Friday, December 31, 2010

Laugh From Your Belly

If you would like a wonderful way to start the 2011 drama season I suggest you make your way to the Wakefield School in The Plains, Va for the independent school's extension of their holiday show, All In The Timing. The school added two more shows to the run on January 7 and 8 2011. The school is located just off exit 31 w on I66.

Here is another Cappie's review of the show.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Marc Prensky is worth a read

After thinking about Downes' rules of technology and how the smart phone just may be the answer, I decided to revisit Marc Prensky's web site. I started to make connections between gaming and learning when I read Prensky's Digital Game Based Learning, while I was trying to finish an MA in Distance Education. (which I did). I also recommend "Don't bother me Mom, I am Learning and his latest book, Teaching Digital Natives.

Prensky was also the first person to truly call for the integration of cell phones into schools with him seminal article, What Can You Learn From a Cell Phone?-Almost Anything!. Explore his web site!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Downes' Rules of Good Technology

I spend a lot of time thinking about technology and what makes it work well for me and other people.  In the course of that thinking I am very influenced by a Canadian theorist named Stephen Downes. I have been reading him for7 years now. Last night, NormAtNite,  I talked about his nine rules for good technology and I would like to recap them here:

1. Good technology is always available.
2. Good technology is always on.
3. Good technology is always connected.
4. Good technology is standardized.
5. Good technology is simple.
6. Good technology is does not require parts
7. Good technology is standarized.
8. Good technology is modular.
9. Good technology does what you want it to do.

In thinking about these ideas I realized that the technology that meets most of these rules is for the most part forbidden to be used in schools.  My cell phone stays in my pocket and I use 20th century technology to teach 21st century learners. Go figure.

You can find the entire Downes article by clicking here

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lots of Stuff but nothing changes

I am sitting here a bit later than 6AM this morning. I have been thinking about how to get people to change the way we teach and learn in schools.  I am not sure it is technology. I think that it depends on whose hands we put the technology into and how well we integrate the resulting institution into our daily lives. Put the technology in kids hands and see where they go with it. Watch how learners use the technology and then use it that way as institutional policy. Treat learners as customers and improve customer relations.

Website for the date is

Monday, December 27, 2010

I believe that learning is the practice of freedom. The problem is that school is so often confused with learning.   It re-inforces the present and preserves the status quo. School is almost propaganda for the status quo. School does teach most of us how to read and that is a liberation skill for all human beings need to have. School however is not the only place a human being can learn to read. Most of our learning takes place in our social world.

We teach and learn from the people around us. Learning comes from the truth around you. Empowerment comes from the self discovery of that truth. We must all become self learners and self teachers with those around us. Learning liberates the spirit!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What will the Future Bring

What will learning look like in 10 years? I love reading articles about this topic around this time of year. I really enjoyed this one about 21 things that will be obsolete in Education by 2020 from Canadian Alan Strange. Here are some of my favoites and the ones I most agree with.

Here they are:

2. Language Labs
Foreign language acquisition is only a smartphone away. Get rid of those clunky desktops and monitors and do something fun with that room.

3. Computers
Ok, so this is a trick answer. More precisely this one should read: 'Our concept of what a computer is'. Because computing is going mobile and over the next decade we're going to see the full fury of individualized computing via handhelds come to the fore. Can't wait.

6. Differentiated Instruction as the Sign of a Distinguished Teacher
The 21st century is customizable. In ten years, the teacher who hasn't yet figured out how to use tech to personalize learning will be the teacher out of a job. Differentiation won't make you 'distinguished'; it'll just be a natural part of your work.
7. Fear of Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the greatest democratizing force in the world right now. If you are afraid of letting your students peruse it, it's time you get over yourself.

