Bicolored Beans and Dolch Refrigerator Poetry

I’m amusing myself with Javascript and I’m managing to make things. Last Friday I helped unpack some math manipulatives for our new elementary school. They had many, many things to count. Bicolored beans were one of the items I found particularly odd.1 In any case, given last weeks small foray into JavaScript I knew I could randomize images easily enough. I figured with some wandering I could make items drag-able based on something I saw once upon a time. I didn’t really have much passion for bicolor beans but I thought the things I learned with this simple example would be more broadly applicable and this would be a nice proof of concept. Initial wandering was based on a search for “HTML 5 drag drop list” or something like that. If I recall correctly, I found something that I was able to make work in about ten minutes but it wouldn’t work on touch devices. Given this was really a lower elementary tool (assuming anyone in County was going to use it at all) I needed to rethink things. I narrowed it down to something like “JavaScript drag drop.” That led me to back to my habitual Stackoverflow stomping grounds. I found something there associated with the Dojo JavaScript library. That lead to more searches for “Dojo library drag drop […]



This is probably too simple. My belief is that we (my colleagues and I) should make/find interesting things. We should publish them online in a way that integrates these interesting things into the frameworks that govern the lives of our teachers (pacing guides, curricular frameworks, state standards). Associated with each interesting thing should be the option to expand outward into the rationale behind its selection/construction and/or towards the tools of its construction. I think this does at least two interesting things. It forces a deliberate rationalization and explanation of what you’re building/linking in and a transparency for the user to see those thoughts and perhaps shape how they think about the media/tools/lesson plans. This framework also provides an example and the tools to make/manipulate what you see. It should be empowering- kind of a “if you like this . . . ” here are the tools to build your own. In both these cases, the instructional rationales and the tutorials on the tools should be fairly common between a wide range of media objects. I’m also hoping they’ll grow organically over time with people adding nuance and depth to various sections as needed. I’m not entirely clear on decent ways to have elements of this happen automatically- similar to the way associated posts occur on some sites. It may be […]


Getting it together

This is an interesting time to attempt interesting things. There is a lot being documented at the moment1 that ought to be shaping how we think and what we do in K12. Mike Caulfield’s posts on distributed flips2 and the design of open materials for blended classrooms3 Jim Groom’s posts on creating open source learning environments. Alan Levine’s work with the #ds106 architecture and the idea of a “headless” #ds106 course Dan Meyer’s MakeoverMondays That’s just the tip of the iceberg but I think it’s representative of an interesting mixture of elements- creating/shaping content/media, creating context around that media, and workflows around sharing/authoring that contextualized media in a way that encourages communities that both reinforce and challenge ideas around how to teach. I don’t know if that makes any sense but I’ll try to show how it’s shaping what we’re trying to do in Henrico in the coming year. Needs More and better examples of just about everything – Currently our Henrico 21 site is meant to help show people interesting things to do that fit within our definition of blended/technology-enhanced learning. I think it serves a certain purpose and there are 900 or so lesson plans there but in the end, I don’t think it’s used in a way that justifies the amount of energy that goes into it. […]


Numbers and Context

Initiated by ISTE and signed by more than 1,700 educators (emphasis mine) from across the United States, the petition applauds President Obama for his ConnectEd initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of U.S. students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years. – from Tech for Learning For context, almost 30,000 people want to recognize acupuncturists as health care providers.1 Almost 1,200 people want to make Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” our new national anthem.2 And to make it worse, ISTE claims more than 18,000 educators attended their recent conference. Maybe Jane McGonigal should have made a petition signing game instead of opting for thumb wrestling. 1 No word yet on that same recognition for phrenology. 2 Bruce Springsteen had no comment.


Five Giveaways from Jane McGonigal’s Opening Keynote

For today’s installment, I will be mocking this article summarizing the ISTE keynote speech I could not stomach attending. Think of it as meta-mockery of a summarization. This kind of thing irritates me more and more because it wastes time and energy. People wander off chasing garbage statements (with good intentions) but the keynoters spouting this nonsense make no attempt to connect the dots. It’s all frosting, and a thin layer of sickly sweet frosting at that. I also hold ISTE to blame for furthering nonsense. They ought to know better. 1. There Are Now 1 Billion Gamers Worldwide According to McGonigal, this “critical milestone,” recently reached, encompasses everyone who spends at least one hour a day playing a game on a connected device — be it a gaming console, a smartphone, a tablet or a computer. “When you add it all up,” she said, “that’s seven billion-plus hours a week spent in maximum engagement through games.” 1. There are over 2 million people imprisoned in the United States alone.1 That’s over 7 people in prison out of every 1,000. “When I add it all up,” I said, “that’s 19 billion-plus hours a year spent in maximum incarceration thanks to prisons. That’s got to be a critical milestone or at least a large number which will impress Twitter lemmings.” 2. […]

