Saturday, February 28, 2009


Historically, an important aspect of technological advances has been to help humans control their environment and improve their daily life.

Buttons, belt buckles, zippers - all revolutionized the clothing industry. Isaac Singer maintained that women could be trusted to operate "machinery" and successfully marketed his home sewing machine, freeing wives and mothers from endless hand sewing tasks. Washers, vacuum cleaners, telephones, typewriters and automobiles all impacted households and the workplace.

In the educational world, the word "technology" is most frequently used to describe the inclusion of software, hardware, and Internet applications developed to enhance learning activities. There has been an astonishing number of products created that claim to support and extend classroom opportunities.

Choosing the proper tool, experimenting with it, assessing its strengths and weaknesses, is part of the process of technology integration. Consider whether the new technology
  • fills a need
  • better engages the learner
  • improves upon the tool it is replacing
  • is appropriate to the subject matter and grade level
Does the new technology do something faster, better, easier? Will it be transformative?

Will the tool drive instruction or will learners' needs determine the tool?

"Treadle" by dmcordell
"smartboard" by popofatticus
"blocks" by {dpade1337}

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Things That Make Me Happy (Variation on a Meme)

I have been tagged by Twitter friend and fellow librarian Buffy Hamilton to participate in the “6 Things That Make You Happy” meme. Since this is meant to be fun and easy, I've decided to respond to the meme in a photo essay (with slightly more than 6 things).

Here are the rules for this meme:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Post six things that make you happy along with these rules.
  • Then tag six others (letting them know, of course).
  • Let the person who tagged you know when your entry is complete.
I tag:
  • loonyhiker - because you are always positive
  • a keeper's jackpot - because you are a special part of our family
  • principalspage - because you make me laugh
  • tjshay - because you will balance out principalspage (and because I owe you one!)
  • amypalko - because you are so creative
  • sprite - because you are a bright spirit

What Makes Me Happy?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Five Changes to Education--A new Meme

T.J. Shay has begun a new meme on his TJ on a Journey blog and invited me to contribute.

The task is to "List FIVE changes you would like to see in the educational system. Your responses should represent your perspective and your passion for learning and students."

Here are my contributions:
1. Give ALL stakeholders a real voice in decision-making, including students, teachers, and parents.

2. Be open to innovation in the classroom. Don't censure risk-takers: praise them.

3. Embrace new technologies. Educate staff and students in digital safety and responsible cyber citizenship.

4. If filters are in place, give teachers over-ride privileges. Let them decide on appropriate resources for the classroom.

5. Don't make the student handbook a litany of punishments. Emphasize the positive behaviors you're seeking. BUT when consequences are necessary, be sure they are immediate, appropriate, and consistently applied.

If any of my readers would like to contribute to this conversation, please add your voice.

“Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin.” -Denise McCluggage

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” -Eric Hoffer

"Spherical School Bus" by fdecomite

Friday, February 13, 2009

Helping Hand

"We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone." -Dr. Loretta Scott

Ben Rigby shared some thoughts about "Information Age Volunteerism" in a recent post, suggesting that more people don't offer their time and services because "today's volunteer opportunities aren't suited to our lifestyles."

It occurred to me that online social networks, particularly Plurk and Twitter, offer numerous opportunities for helping others that easily fit into a busy schedule.

Over the past year, requests for everything from website addresses to conference information to proof reading have shown up in my timelines. Chances are, if you lost a link or need help troubleshooting hardware or software problems, someone will respond and offer assistance.

Sometimes there are more serious issues to deal with. I've recently seen appeals on Twitter calling for donations to assist victims of the horrific bush fires devastating southern regions of Australia. Frequently, virtual friends who are experiencing illness or loss, ask for and receive comfort and prayers from their online networks.

Our busy lives don't always permit volunteerism on a grand scale. But microblogging provides the opportunity for doing what we can in the time available to us.

Many people become volunteers upon retiring, but there's no need to wait. Micro-volunteering can be a quick and rewarding way to add some sharing to your life.

Kevin Honeycutt (shared via Plurk): “You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others – something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.” –Albert Schweitzer

"helping hand" by Paul J Everett

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are You as Smart as...

"School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days

Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic

Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
You were my queen in calico

I was your bashful, barefoot beau
You wrote on my slate, 'I Love You So'

When we were a couple o' kids"

-Words and Music by Cobb & Edwards

A test has been making the rounds lately that claims to be an 8th grade exam from 1895. Areas covered include...

  • Grammar: "Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications."

  • Arithmetic: "If a load of wheat weighs 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 lbs. for tare?"

  • U.S. History: "Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided."

  • Orthography: "Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: Card, ball, mercy, sir, odd,cell, rise, blood, fare, last."

  • Geography: "Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each."

The entire exam takes 5 hours to complete.

Curious about the provenance of this artifact, I did a little research and learned that the test was taken from an original document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, reprinted by the Salina Journal.

The original does not indicate it was intended for 8th grade students, rather it is titled "EXAMINATION GRADUATION QUESTIONS OF SALINE COUNTY, KANSAS April 13, 1895 J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent."

TruthOrFiction presents several arguments to advance the theory that the exam was, in actuality, given to teacher candidates, including the fact that it was administered for "applicants" and that some of the questions seem geared towards teachers rather than students ("District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?").

Snopes considers the 1895 Examination from a different angle:

"What nearly all these pundits fail to grasp is 'I can't answer these
questions' is not the same thing as 'These questions demonstrate that students in earlier days were better educated than today's students.' Just about any test looks difficult to those who haven't recently been steeped in the material it covers."
The subject matter covered in 1895 was vastly different in scope and focus from the curricula of 2009. Memorization was valued over critical thinking; arithmetic and geography superseded science and global studies. Students were being prepared for jobs in agriculture and manufacturing. Today's need to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create has, if not supplanted, then certainly reshaped, the school agenda.

Recitations and reckoning aren't enough any more.

"Since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned." -John Holt

"School Room" by Rob Shenk

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cyber Safety: A Balanced Approach

Some of you have heard me refer to CyberSmart! before, either in my blog or on Twitter or Plurk. While I still maintain a full-time career as a K-12 teacher/librarian, I also work part- time as a professional development facilitator for the CyberSmart! Education Company.

Today, eSchool News featured CyberSmart! on their front page.

The article focuses on CyberSmart's new K-12 cyber bullying curriculum:
"The suite of K-12 lessons is being offered to schools free of charge in partnership with the National School Boards Association's Technology Leadership Network, the Character Education Partnership, NASP, and the National Cyber Security Alliance."

These are prominent associations sending a clear message: b
y offering guided practice in good digital citizenship, and modeling safe online behavior, schools can try to ensure that their students act appropriately whether inside a classroom or out.

CyberSmart's educational resources can help school districts address this need with free,
cross-curricular lessons aligned with national and state technology and information literacy standards.

Filtering alone is not the answer to cyber safety. Our duty as educators, administrators, and parents is not just to "guard" our children but to teach them how to navigate safely on their own in an increasingly digital world.

eSchool News webshot.
All other images courtesy of CyberSmart! Education Company 2009 All Rights Reserved.