Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: June 2009

Busy Busy

I’ve received several emails and tweets requesting updates from colleagues who could not attend NECC. I PROMISE I’ll share. Right now I’m still busy looking at things.

Here are a few things I’ve liked so far:

Great ideas for using Scratch in ANY content area

New ideas for online (distributive) learning

Using collaborative tools to provide support for special needs students

I have the rest of the summer to get these things organized so we can incorporate them into our Professional Development plan for the new school year.

Success Doesn’t Come Easy

Last night’s keynote by Malcolm Gladwell focused on the need to persevere. I’m not sure he used that word, (although he did say “apotheosis” which is a cool word) and he used some interesting and entertaining examples. He said success takes time, and does not come easily, at least not usually.

What are the implications for education? This applies both to teachers and students. There are no quick fixes or miracle cures for anything anyone might think is wrong with our education system.

While there are teachers who are truly wonderful from day one, most teachers need coaching and a lot of practice during their first years. This is not a slam on teacher preparation programs, or at least I don’t see it that way. No matter how many classes anyone takes, nothing can substitute for the experience of actually being in the classroom. Think reading about Jazz versus actually listening or playing Jazz.

For students, the problems are time constraints and motivation. If we need thousands of hours devoted to a single set of skills to achieve mastery, but we have limited hours, we need to focus on the more valuable skill sets. I’m guessing picking the right answer out of four choices does not qualify as a skill, really. And, we need to find a way to motivate students so they put in some time an effort on their own outside of school.

So, why talk about this at an educational technology conference? Because technology alone is useless in education. There must be sound ideas and reflective practice behind what we do. Perseverance gets us to where we can generate and implement sound ideas, in my opinion.

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Sugary Sweet

I am writing this post using the browser in Sugar, the OLPC desktop environment, running in the Sun VirtualBox on my Mac.

I have to admit, this is meant for kids to use with minimal instruction, but my brain is stuck on mainstream operating systems.

I guess this will be my weekend project…

At Last!

Way back when I came to Goochland County I started this blog. I was so overwhelmed: the switch to Mac, the Promethean boards, all the new people, and the different role. I just typed in a random title and tag line as placeholders. Of course I’d come back and change them to something better when I had a chance.

Almost two years later, I finally did it.

Tech Salad. Everything thrown in tossed around a bit. Better than ITRT News…

Thanks to John Hendron for letting me borrow his salad.


I’ll be at NECC next week, and I’ll be showing how our teachers and students have worked this past year on project-based learning units.

I have trying to anticipate the questions I’ll get, and think of every possible answer. I bet someone asks how we manage to fit in these long-term projects and still cover all the required standards.

We don’t have to give students a list of standards for memorization. We can guide them to ask and answer questions and find the standards. It’s more fun that way, and more memorable, like watching (or playing) the soccer game rather than being told the score.

Granted, it requires a bit more planning and preparation. It also teaches kids skills other than memorization…

Note: Thanks to Joel Achenbach and his post on big questions.

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Google Grab

So, why is grabbing images off Google to use in your own stuff wrong?

Danielle Smith from St. Louis can tell you exactly why. Someone else could grab YOUR picture.

As NPR reports, a Czech supermarket chain used a family photo Ms. Smith posted online as the centerpiece of their advertising campaign.

We Should Be So Proud

This past week our Goochland Teacher Blogs were added to the Showcase. We are listed right along with blog sites from The Wall Street Journal, Ben and Jerry’s, and the MTV Newsroom.


I shared with some friends, and this is what one of them had to say:

I’m always fascinated at the way some tools are invented, but don’t really find their true expression until some time later, and often by accident. For instance, there was TV, and then David Lynch made Twin Peaks years later, which seemed to me to be what television was *for* but had never been, before. Your teacher blogs are like that.

I wouldn’t say they are MY teacher blogs, but that is a very nice compliment.

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Twittery Stats

The Dictionary Team at Oxford University Press has analyzed randomly-selected tweets and has found the sentence length is cut roughly by half than in general usage, gerunds are the norm, and most statements refer to the author of the tweet. The statistics are reported on the OUP blog.

The OUP blog links to Gawker (not my favorite blog by far, but the post is interesting), which links to a Harvard study with some interesting social statistics about Twitter. It seems Twitter is an oddity among social networks when it comes to gender. While activity on other social networks seems to focus around women, Twitter is all about men.

Of course, I had to go look at my tweets and my follower/followed numbers. I seem to fit the norm. I follow mostly men (not on purpose), I use very short sentences with plenty of gerunds, and I don’t tweet as much as those 10% users who make up 90% of the total activity of the site.

UPDATE: The Business Insider has statistics about Twitter’s popularity (or lack of).

Eating My Marshmallow

Today I watched a video from TED by Joachim de Posada about kids who could (or couldn’t) resist eating a marshmallow. Kids were told that they’d get a second marshmallow if they did not eat the first one while alone in a room for fifteen minutes. Years later, the same kids were interviewed as young adults. Those who had not eaten the marshmallow seemed to be more successful.

There are more details about the experiment in last month’s New Yorker Magazine. The trick to not eating the marshmallow is not about resisting the urge to eat it. You don’t eat the marshmallow by making a concerted effort of thinking about something else. Thinking about thinking: metacognition.

…this view of will power also helps explain why the marshmallow task is such a powerfully predictive test. “If you can deal with hot emotions, then you can study for the S.A.T. instead of watching television,” Mischel says. (…)It’s not just about marshmallows.”

Can we teach self control and delayed gratification? Maybe. Read the article. The implications for education are obvious.

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