Search this site
Other stuff

Follow me on Twitter at:


All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest book:


Available for pre-order.

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Fan Page on Facebook

EdTech Update





Marginalizing the marginalized with filtering

While [ISTE. AASL] standards tend to emphasize learning and work skills, there is a growing concern that students who do not master communication and collaboration enabling technologies will not be able to full participate in modern cultural and political life. As described by Henry Jenkins of MIT:
We are using participation as a term that cuts across educational practices, creative processes, community life, and democratic citizenship. Our goals should be to encourage youth to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary culture.

Jenkins warns:
A growing body of scholarship suggests potential benefits of these forms of participatory culture, including opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, a changed attitude toward intellectual property, the diversification of cultural expression, the development of skills valued in the modern workplace, and a more empowered conception of citizenship. Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace.

Social networking, not only teaches and improves skills, but can be used to improve the instruction processes necessary to developing higher order thinking skills in the content areas.

Reynard observes that:
Students who understand that their knowledge is socially constructed can benefit immensely from the integration of social networking into their learning process. It cannot be understated that the sooner students understand that their knowledge is not an isolated construct, the sooner they will develop skills of negotiation, debate (an almost forgotten academic skill), critical inquiry, and cognitive positioning – all of which are essential in becoming successful lifelong learners as well as developing expertise in their discipline.

Reynard concludes that “the inclusive educator stimulates student customization of their own learning environment while retaining accountability.” True “differentiated instruction,” individualized learning plans, resources and activities can be accomplished using social networks that are in large part designed by the learner himself.

Social networking tools are not just helpful in teaching 21st century skills. They are critical. Connections for Learning, a SayWire White Paper on social networking tools in education, 2009.
By blocking social networking tools in our schools, to whom are we really denying access? All kids or only those who cannot afford home Internet access? Are we marginalizing the already marginalized in our society by preventing them from the only opportunity (in school) they may have to participate in a participatory culture by filtering? 



Obstructing change with fear

Potential theft of the device is a reason often cited for schools not engaging in a 1:1 initiative - especially in low-income districts. But just how real is that fear?

From Securely://'s tech brief 1:1 Device Theft in Schools:

Device theft is 1 in 700? It seems to me theft is a manufactured fear created by those who simply want to block change. Were we really concerned about the economic impact of theft on schools, we sure as hell wouldn't let kids take 3 or 4 $125 textbooks home with them each night! (But then again, who in their right mind would want to steal a textbook?)

We as humans don't really understand statistical odds. A superintendent gets on call and she thinks every parent thinks the same way. One wacko tries to carry explosives on to an airplane and we all now take off our shoes before boarding. A couple kids do something stupid on Facebook and it gets banned in an entire school.

The fear mongers are pretty dang good at preventing change.

How do you counter-act them?


Lessons learned from the $3400 piece of chalk post

Last week I posted an observation about a teacher using his classroom equipment to project a handwritten math problem to his class and suggested "that teacher is using $3400 worth of technology to do what could be done using a piece of chalk on an existing chalkboard."

I got some very thoughtful responses* and I learned from them:

Lizzie expressed a common theme: "schools have missed the crucial step of looking at how to transform their teaching first and then considered whether technology will help."

With IWBs and projectors and doc cams, aren't we just enabling "sage on the stage" teaching? Can we blame a teacher for using tech as it was designed to be used?

Brendan wrote "That's like saying that an iPhone is a $600 telephone just because you saw a person talking on it."

Loved this analogy. Can a single observation, just a glimpse by walking by, give enough information to make any judgement?

T asks "Why would I use a new/complicated method for simply working through an equation when all I need to do is write it out. Should I make a prezi and display the equation rotating through different angles as we go along? How about using my clicker software to check that every student is ready to go on instead of calling out 'we all good so far?'"

Some long-used standard teaching practices still have value. Should we complicate things with technology - but not improve teaching and learning in the process?

Janet wrote: "Engagement with my students soared when they saw the same lesson on the Smart board as opposed to the whiteboard. We need to also recognize we are teaching "screen kids"."

Does the very use of technology create a classroom in which "net gen" kids are more involved?

Barbara suggests: "While it seems a costly process, the advantage of the document camera is that it can take a snapshot the problem (or the smartboard can record a video of working out the problem if the teacher uses it directly), which can then be saved digitally & uploaded to a website so when the kids get home and forget how to do the problem (imagine if you have math 1st period of the day!), they can pull up the video & revisit it."

Had I stopped and visited with the teacher, I may well have discovered that this lesson was indeed being recorded for later review by students. Might teachers be using technology that LOOKS like conventional teaching practices, but is actually used to improve learning opportunities for students?

Bill observes ".. interactive white boards are training wheels for 20th century teachers, but they're transitionally imperative for learning teachers."

Is just using technology for, in the SAMR model, substitution and modification a critical first step to using it more powerful ways? Remember Vygotsky's theory of proximity - you can't learn something completely new - you need be able to relate it to something familiar.

The evaluation of the use of any technology in the classroom is obviously more complicated that a simple walk-by can achieve. Thank you Blue Skunk Readers for reminding me of this.

* I am grateful that I seem to have no trolls on the Blue Skunk.  

Image source