Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weekly Tech Tips - Social Networking, ISTE NETS, & Recommended Policies

Weekly Tech Tip:

Weekly Tech Tips - Social Networking, ISTE NETS, & Recommended Policies from Carl Anderson on Vimeo.

related links:
Link Stew:

Blog Carnival:

Social Networking in Schools: Reason 6

reason 6:

Social Networking in Schools: Reason 5

Reason 5:

Social Networking in Schools: Reason 4

Reason 4:

Social Networking in Schools: Reason 3

Reason 3:

Social Networking in Schools: Reason 2

Reason 2:

Social Networking in Schools: Reason 1

My next few posts are by no means a comprehensive list of reasons teachers and parents need to engage with kids in social networking, but it is a start.

Reason 1:

Houston, we have a problem (and a solution)! #edchat #aft

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stager, Papert, & the War Path

I would like to juxtapose a two videos today that I think do a great job of describing the issue of change in school and the relationship technology has with that change. I recommend pressing play on this YouTube video as soon as Gary Stager takes the mic on the Vimeo clip:

Gary Stager Excerpts from NECC '09 Keynote Debate from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

Next, lets examine this excerpt of Seymour Papert's testamony from the October 12, 1995 House Committee Economic and Educational Opportunities Hearing on Technology in Education. Papert masterfully describes the uphill battle we have ahead.

Amazing he was saying these things 15 years ago and still little has changed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Should we be worried about this?

The founders of this new online company claim their goal is to bring down the traditional education systems with their new product Supercool School (unfortunate name, potentially promising product) that lets anyone start their own online school. I can see this having huge implications for cooperate training and DIY training, it will likely disrupt some community education programming, but will it replace school? Doubtful but then how many products actually find a niche in the populations they envision their product serving?

Allison Leithner has a nice post on today about this company. Go read it.

Weekly Tech Tips - Google Earth Jockeys

Google Jockeying is the practice of having a student perform searches on a classroom computer with projection display while the teacher is either lecturing or conducting a group discussion. In this week's tech tip I explain a bit about Google Jockeying and a spin-off I call Google Earth Jockeying and how they can increase engagement in your classroom and serve as a classroom management tool.

Weekly Tech Tip:

[EDIT NOTICE: I fixed the audio in this video. It worked fine before on my headphones but realized that when I listened using the computer speakers the audio was dismal.]

related links:
Thought I would follow this Tech Tip with a look at what the next evolution will be for these technologies I have demonstrated here:

Link Stew:
Blog Carnival:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Throwing Diana Senechal "Under the Bus" Part 2 #NEA #AFT #edtech #edchat

Ok, in fairness to both the author of this poorly written and what I quite frankly feel is a damaging article published in American Educator I have decided to finish my notes on the article:

"At my former school, I led lunchtime literature clubs...The fifth-grade group read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...We discussed Huck's confusion...The discussion was slow, with pauses. At one point the room fell into a long silence. One student said, 'Ms. Senechal, you're quite today!' Another student responded, 'She's thinking. There's a lot to think about here.'...I am proud that the students were able to appreciate the quite in the room." ¶21
-Does this story really illustrate a focus on student learning or is the focus on the teacher's learning? So far in this article all the content learning she has been talking about has been about teachers acquiring content knowledge so they can pass it on to their students. Very little mention of student acquisition of or construction of knowledge.

"Teachers should not have to give up intellectual authority in the classroom; they should bring their knowledge, insight, and expertise to students." ¶22
-Completely reinforces my assessment of the previous paragraph and clearly states her philosophy that teachers impart knowledge to students.

"One of the benefits of apprenticeship is that it allows for a long period of learning." ¶23
-Is she implying that one ceases to learn when they finish school and enter a profession?

"Twitter, Facebook, and texting add nothing to Skakespeare; they are only distractions." ¶27
-Used ineffectively this statement is correct. However, it is not the tool that is important with successful tech integration, it is how it is used. Used effectively these tools can deepen a student's understanding of content and increase student motivation to engage in the content. This author is clearly missing the boat on this point entirely.

