Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Favorite Artists - The Top Ten At This Moment

Dr. Paige Baggett and I were discussing art and artists earlier this week. Paige is a Chagall fan and was energized by seeing his wonderful mosaic depicting the seasons in Chicago that is about the size of a freight train boxcar. No need to ask about her #1, but I wondered about what other artists sent her artistic sensibilities reeling. I asked. She responded: "Do your top 10 and I'll do mine." It looks as if she has already done hers. I won't peek at hers until I finish mine and we will see if there are overlaps.

It is harder than you think. Here is my list... For the moment. And a caveat: all of those selected here are "famous" and dead. I have some favorites who are not famous, and some not dead either. I'll will share some of them with you in a later post.

I have added a sentence or two to explain my choices.

Pablo Picasso
Picasso did everything, and in great quantity. And the quality, for the most part, was exceptional. When in Madrid in 1996 I saw two special Picasso exhibits celebrating the 25th anniversary of the installation of Guernica at the Museo Reina Sophia. A large sample of Picasso's "studies" - actually finished paintings for the most part - for the Guernica were on display. Picasso created over 200 of these full size paintings/studies during the month in which he created Guernica. What an astounding feat!Guernica

Walker Evans
On occasion I pretend to be a photographer. Walker Evans is one of the best photographers ever. The photographs he did for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men are among his most moving. They continue to touch my heart. Take a look at Allie Mae Burroughs and you will understand.
Allie Mae Burroughs by Walker Evans

It's not just Modigliani's nudes that fascinate me, but his other paintings and his sculptures as well. There is something about the stretched out proportions that intrigues me, also a characteristic of a sculptor's work found later in my list of 10. There are not many Modiglianis in existence since he died at such a young age. I have been fortunate to see an unusually large number of them in special shows in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. This is his Red Nude painted in 1917.
Modigliani Red Nude, 1917

Van Gogh
Ten years of productive work (and only about 5 really count) and that's all we have. How unfortunate! I have been able to see a great number of Van Goghs in Amsterdam, Paris, New York and elsewhere. All are stunning! How many artists can you say that about? I feel blessed when I am in the company of a Van Gogh. I had a tough time selecting one for this post. I'm heading for Arles this Christmas so I selected Van Gogh's Room at Arles, 1889.
Van Gogh's Room at Arles, 1889

Judith I, 1901My friend, Walter Lippincott, has had a print of Judith I, 1901 hanging in his house as long as I can remember. It fascinated me when I first saw it at Walter's almost 45 years ago. It still does now. Between 1965 and now I have come to love and admire many other of Klimt's works. My selection below is The Virgins, 1913. I selected it since I have a huge Venetian plate that is based on this painting. I love it. And I love it's source. Unfortunately, I have seen only 3 or 4 of Klimt's paintings in person. I saw a lot of his drawings at a special exhibition in Paris. I keep looking!
The Virgins, 1913

As with Modigliani, I am taken with the elongated figures of Giacometti. I have seen many in person. They always provoke a sense of awe, a sense of humility in me. I do not know the official name of the following. I'll call it Three Figures.
Giacometti sculpture of three human figures

Color. Bold color. Lines and shapes. I don't think I have ever seen a Matisse I didn't like. I have seen a lot of Matisse. Years ago at the Cone Collection in the Baltimore Museum of Art. More recently on a truly overwhelming visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Here is Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937. You know I love purple!
Matisse: Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937

Oh my. I could go on forever about Monet. How did he do it? Get close to a Monet. Move slowly backward, if the crowd will let you. It keeps changing. Walk forward. It changes again. How did he know what the painting would look like when he painted it within an arms length? A mystery to me. But a great mystery. I love Monet. I especially love his "leftovers," the paintings he did not sell. And in many cases did not sign. See them at the Musee Marmottan in Paris, a museum I did not discover for much too long a time. And do not miss perhaps the most stunning installation of any artist's works: Monet's Les Nymphéas at Musee de l'Orangerie in the Jardin de Tuileries, Paris.
Les Nympheas

If you have ever visited The Accademia in Florence and seen The David in person you would need to know no more. I was there once when there were only two other people in the room. Hundreds were there on each of my next five visits. But they were fewer in number than the seeming thousands that forced my eyes permanently upward in the Sistine Chapel to view Michelangelo's great fresco ceiling. Struck with awe is appropriate when viewing Michelangelo's work. With a crowd or while alone.
Michelangelo's David

Ben Shahn
If bakers can have 13 donuts in a dozen, the I can have eleven artists in my list of my top ten favorite artists. My last two are famous and dead, as are the rest on my list. But they are different in that I have had dinner (on separate occasions) with both of them Ben Shahn and Thomas Hart Benton. Shahn was a neighbor and friend of the Assistant to the Chair of the Political Science Department of Livingston College (Rutgers University) when I served as Chair 1970-72). Consequently, I was invited to dinner with Mr. Shahn and his wife. He regaled with stories of friends and foes alike, and enjoyed being able to say "I'd give my right arm for that" to accquaintances who did not know he was left handed. Since President Truman connects with my other member of this set, here in Shahn's Truman: NOTE The following photograph will be replaced soon with a photograph of a poster of Truman by Ben Shahn that is now a part of the John H. Strange Art Collection at the University of South Alabama.
Harry Truman, drawing by Ben Shahn about 1948

Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart, as I knew him, lived across the street from my uncle Randall Jessee in Kansas City, MO. There were both friends of President Truman and the three of them gathered in the basement of my uncle's house to drink eggnog and swap stories every Christmas season. Thomas Hart painted the mural that is the centerpiece of the Truman Library in Independence, MO. President Truman and my uncle also contributed to the painting. If you look closely you can't miss their brush strokes in the sky on the far right of the mural. My uncle and my aunt both served as models for some of the figures in the mural. Uncle Randall is immediately to the left of the covered wagon above the door. Aunt Fern sits to the right and slightly below that same wagon. Meeting artists in person increases the chances for them being included in your top ten. Ben Shahn and Thomas Hart Benton merit their place on my list on their own. But knowing them helps!
Independence and the Opening of the West
Independence and the opening of the west, Thomas Hart Benton's mural at the Truman Library, Independence, Missouri

and Persephone, 1939. I can't figure out why, but I feel a need to include it in my post!
Persephone by Thomas Hart Benton, 1939

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Response to Jenny Black - A Report From My Crystal Ball

Man with crystal ball
Jenny Black, in her EDM310 Midterm Reflection, wrote:
I have a personal one for you Dr. Strange. I don't mean this in a derogatory way, but I was just wondering why you are so sure that our schools are going to become web-based? Does that mean we won't be going to school anymore, and school will be considered our own computers? I'm still not exactly sure of what you mean by web-based schools. I honestly would like to know what you believe is going to happen, in detail.

