Sharing one of Darren Kuropatwa’s latest slideshares below. I’ve bookmarked the show to start at slide 125, a summary statement with which I fully agree.
Quotes that are making me think …
Yong Zhao, in a recent article on the direction of US education, makes this observation:
For historical reasons, the United States is not as good at “sausage-making education” as most other countries are. A decentralized education system that allows local autonomy, the lack of a national curriculum, a broad conceptualization of success that tolerates diversity, and teaching practices that respect individual differences have made U.S. schools relatively ineffective in producing students who score high on standardized international tests. But this very ineffectiveness has made schools more successful in preserving students’ creative and entrepreneurial talents.
Seth Godin, in his Stop Stealing Dreams manifesto, writes
In 1914, a professor in Kansas invented the multiple-choice test. Yes, it’s less than a hundred years old.
There was an emergency on. World War I was ramping up, hundreds of thousands of new immigrants needed to be processed and educated, and factories were hungry for workers. The government had just made two years of high school mandatory, and we needed a temporary, high-efficiency way to sort students and quickly assign them to appropriate slots.
In the words of Professor Kelly, “This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.”
A few years later, as President of the University of Idaho, Kelly disowned the idea, pointing out that it was an appropriate method to test only a tiny portion of what is actually taught and should be abandoned.
James Baldwin, from his essay A Talk to Teachers,
The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish.
My open question: Are we succeeding in American education in spite of ourselves?
I just finished reviewing a book for the upcoming METC conference, The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Schools by Christopher R. Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr. It was well-worth the read. My review is below:
The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Schools
In this volume, authors Christopher R Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr have woven a quick-witted, down-to-earth account of how their Assistive Technology (AT) team took form. Though the book might seem written toward a specific audience, I recommend it as an important case-study for any leader interested in creating a viable and defensible district team. Buaj and Norton-Darr thoroughly examine the team-creation process – selecting team members, dividing workload, outlining leadership duties, advertising services, establishing procedures, delivering training, scheduling consultations, tracking contacts, and measuring success. While addressing these general strategies, Buaj and Norton-Darr also keep faithful to their task: outlining what it takes to build a team focused on delivering a free and appropriate public education for all students through accomodations that involve assistive technology. For general or special educators alike, this book offers a number of practical measures that expedite the process of getting assistive technology and AT strategies into the hands of kids and teachers. As an added bonus, the authors have done so in a way that makes the reading a delight, and not drudgery. Peppered with personal anecdotes and fictitious tales ripe for re-use when explaining concepts to others, this “practical and fun guide” delivers on both counts. Many of the strategies outlined can be put in place at once, and it won’t feel like hard labor to wrangle them from the text. Kudos to Chris and Sally for an eminently readable account of what is certainly a daunting task: building or improving a district AT team.
Recently, John Lawrence (instructional technology over at Chaminade College Prep High School) passed my information along to a student there who was looking for a teacher’s perspective on technology and teens. The student’s questions and my answers are below. If you have any additional thoughts, or have some corrections to offer, please add them in the comments.
I think the most appropriate answer must be “it depends.” To the degree that it connects young people to ideas, world views, and those they care about or are interested in, it’s great. To the degree that a particular young person may choose to use it in ways that isolate or distract him, it can be a detriment to his development. In my opinion, if we come to technology with an idea of what we want to productively accomplish by using it, we win. If, instead, we come to technology with a desire for entertainment, self-fulfillment, or escape, we run the risk that the technology may control us rather than the other way round. I think this concept applies to any type of technology, whether we are talking about a guy’s shop full of power tools, a lady’s collection of romance novels, or a teenager’s use of the Internet.
I’m not sure teens love their cell phones. I think those who “love their cell phones” actually love something their cell phones give them. For some, cell phones give them instant connection to their peer group. Part of the adolescent journey is defining ourselves within one crowd and in opposition to another. Teens have been doing this through peer interaction for generations. Cell phones just add an immediacy to this dynamic that is a powerful pull away from the “established” identity tied to the family. If I already know where I stand as a “son”, I don’t have to think about that. What I really wonder about is where I stand as a … fill in the blank. That’s a big question, and a big reason to be attached to a peer group through one’s cell phone.