"They learn much more about technology this way than they would by blogging and texting-activities they likely pursue on their own."¶27
-It is precisely because they likely pursue these activities on their own that make them applicable in the classroom as a medium of engagement. When using these tools to teach Shakespeare it is still Shakespeare the students are learning, whatever learning about blogging and texting that occurs is secondary and ought not be assessed. Additionally, we have a moral obligation to use these tools in our teaching because the use of them affords us the opportunity to teach students how to be ethical and safe when online. By this logic we could also argue that classroom strategies that include talking or listening don't need to be used in school because they are "activities they likely pursue on their own."

"Deeper engagement is sacrificed for a more trivial kind, and quiet, independent thought has little place." ¶28
-Again, where is she getting this view of learner-centered classrooms? This seems more true of "traditional" classrooms than "21st century" ones.

"We do nothing to elevate the level of communication by having them read an write blogs, watch and make videos, an send text messages and tweets during English and history classes. Students know how to use the equipment, but their writing ability remains deplorably weak, forcing colleges to offer remedial writing courses and to assist students with basic writing throughout their undergraduate years." ¶32
-Blogs, video, text messages, and tweets are all new and important forms of communication. Engaging students with these forms of communication in any class elevates student literacy in these new mediums. This is the same as arguing that having students engage in oral presentation erodes their ability to write or visa versa. It is also like saying that if a student learns a second language their ability to communicate in their first language will suffer Additionally, colleges and universities offering remedial writing courses is not a new phenomenon, they were doing it before the advent of social media. There has been no study that can substantiate these claims. Otherwise I am sure the author would have made sure to mention it.

"We could seek ways to combine disciplined practice with inspiring lessons, projects, and discussions." ¶34
-In other words, learner-centered, constructivist, project-based, progressive, 21st Century classrooms.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Throwing Diana Senechal "Under the Bus" #NEA #AFT #edtech #edchat


Today teachers across the United States were treated to a new issue of American Educator which seems to have some rather scathing looks at "21st Century" skills, student-centered learning, differentiated instruction, technology integration, active learning, & other school reform movements. Of particular note is an article titled "The Most Daring Education Reform of All" by Diana Senechal.

Senechal clearly has a bias for "traditional" models of curriculum & instruction and it is clear from her article that while she may possess some knowledge of the newer movements in education she obviously has little understanding of them. I am embarrassed that a union I belong to has included this article in their publications. It is regressive, presents no substantial ideas that move our profession along a path of improvement, and relies on many unsubstantiated claims and false statements as a foundation for her arguments. What follows are my notes:

"They partake in an American tradition without heeding history or tradition; they glorify the new because it is new, while disparaging the old because it is old."

-I don't think any reformer ever disparages the old for being old, it is always something about the old that they find fault with. This statement is unsubstantiated, misleading, & false.

"this leads to situations where teachers must use technology in class, whether or not it serves the lesson well." ¶3

-No, it often leads to this but this statement is a broad generalization. What it leads to is teachers reacting to the existence of the technology and the effect technologies have on aspects of the classroom including but not limited to curriculum, student behavior, cognition, and pedagogy.

"They forget that content is not simply dry matter; it has shape and meaning; it is the result of centuries of critical thought and the basis for future critical thought." ¶7

-The content she speaks of here that is "the result of centuries of critical thought" is also the result of centuries of bias. This content (and the pedagogy that has developed around it) highly favors and supports the concrete sequential learner and reinforces cultural and socioeconomic structures of white Western society. This system has largely oppressed everyone else and has often in our past been a deliberate tool of oppression.

"To neglect to teach our intellectual and cultural traditions is to limit the kind of thinking that students will be able to do throughout their lives." ¶7

-Adversely, to emphasize them is to reinforce the biases infused into these traditions. Also, who is she referring to by "our?" It is my understanding that different nonwestern cultures have intellectual and cultural traditions that can differ substantially. Does she include those traditions when she uses the word "our?"

