School Design in the 21st Century

Matt Horne recently created a video (correction: updated version of the video is here) explaining a shift in the way many school districts throughout the United States are designing newly constructed school buildings (see this site for additional school photos). Our district, much like his, has been in "building" mode for at least the last fifteen years. Consequently, new buildings have been going up in masses - many of which have implemented modern designs (Sunset Ridge Middle School is an excellent example).

Matt's list of design changes are certainly thought-provoking:

  • Social areas, open ceilings, green spaces indoors
  • Outdoor classrooms, courtyards, lobbies
  • Creative architecture, hallways as classroom spaces
  • No chairs, glass walls, lobbies
  • Round buildings, buildings on hills
While these new designs are certainly refreshing, I wonder how much "better" they actually are, compared with traditional (or other) school buildings. Here are my questions:
  1. Is there data that supports the implementation of modern designs for academic purposes?
  2. Do modern school designs actually improve student learning? If so, by how much and is the margin large enough to justify increased building costs?
  3. What are building trends on an international level? Are new schools being built that are radically different in their design philosophies? If so, what are the results?
So, what are your takes on the matter? What kinds of building are going on in your area?

Pay Attention People - It's A GLOBAL Community Out There

I may have offended some of the best thinkers of our time without even realizing it.

When a person decides to post something to the Internet, be it text, a photograph, or a video, they would be well to keep in mind that they are not just making the video available to the person in the next room - rather, they are submitting their content to be viewed, scrutinized, and evaluated by people throughout the world. The Pay Attention video is a perfect example. What started as a video designed to motivate only the teachers in our District (the Jordan School District, in little ol' Sandy, Utah), spread throughout the world like wildfire.

This map is one of dozens that shows 500 sequential hits made to the T4 website. This particular "snapshot" was taken just after Pay Attention hit the bloglines.

From the map, we can see that the video has been seen by people all over the globe. In creating the video, however, I never even thought about how it might be interpreted by viewers in Australia, Japan, or throughout Europe.

Which was probably wrong for me to do.

Now don't misunderstand me here. I'm not saying that it was wrong for me to create such a video targeted to members of my District. Nor am I saying that I shouldn't have posted it to the Internet.

However, I am saying that if we truly are a global community, and if a blog can truly be an international forum (an international classroom, if you will), then participants in that community must make a conscious effort to avoid ego-centric references to their own particular culture - for a world-wide culture is what we must become. I'm not sure if most current participants in the blogosphere truly understand their role in shaping the future. It seems to me that as participants in this global forum, we are all forming the international culture that will eventually be called "school".

To illustrate how inadvertently one might reference their own particular culture, examine a recent comment "conversation" that took place between Graham Wegner and myself. In short, Graham saw the Pay Attention video and commented that "the only thing that rubs me the wrong way about these videos is their US centric view of the audience". I later explained that I had no intention of showing the video to the entire world, and that "I don't see how the video is US centric. Is there no Internet access outside of the US? Are there no cell phones nor iPods?"

That's when Graham let me have it because I most certainly deserved it.

Graham was very tactful. I was so naive. Quoting:

The stats about college students are US based (we don't have a college system - university or VTE options for Oz/NZ students)... Cell phone is a North American term, as is pop quiz, spelling bee - not to mention the astronomical charges from telcos in various parts of the world that make some of the ideas very expensive to implement.
Now, as a new participant in this global classroom, I hope that participants everywhere will think twice about what they say, and generously forgive others of their lack of cultural awareness. In the future, I hope to be more mindful and inclusive of those outside of my cultural circles.


D. Draper

Technology Doesn't Teach People - People Teach People

A colleague of mine just sent me an email. In it he mentions an article he is reading, written in 2001 by Mark Hinds. From the article, my friend quotes:

