Technology Current Events

I've decided to add a component to my "computer class" with my 5th-8th grade students for the second semester, and I tried today with the kids. It was pretty well received and I hope to continue it every Friday during the second semester.

Technology Current Events!!!

I started with two online news articles and one YouTube video (unfortunately they weren't related topics, but there was something for everyone :-)

1. 3-D Printing!

2. ZCam
3. The Year of the Cell Phone

Why current events? Well, students are sponges when it comes to the new technologies and it gives us an opportunity to introduce things the first time before they find them on their own and misuse or abuse them. I don't think that is the case with any of these topics, but that type of conversation is always good to have.

I also think students need permission sometimes to be creative and not think about what we WANT them to think about. These new technologies, or ideas about technologies, give us an opportunity to ask questions like: "Ok, what is the next possible step for that...(whatever it is)? Or what are the dangers or advantages to that...(whatever it is)? What kind of college degree do you think you'd need to make that, or invent that? What do you think could be improved or changed?

Learning is a lot about conversation and I believe these conversations are valuable for our kids!

Technorati Tags:
It seems that this year I've spent more time talking about Cyber-Safety, especially with all the negative stories in the news about teenagers getting into trouble with the Internet. An article from this Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Cyberbullying Emerges as a New Threat) also champions the cause for Internet safety by highlighting local officials efforts to legislate cyber-bullying and online harrassment, or at least legal penalties for those taking part in it.

Author Joel Currier rightly comments that rushing to legislation over local current events might not be the wisest decision. I would tend to agree. For the most part, the Internet still looks very much like the "Wild West" to many of us. With new technologies emerging literally everyday, how can you effectively craft legislation to meet the needs of our changing landscape? Not to mention the global nature of the Internet. In a local newstory, one teenage girl was bullied in MySpace by a fictitious boy just living down the street. In reality you can be harrassed from any where in the world. How would the city of Dardene Prairie (the city in the above article) prosecute someone in say Europe??

Internet safety should be found not within the halls of a local legislative body, but rather in the halls of education....better yet, in the home! As educators, it should always be our intention to partner with the home in providing resources that support student and family growth, especially as it relates to online behavior. What does that mean??

There are many things schools should be doing to prepare the family for safe and effective Internet use:
  1. We've got to teach parents about the new technologies. Our congregation's youth ministry leaders recently put together an informative presentation about what MySpace, FaceBook, and Twitter are. Ashley, one of our fabulous youth leaders, did a great job just explaining what these social networking sites were like and how they work. There was no obvious bias or fear mongering. Just information!
  2. Once parents know what's out there they need to know how to effectively "parent" in this environment. Communication, communication, communication! The most important parenting strategy is communication. The Internet is just one big "teachable moment" waiting to happen. BUT...parents have to take advantage of those moments and the only way to know when those moments happen is to be in close communication with their kids. A WONDERFUL book for parents about home Internet safety is Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens by Nancy Willard from The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.
  3. Schools/teachers should be modeling appropriate and effective Internet use. Yes, that means using student email accounts, using collaborative online tools, and even dabbling in the educational social networks. According to a recent research 96% of teens are currently using social networking tools anyway. Schools should be capitalizing on these new tools. Who knows....maybe schools should be looking into cell phone usage :-).

The future of educational technology is one of risk taking, innovation, and creativity. I never thought of those characteristics as being essential to education, but our occupation is changing! Like it or not, it's changing.

Are you ready?

Reason to change how you teach #487

These past few months have been extremely you can tell from the time between blog posts. Typing is starting to become a chore, but I don' t want to release a podcast of stuff because I don't think any of you wants to sit and just listen to me talk for 30 mins. So, blogging it is.

Our Technology in the Lutheran Schools social network is really taking off. At last check we have 56 members with the addition of new ones every day. I have it from a credible source that the Lutheran School Portal is looking to move toward a more "social network" look and feel and integrating more Web2.0 tools for collaboration and sharing. Kudos for the LSP!!!

Subject change....

Just yesterday I was reminded again of why it is important to evaluate the way we teach kids. A class of middle schoolers is studying the geography of South East Asia and in the midst of filling out physical and political maps, some students stumbled upon Google Book Search. They typed in their topic and...voila... they found a copy of the teacher's guide in the book search (with large chunks taken out for copyright purposes).

The immediate question: "Is this cheating?"
Not being too alarmed we (meaning the classroom teachers) soon realized that the "test" portion of the blackline masters book had been taken out (I think) and in fact, the South East Asia maps were not included. BUT other units were included, so at later times students could back and look at the completed maps.

It's amazing at how some of the kids latched onto the idea that that was cheating. I said, "Didn't Ms. So-and-So tell you it was OK to use the web for completing the maps?" After that question we had a great discussion about studying and that even if you could copy the answers and complete the assignment, there will always be "The Test!" Copying these maps was not going to help them "learn" the stuff it only helped them complete the assignment. At which point I proceeded to ask them the most poignant question I head at NECC this past year from Alan November: "Who is responsible for your learning?"

I got a plethora of replies..."Mr./Ms. So-and-So is responsible for my learning"and "Mr. Jacklin, well you are!" Only one child chimed in and quietly answered, "I am."

No matter how they found the answers to the map, ultimately they were responsible for their learning. How they learned it was up to them, bu they were the responsible party here! That's why some Math books have the answers to all the odd questions in the back.

There had been rumors going around that some students were emailing answers from the actually answer key. How they found them, we don't quite know. The test order I do know will be randomized so as to not allow for exact copying. But this brings up a fundamental question about how teach in our classrooms. Are the assignments we give kids ones that foster memorization (which has its place) or do they encourage students to remix what they learning.

This year, I've finally started to let students have the freedom to create in class, instead of regurgitate and the effects have been astounding. Hopefully I'll get a chance to podcast some of their work when I have time over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I love Lutheran Schools and I love our staff at my school, but the Internet is changing the way we do business in the classroom. Some changes are obvious and we transition in them, and some catches us by surprise! Regardless of our thoughts and inclinations, it's changing. Our job today is not to convey information, but rather to develop life-long learners!

