Mashup

September 27, 2007 § Leave a comment

A colleague of mine was telling me about Google Lit Trips this morning. Very cool site…a great use of Google Earth to help kids visualize where the stories they’re reading take place. Definitely worth checking out.

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A perfect example of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”

September 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

I used this video as part of my intro to Movie Maker over the summer. Someone please tell me how this enhances education…

Digital students

September 26, 2007 § Leave a comment

I saw this video a while back, but I revisited it yesterday when looking for something for an intro to our Technologists meeting. It’s about college, but I think it applies really well to K-12 too.

I’m sure that Marco’s students were surprised to find that the rest of the world hadn’t caught up to his way of teaching. I’m betting that they thought college would be an extension of what they learned in high school.

I’m having a problem with the wording of this sentence. When I first wrote it down, I wrote that the problem was that Marco was way ahead of his time. But he’s not. Marco is teaching kids the way they learn. The problem isn’t Marco, the problem is the rest of the educational system, that still wants kids to be little containers that we fill up. We, as educators, talk this talk about teaching kids on their level, then go back into our classrooms and continue to teach the same way we’ve always taught, because it’s easy and it’s what we know.

A few courageous ones will venture out of their cave and try new things, or may stay buried in their caves to try new things depending on the culture of the school they’re in. It’s more difficult to be innovative and different in education than it is to tow the line and teach the same way that everyone else teaches.

If you’re a teacher, look around you. Are there other teachers who have fewer problems with the “problem students” or is that you? Are there teachers whose class kids look forward to going to? Those are the teachers who are reaching kids on their level. Those are the teachers who are truly making a difference.

If you’re an administrator, pay attention. Those are the teachers that are worth hanging onto. Those are the teachers who should be applauded, rewarded, and hung onto.

Students who have those kinds of teachers produce projects like this.

Yes, there are more teachers like that in the world today than there were 5 years ago, but why are colleges still producing teachers who teach the old way?

I’m not saying that every teacher needs to do something completely innovative with technology every day, but when our brand new teachers are teaching the same way the veterans teach, there is a problem.

When will education catch up with now, and when it does, how far ahead of now will the world be?

Changing the face of entertainment

September 21, 2007 § Leave a comment

Last night, as I was helping my wife clean the house, we had Grey’s Anatomy on in the background. My wife and I are avid watchers of the show, and being the music freak that I am, I love the sounds that play in the background of episodes. The people in charge of that always seem to pick such appropriate music for the different moods in the show.

Anyway, as we’re watching, a new Old Navy commercial comes on, and the music that’s playing in the commercial catches my attention. I rewind the commercial (thanks DVR) and play it again. I call my wife out and ask her if it was in an episode of Grey’s. She doesn’t know…she’s not a music freak like I am. If I hear a catchy song, I’ll remember it, even if I’ve only heard it once.

Music is the soundtrack of my life. Songs from long ago will come on and they’ll bring memories back that I haven’t thought about in years. That’s just how my brain works. I think that’s how a lot of people from my generation are. In fact, I just watched one of Kevin’s Driving Questions podcasts the other day about this exact same thing.

So now I’m obsessed with finding out more about this song. I Google a line from the lyrics and find a question about it on the Grey’s Anatomy music site. Find out it’s by an artist named Ingrid Michaelson, who I also Google. I find an interview she did with NPR not too long ago about her success and her music being chosen for episodes of Grey’s. I also find out that she’s an independent artist, not signed to a major label, which means when you buy her music from the iTunes music store, she gets most of the cash.

The people from Grey’s found her through her myspace page, where she posted some of her songs. So, independent artist, who, in the “old world” would have maybe never been heard outside of NYC gets worldwide play on a hit TV show and doesn’t have to give up part of her money to a greedy record company. How cool is that! Those are the kind of people whose music I’ll buy over and over again.

Music is changing, TV as we know it is changing, art is changing all because of Web 2.0. It’s a great sign when people can choose what they like, rather than having companies choose for them. Of course, it means that we’ll have to teach kids how to filter that much more at an early age, but what a wonderful time to be alive. Having so many outlets to choose from, and so many outlets to contribute to. American Idol and Star Search used to be the only way for ordinary people to get a shot, and even those are controlled and produced beyond belief. Now, anyone has a shot at “making it.” They don’t have to have a sob story, or know someone who knows someone or even have a lot of money. They simply need a desire to create. The public will decide.

