Inspired by Daring-Do

January 4th, 2011 llcowell Posted in design theory, librarians, social media, teaching & learning 2 Comments »

I absolutely love what Gwyneth Jones does with her blog, The Daring Librarian.  The verve she shares with other professionals has even spilled over into what she shares with her students (see The Daring School Library). Her At-a-Glance Cartoon Tutorials add new appeal to those must-have but often ignored cheat sheets we hand out to teachers and students.  What she does transcends tech connectedness.  Through graphics and style she connects with a studentss where they are now!  I have played with the idea of migrating my own school site into WordPress and wiki formats and her success inspires.

On a side note, I hope to convince our marketing teacher to use Gwyneth as an example of “branding” and marketing oneself.  He’s been frustrated with the same-old-same-old activities where students “advertise” products already released and already branded.  What a powerful exercise this would be.  Check out Gwyneth’s branding adventure here.

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Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms”

October 25th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, teaching & learning No Comments »

Food for thought here…

We’ve been working heavily on UbD and common assessments lately, and this leaves me wondering about the foundations (or perhaps the interpretations being applied) that tie these two together.  My right and left brain are playing tug-o-war at the moment.  And the point Robinson makes about the “arts” (or perhaps more aptly, the “liberal arts”) being the victim in a system caught between old and new paradigms (a vortex in the shift?) demands some attention.

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Disruptive Thinking: Not the Standard

July 4th, 2010 llcowell Posted in literacy, multiple literacies, observations, teaching & learning No Comments »

“You can’t write an essential question about Pokemon,” one English teacher told her 9th grade students. What fun we had learning otherwise. “Wow…how do you think like that,” one student asked after we settled on the provoking question: What social skills does playing Pokemon teach? She had that certain light a kid gets in his eyes when he realizes that he can ask deeper questions…critically consider…those things he’s truly interested in.

I had this discussion with my own teen daughter today. She is feeling less than thrilled about her own ACT scores at the moment. Being ranked 9th in a class of around 400 she’s simply convinced herself that her standardized scores should fall in a more impressive range. “I get so mad at a world that tests me and says that there is only one right answer,” she cried. “I think differently. I’m not a robot.”

Since her first foray into standardized tests in the 4th grade, my daughter has performed proficiently, though generally not as advanced as her sister or those peers with whom she shares high honors in the classroom. It is ironic, then, that she absolutely LOVED her AP Stats class last year…the very back bone of the data-driven world that demands standardized testing. She explained, “When Mrs. D asked us to identify research flaws…Mom, I could list 10 factors the researchers hadn’t taken into account. I love doing that…rethinking about each question DIFFERENTLY.”

As an educator, this would be the defining moment…the aha…when I knew my student could not only formulate an essential question, but that they had begun to think in this way as a matter of course.

Each year we are challenged with rethinking education. I have to wonder how we can possibly succeed in changing how we teach if we ONLY reconsider how students learn and never explore the many ways in which students express how they think, what they know, and when they imagine new ideas.

All I could do for my daughter was to help her identify the essential question…has she been a successful learner?…and then remind her to apply her thinking…this gift she has for seeing problems in a different way and imagining unique answers…to her assessment of herself.

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What’s Your News iCue?

May 8th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, media, teaching & learning No Comments »

Current events are a standard part of many curriculums, particularly in those field where technology and research are rapidly changing common knowledge.  In my own school, I routinely work with World Culture teachers to identify relevant current events, and to identify the validity of the sources that they use.  Too often, though, students scramble into the library at the last minute to clip or google a news story to “hand in” as evidence that they are keeping up with current events.  So, I’m in search of new approaches to reaching students through current events. I think NBC’s iCue has something to offer.  As they note: ”iCue is a fun, innovative learning environment built around video from the NBC News Archives.”  The experience is social (engaging online community members in discussion) and interactive (using videos, games, and other online activities) helping students (and other lifelong learners) immerse themselves and interact with world news as it happens.

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Opening up ‘The World is Open’

May 4th, 2010 llcowell Posted in reading, reviews, teaching & learning No Comments »

Curtis Bonk’s book, The World is Open in print or for your Kindle takes Friedman’s ideas in the World is Flat and transposes them into a theory of learning that is inspiring, to say the least.  Bonk explores a number of emerging concepts in education and applies them to a scenerio of lifelong learning…and in doing so, speaks to the heart of what libraries are all about. Consider some the the key ideas he lays out in light of the existing and developing role and function of libraries in our schools and in society:

