Many of my goals for 2008 involve slack:

  1. Give a little slack - In 2008 I will try to be more understanding when some teachers are hesitant to embrace the new. Yes, quite often newer actually is better - but even I find myself frequently waxing nostalgic about the good ol' days - days when some things were definitely simpler.

    Clarifying note: In referencing Bud the Teacher here, I am definitely NOT suggesting that he is hesitant to embrace the new. I consider Bud to be an excellent educator in his own right, consistently scaling the cutting edge - and often even defining it. Nevertheless, I have sensed from Bud - and from several other ed-tech pioneers - an occasional longing for the way. things. were.

  2. Cut a little slack - In 2008 I will make a greater effort to be less quick in lashing out with harsh judgment when a fellow member of The Cause appears to fumble. Just as some have been brisk in recently calling Ian Jukes to the carpet for his recent bumble, I have been similarly guilty on other occasions - not in correcting Ian (the Godfather) Jukes, but in feeling the need to correct others in their attempts. I feel horrible about some of the recent lashings I've attempted to administer. In striving to give a little unsolicited advice, I've failed at following my own code of generating constructive feedback - possibly creating in others a false impression about my true intents and purposes.

    Therefore, in giving feedback during 2008, I will do my best to give 5 pieces of positive feedback before ever lashing out with 1 piece of negative feedback. This 5:1 positive to negative feedback ratio has worked extremely well for me in the classroom - why shouldn't it also be applied here?

    Clarifying note: The students of Students 2.0 are fantastic. The example they have set for their peers truly is inspiring and I honestly hope that other students will follow their lead in droves.

  3. Not let slack - Those same students of Student 2.0 and all of the other "students" with which I work (both young and old) deserve my best in helping them to move forward in their learning. In 2008 I will do my best to reach out, in new and varying ways, attempting to learn as I teach and teach as I learn.
2007 has been a banner year for me and I owe many of you for that. Thanks for the conversations. May your 2008 be even better.

Image Sources - Me and *SMILING PUG*

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Hello Friends, Welcome To My Reader

I suppose it's no secret now that I'm a huge fan of the new "Friends' shared items" feature in Google Reader - a new turn for social networking. Now for one important question and a holiday request:

  • Is it taboo to share posts that you have written with others in your Google Reader network?
You know what I mean. You write a blog post, you subscribe to your blog in Google Reader, and then you click the "Share" button on your posts. Good, no good, or does it depend?

Now, if it's not taboo (or at least can be allowed in some circumstances) to indulge in a little self promotion, then here's my holiday request:
  • I'd love it if you would please share with me what you consider to be the top two or three items that you've ever contributed to the online world.
Sure, I may have read your stuff before, but there's a lot of great content out there that I've missed - and at times the dreaded "Mark All As Read" syndrome attacks us all.

Happy holidays,


Image Source - Me and wiskeydiet

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Comments = Assessment?

True or False:

A post's comments can generally be utilized to measure its effectiveness.

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One Small Step For Google

Hello Google,

When I mentioned that I hoped that you took the idea of translation bots one step further, this is pretty much what I had in mind:

Please note:

  • I have written in English while Jorge has written in Spanish.
  • I have chosen my language using the pull-down menu.
  • I can see what language my friend is speaking, but am not troubled with the clutter caused by multiple translations of the same content.
  • An optional "View untranslated conversation" button might also be a good addition - both providing an exchange similar to what you currently have in place and limiting the phrases that might be lost in translation, given that a person can read the foreign language but prefers to type in his/her native tongue.
Again, one small step for Google, but one giant leap for mankind - or at least those of us concerned with international communication.

Have a nice holiday season,


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New Google Additions = Happy Holidays, World

Wow. Two new additions to Google's arsenal have tremendous potential for educational conversation.

1. Google Reader added the new "Friends' shared items" feature.

Now I'm not only able to see what educators around the world are reading, but I'm also able to discover a number of new-to-me great writers. Here's a list of a few gems I've found via my friends' shared items:

  • David Armano - Amazing post about Twitter and Tipping Points (two of my favorite subjects)
  • YPulse - Great summary of the newly released PEW study by a blogger that focuses on Generation Y
  • Derek Wenmoth - Informative post that details a new addition to Google Talk (see below)
Again, if it weren't for my newly acquired ability to easily view my friends' shared items, I would have missed these (and other) great posts.

What I Want For Christmas That Would Drastically Improve The Experience:
  • Inline commenting on my shared items. If I were able to attach a brief comment to each of the items that I share, then further meaningful conversation could easily take place - and in a very non-intrusive way. Simple for Google to implement, here's to the hope that they do.
For those interested in a quick-start guide to this using this feature, I highly recommend John Pederson's well-crafted Google Reader - Because Sharing Is Caring. John's guide will teach you not only how to get up and running, but how to avoid looking like a N00b.

