The Constant Learner

Excitement for the New School Year!

Why am I excited for the new school year? Thanks for asking, here’s why:

1. My school is entering into a new technology initiative after two years of research, professional development and infrastructure upgrades. This year each of our incoming freshmen will receive a MacBook laptop for use in school and at home. Our upperclassmen will be able to “Bring Your Own Technology.” Although not my original plan, this dual program will allow our administration to evaluate from students, parents and our faculty the pros and cons of both. Given financially realities the BYOT program may realistically become our future!

2. A New Cell Phone Policy (Well, sort of..) This year student will be able to carry phones on their person. (Ugh, gasp,what?) Yes, surprise to many our old policy of having students leave their phone in the lockers was not the most effective policy. As well, each year we find an increasing number of students with smart phones. However, our new policy is not completely opening the doors to phone use throughout school. We have decided to allow students to carry their phones. Phones are expected to be off while in students possessions. In class the ability to use a smart phone will be decided by the individual teacher. If a teacher is not comfortable with allowing the use of cell phones during the class students will be expected to keep the phone turned off.

3. (What I am most excited about!! –>) I am most looking forward to teaching my Marketing and Web 2.0/PLN class and utilizing these devices each day!! The flexibility, resources, collaboration, communication, presentations and other great things the students will be able to utilize to assist their learning is tremendous!

Leading into each year is like preparing for your favorite sport. You plan, practice, assess, practice, plan, and then go! After your initial launch you must once again go through the process to make sure you are on the correct track. The big difference in preparation vs the game is finally having the ability to put on the jersey or uniform. You have finished, “going through the motions” and are able to get into it for real!! While my school year is still officially a few weeks away, the anticipation is growing!

Have a great year in your students’ learning and your own learning!

Final Assessment

It has been a great year for the Bonner & Prendergast Web 2.0/PLN class! We have made great connections, learned from each other and learned from many throughout the world.

It is now time for our final assessment!  For the final assessment of the year the students will host a Student Chat(#stdntchat) on Twitter. The Student Chat will take place on Wednesday, June 1stfrom 8-9 p.m. This is a new adventure and may be difficult to get off the ground given it is the end of the year. A Twtpoll will be posted on Tuesday. Will you join my students in this new venture? Will you encourage your students to participate?  The chat will have moderators and an adult presence.

Student Chat is designed (in the great words of Shannon Miller) to give students a voice! These topics are ones selected by students. It will provide a forum where students can discuss their education with peers and adults. The chat will arranged and moderated by students. As always, the chat is to be respectful and appropriate. This is a time to respectfully agree and disagree, and most importantly provide a medium for the voice of our students!

If you would like to vote on a topic of discussion, please click here.

PLN/Web 2.0 ~ Assistance Requested for My Students

My PLN/Web 2.0 class is beginning a new assignment to assist our school in moving forward with integrating technology. The students are each creating a lesson plan in a subject area of their interest. I am requesting assistance from my PLN for my students. I hope to connect my students with educators currently integrating technology within their lessons. Depending on the preference of the educator and student you may connect utilizing Skype, email, twitter, or another medium of your choice. Following the creation of a lesson plan, the students will present their lesson to the faculty members in the individual departments.

The areas of interest are: Business, Psychology, Math, Spanish, and English.

If you are interested, please complete this form.

Your time and talents for this project are greatly appreciated!

Guest Post – “One Thought: A High School Student’s Perspective on Education and Technology”

I am proud to once again post a student as a guest writer. Nick K. is a junior in the Bonner Division of Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School. He is also a member of the #vanmeterbpchs PLN/Web 2.0 class. This article was originally posted on Nick’s blog. Please enjoy and feel free to comment.

One Thought: A High School Student’s Perspective on Education and Technology

The current technological revolution is altering the way society functions as a whole. Developments in technology have shifted fundamental characteristics of society like transportation, architecture, communication, and education. People no longer travel by foot and by animal, but instead they travel by automobiles and by airplanes. People no longer use caves and mud houses as shelter, but instead they use skyscrapers and quaint suburban homes. People no longer communicate through smoke signals and handwritten letters, but instead they communicate with telephones and the internet. Yet, education has not accompanied these other fundamentals of society as they have progressed into the age of technology. Students are still educated in classrooms with rows of desks while a teacher relays information to them on the subject matter for the student to absorb, so they can spit it back on a test. With the societal shift to an age of technology, the structure of the education system should progress along with the other aspects of society.

