Holt Think: Ed, Creativity, Tech, Administration

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Posts tagged with "ed"

- Presently Perfect! 10 Powerful Presentation Tools for Educators

Tired of Powerpoint? Think your kids can do more than make slides? Try these tools for presenting.

Click on the title to go to the link.

FREE -- Teaching Resources and Lesson Plans from the Federal Government

Really nice collection of free government resources for use in all types of subject area.

Click on the title to go to the link.

Sep 9

Here’s to those that see things differently

Why do people love a tech company?
Because they make awesomeness like this:

Sep 7

To Kill a Textbook

Okay, so it is close to an ad, but the points it makes are pretty good. Etexts are the future. Period.

Use Visuals in Teaching: The Must Use Learning Tool

Are you using visuals when you teach? Are you using them correctly? This is a nice graphic and article that explains why you need to incorporate more visuals in your teaching: From the article: HOW VISUALS HELP US LEARN

  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual
  • The brain can process 36,000 visual cues in an hour
  • The brain takes about 1/10th of a second to get the idea of a visual scene
  • Almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing
  • Black and white images garner your attention for about 2/3 of a second
  • Color images garner your attention for 2+ seconds
  • The average consumer’s attention span is only about 8 seconds
  • The brain processes visual cues 60,000 times faster than text
  • 40% of nerve fibers are linked to the retina
  • The use of visuals improves learning outcomes by about 400%
Click on the title to go to the article.

Surprise! The internet is not turning teenager’s brains into mush.

I have been noticing a lot of gloom and doom articles (especially coming out of Great Britain) about how this or that technology is turning our kids into brainless automatons. (The heat is especially turned up on iPads for some reason.) I am old enough to remember almost the exact same phrasing being used about television back in the late 1960’s and 70’s. I even remember “studies” that said too much TV would rot your brain, make you cross-eyed, or heaven forbid, sterile.

Of course, critical thinkers and true educators would like to see actual research before they make their decisions and I haven’t yet seen the “iPad will make you sterile” article yet, I am sure that someone is working on it. So it is always nice when a real bit of research is done, such as a piece by Kathryn Mills at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London who recently published some research in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Entitled “Effects of Internet use on the adolescent brain: despite popular claims, experimental evidence remains scarce” her research shows that, to no one’s surprise except maybe the Brits, tha the brain is a resilient little organ that can rewrite itself much more quickly than we thought it could, and the kid that is addicted to some video game today can probably learn how to code tomorrow if they wanted to. Ogh, and they can actually go outside and enjoy nature as well.

It is a complicated topic because there is no “one way” to use the internet, just as there is no :”one way” to use a pen or pencil r paper.
As a recent article in Wired stated:

"Part of the difficulty with discussing the effects of Internet use is that there are many ways to use the Internet, and there are many ways for it to have an effect – from how we conduct our relationships to how we think, to how our brains are wired up. Despite the fears spread by many commentators, there is actually a good deal of research suggesting positive psychological effects for teenagers from using the Internet. For example, a 2009 study found that online interaction boosted teens’ self-esteem after they’d been made to feel socially excluded. There’s also evidence that moderate Internet use by teens and youth goes hand in hand with participating in more physical activities and sports clubs, not less. There is some limited research on how Internet use may be changing how we think (for example, how we use our memories), but this is not specific to teens, and most research in the field is on the more general topic of “media multi-tasking” (which may have positive as well as negative effects), rather than Internet use specifically."

So stop freaking out about your kids using the internet. It will be alright.

Sep 2

BBC Launched new site to encourage kids to code

Wouldn’t it be cool if a major TV network in the US would do the same? I know that BBC is government funded and all, but heck, how much cash do you need to do something like this ABC?

From the press release:

BBC Children’s and BBC Learning today announce a range of content across Bitesize, CBBC and CBeebies that will encourage children across the UK to get involved with computing and coding, with new education resources, lively television series, games and competitions.
These early examples form part of the BBC’s coding and digital creativity initiative for 2015, which aims to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology. More detail on this initiative will be announced soon.

