Blogging from ITSC 2011

ITSC cvent

I'm pleased to be invited as a guest blogger to the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference 2/20-22 in Portland, Oregon. More on the conference.

ITSC 2011 (twitter/ITSCPDX) is hands-on conference with a clear focus on the practical use of technology in the classroom – workshops are small sessions led by facilitators, not presenters. The facilitator roster includes many of my favorite educators to follow on Twitter – including @ScottElias  @timlauer  @elemenous  @budtheteacher  @shareski  @irasocol  As a recent transplant to Portland, I'll be available to give guided tours of our many fine brewpubs. 

The conference is being held at the Airport Sheraton – a short hop to Portland – a great city for food, drink and live music. Check Willamette Week for updates on what's going on. A visit to Powell's City of Books is mandatory – it's the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world. Note: for more on the "keep Portland weird" thing, see Portlandia on IFC.

Transport to the city from the conference is quick and affordable. The Portland thing to do would be ride your bike, but you can take a 35 min MAX light-rail ride (only $2.30). Once you get to TriMet's fareless square downtown, the MAX and street cars are free.  Or call Radio Cab (honest, owner-owned cabbies)  and ask for the "Radio Flyer special" ($26 downtown – airport). It's about a 15 drive to downtown, the eastside is even closer!

Be on the lookout for me at ITSC 2011. I'll be roaming the conference with my camera and Flip Video. You'll find my tweets @edteck using hashtag #ITSC11. My last guest blogging was done at ASCD in San Antonio. Click here to see the Prezi updates and Twitter visualizations I used to cover the conference.

The Four Negotiables of Student Centered Learning

I spent most of last week guiding teachers on classroom walkthroughs. (Here’s links to my protocol and some recent participant responses.) It’s an effective approach to professional development – one that focuses on the students, not the teacher. Think of it as a roving Socratic seminar that provokes reflections on teaching and learning.

One of the subjects that often comes up during walk throughs is how to recognize a student-centered approach. I tell participants to watch the students and try to decide the extent to which they are being asked to manage the four central elements of any lesson – content, process, product and assessment. Any or all can be decided by the teacher, by the students, or some of both. As I often said to my own students when introducing a lesson – “Which elements do you want to be in charge of? Which do you want me to decide? Remember you don’t  all have to take the same approach.”

You can’t simply “throw students in the deep end” and expect them to take responsibility for all their learning decisions. But with scaffolding and support, students will increasingly take more responsibility for their learning. The reward is the increase in student motivation that comes with greater student choice. And as students take more ownership of the learning process, they are better able to monitor their own progress and reflect on themselves as learners. See my Taxonomy of Reflection for useful prompts.

Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Twitter Stream Visualizer

I posted this Twitter StreamGraphs visualization that displays a flowing graph of the words most frequently used in the latest 1000 tweets marked with the hashtag #SOTU. (#SOTU is a Twitter code for Tweets about the State of the Union address.) It was a great way to follow the backchannel Twitter chatter during (and just after) Obama's speech.

Because the level of Tweets using the hastag #SOTU has dropped way off – here's screen shot of what it looked like when it was live. Click to enlarge.

But since there are still a few people tweeting with #SOTU, click here for full screen of the live graph.

Navigation tips: Click on a word to highlight and see included tweets below.
Scroll to right for the latest keywords. Scroll down to see the full Tweet.
If you see a large spike in one time period that hides the detail in all the other periods, click in the area to the left of the y-axis to change the vertical scale.

Hat tip to Twitter StreamGraphs – @JeffClark


Filtering in School? A Response

Filter A recent post by Mike Gwaltney “Keeping Kids off the Internet – What’s With the Draconian Filtering Policies?” posed some important questions “Is filtering necessary? If so, why filter so aggressively? Is there a way to filter effectively that both protects students and allows them to use the Web to its potential? Aren’t we doing students a disservice by blocking the full internet?”

Here’s my response:

I grew up in a heavily curated information landscape. The news was limited to relatively few sources. I can even remember the days of the 15 minute evening national news cast. Schools were just another one of the information gatekeepers that ruled my life. But at the same time it was rather tough for me to get in trouble. (though at age 16, I did manage to read large portions of the newly banned “Fanny Hill” in the aisles of a progressive bookstore). 

Today, students are awash in text without context. They are only a click away from reading that the “Holocaust was a hoax.” Ironically many schools respond by filtering. Wouldn’t it make more sense opening up the internet at school – providing thoughtful analysis and responsible use?

Filtering teaches hacking, not responsible use. 

For more on this subject see my post “What Happens in Schools When Life Has become an Open-book Test?

Image credit: Flickr/GIANTsqurl

Forget the Graphic Organizers, Does Taking Tests Help You Learn?

Learning-through-testing This should stir things up!

A New York Times story "Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say" (January 21, 2011) reports…


Graph: NY Times


"Taking a test is not just a passive mechanism for assessing how much people know, according to new research. It actually helps people learn, and it works better than a number of other studying techniques.

The research, published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

One of those methods – repeatedly studying the material – is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other – having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning – is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.

These other methods not only are popular, the researchers reported; they also seem to give students the illusion that they know material better than they do."  More

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