February 24, 2012 — education, technology Tagged edtech, experience, food, learning, pizza, repurpose, technology, TPACK
…eat a pizza prepared by Geoffrey Zakarian wielding an Easy Bake oven, than one prepared by, uhhh… damn near anyone else using a $1000 oven.
Maybe that’s important, maybe it’s not. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out what business this post has on my blog. Perhaps nothing. I’m open to that.
*For “Home Made Mini Pizza, Cooked” by Yortw on Flickr Via CC, & for…
*Allowing me to ask questions… even when they don’t carry a question mark. According to Michael Wesch, this is something only a human can do.
*For the clarity to write my shortest-ever blog post.
February 22, 2012 — biology, education, technology Tagged art, biology, Cheryl Ferrari, edtech, education, Marine Biology, public, raffle, technology, transformation, turtle flirts
Transforming by connection
In my time as a teacher, I have tried purposefully to connect my students to experts beyond the walls of our classroom. When I began as a teacher in 1991, this was a pretty difficult task compared to today. Contacting local experts in biology or conservation took going out of the way to recruit the efforts of kind, caring professionals who were willing to share their experience with my students and I. Today, it can happen almost accidentally. Today, a few extra steps can flip the equation to a reality where talented individuals can find you. While balancing a myriad of responsibilities in the classroom of today, this shift in reality can be a transformational one… helping to bring relevance and authenticity to the lives of students.
Allow me to quickly switch to the issue at hand, and then wrap up my case by the end. Today, I bring you yet another opportunity to assist the education of students in Missouri, from wherever you may be. Cutting to the chase, a talented and giving artist from the state of Florida recently contacted my students and I with the offer to contribute an a work of art to help my students pay for the fees of a field study on the coral reefs of Andros Island, in the Bahamas.
Connecting to art
Cheryl Ferrari is a passionate artist and a giving person. My students and I are quite happy tonight to announce an opportunity for you to own an amazing piece of art while making a donation to hardworking students who are doing extra work on their own time to learn about something they are interested in. On Friday, I will be able to add an actual photo of the actual work. It is an beautiful and massive 36×24 inch print on canvas. Not only was the work donated at an approximate value of from $2000 to $3000… but the framing was donated by a local company. J. Franklin Gallery of St. Joseph donated the $400 framing.
Clicking the “buy now” button above will allow you to enter a credit card via PayPal from wherever you may be… to an SJSD account to earn a chance to win the print. This is essentially a donation where 100% of the funds go toward a rich educational experience for my students. We are offering each chance at $5, and three chances for $10. The raffle will take place on the night of March 28th, the eve of our upcoming field study in The Exuma Cays.
You see, I take the idea of being a public educator rather literally. In short: whenever and wherever possible, I pull open a window of transparency allowing a peek into the work we are doing. Softening the walls of the classroom in this way has brought us many powerful connections over time. Cheryl Ferrari is a Florida resident who grew up snorkeling and diving on Florida’s coral reefs when they were vibrant and healthy. She no longer dives today, and relies on photographs from those who do as inspiration for her work.
Cheryl messaged me via Flickr in April complimenting the work we are doing in chronicling the life (and sadly, death) of coral reefs today. She kindly asked permission to reference our work, and three months later, she messaged again with the image you see above. We could clearly see the elements of the painting that were inspired by photographs we have taken and shared. After more conversation on the details of our program, she offered to donate a limited-edition print to help student offset the costs of the field study portion of the course. And really, though you can’t quite tell it here, this connection has almost left me speechless at times.
Connecting to science
Since 2000, we have had authors join our discussions of their works. We have had the Center for Biological Diversity request photos for use in a formal federal petition to list two Caribbean corals as threatened, and eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. (it worked, by the way) We have had a former student of this program now with a Ph.D. and working on national marine policy, rejoin our community from time to time, as one of our informal teachers. We have had students live blog hurricane landfalls from the gulf, and report back from their work in fisheries from Dutch Harbor, Maine. And on and on. I’m certain I’d leave someone out if I tried to name them all.
These connections have transformed our classroom time and time again. It is this sort of real transformation that makes expenditures of modern technology worth the cost. Join us in some way. Take a chance on owning a bit of our story, and thanks so much in advance, from all of my students and I, for donating to such a relevant and authentic cause in the lives of kids.
