Monday, August 16, 2010

Facebook IS a wiki / Facebook > Wiki

Here's a secret. Do NOT tell anyone:

Facebook is a Wiki !!!!! – “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Jake?”

Don't believe me? Look at your Facebook account. Look at all the functions. Now look at your wiki and its functions.

Now here's a hint:
Just because you don't know where the buttons are, doesn't mean it's more complicated. I know what I’m doing with both... want to know why you’ll never see me make a wiki? Guess which one is more complicated.

Here's my idea:
Do what you do on a wiki in Facebook. Things will be less complicated for you AND!!!!!! your students!!!!!! Trust me, I’m a specialist. Guess which one will be more rich and beneficial for students when it comes to 21st Century Literacy. (Wiki’s are sooo 2000’s)

No, you don’t have to be their friend to do this.
Yes, you can keep your personal info safe AND not look at theirs.
Yes, you can make a Facebook group private so only your students can be in it.
Oh, wait... you don’t have a Facebook account? Oh, but you have set up a wiki? You mean you had time to set up a wiki without prior knowledge of how to do it?

When your students get online are they dying to log in to your wiki? What if your wiki was hanging out where they are hanging out? Yeah, your wiki. Like it’s a person or something.

I’m just sayin’... Just sayin’.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ipad returns pay subscriptions

Vomiting Intellectually here (don't judge me grammar!)


found the link to this video here:

MY BRAIN NEURONS THAT CONNECTED: people will start paying for magazine subscriptions again. this will change our economy back to a pay method (right now it's all about what's free and if you don't have free content you don't get noticed)

but people will follow people who do provide free services - bloggers and microbloggers - because those individuals will be considered subject matter experts who will point them in what they feel is the right direction - so they won't waste money. relying on a free content provider saves time and money.

So the bloggers will suddenly become EXTREMELY important in advertising for a product. Which means businesses will fall all over themselves to get bloggers to review their products and services.

Proof? - did you even watch the entire video before you skimmed my bolded words?

TEACHERS: Want to give your students a leg up? Create bloggers out of them. Mold their critical eye in the subject you teach, and that processing power will transfer over to their interests, if not shape their interests more in your subject. Sometimes it's more important for them to write the way I'm writing now than it is to correct their grammar for an essay (remember to get to your objective).

ADMINISTRATORS: Start requiring typing as a core! Typing is faster than hand writing. Typing makes it easier to process ideas. Typing will be the skill needed in most any work environment. Don't get me started on the power of the ability to type - the doors in the mind that are opened by this skill.... or maybe do... next time?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Save Competition: Our Dying Value

So... recently we in education have really sought out to destroy "competition". "WE" are frightened by the competitive nature of humans and particularly by how it singles out those frail children who aren't good at anything.

Okay, so I agree. Some kids are not good at anything, and posting their math grades on the wall in a little airplane race is humiliating.

Dodgeball for some... Worst. Idea. Ever. I mean, the idea that we could get physical exercise by taking out the kids who need to exercise most, within the first few minutes of the game...? (Man, I love dodgeball. I'd play professionally if it weren't for the fact that I would DOMINATE humiliate EVERYONE!)

These days, educators are so concerned about feelings that we are trying to get around current issues with the child rather than looking at long-term affects and finding a balance. I think when a child grows up not knowing how to compete, not knowing how to win and how to lose (or that maybe losing isn't the end of the world) then they become very sore losers.

When they get laid off - they move in with their parents and quit looking for a job because they are depressed.

They take a trip to Mamby-Pamby Land instead of to some investors to start their own business.

Instead of continuing to improve, continuing their education, they stick with meaningless-to-them-jobs and they hop from job to job. They can't find a challenge in the old job anymore. No wonder it gets boring. No wonder we have a growing population of kids who will change CAREERS more than 15 times in their lifetime.

Hey, when the bank you own goes under because you were a moron, you don't pull up your bootstraps and start a new business... You beg the government for a bailout and fly out to your yacht in the Bahamas to "recover from stress"... and they comply because they are AFRAID OF THE CHALLENGE of what that would do to the economy because our nation is a bunch of consumers (whoa, this is turning into a full on rant).

When we don't know how to compete, we lose an edge and a spark. Our biology is competition. Our society is competition. Our economy is competition! No competition is against our very nature.

I say the problem is NOT competition. The problem is not having the right competition.

The fact is that we DO have to take into consideration our students' feelings. They are fragile. They are being shaped. Teachers all have those kids who we can't figure out why they withdraw from everything. They end up not doing well in school even when they are extremely smart. And right there is the trick.

Even employers need to consider their employees and how they are motivated. Keep the job fun and challenging, show the person where the success are they can achieve, and that employee might just stick around the company. There is no success without competition - whether internal or external.

Competition is about finding success and dealing with failure. 

When a child is constantly dealing with failure, they of course will have no motivation. Or maybe they do become sore losers because they're so frustrated. People who succeed all the time are actually great at losing. They may deal with frustration, but they often get right back into another game because they know it's not over.

Any inventor will tell you how good they are at failing. And a great salesman might tell you they strive to receive a quota of "No" from clients because they know they sale to a certain percentage of the people they ask to buy. So a "no" moves them closer to the person who will say "Yes".

So... Can you come up with enough ways to make competition for your students? Enough ways so that everyone is going to find some success? Or do you have the creativity and the excitement to get overjoyed for a child's personal success even when it seems minor?

