Getting ready for NECC!

NECC is just around the corner and Generation YES is getting ready. We’ve planned, ordered, organized, and packed (sort of). We’ll be at booth #1952, come by and say hi!

We are especially excited to be working with the new Constructivist Consortium, planning events to support progressive educators everywhere. The Consortium members will be offering an amazing prize package every day, including software, TechYES and GenYES licenses, and a virtual author visit from Fablevision’s Pete Reynolds, noted children’s book author and illustrator. Come by our booth to pick up an entry card for the prize drawings.

Be sure to put these sessions in your NECC calendar:

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Technology Literacy for All Students – Dennis Harper, Generation Yes with Sylvester Robinson, James L. Smith and Gary Stager 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Join us for a comprehensive, comparative look at how states and nations are defining and assessing technology literacy.

Papert Matters – Thinking About Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas
Gary Stager, Pepperdine University 3:30-4:30 PM Spotlight Session
Seymour Papert’s work has defined the frontiers of education for 40+ years. His colleagues will share what Papert’s ideas mean for the future of learning.

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Assessing Student Technology Literacy – Karen Connaghan, Montgomery County Intermediate Unit with Kate Kemker, Sylvia Martinez and Mia Murphy 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Come hear real solutions for meeting the NCLB requirement to assess technology literacy of 8th grade students.

More sessions…NECC Creative Educator Handout
If you are looking for constructivist, project-based sessions with ideas for the classroom using multimedia, Web 2.0 tools, programming for students, and more, download this handout for sessions that you’ll love.

Constructivist Celebration
We’ll also see some of you at the Constructivist Celebration! This day-long celebration of creativity, computing & constructivist learning will take place Sunday, June 24 at the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Peter Reynolds and Gary Stager will kick the day off with an inspirational keynote address. Then, participants will jump into exciting hands-on projects led by some of the nation’s finest ed tech leaders. The day ends with an opportunity to share your creations and a panel discussion, “Sustaining Constructivist Learning,” featuring leaders of LCSI, GenYES, Schoolkit, Tech4Learning, and Fablevision. Every participant will receive a great package of software too!Unfortunately, the event before NECC is COMPLETELY sold out, but we are already hearing from other conferences about doing it in other places around the country. If you’d like to hear more about future events with the Constructivist Consortium, you can add your name to the email list.


Pepperdine OMET – Ten Years of Online Learning Excellence

Ten years ago I joined 25 other pioneers in a grand experiment in online education. I was accepted into the first cadre of the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology’s fully online Masters in Educational Technology (OMET) program. What seems so commonplace now was almost unheard of then.

In the past ten years, online classes have become mainstream, but I believe that the experience I had is still exemplary. It modeled community of practice, collaboration, communication, and constructivist pedagogy. We used primitive tools, but we really used them well!

The Pepperdine OMET program is this years recipient of the highest honor of the United States Distance Learning Association, the Platinum Award for Best Practices for Online Distance Learning Programming from a national field of entrants. It’s well deserved!

The education I got from this program gave me the vocabulary and the academic grounding that helped me put my vague thoughts about education into practice. The books I read, the lessons I learned, and the colleagues I met still impact what I do everyday. I owe any ability to articulate coherent thoughts about learning to this program.

If you are attending NECC in Atlanta this year, there will be celebration of this 10th anniversary of OMET and this well-deserved award. Hope you can join us there!


NECC – 4 weeks and counting

Generation YES booth NECC 2006The National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Atlanta, Georgia, is about 4 weeks away (June 25-28) and things are getting exciting! For Generation YES, this is “the big one” — the conference that we really go all out for. We even have a yearly “theme” for our booth. For most conferences, we don’t really do much decorating, but for NECC, well, we try. Of course, for us, that means imagination over money! But that’s always more fun, isn’t it?

Last year was our tenth anniversary, so we went to the party store and bought party favors and decorations with a Happy 10th Birthday! theme. That was fun (and cheap!) The Generation YES students are always the best decoration, after all.

This year we had a tougher time, but finally, Megan’s southern picnic idea won the day. We plan to buy a roll of astroturf (cheaper than renting conference carpet) and find a picnic table to use as a meeting table (cheaper than renting conference tables – see a pattern here?) We’ll be back at the party store looking for red checked tablecloths and picnic accessories for decor. We want to use part of our booth to set up a “drive-in” theater, with blankets on the grass and a film projector showing some great student projects, videos, and other movies.

And of course, students will be there to “walk the talk” of student empowerment and ownership of their learning experience.

Constructivist CelebrationThe Constructivist Celebration pre-conference event is completely sold-out, so on Sunday, we will be playing in the Atlanta Botanical Garden with almost 100 constructivist educators and our partners from the Constructivist Consortium. We have students from nearby Barber Middle School in Cobb County coming to help out and show off the technology skills they’ve learned in their TechYES class this year. Tech4Learning, one of our Constructivist Consortium partners, has already sent Barber Middle School packs of their software so that the students could practice ahead of time.

