Saturday, June 30, 2012

Google I/O -- Tablets, Drives, and Skydiving Surprise

The summer month's of each year are filled with conferences, trade shows, and announcements. While I was at #iste12 last week the Google Developer's conference was taking place. Since a few teachers have been asking me for reactions, I spent a few putting my initial thoughts down. I will post more of a full review after I have played with some toys and features.

Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 is a Google branded 7"tablet built by their partners at Asus. Asus is a great tablet maker (my goto tablet is currently a Transformer Prime from them) and thd throw up a few quick thoughts. Don't consider these reviews...I have a Nexus 7 ordered and will probably be picking up a chromebox and a new chromebook but don't have them e tablet will be the first using the Jellybean version of the operating system which is getting excellent reviews.

It has that great portable size of 7" (remember, I carried a 7" tablet most of last year before switching to a galaxy note. It seems to have most of the sensors necessary to run apps (accelerometer, gyroscope, etc.). Combined with the newly announced offline Maps feature, the GPS is functional even without 3g. Bluetooth functionality makes it work with headsets (skype, hangouts) and keyboards.

The combining of Google's media delivery systems under the PLAY store (Books, Movies, Music, Apps) gives a one stop shop similar to Apple's iTunes and the Amazon's offerings on the Fire. I have never had a much reason to get into Google Play media, but with the announcement of  movies and TV shows and movies, the Nexus tablet is going directly at the Kindle Fire market. It's even priced the same.

I think there is a market for 7" tablets and the affordability is going to make this device competitive. I have often said that the Kindle Fire is secondary/consumption device. Even the interface puts all the media front and center and the apps are a backscreen afterthought (no widgets!). I want to play with the interface before I pass judgement, but this seems to place the media as a widget within the Jellybean interface. The fact that you can attach a bluetooth keyboard or switch to swype or swiftkey also ups the productivity factor (although part of JellyBean is a swiftkey-like predictor).

Full review when I mine arrives in mid-july :)

Chrome for iOS and Android

The Chrome browser is out for the iPad. This includes the tabs-from-other-browsers feature and bookmark sync. On the downside, it cannot be the default (that's Safari and you will say "thank you") and the fruit-company forces browsers to use apple's web rendering engine -- I am getting some feedback that it is significantly slower than Chrome on Android (c'mon Apple. Open yourself up to a little competition. It could be fun!)

Offline Google Docs Editiing

This one is wonderful and at this point pretty much seamless. When your connection drops while you are in a doc, you can just keep working. When the connection is re-established, it syncs. This feature currently works for word processing and should be showing up for presentations and spreadsheets soon.

Google Drive Integration

There were a lot of drive and doc integration announcements that will be bearing fruit in the next few months. My favorite (written about on my Google Drive review) is the integration of the drive as a part of the chromebook file manager (not kidding, a little giddy about this -- it will save 10-15 clicks on blogposts).  With the opening of a new API, we should start to see more "save to drive" features on Apps as well.

A Gdrive App was released for iOS, but it appears to be more of a dropbox competitor, without full-on docs editing (although you can open a doc in safari and edit there). I have a suspicion that we are seeing the surface of a deeper back-and-forth between Google and Apple on this one - with the Google acquisition of QuickOffice, I expect to see some movement on an improved Gdrive app for iOS soon.

Other Quick Hits:

  • The new Samsung Chromebook got some decent airtime (new processor - Celeron, three times faster), better trackpad, Network Jack -- slightly less battery. Chromeboxes are out and tiny (chrome in a box. Thinking of a few for the library).
  • Google released a media streamer with social sharing called the Nexus Q. Love the idea of sharing the playlist/dj duties at a party. Skeptical that I need to spend $300 dollars for something that is not as robust as my Roku, but I haven't played with one yet.
  • Lots of Google+ announcements including a bit of a PR stumble with the new Events feature (Calendar Spam, but already fixed) 
  • On the back end, Goole is launching a web data service (Compute Engine) that could compete with Amazon Web Services. Amazon, to help out the bigG a little, crashed Friday night leaving some people without Pinterest, Instagram, or Netflix -- No deaths were reported, yet.
  • Day one of the show was stolen with Google Glass, the eyeglass wearable interface with lots of early potential (photo, video, sharing, data on your glasses. The skydivers were a nice touch :). This is in very early development -- in fact, the play-around-with-it version for developers onsite was $1500 and that is the only way you could get one.
  • The 3D imagery on Google Earth is pretty trippy. If you haven't looked for awhile, get the update and got to a major city.
  • Jellybean features (since many of you won't see these for awhile): Voice transcription on the device (no more need to be on a network - poor Siri); Google Now - This could be cool. Cards that show you your day, check on traffic, work out your appt travel schedule, etc.; Interactions with notifications (send an I'm running late text without opening messaging)
So that's two days of developer goodness. My take? 
  • I am excited about some things and see a lot of potential in others. 
  • Google needed to integrate the media services to compete with Apple and Amazon on that front and I am glad it happened, but teachers have had decent access to media for awhile.
  • There is a new FIRE coming out and it will be directly and harshly compared with the Nexus 7. Hope that Amazon is up to the task. I am really excited to get this one in my hands and give it a work out. The OG Galaxy Tab is still my middle daughters favorite toy.
  • I think that Drive and Docs may end up being the key for educators. The faster we can have a full cross-platform productivity suite, the better. Keep it simple so that teachers can concentrate on the classroom and the students. Keep it ubiquitous so that students can swtich from class-to-class and school-to-school without re-learning.
Most of this was off the top of my head. If I missed anything major or you really want my opinion on adding heat-symbols to Google Maps, please post a comment or Tweet me. Feel free to share -- would love to close out the month with 10,000 views :)

