On the Road Again

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
I’m moblogging this at the airport, so please excuse any departures from my usual flawless prose. Air Canada will be taking me to Toronto, where I’ll pickup a car and drive to northern Ontario — where I’ll be worked hard over the next couple of days.

Tomorrow will begin with a three-hour address to the faculties of the Bluewater school district, about 700 face to face and video casted to eight other sites. The afternoon will have me doing a followup workshop with teachers who signed up.

Then it gets really interesting that evening, when I address parents from across northern Ontario. I do this fairly frequently for schools and districts, but this is a brand new presentation. That always makes me nervous.

Then it gets even more interesting the next day. All I’ll say at this point is that the district is experiencing declining enrollment, and they want to better serve their customers. The district leadership wants me to help. I hope to have something positive to report in a couple of days.

How do I Sell This?

One of the weird things about blogging is that I simply can not predict what entries are going to hit home.  I never would have thought that a simple and casual mentioning of a site I’d heard about for years would be one of them, but the RateMyTeacher post kicked up a storm!

The comment that I thought I’d mention here came from a primary teacher (their podcast) and blogger in South Wales, Paul Harrington.  He asks an important question that I want to toss out.  Harrington says,

…how can I a primary teacher in
South Wales who has been bitten by the bug of web 2.0 technology (podcasting and blogging plus using other IT across the curriculum)
spread this to my hard pressed colleagues – I have done some in-house
training and given demonstrations in house of what is possible – but
schools don’t move very fast to take up technology as staff have too
many other pressures on them. I am frustrated as I can see what they
could do with the technology – but it can be tiring being an evangelist
in the wilderness ( I approached my local Education IT Training Agency
– I don’t think that they understand web 2.0 !!!!! I may be wrong )

2 Cents Worth » Rate My Teachers

My first question is, “Have any of your teachers been rated on RateMyTeachers?”  If so, don’t show them.  They’ll freak.  At this point, I’d just like to suggest some directions from which we need to tell this new story about teaching and learning in this digital, networked, and overwhelming time of rapid change.

  • Stories from outside — stories from the world, for which we are making our children ready.
  • Stories from within — stories about new technologies and their impact on learning.
  • Stories from above — get administrative buy-in if you can.  Be professional, but be persistent.
  • Stories from below — tap into the kids’ conversations.  Pay attention to them.  Ask them what they do for fun and compare that with what we did for fun when we were eight, twelve, and sixteen.  Make a case for how different these children are.

The advice I can’t resist giving at this point is for you to form a study group around modernizing classrooms in your locale. Find one or more teachers in each of your schools, especially going up into the middle and upper grades.  Find fertile ground in all of your schools and then plan your siege.  You need information and lots of ways to share it.  Set up a computer in the teachers lounge and have a presentation running on it such as Karl Fisch’sDid you Know” slide show or his more recent, “What If?“.

I think that you just need to get people talking.  Invite the media in (though do this very carefully as sometimes notoriety can backfire).  Figure out how to get parents other than yours to listen to the podcast.

That’s all I’m going to say here. 

Other suggestions are requested.

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So What are We Going to Do about This?

Thanks to ed tech maven, Ian Jukes for bringing this article to our attention.  How important will it be to be able to read?

experts and educators say they are stunned by the results of a recent
adult literacy assessment, which shows that the reading proficiency of
college graduates has declined in the past decade, with no obvious

“’It’s appalling — it’s really astounding,’ said Michael
Gorman, president of the American Library Association and a librarian
at California State University at Fresno. ‘Only 31 percent of college
graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. That’s not
saying much for the remainder.’”

–The Washington Post, December 25, 2005

What is the worth of words? – The Practical Futurist – MSNBC.com

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I use Citation Machine all the time, mostly to cite images and other sources for my blog. A problem that has pestered me over the months is that the CM window is so large. I’m constantly having to move it around on the screen so that I can find the information on the web page that I need for the citation.

