Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Latest Digital Distraction

When I was in college I used to drive 5 miles to use a laundromat in North Fargo even though there were quite a few other laundromats much closer. Part of the reason was that this laundromat always seemed to be cleaner and I could always find open machines but the other major reason was they had an arcade game there that I was addicted to. I never saw this game anywhere else and have not seen it anywhere since. That is until last week. The game is called Puzzle Bobbe and the point of the game is to try to clear the screen by grouping 3 or more bubbles of the same color. This game is extremely simple but rather addictive. I have lost at least an hour a day to it since I discovered it again online in Flash form. So, in the interest of promoting distraction, here it is:

  • Mouse click on the flashing "Push 1P Start Button"
  • Use right and left arrows to aim
  • Press space bar to shoot bubbles

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Project-Based Hybrid (Traditional ISD-Charter Partnership) Pedagogy Model

I have been thinking lately about how a project-based charter school within a school could work. Here are my thoughts on how the learning process would be structured:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reasons Teachers Should Consider Online or Hybrid Teaching

This week our high school principal told our teachers that if they plan on staying in this profession for a long time they need to start looking at online teaching because it will be part of our jobs in the future. I decided to pull together some data that supports this statement in the following video. If there are any major arguments or any major relevant data I am missing please comment and let me know.

Reasons To Consider Online or Hybrid Teaching from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Embracing Disruption

Lets face it, the disruptive forces described by Clayton Christensen in "Disrupting Class," this post on Fluid Learning, and the subsequent conversations that have emerged today on Dean Shareski's blog and Will Richardson's blog are going to have an effect on our schools. These forces include the internet, personalized learning, and school choice. So far what we have seen play out is as technology and the internet improve the choice to either home school a child or enroll them in an online school has gotten easier; as more charter and magnet schools open they pull students from the enrollment of our traditional schools; and the inflexibility of our schools has led to an increased dropout rate and a growing number of students who see more value in teaching themselves what they think they need to know than seeking a diploma or degree. The result has been lots of either/or scenarios. You are either enrolled in an online class or you are enrolled in a traditional classroom...you either are home schooled or you attend a public or private school...you either are mainstreamed or you are in some kind of alternative program. This approach has spread us thin. All of these approaches either ignore altogether or place bets on the disruptive forces and such a polar choice leaves few good choices in the long run.

What is it, or what was it, about the schools we grew up with that our communities loved? What programs did those schools offer that added identity and built community? I would suspect that for most of us those things were the arts programs, athletic programs, extra curricular activities, clubs, and organizations. These were the things we celebrated and these are the first to go when disruptive innovation is dealt with in a polar fashion. How can we retain what we hold dear about our community schools in the face of disruptive innovation?

Before we can answer that question we need to look at what the disruption really is. The disruption is the internet. The internet is what is behind the flat world that Thomas Friedman talks about and it is the tool that makes the kind of grass-roots social action and semantic restructuring that Clay Shirky describes. The internet is the largest collection of data and information our world has ever seen and it makes information cheap. It also allows for the outsourcing of or automation of tasks that are routine. However, the internet is more than the sum of it's parts because behind each window that looks into this great big machine sits an individual with thoughts, knowledge, and wisdom. It allows for us to connect in ways we never could before not only with data but with each other.

Daniel Pink also addresses this issue by observing that what this disruption is going to call for in the economic world are people who can exercise the right sides of their brains, see the whole picture, and be creative. The polar approach we have been taking in response to this disruption has forced schools to cut back on programs that typically best nurture this ability in students.

Now, there are other disruptions that are effecting our schools besides just the internet and the rise of school choice. First, there is the health care crisis. When you look at projections for the cost of Medicare and Medicaid in the future, especially as more and more baby boomers retire, there will be less and less funds available for public education. This means either schools will loose funding or an already poor health care system will get even worse. Also, the recent downturn in the economy will have an immediate short-term effect that we won't be able to ignore. Two reasons schools will loose funding added to the loss of funds due to declining enrollment caused by school choice.

Why does this have to be so? As Christensen eloquently explains, large systems are ill equipped to implement sweeping changes. He gives examples in business of how disruptive innovations literally kill certain industries and examples of companies like IBM and Dayton-Hudson who weathered the storm by embracing the disruption and allowing it to flourish. Why can't we do this in our public schools?

I suspect one problem has to do with our miscategorization of different modalities of teaching as modalities of learning. Cognitively, is online learning any different than any other type of formal learning? Certainly online teaching is different than teaching face-to-face but is learning any different? One benefit to online schooling is the students have to be active learners, in an online learning environment passive learning is equivalent to absenteeism. In that way there might be a difference but active learning is active learning and the same level of engagement can be achieved in a traditional classroom as well. Online teaching strategies can be applied in a traditional classroom to support and extend learning just as films can be shown in classes to support the curriculum. Why do we have to think of online learning as one form of learning separate from others?

While there may not be a significant difference in how we learn online as opposed to face-to-face there is a difference in how we learn with different types of assessments and teaching strategies. From a funding standpoint we really have two different models: seat time vs. project-based. One involves a talking head and the other authentic assessments and both can be employed in either an online setting or face-to-face.

So, here is the solution I propose to deal with all of this:
  1. Schools need to start by embracing disruption and support it.
  2. They can do this by starting charter schools within their own walls, a school within a school concept.
  3. One charter school could be created that leased space in each of the host schools.
  4. This charter school would serve students who are dual enrolled in their school and the independent school district the charter is leasing a room from.
  5. These classrooms could be connected through digital tools and/or ITV
  6. This charter school would be based on a project-based model instead of seat time but employ online teaching strategies to enhance and facilitate instruction and inquiry.
  7. Students would meet one day a week with their teacher in the charter but have access to daily classes in the traditional school. The other days the students could work from home.
  8. The days students are present the teacher could meet with 10-15 students thereby keeping the perceived class size down to ideal numbers but meet everyday with a different group thereby increasing their enrollment for one instructional class hour to 50-75 students. This will reduce the cost of education.
  9. The independent school districts could then pass these savings on to retaining and growing programs that are done better face-to-face on a daily basis.
  10. This charter need not be a diploma granting institution and could exist only to support and enhance education in the ISD.
  11. This model could be franchised and opened in other schools. The more schools that allow a classroom for this charter in their district the better both schools become because more teachers in the network mean more course offerings and more funds directed toward arts, athletics, and extra curricular programs.
Many of our smaller schools already have a program that sets a precedent for this since most smaller rural schools have some kind of ITV setup and collaboration with neighboring districts.

