Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration

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Posts tagged with "blog"

The Blogger's Handbook – 101+ Resources On How To Start A Blog

I have been tasked with rolling out , along with my team, a district wide teacher website initiative. One of the components that teachers could use is the built in blogging tool. This could come in handy, not all of it, but at least some of the ideas and links inside.

Top ten reasons for a teacher to have a blog. From the series 10 in 10 from the El Paso ISD. Are you blogging? Why not?

How Blogging Has Enhanced My Parent Connection

A blog does not have to be fancy, or epic, or even done every day to be an effective tool. Here, Fifth grade teacher Pernille Ripp discusses the many benefits of having a class blog site, and discusses the differences between professional and classroom blogs.

For teachers reluctant to get going on a blog, this is a nice article that might get the going.

Click on title to go to article.

May 7

For #3000: Thank You

This is my 3000th entry on Tumblr. I thought I would mark the occasion by simply thanking everyone that follows this blog, that reads it occasionally, or even only read it once. I especially want to that those that take the time to leave comments.

Thank you for adding my little viewpoint to your lives.

10 uses for a teacher blog. What can you use a blog for? Here are ten possible uses. From the series: 10 in 10 from EPISD.

Ten Uses for a Classroom Blog Part 2. From the web series: “10 in 10” where we look at ten topics in ten minutes.

Apr 9

Wondering

I wonder why my Tumblr activity has dropped to almost zero?
Visits outside of Tumblr are up, but within Tumblr..not so much. Did I miss something?

Jan 7

Four Questions, Four Answers to George Couros.

George Couros responded to a blog post of mine (which was a response to one of his blog posts ) with a rather long comment. Instead of cramming everything into a single comment, I thought that what I would do is respond to George in a longer more thought out manner.

Essentially in the post George was responding to, I postulated that buying the cheapest product possible for students is not always the best way to go. Specifically in this case, it is Chromebooks, but it could just as easily be $75 Android tablets or $250 PC laptops. My argument was that if a district is moving towards a BYOD environment, the students that are at the low end of technology use because of low SES are hobbled by giving them low power, mid to low function devices that allows them to do MOST of what a higher end device would do.

It might be good to read my original post here, and George’s original here.


So here are George’s questions, and my answers.

Q1: Do you really think technology is the only thing that we should have the “best” in? I bet your art teachers, physical education teachers, music teachers, and anyone else wishes they could have more. As in ANY business, financial decisions have to be made and sometimes things are not as we want them. Unfortunately we work with in constraints of a budget and decisions have to be made. I see a lot of teachers spending time fundraising to really amp up the opportunities for their students and it always bothers me. There time should NOT be spent on that and “fundraiser” should not be added to the list of demands that a teacher should have.

What happens when education is a business

A1: My first off the top-of-my-head response is that maybe we should not be thinking of education as a business. Perhaps that is the root of all the issues to begin with. The closest “business” I can even think of that education is like is some type of manufacturing, where we start with some product at one end of the assembly line (Kindergarten) and produce some product at the other end (Graduation). Larry Ferlazzo has a list of reasons and articles why schools are not businesses here (http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2011/01/12/the-best-posts-articles-explaining-why-public-education-should-not-be-run-like-a-business/). I suspect that Diane Ravitch or any of a number of other ed reform contrarians would cringe at the thought of Kids-as-Widgits. May I suggest reading her new book “Reign of Error” to get a perspective on the fallibility of the school-as-business thinking and what trouble that mentality causes.

Perhaps if you see students as widgets, or cogs, or chicken nuggets, replaceable parts of a machine or assembly line, then you and I have a fundamental philosophical difference between what we think about education. Sadly, that replaceable part mentality is an argument that has taken over the conversation across the country by many on the Right, who see public education as a government imposed monopoly that needs to be broken. When you say “Schools is a business” immediately moves the conversation away from “Not what is best for the students,” but rather what is best for the taxpayers and how can we save money? Schools do not have shareholders, students are not customers, so we can profit share with them. Now if you consider your students widgets, then have a good time explaining to parents how their precious child is no more important to you than a chicken nugget is to McDonald’s.



