I Wish We Were All Moving At The Speed Of Creativity

Wesley Fryer has published the conversation we had (while hanging out in the Blogger's Cafe at NECC) as his latest podcast. It was great to be able to speak with Wesley - I felt like, for the most part, we were on the same wavelength. We talked for about 30 minutes about educational technology, what we can do to help teachers in their technology use, and my plans in creating a follow-up to Pay Attention.

In listening to our conversation again I was struck by how forward-thinking Wesley is (an extremely admirable quality, IMHO) - and how hesitant I can be at times when considering the best next step (I'm thinking particularly about the segment wherein we discuss 1 to 1 computers and our district's responsibility to appropriately spend this year's substantial budget).

Perhaps a better way to describe my attitude toward such panaceatic ideas like the 1 to 1 initiative can be summed up in one word: cautious. Would every student greatly benefit from the use of their own, personal, computer? Absolutely. Every student has their own pencil - shouldn't every student also have access to their own computer? Maybe. But providing a computer for every student simply isn't effective unless the proper infrastructure is already in place. And quite frankly, we're just not there yet in the Jordan School District.

In our district (on the whole), the secondary schools are starving for adequate tech support. Having served as the Technology Coordinator at Brighton High School for several years, I can attest to the fact that we are greatly under-staffed in this area. Consider: 1 school, over 600 computers (half Windows, half Mac), roughly 80-90 teachers and 2,000 students. To maintain such a network, we had (for the majority of my time at Brighton) one person to provide technology support (hardware, software, network - for two paid hours each day), and one person to provide technology integration guidance for our teachers (for one paid hour each day). Now, at Brighton we also had access to the District's thinly-spread technology support team, but an appeal to such resources often took months to transpire. Frankly, if my tech-savvy colleagues and I hadn't spent countless hours above and beyond the call of duty (most days working hours well beyond contract time), then our teachers' and students' technology needs probably would not have been met (if they ever were, indeed, met). Hence, to add additional computers to the mix in our District, at this time, would probably not be the best way to spend a few dollars.

But I digress. To be forward-thinking is good - very good. I just wish it were easier to move at the speed of creativity.

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NECC 2007 - Matching Faces To Familiar Brains

Combined with the first annual Edubloggercon, NECC 2007 was the best conference I have ever attended. Ever. And I've been to my share of conferences. Part of the reason it was so great is because, for the first time in our planet's history, this conference was AJAX-ed to the MAX, steeped in Second Life, and totally Twitter-powered. Presenter after presenter described exciting new online tools and trends including references to:

  • Mashups and remixes
  • Google Tools and other online productivity applications
  • Podcasting, blogging, and collaboration - this time shifting emphasis to activities that our students can do (instead of only us teachers)
  • Creative Commons
  • The educational uses of cell phones, Palm Pilots and other mobile devices
  • The Digital Generation
Second Life was another technology that received a lot of "buzz". It was exciting to see so many educators learning about Second Life and ways that they could use it in their teaching. My personal favorite thing to do while I was "in-world" during the conference was to find a group that was learning about Second Life and then move my avatar so that it was in their avatar's field of view. Once there I would quickly perform a series of flexing, yawning, and hula-dancing gestures while the presenter's back was turned - guaranteed to produce a few laughs for participant's first lives. On a side note, ISTE returned my box of free Second Life Pay Attention T-Shirts. If there's interest, I'll find another place to stash the box - post a comment if you're interested.

Finally, NECC 2007 was the first conference I had ever attended in a Twitterized fashion. With Twitter, I have been able to "follow" the lives of dozens of other like-minded people from all over the world. Excitingly, I was able to personally meet many of my "Twitter Friends" this year at NECC, turning them in to genuinely real friends. I think that Kevin Honeycutt said it best when he told me that this conference was amazing because we were finally able to match the faces to the brains we had already come to know and love.

I'm struck with an amazing realization as I view both my RSS Reader and my list of Twitter friends. From those two lists alone, at NECC 2007 I was able to meet (and in most cases hold genuine, transparent conversations with) each of the following people for the first time:
Like I said, it was a great conference. I'm ready to do it again soon.

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Tim Tyson - Meaningfulness & Significance


Dr. Tyson did an excellent job in the closing keynote for NECC. His ideas were moving, refreshing, and should be taken to heart across the world. One thing he is doing in his school that's particularly impressive is an aggressive campaign to share his students' work with the rest of the world. Last month alone MabryOnline served roughly 4 million documents.

