Friday, August 31, 2007

A Window on the World: Blog Day

"Out of the window,
I saw how the planets gathered
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind."
Wallace Stevens, Domination of Black

It has only been two months since I began blogging. I have reflected on my professional life, made connections with educators and librarians in faraway places, and gained a nodding acquaintance with tools and applications whose existence I had not even suspected before.

My window has opened wide, indeed.

Carolyn Foote (Texas) has mentioned Journeys as a blog she would recommend, and I wholeheartedly return the favor: her Not So Distant Future explores the daily concerns of the teacher/librarian trying to move students in the direction of information fluency.

Beyond School's Clay Burell (Korea) has active student bloggers who participate in collaborative global learning projects. If our district technology cooperates, I hope to join in the fun, half a world away from our tiny rural school.

Also on another continent, Jo McLeay (Australia), of The Open Classroom, conducts Web 2.0 workshops for her colleagues and nurtures creativity through her class blogs.

Back in the U.S., Joyce Valenza (Pennsylvania) provides insight about 21st century searching, teaching, and learning on her NeverEndingSearch Blog.

And Sylvia Martinez (State of Washington) works through the Generation Yes Blog to help schools throughout the States integrate technology into the curriculum. Her advocacy of "student voice" is both eloquent and compelling.

This is just a sampling of the blogs I read daily, my self-directed professional development program.

To these individuals, and all the other intelligent, passionate writers who share their thoughts with us, I offer my sincere thanks.

"We are so often caught up in our destination that we forget to appreciate the journey, especially the goodness of the people we meet on the way. Appreciation is a wonderful feeling, don't overlook it."
Author Unknown

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Poem for Autumn

"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze."
- September, John Updike

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Day at the Races

"The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.
-Sharon Ralls Lemon"

Saratoga Racetrack, August 27, 2007: Clubhouse and Paddock. One last fling before school resumes!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


“Play is the highest form of research.” -Albert Einstein

Ben Dobbin, in a recent AP article, profiles The Museum of Play, located in Rochester, NY. It is impossible to read this story about children learning while having fun without wondering how to inject the same feeling of joyful discovery into a classroom environment.

Dobbin quotes museum director G. Rollie Adams, who declares that "Education should be engaging and challenging and exciting. That's when people learn deeply, learn things they're going to remember for a long time."

A recent survey conducted by MTV and The Associated Press
, found that young people (13-24) "are generally very happy, optimistic about the future and have goals in place to achieve a happier tomorrow". However, of those attending school, 37% responded that school contributed "a lot" to the stress experienced in daily life; 25% listed school as the top stress factor (as compared to "family" at 11%).

Konrad Glogowski reminds us that "Building an environment for the students is likely to result in failure: environments and communities need to be build with the students, with their full participation, through their work and their interactions with and about texts." He goes on to state, "as a teacher in the 21st century, I am taking a stand: I want to have a classroom where my students can enjoy learning experiences.”

Glogowski's perspective is not a new one: the Greek philosopher Plato advised “Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” Psychologist Erik H. Erikson said that "the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.” Beloved childhood icon, Fred Rogers, felt that "One way to think about play, is as the process of finding new combinations for known things—combinations that may yield new forms of expression, new inventions, new discoveries, and new solutions....It’s exactly what children’s play seems to be about and explains why so many people have come to think that children’s play is so important a part of childhood—and beyond."

Since students tend to regard computer time as "play" many educators are turning to wikis and blogs to inject a sense of fun into the learning environment. Inspired by colleague Jo Mcleahy, English teacher Bernie Peeler set up a class blog and, despite the inevitable technical glitches, was able to report "a lot of happy and excited faces in mastering, at least in a limited way, the art of blogging." Jennifer Dorman's wiki includes a Voki and numerous links to tech tools that will enhance and extend the classroom experience while making it an appealing site for student interaction.

A more "radical" method of pairing fun with learning is through gaming. Educational guru Marc Prensky makes a compelling argument for the instructional use of games: “Ours is now a world that demands that people know how to learn new things–especially technical things–quickly and well; that they know how to collaborate, especially with people not just like themselves; and that they know how to think strategically and laterally as well as linearly and logically. These are all skills that good video games demand and teach.” Doug Johnson
listed reasons why games should be allowed in the school library; John Rice publishes a blog devoted exclusively to educational games research.