Example of not how to do it: Rope climbing. Was there ever a kid that made it to the top of the rope that didn't make it EVERY TIME? At least in dodgeball the slow kid eventually figures out he can catch the ball and then that's what he does every time, thus becoming a threat.

Here is the power of positive words. Even when someone doesn't win, you can celebrate what success they might have had. And when you can tap into how much they need that celebration - you aren't patronizing them.

My best example, and how I discovered this thought process, is from coaching T-Ball. Not every kid has the perfect swing. But when they make contact with the ball, and you start cheering, they start running to first base with great intensity. And they love the game for that. 

You give them high-fives for making it over to first. You give them BIG high-fives for not piling on a grounder that didn't come their way. And you cheer for the kid even when they take 2 minutes to set their feet and throw the ball while just looking at first base.

And when they ask if their team won, you respond whole-heartedly, "YES!" (notice there is no qualification that "everybody wins"). And if the kids start to argue, then you can tell them that one won batting, because... and the other won running because... And they LOVE baseball because of the great success. And how will that shape their idea of baseball when they play competitively? When they aren't on the starting lineup? I can tell you from personal experience of someone who was a star on a very successful little league team but rode the bench through high school until my senior year - You still love the game. And you naturally find ways to see where you are better than others in certain aspects of the game.

And it carries over to school. To work. To life.

Don't kill the competition.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Social Media Can Make You and Students Better People

Think about it:

You get online. You connect to your students with Facebook or Twitter. You follow their blog. You are suddenly a presence in a world that has mostly given the cover of anonymity.

You teach your students how to use Social Media to their advantage to get a good job, to impress scholarship boards. You teach them how to research, how to research and connect to people, mentors, colleagues, and subject matter experts. You will be the role model.

What is the effect on you and your status updates? Will you start to rethink how that update might be perceived? Say it is about a well known club where a friend had too much to drink. Will you tweet about that this time? Are your children Facebook friends? Are there children a Facebook friend? Is their boss your friend? The clients? Your clients?

If you recognize that your updates are a record of your life that will be kept forever, and thus track-able by your grandchildren... will that affect what you update? And since you enjoy being connected and updating about your life because you see the potential in passing on your life and values to your family in a way your grandfather couldn't do, will that begin to change your decision making process so that you can continue to update at the usual rate?

What if you pass that record-keeping idea on to your students. Will it effect their decisions? Will it cause them to think, "what is my status update going to be about this situation?" or "what will my friend tweet?". Or, "I don't want my area code to be on Texts From Last Night."

At an inconsequential level, will it cause you to go ahead and run grammar check on your "stream-of-consciousness" blog because you are in education and as you type, the concept of "affect" or "effect" has escaped you?

I ask you consistently, "what are the stakes of not engaging our students online?" 


What is the potential?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Value of Free

Free Tools save you money...


RePhrase: Free Tools save you more money than you would have spent. Then the benefits of the free tool far outweigh what is possible with an enterprise solution. 

Believable, right? But allow me to clarify

Microsoft Office vs Google Docs
Go to You'll see they offer what Word, PowerPoint and Excel give you. But for free. How much did you spend on MS Office? Do you really need ALL the features those three give you? Or are you using the basics?
What about your students? Do they have to buy MS Office? How much does it cost them? 
Then they have version problems. 
Then they have save-on-a-jump-drive problems.
Then they have version of the document problems (where did they make the change? at school? at home? on the jumpdrive?)

Google Docs is online. Everything is online. There is no download. The documents are saved online. So they can access the file from ANYWHERE. 

Google Docs is also shareable. You have to buy that functionality separately for Office. So a teacher can share a doc with a student, make comments as they write, leave notes to the side for review and re-writes. Have groups write essays together and track who wrote what. Have groups create "powerpoint" presentations together. They don't have to be together to work together!

You can't do that with MS Office. And why pay for a program that does more than you need and then locks you in to EVERYONE having to have it?

Now Google is integrating with Moodle. Why do you need to pay for anything? Pay for someone to run it, set it up, train one-on-one. Someone local. Someone in your community. Spend money on people not a huge corporation that can't or won't do what you can get done with something free.

Camtasia vs Jing vs
This one is even bigger for me. Screen Capturing is the process of recording an area of you computer screen, often for training purposes. A lot of people could benefit from this, but they haven't come across the tools... or they only know of Camtasia. *cue thunder*
Off the idea of efficiency, I can work Camtasia, and I'm a talented editor (apparently I'm also humble... yikes) but I CAN NOT STAND Camtasia. Here's why...

Camtasia is incredibly expensive. It's incredibly clunky and un-user-friendly (this is now a word).
It's intimidating and yet the editing is a re-packaged version of Windows Movie Maker. Then they will up-sell you for separate call-outs... you know... in case you might want a cat pointing at something rather than a thought bubble.
Then, schools will pay hundreds, and even thousands, to have trainers come in and teach one and two-day seminars that are crash courses on Camtasia. Then the problem is that most people using Camtasia aren't using every feature every time or even very often. So it is IMPOSSIBLE to retain that information when the skills aren't applicable at the time they are taught. It's a huge waste of money.

Next, Jing. Jing has done a great job of advertising themselves. It's a free screen capturing tool that gives you five minutes of record time. A lot of instructors and trainers use and advertise Jing. Jing provides the ability to also take a screen shot instead of video (which is nice). If you pay $15 dollars a year, you can upgrade to unlimited time. 

