Monday, September 29, 2008

[TIPS] Daniel Pink talks to students

Yes, you CAN block ustream,tv and skype in your school. But if you do you prevent things like this from happening:

Congratulations to Chris Smith and mardy McGraw for puling this off for their students.

Here, Daniel Pink visits a classroom in PA via skype and the conversation is ustreamed out for others. Hurry up, now, see if you can find two people in your district who will tell you that this is bad education. Go ahead. I’ll wait.


I didn’t think you’d find anyone. So, if it’s blocked in your school, find out WHY.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve said this before, but, “We don’t have time to waste.” We can’t lose one more day. We MUST make some radical changes in the experiences that we offer our students.  This is SUCH serious business that if you’re in a district that won’t allow things like this, then you’ve GOT to press the issue. I can’t think of a single issue (save for this disastrous economy) that is more important – making sure our students are prepared for this ENORMOUS challenge that we in this country face. To stand here in the face of all those challenges and to continue to say, “We don’t DO skype” is, in my opinion, a crime.

Good luck! Fight the good fight!

[TIPS] Digital Natives? Really?

When some folks argue as to why we need to be using technology in the schools they will say that “The kids are already doing this stuff”, or “The kids today are digital natives and they think differently” and even, “Their brains are different.” And, in the area of teacher preparation we used to say, “When the next batch of new teachers hits the schools THEN we’ll see the change we’re looking for.” But that hasn’t happened, has it?

I admit that I, too, used to say that. But then, about three years ago I began to question that assumption. I wasn’t seeing it. Nor was I hearing it when talking with teachers. In fact, I wanted to put together a survey (And Scott McLeod was going to host it) that would try to find out how ‘native’ the ‘natives’ actually were. Alas, it just never happened. And a part of me was a little reluctant to actually find out the truth. If it turned out that the kids truly were NOT al that tech savvy as we were assuming, THEN what would our rallying cry be? And, how much credibility would we have lost when forced to shift gears with our assumptions?

Yes, we can point to some kids who are phenomenal programmers, or who are creating some very clever mashups, or even some that ARE using the tools for personal learning. But, I can also point to some who can do NONE of those things. And I can point to a lot of others who can type and save and print but who cannot tell you what a blog is (“Oh! My Space is a blog? Well then I have one.”) or what a wiki is, unless they can point to wikipedia.

Regardless, check out these three articles:

I’d LOVE to hear what you think.

Friday, September 26, 2008

[TIPS] webspiration

Did y'all see this:

The popular concept mapping program, Inspiration, has gone online in Webspitation. I just opened it for the first time this AM and haven't had a chance to test it with others, but this web version allows for kids to collaborate on the same document! Yes, others have been doing that, but this is especially nice since so many kids have used Inspiration in school already. Should be an easy move to this version.

I don't know how many kids can collaborate on a document at one time, or any of the other particulars. But, this is one o check out, for sure, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

[TIPS] Games on Google Earth?

Have you seen that post? Games (can we say that word here?) on Google Earth. Ten of them. From a football game (doesn’t THAT pique your interest?) to Battleship to Where in the World? (Anyone here remember Carmen SanDiego?)

Very cool stuff. But, I forgot. You’re already subscribing to that blog, aren’t you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

[TIPS] Do YOUR students write like this?

Read that post. You’ll probably find yourself thinking a few different thoughts. Like, “How interesting that she would write about Oedipus.” And, “What an interesting comparison she’s making to her life and that of Oedipus.” And, “Wow. Very nice.”

Now ask yourself if YOUR students would EVER write something like that. Maybe they COULD, but WOULD they? DO they? Maybe they do, but in a smaller scale. Maybe they do, but their analogies aren’t quite as good. Maybe they do, but YOU never see it.

Why do you suppose that is? I think the answer might lie in this statement:
“I built my blog on the idea of exploration: expressing myself without limits and without a clear idea of what exactly I was expressing.”

“Expressing myself without limits”, eh? What? Not for a grade? Without fear of little, “Gotcha’s?” Without someone telling you to write so many words about a topic you couldn’t care less about?

