Friday, February 29, 2008


The traditional wisdom has been that the brain gray matter and intelligence are static. It had been assumed that learning could be accurately measured by an IQ test. This test is still used in K12 education in 2008.
The current wisdom about intelligence assumes more than one learning capacity. The multiple intelligences paradigm assumes at least eight intelligences not measured by one paper and pencil test.
It is now found that brains can change and reroute functions. They are not static but dynamic in nature. Computers allow us the privilege of differentiating instruction for individual learners using their intelligences. Chapter 1 of Teaching Every Student puts it this way:

Because of their inherent flexibility, digital technologies can adjust to learner differences, enabling teachers to (1) differentiate problems a student may have using particular kinds of learning media from more general learning problems and (2) draw upon a student's other strengths and interests that may be blocked by the exclusive use of printed text.

Furthermore, I am reading about recent brain research where people's brains can be retrained to find alternate routes around damaged areas. For education, that means.... (you fill in the blank)
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Reference: Rose, D. H. & , Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning. ACSD.
Photo by Jane M Sawyer, added to Morguefile 09 24 2005, available at

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


We've heard the warnings about phishing scams. Advice how to prevent falling victim to a phishing scam are rampant. But now there is vishing.
Vishing is a new type of scam using VOIP answering clients. Scammers attempt to steal identities by conning people into calling into a site and giving out personal information.
If you receive a voicemail warning you of an account problem - be wary! Recipients are asked to call a toll-free number & provide account numbers, passwords, and/or SS#s.
Don't fall for it! If you have any question about your account, go f2f and talk to someone at your financial institute. Or use a phone number that you know is genuine and not toll-free. Ask the person to whom you speak for authentication information, like the details of a recent transaction you have made.
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Photo from Google Images and available at

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Educating global learners

Robin Ellis asked followers on twitter to help her prepare for a presentation she is giving to school administrators by sharing on this Voicethread

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Music entitled Whose New (2:01) - Found on Hip Hop Vol 1
Composed by:Ken Wallace, BMI, Scott P. Schreer, BMI
Published by: Freeplaymusic, BMI, Freeplaymusic, BMI

Friday, February 22, 2008

Neema Mgana

Every once in a while, a really compelling story comes along. Follow this link to view Chapter 2 of that Story:

Chapter 3

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What literacies are needed for communication? Most educators would agree that writing (composition, not handwriting) is central to communication. The practice of writing the 5 paragraph essay makes one think. Tell people what you are going to say in your introduction, say it in the main content, say what you have said in the conclusion. Speeches in school are formatted this way too.
With what else does K12 education need to equip learners? Mathematical literacies for basic functioning are needed for success in society. There were always just three literacies, often called the 3R's.
With the advent of the digital age, computer literacies are essential. When a new student begins in my computer class, I can tell in a couple minutes how digitally literate they are. Necessary to digital literacy are mouse skills, browser skills, keyboarding skills, & listening skills. Probably above all those is the ability to adapt. The person who can adapt to a digital environment quickly is a thinker, a learner, and a teacher.
Adapters are not afraid of computers. They are not afraid of failing. They are not afraid of thinking. Good communication is central to these literacies. Young learners always seemed shocked when I show them how to communicate with each other, how to collaborate together, how to explore without "the teacher", essentially how to think (gasp! Is that what school does?).
What literacies do you think we should be teaching in k12 education?
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Photo by Namdit
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Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
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Available at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Can I Do Now That I Couldn't Do Before?

Relistening to Darren Kuropatwa from last August, he broached that question. It was PD in Adams County District. He mentioned the phrase, "What can I do now that I couldn't do before?" and listed web2.0 applications.
So what can I do now that I could not do before October 26, 2006? That was my birth into the web 2.0 world. Since that time I have learned to use a few tools that make my life easier and hopefully my job better:

  • blog
  • write html for hyperlinks
  • technorati tags
  • rss
  • create podcasts
  • webcast (albeit poorly)
  • embed videos
  • ustream
  • use VOIP
  • post images
I could go on but that is enough, more than enough really. My life has changed a bit. I use Google Docs to write lesson plans which are accessible at work, home, visiting friends, even while attending a conference in another state.
I use RSS to gather new content that I want to peruse and student content I want to grade. I can peruse and grade at school, home, even at a conference in another state.
I use to collect bookmarks or favorites. I can then access my collected content anywhere. I can also view others collections, which is very valuable, since others are brilliant!
The great thing is that there is no terminal degree here, there is never an end to learning. Literally, learning is lifelong. Are we preparing learners to enter this world?
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  Photo Copyright (C) 2000,2001,2002  Free Software Foundation, Inc.
51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA available at
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies
of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Travelling down the Yellow Brick Road

Where do you begin on your travels down the road of web2.0? For many of us this is a most overwhelming and puzzling question. Here are some pointers, although certainly not the definitive answers.

