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“Information” by Daniel Donahoo

I found this video and poem while checking out the In Bb 2.0 music and spoken word project. Love the message about this hyper-connected world in which we live.

she closes the lid
and unplugs the device
no bigger than her thumb
from the computer.

My life’s work, she says. But, it isn’t her life’s work.

You see, we store information like an Escher painting.
It shouldn’t all fit in there. But, it does.
And every day we manage to fit more and more into smaller and smaller spaces until one day
she says,
we will be able to fit all the information the world has,
everything that everyone knows and believes and dreams
into nothing.

It will all be there. Stored and filed.
Tagged with any keywords you might imagine.

Our hard drives will be thin air.

They will make nanobots look like elephants.
And elephants will be in there too. Tagged. Accessible with search terms
like grey, ivory,
and the largest land dwelling mammal.

We will process away at nothing and understand everything.
We will think of a word and the information will slip in, not through our ears or eyes
but straight through our skin. Information will breathe in and out of us,
permeate our skin.

Our knowing will be as deep as it is wide.
You see our work here is to learn so much,

to be so full of knowing,
that all there is left to do is unlearn.

Humanity must get to a point where we let go.
We leave the useless ideas and the spent ideologies in the recycle bin,
like an adolescent brain shedding neurons,
like a snake slithering from its old skin,
like an old man who has come to understand so well the point where reality meets the intangible that he is able to decide which breath will be his last. And, he will enjoy that breath more than any that he has taken in his entire life.

And, her life’s work is more than a four meg flash drive.

My life’s work, she says, is the impact that this has.

This is not about what I produce. It is all about what others receive.

Category:  Education ,Life in General ,Technology     

Digital Student Portfolios

Matt Renwick is a friend and fellow elementary principal in Wisconsin. He’s a very student-centered school leader and always has learning for his students and staff in the focus of his work. Just spend a few minutes perusing what he thinks about and shares on his blog, and you’ll realize that this is the type of person we absolutely need leading our schools. He’s thoughtful about how to best accomplish the work of schools, and he serves his own school community very well.

Matt has recently written the book Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Assessment, and this is an excellent resource for learning how to implement a very effective system for documenting student learning.


I was fortunate to be an early reader for this project, and then was thrilled when Matt asked me to co-write the foreword to the book with Jessica Johnson. This is a digital book published by Powerful Learning Press and you can purchase a copy here. In the book you will find text, screen casts, and videos to help you understand effective practices in learning assessment in addition to how you can create a powerful portfolio assessment system in your own classroom or school. This isn’t just another book about specific tech tools. Matt’s work goes deeper than that and will help you understand important principles in assessment, school change, and true student learning.

The book can stand on its own to help you understand and replicate his work, but do reach out to Matt if you have any questions or other resources to share. He’ll take time to give you additional information and would truly value hearing more about this topic.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Power of an idea — from the ASIDE blog

This paragraph got my attention this morning. If you aren’t a regular reader of the ASIDE blog, do subscribe.

We can talk all we want about “genius hours” and “authentic learning,” but unless the current evaluative system for schools, teachers, and students changes, it’s a moot point. The pendulum has swung so far away from the block areas and free play in kindergartens and toward learning “centers” that we are losing that inventive spirit in kids. They are less creative to think of ideas, and they constantly look for instruction on what to do next. Oddly enough, the successful and highly educated adults who try to initiate reform, who participate in open discussions on social media, and who publish commentary did not go through the school-testing mania, and they’re okay. So how did education get so off track? If we want kids to dream BIG, we need to let them.

via Innovation Design In Education – ASIDE.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

The world without WiFi

HT to @drspikecook

The video below is pretty humorous, but also sadly true. Couple the video with research from Timothy Wilson about how some people are uncomfortable being disconnected from their devices, “forced” to rely only on their imagination and thoughts. Even more alarming is, “In a follow up experiment, it became disturbingly clear that many people will engage in self-destructive behavior to avoid a numbing solitude. When placed in a room with a machine that delivered a moderate electric shock, most people preferred to give themselves a jolt of painful electricity than entertain their own imagination.”

I appreciate what I learn from my digital devices and connections, but it is a good reminder for me to explore and enjoy what is going on in my own mind.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

The “in real life” fetish

Image from Flickr user Strellevik

Image from Flickr user Strellevik

If I didn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

I’ve been reading a lot of Nathan Jurgenson’s posts the past couple weeks and this line really made me think.

