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EdTech Update





Dereliction of Duty

I will confess. As a member-elected ISTE Board member, I failed to represent you yesterday afternoon. I instead represented me at the anti-war rally being held in front of the White House here in DC. Me and 99,999 other protesters. More pictures.

I try to keep blatant politics out of all my professional writing, including this blog, or at least comment only when politics impact education. But the war is turning the lives of my friends and colleagues in schools (and especially the lives of their children) upside down. Of the nearly 2000 American dead in this war, each was someone’s child, someone’s student, someone’s love. My good friend Steve’s daughter is shipping out to Iraq soon. For her sake alone, I want this war to end.

If you get the chance, read John Crawford’s The Last True Story I’ll Ever Tell, a first person account of a National Guardsman serving in Iraq. It’s a riveting set of narratives with echos of our involvement in Vietnam. Or perhaps just the sad retelling of incidents from any war.

I’ll be back at the board meeting this morning, voting on ISTE fiduciary, personnel and policy matters, never fear. But I hope you will forgive me for being missing in action for a few hours yesterday.

 Oh, and I am refunding a portion of my travel costs to ISTE.

Good for you! I was there in spirit, if not in reality.
BTW: on our local NPR station is *The No Show* — ” a new showcase for the idiosyncratic views and humor of Steve Post, a world-class curmudgeon whose irreverence and iconoclasm have entertained audiences and appalled radio station managers for three and one-half decades. (Give or take.) ”
On his playlist for the 9/24 show: “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” by Pete Seeger, and “Chicken Hawk” by Roy Zimmerman — both most appropriate!

Comment by Alice Yucht — September 25, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

Amazing the number of slogans “repurposed” from Vietnam for this protest. More than a few outfits as well. - Doug

Comment by dougj — September 26, 2005 @ 11:08 am


Is PowerPoint Evil?

Johnson’s Observation on Multimedia Content:
You can put all the pretty clothes on your dog you want, but he’s still a dog.

Yesterday’s e-mail brought the following question from ISTE’s editor, Jennifer Roland: Learning & Leading with Technology is looking for a few good editorialists to argue both sides of this question: Is PowerPoint Crippling Our Students? Some say that PowerPoint is an important tool in any classroom because of its real-world applications. Others say it is an unnecessary distraction that leads students to go for glitz over substance. Where do you stand on the issue?

Good question. Since it is unlikely I’d be considered a “good editorialist” in anyone’s book, I’ll just pipe up here.

(I’ve weighed in on this topic once already in a 1999 column Slideshow Safety. As with a frightening number of things I’ve written long ago, I’ve found that my thoughts haven’t changed much – which says more about my obstinacy than my prescience. You’ve been warned.)

Here are the main things I’d think about when looking at working with kids and PowerPoint:

1. PowerPoint doesn’t bore people: people bore people. As an old speech teacher, I have a bias that PowerPoint falls under the category of visual aid – with aid being the operative word. If we are teaching kids how to use this software, it needs to be within the context of good speaking skills, not in a computer class. (But then I think all technology skills should be taught within the content areas.) Yeah, the old stuff like eye contact, expression, and gestures are still important. Oh, so is having something worthwhile to say.

2. The sins of the overhead user shall be visited upon the computer user. Tufte, in his The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint (Graphics Press, 2003) makes a compelling case that complex information is not best shared using this software. He argues persuasively that PowerPoint makes it far to easy to reduce complex topics to simple bullet points. He argues that some graphic information is too detailed for the low-rez graphics of the computer screen. I’m just not sure choosing the wrong tool for the wrong job is the tool’s fault.

3. There are more visual learners than meet the eye. Cautions aside, good visuals are exceptionally powerful, and our kids need practice in harnessing this power. Too bad more teachers themselves don’t have at least a fundamental knowledge of good design principles, knowledge of typography, and photocomposition.

In the best of all possible worlds, an oral presentation accompanied by a well-designed slide show that helps inform or persuade the audience can be one the products of a good information literacy unit. I get the feeling a goodly number of our kids will be one giving these things as part of their jobs, They may as well do it skillfully.

Keep in mind Johnson’s Rule of Technology Neutrality: Technology is neither good nor bad. The same hammer can both break windows and build cathedrals.

Your thoughts on pitfalls or promises of PowerPoint? What to do you do to make sure the tool is being used well?

All 10 fingers, all 10 toes

 Miles Benjamin Roberts was born yesterday, September 22 at about 2:00PM.






Miles will start school in 2010 or 2011. Here’s what I hope he finds:

1. A place that cares as much about his happiness as his education.
2. A place that cares more about his love of learning than his test scores.
3. A place where he feels safe and welcome and can’t wait to get to every morning.
4. A place that honors creativity more than memorization.
5. A place that has a library full of stories and a librarian who makes them come alive.
6. A place where technology hasn’t taken the place of playing with blocks, finger-painting, naps, graham crackers, or a teacher’s soft encouragement.
7. A place where he learns to work and play with kids who make not have been given the blessings of a middle-class lifestyle or a fully-functioning body or brain.
8. A place that teaches kindness along with math, tolerance along with history, and conservation along with science.
9. A place where teachers are excited about teaching and passionate about encouraging the passions in their students.
10. A place where he is never compared to his older brother, Paul.

Mom and baby are doing fine, but Dad sounded a little hyper. - Grandpa Doug
Congrats and good wishes!
Your list is inspiring… especially #10.

Comment by Alice Yucht — September 23, 2005 @ 2:57 pm

I wish the Johnson/Roberts family all the very best with their new little one and hope Mr. Paulie will adjust easily. I’m watching for a picture as soon as you can post one. Your list is wonderfully touching. Hope you get to cuddle him soon

Comment by Sara — September 23, 2005 @ 6:35 pm

Congratulations!! I have shared your list with my faculty. I copied it into an email along with the blog address so they would not miss it - in spite of the fact that our filter will block access to the actual blog. What a lucky baby to have you for a grandfather.

Your blog posting will go into my “beginning of the year” folder so that I am sure to read it every September. Enjoy every moment with your new little blessing!

Comment by Jacquie Henry — September 23, 2005 @ 7:11 pm

Mazel tov! Don’t worry - Dad will calm down and Paul will figure things out. Can’t make guarantees about the other items on your list, but we can all hope. Enjoy!

Comment by Frances Jacobson Harris — September 24, 2005 @ 4:37 pm