How do you empirically measure the value of art? Of architecture? Of learning?
What does 80% learning improvement mean? How could you possibly measure that?
Why is it so hard to understand that hard numbers don’t attach themselves to some things?
I try to avoid some touchy issues here, but I can’t sit this one out.
The NRA posted it’s plan to “make schools safer.”
It’s just what they’d hinted at- they want an armed officer at every school, and they want laws changed so teachers can be armed in their buildings as well. To qualify as one of the armed officers, you’d need to go through their 40-60 hour training. Then we’d be safer.
Besides that I don’t think guns belong in school, I’ve got a more pressing issue. Where I teach, you must have at minimum a Master’s Degree to continue teaching beyond the first few years. It’s law. The wording the federal laws talk about “highly qualified” teachers. What they’re trying to do, between the two things, is to mandate that teachers be experts at what they do. In fact, you’re not even eligible for a professional license until you’ve taught full time for three years (that’s 2970 hours in the classroom, minimum).
If you read about the qualities of “expert,” you’ll find much about the amount of time related to becoming an expert- the number most often kicked around is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. In my line of work, that’s about 10 years of teaching full time. That said, every teacher I know worth their salt will say you’re never an expert at teacher. But I digress.
We’ve established that we want to only allow experts to teach (or work) at our schools. We’ve established that there is federal legislation aimed at this. And we’ve established that it can take (nominally) 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert.
So here comes the NRA saying that a “40-60 hour” course of study makes someone fit to carry a gun in a school and be able to defend that school. It defies logic.
Presentations are hard, I’ll grant you. And I’m not talking about performing them.
There are a lot of rules to keep in mind, and a lot of guidelines that you need to take into account if you don’t want yours to look amateurish or be unwatchable. I’m not interested in getting into those details here- there are better presenters that do a better job of writing about what to do and not do.
I’m here to offer some other advice- something I’ve not seen much text about. It’s about using tech in a presentation.
Presentations are about engaging the audience. That’s it. There’s no second thing. If you fail with that, nothing else you do matters. As such, every decision you make should be based on that first criteria. So when you pick the tech that you’re going to use in a presentation, you need to focus on the engagement of the audience. Ask yourself: Will my use of this tech further engage my audience? Be thoughtful about how you answer.
The audience doesn’t care what remote app you’re using, but they’ll care if you have to re-sync the bluetooth to it during the presentation. They don’t care if your computer is wired to the projector or wirelessly connected, but they’ll care if the wifi flakes out and they won’t talk to each other. If you’re going to use a website live, you better be sure it’ll load and function properly. If you’re going to play a YouTube video, you’d better be sure it’ll load and play quickly and at high res. If you’re doing an audience poll, it better work easily and smoothly with a group that’s likely never used it before.
Losing an audience happens quickly and without remorse. Any glitch, any bobble, any reason to check out and they will.
As a result of this, I keep the tech I use to an absolute minimum. Cables are better than wireless. Reliable is better than not. Saved to disk is better than live-on-the-web. Familiar is better than novel.
I’ve been taking this course with Dan Ariely from Duke about the nature of how we make decisions and the latent biases inherent in those. It’s excellent- I’m trying to keep up with it, but my life is such right now that I may not be able to do that. Either way, I’m learning tons right now.
One of the points more recently made was over the nature of decisions. Much of what we do (or don’t do) in terms of change is based on an ingrained tendency to keep the status quo. We don’t like change. We resist and avoid it to a very large degree, though we are blind to much of this behavior.
There’s an interesting work around: force a choice. Provide a t-shaped decision fork, where it is impossible to continue on without change. This forces us into a situation where we must consciously choose the direction and choice we make. This explains, by the way, why educators don’t change their techniques or methods when presented with opportunities (and support). If we want to see meaningful change, we must consider the tendency for all of use to maintain the current state- and create situations that do no allow this. An example:
Let’s say you have aging desktop computers in classrooms, and you want teachers to adopt the more mobile solution of laptops. If you offer laptops to the teachers, a number will choose to take them, but the bulk will insist that they also continue to use and keep the desktop in the classroom. Instead, if we stipulate that the desktop computer will be removed from their room and disposed of, and that they must choose between two available models of laptops, you provide a t-shaped decision fork, and the change must be addressed. The status quo becomes an unacceptable choice, and thus the decision becomes the reasonable option.
I’m sure this is relevant to the way teacher adopt (or don’t adopt) technology into their classrooms. It’s something, however, I see precious little thought being put into, and I think that needs to change.
I starting talking about teachers writing their own textbooks about 7 years ago, in 2006. I’d been thinking about it before that, but there was no practical way to make it happen. In the years since, I’ve been successfully helping other teachers and departments down the road of creating and maintaining their own textbooks. It’s great.
The question that keeps getting thrown at me most consistently on this subject is “Who vets this material?”
I’ve gotten angrier with this question over time, which isn’t like me. Usually I calm down and become more reflective, but in this case the opposite has happened. I’ve gotten progressively more and more irate with this response from professional educators. This is, I think, because the answer is so stunningly obvious.