After looking at the tools students already use in their daily lives, Sue Waters wonders "Will Mobiles [PDA, ipod, mobile phone] be THE Tool of the Future?" Megan, of the Generation YES blog mentions a Schools Fantasy League that engages kids by tapping into their interest in sports.

Chris Lehmann, Principal of the innovative Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA, insists that all children can learn. "We're trying to build a school for a diverse group of learners. We're trying to prove that there are multiple ways for students to succeed and learn."

Perhaps one of those "ways" is through play. Learning while having fun.

“[Students] approach learning as a ‘plug-and-play’ experience; they are unaccustomed and unwilling to learn sequentially–to read the manual–and, instead, are inclined to plunge in and learn through participation and experimentation. Although this type of learning is quite different, it may be more effective for this generation, particularly when provided through a media-rich environment.”James J. Duderstadt and Farris W. Womack, The Future of the Public University in America: Beyond the Crossroads

This post was inspired by Carolyn Foote's "For our sons and daughters".

Photo: "The Sandbox" by Ricardo Carreon

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mini Me

The little lady on the bottom right of my page was created at Voki. Megan E., of the Generation YES Blog, spotlighted this site today, and it's just as much fun to use as she claimed!

After registering for a free account (no fee if you're not using the Voki for business purposes), you customize an avatar, then record a message in your own voice. My introduction is pretty bland, but since I intend to show it to my students, I decided that cutting edge was not the direction I should take.

It was quick and easy to do. My husband likes the interactive aspects but wondered why my alter-ego has straight hair while my real hair is reacting violently to today's humidity. Maybe I should create another Voki for virtual nagging!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saratoga Morning

"If a horse has four legs, and I'm riding it, I think I can win"
-Angel Cordero

This morning I watched racehorses work out at Saratoga. There were no colorful silks and caps, no wagers placed; just jockeys and horses going about their business under the watchful eyes of owners and trainers.

Monday I'll return to join the crowds in the grandstand and cheer for the entries, who carry mighty dreams on four impossibly slender legs.

But today it was jeans and dust and purposeful exercise on an oval track.

See more photos here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Everthing I Need to Know About Teaching I Learned from Rock and Roll

Make it relevant:

"When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school

Its a wonder I can think at all..."
-Simon and Garfunkel,

Differentiate instruction to accommodate all learners:

"He stands like a statue
Becomes part of the machine
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean
He plays by intuition
The digit counters fall
That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball"
-The Who,
Pinball Wizard

Maintain discipline:

"A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me,
sock it to me, sock it to me)
Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin' (just a little bit)
You're runnin' out of foolin' (just a little bit)
And I ain't lyin' (just a little bit)
(re, re, re, re) 'spect"
-Aretha Franklin,

Create a positive learning environment:

"Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation"
-The Fifth Dimension,
Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In

"Without music, life is a journey through a desert."
-Pat Conroy

"And we'll go dancing, baby, then you'll see
How the magic's in the music and the music's in me"
-The Lovin' Spoonful, Do You Believe in Magic

Monday, August 20, 2007

Invite and Share

"Come on and walk right in, set right down.
Daddy, let your mind roll on." - Rooftop Singers

In Wikinomics, authors Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams describe an economy in which "ordinary people and firms are linking up in imaginative new ways to drive innovation and success". Through "peer production", consumers can join in collaborative ventures, helping to create new technology tools and applications. "Individuals now share knowledge, computing power, bandwidth, and other resources to create a wide array of free and open-source goods and services that anyone can use or modify."

With so much available for the taking, how can companies show a profit? Tapscott and Williams quote Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems, who says that "expanding markets create new opportunities.” Knowledge producers must assess the market, then "innovate, differentiate, and compete".

Which brings us to InviteShare.
TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington was tired of having to scrounge up invitations to beta sites for his readers. Jeff Broderick, a computer programmer and web designer at EkinDesigns, created the solution: a site that connects users who want access to new Internet offerings to subscribers who have extra invitations to share. Start-ups benefit from increased traffic and exposure on the website.

Broderick created a new product (reviewed here), Arrington solved his problem, technophiles will be able to try out the beta tools they lust after and fledgling companies get some feedback and PR.

