Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Xmas Ed Tech Rant from Digital Divide Blog

Bonnie Bracey of the Digital Divide Network tells Santa off in this blog posting. He apparently was a real scrooge to the ed tech world!

The Link

Some interesting excerpts from the post...

- The Congress, which has the sleigh that contains our presents seems to be missing a lot of goodies this year. We took $59M hit in new federal budget. Some of us are reeling at the loss.

- Santa, this is what we heard. The massive, $602 billion spending package--which includes funding for labor, health, and education initiatives--slashes funding for several Ed-tech related programs, including $221 million less for the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) state block-grant program, the primary source of federal funding for educational technology. The measure passed in the House of Representatives one week earlier and now heads to President Bush for his signature.

One thing I am going to do is walk into a local school and ask several random teachers if they know what the following acronyms stand for...ENC, EETT, or PT3. My bet is that they won't. (I am not sure what that means...so make up your own mind on that one.) The only acronyms that matter are NCLB and AYP.

jim :-)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Educational value of toddler tech toys?

Was this investigation even necessary?

An article in the Mercury news reported that the Kaiser Family Foundation on interactive media discovered that many video games, software titles and DVDs have not been proven to increase either the IQ or cognitive abilities of kids. Really? You mean one on one parent time is better that a piece of software? Astounding.

The article

The Report

With absolutely no knowledge of developmental and evolutionary biology, or cognitive science, I could have come to this conclusion relatively quickly. (I am sure you could have also. I am not particularly intuitive.) It is really interesting how often this has to be re-discovered over the years.

I thought that the most interesting part of the article was a quote from Marsha Grimsley of the Brainy Baby Company (This not a Saturday Night Live skit...that is the actual name of a company.) She is quoted as saying, "Parents must be finding something beneficial or there wouldn't be such demand for this new category of products."

Marsha must be completely unfamiliar with the lemming-like behavior of suburban parents when it comes to the potential of their little darlings! I even purchased one of those black and white bulls eyes for my sons crib in an attempt to raise his SAT scores as an infant. I didn't seek a study that proved that it worked. All I knew is that I started seeing them on changing tables around town and felt My son was falling behind! (I also owned a pet-rock once...but I digress.) I'm sorry to say that many digital purchases for the three and under set might occur in this way. It is not necessarily a confirmation of the quality of the products.

Give the kid a few years before you digitize them. Their nervous system will thank you! :-)

Ho Ho Ho

Jim :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Podcasting in K-12 Schools...uh huh.

In an article on Ed Week 12/7/05 , it suggests that podcasting is coming to a school near you! It supports podcasts as being able to help kids improve their vocabulary, writing, editing, public speaking and presentation skills. I can see that. If a super-organized teacher is having students research and write a script, or prepare interview questions, and record them on thrir iPods I can certainly expect it to lead to high levels of motivation and improved skills. It is also cool because you can send the hyperlink of your podcast to people you care about and they can enjoy your work also. Cool. I am all about excited students engaging in constructivist style lessons who are getting into the Csikszentmihalyi "flow" of things. Really. I am.

Here are a couple of rubs. Have you ever actually tried to produce a podcast? Also, have you ever tried to upload large amounts of content to a school web site via a computer on your school network? You real teachers out there see where I'm going. 1) This is going to involve a lot more than a dedicated teacher and excited group of kids. It will require unprecedented access to the school network. (at least relative to the districts I am familiar with) 2) It is also going to require lots of time that is not typically available to egg carton scheduled schools. The past time I produced a podcast (which for those of you who continue to think I am a luddite because i like FULL and honest conversations about using technology in aschools...I actually did) it took MANY steps to produce. First you have to have something to say that matters, next you record your .WAV file onto your iTalk which is attached to your iPod, then you set your iTunes software properly (44 KHz/16 Bit) in order to appropriately download the feed to your computer, I then had to send it out to Garage Band in order to get it into an MP3 format before it could actually be used as a podcast. This was not easy and I predict it will be EONS until real teachers use this form of publishing in its current form. <>

Let me end by saying that I think podcasting is cool. I intend to get involved in it. I subscribe to several and particularly like the work of David Warlick in this area. The point of this post is (which I expected the point of the whole "edtechnot thing" to be) is that it aint' gonna be easy for a while and you need to consider the ups and downs of this ed tech. Don't let Uber-early-adopters make you feel bad on this one. When it gets easier though.....I say go for it, while keeping in mind all of the privacy issues associated with posting kids thoughts and ideas on the Web.

Jim :-)

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Achievement Trap ....and Technology?

Hi All,

I just came across an article that questions the premise of our test driven
education system.
The Article

Apparently, "getting an education" used to mean creating thoughtful citizens. Go figure. Now we are trapped in a achievement driven culture that is focused on producing kids that may become high income earners. (The jury is out as to whether this system actually does that.)

