Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration

Oct 1

SimCity EDU announced

Electronic Arts, in collaboration with GlassLab, today announced SimCityEDU, an online educational community based on the award-winning SimCityTM videogame. SimCityEDU will serve as a resource for classroom teachers who have a strong interest in utilizing digital platforms as a learning tool to drive student interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects*

Educators will be able to create and share digital SimCity-based lesson plans that will encourage students to think critically about the challenges facing modern cities. In the classroom, SimCity will be more than a game – it will be a way for the next generation of leaders to hone their skills through urban planning, environmental management and socio-economic development.

“For decades, SimCity has been embraced by the educational community as an engaging videogame that also provides a powerful learning experience, teaching problem solving skills through imaginative civic gameplay,” said Lucy Bradshaw, Senior Vice President and General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label. “We want to up the ante of SimCity’s educational influence. Through our collaboration with GlassLab, SimCity will become the foundation of a program to re-imagine learning in a way that will inspire today’s youth to get excited about STEM education and become the problem solvers of tomorrow.”

* SimCityEDU’s curriculum and tools will be correlated to U.S. Common Core standards.

To find out more about EA’s education initiatives, read Craig Hagen’s blog post on www.ea.com/news or visit http://www.simcityedu.org/.www.ea.com/news or visit http://www.simcityedu.org/.

Textbook Case of Bad Textbooking

I once had a boss that told me he could “do” education because he was an educated man (Business Degree) , had kids in schools, and had a relative or two that were educators. I was reminded of that long ago conversation when I read this article about the next round of Texas Board of Education Stupidity:

From the article:

"Did you know Moses played a role in the writing of the U.S. Constitution? I didn’t. Apparently neither did the Founding Fathers, since he’s not mentioned in the Federalist Papers or any other relevant document. But students reading Perfection Learning’s new textbook on American history will think Moses was right up there with John Locke and Charles de Montesquieu in influencing Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and their brethren.

What role did Moses supposedly play? The textbook claims he contributed the concept that “a nation needs a written code of behavior.” Forget the biblical ignorance shown in suggesting Moses provided the code for a “nation” rather than for the Jewish people, who had no nation (failing to reach the Promised Land was kind of key to the Book of Deuteronomy). Forget the legal ignorance in suggesting the Constitution had anything to do with a “code of behavior” rather than establishing democratic government and the rights guaranteed to citizens. Forget the historical ignorance in suggesting that the first laws came from Moses when the sixth Amorite king of Babylon established one of the first written set of laws, known as Hammurabi’s Code, hundreds of years earlier”

We just got through figuring out that Intelligent Design is neither intelligent or designer. Surely we learn from our past mistakes…Oh wait, that is not in the Bible…or in the Tea party manual.

Sigh. Click on the Title to go to the article.

Everything is Short Lived: Changing the Paradigm of #EdTech Replacement Cycles

"I am the entertainer,

the idol of my age

I make all kinds of money

when I go on the stage

You see me in the papers,

I’ve been in the magazines

But if I go cold, I won’t get sold

I get put in the back in the discount rack

Like another can of beans” —Billy Joel “The Entertainer”

Ever get the idea that education practices are sort of how the singer in Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer” feels? Things that are hot get cold really fast. What have you done for me lately? Anyone that has been around education knows the drill and knows the phrase “This too shall pass.”

The other day, I was in a meeting and the educators were discussing some new technology initiative. One of the teachers said in a semi-serious, semi-comical way “This is going to be short lived.”

The implication was, of course, that this whatever it is, will only last a short time before we move on to something else. Of course, as educators, we have all seen that: today’s exciting best practice is tomorrow’s has been practice that no one uses anymore.

This is especially true in the world of ed tech, which follows technology in general. Products have the educational lifespan equivalent of a fruit fly. Today’s hit is tomorrow’s miss.

"I get put in the back of the discount rack like another can of beans."

Think of some of the “Products to end all products” in ed tech in the last few years that are now relegated to the discount rack of technology beans:

  • Second Life
  • Interactive White Boards
  • iPods
  • Netbooks
  • Class Clickers
  • 3D Projectors
  • Oregon Trail
the list goes on and on.

Everything changes quickly. Everything. Education Technology is no exception. Perhaps technology more than anything else in education. How often are smartphones updated?

Technology of course, is not the only thing. Cars are updated each year. Have you ever gotten used to a particular product at the grocery store only to find it “discontinued” after a year or so? Loved that 3 Cheese Ragu sauce? Sorry, it is now 4 Cheese Ragu sauce.

