Wednesday, March 30, 2005

HS bans blogging

This was bound to happen--and has probably happened many times without being published in an article. Will points to an article in the Rutland Herald about a principle banning a blogging site from being used at school. Why?

1) "because blogging is not an educational use of school computers."
2) "he found the prospect of students putting information on the Internet, potentially available to predators, was a serious concern."

Well, let's not throw out the technology when it's not the technology causing the problem! First, blogging CAN be an educational tool. ANYTHING (almost) can be an educational tool if used and applied the right way. Can cell phones be educational? Sure--if students use GPS-enabled phones to go on a virtual scavenger hunt. Can spoons be educational? Sure--if they are used in an object lesson of some sort. Almost anything can be educational--you just have to be creative!

I believe blogging is an especially powerful educational tool for encouraging reflection and discourse, both of which are well-researched principles of effective learning. You may not agree with me, but even if you don't, I maintain EVERYTHING can be an educational tool if used right. So if you don't think blogging is an educational tool--then dig a little deeper.

Point 2. Why ban blogging because kids put their info on the web? That's a problem with the students, not the tool! You might as well ban phones, email, a lot of things...

I always find it interesting that there is a backlash with new technologies--immediately accusing them of being bad because they are not understood.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Use Google Maps to create walking tours

Just saw a post on Edugadget about a cool use of Google Maps to create walking tours about places. An example is Jon Udell's screencast, and a recipe for doing this is available on Engadget. This is really cool. You need to have to have the right gear, such as a GPS device and some scripting ability, and I'm not sure how difficult that will be. It would be great if teachers could create tours to guide students in field trips, if websites could give visual directions to find places, if tourist websites could show me how to get from one place to another.

Another "yay!" from Google!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Useless Conference Baggage

Cogdogblog has this great photo about where all conference bags go

SOOOOOOOOOO true. I just got back from SITE and have one more worthless bag and worthless propaganda to trash. They even gave me a water bottle. What is that supposed to be for? Who needs a water bottle? Who needs another bag? The only thing I needed in the bag was the conference proceedings CD. Now that's somewhat more useful.

AECT is the same way. I still have their bag (although I don't really need it). No more! Conference-goers revolt! Demand that they take our hundreds in admissions fee and give us something useful!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

How can we get them to stay?

Whoa! I knew the first few years of teaching were tough--they were for me--but not this tough. Edutopia reports that nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within five years. Half! Wow. This begs the question of what we can do for teachers to have a more positive experience. Edutopia suggests that first year mentoring programs help. I'm sure more pay would help too :-). I also think it's a simple fact of overworking teachers. To expect a new teacher to come in and carry a full load is setting them up for frustration. They should be given less workload and more time for preparation and reflection. Even with more experienced teachers, I think the lack of time for reflection makes the educational system suffer. I know everyone's on a tight budget, but we should be aware of what it's costing us. When teachers don't have time to reflect on their methods, to explore new technologies and pedagogies, and to follow-up with troubled students, then teachers will burnout and students suffer.

Friday, March 04, 2005

SITE05: Our 2nd presentation on Blogs/wikis

I presented with Charles (Graham) and Geoff (Wright) today about our implementation of blogs and wikis in our instructional technology for preservice teachers course. We've been to several presentations on blogs and wikis here at SITE and have been somewhat disappointed so far because they have been very basic and focused on questions like "what is rss?", "what is a blog", "what is a wiki?" and stuff like that. Hopefully we'll get past these types of issues and move more quickly into questions of application.

Anyway, we were quite pleased to see about 50 people show up for our thing. I wish we'd had more time to talk and have some discussions and questions--it sounded like several people have had experiences that we could have learned from as well. I think it just goes to show that there is a lot of interest in trying to understand how to use these tools. I feel the research is only beginning here.

In an effort to model the tool that we were talking about (as well as get away from the PowerPoint thing), we used wikis to structure our presentation. We passed out the URL and password to those attending and encouraged them to add their ideas, student/teacher examples, and questions to the presentation wiki.

I'd love to see what other application ideas people have for these tools. If you have one, go to and use the password "BYUIPT515" (we use a password to dissuade spammers).
SITE05: Platform decisions, PC or Mac?

