Thursday, December 31, 2009

Current leadership models are inadequate for disruptive innovations

If you are interested in educational administration, here is a relevant video on the topic of how our current leadership models are inadequate for disruptive innovations:

Current leadership models are inadequate for disruptive innovations | dotSUB

On another note...this dot|sub site looks interesting too...


The Impact on Bussing

I saw this picture today on the Dangerously Irrelevant blog, and thought it very relevant to the issue of restructuring schools. Over the past few years we have spent considerable (and needed) time reflecting on and revising attendance boundaries in our district, to accomodate the opening of two new schools.

This effort was needed, and helped coordinate transportation within our district addressing many issues that existed, but I can not help thinking as we move forward that we might be moving towards larger transportation related issues in the future.

As students and parents seek to increase the personalization of their programs, taking advantage of online and community-based offerings, what will be the impact on bussing and transportation?  The picture attached makes me think that the changes coming in the future are going to impact our system in ways that we may not consider now....I feel inadequate sometimes when I think about how much I do not know!


Google Goggles

I'm starting to think I like Google too much.....but this app for my new Android phone is just too cool.

Watch this short video to learn more about visual searching! I'll come  back and update after testing it a bit

I think this looks amazing.....

Stay tuned for the mobile Google translate application too.....that's coming soon too, I think.


Sent from my iPod

UPDATE:  OUCH!  As it happens, my HTC Hero runs Android v. 1.5.  Google Goggles is listed as working on Android v. 1.6 and higher.  Who's sad?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Education Jobs in the Future

I was reading another future-oriented article tonight, and as with other articles I've read on the subject it predicted education jobs would be plentiful in the future.

I agree, with the population growing it makes sense that we will have large numbers of children in a hoop.  It also makes sense that adult education will continue to be a growing market.

One thing that is almost always absent though is recognition that teaching is bound to be a very different job in the future.

We know how important it is to help people construct their own knowledge.  When will the tipping point be reached re:  changing HOW we teach, for instance?   By the time our system changes structure to embrace new methods, what will our teacher prep programs look like?   Will the new teachers continue to be the last ones to learn?

Seems to me that might be a good place to start if we know we want/need change.....


This post made from my HTC HERO smartphone

Friday, December 18, 2009

Google Voice

If you haven't stopped by Google to look at their collection of applications lately, I think now might be the time! Not too long ago I again posted about Google Documents and Google Forms because I think they have HUGE applications in the classroom.  Here is a little bit of information I've picked up about a new offering from Google that looks very interesting!

I think the content of this post may be more suited for personal use, than educational, but regardless of where it will be used, I now have a new Google application on my list of things to learn more about. There is only one drawback that I see at this point - it is currently only available in the U.S.

The application I'm drooling over today, available only by invitation at this point before being rolled out on a larger scale, is Google Voice (GV).  GV is a collection of internet-based phone features and utilities. A list of the features includes:
  • Google voicemail: voicemail like email
  • Voicemail transcription: read what your voicemail says
  • Custom greetings: vary voicemail greetings by caller
  • International calling: low cost calls to the world
  • Notifications: read voicemail messages via email or SMS
  • Share voicemails: forward, embed, or download voicemails
As well, through GV you can get a Google Number which offers the following features:
  • One number: a single phone number that rings all your phones
  • Free SMS: send, receive & store text messages online
  • Block calls: send unwanted callers straight to voicemail
  • Record calls: record phone calls and store them online
  • Conference calls: join several people into a single call
  • Screen callers: hear who is calling before you pick up

Doesn't that look like an impressive collection of gadgety utilities and features? I've just ordered a new smartphone running Google's Android operating system, and I'll have the full power of the web at my disposal with my phone. Hopefully GV will play well with a phone running the Google OS, and I really look forward to getting set up with Google Voice to take advantage of some of these features.

Oh, and hopefully Google will make it available in Canada too.

If you would like to watch some video of these features in action, please check HERE.  If anyone out there has used Google Voice, drop a quick comment here and let us know what you think of it so far.  I don't think I'll be able to get an invitation, as it appears to be only available in the US at this point, but I am still interested....maybe I can set it up and use it somehow when I'm in Arizona for a month later this spring...


Electric Vehicles

The idea of moving from internal combustion to electric vehicles is BIG idea to wrap our heads around.  It would be a monumental shift in the car industry. The concept is immediately appealing for the value it offers to our environment, but as with most great ideas there is a great deal to consider to make it reality. 

I recently viewed a brief video created by IBM predicting the top 5 ideas that will be popular in 5 years in cities. Number one on the list was electric vehicles.  The talk of smart grids with charging stations started me thinking about battery issues, and I was reminded of the single best presentation I'd ever heard on this topic. 

Watch this 18 minute presentation from a TED conference in February of 2009. Does this not sound like an amazingly simple, yet powerful and effective, idea? 

What do you think of that? Doesn't that sound possible? When I watch this, I think to myself "Why not?"  It comes down to will, doesn't it?

UPDATE: I just visited the Better Place website to see what they have been up to since this presentation, and they have pictures and test drive results for the Renault Fluence. It is a nice looking car (I'm still waiting for the 4WD version) and the early reports are positive. Of course, I doubt the negative comments would be posted here. Regardless, progress seems like it is being if they make a vehicle that fits me, and that I can effectively use here in the frozen north, then I'm in!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Personal Learning Networks

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the creation of knowledge, while I've been reading up on theories of human development and how people learn for my current course. The focus of the course is adult learning and lifelong learning and it has been very interesting to reflect on how I've consciously and unconsciously come to know what I know and (more importantly perhaps) discover what I don't know.

