Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

This video is provides an interesting perspective on leadership.  It was filmed at a conference. Begins with a guy dancing (shirtless dancing guy). He was joined by another person who wanted to dance. This continued until there was a mob of dancers.

The most interesting part was how the narrator pointed out that it was the first follower who transformed the "lone nut" into a leader. He turns this jiggly video of motivated concert goers into a lesson on leadership.

Watch it.  You will enjoy it.

How does it fit your ideas about leadership?  Have you ever considered the importance of the first follower? What does this mean to your life?


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not Comfortable with Technology? Get Over It!!!

I was just reading George Couros' blog, The Principal of Change, where I found some great observations.  I must admit that my feeling about the correctness of George's ideas has a high correlation to their agreement with my own ideas.  Isn't it funny?

One of the things that I like about George is his undying dedication to kids. He is a "Principal of Change" who continually works to provide students exciting learning experiences. It's not about us, it's about the kids.

What I liked in his posting entitled "Push". was that he identified a major problem that many educators have with technology - they may "not feel comfortable with this technology." He says that there are lots of people to us with technology.  He had 3 words for educators who "didn't feel comfortable" . . .  Get Over It!  Empowering students for their futures isn't about us, the teachers.  It's about the students.

Learning is a social activity and today's social technologies provide a venue through which they can connect with you, the teacher, students in your class, community and around the globe. Couros suggests that teachers need to take risks.  They need to expand outside their comfort zones to provide learning opportunities that are relevant to today's students.

What do you think?

photo: George Couros

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Skype in the Classroom Soon to be Released

Skype brings a whole new dimension to the classroom opportunities. As I have been chronicling throughout this blog, I have used Skype for years to bring experts and fellow educators into by university classroom. 

In a previous posting, I discussed ways to find people to Skype into your classroom through wiki directories or conference program directories or just meeting up with people at conferences and getting their contact information.

You were introduced to a Skype page for an Author Network.   This is where authors can offer their services to talk with your students. 

We shared 
Silvia Tolisano's wonderful 20-minute introductory video about how to use Skype in your classroom, Around the World with Skype.

Well, Guess What?   Skype is taking the lead to foster using its video conferencing software in the classroom with their new project entitled
Skype in the Classroom. Skype is going to support an online directory of people who would be willing to skype with you and your students.  What is really exciting about this project is its international aspect. I don't know if you know this, but Skype was founded by a Swede and a Dane.  It was developed by a pair of Estonian developers.  Presently, Skype's headquarters are in Luxembourg.

There isn't a great deal of information about how they will do this. You can pre-register at their
Skype in the Classroom website. I just signed-up this morning and they sent me an email verifying my "subscription."  This took me to their Subscription Page entitled "Skype - Pay Me"  I didn't quite see how this fit with the FREE label that Skype put on Skype in the Classroom. I looked around and didn't find anything that mentioned Skype in the Classroom.  I figured that something would happen in the future . . .  and it did.

I received another email from Skype sending me a list of the information I had submitted - my name and email address.  Oh Well . . . Skype in the Classroom is in its beta format and I am happy to be one of the early adopters for this project. 

The international aspect of this video conferencing tool has the potential to enhance the global aspects of our education.

Thanks, Skype!



Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Keyboarding Skills for 4th Grade Students

What effect does a 4-week online computer keyboarding instructional tutorial have on 4th grade students?

Teaching keyboarding at the elementary level is the way it should be.  Kids are using computers during their preschool ages and should be provided guidance early in their lives so as to develop good keyboarding habits.  I must admit that I am not a fan of preschool keyboarding instruction. I think that it should begin about 3rd grade. Research states that 8 years old is a good age because students have developed the coordination and manual dexterity to keyboard efficiently.

I agree with the physical development statements, but more importantly they have a reason to communicate in a written format.  It doesn't make sense for kids to learn how to keyboard if they don't have much to say.

Amy Lockhart and I had an opportunity to do some keyboarding research in her 4th grade classroom at Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa.  We involved the students in 4-weeks of instruction. We spent 40 minutes a day in the computer lab learning how to keyboard. It was fun and productive.

We used the Almena Keyboarding Method. This is a unique form of instruction where instead of learning the homerow first, the Almena Method uses a series of mnemonic jingles for each finger’s keys. These jingles consist of three-word phrases that allow the students to learn the keys’ locations. The phrase, “Quiet Aunt Zelda”, was used to remember the left little finger keys; Q, A and Z. The phrase, “Over Longer Periods”, was used for the right ring finger keys; O, L and P.  

The Almena Keyboarding Method was relatively successful. The 4th graders averaged an improvement of 2.6 Adjusted Words Per Minute (A-WPM). The A-WPM was calculated by subtracting the number of Errors Per Minute (EPM) from the WPM. While 2.6 doesn't seem like much of an improvement, consider that they began at an average of 7.2 A-WPM.  This means that they improved an average of 36% in keyboarding fluency.  Not bad.

What was unique about our action research was that we also investigated how specific attributes affected students' ability to keyboard.  These characteristics were: Gender, Age, Hand Size, Music Experience, and Athletic Experience.
  • Gender - Boy or girl.
  • Age - Students’ ages ranged from 9 - 11 years old.
  • Hand Size - Students’ hand sizes ranged from 5.0 to 6.75 inches in length from wrist to the tip of the middle finger. This variable was classified into three groups for analysis.
  • Music Experience - Students were questioned about their musical experience. If they had taken lesson for playing a musical instrument, they were identified as having Musical Experience.
  • Athletic Experience - Students were questioned about their athletic experience. If they had been involved in an organized athletic activity, they were identified as having Athletic Experience.
We had some interesting results.  Here is an table displaying the overall results based upon Adjusted Words Per Minute:

What does this tell you?  The small size of the sample does not allow us to generalize to a larger population, but it shows some trends that should lead to additional research. 
  • Musical experience seems to have an affect on success using keyboarding tutorials.
  • Younger students tended to key faster then their older classmates.
  • Students with smaller hands tended to key faster than their bigger-handed classmates.
We need to further analyze this data to investigate how multiple variables affect A-WPM. Do small-handed 9-year-olds key faster then bigger-handed 9-year-olds?

If this research catches your interest, you can download the whole .pdf file here:

What are your experiences in young students keyboarding?