Pure Ignorance

What use would the Utah State Office of Education ever have for online communities? Here's the block I received while attempting to access my Diigo account from deep within USOE.


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OpenPD Next Week: BYOEO

Other than a few bandwidth and occasional audio issues, OpenPD round three was another pleasing success. The first time an OpenPD session had been hosted by a teacher other than myself, Jamie Gustin - from Magnolia, Texas - did an excellent job in taking the reins. In this opening session, we established that each of the roughly forty participating educators has an existing wiki with which they will be able to work during the remaining four sessions. This session also marked the first time I have ever participated in a professional development session with Jordan School District teachers wherein we didn't meet together face to face. It has been my hope that using such a format will enable me to reach more teachers within my district, at a time that is convenient for them, without requiring them to go through the effort of driving across the valley in order to meet together.

Next Week

In next week's session, we'd like to dig deeper into the wiki toolbox to uncover a particularly useful feature within wikis: the ability EMBED objects. We hope to:

  1. Demonstrate how objects are embedded.
  2. Showcase a number of different kinds of objects that can be embedded. To accomplish this task, we ask that you, dear participant, Bring Your Own Embeddable Object to class. You know, a favorite embeddable widget - if you have one. If you don't yet have a favorite, be prepared to learn about a few new tools that can be used in connection with wikis.
Missed Our First Session?

No problem. To get caught up with the class, you may view the recorded stream here - and read through the chat here. In order to make sure you're up to speed for next week:
  1. Create a wikispaces account if you don't yet have one.
  2. Join the OpenPD wiki.
  3. Create your own wikispace. K12 teachers can get free premium wikispaces by following this link.
  4. Post a link to your newly created space in the discussion tab of our List of Participants page.
See you next Wednesday: 3pm MDT.

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"I'm Dissappointed in the Technology Skills of My Students."

Stephen Van Orden is a thinker. An accomplished German teacher out of Timpview High School (Provo, Utah), Stephen is also a member of my doctoral cohort at Utah State University. Stephen's concern also concerns me.

First some background, then my response.

Last Monday, I gave a presentation to the members of my cohort in connection with an Educational Administration class that we are all taking. The presentation discussed Marc Prensky's latest article. Upon completion of my presentation, class ended, and Stephen responded.

"To be honest, I'm very disappointed in the technology skills of my students," he replied - admittedly catching me off guard as we exited the building.

"Why, what do you mean?"

"Well, I've found that my students are great at playing on the computer. And they can text very well. But you'd be surprised at what they really can't do. Like PowerPoint. Not every student knows how to make a PowerPoint presentation. When we do PowerPoints as a class, I have to walk some kids through the entire process. And podcasting! We spent an entire week creating podcasts as a class and I can't help asking myself if the time spent was really worth it. Couldn't we have accomplished the same thing - as far as the German that they learned goes - in simply doing oral reports?"

To be honest, at that moment I had no idea what to say. These were Digital Natives he was talking about. These kids had grown up in the light, you know.

After a while, though, I came to my senses and emailed him a response:

While I admit that your questions expressed in last night's class caught me a little off guard, I have since given your concerns additional thought to the extent that I am actually able to offer a little bit of advice.

First, I think it's very important that you continually maintain perspective when using technology in your teaching. Technology is simply a tool. And like other tools, it may not be particularly effective in use - much like a hammer would rarely be used to open a bottle or to remove a screw. That said, however, some tools are indispensable. Have you ever tried to change the oil in your car without using a wrench?

I'm sure you will agree that in your teaching, there are some pieces of technology that have become just that: indispensable. Take your your Tablet PC as an example. How different would your teaching be, your routine in grading, taking roll, and presenting ideas, if you no longer had the use of your tablet? I would argue that there are some pieces of technology that have become more integral to what we do as a teacher than even the pencil (which, in and of itself, is also an educational technology).

