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EdTech Update





BFTP: Humility builders

I like to joke that I tend to fix things until they are permanently broken. Sadly, it's not really a joke.

This week I broke the crystal on a watch in the process of replacing the battery. (Shouldn't use a pair of pliers to squeeze the back back on, it seems.)

I woke up this morning wondering who got the "handy" genes in our family. My dad was very mechanical and my mom was a house painter, furniture restorer, and the like.  My brother and sister must have lucked out. I know I didn't inherit one lick of ability in this area. Any project like installing a garage door, repairing a faucet, or putting together a toy raises my humility quotient by at least 100%. 

Which is a good thing.

I find that I get into the most trouble, act the most stupid, and embarrass myself the most when I am thinking too highly of myself. Getting knocked down a notch or two usually makes me a nicer person. At least for a while.  I know this.

Here are a few other humility builders (oxymoron?)

  1. Full length mirrors (see below)
  2. Stupid typographical errors or just plain awkward writing in work you've made public.
  3. Chewing somebody out, then getting all the facts, then apologizing.
  4. Reading others' writing that is more profound, beautiful and thoughtful than you can ever hope to create.
  5. Watching yourself on videotape.
  6. Having an article rejected by a publisher. Or two. Or three.
  7. Being taken to task for something you've said by someone you respect.
  8. Getting a pointy-haired boss cartoon taped to your door.
  9. The amount of my royalty checks.
  10. The look on my network manager's face when I ask him the meaning of an acronym.

There are plenty of others but these come to mind.

Why is it so difficult to be grateful for the things that do us so much good? Like getting taken down a notch or two

Original post May 12, 2013


The year-round school


Tim Stahmer at Assorted Stuff has a dead-on post, It's Closing Time, about stopping and starting "school" every summer. He shares my pet peeve about closing libraries exceedingly early and collecting technology for summer storage. And I like this question:

But I wonder how much more learning would be possible if we didn’t “open” and “close” schools each year? If we treated learning as a continuous, open-ended process, rather than something with a fixed start and end?

Using an expensive resource like a school and its library for only 3/4 or so of the year just doesn't make good economic sense either.

And yet... I think many of the educators with whom I interact seem ready for a break by the end of May- both teaching and non-teaching staff. While the days of the duty-free summer seem to a thing of the past, even for "9-month" employees, the summer brings a change of pace. Many tasks, while important, do not have the urgency that they do when school is in session.

The summer provides a much needed mental health break for those in stressful positions. By the end of May I go home thinking I don't really care if I ever see another student or teacher or principal for the rest of my life. But by the first of August, I miss them all.

How do we get continuity of education and full use of resources yet provide breaks for kids and adults?

One thing we are working on is extending the school year informally with technology. Our students keep their Chromebooks and access to the school's resources (ebooks, databases, videos, Internet access, etc) over the summer. Our public library collaborative project, of course, goes year round. I would like to have the funding to keep our school libraries open over the summer as well or at least allow kids to check out a ton of books to keep over the summer. We are making inroads at some of our schools by having the libraries available during summer school and having one school do summer checkout. 

A better long-term solution might be to re-envision how a "year-round" school is structured. I worked for five years in a year-round school. The ARAMCO Schools in Saudi Arabia had to accommodate an oil company that could not afford to lose all its employees for three months during the summer. So schools there were 3 months on; one month off. One third of the employees and their kids would be gone in August, December or April. Three three-month-long regular school sessions looked and felt like regular semesters. The single months between them allowed vacation time, remediation for those who needed it, or enrichment programs and recreation. We got both breaks and continuity.

As much as I am sentimental about the summers of my own childhood, I recognize that we need to find ways to keep learning opportunities available to our kids - year round schools, summer school, youth camps, digital learning, library programs - creative options abound.

There is no excuse for the summer slide.

Image source


BFTP: Connecting problems and technology

"Given this year's learning in the areas of technology integration, what might be one or two concrete goals that you will set for yourself heading into next year?" - end of year assignment for an administrative technology leadership class

As assignments go, the one above isn't too bad. But (doing some Monday morning quarterbacking) could it be improved? What if read:

Select one or two major problems or challenges you expect to face next year and apply technology uses to help solve or meet them.

I know, I know, for many solving a problem or meeting an educational need with technology is implied in the first assignment. But for too many educators, technology application is still about starting with a new and sexy solution and then running about looking for a problem to solve. 

In rather vague ways, when most educators think about the why's of integrating technology into education they consider motivation, engagement, technology skill practice, reading and math remediation, higher-level thinking, improved communication, collaborative learning global citizenship, problem-solving, yada, yada, yada. All lovely and important aspirations for the productive use of these fun devices, large and small, that beep, buzz and take batteries.

But we have to do a better job of getting down in the weeds, tackling real and specific problems with technology that are rooted in the day-to-day educational problems that can't very well be solved by traditional practices...

  • How do I help students build the level of concern for the quality of their writing? 
  • How can I help my current ESL students master double-digit multiplication?
  • What might make my unit on the Civil War/the water cycle/nutrition more meaningful?
  • How can I better connect with my students' parents?
  • How do I make my staff meetings more productive?
  • How do I provide non-fiction, high-interest reading materials for elementary students helping them meet the new language arts standards?

My long standing advice to teachers has always been to begin integrating technology into one's worst units -  the ones neither you nor your students much like. I would extend this to all educators and suggest we all start looking for technology solutions to our most difficult problems - those which seem intractable.

Most educators need exposure to the basic functionality and possibilities of new technologies. But once exposed, the direction should be toward problems, not generic or idealistic technology use. 

Graphic source

Original post May 5, 2013