Fan-droid out.

Friday, June 29, 2012

ISTE Daily: Final Day, Wrap-Up and Takeaways

My plane landed around 5:30am EST. The overnight red-eye is never pleasant on a full flight and the work the next day put me into a contemplative (or zombie-like) mood until that night's #BYOTchat where some of the colleagues I met and #ISTE12 made some lurking in-roads into a new PLN. But before the reflection, Let's get to the last day:

7am SHRED Session:

I like the SHRED sessions for their inspiration in a broad variety of topics. I saw one preview of a digital film-making presentation that went so far beyond the typical half-hearted "digital storytelling" project. It was inspiring enough that I want to rework one of the multimedia projects in the #digcit class to incorporate Digital Book Reviews/Commercials that can be posted to the school's library blog.

I also eliminated one of my planned presentation based on the two-minute preview that made it clear this session was going to go in a direction in which i wasn't interested in...guess it has to cut both ways, neh?

The Future of Leadership:

Since I now had an open session spot, I turned to my PLN and found a new session that looked intriguing (thx @wkingbg). This was firmly a "preaching to the choir" session on digital leadership, run by the gentlemen who run #cpchat on twitter -- Connected Principal Chat. They could have been tapping into this blog with discussions about the need to participate in Social Media, Tearing down walls between admin and faculty (literally, one of the guys has his "office" in a commons area), making curricular and professional development decisions that focus on the context of the student and individualizing, rather than standardizing test-taking. Picked up a ton of new twitter connections on the back channel and will be sharing stuff from them throughout the year,

#ISTELOL -- a break for humor

One hour of education and edtech snark. Really, no one was safe. There was an operatic walkthrough of Teach-for-America invasions, a Johnny Carson-style psychic ripping on vendors and a Q&A session with some great lines. Probably should have ended my conference on this note.

While this was going on, the Google I/O announced the Nexus 7 tablet. How cool would it have been for the  Google booth at ISTE to have immediately pulled out Nexus 7s for demonstration or, better yet, some giveaways. That would have been an awesome use of confluence. -- Ah well.
]End Interlude]

Primary Sources and Digital Tools
Put together from a social studies perspective, this was to be my last session of the conference. There is a careful balance that must be created in presentations like this one. There is the overarching theories that underscore the methods, the activities, and the apps and tools that make it possible. In addition to the usual challenges (differing audience members, differing familizarity with tools, etc).

This session began very heavy on theory name-dropping. Within five minutes, we had heard about T-Pack, the Stripling model of Inquiry, SCIM-C, Webb's Depth of Knowledge, The HOTS, The LOTS, and more. This is not to criticize any of these individual models, but when placed that close together and as a generic overview, the impact of any one idea is lessened and you lose the links to the activities.

Interesting fact: In most schools, less than 20% of the activities we do tap into the Higher Order thinking skills (HOTS) such as create, evaluate or analyze.

That being said, the presenters did a good job of introducing a variety of activites that could be done with a broad range of tools. 2 Cool Examples:

  • Creating Reveal Slides: Reveal slides are portions of picture that allow the viewer to focus on the detail of one section of the slide. Forces students to distinguish between description of artifact and inferences/analysis
  • 10 Words Wordle: Using a collaborative text tool (such as google docs), each student describes a picture in 10 words. Those words, from the class, are then loaded into a word-cloud generator such as to show the classroom concensus.

There were a lot more tools and toys that had fewer educational applications (VOKI) but when there were practical examples of primary sources (much love for the Library of Congress) combined with concrete activities supported by tools -- This presentation was at its strongest.

