Just to let people know, my blog was created to fulfill a requirement for the COETAIL program. If you look back to my first post, I commented on how I didn’t think I was going to be a ‘blogger.’ And as time has passed, I have to say I was correct! I have started a blog with my counseling partner to send out information to our students, ultimately it’s something we’ll also gear towards parents too. But as far as a regular blogger about my thoughts and life…well, I think I’ll leave that to the original blogger in the family! Have at it, Jeffrey, the blogosphere is all yours.

Magic Wand

This article tweeted out by a friend, made me nostalgic. Again, I find it amazing how far and fast we have come. The 21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade

The Stylus-I remember my first Palm, how excited Jeff was to get one for me. He had a friend pick it up in Hong Kong as a surprise. That thing spent many an airplane ride and a beach bumming hour keeping me entertained. It was my first introduction to learning to read a book in a digital format. I was sold once I realized how many more books I could bring on a trip! I kind of liked the stylus…weird to think this was only five years ago.

Land Lines-Interestingly, we are not hooking up the land line in our new condo and because the line is in such an awkward location (design wise) we’re considering taking it out and patching the area with some sheetrock. Even my mother is realizing how easy it is to just use the cell phone-she’s finally grasped that she can call my sister long distance from her cell and it doesn’t cost her any more money. Unfortunately she still is unable to retrieve her voicemail unassisted!

VCR-I find it absolutely crazy to think that it was just in 2002 that DVD players outsold VCRs…and yet I barely remember using a VCR. Funny to think that “Be kind, rewind” no longer has meaning today.

Boundaries-I love the idea that “boundaries” have become obsolete! This is something that I’m constantly dealing with when working with Middle School Students. I’m not sure boundaries are completely obsolete, but they are definitely needing redrawing and rethinking.

I then followed another link to a post entitled “21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020.” As I read through the author’s list, I found myself first chuckling and then wishing that was truly what the future would look like! From the first item, Desks, to the last, Paper, I found myself nodding in agreement. Although, I do think some of the items might be a little ambitious to think they’ll be obsolete in 10 years. So far, I have found education to be slow to change. The idea that the landscape of learning will be so altered that we can all shift our paradigm of education to incorporate a fluid, individual idea of what school could be…well, like I said, maybe a bit ambitious!

Some of the items on the list, though, are things I’m seeing a slow, tentative movement towards. Number 11, for example, talks about the change needed in IT departments. I do think this is something that a few schools are realizing and they are trying to make that switch. I think part of the problem is, though, that schools think the answer is to move the traditional IT person into the role of innovator and change agent…maybe not always the best fit. Just because someone gets hardware, doesn’t mean that person gets the bigger picture and/or can effect real change in a school. I have had the lucky privilege to work with some of the “IT” people that the author writes about-true innovators who ‘get it’!

I did enjoy this post-I’m hoping that the author had a crystal ball and could see the future when writing it. Ten years for all of this change to take place, that I can deal with…my fear is that it may be much, much longer. If I had a magic wand, I’d use it!

The Hole

I’m constantly amazed at how fast technology is moving and how quickly life is changing for all of us. Time and time again it is brought home to me how our lives have begun to revolve around these gadgets and how we feel as if we’re missing an appendage when they go away!

I have never appreciated the beauty of today’s technologies more than in the last year for sure. Some of you may know that Jeff and I became homeowners on October 1st, 2009. We’d been tossing around the idea of purchasing real estate for quite some time, but hadn’t really committed to the idea until about February of last year. We began researching location and options and quickly fell in love with the idea of owning a condo with a view in Belltown (downtown Seattle, WA). Long story short, we were able to find the crummiest ‘house’ in the best location! Our condo (The Hole as it will forever more be called) was in a short sale situation and was unbelievably trashed. But, the building was fabulous, the views divine, and the layout exactly what we’d been hoping for. And because we had the best real estate agent ever, we were successful in purchasing our first home-from the other side of the world.