Neil Postman (1985) adds that the electronic culture has altered the ways people expect to learn. A print culture emphasizes objective, rational discourse within logically-ordered content. The electronic culture emphasizes the apprehension of swiftly changing and instantaneous images, which are tacitly unresponsive to calls for discourse. The television program makes no demands of the viewer in terms of prerequisite knowledge, any degree of perplexity or development of thought. As Postman asserts, "Television educates by teaching children to do what television-viewing requires of them" (144). The primary lessons personal computers and televisions teach are "that if you want to learn, you [will] sit behind a screen for hours on end, [and] accept what a machine says without arguing ... that relationships that develop over e-mail, Web pages, and chat rooms are transitory and shallow. That if you're ever frustrated, all you have to do is pull the plug and reboot the machine." One can imagine John Dewey turning over in his grave at the proliferation of so-called educational software which equates the objectivist acquisition of information with education, yet divorced from the absolute necessity of the balanced personal-corporate effort of subjective thought-in-action.
In response to the article (and the email), I must admit that I was a little frustrated that so many would think that John Dewey would actually be against the use of technology in learning. Ever one to emphasize a child-centered curriculum, Dewey continually stressed the importance of focusing curriculum and instruction upon both the task at hand, coupled with the previous experiences of the students being served. I would contend that using technology in teaching and learning allows us to do exactly what Dewey suggests. Irving Buchen, in his The Future of the American School System has summed up my feelings perfectly.
"Given the dynamics of the workplace and student preferences, if educators really believed in student-centered education it would have to be technology centered."
To continue my thoughts regarding the article, I will summarize my response to my colleague's email:
  1. "Television" doesn't teach people. People teach people - and some chose to do that using television as a medium. Just as in a traditional school setting, there are good teachers on television and bad teachers on television. Nevertheless, there is always somebody behind the content that you encounter on the screen.
  2. On the kinds of relationships developed over e-mail, Web pages, and chat rooms: If such relationships are so "transitory and shallow", then why do so many of them result in marriage? According to an article in Fortune magazine, "One in eight couples married in the U.S. last year met online."
Now, I'm not advocating that you sit your students in front of the TV just because it can be educational. Nor am I suggesting that you marry the next person that sends you a Twitter tweet (in fact, if you do meet someone online, I would highly recommend an extensive, in-person relationship before marriage). Nevertheless, if the tool is effective, why not use it - especially when your students already know how to use it?

I'd love to hear your take on the matter.

iQuiz, Do You?

In "Pay Attention" I mention how underutilized our students' iPods have become (from an educational standpoint). While podcasting can certainly hold its own, educationally speaking, I'm always welcoming additional ways to teach with the iPod. That said, it looks like Apple has finally stepped up to bat with an iPod game, appropriately called iQuiz.

Thanks, Apple, we needed that.

Because the game is so new, many teachers will need help getting acquainted with the game (not to mention help with creating quizzes). Here's a quick list of tips, originally brought to you by Tony Vincent:

  • You can watch a brief video preview of iQuiz in iTunes.
  • Go to to download free software for making your very own T/F and multiple-choice questions. Currently the software is Mac only, but the Windows version is due in May.
  • has a few pre-made quizzes also available for download -although their selection is not necessarily geared toward schools.
  • Apple has a fairly extensive page detailing iQuiz and it's uses, noting that it is also known as iPod Quiz in some countries.
Currently, iQuiz costs 99¢ and you can sync it to multiple fifth-generation iPods from one computer (you may use this page from Apple to identify which iPod model you have).

All in all, I'm very impressed with what I've seen in iQuiz and hope that more educational software is created for the iPod.

Finally, to spark a discussion, what kinds of uses can you find for iQuiz? For that matter, how have you used the iPod in your teaching and learning?

RSS in Plain English

As I'm often asked about the advantages of RSS, I sometimes struggle with an adequate answer. This tutorial from The Common Craft Show, describing how to use RSS, is quite good and only takes 3.5 minutes to view.

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't (but probably should). This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start.

A New Take on Second Life

Today I stumbled across an interesting post by The Four Eyed Technologist. He has spent a good deal of time immersed in the Second Life world and feels that it has true educational value. If you're interested in exploring Second Life, tonight would be a great time to do it.

Peggy Sheehy of Suffern Middle School will be presenting at ISTE Second Life tomorrow, April 24th, at 6:30 SLT (Pacific Standard Time) on Rampos Island, her island on Teen Second Life.

As a pioneer in the area of Second Life Educational Immersion, this is a can’t miss if you are considering Second Life in the classroom, pondering the strengths and limitations of Second Life, and/or figuring out how Teen SL works.

Now for my take on the whole deal. Second Life will never be my first life. Nevertheless, having spent an hour or two in Second Life, I have to admit that it provides an interesting platform for distance learning. In the above photo, for example, various students from around the world are watching as one student/teacher is showing off a PowerPoint presentation.

So what do you think? How would you use Second Life to teach? How would you use it to learn?

I Wish I'd Said This...

I'm with Jim Dornberg when he says that he wishes he had said this:

On Web 2.0 and other new technologies: "Change will happen when we have a reculturation of the institution of school. When we focus on what is important rather than the tools. We are like a bunch of 4th graders who have just been given math manipulatives for the first time-- we have to play and explore with them first before we can actually get down to business of using them for learning."

From the 21st Century Collaborative blog, by Sheryl Nussbaum Beach
I may not have been the first person to say it, but I'm saying it now: If teachers want to teach using technology, they must become proficient with it first.

Twitter in Education - Follow-up

Several comments to my previous post addressing the educational uses of Twitter deserve mention. As a result of their comments, I am far more inclined to tweet with my students than I was in the past.

