Saturday, December 3, 2011

It has been a month since I last wrote anything here. I have become a bit dispirited as I try to figure out the next stage in my life. This morning I came across a tweet from @cpohanka alerting me to an educamp-in-va taking place in Fredricksburg VA and so I went to the Wiki for the event. The best part about the event is that is seemed like an un-conference and it was free. My Edupunk juices started to flow and I decided to post something on the event wiki. It all stemmed for a Will Richardson list that follows. Here is what I wrote.

Will’s World/

  • Create your own education.
  • Find problems and solve them.
  • Be unique.
  • Make beautiful, useful stuff.
  • Build a network of really smart people who you will never meet.
  • Be indispensable.
  • Do real work that changes the world.
  • Have a brand.
  • Share widely and safely.
  • Collaborate.
  • Add value.
  • Be a voracious learner.
  • Tread softly but boldly.
  • Edit the world.

You should learn about what you want to learn about, or need to learn about. I believe that means that you should create your own learning or education. Now how do we help students to do that in school. It really is not that hard conceptually, it is just hard work. It is a teachers responsibility to find out what their students are interested in before they even begin to develop objectives for what a course it about. A great teacher discovers what their students are interested in and somehow connects those interests to the subject. Making the connection is what teaching is. It is helping the fish to understand the water. You should never teach Algebra I or American History for instance the same way. Everything should be different every year because THE STUDENTS are different every year. Experience is a collection of learning and dealing with a changing environment. As to the how to fly a plane example, imagine if the student doesn’t want to be there, has no interest in flying planes, and is forced to be then until he/she is 16? -Norman Constantine

The only thing we really need to do in “schools” is teaching human beings to understand the code of communication and that the alphabet or or movie making or whatever. Teach children to read and discover what they want to know about, then turn them loose and be there to pick them up when they fall. READ READ READ. A human being connected to the Internet can discover the sum total of what human beings know and remember. They do not need “school”, they only need the ability to “break the code”.Norman Constantine

Please comment on these ideas. I am going to try and expand on them in future blog posts next week. Help me out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Norm at Nite Goes Premium

NormAtNite is back in prime time. I did my first premium show last nite and it was a lot fun. We discussed everything (Cult and me) from jobs to exactly what happened to John Corzine's company with their big bet on the European debt default.You can listen to the whole show down in the Blogtalk app on the right of the page or go to this link NormAtNite in Prime Time.

I walked two miles today and weighed in at 123,55 kg, I feel really good about that. I will keep it up!

Monday, October 31, 2011

I am taking NormAtNite premium for the November 1, 2011 show. I will expand to an hour and eventually to twice a week. By the way I weighed in at 124.85 kgs this morning so I continue to have a negative slope to the graph of my weight. Check out the ad for NormAtNite:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tipped the scale at 126.85 kg this morning. Went up a bit. I will get back on the disciplined road today. Stay tuned for NormAtNite tonight at 11 PM. Open Mic today to end October.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I am very fat at this point and need to do something about it. I am going to try to lose weight and will report my total lbs every time I log in. I will try to make it as frequently as possible. Today I stepped off the scale at 280.1

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Maybe The Apple Has a Worm

While we are lamenting the passing of Steve Jobs and the Occupy Wall Street Crowd is tweeting, texting, and using their Apple devices, maybe we should remember that Apple Computer (Steve Jobs) outsources 70% of its jobs and has no real record of corporate giving and discourages giving apps from the Apps Store. For all of the details, check out Why Occupy Wall Street Job Protesters Should Not Ignore Steve Jobs by Masuma Ahuja.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Another Vision of How Learning Should Be

I watched this TED video today and wished I had made it myself. It spoke to everything learning should be and suggested a new way to educate children. Human beings are social animals and we need social environments to learn and grow. Schools are designed to tame and control children. We need something new!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Guest Post--A Widening Gap of Rich and Poor

Many of this Blog's readers are teachers and administrators in independent schools. There can be little argument that most students in the independent school community come from the top quintile below.

I keep thinking about the stuffwe’ve been discussing, and I think I’m beginning to understandwhat’s going on. I will try to lay out my ideas with language thatI hope will appear as apolitical as possible. Here goes.

