New Stuff!

Today, we’re letting all of our class members share their favorite pieces of technology. Just this morning, I have added apps for my Google browser, and I learned how to use Aurasma. Each new technology opens up some new thinking. 

Let’s see what everyone else shares!

1. Free Technology for Teachers: A website for free technology apps for education.

2. Diigo: A social bookmarking tool to organize your bookmarks and make them available anywhere.

3. Remember the Milk: A list making tool to help keep track of your life. 

4. Shop Savvy: A tool to help you find the best prices for everything. 

5. I Have to Pee: Helps you find the nearest public restroom.

6. Winning Writers: Contests and tools for young writers.

7. Aurasma: An overlay for any image to offer more information to users.

8. Anything After: Tells you if there is anything after the credits of movies. 

9. 750 Words: A blogging tool for writers that encourages people to write 750 words a day.

10. Duck Duck Go: A search engine that doesn’t track its users. 

Please comment with other tools that you use!

New Stuff!

Today, we’re letting all of our class members share their favorite pieces of technology. Just this morning, I have added apps for my Google browser, and I learned how to use Aurasma. Each new technology opens up some new thinking. 

Let’s see what everyone else shares!

1. Free Technology for Teachers: A website for free technology apps for education.

2. Diigo: A social bookmarking tool to organize your bookmarks and make them available anywhere.

3. Remember the Milk: A list making tool to help keep track of your life. 

4. Shop Savvy: A tool to help you find the best prices for everything. 

5. I Have to Pee: Helps you find the nearest public restroom.

6. Winning Writers: Contests and tools for young writers.

7. Aurasma: An overlay for any image to offer more information to users.

8. Anything After: Tells you if there is anything after the credits of movies. 

9. 750 Words: A blogging tool for writers that encourages people to write 750 words a day.

Please comment with other tools that you use!

Default: This is Broken!!!

Tangles

Earlier I wrote about the learning curve and what happens when we reach the point of understanding that eludes us. What happens when our minds are pushed past the point of comfortability?

Frustration. Anger. Annoyance.

After working with Evernote and observing the class working with Evernote, I noticed a pattern within myself and which I observe in others. When we work with technology and it doesn’t work, we default to, “It is broken!” Something must be wrong.

99% of the time, it isn’t broken. Nothing is wrong. It’s just a matter of backing up and systematically figuring out what has gone off track.

I compare this to untangling a cord. If I systematically untangle the cord and pull slowly finding where the nots are and slowly working through them, I can untangle the cord relatively easily without frustration. However, if I lost patience and start pulling and tugging, then I get more knots than when I started. The problem is that I know this. And yet, I still get impatient and end up with a tangled mess.

New learning is similar to this dilemma. We are faced with new and challenging circumstances, and we need to approach them like knots. Both as students and teachers. How do we get students to work through the knots step by step, slowly and carefully? I think the key is slowly. Teaching students (and ourselves) to be patient and think through problems rather than rushing and ending up more entwined than when they began is the challenge of this new age. We are constantly bombarded with new learning. Every new app, new piece of hardware, and new person we meet comes with its own learning curve. Every new skill takes time to learn. But I think that the brilliant programmers of this world have made us soft and impatient.
I don’t want to sound like an old curmudgeon, but when I first started using computers, if I wanted to get a peripheral to work, I literally had to write lines of code. To print from our old Commodore 64, I had to to into a program and write lines of code so that the printer would be recognized. To play games, we typed in code from a magazine and recorded it on a cassette tape. I have been through the computer equivalent to walking six miles to school uphill in the snow. So when I am faced with the challenge of figuring out new technologies, I just try to remember how much easier everything is than it used to be, and it makes me a little less red in the face and ready to quit.
As teachers, we need to remember that what comes easily to us doesn’t necessarily come easily for our students. After teaching a subject for a long time, we become experts and the knowledge we have is second nature. But every year, we are faced with new students who seem to know less and less. But perhaps that’s just because we know more and more. We have untangled the same knots for years, and we can do it with our eyes closed. Now we need to open our eyes and make sure that our students leave our classrooms with that same ability.

Tweet Tweet Tweet

Why I started using Twitter?

I found out that Twitter started in 2006. Yes, I just linked to wikipedia. Sue me. I think I’ve had a Twitter account for about six years, but I never used it at all. I heard quite a bit about it. I heard about people using hashtags, but I never really got interested at all because I didn’t see a use for it. This, of course, is the basic discussion for all technology. It can be as cool as it wants to be, but until I find a personal use for it that enhances my world in some way, then it’s just on the peripheral.

I didn’t really understand Twitter until I heard an NPR story about Andy Carvin an avid tweeter, blogger and online sharing type person. The story discussed how Twitter was used during the Arab Spring to share information in real-time with the rest of the world. This type of reporting on the ground by people who are actually there seems to be an amazing use for this type of technology. So I signed up for Twitter and started following Andy.

However, it wasn’t until I went to NETA in 2013 and found Tweetdeck that I saw how powerful Twitter could actually be. By using Tweetdeck, I was able to make Twitter useful. I set up columns following various keywords so I could get instant updates on things that were important to me. When news breaks, I’ll type in a keyword to see what people are saying about the story. It’s a bit ADHD, especially during a big story, but the active tweets create a three-dimensional picture of a real event.

Using Twitter in the classroom is still something I’m struggling with. But I’m going to publish this for posterity. 

