Thursday, December 6, 2012

21 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 2020 (?)

Click here for the article.

  1. Desks
  2. Language Labs
  3. Computers (as we know them)
  4. Homework
  5. The role of standardized tests in college admissions
  6. Differentiated instruction as a sign of a distinguished teacher
  7. Fear of Wikipedia
  8. Paperbacks
  9. Attendance offices
  10. Lockers
  11. IT departments (as we know them)
  12. Centralized institutions
  13. Organization of educational services by grade
  14. Education schools that fail to integrate technology
  15. Paid/Outsourced professional development
  16. Current curricular norms
  17. Parent-Teacher conference night
  18. Typical cafeteria food
  19. Outsourced graphic design and web design
  20. High school Algebra 1
  21. Paper

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Alfie Kohn's talk on Performance vs. Learning

I wanted to embed this video, but didn't have permission. Here's the link, followed by my notes.

  • Focusing on “Performance” is not the same as focusing on “Learning”.
  • The educational structure affects the parents’, as well as the students’, approach to education.
  • When it’s all about “achievement” and “excellence”, that’s all at the expense of learning.
  • When we get kids to focus on “Performance/Achievement/Higher Standards”, a number of negative things can happen:
    • Kids who are constantly thinking about how well they’re doing in school become less interested in what they’re doing in school.
      • Any strategy, or policy, or program in a classroom or at a school wide level that sets kids against each other in a contest to see who’s best is possibly the most powerful technique we have yet come across to destroy children’s interest in learning.  And it destroys the winner’s interest in learning as surely as it destroys the loser’s interest in learning.  Everyone loses in a race to win.
    • What predicts to excellence later is not the behavior the kid engages in now, but the REASONS he thinks he did what he did.
      • The behavior you can measure, and collect data on, is not what’s most important.
      • The four ways we can make sense of success:
        • effort (I tried really hard.)
        • ability (I’m really smart.)
        • task difficulty (the task was easy.)
        • luck (I got lucky.)
          • Most people say that effort is the most important one to believe in.
          • the more you get kids focused on how well they’re doing in school, the more likely they are to attribute those results to factors over which they think they have no control.
    • Kids pick the easiest possible task, if you give them the choice.  They avoid challenge not because they’re lazy, but because they’re rational.
    • Negative emotional effects.
      • The problem isn’t where we draw the line between “ok performance” and “not good enough”; the problem is the line itself.
      • These emotional effects manifest themselves when achievement-oriented kids are put into situations (college?) where the challenges are greater, and the competition stronger.  The often implode.
    • Negative effects on social interaction.
      • Performance goals lead students to perceive one another as obstacles to their own success.
    • When you overemphasize learning, you paradoxically get lower quality learning.
    • The more ambitious your outcome measure, in terms of thinking, the more shallow the students’ thinking tends to be.
  • If these are the effects of overemphasizing achievement, what are the causes?
    • What specific practices and policies, at a classroom or school-wide level, are likely to lead kids to constantly be thinking about how good they are at school?
      • grades?
      • competition (the only thing worse than a re-ward is an a-ward).
        • an award is a reward that’s been made artificially scarce
      • you show me a list of what creates performance-oriented, achievement-based, excellence-demanding schools, and I’ll show you a hit-list of practices and policies that we ought to spend every day of our career trying to undo in order to rescue learning.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"Why School?" takeaways

