Oct 14, 2012

Future Ed Tech Conference Direction?

When will Ed Tech conferences move to incorporate more of the content and ethos of a Maker Faire? We need more sessions like Mitch Resnick's precon at BLC. Conference organizers are missing an opportunity to connect the making their presenters already promote (storytelling, videomaking, blogging, community building, textbook creating, etc.) with that of the Maker movement. It would also be a natural connection with inquiry, design thinking, problem-solving, etc.

For now I'll just imagine myself getting invited to a retreat or unconference with Mitch Resnick, Amy Smith, Marco Torres, Dale Dougherty, Gever Tulley, Neil Gershenfeld, Regina Dugan, William Kamkwamba, Paulo Blikstein, and the Raspberry Pi folks. Who else should be invited?

I'll be curious if Will Richardson pushes down this path in the future. Are any of the Usual Suspects of the ed tech conference circuit moving in this direction?

Aug 9, 2012

Mini Maker Faire

Another project I'm excited about trying again this year is our Mini Maker Faire. Mini Maker Faire is designed to get students making with found materials, documenting the process, tweaking/hacking someone else's design, and reflecting throughout. Check out the possible projects and let me know if you have some others third/fourth graders might enjoy!

Multimodal Vocabulary

I'm back teaching seventh/eighth grade social studies this year! Can't wait for students to use a full range of possibilities for their Multimodal Vocabulary this year. Got any other ideas for us?

Aug 4, 2012

12 Most Genius Questions

Never got the evil DISQUS to work on Angela Maiers' blog and forgot about these 13 (baker's dozen) additional genius questions in response to her post, 12 Most Genius Questions In The World. Having a class or set of teachers complete a Top X list of genius questions would be a good exercise. Then they could compare theirs to Angela's.

  1. Is this interesting?
  2. Why does/doesn't this work?
  3. What does this connect to?
  4. Where might this lead?
  5. What if ...
  6. Is this worthwhile? (Compared to my other options.)
  7. Does this fit my moral compass?
  8. How long will this take? Should this take? Would I like this to take? How much time do I have?
  9. How is it going? How could it be done better?
  10. How do I share this?
  11. How would I teach someone this?
  12. How does this look to others (fortunate/unfortunately depending on how I use it)?
  13. How can we learn from this failure?

Jul 28, 2012


I'm worried about how often educators quickly try to "scale" initiatives without thinking through which elements can scale, which might scale, and which will be a ScaleFail. A prime example would be my district's !gnite program. Some elements scaled well, others, such as co-teaching, were a ScaleFail. To that end, I'm going to start collecting links in my Diigo account and posting them to twitter. Here's the first, Our New Value Proposition.

May 31, 2012

Two Questions

Will Richardson posts Two Questions he uses the frame conversations on change in Education,

  1. What can technology do better than we can when it comes to educating kids?
  2. What can we do that technology can’t?
They are important to consider, but I'd add at least 1 more (maybe it's two). What can we do with technology that's better than just the technology by itself or better than just us? But, these questions beg a lot of other questions before we can address them with any nuance.

Mar 1, 2012

Why You Should Care about a "Scratch for HTML5"?

Why You Should Care about a "Scratch for HTML5"?

Should we teach programming? To everyone? Why?

I "teach" Scratch, though the focus is on ways of thinking, creativity, problem-solving, etc. I'm less focused on students understanding how their Wii or iPad games work, since Scratch is only going to give them a feel for that. The related question I always get from other teachers that is, I drive a car, how much do I need to know about how it works? Definitely some, or I might run out of gas or run my battery down, but how much more?

I just heard someone discussing something I thought might help me think about that question. I make toast, how much do I know about the toaster? Hmmm ... Here's the interesting answer:

The Afterword: Making a Toaster From Scratch

Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster -- from scratch (TED Talk)

Can't wait to read the book now.

Stop Stealing Dreams

Stop Stealing Dreams

Lots to think about and argue over! The Suck-O-Meter would fit well with it.

Feb 28, 2012

How Are Wikis Really Being Used in the K-12 Classroom?

How Are Wikis Really Being Used in the K-12 Classroom?

Interesting research that I would like to see the details on. I would say that the conclusion falls in line with what I have seen in many districts. We've worked hard in ours, but the collaborative aspects definitely are not as popular as 1) the teacher using it to share links, lesson plans, resources, or homework, or 2) the students using it to make pages or post files that are rarely the result of much collaboration. We have three (draft) resources designed to get at that (slowly):

Wiki Workshop:

Affordances & Constraints Exercise

App Taskonomy (we modify it for wiki uses instead of apps)

It has been and will continue to be a long, slow road ...

