Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

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Ed Tech Thoughts
from the
Space Coast

Mr. G. Shupe
Access Excellence Fellow
Apple Distinguished Educator NMC Horizon Project K-12 Advisory Board

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Things I have found interesting lately- in a magazine format:
... a successful design delivers a message to the viewer that words alone can't. Design is capable of evoking atmosphere and emotion, creating a tone, and soliciting a response from the viewer.
Dave Shea
Molly E. Holzschlag
The Zen of CSS design

What if our lesson plans didn't say what the teacher would be doing, but what the students would be doing?

Carey Pohanka
a profound tweet

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Assess the Assessment: Deadly Bullet Points

Pasted Graphic
Today I participated in another political survey. I encourage parents, teachers and education professionals to take this survey as well.

Here is a list of my summary comments:
  • The idea that learning occurs on a schedule, in a standardized fashion for all students is ill informed.
  • The legitimacy of using a single test given one time and one time only is not a legitimate way to grade instruction nor the instructor.
  • There are serious validity errors statistically and content wise with high stakes testing. In real life, there is not 'only one test', nor 'only one correct answer', much less a perfect question.
  • Furthermore, although a teacher can be very influential in a students life, our students do not come to us in a standardized fashion: they do not have the same life experiences, communication skills, health, aptitude, home conditions, curiosity, etc. The idea that they will all leave in standardized levels is really asinine.
  • The focus on testing and preparing for the test is killing our students and teachers love for learning, creativity, and healthy response when there is a lack of success.
  • Finally, the most important things that a teacher is charged with building into our students is not on 'the test', nor can it easily be assessed.

    As the sociologist William Bruce Cameron wrote: "It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."


Norwegian School Places Parents Under the Tutelage of Educators

A former student and friend shared a Norwegian news article with me and asked me what I thought… a Facebook question and response turned into a blog post. You may want to start with the new article:

The school has a new task, namely to educate parents

photo credit: Jim Forest, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/3346684797
Even though this article reports on education in Norway, we have seen similar policies in the good old U.S. of A. We have often said that student success has a high correlation with stable, healthy home environments and supportive, educated parents. So the big question is can (or should) teachers be held responsible or accountable for parent learning or educational involvement?

The Denmark regulation states: The school and now will: facilitate cooperation with the home and ensure that parents / guardians share responsibility in schools. Good teachers should already be doing that. The concern is when it becomes law and must be documented, assessed and enforced.

On one hand it makes sense that parents should bear equal (or greater) responsibility for learning – but it is hard to legislate that. We cannot require parents to engage their teen children in intelligent discussion around the dinner table, or read to their primary children several times a week. Nor can we fine they provide their children with enriching experiences like vacations to historical sites, natural wonders... and exactly how should educators demand, reward, or 'grade' parenting skills? Will administrators look at a portfolio of parent achievement and involvement before promoting a student to the next grade?

How do we penalize parents for bad attitudes towards learning, school, homework, teachers, administrators, teaching resources? This is a huge part of the problem for poor achievers or learning challenged students, their parents reinforce bad attitudes, enabling irresponsibility, making excuses for their children rather than developing a positive solution for growth.

Although I think the parents have the majority of the responsibility for the quality and aptitude for learning of their children, the libertarian part of me says, stay out of my home. And be careful about what you teach my children about religion, sex, and your version of political correctness.

So that takes us to the teacher part of the equation. I think a good learning community provides opportunities for the parents to learn alongside their children. At Stone Magnet Middle School, we need to have a more open campus, encourage parent volunteerism, provide learning opportunities for parents in technology literacy, access to learning materials. But we also need to guard against 'helicopter parents' that smother the child's independence. (I found it interesting that the article actually translates this term, which I would imagine originated in the US.)

