Tag - education

Memories of Portugal

Three years ago I was in Portugal, working with Intel on solutions for educational technology in emerging markets. Portugal, of course, is in some ways leading the charge in terms of providing computers for students, having provided millions of netbooks in Portuguese schools.

It was a wonderful trip, including time in both Porto in the north, and Lisbon itself. And it was a great opportunity for photography.

Some of my memories, via Flickr:

Lessons in life and adventure

I follow Chris Guillebeau, an author whose mission is to visit every country in the world. Every. Single. One.

He posted 34 things I’ve learned about life and adventure today – on his 34th birthday. Here’s the ones that resonate most with me … any my own thoughts on each of them.

Deadlines & quotas are your friends
There is nothing that focuses your brain like a deadline. Set ’em if you don’t have them, and use their peculiar psychological power to prod you to greater achievement.

My quota for writing is at least 33 minutes a day, usually first thing in the day. I can do more, but that’s minimum. And that gives me the discipline to be 124 pages into my first novel, No Other Gods.

Helping others makes your own life better
It’s why I coach two baseball teams. It’s how any bad day can be made at least somewhat better. You can’t stay miserable when you’re helping other people – it’s almost impossible.

Love the process
The product – the end goal of any project – is a tiny fraction of the totality of your life. Enjoy the road, the means, the path, if you want to enjoy your life.

Be a believer, not a cynic
This is huge. Just huge. Being a believer might sometimes result in disappointment or misadventure. But the reward is the kind of person you become: warmer, nicer, more positive. The world is full of negativity. Focusing on the positive is your best defence.

I’ll take some disappointments for the privilege. It’s the cost of doing business – living life – happily.

Choose active over passive whenever possible
Also super-important. Doing something – almost anything – is usually better than doing nothing. It feels better, it accomplishes something, it goes somewhere, and, even if only psychologically, puts you in a better position for the future.

Ask a lot of questions
This is the most interesting part about other people: they know stuff you don’t. Learning from others is fun and easy … especially when they’re passionate. Someone who is passionate about what they do has a hard time being boring when talking about it.

Say yes more often than no
I know that design requires choices, and business needs focus. And that Steve Jobs is famous for praising the power of no. But personally, saying yes to experiences, options, opportunities opens you up to so much more. No is the word of stasis, seclusion, retreat. Yes is wanting more of life.

That’s only 7 of the 34. I strongly suggest you follow that link and read all of them.

Know Kno No

I can’t figure out what to make of the Kno.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an e-reader. But not like the iPad, not like the Kindle, and not like the myriad of competing Android-based tablets in the marketplace today.

The Kno is aimed straight at education, and is designed to replicate the physical experience of a book … while adding enhanced digital features. So is every other e-reading tablet, you might think. But not quite. When I say replicate, I mean replicate. As in size … lots of it.

The Kno is not one tablet but two. And it’s not 7″ or 10″ … it’s 14″. Times two.

That’s right … two 14″ tablets joined together that open like a book and aim to faithfully replicate the experience of cracking open a full-size textbook and reading it. Pixel-for-pixel.


Here’s the part that I seem to be terminally confused on: is this a good idea, or is this just slavishly adhering to an old paradigm? In other words … is this the best thing ever, a new revolution in digital technology, or is it just a better buggy whip in the day of the horseless carriage?

I’m not quite sure.

More screen space is always better. But the price … probably $1000, and the size, and the weight, and the probably battery life, and the probable slow user interface (small processor driving a huge screen) … make me think this is not a winner.

But it certainly is intriguing. As long as you don’t try to fit it in your pocket.

Latest MET paper: constructivism and self-learning

I am almost finished my Masters degree in Educational Technology at UBC … just one course to go. Actually less, since I’m more than half-way through the last course.

Here’s the major paper that I wrote for ETEC 530, my current course. The basic thesis? Constructivism, the current hottest paradigm in education du jour, is all about how students learn. However, the literature is all about how teachers need to teach. Somewhere, there seems to be a disconnect:

Constructivism and self-learning: Much yet to learn?