Quick note: If you share with me - I'd love to share with you. Please see the comments for my Google Talk information.

2. Google Talk now includes 23 different language translation 'bots'.

Each of the bots is named using two-letter language abbreviations as "[from language]2[to language]". The supported language pairs are: ar2en, de2en, de2fr, el2en, en2ar, en2de, en2el, en2es, en2fr, en2it, en2ja, en2ko, en2nl, en2ru, en2zh, es2en, fr2de, fr2en, it2en, ja2en, ko2en, nl2en, ru2en, zh2en. So, for French to German translation, talk to While this addition really only serves as an easy-to-access translation dictionary, the potential for future uses is amazing.

What I Want For Christmas That Would Drastically Improve The Experience:
  • I can see it now: Google takes these "translation bots" one step further. You type your message in English and your Chinese-speaking friend reads it in Chinese. Again, this seems like a relatively small step for Google to take that would literally transform the way our world chats. Very exciting!
In conclusion, I'm very pleased with (and thankful for) the new collaborative features that Google has added to the tools that have already revolutionized the way we do things. How about you?
  • What do you like about what Google has done and what does your Google Holiday wish-list look like?
Quick update: Google has granted my second Christmas wish. Albeit much more cluttered than I had hoped for, you actually can type your chat in English and have your Chinese-speaking friend read it in Chinese - all using the Group Chat feature. Here's how I learned about it:

Image Source - John Pederson

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Some Kids Really Aren't Alright

I've been asked to attend an upcoming press release meeting (in January) regarding a new program called Project Safe Childhood, being sponsored by the State Attorney General's Office. In learning more about the project, I was privileged to view the video they've created that identifies both the purpose and scope of the project: an extremely powerful video, to say the least.

Being a very concerned parent, teacher, and citizen, I highly encourage you to watch the video and consider additional ways that we can provide a safe environment for all children. Unfortunately they haven't provided a friendly way to embed their video (that's government for you), but it can be downloaded here or viewed here.

In connection with this meeting, I've also been asked to become very familiar with Netsmartz - the excellent online resource provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (Robin Raskin's newly created Hands-on Advice for Keeping Kids Safer is also very good). Even though I've spent a little time on the Netsmartz site, I know I've missed many great resources - which is where you hopefully come in.
  • What do you consider to be the most important feature of Netsmartz (you know: the "be sure not to miss this, Draper" feature)?
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Arthur Benjamin: Mathemagician

The inner math teacher in me (I taught math for seven years) screams with delight every time I ever see Arthur Benjamin in action. I've you've never seen what he can do, you'd better see this:

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Happy Birthday Blogging

According to Wikipedia, December 17th, 2007 marks the 10th birthday for the phrase "weblog". Please join me in celebration of blogging and the effects that its had on the educational process by leaving a comment on the Celebrating Educational Blogging site and/or adding your voice to the thread below.

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Hi Kids. Here's To Changing The World.

I just finished reading - for the first time - one of my favorite books of all time: No Talking, by Andrew Clements. Even though a juvenile fictional work, this book demonstrates the potential power of student voice. Little more than a few-hour read, I highly recommend it to every principal, teacher, and student, alike. The back cover of the book provides an excellent description:

Okay, here's the deal: a whole day of no talking at school. Not in class, not in the halls, not on the playground, nowhere. No talking at all. And it's a contests - boys against girls. Whichever sides talks less, wins.
As it turns out, Dave Packer and Linsey Burgess were actually able to lead the entire fifth grade at Laketon Elementary, throughout the duration of their heated "no talking" competition and into the hearts of their teachers and principal. In spite of the resistance they had in the beginning - from parents, from teachers, and from the principal - they were able to change the way others thought, in time, and through the manner with which they conducted themselves.

Now, the reasons they were able to effectuate change are simple:
  1. They had a unique cause.
  2. They learned to think before they spoke.

    And Most Important:

  3. They worked together as a large, unified body.
In both limiting their voice and in acting together as a large body of students, these kids truly had a voice.

Enter Students 2.0

The student-contributors of the newly created Students 2.0 blog are similarly concerned with voice. Student voice. Quoting directly from their blog's side-panel:
We are students: the ones who come to school every day, raise our hands with safe questions, and keep our heads down. Except, now we have a voice—a strong voice—to share our ideas through a global network.
Now in spite of my original perceptions, I'm actually quite impressed with most of that which has been written on this newly created edublog phenomenon. On the whole, the student contributors have each chimed in very thoughtfully with well-synthesized posts - often to the praise of many members of the edublogosphere. Unlike most inhabitants of the echo-chamber, however, I can't say that everything about their efforts has been without blemish. They are, after all, kids. Nevertheless, I too was once in their shoes and recall far too many days riddled with blemish - my face, in fact, produced so much oil as a teen that there were definitely no oil shortages in Utah during my high-school years.