Here's the problem. 5 minutes or unlimited. Seriously? If you plan to actually use it, you probably need more than 5 minutes (at least occasionally). 
With the free version, you can only download an .swf file. Meaning it's useless unless you use their services... or if you have Camtasia to edit. There's the problem. Camtasia makes Jing. And ultimately Jing wants you to buy, and eventually buy Camtasia. Nothing inherently wrong with this concept - that's business. The problem is that it's all structured so that it has the affect that you will have to buy because you are locked in by format and familiarity. Trapped. 

Jing is also a downloaded program. This effectively means that you are the only one who has access to it. And if you use different computers, you have to download it every time before you work. This also means that any changes or updates have to be downloaded... and then you've got that compatibility problem again. They aren't trying to sell you. You can pay what has to be their overhead of $5 for a lifetime and get an hour of record time. But with the free part you have 10 minutes. 

Just go to the website. Click create. Click record. That's it. If you want to do more. Click done and you get options. It now adds a halo around the mouse. And it gives off an orb when you click. You can add notes of text to the video for more clarity. Then you have actual options.

Download the file as an .avi file (meaning not only can you play it with Media Player, you can also later import that file into most anything - including Windows Movie Maker for more editing) or a quicktime file

Or... Even better... DIRECTLY send it to YouTube. So it will upload directly into YouTube, and is ready to watch or stream immediately! With YouTube you can add in call outs that rival Camtasia and even include the call outs as links to other sites! It's really amazing. And it's free.

The added value. You can have students create content, share it on youtube, then on facebook, and anywhere else. 

An instructor in CADD has first year students in the afternoon class post their questions about the software on a forum. Then in the morning, the second year students answer the questions by using screencast-o-matic. There's no downloading. It can be used from ANY computer that accesses the internet. Which means students could actually answer the questions in a screencast from their home.

Free tools makes using the tools infectious - and infectious use is a HUGE key in learning. You get the functions you need with room to grow, and without the hassle that proprietary tools create by protecting their content.

Watch out E-College and WebCT... Moodle is going 2.0 and they are going to overtake you... Take a lesson from Microsoft v Google.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Texas Social Studies Textbook Debacle

Are we serious?

While everyone is fighting over what is going into the Texas textbooks, we are quite literally missing the point of educating our youth through SOCIAL STUDIES.

I was infuriated by the Huffington Post article that made everything look like conservatives were manipulating language to mold our youth I'll quote them here:

"With little criticism from Democrats on the board, conservatives added language that would require students to discuss the solvency of "long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare." "

I mean, are you kidding me? Is it a negative to require that students DISCUSS long term effects of social and government programs?... in Social Studies?

They seem to have a problem with language that points out the second amendment above some of the others. You mean... It's a bad thing to make students discuss the impact of an amendment to The Constitution? One particularly that affects our society right now in many ways? The one that's always a hotbutton topic? You wouldn't want to STUDY the impact on our SOCIETY or anything would you?

Then Fox News reports on how the NAACP shows up and fights for their agenda followed by the ACLU. All these evil doers are fighting for specific language that OUTLINES the topics that should be explored. Of course they are there! Of course they want their issues studied! They had to form an entire national union just to get heard!

Now everyone is all worked up about semantics. 

Here's my point, here's how it applies to technology in education. 

Why are we using textbooks again?

If we set National Standards - the topics to explore and what to explore in what directions... Then one could direct a group of students to a Google Custom Search engine. This could be set to receive information from various sources, including the extremes of both sides of the issues. And guess what would happen...


No one could manipulate the information! The information would be ALIVE. It would be affected by real change in REAL TIME! 

How long do you think it will take for these Texas standards to be published and then spread to the rest of the nation and then bought by schools? And then when will these standards be revisited, and what yearly rotation are the textbooks on? I can almost guarantee we will have the answers and data as to the "solvency of long-term entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare". It won't even be worth "exploring" by then.

Imagine what the science textbooks that show Global Warming as the threat that it was perceived to be this time last year look like to a scientist right now? Do you have any idea how many people will use "Lucy" as their evidence for the evolution of man? That's because of a textbook. 

Uh... Like... Hello? I'm, like, totally interested...

I've been delivering a student survey to a really great group of students (for survey purposes... I mean, I'm sure they're great, they go to Moore Norman Technology Center - but I mean for survey purposes). They come from various urban and rural settings ("various" is a strong word - but several different high schools) with separate social climates and backgrounds and age groups.

It's been eye-opening... And I love it.

The survey is on social media, and measures how our students here are using social media. It is not only proving to be a hot topic for me to start a conversation with students about their personal accounts, but it's been really fun to hear their reactions to the survey itself.

They've enjoyed it. The questions were, and I quote here, "fun".

I'd like to take a moment to key on a couple of unexpected stats and connections so far:

Among high school students, more than half have a blog. Their choices for how they use their blog were "Personal Journal", "Open Journal of Thoughts", "Hobby", "Critical Analysis", "No Blog", and "Other". 66% responded "Other". Keep this stat in mind.

64% of the high school and college age students post videos for various reasons such as "Social", "Journaling", "Fun Videos", "Reactions", and "Other". Some of these could be the same thing, but they are allowed to click on more than one. 10% responded to "Reactions". 25% was for "Fun Videos". 33% was for "Other".

So what's the "OTHER" category anyway?

Judging from their responses in the "Other" box where they could be more detailed, I would actually classify the majority of these students would have answers that fall in as "Critical Analysis" and "Reactions".

