Conversations in San Mateo

Last week, I presented on a number of topics for a group of school administrators, tech directors, and teachers.  Also, on stage, was Paul Larson, a teacher in Southern California, who is doing some very interesting things with his students, by empowering them to express what they are learning with multimedia.

At the end of the presentations and during lunch (the entire event was sponsored by, I moderated a large group conversation about some of the issues raised in our presentations.  As is my practice, I got permission to record this conversation for a podcast, which is now available at Connect Learning.

To add icing to the cake, Kyle Brumbaugh brought along some of the teachers in his district and after the presentations, they had a debriefing, and allowed me to sit in and record.  This was a very good experience for me, to hear practicing classroom teachers throw their ideas against the wall and see what sticks. 

You can subscribe to the podcast at Connect Learning, or just click below to listen here.

“Cultural Issues are becoming Paramount”

Gruppo International exposition

IBM Vice president of Technical Strategy and Innovation, Irving Wladawsky-Berger is retiring in June, after 37 years of service to one company, a rather unusual distinction that he admits to in the blogged announcement he posted yesterday.  It’s a good read, but I was especially taken by the following paragraph.

…prodded by our innovation initiatives at IBM, I have been asking myself seemingly “soft” questions about the intrinsic nature of business, especially what it means to be a globally integrated business in the 21st century. Revenue, profits and cash are clearly important. But at heart a business is a community of people organized to pursue common objectives. And increasingly, as people and communities interact with each other around the world, the cultural issues are becoming paramount. I am convinced that these are the life and death issues for companies, the keys to their ability to innovate and survive.

I know that this is a horse I’ve beaten before, and that I certainly have some bias, having been a social studies teacher and that my daughter is studying to be a social studies teacher.  But I sincerely hope that we are coming to understand the critical need for a citizenry that knows not only the scientific aspects of our environment but is equally at home with the social elements of where and how and when we live.  In my last years as a middle school social studies teacher, we knew that our jobs were in jeopardy.  In fact, for my last year teaching, I was shifted, with no small amount of resistance on my part, to the math department.

When you think about it, the problems that face this world do not have nearly as much to do with what we know or don’t know about math and science, as they do with what we don’t know about each other and about working and living together.  We keep wanting to use history to fuel hatred, rather than as lessons for the future.

Image Citation:
Cassè, Marco. “International Exposition.” Kazze’s Photostream. 28 Mar 2006. 24 Jan 2007 <>.

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Greatest Challenge

I often go to Flickr to look for creative commons photos related to the concepts I’m writing about.  I rarely come up with such an appropriate picture.

Cable in the Classroom has asked me to pose a question for your consideration.  They would like to include, in the May issue of their magazine, a reporting of the challenges that teachers and students face as they learn to use digital content as educators and learners.  This is not just an important question.  It is an essential question, critical to the shape that education taking in a time when the very nature of information is changing.

I encourage you to answer this question from the perspective of your education goals and experience.  You can comment here, or blog your answer, including the following tag in your blog:


So here is the question:

“What is your greatest challenge in teaching appropriate, ethical use of web-based media to your students?”


Image Citation:
Wu, Stephen. “Ethics and Morals: Timeless and Universal?.” Stephenccwu’s Photostream. 7 Dec 2006. 24 Jan 2007 <>.

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The every-vigilant, Andy Carvin lets us know about DOPA Jr.

TeacherSource | . The Birth of DOPA Jr. | PBS:

DOPA’s supporters aren’t ready to give up without a fight. This time, though, first blood has been drawn on the Senate side, with Sen. Stevens re-introducing DOPA in the form of S. 49. The draft of the bill was read into the Congressional Record, but the public can’t access the text just yet.  (It is not yet available to the public because of a not unusual) bottleneck for the Government Printing Office, so the usual turnaround time of a few days gets stretched out.

I’m sure there will be more on this later!


I’m on my way out the door of this very fine hotel, for the airport and several blissful days at home.  I want to thank everyone for their conversation on the need for college.  My time in college was a uniquely formative experience.  I got introduced to a broader world of possibilities, and changed my major about a dozen times.  I think that all of those “useless” courses made me a better social studies teacher.

Still, college must adapt to a changing time.  But, as was mentioned by John Brandt, teaching is a aboration of this phenomena.  Teachers are expected to remain teachers for their career.  Most teachers enter the profession, expecting to teach.  It is a process and a word environment that is static, and many aspects of it should remain static — human.  But we are so isolated from the conditions of the broader world, where innovation has become our mantra, and this is good.  But there is a dark side to innovation.  When was the last time you went shopping for toothpaste.  What a decision.  Do you want tartar control, teeth whitening, minty-fresh, new extra formula, blah blah blah.  Innovation has become the competitive edge and it just results in too many decisions — too much information.

ExfoliatedBoy, do I sound whinny.  The ability to innovate is an essential skill and it is something that our children should be leaving school with.  At what point are we going to reach a saturation, or worse yet, a singularity, where we just lose contact with what’s real and what’s old, for the sake of always looking for what’s new? 

I’m I really getting to be that crotchety?

