My Slides on #Balance (Our devices are becoming our vices.)

Last week I was given the opportunity to share my TEDx talk on balance with all of the principals and other academic leaders in my district. Just like 2nd Period's instruction is always better than 1st Period's stumbling, I felt like my timing and delivery were finally up to par this second time around.

I also added a few slides to elaborate on my description of the Year of the Selfie, not posted below because I never obtained permission to share them with an extended audience. (Have you ever noticed how crazy difficult it can be to find #selfies that are CC-licensed?) Seatbelt selfie, pet selfie, bathroom selfie, and gym selfie all made the list. For good measure, I even found a crowd-pleasing "We're in the bathroom of our gym" selfie to make the description complete.

I hope another opportunity to share this important message with others presents itself, and naturally welcome feedback from any willing to constructively discuss.

Why Clicking "Publish" Means Different Things to Different People - My Response to @shaireskee

Dean Shareski wrote an interesting post last week that continues to rattle around in my brain. Of blogging and other online spaces, he writes:

We need to understand that this space is different, that this medium breaks down the requirements and allows for much quicker and primarily more conversations to take place means we can’t still think about publishing in the same way. I’m not suggested spelling and revision isn’t important but THIS SPACE IS A CONVERSATION, not a monologue. In this space, I have no intention of writing and ending an idea or conversation.
In the comments, Alan Levine (very kindly) offers a well-framed response that aligns with much of my thinking:
We all have different frames for both writing and reading, and I shy away for passing my preferences on others, As a reader, I am in it for the ideas and the personality behind it, not the comma splices or dangling modifiers. Like Andrea suggests, writing is an iterative act of becoming better at it, and we are climbing out own curves: "Growth happens through the doing." yes!

As I writer in my own blog, I am writing predominantly for me, as a sketchbook of ideas, a "memory palace" (I cannot remember where that term came from), not some fancy magazine. If someone cannot deal with the style, that's fine for them to move on.

A blog (to me) is not a job interview, it is not a published essay, it is not a literary journal. It is a thinking spot, a rough draft, a place to be wrong and figure it out. (To me) this expectation of perfection and "final product" misses the opportunity for being in that messy place where ideas can emerge (ahem, Where Good Ideas Come From).

I have a small work shed outside and its not a pretty place. There are spilled nails, paint drop,s it smells of things I cannot name, the tools seem to move around, boxes fall from the rafters. A workspace that is spotless, polished, and the tools were hung in alphabetical order, to me is one that focuses more on its own cleanliness for cleanliness sake than for doing work.

Yes, it is important to be understood. And we all (especially me), students, teachers, can always do a little better to write more clearly. But to be compulsive to the point of not publishing seems a huge waste to me.

If you are counting missing commas, you might be missing the point.
To this, I would add in agreement with Alan that we all seem to find different ways to use the same tools at different times. Furthermore, while you say poe-tay-toe and I say poe-tah-toe, your use of any one particular tool may not be any more correct - or even any better - than mine. Herein lies the beauty of a free and open Internet.

Tools are tools, and no amount of nagging will keep me from using a butter knife to quickly tighten a screw when the need arises.

Finally, in spite of our desire to help people overcome any inhibitions they might have toward clicking "Publish," I think it's important to remember that for some people "this space" IS a job interview, a published essay, and a literary journal. For other people, blogs are becoming diplomas. Moreover, real people experience real consequences for online behavior, and to ignore these facts is to assume that all people live in environments similar to and as safe as our own.

Is spelling important? Not always; and yet sometimes, without question!

Balance #tedx

The TEDx talk I gave a few weeks ago is now available for viewing online.

It was an absolute pleasure to participate in the inaugural TEDxCSDTeachers, held at Butler Middle School on November 8! The final talk in an engaging lineup of professionals from my district and state, I was more nervous to deliver this TED talk than I think I've ever been for any other presentation. In spite of the nerves I and other presenters may have felt, Rachel Murphy and the other members of her team did an outstanding job with the entire event! A playlist containing the every talk from the day can be accessed here.

