Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blogging to Combat a Callous World

Most of us have seen the news covering the beating a middle school girl received over a text message. If you haven't heard about this yet, see this article in The Miami Herald.

I was stunned that such a profound act of violence could be sparked by technology as impersonal as text messaging. Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti was quoted as saying, "It seems we have a culture of callousness with our kids." And I can understand why he would see it that way.

While technology certainly can be distancing, I see the formation of community through blogging as part of the solution. How can we in Globaloria use blogging as an interactive counter to the apparent social disconnect and anonymity afforded by text threats, cyberbullying, and the escalation that can follow? Let's help our students understand how to build virtual communities by teaching them skills as both bloggers and commenters. In Globaloria we have the chance to help students master and productively utilize the social tools they need to foster meaningful connections in their future.

What are your thoughts and ideas?

Now its your turn on the soapbox.


Texting photo courtesy of Alton, Wikimedia

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

1st Annual Civics Games Competition Team Demos

Last week, Globaloria students in Civics Track classrooms turned in their game demos for the 1st Annual Civics Games Competition. While this is just a step in the submission process with dates for final games and presentations to come, the Globaloria program celebrates the process and project milestones that show student achievement and learning as they work toward their final game.

Check out student's games from classrooms all over West Virginia making games about civics divided into three groups:

1) Games about civic ideals
2) Games about the function of government
3) Games about the role of citizens

We're excited to see how creative and thoughtful these games demos are so early in their development! Congradulations to our civics classrooms for their amazing work.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Compass Bearing for the Future

As a Globaloria educator, I am often asked 1) how I can possibly incorporate this innovative curriculum into my class and 2) why go to all the extra effort?

Many teachers have trouble letting go of their traditional methods despite the new direction 21st century education is heading. There are many educators who are apprehensive about Globaloria, claiming "I'm already comfortable with how I teach my class, so why change it?"

What they fail to see is that the world is already changing, whether they decide to adapt or not.
Globaloria is leading the way in helping teachers and students grow along with the world, and I'm always finding other exciting signs pointing to where education is heading.

While I was conducting research for my biology class, I discovered a site called ZOOKEYS, an open source digital scientific journal, rooted in the belief that knowledge should be collaborative and shared. Another site I recently discovered is called the Encyclopedia of Life, an online biodiversity resource site that encourages its readers to become contributors.

Although these sites are both very specific to my area of expertise, they are built on a philosophy we all have learned to embrace with the Globaloria program: the importance of virtual sharing and collaboration. With so many new collaborative resources such as these flourishing, it is becoming impossible to ignore how relevant the skills and practices Globaloria instills in our students are for success in higher-education and the 21st-century job market.

I am curious to know how the Globaloria learning philosophy is manifesting in subjects other than the sciences. Can you find similar examples of how technology is changing practices in your content areas? An understanding of the direction your discipline is headed may help put Globaloria in greater context for students, parents, and fellow educators.

Until next time, the soapbox is yours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Announcing: 1st Annual STEM Game Competition

In 1957, Russia's launch of the Sputnik satellite piqued widespread fear that if America didn't shape-up, we might lose our status as global leaders in science and technology.

The "Sputnik moment" lead to America's unprecedented national commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The public, private and educational sectors within the United States focused massive resources on developing the nation's STEM capacities. As a result, the U.S. became the first nation to land human beings on the moon in 1969, and what would later be known as the Internet was developed, revolutionizing communications, education, and commerce.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon

Fast-forward to 2010 and it is clear that America faces a "new Sputnik moment."

Other countries have developed national broadband strategies and are graduating most of the world's new engineers, mathematicians, and scientists. The U.S. must innovate or abdicate its leadership in this area.

In recognition of this crisis and the need to re-focus on STEM, the World Wide Workshop, in collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Education and US Senator Jay Rockefeller as Honorary Chair, launched the 1st Annual Globaloria-WV STEM Games Competition on Wednesday, March 10.

From left to right: Monica Beane (WV Dept. of Ed); Gaston Caperton (Former Governor & Globaloria Advisory Board member); Jay Rockefeller (US Senator); Idit Caperton (Founder & President of World Wide Workshop); and David Lowenstein (State Director, Globaloria-WV)

Globaloria students in West Virginia public schools who choose to create web games that teach Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics concepts are eligible to enter the competition. A panel of distinguished STEM practitioners, policy makers, and game design experts will judge the students’ games. Winners will be announced on June 10. The student team that receives the highest score will win free laptops and get to present their game to the leadership at the White House Office of Science Technology Policy. Their games will also be featured on several websites nationwide.

