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New coordinates

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For all of my readers, I am excited to announce that I have taken a position teaching Computer Science at the Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC. It’s an exciting move, both in my career and geographically, and I can’t wait to get started. PG has a fabulously innovative CS program, led by Doug Bergman, and I’m flattered and jazzed to be a part of it.

This summer will be crazy busy, as we pack and move. More to come!

Twitter as a neurological extension of my brain

world_connectionsI was going to title this “Why Twitter is awesome” and then thought that sounded cheesy. Then I thought about what I love about Twitter and came up with the above title, which is the opposite of cheesy. Probably pretentious.

But there’s something about that scrolling feed of ideas, thoughts, lesson plans, jokes, pictures, movies, and questions that directly feeds into my own thought processes. Part of it is due to the people I follow. I try to surround myself with people who are interested in the same things I’m interested in: learning, making, coding, and thinking about the intersection of learning and technology. Then I curate my Scoop on Learning on the Digital Frontier and post those as Twitter feeds. People who think those are interesting retweet or follow. And I meet more interesting people. And I learn more.

It seems to fit my thirst for learning, my hyper-focused mind, my always-on curiosity. Now I can’t imagine life without it.

Arts vs Sciences?

Da-Vinci_human-proportionsI just spent a day visiting a school and talking about myself. Spending a day talking about yourself is not as much fun as you might think. Especially if you’re not the most interesting man in the world.

But some of the questions made me think about who I am and how I’m wired. Since I was discussing a possible Computer Science AP position, and my resume has a lot of teaching English and history, I got some puzzled questions. I realized that my career arc isn’t that normal! Not that many people start in the humanities, act as an English chair, teach history, and then transition to computer science. I think I might know one other person like that.

I come by it honestly. My father is an English grad from an Ivy League school and realized he didn’t want to teach. Knowing that seriously limited his options, he went back to school and studied welding, then metallurgy. He became a technical writer and editor for Welding Journal and then Iron Age magazine. I inherited that “both sides of the brain” approach from him.

But it made me think about this huge divide between the arts and sciences. Remember the Renaissance Man? Like Hamlet, he was supposed to be a great fencer, write sonnets, study philosophy and “natural philosophy” (science). There was no thinking that you were either one or the other (an “artsy” or a “techie”). I think it’s a false dichotomy. And I also think we’re at a crucial time in our planet’s history when we desperately need them both.

Today’s view from the frontier

As always, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about learning and technology. I’ve been in the game for about 20 years now. So I’ve seen lots of Shiny New Things come…. and go. I’ve seen the fetishization of technologies by educators who were seduced by the hype and snake oil sold by companies wanting to make a quick buck.

It can be dangerous to stay in the edtech thought bubble and forward, repeat, and curate the same things that everyone is forwarding, repeating, and curating. That’s why I like to seek out deep thinkers like Seymour Papert or Alan Kay, or contrarians like Gary Stager. And I like to read widely in fields that I know little about, because it’s important to keep learning and challenging myself.

I know that there are teachers who are fatigued by the relentless push to use technology… somehow, anyhow. And I get the pushback that some of them make. But having said all that, I really believe that tech isn’t a fad, and it’s not all about the latest Shiny New Thing. There are possibilities in learning today that are mind-boggling. And we’d be foolish not to take advantage of them. The emphasis on design and engineering (what is currently called the Maker movement) is one of those opportunities to make deep and necessary change in education. Robotics is a fabulous “gateway drug” into STEM thinking and doing. Learning code can do the same thing for our brains that learning any language can do. All of these can be that “hard fun” that Seymour Papert talked about.

So let’s move that frontier a little farther forward.

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

JON M. HUNTSMAN HALL | UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA | 3730 WALNUT ST, PHILADELPHIA, 19104

 

Ch-ch-changes

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!