My response: Your questions are not derogatory at all. They have stimulated me to clarify and write down what I think will happen in the profession of which I have been a part for 46 years. And I don't think "web-based schools" is my term so I will not respond to what that means.

You really want to know what I see in my Crystal Ball? It changes from time to time, especially when I wipe it to clear the dust or fog. But here is what I would say today:

These predictions are pretty clear:
1. Most information will be collected and processed electronically.
2. Those who do not have the electronic tools to use with this information, or who do not know how to use them, or who refuse to use them for a variety of reasons, will be seriously disadvantaged, especially economically.
3. Text will have run its course as a separate medium of communication. It will be used only with other media, especially video, audio and images.
4. The communities and individuals with whom individuals interact will be worldwide and even though many of these relationships will be virtual they will be important and intense.
5. Many businesses will be radically changed or non existent: newspapers, book publishers (print), television stations, radio stations, hard disk manufacturers, some computer companies (old school), schools, churches, universities and may others.

Now specifically about schools and universities in the next 15-20 years. I will admit however, that the crystal ball is a bit foggier.
1. If schools (K-12) still exist in 15-20 years (2025-2030) they will provide very different functions for society:
a) They will be baby sitting institutes in many instances
b) They will be fewer in number as a result of a great shift away from them by parents who want to maximize the learning of their children
c) They may be, as one of my cynical friends says, prisons. I think that may be too harsh a term. Daytime Detention Centers might be more appropriate.
d) They may be centers of evaluation - where assessment and certifications take place
e) They may be physical activity centers - operators of sports teams, exercise activities
2. If universities still exist in 15-20 years (2025-2030)
a) They will be centers of evaluation and certification
b) They will be centers for advising as to the most important strategies for learning
c) They will be centers for research financed by government agencies and, in some cases, industry
d) They may be operators of sports businesses which may be farm teams of professional teams and/or operators of sports institutes in what remains of "schools"
e) They may offer apprenticeships through their research centers to apprentices of high standing
f) A few may be collective organizations of independent producers of multimedia "learning" products, much like a firm that provides an "umbrella" to independent agents

Do I think K-12 institutes will still exist in some form? Yes, but public support for public schools paid for by everyone will be severely undermined and efforts will be made for the parents of students to pay for all school costs.
Do I think universities will still exist? I am certain that a few will, but the number of colleges and universities will be radically reduced.
Do I think there will be teachers. Yes, some people will be called that. But they will not resemble teachers as we know them today. This applies to both K-12 and universities.

Am I eager for this to happen? In some ways yes. In some ways no. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant. It cannot be stopped. So I need to decide what I am going to do. I have an answer: My goal is to prepare my students as best I can to be leaders of the transitions that will occur as opposed to being victims of the changes that are ahead.

Where will most learning take place? Independently, in family groups, in small community organizations that take advantage of all the new technologies that will have been invented by 2025. Remember the Internet is just 15 years old. Cloud computing as we know it today is less than 5 years old. The ability to communicate instantly, freely, and with video throughout the world is about 3 years old. That is only 20% of the time shortest frame I am reporting from my crystal ball. In my Class Blog post for October 21, 2010Think About This! I discussed Apple. Apple is the second largest company in the world based on the value of its stock multiplied by the number of shares outstanding. Only Exxon-Mobile is larger. And 60% - yes 60% - of Apple's revenues come from products that did not exist 3 years ago. Newspapers are failing as we speak. Huge booksellers, having put most of the small books sellers out of business, are going into bankruptcy themselves. Almost all video rental stores are already closed because of bankruptcy. The way doctors are organized as well as their interaction with hospitals are radically different than they were 10 years ago. Music producers and distributors are very different than they were 10 years ago. Twenty percent of people in front of television sets between the hours of 8 and midnight are watching Netflix films. The first audio CDs were released 18 years ago in 1982. How many are you buying these days? I could go on and on. The point is that change is becomming more rapid in all aspects of our society.

How confident am I in my predictions? I think I am probably wrong. If I am it will be because the changes I predict will happen more quickly than I expect.

What do you have to do?
1. Master the new tools.
2. Make sure your children master them.
3. Participate in the invention of what learning will look like next.
4. Be prepared to reinvent your job, and probably your profession, many times during your lifetime.
5. Do not be fooled into thinking that you will be a "teacher" like your teachers were.
6. Master the art of problem solving, asking questions, adapting to change, directing change. These skills will be the key to economic survival.
7. Learn Chinese (unless they adopt English first).

Thanks for getting me to write this down. It will be interesting to see what kind of responses I get.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Think About This!

Graph showing Apple sales 2005-2010
Change - It is Vital - In Business and Education

Think about this:
60% of Apple's sales are from products that did not exist three years ago!
Source: Asymco

Think about this:
Do you still believe that schools and the roles of educators can remain the same?

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Do I Evaluate Them?

Friday October 8 a tweet of @tucksoon caught my eye. He asked How Would You Assess This?

If YouTube is blocked and you cannot watch the video, Click Here.