How will you do that today?

Technorati Tags:

Reaction to D.Warlick's Precon Keynote for K12ONLINE Conference

You can download the preconferenece message here.

"Putting kids in touch with the world they are learning about." I can't think of a better quote to start thinking about the Internet and the new tools. This generation of kids is living in a world of constant change...a world with no boundries and now we send them to a school, to a world with rigid boundries (I'll use the same definition of boundries Dave does: physical walls, bricks and morter, not an absence of absolute truth) How do we help kids create learning boundries--a firm place to put their feet--in a world that constantly changes? In a rapidly changing world that forces children to grow up faster, be smarter, and interact with others more precisely and in more powerful ways, what is the "learning" foundation we start them with??

The question really is, how much boundry change is good and how much is bad? Does it even matter? Is change just what it is? We have no choice? Again, I'm not talking about faith issues, Jesus is who he says he is, and that's that, but I'm talking about how kids learn in this world. What would we think about having a classroom that looks like a Starbucks? (A thought from Warlicks chat cast tonight :-) Kids creating boundries in the context of education? What would that look like? That's why they need teachers!

It is hard to imagine how students would be active creators of their own education. I liked Dave's analogy of watching his father get ready for work and seeing his future. Do most of our kids have any idea about what their future will look like? Even if they can, it will most likely change. OK--so does their education prepare them for this changing world?

Again...let's ask the question: Where are students finding educational boundries--It's in the network! There is power in the collaboration of a network. When kids are gaming or texting or "social networking" they are learning with in the context of a network. Learning--that's the key word. They are learning! As teachers, we can tap into the network and be a part of their learning. One of the biggest misconceptions is that students come to school to listen to us impart knowledge and wisdom to them, and that they like it (some do because they enjoy learning that way). Most of the learning that takes place on a daily basis could be more easily accessible to students with in the context of a network. In our classrooms, how often do we "create the students we want to teach, instead of teaching students where they are"

Information landscape of today is one of change: how we view the information, what it looks like, how you find it, what you can do with it, how you share it. The information hasn't changed--besides there being exponentially more of it--but it's the landscape of use that changes. Today it flows, it's networked, digital, over-whelming, participatory, reader directed......I COULDN'T AGREE More! These words by Dave are things I run into everyday. Our students live in this world and don't know how to survive it! Thank the Lord for teachers :-) Lutheran Schools have always done a great job of helping students be "gatekeepers" when it comes to the heart and mind, but it is increasingly important to help students develop into information gatekeepers! AMEN! Do you still have students who think that everything on the Internet is true? How do you teach students to filter out the information that competes for their attention? Changing definition of literacy. Students as remixers.

According to Dave --not totally sure where he got the number--57% of middle school students have created digital content. They have had conversations with other people about it, discussed it, analyzed it. How many of us are published authors? Besides you Dave Black :-)

Here is the bigget take-away from the keynote for me:
Students of today are:
  1. info-savvy (don't know what to do with it or determine what is good and what is not, but they know how and when to get it)
  2. wanting to work in responsive information environments
  3. wanting to share experiences, personal and educational
  4. wanting to form and participate in communities
  5. intrinsically questioning, inventive, and accomplishment driven. They want a place where they can invest themselves.
  6. wanting a place where it is safe to make mistakes.
  7. yearning to earn audience and attention

These student attributes can be the new boundries for education. Instead of having the 'test' lead the way, teachers can use this new information landscape coupled with these student characteristics to create a new way of "doing school." Did a Concordia University prepare you to teach like this?? Did any state university prepare you to teach like this? NOT ME! Might I have to relearn teaching?? Maybe!

If our students can't really predict what their future will look like, imagine how we teachers should feel as we prepare them for that.

Where will you start--I think I'll start with the parents :-)!!

More to come on that later.

Technology Curriculum

I started a blog post on the Technology in Lutheran Schools Ning social network about curriculum, but quickly back tracked to here instead.

I am a bit torn when it comes to curriculum. At NECC this year they unveiled the newly refreshed NET-S standards and encouraged us all to take them back to our school and put them to great use. The only problem is, our K-4 staff wants something a little more specific. They really want GLE's (Grade Level Equivalencies). There is a part of me that is scared of getting that specific. Why? Maybe it's the amount of work involved in putting together a "detailed" scope and sequence? Maybe it's the ever changing amount of software at our disposal that we use as tools? Or maybe I really believe that kids are naturally intuitive and will pick up anything they put their hands on? I don' t know, but this is my struggle right now.

We currently have a "Scope and Sequence" for K-8 and it identifies at what grade level students will learn to format text in Word and when we'll teach them how to use Inspiration and even when they should learn how to do a Webquest! (I wonder if our pencil and pen curriculum is as detailed :-)

I want very much to give our staff a copy of the refreshed standards and say, "Here you you have the freedom to address each these in your classroom!" "But Rob, how do I know my students can do Standard 6b, if I don't know what productivity software they know or don't know how to use?" Valid Question--Does that mean we need a more specific curriculum guide of "This is what a 3rd grader needs to know by they time they leave my class"?

I want to work as broadly as possible (Standards :-) but I definitely understand the comfort ability of specific objectives.

I know the answer is somewhere in the middle. Does this issue have something to do with a teachers comfort level with using the computer and its many tools? Hhmmmmm.

Any thoughts??


After a little "beginning of the year break" from blogging, it's time to get back in.

The break wasn't really on purpose, it was more of a have to. Starting in a new school, moving into a new home, and generally turning one's life upside down, tends not to be condusive for carving out blogging opportunities.