From the moment we began researching condos for sale and trying to understand what the buying process entailed, we were glued to the Internet. All of the condos we looked at, including the one we bought, we found online. We left Seattle in July still not under contract. Yet we were eventually able to get our offer accepted, have the inspection and appraisal done and shared with us, and sign all relevant loan documents and scan them and email them back. All from Bangkok, Thailand (and at one point Jeff was having documents signed while he was in Brussels, Belgium as well!). That was all the easy part. Now began the massive cleaning and remodel of The Hole…

The idea of remodeling a kitchen is daunting, but throw in being thousands of miles away and it seems almost impossible. Yet, that is exactly what we’re doing. Our best friend is project manager and takes frequent iPhone pictures and sends them our way to keep us updated. My sister is personal shopper and sends text messages from her cell phone to my email account to keep me in the loop and to get any questions answered. The other day we had to coordinate plans for the countertop install so we Skyped our friend on his computer. We realized we needed my sister involved, so he called her at work on her cell and put her on speaker phone. The four of us then coordinated schedules and details-morning for us in Bangkok, our friend at home in Seattle eating his dinner, my sister from her work in Bellingham. I found myself shaking my head in wonderment.

So far we have purchased all of our appliances online, we’ve researched on the Internet green products to use in our new environmentally friendly ‘Hole’, and we’ve set up online bill pay to fund all of these purchases-even down to our HOA dues each month! We’re heading into the home stretch and the prospect of seeing the final product in a few weeks is exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.

Of course, having fabulous family and friends is what makes it really possible-my mother is super cleaner woman, her best friend has an eye for design and gets things done (she wins the award for tackling the dirtiest jobs, miraculously getting stuff clean AND surviving!), my sister is an expert shopper who finds amazing deals and the coolest stuff, my brother is a perfectionist that has his own flooring business, and our best friend is a detail oriented project manager with contractor connections…how lucky are we?

So while I know that technology made our dream possible, it really is our friends and family that did the hard parts! My most favorite thing about The Hole? That it is all of ours together, created with everyone as a part of the whole (Hole!).

Thanks family and friends from the bottom of my heart-you will never realize the depth of my gratitude. See you at The Hole in June!

Facebook Workshop

Without going in to all the details of why, let me share with you about my experience with a group of students doing some ‘Facebook sensitivity training’ as the HS counselors called it! I chose to refer to it as a ‘Facebook/Online Profile workshop’. I’m sure the students didn’t enjoy all of it (they weren’t really meant to after all) but I will say that I thought it was an incredibly worthwhile 4 hours.

Initially we began the day with just talking about Facebook. We looked at how it works; we examined and discussed the privacy settings (which most kids were unaware of) and even gave the kids time to go in and put some settings into place. As we were chatting as a group about Facebook, one student said he hadn’t worried about ‘getting into trouble’ because he wasn’t ‘friends’ with any adults on Facebook. Suppressing the urge to grin, I looked at him and asked him if he was ‘friends’ with any of the other 20 kids in the room. He confirmed he was ‘friends’ with just about all of them. I then asked the group to raise their hands if they had adults as friends on Facebook. Every single hand in the room went up but this boy’s. As we had just finished discussing the privacy settings and how friends of friends can see what you write…he was smart enough to put two and two together and sheepishly nodded his head saying “okay, I get it.”

Eventually I gave the kids some time to research Facebook, Privacy on the Internet, and/or Cyberbullying. We then came back together as a group to share what the kids had found. They were shocked at the information they found-the lack of privacy and the way information was being used to fire people from jobs, evict tenants from their rental homes, and deny students admission to universities. This was a major eye opener for these kids…and that is what has me worried! Why was this information new and unknown to these students? The events they were reading about have been happening with more and more frequency-yet it was all news to these 20 sixth, seventh, and eight graders. And what about the rest of the kids that weren’t a part of this workshop? How much do they know about all of this? Who is talking about this stuff with our students…?(more to come on this in a later blog post-hopefully it will be good news about the direction we’re headed in due in part to our Facebook fiasco!)

On a side note-I established from the outset that I was far from against Facebook, if anything I was a pro-Facebook believer. It was perfect that while I was working with these kids on understanding the negative power of social networking, at the same time there was a huge rally happening in our neighborhood that demonstrated the positive power. An environmental studies teacher with his class started a Facebook group to ban plastic bags in Thailand and at that point had over 7,000 members! They advertised the rally on Facebook and had over 1,000 people attend. Now that is power in connections.

