Some quick resources.

In light of yesterday, I thought I’d post the following resources:

If you are looking for someone from yesterday, you might try Google’s Person Finder They’ve got about 5100 entries, last I looked.

If you want to listent to the Boston Police Radios, try here.

If the codes they’re using don’t make sense to you, try here for some help.

The Boston Globe has very good coverage, and I’d avoid the New York Post, as they’ve posted and retracted a number of incorrect facts. They seem to be more interested in “first” than “correct.”

I hope you are all well. Stay safe. Stay calm.

Instead of complaining.

It seems that no matter where I go, I hear high school teachers complaining about the same thing: student trips to the bathroom. It seems such trips are always “too long” and “just so they can get out of the room.” I have a couple of observations.

**1.** Yes, they are leaving your classroom for reasons other than going to the lav.

**2.** They are leaving for as long as they think they can away with it.

**3.** They are leaving because wandering the halls is more interesting than your class.

I always feel that if you’re having issues with this sort of thing, you need to spend some time thinking about what sort of engaging activities you are doing in your classroom. Honestly: if walking the empty halls is more fun than what you’re doing, I’d leave your classroom too.

It also seems that the people who complain most about this sort of thing are the same folks who have their class standing by the door waiting to leave four minutes before the bell. That, I’m afraid, makes you a hypocrite. You can’t complain about kids leaving your room for ten minutes when you’re throwing away twenty minutes a week.
Rant over.

Binary Decision

There are two ways to look at this: you can either stay in education and help from the inside, or you can leave and try to fix it from the outside. Here’s why that’s a problem:

1. As an educator, you feel as though education is your strength- not policy writing or fund raising or politics. Anything other than education, and we give up our advantage of knowledge. That sits poorly with me.

2. We, as educators, want to help students succeed. That’s what we do. We don’t want to sit in endless meetings fretting about getting re-elected.

3. Politics rewards “good enough.” People aren’t excited to rip apart a functioning system for the promise of a better one. If what’s working now is working, the consensus seems to be to let it be.

Given all this, it’s no wonder that the politicians that decide education policy and the educators that execute that policy have so little in common.


Sit Rep

It’s springtime- can you tell?

Me either.

Here’s what I’m up to:

1. I’m shifting gears with my Advanced Media Productions students from documentary work to dramatic. It’ll be a big change for some of them, but it’s time. I’m getting some really good work out of them, and I’ll be trying to continue to post some of it here as it comes in.

2.The Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative is happening again this year- I’m not able to be there this year, but there you go. This is about getting educators together to share and create new digital resources that benefit all of us. It’s free, and it’s a cause I believe in.

3. Just yesterday I had a chance to play way an expensive (14k!) bit of technology. While I’d not (ever) pay that sort of loot for what it was, I was pleasantly impressed with one aspet of it: the 70″ LCD panel. We’ve been looking at not buying projectors anymore, but the exact size of the LCD panel that’d be needed to work in a classroom has been a source of debate. Right now, we’re just waiting for pricing to change a teeny little bit more. I think it’s the way forward.

4. I’m working on some gear that should facilitate me doing some more podcasting in the near(er) future. It’s almost an official project for me- I’ve even got a spreadsheet and everything. Keep your eyes peeled.




It’s recently come to light that Microsoft has been heavily funding lobbying in Massachusetts with the aim of having Google Apps for Education outlawed for student use. What they say they’re interested in is the privacy of students- they’re “worried” about Google having access to so much student data.


At the same time, Bill Gates, through his foundation, has thrown $115 million dollars at the effort of collecting student data. And by student data, it’s worth understanding that they’re collecting everything: Names, addresses, ethnicity, grades, disabilities, pictures- everything. It’s not even anonymized at all.

Want the kicker? They’re selling the data to third-party for-profit companies.

And there’s no opt out.


Empirical doesn’t always work.


How do you empirically measure the value of art? Of architecture? Of learning?

What does 80% learning improvement mean? How could you possibly measure that?

Why is it so hard to understand that hard numbers don’t attach themselves to some things?


Good God.

I try to avoid some touchy issues here, but I can’t sit this one out.

The NRA posted it’s plan to “make schools safer.”

