Words I have been looking for.

Free thinkHere’s a quick example of how my thinking has shifted over the last few months:

While plowing through my literature the other day, I found this beauty of a post by Dennis Harter and Justin Medved, where they talk about re-designing their technology plan for the International School in Bangkok. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that place when the thinking churns out some wonderful ideas like this:

Technology is in a constant state of evolution and change. Access speeds,hardware, software, and computer capabilities all evolve and improve ona monthly basis….Is it not time that we create a curriculum model that understands this fact and works with it rather than tries to control it?

When I hear thoughts like that one, and like this one here:

Instead of asking the question “What technology skills must a student have to face in the 21st century?” should we not be asking “What thinking and literacy skills must a student have to face the 21st century?” These skills are not tied to any particular software or technology-type, but rather aim to provide students with the thinking skills and thus the opportunities to succeed no matter what their futures hold.”

I get excited that minds like these are helping to shape policy for schools somewhere in the world; the fact that it is halfway around the world is a bit unfortunate for my immediate needs, but in this ever-shrinking world, one of the graduates from that school may turn out to play a major role in my life at some point, so I am warmed by their progressive ideas.

They go further and define some essential questions, a la McTighe and Wiggins to really spell out their purpose:


From this, which would have wholly consumed me, I found myself searching for some more research on teaching thinking the thought process. Now, a few months ago, Harter and Medved would have been enough for me, but things have changed, and the world of technology has shrunken for me, so to speak. In dealing with larger numbers of teachers, I have come to realize more than ever that there use of technology has less to do with good teaching than I thought or had experienced before. If you are not convinced of this, go read the T.C. Williams debacle and its various off-shoots.

In my search for more information, I came across Marion Brady‘s article in Educational Leadership “Cover the Material–Or Teach Students to Think?” in which he argues that our obsession with standardized testing is more than just irrelevant, it’s downright criminal to the upcoming generations. One of my favorite discussions in the article deals with the passing along of information from one generation to the next, which Brady describes as language of allusion, the information that allows societies to share complicated information in only a few words for the purpose of sending

students on their way with meaning attached to thousands of ideas like
those, efficient, society-sustaining dialogue is possible.

In most cases we often argue for the need for schools to socialize our children, and, while this need is apparent and real, it may be less necessary for our students to learn the language of allusion of a world whose solution sets don’t serve the future.

Now before I get all future-drunk here, the thinking and the teaching of thinking is what is critical in our schools today. Time is always an issue, as is adherence to state standards when teaching material, but I like what Brady points out near the end of the article: that teaching these skills is not as difficult as we make it out to be. Look locally. As near as your own school environment, opportunities for teaching thinking skills that draw upon the need to transfer the “” skills they have memorized and assimilated from textbooks, abound and present themselves as legitimate modes of inquiry. Some examples:

For example, at the middle or high school level, teachers can pose
myriad school-focused questions related to every field of study: What
kinds of energy power the school? How are these energy sources created
and measured? At what cost to taxpayers? At what cost to the
environment? What kind of waste does the school produce? Where does it
go and how is it processed? What could be done to decrease the school’s
carbon footprint?

Getting back to the ideas of Harter/Medved/Wiggins/McTighe, huge questions that cause learners, whether they be teacher or student, to draw upon their knowledge or ability to acquire necessary knowledge, are key. However, as Brady points out, their location geographically is irrelevant.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Image Credits: Dennis Harter and Justin Medved

Free Think” from pioforsky’s photostream


Notes from NJECC

I am at our monthly meeting of the New Jersey Educational Computing Consortium. Today’s agenda includes topics like iWeb as a classroom publishing tool, videoconferencing, Inspiredata as a means for data analysis, and a few vendors selling their wares.

Coming here on a monthly basis, something we have done all year, always serves as a great way to recharge my batteries and go home with new ideas to use with my staff, and with my self. We have missed the last few months due to scheduling conflicts, and it was noticeable.

Mimio is an interesting product on display now. It is a small piece of hardware that converts any dry erase board into an interactive whiteboard by imaging form the side of the board wirelessly. It is portable, cross-platform, but I don’t know how well it competes with SMARTBoard or Numonics products. Ink capture is not a problem either, as it saves the writing as a jpeg or other image types. Inkcasting, or boardcasting, is an interesting phenomena that the speaker just brought up. Mimio is working with Apple to convert the ink that is captured to movie format that can be played back on a video iPod.

I had worked with a Mimio a couple of years ago, and was not crazy about it, however, this model (the company was recently purchased by Rubbermaid), looks to be top-notch. This is a great toy with practical applications for teachers of students with special needs.

A rep from United Streaming is talking about the newer features of United Streaming. Some crazy stuff here, most specifically OnePlace, which enables a district or organization to house all of their digital content, either uploaded or downloaded, onto a server. The example he used was a district’s shared drive; when content goes in, rarely is it accessible by any other teacher than the one that put it there, although technically the idea behind a shared drive is just that. What OnePlace does is create a searchable database. In their own words:

OnePlace enables schools, districts, or regions to take full advantage of their online teaching resources-licensed, subscription-based, locally created, even free–through a single entry point.

Discovery Educator Network, similar to the Apple Distinguished Educator program, is seeking to create a program whereby educators and professionals from other fields gain access to each other.