The difference is however, that technology rarely moves backwards. Things like cars and foodstuffs are typically very incremental in their development. This year’s Ford Focus is not TOO much different than last year’s. The 4 Cheese Ragu is not TOO much different than 3 cheese version form last year. (Can you bet there will be a 5 Cheese soon?) Stuff changes really quickly but most often not dramatically. That is called evolutionary change.

Education technology is different however. Ed tech changes much more rapidly and is much more revolutionary in the way it changes than other educational aspects. Textbooks have not changed in decades, maybe centuries. Technology is not that way. Consider the iPad for instance. Before 2010, there were no iPads on any campuses anywhere. Now, there are over 13,000,000 in schools by the summer of 2014. By 2020, we will not even know what iPads are in school rooms. They will be replaced with something else.

Educational institutions and personnel are stuck in product life cycle (that ended years ago) need to readjust. Schools mentally, are on the product cycle of the textbook: get once, expect it to last 10 years.

We are no longer in the last century. We no longer have to use the textbook as the arbiter for how long we keep equipment.

We need to adjust the way that we look at equipment. Consider this example:

In the past, software was considered something that was to last a long time: Buy Adobe Photoshop for $600 and it was expected to last as long as the computer it was installed on, if not longer. Now, many school districts look at software more as a consumable product rather than as something that should last forever. That 99 cent app? Toss it when done.

How do we make the mind shift to make educational institutions and teachers understand that technology adoption cycles should not be the same as other educational materials product cycles?

I can think of at least these:

  1. Assume that technology will change rapidly.
  2. Don’t become emotionally attached to devices or applications.
  3. Assume that technology purchases are meant to have an upgrade cycle that is shorter than almost any other educational institutional purpose.
  4. Be willing to make the shift to the idea that some technology is disposable. Especially apps.
  5. Have people (or follow people online) that are constantly looking for the trends in technology so you can keep informed.
  6. Be able differentiate between fads, trends, and actual movements in ed tech.

Can you think of some other ways that institutions can start rethinking the technology in schools arraign to align with new tech as it comes along so we don’t have a whole bunch of stuff that ends up in the discount rack.

One Best Thing: Are You Reading These?

Are you reading the “One Best Thing" series of books on iBooks?

These very short books, written by Apple Distinguished Educators showcases a single type of lesson that can incorporate technology.

“One Best Thing is a collection of books created by Apple Distinguished Educators (ADEs) that demonstrate the use of Apple technologies to transform teaching ​
and learning. Each One Best Thing book shares a unit, a lesson, or a best practice and is designed to help another educator implement a successful practice. It’s a professional learning idea championed by an educator—in word and action—that others can look to for ideas and tips on how to replicate. Enjoy this One Best Thing book, along with others in the collection, and discover innovative projects, lessons, and activities for use in your own learning environment.”

These 102 books cover all major core areas:

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics and Science
  • Content Creation in the Classroom
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Art, Music and Media Arts
  • Implementing a Digital Classroom
  • Assessment

There simply is something for everyone. And even if you are not an Apple user, you can get some really good ideas from these books.

There are very short, do not require a whole lot of deep thinking to get through, and are well produced All have a similar look and feel. If you have an iPad, iPhone or Mac, you can download them all.

Some titles (remember there are 102 total titles) include:

  • If Shakespeare Could Tweet
  • Literature Circles with iPad
  • Brining Geometry Shapes to Life
  • Digital Discourse in Mathematics
  • Student Created Science Animations
  • Student As Teacher: Professional Learning Workshops by Student Experts
  • Coaching Without Saying a Word

As you can see, there is something for everyone. Simply going through the 102 titles takes some time, but luckily they are broken down into sub categories.

So you need to be reading these. The price is right.

Enjoy and be inspired.

Are we Teaching our Kids to Write Like This?

I was turned on to this article that appeared in the New York Times Magazine “A Game of Shark and Minnow" which describes the story of eight men in the Philippine Navy on an abandoned ship in the South China Sea who stand guard against the Chinese Navy.

While the story is interesting, what really drew my attention was the way that the story was presented. If you just casually scroll through the story, you will see that it is presented in multiple formats:

  • Text
  • Photos
  • Movies
  • Audio
  • Maps

Writing in the 21st century is far more than simply writing text. Writing in the 21st Century involves all of the above.

Check out this video for instance:

How many words would it take to describe what is presented in that short video?

The point is, I think that almost no one would argue that this is a powerful way to present information.

A powerful way to write.

