The more things change, the more they stay the same

The other day, I posted a list of my very first workshops as The Landmark Project (1996), and commented how most of the topics are still among my topics today — evolved, but the concepts are still there.

Chris, at K12 Station commented:

I started training teachers to integrate the web into their classrooms in 1999 … no surprises here in the area of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The thing that amazes me is that most teachers use computers for attendance and email with almost no problems whatsoever … but many of those same folks still don’t have an adequate grasp of the key concepts required to deliver online content within instruction.

2 Cents Worth » Hitchhikr Today

Chris, I have always held that teachers (and everyone else) will use technology that solves a problem for them. Teachers do not really see delivering content as a problem. it’s what they were trained to do. It’s what they’ve done for years. There’s no problem there, from their perspective.

However, the problem that they do not yet perceive is that our children DO NOT CONNECT TO LECTURES AND STALE POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS. They live in a rich, dynamic, and interactive information landscape. If teachers are paying attenntion to this, then they will see a problem and will, as good teachers, try to fix it. That’s when they’ll start “getting” technology.

It will happen when they realize that it isn’t about technology, but about a new information landscape and that only from digital, networked, and overwhelming information will we be able to adequately teach our children.

Image Citation:
Blue, Paradox. “Teacher.” Paradox Blue’s Photostream. 3 July 2005. 20 Sep 2006 <>.

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Those Who are About to Blog…

SETT Scottish Learning Festival starts today in Glasgow. This is bound to be a rich learning and sharing experience, especially as Scotland has become home to some of the most prolific and influential edubloggers of the Internet. I suspect that we will see a lot coming out of that conference. It will surely shine.

For those bloggers in the heather, who are not as practiced as Ewan, David, and John, it is essential that you tag your blog entries so that they can be captured by blog readers who are aggregating SETT blogs. There are a number of ways to do this, but one fullproof way is to simply code the tags directly into your blog entry.

Hitchhikr has a tag generating tool that is linked to any and all of the conferences that have been registered, including the SETT Scottish Learning Festival.

Simply load the page.

  1. The suggested tags for the conference are already in the first text box (a). You can add additional ones, such as weinberger for David Weinberger’s keynote. Make sure that the tags you add are seperated by spaces.
  2. Then, if you have added any additional tags, click the [Submit] button.
  3. Copy the html code that is in the larger textbox (b).
  4. It is important that your blog editing page is set to accept HTML. There should be a button that says [HTML] or it may say [Source]. When you click it you should see your blog text with some codes that may look like this — <a href=”http:….
  5. Paste the code at the bottom of the page.
  6. Finally, after you have submitted your blog, type or paste the URL of your blog in the third textbox (c), and click [Ping!]. This notifies Technorati (a major blogging search engine) that you blog has been submitted and that it should add it to its list of blogs to be indexed. When it has been indexed (perhaps a few minutes later or a few hours), it will be accessible to conference readers through their aggregators and through Hitchhikr.

Have a fantastic conference! We’ll be watching and listening.

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I’m Beside Myself

I just got this in on an e-mail from NASA.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has extended the long-armed antenna of its radar, preparing the instrument to begin probing for underground layers of Mars.

The orbiter’s Shallow Subsurface Radar, provided by the Italian Space Agency, will search to depths of about one kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) to find and map layers of ice, rock and, if present, liquid water.

Does this not make you shudder? We are, indeed, exploring the Solar System. I remember, clearly, the day that Alan Shepard got blasted into space in a Mercury Capsule. Mapping underlayers of Mars rocks my mind.

Learn more at the Mars Shallow Subsurface Radar web site.

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “Ground-Piercing Radar on NASA Mars Orbiter Ready for Work.” E-mail to Author.19 Sep 2006.

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Here’s One Worth Hitch Hiking To

NGfL in Action standTomorrow begins the SETT Scottish Learning Festival 2006. Held in Glasgow, this is a wonderful conference, which I had the honor of presenting at two years ago. Many of the promanent edubloggers will be there, so SETT will certainly be well reported, capture in word and image.

Check out the conference and its speakers at the conference web site and emerging conversation at its Hitchhikr page. Great luck to my friends in Scotland.