I am serious about making this work and have been thinking about it for close to 3 years now. I have a potential sponsor for the charter and three districts with administrators interested in trying this out as well as 7-10 teachers who are interested in piloting this program so it is very possible this idea might fly. What are your thoughts? I would love any and all feedback.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

TIES Hangover

I have a mental hangover following this year's TIES conference. It will take some time for me to fully digest all the great ideas, conversations, and feedback from the past three days. First, I want to say thank you to everyone who attended my sessions. I think I learned more as a presenter from your feedback than you may have taken away from attending. My favorite thing about any edtech conference is meeting people. I met face-to-face for the first time many people I learn from in my personal learning network including Glenn Wiebe, Doug Johnson, and Marianne Malmstrom as well as reconnect with educators I already had a face-to-face relationship with including Scott Schwister, Michael White, Mike Walker, Chris Turnbull, Marcia A. Rockwood, Greg Berg, Cara Hagen, many teachers from NEMEN, Kathy Ames, teachers from Z-M Schools, Fridley, St. Francis, and Columbia Heights. I know I am forgetting some.

Some new and interesting ideas I came away with:
  1. Instead of the school buying laptops for 1:1 initiatives they could give vouchers so teachers and students can buy their own. This could alleviate some terms of use issues and allow those who want better computers to spend a little more.
  2. Use Twitter as a writing prompt.
  3. Use machinema in a media class to produce films based on what students in a writing class write. (asynchronous collaboration that mimics how work is done in the professional world)
Some observations:
  1. In the exhibit hall I saw a guy doing a price comparison using his iPhone while the vendor was giving him quotes. I don't envy these sales people.
  2. You could go to this conference and have whatever bias about technology, pedagogy, and learning reinforced because at each session time there were sessions addressing each view. (Ex. Internet filter Nazi types could safely retreat to sessions about network schematics, firewalls, filters, etc. while us constructivist teachers could gorge ourselves on web 2.0 bonanzas).
  3. While meeting people was great and presenting was extremely valuable from a participant standpoint I probably learn more participating in my PLN on a daily basis than attending a conference.
  4. For the past three years this conference has started with a highly inspirational and thought provoking keynote but ended with a dull-dry business oriented keynote and message from the Gov's office. Why don't we end this on a high note. It would be great if the highlight of the closing session was not the door prizes. Some suggestions for next year's speakers: Clayton Christensen, Clay Shirky, or Michael Welsh.
  5. The communities of interest sessions are what give this conference depth. They should be given more emphasis. (less General Sessions, more Communities of Interest).
  6. It would be real nice to see an online version of this conference in the future, maybe in the Spring.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sunday, December 7, 2008

RSS Feeds for Educators: Growing Your Own Personal Learning Network (Feedback)

We (participants at TIES session on Sunday) have spent the past 2 1/2 hours exploring elements of a personal learning network. I ask that you take a moment to reflect on this session by posting a comment to this blog post. I am interested in what you think regarding any topic brought up during our time together today. I am also interested in which tools and/or services you think you will find most useful. What went well and what didn't go so well.



Saturday, December 6, 2008

Looking Forward to TIES Conference

I am looking forward to this week's TIES Conference. Last spring, with hopes that one might be accepted, I submitted three session proposals and convinced one of the teachers I work with to submit a proposal by agreeing to be a co-presenter. All of our sessions were accepted. In addition TIES asked me to facilitate a community of interest discussion about MUVEs (or virtual worlds) in education. So, I guess for this conference I will be working. Here is a schedule of when I will be presenting:

Sunday, Dec 7 from 8:30 - 11:30

Monday, Dec 8 from 10:00 - 10:50

Tuesday, Dec 9 from 8:30 - 9:20

Tuesday, Dec 9 from 10:00 - 10:50 -

Tuesday, Dec 9 from 11:20 -12:10
Aside from three days in a row of nothing but Edtech and getting to play with all the new toys in the exhibit hall I always look forward to conferences like this one to network with people. Last year I ran in to some teachers and administrators I had not seen in quite some time. I also usually run into people I only know from the blogosphere. This year I hope to put a face to a few more people in my PLN. For instance, I have been reading Doug Johnson's blog for almost two years now and commenting for at least half that time. Doug happens to live in Minnesota so I hope to get a chance to meet him at TIES. I am also excited that I get to hear Daniel Pink.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This Will Not Be On The Test

Dean Shareski over at Ideas and Thoughts of an Ed Tech wrote a thoughtful response to Time Magazine's article about Michelle Rhee today. The following are the comments I added to his post:

I think @wmchamberlain is on the right track by stating that the problem lies in our lack of a concrete purpose for schools. However, our lack of a concrete purpose I think is the result of a larger problem for which the problems in our school systems are a direct result. The problem lies more in what driving forces our human race has allowed to guide everything from our structures of governance to our schools, to how we fulfill our material needs. This problem has its roots far back in our history to the invention of money for trading goods and services. Where at first benign, this tool has allowed the worst of human traits to inform and direct nearly every aspect of how people relate to one another, how we treat our environment, and what we value. For money to work we have to have a fundamentally universal understanding of the definition and concept of ownership. More specifically, things become possessions. Possessions can be traded. A variable can be assigned to hold the value of said possessions. Thereby laying the foundation for our economic system. A system that can be taken advantage of. An abstract system based on the abstract concept of ownership. When that system crashes as it has recently we don’t see material disappear, we have not really lost anything real. What we loose is the illusion we have created by investing in abstract concepts such as ownership and money.

Ownership has had different meanings historically by different cultures. Traditional American Indian cultures had a very different understanding of ownership than feudal systems that emerged in Europe or even Eastern cultures such as emerged in Tibet or Bhutan. Under feudal systems the concept of ownership was less abstract but was the foundation for it’s existence. The monarchy owns everything. The populous is granted by the monarchy permission to use their goods. As cultures indoctrinated under feudal systems evolved and systems of government changed the concept of ownership remained. These cultures later spread their view of ownership across the world through colonization, enslavement, genocide, and more recently commercialization. This understanding of and value for the concept of ownership and the evolved need for our species to hold on to this abstract notion has spread throughout the whole world. Cultures who have a different concept of or no concept of ownership at all are either looked at as primitive or are forced to comply and reform. Not to do so often results in the loss of basic needs, imprisonment, or even torture.

Ownership is control. Our economy dictates who has this control. Our governments are chiefly concerned with the economy. Our governments mandate standardized testing in math so members of our society can participate in this economy and understand their place. Our governments mandate standardized testing in reading so members of our society can communicate well enough to help drive this economic engine by producing goods and trading them with each other. All traditional reasons given for what schools are for all equate to the same thing: Schools exist to reinforce the concept of ownership and produce adults devoted to this notion thereby maintaining structures of control.

We are starting to see the flaws inherent in basing our society on the concept of ownership unravel. Ownership begets greed and greed begets lust, gluttony, and envy. Greed and gluttony have resulted in the decline in our environment that if left unchecked will ultimately result in our own extinction. This ownership society has also resulted in the diminished quality of life for most people living in third world nations and many of the poor living in our industrialized nations. This includes the “at risk” students in our schools whose basic needs are not met.