The link in the tweet takes us to a post in the blog Education Stormfront. The author of the post is crudbasher who describes himself as "a Teacher and Education Futurist at Full Sail University". Two main points are made by crudbasher: 1) The skills and knowledge of Yeol Eum Sum cannot be evaluated by standardized tests that are the mainstay of education today and 2) the internet and the new communication tools will allow the Yeols of the world to interact with equally creative souls resulting in an "outburst of creativity ... like nothing since the Renaissance".

A Similar Question from Me

How also would you evaluate the teaching skills of two of my undergraduate students who assist me in EDM310? I have three undergraduate assistants who manage the EDM310 lab and assist me in commenting on student blogs. Last Friday I saw a comment left by Anthony Capps and Stephen Akins on the blog of Carey Dekle. If YouTube is blocked for you, Click Here. Carey had watched Wendy Drexler's The Networked Student (if YouTube is blocked, click here) and a video by one of Wendy's 7th grade students entitled My Personal Learning Environment. If YouTube is blocked, Click Here. Here is the comment left by Anthony on Carey's Blog:

Hi Carey,

Your response was a little against the grain in contrast to some of your peers... So Stephen and I decided to make a podcast response to it. Please watch our response by following this link.

We have a question for you at the end, please respond in this thread or with your own video which you can post on my blog!


Watch the video Stephen and Anthony made. Then answer my original question: How would you evaluate Anthony and Stephen if you were assessing their teaching skills. I might say that their response to Carey was spontaneous and had not been encouraged or condoned by me. But I did react in an additional comment on Carey's post and in an email to Anthony and Stephen. Here's what I said to Carey (and Anthony and Stephen): "You are really lucky to get a 'non-traditional' comment on your blog post. A podcast reply! My responses have been just text. Anthony and Stephen have set an example, however, that I must learn from.

I am eager to read/hear/watch your response. How will you reply?"

Standardized test? Impossible. But I can and did evaluate Stephen and Anthony. And you did too if you followed this story. And you would be delighted to have them teaching with you, wouldn't you? Even they have no degree and are merely undergraduates.

Another question. How would you evaluate the 7th grader? My students, after watching her video, indicated that her PLE was a lot better than their PLNs. Of course. That's what I intended. They have another 8 weeks to continue working on their PLNs before I evaluate them (without a standardized test, I might add). And they have a lifetime to continue making their PLNs more powerful and important.

This is what we need to foster. And if we must change our evaluation techniques to do that we better start immediately!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Connie and Her iPad

i pad
Of what use is an iPad? That is what I asked myself when I pre-ordered mine so that I would get it immediately upon release. Of course my question did not deter my desire to have one on Day One. I am an Apple gadget freak.

What happened? Well, we decided to take a trip and since the first shipments had no G3 access, I had to order another one for travel. The same question applied then too, but was also ignored by me.

Meanwhile the first iPad was being used. In the kitchen. I had bought a keyboard/stand and tried that out on the kitchen counter where there are lots of empty plugs. Connie (my wife) immediately began looking up recipes and using the iPad on a stand. The iPad became an electronic cook book

Now a bit about Connie. Connie is NOT a computer person. Connie's number one passion is Golf. Computing is at the bottom, whatever number that would be. Connie does correspond by email. And she does search the internet. Three or four times a year she creates a document. I think she can change fonts and the size of fonts. But I know for sure that she does not use tabs. I have to show her every time how to align items on her handouts for the golf club. That's it.

So what has happened to the iPad? Well, since Connie had begun to use it, I showed her how to check her email. She liked this very much because she did not have to go upstairs, wait for the computer to boot, locate the correct icon to double-click, and reply to the sender.

So for several weeks the iPad was used for internet access and email. Connie also began removing the iPad from its keyboard stand and accessed golf scores when they were not being shown quickly enough for her on The Golf Channel. Then Connie began looking up movies, actors and actresses. (She has begun insisting that we watch a movie together most nights "so that you [me] will get off that xxxx computer"). And then Connie discovered Netflix on the iPad. She is starting to use the Netflix icon on the iPad, but still relies primarily on the disc in the mail. I have ordered an Apple TV. Streaming from Netflix controlled on the iPad is next I predict.

Two weeks ago Connie said she wanted some music downstairs. I told her my complete collection of over 4,000 songs was accessible on the iPad through iTunes. After a 30 second demonstration she declared that it was too much trouble and she wasn't interested in learning to use iTunes. So I showed her Pandora. She could not believe that she could, in essence, have her own radio station. For the first week and a half her only entry was The Carpenters. Now she says she has eight different artists in her Pandora list. Amazing!

And NPR News and Music are now a presence in the kitchen compliments of the iPad.

When I told Connie earlier this week that I was going to take the iPad to school for the lab, I was told it no uncertain terms that "you will not take my iPad to school."

What is interesting about this story?

Many people are like Connie. They dislike computers. My guess is that when they have a chance to use the iPad they will love it as much as Connie. As technology becomes more compact, easier to use, accessible instantly and from everywhere, even the resisters will be swept along.

Will this happen in schools where there continues to be resistance, or at least reluctance and unwillingness? I think so. I hope we are preparing our new teachers to take advantage of the opportunities they will have in this new world where all information is in all places at all times and where we can talk with and see everyone else. And all for free. With the spread of the new technologies maybe we will come to understand what changes in teaching techniques will be necessary. If we don't, schools won't last long.

I will address the many issues raised by this last paragraph in later posts.

What about my iPad you ask? Am I going to put my iPad in the lab for students to use? Absolutely NOT. It has become a necessary part of me. I can watch the required movies nightly with the internet in my lap!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Brugge at Night, a photograph
This is the third part of Intense-Great-Quiet discussed in the previous two posts. It is Quiet now in the lab. Many students are there, but they are working alone or in small groups quietly -as in a library - on assignments, blogs and projects. The quiet gives us time to reflect on what is happening in the labs.