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High School Audits in North Carolina

Today, my state’s (North Carolina) governor, Mike Easley, called for financial audits of all NorthCarolina high schools “ determine how to best use resources to improve student performance.”

The audits go beyond the normal financial review conducted annually by school districts to match the allocation of funds to student performance, Easley said. The findings would help the state establish a set of “best practices” schools could use to boost student performance, whether that means adding technology, decreasing class sizes or retaining veteran teachers, he said.

“We don’t have money to waste, and we don’t have time to waste,” he said. “We have to figure out how to get the best bang for our buck.” – News – Easley Calls For High School Audits

There are a lot of directions I could go with this, but I think that initially it will be interesting to explore any differences between how districts of low performing schools allocate resources compared to districts with high performing schools. This is a deeply complex issue that goes way beyond budgeting.

I suspect that they’ll learn that it isn’t the budgeting as much as it is funding. But as long as we are convinced that we’re paying all we can for education now, there isn’t any way that that conclusion will surface. A teacher told me once that we should provide “..the best education that we can afford.”

That is so 20th century!

Easley said in his speech,

“We don’t have money to waste, and we don’t have time to waste,” hesaid. “We have to figure out how to get the best bang for our buck.”

I think that he’s wrong in saying that we do not have money. But I think that he is dead-on that we’re running out of time!

“Easley Calls for High School Audits.” WRAL.Com 19 Sep 2006 19 Sep 2006 <>.

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Best Field — Final Appeal

Last Friday I continued writing about best practice and best field, challenging readers to describe their ideas about best field. You see, there is so much talking and writing, and preaching done about best practices (what teachers do), but almost no talk about what I’m calling best field, or the conditions of the learning environment that would be most conducive to effective student learning. I challenged readers to describe their ideas of the ideal classroom, and was, quite frankly, disappointed. A number of readers very compellingly described why the learning environments of our students must change, but what I was looking for was specifics. If we are to make changes in the field of teaching, then we need some specifics, AND THEY NEED TO BE BOLD.

How’s this?

Every teacher has three to four hours of supported professional planning time every day.

Now think about the classroom, the learning experiences, the possibilities, the learning that could happen if teachers had three or four hours to plan each day — and they could actually enjoy their families at night!

If we are not willing to at least consider changes this dramatic, then we’ll continue to flounder.

Yesterday, I posted an announcement on the blog at Technology & Learning Magazine. It said…

So,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.

Techlearning blog: New Century School House

I want to invite you to go to the TechLearning blog site, read the announcement and participate in reinventing education, by adopting a classroom and describing what you think teachers and students should be doing for students to become world-ready.

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Hitchhikr Today

MoodleMootJust got through with a long day of writing and programming, and I’m spent. I decided to take a minute with Hitchhikr before going out for my cholestorol (4 miles) walk. There are three conferences taking place now, two in Europe and one in Washingon DC. Of the three, ModdleMoot is, by far, the most active. The blogging is mostly in Spanish (or some other euro-tongue), but the pictures are great. I watched the slide show all the way through — I love conferences.

The conference most hitch hiked to remain NECC, Building Learning Communities, and American Library Association, in that order, with Spain’s EduBlog conference a respectable 4th. Receiving more than 500 visits are:

  • Laptop Institute
  • So What?
  • ApacheCon EU
  • Colorado TIE
  • Congreso Edutec
  • MoodleMoot06
  • BarCampRDU
  • Web20
  • HandHeld Learning UK
  • Tenn Edu Technology ASsociation Summer Institute
  • Discovery Educator Network Regional Institutes
  • PodCamp

I might as well throw this in while I’m putting off my walk. I’m in the final stages of moving my web sites over to the new dedicated server. In the process, I ran across the titles of the first workshops I taught after starting The Landmark Project in late 1995. All of these workshops took place in early 1996. It’s interesting how much things have not changed:

  • Internet II: Adding Value to On-Line Information
  • Creating Your Own Internet Home Page
  • Web Authoring
  • Video Presentations
  • The Internet: One Piece of the Puzzle
  • Multi-User Domains (MUDs) & the Educational Possiblities
  • Navigating the Internet
  • Advanced Home Page Design

The only thing that is not on my list of presentation topics today is MUDs, and they are perhaps the MOST interesting topic for education I have ever been involved in.