In a recent survey, corporations produced a list of four features that they want their employees to possess: the ability to think critically, the ability to communicate effectively, the ability to collaborate with others, and the ability to be creative. The expectation that people are able to retain information for a test is not practical in the modern workforce. This is not to say that the information being taught is worthless, but the current manner of teaching and learning this valuable information is archaic and ineffective for students in the modern world.

The current structure of the education system worked tremendously during an age when populations were educated for a short period and then placed into the mines, factories, and various other blue-collar work environments. The workforce has evolved into a modern workforce that requires a new set of service oriented and technology-based skills. The growth of the internet and the development of technological devices such as laptops, tablets, and smart phones have created these new set of skills that students will need to possess as they enter the modern workforce. Educators need to accept that this change is happening, so that they can adequately prepare their students for the twenty-first century work environment.

Apple Corporation published a recent statistic that sixty percent of their revenue comes from products that did not exist three years ago. Progression in society used to take decades or sometimes centuries to come to fruition; however, today’s society is changing more quickly. The fact that the majority of Apple Corporation’s products were not in existence three years ago demonstrates how quickly people need to adapt to these new technologies. Educators need to educate themselves in the appropriate use of these technologies that will best aide their student’s in their education and their future endeavors.

The typical classroom consists of four walls encompassing students, desks that were designed a century ago, environmentally unfriendly textbooks, a pulpit for the teacher to speak from, a board with notes scribbled on for students to copy verbatim, and an expert in some subject spitting information at their students as they quickly write what the teacher says in their notebook. Does this mundane and conventional system work? Yes, classrooms structured in that fashion have worked for centuries. Then why would society want to change something that works? Just because a system works well does not mean it cannot be improved. Access to the plethora of information, resources, tools, people, and ideas that exist in the online community enhances the classroom experience. The answer is not to decimate the physical classroom and go completely online. The online community will never replace entirely the conventional classroom. The online community, however, needs to be incorporated into the classroom properly, so that students can render the highest potential of their academic learning experience.

Human ingenuity has significantly facilitated the progression of society; however, this progression does not come to society without any repercussions. In the film, Inherit the Wind, the lawyer who is defending the teaching of evolution in schools says, “Progress has never been a bargain; you have to pay for it.” Teachers have always been seen as the expert of the subject matter that they are teaching, and their job has been to teach their students the set curriculum. If society moves away from the conventional classroom to a classroom integrated with technology, the role of the teacher will expand. Not only will teachers be able to teach their students the lesson plan, they also will have to mentor their students as they enter into the vast online community. Students will now have access to an infinite amount of resources online, but not all of them are appropriate for academic purposes. There is an unlimited number of websites available to students for positive academic, social, and networking purposes, but there are also websites that could be potentially harmful to the wellbeing of students.

However, these consequences can be curtailed. Once society integrates the conventional classroom with technology, educators will have the responsibility to teach their students the application and importance of appropriate and acceptable technology use. Students must learn how to become digital citizens, members of the online community who act responsibly while using the internet. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are popular among students today, but inappropriate language, images, and comments plague these sites frequently. The reason that the aforementioned behavior exists is not that these sites invite such incongruous behaviors. The reason is that adults condemn these sites, forcing their children to learn how to use these sites unguided, or adults treat these sites as “no big deal” or “just a fad,” which also forces children to learn how to use the sites unguided. Teachers need to educate students on the proper use of the tools and websites on the internet, so that students can use the internet correctly and safely.

Society has shifted from one based on blue-collar labor to a fast paced, technology-based society that demands certain skills like collaboration, effective communication, critical thinking, and creativity. In addition, the future workplace will require its employees to be educated in the applicable use of continually changing technology. The current education system is only somewhat effective in helping students achieve this height; however, for students to reach their highest potential, the current structure of the education system needs to adapt properly to changes in society and technology. This age of technology will alter the current learning environment by allowing students to communicate with their peers and additional educators across the globe, by allowing students to achieve their highest potential through the exploration of all aspects of academia, and by allowing students to experience the vast academic, social, and networking opportunities offered by the online community.

Guest Post ~ Leading the Way in Technology ~ Sr. Kathleen

I am proud to have a guest writer to my blog, Bridget G. Bridget is a senior in the Prendie Division at Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School.  During her years in high school Bridget has been involved in many activities including: cross-country, indoor and outdoor track, the Respect Life Club, Community Service Corps, National Honor Society, the school newspaper, and the school ministry team. She is a tremendous representative of our school community and I am privileged to post her writing here.  

Sr. Kathleen Looby, I.H.M.

Sr. Kathleen Looby, I.H.M.