To support primary and secondary schools across the UK, and to coincide with the new computing curriculum in England, BBC Learning has introduced a new range of media-rich computer science content through Bitesize. These include curriculum-mapped guides using animation, graphics, video and interactive games

In Appsolute Genius on CBBC, Dick and Dom learn about the geniuses whose ideas, creations and discoveries have shaped the world of coding, computer programming and gaming. As part of this brand-new interactive series, Dick and Dom will also be challenging CBBC viewers to design and help build their very own game – giving a budding young designer the once in a lifetime opportunity for their idea to be released as an app that people across the UK can download and play. Competition details will be announced on CBBC and on the CBBC website later this month.

Also launching on CBBC this autumn is Technobabble, a fun new series delving into the exciting world of technology and taking children on a journey to discover how digital innovations may affect their lives in the future. Presenters Frankie Vu and Clara Amfo will be highlighting the latest apps, games and brilliant examples of digital creativity from around the world, from 3D printers to movie special effects and immersing themselves in the world of virtual reality.

For younger viewers super scientist Nina returns to CBeebies with a brand-new series, Nina And The Neurons: Go Digital, which sees Nina and her young experimenters travel the UK in search of wonders of computer technology. Nina and her experimenters have a go at computer code, find out how the internet works and even try some 3D printing of their own.

Sinéad Rocks Acting Head of BBC Learning, said: “We know that many children are genuinely interested in technology and we want to play our part in inspiring and empowering them to pursue their passions and to find out even more. Our new education resources are designed to give a hands on approach through a range of great animation, video and interactive games that we hope will really engage and entertain whilst also enabling our audiences to develop key digital skills. This combined with great television and online output from CBBC and CBeebies means that the BBC can inspire children to get creative digitally both within the formal setting of the classroom and at home through television, games and competitions.”

The new resources can be found at bbc.co.uk/schoolscomputing, which will link to all the new Computing content on Bitesize as well as to other BBC classroom resources, including content to support Dick and Dom’s Appsolute Genius.

Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s, said: “It’s really important that BBC Children’s is at the forefront of digital creativity, because for millions of children CBeebies and CBBC are their first port of call for facts, information and inspiration. And with Dick and Dom and Nina and her Neurons leading the charge, we are sure it will be huge with our audiences.”

Sep 1

Free Ebook Offer from Curtis Bonk: Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online

From Curtis Bonk one of the people you need to be following:

When my book, “The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education" first appeared in the summer of 2009, people asked me two insightful questions: #1. If this truly is an open educational world, then why isn’t the book free?, and #2. What can educators actually do in this more free and open world? A couple years later, when Massive Open Online Courses or "MOOCs" first arrived on the scene, people around the globe were asking me a third question; namely, #3. how to increase MOOC retention rates. They read MOOC related articles in the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC News, CNN International, the Korea Times, and all of the other hype about the global transformation of higher education. But they also knew that there were a host of problems surrounding MOOCs.



It took more than five years, but I finally have responded to all three questions. Where? How? And when, you ask? Well, my latest book, "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY: 100+ Activities for Motivating and Retaining Learners Online," provides a framework of 10 proven psychological principles of motivation (see visual below) and more than 100 activities for addressing the vast learner motivation and retention problems we all witness today. In responding to all those who joked with me that my next book should be free, this book, written with Elaine Khoo from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, not only is FREE as an e-book (all 367 pages), but you can download each chapter separately for free as well. Since the book release in May, over 20,000 people have already downloaded the entire book and thousands more have selected individual chapters. Chapters on curiosity, tone/climate, and relevance are among the most popular ones.

You too can download it all right now and share it with others. In addition, a Chinese version of the free e-book will be available soon. This free and open access book is my way of expressing my thanks for the opportunity to live in this vast and exciting open educational world.




Besides the free e-book, “Adding Some TEC-VARIETY” is also available from Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. More specifics about the book can be found in a recent blog post of mine as well as at the book homepage.

This book is an experiment for me both in self-publishing as well as pushing the edges of the open educational world. I hope you enjoy my new free book and share it with others. Oh, by the way, my son Alex designed the cover. I hope you like it.
Best wishes.