As I have commented on a few of their most intriguing posts, I thought it prudent to also include a few of my takes here, combined with a few nuggets of advice. What they choose to do with these words is, of course, their own prerogative.

The Good:
  • These kids are talented and very articulate - especially for their ages. Don't believe me? Think about how well you were writing when you were fourteen - then compare it with this.

  • Like it or not, these kids are not the norm. Most kids their ages are more worried about zits, new cars, and popularity contests than they are about school improvement. Thus, I tip my hat to each one of them. They are trying their best to make a difference, and should be commended for the effort alone.
  • The posts contributed by these students have been surprisingly varying. From student technology leadership to educational hierarchy to learning with networks, these kids have been spot-on in identifying some of the issues that need to be solved in order for real progress to take place.
The Bad:
  • I've got a real problem with their "About" page. If we've entered "an age where thinking is more important than knowing" and "where thoughts out-do the facts" then I guess my answer is '42'. Can somebody please explain this to me? It's possible that I haven't quite spent enough time masquerading about as Master Chief to clearly understand how "knowing" doesn't encompass "thinking". And do thoughts really out-do the facts? Only if it's 1989 and your name is O.J. Simpson.
  • While probably only a misinterpretation of their unbridled enthusiasm, these kids (at times) come off as rather arrogant. Yes, I know they're the first of their kind. Yes, I understand that they've got a bone to pick. But still... I'm just sayin': Cockiness does not prove effectiveness.
My Advice To The Students - For What It's Worth:
  • Do you really want to effectuate change? I mean really? Then never ignore the tough questions. Ken Pruitt, for example, asked several that you've all but ignored. You want to know why changes aren't made in our school systems? Ken's questions lie at the heart of it. Welcome to the real world.
  • I see that you've steered away from the "new post every six hours" strategy. Very good move. In writing effective posts, I'm learning that quality is far more important than quantity. Don't believe me? Follow Karl Fisch's example - his "Most Influential Blog Post" was one of only two that he wrote in a two-week time span. Again, quality - not quantity.

    And Most Important:
  • Never forget that everything in education is political. Yep: everything. As a result, the number of eyes that see your work will never be important if the right eyes never see it. Legislators, other leaders in government, and ultimately your parents are the people that you will need to inspire. And while your voice might be "strong", it's only one voice. Get millions of your peers to echo your thoughts, with a roar that's impossible to ignore, and you will truly succeed.
Here's to the success that we all hope for Students 2.0. May they succeed where others, perhaps, have failed.


Image Source - Arthus

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Students 2.0 - I'm Listening

All I can say is wow! I desperately hope that we teachers will listen.

Thanks for the link, Arthus!

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Making Change, One Sock At A Time

My daughter plays indoor soccer - a kind of hockey/soccer conglomeration that is amazing to both play and watch. As I prepared to watch her last game, I was a little shocked by the uniforms worn by one of the teams playing in the game scheduled prior to that of my daughter's team. I guess I had just never seen a uniform that consisted of two separately colored socks before. Consequently, I had to snap a picture:

In considering the uniform (and its apparent attempt to identify its "true colors"), I was struck once again. Yep, one of those "ah-ha" moments:

  • In embracing change, it's usually best to take baby steps - one sock at a time.
This notion of gradual transition equally applies to new technologies - and their adoption into pedagogical practice. Yep, like cell phones and incorporating open-phone testing, and even allowing our students in-school access to their networks.

For Example - Bear with me here, there's more to this than socks!

Take Teacher X, of School Y, in District JSD. Yep, my district. And while Teacher X probably wouldn't mind if I used his real name, I'll plead the 5th on his behalf. Why? Because in-class use of cell phones - for whatever reason - is actually prohibited by district policy (number AA419, section IIA7 - to be exact). Given that very few teachers in our district actually know about this policy, it seems to be sort of a don't ask, don't tell kind of policy - if you ask me). But then again nobody really asked me.

Anyway, back to Teacher X. Here's an email I received from him just the other day (edited only slightly so as to not disclose his identity - I love how his writing actually reveals his personality):
OK... here's the whole story... since mid-first-term, I took my huge, orange anti-cell-phone poster, down from my class room wall, and challenged my students to find it, and define my policy (easier this term, since it's explained from the get-go...). Well, when they can't find it, they're understandably perplexed, and to wit, I explain MY electronics device policy: when we're 'engaged' in active teaching/learning, unplug, and the cell phones disappear... or I WILL take them away... common courtesy prevails.

