Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Compliance or Cooperation?

Innovation is so hard in our world. Recently I was listening to the podcast of NPR's Science Friday for October 24, 2008 Judy Estrin was the guest and she was bewailing the fact that schools aren't innovative. Well no duh..., teaching is largely about transmitting cultural values. Not really the place innovation takes place. Now, do I believe schools should be innovative? YES! But schools are a reflection of the society, culture and communities they exist in. Despite the various complaints that schools should solve our problems the reality is they aren't designed to do that.

There is often a disconnect between what teachers, and schools want and what is actually expected of them. We are supposed to teach standards and prepare students for passing tests based largely on what students have 'banked' intellectually. I have seen some well made tests that are more geared towards students demonstrating that they are skilled in specific types of thinking, and learning, but they are the exception not the rule. Basically our testing is still about what kids 'know' not about whether they can create, innovate, think, explore and innovate.

Another great challenge is that despite my personal desires to do things differently I found that I fell into something I call the compliance trap. We want to encourage students to think independently, be createive and question the norms, but that doesn't lead to a very compliant group. I have seen that there is a basic expectation that students comply with what they are asked to do. I wish that I could have done a better job of cultivating cooperation without compelling compliance.

What does it take to cultivate cooperation? If I am going to have students go along with me for this ride called education how do I do it without beating out of them the creativitiy and independence needed for innovation.

I was frustrated very much with Judy Estrin's scatthing rebuke of education as a failed system which I don't think she has adequately analyzed. School is much more than a factory for new innovators. More of my students will end up in prison than as PHd's a sad, sad, sad, but true (probably) fact. We educate everyone, but not everyone is going to be the cutting edge of our society, some many will contribute to society simply by being informed consumers and citizens.

Related posts: Judy Estrin's Site

Monday, December 29, 2008

Amazing! The B.S. keeps flying

If you talk to veteran teachers about consultants you may find what I have. What goes around comes around. Many of the 25 year veterans of classroom teaching that I have spoken to tell me that they have seen the same ideas, concepts and educational practices come and go in cycles. They figure about 8 years per cycle. I want to add the disclaimer that all of this is based on my own opinions and observations. Don't take my word for it. The reason I say this is that Dr. Scott McLeod has blogged just recently about some of the B.S. in education and no I am not talking about Bachelor's of Science.

I will let you read his posts about the two specific individuals he is referring to, but what struck me was that the longer I taught the less I knew. I wasn't always good at it but I tried to help students learn how to question things. To learn to be a B.S. detector.

Well, teachers need it too we can't just swallow the garbage that is foisted upon us and hopefully administrators will be discriminating too and not choose our presenters based on who's popular or charismatic enough to be recognized but critically analyze who really has good research driven practices to share with us.

Again, this is my opinion and my thoughts so please be critical!

Relevant posts

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Social networking is it worth it?

You know. Many educators are reluctant to join Social Networking Sites for fear they will lose their privacy and that students may learn more about them than they would like. It is definitely a risk but....

Around 11:30 this morning I checked my phone. I have it set up to send me updates when something goes on with my Facebook account. Somebody sent me a message? Curious. I don't know the person and my phone only displays a minimum of info. He says he's the husband of... Curioser. I wonder why someone is messaging me and prefacing it with the fact they are somebodies husband. So, out pops the iPod touch and the Facebook app. Within moments I have reconnected with friends I haven't seen in years. Turns out he is the husband of Jane (name has been changed to protect the innocent). His wife and my wife were very close friends about 7 years back. We moved. They Moved. Numbers changed. We lost contact.

Well he was in town and his wife is in the hospital and wants very much to reconnect with my wife.

How did he find me? Google search and joined Facebook. He also found my work email which is pretty easy.

Anyway I'm very grateful to reconnect with these friends and glad that people could find me. I know it is scary to be so available, but for me the risks are worth it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

An interesting approach

This shows an interesting approach, but as Devil's Advocate, I have seen teachers who are every bit as dynamic and do this same thing. I think it is one of the reasons I love where I work because we do so much of Learn Today Teach Tomorrow.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I know that!!!

[caption id="attachment_219" align="alignnone" width="261" caption=" logo"] logo[/caption]I know that!  It is always great when kids say that.  If you are looking for a way to help them say it more often, you can try some of the game at The games are categorized by content area and by grade level.  You need the Adobe Shockwave player to for the games to run properly and some of them were a little glitchy when I ran them.

On the positive side the games come with Teacher's Guides and are engaging.  So, now you know that!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why the internet works!

What has made the internet successful and what does it mean for education?

