I’m Home!

I'm Home SnoopyI’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home! I’m home!

I have been pretty solidly on the go from mid June until this morning, when I got up in Baltimore and took an early morning flight to Philadelphia, and then another one down to Raleigh.  It is great to be home, and I do not believe that I have more than two jobs in all of September that put me on a plane.  I am so happy.  Both of the kids will be home this weekend for Labor Day, and then it’s just Brenda and me and home projects. 

I’ll be busy, working through a new, fairly large writing project.  But I’ll also work on some ideas I’ve had about Class Blogmeister and — I’ll also get to read again, which is the main reason I’ve not blogged so much lately.  I’ve not been reading so much lately.

What would an iCar look like?..And I started at the airport, scanning my aggregator, via my phone, and ran across several postings about an article in a German magazine announcing that Apple and Volkswagen are in conversation about a new concept car, that will be called (clearing my throat) the iCar.  Here’s a spoofed picture that was posted in Engaget (What would an iCar Look Like?).

Finally, I want include this bit, that I wrote while waiting my term at the Madison School District school opening event this week.

I’m sitting in the opening convocation for the Madison School District in Connecticut.  The superintendent is introducing educators who are receiving service awards, having been with the district for 10, 15, 20, etc. years.  She is describing the three teachers who have served for thirty years.  What impresses me, deeply, is how incredibly accomplished a teacher can become during a single career.  I learned about a local teacher who has represented his school at the White House — twice.  A teacher who was the first in the state to adopt calculators in a calculus class.  And more.  These accomplishments are just those single events that combine into years that have impacted the lives of thousands of people.  I could go on, but I can’t type fast enough.  I am simply overwhelmed.

Glad to be home!

Topolsky, Joshua. “What would the iCar be like?.” [Weblog Engadget] 29 Aug 2007. 31 Aug 2007 <http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/29/what-would-the-icar-be-like/>.


Great David Pogue Look-AlikeSitting on the train on Sunday, with Brenda, on our way to New Haven, I looked over into the next section of the car and saw a young man and his daughter playing on a Macbook computer.  He looked so familiar, and I thought first of Dan Pink, whom I’ve met a few times lately.  But I knew that it wasn’t him.  Then it occurred to me.  It looked exactly like David Pogue, technology columnist for the New York Times.  Imagine that.  On the train with a great David Pogue look-alike!

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Our Classrooms are Leaking

[Another version of this article was posted on 2¢ Worth in August of 2005]

Pamela Wheaton Shorr, editor of The Heller Reports’ Educational Sales and Marketing Insider, contributed a piece for the recent Scholastic Administrators, Take Control of Tech.  The abstract reads..

Schools across the country are waging a war against technology tools gone bad. Read how some districts defend their classrooms against the new school thuggery—from iPod cheats to cell phone punks and sneaky Web surfers.

After some reasonable advice from Will Richardson, the author goes on to describe “horror stories” that include inappropriate uses of mobile phones, digital cameras, digital cameras on mobile phones, MySpace, poorly filtered school networks, and MP3 players.  Absolutely nothing new here.  It’s an old story.

OK, so our kids are connected. But it isn’t the technology that they connect to.  It’s the information.  We often talk about how small the world has become.  But on a personal level, our children’s world is probably larger than for any generation of youngsters ever.  They are accustomed to commanding a global digital library, mixing selected content and publishing it on their social networking sites, in collaboration with or for the benefit of friends who may well live on other continents — though that is not always clear, as the geography really doesn’t seem to mean much to them.

A Different Species of LearnerIt is almost as if our children are a new species, with info-tentacles, reaching out to connect their gigantic world through their cell phones, IM, massively multi-player online role playing games (MMORPG), social networks, text messaging, and their MP3 players.  They’ve spent the summer with open access to each other, open access to content, open access to schedules as they practice their weird rhythm  of working until four in the morning and then sleeping until 1:00 PM.  No limits.