The beginning of the 21st Century will forever be marked by advancements in technology.  Sister Kathleen Looby has embraced this great technological change.  Sister Kathleen teaches Theology to freshmen at Bonner & Prendergast Catholic High School.  She, too, attended and graduated from Prendie.  She then further continued her education at Immaculata University where she graduated with a major in Biology and Theology.  From there, Sister received an MA from Notre Dame Institute in conjunction with the Angelicum in Rome.  Sister Kathleen’s involvement in technology began when she worked in the new library at Immaculata.  Computer systems were replacing outdated filing systems, so everything in the library was being documented on the computer.  Maybe this foreshadows Sister’s interest in using computers as part of her teaching.

Sister Kathleen has always wanted to keep up with the times, whether that meant replacing cassettes with CDs or upgrading from movie rolls to DVDs.  Teaching the same curriculum every year can force a teacher into somewhat of a rut.  Students also grow disinterested or bored when a teacher simply lectures in front of the class.  Sister enjoys making her classes more relevant and interesting.  Sister Kathleen believes, and many will agree, that students learn better by doing rather than listening.  Students are more excited when they walk into class and see the computers on their desk instead of notes to copy.  Time is better spent actually engaging in the learning.

Computers open many educational opportunities.  Sister Kathleen has her students access the Internet and Google to find articles for information about the formation of the Bible and the location of important Biblical places.  This in depth information is not always available in an ordinary textbook.  Quizlet and Wordle make memorizing theology terms easier and more fun.  Learning to present in front of peers is a valuable lesson to learn and develop.  This is done through Sister’s use of both PowerPoint and Prezi.  Every student already knows how to use YouTube, but now students use it for educational videos and spiritual music.

Sister Kathleen hopes using technology in her classes will benefit her students both now and in the future.  She wants to develop skills in thinking critically and collaborating with each other.  Sparking her students’ creativity is another added plus of using technology.  The ability to find, organize, and communicate information well and efficiently is important for being good students and good workers.

Technology is becoming part of people’s everyday life.  It is important to bring that aspect of students’ life into the classroom.  Technology is important for advancing in this world, so learning how to use it properly is necessary to excel.

Four EduCon 2.3 Takeaways

It has now been a few days to reflect, read blogs and collect my own thoughts on EduCon 2.3. As stated in George Couros’ blog post, I, as well, left EduCon feeling exhilarated yet not wanting to run back to my school to implement immediate change. Why? If a conference is so positive why not implement the great ideas shared? Simple. We are currently on the road reshaping our education!

Four Takeaways from EduCon 2.3:

Share:


The last session I attended summed up my thoughts on what we need to do, share! Alec Couros and Dean Shareski led a discussion on “The Ethical Obligation to Teach, Learn & Share Globally.” Given our technological advances the ability to share resources, knowledge and experiences among students, teachers and administrators is no longer a question. It will only benefit the learning of our students each day as they enter our learning environments. As well, in the session the discussion also touched on Creative Commons and licensing your work for proper attribution.

Collaborate:


The challenge in attending a great conference, like EduCon, is there are so many interesting conversations with only limited time. I attended the conference with two other educators, Dana Patterson and Renee Greeley, both of Upper Darby School District. In advance of the conference we discussed this dilemma. Our solution, create a collaborative document to save our notes from the various conversations. During the conference I received a Tweets from Philip Cummings, John Carver and Deron Durflinger requesting access to the notes. Philip was attending the conference while John and Deron were watching the EduCon hashtag. While the notes were not extensive, we were able to collect important sites, resources and a general feel of the conversations we were not able to attend. Given the importance of Sharing and Collaborating, here are our notes if you care to view summaries of various conversations.


Be Educational Leaders, Regardless of Hierarchy
:


The opening Sunday session I attended was hosted by George Couros and Patrick Larkin. The intent of the conversation was to ask for assistance. George and Patrick understand the importance of connections among educators, yet also understand the resistance on behalf of many administrators. During the conversation, Patrick made a great point (I paraphrase) …Many times in education it is often explained as “us” vs. “them” (administrators vs. teachers), but we need to realize we are in education together and we must all be Educational Leaders.

We cannot forget why we are all in education, the students!