One thing that is happening is that learning is taking place. How do I know that? We see problems being solved. We hear ideas being generated and shared among the students. We see the products of their work. You also can see those products on their blogs, and read the comments they share with one another. If you have not commented on EDM310 Student Blogs, I invite you to do so now. Pick some names from the list. Read a post or two. Leave a comment. You will then become part of our learning community as well.

When I decided to address Anthony’s three part answer to my question “How has the day gone?” I expected to write a summary of my thoughts in this space. Four students have shared their thoughts in comments. What better source of an understanding of what happens in the lab than the reports of students themselves. Let’s review what they had to say.

Nervous. Overwhelmed. Frustrated. Alone. Afraid to ask for help. Three of the students used one or more of those words to describe how they felt upon entering EDM310. These feelings are often reported by entering students. It is a different kind of class. It requires independent learning. You must manage your time wisely. There are few boundaries to limit (and guide) you. The material and tasks are new and different. No surprises there. I am delighted, however, that by the fourth week of class the students could talk about these fears, these mysteries they were about to encounter.

What helped? The lab and my three outstanding undergraduate lab assistants - Anthony Capps, Jamie Lynn Miller and Stephen Akins - “an amazing, helpful and patient staff” in the words of Amani Alloul. The students felt better when they realized they could ask for help - and get it. From the lab assistants and from each other. They understood that they would have to do the work themselves, that no one would do it for them. But they also knew that they could collectively learn from each other, that there was a learning community evolving in the lab. They also proudly reported that they were confident of their learning because they were, as Angelica Scott wrote, “able to teach the skill to someone” else. Prent Davis spoke for the others in saying that it was clear that the “best learning environment is one that fosters a ‘learning community’.” And their fears are dissipating. AnMarie Lane put it this way: “Because of the things that happen in the lab, I am actually enjoying a class that I used to be afraid of."

Thank you! It is a wonderful quiet time I have had reflecting on what you have said!

Monday, September 20, 2010


After Van Gogh II, a photograph of a church in Montepulciano, Italy
This is the second part of Intense-Great-Quiet started in the previous post. The names of the students have been changed.

Great was the second descriptor that Anthony applied to the EDM Lab for Thursday September 9. "What made it 'Great!', Anthony?" I asked.

Well, Dr. Strange, there were five students in the lab when I arrived. Helen and Kat were sitting next to each other and Helen immediately asked me how to add the code for a Wordle to her blog. I went and stood behind her and after asking a few questions, coaxed her through the process successfully. Not five minutes later Kat turned around and asked for help. I went to her and stood behind her and asked what kind of help she needed. She said she didn't know how to add a Wordle to her page. Helen kept working on her project but must have overheard my explanation to Kat of what I had gone over with Helen just minutes before.

Ten minutes passed and Kat asked me to show her how to add alt and title modifiers to her image that she had just added to her blog. As I walked to her seat I was a bit frustrated since the step by step directions are in the Instruction Manual. Since I was there to help, I kept moving toward Kat's chair. But I did say, in a voice loud enough to attract the attention of everyone in the lab, "Kat wants me to know how to deal with the alt and title modifiers for image tags. How many of you need help on that subject?" Everyone except Charles raised their hands. I then turned to Charles and said "Charles, you didn't raise your hand. Do you need help with alt and title modifiers?" "No, I have already done mine" was his reply. "OK, why don't you teach the others how to do them" I said.

Charles looked at me a few seconds, then somewhat grudgingly, got up from his seat and stood behind Kat. Joanie and Margaret were already there. Charles began to explain how he had entered the alt and title modifiers. About half way through the process he began to make mistakes. I stopped him and asked a few questions. I then proceeded to walk Kat through the process while the other students stood behind Kat and watched. When Kat had finished with her image, and had tested to see that the title correctly displayed, the others returned to their computers and worked on their images. A few minutes later they were showing each other that their images displayed the title window correctly."

Ten more minutes went by. There were no more questions directed to me but I could hear muted conversations. I looked and saw that the five students who had been working so independently before were now sharing ideas, offering help to one another, and working as a 'learning community' as you call it.

That was Great!

I agree. That was Great! In the Quiet time that will follow in the next post, I will reflect on these two incidents (Intense in previous post and Great in this post) in a way that may be useful to all of us who are trying to create "learning communities."

Sunday, September 12, 2010


cartoon images of two people debating
On the afternoon of Thursday September 9, 2010 I asked Anthony Capps, one of my undergraduate student assistants in EDM310, how the day had gone. "Intense, Great and Quiet" is an approximate quote of Anthony's reply to my question. Here is a combination of my take as well as his on the day and on Week 3. It is divided into three separate posts.

Intense (Great and Quite will be considered in separate posts).

Anthony was referring to Jamie Lynn's vigorous response to Allie Glass' post Blog Assignment #2 in which she discussed Mr. Winkle Wakes by Mathew Needleman; Did You Know 3.0 by Karl Fisch; Vicki Davis' Harness Your Students' Digital Smarts; and one of Sir Ken Robinson's Ted Talks Schools Kill Creativity. Allie wrote in her comment on Mr. Winkle Wakes "... if Mr. Winkle really were to wake 100 years later, in my opinion, he would have seen a totally different classroom then the video showed." In the video the school is a place of respite for Mr. Winkle because the school was like the school he remembered from long ago. That was an entirely different reaction than Mr. Winkle had when he entered a business and was so shocked by the new technologies that he fled to a hospital for treatment only to be equally overcome by the technologies in use there. But in the school? Only a dusty computer in the back not being put to use by anyone.

Allie's defense of schools as being up to date is a view held by many of the entering students in EDM310. Some also are opposed to the use of technology other than in a "computer technology class". Chris "Boone" Patrick responded to my comment on his post Blog Post #2 in an email in which he wrote "I'm not saying that technology is bad or that it should be outlawed, but in schools, unless you are in a computer technology class students, shouldn't be using it. " (I added all of the commas in the quotation).