My notes on “Why School?” by Will Richardson, Kindle edition.
Purchase here -

  • “According to the latest Pew Internet survey, 95% of 12- to 17-year-olds in the U.S go online on a regular basis.  Sixty-seven percent use social networks, and 77% have cell phones.  These numbers grow to 84 and 97 percent, respectively, in the 18-to-29-year-old bracket.”  [Location 90]
  • “MITx, for example, is a program that lets students take MIT courses for free, then pay a small fee for a certificate of completion after passing a test.”  [Location 119]
  • “We have to stop thinking of an education as something that is delevered to us and instead see it as something we create for ourselves.”  [Location 127]
  • “A recent IBM survey of CEOs asked them to name the most crucial factor for future success, and their answers had nothing to do with state assessments, SAT scores, or even Advanced Placement tests.  Instead, they cited creativity and ‘managing the growing complexity of the world’.”  [Location 143]
  • “We have an amazing array of tools we can use to create and share beautiful, meaningful, important works with global audiences.  We have vast opportunities to connect with and learn from and with authors, scientists, journalists, explorers, artists, athletes and many others.  We have immense storehouses of primary-source information that we can literally carry in our pockets.”  [Location 154]
  • “Access doesn’t automatically come with an ability to use the Web well.”  [Location 166]
  • “21st Century readers and writers need to”:  [Location 180]
    • develop proficiency with the tools of technology,
    • build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally,
    • design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes,
    • manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information,
    • create, critique, analyze and evaluate multimedia texts,
    • attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.
  • “Our schools, classrooms, assessments, and the policymakers and businessmen at the forefront of education reform have not fully come to grips with this reality.  They’re operating from a worldview that says our connected kids still have to come to school to learn algebra or Shakespeare or the (fill in the blank) War well enough to pass the test - that we absolutely know what every child needs to learn, when they need to learn it, and how they’ll learn it.”  [Location 199]
  • “I believe there remains a great deal of value in the idea of school as a place our kids go to learn with others, to be inspired by caring adults to pursue mastery and expertise, and then to use that to change the world for the better.”  [Location 210]
  • “What doesn’t work any loger is our education system’s stubborn focus on delivering a curriculum that’s growing increasingly irrelevant to today’s kids, the outmoded standardized assessments we use in an attempt to measure our success, and the command-and-control thinking that is wielded over the entire process.  All of that must be rethought.  Now.”  [Location 214]
  • “If we just looked at the test results from U.S. kids living in high-income homes, we would be first in the world in just about every category.  Our scores reflect our very deep issues with poverty, not inherent problems with schools.”  [Location 230]
  • “The emphasis shifts from content mastery to learning mastery.  That means students have more ownership over their own learning, using their access to knowledge and teachers to create their own unique paths to the outcomes we, and they, deem important.” [Location 275]
  • “I’m not saying that a foundation of content knowledge isn’t still important.  To communicate, function, and reason in the world, students need effective reading and writing skills, as well as a solid foundation in math, science, history and more.”  [Location 286]
  • “We desperately need to revisit the thinking we’ve developed around assessment that, as Harvard researcher Justin Reich says, ‘optimizes the measurable at the risk of neglecting the immeasurable’.”  [Location 287]
  • “The simple equation is that money moves politicians to promote policy that serves business.”  [Location 295]
  • “In the near term, schools need to do both: to prepare kids for old-school expectations and new-world realities alike.”  [Location 303]
  • “Go to your board, superintendent, and principal and tell them to convene a long-term conversation about change that isn’t focused on test scores and traditional practice.”  [Location 311]
  • “With few exceptions, all the things our children are using to connect and learn outside the classroom -- social media, cell phones, Internet connections -- are banned inside classrooms.”  [Location 324]
  • “Education author Jay Cross says that ‘knowledge is moving from the individual to the individual and his contacts’.”  [Location 328]
  • “Remaking assessment starts with this: Stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a Google search.”  [Location 328]
  • “A popular quote paraphrased from psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy predicts that ‘the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write.  The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn’.”  [Location 365]
  • “Wouldn’t we want educators who are constantly unlearning and relearning their practice?  Why would we want teachers (and students, for that matter) to just get ‘better’ at what they’ve been doing all along?”  [Location 370]
  • “As Clay Shirky notes, ‘Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.’  And schools and policymakers still perceive the problem as being how to educate every child to get a factory job in a world where both content and teachers are scarce.”  [Location 376]
  • Six unlearning/relearning ideas:  [Location 385]
    • Share everything (or at least something).
      • “How can you make sure that every student who walks on graduation day is well Googled by his or her full name?”
    • Discover, don’t deliver, the curriculum.
      • “We have to stop delivering the curriculum to kids.  We have to start discovering it with them.”
    • Talk to strangers.
      • “We have to learn how to break with that most elemental of parental commandments: Don’t talk to strangers.  It turns out that strangers have a lot to give us that’s worthwhile, and we to them.”
    • Be a master learner.
      • “In times of great change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will be beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.”
      • “Tony Wagner recently said, ‘There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you.  The world doesn’t care what you know.  What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.’  And, I’ll add, the world cares that you can keep learning.”
      • “The adults in the room have to be skilled and literate by those 21st-century standards the NCTE is touting.  And they have to exhibit the dispositions that will sustain their learning:
        • persistence
        • empathy
        • passion
        • sharing
        • collaboration
        • creativity
        • curiosity”
    • Do real work for real audiences.
    • Transfer the power.
      • “Don’t teach my child science; instead, teach my child how to learn science -- or history, or math, or music.”
  • “What do we value enough to make us ensure our children take it away from their ‘school’ experience, in whatever form that takes?”  [Location 584]
  • “The irony is that Tucker, his friends, and many other kids are loving learning and are using technology to solve real problems and think independently -- without us.  Just imagine the learners they could become if we made these skills the focus of our work; if, instead of passing the test, we made those ever-more important skills of networking, inquiry, creation, sharing, unlearning and relearning the answer to the ‘why school’ question.  Imagine what our kids could become if we helped them take full advantage of all they have available to them for learning.”  [Location 602]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ITEC 2012 Presentation Handouts