You read it. That's right. C-R-I-T-C-A-L......A-N-A-L-Y-S-I-S.

They are reacting to things, movies, social events, people, historical events, news, politics, school, family... and expressing themselves in the most articulate way they have the capacity to do so. They are reacting to events with an eye that has been developed by the world around them, and then EXPRESSING.

EARTH to TEACHERS... our students are, in fact, engaged. This has wowed me. Especially when I thought about what "Reaction Videos" are. (A fairly new "hit" on youtube where you video yourself in real time as you watch and react to something you watch).

The question is: How do we harness their critical analysis skills? How do you shape the articulation of their eye? Where do you want to focus it?

Ask yourself: "What tools of expression are they passionate about using?" and then will you see more passion go in to homework if you simply change the tool?

Yes, when students were able to start using pencils on paper instead of chalk on miniature chalkboards, were there not more essays written? When you were finally given the choice in school to use a pen over a pencil, didn't you take the one that actually moves across the paper with less friction? If you have great typing skills, are you more likely to write more in depth on a computer than with a pen and paper? YES.

Change your tools. Unleash your students.

I am going to think of some ideas on how specifically to do this... so stay tuned.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Logic to Fight Fear of Internet in the Classroom

the #1 question we should always ask is:

What's the point of school? Of Education?

If you are like me, then the base/end-all/core/main answer to that is:

To produce productive citizens to further our society.
              Isn't that the end goal? Should we discuss that further? I mean, really the point of teaching all these basic subjects, and even the social environmental construct of the school system, is to produce citizens that can function in society as healthy, knowledgeable individuals.

So.... What does that mean?
               I think that means we have to look at how society functions and how the work place functions. It shows us where our students will be in 20 years.

So.... What is society and the work place doing to function now?
              Sorry, but you have to look at the prevalence of social media and recognize its immediate importance.
Is social media a fad? Can we ignore it, or BLOCK it, or FORBID it, and make it go away?
              No. Sorry again. It has proven to grow business over night and it continues to gain importance in the marketplace. As consumers and children grow more comfortable with it, they will take their habits to the work place. It will NOT replace one-to-one communication, but it will enrich it... and "un-enriched" communication will become the equivalent of body language. It's there, it's viable, but it just won't get you heard. So our society will only continue forward with this.

There is such a thing as evolution, it's how capitalism works. Do you want your students and children to be the equivalent of the dodo bird when they enter into the workforce? Or even college?

Is the workforce using it? Are the best using it? Is the best imitated and then replicated until their method is no longer cutting edge but is common place?
Are colleges using it? Are colleges teaching it? Will this lead to more usage in the work environment?

Are your students on the right track to succeeding in society?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Differentiating Learning Opportunities

I've been reading "Brain Rules". It's the science of the brain.

Here's the things:

  • What you already know: People learn in different ways. In fact, we've even taken this knowledge and grown a little label and prescription for it - Differentiated Learning Opportunities. We try to label - or at least appeal to labels of - students as "Textual", "Visual", "Kinestetic", "Auditory", etc. 
  • What you might NOT know: People form memories (learning is basically the act of forming a memory) by merging new ones into old ones. So the facts of a memory might stay correct as long as it is consistently recalled. But the more it is left alone, the further back it gets stored with older, more basic, or more visceral memories. It merges and, basically, details get less reliable.
---By "forming memories" I mean the act of recalling information or a way of doing something. There is A LOT of information in this book about how there are separate locations for stored information (like vowel letters and the space in words where the vowel goes - one patient lost the ability to write vowels but would write this sentence like this: _n_ p_t__nt l_st th_ _b_l_ty t_ wr_t_ v_w_ls b_t w__ld wr_t_ th_s s_nt_nc_ l_ke th_s). So vowels and the space for vowels are stored in different locations---

SOI took the gist of these concepts and made this connection: 
  • People learn differently because of their firstmost visceral, and most frequent way of  encoding knowledge. And everything is knowledge, even entertainment.
  • ENTERTAINMENT is what people reach out for, it's the type of learning everyone craves - even if it's dry knowledge - those interested are entertained, or the brain would not pay attention to it. So how is the targeted audience being entertained? 
  • The older generations have been entertained, and therefore most interested in, encoding knowledge through books and radio and then TV. But radio and TV was not all that well produced because it was in its infancy of hitting markets - so it couldn't compete with books. So more people were textual learners. And they were probably stuck in more rigid silos of learning styles - you could actually label them with great accuracy.
Now, my theory of the evolution of communication and learning style has brain based research to back it up? The newer generation is tuned in to RICH communication sources and more than one at a time. This is CREATING their learning style. They are encoding different types of learning experiences with completely separate learning styles. The cultural climate and the value systems have changed as well. What they are mostly interested in is precisely the content that is media rich. Again, evolving/shaping/creating their learning styles.

It's becoming increasingly more important to differentiate instruction  not just so you can reach each type of learner - but so each learner can reach different types of information.

And it's becoming more clear that your students might not have the actual ability to learn the way you did. 

Sorry. It's brain research.

John J. Medina, in his book I'm reading - Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, says not to make prescriptions based on the research. So I won't, but these are some observations you might find interesting, and some worth exploring. That's what his book is too, interesting observations and most notably a call for more research.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Using Blogger in Education - Another Stream of Consciousness Email

Just to let everyone know...

We are talking about blogging and Blogger at my Fear Factor trainings.

