Why College, Why Now?

So Will Richardson's not sure about sending his kids to college.


As I enter into my final semester of doctoral coursework, I must confess that the only thing my education has done for me is open doors that likely never would have been opened otherwise. Oh, and it's also taught me to think critically, helped me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of current empirical research practices, assisted me in developing the ability to better rationalize when necessary, and even taught me to better sympathize with those that sometimes just don't get it.

Can these skills be learned without a college education? Absolutely. But it seems to me that in most cases - in order to be highly "successful" without the degree - you've either got to be distinctly specialized (eliminating any legitimate possibility of changing fields in the future) or you've got to be extremely lucky.

No offense, but I'd rather stick with the conservative, "prepare for anything" approach to my future, thank you, and leave rolling the dice to those with less to lose.


Those 21st Century School Lockers

Dave Cormier explains perfectly the reason why I still blog:

Not for awards, not for fame, and (don't hate me for saying) sometimes not even for the "conversation," the main reason I continue to blog is because I love having a place to catalog my thoughts. To that end, I can't tell you the number of times I've googled my own blog in search of something I've written before - usually to share with others.

That you, as a reader, still feel welcome to straighten me out from time to time by commenting on what I've written - is icing on the cake.

Original image source: Flickr user mybloodyself.
Quotation source: Dave Cormier.

The Role of Leadership in Technology Integration

Ronald Anderson and Sara Dexter conducted an interesting study back in 2000, with findings that every school administrator should consider:

For technology to become an integral part of a school, it not only is necessary to help teachers use the technology but administrators must be involved in it, too. The importance of training for developing teachers in technology has long been recognized in the educational community. These findings indicate that administrative leadership and decision-making are equal, if not more important than spending on infrastructure to maintaining a successful technology program.

...Charismatic people may contribute to technology integration as well, but it is even more essential for a school to distribute leadership and become a "technology learning organization," where administrators, teachers, students, and parents together work on how best to adapt new technologies to improve learning. (p. 17)
Nine years later, how's the scene in your school?

  • Anderson, R. & Dexter, S. (December 1, 2000). School Technology Leadership: Incidence and Impact. Center for research on information technology and organizations. I.T. in education, paper 98. Retrieved December 26, 2008 from
Original image source: Flickr user Jeremy Brooks.

The Eddies

Stephen's right. iJohn's right. And Doug's right.

Folks, if you're in this gig for the awards and the rank and the fame, then ours is a sad, pathetic, state, indeed.

For what it's worth.

Original image source: The Edublog Awards.


Any time I've ever been able to make any kind of personal impact on others in my life can be directly attributed to the fact that I listened more than I spoke.

Original image source: Flickr user lanuiop.
Quotation source: Darius Dunlap (here) via John Pederson.

Freedom and One to One Computing

I spent the day today tethered to an iPod Touch. Email, web surfing, and tweeting galore. Photos, videos, and apps they call educational - the iPod Touch (and iPhone, clearly) seems to be that little Internet device we've all dreamed of. Nonetheless, I'd summarize my experience today with one simple sentence:

As good as mobile computing might be, there's nothing that compares to the freedom felt upon returning to my MacBook Pro.

With that in mind, however, I still consider the iPod/iPhone/other mobile device combo to be one of the only feasible options for one-to-one computing for many schools and districts out there. As daunting as providing constant Internet access to 100% of your student population might sound, the task actually sounds manageable when considering that roughly half of your population likely already has access to the Internet, given that policies actually grant them access to the mobile devices they carry with them 24/7.

In that light, providing the other half with an iPod touch doesn't sound all that impossible.

Perhaps my calculations, however, differ slightly (or grossly) from your particular circumstance. Tell me, if you've got the time:
  • In your estimation, what percentage of your student population already has access to the Internet through some sort of mobile device?
Image source: Flickr user Rosh PR.

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The Networked Student

Twenty points extra credit now go to Wendy Drexler for creating and sharing this 4-minute picture of the networked student. And an extra twenty for sharing the transcript.