Curt Bonk, Ph.D. (in educational psychology), CPA
Professor, Instructional Systems Technology Department; Adjunct, School of Informatics
Indiana University
President, CourseShare, LLC

Boring is as Boring Does in Class Assignments

I have become interested in the idea that in order to get students engaged, we as educators need to make some kind of interest connection with them. I know, you say, that is what relevance is all about. Yeah yeah, I know. But to me, this idea goes way beyond relevance. It goes more towards how do you make a lesson RELEVANT AND INTERESTING?

To me, relevance and interest are two separate terms, and just because something is relevant, it does not mean it is of interest. And just because something is interesting, does not mean it is relevant. I can have a great interesting lesson that means nothing either to the standards that I need to teach, or to the kids I am teaching. On the other hand, I can have a lesson that kills it when it comes to relevance in my student’s lives but be boring as hell.

This goes back to that idea that there needs to be some kind of emotional attachment to learning, as I wrote about in “Remembering the Kiss.” We don’t have to be recreating the late Robin William’s manic routines in front of them in order to be engaging or to create that connection. I remember in the movie “Teachers” where Richard Mulligan plays a man that has escaped the asylum and was mistaken for a substitute teacher: He actually ended up being more interesting to the students than the regular teacher, reenacting historical theater of the absurd in the classroom:

Boring it certainly was not, but whether the students were actually learning, well, that is left up to the viewer.

We are now blessed with an overabundance of ways of teaching. Indeed, in my 27 or so years as an educator, I cannot recall a time when there ever was such an infusion of knowledge, techniques, sharing, and general just education-related material available as there is today. Online, in class, at home, at the coffee house, listening while riding the bus or driving a car, there is now so many opportunities to learn that really someone must purposely avoid it.

Yet, I wonder if those opportunities are any better than they were before? Are we growing more crops in our larger fields or more weeds like in this picture:

Do we still produce low interest lessons?

We want to create a sweet spot where our lessons are both high in relevance and interest:

I was thinking about flipped classrooms the other day. I know, everyone is hot for flipped classrooms, where you take the lecture (READ THAT: BORING) part of the lesson and “flip it” so that the kids get the boring part of the class at home, and the actual stuff they would have done at home in class. (I have several entries about flipping the classroom here.) So are we flipping the boredom to home instead of in class? Is that such a good thing? I am not sure. Are we not just shifting stuff around instead of making it more engaging and more relevant in many flipped class examples? Afterall, boring is boring, whether it is presented in class or on a computer screen at home. Watching this on a computer screen does not make it more meaningful, relevant or interesting:

Dan Melzer’s book “Assignments across the Curriculum A National Study of College Writing" looked at over 2000 writing assignments in post secondary schools. What he found was not surprising: Boring writing assignments lead to boring writing. As he recently told Inside Higher Ed:

"There’s a lot more testing with the teacher-as-examiner going on than we probably think, and that’s a real negative to me because it’s such a limited kind of writing,” Melzer said. “It should make people think about how we can improve upon the situation and have student do richer kinds of writing.”

Professors are also “obsessed” with grammatical correctness, even when they claim to value critical thinking, the study says. “Based on their discussions of grading criteria, instructors devote as much time to formal correctness as they do talking about content, and often grammatical correctness was a baseline for acceptability” – even when most syllabuses had typos or grammatical errors, Melzer says in the book; one of the “strongest patterns” in his research was the expectation of perfect grammar.

“At a minimum, your writing should be free of spelling errors and grammatical errors,” reads one sample assignment. Another business law professor’s assignment offers very specific guidance about how different grammatical and spelling errors will affect a student’s grade. Then, seemingly as an afterthought, the professor says: “Please offer analysis, also.”

Melzer argues that such an apparent emphasis on surface-level writing sends students “mixed messages” about the value of higher-order writing skills. It would also impede many students’ ability to “let things flow” to build writing fluency, he says.

You can find Melzer’s original paper here.

This HAS to apply at all levels, not just post secondary AND it has to apply to assignments other than just writing. If we create boring ,single disciplinary, low cognitive ability assignments, we will get back from students exactly what we ask them to provide: Low level, low interest papers.

If we assign those types of problems, we should not complain that students cannot “think out of the box” or “lack creativity.” If the assignment is stuck in the box, don’t expect the students to exist anywhere but in that same box.

