Dream That

Dream of children always being engaged at school

Alive with debate and a culture of sharing, way cool

Dream of the connected classroom

Blogging, tweeting, and texting no longer spells doom

Dream of project based learning

Video editing and web authoring

Dream of children being happy

Some say the dream is sappy

I say we dream for children’s passion

Make sure that authentic learning never goes out of fashion

You can call me a pied piper or preacher

Yet our dream nurtures our future doctors, inventors, and teachers

With this I say keep on pushing, make the children a star

In the end if we dream big, it will take all of us far

Oh no, not again

April Fool’s Day, ahem

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You Don’t Have to Go to School or Take the SAT/ACT to Get Into A Good College

As children of many parents continue on their RACE TO NOWHERE treadmills in high school, a secret many are unaware of is that you don’t have to go to school to get into college. I don’t just mean community college.  I mean a very good college. In fact, I don’t just mean a very good college, I mean the best colleges.  In fact as the Learn in Freedom website explains, “Harvard College specifically mentions that they have never required a high school diploma for admission. Stanford University makes clear in a form letter to home learning applicants that a high school diploma is not necessary for admission. 

More and more colleges are following their lead and mentioning admission policies for home learners in their on-line or in printed materials.” Wikipedia reveals that homeschoolers have now matriculated at over 900 different colleges and universities, including institutions with highly selective standards of admission such as the US military academies, Rice University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, and Princeton University.[19]. The Learning in Freedom site provides a list of colleges that will admit students who haven’t attended school here.

Another option home learning students are pursuing is earning college credit at community colleges or online before attending a traditional college. From a financial perspective it might make good sense to earn credits from a more affordable institution in advance of attending a traditional four-year institution.  Another option is to earn college credits through standardized tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). CLEP is a group of standardized tests that assess college-level knowledge in several subject areas. Students who earn credit by passing the tests.  Over at the College for Homeschoolers site Calfi Cohen shares additional great tips such as colleges that provide a free education for those who meet their requirements, colleges whose programs have students engaging in real world work and experiences, colleges without exams or grades, a college geared toward students with ADHD, as well as advice for those who want to homeschool for college and attend a "virtual" university.

If you’re thinking, “This sounds great, but a student who has not attended school surely must meet some admission requirements.” You are right.  You can see how unschooler, Kate Frikis got into college without school here. Here are things you can do to ensure your home child who learns at home gets into the school of their choice.

How to Prepare for College Admission

Not only can children who don’t attend school get into a good college, as the Learn in Freedom website explains, those who prepare thoroughly can even be admitted with scholarships. The site goes on to explain that colleges that accept home learners rely on various materials in place of high school grades. While criteria will vary widely, here are some of requirements schools may request.

  • GED
  • Grades from open admission community colleges
  • SAT or ACT scores
    • Some selective colleges will admit anyone with a score above a certain level.
    • This is not a requirement for all colleges.  According to FairTest, the Center for Fair and Open Testing, there are more than 800 colleges and universities that no longer require the SAT for some or all applicants. Here is a list of those schools.
  • Extracurricular activities could be a key to getting a scholarship
  • Personal recommendations
  • Portfolios of student work
  • Applicant's personal essay

The College Board, who sponsors the SAT college-entrance exams has created a page devoted to the application process for those who have not attended school that outlines the approach such students must take to be accepted into college.  

Sandra Dodd has compiled some terrific resources sharing how student work can be documented for a portfolio in this blog post and on this page from her site as well as how you can turn the “curriculum” of a home learner into educationese which you can find here and here and here.  Helen Barrett also has terrific information on how to create electronic/digital portfolios using free tools on her site

Further reading
College without High School - The Book
The Teenagers Guide to Opting Out of High School
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Children’s Online Design Studio - Kerpoof

Kerpoof is a great site for innovative educators who know that learning should be all about having fun, discovering things, being creative, and producing real work to share, discuss and celebrate with others. With Kerpoof students become creators! 

Here are a few ways that you can use Kerpoof:
  • Make artwork (even if you aren't good at drawing!)
  • Make an animated movie (really! it's easy!)
  • Earn Koins which you can trade for fun things in the Kerpoof Store
  • Make a printed card, t-shirt, or mug
  • Tell a story
  • Make a drawing
  • Vote on the movies, stories, and drawings that other people have made
To use Kerpoof in the classroom for grades K-8, check out Kerpoof for Teachers, the educator's resource page.  There you can register for a free teacher account to help you manage your classes, browse through our library of free lesson plans (including tutorials for first time users), and review information on standards alignment.
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Quit Happens

Vickie Bergman blogs about education and parenting at Demand Euphoria.