For the first time in the history of time, schools can have access to immediate global distribution.
As a result of such global distribution, Dr. Tyson claims that assessment is far more genuine and authentic. The attitude of his students? According to Dr. Tyson:
I made an A on the project last unit, but it's not good enough for the whole world. I want to keep working.
As a part of his keynote, Dr. Tyson showed several winning entries in this year's Maybry Film Festival. As a school, they've made their movies (or portions thereof) available as a part of their podcast. Check a few of them out - they're well worth it.

My favorite quote, coming from one of the Mabry students (in one of the movies shown):
Making a movie? That's like learning on steroids.
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The NECC 2007 Exhibit Hall - The Good, the Bad, and the Boring

I was finally able to spend a little time on the exhibit floor at NECC, experiencing an abundance of demos and a plethora of expensive educational technologies.

The Good - Offerings this year were definitely far from sparse. My favorite exhibits included (in no particular order) those by TeacherTube, Brainhoney, Faronics, Google, and Elluminate - none too pushy, each offering a unique product.

The Bad
- I was a little disappointed by Microsoft's exhibit. Last year, Microsoft invited patrons to experience their products while sipping on smoothies in their uber-hip lounge. This year, we had no such luck. The stale, all-business Microsoft was back to its usual uninviting practices. Perhaps Microsoft's shift in attitude reflects their recent confidence in Vista and Office 2007 (while last year they felt the need to calm their anxious customers who were tired of waiting for Vista's delayed release).

The Boring - I have to confess that (on the whole) I wasn't extremely impressed with the range of products offered this year. To be honest, there didn't seem to be a huge change from what had been offered at last year's NECC (same stuff, different city). Are companies really that short on productive, innovative thinkers? It's just that with this year's explosion of online AJAX applications, I had come to expect a lot more.

The "Best Give-Away Trinket Of The Conference" prize goes to Lightspeed Systems for their wonderful rubber-band powered rockets. A definite hit among bored Exhibitors, these babies were flying all over the place. I snagged several for my kids.

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Will Richardson - Powerful Voice, Extremely Compelling

I'm sitting here in Will Richardson's NECC session entitled From Hand it in to Publish It: Re-Envisioning Our Classroom. While Will is speaking, I'm also participating in an 11-person Skype chat. We're discussing the session, expounding on Will's thoughts, providing links, and documenting the session. Absolutely amazing. You may read our skype chat here.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Will's session (all from Will):

  • Kids don't see privacy the same way that we do.
  • We learn for ourselves, we learn because we want to, we learn because we're passionate about our topic.
  • I didn't get to be a life long learner until I was 40.
  • How do our kids figure out who they can trust?
  • As educated people, we have to be able to determine whether or not information is reliable.
  • The link is what powers the network.
  • All of our work has to have wings.
  • You bought into education. If you don't have the time, suck it up.
  • If you're scared, that's good. It means you care...
  • Most of the people on the train still don't get it.
Thanks, Will. Excellent session - keep up the good work.

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Understanding Digital Kids

Ian Jukes did a great job in his Tuesday night workshop entitled Learning Environments For DKs: Education in the New Digital Landscape. A combination of many of the other presentations I had seen him give, his work is evolving toward an incredibly convincing argument (see his 90-page handout here - a must read for every teacher).

Since I last spoke with Ian (on Sunday), he has since been to West Virginia and back - having given three additional presentations. He began today's session by explaining that in the month of May, for example, he had traveled through 74 time zones.

Here are a few key points that Ian made tonight:

  • Change in education (unfortunately) comes painfully slowly. Take a person that has retired 10 years ago, ask them what has changed. What will he say? That everything has changed. Take that same person back to the high school they graduated from and what has changed? Nothing.
  • TTWADI - The "Excited States" now has the shortest school year in the world. Because that's the way we've always done it.
  • Kids today are changing, have changed: They speak DFL (Digital as a First Language). Researchers are beginning to tell us that the brains of our students are actually physiologically different than those of earlier generations because of digital bombardment.
  • Neuroplasticity - Brain capacity is malleable and changes throughout a lifetime.
  • Everything Bad Is Good For You, By Steven Johnson - Gaming can actually sharpen your mind. Video games can exercise your brain in much the same way that physical activity can exercise your body.
  • A Whole New Mind, By Daniel Pink - The creative, right-brained activities will be those most desirable in the 21st Century.
  • The Emerging Teen Brain, Scientific American (I've unsuccessfully searched for a link to the article) - fMRI scans are showing dramatic differences in the brains of people from different generations.
  • 87% of students across our country are visual/kinesthetic learners - and yet the majority of the things that our students are tested on are anything but visual/kinesthetic.
  • The new information that is introduced to students has to connect to a student's prior experience - or it will be quickly discarded.
  • Previous knowledge determines what/how/whether or not a student learns.
  • Our role as educators is to bring balance in the lives of our Digital Native students.
Unfortunately, I had to leave his workshop a little early (missing the "what do we do now?" part of the workshop: the very reason I wanted to attend in the first place). Maybe next time.

