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

Personal Reflections

What Do Kids in the Hall Say About Your Class?

A collection of nationally reknown educators recently started a Facebook Group built around Angela Maiers mantra “You Matter”. The “Choose 2 Matter” group asked for examples of how we have helped some one Choose 2 Matter. This blog post is a response to that question.
In my role as technology consultant, I work with relatively small groups of teachers in two cities a week during the summer and at least 1 group a month during the school year around the nation. Although it is not a required part of the curriculum, I always try and fit in a discussion / activity concerning Classroom Culture.

Classroom Culture is one of the last, but most important areas that teachers still have considerable control. As educators, we set the stage for our classroom. We can’t do much about the baggage that our students bring with them into the classroom, we don’t often get to choose the textbook or course standards, and we often are limited considerably by our physical environment (paint, temperature, sound levels, type of lighting, etc.). But we do have considerable control how learning activities are staged.

So the essential question is:
What do the students say among themselves about your class?

Answering this question may be a depressing thing to contemplate. I think most all teachers want their students to like them, and maybe even more they want them to like their subject area and course.

So I believe this is a very important reflection activity for us as educators…
What do they say? and What would we like them to say?… Once we have answered these questions, the next obvious question is How do we get there?

Some of the first answers to the last question from workshop participants is:
Respect your students, and teach them to show respect to each other. Make them feel safe (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) in the borders of your domain.
Carefully choose your words and perhaps watch video of your self interacting with your students in both whole group as well as small group settings. What does your body language say?
Provide not only wait time following questions, but give students time to reflect and interact with each other.
To create life long learners, passionately share your failures as opportunities to learn. Model life long learning. Props to
David Warlick for this thought.

You will no doubt begin to come up with many more ideas, but I would like to leave you with one additional strategy to consider. Now that digital cameras are on most everyone’s phones, and cameras are readily available in other forms, MAKE PICTURES all the time! Capture your students working, struggling, discussing, debating, laughing, entertaining…. or better yet have a couple of students assigned to be photojournalists for the week.

Then display those images as bell ringer slideshows, learning celebrations, and possibly on review materials, in webpages, on parent emails and conferences.

What are you communicating to the students and what does this have to do with Classroom Culture?
How about:
  • I care about you.
  • I like you.
  • I want to remember you.
  • What you do in here is important.
  • What your (brother, sister, kid down the street) did was important.
  • People/Students are a focus of this classroom.

This is just one small (fun and easy) strategy for developing a positive classroom culture, and it will take many other strategies to complete that transformation. But there are many side benefits to having a visual record of your classroom… even curriculum goals will benefit: seeing themselves doing stuff in your class will cause the concepts to be revisited and reinforce the permanence of the cognitive structures being created.


Each Choice We Make, Leads Us to the Future

I am often stimulated to deeper thought about the implications of the use of technology by Leo Laporte and his guests at one of my favorite podcasts, This Week in Technology

In last week’s episode, Leo used one of those inflammatory types of expressions that cause a gut reaction: REDLINING the INTERNET.

Redlining from Wikipedia: It describes the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest; later the term was applied to discrimination against a particular group of people (usually by race or sex) no matter the geography.

Now this may be a bit of exaggeration used to make a point. But it certainly got me thinking!

He said that the effect of our social graphs and digital footprints have become a sort of Social Redlining – how it works is this…
  1. We search for certain things (cookies record this)
  2. We click on certain links (cookies record this)
  3. Then when we load in a new webpage, the web server ‘serves up’ advertisements that correspond with the ‘profile’ or social graph that you have subconsciously created.

Anyone that has shopped for bird feeders on Amazon, for instance, has gotten the email: “
Customers who have shown an interest in bird feeders might be interested in the following products: (numerous related products follow).

For most of us, this is a good thing. It is a given that websites are going to serve up ads. That is how they pay the expenses of gathering content, hosting it, etc. Most of us would rather see ads for stuff we are interested in, so even the consumer benefits.

