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Friday, October 31, 2008

My Sister is Homeless: The Trouble with Statistics

Statistics have a real danger and are driven by definitions.

This is a perfect example.  Albany, GA is attempting to get a better definition of how many homeless people live in Albany... an admirable thing.  So, they've redefined homeless:

"For next year, they're redefining what homeless is to include families who may be living with relatives or friends or living in a motel. Organizers say it's important to get an accurate count."

They are going to also count here in Mitchell County.

The problem is this.  My sister is now homeless.

My sister, Sarah, is an amazing graphic designer who moved home to open up her freelance design business and teach online graphic design classes for Savannah College of Art and Design.  She works from morning till night and business is going well.

The apartments available in this puddle of a town are far less than OK, and so, while she saves her money to build a house, she's living at home with Mom and Dad, paying rent, buying groceries, etc.  She's doing very well with her business.

But she's homeless.

The problem is that so many people have an agenda.  In this case, someone wants to make sure the homeless are served, and yet, hasn't really thought through the definition.

And a trick that grant writers have worked is, if you can't get money with the current formula, just redefine something and make yourself a golden ticket.

This is a perfect example:  A study from Canada has just been released that their college drop out rate is being skewed by "switchers" (people who transfer between colleges) and "leavers."  The six year study turned up that:

"Within three years, 40.3 per cent of the college leavers and 54 per cent of the university leavers are back."

So, the statistics are SKEWED.   This is the danger of taking statistics out of context or not examining the underpinnings.  This is exactly WHY we need researchers and peer review at the research level - it is easy to make statistics say what you wish.

English author Rex Stout said:

"There are two kinds of statistics:  the kind you look up and the kind you make up."

A few other quotes on statistics that I turned up that I love:

Statistics are no substitute for judgment”  Henry Clay


He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts - for support rather than illumination”  Andrew Lang


And perhaps a sexist but true quote from Aaron Levenstein -  “Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” 

Now, I'm not disparaging statistics en total, however, what I am saying is -- double check into what you read.  When I took statistics in college, my Dad quoted Benjamin Disraeli before I started:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I think this is what concerns me most about NCLB.  I am all for accountability, but I remember when my son got a score back on "environment" in K4 that concerned me.

Then, when I sat down with the teacher, I learned that there were 20 questions -- he missed 2.  One of them was a picture of a person putting  a ticket into a subway turnstile and it asked the child what was happening and gave four choices.  My son got it wrong.

At that time, he was four and, living in south Georgia, had never been on a subway in his life!!! Why would he?  We ride the car, we ride the tractor, we ride the 4 wheeler, but a subway???

So, did I fuss at the teacher because he had a lower than average score on Environment.  My response, "Who on earth cares if he knows that at this point.  I don't."

What some parents want is some artificial belief that their child is better than other kids.  The problem with percentiles is that THEY ARE PERCENTILES.

US parents and educators will only be happy when 100% of the students are are in the top 5th percentile.

We must not substitute statistics for good old common sense and I think we're seeing that right now in many schools who've gone scorehappy (with good reasons - parents are demanding it) and yet, kids don't know how to balance their checkbook, have a strong work ethic, know how to treat others, and actually enjoy going to school.

My sister is NOT homeless and there are some schools NOT meeting AYP that I think may actually be doing a pretty good job.

I can almost guarantee that there are some schools MEETING AYP that are cheating or "messing w/" their numbers.  (Until they started requiring high attendance rates, I know that some of the local schools here told their low perfoming students to stay home during testing.)

So, we DO need test scores -- but when the results replace common sense, I've got a problem with that.

So do the "what if's" keep us from doing anything?

Darren Kuropatwa's Post today has me thinking.  Darren says:

I've been using delicious in my classes to have students aggregate and share content since November 2005. What is described above, while I recognize it COULD happen, has never happened to me in the last 3 years. This sort of action strikes me as particularly pernicious and malicious...

Lots of food for thought in this. To be completely frank, I see this discussion as more of an intellectual exercise than something that might actually happen. Some teachers may feel that my perspective is naive. Fair enough. Then again, I teach in an inner city school and I've been blogging with my classes going on 5 years.
So, in this case, someone is arguing with Darren -- well, what if a kid goes home and bookmarks porn?
I'd like to add -- what happens if a kid brings a porn mag to school?  Has that NEVER happened?  When it does, what do you do?  How do you deal with it and why is this scenario any different.

Online Spaces Leave Indelible Traces

Honestly, if a child messes up, I'd almost rather them mess up in one of my PRIVATE online spaces.  Then, there is no he said/ she said.

Every student has their ID with their password. 

