Citizen Penguins Attend Presidential Inauguration 2.0

The inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009 promises to usher in a 21st century overhaul of the United States government.  I was fortunate to have attended the inaugural ceremonies with what was estimated to be a crowd of over 1.8 million people.   While standing with my fellow citizens in what can only be described as a scene reminiscent of March of the Penguins, we huddled together for over four hours in sub freezing temperatures on the National Mall.  Spirits of course were high and everyone just made the best of the situation.  There has been plenty of talk of the 21st century lately, from the need to transform every area of our society from energy to education, and oh yes, financial regulations.  Let’s use Wordle to examine President Obama’s inaugural address.  [Learn more about Wordle from a previous post] The most frequent words used in President Obama’s address were Nation, America, New, Must, and Every denoted by the larger font sizes in the image.  The phrase “21st Century” was not spoken in President Obama’s address.  Visit the new White House dot gov website to view the transcript and watch a streaming video of his speech.  The inaugural address page actually contains two of three of what I like to remind teachers are the big three when it comes to Web 2.0. — Blogs and YouTube — the third being a Wiki.  The address is posted as a blog entry and contains a streaming video similar to those found on YouTube. has even gone one step further allowing anyone to download and save a high quality mp4 version of the video.  Great for teachers and students who may be interested in creating multimedia presentations.   While the blog does not have the ability for readers to post and share comments, I’m sure that will evolve in the near future.  If you are new to the Web 2.0 world it might be interesting to monitor over the next several months to see how it grows into a fully mature 21st century communication infrastructure.

Now back to the Washington Mall…  One of the hallmarks of the Web 2.0 world is the ubiquitous nature of digital recording and communication devices.  Unlike our penguin brethren, we occupied our time texting, calling friends and family on the cell phone, and taking pictures and videos while we waited for the ceremony to begin.  My inauguration photo slideshow was created using Adobe’s  Photos were uploaded using a free account, added to an album, and then I copied and pasted the embed code into this blog post.  Photography sharing sites like and Flickr are the life blood of creating media rich blogs.  As we learned on the site, sharing video is another good way to communicate.  Watch the citizen penguin’s stir as they watch Obama take the presidential oath of office.  The embedded video recorded using a FlipVideo camera streams from Google video NOT YouTube so it should work in school districts that block YouTube.  How can Web 2.0 transform the American Government?  Hey teachers, does this sound like a neat student project?

Tune-in to Your Students with Classroom Clickers

Grade 4 student casts vote using student response clicker.  “I wish my teacher knew that I don’t really understand what they are trying to teach me today.”  How many of our students think these thoughts each day?  Well, some very smart people in the physics department at M.I.T. decided the large lecture hall approach just wasn’t working for their university students.  An article written by New York Times columnist, Sara Rimer, described the transformation in, At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard.  The new interactive, high-tech, collaborative classrooms have resulted in higher attendance rates and significantly reduced failure rates.

One key to creating a truly student-centered learning environment is to ensure that every student is heard.  In traditional classrooms, teachers never have the time to call on every student, leading to disengaged learners or dare I say, bored.  The student response system solves this problem by creating a classroom in which every student responds using a hand-held remote.  At the Ferryway School, where I work as a technology specialist, I’ve been helping elementary teachers make their instruction interactive with the Qwizdom student response system.

Third graders enthusiastically vote, Yes, on using Qwizdom to learn vocabulary.

Think about how many PowerPoint presentations you have sat through where you wished that the presenter would tune into the audience.   Now consider a third grader stuggling with new vocabulary words.  We’ve been able to transform vocabulary instruction using a response system — here’s how.  Students view a presentation projected on the white board at the front of the classroom controlled using a special teacher remote.  The lesson begins by showing students a list of the unit vocabulary words.  The teacher uses her remote to randomly select students to read the vocabulary words aloud, their names flash on the screen.  A nifty feature for keeping students on their toes.  Hey, better pay attention, you could be next!  We then provide a subset of 4-5 vocabulary words asking students which word they can easily use in a sentance.  Students write descriptive sentances on paper and then send their chosen word to the computer.  The teacher displays the classes’ responses in the form of a bar graph.  This technique gives teachers immediate feedback on which words students don’t feel comfortable using in a sentance.  Teachers use this real-time assessment to immediately adjust their instruction.  Next, traditional worksheet exercises such as select the best definition or identify the parts of speech, i.e. noun, verb, and adjective are converted into multiple choice questions.  Send responses, share, and discuss results.

Using images to reinforce vocabulary comprehension.

To differientiate instruction, pictures are displayed and students asked to select the best word(s) to describe what they see in the image.  In one lesson, students viewed an ape hoarding food in his zoo enclosure.  [Picture credit: Patries71, Flickr, Creative Commons license] Which word would you choose?  A) care  B) attention C) probe D) enrich E) saving.  As you can see in the picture, student responses were well distributed as represented by the bar graph on the right-hand side.   Students then justify their word selections in writing and share their reasoning with classmates.  This approach enables students to master unfamilar vocabulary words through writing, reading, discussion, and visual analysis.  A detailed answer report on student performance generated after each lesson is used by teachers for grading purposes.

The excitement students feel about being heard is confirmed as I walk the hallways,  Mr. Simpson when are we doing the next Qwizdom lesson?