Throughout all the national back andforth about “taxing rich,” and having them “pay their fairshare,” some facts have emerged that I think are incontrovertible byanyone on either side. The wages, and therefore disposable income, of themiddle class and below have remained stagnant or are declining. The wagesand disposable income of people at the top have increased. Here’sthe data from the Census Bureau on share of aggregate US income between 1967 and 2009:

Bottom quintile—down 18%
Second quintile—down 26%
Middle quintile—down 18%
Fourth quintile—down 4%
Top quintile—up 15%
Top 5%--up 26%

Understand that I’m not makingjudgments here. The right would say that the big earners should have morewealth, and the left would say it’s unfair. I’m not making ajudgment either way.

What I see here, however, does explain tome the lack of demand in the economy. The overall economy is driven bythe purchases of individuals and households. All households in the firstfour quintiles have experienced a decline in wealth over the last 42 years. This means that for the vast majority of things bought and sold in themacro economy, there is less disposable wealth to spend on them. Yes,there are probably more yachts, and luxury automobiles and second and thirdhomes being sold to the top quintile, but those, in aggregate, make up but asmall portion of the big economy. They’re niche markets you mightsay.

I remember, in a discussion with my son,saying that I don’t think many people in business have the vision ofHenry Ford. Henry Ford dramatically raised his workers’ wages and broughtdown the wrath of his fellow businessmen when he instituted the “fivedollar day,” but replied that he knew that if his employees made a betterwage, more of them would buy his cars, and they obviously did.

The engine that drives the economy is thatbottom 80%, who buy groceries, and IPads, and flat screen TVs, and cars, andclothing and all the rest. When it has less money to spend, the economystagnates. Many conservatives are fond of comparing the overall economyto a household budget, pointing out the wrongheadedness of spending more thanyou take in. Well, this bottom 80% have household budgets that have beentaking in less each year. So they’re doing the natural and rightthing. They’re adjusting spending to match income.

So it’s not just an issue of jobsand hiring, although those things are clearly very important. It’sthat the people who drive the economy have less gas in the tank to drive itwith than they ever had, and so demand begins to dry up. I think that youcan cut taxes to zero on the supplier side, and get rid of every regulationthat costs them money, and it won’t change the fundamental fact that thebuyers of what those suppliers supply simply have less money to spend.

The people in the top quintile have donea marvelous job of maximizing their earnings. But, to the degree thattheir earnings require that the bottom four quintiles have the income to helpthem earn more money things are trending toward the precarious. This iswhat I see in our economy right now. The drivers of the economy areslowly being marginalized, and it was their ability to buy all the crazyvariety of products and services that built the economy in the first place.

Understand that I am no preaching“class warfare” here, but merely observing the facts. Thereis less disposable money out there to buy things, and this to me is the core ofthe problem. Now, I don’t have a solution. But I do believethat unless we do something—and believe me, I don’t know what thatsomething is—to get to a state where the buyers can buy, the economy willremain stagnant. This is why I feel that what Eric Cantor is suggestingwon’t work. In fact, one might suggest that, rather than this beinga new solution, it is something we have already been doing for the last 40years or so. Our taxes on everyone are at the lowest level in 50 years,yet that reduced tax load does not appear to be making the buyers able to buymore. And even if it should somehow lead to hiring as Cantor claims (andwhich I, as you know, don’t believe), it is highly unlikely to increasewages overall and rectify our bottom 80% problem.

I am fearful that we have perhaps killedthe goose that laid the golden egg—the vast American middle class whogrew the economy. As I said, I don’t know what we should, or evencould, do at this point. There’s no way we’re going to justhand the bottom 80 money to spend. But I am convinced that getting thebottom 80 back to the level of wealth that they had just a few decades ago iswhat will change things for the better. Leaving this as it is, in thispolitical climate, is a recipe for economic disaster.


Friday, August 12, 2011

A Ted Talk from Anya Kamenet

This post started out in my mind as a series of quotations from DIY U by Anya Kamenetz but I went to video because it it more suitable to this time. Still I am going to post the quotation from the book which made me seek out more information about this edupunk!