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Listening to Student Voices Tech maven, Ian Jukes, just sent me a link to a study that was published last year by Education|Evolving, a joint venture between the Center for Policy Studies and Hamline University in Minnesota. The report, Listening to Student Voices — on Technology (pdf), describes 15 findings, culled from various literature. The findings are mostly not surprising, but worth noting again:

  1. Computer and internet use is growing
  2. Students are sophisticated users
  3. Technology is important to students in education
  4. Technology is not an ‘extra’
  5. In-school access to technology is limited
  6. Home use dominates
  7. In-school use is not integrated
  8. Computers and the Internet are communications tools, first
  9. Metaphors describe how students use the Internet for school: The Internet as: (This is interesting)
    • virtual guidance counselor
    • virtual textbook and reference library
    • virtual tutor, study short-cut, study group
    • virtual locker, backpack, and notebook

    Alan November has been talking for years about how our tendency is to use new technologies to continue to do old things.

  10. Technology has caused students to approach life differently; but adults act as though nothing has changed
  11. Students desire increased in-school access
  12. Students want to use technology to learn, and in a variety of ways
  13. Students want challenging, technologically-oriented instructional activities
  14. Students want adults to move beyond using the ‘Internet for Internet’s sake’
  15. Students want to learn the basics, too

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The other day I was shopping at the local grocery store after spending a number of hours writing at Starbucks.  I was leaning over the dairy counter, reading off labels, with my phone to my ear, when a friend of mine, a recently retired teacher at the high school my children attended, walked by and said, “There’s a man who’s multitasking!”

I just want to set the record straight.  I was not multitasking.  That gives me way too much credit.  I was actually being led around the grocery store by my wife, who was sitting at her desk at home, running down the list, telling me where to go in the store, and what brands to drop into my basket.

There was a time when I might have been able to multitask — but those days are gone! 

Now, I’m just a shopbot! 😉

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Bridge-Building or Bridge-Burning — Reflections on a USAToday Article

This is a quote from a September 17 article in USAToday, Teachers Speak Out of Turn.

When the fed-up young teacher decided to quit her job in rural North Carolina in June, her resignation letter was brief — three lines. But she had more to say.

So she spoke her mind online, in an anonymous, 1,000-word Internet posting to her principal that recounted in grim detail racist teachers, obligatory prayers at faculty meetings, “What would Jesus do?” lectures and a “terrible” vice principal who “tries to sleep with the coaches.”

Although all names, including those of the school and city, were withheld, the letter was widely read. For three years, the thirtysomething teacher had been writing a popular Internet weblog, or blog, under the pseudonym First Year Teacher. – Teachers speak out of turn

I learned about this article through Canadian blogger, Dean Shareski, who likens these anonymous teacher ranters to road rage, or blog rage.  In Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech, he writes…

Let’s encourage each other to be forthright in our comments and
discussions and stop hiding behind pseudonyms for the soul purpose of
unleashing personal attacks. You’re giving us a bad name!

Ideas and Thouhts from an EdTech – Blog Rage

I commented on his blog that I did not come away from the article with the impression that the title (Teachers Speak out of Turn) seemed to be eliciting.  I got the impression of many teachers out there blogging as a professional practice of reflection and communication.

The exceptions, the blog rage (I like that), are an indication of an education system that is broken, where teachers really do find themselves in a fox hole, forgotten about by their commanders and even the country they are fighting for.  Teachers should feel a part of a team that includes instructional support professionals, administrators, school boards and other elected officials, parents, and the students.  If that is not how teachers see themselves, then there is something broken.  It’s not an excuse for bridge-burning rants, but there are reasons.

Blogging should be about bridge building, not bridge burning.  ..and as someone who works across the range of educators — teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, and even legislators — I see that by and large we are all on the same page, faced in the right direction, caring about our children, and wanting to provide the best education that prepares them for their future.  The bridge is communication, and the system has to be designed for communication.

Still, anonymous blogs don’t really bother me.  Neither do anonymous comments.  Tom Hoffman (whom Shareski mentions), doesn’t even bother me.  It’s about conversation, he and others who criticize my writings make me think.  They make me try to come at my positions from different directions, and sometimes I change my views.  ..and even if I do not change my views, I usually come to understand them a  little better. 

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