Thursday, October 30, 2008

This I Believe Goes Global

For the past two years, I have had my classes write their versions of National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” segment. I was introduced to this idea by a colleague and have been always impressed by what my students hold as their personal values and beliefs. Writing these essays has allowed for them to do something they don’t get to do all that often at school - express their heartfelt beliefs. After writing the essays the first year, we submitted them to NPR, but we also decided to podcast them ourselves – no need to wait to see if NPR might choose to broadcast them. The writing was good at expressing their values, but once their voice was added to their written expression, WOW, it simply transformed that personal essay. Instead of the words simply being words, the words conveyed deeply held emotions. Now, this is the standard.
Previous class examples:

Period 2 06-07
Period 5 06-07
Period 3 06-07
Period 2 07-08
Period 5 07-08
Period 3 07-08

We are approaching that time of year, when I am going to start the kids on this writing adventure, but this year I wanted to add a little twist with the help of you out there in the blog-o-sphere. I want “This I Believe” to go global. I want my students to benefit not only from knowing what their peers believe, or what the other AHS classes believe, but to hear and see what the world values. What do kids elsewhere in the U.S. believe in? What do kids elsewhere in the world believe in? What do some of the learned professionals that I know believe in? I want my students to walk away from this experience realizing the power they have as professional writers as well as connecting to other teenagers and adults from around the world. I want to see them exchange ideas, foster relationships, and appreciate the variety of perspectives.

So, how do we accomplish this? Karl Fisch, of course, is willing to be my master facilitator. He has set up a wiki (still a work in progress) that will provide the guidelines for the classes to follow. I am making Maura Moritz’s classes join us in this experience, too, so there will be four classes (ninth grade, 14 and 15 years old) from AHS writing and podcasting their essays: Moritz 3, Moritz 4, Smith 2, and Smith 5. We are hoping to attract at least three other classes from around the world, one each to pair up with each of our four classes. If we get more than four classes that are interested, then we will try to pair up any additional classes with another class somewhere in the world. If your class(es) are interested, email Karl with some basic information (your name, school name, location, grade level(s)/ages, how many classes, and time frame that you’d like to do this) so we can setup those partnerships. (Our thinking is that pairing one class with one class will keep this from becoming too overwhelming for the students, although of course anyone can read/listen/comment to any of the essays on any of the wiki pages).

We will create a wiki page for each set of paired classes and each student will upload their written essay as well as their podcast (the podcast can either be uploaded directly to the wiki, or you can use a variety of other services for that and then link to them). Each pair of classes will be in charge of their own wiki page and we’ll use the discussion tabs on each page to give feedback to the students. If you are an adult interested in writing a piece yourself, simply add them to the “adults” page on the wiki. I am hoping to get some notable edubloggers as well as my superintendent, CIO, and others to participate. It would also be helpful to include a brief bio so the kids can know who they are reading about.

Obviously you don’t have to do this with us or on our wiki, you can create your own. But we thought it might be interesting and helpful to have one wiki that aggregated all these essays/podcasts, one place that students (and others) could visit to learn about beliefs all over the world.

Wondering where to start? NPR has a number of education friendly links to help you along the process:
For Educators
For Students
Essay writing tips
How to contribute an essay to NPR

Timeline: For our classes we are going to start writing our essays, November 6th with a final due date of November 14th. The following week they will begin podcasting their essays. The paired classes don’t have to match this timeline exactly (although that would be great), but we’re hoping they can have theirs completed by the first week of December so that the students can start commenting on each other’s essays/podcasts.

But for other pairings you can set whatever time frame works best for you – that’s the beauty of the wiki, it’s a living document with no “end” to the assignment (although that’s why we need you to include your time frame when you email us so that we can try to match folks up). We would really appreciate any feedback (now or as this progresses) to make this an experience that is truly relevant and meaningful for these kids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wonder Woman Rides Again

It's that time of year again when my students become famous Country Western composers of songs in tribute to Wonder Woman defender of all that is good and just with her golden bracelts that defelct bullets and her lasson of truth that makes all succumb to her will. I won't even get into her amazing mental telepathy powers.

We have used this week's SAT vocab words along with Wonder Woman's best traits to compose these masterpieces. The vocab words were bleak, bravado, boycott, brash, blight, blithe, boorish, brusque, bombastic, and boisterous. I have attached the lyrics as well as the sound file so please take a listen and provide some feedback for these modern day musical marvels.

Period 2:
MEAWRCBT2 (song)
Car Full of Gold


ABCCBCAD (lyrics)




TLKLJS (lyrics)

TLKLJS (song)

Period 5:

MGKWSSK lyrics



SRASRASJSLF song background



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Learning Adventure 1

Between now and next Monday, download Finale Notepad from and compose a piece of music.