While I think that every teacher would benefit in better understanding the habits and techniques that today's students employ for learning, my favorite part of the Wendy's message takes place in the final 30 seconds of the video:
So, why does [today's student] even need a teacher, you ask. Good question! She is the one who teaches him how to build this network and take advantage of learning opportunities. She offers guidance when he gets stuck. She shows him how to communicate properly and ask respectfully for help from experts. She shows him how to differentiate between good information and propaganda, how to vet a resource, how to turn a web search into a scavenger hunt and get excited when he finds that pearl of content. She helps him organize those mountains of information. In her heart, she hopes that when he leaves her class, he’ll maintain his learning network and use it to navigate his future and creatively solve the world’s problems. These are the skills he will need in the 21st century.

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Some Bosses

A little late, but in response to Scott McLeod's I Said, They Said, I have felt strongly the need to share a little gold from Seth Godin.

Image source: Flickr user monkeyc.net.
Quotation source: Seth Godin, The You Show.

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Help with Amazing List of Book Reviews

I could use your help with this one. Cindy Mitchell, an extremely competent media specialist in our district, has created an amazing list of book reviews for use in any school library.

And when I say amazing, I really mean huge and amazing.

While she's create the list using static HTML pages, she's toyed with porting her work over to a blog. This alone will provide people with an opportunity to discuss the books - one book per post - but it also means she has to update both the blog and her static site for every review she writes. Additionally, it means that she still has to update her table of contents - by hand - every time.


What she really needs is a one-stop-shop for entering her reviews, a place that not only can display her review, but create an index of her reviews - likely sortable by author, subject, reading level and keyword.

What do you think? Got any bright ideas I can pass along to her?

Image source: Flickr user shaletann.

The Educator's Guide to the Creative Commons

As not every teacher understands how to implement the Creative Commons into their curriculum, I thought I'd take a minute to explain how I would use it if I was in their shoes.

Step 1: Understand the rules of the Creative Commons.

  • These two videos give a pretty good description of what it is and why creative people like it.

  • The presentation that follows, created by Jessica Coates, also gives an excellent description of how to use Creative Commons in the classroom. Because she has licensed the presentation with a CC-Attribution license, I am able to include her presentation in this blog post (or distribute it anywhere else on the Internet) - without worrying about Fair Use or other copyright restrictions - given that I attribute her as the author of the presentation. These were the terms that she decided upon when she created her license.

Step 2: Use Creative Commons-licensed materials in my curriculum. There is a growing number of resources available online for finding Creative Commons-licensed materials. The list of directories maintained on the Creative Commons wiki, for example, is continually growing. To narrow the list down slightly, I'll list a few of my favorites here:
Step 3: Reuse, remix, and share my Creative Commons-licensed curriculum materials.
  • Remember: The Creative Commons makes it easy to understand when it's OK to reuse, remix, or share new content.
  • This blog is an example of how I share my ideas and materials. I've licensed everything I share here under a CC-Attribution-Share Alike license.

Step 4: Teach my students about Creative Commons while I also teach them about global collaboration, desktop publishing, why creativity is such an essential skill, and my core subject.
  • If I were teaching a core subject today, I would use Flickr to teach math, wikis to teach history, and Voicethreads to teach geography. In doing so, I not only teach the core content, but I teach my students a variety of other essential skills that might not be addressed by the core.
  • If I were teaching a core subject today, I would also use project-based learning far more than the sit-n-git techniques I used to employ. With that in mind, it is any wonder why I love the Creative Commons?
To close, what are your thoughts regarding the Creative Commons? How and why do you use it with your students?

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The Creative Commons

I wish all teachers better understood the Creative Commons. Translation: I wish they actually knew about it.

Watch, and you'll see why:

Via Steve Hargadon.

Emerging Technologies and Pseudo Academics

George Siemens asks:

Here's my quickly-written, first draft, stab-at-a-response:

  • Emerging technologies for teaching and learning consist of all hardware, software, concepts, and ideas that can be employed to advance social, connective, and educational processes.
Maybe a lot of edu-techno-jargin thrown together, but what are you gonna do?