Obviously, formal learning plays a significant role, as does professional reading. Equally important in the world of adult learning, I believe it is an individual's personal learning network (PLN) that helps them construct meaning of what is going on around them and inspire the deep, lasting learning that makes a difference. Learning in a vacuum can only go so far, it is when it is shared and built upon that it becomes deep and embedded.

On that note, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to share an opinion with me in the past, to wax philosophical about teaching and learning, to email me a link to an interesting article, or to ask questions and reflect with me about what we do. You are a valued member of my PLN and there is no way I would know what I know without our interactions.

Over the last few days I have had the privilege to spend significant time with some members of my PLN in person AND ONLINE, and as always I appreciate (and benefit from) their knowledge, PASSION, and energy levels. I hope everyone has someone like that in their network. I also hope you are taking advantage of technology to broaden your perspective and to add to your network. It is incredibly easy, and valuable, to find an online group you are interested in and touch base with them to find out more about what you know and don't know.

For those of you who may be reading this, I have some questions for you to reflect on. What do we do to help our students understand the importance of building those connections with their peers? Do we do enough modeling for our students and are we beginning to train them in the skills they will need to be lifelong learners?  Are we providing them with opportunities to shrink the world and broaden their knowledge through involvement with peers in other parts of the world? Should we?

I hope you get a chance to discuss this with those in your personal learning network, and if you'd like to share your thoughts on these questions with me, go for it. I would love to hear them...


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Web 2.0 For Teachers


As most teachers will be able to tell you, there are an amazing number of web-based resources available online.

Many teachers think a significant challenge to making use of different software is learning how to use them. I disagree that is our biggest challenge. Through experience I have found many similarities among software applications, and most students intuitively learn their way around web-based software quite quickly. I think all we need to do as teachers is help (most) students find the medium, and they will be able to figure out how to use it to communicate with us!

The bigger challenge, I have always felt, is staying up to date with what applications are out there. It seems like every week I read about a new tool, or someone shares one with me. I frequently find myself thinking/worrying that I might be missing something important...UNTIL NOW.

Today, I happened across what appears to be a very comprehensive collection of web 2.0 tools for teachers, all in one place. Thanks to Jesper Isakkson for putting this together!  I've added it to my delicious bookmarks, and I hope it comes in handy for some of you too! A screenshot showing the list of categories is at the beginning of this post.

As comprehensive as this map is, I have not seem some of my favorites on the list. One that is missing is If you have students create timelines in your classes, perhaps some may find the option of making their timeline online appealing? Here is a link to my favorite 11 year old blogger's most recent assignment in social studies, created using dipity:


Friday, November 27, 2009

Google Documents for Teachers

I came across this good introduction to Google Documents for teachers (see below) the other day.

I know I have posted about Google Docs before, but I think we are missing an opportunity here for having students work collaboratively on one document. This is an area where I believe we need to do more!

There are other potential benefits to having students use this impressive suite of tools to collaborate on work at home and at school too, not the least of which is removing compatibility issues and helping to share documents.  The history function is potentially helpful too!

 On my to-do list is learning how to use Google Forms. It looks interesting, almost like a survey application in some ways.

If your students are doing lots of collaborative work, Google Docs might benefit them more than using other more popular applications. They do require a Google account (gmail address) to use this however, which may be a problem depending upon the students' age and/or school or district policies regarding having students sign up for external email addresses.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shameless Plug For a New Blog I Like

How could I not put in a plug for what is likely the best blog started by a grade 6 student this month?

Take a minute, if you can, and pop by and check out my son's blog. He's put up some videos of some trebuchet prototype designs he has built from lego, in preparation for building a wooden one later.

Well done buddy!


Meaningful PD - How Great Does This Sound

Tonight I was reading one of the educational blogs that I subscribe to in my RSS feed ( and I came across an online post that I felt addressed our current PD needs perfectly.  I found it very affirming for the district I work in because I believe we try to tap into our expertise in this manner regularly!

I sometimes worry that we are making too much use of our experts, but it sure is impressive to consider the expertise that exists in our schools.

On Ian Juke's Committed Sardine blog I read an article from the Dean of Instruction at Noble Stree College Prep school in Chicago, title 'When Teachers Are the Experts: From Traditional to Collaborative Pro D'.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this short article summarizing the shift taking place in our schools.

The post is available here:

(or search the blog entries at , I just shortened the URL when I posted this link to my class)

For what it is worth, I agree with Ian. I'm going to miss the donuts too!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the post. Did anything really connect with you? Is there anything you disagreed with? Did you find anything in there that might be useful at your school? etc.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Disrupting Class by 2014 in College....