Tools, technology, and magic: technology in education

I was thinking about technology the other day at a Learning Series Alliance conference put on by Intel in Las Vegas.

Teachers are at one time the biggest problem and the greatest asset for any transformation project in education. That’s simply because people are the biggest problem and greatest asset for any organizational change in any institution, and teachers are the biggest group of employees in most education systems.

When it comes to technology, teachers are all at varying levels of comfort and capability. The reality is, unfortunately, that many of the current teachers in North America and western Europe cut their teaching teeth on chalkboards, paper, and pencils … and technology (especially student laptop programs) takes that whole paradigm and flushes it viciously down the toilet. The pedagogy – science and art of teacher – needs to change when the kids get information and creation appliances. But most teachers haven’t been educated, trained, or raised in an information-intensive learning environment.

Which brings up tools, technology, and magic.

Tools are things we know, are familiar with, and don’t even think about. Think hammers, shovels, and pencils.

Technology is simply a conglomeration of all tools that were invented and popularized after we were kids. Think computers, flatscreens, and Tesla electric vehicles.

Magic is stuff that is so amazing we can’t even imagine fully understanding it and using it. Think particle accelerators, ion drives, and fusion generators.

See the similarities?

Scientist and author Arthur C. Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. The problem in education is that too many teachers are in that phase.

Many people now view most technology – PCs, software, web apps – as simple tools. They are understandable, useful, and comfortable. That group, however, is dwarfed by the huge cohort that views that same set of of tools as technology: stuff invented since I was in high school that I use but that are not really, completely, and totally native to me. And, on the far side of the bell curve is a still large group – probably larger than the tool natives – who view this same basic set of technology tools as magic.

This is a key problem when introducing technology into schools.

Accelerating change in education to better use technology to enhance learning depends on at least two things:

One: critical mass
Moving a critical mass of teachers at least one step up this chain … so that the magic teachers are now tool technology teachers, and the technology teachers are tool users, and the tool users are expert engineers.

Two: pedagogy
Popularizing and standardizing the excellent knowledge, skills, and tactics that have already been developed for technology-rich education so that they are as standard and obvious to teachers and textbooks, chalk, and pencils have been for decades.

Webcams gone wrong: School sued for remote activation

Here’s one from the “Seriously, you didn’t think this was a bad idea?” files: the Lower Merion School District of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, has been accused of remotely activating the webcams in its students’ laptops issued through their 1:1 program without the students’ knowledge or consent. While the case has yet to see a courtroom, it looks to be ugly for the school district and potentially detrimental to other 1:1 programs nationwide.

via Webcams gone wrong: School sued for remote activation | Education IT | ZDNet.com.

A Peek at Apple's Plans to Re-invent Textbooks

ScrollMotion’s been tapped to transmogrify textbooks published by McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and every standardized test-taking student’s favorite, Kaplan.

. .  .

If you’ve over-analyzed the iPad keynote as much as we have, by now you’ve probably gotten the distinct sense that something felt like it was missing. One of those things, apparently, were Apple’s ideas about re-inventing the textbook.

via A Peek at Apple’s Plans to Re-invent Textbooks – ipad – Gizmodo.

Sweet spot: eBook reader AND computer

“Most eBook readers, for whatever reason, are priced at about the level of a low-end netbook, which proves to be a significant barrier,” Mitchell said. “A tablet that is both an eBook reader and a netbook-like device would make it much more attractive to your everyday user. Plus, interactivity will bring new content and media that hasn’t been imagined yet.”

via Educators intrigued by Apple’s iPad | eSchoolNews.com.

Education | High-tech electives go online for teens

Washington state high-school students can now opt out of certain traditional elective classes at their schools, instead taking a limited number of online courses in game design, 3-D animation, video production and other technology subjects.

The for-credit classes, free to most students, supplement normal core courses, allowing students to stay enrolled in their high schools while taking some elective classes their schools do not offer.

It's all possible through a new partnership, announced earlier this month, between the White Salmon Valley School District and Giant Campus, a national online technology-education company.

via Education | High-tech electives go online for teens | Seattle Times Newspaper.