Final Keynote

I really don't want to spend a lot of time on this. We left early. It was about a really cool environmental advocacy program in Borneo. There was a YouTube video about it. And Orangutans use their lips on touchscreens. That about it. -- I took the redeye because I wanted to stay...for this. Lost that bet.

Summative Reflection

First of all, thanks for everyone who followed these daily posts. I hope they were useful for non-attendees and my growing #iste12 PLN.

I have been thinking over the last few days about ISTE as a conference and what role it plays in education. Some of this is centered around a growing sentiment i was picking up from veteran techs and educators in the last few days of the conference: Is ISTE still worth it?

Taking a Stand on Advocacy
At some executive level, I think ISTE needs to think about who it is as an advocacy organization. When the opening keynote had 15 minutes of pre-roll government wonks kick off a keynote that was the opposite message, the clarity of the organization is confused.

I talked to a number of ISTE board members who deeply believe in the personal context-based education that can be created by educational technology. Yet these same board members have created an expo floor that is dominated by the impersonal test-score focused, #shinypretty, LOTS. Again, the message is mixed -- in this case apparently for financial gain.

This is not to say that the body should begin excluding specific ideologies. I appreciate being able to move from a session on developing digital citizens, to arguing about BYOT, to STEM, to constructivism in its purest form. ISTE can be a big idelological tent for teachers and techs alike -- but if we are supposed to advocate on behalf of the students, it might be time to quit giving a platform to things which we as a body believe is harmful.

Keynotes: 1/3 is bad. Just ask Meatloaf.

  • Make them inspiring
  • Don't let the vendors tell you who to pick
  • Make them relevant to the body of educators
  • Don't pander to me -- I have access to the Youtubes. Amateur production quality - even as snippets -- is barely tolerated from my students.
  • Don't hold a general business session before the keynote
  • Be consistent in your messaging with your speakers, your thanks, your guests and, most important, My Time.
Connections will Happen given the Time, Space, and Structure
Check the twitter feed. The strongest part of #iste12 was the connections made between techs and educators, teachers and admins, etc.The difference between my time with #sigMS and in the technology pavilllion were so tremendously different. One allowed me to form connections, learn and teach from others, and discuss best practices. One of them made me feel intrusive, uncomfortable, and unwanted. The difference? Organization:
  • Clearly mark the area for its purpose (signpost)
  • Invite people into the conversation
  • Have an organizational person there to greet, check-on, and give feedback to presenters/demonstrators/conversationalists

Is ISTE still worth it? absolutely!

As a professional and someone with ideas, a passion for teaching with technology, and for advocating to our students, this forum provides one of the best places to make the personal connection with others in a non-digital forum. It strengthens online connections and puts us all together for generative power that cannot be accomplished separately.

But there are cracks forming. Inconsistent messaging, poor efforts on keynote acquisitions, disorganization that derails effective networking. This will be a great time to refocus on what ISTE as an organization brings to the national conference table. Good luck and see you next year!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ISTE Daily: Day 4 - Crystalizing: The day it began to come together

On a personal note, thanks for all the tweets, reposts and comments. This blog is approaching 10,000 unique views and it is because of your shares. If you find useful stuff, please spread the word - thx.

There is a day at most good conferences where everything comes together and you begin to plan how this conference has changed the way you think about things and what you want to take back with you takes a more concrete form. My day for that was Day 4 -- I hope that you have found your magic day as well.

(I just pasted 4+ pages of notes into this blog from Evernote to try and distill)

CUE Shred Session

CUE, one of the ISTE sponsors is an interesting professional development format. it is focused on low presenter to attendee ratio, concentrated and focused time, and excellent presentation. The SHREDs are two minute previews of presenters. The session is low on takeaway (they are previews) but high on energy. They made me start thinking a lot about substance (most of the presentations are tool applications or single concepts lessons) vs style (high energy, FUN!). I don't harbor any bad for the concept, but it is nice to know what you are getting into...and I have been to enough presentations short on style to appreciate the concept.

They also seem to be a little self-perpetuating, but can't fault a successful business model :)

Keynote: Yong Zhao stops the show.

The ISTE organziers breathed a sigh of relief after this keynote. The opening keynote was a mess in format and message w/ frustrated takeaways and contradictory introductory messaging. It has been blogged, whispered, shouted and echo chambered into ridicule at the conference.