We will set up a blog together. Talk about what you would like to use it for (maybe as a family journal - maybe as a way to vent)

(maybe as a way to keep a professional journal so others can see what your critical eye is all about)

(maybe so you can model for your students what a critical eye is and encourage them to start building an online brand for themselves)

We’re also going to talk about your audience and how or why you will bring them in – or even if you really care to. "Audience" is something that can shape how you write. It can create an awareness for your students, too, that gives them the "Ah-ha moment" for HOW to write (my academic papers went from stretching to get five paragraphs to editing down to 5 pages in a single paper after a "writing for an audience ah-ha moment" happened - which shaped the rest of my career).

You know, if an employer Googles an applicant's name, and the applicant has used their name for a public blog... guess what's going to be a top hit? What would an employer love to read from an applicant? Their thought process maybe... their attitude about their work environment maybe... ?

Maybe you'd like to use it as an asynchronous communication tool. Write about the next day's goals in class, and make it a part of the daily routine for students to read the blog the next day, first thing(even when they come in at 15 minute intervals). Now you don't have to wait until an hour in, and you don't have to repeat. Plus you provide the experience.

Or just maybe you want the student to get some real world writing experience

- that's right, I said real world writing experience -

Want me to explain more? Well get started NOW. By the end of 2010 this ol' bloggin' deal might take off...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Even Faster

In the blog from yesterday (see below or click to jump to), I embedded the brilliant video: The Bank of Facebook. Today, I saw this story and realized, that video is now out of date. The expert says it'll be a year before Facebook tops Google. This report shows that Facebook has now actually held more traffic than Google for a week. Talk about exponential times.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bank of Facebook? The Name Game and The Next New Planet- Facebook

Our world has changed. I said in the next 5 years email will be dead and Social Media will have completely changed the landscape of everything we do. Even GMail is becoming something different as Google adds functions within it. This video seems to show an even faster shift. And I'm terrified.

The connection to education? I'm terrified about the gap between our online maturity and the availability of tools. Much like the real problem with doing things like bio-engineering. If no one is teaching what the capabilities are, then no one is pondering the ramifications. Immaturity with big tools lead to things like "growing" bio-engineered meat in a tank in order to feed world hunger (it's no longer sci-fi, this is happening).

So the dangers here? Most of us believe in the idea of "State's Rights" and the importance of local government and local business. Here we are seeing the workings of a global economy and a very powerful monopoly. If we don't understand how to work within the confines of this system, how will we function? How far behind will our next generation be? And as they are able to get what they want out of a system of social tools, will they have the maturity to understand when they are being taken advantage of? If facebook starts lending [*edit*] Facebook becomes the place for lending- and we already see how my generation can't handle the concept of interest rates and "nickel-and-diming"- how will the next generation handle instant buying, instant lending, and $5-a-day spending (like Starbucks everyday)? So how does that affect you?

It's Q & A time people.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One More on Social Media

Type in to Google: #NALSPD . Then click on "options" then click on "latest". You will see everyone on Twitter talking about this conference on Social Media. Or click here:

One of the biggest points made: "Social Media is not a fad. It is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate." So don't just take it from me, but our language is evolving. When we cut Social Media out of our schools, we cripple our students from being able to communicate with the rest of the world. And how does that change their experience in society when they leave our schools? How does that affect how they handle college and the workforce? 

Prediction: In five years email will be dead. It already is for your students - just ask how many times they check email. Then ask how much they communicate on Social Media. Ask how much they talk on the phone to friends as opposed to how much they FaceBook each other.

How long will it take teachers and administrators to see that Textbooks are dead? That even PowerPoint slides are dead?

Currently we are facing two dilemmas in schools. Budget cuts, and Technology cuts by those who don't understand the media, the proper use, and the ramifications. And both could be solved by proper training in technology. (Have you looked at what's available to you with a FREE Google Account?

Just today I was told by someone that his son was stuck on a homework problem and he was able to Facebook his teacher and get feedback. Right then. Imagine if it was a more comprehensive question. And instead of this student getting some straightforward answer, he was directed correctly to a subject matter expert who was also on Facebook. Imagine how much richer that learning experience suddenly is. And it also sets a precedent that learning is happening all around.

Now, what happens when we just block this type of communication? Students are still left on their own, their Social Media is for socializing, no one is monitoring, and they don't make the very real connection between their online "socializing" and the real world. For examples just start using Twitter search terms like "need a job" or "got to get this homework done". You will find kids with racy pictures and unprofessional junk littered all over their online profile. And guess who is out there googling these student's names? College Entry Boards, Scholarship Advisory Boards, Employers, etc.

Our students are NOT mature enough to handle the ramifications of their online activity. And no one is teaching them to use it to their advantage in the real world. We are choosing to ignore it because we think Twitter is for telling the world what type of sandwich we are eating. And that Facebook is for stalking. They are both COMPLETELY false - though they've fallen in to that because no one is teaching or willing to learn.

Here's another point: We trust our teachers to take students into a small learning environment, we trust them to coach them, ride the bus, punish, and pull them out into the hall for one-on-one discussion. We trust them to pull a student over to their desk and whisper to them about their work while others take a test. We trust them to have students as officers of organizations for extra-curricular activities. We trust our teachers behind closed classroom doors. But we don't want them to have a public conversation?

And how many realize that I can message anyone on Facebook? Does anyone realize that a student can use the @ tag in front of my name and call me out on Twitter? I've had full conversations with people who were not followers or who I wasn't following. So what are we protecting students or even school districts from exactly?

