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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

EduCon 2.3--A Reflection

I am finally finding a few minutes to reflect on the past weekend at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) and the staff and students at SLA created an event that was energizing and inspiring.  Visiting Science Leadership Academy reminded me a little bit of the time I visited the Manhattan New School when Shelley Harwayne was principal.  I always learn so much from visiting schools that give me a vision for what is possible. Science Leadership Academy is an amazing place for everyone who is a part of it.

The conference was a combination of people I have been inspired by, people I know via Twitter, etc. but have never met in person, and new people who I was happy to get to know. It was fun to see people whose work I have learned from but it was just as fun to meet new people and to find new people to follow via Twitter, blogs, etc.  I took time to link to blogs and twitter pages of everyone I mention because each of these people has so much to share.  I feel lucky to have learned from them in person and am excited about continuing the learning online.

I have always heard that EduCon is a different kind of conference. Now I understand why. This is one of those conferences that sparked a lot of thinking.  I have put off writing this post because I can't really get my arms around what I learned.  Instead, I think Educon marks the beginning of new thinking for me--thinking that I will build on and new connections that I will learn from.

The way that the conference was set up, we had time to meet and talk to many people at the conference. I was happy to have time to meet and think with people at the conference.  Troy Hicks (@hickstro), Sarah Hicks (@yoopertechgeek) and Christina Cantrill (@seecantrill) added to my thinking in several sessions. All 3 are with the National Writing Project. I also had a chance to mee the Engchat girls, Cindy and Meenoo. (@CBethM and @mrami2). It was fun to meet these two in person and to have time to talk to and learn from them.

And I cannot possibly write about EduCon without writing about the @Educoncierge.  The Educoncierge took care of all things EduCon from the Tweets before the conference, to printing boarding passes to running the lunchtime Encienda sessions.  And, really, what a great name! You can learn more about the Educoncierge at The Clever Sheep--he has a great video interview with Jeff, the Educoncierge.

The EduConcierge at work.

I decided to follow the format that @mbteach used in her EduCon reflection and to focus on the takeaways.  I thought it would be a smart way for me to reflect on my learning.

Panel on Friday Evening and Reception
The event began with a panel of amazing people who shared their thoughts on Innovation. The opening event was held at the Franklin Institute. Panel members included Matt Berg (Millennium Villages Project), Aaron Gross (Farm Forward), Trung Le (Cannon Design), Neeru Paharia (Peer2Peer University and Creative Commons) and Standford Thompson (Tune Up Philly).

Some quotes that stuck with me from the panel included:

"If you do more with less, you can replicate it." Matt Berg
"We need science that reflects our values." Aaron Gross
"Novelists help us reimagine the world." Aaron Gross
"Let's stop calling them classrooms. The word has too huge connotations."  Trung Le
"Human interaction and engagement is part of good design." Trung Le
"Every step we make, we learn something." Trung Le
"How do we get students to think innovatively?  Give them purpose then they do it in their own way."Trung Le
"If we connect purpose to difficult problems, they rise to the challenge beyond what we think they are capable of." Trung Le

As you can see, I saved several quotes from Trung Le.  His work is where my thinking has been lately and it was so wonderful to hear him in person.  His book THE THIRD TEACHER has been a hugely powerful book for me and for many other teachers that I know. The other panelists were also amazing people doing important work and I am anxious to dig into their writing, sites, etc. to learn more about what they do.

Lessons for K-12 from the Best Preschools in the World
Gary Stager (@garystager) shared a great deal of his expertise about Reggio Emilio preschools.  One of the favorite take-aways from that session was this quote--"Use computers in exactly the same way they use seashells or finger paints."  He talked about creating incredibly deep, memory-making experiences. He also talked about project-based learning and how it was turning into anything these days and that was not what it should be. Loved when he said, "I guess if it's not multiple choice, it is project-based in some people's minds."  One of things that he focused on was the role of the teacher in Reggio schools as researcher--to really uncover the thinking processes of children. The documentation in Reggio schools is about far more than accountability and communication. It is the story of the learning.

I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to hear Gary Stager after reading his work online for so long. I am anxious to revisit the presentation and digital handout that he has posted to his site.