Why does the internet work?  It can be summed up with three simple concepts
  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Connectivity
People want to know.  We simply do.  Web 1.0 was all about getting information out.  People want information.  We are curious by nature.  I think even more so now than ever before.  I remember reading educational pundits in college who stated over and over that all we need to do to create good learners is to help them recover the curiosity of a 2 year old.  Well admittedly as a parent, and teacher there are sometimes it is simply hard to let my children and students follow their curiosity to it's logical conclusions (What happens if I use more gunpowder???)  But that is my laziness or unwillingness to clean up the mess (both real and metaphorical)  The internet works because people want to know

People want to create.  We simply do.  Web 2.0 is largely about creating.  It is about making stuff that is digitally mine.  My Amazon page, MySpace, my website, my lists, my profile, My Facebook friends.  Mine, me.  I am egocentric.  I want my voice, my blog, my youtube channel, my book reviews.  I know there are some out there that don't find this all that appealing, but so many millions do.  So many people want to create their own stuff.  The internet works because people want to create.

People want to connect.  We simply do.  Web 2.0 is also about connecting.  I can create a huge collection of stuff, but I want to share it I want others to read my book reviews, I want others to see my funny video of my son spitting out his first pickle, I want to connect and collaborate.  The internet works because people want to connect.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Are you a teacher?  If you are then you are probably a pack rat!  Something about the profession makes us keep stuff "in case I ever need it for a lesson"  If you are a TechnoTeacher, you are probably a digital pack rat.  There are lots of ways out there for hoarding our digital clouds, but there is now one that's in the cloud. claims unlimited storage for whatever you want.  It's servers are there to serve.  You can create an account, and upload anything you want.  It also has features for sharing your hoard with other users.  This brings into focus two concerns with the service.  By default anything you upload is shared.  I went in and immediately changed this.  Secondly, you can click on other's shared files and this could potentially expose you to malicious code, malware and viruses.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

LIVE! on the Web

In the earlier days of the web Hotmail was the hottest mail on the web.  It was one of the first web based email services available.  After a really long life (in web terms anyway actually only about 2 years) It was bought by Microsoft and has since morphed a few times and is now bundled with several other services that together are branded as WindowsLive.  These are tools that allow you to connect your desktop to the web in direct and straightforward ways.

Windows Live toolsThe three main elements, that I think educators might find useful are:

Web based email!  Most educators have a school email client and often a web tool for accessing it as well.  Having a secondary method for getting email can be very useful.

Spaces! Spaces allows educators or anyone to create an online web profile.  This profile can have as much or as little as you choose.  Embedded within your space is your own personal web log or blog and a photo album

Skydrive!  Skydrive is an online storage space.  WindowsLive gives you access to 5 gigabytes of secure storage space.  it acts like a flash drive on the web.  And with the additional OfficeLive tool you can save directly from Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel to you online storage space.  Skydrive even allows you to share your files with friends that you choose or create shared spaces with one set of files instead of emailing things back and forth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fear and Learning!

The lizard brain is out to get you! This is the message I remember learning during the Academy of Instruction facilitated by Steve Ramirez and Wendy Chalk of Life Long Learning Associates. Whenever I have heard brain research I have continued to hear that message. Based on current scientific understanding the fight or flight reaction is one of the earliest to evolve and whenever fear, tension, anger or aggression kick in our lizard brain takes over and the higher order thinkings skills like reason, evaluation, synthesis and analysis are shut down. Therefore, (and this is what the folks say) our classes need to be free of all these stressors in order to create a learning environment that is suitable for higher order upper/frontal brain thinking. Please forgive me if my details are fuzzy, but the pull back and the big picture is clear. Create a warm, safe cozy environment and learning happens.

I am certainly not against this, and there certainly has to be an environment where innovation is valued and people feel safe to express wild, crazy and new ideas. This is probably best achieved by the warm inviting environment, but I ask myself what if we are all wrong!

Is emotion bad in education, in learning, in decision making, in thinking? We talk about our subjects as ideas we love. Memes catch on not because they are actually rational but because they feel right. Often we decide first and then reflect and find the reasons later. I bought a Creative Zen a few months back. On paper it is in all ways better than an iPod Nano that it is competition for, but still I want the iPod. Why, because it appeals to my emotions. Why was it that those students that kind of didn't fit in with the others, kind of were not the best and brightest, but clearly capable, why did they come into my room before school and ask what we were going to do in class. Something connected emotionally. Why have I had so many former students come to me and say: "Oh, I loved you, but I hated your class" Because of a connection. Why did it always bug me when they said this? Because I was emotionally attached to the curriculum I had develeoped.

What prompted all this? The prologue of Emotional Design by Donald A. Norman. He is a cognitive scientist studying how emotions affect decision making. And actually has a new perspective for me. He states that often our lizard brain is very adept at making the snap judgement about whether something is good or bad, safe or dangerous. Then our reflective brain is able to come up with the reasons for it. The reflective brain is able to then push influence down onto the behavioral brain.

This reminds me of a History Channel show I watched a few weeks ago regarding the training of Navy Seals, they are placed not in a cozy easy environment, but in one of the highest stress environments that can be inflicted on people that you want to survive. This set of stresses helps the trainess learn to control the gut reactions so they don't shoot friendlies, or allies. It helps them supress the panic but still make lightning fast judgements (based on the visceral assessment of safe or dangerous)

What does this mean for the classroom? I don't know if I know? Would my classroom always be one of cozy marshmallows and rainbows, and rose colored glasses? I don't think so. I think there is a place for the kind of focus that happens when there is a high stakes deadline that is just a little to short for comfort. Both climates have a place in the classroom. There is certainly a benefit and a place for a low stress welcoming safe environment, but also a time for the focus that only stressors can bring.