Think about it: You probably, unless you were truly interested int he topic, would have skipped over a text only, on the paper page article about 8 guys on a boat in the South China Sea. But I bet that once you logged onto the article, you started scrolling through it, looking for the videos, looking for the interactivity. You spent a lot more time on the article, I bet, than you would have if it were simply text.

Writing in the 21st century should be inclusive of ALL the ways we now have to easily integrate items into writing:

  • Audio
  • Video
  • Photo
  • Hyperlinks
  • Animations
  • and of course, text.

Look at the list: What are we spending most of our time teaching kids to do? It is text.

The written word. I bet if we graphed out most of our classes, students are spending the vast, vast majority of time communicating in text in one form or another.

Text, text text.

We are supposed to address the learning needs of different students, but we address their communication needs all the same.

Are you a visual learner? Good write in text. Are you an audio learner? Good, write in text. Are you a kinesthetic learner? Good, write in text.

Get the idea?

That is where digital storytelling comes in. Digital storytelling, or digital communication in general, addresses all of those “non-text”

Luckily, there are those out there that have decided to take up the digital storytelling mantle:

Digitales Nice introductory site to digital storytelling. I would like to see more inclusive ideas here, about how DS can be used in various curricular areas.

David Jakes has a site about Digital Storytelling here. Some of the links are broken, but you can find good basic info here as well as link to some tools.

Here is a nice collection on Diigo on digital storytelling tools:

What would happen if a teacher said this:

In your report/paper/lab/thing that you must turn in to me, you must include the following:

  • Photos
  • a short video with audio
  • text
  • a hyperlink

Why should you start incorporating digital storytelling into student writing? According to this article, there are several plusses when students write in a digital storytelling mode:

  • It develops creativity and critical thinking
  • Students who are shy or afraid to talk in class get a chance to speak out their minds
  • It empowers students voice to deliver rich, deep message that is capable of conveying a powerful message.
  • It helps students explore the meaning of their own experience, give value to it, and communicate that experience with others.
  • It promotes the notions of life long learning and independent learning
  • It develops students communicative skills
  • It is a reflective process that helps students reflect upon their learning and find deep connections with the subject matter of a course or with an out-of-class experience.
  • It fosters students sense of individuality
  • It also gives students an opportunity to experiment with self-representation and establish their identity
  • Students creating digital stories develop proficiency with multimedia applications

What is wrong with a goal of having student write and communicate in a fashion that looks like the New York Times Magazine article?

Nothing is wrong with it. In fact, it should be the norm, not the exception.



(Washington, DC) – As 55 million U.S. children in grades K-12 head back to school, Mobile Future today debuted a new infographic—“EdTech + Mobile = Learning” —showcasing the tremendous promise wireless technologies offer both students and educators.

Tech pioneers are investing in wireless technologies that are transforming teaching and learning. With mobile devices and apps now front and center in the American consciousness, our nation’s community of learners has enthusiastically embraced mobile technologies as an on-ramp to untold educational opportunities and enhanced learning environments. To illuminate just how embedded mobile devices have become in our nation’s classrooms, here are some key points spotlighted in this latest “back-to-school” installment of Mobile Future’s infographic series:

43% of all pre-K through 12th grade students use a smartphone.

78% of Algebra 1 students using a tablet scored at least proficient vs. 59% of those using textbooks

6 out of 10 teachers say mobile devices allow them to provide more personalized help to students.

81% of teachers believe mobile devices enrich classroom education.

73% of middle school and high school teachers use cellphones for classroom activities.

Educational apps are the second largest category in Apple’s App Store and the third largest in Android’s Google Play.

E-textbooks can save schools $250-$1,000 per student each year.

“Wireless technologies are offering students, along with their parents, caregivers and the teachers who instruct them, fresh, engaging and constantly evolving ways of learning about, and examining, the world around them,” said Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter. “With continued investment and innovation in wireless, mobile will continue to transform American education and help ensure all of our young people have the tools they need to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s wireless world.”

How Christian fundamentalist homeschooling damages children

Recently in Texas, a court determined that home schoolers MUST prove that they are actually schooling their children. This is being appealed of course, but it does seem to indicate that someone is scared if they are asked to prove something and they cannot do so. "Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in homeschooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of homeschoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system." Right now there is no hard data outside of anecdotal evidence, to indicate that homeschooling is effective or not.

Student Convinces Relatives she travelled the world without leaving her living room

What lesson can we share with our students from this? I think for starters we can show them that not everything on the internet is as it seems. How you can be easily manipulated. Several great lessons come to mind after reading this.

From the article:

The backpack of lies was all part of her university graduation project, to show how social media does not always reflect reality.

She said: “My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality.

"I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media."