Importance of a PLN:

The top take away from EduCon 2.3 consists of the deep connections I have made with members of my PLN. I am extremely fortunate to have a wide array of educators from whom I am able to ask question, solicits recommendations, push my thinking and even talk sports. EduCon allowed me to meet many members of my PLN face to face for the first time. I was greeted with a big hug from Patrick Larkin! Patrick and I have Skyped many times this year discussing our schools’ shift to a 1:1 environment and our Web 2.0/PLN class. During the weekend I was able to meet for the first time face-to-face Lyn Hilt, Tony Baldasaro George Couros, Alec Couros, Philip Cummings, Amanda Dykes, Gwyneth JonesTim Gwynn, Michelle Baldwin, Cory Plough, Beth Still, Pete Rodrigues, Kristina Peters, Jamie JosephsonNick Provenzano, and Yoon Soo Lim. While these names are only a few I also had a tremendous opportunity to deepen connections with members of my PLN whom I have been fortunate to interact with over the past year.

In a simple statement, my PLN pushes my thinking; they improve me!

Appreciation:

A “Thank You” must go out to Chris Lehmann and all the students and teachers at SLA for a great experience, once again!!

A Proud Teacher ~ 21st Century Learning

#vanmeterbpchs Philly GroupToday was a really cool day for our Web 2.0/PLN class.  And with this really cool day, it happened to happen on the day of Blog for Reform.  The Web 2.0/PLN class has been mentioned in this blog, as well as our expected move to a 1:1 environment in the 2011-2012 school year.

It was today, during class, where I had an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the tremendous growth of my students.  Today the class had an opportunity to Skype with the newspaper writers from Martin Luther King High School in Philadelphia, Ann Leaness‘ school. This was the first opportunity in which all of the students were able to be interviewed about  the class.

What impressed me was how they worked together in preparation for the interview and during the interview.  Approximately ten weeks ago was our first Skype session  with Van Meter.  My students were shy and unsure of how to communicate via this new medium.  Today, they were polished!  They presented themselves in a manner which allowed each member of the class to present their opinions to each of the questions asked of them.

After class I went back to my office and took a look at our school’s 21st Century Learning Criteria. (A collaboration of Daggett’s work and the work of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning)  As I reviewed our criteria, I reflected on the recently completed interview.  Very simply, I was proud!  The only direction I provided to my students was, “Ok, remember today we are going to Skype with a local high school newspaper staff about our class.”  From that point the students assembled themselves, collaborated on how they would approach the interview, and communicated extremely well during the interview about their expectations and experience thus far.

The class is a very broad based.  It is much more of a conversation of the tools the students use and new tools available for their use.  We only meet twice per week given our schedule.  However, in a relatively short period of time I have witnessed a group of individuals whom have come together to work as a team to be proud representatives of their learning.

When discussing 21st century learning, we often talk about the self-directed learner.  Today, I witnessed that learner!  One who is able to communicate effectively and work with others seamlessly.

I am very proud of my students.  As our school community continues to evolve I expect many similar days ahead!

Change…Like the Ocean’s Tide!

I am one who loves warm weather, sitting on the beach and relaxing looking out over one of God’s greatest creations, the ocean.  I am not an overly deep thinker.  However, one aspect of the ocean which I have always been in awe is that of the tide.  If you stare and look at the ocean you will see relatively little change, until that moment when the waves are lapping against your feet.  It is in the ocean’s tide that small, consistent and incremental change takes place.

For the past year-and-a-half to two years I have been researching the increasing number of 1:1 schools which exist in the U.S.  I have focused upon the reasons why they have decided to make this shift and the results seen in the students of these schools.  In 2009 I began the conversation with my administration and faculty.  In December of 2009 we began to meet as a formal committee.  If for nothing else it provided a topic of conversation, an opportunity for our community to dive into their own thoughts and feelings on the topic. As we progressed, conversation allowed for further research; research allowed for personal connections to be made and professional sharing to occur; and the personal connections have allowed for more thoughts, insights and opinions which allow for further growth!

As the spring turned to summer a new idea was sparked, that of a Web 2.0/Personal Learning Network class. This class is a collaborative project between our school and the Van Meter Community Schools.  When we entered the school year our Technology and Learning committee asked that all of our teachers utilize our existing technology (labs, netbook carts and laptop carts) two out of our six day cycle. During the third week of October we were blessed to have a group of educators from Van Meter and a technology integration specialist joined us for two days of professional development.  These two days were of tremendous benefit.  Following the workshops I heard teachers discussing Twitter, Wikis, Blogs, and many other tools and topics in the hallways of our school.

The icing on the cake was today, 10/28/10, when one of my teachers approached me with some great news.  (For some background, this teacher is a, now retired, 35 year Philadelphia Police Officer. He is in his second go-around with our school teaching Theology.)  I was preparing for my second period marketing class when he approached me along with our Business/Technology chair.  The chair said, “Mr. Brannick, Mr. Teacher would like to tell you something!”  Mr. Teacher then said, “I just finished my class wiki!” As he said these words, I saw a smile which displayed the true sense of pride he had in his accomplishment.  It was a great moment to be an educator!  I was humbled to share this moment my fellow educator and his accomplishment!  This is a small example of the growth our community is beginning to realize!

