There’s nothing more intimidating than a blank page and a blinking cursor.

And sometimes you just need to start typing, and worry about what it says later.


Sometimes starting is the most important part.

Everything Public?

So we had a visitor last week. Doesn’t matter who.

And while talking about our new digital student portfolio initiative, there was some concern about the public/private nature of putting young students’ work online. Understandably. It was something we’d been grappling with for a bit already, but mister visitor was quick with a response:

Just make it public.

The argument, I suppose, being that it makes things easy on the administration end. That it creates an environment/culture of “openness.” And so on.

But I’m not convinced. Not everything in the “real world” is open. In fact, we stress the ability to keep much of what we do private- from social networks to banking to forums, we cherish the ability to keep things isolated to a specific community.

So why would we take that ability from students?

Chrome is a default.

If you’ve (wisely, I feel…) made the move to Google Apps for Education, Chrome should be the default browser install in your district.

It’s wickedly fast. It’s updated often. It has excellent plug-ins.

And it works better (shocking!) than anything else with Google.


So why mess with anything else?

A new font…

This might qualify as a small thing, but I thought it was a pretty big deal.

Some time ago there was a bit of press about a dyslexia-specific font. There was some promising research, and I was all excited- but it was expensive.

Some good folks got together to make an open-source version, and have posted it here.

I hooked up a few on the Sped folks here, and they’re going to do some testing. I’m excited, and so are they.



Why can’t this be simple?

So Google went and got me all excited about the new Course Builder project they’ve got going.

It looks pretty neat.

And then-

Requires some knowledge of Python. And JavaScript. And HTML.

So I’m lucky enough to have one of those under my belt. And, as an ELA teacher, that’s pretty unusual. I even know a teeny-tiny bit of JavaScript. And I know what Python is.

But to expect a classroom educator to either know- or have time to learn- all three of those things in order make a course means that this was designed for people with heavy web-based development. That might be reasonable at the college level and within the realm of technical studies, but not at the k-12 level. And not with traditional classroom teachers.

So once again, some tech/engineer types have failed on two accounts:

1. They have assumed everyone is just like them, and

2. They haven’t brought in any educators to look at what they’ve made.

I expected more, folks.


Data Driven

To suppose that every aspect of good teaching can be reduced to quantifiable numbers is asinine.

It’s exactly the same as saying that via some crude scoring matrix you can quantify the quality of art in museums. Or that by a combination of word analysis and statistics you can determine the worth of a brilliant novel.

There are such things as intangibles. And good teaching is one of them.


So Far-

I just did this math:

I’ve been involved in the direct distribution of 1515 (+/- 10) iPads. I’m involved in the readying of another 900 right now. That will be 2414 total within the year.

And all of it doesn’t matter if the culture of the school (teachers, students, admin, and parents) isn’t ready and willing to accept that putting devices in students hands fundamentally changes the way you need to be teaching.

Sit Rep

Summer’s over, folks. For me, anyway.

1. Got a cool announcement about a conference I’ll be at- but that I’m not running. Pretty excited about it. Check back tomorrow for details and linkage.

2. The school year is starting to roll along, so figure I’ll be getting started on new Tangentials pretty soon. First up is an episode about Red Heads. I’ll likely shoot it as a long form version, and then edit a short version down from that. Likely.

3. A very old friend of mine, Ed Sassler, has tapped me for a new project he’s working on. We’re meeting up this week, in person, to get started on my end of things. It’ll be a ton of work, but I’m excited to be onboard for this. Details/website/info as it becomes available.

4. I’m trying to run updates pretty much every day now. That means mostly shorter-format posts, which is something I’m better at anyway.

Loads more to come.

Back to my tea.

The Streets

One of my favorite authors has a famous quote:

The street finds it’s own use for things.

-William Gibson

Some of the tech that’s released ends up getting used in ways the creators never imagined. The two classic examples are pagers and text messages, but there are many more.

It’s something to keep in mind when you’re being bombarded with new tech being marketed at education. In fact, most of the best tech I’ve found hasn’t been made for education at all. Even worse, the stuff marketed at educators is often the worst of a breed I’ve seen.

Look outside the box a bit, and don’t be afraid to turn a product on it’s head if it’ll do what you need.