In his book Disrupting Class, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen makes a case that half of all HS courses in the U.S. will be delivered online by 2019. He has used logarithmic graphing of present day statistics to identify the growth curve that exists for online registrations.
Many people question Christensen's position, but he presents pretty compelling evidence to support the growth curve being very steep, similar to exponential growth.
I feel Christensen's prediction could come true. His argument makes sense.  I don't necessarily know what we need to do about it yet, but I think it could come true and we better start getting prepared soon. I also think the future is part online, and part on the ground, where the majority of students will be in blended programs. They may even be online, at school!
All the uncertainty, and excitement, I feel for the possibility of big changes in public school enrolments aside, today I read about something a bit closer to us than 2019.
2014 to be precise.
On October 21 I shared some information from a webinar I attended with Ambient Insight Chief Research Officer Sam S. Adkins (content below). Today I read a summary Ambient has produced about college students participating in online courses. They predict 2014 will be a big year. Let's look at their numbers using a NOW and 2014 comparison.
NOW (fact)
100% online courses: 1.25 million students
100% traditional courses: 15.14 million students
Blended courses: 10.65 million students
2014 (prediction)
100% online courses: 3.55 million students
100% traditional courses: 5.14 million students
Blended courses: 18.65 million students
What do you make of all that?  Are these numbers reasonable?  Knowing that colleges need to make money too, are there any lessons in these numbers?
I think there might be....
For what it is worth, full disclosure is that I am taking courses online right now. The courses I am taking are excellent, and much like in a regular classroom, the quality of the teacher makes the course. 
the whole article on Adkin's predictions is available here:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brain-Based School Design

In our line of work, education, we hear a great deal about making use of what we know about the brain to influence our teaching and student learning.
The problem is, most of us don't know much about how the human brain works. Sure, we know we all have different learning styles, and that our brain changes over time, and other things. But when it comes to concrete, instruction-specific knowledge, I believe in general we don't know much at all.
And, I think that is too bad, and due to change in relatively short order. People are going to demand changes, sooner rather than later.
One of the topics I have been most prone to discuss in the past 18 months is the need for education to be more responsive to the individual needs of the students. I believe completely a relevant, meaningful, and appropriate education will engage all students.
Fullan, in one of his books (sorry no reference, its late, if you really want it, email me and I'll send it to you. Breakthrough I think but I'm not getting up to check) spoke about the need for precision and personalization in education, coupled with professional learning. Daniel Pink, in his book A Whole New Mind, describes our current design era as being notable for people's desire to have their lives customized to meet their specific needs. Clayton Christensen talks about how virtual education will help meet the unique needs of more students by allowing them to learn online while also in traditional school settings. All of these resources exist because we are trying to learn more about how we learn.
All 3 of the examples in the last paragraph address the same concept, and I believe the underlying reason for the similarities is that people (parents/students) are slowly starting to recognize in many cases they can always get what they want.
Recently, the Toronto Star ran an 8-part series on brain-research and its applications to education. It is a brilliant collection of brief articles put together by the 2008 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy winner Alanna Mitchell. If you are involved with education, I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to read this series. When you are reading it, don't think about the changes that are difficult for us to comprehend. Think about the POTENTIAL that exists for student learning if we could somehow make this knowledge evident in our practice! 
Isn't that potential impressive? Do you want education for your children, or grandchildren, like those students in the Australian HS are getting?
The series is located here: . Please read it. It's likely the most important post I've made on this blog in a long time! And when you read it, dream BIG!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Of Data and Perceptions and New Ways of Looking at the World

I spent 20 minutes last night listening to a fascinating presentation on new ways of looking at the separation that exists between countries in the world, and how the gap between countries has narrowed over the past couple of generations.

I hope you have some time to watch the video, the presenter, Hans Rosling, provides an inspiring use of statistics! In general, his point is that the way we look at the world (our mindsets) are often based on old information and that the modern way the world is (represented by his datasets) is significantly different.

For teachers of Social Studies, or History, or even Mathematics, this video could potentially be quite useful!

If you would rather watch the video full screen from its original location at TED, click here.

I hope you enjoy it!


Thursday, October 29, 2009


For many years an oft-repeated phrase in education was that we needed to raise the bar, meaning we needed to establish higher expectations and help all students attain those higher levels of achievement. I am not a high school teacher, and it has been close to 20 years since I taught in a high school, but I am thinking that the bar has been raised considerably at the high school level.


Thinking back to what I worked on in high school, and what I hear students are working on today in the higher level courses, makes me think that it must be a heck of a lot tougher to be in HS now than in the past. Is that not raising the bar?


By that thinking, the fact that our graduation rates are higher today than they were 20 years ago it makes me think that our schools have done a good job of helping students get up and over the higher bar.


I started thinking about this notion while reading an article online the other day about how schools in Des Moines Iowa are considering creating a fast track high school diploma intended to graduate more students with fewer credits and keep kids from dropping out of school. Is the idea being considered in Iowa proof that we have raised the bar considerably? One rationale presented in support of the concept is the fact that graduation requirements are up considerably since the 1980’s…


What do parents and employers want? What skills are they expecting graduates to have, and can those be learned in a fast track setting?


This school reform stuff is tricky business…



Thursday, October 22, 2009

More On Common Sense

I love the concept shown in the following video. I think the FUN THEORY makes perfect sense. I also think it is a VW marketing campaign....but that works for me and I'm OK with that...

What I'm thinking about now though, is what applications does this have for kids and school?

Relevance is not the only factor that increases motivation. Fun plays a part too. What old ways can we get rid of and replace with new fun ways of getting to the same place?

Spelling lists and tests? Math basic facts? Tests? There are lots of educational escalators out there!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Virtualization of Education

I attended an online webinar earlier today, sponsored by Ambient Insight, an online market based research firm, on the topic of the virtualization of education. I've read more and more about this topic online of late. It is hard to avoid hearing about it online, and Clayton Christensen's book Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns has made its way around our district so there's been some discussion locally as well.