Yong Zhao, @yongzhaoou on twitter, brought down the house

His basic premise (watched from the overflow room, because the organizers were only allotting three per attendee) was an analysis of international testing rankings and their meaning. Mixed with humor (the asian countries do really well -- thus we conclude that the secret is chopsticks -- fine motor skill development, complex PBL while eating soup, etc.), he explains that China, while ruling the test average ranking is (generally speaking) disappointed by other measurement: number of unique patents, paradigm shifting entrepreneurs, etc.)

He chastised American education systems for lowering our national standards in order to beat Shangai. Reading is essential, but it should never be the national goal.

His historical analysis was thought provoking: in the 1950s, the USA was bad...worse than russia -- and we won the race to the moon. In the 80s, we were bad...worse than Japan (a nation at risk) -- and we ended the cold war, spurred on the microcomputer age, and started a global transformation. Now, we are bad...worse than China.


America is not getting worse. America is not in decline. By the measures that are being looked at, we have always been bad. But we have the largest US economy. China is number 2 with 4x the population.

The key difference, he begins to unpack, is confidence and creativity. Singapore ranks number one in standardized math scores, but ranks low in confidence. Americans have an inherent belief in our rule-age.

His Conclusion: Americans care more about children than about math.

There is no standardized test that will produce a Lady Gaga or a Steve Jobs or even a Bill Gates.

We are chasing the wrong goal: Americans don't teach standardized testing well. But we have musical instruments and computers and teachers that care and students that feel their confidence and creativity empowered.

Best line: We don't teach better. But we also kill creativity less successfully.

Take away: We need to abandon the the idea of employable skills. "a 19th century horsewagon will not take us to the moon no matter how perfect it is." How do we turn each of our students into an entrepreneur? how do we create a curriculum that follows the child instead of chasing the test score? how do we maximize strengths?

I will be blogging more about this later, since i think it is the vision that lies under our leadership development program at the school. -- More to come.

Getting Stager-ized

Many of you who follow me on Twitter know that I have an odd twitter love-like-challenge relationship with @garystager. He wrote the counterpoint to @40ishoracle's article on BYOT, he and I have clashed on #flipclass and #digcit curriculum. While this is a lot like my bearded fly against is clean-shaven Colossus, I consider him an invaluable part of my PLN, because he is grounded, passionate, and cares about education. The fact that we disagree keeps me honest.

He covered a lot in his presentation: Personal Fabrication, Reggio, Generation "Yes", and more.

His take away: we need better range and better depth. Schools have always used the technology of the day and students have always shown intensity and passion.

In classic Stager fashion best quote: "ISTE Standards are harmful, dull, and serve no purpose"

Put better: Why teach students Powerpoint and Excel when they could do more interesting things? Why force them to create presentations on topics they don't care about to an audience that does not actually exist.


He continues: While worrying about the test score comparisons to other countries, we should be scared at the implications of a generation of children that grow up without having conversations with adults.

He bashed some Prensky and some #flipclass

...and he challenged us to raise the bar: create projects with challenges to solve. stop artificial sorting. have classes where students MAKE things.

Tapping into the tinker-movement he tied the idea of making real things to robot ballerina and super awesome sylvia. When we build on the desires of students and have an approach that focuses on teachers being in dialogue with children about what children WANT to learn -- We go further than we can when we focus on the curriculum.

Take Away -- Good Prompts:
Mediorcre prompts make for bad output and bad learning. Good prompts challenge a student to do more than he or she is currently equipped to do and motivates them:
  • Brevity: a good prompt should fit on a post it note. "Build something that starts here and ends here"
  • Ambiguity: don't create limits you don't care about. "Something" is better than "Car"
  • Immunity from Assessment: how do you put a B- on a poem? a functioning robot?
Imagine a world where we evaluate based on key questions: does it work or not? is it moving? can it endure? are you (the student) satisfied with it?

He ended with a beautiful challenge? If we as teachers can remember baking cookies in class, playing a fun game, taking a nature walk...then it is incumbant on us to bring that back for our kids and for our colleagues who don't remember that these MEMORIES are the key to real learning.

Less US. More THEM. Time to quit being surprised when kids do extraordinary things.

The Mid-Day Malaise - The Technology Integration Pavillion

As much fun as I had conversing and network with #sigMS at their playground, I was kind of excited about being a part of the Technology Integration Pavillion, although since it was on the expo floor, i should have known better. I took some time to look at mindstorms and arduino (inspired by Stager, I am planning on doing some robot play in Advanced Apps and maybe even #digcit next year). 

I got to the TIP with my volunteer shirt and hit a void. Lacking the organizational structure of the #sigMS, the TIP was a gathering of weary-looking admins sitting and eating. No signage or structure, so it felt like interfering to strike up conversations on the topic i had prepped so i just sat and conversed about anything. 