Here is Jamie Lynn's response to Allie:
"I must say that I completely disagree with you. You said farther down in your post that you wish Mrs. Vicki's classroom would have been available to you in high school. Obviously, there is a huge difference between the school you attended and the school Mrs. Vicki teaches at. She incorporates all different types of technology in her classroom. Her students are connecting with people all over the world, and her students are independent learners. I doubt you encountered any of this in your classroom. I know for sure that I didn't. Yes, my teachers had smartboards and used powerpoints, and the classroom in the video did not. I, however, don't think we could say that this is a big difference. There are so many resources and tools that are out there that many teachers have no idea exist. The majority of schools are operating like schools 100 years ago. Teachers are still lecturing, while students sit quietly in their desks taking notes. Were Mrs. Vicki's students doing this? No, they weren't. There are only a few teachers like Mrs. Vicki around here; therefore, I don't think your statement is valid. Students could be making podcasts, movies, and Google Earth tours. They could be writing blogs, following teachers and students all over the world, and finding information on their own. You will do all of this in EDM 310, and hopefully, you will incorporate these things into your classroom."

Here is my response to Boone:
"I believe this is an extremely erroneous position to take. Our responsibility as educators is to make sure that all students have the best tools for any subject matter they are studying or project they are undertaking. The best tools we have today - for communicating, for accessing information, for processing data, for recording evidence, for comparing and contrasting information - are tools that are defined as technological tools. And you would keep these from your students? Unfortunately, you are not alone in the educational world. But I will absolutely guarantee you that I would do everything I possibly could to keep my grandchildren out of any class in which you established draconian rules such as you have proposed.

Why don't we debate the issue in a podcast or videocast? We both would probably learn some very important things!"

Jamie Lynn's response to Allie has generated a true discussion about the issues and Allie has indicated a willingness to learn new things.

I just left my response for Boone. It is too early to see whether he and I (and hopefully others) will expand our conversation, or even debate the issues as I suggested.
UPDATE. An extensive conversation has developed. Thirteen comments in less than a day. Join in.

We would be delighted if you would read the posts and the comments and join the conversation! That would be fun. And probably enlightening.

I will discuss the other two items - Great and Quiet - in the next two posts which will be posted soon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

ZZZ and The Honest Reflection Post - Response to Comments

Question ( you will be required to answer this on the accompanying questionnaire)
In your opinion was ZZZ
a real person in EDM 310?
a real person serving as a proxy or avitar for many other students in EDM310?
a composite made from several students in EDM310?
a purely fictional character whom I constructed to make a point I felt was important?

Summary of Comments (Required) on the post Honest Reflection is Required (the ZZZ Post)
112 people left comments before the deadline, three of whom are not students in the class. Four students replied after the deadline. Ms. Dorothy Burt of Pt. England School and Mr. Chamberlain both left very important comments following the conclusion of the open period. If you have not read those comments, read them.

46 (41%) said ZZZ should not have lied, or something to that effect.
Only 4 respondents made the point I was hoping to drive home: when you reflect on your own work you absolutely MUST be honest with yourself! In the syllabus the Midterm Reflection is listed as an examination. And that is exactly what it was - an examination of what you had accomplished so far in the course. I want you to be aware of how well you are accomplishing your assignments. When (if) you become a professional educator, you will need to regularly evaluate your performance. You have watched one example of that: Mr. McClung's year end reflection at the end of his first year in the classroom.

I hope that you will never be surprised by an evaluation of you done by others. It happened once to me. My first writing assignment in graduate school came back with more red ink on it than the black ink from my typewriter. I thought I was a good writer. I quickly learned that I had much to learn. You will be regularly evaluated by supervisors, peers, students, parents, evaluation bodies, and even sometimes by the public. Be prepared by being a good self-evaluator.

I also hope that you will teach your students to evaluate themselves.

Here are some other topics addressed in the comments left on the post:

There were several comments that were actually comments on the course (which was not part of my post). As you read these remember that these are not responses to questions I raised in the post and therefore cannot be assumed to reflect the opinions of anyone other than the voluntary respondent.
5 said they did not feel that the course took too much time; 1 person said it did.
10 said they used the questionnaire to check to make sure they had done all of the assignments.
9 described the course as overwhelming, challenging, difficult, demanding, time consuming, hard
2 wanted more feedback from the staff
1 would not have taken the course if that person had known “what the course was like”
1 reported being tired of surveys
3 said they had learned something.

I did raise two questions regarding ZZZ as a teacher: Would you want ZZZ as a colleague or as the teacher of your child or grandchild?
9 said No to the colleague question
14 said No to the teacher of my child/grandchild question
10 said it was wrong to judge ZZZ on these questions
4 said “it is none of my business”
10 explicitly said they would not comment on these two questions

Several respondents replied indicating their feelings about ZZZ
11 (10%) of those who left comments indicated they were not surprised that a student would intentionally lie about the work they had done or not done.
4 said they were shocked or surprised at this behavior.
5 said they thought I was being hustled by the student (I had suggested this as a possibility).

9 said that ZZZ should not get a good grade (at least at midterm).

9 said they had no sympathy for ZZZ
4 felt bad for ZZZ
4 said I should not have publicly criticized ZZZ, 2 going on to say that I might cause ZZZ to harm ZZZ
3 said I should help ZZZ, not throw ZZZ “under the bus.”

No one made any comment about the name ZZZ. I created that name based on the letters used in comic strips to denote sleeping. I thought at least one person would recognize and comment on this reference.

I thought long and hard about this post before writing it, and once having written it, about posting it.

Why did I do it? Whether or not ZZZ is a real person, an unusually large number of students this semester did not appear to have the key characteristic I sought to develop through the self reflection that served as the midterm exam: an ability to engage in an honest self-reflection. As some of you later learned, I already had the answers to most of the questions I asked for every student in the class. I was NOT asking you to tell me what I already knew. What I hoped would result was that you would reflect on what you had done so far in the course and if your work and/or attitudes needed adjustment that you would make those necessary adjustments. For some people it happened immediately, for others it happened near the end of the semester, and for more than usual it never happened. Of course, for the majority of students in EDM310 there was no major adjustment necessary, just a bit of tweaking or no adjustment at all.

