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EdTech Update





Student focused ISTE '17

After being gone from work for the past 10 days (vacation, then conference), I've not had much time to reflect, let alone write, about this week's ISTE's event in San Antonio. Most years I've attended (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015)  I experienced a love/hate relationship with both the conference and the organization, but happily this year, I was feeling the love.

More than in past years, the focus was on kids and the acknowledgement that a joy of learning, an education of the whole self, and the power of creation and creativity, trump test scores. From wonderful speakers like Jennie Magiera* and Vanessa Jones who spoke to issues of empowerment through technology to a expo floor full of vendors with exciting books and "maker toys" and creative software - hard to believe KidPix is still a big deal, after what nearly 30 years?, - this year's theme was about not just teaching, but about making active, involved, and happy students - especially those who schools who have not traditionally served successfully.

It was a pleasure co-presenting with our district technology integration coordinator, Rachel Gorton, on how our district is employing technology using the principles of cultural proficiency. I felt we were very much in keeping with a major conference strand and cutting-edge drive in the ed tech world.

I took away a new appreciation for telling people on my team how much they are appreciated. Our staff meeting "grounding" activities from now on will focus solely on the positive. And every tech director seems to be feeling the pain of increased need for security and infrastructure in his/her schools.

The new CEO Richard Culatta seems like a good guy and great folks like Jessica Medaille are still giving it their all. Good to see old friends at the Awards Lunch and President's Reception. I was happy to NOT get a print program and seemingly less paper-based promotional material in my unnecessary conference tote. The conference app seemed more clunky this year than most.

I am not sure how much I like the new, enlarged convention center in San Antonio - I spend a heck of a lot of time getting from one session to another. And in general, the whole conference just seemed to be bigger and more crowded than ever. Of course I have never been one for crowds. The Riverwalk was a zoo each evening I was there for a dinner and my motel was a total dump (Rodeway Inn at Riverwalk) and this from someone who does not have high standards in accommodations. And can't you do something about that humidity, Texas?

Each year I wonder if taxpayers get their money's worth sending me to a conference like this. How much will what I've learned, what I've felt, what I've observed have an impact on the students and teachers in our schools? I always hope I can honor their faith in me to MAKE the money spent, well spent. This year it will be a bit easier to do so.

Oh, I finally just have to admit I am an awkward hugger. Lovely people whom I like very much (or who I don't recognize but who remember me) expect hugs. I rather like hugs, but as a Minnesotan, I just am not real comfortable with them. Nothing personal to anyone who got a clumsy hug from me this conference.

* Being young, Jenny does not yet realize that "be yourself" is the worst advice you can give some people.


BFTP: Harmful to minors

On vacation last week with family, ISTE this week (and a couple days catching up at work), then a long 4th of July weekend of biking and hiking. Not much time for reflection of writing. So I am again recycling...


But take away context and psychology for a moment and just consider the notion of risk. Based on EU Kids Online’s surveys of families in 25 countries, Sonia Livingstone offers two insights that I think would be helpful to parents as well as debaters in any public discussion about youth risk online:

  • “‘Risk’ is not the same as ‘harm’: Seeing pornography online may be harmful to children but it may not. It depends on the nature of the images and on the personal circumstances of the child. The minority of vulnerable children may be more at risk of harm from online pornography. Rather more may be more at risk of harm from pornography when it is abusive or degrading to women (or men). But conclusive evidence will always be lacking since we cannot ethically expose a random selection of children to pornography and monitor the outcomes for scientific purposes.
  • “Risk may have positive as well as negative outcomes. For many children, some exposure to some risk is necessary to build resilience. We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool and protect them from the world forever, and we must allow our teenagers to explore their sexuality away from our often-disapproving gaze. But for some children, the same exposure may be harmful – depending on lots of factors, and this contingency – where much depends on the child, the online content, and the circumstances – cannot be avoided.” from NetFamilyNews "Thoughts on the UK's debate about online porn."

Always level headed, Anne Collier's post on online pornography is worth a read. That children's exposure to pornography is harmful has so long been a given, most of us have simply stopped thinking about it. And coming to a permanent conclusion is always dangerous.

Again, CIPA reads: "The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene, (b) child pornography, or (c) harmful to minors." Make no mistake, one of the filtering categories our school has selected to block is "sexual acts." And I am glad this barrier is in place. I would want my grandson's school to take the same precautions.

However, I was struck by Livingston's comment "For many children, some exposure to some risk is necessary to build resilience." I would put accidental or brief exposure to pornography in the category of a "safe mistake." In my own adolescence, accessing the hidden stash of Playboy magazines or reading Miller's steamy novels seem in retrospect a normal part of one's informal education. Did Hef or Henry teach us curious kids great values and respect for women? Of course not. But I really wonder if any of us were permanently damaged either? 

I'm not advocating that kids have access to adult sexual materials here, just that if it happens, it may wind up being a teachable moment, not the end of civilization.

Were I to define what makes a site "harmful to minors," i would say that it displays information that is both important and wrong. Bad health advice, misleading science, biased reporting, and, yes, unrealistic sexual views that go unchallenged and unquestioned are what are really harmful to minors - and to the rest of us as well.

Image source

Original post May 18, 2012


BFTP: Dangerous things school teaches

From Nine Dangerous Things You Were Taught in School (Forbes) by Jessica Hagey

  1. The people in charge have all the answers
  2. Learning ends when you leave the classroom
  3. The best and brightest follow the rules
  4. What the books say is always true
  5. There is a very clear, single path to success
  6. Behaving yourself is as important as getting good marks
  7. Standardized tests measure your value
  8. Days off are always more fun than sitting in the classroom

Hmmmm. I'd agree with all of these based on my experiences. Go Jessica!

But I'd also add a few...

  1. There is one right answer to every question. At least to every important question. In fact those who can come up with the most right answers will do well in this economy. 
  2. The purpose of your education is make sure you can get a good job. The real value of education is to help make sense of the world, to open your eyes to new points of view, and to help you hone skills that will allow you accomplish tasks you feel are personally important.
  3. The more money you make, the happier you will be. Once you make enough money for the basices, making a difference, not making money, will make you happy.
  4. Heredity is fate. There will always be "the first person in the family to ____________" scenarios. Not enough, but enough to know it's possible. And your school experience does not have to be the same as that of your big brother or sister.
  5. Popularity = success. Listen to Springsteen's "Glory Days". At least three times.
  6. You have to be smart at everything. Good at math and science, but poor at English and social studies. Don't sweat it. Really smart people tend to be smart in the intersection of two fields, say technology and health. Focus on your passions.
  7. Classwork is more valuable than extracurricular activities or a parttime job. There is still too much learning for the sake of doing better at the next high level of education. You'll learn life's best lessons on the basketball court or your first paying job.
  8. You should like every teacher you have. This is impossible. You should learn how to work with every teacher, however, since one day you'll need to learn to work lots of people.
  9. Objectivity trumps passion. It's the Captain Kirks, not the Mr. Spocks, that discover new worlds.


What dangerous things were you taught in school?

Original post May 16, 2012