Let them Soar!

NYSCATE - Leading the Transformation of Teaching and Learning through Technology
Let them Soar!
NYSCATE11 is just around the corner and I, along with the conference committee, anticipate another worthwhile conference.  I’ve been to a number of conferences for various organizations (state, national and international) and this conference is always the most special.  I’m not just saying that because I volunteer on the committee.  There is something about it that makes you want it to last.
It has a lot to do with our membership. There is such diversity at NYSCATE’s Annual Conference that in one moment you can speak with someone from just about every walk of education.   I love it when I can join in conversations with superintendents, technology directors, principals, teachers (from all levels and content areas) and students while they gather in the foyer to chat, discuss, debate and suggest solutions to current issues in education today. It’s also about being okay with walking around with BBQ stain on your shirt following a hearty lunch at the ‘Saur. Everyone understands.
From being inspired by the innovative educators at the grants and awards dinner to social events with members, NYSCATE is about people.  We hope you will also be enlightened by Diana LaufenbergHall DavidsonSteve Dembo and Kevin Honeycutt who will speak during the keynote sessions.
Don’t miss out on the hands-on, minds-on Pre-Conference sessions that often go unnoticed because they happen before the official kickoff.   Check out the list of Pre-Conference sessions here and register today!
If you absolutely cannot make it, be sure to follow from the #nyscate11 tag.  You can also friend NYSCATE on Facebook and join over 1000 NYSCATE members in our NYSCATE Network.

Taught to Question

When I was in graduate school, the professor in my very first class session began by instructing us to question everything. He was passionate about this declaration, clearly evident in the spraying spit as he glared out at us. This was an exercise science, physiology and biomechanics program based heavily upon peer-reviewed research. He instructed us to question each and every word that he vocalized and assigned in our class meetings and readings. Let me reiterate… we were instructed to question the very research that would instruct and inform us during our time in the program. I learned that this is precisely what happens in any reputable field of research. Again, question that which most people look to as authoritative and primary source documentation of a subject.

I was taught to question.

Lately, Twitter is failing me. Today I had an exchange on Twitter where I put this to practice in my own community of practice. While the exchange was hardly equivalent to the research mentioned above, I had a question in regards to the practice of creating fake Facebook walls for historical/fictional characters. I didn’t “get it”. I questioned it. I stated it seemed contrived and also seemed like an online worksheet. I also asked what was next… what action/learning experience follows the creation of and discussion around a “fakebook” profile?

I wanted to know.

Back to my mention of peer-reviewed research. I believe a community of practice (made up of peers in a practice) should allow this line of questioning in whatever spaces are available/used. I respect those that were posting the information, they’ve taught/shared a thing or two with me before. Because of this I felt comfortable tweeting my questions. Apparently it was not welcomed and received as me merely liking to argue. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can imagine my disappointment.

I claim no expertise in any niche or corner of education or the EdTech community of practice. What I do claim is the right to question, as a participant in a community of practice and for the benefit of those in the community and those I work with/for, the content that is posted within the community. Since we are striving to teach our students that posting on the Internet results in feedback and critical questioning, I think we would do well to remember this as we post there as well. I certainly try to. If I don’t, it is your right to call me on it.

Being taught to question was one of the most important and powerful lessons I will always remember. It has served me well and will continue to do so.

I will still question. You should too.

Your imagination is real. | Indexed

Your imagination is real. | Indexed.

One of my favorite webcomics/blogs is the simple presentation and complex thinking of Indexed. The first comment is equally insightful…

“To be fair, there’s probably a sector at least twice as large as A for “people that have been wrongly told that they are”.  ~ Paul B.”


Digging Deeper

29 years ago Dr. Seymour Papert wrote the text below.  It was recently shared again over at my daily dose of sanity, The Daily Papert.

“I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities. I think that the examples I have  given of learning in a computational environment provide a glimpse of a context for learning in which socialization would be based on a potentiation of the individual, an empowering sense of one’s own ability to learn anything one wants to know, conditioned by deep understanding of how these abilities are amplified by belonging to cultures and communities.”

Papert, S. (1982) Tomorrow’s Classrooms?. In Times Educational Supplement March 5, 1982 (pp. 31-32,41)

I think these words reveal how we can start to use technology to help us think, not just different, but deeper about what real learning looks like.  They also provide a guiding light that schools can use to navigate along a path of teaching and learning that is more meaningful and valuable for everyone involved.

