My Secret Shame (best of twitter 1-30-08)

Well not so secret anymore- here are some interesting quotes I pulled from Twitter* today. They are at a conference and may be quoting others so please excuse any misattributions.

Perhaps we should define digital fluency not in terms of *being* (what I am) but in terms of *doing* (what I can do, and habitually do).

Gardner Campbell

I liked it because it puts the onus on the individual to “do” what they need to do, not hide behind nonsense like “being” digital immigrants. Now, to what extent does what you “do” impact who you are? Are they the same? Does it matter?

On training vs. education: would you want your child to have sex education or sex training?

Kevin Creamer

That echoes my hatred for the word trainer at my old job and the idea of getting together to have “trainings” for teachers. I tended to start what I called conversations with “This is not a training. You are not seals . . . ”

Great line from Glenda Morgan: Jesuit approach to faculty development. We don’t want their projects; we want their souls!

Gardner Campbell

Exactly, but you can/should expect people to be careful with their souls and less careful with projects. Are projects the route to faculty souls? (Is the love of money the root of all evil? What are laws if they ain’t fair and equal?) I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. It might happen occasionally but I think it’ll fail the same way a lot of “help” fails. Sure, things are great when you’re around and doing stuff for me but when you’re gone nothing has changed.

It’s beyond the teach a man to fish metaphor. It’s like convincing a man he really ought to think more deeply about fishing and then we’ll talk about your fishing skills and what types of fish you might want to catch, then will work on those skills, do some fishing, evaluate what fish you caught vs what techniques you used and . . .

“We’re done?” the man asks hopefully. . . .

“Nope.” You reply “It’s cyclical. Why don’t we think about fishing again?”

Somehow I don’t think that’s quite as catchy but it’s closer to reality (probably even for fishing- which is neither simple nor constant).

*I’m not advocating for twitter, I’m still debating it. Today was certainly a good day. I don’t see much use for it in the K12 classroom, maybe college (not saying there isn’t any, just haven’t seen anything decent- prove me wrong). I do see how it can be useful for communities of people interested in the same things.

My wife loves it and uses it to stay in touch with friends all over the country. It has become an asynchronous ichat for people who don’t have time to call one another b/c of children, work, play, etc.

Interactive Introduction to the Human Body


National Geographic has an amazing interactive look at the brain, heart, digestive system, lungs and skin. You can stimulate the brain with a variety of inputs and see what part of the brain reacts. The heart can be “put through the paces”, the digestive system fed, and the skin aged. You can even trigger an asthma attack in the lungs. Each section looks at anatomy, function, and ills. This could be the centerpiece of some great student-centered exploration in a health or science class.

via BoingBoing

Technology Mistakes

This question on the MACUL Ning space got me thinking (you may be wondering why I’m part of a Michigan edtech group when I live in VA- answer Ben Rimes).

As a School Board Trustee in Lapeer Community Schools(6500 students) I am very excited about passing our first Bond in 34 years!!! With the passage were looking at $6,000,000 for technology. The big question now is…where do we spend the money and how do we get the biggest bang for our taxpayers hard earned dollars. Certainly we are involving the teachers, administration, students,etc…but I dont want to just dump computers and white boards in every class only to see them sitting in the corner not being used. Has anyone observed mistakes when purchasing technology, or have any success stories about implementing teachnology in their schools?

So here’s my two cents based on my experience in Henrico county with our 1 to 1. It’s not exactly coherent or ordered but I think there’s some truth in there. Am I missing things? Too paranoid? Plain wrong?

I think these concepts seem to get left behind or only partially implemented far too often.

1. Staff development– this isn’t just how to use the computer/white board etc. (although that is important) the focus should be on why you’d want to use it, ways to use it and then time to create resources/lesson plans with it. Administrators need to have training in how to implement the change, how to support the change, and how to assess the change. Teachers need to look at the their teaching and think about what should/should not change. This can’t be a one time thing or something that’s front loaded- staffdev has to be continual and constant. Teachers need to keep reassessing and being given opportunities to grow.

The big plan has to include goals for the initiative. You’ve spent all this money. What did it get you? How are you going to measure progress? Is it based on test scores, student engagement, decreased drop out rates, qualitative survey data, a combination of all those? If you don’t have this critics in the community will pick you apart. It doesn’t take many to do this, they just have to be loud.

How will the technology be supported in the schools? Do you have on site tech support? What about integration support? In my county in VA we have dedicated instructional technology resource teachers who don’t teach classes. They focus on helping teachers use technology in ways that impact learning. That’s one way to do it.

Another way, which appeals to me more in certain ways, is to set up lead teachers in schools. Give them the technology first and let them run with it. They should have reduced schedules (stipends?) and as the technology is phased in for others, they’d then help them with both technology and pedagogy. You have to be careful though, because this is a big task for the lead teachers so something large needs to be taken off their plate.

2. Community education– If you don’t keep the community on your side it’s easy for a few minor issues to be blown out of proportion. Keep talking to the parents. Offer them training. Get them to see the good that you’re doing. PR is absolutely key for a technology initiative.