With that being said, I am not ignorant of budgets, budget cycles, budget restraints and the like. If we truly value education, we should be getting the best of everything for our students. In Texas, you may have heard about the legislature cutting $5.4 billion dollars from the education budget back in the 2010 legislative session. Teachers were laid off, programs closed, or cut back. But in all of that, I never heard of one football game having to be cancelled anywhere in the state or one high school football coach being let go. Funny how we can cut education funding and it does not damage football one single bit. My point here is that every district has priorities. You are of course aware of the troubles in Philly where the “education as a business” model has left them in over a billion dollars in the hole. (I wonder how many football games have been cancelled there?)

Of course, all budget decisions are political. We get what we vote for in this country. Until we change that paradigm, and I would love to hear how to do that, we have to work to change how we present the school to the public, because that is the only way to change minds. Presenting the cheapest technology money can buy and saying that is th best we can do is not the way to go here.


Q2. You talk about “taxpayers” and how they would feel about our purchases. How do you think they would feel if we bought the BEST technology and utilized a very small percentage of it’s capability? If you had, for example, bought a MacBook Air, what if you only did things that you could do on a Chromebook that is significantly less? I think that sometimes “less is more” and allows us to go deeper in our work. If you try to get students to do everything, do they do anything amazing? I think that software such as “Word” have more capabilities than Google Docs, yet many school districts are moving to Google. Why is that? I actually prefer that it has less because kids are spending less time picking a font, and more time writing. Too much choice is not always a good thing (see Barry Schwartz work on this topic.)


A2. My argument is not a Macbook Air vs. Chromebook. My thoughts were more along the lines of Chromebook vs. iPad. As I have explained here, and here, the iPad offers a deeper learning experience AND provides students with the ability to CHOOSE which device on a single device they should use. Everybody, including you it appears, are enamored with the low entry low price of Chromebooks, without taking into account the value add that iPads offer. By the time you buy student response systems, interactive whiteboards, cameras, instruments and all the other things that an iPad can replace in the classroom, your value equation is laughable. Let me push back to you and ask what would you say to a taxpayer that asks “Why didn’t you spend just a few bucks more and buy a device with greater capability?”

And why are we stuck in Google Doc-ville anyway? Apple provides iCloud for free which includes better formatted word processing, spreadsheets and presentations than anything that Google can do. And yes, they are collaborative, and yes they work on all devices, and yes there is free online storage. And yes, it is free.

As for being beholden to the taxpayer, I don’t know about where you are, but in my neck of the woods, everything from school lunches, to toilet paper, to crayons to musical instruments are always low bid. “Low bid is the go bid.” How business-like is that? Imagine of every business in the world just used the cheapest material available? What message do we send when we tell society that kids are worth it. Worth it as long as it is the low bid because that is what taxpayers want. Nice message. The most precious thing we have in society is our children as long as they don’t cost too much.

Q3. What device do you use that does EVERYTHING that you want it to do? I often go between my iPhone and my computer to different tasks. We are aspiring to an idea Ryan Bretag shared on “Combine Our Devices” that provides a consistent technology that students use that we can help teachers utilize, while also encouraging students to bring in their own devices.

A3: It is not a matter of some device that can do EVERYTHING. There is no such animal. If you are talking about providing devices to students, wouldn’t you want to provide the one that is the most versatile? Versatility as a value add to any device. The “Chromebook can do 90%” of whatever argument is a silly one. A motorcycle can do “90%” of what a car can do if you just consider getting from Point A to Point B the criteria, but that extra 10% that a motorcycle cannot do is impressive such as oh, maybe shielding you from the environment, or holding 4 or more passengers.
As I have pointed out before , some devices are simply more versatile than others. Desktops more versatile than thin clients. Laptops more versatile than desktops. Tablets more versatile than laptops. Chromebooks are thin client laptops. They are not nearly as versatile as tablets. If the criteria is cheap, then the less versatile devise wins. If that is your criteria.
Yes, kids need to know how to use a variety of devices, but really, we see in tablets the convergence of a variety of devices. Why not take advantage of that?

almost as good as the original


Q4. As in any business, you have to make choices. I am curious what school you have seen have the technology that you are talking about, and have all (not 90% since you have used that as a measure) of their teachers and students using them to their full capabilities? If you spend a lot of money on something that is not used well, is that a good investment? I am against something that is just a piece of technology and is cheap but I think there are some cheaper options that are great for the things that we are trying to achieve for learning in our schools. The money that we save in not buying the “best” thing out there often goes into professional development and is spent on developing people so that they can utilize the things that are in front of them.
Many people want to get where you are at, but there are steps to get to this point. The best leaders have and communicate a vision of where they ultimately want to go, but they can break it down into smaller steps that are achievable and build the confidence of others along the way. There are so many variables that have to be accounted for but I appreciate that you are pushing thinking in this topic.

