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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why blaze lonely and unpopular trails that will become highways of tomorrow?



What does leprosy have to do with teaching students?

Paul Brand is famous for finding the cause and treatments for leprosy. This non-fatal disease has long been the most misunderstood and caused people who were not contagious to die horrible deaths of neglect and starvation.

Brand was misunderstood and criticized by his peers for trying to help people who were pariahs in India -- they had no money and could not pay. There was no profit and no one cared for these people. In the book, Ten Fingers for God: The Life and Work of Dr. Paul Brand by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Wilson says:

"there were time during those first years when Paul was sorely tempted to yield to their reasonable arguments."

During that time, Dr. Brand reached a low because these lepers were so destitute that they would often sabotage their body's efforts at healing so they could continue to be fed, taken care of, and protected from the world. One time he actually saw a patient removing his bandages and scratch his sores to make them worse.
"His high hopes were dashed. The lackluster faces, the dead hands, the inert bodies preempting precious beds...Why rake up such refuse from the dregs of human life when there were hundreds who would respond eagerly to the energies you had to give?"

A young Hindu associate once asked him:
"Dr Brand...do you really think it is worth it?"

No! The word sprang to Paul's lips. He almost spoke it. But something silenced it. Perhaps it was the memory of reawakening life in the eyes of Krishnamurthy. [His first patient.] Or an older memory of three figures turning hopelessly back down a steep mountain path. Or no memory at all, but that strange imperative which compels some men to blaze lonely and unpopular trails which will be the highways of tomorrow.

"Yes," he replied firmly." (P 104)

Though I work in a different field, I too have seen reawakening life in the eyes of a student with a diagnosed and accomodated learning disability as he begins to believe in himself again. I have seen the hopeless student give up. I have seen students sabotage their grades in an effort to gain the attention they crave.

But it is the imperative and the belief that what I do is important that keeps me going. What I teach is important.

Somehow, I too feel that in some small way I too am blazing a lonely and unpopular trail which will be the highways of tomorrow.

Edu-bloggers keep on the trail.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The SAT this past Saturday: Standardize how the test is given



When the SAT went to a 3 hour and 45 minute test I thought that was extreme. However, what my students are telling me happened this past Saturday is inexcusable. I had about 30 students take the test in various testing locations (four that I counted). When we did our post-SAT recap/evaluation of our prep program, here is what I found:

1 - The Time to get the test started averaged over one hour.


They started late:
Students are told to arrive by 7:45. Proctors arrived late, doors weren't opened until late, and proctors waited on "their students" who were late, few of whom showed up. (Every student said that proctors "waited" for late students far past the time they were to be there.) It was 8:20 before some were even put in their rooms.

Seating was unorganized.
At one location the TIP kids (7th graders taking the SAT) were put in separate rooms. At other locations, seventh graders with not so much at stake and shorter attention spans were put squirming in their seats next to highly motivated overly stressed Juniors and Sophomores. The new seating mechanism reaped criticism from all of my students as unorganized and difficult. Basically, kids with last names A-D for example were put in a room and then alphabetized in that room. Then proctors would discover students in the wrong room - send them to their correct one and then re alphabetize. It took quite a long time. Really!

Bubble Trouble:
I guess the thing that bothers me most is the "over bubbling." Yes, I see why checking ID's twice is a necessary evil. I do not understand why the best thirty minutes of the whole SAT in terms of student awareness and clarity is spent bubbling in names, addresses, etc. or waiting on those who don't get the whole bubbling thing. With all of the automation, why can't the college board have some sort of prebubbled sheet or scan coded sheet that is given to the student after their ID is checked the second time. Can't we have some automation of some kind? Can't they do it at the end?

OK, I could add some side notes but overall -- students didn't start the "real" SAT until 9 a.m. (some by 8:45 some by 9:15.) By that time, they had eaten around 6:15 or 6:30 and some were already hungry.

2 - Breaks were nonexistent, inconsistent, and didn't give time for students to eat.

The nonexistent/ inconsistent break.
Proctor: "OK, I know y'all want to get through and its already late -- does anyone really want a break or can we keep going?"

That was common at several locations. A student might really have to go but didn't want 30 glaring eyes. A student might be hungry (but that's another story.) If they went to the bathroom, they ran.

When do we eat?
Out of 30+ students -- not one set of students finished before 1:15 p.m. They had been there since 7:30 and ate breakfast around 6:30 a.m. During the breaks they were told they couldn't eat in the room (school policies didn't allow it) but that they couldn't go outside of the room because they might text message or talk to their friends. (They were all given the same test this time, just in different order!) So they were stuck hungry. One girl said her stomach kept growling and the proctor kept glaring at her. Students sitting near her complained they had trouble concentrating.

My very best students said that by noon they simply couldn't concentrate they were so hungry.

I know the test has to be hard but do we have to starve them to death?

3 - Some proctors were not vigilant

Cheating
Proctors were obviously stressed on the importance of cell phones being checked and off although many students reported hearing cell phones ring during the test. The student would say "oops, I didn't know I had it with me" and the proctor would look dismayed and everyone would get back on task until the next one rang.

One student said that the proctor checked everyone's desk and made sure the phone was off. However, during the test he read a book. The boy next to this student kept pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket and looking at it during the test. The student wasn't told to report those cheating although students in other rooms were told by their proctor to turn in other folks if they were caught cheating.

In fact, I had two twins who were moved from one another during the last SAT test (not January) because the proctors said they were nervous about "the twin thing." (Come on if ESP is real, would moving them across the room from each other help?) So, we're concerned about twins using their ESP but not about the guy pulling paper out of his pocket!

Time Keeping
The students who were most happy had proctors with clocks that had an alarm at 10 minutes until time was up and then 5 minutes till with the alarm sounding when they were done. They said it helped them greatly. Many students reported, however, that their proctor didn't say anything until time was up. Although their SAT Preparer (me) instructed them to bring a watch -- several of them use their cell phones and forgot they'd have to turn them off!

In Summary

I would pass along the tips and tricks that helped the students but only after they get their scores back. It seems that they have to sign a thing now where they promise not to talk about the SAT until their scores come back. Is this so they'll forget what is on it? Or is this so us teachers won't get as upset as I am today?