I have been a technologist (hate the term) at two American high schools and lost my job over advocating these ideas (some people say I am an attack dog:))in a very strenuous way. Traditional teachers have asked me if they do anything right. They have not always liked my answers.

From DIY U by Anya Kamenetz

Technology upsets the traditional hierarchies and catagories of education. It can put the learner at the center of the educational process. Increasingly this means students will decide what they want to learn; when,where,and with whom; and they will learn by doing.

I have always worked in independent schools where the ideas expressed above are particularly threatening and ill received due to the control and selectivity these school exercise. Maybe the present paradigm's time has past. I will leave you to the videos.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tapscott in the Morning

When I was considering this digital world for the first time, one of the most influential books (yes print book!) I read was Don Tapscott's Growing Up Digital (1998). It changed everything for me as a teacher and began the journey that I am still on. Tapscott has written several other books, including, The Digital Economy (1996), Blueprint to The Digital Economy(1998), Digital Capital (2000), Wikinomics (2006), and Macrowikinomics (2010). They make for a facinating body of work which I found to be right on the money. They also support a video he just posted on YouTube which I have embedded here.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Modern Learning Outline

A Modern Learning Outline

The ideas expressed here are based on adopting a paperless, cloud computing model in your application uses. In my view, Google Apps and the cloud computing model is the best way to integrate collaborate document sharing and e-portfolio development into the learning experience. The thrust of a school learning program should be to help students create knowledge, bring knowledge into the learning space from the internet to affect local learning, and adding knowledge to the internet. The industrial paradigm currently in place in both public and private school should be scrapped.

The new learning paradigm should be based on the following
learning principles:

Students are individuals, and encouraged to explore that uniqueness.

The place, history and culture of the learner mediate his or her knowledge.

Interactions with others inside and outside community help shape what is learned.

Responsibility for learning resides significantly with the student.

Teachers should adopt the role of facilitator who assists the learner in arriving at meaning through dialogue, and guiding interactions with others.

Learners should collaborate in tasks and discussions to arrive at shared understanding

Teaching others is a powerful way for the student to learn. Everyone in the learning community should continuously adopt the roles of teacher and learner.

Assessment is continuous, and is primarily feedback or guidance for development. It should be an on-going dialogue with the audience.

Curriculum is shaped by both teacher and learner.

Learning tasks should be structured in open ended ways to allow for

learners to discover and personalize what is learned.

Networked learning should replace analog (Industrial) linear learning.

All students should develop the following skills while interacting with world:

Production skills-the student should develop reasonable typing skills that allow the student to use digital tools in all aspects of the writing program.

Web 2.0 (social networking) skills-the student should develop reasonable skill at using social networking to communicate with students, teachers, and advisors in a productive respectful way. The difference between formal and personal communication should be emphasized.

Network skills-the student should develop reasonable skills in operating within a LAN, including passwords, document skills, files and searching. Password skills and File skills are paramount. A student will begin to develop an E-portfolio record of as much of the school work as is possible . The E-portfolio should move with the student from grade to grade and school to school. It should also become part of the
student’s permanent record.

Cloud computing skills-the student should start to become familiar with operation in a cloud computing environment. Google Apps is a great tool for this. The student should also begin to use all Google tools within their work environment such as Google Earth, Google Books, Google video and anything else they discover.

Web Skills-the student should gain a working knowledge of World Wide web and how to use that resource for news, information, and sharing within the cyberspace.

Digital Health Skills-students should explore internet safety and information validation skills.

The learning paradigm in a school should be skill based and paperless aimed at the following skill based activities listed below. The teacher should be free to develop activities and lessons of their own choice that integrate these skills with the entire program in consultation with colleagues and supervisors. Creativity and thinking skills should be expected and developed in all activities and lessons

Blogging skills-students and teachers should create and use a Blog of their own style and creation in conjunction with other social networking tools. It will become a digital record of what they create in this learning
experience and will hopefully integrate with the rest of their program over time.

Podcasting-students and teachers should create their own audio programs that reflect topics of their own choice integrated into the learning program and the larger world.

Vidcasting-students should learn to create their own videos on the You Tube model and will integrate them into the learning program and the larger world.