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Leslie Fisher - Still Great

I saw Leslie Fisher last year at NECC. I was so impressed with her no-nonsense presentation of photography tips, that I decided to see her again this year. Here is a list of tips that she provided, with my occasional takes in italics:

  1. Not close enough. Often guilty, but not by choice. My point and click has a 3x zoom. However, I've since purchased a superzoom (10x).
  2. Not in focus (focus point).
  3. Camera shake.
  4. Foreign composition.
  5. Boring composition. I love the law of thirds - it conforms to the Golden Ratio.
  6. Another Few Composition Ideas

    The Squint Test. I rarely use this test, but plan to more often in the future.
    Space makes you think.
    Shoot high / shoot low.
    If I see another... Take more action shots. They're far better than posed shots.

  7. Missing the Moment. The story of my life.
  8. Too much flash.
  9. Too little flash.
  10. Digital zoom. Why bother?
  11. Photoshop Tips

    In order: Auto Color Adjust, Adjust Levels (looking for a bell-shaped curve - black, gray, white), Sharpen
Leslie finished up her presentation demonstrating some of the new features in Photoshop CS3. I'm ready for the upgrade.

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Driving Questions

I was honored today to be able to participate with Kevin Honeycutt in a discussion that will be published as a future episode of Driving Questions. Kevin is an excitingly creative individual that is doing great things throughout the Midwestern states of the United States. Oddly, our conversation was similar to the one I had yesterday with Wesley Fryer. Nevertheless, it's great to see that teachers "get it" all across the country.

The experience was great and I look forward to speaking with Kevin again.

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Hall Davidson - A Pro At Google Earth Pro

Hall Davidson is as smart as he looks. His Google Earth Pro session at NECC was informative, entertaining, and engaging. A mixture of basic and advanced topics, he shared a plethora of ways that teachers could use Google Earth Pro with their students. With the Pro version of Google Earth, users can import graphics, links, video, and audio - you can also export your experience as a Quicktime movie. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me. Hall's handouts (and other files) for the session can be downloaded here.

Finally, Hall shared a way for teachers to obtain a free license for Google Earth Pro. Simply send an email to GEEC@google.com, requesting a license.

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Wesley Fryer – The Podcasting, Blogging, Ed-Tech Machine

I was able to spend about an hour yesterday talking with Wesley Fryer at NECC’s Blogger’s Cafe. Talk about a sharp tack. He is certainly a pioneer in the educational technology landscape and a natural leader. It was great to speak with him.

In our discussion, he asked me a series of questions – to which most, I was actually able to answer a thing or two (Wesley will be publishing the audio of our discussion in a future podcast - link forthcoming). However, there was one question that stumped me, remaining a challenge in spite of the thought I have since given it:
If you were given a million dollars to transform a school, what would you consider to be the most important purchases you could make?
Ironically, as Technology Specialists in the Jordan School District, this is the very situation in which we find ourselves. The legislature of the state of Utah will be giving our district over eight million dollars next year – to be spent on educational technology. We have never been the recipients of such legislative generosity, and will probably not receive such a large sum again for many years. Consequently, the pressure’s on to spend it now and spend it well. As I see it there are several ways the money could be effectively spent:
  • Personnel – Nobody wants to work for “soft” money, but our schools are extremely desperate for additional tech-support.
  • Additional computer hardware (teacher and student workstations) – There are many schools (secondary and elementary) that could seriously use a major upgrade to many/most of their teacher and student workstations. One to one is still out of reach in our district, but eight million bucks could put a serious dent in the situation. Furthermore, upgrading teacher and student hardware would also eliminate some of their needs for added tech-support (the newer the machines, the less support they immediately require). Nevertheless, if we can’t take care of the hardware that we currently have, how can we expect to be able to handle additional equipment?
  • Hand-held technologies – Eight million dollars could purchase 40,000 iPods or 50,000 Palm devices. The only drawback with this kind of purchase is the fact that there are over 80,000 students in our district. Nonetheless, it would be very exciting to begin a district-wide adoption of hand-held technologies into the curriculum. We might even have enough left over to bring in Tony Vincent as a guest speaker. :)
  • Professional development – It would be great to budget some of the money toward on-contract-time professional development sessions. Follow-up sessions with mentoring would add to the effectiveness.
If you had eight million dollars, how would you spend it? Feel free to leave your two cents.

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Ron Clark - Full of Energy, Very Inspiring

I met Ron Clark today. As a group we were invited to hear him speak, allowing him additional time to plug his newly created Ron Clark Academy. Very fun. Very impressive. Unfortunately, very much out of reach for any public school system. While I strongly believe that every child has the right to a high-quality education, I envy the ability Ron has had to envision, design, and create his own school – from the ground up.

