ISTE buzzword bingo 2013

It’s time for ISTE again, one of the world’s largest edtech conferences – this year in San Antonio, TX. With 4 days worth of events and tens of thousands of participants, it can be difficult to figure out what sessions to attend. If this is your indoctrination into the world of edtech, try playing ISTE BINGO to exposure yourself to a range of current pedagogical philosophies. If you are an ISTE veteran, shoot to cover the entire card over the course of the conference.

For the ultimate win, try and find a vendor with a tagline that scores a BINGO! There will be at least one on the floor:

iste buzzword bingo 2013

A tough transition…

I spend a good deal of time planning for transitions, as both a parent and educator. So when I recently received an unexpected opportunity to work on a long-term educational project with global impact, I started the arduous task of planning a graceful mid-year exit from the classroom.

I cleaned up all my curriculum maps. I documented my daily routines. I re-organized all of my server files. I shared permissions for all of my Google Apps for Edu data. I made screencasts of all iPad management processes. I worked with administrators to hire and train a middle school technology integration coordinator and a lower school technology specialist. I practiced my conversations with students prior to the announcement.

I thought I was in good shape until my last day of school. My final sessions with kids were tinged with sadness. Students asked all sorts of thoughtful questions about my future plans – ranging from when I would visit to my dog’s ability to accompany me to work at Google.

What I was completely unprepared for was students, faculty and administration leveraging the tools & skills we’d been exploring to give me a send off. I received a heart-warming and beautifully composed email from a student who had a history of mis-using the communication medium to make others feel bad. I received digital cards, digital collages, video goodbyes, HTML formatted farewell cards, and even a digitally sketched portrait. Students used a variety of digital media to capture the last day, including a high-5 tunnelled super send off!

Thank you card
Thank you card from the Development & Communications Manager. The message is Photoshopped onto a blank sign.

html thank you card
HTML thank you card from Mr. B. Yes the < p > tag is unclosed, but it will validate in HTML5.

Finally, as the recent collaboration (below) with a class in Los Angeles reminded me: just because I’ve left teaching full-time doesn’t mean I can’t continue to participate in education. I’m looking forward to working with students in the future and using technology as a form of self-expression and communication to enhance those experiences.

How do we measure mobile learning’s impact on higher-order thinking?

I’m lucky enough to spend Tuesdays to Thursdays working with an amazing group of students and faculty at The Westside School in Seattle. For 15 months now we’ve been growing a new middle school, and a 1:1 initiative is part of that model.

We are in a constant cycle of evaluation as we seek to understand the impacts of mobile learning, standards-based assessment, and mixed-age groupings on student academic achievement and character development.

Below are some edtech-focused numbers based on the first 3 months of this school year:

Learning though action

No matter if you teach with a formal delivery method, with an emergent curriculum, or move across this spectrum based on community and content requirements, students must be engaged to learn. Engagement comes from action; and action is identified with verbs.

learning through action

To learn more, take a few minutes to read and watch this previous post, “Got Verbs?“.

Jobs from the future: Virtual World Economist

Editor note: discussing “jobs from the future” may be a creative compliment to high school classes studying economics, sociology, media literacy, entrepreneurism,  etc.

A few years ago most of us had never heard of social media managers, market research data miners or app developers. What will be the employment opportunities for recent grads in 2025? One new career for recent economics grads might be a virtual world economist.

Gaming and social networks are a global industry. Many systems allow participants to buy, sell, and trade in native currency that can be purchased with real-world money (Habbo Hotel creditsFacebook creditsWii points, etc). How will real-world currency fluctuations affect virtual-world currencies?

Seattle-based game-maker Valve recently hired an in-house economist to manage the interaction of their virtual markets (source:

Facebook reminds us of technology’s purpose

Facebook has just released a video that elevates their advertising platform to the ultimate goal of technology: to connect us, give us a sense of belonging, and make us more human. What is the price we pay for this desire to find a tribe?

For years now, my first class has been a discussion on the definition of technology. We use this word everyday but many of us can only give examples, not  a concise explanation. Technology is:

An object or invention created conciously by animal or human, changing the nature of something to make work more efficient or simplify life.