As part of the workshop, the students had two ‘assignments’. The first one was to write an essay on some of the things they had learned from their time together. They could write on anything from Facebook to Privacy to Cyberbullying-it was their choice. The second assignment was also a choice-they could create a list of “Dos and Don’ts” for Facebook or they could create a collage of words/pictures representing who they wanted to be in this world (we had spent some time discussing this around Online Profiles and Cyberbullying earlier). This is where something remarkable happened.

One of my students, Gina (who is one of the coolest 8th graders I’ve met), wrote an excellent essay about Facebook and privacy. She posted it on her blog and I shared the link with Jeff, who then twittered it out to his ‘peeps’. Gina quickly found herself in the limelight with people from all around the world reading her essay and asking if they could share it with others-teachers were requesting her permission to share it with their entire class of students. Here’s the goosebump moment-Gina loves writing and has written some stunning poetry. She really has a gift…and in her collage, she had written: “I want to someday be…writing things that make people think about their lives.” Well, Gina, as an 8th grade middle school student, you’ve managed to do just that. But please don’t stop writing-there’s a lot more thinking people need to do and you have just begun accomplishing your dream!

Gina's collage

In following up with each of the students in the workshop, I asked them what was the biggest thing they took away from their ‘training’. Almost all of them answered without hesitation “There’s no such thing as privacy on the Internet!”

Mission accomplished.

Heavy Burdens

So, it’s been quite a bit of time since I last wrote on my blog. I guess a true testament to whether I really am a ‘blogger’ or not. Seriously though, one avid blogger per family seems good to me!

Trying to get back into the habit of writing on my blog is not something that comes easily or naturally. As I made attempt after attempt to force myself to initiate my mandated posts for this last class, I found myself even more reluctant than usual. As per my habit, I finally stopped to analyze what was making it even more difficult than in previous classes.

I kept coming back to an interesting event that took place quite a ways back. While for some this might not seem very significant, or it may be confusing as to why it had such an impact on me, I’ll try and explain.

Part of my job involves interviewing new students and families and ensuring that our school is a good fit on both sides. Initially I was not too excited about this aspect of my job, but have since come to appreciate that first contact with students and parents. Some weeks ago now, one particularly enjoyable family interview was significant in my ‘blogging’ life.

As I was chatting with a prospective student and his mother, we came about in conversation to discussing blogs. The mother shared with me she had read a technology coordinator’s blog from our school. I guessed it was my husband’s and she confirmed that it was. She then paused in conversation and said, “Hey, you have a blog don’t you? I’ve read your blog!” She went on to describe some of my posts in detail to leave no doubt she was indeed talking about my blog.

I’m sure the look on my face went rapidly from astonishment, to embarrassment, to panic and finally culminated in stunned amazement. This was a pivotal moment in my life…

Now let me explain why. First of all, let me say that this woman was absolutely lovely and incredibly positive and complimentary of my writing. She’s actually asked me a couple of times about why I haven’t written more recently (so here you go, Lilian, this one’s for you! More to come soon). So this shouldn’t bring about the extreme reluctance I’m feeling, right?

And it can’t be because someone who I didn’t know had read my blog. I’ve actually had a couple of strangers leave comments; I’m aware that at times my quiet little blog is actually getting out there in the world.

So exactly what is it that was pivotal about this encounter? After much thought, I realized this was my first experience with meeting someone who knew about me because of my blog before I knew them. It was…strange. Not bad, but definitely different. It made me realize that what I put here on this blog is really representing me. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t consider that fact before, but it just didn’t mean as much as it does now. This is going to be, for some, their first impression of who I am. This is huge, major really. Now when I blog, I am feeling a heavier burden than before-which is not necessarily a bad thing. Isn’t this what we’re trying to get our kids to understand? This is what the world is seeing as representative of who we are, we must always remember that. I just had it brought home to me in a powerful, and surprising way!

Fingers crossed…

And I forgot to put up the last blog post with the link to my project outline! Too much else going on I guess…

So here’s the link to my project outline (Perception in Communication and Problem Solving). As with most of my outlines, I highly doubt that when it comes time to ‘put it into practice’ that it will actually look like this! I was always the student who wrote her outlines after the fact (I hated the classes that required me to turn in the outline for my paper first, that just has never worked for me).