Here's a link to a page containing all the session and workshop handouts used in ITEC 2012.  Some great stuff in here!

Monday, October 15, 2012

ITEC 2012

Spending three days at the ITEC (Iowa Technology and Education Connection) conference in Des Moines. Here's a link to my notes (ongoing):

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Distributing Files via Google Docs (Drive)

Say you want to share a document out to a group of students.  You need them to be able to edit that document, but you don't want everyone editing (collaborating) on the same document.  You want each student to have a copy of their own that they edit and then share back to you when completed.

Here's what you do at your end:
  1. Create the original document you want to share.
  2. Share that document to the group of students, and make sure to give those students View privileges only (not Edit privileges).
When the document arrives in the student's Google account, it is owned by you (the teacher), and the student has only View privileges. He can't change it.  Here's what the student needs to do:
  1. Check the box in front of the document to select it.
  2. Click the "More" folder at the top of the window, and select Download from the drop-down menu.
  3. Take the defaults in the next window, and click Download.  Wait until the download completes.
  4. Now, the student has a copy of this file in the Downloads folder on his computer.  He owns this copy.  He need to upload this copy back into his Google Docs.
  5. Back on his main Google Docs page, click the Upload button at the top-left, and choose Files from the drop-down menu.
  6. Navigate to the file that was previously downloaded to the student's computer, and click Open.
  7. Take the defaults in the next window, and click Start Upload.  Wait until this completes.
Now, the student will have a fresh copy of the document (it may have the same name as the original), and this copy is owned by the student.  The student can edit this copy, rename it if necessary, and share it back to the teacher when completed.

So, in summary, the steps are basically:
  1. Teacher shares a document to students with View privileges.
  2. Student downloads a copy of this document.
  3. Student uploads that copy right back into his Google Docs account.
EDIT: One thing that's important to remember is that when a person clicks a link to a shared Google Doc, it will to into any Google account that's currently logged in on that person's computer.  Stress to your students to make sure they're logged in to their school Google account, before clicking the link to a shared document from a teacher.

Friday, July 27, 2012

CNN - My View: Don't Ban Social Media From Schools

The author of Social Media in Business makes the case for social media in school.

He lists "10 important principles" to consider when implementing social media policy in schools:
  1. Bring in experts
  2. Make a clear written policy
  3. Highlight past transgressions
  4. Stive for accountability
  5. Create a classroom page
  6. Report inappropriate behavior immediately
  7. Remind students of proper use
  8. Assess policy vs. reality
  9. Involve parents and the community
  10. Bring the risks to light

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Social Media Policy

There's always much discussion about the appropriate use of social media in the educational environment, but there never seems to be much consensus.  One side focuses on the power of social media to enable communication and collaboration, while the other side focuses on the potential pitfalls and dangers of an open social media environment.  Here are some great articles and blog posts on the subject that have hit the web recently.