Finally, what does it mean. It means emotionally connected education. No matter what we might say. Education is about emotion. I taught what I did because I wanted students to learn to value those things. There was a clear affective objective in what I did and in what I think we all do. We don't teach kids to read only because we want them to be able to get a job, but because we want them to love reading. We don't teach kids about bacteria, or moss, or DaVinci only because the somehow 'should' know about them, but also because we want them to have a sense of wonder about the world.


Another way to find the newest, latest, and greatest

[caption id="attachment_198" align="alignleft" width="218" caption=" logo"] logo[/caption]

Looking for the latest and greatest Web 2.0 Sites, well, here is another great way to look for good stuff on the net.  Ziipa.  Ziipa creates an easily browsable and visual directory of Web 2.0 Tools.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Losing my tweeple

I didn't realize how easy it is to form significant contacts on the internet.  A few months ago I started a twitter account and a few weeks in a fellow twitterer started following me.  I have gotten really used to  posts and valued the funny things said.  A couple of days ago, I snapped off a couple quick responses that I realized after the fact were probably too sarcastic and that sarcasm doesn't translate well. As soon as I realized this I tweeted off an apology.  Nothing....... days without a tweet from my fellow twitterer.  Finally I went directly to the profile page...clicked on the follow button.  NO!!!! I have been blocked.  Maybe it's really not personal, but it reminds me that the interactions online can be as valuable as the face to face ones but are even more fragile, one misguided comment can lose a friend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

World Mapper

We are used to seeing maps of the world and often use them in class.  The maps we are used to try hard to show accurately the comparative land area of each country, but what if the size of the country gew in relationship to something else??? This is the question that World Mapper is working on answering.  The maps on ths site allow you to view changes in relative size based on other criteria.  Like the one below which shows youth literacy by country.Youth literacy map from

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shhh... no talking!

I am teaching an online course about Internet Safety and this week was about Social Networking.  One of the discussion questions was basically:  Is there a place for social networking in the schools.  The answer an ear splitting: maybe!

Seriously though.  a reoccuring comment by those who see it as negative is: 
Kids are supposed to be learning in class.  There is no place for socializing.  They can socialize on their own time.
Well sure they can, but don't we want them to do homework on their own time too?  The lines between home and work life are blurring as we see more flexibility available due to connectivity.  Additionally,  I personally believe that as long as we avoid the internet as the domain of "them" then we don't have a stake in how it turns out.  When responsible thoughtful adults and educators take back some of that territory and use the internet for worthwhile purposes I think students will follow suit.  As far as learning being more important than socializing.  Isn't learning a social experience?  I learn from what I talk to people about, from listening to their opinions and disagreeing with them.  Sometimes heatedly.  We are social beings.  Education is a social construct that is designed (at least ideally) to take the very best people in our society and have them pass on our social and cultural values. I think we learn socially and as long as we are going to help students learn we need to find ways to cultivate exceptional conversations in our learning environments.

Another person, commented: They don't have time to be commenting on someone's hair.  Why not?  We do it all the time.  In the hall, with other teachers, in the lunch room, even when a student comes in dressed a little nicer I would often ask "Why so dressed up?"  I would get varying responses, but invariably it was a time I connected socially with these people I was teaching.  I stand firm in my conviction that people learn from people they know care!  We must be social, the question is what it too socialy to effectively teach.

Monday, November 24, 2008

UEN is on the Web....and YouTube....and TeacherTube

As part of our ongoing efforts here at UEN to make resources available to educators, we have started our own channels on both YouTube and TeacherTube.  Some of or former FacultyLounge episodes as well as other tutorials are available.  We have also made the Internet Safety Videos that were produced in partnership with available.  Check us out on the web! There is a video embedded that was produced to show off Frames a product highlighted in a Faculty Lounge episode.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Extended Adolescence

Education is good, education that disengages students from life is bad! I spent 5 years teaching Science and the whole time I was I had this unsettled feeling that what I was doing wasn't helping kids. I was teaching them useful, interesting and potentially fulfilling things, but I felt like I was preparing them for a future that I wasn't sure would exist.

Then I went into Career and Technical Education. Don't get me wrong, I loved science, and I loved teaching science, but suddenly the whole focus was on definitive skills that students need to succeed. My whole being was at peace with this view. Now, this is not my whole philosophy of education, but definitely a component of it.

We need more work! Not more homework, but more actually engagement of kids with life. I know there are hundreds thousands hundreds of thousands of example of teachers in every country, state and subject area that do exactly that, for me it took the focus of CTE to make it real for me. I was in a conference (not sitting, but actually in a wood shop building rockets) when a veteran teacher approaching retirement made the comment to me that what we have done wrong is "Extended Adolescence". Something buzzed. I turned off the band saw and something clicked. We really have extended adolescence.