Bring a porn mag to school and have the principal find it in a locker and no one claims it.  Bookmark a porn site, and boom, I've gotcha, buddy.

Your ID is your responsibility
I tell my students that if their ID is used for illicit activity, then they are responsible.  Every student has their own ID in grades 6-12.  They log on and off of every machine and save their files from the server.

This has exponentially cut down on innappropriate screen savers and backgrounds -- IT DOESN"T HAPPEN ANY MORE.  They have accountability and responsibility.  And if they mess up, it goes on the discipline ladder.  Period.

Online behavior MUST have offline consequences
Teachers are telling me that when things happen at their schools that either:
  1. Administrators don't understand it and so they get rid of the tool and refuse to discipline the child.
  2. Parents don't take time to understand what their child did and blame the technology.
  3. Or both.
And the kid who did it laughs at the "dumb" parent or admin knowing full well they did something wrong.

Right is right and wrong is wrong.  When two kids are in the hall together, one is going to do something to the other and you're going to have to deal with it.  Do we get rid of the halls?  Do we tell the kids they can't come to school because there is going to be a problem?

Demonizing the Tools
Tools are neither angels nor demons.  A violin can be a screechy earsore, or a beautiful, heavenly sounding instrument -- it is in the hands of the artist.

It is what we do with the tools that counts.

And if a child does something innappropriate, it is their responsibility and they MUST be held accountable.

Watch the Screen
With this being said, I think that any computer lab that is set up so the teacher can't see every screen is asking for trouble. 

I know of a person who told me that their Internet was taken down because somehow a student got on a porn site FOR AN HOUR during another teachers class.

I'm sorry, but where was the teacher.  So, we're going to punish the whole school because a teacher wasn't doing his job? 

Did the student get suspended for 3 days?  Did the teacher get suspended?

Is THIS the fault of the Internet? 


I'm sorry, but sorry teachers who don't do their job need to find another one.  And if this teacher is a good coach, as in this case, let them coach and do something else during the daytime.

However, I also blame the administrators and others who didn't deal with the problem - the student and the teacher.  Issues like this seem so black and white to me. 

The Internet is here to stay just like automobiles, scissors, and human beings.

We don't get rid of streets because cars crash there, scissors are in our schools in age appropriate ways, and human beings are here to stay also --

The difference is that the Internet is new and many kids are more savvy than their teachers. 

Time to Move Forward

Computers in schools are BAD babysitters.  Students should be professional students and stay on task at school.  If they want to "play," they can do it at home. 

We are not babysitters, we are professionals.

I have a friend who is in a computer lab where the teachers bring their kids to "play" on the Internet for 30 minutes when they have a good week -- no guided practice, no purpose - just play.

My friend is about to quit over it.

I would.

Computers make bad babysitters and a teacher who is responsible and has to try to monitor this is in for a cardiac arrest. 

Purpose and Planning

Purpose and planning should be in place when the computer or any technology is used in the classroom.

So should responsibility and accountability.  Teachers should monitor what kids do vigiliantly, deal with issues immediately.

Last week we had a student with a very innappropriate profile photo on Flat Classroom.  We banned the student immediately and left a message for her that once her profile photo was fixed, she could be restored.

She sent me  a message today asking why I banned her last week with no warning.  ONE WEEK LATER.

There is no warning in this world of electronics.  One strike, I take a screenshot and delete the offense.  I'm not leaving it up for anyone to see nor complain about. 

The student can fix it and move forward, but only after I have definite contact with them. Of course I'll let her back on, after she fixes the profile photo.  There are people from many cultures on there and this photo will offend at least half of the others.  She didn't like it, but her rights to express herself stopped when she became offensive.  You don't have the right to offend people flagrantly on this sort of project.

There is NO other way to run a project.  Say what you mean and mean what you say and if you're a teacher who can't control his/her classroom, you have no business getting students on the Internet.

So, what do you think about the "what if's?"

And I have a what if for you --

What if we treated online spaces just like the physical spaces of the school property would things be different?

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Daily Spotlight on Education 10/31/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reflections on Redefining Rigor from VYonkers

VYonkers had such a great reply to the Post about Tony Wagner's Redefining Rigor that I had to share what she said. I particularly love what she said about her son being allowed to come up with a "theory of war."


I have been looking for something like this for a while. As an undergraduate business and communication teacher and a graduate education teacher, I have seen my role becoming even more critical over the last decade. I have had to teach all of these skills in my class as students do not come into school prepared with these skills.

I don't blame the teachers or students, but rather the policy makers who want to simplify and quantify learning. Like you, I have found international projects as ideal since the assumptions we are taught through our educational system (there is one way to do things--compare how math is done in China and the US; facts do not change--ask a European or Latin American how many continents there are) are blown out of the water when working/learning collaboratively across the borders.