When I say I'm upset, it is not about the content. We simply have to have a measure to benchmark students (and schools) against one another. Here are my questions for any educator /college board person that will listen.
  • Can we create a test to measure student aptitude that is less than 3 hours and 45 minutes?
  • Can we streamline the process to make the time spent sitting in a room more productive so student can do their best?
  • If we're going to make it that long, can we give them time to eat?

I believe in giving kids a fair chance to do their best. If it is going to be the Standard Aptitude Test -- we need some standards for test administration that are fair and give kids a chance to do their best.

I feel students are being treated unfairly! How is sitting in a room for six hours hungry and answering difficult questions (1/3 of which most students probably don't have a chance of getting) fair?

Come on College Board, you've been doing this for years -- do what works and what is fair!

I hope educators and others alike will call on the College Board to be fair to these students -- most of whom are just trying to do their very best.

I would like to know if other educators in other areas of the country have students who are experiencing the same issues at testing centers or if this seems to be happening in the majority of the testing centers in southwest Georgia as isolated incidents. Please ask your classes and comment. This needs to be addressed by someone.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wise words on time management from student planning wikis - 9th grade



I have a few more pages from my student planning wiki! Take a look at their synopsis of the material. They've done an excellent job.

The keys to planning
Everyone needs a system for daily planning. This is one of the most essential things I teach students. I've seen students have a 10 point jump in their average just by carrying a small lined notebook in their back pocket and writing it all down.

I show them the importance of writing things down by the numbers illustration.
  1. First I ask them to get out a blank piece of paper and a pen.
  2. I ask them to close their eyes.
  3. I call out three numbers: 3 5 9
  4. I ask them to write them down correctly.
  5. I call out the numbers and ask for a show of hands from how many got them all right.
  6. I repeat. Usually I go to 5 numbers, 7 numbers, 9 numbers, and then 12 numbers.
The last set of numbers meet with many snickers and people who just give up. I explain to them that the reason they start off doing fine is that they only have a few things to remember. Some of them "melt down" at the end of the 8 weeks or semester and "mess up" their average for the whole semester. This is because once you try to remember over 7 or 8 things you cannot and you forget most if not all of them. (Thanks to Darren Kuropatwa who pointed out a cool online activity that demonstrates this.)

I call this the phenomenon of the "empty backpack during finals." These are the students with no system. They have too much to do so they've forgotten they have anything due. This is phenomenon is backed up by memory researchers. (Thank you again Darren.)

After this illustration, students are very open to learning a system of writing things down. The system you use doesn't matter, just that you have a system.

Planning your Goals
- Also in my readings, I have come across information that says that ninth grade is the first point where students can set long term goals.

The first day of class each year I give an assignment to my ninth grade. What does it take to become an honor graduate?

The next day I have them write it down for me. We discuss it. So many students would do a little extra to reach that goal if they are coming up a little short. Students need to be educated on what to shoot for -- that is when awards become motivational. If you don't tell them, they don't know and it becomes frustrating!

At the conclusion of the planning process, I make time to take my students outside. I have them spread out. I ask them to think about what they want to do and achieve in high school. I ask them to think about what they want to do differently. I ask them to spend some time setting their goals. This becomes the blueprint for most of them. I have seniors come to me with their wrinkled, dog eared list to show me how they 've done.

This sets a measure of success for them to use the rest of their lives.

Techniques of Daily Planning -
The two most important techniques here are:
  1. Having a time of planning and solitude daily. Even if is just the "Mary Kay Ash" practice of listing the five most important things you have to do tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, you look at the list and start! (You look at your daily record of events during this time and put them in the appropriate places.)
  2. Having a daily record of events. This is capture! You must capture all of the things that you commit to do or need to do during the day. You should also capture commitments others have made to you. (This practice of mine saved me in several difficult employee situations when I was in the business world.)
Controlling procrastination
This comes back to the saying "If you know why you do what you do, you can do something to change it." I point out that I had to learn I was eating for emotional reasons -- not hunger before I could lose 30 pounds. (This past year!)

We procrastinate things that are unpleasant, complex, lengthy, or uninteresting regardless of the priority.

We then discussed how to overcome procrastination. Visualization. Breaking things down.

Knowing your Values - I pointed this out in my last blog.

Students need to know that the values inside them are worth living their lives for. If they have nothing they'd die for, they have nothing to live for. Life has meaning and a purpose and each person has a purpose that they've been creative for. God makes A people -- he never makes an F person. We all have a plan and a purpose only we can do. What we do with our lives is determined by the choices we make! Kids need to hear it!

I've enjoyed these few weeks. I enjoyed the wikis they have created that will serve a reminder to them (and me) as we move forward. There is a permanent tool for them to review this important information.

We begin Access tomorrow. Oh, the joy!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

3rd and 4th graders using wikis



I'm enjoying reading about how John P. has had some third and fourth graders are using wikis. This school is Middle J at Bellaire PS in Geelong, Victoria, Australia and they are using pbwiki.

They did this project last semester on minibeasts. (I didn't know what minibeasts were! I do now!) John P says:

The most interesting factor was that, (admittedly after some encouragement), a number of the students actually took up the challenge of adding to and mosifying the wiki out of school time from their home computers. To me this is on of the ultimate uses of the wiki, to breakdown the classroom learning barrier and make greater connections between what is happening at school and what is happening out of class.


I work with older students so it took less encouraging for them to work on their wikis from home. In fact, as I'm drafting this on Thursday night, I see that KatieB has been editing her page on Values as recently as 5:44 pm tonight.

As I look over the pbwiki pages for the first time, I miss a few features from wikispaces and some other wikis I've reviewed. I've asked John these questions and will let you know when I get answers. The features I miss:
  • I can't see who did the edits and what edits were made. (It only shows the last two weeks.)
  • I don't see a link for discussions where others can comment. (However, for younger students, this might be a can of worms you don't want to open anyway.)
  • The ads from google at the top look like wiki links not ads. It took me a while to figure that one out!

I do see that it has the ability to RSS feeds. RSS feeds on wikis mean one big things for teachers -- easy grading! I grade my wikis through my bloglines accounts. Any changes are sent to bloglines and I can review them there. It is much easier than sorting through and trying to figure out who graded what.