As teachers (if you become teachers), you will have lots of students over the course of your teaching career. I have probably had over 4000 students in my classes. My goal has always been to develop the ability to evaluate oneself, accurately and honestly, in those students. I have that goal for you, too. But I feel it is incumbent upon me to tell you if you are not measuring up, especially if you can’t see that for yourself. As a teacher you will have to make judgements about every student that enters your classroom. And if you are unwilling or unable to make those decisions about yourself, you do not have the necessary skills, abilities and attitudes to be a teacher. At least that is what I firmly believe.

Now if I believe it is important to tell you if you are not “measuring up”, what techniques should I use? Maybe I should ask what a coach would do since I consider myself a coach more than a teacher. Any of the student athletes want to tell me what the coach would have done to a person like ZZZ? Here are some possibilities:

The coach would have, quite likely, publicly identified ZZZ by name (I have not said that ZZZ is a single real person). Then ZZZ would have run laps until totally exhausted or the coach would have benched ZZZ for violating team rules or or even dismissed ZZZ from the team and have held a press conference to notify the adoring public that beloved ZZZ would no longer be playing for the mighty Jaguars. Oh yes, what is the penalty for lying to a coach? Or lying on an examination? Or lying to your principal? Just guess!

I had a lot of ZZZs for whom I had a message. So I delivered that message. No names were revealed (although many of you told me, or emailed me, that you thought you were ZZZ). It is probably still unclear to most of you (maybe all of you) whether ZZZ is a real person, a composite of many individuals, or a fictional character with characteristics that I want to identify as unbecoming to a teaching candidate. I was especially concerned because I felt, before the semester started, that there would be lot of students (25% was my guess) who would not have the skills or experiences to manage their time and do the work required in the new EDM310. I was correct. Actually, it was about 35% of students at midterm that fit this bill.

My hope was that students would assess themselves, learn and apply appropriate organizational and time management skills, and successfully complete the course. That happened for some students. But others took up the cry that the time demands of EDM310 were too great and that they should not be required to work so hard on EDM310 because of all the other things going on in their lives. If I remember correctly (check the first movie for the course) I stressed three things:
You could expect to work a total of 9 hours per week in EDM310
You must manage your time effectively
You could not afford to get behind in EDM310

And here we are, at the end of the semester. Some ZZZs dropped the course, some are still enrolled but have submitted no work in a long time, some are madly dashing to “catch up” if that is really a possibility.

But the majority of students have done quite well, thank you. They have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and aptitudes necessary for an excellent teaching professional. In fact, several students have performed as well as any students I have ever had. Ever! And a huge bunch have demonstrated that we do have excellent teachers in the pipeline, even in Alabama! I am proud of you! And if my grandchildren lived nearby (the ones not already in college), I would be delighted if you were their teacher!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Honest Reflection is Required

swearing in of junior ranger
I have several objectives in this class that have nothing to do with technology. One is to get all of my students to reflect on their practice, as a student and later as a professional. When you have your own classes you will not be getting a report card with grades on it. You will have to supply your own evaluations of yourself. That is why I have you do reflective questionnaires a number of times during the semester. I want you to practice doing this so that when you are a professional it will come naturally.

Today I have to add another word to that objective: honestly. Let me share with you the response to the midterm questionnaire from a real student in EDM310 this semester. I will call that student ZZZ.

Dear ZZZ:
In your midterm reflection you report that you have completed 9 (all) of your blog posts, 6 of your comments4kids, 5 of your comments4classmates, 2 comments4teachers. You also report that you did the reflective questionnaire within a week of 2/15. You say that you have done 2 of the extra assignments made on the class blog, that you add pictures to your blog regularly, that they comply with accessibility standards, that the link on your blog to the class blog works, that the link to your email works, that you regularly add links to your blog posts, that you have tried Vocaroo, that you are using Delicious and Twitter, that you are just starting your PLN, that you have an RSS feed that works and that your A is a bit shaky.

I find something quite different than you do.

You have not posted to your blog since February 28 and that was for the assignment due January 31. You have not completed any blog assignments for February, March or any of the added assignments.

You have not added pictures or links to any of your posts.

You do have an RSS feed for the class blog on your blog and that feed will take you to the class blog (so a link could be considered redundant).

There is no evidence on your blog that you have used Vocaroo or that you have developed a PLN (which you admit).

You have not made any posts on your blog that address the additional assignments made in the blog itself.

You did complete the 2/15 questionnaire on 2/18.

The email link on your blog does work.

I cannot find you on Twitter. What is your name on Twitter?

Please send me your Delicious name so that I can see how you are using Delicious.

The teacher assigned to you is AAA. She has made the following posts since I started the comments4teachers assignment on Feb 22:
March 8
March 7
March 6
Feb 28
Feb 26
and she made this post before the assignment started:
Feb 6

You have no comments on any of these posts.

You have only left one comment on a fellow student's blog (on January 24). You have not notified me of any instances in which you have tried to leave a comment but were not able to do so because the student had not done a post.

You have made no posts relative to your comments4kids assignments. Several kids somewhere in the world did not get a comment because you did not do your assignments.

You say that your A is "a bit shaky."

Why does your report of what you have done in this class vary so widely from mine? Why does your evaluation of the condition of the A with which your started this class disagree so widely from mine?

So class, here are some questions that come to mind:
1. Does ZZZ think I am asking for information about how much work ZZZ has done? No. I already have that. All of it. And most of those data I get automatically. I want ZZZ to think about what ZZZ is or is not doing!
2. Does ZZZ really think that ZZZ has done all of the work that I cannot find or see?
3. Is this an attempt to hustle me?
4. If ZZZ is so inaccurate with ZZZ's own evaluation, what will ZZZ's evaluations of ZZZ's students be like?
5. Would you like to have ZZZ as a colleague?
6. Would I want my children or grandchildren to be in ZZZ's class?
7. Would you want your children or grandchildren to be in ZZZ's class?