EDIT: This one came out just after I posted.  I'm adding it now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tech Thoughts for the Coming School Year

Students, Staff and Parents of Newell-Fonda CSD,

As we come to the end of our first four-year cycle in our 1:1 laptop program, it's time for some major updates and changes for the 12-13 school year.  Many of these changes will be technical changes, behind the scenes and invisible.  Some of the changes, however, will mean big differences in the way teachers, students and administrators use technology on a day-to-day basis.

The main thing to understand is that the 1:1 community is moving from an "Enterprise" model (where a great deal of the computing experience is centrally controlled) in the direction of a "Consumer" model (where the user is in complete control of most or all of his/her computing experience).  This is happening because people all across the computing world are discovering that Enterprise models tend to be excessively restrictive, and make it very difficult for users to adopt and make use of rapidly-emerging new capabilities.  When IT departments are in complete control of the user's computing capabilities, those IT people tend to arrange things to make their jobs easier, rather than to give users access to advanced, up-to-date hardware and software technologies.

This realization is pushing hardware and software producers to focus less on including management features in their products, and more on building power, performance and flexibility into systems and devices.

This is a double-edged sword for educators.  On one hand, we love being able to provide advanced technologies to our staff and students in support of our educational goals.  On the other hand, we want to be able to monitor student technology use, and provide a level of safety and reliability to all users.  These two desires are often at odds, and we constantly struggle to find the proper balance of power vs control.

The following is a list of things that I think I can safely say are on the near horizon for us:

  • Users will take responsibility for data security.  In the past, all our staff and student laptops were configured to automatically synchronize (sync) with our servers every few minutes in order to save important files to our servers.  This is good in the sense that we can almost always recover users' data after a major failure of a laptop.  It's bad, however, in the sense that it takes tremendous server and networking resources to keep this happening reliably.  And, even with all those resources, there are enough bugs in the system to cause continual minor glitches such as long login and logout times, and frequent sync errors.  On rare occasions, these glitches aren't so minor, and result in lost data.  As a result, we will be moving from a centralized model of data security (server sync) to a more user-centered model.  The user will be instructed on best practices in data backup, and will be expected to take responsibility for keeping his/her data safe and backed up.  We will provide the necessary support to make this easy for users to do.
  • Users will make more use of online resources.  With the development of online applications, such as those provided by Google Docs, we will move away from large sets of purchased and installed applications on our computers, and toward making use of web-based applications and storage.  The big advantages here are cost (generally free), ease of sharing (no attaching files to emails, then worrying whether the other person can open it) and data security (since the data is stored online, "in the cloud", computer failures do not generally result in lost data).  If you're not familiar with Google Docs or Dropbox, you should be.  We need to move toward using these online tools for the vast majority of our content creation, sharing and storage needs.  We will provide the necessary support to make users comfortable in doing this.
  • Users will move in the direction of the "paperless classroom".  Printing is costly and unreliable.  Having computing devices in everyone's hands means we can do digitally much of what we used to do with printed paper.  We all need to re-examine the things we do, and the ways we do them, to find ways to reduce the need for printed resources.  Again, online applications like Google Docs provide an easy way to share documents, and can be a tremendous aid in moving in a paperless direction.  Can we do away with all printing?  Probably not (although I know schools that have).  But surely we can dramatically reduce the number of printers we need to purchase and maintain, and the amount of paper and toner used.
  • We will move away from controlling student online access, and toward teaching students to be responsible online citizens.  It's becoming increasingly difficult to strictly control student internet access without impacting students' ability to access valuable online educational resources.  Twitter is an amazingly useful tool to communicate and collaborate with people all over the world.  Facebook has become the de-facto web presence for much of the world, and is used as a component of all sorts of educational websites.  Simply blocking these resources is not realistic anymore.  Our users must understand and practice responsible online citizenship.  We will provide tools and instruction for this to happen.
  • All users must be technologically literate.  This means more than simply being able to operate the devices you're required to use.  It means deliberately learning about current technologies, and striving to understand them and apply them where possible.  Any educator today not making extensive use of Twitter, for example, is missing out on HUGE opportunities to gather and share resources with other educators from all around the world.  Without it, you are literally cut off from large chunks of the world.  And being technologically literate gives the user more flexibility to adapt quickly to changes in available technology, or regroup when the inevitable failures occur.  No one can be an expert in everything, but technological literacy must be a personal goal for each of us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SSDC12 Pics

