My Week in Tech Integration 3/13/2015

Question of the day

Question of the day – What would you do for a student who consistently failed to do work in school or homework, yet always had a good excuse?

Please answer in the comments.

State Projects

Students in 4th grade had some fun projects last week, but they weren’t finished in time to share.


I listened to a few classroom discussions over the last couple of weeks. It was interesting seeing how students and teachers naturally pulled information from outside of class to relate to the books. A few high school students even discussed with former students, which led me to wonder what would happen if online discussions were opened up to former students or across classes?

This leads me into this great article on 5 Highly Effective Teaching Practices, from edutopia.

  1. Teacher Clarity
  2. Classroom Discussion
  3. Feedback
  4. Formative Assessment
  5. Metacognitive Strategies

When we talk about technology in the classroom, we aren’t talking about replacing the teacher or the content with a shiny electronic device. What we are talking about is taking these effective practices and making them possible.

How Technology Helps with Effective Teaching Practices

  1. Teacher Clarity

Learning goals and explicit criteria for success are not just posted on the classroom whiteboard, but live on the classroom page where students and parents can refer back to it over the corse of the unit.

  1. Classroom Discussion

How can we extend the discussion beyond the classroom? Open the discussion across classrooms? Create smaller discussions, small groups can keep a record of what they discussed. Small groups can share with each other final points.

  1. Feedback

Teachers can leave voice or written feedback on google documents. Teachers can read and comment on online discussions. Self grading quizzes are very common across several platforms. It is even possible to create video quizzes. There are of course hundreds of computer learning programs that will tell students if they are right or wrong, but useful feedback is teacher driven and usually personal.

  1. Formative Assessment

Quick self graded quizzes, Kahoot, electronic check ins, anything that replaces the 30 half sheets of paper we used to grade. When reviewing answers for a test create a poll for each study guide question and submit live on the projector and discuss each question. Gauging understanding with Socrative or a quick poll.

  1. Meta Cognitive Strategies

When we find ways to put more of our content online on a learning management system what is to stop students from working ahead, especially if the learning goals and criteria for success are clear? If students continue to move beyond the class it becomes easy to allow them to create an individualized learning objectives. When they create this within the learning management system it becomes possible for teachers and parents to monitor progress.


The Case Against Technology in the Classroom

I both agree and disagree with this article. I agree that teaching students to use technology is not the purpose of technology in schools. I disagree that technology is not a useful tool. It is all nice for wealthy tech leaders to fixate on social aspects of learning especially when the kids they are socializing with are the kids of other silicon valley tech leaders, but for the rest of us technology, used correctly, can eliminate barriers of distance and time.

Resources from Teachers and Classrooms

Girls and code 

Google drawings graphic organizers

 socrative – A great way collect students thoughts. 

 URL shortner Shortens long URLs and makes a quick QR code. 

 Are you looking for EdTech stuff? A great resource is edshelf.

 Rubistar – for creating rubrics



Can you imagine doing this in LA class to get the elements of a story.

The Love of Science

What if kids love Science when they are young because they get to play around with it. You know the hands-on stuff is fun and occasionally gross.

Image from








Then as we get older we lose some of the hands-on stuff so we start to hate Science. The fix is easy right? Just add more hands-on stuff!

Photo by looking4poetry

What if the fix isn’t that easy. High school Science is more that just hands-on. It requires a bit of precision; quality measurements, repeatable experiments without impurities. This isn’t, throw some corn starch and water together and look it’s a magic substance.

Rigorous experiments in Science require creating experiments that remove all but one variable. They require students follow complicated directions and make precise measurements. Then they have to collect the data correctly and feed it into tables and graphs, perhaps even perform some magical mathematical functions. Then after all that hard work they get a conclusion that might, just might, resemble the correct conclusion in the book.

Image from Wessex Archaeology

Not quite real experimental Science of discovering the cure for cancer, but closer than those semi-magical demonstrations in Kindergarten.

So what would be the better way of teaching Science?