Social Networking Skills-students should explore ways to use social networking tools such as Facebook, MySpace, Ning, Twitter, and GoodReads in reasonable productive ways in the learning environment and the larger world.

Cyberspace skills-students should explore the history and definition of cyberspace.

Pattern skills-students should explore several pattern recognition games (Tetris, PopandDrop,and Chain Reaction ) to develop their thinking skills and pattern recognition abilities.

Simulations-Students will explore virtual worlds and the ideas behind them. Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games should be explored.

Learning should ignore time and space and open itself to the world. It should be anytime, anywhere.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Does Your School Fit this Profile

•focus on information and facts in an age when these are all cheaply available on the Internet
•focus on standardized skills in an age where people with only standardized will be competing against lower-cost competition in China and India
•focus on what students know in an age where skills, information, and technologies quickly go out of date
•focus on preparing students for jobs in an age where most jobs are service jobs and do not pay well or bring people much status
•focus on individual achievement in an age where almost all real problems, and most high-tech workplaces, demand skills in team work and collaboration
•underutilize technology and are, indeed, frightened by it as authorities ban Internet sites, mobile devices, and games in an age where almost all deep learning recruits technology
•treat students as consumers, and often passive ones at that, in an age when young people produce, design, modify, and make choices in their popular culture

From James Paul Gee and Elizabeth Hayes Women and Gaming

Sunday, June 26, 2011

ISTE11 opens in Philadelphia Today

Here is a photo from the Bloggers Cafe preparing for the opening keynote in Philadelphia at the ISTE annual convention.

Packin' it in at the Blogger's Cafe for the opening... on Twitpic

Opening Keynote—Dr. John Medina
Brain Rules for Education
Sunday, 5:45–7 pm
Terrace Ballroom
(simulcast throughout PACC)
Author and developmental molecular biologist Dr. John J. Medina wrote the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Presenting a unique and passionate perspective on how different physiological factors of the human brain embrace and shape student potential, Dr. Medina will lead an engaging, dynamic conversation about how knowledge of simple “brain rules” can awaken the educational process and improve learning.

He holds joint affiliate faculty appointments at the University of Washington School of Medicine and at Seattle Pacific University, where he is the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research. Winner of numerous teaching awards, Medina speaks and writes often about the relationship between neurology and education.

Participants are encouraged to Tweet (ISTEkeynote#) specific questions to Dr. Medina for onstage answers. Dr. Medina will be available in the Terrace Ballroom Foyer to sign copies of his book immediately following the session. Purchase your copy at ISTE Central in the Grand Hall.

After the Sunday Keynote and Opening Reception, don't miss the Mural in Motion student-created projection mural. Find out more.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It had to said.....

Schools that survive need to adopt this attitude....
From David Warlick's blog
“No more excuses.”

We’ve waited long enough. It’s been 15, 20, 30 years depending on when you want to start the count. Teachers have had enough time to accept and adapt. They’ve had enough time to decide if they want to teach today or yesterday — enough time to decide if they want to prepare their learners for the future, or for the 1950s.

I’m hearing again and again how education conferences, geared toward 21st century issues, are growing and exceeding attendance projections — and sense that a tipping point might have been reached. We have been patient enough and our students have probably let us get away with foot dragging teachers way too long.

The question is simple, “Are you going to adapt your philosophies and practices to a new generation of learners, a new information environment, and a new future?”.

If not…

Then get out and go run a Laundromat.

Photo Credit: Derived from “Because Elsewhere we tolerate it?!?” posted to Flickr by Angela (Smileygeekgirl)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Games may be gaining a following.....

This is the opening paragraph of an article, The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking, Simulations and How Teachers Can Leverage Them, I discovered from a Tweet this morning. I have been an advocate of simulation gaming for 30 years and am particularly happy to see work like this being done. I hope you will take the time to read the entire article which I have included the link for. The article was written by Eric Klopfer, Scot Osterweil, Jennifer Groff, and Jason Haas from MIT.