"If teachers must ceaselessly change their curriculum to match what is happening in society (or, more narrowly, the workplace), neither they nor their students will have the opportunity to step back and reflect." ¶11

-I fail to see any truth in this argument. I have the ability to reflect on my own life as I live it, why can't a teacher reflect on their curriculum as they modify it. Curriculum is not static, it is dynamic and ought to be consistently modified. If a major game-changing discovery is made in the field of science should we ignore it or alter our curriculum according to the new findings? Adopting the relationship with curriculum this author advocates results in equating curriculum with textbooks. The result of which is everyone ends up learning curriculum written for Texas placating to Texas ideals and political sensibilities.

"For students to engage in inquiry, they must have a strong foundation of knowledge." ¶17
-My 2 & 4 year old daughters are very inquisitive, it is how they learn. They engage in inquiry every day (almost all day). It is through this inquiry that they gain knowledge and understanding.

"But true engagement is not entertainment; it is involvement, which my be invisible at times." ¶19
-Isn't this what 21st Century pedagogy is all about? What is she criticizing here?

"Or they reach a point where they cannot take their peers any more and beak into fights." ¶20
-Let me get this straight, active learning leads students into conflict with each other while traditional classrooms don't? This statement is so far from being rational it is almost laughable. Traditional "sit and get" classrooms limit the teacher's ability to build relationships with students which leads to worse classroom behavior. In a learner-centered classroom classroom management is far easier because there is built into the instruction community building as an integral component. Statements like this are almost laughable and do not deserve serious consideration and should by no means have ever appeared in a respectable teacher journal.

"Deeper engagement is sacrificed for a more trivial kind, and quiet, independent thought has little place."

-Again, where is she getting this view of learner-centered classrooms? This seems more true of "traditional" classrooms than "21st century" ones.

I stopped reading here, couldn't take any more of it......

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maybe the problem is we call it School

@mcleod @willrich45 @djakes

Last year I was involved in a huge school reform project. The idea was to start a new charter school that was sponsored by our local ISD. We were going to call the school Wasioja Valley School. Wasioja Valley School would be a blended online-F2F school where a classroom or two would be leased in ours and neighboring district high schools. The school would exist as a school spread across many schools. The classrooms would be real places but the school itself would be virtual comprised of digitally connected classrooms. The education our charter school would offer would be project-based and learner-centered following the Edvisions model. I wrote the charter grant, assembled a team of educators from our neighboring school districts, I spoke at countless school board meetings, I got district superintendents and school board members involved. I also got people from outside our district involved who had experience starting charter schools and who had experience with they type of pedagogy this school was to employ. Everything seemed like it was falling into place. It was very exciting.

Then, when the time finally came for our school board to officially vote to sponsor this charter school our board chair offered it up for a vote and no one seconded the motion. There it was, no further action could be taken. The only statement regarding it from another board member was something along the lines of, "I am nervous about what this might do for our school."

To pour salt on the wound, a year later I find out that the district has to make $156k in one time budget cuts because of a funding shift by the state government. If they had approved the charter school it would have brought $650k into the three district consortium through federal and state grants (that would have been $216k per district) which would have more than covered this deficit. To help the district cover this temporary budget problem I have now taken an 18 month leave of absence to work for another school (I probably would have had to do this anyway).

So, what was the problem? Wasioja Valley School seemed to be the kind of reform our schools need. It would have addressed the unique needs of learners not served well by our traditional model of education while helping to support the system already in place that does work well for a great many students.

Three things I came across this week seem to answer this for me. First, there is this story shared on a post by Will Richardson (and I am sorry for reprinting the whole thing, don't usually make a habit of it but felt justified in this case):

Recently a school administrator shared a story that reminded me why I need to spend more time talking to more people outside of the echo chamber.