This is a topic that fosters great discussion among educators and the public alike. Everyone has an opinion on school, and most people I've talked with are firmly in the camp that there is little chance online learning will substantially impact traditional education

I disagree. Ambient's research, and predictions based on existing trends, would seem to support my position! Here is a slide from their presentation showing the growth of pre-K-12 online learning:

What I find really interesting though is the predicted growth of blended learning that takes place in both schools and online. Check out the growth in the yellow slice of pie, above! Here is some other interesting, recent, information:

Even the U.S. Government appears to be getting in on the game. Here is a slide providing an overview of a recent US Education report, with the headline touting the effectiveness of online learning! In one of the most interesting parts of today's webinar, the presenter was talking about the number of U.S. states that are starting to mandate giving students access to online learning. The topic of cost savings came up when it was shared that online students draw, on average, half of what brick and mortar students get in education funding. Those are potentially huge savings.

The final interesting point I took out of today's webinar is this final slide, showing the evolution of a variety of different online educational trends. LMSs, which we have spent so much time focusing on, yet don't even use yet, are the first wave with Social Learning Platforms the third wave. Licensing models are moving towards no licenses, and business models are then looking to collect $ from subscriptions and advertising.

The social part of these trends is what appealed to me the most. Research I have read suggests teachers and pedagogy are at the top of the list in determining the effectiveness of online education. Social networks are taking off, and the trend is for peer to peer social learning to take more of a role with teachers developing more of a facilitator role than providing direct instruction.

I don't think there is going to be any avoiding this, and I also think that if we do this right, many of our students are going to benefit and get better educations than they do now.. I think I see some more reading in my future.


(if you want the .pdf of the whole presentation, it is available along with others here:

Stunning New Research!

Well, I don't know if this is earth-shattering news or not, but it certainly gave me a good laugh this morning.

I am signed up for the Association of Curriculum, Supervision and Development (ASCD) Smart Brief. Every day relevant stories are sent to my inbox in the form of this Smart Brief, helping me to keep current with what is happening in K-12 education outside of my district.

Today, I think, one of their headlines made it past the editors without getting caught. It gave me a good laugh to read:

Eye on Curriculum

My first thought was "Really? I never would have thought that!"

Sarcasm aside, the more I thought about it the more it made me think of how important it is to give kids the opportunity to learn by doing. Working on projects, engaging in relevant exercises, and having to go back and make changes because the results were not acceptable is how I learn best, and I think how most people learn best.

Do we do enough of that in our schools? Now that is authenticity in learning!


(if you want to sign up for smart brief, check here: I highly recommend it)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thanks to our colleague, Mr. Funk, I will likely never be at a loss for words again!
Today I was directed to, which is an online dictionary with a twist. Instead of defining a word, visuwords gives you a visual representation of the definition as well as illustrating links your word has with other words, derivations, etc.  The picture with this post is a screenshot of the result for searching the word "KNOWING".
Immediately I thought of all of those students I have worked with over the years who did not have a strong vocabulary. They recognized words when they heard them, but struggled to come up with them when working on writing activities in class.  With this visual search engine, no longer will a student need to say "I can't think of anything else to write about.". If they are interested in hockey, then can enter the word in and be given all kinds of ideas for directions to take their writing in. This program is simple, but it just makes sense!
Give it a look, I think you'll be amazed at its utility too! If I can think of a use for this, imagine what an expert in teaching writing could do?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teacher Professional Development: LESSON STUDY

In today's edition of the Washington Post there is an article describing an elementary school's use of a technique known as 'Lesson Study' to improve teacher knowledge and ability. Lesson Study is a practice that originated in Japan, and see's teachers working together weekly to create and refine specific lessons.

Once the lesson is created, one member of the group teaches it to students, while the others observe the students and take notes for their future discussion. The teacher is not evaluated, as the group created the lesson, but the extra sets of eyes help to identify problems and/or successes the students may experience as they learn the concept.

Following the initial teaching, the group reassembles and reworks the lesson plan to incorporate the feedback, and then it is retaught with the same purpose. The idea behind this practice of professional development is that teacher growth is most effective when it is embedded on the job, and it needs to occur in smaller occurrences to be sustainable.

This is a very interesting topic. I think it is a logical extension of what we are doing with our school-based and/or district PLC groups, and I hope to learn more about it.

The original article may be found HERE


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Virtual Field Trips

This is a very interesting site that I think might have an elementary focus. I enjoyed looking at the content I checked out, and I can see that it might be useful in class. Maybe on a SMARTboard during an inside recess? Or for playing at lunch? Or perhaps there is a trip that fits with your curriculum?
I LOVE the video book reviews - these are dead simple to do! Perhaps you could do some of these?
Maybe you and your class could create and submit a virtual field trip to somewhere local and see if you can get it put it online?
The following description is from their homepage, located at
MEET ME AT THE CORNER, Virtual Field Trips for Kids takes you to meet fascinating people from all over the world.

New educational, kid-friendly episodes are uploaded every two weeks. Included are links to fun websites and our Learning Corner with follow-up questions.

Check it out....maybe you'll find it interesting?