Knowing that the day would be full of exciting descriptions of technology use and borderline worship, I felt a brief discussion on balance was most warranted.
We live in a world filled with intense and constant opportunities for learning, engagement, and connectivity. Hence, the need for balance has never been greater.
In the end I think the talk went well, although there are numerous weaknesses in delivery and format that I would change in hind-sight. A few clarifications and "doh, if-only-I-could-do-this-again" examples include:
  • The words and slower pace I followed in this TED talk were very measured and intentionally slow. Because this message contrasted so greatly from previous talks and because I was last on the schedule, the in-person participants needed additional time to process. In the future, I wouldn't change my timing, but it may appear slow to the casual YouTube observer. 
  • To come to the conclusions I've made in my eleventh slide, I compared statistics published on the List of countries by number of mobile phones in use Wikipedia page (e.g., November 2013, November 2008). 

  • A few minutes into my talk, I reference an interview that Michael Wesch gave to Gillian Shaw of the Vancouver Sun. Unfortunately, I failed to mention that I paraphrased Dr. Wesch's words during the talk itself, although I've described this fact in my final Attribution slide.
  • My inability to control emotions at the end of my talk impaired my ability to finish with power. If I were to do this again, I would hope to circle back to the idea that if we (as adults, teachers, and responsible citizens) don't find, teach, and model balance - then who will.
  • Finally, I appreciate the willingness of others to share. My attribution slide follows, click to enlarge:

Technological Astuteness is Less a Skill Set Than a Market Expectation

I don't habitually quote USA Today, but the ideas published yesterday by Michael Wolff are brilliant:

It is something of an impossible, or tragic, or existential predicament, coming to grips with your own obsolescence: Technological astuteness or intuition or cool is less a skill set than a culture or language or temperament — it is also, more and more, a market expectation.

Non-tech people, no matter their good intentions, can't do tech, at least never as well as tech people do it. This is something ever-more evident to people steeped in daily digital life, as most Americans are...

How do important American institutions — pillars of government, media, health care and business — compete with, and serve people, accustomed to, ever more remarkable, easy-to-use, high-performance and empowering new technology?

Most can't.

Ah, the Power of Mail Merge!

On the heels of yesterday's get-out-of-jail-free notification, my son's teacher surprised me this morning with this:

Now there's no way my kid's ditching Science next week!

Well played, Mr. Science Teacher! Well played.

The Last Daze

The last day of school for the year is next Thursday. I got this email today.

Can you think of any ways my son might benefit from attending school next week? What might other parents/students be thinking - especially if this teacher hasn't established other effective motives for learning in his classroom? 

Twenty-four Year Old PhDs Will Become Commonplace

I responded to Jim Groom's assertion that 10,000 students might just enroll in Georgia Tech's newly announced $7,000 Master's Degree program:


You might very well be right. As I try to wrap my head around the implications of this Georgia Tech/Udacity deal, I keep bumping into the fact that they chose to offer a Master's Degree program first.

Can you imagine what will happen when a comparable UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM becomes available for this price and at this scale? It seems to me that the role of *public* K12 in preparing students for college would/will immediately shift - from helping students to acquire the SKILLS needed to succeed in college, to helping them acquire the SKILLS while also providing underprivileged students with ACCESS to *college*.

We all know there exists a percentage of students who are academically prepared for college while in their early years of high school. When we were in high school, we had little choice but to wait out our high school years (possibly earning AP credits along the way). Today's students are able to take concurrent enrollment courses - or also AP - earning their way to an Associate's Degree upon high school graduation. When quality undergrad MOOC programs become available, is it really that hard to envision our best high school students also leaving high school with their Bachelor's?

Twenty-four year old PhDs will become commonplace.
How ready are we for this kind of shift?

I Remember the Good 'Ol Days #glassexplorer

I remember the good ol' days, when teachers could actually tell when their students were using the Internet.

With Google Glass and now this Muse spinoff, it's hard to know exactly what students are focussing on. Man, I miss the days of Minecraft and Snapchat, 24/7! ;)

Really I don't miss the good ol' days; because think of the opportunities for learning these new technologies will bring! However, in only a few year's time, I can imagine even today's most hesitant teachers (put that cellphone away!) will long for simpler times, when kids brought only iPods to class.

What "Best High Schools" in the U.S. Reveal About Ideal High School Class Size #utpol

Based on our latest intel, the sweet spot for ideal high school staffing ratios hovers right around 16.41 students per teacher.

US News and World Report released their rankings this week of the "Best High Schools" in the country.* After evaluating more than 21,000 public high schools in 49 states and the District of Columbia, schools were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals based on "state proficiency standards and how well they prepare students for college." The American Institutes of Research (AIR) paired with US News to conduct much of the analysis.