One thing you DON'T know about me is I'm an active teacher... I lecture, but walk around the classroom, up and down the rows, etc... I can't STAND static teaching... so boring and it's good for me to get some exercise while I'm teaching. They learn pretty quickly, and all is well... and their 'common courtesy' prompt is, when we disengage (when I stop lecturing or teaching and put them off on an assignment...) they ask, "May we plug in?", and I say sure. They're [then] released from that stupid policy... iPods, cell phones, etc. are fair game.

As a Health Educator I tell them, if I'm lecturing, and I see their hands in their laps, busy, and they're smiling, one of two things is going on... and I'm hoping they're texting... NOT the other... but they're NOT fooling anyone. So, I always stop, and ask 'em, "What are you doing...?"... and I mean it... you know me as well and anyone when it comes to cell phone technology... they get all flustered, but I tell 'em, "No... I really want to know WHAT you're doing... I don't care you're texting, because we're disengaged... I just want to know what you're doing...".

So, the young lady this morning said she was texting a boyfriend who had graduated from [School Y] last year and had moved to Seattle... so I prompted, in front of the rest of the class, "Find out what he had for breakfast... if you do, extra credit...". Then, it's off to the races... she got his reply, then someone in the back of the room chimes in: "Breakfast from Montana..." (comment... sheesh, I thought all they ate in Montana was buffalo...), then from another: "Breakfast from California...", etc.

It went on for 20 minutes... talk about a timely (but slightly out of synch) lesson.

I'm beginning to get some GREAT ideas, here...

This veteran teacher (with more than 30 years in the system) went:
  • From absolutely no electronic devices in class
  • To controlled use of electronic devices in class
  • To let's try this thing on the fly.
I absolutely love it!

So I reply to him:
I think that's about the coolest story I've ever heard come out of a health classroom. :) Would you mind if I shared some of this with others? It would do well for other [teachers] to understand several things:
  1. Admitting that you use cellphones for some of your assignments doesn't mean that you're a zealot on a mission to use them hourly, daily, or even weekly - but rather, it demonstrates the fact that you're willing to explore new uses for technology, especially when the lesson permits it.
  2. If you're going to teach with cellphones, you have to be an active teacher, possessing an ample supply of "with-it-ness". Otherwise, the kids will certainly take advantage.
I'll bet when the students realized that you were actually going to allow them to use their cell phones in class that your classroom was all abuzz - no doubt every student was engaged.
Like I said - one sock at a time.

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Avez-vous Porté Attention?

I am very pleased to announce that Renaud Boisjoly has successfully created the first translation of Pay Attention into a language other than English (or at least the first of which I've been made aware). The French translation (high quality, H.264) can now be downloaded here - as well as embeddable versions on YouTube and TeacherTube.

As you may or may not know, the files that were used to create the original presentation can also be downloaded - a helpful nugget of information that Renaud learned after creating his translation. To be perfectly honest, I hope that this translation becomes the first of many, and have consequently provided the original files for use. In that light, you may also be interested in the work of Claude Almansi. Claude has been kind enough to provide (back in July) accurately timed sub-titles to Pay Attention using an online service called Mojiti. You may view the result here - and ultimately, change the subtitles to a foreign language.

Original instructions from Claude:
So I used the video on TeacherTube in a Mojiti page, to create a "Spot Set" with a timed English transcription. The Mojiti video result is 100% redundant, but others can create their own spot set from there, then import the English one (links and instructions on the page), then translate the already timed subtitles in the "Organize Spots" part.

An alternative way of doing it is to save the spot set as .srt (link under the video), open and translate it with any text editor, then re-save it (1) and import it in a new spot set, made as above. This might be a better solution for people with a slow internet connection, or if a language teacher wants students to share the translation and do it on school computers that don't allow the use of Mojiti - or if the translator is using assistive technology with which Mojiti is not compatible (heaps of javascripts in Mojiti that don't go with JAWS, for instance).
Very well done, Renaud and Claude. Thank you for your wonderful efforts and may we all inspire others toward better teaching, regardless of their native tongue.

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Electronic Devices In Schools: PLEASE Allow For Teacher Autonomy

To Representative Sheryl Allen (R-Bountiful) and Dr. Bryan Bowles (Superintendent of Davis School District):

I have read, with great interest, Jennifer Toomer-Cook's recent article about banning electronic devices in classrooms. As a public school teacher, I strongly sense the need to inform you that not all educators think that mobile electronic devices serve merely as an educational deterrent. In actuality, I feel very much to the contrary.