Anyone who knows me knows I love my Mac. So I was interested in a presentation about a college struggling with the decision about whether to buy/support macs or PCs. They had PC people and Mac people work together to evaluate the advantages of both platforms. Here's some of their findings:

Mac servers were more reliable. One person claimed to run with Mac servers for three or four years without ever rebooting because of problems.

59,940 Windows-based identified viruses
60 Macintosh viruses, based on OS 9 not OS 10
'Nuff said.

iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iPages, and a bunch of other free, easy-to-use programs that are ideal for schools and students on a budget.

PCs have more freeware and software available. (very true-but that is changing with more opensource Apple stuff coming out)

Other issues
PCs computer of choice in some careers and some high schools
Support infrastructure was greater with PCs

The dean's decision was to use both Macintoshes and PCs. He wanted to terminate the Macs, but there was enough convincing evidence to still include them.

Good for him! :-) I'll agree that there is definitely advantages to both platforms, and personally feel students should be taught to be able to use both, in case they ever need to.

Random SITE notes

Yesterday was the poster session here at SITE, and they have an excellent model for poster sessions that I WISH AECT WOULD DO (did I get anyone's attention?). At SITE, all of the poster presentations are the same day, same time, in the same room. The benefit of this is more people come to your poster presentation. At AECT, I rarely go to poster presentations because they are often not the most-developed ideas and research studies. That's okay, and that's not necessarily a criticism, that's just the way it is. The same is true at SITE, but because I can quickly look at 116 poster sessions at one time, it makes it worthwhile for me.

At AECT, it seems people rarely go to poster sessions, and consequently, people rarely stay by their posters because why should they if nobody comes? But at SITE, EVERYBODY goes to the poster session because it's a quick way to take in many ideas all at once.

I wish AECT would do this.


Last night I went with some friends to the Mesa LDS temple. That was a wonderful experience. What a beautiful building and temple grounds! Talk about aromatherapy--we walked around for a little while and just drank in the blossoming flowers and lemon trees. I actually quite like Phoenix and Mesa--more so than other large towns. If only it wasn't so awfully hot for half of the year.


Charles Graham from BYU posted on his blog about a presentation he went to yesterday on Internet safety. It's at


One thing that AECT does do well that I wish was here at SITE (sorry to directly compare conferences, but these are the only two conferences I've attended for two years in a row), is how AECT members are open, friendly, and wanting to meet and talk to new people. At AECT I've never had trouble finding groups of people to go socialize with or with whom to go out to dinner. SITE participants don't seem to be quite that way, and if you don't come with a group, you might be spending some time alone. How (not) fun is that?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

SITE05: Our presentation on Tech in Higher Education

I'll reflect briefly on our presentation yesterday (Dr. Charles Graham and I). I'd post up the conference paper here, but I can't get my server to work while I'm here in Phoenix for some reason.

Anyway, it was a roundtable reporting a project Charles and I worked on together last year that will be published in Educational Technology in a few months. Basically, we asked instructional designers on campus and department chairs for recommendations of the most "innovative" technology-using instructors on campus at BYU (admittedly, "inovative" is very subjective and means different things to different people, but what can you do ...). We interviewed about 40 of the most creative/succesfull of these teachers (based on their perceptions of success and our perceptions of creativity--again very subjective), and tried to identify some global patterns indicating how technology was impacting learning in this classrooms. This was exploratory research, and we wanted to just get an idea of what the "master" teachers were doing across campus.

We found many exciting and interesting applications of technology, and five overall patterns that seemed to span multiple colleges and departments:

1. Technology helped learners to visualize content
2. Technology facilitated learner/instructor and learner/learner interactions
3. Technology supported meaningful learner reflection
4. Technology involved learners in authentic, real-life learning activities
5. Technology improved the quality and quantity of learner practice

Anyway the upcoming article gives case study snippets and support for how teachers were using technology in these five ways. But I won't go into that now.

I felt the presentation went well--I counted about 25 people attending. A couple people were questioning at first about what our terminology meant, what our criteria for selecting cases were, and ideas for applying this research. Admittedly, those are issues with this project because of the focus of the project. Charles explained it well: This was exploratory research--so our methods were not clearly defined but more flexible and developed as we moved through the project. Basically we wanted to see what was happening, and get ideas for future projects. In fact we've delved a little deeper into a couple of the issues we identified and will address those in future articles that we're working on right now.