Now they are returning to school, which is almost entirely about limits.  We contain them in classrooms.  We contain them with schedules.  We contain their access to each other — “No talking!”  We contain content inside the covers of textbooks and the walls of libraries, and when we give them access to the Internet, it is so highly filtered that even teachers are frustrated by the valuable content and applications that are blocked.

These tentacles that have sprouted from our children are not visible.  We can’t see them.  They can’t see them.  But they are a part of our children.  They are the hands and feet that take our children where they want to go.  And they enter our classrooms, and we chop their tentacles off

…because we want our children to be the students we want to teach,
rather than teaching the children that they are.

I know that this is not simple.  I know that neither we nor our children are ready to open it all up.  We need time to work it through.  We need to figure out how to channel valuable learning through our children’s tentacles.  But I suspect that within the next five years, our children are going to have every reason to expect to walk into their classrooms with their iPods, their handheld computers, their cell phones, and their laptops — that limiting their access to information will seem almost unpatriotic.

We have only a few years to figure out how to channel learning and what kinds of questions to ask, when our children are bringing Google with them to take their tests.

The more that we try to contain the learning experience, the more our classrooms will leak!

She Should have been an Engineer…

WateringI’ll be leaving for Connecticut in a half hour.  Brenda is traveling with me for much of this trip, for which we’ll call New Haven our base of operations.  Well, we’ll never really call it that, but you know.

Brenda should have been an engineer.  Much of North Carolina is experiencing a drought.  In fact, except for only a handful of counties, each is experiencing anywhere from moderate to extreme drought conditions.  We’ve cut back, and never have done much lawn watering or been fanatical or even regular with the car washing.  But we do have a lot of plants in pots out side, and it’s part of Brenda’s morning ritual to walk around watering with a hose.

Yesterday, she fashioned some tubing together to draw the condensation from our air conditioner into a bucket that she can use for the watering, and we were amazed at how fast it filled up.  I don’t know, but I suspect that it’s probably four or five gallons, and we almost filled two of them yesterday.  It’s truly quite amazing.

Watering the Fish While we’re gone, it will replenish the water in our little gold fish pond.


Why Haven’t We Heard of This?

Pecha KuchaPecha Kucha comes from a Japanese term that describes the sound of conversation — or chit-chat.  It also describes a brand new medium for communication that was originally invented by Tokyo architects Mark Dytham (born in the UK) and Astrid Klein (born in Italy).  A Pecha Kucha is a presentation with slide show, utilizing 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds.  So a single Pecha Kucha presentation will last six minutes and forty seconds.

The architect duo originally developed the performance medium to attract attendance at their performance space, SuperDeluxe.  However, the concept has grown to almost a hundred other cities, eight of them in the U.S.

It seems, with our renewed interest in creativity, communication, and collaboration as essential skills (Partnership for 21st Century Skills & ISTE NETS Refresh), Pecha Kucha may be an interesting medium of communication for assignments that ask students to express what they have learned.  Twenty by twenty may be a bit large for some assignments, but it may be ok to assign Half (半分) Kuchas or Quarter (四分の) Kuchas.

As I was reading about Pecha Kuchas, I was envisioning self-contained presentations, with audio built in.  But seeing some of the events, they are stand-up presentations with timed slides counting down.  I’m thinking, however, of including videos of 20/20 versions of my presentations with my online handouts.

Anyway, here are a few resources that you might access to learn more about this communication scheme:

Image Attribution:
Lativ, Moed. “Pecha Kucha Nite, By British Council.” Moediativ’s Photostream. 23 Jun 2007. 25 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/ml/604026958/>.

In Defense of Education Blogs

A MeetingA number of people, including Matthew Tabor, have taken exception with a blog post that I wrote last week, Another Question for Interviewers.  To be fair, my article was not as clearly written as it should have been.  I have done some editing of the post, but have not removed any of the original text.  In a way, I am apologizing but in a way I am not.  The ambiguity of the article gave Matthew and others an opportunity to share some ideas that were important and that I agree with.  Tabor is an excellent writer and good thinker with a perspective that is quite useful to educators.  There is very little in his three part article (Part I, Part II, Part III) that I disagree with.  But I feel a need to defend the value of blogging in education.