At NECC, we have a full round of events, panels, sessions and of course, time spent in our booth, talking to people about student empowerment through technology. I’ll put up another post with the full schedule next week.

During the conference, the Constructivist Consortium will be giving away some amazing prizes–more on that later as well, this post is getting too long!

We love meeting old friends and new, and NECC is always a great place to do just that. Hope to see you in HOT-lanta, as they say, so come by and chill out with us at the Generation YES picnic!

WOW – Way Out West

On Saturday I ironically traveled east to attend Way Out West in Glendale, Arizona. I promised to put up my session presentation so that everyone didn’t have to furiously take notes as the URLs flew by. Sorry about the speed – 45 minutes is such a short time when you are talking about Web 2.0!

I exported my Keynote slideshow to a PDF file. There are a number of advantages to that – it’s portable and simple – everyone can open PDFs. The links are still clickable. The disadvantage, of course, is that any videos simply show up as a picture. So here’s a previous post that includes the link to the RSS in Plain English video and why this is such a great example for students to make their own help guides. Anyway, if anyone would like this in the original Keynote format, just email me. (It’s my first name, Sylvia at

Web 2.0 with StudentsSlideshow in PDF format

PS If this is your first visit here, welcome! There is an easy way to subscribe to this blog over in the right column, click any of the subscribe buttons, or click the Subscribe by email link to get new posts in your inbox.

PPS Earlier blog posts that connect to the presentation on Saturday:

Constructivist Celebration @ NECC

Constructivist Celebration logoJoin colleagues in a daylong celebration of creativity, computing & constructivist learning at the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden on June 24th, 2007. This is the day before the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Atlanta, GA starts.

The Constructivist Celebration is the inaugural event for the new Constructivist Consortium, an industry cooperative designed to showcase software and curriculum products that support creativity, constructivist learning, and student empowerment.

Peter Reynolds and Gary Stager kick the day off with an inspirational keynote address. Then it’s your turn to jump into exciting hands-on projects led by some of the nation’s finest ed tech leaders. The day ends with an opportunity to share your creations and a panel discussion, Sustaining Constructivist Learning, featuring leaders of LCSI, Generation YES, Schoolkit, Tech4Learning, and Fablevision.

In addition to a day full of learning adventures, your registration includes a southern barbecue lunch and a fabulous collection of materials.

  • LCSI will provide each participant with a single-user license copy of MicroWorlds EX & MicroWorlds Jr.
  • Tech4Learning will provide each participant with a single-user licensed copy of Frames, Pixie, ImageBlender, WebBlender & Twist.
  • Materials from other members of the consortium will also be available.

We have invited the TechYES students and teacher from nearby Barber Middle School to participate as well.

The Constructivist Celebration @ NECC
June 24, 2007, 9:00 – 4:00 PM
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta, Georgia

All for only $25!

Find out more and register today at:

Register today! Space is extremely limited!

17 Intentions of an Effective Teacher

(posted with permission of Don Mesibov, The Institute for Learner Centered Education)

The Foundation
Underlying classroom practices

  1. Safe and nurturing environment – do you create a classroom environment where students feel free to think critically and express their views without fear?
  2. Public speaking – do you structure lessons that require and nurture public speaking, in pairs and small groups as well as in front of the entire class?
  3. Opportunities for success – do you provide every student with frequent opportunities to experience “success”?
  4. Validation of student work and responses – do you let each student know when his or her efforts are praiseworthy?

The Exploratory Phase
The beginning of the lesson or unit

  1. Grab attention – do you begin class in a manner likely to encourage students to look forward to what comes next?
  2. Prepare students to engage – do you create activities that focus student thinking, excite their imaginations, and prepare them to meet and exceed the learning standards.
  3. Assess and access prior knowledge – do you design activities that will help students (and you) to access and assess their prior knowledge, interests, and needs?

The Discovery Phase
The part of the lesson in which students learn and demonstrate they are meeting the learning objectives of the lesson

  1. The learning objectives – do you clearly state the one, two, or three specific things you want your students to learn? Have you cast these specific objectives in terms of what your students will understand, relate to, perform or create? Are the objectives aligned with appropriate learning standards?
  2. Authentic task – do you frame learning tasks that are as authentic as possible and that will allow students to demonstrate their skill with or understanding of the learning objective(s)?
  3. Ownership – do you create learning tasks that enable students to feel pride and assume responsibility for their own learning?
  4. Options – do you offer students optional ways to accomplish the learning task, and therefore reach the learning objectives(s)?
  5. Multiple intelligences – do you offer students frequent opportunities to utilize their stronger intelligences (recognizing that there are going to be times when they will also have to rely on their weaker ones)?
  6. Appropriate resources – do you make sure that the resources necessary to accomplish the assigned student-centered activities are available, or can be made available, to students?
  7. Interventions – do you look for opportunities (teachable moments) to intervene either in response to student questions or in reaction to student work, by “working the room” while students are engaged in an activity?
  8. Cognitively rich questions – do you seize every opportunity: to intervene in student work with questions that require students to think critically; to phrase task questions to require critical thinking; and to require students to create their own cognitively rich questions that create disequilibrium?
  9. Reflection – do you, during a learning experience, create opportunities for students to think about their thinking, to assess their progress and their decisions thus far? Do you, at the end of each day’s lesson, provide students with a brief closure activity that elicits evidence of something students have learned as a result of the lesson?
  10. Assessment measures – do you utilize multiple forms of assessment to judge student performance, including effective use of rubrics? Is instructional improvement the primary reason you assess students? Is teacher observation structured to be the most meaningful form of assessment?