This is NOT a slam on teaching methods. NOT AT ALL! I’m merely pointing out there the blog is a medium that allows a student to publish and be read by someone other than a teacher who is looking to give a grade. This girl is always writing, reading, and reflecting on her writing in order to improve herself. The medium is its own motivator. She’s MOTIVATED to write this post in which she reveals some personal vulnerabilities. Yes, she’s not your typical student, I’ll give you that. But, don’t YOU have a non-typical student who loves to write? What are you offering that student to help her/him develop that talent? Are you Ok with just letting him/her post to MySpace? Or, do you see that perhaps if this student had a blog for REAL, and some guidance (so as not to write about things that would give away identity, for example) that this talent could develop into something? And, even if it didn’t, when that student applies to a college and points the Admissions Office to the blog as evidence of her abilities, don’t you agree that it would make a MUCH greater impression?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

[TIPS] Different graduation requirements

A group of high school students today proposed dramatic changes to the state’s tough new graduation requirements that would create separate routes to a high school diploma based on whether a student planned to attend college, enter the work force or pursue a career in the fine arts. Some routes would require less rigorous coursework for students.

Sorry. No can do. NCLB, y’ know.

BTW - this was in another ASCD Brief today. You need to subscribe to that!

[TIPS] Track satellites and space debris in real time- Google Earth

If you’re a science teacher, or if you KNOW a science teacher, then send them to that post. It will direct you to download this file:

You MUST see this. Give it time to load. It loads a database that will plot the position of every known bit of space debris and satellites, both active and inactive. You won’t believe how crowded our skies are.

Then, click on an icon of a satellite and it will bring up the information about it – including whether or not it’s active. It could be just a dead hunk of metal floating around up there.

Did you read about how the space station had to side-step some space junk? Take a look at this AMAZING overlay on Google Earth and you’ll know WHY.


[TIPS] Blogging about a class - VERY interesting

Just read this post from Tim Stahmer in his Assorted Stuff blog:

A student in a college class was blogging about the class. The professor took exception to it.

But here’s an interesting point, I think. Isn’t the point of blogging to create and participate in the conversation about the blog post? Let’s assume that the student is blogging about the topic of the class and NOT about how lame the professor is. If that happened with one of MY students I’d be THRILLED! I’d encourage others to read the blog and comment. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

But then, what if the student WAS prof-bashing? Should there be a rule that says you can blog, but only positive blogs? Or, is that an infringement on 1st amendment rights?

Interesting article. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

[TIPS] Brave New World-Wide-Web video

This has been around a while but I just now took the time to view it.

Watch it the whole way through.

(Not sure how legal the music is in it, but the message is very good)

[TIPS] Constitution Day activity

How’s this for a clever activity for Constitution day?

First, the students made this video:

Then they made this blog post: and invited other students to comment.

Why not show the video to your class and have them contribute, too? In this election year our constitution is even more significant than ever, wouldn’t you say?

Monday, September 15, 2008

[TIPS] A short video to see - How to ensure mastery of content?

Here is a short video that Scott McLeod created that doesn’t preach, it ASKS a question. Based on the new Bloom’ taxonomy, it asks us to consider some questions about how we structure our curriculum in order to ensure that our students are leaning.

I don’t want to give it away. Watch it. It’s one to show to your faculty.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

[TIPS] Another thought-provoking movie to watch

Another gem from Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant blog. This time he points us to a pretty cool movie that you can either stream or download. It’s from the Mesquite (TX) Independent School District Administrative Officer for Technology.

Rather than put the links to the movie in here I want you to go to Scott’s blog to get the links. While you’re there read some of his other posts. Then subscribe to it before you leave it. His is one of the blogs that I look forward to reading. Good stuff. Like this video, for example.

[TIPS] Another video from under the sea - from TED

Remember this post? Or this one:

That first talk was given in 2007 and posted in 2008.

But here is one that was given in 1998 and posted in 2008. Same guy. David Gallo. This time he’s showing some truly beautiful images taken from miles under the ocean.

If you liked the other two video you’ll also love this one. Send this to your favorite Earth Science teacher.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

[TIPS] x-prize foundation

This is such a great concept, and certainly not new. But this latest contest is for a grand prize of $25,000. All you have to do is make a two minute video and post it to youtube. Then, of course, be selected as the winner from all the entries. :-)

So what's the contest about? It's called, "What's Your Crazy Green Idea?" From the site:

The X PRIZE Foundation and Prize Capital, LLC are offering $25,000 for the best video proposing a new Energy and Environment X PRIZE. Contestants need to submit a 2-minute video via Entrants will be narrowed down to 3 finalists by the X PRIZE Foundation. Once the 3 finalists are identified, users will vote to determine the winner. The winner will be announced on in December 2008.

