Category Archives: venturing out of the cube

when will you need a digital persona?

not sure what got me going along this thread, i think it was a story i heard on the radio.  either way, here is the questions that i wove out of those thoughts, just follow along with me on this one.  i shared this with a colleague the other day and it seemed to make sense when i was talking about.  kids who graduate today should be keenly aware of their digital persona, right?  potential employers seems to know enough to google you or check out your facebook profile, twitter feed, etc.  if a potential employer doesn’t turn anything up, no big deal.  it is reasonable to believe that if the potential employer is someone from an earlier generation, or two, not having a digital persona makes sense.  perhaps you didn’t get in to that?  maybe facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. didn’t appeal to you and the potential employer shrugs it all off.  here comes, my question…at what point will the absence of a digital persona raise red flags?  at what point will it no longer be socially/academically/occupational acceptable to simply ignore digital avenues?  let’s fast forward this scenario 50 years in the future, the current kids who are digitally connected will be the ones doing the hiring, how will they see it?  so by all means, let’s keep trying our darndest to bury our students’ collective heads in the sand when it come to managing their digital selves, after all they’ll never ‘need’ that kind of stuff, right?  wrong.


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why i stopped racing all the time

i used to run by myself and whenever i got the opportunity to run with others i jumped at the chance.  what ended up happening is that i would sign up for races a lot just to be around other runners and in doing so i would push it a little harder than i needed to on race days.  i mean really, who doesn’t get a bit geeked up when you have a number pinned on?  unfortunately, the end result was i used a bit too much on the races that led up to my goal race and i wasn’t able to perform the way i wanted on ‘the’ race day.  i moved and now i run with a group every weekend and in doing so i don’t race as much.  to no surprise, my goal races have been better.  my guess is i don’t use ‘it’ up on all those events in between.  so what does this have to do with learning and teaching?


my racing is just like testing.  standford, itbs, teks, benchmark, eoc, etc.  all those tests = all that effort.  there is no build up, no working towards a goal because the next ‘race’ is always right around the corner for these kids.  let me be clear about the build up, i DO NOT encourage one single ‘test’ in the classic term.  however i like the idea of students working hard, gathering resources, and producing…i’m talking about producing in an authentic manner that doesn’t involve bubbling and number 2 pencils.  i like the idea of students creating and having the opportunity to share the fruits of all their hard work in ways that show true mastery.

i didn’t stop racing all the time intentionally, but i’m starting to see how this method works best for me.  it’s not always about the next race or the times i run each weekend, rather it’s about methodically building myself up so i can be ready to perform.  i wish the same for all students.

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Posted by on November 14, 2010 in venturing out of the cube


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becoming a school ‘regular’

everyone in my age demographic remembers what happened when Norm walked into the bar on cheers, is there any warmer reception than everyone stopping down and welcoming you my shouting your name? the idea of being a ‘regular’ appeals to lots of people. i’ve been to restaurants with people who pride themselves on knowing their servers or the folks behind the counter, and while some might see this as more or less vanity (admission: sometimes i do) people enjoy it. i believe it all comes down to the idea that people like the idea of belonging; people like the feeling they get from being recognized and, in some ways, valued as a member of a group/tribe/community/etc. can we capture that feeling in our classrooms? there are kids who have perfect attendance, but never become a regular. there are kids who never skip class but never attain the status of ‘regular’. in order to be an integral part of a system or at least a semi-regular contributor, you need to bring something beyond your mere presence. as a teacher there were days when you knew some kids were missing because the class functioned differently (note: sometimes this was a good thing, but i digress).
our challenge is to help students to become a ‘regular’ in your classroom. not only should all students be an integral part of your classroom, but they should be cognizant of that fact. we won’t all stop down and yell their name when they enter (although that would be pretty cool), but there are other ways to validate the contributions that students make to the overall learning experience. working in PD i see a major roadblock as being the idea that some teachers hold – school is a curriculum to get through, not a set of experience that students get to have. try and power through a curriculum with no regard for the affective needs of the students in your classroom and not only will they not feel like a ‘regular’ but there is a good change you won’t be one very long either.


Posted by on September 10, 2010 in venturing out of the cube


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where’s the back channel?

our district does an annual job-alike day where teachers with similar functions meet for a day of learning. my position with professional development is a bit of an unconventional one. my primary function is with the gt team, one of my masters degrees is in gifted education and most of my years in the classroom have been with gifted programming. ed tech is an areas that i’ve always found a way to incorporate in to my classroom and now my pd sessions. luckily, i’ve found myself collaborating with the tech folks in pd as well. during techspan today (the job alike day for campus technologists) i was asked to present a one hour session which was a blast, my session looked at web tools that can be used to differentiate. i enjoy sharing resources and the conversation was great. about two weeks ago, there was some shuffling of responsibilities and a friend of mine had found himself putting techspan together. as a favor to him, after a bit of lobbying on his part, i agreed to be the keynote speaker. i don’t think of myself as a keynote type of person, i’m no good as talking at a large group of people for extended periods of time, but he felt that some work we did was worth sharing so i agreed. long story short (broken screen > had to project on back wall > iffy mic stand > odd lighting > etc) it was fine and while i can’t say i enjoyed it, i’m glad for the experience. my friends were very supportive and both they and the participants had kind things to say afterwards. after this lengthy set up, it may seem odd to hear that this is NOT what i wanted to talk about. there was an incident with someone after my talk, but i’m going to need to wait a bit before unpacking that one.
i’m concerned at something that DIDN’T happen today. prior to the event i spoke to my friend about advertising a hash tag that we could use as a back channel on twitter. my belief was that if we had campus technologists gathered from around the entire district, there would be loads of people who would work the twitter feed. not so much. when i left for lunch there was a grand total of 6 people who had used the hash tag to tweet. 3 pd folks, 2 participants, and someone who noticed my hash tag that follows me from elsewhere. not what i would call a resounding success. how is this possible? how can technologists not understand that power of the back channel? i know for a fact that several had gone to ISTE and experienced how great a back channel can be. i was disappointed. to champion the effective use of educational technology to campus technologists would seem like preaching the to choir, however i consider twitter and the use of back channels a significant part of professional conversation and it saddens me to see it ignored. perhaps the channel got used later in the day, but i haven’t had the heart to check it out again. i simply don’t see the battle going well if we are going lobby for effective use of educational technology in the classroom if we aren’t willing to effectively use our own learning tools as well.