  1. Nose to the grindstone. Here is your worksheet and a virtual experiment don’t make any mistakes and pay attention to those details, especially in the math.
  2. Do the experiment, fail, do it again because you were sloppy. Then do it again because you were sloppy, then do it again because you were sloppy, oh forget about it here are the numbers you should have gotten to use now pay attention to those details.

Yeah, I don’t like the choices either, though honestly if I were forced to pick I would choose the second. The real trick in teaching, if you want a silver bullet, Science, is to Be Less Helpful (I think Dan Meyer can be credited with coining that phrase).

So really, the question is, “How do we keep the interest of our students, in this really cool experiment, while simultaneously requiring them to take excellent measurements, and controlling for variables in experimentation?

Maybe this is the way –

Image from Matthew and Tracie

This is, at least as I see it, a kind of middle ground. Students are still excited by Science, they are just getting bogged down in the details. Quite honestly I think those details will bore just about everyone except a Scientist. On the other hand understanding that there are details and this rigour is important are also takeaways we really need to have. However, if you want to collect excellent data and import it correctly into graphs and tables so you can examine the actual physics this seems like an excellent way to do just that.

Edcampusa, pedagogy not policy

Monday June 9th, 2014


Four days ago it was my youngest son’s birthday. I woke up early and made him breakfast in bed, handed over presents of a Lego Steve and toy light sabers (he is way too young for a real light saber), then I packed my bags.

lego steve lightsaber


My wife and I had debated driving all night on the 4th, but instead decided we really didn’t have enough resources to drive the family 1,000 miles away in a car with well over 200,000 miles on it just so dad could go to a conference. Again and again I’ve had to justify to my wife why I was spending my own money to go to Washington DC for a conference. She is used to losing me for the occasional Saturday, especially when the conferences are free, this time I spent close to $400 to pay for the trip.

Luckily I have relatives who would have taken offense if I didn’t sleep in the guest room and eat all their food because my district won’t pay for out-of-state conferences. I also used vacation days, I don’t earn professional development credit, and as career networking goes, well this is education and an edcamp to boot, there just won’t be high-powered executive looking to hire away great talent. I love my job, but occasionally I dream about being able to pay the mortgage on a regular basis.

On Friday June 6th 7:30 AM I showed my driver’s license to the security guard and was permitted to enter the hallowed halls of the Department of Education. Over the past several months an energetic and very excited teacher fellow, Emily Davis (I think the only person, besides myself, at the edcamp who follows more people on twitter then she has followers), had worked hard to carve out space for us edcampers to do what we do at edcamps right there under the noses of the driving force of programs such as Race To The Top.

nametagdoe badge

Mr. Duncan stopped in for a few minutes in the morning and then was off.  The cynical amongst us called it a drive by, others reasoned that one should not expect the Secretary of Education to dump his entire schedule to chat up a random selection of teachers. (Rumor has it that he had an interview with NPR.)


There were some folks from the Department of Education in the sessions with us, some more obvious than others. The great thing about an edcamp is one person is the same as another. Perhaps if Duncan had stuck around, all the sessions he took part in would have devolved into a group of people trying to talk at him, (and occasionally throwing tomatoes). It may have been for the best that he left us alone to try to do what we do at edcamp.

topicsThere are always a few session on policy at an edcamp. This of course was edcampusa, some, perhaps all, thought is was the opportunity to have real teacher voice heard at the Department of Education. Whatever, we aren’t the first group of teachers to visit, though perhaps the first grassroots group of teachers.  Edcampers are by no means a political organization, rather they are educators who are actively stepping up to make changes in their schools and classroom.  I guess, being invited to the Department of Education felt like being asked to consult on policy.

policyDuring edcampchicago in 2012 (maybe 2013) I led a session on the RESPECT document. A paper written by former Department of Education fellows about how they envision a “renewed and transformed teaching profession in the 21st Century.” I talked to one of those fellows during that time and she said that as Arnie went on a bus tour around the country they would set up shop at each stop and ask teachers to comment and improve the document. There was space online at the Department of Education website, that allowed interested educators to comment on the document. During my session at edcampchicago of 300 attendees I think 4 showed up.