The program director for my graduate degree was brilliant.  She was a mathematician.  Although she had never taught in a K-12 classroom, she had a fair handle on our challenges.  However, she taught entirely from the writings of great education thinkers and from juried journals.  I learned a great deal from her.  I respect and revere her.  But I have to say that what I learned during those years from the listservs and newgroups I was reading at the time, written to by other practitioners like me, was AT LEAST as valuable to me and my work as what I learned in the data-oriented writings that we read and were tested on in graduate classes.

“You see, I was a real teacher.” 

“I taught real 7th and 8th graders in a real classroom.” 

“I taught in a real community and I taught real curriculum.” 

Each of my students was different.  There was no other classroom exactly like mine.  The community that I taught in was unique and back then I determined the curriculum that I taught.  Real teachers face new situations every day.  Every child has a different story, a different frame of reference to build on.  Every classroom has its own tools to use, or lack of tools.  A real teacher has to be resourceful, inventive, tenacious, and absolutely critical to success is a community of other real teachers and conversations.

I know that conversation is a vague term, but the conditions that real teachers work in are shapeless and unpredictable.  I recently had a conversation with Francis Bradburn, Director of the Instructional Technology Division at the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction.  We were talking about their IMPACT Model, and how the pilot schools had been studied, the data analyzed by a partnership of universities in NC, and one of the most interesting findings (more on other findings later) concerned their staff development procedures.

The schools brought in professional staff developers from across the country.  A few even brought me in, from just down the road.  But the professional development that seemed to have the greatest impact was a practice that they developed, where grade level or subject area teachers met with their school’s media specialist (librarian) and tech facilitator (integrationist) for extended self-development.  They casually talked about what was being taught, challenges, and history, and they all worked together to identify media that might be used, technology applications, and engaged in the training that was needed to implement those resources in their instruction.  They were unscripted conversations between professional educators — practitioners.  They pushed and pulled and through collegial conversation, they worked through it — and student performance improved.

Again, rigorous evidence-based education literature is essential to teaching today.  But in the real world of schools, no classroom is a laboratory.  No student is a specimen.  ..and the idea that scientifically tested and prescribed best practices alone will help children be prepared for their future —

Well that’s the fallacy!

Image Attribution:
Novák, Vlastimil. “LISSTEN Board Meeting Feb07 4.” Vlasta2’s Photostream. 11 Feb 2007. 25 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/bluefootedbooby/387444919/>.

I’m Done for the Day!

It’s been great to be at home all day — and I’ll be here tomorrow.  Then Brenda and I will fly to NYC on Sunday, and then train up to New Haven, where I’ll be working in three different districts in Connecticut before hopping on another train for Baltimore.  I’d hoped to do some relaxing today but was caught under an avalance at my desk, mostly eminating from my too full e-mail box.  It seemed that as I cautiously tried to slip one message out of the pile, two dozen more would be dislodged, tumbling down and demanding attention.

Some might wonder why I have not yet responded more fully to Matthew Tabor.  I’d hopped to today, but alas, too little time and too little energy.  Perhaps tomorrow.  Until then, as a precursor and if you haven’t read it yet, you might take a look at Matthew’s very well written and considered posts — reactions to my recent short and admitted misleadingly titled article, Another Question for Interviews, at:

I’ve already responded in part with Is the Educational Journal Dead?

I’m planning a more pointed response — perhaps tomorrow!

2¢ Worth!

Image Attribution:
Wolkins, Vicki. “Convocation.” Vicki Wolkins’ Photostream. 21 Aug 2006. 24 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/vickiwolkinsphotography/221418406/>.

