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Friday, June 30, 2006

The Eight Lessons of Change



Amidst Doug Johnson's post about cleaning out his office is an amazing gem about change. Doug excerpts a 1992 report with a foreward written by Michael G. Fullan called "Change: A Guide for the Perplexed," from his work, Doubts and Certainties, NEA National Center for Innovation (I googled the book and it was actually written by Portland State University professors Thomas G. Chenoweth and Robert B. Everhart).

In Doug's Post, he lists what I call eight lessons of change. They are profound and deserve to be brought out to the forefront.

The Eight Lessons of Change

  1. You can't mandate what matters.
  2. Change is a journey, not a blueprint.
  3. Problems are our friends.
  4. Vision and strategic planning come later in the process, not at the beginning.
  5. Individualism and collectivism must have equal power.
  6. Neither centralism nor decentralism works.
  7. Connect with the environment.
  8. Every person needs to be his or her own change agent
We live in a discrete world that wants to manage and micromanage the events that happen. We want prescriptions, details, and specific best practices. It makes us uncomfortable that so much is left to the individual.

You can hire an individual and force their body to work, but only they can employ their soul. This is why managers and principles who hire men and women of character, empower them, hold them accountable, and treat them with respect get such better results than those who browbeat, micromanage and demoralize! (The same with teachers in the classroom.)

Change is a process, not a discrete event! These eight lessons are simply so profound that I am excited!

I want to share with you my opinions on each of these and my own opinions.

Change Principle #1 You can't mandate what matters.


Many mandates come down, but the core of the matter is a good education for students. When mandates counter what we know as educators deep in our soul, the mandates lose support, sputter out and die. What matters, matters. Students must receive a good education and nurturing so they can be productive citizens of tomorrow. Period.

Change Principle # 2: Change is a journey, not a blueprint.

You cannot become complacent when you are a change maker. We get out of the past tense (implemented, taught) to the present tense (implementing, teaching). We are always part of the process of change.

When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot!

Our world does not hold stasis very long. I remember in Calculus, we would calculate the point at which a ball thrown up would reach a stopping point and begin dropping again. (I do not miss that class.) Likewise, you're either in the process of improvement or the process of decline.

Change Principle #3: Problems are our friend

With a background in sales management, I learned that problems for a customer almost always equaled opportunity. If I could solve that problem, I would either keep their business or get new business.

Problems are great. When we find a problem, it means that we know its there. That is half the battle, trust me. (That is why I value forthright people who tell it like it is. I do not have much use for people who sweep authentic problems under the rug, neither do I have use for whiners!)

When we have a problem, we move ahead to solve it. Many people choose to ignore problems.

A mass of people in education right now are choosing to block problems rather than dealing with them. For example, instead of asking WHY are cell phones a problem in school or why are kids always on myspace, we are just using the old authoritarian ways with children who don't trust authority. How about educating them and holding them accountable for their behavior? (Remember, I do like blocking and monitoring but nothing is 100%. How many of them have blocking at home?)

Legislators are also taking this misguided approach of attempting to set up virtual brick walls. They forget that any such bricks may look like bricks, but in reality they are made of holey sponges. You simply cannot block everything. And along with the 5% of the problems on social software, they are blocking kids from the 95% excellent material. The baby is certainly being thrown out with the bathwater.

Change Principle #4: Vision and strategic planning come later in the process, not at the beginning.

This is counterintuitive, but I agree with it also. Often, when I begin writing the technology plan, I have ideas of the general direction. However, the vision and strategy often emerge as I am in the process of implementing new technology. The next step in the process usually comes out and hits me in the head like a soccerball.

As I have been purchasing our new computer lab at Westwood, I have been planning the next 3-5 years. It is just easier that way. Once it is "planned" it will evolve as I learn new things (this is why it so helpful to do it on a wiki!)

Change Principle #5 Individualism and collectivism must have equal power.

This one is tough. We must remember that individuals implement new technology. As I stated earlier, you can employ a person's body but they are the ones who employ their own soul in a job. Therefore, when you make individuals part of the process via survey, collaborative work, wiki, or just conversation, they become more committed to the outcome.

I always ask teachers about change in their rooms. I'm not going to buy software that they refuse to use! It is their room! Mandates just don't work. Involve the teacher. Yes, you can set standards and promote direction for the collective group but there is also an important place for the individual.

This is an important balance that good administrators and technology administrators can keep, but again, it is a process, and one never really "arrives."

Change Principle #6: Neither centralism nor decentralism works.

This is a tough one. With an entrepreneurial bent myself, I love decentralized economies and have often felt that the removal of much of the work of curriculum planning from many local schools has buried schools and teachers in a conundrum of paperwork.

Paperwork and bureaucracy, when it is the people in the trenches having to fill it all out, do not do much good. When I talk to public school teachers (everyone of them I know), it is the paperwork and bureaucracy that is the complaint. That, and the fact that they are limited on personalizing their rooms. Sometimes they are not allowed access to their rooms over the summer. Things are often moved and placed for them. But, they are paid well and put up with those frustrations, although they secretly tell me they would be better teachers with less paperwork and little more ability to control their own environment.

I believe in empowering people to do a good job. I also believe in accountability. Empowerment means decentralizing and pushing authority out to those "in the trenches." Accountability means that they are accountable for the outcome as are the administrators that run the school to a central authority. I do believe there is a place for both, but when humans get desperate to change something, they micromanage until a few visionaries emerge and "get it done." That changes everything. (That is what is happening on the New Internet.)

The tough thing about overcentralization is that there is little flexibility. Every child is different. Every class is different. If you take the ability away from teachers to move like a running back during an important play, the teacher will be tackled and go down for the count. The class will run over her like the poor player trying to breathe at the bottom of a bunch of squirming linebackers!

There is no easy prescription for organizational structure but there is certainly a balance. I am quite happy with my situation in that I am responsible and accountable for what goes on in my room.

On a side note, I had a great professor in college who talked about responsibility, accountability, and authority. When you make someone responsible and hold them accountable but give them no authority to make any changes, you create a very bad situation. I am afraid that is what is happening in many schools.

Change Principle #7 Connect with the environment.

