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Big Things Do Come in Small Packages

Posted Jan 07 2009 6:27pm

Logo TechLEARNING blogpostconversation
I have been thinking a great deal lately about the role of learning communities and communities of practice in helping to move educational reform at the school level.  However, this topic seems to be one to which many can relate. I published a post at techLEARNING entitledVirtual Communities as a Canvas of Educational Reform and the conversation in the comments that followed has been amazing!
There is a great deal of back and forth in terms of ideas, questions, and advice. I am learning a lot.

In fact, we have now started to discuss  the "how to" and the impact of developing a culture of risk takers in our schools. I sure would love it if you all would drop by and add your perspective to the "wisdom of the crowds."

Learning Community Alabama Style
Related to learning communities and how to measure their impact on serving as a catalyst for change, the state superintendent of Alabama released this (below) today. West Blocton is one of the school teams that participated in the 21st Century teaching and learning initiative I helped to design and lead. The outcome below was related to that work. Feels good to know your work is taking hold!

I have been analyzing the data for Year 2 of the Alabama project. The preliminary results have been encouraging in terms of the success of the project. The evaluation includes a content analysis of the computer mediated conversations that took place within the community, a content analysis of the randomly selected focus group conversations, and a LoTi survey used to determine if a difference exists between the responses of ABPC Powerful Conversation educators at schools participating in the 21st Century Strand and educators in schools who are not participating in the 21st Century Strand (Non 21 st Century Schools).

A LoTi survey was conducted to ascertain each participant's current level of technology implementation using the Level of Technology Implementation questionnaire. This questionnaire measures three critical components related to supporting or implementing the instructional use of computers in our project: LoTi (Levels of Technology Implementation), PCU (Personal Computer Use), and CIP (Current Instructional Practices). The profile focused on the use of technology as an interactive learning medium because we feel this particular component has the greatest and lasting impact on classroom pedagogy and is the most difficult to implement and assess.

The results and summary will be forth coming.

State of Alabama
Department of Education
Joseph B. Morton
State Superintendent of Education

State Board
of Education
Gov. Bob Riley
Randy McKinney
District I
President Pro Tem
Betty Peters
District II
Stephanie W. Bell
District III
Dr. Ethel H. Hall
District IV
Vice President
Ella B. Bell
District V
David F. Byers, Jr.
District VI
Sandra Ray
District VII
Vice President
Dr. Mary Jane Caylor
District VIII
Joseph B. Morton
Secretary and
Executive Officer

July 11, 2007

Contact: Edith Parten

Big Things Do Come in Small Packages
Elementary Students Receive Top Honors for Educational Web Site

Montgomery, AL- Students at West Blocton Elementary School may be small in size, but their Big Idea landed them top honors in a global contest that challenges students to create innovative Web sites. The group of fourth-graders from the Bibb County School formed a team called C-S-I: Cahaba Student Investigators as they set out to investigate water quality and the importance of keeping our water clean. They received Honorable Mention for their educational Web site,“The Case of the Mysterious Macros,”in the ThinkQuest International 2007 Competition. Out of the approximate 500 entries, the West Blocton students were one of only 10 U.S. teams who received recognition. Each student and teacher participant of the winning teams receives a laptop computer and their sponsoring school receives $1,000.

“We are just so proud of the finished product,” said Annette Harris, the teacher-coach for the project. “I learned as they learned about water quality,” Harris added.

Students say they wanted their site to be more “kid friendly” with many drawings, bright colors, and great links. They drew all of the images and took their own pictures for the Web site filled with colorful pages, team members, photos, interesting sidebars and impressive academic citations. The Web site, designed to help teach fellow classmates about the importance of keeping our water clean, is shared with classmates and peers around the world. The students hope their site will convince people to stop trashing and polluting our water.

The West Blocton students collaborated in the research, writing and creation of“The Case of the Mysterious Macros,”Web site. They conducted a water quality study at Caffee Creek which runs into the Cahaba River and learned about topics such as watersheds, water pollution, aquatic insects, and aquatic ecosystems. The students said the project was one of the most fun things they’ve ever done at school.

Students work in teams made up of three to six kids from across the world under the supervision of a teacher-coach. Their mission: build innovative and educational Web sites to share with the world. The winning team from Alabama is made up of four 4th graders from West Blocton Elementary, one student from Florida, and a sixth team member from Slovakia. The young scholars join fellow winners on 30 teams from 17 countries. Harris said she chose team members based on their ability to work independently, technical skills and proven work ethics.

The West Blocton team and project will be featured in theWorking Toward Excellencejournal, about how they are bridging the digital divide. The team also traveled to Atlanta in June to present their Web site at a National Technology Conference.

The ThinkQuest competition is a program of the Oracle Foundation, and is a renowned global contest that challenges students to create innovative Web sites to share with peers around the world. It is utilized by teachers to engage students in developing critical skills for life and work in the 21st century. “The students not only learn about the topic at hand, but to meet deadlines, envision and complete a project, and they learn how to contribute to the workforce as a team”, Harris said. “The most important thing I learned is that teachers must be willing to learn new things right along with their students.”

“It is truly inspiring to see what the students accomplish. The education Web sites that they produce are absolutely first-rate. Equally impressive, however, is that throughout the competition, they are honing skills that are key to success in the 21st century workplace,” said Clare Dolan, Vice-President, Oracle Education Initiatives.

“We are hoping to expand by adding another team, and teacher-coach for next year’s competition,” Harris said. The teacher-coach said a new group of students have already started a topic and research for next year.



Gordon Persons Building • P.O. Box 302101 • Montgomery, AL 36130
Telephone (334)242-9700 • Fax (334)242-9708 • Web site:

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