Thursday, March 22, 2007

MEGA fun!

About twenty educators gathered in the Friday Institute yesterday afternoon to network and share ideas and experiences. Our group is called MEGA. It used to stand for Middle Educators Global Activities. We are so diverse now that we have moved beyond the "middle" part. There were elementary and middle school teachers there along with representatives of the Department of Public Instruction, NC State University, and private industry.

Joselyn Todd presented a jaw drapping session on Wikis. She teaches 7th grade science at Cary Academy. Get this - if she has to be absent, she creates a screencast for her students to watch so they don't lose any instructional time. She gives wiki homework. The students are divided into groups and each group is given a subtopic on chemical reactions, for example. They have one night to make their contributions to the chemical reactions wiki. And wow!! These kids create some compelling content. Joselyn said she loves teaching middle schoolers because they are naive enough to believe that they can do just about anything. And she motivates them to do just about everything! They are working on a Periodic Table of Podcasts. Listen to Krypton. It is great!

I got to lead a discussion of cybersafety in the 21st century classroom. The conversations were remarkable! We all agreed that turning off Web 2.0 sites for schools is not the answer. That would be like telling students that they can never use scissors because they could get cut. Yes, there is potential danger in Web 2.0 from predators and cyberbullies, but our students are out there. They are not going to give up these tools! We need to be out there with them learning and creating an environment that is somewhat protected. We give them rounded kindergarten scissors. Teach them how to cut and they slowly graduate to the big, pointy scissors. Start them off on imbee and class blogmeister, where the teacher or parent controls access and student sites are protected from the general population. Teach them how to protect their privacy. By the time they are in high school they will be ready to use MySpace responsibly.

We recorded the conversations so they may be available in the future as a podcast. Until then you can visit some of the links (look at MEGA_1 through 4 and cybersafety) that we used as resources. The links and my Powerpoint presentation will all be posted soon in the MEGA archives!

Our next meeting is May 2. Beckey Reed and Lisa Grable, our group facilitators, always make it interesting. I can't wait!

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