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EdTech Update





Rush Little Baby

My friend Cecelia Solomon, a library media specialist in Florida, sent me a link to this fascinating article that appeared in the Boston Globe about a month ago:

For parents of pre-schoolers, early childhood specialists, and (in my case) holiday gift-buyers for pre-school grandchildren, this is a good read. Basic conclusion - kids who read later can surpass those who read (or try to read) very early. There are much better means of creating smart kids than engaging in formal reading programs in pre-school.

My conversation with my daughter about Christmas gifts for the grands went something like this:

Me: I was thinking about getting Paul (age 6) a hand-held video game for Christmas. What do you think?

Carrie: Uh, Paul plays computer games with his dad on the PC. Maybe we don't need to encourage more of this right now.

Me: I was thinking about getting Miles (age 2) a Webkinz stuffed animal that comes with an online life.

Carrie: Uh, let's maybe wait a couple years for that. Here's a list of ideas on the ToysRUs website "wishlist" that I would know the boys would like...

Me: How about BB guns or Nerf rockets or other projectile devices.

Carrie: Dad, you already know the answer to THAT one! 

I am happy with the advice and direction. My grandsons have two caring, competent parents who make excellent decisions about what is best for them. While I am fascinated by these electronic gizmos and learning toys and such, I also give great credence to the Alliance for Childhood's old reports Fools Gold and TechTonic. Do we know enough about technology and tots to be pushing it at children? (Especially those that carry my genetic code?)

I suspect I am like a lot of parental-types, torn between the need for kids to be "tech-savvy" and the need for kids to have healthy non-tech activities and play. Where is the balance?

thankmyself.jpgAs a side note, my daughter was a pretty good reader when she entered kindergarten, picking up the skill simply from being read aloud to. Once walking by a car with a bumpersticker that read "If you can read this, thank a teacher," she pointed to it, sniffed and proclaimed, "I thank myself!"


End of America

This is not meant to be a political blog and I am sure I will regret posting this, but this interview with Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, is very, very scary.

An open Internet is probably the best guarantee we have of an open society. Do all kids have uncensored access to all political points of view? Do they have the skill to separate the truth from the hyperbole? (Do I?)


When I was a little boy growing up on the prairie...

My friend and colleague, Mary Ann Bell, sent me a request:

Hello Doug, I am working on a column about blogging, and am highlighting several popular educational blogs, one of which of course is yours, and another is Kathy Schrock's. This got me wondering how long you have maintained an online presence. I asked Kathy about her history and she responded that she had never thought to compile one but liked the idea. Shortly thereafter she sent me this link:

Now I am wondering about you! How long have you been sharing your wisdom online? It would be fun to include the information in my piece, which will  come out this spring in my column in Multimedia&Internet@School. If you have time, I would love to know and in any case, have a great holiday  season!--Mary Ann

While I've compiled a history of our district's technology efforts, I've never really tried to sit down and figure out my "personal history.' My memory is not all that good (and quite selective according to the LWW) so this is challenging. I am also humbled by Kathy's efforts (and memory!)

Here is a far less impressive "history," Mary Ann.

  • My first "on-line" experience was with the Dhahran (Saudi Arabia) Apple User Group bulletin board in about 1987-88 with an Apple Iic and a 300 baud modem. Hot stuff. I could get and share tips about computing with my other ARAMCO colleagues!
  • Friends from the local university gave me my first e-mail account: in 1991(?). It didn't start using it regularly until I joined LM_Net in 1992.  The LM_Net mailing list was really my first venue for sharing information and ideas on-line (and remains one to this day.)
  • I started teaching Introduction to the Internet classes for then Mankato State University in 1992(?) using dumb terminals. I wrote the first version of my teacher Internet rubrics as an outline for the class.
  • We secured 13 "vax" accounts for our Mankato school librarians and a debate coach (who turned it over to his kids) in 1992. These were well used until ISD77 put in its own mailserver in 1994 that provided all staff e-mail accounts.
  • I gave a talk "Why Minnesota's Children Need Access to the Internet" at a state tech meeting in 1994.
  • In March of 1995, my article Captured by the Web appeared in MultiMedia Schools magazine - one of the first writings about the WWW in an educational publication. I STILL think this was cool!
  • My "The Mankato Schools Internet Project" article appears in Internet Research, Winter 1995. It's a good summary of the process our district went through to become one of the first in the nation to have all buildings wired and connected to the Internet.
  • I think I "borrowed" space on the school's website that was up and running by 1994 or 1995 for my first web pages, then moved to my own domain/webhosting service in about 2000. I used (and still use) my site to give people easy access to my articles, columns and presentation handouts. It's a bit of shameless self-promotion for my speaking/consulting business too.
  • Taught an online class, Ethical Issues Surrounding Technology Use in Elementary Schools for Click! Computers and Learning in Classrooms K-6 (The University of Melbourne Australia) in 1998.
  • The Blue Skunk blog was started in August of 2005, after hearing David Weinberger's keynote speech at NECC in Philadephia about information = conversation. I continue to experiment with wikis, social bookmarking sites. media sharing sites, etc.
  • Begin writing a monthly column for the Education World website - a web-only publication - in 2005.
  • BlueSkunk Johnson is "born" in SecondLife in June 2006. (I will get my first chance to give a presentation in SecondLife in January 2008!)
  • Attended EdubloggerCon at NECC in 2007 which was cool.

As you can tell, I come from a very print-oriented mind-set and background, using tradional tools such as books and journals to communicate with others. I DO continue to use and try to understand the nearly constant changes in the online world. And increasingly, I feel like a turtle on the side of a very fast moving highway in absolute awe of educational visionaries, trend-setters, experimenters and models like Kathy.

There you are, Mary Ann. Hope it works for you!

All the very best,