Towards an e-Book Quality Rating Tool for Early Elementary Literacy Instruction
Jeremy Brueck (@brueckj23)
I was thrilled to find out that Jeremy Brueck is from Ohio.  His research is critical to the things I have been thinking about lately. I haven't found many people who are really looking at ebooks for young children and learned so much from this session.  Jeremy Brueck is focused on not only rating ebooks but also to understanding what this means for young children and literacy. Although he stated early that he did not come at this from a literacy background at first, he has a strong sense of young children and their literacy development.   We spent time in this session examining ebooks on several iPads and iPods that Jeremy brought. We discussed the things that made them worthwhile, etc.  He shared several resources and much of the work he was doing with local Head Start programs there.  His presentation and resources are on his blog. Resources included an e-book Quality Rating Tool, a List of Early Elementary ebooks iOS Apps and more.  I hope to spend a great deal of time exploring these resources over the next several weeks.

The Future of Student Inquiry/Research 
Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza), Gwyneth Jones (@gwynethjones), Shannon Miller (@shannonmiller)
I was thrilled to hear these three librarians at Educon.  Being fairly new to the teacher-librarian job, I have had a lot of learning to do. And these three librarians have taught me so much through their blogs, twitter feeds and constant sharing with the education community.  To see the three of them together in one place was quite a treat. And they are pretty fun in person--it was a lively session with lots of chat and debate.  I didn't get to write much down during this session because they had us up and moving around, really talking about what our thinking was about certain controversial issues around research in our schools. For example is Wikipedia and okay source for research?  What do we think about citations as links vs. in traditional standard formats? Which skills, dispositions and tools do we think are necessary for research today?  It was a great conversation and helped me to see that there are two sides to all of these issues. But it was clear that librarians are really thoughtful about the future of student research and how to best support students.  Really, I can't say enough about the gracious and generous sharing that these three women do in the library community.  I was thrilled to have a chance to hear them together live and in person. If you are interested in more about their presentation, you can find it posted at Joyce's SLJ blog.

One of my very favorite quotes from this session from Joyce Valenza: "Notebooks are no longer adequate for collecting research."
Laura Deisley on "Why Making Stuff Matters"

During lunch on Saturday, we had the opportunity to attend Encienda Educon in which several speakers created 5 minute slide shows about a topic.  I was able to hear sessions by Rod Corbett (Teaching With MindMaps), Laura Deisley (Why Making Stuff Matters), Jason Kern (Thanks Coach), Rodd Lucier (20 Things I've Learned on Twitter) and Karen Szymusiak (Where are the Children?)

Sunday Morning began with an amazing panel of educators including Sam Chaltain (@samchaltain), Kathleen Cushman, Karl Fisch (@karlfisch), Linda Nathan (@lindanathan), and Chad Womack. The panel's topic was, "Can Schools Support Student Innovation?" and was moderated by SLA's Zac Chase (@MrChase).

I can't even begin to share the passion of this panel. Karl Fisch was the only name I was really familiar with and I was thrilled to hear his insights. But I was also just as thrilled to discover new people to learn from.  I know much of their work (without having connected it their names) but I am excited to pick up some of their books. I am hoping to read AMERICAN SCHOOLS:  THE ART OF CREATING A DEMOCRATIC LEARNING COMMUNITY (Chatlain), and THE HARDEST QUESTIONS AREN'T ON THE TEST (Nathan). I have read parts of FIRES OF THE MIND (Cushman) but want to spend more time with it now that I have heard Cushman speak.  There is so much to learn from each of these panelists. I would highly recommend following the links and reading their work.

Why Johnny Can't Read:  A Conversation About What It Means to be Literate...Today
David Jakes (@djakes) and Laura Deisley (@deacs84)

I was especially interested in this session and it ended up to be a great conversation.  I know from reflecting on my own reading, that reading is changing. I don't think the definition of what it means to be literate has changed. In my mind, literacy has always been about making sense of the world around you. In the past, much of that has been centered on paper/pencil text.  But the definition of what it means to be literate has expanded a bit.  Jakes and Deisley asked us several questions that I will be thinking about for a long time. These questions included:
Does being literate just focus on reading and writing?
Have we (in schools) institutionalized what it means to be literate?
When was the last time you had a conversation at your school about what it means to be literate?
Does the tool and how they are using it affect how they are literate?
How do you read differently than you did 3-5 years ago?
Does the teaching of reading need to change?

The slides from this session can be found at David Jakes' Slideshare site. If you are interested in this topic, the presentation has many resources that you'll want to check out.