Comments welcome. If you have nothing to say, just say "I have read the post and the associated comments and have nothing to add." Note that I also want you to read the associated comments. That is always important when you participate in a conversation. When you leave a comment I will know that you came to the post and probably read it (or at least this sentence) since you will have left me a message - possibly this one. And remember, every comment I get on the blog is sent immediately to my gmail account where I can automatically sort by sender!

Honesty in our own self assessments is critical to our improvement in whatever we do!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is Blogging Important or Not?

Cliff Barnes (Class E) left this comment on Carlo Freda's post Blog Assignments: 7 February
I do not think blogging is that important honestly. It may be useful at times, but when you are teaching in a classroom why should the students have to get on your blog to learn. You should focus more on interaction with the students, not expect them to just read your blog.

In college, and in K-12, you do not just learn in a classroom. In college we expect students to spend 9 hours per week working on the class, including time in class. The University of South Alabama is experimenting with fewer hours in class, partly to save money but also to meet a demand from students for more flexible schedules and to make use of technologies that can open new opportunities for teaching and learning. As a result, "the interaction with students" in a classroom will be reduced. But even if that were not the case, there is often almost zero true interaction with students in a class. This is not always the case, but the videos you have watched including A Vision of Students Today demonstrate that the "sage on the stage" is still alive and well in American higher education.

I, however, believe that blogging is an extremely important tool for teaching and learning. Here are a few reasons:
1. Blogs provide a means for an audience for a student's work.
2. Blogs encourage writing. Even in a world where writing is disdained by students I can get students to write and pay attention to their writing. This is in part because they have an audience beyond me. They are, as Anthony Capp said, "leaving their intellectual trail."
3. Blogs provide a vehicle for "writing with multimedia." Students now listen and watch instead of reading and writing. My goal is to get them to contribute to the creation of new media products. Blogs provide an excellent method for distributing those kinds of media and for combing text with the new media.
4. In EDM310 we now do not focus on teaching some specific lesson in class. Instead we have labs where students can ask for assistance on any part of the course. When this occurs students do get direct interaction with the teacher. But the responsibility for learning is squarely on the shoulders of the learner. You learn by doing, not by listening.
5. I attempted to make my best case for blogs and commenting on blogs by telling of two important and exciting events that happened in EDM310 in the Fall 2009 semester because of blogs and commenting on blogs. I call this post Kaia and Room 10 - Why Blogs and Commenting on Blogs Are So Important. The essence of that argument is that the evidence I have is that blogs and commenting on blogs are the most powerful tools available to a teacher to bring people from all over the world together in a common conversation. I believe that common conversation among the peoples of the world is our highest calling. You may not agree. But that is where I stand.
6. Ultimately, however, you can make your own decisions as to what is important. Steven Anderson's post Why Do I Have to Learn This? concludes with this statement: "Why do we have to learn this? Not because we have to, but because we want to..." And if you do not want to learn what blogs, blogging and commenting on blogs can teach you, then that is your decision. A teacher can only provide an opportunity to learn. We cannot force anyone to learn. And we make choices about what we think students should learn. Many time students disagree with our choices and even challenge us to clearly state the reasons for our selections of what we think students should learn and do as Cliff has done here. And those challenges, when they come, are most appropriate. But I can ask, and I do, for Cliff to make his best case as to why he has concluded that he does not "think blogging is that important..."

Go for it Cliff. Make your case. We can have an interesting debate!

Monday, February 8, 2010

It Depends Upon Whom You Are Around

I have asked my students to think about two questions all semester: Should all teachers be technologically literate - or be willing to learn? What do we mean by technological illiteracy?

Dina Tillman, in her post on January 24, 2010, suggested that technological literacy "depends on who you are around."

That got me to thinking and I agree that the context does matter. I think I am technologically literate, and probably most of my colleagues and quite a few of my students would agree. But if I were visiting Pt. England School in Auckland, N.Z. or Noel Elementary School in Noel, Missouri I would not be ranked as highly in technological literacy as I am in the College of Education at the University of South Alabama.

So what? Well, here's the important point that I took from Dina's post. Who will be around my students when they have their own classroom? Here are some possibilities:

First Graders:

Third Graders:
Click to play when the page appears.
Room 10, Pt. England School

Sixth Graders:
Room 18, Pt. England School

Seventh Graders:
Seventh Grade Ning, Noel Missouri

High School:
This is one of many films on the Cinema Owls YouTube Channel. Check out the others after you watch this one:
Cinema Owls, Kelowna Secondary School, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

So if these will be the students of my students, what do we mean by technological literacy if it is determined by whom "you are around"?

Are Our Students Our Customers?

Customer Service Survey
Ninety percent of EDM310 students have purchased a textbook which was never used in class. Eighty-nine percent say this has happened at least once at the University of South Alabama. Forty-two percent report that this has happened three or more times at the University of South Alabama.

The cost to students? Fifty-two percent said the total costs to them for buying unnecessary textbooks was over $ 300 and almost half of those (25% of all students) reckoned that the total cost was $500 or more. Eighty-two percent of the students consider this a serious, very serious, or extremely serious problem.

Students (72%) also complained that they were often not able to return books or to resell them. Eighty-three percent were told the book would no longer be used and 76% were denied a buy back because the book had been replaced by "a new edition". Eighty-three percent of the students consider this a serious, very serious, or extremely serious problem.

I asked our bookstore about their return policy. Students have 2 weeks after classes start to return unopened books. They must have a receipt and the plastic wrapping on books must not have been removed. For books purchased in the next three weeks, the student has 2 days to return an unopened book. Returns are not accepted under any other conditions.