The most alarming part of this, and clearly a main point in the Norwegian article, is the question of implementation. When you establish policy, you need to be able to assess compliance. So now our good teachers who are doing as much as they can already for each individual student, have a new checkbox/task that has to be addressed for each individual student. Teachers either comply with this new responsibility and give something else important up, or they risk losing their job, pay, or professional standing.

photo credit: John Gulliver https://www.flickr.com/photos/johngulliver/3118705441
There is always more one should do as an educator. Adding parents to the equation might calculate to over tripling the responsibilities of the educator, when you add in a mother, father, and/or significant other (stepfather/mother, boyfriend, girlfriend). Did I mention how hard it is to get a hold of those who don't walk through the door of your classroom? If your current class size is 24, this becomes now 72 people to contact, counsel, evaluate, listen and communicate with, etc. For secondary teachers, the relationships will expand from 120 to 360 (on average). Personalized education is not like a factory that you can retool and ramp up production with the same manpower.

It appears that the conclusion of the article is that excellent teachers are already overwhelmed with responsibility and will leave their profession with its ever expanding burden of stress and accountability. They will leave their passion and calling for a job where they can put in a solid 50 hour workweek, turn out the light and lock the work door behind them. Can you blame them?


FETC Take Aways - First Edition - The T-Shirt Discovery

It is hard to go to FETC and not feel enthused about creativity and innovation. For four years, Tim Wilson, other ADE friends and I produced a popular podcast series called Conference Connections where we tried to capture some of the most powerful messages and innovations of Ed Tech Conferences. I am determined to continue in that tradition in a series of blogs reflecting on what I took away from FETC 2015.

Cut to the chase Shupester, don't bore me with the story of how a t-shirt led to your new discovery!
Growing up in a beach surf culture in the 1970's engendered an extraordinary interest in t-shirts. Promoting rock concerts and doing rock radio in the 80's just reinforced my obsession and collective hoarding. What a fun way to show whose tribe I belong to, what products I like, what jams I listen to.

So when I am at a conference, watching for interesting t-shirts is a part of the experience. Sure, maybe t-shirts are less
professional but I find them way more interesting than ties with button-downs or frilly blouses. Usually I am drawn to the snarky t-shirt humor, clever play on words, geeky cultural references – but this week my attention was drawn to a simple font and single word on a white t-shirt:

So I saw the fellow wearing this shirt in the Thursday morning, and wondered if it was a thought–provocative saying, educationese, a new software product or what. Right away, it was making me think. I Like that!

The youthful man wearing the shirt was busy on the phone, so I didn't want to interrupt him. I figured I would keep my eye out for another
formative shirt and look around in the (massive) exhibit hall. Mind you there were several thousand attendees and over 500 exhibitors. I didn't find this logo anywhere else, but late afternoon, I passed by him again and he was on the phone (again). However, this time, I told him that I really liked his shirt and he said "thanks - so much!" He seemed genuinely pleased that I noticed it and heard him say to whoever he was talking to "This guy just said he liked our shirt!".

So, I figured that was the end of it. At least I had made someone happy that I noticed their shirt design. Happy

Yet, we were destined to meet again. I had sent out a invite for a Apple Distinguished Educator / New Media Consortium meetup outside the Apple Classroom for a late dinner. I stayed behind while some of the Apple folks went on to the restaurant. Looking across the way, I saw this t-shirt fellow sitting at a table by himself.

Craig Jones told me that this was his second FETC, and that Rushton Hurley had helped get him there last year (good endorsement!). This year he was here to promote the just released web project:
GoFormative. When he described it as a student response system/formative assessment, I was skeptical… especially about the response system part. Wasn't that already a saturated market? Isn't that reinforcing, "One answer, quick can you guess what one answer I am looking for?!!?"

So with a live demonstration and the toughest questions I could ask answered, I urge you to take your own look at this. No booth, no concurrent session, but a very innovative web platform for live response formative assessment. And it is free!

This is going to be a website for my teachers to try and one for all of us to watch: http://goformative.com Check it out and leave me some comments!

