Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

This video is provides an interesting perspective on leadership.  It was filmed at a conference. Begins with a guy dancing (shirtless dancing guy). He was joined by another person who wanted to dance. This continued until there was a mob of dancers.

The most interesting part was how the narrator pointed out that it was the first follower who transformed the "lone nut" into a leader. He turns this jiggly video of motivated concert goers into a lesson on leadership.

Watch it.  You will enjoy it.

How does it fit your ideas about leadership?  Have you ever considered the importance of the first follower? What does this mean to your life?


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not Comfortable with Technology? Get Over It!!!

I was just reading George Couros' blog, The Principal of Change, where I found some great observations.  I must admit that my feeling about the correctness of George's ideas has a high correlation to their agreement with my own ideas.  Isn't it funny?

One of the things that I like about George is his undying dedication to kids. He is a "Principal of Change" who continually works to provide students exciting learning experiences. It's not about us, it's about the kids.

What I liked in his posting entitled "Push". was that he identified a major problem that many educators have with technology - they may "not feel comfortable with this technology." He says that there are lots of people to us with technology.  He had 3 words for educators who "didn't feel comfortable" . . .  Get Over It!  Empowering students for their futures isn't about us, the teachers.  It's about the students.

Learning is a social activity and today's social technologies provide a venue through which they can connect with you, the teacher, students in your class, community and around the globe. Couros suggests that teachers need to take risks.  They need to expand outside their comfort zones to provide learning opportunities that are relevant to today's students.

What do you think?

photo: George Couros

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Skype in the Classroom Soon to be Released

Skype brings a whole new dimension to the classroom opportunities. As I have been chronicling throughout this blog, I have used Skype for years to bring experts and fellow educators into by university classroom. 

In a previous posting, I discussed ways to find people to Skype into your classroom through wiki directories or conference program directories or just meeting up with people at conferences and getting their contact information.

You were introduced to a Skype page for an Author Network.   This is where authors can offer their services to talk with your students. 

We shared 
Silvia Tolisano's wonderful 20-minute introductory video about how to use Skype in your classroom, Around the World with Skype.

Well, Guess What?   Skype is taking the lead to foster using its video conferencing software in the classroom with their new project entitled
Skype in the Classroom. Skype is going to support an online directory of people who would be willing to skype with you and your students.  What is really exciting about this project is its international aspect. I don't know if you know this, but Skype was founded by a Swede and a Dane.  It was developed by a pair of Estonian developers.  Presently, Skype's headquarters are in Luxembourg.

There isn't a great deal of information about how they will do this. You can pre-register at their
Skype in the Classroom website. I just signed-up this morning and they sent me an email verifying my "subscription."  This took me to their Subscription Page entitled "Skype - Pay Me"  I didn't quite see how this fit with the FREE label that Skype put on Skype in the Classroom. I looked around and didn't find anything that mentioned Skype in the Classroom.  I figured that something would happen in the future . . .  and it did.

I received another email from Skype sending me a list of the information I had submitted - my name and email address.  Oh Well . . . Skype in the Classroom is in its beta format and I am happy to be one of the early adopters for this project. 

The international aspect of this video conferencing tool has the potential to enhance the global aspects of our education.

Thanks, Skype!



Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Keyboarding Skills for 4th Grade Students

What effect does a 4-week online computer keyboarding instructional tutorial have on 4th grade students?

Teaching keyboarding at the elementary level is the way it should be.  Kids are using computers during their preschool ages and should be provided guidance early in their lives so as to develop good keyboarding habits.  I must admit that I am not a fan of preschool keyboarding instruction. I think that it should begin about 3rd grade. Research states that 8 years old is a good age because students have developed the coordination and manual dexterity to keyboard efficiently.

I agree with the physical development statements, but more importantly they have a reason to communicate in a written format.  It doesn't make sense for kids to learn how to keyboard if they don't have much to say.

Amy Lockhart and I had an opportunity to do some keyboarding research in her 4th grade classroom at Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa.  We involved the students in 4-weeks of instruction. We spent 40 minutes a day in the computer lab learning how to keyboard. It was fun and productive.

We used the Almena Keyboarding Method. This is a unique form of instruction where instead of learning the homerow first, the Almena Method uses a series of mnemonic jingles for each finger’s keys. These jingles consist of three-word phrases that allow the students to learn the keys’ locations. The phrase, “Quiet Aunt Zelda”, was used to remember the left little finger keys; Q, A and Z. The phrase, “Over Longer Periods”, was used for the right ring finger keys; O, L and P.  