I was married at 21 with a full expectation that now I am responsible for myself and my wife and future family. It seems from the messages of the media-ated culture that now, not only should I have waited until I was completely done with college, but waited until I was well established in a career before I 'settled' down. I think one major flaw in this is that we are seeing more and more parents wanted to intervene for their adult, but not yet mature children. 22 year olds who haven't yet taken any responsibility for themselves. I have actually even read articles about how to set rules, and guidelines for our college children. What???? Aren't they in every legal sense adults and independent? By the time my kids get to that point, I don't want to have to enforce rules and guidelines, I hope by then that my children and by extension the students I taught can govern themselves.

So, how do we do this, I think the same way my folks and their folks did. Expect accountability. I started feeding the pigs when I was not yet in school. My job was to collect the bucket of table scraps my Mom collected and walk out to the pig barn and 'slop' the hogs. My son has to slop the 'dogs' but the principle is still valid. I think we must do more to reinforce to our young people, and more in our schools to provide opportunities for the students to contribute meaningfully, significantly, financially, and morally to the communities. I believe this is possible through more, better and deeper work study and apprenticeship programs. Young people should begin earlier exploring career options and doing the actual work. We teach all the time that students need to experience lots of variety so they can choose what interests them. I agree and this includes doing the actual work! Students need to work, as young as junior high (7th grade or 12 years old) Students should have options to work as part of their curriculum, and not contrived simulations, but actual work. I believe I became a teacher at least in part, because I spent a portion of my High School career as a student aide, and found that I liked the work, I liked copying papers, I enjoyed grading assignments, I liked talking with the younger students when I was a few grades older than them.

Students need to experience work. They need to be expected to contribute! We need to reduce not extend adolescence. I do believe kids should still get to be kids, but when 24 and 25 years olds are still having parents call their "teachers" to explain why they didn't get their homework done we have reached the ridiculous. Lets bring back work!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Response to Drape's Takes : Immersion

This analogy of taking the plunge is a vital one. It is impossible to teach someone to swim if you are on the side of the pool. How can I help kids learn anything if I am not still learning myself. Immersion is what helps us become learners.

Originally posted as a comment by Jorgie on Drape's Takes using Disqus.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tech Tools for Every Educator

Ok,  I have been insanely busy with getting my Internet Safety class online.  Several people find it ironic that I would teach and Internet Safety class online, but come on what's better than learning to swim in the water right?

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about what Drape's Takes has to say about education and I think it's my turn.
Tech Tools for Every Educator 
These are tools and skills that I believe every educator should be actively developing

  • Multimedia editing: Whether it is PowerPoint, iMovie, Keynote, MovieMaker or some other tool every educator needs to be able to create, and remix their own multimedia.
  • A sanctioned online presence:  Every teacher needs a safe place to create an online presence.  A place that no administrator/board member/legislator/parent is going to "call" them on.  A place that no one is going to say: I don't know if that is a good idea.  A place that they can post links, documents, and events relevant to their class.
  • The ability to create readily readable reports:  Teachers should be able to create documents in the following formats and know what they are and why they should use them.  csv, pdf, rtf, txt
  • A portable web presence:  Every educator should have a web address that belongs to them.  This is different than the sanctioned site listed above.  This is a place where you have stuff that you might want to move with you.  Your other site could/should have a portal to this online real estate, but this one you take with you if you move schools, are promoted or retire.
  • An online learning community:  Every educator should cultivate a group of like-minded (and sometimes opposite minded) colleagues.  Whether this is developed through list-serves, twitter, blogger, edu-blog or some other method, we should be able to collaborate with colleagues who have similar jobs
  • Online messaging:  this relates to the above entry.  Every teacher should be able to communicate with an instant messaging service.  There are many.  Windows Live Messenger, GoogleTalk, and Skype
  • Web Based Email:  Every teacher should also have a secondary web based email.  Pick your flavor.
Well, let me know if  what I left off.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It was only a matter of time!!

A woman was arrested for killing her virtual husband.  Well.... ex-husband.  He divorced her with no warning on the online game MapleStory so she hijacked a password, hacked the system and killed his virtual persona

5 years jail time is possible

See the full article on Wired:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Touch through Tech

I have heard a lot in the news lately about people disconnecting or tuning out because of Tech. The Daily Herald recently published an article entitled Toys creating distance.

The ideas in the article certainly can be true, but it isn't always so. I recently took a new job and was introduced to twitter. Twitter allows me to follow friends and recieve text message updates. It also allows me to send a 'tweet' to all my followers (sometimes referred to as tweeple or tweeps) One thing that has happened is I have been able to reconnect with a colleague Darren Draper. He has a lot of good things to say and last weekend I commiserated with him during his Stats test. I couldn't actually help him since I don't know a 't score' from a tea cozy, but this demonstrates what I think also happens with tech. People are learning to touch through tech. We follow each other. We listen to each other. We know each other. I have recently also added some Facebook buddies friends folks. People I hadn't seen since high school. I honestly was reluctant because my memories of high school were of these people largely ignoring me or worse .... but it has not only been painless it has actually been more rewarding than I imagined.