This certainly makes the case for programs such as Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) which has been around for quite a while, but is not used widely. Indeed, Melzer seems to be quite an advocate of WAC:

"The instructors in my research who assign the widest variety of purposes, audiences, and genres, who provide students with interesting and complex rhetorical situations rather than just the traditional lecture/exam format, and who teach writing as a process through peer response or responding to rough drafts are most often teaching in a course connected in some way to a Writing Across the Curriculum program. This may mean a writing-intensive course, a team-taught course with an English department faculty member, a learning community, or a course connected to a writing fellows program. Instructors from writing-intensive courses connected to established WAC programs at institutions such as the University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh, Cornell, University of Hawaii, Duke, University of Massachusetts, and Stanford assigned the most writing, asked students to write for the greatest variety of audiences in the greatest variety of genres, and adopted common WAC pedagogical tools such as journaling, freewriting, grading rubrics, and peer response."

"Boring is a boring does" to paraphrase Forrest Gump.

Aug 9

Reflections on District Site Visits: Not Everything is About Money

This week, I have the privilege of traveling with a delegation from my school district to three Dallas Texas area districts: Plano, Lewisville and Coppell. The purpose of the trip was to meet with representatives of the districts and see first hand some of the interesting and innovative programs that they have instituted and to pick their brains on the good and bad of what they were doing.

Now I know that these three districts are in economically well-off areas of the state of Texas. There is no way around it, they have money. They are located in high SES bedroom communities outside of the Dallas-proper area. They don’t have many of the problems that property poor districts have. I understand that. But we were not there to feel sorry for ourselves and make a wish list of things we could never afford. We were there to see how innovation works in innovative districts. Innovation was easy to find there.

After a few hours, it became apparent that some major themes were common in these districts.
And it wasn’t about the money. It was about attitude.

Without exception, the employees we met with seemed to have a consistent set of attitudes:

They enjoyed working in the districts they worked in.

They believed that they could do interesting and awesome things if only they tried.

They were not afraid to fail at something if they learned, moved on and grew from the failure.

They had a spirit of cooperation. One district even called another their “sister school district.”

They understood the direction that the district was headed. They were familiar with the district’s plan.

They worked hard to incorporate the community into their decisions and to maintain a strong community relationship.

I noticed that many of things that they did were not as much to do with money but rather simply attitude. For instance, one district had a professional development center that had a snack area which included an area that looked like it came out of a 7-11: Hot Dogs, popcorn, nacho chips and sauce…serve yourself and clean up after yourself as well. When teachers were hungry during PD, go get a snack.
A very inexpensive thing, However, what that does is send the message that we value having you here and we value you enough that we will provide little things to make you more comfortable.

That attitude of valuing the employees, was evident everywhere and that does not require a lot of money. Employee input was not just something done as part of a yearly or quarterly survey, it actually was just the way business was conducted.

Having an enjoyable place to work. Is that a money thing? I don’t think so. I think it is a leadership thing. Indeed, almost all of the above points are leadership things.

Cooperation, no fear to try new things, communicating the district’s direction, community involvement. Are those money things or are they leadership things?

It is easy for us in the low SES districts to look at districts like these and say “Yeah, well if WE had money, we could do that too.” It is easy to have that attitude and it is easy to use that attitude to not try to excel. (It reminds me of the old story of the amateur photographer that owned a less expensive camera that told the professional photographer that they could take good pictures if they just had a “good camera.” Turns out it is not the camera, it is the photographers. Crappy photography comes from crappy photographers, not crappy cameras.) In districts with High SES, it might be easier to get the word out to parents for instance and that translates into better parental involvement. But really, that is just a logistics thing, not a money thing.

When I was leaving, one of the ladies I was with had an interesting story. “Tim, she said “When I got married , I really wanted to dress like celebrities that I saw on TV and in the movies. Of course we were poor and just starting out, so I couldn’t afford the fancy clothes. My husband said to me ‘You know how they look. You know where the cloth store is, you know how to sew. Why not try to replicate as best you can? It may not be the exact copy, but it would be pretty close.” She went on to tell me how she would make clothes that were pretty close. Good enough. (As Kevin Honeycutt once told me it was “China Good.”) Maybe, she said, we could duplicate what these districts are doing but on our terms, on our budgets (Much like this website tries to do with celebrity fashions.)