Digital Writing Marathon… Oh the Possibilities

I have been thinking about the Digital Writing Marathon that our Tech. Institute went on yesterday as part of Diana’s TWIP. After having been on dozens (I tried to count yesterday) of marathons, I’m trying to bring some perspective to the concept of adding technology to the marathons. What are the possibilities and what are the consequences?

My mind immediately jumped to the possibilities of truly incorporating technology into writing marathons. I was thinking of doing a virtual marathon where people use Google Hangouts in different places, across the world, agreeing on a time to write and then a time to connect. I am going to make this a goal for next year with my creative writing class.

Another option would be to share just text without the video or audio. Connect using Google docs. You could do this simultaneously or just over a given time with. Does a writing marathon have to be synchronous?

We had discussed doing a completely virtual marathon by traveling to places via technology. Taking virtual tours of cities and spaces and then writing online. We could use a map app and add writing at each virtual space. Google maps works for this, but it is clumsy. Finding the perfect app for this type of work would help make this a workable idea.

As for our marathon, I took a pad and pen and my iPad. I wrote in my pad at the first stop. After listening to Darin’s essay which he composed on his Mac, I wanted to use my iPad to type. I realized that I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. So at the next stop, I found an app called Click and Write. I took a snapshot of my environment and then wrote about it. The problem with this was that my iPad died 2/3 of the way through the marathon, so I lost what I had written and when time came to share, I couldn’t. I noticed that Emily also had a battery problem. Power is always a concern with digital as is connectivity.

If we did launch a truly digital marathon, I think it would have to be with people who embrace technology and we’d have to map out places with wifi and power sources. I think this would take a bit more planning, but it would be neat to try a variety of marathons.

We could use the digital marathon concept to link up with people in the rural parts of Nebraska who want to be a part of our marathons, but who cannot travel. Maybe we could have one group agree to be digital and take on digital members from wherever. This is a definite possibility. I think that experimenting with different modes and mediums could make digital a fruitful part of the writing marathon model. I know that some will balk at the idea of incorporating digital mediums into such an organic experience, but it doesn’t hurt to try, right?

 

Exhaustion Anyone?

Today just marked the halfway point for the Tech. Institute. We celebrated with a Technology Writing Marathon. It was a great way to spend the morning.

After we finished the marathon and I drove home with an apple pastry and the leftover coffee from the morning commute, I fell into my bed completely unable to function.

That is all.

The Zen of Commuting

I am trying to make a metaphor to connect driving and teaching. It isn’t there yet, but I’m going to play with it in this space. 

My drive from Omaha to Lincoln every morning allows me to glide down I-80 which has been upgraded to mostly six lanes all the way at 75 mph.

After a week, I have grown to appreciate commuting. My normal daily drive to work only takes about seven minutes and carries me across a crowded stretch of 90th street in the heart of Omaha. This drive allows me time and space to think, listen and observe. The one distraction to my 45 minute meditation is the preponderance of bad drivers on the road. 

Yesterday, I was almost driven off the road by three pick-ups who seemed to believe that they were in the Omaha 500 as they merged across three lanes of traffic at 80 mph swinging from lane to lane to try to gain some small advantage. 

My mind can go from contemplating the universe, the nature of humanity, the perfection of a peach to “What is that idiot doing?” in a matter of miliseconds. And it is lucky that my brain switches that quickly, or I’d probably be dead by now. 

I hate to go all Euro-snob on you, but when I went to Germany, I learned about driving on the Autobahn. I have known the basic rules of the road for over twenty years, so this wasn’t really anything new to me, but I was impressed at the German discipline to follow the basic rules of the road. My American friend who drove us from Frankfort to Kaiserslaughtern explained that you don’t drive in the left lane. You only pass in the left lane. And if you are going the speed limit, you stay all the way to the right. 

In Germany, there were no slow moving campers cruising along in the left lane completely oblivious to the line of cars behind them. There were no careening minivans swinging from the middle lane to the right lane and back to the left in an effort to try to get by a slow moving vehicle in the middle. Traffic moved efficiently with an incredibly fast moving left lane, a steady middle lane, and a slower right lane for trucks and foreigners.

In general, the cars were in better shape, and the drivers seemed more aware of the world around them. I don’t think texting and driving was an issue yet, this was 2006, but I’m guessing that there aren’t many texting drivers on the Autobahn either.

I’m trying to think about the American driving deficiency as a metaphor for what is wrong with our education system. When I drive, I get this vibe of entitlement from the drivers around me. There are the left-lane hoggers who drive slowly in the left lane because they pay taxes and they can drive wherever and however they want to. They should never do this. No one should ever do this. But they do.

There are the entitled racing drivers who feel like they have the right to pass recklessly and drive as fast as they want, hugging other people’s bumpers and slipping and sliding from lane to lane dangerously. They should never do this. No one should.

The bottom line is that the Zen of commuting means that you will get where you’re going in a certain amount of time. It is inevitable. Blasting through traffic may earn you a few seconds, but at what cost to your soul?

So what does this have to do with education? 

It’s the attitude that we seem to have in this country to rush and hurry and feel obsessed with our own desires rather than working together as a community to make the resources we have work best for everyone. There is this myopic obsession with rushing toward some kind of end no matter the cost. My students rush from bell to bell to bell without really thinking about why they are doing it or taking time to think about which lane they should be in. It’s all about getting there rather than appreciating the journey.

Or maybe not. 

Just don’t drive in the left lane!