Digital Learning Day
Feb 7th, 2012 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

dig learn day, a set on Flickr.

Here’s a summary of my exciting day on February 1, 2012

Frank LaBanca visited Sandy Hook School in Newtown for digital learning day.  There he joined a fourth grade and second grade class.  Using iPod touches and the StoryKit app, Frank, Ted Varga, teacher, and the fourth grade students created riddles that modeled the literary device personification.  Students selected an inanimate object in the room to personify.  Some examples of their work include:

sample | sample | sample | sample | sample

Frank also visited second grade teacher Robin Walker’s class.  Using the same app, students recorded observations of growth patterns of their Wisconsin Fast Plants that they are growing as part of a science unit.  Some examples include:

sample | sample | sample | sample

The Digital “Textbook”
Dec 22nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

from: cuesta.edu

David Wees’ Blog: 21st Century Educator had an interesting post on Nov 15, 2010 (OK – I’m behind the times . . .).  Here’s a (big) excerpt:

Here are the features I think every textbook should have.

  • The textbook should be 100% searchable. No more wondering where eukaryotic appears in the text. You’ll just be able to quickly type in a search term and find all of the places it appears.
  • Key words in the text should be linked to explanations of these key terms. Click on the word, find out what it means in this context and what other resources exist to understand it.
  • The readability of the text should be individually customizable. Want to challenge yourself and improve your vocabulary? There’s a setting for that. Feel like taking it easy on the reading? There’s a setting for that too.
  • Everything in the textbook should allow annotations which should appear as a user generated summary of the textbook itself in another location.
  • Users should be able to add bookmarks and tag parts of the textbook with terms so they can self-classify the information. These tags should optionally appear for other users of the same textbook.
  • You should be able to comment on any part of the textbook. This could be used to flag out-of-date content or just to ask questions. Each user of a textbook should optionally be able to see everyone else’s comments on various sections of the text. These comments should happen in real time so that users can chat in real time about what they are examining.
  • Videos and other multimedia should be included in the textbook where appropriate. Want to talk about MLK’s I have a dream speech? You can include the entire video of his speech as part of the book.
  • The textbook should be customizable. Users should be able to edit the content of the textbook and share the updated version of the textbook with other users. When a customization occurs, the original author(s) of the textbook could optionally be notified so they can either accept or reject the changes to the original work.
  • The textbook needs to be open source and free. No longer bound by restrictive and antiquated licenses, institutions can create their textbooks and share them with the world.
  • Textbooks need to be translatable if they are really going to be free to use for everyone. No longer would the language learners in your class be forced to struggle in your subject just because of a lack of knowledge of the language of instruction. Optionally you could have the textbook display in the language of instruction and have real-time translation services available for any section on demand.
  • For any section of the text, real time search of other resources or references needs to be available. Instead of relying on just the opinion of the author(s) of the text, now you can look at other (optionally screened) resources that could help understand some perspective on the subject of the textbook.
  • The textbook should be device agnostic and mobile-ready. It shouldn’t matter if the person is reading it on an ereader, a netbook, an iPad, or a cell phone, the textbook should be available anytime, anywhere to anyone.
  • The textbook should be built with multiple models of pedagogy in mind. Instead of flatly stating the “facts” for the student reading the textbook, there should be opportunities for experiments, simulations, 3rd virtual worlds, or whatever other alternate forms of representation are available. Inquiry should be built into these textbooks.
  • Students should be able to click anywhere in the book and ask the question, “where is this used in the real world?” No more students asking why they are learning this stuff, because the entire learning process would be transparent.
  • You should be able to ask an expert on the topic from your textbook. Need more help with the topic than the textbook is providing, or have some more questions? You can call someone for help and ask for advice right through your textbook.
  • Your textbook could be a centre of a community of people who are all learning the same material. Not all of you need to be in exactly the same class, but as you work through the textbook and make comments, the textbook learns from you about your learning habits, strengths, and weaknesses, and connects you to the people and resources that you need to understand.
  • Any practice or other tasks that need to be done through the textbook should be included, if appropriate, and immediately assessed. No more waiting for feedback.