According to one of my critics this entire blog is little more than a nice place for "pseudo academics" to gather together and converse. Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, the blogosphere itself IS an emerging technology for teaching and learning (and fits nicely within my hopefully-working definition).

Now for my questions:
  • How's my definition? Does it work? Wherein is it weak?
  • Is an idea a technology? I'm not so sure.
  • Are blogs more than a gathering place for pseudo academics? Can real learning take place here? Is all of this worthwhile, academically speaking?
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We're Almost There

So the other day I was visiting a classroom and the teacher asked his students if they liked doing assignments and projects that included technology. Overwhelmingly, the kids said that they preferred to use technology. "It's easier," said one student. "It's more fun," said another.

And then one kid hits a home-run.

"Yeah, it's like we're almost in the 21st Century!"

Strange how this kind of blatantly honest statement is both funny and sad at the same time.

Image source: Flickr user Lasre.

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Learning By Immersion

Anyone that has ever learned a foreign language will attest to the fact that the best way to learn a language is to become immersed in its culture. By doing so, a person not only experiences the benefits and weaknesses of the language but eventually comes to an understanding of the language's nuances, sayings, and otherwise hidden phrases of meaning that are easily understood by native speakers.

Wikis, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Nings and other forms of social networking, photo sharing, video sharing, and thought sharing: If you really want to learn about what these and other technologies have to offer the teacher and the learner, there's honestly no better way than by taking the plunge.

For this reason alone, I have immersed myself in many of today's educational technologies - not only to learn about today's digital teaching tools, but to learn them well. In learning by immersion, I've also come to appreciate the benefits and weaknesses of our ever-expanding globalized learning networks.

Image source: Flickr user adarsh_antony.

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YouTube and Jordan School District Policy

[On Thursday I was asked to write this, the first essay I've ever written for work. As online video becomes more prevalent in educational settings and elsewhere, leaders within our district have struggled to form related policy - particularly when it comes to copyright (you should know going in that our district has one of the strictest copyright policies I've ever seen). What follows was my attempt to explain the issues as I have come to know them, borrowing heavily from ideas shared by Stephen Downes and others when we discussed this issue as it related to blogging etiquette last May.

In the end, I'm not sure how well I have done here (particularly given that I only had an hour to throw this together) but would greatly appreciate any feedback you'd be willing to share with me.]

In-Class Use of YouTube Videos

In connection with the Engaged Classroom professional development opportunity, we would like to share “model” lessons of how technology can be used to teach the curriculum. One particularly powerful piece of technology that can be used for educational purposes is the use of online video for instruction. YouTube is currently the industry standard in user-generated video distribution. Therefore, we think it only reasonable to allow the use of educationally sound YouTube content under controlled circumstances within the classroom. In this brief paper, we will elaborate and show that such behavior is within the confines of current district policy.

YouTube’s Copyright Policy

According to YouTube’s terms of service1, videos that are uploaded to the site are to be free of copyrighted materials. Expressly:

By clicking "Upload Video," you are representing that this video does not violate YouTube's Terms of Use and that you own all copyrights in this video or have authorization to upload it.

As YouTube regularly monitors the content on their site for copyright infringements, one can only assume that users have followed the rules in respecting copyright. For an ever-growing list of videos that have been removed from YouTube for alleged copyright violations, please visit http://youtomb.mit.edu/, a project conducted by researchers out of MIT.

Jordan School District Copyright Policy

Jordan School District has one of the most rigid policies on copyright in the entire state of Utah2. Nonetheless, if a teacher follows a few simple guidelines, the use of YouTube videos for educational purposes within a closed, classroom setting, never violates the JSD policy on copyright.

The following policies on copyright relate directly to our current situation:
Policy number DE505, IV, D. Internet Resources

1. Assume all materials on the Internet are copyrighted unless otherwise stated and that existing copyright guidelines apply. When in doubt, obtain written permission from the copyright holder.