The methodology used for selecting this year's cream of the crop included three steps:

  1. Determine whether "each school's students were performing better than statistically expected for the average student in the state."
  2. For those schools making it past Step 1, determine "whether the school's least-advantaged students (black, Hispanic and low-income) were performing better than average for similar students in the state."
  3. For those schools making it past Steps 1 and 2, judge schools nationally on "college-readiness performance – using Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test data as the benchmarks for success, depending on which program was largest at the school."
After all was said and done, California triumphed as this year's leading performer, with 27.8% of its eligible schools earning gold and silver medals. (Congratulations!) Other state rankings can be scrutinized here. Note that my home state, Utah, garnered zero Gold Medals and finished in 31st place against other states.** Upon learning that Utah's top contending school ended up in 652nd place nationwide, I publicly lamented that "in Utah, we get what we pay for."


Nevertheless, this painful competition (for some) between schools and states can be an important learning experience for all. In spite of John Hattie's claim that class size has relatively little positive impact on student achievement, I continue to believe that large class sizes bring detrimental consequences that impede the success of schools. This year's display of "Best High School" rankings beautifully illustrates this fact.

Through my Utah-centric lens, I decided to dig a little deeper through the data published by the US News report. Upon analyzing the Student:Teacher ratios advertised for most schools in the report, interesting patterns emerged. Accordingly, in the US News report:
  • The top scoring 2,290 schools were ranked. These schools earned Gold and/or Silver medals.
  • The mean Student:Teacher ratio for Utah's twelve ranking schools was 23.
  • The mean Student:Teacher ratio of the 651 schools scoring higher than Utah's top InTech Collegiate High was 16.41.
  • Of those 651 higher-ranked schools, only 17 had Student:Teacher ratios higher than Utah's mean of 23.
Do an additional seven students per teacher really make that much difference? Ask any core teacher to give you their take. Ask me, and I'll tell you it's clearly time for Utah to spend more on education. Our high schools (still) need smaller class sizes! Obviously there's more to improving student achievement than meeting ideal staffing ratios; but when it comes to competitively preparing students for college on a national scale, it appears to be an indirect requirement.***

To me, if second place is no place, then six hundred fifty-second is just that much worse.


* School Administrators should ACT NOW! If your high school is nationally ranked, you may display a "U.S. News ranked" badge on your school's website. The Best High Schools badges are available as FREE downloads!

Apparently, this whole "online badge" thing works now for credentialling schools, too!

** This methodology exemplifies the kind of scrutiny under which Utah schools will soon be subjected, given the contract recently negotiated between the Utah State Office of Education and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). I guess I'm ready if you are.

*** There were 49 states and the District of Columbia participating in the US News analysis. Why weren't any Utah schools in the top 50? Am I naïve to think we should be able to compete? Am I wrong to think that we'd even want to? The classroom teacher in me hates so much of this entire scenario that I'm sick that I've even written this post.

Social Media Use by (Public) Schools #edreform

I jumped into an interesting Twitter conversation last night between Dean Shareski, Karl Fisch, Chris Lehmann, and several others about how and why schools might use Twitter. Dean kicked off the discussion with this:

At the end of the conversation, both Karl and Dean summarized their feelings well.

Even though Dean and Karl may have felt they were on opposite sides of the argument, I think their combined points illustrate four truths about Twitter use by schools. Namely:
  1. Different people find different purposes and uses for Twitter.
  2. Districts (and schools) who use social media to only broadcast are missing out on a valuable opportunity to engage with their patrons.
  3. School (and district) time and resources are an issue.
  4. If organizations can't engage with other social media users, they may be better off not using social media at all.
For my part, I added two principal points to the conversation. First, as a user of social media, I fully expect organizations to respond when I reach out to them for help or direction.
Second, whether we want to admit it or not, all educators are in the public relations business.
Education remains a highly political endeavor; if we can't figure out how to best meet the needs of our constituents, they'll likely find other ways to replace us. Sad, but true.
Having seen the tremendously positive role social media has played in establishing the identity of my school district, I can attest to the importance of its use by organizations desiring to have their voice be heard (rather than trusting that their voice will be appropriately filtered by others). At times, third party media outlets get it wrong; even those in new media. Nevertheless, as our district's communication team has interacted directly with patrons on social media, primary source facts have been distributed and public relations have improved.

It's All in How You Sell It

I was catching up on my MacWorld reading the other day and I came across this gem.