"And I think to myself, what a wonderful world..." -Louis Armstrong (George Weiss / Bob Thiele)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Lake Wobegon Effect

me·di·o·cre: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance: ordinary, so-so

In his Eight Random Facts meme, Tim Stahmer tells us that "another of my dad’s relatives was Roman Hruska, who served as a senator from Nebraska. He was noted for defending a Nixon nominee to the Supreme Court who had been called a mediocre judge by declaring that the mediocre are 'entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?'. I’m so proud."

Intrigued, I followed the Wikipedia link to retrieve the entire quote:
"So what if he is mediocre? There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters and stuff like that there."

None of us want to be regarded as "mediocre", even though one of the synonyms is "ordinary". "So-so" is yet more damning in its suggestion of lukewarm blandness.

But can everyone be like the inhabitants of Lake Wobegon, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average"? John Cannell's "The Lake Wobegon Report: How Public Educators Cheat on Achievement Tests.", published in 1989, made public the statistically impossible finding that all states claimed average student test scores above the national norm. According to the entry on Word spy, "This effect is most often seen in educational test scores, where some teachers, schools, or school districts claim that all of their students score above average, a mathematical impossibility."

Is it possible for all students to be "above average"? NCLB is based on the belief that "high expectations and setting of goals will result in success for all worthy students". Success is one thing, but can everyone be "above average"? Is "superior" the new "average"?

"All human excellence is but comparative. There may be persons who excel us, as much as we fancy we excel the meanest." -Samuel Richardson (1689–1761), British novelist

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Making Learning Fun

Clay Burell describes his teaching style as "relaxed, non-authoritarian, relevant, high-energy, philosophical, wonder-aimed, and encourages principled non-comformity and laughter."

In the spirit of this excellent philosophy, I have been paying around in ToonDoo, trying to create some lesson-enhancing cartoons.

All of our teachers are being required to post an Essential Question while we teach. Since the students might not be familiar with this term, I came up with the following two cartoons:

Essential Questions

Eq for two poets

If we can access the site at school, I'd love to have my students create their own EQ cartoons.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Bottom Third

"Many of us carry memories of an influential teacher who may scarcely know we existed, yet who said something at just the right time in our lives to snap a whole world into focus." Laurent A. Daloz (20th century), U.S. educator

Tim Stahmer's post today on AssortedStuff made me angry. Not at him, but at the "expert" he quotes (British educational advisor Sir Michael Barber) who states that the U. S. "selects its teachers from the bottom third of graduates. This is one of the big challenges for the U.S. education system: What are you going to do over the next 15 to 20 years to recruit ever better people into teaching?”

Tough Choices or Tough Times, the report of the New Commission of the Skills of the American Workforce, says that before we can reform our educational system, "we must fact a few facts. the first is that we recruit a disproportionate share of our teachers from among the less able of the high school students who go to college." (Executive Summary p. XIX)

I've been on committees to hire new teachers and, in our area at least, competition is fierce for the openings.
Our new hires are definitely NOT from the "bottom third of graduates", nor are our veteran staff members. Where does this statistic come from?

I'm a dedicated professional who spends a lot of my "free" time - including summers - reading, thinking and planning for the school year. I resent being dismissed as unmotivated, unintelligent, uncaring.

Every day I read posts from American teachers like Konrad Glogowski, Doug Noon, Patrick Higgins, Christian Long, teacher/librarians Carolyn Foote and Joyce Valenza, and dozens of others. These particular bloggers may be more articulate than most, but I don't believe that the intelligence and dedication they display is atypical.

"For good teaching rests neither in accumulating a shelfful of knowledge nor in developing a repertoire of skills. In the end, good teaching lies in a willingness to attend and care for what happens in our students, ourselves, and the space between us. Good teaching is a certain kind of stance, I think. It is a stance of receptivity, of attunement, of listening." -Laurent A. Daloz

"Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition." -Jacques Barzun, Dean of Graduate School, Columbia University

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Labels and Tags

"I consider any emblem or label a prejudice." -Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

Labels identify something or someone. They may designate origin, use or destination. They adhere; they are difficult to remove.

Tags, in information technology, are keywords or terms assigned to a piece of information. They are usually chosen informally and personally by the creator or user. They are flexible; a single item may have more than one tag.