Jan 31, 2012

iPads or MacBooks?

I just posted this response to Jeff Utecht's post, Why I still want MS and HS to Have a Laptop.


Currently, students in my classes have primary access to Windows machines, but they also have access to Mac computers and iPads. We are not currently a 1:1.
If I were offered a 1:1 with MacBooks or iPads and everything else were equal, I personally would definitely pick the MacBooks. However, if I could use the difference in funding to pay for additional professional learning community time (which includes curriculum redevelopment time) among those “teaching” with the iPads, I’d probably opt for the iPads. I would also choose the iPads over Windows XP machines. I’d have to think carefully between the iPads and Windows 7 machines. If I were choosing for the whole school, I might even choose the iPads over MacBooks even if everything else were equal.
Why? One reason is that I think your conclusion about iPads as consumption devices is inaccurate. (“At the end of the day the iPad is designed for the consumption of information.”) I do believe Apple designs them to be excellent consumption devices and those features may appear to stand out. But, they are also excellent production devices. In some cases, even better than MacBooks.
You mention wanting students to create apps, videos, and music. It is true that iPads cannot be used to create apps that run on iPads. (I’d add that they can’t run Scratch here too.) Related side question, what percentage of your students are coding apps on their MacBooks? But, iPads can be used to shoot and edit excellent videos with just the built in camera and iMovie or iStop motion. And, with GarageBand, among other apps, students can create excellent music or audio podcasts. In facts, my students often create better (technically) videos and audio recordings in less time on the iPad. Granted, they may not have all the special fx, but that’s rarely what makes video or audio go viral. It’s much more often about the content and a little less due to the quality of the original footage/audio. Here’s a link to an great example –http://www.ipadacademic.com/education/lesson-plans/animating-and-explaining-cell-division – though it might not go viral.
With their ease of use, stability and the ability of students to complete quality projects often in less time, I’ve seen teachers in my school and nationally during summer pd sessions take to these devices much more rapidly than laptops, even MacBooks. If teachers will get (allow) students to use iPads to produce more projects than with MacBooks, then I need to take the iPad over the more flexible and powerful MacBook.
That’s not to say I view iPads without their definite drawbacks, which I lay out in a little more detail here (draft). Link to Affordances & Constraints Chart –http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Affordances+%26+Constraints+-+iPad
We also need to make sure our PLCs are focusing on quality uses of either device. Working through the following activity with teachers is a start in that direction, whether using MacBooks, iPads, or other devices. Link to Apps Taskonomy Activity for Educators –http://balancedtech.wikispaces.com/Apps+Taskonomy
Check out iPad Creative to see how others are using iPads in phenomenal ways!http://www.ipadcreative.com/

Jan 20, 2012

iBooks Author

So, if I am a professor (or maybe a teacher in some situations) and I can assign my own textbook as a required reading, could I make more money if I have the students purchase a self-published version? Apple gets 30% and I get 70%. The publisher gets 0%, they've been cut out. The students also can't resell it.

But, I can't sell my book anywhere else? What about the students who don't have an iPad?

Jan 19, 2012

The Rise of the New Groupthink

The Rise of the New Groupthink by Susan Cain

Well worth considering, but why is it always one or the other? BalancEd! Wouldn't it be nice for students to learn skills for a range of situations and how to reflect on them to determine if a different approach might be better for themselves or their group? Let's mix Cain, Shirky, Vygotsky, etc. to come up with a toolbox teachers can use to fit the context of their subject, students, and classroom. There are some hints in that direction earlier in the article. By her conclusion, it seems Cain would agree,
"... we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time."
For another take on this article, check out, Does Solitude Enhance Creativity? A Critique of Susan Cain’s Attack on Collaboration

Quilting Bee, Design Studio, & Game Party

I appreciate Donald Schön and John Seley Brown's metaphor of an architecture studio. Watching my own class in a somewhat open environment, I'm wondering if other metaphors offer important elements to consider. What aspects from a quilting bee, sewing circle, video game party, book club, etc. might help students and teachers conceptualize an engaging learning "space"? Which aspects work only or best in face to face environments, which can work in virtual? Can they work asynchronously?