Dave Wiskus, on Apple's approach to marketing and design:

Apple’s approach to the problem was to first connect with the human holding the device, then present you with neat things you could do with it. Advertisements for the iPhone and iPad never discuss features; they show human beings using the devices to enrich their lives.
Technology Specialists and Coaches should take note. Most teachers don't care about what a technology can do until they see how well it can be integrated into the human, every-day instructional experience.

People first, then the potential of things.

Why I Struggle with Teachers pay Teachers #OER

Add Teachers pay Teachers to my list of Dilemmas of Openness. Teachers pay Teachers appears to be a successful private marketplace from which advocates of OER might gain valuable insights.

"The world's first OPEN marketplace where teachers
buy and sell original teaching materials."

But is their perceived success really Sounds too good to be true?!

From the perspective of a public educator, here's why I struggle with the concept:
  1. There are thousands of quality resources available on Teachers pay Teachers. We need more easy ways for teachers to share.
  2. Most teachers aren't paid what they're worth.
  3. Most teachers can't really raise a family on the salary they're given.
  4. Most teachers signed up for the job knowing both 1 and 2.
  5. Public school teachers are paid by the taxpayers - with public funds - to work during specific hours of the day.
  6. In many cases, the computer and other equipment used by public school teachers were all likely purchased by the taxpayers, using public funds.
  7. It is my belief that classroom activities, assessments, games, handouts, outlines, posters, printables, research, worksheets, and the like - that have been created by a public educator during work time or with school-owned equipment - belong to the public and should therefore be licensed with an appropriate, open license. Resources created with public funds should neither be bought nor sold by teachers because they were never the teacher's to sell in the first place. Because these resources were created with public funds, they belong to the public.
But perhaps there's really no reason for me to worry. How likely is it that NONE of the (hundreds of) thousands of items for sale in the TeachersPayTeachers catalog were created with public funds? (Not) Very likely, right?

IF the small business owners of Teachers pay Teachers really do aspire to the highest standards of professional ethics, THEN they would refuse to allow the sale of any publicly owned resource.




First, I appreciate the passion in the comments! Please rest assured that I know teachers work very hard. I also know that most of the resources sold on TpT were created on personal time. Like you, I've been no stranger to long work days (and nights!) throughout my career as a Teacher, Teacher Specialist, and Administrator.

At Jen and Sheri's request, I've done a little digging into the Administrative Code for my state (below, emphasis mine). The rules in your state may differ.
Utah Administrative Code R277-111-3. Educators Sharing Materials.

A. Utah educators may share materials for noncommercial use that educators have developed primarily for use in their own classes, courses or assignments.

B. Utah educators may only share materials that they developed personally and may not unilaterally share materials that were purchased or developed by or on behalf of their public employer or the State.

C. Utah educators may only share materials that are consistent with R277-515 Utah Educator Professional Standards. For example, educators may not share materials that advocate illegal activities or that are inconsistent with their legal and role model responsibilities as public employees and licensed educators.

D. Utah educators may share materials under a Creative Commons License and shall be personally responsible for understanding and satisfying the requirements of a Creative Commons License.

E. The presumption of this rule is that materials may be shared. The presumption is that Utah educators need not seek permission from their employers to share personally-developed materials. However public school employers may provide notice to employees that materials developed with public school funds or during public school employment must be reviewed by the employer prior to sharing or distribution.

F. Public educators may not sell teacher curriculum materials developed in whole or in part with public education funds or developed within the employee's scope of employment to Utah educators.
At this time, I haven't yet found law specifying ownership of resources created with public funds. However, in the original post above I've given number seven as my opinion and nothing more. For me, it stands to reason that if something is produced using public funds, then that something should probably belong to the public.

To clarify, it has never been my intent to accuse TpT of any wrong-doing. Instead, I've pointed out an obvious dilemma. First, there are many quality resources on TpT. Second, teachers work hard and deserve to be paid more. Third, it may be easy for teachers to create resources on publicly-funded time and equipment - and then sell these resources to others in need. Fourth, if resources have been created on public time and equipment, then we probably have no right to turn around and sell them.