Who vets this material?
You, the educated professional educator. You, the expert at what you do. You, the person who will deliver the material and work with the end product.
Anything else is to abdicate you responsibility as an educator. Banking on some large conglomerate publishing house to get the content, context, and whatever else right (and without error or bias) is to give over your students’ education to that publishing company. It is the easy way out. It is cowardly.
This might come across as a bit of a rant- and I don’t mean for it to. I’m not that angry. But I am emphatic.
There seems to be a growing push towards forcing collaborative reading on our students. There have been a rash of applications and web sites devoted to allowing teachers to assign reading, and mandating that students both contribute and share notes on that text. It’s a concept that’s been around for a while, but seems to have gained some traction recently. I suspect that much of that traction comes from some very decent apps and services that have done a very good job of approaching and managing the inherent problems. Cudos to them, honestly.
All that said, I’m not convinced. Collaborative writing is a great too for educators- it can really bring better conversations into the classroom about deeper concepts by more voices. That’s a very good thing. The issue I see/have is the mandated nature of this combined with the tendency of educators to overuse tools. While collaborative reading can be good, it isn’t always a good thing. And we, as educators, tend to find things that work and then promptly overuse them to death. We found wordles, and then everything had to be a wordle. We found twitter, and suddenly twitter is all we use.
In addition, and as I’ve mentioned here before, I’m an introvert. I don’t really like doing things like this publicly, and forcing me to do that creates resentment, worry, and essentially guarantee that I’ll hold back my best stuff. Then, to make matters worse, there’s the virtual certainty that I’ll be penalized for holding back my best stuff. It’s not going to go well for me.
Before you start thinking that introverts “need to learn” how to share what we’ve done, hold up. We’re not broken. We don’t need fixing. And I’m happy to share- on my time and when I’ve done my thinking. I’m not ready to write down my working, in-process thoughts for the whole world to see. That doesn’t feel like collaboration to me- it feels like exposure.
Reading has always, always been a private act for me. From a very young age, reading what the thing I knew I always got to do by myself- no matter how many people were around. It was between me and the book, and that made it a sanctuary for me. I’d be heartbroken to see my sanctuary taken away.
From time to time I get asked about remote teaching- that is, teaching when I’m not in the room. I talk about how I’ve Google Video Chatted into my classroom to teach when I’m not physically there, and people are often… skeptical.
Just yesterday, however, an former student of mine sent me a video they’d shot from the first time I’d ever taught remotely- my kids had kept me home sick, and I felt some obligation to help my students with Midyear reviewing. It’s a short video, but it’ll give you an idea what it looks like.
There are a lot of reasons that you should be buying a 3D printer for your school. It’s a tremendous learning device as well as a tool- and it can be used by nearly any department in a school. Here’s what we’ve done with ours:
1. Print a new filament tensioning mechanism for the printer itself.
2. What would have been an obscenely expensive shoulder-mounted DSLR camera rig.
3. Replacement Manfrotto 501 tripod plates.
4. Nikon lens cap holders for neck straps.
5. A stretchy bracelet.
6. Student designed pneumatic-actuated cylinders.
7. A model deer’s head (mounted via a magnet to my wall).
8. A 180 atom buckyball model.
9. Alternate tripod mounts for some webcams.
10. Tripod to cold shoe adapters.
11. A geared heart.
12. A Rodin “Thinker”
Upcoming prints will include spare camera mount parts, VESA mount spacers, a model cathedral, and some jewelry.
Get one and use it.
Here’s what new and happening:
**1.** My school’s Spring Open House is this week. Besides the normal meet-the-parents stuff, there’s an art show and a fashion show. I’m pretty excited about all that, and I’ll have the Replicator2 up and running all night to show off, as well as having some finished prints on display.
**2.** Speaking of the Replicator2, I just printed a new filament tension mechanism for it. Think about that for a second. Anyway, I’m waiting on one more M3x6mm Flat head screw to get the whole thing installed. Excited about that. It should deal with some of the oddball filament feed issues we’ve had.
**3.** iCon2013 is a week away. Everything is coming together well, and I’m excited to do some presenting and meet some new people. School tours are totally booked, but we still have some space for the conference itself. Get in soon if you want to come, as numbers are starting to get crazy.
**4.** I’ve started active work on a student run web video, and I’m hoping to have that up and running inside the next two weeks. I’m leaning towards not running it live, for production reasons. I’d rather quality video instead of live video, and Google seems to have no interest in making both of those possible in the near term.
**5.** Some of my media students have made some really nice looking video. I’m still reviewing them, but I’m generally very pleased. I’ll be cross-posting some of them here (with student permission, of course).
**6.** I spent an afternoon at the Mass DESE last week talking about digital learning environments. There was some food reception to the ideas, but I felt like there was an undue amount of focus on the money/budget issues. Maybe I’m nuts, but it really shouldn’t be about the money. Tech and digital resources are the new cost of doing business, and pretending like it isn’t is putting your head in the sand.