The Almena Keyboarding Method was relatively successful. The 4th graders averaged an improvement of 2.6 Adjusted Words Per Minute (A-WPM). The A-WPM was calculated by subtracting the number of Errors Per Minute (EPM) from the WPM. While 2.6 doesn't seem like much of an improvement, consider that they began at an average of 7.2 A-WPM.  This means that they improved an average of 36% in keyboarding fluency.  Not bad.

What was unique about our action research was that we also investigated how specific attributes affected students' ability to keyboard.  These characteristics were: Gender, Age, Hand Size, Music Experience, and Athletic Experience.
  • Gender - Boy or girl.
  • Age - Students’ ages ranged from 9 - 11 years old.
  • Hand Size - Students’ hand sizes ranged from 5.0 to 6.75 inches in length from wrist to the tip of the middle finger. This variable was classified into three groups for analysis.
  • Music Experience - Students were questioned about their musical experience. If they had taken lesson for playing a musical instrument, they were identified as having Musical Experience.
  • Athletic Experience - Students were questioned about their athletic experience. If they had been involved in an organized athletic activity, they were identified as having Athletic Experience.
We had some interesting results.  Here is an table displaying the overall results based upon Adjusted Words Per Minute:

What does this tell you?  The small size of the sample does not allow us to generalize to a larger population, but it shows some trends that should lead to additional research. 
  • Musical experience seems to have an affect on success using keyboarding tutorials.
  • Younger students tended to key faster then their older classmates.
  • Students with smaller hands tended to key faster than their bigger-handed classmates.
We need to further analyze this data to investigate how multiple variables affect A-WPM. Do small-handed 9-year-olds key faster then bigger-handed 9-year-olds?

If this research catches your interest, you can download the whole .pdf file here:

What are your experiences in young students keyboarding? 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dr. Z's Turiffic Turkey Chili

Yes, sometimes we DO think about things other than technology. I always look for an interesting way to deal with our Thanksgiving leftovers. We can eat only so many turkey sandwiches.
Here is a delicious recipe for my award winning Turiffic Turkey Chili. The best part is the "pulled turkey" that you can cook with the chili. This recipe calls for a raw breast of turkey that you tear apart using forks once it is cooked. I found it quite easy to just "pull apart" my leftover pieces of turkey.
There are many spices in this chili. I especially like the cilantro. It gives it a unique taste.
What do you do with your leftovers?

Dr. Z’s Turiffic Turkey Chili
Award Winning


1 can            black beans (15 oz)
1 can            pinto beans (15 oz)
1 can            garbanzo beans (15 oz)           
3 tbsp           olive oil
1                   turkey breast (half breast), skinned
4                  medium yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves       garlic, minced
3 ribs            celery, sliced
1 small         green pepper, chopped
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup        water
4 tbsp          chili powder
1/2 tsp         cayenne pepper
1 tsp            cumin powder
            Chopped fresh cilantro (season to taste)
            Mess of diced green chilis (season to taste)


  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream OR
  • Chopped ripe avocado


  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottom pot over medium high heat. When hot, brown the de-boned turkey breast well on all sides.  Remove and set aside.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, celery, and green pepper.  Saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cayenne, and the turkey breast.  Heat until the pot starts bubbling, then reduce heat to a slow simmer, partially cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hour.  Stir occasionally, watching carefully that the bottom does not start to stick.
  4. Remove the turkey breast and coarsely shred the meat with two forks (hold the meat with one fork, tear with the grain with the other.) Return the meat to the pot.
  5. Add cumin powder to the pot.
  6. Add the diced green chilis to taste.  This will take a while because you need to let the chilis cook into the chili to get the real taste.  Then add more if necessary.
  7. Add the chopped cilantro. This give is a unique flavor.
  8. Cook an additional one hour, or until the beans are tender.
  9. For the traditional approach, top with the cheese and sour cream; for the modern/healthy approach, top with the avocado. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Please Take Your Designated Seats. Do NOT Talk. No Need for Creativity Here . . .

Students in Albuquerque have created a Love Letter to Albuquerque Public Schools and have performed it at the Brave New Voices Poetry Slam in July 2010.

This video by Miguel Figueroa, Reed Bobroff, Olivia Gatwood, and Khalid Binsunni is a biting critique of what they have seen in their classrooms. 

They cry out against a lack of creativity and bubble tests. The team of students acknowledge the need for learning because "There are things we need to know to live, but the system will never know that we've learned them."

What does this say about our educational system?  Are we trying to address the lowest denominator of learners through standardized testing?  Obviously the students know that there is a better way to learn and they want to be part of it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

25 Web 2.0 Apps to Improve Productivity for Students or Professors

I was just review my Tweets when I came across this link to an OEDB (Online Education Database) blog posting that reviews a number of mostly free Web 2.0 productivity apps.  OEDB is a site where you can go to search for an online masters degree program.