In that vein, I have other kinds of educational technology that I would recommend you try with your students before abandoning all hopes in light of your students' current technological skill level. Remember, just because PowerPoint and podcasts may not have been as effective as you had originally anticipated, it may just be that you need to consider using a different hammer.

Rather than listing a few tools here, I'd recommend you check out the wiki I've started for ESL teachers in my district. These tools will really work for learners of any language:

Off the top of my head, I would recommend that you look into VoiceThread first.

Anyway, enough for now. Sorry for the long email.
He replied, thanking me for my response, and pledged that he wasn't jumping off the technology bandwagon any time soon. And then confessed an idea that just might be right:
My only concern is that I'm not sure the digital revolution is a ubiquitous as some proponents believe. I think we are still at the beginning of it. I think that the real digital natives are currently in elementary school.
So now it's your turn:
  • Is the digital revolution truly ubiquitous?
  • How old are the Digital Natives?
  • How did I do in my response to his concerns?
  • What would you have told Steven?
Thanks, in advance, for your thoughtful responses.

Image Source: Flickr user MarkHaertl.

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Prensky: Valiant Efforts in the War on Educational Boredom

To overcome in any battle, the intelligent tactician will attempt to attack the enemy at multiple, strategic, barriers to entry. Which is why I’m so impressed with Marc Prensky’s latest fronts in this, the war on educational boredom.

In his March 2008 article entitled Turn on the Lights, Prensky ensues with many of the arguments he has previously utilized, this time, however, customizing his attack toward a far more influential audience: School administrators. Combined with a larger offensive from our students, I think that helping administrators to better understand the importance of educational shift is absolutely vital if we are, indeed, to realize such a shift in pedagogical mindset. For this battle really isn’t about technology, or a flattening world, or even improved classroom instruction. It’s about money. Just like it’s always been. Control the money and you control education.

It’s that simple.

Which is exactly why Prensky’s efforts should not go unnoticed. As far as I can tell, the administrators are key because they, along with our friendly neighborhood legislators - aka those powerful puppets that ofttimes dangle in the hands of the parents of our students - control the purse strings.

To encourage change among educational administration, Prensky has highlighted nine principles that, if given due attention, would effectively change any educational institution.

Prensky’s Principals for Principals
  • Announce that henceforth students will have a meaningful voice in setting all school policy regarding technology use. Hold assemblies that include teachers, students, parents, administrators, and technologists to hear all points of view and establish school policies regarding such issues as blocked Web sites and use of cell phones.
  • Make it your business to eliminate boredom from your school—make 100 percent engagement the goal. Poll students as to which of their teachers and classes are engaging and which are boring and why. Investigate and take action.
  • Talk with 2–4 students each day for at least one-half hour about their learning. If you feel you can't spare that time to engage with kids, you may need to rethink your priorities.
  • Work with both students and teachers to implement the new "kids teaching themselves with guidance" model. Eliminate lectures and busywork from your school. Ask teachers who use active learning to share their practices with their colleagues.
  • Promote technology use and move toward one-to-one computing.
  • Orient your school toward the future. Offer classes in programming, robotics, long-distance collaboration, and cutting-edge science.
  • Keep the computer lab open late and on weekends, especially in areas with limited technology access.
  • Introduce computerized exercise games that kids really enjoy, such as Dance Dance Revolution, into your physical education classes.
  • Have students share your school's most effective practices and results with the world via YouTube.
Abandoning my current thoughts about a global teach-in, I think our next war effort would be most effective if some sort of large-scale assault were to come from our students. Hey kids, ever heard of a sit-in?

Image Source: Flickr user Taras Kalapun.

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OpenPD - Join Us For Round 3

At this point in time, I'm happy to report that an additional round of Open Professional Development will be beginning soon - continuing on the discussion we began last month - freely available to any interested educator.

Beginning Wednesday, March 26, at 3:00 PM (MDT) - and continuing for the subsequent five Wednesdays at the same time - we will be learning advanced topics related to using wikis and blogs with our students.