There are some things I like:
  • I like the sidebar on the right that shows the outline of the wiki. I'm not sure if this is automatic or something you have to do. This is a definite plus.
  • I like the use of photos that the students took. I wonder how independently they were able to snap photos and upload?
  • I like the joint project they did for Christmas with a school from Ireland. How exciting! (I wonder if Ewan was involved? His hands are everywhere!)

I think they've done a nice job. What excites me the most is that students bring it home. They see it as a tool. It is relevant to them. In my opinion, wikis bring education home, in more ways than one!

Understanding your values wiki - Ninth graders




January is the month I teach a "planning module" to my ninth grade. I've based this material loosely on the Franklin Covey planning system training course. I used to pay to send my outside reps and managers through this course (and I took it every year too) for three years. It is always a good reminder for me.

We've just completed the course and now, the ninth grade is working on their wikis. We had our first day today and I was quite impressed with their wiki about Understanding Your Values.

This is an excellent page on how to write and understand your values. Our values must underlie all that we do. When our values are not in line with our actions we become very unhappy. This is the first step that underlies our "productivity pyramid." The students say:


Create a picture of yourself as you would like to be. The more you say it to yourself the more you become that.


How do I find time for this material? I make time. I accelerate my other subjects that I must cover so that I make time for this.

Students come back and tell me that planning and goal setting is the most important thing I teach them because this is when they set the goals that change their lives.

I'm working with a young man right now who set goals two years a go as a freshman. He is a bright student and moved from a C/B to an A/B and pulled his GPA up considerably. He is working to go to some incredible colleges now and wants to have a career in the military. He said it has changed is whole life!

Kids need goals to shoot for. They need to see the world and realize that it is up to them to make their way. There is a time coming soon where they will diverge from their parents and they need to be ready. Setting goals doesn't increase stress on students it gives them purpose. It gives them hope.

As they set goals, I encourage them to identify experts in that area and to seek wise advice. As they seek wise advice, those they consult become their mentors. The mentors change their lives.

This is the most intangible three weeks that I teach with the least number of grades.

However, teaching students how to set goals, plan daily, and manage their time has more tangible long term results than anything else I teach.


Take time to teach what is important, not just what is urgent. It is what being a teacher is about!


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How wikis, podcasts, and laptops help students with learning disabilities



I am passionate about helping kids with learning disabilities. (I'm not sure the PC word but that's the one I'll use.)

Any teacher can teach a smart kid -- a "smart kid" with regular learning abilities can learn from an inanimate object -- a book. They can teach themselves on the Internet. Teach them and you are knowledgeable about your subject. But it is the child who has challenges -- you are true teacher when you accommodate and reach that child.

I speak from experience. My younger sister was in fifth grade when she was labeled as "slow" and "dumb." She was belittled by classmates and put on the "stupid" track according to her peers. She couldn't spell, couldn't read her own writing, couldn't read her math problems, and was frustrated because her two older sisters had achieved so much academically. She thought she was adopted! She was tested in the 2nd grade and 5th grade and nothing showed up. Then, her sophomore year Mom and Dad had it! They sacrificed and took her to Atlanta Speech where she was tested for two days and viola -- learning disability with spatial processing, dysgraphia , and a few other issues.

My Mom took the recommendations from Atlanta Speech and typed up a list of responsibilities along with our learning lab coordinator, Mrs. Grace Adkins. They had a list of what the classroom teachers would do, what the learning lab would do, my parents, and ultimately my sister.

Let's make a long story short -- after accommodations and my sister "learning how she learned" (and taking notes with a laptop) she went from the bottom third of her class to the top third of her class from the 1st day of her junior year to the last day of her senior year. She graduated 3rd in her class from Brenau University, received a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design in Graphic Arts (Magna Cum Laude), and her MFA from there (Magna Cum Laude Again.) She now works in the Disney Travel Department as a Graphic Design intern designing ads. She couldn't draw sticks in 10th grade. Now, she can draw or paint anything and loves what she does!

She says her turning point was when she realized that she wasn't dumb -- she just learned differently!

I have another friend who was dyslexic and couldn't learn to read. He was taught to read using special accommodations and joint work between his parents, teachers, and the learning lab. He is completing his final residency and received offers of five major fellowships around the country.

But it hit home 2 years a go. My son was a "third grade melt down." I had suspected as early as first grade that he may have had some of the same issues as my sister but it didn't show with our testing locally. We struggled and saved and went to Atlanta Speech for my son. Voila! Yes -- he had some learning disabilities. (We call them learning differences in our house.) We followed the same process as my Mom did -- he's been back on the Honor Roll since the end of fourth grade and is now doing very well in fifth.

What is in common with all of these and how does it relate to new technology?

1 - Each of these students were tested early and effectively.
2 - An action plan was created where the teacher, parents, and learning lab (where our students go for one on one assistance) determined who would do what item.
3 - The child was talked to by the parent during which time they were talked with openly (don't keep kids in the dark). They were told:
a - You are mentally capable of handling the material in class
b - You learn differently and I will teach you how you learn.
c - You will have to work harder to make the same grades as others.
d - We will help you. You are not alone. We have a plan.
e - It is your job to do your part. (You can't push someone up a ladder.)
f - I love you and am here to help you be your best.
4 - The plans were followed, evolved, changed and used throughout their lives even through college.

In the case of my sister and son, one more thing was done that was vital:
5- They were given a way to ask for help that was unobtrusive and didn't call attention to them.

Highlighter for Help!

For my son, it was the highlighter. We selected a highlighter that wasn't used in the class -- red. He had it in is desk bag. When he needed help and didn't understand the directions he took the highlighter out of his desk bag and put it on his desk. That was his secret cue to the teacher, "I'm lost and clueless, I need help. Don't fuss at me for not doing anything -- I'm lost!" It made all the difference!

New Technology - The Laptop!

Here is the exciting part about all of this and where new technology comes in. Let me tell you first what we're doing with my son.

My son has difficulty copying from the board. He also has issues with spelling and punctuation where he has a processing sort of "overload." If he's writing a history paper, for example, he doesn't even see that he's misspelling words or forgetting punctuation. Atlanta Speech recommended a laptop for him to take notes. It took us two years to save and to get his keyboarding up to snuff. (I taught his whole fifth grade class keyboarding and he's up to 40 wpm.)