Friday, October 9, 2009

Interesting Documentary re: Living With Asperger's Syndrome

Not too long ago I read that Autism Spectrum Disorders affects over 1% of all school-aged children in the U.S.. You'll have to Google it, I don't have a reference for that, but THAT is a lot of kids!

Tonight while making the rounds of some of the interesting places I like to stop and read (HERE), I read an amazing story about a young professional surfer with Asperger's Syndrome. He's been misunderstood for years, and plays by his own rules, and just a few years ago he was diagnosed with Asperger's. Interesting. Ah....makes sense a lot of people thought....

Surfing legend Laird Hamilton describes Clay Marzo as "an artist who can't be pigeon-holed. He's something all together different that should be cherished.".

There is a lesson in there about the effect of the assumptions and biases we all have (whether we admit it or not) when dealing with kids (whether they have ASD or not)! I want to see the movie/documentary made about this looks the article linked above, and then if you have 3:24, watch the trailer here to see some amazing waves:


Thoughts on Grading at the JH Level

The Only Place We Should See % and Grade Together

I am comfortable with using percentage grades. They are familiar to me, I know generally how to interpret them, and I find percentage grades a pretty good descriptive snapshot. Most teachers feel the same level of comfort and understanding, and I know most parents do too.

For those reasons, it is an annual occurrence, when discussing grading and reporting with parents, to have parents ask us to "...explain what these numbers (i.e. rubrics) mean..." and having to answer when they ask "Why don't you guys use percentages like we had?" They are not used to rubrics, and miss the comfort of the understanding afforded by percentages.

The problem is, we need to get rid of the percentage grading system at the JH level. For lots of reasons.

I think we are on the verge of being able to do so in my district, with the advent of our new standardized elementary report cards. As parents develop a comfort level for this manner of reporting, one day we will be able to move to using more appropriate methods of reporting for our older students too, but it will take a very solid implementation plan to get there.

To that end, I wanted to share a few passages from an article I read earlier today that was written by Dr. Thomas Guskey, a general assessment guru and professor of Ed Psych at the University of Kentucky:

"To recover from a single zero, a student must achieve a minimum of nine perfect papers."


"To move from a B to an A in most schools, for example, requires an improvement of only 10% at most, say from 80% to 90%. But to move from a zero to a minimum passing grade requires six or seven times that improvement, usually from zero to 60% or 70%."

(you can read Guskey's whole article here:

I realize what I am discussing above is much more than just how we report. The changes will need to strike first at the very heart of how we teach and what kind of feedback (and engagement) we give kids on a daily basis. It is important to start thinking about it changing how we report, because change is needed, and I believe it is on its way!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Last One For Today

I attended a webinar yesterday on the topic of virtual learning. As I've posted earlier today, this topic holds great interest for me. I've enjoyed seeing it evolve from online correspondence materials to true, engaged learning. The program I am taking through the University of Phoenix has been the icing on the cake for me in this sense, as it is amazing learning. I can see how it would not be for some people, but for those who could succeed in this model I think we are doing them a disservice by not providing them with the opportunity.

One of the presenters yesterday mentioned how little schools have physically changed over the years, and showed a couple of pictures to illustrate his point. Not being terribly original, but definitely loving the impact of pictures, I thought I would share this image here as well.

I realize there are always exceptions, and these are generalizations, but I think they are pretty accurate. Certainly my experience in the 70's and 80's as a student, and since then as a teacher, supports the pictures.

What will our classrooms look like 25 years from now. Children, society, and what we know about teaching and learning have changed a great deal since the 1900's, do our classrooms maybe need to change too?

When you look at the pictures below, do you see any similarities?
1900s (original available here)

1930s (original available here)

1950s (original available here)

1970s (original available here)

1980s (original available here)

1980s - When technology started to appear...but how many did we see like this? Or do we now see like this? (original available here)

The saying is, if it works, don't fix it. Maybe we need to reflect on the question: is it working well enough? And if it isn't broken now, how long will it be before it is broke and in need of fixing? In his book Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen says it won't be too long now...

This gives me something to think about for the rest of the day, anyway!

Digital Indigestion and R.O.L.

I read something this morning that just sort of clicked for me. Ian Jukes was describing the concept of Digital Indigestion on his Committed Sardine blog (, describing how using technology can be like eating at a buffet. We tend to take a little of this, a little of that, and end up taking too much for us to handle. With technology we take a little video, a little interactive white board, a little photography, a little audio and end up with a jumble that leaves us with digital indigestion.
Jukes describes the need to maximize our R.O.L. (Return on Learning) by selecting technologies to integrate that maximize student learning. He describes how learning to keyboard helps students learn to write, and offers examples of how it can be done. This makes perfect sense, and it brings technology right back to the very heart of our core learning objectives.
The importance of technology planning, for instruction not hardware and infrastructure, makes so much sense it is a shame we don't really tend to do it in our schools!