There is so much to write about. My next several blog entries will chronicle some of the great things that are happening with technology in my particular school as well as one specific challenge....curriculum! :-)

Reason #143 to Start Using a Wiki with Students

This is an article that was originally linked from a Wil Richardson Blog. It's an MSNBC article about Wikis. Check it out Power in Numbers

I won't elaborate much more on the topic, other than to point you to the article and say, I'm excited for this school year to be starting and excited about getting to use some of these technologies with new students!

Technorati Tags:

A Cog in the Wheel

Being part of a large Lutheran school is very much a culture shock. Going from making almost all technology decisions to being only one small part of the technology equation is very much a change. This is going to really help focus my energy on the kids and teachers! I'm so tempted to spend time helping trouble shoot desktop icons that aren't targeted to right folder, that I my time could be used better setting up my room or working on my new tech curriculum.

BY THE WAY--if anyone has great links on cyberbullying, please let me know. I have a quite a bit of stuff already, but there is way more stuff that I have time, so any recommendations would be helpful!

It is a joy to hear teachers talk about the technology in their classrooms:
"Oh, I'm not very computer literate," "I don't really use that thing very much, so don't worry about getting it hooked up immediately," or my all-time favorite..."You're going to show me how to use this thing, right!"

These are the joys of an instructional technology coordinator. I can't wait to start tackling some of their issues. But the biggest issue our staff will face in terms of technology...and I'm sure your staffs as coming to grips with the statement: We need to be preparing kids for THEIR future, and not OUR past!

I'm thinking about putting that on a poster in all the teacher workrooms? What do you think?

Too Many Unfinished Blogs

I've often been accused of having ADHD! Almost positive that if I was 12 yrs. old that I would have been referred, tested, and phsycho-analyzed by now. I think fast, talk fast, and want everyone to know all of thoughts, all the time!

That being said, I have about a dozen blogs that are started in draft form, but haven't been published. That word "published" is my sticky-wicket. Publishing to me means I have ALL my thoughts down, in order, spelling checked, grammar checked, and re-read four times for coherency. Suffice it to say, those dozen blogs are not ready for "publishing." Would it be OK to publish them anyway? Would the posts lose their intended purpose if they aren't polished? Is there a place in this world for unpolished writing? Is a blog that place? Just thinking out loud!

I would prefer to podcast because those who know me, know that I like to talk :-)

Anyway, my summer ends tomorrow. We have faculty meetings starting at 8:00am. Most of the summer I've forced myself to get up by 6:00am so there isn't so much a shock to the "system" once the school year routine kicks in. Surely some of you understand what I'm talking about.

I'm now the 7th grade homeroom and Instructional Technology Coordinator at St. John Lutheran School in Ellisville. Talk about a culture change. Our full-staff meetings at Immanuel used to be about 20 people. St. John meetings reach up to 85!! What joy it will be to share in the ministry of education with 30 school faculty members and another 50 or so church staff!

I will miss the quality time with my own girls though. Not moving at light speed to get them out of bed, no lunch time nap stories, and playing dress up with Rachel's new shoes----Don't worry, they never did fit me :-) I'll have new kids. Sharing the Good News with them will be equally sweet!

I'm planning on having our 7th grade religion classes blog using classblogmeister. Don't necessarily need another class to follow exactly with us, but maybe some students who check in every once and a while to comment and share know, show the real power of comments and writing for an audience that is actually out there.

For those Lutheran educators out there, what do you think of the technology leadership tab on the Lutheran School Portal? What would you like to see on there? I'm in charge of the content and have not updated for a while. What would be the most beneficial for you?

God's Richest Blessings on the opening of your schools year....or if your in the Southern Hemisphere...the end of the first term of your 2007-2008 school year! :-)

Technorati Tags:

Daily Blog

Summer is a wonderful time. I am so used to working 12 months a year (being required to anyway) that a two month summer "vacation" seems weird. Got a call from my new assistant principal today with the some questions and she apologized for calling me on my "summer vacation." Wow, I forgot I was on vacation :-)

Social network mania is underway with the new Technology in Lutheran Schools Ning site. So far we have a total of 14 users and hope the numbers climb as our "vacation" continues!

At NECC this we all came to the realization that our own professional development doesn't happen at workshops or 2-hour in-service sessions. It is on-going, poignant, and just in time.

As an aside, I heard from a podcast--don't remember where--that teaching is on of the only professions where teachers aren't required to know how to use basic productivity soft wares. Look at how many point-click workshops there are in your district conferences and the like. Will there be a day when teachers will get beyond the "how do I make columns in Word?" type questions...but I digress.

Unless you are large Lutheran school, many educators are the only grade level teacher in the building and can feel very isolated when it comes to sharing the profession with a colleague. Social networks can give those teachers the out-reach that they crave and the ear of as many teachers and professionals as possible! A more philosophical approach to this would be a blog entry by Lynne Wolters from the Classroom 2.0 Ning about her experiences in the use of digital cameras with 4-6 year olds. 7 different colleagues have commented on her observations. You can tell that the comments left by the others gave Lynne time to full process her experience.
AND exactly why I blog---although it would be great to have more people comment.


Social networks---it's not just teenagers and MySpace anymore! Join one today!

Reading in the 21st Century

Notes for sectional by Dr. Abbie Brown, Dr. Heidi Blair, and Dr. Kenneth Lutherback (Present in research only) from East Carolina University.
PODCAST: Reading in the 21st Century: The Challenges of Modern Media

PPT of Presentation

I'm going to do something I picked up from Wes Fryer. Everything in caps will be my thoughts about the sectional. Sorry for any misspellings or typos. This was typed in session, so speed was of the essence.

**The accompanying podcast was taken with permission from both presenters**

Challenges for readers:
Reading different types of web formatting
Busy webpages with many movable graphics (marketing) draws attention away from the reading.
Type font size and face differences
Pages may not look the same when a student returns to the a site.


Is there a greater straing to reading hypertext?Yes--according to research
reading from a monitor, scrolling verticle is like turing a page, but horizontal scrolling is odd for readers.