To change, we will need to 1)change the educational policies, 2) change parent attitudes as to what should and should not be learned, 3) change teacher, administrator, and student attitudes towards "mistakes", "errors", and "not knowing" to make it a jumping off for learning rather than being part of the definition for "failure."

Last year, my son shocked me when he came up with his "theory of war." I didn't agree with him, and we had long discussions about it, but I knew he was in the right school when he would even think of coming up with his own theory. Of course, it also helps to have parents that will allow you to come up with those theories and discuss it and/or challenge it, rather than commenting, "that's crazy" or "that's nice, dear."

Originally posted as a comment by VYonkers on Cool Cat Teacher Blog using Disqus.

The "C" Word: Are you Salve or Sandpaper?

The C Word

To say Tuesday was a difficult day is an understatement.  My mother is my best female friend (hubby is best friend in the world) and we were steamrolled by the news that she has cancer.


It strikes fear in the heart of everyone I know although most think it happens to everyone else, or just the very aged, never them!

And yet, here it is. 

People who wax prolific at such news are foreign to me because there is nothing I can say.  Well, I take that back, I have another word I CAN and do say.

It is another "C" word despised by many.  I have had friends who chastize me for saying I'm a Christian here on this blog.  And indeed, every time I do, a few readers get rid of their subscription.

And yet, I have to worry about hatred from the kind of person who closes their ears to the belief of another.  I certainly subscribe to the blogs of atheists, liberals, radicals, conservatives...for one to say that they cannot learn from someone with a different belief system is the epitome of arrogance.

And yet, it is to this word, this despised word by many and misunderstood word by others that I turn.

Mom and I and our whole family -- we are Christians and to the rock from where we are hewn is where we turn in this time:  Jesus Christ.

Right now, we are waiting to see if the oncologist's appointment in Augusta, GA could be moved up from the November 25th date that seems too far in the distance for us.

Yes, these are the times that try our souls, and yet, the family who pulls together, loves one another and encourages each other and puts their faith in the Truth will prevail, no matter the outcome.

Share the Websites that Help

Now, I'm looking to see the best online sites for supporting cancer patients and their families.  We all have a lot to learn, and if we must go down this path, then I know that there are those who may benefit somehow although right now I cannot think about it.

Salve or Sandpaper
I can only just ponder the principle of the Salve or Sandpaper.

You see, as I've suffered through the past week with this secret pain, I've come across TWO types of people.  Yes, and only two.

I have this wound that others cannot see and there are those who, through their unkind, selfish, raw behavior are like sandpaper on the wound.  Being around them on the twittersphere, blogosphere, or in person just makes it worse.  They are sandpaper. 

And then, there are those people, like Lisa Durff, who have always been kind and encouraging to me.  They are like angels in human form who spread kindness and encouragement.

Like the person on twitter last night who was attending a "not so great" keynote and said that her mother told her to leave if she couldn't say anything nice (salve) versus the people who proceeded to lambast a stranger's reputation. (sandpaper)  (I'm leaving out names to protect the incriminated.)

There are times I've been sandpaper.  Like the time I blogged about a horrible vendor in anger (I pulled the post) or got mad at someone and sent a flaming tweet.  Sure, the blogosphere can be a very hurtful place with people judging the intent and heart of another with no grounds. 

Sometimes, when I'm having a tough time, the sandpaper gets to me and makes me want to hibernate.  I figure if I'm not anywhere, then I won't come in contact with the sandpaper.

And yet, I take this away:  I want to be the salve and if I'm alone, I can't do that for others.

  • I want to be the person who helps the teacher get through another day and remember the nobility of their calling

  • I want to be the person who encourages parents and teachers to give that misunderstood child with the learning disability a fair chance at life. 

  • I want to be the person who spreads good and does good things for others... not for anyone to know about it, but because this world is a better place when people are kind and loving and do the right thing.

  • I want to work to civilize these new frontiers of technology and help them be put to wise uses in ways that build bridges between cultures that we've allowed society and extremists to separate.
  • I want to work to build the bridges today that the youth of tomorrow will walk across.
  • To see that using technology isn't about fear, panic, and confusion but can reach kids so that we can be a well educated, successful, and moral society tomorrow.

This life is short and it isn't about any one of us.  But I believe with all of my heart in the purpose of life.  Your life.  My life.  Mom's life.

I have a purpose and a dream.  A purpose to make a difference in education and classrooms.  A dream to write books and blog posts that will improve the lives of others, a dream I first penned in a journal when I was 12 years old.

And now, I have many more reasons to push towards those dreams, because you see, my Mom is more than salve, she is my supporter. 