The pet peeve of most people is the newcomer who comes in and says "Well at so and so, we did it this way." I always want to say, "Well why didn't you stay there if they did everything right?"

Yes, you can learn from others, however, every environment is different. Good change managers are good at assessing and responding to their unique environment.

Change Principle #8 Every person needs to be his or her own change agent

This is back to my overriding paradigm: You can employ a person's body, but they employ their own soul!

Change is up to me in my classroom. Everyone has excuses. All of us have reason to whine!

If it is to be, it is up to me!

I have transformed my classroom with six year old Pentium III processors and 128 MB of RAM and Office XP and an Internet connection. We used new Internet tools. I've been blogging. I've been reading blogs, papers, and books and implementing suggestions of those that know. I've been brainstorming and leaping off the shoulders of giants as I take my own twist on their suggestions.

There is no excuse for you not having a good classroom where kids learn.

And if you 100% KNOW that you cannot have a good classroom where you are teaching, then why are you wasting your short life? Life is about making a difference, not spinning our wheels.
We don't want to waste water or aluminum or paper! So why on earth would we waste our time?

Will you employ your soul in your job?

It is my decision. I will employ my own soul in the job I do!

Have you truly employed your own soul?
Or does it just sit to the side and wait for retirement or the weekend or summer vacation? Is your soul in your yard or pets or house or are you truly engaging it in the place where you work? Find yourself. Then hire yourself to do your job, make a difference, and change!

You can change. No one can make you. What will you do?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do you write great lesson plans: You can make money on them!




If you're not participating in Edbloggernews, you're really missing out. I just found this gem that I'm going to look into more. It references an article posted yesterday from CNN about the new website www.teacherspayteachers.com.

You upload all file types of ORIGINAL work and it can be purchased and downloaded by other teachers for use in their classroom. You get 85% of the proceeds. I'm probably going to sign up without paying the fee to see what I think. (There is a $29.95 fee annual fee to participate.) He has recruited several award winning teachers who are already submitting plans for sale.

I have full PowerPoints, handouts, and resources for so many of my lessons. I've hesitated to share all of them because there seem to be pirates out there that like to snitch material and market it as their own. This is a way for me to market and share that material so it doesn't gather dust on my shelf. Much like ebay, buyers will rate the sellers on this market and what could emerge is a powerful tool to facilitate exchange of effective classroom materials.

I'm going to look at it more and let you know what I think. Meanwhile, it is worth a look and I like the idea.

I have to wonder if school districts will pay for such material or if it will be yet another expense out of the teacher's pocket. I almost wish he would rename it so that it would sound more legitimate on the PO. "School resource market" or something like that. Having worked with the public school system, there's a lot in a name. I would be afraid teacherspayteachers.com would raise red flags in bookkeeping.

Another benefit from the New Net! Now, get there and make money off that lesson plan you slaved over!

My New Net Discussion Group



I am passionate about educating adults about the New Internet as well as the children I teach on a daily basis. My little hometown of Camilla, Georgia has an incredible new community gathering spot called Camilla Java. Not only do they serve great coffee but they have a huge dance floor upstairs where they teach shag dancing on Friday nights. They have discussion groups that meet and I have started one entitled the "New Net Discussion Group." Our first meeting was today and next one will be on Wednesday, July 19th at noon, if you're around Camilla, join us!

This is targeted to busy adults who want to learn more about these new things on the Internet . We have created a blog http://newnetgroup.blogspot.com and my participants have been invited to contribute.

I blogged the notes about the meeting which include an explanation of RSS and how to set up a Net Vibes account. This is a great place to start for a beginner. I am welcoming people who are just beginning on the New Net to join us there to participate in discussion about how to do things on the New Net.

I also educated the group about the DOPA act and encouraged them to write letters. Most people have no idea what is going on.

This is about making a difference where you are.

It is tempting to stay comfy and cozy on the edublogosphere where we have many who agree with us. Are you getting out and sharing this knowledge with others? If you have a group of people who want to know more, why don't you start a New Net Discussion group. I'll add you as collaborators and can share some of the powerpoint and handouts that I'm using offline. Just e-mail me.

I'm hoping to start some spinoff blogs and wikis for the betterment of the community here including those that would work to preserve history, share news, keep up to date, and of course, educate teenagers!

Meanwhile, here is a reprint of some of the most helpful information for those who like to link to this blog instead.


Notes from the New Net Group Discussion Meeting held today:



The Magic Button of the New Internet
We began by discussing the "magic button." This Button usually has the words RSS on it. RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" but I like to call it "Really Simple Subscriptions."

What does RSS do?
Just as Foghorn Leghorn says, "Look at me, Boy", an RSS feed lets a web page tell you "Look at me, I've got something new to tell you." Right now, people take twenty or thirty minutes a day to look at several websites for information. Sometimes you read something just to realize that you've already read that yesterday! Using these RSS buttons you can subscribe to the websites you read the most and have it all on one page! The computer will tell you if its new or not!

This little box (called a chicklet like the gum many of us chewed as kids) is the backbone of this Incredible new Internet and allows us to do more with less time! (Remember, the button may look different and be more like the one shown on your right! They all do the same thing, though!)

How do I use the RSS?

I used Net Vibes to demonstrate how you can use RSS to put customized information on a page. Here are the simple steps: (there are other ways to do this, but this is the easy way.)

Set up an account

1) Go to www.netvibes.com and click Sign In to set up an account
2) Delete anything you don't want on your page by pointing your mouse in the top right hand corner of the little boxes. An x will appear. Click the x and you can delete the box.
3) Type the name of your page up at the top.

Find information to add to your page
1) Look for the RSS or XML button or words on web page. (This is called the "feed.")
2) Click on the button and it will take you to a page with a lot of words on it that says XML
3) Click in the address box at the top to select the text.
4) Right click on the highlighted text and select copy.
5) Go to your net vibes page
6) Click Add Content in the top left Corner
7) Click Add Feed
8) Right click in the blank box and select paste
9) Click Add
You can move it around on the page by moving your mouse on the top bar of any box. Your arrow will turn into a four pointed arrow (I call the snowflake). You can then click and drag that box anywhere on the page.

