The Answer?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years of Education about how we assess teachers in classrooms. Walkthroughs, mentoring, surveys, and a million other options have all been kicked around as possibilities. Being fans of “empirical data,” politicians have decided that using an assessment that wasn’t meant to look at teacher achievement as a measure of… wait for it… teacher achievement is like a good idea.


But I’ve stumbled across something that might actually be a solution. Really. Honestly.

Some lovely folks over at MIT published a paper on measuring brain activity via a small wristband. They do this by measuring electrodermal activity and using this to help measure cognitive activity.

Changes in skin conductance at the surface, referred to as electrodermal activity (EDA), reflect activity within the sympathetic axis of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and provide a sensitive and convenient measure of assessing alterations in sympathetic arousal associated with emotion, cognition, and attention.


Poh, M.Z., Swenson, N.C., Picard, R.W., “A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity,” IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol.57, no.5, pp.1243-1252, May 2010. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2009.2038487 PDF

That PDF link will get you the whole paper. It’s a bit technical (though pretty readable…), but it outlines that there is now a way to measure the level of engagement a student is experiencing directly. In hard numbers. I’m looking forward to being able to monitor my own state- Can I actually tell when I’m engaged? Am I always right? Do the things that I think engage me actually do that?

The wealth of data that this can provide to educators would allow us to fine-tune our delivery and our instruction to maximize it’s impact on our students.

Some new Setup stuff…

I’ve recently gotten a few things up and running around here, and I thought some video to share was in order. None of this is faked- it’s all real. And it’s all on my desk. For how long, who knows…

So that’s a bit over the top, but it’s honestly what I’m currently using. I’d love to get a third monitor in there to fix some formatting issues, but that’s in the “eventual” pile of things to do. Then, there’s this:


This is harder to justify, but way cooler. And more META. And cooler.

Hope you enjoy.





I’ve been under the weather for a few days, and not been sure why. Then I realized: this might be the busiest week of the year for me. It goes like this.

1. I’ve got visits from at least three different districts this week, which is always good. I really like getting to share what we’re doing and how we’re making it work.

2. I’m giving at talk for EDCO on Thursday evening. I haven’t been back since I did a presentation there last year, but I’m looking forward to explaining how we’re making our High School 1:1 program work.

3. And this is the big one, people. The New England 1:1 Summit is this Saturday, March 10th. Somehow, it’s gotten completely out of control. Vendors. Catering. T-Shirts. Sessions. 450 people. How did this happen? I’m totally excited about it, and totally in awe of how large it’s grown. Can’t wait to meet a lot of interesting and passionate people.

So there you go- from busy to insane in three simple steps.

Hope to see you along the way.




Introversion and Education.

This is a topic that comes up in my classroom on a regular basis. I’m not sure she gets it all right, but I think this is a conversation that need to be happening in education. And while you might draw conclusions about me and what the role of education is in all this, let me offer a few bits of information:

1. I am, by nature, primarily an introvert. I fake extroversion pretty well, and I do honestly enjoy speaking to groups (even large ones…), it’s pretty exhausting for me.

2. I’ve long been a fan of what old jazz musicians used to call “woodshedding.” That’s the idea of going off- to the woodshed- and letting new and original and strange ideas come to you.

3. I think technology in education can offer introverts a way to find more peace in the normal hectic day than before- I think, in fact, that it can work powerfully in tandem with introversion.

All that said, here’s the video:

Self Published Textbooks (and where to go from here)

A bunch of years ago (6 years), the British Literature anthologies we were using were dead. Like, bindings-falling-off dead. And out of print.

So, like normal we looked to the major vendors for something suitable and new to buy. But there were problems- nothing had quite what we wanted, and they were all absurdly expensive. We were looking at having to spend something on the order of $30,000 on books we really didn’t like all that much.

Which got me thinking about just writing our own textbooks. And when I happened across an article about print on demand publishing, light bulbs began to flash.

We’ve been having our own textbooks printed for our students for five years now. I can’t take all the credit- especially the first year, there was a lot more than one person could do. But I did all the layout on the first two editions of the book (as well as contributing some text).