A4: There are MANY reasons that tech is not being used. Poor administration, bad training, crappy infrastructure… But to limit your choices because you don’t think people will use it..Wow. I have never driven my car as fast as it can go, but that didn’t prevent me from buying it. My thinking was never “You know, I don’t plan on going 120 mph, so I just shouldn’t buy this car.” (the car is a Kia Optima BTW). I have an oven that will go to 500 degree F. I have never used it at that temperature. By your reckoning, I should not have bought it.

I don’t ever say we have to buy the best of anything (and by BEST you really mean most expensive right?). But that does not mean we have to cheapest either. The iPad for instance, is not the most expensive device but many would argue it is the best for doing a lot of things.

How did I miss Teachthought?

I love it when I find a new blog that peaks my interest. Such is the case with Teachthought. This blog looks very interesting, and has some really nice ideas. Some of them I can’t wrap my little brain around, but I will try.

This looks like a collaborative type site, with multiple authors (I can’t see one person doing this unless it is a full time job). Check them out of you have some time. Click on the title to go to the link.

Here is some info from their “ABOUT” page:

TeachThought’s mantra is simple: learn better.

Our mission is modest enough–to create a modern enlightenment that results in healthy communities and interdependent citizens.

We believe that this can happen much more simply than it’d seem. The secret is to change the way people think about learning. It’s possible more than ever to create learning spaces that are personalized, self-directed, social, and rigorous. This requires new tools and models, but more importantly a paradigm shift in how everyone–educators and otherwise–thinks of the learning process.

What Makes TeachThought Different?

There are a lot of great blogs and organizations out there. What makes TeachThought unique is our macro view of the learning process, from culture and community to specific classroom practice. We are a brand that participates in every level of teaching and learning, from the dreaming to the practice.

Influences

It is our position that all learning should result in substantive personal and social change.

Our ideas are heavily influenced from a wide variety of thinkers, from Wendell Berry to Edward Wilson, David Hume to Henry David Thoreau, Jean Paul Sarte to Jeremy Bentham, Bena Kallick to Art Costa, Ken Robinson to Daniel Pink, Maria Popova to Grant Wiggins–and countless souls in between.

This concept includes the relationship between culture, communities, and the institutions and curriculum purported to serve them, as well as emerging technologies and media.

So check them out.

More on This topic.

Why I dislike the Edublog Awards #eddies13

Chris Lehman, who has been nominated multiple times for multiple awards wrote a blog post on why he likes the yearly edublog awards. Here is the link. Essentially, he throws out three reasons for liking this yearly exercise in self congratulations: 1. He likes the “Celebration” of thinking about the blogs that he likes to read and reflect on the ones that he read during the year. 2. He likes “Connecting” with new logs and authors. 3. He likes something else, the feel good part about this all, where everyone likes to be honored. Okay, so Chris Lehman likes the Edublog Awards and congrats to all of the nominees. Here is why I DON’T like the Edublog awards: 1. This is a popularity contest pure and simple. This is the education bloggers equivalent to voting for Class President or Prom Queen in High School. The blogs with the most readers are able to advertise themselves to get more votes, just like the head cheerleader is able to get the most votes for Prom Queen because she has more friends. 2. It is the same people each year. In many cases, it is the same people over and over again. Chris Lehman himself has been nominates multiple times in the past, Kathy Davis (Cool Kat Teacher) has, and on and on. Have you ever been in an organization that likes to give itself awards? The Edublog Awards have that feel. Hey look kids, let’s give ourselves an award! I get it. Some of these folks are very good, but Lehman says he likes finding new people. Well, it is like finding a new Spielberg movie after watching a Spielberg movie last year and the year before. 3. Certain people have an unfair advantage. Folks that make a living going around the world speaking to large gatherings of teachers at conferences (and in the process telling them to “follow me on my website”) have a distinct advantage over say, the kindergarten teacher that blogs occasionally but still has something important to say. You cannot tell me that Diane Ravitch, a New York Times best-selling author and frequent news program guest is on the same playing field as someone like me for instance. She has a professional staff of writers and web people writing her blog. This is like me playing Kobe one-on-one. No contest. Chris says he likes exploring the nominees. There is no possible way to explore all of the nominees unless you have no life at all outside of reading blogs. So since time is limited, who will you vote for? you vote for the people you know or are familiar with, which goes back to the idea that the people with unfair advantages. Every year, I write pretty much the same thing about these awards. Maybe it is sour grapes because I never get nominated (just as I don’t get nominated for the People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive award either!) but maybe the folks that put this together (I dare you to find a name on the website) could add a few rules that would make things a little more fair:

