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!