The 2012 ‘Backpack List’

Leave a comment

A Collaborative Review with @acmontgomery | @digital_2_print | @courtsinsession | @todompol07

There is a famous rap lyric that a ‘not so shy’ group member sang unashamedly when we came together to debate, collaborate and create the most impressive list of online educational tools that will help serve classroom needs going forward…

Rob the jewelry store and tell em make me a grill…”  well unlike our good friend Nelly we robbed the Internet to help foster progressive educational ideas and concepts:

Behold… the 2012 ‘Backpack List’ – Happy Investigating!

#1 Discovery Educator Network
Following trend that encourages network collaboration to further solve global challenging issues, like those effecting education, the Discovery channel’s interactive community for teachers, parents, students generates diverse content to help both inside and outside the classroom.

#2 Zotero
Research papers begin long before one hits the University scene but thanks to this program – this site helps students exchange/store/annotate online resources.

#3 ABCya.com
Online gaming & app resource which provides entertaining ways to learn elementary mathematics; check the Tech & Learning magazine article.

#4 ASSIST app
Our list would simply not be complete without giving a local Texas shout out to the innovative company All In Learning; if you’ve seen the classroom where students use a ‘clickr’ to take tests?  Oh ya – that’s just one headline to many these guys claim ownership to.

#5 Edmodo
Coming hot off the press and conference proceedings at SXSWedu, CEO Nic Borg sets the bar to help build a community model which helps leverage social media advantages and elevate educations’s societal role.

#6 Khan Academy
Think that a school system can’t be built on video alone?  Think again – because to date Khan Academy has delivered 134,600,469 video lessons.  Learn at your leisure – now that’s an interesting idea.

#7 Scratch
Built by the friendly MIT Think Tank folks, this interactive tool helps kiddos between 8 and 12 learn to code.

#8 LiveMocha
Online conversation stands to require a certain familiarity as technology advances and expands the global village; stop by this net-based community to learn one (or more) of the world’s 38 more common languages and offer your own expertise.

#9 USATodayCollege.com
In a way this Twitter feed serves as the last frontier / opening chapter to the transition which moves a student from primary to higher education; it’s an unnerving time but USA Today hopes that conversing about this adjustment will help.

#10 TEDEd
This extensive online lecture series follows along the simple premise and quote these truly are ‘Lessons worth Sharing’.

If there are any honorable mentions or other neat-o tech tools which help education – please feel free to share and send links!


Rydell HS: Education as a Village

Leave a comment

Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

“Journalism has been formed by the convergence of many miscellaneous elements over several centuries and the variety of practices and the complexity of relationships between new writers and the publications they wrote for… even at this early point were manifest in the range of different names by which they and their output were described: authors, curranters, mercurists, newsmen, newsmongers, diurnalists, gazeteers, and (eventually) journalists.”  – Martin Conboy
pg 23 from Journalism: A Critical History

Are you wondering if I’m going to pull a ‘IMDb Trivia’ question and ask what epic early 70s movie featured the above high school in its opening musical number?  Not exactly, but if you’re curious it’s acclaimed Rydell High School (Venice Beach, CA) selected to host Grease 2’s filming.

Now on to a more academic discussion; Let’s consider the community cast surrounding Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, the fellow Pink Ladies, T Birds, Rydell Highers and of course the ever entertaining faculty who must tolerate/discipline the bevy of ensuing semester shenanigans, staged motorcycle rallies, and football season: Mr. Stuart, Miss Mason, Coach Calhoun, the charming Principal McGee.  Martin Conboy’s thoughts describing how modern journalism’s history reflects an ongoing evolution that continues to blend both writer roles and publication platforms, certainly mirrors a similar pattern when looking at the inner operations effecting modern educational institutions.  The proverbial idea rings true toward both knowledge institutions: It takes a village... and a diverse one at that.

Looking beyond the obvious idea that cooperation, common experience, and connectivity help set the foundations so that such institutions experience success, Conboy also hints that it’s paramount to advocate diversity/fluid communication between niche community facets so that the end result offers broader perspective, increased creativity, and stronger performance.  Although a newsroom context must promote dialogue between advertisers, reporters, editors, and publishers, likewise a classroom context must meld a conversation between principal, superintendent, parent, faculty, administrators, and students.  A combination requiring time, technological advances, developing relationships, and continuing to review operational practices – as Conboy so eloquently points out- will only solidify the strong foundation pertaining to journalism, but also to education.

So if the modern education litmus success test measures how well educational institutions blend the infinite range of resources, personalities, and communication between one another then its possibly fair to offer that the (ironically sing-song) cast from the hit TV series Glee might be just the type of K12 environment parents vote to build locally.  Again, the recurring trend stands paramount- diversity brought together to learn, debate, heck even sing when the mood so strikes the classroom.  Upon striving to understand Conboy’s above observations and relate them to how a 21st century classroom works, try imagining a newsroom, science lab, museum gallery or film set void everything except one person running the show.  Certainly possible – but not at all practical; when an innovative domain (schools, museums, the arts, etc) loose the expansive, colorful, misfit cast of characters who each contribute to the holistic narrative- collaboration amongst the community falls away leaving only a stagnant, archaic structure.