Now, we have collectively developed some concepts that run counter to the idea of ownership and have thus thrown a wrench in the ownership control system. Those include the Bill of Rights which includes freedom of speech. Based in our right to free speech the recent open source movement has brought the concept of ownership into question. Creative Commons also throws a wrench in this ownership idea as do socialized medicine and universal health care.

Our failing schools are a result of the collapse of the ownership doctrine. Standardized tests test a student’s ability to thrive and participate in an ownership society. What subjects of study would we value more if we eliminated our current concept of ownership? What would our world look like if ownership did not reign supreme. Those teachers, administrators, and politicians who support standardized testing, teach to the test, and use standardized tests in math and reading to measure the success of a school are agents of the ownership society. They are agents of a social system that has historically included slavery, genocide, torture, and greed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is Online Learning Anyway?

Yesterday I attended a brainstorm/information session about the possiblity of creating some online hybrid classes for some of the schools in our consortium. The rational for such a move would be to try to keep students enrolled in our schools who might be tempted to transfer to an online school. While the intentions with this are good there are some fundamental questions that this raised for me.

First, why do students choose to attend an online school? I know from also working for an online provider that many online schools attract students who normally would not attend tradional public school. These include students who would otherwise be homeschooled, students who have had problems in their traditional settings ranging from bullies to expulsion, students who have physical disabilities that prevent them from leaving their homes, and students who are not challenged in a classroom where the teacher has to teach to the middle child. Which of these students would be served by a hybrid class? Certainly families who want to keep their children at home would prefer homeschooling or 100% online instruction to a hybrid. Students who leave because of problems with bullies most likely won't escape that problem in a hybrid class where they might meet with those students once or twice a week. If we expel a student we are excluding them from a hybrid class as well. This leaves a narrow margin of students who would be better served because a hybrid course might provide a more customizable learning environment. Then, if a learning environment can be customized in a hybrid setting for some students why not apply the same principles to all instruction?

Second, what benefits are there to online learning above F2F instruction? It seems the biggest benefit to online learning is customization. Students in online schools can often login and do their work whenever it best suits them. Learning plans can be customized much easier for online students because in large part they work in isolation or at most in very small groups. Additionally, when a student is in a classroom full of other students in a traditional setting they can opt to learn passively. It is not possible to be a passive learner in an online class. Passivity in an online class is the equivalent of truancy. So, the two big advantages to online learning are customization and active learning.

Third, how could online instruction benefit from a f2f component? It seems the only thing that really is lacking in online instruction are strong syncronous learning experiences. Lectures can be recorded and watched. Engaging projects can be assigned that promote self-directed learning and inquiry. And the computer can be used to automate many assessments. What is left? Field trips, class discussion, and some forms of experiential learning (lab and studio projects). Therefore, in a hybrid setting the f2f component should be reserved for reflective dialog and experiential learning.

Fourth, where do these students go if for the rest of the day they have to follow a traditional bell schedule? If a student is enrolled in one hybrid course but are still in their classes for the rest of the day it seems to negate one of the benefits of a hybrid course: flexible scheduling. If a student still has to abide by a bell schedule for seven of eight hours of the day but has one hour somewhere in the middle for a hybrid, what are they doing for that hour on days they don't meet? Do they work alone in the media center? Do they go home just to turn around and come right back almost after they walk in the door? It seems this can only work if a student has a lot of hybrid classes. For instance, maybe they come to school in the morning for a traditional schedule but only have hybrid classes in the afternoon. That way they might only be in school one full day and the rest of the week they have the option of spending a whole afternoon on each class or spreading out the workload over time. The only way this works is if enough classes are offered this way. If only a handful of courses are offered this way the project is doomed for failure because one of the big advantages is negated.

Fifth, what is online learning anyway? Online learning is a term we hear a lot and it is generally used as a term to describe schooling done on the computer. This has come to be seen as somewhat revolutionary but to those who don't understand it it sounds like a one-size-fits-all scenario. It seems ridiculous to lump this into a category for a model of learning. Would you ever say that you are enrolling in a book learning option or a video learning option? Learning is learning and good learning should utilize all relevant modes. This includes online tools and resources as well as text, video, games, face-to-face, experiential learning, and every other mode or model we have. The online tools and resources that make online schools possible are really just another tool at the disposal of teachers in any setting. Any class can be a hybrid class. The question is whether or not those tools fit learning objectives or whether or not they make fiscal sense for the school system.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Big Ideas For Education - Phase 3

I have been following David Warlick's "Big Ideas For Education" project over at 2 Cents Worth and have found it quite engaging so far. If you have not seen this project or participated I encourage you to visit the project website and take a look. There are still two days left in Phase 3 where he asks bloggers to blog about the ideas participants from phase 1 and 2 came up with for recommendations to the President-Elect's Department of Education. The following is my reply:

Schools have pretty much been the same for 100+ years. Why have they not significantly changed when our world has? I believe we are nearing the dawn of an awakening and revolution in education. Some might argue it has already started to happen. Our public schools, and the compulsory education curriculum, were originally founded upon two main overt purposes: to produce an informed citizenry, and produce a productive workforce. One aim is chiefly Jeffersonian and the other Hamiltonian. Underlying both of these aims is a hidden goal to produce an obedient population. While all three of these goals have their merits, certainly it is better to be informed, productive, and lawful than ignorant, lazy, and criminal, there lies in these aims a basic flaw.

In an attempt to create an informed electorate a curriculum or group of standards must be developed. The people who write this curriculum have a lot of power to influence the thoughts and opinions of others. By choosing to show someone one thing or not show another our thoughts on a topic can be changed dramatically. Just look at the role of evidence in court cases. So, in an attempt to create an informed electorate our schools result in stifling free thought. Curriculum, even with it's best intentions, can be nothing more than state sponsored propaganda.

During both the industrial revolution and the ag-based economy that preceded it we needed workers who were productive and could follow instructions. Many of the mainstays of traditional education were very good at training students to become obedient, non-questioning, producers. Chief among these are our traditional notions of homework. Much of this homework was, and still is, simply busywork and does not effectively reinforce stated learning objectives. What it did and still does teach is the endurance to work through mindless tasks. This is a valuable skill if you work on an assembly line and have to spend all day following instructions from your boss or carrying out repetitive mindless tasks. However, most of those jobs are gone today. Writers like Daniel Pink, Thomas Friedman, and Clay Shirky all agree that what is needed in our workforce are creative thinkers. Any job that can be reduced to automation is either going to be replaced by software or it is going to be outsourced. This aim of producing a productive workforce has squashed the new need for a creative workforce.