To participate from the comforts of your own building, this is what you'll need:

  • An Internet-connected computer, preferably with speakers and a microphone.
  • Visit the OpenPD "Get Connected" page to become acquainted with the learning environment. This is "where" class will be held on March 26.
  • Optional: Create your own (free) Ustream account so that you may participate in the class chat-room.
  • Optional: Download, install, and create your own free Skype account so that you may participate in the audio call.
Finally, to learn more about OpenPD - what it is and why we do it - you may wish to view the podcast I recently created.

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Image Sources: Flickr users Weeping-Willow and todderick42.

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Presenting/Teaching With Ustream

Building upon Wesley Fryer's list of tips and tricks for creating a successful Ustream broadcast, I thought it would be helpful to illustrate a few additional pointers. These pointers come after conducting over 30 hours of Open Professional Development and the realization that poor streams simply don't cut it anymore. Especially when doing it right can be so simple.

In order for a Ustream audience to get the most out of your presentation, you need to give them two things:

  1. A quality audio feed. Unless you're actually showing them important information related to your presentation, there's a good chance they'll get just as much in listening to your presentation as they would in viewing your presentation. Besides, your remote audience is probably off playing Scrabble while you're presenting, anyway. Who are we trying to kid?
  2. A good view of what you actually want them to see. In most cases, you probably want your remote audience to see the same thing you want your local audience to see (which is probably what you're displaying from your computer).

Remember: You're streaming for your remote audience - that portion of your audience that is not currently in the room with you. Because they can't see what you can, it's important to help them along the way.

The Ustream Presenter's Toolbox:
  • A good microphone. Even thought it's a little pricey, I would highly recommend using the Blue Snowball USB Microphone. With both uni-directional and omni-directional settings, you just can't go wrong.
  • CamTwist (Mac) or ManyCam (PC). Each of these free applications will allow you to serve your computer's desktop out as the webcam feed. Unfortunately, only CamTwist will also allow you to place your actual webcam image as a picture-in-picture.
  • Mousepos√© (Mac) or Mouselight (PC). These (used-to-be-free) applications place a spotlight around your mouse. Without the spotlight, it's nearly impossible to follow the presenter in a window that's only 320 x 240.
  • An Alternate Browser. I've also found it very helpful to run the Ustream broadcast using a different browser than the one with which I will be demonstrating. During OpenPD, for example, I will teach using Firefox, but run Ustream with Safari. That way if/when Firefox gets overloaded and I need to restart it, I don't have to quit the Ustream broadcast.
Row, row, row your boat gently down the Ustream.
Now all your fans can truly-understand instead'a bein' forced to dream.

Twitter: 1 Year + 2 Days Later

I suppose my discussion the other day about Twitter and its effect upon writing wasn't entirely fair. http://tinyurl.com/363yy9

While I was focusing entirely upon the writing aspect of Twitter, I ignored completely the social interaction of the network.

That, in and of itself, is what makes Twitter so invaluable. Ever heard of networked learning? http://tinyurl.com/ywjcly

Twitter is the PLN (aka PLE) that made PRN famous (aka the official food of the network). http://tinyurl.com/2tgefb

Which is what makes Twitter so fun/valuable/interesting.

Yep. http://tinyurl.com/2s3evy

Twitter is *far more* than letting STALKERS know your answers to the question "What are you doing?"

In fact, I would estimate that less than 20% of my posts to Twitter actually address what I'm doing.

Moreover, it's not even about the 140.


Not even close.


Twitter is about connections. Twitter is about people. Twitter is about learning, interacting, and experiencing. Together. As a network.

Twitter is *my* Personal Learning Environment. Or at least an integral part of it.

Twitter: association, collusion, combination, fraternization, joint effort, participation, partnership, teamwork, working together. Ahhhhh.