  • Thom Allen and Julie Lindsay bring up the fact that in Twitter you're only allowed 140 characters per post. In thinking about using Twitter as a storytelling tool, I think that this limit might be a good thing. How many students do you know that freeze when they're presented with a blank piece of paper and asked to write? Perhaps with this limit, some students won't feel as much pressure in writing - anyone can write 140 characters, but writing pages might be difficult.
  • Thom continues, "What do you get from Twitter that you couldn't get with MSN or Yahoo! messenger systems?" To this, my one-word response is "boundaries" (the 140 character limit) - again, boundaries aren't always bad. In elaborating, however, I must confess that I prefer Twitter to traditional chat. The reason I prefer Twitter is because of it's un-intrusive nature. Have you ever been working hard on something only to be interrupted by someone wanting to chat at length with you? Twitter is great because you are "chatting", but only with those that want to listen - there is no pressure to return tweets upon receiving them from your friends.
  • Julie's work with the Horizon Project is amazing! They're using Twitter "to facilitate communication between students in different countries. Twitter allows them post regular updates on what they have been working on as an addition to their wiki discussion tab messages. See HERE and HERE." Way too cool! I love seeing the student wikis full of Twitter badges!
  • Finally, Rahhb (no link provided) brings up a fascinating scenario:
"Imagine a professor taking both direction of discussion and questions from his class via twitter. Display the tweets on the prof's screen so they can see what's next, or if people agree. Distance-learning is instantly enabled so that class members who may be dialed in audibly or via video can reply and respond and communicate without additional hardware/software."
Too much fun - way too easy. Thank you, Rahhb, Julie, and Thom - your insights are invaluable.

A World Where...

If you haven't seen this video yet, you should. Very powerful. A friend of mine has a child with autism and I can tell you that each day is an adventure. For that matter, one of my favorite students was autistic - he was such a fun student to teach and his grasp on geometry was amazing!

Autism Speaks created the music video of the Five for Fighting song, "World", which features images of autistic children and their families. It is a truly moving video and was the work of Bill Shea. Apparently, the band is generously donating $0.49 to Autism Speaks for each time the video is viewed - the funding goes toward research studies to help find a cure.

I originally intended to embed the video here, but am pretty sure the artists prefer you watch it on their site.

More Pay Attention Sightings

Since my original "thank you" to all of the bloggers out there paying attention, I've found a few more. The blogosphere truly makes us a world-wide community.

Absolutely amazing. If I've missed your site, let me know - share and share alike.

Do you tweet - educationally speaking?

Twitter is sure a strange thing. I'm still trying to find an educational value, but it is great for building community. Too bad Leo left Twitter, I miss the the Twit's tweets!

Nevertheless, I'm still considering the educational value of Twitter. I am intrigued by a few posts out there. Bryan Alexander makes a good suggestion. He says that Twitter could be used in the service of storytelling. Can you imagine an elementary classroom doing a storytelling session via Twitter! I can just imagine the endless barrage of tweets. I quite like the idea.

Another idea I've been tweeting with is the idea of using Twitter in an engineering class - or rather with several engineering (or any other class, for that matter). For example:

Class, you've got 10 minutes to create ______ in conjunction with the efforts of other engineering students in various classes across the district.

Now, the only way you will be able to communicate is via Twitter. Each class will have an account.

You're going to have to work together - each class on a separate portion of the project, because if you don't work together, you won't finish in time.
I don't know. Would this kind of assignment work? What would be its educational value? Would it be worth the effort?

Thank you bloggers! The blogosphere is absolutely amazing!

In observing the way video and other content is distributed throughout the Internet, I am absolutely amazed at the collective power and potential of the blogosphere. Technorati's Matt may be correct when he states "71 million blogs... some of them have to be good."

One of the reasons I wanted to create a blog of my own was to thank all of the bloggers out there that have spread the word so well about "Pay Attention". As the video is seen by more and more teachers, I hope that changes are made in the way teachers teach. Furthermore, while technology isn't always the most effective way to reach our "digital" students, it is certainly a useful tool in far more teaching situations than most teachers realize and implement.

On this blog, beginning with this post, I want to thank those blogs out there that are doing a fabulous job of spreading the word. As of today, I have found the Pay Attention video discussed on the following sites.

And finally,
  • Thank you, Julie Lindsay, for spreading the word via Twitter!
Wow, that's a mouthful! I'll add to the list (in new postings) as I find them. Again, thanks!

Pay Attention

Well, if you haven't seen the "Pay Attention" video yet, you may view it here. A full quality version of the video can be downloaded from the T4 site. I welcome all constructive comments on the presentation, as I will be creating a "2nd edition" in the near future. I've found a few things I would like to slightly tweak before I use it too many more times in my teaching.

Technorati Tags:

I guess it's time to blog...

Well, I've been asked by several people now about my blog. In fact, it was Vicki Davis' question on her Cool Cat Teacher blog that tipped the boat. Since I've never had a public blog (several personal blogs, several school blogs kept private) I thought I might as well start one now.

Besides, how hard can it be? This one took me a whopping 5 minutes to create.

Creative Commons License
Original content distributed on this site is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.