While eating, defecating, or resting in our beds, we are rubbing on our glowing rectangles, seemingly lost within the infostream.

via The IRL Fetish – The New Inquiry.

I think about my own attention span and realize that when I do have a few minutes of down time, I choose to reach for my device and see what my friends and followers are doing. I’m hoping that they are all doing something interesting or at least have the creative ability to make the pedestrian seem poignant.

I often seek to fit into that “try to be interesting” crowd. I was fortunate to be able to spend the last 3+ weeks in Ireland and Norway on a family trip. Every venue I went to (beaches, rock formations, museums, restaurants, taverns, galleries) I was sure to take a photo and then carefully apply the appropriate digital filter to make the image interesting to those who would view it. Had this trip occurred 20 years ago and I was taking photos, I would have likely thought only about the memories I wanted to capture for myself. While the photos I currently take are great artifacts that document the experience I had with my wife and children, I too often find myself thinking about how many likes or shares I might get for these photos. I do enjoy looking at IRL scenarios with the eye of an artist, but am I doing it for contributing beauty to the world or just to feed my own ego by ticking up my Klout score? I’d like to think the former, but can’t argue persuasively against the latter. I enjoy the creative mental processes of finding an interesting subject to photograph, but it’s a fine line between that and simply participating in the “look at me” culture.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

Beer photos and digital dualism; Principals are people too

PicMonkey Collage

I’m enjoying a great family trip to Ireland and Norway as I type this post, and am sharing photos with friends and family through my Instagram account. This is my 4th trip to Ireland, and I greatly enjoy the people, the scenery, the vacation mindset while I’m here, and the beer. As you browse through my photos you’ll see Irish scenery, photos of my wife and kids, and then the different beers I’m sampling on our trip.

Just like I’m picky about the beer I drink (you won’t see me drinking fizzy yellow beer), I’m also careful about how I represent myself on my social media accounts. I know that I have several current students who follow me on Instagram, have a few school parents as friends on Facebook, and my Twitter account is open for anyone to see. While I am entitled to a life as private individual when I’m not at work, I recognize that I don’t have a dual digital existence that excuses me from poor or questionable behavior in the digital world. Who I am in person is who I am online. There is no digital dualism for me.

You won’t see photos of me making a fool of myself at a tavern (thankful for the lack of digital photography and social media when I was an undergrad). You won’t see obscene language used by me in my social accounts. While I occasionally pay attention to the #beerporn Instagram tag, I don’t use that term myself. The worst you might see from me in my digital activity is a #twss tag. You won’t see me whining about or being unfairly critical of others. If I have a concern, need to vent, or share sensitive information, there are plenty of digital tools that allow that to be handled in a private manner.

One change that I’ve made in the past couple years with how I use my Instagram account occurred as the result of a good conversation with friend and doctoral cohort mate, Todd Norton. He noticed that I had photos of students from my school mixed in with some of my beer photos and asked if that ever caused concern for myself or others. There weren’t any concerns that I was aware of, but he made a good point. How might someone feel if they saw a picture of their child among my beer photos? If they know me well enough, there probably wouldn’t be any concern. However, I don’t know all of my school parents and I’d rather err on the side of caution for this issue. As we learned on Ghostbusters, don’t cross the streams. I deleted all my school photos from my IG feed and now use a Facebook pages account to share my school photos with my school community.

I know that this type of careful online behavior is common for educators, and this is done for a variety of reasons. Some people don’t want to share their private life online, some want to avoid situations that might jeopardize their employment, but most of us want to be good role models for our students and children.

How I behave online (in person too) models how I would like to see my own two kids represent themselves and use digital technology. Learn a lot. Have fun. Be helpful. Be respectful.

For other Principals are People Too posts, see these from…

For some additional reading about digital dualism and life in this very connected world, do check out the work of Nathan Jurgensen at Cyborgology.

Screenshot 2014-07-02 at 12.57.31

Category:  Education ,Life in General ,Technology     

Creating and capturing your own great ideas

Image from Haiku Deck gallery.

Image from Haiku Deck gallery.