Now we've got to try and nail down what exactly we will be presenting on Saturday, but does anyone even stick around until Saturday?

SITE05: Using video models to train teachers to use Technology

SITE05: "From Text to Video: The Evolution of Video Case Study for Teacher Professional Development"
Pamela Redmond, Univ. of San Francisco

I was interested in this session because as we have tried to help preservice teachers get the vision of how to integrate technology into their teaching, we have found that the use of models is very important. We have used both video case studies, and “live” modeling where the instructor roleplays an effective lesson with the preservice students. In fact, I’m presenting on this on Saturday.
This group is creating a website database of video case studies at

They asked: Should video cases show authentic classroom footage, exemplary footage, or what?

Comment: I think some of both is good, but they should be clearly marked. I think we’re all interested in best cases most of the time, but my interviews with preservice teachers concludes that many do not pay attention to video case studies or give them much credibility because they know they are best cases, and in their minds, not realistic. So it’d be useful to have some authentic classroom footage, to give credibility to the students that something positive—even if it’s not the best practice and has a few minor problems—CAN happen in a classroom. This would also help them see “what is really happening” so they can reflect on what they want to do differently.

“You can send students out to observe classes, but they don’t know what they are looking at—they don’t know how to deconstruct.”

I’ve found this is true. No matter how good the model, students often don’t know how to learn from the model. How do you teach these tacit skills? They are crucial to truly learning and becoming good teachers, but it’s hard to teach students to reflectively learn from video case studies and other models.

SITE: Maybe unfinished studies CAN be valuable

SITE05: Christopher Sessums, Univ. of Florida
"Examining the teaching styles of online instructors: A proposed research study of online instructors at the university of Florida."

Quoted Marcel Proust
"The only real voyage of discovery ... consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes."

How do we help teachers to think differently about education online, so they realize that teaching online is not just using old methods with a new tool, but means actually changing your methods to match the new tool?

He is proposing using an instrument to track how teachers interact online, and how students perceive their teachers interacting online, and overlay Grasha's metaphors on these results:

Grasha's metaphors, or orientations: (think in terms of a continuum)
Formal authority
Personal model

Research questions:
1. will the two sets of perceptions be aligned?
2. determine reliability/validity of results

Comment: Unusual that a research proposal was accepted, when not only is the study not completed, but it hasn't even begun! He hasn't even begun to collect data! But, I'm glad he was accepted and that I attended. He has some good ideas for how to research online teaching, and his presentation was engaging and well-prepared, and I'd like to work with him on a project like this.

This brings to mind the discussion going round about whether AECT should accept projects that aren't yet completed. I think we should--IF THEY ARE GOOD. We can learn as much from good ideas and research methods as we can from results because we all need to research and publish anyway.

Survey Instruments

The lady next to me in this session said this is a valuable website, that stores other instruments available for use.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Balance between learning and applying

Paul Allen of Infobase Ventures wrote an interesting column in this week. He made the point that we all knew, but it's good to be reminded:
"The paradox for knowledge workers is this: the more time you spend in gaining knowledge, the less time you have to apply it. The reverse is also true. We must strike a proper balance between learning and doing. Most people have their nose to the grindstone. Very few spend enough time, energy and money in a quest to gain and process knowledge. But maybe the Web can change this. With the Web, each of us can make a list of all the experts in our field and track their every move and their every word."
With over 100 feeds to my Bloglines account; gigabytes of books, podcasts, and talks on my iPod; and papers all over my house that I should be reading striking the balance between gaining knowledge and taking the time to reflectively apply it is tough. That's a needed skill in the information age that I still need to hone.

I wish I had been taught information literacy skills in school--remind me why embracing the digital age and emphasizing the skills needed for this new era isn't taught more in schools? :-)

Another clip from the article, basically saying we need to spend some time and money teaching employees (and I'd say students) how to use the information available for professional development:
"Why pay someone $50,000 a year and not spend 3 or 4 percent more to help them stay sharp?

Good point, Paul!