What is good learning? That may be a subjective question. But it’s likely that many educators would give answers that fall in the same ballpark…
…students collaborating and discussing ideas, possible solutions…
…project-based learning, designed around real world contexts…
…connecting with other students around the world, on topics of study…
…immersing students in a learning experience that allows them to grapple with a problem,
gaining higher-order thinking skills from pursuing the solution…

To many educators, these notions are music to their ears. Would it seem terribly strange then to hear that students indeed are doing these things regularly outside of their classrooms? While Timmy or Susie may not be running home from school saying, “What fun, deeply-engaging learning experience can we do today?”, they are engagingwith new technologies that provide them with the same opportunities. Every day, many students are spending countless hours immersed in popular technologies—such as Facebook or MySpace, World of Warcraft,or Sim City—which at first glance may seem like a waste of time, and brain cells. But these genres of technologies—Social Networking, Digital Gaming, and Simulations—deserve a second, deeper, look at what’s actually going on.
The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking, Simulations and How Teachers Can Leverage Them

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do Not Tilt Your Head.......

I regularly read a blog called TeachPaperless. Yesterday, there was a post in Teachpaperless entitled "I Don't Want More Professional Development. It began:
We don't need more "professional" development. We need social development. Or at least we need to recognize it and recognize that the ultimate outcomes we often desire from the best of professional development are actually an outcome of social development. We need a development of human capacity, not an adherence to the rules of our established profession. We need to build our relationships for the purpose of furthering our humanity, not furthering our careers

Reading that entry caused me to write a comment on Teachpaperless which I have revised into the blog entry below. Enjoy.

I am not sure how many of the readers here have ever been on Second Life. If you have, you may have noticed what your avatar does when you log off...the avatars body goes limp and their head dips to the right and their chin rests on their shoulder.

Well so many teachers seem to be in a Teacher Second Life while reading this blog. When we leave here and go to school our personas do exactly what a second life avatar does---we go limp and turn our heads away from the reality around us.

And the reason we do it, we are afraid of losing our jobs. And it is a founded fear. If you do not go to sleep and say the same things in faculty meetings, professional development or training sessions, in the faculty room, in meetings with principal, or out on the playground or in the lunch room, that you espouse here, you very well may get fired. School is about control. This blog is about liberation! We all talk liberation but are we willing to walk liberation?

Every revolution has it casualties. If you really want a revolution it may be you. It has been me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Does anyone here not have an MEd?

I read this Alfie Kohn essay this morning and it really hit my intellectual wheel house. All of these things seem so apparant to me that I do not understand why we do not do something about everyone of them. Here are the 10 points:
- Much of the material students are required to memorize is soon forgotten
- Just knowing a lot of facts doesn't mean you're smart
- Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting
- Students are less interested in whatever they're forced to do and more enthusiastic when they have some say
- Just because doing x raises standardized test scores doesn't mean x should be done
- Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about
- We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically
- Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder doesn't mean it's better
- Kids aren't just short adults
- Substance matters more than labels

Thewhole essay is worth a read.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Open Educator Manifesto

The following is a reprint from the Connected Principals Blog by David Truss.Rather than link to it I put the whole manifesto here

[Version I: Just the Manifesto]

My Open Educator Manifesto
‘We’ educate future citizens of the world
Teaching is my professional practice
I Share by default
I am Open, Transparent, Collaborative, and Social
My students own their own: (Learning)
• learning process
• learning environment
• learning products
• learning assessment
My students belong to learning networks
Every student deserves customized learning
• Student voice
• Student choice
Every educator deserves customized learning
I have high expectations
I Care, Share, and Dare
I am a role model
I am the change I want to see in Education!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Philosophy of Learning.


I believe in student-centered learning. A school exists for its students. I am an unrepentant constructivist. I define constructivism as developmentally appropriate learning that is student initiated and directed that is supported by the teacher and classmates of the student. Like Piaget, I see play as instrumental to student learning as it is quite literally, practice for life. I also believe, like John Dewey, that learning should have a practical aspect to it. Learning should be hands on. I believe in dialogue and story telling as the primary structure for communication in a learning environment. Like Jerome Bruner and Roger Schank, I believe we organize our world with narrative order by telling stories and that we should encourage students and teachers to interact in this way. School should prepare us for the world by allowing us to interact with the world. In this technological flat world this is very possible, necessary and doable.

