Wednesday, August 13, 2008

From Local to Global

We've blogged before about Telannia Norfar, the innovative Oklahoma math teacher who tracked her first collaborative project experience on PBL Birdside View. Now, she's taking it up a notch and jumping into her first global collaboration with a math teacher from Australia. Once again, Telannia will be using her blog to reflect on the experience--giving us all a window for watching the project unfold. Hers is a story worth following. Although she has an eye on the big picture (i.e., what her high school students need to learn), she pays attention to the nitty-gritty of project-based learning and doesn't hesitate to write about challenges. She's also adept at making projects work with the tools already at hand, as she explains in this Edutopia article. Will be fun watching what unfolds when Oklahoma meets Australia.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Not the Slammer!

Brad Moon, who blogs as Geekdad over at Wired, has picked up on the ongoing Flat Stanley controversy. In a post called "Flat Stanley Gets a Lawyer," he shares a shot of the little guy behind bars. Moon's take on the trademark kerfuffle: "This doesn’t sit right with me and I shudder to think of what Hollywood, corporate branding and a marketing blitz could do to a grass-roots, classroom-friendly effort like the Flat Stanley Project."
Meanwhile, Flat Stanley Project founder Dale Hubert tells me he's still trying to work out a way for the project to continue. And--teacher to the core--he's mulling over ideas for educating kids about patents, trademarks, and media awareness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Visualizing Migration

click on the image to see a larger view of the Minard Map
After a lot of hard thinking Jamie, a student in my PBL course, has focused her class project on US migration stories. After examining the Oregon Common Curriculum Goals and NCSS standards it was clear that 'regions' was a big topic for grade 5 social studies. But she had to ask hard questions-- What is essential about the study of regions? Is that a way to talk about diversity so we understand the complex fabric of our country? How are regions defined? Might my hometown in E. Oregon be more like Winnemucca, NV (another region) than Seattle, WA ('same' region)? Jamie overlaid geography standards relating to human movement onto this examination of regions and came away with this: I would like students to work together to look at the movement of people throughout time, why they migrate to our Northwest region, and specifically our community. These imprints on a region include its ethnic make-up, spoken languages, religious institutions, traditions, architectural styles, local food, music, clothes, and other cultural markers—all clues to the past, present, and future of that area and generations of its people. Thus, an essential part of understanding a region is its migration story.
Her plan is to engage schools across the country in shared study-- so they teach each other about (what they must operationally define as) their regions. Understandably, lots of technology may be employed, from Skype conference calls to ePals collaborations to Google shared spreadsheets to multimedia reports. I get carried away and wonder, what might we put in virtual time capsules? What would a population flipbook look like?
One more wrinkle I'm ironing out (hoping it helps Jamie and her teaching partner): Could kids mine population and demographic data to see waves of migration? Could they visually display data in an annotated timeline to show population change and also ethnicity or emigrant employment? My inspiration, my vision for this comes from the famous Minard Map showing Napoleon's failed march on Moscow. I've admired it in Edward Tufte's Visual Displays of Quantitative Information, and then in real life (OK maybe a copy) at the Finding Our Place in History exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore in May. Now I'm no geographer, but through a single degree of separation, I know a geographer! I just asked Jim Meacham, director of the University of Oregon InfoGraphics Lab, if he might lend a few brain cells to this problem.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Flat Stanley Saga Continues

Since I started tracking the troubles of the Flat Stanley Project, the controversy has been picked up by those in the tech world who think hard about issues like trademark and "infinite good." TechDirt's Mike Masnick has generated a lively discussion with his post, "Flat Stanley Learns How Ownership Of Infinite Goods Hurts Everyone." Meanwhile, Canadian teacher Dale Hubert, creator of the Flat Stanley Project, says hearing all this chatter is a little like "attending one's own funeral and overhearing the comments of the mourners." We can only hope that rumors of the project's demise have been greatly exaggerated.