?resolution of the monitor?
Difficult to annotate (NOT WITH GOOGLE NOTEBOOK THOUGH :-)
Distracting--have to cognitively assess the information instead of focusing on the reading itself

What to do??**create websites that don't need horizontal scrolling
**encourage goal setting--what to click on, what not to click on
**Read more hypertext

Is hypertext more appropriate for learners at a certain age?
No current information

Does the use of animations cause reading fatigue
People track(1st) and scan(2nd), but animations cause a change in tracking. Our eye/mind can shift but it causes greater fatigue.

What to do?
**Avoid placing recurring animations near static text
**Use animations to gain the reader's attention. Have a beginning and ending though

What are the more readable Color/font styles combinations for reading?
wavelengths of light to reader--pale orange in background, black forground(pigments)
Dark Blue background, yellow text (light projection) High contrast, low saturation

What to do?
**use black/white when possible
**use blue/yellow to add visual interest while maintaining legibility

In terms of fatigue from sustained reading, what is the difference between print and computer screen media?
Reading=Nearwork (make your eye muscles work and changes lens shape)
ECC already using screen media. Introducing nearwork earlier in development
Eye fatigue--NITM (nearwork induced transient myopia), aching/sore eyes, black/white tinged with color, sensitivity to light
implications decreased reading speed, decrease in comprehension, impacts readers ability to attend to the content, genesis of myopia related to the nearwork-induced transient was right; your eyes might get stuck like that!
non-academic time screen time can also be considered nearwork

Does relativeley low screen resolution affect legibility?

Thanks for your patients(patience)

Thanks everyone for patience. After much discussion with my wife we have decided to put our home on the market and move closer to my new school! Suffice it to say, my attention has increasingly been drawn to home improvement.

I could have had the podcasts and blogs from NECC done by now if you don't do that whole sleep thing! :-)

My goal is to release one a day, starting late tonight. Thanks again for your patients.

Another tide bit. Dave Black and I have been talking about the role of conversation, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and start a social network for this conversation to happen in! If your not familiar with Ning, I suggest you check it out!

Join up and start the conversation! Invite as many people as possible!

"Hand it In" to "Publish it": Re-envisioning our Classrooms--NECC 2007

This sectional at NECC was led by Will Richardson. This was my first time listening to one of his presentationals and I was very impressed! Of all the people I haven't been reading for the past two years, it was Will.

What I thought was so thought provoking about his presentation was how he kept pointing us to a larger picture. Especially in Luthern schools, we get caught up in the details (which are important, but...) that we forget the larger picture of who we are teaching. I don't know where I heard this phrase, but it was echoed several times by Will: "Are you preparing students for your past, or for their future?" It's cool to hear him talk about his own kids and how they are growing up in the 21st century. But more important than the tools is the teacher's ability to reach kids where they are at. Students engage, collaborate, create, and they do that within the context of the technology.

Give it a listen. The statistics are rather mind blowing.

Here is the link for the session wiki

To listen to the sectional podcast: Wes Fryer--Speed of Creativity

Skype notes from a group during the presentation

Technorati Tags:

Just Crazy!

NECC will end for me this afternoon and I've seen some pretty wonderful things and have heard even more! I typed a blog entry for just about every sectional I've been to. Seeing as how they are notes, many of the them might be rather incoherent to the average reader, so when I get home I'll sit down and fill in some of the pieces. That will give me a chance to revisit the sectionals and finally start to process some of what I've learned.

My goal was to blog everyday about something, and I did generate quite a few blogs per day, but nothing that was ready to be published for consumption. I also have about four podcasts of sectionals that I'll be able to release.

More to come!!

If you weren't able to get down to NECC yourself, please plan to join us next year in San Antonio, TX

Technorati Tags:

NETS Refresh

This morning ISTE "officially" released the new, refreshed NETS standards. As Don Knezek, ISTE CEO suggested, these standards are new guides as we teach students to learn, not just learn to use technology tools. For those of you who have not seen the order and titles of the standards here they are:

  • Creativity & Innovation

  • Communication & Collaboration

  • Research & Information Fluency

  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, & Decision Making

  • Digital Citizenship

  • Technology Operations & Concepts

  • So for the meeting has been a big thank you sectional for those involved with completing the new refresh.

    The challenge for Lutheran Schools in the future will be adapting these new standards to help provide leadership for technology and learning development in our schools.

    Don't forget to chant, sing, memorize and recite the technology education montra:
    "It's not about the technology, it's about the Learning!"

    As we put together beginning of the year in-service and sectionals for professional development, may that be our goal as we facilitate professional development and have conversations with our colleagues!

    Technorati Tags:

    I made it!

    Well, I made it down to ATL and am no worse for the wear. Actually, I had a wonderful conversation the entire hour flight from STL with Victor who's is a manufacturing consultant. We talked about everything from business to religion. The religion conversation was the most interesting.

    Victor works 8 months out the year and the other four he lives in Thailand. That's right, Thailand. While working for as a contractor for Emerson Electric, he fell in love and stayed. It was fascinating to talk about life and especially FOOD! The word a lot of hot peppers before you go to help "ease the burn" before you get there :-)

    Surprisingly, he grew in the Oak Park/River Forest area where I went to college. He came from a strong Lutheran/Catholic background and was fascinated with Buddhism. AND THERE BEGAN THE INTERESTING CONVERSATIONS :-)

    I won't go into detail or bore you with specifics, but it was a blessing to once again share the gospel message with someone. You know how we all go through a "spiritual funk" sometimes...well, I think that conversation may have helped me a little more than it helped him.

    It is conversations like that (not necessarily about religion)that I'm hoping to have with others while I'm hear. Conversations that involve revelation, deep thought, and that ever fantastic, "Aha!"

    I'm off to my first event. It's a Special interest group meeting for technology coordinators about Internet safety. Looks to be promising! I'll keep you posted.

