Monday, December 31, 2007

Name Your Top 10

Which tools for learning are at the top of your must-have list? The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies is asking educators to help answer that question again in 2008. The first international poll led to the widely popular Top 100 Tools for Learning, which shows Firefox,, and Skype in the top three spots for 2007. The survey also captures user comments about the tools. Will be interesting to see which Web 2.0 tools rise and fall as educators embrace or reject them for classroom use.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The XO is here!

It's amazing the excitement this little computer inspires! Many XO recipients tell personal stories of its highly-anticipated arrival and the fun that ensues... For just a few reactions, visit the Eugene, Oregon and Classroom 2.0 XO user groups.
My story? I got home from Mexico on the 20th to find the computer had arrived. I was impressed with the packaging-- no bubble wrap or foam peanuts, just a little bit of recyclable cardboard and two sheets of paper. I plugged in the XO and got familiar with the Sugar GUI using the trackpad (nice) and tiny keyboard (oy). First application I looked at was the measuring tape, whereby two XO computers spanning a space can calculate the distance between them using the thin mesh network capability. Now I just need to find another XO in my "neighborhood" to really appreciate the interactive nature of this computer. I couldn't get on the Web right away because the GUI doesn't support WPA (yet). My husband found the shell script and configured the wireless and now I'm up! (This sounds easy but the script was a little broken (since fixed) and the XO wouldn't recognize the USB thumb drive so we installed using an SD memory card instead.)
For another user's experience (more technically smart than I, and boy he's having fun) check out Wesley Fryer's podcast interview with Colin Davitt. Also, this OLPC Wiki page about the XO software is really helpful.
Still playing, and more later, but what are you learning? What do your kids think?

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Here!

Our book Reinventing Project-Based Learning is finally here! We hope you'll give it a look
(and consider purchasing a copy for yourself or a teacher in your life).
Details are at the right of this post.
Here's wishing you the best during this wonderful holiday season.
-Jane and Suzie

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Foggy Ideas

Most of us know about disruptive technologies—those innovations like cell phones and MP3 players that upset the old way of doing things. Disruptive technologies often start in one domain and then jump to another as creative users put them to new purposes. Inevitably, these technologies make their way to the classroom where educators can either embrace them as learning tools or spend time trying to outlaw or confiscate them.

But what if we turned the tables and went looking for disruptive ideas to shake up learning environments? Here’s a wild idea that seems ripe for borrowing—at least metaphorically.

In the desert highlands of Chile, villagers use a device that looks like a giant volleyball net to harvest clean water from the cloud cover that hangs over the region. Fogcatchers use polypropylene mesh to capture this precious resource, one drop at a time. Water droplets eventually fill community reservoirs, supplying this once-parched region with a clean, sustainable source of water for drinking and farming.

What does this have to do with education? Imagine being able to somehow “harvest” those learning opportunities that seem just out of reach. A fogcatcher for the classroom—can’t you almost see it? Don’t you want one?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Get Inspired

Ever need some inspiration to start designing a new project? Browsing or critiquing existing project plans is one way to jump-start your own planning process. Project Exchange is an online library and workspace from Envision Schools, a group of charter schools in the California Bay Area. Envision Schools make the project approach central to the curriculum. Projects are academically rigorous and typically developed by teacher teams. They integrate both arts and technology. On the Project Exhange site, you'll find not only detailed plans but also teacher reflections and samples from student exhibitions. (You don't have to be part of the Envsion system to use these resources.) Find anything here that you might want to adapt to meet your own instructional goals?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How Administrators Can Help

In the December issue of Principal Leadership, we take a look at the role school leaders play in supporting project-based learning. Paul Curtis, a former high school teacher who's now the chief academic officer for the New Technology Foundation, learned from experience that it's better to be in a school where projects are the norm rather than the exception. "You don't want to be the only one in the building teaching this way," he says. How have principals and other school leaders helped you move forward with a great project? When have they gotten in the way?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Making a difference?

Do you design projects that enable students to make a real difference in their community? Or maybe you know of students who are launching their own real-world projects outside school? Either way, your students could be eligible for up to $10,000 in seed funding to support their innovative ideas. Make Your Difference is a brand-new idea from Vancouver, B.C., but entries are not limited to Canada. Founder Kevin Lynch says there are no geographic restrictions. Entries are open until Feb. 15, 2008. A selection panel will narrow the pool of contestants, and then the online community will vote for winners. So it's a chance for students to test the power of viral marketing and social networking, too.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Touring Your Own Town

During our Tapped In session yesterday, Lynne Wolters mentioned a project site called Our City Podcast developed by Tony Vincent. Students post audio tours of their hometowns (and reach an authentic audience). The 30+ shows currently in the library are from U.S. classrooms, but the site is open to students worldwide. Teachers will find resources and classroom ideas here, too, including suggestions for creating a compelling script.

