What do you do?

Maybe Jim’s right and I am eating babies1. I struggle quite a bit with a lot about this job. I didn’t think I was already at the baby eating stage but sometimes it’s hard to see from inside. I often wonder where guiding becomes restricting. I am unsure how tools of reflection become tools of assessment and then evolve into dogma. It happens though. My goal is to construct things that help people think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. The reality seems to be that many people need some scaffolding to do that. There are a variety of reasons for that. I think in some cases it’s just a way of providing some shoulders to stand on, not necessarily the shoulders of giants but a least a boost above starting from scratch. I don’t believe that roots out creativity or individualism unless it’s done incredibly wrong (which often happens) but that’s an application of formula, of recipes, instead of an attempt to create reflection and conversation around pedagogy and concepts. I think the latter can be done but it’s much easier to do the former. To dictate that a course will contain X, Y and Z- always. And that those structural components somehow create worth and quality. I believe that path leads to stagnation […]


Assessing Online Course Quality

If you’re looking for answers, this is the wrong place. I’ve got a lot of questions though. We are trying to increase the number of online courses we offer. I have my own opinion about what a good online course looks/acts like but I’ve been looking for something from people who have more credibility and more experience. So, let’s take a look at one of the major players. iNacol The National Standards of Quality for Online Courses This document is fairly large- detailed in odd ways, vague in others. I get the feeling after breaking it down that it’s something a consumer/purchaser would use to evaluate a course as opposed to a creator evaluating their own course to improve it. The rating scale for each element: 0 Absent—component is missing 1 Unsatisfactory—needs significant improvement 2 Somewhat satisfactory—needs targeted improvements 3 Satisfactory—discretionary improvement needed 4 Very satisfactory—no improvement needed Content – 14 items in this section I get frustrated that The course content and assignments are of sufficient rigor, depth, and breadth to teach the standards being addressed. is given the same weight as Issues associated with the use of copyrighted materials are addressed. Giving these factors equal weight in the rubric makes no sense to me. There are many similar examples. I have no confidence that the end numeric score […]

My Phone Coughs Politely

I’m a bit old school when it comes to phones. I habitually leave my phone on vibrate. I never notice that it vibrates. This occasionally makes people mad. I do this mainly because I’m absent minded and don’t want to be that guy with the annoying phone going off. The solution came to me the other day. I needed a ring that doesn’t sound like a ring, something that’d be a normal sound in most places1. I can make custom ringtones for the iPhone in Garageband. My phone now coughs politely2. In case anyone else wants to sound vaguely sick, but maintain politeness, here is my cough ringtone as a m4a and as a m4r ringtone. 1 The mosquito ringtone would not work for me because it’s noticeable to kids. I want something unobtrusive to everyone. 2 My guitar still gently weeps. I’m unaware what other objects I own do.

Random Thoughts

Here is a rough idea of what I am trying to engineer for myself and what I am hoping to spread to the people I work with. Passion Based Halos – Many people I know start off in jobs because they have elements that engage them in some way. Then, in many cases, the little things start getting in the way, eating up the focus that got them there in first place. Take me as an example, I am in a new position where I attend many meetings and write many carefully worded emails. There are lots of details and other fairly mundane things to manage and worry about. At my core, I do not like any of these things. I got into this job because I find the place where technology, culture and formal education unintentionally meet to be completely fascinating. I realized I wasn’t focusing on that because my energy and time was being eaten by all sorts of evil. As a result, I refocused and made sure I was making time to read and think about this particular space. I then created a structure that required little additional work/time on my part but which holds me accountable. This gets my brain back into the right kind of cycle. It changes how I deal with the other issues […]

#VSS2010 – DAY 1

This is my first time at the virtual school symposium. So far it’s very similar to NECC or any of the other edtech conferences I’ve been to. The format is very traditional. It is vendor heavy. Wireless sucks. They don’t take nearly the advantage they should of the Internet. If conferences want to survive they’ll also figure out some really useful things to do that can only be done by having this many people in the same physical space. I know that sounds pretty negative. I’d say it’s accurate. If any of the conferences want to share their profit margins on these things maybe I’d feel more magnanimous. Random thoughts so far1 Just because something rhymes does not mean you have to retweet it as gospel. I know there’s research that shows that rhyming has something to do with people’s perception of veracity but still. Many people have not read Disrupting Class (or maybe I don’t understand the book) but they insist on quoting it. One of the major points of the book was that the disruptive innovation occurs in a place where there is no competition. The product is also usually inferior to the product in the main space (Apple PC as toy vs IBM mainframes). That’s certainly not how people are using it. I’m not really buying chunks […]

More Mixed Media

Lessons Learned the Hard Way – this could be a lot of fun with literary and historical figures. Real Life Fodder for Copyright Conversations “But honestly Monica, the Web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn’t ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else’s name on it!… If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than [it] was originally…. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”[14][15] Participate in primary source research in real life. Geography, history, science. Old Weather Help scientists recover worldwide weather observations made by Royal Navy ships around the time of World War I. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and improve a database of weather extremes. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and the stories of the people on board.


Reflective Friends & TIPC Update – 21st C Skills Stuff

Reflective Friends This year we are going to every one of our secondary schools collecting data about 21st century skills (as we’ve defined them). We did this last year, but with only 3 schools. It was interesting then, it’s pretty wild now to see and do it at scale. We go into schools with an outside team1 20 45 minute observations using this google form based around our TIPC.2 2 interviews with separate groups of teachers 2 interviews with separate groups of students All this data is then consolidated and presented to the school’s leadership team (usually about a week after the observations). We go through the data together and the school’s team decides what they’d like to focus on improving. We aren’t telling anyone what to do. That’s nice for both parties. Let’s throw out the 21st century skills stuff. This process is powerful and useful. It gives school leaders a large chunk of data, data that they often want but don’t have the time to gather. Central Office isn’t mandating what the school does. Reflection and analysis of data is encouraged at the school level. This puts the power and understanding in the hands of the right people. We have some things we want to improve. Teachers want lesson feedback. The way things are currently structured, we simply […]

360 Degree Classroom Video

We’re looking to get more classroom video for a variety of reasons and that led to a demo from Teachscape and their Reflect product. It’s a decent idea, 360 degree video of the classroom and another camera with a specific focus. You can’t see anything about the quality in the demo videos. One major warning flag is that they don’t have any video from the product. No obvious prices. Let’s just say it’s really expensive, really expensive. Expensive enough that I can’t remember the numbers properly because my brain filed it under crazy. It looked even more insane when I happened to find the Sony Bloggie. I’d never heard of it but it seems pretty similar to the Flip and it has an attachment for 360 degree video. There’s also some interesting ways to hack it to get higher quality 360 degree video out. All for $170. If I was going to spend the money that Teachscape wants for their unit, I’d want quality like Yellowbird. This stuff is slick and interactive (you do have to fly in a team from the Netherlands though). I’m also playing around with the idea of trying one of the 360 degree lenses on a 5DMKII and seeing what I can do with the video.


Science Video Contest

This is a pretty nice little video1 explaining entropy while at the same time giving tips on how to create a good science video. It’s made by Small Mammal who makes short videos for people like NPR. And the whole thing is part of a science video contest for Ars Technica that you can submit to here. -via Boing Boing 1 There is a pre-roll Canon ad.