– 6th grade class in 2010

 Technology is the use of new knowledge to improve our lives by solving problems or making us more productive.

 – 5th grade class in 2011

Though my students have different answers year-to-year, we always focus on technology as a means of productivity, creativity, communication and identity.

Technology with intention in the classroom for optimal learning

We then jump immediately into the unintended consequences of technology – a conversation that illuminates our increased reliance on energy, on technology, and our loss of privacy.

This new ad is a great stepping off point for middle- and high-school conversations about both technology’s goals and its impact.

The 5 best digital identity resources

Digital identity & citizenship is an essential part of a relevant education, and of a connected life, in the 21st century. Here are the 5 best resources for learning about digital identity. These websites/documents are useful to parents and teachers interested in learning more about digital ethics, cyberbullying and netiquette:

  1. Net Cetera is a U.S. government produced community outreach toolkit that defines and discusses the impact of common social media platforms with a focus on cyber-safety.
  2. Meeting of Minds: Cross-Generational Dialogue of the Ethics of Digital Life is a 2009 synthesis of conversations between kids and adults that highlights the similarities and differences of each generation’s thoughts on digital media and ethics.
  3. CommonSenseMedia provides curriculum, advice, policy and reviews for parents and teachers to understand the media available today and its potential to influence our behavior and/or beliefs. Their recent research study, Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, is an enlightening survey and analysis of U.S. parents (published October 2011).
  4.’s Digital Citizenship Resource Roundup is a collection of articles related to netiquette and online safety. Their free publication, A Parent’s Guide to 21st Century Learning, documents excellent examples of appropriate technology-influenced classroom experiences.
  5. Digital ID: 21st Century Citizenship is “a toolkit of reliable information, resources, and guidelines to help teachers/parents/students learn how to be upstanding digital citizens.” This resource is a collaboration managed by Natalie Bernasconi & Gail Desler.

I recommend these resources to all schools, and we used some of these as platforms for parent education last year at one of the schools I work with. To understand what a classroom looks like when the information in these resources is put into practice, spend 5 minutes with Linda Yollis‘ fabulous 3rd grade classroom.

For an enthralling (and fictitious) account of a world in which we don’t address the need to live ethically online, spend 5 minutes watching Tom Scott’s “Flash Mob Gone Wrong” at Ignite London:

W.M. Hunt on collecting art

Art, Inspiration & Education

Last week the Seattle Art Museum hosted a talk by art curator & collector W.M. Hunt. The evening was part lecture, part memoir, part performance and was held in conjunction with Photo Center NW’s annual competition exhibition, for which Mr. Hunt was the juror.

As an educator, I found Hunt’s thoughts on finding and cultivating passion to be inline with my hopes for a learning community. He graciously agreed to sit down for an interview:


Are we a nation of Makers?

A few days ago I was waiting for a mechanic to call back to let me know if he could attend to some scary-looking warning lights on my car dash, when I ran across this beautifully made interview short by Andrew David Watson entitled Handmade Portraits: Liberty Vintage Motorcycles.

In the film, narrator Adam Cramer lements:

The largest problem facing us is the deindustrialization of America. Our ‘can-do’ American spirit is being lost.

As a lover of the Maker movement and former TinkerLab founder, I had the need to push back against this perception. I began Googling around until I had identified the error message, removed my dashboard, and swapped out the part.

Even as most car manufacturers and gadget producers give us less ability to maintain and modify the products we produce, there are movements underfoot that resemble the world of “New Work” in Doctorow’s Makers.  I hope we are moving back towards a culture of do-it-yourself and personally work to cultivate curiosity with my students. Here are some encouraging stories to support this claim:

As a middle school teacher, my job is often to seed a set of boundaries in the hopes that students will encounter and then hack their way up/over/around them. Sometimes this is a student who, frustrated by iMovie’s single-title limitation, discovers that exporting and then reimporting projects allows her to create layers of words over a clip. On another occasion, a student misses a self-imposed project deadline and uploads an impassioned YouTube apology complete with live puppy (with really sad puppy eyes) requesting an extension.

What do you believe? Is Cramer right that “our children don’t know the difference between a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips” or do you align with Muren’s philosophies?