Share your reflections, questions and work-in-progress with your cadre members. Think about your own thinking and learning along the way. Make notes, keep a journal or blog if you wish.
Feel free to use any resources at your disposal for inspiration or assistance.

The more you share, the more you will learn.

A few considerations:
I realize there are better more powerful pieces of music composition available. However, Finale Notepad is 1) Free and 2) Cross-platform. Therefore, NO you can't use another piece of software (at least visible to the rest of us). Using a common tool provides a common experience and language for assisting/inspiring one another.

Everyone has different experience levels and areas of expertise. This is what makes the learning adventures interesting.

Day One:
Ok- so this is going to definitely force (not push) me out of my comfort zone. I am the kid who took countelss piano lessons as a child only to be told when I switched to playing the clarinet in middle school, that music wasn't for me. My 8th grade band teacher and I apparently did not see eye to eye on my playing abilities. My friends even make fun of me for my lack of musical talent. Nevertheless, I love music. I love listening to music, being at concerts, singing my guts out in the car (of course, with no one else to listen), so this is going to be an adventure. I guess I could correlate this learning experience a little to what Dewey talks about. I have not had good prior experiences with music. Practice always seemed punishing to me, teachers scolded me for not doing it right, and thus, I never liked playing music. I just wasn't good at it. Maybe if I have a better experience and live in the moment of creating this piece it will be like what Dewey wrote, "we always live at the time we live and not some other time, and only by extracting at each present time the full meaning of each present experience are we prepared for doing the same thing in the future (Dewey 49). I might not be creating music in the future, but this experience I hope will carry forth some meanign for me in the future to apply to my own learning and my students.

Day Two:Today I presented my kids with the task that Gary assigned. I asked them if they would like to do this learning adventure with me. You should have heard their reaction! Oh my goodness, they were ecstatic. So, tomorrow during second hour 9th grade honors English, we are composing music... Oh what a learning adventure it will be. Anyone want to Skype in their class to join us? We will be figuring it out from 8:25- 9:24 am MST . Some of the kids wrote down the program to try it out tonight.

I am getting excited about this because of their enthusiasm. Usually it seems I am the one pepping them up and this time they are doing it. What a change in the role of the teacher to the student. We had to listen to a little Journey today to inspire us for tomorrow, "Don't Stop Believing"

Day Three:
Here is the link to my Learning Adventure:

If you want to leave a comment, can you do so on the blog, so that my students can read it. My school is working on unblocking the use of MUS files so I uploaded an MP3 version of their song. Once the MUS file is unblocked the period 2 file will become active. But check out the cool adventure we had with this assignment.

Learning Adventure 2

Download and install Celestia -

Decide on a question you would like to answer by using the Celestia software and keep track of your learning process.

Day One:
My intial learning is that for some reason Celestia isn't working on my computer. I have downloaded thr program three times and it doesn't seem to want to work. When I open it, I receive a large screen of black and then it reports that it has encoutered an error and needs to close. So, as far as getting some questions answered, I would like to ask Celestia, "Why won;t you work on my computer?" Maybe my students can figure it out :)

Day Two:
So I finally got Celestia to download onto my computer (It is going to be a good day People!) and am going to spend today looking through the tutorials. One thing I notice is that it seems like we can record video of our space adventure (albeit a learning adventure). I am a visual learner and so it will be fun to show my own journey of learning.

The question in my head that I want to explore is if we can explore at different times of history, could we look at the changes in the earth that may be results of global warming? I am going to do this learning adventure at first by myself, but this weekend, I want to spend some time going through this with my own children. Jackson is fascinated by space. His room is the solar system, and I am anxious to see what he wants to learn from the experience as well.

Day Three:
Today I spent a better part of the night goi ng over the manual and demo for Celestia. I really enjoyed the demo. I am a big fan of camping and have always enjoyed looking at the stars and learning constellations so they demo was very intriguing. It also reminded me of taking my kids to the nature and science museum. Emma had an amazing preschool teacher who introduced her to the Wonderful World of Space. After her teacher showed her and her classmates about space, we joined the museum and spent many Sundays roaming through all the exhibits as well as taking in an IMAX show. Jackson is also a fan of space and I previously talked about, has his room decorated like the solar system. I guess the point I am trying to make is that just wandering around in Celestia reminded me of what it was like to be a kid. I loved rotating the plants, zooming from star to star, and recalling the different constellations I have learned over the years. Orion is still my favorite.