At this point in the history of education (both public and private), we are experiencing a huge shift - not only in the way our country perceives educational need (and how education should be administered) but also in the techniques we all use to learn. In the past, most learning either took place through reading books or it occurred in the classroom, as the teacher imparted knowledge to the student. In the 21st Century, however, our students - when responsibly connected to their network - will often know more than the teacher, given that our students are actually permitted to come to class with Google in their pockets. Admittedly, this shift in thinking is huge: a paradigm, if you will. Do we really want our students to have access to an unlimited supply of information? As educators, are we prepared to admit that we are no longer the end-all/be-all distributors of knowledge that we once were?

In my humble opinion:

  • Shift has happened, it's now time for educators to pay attention.
  • Our students will stay connected whether we permit it or not - simply because the very tools we are attempting to ban have such tremendous potential for learning.
  • We do our students a tremendous disservice in denying them access to the very tools for learning (namely cell phones and an Internet-connected computer) that we, as adults, currently utilize to obtain information. Are we not, as educators, attempting to prepare our students for life as responsible adults?
  • Rather than running from the evil cell phones used by our students, why don't we figure out better ways to teach using such technologies?
Therefore, in drafting legislation and policies used to control the use of electronic devices in the classroom, I admonish you to give the teacher final jurisdiction in determining whether or not such devices are disallowed. To universally ban the use of mobile technologies in the classroom will doubtlessly impair the learning process for many teachers and students.

In conclusion, I believe that John Dewey has said it best:


Darren Draper

P.S. To learn more about cell phones and their highly educational uses in education, it may prove beneficial for you to browse the following websites and articles:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Good News Update: I've received email responses from both Representative Allen and Superintendent Bowles. I'm actually encouraged by their positive responses. From Dr. Bowles:
From your e-mail, I am reading that you are concerned that a policy would mean eliminating them completely from classrooms. I hope not. In fact, I said to Jennifer that we used to do that, but we should not approach any electronic device in that way any more. We are now preparing students for their future and not our present. A common sense set of guidelines provides structure while promoting amazing possibilities. I also know that students text test answers. I also know that students have taken pictures of other students in gym locker rooms and have emailed those pictures to a wide distribution list. I also know that students (who can multi-task) play games and engage in activities that district their peers. Those potential problems cannot overwhelm us in our ability to use electronic devices as learning tools. If we don't establish a policy, I'm afraid that folks may want to "throw the baby out with the bath water." They will want to shut down the use of all electronic devices. None of us, I hope, wants that.
Hopefully Jennifer (the author of the newspaper article) will consider writing a follow-up article outlining some of the many positive aspects of using electronic devices to teach. Without balance - in the classroom, in our uses of technology, and even in the media - we've already failed.

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NaBloPoMo - Never Again

Dear Reader,

I, Darren Draper, do solemnly swear that I will never plague you with my thoughts on a daily basis ever again. Ever.


I have chosen to defer all daily posting to Stephen Downes - who is certainly smarter, far better-read, and arguably better looking.

For what it's worth, I'm in agreement with Dean Shareski. Commenting on others' posts is as important as writing your own posts. Resultingly, I will attempt to replicate Dean's recommended 2:1 CommPost ratio.

It's been real,


P.S. Have you at least learned a thing to three along the way? I know that I have!

Image Source - The Bart Simpson Chalkboard Generator

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Who's Afraid of the Digital Natives?

Reading Will Richardson's recent post has caused me to think more about today's students (aka those pesky Digital Natives). In his post, Will asks a series of very important questions. In my opinion, it is crucial that these questions are answered by those of us that understand the positive benefits of mobile educational technologies before these (and similar) questions are answered by ignorant lawmakers and policymakers - thus forcing us to live with the decisions that are made. As a result, in this post I will attempt to set forth a few answers from my point of view and encourage you to do the same. Hopefully together we can arrive at a general consensus.

To preface his "Rhetorical-Question-A-Rama", Will identifies and discusses the tech habits of a very savvy 14-year-old student from South Korea. Apparently, this student, not unlike many American students, is constantly connected to his network when not in school. During school, this student has also learned to access his network through his mobile phone - while his phone is still tucked away nicely in his pocket. While Will (and subsequent comment writers) seemed very surprised by this student's ability to blindly send text messages to members of his network, I'm not surprised at all. I've known students for years that have had this ability. Yes, here in the States. Even in little ol' Utah. In fact, many of these students were in my own classes. In order to catch up to the current state of things: Arthus, if you're listening, how many kids do you know that can text without looking?

In response to this and similar behaviors that I have witnessed in the lives of our students I began, several months ago, to sound the cry for teachers everywhere to Pay Attention! Obviously, we still have a long way to go.

