Archive for the 'ramble' Category

Ok, I’ll bite.

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Screen plays/scripts always provide context at the beginning of the document, a way for the reader to mentally adjust to the environment of the piece of writing as well as the purpose. Well, here’s some context:

Ms. Stephens, who writes Musings from the Academy, asked why I hadn’t posted for a while. In response, I felt forced with my last writing (a review of the ASCD conference) and have been busy with class work, work and work. So, the writing bug just hasn’t hit me. THEN, she sends me this article by Lowell W. Monke from ‘Educational Leadership’ (a publication from the very ASCD organization itself) - ‘I think you should read the attached article and write about it on your blog.’

Ok, I’ll bite.

I’ve gotta tell ya’ - I am plain tired of the ‘techno-ego-centric, ‘they don’t know anything but’, ‘teenage biobots with super human text-message capable thumbs’ line. In fact, any time an educator refers to ‘them’, ‘they’ or ‘those kids’ - I shudder.

Now, normally, I would respond to this kind of article by laying out the good points and contrasting those with the bad points - but I’ve done too much of that for courses this semester and do not care to add to my list of pointless dead-end ‘publications’. This article, printed in a well respected publication, is harmful to education, primarily to those that look for pandering to one-sided perspectives in the development of national requirements, and even more importantly, budgets.

Nearly everything children do today involves technologies that distance them from direct contact with the living world.

Hmmm. ‘They’ are in trouble. ‘Those kids’ need to stop watching junk and learn. I just don’t understand ‘them’ - how can they isolate ‘them’selves like that? Oh….don’t even get me started - as if the adult political world is THAT much more connected to the ‘living world’?!?!

I heard a line recently that described how adults view text messaging compared to kids. Adults view it as very impersonal, even lacking ‘direct contact with the living world’. Interestingly enough, kids view text messaging as hyper-personal. They feel more in touch and more able to develop relationships. It seems that this may simply be an inability to see things from another Point of View (POV). I’ll come back to that.

With that in mind, lets move on to the real meat - the needed message. It is time that we stop looking at technology solely as an independent variable. Let me say that again.


Being the ‘Tech Monkey’ that I am (that is how we sometimes feel in Instructional Technology), this is a familiar concept to me. Study after study indicates the effect that computer integration has on test scores, on student thinking and every other possible dependent variable out there. It is as if one were to simply add the presence of computers (suspended from the ceiling, even!) to a classroom, that something will change. Test scores will get better or worse. Students will become more or less engaged. ‘Those’ kids will pay more attention or be more distracted. Don’t get me wrong - I am a firm believer in research, but where does research meet culture? When do we understand that these are real kids? When do we realize that it isn’t the technology that impacts the classroom, but THE TEACHING? When do we accept the fact that technology is merely an accelerant? Let’s run with that.

I read the book ‘Good to Great’ a while back and one of the last chapters struck me heavily. So much so, in fact, that I wrote the following (and previously unpublished) thoughts in March of 2003. Technology is merely an accelerant. It acts as a catalyst and makes things happen faster. However, not only does it make your communication quicker and your location of information speedier, it makes a good teacher better - faster. An effective teacher who uses current strategies to engage her students simply has more resources at her fingertips to utilize when designing/implementing a lesson. On the flip, and scarier side, technology also makes a poor teacher worse - faster. Have you heard stories about the management issues? Students being off task and not engaged? Do you really think that it is the technology that is the problem? This should be a HUGE red flag to the education world: If this is the case (technology as an accelerant), where, then, should our concern lie? NOT with the type of equipment; NOT with how well a teacher knows basic technology skills; NOT even with how technology is integrated into the curriculum. It is IMPERATIVE that our concern lie with, and HEAVILY with, the effectiveness of a teacher according to today’s definition of an effective teacher. If we do not place this concern as a priority, we are CREATING less effective teachers in our schools - FASTER. Don’t you see - it isn’t technology that is the problem, it is how we develop and embrace effective teaching.

What should we be doing? Teaching our kids through the use of POV. Getting our kids involved in the local, national and international community through the power of technology. Developing school systems that support and develop effective teachers. It is true, technology is their life - so let’s embrace that fact and find ways to help OUR kids think more effectively within that environment.

Technology is NOT the problem. Lousy policies, a national administration with a lack of vision and a lack of a balanced POV, AND a lack of vision within the educational environment - these are the problems.

If nothing else, Monke’s article is merely munitions to cut a budget that has already been proposed for elimination. After all, it seems that the policy makers and the budget creators seem to only look for bits-and-pieces that support their own POV. Please, don’t give them the quick quotes that they are looking for.

Why do we inhibit???

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

So, I was working on some stats stuff this afternoon/tonight, looking for some kind of decent conclusion to be made between a control campus w/out 1:1 laptops and one with 1:1 laptops (middle school). WHAT I was doing with these statistics didn’t strike me as much as HOW I was doing it.

(I’ll tell you up front that this is an opinion piece rather than a connected/hyperlinked piece…read at your own risk!)

I started my work with some data analysis software (SPSS, for all those stats fiends out there(ok, I lied, there will be some links!)) that I am just learning. My first resource came in the form of a phone call to the person that collected the data, Gerald Knezek at UNT. He had the same software on his computer and we walked through a number of different ways to analyze the different variables. It amazed me how quickly I was able to pick up the use of this software, even though neither of us could see the other’s screen! Language, in regards to software and technology, has leveled out to the point where we can do that.