So I am anticipating-hoping-to begin some classroom guidance activities with my students next semester. This is a perfect excuse to ‘borrow’ a class of students for a little while. One of the reasons this outline will likely change is that I plan to collaborate with the Humanities teachers and make my lesson not only meet the Counseling Standards and Benchmarks (ours at ISB are slightly different than ASCA but not by much-we are also in the process of reviewing them), and TAIL standards, but also the Humanities outcomes…this is an idea that I have come to embrace based on Melanie Smith’s work at Concordia International School. The idea is that the classroom guidance lessons presented by the counselor tie into the other standards and benchmarks so it is not an additional or separate lesson concept, but one that reinforces and works with the lessons already being taught but also meets the counseling standards. A true integration if you will. Melanie has created a program that utilizes this concept. I believe it is one of those things that gets us closer to our ‘ideal’ in how a counseling program can be integrated into the regular educational program for all students-she’s brilliant in my opinion! I am excited to put this into practice and ISB and hope that it will become a regular part of the MS Counseling Program. Fingers crossed…

Who’s job is it anyway?

IMG_7832This is a question that pops up continually in discussions around technology in education. The ongoing debate about who’s job it is to make sure that the technology standards are being met is one that doesn’t have an answer that everyone can seem to agree on. I wrote a blog post earlier that touched on this a bit.

One of the interesting things that came up in our discussion was people in my group questioning whether or not we actually needed to have technology standards and benchmarks. We looked at ISTE’s NETS and also the AASL standards. Some individuals are wondering if this isn’t something that should just be inherent in an educator’s teaching. If a school’s philosophy is that technology is an integral part of a child’s learning, a teacher coming to work for that school should understand that and embrace it. The teacher would then incorporate technology into his/her teaching practice.

IMG_7708I agree that in an ideal world, this is what would be happening. There wouldn’t be a need to specify the standards and benchmarks necessary in technology. Yet, somehow I don’t think we are there yet. There are still educators that either have not ‘bought in’ to the idea of technology and/or don’t have the training or ability to teach their students the necessary skills. Until using technology becomes inherent in our teaching, I do think there is still a need to delineate exactly what the expectations are for students’ learning. Especially if we believe students having these technology skills is important to their success in further education and life.

So asking who’s job it is…knowing that realistically it is everyone’s job…how do we ensure that kids are coming out of school with the skills they need to be successful in today’s digitally connected, global society? I don’t think there is an easy and simple way to do this. IMG_7710I do think one way of attempting to make sure these skills are being taught is by creating (or adopting) standards and benchmarks that address these skills. I see these standards and benchmarks as being incorporated into the regular education classroom with the support of a technology facilitator. So for those teachers who are comfortable with integrating technology into their regular lessons, it’s an easy solution. For those teachers that need more support, they have a resource to turn to and ensure their students as well are learning the necessary skills for success (and hopefully the teachers are too!). We see schools hiring literacy coaches and math coaches to support their teachers, shouldn’t technology also be one of those areas that schools provide the necessary support to ensure kids are getting what they need?

I hear you…and I SEE you!

As I was reading and learning about screencasting, I found myself wondering about some things. The article “7 things you should know about Screencasting” started me thinking…

Screencasts can be thought of as podcasts of a computer monitor. Podcasts are easy-to-make audio files that can be edited and distributed online. Screencasts capture the feeling of personal connection that podcasts provide, with the added benefit of video to see what is being discussed. And, like podcasts, screencasts can be easily distributed through blogs and other Web pages.

I found myself wondering, as we’ve been discussing visual literacy, if people are taking advantage of the simplicity and versatility of screencasts. One of my favorite podcasts, Chinesepod.com, was one that I listened to while living in Shanghai to try and expand my knowledge and ability with Mandarin (which is so painfully tonal and when you are tone deaf that makes life very difficult…and unfortunately Thai has even MORE tones than Mandarin, just my luck). While trying to learn more Mandarin-well, actually when trying to learn anything-I have found that seeing words helps me tremendously. I am a visual learner; I can learn other ways, but visual cues help significantly. Even when I’m trying to learn someone’s name, writing it down or asking how it is spelled for the mental imagery helps.

