I’m at the State Educational Technology Directors Association leadership summit, yet I am clearly not a state director of anything. Nonetheless, it is an interesting place to be and I’ve heard and had a number of interesting conversations.

I’m going to attempt to get a few of them down on digital paper before they get too buried in email and other mental garbage.

Prior to the conference starting, I had some time to read Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius and it roughly corresponded with seeing another one of those useless top 100 web 2.0 apps for education lists on Twitter.1 Anyway, the point was that the Montessori classroom was structured around choice but carefully selected choice. It went on to discuss that given more choice than they’re prepared for people become overwhelmed and constantly second guess their choice after the fact. I think that happens a lot with technology options. People are presented with all their options when in many cases they just need to choose between three or four that are presented to them. We (HCPS) need to give this some thought with regard to how we structure and display our digital tool options.

Clearly, having a sense of control over one’s environment is associated with better learning and performance in children.

That was another quote about choice that I remembered to share. I think it has some direct connections to student/staff satisfaction with laptops. There are some schools who won’t let students change the desktop image. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

At the actual conference, I spoke to Michael Haney from the National Science Foundation. We were talking about visualizing learning paths and encouraging student metacognition through visuals. It got me thinking about some group from the EdLeader21 conference that had multiple strands for all their projects (content, creativity, problem solving etc.). They, as I recall, had fairly traditional bar graph type visualizations. I was thinking you could use something like a star or pentagram to visualize several elements and clearly indicate discrepancies. It seems like it’d introduce a more dramatic element of disharmony that might matter. No one wants to be lopsided. Mr. Haney also mentioned a few people doing work around computational thinking. That is our next big step at the middle school level and one that is interesting but promises to be complex.

Georgia seems to be doing some interesting things regarding sharing their virtual course content. The resources are here. It’s also my understanding that they will be releasing the actual courses as OER material under a CC license. That’s an awesome thing to see a state doing. GA also seems to be going out of its way to market their work to the school divisions in GA. That’s something HCPS needs to work on internally.

John Keller from Indiana had some interesting comments. His focus was on funding innovation- not catching up those who are behind. I liked his statewide focus on connecting innovators. That’s something else I think we need to work on internally in HCPS. He also mentioned “strategically abandoning” things that failed to work. That’s an interesting idea and one that David Wiley was particularly attracted to.

Wiley’s comment was essentially that publishers are very excited about digital curriculum and that’s a big warning sign. I agree.

I’m trying to figure out how you move from strategically giving people content/lessons etc. when they don’t have the necessary skills/experience then scaffold them up toward evaluating and using this provided content but also actively adding to that content.

Since VA is too good for common core, I’m trying to figure out how badly that hurts us. It pretty much drops our conversation from national to only VA. The Learning Registry launched today and that illustrates pretty clearly that we aren’t going to be able to make the same connections nor share the same content efficiently that common core states can.

There was a lot of talk about “big data” and its role in digital content and curriculum. Imagine if you could tie together all the disparate pieces of digital content, their usage stats, test data from various systems, and then act on all that information through the lens of your SIS system. The fact that online education opens up an entirely different level of behavioral data tracking and subsequent possibilities for analysis and action but we have to figure out ways to make that less daunting to teachers.

probably more than enough for now and all of it overlapping with the work we’re currently doing in HCPS around digital content and certainly things we have to think about regarding our digital infrastructure.

1 Those lists make me root for alien invasions, the rapture and any number of other things that would end such stupidity.

Comments on this post

  1. Gillian said on November 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I understand the notion of limiting options. But what if your students are asking for these web 2.0 lists? Many of my students feel stifled if I limit their choices. Would it be better to just provide a longer list of options?

  2. Tom said on November 18, 2011 at 11:19 pm


    I don’t know and I certainly can’t speak to your class in particular.

    In general, I don’t think more tools is the answer. For me, it’d come down to what I wanted demonstrated. If I felt like less tools or a single tool/type of evidence made more sense, that’s how I’d restrict things. There’d probably be times when I wanted things wide open but I’m not sure how often that’d be.

    There are many times where restrictions force creativity. There’s a list of some that I’ve collected over time here. I don’t know if that would also make people feel restricted. It’s likely it would but I don’t believe it would be a bad thing.

    Things I’d consider in general-

    • scaffolding toward freedom based on demonstrated understanding of capabilities and rationales for using those capabilities
    • requesting a certain type of evidence/product but not specifying the tool(s) at all
    • not providing lists beyond three or four items but still leaving things open beyond that