This posting has the typical applications like Google Calendar, Zoho Projects, MyStickies, Google Docs, Bloglines, Google Reader and such.  But it also includes a whole collection of useful apps that I have never seen including Chalksite, Schoopy, Gradefix and the like.  The only problem I have with this list is the overcropping that they used with their logos.  =-)

You can find this wonderful list at:   Top 25 Web 2.0 Apps to Improve a Student's or Professor's Productivity

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Why is Second Life Such a Ghost Town?


I just spent 2 hours in Second Life and only met one person. I want to ISTE Island, InfoIsland and Virtual State Park to name a few.  It was totally dead.  I know that Second Life is a huge place but shouldn't there be people there? I think that Second Life is suffering from an overexpansion problem.  I would go into the places like the Etopia Eco Village and over half of the shops were empty.

What have been your experiences?  What have you found to be the lively places?  I am especially interested in places with educational interests, not just dance halls.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Facebook in Education?

Are you using Social Media/Social Networking in your classroom?

I don't know about you, but a lot of this jargon is getting confusing for me. What is the difference between Social Media and Social Networking? Should they/Could they all be used in your classroom?

After a great deal of research, here is my understanding of the differences:

Social Media is user-created media designed to be shared through social interaction. This can take the form of blogs, forums, wikis, podcasts, social news, etc.
Social Networking is the process of building a social structure of individuals or organizations. It doesn't have to be done over the internet. We engage in "unplugged" social networking all day long. It is primarily the system for the social interaction used to share social media. It can include Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, MySpace, FriendFinder, Classmates, etc.

Looks like a confusion of the content with the process. Content being social media while process being social networking.  The funny thing is that each entity affects the other. Social media is determined by the content that will be interesting and the medium through which it will be shared. The structure of the social networking systems is determined by the media that is shared through them. I am beginning to refer to the "whole lot" of them as Social Technologies.
I was just working on some school work when I was interrupted by the periodic twirl of TweetDeck telling me that it has detected another Tweet from my designated searches.  Interestingly enough, it yielded a few interesting resources about Social Technologies in education.

Here they are:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Online Community Professional Dev. strand at ITEC Brings New Perspective

Experiencing speakers from around the world.
On Monday, October 11 and Tuesday, October 12 at the ITEC conference here in Coralville, Iowa, we will demonstrate a novel form of Professional Development (PD).  We will watch 20-minute videos that leaders in the field have already made and then Skype with them directly to ask follow-up questions and begin a discussion.
The videos were created for the K-12 Online Conference that Wesley Fryer has been leading for the past few years. Instead of everyone coming to one geographic location, the presenters make videos which are posted for anyone to watch at anytime. We reviewed the videos of 2009 and identified outstanding videos in areas of interest to our ITEC members.
Once we identified the videos, we contacted the presenters and they have agreed to help us with this unique form of professional development. This is an exciting opportunity where educators can meet and discuss with leaders in their field.  To liven up the discussion, we will also have a back channel running (Chatroom) where the attendees will be able to discuss the presentation online while the presentation is running.  This is called Cover It Live.
While those located in the room will be able to enjoy the discussion, we have also placed a link to the video we will be watching and the CoverItLive back channel on a wiki page dedicated to them. Here is a link to the central webpage.
I will report more to you about this experiment but I primarily created this page so that the attendees and I would be able to have a central place to access the resources.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Shannon Miller - The Technology-Rich Learning Environment at Van Meter Community Schools Makes a Difference

I had the opportunity to visit Van Meter Community Schools a few weeks ago. Superintendent John Carver share with me the long-reaching vision that his administration team and faculty have been developing. It was an exciting opportunity to walk the halls of a school where students and teachers were bringing the world into their daily learning using their personal laptops.

Here is a 10-minute video of an interview that I held with Shannon Miller, their teacher librarian and technology director for the semester. Shannon is an avid Twitterer who is constantly sharing ideas and resources about education. I have a couple of more interviews that I will be sharing in the near future.

Shannon Miller - The Technology-Rich Learning Environment at Van Meter Community Schools Makes a Difference from Leigh Zeitz on Vimeo.

Friday, October 01, 2010

5 MORE TED Talks about Education and Learning: It's about Relevance

I LOVE TED.  No, I am not sharing any unusual amorous intentions. I just enjoy the wealth of genius that is shared through the TED network. 