She binds up the wounds, heals with her words of kindness, and softly pushes me forward to do and be more than I could have been otherwise.

She (and God) was the powering force that pushed my father, a small town farmer, to become president of one of the most powerful farmer's organizations on earth, the American Soybean Association.  She said

"I saw greatness in him and knew he was meant to be more than just a farmer in a small town."
And he is, and was.  He was "green" way back when people thought it was what you were when you're nauseous and led the charge for things like Soy ink that are in our world today.

And she has done the same for me.  She has always told me she sees greatness in me and knows that I'm meant to be more than just a teacher in a small town.

Don't get me wrong: being a teacher and a mother and a wife:  that is enough and I'm content.

And yet, I push further through her support.

Which will you be:  Sandpaper, or Salve and Supporter?

So, my question to you is this. 

When you look at the people in your classroom, do you realize that they have hidden hurts in their hurting hearts of which you know not?

Do you know that you have a huge, enormous power?

Will you be the sandpaper that sucks the joy from the marrow of life with your cantankerousness and fussiness?

Or will you be the salve that encourages and helps others?

Will you be so selfish that you only see your problems and don't realize that other people are having tough times right now too?

And if you're choosing to be the salve, are you going to seek out those who are different from others and need your encouragement to be more and become their supporter?  Are you going to help people be more and do more and make the world a better place?

The Pain
The last few months has been incredibly tough.  In addition to "pot shots" of the most mean and callous nature that seem to come my way, I guess because I have a blog, there have been other, private hurts.

Whether it is the struggle to get my students to Qatar against the tide of public opinion that say I'm a bad person for believing that a conference of students from around the world in today's society can actually be done.

Or the person who tells me that I'm wrong for ever leaving my classroom to share with others.

Or the person who calls the computer guy down the street to tell them where we should go with technology when I might actually know a little bit on that subject.

Life is full of hurts.

It drives me crazy to see the downright incivility and childish behavior from BOTH political parties in the US presidential election.  YES, both.  I'm ready for it to be over if just so the ads and the snarky comments in the twittersphere will cease with everyone deifying their candidate and demonizing the other guy (or gal.) 

I am ashamed of the behavior of many in the news media and politics and yet, I am proud to be an American because I know that mudslinging has unfortunately, long been part of politics, but we have a political system where I can go vote safely and when all is said and done,  that we will move forward no matter which candidate is elected.

It is tough because my husband is an engineer for a company dependant upon the automotive business.  You can guess the stress happening there.

Whine or Win?
And yet -- there is a little difference and yet all the difference in the world between Whine and Win.

And this life, short though it may be, I wasn't put on this planet to whine... I was put here to win. 

You weren't put on this planet to whine, you were put here to win!!!

For me, I win not through my own ability, for truly, I am nothing, but through a plan and a Man greater than I am who has his eye on me and authored history.

And I take great joy that when He came to this earth, that He asked His friends to call him ...


I still believe it is the most noble calling on earth.

I covet your prayers and encourage you to go call your parents and tell them you love them... they don't last forever.

Daily Spotlight on Education 10/30/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daily Spotlight on Education 10/29/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tony Wagner's Redefining Rigor: Redefining our Future (If we'll only listen)

ASCD's article "Rigor Redefined" is an absolute MUST READ, MUST SHARE for everyone who remotely cares about education.

Tony Wagner has done a remarkably concise job of reflecting on the state of education.  Below, I've extracted my annotations (items on the left are quotes from the article, Items indented with the clear circled bullet are from me), or you may view the annotated version of this article which will include all of those who annotate and share on this article using Diigo.

He talks about risk aversion, I wonder what educators among us are willing to take the risk to go towards this when compensation is increasingly tied to test scores that measure only rote memorization and test taking ability.

  • I conducted research beginning with conversations with several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and education leaders. With a clearer picture of the skills young people need, I then set out to learn whether U.S. schools are teaching and testing the skills that matter most.

    • Background on the research done by Tony Wagner. comment by Vicki Davis
  • “First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can't teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

    • This is a great aspect of project based learning. Although when we allow students to have individual research topics, some teachers are frustrated because they cannot "can" their approach (especially tough if the class sizes are TOO LARGE,) students in this environment CAN and MUST ask individualized questions. This is TOUGH to do as the students who haven't developed critical thinking skills, whether because their parents have done their tough work for them (like writing their papers) or teachers have always given answers because they couldn't stand to see the student struggle -- sometimes tough love means the teacher DOESN'T give the child the answer -- as long as they are encouraged just enough to keep them going. comment by Vicki Davis
  • “I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with other

