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I promised myself this school year that I would move forward full speed ahead into the 21st century, use technology to provide students with a wider audience than their teacher and parents, and find ways to present content that was both meaningful and relevant. I have not gone back on this promise, but neither do I feel like I’ve moved as much as possible. Will Richardson might call this a “Yeah, but…” post, and it’s a reality that many teachers, with very good intentions, find themselves mired in.

Just some examples…
• iBook mobile lab: keys missing, dead batteries that no longer hold charge, newest iBook is 5 years old, oldest is 7
• 6 mac minis to be shared among 40 students in an open classroom, only 5 actually working (did I mention that they have different versions of various software and just recently had the same OS installed?)
• 1 video camera (yay! this one works! but keep in mind that the equipment is shared among the grade level — 4 classes, 80 students)
• 2 still shot cameras (again shared among the grade level)
• A school lab with 10 eMacs and 10 mini-macs which have been pulled from various classrooms who are awaiting updates

All this in a school whose mission is to “prepare children for the 21st century.”

I’m not bashing my school. Really. I’m not. (totally sans sarcasm here) There are many reasons why technology is not at the top of a school’s priorities. The pie is limited, and everyone wants their fair share. Truly, at this point in my life, there is no where else I’d rather work. Part of the reason I love this school is that teachers are encouraged to dream big, to be innovative, to teach in ways that honor each child. And yet, when it takes the students 15 minutes to log into their wikispace because supposedly its been un-blocked (interject sarcasm here), but they get stuck in a vicious loop of logins and DOE error messages, I just want to scream. Then they finally get to start a post, only to have to logout because our lab time is up. In the meantime, the other half of the students haven’t even touched the keyboard…again…

So I know all the pat answers.
“Put the computers in a learning center rotation.”
“Make a schedule.”
“Connect the computer to a projector.”
“Teach the students typing skills so they get done more quickly.”
“Assign the students roles (i.e. spell checker, typer, reader) to facilitate sharing of the responsibilites.”
“Use the computer as a teaching tool.” (read…the students never touch the computer)

At best, these “solutions” are antiquated answers, no longer relevant in a 21st century curriculum. At worst, the computer is rarely used by the students in any meaningful way. This cannot be allowed to happen in our schools. The machine that is education in the United States cannot continue to churn out students who are prepared for jobs that are either outsourced or no longer exist. Why sort and select students instead of providing opportunities for all to succeed? Why indeed?

In answer to these questions, teachers are making a difference in their own quiet way, in their own individual classrooms. Despite the many technical difficulties, the students plug away, using edublogs and wikispaces, communicating with their teachers via email, creating portfolios to demonstrate learning, and, hopefully, finding an audience to share their thinking and learning.

Maybe, for now, this has to be good enough.


Approximately 3 months ago, David Warlick asked people around the world to “say hello” to a conference room full of educators in Hawaii. I was amazed at how quickly people responded and connected. Well, in reference to an oft quoted movie, he “had me at hello.” This was my first introduction to Twitter.

Since then, I’ve grown addicted to this micro-blogging tool with the cute name. Cute…but powerful. Not only am I able to keep up with friends that I don’t see on a daily basis, but I’ve managed to connect with new ones who share the same interests. Maybe not all of these connections will be lifetime ones, but they are fun and fulfilling while they last! The Olympics, for example, has set me to exchanging stats and updates with a number of new people. I doubt many of these interchanges will last beyond the closing ceremonies, but perhaps I’ll see a few familiar “tweets” during the 2012 games in London.

On another note, I’m also following the conversations of experts such as Alec Couros, Wes Fryer, and Angela Maiers. I’ve learned about incredible PD opportunities, links, and websites from a number of other education experts, perhaps not as well known, but definitely as well-versed in their own arenas, right here in Hawaii. In a few short weeks, Twitter has become an indispensable source of information.

And yet, because of Twinkle, I’ve seen a whole different side of Twitter that has left me shocked (though I shouldn’t be) and feeling a need to respond (which I should).