Comics through your aggregator

Just for fun, if you can't live without your daily comics (and I can't :-) then try, a service that allows you to pick your favorite comics and generate a RSS feed for you. I also like that it doesn't break copyright laws, because instead of sending the comic directly to your news reader, it sends a link each day to comic's website, where you can view or ignore their advertising. It means an extra click to get the comic each day, but I'm willing to do that if it helps support the artist.

If you're lazy and don't want to subscribe and create your own list of favorites, you can borrow mine:

A ranking of the top podcasts

Just found out about Podcast Alley from Paul Allen. Looks like it provides links to the most popular podcasts on the 'Net. Now that's useful, because I don't have time to listen to everything. Now we need someone within AECT to put together a site like this for stuff related to instructional technology and design. I was asked by somebody the other day what podcasts I'd recommend that were related to our field. The only one I knew of were those located on ITConversations, but a lot of those are for developers and technogeeks, not necessarily instructional designers.

If you are aware of other podcasts or downloadable audio that is related to the field of instructional design, please let me know! One idea that I think would fly would be to create a site where departments could upload seminars conducted at their conference. We have weekly professional seminars in our department that are recorded and stored on our server. I'd love to have a repository for all of these recordings from other universities as well, if they have.

What a great resource that would be--to be able to listen to the presentations made by others in the field whom we can't afford to fly out to Provo to listen to them live. For that matter, why doesn't AECT record some of its conference presentations and post them on a members-only (if they want to go that route, if copyright is an issue) portion of the AECT site. That way we don't disenfranchise paying members who can't attend the conference but are interested in some of the presentations.

I would be the most loyal listener to that kind of material!

SITE: Wednesday's Keynote

I'm at the SITE conference (Society for information technology and teacher education) in Phoenix AZ. Being from Utah, this was a convenient and easy conference to attend. I went last year, and had a good experience, so I submitted some of the projects I've been working on. I'll be presenting later today, Friday and Saturday with Dr. Charles Graham and Geoff Wright. More on that later.

As is my custom, I'll be blogging my notes from the sessions I attend, or at least some of them. My formatting style will be to put my comments/reflections in italics. Whether anyone reads it or not, it's helpful for me to organize my thoughts.

The keynote today was:

Yong Zhao “The Social life of technology: an ecological analysis of technology diffusion in schools and its implications for teacher professional development”

Mr. Zhao asks:
  1. How much is spent on computer technology in schools?
  2. How many good uses for computer tech have been developed?
  3. How much are computers used in schools?
  4. How well are computers used?

OECD, 2004 report: investments have brought computer tech into nearly all schools in the world. But they are not used well.

Mr. Zhao talked about the difference between an innovation and an appliance, and the issue is largely one of transparency:

Evolving functions
Little expertise
Little social capital
Innovations: Introducing something new

fixed functions
more reliable
more expertise
rich social capital
Appliance: A tool designed for a specific function

Mr. Zhao explained three stages of IT integration
1. Psychological
2. Sociological “I want to replicate it in other situations”
3. Ecological “It’s part of the environment … We can’t study schools without noticing
computers. They are there.

He explained that Ecology comes from Greek “oikos”, meaning “household” combined with “logy” meaning “the study of”. I like the idea of studying the integration of technology as the study of a household, or what occurs naturally.

Classrooms as Ecosystems
  • Computers are constantly evolving
  • Consume resources
  • The survival of a technology is how “fit” it is for a certain environment

Here’s an interesting quote from Mr. Zhao:
“Ask your students, and they will not be able to tell you very many different ways to use computers, to draw, to paint, (to type).”
That is sad. Computing technologies are so powerful, and all we usually use them for is typing and drawing. That was so five years ago! J It reminds me of friends who want the biggest, baddest processors and souped-up machines so they can just surf the web. Can we find more powerful applications of these technologies?

Zhao's lessons learned from his study of the ecological practice of using technologies
  • Give the idea some time to grow. Do not implement too many ideas at once
  • Encourage play instead of teach – ideas evolve because teachers played and understood the technology
  • Connect to existing practices/beliefs
Some of these seem not to be too "ah-hah", but perhaps it's good to remind ourselves of these things. I did like his point that too many innovations can make change too difficult. I also buy into systemic change ideas, but I see the logic in both arguments.