The primary task of a teacher in my view is to discover the passions of the students and to connect those passions to the curriculum in the classroom. The student needs to feel safe so that they will try things and risk failure. Students should proceed at their own rate and not be penalized for failure but rewarded for success. Assess from 0-100 to reward rather than from 100-0 to penalize to put it in grading terms. You score points for what you know rather than lose points for what you do not know. Progress is marked by benchmarks set by the teacher and student. I believe that the learning environment should be a constant dialogue between the members of the class with each other and the world around them. Technology should play a large role in expanding the world of learning. Students should be engaged with the real world.

Students should have real world experiences in their learning worlds. We should strive to put students in situations where they are practicing being what they are interested in. Rather than studying history for instance, students should practice being historians by writing history. Students should be journalists by creating newspapers and magazines. If a student wants to write, the student should publish short stories and novels or magazine articles and journal articles. Students should be encouraged at all times to share what they learn with the world. The purpose of the school should be to put the students’ names in lights. The classroom should be a dialogue and have no physical limits or time boundaries. School should be a place where students and teachers share stories about the world around them with each other and with the larger world through the use of digital technology. The learning environment should be as interdisciplinary as possible. Curiosity should be encouraged rather than destroyed as it is so often in schools. Student interests should drive the learning, not a fixed curriculum.

Everyone in the learning environment should be encouraged to see the world from as many vantage points as possible. That is how a community begins to join together into a new vision of sharing and collaboration. Imagination and creativity are the special traits of human beings that schools should be trying to encourage in everything that they do.

I believe every adult is a teacher in a school. Human beings learn best by example. Our every action presents a way of being to our students. That is a tremendous responsibility that I have always been anxious to shoulder. When we leave school at the end of the day we should all have sore shoulders from all of the students standing on them and leaping into the new world.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Booge in his element....

I love to play chess. I love to be in an imaginative world when everything that happens happens because of what I choose to do. It can all be calculated, figured out, determined.

I think that is why I like teaching so much. The way we do school is so much like a chess game. It is all calculated, all figured out, all played within determined formal rules. The difference is that there is no opponent in school, no dialectic or feedback loop in school, so it never seems to change. That is why I hate it so much!!

No two chess games are ever the same because there is a partner or opponent, in the game who joins in the creation of ideas that are played out on the board. Chess is a collaborative exercise in imagination. School is not, at least in the predominat paradigm. No two schools are ever really that different because there is no interplay of ideas, especially in schools that pride themselves on being content driven! They are all the same, independent or public.

School, like chess, is not about real life. School is artificial and so is the learning that we do there. It is formal and in the long run, the content is meaningless. Its rewards are external and therefore not self sustaining.

Real learning is done in the muck of living. Games like chess and school prepare us to play real life, but they are so far removed from real life that we often confuse them for it. The real problem with school is its own exaggerated sense of importance....and the learners are never allowed to play and collaborate in the outcome. School is all about teaching and never it seems about learning. Chess is all about imagination, and never about doing. The teachers think they have all the answers when they do not even know the questions!

The big question is, who would come to school if we didn't make them! Who is in their element in school?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When I am feeling blue.......

I am a gamer. Playing games is an intregal part of who I am. Playing games is a good thing. I can remember sitting on Paul Filbert's front porch in the summer time and playing Avalon Hill war games or Rummy Royale. I can remember playing chess in Hankie Pauley's kitchen on Friday nights with the glorius wooden chess he brought back from his trip to Mexico. I can remember the giant Risk tournaments we played over entire weekends. Joey Chachulski usually won them. I can remember designing lionel railroad empires in Jeffery Pyzinski's basement or creating rockets out empty CO2 cartridges and launching them filled with matchheads for solid fuel and soldered on sheet metal wings for guidance. Kermit Avenue had the best young Diplomacy players in Buffalo, New York I am sure! Our imaginations raced with new ideas and expanding horizons all of the time. We were not stressed, we did not feel depressed at all. We did not do any of these things in school and we were not watched over every minute of the day. We empowered ourselves.

Games are good for us. They empower us. A recent book by Dr. Jane McGonagal, Reality is Broken , has opened my mind to all types of new ideas, particularly the new science of happiness and the concepts of flow and fiero. Games produce flow and fiero. It makes for great reading and spurs ideas.

