Monday, July 30, 2007

Tranforming the World - One Teacher at a Time

Last week, I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a symposium on "Differentiated Instruction and Literacy" sponsored by The Reading Institute in Williamstown, MA. There were about 120 educators in attendance and less than a handful knew anything about blogging or the power of new technologies for education. The symposium was part of a five day course offered by Simmons College which emphasized the use of assistive and emerging technologies to improve literacy.
As one of the final assignments, the instructor, Madalaine Pugliese, asked the participants in the Simmons Course (I think there were about 40 educators) to reflect upon all they had learned as part of a Multimedia Reflection Assignment. Read the comments and you will see the transformation of many of these educators from timid digital novices to educators who now were thinking outside the box.

Here are a sampling of excerpts:
Up until now, I have been only using the Web as a resource for myself and sharing websites with interested parties (such as for great projects with younger students, Journey North at, and for creating word searches with vocabulary words). Now I am looking at the Web in entirely new ways. The students I work with, one on one, have had so much failure in their lives they feel all alone in the world, like nothing they do matters. They don't care. They are not interested, and they definitely do not think anyone else is interested either. When I think about all the ways that we have just been connected to the rest of the world, I feel empowered to do the same for my students. I want them to create podcasts that connect them to students across the world. I want them to be able to share their successes when they work in the bike shop or build a project in the workshop. I want them engaged and excited about their own student-driven projects that are meaningful to them personally and that they can take pride in creating and sharing.
I shared some of the videos with my oldest son and we talked about all of the things I had learned during our technological immersion. After a while, he began to smile and, in his way, reminded me of the great divide between the digital natives and immigrants. He was amazed that we had all spent money to learn about computers and the internet. He asked why I didn’t just sit down and learn to do it myself. That’s the biggest difference between the native and the immigrants………..they believe they can learn to do anything they want with the right tools.
Allowing my students to create visual representations to demonstrate comprehension of something they have read will not only add some variety to the task but will also allow them to use their strengths.

Most of my generation learned through books, articles, lectures/classes, and workshops. As the Internet invaded my world, I did not take it serious and ‘heard’ or knew only of the hazards and pitfalls of how dangerous it was. My school computer has more locks and blocks on it than Fort Knox! Clearly, these are signs to stay away. But as higher education is changing, professors are quietly guiding us (well, maybe not so quietly) to explore websites that are positive, inspirational, and informational.
Read Kathy Reck's post about her student, Joey, and how she would extend writing activities to take advantage of 21st century tools.

Love to see this kind of "digital energy" that makes learning engaging, exciting and fun!

These educators "get it!" And they are using the rest of the summer to explore the tools on their own to incorporate into their classrooms. How cool is that? The transformation continues, one teacher at a time.
(The picture is the Hairpin Turn on the Mohawk Trail driving to Williamstown from Boston. Quite exhilarating, something like being a virgin keynote speaker!)


Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D said...

Hi Karen- very inspiring as usual. Keep up the great work you are doing!! Brian

Rick Weinberg said...

I have got to say that these quotes are incredible. I really liked the points about digital native and digital immigrants. Its not like I haven't heard that before, I just never thought about natives being able to it all by themselves. Maybe one day I won't have a job anymore because the classroom will be full of all digital natives, including the teacher.

Karen...I also want to thank you so much for posting to my blog. I was just so pleased by everyone's kindness by just on tweet from Sheryl. Thanks again and I will be checking you blog often.

Alison Czarnecki said...


Thanks for being the keynote at the "Differentiated Instruction and Literacy" sponsored by The Reading Institute in Williamstown, MA. As a result, we are starting a blog for our next class. We all come from different areas and this is a great way to work as a "group" on one of our assignments. As a result of you two keynotes, I feel energized and want to share this information not only with my students, but others around me.
Thanks again!

Karen Janowski said...

Rick and Alison,
Thank you both so much for stopping by. The connections that result from using these tools energize us all, an d hopefully our students will benefit when school resumes in the fall.

Christine Knippenberg, MS, OTR/L said...

Heard you talk last year at the Therapists in the Schools conference. The tools you presented just "gelled" for me this year as we are developing resources for some autism training materials in Vermont. Set up a blog (it is just a fledgling, more to come) and also a wiki (private for now until I get the hang of who accesses it and what will be on it) to get materials into the hands of teachers in the most expeditious way. A local district I work for will also be setting up a blog much like the wonderful Hosmer site, and we are gung-ho to use wikis to write collaborative reports and create materials. Hurrah for opening yet another technology door--if we can pass through it, we can hold it open for our students. Check out to see our entre.