Something Else to Think About

iPhoneWe pitched in to help my son buy an iPhone for his 19th birthday.  I’m so envious, but his birthday came before mine.  It is an amazing piece of technology.  The iPhone seems like the closest thing I can think of to the perfect personal information appliance.

The one stumbler was that we had to release him from our family plan from Verizon Wireless and sign him up on AT&T.  It was the only way — until.

George Hotz, of Glen Rock, New Jersey, has unlocked the iPhone so that it can also be used on T-Mobile’s Network.  It seems that only AT&T and T-Mobile networks are compatible with the iPhone.  The real benefit of this development is that the iPhone can be used in Europe and Asia, where Apple has not yet released the device through the selected wireless companies there.

The conversion, which requires some soldering and software alterations, is described in Hotz’ blog, and may emerge into a small industry of people who are making iPhone available to lusting customers outside the U.S.

This likelyhood does not make George happy.

“That’s exactly, like, what I don’t want,” Hotz said. “I don’t want people making money off this.”*

I think that’s most amazing to me, and telling, with regard to our times, is the George Hotz is only 17, and he perfected the technique from his home.  You know, when I was young, we had science fairs and other opportunities for kids to distinguish their science or technology chops — but always within the context of being kids or students.

Today, youngsters, still in school, are actually participating in their world in ways that simply were not possible before.  It’s exciting and a little daunting.  I think that it puts even more pressure on educators in what and how we teach, because some of our students may become contributing members of society a lot earlier than we assume.

Just something to think about.*

Svensson, Peter. “NJ Teen Unlocks iPhone From AT&T Network.” WRAL.COM 24 Aug 2007 24 Aug 2007 <http://www.wral.com/news/technology/story/1738824/>.

Where Am I?

Where Am I?This is not a Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego challenge.  I’m serious.

After I drove a couple of hours from Lumberton to Selma; the train ran two hours late; the car rental shop had closed, and I had to get a cab to the airport to get a rental; and I drove another couple of hours up to Manassas, it was 10:30 when I got to my hotel room. 

Getting up early in the morning, I found myself entirely disoriented.  I had no frame of reference for where I was — no pavement for traction.  I’m not whining.  It’s a lot like your first few days of school.  You don’t know the kids.  You may not even know what you’re teaching yet (happened to me).  Your materials are not fully collected, organized, or even invented yet. You’re disoriented. 

The only thing you have to go on is your own professional knowledge and experience and the community of educators you work with. 

It’s enough.

I found the bathroom, even in the dark!

Speaking and Driving

Chatting at NJELETE ConferenceIt’s how I’ll spend the whole week.  Yesterday I spoke in Charlotte, and then Brenda drove me back to Raleigh, where I dropped her off, and then drove on down to Kinston, NC.  I’ll do two presentations for their school opening staff development conference today and then drive on to Lumberton, NC for another opening conference.  Then I’ll drive to Selma, hop on a train, and ride up to someplace north of Richmond.

Not a lot of time to write and to befuddled by road noise to think.  Plus, I’m engrossed by a pretty good audio book, Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.  I guess that the only thing that I keeps coming back to me, with regard to technology and education, is how impressed I’ve been with using of chats in my presentations.  This week, I do not believe that any of my audiences will have laptops and wifi, and this disappoints me.  The times that I have been able to open up my AjaxChat site to audiences added a great deal, I believe, to the value of the event — both for me and the audience.

It gives me a chance to revisit the presentation through the eyes of the audience, as they comment on various aspects, succinctly sharing their angles and insights and posing questions.  It gives me a chance to respond to questions and add new ideas, when I transfer the transcript of the chat into a wiki and can flesh it all out into a single digital document.  At this point, I can’t think of any digital follow-up technique that I have been more satisfied with or excited about.

The downside is that most people my age (30+) have difficulty paying attention to a presentation and chatting at the same time.  But I suspect that only a few people really need to engage for the document to be valuable to the entire audience.