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Reinvention time

Yes, this blog has lain dormant (fallow?) for too long. But it coincided with a year in which my job responsibilities changed and took me in a direction away from tech. And that was a good year. I was back in the classroom, teaching middle school history, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, it’s reinvention time. I realized that continuing to move in that direction was not what I wanted to do long-term. So I’ve stepped aside from that, and stepped towards the stuff that truly jazzes me: technology, making, robotics, and learning. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

Stay tuned for updates!

EdcampIS — learn from the real experts

If you’re a teacher in an independent school, and you’re already coming to Philly for NAIS, you owe it to yourself to stay an extra day and have the collegial experience of a lifetime. EdcampIS is happening the Saturday after NAIS at UPenn. Details are here.

If you’ve never attended an edcamp, it works like this: people show up in the morning and post topics they’d like to see in a session. As well, they post session topics they feel comfortable running. Then the organizers take all that information and make up the schedule. You’re free to attend whatever you like, and you can also help run a session. Attendance is guilt-free. Vote with your feet and nobody gets their feelings hurt.

As for the “real experts” tagline — who knows better what works than those who do it every day? Check back on the site to see who’s coming and what they might offer. And register yourself.

See you there! Oh, did I mention it’s free?

Saturday, March 2, 2013 | 8:30am – 3pm




changeFollowup to yesterday’s post… I presented a little bit about the iPad in education after chatting with some of my edtech colleagues. Just a 5 minute song and dance. I stressed something our IT director said to me: it’s not about teaching with the iPad, it’s about teaching to the iPad. He explained that this device is not a way for teachers to do better what they’re already doing. It’s about students’ learning. We’ve had a pilot program going here for half a year or so, and that is something we’ve learned. So while we as teachers are learning about iPads and getting comfortable with them, the Big Question is…. what creative stuff can our students do with these that they couldn’t do before?

I talked about the multimedia creation possibilities, the walled garden of apps and workflow, and the sheer fun of “playing” with the iPad. Maybe it was just me, but I thought I sensed a seismic shift in thinking. We’ll see!

iPad 4 report

All of our faculty received iPad 4’s before the winter break. Today we have a middle school faculty meeting, and I plan on giving a bit of a tutorial on usage, good educational resources, as well as getting a sense of how people are doing with them.

As a longtime PC guy, I’m making my own adjustments. I have never taken sides in the religious war between Apple and PC. It’s just that every school I have worked in has been a PC (specifically a Thinkpad) school. I’m very comfortable with PC’s and have gotten so used to its quirks and shortcomings that they seem normal to me. But you can’t argue with the interface genius of Apple. And they have really taken it to a whole new level with the iPad and iPhone. The computer finally has gone mainstream.

So how bout this iPad? I’m a text-heavy user – – emails, blog posts, lesson plans, etc. The iPad is never going to replace a laptop for me. The keyboard just doesn’t work, partly because I’ve learned to type almost as fast as I think, and the iPad keyboard is OK for short bursts of writing — tweets, short emails,etc. Any industrial-strength text entry though (the thought of coding on an iPad fills me with a Nameless Dread), just isn’t practical at this point. So I am investigating keyboards. Typing this on an Apple wireless keyboard, actually. It’s quite nice, but I can see that portability would be a bit of a pain.

But the sheer appiness of the device, the swipiness…. that’s all a joy. Graphics quality — awesome. Battery life — outstanding. Cuteness — over the top.

We’ll see how my colleagues feel about it!


Is lecturing dead? If not, should it be?

Having been in the ed tech field for 15 years or so, I have heard the death of the lecture proclaimed as a matter of fact, not faith. “Nobody wants to hear lectures, no one wants to listen to someone else talk. There are better ways to teach and learn.”

I would not say that lecturing is the only way to convey information, and I am a big believer in hands-on, constructivist learning, as in my LEGO robotics classes. However, I’m not willing to give up the lecture entirely. As a history teacher, I’ve found it sometimes the most helpful way to deliver content and also to engage students. This may get my ed tech card revoked, but there is a place and time for the sage on the stage. For instance, helping students to see the “big picture” can be more effective by lecture. I do that, and then give them some hands-on, PBL work once they know what’s happening in the country before the Civil War, for instance.

Even in robotics, I’ve found it necessary to at least explain the basics of gears, for instance, though supplemented with visuals and practice.  It’s a lecture of sorts, though not very long.

The truth is there are experts on subjects, and if they can speak in an engaging and thoughtful and humorous fashion, I would listen. As would most of my students.



Faculty Blues Band rocks Barnes and Noble

Our faculty blues band (three other teachers and I) played last night at the local Barnes and Noble in support of our school’s Barnes and Noble day there. 15-20% of proceeds from sales designated for LCDS went to our libraries. That in itself is very cool.

And we had major fun! We followed the excellent student jazz band and delivered a set of straight ahead blues: Every Day I Have the Blues, Crossroads, Teeny Weeny Bit, High Heel Sneakers, and The Thrill Is Gone. Several people commented that they wished we had played longer. That’s always better than having people say they wished you had played less!

See y’all next year!