    More to come later about how you can participate in NECC even if your not here! Never fear Lisa :-)

    Technorati Tags:

    NECC--Atlanta, GA

    This weekend, after much searching for "Cheap" hotel prices, I'll get to go down to the National Education Computing Conference in Atlanta, GA.

    For those of you who won't be able to go, I'll try my best to be an "on-site" reporter for you. More than likely blog posts from NECC will revolve around sectionls that were attended or from conversations with colleagues. My goal is to even throw in a podcast (Haven't done one of those in a while)! Maybe I can get an interview with Wes Fryer or the like! :-)

    I'll also try to link you to those presentations that will be VOD or PodCast.

    Have you started to make plans to "attend" the 2007 K12 Online Conference, yet? Something we should all plan to do.

    Blessings on your summer vacations and look for more posts from NECC!!

    Technorati Tags:


    Had a wonderful conversation at the end of last week with Dave Black about technology, professional development, and professional learning communities in Lutheran Schools (We didn't talk DIRECTLY about those, but that was the logical conclusion of our conversation).

    I'm also in the process of listening to a Wes Fryer podcast of a presentation he gave to some Oklahoma educators about emerging technologies and how teachers can join the global conversation and create their own virtual learning communities.

    That got me thinking....How can LCMS schools create PLE (Professional Learning Environments) which utilize a plethora of online tools? If you are a reader of this blog and have some ideas...please comment and share. I definitely don't have all the answers, but together we can come up with some good starting points.

    Here's at least one way I know we can! Check out this video from the Digital Ethnology project from Kansas State University. Maybe this is the best way to get teachers involved with "teaching conversations!"

    Technorati Tags:

    Reply to Dave's Comment from my last post.

    Original Comment from Dave:
    I teach coding as an introduction to web pages, and here is why. First, our students understand web pages and web page features, so they can more easily make the transition to content creation. Second, HTML and browsers allow for immediate feedback for students. They can quickly see whether their code worked or whether debugging is necessary. Thirdly, and most important, coding teaches important problem solving skills -- skills which are useful in just about every academic discipline. If the syntax is off by just one character, the page may not work properly. Having the persistence and work ethic to correct an obscure error is an important discipline to develop, especially since creative problem solving skills are also a tenet of the 21st Century Skills report you cite. Therefore, in the end it isn't about the HTML, but the larger skills that HTML can help teach.

    Thanks for the comment Dave! I can really begin to see the accessibility the use of creating webpages as an introduction to the web. When you put it in the context of 21st Century Skills, it makes more sense.

    My only concern is that...and I don't know enough about web programming that students will learn to "code" in a language that may not be useable in the next ten years. We could use ALICE or Lego MindStorm to help teach critical thinking and problem solving, and those may be just as engaging, if not more, than producing a webpage.

    I guess the real question is, can you use ALICE or MindStorms and connect them to the general curriculum as easily as HTML? Maybe??

    Is HTML the most "effective" way to teach problem solving or critical thinking? If those are indeed our desired outcome?

    Something else to throw in and may not be part of this initial conversation: How long will we be teaching students "intro to the web" type electives? I'm still amazed at how my students are still teaching me :-) Yesterday I brought up the acronym...and mind you, just the acronym...MMORPG and I was almost mobbed by three 6th graders. I got an earful until the bell rang about WoW(by the way, did you know you can get a new rewards VISA from Worlds of Warcraft :-) , and new one called Defcon.

    There is also something in your comment that got me to thinking...and only because it's a problem in my own life. Are there things we can be doing to help kids foster "delayed gratification?" Maybe that's a topic for a whole new entry?

    NOW....With that being said, I'm still going to teach the "Intro to HTML" elective, but I think these types of conversations are the ones we need to be having.

    Thanks for the reply Dave.

    You can check out Dave's blog at

    A New Outlook!

    Had an eye opening email that hopefully will prompt more indepth discussion.

    I've been trying to decide on some electives to teach for next year at my new school here in MO. The asst. principal gave me the freedome to choose elective topics, but kept hinting that there should be a webpage programming class. I've tried to stay away from that topic, because frankly I've never taught an HTML class before. Then I got to thinking, why do we want kids to learn HTML anyway? Most of the web content that middle school kids are used to dealing with on a daily bases is dynamic in nature and utilizes programing languages like PHP, JavaScript, Flash, XML, etc. To be honest, I know how to use these, but have no clue how to program with them. After updating their profile in Bebo, watching videos on YouTube, and playing the latest MMORPG, creating a static webpage would be pretty boring.

    So the big question is, should we be teaching students to code pages or should we be guiding them to create effective online content?

    Chances are students, or adults for that matter, will spend more time online producing content than they will be formatting that content.

    This may be the fundamental challenge that needs to be met head-on. What skills do students needed to be equipped with to maintain a steady view in such a rapidly changing technological environment?

    1. Collaboration--Can students interact with one another to complete tasks? Can they compromise or even disagree in a God pleasing way? Can they work with someone they don't know? See?

    2. Information Literacy--This is different from technology literacy. Technology gets you TO the information, but is that information accurate? Reliable? Is the source of the information credible? Can students understand the graphs, charts, or any other ways information or data is presented to them?

    To see more specifics about of 21st Century Learning Skills Check out the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

    This is a change for me as a technology coordinator or teacher, because it no longer is about the technology, but about teaching pedagogy! It's not about the tool as much as it is about what teachers are doing with it.

    Yikes! Where not asking teachers to add new pieces to their all ready full tool boxes, but we are telling them they need to change the way they teach!

    What do you think about that?

    Sweet Perspective!

    I really needed to post this video that was forwarded to me this morning. It puts everything into persepctive!!! After being a tech coordinators for 9 years, this is more true than anyone would care to admit!

    Technorati Tags:

    Not On Our Watch

    As I was driving to school this morning, I happened upon the NPR radio show, Morning Edition. The interview was with actor Don Cheadle star of the movie Hotel Rwanda and co-author of a new book, "Not On Our Watch" (Authored by John Prendergast). The book chronicles their journey into the war-torn Darfur region of the Sudan.