As someone famous once infamously said, "No other generation has ever been better prepared for the Industrial Revolution."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

FB and Twitter Make You More Productive

A study I saw today from a Wired article shows how Facebook and Twitter makes people more productive. It really is a great article and is certainly worth a read here: Wired Magazine

The basic principle is that we explore and then exploit. It also goes back to the idea that we are entering a time of non-linear thinking and doing. Our younger generation is a group exponential learners (and doers). They look like they are goofing off - and may very well be doing just that. But then the deadline comes and everything is somehow completed expertly.

Educators NEED to recognize this now. I'll say it again. Social Media is NOT a toy.

You might read further into the comments and you'll see someone who doesn't buy in to the idea. He/she makes the comment that "everything in moderation" applies here. Not sure what they thought was the argument to what was being said, but they certainly used the phrase to try and discredit the information. It was a worthy try.

I kind of took it as a response to a previous post that expressed the need for educators to read the article. It was something they needed to read and "get". This response downplayed the ability of social media to make people more productive through bursts of productivity interlaced with downtime.

So, I might disagree with the conclusion, but I'll always side with the "moderation" phrase. However, this is my conclusion:

I don't think anyone gets lost on Facebook and Twitter because they are being lazy or actively searching for ways to waste time. I believe it's just too easy to want to consume more information. And then we look up and the day is gone. So I don't think "moderation" is the problem/solution/goal here. It's focus. It's the ability or skill to focus. Or the ability to take the wealth of information, stop the input, and focus the information into a bright beam of productivity. Focus People.

And if Social Media is not a toy. If it will exist in the workplace. If it is a viable communication and teaching tool, then we have ONE MORE reason to teach with it in our schools. ONE MORE reason that we should be teaching digital litteracy and skills in the classroom.

Our students need to learn how to manage and focus, focus and manage. But they still need the right and then left brain activity spurts to keep them going. Ignoring what the world and workplace is doing to get product is putting our students years behind the industry. They need the skill - it's one that they will only learn on their own through maturity. Which means wasting a whole lot of time, taking zeros on assignments, getting reprimanded/fired from work, etc.

The stakes are high, folks. The stakes are high.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Technology Requests Made Easy

The video is a little fuzzy right now, but the quality may improve after it's completely processed by YouTube. You can click on the icon in the bottom right of the video to watch it full screen.
Basically, go to Google.
Click on "Shopping" along the top.
Type in the product you want.
Click "Compare prices" on the left.
Tech Requests: DONE.
MNTC: win.

Scroll down for more on "Cheating" with Google.

"Cheating" with Google

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about a challenge question I put out through email. Who said, and when, were the questions and I gave a quote from John Dewey (see The Challenge). I offered up an iTunes giftcard to the first person to tell me who and when this quote was from, so I expected a lot of feedback.

What I didn't expect was the amount of people that would send out a "disqualify-me" statement after answering. At least two thirds of those who answered said in one form or the other, "but don't count my answer, I used Google."

WHHAAAATTTT??!!! I exclaim with a genuine smile. It does, in some way, kind of feel like cheating when you think about it. But why is that? Why does it feel like cheating? I mean, if you don't know, you don't know, and you have to find out somehow. Does it feel like cheating because you don't have to dig to find the information?

I mean, I asked a question and said, "the first person to answer is the winner." You used available resources to meet the time requirements. You wouldn't have had the slightest interest in that quote if you would have had to go look it up in a library. And maybe not even if you would have had to read or type the quote out. But the ease and availability of the answer compelled you to participate! And so you copied and pasted.

The point of the challenge wasn't to see who was the "smartest", but to merely turn your attention to what John Dewey said in the 19th century, hoping you might wonder what I was up to. So, I got you! ha-ha-ha!... got you. And now you know that John Dewey advocates social media in the classroom... and you are also reading my blog... :) Maybe you're inspired to start your own blog.... ?

So what is wrong with googling for our information?  Well, how much information do you wish you knew but just don't have the time to go read at the library and study? How much information do you really need to know first hand and off the top of your head?

Think about this: faster feedback with information moves the conversation forward, onward, and upward faster. Which allows us move to a new question, a new problem, a new solution, and then a new question.

And the more important question: Which is more important in surviving and thriving in society - knowing a lot of information? or knowing the right information?

We all have a limited amount of knowledge to hold and access in our brains, and it's based on our experiences and interests. The amount of knowledge doesn't make one smarter than the other. Intelligence is marked by problem solving. Problem solving and solution finding requires that we use all available resources. And Google is a POWERFUL resource. In fact, it is so powerful that as solution finders, the real skill has suddenly skipped the hard part of "how do I think myself around this one?" and drops right to, "how clearly can I define my problem?"

This is an essential skill for our students. It is an essential skill for all of us. Search engines allow us to tap into those questions we need answered right away and allow us to then move on. In the workforce, the ability to find solutions will exponentially increase the worker's worth to the company and the person's worth in the community. Using Google is not cheating. I would argue that it is never cheating (okay, that's a tough sell, and maybe a little overboard - it depends on the real objective).

Can you find one of your assignments that would be enhanced by allowing your students to find the answers by using Google? If you are worried about the search's results (all of you in the health field I'm sure), see my blog about Google's "Custom Search Engine" The Text Book Terminator. It allows you to search only a specific set of websites. Or go directly to Google Custom Search Engine to start.