On a side note, I was actually trying to answer my question about seeing global climate change today, when I showed Celestia to some of my colleagues. They of course were fascinated and we started talking about my big question. One commented that her husband believes global warming is a natural occurrence that happens just like the darkened spots on the sun ( I was able to see this in the program and confirm that there are dark spots- too cool). I am not sure of what this all means, but it gave me something to think about in my pursuit of my question.
In pursuit of my question, I am trying to figure out how to go back in time with Celestia. Has anyone been able to figure that out yet? I see how to set the time backwards but it doesn’t seem to do anything.

No matter what, this weekend Jackson, Emma and I will be playing in the stars, and I am excited to take them along my learning adventure. I thought about recording the conversation as well are in Celestia to see their questions and reactions to the tool. We’ll see how it goes.

Overall reflection:
Here 's my Celestia learning reflection... Looking back over my previous posts about Celestia as well as remembering my ambivalence and uncertainty with using FinaleNotepad, I had great hopes with exploring the sky. I have been fascinated by space for quite some time. I grew up camping out under the stars, learning constellations from very inspriring teachers like Mr. Gardner in 8th grade, and of course, I was a kid who watched the replays of Christy McAuliffe and the Challenger space disaster. I also remember in 4th or 5th grade going to hear an astronaut speak about how you too can become an astronaut. So, with this learning adventure, I was quite excited to be given the go ahead to reignite this passion. When we were asked to develop a big question, I knew I wanted to look into the fields of global warming but was unsure of where to start and how to find what I was looking for. As with any new tool, I searched around for some tutorials and with assistance of my cadremates and Celestia, I watched the tutorials a few times.

Sadly, I couldn’t get Celestia to do what I wanted. I had envisioned my learning adventure to be something where I would go back in time and look at the Earth in the same position but at various increments of time. Would I see the change that Al Gore speaks so passionately about in An Inconvenient Truth? Would I see polar ice caps melting away? Would I see more deserts? Greater increases in the severity of weather? What changes would I notice for someone who has no “expert” training in these areas?

What I learned from this adventure was more about my reconnecting with something I love and how much my students know about space and global warming. Last year before Christmas, Jeff and I really thought hard about buying a telescope for our kids that we could use in the open space behind our house or that we could take camping. In a way, my exposure to this program makes me regret not going forward with that really expensive purchase. It would have been great to mimic what I am seeing in Celestia with what I could see out in my backyard. Another thing I learned is through my exploration in Celestia that Mars has polar ice caps as well. I spent some time comparing our caps on Earth to those of Mars. I wonder if any scientists are studying those similarities. I also learned that a number of scientists are spending time trying to figure out how to examine the darkened spot on the sun and their connection to our global climate changes. Also, I learned more from my students and colleagues. It has been interesting how captivated my students are with what I am doing in grad school. I think after the music learning adventure, they are intrigued with learning that looks so different. In fact, we ditched our lesson plan on Macbeth one day to just sit and talk about learning, the differences between middle school and high school, and began talking about grades. Then on Friday they were finishing their quiz on Macbeth and SAT words and asked me what I was doing on my computer. I talked to them about this learning adventure. They wanted to hear and see what I was doing. I talked to them about my idea of global warming I wanted to pursue and before you knew it, we all started talking about sun spots, glaciers melting, increases in heat and cold, etc…They knew so much that I wasn’t even aware of. I even had a couple of kids start researching right there and were having a great debate about global warming’s causes. I guess my overall reflection on what I learned about me from this adventure is that usually the tech piece is just a tool to make me think differently or allow for various conversations that might not have happened earlier to now happen. I am so thankful that I opened up my grad school world to my students. I feel like I am learning so much from them as well as feeling the infectiousness of their enthusiasm for doing things differently.

Tomorrow, I am going to spend some time in the program with my own kids. I will post the audio of that conversation tomorrow. I can’t wait till you get to meet Emma and Jackson. Will might chime in as well but trucks are his biggest entertainment at this point. Hopefully, it will all go well.

Learning Adventure 3- Suspended


Learning Adventure #3 - PowerPoint-Free Week

I am using my awesome power and authority to declare November 9-16, PowerPoint-Free Week and you're going to help.

This is a collective learning adventure where you will need to define portions of the task, delegate responsibilities and engage in effective project management. Play to your strengths!
You should use your various technical, communication and creative skills to leverage the World Wide Web (including Web 2.0 tools) to spread the word about this exciting event.

The first decision you need to make is whether this week will focus on schools and universities only or business as well.

Unlike most learning adventures, product quality matters this time. I do not view this as a theoretical activity, but one that can inspire action or at least thought.