I showed you several places that you can get feeds for your Net Vibes Page:

Customized Google News - http://news.google.com - Search for your topic and then click the RSS button to get the feed for that news search. Here is the feed for the Camilla, Georgia News.

Weather - To add the weather, click the Add Content Button and then there is a weather button. Type in the name of your city and then add it to your page.

New Movies that are coming out this week. Click Add Content. Paste this feed in the box.

http://movies.go.com/xml/rss/intheaters


New DVDs out this week. Click Add Content. Paste this feed in the box and add it to your page.

http://movies.go.com/xml/rss/dvd.xml


Healthy Recipes. Click Add Content. Paste this feed in the box and add it to your page.

http://rss.allrecipes.com/


My Christian podcast feed is: http://www.godcast.org/rss.xml Add it to your page like you did the others.

Startup on your NetVibes Page


You may want to make NetVibes your startup page now that it is so useful. To do this in Internet Explorer:
1) Make sure you are on your NetVibes Page
2) Go to Tools --> Internet Options on the menubar at the top of your page.
3) Click on the General Tab at the top of the box.
4) Click on Use Current.


We were running short on time so I gave you a brief overview of some New Internet Technologies:

Blogging - came from the term web log. We discussed several political influences from blogs and a little about how they work.

Wiki - A quick way to make web pages and cooperate with others. You can look at the Wiki I use at school at http://westwood.wikispaces.com. Wikipedia is the most well known wiki. You can use them to create documents together with others.

Internet telephone - A way you can make calls over the Internet. This is also called IP Telephony and I recommended that you use Skype

Podcasting - Audio files availabe on the Internet in mp3 format. You do not need an ipod to listen and can listen just by clicking on them and listening to them on your computer

Open Source software - Free software you can use that downloads on your Computer. Tommy has used Open Office and recommends it highly. You can download Open Office at http://www.openoffice.org/ (Beware, it is a large file.)

Web Apps - Usually free software that you use on the Internet. I recommended Writely for word processing, Gliffy for graphics, Airset for calendars, and Google Earth for maps. You have the ability to save it and edit and use it from any computer.


What are you doing to share information about the New Internet?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The name wiki seems to have not taken hold although the use has.



A new wiki service in Seattle which boasts that it is the easiest of all wikis started this month. The new service entitled Wet paint has been used on the xbox to create cheat codes and other collaborative works. (Notice how the name wiki is left out of the company name.) Most people just knew they collaborated but didn't know the term wiki.

I was most interested in the article posted by the MIT Technology Review which stated:

"Surveys conducted by the Harris polling organization for Wetpaint show that only 5 percent of adults who go online can define the word "wiki," according to Elowitz. And it's not clear that Wetpaint or any other wiki-focused company has made the technology simple -- or useful -- enough to attract large numbers of users."
This article also claims that although many people read Wikipedia,

"only about 500 users are responsible for editing it."


(I've edited, have you?)

A wiki that isn't called a wiki used in college


I had an interesting conversation with my cousin who is in college when I asked her if she's used wikis. She stated that she had never heard of them, but when I described them, she has in fact collaboratively edited documents. The college is using them extensively but not calling them wikis.

Confusing wikis with wicca

My biggest obstacle to the introduction of wikis is that each time I introduce or speak of it, the newcomer to the term thinks I am referring to something that has to do with wicca, a witchcraft organization. I now immediately state the definition of a wiki and explicitly point out there is no relation to wicca and I am fine. It seems to be the question that everyone is afraid to ask, although it is just a semantic misconception.

Wikis remain my best classroom tool

I see so much misunderstanding of how to teach corrrectly with wikis. They are the best classroom tool that I use! I am excited because GAETC has asked that I teach a workshop covering how to teach using wikis at their conference this November. I look forward to sharing the best practices I've learned and how to set up a basic wiki. I plan on using a class wiki to teach the class so the students will see me model the behavior I am teaching.

Whether it is called a wiki or some other name, it is still a very useful technology and one that is vastly undestimated in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Darren Kuropatwa's Class: Inspection and Introspection -- A Must read!



I love reading the blogs of other teachers and Darren Kuropatwa is one of my all time favorites. He has blogged an incredible comparison of his teaching as it has evolved over the last year and a half using blogs.

This is simply a must read. I think it is important for all of us to be reflective and share during the summer time. The day to day stuff is great but sometimes when we are in the midst of the day we cannot see the big picture.

Such big picture introspection and class inspection is important if we are to take the day to day and turn it into best practices. We must be able to examine what we do and determine what works and share it.

The world is full of good ideas but ideas that are unable to be implemented are just air.

Take time to read Darren's incredible post! I am going to work on a post modeling his style of comparison and hope others will as well.

My Dream Computer lab begins to take shape: Processors



I have been totally absorbed (8-10 hours a day for a week) in purchasing my new dream computer lab. I have learned so much that I simply must begin to share it with you so that you too can learn from all of this sweat and keystrokes. I'm so excited that I just can't stand it!

How I've researched for this purchase

Before I tell you what I learned, let me give you some history for how I did my research. I posted a blog entry about my hardware thoughts, software thoughts, and questions about open office versus Microsoft office. I took that information and created a wiki which several readers graciously helped me edit. What resulted were some incredible comments and great resources.

Although I talked to some other companies, I have worked with Matt Robertson at CDW-G and have been so impressed with him. He is going out of town a couple of days to the Alabama Technology Conference and I hope some of you who read in Alabama will stop by and tell him that he is doing a great job! (The company is great and Matt is A+! He has really had to sweat it out with me and all of the questions I've asked! I have not been an easy sale but he has conferenced in so many experts and folks that it has helped me greatly and he has been the conduit to a great lab!)

It will take several posts to share with you all of this information! In this post I will share what I've learned about hardware and the student workstations I am planning on purchasing.

The only time I ever wanted a D !

The new Pentium D processor (dual core processor), that is!

After my hardware post, one of my commenters, Daniel Palmer said:

Looking at your Student PC specs….
• you really should consider Dual Core processors they seem to be the current roadmap for Intel and AMD. They do not create as much heat and they are more energy efficient.
• As for 64 bit… I cannot really say that 64 bit is really that important especially in a classroom setting. Assuming Windows XP will the OS of choice then the XP 64 Bit edition is feature in-complete according to Microsoft. Microsoft Office will run but there are key pieces of that fail such as a Spell Check.
The wheels began turning and I did some research about dual core processors.