Copyright (c) 2005, Institute for Learner Centered Education.

The Institute of Learner Centered Education website offers a number of valuable resources for the constructivist educator, including definitions, resources for applying standards-based constructivism to lessons, a journal, and an email newsletter that always includes thoughtful information like these 17 Intentions. A nice opportunity for constructivist educators is the Institute’s annual summer conference (July 23 – 27) at Grand Island, New York, within sight of Niagara Falls. This unique conference models constructivist teaching and learning — no talking heads here! Visit The Institute for Learner Centered Education for information.

MEC – Phoenix, Arizona

Hello everyone!

I’m sitting in the student union at Arizona State University, using the free wireless to check my mail and post this. The annual Microcomputers in Education Conference (MEC) is Arizona’s state educational technology conference held on the ASU campus. It’s 90 degrees outside, but the technology in here is even hotter! Sessions on podcasting, GIS, blogging across the curriculum and Web 2.0 are packed. In fact, there are quite a few conversations here speculating about what 3.0 will bring.

Generation YES was well-represented here. Yesterday we did a session on technology literacy, this morning was a great session done by the students of Paradise Valley HS about their GenYES program, and this afternoon I’ll be doing a session on free and inexpensive software and websites that encourage student-centered technology – focusing on podcasting, blogging, open source options, and Web 2.0 tools. This session I’ll be ably assisted by two students from North Ranch Elementary school, also from Paradise Valley Unified School District.

The connection is a little too slow to post my handouts or slides yet, but I’ll upload those soon.


Back from CUE

The California Computer Using Educators (CUE) conference was this past weekend. There were over 3,000 educators there enjoying a little bit of sun in Palm Springs and a whole lot of technology. There were many, many podcast sessions, and the Google Education Tools seemed to be a big attraction for many teachers.

It was great to meet many of you California GenYES and TechYES teachers at the conference. The Generation TECH students from Borrego Springs High School were featured in the Student Showcase, showing how they help their district by doing tech support in their school. And a big special thank you to Krista Purdom from Woodland, CA, who helped out in our booth. Krista is a double-threat, she has taught TechYES and GenYES, so when teachers stopped by the booth to ask how students can help teach tech literacy, or how students can help teachers use technology in the classroom, she had all the answers!

Krista became a big fan of Hall Davidson of Discovery Learning while at CUE, and found his sessions about Google maps, multimedia, video, and mashups informative and inspiring. Hall’s session handouts and slides are posted online are really great tools!

Next year at CUE, it would be great to have more California Generation YES teachers submitting sessions about what’s happening at your school. I’ll send out reminders in a couple of months by email about how to submit a session for CUE. It’s easy, really!


TCEA – Austin, Texas

Got back late Friday night from TCEA, the annual state conference of the Texas Computer Education Association. The conference was exciting and tiring as usual, but it was great to see so many friends and Generation YES teachers who stopped by to say hello.

A highlight for me was a session called, My First Year with Generation YES given by Lisa Rogers at Forney Middle School. It was a very early morning session, but quite a few hardy souls got up early to hear her tell about her journey with her GenYES students as they learned to help teachers with technology.

Lisa showed examples of student projects using web development tools, interactive PowerPoint quizzes, and video. One of the GenYES projects linked unitedstreaming videos to the career and technology textbook so that the teacher could easily get the videos as they taught each lesson.

It’s a great example of student-powered, student-centered technology. Not only did this teacher get a reusable resource that enhances student learning, the school got more benefit from a technology resource that they had already bought and paid for.

Thanks to Lisa and her GenYES students, Forney is really reaping the benefit of the technology investments they’ve made.

Later that day, I led a session called Students Providing Tech Support – The 21st Century A/V Club. It was a chance to have a terrific conversation with educators who are either thinking about having students help with tech support or already have something going. This is a fun session, because it is interesting to get people together who think that they are the only ones out there doing this! The dirty little secret is, lots of schools have students helping out informally.

Of course, I talked about our tools and curriculum to support student tech support teams, Generation TECH. But there are lots of things we discussed that are free that schools can do to create opportunities for students to help maintain the quality of technology.

You can read Wesley Fryer’s notes taken during the presentation at his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity. Wesley’s summary is kind of funny, a stream of consciousness ramble. I don’t know if he was taking notes by hand or not, but he’s FAST and got most of the big picture. Thanks, Wes!

It was great to meet Wesley in person and have a chance to talk about blogs and education. He gave me some very good advice about this blog as well! I hope to be able to implement some of the ideas in the near future.