Monthly Archives: September 2008

Edtech Survivalist

In my ever greater efforts to make a fool of myself in the name of educational technology I agreed to do an “interview” for Jim “Edupunk1” Groom’s Edtech Survivalist blog.

We filmed this on the fly2 in a creek by my house. Some of the kids wandering around aren’t even ours. The swamp comment towards the end was my favorite as it was totally ad-libbed based on one of the neighbor kid’s comments.

I highly recommend this as a way to meet your neighbors (there are strange men in camouflage with mullets filming your children) but probably not such a good way to make a great first impression.

Yes, I am considering growing a mullet after seeing just how good it looks.

1 He made it to WIRED magazine

2 Obviously without a script

There are No Shortcuts

A little bit of a rant or maybe it’s a sermon. Either way . . .

  1. Using “fun” fonts to make boring content exciting. – For a long time I’ve wondered why comic sans was so prevalent in educational material. My final idea is that people make content, then at the end they look at it and think “Man, this is pretty dull. I know how to improve it! I’ll use a fun font!” Bam. Instant solution. This type of use may explain my deep seated hatred for comic sans (See Jim. It’s not font elitism. It’s deep seated emotional scarring.).
  2. Adding technology to make a boring lesson exciting. – Technology will not save you. Adding technology to a bad lesson is kind of like those people who drink gallons of diet drinks while eating doughnuts and watching TV. Then they wonder why they haven’t lost weight. You might get a quick burst of interest from students out of novelty, like you’ll get a minor weight loss from shifting to diet drinks, but to get anything sustainable, anything long term, you’re going to have to do some hard work.
  3. Labeling – I’ve been looking a lot at the digital native label lately. I see this as one of the more harmful shortcuts. It’s an easy way to dismiss thinking about your students as individuals. We’ve got a lot of different students with a lot of different skills. Lumping them together is a mistake. You can also excuse yourself from what are at times inexcusable lapses in professional skills if you label yourself a digital immigrant. Hell, why not? You can’t speak the language. You can’t keep up with these ninja kids.
  4. Faking it. – You see it in lots of ways. Teachers pretending to like the same thing as their students. Administrators latching on to the newest buzzword. It always shows through.

So what should you do?

Work on your content first. Design don’t decorate. Thing about how presentation helps you. Look at other people’s work and steal good ideas. Note what doesn’t work and then remember to see if you do it.

Consider your lesson. Do you really think it’s good? Really? If you’re happy a lot, your standards probably aren’t high enough. What kind of results do you get?

Remember there is a difference between engagement and entertainment. Don’t confuse the two.

Apply technology when it make sense, when it helps you do things you want to do, when it makes things better. Don’t use it otherwise.

Think about everything- concepts, people, ideas, labels etc. Get to know your students, get to know them for real. Have actual conversations with them.

Think about yourself. Analyze your weaknesses and work on improving them. Reanalyze and refocus your improvement. Get others you trust to help you do this. Real, honest and helpful feedback is a rare thing. Value it.

Finally, be real. Use your real interests and energy. Your life will be much happier. If you can, surround yourself with others who do the same thing.