Today one of my colleagues sent a link to “How One Teacher Uses Twitter in the Classroom,” the story of University of Texas at Dallas History Professor, Monica Rankin’s use of Twitter. The included Youtube video has a number of interviews with students describing why this is a such a useful tool.
This is a great way to address the multiple modes of interacting with text and a quick way to compare texts. Now, we just need something that figures out if those are synonyms that have been used so frequently! Guess we’ll need teachers for a few months more!
I’ve been asked to meet with a colleague to discuss what a smart classroom should look like in a school of education today. The jumping off question was “What kind of SmartBoard should we get?” That got me thinking about the way to think about the whole design.
The first thing I’d want to think about is how to structure the classroom so that the teacher isn’t always the center of the classroom. But I know most higher ed classrooms and most K-12 classrooms still look like the teacher talking and the students listening so how can we rework that model.
Recommendation 1: Install 2 projectors and 2 good projection spaces
That will give us a place for presentations, display of data, and all the things we’d do in a one projector classroom. Projector 2 gives us a chance for some joint exploration of the ideas of the class. Two of the primary ways to accomplish this are using a Google Jockey and setting up Live Blogging. Right now my favorite tool for accomplishing this is CoverItLive. The client gives lots of options for setting up a live blog and managing the session, which can subsequently be posted on the web in the class blog or wiki.
That leads to my next recommendation.
Recommendation 2: Share the knowledge collection tasks with students
Recommendation 3: Use Web 2.0 tools for collaborating and sharing the class information
Too often higher ed faculty want to protect their lectures and notes from others who might copy them. But this is exactly counter to the way we expect students to collaborate and develop 21st century skills. By default all of our work is copyrighted. An easy way to demonstrate that collaboration is important and valued is to simply add a Creative Commons license to everything that is posted.
Recommendation 4: Use K-12 standard technologies to prepare future teachers
Back to purchases… There are a few tools that teachers will encounter as they move into the professional work place.
SMART Boards. I know there are lots of competing interactive whiteboard products, but SMART Boards have become the Kleenex of this space. The rich community of educators and the depth of lesson suport from the company puts this one out achead of the others.
Inspiration and Kidspiration. Again, there are lots of competing products both free and commercial, but these two have emerged as leaders because of both the community and the company.
Probes and probeware.
Laptops. I’d rather see every student bring their own, but it may be necessary to offer at least a few in the classroom.
Recommendation 5: An annual budget
The day this classroom opens, it will no longer be state of the art. A year later it will be laughably embarrassing to call it cutting edge. If we have a commitment to leading with technology then it is essential to look at this as an ongoing investment in the quality of education and that takes a commitment every year.
Been having a good time this week really being a geek again!
My project has been to make my own Wii Whiteboard as developed originally by Johnny Lee of Carnegie Mellon and featured at the 2008 TED conference. This let’s you use your $40 Wiimote, a homemade <$10 IR Lightpen, and any surface in place of a commercial $1000+ whiteboard system. You bring the computer and the projector and here’s the rest of the story.
The basic idea here is to use the Wiimote’s infrared camera to point at an infrared light source and relay that information back to the computer via Bluetooth. As with so many other projects, the Wiimote projects have had most of their development on the Windows side and there are many variants of the software around the web. Although there are fewer choices, the ones I found did the job just fine.
So, what’s needed.
First, you need to connect your Wiimote to your computer via Bluetooth. On the Mac, that deed is done quite simply through the System Preferences. Fire up the Blootooth control panel and add the Wiimote by pressing both the 1 and 2 buttons simultaneously when it’s time to have the device discovered.
Second, let’s just try to use the Wiimote as a remote mouse. For this task, the best software I found was Darwiin Remote. Again, a few little tricks. Although the directions tell you to press the software’s “Find Remote” button and then the Wiimote’s 1 and 2 buttons simultaneously, I found it worked more reliably if you do it the other way around. So, press 1 and 2 and your 4 LEDs will be flashing. Press the “Find Remote” button and you get confirmation that the Wiimote is all hooked up.
One more thing to take care of here. You’ll need to open the Darwiin Remote buttons and define the left click and right click. I used the A and B buttons since that felt most natural.
You could stop right here and have a remote mouse and amaze your friends! But let’s get to the really interesting stuff!
Third, you’ll need an Infrared Lightpen to turn the whole setup into an interactive whiteboard. The complete directions can be found on Johnny Lee’s site but there are variations all over the place. The best directions I found were on Youtube.
This will give you a good grounding in the electronics, even if you are as much of a novice as me! This other Youtube video gives a simpler version, but you need to find the right pen. I found it useful for the closeup of the diode.
Fourth, you need the software to turn that funky IR pen into a true Interactive Whiteboard tool. That’s the Wiimote Whiteboard software. In this case, the Mac version. The simplest way to get this running is to press the 1 and 2 buttons on your Wiimote and then launch the software. You’ll now be able to calibrate the pen and from there it can be used as a your Whiteboard mouse complete with left and right mouse buttons.
The biggest hurdles from here are tuning your setup of the projector, screen and Wiimote considering all our options.
For many years I have been a great fan of WebQuests. They were really the hot ticket in the Wild West days of the Web back in the ’90′s. However, I think the time has come to move on and here’s my reasoning.
Second, the benefits of WebQuests in the late ’90′s have largely been overcome in the wake of Web improvements.
WebQuests were a great way for teachers to organize resources, but we now have del.icio.us accounts which are far richer and offer tag clouds that encourage broader thinking. We also have Wikipedia which predigests a lot of this for us and sends us off to great resources.
WebQuests were a way for teachers and students to become more familiar with the Web…’nuff said.
WebQuests provide a framework for scaffolding higher-order thinking…uh oh.
So now that we are in 2007, WebQuests no longer really do scaffold higher-order thinking.
In most cases, the task is laid out for students right from the start so they are robbed of the higher-order thinking required to solve some problem set out for them and which the resources presented might support them in that thinking. To be fair, I looked at the WebQuest page and found these exemplars, which still have these problems. Tom March, one of the co-creators, tried to move the concept forward with his BestWebQuests.com and provides The 7 Red Flags:
Warning Signs when Sifting WebQuests.
The rich resources and search tools available on the Web now offer great opportunities for students collect, evaluate, and share resources. We’d be much better off helping students find resources that solve problems if the goal is to scaffold higher-order thinking.
If any more convincing is needed, just take a look at Instant WebQuests which encourages you to "Create a WebQuest in 15 Minutes." So much for thoughtful curriculum development.
But, I do believe (and taught for many years) that WebQuests were a great model for teaching with technology. I still believe that was true only now I think we’ve moved on by learning from these. Thanks, Bernie Dodge and Tom March! (BTW, both are still doing great work and a look at Dodge’s Blog gives a hint that he might be sharing my point of view … One Trick Pony!)