Students are doing this. They touch through tech. Our community may not include only people we know and see face to face but the people we interact with online. With more and more tech available the formation of online communities will only get bigger and more important to the members of that community. The 'toys' actually can encourage interaction. In one study adolescents were shown to switch from asynchronous text messaging to synchronous methods like instant messaging and f2f discussions:
To study the communicative
purposes of text messaging, one study asked
ten adolescents (five boys and five girls) to
keep a detailed log of the text messages that
they sent and received for seven consecutive
days. Analysis of the message logs revealed
three primary conversation threads: chatting
(discussing activities and events, gossip,
and homework help), planning (coordinating
meeting arrangements), and coordinating
communication (having conversations about
having conversations). The teens ended most
text conversations by switching to another
setting such as phone, instant messaging, or

The article was talking specifically about consuming media while walking, commuting or being out in public. I actually agree with one comment strongly. By being involved in my iPod I can maintain my personal space and privacy even when I have to be out with others. This is a defense mechanism that protects us when we are nervous or even slightly afraid in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable space.

I do advocate unplugging, at least once in awhile, but for the most part tech allows us to touch, to create new relationships and strengthen others. I txt my wife regularly now and when our schedules were off I would often talk to her on the phone while I drove to work and she drove home from work Tech can help us touch, connect and relate to both our bigger community and our f2f friends. Now if you will excuse me I need to tweet my tweeps esp my wife.

Reference nod:
Title: Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships
Author: Subrahmanyam, Kaveri; Greenfield, Patricia
Journal: Future of Children
Publication Date: 20080101
Pages: 119(28)
Subject: Internet; Adolescents; Interpersonal Relationship; Anxiety; Time; Privacy; Computer Mediated Communication; Telecommunications; Electronic Equipment; Word Processing; Electronic Mail; Social Networks; Context Effect
ISSN: 10548289
Source: Future of Children, v18 n1 p119-146 Spr 2008
Volume: 18
Issue: 1
Abstract: Publication Type : EJ Language : English AN : EJ795861

Monday, October 20, 2008


There's YouTube, there's TeacherTube, Theres eMedia (for Utah Teachers) and now there's Studio4learning. This free site allows teachers to create a user account, where they can bookmark videos. Once registered the videos can be downloaded to an iPod with video capabilities. More fun in my opinion though is the fact that you can "get code" and embed videos directly on your own page.

There are on page ads that could be a concern in the classroom, but with your own site you can embed the videos so only you see the ads as you find videos.

Comment on Drape's Takes: Hacking the Curriculum

Hey, one thing folks are not recognizing is the fact that they already tried this. Getting rid of the teacher by creating one expert driven course was how text books were invented. That didn't remove the teacher from the classroom. Another key element to this is that no matter how well a course is created online there is still a need for f2f. I not only know my students but what they are dealing with outside of my subject area. What sports they are involved in, what books they are reading. The f2f or even the social aspect of online interactions are highly valuable. People learn from people they know care.

Interesting side note In a book entitled The Next Fifty Years: Science in the first half of the 21st Century. ( One of the contributors describes a world where place doesn't matter anymore. Where I work becomes about who I want to be around and work with more than the company I work for. He then has a tiny blurb just a paragraph about the idea that schools could be the same way. We no longer need a content expert, what we need is a responsible adult to be present with a group of kids (he is describing elementary schools) to help facilitate their online learning experience. Interesting idea anyway.

Originally posted as a comment by Jorgie on Drape's Takes using Disqus.

The truth of the matter we call education!

I have for the first time seen someone state succintly the definition of true education:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Response to Drape's Takes

My response to Drape's Takes: Invisible Political Forces... 
What you are saying is that the system is self creating! I know I came into education partly to "fix" it and partly because I was so good at it. Many of us are successful teachers in part because we were such successful students. We fit the system and worked it.

Another conflict is that there is a very real pressure against innovation. New ideas have to be approved, checked, research based, data driven...... the reality is there is very little motivation for most people to innovate and a very big incentive not to. No one wants to be the one to get 'that call' from the principal and deal with the fall-out. The system itself has a very hard time reforming itself because it is designed to self-perpetuate. Microsoft, banking, the automotive industry so much of it is that way

Originally posted as a comment by Jorgie on Drape's Takes using Disqus.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The irony is biting!!!

Ok, so I thought I had blogged about this, but I couldn't find the post. I love the irony of this screen capture. I was at a school district and sat down and logged in as a guest. Because I was a guest everything was blocked. Including as you will note: education and literature.
Now, at first, I chalked it up to just kind of funny that it was blocked and said literature and education, but now that I think about it more it is particularly ironic that they even have that option on the filter. Do people really block for education and literature? Maybe we should?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Getting live data is one of the fundamentally great things about the internet.  Now there is another way to get it.  WildEarth.TV has live video feeds of African biomes. It also has live chat alongside the video and a whole catalog of related information. The calendar s a subscribable public calendar for your Google calendar. This is definitely a good example of how some things are possible with the internet that weren't before it.

link to the site here

Friday, September 26, 2008

Taking back the Territory

I have a colleague, Laura Hunter that talks about the "creepy tree house" Her analogy is that the kids love their tree house and it is a great place where kids get to be kids, but when the adults come up it gets a little weird. I tend to agree with her. The "creepy tree house" effect should be avoided, but with that said, I wonder if we are abdicating our responsibilities by not invading 'kids' spaces a little.