The book Creative Confidence from Tom and David Kelley is an excellent read and I thank David Culberhouse and Tyler Gayheart for the recommendation.

As the title implies, the main focus of the book is to convince yourself and others in your organization that you are a creative person. As I think about the term “creative,” it’s not about having fantastic ideas that never fail to impress. It means that you have the ability to create. Whether you are creating products or just ideas, be productive and go for quantity not quality. Some of these products will be remarkable, but most won’t. Don’t let that discourage your efforts. ABC = Always Be Creating.

In this line of thinking, the authors riff on Louis Pasteur’s words, “Chance favors the trained mind,” and remix it to “Chance favors people who do lots of experiments and then pay very close attention when something unexpected happens.”

We all have a lot of ideas, so what method do you have to capture them all? Some environments are more “epiphany-friendly” (term from the book) than others, so make sure you have the right method for that environment. Lots of ideas are formed in the shower because our bodies and minds are in a relaxed state and that is a time when a lot of good thinking happens. Have a notebook nearby to jot down those shower thoughts. Keep that same notebook near your bed to enable you to record what you dream about in the night or ponder on in between the time you awake and then get out of bed. I do a lot of my best thinking while driving to and from work. Of course this isn’t the place to actually write a note, but use your smart phone to record a voice memo. Aside from the native voice memo tool in your smart phone, the Voxer app has a notes feature that lets you record an audio file and then share it through text, email, Twitter, or Facebook.

Record all the ideas you have and don’t critique them as they are being formed. Kelley and Kelley say, “defer judgment long enough to let an idea evolve.” An idea that makes sense on Wednesday, may be ridiculous by Friday, but could be the answer to a related problem you have on Monday. It’s kind of like that jar of nuts and bolts you keep in your garage or junk drawer. You keep throwing odds and ends in the jar, never knowing what you’ll need or when, but are appreciative when you find exactly what you need when completing a project or making a repair.

Category:  Education     

Khan Academy’s lab school

I saw this job posting today for elementary teachers for a lab school from the Khan Academy crew. Some educators might lead you to think that the Khan approach is a terrible thread in educational reform. While I don’t think that YouTube videos will revolutionize the American education system, videos and other online resources might be the best (or only) sources of information for students (old and young) in rural parts of our country and in other parts of the world. What stands out to me about Khan and other similar online approaches is that there is an attempt to personalize education, and that is very hard to do in our typical schools and classrooms.

I’m curious to learn more about the Khan Lab School and the approach they will take for their students and staff. I see that they aren’t requiring a teaching license (I’m a little skeptical), but do want experience in project based learning (a very good thing). I love this expectation, “Experience with or a desire to teach in a setting that values giving up control and allowing students to make mistakes and gain maturity and self motivation through independence.”

Elementary Grades Teacher | Edtech Jobs | EdSurge.

Screenshot from the Khan job posting at EdSurge.

Screenshot from the Khan job posting at EdSurge.

Category:  Education ,Technology      Tagged:

Selecting participants in a qualitative research study

This was an activity for my Qualitative Research Methods course with the almighty Dr. Jayson Richardson in the University of Kentucky’s school technology leadership doctoral program.

So you have a fantastic research question that has the potential to make a big dent in the circle of knowledge in your field… Where are you going to get your data?

Choosing your research participants is an essential component to your study. Miles and Huberman point out that not only are you choosing people for your study, you are also selecting the settings, events, and processes. They share that is important to line up these factors with the research questions that are the basis of your study. Ideally, you will be selecting participants who are the best source of data-rich information that can answer those questions.

While a common practice in quantitative research is to randomly select participants from a population, this is often not the preferred method of selection in qualitative research. Quantitative research is often used to make generalizations to a larger population, while qualitative research is used to richly describe what is happening within a specific setting and time.

Joseph Maxwell describes the selection of participants in a qualitative study, as purposeful selection. This is a strategy that deliberately selects the settings, people, and activities in order to provide data that can’t be found elsewhere. This method is able to provide you, the researcher, with information that will best answer your research questions. A rich source of data is much more important that being able to say participants were randomly selected.

Category:  Education ,Technology     

His hat, it hangs

Shawn White is a teacher, father, husband, and lover of life in New Hampshire. He’s talented in many ways. His poem below is just one of his talents.

Category:  Education ,Life in General