Since Christmas, he now uses a laptop and takes his notes in Microsoft One Note . He had already gone up in grades last semester, however, last week his lowest grade was an 88 -- the rest were 90's+. When typing paragraphs, he types everything in One Note and then exports it to word. (File--> Send To --> Microsoft Word for Office.) He saves it on his memory key and prints it on the teacher's computer. (We're working on a wi-fi setup, but until then this is the best we can do.) I adore One Note -- I can blog on that later if there's interest.

The teacher has been very willing. He doesn't use the laptop for math (he uses graph paper) or spelling tests. We decided that we were going to tough it out there and when he's focused on just one task - spelling - he can usually do pretty well.

Why did the laptop improve his grades?

I sat down with my son and asked him what the difference was. He basically told me it was a couple of things:
  • He doesn't have to struggle with a lot of notebooks.
  • His notes are no longer full of errors and mistakes and he can read his notes.
  • When he is writing he can focus on what he is writing and not get mad at himself because he can't read it and it is full of mistakes.
  • He can focus on studying and getting his work done because the things that "drive him crazy about himself" are under control.

Is that fair to the other kids?

My Mom explains it like this. (She has taught school for 20+ years.) A child with a learning disability is walking around school with one leg. All the other kids are walking to class on two legs. The LD child has their backpack on and they are hopping -- on their one leg. Can they get to class? Yes. But it takes longer. It is more difficult. It is frustrating. They feel slow and different. When an effective accommodation is made, Mom says it is like giving them a prosthetic leg. Does it work better than a real leg? No! But it levels the playing field. It makes it fair! It gives the child hope!

In my opinion, a laptop just levels the playing field -- if it is recommended as part of the accommodation for that child's diagnosed learning disability.

If a child is supposed to be in the front of the room -- they belong in the front! End of story! Put them there. (Of course in some classrooms all of them belong in the front -- that's an unfortunate state of events.) For me, I have two or three in each class which require that accommodation and I make it without anyone knowing.

Let me tell you what happened this week with one of my auditory learners.


I have a student I teach who I suspect has some undiagnosed issues with reading. He is a straight auditory learner, however, and knows it. (We test all sixth graders and give them their learning style and teach them how they learn.) He was learning his Hamlet "To Be or Not To Be" speech and struggling. He came to me and asked if he could record it into Audacity. I showed him how and he read it. I showed him how to convert it to an MP3 and he e-mailed it to himself. Later that afternoon when he arrived home, he downloaded it into Itunes and then put it in his iPod. He spent the evening driving, walking, eating, and even going to sleep listening to Hamlet's famous speech on his iPod. He learned the speech beautifully.

In my opinion, auditory learners need an MP3 player. With Librivox and other sources of auditory text -- this is the boon they've been waiting for!

Look. Say. Do.

Many of the students with LD have been told to use the Look - Say - Do method of learning.

Look. Say. Do. Using Wikis
Wikis fit this beautifully and I've found my ADHD kids are some of the best at it.

Look -- The students are looking in their textbook and on the Internet for information related to their topic. They are reading it.
Say -- Meanwhile, they are discussing the topic often in a very animated fashion with their partner to make sure they aren't posting the same thing and to discuss where it fits.
Do -- Then, they are summarizing the new information they have found and putting into their wiki.
Look - They reread the wiki to ask themselves where the "holes" in their information lie.
Say - They talk about it with their partner.
Do - They search for more information and add it to the wiki and it continues.

Perfect!

Look. Say. Do. Using Podcasts
Podcasting fits this well, and is especially wonderful for my precious but few auditory learners.

Look - Students look for information on their topic.
Say - Students discuss the most important parts with their partner.
Do - Students write their script.
Look - Students reread the script and ask themselves where the "holes" in their information lie.
Say - They talk about it with their partner.
Do/Say - They record their podcast.
(Listen -- they listen to it -- share it with their friends!)

Wikis and podcasting fit together wonderfully, particularly if you can pair an auditory and visual learner on a team. I've found the auditory learner will usually gravitate to the podcast and the visual will gravitate to the wiki. They make excellent teammates.

Laptops. Wikis. Podcasting.


These are tools to help all students. They can level the playing field for those with LD and give them renewed hope.

I'm passionate about helping all children learn -- not just the "superstar" that is going to be the superstar whether they had ever met me or not.

It is with the children who are frustrated, defeated, and down that I build my legacy that I made a difference. Call me simplistic. Criticize me. It is in helping these children turn the corner that I become a teacher!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Some excellent wiki resources and how to's



As I peruse my daily reading on the practical use of wikis in the classroom I was reading Marshall Kirkpatrick's blog article, Edu Wikis Gain Cred. After a perfectly executive synopsis of a great article from Tech Learning, Marshall says:

In order for these powerful new tools to be used to their potential, they need to be taken seriously and be discussed in detail in a variety of settings.

I couldn't agree more.

I appreciate Marshall pointing out to us the new article by Tim Stahmer entitled Think Outside of the Blog (You may have to register to read the article, I registered and then typed wiki in the search box to get the article.) I'm going to answer some of the most common questions I hear about wikis using points from his article:

What are good projects for wikis?

Educators at all levels are finding ways to incorporate wikis into their teaching. For every assignment that asks students to research a particular topic, there is a possible application for a wiki.
What are some examples?

Take, for example, a collaborative writing project. With a simple wiki, students from one class, multiple classes, or even multiple schools can post their writing samples for comment (see "High School Online Collaborative Writing"). The wiki structure makes it possible for several students to work on an assignment concurrently. Most wiki software packages track changes to a page so students and their teachers can see when and by whom the writing was edited.
Also, check out my blogs on how my students are using wikis to explore Web 2.0 concepts in computer science.

Stahmer also uses an example of researching aspects of the US Constitution and that some schools are building their entire website using wikis.

How can I set up a wiki for my school?

There are three basic options for creating your own wiki: Taking advantage of a free wiki hosting site, paying a provider to host your wiki, or setting up everything yourself.
I use the free option on a site called wikispaces. Stahmer suggests Wikicities, WikiSpaces, and PBWiki.