What was interesting about this though is it has an amplifying, steering affect, which may become a drawback. It may narrow your choices and restrict your experience in a bad way. If you click on one style of music several times, you may never be exposed to other styles. The marketers are making an assumption about you, which may or may not be completely true and like a self-fulfilling prophecy you become more ingrained in the things that were once only a part of the whole picture of who you are.

I am not suggesting that we explicitly teach students to change the way they click and search the internet. But I do thing there is value in discussing this as we talk about modern economics, marketing, consumer behavior and technology (media) literacy.


image found in Wikipedia article • originally from the National Archives

Reviewing an article
Reviewing an article about Google’s unifying their multitude of services has particular relevance to this idea. One of the results of this recent change in policy is to unite the data they generate to create what will certainly be one of the biggest databases of human activity and interests ever created. What can be done with that information? "The more data and the more signals that you know about any particular cookie or users, the more predictive you can be," said Mr. Wheeler, who expects to see Google release advertising products that tap into the social and interest graph the privacy policy is enabling it to build. "Their data set is being stitched together in a way that I think can bring tremendous value to advertisers." So can your social graph turn into a sort of Redlining of the Internet? What do your clicks and searches say about you?


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...

Social Learning, Careers, and Networks

Are you connected? Or have you isolated yourself intellectually?

These are questions for our students as we help them find their place in the world and develop them into life-long learners. I suspect we are not doing a very good job of emphasizing this which is one of the most important of the digital world citizen skills.

As I watch my 18 and 21 year old children, I recognize that their most important goals are assisted by social network technologies (texting, Facebook™, Flickr, etc.). Their priorities (currently) seem to be social ranking and grouping in general. I can only hope that they eventually will find their efforts gravitating towards expanding their ‘professional/intellectual/spiritual’ positions and leveraging their network to expand their realm of influence and circle of resources.

Is it a ‘new type’ of metacognition that I am engaging in here? As I am thinking about intentionally nurturing relationships I want to share my passion for learning and giving back to that same community. The key word I think is
intentional - that is being mindful of how I am connecting. Understanding that there is real value in some connections and yet other connections are a distraction from growth. This seems to be an increasingly important self-evaluation that we and our students need to make.

Most of us who are parents encouraged our children to ‘choose their friends wisely’. We talked about friends that were bad influences and being a friend that was a good influence. Once again, technology amplifies the implications of real world opportunities, skills, and such in the
virtual world of cyberspace.

You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter. With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.

President Obama • May 2010 Commencement Address • Hampton University, Virginia

I think it may be very hard (some say impossible) to teach ethics and values. Perhaps if we were to see more classrooms leveraging Web 2.0 and Social Networking technologies as learning tools; perhaps if more of our teachers were able to share how they themselves were networked, lifelong learners; perhaps then this issue of the distracted, networked learner would be alleviated and the double edged sword of technology would reap great benefits.

Disciplined networking and informed/evaluated access to others is what will determine the character of the
24/7 media environment that our President has referred to.

A Bummer of A Day

Yesterday was a Sad-Man-Shupe day...

After synagogue services, we broke our usual routine of rest and relaxation for the Shabbat in order to perform a good deed. A Zionist Christian friend had been holding a garage sale to raise money for some humanitarian work in Central America. We have helped her before by moving the stuff that didn’t sell over to another local mission that does homeless and alcohol rehab work for sale in their thrift shop.

It is already pretty hot and the thrift shop was only a couple miles away, but closing early. I agreed to make one run in our van while the gals organized and boxed up the second load. My wife notice her Torah bag with her dance shoes and other stuff was up against the back of passenger’s side front seat and started to move it, but I told her we could leave it in there, I would just watch and make sure it was not unloaded at the thrift store. I was concerned that if we took it out, (along with my bag), everything would shift and fall.