  • Professional educators will serve as “e-mentors” or “e-coaches,” their expertise focused more on helping learners to navigate the multiple pathways available to them via technology, rather than on subject area content.  The number of teachers will actually increase, rather than decrease, as more 1-to-1 support is demanded.  Pay structures will alter significantly.  As library professionals, we stand at the forefront of this movement, already trained to facilitate the individual learner through reader advisory, broad-application research skills and technology integration.
  • Formalized learning will last longer, but be a less structured experience. Learners will self-determine and customize the  learning experience, making  it more exciting and more relevant to the individual learner.  Learners will have access to information from anywhere, anytime via mobile devices.  They will be connected to and collaborate with others across disciplines, across classrooms, across schools, and across cultures.  Learning spaces will become less contained and more free (both intellectually and economically). This will lead to a greater openness between people.Libraries, of course, have represented this type of “life-long” learning since before formal universities first emerged.  In this new world of learning, libraries should not only maintain, but magnify their role as “idea labs,” where learners meet, discuss, collaborate and customize their knowledge, both physically and virtually.
  • Authentic learning experiences will emerge in the form of simulation, gaming, virtual worlds, and real-time activities. These “super blends” of learning, which mix learning content and learning contexts via technology will make categorization of media, delivery platforms, and even subjects less likely. This is where a challenge lies for many library professionals.  Trained to categorize and standardize, we must seek new paradigms by which to recognize, organize and access information that are in keeping with the blended nature of today’s emerging media.

Take time to familiarize yourselves with Bonk’s ideas.  They offer us insight into the roles we will continue to play in a learning society.  You can listen to an interview with Bonk on the podcast Mission to Learn (Episode 5) and follow Bonk’s Blog at

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Building a Lexicon with Lexipedia

April 6th, 2010 llcowell Posted in teaching & learning, web 2.0 tools No Comments »

Where a lexicon is the knowledge that a native speaker has about a language, Lexipedia offers us all an opportunity to examine the nuances of meaning that words/related words share…in English and in a number of other languages.  I can imagine uses beyond simple word definition/selection.  Consider having students explore similar words across languages to discover root words and meanings.

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ABCs of 21st Century Learning

March 29th, 2010 llcowell Posted in LiteracyRemix, teaching & learning No Comments »

Kimberley Ketterer, PhD, is the instructional technology coordinator for the Eugene, Oregon School District.  She offered the following insight into 21st century communication taking place in today’s classrooms:

Using the alphabet as a framework, the following is a glimpse into what you will find in a 21st-century learning and teaching environment:

Access to all technological tools needed for learning
Beacons of global asynchronous conversations
Confident universal engaged learners
Dynamic online information made available anytime-anywhere
Engaged cohorts of learners immersed in simulations
Forecasted possibilities of collaborative solutions to real-world problems
Global awareness through real-time participation in major events
Harnessed creativity through multimedia for authentic learning
Innovations encouraged by out-of-the-box thinking
Jpegs that augment reports and storytelling
Knowledge transfer across curricular areas
Legal and ethical discussions fueled by overproliferation of opinion and fact
Morphed teaching strategies from passive delivery to multisensory presentations
Networked video resources for worldwide information exchange
Opportunities to enroll in online courses
Production of analyzed and synthesized information presentations
Quantitative data showing increases in academic achievement
Responsibility for learning shifted from solely the teacher to mainly the student
Streaming video access 24/7
Transfer of technological skills that are seamless between tools
Ubiquitous access to the technical tools needed for learning and teaching
Virtual tours and immersive learning opportunities
Web 2.0 tools integrated across the curriculum
Xerox copies as an archaic practice
Yearning to express oneself in a multimodel way is quenched
Zoning-out of learning is prohibited

As 21st-century educators we must continue to shift the paradigm of our teaching to meet the needs of the newest generation of learners.

Leading & Learning with Technology, December/January 2009-10, p. 35

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What It Takes to Really Learn!

March 23rd, 2010 llcowell Posted in teaching & learning No Comments »

F is for FAIL from Brent Barson on Vimeo.

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Appeal for Change

March 7th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, observations, social media, teaching & learning 1 Comment »

Michael Stephen’s Tame the Web features a reprint of the article: The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate, originally published by the Australian School Library Association. Arguing that the financial crisis compels us to move towards the needed changes (when we need those changes anyway) may be an effective lever for those reluctant media specialists who still resist moving into a 21st century already a decade old.  Let’s hope so.  Stephen’s appeal is well-informed and nicely put.  For those of us who have embraced the change, the article provides some nice reinforcement to share with colleagues who question the changes we’ve implemented.  If you’d like to share,  you can download a PDF of the article here.  The article was based on a presentation at ASLA which you can view here.

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Getting It Where Kids Will Get It

February 23rd, 2010 llcowell Posted in teaching & learning, transtextuality 1 Comment »

Sheila showed me Schmoop today. Silly name, but serious about the business of learning in today’s mobile-wired world. The learning guides (and lots more) are comprehensive and worth a look online. Still, the most exciting thing about this service is there cross-medial committment. Currently, our 10th grade English students are getting ready to study The Great Gatsby (kick off in the LMC with “The Gatsby Files”) and I appreciate the opportunity to brush up on what the kids will be discussing in the classroom. I was able to download a “schmoop” guide to my iPhone and a copy of the guide to my Kindle (for a small fee). The guides are also available in PDF format (free) and for the Nook.  This is a great example of getting the tools/media where the kids will “get it”…in their hands, outside of the classroom.

Still, what is with the silly name?

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