Archive for the 'General' Category

Adventure … It's a Wonderful Thing

August 17th, 2009

Welcome to a new adventure. Of course the thing about adventures is that they’re really only exciting to the people who read about them, not those who are actually up to their armpits in alligators.

My traditional greeting to students in the Principles of Distance Learning is “Good Morning, Mr. Phelps.” Go read it and then check in on Blackboard for today’s Mission: Impossible.

Spring Course Texts

January 5th, 2009

My courses this spring use the following books:

EDUC 628:

Solomon, G., Allen, N., Resta, P. (2003). Toward Digital Equity: Bridging the Divide in Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Stoll, C. (1999). High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian. New York:Anchor.

Papert, S. (1993). The Children’s Machine, New York, Basic Books

EDUC 644:

Counts, E. L. (2004) Multimedia Design and Production for Students and Teachers. Pearson. ISBN: 0-205-34387-2


April 25th, 2008

As the semester winds down and you get ready to evaluate my performance using the IDEA tool, this just in from the Dept of Duh:

Validation for
A new study is about to appear in the journal Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education and it will argue that there are similarities in the rankings in and IDEA, a student evaluation system used at about 275 colleges nationally and run by a nonprofit group affiliated with Kansas State University.

It’s gratifying to know that somebody recognizes that these kinds of comparisons mean, “omg, this one is just as bad as that one!”

Remember that the next time somebody wants to do a study comparing online and classroom courses.

Hold the marbles:

April 25th, 2008

From the news wire, this story about educational research:

Hold the marbles: Abstract approach best for math | Science | Reuters
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Frustrated math students may have a good excuse — some of the teaching methods meant to make math more relevant may in fact be making it harder to understand, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

I wish they’d included a link to the original study.

Meme: High School Daze to Praise.

April 18th, 2008

Clay Burrell tagged me on his blog, Beyond School. The thing was apparently started by Paul C. at quoteflections. According to the established protocols for such things, here are the rules

  • Select and briefly review one teen novel, classic or modern, which is a sure antidote to the daze of high school.
  • Title your post Meme: High School Daze to Praise.
  • Include an image with your post.
  • Tag four blogger colleagues.

I’ve reviewed some of the other contributions to the meme to get a better feel for where this is going. My problem with it lies in the phrase “teen novel.” What the heck is a teen novel?? Most of the contributions I’ve seen involve a teen as protagonist, and they’ve all been interesting – kinda. Some of them I’ve read myself. Some of them, I think I’d like to read, and frankly, a couple of them, no. Thanks, but no.

The primary qualification is “a sure antidote to the daze of high school.” I need to be able to assign it to a high school kid. Clay’s suggestion of Lolita has garnered a lot of attention for a lot of good reasons. I’ve seen Ender’s Game in the list, and I’ve seen a lot of titles that — um — not so much.

One of my problems with this is that it’s been 38 years since I graduated from high school and while I remember the books I read on my own, I don’t remember the ones I was assigned. Seems to me there was Ivanhoe, and Moby Dick. Yawn. What I remember was a long string of Dostoevsky, Heinlein, LeGuin, and what seemed like a doorstop by Frank Herbert entitled Dune.

DuneDune is the story of Paul Atriedes who is thrown into the bubbling stew of court politics, war, and culture. The book is filled with vivid imagery, unforgettable (often repulsive) characters, and scenes of often violent action set against a sweeping religious and philosophical backdrop. This is a seminal work in modern science fiction and I think every bit as important as the work of Verne and Wells in the genre.

I probably should add a disclaimer. I’m a science fiction fan, author, and general geek. I can read other kinds of stories – but sci-fi is my home. It’s the genre that few “literary” people respect and this is often doubly true in education. In spite of that, sci-fi (or speculative fiction, to use the current politically correct term) gives us an opportunity to examine issues that are too close to us — too personal — to be seen. By placing the behavior or characteristic in an alien context of outer space or far future, we can gain perspective on ideas which might otherwise be unapproachable. (No, Frank Gorshin’s performance in Star Trek is not a good example.)

Along those lines, please note that this book is one of the few from my personal collection that has survived the many moves, transfers, and prunings of my collection. Price tagThis volume has been with me since I purchased it in a small shop on Congress Street in Portland, Maine, in the summer of 1966 — my own high school years. The cover above is a scan of my own copy and notice the price. This particular suggestion is offered up from personal experience and perhaps without consideration of the universe of possibly better alternatives.

All I can say is, “It worked for me.”

Tag! You’re it!

I know this meme comes out of education, but I’m going to tag some people who have a different take on literature:

Update (4/19): I wanted to be clear that I’m not including these people in order to promote them or their works. I want to open the discussion up and introduce the idea that teachers need to stop talking to teachers all the time. Not that it’s a bad thing, but when you’re looking for authentic educational resources, don’t talk to teachers. Talk to the people who are engaged in that particular field. You want authentic experience with language and literature? Talk to an author. You want to know what a plant biologist does? Talk to a tree surgeon. You want math? Talk to a physicist. Or an astronomer.

There’s an old chestnut that goes something like, “The teacher opens the door, but the student must go through alone.” The Web 2.0 corollary for education is, “The web opens the door, but the teacher must go through it to learn.”

