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TED Talk Tuesday: Tom Wujec Build a Tower, Build a Team

The group that consistently fails at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of business school. Business students are trained to find the single right plan and then execute it. The problem with this strategy is that they wait for the last minute to add their marshmallow to the top of the structure and when their plan fails, it is a crisis. The group that consistently succeeds at the marshmallow task: recent graduates of kindergarten. Kindergarten students start with a model and they build successive prototypes of their structure. They always keep their marshmallow on top. They have multiple opportunities to refine their structure until it is working. With each version of the prototype, students are getting instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t and they can adjust accordingly. Kids don’t spend time trying to be CEO of Spaghetti Inc. They aren’t jockeying for power, they are working together creatively and having fun. What stands out to me about the data that Tom Wujec shares, is not that architects and engineers build the best towers (as he says, we would expect that), but that kindergartners are not very far behind. This makes me wonder about what important things we are deprogramming kids to do as we send them through the education system. If the education system was really working, I would expect that adults would be able to construct the best, highest towers. I would expect that those with the most education would build the best towers. But as we see, this isn’t the case. In school we teach students that everything has a correct answer. Sometimes that answer means filling in the “c” on a bubble test, and sometimes it means getting your teacher to nod and say “that’s right”. School has become a game of “guess what the teacher is thinking”.  As a result, we have students who can come up with one correct solution to any problem. In the real world, we often need more than one right solution. Many times we need several solutions and creative thinking applied to the problem. Our most recent example of this is the BP oil spill. I can’t help but wonder what great solutions kindergartners would come up with that adults aren’t even considering because we have been deprogrammed to think that way. What does this mean for schools? It means that we need more opportunities for students to explore multiple solutions to a problem, it means that we offer kids the chance to discuss and stop asking the one answer questions all the time. Sometimes there is one correct answer, but in life that isn’t always the case. Students need to be given the chance to explore both options. (As a side note, it is interesting to me that when the incentive of a prize was offered, not one team had a standing structure. I am working my way through Daniel Pink’s book Drive right now and it mirrors what he says in the book.)

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Ed.VoiceThread

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Geography, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Video Tutorials, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 05-08-2008

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What it is: I have posted about Voice Thread in the past, but Voice Thread has added a new education community that has some pretty incredible features. Ed.VoiceThread is a secure collaborative network designed specifically for the k-12 school environment. Teachers and students can collaborate around almost any type of media including voice, text, webcam, and drawing commentary in a secure environment. Access is restricted to k-12 educators, students, and administrators to ensure safe classroom collaboration. Ed.VoiceThread is an accountable environment, which means that all users are responsible for their content and behavior. Some added features that you will find on Ed.VoiceThread are, students have individual accounts that are easily viewable to educators, students can create, edit, and manage their own portfolio, students cannot add contacts or send invitations to any users outside of the Ed.Voice Thread community, and they cannot view any content that is not created by an Ed.Voice Thread member. Teachers can quickly view and access all students’ Voice Threads. Voice Threads can be made private or public depending on the assignment and requirements. Ed.VoiceThread comes in two packages one free and the other, called Pro, for $60/year. Free users can only create 3 VoiceThreads, have 75 MB of storage, no uploading of MP3 comments, 30 min of webcam commenting, advertising will be present, single file size limit of 25 MB, and no downloads of the media. In the Pro version, students can create an unlimited number of Voice Threads, get 10GB of storage, can upload MP3 comments, have unlimited webcam commenting, 30 archival movie exports, no advertising, single file size limit of 100MB and allows downloads of media.

How to integrate Ed.VoiceThread into the classroom: Ed.VoiceThread is the ideal place for students and teachers to collaborate and interact with digital media. The added functionality for schools with Ed.VoiceThread is very useful. Students can use Ed.VoiceThread to create digital stories, documentaries, practice and document language skills, explore geography and culture, solve math problems, and much more. As a teacher, I like VoiceThread as a place to teach. Because everything is web-based, you can upload a days lessons to Ed.VoiceThread for students to refer to and collaborate with while doing homework. I well remember the days when I would sit in math class learning the days equations. Everything made perfect sense to me while I was sitting in the classroom watching problems being worked. But at home, with no guide homework seemed impossible. Ed.VoiceThread makes you your students personal tutor. The self paced learning is amazing! I love giving students tools that allow them to be in charge of their own learning. Is there any better lesson in life than knowing how to learn?

Tips: Try out the free Ed.VoiceThread account and see how it could work for your classroom. If you are like me, it becomes addicting and 3 VoiceThreads won’t be enough!

Leave a comment and share how you are using Ed.VoiceThread in your classroom.

Comments (2)

I have some questions about using Ed.VoiceThread that I’m hoping someone can answer before I begin using this in the fall:

1) With comment moderation, teachers can moderate comments made by students about the teacher’s voice threads, but can they also moderate/hide comments made between students voice threads?

2) Can students email links to their voice threads to me even if they didn’t register an email address at VoiceThreads? I know that with Ed. VoiceThread they don’t need email addresses to participate.

3) Can you keep the sharing/commenting of voice threads closed to just a class, or does it have to be open to all Ed.VoiceThread users?

Thanks for any help you can offer.

I am planning on using VoiceThread a bunch this coming year (just as soon as I confirm that it isn’t blocked by our filter) and this is how I’m planning on doing it. I’ve already done a trial run with a few lessons in this format and I think it will work.

I am posting lessons in VoiceThread format. They consist of some short videos imported and converted from YouTube, the handouts/worksheets that they have to complete that are imported from Word files (made by me) or from websites that are imported as pdf files.

The students will find all necessary instruction on the first pages of the VoiceThread.

Then they will find one handout that tells them what information they need to leave in a comment. They may also encounter a worksheet with related questions or math problems that have to be turned in. Paper versions of those sheets will also be available. But, all of the handouts and reference materials will be available in the voice thread and they will be read out loud by me. For most units, students will be asked to create their own VoiceThread that explains the concept.

I teach a special education class where many students are reading significantly below grade level and a major problem is literacy. They can’t read directions or explanations on handouts or websites. VoiceThread not only offers them a new way to communicate their ideas, but it allows them to communicate in a way that doesn’t necessarily involve reading or writing.

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