Ron is a bona-fide expression of Southern excitement (in the photo at right, he is actually standing on the table - during his presentation). Built upon creativity and structured with enthusiasm, I think that his school is the model after which future schools in American should be patterned – a slide to get from one floor to the next, custom-designed classrooms for every teacher, and field trips to foreign countries. What’s not to like?

When I finish my doctorate in a couple of years, perhaps I’ll hit Ron up about creating a second campus in Salt Lake City.

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Pay Attention T-Shirts

Get 'em while they're hot! I thought I'd give it a shot - I made my first article of Second Life clothing. You can pick up the newly coveted "Pay Attention" tshirt (for your Second Life avatar) in front of ISTE headquarters here (pick them up now - before somebody steals the box). : )

Pretty fun stuff.

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog - Reason #6

Edubloggercon has definitely been the highlight of my NECC experience. In the morning I, along with dozens of others) was able to meet the faces that accompany the names and the tweets. It was truly an honor for me to meet (and associate with) the entire Edubloggercon community.

Reason #6: Edubloggercon - need I say more.

The second session at Edubloggercon will leave a lasting impression on my mind as to the power of the blogosphere, collaborative software, and the spontaneity of ad hoc conferences. David Warlick led an incredible discussion about the future of schools, students, and teachers. My brain excluded, the collective brain power of that group could have powered all the lights in the Georgia World Congress Center for an entire weekend. While the audio is sub-par, you can listen to the session here. You can also view David's summary here, view a Flickr slideshow of the un-conference here.

This video (sorry so shaky - I guess it's best if you play/pause, play/pause, play/pause...) gives a quick glance at those participating in the second session.

Thanks for the memory, guys. Let's do it again soon.

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Ian Jukes, Spitting in the Wind

I just attended Ian Jukes' workshop on creating powerful presentations. I signed up for the workshop because Ian is the one that really got me hooked on educational technology, inspiring me to consider my role as a change force. Ironically, Ian's presentation tanked in a few areas - amazingly, somebody in an adjoining room had a wireless remote tuned to the same frequency as Ian's, randomly causing his presentation to advance slides. It was actually inspirational to see that even Ian is human.

After the workshop, I was honored to sit with Ian and "shoot the bull". We discussed many things, including his heavy schedule - I would love to have his frequent flyer miles. We also had a rather serious discussion about the state of educational technology in schools. Ian looked tired, should be tired, but never sounded tired. His tone, however, was often one of frustration:

I feel like I've just been spitting in the wind.
Don't give up hope, Ian. You've managed to get me on board (and literally thousands of other "groupies" from locations around the world). If it weren't for you, there would be no Pay Attention. Your Understanding Digital Kids and Windows on the Future have truly been an inspiration (click here for all of Ian's handouts).

So while Ian may feel like we're fighting an uphill battle (and he is certainly right) - I'm still willing to fight. And so are the thousands of people he has brought on board.

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog - Reason #5

Whether he realizes it or not, Doug Baird is one of the teachers that has influenced me most. We car-pooled to Brighton High School together for several years, learning together what it means to be an effective teacher. Doug now teaches part-time at Brighton as he works toward his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of Utah.

It always struck me as funny when Doug, an intellectually talented man, would often say that "his brain was too small".

"What is 25 + 48 + 83 -34 x 15 ? I don't know that - my brain is too small. It's amazing that our students think they can quickly do these calculations without a calculator!"
Even though I have learned to employ Doug's phrase with increased delight (it's great when trying to explain why computers do some of the things that they do - "I don't know why your computer is frozen. My brain is too small"), I still find great satisfaction in learning new things. Which brings me to an exciting claim made by Wesley Fryer (backed by the research of Dr. Stephen Krashen).

Reason #5: Blogging can make you smarter.

Says Dr. Krashen in his book "The Power of Reading, Second Edition: Insights from the Research" (p. 137) :

Although writing does not help us develop writing style [Krashen contends READING develops writing style], writing has other virtues. As Smith (1988) has pointed out, we write for at least two reasons. First, and most obvious, we write to communicate with others. But perhaps more important, we write for ourselves, to clarify and stimulate our thinking. Most of our writing, even if we are published authors, is for ourselves.

As Elbow (1973) has noted, it is difficult to hold more than one thought in mind at a time. When we write our ideas down, the vague and abstract become clear and concrete. When thoughts are on paper, we can see the relationships among them, and can come up with better thoughts. Writing, in other words, can make you smarter.