Texas allows schools to use textbook money for tech

C.S.H.B. 4294 amends the Education Code to authorize use of the state textbook fund for the purchase of technological equipment. The bill requires the commissioner of education to adopt a list of electronic textbooks and instructional material that conveys information to the student or otherwise contributes to the learning process. The bill authorizes a school district to select an electronic textbook or instructional material on the commissioner's list to be funded by the state textbook fund.

via 81(R) HB 4294 – Committee Report (Substituted) version – Bill Analysis.

Connexions – ripping, mixing, and burning school

I recently met Doru Ilasi at eLiberatica 2009. He’s the executive manager of Aplix Software, and we chatted about open source and education for a few minutes.

He had mentioned a TED presentation on creative commons educational material, and just today passed on a link to the movie. It didn’t click for me when we were chatting, but when I watched Richard Baraniuk give the presentation, I remembered checking out the Connexions website a few years ago.

Here’s the video – it’s well worth a few minutes. Inspiring!

100,000 laptops for Maine students

eye-pod1Maine is planning to expand its seven year old 1:1 computing initiative to 100,000 students.

Currently, the state provides 37,000 Apple MacBooks for students in grades 7 through 12, plus 10,000 teachers and administrators. Now they’re looking to expand to serve an additional 53,000 high school students.

This is one of the largest 1:1 computing experiments in education, though it could pale in comparison to the 1,000,000 Classmate PCs Venezuela has ordered. So, what’s the cost to the state of Maine? According to Ars Technica …

The state would like to pay $242 per year for each MacBook, for a grand total of $25 million per year, or about twice what Maine is currently paying for 37,000 notebooks.

More details at Ars Technica and the AP on Google.

In Victoria, BC today

I’m in Victoria, BC today, right by the beautiful Inner Harbour:

It’s beautiful but cold – about 4 or 5 Celsius. Later today I have a meeting with James Shypitka, the CIO of the BC Ministry of Education. Hoping to learn more about what BC is doing in terms of educational technology.

Intelligence in a Sea of Data: Teaching and Learning in the Google Generation

This is a 2700-word paper for ETEC 533, a course in my Master of Educational Technology program at UBC.


But when just about anything anyone wants to know is a simple search away, what, specifically, constitutes education in the age of Google? And, is it enough to know about, without knowing how, or why?

This paper is inspired by Nicholas Carr’s widely read Is Google Making Us Stupid? That being the case, of course, I have absolutely no expectation that any of you will actually read the entire thing.

But you may wish to skim …

Read More

Received wisdom, education, & technology

This is a cross-post from my ETEC 533 blog, Technology in Math & Science Classes.

For me, a central concern in technology and teaching today should be: what does intelligence mean?

  • Is someone intelligent if they can locate the right answer?
  • Is someone smart if they can derive the right answer?
  • Is someone smart if they can synthesize the right answer?
  • Is someone smart if they can ask the right questions?

Of course, questions of what intelligence is have been with us for decades if not centuries. And the answer is very likely: there’s different kinds of smart.

But what do school optimize for?

Do they optimize for retention? For synthesis? For investigative skill? Or for sheer intellectual horsepower that powers through tough learning challenges? And, of course, we haven’t even talked about any of Gardner’s physical or musicla intelligences yet, or Goleman’s emotional.

None of this is clear.

What is clear is that teaching someone to be smart in a networked 21st century is a different proposition than teaching someone to be smart in a paper 18th century … just as that was different than teaching someone to be smart in an oral 5th century AD.

But sheer intelligence … has that changed at all?

Going to the oracle of Delphi, as a teacher I interviewed referred to Google, doesn’t make someone smart. And blind reliance on canned answers might be as dangerous and prehistorical obedience to cryptic priestly incantations. But distributed memory and cognition is surely an aide to the wise.

It strikes me that we don’t understand these issues as well as we should.

Business Software Alliance: win the battle, lose the war

Chinook school district in southern Saskatchewan just doled out $200K worth of payola to the Business Software Alliance.