In the presentation section of the TIP, there were a few corporate sponsors and schools talking BYOT (they keep calling it "D"...and the perspective shows). It was a little agonizing. I left early.

#sigMS Forum -- Social Media and Tools

I recharged with a monster and decided to take my last forway into being an undercover Media Center Specialist. The #sigMS forum was a lively group with lots of tools discussed, shared and thrown.

@stevehargadon gave a nice keynote about us being at the dawn of a new era: one of Co-creation, engagement culture...he used a nice image of one candle lighting another but the light never being diminished. Great image.

He focused on the positive possiblities of the grassroots and longtail nature of the new era, but I found myslef thinking of the negatives. The flip side of the world in which anyone can publish and produce is the infowhelm and confirmation bias echo-chamber. Librarians are in a unique position to combat this, but they have to be made aware -- i think we have a little too much cheerleading to offset fear going on.

Tools Highlights: - a social media/backchannel/Cell phone based response system. Think twitter, todaysmeet, and poll anywhere combined.

Tricider -- online polling with social media.

sig1to1 and sigTC: More BYOT Advocacy in a BYOD curious world:

I traded out a ticket and paid an extra $20 to participate in the combined sig1to1/sigTC (technology coordinators) forum. The forum was an interesting combination of BYOT skepticism, overwhelmed techs, a few early implementers, and lots of idea generation. I am looking forward to the posted links to see the ideas generated, but mainly felt (as I did at the earlier session) that we are missing out on some obvious connections with the schools who are doing this already -- not doing it for cost savings, or out of a bizarre feeling of "we have to do something" -- but because we believe in the pedagogical advantage of having student think critically and choose the technology that best fits them and their environment.

Reflection: This was the day that gave me a lot to do when I get home. I want to redesign the #flipclass to narrow down the amount of out of class to the essential. I want to create more hands-on and more PBL. I want to take back a vision of personalization for all students and leadership development. This was an inspiring day of conversation, PLN building, and challenging but inspiring presentations.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

ISTE Daily: Day 3 -- Playgrounds, Networking, and Sushi w/ Jesu_IT

Sitting this morning in the preparation for one of the CUE.SHRED sessions (lots of speakers in two minute time limits -- could be fun). Reflecting on yesterday and seeing if there is anything profound.

Let's Talk about the Natives

I went to my first hour long session. David Warlick presented on digital natives and their impact on education. He certainly made the case for the necessity of change,

Quickfact: 6 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded every 15 seconds

I'm not sure if I have heard a better argument for infowhelm and the need for students to have the ability to setup filters either through thoughtful PLN development or...well, that is really what I have at this point.

Avoid Question Proofing
He had an interesting point regarding our project design. So much of our traditional teaching methodology applied to modern PBL takes the form of question proofing -- designing each assessment so that every question is answered, every possibility is accounted for. #Edtech geeks reading this have had the experience of the nervous teacher who wants a pre-made flow chart of every question and every possibility 
aside: interestingly, this is the difference between early debate coaching -- teach them to not ask any question for which they do not know the answer -- from experienced debate coaching -- teach them to explore an opponents case with open-ended questions that  lead to closed set-traps.
Questions are good
Show a picture of a barbed wire. Say nothing. Wait for the students to begin asking. Answer clearly and succinctly:
What is that? Barbed wire
What is it for? material to build fences that hurt cows
Why would you want to hurt cows? Interesting question. Why would we want to hurt cows?
Discussion follows led by student inquiry. Boring topic made good.

Gaming and Failing as Learning Models:
One of the most popular tweets from yesterday (maybe @webclassrom20 or @sjunkins):
I have yet to have a student tell me they can't use technology in class because they haven't received any PD on it. #iste12
The idea of creating environments where we are allowed to accept wrong answers; where we take advantage of the #dignat student's natural willingness to experiment, to play, and to find value in problem solving; where we move from high-stakes cannot fail to high-value learning from mistakes.

The sigMS Playground: Draw Them in w/Toys and Talk about Learning Anyway

I had a rollercoaster ride of contacts before finding out for sure that I was presenting about digital devices and e-readers in library settings. I ended up talking about BYOT (shock); and teaching as knowing student context and learning through reflection on experiences (shock with Jesuit flava*); and letting go of control in order to focus on the things we know and can share with our students (let me hear big ups for #digcit)

How good was this? 
I got to meet the @40ishoracle groupie (her name is @bachrens and she is awesome.
I became best friends with @maureenbrunner (she lives like 30 minutes from me...we met in San Diego)

The playgrounds are great places to learn, network, meet and talk to other educators. I had absolutely no reason play #edlingo bingo and got to learn as much as I taught. -- Isn't that kind of the point?