You know what I’ve learned in the time since then?

This is the only way to go. There’s no reason not to be doing this, at any grade level and in any subject. If you’re an educator (and presumably know your subject matter), this is the only way you’ll ever be happy with a text. Yes, it’s a lot of work, and yes, you’ll have to learn some new stuff (book layout, copyright law, electronic publishing details…), but learning new stuff is a part of what being an educator is all about.

I worked on a project last summer that put educators from all over the state together to pool resources- the idea being that it would allow any of us to create our own e-books quickly and easily because we wouldn’t have to do all the work ourselves. It was (and is) a great idea. Sadly, there weren’t that many people that seemed to buy into it last year. We’re doing it again this summer (details to follow, as I have them) and I’m hoping for a bigger turnout.

An amazing resource.

I’ve known about these for a while now, but since the last of the series just dropped yesterday, it seemed like the time to write about them.

The Everything Is A Remix videos should be required watching for all educators and students. End. Of. Story.

Kirby Ferguson breaks down the complicated differences between copying and tranforming- showing the merits of either and limitations of both. In the educational world, it’s all too common for us to say “copying is bad” without ever admitting that copying plays an important role in the creative process. We delineate the world into good and bad without ever addressing the substantial grey area.

These videos take the very difficult subject matter and via use of excellent narration, wonderful animation, and astute split screens, open students’ eyes to the true nature of creativity and ownership.

If you’re not watching these, and if you’re not showing them to your students, you’re doing it wrong.




New England 1:1 Summit

So I’m helping work on this fairly large summit we’re running. As of right now, we’ve got 280 people signed up, but we’re predicting something over 300 attending by March 10th.

Pretty excited about all this.

We’re trying to start some good communication between people already doing the 1:1 thing, and people looking to go that direction. If I’m honest, I have absolutely no idea what that other direction might be, but there you go. Let me say a few thing about what this conference isn’t:

1. An Apple-specific event. Yes, they’ll be there, and yes, we use iPad2’s at our 1:1 schools, but this isn’t about a specific device.

2. A focus on how to use specific tools in classrooms.

3. A waste of time.

And as to the question as to what this conference is:

1. A plainspoken talk about the culture shift required in a successful move to 1:1.

2. A chance to share and create resources about that cultural shift.

3. Awesome.

I’ll post more about the cultural shift I’ve mentioned above, but that’s a bigger topic than I’m willing to tackle right here and now.




Bit of news…

Couple of things going on. Allow me to enumerate them.

1. Our school is in the midst of Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation/dramatic reading competition. School semi finals are today, and have just over 100 students taking part, which represents roughly the top 10% of performances. I’ll be running a livestream of the entire event today, which runs all day, from 7:35am until nearly 2:00pm (EST). Feel free to tune in over here to see what that looks like. The finals (which is much shorter & top 1% of all students) will be Feb 10th, and for that I’ll be producing the stream live- remote cameras and all. I’ll post that link then, too.

2. This blog/webpage is finally ready to move to a custom server- so expect that to be happening soon, likely over this weekend. If all goes well, it’ll look just as it does now, and you’d never be the wiser. But if things go sideways a bit… well, there you go.

3. The New England 1:1 Summit is gathering some steam- more people signing up, more sponsors getting on board… And you should, too. It’s free, it’s fun, and there will be tons of good talks about how 1:1 isn’t really about tech at all, and is about a shift in culture. The first-draft schedule just got posted too- check that out as well.


Sanity. Sweet, sweet sanity…

So I found this floating by on twitter the other day.

It’s a nice, sane view and a careful reading of what the Apple iBooks Author EULA actually means. And -wait for it- it doesn’t mean what people are complaining about it meaning.

Apple doesn’t own your content, they retain exclusive rights to publish the outputted file. That’s it.

The difference is crucial. Nothing stops you from publishing that same content via other means in other file formats. So by all means, use iBooks Author to build a book for iPads, then turn around a push out roughly the same content via ePub and PDF and whatever other format you like. And sell those elsewhere, if that’s your thing.

Maybe people need to take a deep breath?

Have a cup of tea?

Otherwise calm down?