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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast
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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast


Racing the Street View

One of the things that got lots of oohs and ahhhs this summer during the many iPad trainings that I did was Google Maps, especially navigating around in Street View™. The teachers and administrators just loved it. I was actually quite surprised how many were seeing this for the first time. Even for those who had explored Street View™ on their laptops or desktops, there was something more intimate and engaging about navigating through their home street and the streets of the world using touch with the iPad.

So when I left one multi-day workshop in Toledo, Ohio at
St. John’s Jesuit High School – even though I was tired and spent, I was suddenly rejuvenated when I saw a Google Street View™ Car! I decided I had to get a picture of it!

I pulled out in to traffic, looked at the lighting and background of the potential picture, trying to determine what angle I would need to move into to get the best picture. I realized that I would probably be going well beyond my safe driver sensibilities trying to get into the lane of traffic beside the car, but I didn’t want a windshield interfering and the back view of the car wasn’t going to be that impressive honestly.

While all this was being processed by my workshop addled brain, I suddenly realized that the driver in front of me was no casual amateur... it seemed he realized that someone was after his image!!! Through a series of unfortunate brake lights and complicit native drivers, I was losing ground quickly. No longer was I nearly beside him on this four lane road. Suddenly, he was three, then six and a lane change later at least eight cars ahead of me. Maybe I should have played some those racing games over the years.

I was beginning to question my mettle the most when I passed under a very yellow light, and gazed wantonly ahead as the Google car was escaping through another light that then promptly turned red in front of me. It was a good thing I had never set my heart on a career as a
Paparazzi Photographer!

But NO! I must have this picture! So even though at moments it seemed as though I had totally lost sight of the vehicle, then I would see the large red ‘soccerball’ on the mast of it’s obscured transport. Again and again it would disappear, then as I begin to give up, I would see it turn on to a side street. The red ball became my alluring enticement to follow on at risk of a ticket for speeding, carelessness and rude behavior.

Surely he wasn’t taking pictures at this speed! I pressed harder on the pedal and squealed between the oncoming traffic into the neighborhood on the left, because I saw him turn there- I know I did. Sure enough he was now moseying along almost calmly... perhaps the camera’s were on and I had caught him like a wildebeest that had stopped to feed on some green grass in the parched prairie!

Finally, he swooped into a cul-de-sac, and I thought this is it... He has to come out of this dead-end trap of a road! I considered pulling across the road to block him and then I could possibly record my quarry as he drove around and around in a puzzled swirl. But as I debated again the best angle, this poor defeated man pulled into a driveway! For what seemed like a long time he just sat in the seat of his car. Then I noticed he was talking on the phone. So maybe he had seen me and was calling the authorities! Or more distressful yet the thought that a black corporate helicopter from the headquarters of that company that finally outgrown it’s
early motto of “Don’t Do Evil”. Ok, my rush of adrenaline had turned to delirium now. I must get out of the car and approach with camera in hand.

“Surely you get this type of behavior all the time,” I asked him... ‘what behavior?’ he replied. “I have followed you for about 6 miles trying to get a picture of your car,“ I explained. He smiled, ‘No, I’ve had a few people take pictures,’ but none that followed him that far that he knew about. “Well, why did he pull into this driveway?” I asked. ‘This is my house, dude!’

He was very kind and let me take a couple of pictures but wasn’t at all eager to answer questions about the camera’s, how long he spends driving around, is he paid by the mile or the hour... I was getting no where, and besides I was feeling a little foolish being so nosey at this point.

Maybe this is why Steve doesn’t want the Apple Logo all over tshirts and other articles of clothing of geeks, nerds and fools like me...

Classroom Response System

As mentioned in previous posts, I primarily focus my energy on multimedia integration in instruction, project-based learning– but I also recognize that a mixed approach to instruction is not only the most realistic for the course instructors, but probably the best for learning outcomes as well.

Furthermore, as I provide training on iPads and iPods in the classroom, I realize that if teachers identify things that they are accustomed to using in an analog world, they may be quicker to try integrating those tasks to a digital world. Standard quiz and test techniques fall into that category.

So with that, I present you with my latest discovery of a fun way to use set’s of iPod Touches, iPads or for schools that are 1:1 with those devices or want to experiment with BYOT (bring your own technology):

After paying dearly (over $1000) for classroom response systems (several times) at my school, the first thing that strikes me about this is the price! For less than $10 (for the host App) on the iPad or iPhone (it is a universal app) – You are in business!

Any internet connected device can respond to quizzes, tests on a webpage, or iOS devices can use a free client App to respond (much more efficient). The teacher can create the standard multiple choice, true false, agree/disagree. You can import diagrams, and even mark up those diagrams in the App. Teachers can share test banks via Bluetooth.