At edcampusa my session on webmaking with Mozilla was only attended by one person. (the session on maker spaces had 6 I think) She knew more about the subject than I did. As a college professor she was excited to see what happens when kids get a hold of tools such as webmaker and Scratch. On the other end of the spectrum, sessions on “How we should schools be evaluated” and “Measuring Education” were generally full.  I guess we should forget about the classroom and focus on fixing education, isn’t that the way most reformers do it?

At work as a technology integration and professional developer I spend a lot of time talking about pedagogy.  Using technology is not about the technology, it’s about quality teaching practices. The teachers don’t like it, the new boss wrote me up for it. Yet, I refuse to change, I refuse to be a person who teaches tools. (Seriously, when was the last time your boss hired someone to teach you how to use the accounting software at work?)

Most teachers and edcampers aren’t policy wonks, they are interested in changing classrooms. This can be seen as policy talk, but what we really do at edcamp is talk pedagogy, even if we don’t call it pedagogy. Pedagogy is the basis of quality classroom instruction, it is also the bedrock under which we should write school policy.

The natural question is how much of the policy talk actually made it across to the people in the Department of Education. Were the people from the Department of Education, that joined us in session mostly teacher fellows, there for a year and gone, or were they full-time staffers who actually have a voice in creating education policy? (How many people in these huge public buildings actually affect policy and how many just keep the government running?) We certainly had a star-studded group of educators who could speak well on such topics as education policy. Just these 8 could make a think tank worth millions.

Then again, to not have heard what we have been saying for so many years, testing is being misused and is statistically useless for evaluating teachers, schools need to be more student-centered, teachers need a voice, the model of schools we use is hopelessly outdated, and more. All of these things are not new, they are not a big secret. Heck, most of them are in the RESPECT document. They are just not being implemented.

Did we need to go to the Department of Education to tell them? Or do they need to come to us and see what we really do? Tom Whitby suggested that instead of doing a bunch of edcampusa in Washington DC, the staff should leave Washington and visit edcamps around the country. I know they have gone out in the past to visit schools, but the dog and pony shows that happen when outsiders visit a classroom is not a true indication of what really happens in our schools. Take a Saturday and spend 5 or 6 hours with teachers, don’t even tell them you are from the DOE, edcamps are like that, they don’t check your credentials at the door. Just be careful you might learn something.

Crush Their Spirits

LinkedIn has a new Inspiration Index (The LinkedIn Inspiration Index #InspirationIndex)

All it is, is a simple slider. You set where you feel your level of inspiration lies.

I’m an educator and my experience and particular position allows me a fair amount of innovation in my work. I feel this inspires me. I sometimes see kids learning cool stuff, sometimes I see teachers doing amazing things. Other times I get stuck planning or doing paperwork. But even then it isn’t always drudgery (sometimes lesson planning is very creative).

What bothers me is this:

What do we do to uninspire young men?

What do we do to uninspire young men?
Screencapture from on 7/30/2013

Not only that but after women come of age there is a dramatic fall in their inspiration.

Screencapture from 7/30/2013

Screencapture from 7/30/2013

Are we crushing the spirits of our boys in school and just trusting that the real word will do the same for our girls? Should we have to wait until our 70’s to start feeling inspired again?

Yeah I know it isn’t an unbiased poll, but it does bring up questions about quality of life, education, and socialization.

My sons are Makers. Are You Ready?

Inspired by Scot McLeod and his blog post My son is 8. He’s a maker.

I encourage you to follow up and make your own post.

My son is 7. He is a maker. He spends hours building elaborate worlds in Minecraft knowing they will be destroyed because we don’t  have the full version, tonight he will make another one. 4plus4

My son is 5. He is a maker. He builds cities out of trains and Hot Wheels. They block the halls and cover the furniture.

My son is 7. He is a maker. He draws pictures of children playing, Angry Birds flying, and pigs hiding.

My son is 5. He is a maker. He builds forts out of cushions. He hides under blankets and dares me to find him. He runs around the house with a blanket cape flowing behind. legos

My sons are 5 and 7. They are a makers. Will Their classes enable them or quash them? Will their teachers inspire them or suppress them? Will their schools nurture their brilliant divergence or force them into a convergent, one-size-fits-all model?