The winning video must answer the following three questions:
1. What is the specific prize idea?
2. What is the Grand Challenge or world-wide problem that you are trying to solve?
3. How will this prize benefit humanity?

Got some social minded gifted kids? Why not suggest this to them and let them run with it. I have a great idea - if I only had time to go out and take the video. And mix it. But it might be a great team project - even if they don't win.

I was reading an email from the LongNow group about this xprize. Now they've got what they call the Mega-xprize that gives awards in the amount of $100 Million up to $1 BILLION. How can that be, you ask? They explained it this way. The AIDS epidemic costs around $80 billion a year to combat, $800 billion per decade. Giving someone (group/company) $1 billion for finding the cure would be a great investment, wouldn't it? What about offering $1 Billion to find the best alternative fuel or the best solar charged battery, etc. A great investment, yes?

So, show this prize to your students. Maybe have your own district or county wide event. Yes? No?

Friday, September 12, 2008

[TIPS] How to train multi-taskers

This one came to me from Andy P. at Harrisburg University.

This is an article that talks about how to train those folks  in your sessions who are also answering emails, skype chatting, twittering (?), and otherwise not fully paying attention. The steps include starting strong, thinking in pictures, using words not cliches, and using vocal inflections. Sound fairly obvious, eh? But read the article. It makes some good sense - speaking as one of the multitaskers in your audience.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

[TIPS] BrainPop blog for educators

Not a good title for this post. It’s more than a blog. But, if you’re not a regular to BrainPop then do check this out:

On the left are links to all sorts of resources, from graphic organizer templates, and even interactive whiteboard resources – and much more. Not sure how to get started with it, check out this page of PD resources:

What do you think? Pretty nice, eh? Send this to your favorite elementary or middle school teacher.

[TIPS] Blog Action Day - Poverty

Not sure, now, how I came upon this. Probably from a tweet some time today. But this is such a clever idea that is only possible because of the popularity of blogs. is a website that is trying to leverage the visibility of blogs everywhere to raise the awareness of poverty. You may recall that I recently posted about one district alone that has over 3000 homeless children within its boundaries. The problem, of course, is much larger.

If you’re one who receives these tips via email, then go to the above link and watch the movie on the home page. Those who read the tips in my blog can see the movie embedded there.

On October 15, over 3800 blogs will contain articles about poverty reaching an audience of over 7.3 MILLION people. Talk about raising awareness! Of course, the bottom line is to also raise money, but that part is out of our control. All we can do is get the issue out there and hope that the kind hearts who read our blogs will make a donation.

Don’t think poverty is an issue for an education blog? Well, if the above story of the 3000 homeless children in one district doesn’t change your mind, ask your building principal what percent of your school’s children are homeless, and what percent lives in poverty. It’s everywhere.

Stop back in here on the 15th of October. Read blogs everywhere. And, if possible, contribute what you can to the effort.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


Many thanks to “Cliotech” ( for sharing this post on twitter this afternoon.

The report, called "21st Century Skills, Education, and Competitiveness," argues that for the United States to be globally competitive--and for states to attract growth industries and create jobs--the nation requires a fresh approach to education that recognizes the critical role 21st-century skills play in the workplace.

Read on. Preaching to choir here, for sure, but it’s ammunition to take to your staff.

[TIPS] 9/11 on BrainPop

Here’s another example of Twitter at its best. This AM I saw a tweet appear from wwhitlock pointing us to the BrainPop site for its handling of the 9/11 attack. Here’s his blog post that points to the video:

At first I was worried about watching it. I was worried that it would be too graphic or too violent or too hard for kids to understand and therefore be too disturbing for them. But, I agree with Willi when he says that it’s VERY well done.

If your students are asking questions about 9/11, maybe this video can help.

Thanks to Willi for sharing this on his blog and on twitter.

[TIPS] The Periodic Table of Videos

MANY thanks to Steve Vogelsong for sharing this one (and another) with me via email.

Send this to your favorite chemistry or science teacher. He or she will love you for it.

Here’s my question, however. The videos have the YouTube stamp. I don’t know if they’re actually being fed from youtube or not, which could be an issue. However, we all know some of the sites and tools that will allow us to pull down those videos to store on our desktop, right? So, if these ARE coming from youtube ( then you’re going to have to use one of those tools to download and save them.