On to Will's (proclaimed "rhetorical") questions:

  • What should we as educators in a country that is about five years behind South Korea (according to this blog post, at least) be thinking about this version of the future? (Or is it already happening now?)
It seems to me that Will, of all people, should know that this "version of the future" is now. It's happening and has happened for quite some time. In fact, it's very much the kind of "now" that he and Ian and David and Marc and all of the other "thinkers in educational technology" have been describing during the last five years. Personally, I like David Warlick's description of tentacles - when we separate our students from their network, it can very much be compared to chopping off an appendage.

As for what "we as educators... should be thinking"? Yes. We should all be thinking. And now.
  • Do we clamp down harder on the technologies our kids use? Try to penalize, even criminalize their use? Keep pretending that there are no acceptable uses of phones or other connection tools?
These are really good questions (actually all inter-related), the answers to which really lie in how we define the purpose of education. Personally, I think that the heart of the purpose in educating our youth lies in preparing them for the future. I think that many people would also agree with such a purpose: We educate our kids to prepare them for the future - even if we don't yet realize what that future entails.

Now, if the purpose of education is mainly to prepare our students for their future, a time when they are presumably adults, are we doing them any service by not letting them use the tools and techniques that present-day adults use in learning? When an adult (in or out of the workforce) needs to learn something, do they not tend to have access to their network? The last time you had something to learn, what did you do to learn it? People everywhere (except in some schools, churches, and prisons that prohibit such behavior) can find ways to connect to their network. They've got Google in their pockets, they've got their social networks, and from each they learn - because their businesses depend on it, because they've come to expect it, and because we've come to expect it from them.

Hence, even as adults, we've become dependent upon our networks. Why should we expect any less of our students?

Rather than fearing the capabilities of such incredibly talented Digital Natives, I think it's high time we respect what they can do, encourage their development, and stop limiting their potential. I know, I know: Much easier said than done. Nevertheless, these kids are only as "dangerous" as we let them be. If we allow them to use their networks while working on schoolwork, what will they gain from hiding such access?
  • Or do we start thinking about changing what we do and how we do it?
Yes, and we start with our attitudes regarding student network access. We teach responsible use. We cease to ignore reality. And we take David Jakes up on his suggestion:

There's a reason Jakes has said this, you know. David Jakes, like many of our students alike, has realized that in far too many cases, our students are learning more out of school than they are in. And that fact is just not right.
  • Should open phone tests be ok? Should we embed the information and connection skills that the student in the story has into our own curricula?
Absolutely. I don't think we can turn back any longer. Or rather, I don't think we should turn back. The kinds of "tests" that are administered to adults on a daily basis are open phone, open network. Why not prepare our students for adult-life. Why not prepare them for reality?
  • Oh, and by the way, who taught Insoo to do the things he’s doing, do you think?
Insoo taught himself, of course. The same way our students often learn, the same way my daughter has learned, and the same way my dad is learning to learn:

Who's teaching whom (no offense, dad)?

I anxiously await the answers you're now prepared to offer - because if we don't figure out the answers to these and other related questions, who will?


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The Wikipedia Elect

I've been thinking a lot about Wikipedia lately. Open. Free. And while many of today's "progressive" educational thinkers tout it's accuracy and ability to report on even long-tail type topics, I'm very surprised by what I don't find there.

Question: Why can I find a Wikipedia entry for only a few of the many prominent leaders in educational technology? Now, I know that anybody can add an entry in Wikipedia - but only those deemed worthy by the community actually stick.

Therefore, why the preferential treatment?

The Precious Few (Ed-techies with Wikipedia entries):

There were also several others (like Andy Carvin and David Pogue) that should probably be lumped into the ed-tech crowd, but would probably attribute their Wikipedia entry to some other higher-profile achievement. Andy, for example, is with NPR and David is with the New York Times.

Notably missing in action (in alphabetical order) were:
  • Karl Fisch - Surely Shift Happens (seen by more than 10 million people) deserves a place among the Wikipedia immortal.
  • Ian Jukes
  • Marc Prensky - There is an entry, Digital native, which mentions that "Prensky claims to have coined the term...", but no link detailing more information about Prensky and his accomplishments.
  • Gary Stager
  • David Warlick

  • YOU!
On a personal note, I was also surprised that David Wiley (professor at Utah State) had an entry, but none of his USU supervisors had made the cut - not even the dean of his department. To make things worse, Stew Morrill (head basketball coach at USU) and Brent Guy (head USU football coach, 2-10 record as of November 24) each have entries - but then again, we all know that athletics are far more important than academics.

So what gives?

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The 2007 Edublog Awards

I guess it's time to vote. Again. The 2007 Edublog Awards finalists are listed below (as posted here). If you choose not to vote, you'd at least do well to browse through this year's list of finalists - quite an extensive list of quality blogs, if I do say so myself. And I do say so myself.