It's About Time

Well, summer has been over for a while, and it is about time I got back on the horse. It has been far too long since I posted to the blog, and I have a lot of stuff built up that I should have posted online some time here goes, my first post of the new school year:
I've been giving a great deal of thought to using online course delivery as a way to address crowding issues in schools and increase the personalization that kids get in their education. Especially for those JH kids at risk of not finishing HS, I think the possibility of their having success in a blended program might make a big difference. Success does breed success.  Yesterday I attended an online webinar and was reminded that the single most influential factor in a student having success in an online course is the teacher. It always comes back to the teacher, doesn't it? Which then speaks to how we plan and use our PD funds...
The original DID YOU KNOW has been updated yet again, and has some interesting new data about smartphone and digital information usage. The new way of doing things is not a futuristic topic. It is here. I wonder how far we are behind before we even start?  I read somewhere recently (in Disrupting Class maybe?) that the average teen has to power down when they get to school, endure school's traditional methods for the day, and then power up at the end of the day to get reconnected. I'm starting to crystallize my thinking about what that looks like, and it seems pretty important that we leverage students' technological prowess to keep them engaged in school!
Watch the new version here:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Second Marshmallow

I suppose it is no coincidence, I read topics that are of interest to me after all, but I find it interesting that after coming across Joachim De Posada's TED presentation I recently found another very interesting article on the concept of self-control and delayed gratification using the Marshmallow Test as the basis of the article.

One of my favorite blogs is the GIFTED EXCHANGE, and a recent post there linked to an article in the NEW YORKER which provided the historical basis of the Marshmallow Test and shared how researchers are extending that research in an attempt to identify the specific region of the brain where self-control is located. The history of this research was interesting, and the use of fMRI technology makes sense too, but I wouldn't have thought of it going in that direction....

Fascinating stuff, and affirming as well. I think we are exactly on the right track to be trying to teach our children to improve this skill ("Stop and think") and to understand why it is important. The more I read and reflect, the more benefits I see to teaching our young students the value of self-control.

One day my mom told me that she used to tell my brothers and I no when we asked some questions, even if she did not really care if we did what we were asking about just so we would learn to hear what no means. I think she was ahead of the curve a bit with respect to teaching us delayed gratification.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marshmallows and Maturity

Some time ago I summarized the 'marshmallow test' with the staff at work as it fit very nicely with our vision to develop the emotional intelligence of our students. It led to some interesting discussions at work.

Yesterday I came across this video on, one of my favorite sites. I have the TED app on my iPod and once a week or so check in and check out their newest videos. This short one was a very engaging summary of the 'marshmallow test'.....and it fits so well when talking about the current credit crisis so many people find themselves in right now....


Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm thinking I'm not in Kansas anymore...

School life in a relatively small town in northwestern Alberta is exciting. Exciting though, I suppose, is relative. When I sit back at the end of the day and I reflect on what I had to deal with, and look at some of the experiences peers in other locations have to deal with, they don't seem to compare on the surface.

I'm currently reading Current Issues and Trends in Education and (again) on the surface I do not have a great deal of experience with some of the issues and trends I have read about to this point. Racial diversity in a gateway urban setting such as San Francisco or New York City is different than racial diversity in Grande Prairie. Violence in some larger school jurisdictions just does not compare to the school violence we experience.

Education here seems to be quite different than education in, say, San Francisco. Is it?

I have given this a great deal of though over the last couple of days and I think our overall experiences are not substantially different, but rather they are reflective of the scale of our differences. I believe the issues and trends occuring in our little old town are more similar than I first thought. They are just smaller. I think.

During my next Ed.D. class, Social Contexts and Contemporary Issues, I am going to get a chance to see if this theory holds true. I look forward to the opportunity to compare and discuss the at-risk students in my environment with those in larger, more globally representative urban settings. I'll get to compare the educational experiences of our first nations students to that of the Asian-Americans and Hispanics. Etc. I am looking forward to this more than any course I have taken in a long time. I have reflected on this at great length and I think the challenges we face in all of education really do align despite the surface differences.

My guess is it comes down to our systems.

I look forward to the learning I am going to experience with my peers from Hawaii, LA, Las Vegas, etc. I think at this point kids are kids, and the skills we must possess to address their needs are the same. The needs differ somewhat though, and I look forward to testing my hypothesis.

For anyone that stops by to read this...what do you think? Am I naive? Missing something? Outright wrong? Drop a comment and let me know what you think....


Monday, May 18, 2009


Well, I'm feeling a bit like I've been shot through an orchard and hit every tree!  But, the first five-day residency of my doctoral program is over.  It has been a whirlwind of dissertation practice, research methodology, scholarship-practitioner-leadership, and writing styles. It will likely take a week or so for me to synthesize the content, but WOW, that was some week.  One thing I learned?  I have some peers in this program who are pretty amazing people. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I can't wait to ditch the cables....

I wonder how many power adapters I have owned over the course of my lifetime? Somehow it seems they never get recycled or even tossed out when their gadget-anchors die or (most likely) get handed down to someone else! I have a huge box full of them, and truthfully I can't wait until the day that either inductive coupling pads or WiTricity hit the mainstream!

Imagine, laying your phone down on a pad on your desk and it charges. Or collecting power over wifi....holy cow....

After seeing a prototype Kyocera foldable OLED screen the other day, and thinking of it in terms of educational applications......I seriously need to step back and try to grasp the BREADTH of the impact these sorts of evolutions are going to have on teaching and learning, let alone society....

No more laptops even.....and really....for doing our investigations (will it still be called teaching if it is all about learning?) will we even need classrooms for the big kids?


Monday, April 27, 2009

Innovation in Education

I have been doing a fair bit of coursework in the last week or so on the topic of innovation in education. In particular, we have been discussing the boundaries or barriers to innovation.