I had a great response from you readers to the first 5 videos that I posted so here is another 5 videos on learning and teaching that I think you will enjoy:

Sugata Mitra shares How Kids Teach Themselves. He has successfully implemented student-centered learning throughout the world.   In 2007, he introduced his Hole in the Wall project that he has introduced in remote areas. He explores how children can learn through incidental learning. It is an innovative idea for learning about the essence of facilitating learning.

In his 2010 presentation, Child-Driven Education, Sugata Mitra talked about how he addressed the problem of having a great need for good teachers where schools don't exist. He provided a number of examples where computers were used to provide learning opportunities.  This is not about computer labs. It is about groups of children gathering around public computers.  My favorite quote was "Children will learn to do, what they want to learn to do."   Hmmm . . . . sounds like relevance is important to children as well as adults.  What do you think?

Arthur Benjamin's Formula for Changing Math Education  Arthur Benjamin questions the relevance of our secondary math curriculum. He suggests that we replace the calculus-oriented sequence with one that emphasizes statistics. It would be a huge upheaval of our present math system, but is our current math system still relevant to our students' needs?

Along those same lines, Liz Coleman issues a call to reinvent liberal arts education. She regrets the path that American education has take in emphasizing narrow pursuits of knowledge. She suggests that liberal arts need to be oriented to address real-world problems. She stats that "Deep thought matters when you're contemplating what to do about things that matter." Once again, it's ALL about relevancy.

A FUN presentation was given by David Merrill who Demos Siftables. Siftables are "cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands." They put the opportunity for learning in the hands of the learners.  These tiles can do math, play music, and even talk with each other. It is an amazing opportunity for hands-on learning.

What do you think?  What did you learn from these videos?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Super Wi-Fi transmitted via White Spaces

WOW!! I was just reading the Digital Education blog @ Education Week when I learned about Super Wi-Fi and White Spaces.  There I was . . . innocently reading their posting on how the FCC Approves E-Rate Changes . . .

When BAM, I am hit with new terms that I had not before known - Super WiFi and White Spaces.  Following the learning process that we all follow, I quickly did a Google search to find out more about these two entities.

Turns out that at the Tested blog, they had an article entitled FCC Opens White Space Spectrum for Super Wi-Fi where I learned about this new opportunity for WiFi. Turns out that the FCC ruled on 9/23/10 that they would open up an empty portion of the radio wave spectrum between TV and broadcast stations.  This "White Space" would be used for "Super WiFi."  Apparently, WiFi has been operating on a "Junk Band" since its inception and the white space will bring about a massive increase in broadcast range.

16 TIMES!!!!

One article that I read said that the Super WiFi could travel as much as 16 times further than our existing WiFi.  Presently the 802.11n routers will adequately carry a signal 100 meters. The Super WiFi is purported to have a range 16X that of our standard routers.  That means that these could have a distance of 1600 meters (= 5249.343832020997 feet) or almost 1 mile.  Imagine that!!! You could have a Super WiFi system that would range 1 mile from its source.  That means that there would be a circle with a radius of 1 mile.   Obviously there can be confounding variables like buildings and trees and ??, but the possibility is dumbfounding.

What could your school district do with routers that have a 1-mile range?  Think of the homes we could supply with Internet access so that students who li can't afford broadband will be able to do homework when they take home their laptops from their school.

Don't you just LOVE progress??????

What are your thoughts or experiences or visions about this?


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Merit Pay is NOT Enough to Make a Difference in the Classroom.

The National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University just reported on the finding of their 3-year POINT project. This research, the first scientific study of performance pay ever conducted in the United States, investigated the foundational question, "Does bonus pay alone improve student outcomes?" Interestingly enough, they found the answer to be negative.

This research took place with mathematics teachers in grades 5 - 8 in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. It included nearly 300 middle school teachers who volunteered for participation. These teachers were offered annual bonuses of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 based upon improvement in their students' test scores.

With these sizable bonuses available, only about 1 out of 3 teachers received remuneration. Over the 3-year period, the researchers paid out more than $1.27 million in bonuses with the average bonus of $10,000 for those teachers who earned them.

Question is WHY?  WHY didn't this money make a difference?

Katie Stansberry of
ISTE Connects says that it's a matter of motivation. She points out that teachers didn't get into the profession to make money. She stated that teachers are doing "the best they can for their students."  Paying them more money won't make a difference.

TRUE. Money doesn't make a difference, but the answer lies in the phrase "doing the best they can." The part of this research that is seems to be overlooked by reporters of this research is that the ONLY change that was introduced into the instructional equation was the offer of notable bonuses. This model specifically did not include any change in professional development, materials or newly-adopted instructional programs. They were testing to see if merit pay alone could make a difference. 