I like to simplify things and have begun to create graphics to explain this to my students in the fall. When I talk about processors, I use the pizza oven example as shown in the following graphic.




How does hyperthreading (HT) work versus a dual processor?

Those who love geek speak, I'm not going to use it here. This is my simple explanation of these two technologies and why I decided to get the Pentium D. I may be oversimplifying for some technocrats out there, but so be it, I don't teach technocrats!

Hyperthreading is (was) great.
If you look at the pizza oven example, what it allowed us to do was have an oven big enough for two sets of pizzas to cook (or two datastreams in one processor) AND it could start cooking one pizza before the other ones finished cooking (pipelining). This was great because it meant that we could put more data through the processor resulting in more that could be done at the same time. However, we met some limitations when running processor intensive things like video and another task running at the same time.

When would I see this in a classroom?
What if you are wanting to have the student do a task on the computer AND record a podcast about how to do that task. I've seen computers choke when this happens.

Let's look at another scenario. With my new lab I am looking forward to having my students record video, edit the video, and add audio. What if they want to do this while LISTENING to a podcast about how to do this? Other processors even with HT probably would have given me trouble, particularly if I was running something like Photoshop.

The Move to Mini

The move to dual core processors is being fueled by the ability to minitiarize. We don't really need smaller microchips, we need more of them so that we can do more on the computer. With this move to smaller processors, some are projecting quad (4) core processors within the next several years that are on the same size processor chip that we see in computers now.

Dual core processors have advantages over hyperthreading in that two data streams can actually be processed at the same time. So, theoretically, you could run video and Photoshop and they would go to different processors and not interfere with each other! Wow!

I was looking at moving to 64 bit chip versus 32 bit and what I found is that I think that the dual core issue is more important. I think that the next thing that makes your computer obsolete will be whether or not you have more than one processor in your machine (a/k/a dual core.)

Amazingly, I have found that dual core machines are not in the astronomical price range. Without releasing any confidential pricing, I will tell you that it is as affordable for me in the end as single core processors and I have not had to break my budget at all! I was so thrilled with my final specs of my machine today that I almost cried.

My hardware:

For my student workstations I am getting the following:
Micron Computers
Intel Pentium D Processor 930 (3.0 Ghz, 2x2MB cache, 800Mhz FSB)
1 GB Dual Channel DDR2 533 SDRAM 2-DIMMs (can go up to 4 GB)
160 GB Serial ATA-150 8MB Cache Hard Drive (7200RPM)
IEEE1394a FirewireCard with front and rear access
Integrated Serial ATA Controller
16x Dual Layer DVD-R/RW +R/RW Combo Drive w/ Pinnacle Studio, Win DVD5, Nero Express
52X Variable Speed CD-ROm in the other bay
Integrated 64MB Intel Video Card GM 950 with up to 224 MB DVMT
Windows XP Pro Service Pack 2
SCM SCR333 Internal Smart Card Reader w/ Active Card Gold 2.2 (I had them add this.)
Integrated Intel High Definition 5.1 Channel Audio
Integrated Intel Gigabit Ethernet 10/100/1000 Network Connection w/AMT
3 year on site service


My peripherals?
  • Inexpensive speakers for the student computers
  • Cyberacoustics speakers for the demonstration computer (for when I play DVD's and use audio I want everyone to hear!)
  • Logitech QuickCam Fusion Web Camera for student computers (I'm really excited about this one, it is an integrated microphone and video unit with some great noise cancelling features. Although I want them doing some video, I wanted to make the ability to do vlogging (video blogging) something that each student could do. This checks out as a great option for that.)
  • For my demonstration computer, the one where we record class podcasts, I am purchasing the M Audio Podcast Factory which has some cool features on it.
  • I'm looking at 19" flat panel LCD's but may end up with 17" due to price considerations.
  • Regular optical intellimice and keyboards. (I looked at wireless but opted to only put the wireless set up on my demo computer. As I looked into this I found that many schools who go wireless end up with missing mice and mixed up mice and keyboards. I have three now and like them, although I have found them to be the source of many headaches as students mix up the mice or make one mouse control three computers just for fun. I'm glad I did a little research on this one and feel good about my choice although I really wanted to get rid of some cables.)

Why Micron?

The price was great! I went with a Micron tower because I am quite partial to them. Every Micron I've ever bought for the school or myself has simply lasted an incredibly long time. Of the 21 microns I bought 6 years a go, all but one are in service! They are still working and will be moved to the teacher's classrooms for those who need Internet and gradebook access for another 3-4 years. (Those Pentium III processors will last for a while if I just leave on Windows XP and do not migrate them to Vista.)

Putting my students in the drivers seat of a dynamic learning experience


I want to move from static creation to dynamic creation of all classroom materials. Goodbye boring typed papers, I want to pull in photographs, edited and created images, student audio, podcasts, videos that they make, interviews they conduct using their iPods, and every imaginable way to make what I teach come alive!

My students are going to be even more active participants on the Read/Write web and I want to partner and participate with other computer science classrooms as we take our learning to the next level.

My classroom has been explosively exciting this past year with Pentium III computers and older technology. I can only begin to think how exciting it is going to be this year with new computers, new software, and the ability to use all kids of media in our lab.

Configuration of the room


I am planning to move the lab from three straight rows to a U shape with a rolling podium in the middle for my demonstration computer. I am purchasing a Polyvision Walk and Talk 1600 with Lightning and Easiteach softwar so that I do not have to calibrate the machine and so I can also capture and share my notes with the class as needed! I am purchasing a new projector so that I can teach with the lights on!

Contentment turns to excitement

I always work to be content with what I have! There is never a time when I have bemoaned the fact that I couldn't do something! I have always been fortunate enough to have experts and resources that help me make things work. But this will be my first time teaching with a completely NEW computer lab and it thrills me to no end!