For the record:
  • I appreciate Teach 4th's honesty, and suspect that most TpT users fall into the same category.
  • I also appreciate Angela Watson's direct answer to my question. That said, how do we really know that the vast majority of sold resources are legit? How possible is it for TpT to even provide a system that guarantees that only privately-created resources are sold? Seems impossible to me, beyond a stern warning in their Terms of Service. (You all read those when you created your accounts, right?)
  • I absolutely LOVE how Eric Johnson has answered my final question while also offering a true-to-form critique of my writing. I honestly never meant to let him down!
  • Finally, extra credit goes to Jen for providing the most rational and constructive comment yet! We would all do well to think of this entire dilemma in terms of opportunities.
Update 2:

I'm having a difficult time expressing with words how much I appreciate Jen, Bill, and Jethro's willingness to rationally think through this issue with me! In my imperfection, I have attempted to shed light on a complex issue, while certainly fumbling along the way.

Perhaps unlike many in the comment thread below, nevertheless, I continue to see this post as a learning experience - not a once-written-remains-written article. Throughout my blogging career, I've always tried to approach the platform in that manner.

As a result, with this update I've made slight alterations to the original post. Additions to the post have been colored pink.
  • Like Bill suggested yesterday, I no longer see the struggles I have with TpT to be dilemmas of openness. Although TpT may claim to support an "open marketplace," the implications of marketplace alone emphasize drastic differences in the philosophies of TpT and OER.
  • That said, I included OER in the title and openness as a basis for my post because - as I mentioned in the comments below - I wish we could figure out mechanisms of motivation that might make OER sharing as successful as the sharing that takes place on TpT. To that end, I probably like the recommendations made by Bill the most (emphasis mine):
Creating and using open content approaches the same problem - how do I get the best possible material to my class - from a different place. Teachers can use open content exactly as they would use a textbook, or a piece of content purchased from TpT; for many people, that is where their understanding of open content ends. However, that vision of open content is incomplete, and rooted in our habits of using material with restrictive licensing.

There are different levels of using open content; teaching lessons that use open content is the starting point. Remixing material that incorporates two or more openly licensed sources is a next step. Releasing that remixed version is the next step. Collaborating with other people to edit and remix content is an additional level of involvement.

And, if you look at the trajectory of using open content, it resembles the trajectory of learning. It's not a transaction (go here, buy this) - it's a series of interactions of increasing complexity, each of which requires judgment and expertise. Over time, building and using open content develops a professional network and a collection of domain level experts to work with. Working with people to create open content is some of the best ongoing professional development out there, and districts would be wise to embrace and support this reality. Rather than make absurd claims over ownership of teacher IP, they could divert some professional development money into supporting teacher time in a facilitated authoring process that spanned the course of a year. The resulting material could be released under a Creative Commons license, ensuring that teachers and the district were given the appropriate credit for their role in creating and funding the work, and material created with public money would remain available for public use.
  • At this point, I will be moderating all comments. Only comments that constructively add to the discussion of sharing resources created with public funds/time will be considered. At this point, I'm beyond acknowledging the less-than-civil commentary left by overworked/underpaid TpT sellers who are - for whatever reason - offended by what has been written.

MOOCs and the Elite Edupunk Way

Stephen Downes discusses a "great rebranding" that is apparently taking place with regard to the concept of MOOCs:

MOOCs were not designed to serve the missions of the elite colleges and universities. They were designed to undermine them, and make those missions obsolete. 
Yes there has been a great rebranding and co-option of the concept of the MOOC over the last couple of years. The near-instant response from the elites, almost unprecedented in my experience, is a recognition of the deeply subversive intent and design of the original MOOCs (which they would like very much to erase from history).
David Wiley responds:
Don’t mistake lust for fame with forethought. The current mania around MOOCs has nothing to do with strategic neutralization of a potential threat to higher education’s business model and everything to do with needing to be in the New York Times. Assuming the prior gives way too much credit where it isn’t due – twice. First, to the leadership of schools who have jumped speedily on the MOOC bandwagon. And second, to the creators of the MOOC approach who by implication have supposedly devised a method so brilliant as to be capable of destroying formal higher education (which, apparently, is to be lauded).
My take:

When David organized what was once called the first "proto-MOOC" at USU back in 2007, I remember thinking how cool it would be to participate in a course with fellow students from around the world.* I did not enroll, but chose instead to follow David's lead. Therefore, because I too wanted to test the boundaries of what might be accomplished using modern networking technologies, Robin Ellis and I offered to provide an after-school professional development course on Social Software in the Classroom to every interested person on the planet.