Look at some of the popular "wisdom," in the form of one-liner clich├ęs, about quitting:

1. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. False. First of all, winners sometimes quit. Especially after they win. Second, quitters sometimes win. Sure, maybe if you quit playing baseball, you won't win at baseball anymore. But you can win at other stuff because you aren't wasting your time playing baseball when you don't really want to. And third, what if you don't care about winning? Or what if happiness is a win for you? Then quitting something that takes away from your happiness is an automatic win.

I prefer: Quit while you are ahead. As in, if you have achieved what seems to you to be a satisfactory level of success, and you don't want to do something anymore, then it's ok to quit. Also, if you realize that you are not enjoying something, then quit before you waste too much more time doing it.

2. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. I think there is something missing from the end of this one: if you want to. You don't have to succeed at everything you do. Wait, if you do succeed (win), then you can never quit (see #1). That's confusing.

I prefer this from a guy named Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sometimes trying again and again doesn't help. Sometimes it's ok to admit that you are just not going to or don't care to succeed at something.

3. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. This usually gets interpreted to mean "the tough keep doing what they are doing." But you could also read it to mean "the tough get the hell out of what they are doing."

I prefer: If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Don't get burned. Getting burned doesn't prove you are tough. It hurts, and it makes you wonder, why didn't I just get out of the kitchen?

4. Never give up. Really? Never? "Never" is a dangerous word. I would say, at least sometimes, giving up is the smartest thing to do.

I prefer: Cut your losses. Or Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.  It's fitting that these two are both related to gambling. Because that is one area where it is actually respectable to know when to quit. As for anything else in life, "cutting your losses" might refer to the time you lose doing things that you aren't enjoying. And look at the hand you were dealt. Sometimes it makes more sense to fold.

And here is a new saying for you: Quit happens. By this I mean it happens inside a person. If you have already decided that you definitely want to quit something, then the quitting has essentially already happened. The physical act of leaving a team or not showing up for an activity is secondary to the mental quitting. Think about this the next time your child says he wants to quit something. If his mind is made up, then he has already quit. You can force his body to go to soccer practice, but you can't force his mind to like it.

Are the most successful people you know the ones who never quit anything? Or are they the ones who latch onto something they really believe in, have a talent for, care about, or love, and cut out the rest?

You can read more about this topic in I'm a Quitter and A Kid Who's Not a Quitter?
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First Graders Go to School Online

When you think of online learning, thoughts of high school kids, like those who shared 10 Reasons Students Say They Prefer Learning Online, probably come to mind. Did you know that there are also elementary students who learn online too?  Yep.  The profile of such families might be that they live in a remote area where there just aren't a lot of kids at a certain age, or perhaps the child is being home educated and the parents want the extra help to which they're entitled, or perhaps, the parents prefer home education, but don't have careers or life circumstances that allow for this to be a reality, so they supplement their child's learning with learning online.  This allows for a consistent learning leader whether it's the mother home with the child, the father, a grandparent, family member, or nanny.

Even as an innovative educator, I was surprised to learn that online learning was occurring in elementary school.  It seemed to me, at least in part, an answer to those who were considering home education for their children, but wanted support in getting started.

I had the good fortune to hear from Christina M. Narayan from Branson School Online, a first grade teacher who was doing this work along with her principal Leanna Walker-Christians
at a the Virtual School Symposium.  The session was called, "CONNECTING...not just to the internet...but to your STUDENTS!

Here is what they addressed:

How do you "reach out and touch someone" when there's a computer in the way and your students and staff live miles apart? Branson School Online staff will share the C3 Model for engaging and motivating online students. Creativity, Community and Communication are essential for connecting to our learners. The 09 CO Elem Online Teacher of the Year and BSO Principal will give concrete strategies for easy application. You can still have bulletin boards, Buddy programs and even a class pet at your virtual school.

You can listen to the session here.
CONNECTING not just to the internet.mp3

You can view their presentation here.
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Educators Need to Get Their Heads INTO The Clouds with Cloud Computing

As an innovative educator I've been an early adopter of cloud computing.  I remember when I first discovered "Writely" at a conference several years ago.  I was so excited that there was a tool that not only let you write online, but it also allowed you to collaborate.  This was huge!  No more issues of version control, and because it was free, no more needing to buy word processing software.  Google caught on quick and swooped up Writely which is now known as Google Docs.  As Google does, they took it even further and developed spreadsheets, presentations, drawing, forms and more. If that wasn't enough, they made a special free version of all this for education.  Fantastic! This was when I first developed a deep appreciation of "The Cloud." 

In short, when we speak of “the cloud” what we are saying is we are using the internet – the Cloud – to access programs that are not stored on your computer. It is a fundamental shift away from the traditional way of using your PC because you no longer need software installed on your computer. In fact, you no longer need a dedicated computer.  Instead, software, and everything you create with it, lives in the cloud with hosted services like email, photo sharing (Flickr), video sharing (YouTube), file sharing (DropBox and Google Docs), or social media (Facebook and Twitter).   