Thanks also for the info on exfoliating cleansers.  One more question though.  Is it supposed to make your skin tingle?  Kinda nice! 😉

I Have a Question

What happens when the the field you are studying in college changes so dramatically in less than four years that you find yourself with a degree that is completely useless? 

What’s the point of college in a world that changing that fast?

I’m partly venting, but also looking for thoughtful comments!

2¢ Worth

Phone Recharging Vending Machine

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
Another in the long array of ways that companies are trying to make a living from “what’s new.”

Here is a vending machine with, dangling from small cups, a variety of wires (called woors where I come from), each labeled with the phone or phones that it serves. Plug in you phone, slip in your credit card, and the machine delivers a fast charge to your phone. Not a bad service with my Moto Q, which sports an 8-hour battery life on a low usage day — and considering that RDU seems to have switched off all of its power outlets in the “A Terminal.”

2¢ Worth!

Reflections on Science Blogging Conference

The opening general session with gnome scientists, Hunt Willard.  It’s an amazing lecture hall.  Each seat has an electrical outlet and Ethernet port.  The wireless was a bit weak, but plenty sufficient for blogging, as about half of the audience was doing.
Visit a slide show of the conference here.

It’s the next morning and I have only a couple of hours to catch up on e-mail before I head over to the airport for a two leg flight to Houston — and my brain feels sore.  When I was young, I wanted to be a scientist.  It didn’t matter what kind: astronomer, chemist, biologist.  I didn’t major in science in college because I suspected that I wasn’t smart enough.  after yesterday, I figure that those notions that prevented me from trying to become a scientist (like Johnny Quest’s father) were probably more on target than I even thought then.   Yesterday’s Science Blogging Conference was full of REALLY smart people.  Not only did it feature astronomers, chemists, biologists from one of the science centers of the world (Research Triangle Park and it’s surrounding Universities), but also the leaders of North Carolina’s blogging community.  Add to all of that the fact that Brenda and I watched three episodes of The West Wing last night, and my brain is sore.

Yet, I feel that I had something to add for one very important reason.  The issue of literacy came up again and again.  As these scientists talked about why they blog or should blog, and why and how non-scientists should interact with the science world through blogs, a common conflict emerged again and again, the convergence of a dramatically new information landscape and generations who were taught to read books.

This conflict was most obvious in the Teaching Science session, where one Evolutionist of somewhere near my age (a rarity in Murphy Hall yesterday) claimed in so many words that the Internet was distroying knowledge, that it just can’t be trusted.  A number of ideas were expressed including suggestions of a system of peer review of science content on the Internet by established scientists and a less formal DIGG-style recommendations program.

I threw out several rather shallow suggestions, still feeling not quite up to the high-brained banter, but finally blurted out, “This is an arms race that can’t be won.”  It’s a technical problem, but there is no technical solution.  The solution is to realize that we live in a dramatically different information environment, and as such, our notions of what it means to be literate must change.  Being able to de-construct and evaluate the information that you find in this information environment is a skill that is no less critical today as being able to read the text.  We have to teach students to be their own gatekeepers. It’s a BASIC skill” 

It was a very good day, and this morning, while hitchhiking back to the conference, I found a blog by someone who attended the session on illustrating blogs.  As you probably know, I make regular use of Flickr as a source of images for my blog.  As a result of virtually visiting another session through the mind of someone elses blog, I’ve learned about:

Interestingly, that session seemed to evolve into a discussion of copyright and fair use, rather than how to use images.  I suspect it’s the difference between going to a conference session wanting to learn one thing, and going to an un-conference sessions and ending out talking about something else.

Image Citation:
Blake, John. “NC Science Blogging Conference.” The Blake Slate’s Photostream. 21 Jan 2007. 21 Jan 2007 <>.

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Teaching Science

Science Education BloggingThis is the last session, and the topic is education, science, and blogging. The presenters are with PBS NewsHour. I’m having a hard time hearing what they are saying. They are demonstrating some of their programming and the Online NewsHour with transcripts.

An interesting question has just been asked… How do we make our blogs ready for teachers and students to use? The question is not yet being addressed, but that is interesting. Standby!

Is the number concern with teaching Science Accuracy or is it process. Boy this erupted into a great conversation, that I, unfortunately got involved in. My comment was, that along with everything else that was mentioned, we teach science to make our students care! When students are writing about their research in a blog, knowing that other classmates will be reading it, they become responsible for the writing, and they should care more about accuracy, and everything else that was mentioned.

Interestingly, at the end of the Jean-Claude session, he mentioned how effective and accurate the Wikipedia is, and there was a pretty enthusiastic agreement among the scientists who were in the audience.

The presenter is now asking for their favorite web sites.

  • Various telescopes have excellent web sites
  • not to mention Google Earth

Ok, he’s asked that question again. Answers were:

  • documentation,
  • read science teacher blogs, and become a part of their conversations with each other
  • look to standards
  • Get listed on NC WiseOwl
  • Write to high school and middle school science teachers, in an effort to help them keep abreast of the issues they may be teaching.