Category Archives: edtech

Learning Artifacts: Blogs


Below is an email that was sent from a colleague of mine to the parents of his students. I think it is a great example of how digital tools provide a summative artifact of the group’s learning. How cool is it that parents can take a peek into the semester’s worth of learning?


The year is rapidly drawing to a close, so I want to reissue and invitation I offered to each of you at parent night last fall.  The invitation is to visit our class blogs at the links below (ask your student which period they are in this semester).

Why visit?  Well, first and foremost, you can look at work done by your child.  Just scroll down the right side to the “categories” section and find your child’s first name and click on it.  Note some students switched sections at mid-year.  You’ll find blogs that are recaps of lessons and some that are questions for their peers or me.  Second, you can look into our classroom and what they’ve been studying in AP Environmental Science.
Why blog?  Well, there are a number of reasons I might ask a student to blog:

1.  To remember or recount what happened in class that day.  We call this a “scribe post.”  This is most helpful to students who miss a lesson.

2.  To offer a question about a confusing concept prior to the test.  We call this a “reflection post.”  Other students are encouraged to answer these questions.
3.  To share something cool or a current event.  We call these “on my mind posts.”
and other reasons to use a blog include:
4.  To debate.  Blogs allow a space for responses after each post, and sometimes I require students to participate in a discussion of a topic like bottled water use in your family).
5.  To create a “positive digital footprint.”  I think I have a responsibility to help these kids leave a more substantial mark on the world wide web besides what they post on Facebook or Twitter!We’ve categorized all the post by the first 3 categories above if you want to see examples at the blog. Each student was required to serve as the class “scribe” at least once a semester and create a summary lesson for those who might have been absent.  Each student had the option of posting reflections before each test for some minor extra credit on the test.  Some students felt compelled to share something neat-a headline, a picture, or even a YouTube video clip.  By doing all this, the kids have had to reflect on what they’ve learned and they’ve created a wonderful online textbook as a resource for AP exam preparation.  Some students used the resource more than others, and that is fine.  Some students switched sections at mid-year, so you may not see many posts from them either.

Besides looking at what your own child created, I want to encourage you to scroll down to the “tag cloud” of topics we’ve studied this year.  Pick a topic that is of interest to you (energy, water, agriculture, etc…) and click on the tag.  We’ve cross-linked all the posts dealing with that topic even though they might be in different units.  That’s the beauty of this course (and use a blog), the interconnections between topics.  As John Muir once said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”  Also, notice the “ClustrMap” of the world and look at the global audience these kids have attracted this year!

I’ve truly enjoyed teaching this group this year.

Fuzzy definition of the ED problem


As I sit through another session at #ettipad, i cannot stop drifting from one idea to the next. @gregkulowiec’s talk about the proper mindset for integrating iPads into the classroom referenced Seymour Papert which made me think about stagecoaches with jet engines which led to Morozov’s bookTo Save Everything Click Here about the downside of technology solutionism which made me think about Sir Ken Robinson’s call to foster, support, and teach creativity which got me thinking about the energy of educator’s like @ijukes and @angelamaiers which in turn made me contemplate the conversations I have with TWITS like @dwillard @fredbartels @pgow @raventech and so many others that influence my thinking which brought me back to Evengy Morozov’s book (which I have not finished) because it seems like of all this distills back to one thing – we have to properly define the problem. iPads, smartphones, laptops, or whatever other tool is developed in the next few years are insignificant if we cannot better understand our problem. I cannot find anyone who is interested in arguing that there aren’t significant problems with education and yet we don’t seem to have a clear definition of the problem we are all trying to solve. Perhaps the wandering thoughts above all just pieces of the definition of the problem.

