Find Your Blank Canvas

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Have you ever sat through a bad presentation? Me too. But I never realized how serious of a problem it was until one day in 2008. It was a Wednesday in fact. A cold January Wednesday in the winter of 2008 when I took 112 seventh graders to the computer lab to work on presentations. As a teacher, I thought I was being creative. I thought I was being innovative. I thought I was empowering students. I thought I was fostering creativity. Until two days later, when back in the classroom, I watched 112 seventh graders click through their slides and read every one of them word for word. That’s when I realized how serious this problem truly was. That’s when I realized we were creating another generation of bad presenters.

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Inspiration in 140 Characters (Twitter as a PLN)

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Excited, connected educators are contagious. But their unconnected colleagues don’t know what they don’t know. They haven’t experienced the power of Twitter. Some see professional learning on Twitter as a one-sided conversation since all participants are obviously connected, but there are plenty of self-reflective, continuously learning teachers not on Twitter. Don’t treat unconnected teachers like they are doing something wrong. Reflection doesn’t have to be done online to be effective. Being a connected educator is just another opportunity for inspiration and lifelong learning.

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I Quit Assigning Homework… Too Many Dogs Were Eating It

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Many years ago I quit assigning homework. Too many dogs were eating it and I didn’t feel it was my job to feed the neighborhood pet population. From time to time I reconsider the impact of homework. While not everyone will agree with me, I feel the role of the homework boils down to two essential questions:

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Dying of Dysentery in a One Computer Classroom

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As a fourth grader, I patiently suffered through many monotonous school days eagerly awaiting my turn to journey back to the pioneer times of the mid-nineteenth century. Loading up my virtual conestoga wagon, I led four fictitious settlers on an adventure across one of America’s most storied routes – the Oregon Trail. Even though I typically died of dysentery within ten minutes, I learned two very valuable lessons:

Never drink dirty water.

One device (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc) can impact a classroom.

It would be great if every classroom was a one to one learning environment or at least had a class set of computers or mobile devices, but until that day arrives, we are left to use the technology we do have to our advantage.

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PowerPoint and Other Stone Age Tools

 

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Stone Age societies lived and operated completely independent of other existing civilizations, but five thousand years later, our students should not still be living and learning that way. Our students need to be hunter and gatherers of a different sort, hunting for information and gathering tools that allow them to meaningfully interact with the curriculum. Yet, many popular digital resources have been around since the 1990s, and in terms of educational technology, that might as well be the Stone Age. The technology our students use needs to evolve with their abilities, expertise, and overall proficiency. We need to be preparing students for the next levels of learning with technology. We need to be preparing our students for the Bronze and Iron Ages – not a second Stone Age.

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Kids Don’t Know Everything

 

In the Spring of 2012, every eighth grade student in the state of South Carolina took a technology proficiency assessment based on ISTE’s NETS standards. Only thirty-five percent of those students were identified as proficient (earning a score of seventy percent or higher). The results of this assessment show children are vastly deficient in technology proficiency; yet most children seem pretty comfortable with today’s digital tools. Additionally, adults seem fairly confident in the ability of children to master technology as well. Our students can bypass protective filters and turn screens sideways or upside down when a teacher isn’t looking, but that doesn’t mean they know how to effectively use emerging technologies to enhance their learning environment.

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Empty Rhetoric and Other Sources of Inspiration

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Every school district and academic campus has one. Every business and place of employment does too. Some organizations are fiercely dedicated to it, while other groups don’t even know what it is. It may only be a bunch of a words, but a great mission statement can be a powerful thing. While it’s true that actions speak louder than words, sometimes a little bit of empty rhetoric can be a valuable source of inspiration.

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