MYTOWN is another example of city tour as powerful learning experience. This Boston-based program was founded more than a decade ago by a young social entrepreneur. MYTOWN employs teens as urban tour guides, but here’s what’s special: the guides research and write their own scripts. They start by taking a walk around their neighborhood with camera in hand, snapping pictures about sites that interest them. Extensive research follows, leading eventually to a better appreciation of local history and a tour that’s unlike anything else in this city known for walking tours. Check out the MYTOWN video (on the program home page) to learn more.

Anyone Else XO'ing?

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Give 1- Get 1 Campaign has begun and with help from my friends I am sending an XO out into the world!!! It's exciting to imagine computers going into the hands of thousands of children worldwide because of this campaign.
Receiving an XO with its amazing design and innovative OS is pretty great too, and T-Mobile has pitched in with a gift. Anyone who purchases the pair (one to give, one to keep) gets free T-Mobile hotspot internet service for a year. Starbucks, airports... can't wait.

Are any of you participating in the campaign? I hope to join a community of practice around teaching with and teaching about the XO. The OLPC wiki space for teachers looks like a good place to start: I'll set up an XO group in Classroom 2.0, too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Designing a Project

Click on the thumbnail to see the beautiful mess of initial project planning.
I am preparing a course I'll teach in the winter focused on project-based learning with technology. Teacher participants will learn an instructional design process in order to create their own projects and try out lots of new technologies. I also intend for them to engage in a full project-based learning experience AS STUDENTS because I'm pretty sure it will be the first time for most. The learning project uses postage stamps as its unifying theme but it is much, much more. Here's a snapshot of the first draft of the project. I'll be blogging (and asking teacher participants to blog) about the learning experience. I hope you'll follow us on our journey. I'm rounding up experts now.
Anyone know a philatelist?

The OLPC XO Computer Campaign Nov 12-26

Today's the Day!
Help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege.

The XO computer goes on sale today! During the two-week OLPC Give 1 - Get 1 campaign folks in the US and Canada can send an XO computer to a child in a developing country and get one themselves.
See the One Laptop Per Child Foundation Web site to learn more about the XO and this socially entrepreneurial scheme to get computers in the hands of children worldwide.
If you'd like to contribute to one school's campaign to give and get an XO, read this blog entry.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

AASL Standards - See a Pattern?

The American Association of School Librarians published its new Standards for the 21st-Century Learner last week at its conference in Reno. AASL president Sara Kelly Johns said, "AASL hopes that these standards will provide a foundation for a strong library media program in every school, where our students will research expertly, think critically, problem-solve well, read enthusiastically and use information ethically."
The standards have clear parallels with ISTE NETS*S, the Partnership for 21st c. Skills Student Outcomes, and other standards sets that shift from content knowledge to critical thinking. See the AASL Standards here.
Johns says the AASL standards are the backbone of a strong library media program, but I think their applicability goes beyond. With districts moving away from even minimal staffing for library media specialists, my question to AASL is: Without LMS agency, how do you share these important standards and help teachers and administrators put them to work?

Monday, October 29, 2007

See yourself in this picture?

Educators participating in our ISTE webinar last week had no trouble describing the qualities of teachers who embrace project-based learning. A few samples: innovative, willing to take chances, not afraid to give up control in the classroom, flexible, respectful of students, collaborative, high energy, open to possibility, not afraid of new adventures. Combined with their energy and optimism, PBL teachers also have a solid understanding of how students learn. As our participants pointed out, they prefer a multidisciplinary approach, encourage student dialogue, facilitate hands-on learning, and know that kids have to be engaged to learn. A certain feistiness also came through loud and clear. As one participant put it, "We're willing to fight for what our students need--including technology."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Projects Worth Joining

With its 20th anniversary fast approaching, iEARN (the International Education and Research Network) continues to foster international dialogue and collaboration among teachers and students from more than 100 countries. If you're new to the project approach, consider getting your feet wet by joining an existing iEARN project. Or, if you're already a veteran at project design, extend your reach by sharing an idea that others can join. What iEARN projects have in common--in addition to sound instructional design and effective technology integration--is a focus on global thinking. When they contribute an idea, participants are asked to answer this important question: How will this project improve the quality of life on the planet?