This third aim of compulsory education of creating an obedient population is also problematic. While this aim has never been stated overtly, it is overwhelmingly apparent in how we structure our schools. Sit Down! Be Quite! Do Your Work! Our high school students follow a bell schedule, often sit in neatly ordered rows, and are forced to follow a set of rules meant to maintain an authoritative structure. These rules often are impediments to inquiry, free thought, and creativity. We do things like ban cell phones rather than use them to engage students in learning. We impose penalties for trite infringements like wearing a hat in class. And we stifle reflection and dialogue by maintaining that our classrooms need to be quiet. And what happens when a teacher, the pedagog, decides to bunk this system and promote inquiry, reflection, creativity, and free thought? The school removes the pedagog.

I believe we are on the cusp of a great awakening in education. School choice, differentiated instruction, homeschooling, online learning, alternative education, and the charter movement are all addressing the questions underlying what has been wrong with our traditional school system. Each addresses something different but all are important in the public discourse about what schools are for. All are disruptive innovations, as Clayton Christensen describes, that will cause the ultimate demise of our traditional public school system.

When the camera was invented the visual arts went through an identity crisis known to the art world as Modernism. Modernism was all about defining what art was. With the camera art was no longer necessary for simply creating images, the camera was much more efficient at that. The artist was not needed for the same reasons they were needed before. This identity crisis produced as many theories of art or art genres as there are theories of education. The information economy and flattened world, brought on by advances in both information technology and automation, is to public schooling what the camera was to art. Without having the same workforce needs we did in the past and with unlimited information at our fingertips we no longer really have any need for schooling as we have always known it.

Now, we are at a point where we need to do some serious reflection about what our education needs are in our country. What are schools for? What is the end product of schooling? What do we value? What do we need? It seems these last two questions are pivotal. Before, we needed schooling to produce workers for a production economy based entirely on infinite growth and citizens to support that economy. It seems that two issues facing our country are colliding here. One is public schooling but the other is the economy. Our economy is a mess right now. I believe this mess has been a direct result of the systems need to continually grow. How much do we really need? At what point do our needs erode our environment? Has our culture grown to value profit above happiness? As we work to address all of these issues we all need to take a deep look at ourselves and decide what is important. If we continue on the industrial economic paradigm projections show we will not be able to compete with other emerging superpowers like China and India. If we continue down this path we have been on we will ultimately loose that game but also pollute the Earth to the extent that quality of life issues will be physiological, not just psychological. Since we will be destroying our earth in the process, the economic game we have been playing is a zero sum end game.

How do you get out of a zero sum end game? Change the rules of the game. Change the reason for playing. Another product of the flat world is the assimilation of different cultural ideas. This might be our saving grace. There are cultures on this planet that have fundamentally different values. Bhutan, for instance, measures their national level of happiness and that is used to measure their success or failure, not monetary or material gains. Material possessions, levels of happiness, as well as the environment are aspects of our quality of life. Rather than focus on GDP (Gross Domestic Product) the change we need is a shift in our focus to GQL (Gross Quality of Life). Any education policy must address this. Education ought to enrich students, grow their curiosity, expand their minds, and foster their creativity. Support of charter schools, online education, alternative education, and homeschooling are all a step in the right direction.

People are waking up. The awakening is happening. Dropout rates are on the rise. Homeschooling is on the rise. Online schools have seen a 30% annual increase in enrollment for the past seven years. Charter schools are springing up everywhere. Teachers like Clay Burell are leaving school and pursuing an unschooly attitude toward education. All the while, our public schools are cutting programs that arguably contribute more toward GQL than what they are keeping in reaction declining enrollment.

Our national curriculum should not be a list of things we have to learn but rather an open curriculum that promotes inquiry. The arts, physical education, vocational programs, and extra curricular activities need more emphasis. Our schools must promote inquiry, honor free thought, foster creativity, and honor independence. Wake up! The awakening has begun. This revolution will not be televised, but it will be available on YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Delicous, Twitter, Plurk, Myspace, Blogger, Wordpress, Vimeo, Blip.tv, Ustream.tv, and Google.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Building Your Own Personal Learning Network

Here is a new video I just finished meant to show teachers how a personal learning network can work and illustrate some tools that can be utilized to build one.


Building Your Own Personal Learning Network from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

What Are Schools For?

I came across these two thought provoking videos today that put into serious question the role of and value of compulsory education. I am not sure I agree with the overall message being put forth here (they smack of conspiracy theories). I do think they shine a light on an issue all schools need to face. I think we need to be talking about the issues raised by these videos and have a serious public discourse about the role of schools, their purpose, and how we can improve them.

What are your thoughts/reactions?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Technology Integrationist In Chief

Yesterday afternoon I read this article from the Associated Press that gave me goosebumps. I can't begin to articulate how exciting this prospect is. It seems that just as Obama utilized the power of social media to build a fantastic campaign his administration is going to continue the use of similar technologies to communicate with the public and give citizens a voice to affect policy. Imagine, a White House blog where people can comment on proposed legislation bypassing old channels to get their message to the president. Imagine a weekly YouTube message from the president (the new fireside chat?). Imagine a govergnment social network that allows people to be grouped by geographic location or interest group that could be called upon to effect change locally. If nothing else this is likely to lead to a much more informed electorate.

We still have 67 days before Obama takes office though. In the meantime they have set up a site where you can submit your vision for the country and send letters to the president-elect. The policy window is open and now is the time to voice your ideas. Go to http://www.change.gov.

YouTube & Student Speech Class

Last year our high school staff all received laptops with integrated webcams. Most teachers said, "Why would I want to have a webcam?" Believe me, I was asking the same question two years ago. Today I find a webcam absolutely essential for what I do. This fall I was able to talk our high school speech teacher into trying something new using her integrated webcam. She would use YouTube's Quick Capture feature to record and publish student speeches to her YouTube Channel. Then, at the end of the week she brought each of her classes to the computer lab to critique each other's speeches by posting comments on each other's videos.

This method has many advantages. First, since the students know their speeches will be published for anyone to view it forces them to think more about their audience. Second, by tagging videos appropriately it can intice people outside the class to offer their feedback. Finally, allowing students this method of critiquing each other's videos provides the potential that students will get more feedback on their speech.

So, in an attempt to help promote this here is my request. Visit the site, watch one or two student speeches and offer some commentary.

Getting on Board With Google Docs

For the last year and a half I have been promoting Google Docs among the staff at the school where I work as a Technology Integration Specialist. When I first started using Google Docs two years ago I thought it was a no brainer that teachers would want their students using it as well. I was convinced it would replace the standard office suite and I still am despite Microsoft's reported efforts to move their suite online in the next version. Regardless of platform cloud computing is revolutionizing the software business and making possible collaborations not possible before. If the collaborative features alone are not attractive enough to invest a little time to get comfortable with these services the fact that student's work can be available from any computer anywhere should seal the deal.