While I can't speak for David, my purpose in designing a pre-MOOC open online course was not to undermine the missions of any elite colleges or universities. Harvard and Stanford never crossed my mind.

Rather, I wanted to experience the cultural thrill of exposing my teachers to the attitudes and patterns of thought possessed by educators from around the world. I wanted to see if the Internet could really be used to build a productive community of practice. I wanted to see if it was actually possible to create an immersive learning environment that didn't require physical presence. And ultimately, I really wanted to do it for free: that is, free access to participants using free publishing/delivery tools, freely accesible to all. When all was said and done, we learned that nothing in life is truly free, just like we're also learning today that the same might be said of "open." (Is nothing in life truly open, or is everything really some shade of open? The jury's still out on that one.)

To be clear, Stephen's assertion of a great MOOC re-branding smacks of Edupunk (2008-2011, RIP). In spite of the first-sentence claim in the Edupunk Bible that this favorite movement died in 2011, Edupunk's rebellious redolence and distaste for all things formal can still be felt throughout online conversations today. Yes, the Edupunk spirit lives on; promulgated by Stephen and obviously flourishing among those who enjoy life in the "Schools Are Broken" fringes of society. To me, there is very little difference between the "We can do things on our own, who needs institutions?!?" attitude of an Edupunk, and the "We can do things on our own, who needs everyone else?!?" attitude of most private schools. Both attitudes are elitist, and ultimately in both sibling camps, some people win while other people lose. Perhaps in the end, it really is a dog-eat-dog world, as the fight for an educated populace continues to be trounced from nearly every possible angle.

Let the record show, nonetheless, that there were explorers in the days of pre-MOOC open online learning who simply wanted another quality method for all people to learn.


* Last November, Wikipedia user Kmasters0 (account no longer exists) removed the paragraph describing David's efforts from the Wikipedia article on Massive open online courses. Can you help me understand why?

Canyons District Film Festival - Incredible Display of Talent and Inspiration

The 4th Annual Canyons District Film Festival was held Thursday night at Eastmont Middle School.

Just when I start to think a project requires too many resources, too much time, and too much sweat, I attend the event resulting from the project and end up so pleasantly surprised I can hardly contain myself. This year's Festival was so polished, I was in awe and impressed throughout the entire night!

Without question, the student work on display at the Film Festival was inspiring! Beyond the films themselves, the evidence of strong partnerships between students, parents, and schools brought a smile to my face from ear to ear. Even so, the best part about attending an event like this is seeing the faces of student winners as their videos are shown up on the big screen.

Whereas a comprehensive list of Festival entries, nominees, and winners can be found here, a few of my favorites are embedded below. If you've got a few minutes to watch, you'll be glad you did. I've included my takes in italics.

Elementary Animation Winner
"Skittles Magic" - Kyann Otterstrom - Canyon View Elementary

Fun! The creativity displayed in this fun stop-motion animation is fascinating to watch.

Secondary Documentary Winner
"Bullying" - Alicia Gallegos, Danean Imboden, Brianna Groesbeck, Kelsie Bush - Crescent View Middle

Touching. The story of Amanda Todd is a tragic one. It was neat to see this documentary help her story to improve the awareness - and ultimately the lives - of students in our community. I also loved seeing these students go through the process of receiving permission to mix copyrighted material.

Elementary Feature Film Winner
"Surviver Mans" - Forrest Kunz, Matthew Turner - Ridgecrest Elementary

Hilarious! Being a fan of the original Man vs. Wild series, I couldn't stop laughing during my first experience with this clip. What (elementary!) kids won't do to stave off boredom on a winter's Saturday in Utah. Their parents must be so proud!

Secondary Feature Film Winner
"Fwd: FORWARD" - David Skorut, Marshall Blessing - Hillcrest High

Intense. A real heart-pounder, this clip does an outstanding job building tension and suspense while omitting the violence we'd rather not have our younger audience see. As I watched this on the big screen, I think I almost had a heart attach. Made me want to forward every piece of spam I get.

Poster Contest Winner
David Skorut - Hillcrest High

I'm already excited about next year's Festival. The poster below was created by David Skorut (who's quickly becoming a local celebrity) and will be used to advertise the event next year.

Great job students, on-stage talent, and skillful specialists behind the scene! You made this year's Film Festival a complete success!

"Sorry, kids. You were born in the wrong neighborhood."