So when I got to the thrift store, there was only one young man there to help unload and he said they were just about to close up. I panicked and when into high gear to help him unload. In the heat and pressure of quickly unloading I forgot about our personal stuff until we had gotten most everything out of the van. And I had been unloading the opposite side of the van thinking (foolishly) about saving some ink cartridges which we recycle for a school fundraiser.

Now one would have thought that a high end black computer bag would not be included in a set of mismatched kitchen items, worn out Little Tyke kitchen toys, and shabby clothing. But one also would have expected a person who values and cares for technology would have had better sense that to leave it in the back of a van transporting garage sale rejects.

So after emptying the van, I noticed my bag missing and retrieved it and a broken iPad, the screen shattered. I was really quite upset, uttering a naughty word, which those who know will attest, I seldom do.

Amazingly, it still works!
(Albeit not with such astonishing beauty and splendor.)

It didn’t even occur to me to try it. I brought it home beset in somewhat of a funk... my son’s friend (who hadn’t seen it yet) saw me come in the door and immediately asked if he could see it. He didn’t know it was broken, but was just an Apple iPhone/Macbook user and and wanted to try out the new product.

I showed him and he immediately turned it on! Yikes!!!

The Fix...
I actually haven’t made the final decision yet, but found rather quickly that I can have Apple replace it for $269 (I bought the $499 model) or send it to a third party service company for $199.

Getting Engaged

It is so easy to complain...

Ruts are really quite comfortable. I have been down this path before, I know where it leads...

Kids today don’t want to learn. They don’t pay attention. They are so rude!

Maybe they can’t see me down here in this rut...

AM I READY for something new? AM I WILLING TO TRY?

Finally Back

It has been a struggle to take time out to write anything meaningful in this blog. I have got to get beyond the idea that it has to be revolutionary to be expressed.

Been marking off the "First I Gottas" before installing Leopard (Mac OS 10):
  • Upgrade memory on my MacBook Pro: 4 GB
  • Purchase a Terrabyte Firewire 800 Drive for running Time Machine (see below)
  • Clone my harddrive to an external firewire drive.
  • Upgrade harddrive in my MacBook Pro: 250 GB
  • Install the latest flavor of OS X - Leopard.
  • Migrate the my old user folder and extra applications.
  • Keep my old (smaller) MacBook Pro drive in a portable USB drive with my "new laptop" so I can recover any missing serial numbers, etc. Gasp
Very pleased so far. Struggled a bit with completing the first complete Time Machine backup. It "stopped" in the middle of a few efforts and a few times I had to disconnect it to go someplace.

Reflections on Europe, Walls, and our Current Condition....

Hello Fellow Learners!

This summer about 60 other Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE's) and I spent 10 days at the 2006 ADE Global Awareness Institute in Berlin and Prague. The focus was to brainstorm ways of bringing more of a global perspective to the digital classroom.

One of the major themes during our trip to Europe was "Walls". It may have not been as intentional, but it seemed that another theme was the suffering of the Jewish people over the millenia (not just the Holocaust generation). Regarding the wall, one of my fellow travelers wrote a reflection that I agree with in part, but it definitely pushed some other buttons of mine:

On Aug 11, 2006, at 10:50 AM, someone wrote:

Last night, a friend of mine just returned from Israel and Gaza where she stayed with some Palestinian families and pondered the new wall that has been built.

It was quite a conversation, that I of course recorded, about how families had been divided who were neighbors the day before. How one side of the wall was wealthy and the other poor. How paintings and art decorated one side and bare cement the other. How the wall was keeping one side out. I don't understand how a generation who saw the Berlin Wall come down could construct another wall in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and around settlements on Palestinian land.

Our project work could never be more timely. I keep asking myself, what can I share to bring thoughtfulness about the issue of "what am I shutting out," and build partnerships.

I would like to respectfully provide a little bit different perspective on the Israeli Security Barrier (the majority of which is a chainlink fence - not actually a wall).