If you completely disagree with the premise of this collective effort, you are welcome to write a minority report or "play along" as if this were a hypothetical event.

Elements of the learning adventure should include, but are not limited to:

An attractive easily-navigable web site containing vital information and links to support materials. A logo would be handy.

The case for PowerPoint-Free Week in print, web and other appropriate media. Supporting arguments are necessary.

Alternatives for using computers in other constructive ways.

Materials for different audiences - policy makers, teachers (perhaps even kids)

Public relations in print and on the web for spreading the word. In this case, Web 2.0 is your friend. This is a true test of the power of social networking to "change" the world.

I will present at several conferences before PowerPoint-Free Week, so I can spread the word and share any leaflets, white papers, technical briefings, etc... you create.

I can arrange for a Web domain for our use if necessary.

I am confident that you can make this a fantastic movement. This week, you be running a marketing, public relations, public advocacy and web design company.

Of course, your arguments should be supported by evidence and presented clearly for an audience of laypeople.


Learning Adventure 4


Sorry for being less active than normal. Aside from jetlag, the net access in Australia gets worse over time. There are serious bandwidth issues and ISPs are raising prices and metering use. Access in the hotel room where I am costs $27.50/day and if you use more than 50mb of downloads, the service will slow even more than it is. I'm currently using HPs in the hotel business center which sound like a 747 landing.

So, Learning Adventure #4 involves many of the issues and controversies regarding the World Wide Web. It plays to the humanities side of the cadre. Part 1 will take 4 days or so followed by a part 2.

Using the Web, Google Groups and any other resources or prior experience, answer the following question:

Is Ned Kelly a hero?

Feel free to debate, but as always be mindful of your thinking and keep track of your learning process.

Day One:
Here is a link to the letter he wrote , 56 pages , actually advocating for what he was trying to do.

Day Two:
As I am reading through Ned Kelly's letter I am learning a considerable amount about the man, his perspectives and his impressions of the law. It seems that no matter what he does (borrowing a neighbor's horse and not letting them know about it, attacking a officer of the law (but he didn't kill him- that is his excuse because he could have), he always seems to think he errs on the right side of the law.

Much of what I have read so far reminds me of our cheers for the bad guys we love to hate. It is like watching what the RoadRunner does to Wyle E Coyote. You want the RoadRunner to get caught, but you love watching him torment the coyote.

I am also fascinated by Ned's level of vocabulary and descriptive nature to his writing. One would think that an outlaw would not be that well educated, and yet this man is impressive comsidering the background I attributed to him.

I can't say yet whether I would consider him a hero, can you claim someone is a hero who defies the law? Robinhood? Braveheart? Gladiator? George Washington? Martin Luther King? Rosa Parks? Hmmm.....

Day Three:
'If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill-treat, my life will not entirely be thrown away.'- Ned Kelly

I think this speaks volumes about Ned Kelly and his claims for innocence. Throughout my reading of the letters Kelly wrote, although well written and descriptive, Kelly lays no claims to him being at fault. I think most of his life was lived at the expense of others. There was no sacrifice for the greater good. I made many connections to characters in literature whom are deemed heroic by actions, but in the end, their downfall was a tragic flaw: ambition, pride, revenge. Like Hamlet, Kelly was bent on revenge for both his family and his name. Macbeth draws another connection to Kelly in their pursuits to challenge the hierarchical system of government. Macbeth’s pursuits were ambitious leading to the deaths of not only himself, but all of his family. Although Kelly perished before his mother, he also lost everything (except maybe not his reputation?). Oedipus draws another connection to Kelly for his refusal to see the truth about himself. I guess although one can make the argument that he started the movement for Austrailian nationalism, I think he wouldn’t give himself credit for it. I think instead, he would say that he would rather place himself King of the Bushrangers. He then would only have to answer to himself. So, no, I do not think he is a hero.

Learning Adventure 4 Part 2.1

Using the same techniques as "Ned Kelly," please discuss and answer the following question:
Were the Chicago Seven martyrs?

So before you start reading this really long entry, keep in mind that I took this adventure a little differently than assigned....

Tracing my learning through the Part 2 of this Learning Adventure has been mostly reading the conversations and research that others in our program have found. I am truly impressed with the revelation that Donna came to regarding the misperceptions and biases our own backgrounds give us towards learning. I know that when discussing things associated with the Vietnam War I have a huge bias because my father fought in Vietnam and it wasn't until I was 20 years old that he actually told my entire family what happened to him over there. He struggled for years knowing that he killed others.