How big is your classroom?

Terry Smith, fourth-grade teacher from Hannibal, Missouri, makes a habit of connecting his students with learners around the globe. Right now, just in time for Halloween, students from Pakistan, Texas, and Taiwan, among other places, are collaborating with Smith's students on the Monster Project. Classes trade written descriptions of monster "parts," then build prototypes, and eventually work their way up to full-scale monsters (which may go on to star in videos or get motorized in a robotics lab). Along the way, students practice collaboration, compromise, and group decision making, all in a multicultural context. As Smith explains, "That makes our classroom as big as we want it to be, stretching out to other rooms in other states and countries." Read more, or take a look at a photo from Smith's class in our Reinventing Project-Based Learning Flickr group.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Standards, Public Opinion Support New Literacies

Feel like we are paddling upstream in our efforts to employ pbl?

The political current might be working against us, but thought leaders and the public have grabbed an oar. ISTE's recently revised NETS*S, the American Association of School Librarians 21st Century Library Learning Standards (due Oct. 25), and this week's survey of public opinion all support the rigor, complexity and authentic tasks are at the core of PBL. Let's keep our shoulder to the oar a little longer.

Below is a draft version of the AASA learning standards. When the entire doc is released you'll see that AASL describes the skills, responsibilities, and dispositions associated with each standard, and also suggests self-assessments.
AASL 21st Century Library Learning Standards
Learners use 21st century information skills, resources and tools to:
I. Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
II. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge
II. Share knowledge and understandings with others and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society
IV. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth

Can you think of any better way to address these standards than through Project-Based Learning?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Join Us for an ISTE Webinar

Announcing ISTE Innovative Educators' Express Webinar
Reinventing Project-based Learning
Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 1:00 Pacific/4:00 Eastern

Join us in an interactive Webinar as we introduce the book, Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age. We will share classroom stories from around the globe and show how digital tools support rich and meaningful projects. Leave with a sense of the essential learning functions you want technology to deliver, and start planning your next project. Visit ISTE to register.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Social Networks and Education

Edtech maven Andy Carvin has gone to work at NPR. On October 4 he joined Talk of the Nation to discuss The Sociology of Social Networks. Not surprisingly, many educators joined the discussion and offered advice. See what you think.
Using social networks in the classroom is a bit complicated but one thing is clear, social networks give educators a unique opportunity for just-in-time, peer-to-peer professional learning. No longer do we wait for course offerings or workshops delivered by "experts". We ARE the experts and social networks allow us to teach and learn from each other. And given the "long tail" access social networks allow, we can dig into discrete and sometimes arcane topics and find others who are interested, too.
In Ning group Classroom 2.0 educators explore everything from pedagogy (how learning can change in the Web 2.0 era) to specific practices (enhancing spatial awareness with Google Earth). In another Ning group, Global Education, we form classroom collaborations across many time zones and discuss global citizenship and the digital divide.
It's wonderful to find optimistic and adventurous colleagues through social networks. The profession is better for this development in collaborative engagement, and we encourage teachers to join in.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chip In for an XO

It's Here!
Help make education for the world’s children a priority, not a privilege.
For two weeks starting November 12, One Laptop Per Child is selling the *XO computer to the likes of you and me.
For $399.00 you can purchase one for yourself and one for a child in a developing country. I want an XO to learn from and teach with, and am thrilled that I can send one to a child. See the ChipIn widget in the lower right? You can help. I'd like to raise half the amount from kindred spirits. In return, I'll give the computer a workout and share stories about using it with kids and in professional development. I also plan to track down the school where the XO gift goes and make connections there. Stay tuned! Chip in!
* aka the "$100 laptop", a name that's no longer suitable... but $200 is still an astounding price!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is 'Easy' the Answer?

In the Sept. 19, 2007, issue of Education Week, the article "No Easy Project" suggests that project-based learning is an uphill battle in the continuing era of standardized testing. To be sure, many of the teachers and administrators we've interviewed admit that the project approach raises challenges. But once they introduce real-world projects to their students, they invariably see the benefits: students who recognize the value of what they are doing; students who push themselves, and their team members; students who will remember the project and what they learned long after they leave the classroom. It's not as neatly summarized as a test score, but isn't that kind of result what your students deserve?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

They're at it again!

Flat Classroom Project pioneers Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay are preparing to launch a new version of their wildly successful collaborative project. Julie's students in Qatar and Vicki's in Georgia will be teaming up again to show the world what it looks like when students have the go-ahead to create meaningful content, use digital tools, and collaborate with peers from around the globe. Stay tuned for updates.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Mashups, anyone?

