Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Retired Supreme Court Justices Courts a Web Site

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, stymied by young people’s lack of knowledge about basic civic lessons, is the brainchild behind a new Web site aimed at the 7th through 9th grade population. The site will pose dilemmas based on constitutional rights, such as the First Amendment. For instance, should schools censor school publications and dictate the kinds of clothing students wear to school?

O’Connor’s hope is that the gaming Web site will draw students in by its interactivity, and fill the void in civics education today. She in part blames the No Child Left Behind Act with its focus on math and science education for the demise of civics and government education.

Commenting for a New York Times article (June 9, 2008), she compared computer gaming to the best educational practices: “…we learn something, a principle or concept, by doing, by having it happen to us, which you can do by that medium of the computer, and you exercise it and you make an argument and you learn.”

The site, which O’Connor is developing in conjunction Georgetown University Law Center and Arizona State University, is expected to go live this fall and will offer curricular integration suggestions. Look for the site, called Our Courts, at: http://www.ourcourts.org/. A preview of the site is working. Try the link. Consider the site's potential appeal to its intended audience.

Are you surprised that a 78-year-old retired Supreme Court Justice sees computer gaming as one of the most viable ways to teach her discipline: government, constitutional law, and civics? Can an interactive Web site, as O’Connor hopes, reclaim democracy and foster civic engagement? Post your comments. If a former Supreme Court Justice endorses the educational potential of the Internet, what does that say about the power of the medium?

Images : blog.kir.com for photo of O'Connor and www.laapush.org for Supreme Court picture
Source: Schiesel, S. (2008, June 9). Former justice promotes web-based civics lessons. The New York Times, p. E7.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Field Trips without the Fuss

With the high price of fuel and distances separating schools from ideal locations, online field trips offer solutions. Virtual field trips have gained in popularity as more places of historic, scientific, geographic, and artistic significance now offer the alternative online field trip.

The recent issue of Christian Science Monitor (June 6, 2008) posted a story about places visited virtually. One seventh Stockton, CA class watched elephant seals 100 miles away on the coastline and listened as a field guide explained their behavior. Virtual field trips also prepare students for the real experience in advance of taking the trip.

The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), which organizes online field trips, boasts delivering more than a million trips. Visits have span the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the Bronx Zoo.

For teachers who prefer the real trip, virtual field trips offer one-of-a-kind collaboration with experts. After Pluto was demoted as a planet, one third-grade teacher arranged for her students to interview a NASA expert.

Read the Christian Science Monitor story for additional details. Post your comments about possibilities you envision. Imagine students in Connecticut going on a guided tour of Glacier National Park without leaving their classroom. What about getting up close and personal with zoo animals? How do virtual field trips extend the curriculum? What would be your ideal virtual school field trip?

Photo of Glacier National Park from http://www.nps.gov/glac/
Source: Arnoldy, B. (2008, June 8). Now students take field trips online. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on June 9, 2008 from http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0607/p03s01-usgn.html

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Moviemaking Energizes Students

Digital Moviemaking Reinvents Learning in infinite ways. Not only are children as young as third grade easily make movies, but they are also collaborating with peers across the world. Using digital editing tools such as i-Movie, which Jamie Sacharko, demonstrated in our class this week, young children are enamored with making movies.

David S. Gran, a technology specialist, reported in Digital Directions, using i-Movie and Web 2.0 technologies, now as many as 2,600 students and teachers from 40 countries around the world produce collaborative movies. Patricia M. Fuglestad, one of the teachers, commented of her fifth graders: “Complex software is not intimidating to my digital natives….They just need to know where to click.” Citing an example, she referred to three trail-blazing girls who worked on their animated film by drawing "75 frames for their 15-second animation...making one or two frames each day.” She added that digital media creates “a surprising motivation level when it is connected to an authentic audience, even if it requires tedious work.”

Fuglestad reports she that she observes "a consistent spike in student enthusiasm when her students know their work will be shared online….When a group of her 5th graders made a movie called Young Sloppy Brush about a paintbrush that is destroyed in the hands of a careless artist, she tracked the progress of the project on her blog. Fugelstad recalls that on the day the the movie was uploaded, "we had over 800 views.” To help her students understand the extent of their audience, she “printed out a world map and put push pins in places where they received an e-mail or some feedback.” The movie went on to win a top prize at a local film festival and to be entered in three international film festivals. Fugelstad finds moviemaking: “teaches countless interdisciplinary skills....When students make a movie, they learn so much more than the content of the film…They learn to frame a shot, express and capture the appropriate mood from their subject, articulate their words to better communicate, politely critique, work together, take turns, be fair, and share.”