She said that a group of parents had requested a meeting to discuss the methods of a particular teacher and his use of technology. It seemed this teacher had decided to forgo the textbook and have students write their own on a wiki, that he published a great deal of his students’ work online, that he taught them and encouraged them to use Skype to interview people who they had researched and identified as valuable voices in their learning, and that he shared all of his lectures and classwork online for anyone, not just the students in his class, could access them and use them under a Creative Commons license.

When the administrator got the phone call from the parent who wanted to set up the meeting, she asked for some sense of what the problem was. The reply?

“Our students don’t need to be a part of a classroom experiment with all this technology stuff. They need to have a real teacher with real textbooks and real tests.”


Then, there is this video by a former UNL student who beautifully explains the problems Wasioja Valley School was trying to address:

Finally, I think my answer might be in this TEDxTalk by Scott McLeod:

In that video he mentions that everyone has a preconceived notion of what school is and that we need to educate the public about what school needs to become. Perhaps the problem was we called our reform effort Wasioja Valley School. Had we called it something else I wonder if we would have had a better chance. Perhaps Wasioja Valley Academy would have been a better choice. We did have discussions about it and in the end the problem largely had to do with the fact that this model of education did not fit well with the conceptions people had of what school was supposed to be.

So, now the new question I am struggling with is, "Is it OK to let schools fail?" Is it ok to let our schools become dangerously irrelevant? Perhaps all our collective school reform efforts are in vain. Perhaps we are barking up the wrong tree. Perhaps the common concept of what school is is so ingrained into the public conscious that changing it is near impossible. It takes a long time to redefine a term, do the changes in the world our reform efforts are trying to address require a redefinition faster than it can happen? Perhaps our energy is better spent constructing the next thing, the thing we replace our irrelevant schools with. Perhaps the answer is not school at all but something else entirely. What should we call it? What does it look like? In different speech Dr. McLeod gave to the NEA this winter he said that in our efforts to transform schools into 21st century learning environments that there can be no sacred cows. Perhaps we need to consider "school" in that list. But then, we get into the same argument regarding the word "school" as David Jakes does here with the word "teacher."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Weekly Tech Tip - Google Alerts

Weekly Tech Tip:

Link Stew:

Blog Carnival:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Throw Me Under The Bus

@jonbecker @bengrey @shareski @willrich45 @mcleod @crafty184

Thursday evening, in an Elluminate session hosted by Will Richardson (that I with I had been able to attend but only later viewed the archive), Jon Becker discussed a blog post he wrote earlier this year calling into question the truth behind the claims many people in the edublogosphere (or edutwittosphere) have been making about the need for school change. If you did not attend the session or listen to the recorded archive I highly recommend it. Its OK, I'll wait....

Jon fr
ames his discussion very well on his blog post, which is largely repeated in the first few minutes of Will's interview/discussion with him:

Those with whom I network for learning purposes through Twitter, blogs, Nings, etc. are largely members of an amorphous educational technology community. That community is fond of throwing around terms like “change” and “reform” connected to schools or education and most often the “change” or “reform” is largely related to advances in technology. The gist of the argument is that technology has changed the world we live in but not schools so schools need to catch up (or something to that effect). Schools are becoming “dangerously irrelevant,” right Scott? ;-)

I have to admit that I have spent the better part of the past four years arguing for school change and have used many of the arguments he "throws under the bus." Working in an alternative school and seeing a disproportionate number of really bright students who were there because they were bored was "proof" for me that something about school had to change (now I am under the bus with Ben Grey).

Working as an art teacher for nine years and having to find a new job every couple years because my program was cut due to declining enrollment caused by school choice (Online Schools, Charter Schools, Post Secondary Enrollment Options, etc.) which was evidence (note, I did not use the word "Proof" here) for me that there is truth in the Disrupting Class argument (though, Disrupting Class is not really an argument for school change but rather an explanation for what is happening in our k-12 schools). The Disrupting Class argument does address the type of student Jon mentions in his post, the one who school works well for, because every time a program is cut opportunities for those and all students are lost. [See my previous posts: Budget Cuts, Disruptive Innovation, and a Solution for Public Schools, Animated Explanation of Disruptive Innovation in Education, or The Case for Charters, Part 4: Disruptive Innovation: Why Traditional Ed Is Ill-Suited For Change]

Now, this discussion, as do many discussions about school reform or school change, led to the question, "What are schools for?" When asked this question, in my mind, Dr. Becker was less than articulate and rather indecisive. He, in a round-a-bout way says he thinks the purpose for schooling is to prepare students for participation in a "deliberate democracy." But, as those in the chat box were quick to bring up, we are now talking about schooling in a global world and not all students live in democratic societies.