It seems very easy to use in my initial efforts to share it with teachers at workshops– and there are many other features –so rather than repeat what the App store says, go
check it out for yourself!

Vocabulary, Keywords, Tagging & Search Skills

A large portion of my schtick is Multimedia Training, particularly visual literacy and the importance of learning with photography. Sometimes the science educator in me rises up to talk about the importance of Quantitative Observations (as opposed to Qualitative). But lately, I have been thinking again about good, old fashioned vocabulary literacies (reading, writing, and using words).

I am thinking again about what are
21st century skills in a broad sense... one of them is most certainly tagging, keywording and other side of that coin is searching. While there are some fascinating stabs at visual search engines such as Tin Eye, most of the searching (or Googling) that we do is reliant on Words. Vocabulary. Language. Diction. Terminology. Phraseology. Nomenclature. Terms. Expressions. Parlance. Idiom. Jargon. Vernacular.
You get the idea, right?

As important as the visual to invoke emotion, curiousity, learning and memory- and as much as music can set mood and is the
Global Language - We still rely on language to be effective at sharing our multimedia to the widest and most appropriate audience. If we don’t label, title, tag or keyword it effectively, others will never find it. On the other side of the coin, if we are looking for something ourselves– the only way to be effective at searching is to have a broadening mastery of language to expand our search returns, or to filter and refine them.

So as technology integrators, I think we have more reason than ever to expose our students to the process of intentionally going beyond their immediate personal response to the question “How should I tag this?” for pictures and other digital publications. Facilitate the expansion of their vocabulary and perspective by asking them the question: “What would someone else who was looking for this publication use as a search term?” “What would be their view or perspective, and what language would they use?”

This analysis will certainly result in deeper understanding and more durable conceptualization of the topics that they are learning about.

How Thoroughly Has Our Legislature Thought This Through?!

It is predicted that sometime this week Florida Governor Rick Scott will sign a piece of legislation that is similar to one vetoed by our previous governor after an outcry from parents, students and teachers last year. Senate Bill (SB) 736 is very similar to SB 6. It represents our state’s efforts to qualify for the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top money. Our state doesn’t want to miss out on $700 million dollars of federal education funding, so it has crafted a new set of legislation that many believe will compromise the future of public education.

Unfortunately, the legislators themselves have estimated that this Race to the Top prize will not be not be enough to cover the additional expenses of creating new tests, training, deploying, grading and reporting the results of the tests that SB 736 requires. There is immense cost in creating fair standardized tests specific to every course’s curriculum. SB 736 doesn’t provide any additional funding and most citizens are unaware that the additional burden of creating these tests will come out of the local school district’s shrinking budget. It is another case of legislate something new but providing the money to make it happen.

Many of my colleagues believe that SB 736 (and last year’s SB 6) is all about publishers making money from standardized tests and the grading of those tests. A well-placed team of lobbyists can be very influential.

What is happening to curiosity-driven inquiry? With all the stress of testing, are children going lose yet more of their childhood? One question teachers and parents are asking is
Do we really want instructional time devoted to more standardized style testing?; but I think the real question is What does all this testing tell us?

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein

Concern #1 What are we testing?!
When we begin to look at assessment, one of the first thoughts that come to my mind is a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein:
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. However, it is probably better to credit sociologist William Bruce Cameron who wrote something very similar in his 1963 book: Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963). It appears to have made some impression on Albert Einstein who apparently quoted it and became associated with this thought. But I digress...

(1) Ben Grey (bengrey) on Twitter
Illinoisan Tech Ben Grey gave voice to a concern that many experienced educators have: What have we identified as the highest measures of the educated? Are the noblest characteristics of a learned person being measured? Can they be measured in a ‘standardized test fashion’? Ben tweeted the question, Where is our standardized test for creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communicating?

Seesmic Desktop 2 -
In Florida’s SB 736 a teacher’s livelihood will be determined by test scores that have very little to do with Ben’s list of admirable educational goals. Mom and Dad, future employer, you who are soon to retire, do you want our public schools to demote or (worse yet) fire teachers that emphasize these objectives? I promise you, the obsession with FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) scores have already pushed project-based learning and practically relevant learning experiences out of the classrooms I facilitate as a technology integrator at my school. Coverage, coverage, coverage... tell them what they need to know, then test them. Students don’t need to think for themselves, they just need to know. End of course tests have already put Algebra teachers at my school on a demanding, unforgiving schedule so focused on hitting every chapter to stay on time that passion and relevance are shot and it is hard not to leave children behind.

Concern #2 What do the test numbers really mean?!
Education is not as simple as manufacturing widgets in a factory. Most public school teachers cannot determine the type of student that crosses their threshold each August. Unlike other vocations, educators have very little control on the raw goods they are given and the events of any given household, community or school are not consistent year to year. Measuring the success of a teacher following a year of instruction is much more complex than developing a quality product in a factory assembly line.