  1. Separate categories for professional bloggers/speakers/keynote givers and the rest of us.
  2. If you have been nominated in the last two years, you can’t be nominated this year.
  3. Somehow have a category for sites that have number of followers. It is simply is not fair to have a blog that has 400,000 followers take on a blog that has 400 followers. Since this award is based on nothing more than number of votes received, there has to be a way to make this more fair.
So go vote. Go ahead. I will pass. I have been there and done that. Nine times or so. And if you are a friend of mine and have been nominated, please forgive me for not voting for you. But at least you know why.

Karen's Korner: Using Tech to Teach and Learn: My Day at EdCamp Dallas

New ed tech blogger Karen Balbier gets it done with a nice overview of her day at Ed Camp Dallas. This is a good example of a new blogger really taking to the medium If you can, please share her blog and also please leave a comment.

Dear Ed Tech Writers,
Don’t tell me an app is “free” if the cool stuff you liked about the app and wrote about and put pictures up about, is an in app purchase. That is not free. If I have to pay for something, then it is not free. Thank you.

- Tim Holt

Eight reasons why you should have a class blog

This article looks at 8 major reasons why you might want to blog in your class

1- Social Skills and confidence

2- Internet Safety

3-Blogging

4- Home School Connection

5- ICT skills

6- Classroom community

7- Authentic audience

8- Global Connection

Can you think of more?

How to Get 5 Million Readers for Your Blog

Thank You for Following Me on Tumblr.

I know that it is a somewhat leap of faith to start following a blogger, and hoping that they will continue to give you useful information. Let me tell you a little about myself, so you can know where I am coming from:

I am the Director of Instructional Technology in the El Paso Independent School District in El Paso Texas USA. I have had that position for 8 years, although when I blog, I blog as a private citizen and not as a representative of my job.

I have been blogging since 2003. My first blog was called “Byte Speed” but after 2 years, I had to take it down because there was some company by the same name and my blog was getting more traffic than their website. That apparently pissed them off enough to sick a lawyer on me.  They gave me a cheap-ass gray-market no-name laptop from Asia that weighed 15 pounds if I gave up the name so I did because they had lawyers and I didn’t. 

I then started a blog called Intended Consequences, and it lasted all the way until Apple pulled the support of iWeb, which was the platform I was blogging on. (iWeb +Mobile Me.) You can still Google Tim Holt Intended Consequences to see all the re-blogged articles that were created at that site.

When that died, I moved here to Tumblr because Will Richardson had just moved here, and he is a guy I respect, and frankly, it looked like a pretty easy place to blog on.  I like technology, but I really like easy technology that just does what it is supposed to do without biting me. MAybe that is why I like Apple so much…

Anyway, back to the point:

I want to thank you for following me. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this Tumblr is a combo Self reflective blog and place where I like to put a lot of web links to to things that interest me. I use the site as sort of my online filing cabinet that I share with the world. As long as Tumblr is up and running, I plan on adding material. I hope you find it useful.

So that is what makes this Tumblr site. Thanks for sticking with me, thanks for following me, and if you have a chance once in a while, tell someone about my site. I am not one of the “big boys” in ed tech, so I don’t do a lot of keynotes where I can promote my site and myself, so any hits to the site are appreciated. 

Tim