New Tech Tools

Learning about some fabulous new tech tools for teaching. Just listing here due to time constraints!

    Allows you to add notes to a YouTube video (and perhaps other video sources). The links will take you to the spot in the video where you took the note.
  • Thinglink
    Add links, video, resources to a still image
    Easy infographic builder
  • Wordle
  • Tagxedo
    Another Word Cloud builder

Yup. The Students Need Tech

Another blog post supporting the need for students to have technology — not just the teachers. In his post, “Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology,” Ryan Bretag echoes the findings of the study I referenced in my last post where personal ownership of the tools is the best indicator of success.

In one district I work with, they made a concerted effort to get white boards in all the classrooms, at least at some of the schools. I know there are some teachers who have them who never use them, other teachers who would like them but are reduced to asking for grants to get them. (Oh, that irritates me. Why should a teacher have to drum up the money to get tools that they need? Whether or not I think IWBs are the answer, still!!!)

But moving to getting tech in the hands of kids is a slow, arduous process. It’s been painful. In past posts, I’ve referenced how hesitant teachers are to have kids use cell phones for educational purposes. Nearly every classroom has a NO CELL PHONES sign. They say they are BYOD, but wow — there’s no evidence. My daughter could have an iPad, and even has an accomodation that says she can have it, but she won’t because it sticks out.

Those fancy white boards? They don’t do much if it’s just the teacher and one or two students who can do stuff. I loved Mr. Bretag’s comment about converting a lecture to powerpoint to IWB….

I’m working on a curriculum. We get many requests for prepared IWB slide shows. I can only hope these slide shows are being taken apart and used for something besides lecturing — even with fancy white board slides.

It’s NOT a Book!

I’ve been working on digital content delivery of a curriculum for the last year or so. I haven’t seen very many good models out there, and am constantly looking for an appropriate way to delivery content in way that truly takes advantage of the media (online – be it iPad, computer, whatever) and doesn’t just look like a book.

My kids have “online books” that really are just that: print books that have been put online. Oh, there might be a few videos dropped in or an audio of a vocabulary word, but basically, it’s a book. Most are pdfs, with perhaps an interactive element or two dropped in. It’s a book.

I love books. I have thousands in my house. I read print books. I strongly prefer printed books to ereaders.

But digital isn’t a book! Digital delivery offers us different things. There are so many more options, choices, opportunities. When building digital content, we sell ourselves short if we retain the print model. By taking advantage of the interactivity and multi-media possibilities, we can create richer platforms for learning.

Screen shot 2012-12-22 at 8.53.23 AMA recent feature in the New York Times, “Snow Fall: Avalance at Tunnel Creek”, is an interesting use of digital media to deliver a story. An Atlantic Monthly article refutes the claim that “Snow Fall” is the “future or journalism” because of the time and personnel resources required.

I can see their point. But it’s a great model for education content delivery. I can easily see how I could use this model of delivery for content. It’s not cheap – the multimedia time/expertise is pricey, as is the content development itself.

But it’s a great concept — far better than a pdf of a print book!


Processing a great two day TIES workshop, even with crazy weather.

I presented two sessions on Monday, so most of my day was taken with that. I did catch a couple of sessions:

  • Android and Friends: got some great suggestions for device agnostic tools, such as, Screenleap, Infuse Learning, Cloud On and Layared
  • I missed the Simon Sinek keynote, but it sounded excellent. May try to find a TED talk.
  • My session on primary sources – -a couple of the sites people liked were Beyond the Bubble, Crash Course, Piktori and Thinglink
  • Chromebook session with Molly Schroeder: I’m checking out Chromebooks for my son’s school. They are thinking about buying a cart of Chromebooks to replace an aging cart of MacBooks. Chromebooks are a real possibility. The new version is $249 + $30 in maintenance. Info from this session:
  • Keynote for iPad: I have recently discovered Keynote for the iPad. I will never look back! I love love love it. So, was excited to see a presentation by Chris Russell all about Keynote. Chris always has great tips and tricks, and I learned a few new things. Fun to say hi, even if just briefly. (Chris – your show was incredible, by the way! My daughter was drooling at your facilities….)

Tuesday: Much more relaxing, no presentations.

  • Doug Johnson on Technology Manifesto. I so enjoy hearing Doug’s talks. I’ll go, no matter the topic. He’s funny, incredible insightful, and leaves me with many new perspectives and ideas. This session was no different. Here are his materials, including the Manifesto and powerpoint slides:  I have to say, reading this manifesto sounds different than at the session. He’s a strong proponent of tech, and using it to embrace existing best practices. the manifesto sounds almost anti-tech. Some of the comments I got from the session:
    • Is there an articulated goal for tech use? An educational outcome that you want?
    • THere are NO jobs that do not require tech skills.
    • Tech itself doesnt‘ improve achievement. It’s tech used to support best practices that does.
    • Good examples: using Google docs to support writing. It’s the collaboration, wide audience that improves writing, not Google docs. Or, Google spreadsheets allow data to be visualized instantly, allowing discussion of which graph/chart is best.
  • Hierarchy of Tech Needs
    • Adequate Infrastructure
    • Efficient admin
    • Expanded resources
    • Improved teachings
  • Thinks librarians should be the tech trainers

Keynote: Tony Wagner

I do love a good keynote. They can be impractical, yet so incredibly inspiring. Tony Wagner didn’t fail. His had great quips, tweetable comments. Critical of standardized tests. Critical of multiple choice tests, of tests that are content recall (um – most of my daughter’s tests!)