  • Set your Google preferences to strict filtering [click on preferences on the Google search page, scroll down to strict filtering, click the radio dial (round thing), click save]
  • Search Google for something of interest, perhaps global warming. Read a couple articles.
  • Visit a teacher site, perhaps the Look for one lesson that you could use.
  • After you see the some of the possibilities, collect a few articles of interest using a reader. Here are Wes Fryer's instructions to get RSS, which is simply like subscribing to magazines.
  • After reading text for awhile, visit NPR and listen to a podcast of interest.
  • After text and audio, go to the next level, video. Visit TED Talks and watch a video.
  • Why is your orientation to the web important? Marc Prensky may explain it here
These are starting points for your journey. I have not included more confusing levels, master these first at your own speed. When you feel ready for more, join Classroom 2.0 This is a Ning community of many educators. Many are willing to guide, many are experimenting, many are brand new explorers.

Visit Classroom 2.0

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Photo by Karl-Erik Bennion, uploaded Jul 8, 2004, available at

Friday, February 15, 2008


Today was one of those days. Nothing went as planned. From automatic updates to forgotten login information to phone calls to stressed learners to last minute doers this was a day to survive and not repeat.
We hear much in the media about k-12 learners powering up afterschool. This must be how many keep their sanity. I found myself doing just that to preserve my own tattered mind.
With a cup of hot coffee and my RSS Reader, I blocked out the world for two hours. While listening to a podcast I read subscriptions, checked parent emails, meeboed, & twittered. I can easily understand 'digital natives' doing these things at once.
I was not working in any linear fashion. The brain does not do so either. Our brains actually resemble jungles, with the mass of interconnections between our 20 some billion neurons. Yet teaching in k12 schools continues to be in assembly line fashion. One concept at a time, introduced, taught using a procedure, guided practice, independent practice, and finally homework. All of this in linear fashion on one concept. Oi veh!
Why can't classrooms be places where many things are taught in a nonlinear fashion? Why can't classrooms be places where students are working on many tasks differentiated to their learning styles, not the leader's teaching style? Why can't classrooms be places where everyone is in charge of their own learning and not dependent on any one adult to tell them what to do?
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I attended PETE-C this year and met so many people! It was really great to sit down next to (she even moved over for me!) Jennifer Dorman herself!! This is what is great about f2f conferences: getting away, taking a break, and meeting your colleagues with whom you work everyday.
The first few sessions weren't that great, and in reflecting (the snow and extra day ensured plenty of reflection time) I see just what was lacking. My engagement was lacking. I know am am worse than the "digital natives" in my classrooms. Then I went to a couple amazing sessions were I was totally engaged. What was the difference?
The sessions were all equally informative and all had equally bad internet access. Those being equal, there was one difference that made all the difference to me. A backchannel was that difference.
If the absence of one thing was the only difference between my engagement and disengagement, what does that absence do for those digital natives 8 hours a day?
Our jobs are to prepare tomorrow's citizens. If we are not engaging them how can we prepare them? Inherent in our titles is the assumption that we are ourselves prepared. If we are not prepared and are not preparing them, we may as well hang it up and go to Siberia.
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Photo by art_ep, Vienna, Austria, taken February 15, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Creating a better presentation

I watched a recorded presentation today. It was very informative. I found myself twittering, meeboing, skyping & blogging during the presentation. This made me pause and wonder why. What was it about this presentation of a fascinating subject (which it is really is, no tongue in cheek here) that did not rivet my entire attention upon it?
Doug Symington to the rescue! He responded in twitter
I think that synchronous, for text and voice, builds community in ways async doesn't...
This was definitely asychronous but it is not the entire explanation...
The presentations that have fully engaged and commanded my full engagement had some common elements. We all can emulate these qualities.

* grabbed audio attention with sound
* grabbed visual attention with novel image
* activated prior knowledge (important for all learners)
* used something familiar & known which introduced something foreign & new
* tell a story
* no words on slides unless you wanted people to read them instead of listening to you
* images related to main idea
o complimentary graphics
o never bullet points
* no more than twelve minutes on one activity
* alternated activities
* reflected on presentation in none threatening way at end

Doug was, I think, referring to community, which is often used synonymously with lectures delivered traditionally. PD is often delivered this way. We all enjoy getting away now and then...
Online learning, while it looks solitary, is anything but that. My personal network is online 24/7 and I guarantee they all know, whether they care to or not, where I am, why I am here, and how I feel. Do we really think we adults are the only ones? How egocentric of us!
How are you changing the way you present professional development? Can you rivet my entire attention?
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Photo by Leslie taken Jul 23, 2006 available at