One night while sleeping, his hill was over ran by Charlies (Viet Cong) and my dad and one other man were sole survivors. In fact, my dad should have died that night. A Charlie's gun misfired and my dad at that point was able to grab it out of the man's hand and kill him rather than being killed. He was awarded the silver star for his acts (one of only two men in North Dakota where I am from) Just thinking of all my dad has had to deal with by serving his country and how his country treated him upon his return, has created in me a bias towards soldiers who gave their lives in a war. That war for many changed their perceptions of war.

So thinking about Donna, Sonja's definition of martyr, Jodi's links to sources recognizing my own bias' about protestors and draft dodgers, I opened up my mind to the possibilities on this one....I decided to expand my learning a little past the assignment. Seeing how in 1968 I wasn't even alive, my dad was in Vietnam fighting and my mom was awaiting the fate of her fiancée, I decided to look into the DNC convention. Who were the candidates, what were major issues that they were debating? Interestingly enough, pigs were still a topic in elections.

I learned that Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were killed shortly before the convention leading to an increase in heightened emotions throughout the US. Additionally, the US was involved in the Vietnam War. Apparently, during the convention the protests outside the convention center were receiving amazing media attention (hmm, just like the war) and so the police were at an increased level of security. Lyndon Johnson should have been the presumptive nominee for the DNP but after tragic numbers in the polls as well as health issues, and battling a never ending war in Vietnam decided not to seek reelection. Hubert Humphrey the vice president ended up receiving the nomination from his party even though he had never entered a primary before. With this nomination as well as the descending of 10, 000 protestors onto Chicago's streets, the air was ripe for malevolence. The protestors were outraged at the treatment they were receiving from the police and thus decided to fight back. They were encouraging the over reacting police to use tear gas. It soon escalated out of control in front of television cameras rolling. This brings to mind the Rodney King incident during the LA riots (don't we ever learn?)

So while learning all about the situation taking place before the Chicago Seven I was hoping it would lead me to be more sympathetic towards their freedom of protest. But alas, much like Ned Kelly, I am finding my biases are getting in the way of my learning. I think I need to take a lesson form the book "The Art of Possibility" to start looking at this learning adventure as one where I am a contributor in a different way. I might not agree that they are martyrs, but I do see that they stood up for their beliefs, and I think that is important in this day and age.

What I can personally take away from this learning adventure is the ideal that I want my students to be strong in their convictions much like I am, but open to the possibilities and other points of view as I was with Ned Kelly and the Chicago Seven. I learned that we haven't learned much from our past, but continue to make some of the same mistakes. Reflecting a little more, maybe what is important here is that these were all people, people who were strong in their beliefs, stood up to injustices they felt, and did not back down. I think as Americans, we could at least appreciate that even if we don't approve of their methodologies.

Resources used:

Learning Adventure 4 Part 2.2

So, How do the two questions differ as experiences? Why?What are the implications of this learning adventure given the continuous concern over using the Web as a credible source of information?Did any "less official" sites offer better information than more "official sites?"Why do you think I presented the two questions in the order I chose? Gary

How do the two questions differ as experiences? Why? For me, I would have to agree with what a number of my cadremates have said. I think it exposed biases we have in our own learning. Definitely, it was easier to take a side on Ned Kelly because he wasn't from the US and I had no prior background knowledge to access to assist me in my search. With the Chicago Seven, however, I had plently of background knowledge although not directly related to the Chicago Seven but nonetheless gave me contextual support to start my search with.

What are the implications of this learning adventure given the continuous concern over using the Web as a credible source of information? I think using the web for searching for information put me in the seat that most of my students occupy when I give them research projects. How do evelaute each and every source. Time plays an issue with this as well getting the research done on time while fact checking what sources have to say versus other sources. I always like starting with Wikipedia because of the external links it provides. I think credibility is always difficult to determine but double checking authorship and reading from multiple places assists in the research discovery.

Did any "less official" sites offer better information than more "official sites?"
When I was researching the Ned Kelly adventure, I used many sites that would have been deemed less official, but somehow with the Chicago Seven I went to more official sites. It would be interesting I think to see now what we consider to be official versus less official sites.

Why do you think I presented the two questions in the order I chose?
I will agree with what others have said and feel that the Ned Kelly question let us assume more of a distance role of researcher since many of us had never heard of him before. Then with the Chicago Seven more of us had a connection with the events in our US past. Putting them in this order allowed us to see how we approach and process learning differently. For me, it also gave me some insight into characters that I can use alongside Beowulf ( epic hero) versus Ned Kelly (Australian folklore hero) versus Chicago Seven (historical heroes?)- I am not putting a lot of weight on the hero side of things with the Chicago Seven. But they all fit a loose description of epic heroes.

