Techlandia Podcast, episode 12

Here is the latest episode of the Techlandia Podcast. Techlandia is the brain child of Jon Samuelson and Alison Anderson. They let me co-host once in a while and it’s a lot of fun to chat via Google Hangout and share great resources for educators.

Featured in this cast: HP Live Photo, Explain Everything, Docotopus script, Wideo, Drop Task, Geek Dad, and NPR’s Tiny Desk music series. You can find all of the shared resources, people, and information over at the Techlandia Learnist page.

Wordle vs Nirvana

John T. Spencer recently wrote a post about a “Hipster STEM lab” and he shares how cool it might be to bring out some old tech tools and let kids explore with them. Pair that post with a recent conversation with my friends Alison (@tedrosececi) and Jon (@ipadsammy) about older digital resources that may not get as much attention as they should. We were mainly talking about iMovie for iPad (which can make anyone feel like Spielberg), but it led me to think about other tried and true internet tools and how they might be engaging for students today. Call it internet recycling or remixing, but I was feeling nostalgic about 1990s music tonight and decided to drop the lyrics of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into Wordle to see what lyrics might stand out. Hello, here it is.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

I know that this has likely been done thousands of times with song lyrics over the years, but think about that student that might really find an activity like this engaging. Maybe it might make them think a little bit deeper than they typically do when they are with you at school. On the technical side of things, you are just cutting and pasting. However, think of the mental whirring that may happen as a young person notices what lyrics stand out from their song of choice. Also take a few minutes to flip through the Wordle gallery to see what other pieces are being shared. Let your own mind explore and wander for a bit and then do the same thing for your students when you see them next.

Link to the Wordle page:
Wordle: Smells Like Teen Spirit Lyrics

Test of Branch embed

Not a real post, or at least not one that makes a lot of sense!

Just testing out Branch for hosting discussions based in my Ph D cohort from the University of Kentucky. We have some great discussions inside Canvas, but are experimenting with ways of making our discussions public and giving us the ability to invite other voices to the conversation.

As we scaffold up to fully using Branch, we started with an easy discussion topic.  So far it seems to be a pretty cool product.  It links to your Twitter account and you can start groups on any topic of your choosing.  You can also invite others to your conversation.  So go kick the tires, and give it a test drive.  I don’t work for Branch, but if the Branch people are reading this, send me a t-shirt! 🙂

Peace, love, and puppies.


Just give us a little hint and let us figure it out

With the resources of the internet available to most schools, teachers don’t have to be the experts of content and knowledge any longer. While this may cause some uneasiness for educators as they feel like they are losing their position of authority, this is something that should be a cause for excitement. As educators, we no longer have to know everything in terms of content, but we do need to know how to ask good questions and find answers to those questions. We first need to do that for ourselves as learners, but then know how to instill those same skills in our students. Learners of all ages need to be able to think, inquire, and explore. Learning and teaching in this manner isn’t an easy practice to adopt as it is so different from what we likely experienced as students ourselves. We are used to asking questions for which we already know the solutions.

I like what Todd Hurst has previously shared about “remixing” our current educational practices. (The remix term is in reference to this creative video project by Kutiman.) We don’t need to throw everything out and start over with education. Let’s take what currently works, recycle what used to work, and blend it with new resources and practices that show a lot of promise.

As I was putting my son to bed tonight, he asked me what I was writing, so I summarized my thoughts on teachers taking on more helping/facilitating roles rather than traditional teaching practices. He thought about this for a moment and then said, “School would be a lot more fun if teachers would just give us a little hint and then let us figure it out.” I think that’s what I am experiencing right now in my course “Digital Age Learning and School Technology Leadership” with Dr. John Nash. I have no idea where our learning will end up at the end of this semester, but we’ve received our hints, we’ll figure it out, and it sure will be enjoyable.

Here is the Kutiman video.

Here is my wise son Gavin, playing a little “I Shot the Sheriff.”

Trivial Pursuit or Apples to Apples?

Dr. John Nash has got me thinking again with this prompt, “Until the 19th century, education was largely the responsibility of parents. In fact, for centuries the notion of formal, universal schooling was an idea that had not entered the mind of virtually anyone. Thus, we have gone from a period of time when we learned on our own to an era where, thanks to the state, we learn collectively. Are we now re-entering a time when we can (or should) learn on our own? Is the capacity of the Internet allowing us to learn alone but leverage crowds? Is it the best of both worlds? Can we be trusted to teach ourselves, ditch schools and expert educators?”

These prompts make me think about a constant quip shared among friends and fellow tech nerds (Alison Anderson, Tyler Amidon, and Jon Samuelson) while at an ed conference last week. Frequently, when someone asked a question that we didn’t have an immediate answer to, we’d lament, “If only there was some sort of device that was at arm’s reach that was connected to the sum of all human knowledge. Oh wait, there is! Let’s ask The Google.” Then we’d reach for our smartphone and discover whatever factoid happened to be escaping us at that moment (ie. Tyler Durden is the alter-ego of a character [played by Ed Norton] with no name in the movie Fight Club).

Trivial and factual information can be relatively easy to find, but in order to cause someone to look for that information, they must have some level of curiosity and ability to ask and answer questions. What is it we want our schools to do today–give kids static knowledge that can be quickly found or give them skills to think critically, ask good questions, and be able to investigage those questions? My thinking is in line with Collins and Halverson (2009) when they write, “there is more and more demand for people to be thinkers and lifelong learners” (p. 64). Our education system (not just what happens in school buildings) should enable people, young and old, to be learners throughout their lives.

So can the internet allow us to learn alone? Yes, it can, but should we be learning alone? I know this is not exactly what Dr. Nash is asking, but I think that some school skeptics believe learning alone in front of a computer is a viable option for not going to school. Tyler Gayheart shares that, “Online social learning will be just as natural as social networking.” This is a great point that can lead us to think about social learning like we do social networking. Many people of all ages are finding it easy to form genuine social relationships through digital means, so learning content (or at least how to find that content) can also be accomplished through these same digital avenues. However, I think the use of internet resources embedded in social situations is the ideal way to learn (Todd Hurst also makes this point.). You can Google your way to incredible success in a game like Trivial Pursuit, but how helpful is the internet when learning the skills necessary to successfully play a social intuition game like Apples to Apples?

These digital tools connect people, not replace them.

[Post-publish comment: The wise Russ Goerend tweeted to me that this is not an either/or issue. He’s absolutely right. All learners, young and old, need to be skilled in both the trivial and social realms. In my experience, our schools have been too focused on teaching static facts and content, and not on developing adaptive collaborative skills.]

Collins, A. and Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Find the book on Amazon.

Todd M Hurst

Tyler Gayheart

Dr. John Nash