I really think that there are _more differences than similarities_ between the Berlin Wall and the barrier in Israel. The biggest difference is the reason that the two barriers were erected:

"The Berlin Wall was designed by the Communist regime of East Germany to solidify and perpetuate the division of the city by keeping the German citizens of "East Berlin" ― who sought only freedom and contacts with their German brethren in "West Berlin" ― locked in...

In stark contrast, Israel is building the anti-terrorist fence for only one purpose ― to keep Palestinian terrorists, who wish to murder and maim Israeli citizens, out. Israel, a democratic society, is building the fence to protect its citizens from deadly attack, not from peaceful contacts with the other side."

As with the efforts being made in the US to protect against terrorism, not only are such measures expensive but inconvenient for the innocent.

I think we need to be careful about demonizing "Walls".

I love my back yard, and I consider myself someone who thoroughly enjoys being outdoors, but I live within walls that protect me from lightning, rain, wind, mosquitoes and mold. For another example- although it is an inconvenience and tremendous expense, I feel reassured that there is a barrier between the airplane I board and the general population of people outside the airport.

Terrorists have broken all rules of decency in their efforts to try and get what they want. They don't wear uniforms that identify themselves as combatants (in fact they often wear Israeli army and police uniforms to deceive their victims). They don't engage the Israelis on the battleground, and they don't go up against soldiers - instead they go to wedding parties, restaurants, crowded busses and they target unarmed innocent children, women and citizens. These men (and few women) are certainly on a mission of permeating Israeli society with a sense of constant terror and uncertainty... it is not only bloody and hateful, but intent on demoralizing a people. In retaliation for these attacks the Israelis have gone to tremendous extremes to surgically go after the terrorists, often putting their own soldiers at much greater risk to avoid harming the human shields that the terrorists encamp among. There have been mistakes, and there have been apologies, but I don't recall any apologies from the terrorists for killing and maiming innocent bystanders.

How do you defend against such a thing? The Jews have suffered under this constant sense of impending attack... who can blame them for building a barrier to control where and who crosses over into their communities? This is not nearly as sudden as the Berlin wall, this is after years and years of battling these attacks and has been a slow process where the Israelis have tried to strike a fair balance between their need for greater security and a humanitarian appreciation of Arab rights:

The wealth and lack of wealth that you mentioned is not really a result of biased treatment from the Jewish people... the Jews have been willing to share their land with Islamic and Christian people who are not bent on destroying Israel as a nation. Israel even has Israeli Arab and Christian Knesset Parliament members. Even their most holy location - the Temple Mount - is under the management of the Arabs. The Jews are very industrious and and some of them have brought wealth with them from around the world- they have made the desert bloom, they are second only to the US for international patents... and they have given a tremendous amount of aide the Palestinian Authority (along with the millions that the UN and other nations have provided over the years). But the corruption of the Palestinian Authority is pretty well documented. Very little of the money reached the people. Instead, the Arab nations are using the refugees as pawns to evoke the sympathy of the world for their plight. As wealthy as the oil rich Arab countries are, they are doing very little to help the refuges.

Although the moment any wall goes up, it divides people in "one day" - this barrier has been a very gradual process with public lands being used if at all possible, and full compensation for private lands being used - either lump sum or annual rental. It was not like we heard in Berlin - where it happened so suddenly that people were stuck on the wrong side and taken by total surprise.

So, while walls and fences and other barriers are often not ideal, they sometimes are a "necessary evil". Israel has seen a statistically significant drop in the number of attacks and attempted attacks in the areas where the security barrier is in place. I am guessing that if (or when) our US borders were successfully being breached by terrorists, we would be even quicker than the Israelis to erect our own "walls" along our borders.

Yesterday I attended a Israeli Solidarity Peace Rally with family and friends. One of the most moving moments was the words from a Holocaust survivor who lost all of his loved ones under Hitler's death camps: "...All we are asking is a to live safely at peace with our families within the borders of our homeland..."

I don't know- someone else might -is there another people whose most common greeting and farewell to each other is "Shalom" or "Peace"?

with great love and respect for all of humanity,