I think we need to take back some of the territory. Many people I talk to say things like:
  • "No, I don't text"
  • YouTube is just a bunch of garbage
  • Kids are just so much better at this stuff
  • I wouldn't want to have "FaceBook" page
  • What if kids saw what I posted?
Well, seriously, these are all legitimate concerns, but what I wonder about a little is: "What if I don't do these things" How can I be a relevant teacher to students I don't understand. Yes, texting is hard. I still hate doing it on my wife's phone even with predictive text. My phone with the keyboard makes it a snap. FaceBook as an in the class teacher I admit freaked me out a bit, what do I do if a student wants to add me as a friend? Do I have to lead not a double, but a triple life. My home life, my online life and my online "teacher life." For example: As a classroom teacher if I wanted to post a list of my favorite movies and one is not school appropriate can I? What if a parent or my principal saw it.

But if I don't claim some space where the kids are then I am irrelevant. I wish that I had felt a little more comfortable doing that when I was a classroom teacher and I had understood better the perspective that the Administrators and IS Specialists. If I were back in the classroom I would want an online presence, but I would have to establish guidelines. What those guidelines would be I am still trying to formulate.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Evolving Online Environment

I found this fascinating quote today:

World of Warcraft and other Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) sure do look exciting (see screen grab of Battle Ready Cat Thingy with Large Sword and Big Fangs at right). And WoW is exciting. I should know, as I've wasted a fair amount of my life parked in front of a computer, fighting off the Horde, etc.Discovery News: Etherized, Aug 2008

You should read the whole article.

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Online Literacy

Teaching with technology isn't just about creating great websites and interactives often it is about creating better learning for students and increasing accessibility.  When students struggle with reading educators often suggest having the audio version of the book available for them.  Lit2Go has made that easier

Lit2Go Logo and link I love finding great sources of free literature online. I just had a colleague show me this one. It is available through iTunes, but the direct link is:

Lit2Go is a clearinghouse of free mp3 files of books that are considered classics. They are all searchable, and available as chapters. Best of all they are free and have no expiration.

More online literature

Lit2Go Logo and link I love finding great sources of free literature online. I just had a colleague show me this one. It is available through iTunes, but the direct link is:

Lit2Go is a clearinghouse of free mp3 files of books that are considered classics.  They are all searchable, and available as chapters. Best of all they are free and have no expiration.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Are School-Age Boys Struggling? | Newsweek Education |

Why Are School-Age Boys Struggling? Newsweek Education

I certainly don't want to or intend to offend, but I have an opinion on this and nobody reads my blog anyway. The struggle that is described in this article was very evident to me as a school teacher. I have thought about it for the last several years, and at the risk of being politically incorrect at best and labeled a macho pig at worst. I think that a big part of this problem is exacerbated by the unequal proportions of men to women educators especially in the early grades. People all the time argue that men and women are equal, and they are and both should be treated equitably, but to ignore that fact that men and women are fundamentally, biologically, and psychologically different is foolish.

There is a disproportionate number of women educators especially in the early grades. Even the best and most educated and experienced female teacher simply can't remember what it was like to be a 'boy'. Largely our current educational practice, I am not talking the theory or the stated philosophy, but the actual practice encourages compliance. For thousands of years, boys that were strong, assertive, leaders were those that were encouraged. They became the Washingtons, the Martin Luther Kings Jr.s', the Lindbergh's, but now what is rewarded is compliance, submissiveness, obedience. "Sit down, and do you worksheet" We say on the surface we encourage innovation and leadership, but not when kids push back on the teachers decisions.

I know that in large part, at least in the state of Utah, part of the reason we have such a disproportionate number of male to female teachers has to do with salary. Your average Husband and Father simply can't provide effectively for his family as an educator. Salaries set by the State legislature are still based on the unspoken philosophy that teachers are: mostly housewives who want extra income for the family. Well, as long as that is true the kinds of men (and women, quite frankly) who are the most devoted spouses and best leaders are going to leave education creating a void for the boys who need a good example of how to be a good man without being disruptive to society.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Literacy- Old school???