Essentially, Dr. Becker poises himself and Dr. McLeod on classic polar opposites in a debate that has been around for as long as our nation has existed. Since the conception of public schooling in the U.S. (and for much of the world) we have had this Jeffersonian-Hamiltonian conflict in our collective answer to the "What are schools are for?" question. Thomas Jefferson believed that schools should prepare students to be informed citizens who could function in a democracy and Alexander Hamilton believed schools should prepare citizens to be productive workers. So, in the evolution of our schools they have always been burdened by this debate.

Another reason I have heard a lot, especially from teachers and echoed in a recent post by Will Richardson, is schools need to teach students how to learn or that they need to develop students into "life-long learners." This argument/philosophy I find extremely shallow and largely flawed. It seems to me that life forms, or at least sentient life forms, are life-long learners as a matter of their nature. We are all learning beings, it is part of being alive. Schools don't teach students how to learn. Students come to school in kindergarten (or even preschool) having spent 4-6 years learning and they would continue to learn with or without school. We also are curious by nature. If anything, schools teach students to temper their curiosity by inadvertently punishing them for it. It is often said that it is an academic virtue to be inquisitive and to think critically and that schools should try to cultivate this ability in students and I wholeheartedly agree with that claim but, in my experience it seems like whenever a teacher does a good job of this the institution of schooling throws them "under the bus."

So, what is the purpose of school? If you are involved in school reform or school change at any level, be it as a reformer or a critic, you have to first have a clear articulate answer to this question. I believe schools exist to prepare all students for the world they will live in. This is a simple but loaded answer to this question and is broad enough to include both Jefferson and Hamilton. But, I am curious how you answer this question. What is the purpose of school? Having a clear and concise answer to this question ought to be a prerequisite to engaging in debate or discussion on matters of school change. For that Jon, I am pulling you under the bus with me. For now its a good place to be. Lots of good company down here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Weekly Tech Tips - Digital Backpack & Xtranormal

For those of you who are receiving these tech tips because you subscribe to my blog, most of this week's tech tip will probably be information you already know. This is my first "Weekly Tech Tip" as technology integration specialist for East Metro Integration District 6067 (EMID). For EMID teachers, what I like to do, and have done for the past three years, is produce a short 5-10 minute video each week where I introduce you to a new technology tool or technology-enhanced teaching strategy. I also always include in my tech tips an area called "Link Stew" where I publish a run-down of interesting websites and resources I came across this week and usually have a section called "Blog Carnival" where I post links to interesting or thought provoking blog posts from the Edubloggosphere.

I prefer to make tech tips that include footage from actual classroom application but since I have only been observing this week I don't have any classroom footage to draw upon this week this tip is more an introduction. In this tip I will walk you through the "Digital Backpack," a tool I maintain to help organize free online resources that have potential for education and I show how I made the animated character Walter from the introductory video EMID staff were sent.

Weekly Tech Tip:

Link Stew:
Blog Carnival:
For EMID staff new to my Tech Tips, here are a few from the archives if you are interested:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Movie Generators

It has been a while since I saw a good movie generator come through the pipes. Back during the 2008 election season it seemed like they were all over the place. Well, today I came across this little gem. Upload a photo and it generates a real nice, movie quality video making that person out to be the savior of the world. In the example below I used a screenshot I had of a Ray Kurzweil video to generate the video below. Enjoy.

P.S. The video can take up to a few minutes to load.