“Turtle Flirts” by Cheryl Ferrari… photograph of oil on canvas
“Massive Sea Fan” is one of ours. See the connection?
“Mike Westfall – Thumbs Up” is also one of ours
January 27, 2012 — edtech, education, professional development, schools, standards, technology Tagged edtech, education, Educon, Educon2.4, Karl Fisch, NETS-T, technology, Will Richardson
In 2007, a then virtual-only colleague asked whether it was, “okay to be a technologically illiterate teacher?” NETS-T provides one standardized, big-picture perspective. Many others speak of new literacies unleashed by the reach of the Internet. A few have mentioned “big shifts” that define the changes and challenges to educators in rather recent history. At the other end of the spectrum, the Edu-Twittersphere offers up a litany of “gotta be using” tools on a nightly basis. Here’s the problem from where I see it: we have a gap.
On Sunday, the 29th, I’m leading a session at Educon 2.4 to drag a room of interested educators into that gap to poke around for 90 minutes or so. It’s like this: to the typical classroom teacher, things like “new literacies” and cultural shifts are pretty stratospheric. That’s not a value judgement in any way- it’s just the way I see it in my experiences working with teachers. In defense of teachers, it is quite possible that this career has never been more challenging than it is today. But if you’re reading this blog, you likely aware of this fact already.
In 2012, there is much chatter in social spaces that are loosely-tied by educators. Collections of teachers joined by technological tendrils tend to spout the virtues of every new digital tool to hit cyberspace. So many of these startups seem to vault into the limelight in no time flat, each in turn destined to set the educational world right again. Hype travels fast in a world devoid of complexity and nuance. Take Twitter for example. Twitter has been co-opted by educators in what is perhaps one of the most productive uses of its potential to date. That said, the media always affects the message, and 140 characters leaves much nuance at the door. Sure, you can hyperlink to meatier reflections, but that isn’t the norm.
So what do we discuss on the Twitter? More often than not: tools. We all get value out of the “head’s up” links on Twitter to new and interesting digital applications that -on the surface- promise innovation. And yet, I’d argue that tip-offs to shiny apps do little on their own to advance our understanding of the effects of this communications revolution. Who knows, perhaps we’re not meant to grasp the breadth and depth of a revolution in its very midst? Personally, I think education has to make an attempt to fly the ship while installing more effective wings. To ignore the challenge is to allow children fly a plane alone- and with untested wings. Life moves too fast and recent changes seem too profound I do know this: digital tools won’t educate a child any more than a hammer will build a house. Think of it this way: what does a carpenter need to know, and be able to do in 2012? And if you’re an administrator, perhaps you’d better think like a contractor. Yes, the metaphor is a mess, but it’s worth the ride. Take it…
Think of it this way: what does a carpenter need to know, and be able to do in 2012?
So that’s it? Pin the standards to your chest and guess… or chase each and every new app to debut? Is that the life of an enlightened educator in 2012? I doubt it. And yet, I’m also pretty certain that the classic ostrich pose in these times won’t cut it either. I’m betting a solid path to improvement is to be found within the gap. I was once a somewhat “reluctant technologist.” I never wanted to be seen as an evangelist of shiny gadgets. Now, I’m proud to say that I live my professional life within that gap. I spend my days helping teachers connect tools and processes to concepts, and sometimes rather lofty instructional goals and ideals. I work with principals and building administrators in seeing the big picture of how instruction can look. It is my role to assure that solid instruction leads the way in any implementation of technology… as opposed to gadgets.
So what exactly is this “gap,” if indeed it does exist? Well, that’s just it. That gap is why I decided to attempt to frame this question. It is also why I intend to leave my opinions out of this preview, as well as the framing of the question to begin my session.