Wesley continues with a summary:
The more we blog, the more we reflect, the more we think and write about learning and our practices as professional educators, the smarter we're all going to get!
So thank you Doug, and thank you Wes, and thank you Dr. Krashen. It's comforting to see that somebody out there has a brain that's much bigger than mine.

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JHAT - Should Be Called JAHET

I've been teaching a group of teachers from the Jordan School District a thing or three about using technology with their students. The group is called JHAT (stands for Jordan History Academy of Teachers) and includes secondary history and English teachers.

I thought it might be helpful if I share the notebook of tools that we created in class today. The tool set I've been recommending has become fairly standard and I would love your recommendations for additional tools (it will be complete at the end of the day tomorrow - Thursday).

Please leave a comment if you can think of any great tools that I may have left out.

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NECC Sessions - Easy To Plan, Hard To Decide

I've finally found some time to plan which sessions I will likely be attending at the upcoming NECC in Atlanta. I can correctly summarize my planning adventures:

Thank you, Steve for making the planning so simple. If only the decisions about exactly which sessions to attend were equally as simple. Without further ado, here are my tentative intentions:

Saturday, June 23
  • All Day - Edubloggercon. I'm not sure of the detailed schedule yet, but the day should be fun.
  • 19:05 - Braves Baseball
Sunday, June 24
Monday, June 25
  • Lindsay, Julie: 'Mobile, Digital, Ubiquitous: Solutions for Learning with Handhelds' in B213 at 8:30 on Monday (also: Judy Breck, Graham Brown-Martin, Michael Curtis, Janice Kelly, Tony Vincent)
    Tag=n07s732 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS


  • Richardson, Will: 'Learning with Blogs: Bringing the Read/Write Web into the Classroom' in B308 at 8:30 on Monday
    Tag=n07s688 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Sparks, Paul: 'Second Lifelong Learning: Avatars, Virtual Communities, and Future Learning Models' in B303 at 12:30 on Monday
    Tag=n07s586 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Merrick, Scott: 'Virtual Worlds and Second Life' in Lounge (In World) at 16:45 on Monday (also: Jeremy Koester)
    Tag=n07s245 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
Tuesday, June 26
  • Zolli, Andrew: 'Tuesday Keynote Panel' in Murphy Ballroom at 8:30 on Tuesday (also: Mary Cullinane, Michael McCauley, Francesc Pedro, Elizabeth Streb)
    Tag=n07s755 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Vincent, Tony: 'Beam Me Up! Free Handheld Materials for Teaching and Learning' in Galleria (Posters) at 10:00 on Tuesday
    Tag=n07s384 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Sheehy, Peggy: 'Ramapo Islands: Another Dimension of Learning' in B208 at 12:30 on Tuesday
    Tag=n07s776 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Lindsay, Julie: 'Flat Classroom Project: Online Learning with a Web 2.0 Spin' in Galleria (Posters) at 13:00 on Tuesday (also: Victoria Davis)
    Tag=n07s446 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Fryer, Wes: 'Reinventing Education for the 21st-Century (Designing School 2.0):' in B402 at 14:00 on Tuesday (also: Katie Beedon, Marci Powell)
    Tag=n07s816 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS


  • Warlick, David: 'Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape' in Murphy 2/3 at 14:00 on Tuesday
    Tag=n07s705 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Fisch, Karl: 'Constructivist Teaching with Technology: Learning with Laptops' in B208 at 15:30 on Tuesday (also: Brian Hatak, Brad Meyer, Anne Smith, Barbara Stahlhut)
    Tag=n07s647 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS


  • Jukes, Ian: 'Learning Environments For DKs: Education in the New Digital Landscape' in Murphy 1 at 15:30 on Tuesday
    Tag=n07s725 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Gibson, David: 'Game and Simulation Developers...and the Future of Learning' in Lounge (Innovation & Creativity) at 16:45 on Tuesday
    Tag=n07s243 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS


  • Hargadon, Steve: 'Free, Open Source, and Web 2.0 Software for the Classroom' in B308 at 16:45 on Tuesday (also: Sharon Betts, Steven Burt, Bill Fitzgerald, Terry Freedman)
    Tag=n07s250 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
  • Jukes, Ian: 'Making the Digital Connection: Powerful Teaching Strategies For Digital Learners (formerly SAA105)' (TE495) in Grand C at 17:00 on Tuesday
    Tag=n07s116 Blog Posts / Blog RSS / Flickr / Flickr RSS
Wednesday, June 27
So while Steve Hargadon has made it easy to schedule my time throughout NECC, ISTE (or whatever scheduling powers that be) has made it incredibly difficult for us to choose exactly which sessions to attend: Julie Lindsay or Will Richardson, Wes Fryer or David Warlick, Karl Fisch or Ian Jukes, David Gibson or Steve Hargadon, Tony Vincent or Will Richardson?