And I honestly think that participating in social networks (like Twitter) can/will actually elevate your thinking. http://tinyurl.com/3ye9k8

Elevate. Your. T h i n k i n g.

You know, I also think that (surprisingly) Twitter can be about creative writing. http://tinyurl.com/3czqsm

At least I *think* it can.

But then again, I've been (1) writing for years, (2) didn't grow up with Twitter, and have (3) known life pre-IM-Speak.

Our kids have not.

Do they understand that writing in paragraphs longer than 140 characters can actually *expand* one's thinking?

o hav our kds LernD dat ltl chunks of thawt R simply gud Enuf?

In conclusion...

The American writer (and teacher) William Zinsser once stated that "Writing is thinking on paper."

If *writing* IS *thinking* then what will --- future thought --- look like?

Here's to the hope that it doesn't always L%k lIk DIS!

In 140 characters or less.

Image Source: Nimages DR

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Drop.io: File Sharing With RSS = Endless Possibilities

I can't wait to see the varying educational uses we find for this newly emerging online tool: Drop.io (pronounced Drop-eee-oooh). A quick explanation from their site:

Drop.io enables you to create simple private exchange points called "drops."

The service has no email signup and no "accounts." Each drop is private, and only as accessible as you choose to deliberately make it. Create multiple drops, add any type of media, and share or subscribe as you want.

Each drop has four primary input methods – the web, email, voice, and fax – and a few secondary ones like ‘widgets’.
You realize, of course, that the cool part of this entire concept is the RSS feed that is created for your drop.
  • Post audio or video files into your drop and you've got an instant podcast. In fact, it even creates the player for you (too bad it's not embeddable).
  • Equally simple is the voice feature. Call in the drop and you've just created a podcast.
  • Fax documents into your drop (that once or twice a year that you actually need to receive a fax) and they're converted immediately into a PDF and then served out to your subscriber's iPods.
  • Embed the Drop.io widget in your blog post or wiki page and you've instantly given your readers a way to send you files. Password protect it if you're wary of strangers.
On the negative side of the tool is naming the drop. I cycled through about 15 different iterations of drapesdrop (darrendraper, draper, drapersdropiodrop, etc.) before I could find one that finally worked: http://drop.io/payattention. Feel free to check it out. You can even experiment if you'd like by adding files (in whatever manner floats your boat):
  • Post via email: payattention@drop.io
  • Post with a phone: 646-495-9204 x 23532
  • Use this cover sheet to send in a fax.
  • Or just use the widget below.

drop.io: simple private sharing

I'm telling you: The possibilities here are endless.

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My Twitterversary & The Future of Writing

Today marks my first Twitterversary. Yippee yahoo, happy Twitter Birthday to me. As a social networking platform, I have truly loved the interaction that Twitter (and my Twitter network) affords me. In looking back over the last 365 days (and 2,543 tweets), I’m both amazed at how much I’ve learned in just 140 characters and equally concerned about what implications Twitter and similar technologies have for the future of creativity. I’ll first illustrate my concerns with a simple diagram, following explanation with a series of questions.

Maybe you can provide the answers.

Let me begin by saying that blogging has done more to improve my writing than any class I’ve ever taken, book I’ve ever read, or pill I’ve ever swallowed. To write – and to think – for an often international audience on a semi-regular basis has forced me into measuring my words carefully. It has also helped me to sound smarter than I actually am. The ability to express my thoughts in word – mingled with pictures, video, and other kinds of media – not to mention the social interaction experienced through blogging, has truly elevated my thinking in ways unimaginable just months prior.

This hints at, in some measure, my concern.