Linda Perlstein, who writes The Educated Reporter blog, reports that "Presuming that merit pay alone would elevate student achievement makes sense if you assume teachers have a hidden trove of skills and effort they are not unloosing on their students only because they lack the proper incentives to do so." 

Money IS NOT ENOUGH.  Change in education requires updates in the learning/teaching paradigm. Teachers need to create student-centric learning environments where students are empowered to learn. Making them active participants in their own learning brings a level of relevance and self-imposed (or peer-imposed) rigor that will make a difference.

What do you think?  Is merit pay enough?  What changes have you made that have improved your learning environment?


Monday, September 13, 2010

Wisconsin Schools Quit Internet Filters and Live to Tell About It.

I was just reading through the Edutopia website when I happened across an article entitled Freedom of Information: How a Wisconsin School District Ditched Internet Filters. This article explains how their new Director of Information, Tim Peltz, opened up his district's internet access. He provided access to most websites, discussion boards, online chats, Skype, streaming video and even web-based email services. Would you believe that he even provided access to YouTube and Facebook. Edutopia reported that the only content that he blocked "was 'adult' (sexual) sites and what Peltz calls 'hardcore extreme views' such as websites of violent gangs."

WOW!!!! How can Peltz do this? He has the passion. He believes that hiding the Internet from the students will not provide students with an opportunity to learn to use these technologies responsibly. He believes that teaching tomorrow's students requires today's online opportunities.

When asked about whether this would be a problem in their being eligible for the federal e-rate telecommunications discount, he said "I feel that if teachers and staff are showing the kids how to use the technology in an appropriate, productive manner, we'll be in compliance."

Peltz joined forces across the Racine Unified School District as well. He consolidated the technology budgets of Title I, Special Education, ESL, building services and specific subject areas into a single technology account. Using his newly-found resources, he was able to lease 8,000 Apple computers (increase of 23% over previous year) and save an estimated $200,000 in energy costs. This included a new Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer for each of their 1,600 teachers.  YIPPPEEE!

Tim Peltz is definitely a man with a plan. He shows how sometimes we need to rethink the accepted way of doing things and "Think Different."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bill Strickland: A Man Who Changes the World with his Vision

Bill Strickland is a man who has a vision. He grew up in Pittsburgh in a rough part of the city. He learned about building things with clay in high school and hasn't stopped building since.

He has spent his life building schools, facilities and lives for inner-city kids and parents. He believes that people will respond to respect. He creates an environment for kids filled with sunlight and flowers to reflect hope and human possibility.
He says that "it is often the way that you think about people that determines their behavior."

It is difficult for me to explain Strickland's story so it is best for you to just watch this 35-minute TED Talks presentation.

I used to teach drop-out recovery in East Los Angeles and this strikes a deeply-seated chord in my heart. What is your reaction?


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Millenials: They Have Different Learning Needs                   
In the UNI workshop on our Liberal Arts Core, I mentioned the need for educators to consider our students' needs and address them - not the other way around. 
 At UNI the average undergraduate student is 21 years old. This places this audience right in the middle of the Millennial Generation. 
Don Tapscott completed $4 million worth of research into the millennial generation and shared his results in his book, Grown Up Digital.   Many of the attendees of this workshop asked me for the citation so I am placing it on here on my blog.  This is a quick and easy post and I will write more in-depth  at a later date, but here are some links to his books and YouTube videos.

I will be adding additional resources in the near future.

What is your opinion about the needs of millennials?  Is it a valid issue or should we ignore it and make our students learn how to adapt to our teaching styles?

Can you add additional resources in your comment?  Click Comments link below.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Teacher Education: USING technology is Not Enough, MODEL it.

How do teacher educators use technology?

Many of faculty use the BlackBoard content management system for posting grades, emailing their students, providing copies of their PowerPoint presentations and provide assignment pages for students to better understand what is expected in class.

They are USING technology but how are they updating their students' (future teachers) ideas about what learning opportunities can be made possible using technology? How will these future teachers teach differently than they would have because of this technology application? 

The Apple Classroom of Tomorrow research yielded the 5 Stages of Teaching with Technology. These 5 stages include:
  1. Entry - Teachers learn to use a new technology.
  2. Adoption - Teachers use technology to support traditional instruction.
  3. Adaptation - Teachers integrate new technology into traditional classroom practice.
  4. Appropriation - Teachers focus on cooperative, project-based and interdisciplinary work - incorporating technology as needed and one of many tools.
  5. Invention - Teachers discover new uses for technology tools and allow student to select between the tools.
The applications listed above fit into the Adoption mode of these 5 stages. This does not foster change. We MUST look beyond adopting technology into our curricula. We need to MODEL using technology to provide participatory learning activities in our classes. This requires at working at least at the Adaptation level.

