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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hooray for Roger Schank!

Roger is my hero. Check out his latest article.

My favorite part...

I have an idea. Why not just keep the federal government out of the education business and simply leave schools alone? Educators have enough trouble fighting the silly standards that colleges impose upon them without having to put up with whatever version of accountability you choose to proffer after your election.

There are three reasons why this won't happen
  1. There is too much money to be made in education. Yes, you heard me right.
  2. Politicians send their kids to private schools, so what do they care if the public schools stink? As a matter of fact, it is to the politicians advantage if the public schools fail...less competition for their kids/grandkids.
  3. The public, those who vote (and don't vote), doesn't know how many of their rights have been stolen from them by their elected officials. The voting public doesn't know and doesn't care, because they really believe their kids' school is fine. Accountability should be from the students as much as from the teachers. Where in NCLB, or anything else the government will ever devise, does it say "Parents are required to read to their children 20 minutes a night until the child is 10." Where does it say, "Parents and children will spend 30 minutes a night creating some form of communique for public consumption...writing, video, speeches, etc."

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I think I remember why I left Twitter

When Twitter was making a buzz among edubloggers a little over a year ago I decided to give it a try. After about a week I left with better things to do. For a year I have read about how Twitter has changed the lives of so many people. The networking, the conference blogging, the connectivism, the great taste of Kool-Aid.

I've had a week to play again. I decided it was time to give Twitter another look. Here's my issue with Twitter...IT'S DOWN TOO OFTEN! When I first started I thought it must be because it was new. But a year later it is apparently no more reliable. I have tried to get on for nearly 6 hours today, but it is down. I don't get it on several levels I guess.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

I once thought that...

I once thought that the last best chance to influence young minds was at the ages of 12 to 14 which would be middle school. Now I'm wondering if kids mature quicker. So, that it would be more like grades 4 through 5 or 4 through 6. What do you think? listen

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Lakshmi Pratury talks about letter-writing, and shares a series of notes her father wrote her before he died. This short talk may inspire you to set pen to paper too. (Recorded March 2007 in Monterey, California. Duration: 4:09.)

What Legacy Will You Leave? Beautiful 4 minutes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

iPhone Use - December 19, 2007

iphone elementary

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

He's a Favorite of Mine

Embedded Video

Wish he was still making music.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Hello, this is a test...

Hello, this is a test to see how Jott works to post to my blog. listen

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Want a New Job? Play It Smart or Play Stupid?

Dateline - December 5, 2007 - Jeff Utecht "Let Your Presence Be Known"

Jeff writes an outstanding piece about how schools get your network when they get you. Based on a TWIT episode, Jeff suggests the power/depth of your network should help you get a job with a school. If you haven't read Jeff's article...do it now! If you haven't listened to the TWIT episode, do it after reading Jeff's article.

Jeff makes a strong point that the stronger your network, the more valuable you are to the school in terms of bringing knowledge, opportunities, experiences, research, etc. In effect, your network impresses potential employers. Jeff's interview situation is presented this way:

“Could you please share with me the extent of the learning network that you would bring with you to this job?”

An answer:

“Well, I bring 1500 readers from my blog, over 400 Twitter contacts, 30+ Facebook friends, 50+ Skype contacts, and a Ustream.TV station that at the last live event saw 40+ people attend. I bring with me one click access to a knowledge base far greater than any single hire can bring.”

Dateline - December 6, 2007 - Miguel Guhlin "All Things In Moderation"

Miguel writes an outstanding piece about how schools get your network when they get you. Based on personal experience, Miguel suggests the power/depth of your network could keep you from getting a job with a school. If you haven't read Miguel's article...do it now!

Miguel makes a strong point that the stronger your network, the more intimidating you are to the school in terms of bringing too much knowledge, too many opportunities, too many experiences, too much research, etc. In effect, your network scares potential employers. Miguel's interview situation is presented this way:
I spoke to a friend yesterday morning. As we spoke, he mentioned,
"Miguel, you won't believe it."
"What?" I shot back. He had dropped his voice into that conspiratorial whisper signalling gossip...you know what I mean.
"The superintendent handed out required reading to all his directors. In chapter 3 of the book, you were quoted."
"Hot dog! Really?" I exclaimed. "Think they'll hire me now?"
"Not a chance."
This is not an issue of who is right...Jeff or Miguel...it is an issue of finding out what the school system in which you would like to work is looking for in an employee, doing some research to find out where they are in terms of technology use, openness or fear of web 2.0 (especially their views on student and teacher content creation and extra-school collaboration), and the expertise/philosophy of those in authority within the district as it relates to instructional technology.

If you find a school like Jeff mentions, then "play it smart." Let them know your network is diverse, extended, deep in quality, and significant.

If you find a school system like Miguel mentions, then "play it stupid." Let them know you are familiar with these ideas, but that the your focus is on helping your students be successful (which probably means you can prepare them for the big standardized test in the Spring). Mention that you are willing to learn about any new methods the system may implement in the future, and that you are a life-long learner who assimilates information quickly. Then, when the system does something new next year, like show Karl Fisch's "Did You Know" at the system-wide convocation, you can catch up on the sleep you missed the past few nights while you stayed up late catching up with your Google Reader feeds.