Twinkle allows you to add your current location to your tweets, as well as seeing who else who is nearby. You are able to see the tweets of anyone on Twinkle within a certain distance from your location regardless of whether or not you follow them or they follow you. While this has allowed me access to a number of interesting conversations, it has also been similar to stepping into a nightclub atmosphere! This in itself does not bother me. I know these conversations are not meant for me, and I can choose to read them or not. What did bother me were some aggressive words, threatening violence towards another Twitter user.

Cyberbullying is by no means a new problem. Countless headlines have demonstrated an abuse of power, power given to individuals by the internet and its tools. But sometimes we fail to see that this power can also result in incredible positives when channeled properly. Hence, this is what we as educators and parents must do. We must give students the tools to use this power wisely and with good purpose; to participate in the global community with compassion and empathy. Just as cyberbullying is not a new problem, neither is a teacher’s charge to instill and inspire good citizenship in his or her students. We simply need to further the reach of our teaching and learning to include cyberspace.

I’ve been following, with great interest, an outreach for resources on digital citizenship on the internet the past few days. Ironically, this conversation happened on Twitter. Two sides of the same coin. Let’s open our conversations to include digital citizenship more frequently and with greater urgency, especially at the beginning of the new school year when building community is a staple. These tools are here for us to show our students the world and to help them shape it into the place they want it to be. Rather than ignoring their existence, use them frequently, and use them well.

I’ve been so busy with the first few days of school that I haven’t had time to blog. Animoto made it easy to capture some quick memories, yet still make it look polished. Uploading the pictures took longer than any other part of putting this video together!

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Just for fun! It’s like a commercial… 
(Thank you to “Angela Maiers” for the tip on Animoto)

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Well, not literally on the go…yet. In actuality, I’m sitting on my sofa, in my living room testing WordPress for iPhone, a new, FREE app from the App Store and marveling at its ease. Not only can I post, but I can also include photos, as well. This has major implications for educators. For the past two years, we have been trying to maintain a class webpage. It’s all systems go initially, lots of content, lots of media. But, as the year progresses and the plate fills, one of the first things to go is inevitably the webpage. With this app, I can jot off a quick update and post it in a few minutes. No need for a computer. No need to wait until the kids are abed. All I need is some inspiration and my trusty iPhone! Now if I could only add some links, this would be perfect…

While scrolling through my google reader earlier today, I found a very interesting article by Maggie Shiels of the BBC News entitled Say goodbye to the computer mouse. Touch screens and facial recognition devices are becoming more and more popular due to the popularity of gaming, resulting in innovations such as the Nintendo Wii. Of course, another perspective is presented by Logitech’s senior VP, Rory Dooley, who says that sales of mice and keyboards have continued to sell.
As an avid iPhone junkie, I love the ease of navigation using a touch screen. Moreover, with the introduction last week of 2.0 and the App Store, I feel like we are just scratching the surface! (More than a few times my six year old and I have used PhoneSaber over the past week to have an impromptu lightsaber duel!)
This also brings to mind the elimination of the traditional keyboard. The iPhone, of course, integrates its keyboard into the touch screen, and, though advanced, this is far from exclusive technology. (Any Walmart shoppers use the self-check out?) Just for fun, check out these keyboards that were “dugg” earlier this year!

I’m beginning with a disclaimer that this (1/2 book) review of The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman is only my humble opinion. I don’t pretend to be an expert by any measure, particularly on a topic lived and breathed by a three time Pulitzer prize winner. In actuality, I’m writing this because I am on page 290 of a 566 page book and I am struggling to keep the momentum going. Truly, if others have differing opinions, or have different insights that would help me continue in a different vein, I would love to hear them.

As highly recommended as this book came, I was expecting new, groundbreaking ideas, patterns that I had overlooked, trends that I had missed. Unfortunately, after a captivating introduction, (While I Was Sleeping really set the tone) the book became a metronome, tick, tick, ticking away the same message, neither speeding up, nor slowing down. In fact, all of Friedman’s ideas addressed in that first chapter are repeated, again and again, for the next 150 pages. Perhaps the most revolutionary thing I learned that I hadn’t picked up from paying minor attention to business news, was that UPS is now a supply-chain manager. Who would have thought that there are Toshiba-certified technicians working for UPS? Perhaps a little more subtlety, and trust that Friedman’s readers would find the connections between his ideas would have made it more palatable.

