The Eyes Have It

If you haven't faced it yet, it's time to take a good look at the students you're teaching. Students sitting in classrooms today are members of the Eye Generation. These students are multi-taskers of their digital, visual tools such as cell phones, ipods, computers and television. They transition from tool to tool without interruption of thought passively taking in their environment's visuals. These students need to be taught to critically examine the images they are encountering on a daily basis in order to come to important conclusions.

In her new book, Engaging the Eye Generation, Johanna Riddle shares her visual literacy strategies for teaching in the K-5 classroom.

Her entire book is available for FREE DOWNLOAD here.

Our friends at Stenhouse Publishers have invited the readers of Once Upon a Teacher to participate in a conversation with author, Johanna Riddle about her new book. What an opportunity! Being able to ask Johanna something about her book or just about teaching visual literacy strategies. And she will answer! Let's take advantage of it.

In her book, Johanna challenges us to all consider a broader view of literacy. Consider the following eight essential categories of literacy in today's knowledge-based society:

* Basic Literacy: The language and mathematics skills needed to function successfully on the job.
* Scientific Literacy: The ability to understand scientific concepts and processes to make good personal and social decisions.
* Economic
Literacy: The ability to identify and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of public policies and economic conditions.
* Technological Literacy: The ability to understand and use the tools of technology to reach identified objectives.
* Visual Literacy: The ability to "interpret, use, and create visual media in ways that advance thinking, decision making, communication, and learning."
* Information Literacy: The knowledge and skills necessary to find, analyze, and synthesize information using technology.
* Mulicultural Literacy: The ability to understand and respect differences among cultures.
* Global Awareness: The ability to understand the world's interconnections. (Weis 2004)

Our conversation with Johanna will be posted on March 13th, so now is the time to send me your questions, wonderings or reflections. Please use the comment section of this post or email me to let me know what you think. Let's dig in and really think about how we're addressing the needs of our 21st Century Learners. Free learning, instant access to material and questions answered...what are you waiting for?!?

Looking forward to the conversation...


From PLN to P-L-A-N for Moving our School Forward

Recently, I read a blog post by Steve Dembo asking, "Is joining a PLN bad for morale?" I was captivated by his examples of situations where educators got hyper-connected with a Personal Learning Network (PLN) online, which, in different circumstances led them to greener pastures.

I can certainly understand where this could happen. I've worked in schools that were not the best for my morale and I did move on, but I HAD to share in my comment to Steve that there is an example of another possibility. That example is my story:

In the Spring of 2007, I began reading a few blogs related to education. My favorite blog was by Rachel Boyd, a primary classroom teacher in New Zealand. I felt like by reading her blog, I was peeking inside what was happening in her classroom. I loved the idea, but didn't really think that I could do it until I saw a file Rachel had attached in the sidebar of her blog. It was titled "How to Start a Blog". Five minutes later, I was blogging! I couldn't believe how easy it was! I also noticed that several of the bloggers I followed were on something called twitter, so I joined to find out all about it. My personal PLN was born.

As the last few weeks of school rolled by before summer, I thought I'd offer to show anyone who was interested how to blog so I sent an email out to my colleagues. About 5 teachers met with me and started their blogs. So that handful of teachers and I blogged last school year. As the year went by we began talking about different ways to use blogs: class news, student work, coaching teachers, highlighting best practice and information dissemination. Other teachers became interested in starting blogs. My principal was very impressed with our work and started her own blog for the faculty. In retrospect, I think that was our turning point. I continued seeking out new ideas and learning about Web 2.0 tools through my PLN in blogs and on twitter.

This school year we kicked off the year with a new theme: Around the World in 180 Days, A Virtual Learning Adventure. The first commitment my principal made to technology was releasing me full time from the classroom to create a new position at our school, Instructional Technology Coach. We planned our first day back for teachers as a showcase for the possibilities for the year. My principal purchased the book Web 2.0 New Schools, New Tools for the entire faculty as well as a wristband flash drive. I contacted a member of my PLN, Jeff Utecht, to ask if he would mind skyping in to our first day session to speak a few minutes about why technology was so important to harness for our students. I watched my faculty coworkers look at the big screen in awe as this charismatic educator spoke to them from late in the evening in Manilla about how technology connects us all. It was a day full of fun, learning and new ideas. We were reborn as a faculty.

Where are we now, in the last half of the year? We have over 50 blogs on our faculty. (Which can be found on our website) My principal blogs, our instructional coaches blog, we have a blog for new teachers, grade level teams blogging, resource teacher blogs, many classroom blogs, school mascot blog, a conference blog and a teacher recognition blog. It's a blog BONANZA! Teachers are also using wikis to share their work.

How does this all pertain to my PLN and the PLN of some of my colleagues? Almost EVERYTHING we learned to do was due to our PLN. We techno-evangelized and the work is being embraced on our faculty. Now I realize that this is not the case for many, but I think it sends an important message that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE!

I am still hyper-connected. I power up at work in the morning and spend my 15 - 20 minutes on twitter, checking replies from the night before, joining in on conversations of the day and adding what is going on in my work. This week alone I learned how to record a skype call and learned some more about copyright. Not many are ready to join me on that journey, but my PLN turned me on to Facebook where I have begun connecting with over 35 faculty members there already! That's what I love about being connected with so many educators, there is always a new idea, always something new to learn and always someone to support you as you try to build a PLN for your workplace.

That's my story, what's yours?


Critical Friends

I had to to do it. I've seen several blogs sporting their mosaic of twitter friends, so I know it's nothing new...but I love it because most of the twitter profile pictures are the faces of the actual people I'm connecting with on twitter.

I get lovingly ribbed from time to time here at work about "those twitter people" I talk to, but I couldn't professionally grow the way that I have in the past year without twitter. I learn from my "twits" through their "tweets" and I have over 300 people all over the world that I can ask questions.....AND get answers!

Thank you, twitter friends, for helping me grow as an educator. I hope that I can return the favor in the future. <3

Get your twitter mosaic here.