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.

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.