Amazingly, pictures of the Dutch student snorkelling in turquoise water with tropical fish around her were taken at a local swimming pool and then digitally altered at home.

Ms Van Den Born even photoshopped herself onto tuk tuks, beautiful beaches and luxury resorts in the 42 days she spent hidden in her Amsterdam apartment with her boyfriend - the only person in the know.

Click on the title to go to the article

Here is her website about it.

Here is the English Translation

Public Education: It is not as Bad as it Seems

We know this, but it is good when the media reiterates it:

From the article:
“In the most recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, about 67 percent of public school parents said they would give their oldest child’s school a grade of “A” or “B.” But just 17 percent of the respondents would give “public schools nationally” the same score. This grading gap has widened in recent decades.”

Click on title to go to article.

Gallup Poll here

Awesome iPad App Storehouse now on iPhone

Teaching kids to express themselves with visual as well as written information? Sometimes I wonder, especially when I see cool tools like Storehouse and wonder does the future of writing JUST involve the written word?

Are we doing our students a disservice by telling snd testing and saying that most communication has to be in written format?

Take Storehouse for instance. This is an awesome app that allows anyone to create visual stories. Are our students able to express themselves this way?

Click on the title to go to the article

The Guggenheim Puts 109 Free Modern Art Books Online

To read any of these 109 free art books, you will just need to follow these simple instructions. 1.) Select a text from the collection. 2.) Click the “Read Catalogue Online” button. 3.) Start reading the book in the pop-up browser, and use the controls at the very bottom of the pop-up browser to move through the book. 4.) If you have any problems accessing these texts, you can find alternate versions on Archive.org.

Click on link to go to Article

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the article to get even MORE free art books online.

(Source: tumblr.com)

Smartphone Microscope Can be made for a Dollar

Ever since the iPhone came out, folks have been looking at ways to make it do things it was never meant to do, and one of these is as a portable microscope.

$10, $2, now down to about $1.

Article summary:

Suppose you were a first responder, who got called out to investigate a suspicious substance found in a public place. Instead of having to transport that material back to the lab, wouldn’t it be better if you could just take a microscope image of it with your smartphone, email that image off to a remote lab, then receive the analysis within just a few minutes while you were still on location? Thanks to a very inexpensive new phone attachment developed at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), that could soon be possible.

Click on title to go to article.

Check out this video I made a few years ago, inspired by Hall Davidson:

Why Girls Tend to Get Better Grades Than Boys Do

Are schools set up to favor the way girls learn and trip up boys? I have been around long enough to remember the complete reverse argument: That schools favored boys over girls. Maybe if we wait around long enough a study will come out that says schools don’t favor anyone.

Anyway, this is a food for thought article that has some interesting information:

"As the new school year ramps up, teachers and parents need to be reminded of a well-kept secret: Across all grade levels and academic subjects, girls earn higher grades than boys. Not just in the United States, but across the globe, in countries as far afield as Norway and Hong Kong.

This finding is reflected in a recent study by psychology professors Daniel and Susan Voyer at the University of New Brunswick. The Voyers based their results on a meta-analysis of 369 studies involving the academic grades of over one million boys and girls from 30 different nations. The findings are unquestionably robust: Girls earn higher grades in every subject, including the science-related fields where boys are thought to surpass them.

Less of a secret is the gender disparity in college enrollment rates. The latest data from the Pew Research Center uses U.S. Census Bureau data to show that in 2012, 71 percent of female high school graduates went on to college, compared to 61 percent of their male counterparts. In 1994 the figures were 63 and 61 percent, respectively. In other words, college enrollment rates for young women are climbing while those of young men remain flat.”

Click on the title to go to the article.

5 Ways for Principals to Improve School Climate

There are tons of articles that list ways that campus administrators can improve their campuses. The five ways in this article certainly is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it is a nice starting list. I think we can easily add more to the list:

Here are the ones in the article:

  1. Get Out of Your Office
  2. Have Authentic Conversations
  3. Encourage Student Voice
  4. Engage with Parents
  5. Flip Your Faculty Meetings

I would add, right off the top of my head:

  1. Use social media to communicate with your entire school community
  2. Be as Transparent as Possible
  3. Don’t just Say you are the academic leader, lead by example
  4. Don’t ask others to do what you would not do yourself
  5. Accept that all people fail, but that if we learn from that, then failure can be acceptable
  6. The test is not everything.

Okay, what would you add?

Read the original article here:
Adding new technology to old pedagogy does not make it better.

Adding new technology to old pedagogy does not make it better.

(Source: recitethis.com)