I guess there's always Hitchhikr.

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Peer Reviewed - To Be Or Not To Be

Formal research conducted by serious researchers always consists of works (journal articles or other) that have been peer reviewed. The reason peer reviewed works are considered to be of higher quality than other works is because they "have been submitted to a process of evaluation by one or more experts in the subject to determine whether it is worthy of publication" (visit here for additional definitions).

Although many peer reviewed articles can be accessed using the Internet, the easiest way to tell whether or not an article is "peer reviewed" is by reading the journal from which it came. Many peer reviewed journals state in their introductions that they are, indeed, peer reviewed. Consequently, serious researchers spend considerable amounts of time in the library. In Utah, for example, a quick trip to the libraries at either BYU, the University of Utah, or Utah State University can be well worth the time as these libraries contain entire floors of peer reviewed journals.

Nevertheless, as not all students have access to the actual journals, the Internet can also prove to be an invaluable resource. Many libraries and an increasing number of other sources now offer online access to journals. Here are a few of my favorite starting places:

Another extremely valuable tool I've used when conducting research online is Google's new Notebook tool. Coupled with the Firefox plugin, this tool allows you to quickly save URLs and text from your favorite sites (just highlight some text, and click a button). You can then save your "notebooks" for others to view (click here to see the notebook I used to prepare for TTIX).

Image Source - Myself. This is a shot of one row of journals in the periodical section of the Harold B. Lee Library. If you've never been inside of a University library, you should stop what you're doing and visit one now! The size, the feelings, and the smells are all amazing (I love the smell - rarely changes from library to library).

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog - Reason #4

Teachers are amazing, and any teacher that can make it through thirty years of teaching deserves a round of applause. And a purple heart. Because teaching requires us to hit the trenches, day after day. As a teacher, with nine years under my belt, I like to think that I've learned a thing or two. I know I've learned that you should never make fun of a teacher with more experience than you. They've survived the game longer that you have and deserve your respect - even if they do spend most of their time yelling at the kids and pressing play on the VCR. I've also learned the two fundamental truths of teaching:

  • No matter how good it went today, the kids will always be back tomorrow.
  • No matter how bad it went today, the kids will always be back tomorrow.
Which brings me to reason number four (of "Why Every Teacher Should Blog").

Reason #4: They say you can't teach a dog new tricks - but since we expect new tricks out of our students every day, we'd might as well learn a few ourselves.

Which is why I'm so proud of Russ Lauber. Russ is a veteran - honestly one of the best of the best. He's been teaching in the public school system for more than 30 years (I feel honored to say that I've known him for the last eight). He coached girls' swimming for somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 years and won the state championship every year he coached. Every single year. For 25 years!

But Russ has never blogged. Until now!

I am so please to announce that Russ, never afraid to "learn new tricks", has decided to try his hand at blogging. His new blog can be found at http://laubsblog.blogspot.com/. Veterans, please take a look, welcome him aboard.

And for Russ (and any other newbie out there - myself included), I would recommend three things:
  • Take Vicki Davis' tips to heart. She's been doing this for several years now and can also be considered as one of the best of the best.
  • Know that the blogosphere is a great place to "be", full of a world of wonderful people, ever willing to help.
  • Don't let your blog run your life. As far as I can tell, a blog is nothing more nor less than what you make it. I've made mine a place to reflect, a place to connect, and a place to bounce my ideas off of other people.
So hold on, Russ. Have fun. And continue to amaze us all.

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Summer Podcasts

Summer is a great time to catch up on your favorite podcasts. Recently, I've been able to finally take in a few episodes. Two particular podcasts some to mind.

The first podcast that I have really enjoyed this Summer is called Driving Questions. In this video podcast, Kevin Honeycutt does an excellent job in getting to the heart of many of the issues that effect technology and its uses in education. In my favorite episodes, he has interviewed Ian Jukes and David Warlick, asking them both for their "definitions of an educated person". Very enlightening and well worth the download.

The second "podcast" that comes to mind isn't actually a podcast. I just finished listening to/watching Bill Gates' and Steve Jobs' guest appearance at the recent D: All Things Digital conference. A very interesting interview, to say the least.

From the conference, I was impressed by two distinct comments made. From the mouth of Bill Gates:

We'll look back on this as one of the great periods of invention.
I think he's right. How are we using such inventions to further education? How are we inventing the future of education? Steve Jobs added another sobering thought:
I think we underestimate how much all of our industry depends on stability.
No kidding. Not to be an alarmist here, but the entire technology industry could come to a grinding halt in the wake of economic or other catastrophe. I think we might be currently experiencing the calm before a much-anticipated storm. How well we weather the storm will probably depend on just how prepared we are.

