Thursday, March 28, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Week of March 25, 2013

It is a short week for me - tomorrow is Good Friday and we have the day off.  Here is my first Weekly Roundup. I hope to have a quick roundup of little things I have seen that I find interesting and think maybe you would as well.

Happy Easter - may you know peace and forgiveness

Education 3.0 - I've seen it around but haven't paid much attention to it.  This week I did. I think its a great overview of the thoughts going around the education community now.  If you haven't paid much attention to it before now, take a look. I really need to give props to the Tweep that posted it this week but I can't find it. I will do a better job of that from now on!  HERE is just one of the many sites and blog posts on the subject I Googled.

The 21-Day #TwitterGuide4Beginners Challenge - The great Carl Hooker(#mrhooker) from Eanes ISD decided he would just tweet a 21-day guide for Twitter beginners.  I had the pleasure of watching it as it went down and it was so much fun I missed most of Downton Abbey that night.  What you get is an easy guide to jump into the fresh waters of the Twitterverse.  Have fun! (DISCLAIMER: This was actually from last week but since I wasn't doing the Weekly Roundup last week I have to catch up)

Sugata Mitra - That is all.  If you don't know who is, you should. Put him on your list.

Aurasma - The most awesome cool app of the week to play with. It caused the most conversation in the office and at home about the cool factor and its purpose.  Another one to check out and play with. HERE is the link to the App Store.

The Big Bang Theory Bloopers ALL SEASONS! - Crank up the Apple TV, change the source on your big ol' flat screen and spend 38 minutes and 7 seconds laughing.  BAZINGA!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Khan Academy is the New Encyclopedia Britannica

I love Khan Academy. It is such a great resource! But I have been wondering about it for a few months. 

Khan Academy's website states: "We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere." They do a great job of providing lessons and they even provide some tools to track learning but do they or can they truly provide an education?

I am more inclined to think of it as a new type of encyclopedia.  

When I was growing up I would spend hours with our World Book Encyclopedias. I would browse and read and I think that I learned quite a bit.  Pretty much everything that I needed to reference was in there and it was one of the most valuable resources I had access to at the time....AND I liked it.  But I don't think it provided my education.

Khan Academy is a great encyclopedia of mini-lessons.  Very comprehensive, especially in the area of math. All the way from basic arithmetic to advanced mathematics, it provides a valuable resource we can use to learn math. It is continually growing and I am sure that other areas will be just as robust in the future.  But, lets not confuse it with an education.

Khan Academy is a great example of where we are in education.  There is great content and there is great access to content, but in what context are we putting the content and access?

Wikipedia says "education in its general sense is a form of learning in which knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, research, or simply through autodidacticism"(learning on your own).  Learning on your own is where we get hung up on innovation. Everyone thinks that the future of education is self-directed learning.  If we rely too heavily on self-direction, significant gaps in society's collective intelligence will appear.  

As we move further into the 21st century we tend to believe there are easy replacements to our education system. Something we can just switch to.  I think some might believe that Khan Academy is  a good example one of those replacements. We have to be careful that we don't replace an education with a reference tool.

I think Sugata Mitra rightly points out that there is a need for encouragement.  Some kind of intrinsic motivation needs to happen in self-drected learning.  However, to believe that one simply places the responsibility for learning into the hands of small children and walks away will not yield the results needed for a full education.  We need that mentor piece.  The granny that is in awe of the child's learning.

I still love it. 

Monday, March 25, 2013


I have really been wanting to have some SOLE since watching Sugata Mitra's TED Talk. It may be because I have an eleven year old that would have a blast being part of a Self Organized Learning Environment.  

What is great about the TED Talk page is the link to the Download the SOLE Toolkit. The toolkit gives some great instructions on how to create your own SOLE at school or at home.  While reading it I really thought about how this could be tested in an after school activity or at a public library or some other gathering place.

The instructions ask for groups of 8 to 12 year olds divided up in groups of four.  These groups then have some pretty loose instructions to answer very big questions like "Why do humans breathe?" or "What is irony".  

I especially like this example from the Toolkit:
Mitra, A. (2013). SOLE: How to Bring Self-Organized Learning Environments to Your Community.
Retrieved from
I understand that there is great pressure on students, teachers and schools to perform to standardized tests and to learn standards set by their governments but there has to be a way to instill the love of learning in each child.  This process seems to give children the freedom they need to learn on their own and could prove a great opportunity to build some skills and knowledge along the way.

Your instructions:
2. Download the SOLE Toolkit
3. Email Sugata if you want to be part of the School in the Cloud Mentor Network.
4. Let me know what happens!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Market, Technology and Education

I just read a great editorial from Jonathan Nalder on the Australian MacTalk blog titled Is Education the cartel that technology like the iPad will break next? After attending the SXSWedu event a couple of weeks ago, his article was perfectly timed to get my brain storming about what it means to be in this time of rapid technology innovation combined with the school reform rhetoric that has been brewing over the past few years.

I encourage you to read his editorial before you go much further, but the gist is whether a tool like the iPad will break educational system cartel much like technology like the Internet, the iPod and iTunes broke the music cartel. He also makes the point that technology can have a similar impact on other cartels, such as journalism and newspapers.

