24 business hours for it to be approved before you can register.
  2. Your videoconference/technology coordinator must then go to their account information (click on their username which is displayed on the upper right hand corner of the website when he or she is logged in) and then click on the “sites” tab. Your technology coordinator must create a site for every building that wants to participate in this project. This will keep your technical information on file with MAGPI and teachers don’t need to worry about knowing IP addresses!
  3. After your videoconference/technology coordinator has created your sites, YOU need to create an account for yourself (so we have your class information on file!). Go to, click on “log in” and then log in using your existing MUSE username/password (if you have one) or click on “create new account.” When an account is created, it may take up to 24 business hours for it to be approved before you can register.
  4. Before you can register for a program, you must link your account with the appropriate site in our database. To do that, go to your account information (click on your username which is displayed on the upper right hand corner of the website when you are logged in) and then click on the “sites” tab. Click on “other sites,” scroll to find your site and then click “join.” Congrats! You’re now linked to a site!
  5. After your account is approved, you’ll see dates, times and “register now” links on all MAGPI program pages when you are logged into the website. Go to the Digital Flat Stanley project webpage, click “Register Now,” accept the terms and YOU’RE REGISTERED!

I realize that registering for a project the first time using our new system is a bit of a process; however, any time you want to register for a future program – all you will need to do is log in and click “register.”

Please note that if you participated last year, your class wiki page from last year’s project has been archived. We will be creating new templates for registered participants next week - - look for information from me after you register for the program. Please don't go in, delete last year's information and update your old page. We'd like to save those as an archival history of the project!

Thanks! Looking forward to working with all of you on this project and to another fabulous school year!