And for a practical application right NOW - don't forget that your Technology Requests are due on the 29th. You can use Google to search for the equipment you want. You'll even find sites that compare prices from different stores. Something you'll need to do anyway. So cut out the questioning and the procrastination - START GOOGLING! and then move on....

Monday, January 25, 2010

Death of the Descriptive Paragraph

or: Proof I'm Not Always on Technology's Side

A Los Angeles Times opinion article by Daniel Akst this morning gave me a perfect way and reason to express that I do, in fact, have a head of reason on my shoulders. 

A lot of teachers believe that the young guy down the hall who's always preaching that they've got to jump on to the tech bandwagon is a poster child for what is wrong with the kids these days. "All that stuff is just toys that 'real'  teachers don't even need," "Where's penmanship, what happened to good old letter writing, that's what I want to know," they say. "Nobody can read a book any more because they won't sit down, they'd rather watch a video to learn something," and, "Editing a video is NOT writing." Now, while I have pretty sound arguments against some of the statements, or at least arguments of why they are not such bad things, I do try to come about the topics from a blank slate angle. I try to weigh where our society and method of communication is headed with the skills that are truly needed to succeed in our society. 

So our communication methods are evolving... I've said that, I know, I know. I see that most of this is fine, and as long as we embrace it in education, we will advance our society exponentially. If we don't, we will continue to widen the divide in entertainment and education, and where do you think your students will go during "homework time"? Think about it, our society fell in love with reading because it was our escape. It used to be the only form of entertainment - aside from telling stories. And education matched what entertainment was (storytelling = lectures, and reading). In the early days of radio and TV, books were not only on par with mass communication, I'd argue they were still ahead as TV and radio were used more for spreading information and the entertainment aspects were looked at as toys. We were a culture of readers still. Until very recently, it was still commonplace to hear the phrase about retirement as "getting away and sitting down to finally write that 'great American novel'". 

You don't hear that any more but you do see more and more people with that dream of writing the great American screenplay. Which is a different skill all together. It is merely a blueprint for visuals where the very best writers use the very least amount of ink per page.

We've already seen a major shift in reading habits. And publishing companies are starting to die out. People are self publishing on Amazon and actually making money off of it. And here I am preaching that it should be a top ten priority as an educator to STOP buying TEXTBOOKS!!!

So now Apple unveils a digital book reader. It's a couple years behind Amazon's Kindle and Sony's PRS700 (great name by the way Sony... genius marketing there). But that's how Apple does it. They actually test their product.  They actually pay attention to its marketing. Then they go out and make you think you have to have one. Bottom line: this will kick start the digital book revolution. And I'm frowning.

You see, this will shut down bookstores, force libraries to rethink what they house to justify tax dollars their way, the Dewey Decimal System will be yanked off its life support. That doesn't bother me. But what Akst does go on to mention, does bother me. More and more people may start reading again, but he argues that the nature of the novel and writing will change to match the medium. Just like how the average length and depth of books have gradually diminished to meet demands of our shrinking attention span (I mean did you read the "literary masterpiece" that was the Di Vinci Code? You could smell his brown nose to the movie companies - it was practically an outline).

But when people begin to read on an Apple Tablet (meaning it's a small computer) they may be able to access every document ever inked to paper, but do you think they would read the entire "Old" book when they could stream the movie from YouTube? It's true I believe this could rekindle a love of reading (pun intended) and people will eventually go back to the classics to see what they are all about, but I think they might also skim summaries and reviews first to see if it's worth their time, then maybe skip to cliff notes online.

The new literature will become shorter to meet the demands of the market. And with plenty of - what he mentions - self publishers and no editors, what kind of literature will we be subjected to? I believe we are stepping into the zone of fast-food literature. McDonald's can feed the world, it can also make an entire country addicted to sugar and kill them with obesity.

What's more disturbing to me is that I'm a huge proponent of the idea that editing video is a higher form of writing. It takes more levels of processing to communicate an idea. And here, Daniel Akst mentions the very real probability of books now being accompanied by visuals, more pictures, some videos, and especially sound. Though I believe the novelist will necessarily have to plan and process more in order to successfully weave these mediums together, this will take away from the invoked imagination of the reader. A GREAT thing if we are teaching a skill - a horrible thing for reaching into ourselves for our own imagination. I also have a theory that reading a good novel is another processing skill that grows our mind. It engages the images we have already to match to someone else's words. This allows us to process our own thoughts, images, and emotions more purely as our own. Watching a movie or TV allows it to all be done for us, we are told what to see and how to see it. And more importantly for us as a people, HOW and WHAT to FEEL. We rarely deal with our own emotions in a movie, novels take us deeper and invoke all of our own senses on top of the character.

Again, this is good in education, it conveys the message more clearly for all types of learners. But it's a little sad to wonder, "Is this what our society will call reading two more generations removed?"

Remember how books would spend two pages describing a glass of wine? And look at the future by reading Dan Brown's Di Vinci Code. He's at his most "novelstic" when he very mechanically describes the ratios of subjects in paintings.

On a tablet reader he wouldn't have bothered. He would have just showed a picture and used digital ink to mark over the lines and point to objects in the paintings. Is the future of literature a digital comic book? Where the use of the written word is the novelty?