(because of my enjoyment of this, I skipped two sessions i was planning -- if anyone has notes from Android Projects, I will give you one of my super-special #edlingo bingo prizes)

Monday, June 25, 2012

ISTE Daily: Day 2 - Keynote w/ Dr. Ken, Blossom, and a Prescient Pink Floyd Reference

This is going to be a hard blog to structure. There was so much content and so many thoughts running through my head and the structure of a daily blog makes it very difficult to organize in any kind of coherent way. So I think I am going to try chronological stream of conciousness based on my notes and tweets and see where that goes. I will be sure to signpost the snark along the way (debate geeks just chuckled, trust me).

What to do with Downtime at ISTE:
Coronado Island is a nice beachy diversion. It is a short ferry ride (takes off from right behind SDCC) over and is relatively regular in its takeoff. The @wishbabydoc and I had about the best stack of lobster and avacado we could imagine at one of the restraunts, The beach is lovely and the view of the aircraft carrrier is impressive. Because of the ferry schedule, we missed the kickoff celebration which I understood included Batman, so that was a bit of a downer, but you have to go where the sun takes you right?

not-even-an-interlude-sidenote: I love that blogger integrates with picasa/G+ enough to get pictures from my phone. so much easier than copying URL from another window.

Tweet-up and SIG Showcase:
For non- or new- ISTE people, the heavy lifting of communication and PD is often done by special interest groups. these non-exclusive groups hold webinars, maintain mailing lists and wikis, etc. Booths were setup after the kickoff so that people could wander, get added to the lists with a swipe of a barcode, and have an excuse to bump into people.

And the highlight was the bumping into people. I finally got to put names and faces with Twitter handles that I consider some of my closest colleagues in education. Some of them like @artsedtech had distinctive clothing (the batman tie was classic), others had t-shirts with twitter handles. I wore my avatars had and carried my sonic-screwdriver pen. Most people had a system of look at face, glance to nametag to see if it is somebody you are actually online besties with, and back up to face. My wife assures me that women are used to this behavior for entirely different reasons.

I had a geek-crush moment when Tom Whitby, creator of #edchat, pulled me out of a crowd to say "Hi" and introduce himself. It is fascinating how twitter and social networks have allowed us to create geek-cultures of celebrities that we can interact with.

Interlude: The dying of the connection

  • I realized halfway through Coronado, that using my phone for non-stop pics was killing the battery which only had half a charge when I got to the island-of-no-outlets.
  • Powered up the hotspot and switched to my tablet to tweet some things but left the hotspot running through the tweetup.
  • Hotspot died just before the keynote began.
  • The ISTE wifi was not connecting from my seat.
  • I was in a keynote ripe for livetweeting with no connectivity. 

I felt like a one of our students: twitchy, slightly annoyed, feeling like i was suffering a great injustice. But i fired up evernote and persevered.
[end Interlude]

The gathering of the educators outside the keynote was impressive. So many people it was a little overwhelming. This is not surprising given that there were 15,000 people signed up for the conference, but those kind of numbers made me find a wall and people watch quickly...

The Keynote - A Litany of Talking Heads
Awesome videoscreen. The thing was huge. Not just wide-screen huge, but E3/Olympics huge. Good production quality to set the theme through inspiration quotes and photos: Expanding Horizons.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

ISTE Daily: Day One - Student Portfolios

Conference on the Bay
The ISTE Daily blogs will be less of my usual attempts to find meaning in the chaos that is #edtech and more of a recounting of some of the things heard, said, and thought during the ISTE Conference going on this week. Limited perspective, but hopefully enough of these will be around that people without the opportunity to attend (or attending other things) will find some professional development opportunities.

The official Keynotes and Kickoffs are tomorrow, so I decided to spend the day in a workshop presented by Dr. Helen Barrett (@eportfolios) titled "Student Centered Interactive E-portfolios with Google Apps". I am seriously leaning toward a portfolio model for the #digcit class at Brebeuf Jesuit and wanted to get another perspective on implementation. I am not sure if that is what I got, but it was a useful day and a good way to start the conference.

The presentation itself had tremendous content (you can in fact get an entire course worth of information here: and did a great job of focusing on the student-outcomes expected, but it suffered from a growing trend in conference professional development: splitting-the-difference between pedagogy and the technical. In a room filled with educators (k-college), technicians, and everything in-between, it became very difficult for her to maintain a storyline for the presentation even over the course of day-long workshop.