The Ethical Obligation to Teach, Learn and Share Globally
Dean Shareski (@shareski) and Alec Couros (@courosa)
I was a little starstruck in this session.  Both Dean Shareski and Alec Couros share so much on Twitter. I have learned so much from both of them that I was happy to have a chance to hear them in person.  The two of them facilitated a great conversation about what it means to share, the power of sharing and the importance of telling the stories of learning.  It was a session that reminded us the power of the network and the importance of sharing and reaching out to people who have contributed to your own learning.  It was a great session to end the conference for me because it was really the theme for EduCon for me. Here, at one conference, were people who have shared generously and who continue to do so.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Sometimes you read a book and know you are experiencing something amazing.  This is what happened to me after reading the new multimedia book for the iPad called THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE by Moonbot Studios. I heard about this book on Twitter from Jeremy Brueck. If you are not familiar with his work, his site, Raised Digital is a great resource for ebooks for children. Then I learned from this post that the creator is an ex-Pixar designer.  I knew it had to be good.

Here is the thing--there are lots of apps and ebooks being published and it is important to really think about whether the book is good for the glitzy technology or whether it is truly a good story.  I am loving all of the new ways creators are using media to tell stories but many of the new ebooks for kids that I see are of pretty poor quality. Either they are books that have been quickly transformed to an app or they are books created by technology companies who don't always know about child and literacy development. So I was thrilled to see this one. I figured that Pixar people understand story and that is the most important thing, right?

THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE is an incredible story that seems to change things when it comes to what is possible with multimedia storytelling. First of all, it is a great story. I sighed when I finished and I watched other people sigh at the end too.  It is a great story about the power of books and reading and the art (without the animation) is pretty incredible.  The animation and the multimedia effects make the book and the story even better.

I have been paying attention to how using new media draws the reader in and I am amazed at how intuitive this new book is.  I worry when it is the games and outside activities that pull a reader in--so much interaction that doesn't even go along with the story.  But in this book the interaction adds to the story.  Each page of the book gives the reader something that adds a new layer of meaning to the story.  And the way the visuals and the text works, the reader just knows what the interactive invitation is on most pages. It is done that well. Just as Mo Willem's books like DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS invite readers to naturally jump in and participate, yelling out to the pigeon, this multimedia book does the same thing for readers of all ages by inviting readers to interact in a variety of ways. That intuitiveness is important to me.

After I fell in love with the book, I invited (forcibly) several friends and family members to read the book on my iPad. It was too good not to share!  Then, I sat back and watched.  What fascinated me was that I saw the same thing over and over and over.  Whether it was Mary Lee, my 11 year old daughter or my husband, the pattern of the experience was somewhat similar.  Everyone was at first fascinated by the art and the "cool" effects.  They wanted to try everything and touch every page.  But as the story continued, each reader seemed to quiet down a bit. Each reader was immersed in the story and with where it was going.  The animation and interaction continued to be important, but the story took over and they stopped saying, "wow" and "cool" out loud.
Mary Lee enjoying the story:-)

Every interaction in this book is purposeful. There are no games to play and no unrelated actions.   Even the music is connected to the interactivity and adds more meaning to the story. I had not seen that in an ebook before.  (and from what I understand, you can turn off the voice so you can read the words yourself, but still keep the background music on--I need to check that feature out!)  And there are new things to be discovered upon rereading the book.

This is a great story for readers of all ages. It is not short--takes about 15 minutes to read.  It is a picture book that young children can enjoy and one that older readers will experience with depth.  I cannot WAIT to share it with my students in the fall. It is well worth the $4.99 if you have an iPad. From what I understand, it will also be published in several ways and the short film has already won a ton of awards. If you don't have an iPad, I would find a friend who does, and purchase this app for them so that you can experience it yourself! Or I would buy an iPad. This book seems worth an iPad purchase--especially as we watch to see how the concept of books, storytelling and literacy evolve over the next few years. This will be one of the first things I purchase for our iPads at school and I have already ordered a connector so that we can experience the book together on a large screen or Smartboard.

Lots has already been written on this app and it has really changed what is possible with storytelling. So very exciting! You can read more:
Book App Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

And even more fun is the Morris Lessmore site which has lots of information on what it took to actually create this app. As the site says, this is "old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time." So true!

Find a way to experience this story ASAP!