2. When using information from the Internet, follow the Fair Use guidelines and properly cite all Internet resources.

Policy number DE505, IV, I. Web Page Publishing, 1. Permissible:

a. When using material from other Web sites, permission should be obtained from the copyright holder, and all sources must be properly cited.
Guideline for teachers in online video use:
  • Cite all Internet resources
  • Assume all materials are copyrighted unless otherwise stated. In YouTube’s case, we have done that (see above).
Policy number DE505, IV, F, 3. Prohibited:

c. Using videos that have not been previewed for applicability and appropriateness by the school principal and/or the principal's designee (an administrator, secondary licensed media specialist, or licensed educator).

Policy number DE505, IV, F, 1. Ratings Guidelines:

e. Non-rated videos/DVDs must be reviewed for applicability to core curriculum, content, and appropriateness for student use. The school principal and/or the principal's designee (an administrator, secondary licensed media specialist, or licensed educator) must review the video/DVD and make a ratings recommendation. Based on the recommendation, the school principal gives final approval for use of a non-rated video/DVD in a school. A written verification of review and approval for each non-rated video/DVD must remain on file at the school location.
Guideline for teachers in online video use:
  • Have your principal or their designee preview and approve all designated online content.
  • Create a district-standard form for such approvals.
Policy number DE505, VI. Definition of Fair Use

While authors are given certain specific rights, some limitations have been put on those rights. The courts use the following four criteria to determine Fair Use:

A. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.

B. The nature of the copyrighted work.

C. The amount and substantiality (extent) of the portion used in relationship to the copyrighted work as a whole.

D. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Guideline for teachers in online video use:
  • Online content can only be used for educational, non-commercial purposes.

As additional quality, educational content becomes increasingly available online, closer attention should be given in the creation of related policy. Furthermore, to infer that showing a video from Youtube in class is outside of current JSD copyright policy is simply not accurate as there are tens of thousands of educationally appropriate, non-copyrighted materials on YouTube. Additionally, there exist thousands of other materials licensed under Creative Commons licenses3 - which state that not only is it OK to show these videos but that others can share, remix, and reuse the materials, if they so desire.

  1. http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines
  2. http://www.jordandistrict.org/policymanual/p.php?id=199
  3. http://creativecommons.org/
Special thanks to Kelly Dumont for lending a hand with this, as well.

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MXP4 & Learning Objects

A new file format has been developed that has intriguing possibilities. Dubbed MXP4, this format changes the way recorded music is experienced, providing a more interactive experience by playing multiple variants of a song as you play it - simulating the spontaneity of a live performance. Rather than listening to same song - the same way - multiple times, users can choose between various versions of the song using a download-able software player or online widget.

The potential for musicians is amazing. An artist could, for example, offer rock, metal, reggae, and pop versions of the same song. Furthermore, the artist could also assign weights to song "skins" providing a different experience with each playing. To elaborate, suppose a song had multiple skins for a particular guitar solo within the song. If the artist preferred one instance of the solo more than others, they could assign it a weight of 50% while assigning other solos a lesser weight. Then every time that particular song was played, the listener would hear the version of the song with the more heavily weighted guitar solo half of the time, but other times the song would feature an entirely different guitar solo, based upon how the skins have been weighted.

Personally, I think this kind of technology (not necessarily MXP4 itself, but the concept) has tremendous potential for education in the form of learning objects - one file, multiple possibilities, all weighted by the teacher or student.

But what do you think? How could you use this kind of technology to teach or to learn?

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Riddlin' Twitter

In response to Jennifer Wagner's recent post about Twitter High, I dedicate the following riddle to Graham Wegner.


What do you call a social network of people that:

  • Is full of a wide range of vastly different people,
  • Limits dialogue to brief spats of "conversation" - frequently resulting in missed opportunities for actual communication,
  • Can seem wildly unfocused and often chaotic,
  • And is often a favored target for unbridled criticism by many?
Answer in the comments...

Image source: Jennifer Wagner

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I’m continually learning that Charles Dicken’s assessment of eighteenth century life is as suitable for our time as any other in the history of the world:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
An economy in the toilet, political corruption throughout, famine, floods, drought, and war. An end to hundreds of diseases that have plagued humans for centuries, a staggering array of medical advances, effortless communications with people around the planet, and we might even go to the moon (again).

