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.

9 Questions for Reflective School Reform Leaders

Blueprint1 In response to the November 22: Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform, I have posed nine questions for school leaders to consider. They’re organized around three themes and a concluding recommendation. (Note: each theme also resonates in the new Common Core standards).

Readers might also want to review my post “A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, and Principals

Theme 1. Learning must engage student in rigorous thinking at higher levels of Bloom – analyzing, evaluating and creating. School leaders should ask:

1. Does our school community recognize the difference between higher and lower order thinking?
2. Are students expected to just consume information, or are they asked to create something original that demonstrates their learning?
3. Is our school a creative problem-solving organization? 
Answers: We cut music and art for remedial math. (Wrong!!!)
 We recognize music and art are vehicles to teach math. (That’s better!)

Theme 2. Learning is relevant when the student understands how the information or skill has some application to their life, has an opportunity to figure out their own process rather than just learn “the facts,” and is given opportunities to reflect on their work and their progress as learners. School leaders should ask …

4. Do our students get high grades for simply memorizing the review sheet for the test?
5. Do our students “follow the recipe” or are they increasingly asked to take responsibility for their learning products, process and results?
6. Is the audience for student work simply the teacher, or are students asked to share their learning with peers, family, community?

Theme 3. The digital age has redefined literacy. To paraphrase David Warlick, literacy now means the ability to: find information, decode it, critically evaluate it, organize it into digital libraries, be able to share it with others and stay focused on a task. School leaders should ask …

7. If we’re no longer the “information gatekeepers,” are we teaching our students to critically evaluate information and use it responsibly?
8. Does our technology get used mainly by the educators, or are students regularly employing it to create understanding and share their learning?
9. Is our credit system based on seat time or can it be expanded beyond the school walls to any place / time virtual learning?

I find it ironic that while schools chase NCLB “proficiency,” life has become an open book test. We need to unleash the power of assessment that targets and inspires. One-shot, high stakes tests are just autopsies. Students need regular check-ups where teachers can gauge student progress and target instruction. Ultimately the program must be designed to foster student self-assessment that gives them responsibility for monitoring their own progress. Students should be supported in on-going self-reflection that addresses questions such as:

  • How can I use this knowledge and these skills to make a difference in my life?
  • How am I progressing as a learner?
  • How can I communicate what I’m learning with others?
  • How can I work with teachers and other students to improve my learning?

Schools will need to become places that create engaging and relevant learning experiences, provoke student reflection, and help students apply the learning to life. Authentic  accountability is reciprocal …  leadership is responsible to provide resources for success, educators are responsible for results. Simply sorting students along the “bell curve” won’t do.

Start Your Digital Scrapbook – I Collect SpamHaiku

Spam Haiku

I’ve found a tool that makes blogging too easy. Tumblr let’s you quickly post thoughts, dialogue, quotes, images and videos. The account is free. Sign up and start posting your content. The engine lacks design and management tools, but that’s a plus. It’s a format designed for short-form posting without the commentary. You don’t have to worry about creating a blog that that takes over your life. If blogs are journals, tumblelogs are scrapbooks.

I started a tumblelog a few weeks ago called SpamHaiku. Each morning I spend a few moments with my spam before I hit delete.  I’ve long admired the pointless subject lines – now with a quick copy / paste – I assemble a “poem.” I pick the morning’s most outlandish spam “author” and give them credit for the post. Here’s a few  of  “my creations.”

Pounds down
Mood up
Punishable footprint
Frown bereft
— Fern Fry

Goldfish sleepily
watch his pounds
— Birdsboro Boone

Technology continues to lower the barrier for entry to the new media. The new copy / paste culture fosters a bottom-up takeover of the information flow. Will we upload more than we download?  Will the audience become the show?

Five Reasons Why I Blog

why blog

Greg Bell, a fellow jazz-loving friend and blogger recently tagged me to post “Five Reasons Why I Blog” – a meme that circulating around the blog world. Here’s my thoughts and thanks to Greg for making me do this.

1. Blogs compensate for my lack of originality. They allow me to easily synthesize content from different sources and present it in a new context. That why I call my blog Copy / Paste.  As W. Somserset Maugham said, “…Quotation…is a serviceable substitute for wit.” (See, I borrowed again. )

2. Blogs are learning tools. With new technologies we can be creators and consumers of content. It’s time to bring teaching and learning into the 21st century.

3. Blogs connect people. I recently ran a workshop in Portland OR for the Oregon Dept of Education. It was a big group (350) and I wanted to engage their thinking and comments. In addition to using an audience response system, I created a workshop blog. Participants took a survey at the blog in advance to help shape the agenda. Their pre-workshop posts became part of my presentation. (with citation, of course). We held the workshop in a WiFi enabled convention center and attendees read and posted comments during the presentation.

4. Blogs are easy. I’ve had websites at and for nearly 10 years. They’re created with FrontPage (sorry I never learned how to write in html.) Building them was far more work than blogging.

5. Blogs are fluid.  I don’t know CSS, so making a style change at my two other domains requires me to edit every page. Blogs compensate for the thin veneer of understanding I have of technology. I recently made a new header for this blog. One edit – shows up on every page.

Since this meme is set up like a chain letter here’s where I tag other bloggers – I’ve picked some educational bloggers in various stages of their blogging career. Your turn David, Bob, Patrick, Nancy, Julie and Pat

Image credit flickr/Kristina B

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