You would think.

As with other technologies I have promoted and teaching strategies I have promoted to take advantage of new and existing technologies for education I hit a wall. I found that I could talk all I want about how great Google Docs or Zoho or other online office suites are but unless teachers see a need to change what they are using or are given enough time and incentive the change is not likely to happen. This isn't always true though. Last week I introduced Xtranormal to our staff and immediately a few teachers started using it with their students. This is because sites like Xtranormal provide something fun and engaging that did not exist before. We have word processors, we have spreadsheets, we have PowerPoint, what more do you need?

Well, I may have stumbled onto a solution today. Toward the end of the last school year I started introducing Google Docs to students who had some unique problems that Google Docs could solve but Microsoft Word could not. These students all thought Google Docs was great and started using it as their office suite of choice. They even got a few of their friends on board. This got me thinking that maybe if I want our staff to make the shift to using more cloud services the change can be more efficiently accomplished by the students.

Today I learned that our 7th grade English/Social Studies teacher was having every 7th grader create a Google Docs account and that he was going to expect students to use it to submit their work to him by assigning him as a collaborator on every document for his class. He was also going to give them their assignments by assigning all students as viewers or collaborators of documents in his account. Now, if he did this every year, within 6 years all students grades 7-12 will be using Google Docs which will encourage the other teachers to jump on board as well.

I also have to mention the other variable involved here. Our school was using old thin clients for most of our labs for many years. Last year I acquired from the federal government enough Pentium 4 PCs to replace all of these severely out dated machines with actual computers. Problem came with our Microsoft licenses. We did not have enough licenses for all of these machines so instead of ponny up the money for them we installed OpenOffice. The students didn't really like OpenOffice all that much. There were features they were used to having in Microsoft Word that OpenOffice doesn't have and they kept running into filetype frustrations. While OpenOffice is a great program it still can't outperform Microsoft Office. This gave us an oportunity to give the students a choice. If they were unhappy with OpenOffice they could use Google Docs or Zoho instead. Many students made the shift. Now with all 7th graders making the shift we will see how long it takes before our school is completely on board.

Next step: Put the staff development budget on Google Docs and assign members of the group as collaborators.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Open Source & Education

I came across this panel discussion of education fellows today at Pop!Tech. Fascinating and powerful discussion regarding open source principles in education and education reform.

At the end of this video a question is asked, "With all of this technology, what is lost?" What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I have been playing around this week with a new web2 service called Xtranormal. I am extremely pleased with this really really really cool tool. Xranormal provides for teachers a very easy way to make high quality animated movies. You don't even have to create an account to use this service. All you do is choose what characters you want in your movie from a list they have available, choose your settings, abient sounds or background music, and type the dialog each character says. There is a click and drag interface for changing camera angles and making the "actors" do gestures.

I see great application of this tool in education. Kids can make stories come alive. This tool puts the focus in movie making on writing which is huge.

With the Video Download Helper Firefox add-on installed you can extract a finished video as an flv file from their website. From there you can upload it to anywhere else you might want to host the file, convert it to a file type that will work in other video editors, or do whatever you like with it. I honestly can't say there has been another tool that has excited me so much since I was first turned on to virtual worlds.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

9 Year Old Uses Halloween Costume To Poll His Neighbors on the Presidential Election

I came across this clip on CNN today of a 9 year old with a clever election related costume.

I wonder if he encountered any election fraud or hanging chads.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Web 2.0 Britannica Discussion

There is a lively discussion going on over at the Britannica blog regarding project based learning and web 2.0 tools. This started with a post by Steve Hargadon and continued with a post by Daniel Willingham. I highly recommend you give it a whirl. The following are the comments I made on Daniel Willingham's thread a couple days ago. I am reposting them here because I think it follows well with some of my recent thinking and recent posts on this blog:

I completely agree that what is needed are teachers who know how to utilize project-based pedagogies effectively when appropriate and that the pedagogy trumps whatever technology might be used. Teachers need training not only on how to use web2.0 tools but knowledge of what tools are available. Since the spectrum changes almost exponentially every day this becomes extremely difficult. The field of education also does a poor job of providing this training. If a company in the private sector wants their employees to use a technology for their job they usually pay that employee to be trained on said technology and provide time for this to happen. In schools this time is almost nill and teachers are usually expected to keep up on their own. As for any system wide pedagogical shift that might happen there are other systemic factors that get in the way. To this point Alan Kellog comments, “Teach them how to think for themselves, and don’t accept whining.” The problem here is with most teachers there is no choice whether we accept their whining or not. Tenure and teacher unions make sure the status quo remains in effect. If web2.0 is a disruptive technology for schools and if that disruptive technology changes quickly (as it does), then schools need to be able to change quickly if they want to keep up. The system is stacked against quick change. In most schools there is a triad of forces that both prevent bad ideas from wrecking havoc on the system and prohibit quick necessary changes from taking place. These three forces are the school board or board of directors, the teacher union or association, and the administration.

Today, Scott McLeod asked, "Can a computer lecture be better than a human?" in a blog post about his 5th grade daughter needing to find an answer to a math problem. In their search they found an animated program online that more effectively taught the concept than any book or lecture could have done. He says that they found themselves self-motivated learners by the engagement of the tools. This is a serious problem for our schools. If our best teachers are not in our classrooms but designing programs, simulations, and teaching objects that enable self-directed inquiry and encourage independent learning and if students find that kind of education more engaging, thought provoking, and efficient than our classrooms then why should they not drop out and acquire their own education at home? Why would we need classroom teachers at all? Why would we need schools? With this scenario, home schooling looks like a great option. Maybe a superior option for many.

I don’t think we will see a major transformation of our public schools but if we do it will be in response to a crisis that hurts fiscally. When a mass exodus of students occurs and schools have to cut enough teachers and boards have to cut enough programs because of lack of funds due to declining enrollment we might then see schools enacting their own pedagogical bailout package.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Alan November at ITEC

This morning I attended a keynote speech by Alan November at ITEC. The following are my sketchy notes from the presentation. (Words in italics are my own thoughts) This presentation was similar to this one:

