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

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EdTech Update





It's not the program, but how you use it


Questions about the merits or lack of them of Accelerated Reader surfaced again on our state's media specialist listserve this week. After all these years, the debate is still whether to use such programs or whether not to use them.

The discussion needs to be re-framed from yeah or nay, to how to use any tool well.

These have been my questions/guidleines about any reward-based reading program originally published in a 10-year-old column, Creating Fat Kids Who Don’t Like to Read:

  1. Does my reading promotion program stress personal accomplishment and individual accomplishment? Do students have the ability to set their own reading goals? Can students at a variety of reading levels and abilities meet target goals or will only the very best readers be recognized? Are only set percentage of students recognized for their accomplishments or will all students who reach a goal be acknowledged?
  2. Does my reading promotion program set goals that promote collaborative work? Are only individuals recognized for the amounts they have read, or can small groups or classes collaborate?
  3. Is my reading promotion program only part of my total reading program? Do I still emphasize books, magazines and other reading materials that may not “count” in the promotional reading program? Are my students also reading books because of hearing exciting booktalks, listening to enthusiastic peer recommendations, and being given well-constructed classroom bibliographies tied to content areas?
  4. Is my reading promotion program available to my students for only a limited duration during the school year? Do my students get the chance to read for the sake of reading after the promotion is over, to really experience the true, intrinsic rewards that come from being lost in a story or learning interesting facts? Have I tried to determine whether my program really leads to life-long reading behaviors?
  5. Does my reading promotion program stay away from material rewards like food, stickers, or parties? Are students or groups recognized for meeting their goals through public announcements and certificates? If I have to give out some physical reward, is it at least a book? (Or low-fat, sugar-free!)

So, what are your ways to build an intrinsic love of reading through programs designed to stress the extrinsic rewards?

Greetings from snowy St. Charles, MO, and the METC conference. I am looking forward to seeing Meg Ormiston's keynote this morning. I hope the weather is good enough for people to attend. And for me to get home tonight!


Speech contest


This came as a comment to a blog post from early last summer, Everything I know in 15 minutes:

Hi, Doug-

I don't know if you know anything or not about high school speech, but I do an event called Oratorical Declamation, which is basically a student giving a commencement address or a famous speech by someone else as if they were the author. I have used your speech all year and I can't tell you how many comments I've received on how fantastic and original the speech is! In fact, I've taken first place at three tournaments with it. I hope you don't come after me for using it without consent, but I just thought you should know that your message is being spread, at least throughout Illinois, and that everyone loves it (especially the part about the gods punishing your hubris by giving you Brady)!


As a former high speech contestant and speech coach, this comment was truly a compliment and a very, very nice thing for this young man to write. I have great hope for this generation. Isn't cool that world really is full of kind and thoughtful people - especially young ones?

Although my now iconic stature makes me feel about as old as it is possible to be.


How is the future touching your life today?

Predicting the future is easy. It’s trying to figure what’s going on now that’s hard. - Fritz Dresser

Yesterday's post was a summary of two recent sets of predictions: The Horizon Report, 2009* and a Stephen's Tame the Web blog post, "Ten Trends and Technologies for 2009." I ended the post by stating that I find myself, both personally and professionally, already impacted by many of the technologies and social trends listed in these reports.

So here are some ways the future is already here in MY life...

  1. Mobile computing: Personally, my iPod touch is my constant companion. Not since the laptop, has a communication device so changed how I get information and spend my time. Professionally, the district is experimenting with netbooks for check out and is looking a modifying its policies toward cell phones and other personally owned student technologies. Websites that allow cell phones to be used as response systems might kick the whole policy issue wide open.
  2. "Ubiquity of the cloud": Personally, I've been wireless at home for many years and the lack of wireless is now the exception, not the rule, in hotels and conference sites. I personally use the cloud all the time - delicious, gmail, Flickr, wikis, Moxy file back up, etc. Professionally, the lack of wireless connectivity is now the exception rather than the rule in our school buildings as well. Will this be the year, due to budget cuts, the school starts taking advantage of both the cost savings and convenience of cloud-based tools like GoogleDocs? Is it time to move our e-mail and calendaring system to application service provider in the cloud, like we have already done with our data-mining and webhosting services?
  3. Personalization: Personally, I have an iGoogle portal, customized news RSS feeds, a Facebook page and Twitter feed. Reluctantly. This year I am determined to find usefulness from social networking sites. Professionally, our parents and students both now have "portals" into our student information system that show calendars, newsletters, schedules, grades and assignments.
  4. Changing role of IT: Professionally, The shift of my job as tech director continues to move from gizmos to human use. Like I say, my techs don't even let me touch the computers much anymore.
  5. The Digital Lifestyle: Personally, I increasingly buy digital books and digital music. All my photography is taken, edited and shared digitally. I increasingly use VoIP (Skype). My guess is that this year I will buying digital movies. Professionally, in the new school we are planning nearly everything will be moving over Cat 6 ethernet once inside the building - data, voice, video, bells, PA, security cameras, you name it. And of course, video streaming and electonic databases will supplemented by e-books to a greater extent than ever.

While Stephen's makes passing reference to privacy in his post, I personally see a related area that will get the spotlight this year: 

Awareness of one's digital reputation: I believe we all, students and staff alike, are growing more aware of the digital "foot prints" we are leaving across the Internet - and it is something we need to continue to emphasize in our Interent safety curriculum. From what I read, students are being more cautious about what they post and who they friend. I personally do "reputation monitoring" using RSS feeds of searches in delicious, Twitter and Google of my name, my blog and my school district.

So, How is the future touching your life today?

*Joyce Valenza also posted her reaction to this publication yesterday on The NeverEnding Search. (What do I say about great minds?) Well worth reading.