I’ve been thinking that our ability to innovate in education seems to be dependent upon personalities and their predisposition towards the concept of innovation. It seems too though that our current government ministry seems inclined to look for ways to innovate though, so I am wondering how we could build the idea of innovation into our SYSTEM? Is our archaic system ready for pushing the boundaries of innovation?

Or is that what AISI is for? We may be on the conservative side with those projects…


Saturday, April 4, 2009


I’ve just finished doing some reading about how the entire Adams 50 School District (~10 000 students in metro Denver) is moving AWAY from graded classes, to standards-based multiage groupings. Students will only move from one level to another with a B average, essentially ensuring all HS graduates leave with a 3.0 average (minimum).

This is an interesting concept….I think it warrants more investigation. One of the features I’ve seen promoted that appeals to me the most is the idea that the students would have a lot of say in the operations, rules, etc.

Very exciting, I think! And LOTS to read about on this topic HERE.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Just Had to Say...

This is cooool…..I’m having a good tech day……I figured out how to embed video onto our school website. I think this is going to make the ‘School Tour’ page a lot more interesting, at least. I think there are a great many other, more educational uses too. For now though, we test…..

The embedded Student News of the Day looks pretty impressive on that portal front page!


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Something Just For Fun?

Sometimes it is not all about work or predicting the future or integrating technology.  Sometimes it can just be fun.  Got digital pictures?  Want to have some fun with them?  Visit this link and check out the 25 sites listed here.  Guaranteed you'll have fun:

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Future of Technology in Education...

I’ve just started reading the HORIZON REPORT: K- 12 Edition. This report addresses six technologies that the New Media Consortium suggests are going to be rapidly emerging in our K – 12 environments over the next few years.

The web edition is available here:

If you are curious about the potential impact of mobile devices, cloud computing, smart objects and the personal web, you might want to check out this report! Widespread NINGS in 5 years? I'm not sure....but it is interesting reading so far......


Monday, March 23, 2009

21st Century Learning...

I attended a workshop a while back in which one of our facilitators suggested we should stop talking about 21st Century Learning because we are almost 10 years into the 21st Century already. That was an interesting point - and it took me a bit by surprise!

I thought of that point again tonight when I heard this line from John Legend's song "If You're Out There": "The future started yesterday and we're already late!"

Thinking about this just leaves me with more questions.....Are we already late for the future? What do we need to do to catch up to the future? Anything? Or is it like buying a PC and we are ALWAYS going to be behind? What kind of reform is coming to our schools? I think I had better start reading my new book....Disrupting Class.....maybe the answers are in there.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Digital Story Telling

I love asking students to represent what they know in new ways. One topic of great interest to me is Digital Story Telling. I am doing an after-school introduction to this soon, so I thought I'd post my resource materials here as well in case they might be of any interest to anyone.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Found a New Blog to Add to My RSS Feeds

My copy of Failure Is Not An Option is getting worn out.  This book was a great resource during our first year at DTPS, especially the section on creating mission, vision, values and goals.

I have been receiving emails regarding What’s Working in Schools from the Hope Foundation (who published FNO), and now they have a blog.  I’ve added their RSS feed to my iGoogle account and I can more easily keep up with their announcements. 

Today was my first look at it, and I like the content.  I’m impressed so far, and especially like this post about what the research says students want (aka need) from us in school!  We need to do this for all students, but especially for our neediest students, we need to plan well, engage them and teach to their needs, and not give up!



A New Me

I was going through my students’ folders, marking their work, a while back and I came across this picture of me that had been ‘modified’ by one of my students. He took my school picture from this year and used some quick effects to photo shop it.

I like it. It is now going to be my new ‘online persona’….so say hi to the new me!


(plus I wanted to test how the blog works when I make a post by email with a picture attached. Note to Self: It works perfectly, embedding the picture at the start of the post!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Higher Level Spin on Discussing World Affairs?

I was talking with someone this evening about a structure/technique for discussing Current Events/World Affairs/News Highlights in class. Just putting up the headlines is one way to do it, and can lead to a very basic and entry-level discussion based on the one set of news items/headlines you are looking at.

Another way, and one that might be more engaging for JH kids, could be to use a news aggregator like I am sharing with the following links. If you had a smartboard, you could pop one of these up, and get the kids to stand up and engage in exploring what is on the webpage (updated daily, or more frequently), follow the links, make predictions and inferences, etc. I think kids as young as grade 7 could easily be exploring local or international news at a higher level using tools like this, inquiry thinking and skilled questioning from us.

I really like the following sites, so I thought I’d share them with everyone. Secretly, I’m hoping sharing via blog will help me find more time to visit these myself:

(this one is great – choose a country see what the headlines are – choose a headline see what the issues are)

(visual representations of the headlines – guess what the pictures show)

(Newspapers from over 60 countries – this is neat to look at – ask the kids why would the headlines be different?)

(links to thousands of online newspapers – going to Mexico? Know the headlines before you go)

(the English version of the Arabic News Network)


Saturday, March 14, 2009

This Made Me Think...

How is this for an idea? We ditch the textbooks - put all of our content into WIKI's.

They would be relevant (because we create them), they could be constantly updated, available at home and at school, and definitely be priced right. Is this a key step towards the personalization we need?



disruptive technology

Since I have been discussing disruptive innovations a lot lately…..I thought I’d post this.

How disruptive is this technology going to be in 2 years? This projector is available NOW, in Canada, for $350 - $400. I want one…..darn gadgetitis.......It is not the brightest LED bulb. But it is also first generation. Instant on/off. Connects to computers, cameras, pda’s, ipods, etc.