The problem? Some drafting software that was accidentally copied on to all computers in a lab during an upgrade.

The BSA came calling – rather like the RIAA – and demanded more than twice the MSRP … almost $650,000. It’s almost like the local “business protection association” run by burly men with bent noses and Italian accents.

But here’s the kicker:

Because the incident was not a budgeted item, the school division has to identify areas of cost savings in its system. In particular, Choo-Foo said the division is looking at some of its licensing agreements. “We’re moving more into the direction of freeware and shareware that’s available, and finding products that still meet our needs.”

The BSA won this battle. But it’s likely going to lose the war …

Gas prices driving distance education growth?

Are high gas prices driving faster adoption of distance education?

Distance education has already been growing rapidly over the last few years. But some are now seeing an even quicker uptake … and connecting that fact to higher gas prices. From a recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

“It’s getting to the point of either gas or class,” says Robbie K. Melton, associate vice chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents, where this summer the number of students taking online courses spiked 29 percent, in part because of the high cost of buying gas to drive to campus.

Oil prices have doubled in just one year, and the price at the pump is expected to double again by 2010. With inflation like that, a 60 kilometre round trip that resulted in a daily gas bill of $10 a year ago is $20 today, and could be $40 in a few years. That’s going to drive a lot of behavior change – even among those who’d prefer in-person education.

“I would prefer to actually go to school and be there to do it,” says Ms. LaBadie, a single mother working toward a degree in medical administration. “But it’s hard enough paying tuition, much less the price of gas.”

Fortunately, this is happening at a time when the options and quality available for educators and corporations to provide e-learning have never been so good. Cheap, simple, and quick options such as Moodle are available and free to all, and there are other good open-source as well as proprietary solutions.

Increased use of distance education will likely drive increased investment as well, which is great for learners. Institutions usually don’t see it, but the majority of the costs associated with e-learning are not technology provisioning costs, they’re instructional resource development costs.

And that’s good news for educators as well.

Live-blogging: Hi-Tech Communication, Lo-Tech Principal

I’m liveblogging a NAESP session by Tod Harrison from Durant Intermediate School in Oklahoma. Should be interesting.

Problem: getting information home
Just not getting there … and not much budget to play with. Also, many parents not available during the day. But they needed to get information to parents.

His assistant principal is not tech-challenged … and neither is Tod. But if he tells that to teachers, he’ll be doing tech support all day long. So … they’re looking for solutions that don’t involve them doing it all themselves.

But, found out that 60% of parents have email (at library, work, school). So, they started a weekly email newsletter. No size limitations, and no paper wasted either. Teachers started a section: Teacher Brags, in which teachers brag about how well kids are doing.

First week – hundreds of responses. Parents loved it. Interesting … his assistant created it in Word and converted to PDF to email. Don’t use an HTML email format or anything like that.

Evolving the idea
After starting, they then added podcasts, using a Mac server and Audacity for recording. Their podcasts are now publicaly available at Durant’s site.

They’re now using Macs with Garageband to capture podcasts. They’re doing enhanced podcasts with photos so that essentially you’ve got a presentation.

Now with kids
Now they’re getting the kids involved … 5th grade class did a video for presentation for the staff Building Leadership Team meeting. Took them about 20 minutes a day for 2 days, plus some editing time, I presume.

The kids know this … it’s simple for them, and teachers need to catch up.

Bumps along the path
There are some challenges they’re working through …

  • It’s technology … so there are still some bumps along the way.
  • Plus, it costs a decent amount of money.
  • Need to learn the programs
  • Takes time
  • Teachers have some technology fear

Interesting … I asked whether he’s had any pushback from parents who don’t have email. Not really, he said – he’s got 75 new email addresses in the last month. So more parents had email – or just got it – than he knew of originally.

. . .
. . .

Now we’re just all chatting in the room, and the principal (Steven Puckett from Indian Land Elementary School) sitting next to me mentioned they use ConnectEd, which can send messages in multiple formats to multiple groups of people automatically.