Funny thing is, I don’t think this is a textbook, because it is not just a system of “delivering” knowledge – there’s so much more all based on engagement and interaction.  I think if we are truly reforming and changing education we really should consider the word textbook carefully.  We are evolving past that and digital learning resources are so much more.  Why hinder progress with antiquated vocabulary?

Learning Knowledge and Skills
Dec 12th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I was recently listening to a presentation by one of my students on the topic of implementing a 21st century skill-based instructional philosophy.  It was a very thought provoking presentation; one of the most interesting comments was that in order to achieve success, there needs to be “a corporate change of disposition.”  How poignant.  When we look at examples of 21st century skills we quickly realize that we’re not talking about technology skills – we are talking about job ready skills:

  • Information literacy
  • Communication (spoken and written)
  • Self-Directed and Collaborative Work Ethic
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation/Creativity
  • Responsible Citizenship

How we teach and measure these skills is the essence of high quality education.  They don’t exist in isolation, and they can’t exist without foundational knowledge and skills in literacy (reading/writing) and numeracy (mathematics).  The 3 “R”s are the bedrock while 21st century skills are the authentic application of them.

2011 Edublog Awards
Dec 1st, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Creating that personal learning network is so important in the field of education.  Having other professionals that are engaged, pushing the envelope, and challenging the status quo are necessary for me to become a better educator.  I love sharing my ideas, but I also love hearing about others who give me new thoughts or challenge my preconceived notions.

I salute the EDUBLOG AWARDS for recognizing those in education who use Web 2.0 technology to improve their craft and share their ideas with others.  To that end, I nominate the following sites for their contribution to the educational enterprise.

 Best New Blog:  http://teachdigital.org Matthew Worwood, an Apple Distinguished Educator, shares his innovative approaches to digital media instruction and inspiring ideas centered around creativity.

 Best Group Blog:  http://blogcea.org  The Connecticut Education Association not only keeps us abreast of political/legislative action in Connecticut, but they share the positive stories that show the power of education and those who have dedicated their lives to the profession.

Best Educational Use of a Social Network http://www.facebook.com/TheQualitativeReport The Qualitative Report has become one of my favorite qualitative research journals because it is so practical for educational researchers and those engaging in qualitative research.  TQR does a great job with its social network via Facebook, email blasts, and websites. Best of all, this peer-reviewed journal is online and open access.

Best Free Web Tool.  http://wordle.net  Wordle, unquestionably, is a tool that has so many practical applications for literacy, research, summarizing, and big ideas.  Best of all IT IS REALLY ENGAGING for students.  If you haven’t used this tool with your students to examine writing, communicate ideas, and share learning, you’ve missed a great opportunity.

 Lifetime Achievement.  http://speedofcreativity.org  Wesley Fryer really is an amazing individual and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from him over the years.  I had the pleasure to speak on a panel with him in 2006 for the Discovery E-School News Blog Awards and I continue to learn from him every day.  He is a prolific writer – always sharing new ideas and thoughts.

Pics and WordPress
Nov 21st, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Managing your own site can be quite a challenge.  Recently, my learning management system, moodle (http://moodle3.labanca.net) crashed and I spent hours trying to rescue the database and reinstall the platform.  It eventually worked on the third iteration, but the entire database did not transfer.  However, at $7 per month, versus the $3K my organization pays for web-based operations – there’s a difference in service.  I’ve always argued that good instructional technology should be about the content, not the form – teachers are teachers, not web designers, and therefore should spend their time sharing good content.  However, sometimes it just becomes the case that you have to spend time on form – making that darn system work.

This WordPress account also has some technical difficulties – for some reason the system locks up when I try to upload a pic.  Long time readers might have noticed that I haven’t put a picture up in a long time (unless it’s embedded media).  I’ve been anxiously awaiting a WordPress update, because I’m pretty sure that it’s this installation, not the WordPress software. I guess I’ve been able to live without pics here, but I would really like to see some again soon and after my moodle debacle, I am hesitant to make an aggressive move.  Time will tell . . .