In "Power of the Mashup," in the August issue of Learning & Leading with Technology, we profile two creative educators from opposite sides of the globe. Jerome Burg from California is developer of the popular Google Lit Trips, which turns Google Earth into a literary road trip. David Fagg from Australia developed iHistory Podcasts in an effort to turn a “classroom irritant” (those ubiquitous MP3 players) into a useful learning tool. We’d love to hear from others who have invented mashups to meet your students’ learning needs. Read the article for free through the month of September!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NECC Wrap Up
The peripatetic Wes Fryer (where wasn't he at NECC?) recorded our book preview session in Atlanta. His podcast, blog notes and links can be found here. Thanks Wes!
You can find our Reinventing session presentation, handouts and blogger responses on our NECC page.

Here's a last pitch asking folks to post a photo of their NECC magnolia blossom to a special flickr group: NECCBUD. This little experiment to see how far flickr (killer web 2.0 photosharing app) has penetrated the consciousness of NECC-goers leads me to believe that 1. people ditched their 4,000 flowers (too much to carry!) OR 2. flickr isn't essential to the average NECC attendee OR 3. multiple channels used to disseminate the idea didn't go very deep OR 4. it was a lame idea . What do you think? Other possibilities?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Face Time

One of the highlights of NECC is getting to meet face-to-face with the amazing educators we've been interviewing and learning from at a distance in recent months. We stopped by the Flat Classroom Project poster session to say hello to Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis. We met Jeff Whipple, Wes Fryer, and Jerome Burg for the first time during our session. I was lucky enough to meet Anne Davis several years back when she first started blogging with her elementary students, but it was great to see her again. And Linda Hartley from the UK and Tom Hemingway from Ankara, Turkey, couldn't make it to Atlanta, but they were game to join our discussion via Skype. The whole experience has helped us imagine what global projects must feel like from a student's perspsective. Through these conversations, the world becomes not only flatter, but friendlier as well.

Think (and Teach) Globally

In session after session at NECC, global thinking was a recurring theme. Lucy Gray moderated a session about Preparing Teachers to Lead in a Global Society, where Apple Distinguished Educators described how international experiences have changed their perspectives--and shaped their instruction. Good questions to consider: Is teacher education addressing global standards? Is professional development emphasizing global viewpoints? Look for resources for doing both on the Global Education Collaborative wiki.

Alan November made a compelling case for integrating global thinking across the curriculum. One strategy: Give students a global voice by using the social networking sites and technology tools that the majority of schools continue to block and confiscate.

One NECC Blossom Comes Home to Eugene, Oregon

NECC bud comes home to Eugene
Originally uploaded by jkrauss

A NECC magnolia bud looks just right on my salmon egg-to-fry specimen display.

As I admired my NECC magnolia blossom this morning I got to wondering, where did the other 3,999 go? If you got a bud at the opening keynote (or if like me you received one from a kind stranger), why not take its picture and upload to a flickr group just for NECC flowers? Add the tags neccbud or necc2007, and a geotag, too. I wonder, how many will we see? My inspiration is the paper crane project hosted by Eshu, who is folding and then sending 1,000 paper cranes around the world with one request: Show where they alight. (You won't find better photographs on Flickr than those in the paper crane project. Here's one of my favorites.)

The neccbud group at flickr:

Monday, June 25, 2007

NECC - We're here!

Look for our book flyer, L&L article, and slide presentation the Reinventing session page at NECC Web.
If you blog and flickr snap our session (please!) use this tag: necc, n07s606.
More after the session!! -Jane and Suzie

Friday, June 22, 2007

Join Us in the Flickr Group: Reinventing PBL

Originally uploaded by carpe icthus

Ryan "I shoot everything" Brenizer, an NY photographer, worked with Bronx high school students as they honed their journalism chops through the Student Press Initiative (SPI).

Ryan, or "Carpe Icthus" on Flickr, is one of 25 contributors to the Reinventing Project-Based Learning photo group on Flickr. Please join the group and post photos that express the power of pbl in the digital age.

As Ewan McIntosh said on learning of the new group, "Why Flickr screenshots and pics? Because sometimes all you want is a visual flash at what is possible before trying to apply the principle to the culture and framework in your school or classroom." Exactly! Join in, inspire, and be inspired.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Power of Connections

When it comes to just-in-time professional development, do edubloggers have the edge? That's what educators like Wesley Fryer and Clay Burell told me in recent interviews for the article Connecting the Lonely Profession in Worldchanging. How are you using Web 2.0 tools to customize your own professional learning?