One thing I do know: the room that day will be full of smart, passionate educators with varied knowledge and experiences. I already know what I have experienced. I want to learn more. I want input, and I don’t want that input clouded in any way by my own ideas at the outset. I want to walk away from Philly with either a disrupted or a clarified vision. Either way, it will help me refine, in at least some small way, what I do on a daily basis. It will shape how I think, what I plan, how I talk, and what I do in the months to come. A conference where the presenters themselves come to learn? That is pretty big from where I sit. Come to Educon. Join us. Come to my session, and let’s chat. Thanks again, Chris and team, for doing it this way…
*”Educon 2.4 Icon” from the Educon 2.4 website
*”email symbol” by Micky Aldridge via CC from Flickr
*”Educon21_satsun_110” by Sarah Sutter via CC from Flickr
May 30, 2011 — edtech, education, technology, writing Tagged i-image, images, iOS, media, memorial day, photography, thinking, typography, WordFoto, words, writing
Most would agree that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Perhaps strangely, allow me to make the case that sometimes there is also value in distilling those thousand words into a scant few. This little post is a bit of practical sharing meant to point to two things: a cute little iOS application, and a few quick examples of its practical use. Oh, and really, I wouldn’t be doing it here if it wasn’t worth at least a handful of words as well.
Once upon a time, I enjoyed doing the occasional “check out this fancy new tool” post, particularly for the local folks with whom I work. Looking back, it seems that most of those posts were logged within my first year of writing here. Though today it has become far easier to point to shiny tools using the quick and dirty practicality of Twitter, this one seemed fun enough to bring back into this space.
We all have our own modes of sharing, and while I’m as proud of an original podcast or video as anyone, it seems I have a preference for words in print. I share a pretty respectable percentage of the things I create in one way or another. And as likely most of us do, we tend to share those things in which we see value, and also those that we anticipate others might find valuable as well. In thinking about it, for whatever reason, I tend to be more confident in sharing carefully-selected words. I guess I enjoy lining up words that altogether either communicate or sell an idea I am grappling with, or believe in a great deal.
If you’ve been here before, you might also know that I dig photography as well. I think this goes hand in hand with being a biology teacher. Both images above were originally snapped on student field studies in the midst of the natural world we were learning about at the time. Adding a fascination with images into a love of words naturally equals an interest in all sorts of creative typography.
What does this nifty little $2 app get us? The people who might get mileage out of this one will likely see the value instantly. From a purely practical standpoint as an educator, if you only create one graphic that helps to communicate an idea, then the $2 is worth the outlay. WordFoto is not Photoshop. It is not Illustrator. It only does one thing, and it does so rather simply. If you can get your image of choice into an iOS device, you can manipulate it with ease. And though I’d like a little more control over contrast, etc., once you have a .jpg inside of a web-connected device, the sky is the limit in terms of sharing. What idea would you like to convey?
Inspired by a question Will Richardson asked SJSD administrators this past September: "How many dots are on your 'map'?" (click to embiggen)
Several folks I admire have led sessions where participants were invited to mashup powerful ideas and images. Both Punya Mishra and Dean Shareski often try to push educators to begin to think in multiple media simultaneously. In my opinion, these exercises are always valuable. Because this type of thinking is so different for many, it pushes us almost instantly into a more playful mindset. That sort of mindset can squeeze creativity out of those who think they haven’t had a creative thought in some time. That reality equals valuable time spent for all educators.
When playing around with WordFoto for the first time today over morning coffee, I was instantly reminded of these exercises. In trolling through a few images on my phone, I created the images displayed in this post, as well as those within this Flickr set. Technically, WordFoto reminds me a bit of another nifty $2 iOS app called Percolator. This app helps to create abstracted versions of images much like this one of a reef shark on our honeymoon. Here is the same image from WordFoto using only the work “SHARK.” The important difference in this app is that it actually uses words to accomplish the abstraction. And that, to me, is a potentially significant leap. From here, we can quickly and easily incorporate words and ideas into the very fabric of images. Sure, posting contrasting text over a powerful image will always be a cool thing. And yet, this app allows something novel and interesting. Like several other techniques, if done well, it can even be used to synthesize something beyond the mere images or words themselves.
Appropriately for the day, the first image that stuck out to me while trolling through images on my phone was this one, taken at Arlington Cemetery while at ISTE 2009. The version below (particularly when seen at full resolution) helps to convey the sentiment on my mind this morning while comfortably sipping coffee and playing with fancy toys…
To sum things up, pictures are worth thousands of words. Sometimes, however, it might be valuable to distill a few of those words to the surface to make a point. We aren’t all graphic artists who can make Adobe’s Creative Suite sing. However, I also see value in quickly providing a scaffold for the rest of us to engage in the kind of visual thinking provided by simple, inexpensive apps. Perhaps this is one that could be a valuable gateway drug that gets more of us into the game. Care to play along?