I admit, I am cheap… but also skeptical when someone says something is free. So one of my questions for GoFormative is how are they going to monetize this service. He explained to me that they were in good shape for several years at least as a member of a startup investor sort of foundation for Education:

This Fall, the Formative team began in Silicon Valley, working out of the famed accelerator, Imagine K12.  Nicknamed “the Y Combinator of Education,” Imagine K12 has helped launch several noteworthy classroom products to date, including ClassDojo, Remind101, Educreations, NoRedInk, Plickers and many many others.


This Almost Makes Me Cuss!!!

Whoops!!! Seriously?
iCloud - Pages
Did you just break my collaborations?

Apple is cutting us off from sharing any of our Pages documents in the Cloud? Yosemite is not yet available and apparently any earlier OS is no longer working in the cloud. I get it that I was using (and encouraging the use of) a
beta product. I also understand the merging and interoperability of the iOS apps and documents. But a sudden, blunt cutoff is bad for customer confidence and satisfaction.

Hope this is just a momentary reversible mistake, Apple!

Update: After almost 2 hours on the phone with Apple Support:
It appears that there is no workaround.
However, it is not as bad as the above screenshot would make you think. If you do convert to iCloud drive, the Senior Representative said you could access the files from a Mavericks machine, but the syncing of the document with two (or more) people working on it was the real issue. He couldn’t confirm that changes would be pushed up to the cloud.


The Analog-Digital Challenge

This weekend I was visiting with a local electrical engineer in a well-known high tech company. We started talking about the changes about to take place in my school's learning environment (with a 1:1 initiative). I was surprised that (initially) he didn't share my enthusiasm for the potential this project would have. 

When I came home, I ran across this challenge that Rae Niles shared on the ADE list a decade ago. She had gotten it from an anonymous source in Abilene High School I added a few lines myself, and sent it out to my school's teaching staff with this note:

I ask you to forgive the idealistic notion that this is going to be an immediate/easy change... but let's gear up for a major change in our learning culture. Please don't take this as a challenge to the effort or quality of instruction in your classroom, it is meant more to challenge us to think about why the changes coming are worthwhile.

Let's have a little competition at school and get ready for the future.
I will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil.
 Are you ready?

  • I will access up-to-date information - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I will immediately know when I misspell a word you have to wait until it's graded.
  • I will learn how to care for technology by using – it you will read about it.
  • I will see math problems in 3d, you will do the odd problems.
  • I will be able to communicate richly using multimedia and review, reflect and revise my communication for a superior final product – you will write 10 facts as a summary our assignment.
  • I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world you will share yours with the teacher (and maybe the class).
  • I will be able to experience just-in-time learning on demand while your teacher will try and predict when the computers might be needed and try to schedule the lab.
  • I will have 24/7 access to the biggest library in human history, you have the entire class period several times a year if your teacher scheduled the computer lab.
  • I will learn to troubleshoot technology problems, you will wish you had technology.
  • I will work interactively with information while yours will be printed and photocopied.
  • I will select my learning style you will use the teacher's favorite learning style.
  • I will organize my notes electronically, archive them, learn to search and find information in my portfolio, you will struggle with heavy static books/notebooks and a bulky three ring binder with torn, smeared wrinkled and sometimes illegible content.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world and (maybe) you will get to collaborate with peers in your classroom.
  • I will take my learning as far as I want while you must wait for the rest of the class.
  • I will know the difference between and effectively use: ordered lists and unordered lists, hanging indents, a text cell, calculated field, a graphic created with vectors or bitmaps, transparency, chromakey, layers, web authoring, scripting, markup language and basic programming – you will struggle to write within the margins of your paper and build big enough tables to contain your notes, even when you reach an new understanding.
  • I will build additional skills that will transfer to adulthood jobs, social interaction, politics, and life successes while you are limited to only the most rudimentary tools for learning.

The cost of a laptop per year? - $300/year average
The cost of teacher and student training?
The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless
Photo Credit: jazzijava via Compfight cc