Category Archives: general education

Getting Permission Easier than Anticipated or My Sub-Par Performance


The last few weeks I have been working with colleague Derrick Willard on Digital Citizenship Resource Guide based on Providence Day School’s new Digital Citizenship initiative. We have this “insert superlative here indicating awesome, but not as overused” compass graphic (cannot show you yet) that has seven key precepts of digital citizenship:

  1. Be present.
  2. There is no delete.
  3. Credit others.
  4. Manners matter.
  5. Nothing is private.
  6. Protect Yourself.
  7. Be real.

One of the chapters I am working on is the “Credit Others” chapter and it is a blast to write it. However, I have to make a confession. If I accurately assess my own behavior against the basic tenets of crediting others, I find it completely sub-par. As I wrote about using images, 4 different presentations and slide decks came to mind where I used images without permission that I found doing a google image search. Being a human being, I immediately began rationalizing my behavior. It became clear to me that I only borrowed without permission because getting permission was nearly impossible and perhaps even cost prohibitive. After all, I am only a poor educator using these images to help others.

Thankful, my conscience is still alive somewhere in the depths on my black heart. It forced me to prove that I was indeed correct in assuming that getting permission would be impossible and costly. I chose two images to use to prove my point.

First, Randy Glasbergen is a cartoonist that has caught my attention over the years and I have used one of his cartoons in a presentation with new teachers. I reached out to Mr. Glasbergen and below is the result….

Hi Matt,

Thank you for your interest in my cartoons. It’s great to hear from you today!
I would love to be a part of your iBook — also school newsletters, handbooks, posters, meeting agenda sheets or PowerPoint presentations, staff communications, etc. I receive many requests to use my cartoons, but due to the time invested in creating, preparing and delivering my cartoons, I must charge a small fee for the use of my work.
My fee for the usage you’ve requested is $X  for one cartoon then discounted to only $X for each additional cartoon in your order. (Fees are quoted in U.S. Dollars for black and white artwork. Specially discounted for schools.)
You can select your cartoons from my online cartoon catalog @   Hundreds of cartoons are available, all sorted by topic for fast and easy browsing. Unless otherwise requested, these cartoons will be delivered via e-mail attachment as high-resolution TIFF files. (The online images are low-resolution and not suitable for printed pages.)
Please send an e-mail to confirm your choice of requested cartoons, then choose one of the following payment options. I will follow up ASAP with delivery of your cartoons and authorization.
You can see how WRONG I was. Apparently Mr. Glasbergen is not just a talented and funny cartoonist, he is a great guy.  He was the only person including my own kids to tell me “it was great to hear from you” that day. He truly seemed eager to help me with my project and offered me educational discounts without making me beg for them. The process was simple and I now can use the images feeling good about supporting the artist who created them.
The second image was a photo that I again found using a google image search. It took about five clicks to track down the creator, a photographer who responded to my email request with the following…
“I didn’t even know that shot was still online. Feel free to use it. Thanks”
Again, I was completely wrong.
Most importantly I hope many of you have already begun to get frustrated with me for missing the larger point. While it may be far easier than many of think it is to get permission to use online images, easy or hard is not the deciding reason why we should seek permission for using other’s work. Giving credit where it is due and properly compensating the artist/creator is just the right thing to do.

if students designed their own learning


This is a must see video about giving students control over their own learning. I see this video as the end point but where could it start? Imagine asking Lower School students to create a plan to learn more about our environment, asking Middle School students to collaborate with teachers on designing the curriculum for next year, or asking Upper School students to plot a year long study of their passions? There are so  many possibilities for this model in so many different stages on independence and interdependence.

Scaffolding would be necessary. Adult participation mandatory. Perhaps motivation would be intrinsic.

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.

Re-thinking How to Select Mobile Apps


Found this post and thought it was worth sharing just because of the app descriptions. The more I read it, the more I think it is an interesting way to view/select apps for our digital backpacks. I recommend everyone take a quick look. Below is a brief excerpt. I will post the other blog posts in this series as they are posted.

What I mull over is how instruction using mobile technology can contribute to this type of thinking. That these new, promising mobile devices often house apps offering more of the same drill-and-kill activities we desire to minimize is a limitation. In attempts to integrate mobile technology, educators are left to the mercy of app developers who or may or may not fully understand how imperative it is that our children become critical and creative thinkers.

In this upcoming series, I will highlight apps useful for developing higher order thinking skills in grades K-5 classrooms. Each list will highlight a few apps that connect to the various stages on Bloom’s continuum of learning. Given the size and current exponential growth of the app market, I will also assist educators in setting criteria necessary to identify apps that maintain the integrity of teaching for thinking.

Apps that fit into the “remembering” stage improve the user’s ability to define terms, identify facts, and recall and locate information. Verbs commonly used to describe this phase include naming; finding, labeling, listing, selecting, retaining, naming, retrieving, recognizing, registering or realizing. Many educational apps fall into the “remembering” phase of learning. They ask users to select an answer out of a line-up, find matches, and sequence content or input answers.

Click here to read the entire post by Diane Darrow (@dianedarrow) on Edutopia.

Letter to New Teachers from Peter Gow


The excerpt below is a letter to new teachers from Peter Gow who has been working in Independent Schools since 1974. He does a nice job of reminded everyone of the focus of what we do and why we do.

In the end it doesn’t matter so much if the approach is Old School—memorize the formula, do grammar exercises 1 through 13, odd—or all about a New Culture of Learning that grows around not-teaching. Know your students, have faith in their capacities, and magical things will happen.

It isn’t going to be easy, you know. You might get lucky and have most everything fall into place quickly, but there are probably going to be things you struggle with—perhaps as much as anything you’ve ever done or even imagined doing. 

Here’s the thing: You’re not as alone—all, all alone—as you will feel. Be the master of what you can, but when things get really hard, be forthright in taking your worries and concerns to a simpatico colleague or an administrator that you trust (Who did you click with the best when you were being interviewed? Start there). Ask someone to sit in on and observe your unruly section or to help you organize your assignments and assessments so that you can actually finish your own homework each night. Whatever it is, you owe it to your students and your school to seek the assistance you need, pronto. And of course your school owes it to you to help you. It’s a problem to be solved, and it can be and will be.

Please click here to read the entire letter.