The descriptive paragraph is an essential tool to build brain processing power (I'm still not saying it's as good at communicating a message as a a picture or video is - but essential for brain exercising for it self). A picture is worth a thousand words - that's a thousand words a writer doesn't have to bother with. Good in moving education, in evolving our society, scary for art. The descriptive paragraph is not marketable because we have visuals to do the same in less time and that communicate more and get us to the point of the message faster. This is why one of the first rules of writing a screenplay is "avoid all narration", it's visually on the screen and nobody needs it described to them. The descriptive paragraph may indeed, be dieing with the paper it's inked on.

For more on Apple's Tablet from Daniel Akst's LA Times article, go here:,0,3445923.story

Friday, January 22, 2010

15 Seeds to Grow Your Social Media Classroom

Cheesy title, I know, but this is a little checklist I've been working on for training instructors and other education professionals who are balancing the need to market their program and themselves, while providing an effective learning environment through social media. It's a work in progress - so I'll open the comments section to feedback/must changes/"that one is lame".

1.   Provide your IDEAS! - be the critical thinker
2.      Provide your commentary on current stuff as a subject matter expert - model critical thinking
3.      Provide current events in your industry / subject - don't be afraid to repost or retweet
4.      Provide interesting links for industry professionals -- when you come across them - post them
5.      Connect people who need with people or links that provide.
6.      Comment on others' postings
7.      Create “games” / provide “buy-in” to play
8.      Engage in discussions
9.      Drive users to through your "focus" (meaning where they should end up - group page, blog, website, etc)
10. Adapt old assignments to new environments (don't make them hand-write an essay - make them tag you in a note)
11.  Understand what your audience is on Facebook / Twitter for – then tailor to them *hint-they aren't on for you*
12.  Model effective ways to market ONE’S SELF - they need to know they are creating a personal brand.
13.  Provide incentives (bonus points, free stuff, longer break time, assignment do-overs, etc)
14.  Link followers and friends to subject matter experts or others they should model.
15.  Know your audience and your intent when posting
Also, I ran across some interesting websites that are also helpful:
       For useful applications to run in facebook that you could require your students to run in order to better collaborate:
For another list with some very interesting ideas on WHY you should be using Facebook in your classroom:

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Challenge

I spent $10 on an iTunes giftcard and put out a mass email: First one to tell me who said this and in what year wins an iTunes session with me and the card. It was answered in under 2 minutes. Within 5 minutes I had 15 answers. Throughout the day I would have more than 25 answers and more than 3 "off-topic" conversations. More on the unperceived value of this challenge later, let me tackle my initial concept.

Here's the first quote pertaining to how we learn:
"...the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child's powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself. Through these demands he is stimulated to act as a member of a unity, to emerge from his original narrowness of action and feeling and to conceive of himself from the standpoint of the welfare of the group to which he belongs." 

What is the first thing you think of after reading this? Someone recent started ranting why IT should open the firewall back up on Facebook, right? This person must be talking about social media in the classroom.

What if I told you this was John Dewey in 1897? If you are still rolling your eyes at the quote then it would be akin to a physicist rolling his eyes at Einstein or Newton.

Dewey makes an example shortly after this quote about how a baby learns to speak. They start babbling but soon learn to control those babbles and form them into more precise sounds as their social surrounding dictate until they are able to form the sound "daddy" and connect that to their father turning around and giving them attention enough times that "Daddy" becomes the name of the father.

So... If our social demands and language is changing (again back to my mission as a tech specialist - what I'm constantly telling you) and our learning is based on "stimulation of powers by the demands of social situations" then how important is it to be involved and working within the demands of that social climate? Essentially, there is a younger generation that is beginning to speak a completely separate language that is more rich than you can keep up with and they are - in all reality - with out the ability to speak the language of the other generation.

But why is that important? Shouldn't they just tone it down and zone in and "if they want a grade then they'll listen up"? My mission is to get you to understand that this is not a fad or a use of toys and entertainment devices, this is an evolving language!

If I still haven't gotten your attention, then I want you to sit down in a classroom to learn something you have no idea about, and the teacher will ONLY speak a Shakespearean English. You will be required to listen up and follow along. You know every single word, none of those words are non-English, I mean, Shakespeare had about a third of the vocabulary you have, so you should be able to follow along.

Something I've learned from this is the reverse. I'm speaking a hyper language and expecting a lot of you to run to my videos and even this blog and learn and run with it. But you aren't speaking this language. So what did I do about it?

Well, jumping off of my last blog, I used a classic marketing technique. I gave away a free iTunes card and created a buzz. The buzz was about two separate things:
1.) it might be worth it to open Jacob's email immediately - it will have good and quick info anyway; and
2.) Who said that and when did they say that?
-- Which inevitably leads to a.) you having some buy-in to read my blog based on your previous interest and how easily you were able to come up with the info (so many more people participated since it was easy to just copy and paste the quote into google without even reading - you wouldn't have if you would have had to look it up in the library) and;
b.) wondering what the heck I was getting at with a quote from John Dewey in 1897.

What can you learn from my Challenge in its delivery method? How could you apply that? Have I gotten you interested in looking at social media as not a toy yet?

***Next blogs: 1.) affects of the challenge and the "off-topic" conversations
2.) At least a third of the people who answered gave the guilty confession "but don't count me, I used Google." .... wwwhhhhaaaaaaaaat?!?!

Oh! And here was the other quote from John Dewey in the challenge:

"...these interests are neither to be humored nor repressed. To repress interest is to substitute the adult for the child, and so to weaken intellectual curiosity and alertness, to suppress initiative, and to deaden interest."

What's that make you think?