Despite the challenges facing today’s educational institutions, it’s quite fortunate that digital media continues to open never-before engaging opportunities and ways to generate discussion between participants both inside and outside the classroom.  Elearning trends such as class blogs, school Facebook Fan Pages, Teacher Twitter accounts reveal that communication between a school’s community doesn’t necessarily need to occur between 1st and 8th period.  Arguably when one sets out to pursue 21st century knowledge, they’ll need the ability to engage openly.. and also possibly sing and dance.

Teachers and Standards- Before the Internet

Leave a comment

In order to cover what is undoubtedly a tremendous amount of information to sift through, our team had decided to break K-12 education down into the following 5 pillars:

1. Tools of the Trade/Hardware

2. Teachers and Standards

3. European Influence

4. Race Issues

5. Public vs. Private Economies

Regarding the above pillars, we also concluded that our research would focus on the area of public education beginning from the early 1800s… in other words, the pre-internet days of education. The particular section I was assigned to research was the one titled “Teachers and Standards.” The main question that needed to be asked was, “how have teachers changed, both in their qualifications and teaching methods since the days of the one-room school house?”

As I delved through academic journals and websites I seemed to only be finding bits and pieces of what I was looking for and it was only filling a minuet portion of my education timeline. It was only when I broadened my search to the “history of education in America” that I found what I was looking for. Among one of the most helpful websites I discovered was that of PBS.org. It seems that one must look at the changing characteristics of the K-12 classroom in order to discover what the requirements were to be a teacher during the earliest days of schooling. In other words, as the environment of the classroom changed, so did the qualifications of the teacher.

The earliest indications of schooling began in the 1600s when the sole subject taught was on Protestantism. This is relevant to mention because teachers during this time were primarily men, which later would change. In the 1800s, schoolteachers had very little educational backgrounds. In fact, according to James Carter, an education reformer in the 1820s, teachers had rarely any education beyond what they had learned in the very schools they had to teach in. Interestingly, in the rural schoolrooms of America, it wasn’t unusual to find a local farmer teaching the class. During the nineteenth century, the American schoolhouse often consisted of one-room where students of various ages would come together to be taught by one teacher. Interestingly, the singular teacher responsible for the education of these students was often an unmarried woman who could very well be younger than some of the students she taught (PBS.org). The early school curriculum consisted of few subject. They primarily consisted of math, writing and reading. Teachers also made it a point to teach young students good manners. Misbehaving in the classroom was obviously unacceptable. As the American education system progressed, teachers were forced to adapt to the societal changes as well. In the 1950s, segregation and social inequality plagued schools and created a rift in the educational system. Teachers became more than educators, they became political activists as well. At the conclusion of our timeline we find educators adapting to the cutting edge tools that are defining our classrooms and helping to pave the way for education in the 21st century.

Read Rheingold. Save A School.

Leave a comment

Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

When the Pupil is ready… the Master appears…” Buddhist Proverb
This semester’s endeavor succinctly boils down to a single all-encompassing goal: Save Education.  I like a challenge.  Not so many jokes aside, a significant portion of my graduate work to date has actually been largely student-centric, a sort of Texas-based quest aiming to understand how the emerging digital landscapes can be leveraged to better prepare the world’s future work force.  And although countless articles linger as quality resources both digitally and in hard copy (taking up a room without apology in my home office space) – Howard Rheingold’s works still remain supreme… for reasons totally unrelated to hat choice.

Let’s entertain for a moment that in the not so distant future – one morning all 7 billion global citizens awake and as if by magic – sitting in close proximity neatly next to them are the following three things: #1) some type of tasty breakfast beverage i.e. coffee #2) A copy of Rheingold’s Smart Mobs #3) and a essay entitled The Art of Hosting Good Conversation Online also by Rheingold.

The above scenario operates under the idea that universal literacy exists, so if necessary will pretend the magic hit all individuals aspiring to positively change education.  We’ll also play the curiosity card here.  Moving on…

I’m going to go Dr. Sesus for a moment and offer that I don’t necessarily care where these individuals who’ve just been magically gifted the two most important works by Rheingold to date read them.  They could read them in a chair, or they could read them without hair.  They could read them on a dock, or they could read them next to a clock.  The only thing that matters at all is that they read them cover to cover, or in the essay case, page to page.  The end result?  When they’re done with these readings we will now have a significant/arguably influential population savvy to Rheingold’s teaching philosophies, applicable to reinventing the classroom space.

These symbiotic texts discuss several perspectives which directly impact a myriad of educational components such as classroom participants, curriculum, research methodology, etc; but moreover they also take care to address educational settings that both include and exclude online connectivity.  Smart Mobs examines how certain types of super-efficient mobile communication devices spread instant, ubiquitous communication rampantly. This lends way t a fundamentally new form of connectivity (in the classroom, in the home, in the government, etc) and what consequences/cultural shifts will appear.