In education, many schools and districts stuck in bureaucratic red tape (real or imagined) are dreadfully behind the times.  Unfortunately, they have not caught on and they're needlessly wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on software apps when there are alternatives available for free, for all. The other benefit is when you work in the cloud, students and staff no longer need to have a dedicated computer. This is yet another thing that many schools needlessly struggle with. Some are relying on outdated models or using outdated research about the importance of 1:1 laptop ownership that was based on conditions that existed in the days before cloud computing was an option.  

Working in the cloud is something iSchool principal Alisa Berger began doing when she opened her school.  A white paper by Greg Nadeau about Virtual Education Spaces confirms what Alisa had learned as a result of her own experience.  One-to-one isn’t quite the panacea it is touted to be. Instead, she argues that the key is as she calls it virtual education space, or “the cloud.” She believes student ownership of laptops, doesn’t provide all the assumed benefits. Instead, what’s important is that students can access “their” work, just like 21st century employees who can log in from any computer including using vpn at home. She shares that providing ubiquitous access, but not one-to-one alleviates a plethora of issues. For instance, there are a lot of problems with reimaging because students with their own laptops love to customize them. Her laptops automatically reimage and it doesn’t matter. This results in the devices being indestructible. She doesn’t have to worry about inventory issues that have become a nightmare and burden for some one-to-one schools. Finally, she says she has peace of mind that she doesn’t have to worry about safety or breakage issues that can occur when devices move from school-to-home across a school. As Alisa shares, most kids today have some sort of computer at home. With this option it doesn’t have to be top of the line as the virtual education spaces (or “the cloud”) provides access to all school software and resources as long as the student can find some way to obtain Internet access. For the students with device or Internet issues, Alisa and/or her staff figure out a way to either secure devices or figure out alternate Internet access options (i.e. libraries, community centers, mentors, family members).

Like Alisa Berger’s iSchool, there are some schools and districts that have caught on.  Saline Area Schools is one such district.  You can read the school’s case study to find out how they had a total savings of about $400,000 in the first year alone.  Not only did they save a lot of money, but as Superintendent Scot Graden explains,
“K-12 Google Apps has worked out better than I could have ever imagined. We expected a more reliable, stable, and virus-free email. But we got more – a suite of integrated collaborative applications that are being used by teachers and in our classrooms."
You can see what this looks like in this video.  

Schools can join the future and save a tremendous amount of money if they updated outdated thinking with the marriage of cloud computing, lifting filters on all but porn, and allowing (rather than banning) students to use personally owned devices at school.  The savings of the paperless environment, the elimination of software licenses and servers would be felt immediately.  The need to purchase devices only for those students who did not have them would not only result in an enormous hardware savings, but also a reduction in tech support as the student, not the school, would take responsibility for their equipment.  This could also result in the complete elimination of another money-waster, the textbook. Once we’re working in the cloud there is endless access to interesting, up-to-date information, rather than what is found in the boring outdated sludge of those outdated relics.   

If you’re an innovative educator and you’re still thinking schools must provide dedicated tech to all students, buy software, maintain servers, waste paper, weigh students down with textbooks, etc, then it’s time for you to go...
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Ideas for Using Facebook as a Tool to Increase School Attendance

Ask the Innovative Educator... 
Jacob Gutnicki asked a question about using Facebook.  Below is my initial answer, followed by some great ideas from my Twitter followers.

 Jacob Gutnicki said...
Dear Lisa, one of my principals is toying with the idea of using social networking tools to improve student attendance. What are you thoughts on this? More specifically, how would you use social networking tools to improve student attendance?

The Innovative Educator said...
@Jacob Gutnicki, my initial thought is that is not what I would think of as a goal for Facebook. That scares me a bit. It sounds more punitive than supportive, even if that's not the intent.

My thought is that Facebook should be used to strengthen the home-school connection, the student-teacher connection, and support the ability to communicate, collaborate, and make a difference.

If the student - teacher connection was strengthened online and in life attendance might increase. For instance the students I spoke to in in 10 Ways Facebook Strengthens the Student-Teacher Connection loved they connected with educators on Facebook, but their teachers also ran marathons with them, coached basketball, led debate teams, etc. Every teacher did something and the kids loved that their teachers saw them as people. I think in the end that is what increases attendance.
But...I did tweet the question out and I'll let you know what I find.

Ask The Innovative Educator Tweeps...
Below is my question, then a lot of great ideas from my Twitter followers.  I’m glad I asked!