Labels are limiting; tags permit infinite variation.

"The only sin is limitation. As soon as you once come up with a man’s limitations, it is all over with him." -Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


“Study without reflection is a waste of time; reflection without study is dangerous.” Confucius

This summer I have been exploring - studying - some of the concepts, tools and applications of a world I came to late in my career, the world of Web 2.0. It's time to pause for a moment and reflect on what I've learned.

I understand that students are entitled to an education grounded in the 21st century, since that is the context of their lives. I know that it may be difficult for me to obtain access to many of the new technologies within the constraints of my school facility, but it's my responsibility to enrich my students' curriculum in any way that I can and to extend their experiences beyond the boundaries of their small town.

Learning must occur for them, for me, for us. I need to be their advocate, their guide, their partner, even their student.

And I realize that, after reflection, comes a time for action.

“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Time Travel

"Today, we know that time travel need not be confined to myths, science fiction, Hollywood movies, or even speculation by theoretical physicists. Time travel is possible."
Clifford Pickover, Time: A Traveler's Guide

I spent a lovely day with my husband yesterday: we traveled back in time to the mid-18th century. It didn't require some mad scientist's elaborate machine, just an hour's drive to Crown Point, NY, on beautiful Lake Champlain, where British and French reenactors were encamped for the weekend.

Although we occasionally participate in French and Indian War events, this time we were just visiting old friends, shopping in the sutlers' tents and taking pictures. As you can see from this little boy's face, these "living history" activities are a lot of fun for reenactors and spectators alike. It's a marvelous way to experience life as it was lived in the past, practice research skills (no one wants to be accused of being a "farb"!) and enjoy a unique outdoor experience.

Carl Sagan said that "
If we could travel into the past, it's mind-boggling what would be possible.The possible insights into our own past and nature and origins would be dazzling." I highly recommend historic reenactments as a means to step back into another time and place. You're welcome to view my slideshow and see for yourself.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Our Collective Future

"The decision to have a child is both a private and a public decision, for children are our collective future."
-Sylvia Ann Hewitt (20th century) economist.

A few days ago, our district held an orientation for incoming seventh graders. Students got to meet their teachers, locate rooms, practice opening their lockers, and learn the details of a new folder system intended to help them stay organized. The program was designed to alleviate some of the stress associated with changing from an elementary to a middle school environment. Judging by the smiles at the concluding ice cream party, it was successful.

It wasn't just the kids who benefited. I got to observe my students in a relaxed setting and take a quick measure of the group dynamics. More importantly, I was reminded why I was reading, blogging, exploring: not just for my own professional development but to enrich their learning experiences and help them become more information literate.

Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean Emeritus, Barnard College, listed the qualities that these conservators of our collective future will need:

"The ability to think straight, some knowledge of the past, some vision of the future, some skill to do useful service, some urge to fit that service into the well-being of the community—these are the most vital things education must try to produce."

Thursday, August 9, 2007


I enjoy the variety of links that appear on my feed from The Resource Shelf. One of today's offerings was intriguing, a list of the top 25 search phrases used to locate documents on the CIA - FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) website. The 5th most popular search in June was "family jewels 5/16/1973". A quick check reveals that this refers to a 702-page document, originally classified "Secret Eyes Only", which was declassified and released on June 25, 2007. Evidently, I missed this tidbit in my local newspaper.

The details this report contains are mind-boggling: a Mr. Johnny Roselli was being considered for a "sensitive mission requiring gangster-type action. The mission target was Fidel Castro". Mr. Roselli had an impressive resume: "...he was a high-ranking member of the 'syndicate' and controlled all of the ice-making machines on the strip...[he] undoubtedly had connections leading into the Cuban gambling interests." (Family Jewels, p.12) There are many more characters and plot twists, including lethal pills, Vegas showgirls, and a scheme to defraud the Friar's Club of $400,000 in a rigged gin rummy game (FJ, p.15). The plot to assassinate Castro never jelled. "The last known residence of Roselli was the Federal Penitentiary in Seattle, Washington." (FJ, p. 16)

The next section, "Operation Mockingbird", reveals details of the 1963 wiretapping of two Washington-based newspapermen who had been quoting classified CIA documents. (FJ, p. 21). After tracing numerous sources in Congress, the White House, and even the Attorney General's office (which was helping to monitor the phone conversations), the report abruptly ends, without naming any names.