    • Last Saturday, my son met Bill Curry, a football coach and player that he respects. Just before meeting him, my husband reviewed with my son how to meet people. HE told my son, "Look the man in his eyes and let him know your hand is there!" After shaking his hand, as Mr. Curry was signing my son's book, he said, "That is quite a handshake, son, someone has taught you well." Yes -- shaking hands and looking a person in the eye are important and must be taught. This is an essential thing to come from parents AND teachers -- I teach this with my juniors and seniors when we write resumes. comment by Vicki Davis
  • how to engage customers

    • Engagi ng customers requires that a person stops thinking about their own selfish needs and looks at things through the eyes of the customer!!! The classic issue in marketing is that people think they are marketing to themselves. This happens over and over. Role playing, virtual worlds, and many other experiences can give people a chance to look at things through the eyes of others. I see this happen on the Ning of our projects all the time. comment by Vicki Davis
  • the world of work has changed profoundly.

    • Work has changed, school hasn't. In fact, I would argue that schools are more industrial age than ever with testing and manufacturing of common knowledge (which is often outdated by the time the test is given) at an all time high. Let them create! comment by Vicki Davis
  • Today's students need to master seven survival skills to thrive in the new world of work.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • companies need their workers to think about how to continuously improve their products, processes, or services.
  • Over and over, executives told me that the heart of critical thinking and problem solving is the ability to ask the right questions. As one senior executive from Dell said, “Yesterday's answers won't solve today's problems.”

    • We give students our critical questions -- how often do we let them ask the questions. comment by Vicki Davis
  • How do you do things that haven't been done before, where you have to rethink or think anew?
  • 2. Collaboration and Leadership
  • Technology has allowed for virtual teams.
  • Every week they're on a variety of conference calls; they're doing Web casts; they're doing net meetings.”
  • 3. Agility and Adaptability
  • has to think, be flexible, change, and use a variety of tools to solve new problems. We change what we do all the time. I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills

    • Adaptability and learning skills -- this is why building a PLN is so important!! comment by Vicki Davis
  • 4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • I say to my employees, if you try five things and get all five of them right, you may be failing. If you try 10 things, and get eight of them right, you're a hero. You'll never be blamed for failing to reach a stretch goal, but you will be blamed for not trying.

    • If our students get eight out of 10 right, they are a low "B" student. Do we have projects where students can experiement and fail without "ruining their lives." Can they venture out and try new, risky things? comment by Vicki Davis
  • risk aversion

    • He says risk aversion is a problem in companies -- YES it is. Although upper management SAYS they want people willing to take risks -- from my experience in the corporate world, what they SAY and what they REWARD are two different things, just ask a wall street broker who took a risky investment and lost money. comment by Vicki Davis
  • entrepreneurial culture
  • Effective Oral and Written Communication
  • focus, energy, and passion around the points they want to make.
  • clear and concise
  • first 60 seconds of your presentation is

    • How many of us emphasize the first 60 seconds of a presentation students give? comment by Vicki Davis
  • Summers and other leaders from various companies were not necessarily complaining about young people's poor grammar, punctuation, or spelling—the things we spend so much time teaching and testing in our schools
  • the complaints I heard most frequently were about fuzzy thinking and young people not knowing how to write with a real voice.

    • Writing with voice = blogging -- give students a voice, this means first person, NOT third person writing. comment by Vicki Davis
  • 6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  • Employees in the 21st century have to manage an astronomical amount of information daily.
  • There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren't prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.”

    • Buidling a PLN using an RSS Reader is ESSENTIAL to managing information. THis is part of what I teach and do and so important! comment by Vicki Davis
  • rapidly the information is changing.
  • half-life of knowledge in the humanities is 10 years, and in math and science, it's only two or three years

    • Personal learning networks and RSS readers ARE a HUGE issue here. We need to be customing portals and helping students manage information. comment by Vicki Davis
  • 7. Curiosity and Imagination
  • “People who've learned to ask great questions and have learned to be inquisitive are the ones who move the fastest in our environment because they solve the biggest problems in ways that have the most impact on innovation.”

    • How do we reward students who question teachers -- not their authority but WHAT They are teaching? Do we reward students who question? Who inquire? Who theorize? Or do we spit them out and punish them? I don't know... I'm questioning. comment by Vicki Davis
  • want unique products and services:
  • developing young people's capacities for imagination, creativity, and empathy will be increasingly important for maintaining the United States' competitive advantage in the future.

    • IN a typical year, how often are your students asked to invent something from scratch? comment by Vicki Davis
  • The three look at one another blankly, and the student who has been doing all the speaking looks at me and shrugs.