So, when trying to improve my Mandarin, I did like listening to Chinesepod.com, but I also found that having a piece of paper to write the words as I heard them helped me to retain more of the language I was learning through the podcast. I now find myself wondering if Chinesepod.com were to create screencasts in lieu of/or addition to their podcasts, if this might make the learning even more versatile for all of the auditory and visual learners out there? In my brief search, the only screencasts I found them using were in their help section with tutorials on FAQ, etc. Of course, if you pay for the subscription, you have access to more materials. My question is, if screencasts are so simple and easy to make, why aren’t those offered like the free podcasts?

On a positive note, I did find in my search a Thai language learning site, Learn Thai Podcast, that did offer some free Thai language lessons and included a written transcript with each lesson. Maybe that will help my Thai language learning (not likely, remember MORE tones than Mandarin? Sigh.) I do wonder if these sites will start offering screencasts in lieu of podcasts with the plethora of video iPods and iPhones and similar devices currently in use. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person left in the world without an iPod/iPhone!

It will be interesting to watch and see if more of the people using podcasts begin to utilize screencasts…for visual learners like me, I know I’d like to see that happen!

Drag and drop-gotta love it!

Okay, so here it is. My first solo video project…and by solo I mean without Jeff’s help! He was so proud, even though it really is NOT a great video, because I genuinely did the entire thing on my own (well, Mary did have to help me find the ‘export’ button under share-that’s a stupid place to put it anyway, so not intuitive!).

Before anyone makes fun of my first solo attempt, I need to clarify how this came about. I was told in our face to face class I had to practice making a video, do something to get familiar with the program (iMovie 09). So I was handed a little camera and told to create something in the next hour or so.

I decided to take myself for a walk around the school, avoiding the numbing air con was my primary motivation. I began walking and filming with a grandiose idea of creating a video about a journey. I imagined myself narrating with some brilliant philosophical insights into the twists and turns of life’s path. All the while I was filming I was narrating in my head.

Upon returning with my inspired video shots all revolving around this concept…I then began to understand that I would have to record my voice and post this on the Internet. Sigh. Now not only would I have to have my face and written words out there (due to our blogging requirement for this class) but now I would also have my voice out there for the world to hear as well. Ummm…not ready for that yet. As I wrote about in my first blog post, I do not have the desire to be center stage!

So, I quickly reworked my brilliant concept (so NOT brilliant really) and turned it into something a bit different, something that did not require MY voice. And I will say I was also proud of myself, not because I think the video is any good, but because I did do it on my own! Not that I have any illusions as to what this says for my tech skills-it really is a testimony to how easy iMovie 09 is to use. Drag and drop has got to be a girl’s best friend!


Selling the message

I found myself thinking after reading David Jakes’ post from May of 2008…which is what a good blog post should do-get you to thinking. David said in his post:

Emotion, depicted through visual means, sells the message.

This is what we’ve been talking about in this class at great length. Emotion is what sells our messages. Using visual imagery (whether it be photos or videos) is a way to help ‘sell our message.’ Looking back at a previous post talking about International School Brussels ‘brochure without words’ that is exactly what they were after. ISB wanted you to feel something when you looked at their brochure. Sitting around a table with a group of colleagues discussing the imagery in the brochure was an interesting experience. Each of us sitting there had responded strongly emotionally to different parts of the brochure…yet we all consistently responded emotionally (in a positive way) to what was trying to be communicated.

David goes on in his post to talk about the power of visuals and how this now gives us (and our students) a competitive voice.

Visuals, when combined with other multimedia, provide individuals with a competitive voice. One that can be heard. One that can be measured. One that says “here I am, and here’s what I think, here is what I have to contribute. Now what do you think?” Kids have meaningful things to say, so challenge them to produce visual content with purpose and with pride. Help kids understand that the world is more connected then ever, and that producing visual content like this becomes even more powerful…

In education we constantly talk about how to engage our students, how to make learning meaningful for them. This is how we do it; we provide them with that ‘competitive voice’ that David was talking about. Understanding this new digital age comes with not just understanding the connectedness of our world, but also grasping the power that each individual has to leave her mark on that same world. Utilizing visual means, we have the ability to let our voices be heard and to sell our message.