Phishing, spam, viruses, and other related malware just to brighten your day. A plethora of (free, online) educational tools, invigorating potential for open education, and amazing opportunities for networked learning.

In the end, I think that our focus determines our outlook - and ultimately - our happiness.

Just thought I'd share why I included this quote in my recent addition to our growing pile. Great stuff all around.

Original image source: Flickr user dsevilla.

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K-12 Online & Timing

Too bad the K-12 Online Conference didn't come just a few weeks earlier. That way I could have known which presentations I wanted to submit for next year's NECC.

Scott McLeod's excellent presentation, for example, would have been perfect because his even includes speaker notes. :)

Image source: Scott McLeod

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Improving Instruction, Now

There are three basic actions that every teacher can take to improve instruction now.

  • Collaborate
  • Videotape
  • Practicate
To elaborate…


If you’re a teacher and you’re still not getting out, you should – and now. Begin by collaborating with your peers about what works in your classes and what doesn’t. In time, expand your circle of collaboration to include other members of your local faculty and even members of your school’s faculty that teach subjects other than your own. You will be surprised by how much can be learned by teachers of other disciplines that will work for you in yours. I guarantee it.

Additionally, in this day and age, there is absolutely no reason for you to not expand your circle of collaboration such that it includes teachers from other cities, states, and even countries. I would begin such efforts by joining any of a number of social networks designed for educators. Classroom 2.0, for example, can be an excellent place for you to meet other teachers with interests, issues, and instructional circumstances similar to yours.


Whether you like it or not, your students are likely not learning many of the things that you may think you are teaching. By watching yourself in action, you will be able to see your instruction as some of your students see it – and probably learn of areas wherein improvement might be needed.

Combining this type of videotaped feedback with collaboration can also be beneficial.

Practicate (Practice)

You’ve heard it a million times: Practice makes perfect. So, why would improving your abilities as an instructor require anything different? As any teacher that teaches the same content multiple times a day knows, the first time a lesson is taught is almost always worse than the second or third time it’s taught.*

In my experience, effective "practicating" includes a narrow focus on specific skills to practice. For example, transitions, question formulation, and giving appropriate amounts of wait time are all essential teaching skills that all take practice to master. Focus on one such skill and practice your way to improvement.

Three simple steps to improved instruction - but tell me: which catalysts for improvement have I missed?

Image source: Flickr user Wonderlane.

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* Caveat: I can’t help thinking that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t come into play a little bit here. By your fifth time teaching the same lesson in the same day, I’m sure you’ve experienced the ol’ “haven’t I already told you this?” scenario.

The Invisible Political Forces At Work

[In response to the zealots out there, anxious to blame the system but unwilling to look in the mirror.]

I was stunned this morning while reading John C. Dvorak's latest column in PC Magazine. In a piece entitled "Microsoft vs. the iPhone" (not yet available online), Mr. Dvorak explains perfectly one of the ills that plagues public education by shedding light on the workings of Microsoft.

In most instances at Microsoft, there is no dictator. There is a committee of individuals, all of whom have to like each other (because of the odd empoloyee grading system for promotions) and tend to use a hodgepodge of ideas to make what amounts to an agreeable soulless product.
Replace Microsoft with [insert your district here] and you've got a pretty decent explanation of why so many things go wrong in public education.

You see, the truth is that sometimes bad things happen to good people in good schools - and there's nothing we can do about it. I mean, think about it. Did not we, or well-intentioned people just like us, create the policies and bureaucracies that currently regulate how things are handled within our schools? Are not we the ones that built the system, played the games, and engaged in the politics that have made schools what they are today?

Nonetheless, there are times – a great many times – when the system fails us, when we come up short, when we must ask “why?” and yet we’re stuck, trapped in the system we’ve ultimately helped to create. I think that Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal (2003) have successfully summarized the dilemma that besets so many of us today, as we struggle to reform (fix, if you will) what we now call “school”.
If we tried to get better people, where would we find them? Even if found, how could we ensure that they too would not become ensnared by the political forces at work?