A few quick editorial comments before we begin (I'm new to this scene, so feel free to fill me in on the details):

  • Who nominated the blogs, anyway? Were most of the blogs nominated by their creators? If so, what good is that?
  • Why do some of the blogs have accompanying descriptions while some sit all alone and unannounced? The descriptions serve in promoting bias, if you ask me. But then again, nobody ever asked me. :)
  • Given that anybody could vote for a blog multiple times, what kind of effect would the Twitter army have on such a poll? I chose to vote three different times it was so much fun (juuuuust kiddddddinggggg).
  • On a positive note, it's refreshing to see that so many quality educators out there are actually paying attention.
On to the nominations (I've removed the bias-enhancing descriptions):

Best individual blog

Best group blog

Best new blog

Best resource sharing blog

Most influential blog post

Best teacher blog

Best librarian / library blog

Best educational tech support blog

Best elearning / corporate education blog

Best educational use of audio

Best educational use of video / visual

Best educational wiki

Best educational use of a social networking service

Best educational use of a virtual world

Great stuff. Don't forget to vote.

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@djakes - Forgive Us, For We Sometimes Forget To Think

I love golf. Yes, I play - if you choose to call what I do on the course 'play' - but I also think golf is unique among spectator sports. How many other athletic events do you know of that allow spectators to literally walk within feet of their favorite stars? Yes, fans of all ages are welcome to pay the fare, walk the course, and literally listen to Tiger sweat as he smashes the ball farther than humanly possible.

And then it happens.

"You! Striped shirt. Out!"

Meanwhile, the remaining privileged are left wondering, "What did that moron do to rattle Tiger's cage?"

As it turns out, ed-tech, while hopefully not a spectator's sport, is actually exactly like golf. In our field, if we play our cards right from the outset, we're literally able to rub shoulders with many of the great ones - think: NECC and other conferences, EduBloggerCon, and even (at times) Twitter. I am extremely grateful for the many interactions I've been able to have with many I consider to be ed-tech stars.

It must be remembered, however, that there are definite lines that should not be crossed, behaviors that are not acceptable, and actions that will do little more than rattle the tiger's cage - even (and especially) in relation to our interactions with others - regardless of their apparent status on our personal Greatness Meter.

And Twitter is no exception.

I think that Jennifer Wagner's timely post about her Twitter confusion sums up the feelings of many of us out there. Twitter, while still in its infantile stages, can admittedly be a little confusing. At times one can feel so close to other network members - and yet betrayed (or fooled) by the shallowness of those minuscule 140 characters.

I guess I feel for David Jakes the most. His tweets have highlighted my Twitter experience and his notable recent drop-off has left me hungering for a plate of Pot Roast Nachos. So @djakes, if there's anything that I've ever said or done to offend you in our Twitterspondence, I apologize now. You're a definite ed-tech star in my book, one of the great thinkers of our time, and one of the few great ones that I know who has actually been willing to mingle with the minions (this list highlights a few others, some willing, some - probably understandably - not).

On behalf of the rest of the striped-shirted morons out there, however, I suppose I should equally remind all online participants of one important thing, burned into the brain of every public high school teacher: When everyone participates and everyone contributes, at times you're bound to have a few cage-rattling experiences. Consequently, here's my advice in dealing with inappropriate online interactions. Four easy steps, for what it's worth:

  1. Deal with the morons one at a time.
  2. Be swift and sharp in your punishment (The block feature in Twitter & Skype may prove effective).
  3. Follow all punishments with an increase in love - extremely important.
  4. And get back in the game - you're two strokes in the lead and it's still your turn.
To conclude, lest you're accused of being a cage-rattling striped-shirted moron:
  • Please think before you act.
  • Be considerate of others' space.
  • And never forget that the person on the other end of that tweet is real.


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Teaching Via Improv

I have really enjoyed catching up on old Ted Conference presentations during the drive home. The presentation that has recently moved me most was a 2004 performance by the 14-year old Jennifer Lin. The improvisation segment of her performance - shown below - literally brought me to tears (I know, what a sap) because the music she apparently creates on-the-spot is absolutely amazing. Equally amazing, I think, are the countless improv-type performances made by teachers around the world on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis. I know there are times when I'm forced to "make it up as I go" and have always believed that some of the best teachers are simply one step ahead of the kids.

Of her performance, I echo the words of Freakonomics author Steven Levitt:

If you follow only one link from this blog in your life, let it be [this one].

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My RSS Habits - As If You Cared

I've thinned my aggregator lately - and learned a few things a long the way.