    What struck me about the interview wasn't the political call to action that was intended...although I am humanly concerned about what's happening in Sudan. But rather the quote from the movie Hotel Rwanda that was used in the intro to program which can be seen/heard below.

    What struck me most about this scene was how people consume media without ever acting. Regardless of your political views or whether or not you think it's our governments job to help the people of Darfur, as Christians, we are called to help and provide for those people. This comment is as much directed toward myself as to anyone else!

    As Lutheran, Christian school teachers we have a duty to teach our students that they need to step beyond the media (and the technology that delivers it) to help the hurting people on the other side of the computer/TV/Radio.

    At the very least, technology gives students the opportunity to have a dialogue or a conversation with the world in which they live and have that conversation in such a way that spurs them to action. God the Holy Spirit uses means by which to accomplish its work, may new technology tools inspire students, to reach out and be the Good Samaritan to people in need...even if they are thousands of miles away!

    How do they reach out? The question isn't how, but what is the best way!

    Technorati Tags:

    Martin Luther--A New Look!

    One of the greatest uses of technology is allowing students the freedom to express their learning in many different ways. Check out this video from YouTube and tell me if these students understand the the Reformation? Reformation Rap Battle: Martin Luther v. Pope Leo X

    I recognize that there is a bit of vulgarity in the rap (which within itself is a bit odd because of the content!). Undoubtedly these high school students understand many of the political and religious overtones of the protestant reformation. Could this knowledge have been assessed in a different way? Could they have written an essay? Taken a multiple choice test? Created a poster comparing and contrasting the views in question? Sure, but which assessment made a greater impact on these students? What other "secondary skills" did these students learn and develop in the process of creating this video.

    That brings up a good point: Should secondary skills really be "secondary" anymore? Is video/sound/photo editing a skill worthy of regular student consumption? As teachers, how much freedom do we give students to take side trips in education to learn skills that don't necessarily meet curriculum goals, but are still worthy of learning?

    Probably more important than learning the skill, is teaching students to think about the skills they are learning. I can't really quote a spefic source because this topic of metacognition has been in so many conversations. The future in education will not so much be about content and knowledge as it will be about teaching students to be good learners. How do students learn something, unlearn something, and learn something new again. These will be the valued, flexible skills of the future!

    BUT...what happens when the content you are learning is TRUTH? Now here is where the distinction line is drawn in relation to teaching the Christian faith! That sounds like a blog topic for a different day :-)

    Give'm Something to talk about!

    I was listening to a podcast from Wes Fryer's Speed of Creativity, which is a keynote from the SITE 2007 conference, when the keynote speaker,Roger Schank, played this clip from stand-up comedian Father Guido Sarducci. He said the clip is about is about 30 years old and is amazingly still appropriate.

    The longer I've been teaching, the more I'm starting to realize the value of "great" education and highly skilled teachers. Are we providing the best education possible to our kids in Lutheran schools. We tend to be slow developers when it comes to adopting new waves in education (for good reason sometimes). But I don't think the new uses of technology and the increased emphasis on 21st Century Learning Skills is a new fad. They are here to stay.

    What are your schools doing about it??

    A long time coming!

    The last article I wrote was from the last week in March and that feels like a web eternity! It's not for a lack of having things to discuss :-) On the contrary, there are so many conversations I'd like to have that I can't quite seem to fit them all in.

    For example, I got to really sit down over Easter with my wife's cousin's husband (say that 10x fast!) who teaches at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Jon is a Professional Development Specialist and Instructor in the Agriculture Education Program. I didn't even know that was there was a preparatory program for Ag. Education?

    Jon quickly forgave my ignorance and we had a wonderful conversation about how technology has improved and hindered the Ag. Ed programs at UM-Columbia. Jon's PhD. thesis covered cognitive theory in Ag education(or something along those lines). We talked about the change in Bloom's Taxonomy(Another Bloom's Link) and how Ag Ed. naturally lends itself to teaching higher order thinking skills, critical thinking skills, and extensive processing skills. All those fun things that can be facilitated through technology.

    Jon talked about how his graduate students are receiving professional development through pod/vodcasts and how he'd like to be able to observe students doing practicum work using a webcam. Again, my ignorance kicked in and I thought, "Wow, all this great teaching and learning in an Ag. Ed. dept." Thanks for setting me straight, Jon!

    The theme that came up time and time again in our conversation was the necessity for great teachers. It doens't matter how much technology you have, how many PowerPoints your students have done, or how you are using the technology. Without a great teacher in the room, the technology will be wasted and the PowerPoints will be nothing more than "PowerPointlessness" (a term I first encountered in a keynote by Jamie McKenzie).

    Great Teachers + Sound pedagogy = Student Acheivement

    That is successful teaching!!

    Imagine what happens if we teach those "Great Teachers" how to collaborate with others using a wiki? Create blogs where students are engaged in authentic writing? Producing finished podcasts for audiences beyond the walls of their small schools?

    As Dr. Suess put it, "Oh, the places you'll go!"

    Something to think about.

    Poignently Put!!!

    I'm not going to say much about this! Just watch and enjoy. You may need to turn the sound down a bit....but just like they say....if it's too loud...your too old :-)

    What are your teachers scared of???

    Everything I needed to know in life, I learned in Preschool!

    One of the great things about blogging is that it gives you a chance to
    reflect and process. The reason I have my students blog is to interact with concepts they just learned, or to go more indepth with something we were discussing. I blog before, during, and after conferences as a way of processing those things that I just learned. AND I'm going to blog right now!

    No, I'm not at a conference. I haven't discovered some great educational
    technology tool, application, or learning "nugget." My mother-in-law just passed away this afternoon....
    So how am I going to process that??????