…The political frame does not blame politics on such individual characteristics as selfishness, myopia, or incompetence. Instead, it asserts that interdependence, divergent interests, scarcity, and power relations inevitably spawn political activity. It matters not who the individual players are. It is na├»ve and romantic to hope organizational politics can ever be eliminated in organizations. (pp. 185-186)
Something to think about as we continue to chew on this idea of school reform.

  • Bolman, L. G. and Deal, T. E. (2003). Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Dvorak, J. C. (2008, November). Microsoft vs. the iPhone. PC Magazine, 27 (12), 52.
Image source: Flickr user fliegender.

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My Turn @ Inpirational Quotes

So I've been playing with a few quotes here and there and thought it was praw-ly my turn to share the love.

Let's Change The World Dept.:

Image source: Flickr user Ali K.
Quotation source: Chris Lehmann, School 2.0: Creating the Schools We Need.

Are We Teaching The Right Things Dept.:

Image source: Flickr user iboy_daniel.
Idea for sign: Another Flickr photo but I can't find it again for the life of me.
Quotation source: Me.

Sometimes Free Isn't Free Dept.:

Image source: John F. Kennedy Middle School
Quotation source: Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody.

Wha' 'Chew Lookin' At Dept:

Image source: Flickr user dsevilla.
Quotation source: Me.

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That Dept.:

Image source: Flickr user pine red.
Quotation source: Mark Ames, NewsLeader magazine, October 2008.

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Simply Knowing Is No Longer Enough

I created the following quiz/review for the teacher participants in our 21st Century Engaged Classroom professional development opportunity.

Direct link

An important aspect to this quiz is the fact that it forces participants to apply what they have learned before they are able to submit their answers.

In my opinion, this is extremely important. Here's why:

Original image source: Flicrk user iboy_daniel.

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The Beautiful Side of Open Education: A Ray of Hope

In spite of any negatives that might come out of sharing one's curriculum, can we really afford to ignore how great the positives can be?

Absolutely amazing!1

Talk about a ray of hope that might pleasantly turn education on its side!2


  1. Forgive me (again) for ever doubting.
  2. While we're on the subject, don't you kids pay me to ask the tough questions?
Image Source: Flickr user [Sazzy B].

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The Schools We Need

Forget everything I've said in the last three weeks because this is what I really meant to say. For reals this time.

I mean, I always knew Chris Lehmann rocked but I never realized how hard.

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...Leading the Blind

Is this true in YOUR school organization?

I'm just askin'. Again.

Image Source: Scott McLeod

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The Ugly Side of Open Education?


  • Dan Meyer appears to be an amazing educator. He's clearly engaging, talented, and possesses a love for teaching that many teachers lack.
  • I'd want Dan to be my kids' geometry teacher.
  • Dan has shared his entire Geometry curriculum. "The whole year. 1.94 gigabytes. Every lesson plan. Every handout. 2,144 slides — flavored in Keynote, PowerPoint, and PDF."
  • In his willingness to be open, Dan has also shared how his pet Feltron Project cuts into precious time that could be spent teaching core content. But hey, every teacher has pet projects. (Right?)
  • Since Dan's brought this dirty laundry out to light himself, I don't mind asking this now.
  • What will we discover when teachers who aren't as good as Dan begin to open up?

What else lurks within?

Image Source: Flickr user GIRLintheCAFE.

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I Want My Google 1983

Google 2001 is nice, but what some teachers really need is more like Google 1983. That way their experience on the Internet would better coincide with the experience they are providing for their students.

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Perspectives and the Future of Education

I really appreciate the comment made by Mike in the discussion we had the other day about technology and balance. After reading a number of comments that largely advocated technology use, he bravely voiced his concern, anchored by his perspective.

Great I can connect with people all around the world and learn about different cultures, places, things, and anything I want. I can become a person that has unmeasurable amount of knowledge about nearly everything, and share what ever I want with that same world. But when I run into a conflict with the person next to me I have no idea how to deal with it because I don't have the time to work through a text reply or research a solution on google.