For hosting your wiki, he discusses how you can download and install Mediawiki for free on your server. (You need 256MB of RAM)

Most are open source, such as MediaWiki, a popular wiki tool and the power behind the Wikipedia. The software can be downloaded for free and is usually simple to set up.
Some want to do it on their server behind the firewall to keep intruders "out." I personally think that defeats the process but you can read Stahmer's how to's on http://www.assortedstuff.com/webmaster/howto/

We need more articles like this in credible magazines so that educators will begin to use social software to more effectively reach the students of today.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Personal Responsbility needed when blogging



What a great article! I'm posting this for posterity and for my future blogging classes. (I am going to teach them the search feature of blogs with this.) Amanda LaBonar writes an excellent article for the Marquette Tribune, Personal Responsibility needed when blogging.

It is an excellent article. I picked it up from Anne Davis (no relation) at the anne.teachesme blog. Anne, in true teacher form creates an excellent synopsis of the article.


  • Freedom of speech comes with personal responsibility.
  • Everything you post represents you.
  • I don't post anything I wouldn't be comfortable with anyone, from my parents to potential employers, viewing.
  • We complain about free speech being taken away, but we are giving away our privacy without a second thought.
  • I'm not bowing to the administration or running scared that something I might post will get me more then a slap on the wrist. I'm being realistic. These posts reflect you, and you never know who is looking at them.

Social Learning Software as it relates to the social theory of learning




OK. I am sufficiently impressed. Christopher Sessums has created a wiki about social software and asked for opinions, so I took a look.

As a technical person who went to an engineering school, I like to base things on research. Christopher does a beautiful job of relating social software to Etienne Wenger's concept of community of practice. Sessums has created a chart relating Wenger's initial inventory of the components of a social theory of learning (Wenger, 1998, p.5) to social software. This chart and Sessums' writings make a lot of sense to me as a classroom teacher.

I would like to take this insightful message and relate it to what I've seen in my classroom:
  • Identity - learning as becoming.
When students create a wiki together, that page becomes their page. Their space! (My space -- ha ha!) They identify with their page. I've seen this when a team member from another team happens onto another team's page and edits incorrectly. The most vitriolic of discussions happen in such incidences. The wiki page project of the student has truly become identified with that student. I've seen this as my students have created a studyhall wikipage -- that is theirs.
  • Meaning - learning as experience
When students research a topic, they immerse themselves in the topic. In the case of my computer science topics, it is very easy for them to experience it on the net -- from programming to simulations, there are so many tools that I can use for the students to experience the topic at hand. With the increase in video and interactive activities -- this is spreading to science, math, history, and more. All the tools of entertainment and computing are merging.
  • Practice - learning as doing
By using online interactive activities, students can practice their skill. They can create links on the wikispace to relevant "practice places" for other students to quickly find places they can go to learn the skill as well. This was apparent to me earlier in the year when some of my students found a binary number game that helped them learn the binary number conversion process and practice it more easily. They loved it and had contests as we prepared for our test. Mastery was easy. They did the conversions and it was fun.
  • Community - learning as belonging
The binary number game was so much fun because we posted scores and students helped one another master the game. Wikis are so much fun because we do it together. We share what we've done. Students talk about what they've done. This is something only the students in my classroom can do but others can comment. They have a community that has extended to the classroom. This is essential. Students have a social use for social software but we must extend that to the classroom. We must use student proficiency with social software to excite them about our subjects.

Sessums also has a great page on the types of social software. I encourage all of my readers to take a look and post your comments. (He says: "I live for feedback so any and all comments are welcome.") Well written pieces like his deserve feedback.

We need educational information that correlates the use of these technologies with research and modern educational theory. I am going to look at what I'm doing and ponder his wiki a little bit longer. I will be looking for more across the net like this!

We shouldn't do stuff just because we can, but because it is the right thing to do to increase student learning.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Point to Ponder: College students lack literacy to handle real world tasks



Interesting article from CNN about how College Students Lack Literacy to handle real world tasks.

It quotes a PEW study targeting all levels of students, here are the findings:


More than half of students at four-year colleges -- and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges -- lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers, a study found.


How did they define literacy?

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

The level of our inadequacy as a nation is amazing, but not the fact that we have issues in this area. On the financial side of things, several years a go, I became very aware that this credit society of ours would put my children under if I didn't educate them. We aren't educating students about debt as we should in the classroom. (I have 10 chapters to cover in accounting in 1 semester -- where is there room! I guess I need to make room!)

I have adopted the strategies set forth in Mary Hunt's book, Debt Proof Your Kids. Here are some of the things that entails.
  1. Financial responsibilities -- my children are responsible for certain things: dog food or cat food, cat litter, lunches, ice cream money. I calculate how much we had in our budget for that and write them a check the first of the month. They save 10%, they tithe 10%, and they live on 80%. They have never run out of money and they do a very good job managing it! See the book for more info.
  2. Financial literacy - Credit Cards - I have educated/ brainwashed my children on the dangers of consumer debt. Several times a quarter I let them help me open up credit card applications and we look at the fine print and discuss what it means. I must say I am anti unsecured debt. Secured debt is another thing -- a smart business move for businesses and in some cases can be necessary for families. I teach my children the difference. I don't think that classrooms would be allowed such a slant in teaching students because the credit card companies would probably fund the curriculum!
  3. Financial literacy - Tips -- I have taught my children this. Children do not go with teachers to dinner, they go with me. That is my job to teach my children. I also discuss the importance of treating each person with dignity and respect and that God has called each person to a job. We are all equally important in God's eyes and waitresses and waiters should always be thanked, looked in the eye, and treated with respect. It is in our core beliefs.
  4. Car maintenance - Calculating how much gas they need to go to the next destination. As for calculating how many miles you can go with the gas remaining in the tank. Is this necessary when you have cars that do it for you? I could do it if I sat down and had to, of course -- but that would not be a skill that was salient or top of mind for me because my car does it. Of course, not everyone's car does that, however, we all know when we get to a quarter of a tank -- FILL UP. Is that literacy?
These issues are important and certainly the ability to read and understand news articles is important and should be taught in history and current events classes. The ability to understand charts for our health is important and should be taught in physical education.

However, I feel that everyone is always turning the proverbial finger in the teacher's direction. They are wagging it yet again and blaming teachers for things they've not been told to teach and that there is no room in the curriculum for. You never see people wagging fingers at curriculum directors or administrators -- the poor front line teacher who spends so much time teaching students to be self disciplined becaused the parents aren't doing it.

I am a parent and I take responsibility to teach my children how to make their way in the world. I will impart my values to them (that's my job and my conviction.) I will teach them to manage money. That is my job!