We are excited to establish West Virginia as a national leader in STEM-learning with the Globaloria-WV community. In the words of World Wide Workshop founder and president, Dr. Idit Harel Caperton:
"The Globaloria program – through its wiki-based game design and Web 2.0 curriculum and its constructionist learning theory – has been advancing the STEM skills of West Virginia students and educators since the program’s inception. Now, with the 1st Annual Globaloria-WV STEM Games Competition, we are significantly enhancing our contribution to the nationwide effort to move America to the top of the pack in math and science education.”

By David Lowenstein, State Director, Globaloria-WV

Friday, March 5, 2010

Learning to Swim

We are always hearing about how our world is becoming so connected, and the production of web content so complex, that it is impossible to make sense of it all.

In a sense, the sheer amount of information available to us is so massive, we might as well have none at all because we can't seem to understand of any of it. Barry Schwartz writes and speaks a great deal on "The Paradox of Choice" where he argues that the near infinite variety of stuff available to us is paralyzing.

It makes you wonder: Can information make us ignorant?

The economic crisis of 2008 seems to suggest as much. How could so many people, with access to more information than has ever been available, have been so oblivious to the consequences of their actions?

But let's not throw up our hands just yet. This need to find new ways to represent complex information is being met--not in spite of technology but through it.

A few months ago, I discovered this informational graphic on the economic crisis by Jonathan Jarvis. With the expressive tools available to him, he has managed to take one of the most perplexing economic events in history, and present it in a way that even children could understand:

On The Crisis of Credit Visualized site Jonathan explains that this presentation is part of his larger mission dedicated to "exploring the use of new media to make sense of a increasingly complex world."

That is also the spirit of the Globaloria program: to cultivate the new media literacy and skills needed to makes sense of--and participate in-- our complex world. By creating educational games, Globaloria students are learning how to represent knowledge just like Jonathan, arming them with the ability to turn information into real knowledge as they navigate the uncharted territories of communication technologies.

Perhaps the great philosopher Democritus put it best around 400 BC when he said, "Water can be both good and bad; of use and dangerous. To the danger, however, a remedy has been found: learning to swim."


Monday, March 1, 2010

Staying Informed on Education Technology News

As members of a state-wide learning community, it’s not only important that we stay informed on what’s happening in Globaloria classrooms throughout West Virginia, but that we also stay knowledgeable about state, national, and international news regarding efforts to harness technology for education and social change. It’s a good idea to bookmark a few websites that can keep us up-to-date.

One website that can help us stay well-informed on all things dealing with education technology is eSchool News. The eSchool News website currently features articles on a new U.S. Commerce Department report that points to 40% of Americans who lack high-speed internet access home, as well as on a survey indicating that educators are not discussing STEM careers with students.

Another good on-line resource – particularly for national and international news related to video games and politics - is GamePolitics.com. Recent posts on this website include an article about 50 college students at a school in Vermont who are working on a web-based game that educates boys on the effects of violence against women.

These are just a few websites that can keep us informed on the latest and greatest information, practices, and opportunities to harness technology for education.

By: David Lowenstein, State Director, Globaloria WV

If Life Gives You Snow...Make Snow Cones!

Like most of the state, I am trying to get my feet back under me after all of the snow days. Just like driving on a snow day, sometimes it’s hard to get the traction you need. Too much gas and you spin your wheels; too heavy on the brake and you slide out of control. Sometimes, even with your best effort, the car just seems to head the wrong way.

The best way to make good positive headway is to find the right balance between catching up and moving on. For most of us, the Globaloria curriculum is a great tool to do just that. Those work in a self-paced environment and can pick up from where they left off before the snow. Several of our classes have other criteria that also have to be caught up. This can include any of our content standards to be covered and other activities that were that were left out in the snow.

In my Global Biology class (where I teach biology with the Globaloria platform and modified curriculum), I have been trying to wrap up a unit on mitosis that had stretched on for far too long. To handle this restart period, as well as refresh their FLASH skills, I am going to be meeting with each group this week and they are going to tell me what they will be adding to their project to teach about either mitosis or why cells stay so small. This will let them review the material once more after being tested, review the FLASH skills they have learned so far, and evaluate how to put the two together.

So, in following the title of this post, when presented with an abundance of snow, I am doing my best to make snow cones. What are your recipes for catching up after these stretches of bad weather? Share your ideas and suggestions by commenting on this posting.

Until next time, the snow cone stand is yours.

Bill Dorsey