In my experience, in my neck of the woods, I have to play it stupid if I want to move or stay. No kidding, last week a central office technology "leader" asked me if I had heard of...are you ready...TeacherTube. I said yes, I was one of the first 100 people to create an account there because I read about it in one of my networks (either RSS, Classroom 2.0 on Ning, or something over a year ago). The next statement to me was, "There are a couple of teachers who want to get it unblocked, but we don't see how this site would be helpful to them in school. What do you think?"

I played it stupid. I asked which teachers wanted access (because I wanted to know who knew of TeacherTube - they were ones I told about it). I said the teachers should follow the protocol for getting sites unblocked and the Tech Dept should follow through with administrative decisions to unblock it. I hated myself for that response. But guess what? They thought I was a genius for suggesting that policy be followed.

Sometimes, playing it stupid is the smartest play you can make when it comes to technology in educational settings.

Image Source: http://onemansblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Idea_Light_Bulb.jpg

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Are You Smarter Than A 5-Year Old Chimp?

Apparently a 5-year old chimp is smarter than Japanese college students. Okay, don't believe me?

Now I'm really confused...
  • Kids from Japan outscore USA kids in math and science year in and year out.
  • A chimp outscores kids from Japan.
  • Chimps must therefore outscore USA kids.
Perhaps we should train the chimp to take a standardized test to determine his/her percentile. That's what we do to our kids, right? In the best scenario, our kids would outscore the chimp, and we could validate our approach to education. On the other hand, if the chimp outscores our students, we would be able to learn a better way of teaching to the test from the chimp trainer. Either way, our kids are the winners...right?

[insert smile here]

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iPhone Use - December 6, 2007 (my b'day)

iphone phobosuchus

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why Teachers Aren't "Professionals"

There is nothing behind this post, other than I hear and read educators toss this word around frequently enough that I decided to take some time and think about it.

First, I think when educators want to claim the "underpaid" card, they use the professional term. All too frequently I hear teachers compare themselves with doctors and lawyers. To that I would stop to think that in order for a teacher to enter their chosen field, it takes but a bachelor's degree. Doctors and lawyers must go to a doctorate level in order to begin independent work in their field. Granted they may go through an extended period of time "as a doctor" in their internship, but they are not allowed to practice on their own. Lawyers, in order to practice, must obtain a JD if I'm not mistaken, and I admit I may be wrong. Further, if I had to be on call (like a doctor) or potentially be responsible for the freedom or incarceration of a client (like a lawyer) I would indeed want to be considered a professional. Truthfully, I'm not in that position as an educator...at least not very often.

Second, by the nature of the way the organization is run, the use of my time is dictated by someone else. This, to me, is the beacon of not being a professional. I was in a meeting a few years ago (during a staff development day) when the speaker was discussing the professional attitude we teachers should have. He made a statement something like, "Professionals must attend meetings like this in order to earn their Continuing Education needs to maintain their position. As teachers we should be thankful that we do not have to travel to conferences...the speaker is here with us today." My immediate thought was this is another reason we are not professionals. Usually we do not have the right to make the choice as to what continuing education we need to improve our craft and personal practice. Something I might need to improve my teaching may not be approved by the ones who determine value and credit. This is the reason I choose not to participate in PLUs offered by our system, and instead I went back to school for an M.A. in education, then an Ed.S. in instructional technology. (Am I wrong, or is education the only sector that has this degree between Masters and Doctorate?) I met my continuing education requirements, but I chose programs based on what I thought would best serve me. AND I got an automatic raise, unlike in most professions, who still must produce in order to make more money. I like this advantage. :-)

Third, the way we do business is not the way "professionals" do business. Since I started teaching, I have not been permitted to attend Rotary luncheons, Chamber of Commerce breakfasts, golf with clients (parents of students?), or participate in any other local networking opportunities like I did when I was a professional in the financial industry. Truth is that I don't really miss these times, but my point is simply that teachers are left out of the opportunity to participate in what the public views as "professional community/service organizations."

I admit I have become a cynic as I have aged (birthday is two days away), but I am very suspicious of educators who want to consider themselves professionals. Professionals (and their businesses) are primarily about making money. Schools are not about making money, and if they are, well, we have bigger problems. We are about service. We serve of our students. We are not their servants, but we do serve them. Professionals are more concerned about "being the boss." Teachers are about "serving the public good." Personally, I've been both, and I much prefer serving my kids than trying to be their boss. So I don't mind not being considered or treated as a "professional," because in the education field I'm not convinced professionals are all that necessary.

When my time, choices, and opportunities are dictated to me, I'm just not sure we can be considered professionals by the rest of the world. When those in authority in schools mandate what teachers will teach, when they will teach it, and how much time they have to teach it before moving on, I'm not sure "professional educators" believe teachers are professional either.

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