Skipping to the end, I skimmed a sequence of revisions to a letter composed by CIA Director W.E. Colby to Lloyd Shearer, Editor of Parade magazine, demanding that Colby's letter be published refuting the charge that the CIA "uses political assassination as a weapon". (FJ, p. 694) A handwritten note to Shearer modifies this statement to "never carried out a political assassination or suggested one which occurred" (FJ, p. 695).

For those interested in learning more, The National Security Archive has listed the ten most interesting "Family Jewels". I think I've already read enough.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

8 Random Things

Clay Burell tagged me for the 8 Random Things Meme:

First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Whoopee - I get to play!

1. My Dad graduated from RPI on the GI Bill, when I was two years old. To celebrate, he drove cross-country while my mother and I flew to California to meet him. One of my earliest memories is of the bears in the San Diego Zoo.

2. I belonged to our school/church choir from 6th through 12th grade. On Sundays, we sang hymns and Gregorian chant, and twice a year we gave concerts featuring popular and show tunes.

3. Although my Dad was Italian, my Mom is Irish - and hates cheese. The first time I tasted pizza was when I went out with friends after a high school basketball game.

4. I loved to take reading tests in elementary school and thought this would be a wonderful job when I grew up. (Yet another example of "be careful what you wish for")

5. One unforgettable summer, I lived and studied at Oxford University. In order to get a reader's card from the Bodleian, I had to take an oath "not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame."

6. My son is a rabid Green Bay Packers football fan. I've accompanied him to Lambeau Field four times to see Brett Favre play (Scott's gone an additional nine or ten times on his own).

7. On November 15, 1969, I participated in the "Mobilization" peace demonstration in Washington, D.C. This protest against U.S. involvement in Vietnam drew an estimated 250,00 to 500,000 marchers, the largest single anti-war protest in
U.S. history. My future husband was serving in the Navy at that time, under combat conditions (we didn't meet after until he had been discharged from service). We discuss those turbulent years occasionally, and I've managed to convince him that the vast majority of peace activists were anti-war but not anti-servicemen.

8. My daughter, Ellen, is getting married on 9-08-07 and has asked me to be her Mom-of-honor, to stand beside her as she takes her vows. We aren't sure how often this has been done before, but our family has never balked at tweaking tradition
My turn to tag:
1. Ethan Bodnar
2. Judy O'Connell
3. Meredith Farkas
4. Jennifer Macauley
5. Cheryl Klein
6. Abby Fisch
7. Tim Stahmer

8. Grandad

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Horse of a Different Color

"What kind of a horse is that? I've never seen a horse like that before!" she exclaims. To which the cabbie replies, "No, and never will again, I fancy. There's only one of him, and he's it. He's the Horse of a Different Color you've heard tell about."
-Dorothy, while touring Oz

A week ago, Andy Carvin commented on the U.S. Senate committee hearing regarding children’s online safety. Rather than just proposing stricter filtering regulations, chairperson Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) spoke in favor of "a broad-based strategy that doesn’t rely solely on technology to protect kids".

Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, presented research findings that suggest teenagers in particular put themselves at risk, not by sharing personal information online, blogging or joining a social network, but by engaging in explicit conversations and frequenting sex chat rooms.

Here we have "a horse of a different color", something significantly different from what is expected. The government required that filters be put in place to block access to certain types of internet sites, like Facebook and myspace, thought to present a clear danger to young users. But it appears that what is necessary is intensive education in the nature and tactics of sexual predators.

Technology provides the tools. Like any tools, they can be used for good or ill. It's education that will make the difference, present students with guidelines and caveats for online interaction.

We didn't anticipate this research finding; but now that we know what type of instruction our children and young adults need to protect themselves in a digital world, it's our job to see that they get it.