Entertainment is truly becoming a democracy. Now if we could just get our political system to work like that.

By the way, here’s the commercial that started this whole thing:

I don’t get it

September 20, 2007 § 1 Comment

Really, I don’t.

How can a teacher walk into a room and start griping about how much they hate computers, what disdain they have for the things, telling you how they just don’t get it, they’re no good at it, gripe gripe gripe, moan moan moan, then in the same breath, turn around to another person and gush about the email they just received from a former student.

WTF?!

It goes back to what Tim Holt said about teachers who just flat out refuse to get involved. They don’t have any problem using their cell phone or using computers to buy stuff from eBay or Amazon.com. They don’t want to learn how to use the tool to communicate with parents. They don’t want a computer to be for work that they don’t want to do, and feigning stupidity has worked in the past, but it’s not going to work anymore.

If they had to learn to drive in order to go to parent’s houses for parent conferences, we’d hear how much they hated driving and how they don’t get how those damnfangled automobiles even work anyway, and they break down too much and gripe gripe gripe moan moan moan.

OK, so our web page system could be a bit more user friendly, and I’m certainly trying to work on that. However, I’m tired – sick and tired, to be quite honest – of people coming in and bitching through the entire training.

You complaining isn’t going to change the fact that computers and technology is here for you to use, and your administrators are going to make you use it. I’m here to help you, so quit telling me how much you don’t want to be there because you’re making me not want to help you and I’m trying my hardest to be friendly and chipper, and giving me attitude isn’t any different than a kid giving you attitude because they don’t want to sit through your class.

Suck it up. Get a grip. Become a user and, God forbid, LEARN something.

Why aren’t my teachers updating their web pages?

September 4, 2007 § Leave a comment

It’s the beginning of the school year, and if you’re like my school district, you have a ton of teachers scrambling to update their web pages to reflect the new school year, new students, new rules, and maybe a new grade level.

This yearly right of passage also includes the nightmare situation for technology trainers of having to retrain folks the have already been trained on how to use your webpage system but have forgotten in the last year because they haven’t updated their page since this time last year.

So how do you get that training to stick? I mean, you spent hours with these teachers pouring over the details and showing them where the documentation is located. Why can’t they remember, or remember where the documents are?

All of this feeds into the fact that teachers aren’t geeks and geeks aren’t usually teachers. There are people who live in both worlds, and those are the people who update their web pages every week or every month, but for the most part, teachers are busy with teaching and their families when they’re not teaching, so they don’t have the time to memorize every detail of how your web page system works, or figure out what went wrong when it stops working. They just want the damn thing to work, period.

It is the mentality of the geeks, who love having lots of control over the way things look that lead to this frustration for teachers. Geeks are the ones in charge of getting the software that the teachers will use, but because geeks aren’t teachers, they get software that geeks will love because of all of the features, bells and whistles. This goes for a lot of the programs and training that teachers see.

Teachers have full plates already, and for the most part aren’t the most tech savvy folks. They want things that are simple to use, and simple to remember. Too many bells and whistles means too many features to train on, which means too many things for teachers to remember/forget, and the less likely they are to use it because they can’t remember how they got it to work in the first place.

Keeping things simple, and preferably easy to use (ie directions within the program itself – not separate documents) will result in many more of your teachers using the technology that your district provides for them.

One more thing to remember: the fewer usernames and passwords they have to remember, the better. Any program worth its weight nowadays will have the ability to pull user info from your LDAP. If the username or password isn’t something they use every day, they’ll forget it, and when they do want to use it, and can’t remember their login info, they’ll get frustrated and stop trying.

Welcome again…

September 4, 2007 § Leave a comment

Hello to those of you just discovering my. I’ve been at this for a couple of years, with major gaps in the postings. This blog was formerly hosted on Alan November’s site, but I decided to move it to wordpress for a little more exposure…hence the new blog with very old posts.

Welcome back to those of you moving over with me, and a great big Texas “Howdy ya’ll” to those of you just tuning in.

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