A Lesson in ShiftHappens from Norway...

The above referenced story, about a school in Oslo, Norway turning things around by using technology, learner-focused planning, and participatory media just gives me the feeling of being home! Ok, they're in Norway and I'm in Haines City, Florida. Oh, and true, my school hasn't achieved quite what the fine folks at the Stovner Upper Secondary school have. But...we are, for all intents and purposes, exactly where they were prior to their successful effort at making shifthappen!

Boone Middle is a great school. I say this because I see it for what it could be. In some ways, we're a typical Florida Title I Middle School, with all of the AYP 'sub groups' one might expect: Limited English Speakers, ESE students, minorities (who are truly a majority at Boone) Latino, African American, Haitian Creole, etc. A large percentage of our students are on free or reduced lunch, which is a statistic used to 'indicate' that we are situated within a relatively impoverished economic strata. But in my heart and in my mind, we are and can be so very much more...

I started my teaching career at Boone Middle, after having spent several years in Chicago and then back down here in Orlando as a business writer. Teaching's in my family. Three of the four sisters in my Mom's family were teachers, and my Dad taught in North Carolina for a while after retiring from the Army and his 'after career' as an employment screening professional. So I guess you might say I get it honest. In truth, I started teaching at Boone because I needed a job (corporate layoffs...marketing is always the first to get the axe!!!). But I am still at Boone Middle because I believe in this job - the feeling I get when a student has an 'ah ha!' moment - or figures out a two-step equation on her own for the first time.
I get special pleasure from my Technology Student Association club members, who routinely do very well in State and National Competitions despite their supposed "lower economic status." It's these TSA students who showed me the way to a brighter future at Boone. If what I'm doing now using 'old school' books/paper, our wood shop, and the occasional software program can get ten students a year involved in a technology-based after school club geared toward competition with other schools in our state and throughout the nation, then surely I can find ways to reach more of my kids. But how? How can I get the bulk of my students interested enough in electronics, biotechnology, structural engineering, etc. so that they will be willing to say no to their iPods and game systems and yes to furthering their academic and career possibilities during class and after school club days?
The answer: Look to how other schools have successfully adopted collaborative learning through technology using the very tools my kids already know how to use and in fact, can't live without!
We need to get something going at Boone similar to what took place at Stovner in Oslo. My friend and mentor Jim Gates has informed me that it may take countless 'demos' of Moodle, Wiki, various student blogs and projects, etc. in front of oh, say, my Principal, our Network Specialist (gotta stop the incessant site filtering!) and then on up to our School Board folks, for approval. Not to mention one heck of a grass roots effort among our staff on the part of myself and a few fellow rebels. Based on what I'm reading from folks like Graham Wegner, Dean Shareski (really love his digital storytelling articles!), and Wesley Fryer, even though there may not be a ton of early adopters - the possibilities and chances for real learning that come with trying are so very cool! Who knows? Between Skype and Splashcast, maybe Oslo, Norway will turn out to be just around the corner after all...

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