It’s just that it would be SO handy if youtube weren’t in the middle, eh?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

[TIPS] More e-paper (back to the tips)

Some of you might have seen this: It’s a demo of Phillip’s e-paper technology. Now comes this: An e-newspaper. It comes on a device that measures 8.5”x11” with an internet connection and the ability to store lots of enewspapers.

Remember the slide in Karl’s “Shift Happens” video ( ) that predicted that e-paper will one day be cheaper than regular paper? We’re certainly not there yet, but we ARE heading in that direction, aren’t we?

[TIPS] Warning! This is NOT a tip

This is an editorial comment that was sparked by a discovery. This discovery has saddened/angered me to the point that I just HAVE to write about it.

There is a large school district in the Eastern part of this country (no further hints as to where it might be) that is undergoing a curriculum overhaul in its English (aka language arts) department of the high school. It has spent a LOT of money to have this rewrite done. We’re talking six figures. No chump change here.

But this new, so-called “cutting edge” curriculum (I’m serious – they used those words to describe it) which is designed to take its senior high students into the 21st Century, flat world of global competition.... This expensive curriculum makes NO MENTION of a computer whatsoever.

Not a word.

It DOES, however, require that each teacher have an easel, a large tablet on that easel, and a supply of smelly markers.

I kid you NOT.

It’s all about charting. Charting their way across the English curriculum. And posting large pieces of paper around the room.
This “cutting edge curriculum”:

It doesn’t mention that the teachers might want to use a word processor to help dissect their writing. (A VERY basic skill, wouldn’t you agree?)

It doesn’t mention that the students could be blogging about what they are reading, or blogging their essays and receiving comments from people who MAY be around the world. (Remember this video:

It doesn’t mention that the students could be skype chatting with kids from around the country or various places of the WORLD (time factor notwithstanding) to discuss how, say “1984” is interpreted by kids from another country.

It doesn’t mention that they might consider live blogging with some other classes and then writing to their discussion forums about the experience afterwards.

It doesn’t mention that they could be ustreaming a class discussion to which parents are invited to attend and contribute virtually (via password).

It doesn’t mention that they might even consider live blogging with the author of a book they’re reading. (

It doesn’t mention that the students could be plotting the path on Google Earth of a writer’s travels to places around the world. Of course, it would not even consider that this activity could be tied into their social studies curriculum. Instead of large pieces of paper on the wall they could have placemarks in google earth files and bookmarks in delicious.

It doesn’t mention that those @#$%^& large tablets are for the TEACHER’S use, not the student’s use. The students will still be sitting there, passively (MAYBE patiently, as well) trying to absorb enough to be able to pass that retched class.

It doesn’t mention that there is NOT ONE transferable skill that those kids will take away from that class, save for how to survive.

It doesn’t mention that kids like those who write this blog ( are SICK TO DEATH of that kind of approach.

Nor does it mention HOW ON EARTH ANYONE could have listened to a pitch for this curriculum and thought it was good enough to purchase for six figures and require two days of precious professional development time to learn.

Am I alone here in thinking that this is appalling? SOMEONE needs to go into that district, take the curriculum folks aside and show them what’s going on in the world.


[TIPS] Attention Math teachers: Number sense could be VERY important?

Just picked this one up via the ASCD newsbrief daily email. (Remember, you were supposed to subscribe to it, too)

According to the article, “number sense” is the ability to look at a grouping of items and be able to estimate how many there are in the group. The article says,
“"We discovered that a child's ability to quickly estimate how many things are in a group significantly predicts their performance in school mathematics all the way back to kindergarten," said Justin Halberda, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University who led the research, published online yesterday by the journal Nature. "It was very surprising." “

Read the entire article. VERY interesting, I thought. Maybe we should start early with posers or bulletin boards of collections of objects and having the kids estimate how many there are. Could that help? Or, is it, as the article says, just an “innate ability?” Well, it couldn’t hurt, right?

“Halberda said he has already begun studying whether testing a child's number sense at age 3 predicts his performance in math class, whether there may be a way to boost a child's number sense, and whether doing so might help him learn math. “

I loved the quick explanation of the idea of number sense. They say that when we see the bus pull up to the curb we can look in the windows at the two sections and quickly estimate which end of the bus is more crowded, and then choose the door accordingly. Never thought of that.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Ted Challenge

Note: I tried to send this Friday night around 10:15PM. It never left the IU.
- - -

Imagine my excitement when I opened an email and it began...

"Hi Jim,
This is Natasha Dantzig for the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference. "

I know you're a big supporter of TED (I really like your blog), and I'm writing to let you know that organizers of the TED Prize have ..."