Great Responses from Gary

"Anne, I'm glad you had at least one epiphany. "

"You da man"

"Lots of connections"

"Song lyrics are an interesting primary source."

"Excellent, Anne! Does this mean that you're not perfect?"

"Do you really think Anne is a tinkerer?"


"Maybe we have gotten dumber?"

Learning Adventure 5


If you don't already own a copy of InspireData, get a trial download of it here:

Say you're a college student in the questionnaire before downloading. Use the Pepperdine address if you wish.

Install InspireData, help each other figure out how to use it and then import your tab-delimited file in order to ask a question of the data.

Next steps will be assembling the data sets so they may be used to explore complex questions with one tool. Of course, keep track of your own thinking, learning and experience.


I know for everyone, we are feeling the pressures of multiple assignments, changing gears every week with a new learning adventure, reflecting about our learning processes, and seeing the connections flow between each class. This past week and especially this next week are going to be exceptionally challenging for me for a few reasons: one I meet with all my students individually before they turn in ay writing assignment so my calendar is extremely full, I have parent teacher conferences for two nights this week, I need to finish Bill’s project, and trying to squeeze in my best work on Gary’s Learning Adventure all the while, trying to redo my AR paper so I can help my LC finish theirs. Sometimes, I feel like my brain is going to explode with all that is going on inside of it. Not to mention I have two of my own children’s parent teacher conferences (I need to find a geometry program for Jackson and a reading program for Emma if anyone has suggestions), making dinner, cooking, cleaning, trying to get laundry done, schedule speaking conferences with Karl, and find time to exercise. So before this learning adventure really came into full swing for me today, I am learning that I am a multitasker. This is how I get things done. When we received the learning adventure, l had just received an article through NY Times about presidential height weight comparison. The article was simply a chart showing black and white silhouettes of all the candidates with their height and weights indicated below. The chart displayed the following information:

Taller winner 17 times

Shorter winner 8 times

Heavier winner 18 times

Lighter winner 8 times

Tallest Lincoln 6 ft 4 in

Shortest Madison 5 ft 4in

Heaviest Taft 332 lbs

Not that this data is earth shattering, but I thought it might be more fun to play around with. After creating the txt file earlier in the week, I hadn’t done much with it until today. In the mean time, I read other people’s problems with the program (Donna and Dan) and enjoyed hearing about other’s successful ventures. I downloaded InspireData on Friday and played around with the tutorials as Dijlah had suggested. I was thinking about using this program with my students. Maybe when we do their wiki papers with A Whole New Mind. To totally digress on another tool, we used Polleveywhere this week to create polls about background information for Fahrenheit 451 and had a blast. (Gary- I wish you were on Skype because I so wanted to Skype you into our class conversation) I am totally going to use that again. I will be posting a blog post about that experience on later.

So finally, today came and I have some time to work with my data. I had a minor glitch in the beginning to importing my data, but with Dan’s tips, I learned from his experience. I think the reflection part of the learning adventure is so important because of the problem solving tips and our ability to learn from one another. That really helps and I am learning how important it is to post where I am at so that others might be able to learn from me. I haven’t done as good a job on this one though. So, I imported my data and started playing with it. It was interesting to first try and figure out what I was doing with the instructions Dijlah had given. I played with different chart formats, arranged candidates into different colors. Then, I thought that maybe my data might not be the best because I was adding in height with ft and in included. I wasn’t sure if Inspiredata knew what this was since when I went to plot view I wasn’t seeing the charts I hoped to see. I finally went back to my data and took out the height indicators hoping that might help. I realized with taking away feet and inches I would need to differentiate inches and so I remembered decimal placements from my elementary school days. Now, I probably didn’t do it the way I was supposed to do it (Sorry, Mrs Orminston) but I did it the way it made sense to me.

I still ended up with really odd charts, but I did learn a few things from this experience: one, I learn best from people around me. I love hearing about their experiences and tips. I guess I am what you could call a social learner. Two, I learned that I might actually like playing around with data. Although what I am doing is not really making sense to me, I didn’t get frustrated because I realized it was more important what I am taking away from this experience than anything. I just kept clicking away trying to figure things out. The final thing I learned is this: If I take the past data and apply it to this election year, Obama has a greater chance of winning because he is taller and weighs more.

Learning Adventure 5: Part 2

Imagine that you will share your data set for InspireData with the world in a form that allows learners or researchers to answer their own questions.