There were some great highlights though:

The POV of the Portfolio: Student vs School
  • A six step process on e-portfolios that begins with the VISION STATEMENT. Given the types of portfolios and the numerous tools out there (even within the GoogleApp world there are choices), it is important to know what you want out of the portfolio
  • In describing professional development, she made an excellent division between the pedagogical training necessary and the technical training which is necessary but can be broader, changes regularly, and may become less important as the BYOT/D mindset begins to take hold and students, at least in secondary, become more responsible for tech-maintenance. Focusing on the pedagogical objective is of course one of the mantras on this blog and I was happy to be the choir preached to.
  • After over 20 years in ePortfolio design, Dr. Barrett had some amazing anecdotes and visuals. Her contrast between the student who offered a reward for her lost portfolio vs. the students who held traditional year-end bonfire to burn their collections really drove home the idea that the portfolio is a tool that is only as good as the care, effort, and purpose behind it -- what is daunting is that much of that foundation is laid by the teacher.
  • Favorite Line: "Portfolios come out of the constructivist tradition; Standardized testing draws from a behavioral model." -- had never thought of it like that, but it does put the entire assessment thing in perspective. :)
There was a mixed audience, and while the planned opportunities for interaction were minimal outside of the initial icebreaker, there were those classic conference moments where the presenter took the step back and let the discussion flow. I even got into the mix a few times, dispelling the myths of the complicated back-end of the Apps-for-Education environment and a little bit of BYOT-evangelizing. It is always a great time to hear from educators as they work through the struggles of education together.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Jen and JD Show episode 2: Trust falls and Icebreakers (How to Torture Introverts)

Thanks for the feedback and praise of the first Vlog!

by far, Android guy was the most popular feature, followed up by Jen's analysis of carb preference. keep the feedback coming and let your friends, colleagues, and baristas know about the show.

Today's episode is fast and furious and only posted to YouTube this week since we were both minutes/hours away from going on the road. In fact, I am posting this at San Diego ComicCon Convention Center, getting ready to start a workshop on Google Apps and Portfolios.

Comment, Share, and Give us feedback on what you want to see!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Impromptu Speaking and Digital Citizenship: Thoughts from the National Debate Tournament

Today is Thursday, June 14, 2012. More importantly, today is the Thursday of the National Forensic League Championships, or as I affectionately call it, Impromptu Day.

For those of you who have never been to a High School Speech and Debate tournament, I want to take a few minutes to paint a picture, because it is what is best about education on a number of levels. Students who are passionate about learning, competition, performance and excellence are competing in intellectual, communicative, and critical thinking activities through their own choice, guided by passionate teachers and educators.  They are also generally dressed really nice and on their best behavior which is also cool.

Students wait for postings of the semi-final speech competition
The national tournament is the culmination of this activity, gathering over three thousand of the best speakers, debaters, and performers from around the nation. To compete at this level you must qualify through local competitions and the quality shows. Over the course of three days students compete in ten main events, gradually narrowing the field from hundreds, to sixty, to 12, to 6, to the national champion.

On Thursday of nationals week, about a thousand of the speakers and debaters who have been eliminated from main events gather in a single room for the Impromptu speaking competition. These students have a variety of skill sets: excellent speakers, critical analyzers, extemporaneous responses. Each of these skills play a part as 3/5 of the competitors are eliminated each round throughout the day. The competition is intense and the stress level resembles a marathon as students are given five minutes to prepare a five minute speech on a choice of three topics and then wait to find out if they survive to compete in the next round. Sometime late Thursday evening, the final six competitors are sent home to prepare for a final round of competition and the crowning of a new national champion.

It is amazing.

As I drove into the competition this morning I was reviewing the last minute advice to give my six students entering this fray:
  • Speak slowly and give yourself time to think of your next sentence
  • Play to your strengths, debaters are analyzers -- don't try to out-smoothtalk a person who gives prepared speeches every weekend.
  • Find a structure: Thesis supported by two independent  points works well. Examples should support the points, not the thesis directly. Don't speak a string of examples. It's not good in life and not good in competition.
As I constructed the final piece of advice in my head regarding introductions (quality quotations, striking statistics, alliterative anecdotes), I was struck by a disconnect that applies to Impromptu speaking, Extemporaneous speaking (30 minutes of researched preparation), debate events -- the lack of Internet.