Eddie Nomination: Best Teacher Blog


Derrick Willard is a pain in the butt. On average I receive somewhere between 25-20 emails a week which may not seem like a ton of email, but each email is potential tech support T.U.C.I.  “TUCI” stands for tool unknown, cool idea and they are rarely a five minute resolution. They take time to learn, explore, and investigate and as much I as sometimes want ignore @dwillard, his ideas are always so freaking cool. Cool because they aren’t just about playing with some sparkly, new tool. They typically involve improving the learning environment. All this whining leads me to my nomination. Derrick Willard’s blog, Tearing Down Walls, is a collection of these ideas, reflection on their successes, and most importantly, real, honest action research about tech and learning.

Please consider nominating and hopefully, voting for my favorite pain in the butt’s blog. It is deserving of an Eddie.

Food for Thought


ASCD, an educational leadership organization, recently published an article by Mark Bauerlein entitled Too Dumb for Complex Texts? which explored the effect of digital tools on students ability to read complex texts. Mark is a college professor at Emory University and author of The Dumbest Generation: How Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future. In the same ASCD publication Cary Academy’s Meredith Stewart share a piece entitled Wired for Reflection. Meredith paints a contrasting image of the effect of digital tools on our students and continues the conversation in a direct response to Professor Bauerlein’s piece entitled “Too Dumb…” Confuses a Tool & Its Use. Anyone using digital tools with students needs to read these pieces and begin forming their opinion about the effects of teaching with digital tools. It is interesting that both Mark and Meredith share the ultimate goal of creating capable, reflective thinkers.

Semester Essay Exam Review


(note: quick rough version)

This year we are using Google Apps Education Edition with all of our students. It has been branded Charger Apps to make it ours and so far it has been fairly well received. About 20 minutes ago I used docs app to peer edit with one of my English I students (9th grade) and it went well.

Here is how it worked:

  • The appointment was scheduled just the other appointments I made with students this week. We both signed in to Chargers Apps and entered her document.
  • Before the meeting I had inserted several comments about items that needed editing or to mark discussion points.
  • Open the chat window on the right hand side and started by asking the student what her concerns were. She quickly highlighted the problems she was having with citations and her conclusion.
  • Both of us highlighted sentences, insert notes, and even made changes to the document that happened in real time. The chat window was used quite a bit but towards the end we were working in the document more.
  • Once all of the students questions were addressed and my concerns were shared. I signed off without the understanding that she could email me after the rewrite of her conclusion for more feedback.

Nothing earth shattering or holy cow about the experience, but I found that my questions were better formed due to having to type them. The student did use plenty of abbreviations and texting lingo in the chat but it wan’t distracting. In fact, I was jealous that she could quickly share her ideas much better than I could.

Overall, there were several benefits to this meeting. First, not sitting face to face helped me not offer too much advice and helped me form better questions. Second, it was clear that the student came to the meeting prepared with specific questions. Often when students arrive for the face to face meetings they are just wanting me to read their paper to offer comments. Finally, there is a record of our conversation because of several screen shots I took to refer back to when assessing the final version.

It is definitely worth trying if you edit with your students.

World View Conference Presentation


Used to build the embedded presentation for the 2010 World View Conference at UNC Chapel Hill. Also used vodpod to embed the prezi into this post.

At the conference I was asked about using these tools in Math classes and we discussed Problem Based or Project Based Learning. Dan Meyer was pointed to as a great reference point for an alternative model for teaching math.

Link to presentation.

Self- Organizing Learning Systems


If you haven’t already seen Sugata Mitra’s latest talk @ TED you need to. It reinforces the idea that learning is a social construct and that Education is needs to look to more collaborative models of instruction. Watch the video and let me know what you think.

This video starts with exploring how good teachers aren’t where they are needed which doesn’t at first appear to be directly related to our daily mission, but Sugata Mitra continues on to explore how education can be a self-organizing learning system and how students in “an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge.” Self directed instruction and peer teaching seem to possible be under utilized opportunities for us. Please note that it is not having one computer for each child that creates the best learning environments but instead sharing one computer with groups of students. The interaction between the students while solving problems creates the lasting learning.