Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Some of my favorite things

My top 3 of 2018

1) Though a Googlephile, in my little world of ed tech, my favorite thing of 2017 is IOS 11.
2) I've become a huge fan of Adobespark.com and its standalone IOS apps Sparkpage and Sparkvideo.
3) Google Arts and Culture- just keeps getting better and now it has an app as well.

okay, a bonus
New for me (but not new) Breakout EDU


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Take Summa Time Off

Commonweal, the erudite Catholic publication of politics, faith, and culture is a site I read regularly. Though my faith is important to me, it isn't what this blog is usually about. An article this month caught my attention and I thought of my teaching. It starts with a perhaps too much of a modernist take on why the prolific author and saint, Thomas Aquinas stopped writing suddenly in December 1273 in the midst of his masterwork, Summa Theologica. 

While saying Mass, Aquinas received a vision that made all of his works, as it put it, "mere straw". Catholics have long thought it a profound spiritual crisis/ awakening that silenced Thomas. Malesic, instead posits that Aquinas suffered from burnout and that after decades of churning out four thousand words every day (today that would be 15 pages single-spaced typed every day) he simply was exhausted.

Malesic then pivots to tell his own story of walking away from a tenured professorship at the age of 40. Because of more duties, more stress and more pressure he began to lose the love for his craft of teaching, a craft he once won awards for. He continues:
"What I experienced—and what I see, admittedly somewhat anachronistically, in the final days of Thomas Aquinas—is burnout. We toss around that term imprecisely, applying it to languorous teens, drug addicts, and Graham Greene characters. But psychologists who study the phenomenon have a definition for it. Burnout is a response to the chronic stress of work, manifested in exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of inefficacy. Anyone who works in an institution or responds to clients’ human needs is at risk. Thus burnout is a malady typical of post-industrial capitalism, where the simultaneous imperatives of productivity and cost-cutting breed conflicting norms that workers cannot fulfill without risking damage to their inner lives."
 My own little school could be headed towards budget cuts and layoffs. Certainly, times are tight and some people feel they are being asked to do more for less. We are stressed.

Malesic that points out that it is often the best who succumb to burnout. From here, Malesic shifts to a critique of the modern capitalist ethic. While I largely agree, it isn't what I wish to address here. Instead, it is the complaint/ refrain I get from the teachers I am trying to support. Five years ago, I left a middle school where I taught for 22 years. Those I taught with and who remain all say they are busier than ever. I asked a friend why they feel that way. I reminded him that during our fat years when the school was booming, he and I taught many more students year and we had a much heavier coaching burden. It wasn't just the two of us that did this; all of us did it. We were also required to go to all plays and concerts and were encouraged to attend games.

Today, the average load is far less. Most teachers teach fewer than 50 kids, some fewer than 40. the coaching requirement has been substantially reduced. Yet they feel busier. I can't say whether this is or isn't true. I can't help but wonder if this "busyness" is more related to stress and uncertainty than their amount of work.

No matter the purpose and cause of this stress or whether there is more or less work today than there was 15 years ago, it speaks to the importance of self-care. We need to practice balance. The best teachers give and give and give of themselves. Again, it is often the best of us who tire.

I don't know what stopped Aquinas from finishing Summa. Aquinas was fully a man of his time and undoubtedly believed the mystical vision he saw that turned his life work to straw. Thomas was very human and not just a towering intellect. He was a poet and big rambling mass of a man. His Latin is said to be too witty to translate effectively though his great hymn is still sung every Holy Thursday by Catholics around the world. Though some of my more traditional fellow Catholics believe that a vision from God silenced him, like Malesic I wonder if there is more to the story, anachronism or not.
 
If you've found this blog, you care about kids, teaching, and education. Perhaps (and probably) you are among the better teachers in your school. Make sure you remember that your teacher self is only part of who you are. Take time over your break this week to remind yourself of that and to recharge your batteries. Don't damage your inner lives. Don't feed easy cynicism and most of all, don't doubt your usefulness.

Monday, December 18, 2017

ADHD and Tech Addiction. Some Thoughts



Are the iPads like an addictive drug giving ADHD kids massive dopamine hits as this article suggests? http://techland.time.com/2013/07/08/a-nation-of-kids-with-gadgets-and-adhd/

Or is the iPad a wonderworker for kids with ADHD? https://www.additudemag.com/technology-and-adhd-how-ipads-can-help-your-child-learn/

While I lean towards the latter point of view, clearly the iPad and tech devices can be "addictive". Some suggest tech lights up the same part of the brain that alcohol and drugs do. It's why we reach for our cell phone to text while driving even though our wiser part knows it is a terrible idea. It's akin to the alcoholic taking another even though he knows it is a bad idea. A part of ourselves can't help it.

Despite this, off the top of my head, I can think of several ways an iPad/ iPhone can be helpful to an ADHD student. A student can take pictures and refer to them later, as working memory is an issue for students with ADHD. Similarly, having a calendar set with notifications for classes, assignments and meetings could be a student's best friend.

Pecha Kucha

If you're in the Philadelphia area on January 18 please join us.



Monday, December 11, 2017

End of an Icon?


From this article:

"Apple is masterful at making radical pivots. It killed the floppy drive, the CD drive, and the headphone jack in iPhones, while Macintosh systems went from the Motorola 68000 to the PowerPC chip to the Intel X86 line of chips.... What I'm sensing is that like the old Apple II (forever), the Mac will be phased out and the whole line will be replaced by iPads."
This strikes me as a strange doubling down. Of course, Apple's been right, time and again.  Yet, I can't help but wonder If the iPad Pro really enough of a computer to compete directly against the Surface laptop. 



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Loving Some of the IOS 11's Features

For several years, I used my iPad almost exclusively for all of my teaching with tech. There's much I liked about the iPad. Over the past couple of years, I've grown increasingly excited by the Chrome OS, specifically the vast array of free apps and extensions that add functionality to the bread and butter Google docs, sheets, presentations and gmail. As a result, I followed changes in the IOS for iPad much less closely. Though, to be honest when I did check I didn't see any significant difference between its various iterations from IOS 6 through 10. IOS 11, however, has gotten my attention.

IOS 11 does some things I like. ALOT!

For teachers, there are two changes that jump to the forefront. The first is that I can now edit any screenshot. Here's how. Take a screenshot. A small window will appear for five seconds in the bottom of the screen showing the screenshot. If I click that image within five seconds, different editing tools will appear on the bottom of the screen.

The other tool I really like love is the screen recorder. There's never been an easy way to capture what's going on on my screen on the iPad. To show kids how to do something on an iPad just got much, much easier.

Finally, I've written a bit in the past about QR codes. But they are so totally 2014 and from what I've read, seemingly dated. But now, in IOS 11, the camera doubles as a QR code reader automatically. When you bring up your phone’s camera against a QR code, it will be scanned instantly. I think this has the potential to breathe new life into QR codes in education.

Check out this video from Mashable highlighting the many changes of IOS 11. 

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