There is the classroom of school -- appropriate for teaching some forms of literacy. There is the classroom of home -- appropriate for much more than we allow for. Is it because we cannot control the home that we put so much pressure on the school? Things to think on. Hmmm...




Saturday, January 21, 2006

It is not rocket science, it is a mindset! Teaching Technical Acronyms



As I teach students about technology I have as one of my major objectives to demystify acronyms.

I remember my first week at GTE (my first job out of college), they handed me a bound book with other 500 acronyms. There are now over 10,000 at the online IP dictionary . That is when I learned a valuable lesson:

Acronyms are just new words to learn -- you don't have to know what they stand for (in some cases) you just need to learn it like you would any other word.


This word was just coined in 1943 ! There are many people out there who have not been taught how to learn acronyms. But, why are people afraid of acronyms?

When students learn a new acronym I want them to apply the same techniques they use when learning other vocabulary words:

What does it stand for (and is it significant to remember it?)
For example, when discussing CRT (cathode ray tube) and LCD (liquid crystal display), I think it is important because the words are often used interchangeably with their acronym. However in the case of NETBIOS and TCP/IP -- not necessarily unless they are going to be a computer science major.

What does it mean?
There's always the "techno-geek definition." The definition that creates as many questions as it does answers! I want them to learn put the word in simple terms.

One of our first computer science acronyms is TCP/IP. This is how I teach it!

Here's the Wikipedia Definition a/k/a/ "techno-geek" (I don't use this one.)
Internet Protocol Suite is the set of communications protocols that implement the protocol stack on which the Internet and most commercial networks run. It is sometimes called the TCP/IP protocol suite, after the two most important protocols in it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which were also the first two defined.

Here's the Vickipedia Definition (That's me)
TCP/IP is the language of the Internet which allows the computers to communicate with one another. Remember, that the P stands for protocol. A protocol is just a way we communicate. I then show them a clip from Star Wars where C3PO says he is a protocol droid and brags about how many languages he speaks. This gives the students a cue to remember what TCP/IP does and any protocol we discuss, for that matter.

What is it related to? (context)
In the case of TCP/IP -- the Internet.

How does it work?
You have to give students pictures! Nothing is better than an analogy to demystify an acronym.

In the case of TCP/IP -- I take 2-3 funny pictures of the class at some point in the year. (It's not hard because I'm the school webmaster.) I blow up the pictures and print them on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Then, on the back of the pictures I write a combination of a letter and a number -- the first picture is A so across the back I"ll write A1 - A20 in order left to right. I do the same with the second and third pictures. Then, still looking at the back of the photo, I use scissors to cut the pictures into odd shapes. I mix them up into a bucket and then I'm ready for the demonstration.

We discuss TCP/IP and then I tell the class that I'm going to show them how I would e-mail some funny pictures. I tell them that Jones is using computer A and Owen is using B and Jane is on Computer C. I give Jones, Owen, and Jane some clear tape and tell them they are to put it together when it arrives using the numbers on the back as a guide.

I tell the class that I am going to pass pieces of the picture, called packets, to various people in the room and they are to pass it so that it ends up at A, B, and C computers. I then walk around the room and talk as I am giving pieces of the picture to many different people, some close and some far away from the final destination. The kids are passing like crazy and I tell them that they are like routers whose job is to pass along the packet to the final computer. The final computer has an address called an IP address!

The packets all get there and as the three students are taping everything together, I have the students open up the command prompt by going to Start and Run and then typing command.

Once there, I have them type tracert www.westwoodschools.org (our website). What results is a list of all of the routers that the packet of data travels through. I have them read out some of the numbers and look at the variety of hops. At this point I'm usually in Socratic mode and asking questions about what they are seeing. When we conclude they have learned how the Internet works, IP Address, packet, router, and TCP/IP as well as whatever other terms are appropriate!

I want my students to feel like it is no big deal when they hear an acronym. They can look it up and figure out the concept.

So many people think they have to understand how something technological works to talk about it! That is simply preposterous! I know what open heart surgery is and can talk about when it is used even if I don't know how to perform open heart surgery!

I see that my high school students are much more agreeable to this technique and that it only takes several word demystifying tips from me to get them comfortable with acronyms. Once they see the ease at which they can understand acronyms I will throw out new words and set them on an exploration while having them create a Wiki, a podcast, and lead a class discussion themselves. They come up with their own analogies now!

The same ease with new words is not so easy to teach adults and it frustrates me so much!

This is not rocket science it is a mindset!

  • A mindset that I will use the tools that are out there that can help me better do my job and enrich my classroom. I don't have to know what makes a wiki page work to use a wiki page. I hear people say, "I don't know how to make a wiki page." So what -- use a free one at wikispaces or some other place. Takes 5 minutes to set up!
  • A mindset that I will not allow technogeeks make me feel bad because they use more acronyms than the IP dictionary!
  • A mindset that this is life and I will not be excluded from a significant portion of the world because they invent new words every day!
  • A mindset that I will apply the tools I learned in first grade to learn new vocabulary to acronyms. I will treat acronyms as what they are -- new vocabulary.
  • A mindset that I will not spoon feed my students but I will teach them to become information acquirers themselves when a new acronym is thrown at them!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Read/Write Web



Today, I've been spending some time on Web-logged and there are several things of note:

1 - Will Richardson has been writing about the Read/Write Web and quoted several things from Laurence Lessig's recent article in the Financial Times entitled "Creatives Face Closed Net." (Lessig is a Stanford Law Professor)

Blogs, photo journals and sites such as Wikipedia and MySpace signal an extraordinary hunger in our culture for something beyond consumption. According to a recent Pew study, almost 60 per cent of US teenagers have created and shared content on the internet. That number will only grow next year. As it does, these creators will increasingly demand freedom to create, or more precisely, re-create, using as inputs the culture that they buy. In a sense, this re-creativity of the Read-Write internet is nothing new. Since the beginning of human society, individuals have remixed the culture around them, sharing with their friends the product of these remixes. You read a book and recount its plot over dinner. You see a movie and ridicule its naivete to friends at a bar. This is the way culture has always been used. The only difference now is that technology permits these remixes to be shared. And that capacity in turn will inspire an extraordinary range of new creativity.