Dan Meyer, quoting Freddie deBoer (bracketing and emphasis mine):

I've said this before: let's have an academic decathlon... I would bet the house on my team [of privileged demographic], and I bet if you're being honest, you would too. Yet to accept that is to deny the basic assumption of the education reform movement, which is that student outcomes are a direct result of teacher quality.
deBoer continues:
In other words, Whitehurst assumes that there is a natural distribution of quality in any field, where some significant percentage of people are always going to be below a necessary level of ability. That's an interesting case to be made in this context, the context of No Child Left Behind and the typical assumption of education reform, which ludicrously asserts that all children are capable of meeting certain arbitrary quality standards. But perhaps that's the inevitable consequence of a movement in which the person whose voice is heard is the person who shouts the loudest, rather than the person who pays most attention to what is constructive, to what is achievable, and what is true. In that context, it becomes a crime to state the simple reality that in a system of massive entrenched inequality, we will always have educational failure.
I think you should give deBoer's entire post a good read. He's done a nice job adding to the nauseating rhetoric in less than ten paragraphs.

My take:

First, if we accept educational failure at the ominous scale deBoer describes, then what hope will there ever be of overcoming poverty? (If only Bill Gates could wave his magic wand!) No, I believe the only sustainable solution to poverty is to help the poor help themselves. How? Education. And giving up on any population because of race, religion, or location of residence is emphatically unacceptable. We, the people - for the sake of the people - must not stand for it.

Second, teacher quality is one of the few variables actually within our control. Therefore, if student outcomes can't be directly improved by improving teacher quality, then why would we ever make such an investment in teachers, at all? Surely nation-wide daycare can be procured at a much cheaper rate than the amount we're spending on pre-service endorsement programs and in-service professional learning.

Following deBoer's line of thinking, maybe our best solution really is to employ as educators "those" unteachable, poverty-stricken drop-outs such that they might too fail at improving student outcomes so clearly outside of their control. After all, in our "system of massive entrenched inequality," isn't failure the rightful destiny of all under-privileged students?

Teacher quality does make a difference, and educational failure is not an option. As educators, we have little control over what our students do when they aren't in school (and rightly so). However, when they are in school, we have the critical responsibility to make every minute count, every day, for every student - regardless of their demographic.

As educators in an imperfect world, ours is the responsibility to be our best; because for some of our students, receiving a quality education is the only chance they've got.

Is Social Media an Appropriate Avenue for Making Practice Public?

I currently serve as the Director of Education Technology in a mid-sized public school district. As such, I feel a keen duty to spend public funds responsibly and in a manner that would be pleasing to the vast majority of those tax-payers who provide for the students in our care.

Because my department is in the business of technology and because technology lives in constant flux, I receive my share of requests for technology purchases: by teachers, by staff members, and even by principals in the schools I serve.

What do you think would happen if I required that all requests for purchases be made with a publicly-viewable account on Twitter or other social network? (Even though school district spending records are already publicly available, I don't think they're frequently reviewed.)

  • Do you think requiring openness when making purchase requests would be worthwhile? 
  • Would it potentially cause more issues than it might alleviate? 
  • Would it save money? 
Finally, if the public scrutinized your spending habits, would they understand why you've purchased the things you have? Would they agree that your spending habits are sound?

Predictions for Education and Technology

Making accurate predictions is difficult.

After the New Media Consortium released their 2013 Horizon Report for Higher Education, I reviewed the predictions they had made annually since their first report in 2004. Having nothing but the highest respect for members of the NMC community and appreciating the process followed to make their projections, I was curious to see how things have turned out through the years.

I then took out the crayons, attempting to identify any patterns in their prognostication. Clearly, the routine of one phenomenon traveling from right to left - to eventual adoption over the course of time - was most ideal.

The conclusions I make from this brief exercise include:
  • Mobile (education) won't be going away anytime soon. Greater society's adoption will make sure of that.
  • Educational gaming will NOT hit widespread adoption in 2007 (2005 + 2), 2008 (2006 + 2), 2011 (2007 + 4), 2013 (2011 + 2), 2014 (2012 + 2), 2015 (2013 + 2), nor - based on NMC predictive patterns - at anytime before the year 2020. Gaming is DUE, however, to spend several years in the "1 Year or Less" category.
  • We may actually see solid in-class teacher use of learning analytics by 2016.
  • Wearable technology should spend at least ten years on NMC lists, as Google Glass and its counterparts work their way around the body.
  • The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

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