Now don't get me wrong I believe there is a place for technology but I do believe we are losing something very important, like people and life skills. Things that can only be taught when face to face with a real live person.
I see emotion here, and concern - and between you and me, I think Mike's concern is shared by a large percentage of the silent majority of teachers that simply don't participate in these online conversations.

As I meet with teachers around my district, moreover, I'm learning that many of them feel passionately that the human, face to face element of teaching is something that can never be replaced. Ironically, many who aren't teachers, frequently contend to the contrary. Therefore, as we continue to deliberate over the future of education by considering some of the predictions that have been made (here and here, for example), I think we'd do well to consider every teacher, their perspectives, and how they might feel about all of this. On one level, I hope to do so now.

So tell me, teachers, what do YOU think?
  • As a teacher, does it scare you to think that in 10 years, your job may be outsourced to the "experts"?
  • As a teacher, are you excited to be "promoted" to that position wherein you will "coach students, conduct assessments, and create community?"
  • As a teacher, are you exhilarated to become your students' "mentor, problem solver, and support person?" Clayton Christensen and his co-authors seem to think you are (see also Chistensen, et al., 2008, p. 107).
  • Ultimately, as a teacher, are you willing to relinquish instructional control in your classroom to a piece of software or another instructor, possibly better qualified, but inconveniently located thousands of miles away?

From my perspective (and in spite of my proclivity for online learning), it's difficult to not see some of these views of the future as a "promotion" from "Teacher: Shaper of minds and molder of lives" to "Teacher: Glorified computer lab assistant". I know this is all dependent upon perception, but I highly doubt that I'm alone in mine.

  • Christensen, C. M., Johnson, C., & Horn, M. (2008). Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Image Sources: Flickr users Rainer Ebert, and sfllaw.

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Twitter Nevermind

In response to Tony Karrer and his recent "Twitter Mass Follow - Nevermind":

I told you Shareski was good. Multi-purpose and ya never know when yer gonna need 'em.

Image Source: Dean Shareski

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If I Can Do This, Anybody Can

Twitter version: Today I met Alan November for the first time, told him about OpenPD, and I ended up presenting with him at UASCD.

- - -

I’m telling you: if I can do this anybody can.

Seriously, folks. I’m just Darren, a nice guy from Utah. Yes, that Utah. I happen to love education and technology and sharing it with others. Sure, I’ve had a few breaks here and there but with a little persistence the breaks will come to anyone.

Today I attended my third UASCD conference in Provo, Utah. We sat at our usual back-corner table – you know, the one right next to the power outlet. Alan November was presenting, doing a fantastic job, and giving the teachers here what I like to call the “Web 2.0 First Discussion.” You know: collaboration, networking, throw in some Skype and bit of Google Docs. Not long into his presentation he Skypes in Dennis Richards, the newly retired (congrats) Superintendent from Massachusetts.

I leaned over to my boss, “Hey, Dennis was one of the participants in our OpenPD.”

During the first break, I decided to go up and meet Alan because I’ve known him by reputation for years and have greatly admired his work.

In our brief discussion, we talked a little about Dennis and how I had come to know him. I quickly explained about OpenPD and how we had conducted this professional development using technology to connect teachers from all around the world.

“We used social software to teach social software,” I told him.

“And your teachers learned about far more than just wikis and blogs, didn’t they!” responded Alan.

He then finished our brief discussion with “Listen. Why don’t we do lunch here today, you can tell me a little more about what you’re doing, and then after lunch you can tell everybody here your story.”


After a nice lunch and an even better conversation, I had learned a lot about Alan and he had learned a lot about me. One of his comments will stick with me forever.

“Darren, you probably don’t know this, but it took me over 10 years – writing books, giving presentations, consulting – to get to where you are now. And it really only took you one day [referring to the day that I posted Pay Attention].”


After lunch, he invited me to share my story with the rest of the group (roughly 600 people). I gave them all my “OpenPD First Discussion” and returned to my seat – clear in the back – noticing a room full of heads nodding “Yes!” and smiles from educators who just 15 minutes earlier didn’t know me from Adam.