May 17, 2011 — athletics, education, family, writing Tagged athletics, blog2theK, blogging, Kansas City, Royals, social media, social networking, sports
Disclosure number one
What kind of an idiot would dissect ten George Brett rookie cards and paste them onto the outside of his baseball-themed “Valentine’s Day” box at school? I suppose it depends on whether or not that idiot was a primary grades student or not. A kid that would do such a thing is either really into the Royals, or really a bit twisted. I’ll let you decide that, but I’m glad the hobby of collecting baseball cards never really entered the “business” realm for me like it did for so many of my friends. If it had, I’d really curse the day I made George Brett and Frank White into Valentine’s wallpaper. Ick.
By now you might be thinking, “what’s this… another athletics-related post?” Though that might stand out as unique in this blog about learning, teaching, and the role of technology in education, it is perhaps less odd considering the “nashworld” title above. What might really throw you for curve would be the fact that this post (and most certainly the following one) will center on a little trip I’ll be making to Kauffman Stadium for a little behind-the-scenes experience called “Blog Your Way to The K.”
I’m a lucky guy. Period. Honestly, after getting the call that I’d been selected as a member of this first group of eight for the event, I began to wonder how I was even picked. After all, this is certainly not a sports blog. My Twitter feed is also rarely used to banter about sports-related things. In fact, I learned a while back that tweeting play by play details of the Missouri State Wrestling Championships tends to irk edu-followers. Shortly thereafter I created a spinoff “ANGRYREDBIRDS” account for such things. I briefly wondered if I should do something similar for Blog 2 The K. In the end, I decided not to go that route. In fact, I began this blog with the same, “let’s see what happens if I push this button,” mentality that encouraged me to attempt an application for Blog 2 The K in the first place.
I came to this space in 2008 as proof-of-concept that blogging about one’s passions in life could be a transformative learning endeavor. I was betting that, if implemented well, recent changes in social media could add value in today’s schools. Social tools like these are what you make of them, but I believe deeply in the power of amplifying the voices of our youth. For me, personally, over the past three years this blog has truly become a hub for my personal learning. I’d really love to be able to post here more frequently. Doing so does good things to my brain. Nashworld has become a bit of a portfolio of the thoughts I synthesize, a collection of ideas in which I believe, a summary of the projects I’ve been a part of, my overarching reflections on learning in general, and ultimately my attempts to share it all. Embedded within these threads are a good many of the things I am passionate about.
Disclosure number two
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that a significant part of my application for Blog 2 The K, included the fact that I have truly fallen away from baseball in large part since “the strike.” Yesterday, I paid a rare visit to the attic. I drug out a massive plastic bin and rummaged through the contents to take the photo posted above. A few things are pretty obvious from that assembly (other than the fact that I still cling to one last Brett rookie card). Like many near my age in the KC metro region, I looked up to George. I’m sure I always will. Among the countless other games of my childhood, I was there late in the season in 1980 to see his batting average peek back above the .400 mark, I was there to see his last home game as a player, and more. Perhaps it’s the story that I missed. Perhaps, even more than timeless statistics, what baseball fans are after is story.
I played baseball as a kid from age six until high school. Looking back the past few days, perhaps more than baseball itself, I came to deeply admire the public character of guys like George Brett, Frank White, and others. Though we’ll likely never get stories like that again, I was at one point excited anew about the youth resurgence in the early to mid ’90′s. Sadly, we lost those guys in a a fire sale. At one point in the past decade, I tried to get back on the bus once again for a year or so, only to be disappointed again. I certainly don’t need wins… but I need story. And for me, it’s become clear to me that those stories must include some pretty deep character.
Fast forward to this morning, and I have to say that I am really fired up about tonight’s experience. I am ready to soak it all in from the first minute to the last. I am ready to let this current passion attempt a reconnect with an old one… one that still wears red stitches on white leather. I’m excited that the Royals organization is getting into the game game of social media. There is a ton of individual passion there to harness. Who knows, if the world can have an Arab Spring thanks to social media, maybe… just maybe we can have a Royals Spring. Maybe this Spring will launch the lasting stories I’ve missed all these years.