As I mentioned earlier, technology can be a great connector. It ties us into conversations happening around the world, and allows us to be participants in those conversations, not merely passive consumers. It allows us to archive and analyze our experiences in new ways, ways that can bring patterns to light that we never imagined were there. Athletes use digital video to hone their form, companies use tweets to re-evaluate their marketing strategy, students use tablets to record lectures and review their notes, and the list goes on. Advanced technology coupled with user-generated content has created a vast ocean of information that is growing exponentially. We as a human community are learning together in a way we’ve never done before.
I think technology can be a bad thing as any “tool” can branded as “bad.” A hammer is just as effective a tool in creating shelter as it is in tearing it down. Technology connects. It connects moral people to those without consciences. It connects vulnerable children to images of unspeakable evil. It connects teens who feel unsure of themselves to any manner of arenas where they can escape rather than confront their doubts and fears. Ultimately, I think of technology as an amplifier of our intentions, emotions, and actions. If it is bad, it is so because we find our own faults magnified before us.
That question you might better answer than I. I think a mind soaked in the connectedness of technology has a tendency to be satisfied skimming across information rather than diving into it. This bears out whether I’m thinking of an adult or teenager. I think the teen may have a more difficult time reading or thinking deeply only insofar as he has fewer reference points for the more sustained action of study than has the adult who may not have experienced the same degree of screen exposure. There’s a good body of evidence about what screen time does to children, and a growing debate over what it does to our ability to read. I don’t think that teenagers have been “zombified” by technology, but they do have a more demanding choice before them than have other generations in the past. Through technology, kids and adults have an ‘escape hatch’ from the stress that may actually produce learning. Teens have the added challenge of the innumerable other stressors that adolescence brings, so jumping for that escape might be even more tempting than at other stages of life.
I think it definitely has a bigger effect on children aged 2 and below. Beyond that, I haven’t seen a lot of research on degrees of impact between elementary-aged students and teenagers.
Big thanks to John for passing this opportunity my way, and to the folks at EdTechTalk, whose conversation with me last winter helped me begin to describe technology in terms of one piece of a unified experience rather than a world that operates under separate rules.
LucidChart is only gaining ground in terms of my appreciation for it as an educational and professional tool. It has some limitations (no video embedding, for example), but not too many when it comes to wire framing and mind mapping, the two subjects most of my teaching colleagues typically use.
One element I’ve missed, though, has been the ability to hide and reveal “notes” about specific nodes. The mind mapping software I first used had this ability built-in, and I had about given up hope, until I learned about “hot spots” in Lucid Chart. The link will point you to the Lucid Chart tutorial on how this accomplished. The examples below demonstrate what hot spots and “states” can accomplish.
Final Product: Click on the subpoints.
By walking through these steps for each node you wish to describe, you will add a bank of “hidden” descriptions that you or your students can reveal as you move around the map.
It’s been a number of months now since I last added to this blog. So many changes, all at the same time.
1) I’ve taken a new position as of July 2, Instructional Technology Coordinator for St. John Vianney High School, a private, all-boys 9-12 school in south St. Louis County. It’s a departure, culturally, from the large public school district that I have left, and has been an intriguing and energizing change. Private education is a new ball game for me, and I’m enjoying getting to know the excellent staff and great student population here. At the same time that I am coming to understand some cultural differences, it has been encouraging to see many connections between the work of the people here and those at my previous district. Passion for teaching is still the same, the focus on student learning is the same, the concern for helping young people grow into mature, empathetic adults is still the same work at St. John Vianney as it was in the Parkway School District. It is a privilege to begin this new professional adventure, and I am thankful.
2) I finally finished my bathroom renovation project, bringing to an end the barrage of home improvement projects taking place at our home over the last 8 months or so. New siding, new roof, new window treatments, new paint in the living room, new bathroom and updates to the kitchen. I’m hoping to take a break and enjoy this for a while.
3) New addition to our family. Hope Elizabeth McAllister was born just this past month. She is an absolute gift, doted upon by her two older brothers. We are learning all the wonders of baby care all over again, and enjoying the memories her care bring to us of the boys when they were this size.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging small things, possibly under the tag “New Learnings”, in an effort to get myself back into the habit of archiving what I know and produce in this ed tech journey. We’ve done some interesting things at St. John Vianney High School in the last few months, and I’ve accumulated a number of experiences more “tech” than “instructional” in nature. I’m looking forward to regaining some of that “instructional” piece with a new development program we’ll be rolling out next semester. More on that soon.