For approximately three weeks after finals the bookstore will buyback books for "up to 50% of their face value" as long as the book will be used the next semester and an order has been placed by the professor for that same edition of the book. If the book is damaged or if a "book comes with a computer diskette" (even if the diskette is returned) or if it is a "workbook with pages missing" or if it is an "old edition" it will not be bought back. The book store limits their used purchases to the number they estimate they will sell. Eighty-six percent of EDM310 students this semester consider the inability to return or sell textbooks a serious, very serious, or extremely serious problem.

Students tell me they prefer to use free information from the internet where that is possible such as in EDM310; e-books, either rented or much less expensive versions than the books they are currently forced to buy; or reasonably priced text books that can be returned or resold like other goods they purchase.

So maybe students aren't customers after all. If they were, these attitudes, policies and practices of the bookstore and the faculty would have changed long ago.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The iPad: So Easy to Use Even a Technologically Illiterate Teacher Can Use It

My friends and fellow Twitters, Bill Chamberlain and Russ Georend, were Tweeting fast and furiously about the iPad the day after its unveiling a week ago. Informed only with a few details and no experience, we nevertheless offered our pronouncements about the iPad and its future use in our hands and by our schools and students. I suggested that we should have a debate and offer it as a podcast, but then I got busy and did not follow up with my suggestion. Russ and Bill did, however, each posting on his blog. Russ went first with Please don’t buy your students iPads and, of course became the target for Bill and me. With a podcast, there would have been more debate, and we might have changed each others minds, or at least changed sides from time to time just to enliven the debate. But stuck with print (well, electronic print), our debate is much more serial in nature. Bill went second with Why iPads Are a Good Choice for Students and I get to take dead aim at both of them in The iPad: So Easy to Use Even a Technologically Illiterate Teacher Can Use It which follows below. After we all have the iPad in our hands I will try and arrange a real debate and record it for posterity as a podcast. Until then, you are stuck reading these three commentaries.

Here is the Strange commentary:

It's rather early, I think, to make pronouncements and comparisons when I haven't seen an iPad, much less held one in my hand or used it. But here are a few Strange thoughts on the subject.

1. Several commentators, including Scott Bourne, Andy Ihnatko and Steven Frank suggest that the iPad is a new instrument, not a phone, not a computer, but a new device that could revolutionize the way we consume, and perhaps produce, information. If this is true, and I am convinced enough by the arguments put forth to consider it quite likely to be correct, then comparisons are out at the moment and may be completely inappropriate after the iPad has seen the light of day among the people. And I am speaking of the masses here, not the geeks. If it is a new device then it is certainly for the masses, not the geeks!

2. Whether or not it is a new instrument of information, it will certainly have a place in our pantheon of teaching and learning tools. Anything that will move us from our unfortunate addiction to “sage on the stage” and “burp back” education will be a welcome addition to our tool set.

3. There are already debates about whether the iPad will be “useful”, “appropriate” or “good” for students to have. How absurd. Anything that connects our students to the cloud of information known as the Internet is useful, appropriate and good for our students.

4. The most important impact may be on teachers. The vast majority of teachers currently practicing their profession are not geeks, not even “technologically literate” in the sense that I would use that term. All of the pundits that have written about the iPad, after even a brief time with it, make two points: it is lightning fast in what it does and it is drop dead easy to use. This is fantastic news. The easier it is to use, the more likely current teachers who are not "technologically literate" are to use it and to connect to the information cloud. If that is correct, then maybe we can see teachers move from a memorize and "burp-back" approach to hands on, project based, problem solving teaching. So the most important impact could on teachers rather than its impact on students.

5. Russ Goerend complains that the iPad is not a full fledged computer. It is missing a multi tasking operating system, will not display Flash “videos”, and does not have a camera for video input. Again, reports are that people who know what a “multi tasking operating system” is will say, when they use the iPad, that it is barely noticeable that it is not actually multi-tasking because of the speed of the device (Andy Ihnatko). All of trusted experts on web 2.0 celebrate the fact that Apple has drawn a line in the sand about Flash and has said html 5 or nothing. On the iPhone and iPod Touch there is no Flash and the millions who use them and have bought them do not care. Only Adobe cares. Flash is power hungry, open to exploitation by hackers, and an inappropriate tool for the next generation of the net. Now the camera part. I wish it had a camera. But that is just a desire on my part with no direct knowledge of the instrument itself. I think it inappropriate of me to make a judgement about the device, even if it does not meet my idealized specs, until I have seen it and tried it in the real world.

7. I consider Russ Goerend my friend, but to start a debate between iPads and tablet computers (if you had money to buy a lot) seems ludicrous to me! Where are schools spending money these days? Not on tools which can be put into the hands of students, but on smartboards and the like. That is the real argument we should have. I would be overjoyed with the ability to put any tool in the hands of a user, iPad or tablet. If I had the choice I might make a uniform choice, I might leave it up to the student, or I might make different choices for different age groups and different curricula. What a wonderful day that would be to actually put real tools in the hands of learners!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Claiming to Be Tech Literate

79% of my students this semester claim that they are already "tech literate." I did not explain what I meant by that term and you can view my various musings about that elsewhere on this blog, in my TechLiterateTeacher wiki, and on my class blog.

Bill Genereux @billgx tweeted me and asked "Of those that claim to be tech literate already, how many have blogs?"

An interesting question. Of the 102 respondents that think (at the start of the class) that they are already "technologically literate", here are some things they have done. Of course several of them are repeating this course and would have done some of these things but not well enough to pass the course.
Blogged 41%
Participate in podcast or videocast 18% (could all be EDM310 repeats since no podcasts that I know of in other classes)
Chat (text only, audio only, or video) 84%
Used Skype 41%
Made a movie on a computer 20% (again many EDM310 repeaters)
Have uploaded movie to computer 31%

These figures are higher than I thought. But combined they are not how I would define tech literacy. I'll add additional links to where I am musing about this later. This is a quick response for Bill, but he has lit a fire under me to think more about these things.

One bad thing about Google Forms is that you have to use a workaround to publish results. I have not done that yet. And I still have 6-8 students that have not taken the survey yet (Late starting class and then miss MLK Day).

More later.