    I think back to all the horrible "in-law" stories that TV or even my friends
    have shared with me, and I have to say that has not been my experience! I've come to love my Father and Mother-in-law like they have been with me all my life. Next to my own parents (whom I love and respect beyond measure!), Dave and Gaye are
    the only other people whose respect is important to me. Especially, my
    mother-in-laws :-)

    The first time I really spent any time with Gaye was when I flew up to
    Michigan to spend a couple of days with Jen over spring break in college. You know the first place my Gaye took me? The teacher's store. Here I was a Freshman education major, and my mother-in-law herded me into the mini-van to go with her to the teacher store...My wife not included on this drive :-) That was the time I knew that I was really going to like her!

    Gaye was a wonderful teacher. Besides having her bachelors in Elementary education, she had a masters in Early Childhood, and had started preschools from scratch at two different Lutheran churches. Her passion for the "youngest among us" exuded
    from every fiber of her being. The kids in her classes couldn't help but see
    Jesus in her actions and her words. She was a model for early childhood Christian education. Not only was she a master teacher, she even worked as a consultant for the Missouri District Education Office helping other churches start preschools. To quote one of my students, "She had MAD early childhood teaching skills!" Or something like that...loosely paraphrased. :-)

    Most importantly, and probably the reason it has been so easy to say, "I'll see you soon" is because I have no doubt that she trusted Jesus and trusted his love for her. This past year and a half was filled with ups and downs. Leukemia diagnosis, chemo, chemo, and more chemo,a bone-marrow transplant, remission (yeah), return of
    Leukemia, Chemo, another transplant, remission, return of Leukemia, pneumonia......and that is what would eventually help take her to glory. I will never say that the pneumonia caused her to die, that was just the catalyst that God used to finally bring her home. After the decision was made to not put in a breathing tube, and to not restart chemo again, we knew she was ready to go home. I have no doubt that today at just after 4:oo pm, Gaye got to hear,"Well done, thou good and faithful servant!"

    And that is what Gaye wanted to teach children, and what I want to teach children, and what every Lutheran, Christian educator wants to teach children. Jesus loves you so very much, that he didn't want to see you die eternally because of your sin, so he took the punishment that we deserved, so our relationship with God could
    be restored, so we could be forgiven, and so we may have a place of eternal rest, forever. Gaye only knew in part and trusted in part...but now she knows fully, and I know she is rejoicing with the companies of heaven at this very moment. It will be great to know that when I take part in the communion liturgy this Sunday in worship
    that she will be there with us singing..."Therefore with angels and archangels and with ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN, we laud and magnify your glorious name
    evermore praising you and saying:"

    The thing that I appreciated most about Gaye was how she helped keep me grounded. I'm by nature an early adopter, and she is not :-)
    I tried feverishly to convert her to the "dark-side" of educational technology and she constantly kept asking me the, "but what if?" and "Why" questions. I think if I could have pitched her Google Earth, she may have eventually bought in :-) But besides the technology tools, school 2.0, blogging, podcasting, video gaming, iPoding, and "whatevering," there was always Jesus! If I never teach kids effective searching skills or how to collaborate on line using a wiki that would perfectly long I could help build in them a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ!

    Gaye always reminded me about how important it is to know Jesus and what he has done for me...and you! If you have read this blog entry and have no idea who Jesus is, what he has done for you, and how much he loves you...please email me. The one thing needful in this world isn't a new tool...its Jesus. That's the best thing I can do to help share in the Gaye's life mission...which is my mission...Which was Jesus' mission.

    I'll see you soon, MOM!!! Say hi to Moses for me :-)
    Technorati Tags:

    If the Shoe Fits....

    This is a podcast of a sectional I attended at METC 2007 this year. The presenter is Amy Vejraska, she is a 3rd grade teacher from the Branson Public Schools in Branson,MO. Her classroom is an eMINTS class where the student to computer ratio is 2-to-1.

    The sectional is called: "If the Shoe Fits...Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction"

    This is a very timely topic, at least for our staff. As part of our school improvement plan from NLSA we will be looking at moving to a more differentiated instruction teaching model.

    PODCAST: Part I "If the Shoe Fits...Using Technology to Differentiate Instruction"
    Amy Vejraska--3rd Grade-Branson, MO

    PODCAST: Part II

    Harnessing the Shape of Information

    These are some notes that I took during Dave Warlick's sectional Harnessing the Shape of Information.

    Information is changing. Not only is it changing, but people are connecting with each other based on the information. The question is, what are schools doing to keep up with the change. You'd think in Lutheran Christian schools that we'd could be more flexible than our public school friends. But is that happening?

    Dave's talking about our current classroom situation and that we are creating mirrors in our classrooms.
    What we are really doing is asking children to reflect back to us what we give them. In a new landscape of education (School 2.0 if you will), students don't become reflectors, they are information changers. They aren't meerly reflecting information in a two ways (teacher/student--student/teacher), but it is multifaceted with students sharing with each other, and students teaching and sharing with people from outside the classroom. Learning in School 2.0 is about conversation.

    The thing we need to be doing is to teach kids to teach themselves. We don't know what our kids world is going to look like, not even five-ten years from now. How can we be sure? Startling statistic, the top ten jobs in america in 2004 didn't even exist ten years earlier!

    Lutheran Teachers....Does this effect the way you teach?

    Why Am I So Suprised!!!

    Today for our belated Valentine's Day party, I decided to have a little free-for-all fun! I told the kids to bring in their gaming systems and we'd just play around, eat chips, drink pop, and munch a few candy hearts. This was an immediate hit!

    One of my new guilty pleasures is Guitar Hero(GH) for PlayStation 2. Almost makes me want to run out and buy a PS3 off the shelf. What impressed me the most about the game wasn't the game itself, but the way the kids flocked to it! Both Dance, Dance, Revolution(DDR) and GH were great fun to watch as the kids did seemingly impossible contortions with both fingers and legs. If only I could harness some of that energy into the classroom...I know....Dance, Dance, American Revolution :-) Kids could stomp there way through the Southern Campaigns of George Washington. Defeat General Cornwalis while jamming to the Black Eyed Peas!!! Mind you, all of these games were being played larger than life on our SmartBoard. Our parent's educational dollars at work.