I have to be content because money does not come around often for computers in private schools. Broken things, buildings, and buses tend to get the capital. But this is my one year in every 5 or 6 that comes along and I want to squeeze every ounce of technology juice out of my money!

Is it really my dream?

This will be my dream computer lab! I am so excited! Yes, by the fall someone will have a newer better one, in fact that will happen when I buy it. But this one will be mine! It will have quality manufacturers who stand behind their promises. It is from a company that I've had a working relationship with for two years with a sales rep that I trust. I'm very excited.

I will tell you later about the server configuration, software setup, and what I decided to do about my applications software. I've also done a lot of research on going wireless on the campus as I want to move to laptops in the near future!

For now, I will go take a bubblebath and relax in the fact that I have given 100% to this purchase, that I have worked, prayed, and researched for hours. I am getting close to cutting the PO and have the support of my administration and curriculum director, they trust me. I among computer technology support/ teachers feel very fortunate to be teaching in such a great school and working with such great folks. We've always said that we may have a small school but we have big minds and that is how I feel right now!

I look forward to sharing with you what else I've learned that has simply blown my mind! Remember, you do not have to have an unlimited budget to get on the new Internet. I did it with 6 year old computers and a decent Internet connection!

The New Internet is fast, easy, and in many cases free but it's still fun to buy new stuff.


Monday, June 26, 2006

If you want me to try, tell me why!



After following some fascinating posts at Kathy Sierra's blog, I came across some of the current research on the brain over at science daily, I came across a fascinating article entitled Scientists detect two decision making pathways in the human brain.

The finding, published in the October 15, 2004, issue of Science has broad implications for predicting economic and behavioral health patterns, says Richard Suzman, Ph.D., Director of the NIA's Behavioral and Social Research Program.
As the scientists studied the brain patterns of those who were faced with immediate reward versus delayed gratification, they found that the emotional portions of the brain were more activated in those who chose immediate gratification. The deliberative areas were strongly used when a person chose delayed rewards. The article says:

When participants chose between incentives that included an immediate reward, fMRI scans indicated heightened activity in parts of the brain, such as the limbic system, that are associated with emotional decision making. In contrast, deliberative and analytic regions of the brain, such as the prefrontal and parietal cortex, were activated by all decisions, even those that did not involve an immediate reward. However, when participants resisted immediate rewards and instead chose delayed rewards, activity was particularly strong in these deliberative areas of the brain.
These scientists particularly see an application for helping people make healthy decisions and buying choices. However, I see that this research could help as we show students the value of education. (Graduating, doing homework, studying.)

For example, because most students graduate after age 16, ultimately it is the student's choice to complete high school. With almost one third of American students not graduating from high school, I would have to wonder if the immediate gratification / emotional decision to drop out is not being counterbalanced by the evidence for graduating from high school that would help the students deliberate more effectively on such a life changing decision.

So very often, students graduate because parents insist, but when the parents do not have influence, we must educate students on WHY they should advance their education. I think this information must be told to children often and at a young age in terms of:
  • earning potential (See the US Census)
  • lifestyle
There are so many facts to bear out the importance of graduating from high school. (Go to Google and type Why should I graduate from high school and you get nothing of meaning!) We are often so concerned with offending the plethora of high school drop outs that are already out there that we sometimes gloss over the significant decision children make when they are dropping out of school. We are not selling the reason students need education! Why should they try?

A Van down by the River?

My students and I often joke about the Chris Farley Saturday Night Live flick where the parents bring in Chris to give a "motivational speech" to their "wayward" teens. Chris spends the whole time yelling at these innocent looking children and telling them they are going to end up living in a "van down by the river" if they don't get serious about life!

I'm not talking about yelling at children or forcing my own views upon them like Chris' hilarious character. But I often tell them about the various studies that cite the difference in earnings that I have come across. I am encouraging my students not to just graduate from high school but attend and complete college! They will live better lives!

Put reasons in the deliberative part of the brain while they are listening!

Education is important but if we leave the decision to stay in school to the emotional short term decision making of students without some meaningful input into the deliberative part of the brain, I think this study confirms we are asking for trouble.

I can hear students saying:

"Don't just tell me not to drop out of school, tell me WHY!"

Isn't the call of most teenagers these days: "WHY?" This is one question we should answer early and answer often about education. Are we?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Big brother is watching, but we are opening the drapes



I was done posting for the day but have spent my daily five minutes perusing Edbloggernews and came across this article: Pentagon sets its sights on Social Networking sites.

As the Pentagon funds harvesting information from social networking sites, we have more important work to do than ever. Our children are oblivious! We are planning a parent and teacher meeting about myspace and the information students post online and this will be an article that I share.

We have GOT to educate NOT insulate our students on this important issue. Students often post things tongue in cheek that they don't mean. Now, a joke with a friend may turn into an inquisition. This makes me nervous as profiles of how each of us think could possibly be built off of our online material. I am not ashamed of how I think, but who determines whether what I think is "acceptable" and how will it be used.

Big brother is watching, but we are opening the drapes. (Who is going to teach children about this if we make blogging as unmentionable as religion in public schools?)

Have you posted your top ten? Inspiration from edubloggers.



As I prepare to travel again for the weekend, I have been perusing some great top 10 eduposts! (Read my top 10 eduposts for the last school year) Here are those that have been tagged or linked to my blog so I could find them:

David Warlick
-
The former classroom teacher, turned edu-motivational/instructional speaker who I credit with lighting my fire for the new Internet and changing my life has posted his top 10 list from the past school year. I particularly like his Act Like a Native and Flat Classrooms posts. I really think it is wise to read all of his top 10 to get some of the best in current transitional educational thinking.

A teacher's life by Lucy Gray
Lucy is a Middle School Computer Science teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator. I particularly like her post on how she used Google Earth to create a graphing activity in Excel. She also did a riff on the idea and posted her top ten eduposts from other blogs, great idea!

Extra Recess - Video Tape yourself for the best self improvement!