I’m telling you: if I can do this anybody can. So quit making excuses and change the world.

Image Source: PJ Giles

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Hacking the Curriculum

In response to the string of thoughts expressed by David Wiley and George Siemens, I find a prediction made by Roger Schank and Kemi Jona (1999) to be particularly meaningful today:

…the delivery of education via online courses will change the entire landscape of course development and control of the curriculum. Each academic field will supply its experts to help create the courses in that field. Once these courses are created, the notion that a teacher at a local school should be creating their own course no longer makes any sense whatever. (p. 19)
While I suspect that K12 institutions would required a more localized approach to curriculum control, I think that there are tremendous possibilities for higher education in not only some form of an open (and accepted) accreditation but a shared (and open?) curriculum for schools around the country continent world.

It seems to me that CCK08 only substantiates this claim.

Reference (nod):
  • Schank, R.C. & Jona, K. (1999). Extracurriculars as the Curriculum: A Vision of Education for the 21st Century. Forum on Technology in Education: Envisioning the Future, Office of Educational Technology.
Image Source: Flickr user late night movie.

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Life Skills 101

I got an interesting piece of literature in the mail the other day from my daughter's school. Apparently, they didn't make AYP last year in the area of Language Arts. Consequently, they were kind enough to explain the situation for me.

Of the forty assessments measured by NCLB, [your friendly neighborhood] Junior High made AYP in 39 of the areas. As you can see, one sub-group at [your friendly neighborhood] Junior did not make AYP in the area of Language Arts. Our plan to deal with this issue is two-fold: 1) We will conduct a thorough review of the state core curriculum in Language Arts to insure that major core objectives are being adequately addressed in the classroom, and 2) we will begin implementing practice tests to allow students the opportunity to see the testing format and to gauge their performance throughout the year.
As one familiar with this kind of edu-speak, I thought I'd provide a translation for those of you keeping score at home.

Because of NCLB, the federal government makes us test your kid to the max. Unfortunately, we screwed up and didn't get enough kids to take the Language Arts sub-test. Don't worry, we plan on doing better next year so that 1) you can feel confident that your kid is going to a good school and 2) we can still get that money from the federal government. Experience has shown that the best way to deal with this kind of problem is 1) to admit that we really don't know what is going to be on the test and 2) inform you that one of the critical skills we will be teaching your kid is to fill in the bubble.
You just can't make this stuff up.

Image Source: Flickr user COCOEN daily photos

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I Hope He's Only Scratched The Surface

For the record, Dean Shareski's Interesting Quotes set is fantastic. Here are three of my favorites, each from the set.

Image Sources: Dean Shareski

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No Teacher Left Behind?

As one of the converted, I like this. Really, I do.

Nonetheless, in viewing this video at this stage in my career, I'm left with a number of questions that likely only indicate that I'm getting tired. For example:
  • In spending so much time to create (shallow?) connections with such a wide range of educators on a global level, isn't it possible that one might also neglect local relationships that are equally (if not more) important?
  • What can we do to consistently maintain a healthy perspective?
Shifting gears to a higher plane:
  • Do we really think that all teachers need to be this connected?
  • Can every teacher (human being) handle all of the information? Are they "bad teachers" if they can't?
  • And what about those teachers that take 25 minutes just to create a Gmail account (PEBKAC)? Will it really be worth my time - and theirs - to help them enter the 21st Century? Or are the benefits of such efforts simply not worth the costs?
I guess what I'm really wondering is this:
  • Is it ever OK to simply leave some teachers behind?
I told you I was getting tired.

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A Google Site To Teach About Google Sites

So today I was asked by a middle school principal to teach her faculty members how to use Google Sites. To aid in the process, I decided to create a web site using Google Sites to teach about Google Sites.

If you teach a man about fish are you gonna hand 'em a rock?

While I don't think Google Sites creates the best looking web sites, nor is it the easiest to use (Weebly probably takes the cake there), it's very hard to argue with all the tools Google gives you with one little login.

I mean, global domination aside.

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