So to solve the problem, I’ve installed a new button in the top menu, [Shrink]. This button will remove the top banner and the left menu (assuming that you’ve already chosen your citation style, and reduce the size of the window so that it doesn’t cover up as much of the digital document you are citing. Google Ads remain. I have to pay for my children’s college somehow.

An additional link will appear, [enlarge], that will pop the window back out to size with the banner and the main menus.

Rate My Teachers

I wrote yesterday about competition and how we should treat our students and their community as our customers.  Coincidentally, in researching for some presentations I’ll be doing in northern Ontario next week, I ran across this web site, RateMyTeachers.com.

I’ve heard about this site for years, but never really took a look.  I looked up the school that my children attended, and found quite a few ratings, and mostly they were pretty accurate as per my own experiences through my own kids.  The ratings were based on easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and popularity.

A report card for teachers.  Intriguing!

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Re-Announcing The New Century School House

Originally posted on the TechLearning Blog on 18 September 2006.

For the past week, I have been writing about best practices. It has mostly been a conversation between me and commenting readers about the term, best practice, where it comes from, what it means, why we feel a need for best practices, and who designates them.

The conversation expanded into what I called, best field. Best practices seem to be what teachers do to improve teaching and learning in the classroom. But best field are the rules and conditions of the classroom within which teachers work. I challenged readers to describe how they would change the rules and conditions in order to be able to work/teach in a best field.

I’ve decided to resurrect an old online project that I’ve been running for the past eight years. It’s called The New Century School House.The web site represents an old 1950s style school building that has been totally gutted of all relics of industrial age education. It is an empty shell. I want to invite you to come to the building and to adopt a room — repurposing that classroom (or library) for new century teaching and learning.

Click the type of school you are most associated with:

Find an empty room. It will be labeled, Adopt this Room.You’ll be asked for some information about yourself and then to describe what you think teachers and students should be doing in that room to make students more world-ready. And then you will be asked to list and describe what needs to be in that room for the described activities to take place — what kind of hardware, software,infrastructure, furniture, books, lighting, etc.

Look at this as a canvas for professional educators to use to begin to paint a new picture of teaching, learning, and classrooms, designed to prepare our children for a future that will be information-driven,technology-rich, and rapidly changing.

Photo Citation
Susan, “Writing in My Classroom.” Susan NYC’s Photostream. 30 Aug 2006. 22 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/en321/229285117/>.

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PodInterview over at Teaching for the Future…

 Dave LaMorte interviewed me over Skype the other day, and he seems to have caught me on a good day. It was an enjoyable conversation with Dave, though I’d thought he said his name was Leo Laporte.

I urge you to give this and other Dave episodes a listen at Teaching for the Future. He seems to have a knack for cutting through the techno-lust and getting down to the nitty-gritty — the literacy.

Episode 32 is his interview of me, and since I haven’t found time to do any podcasting myself…

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It costs about $200 to fly our son back and forth to Texas, where he’s in school. It costs a quarter that much for the shuttle ride to get him just the 20 miles from the airport to his campus. Brenda and I were considering yesterday that a handful of university parents could easily set up a virtual shuttle company, set up online signups and payment through PayPal, and accomplish the rides for less than have what we’re paying now.

There is a movie in the theaters now called Accepted. The plot is nearly identical to the 1984 movie, Revenge of the Nerds. Today, in 2006, slacker, Bartleby Gaines, has been rejected by all of the colleges he has applied to. The obvious culture of his parents’ community is get your child into the BEST university.

Rather than disappoint his parents, Bartleby (played by Justin Long), uses his desktop publishing skills to create his own acceptance letter for a fictitious college, and convinces his best friend (already accepted at the local top-notch school) to build an official looking and functioning web site for the school. His parents are elated, hand him the $10,000 check for first semester’s tuition, and announce how thrilled they will be to drop him off at school.