    • When teachers tell students WHY withouth making them investigate, then we are denying them a learning opportunity. STOP BEING THE SAGE ON THE STAGE!. comment by Vicki Davis
  • The test contains 80 multiple-choice questions related to the functions and branches of the federal government.
  • Let me tell you how to answer this one

    • Drill and test is what we've made. Mindless robots is what we'll reap. What are we doing? comment by Vicki Davis
  • reading from her notes,
  • Each group will try to develop at least two different ways to solve this problem. After all the groups have finished, I'll randomly choose someone from each group who will write one of your proofs on the board, and I'll ask that person to explain the process your group used.”

    • Every time I do a team project, the "random selection" is part of it. Randomly select -- classtools.net has a random name generator -- great tool - and it adds randomness to it. comment by Vicki Davis
  • a lesson in which students are learning a number of the seven survival skills while also mastering academic content?
  • students are given a complex, multi-step problem that is different from any they've seen in the past

    • This IS flat classroom digiteen and Horizon project and other projects where teachers are pushing kids to have novel answers to novel questions. comment by Vicki Davis
  • how the group solved the problem, each student in every group is held accountable.
  • ncreasingly, there is only one curriculum: test prep. Of the hundreds of classes that I've observed in recent years, fewer than 1 in 20 were engaged in instruction designed to teach students to think instead of merely drilling for the test.

    • Not in my class, but in many classes - yes. I wonder how I'd teach differently if someone made me have a master "test" for my students at the end of the year. I'd be teaching to the test b/c I"m a type "A" driven to succeed kind of person. Beware what you measure lest that determine how you grow. comment by Vicki Davis
  • . It is working with colleagues to ensure that all students master the skills they need to succeed as lifelong learners, workers, and citizens.
  • I have yet to talk to a recent graduate, college teacher, community leader, or business leader who said that not knowing enough academic content was a problem.
  • critical thinking, communication skills, and collaboration.
  • seven survival skills every day, at every grade level, and in every class.
  • College and Work Readiness Assessment (www.cae.org)—that measure students' analytic-reasoning, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and writing skills.

    • Would like to look more at this test, however, also doing massive global collaborative projects requiring higher order thinking is something that is helpful, I think. comment by Vicki Davis

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Daily Spotlight on Education 10/28/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Take Time to Grow: K12 online keynote video goes live!

Kicking it up a notch keynote goes live from Julie and I over at K12 online

Our theme was "take time to grow."   If you comment, please comment over at the Time to Grow Post on the conference blog.

We invite you to share how you're growing and improving this year:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Daily Spotlight on Education 10/25/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

First trial for murder of an avatar in Japan

Simulpost with techlearning

Perhaps the first trial for a virtual world murder is going to happen in Japan.  (Technically it is for hacking as the crime.)  The article Japanese Woman Arrested for Virtual-World 'Murder' tells the story:

"A 43-year-old Japanese woman whose sudden divorce in a virtual game world made her so angry that she killed her online husband's digital persona has been arrested on suspicion of hacking, police said Thursday. The woman, who is jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game "Maple Story" to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May, a police official in northern Sapporo said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy."
To me, this comes back to the emphasis of WHAT we should be teaching students:

Online behavior has offline consequences. 

If we can teach them in small things, then hacking, which is increasingly being treated with the seriousness that it deserves, will not be something they do. Most people will think this to be laughable, but then again, how would they feel if their prize possession on their desk were irretrievably smashed by an enemy, or their car was keyed beyond repair?  They would care!

I spent several weeks a go after speaking at Hoover City schools in Alabama trying to explain Second Life to my Uncle and Dad -- the conversation was full of laughter as they heard of people buying and selling virtual real estate.  And although it is inside a computer, it has to be run by servers, connected to the internet, maintained, and upgraded!  It is virtual but it IS, most definitely REAL!

It is not Real world vs. virtual world but physical world vs. virtual world:  both worlds are REAL.

Things change and this is a big one. 

We are doing society a favor if we teach that

Online behavior has offline consequences.

So many schools are punishing the portal, the website, the tool.  It is not the tool's fault that humans misbehave.  That is human nature.  Hold the humans accountable who do wrong things in these spaces. 

Some administrators would rather take the "easy" answer.  However, if they want easy answers, close the school - then you won't have fights in the lunchroom or altercations in the hall.

As for me, I much prefer online student altercations if I had to pick, because there IS NO "He said, she said" - it is all in black and white, printed in nice little text for all to see.  It is trackable and manageable and very clear what to do.

I think perhaps administrators uncomfortableness with online spaces has more to do with their unwillingness to discipline for behavior there.  However, my administrator has dealt with online discipline issues before for technologies he didn't understand because he can read a printout.

Again, I will repeat:

Online behavior should have offline consequences.