"Because we cannot control all that our children see, hear, and play, it is tempting to throw up our hands and do nothing. Although we cannot do everything, we can do something, and this is to talk with our children and teenagers about unexpected encounters with inappropriate violence, sexuality, and profanity."
-David Elkind (20th century), U.S. child psychologist and author. Ties That Stress

Monday, August 6, 2007

Four Slides

This is my stab at Dan Meyer's "competition"
based on the Chicago Graduate School of Business' recent announcement:

writing - 1950s.....................reading - 1960s

exploring - 1970s..................connecting - now

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Gaining Control

cap·ture (kpchr)
tr.v. cap·tured, cap·tur·ing, cap·tures
1. To take captive, as by force or craft; seize
2. To gain possession or control of, as in a game or contest: capture the queen in chess; captured the liberal vote.
3. To attract and hold: tales of adventure that capture the imagination.
4. To succeed in preserving in lasting form: capture a likeness in a painting
-The Free Dictionary

Evidently I wasn't paying attention when GTD (Getting Things Done) and UCT (Ubiquitous Capture Tools) became buzzwords in time management. Or I forgot to write, photograph, skype, text or IM the terms to myself. Scott Elias, Leo Babauta and countless other bloggers have enlightened me. It seems that it is beneficial to record important data so that it won't be overlooked. Who could have known?

According to Scott, "It’s not important what tool or tools you decide on as your capture devices — analog, digital, a chisel and stone tablet — as long as you make it part of your routine to have it with you. A capture tool left in your office does no good."

I'm comforted that Leo appears to favor a small spiral notebook over some of the other popular devices (Hipster PDA, a PDA or smart phone, or a Moleskine notebook). It makes my wall calendar and refrigerator-magnet-held scraps of paper seem less a badge of Luddism (although I do like to knit) and more a matter of personal preference.

As one of those ever pertinent Chinese proverbs says "A good memory is not as good as a ragged pen."

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Gift to be simple

''Tis the gift to be simple,
'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight."
-Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. (1797-1882 )
Simple Gifts (melody)
Members of the Shaker community embraced a philosophy of simplicity. Their way of living, like their furniture, was "plain in style, durable, and functional".

There has been some discussion recently about the Chicago Graduate School of Business requirement that prospective students submit "up to four slides about themselves with their application". These slides may contain text, pictures, charts, etc. but "bells and whistles such as Flash, video clips, embedded music and hyperlinks won't be considered in the evaluation process".

Michael McVey mourns the loss of creativity such a submission would entail, likening it to "the difference between a butterfly in the wild and one pinned to a board in a display case". He comments that "when you evaluate this creativity based upon two dimensional screen captures devoid of the very creative energy you sought to assess, you might as well have students submit their test scores and forego the technology charade."

In rebuttal, Christian Long links us to Dan Meyer's slide quartet, to prove that it is not only possible, but desirable to stipulate such stringency.

Sophocles ("Much wisdom often goes with brevity of speech.") and Shakespeare ("Brevity is the soul of wit") appear to side with the minimalist faction; Blaise Pascal ("Too great length and too great brevity of discourse tends to obscurity.") and Arthur Koestler ("True creativity often starts where language ends.") would seem to come down on the side of more enriched offerings.

Which should it be: four simple slides or a multi-sensory presentation? The debate continues.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Deny the Voice

"No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice"
-T.S. Eliot (1888–1965),
Ash Wednesday

I had planned to blog about NCLB or high stakes testing, but Ewan McIntosh's recent commentary on the issue of student voice, "How much do schools really value pupils' views?" changed my mind.

We've had the SV discussion before. It's a critical issue in a time of transition, as schools struggle to simultaneously meet academic standards and prepare young adults for life in a digital world.

According to an article in eSchool News online, "Americans understand that fundamental changes must be made to the U.S. educational system if the country is to remain competitive in the 21st century". In response to the "Education Attitudes 2007" survey, which showed that 59% of the public favors incorporating information technology into the curriculum, a panel of experts was convened at the National Press Club . The participants, educators and ed-tech specialists, failed to reach consensus on a solution. No mention was made of student representatives on the panel.

This omission would not surprise McIntosh. He points out that the majority of school districts block and filter the most popular social networking sites
without making any attempt to educate youngsters on how to express their views.

We can't block every site which offers young adults a chance to explore our complex world and communicate with their peers - nor should we want to. We are educators: our job must be to help them understand the vast potential for good and harm that exists in their digital universe.

And, when they offer suggestions or criticisms, we should listen.

"To see, to hear, means nothing. To recognize (or not to recognize) means everything."
-AndrĂ© Breton (1896–1966), French surrealist.
Surrealism and Painting (1928)