Education is Big Business- What will we be sold this year?

28 06 2014

ISTE Expo SetupAs I sit here in the ISTE 2014 Bloggers Cafe overlooking the Expo, I am struck by the scale of the space and the work that goes into the set up of such a space. With each area being assigned a “zip code” booths are currently being assembled in preparation for the opening tomorrow. As I look at the size of some of the booths and banners, it is hard not to think about the impact that big business has on education. In fact, it is clear that education in itself, big business. How will the business of education interact with the business of “stuff” this year at ISTE?

While I am not in the market for “stuff”, it looks like I will have plenty to review and explore when the Expo opens. One of the things I like to do as see what is being pitched as the best for changing the way education is done and improving outcomes. Generally, I find most products being pitched in education run counter to my epistemic perspective of how learning happens, what is important to learn and simply put, what teaching and learning should look like. In past years, it was the Interactive Whiteboard, Office Software, Learning Management Systems, Clickers, and a massive amount of software that will drill kids in all they need to know to do well with all of the state mandated testing.

From the size of the banners from where I sit, it looks like the story is still going to be the same. Edmodod, Panasonic, Extreme networks, Epson, Blackboard, MA, Toshiba, Pearson,McGraw Hill, Smart are just a few of the huge banners I see out there. Yet, I am very skeptical that any of these companies will have the latest “stuff” that could really shake things up. This means that those items and ideas will likely be in the smaller booths that will require me to really dig below all of the hype.

This year, I will be on a search for those items that are most open, have the potential for the greatest impact, support the most creative forms of learning and are based on sound research. I will be looking for the items that are most likely to maximize intrinsic engagement in students and break down walls between disciplines. What will it be? What will I find? What will you find? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments as you explore the Expo this year and what you feel will have the greatest positive impact in education moving forward.

Blended Learning and Educational Technology

27 06 2014

Last month, I had the privilege and opportunity to spend two amazing days in an NAIS Think Tank of amazing people as we explored and brainstormed around educational technology and specifically blended learning. We each shared a brief presentation then facilitated a conversation around our topics. During our time in DC, we also shared some of our thoughts individually on film. NAIS is now processing those recordings to share some of the ideas with a larger audience. The following play list from the National Association of Independent Schools represents some of what was shared during the Deep Dive into Blended Learning and Educational Technology.



What do you mean by 21st Century Skills?

24 06 2014

There is a lot of talk about 21st century skills and what we should be teaching to make sure our students are prepared with the right skill set to succeed in today’s world. Any practitioner conference you attend today will have many sessions that will address the idea of teaching 21st century skills. ISTE 2014  is about to launch and there will undoubtedly be sessions exploring 21st century skills/learning/school etc. From social media with blogs, wikis and Twitter, to Maker Sessions to philosophical sessions, it seems many are trying to explain what and how we need to be teaching today. With that being said, what do we all mean when we are talking about 21st century skills, 21st century learning and 21st century schools?

I hope you will take a moment to complete this short, simple and open-ended survey to define these terms in your own words. What do you mean when you talk about 21st century skills, 21st century learning and 21st century schools? What do you hear when you hear others talk about these terms? The results of this survey are public so please consider participating and adding to our broader understanding as a community.

Please feel free to pass this around to any and all. This is a conversation that moves far beyond the teachers in the classroom and the administrators at the school. Parents and students also have an understanding of these terms. What is everyone saying and what are we hearing when we use these terms?

You can access the survey at: What do you mean by 21st century skills/learning/schools? OR use the form below.

You can view the responses at: What do yo mean by 21st century skills/learning/schools? [RESPONSES]

ISTE 2014 Preview

24 06 2014

ISTE2014Friday afternoon, I will hop on a plane and fly to Atlanta Georgia for the 2014 ISTE conference. I missed the last couple of conferences as I had multiple competing events. I am excited to see what this year has to offer. There has been much happening in the world of educational technology. It seems that the conversations for the longest time have been around 1:1, BYOD, Web 2.0 in the classroom, 21st century skills (whatever that means), PLN’s and other trendy marketing terms. I suspect that this year will see more of STEM and STEAM but my real excitement is for where the Maker Movement will land in the conversation.

While it also seems like a trendy term, and likely is, I believe it is one that really has possibilities for changing the way school is done in the future. For those of us who like theory, it seems that the construction of knowledge has been at the root of what it means to teach in a progressive classroom. Students construct understanding as they wrestle with real problems. This has been manifested in the forms of experiential education (Bruner and Dewey) and Problem Based Learning PBL which was born out of the field of medical education back in the 1960’s. While the Maker Movement draws on these theoretical constructs, it is highly informed by the work of Papert and what he termed constructionism- the idea that students actually produce objects of their understanding and knowledge is constructed and archived through the physical building of objects of understanding. For a great read on this history and the foundations of this movement, I highly recommend Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager. You will also find this book a great resource as you explore “making” as a method in your classroom.
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Sea Wolf Restoration- Remove Mounted Motor and Tub

22 06 2014

With the motor stands built, we could then move forward with the process of removing the mounted motor from the boat. This involved removing all control cables, mounting bolts and all of the bolts holding the tub to the transom. The removal of the motor and tub will give us our first look at the transom which we plan to restore anyway. It will also give us clear access to the deck. We were successful removing the motor as you will see in the pictures but the tub was a bit more of a problem as some of the bolts will have to be cut off. We ran out of time and did not have the right tool for that job so a future trip to the hardware store for an angle grinder and we will be ready to finish that task. The images below document the removal of the motor that re-powered the boat.


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Sea Wolf Restoration- Step 1: Motor Mount Stands

22 06 2014

With the old motor sitting on the floor of our garage and the need to take the re-powered motor off the boat, we needed to come up with a better way to store these motors. Each of these motors is a little over 200 lbs and when laying on the floor, take up a lot of space. With two motors to store, we turned to the source of all wisdom and the teacher of all- Google and Youtube- to find our answer. After watching several videos and reviewing several designs, we sketched out what we thought would work for us, made an estimate of materials then set out to the hardware store. Well stocked and ready to work, the following images documents the making of the motor stands.




The Beginnings of a New Project- Glasspar Seafair Sedan Restoration

22 06 2014

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Many years ago, I purchased a 1959 Glasspar Seafair Sedan to use when I was living in California. At the time that I moved to Texas, I left the boat in my parents driveway where it had been sitting for over 18 years.

Last year, Lillian and I made a drive across the country along Interstate 10 to pick it up. Meeting Allyson in California, we spent several days with my parents then the three of us drove the boat back to Texas.

I took the boat to a local repair shop to have the motor checked out since it had not been run in 18 years. The engine mechanics looked good (not a surprise as it ran up to the point when I parked it) but all of the electronics need replacing. the quote for parts and labor was more than I wanted to spend at that time so I decided to find another old working motor to re-power the boat and keep the other motor as a project for the future. With the boat repowered, We used is several times on some of the local lakes last summer and had a great time. Every time I pulled the boat around town, drove it across the lake or prepped it at the boat ramp, I got comments about how cool the boat looked. You just don’t see boats with these lines around much any more. With the lakes being so low, it seems this is a great time to start the restoration project. So Connor and I have moved a few things around in the back yard and we have started what will be a year-long project to restore the 1959 Glasspar Seafair to its glory days.

Here is where we are starting…