  • It’s competencies, not content that should be valued now. No need to memorize content
  • Survival skills:
    • Effective written and oral communication
    • Collaboration
    • Accessing and analyzing info
    • Curiousity and imagination
  • We need people who can identify and solve problems, not spit back content (50 state capitols example)
  • Global achievement gap…
  • Critical thinking is learning to ask the right questions
  • Teachers that make a difference are the outliers. Culture of school is at odds with learning to be innovative:
    • School values individual achievement. Innovation is always a team effort
    • Schools compartmentalize knowledge – subject specific instead of cross discipline
    • Schooling involves deeply passive approach. Innovation requires creating, not consuming.
    • School is a risk averse environment. Awards compliance – for kids and teachers. Innovation is the opposite
    • Culture of school relies on extrinsic motivation of grades. innovation needs intrinsic. Parents, teachers who raise innovative kids emphasize PLAY, PASSION and PURPOSE.

He has some great ideas, such as sample testing – not testing every kid every year. Require capstone projects. EVERY student should have a digital portfolio! Teachers, too.

Great Keynote. I need to look for his TED talk, and requested his book from the library.

Brad Flickinger

Great ideas for ipads. And, guess what – he only has 12 in his school!

Zen Design

Oh, how i needed this session! He had some great ideas for better design in slides. Quick rundown:

  • Remember the Grid and the Power Points. (seriously – yes)!
  • Have pics go off the slide
  • Use FACES
  • lay text over an image – fabulous idea
  • Use images. Use images. Use images. If a picture can say 1000 words, let them
  • Books: Presentation Zen by Gar Reynolds


I finished my day with a techie session — using HTML5 widgets with HYPE and iBooks Author. It reconfirmed my plan to build some NL content in Author. I just need more time!


In the exhibit hall, I connected with Providence eLearning. They are publishing some great iBooks about classical literature. Interesting conversation about epublishing models. I need to connect with them.

This was a different conference for me, in that I knew so many more people! Roseville people were there, bummer I didn’t connect with any. I talked to a number of the folks I’ve worked with recently: Charles Duarte, Craig Roble, Ryan Canton, Chris Hesselbein, and Marti Starr and Rebecca Slaby, who presented with me. Also saw some folks from edcampmsp, and Mark Diehl from Little Falls. I must say these connections start to make a conference like this a whole different experience — one where the connections start to become the primary learning opportunity. We made plans to continue working on projects, which is super exciting.

On a personal note, I am really bummed I didn’t see more Roseville folks there. I give them credit for getting stated, but every time I attend one of these conferences, it just confirms how far they have to go. It’s a paradigm shift, a change in philosophy. I don’t want my kids in this environment anymore.

No More Bubbles!

Image from Beyond the Bubble

I have previously expressed my dismay with the amount of multiple choice tests I see at my daughter’s high school — the “Scantron” tests. Even then name says something…..  Tron? Seriously?

I’d post some of the questions from her tests, but the tests aren’t allowed out of the classroom! When I have seen them, the vast, vast  majority of the questions are, as described below, random fact recall. When I’ve asked teachers why they need to ask these questions, it’s because the “kids need to know this by memory to access higher level classes.” Wow – I’m doing professional history, and I couldn’t answer some of the definitions/rote memory questions on those tests, yet I am successful. I could, however, find those answers in seconds because I know where/how to look, how to analyze sources and how to think creatively.

It was with great pleasure that I found  Beyond the Bubble today. This is an alternative history assessment concept, based on Library of Congress primary sources. I have to dig a little deeper, but at first glance, I love the concept. Assessment based on direct primary source analysis, not rote random fact recall.

Check out their amusing little video:


Internet is like Electricity…

An article in today’s StarTribune discusses a battle over putting broadband into rural Lake County, Minnesota.

I don’t have the background on this story, but it seems to me that the business interests missed the boat on this one, thinking only of their bottom line. Now the county is saying it needs broadband to stay competitive – -just like happened when electricity went in — so they’re taking action. The county is stepping up to provide a service that has been deemed essential, especially in an area like the North Shore.

What isn’t mentioned in this article is that if businesses don’t have broadband, neither do the schools. That means students in the rural areas don’t even have the option of becoming better connected students, of taking advantage of the learning opportunities that having internet access to the world provides.

Rural students deserve better. Thanks, Lake County, for picking up where the businesses failed you.


Media Focus on Tech in the Classroom

Two media articles about technology in the classroom yesterday.

Does More Tech in the Classroom Help Kids Learn?” from Mashable lays out simple, but poignant arguments about how technology in the classroom can add to student achievement. Simple things like letting kids learn at their own pace, promoting active rather than passive learning, and real world learning are things that should happen anyway – it’s just that technology finally allows them to happen easily. It’s a good quick article, and I’ll be keeping it in my list of articles I send administrators and teachers to.

An article, “Schools See a Tech Revolution but will Students See Results?” in the St. Paul Pioneer Press is, of course, more skeptical. The newspapers always are. The article starts out with the premise that tech is expensive, and only focuses on that. It treats is as a fad, and of course, measures all results based on standardized test scores. Getting that to change as the only measure of success is a whole different ballgame, but it certainly obscures the other positive outcomes.

I do find it interesting that St. Paul schools have been working on this for over a year. I have a coworker whose son attends a St. Paul school. She’s been asking for a couple of years about St. Paul’s plan, and has heard nothing. Which is St. Paul’s loss, as she could be a huge asset to them in this planning.

The article does have some strong arguments for positives, such as a quote from Peter Beck, a high school history teacher: “More and more, we’re facilitating learning rather than being the ultimate keepers of information and knowledge.” The tech director for Edina is also strongly stating that we can’t stop while we wait for evidence through tests.

It’s obvious the paper and the general public hasn’t embraced this paradigm shift yet. Just the tone of this article makes it clear that they don’t approve.