In order to do so, you may need to take action to answer the following questions:
Is your data set complete enough for users to interrogate the database? In other words, if you constrained the initial database so that you could answer a specific question about one specific election, could more data be added to make the database more flexible? Not every user will have the same interests as you.
• Can you merge multiple databases created by your cadre mates in order to make the database more powerful? You may copy/paste, Append or Import data into an existing InspireData file.
• Would your new and improved database benefit from including notes? You may add notes to the file.
• How else might you embellish your new and improved InspireData file?
We can share the best files with the community of InspireData users, perhaps even officially.

Today, I sat down to complete the endless Learning Adventure 5. Gary asked us to consider the following question to complete this learning adventure:
* Is your data set complete enough for users to interrogate the database? In other words, if you constrained the initial database so that you could answer a specific question about one specific election, could more data be added to make the database more flexible? Not every user will have the same interests as you.
I was thinking with merging two data base sets that are comprehensive and including multiple if not all election years, that in essence I have create a good starting pointing for others to extrapolate out what information he/she needs to decipher. I think by almost adding in a multitude of data sets it could lead to too much information to sort through unless you exported it back into Excel to sort through the information sought after.

I am still trying to discern through InspireData how to sort the fields and label the information I specifically want. I think that through both InspireData which visually demonstrates so the information, it is a good pairing with the original txt files. I am no-data expert yet, but I do think I am feeling more confident about sorting through data and pulling different files of information together.

Can you merge multiple databases created by your cadre mates in order to make the database more powerful? You may copy/paste, Append or Import data into an existing InspireData file.
I did this with Dan’s comprehensive election file as well as my height and weight comparisons. I think you could even add a set of election data from a specific election to make your set even more robust to a specific election in comparison to all the other elections that have taken place. This would be especially good if one wanted to focus on a specific election with a wide depth of data in comparison to overall trends in elections.

Would your new and improved database benefit from including notes? You may add notes to the file.
I think the only notes that one would need or find beneficial with the new database would be the original sources used to compile these two sets of data.

How else might you embellish your new and improved InspireData file?
One way is I suggested above that going beyond merging two comprehensive data bases you could compare them to one specific election with a deep depth of information. So you could in theory compare very specific information within a long period of time. For instance, I could compare the education background of voters in one election with the presidential candidates running for office, in comparison to making some predictions about other races in past elections.

Reflecting on my learning:
(Gary didn’t ask for this specifically, but I was proud of myself so I am sharing that) At first I wasn’t sure what data I wanted to deal with besides my own, and how would I get the data to merge. I haven’t dealt much if at all with data until this learning adventure. To be honest, Excel is one program I have managed to stay away from because I am just not a row and column girl despite my overly Type-A-ness. So, rather than seeking help from my cadremates, I decided to do a little problem solving on my own. How could I take multiple sources of data and merge them into one chart in Inspire data. I thought I could do it through InspireData but through much trial and error, I realized that option wasn’t working for me. I took a break and went to watch my step-son’s soccer game, and while driving home, I had an epiphany of Excel. I could use Excel to import all the data sets into then export it into Inspire Data. WAHOO! I swear there is sometimes no better feeling than figuring things out on your own.

So, I combined my data set since it entailed many years, with Dan’s set of data because his as well was a comprehensive set of years even more so than mine. I saw Dan’s posting and decided to see what I could build off from his. What I learned is that it is okay to struggle with figuring out technology because whether you figure it out yourself or ask others to assist you, you are learning along the way. Like Mihalyi Csíkszentmihályi explains in his notion of flow, that true learning occurs when you are struggling with challenges just beyond your skill set so that you are entering a higher state of concentration and thus learn more. When you are successful, then you are more willing to challenge your self again.

Learning Adventure 6


Learning Adventure 6 - Quilting in MicroWorlds EX
MicroWorlds EX is a modern multimedia programming environment for learners built upon a version of Logo that allows for parallelism. Using MicroWorlds in this simple project will help bring "The Children's Machine" to life.
Video-based MicroWorlds EX tutorials will be online by mid-day Monday. I'm encoding them as I write this.
There should be manuals in PDF form that accompanied your MicroWorlds EX download. If not, let me know and I'll post them for you.
Also, there is contextual help, online vocabulary (under the help menu), tutorials, techniques and samples within the software.
Of course, you may also ask questions.
This should be a fun simple collaborative project with no threshold and ho ceiling that supports your reading of Papert.
As my colleague and friend Tom Lough signs all of his correspondence...