It’s just what they’d hinted at- they want an armed officer at every school, and they want laws changed so teachers can be armed in their buildings as well. To qualify as one of the armed officers, you’d need to go through their 40-60 hour training. Then we’d be safer.


Besides that I don’t think guns belong in school, I’ve got a more pressing issue. Where I teach, you must have at minimum a Master’s Degree to continue teaching beyond the first few years. It’s law. The wording the federal laws talk about “highly qualified” teachers. What they’re trying to do, between the two things, is to mandate that teachers be experts at what they do. In fact, you’re not even eligible for a professional license until you’ve taught full time for three years (that’s 2970 hours in the classroom, minimum).

If you read about the qualities of “expert,” you’ll find much about the amount of time related to becoming an expert- the number most often kicked around is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. In my line of work, that’s about 10 years of teaching full time. That said, every teacher I know worth their salt will say you’re never an expert at teacher. But I digress.

We’ve established that we want to only allow experts to teach (or work) at our schools. We’ve established that there is federal legislation aimed at this. And we’ve established that it can take (nominally) 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert.

So here comes the NRA saying that a “40-60 hour” course of study makes someone fit to carry a gun in a school and be able to defend that school. It defies logic.



Presentations are hard, I’ll grant you. And I’m not talking about performing them.

There are a lot of rules to keep in mind, and a lot of guidelines that you need to take into account if you don’t want yours to look amateurish or be unwatchable. I’m not interested in getting into those details here- there are better presenters that do a better job of writing about what to do and not do.

I’m here to offer some other advice- something I’ve not seen much text about. It’s about using tech in a presentation.

Presentations are about engaging the audience. That’s it. There’s no second thing. If you fail with that, nothing else you do matters. As such, every decision you make should be based on that first criteria. So when you pick the tech that you’re going to use in a presentation, you need to focus on the engagement of the audience. Ask yourself: Will my use of this tech further engage my audience? Be thoughtful about how you answer.

The audience doesn’t care what remote app you’re using, but they’ll care if you have to re-sync the bluetooth to it during the presentation. They don’t care if your computer is wired to the projector or wirelessly connected, but they’ll care if the wifi flakes out and they won’t talk to each other. If you’re going to use a website live, you better be sure it’ll load and function properly. If you’re going to play a YouTube video, you’d better be sure it’ll load and play quickly and at high res. If you’re doing an audience poll, it better work easily and smoothly with a group that’s likely never used it before.

Losing an audience happens quickly and without remorse. Any glitch, any bobble, any reason to check out and they will.

As a result of this, I keep the tech I use to an absolute minimum. Cables are better than wireless. Reliable is better than not. Saved to disk is better than live-on-the-web. Familiar is better than novel.


Forced Decisions

I’ve been taking this course with Dan Ariely from Duke about the nature of how we make decisions and the latent biases inherent in those. It’s excellent- I’m trying to keep up with it, but my life is such right now that I may not be able to do that. Either way, I’m learning tons right now.

One of the points more recently made was over the nature of decisions. Much of what we do (or don’t do) in terms of change is based on an ingrained tendency to keep the status quo. We don’t like change. We resist and avoid it to a very large degree, though we are blind to much of this behavior.

There’s an interesting work around: force a choice. Provide a t-shaped decision fork, where it is impossible to continue on without change. This forces us into a situation where we must consciously choose the direction and choice we make. This explains, by the way, why educators don’t change their techniques or methods when presented with opportunities (and support). If we want to see meaningful change, we must consider the tendency for all of use to maintain the current state- and create situations that do no allow this. An example:

Let’s say you have aging desktop computers in classrooms, and you want teachers to adopt the more mobile solution of laptops. If you offer laptops to the teachers, a number will choose to take them, but the bulk will insist that they also continue to use and keep the desktop in the classroom. Instead, if we stipulate that the desktop computer will be removed from their room and disposed of, and that they must choose between two available models of laptops, you provide a t-shaped decision fork, and the change must be addressed. The status quo becomes an unacceptable choice, and thus the decision becomes the reasonable option.

I’m sure this is relevant to the way teacher adopt (or don’t adopt) technology into their classrooms. It’s something, however, I see precious little thought being put into, and I think that needs to change.