Another teacher, Kristine M. Fontes, who participated in the global moviemaking project, commented that although the moviemaking proces is "complicated, students are eager to learn and often master the software easily....They enjoy the responsibility of creating a project with so many layers and can’t wait to show me their work each day....The entire process is so engaging that it is difficult to get the students to log off their computers and go to lunch.”

Fontes has posted her students work on her website my Web site and burns their movies to a CD for them to keep. She reminds us, “The world is no longer as big as it seems, and their moments of shared creative expression are no longer limited to the four walls” of the classroom.

Use these immediate hyperlinks to view Fuglestad's students'
Young Sloppy Brush, Fugelstad’s blog, and Fontes my Web site, explore. Direct links below connect to the web pages of some of Fontes' students for quick access to their movies. Enjoy.

Island Adventure
Global Warming
Werewolves of London

Let us know how you see the technology and the moviemaking empowering young and older learners alike by engaging them in the learning process and expanding their horizons. What is your response to these new moviemaking forays? Do you believe these kinds of filmmaking experiences belong in the school curriculum?

Source: Ash, K. (2008, June 5). Digital tools cast student moviemakers on a global stage. Digital Dimensions. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2008/06/05/04art_web.h01.html

Image from: www.mrssabol.com

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nude Student Photos

I read that headline on the front page of the Connecticut section of the New York Times this past weekend in utter dismay. Middle and high school students in the Greenwich, CT school system were found circulating nude photos of themselves, in provocative poses, over the Internet and cellphones. Once transmitted, the photos were re-transmitted, building a web of access far beyond the boundaries of the Greenwich community.

Who stepped in to bring the matter to the attention of the general public? Bravely, school superintendent Elliot Landon wrote a letter home to parents. In the letter, he reminded parents that despite stepped up efforts in the schools to run Internet safety programs, students were still engaging in risky behavior. With the school year coming to an end and little time to implement even more rigorous programs, Landon urged parents to take precautions now and with the summer months looming.

In his letter, Landon offered practical advice, assumping parents were available and willing to follow through. He told them to keep computers in common areas, ensure screens were visible, and maintain access to their children’s email passwords. He urged parents to “randomly check” their children’s e-mail accounts and “text messages and cellphone photos,” and be “upfront” about why they were checking.

In an interview for the New York Times, Landon expressed concern that the retransmitted photos exposed students to sex predators and total strangers. Connecticut State Police, when conducting in-school programs on Internet safety, remind students that those transmitting nude photos of children 16 and under are subject to pornography charges. State Trooper William Tate cautioned that people must understand that what is transmitted over the Internet does not disappear. For instance, college admissions counselors and employers pay forensic experts to rummage through candidates’ online histories.

What are your responses to the Greenwich story, the advice offered by the superintendent, comments by state police, and the whole issue of Internet safety? Was it right for the superintendent to step in once students brought the matter to his attention? What is the school's role, and how responsible are schools for the actions that students take off of school ground? In your opinion, will school Internet safety programs work?


Steele, M. F. (June 1, 2008). Nude student photos spur internet warnings. The New York Times [online]. Retrieved June 4, 2008, from

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Win a Technology Grant: It's Simple

Short on technology in your school: enter the Hope for Education contest and win a grant for your school. You or your students need only write a 100-word essay on technology’s impact on learning. Check the Hope for Education site to learn of contest rules, deadlines, and prizes. You and your students have nothing to lose and much to gain. The contest is sponsored by technology giants Samsung, Microsoft, and others. In 2008, a top winner received $200,000 worth of technology. The site reports that in the four years since the contest's inception, there have been 250 winners, and $700,000 in grants have been awarded.

This year’s essay prompt links technology and the environment. Rules read:

"How has technology educated you on helping the environment and how or why has it changed your behavior to be more environmentally friendly?"

"Essays should focus on:

  • How current or emerging technologies increase your awareness and understanding of environmental issues, and cause you to make environmentally friendly changes in your life.
  • How technology products can be made, used and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Why technology will play an increasingly important role in educating people and helping them to change their lives in an environmentally responsible way."