Thursday, December 31, 2015

Technology Free Schools

I have a boss +Dan Crowley, who sometimes in his more exasperated moments proposes to go totally retro and put a copy machine in every classroom. It'd be the ultimate 1990 school. I thought of him as I read about a tech free school in London which has recently been prominently portrayed in newspapers such as The Guardian. It boasts no screens, no smartphones, no tablets, no computers, nor does it even have TVs. Y'know, one might think that this technology teacher would feel threatened or be aghast at such an idea. I think it's terrific. Why? Here's a school being intentional about what it values. 



What would I say to my children's teachers if they decried screen time and tech use? I will forever and always distinguish between active and passive use. In fact, I feel that having students actively use technology to share ideas, work collaboratively, and publish beyond the classroom is as "organic" as any cardboard or woodworking project that students will do in this tech free school.

I do take issue with the final quote from the article. It states, "Children will encounter tech whatever schools do, particularly as it becomes cheaper and more pervasive. Most children – or adults – can become fluent with tech quite quickly, and schools shouldn’t feel that they have to plug an imagined skills gap that often doesn’t exist.”

In my experience most children and adults aren't all that fluent. Yes, they know how to be passive viewers and can navigate social media. But I find my high schoolers are less adept than my 5th graders were. Because I had my 5th graders for most of the day and tech skills were embedded in many assignments. I have my high schoolers one period a day. They are smart, motivated kids. But to say that they are fluent with tech is just untrue. It doesn't just happen.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Twitter in the Academy- One Professor's Shift- Fascinating

I'm trying a twitter feed for my class. I ask students to review my teaching and my class. In one review, a student called my use of twitter, "useless" and wondered why we were trying it. Before giving up, I want to think about it some more. In my research, I came across this link out of Stanford's ed. program. While this doesn't help me with my more immediate problem, it is a fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of change within academia. I'm a history teacher by training. I taught history for two decades. Though I taught history with a progressive pedagogy, only in recent years has my interest shifted to technology.

I've felt for a while that colleges will have to shift before high schools will. "Colleges expect it," often trumps any suggestion I make for change. It is starting to seem that college is starting not to expect it. Maybe? Hopefully?

Without a doubt, the view this professor proposes is still a minority view. But his Stanford credentials are weighty.

Take a look.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Death by Powerpoint



Keep the crowd engaged!
I've spent a lot of time recently making presentations on how to make presentations in different classrooms around my school. It helps, of course, to model what a good presentation is and is not. The first decision I want a presenter to make when they are using technology to make a presentation is to consider if the presentation will be given in real time. If given in real time, the digital presentation needs far less text material.

A powerpoint/ keynote/ slides presentation in which the presenter reads all of the information contained upon a slide is a recipe for BORING. It insults the audience's intelligence, it wastes time and it makes it look like the presenter is ill-informed. Finally, it ensures that the presentation is devoid of spontaneity.

Even more dynamic presentation tools such as emazeprezi and magisto will quickly lose audience attention once the "wow" factor wears off if the presenter falls into reading all that's written on the screen to the audience.

The digital tool should capture main ideas. It should incorporate images and graphic organizers. But more importantly, have a story to tell. It should have arc and direction. Be engaging. Maybe you don't need a presentation tool at all.

Powerpoint is seen as cliche in some tech circles. The problem isn't the tool, though it never would be my first choice. It is how we use that tool. Do we teach kids how to make oral presentations? For more, click here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Yes, Yes, Yes!!

Jordan Shapiro writes for Forbes. I read carefully all blog posts and follow his twitter feed. He totally gets it that one can fully embed technology into one's class but change nothing at all. It's cliche but true, "It's not about the tools." In this post, Shapiro points out that most best- selling apps are simply recall tests with flashy graphics and animations. He writes,

Digital tablets let educators and developers pat themselves on the back for embracing “new innovative technologies” without actually having to turn toward anything too unfamiliar.

If our model remains teacher-centric, then there will be no tech-led revolution in education. If we fail to leverage the interactivity that tech affords us, if we fail to grasp the essential fact that all the world's information is only a few clicks away, if we use tech and tablets to only replace pencil and paper, we will have failed altogether.
How differently do we use tablets than did the Sumerians?
According to Shapiro, we won't if we are not intentional about change. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

I'm bluer than I am usually as I write this post. Last night, I saw Beyond Measure, a challenging call for change. The film highlights the amazing stuff done at High Tech High in San Diego. It included the ubiquitous Sir Ken Robinson making his usual sardonic witticisms about the troubling practices in current education methods. And follows a school district in rural Kentucky trying to transition from a traditional approach to a project-based, Contructivist approach.

The movie left me frustrated. I don't know where or how to start. I'm only an ed-tech coordinator. I can't make change happen if people feel they have nothing left to learn. Traditional education works for some people. It usually worked for the teachers who fill the buildings. I worry that there will always be outliers like High Tech High. But mostly, I fear the education establishment will long continue to sort kids by age, send them to a different class every 40 minutes with a totally new group of people, and only test kids for recall and comprehension.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

At Google Training Today

Google. Mixed Feelings.

Google seems awesome in so many ways.
Corporate offices have nap pods
Free food- seared bluefish and sushi
can't have a seat more than 150 ft. from food.
razor scooters
Child Care
Point is that culture is important.

Also, all the stuff they provide to schools are free. It gives away for free unlimited storage! Google makes no profit off of Chromebooks.

What's in it for Google?

Future Customers! Of course. What's in it for Google? Brand loyalty. Coke is the most powerful brand in the world. Google is the 2nd. Google is already a verb. 97% of its revenue comes from web advertizing. So doing the right thing for google will gain it future customers and money... lots and lots of money. Google has over 65 million is cash reserves. Staggering wealth.

I don't like being a pawn in this game... but no real way to escape it and the pull is so seductive and alluring.

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