I am often asked to draw on my forensic experience to be give impromptu speeches about technology, digital citizenship, a pre-dinner invocation, etc. It is not atypical for me to reach into my pocket and grab a phone to look up a quick statistic, remind myself of the exact wording of a quotation that stuck in my head, or find something pithy from a Jesuit. In the same way that technology has made memorization of quick-reference facts unnecessary in many circumstances, the internet has done away with the traditional quotebook, almanacs, etc. -- Except in competitive speech.
[end interlude]

While computer use has been growing in competitive forensics at all levels (taking notes, storing/retrieving local information, reading speeches), there is a ban on connectivity in all competitive events and only explicit acceptance of any computer use in debate and one type of speech.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On Vivid Descriptions and Big Tents: Breaking Down the Claim for Fewer Teachers

An analysis of the most recent attack on teachers -- that there are just too many of them.

for those of you who have watched the new Jen and JD Show or followed the blog/twitter, you'll know that a recurring theme in my thought process is my slightly shocked reaction to the attack on teachers in recent years. Given that teachers are not a strong political group, that the unions in general have lost their power, and that ready-made scapegoats are much easier to attack than issues like poverty or cycles of illiteracy, it should not be surprising that sound-byte culture has taken the stance that teachers are to blame. It is slightly more frustrating that both big-tent political parties have taken this position to some extent by placing faith in high-stakes tests and business-centered competition rhetoric, but we are past the stage where we can look to any political party to speak out in the name of educators.

So it falls to educators to call "foul" and get the word out.

This is not going to be an easy task. The news is not going to cover it. The sunday morning talk shows don't have a place for an educator's voice (although they seem to always have seats for multimillionare businessmen), and the most powerful bully pulpits are reserved for talks about "filling in ovals completely and dark" as the pathway to educational heights of performance ecstasy.

So let's take the arguments one at a time. Blog, write, advocate through social media, and begin to change the conversation around at the grass roots level. Because, and this may be important: teachers, as a group, know how to educate children. We know what works and what doesn't. We know how to fix problems that happen. We know what bad teaching looks like and, in general, call it out to administrators.

We care about our students. We care about them even when they frustrate us. We care about learning. We care about it in spite of all of the barricades that the Federal and State governments and their puppet masters the book publishers and large corporations put in our way. 

On Fewer Teachers -- The Premise

The latest attack that is gaining traction in the political discourse claims that we need fewer teachers. The claim seems to be taking a few different forms and is based on the generalizing "well everyone know that..." down-home rhetoric that appeals to people who will only consider a sound-byte and not dig deeper. Eventually we need to come up with a good counter-soundbyte, but until that time, I want to pick apart the argument a little.

New Hampshire Governor, John Sununu, seems to be one of the many voices spearheading this argumentation. The mass appeal whips up fervor over smaller government, fewer public employees, etc. Naturally, since many teachers are public employees, they fall into this group. What is astounding is the reasoning behind it:
There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population. And as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers...If there’s fewer kids in the classrooms, the taxpayers really do want to hear there will be fewer teachers. [...] You have a lot of places where that is happening. You have a very mobile country now where things are changing. You have cities in this country in which the school population peaked ten, 15 years ago. And, yet the number of teachers that may have maintained has not changed. I think this is a real issue. And people ought to stop jumping on it as a gaffe and understand there’s wisdom in the comment.
ThinkProgress has the full article and includes video for those of you skittish about the bias of a liberal news source (of course, if you fall into that category, you have probably already stopped reading, which is part of the confirmation-bias issues that we need to address in our #digcit classes with the next generation).

 So, let's break down the Sununu quote, acknowledging that he may have deeper analysis that did not come out in this interview, but holding him accountable as a taxpayer making public statements to a wide audience:

Population is going down: His first argument is one of simple arithmetic. If we need X number of teacher per Y number of students. When the number of students goes down, the number of teachers should go down. -- Its so simple that absolutely no one could disagree, right? There are a few problems with the premise of the claim though:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Jen and JD Show: Episode 1 - Snarkfest

Taking our education and geeky wisdom to a new level (not to mention our hubris and love of parenthetical cartoon bubbles), Jen and JD have decided to do a video podcast!

After a TON of playing around with hotspots and various broadcasting platforms. The @40ishoracle and I are proud to present the first episode of the Jen and JD show, brought to you on the platform (mainly because YouTube doesn't allow links to outside sources. What is up with that?)

So please, sit, on second thought...
Read the links.
Post comments.
Retweet, share, subscribe....

Do that interactive PLN thing that you do SO well.

Episode 1: The Snarkfest o' Educational Stuff.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ed Tech Reflections: A BYOT Glossary for the School Community

The @40ishoracle shames me with her prolific posting this week. I took the week off since we were doing professional development so much. We are beginning to put together some buy-lists, suggestions, common terms list based on feedback we are getting from parents and teachers. Read more:

Ed Tech Reflections: A BYOT Glossary for the School Community:

'via Blog this'