I am trained as a scientist. Science relies on numbers to prove or disprove a hypothesis. An experiment may provide results that are different from a control group but not statistically significant. The term
Statistically Significant is used when the results are unlikely to have occurred by chance alone. Cause and Effect is very difficult to establish, because observed results are not always a direct result of the treatment.

In the physical sciences, cause and effect is easier to establish because physical science subjects “behave” consistently according to the laws of energy, principles of mass, etc. Sciences that deal with living things introduce much more complex systems. There are so many variables (many hard to quantify) i.e., internal vigor, hormone levels, diet, previous experience. The complexity of living things make it very difficult to establish cause and effect, and this complexity is even greater with human subjects.
When we say a teacher should not return to their job next fall because their students didn’t make significant improvement on their standardized test scores, we are implying a cause and effect relationship that doesn’t necessarily exist.

Let’s suppose that we know that the end of year test is good. The student did learn something. The test measures (correctly) that gains were made. Does this mean that the teacher was successful. Not unless there are significant numbers and significant gains and repeated success with a wide variety of students. It is a very large leap from the test correctly evaluating the student to the test evaluating the teacher in a cause and effect relationship.

I am not a statistician, and I don’t play one on TV, but I really question the validity of relying on test score improvement each year as the primary measure of how effective a teacher is. Here are some points to ponder:
  • Currently, teachers have about 50 hours (per subject) to ‘move the needle’ before the FCAT is taken. Subtract classroom management, unavoidable student absences, and various interruptions, the actual time that teachers have to ‘produce learning’ is not as great as ‘a year of instruction’ might indicate.
  • Although teachers are very important, the range and potential effect of other variables in the learning styles, foundational experiences, home, and emotional environment can overwhelm the effect of a charismatic, logical, knowledgeable, and talented learning facilitator. The total time students are ‘exposed’ to other stimuli far outweighs the time they are exposed to the teacher’s instruction.
  • Because students have different learning styles, our very best teachers are most successful when using a specific teaching style to teach them. The factory model of education that standardized testing assumes and reinforces makes it much more difficult for them to operate in the range of learning styles. If our teachers are supposed to deliver ‘differentiated instruction’ then assessment must be differentiated as well. This is at odds with the idea of standardized testing which says that success is measured by one standard applied to all in the same way.
  • In statistical language, I wonder about sample size, the randomness of selection of subjects (sampling distribution), disqualification of outlier results, standard deviation, significance of small gains or small losses (effect size). Human learning research is confounded by many more variables and measurement issues than other sciences. That is why behavioral and social sciences are called a ‘soft science’ and human learning is at the farthest end of the soft science <–> hard science continuum. Are true social science statisticians going to review this process to determine if there is statistically sound reason to award, penalize, or fire teachers based on their class’s scores on one test??!!
  • My final concern has to do with the internal reliability of the instrument. SB 736 (if signed and not blocked by courts) starts July 1st. End of course testing has begun and judgements will be made next year on the results of these tests. Assuming each teacher will be giving a pre-test for their course and post-test, someone has a lot of work to do (with no money) prior to the start of school in August. What is kind of quality are we to expect of these tests? This bill is intended to be used for hiring and firing decisions next year. It is unrealistic that these tests will be an equitable, fair assessment for such huge consequences.

When SB 736 ties a teacher’s pay (or even more seriously, the teacher’s employment) to their students’ test grades we need to be absolutely certain that cause and effect can be proven in a statistically significant fashion. We are talking about a teacher’s livelihood, their future; these are real people with families they are supporting. Personally, I am not confident that our legislators have taken these validity concerns into consideration. When we make a law, it must be fair to all people under all conditions. All courses, all teachers, all grade levels in an equitable, humane, fair fashion.

I understand the frustration of the public. There are bad educators that we need to be able to get out of the classroom. It would be nice to reward the efforts of excellent educators. However, annual test gains are not the answer to a very, very complex problem.

I have thoroughly enjoyed over 25 years as a career educator. I love being with students, watching them learn and learning with them. I have been honored several times on local regional and national scale as an educator. My students have achieved great things. Even though it has been difficult financially to support my family solely on my public school salary, I feel fulfilled through my career.

However, I am very reluctant to recommend education as a career to my brightest students– given this obsession with test scores. And I doubt they would be persuaded any way.

Teaching with Photography

Picture My World Logo

I am so excited about my latest school project!

Our school on the Space Coast of Florida has issued a challenge to middle grade schools in six other countries:

As a social studies class project, my school will host 4 photo galleries for students to submit pictures from their country. Let’s learn together visually about life in your country.