11. IT Departments
Ok, so this is another trick answer. More subtly put: IT Departments as we currently know them. Cloud computing and a decade's worth of increased wifi and satellite access will make some of the traditional roles of IT -- software, security, and connectivity -- a thing of the past. What will IT professionals do with all their free time? Innovate. Look to tech departments to instigate real change in the function of schools over the next twenty years.
12. Centralized Institutions
School buildings are going to become 'homebases' of learning, not the institutions where all learning happens. Buildings will get smaller and greener, student and teacher schedules will change to allow less people on campus at any one time, and more teachers and students will be going out into their communities to engage in experiential learning.
13. Organization of Educational Services by Grade
Education over the next ten years will become more individualized, leaving the bulk of grade-based learning in the past. Students will form peer groups by interest and these interest groups will petition for specialized learning. The structure of K-12 will be fundamentally altered.
16. Current Curricular Norms
There is no reason why every student needs to take however many credits in the same course of study as every other student. The root of curricular change will be the shift in middle schools to a role as foundational content providers and high schools as places for specialized learning.
17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night
Ongoing parent-teacher relations in virtual reality will make parent-teacher conference nights seem quaint. Over the next ten years, parents and teachers will become closer than ever as a result of virtual communication opportunities. And parents will drive schools to become ever more tech integrated.
20. High School Algebra I
Within the decade, it will either become the norm to teach this course in middle school or we'll have finally woken up to the fact that there's no reason to give algebra weight over statistics and IT in high school for non-math majors (and they will have all taken it in middle school anyway).
21. Paper
In ten years' time, schools will decrease their paper consumption by no less than 90%. And the printing industry and the copier industry and the paper industry itself will either adjust or perish.
Go read the article and see what you think. Please comment on what you find here. How do we make a school like this tomorrow? I believe it can be done!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Influential Educational Thinkers in my Life

When I was a high school junior my dad handed me a small book called How We think by John Dewey . I devoured it from cover to cover and most likely was on my path to becoming a teacher. John Dewey is the father of Progressive education and I am definitely in his camp.  Dewey believed that "Education was life itself". He also believed that the truth was something that you used to solve problems and since problems change so does the truth that you solve them with. Education and Experience and Democracy and Education are must reads for anyone involved with teaching people anything. Dewey taught me to put my hands in the mud and make mud pies.

Another thinker in my life who influenced my development as a teacher was my first headmaster, Mr. Andrew A. Zvara. I worked for and with Mr. Zvara for over 18 years and formed my basic views of the classroom. Andy embedded the idea in my psyche that the reason we were in a school was to empower children to do what they wanted to do, to show them how to begin to take control of their own lives and their own learning at every grade level. Andy taught me that curriculum was not king, the students were predominant in the learning.  I learned that my greatest task as a teacher was to find out who the students were as individuals and then to connect their interests to what I was teaching.

I have been fortuate to have great teachers for most of life. One of the greatest was a philosopher, Antoinette Mann Paterson. Dr. Paterson became my classroom role model because of her emphasis on imagination. Dr. Paterson taught me how to wear other people's shoes, to attempt to think their thoughts so that I might understand them and combine them with what I was thinking to create new thought from thousands of perspectives. We recreated historical reality in her classroom and I try to do that everyday in mine. She wrote two wonderful books, The Infinite Worlds of Giordana Bruno and Francis Bacon, Socialized Science.

Dewey, Zvara. and Paterson form the core. Combine them with your own thoughts and you might begin to understand this enigma called Norman. You will definitly begin to understand your own students!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Google Power

This morning I am thinking about all of the power that is available to everyone on the web who has access to Google and all of the software that Google offers to users. The range of ideas that are expressed in those softwares is mind boggling. The real question is will anyone use it.

Use depends on courage. Especially for someone my age. You just have to dive in and be willing to look silly from time to time. I hope that I will be able to tweet and blog my exploration of these tools and share the path with all of you. We shall see.

What really scares me however, is the storm I may face from my colleagues in school who have now been introduced to all of these tools and power. Everyone will want trainning in all of these tools. I will show people how to start exploring the software but I will not be able to train them is how to use it. What they use it for is up to them.

What I will give people is encouragement to explore and trust their own imagination. I do not know what to use these tools for because I have never used them before. What I do know is that they extend my power in ways that I have not even imagined yet because they extend my power of communication.  Communication, as we all know, is the essence of teaching, Go Google!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Morning ideas

I will be trying to write on this blog at 6am every morning and will be doing it for 10 minutes every day. This may extend itself itself in the future but for now it is 10 minutes. Let us just say that I am Blogging Down My Bones to paraphrase a title from a writing book.