2 years from now it will be at least 2 times the quality and 1/3 cheaper. 5 years from now - who knows – but likely half the cost or less and 5-10 times the quality.

What new ways of doing things will we be able to do with technologies like this?


Where Was This When I Went To School????

GradeGuru ( is a site where you enter your school, the course you are taking, and download the notes you missed by not going to class.

I know I should probably say I would love to have been able to submit my notes for money (as you can do at gradeguru), but actually, I think I would not have had to miss so many episodes of jeopardy if I could have downloaded the notes instead of going to class!


edit.....some great discussion of this topic, and how it could addresses the need for change in schools, at the Plethora of Technology blog.....

What is literacy?

One of our four, KEY, provincial/district/school goals is literacy. A very impressive amount of work has been done throughout this year in our district to review the approaches used in our schools to teach and promote literacy. The same committee that undertook that has reviewed what we already do is also providing their recommendations for what we need to (or should do) in the future to help our students develop these skills.

The people from our district who are working on this literacy committee are many of the people I have on my list of ‘gurus’ in the area of literacy and when they talk I try to ‘listen hard’ because I know I will often learn something new. I am not a literacy expert, so I’m not sure if my thoughts are accurate or not, but through all of our recent discussions I am wondering if we might be better off making our focus ‘21st Century Literacies’, or something like that, as a way of addressing our future needs. Comprehensive literacy is a CRITICAL skill that we must develop in our students and I feel that to focus our discussion about reading and writing puts us at risk of excluding those who do not see themselves as teachers of literacy skills. Which all teachers should be.

Perhaps we should be making a district focus on BUILDING KNOWLEDGE, and have specific sub-groups focus on developing 21st Century Skills their areas: i.e. Shop Teachers could focus on reading plans and numerical literacy, SCI/SS teachers could focus on reading texts for main ideas and comparing and contrasting, technology teachers could focus on digital literacies and related skills, math teachers could focus on the development of the language of math, etc.

I’ve been reading a lot of ‘futurist’-type books lately and trying to focus on where we need to go to best prepare our students for the future. Perhaps I’m just worrying too much, but I think we need to start doing things in a NEW and DIFFERENT way in education if we want different results. We know how the brain works and we know how people learn best, let’s start re-designing our system to put what we know into practice.

Or, I’m all wrong and we are just fine proceeding as we always have. But I don’t think so…….we NEVER stop learning to read, so shouldn't we stop using language like that then?


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Instructional Leadership for 21st Century Learners

I just finished attending the most recent in a series of workshops I've been involved in over the last 2 years titled 'Leading for Today's Learners'.

This series of workshops, attended by over 140 administrators in the province of Alberta, was focused on the instructional leadership needed to maximize the teaching and learning process. I'm paraphrasing here, but the premise is that we know an awful lot about how kids learn, and about what makes effective teachers, and that as the instructional leaders in our schools we need to know what to look for when we are observing and working with teachers in their classes.

The result of last year's work across the province was the creation of an observation rubric to help leaders identify, and discuss, different things taking place inside our classrooms for the purpose of increasing student engagement and student learning. The rubric can be found on the Galileo website by clicking HERE.

The work this year was focused on the use of the rubric and on discussing administrator practice in using it.

In my humble opinion, this rubric would be a great resource for anyone observing teachers and students learning in a classroom, and I hope to make the use of it my focus for the rest of the year during my classroom observations.


What Makes Schools World Class?

If you and I have talked in the past, then you know how much I like to discuss theory and practice. Personal reflection has played a key role in my personal and professional growth, and I try to push myself to look outside my current environment as a way of gaining perspective. I want to know how things work elsewhere...I believe there are some lessons to be learned out there, just waiting for us to find them...

To that end, I've been in some discussion lately about the structure of our system. Last week at convention we talked with Stephen Murgatroyd about the need to ditch some of our curriculum...we talked with Pasi Sahlberg from Finland about the success their system has had with learning, and lately I have been in several discussions on similar topics with peers in some courses I am taking. I think it is an exciting time to be in the school system with all of the potential changes

On the topic of EDUCATION SYSTEMS I found the resource below to be VERY interesting.

I've shared it with some of my online peers as a way of helping them to understand our system here in Alberta, and also as a way of comparing and contrasting systems and looking at the details. This is an external source showing how excellent our system is! I think we often forget how good we have it here!

As I type this, I am sitting in a workshop titled LEADING FOR TODAY'S LEARNERS and we are discussing systems again. So, shhhhhh, don't tell anyone, but I thought I'd post this here while I'm on the thought.

Check out the results of the Des Moines Register's investigation of WHAT MAKES SCHOOLS WORLD CLASS...


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two Inspiring Videos - For Two Different Reasons...

#1 - US, posted by blimvisible...

I like this one because (a) I like the Regina Spektor song, and (b) it is made by, in her own words, "a housewife", and I hope it inspires people everywhere to push and promote their own creative selves like it inspired me.

#2 - MANKIND IS NO ISLAND, posted by Jason van Genderen

I like this one because (a) he composed his own music and shot it entirely with his cell phone, and (b) he is showing the power technology has as a HEART tool, not just a MIND tool. Technology does not just make things more efficient. It can make things BETTER too....coming up in a future post....microlending with family and I are signing up!