Thanks to Mur, Tee, Pip and the author-to-be-named Christianna for playing along.

Mulling Tuition Policy

April 8th, 2008

Here’s an interesting examination of Education and Culture couched in terms of how much education costs and what the benefits are of subsidised higher ed.

Mulling Tuition Policy at Community Colleges
The concept of “high tuition/high aid” as a policy for public higher education is frequently discussed as an option for four-year colleges, and especially for flagships. The theory goes that students are better off at universities that charge more so that they have more educational resources — and that the potential for lost access for low-income students can be prevented through generous student aid programs.

You might consider adding this feed to your aggregators. K-12 teachers need to know what they’re preparing students for

Time Goes By

January 16th, 2008

It may come as a shock to some of you that I don’t just follow technology and education blogs, but I manage to follow some blogs I classify as “Important Voices.” Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By is one of them. She’s a fascinating writer who recently moved from New York City to my old home town of Portland, Maine, and I think I follow her for the homesick glimpses she gives me of life in the Auld Sod, as much as the insights into Ageism. Today’s post has an item that echoes directly into this class:

Time Goes By – What it’s really like to get older
I thought I’d like to be a writer, to tell stories. Then, in high school, when I’d written a fantasy for class about my home having a funny personality, the teacher gave me the only D I ever received. “Houses don’t have personalities,” she wrote on my paper and I, interpreting it as a negative judgment on my writing rather than the cramped thinking of an unimaginative teacher, gave up the idea of being a writer. It was a rough time in my life, I was only 15 and I didn’t yet have the self-confidence to dismiss a grownup’s spiritless assessment.

Here’s an intersection of Culture and Education. Yes, this happened in the past. I’m pretty sure Ms Bennett graduated high school before me which means this is more than 35 years ago. That’s about a generation and a half in human terms. Does it happen today? Could it happen today? What effect has technology had on Education or Culture that would have any bearing on a teacher’s ability to gut punch a kid like this?

Technology, Culture, and Education

January 7th, 2008

On Monday, Jan 14, 2008, I’m going to be leading the discussion on the subject of Technology, Culture, and Education with EDUC628. I can’t express how excited I am to be taking on this challenge. The following questions are some of the questions addressed in this course.

  • How have technologies shaped the economic, social, and political life and educational ideals and practices of our civilization?
  • Who were the major contributors to the creation of our “technological society”?
  • What have been the major positive and negative contributions of major technological innovations?
  • What might be the long-term positive and negative effects on education and society of today’s new technologies?
  • Who benefits most from new technologies?
  • What epistemologies are inherent in particular technologies? How do we know what we know?
  • What value biases (personal and political) are inherent in particular technologies?
  • In addition, I’d like to address some fundamental issues like

    • What is culture?
    • What’s the role of Education?
    • Is it a universal role acrosss cultures?
    • What constitutes technology?
    • Can culture exist without technology?
    • What constitutes ethical behavior? Is there a universal ethos?
    • Can you be ethical and be a teacher?

    It should be an interesting semester with more questions than answers.

    Recipe is a Bad Metaphor

    September 25th, 2007

    One of the enduring metaphors used to describe education is that it’s a recipe for instilling knowledge. I use it in this post:

    Design and Development
    The problem with designing and developing distance courses is embodied in Equivalency Theory. According to Equivalency you need to account for everything in the classroom and make sure there’s some equivalent function in the distance course.

    The problem is that, unlike a recipe where you *expect* that if you follow the recipe you’ll get consistent results, with instruction you have no such guarantee. If you’re a connosieur of bread baking, you know how variations as disparate as humidity, flour quality, and altitude can change your outcomes. Some of them you can compensate for, if you’re aware of them. Others? It’s just dumb luck.

    Please read this posting and write a post about Design and Development.

    Not Working on MY Problems …

    September 23rd, 2007

    This is a perfect lead in to next week’s unit on design. This closing paragraph is the crux of the problem with Education:

    MUD, MUSH, MOO – Oh, Which Will I Choose?

    I get very aggervated with them when they are on games instead of doing the work I assigned them to do; I must admit, that on many occassions, that the games they are playing are requiring them to utilize problem solving skills along with communciation skills through these on-line multi-user games but that doesn’t eliminate the problem that they are not problem-solving for me, as a teacher, they are problem solving for WOW (World of Warcraft). As a teacher, should I take this personally or just be happy they are using their brains for something?

    Yes! Take it personally! Why are they willing to invest hours and hours in these games and environments but they won’t take more than the minimum amount of time (or a bit less) to just squeek through on the assignments you give them in class? You know the answer as well as I do. The assignments you give are boring, time consuming, and carry no gratification for successful completion. The kid doesn’t get a nifty new sword or a great spell at the end of the campaign, altho they MAY advance to the next level if they string together enough of these activities.

    So, yes! Take it personally, but take it as a lesson. Don’t condemn the environments that are engaging the students. Find ways to take advantage of them! Why are they engaging? What are the students doing? How can you adopt/adapt/use those functions and features? I’m not talking about the interfaces and implementations here, but the actual game functions and features.