Pencil-Pusher: A Satire

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“I’d really like you to meet with the new hire. She comes highly recommended and we are lucky to have hired her..”

“But?”

“Well, she really needs some help with pencil skills.”

“How can she be an excellent teacher if she can’t use a pencil?”

I already knew the usual responses to this question:

  • She is from a school that didn’t use pencils
  • “Seasoned” teachers like her didn’t learn to use a pencil in their teacher preparation courses at university.
  • She is so busy being an excellent teacher that she just hasn’t had time to learn to worry about “basic stuff” like pencils.

“She comes to us highly recommended by her previous school.”

“Her previous school praised her for her lack of skills?”

“Of course not. That school is not a 1:1 pencil school like ours, so we really cannot blame her for her low pencil skills. She is a seasoned professional who comes to us with lots of qualifications and experience.”

“Did you explain to her that we are a 1:1 pencil school? That every student and teacher on our campus is expected to use the pencils we provide them to improve teaching and learning?”

It felt weird saying that. I know that pencils alone don’t change behavior and attitudes, don’t suddenly provide us with knowledge and insights. It’s what we can learn to do with pencils, slowly and through consistent, deliberate application that will allow us to truly excel at what we do.

“She says that she saw that on our website when she applied for the position. We told her that she will be issued a Dixon-Ticonderoga pencil when she arrives here in August but she told us that all of previous pencil experience is with Faber-Castell pencils. We reassured her that these days pencils have many common features and that her skills should be transferable.”

“That’s true, but you cannot transfer skills that you do not have.”

“This is where you come in: We told her that we have excellent support here at our school. We told her that you provide hands-on training for individuals and small groups, that you are available for one-to-one help, that you can even visit her classes to see how she teaches and where she might be able to integrate pencils into her lessons.”

All of these things we true, of course, but something was bothering me.

“Didn’t her previous school also provide training and support for pencil integration?”

“Of course, why?”

Countdown Timers download | SourceForge.net

Had a request for help finding a classroom time early in the new school year. The teacher needed a way to countdown the time in her class. Because we are a mixed-platform school I wanted to offer her a tool that would work on my Windows/Ubuntu laptop as well as her Apple laptop. This one met all of our criteria and made the teacher very happy.

Countdown Timers download | SourceForge.net

Countdown Timers download | SourceForge.net.

10 places where anyone can learn to code

Mitch Resnick says what everyone is thinking: The so-called “digital natives” are good users of technology when it comes to text, chat, and games…”but that doesn’t make you fluent.”

TED Blog

blog_learn_to_code_art_revTeens, tweens and kids are often referred to as “digital natives.” Having grown up with the Internet, smartphones and tablets, they’re often extraordinarily adept at interacting with digital technology. But Mitch Resnick, who spoke at TEDxBeaconStreet in November, is skeptical of this descriptor. Sure, young people can text and chat and play games, he says, “but that doesn’t really make you fluent.”

[ted_talkteaser id=1657]Fluency, Resnick proposes in today’s talk, comes not through interacting with new technologies, but through creating them. The former is like reading, while the latter is like writing. He means this figuratively — that creating new technologies, like writing a book, requires creative expression — but also literally: to make new computer programs, you actually must write the code.

The point isn’t to create a generation of programmers, Resnick argues. Rather, it’s that coding is a gateway to broader learning.“When you learn to read, you…

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Empowered Use Policy from Scott McLeod

Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?

I have long struggled with the existence of lengthy, prohibitive Acceptable Use Policies which serve only to provide the illusion of CYA for schools/teachers while having a chilling effect on teaching and learning with the tools we are putting into teacher and student hands.

In my own work with a 1:1 laptop program I have been able to create a highly simplified set of rule: Three Rules for Laptops. These three simple rules (inspired by Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics) have allowed us to shift the responsibility for how laptops are used from the teacher and a laundry list of forbidden activities to the student and an internalized set of general parameters.

Scott McLead has created a similar set of parameters for general access to and use of school technology resources. Instead of an AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) he posits an EUP (Empowered Use Policy) which is fully described in his blog post below:

Instead of an AUP, how about an EUP (Empowered Use Policy)?

In short:

  1. Be empowered. Do awesome things. Share with us your ideas and what you can do. Amaze us.
  2. Be nice. Help foster a school community that is respectful and kind.
  3. Be smart and be safe. If you are uncertain, talk with us.
  4. Be careful and gentle. Our resources are limited. Help us take care of our devices and networks.

I love this list and will be posting it in my classroom Monday. I would also love to start a discussion at our school about an EUP rather than an AUP. I think the change would do us good!

Incidentally, Scott McLeod’s ideas are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International copyright license as are mine. Please reshare!

25 Tips for Successful Online Course Facilitation

As I gear up for a new series of Moodle workshops (Moodle Basics for 2.7 and Moodle Admin) these are great reminders for me. I will be using the completion tracking and conditional release features of Moodle to make the most of Tip 10 (“Monitor learner progress, participation in activities and completion of assessment tasks and follow-up as required.”).

Learning Snippets

Concept of Hand with Electronic Fingerprints

Teaching in the online environment is quite different from teaching in the classroom and as such has a number of unique characteristics and limitations. The following guide (based on my experience as an online facilitator and learner) is designed to help you before, during and after an online teaching event.

Before the Online Course Starts:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the course delivery structure and the site/platform
  2. Develop an online delivery plan/schedule
  3. Check that all resources, activities and links work (i.e. they open in a new window), are current and relevant to the learning experience
  4. Update your contact information
  5. Contact learners, welcome them to the course and provide clear log-in instructions

At the Beginning of the Online Course:

  1. Check that learners can log-in and provide support and troubleshoot as needed
  2. Facilitate introductions and community-building activities at beginning of the course e.g. have everyone introduce themselves in a café style forum
  3. Set clear…

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Google Docs, Sheets And Slides Get New Home Screens With A Taste Of Material Design

So I read through Google’s Material Design site this summer and was wondering what these guidelines were for. Now we can see the first stages of a re-thinking of the Google Apps suite using several of these ideas. (https://www.google.com/design/)

TechCrunch

Google has rolled out a new look for its Docs, Sheets and Slides productivity web app suite, with new homepages for each that present your content in a visual grid and that introduce just a hint of Material Design into the look and feel of the apps, with bold edge-to-edge fields of color and some basic animations.

The new start pages for Docs, Sheets and Slides do make it a lot easier to find your relevant file and start working on it, but it’s a mobile paradigm brought to the desktop instead of the list-based design that previously let users navigate their files, which more closely approximated the hierarchical file folder system those used to Finder and Windows Explorer might be more comfortable with. Luckily you can switch to that style of navigation with a single click.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the new look, and I hope…

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The New Information Age

Web 3.0 is already here and it looks pretty great!

TechCrunch

LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman said, recently, “that if Web 1.0 involved  go search, get data and some limited interactivity, and if Web 2.0 involves  real identities and  real relationships , then Web 3.0 will be  real identities generating massive amounts of data .”

Reid is a visionary and certainly had this right. But the information that Reid described is just the tip of the iceberg. We are already gathering a thousand times more data than that. The growth is exponential, and the innovation opportunities are even bigger than Silicon Valley can imagine they are.

I’m going to explain why I believe this. But let me start with a short history lesson.

Over the centuries, we gathered a lot of data on things such as climate, demographics, and business and government transactions. Our farmers kept track of the weather so that they would know when to grow their crops; we had land…

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