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Posted by on August 17, 2010 in venturing out of the cube


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my ‘new’ iPad stand

Credit where credit is due, check here for the initial build, but my son and I had lots of fun building it ourselves. Old fashioned ingenuity for new tech, who says the two don’t mix?

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Posted by on August 2, 2010 in venturing out of the cube


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Hot runs are just like curriculum compacting

i make it a point to go on a ‘hot run’ at least once a week over the summer.  generally it’s best to keep to before the sun comes up, or after the sun goes if you don’t want to wilt but i feel it’s important to experience the awful heat we seek to avoid.  perhaps it’s all about being appreciative.  anyhow…i was running the other afternoon and i realized that as i ran down the street there were parts that were shaded by a trees in my neighborhood and then spots where the sun assaulted you.  it got me thinking about doing short pick-ups which is where you speed up and then slow down for different intervals of time. (i’m getting to the compacting, be patient).  i wasn’t sure which would be the better plan – speed up in the sun and slow down in shade which would provide maximum recovery and smallest time of exposure to the sun, OR slow down in the sun and speed up in the shade which would give the more hospitable conditions for the extra effort.  i’m still not sure which works best, but as many educators do, i started to think about how this related to teaching and learning.  do we speed up when things get tough for do we up the pace when things are simple.  the latter, clearly.  that means when conditions get most difficult we should slow down and take our time.  this being the case, then i should have slowed down in the sun and sped up in the shade.  i guess it might work that way, but compacting theory doesn’t always serve runners in the same way.

just yesterday i went on a customary sundown run with full moon, bugs & bats on the bayou, etc.  running in the dark poses it’s own paradox of sorts.  when there is less to focus on one of two things happen, you either obsess about potential dangers (friends, you know who you are 🙂 or you allow your mind to wander due to the lack of visible distractions.  the paradox is this – weather you are sharply considering what dangers might lie ahead or you are allowing your mind to wander with thoughts of dessert, tv, etc you end up in the same place > not thinking about your run.  you don’t think as much about stride, pace, breathing, etc.  it seems a bit odd to be the intent focus or complete unfocused blur produce the same result in this case.  is there something to be said about removing distractions?  as a teacher, if i ask my kids to think really, really hard about a particular topic or simply vamp and free flow can they both accomplish a task?  not sure.


Posted by on July 27, 2010 in venturing out of the cube


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seven days > day 2

stephanie at change agency is talking about lists – use them and make them nice to read. so i here goes…

4 more iPad apps that made the front page – not lots of fan fare with this one but i got some nice response from my last list of 4 apps that i have found invaluable, so why not go for volume two.

Sorted – i’m not sure i would consider myself a list person, but i’m certainly a post-it note person so an app that generates lists for me is key.  i found that will all the features of the other apps on my iPad i was lacking an app that would provide lists.  sure, i could use the notepad, but it’s not the same.  i am able to create notes and sort through them like coverflow in iTunes.  each list allows me to create lists, highlight/tag them, sort them as a list, by priority, by date and by completion.  i have liked this one so much for its simple genius that it has made the dock…high praise.

Whiteboard – exactly how it sounds, you can create on a blank white board, bring in images and mark those up.  a few nice features it has is that there is a vga out so it can plug in to a projector, images can be saved once marked up and as long as devices are on the same wifi network you can create shared whiteboards.  i took a few screenshots of websites i wanted to show just in case i didn’t have wifi at a recent presentation and that is exactly what happened.  with no wifi i had no problem, i plugged in to the projector, pulled up this app and marked it up the way i had planned.

popplet – mind mapping in a way that no other apps/website can do it.  they have a web version in beta and hope to sync the two but they aren’t there yet.  each popplet in a web can be color coded, hold text, be drawn in or house a picture.  i’m visual and this is how i need to see things when i plan.  every so often you find an app this is not necessarily perfect, but it is perfect for you.  this is mine.

Evernote – admission: i really want to use evernote more than i do, but the interface is holding me back.  the idea of having an app on your mobile device, on your desktop, on your laptop, and accessible by internet is great.  the fact that all of they sync is genius but there is something about the look of the notes i take that is holding me back.  i think the notes app for iPad has been a great tool to use and looks great but it doesn’t sync the way evernote does.  i’m hopeful that i will turn the corner on this one because it is so very useful..and the evidence is this app stays on my front page.

so there you have it, installment two and a nice little list too.

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Posted by on July 20, 2010 in venturing out of the cube


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