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Initial Reflections on TTIX

It's nearly been a week since TTIX. In this time I've been able to reflect on how I did as a presenter, as well as the messages shared by others at the conference.

Here are a few of my thoughts as I reflect back:

  • TTIX was small, small is actually a very good thing, I would certainly like to participate again. In preparing to deliver the keynote, I had always envisioned a much larger crowd. All told, there were probably around 100-150 there - I was planning on 500. Nevertheless, the intimate setting was extremely comfortable and we were able, throughout the day, to have very meaningful conversations about integrating technology in the classroom.
  • TTIX was extremely well organized. I was very impressed in the preparations that were made - particularly by Jared Stein and Janel Mitchell. Excellent job.
  • I participated in an excellent session about "Brainhoney", a potentially wonderful application that takes David Wiley's idea of Learning Objects and makes it available for educators. I have been watching Dr. Wiley's work very closely for the last several years and hope that Curtis Morley et al. can deliver.
  • Wikis - Tim Stout did an excellent presentation on how he uses wikis in his classes. Are we using them enough?
I feel bad that I wasn't able to share my entire presentation. I had 'em eating from the palm of my hand (I'm sure that effective educators and salespeople can identify with this - the moment that they are hanging on your every word - the very reason that I love to teach. I only hope that I was able to motivate them in such a way that they will move to action.

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EDT 612 - Tonight's Class

My Creating Meaningful Learning with Technology class went really well tonight. This class is for teachers that are earning a Master's Degree from National University while also preparing to pass the exam for National Board Certification. Very cool program - I wish it would have been available to me when I was slaving away for my Master's Degree.

In today's class, we covered a wide range of topics and web sites. Here's a quick run-down:

  • APA - Every graduate student should be familiar with APA (or MLA or whatever style format your university suggests). For some reason, they rarely offer classes in APA style, but every professor expects you to just know it. I gave the class an overview using several of my favorite sites to reference: 1, 2, 3, 4
  • WebQuest Garden - This site is a great starting place for teachers that have never created a WebQuest (search for sample WebQuests here). One drawback - the site only allows you to upload photos that are less than 80K.
  • Productivity Tools - I'll be honest: I no longer know what a "productivity tool" is. They used to only include word processors and spreadsheets, but it now seems that there are literally thousands of tools out there that could be appropriately labels as such (hence, it's often better to work smarter than it is to work harder). Anyway, here's a list of a few productivity tools that we discussed: Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Pages, Blogger, Inspiration, and FileMaker Pro.
  • Image Sites - When you are going to include images in a class web site, it's important that you only include non-copyrighted images, or images that are licensed with a Creative Commons license. These sites are great for finding such images: Pics4Learning, Flickr.
  • Search Engines - You may not have realized this, but there is a plethora of search engines out there (there's more to life than Google and Yahoo). This site has a rather large list - I'd recommend performing the same search on several different engines to compare results.
  • Bookmarking - If you've ever wished you could take your Internet bookmarks with you wherever you surf the web, then you'll love Del.icio.us - I know I do.
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Twitter Vocabulary - What's The Standard?

You say to-mae-toe, I say to-mah-toh. I think it's time we standardized Twitter vocabulary. We're the educators, for crying out loud - we make the rules.

Don't we?

As far as I can tell, there aren't standard terms for the following Twitter items. I will highlight my preferences in red, but am interested in your understanding of the world of Twitter:

  • What do you call the actual types of communication that are sent via Twitter - Twits? Tweets? Twitters?
  • What do you call a person that uses Twitter - A Twitterer? A Twit? A Twitter?
  • What is the equivalent of of the word "blogosphere" in the world of Twitter - The Twitterverse? Twitterworld? The Twitter States?
I know that I will sleep better once we can get to the bottom of all this. : ) Peace out, twits.

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog - Reason #3

Since I have begun my adventures in blogging, I have been amazed at how well teachers stick together. I've met (virtually) a lot of different people from all over the world and can honestly say that it's been an extremely rewarding experience. Specifically (in the last two months alone), I have spoken, emailed, or chatted with teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Romania, Greece, Bangladesh, Canada, Brazil, and from dozens of states across the United States.

Reason #3 - Blogging allows you to communicate with other teachers which, in turn, allows you to learn from each other.

Which is why I'm excited to attend the upcoming Edubloggercon. It will be fun to learn more about how blogging can be a highly educational medium.

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Teaching In A Digital World - Have You Been Paying Attention?

I just finished giving my keynote presentation at the Teaching with Technology Information Exchange (TTIX) conference. The presentation went well, but I only covered about 3/4 of what I had hoped to discuss. I didn't even get to show the new and (hopefully) improved version of Pay Attention! Luckily I was able to show it to the entire crowd at lunch. It looks like my presentation would fit perfectly in a 90-minute time slot.


