Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Nine Administrators You Might Know

It's that time of year again...when my thoughts start turning toward the new school year, but I'm still scrambling to make the most of the summertime I have left with my family. My son and I were talking Lego at lunch, and he said, "Remember those crazy superhero teacher and superhero student teams we made last year?" (Oh, yes I do son...)

And then he said, "We should make another one."

So I said, "How about principals?"

A knowing smile spread across his face...

And thus, we present to you, the nine administrators you might know:

Monday, July 27, 2015


Oh, don't you just love educational jargon? (I sound like I'm being sarcastic, don't I? Maybe I am...a bit...but to be fair, I think every field has it's own jargon, and since I'm in education...)

Here's a toy for you to play with, edubabble lovers: check out ScienceGeek.net's Education Jargon Generator.

It will produce gems such as...

"We will unleash standards-based engagement structures via self-reflection."

"We will disintermediate child-centered education within a balanced literacy program."

"We will harness group-based mastery learning throughout multiple modalities."

"We will morph over-arching learning in authentic, real-world scenarios."

I'm sure you don't know anyone who talks like that though, do you? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm starting to think about the new school year that is just a few weeks away, but I'm almost ready for a game of buzzword bingo. Anybody else want in?

Created with wordle.net using selected text from ScienceGeek.

Technology and "Meaningful Engagement" in Learning

My friend Dan Beerens (@DanBeerens) teaches a course in our M.Ed. program, and for the past few years he's asked me to crash his course for a bit to talk about technology and education and how technology is impacting school culture. I'm always up for stirring the pot a bit, and it's a fun time to hang out with Dan and connect with students that I will have when they take a course I teach later in their program.

During the hour or so I was with his class, Dan snapped a picture of me and tweeted it:
Always a good time!

In the course of my pot-stirring, we talked about tech tools, and just what do we mean by "technology," and a bit of the history of education, and ideas for confronting misconceptions, and the idea of students being "digital natives" and their teachers being "digital immigrants." And, of course, we focused on learning. Because that's really the point of school, after all!

Sometimes we (I) get hung up on the "Ooooohh...shiny!" aspects of technology, and forget that the point of selecting technologies for teaching is...that they should help students learn.

So as part of my presentation, I shared this graphic:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Hacking the LMS: Breaking Out of the Defaults

I tend to take a very broad view of "technology." So often when we hear that word, we immediately go digital: computers, tablets, the Internet, 3D printers, wearables, etc. are "technology," right? But could a hammer also be considered “technology?”

What if we instead define "technology" as any tools designed to solve a particular problem? In his prescient (1992) book Technopoloy: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman describes technology as “largely invented to do two things: solve specific and urgent problems of physical life…[and]…serve the symbolic world of art, politics, myth, ritual, and religion…” (p. 23). When viewed this way, hammers, stethoscopes, plungers, and the Internet can all be considered technologies, though probably all in the former category rather than the latter.

Frankly, in the realm of educational technology, we are quick to think of computers first, aren’t we? But I have argued before that even a pencil is an educational technology: a tool designed—or appropriated—to solve a specific problem for education (borrowing from Postman’s language.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tech Tool: Make Your Own Animated GIFs

I love animated gifs. Sometimes they just hit your funny bone, right? Like this one, for instance:

Even Vader loves pizza. [Scrounged from Smosh.]

So maybe you want to create your own animated gifs? Maybe you could use one for that online course you're teaching add a little interest and humor? Or maybe you just want to try and create the next viral hit?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Telling Tales in a Technopoly: Getting Started with Digital Storytelling

I believe that storytelling is central to our humanity. We tell stories all the time, from personal histories, to imaginative bedtime stories, to morality tales, to socio-political narratives...the way we use "story" is a central part of our lives. Even the main way God has revealed Himself--the Bible--is largely comprised of stories, that combine to tell The Big Story of scripture: the Creation, the Fall, the Redemption, and the Consummation. And honestly, I think that part of how we reflect God's image is through our creativity (i.e., He is the Creator, which means we have the capability of being creative as well.)

Stories have a unique pull and an emotional element that "just the facts" cannot provide. Kieran Egan, in his lovely little book Teaching as Storytelling, says, "A good story-teller plays our emotions, as a good violinist plays a violin" (1986, p. 29). And I believe that it is this aspect that makes storytelling an essential teaching methodology, even in our high-tech world; perhaps it is even more important in our high tech world! In his book Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, Neil Postman writes that one of the essential features of a Technopoly (a culture in which technology not only plays a central role, but actually is the dominant worldview-shaper) is "the elevation of information to a metaphysical status: information as both the means and end of human creativity" (1992, p. 61) This rings true for me: we've often heard the old saying "knowledge is power," right? But is "knowing" the information enough? Information in what context? And for what purpose?