Friday, June 15, 2007

School Galadima in Nigeria gets busy with the XO

Galadima gets busy with the XO
Originally uploaded by jkrauss
"[Teachers are guided to change practice, in order to turn children] from passive students who just absorb, memorize, and repeat, into active constructionists who actively collaborate, investigate, experiment, and create solutions." -from Carla Gomez Monroy, Learning Consultant, One Laptop per Child (OLPC). I'd really like to talk to Ms.Gomez Monroy about implementation and student, family and teacher responses to the new tool. A discussion of localization and potential for impact on community and culture has started on the OLPC wicki:

Image from One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC) wiki: Used under creative commons license 2.5.

Footnote: Reality BITES.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reinventing Project-Based Learning - The Cover

Originally uploaded by jkrauss

Here's the hot-off-the-designer's-desk proto photo of our book cover.
The size and shape of the book are like the field and travel guides we carry on adventures. We intend for this "field guide" to become an indispensable resource, a trusty guide for educators to use when they embark on their journey into projects.

The book keeps the metaphor of travel and field work going: getting your bearings, identifying fellow travelers, planning for your adventure, packing up, setting out, having marvelous experiences (and solving problems that inevitably arise), documenting all along the way, and celebrating and reflecting on the journey when you arrive back home.

Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age will be available in the fall.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jane Goodall's Camp - Capturing the Ephemera of School Displays

Jane Goodall's Camp
Originally uploaded by lewiselementary

Sophie in Grade 3 recreated Jane Goodall's field camp in a lovely diorama. Click on the photo to go to Flickr and mouse over "note" squares that identify the different elements in the display.
This picture, posted to Flickr by Principal Tim Lauer, is included in the Classroom Displays group, which gives a window into the ephermera of school displays.

Classroom Displays serves a growing community of practice and is featured in our book Reinventing Project-Based Learning.

Look at displays contributed by 113 group members and ask yourself: What do class displays tell us about what goes on in school, and about what we value in student work? Visit Classroom Displays Group on Flickr and read host and Edublogger Award Finalist Linda Hartley's blog. Linda describes her purpose and what she's learning on her research site Acting to Improve.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Authentic Assessment: You're Funded!

How's this for authentic assessment? Fifth-graders from Elise Mueller's class in Bellingham, Wash., wanted to upgrade their classroom technology. So they asked if they could write their own grant proposal. Their teacher, a veteran at using the project approach, encouraged the students to put together a project team. They used a wiki to organize their proposal, including a spreadsheet to track the proposed costs and persuasive writing to make their case for technologies to support "meaningful projects designed with teacher support, to meet individual learning goals and learning styles." Their proposal has been funded, bringing in nearly $10,000 in new equipment. Among their ideas for "learning adventures": podcasts, videos that challenge common scientific misconceptions, and claymation videos starring "Math Man."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Romeo, Juliet, and MySpace

Koty Zelinka, English teacher at Portland Lutheran High School in Oregon, explains in an Oregonian article how she used MySpace to help her students get deeper into analyzing Shakespearean characters. The social networking site was an obvious choice, since nearly 90 percent of her students already had their own pages. She had them work in small teams to create pages for Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, Tybalt, and other characters. Before long, students were channeling their Shakespearean counterparts via emoticons, photos, and star-crossed blog entries. Using MySpace for learning not only got her students engaged in character studies, but also gave Zelinka a chance to educate parents--and students--about online security. Who else is tapping the learning potential of social networking tools?

Monday, April 16, 2007

What's essential?

If you're an educator interested in technology, chances are you can't keep track of all the new tools out there. How do you decide which applications are ripe for classroom use and which are worth passing up? Here's one strategy: Focus on the essential learning functions first. Are you interested in making ideas more visible? Connecting your students with peers in a distant community? Managing projects online? In the design world, form follows function. The same's true when it comes to instructional design. Here are eight essential learning functions that you're likely to encounter in the 21st-century classroom:
  • Ubiquity
  • Deep Learning
  • Making Things Visible and Discussable
  • Expressing Ourselves, Sharing Ideas, Building Community
  • Collaboration
  • Research
  • Project Management
  • Reflection and Iteration
Which technologies are you using to achieve them?


Our soon-to-be-published book, Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, looks at where project-based learning is heading with the help of 21st-century technology tools. It's a fast-changing scene. This blog offers a place to continue and expand on the rich conversations we've had during the book research phase. Please join us!