InnovativeEdu Lisa Nielsen
School principal is looking for ideas for using FB to increase student attendance. Any thoughts?
Answers from my Tweeps...
cyndyw2 cyndy woods-wilson
draw 3-5 names daily to post on the page, must be present to win. Keep FB page as read only, but kids must join to read
cyndyw2 cyndy woods-wilson
A school homepage where the kids follow, get extra credit for reading @ home + answering question from it next day in class.
bigjakelittle Jake Little
I like idea of FB as an extension of class, but how will that incrs. attendc? Need more engaging classes, support @ home.
BrightTeacher Amy Bright
Maybe use a team of students (social media team) in charge of FB page. Rotate kids into the team.
Kyle_simon Kyle Simon
How about teachers expressing interest/concern when students are absent?
MZimmer557 Michael Zimmer
maybe create a page dedicated to school attendance and share contest information or other programs?
jsquared2110 Jason Johnson
scavenger hunt at school before first period...send clues via fb...clues could lead to very minimal but positive
ICTmagic Martin Burrett
Run a breakfast FB club? 'Food and Facebook' & 'Toast and Twitter'?
web20guru Cheryl Capozzoli
Have students submit ideas for schooling and attendance issues via fb get the disc started include them in the solutions
CelinaPrincipal Jason Luebke
I would be interested in ideas you come up w/. Just started a FB pg for our HS and would like ways to interact w/ students more
Brian Gibson
New FB Groups enable teachers to use FB safely. To increase attendance I would be looking at using FourSquare instead.
ryan macraild
award points for collaboration using FB. screen shots would do. Unblock for attendance goals. Or just unblock it all together
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Using TPACK as a Framework for Tech PD, Integration and Assessment.

Henrico County Schools System has adopted the TPACK as the Framework for professional development and 21st Century Learning in the Henrico County Schools System.  Henrico County is one of the largest and earliest districts to pioneer and implement a one-to-one initiative.  They have adopted this model as its conceptual framework to guide their progress towards the 21st Century Learning. The following video will set the stage to provide insight into how this school district uses technology for relevant and real-world learning.

See How Henrico County School District Incorporates Technology into Learning.
Henrico 21 Overview from HCPS Instructional Technology on Vimeo.

To see more videos visit this link.

Below are some essential pieces toward meeting their vision.  

The TPACK Model
The TPACK Model was created in response to the need to provide a framework around the important pieces of innovating learning with a focus on Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge.  The overlap of these three components is where the 21st Century classroom is most powerful. Here is general information on TPACK and The general framework of TPACK for Henrico's 21st Century Learning

This is a diagram of the model.

Assessment Tools
  • 21st Century Skills - Student and Teacher Assessment
    This is a fantastic rubric created by the Henrico County School district that students and teachers can use to assess themselves and have a conversation with coaches, advisers, etc on where they are, where they want to be and how to get there. Interestingly findings generally indicate that students and teachers are not at the same level.  
  • Observation Tool for Assessing TPACK evidence
    These instruments have been developed to help researchers and teacher educators to assess evidence of teachers' knowledge for technology integration, or TPACK (technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge). All of the instruments available at the site have been tested for multiple types of reliability and validity, and have proven to be robust tools.
  • TPACK Survey tool for Pre-service Teachers
    Technology assessment tool for pre-service teachers.

Reflective Friends
Henrico County Schools also uses something called The Reflective Friends which is a process designed to provide participating schools with objective data on their efforts to build 21st century learning environments.  Through a series of systematic classroom observations and interviews with teachers and students, a profile of trends in classroom instruction (content, pedagogy, and technology) will emerge.  These data become good information to be used for future development of your school program. Here is a Reflective Friends Sample Report.

Technology Infused Lessons
The teachers write lessons incorporating the elements of the TPACK model. These lessons are vetted and posted on their professional development space.  What is great about these lessons is there is a community that can comment on the lessons and rate them.  They use the Wordpress platform to host the lessons.  What I would add to this, (which may exist or be in the works, but I couldn’t find it) is a way to sort the lessons by topic and technology used as is done with this bank of lesson ideas to innovate learning. There are tags, so I imagine this will become available.  I’d also recommend they add technology used and/or software used.  This way people using the same tech or software can connect.  An obstacle they had in ensuring the lessons were vetted was the amount of manpower and funding it took to do so. If you don’t have funding or manpower where you work, you may decide to let teachers self publish and viewers can take a look at the material and incorporate what they like and leave behind what they don’t like.  

Henrico County is using some valuable tools and provides helpful insights for other schools and districts moving toward providing students with 21st century learning experiences.  

To view the webinar visit this link.  

Thanks to Henrico County School District Tech Director Tom Woodward for sharing the innovative work of his district.  Tom Woodward blogs at http://bionicteaching.com and can be reached via Twitter at @twoodwar

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