  • Alan November says his generation is the boomer generation and our current generation of graduates are the boomerang generation; they go to college and come back home.
  • We should connect our students with authentic audiences.
  • We are teaching our children not to be free thinkers.
  • When you ask employers what they are looking for in new employees they say they are looking for people who are free thinkers and can work self guided.
  • Do you know how Google works?
  • Shows how Wikipedia almost always comes up first.
  • Students always use Wikipedia. Asks some students if any of them have never been to Wikipedia.
  • Then he goes into his West Point story about searching about the impact of the Pope’s speech about Turkey.
  • The internet is more a place where you can go to get your own view of the world reinforced rather than a place to expand your view or get alternative views. (Because when you search on Google you are likely to come up with only western sources first).
  • Good question from the audience: “What if you search the Turkish version of Google?”
  • Alan tried it and the same results came up. The algorithm is the same.
  • Then he goes into his “Shots heard around the world” example.
  • We spend too much time teaching teachers technology but not enough time teaching good assignment design with technology. – Applause!
  • Can find schools to meet up with at epals.com
  • Assessment needs to change too.
  • We have underestimated what kids can do to create rich content.
  • There are children around the world who are very very poor whose work ethic is scary to watch.
  • Colin Powel said k12 education is the #1 thing the candidates are not talking about.
  • Students are not asking for more technology, they are asking for a different role.
  • www.screencast.com
  • Says we should engage students with us in building learning objects.
  • This totally reinforces what I have long believed.
  • Demonstrates making screencast tutorials using Jing.
  • Are we willing as a culture to empower students/children with more control of what happens in the class?
  • Teach children real jobs, real responsibility.
  • Teachable moment? Google custom search does not work in Safari but it does in Firefox?
  • Teachers in elementary schools should be building search engines for students and families to use. High school students can help build this.
  • He believes there should be search engines by department. Why? Why not just one for the school?
  • I am thinking we should create a school del.icio.us account, require teachers to use Firefox with Del.icio.us tabs and use Del.izzy as our own custom search engine. This would make it extremely easy for teachers to use. Almost no training, almost no effort.
  • We need to change the assignments we give kids.
  • Don’t throw out your content after each course, keep adding.
  • English teachers will be using Google Docs…It is not up to debate.
  • Create a Google Doc for conference sessions and assign attendees as collaborators. In the end each attendee will have notes from all sessions, even those they did not attend. Better than each attendee blogging their notes separately.
  • Screencast football plays so players can put them on their iPods.
  • www.kiva.org – teaches students to make a difference in another part of the world. You can invest in companies and get your money back to invest again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Getting Ready for ITEC

I have decided to spread my wings a little bit and venture outside of MN and present at conferences in neighboring states. I am excited to be presenting two sessions on Tuesday at ITEC. Not the company that designs theme parks or the company that sells...wait, I can't tell what they sell, I will be at the Iowa Technology & Education Connection.

I will be presenting two sessions:

Session: Virtual World WebQuests
Description: Virtual Worlds are gaining in popularity and many educational
institutions are exploring ways to establish a presence or utilize
these multi-user immersive environments for instruction. In this
session we will explore principle elements of research supported
learning experiences within these environments.
Time: Tuesday @ 1:30
Where: Des Moines Downtown Marriott Salon B

Session: Digital Backpack -Killer Online Apps for Schools
Description: Cloud computing will play a significant role in future computer
technology with great implications for education. The Digital
Backpack is a collection of free online applications that have a lot
of potential for schools. Come explore the possibilities!
Time: Tuesday @ 2:30
Where: Des Moines Downtown Marriott Salon B

I am really excited about this opportunity. Not only will I get to present two sessions on topics that I feel passionate about but I will also get a chance to hear Alan November speak in person. I also am hoping to meet Scott McLeod whose blog, Dangerously Irrevelevant, I read almost daily and often comment on. I would be nice to put a face to the name.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Professional Responsibility - If You Are A Teacher

20 Questions:
  1. Is teaching a professional job?
  2. Do teachers have professional responsibilities beyond their teaching contract?
  3. What are professionals responsible for?
  4. Why do you do what you do?
  5. Do professionals have a responsibility to keep up-to-date on what is current in their respective fields of study?
  6. Would you expect your doctor or dentist to be aware of new medical developments, assuming you consider doctors or dentists professionals?
  7. Would you expect a detective to keep up with current trends in forensics?
  8. How is it that many teachers are unaware of sweeping trends in education?
  9. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what UBD is?
  10. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what web 2.0 is?
  11. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you be aware of the concept of disruptive innovation?
  12. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what is in NCLB?
  13. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what state education policy is? Or at least how to look it up?
  14. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know what bills are being passed around the state legislature?
  15. If you are a teacher, shouldn't you know, understand, and be able to at lease paraphrase your state's academic standards in your content area?
  16. If our teacher contracts don't explicitly address #9-#15 do we have professional responsibilities to address these on our own?
  17. Should teacher contracts address these issues? Or is it our own professional responsibility to address these for ourselves?
  18. Wouldn't teacher unions have an easier time negotiating "professional" salaries for teachers if more teachers exhibited "professional" behavior in their own learning?
  19. Why is it that when a "professional" teacher takes great interest in all of these things they usually are asked to move into an administrative or leadership role?
  20. If you are a teacher, what motivates you to care about these issues?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Budget Cuts, Disruptive Innovation, and a Solution for Public Schools

Two years ago, when my art teacher position at an alternative high school was looking like it was slated for the budget cut slating block, I started to grow concerned about the financial future of public education and what it means for the realities of the classroom. We have seen the cost of educating a child rise every year faster than the rate of funding for schools. As a result every year we see class sizes increase, more programs cut, and less money for classroom budgets. It was about that time that I was turned on to the concept of disruptive innovation in education made popular by the Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen.

That spring my art teacher position indeed was cut due to no fault of my own. When I started looking for work, uneasy about the future of our traditional public schools and unsure about the long-term stability of online or virtual schools I decided the most intelligent option was to diversify my professional activities. I took a full-time job as a technology integration specialist for a traditional brick and mortar school and a part-time position with an online charter school.

Over the past year I heard the same old budget issues raised at my full-time day job. There are warnings that programs might be cut and "extras" will need to be examined scrupulously before we spend the money on them. At the same time my online position was thriving. By the end of the year, evidently, my class numbers for the virtual school had grown to where my position was nearly full-time there as well. By fall of this year the virtual school had to split my position, giving a full-time position to the person they hired to take over my bustling classes. Then, just last week I saw that the Oregon branch of Connections Academy became the single largest high school in that state. What is going on here?

The cost of educating a child in an online setting is exponentially less than that of educating a child in a brick and mortar school. With a virtual school you don't have to pay for building expenses, one teacher can manage a lot more students because they don't have the same classroom management issues to deal with and most mundane tasks can be aggregated. Personalization of learning is much easier to do in the online school as well.

Now, not every student is equally suited for online learning. I strongly believe there is still a place for the consistent face to face interaction that brick and mortar school provide. To be successful online, a student must have the self-motivation to work through assignments and lessons without a teacher present and must have a positive support structure at home. Students who lack one or both of these things would benefit more from a learning environment where this kind of motivation can be provided.