Couple Reality is Broken with Johann Huzinga's brilliant Homo Ludens and you will gain new insight into human nature.

Video games also may help us to cope with the crazy world that speeds up every day and infuses us with great anxiety and depression. A research study from the East Carolina University cited the following statistics about human beings in this world we live in from the National Institute of Mental Health:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States an estimated 20.9 million American adults (9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 or older) suffers from a mood disorder, and more than two thirds of those (14.8 million U.S. adults) are cases of major depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44. Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders, and approximately 40 million American adults (about 18 percent of all U.S. adults) have an anxiety disorder.

The study then when on to explore what effect playing video games has on subjects such as those refereneced above. Playing games like Bejeweled, Bookworm, and Peegle from Popcap games significantly reduced depression, stress and anxiety levels in the study groups. All of these games are free by the way and blocked by most school web

filters. I play all of these games and am particularly drawn to them after particularly stressful days at school or when I am feeling overwhelmed by my task and to-do lists we so routinely heap on ourselves and our students. The results of the study are quite startling and deserve to be studied and applied in our schools.Video Games Can Reduce Depression And Anxiety - Study
should be read by every teacher in America. Games may just be good for us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Panera Blues

Here I am sitting in a Panera's Bread in Gainsville, VA writing a 6 AM Thoughts like I envisioned writing it when I conceived the idea. Somehow it just does not feel right. Maybe it is because it is after 7 AM.

I am weary of the constant battle to frame my thoughts in the current school paradigm. I am supposed to be a Technology Integrator. It is always a struggle at

best and impossible at worst to get veteran teachers to leave the safety of broadcast teaching. The technology makes narrow casting possible. The technology allows schools to embrace the long tail!. I am coming to the conclusion that as long as school stays rooted in the Broadcaast paradigm, my task is hopeless.

Most people think that school is about teaching. Education is about learning!! And to be frank about it, it is about individual learning. If Independent schools are to become Independent learning centers they must stop trying to be smaller and more gentle "public schools" from a previous time. No more classrooms, no more fixed curriculums, no more general assessments for all, no more lecture method for instruction. Independent Learning Centers need to be about reading, reading, reading and more reading, and becoming conversant in the present literacies. It is not 1955 any longer. And it should be reading about whatever the learners are interested in.

A dream I know, and one I am not sure I could even participate it because I learned my literacies from a different century. Those are my 6 AM thoughts for February 10, 2011 sitting in a Panera's Bread (or should I say learning center?).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It is a whole new paradigm

I have been absent from the blogging world for a few days because of various and sundry things. School just keeps getting busier and busier as it fights to retain the 19th and 20th century way of doing things. School continues to dig in and resist the challenges to its perceived knowledge monoply.

One of my favorite blogs is called Teachpaperless and it has tirelessly advocated a new paradigm of teaching. Blake-Plock writes on Teachpaperless, January 13 something that struck me right between the eyes.
And I would argue that to see the iPad as a fad is to miss the bigger picture: the iPad only exists within the context of a mobile-connected world. That mobile-connected world is not a novelty; that's a paradigm and a reality.

The mobile connected world is not a novelty, it is a paradigm. Schools need to realize that and make that world part of the school paradigm. That does not mean schools need to pass out digital devices as "gifts" to the students to use in ways the school deems acceptable. Schools are not enlightening students to these tools and way of being....the students are already that way. We need to learn that lesson. Schools need to use the tools in the learning process.

An example again comes from Teachpaperless. Here is a post that outlines an exam given in the new paradigm. A human geography exam. The immediate question will be, will this prepare them for the AP Exam? Who cares!! It will prepare them for the world they DO live in!

A Learning Manifesto

1. Provide universal robust wireless internet access without restriction to students, faculty, staff, and anyone who sets foot on the campus.

2. Expect everyone who sets foot on campus with a digital device to connect that digital device to the wireless internet.

3. Expect everyone on the campus to use the digital paradigm in everything they do.

4. Move everything the school does into the digital cloud.

5. Expect every student to have their own digital devices in their pockets or briefcases NOT PROVIDED BY THE SCHOOL.

6. Expect every teacher and administrator to USE the digital paradigm in their own ways with digital tools NOT PROVIDED by the school but chosen and acquired by the individual.