The point was, we may not be able to exactly duplicate what these districts are doing, but we can try, with the limitations we have, work to replicate other’s successful programs so that they fit in our needs , our community.

And if we aren’t afraid to fail, we can make magic.

Aug 8

My school district is making the move to digital textbooks, starting with high School science classes this year. Here is a little video that a local news channel did on it.

Aug 1

Only Reporting the Planes that Crash in #edtech

As Don Henley once sang that the news loves to report when planes crash:

"We got the bubble headed Bleached blonde

Comes on at five

She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash

With a gleam in her eye

It’s interesting when people die

Give us dirty laundry”

-Dirty Laundry 1982

The fact is of course, that the news rarely reports the planes that land safely. News is only news, it seems, when the unusual happens. Houses that DON’T burn down are never news, Houses that burn down? Always news. Marriages that last forever? Not News. Divorce rate goes up? News. You get the idea.

With that in mind, I am noticing a trend in the news of reporting when big ed tech initiatives crash and burn. The most famous of course is the Los Angeles Unified iPad rollout where the kids immediately found a way around the built-in security and the iPads had to be recalled. Amid all of that, the district’s $1 Billion program crashed and burned, and recently the district rebooted the initiative with Windows laptops. I won’t debate the merits or lack thereof of the program, but it made for great news: giant ed tech program crashes. Millions of dollars wasted!

Then just this week, we learned that another large scale 1:1 initiate was cut back by the Hoboken School district, which decided to pull back it’s large-scale laptop initiative: Listen to the story here:

Of course, we could have a nice discussion about how these programs had some significant failures in implementation, not in goals. Poor logistics, bad training, poor communications. In the Hoboken case for instance the current Superintendent Toback “admits that teachers weren’t given enough training on how to use the computers for instruction. Teachers complained that their teenage students were too distracted by their computer screens to pay attention to the lesson in the classroom.”

The planes crashed in LA and Hoboken. Sigh.

The point however, is that there are 100s if not thousands of successful iPad and mobile device rollout programs across the country that the media does not report on. Both large scale and small scale. From chromebooks to laptops to tablets. From classroom implementations to district wide, to statewide programs. Consider the McAllen ISD in Texas who has had a wildly successful iPad 1:1 program. They are not alone. Remember the state of Maine? They still are going with laptops for all their kids in grade 7-12. Don’t hear too much about that anymore do you?

McAllen and the state of Maine: The planes are landing safely there. No one talks about them. Sigh again.

One major downside of all of this is that the average news watcher is going to see the plane crashes in Ed Tech and think that the NORM is for a bunch of money to be unwisely spent in times of budget cuts which it is not. Never seeing the positive or only tangentially by going to their kids school and seeing kids with technology.

We as ed tech proponents need to get the word out to our communities, not just report to ourselves about how wonderful we are, That is preaching to the choir. We need to preach to those that watch the bubble headed beach blondes for the evening news.

We need to celebrate the planes that land safely.

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

If teachers put the boring stuff outside the class in a flipped classroom, isn’t it still boring stuff? -Holt

(Source: recitethis.com)

Five Ways to Get People on Board with #edtech

Education technology is always a hard sell, epsecially with those teachers and administrators that are perfectly happy with the status quo. “Why change? My scores are just fine.” is a phrase that we hear all the time. I have always thought of a bell curve that I learned about in my ed admin classes all those years ago:

A certain percent of your teachers, if you are a new principal, will do whatever you ask. A certain amount will never do what you ask. The vast majority of teachers however, want to be convinced that what you are doing is correct.

So what are some strategies that can convince those teachers that they should get on board with ed tech initiatives? Here are five ways that should help you convince those teachers and administrators that your ed tech initiative is worth their time:

Start With the Why
Why are we doing this? What is the reason that we are doing this initiative? So often, we see some ed tech THING coming from central office, we are not told why this is being done, only that we have to do it. The issue with this, other than the trust, is that decisions seem to be made in some sort of vacuum, without consideration of WHY the decision was made.
Explaining WHY this particular ed tech decision was made will go a long way towards teachers and administrators trusting that the technology was not just purchased because we could.

