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Wednesday
Jan142009

Mobile devices and more reading - two reports

A couple of interesting reports I've stumbled across yesterday...

Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning by Carley Shuler was published this month by the same folks who bring us Sesame Street. The executive summary does a good job of summarizing research and the state of using mobile devices in education. I liked this:

The report highlights five opportunities to seize mobile learning’s unique attributes to improve education:

  1. Encourage “anywhere, anytime” learning Mobile devices allow students to gather, access, and process information outside the classroom. They can encourage learning in a real-world context, and help bridge school, afterschool, and home environments.
  2. Reach underserved children Because of their relatively low cost and accessibility in low-income communities, handheld devices can help advance digital equity, reaching and inspiring populations “at the edges” — children from economically disadvantaged communities and those from developing countries.
  3. Improve 21st-century social interactions Mobile technologies have the power to promote and foster collaboration and communication, which are deemed essential for 21st-century success.
  4. Fit with learning environments Mobile devices can help overcome many of the challenges associated with larger technologies, as they fit more naturally within various learning environments.
  5. Enable a personalized learning experience Not all children are alike; instruction should be adaptable to individual and diverse learners. There are significant opportunities for genuinely supporting differentiated, autonomous, and individualized learning through mobile devices.

I am particularly excited by the last observation. Education has simply not tapped the huge potential for individualizing instruction for all students - every child needs the same attention paid to an IEP that our special needs children now have. Isn't every child a special needs child?

_________________________

As the old joke and the just released NEA study Reading on the Rise goes, "I have some good news and I have some bad news." I'm guessing you want to hear the good news first.

Yes, for the first time in years, the percentage of Americans reading "literary" materials is going up. Now slightly more than half of us read fiction, poetry, plays, etc. This slight upward trend is evident among nearly all demographic groups and the NEA takes credit for the rise since it alerted the public to declining reading rates and society has promoted reading.

The report credits materials being read on electronic devices as well as in print. (So reading on my Kindle and iPod now "count."

What the NEA Report buries, but an AP article pulls out, is that there is less voluntary reading being done:

But the preface does not mention a countertrend: a drop among people not obligated to read. Adults who read books of any kind — fiction or nonfiction, online or on paper — that were not assigned by a teacher or employer dropped from 56.6 percent of adults in 2002 to 54.3 percent last year. The fall was greatest among those younger than 55.

And while the number of adults who say they read a non-required book is 3.5 million higher than in 2002, the report notes that that the total adult population increased by 19 million, meaning an increase in the number of people who didn't voluntarily read books of 15.5 million, a huge disparity confirmed by NEA research director Sunil Iyengar.

Gioia [outgoing NEA chair] believes the NEA report is essentially positive — if only because good news about reading is so rare — but says that "we're still in a culture in which all kinds of reading are under pressure" from other forms of leisure and entertainment.

OK, readers, Johnson's definition of postliteracy again?

...the postliterate as those who can read, but chose to meet their primary information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming.

Are our schools and especially our libraries preparing for a postliterate society?

 

Wednesday
Jan142009

Your recurrent nightmares?

 

If you're not 10 minutes early, you're late. My dad

I have a similar nightmare at least once a month. No, it is not Mr. Bean's head on Pamela Anderson's body. It's even worse.

Invariably in my dream I am scheduled to do a presentation and I am either late, far from the presentation site, can't find the right equipment, or am supposed to speak on a topic of which I know nothing. And what makes it particularly nightmarish is that I willfully seem to do everything possible to make the situation worse - usually wandering around and getting lost or doing absolutely trivial things.

Yesterday, for the first time in 15 years of doing professional presentations, my nightmare actually came true. I got the wrong date on my speaking calendar. I was in my office in Minnesota when I should have been five hours away in Madison, WI. Actually I got the date right, but it was changed to a day earlier and I somehow missed recording that change.

I keep a semi-accurate list of organizations for which I've worked. I count now well over 200 days of doing talks or workshops - or probably a low ball estimate of 600 individual talks or workshops. I've driven all night because of cancelled flights to makes some of these. I've never "called in sick." Even equipment failures have been blessedly rare (knock wood). So you might say missing only one out of 200 ain't bad.

Well, it's bad to that one who counted on you.

I feel terrible about it. And I am genuinely sorry.

I'm adopting a new procedure to verify all information at least a week in advance - including the date I am speaking. Just the first of a series of compensations for an aging brain?

Photo from http://www.wayodd.com/baywatch-nightmare/v/4986/
Tuesday
Jan132009

Thinking about time

  • Do you find yourself with too much free time to devote to your family, hobbies, or charity work?
  • Do you feel like you’re wasting time reading books, taking walks, or working on a Master’s Degree?
  • Is your mind so demented that you believe people want to read your every waking thought?
  • Do you want to come home from a full-time job and then work some more? ...

If you answered YES to all 4, Congratulations... you have what it takes to blog. And it is quite possible that you are a moron, slightly creepy, and in a word… breathtakingly odd (sorry, two words… and there is no chance I want to ever meet you in person). from The PrincipalsPage blog

One of my favorite quotes come from Annie Dillard who writes, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." Seems like quite a number of bloggers have been reflecting lately on how best to spend their time.

So how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, eh, Annie? I've been thinking a lot lately about how I use my writing time. In an old column on time management  I once asked:

Is this a job that will have a long-term effect?... too often, the minutia of the job pin us down, like Gulliver trapped by the Lilliputians, and we make small progress toward major accomplishments. Remind yourself that that the big projects you work on often have more impact on your students and staff than the little attentions paid to them. Spend at least one part of everyday on the big stuff.

Am I following my own advice? You have to know that I have about 6 primo hours of writing time each week - Saturday and Sunday mornings. It's the only time my brain really works well enough to think very hard about things. (I suppose that is why I can blog any old time...)

Which leads me to ask which sort of writing has the potentential of making the greatest contribution to one's profession - books, articles or blog posts? I'm leaning toward the first. The first of my poor, sad books has not been revised for a dozen years.

I can't stop blogging - too much fun and too addictive. I like writing articles and columns, and it is still a thrill after all these years to see one's name in print.

But this year I am revising at least one book.

Hold me to it!

(Calvin and Hobbes cartoon found at http://www.cgu.edu/pages/792.asp)