I recently shared a social media video, Social Media Revolution 2, with my colleagues. That email was the inspiration of this posting. (I will specifically address this video in a later posting.) It shares the dramatic changes that social media is creating in our world and underlines how we need to integrate social media into our educational curriculum. 

One of my colleagues suggested that CMS programs like Blackboard will allow us to "mimic some social media but have the advantage of a controlled environment." This is true. Blackboard provides chatrooms, areas for discussion and places to post podcasts or other links to the web. But are they being used in ways that foster student-centered learning? Will their teacher candidates use these learning experiences as a model for creating stimulating activities for the future students?

One of my colleagues pointed out that some people JUST MODEL technology and never integrate the technology into the teaching/learning process.

The most important aspect of using technology in teacher education is modeling new methods for learning that will mold the teacher candidates' perspective on teaching.
What do you think?



Monday, August 09, 2010

Is Teacher Education Addressing the Needs of Future Teachers?

How do we effect change in our schools if our Teacher Education programs just keep doing more of the same? We talk about changing the learning environments of our schools, but where is the paradigm changing in our Teacher Education institutions?  A new set of standards (INTASC) are being released to guide teacher education programs, but will it make difference?
Teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Learning experiences will have a greater effect on a teacher's teaching style than all the textbooks in the world. We can't fully appreciate a different learning experience unless we personally experience that experience. New teachers won't teach differently in their classrooms unless they have learned in a different manner and found it to be a positive experience. In short, we won't see change in our schools until we change how we prepare new teachers.
Last week I attended the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) conference in Des Moines as a representative of our Iowa Technology and Education Connection (ITEC) organization.  I spoke with scores of administrators who told me that they are in the process of exploring and/or implementing a  1-to-1 computer learning environment. When I asked them how they were going to change their curriculum and pedagogical strategies so that the technology-enriched environment would actually make a change in how their students learned, most of them chuckled and said "We're still trying to figure that out."
Technology doesn't make the difference.  It provides the opportunities for education to be different. It is truly the teaching/learning strategies that make the difference.  But if we haven't defined the teachers' knowledge, skills and attitudes that are needed to successfully support a different technology-enriched learning environment, how can we provide a preservice teaching program to address these needs?
A Teacher Education program needs to identify what skills and tools need to be mastered to effectively work in a 1-to-1 learning environment and then they need to teach/use those methods in the classes they teach.  It's as simple as that.
I made a drastic change in the way I taught my Emerging Instructional Technology course this summer.  I have spoken on it at ISTE '10, but haven't blogged on it yet. It changed the way I plan to teach all of my courses and such an insight into how learning can be different is something that all teacher education professors should acquire.
This posting is part of the ongoing self-inquiry I am going through to become a better teacher. You might remember my first posting, How Do I Move to an Inquiry-Based Form of Teaching/Learning?
What are your ideas about this?  Do you know a source for finding/identifying the necessary knowledge/skills/attitudes/tools for optimizing a technology-rich learning environment?
What do you think?


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Backchanneling in 1st Grade?

Backchanneling is a process where students converse in an online chatroom, usually while listening to a lecture or watching a multimedia presentation of some sort. We have been using backchanneling with our university students at the University of Northern Iowa. Rob Galloway talks about this on his blog. We have been using CoverItLive to allow our students to discuss what is happening in a 200-person lecture.  It has been quite effective.
Imagine my surprise when I saw Cyndi Danner-Kuhn's discussion of back channeling It appears that she hasn't actually done it yet, but referred to a couple of teachers who have used backchanneling in their elementary classrooms.
The first one is by "A First Grade Teacher" (I will refer to "her" as AFGT since I can't find his/her name anywhere) who tells of using TodaysMeet as a backchannel for his/her 1st graders. The initial experience was almost accidental. She used the chat room as a brainstorming exercise and it was a huge success. Later, she had her students chat while watching an online presentation about teaching with technology. The adults involved in the process were backchanneling too, and AFGT compared the structure of the chat logs of the two age groups.  The fascinating part was the similarity that she found between the structure of the discussions of the two groups. "Both groups started out with greetings, shared many of the same concerns, and even interjected with some light-hearted exchanges between on-task discussions. "
I would like to see the chat logs of AFGT's students.  It would be interesting to review their lines of thought and how they expressed it.  I have asked AFGT to share them, but haven't heard back yet.  (on 8/19/10, Aviva (AFGT's real name) sent me a link to the chat log.  Quite interesting. You should check out her comment below.)
The other example was from Sylvia Tolisano and how she used back channeling with a 5th grade class. I am a big fan of Sylvia's. She is an extremely innovative educator. The difference between her posting and AFGT's is that Sylvia is quite descriptive about the steps she took and the results she observed. The teacher she was helping wanted her students to use the backchannel as a way to review questions for a social science test. This is a completely different circumstance than AFGT. The teacher asked a question and all of the students could answer at the same time. Interestingly enough, the students did quite well on their tests.  Here is a comment from Mrs. Z (no relation) "I am totally amazed.  The kids took their Social Studies test on Friday and I have never seen such good papers!  I am convinced the back channeling was a major factor."
I have never used TodaysMeet but it looks like the kind of tool I would want to use in the classroom. It is easy to set up. The discussion room can exist from 2 hours to 1 year.  It can even integrate Tweets using a specified #hashtag. It isn't as functional as CoverItLive, but sometimes we don't need all of that.
What do you use?  Is 1st grade too young to backchannel?  If you aren't using backchanneling now, how do you think that you could integrate it into your class?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