In my head I replaced the word cartel with system. We have several industrial systems in place across the world and technology is certainly being disruptive in many of them. For example, the energy industry is seeing rapid advancement in energy sources. We seem to be reaching a point where, much like music, we may soon be able to pick and choose our sources of energy. You soon could have affordable alternatives to traditional electrical production such as solar, wind, gas, etc. The dominance of the existing electrical system, particularly in the U.S., has great influence over how much choice consumers have and they can control the energy market. But the big question is when and what will the technological breakthrough be that will give the consumer a viable alternative. As with the music industry, a single announcement from a single company can disrupt and forever change and shape our electrical system.

The educational system has its own, very unique challenge that other industries will never face: a seven year old child. I choose the seven year old child as a prime example of where a person is in a very critical time in their development. By the time a person is seven years old they have been in the educational system a couple of years, they understand learning, they are still eager, they absorb knowledge and skills like a sponge. But, at the same time, they are naive, dependent on adults for survival, and lacking the experience and intelligence needed to grow intellectually without some real assistance.

These seven year old children, and there are millions of them in the U.S., are really holding up the educational market place. This market place really wants access to that seven year old as a consumer and the educational system is not really budging.  Why? 

In the future, education will be more about process than about access and content. Access and content have become almost free in the last couple of years. As more and more smart mobile devices get in the hands of parents and students, the sky is the limit for access and content.

Content is practically free for educational systems.  There is hardly any content that you cannot find, for free, to learn. With unlimited capacity, the Internet has proven to be the greatest storehouse of information the world will ever know.  

Access is where the money is being made. The Web, software, apps, online learning, tablets, laptops, desktops, smartphones, and who knows what else are the doors to the student consumer.  They allow the student to get access to all that content.  Entrepreneurs know that if they can build the right tool, then they get access to the consumer. 

The real issue then becomes more about the process of delivery. There are very practical issues that have to be addressed. For example, modern western culture does not have a place for millions of seven year olds to spend their day while the parents go to their work. While the workplace is transforming, will it ever reach a place where all parents will have the time to be with their children during the day?

Also, while my 11-year old boy has the ability to learn anything he wants, what is the guide and motivation to learn what he needs? For that matter, what our society needs him to learn?

So, the content is in place. The access is almost in place. But we have not delivered on the process. I don't think anyone is really close to figuring that out. I think it is one of the reasons the traditional classroom and school has such a strong hold. It is a process and delivery method that has a proven track record to guarantee results. The track record and results may not be what we need now but no one has really delivered a real and present alternative to the existing system.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Group and Individual Accountability

By Lorna Franke, McCarroll Middle School - Texas History

An issue I have experienced in my own classroom, as our district began using the PBL model, was that only some of my students were giving it their all for their group to be successful on group projects. In other words, one or two students per group were doing all of the work, and the entire group, including those who weren't working, was getting credit. I had some upset students, angry parents, and personal frustration about this, because I didn't know how to make them all want to give 100%. I didn't know how to hold them accountable. No matter what I did, whether it was walking around the room and getting them on task, or pulling them out individually and as a group to refocus them, nothing was helping those who weren't motivated to become more into working for the group.

I was frustrated. I went to my administrative team, and we discussed some ways that I could improve this in my classroom, but I left the conversation, still wondering how I was going to get 100% participation from all of my students, no matter their learning style. I had tried placing them in groups where students had different abilities, learning/leadership styles, and levels of learning. Nothing was helping. Then…my principal sent me a magic article from "the edupreneur" about using contracts in the PBL classroom. It changed our classroom. I have pasted the link below:

I went back to my class the next day with a task. I asked them what they thought about our productivity groups, why they weren't working as well as they should be, and what we should do about it. They had the same idea I did. We wrote a contract. They came up with the terms. They came up with consequences for breach of contract. They did it all. 

We then set up procedures for class:
  1. Every day, groups will log the work done by each member of the group. If someone didn't participate as much as everyone else, they lose 10 points for that day. 
  2. At the end of the week, the logs will be turned in, and each person will receive their weekly grade. They can make as much as 100 points for the week and as low as 60.
After signing the contract and completing the work logs every week for a few months now, I have seen a huge increase in productivity, as well as a large improvement in group member participation. My formerly unhappy parents are happy with the accountability for the group members, and my students are able to accept responsibility when they are not participating. So…my moral to this story is this…contracts in any cooperative learning classroom are the way to go. :)

You can download a PDF of my contract HERE

Do we have time for our teachers to do this with our students?

I have been fascinated by this video ever since seeing it in a story on titled Deeper Learning: Highlighting Student Work. This particular story is about how we expect our students to create quality work, but do we give them the chance to learn and feel what quality work is.

The video embedded in the story shows an excellent example of how a student's classmates can give continuous feedback in and effort to help the student achieve an excellent product.  How often do we give our students the opportunity to receive constructive feedback, quality examples, and opportunities to create high quality product?

What I wonder is how has the traditional schedule, high stakes accountability, curriculum, and teaching style impacts a student's project and is this one way we can train our students to not only receive, but give good, constructive feedback? Even if a student experiences this just a couple of times a school year, the impact could be incredible.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reshaping Learning...the First Post!

I feel like I should have a blog.  At least looking around I see that so many people in in the educational technology field have one, so why don't I?

Well, I guess for years I just thought that I didn't have much to say.  There is plenty of stuff out there that help teachers with apps or ideas for their classroom about technology, but I guess my interest lies elsewhere.

I think that it is time for a blog about what it looks like, what it takes and resources that schools, as in teachers and administrators, can use to reshape learning in the classroom.  To do this I am hoping to enlist several of my friends in the discussion by having them be guest contributors.

I hope you find this useful. If not, thanks for stopping by and have a nice day!
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