Later that evening, I was meeting with a colleague to continue work on said project. As we were meeting in person (with 2 PPT screens open, 2 SPSS windows, Firefox with WHO knows HOW many tabs running and email up and going), I noticed my father was on Messenger. “What are you doing?,” I asked. “Grading Statistics papers,” he replied! Sweet…live help! (He teaches Stats, among other things at Sterling College in KS.)

So, while working live with my colleague (who had his own laptop going), I was messaging my father to get valuable information about how to run some new and very functional reports (thanks, Dad), working on my computer, pulling data off of the web, jumping back-and-forth between PPT and SPSS and even managed to message a friend to let him know what I was up to (who could’ve cared less that I was playing with statistics).

It struck me. THIS is how it’s being done now! THIS is what kids need to be doing in AND OUTSIDE of school in an effective 1:1 implementation. It seems so random and attention deficit, but yet it works so well!

Another great illustration of this came through the Mac interface this past weekend as we went to relax to some live music at Standard and Pours, a Dallas coffee shop/local music scene. We were listening to one of the openers and I noticed a college aged girl sitting in front of us working on her PowerBook. That wonderful Mac interface demonstrated this concept SO fluidly, it was almost poetic! (we’re a windows shop here in Irving.) She was dancing back and forth between writing a paper of some sort, researching online, talking to two friends, browsing personal interest web sites, playing a game (which would pop up when the other player, apparently located somewhere else in cyber land, would make a move) AND actively listening to the performer on stage! A keystroke would move her around between the different windows, and when selected, would zoom that window to a larger work size - you know how Mac windows zip around the screen playfully… Then her friend would IM her, and that window would zip into view. After a quick response, she would flow back over to her paper and write a half a sentence more! My thought was how I would just love to see the flow of that writing! I couldn’t believe that it would be connected or fluid at all. BUT I WAS DOING THE SAME THING EARLIER TONIGHT!

Now, you may be thinking: “Well, Jerram, just look at your spastic writing - you’ve been A.D.D.’ing whilst writing THIS piece (which I HAVE been, by the way).” So what’s the point??!!

The point is, we give kids laptops and spend SO much time blocking, inhibiting, impeding, limiting and preventing them from connecting, despite the FACT that they should be connecting, flowing, working without limits and relating to the world - their world.

Well, it was Miguel’s note:

Discussions among technology directors focus, not on the best ways to use such technologies, but how to best block access to those technologies.

that got me started on this whole thing. I didn’t think I would bring it to the fore tonight, but out it came…

Sometimes, when you see the ‘real’ world compared to the real education world, you just wanna ask ‘WHY?’.

Google Earth Uses

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

Dean Shareski writes about geography lesson ideas on his blog and says:

So there’s the challenge. Get your kids to dig into these tools and their value and post the findings.

Here’s one…Sam Farsaii, Director of Instructional Technology for Irving ISD, presented a way to use Google Earth the other day. Google Earth has a built in measurment tool. Why not locate a local landmark and compare its length/size/area to another well known landmark - a sphinx, for instance. Not only do students compare the two objects, but they almost literally fly around the world and develop concepts about global locations, continents and worldly perspective as they do so. This one little tool has so many great applications and is only a slice of the limitless application of Google Earth.

…just don’t tell your networking department about it’s constant bandwith consumption…

Oh, and if anyone can find a Left Lane Ends sign - mark it and send me the latitude/longitude so I can pull it up. People have found fly cars - someone’s GOT to be looknig for where the left lane ends…

Vocab Blog and other read/write web examples

Monday, January 30th, 2006

I wasn’t sure what I would find when I got an email titled ‘Teaching vocab with blogs’, but Byrd Vocabulary has an interesting concept. While my thoughts immediately went to flash cards, I was impressed that students were developing connections to the words they were working on. Blogging is all about linking and connections, so the use fits.

John Witter has JUST started blogging within his classroom environment in a High School history course. I love his beginning post where he is openly purposing his blog content to gather feedback from his students about his teaching and lessons. Another great example of using blogs for more then just ‘writing a journal entry’.

How about a Wiki? Vicki A. Davis (at Cool Cat Teacher Blog) has had her kiddos start up a Wiki on productivity. She talks about this here, and you can visit the student Wiki product here. The idea is to have the students develop guidelines about daily planning that will help them as they progress through the semester.

Moving on to Podcasting: Darren Wilson, an Instructional Technology Specialist in Irving, TX, has started putting podcasts from elementary students online. They podcast their daily video announcements (in audio form) and have started podcasting student writing examples (that the students read) as well.

Bob Sprankle really gets his students riled up as they produce podcasts and other content online. You have to admit that student engagement is entirely different when the students take stake in the content as opposed to ‘Your journal entry for today is…’.

To be honest, I am just putting together a collection of links that demonstrate how educators can use some of these tools in a classroom setting BEYOND simply writing a journal to put online. These are great tools for instigating the development of connections within a learning environment, after all. I’ll post some responses from our group that I share these with - it’s just a quick demo…