You see, blogging carries with it a potential to expound, elaborate, and develop. Written posts can be short or they can be long, fused with images or sound or video or silence. A blog post is truly an empty canvas, waiting to be fashioned by the literate artist. But as blogging devolves (unfortunately for all?), the process is simplified and the limits of emerging technologies, tools, and trends, become far more apparent. A tumblog, for example, is often much shorter than a traditional blog post – a burst of thought, an idea, an expression of content worthy enough for half-hearted submittal. And Pownce? Yes, nice try. You may post messages, links, files, and events (and even socialize), but to elaborate? Nay. Not here, good boy. You’ll be hard-pressed to take that thoughtful drivel elsewhere. Then Twitter, you tease, with your seductive 140. Even I can find words sufficient to fill such a gap. After all, I’m well-trained in the use of text messaging. And shallow thought? Well, that’s easy – for even my kids have taught me to text. Because Who. Really. Needs. More?

Strange how technological trends ofttimes return to those once simple roots, isn't it.

I gueS datz wot woriez me most.
  • In embracing such simple tools for collaboration are we trending toward mediocrity – in our writing, in our reading, in our thought?
  • With so much information and so little time, are we shrinking the attention spans of our youth in such a manner that they truly will lose the ability to think in sentences longer than 140 characters?
  • If Shakespeare or Poe or even Dickens were bloggers today, do you think they would also tweet? And if so, how would such writing affect their work?
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Meme: Passion Quilt

I’ve been tagged to participate in the latest meme. This time around we’re to identify a photo that best illustrates what we most hope that our students are able to learn.

First, a parable.

Several times every summer, our neighborhood gathers together for a little socializing and a lot of eating in the form of a community barbecue. At times these gatherings come at inopportune times, but most members of the community cheerfully participate, regardless of how busy they think they are or how long they’ve been members of our neighborhood. Why, even little ol’ Mrs. Caulkins shows up every time, ever anxious to share her favorite salad or a homemade peach pie, made especially for such an occasion. In fact, there are many times when she even hosts the barbecue – and we love her for it – because even though she’s been a part of our community for probably the longest, she loves to participate and socialize and engage in friendly conversation with fellow community members. Furthermore, when Mrs. Caulkins participates in our barbecues, many of the newcomers to our neighborhood greatly benefit from her perspective on the conversation - given that she has a wealth of experience and wisdom to offer, conveying an exciting and highly educational dimension to every conversation.

Which brings me to the concept that I wish all of my students could/would learn.

I hope that all of my students, adult and youth alike, learn that it’s important to participate in their community, even when it’s not convenient. Participating in online and face-to-face community efforts is important, not only because you might just gain something out of participating, but also because others might equally do the same – because of your participation.

Which likewise brings me to our community’s latest barbecue: The Passion Quilt meme.

The Passion Quilt meme’s rules are:

  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
  • Echoing Sue Water's helpful request, please include your name within the photo and post it to Flickr with the passionquilt08 tag. Doing this extra step should greatly help to pull the entire meme together.
I tag the first three because I think they have a "wealth of experience and wisdom to offer", with great potential to convey "an exciting and highly educational dimension" to this conversation:
I tag these last two because, as newcomers to our community, they may just get to know folks in our neighborhood a little better through participating:
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David Warlick - Redefining Literacy For The 21st Century

David Warlick is presenting today in Salt Lake City, an absolutely wonderful way to spend a Friday afternoon. This post represents my live-blogged thoughts, written as he speaks. All quotations within are from Mr. Warlick.

My favorite kind of conference to present at is a library media conference because they understand that it’s not about the technology.
Having spent yesterday with Media Coordinators from across the state at the UELMA conference, I wholly concur with this statement. One of the most enjoyable sessions I have ever experienced was put on yesterday by Mike Goodman, of Mt. Jordan Middle School. In Mr. Goodman's presentation, there was absolutely no technology used, apart from a pair of scissors. Nevertheless, the experience was highly educational and rich in interactive learning.

A slightly upgraded presentation than the
one he gave at UCET last year.