Perhaps my next gripe has nothing to do with the book itself, but is shaped on my own personal thoughts. Throughout my reading, I felt a vague sense of discomfort, not the discomfort that comes with new ideas or the discovery or another point of view, but the discomfort that comes when a remark that is decidedly non-PC is made in casual company. Various occupations seem to be ranked in a hierarchy, not simply blue- or white-collar, but something seemingly more judgmental…well-educated vs. low-skilled. I worry about the portrayal of Indians as willing and eager to work for what basically amounts to peanuts in the United States. And it really bothers me that there is, throughout the half of the book I’ve read so far, that same sense of western-centric ideals that has gotten the United States in some very hot water over the past 50 years or so. But I digress.

I really wish that Friedman had explored the options of the people who will lose their jobs and livelihoods to outsourcing and supply-chaining. There is a very human element that must be addressed because if nothing else, it was made clear that this is the tidal wave of the future. The one comfort that was given is that society has met the technology challenge head on, and somehow, everything works itself out, mostly for the better. One such example is that of agriculture. We no longer need as many farmers; we have other sources of food. But what about the farmers who are no longer needed? I seem to recall an event called Farm-Aid in the mid 80’s specifically put on to help farmers who were unable to make a living anymore. Is this what will happen to others who are outsourced? The message given, throughout the book, seems to be “the end justifies the means.” Don’t worry about the people of today, because the people of tomorrow will benefit.

Again in closing, I hope there will be people who will respond to me, be it, “Right on! I’m thinking the exact same thing!” or “Are you crazy? Here is what you missed…” In the meantime, I will continue to read through the last half of the book, albeit at a slower pace than normal, and try not to take too many breaks…I still have four or so more books on my reading list!

I’m continuing to work on adding the podcast to this page, but, for now, I’ll just add a link to my page at Anyone interested can check out the podcast there!

The Last Game Podcast

Help! I guess you can skip the drumroll for my last post. I am having technical difficulties or “digital immigrantitis” getting the player to embed. The podcast is hosted at If anyone has any suggestions or ideas for how to post the podcast, please comment!

Drumroll, please…Here is my newest experiment…podcasting.

I know, I know, lots of people have already done this and published that, but podcasting has real potential for classroom communication. One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is keeping that open line of communication with parents, not because teachers don’t want to, but because the real focus, the real consumer, is the child. Ninety-nine percent of my energy (and I would hazard to say that most teachers are quite similar) is spent planning, creating, facilitating, and reflecting on instructional delivery. This leaves 1 percent, give or take, to apply towards report writing, cadre work, faculty meetings, and the numerous other duties teachers fulfill, of which one is parent education and communication.

Weekly or monthly newsletters typically fill the communication void. In fact, many creative teachers have been able to relinquish newsletter duties to their students, thereby merging their duties and making efficient use of their energies. Unfortunately, as an upper elementary teacher, I’ve found that many times, these newsletters end up in the black hole of the child’s backpack, emerging only once a trimester when the backpack is cleaned. Podcasting is taking the classroom newsletter to the next level, where students are responsible, engaged, and creating content that is not only necessary, but readily accessible (assuming parents have an internet connection or are willing to access one elsewhere, perhaps at a public library).

So in an effort to prepare myself for the upcoming school year, here is my first attempt at an enhanced podcast. Many thanks to my six year old, who acted as a willing guinea pig, and narrated a “micro-mimi” slideshow of shots from his last teeball game. I understand that it is best viewed in iTunes, otherwise you will hear the narration, but not see the pictures. Here is the link for the free download for Windows (I believe most Macs already have it installed, if not, the Mac version is also available for free on the Apple website).

iTunes Download

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