Now needing a school, he uses the money to lease an abandoned mental hospital, and with friends, (now accepted), cleans up enough of the building to fool their parents. Then, it appears that the web site was more functional than they’d intended, and three hundred entering freshmen show up on the door steps with $10,000 checks.

Then’s when the movie gets interesting, because they decide to start their own college. OK, most of it is dumb and foolish and choreographed for the laughs that don’t always come. But much of the movie reminded me of the open university movement of the 1970’s. There was one in Greenville, NC where I attended ECU for a couple of years. If you had some topic you could teach, you went by to teach it, and if anyone was interested, they’d sit in front of you and listen/learn.

The thing is, with ICT where it is today, much of this is possible.

  • Imagine a conference, where the program began as an empty wiki, and attendees came in and wrote the program by describing what they wanted to learn.
  • Imagine a university where students, parents, and the corporate world writes the curriculum, hires the teachers, or develops the online courses.
  • Imagine a school where parents and students plan the education system themselves.

What we can imagine, today, is much closer to a reality than to fantasy.


  • Competition!


  • More than ever before, our students and their community are our customers!

graduation.jpgI suspect that we may have five years to retool. Maybe a little more. Maybe a lot less.

The question we’re not asking is, “Are the kids in our classrooms today, going to be as willing

to wish

their education

on their children?”

Geekgirlnyc, “Nursery School Graduation, 1979.” Geegkygirlnyc’s Photostream. 9 Sep 2006. 21 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/snoodette/238480404/>.

Persist! Resist!, “Graduation Day 5.” Persist! Resist!’s Photostream. 14 May 2006. 21 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/persistresist/146486750/>.

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More Slideshow Art from Karl Fisch

OK, I can hear it now, stone carvers, chisel in hand, hollering to those new scribes with their papyrus, “What if there’s a fire! har har har har!”

It seems that history is full of instances where advancement in information technologies have been resisted and even ridiculed, and on rare occasions, by educators. Karl Fisch has done it again, an emerging slideshow artist is preparing another mesmerizing staff development for his teachers. Last night, his latest Fischbowl asked, “What if…

When teachers returned this fall we received an email with this sign as an attachmentand a suggestion that we print and post if we wanted.

    Turn off and put away all Cell Phones, iPods, and Electronic Devices during class!

Shortly thereafter many of these signs popped up outside and inside classrooms.

The Fischbowl

It is important that we bereminded — shown a mirror to see — what is human nature. We’re comfortablewalking to the end of the board. But jumping off takes courage. Being ateacher is being courageous.

Brilliant, Karl! I foundthis one every bit as moving as the last.

Jswajsberg, “The Replica Stone.” Jswajsberg’s Photostream. 12 July 2006. 21 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/jswajsberg/188412291/>.

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Reintroducing "Discussion Boards”

They’re old school, old web, but I think they should come back.  Blogs are fantastic for publishing (and conversation) and wikis are nearly perfect for collaboration (and conversation).  But the web application that was designed explicitly for conversation was discussion boards, and they’ve been with us for a long time.

I spent a little time this weekend downloading and installing phpBB (php is the programming language and bb stands for Bulleting Board) on my web server.  It seems that there may be ways to integrate discussion boards in with blogging.  It is often that the aspects of our blog postings are so complex that some people comment on one aspect, others comment on another, and blogging software is simply not designed to facilitate these sorts of threaded discussions.  It’s what discussion boards do.

I’ve run into what I think is a perfect example.  A couple of days ago, I published an appeal for specific ideas on how we might restructure the field of education (classroom, procedures, resources, etc.) in the same way that we are trying so hard to develop best practice.

Mattandi responded with a list that I was so impressed with, that I thought each deserved some comment and conversation.  So, I’ve established a topic on the discussion board for each of his items, including the titles below.  You can click the item you want to read and comment on, or click here to got to the entire list.  You will have to register to the discussion board in order to post a reply.

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