Comparatively, the Rheingold essay mentioned itemizes several governing categories that any proactive online discussion wanting to bring about change must include.  Rheingold systematically organizes his thoughts similarly to how Washington lists the 110 ‘Rules of Civility’, and any leadership entity that wishes to impact education proactively online will benefit reading the essay.  The commandant lists under ‘A Good Online Discussion is…’ even offers an incredibly helpful check list.

Although the road to reconfiguring educational environments so that they leverage the powerful digital tools avaiable to remains fraught with challenge; each time a colleague sends over an email of thanks for sharing Rheingold’s teachings, I chant the mantra ‘Read Rheingold, Save A School’ just a little louder and my optimism that things will slowly evolve increases.  Thanks for being Howard and showing us that our educational systems can still be influential, even when they avoid the Almanac teaching tool.

Bullying Mob

Leave a comment

As indicated by their name, smart mobs are not always beneficial. Lynch mobs and mobocracies continue to engender atrocities. The same convergence of technologies that opens new vistas of cooperation also makes possible universal surveillance economy and empowers bloodthirsty as well as the altruistic. Like every previous leap in technological power, the new convergence of wireless computation and social communication will enable people to improve life and liberty in some ways and to degrade it in others. The same technology has the potential to be used as both a weapon of social control and a means of resistance. Even the beneficial effects will have side effects (xviii.)

This author was ahead of his time. Inventors and creators are quick to point out a positive outlook and how beneficial the features will be for the growing society of technology users.  But the harmful and negative features are too quickly dismissed until something horrible happens and they are forced in to the light. The Internet and text messaging has enhanced the bully mob. This mob is very evident throughout K-12 grades. Bullying, never being a positive thing, was able to be controlled and handled pre-technology and Internet days, but when they discovered that their bullying could have a large online audience, it became a monster overnight.

I have learned that Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are not bad platforms, but it is the people using these social networks that are causing these networks to become a negative playground. There was a story in the newspaper a year or so ago, and it detailed how a young man in college was filmed having sexual relations with another person. The young mans roommate had positioned the web cam on his computer to face his roommates bed, and all of this activity was streamed to the school and whoever else wanted to take a look. The young man killed himself once he found out that he had been filmed. Everyday middle and high school children are taking to blogs and social networks to post embarrassing pictures of their classmates, harassing them online and making up false tales. It is hard for these actions to be ignored when young children begin to take their own lives. As these smart mobs and bully mobs grow bigger and as technology creation moves at accelerated speeds, let us all take a moment to pause. In this moment consider the negative effects that texting a picture, degrading somebody on their Facebook page and filming them with an iPad will have on our youth. As the creator and user, ask yourself is this product really worth somebody taking their life.

An abundance of products and technologies being created will say that it will better the world and your life, but in reality is it?

Living In A Technology World

Leave a comment

Several years ago, 2005 I believe, I took a trip to India to visit my dad who was there on business. With the world’s second largest population coming in well over a million people, it put the chaos of NYC streets to shame. During my visit, my father and I went to see the Taj Mahal up in Agra, which was a quick commuter flight away. The plane was filled with suits and other business types traveling for work- much like what fills a Southwest Airlines flight during the weekday. In American aviation we know there are strict rules regarding the use of electronic devices before take-off and around landing time. The case was no different on Jet Airways. However, what happened as soon as the wheels hit the runway at our destination was something that I had not ever seen before. I began hearing the sounds of phones, palm pilots, and who knows what else turning on. I heard “Hello Motto” and those weird spacey chimes Sprint uses. As I looked around, the plane was full of nearly everyone turning his or her devices on, essentially at the exact same time. I found the situation to be rather humorous because I felt a sense of urgency in everyone needing to be connected to his or her devices, asap. That kind of urgency on an airplane is only witnessed when oxygen masks fall from the ceiling!

Fast forward a bunch of years to present day where this scene has become routine and common in the lives of most around the world, especially with Americans. Communication scholar Marshall McLuhan referred to this kind of media as an, “extension of man.” Just like an arm or a leg, our usage of media devices have become a part of our lives, and they are necessary to create virtual communities and the like.

In our school systems, middle and high school teachers are becoming increasingly more aware of the growing trend in technology and its presence in every child’s backpack. With rules restricting their usage during school hours, is it just a matter of time before they become integrated into coursework? When Howard Rheingold was in Tokyo, he spoke with Kenny Hirschhorn a chief strategist for a telecomm company called Orange. He told Rheingold to think of the mobile telephone as, “evolving into a ‘remote control for your life’,” (pg. 11).  He, Hirschhorn, then retrieved a soda from a company machine using his phone.

The question I’m asking here is could this kind of technology be integrated into schools, and if so would it fly with teachers? At present, most in school see a phone or iPad as a distraction during school hours. Some schools with an Internet connection block access to social media sites to prevent students from getting “distracted.” But what if select classes encouraged their usage? A class that teaches young scholars how to work with blogs and stay connected with worldly happenings on Twitter. Ask a young student who the Vice President currently is and I bet you get some puzzled looks. If technological devices are becoming increasingly more common, then we might as well teach Millennial’s how to appropriately use it and toward a good purpose.