And we need online educational networks and spaces to teach this - both private and eventually, before a student graduates, public spaces that protect their identity. 

Like it or not, this is the world we live in and VL is part of RL. VL = RL (Virtual Life = Real Life) or maybe we should amend this as per Karyn Romeis wise comment to be

Physical Life + Virtual Life = Real Life

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Daily Spotlight on Education 10/24/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Daily Spotlight on Education 10/23/2008

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Call for Search Literacy: I couldn't agree more!

From John Battelle over at Search Blog.

John says:

Tonight I helped my daughter with homework. No big deal, right? But
tonight the assignment came from her fifth grade teacher: Define these
related words:



Civil Rights








Now, the teacher said there were two ways my daughter could find
out the definitions. One was to use a dictionary. And the second was to
"talk to your parents about it."
John goes on to talk about how HE had to teach his daughter the define function in Google.
For those of you that don't know about this handy function, just go to your search browser and type

define: the word you want
Here is an example:  define: incumbent
It is the fastest way to define a word.  My first grader who can barely read can do it, but of course I taught him.

Search literacy includes Searching via Cell Phone
I would also add one more to this search literacy and that is how to define using a cell phone.  Once a child has a cell phone, they should know how to text to Google define: incumbent and have the message texted back to their cell phone.

This is part of what I teach! I also teach them other Google SMS functions how to translate words, look up map directions, and find business phone numbers and addresses for their GPS by calling Goog 411. I like the Google SMS service because it uses texting, which is a lot less expensive than internet browsing on a smartphone.

I totally agree with John Battelle.  This should be part of what we teach in schools!!  It is part of digital literacy!! 

These are the sorts of things our students are working out right now on the digiteen project this year.  What should kids know and how can we teach them.  Interestingly, we're using our ninth graders to help spread digital literacy throughout our entire school.  It is tough to spread these things throughout the school and teach people new "tricks." 

Stop viewing Search Literacy as "tricks"
The sad thing is that so many people view the define function as just that, a trick.  It is not!  It is part of being an efficient, effective human being in the 21st century.  It is part of being literate.

And that, John, is the problem... most teachers aren't technically literate... not yet, but there are  a lot of us out here that are pushing and working to help the many amazing teachers who aren't quite there yet to get there. 

So, teachers.  In honor of John and his daughter.  Take time this week to teach the define function in Google.
Let us know how it goes.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You want me to do WHAT?

When I saw this video today, I saw myself.  This is taken from a US game where the players have to contort their body to fit the hole in the foamboard.

So often, I feel like this woman... asked to do the unrealistic with the material I have to work with.   I find myself saying: 

"How on earth am I going to do THAT!!"

Hey, at least she kept her sense of humor! 

But, honestly, not knowing what you're expected to do and then all of a sudden, meeting the students or looking at your budget and realizing that it is impossible is a tough thing!!!

I had an unrealistic cell phone budget one year that everyone agreed was impossible for me, but upper management did nothing about it.  Hopeless makes us feel helpless and we end up in the water.

The only way I made it through was to tell everyone... OK, don't think this is possible.  It's not possible and to preserve my own attitude so I could enjoy life during the trial.

This is a one time thing and we laugh - but remember, if she had to do this a lot (the person in the video) - at some point she'd quit.  Unfortunately, there are many teachers in that boat right now.

Daily Spotlight on Education 10/21/2008

  • Join in the virtual walk for breast cancer - you can design your walker (male or female) and pay $5 to register your walk. The founder of this organization lost her battle to breast cancer this week. I"ve created a team called edubloggers -- please join me and walk with the edublogger team. This is another example of how virtual fundraising and events can make a difference.

    I hope the organization reaches its goal in Dorit's honor.

    tags: education, communityservice

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Web 2 and Web 3d: To Literacy and Beyond

I shared this presentation last week at the Conference of Media Organizations here in the state of Georgia.  I promised several of the amazing librarians that I met there last week that I'd post a copy of the presentation here on my blog this week.

While some of the slides may not make as much sense without my words accompanying them - the point is to challenge our definition of literacy and to encourage those who we need most to be a part of the redefinition of literacy to join in or forever dislike the definition that the world of amateurs imposes upon the amazingly well-educated librarians and media specialists.

I appreciated the opportunity to be there with them last week and always love the opportunity unleashed when having to prepare for a new audience.

The Inexpensive Divas of Skype: IPEVO Skype Phones

I've been testing two of the new phones from Ipevo for the past four weeks.  Each has a different use in my classroom.  The first phone, the Free.1 USB Handset is perfect for phone calls and recording podcasts, the second is the TR10 speakerphone which completely solved the echo / Skype conference classroom problem that takes so much energy to solve.