Over at Extra Recess, this first year career change teacher used a different format for her top ten, but the post was on how she learned about her teaching practices from a video tape that was made of her teaching. As I read, my eyes were opened to the possibilities of improving myself as I video tape and evaluate myself teaching. Rather than the often "defensive" evaluations that occur throughout the year, what if teachers were required to video tape themselves at least once or twice in each class during the school year and evaluate themselves such as she did. I think we would see marked improvements just by seeing yourself on camera. Many people are not aware that they naturally scowl or act unkindly and to view oneself makes yourself objective and not defensive at all.

Remember if you are posting to tag your post mytop10eduposts and you can be found. Go to http://www.technorati.com/search/mytop10eduposts to see what others are posting on technorati. If you don't know how to tag, learn how! It is a great way to share ideas!

Even more so, we all should take time to reflect and summarize. It gives newcomers a way to catch up on the vernacular you use in your blog with a little history from the past year. I definitely think this is a practice that I will continue as I have some introspection and reinspection of my own blogging practices.

My New A list blogger: Garr Reynolds, for anyone who gives presentations



I love to pull in non educational industry bloggers in my A list reading because they inspire me and move me in directions I would not have gone. It helps me avoid "group thinkitis" in my teaching and get past just what the educational industry is saying.

I've been reading Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen for a while and have learned a lot about visual communications. (His quotes are inspiring too.)

I often blog about the importance of body language, voice, and enthusiasm in the classroom. In my blog posting, the Overlooked Lethal Weapon of Teaching, I quote Rose Polchin, a communications consultant, who says that the actual words we say are only 7% of communications!

As I teach my students presentation skills, I really emphasize this point! (In fact, one of my pet peeves is monotone teachers who drone on while seemingly oblivious to the fact that their students are asleep!)

The new blog posting, The power of the visual, over at Presentation Zen is another in a long line of very inspirational and inspirational posts I've read over there. It discusses the use of thirds as you lay out a presentation in PowerPoint and is going to be a must read hyperlink for my PowerPoint module that I will teach next spring.

Garr joins my other non-educational industry favorites Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users and Guy Kawasaki. Both Kathy and Guy have skyrocketed in their Technorati ratings and I expect the same great things from Garr. If you give presentations of any kind, you simply must read PresentationZen.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What box?



W h a00 T B O 0 X question mark ring

The old adage says to think "outside the box." My question is, where did the box come from? Who made the box? Who decided to get in THE box?

Talking about a box, Erma Bombeck said:

There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, "Yes, I've got dreams, of course I've got dreams." Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they're still there.

How sad!

Keep the dreams out of the box

Teachers and administrators need dreams. When we lose our dreams of making a difference in the lives of children, we lose the power to make a difference! We cannot put ourselves or our children in a box and hope them to be everything we want them to be!

Don't leave technology in the box

Before teaching in my current setting, I used to train public school teachers on how to implement technology in the classroom. I will never forget showing up an hour early for such a class and opening the door I thought was the classroom. It was a door full of about 30 computers still in the box. Upon inquiry, they had been sitting there for six months! (Money was going to "evaporate" and the end of the fiscal cycle, so they bought computers before the money went away and never got around to deciding where to put them! As a taxpayer, it really bothered me. As a person who is saddened by the unengagement of our local community in education, it broke my heart.)

Good technology supplements good teaching, it does not supplant it!

Some people view new technology as a threat. However, the effective employment of new technology is not about walking away from practices that work in the classroom, it is about walking away from practices that DO NOT WORK! It is about building a future for tomorrow that is different from our own.

Let's leave behind the excuses from our own childhood

It is not about saying "I sat in a classroom with no posters and a boring teacher and I turned out fine!" That is hogwash! With almost one third of American teenagers not graduating from high school we have work to do!

With the excitement of technology at a fever pitch, new technologies are the perfect conduit to reengage children who have been lost to boredom and hopelessness.

Who got in the box?

When I think about getting out of THE box, I want to ask why a person would ever climb into one in the first place? No matter our circumstances or condition, freedom is a state of mind more than circumstances!

As a reader of history, I have seen men and women who lived in prison cells and yet were free as their minds and thoughts were busy with activity. As a person who lives in a free country, I have seen men and women who lived in seeming freedom and yet were in a prison of their own mind and habits.

Stop looking at what you cannot do and begin focusing on what you can do!

You can be out of the box and still a good classroom manager

Don't misunderstand me, a good teacher is somewhat predictable, yes. They can get their classroom back on track in a millisecond. They can hush a student who is toying with the idea of goofing off with a sideways glance out of the corner of their eye. They have predictability and safety in their classroom management.

A rut is a never ending box!

A good teacher also makes sure they do not fall into the ruts of classroom monotony. A rut is just a box with no end!

Good teachers and technology


I believe that good teachers employ new tools and are constantly learning. They are pushing the limits of their students and their own as well. They never categorically deny the value of a technology they do not understand and have never used.

The new PEW Internet life study shows that 43 million Americans and 35% of
Internet users have created online content!
(Hat tip Andy Carvin.) It is vital that if our children are to emerge as products of the information age that they know how to create information safely and effectively. Taking such production out of the classroom is akin to restricting a student's access to pen and paper. Their future will be to contribute reams of meaningful, original, creative information as part of the "long tail" we hear so much about.









User generated online content. Source: Pew Home Broadband Adoption 2006.

Blogging is a sell out, Are educators selling out?

Conferences for bloggers like Gnomedex, BlogHer, and BloggerCon are sold out! Meanwhile there are far too many educators who are selling out by burying their head in the sand to the new media that is rising up around them like lava. What if we could emulate what beet.tv is doing for educational purposes in our classrooms?

Blocking insulates teachers from having to change

If technology is blocked, then teacher unwilling to change will not have to worry about how their classrooms have to change! If you can't join it, block it, some seem to say! If you don't understand it, block it! If you don't want to do it, block it!

Blocking recently cost the Cobb County school system
a $250,000 savings in telephone service when a filter inadvertently blocked the e-mail proposal.

The more you block, the more you lose, it is that simple. (I would never advocate unblocking pornography, I think, however, we're reaching the point of "overblocking.")

Kids must be able to create online content

On his blog last week, Robert Scoble says:

A kid in Australia with five readers can become an international media story now just by writing something on his blog.

With high school students winning awards at the Boston Emmy's, this is a new day!

Good education is not in a box

Good teachers don't come in boxes. Now, more than ever, you can not make a good student in a box.