  • Rule number 1 for all presenters - always watch the clock if you have something very important that you want too show your audience at the end of your presentation.
If you're interested in viewing the keynote, it will be available for download (here) in the next few days. If you'd like to watch the "final cut" of Pay Attention, you may watch it here, here, or below (via YouTube).

I have also created a high-resolution version of the video that is now available here (the link to additional formats will be at the bottom of the page).

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog - Reason #2

I just finished teaching a class for National University: EDT 612 - Teaching with Technology. The class is for teachers that are attempting to earn both a Master's Degree and National Board Certification.
To begin the class, I had the teachers create a Gmail account and then I gave them a quick tour of Google. In discussing Google and its many tools, we also spoke about using technology in the classroom with their students. Several mentioned how easy it is for students to use technology, and how intimidating this fact can be.

I continued the discussion by showing them Pay Attention. As they were watching the video, I added the teachers as guest authors in our class blog. Following the video, I asked them to write a post reflecting on what they just saw.

Their posts were very eye-opening.

Not once in the discussion did the difficulty of implementing technology ever arise. Not once did the teachers mention the problems with acquiring money for purchasing technology or the hassles of controlling the misuse of technology by their students. These issues weren't made known to me until the writing (on the blog) had taken place. Or rather, the writing had allowed them to express their fears, as well as their excitement regarding technology and its uses in teaching. The ten minutes it took me to create our class blog was a small price to pay for the insight I received from the teachers' posts.

Reason #2: It can be easier to write that which is difficult to say.

Without our class blog, the difficult issues that needed to be discussed would probably never have been talked about. In writing, difficult things can sometimes be easily said.

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Why Every Teacher Should Blog - Reason #1

Vicki Davis recently wrote an excellent post detailing how to be an effective Blogger. I thought I would add to her conversation by listing reasons (one at a time) why I think that teachers should blog.

Reason #1: Writing is thinking.

A teacher told me the other day that writing was thinking. She was absolutely correct. Teachers should blog because in blogging, they will be able to write what they think - and the last thing that our students need is a teacher that doesn't think.

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Why Every Teacher Should Have A Google Account

No, I'm not being paid by Google to advertise. And yes, I realize that Google is silently plotting to take over the world. Nevertheless, with the myriad of tools that Google has to offer, we would be foolish not to take advantage of the excellent educational tools Google can provide us (as teachers) and our students. Here's a quick look at how some of Google's tools could be used to help teachers:

  • Earth - If you've never played with Google Earth, you should. It's uses in the classroom range from calculating distances between locations (Math) to creating tours of historical places (Social Studies) to many activities in-between.
  • Finance - These interactive financial charts could be used in any math, finance, or business class.
  • Notebook - I use it any time I'm conducting informal research on the web. Google Notebooks are also great because you can share them.
  • Scholar - I use it (almost) any time I'm conducting formal research on the web. Combined with JSTOR, it's usually as good as visiting the university library itself (minus the sweet smell that every library provides).
  • Calendar - Perfect for creating school or class calendars, they're even subscribable.
  • Docs & Spreadsheets - Wow. Create documents and spreadsheets without paying the fiddler. The best part about using these with your students is the collaboration features they have included: multiple people can be editing the same document at the same time (and with the Revisions tab, you can even see which student contributed what).
  • Picasa - Very powerful image editing program. I like to use it in connection with Flickr (check out Darren Kuropatwa's great idea for student-created Flickr Mind Maps).
  • SketchUp - Again, wow. This little gem would be perfect to use in a number of classes, including drafting, geometry, and art. It's used to create 3D models of anything - which can then be imported into Google Earth.
  • Blogger - Yep. Every teacher should blog. More on that later.
  • Translate - I use this to read blog posts created by others in other languages - why couldn't your students do the same?
  • Video & YouTube - How can you argue with free video hosting? While you definitely have to keep its educational uses in check, I'll be the first to admit that I've used YouTube with my students.
  • Reader - This is my RSS reader of choice. I like it because it's not stored locally - thus I can read my feeds on any campus and in any Internet-connected classroom.
  • Trends - I love playing with this tool. I use it with my students to convince them that what they are searching for is really not as great as they might think (as you can see, far more people are searching for sites about math than sites about Brittany Spears). On a serious note, however, with the integrated news results, this tool makes for excellent discussions about cause and effect.
  • Page Creator - How many of your students have ever created a web page? Google's Page Creator makes the entire process a snap (in spite of a few bugs here and there).
  • Time-line View (coming soon) - This tool should be a history teacher's dream come true.
Indeed, this is quite a list. Not too bad for free.

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