Yes, I read, star, and share many items - but never email. I guess it's just that email is so 1997. In case you were wondering, stars indicate that I just might write about it, while shared posts are listed on my blog (right side, 3/4 of the way down). Similarly, every non-commercial educational technology blog that I read is also displayed - drop me a line if you'd also like to be a part of my personal learning network. In the near future I plan to thin my blogroll further - incorporating multiple levels of recommendation.

I read more on Thursdays, and very rarely on weekends - in fact, I usually try to begin my week unplugged (I know, backwards man that I am). I have found that when it comes to creative thinking, absence makes the heart grow fonder. In other words, if I can give myself a break from technology for a brief period of time, my mind returns to the scene invigorated.

I do like to star...

... And share when I can...

... But believe that the only good blog is one that is updated frequently. Yes, Marc, update soon because your blog's on the chopping block.

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21st Century Skills - A Compendium

[Quick note: This post is LOOOOOONNNNG. I realize that. Haven't you ever written something more for yourself than for your 'audience'?]

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is arguably the leading advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. The organization has brought together various businesses, educational leaders, and policymakers to define what I believe to be an accurate vision for 21st century education.

To assist teachers in learning more about 21st century skills (and how to teach them), the partnership has also developed the recently released and highly interactive Route 21 website. I found myself able to easily lose myself in their site - amazed at the breadth of information available to educators.

According to the framework developed by the partnership, there are fifteen key traits identified as the skills, knowledge and expertise students should master in order to succeed in work and life in the 21st century - traits which, I believe, every teacher should attempt to address in their curriculum. As I have yet seen all fifteen skills briefly defined in one location, I thought it would be helpful (even if for only myself) to provide a short definition of each of the skills below. All definitions and images in this post have come from various locations on their website.

Core Subjects and 21st Century Themes

Core subjects
  • English, reading or language arts
  • World languages
  • Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Economics
  • Science
  • Geography
  • History
  • Government and Civics
Furthermore, the following 21st century interdisciplinary themes should be woven into core subjects:

Global awareness
  • Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
  • Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts
  • Understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages
Financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy
  • Knowing how to make appropriate personal economic choices
  • Understanding the role of the economy in society
  • Using entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options
Civic literacy
  • Participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed and understanding governmental processes
  • Exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national and global levels
  • Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions
Health literacy
  • Obtaining, interpreting and understanding basic health information and services and using such information and services in ways that are health enhancing
  • Understanding preventive physical and mental health measures, including proper diet, nutrition, exercise, risk avoidance and stress reduction
  • Using available information to make appropriate health-related decisions
  • Establishing and monitoring personal and family health goals
  • Understanding national and international public health and safety issues
Learning and Innovation Skills

Creativity and Innovation
  • Demonstrating originality and inventiveness in work
  • Developing, implementing and communicating new ideas to others
  • Being open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives
  • Acting on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the domain in which the innovation occurs
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Exercising sound reasoning in understanding
  • Making complex choices and decisions
  • Understanding the interconnections among systems
  • Identifying and asking significant questions that clarify various points of view and lead to better solutions
  • Framing, analyzing and synthesizing information in order to solve problems and answer questions
Communication and Collaboration
  • Articulating thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing
  • Demonstrating ability to work effectively with diverse teams
  • Exercising flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assuming shared responsibility for collaborative work
Information, Media and Technology Skills

Information Literacy
  • Accessing information efficiently and effectively, evaluating information critically and competently and using information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
  • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information
Media Literacy
  • Understanding how media messages are constructed, for what purposes and using which tools, characteristics and conventions.
  • Examining how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points of view are included or excluded and how media can influence beliefs and behaviors.
  • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information
Information, Communications, and Technology Literacy
  • Using digital technology, communication tools and/or networks appropriately to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create information in order to function in a knowledge economy
  • Using technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information, and the possession of a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information
Life and Career Skills

Flexibility & Adaptability
  • Adapting to varied roles and responsibilities
  • Working effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities
Initiative & Self-Direction
  • Monitoring one’s own understanding and learning needs
  • Going beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise
  • Demonstrating initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
  • Defining, prioritizing and completing tasks without direct oversight
  • Utilizing time efficiently and managing workload
  • Demonstrating commitment to learning as a lifelong process
Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Working appropriately and productively with others
  • Leveraging the collective intelligence of groups when appropriate
  • Bridging cultural differences and using differing perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work
Productivity & Accountability
  • Setting and meeting high standards and goals for delivering quality work on time
  • Demonstrating diligence and a positive work ethic (e.g., being punctual and reliable)
Leadership & Responsibility
  • Using interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal
  • Leveraging strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
  • Demonstrating integrity and ethical behavior
  • Acting responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind
If you would like to learn more about the above skills (as well as gain access to related resources), I highly recommend both the Route 21 website and accompanying 24-page white paper.

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