FD 100


Day One: playing around while grading Senior synthesis essays on Beowulf.
I downloaded Microwords today (actually I had a free copy from Gary’s Constructivist Consortium he put on this summer- lucky for me) and went through the tutorials of geometry. I was pretty diligent in following the step by step procedures and had lots of flashbacks to programming Mr. Bill this summer at Virt Camp. Through the tutorial I could make the box pretty easily but then I noticed I had problems figuring out the measurements across from corner ot corner (Hello- Geometry!) Here is where I started at and you can see it isn’t quite what I was hoping.
Forward 100
right 90
Forward 100
right 90
Forward 100
right 90
forward 100
right 45
right 90
forward 100
forward 25
forward 10
forward 10
right 135
forward 100

Day Two-Three:

After playing with Microworlds for most of the morning after coming home from church, I had problems initially getting Microworlds to work again on my computer. It seems that I was the problem. Iintially when I used Microworlds the first time, I just went in and played around with things. That worked fine, but then today I was going to get serious and really make something. I opened up the quilt button and nothing would work for me. After talking with Greg about it (thanks Greg), he told me to go back to where I originally played with the turtle.

After making the initial square patch to start with, I looked over the serious programming that Dan and others had put together. WOW I am surrounded by simply amazing people that can figure this stuff out. I just was interested in making more traditional patched and here were these outstanding quilts that others had put together. I guess I get to fall short of success in light of what others have done, but for me, I was happy just getting the turtle to move around and make old fashioned quilt shapes. I learned that all the manuals seem to do for me is give me some basic guidelines but I really do seem to learn better in groups. It reminded me of Virt Camp, Colby started me off with programming the block by showing me some basics in programming and then the manual added a little more information, but after that it was all on my own with some help when I would get stuck. I remember being up late that night and Erin and Brooke finally coming over to assist me seeing as how their Olympic sport was similar to mine.

My programming for this patch quilt is simple as I stated before. I am really impressed more so by those that are in this program. It seems with each adventure, someone really peaks at shows the rest of us the possibilities. I took away from this learning adventure a sense of playfulness and giving myself some time to enjoy the wonder I am surrounded with. In comparison to Situated Learning, I moved towards to apprenticeship side of learning watching other model for me expertise in areas I have yet to fully explore. I learned from those around me and am glad to be part of a program that is so much about the process rather than the product.
My program:

setc "red

repeat 4 [fd 100 rt 90]

setc "red
rt 45
fd 113
bk 113
setc" red
seth o
fd 100
rt 135
lt 90
lt 90
fd 71.7
seth o

Where I am struggling is getting it to repeat without me clicking to make it repeat. Also, I thought I programmed my turtle to return back to the start by programming in the right coordinates (If that is what you call it) but it doesn’t seem to exactly do what I want it to do. I feel like I am always saying that in these reflections. The other thing I am wondering is where do I save my patch to? And how do I save it? Do I just do this like a normal save?

Learning Adventures with Gary

Learning Adventure 4 Part 2.2

Learning Adventure 5

Learning Adventure 5 Part 2

Monday, October 13, 2008

Polling to establish background knowledge

With the start of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, I always enjoy the beginning conversations watching my students grasp that the predictions Bradbury made in 1953 have come true in our society today. Throughout the unit, I turn over the learning to the fishbowl method in our classrooms where students lead the discussions. We are focusing on building on the question “What does it take to challenge the system” with our previous readings of Macbeth and Lord of the Flies.

This year I started things a little differently. First, I showed them Michael Wesch’s “The Machine is Using Us”. We had an excellent conversation about technology and human connection. At one point, we even Skyped in my graduate school professor Dr. Margaret Riel, Gary wasn’t on Skype so I couldn’t bring him in. My students really questioned the web making us redefine what family is.

The following day, before we read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, I used to create an in-class texting poll asking them to submit their answers to the following questions. The paired up in class with one other student who had free, unlimited texting and then once I put up the poll question, they text in their answer, after discussing the possibilities together. It was AWESOME! The twosome discussed their answer, then we took sides in class. I had one participant be the voice of the yes, no, or maybe on each question presenting their case, and then opened it up to the entire class for discussion. They were so into it, it was challenging to bring them back to move onto the next question. Talk about motivated learners.

Here are some sample questions in the poll format:
Poll 1

Also, here are all of the questions that I turned into the poll. What is great about the poll is that not everyone has to have a cell phone. Kids can also use their laptops to answer the questions. The polls can be embedded into blogs or simply downloaded as PowerPoint slides. There is a limit to the number of people who can complete the poll in order for the poll to be free, but pairing kids up, gives them a chance to discuss their ideas before presenting to the class their viewpoints. Kids who normally do not say much in class, were jumping into the conversation when we used the polling program.