Understanding the Digital Divide

I need to be careful. A new job and new learning gives me plenty of excuses not to write. My mind is occupied with all sorts of things that make it challenging to be be reflective sometimes. Writing and blogging has been a critical part of my own growth as an educator and I have no intentions of that changing but I need to force myself to write. This might be one of those occasions. 

Last week I visited two dramatically different conferences. FETC is one of the larger educational conferences you'll ever attend. While numbers have decreased significantly from the first time I attended over 11 years ago, there are still thousands that make their way to the Orange County Convention Center to drink in all things related to technology and learning. My first time there in 2001 I recall attending a pre-conference workshop on streaming video. I believe it was Miami-Dade County sharing how they were able to stream events such as football games and graduations to their community using a truck with TV studio equipment and servers coming out the wazoo. It took me about 15 minutes to realize that someone from Moose Jaw, SK with a Read the rest

Playing with ideas at Educon

This post was last updated on October 3rd, 2011 at 12:42 am

I don't go to conferences to get new ideas. I've been down that road. That's not to say that there's nothing for me to learn but as connected as I and many others are, it's rare that something will be shared that is completely new. I attend conferences to play with ideas. That's why Educon is a great conference. It fosters and encourages playing with ideas. 

I was involved in leading 2 conversations and both were learning experiences for me. Darren Kuropatwa and I led a session called "What's Wrong with This Picture?" I learned a lot during our planning stages and since Darren and I have never presented together before, it took some time to get our cadence and feel. We both felt there were some good things we did and also some things we would change if we were to present this again. Educon sessions generally focus around rich conversations using a variety of formats and strategies but the idea is for as many as possible to participate. Darren and I wanted to see if we could get our participants to play and … Read the rest

Saskatchewan Reform, Superman and the Media

This post was last updated on December 12th, 2011 at 03:15 pm

The education world is a buzz with the release of the new movie "Waiting for Superman". The media has embraced the movie and is joining the charge to make schools better. While everyone is in agreement that our system is broken, not everyone is siding with the methods and approach and even the pedagogy described in the movie. Here are three takes you should read before you get on the Oprah bandwagon.

Dear Ms. Winfrey

I'm Not Waiting For Superman

What Randi Weingarten Should Have Said

I also wrote a post a few years ago about Michelle Rhee and her methods.

The issues in the US have some similarities to our issues in Canada and Saskatchewan but we're now battling our own reform issues. Recently the Saskatoon Public School Division, our provinces largest district, implemented some new policies around grading that are in direct alignment with our new curriculum. In a nutshell, we're moving to outcomes based education and need to change some of our practices to stay true to that. The problem is that many of these practices appear to fly in the … Read the rest

Overcoming our Metric Obsessed World with Stories

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:03 am

I’ve been yacking about storytelling for a long time on my blog. Partly from a personal passion and love, partly because new technologies have allowed us to tell stories differently and partly because storytelling is at the core of who we are. But beyond all these reasons it’s becoming more and more apparent that we are living in a time where storytelling is now more than ever an essential skill to combat the obsessive world of metric based living.

“In this world in which we are so centered on metrics, those things that are not measured get left off the agenda,” he said. “You need a metric to fight a metric.”Technology brings ever more metrics. The strange thing is that nothing in them prevents us from using other lenses, too. But something in the culture now makes us bow before data and suspend disbelief. Sometimes metrics blind us to what we might with fewer metrics have seen.

I’ve been fortunate to work in an environment where metrics and hard data have only been a small portion of determining value in education. I’ve operated in work places … Read the rest

The Way it Ought to Be

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:03 am

I'm at Educon.
If you're not familiar with Educon, it's a conference/conversation hosted by Chris Lehmann and the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA.

I was fortunate to be able to spend Thursday and Friday hanging around the school. Here's what I saw:

  • Lots of smiles.
  • Loud classrooms
  • A principal's office that looked more like grand central with equal numbers of staff and students talking and working, coming and going
  • Teachers who discussed personal issues with students
  • A brief power outage that didn't paralyze learning despite them being a 1:1 school
  • A lack of emphasis on technology
  • Students occasionally off task
  • Students excited to talk with adults

None of these things are particularly amazing and are all things you could find in many, if not all schools in North America.  I didn't see one thing that couldn't  be done almost anywhere. The teachers are good teachers but they aren't doing anything I haven't seen before. So what's the big deal?

There are many more observations and insights that one would make beyond the few I've listed but I'm not sure that any additions would tell us that "… Read the rest