I've thrown the photos I took at the NASA trip into a Google Docs collection, and made it accessible via the following link:

These are the just the pictures I took with my cell phone during the trip and competition.  Some are better than others.  All are captioned at the bottom to explain what you're looking at.  They should be in chronological order, top to bottom.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SSDC12 Recap

I could not have been more impressed with, and proud of, our Newell-Fonda students who participated in the Space Settlement Design Competition at Johnson Space Center these last few days.  The following students went as participants:
  • Anthony Jacobs
  • Maggie Kime
  • Mike Dewey
  • Zoe Behrens
  • Joseph Mercer
  • Tanner Crotty
Mike Duitsman (participated in 2009 and 2010) went along as mentor from Iowa State University.  He was the only mentor accepted to go this year.  I went as chaperone and tech support for the competition.

All the chaperones and NASA personnel involved in the competition stated their opinion that this was the best group of students, the smoothest competition, and the highest-quality proposals they've seen a long time.  Several people down there went out of their way to talk to me about our students, and about our mentor, Mike.  They were impressed with their intelligence, knowledge, maturity, work ethic, and flexibility in the face of obstacles.

I want to make special mention of Mike Duitsman's contribution to the competition.  There is normally a person at the competition, a NASA employee, who manages the IT (information technology) end of things.  He maintains the database of students, splits them up into their teams based on results of an aptitude survey, prints out competition badges, and prints out certificates at the end.  This person came down with severe flu, and could not be there.  He passed all his information on to Mike and me at the beginning of the competition.  Mike and I got all the badges ready, and distributed to the teams.  After that, Mike took over completely, and served as the central IT guy during the competition.  We literally could not have operated without his help.  By the end of the competition, the NASA people were relating to Mike as though he'd always been part of their team.  I watched a NASA engineer, known for her sour disposition, chatting and laughing with Mike as though they were old friends.  It really was an amazing example of what we hope to accomplish with this program.

Congratulations are also in order for Zoe Behrens, who was a member of the team selected as winner in the competition.  She did a great job as a first year participant, we look forward to her taking leadership positions in future competitions.

Thank you to administrators, teachers, school board members, parents, students, support staff, and everyone else who helped make this trip possible!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Three Days and Counting

We're closing in on departure Thursday morning for the 2012 Space Settlement Design Competition in Houston.  Final preparations are getting done, and we're excited about the trip.

I'll be taking photos whenever there's an opportunity, and I'll post them on Twitter and this blog.

On Twitter, follow me (@limbert65) or search for the hashtag #nfssdc.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Clay Shirky on SOPA/PIPA

McLeod in India

Scott McLeod speaking at the American School of Bombay.

N-F SSDC 2012

Our NASA team leaves for the 2012 Space Settlement Design Competition at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas the morning of Thursday, March 15.  They will arrive back in Newell the afternoon of Monday, March 19.  Here is the list of students participating:
  • Anthony Jacobs
  • Maggie Kime
  • Mike Dewey
  • Zoe Behrens
  • Joseph Mercer
  • Tanner Crotty
Mike Duitsman, a two-year veteran of the program, will go along as a mentor from Iowa State University.  I will accompany the group as chaperone.

Here is the informational website for the competition:
I will be blogging and tweeting during the trip and competition.  I'll pass on the twitter hashtag when the time comes.

Schools, Youth and Internet Safety via @mcleod

Scott McLeod ( points us to articles dealing with the myths and realities of online safety.  Important reading for educators and parents.

Welcome Back!

I've had to move my technology blog from its old location, since we implemented Google Apps for Education in our school.  Hoping to get back in the swing of posting useful stuff.