My growing concern:

In every scenario I see, especially with the current economic crisis, doom is spelled for the fate of traditional educational settings. If we keep going the way we have been going students are going to leave to enroll in virtual schools and class sizes, programs deemed "non-essential" in the traditional school will be cut and those who teach "essential" courses will see enormous class sizes. Why don't we see a stronger push against virtual learning from our traditional schools? I think teachers are tired of fighting for increased funding, they don't see a solution to fight for, and many see the benefits virtual learning bring. The only argument against virtual schools that I hear over and over again is over a concern for lack of social interaction. But we need to examine and ask ourselves, "What are schools for?" There is the Jeffersonian idea that schools are supposed to prepare students to be members of our society and then there is the Hamiltonian idea that schools are to prepare students for their careers. Neither aim is greatly addressed with the issue of social interaction. And to address this issue, my online students know each other, they have friends, and their social groups outside of school more positively fulfill this role than brick and mortar schools ever did. So what about the fate of traditional schools?

Doomsday Scenario:

  1. We are seeing more and more foreclosures on homes, taxes on which are the source of public school funding.
  2. Housing crisis, coupled with the subsequent economic meltdown means very little money for schools.
  3. Only Language Arts, Science, Math, and Social Studies are left after cut backs.
  4. Class sizes are in the 50+ students per teacher.
  5. Schools forced into 4 day week to save on transportation and heating.
  6. Students have to supply their own textbooks.
  7. No extra curricular activities.
  8. No field trips.
  9. Teachers have to work more years before they can retire.
  10. With 50+ students in one class, the only manageable teaching strategy is lecture hall style direct instruction.
  11. Meanwhile, while class sizes are still at 50+ in the virtual school, each student's lessons are personalized and easy for the teacher to manage.
  12. With fewer costs associated with online education there is money for extras such as field trips and extra curricular activities.
So, what is the answer:
  1. Let virtual schools grow and become the new mainstream schools.
  2. Traditional public schools need to transform and become more like our alternative schools or area learning centers.
  3. We need to abandon the bell schedule and view our teachers not as people who teach classes but as expert resources within the organization.
  4. Student learning needs to be personalized. This can be done by assigning students an adviser who works with the student to develop a learning plan.
  5. Part of this plan could be taking core, specialty, or advanced classes online.
  6. Invest in face to face course offerings that are done better in person than online (art, theater, dance, music, physical education, industrial technology, etc.).
  7. Teachers who do not teach courses described in #6 split their time between advising and teaching online.
  8. Only probationary students (those who fall behind) need to show up every day. For the rest, school is a place they go for some classes or to use the school's resources.
  • By cutting the arts, physical education, industrial technology, and extra curricular programs we are eliminating from our brick and mortar schools what they do best! All other content areas are better served by virtual schools.
  • The survival of our traditional schools depends on a merger between the virtual school and the traditional school and an investment in the very programs everyone is cutting.
What needs to happen:
  • State Education policy has to be revised either to state that all students can be served by an ALC or traditional schools can offer classes as project-based so they are not held down by seat-time requirements that are outdated and tied to the antiquated notion that we need to prepare students to punch a clock.
  • Training in distance learning pedagogy needs to be required of all pre-service teachers and all teachers whose license is up for renewal.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Diagram of my PLN

Click Here for full screen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Digital Backpack & Digital Briefcase

I need your help. Last year I created a tool for our students and teachers to use called the "Digital Backpack." This was meant to serve three primary purposes:

1. educate students about how different search engines work;
2. Bring all of the different web apps and web 2.0 resources into one place;
3. Serve as a bridge for students and teachers from proprietary software to free and open source cloud computing.

This fall I created a similar tool that is more teacher oriented called the "Digital Briefcase. " I consider this project to be in beta since I am sure there are a ton of resources I have overlooked. Please send any suggestions or comments to: canderson@goodhue.k12.mn.us

Here is what I would like: I want to hear your ideas, and success stories involving technology integration. I have added a link next to each item in the Digital Backpack to a page on this wiki. You can edit this wiki yourself: the invitation key is 'Pappert.' In exchange I am giving you the code to put the Digital Backpack or Digital Briefcase on your website.


Carl Anderson

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Consequences of Digital Illiteracy

Disclaimer: This post is not about politics, nor is my intent that it be political. It is about technology and digital literacy (or digital fluency).

How is Technology Affecting This Election?

Like many people, I have been following this US presidential election and noticing how much technology has changed things this time around. The essential question that emerges for me from this spectacle is, "What are the consequences of digital illiteracy?"

When looking at the role of technology in this election it is easy to see some of the triumphs. First there were the YouTube debates last winter that at least gave the impression that regular everyday citizens could have a greater voice. Then there was the promise by Obama to announce his running mate first via text message. Even though his pick was leaked and reported first on the cable news the stunt gathered for the Obama camp an impressive bank of emails and cell phone numbers. It will be interesting to see how these are used as we draw closer to the election.

The third thing I have noticed was how much social networks have played a role in this election. Obama is the first US Presidential candidate to use one as his campaign website. While members of this social networking site can't do much more than donate money and get their friends to donate money it is the start of what could be a new model of how to tap into the power of the social web to aide in the running of a campaign.

What the Obama campaign has done with technology seems to contrast strongly with what I see coming from the McCain camp and I can't help but think their lack of fluency with digital media is going to hurt or has already hurt his campaign.

Back in July the New York Times published an interview with McCain where he said he was learning how to get on the internet himself and relied on those around him to help him do things on the web. Here is an excerpt from that article:

This brings us to what I find a striking contrast in how social networking has affected this campaign season. Since McCain has picked Sarah Palin as his running mate there has been a firestorm of controversial debate online about Palin's values and her ability to effectively mother her own children. Most of this debate stems from the circumstances surrounding her 17 year old daughter's pregnancy. However, things get worse when you look at the boyfriend's MySpace page or even the boyfriend's sister's Myspace page (which have both now become private but the damage I am afraid has already been done). Nevermind the whole teenage pregnancy issue or the vulgar self description that reportedly appeared on Levi Johnston's (the daughter's boyfriend) MySpace page. On Levi's sister's page there appeared this photo:

The girl sitting in the chair is Levi's sister and the baby she is holding is Trig. This image is most likely the image that set in motion the rumor online that Trig is not really Sarah Palin's son but is her Grandson. Whether that is true or not, the political damage has probably already been done. I can't help but think that if McCain were more technically literate he might have had the foresight to investigate his running mate's own web presence before tapping her as his #2. I guess in November we will see if his own inability to use the internet will hurt McCain or not. One thing I think is a pretty safe bet is if McCain-Palin win in November we probably won't see any love for MySpace or other social networking sites from that administration.

What skeletons do you have in your online closets? Couple suggestions:

1. Google yourself regularly (or sign up for Google Alerts and let them push new sites with your name, company name, or username as they are posted)

2. Watch what other people around you post

3. If your kids have an account on a site like MySpace or Facebook create one for yourself and insist that they make you one of their "friends." See what they are posting and follow what their friends are posting.