Five years of supporting technology in the classroom cannot be summarized in one post. However, the bullet points below can stand as just a few of the “big picture” understandings I’ve come to believe about technology in light of the view I’ve been given in the position of technology integration specialist.
None of the above is new, but I’m confident in every one. Have one of your own? Drop it in the comment field below.
Julie Gerding, English teacher at West High, was looking for a way to update the content she’s posted on her website (primarily documents, presentations, and handouts) without downloading, revising, and then uploading a new version. Isn’t there an easier way? In fact, there are a couple, using Dropbox or Box.com.
Julie’s question was simple, and is a common one for teachers who update material on the web:
“Do you know if there is a way to use Dropbox or something similar so that any files I want students to see on my web site will be updated and available whenever I make a change to the file? Uploading and creating a link for each individually has been a huge stumbling block in allowing me to keep things up to date.”
Of the many online document hosting services available, two that came to my mind seemed a good fit for this problem: DropBox and Box.com (formerly Box.net). I’ve written about DropBox before, but Box.com, one of its competitors, offers a few features that seemed helpful for Julie’s particular need. We talked about the benefits and limitations of each in this particular scenario. Our list is below.
Drop Box – the Public Folder
Box – the Visual Solution
Julie chose to go with Box.com for her purposes. Check out what Box.com has done for her Film and Lit class web page.
If you’re already a proficient DropBox user, but you’d like to use this Box.com solution, there’s good news. If you use DropBox to currently store your files, you can still install the Box plugin for Office and “Save” those documents to their service. The bonus will be duplication of your data in the cloud.
Last week I was asked by a teacher to brainstorm 10 applications every student should have some experience with. This is a difficult task, as applications, like most things, come and go. But given the present state of technology, this week’s tip is my personal list of applications every student should understand.
Technically, I came up with a list of categories rather than tools. I’ve arranged the list according to category of tool, followed by a short list tools within that category, and ending with my rationale for including these applications in the list.
Notable omissions include the Microsoft Office Suite and the Adobe Creative Suite. I have omitted these intentionally due to their ubiquity, established reputation as industry standards, and cost. The tools I list below are free, and largely web-based. If you are familiar with Office and Adobe, you will be able to place them within their correct categories.
After working through this exercise, there are noticeable gaps. I’d love to include tools on how to control feeds (Google Reader, ifttt) and all that goes in to managing files in the cloud (Box.com, Dropbox, Google Drive), but I was uncertain about what to drop in favor of the ones I’ve chosen. Programming (Scratch, Alice) and 3D modeling (Google Sketchup) are certainly categories that prepare students for 21st century careers, but I wonder whether all students would be faced with situations where these tools would be helpful.
After creating this list, I happened upon a wonderful post of similar content but for the adult learning and higher education field. For further reading, I highly encourage that you check out Inge Deward’s blog post on social media tools for e-learning or professional learning networks.
And let me know what I missed!
As many teachers are in the midst of MAP testing or approaching End of Course Exams, the season of review is upon us. A number of months ago, Lara Boles, social studies teacher at West High, highlighted how she uses the online flashcard maker Quizlet to keep vocabulary and concepts fresh in the minds of her students. This week, prompted by a flashcard-related e-mail, I’d like to highlight 5 more reasons why Quizlet is a review resource worth investigating, and give some direction on how you can get your students involved with the content with very little headache.
Quick group creation: I go into more detail below, but suffice it to say that Quizlet has made it easy for teachers and students to create competitive and collaborative groups focused on vocabulary and concept review.
Printable flashcards: No Internet access? No problem. Quizlet has a built-in method for printing out your cards for off-road access to review.
Embed your review anywhere: Once available only for the vocab review games, embed code is everywhere on Quizlet now. Want your cards to display on your Moodle course, a practice test on your website, a game of Scatter on your wiki? Grab the embed code and display your set almost any place on the web.
The e-mail I received this week was asking whether it was possible to set up a Quizlet group without manually creating student accounts one by one. Happily, yes, it is possible. In fact, Quizlet is designed for students to set up their own accounts, and they can do so even if they do not have e-mail addresses or facebook accounts. One straight-forward process for creating groups and registering your students is below:
A few moments of set-up and about 15 minutes in the lab can get a class up and reviewing with Quizlet.
Are there other features of this tool that have been helpful to you? Do you have a flashcard set you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below!
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