My sons are 5 and 7. They are a makers. their world-changing skills and talents never will be reflected in an educational world of worksheets, end-of-chapter review questions, course exams, and bubble tests. How will you accommodate and recognize their gifts?

My sons are 5 and 7. They are a makers. Are you ready?


Competing Philosophies of Education

Perhaps this is just my view, but it looks like education is slowly inexorably changing and we have two choices competing for the dominant theory of what constitutes a quality education.

technology becomes the teacher.

This is a nice model for the business community, because, eventually, the costs will drop. The basic premise is that if we design adaptive software students can sit in front of a computer all day and just follow the learning program. Costs will be limited to the hardware (less than $1,000), software, ($5 per student), and a person to monitor students (minimum wage). $45,000 for a class of 30, or $1500 per student, $65,000 for a class of 60 or $1,100 per student. Or about 10% or less of the cost to teach a student now.


Instead of the presenters of knowledge teachers become the facilitators of knowledge. Experts in their craft who guide students through individualized learning experiences.

  • Teachers of young children focus more on learning milestones and owning the skills that are the building blocks of different subjects.
  • Middle school teachers focus more on developing burgeoning critical thinking skills.
  • High school teachers give students a wide latitude in finding, creating, and solving problems that are central to learning standards.

Students use technology to explore, question, collaborate, practice, and create.


Which system of education seems better to you? Why?

If you had the choice which school would you enroll your children?

Building Safe Online Communities

I’m developing this for training at my school. I know it is a bit wordy, but I wanted to make sure it would also be a stand alone project. Actually I want it mostly to be a stand alone document. If you would please throw out some comments I would appreciate it.

If the embed is not working please try this link. Building Safe Online Communities.

How Will I Manage My Classroom

Some thoughts.

Please respond with your thoughts, criticisms, or whatever. I’ll probably never implement this in my classroom, at least not at this raw stage, but I’d like to know some thoughts.


Creativity has been on my mind this last couple of weeks. Listening to half an interview with the Author of “Imagine” on NPR.

My take was it goes like this. First, you study hard and learn everything you can. Second, when you get stuck you take a bit of a break and let inspiration strike. Third, you work twice as hard to make that inspiration a reality.

The next day I’m discussing motivating students. How do we get the trouble-makers in the back of the room who never want to do any work, to actually do any work?

Realization, you don’t. We spend our creativity and effort getting the students who want to be involved excited and working and learning.Let the trouble-makers choose to join or not.

So much in our school culture is about motivating the bottom students.

At the Federal, state, and district level we spend money, time, and effort bringing those students up to the middle and what happens? The next year more students are falling behind.

At the individual school level:

We require the trouble-makers to keep busy and not disrupt the classroom.

  • No phones
  • No talking
  • Here’s a worksheet if you don’t want to participate in learning
  • Read a book

The object really is avoid the time-consuming power struggle of “I may be forced to come to school, but I’ll be damned if I will learn anything.”

We wait and let the passion and/or excitement infect the trouble-makers and they choose to get involved in the classroom.

I will not waste my creativity trying to convince someone who is dead set on not doing any work to learn something. Instead I will use my creativity to increase the excitement for those who do want to learn.

Let their excitement draw the others in, or not. Their choice not mine.

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I was listening to the radio the other day, WBEZ, and they were interviewing two remarkable 17-year-old musicians. (don’t quote me on anything I am blocked at school from going back and checking my facts)

The first boy had a learning problem with reading music, he just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to read it he just couldn’t. Yet somehow here he was as either a finalist or winner of a $10,000 dollar prize for being a musician. Can you imagine a writer who couldn’t read winning a prize?

I can actually, with the help of books on tape and voice to text software.

The second girl was even more interesting. She said she transferred from private school to public school in 5th grade. She had never done math without hand on activities and was confused. She said, “I don’t know how kids can learn like this” (I’m pretty sure those were her words, they kind of stuck in my head)


Make of this what you want, but I thought it was very interesting.