In reflection, our experience thus far as a community reminds me of the ocean’s tide. While looking closely there is little change.  However, when you step back to look at our journey thus far, our community has come a long way in a short amount of time!  I am proud to work with the educators I do on a daily basis!  We tend to push each other, question the right things to question and grow together as a community.  While our journey will never conclude, our path thus far has been one of  learning, sharing and overall growth.  It is not a sprint, it is a marathon!

Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, How about People…

Coming off a number of very busy, interactive and worthwhile professional development days I was looking for a bit of downtime to end the weekend.  I was provided with the opportunity to visit the grandmother of my beautiful significant other.  The grandmother, preparing to celebrate her upcoming 90th birthday, primarily lives alone with the help of family and visiting nurses.  Unfortunately, I have not had many opportunities to make this visit.

It was a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon.  We stopped by the house to say hello and spend some time talking.  As we settled in the tiny kitchen, I was taken aback by how similar the setting was to that of my late grandmother.  A small kitchen table with the newspaper sitting on top, a half-full cup of coffee that had been sitting for hours, vitamins in a zip-lock sandwich bag, and a small snack next to the coffee which had been nibbled on all morning.

As we settled in, the conversation began slowly.  The typical updates of each family member and the expected discussion of the Phillies loss the night before.  Soon after, the focus took a quick turn.  We began to discuss what was right and wrong with the world of today.  We talked about society, education and parenting.  And as we talked, we moved further and further back in time.  A time, in grandmother’s mind, that she remembered vividly.  A time not all too uncommon from today.  We were told short stories about the Depression and the struggles of her family.  We then moved to World War II and discovered that her husband didn’t go to war was because of a pair of bad feet.

In these discussions, a passion began to come through for a wish she holds near to her heart.  Before she takes her last breath on this earth (years from now) she desires to have true peace within our world.  A truly worthy yet complex wish!  However, as the ways to achieve this may be debated, a simple thought came from her mind.  It was a though which we all play a significant role.  She went on to say, “Before we change things internationally, we must change things locally!”  Wow!  How simply yet appropriate for much in our world today!

Whether we are politicians, musicians, educators or preachers, we each have the power to improve the world in which we live.

From Concept to Reality…a Very Humbling Journey.

My journey into my PLN, Twitter and my own professional development has been documented in this blog.  My personal growth on Twitter and a growing relationship with the great folks at the Van Meter Community Schools was highlighted in my first post.  My own experience has taken me from one who truly doubted social media in education, while at the same time knowing little about it, to one who embraces this medium on a daily basis.

During my May visit to Van Meter I had a great experience and even better conversations.  In one of those conversations, Shannon McClintock Miller and I talked about teaching our students together about PLN’s.  She was completing her first year teaching a Web 2.0/PLN class and we discussed what an opportunity it would be to expand this learning experience to students outside of Iowa!  (Present me with an opportunity for my students to learn and count me in!)  The background of the class has been documented in our first class blog post, written by Shannon.

This post is not to rehash the background of how the class started, rather about the experience I have had since school has started.  On the Philadelphia side of this Web 2.0/PLN class, we are starting something new!  The background for the class was developed throughout the summer of 2010.  Only a few days before the school year started I was officially given the opportunity to speak with my students and parents about the class itself.  I had a relatively small yet very spirited turn-out for the meeting about the class.  All of those who came to hear about the class signed-up for the class.  A great start indeed!!

Our time together has been relatively short.  However, I have seen the eyes of my students wide open!  I have seen a willingness of each of the students to stay after the “bell!”  (I am running the class as an extra-curricular class/activity; therefore, no formal ending.)  The students don’t want to run out of the room when I say we’re done.  Best of all, we have had some great conversation!  Conversation about what they post to the Internet, about what tools they can utilize to use their time more efficiently and how to connect with those around the world.

When Shannon Miller wrote the post about the class, I literally had tears in my eyes.  (I am proud to say I can be an emotional person!)  The reason for my teary eyes…because I have had the opportunity to see students energized, interested and engaged with others their age about how to grow as an individual!

I am humbled by the willingness of Shannon, the students of Van Meter and the students of my school, Bonner & Prendie, to allow me to experience this with you.  Each of you are my inspiration to become better each day!  Thank you for your support, trust and respect!