Jared suggested that I am pretty animated about the literature resources on the web and that I ought to blog about them here. So if you like this I need to thank Jared for the suggestion, if you don't then it's Jared's fault and blame him. But, seriously. There are some really phenomenal web resources for bibliophiles out there. I want to highlight just one. It is multi-media in the way we usually think of it, but it does use multiple mediums. Many books that are no longer covered by copyright, ie: public domain, are now being digitized by multiple entities and in mutliple ways. One of those is Project Gutenburg, named after the famous inventor of the printing press. You can look up literally thousands and thousands of books and read them on your computer or with just a small learning curve and a portable device you can take them with you to read anywhere you go. Visit Project Gutenburg here:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quotes Daddy

Quotes Daddy | Over 1,000,000 Famous Quotes

If you are a big bibliophile you may be like me and have thousands of quotes and snippets that you love from your favorite authors. Quotes Daddy allows you to not only search, and bookmark your favorite quotes but both include your favorites from books and add your own words of wisdom. A great Web 2.0 tool

You can also create a widget to include quotes on your blog or other website.

Quotes by

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Creating a word cloud! will create a word cloud by analyzing any web page or by adding words manually to create a word cloud.

Web 2.0 What is it?

What is Web 2.0? I have been hearing this phrase kicked around for a few weeks but wasn't really sure what it meant. I am currently at a conference Sponsored by Classroom 2.0. We are discussing the definition of Web 2.0. It is very interesting that like many phrases we are defining it ourselves. We as participants in the system are creating the definitions by the way we use new tools and how we use the phrase. It is really appropriate that this definition is developing this way. The basic definition we have come up with is that Web 2.0 was a phrase coined by the industry to describe the web companies that survived the bust. One of the things that is key to the nature of Web 2.0 is the participatory nature of the web. Things like writing reviews in iTunes or on are examples of Web 2.0. There is also a philosophy shift from the web being a static resource for accessing information to being an interactive resource that participants add to the content as much as access it. There is also quite a bit of discussion about Web 2.0 being community and culture building.

So with that simple definition here is a link to my web 2.0 participation check out my Amazon.Com listmania list: Mitchell Jorgensen's Listmania Lists

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Audio Books! Listen to your favorite book

There are lot of great ways to enhance learning. I remember very fondly Mrs. Marcum reading Raold Dahl's BFG out loud in 5th grade. She skipped the chapter about Body noises. It wasn't the book that was so great, I hardly remember the plot. Really the biggest impact it had on me was that I had to go find the book and read the chapter about bodily noises because she told us she was skipping a chapter. What was valuable was hearing an effective and animated reader read.

My Grandmother was a Drama Coach and taught my mother how to do "Readings" I learned from her and to this day I believe being read to is valuable and reading out loud to children is priceless.

To help enhance the Audio learning there are some great products available beyond the already widely available book on tape and book on CD.


A commercial venture that does allow subscription accounts for libraries. The files are specifically intended to be downloaded and used by multiple users. The state of Utah has an agreement in place so that all Utah public libraries have access to a NetLibrary collection and patrons can download and check out an audio file for 3 weeks. This is my personal favorite of the bunch because they are free. And if I ever want to listen to a book again (or it takes longer than 3 weeks for me to finish) I simply renew it just like a library book.


Playaways are a new format of audio book. They are essentially a pre-loaded MP3 player that can be checked out to students. Since they are pre-loaded and the content can't be changed I think there is not much more chance of a library having them stolen than of any popular book. is a commercial venture that allows you to either buy books, or subscribe to a monthly plan. These monthly plans then allow you to download audio books and play them on an iPod or other MP3 player. Great service, but pricey and doesn't allow you to redistribute the files as you would in a library.

Consider some of these sources for your audio learning.

Friday, August 1, 2008

UCAT: Technology Tools for Enhanced Education

Thanks to all the Participants in today's Conference. It was a great pleasure to be there with you. I felt like I had to go so fast and didn't really get to delve into all the things I would have liked to. I decided to blog some of the points I didn't have time to talk about.

I mentioned in the presentation many of the personal productivity tools and ways they can be used. Windows Live and Google Tools are two fantastic online tools that allow you to maintain control of your busy life and schedule. One of the IT Guys from Salt Lake Tooele Applied Technology Center pointed out that while there is a modicum of security with these online tools it is very easy for malicious individuals to introduce malware, bad code, trojans and other security risks. Like all other online tools it is good practice to be cautious with what you do and be aware that there are risks.

Student Collaboration

The area I didn't get to spend much time on was how these tools can be used in student collaboration. I mentioned briefly that GoogleDocs is an online tool that you an use for yourself, but one application I thought of was with class presentations. Often we as educators ask students to create a class presentation regarding a relevant topic from our class. This is a good educational practice. Taking this a step further, with GoogleDocs, an educator could require that students develop a collaborative presentation and require that they work with a student from a different section or class. This would force students to use a new tool to collaborate. Also, if you are a collaborator on the document then you can review the revisions that each collaborator has made and get an idea of what amount of work each student has done. See the Google Video about GoogleDocs to get an idea of how this might work.

The second example of an effective collaboration tool is GoogleSites. This is a tool designed to be used by commercial entities and schools to develop websites. It allows a manager (the teacher) to set up a group of collaborators on a site. This could be used for students to create a website about different topics from your class.