Saturday, February 9, 2008

PETE-C 2008

I'm headed to The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This is a statewide event showcasing some quality programs focused on technology in the k12 educational field. The keynoters include David Pogue and Steve Dembo. The opening speaker is Jim Gates.
Among the presentations (how do I choose?) are Kristin Hokanson, Chris Champion, Jennifer Dorman and Ken Pruitt

PETE-C better make a lot of coffee and have the wifi (what wifi?) running - here we come!
So if you don't hear from me, I'm enjoying myself in the sweetest place on earth!
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Friday, February 8, 2008

Online Safety

Middle-school learners in classes I lead are involved in the Protecht Project about online safety. This week while we were working on our project, two remarkable things happened.
The first involved another adult learner who was very concerned about the Project's question of the week about scams. The k12 learners responded with appropriate answers verbally (when assured by the adults that it was ok) and online in writing. I have been facilitating online safety lessons and was so glad to see that these lessons seem to be having an impact.
The second involved another adult learner, Wes Fryer. He presented about digital citizenship to our group. I was able to join the Ustream with three 8th graders (computer at my school is an elective). We were all able to interact live in the chatroom while we heard Wes present. I immediately started in backchanneling - something I think surprised learners at my school.
Effective digital citizens whom we teach today in our k12 schools need skills to interact in chatrooms safely while absorbing content. Many learners across the nation got the opportunity to do just that on Thursday. Many more opportunities will be needed before they graduate.
We want employable, creative, & economically competitive citizens for our futures. We will be the retirees when the generation in k12 schools now are employees supporting us. How will we prepare them?
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Coercive Schooling

While listening to the Driving Questions episode on NCLB, I agreed with so much that was said. NCLB is punitive, it is draconian, it does need to be thrown out. Our culture values testing to the exclusion of creativity.
We so need to scrap present school paradigms and start from the ground up. We do need to replace our present system so we can effectively educate successful citizens for the 21st century. We do not need test improvement held over our heads.
A viable economy for the USA in the 21st century and beyond depends on how we will deal with this issue. We have a responsibility to equip k12 learners with the skills they will need to deal with an environment containing things that have not yet been invented. We need to equip learners with the ability to learn throughout their lifetimes without us. I do not see those employed in k12 now being able to do that if NCLB remains in place.
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Photo by Mike Flugennock at

Friday, February 1, 2008

Social Thinking

Knowledge is collective. We have heard that. James Paul Gee also says literacy and thinking are...primarily social achievements. Let that soak in for a minute.
There are several literacies that humans express, among them reading, writing, mathematical, musical, & digital. Achievement in any of these is not a solitary endeavor, but involve social interaction. By collaborating, communicating, & connecting with others learners actually increase their literacies.
Thinking is also a social activity.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent John Donne, Meditation XVII, English clergyman & poet (1572 - 1631)

Humans are spurred into thinking by expressions of others, whether auditory or visual. By recognising and facilitating the social aspect of literacy and thinking, lead learners can enhance literacy levels and thinking skills. Traditionally, both of these have been solitary school events. Twenty-first century k12 learning embeds many social activities. Social-networking, social bookmarking, backchanneling, & conferencing software are the new literacies and spur thinking in 21st century learning. I hesitate to say 21st century schools because school is so confining. The term has too much baggage with it. What will future schools look like and how will they differ from future learning?
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Photo by Davide Guglielmo uploaded Dec.23, 2005 to

Learning by doing

In traditional classrooms we have often demanded perfection of learners. Papers must be spelled perfectly, punctuated perfectly, organised perfectly. Learner products must be perfect for the grade.
I see the value in demanding that every learner strive to do their work as unto our Lord, and hence their best work. I also see the value in learning by doing. Alfie Kohn recently said that and Gary Stager said it, in different words, at Educon. I found the Kohn podcast on Wes Fryer's blog today, causing me to mull over the words.
Our present traditional teaching methods are excellent at crowd control. But these methods do not succeed at creating learners who are collaborating, communicating, & connecting with other learners. Our present methods do not facilitate creativity.
He cites a study in which requiring teachers to raise standards was found to have a counterproductive effect. If this study is replicable, it should be enough to make us sit up and pay attention.
Stager spoke this past weekend of learning for real purposes.
Now if we could just convince parents and their children of the need to shift our educational paradigms. Elementary students have already made the leap. The high school students and their parents are entrenched in industrial-age education. There are exceptions here and there, but my!....
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Photo by Amanda Rohde uploaded 2007-03-26 & available at