David Warlick's Second Life office is here. I wonder how many other educators have an office in Second Life. Librarians should - it's a perfect place to grant access to your information.
What is the single most important thing we need to be teaching our students?
In my opinion, our students truly need to learn how to teach themselves. Bar none.
What is literacy? If learning how to read is all that we've taught our children, then is that child truly literate? Or is that child dangerous?
David makes a pretty convincing argument here, relating to children and their need to learn further skills, in addition to reading. I would liken a student that knows only how to read to a cook that only knows how to purchase ingredients, a driver that has no keys but is sitting in the driver seat, and a baseball player that has yet to take performance enhancing drugs. I threw in that last one to see if you were paying attention. :)

David plays with Finale and a little song he's written.
Now where I come from, that's called jazz. I like to call it math.
Too few educators use music to teach math. Why? Music, with it's timings - fractions and all - provides the perfect environment - teachable moment, if you will.
I will never make a living as an author - it's hard, tedious, and I'm not very good at it. However, with the first three additions of my first book, I've made enough money to send my daughter to college.
I'm thinking it's about time I write my book. What do you think? Any suggested topics?

Speaking of Consuelo Molina's Sweatshop video, David said:
That video would not have been as powerful without the music.
Amen. Ditto that for Pay Attention.

Below are links to resources that were provided during the presentation.

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OpenPD: Round 3 & The Beginning of a New Era

In order to accommodate the schedules of a growing number of interested participants (both inside and outside of the Jordan School District), we have changed the schedule of OpenPD's Round 3, deviating from our original plans.

Round 3: Details

Time: Class will be held once a week (for five weeks) beginning Wednesday, March 26. Class sessions will be held from 3:00-4:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Click here to translate these times to your time zone.

Place: Click here to participate in the action, here to learn more, and feel free to join in from any Internet-connected computer in the world.

Topic: In Round 3, we hope to continue the discussions that were started in Round 2, focusing more in-depth upon advanced topics related to using wikis and blogs in an educational environment.

Round 3: The Beginning of a New Era?

In previous OpenPD rounds, educators from all around the world joined in with a core group of teachers with whom I met in a face-to-face PD setting. In Round 3, we hope to change that as there will be no formal PD class scheduled for teachers from within my district. It is my hope that teachers within the Jordan School District will participate in the same manner that others outside of the district have - from the comfort of their own buildings - but with the option (not requirement) of attending with me in person.

We'll see how this goes, and if similar PD efforts might be feasible in the near future.

Image Source: Flickr user K2D2vaca

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The Day I Stumped David Pogue

David Pogue did a spectacular job in delivering the keynote address at this year’s UCET Conference. He was funny, informative, and rather practical in his advice. In addition to seeing the Master sing several of his ever-popular medleys, I really liked one of his opening jokes.

I’ve spoken so many times at this conference that I’m starting to think it should be called the Utah/Pogue Coalition of Educational Technology conference. The name works for me, but I’m not sure how well the acronym will take hold: UPCET.
Following his keynote address, David participated in a panel discussion wherein audience participants were allowed to discuss various questions and/or topics. At one point in the discussion, Mr. Pogue mentioned how, as a regular part of his job, he is able to experience a large number of different technologies in hopes of evaluating such products. Naturally, I thought to ask him about his most highly recommended – with a slight educational twist.

“Which, in your opinion, are the top five or so technologies that would be most beneficial for teachers and students to incorporate into their learning practice,” I asked.

His answer surprised me.

“I don’t really know,” he admitted.

Wow. I had stumped David Pogue. The David Pogue.

Continuing, however, he provided an answer that was as beneficial as any list he may or may not have been able to produce.

“Having never been a teacher, I’m afraid I just don’t know what would be most beneficial. I guess in order to best answer your question,” he said, “I would need to know what the teacher or student hoped to accomplish in using technology.”

Well put, Mr. Pogue. I guess even the geeks realize that it’s pointless to use technology only for technology’s sake. For without genuine purpose, the best that Web 2.0 has to offer education is worth little more than any other pedagogical tool.

Image Source - Kelly Dumont

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