Communication Tools for students

Another key element in our students online lives is the lively discussions they have. The video mentions that students spend 2 hours on their cell phone, a goodly portion of that is probably text messaging. Text conversations go back and for all day. As educators we can harness part of this through online discussion groups. GoogleGroups, is one tool that allows you to moderate discussion groups. Most Learning Management Systems such as WebCT Vista, Blackboard and Moodle will also allow this. Additionally, there are other free discussion group softwares available if you do a google search for them.

Thanks again for your attendance at the conference and feel free to contact me. My email is listed here or contact info can be found at


Training Broadcasts #3

Gabcast! Training Broadcasts #3

Friday, July 11, 2008

Audio Learning

There are lot of great ways to enhance learning. I remember very fondly Mrs. Marcum reading Raold Dahl's BFG out loud in 5th grade. She skipped the chapter about Body noises. It wasn't the book that was so great, I hardly remember the plot. Really the biggest impact it had on me was that I had to go find the book and read the chapter about bodily noises because she told us she was skipping a chapter. What wa valuable was hearing an effective and animated reader read.

My Grandmother was a Drama Coach and taught my mother how to do "Readings" I learned from her and to this day I believe being read to is valuable.

To help enhance the Audio learning there are some great products available.


Another commercial venture that does allow subscription accounts for libraries. The files are specifically intended to be downloaded and used by multiple users. The state of Utah has an agreement in place so that all Utah public libraries have access to a NetLibrary collection and patrons can download and check out an audio file for 3 weeks. This is my personal favorite of the bunch because they are free. And if I ever want to listen to a book again (or it takes longer than 3 weeks for me to finish) I simply renew it just like a library book.


Playaways are a new format of audio book. They are essentially a pre-loaded MP3 player that can be checked out to students. Since they are pr e-loaded and the content can't be changed I think there is a slightly lower chance of a library having them stolen. is a commercial venture that allows you to either buy books, or subscribe to a monthly plan. These monthly plans then allow you to download audio books and play them on an iPod or other MP3 player. Great service, but pricey and doesn't allow you to redistribute the files as you would in a library.

Consider some of these sources for your audio learning.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Memory and Learning

We spend a lot time as educator helping people learn. What we are really trying to get them to do is remember stuff. Remember to turn in their assignments, remember the times tables, remember to put their name on their paper, and even more important things. We focus our efforts on pedagogy, effective strategies, best practices and enriching learning experiences. I have often said (with full credit to Dr. Harry Wong whom I am paraphrasing) that educators are doing brain surgery without scalpels.

Recent developments in the field of epigenetics actually confirm this and give worthwhile insights to good teaching practices. In Scientific American Mind June/July 2008 an article entitled Unmasking Memory Genes by Amir Levine details recent research that points to external events changing the expression of genes and altering Memory abilities. Various studies in mice and sea slugs show that certain chemicals and environments can actually stimulate the memory. Enriching, interesting and novel environments for mice with memory disorders allowed them to improve their ability to remember (especially negative events such as being shocked)

Fascinating article and it encouraged me to think about the type of environment I am building with and for learners.

Preview the article here

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More about the right to publicity

You can check out a great broadcast from NPR regarding email. One of the people expresses the attitude I was kind of mentioning yesterday. He says he tries to live his whole life so that if everything went public it wouldn't embarrass him. Pretty good rule to live by. Check it out here:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Right to Publicity

I have been thinking a lot lately about our right to privacy. I had a student very upset with me that I was remotely controlling his computer with software and blocking sites and applications that he wasn't allowed to use in my class. He told me I was violating his right to privacy. I explained that I was only doing my federally mandated job of keeping kids safe on the internet.

But I also find that many people today want to be able to post anything and everything about themselves online. The population I have been recently working with seem to feel it is a right to put anything about themselves they want to on the internet without considering whether a future employer will look at it or whether they are showing themselves involved in risky/inappropriate behavior.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The days are going by. I am in my 3rd week at UEN and feel pretty good. I have been working on iMovie and will post my first attempts later this week. I will have to create a YouTube and a TeacherTube account to do it which should be interesting. I have also been updating my.uen page. You can check on it at

Also, I have started being a mass transported commuter. Riding UTA has been a new experience for me but is all in all good. I will save quite a chunk of change because I don't have to pay for gas. I would like to see more options for energy efficient transportation. Watching a big F350 chugging it's way down the freeway with one person in it is still appalling to me. I know there are some people and some times a big, powerful truck are necessary, but there are a lot of people who commute with them and it's a little crazy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Utah Career and Technical Educations Summer Conference

I presented at the CTE Summer Conference for Technology and Engineering. I did two sessions one on Multimedia Portfolios and another on the Town of Kerfuffle Simulated Town Meeting I have done in my class for the last few years. Check out my.uen page for more of the details.

Welcome to Jorgie Learning

I really am learning and this blog is maintained both as a record of some of what I am doing as well as a place for me to train and teach others about creating an online presence. So please don't mind the dust. We aren't remodeling we are learning!

Visit some of my other blogs or the other blogs I find mildly entertaining for a more polished feel.