Good students and good teachers are made in a sphere -- an earth sized sphere that encompasses the multi cultural, multifaceted, and sometimes dangerous world that we live in. Students are protected from danger by being educated about the dangers.

Nevertheless, the box grows bigger.

PC Magazine highlights the recent CSTA report on the state of computing education in America. As Alfred says on his insightful Computer Science teacher blog :

Now we can argue if computer science should be part of the core college prep curriculum (I think it should) but in many areas it is not even a college prep elective. In a lot of places its vocational education. Now I think that having a computer science program in vocational education is a great thing but I don’t think we should be keeping college bound kids from taking it.
Alfred and I agree on this one! If you want to get me fired up, get me talking about this subject! I believe that typing is the next progression after cursive writing! I worked with a student just today from a top tier private school whose school removed computing and put in Latin. She is in 10th grade and could barely type at 10 words a minute!

Children who cannot write

This is not a vocational thing, this is a communication thing! Compare the difference in productivity between a person typing 10 words per minute and 100 as some of my students were after one semester of keyboarding! This student can speak Latin but not communicate in today's world! A child who cannot touch type is being put in a box by their own ignorance! With so much of today's communication being electronic, children who cannot type are at a terrible disadvantage!

To not teach typing is akin to saying: "Children are good at coloring, so let them just figure out how to write correctly!" Such a behavior would be considered educational heresy. And yet we expect kids to just "figure out" how to type! But it is far more than typing, it is understanding today's world!

Intentional education, not "happy accidents"

Many adults have the common misperception that students are "naturally good" at computing and thus they do not need to be taught. Well, I'm naturally good at cooking, but if my Mom hadn't taught me anything, I'd still be eating beanie weenies.

You have to start someone on the path of enlightenment on any subject. Once they are enabled with the learning techniques, they will run down the road to discovery!

Children have busy lives full of soccer, football, basketball, archery, leadership camps, and academics, often they are not going to do anything unless they are encouraged to. Yes, "Happy accidents" will happen in computing, but we cannot count on "happy accidents" to educate the generation of tomorrow!

Unfortunately this "happy accident" mentality is leading to a lot of unhappy tragedies as children barely old enough to drive hop on airplanes to meet men they met on myspace and 40 million people logging onto myspace for more than an hour every week.

Teach children to live in the real world

Our children are not in a box, and attempts to put them into boxes always fail. Why not lead them out of the box and teach them how to live in our new world with ethics, honesty, respect, and civility?

I have some filters to block activity at school and primarily keep out pornography and dating sites. I do block myspace most of the time. (Although I unblock it for them to print information for their portfolios if they have good posts on their myspace blogs.) I would never advocate removing all filtration, I think that is irresponsible. I also think that carte blanche blocking of all blogs and wikis is wrong and short sighted. It is putting kids in an overly constrictive box!

Boxes are for shipping things. Boxes are for Christmas presents. Boxes are not for me, my students, or my classroom. I will not only not be in a box, but if you ask me if I am out of the box, I will say "What box?"

How to renew your inspiration!




Back from my vacation

I hope all of you will take time this summer to sit on a mountain or a beach or just your back porch. I've found a beautiful post with some great quotations on Presentation Zen. If you're feeling uninspired, maybe a little time off is what you need!

Automobiles are not made to run all of the time, they need their tires rotated and their engines tuned up. You do too! If you go full tilt all of the time, you are shortening your life and asking for a heart attack! Take some time to breathe.

As I read blogs, I read things that tell me "you must post every day" or "you have to have short posts," or a miscelleny of other recommendations. I honestly say I haven't followed many of them. I didn't post for a week while on vacation and had about 40 more people to subscribe to my blog. Last Friday was the heaviest day of traffic I've had since I began blogging and I hadn't posted for a week! Lighten up, your blog will be there when you come home. You might even be surprised! (I do recommend posting your top 10 before you go on vacation to give your readers something to think about!)

But it is not about the growing number of people that read this blog, I blog because it helps me think. It makes me better. It has become who I am.

I think as I share with you part of my struggle and life to educate the students I love that it might help you. I know that you edubloggers who share the same with me have made my life richer and made me a better teacher.

So take some time! Take a break from posting! Top off your tanks! Have a tune up in the solitude. Don't wait until school is ready to start to realize that you spent your summer in a flurry of worry and overactivity!

Prime your inspiration with some solitude this week!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Must read resource for curriculum and technology directors



While perusing Will Richardson's new project, I came across a great resource that is worth his effort of setting up his EdBloggerNews project: The School Computing Wiki by Fred Bartels.

This is a great resource on many different topics. It has a review style format with many opinions.

If you are evaluating what you are doing in the classroom right now, this is a great place to look.

If you are full of opinions and have a story to tell, also a great place for you to share. Get over there and participate and collaborate! You can teach others while your classroom is empty over the summer!

This is about teaching the world! This is about sharing the story with others and coming out of our virtual holes in the ground to work together! It is about learning from one another in the hopes that we can spur innovation on in an accelerating pace as we work more efficiently. It is about encouragement that when we do our best and use best practices that we can turn good intentions into a good education for future generations.

Aggregate, share, and unite to educate the world



Will Richardson asks a thought provoking question:

"This [creation of aggregation of edunews] is all stemming from a bigger burr in my brain of late that has to do with the seeming randomness of all of the really great work that people in this community are starting to create. It’s just feeling like it’s all over the place, and that if we could in some way get our collective act together, we could start creating an incredibly valuable resource. I know it’s all about small pieces loosely joined, but wouldn’t it be great to point the newcomers to one spot that was a clearinghouse for all of this work? Not to mention the value it would have to us old timers in terms of bringing people in. I mean all of a sudden, it seems like everyone has a wiki, and most all of them have great intent and good content. But there’s also a lot of duplication of effort, and more importantly, dis-connection, at least that what it feels like to me."


If you are a speed reader and type 100 words per minute, perhaps you can glean everything from the burgeoning edublogging community, but otherwise, we have got to get our act together and work smarter and not harder!

Will has created a nifty Digg style edublogging forum at crispy news. Follow his instructions and JOIN IN!