2 - A virtual conference for Education Bloggers at the k-12 level has begun discussion this week. (Thank you Will for pointing this out also.)
  • Jon Peterson has created a website and a wiki.
  • The work is being done akin to that of the Higher Ed Blog Con for colleges.
  • If you're interested, bookmark or RSS that blog to keep up with it.
I think a virtual conference is important. We have a lot of blogs beginning to be used but to have the best minds come together. I want to talk to other teachers who are using wikis. When going on technorati -- either they aren't there (I know they are), not blogging, not tagging, or not pinging. (What a mouthful!)

It is vital to create places of easy, efficient information exchange of ideas and best practices in these emerging technologies. I hope you listened to my student's talking about wikis in the podcast yesterday -- it is very revealing.

Collaborating is what these kids do naturally (60% have already done it according to the Pew study listed above.) It is time to harness that for learning.

We as educators are going to have to learn to use the tools that our students use to communicate so quickly. They text one another so that by the time of the first showing of the first screening of a new movie -- teens around the world know if the movie is good or not. Movies are suffering and benefiting from the text message phenomenon. Why can't educators have a way to communicate as quickly when we find new tools that really work and relate to the new generation? To test it in a variety of classrooms with a variety of students in a variety of subjects?

We have an unprecendented opportunity but we have to get with it and be unafraid. We risk becoming as irrelevant as a hardback comprehensive dictionary! (They just look up the word in google now!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Podcast of Class Discussion of Wikipage Effectiveness in Learning and Grades



Today I recorded a classroom discussion of the students' likes and dislikes of using wikis in the classroom. Most striking was the claim two of the students had about their averages. Here are the major points, but I hope you'll take a listen to this 4-5 minute discussion to hear it for yourself. (Forgive the cheap microphone!)
  • Students like wikispaces and collaborating with others.
  • Students like collaboration on things like homework and exam preparation.
  • They were uncomfortable at first with being given a word and being asked to explore and post but now they like it.
  • They feel like they learn better using such tools
  • They saw an improvement in all of their classes. (Several cited a significant jump in grades due to collaboration and review material being readily available at home.)
  • They love their study hall wiki where they collaborate on their assignments. This is the most useful item.
  • The frustrating things about wikis were learning that the last one to save a wiki could write over the other changes. They said they had to learn to work in teams and divide up the work so that they wouldn't spend time having to copy deleted material out of the history.
  • They didn't like the major exam project on the wiki (however, that was probably due to the difficulty of the project more than the wiki -- that is because their teacher expects a lot from them! What student likes exams!)
  • Offline they said they prefered the wiki exam project and thought it measured their knowledge more effectively than a regular test. Sorry I didn't catch that discussion on tape.
This again shows the importance of technology being used as a part of all classes not just "computer." The way that we did this in my classroom was a three step process:
  1. Introduce wiki pages through an exploration of a topic (Web 2.0 topics were ours.) I gave each group of students a word and had them explore and create a wiki.
  2. Students created a class presentation about their topic and demonstrated sites related to their topic (i.e. students learning about RSS had to create an account with an RSS reader, use it and discuss it). After the presentation, other students had to post a comment. (This was to make sure the students knew how.
  3. For the second assignment, I split the students into teams and had them create wikispaces about another subject in preparation of a project or test that is coming up within the next two weeks. They came up with the topic and wrote a list on the board so that only one team had a project (I didn't want duplication and I wanted every subject represented.)
  4. On the student wikilinks page, students had to create a link to their wiki on the topic. (This class actually did it from their study hall page in a very useful format.)
  5. Teams received a grade on the quality of their wiki as well as the usefulness as rated by other members of the class. Teachers of the subject were also invited to review the wiki and give me feedback directly.
Out of all of the technologies of Web 2.0 that we tested, the wikis so far are the class "fave." I look forward to seeing other classroom experiences with wikis and learning from your best practices. Please post or e-mail me!


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Let the computer do what it does best



There is a misconception / fear among many educators that computers will "replace" teachers. I think this is not founded in the realities of the classroom. Let me tell you my opinion about what computers do best:

1- Immediate reinforcement
I believe computers are excellent at reinforcing concepts, particularly in math and "logical." For example, a teacher teaches fractions. The students work them on the board. The teacher checks them. But let's suppose one student had the person next to them help them for their board work (common occurrence -- kids don't want to feel dumb.) The student then sits down and works 5 problems and the teacher checks it.

All five are wrong! It has just taken 5 problems done the wrong way for the student to learn they did it incorrectly. Reteach. Retry. Re-miss. Reteach. Retry. How long will this cycle take?
Our math teachers tell me that fast grading is absolutely essential to the effective teaching of math! I've read about some of the work that Jason Kamras, 2005 Teacher of the year (See official article) and have become convinced that technology is a valuable tool in the hand of a good teacher. Our math teachers are hankering for some single concept based assessment tools that are in line with the curriculum. We are looking at several options now!
Such solutions can find areas that could become problems before the student has reinforced incorrect behavior. I find it useful in programming and any other type of logical concepts.

2 - Effective synthesis
As students are taught the new literacy they learn how to synthesize information from a variety of sources and put it together. In SAT prep this week, they used their handouts and classroom reviews from other pupils. They also used info from collegeboard.com and other Google results to get a complete understanding of their topic. They gained additional information and insight through their use of the Internet. (They used google image for drawings for the Geometry review.)

As they put things together in wikis, podcasts, and classroom review for their other classmates they put it all together which brings me to my third point.

3 - Effective summarization

Podcasts are born tools for summarization. Their very nature forces students to shorten and clearly explain information. The students have made their podcasts funny and are already downloading the quick reviews into their iPods and mp3 players to listen to as they review the SAT concepts.

Remember, I said review! Some podcasts teach but you would have to have a narrow topic, in my opinion. My topic is so broad that they are reviewing the mental cues and mnemonic devices that we've used to help them master this monstrosity of a test.

Wikis are excellent when you need a little more information. They are collaborative so as the students work together they improve things. They add links to additional information and are forced to put things in their own words (which they do to varying degrees of success!)

I've told the students that the target of their wiki is their future self in three months or six months when they take the SAT again. What will they need to review? What are the hardest concepts? Explain it so you'll understand when you've forgotten!