Explain How This Technology Makes their Jobs Easier
This kind of is an addition to the “WHY” argument: How does this new thingy make my job easier? If you can honestly show teachers that this technology actually makes their jobs easier, even if there is an upfront expenditure of time and effort, then you will win many converts, especially if the effort to keep using this new technology requires less effort than the whatever it replaces.

There should be some trade off as well. Don’t push a new effort out if you are not willing to give something up. What is it that teachers will NOT have to do if they adopt the use of this new technology? If you do not have an answer to that question, it will appear that you are “piling on” something else.

Explain How this Help Students
No technology effort in a school district should not even be considered if you cannot somehow explain how this will help students. What are students doing with this technology which is superior to what they are doing without the technology? How does this make learning more meaningful? How can students use this across classes? How does this allow students to address their learnign weaknesses? Show how this helps students, and many teachers will be convinced that this is a good thing.

Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Meaningful professional development means more than just showing how something works. Meaningful means how do you put this work in a classroom setting, using the new tool. If I teach science, then show me how to use this in science. Same for any class I teach. Do not just show me how to turn it on. Show me how to use this with my students.
If the PD is weak, then the implementation will be weak as well. Ed tech is not the field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. Meaningful PD provides the wedge between the naysayers who argue that the tool is a waste of time or money or effort.

Always Provide for Feedback and Transparency
From the very outset, allow for users to provide feedback. If teachers or administrators feel they have no voice in the process, then they will feel that they are being forced to use something that they may not need. Users of technology should be able to vent frustrations in a constructive way, as well as be able to provide feedback on what is working and what is not working. The folks that put in the technology should also be willing to admit when something is not working and be able to swallow their pride and create constructive work arounds for problems. There has never been a 100% successful implementation of anything. If you expect problems will occur, then when they happen, it is easier to respond.

Seven signs of professional learning.


To be successful in professional development efforts we must plan backward, beginning with the student learning outcomes. ( Thomas R. Guskey,p. 10)

Just as surgeons see observations and coaching as vital to improving their craft, so should teachers. ( Emily Dolci Grimm, Trent Kaufman, and Dave Doty, p. 24)

We have to remember that teachers are professionals who use their classrooms as innovative laboratories and want to engage in authentic learning. (Kristen Swanson, p. 36)

Teachers have a great deal of knowledge about their practice and their students that is incredibly valuable to other teachers. (Rebecca Van Tassell,p.76)

When video recording is shared in a way that supports each educator’s intrinsic desire to improve, it can be a powerful tool for rapid, significant improvement.  (Jim Knight, p.18)

Educators must ensure that professional learning networks are more than a forum for sharing war stories or platform for promoting personal preferences about instruction. (Richard Dufour, p.30)

When professional development fails to deliver genuine, face-to-face interactions with other people, educators feel cheated.  (John Settlage and Adam Johnston, p.67)

Get the image here.

Seven signs of professional learning.

  • To be successful in professional development efforts we must plan backward, beginning with the student learning outcomes. ( Thomas R. Guskey,p. 10)

  • Just as surgeons see observations and coaching as vital to improving their craft, so should teachers. ( Emily Dolci Grimm, Trent Kaufman, and Dave Doty, p. 24)
  • We have to remember that teachers are professionals who use their classrooms as innovative laboratories and want to engage in authentic learning. (Kristen Swanson, p. 36)

  • Teachers have a great deal of knowledge about their practice and their students that is incredibly valuable to other teachers. (Rebecca Van Tassell,p.76)
  • When video recording is shared in a way that supports each educator’s intrinsic desire to improve, it can be a powerful tool for rapid, significant improvement. (Jim Knight, p.18)

  • Educators must ensure that professional learning networks are more than a forum for sharing war stories or platform for promoting personal preferences about instruction. (Richard Dufour, p.30)
  • When professional development fails to deliver genuine, face-to-face interactions with other people, educators feel cheated. (John Settlage and Adam Johnston, p.67)
  • Get the image here.