Both of these devices are completely PC / Mac compatible with the recent fix to the speakerphone, making it compatible with ichat as announced this past Wednesday on Engadget.

As with all tests I do for vendors, I make only the promise that: 1) I will tell the truth and 2) I will tell them honestly about the problems or issues that I have and give them time to work it out before I blog it.

1. IPEVO FREE.2 USB Handset for SKYPE
(MSRP $39.99)

My classroom has limited or no cellular service and I have no school telephone.  Additionally, I fix computers all over the school, and we have only a few fixed phones with only one cordless. 

My biggest issue is with tech support.  I have to call and get answers, fix things, and then repeat answers to teachers. 

So, I use this Ipevo handset to easily call phone numbers -- I already had Skype Out (which runs around $40 a year.) I can be anywhere with my laptop, fixing computers, call vendors, AND use the handy Ipevo recording function to record the call and then share it with the teacher later.  Instead of repeating everything, I just email them the recording.  If the other person has skype, it tells them that you are recording, a courtesy that every recorder should do!

Additionally, I used this at our Special Olympics Bocce Ball tournament.  Some of the special olympians didn't have telephones and they wanted to call others, so we were able to make it available this way through my laptop and the wireless that reached out to the baseball field where we were set up. 

We sent text messages to student cell phones via skype by typing to manage the event.  We set up groups in my skype address book and it is a very helpful tool for managing events.

The call clarity is very good and I adore the recording feature -- the interface for recording is GREAT and the newest released software allows recording in mp3 instead of wav which is much more compressed.

I recommend this for:

  • People who are afraid of making skype calls, it takes them to familiar territory. 
  • Tech support people with spotty cell coverage or wireless telephone service in the places they support BUT have good wireless coverage over their area.
  • People who want to record phone calls.
  • Organizations who run large events and expect incidental phone service to be needed by others or need to text messages easily to their volunteers. (Will need skype out.)
  • It is worth it for the robust, stable recording software!
If you need your hands free, you'll still want  a headset, but I think this is a great device.  One suggestion I have for Ipevo -- make a handset with very big numbers and this would be a great device for cash-strapped retirees for Christmas.  I think the numbers are a little small for those who have poor eyesight.

And as with most devices, I recommend that you just install the software from their website to make sure you have the most current version.

iPevo TR-10 Speakerphone for iChat
(MSRP $79.90)
I am in love with this speakerphone for the classroom that is using skype to video conference their classes with others.

My ninth grade class used it to video conference with Al Upton.  Whether I fed the sound output through my speaker system or used the internal speaker, the sound was excellent.

I did find that the recording worked better if I fed Al through the external speakers as I didn't have an internal soundcard that permits recording through his voice through the speakerphone itself.

I had NO echo.  I was able to record when Al came through the regular speakers.  And, it took less than five minutes to set up.

When I let Al come through the internal speaker, all of the students could hear.

Additionally, the recording software didn't put too much strain on my system, as I was also able to go into Second Life AND have Al's video on my screen, record, and have the skype call quality stay true.

I also LOVE this device for the same reasons as I enjoyed the handset listed above.  When I'm fixing computers and cannot handle a headset nor a telephone and I do not mind having my audio overheard, then this is the device I plug in. 

With the fact that I can pull in people over skype and landline - I can literally make a 10 (or more) person conference call over my laptop, record it, and put this device in the middle of a table to function like a regular speaker phone.  And, unless I need skype out, it is free.  I think this makes the speakerphone very attractive for sales reps and those who want to help customers in the field.  They could plug in their speakerphone, call a customer care line or tech support issue with the customer listening in, record the call, and solve the problem right there using the Internet.

This device still requires you to dial ON the computer in the Skype program, but for me that isn't a problem. 

I recommend this for:
  • Classrooms who want to video skype and don't have the funding for expensive speaker/ microphone systems.
  • Mobile presenters who want to demonstrate skype video capabilities.
  • Classrooms who want to mobile skype, record, and turn it into a podcast easily.
  • Tech support people who need hands free skype calling and don't have privacy issues.
  • People who make a lot of conference calls and want to save on the cost.
  • Mobile sales reps who want to make calls, trouble shoot, and have wireless coverage.
Just remember, sometimes Skype over wireless can give issues, so keep this in mind.

Other options

For those who just can't stand the thought of even using a computer, Ipevo does have some phones that just require you to plug them directly into your network and they use the Internet sans the laptop or computer.  (See the Ipevo SOLO Skype Desktop Phone )

I would love to hear what you're using for your skype phone.  Honestly, I really didn't think I needed one, until I got these and now I'm sold!!  My skype phone stays with me in my laptop case.

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