Cut the Rope and Angry Birds
Oct 22nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

This past week in my graduate leadership class, we were discussing problem solving and used the app “Cut the Rope” to spark the discussion. Later during the class, I showed a video of Dan Meyer presenting at TEDxNYED. Ironically, Dan just made a post on his blog, dy/dan about the app “Angry Birds” and approaches to problem solving. Read it here:

Five Lessons On Teaching From Angry Birds That Have Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Parabolas

A very Facebook birthday
Sep 5th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I have been pondering what it all means. I received 79 posts and comments related to my recent birthday via Facebook – many from people I haven’t seen in 15-20 years. Of the 79, I spoke to 8 of these people personally that day by phone or in person. (I also spoke to many others who did not post on my Facebook page (and I am certainly friends with some of them (e.g., my mother).) The power of social networking links people together – but does it increase relationships or does it give us an insight into someone else’s life? Does it connect us in a more profound way or does it allow us to disconnect easier? Am I responsible for watching my news feed to know what others are up to?

There are a bit of philosophical questions here, but nonetheless, I am appreciative of the time that these people took to give a quick shootout. I’ll send a general thank you post. What does that mean?

Technology that can build relationships
Jul 18th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

When I think about technology and value in education, I am always looking to examine how technology can be used to leverage learning in ways that can’t be done in other traditional formats.  I am currently working on a blended learning paper with my team and have started the following vignette to describe such an example:

Michael was teaching a high school Applied Science Research class.  The class was designed for students who demonstrated interest in pursuing research in biological, physical, medical, and/or engineering sciences.  Students conduct a year-long or multi-year independent science experimental research project under the mentorship of the instructor and field scientists and are expected to present the results of their research at local, state, or national fairs, symposia, or competitions.  To help his students find success, Michael set up the following course goals:

1.  Interact with practicing scientists

2. Participate in a significant research experience

3.  Select, develop and conduct an independent research project

4. Develop the skills of reporting and presenting research results.

A highly motivated student, Anna had a strong interest in the physical sciences and engineering, began to examine the properties of particle accelerators and decided that she would like to try to build one.  Even though Michael was a biologist, and lacked knowledge about particle accelerators, he encouraged Anna to pursue her ideas.

Anna discovered that old television and computer monitors contain cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and brought a junked monitor from home to school for examination.  She stopped to discuss her ideas with the IT staff member in school who warned her that the monitor could potentially have a capacitor still charged with 40,000 volts of electricity and she should have it discharged.  Begrudgingly, she found a local electrician who did the work for her.  Returning to school, she started to dissect the device, first removing the cover and then different circuit boards and parts.  She reached an impasse and wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Michael had a friend, Bob, a retired multipatent-holding electrical engineer, living on the other end of the state, and encouraged Anna to make contact.  The two connected and decided to have a conversation in class via Skype, an Internet telephony service provider that offers free calling between computers.  Sitting in his couch at home, one morning during class, Bob coached Anna through the process of removing the CRT and gave suggestions on how to proceed with the particle accelerator.  During the process, Anna often took the laptop and steered the camera towards the deconstructed monitor and they discussed parts and procedures.  Occasionally Bob would scratch some figures on paper and move his camera towards the document to share his feedback.  The two had an invigorating conversation that lasted the majority of the class period.  Nearing conclusion, Anna realized that she still had many more questions.  She politely asked if she could follow up with email with more questions.  Bob agreed, and they continued the mentor/mentee relationship throughout the year, never actually meeting face-to-face.

Learning from video
May 18th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

My team and I have been talking lately about the notion of teaching videos. “Distance education” processes have been around for a long time, and have manifested in different ways. The challenge for the asynchronous delivery of content is that it be engaging. What does that mean? For a video, engagement might mean:

  • interactive with the viewer (making the viewer complete a task to be an active, instead of passive, learner)
  • interactive internally (when two or more people can talk and interact, it makes the video more engaging)
  • short (too long, tuned out)
  • specific (content should be very targeted)
  • robust (include appropriate visual stimuli)
  • seeing the speaker(s) (there’s something powerful about seeing a person talk and watching the specific content)

This video visually enhances some of this vision:

Alignment of inquiry and 21st century skills standards
May 6th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Tomorrow, presenting at the 2nd biennial International Instructional Leadership Conference, I am going to make a supposition that 21st century skills are inquiry process skills. Below, my prezi presentation:

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