ISTE 2010: What a Wonderful Week!!!

What a Wonderful Week!!!

I have just spent a wonderful week in Denver at the ISTE 2010 conference. Formerly known as NECC (National Educational Computing Conference), this event has been running for decades. I first attended in 1992 and have gone every year except once when I was in Malaysia and once when I had back surgery.

The ISTE conference is filled with hundreds of sessions where educators share what they have been doing in their classrooms. Notice that I use the term, "share." The sharing attitudes of the attendees is what makes this experience so valuable. Presenters are sharing but the attendees will often share their ideas as well.

ISTE Leadership Symposium
My first "session" was the ISTE Leadership Symposium. This is an honor because it is by invitation only and I have been invited to attend over the past few years. It has been quite an experience. The best experience is the people you get to meet. I was honored to sit with Kathy Schrock, Dennis Harper, Scott Merrick, Bonnie Thurber, and Linda Lieberman. Best thing was that we also had a high school student from a Denver high school with us.  His name was Culver.  That is what is missing in our Educator Meetings - student, right Dennis?  Culver was a great addition to the discussion.  We were exploring new ways to situation schools. The final project for the team was to identify a unique environment for situating a school.  We decided that it would work to put a high school in a mall. This would be a great place for business classes to help the store managers. It would also be useful for students in Consumer and Family Sciences. The best part is that it wouldn't be a problem getting the students to school because they usually hangout at the mall anyway.  There were many other innovative ideas posted as well.

Regular Sessions
I didn't have a chance to attend too many sessions, but I enjoyed Howard Rheingold's presentation on Crap Detection 101.
I also attended the last hour of the EduBloggerCon on Saturday afternoon. This was good because I was able to get in on the last few minutes of a discussion of teachers' experiences with having their students online. 

Excellence Lounges
You can also see sharing in much more informal settings. Throughout the conference setting are Excellence Lounges like the Bloggers Cafe. These are designated places where people of like interests can convene and talk. It is always nice to bump into someone whose blog you have been reading for years - Shout out to Bud the Teacher. It provides a basis for discussion when you meet them and a greater feeling of connectedness when you read them.

Another Excellence Lounge that I enjoyed was for the Virtual Environment SIG. It's always great to meet the humans who connect with the avatars that roam Second Life.  I was walking by the lounge when Scott Merrick was taking the clan on a tour of a virtual world.  He said "Hello, Leigh Zeitz" to me and I returned the salutation.  Would you believe that 4 hours later I received a Skype message from my good friend, Pawel Topol, in Poznan, Poland. he said that he had been watching the presentation and saw me in the presentation.

THAT is what the I in ISTE stands for!!!!

I was both the student and the teacher in ISTE workshops this year. I began my excursion with a 3-day Digital Storytelling workshop presented by Dr. Bernajean Porter. This was a wonderful experience that was as much about building and managing an effective learning community as it was about making digital stories. Bernajean ran the class as though she were preparing teachers to run such a class. She would always present the rationale for her teaching strategies as she used them. I will try to cover the essence of the class in a future posting.

I also ran a couple of workshops. The first workshop was entitled Digital Portfolios Made Easy with Google Sites and the second 3-hour workshop was Using Social Media to Build Your Personal Learning Network.

Digital Portfolios Made Easy
The Digital Portfolios Made Easy workshop is the continuation of a workshop I have been giving for probably 5 years. Andrew Krumm, a former student, and I originated templates for teacher portfolios and have presented them for conferences and teacher in-service sessions across the country. Here is the DPME slideshow that I used.

This workshop introduces those templates and provides the attendees with background to enable them to create/modify and implement these templates in their own personal settings. You can see more about this at I have written about my ideas on Digital Portfolios Made Easy in past postings, and will write more about the on-going evolution in future postings. This workshop was sold out with 30 students representing 8 states and 3 countries. It went well and I owe a great deal of it to my friend, Bonnie Thurber, who helped me as a lab assistant at the last minute.