    On two other TV screens we had an Xbox pounding away with Madden07 and a Nintendo Wii (actually, the Wii never made it into play mode. One of my student's dad forgot the a connector cable :-( For a wonderfully satirical piece on the Nintendo Wii, check out this article from Wired Magazine, I was almost rolling. For those of you who get Junior Scholastics, there was an article not too long ago about the violent effects of video games on teens. Of course the article was dismissed by 75% of the class.

    After watching the glow of the video game lights in the eyes of my students, I realized that many of the kids are enormously engaged with this type of stimulation and interaction. Why not do as the old saying says, "If you can't beat'em, join'em."
    This year, I tried using a video game with my class called Discover Babylon and it worked rather well. It was a bit clunky, but was very engaging. Could this be the future of education? Why not! If my students could be as engaged with Ancient Egypt or the War of 1812 as they are with Guitar Hero, I'm all for it!

    Who knows...maybe there is future in it for some of our students? Check out this article!

    But just like in all things, there must be moderation. There was that group of girls who sat off to the side, content to just watch all the other kids play and whiz their fingers over the fret board of that tiny guitar. What about them? Well, maybe we just haven't found the right game!!

    The English Language

    An interesting discussion about the use of IM speech on Dave Warlicks 2Cents Worth. I took time first thing this morning and commented on the blog. This turned out to very interesting. Would you ever accept IM speech in a classroom assignment? If not, why? Is it a valid form of speech for the classroom.

    I'd like to do a little preliminary advertising for the Lutheran School portal. Later next week, the LSPortal will be releasing a new tab for Technology Leaders. Check it out. New document uploads, news, and forums specifically for tech leaders. Taking the technology discussion to the next level.

    Just an observation: Why does it seem to be taking so long for Lutheran schools to join the 21st Century in terms of technology? Wasn't it Luther who utilized one of the greatest major technological advancements in the 15th century...the printing press?

    Wiki Collaboration

    This week starts an interesting journey for our 8th graders. We have teamed up with a 7th grade study skills class in Hagerstown, MD to collaborate on some wikis. Mrs. Durff, whom I've gotten to know through her classes blogs at Classblogmeister, asked our class to team with hers to create some ten topical wikis. Topics range in subjects from the synoptic gospels to copyright.

    We were able to meet face to face over the Lutheran School Portal's Breeze Server. Thanks so much to Perry and Analisa for helping us get going!!

    The meeting went very well. Sloppy and unorganized, but as well as could be expected. Really, what would you expect from a group of 7th and 8th graders!
    As the conference was underway I began to remember back to all those instructions I'd learned about how to conduct a video conference on the Internet and came to the realization that neither Mrs. Durff, nor myself taught the kids those skills! Oops! You live and learn, much like teaching in the classroom. Trial by error.

    One of the over-arching goals of the collaborative project is to do just that...collaborate. One the 21st Century skills that Dave Black has been blogging about, we are trying to put into practice.

    In the next blog, I'll post address for the wikis so you can track the progress yourself!

    A New Wave in Searching

    One of the new 21st century skills that every student will need to have and use, is the ability to search effectively in this glut of information that we call the World Wide Web. And now, as great teachers, we have a wonderful new tool to help us with this endeavor! The best part, is that I learned about it from one of my students. It just amazes me how much I learn from them!

    Actually, I’m not quite sure exactly how great of a tool it is? Let me back up and start by telling you what it is before I make a value judgement or make you engage your brain. is a new (don’t know exactly how new) search engine with the unique ability to HELP you search. No literally, there is another person who helps you search. You have the option to search on your own, but if you are having difficulty mining through the chasm that is the World Wide Web, you can use a guide. There is a chat feature that connects you with a “search expert” who can help you with your search. The far left hand side of the window is a live chat with your personal "search expert," while the center is set aside for displaying the links he/she has found. Finally, someone who can hold our hand as we stumble our way through millions of webpage.

    My initial reaction was that of pure joy! I was skipping around telling everyone about this brand-new resource when I tragically realized that my students potentially may not ever need to learn how to search! Someone else can do that for them? After a moment of educational despair, I had a conversation with our Youth Director and local LHS Freshman English teacher Dan Stec who reminded me that we love choice! Those people who want to use the guided search WILL and those who don’t want to WON’T. Nothing will change. The divide will still be there. Instead of the divide being between rich and poor, it will now be between the (Please forgive the word usage) the smart and everyone else. As Jesus did say, “You will always have the poor among you.”

    Check it out for yourselves. Give it a spin and let me know what you think?


    Our latest ice storm in the St. Louis area pretty much turned our weekend upside down. At the writing of this post, there are still people in our surrounding area without power. Ahhh... electricity.

    Who would have thought that tiny electrons flowing through some copper wire could bring so much joy? Heat, hot water, and of course the soft glow of a computer screen. Suprisingly enough, I wasn't lost at all over the weekend when we lost power. A well deserved "rest was had by my trusty compadre "Mr. Computer." It was interesting however to listen to comments made Tuesday during lunch. Our Special Ed. consultant talked about wanting to run to her computer and check for the latest radar images to track the progress of the storm, only to remember she had no electricity. What a sign of the times.

    It is almost mind boggling how much we have come to depend on our tools. Do you think our students depend on them to??

    Have you ever considered how fragile the technical world really is? When our PTL was putting in new playground equipment, they accidentally sliced into our phone line. No phone and NO INTERNET ACCESS...Noooo...say it ain't so!!
    Just think of the world we experience on a daily basis over 15 wires. Your world, through 15 wires. What a sobering thought. The funny thing is, I'm almost OK with that. How about you??