Yes, in fact I DID swallow my heart a few times at that point. And then I realized that she was reminding me of a challenge that was issued a while back. I had meant to write aboutit, and I know that several others already have. But for those whose blog explosure is limited to my blog, here's the rest of the story, in Natasha's words.

"...announced an open challenge in support of author and philanthropist Dave Eggers and his 2008 TED Prize wish to collect 1,000 stories of private citizens engaged in their local public schools. Each year, three individuals are granted the TED Prize, which provides winners with a wish to change the world, $100,000 in seed money, and the support of the TED community in making the wish come true.

As an extension of Eggers initial wish, the open challenge asks individuals to design and implement new projects for local public school students. The three winning entries will receive a pass to the sold out TED2009 Conference to be held in Long Beach, California on February 4-7, 2009. Additionally, Eggers asks local citizens to support 826 National, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, with expository and creative writing at six locations across USA. Eggers co-founded the original 826 chapter, 826 Valencia, a nonprofit tutoring center and writing school for children, in 2002.

Entries are open to the public and may be submitted by visiting and will be judged by a panel of educators, entrepreneurs, and creatives from the TED Community. Projects will be evaluated on the following criteria:

• Innovation: Was a new model used? Is the approach creative? Were the students provided with access to something new?
• Collaboration: How well did the project leaders work with the teacher/school? Did the project address a specific challenge or need of the students?
• Impact: What changed in the life of the students, teacher, and school? Was the community affected? Did the work inspire other private citizens to get involved?

The Deadline for submissions is October 31, 2008.

For more information, please visit:
For more information on the TED Prize, please visit
For more information on Dave Eggers' wish, please visit
For more information about 826 National, please visit

We're reaching out to the education community with the hope that you'll help us get the word out about this initiative.

Have a great weekend.


Here's your chance. This is a WONDERFUL opportunity to share your creativity and get a chance to go to TED 2009. I KNOW that MANY of you are doing amazing things. TELL THEM ABOUT IT!! This could be YOUR moment!

BTW - I gets LOTS of sites emailing me with information about their site in hopes that I'll write about it. I rarely do. But this is just too good to keep a secret.

[TIPS] follow these third graders

I always point to Mark Ahlness' class blog when showing student blogs. Mark teaches third graders. And I ALWYS tell this story: It never fails to get the jaws dropping.

Mark's class is just now getting started with their own blogs. Yes, Viginia, there ARE schools where blogs are actually ENCOURAGED instead of being blocked. If you don't follow this blog, and occassionally check in on what his third graders are writing about, then I recommend that you begin. Actual student blogs. What a concept, eh? ;-)


Friday, September 05, 2008


Are you still holding ut on the idea that kids today see things differently than any other generation?

Now, what are YOU going to do to change how you teach these kids?

[TIPS] Folding DNA? a TED video

By now (hopefully) you're way ahead of the TED game, and you have already seen this video. 
But, if you're new to TED and new to my tips perhaps you haven't seen the videos there. They are amazing. If you've got an aggregator, stop NOW and subscribe to the TED blog feed. ( You will NEVER be disappointed.
The above video is of Paul Rothemund talking about a new approach to DNA. Those of us over, say, 40, will remember the headlines that announced that DNA had finally been translated, and we finally knew what each piece was mapped to. Now along comes Paul Rothemund and he folds the DNA molecule and the result is... astonishing. ANYTHING is possible!
Send this to your favorite science teacher. They'll love you for it.
An update on my invitation to TED.
While I'm sure that Chris Anderson (the man behind TED)  has sent me an invitation to the 2009 TED conference (including passes to ALL of the speakers - Yes, I'm a lucky man) I've not yet received it in the mail. I've not lost hope, however. I am always waiting for it to arrive in the mail:

[TIPS] Digital literacy - more important than ever

In the last two days I've received four different emails containing different images of Sarah Palin. In one, she was dressed in a red, white, and blue bikini toting an automatic rifle. In another, she was in very high heels at a bar. You get the idea. All four images were sent by friends who were trying to get me to see "the real Sarah Palin" in an effort to either change my opinion of her or confirm it.

I wonder... should she become the next Vice President and then appear on the cover of STAR or ENQUIRER shaking hands with an alien, will they believe those images to be real, too?

Maybe this election year is a good time to help raise the digital literacy of our students, as well as their awareness of the political process.