Using Social Media to Build Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)
My other workshop was Using Social Media to Build Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)  that I taught along with Lois Lindell. Lois and I have taught this workshop at the AECT conference in Florida and the ITEC conference in Coralville, Iowa. As the name suggests, we introduced the concept of a PLN and then had them use a variety of tools to develop their PLNs. This workshop only had 10 attendees and 4 of them were IT (Information Technology) people. HOOOOORAY!!! There MUST be more communication between IT folks and teachers so that they can work together and IT specialists won't be given names like the "Locked Nets Monsters."

Another aspect of the conference experience that is important is the network of connections that you create, build and maintain at these conferences. This is where I get to discuss ideas and make plans with others face-to-face. These sorts of connections can be made online, but nothing beats the face-to-face communication that you can have at a conference.

I didn't attend too many presentations because I was too busy either teaching, learning or schmoozing. Here are some interesting happenings in no particular order.
  • Bumped into Rosie Vojek who I earned my Doctorate degree with at the University of Oregon in 1992. Hadn't seen her almost 2 decades and we connected in a real-world session about virtual worlds. She and her husband, Rob, have written a book, Motivate! Inspire! Lead!: 10 Strategies for Building Collegial Learning Communities.  I haven't purchased my copy yet, but it looks like it will fit nicely into the books that I am reading nowdays.
  • Had dinner with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay where we discussed the Flat Classroom Conference 2011 next February. The dinner wasn't as much a surprise as the wonderful Thai food we ate while there.
  • I was also able to connect with a high school friend, Doug Hartwell, who I hadn't seen in almost 40 years (gosh I'm old.)
  • I met Kevin Honeycutt who is a bundle of musical energy. He introduced me to:
  • I even had a chance to sit down and talk with my friend, David Thornburg. 
There are so many things that I learned at this conference that I will be writing about them for the next couple of weeks. I would be interested in your including specific questions in your comments so that I can respond to them or add your perceptions if you happen to have attended ISTE 2010.  I will continue to share things that I found in the next few postings as well.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Free Google App Inventor: Now You Can Create Your Own Droid Apps

It's HERE!!!! . . . . well almost here.

Mashable just posted that Google has launched a new tool called the Google App Inventor.  This new tool is supposed to enable non-coders to develop their own apps. Using a modular programming process, the neo-developer can drag and drop "blocks" to create the look, feel and functionality of the desired app.

Imagine using this capability in K-12 schools. I am not talking about programming class.  I am talking about History, Geography, Math, English and Spanish. Students will be able to augment their learning by creating apps that can assist them in solving problems and posing new ones.

The New York Times said that Google has been testing this for a while in the schools already to test out how it works.  A nursing student at Indiana University created an app that would call an emergency number if someone fell. The program used the phone's accelerometer to sense a fall and if the person didn't get up in a short while or press the onscreen button, it would automatically make the call.

I said that the App Developer was "almost here."  That is because I clicked on the link to take me to the Google App Inventor, and it took me to an application for being considered by the Google App Inventor team for receiving access to the beta version.

Not a problem. I told them that I am a Google Certified Teacher and then explained some of my visions for this wonderful way to empower the "regular guy/gal."  I hope that I am accepted.

Here is a video that shows how a neo-programmer creates, loads and executes a simple Android app in just over a minute.

Will these be polished and sophisticated applications?  I don't know enough about the interface, but at least this tool will provide the canvas upon which our creative artists can develop prototypes that can later be refined commercially if need be.

What do you think?  How would access to this type of programming assistant affect how students learn in your class?


Friday, July 09, 2010

Do You Get IT? . . . . . . . . What is IT?

I have had a number of discussions lately with people about people who "Get IT."  This has to do with hiring people who "Get IT" or working with people who "Get IT" or helping other educators "Get IT."

The $64 question is . . .  "What is IT?"

IT can mean a lot of things in the context of education:
IT can mean Information Technologies.
IT can mean Instructional Technologies. 
 IT can be the name of a wonderful book by Stephen King.

But NOT in this case. In this case, IT refers to a new paradigm for teaching and learning. 
It has to do with using technology to provide previously elusive opportunities for learners.
It has to do with a new perspective on teaching by empowering students through providing them challenge-based learning opportunities.

But . . .             What Do YOU Think?

How do you describe IT to your colleagues when you are advocating IT?

Please tell me what you think?  Leave your comments on your perception of IT. 
Let's see what the Blogosphere of educators who read this blog believe.