What we need is visionary people who step out of the ordinary and lead with their heads, hearts and hands (Lehmann, 200?). For examples of Papert’s thinking and learning click through to his work.  Don’t take it for face value (i.e. – just programming), dig deep and think about the learning process and ask yourself how it might look in other contexts.


Share the Joy

Fun from the top by Anderson Silva
Fun from the top by Anderson Silva (via Flickr)

EduCon 2.3 - January 28-30, 2011I’m slated to conduct a session at EduCon 2.3 next weekend titled Sharing the Joy. During the time that the RFP was open I was really down about the state of education and where it seems to be headed in our country. How could one not be, right? While things were (and still are) being painted publicly as being so bad in schools, I wondered how teachers and students make it through the days, weeks and semesters together? So, it gave me an idea to lead a discussion around sharing what makes teaching and learning enjoyable. Simple, really. There are so many wonderful teachers around that surely a group of them can assemble at EduCon and share how they bring about joy in school. How to bring about joy in school? Now, that’s something I hope you’ll want to write home about.

Here’s the description (subject to edits):

We know that student enjoyment of school leads to better student learning. Through conversation and sharing of experiences, environments and communities of learning we will uncover the strategies and dispositions of teaching and learning that make school enjoyable and meaningful for all.

Since EduCon is about educational conversation here is my, initital, conversational practice (subject to other ideas):

Collaborative documentation in a yet-to-be-determined collaborative space online will be used to guide and capture the learning from this session. Attitudes, mindsets, dispositions, strategies necessary for creating experiences, environments and communities for enjoyable learning will be shared and captured.

There’s no rule that we can’t start now, so I wonder…

  • What was your life like as a student?
  • What do you bring to teaching that makes learning enjoyable in your class?
  • How and what do you celebrate with students? Teachers?

I’d be thrilled if you can make it in some way, shape or form.

The Dichotomy of Work & Play

This is hardly Earth shattering, though, at the same time, there is so much right and so much wrong with this exchange. These students clearly enjoyed learning at the National Museum of Play, but it felt a whole lot different from what they are accustomed to.

During a time when it seems that children are liking school less and less, do we really feel as though the only way for them to succeed is to coerse them to develop a work ethic?   Professor Mary Jane Treacy suggests we meld of the dichotomy between work and play:

I think we really have to break that dichotomy of play and work, so if you’re a student and you go and you work at your classes and play is something that you do afterwards. And I really think that that’s a false dichotomy and we need to change that, so I’m gonna have to bring those together. We first have to do that among ourselves, the faculty.

What if that so called work ethic we so desire in schools was actually a play ethic?  What if the process of playing developed the very habits, tendencies and dispositions that we wish to invoke through a forced “work ethic”?

What if we really believed that “play is our brain’s favorite way of learning”?

I Have Questions: Gaming

A little background, I’m currently attending a two-day training on Quest Atlantis, a multi-user virtual environment game.  While listening to the rationale for QA, questions that have been stirring about in my head finally leapt out of my head and into Evernote for me to capture.  While the training wasn’t the best place to pose these questions, for obvious reasons, I thought I’d pose them here for some of your thoughts.

  • If there are viable alternatives in the real world, should educators use simulations and games?
  • Are games being used as an easier alternative to real world learning experiences like project-based or service learning opportunities?
  • How do we create situated learning experiences, in the real world, similar to those found in video games?

The Fischbowl: Dear Denver Post – You’re the Disappointment

I teach high school. I love all of high school, including high school sports, and including the fun that students have at Friday night (or Thursday night this week for us) football. So I understand the intent of the following headline in The Denver Post.

But, as it does every year at this time (and several times throughout the year), The Post throws the rest of school under the bus.

Summer is almost over, and the disappointment about returning to class . . .


Really, Denver Post, that’s the message you want to send? With all your whining on the editorial page about the state of our schools (and pretty consistently getting it wrong by the way), you don’t feel any responsibility to actually read your own paper and perhaps, just perhaps, make sure you aren’t contributing to the anti-education culture of the state of Colorado?

I just had a conversation similar to this in our break room during lunch with some colleagues. The gist was that students who enter HS from a 9th grade academy (9th grade only) were full of themselves and that they needed to be “knocked down for a couple of months”.

I spoke up in aggravation at the gall of another educator putting negative light on students and school in general.

This may seem like nit-picking, but really, do we want to add to the negativity at any level?