Classroom Review. I let the students take what they've done and do a class review. They use handouts, the board, PowerPoint, some of my fun review games (Jeopardy, etc.) and we review each concept. (We get an excellent mixture of methods! Better than I could do!) Classmates having trouble come to the board and review. They they have a quiz (previously approved by me) that they give the class. These are excellent grades so I usually use them as a daily grade (if it is fair and the concept was covered.) I find that we're harnessing the creativity of many more people and the energy level in my class multiplies exponentially.

Digital cameras and scanners are available as they supplement our activities.

What computers aren't!
As I've done SAT review over the last several weeks with 10th graders we've reviewed most of their high school math (boy am I glad I went to Georgia Tech!) We've used wikis, handouts, podcasts, and individual math tutoring programs. (We've seen over a 100 point jump on our old SAT over the last 4 years.) We also use a very cool SAT essay scoring program that helps the English teachers and they say is right on the money.

The least effective tool for reviewing material is an online tutor. The static words and line art do not adequately review or reteach concepts where student is weak. Conversely, the most effective tool for reinforcing items that have been reviewed is the computer. Interesting dichotomy!


In conclusion, I do not think I will ever see a one stop shopping computer software program that effectively picks up on the body language, mood, and mental capacities of a student in order to create their ideal educational environment. I can replace my vacuum cleaner with a roomba but I can't replace a good teacher with a machine and a piece of software.

I adore technology but as much as I love it -- it is vital that I am cognizant of each technology's strengths and weaknesses.

That is where I think the value of blogging in education is so paramount. We can share the strengths and weaknesses of differing approaches and techniques. We can get past the sales hype from the "marketeers" and into the realities of the classroom at work.

In my opinion, the key to a cutting edge classroom of any kind is going to be:
  • the effective use of technology as an integrated part of delivery and assessment and
  • the effective use of the blogosphere by teachers to share information and reduce the time it takes for best practices to spread from school to school.

Monday, January 16, 2006

It's Official -- Westwood Wikispace has been named wikispace of the Month



We appreciate Adam and the folks at Wikispaces naming our blog their Wikispace of the month. The students were so very excited and their teacher (me) was blown away!

One thing I've noticed is that now that there's a fair amount of traffic at our site, I get requests from "strangers" to join the wiki. I've kept it closed and by invitation only but available for public viewing. That way folks can comment but not insert things into the wiki that don't belong.

We've discussed inviting certain "experts" to moderate and add, but I think that would stymie the excitement of the kids doing it themselves. I'd rather have the students interview the experts and synthesize their findings and summarize it on the wiki! The process of creating the wiki is as important as the product. It is within the process that the students learn!

I'll be blogging about podcasting this week as we get our first big podcast of SAT algebra/arithmetic review up on the net!

Here is a summary of the pages I've written so far on our great experiences with wikipages and wikispaces! Thanks again guys!


Blogging Changes Us



I came across some very insightful comments at John Pederson's blog. He says:

I learned something very important this morning. Very subtle, but important. Blogging won’t change education. It changes us.


This is what I keep telling my fellow teachers.

Perhaps the hardest thing about moving back home to my small town in Georgia is the intellectual stimulation of being around my friends in Atlanta. Many of us graduated from Georgia Tech and share information and knowledge as part of even our social conversations. The drive to learn is ingrained in our very being. To say I suffered withdrawal was an understatement.

To respond to this in the 1990's I delved into books, often sucking down 2-3 several hundred page books in a week. I love to learn and am well aware of the limits of my own knowledge so this was the best I could do.

Well, that has all changed! It is sort of funny how I dove into the blog, wiki, social bookmarking thing so quickly. I went to the GAETC conference last November and heard Dave Warlick speak. I happened to come across him in the opening session and looked at his nametag. I looked him up in the book and realized -- "I've got to talk to this man!"

He didn't look down on me because I'm from a small school and a private one at that (that makes me a pariah to many educators.) He talked to me and answered my questions. I then spent most of the next day going to his seminars. I bought his book and read it in one night!

I thought I was so behind!


I set my ambitious goals to "catch up" with the rest of the world before the end of the semester! (insanity!) I proceeded back to my class and did a special on Google 2.0 the next day. The students were thrilled. We dove into bloglines next -- setting up accounts, a little blogging.

Then I created a free wiki at wikispaces.com and launched a student exploration of Web 2.0 (We were named wikispace of the month for December!) I had no choice, because I knew that I didn't know a lot except what I'd experienced in the last several weeks. We explored folksonomy, RSS feeds, the blogosphere, social bookmarking, wiki pages, podcasting and more. The students made it relevant to them. I commented to help them improve. They commented to ask questions.

I followed Dave's instructions and we recorded our first podcast. Then I started blogging and posting like crazy relieved that I was finally somewhat maybe perhaps caught up with the rest of the world.

My students were excited about everything and learning had taken a giant leap forward not just in my subjects but in all subjects through the use of wikis specifically. They were excited!

Now I laugh! I took Dave's vision and thought it was all fact -- whereas he is a visionary and was spelling out the future for seminar participants. I thought I was behind!

You see, I had no way to know that what he was telling was so visionary because it all has worked just as he spelled out and much more so! I had no reason to think that these things were visionary because they just work. They work like some tried and true theory like the learning styles or Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

I am fortunate to be in a smaller school where the curriculum director and I work closely. She trusts me implicitly and allows me to adapt the computer science program to stay cutting edge. The English, Science, Math, and Social Studies teachers are passionate about including technology in their classes and do so very frequently. Some are already beginning to use wikis, particularly to have a four year project to help AP English students review. We're using them in our SAT review right now. (And having a great time, I might add!)

I will keep blogging on the how to's but for now I will say -- the biggest transformation has been in me!

I can sit down and read my blogliness account and be up on the latest research and thoughts. I can listen and learn from those who know while I'm working out in the mornings. I can also take the theories and visions they espouse and try them in my classroom and post almost real time observations on the truth of their visions. So we have a mutual synergy that is building among educators. That is truly exciting!

I heard in a sermon yesterday, "You don't have to be a who's who to know what's what."

I know these collaborative, social technologies excite students and they work! I've seen it!

They make me a better teacher -- my only struggle is the exhaustion I feel as the students have expanded my mind and pushed me to my limits intellectually. We mutual feed on information that we then we consume and share. What a great environment!

Thanks Dave for being a visionary -- and for taking the time to talk to a nobody who was sitting alone at a conference where you were a somebody. I'm forever grateful!


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