4. If you are hiring a new employee, do a search for their name.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What is Technology?

A couple years ago, in one of my graduate school classes, I was assigned a paper where we were supposed to find and explain a metaphor for technology. In that paper I said that, "Technology is a Stick." I had in mind the opening scene to 2001 A Space Odyssey where the primitive man touches the monolith then begins using tools. My thinking at the time was that technology was a tool. However, I have been rethinking this lately and have come to a different conclusion.

Alan Kay says that technology is anything that was invented after you were born. This definition plays right into the same concept I held two years ago when I wrote that technology is a stick. Both of these definitions narrow the definition to objects (i.e. Computer, Cell Phone, Particle Collider, etc.). This definition is very practical and is easy to identify with. Shifting the onus of the term to the object removes individuals of necessary ownership of what truly lies within the term. It is empowering to say that you, your school, your town, your interest group, your professional organization, your country, etc. "has the technology." But does possessing tools constitute the possession of technology?

My dogs spend most of their time in my garage. In my garage I have numerous power tools, hand tools, an old computer, and a few machines (lawn mower, snow blower, etc.). According to the stick metaphor my dogs possess the technology to build pretty much anything. Do my dogs really possess this technology? I think not.

I have to admit that my summer indulgence were the TED Talks and taking my dogs on long evenings. Every week I would upload a new batch of talks to my iPod Nano and watch them on the go while exercising my dogs. Thus the way I have framed this idea. From these talks my mind has contracted quite a variety of memes and I think I finally have a definitive understanding of what technology really is.

When a foreign country says they possess the technology to build a nuclear weapon I don't think they mean that they have the materials. What they have is the knowledge and understanding needed to build one. And with this example I think I have solved the definition/metaphor problem. Technology is a meme, an idea, an understanding.

If technology is a meme then it can never really die or be destroyed. The only way we can loose our technology is if we forget how it works or how to use it. I think this notion helps explain a lot of behavior we see in schools. Try as we will, if a our students find a technology real useful they will find a way to use it even if it is banned or there are rules excluding its use. It also gets at the heart of a lot of tensions that can be observed between teachers and their students or one generation vs. another. It explains what is really missing from the digital native/digital immigrant depictions.

Technophobia is not the fear of new tools but rather the fear of not understanding. There is a nervousness that exists when those in a learning environment who are supposed to be subordinates are empowered with knowledge and understanding that those in authority positions lack. What it boils down to is technophobia is fear of loosing authority. It is not the tools that make the digital immigrant different from the digital native, it is the understanding of how they work and how they can be applied or the eagerness to learn new ways of understanding that makes this distinction. When we define technology as a tool we can say we have it but not know how it works or how to use it and we can easily just put it aside. If we see not the tool but the knowledge and understanding as the technology then for us to say we possess it means we must understand it. This is especially troubling in the field of education because educators are supposed to be inquisitive and celebrate knowledge, ideas, and understanding.

My job title at my full-time job is, "Technology Integration Curriculum Specialist." I am starting to see this as a bit of a misnomer given my new concept of what technology is. What I sense is expected of me by the educators I work with is that I am here to help them to bring new tools into their classroom and that is currently an accurate portrayal of what I do. However, am I integrating technology or am I integrating tools? If I were really to help teachers integrate technology my role should go beyond the tools and address understanding both of ideas and how they can be applied. This kind of integration transcends the tools and is much more about pedagogy than technical knowledge. That said, I still like playing around with new tools.

The following are some of the TED Talks that have influenced my thoughts recently on this matter:

Twitter Political Widget

This election season I have mostly been following news using Twitter Search. Unfortunately, our school district currently blocks twitter and we are still not sure it is appropriate for student use. However, I do see huge advantages to having the ability to view tweets as they flow in, especially regarding current events. Therefore, I created widget using Feedburner that pipes tweets related to the election to this rss reader widget:

Visit the Widget Gallery

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Online Teacher Technology Training

I have been busy this summer. Our district started to implement a project I put together that teaches technology and technology integration to teachers online. Now, there are products out there like InfoSource that do this but our program is outcome based and follows a method that hopefully will align with what teachers need to do to prepare curriculum, activities, etc. for their practice. Feel free to utilize any or all of these online lessons. You can even participate in our discussion boards. However, some lessons are designed specifically for our district's needs.

1.1 - Understanding File Properties (5 pts)

1.2 - File Formats & File Extensions (5 pts)

1.3 - Hooking up a Periphials (3 pts)

1.4 - Burning CDs and DVDs (5 pts)

1.5 - Backing Up Your Files (5 pts)

1.6 - Wireless vs Ethernet (5 pts)

1.7 - Dealing with a frozen computer (2 pts)

2.1 - Search engines (7pts)

2.2 - Language Translators (5pts)

2.3 - Databases – ebsco, Google Scholar (5pts)

2.4 - Anatomy of a URL (5pts)

2.5 - Netiquette & Internet Safety (3pts)

3.1 - Fair use (5pts)

4.1 - Google Docs & Spreadsheets (7pts)

4.2 - Zoho (7pts)

4.3 - Presentation Programs (6pts)

4.4 - Online Storage (5pts)

5.1 - Digital Cameras + Digital Image Basics (5pts)

5.2 - Digital Image Software (Gimp, Photoshop, Picassa, Splashup, Picnik, etc.) (10pts)

5.3 - Image sharing – Flickr, Photobucket, etc. (5pts)

6.1 - Capturing Video (6pts)

6.2 - Digital Video Content (7pts)

6.3 - Video Editing (10pts)

6.4 - Publishing video online – YouTube, TeacherTube, etc. (7pts)

7.1 - Podcasts (5pts)

7.2 - Audacity (5pts)

7.3 - Creating a podcast (10pts)

8.1 - Concept Mapping Software (5pts)

8.2 - Wikis (10pts)

9.1 - Blogs (7pts)

9.2 - Social Bookmarking (del.icio.us) (4pts)

9.3 - RSS (4pts)

9.4 - Power of the comment (3pts)

9.5 - Skype (5 pts)

10.1 - Updating your website (basics) / webpage design considerations (5pts)

10.2 - HTML tricks to enhance your webpage (5pts)

10.3 - Embedding Video (2pts)

10.4 - Widgets (5pts)

10.5 - Online Quizzes and Worksheets (5pts)

10.6 - Digital Drop (3pts)

11.1 - Rubistar (4pts)

11.2 - Online Lesson Plan Sharing (3pts)

11.3 - SMARTtech lessons and teacher toolkit (5pts)

11.4 - WebQuests (3pts)

12.1 - Open Source vs. Proprietary Software (5pts)

12.2 - Serious Games (5pts)

12.3 - Virtual Worlds (5pts)