The Participants this round: United States (contest host)

There are four categories:
Food Picture Gallery: What food or beverages do you regularly eat that you think might be different from other countries?
Traditions Picture Gallery: What Cultural/Religious/Historical traditions do you participate in that might be unique to your country?
Home Life Picture Gallery: Do you think that your living accommodations or decor may be different from other countries?
School Picture Gallery What does your classroom and school day look like? Is it different from mine?
We will be hosting this project on our school’s Studywiz server. Each student from each country can post one picture in each category. We will rely on Exif information and honor code to insure the pictures were taken by the students during the contest period (the first three weeks of April). Teachers will monitor submissions from their students using RSS feed aggregation.

After the three week submission period, we will lock the students from further submissions and open up a five star rating, commenting and tagging system. Teachers will promote up to five pictures in each category to a new gallery that only the sponsoring teachers can submit their student’s pictures to. These will be our
Photographic Best Gallery (PBG).

The Photographic Best Galleries will be judged and commented on for photographic skills and composition, and the general student school galleries will be rated for social/cultural interest and comments should be more of a conversation about cultures.

Students can ask the photographer and other students questions for clarification or more information. This will be where social networking skills (tagging, commenting), and some of the Technology Literacy goals regarding communication and ethical exchanges will take place. 

All photos will be available for viewing all through the month of May and may also be downloaded under Creative Commons Licensing.

Doesn’t this sound fun?

iOS / iPad not 'better' but 'good different'?

I am &#39;Good Different&#39;
Was provoked to dialog in a twitter exchange between Ben Grey, Jon Becker and Dean Shareski regarding Dean’s blog post: Why the iPad is Different
(this is a good blog to read- check it out!)

We lose a bit of perspective when we try and equate iOS devices to laptops and netbooks. iOS devices have taken novel technologies and have opened up one of the first genuinely new ways of interacting with a computer.

After reading various GUI Experts* critiques for years, I have been intrigued with the notion that people were tired of the Desktop/File System/Mouse/Icon ways of interacting with computers. REALLY? So what would this look like? What could be better? The iOS has answered that question for me (sometimes). Maybe not 'better' but at least "good different".

Although iOS doesn't completely change the way everything works (we still have icons and clipboard, etc.), it is a pretty radical departure that makes computing much lighter weight, generally lighter wait, and simpler. Furthermore, accelerometers, gyros, geolocation, multitouch surface, these are integrated and being integrated in ways that are refreshing, novel, and inspiring! Most of us would not have imagined the crazy things that could be done with these technologies if we were limited to a laptop or netbook form factor.

So I believe our students and educators deserve to have access to both experiences and I think that true technology literacy is developed by being aware of the strengths and appropriateness of a variety of tools.

*such as the late Jef Raskin, one of the creators of the original MacOS GUI says "shuttling between a keyboard and a mouse wastes too much time."

Metacognition and Authentic Audience Opportunities

Why do we do things the way we do?

How do we make the process more effective, more efficient, more effectual?

When we ask these things, we take our learning to the next level. At least that is my opinion.

Mid–January 2011, seven of my students (seventh and eighth graders) stayed after school to
mentor students on the other side of the continent.

New Village Leadership Academy (NVLA) is a private school founded by the actor Will Smith. His son and daughter are students at this K-8 school.

Recently, their Technology Director, Mrs. McGuire asked Mr. Shupe for some suggestions for initiating a weekly school news program for broadcast in their school. He offered to have our Video Production mentor their students using iChat Video Conference and Screensharing technology. We did some pre-planning in our regular class time during school, but the NVLA students were not available until 1 PM Pacific Time (4 PM EST).

Mrs. McGuire downloaded and installed FaceTimeTM for the Mac. This allowed our students to use an ultra- portable wireless video camera on an iPod TouchTM to give our guests in California a tour of our studio. NVLA students were watching and listening to the narration on their teachers iMac in CA.
The detailed process from anchor desk to micing the talent and using the TelePrompter. Students were able to show
how the cables were hooked up with the wireless camera and where other stu- dents worked on various parts of the broadcast. Our students did a remarkable job, first using the iPod Touch with FaceTime, then moving to using iChat to share their screen with the students in CA. This allowed them to show the stu- dents how they used the different applications to create, edit then move large video files directly (and quickly) from a production computer to the final product editing and broadcast computer.
Mr. Shupe commented: My students were walking on clouds as they left our meeting. Someone far away (an authentic audience) wanted to hear from their experience and expertise. This was a unique opportunity for metacognition that occurs when the learner and practicer becomes the expert. They reflect on how and why they do a complex task. They revisit sequences, troubleshooting, effi- cacy of certain actions and skills. They have to prioritize and consider their audi- ence in their communication.
That evening, Mrs. McGuire sent an enthusiastic reflection back to our school:
OMG! that was so cool! Your kids are rock stars!! Thanks so much! My kids were so excited about their own news show done!