What Transitionary Personalized Learning Might Look Like

In most English classes the teacher chooses all of the content in addition to all of the assignments. In some classes you’ll get to choose between a few books, assignments, or essay topics that the teacher has provided. The projects tend to tier upward in terms of sophistication and/or length.1 There is essentially one broad common experience for everyone and virtually every structural element originates with the teacher. The student ability to alter the class is limited to asking questions. That leads to a fairly predictable experience built to produce similar products which are easier to compare to one another. English, in particular, seems to beg for a different paradigm for course participation/creation. I talked some about the mechanism for infusing student selected media into a course in the previous post, so I’m doing this backwards to some degree. The lower portion of the image above is a rough conceptualization of what the course itself might come to look like as compared to a traditional course (the upper portion of the image). A chunk of this is colored by how I’ve seen elements of #ds106 play out. I have always loved the idea that participants can submit project ideas. Linking those ideas to the student work created based on them makes it far more powerful and interesting for everyone. It […]

Personalized Learning?

I’ve been thinking about personalized learning a fair amount after hearing it repeated over and over by the hordes of vendors.1 I’m not talking about paprika flavored mush and I’m not talking about a magic fairyland where you chug cherry flavored corn syrup to your heart’s content with no ill effects. My focus is on thinking about how this might work for a teacher with fairly traditional-ized students in a district where success is still defined mainly through standardized tests.2 I am going to make the assumption that these students have a computer and access to the Internet. It’s also evident my thoughts aren’t revolutionary but I think the ability for technology to help make this kind of personalization much more manageable for teachers and students (in a semi-traditional school framework) is a relatively new development. Classroom workflows don’t come up much, if at all, in my wanderings but I think they are important and should be considered. There’s also quite a lot of current hype and focus on flipping/blending/frappéing3 Maybe it has to do with districts finally giving up on providing technology and allowing BYOD. My bet is the BYOD wave will go poorly at scale and will result in fairly trivial surface level “changes” – some googling of answers, clicker assessments, and the ability to check grades/hw on […]

If You Give Bieber A Bike . . .

Mostly Nonsense A Bieber flavored over simplication on the fallacy of hardware creating change. Probably useless but it amused me for the presentation and the audience seemed to enjoy it. My 20 minute presentation ended up being a 90 minute conversation. If you give Bieber a bike will he get home more quickly? It seems like a straightforward question, an easy answer. Of course the bike will get him home faster. But we tend to make a number of assumptions. It could be you’re a Bieber fan and you know where Bieber is now and where his home/homes are, maybe you’re a Belieber and you even know which home he’s going to. Most people don’t. They don’t know where Bieber is nor where he’s going despite general agreement on the definition of “home.” Furthermore, I don’t know if Bieber can drive a motorcycle or if he can drive this motorcycle. If he can drive a motorcycle, how well can he do it? Does he have gas? Is a helmet required? Now if we give Bieber a bike and he can drive it, we have to think about the terrain between where he’s starting and where he wants to go. Maybe there’s a forest in between those two points. A forest without roads or gas stations. This street bike will actually […]

Digital Content – You keep using that word . . .

See more on Know Your Meme Granted, it’s more than possible I have no idea what “digital content” means either. I may also be the guy walking around arguing that water is wet. The White Whale “Digital content” is what everyone wants as we move towards the magical BYOD-Edu-singularity. What that means is likely very different depending on the person saying it.1 I think you can divide what people mean by digital content into a few major categories. Link Lists – the venerable link list divided by your content label of choice (state standard, topic header, novel, etc.). The “new” version would likely be built using a social bookmarking solution and tagging but it’s the same concept. Context for the resources is minimal if it exists at all. PDF/HTML textbooks – no substantial changes in what we’ve always had but in digital format. The rationale usually involves things like lighter backpacks and the ability to update/correct errors.2 It is a sterile environment where you have to take what you get and integrating additional resources fluidly is difficult. Topical content integration isn’t facilitated. Augmented Textbooks – start with a traditional textbook and replace some of the pictures with movies, add self-grading multiple choice quizzes,3 and some links to internal content. Some simple tools may be integrated (think highlighter, light note taking). […]

Derived from Netflix presentation

The Golden Calf of Process and Standardization

Way back in the dim recesses of time, about 2009 to be precise, Netflix published an interesting slide deck on how they structure their business. I remember reading it and I believed it was an interesting and positive way to frame a company culture. I shared it with a few people in our district and life rolled on. The concept has come back to me repeatedly in recent days and it seems to fit a variety of scenarios well enough that I thought it was worth talking about again. Essentially, I see this concept applying at the national, state, district/county, school, and classroom levels. The images below are my slight adjustments to the Netflix slides. All credit goes to them or whoever they got the idea from.   In the beginning . . . Small (often new) organizations have a very high proportion of highly skilled employees1 and as a result don’t need much in the way of processes, rules, regulations, policies etc.  That’s the green area. As organizations grow and complexity increases2, the proportion of highly skilled employees drops.  Things go wrong. People end up in the red area and everyone is unhappy. Often the response to these failures is to implement processes, policies etc. There are a number of reasons I think this turns out poorly in the […]