3. Sharing– So you’ve got all these teachers doing great things in their classrooms, maybe a whole school is doing amazing things- how are they going to share their successes with others? Why should they bother? Thinking about ways to make sure great ideas/lessons etc. are shared is really important and often not done at all. That infrastructure and incentives to use it should be set up early. Get master teachers creating a variety of resources before the technology gets in everyone’s hands. Then make sure everyone knows where to get those resources and give them incentives to make more.

Harper’s Weekly – Weekly Review

Looking for a way to get your students thinking about current events, how the US is not the only place on Earth and have it all in a nice humorous weekly package? Where else will you get a mix of Chinese communists, Australian Aborigines and German polar bears in one paragraph. It’s also all properly referenced so you can easily send students out to the source material (although that didn’t transfer well through the copy and paste).

Check out (email subscribable) the Weekly Review from, fittingly, Harper’s Weekly.

The Chinese government expelled more than five hundred people from the Communist Party for violating the country’s one-child policy, South Asia was suffering from severe food shortages, and the Australian government refused to provide compensation to Aborigines (who until 1967 were governed under flora and fauna laws) who were stolen from their parents as children. Keepers at the Nuremberg Zoo, under criticism for allegedly allowing polar bear mothers to eat and abandon their young, announced that they would hand-rear an at-risk cub but also made clear that they do not want a repeat of the Berlin Zoo’s Knut-mania.

-Harper’s Weekly

The authors vary so does the quality but it’s usually a really interesting and subtly linked variety of news from all over. It’d make for some interesting conversation just talking about why the author might link two items. There’s some sophisticated and subtle (sometimes) work going on here.

Even if this particular use is above your students’ heads or not to their tastes the idea is pretty interesting. The writing style and the way diverse items are woven together is a pretty sophisticated task. We’ve got a class called Core where students read a wide variety of books (Darwin, Nietzsche, Adrienne Rich, Plate etc.). I’d love to see something like this made from the ideas of their works with direct quotes worked in. It’d take a lot of time and effort as well as a pretty extensive understanding of the various works. The upswing would be the variety and creativity that doing something like this would allow.

Feel Like Going to TED?

There’s a TED Conference pass for sale on EBay. It’s now at $32,000 (starting price was $10,000 and it’s gone up $9,000 since I looked last night). Bidding ends on February 3rd so you’ve still got time.


If you haven’t watched the TED conferences they are up for free on iTunes (video or audio) or the TED site.

I’d check them out for three reasons.

  1. There are some great talks relating directly to education
  2. There are tons of options to pull these videos into class to introduce or enrich any subject you can think of
  3. This is a perfect chance to watch some really spectacular presentations and look for ways to use their techniques and style in your delivery

Today’s Lesson: A Learner is a Learner


Our county has adopted Exam View Pro for assessments this year. Every middle and high school teacher has been trained on how to use the software, and they were asked to create their exams on it for this first semester. We have been using Exam View’s Test Center as a host for the tests. Tuesday, as (conservatively) 8,000 middle school students and 5,000 high school students tried to access their respective tests, the who system started to, well, crap out. Error messages were flying. My inbox started puking out emails from panic-stricken teachers, and the phone outside my office starting “cooing” at me. Now, I feel I’m a competent troubleshooter, so when I started making rounds to see what was going down, I figured the mantra that I have lived by this year (“Easy Fix”) would come into play as usual. Then I saw the first classroom of computers with database error messages cutting through the screen. They reminded me of many of my misplaced bits of code that sent the blogs I have customized into a tizzy.

This mess was totally out of my hands. No “Easy Fix”.

Before I let the panic set in as I told the teacher there was nothing I could do, but I would report it to our Technology Department, I remembered something I learned in seminary (yes, I am a Master of the Divine–comes in handy when your only hope of fixing a computer is to lay hands on it). When talking about the role of pastor during a crisis, we were encouraged to be “a still, strong presence in the midst of the chaos.”

So I smiled at the teacher, suggested that the students hit the back button and copy down their answers, and encouraged him to swing up the the copier and make a class set of the exam. I tried convey a sense of peace, and told him I would be back to him as soon as I got word from our Technology folks. As I moved from room to room (fully recognizing that I had no solution for any of my teachers), I continued to convey that peace.

Looking back on the week (we had more of the same on Wednesday, and encouraged teachers to switch to paper Thursday), I realized that our job as instructional technology advocates is not simply to preach the good news of this new frontier in education. We have to be ready to “pastor” our “flocks” (Ok, enough with the Christianspeak). I’m working with a staff of 140–1/3 of which were not there last year. They are as varied in their ability and zeal as you could get. I’m beginning to see their individual needs, and, probably more important, I’m beginning to respect them as individual learners.

I could fill their brains with weird words like “blogs” and “wikis”, but until we have a relationship that gives me insight into how they teach and what are their passions, we will both continue to be frustrated. A learner is a learner–no matter her age.