ExploraVision Competition Addresses STEM Concerns

The Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards Program competition is now in its 19th year. The program addresses many of the concerns addressed by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs across the country.

The ExploraVision program, sponsored by Toshiba and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), challenges teams of 2-4 students to research scientific principles and current technologies as the basis for designing innovative technologies that could exist in 20 years.

Students on the four first-place ExploraVision winning teams will each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond valued at maturity. Students on second-place teams will each receive a $5,000 bond valued at maturity.

Teachers can learn more about ExploraVision and how to use it as a tool in the classroom through a series of Web Seminars at the NSTA Learning Center  starting Wednesday, September 15, 2010.

For more information visit http://www.exploravision.org

Share Your Stories of Global Collaboration

Word comes from Julie Lindsay (China) and Vicki Davis (USA) that their group, Digi Teen, has put out a call for digital collaboration stories for a book they will be doing with Pearson Publishing.

DigiTeen is Digital Citizenship for Teenagers and I have written about them here before. It's a great K-12 project that has won numerous awards.

They are looking to create a book that teaches how to connect classrooms on a global basis.

Has global collaboration changed your view of the world?
Has it improved some area of your life?
Established friendships that you still maintain?
Was it a positive experience? Negative?
What lesson did you learn from the project?

If you want to share your story of collaboration by emailing it to story@flatclassroombook.com  If your story is selected, they will email you a permission form and confirmation of the text selected (if edited) for the book.

Visit Digi Teen

Seven Steps To Flatten Your Classroom


I didn't make it to ISTE 2010, but I have been following some of the tweets and posts on it. One group that I have been following for awhile is the Flat Classroom Project.

They are doing a session at ISTE called "Seven Steps to Flatten Your Classroom" about the steps to connect your classroom locally and globally to create meaningful and authentic learning communities using Web 2.0 tools and emerging technologies. They have a Ning Discussion online too.

The Flat Classroom Projects have picked up a number of education awards and connected thousands of students, educators and education leaders around the world. They are structured on a pedagogy that embraces emerging technologies to harness the energy of creative learning.

The presentation shares this seven step pedagogy:

STEP 1 - Connection: Connect yourself, connect your administration, connect your students locally and then globally (taxonomy of global connection)

STEP 2 - Communication: Synchronous and asynchronous approaches - The flat classroom using educational networking as a unifying asynchronous communication tool. In conjunction with collaboration tools such as a wiki and along with teacher cooperation and organization skills classrooms can communicate effectively and develop ongoing relationships. The classrooms may then cooperate with objectives, projects, and assignments created on these common platforms. However, the effective flat classroom structure has both synchronous and asynchronous communication methods.

STEP 3 - Citizenship: Digital citizenship - how to be a Digiteacher - Digital Citizenship education starts at a young age as we cover all of the aspects of digital citizenship with elementary education including topics of access, safety, digital citizenship, etc. in walled gardens or by adopting a webkinz and moving towards open participation in educational spaces during the high school years.

STEP 4 - Contribution and Collaboration: How to measure and verify the quality of online participation using Web 2.0 tools. Collaboration obstacles and how to overcome these. How to involve the global community.

STEP 5 - Choices: Differentiating instruction with Technology

STEP 6 - Creation: Blooms Taxonomy & 21st Century Learning Objectives

STEP 7 - Celebration: Virtual global student presentations and summits

All of this started with reading Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat.

The folks behind the project:

Julie Lindsay, current E-Learning Coordinator at Beijing (BISS) International School, China. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, over the past 10 years she has been teaching and leading the use of technology in schools in Zambia, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Qatar and now China.

Vicki Davis is a teacher and the IT director at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia. Vicki co-created three award winning international wiki-centric projects, the Flat Classroom project, the Horizon project, and Digiteen. These projects have linked more than 500 students from both public and private schools in such countries as Austria, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Spain, Qatar and the US. These collaborative projects harnessing the most powerful Web 2.0 tools available including wikis, blogs, digital storytelling, podcasts, social bookmarking, and more.

High School Connections

Next week I will be involved in doing our first High School Connections seminar as part of  Passaic County Community College's Writing Initiative. We are in year three of this five-year grant from the Department of Education’s Strengthening Hispanic Serving Institutions Program (Title V). The grant itself is aimed at increasing achievement and program completion rates of students by integrating critical thinking, information literacy and technology into writing.

ripplesA component of the Writing Initiative is to make connections with the area high schools that send students to the college, and next year to connect with the 4-year colleges where our students often matriculate after completing their Associate degrees. It's what I think of as part of sending out more ripples from the center of the Initiative. We are looking to collaborate with teachers from area schools to introduce writing assignments into classrooms across disciplines.

We want these connections to work both ways. PCCC already has dual enrollment programs in English and other subjects in place. We want to explore improving student success by providing a learner-centered environment, and provide faculty professional development opportunities that support student success.

There's a lot of research that shows that the integration of critical thinking and writing skills into all classrooms helps student performance and understanding of the discipline being taught. We are interested more in the idea of "writing to learn" than the typical English classroom "learning to write" model.

These two-day seminars are full of collaborative activities designed to strengthen the integration of critical thinking and writing skills, and are based in some of what we have learned in redesigning 20 of our General Education courses as writing-intensive course sections the past three years.

We ask each teacher to bring to the seminar on day one a writing activity "greatest hit" - a lesson that always seems to work. It can be anything from a prewriting activity to a follow-up to a larger assignment. It should be something that can be done in 1 or 2 class periods (not a long term assignment such as a research activity).

We also ask them to bring a writing "lesson-in-progress" that they have used less successfully but believe has potential, or a lesson that you are hoping to develop but need some help creating.

We have lots of questions, including:
What are the top 5 things should PCCC know about what your school and students are doing in regards to writing?
Does your school have: a writing center; writing across the curriculum program; portfolios; or writing magazine?
What would you like to know about the expectations that PCCC has for entering students?
What might a college (PCCC and others) offer to your school that would improve your ability to use writing?

From the applications we received, it was clear that teachers were interested in using technology to teach writing - but it was also clear that the public schools put amny restrictions on their ability to do so. We asked them "What technology works and doesn't work in your classroom?"

One way to answer that question before the seminars is to have them just try out a series of web links from their school computers to see what works and what is blocked. I invite anyone of you in a school setting to try the links and leave a comment about the results. It's an informal survey about access issues in K-12 schools.

This week on Serendipity35, I will concentrate on posts related to high school connections.