Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: July 2012

Learning to Learn

During my time in Ireland this summer, I spent a substantial amount of time discussing how we can get people to learn about learning. The goal is to help people learn independently. I say “people” and not “students” because I have this idea that many adults are not completely sure how to teach themselves. Whether they lack the skills or just the confidence to take a leap into the unknown makes very little difference. The end result is that people end up waiting for a class, or a session, or whatever before attempting something new.

I find this rather sad since one of those goals that float around every school these days is helping students become independent, self-guided learners. How can we help students become something when we are not so sure what that something looks like and how it operates?

The new school year starts in just a few weeks, so I’m setting new goals. At the top of my list is working with teachers in a way that helps them be more independent of me for answering simple tech questions. Yes, this might help everyone see how we could help students, but there is more. I want my time with teachers to be more about translating good tech use into better instruction rather than showing them where to click and what to drag.

It is not a simple goal, and it will be hard to assess how successful I am, but it is worth giving it a try. I’ll be relying on the new ISTE NETS-C standards and the research behind that document.

Readable Fonts

I just returned from a week in Ireland with an international contingent of Apple Distinguished Educators. We had a great time, and we shared some great ideas and resources. I particularly enjoyed my time with the self-appointed accessibility team. I look forward to working with them over the next few months, and hope to share what I learn with the teachers in Goochland.

I also had a couple of days for sight-seeing, and visited Cobh, the last port of call of the Titanic. In the visitors’ center, I snapped a photo of a letter that made me laugh, not because of the content, but because of the handwriting.

If you are going to use a font that looks like this, you’d better be calling yourself “King, defender of the faith, emperor of India…” Otherwise, stick to something readable. If you think I’m kidding, ask the accessibility experts.

Virtual Manipulatives

Last spring I created a video showing off the Virtual Manipulatives app for the iPad. The video is available on our iTunes U storefront. Here is the update, with lots of nice new features. It is a great app at a great price: free!


Master Googler

Everything is in Google if you know how to find it. That last bit is the important one. Do you know how to find everything in Google?

Now is your chance to learn.

Registration is open for the Power Searching with Google online course. In six 50-minute sessions, you can learn all the tricks from Dan Russell (blog). You will even get a certificate. Cool, huh?

I think I’m pretty good at finding things, and have learned a lot from playing the daily Google search puzzle. I still would love to take the class, but will be traveling during the days the course will be live.

It would be great if Google could offer this again during the school year. I know a few teachers who’d find a way to incorporate this into their syllabus.

Post-ISTE Indigestion

It happens every year. I say I’ll blog while I’m at ISTE, but when I’m there I can’t sit still long enough to get it done. Now I have so many things to write about I’m having a hard time settling on just one. Thankfully, Dr. Gretz already did some of the writing for me when he mentioned my favorite keynote in his weekly recap.


There are two main topics vying for this blog post. First, the new ISTE standards for technology coaches. My title is ITRT, which does not mention coaching, but that’s what I do. These standards provide a sound basis for my job description and performance evaluation, and have given me some ideas of what to look for in future professional learning opportunities.

Second, much of what I heard at the sessions I attended, and from all keynote speakers, is the importance of encouraging students to find their own voice, interests, and talents to achieve. I think I heard Einstein’s quote about fish climbing trees at least ten times while at ISTE. “… if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

If we judge kids solely on their ability to take multiple choice tests based on irrelevant factual information… Fill in the blank yourself.

Of course, our Senior Projects come to mind, and of course, we cannot wait until our students are in their senior year before we prepare them to be self-guided, self-motivated students. We must provide more open-ended, authentic learning opportunities at all grade levels, with age-appropriate materials and scaffolding. This, I believe, is the aim of our G21 framework. Our G21 is not “just something else we have to get done.” It is what thousands of school districts all over the United States and around the world are trying to implement. We have a head start. Let’s not waste it.


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