7. Unplug the copy machines and throw them out with the trash on friday.

8. Outlaw paper in the school.

It can be done! Let us do it!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It is 6AM and the world has not yet begun to wake around me. The sky is dark and there is now snow on the ground around me. This is a very hard time to go to school. It is cold and miserable outside right now. Why should we want to go to school?

Maybe we are all like little puppies being crate trained. All we want to do is explore everything and everywhere. We sniff and smell and poke our nose in everything we find. So should our curisosity be trained as to how to use it. The big question is does crate training destroy us or does is socialize us to use our imaginations in better ways? Was Enstein crate trained? That is what I am thinking about this morning as I wait for the sun to rise.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blended Learing

We are looking for more time in our math classes and in our foreign language classes in the school I teach at. Since I have an MA in Distance Education I have a bias towards on-line education and really believe that our solution lies in the arena of what has come to be known as blended learning. Instead of looking for more teaching time, we should be looking for more scaffolded learning time. It seems to me that, that time will be found outside of the traditional school day. Social networking may just offer a solution.

Today's 6AM questions are:
Can you teach mathematics in Face Book? Can you use Twitter to answer questions in a foreign language? Is following a teacher's twitter feed a reasonable way for mathedmatics teachers to communicate with students? Can you blend a face to face classroom with an Learning Management System to provide additional learning time for student?

That is what I am thinking about this morning. Do you have an thoughts on the subject? Dialogue!! Share with me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Voice--what does it mean?

I was reading a blogpost from MiddleGround by Dr. Troy Roddy and he listed a number of things that he believed made for a good school. Most of the list was hard to argue with because they do make for good organizations.

High-involvement schools…
  • offer challenging and enriching courses.
  • provide faculty, students, and families a voice in the leadership and management of the school.
  • are committed to low student and faculty attrition.
  • support a culture in which all employees are appreciated.
  • nurture the work of divisional, departmental, and ad hoc teams designed to advance the mission of the school.
  • are committed to genuine professional development.
  • demonstrate individual care and concern for all school members and work to align the individual needs of these people to the overall goals and mission of the school..
  • provide a competitive salary and benefits package designed to attract outstanding professionals and maintain the “leadership density” often gained by employing such professionals.

I would like to spend a bit of time speculating about what the term voice means as it is used in the second bullet point above. Is there real power involved in the idea of voice or is it just a way to make constituentcies feel they they have are involved in the decisions of the school? Does voice mean decisions are made by vote? Does voice mean that decisions are made by consensus, and if they are who decides when consensus has been reached? Does voice mean a role in setting the agenda for what happens in a school? Does voice mean there is no hierarchy of decision making? Does voice mean everyone is equal?

Everybody wants a voice in how things are run. What exactly does that mean?

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Day Back

Christmas break is over and I am back at school getting ready for the first day. I am sitting at my computer in Catharpin wondering why I go through all of this. I am having stomach ulcers worring about how everything with the Google expansion is going to go. I received word last night that it did not go well for one of our most active users. I am not sure how we are going to fix it but I am sure that we can. We will figure it out.

The more immediate problem is what we need to do with all of the sixth graders that are going to walk into class bright eyed and bushy tailed waiting for somethink to do. I am wondering if we will do something with the new Google apps or just keep pounding away with the HTML stuff.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Theme Song

I am a very big advocate of using Google tools in schools and this has caused some good natured teasing from some of my colleagues over the "disruption"  of their normal routine. So one of them ( an exceptional teacher and humorous man ) has nicknamed me "Barney Google". Here is my theme song which I hope draws a chuckle from you.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

I went out to the movies with my wife for New Year's Eve. It has become somewhat of a tradition for use to go out to dinner and a movie on New Year's Eve and so rather than spend the evening at a Blues Bar which was our other option, we went to the movies.

We saw The Fighter with Mark Walberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams. The movie was outstanding. It was an incredible portrait of the sad lives of mill town America and how they have nothing but fighting and sports to escape into any dignity at all. It is an indictment of everything about capitalist culture in America. It displayed human beings as pure commodites.

Happy New Year 2011.