I have already submitted some really neat articles and read some on there as well. Remember, this is not about shameless self promotion but about the servant attitude that most of us teachers have to make the world a better place. Self promoters will do nothing but stymie efforts to aggregate and I hope we all commit to remove edusploggers from such forums by voting them out!

This can save us all time if we will log in and look at the site for five minutes a day or so! Submit articles by adding the bookmarklet to your toolbar!

Collaborate and join in!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My top 10 eduposts of 2005-2006



Post your Top Ten Posts

Attention edubloggers "on vacation" this summer, I would like to ask you to post your top ten posts from the last school year!

I have been amazed at how many hits are coming from college classrooms and educators this summer. (See my post on statcounter on how to track yours.) Some of them have bemoaned the fact that I do not have enough "how to's" on my website or classroom experiences Well, that's just it, the how to's are buried back in May and before. It is June and I'm not in class right now. I hope that professors teaching such classes will instruct students on how to search and go back in the archives to find "classroom" experiences.

Tag your Top Ten: mytop10eduposts

Consequently, I was thinking it would be a good, reflective practices for edubloggers to post a "top ten" David Letterman style post every so often to highlight the posts that they think are the "most important reads" during their past school year. Please tag your post "mytop10eduposts" (my top 10 eduposts without the spaces!) I am a new reader on many great blogs and I'd love to hear what you think are your best.

So here are mine and why. (In true David Letterman Reverse order!)

Cool Cat's Top Ten Edublog Posts of the School Year 2005-2006


10 Ten Habits of Bloggers that Win - 3/3/2006 - This one has stayed on my top 10 read blog posts since I wrote it. Everything there still applies. Great article for a newbie!

9 What is a mashup? Google led Socratic Teaching -3/7/2006 This has become my model for using wikis and Google to teach in the classroom and has remained on my top 10 most read blog posts since I wrote it.

8 How to Set up a Classroom blog using Class Blogmeister - 2/23/06 David Warlick mentioned this in his daily e-mail to class blogmeister users and many people subscribed to my site after it.

7 Fountain of Youth Series - Vial 1 -Variety, Vial 2 - Be Observant, Vial 3 - Be Human, Vial 4 - Be content and positive, Vial 5 - Pursue Excellence but Remain Fluid, Vial 6 - Lower the Bucket - February 2006, The focus here was how to stay young! This was fun to write and my first attempt at a series of articles. My readership really jumped after these.

6 How Wikis, Podcasts, and Laptops Help students with Learning Disabilities. 1/25/2006 - This is near and dear to my heart as my sister and son both are diagnosed with learning disabilities. Laptops are both in their prescriptions. Perhaps I love this one because it is so personal.

5 Don't let the Flux of Technology make your curriculum irrelevant - 6/30/2006 - This has been a widely read and linked posting. I feel most inspired after reading great books. Books are the lifeblood of an ongoing education. Blogs are a good tool for taking the pulse of an ongoing education.

4 The Overlooked Lethal Weapon of Teaching - The importance of enthusiasm and body language from a teacher. I love this one because a teacher in Mexico City did a great hack on the story and posted a wonderful picture he took of a colleague's classroom with all of the students asleep and some actually drooling on the desk. It was definitely my best laugh of the year. (I wish I could find that photo!)

3 Why blaze lonely and unpopular trails that will become the highways of tomorrow? 1/31/2006 - How does leprosy have to do with education? I felt this post the most as I wrote it. I still reread it at least once a month. Again, a great book inspired this one.

2 - Are you a bobblehead or bumblebee? 3/22/2006 - I was inspired with this as I looked at the bumblebees in my yard in the spring and as my child played with a bobblehead. It classifies people as they relate to technology as either one or the other. I got a lot of interesting comments on this one!

1 - Wiki Wiki Teaching - The Art of Using Wiki Pages to Teach - 12/9/2005 - This was my first post and still one of my most cited posts. It is how I entered the edublogosphere and when I first realized the power of the blogging. I was hooked on day one.

Honorable Mention
Some others that I look back on even now but that just couldn't make the top 10.

What happens when you give a kid a chance? 3/14/2006 - Jason McElwain, the autistic high school student who stunned the world by ringing 6 three point shots in the last home game of the season. He left all of us scratching our heads and made the world rethink its take on autism. I link to the home video that made him famous and made people cry around the world! If you haven't seen it, you should!

The Big Black Door to Freedom -3/11/06 Would you take the unknown black door or the firing squad?

My Students Compare and Contrast Wikis and Blogs - 6/25/2006 - I posted this on the last day of school and it is just the kind of learning that I have had in my classroom this year! Incredible!

DOPA: From Book Burning to Blog Burning, why it needs another look! 5/15/2006 - My honest opinion about DOPA!

Interesting Facts Around the Blogosphere 5/1/2006 - When English is no longer the primary language of the blogosphere!

Research Findings on Web 2.0: When you dissect the Frog, you kill the Frog - 4/8/2006 Thoughts on the balance between good educational research and anecdotal evidence from teachers.


Enjoy these while I am on sabbatical

Well, out of six months and over 170 posts, there is what I feel are my best. You may have others, let me know and I'll rethink it. Meanwhile, I have another reason for posting these, I am planning on being out of pocket for over a week. Do not expect many postings if at all. We all have to take a break sometimes! Besides, where I'm going doesn't have wi-fi or telephone service for that matter. (Ah, what a blessing.)

I will say I have learned to forward G-mail to my mobile phone. That is pretty cool!

Remember this!

While I am gone, remember to think in revolutionary ways about how to do a better job teaching this fall. Take a break so you can renew your passion. Exercise, eat well, and take care of yourself. Enjoy some bubblebath or chair-therapy and do not feel guilty about it. My greatest productivity is often when I am rested.

A person who is given out has nothing to give. Take some time to give a little back to yourself. Go outside, wiggle your toes in the dirt, smell the flowers, and put your face to the sun with your eyes closed... this is life and you get do to it once. You only get one chance at this day so make it a good day!

I love blogging and I love the beautiful, wonderful people who comment and make my day so full of joy! Thank you for reading Cool Cat teacher and I will talk to you next week!

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