Why is this relevant to my Blog?

Well, ed tech swings with the educational pendulum. If we are in an achievement trap (generally) then most ed tech products will reflect this. If you don't, you won't sell units. Right?

Why can't ed tech products and practitioners lead the way out of this unfortunate situation? Why should we allow kids to be placed in this "one size fits all" system?

What do you think?

Jim :-)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Offensive on-line content article

In ...The Online Edge: Persistent Problems of Porn - Offensive online content assaults school users through multiple channels, Odvard Egil Dyrli does a great job of describing the issue of "porn-napping" and disguised inappropriate e-mail links.

The Article

This information may be an eye-opener for some. It is worth reading (as is most of the content on Districtadministration.com).

Although I am typically suspicious of schemes that "over-filter" content, I must admit that Gil is correct to highlight this growing problem and the negative effect it has on web use at schools (and home).

What do you think of this issue? Have you had a negative experience with this issue at your school?

Jim :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

HI All,

On EdWeek.com the following statement prompted a response from me. PLace your reaction below! (or better yet at the link I am providing at Ed Week)

The Article

Laptops, Internet access, scanners, and video cameras can help teachers and students access information and resources quickly and easily. Digital imagery, PowerPoint presentations, and microphones create fun, interactive classrooms.

But access and ease do not equal knowledge and comprehension, according to Peter N. Berger in his Oct. 26 Education Week Commentary. In the midst of all the educational technology hype, Berger writes that we have lost sight of the basics of learning and teaching.

How effective is cutting-edge equipment in improving actual achievement? Behind all the bells and whistles, does hi-tech gear really help students learn? Tell us what you think.

I posted in response...

Hi All,

This conversation NEVER changes. (See Larry Cuban's body of work.) The bottom line always has to do with the way in which educational technology is being used to transform classroom learning. Too often technology is used to confirm and "slicken up" old ways of doing things. Jeopardy style games and blue tooth clickers (and such) are NOT what kids need. A curriculum, and related technology tools, that allow them to work in a constructivist manner and a group of teachers who are aware of technology's "power-pointless" pit-falls is what the doctor ordered!

IMHO......Jim Forde of edtechnot.com

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Lap tops are cool but....

Hi All,

I caught an article on-line...

The Article

...that highlighted a private school's new committment to lap top use. I wrote a letter to the author. See the following.

Hi Julia,

I enjoyed the article about Santa Fe and their daring venture into the digital world. The essential question for me is, "How will education be DIFFERENT as a result of all of this new technology?" If this infusion of dollars and technology leads to a digital version of what they are already doing then it is a waste of time. For example, handing in an assignment in by e-mail, versus paper, will not lead to a difference in what is learned and how it is learned.

How is homework more meaningful? What new experiences or curricular topics can now be covered? What impact is this having on student engagement or homework completion rates? What is the metric for "success" that the school has adopted for this project? (particularly considering the other ways in which this HUGE amount of money can be spent on the students)

Thanks for the article. Keep up the good work!


Did I ask the right questions? What do you think about lap top learning? Obviously, the devil is in the details. Yes? or No?

Do you think that we have a responsibility to ask reporters to frame better questions when covering these types of stories?

Jim :-)

Friday, October 21, 2005

National Ed Tech Plan action steps

HI All,

I just took the time to read over the action steps in the National Ed Tech PLan. I thought I would react to them in the hopes that some of you would read them and share your thoughts.

There are 7 of them. Four of them are obvious. 1) encourage broadband access 2) move toward digital content 3) integrate data systems and 4) consider innovative budgeting. This doesn't mean that I think that typical school district will be able to do these anytime soon but...yes, I agree 100% with them.

"Strengthen Leadership" - This one concerns me because I don't really understand how you could become a state, district or building leader without some technological literacy. Would a town or state really consider a tecno-phobe for a leadership position in this day and age? Why is this still a necesary action step? I continue to be impressed with the incredibly creative use of technology I see being used across the country by building level principals. This is particularly true in relation to communication and management tasks. Maybe this is why I am confused as to why this is still necessary. I like the sub-bullets which encourage creative technology partnerships with the business community and including students in planning.

"Improving teacher training" - How long have we beating this drum? Why hasn't it happened yet? One misperception that many in the public have is that many veteran teachers are technophobes and the new ones are tech-saavy. MANY young teachers I have encountered were is desperate need of training in technology for their own personal productivity. The vets seem to embrace any technology that has merit and innovate with it. Often the reason that teachers, in general, aren't using it more has to do with logistics, reliability, and availability. Am I right or am I right? See Larry Cuban for more on this!!

"Supporting e-Learning" - Are we really thinking that e-Learning is going to provide meaningful educational experiences for kids? I take on-line grad courses in order to efficiently get through my degree. I have all of the independent learning skills necessary to manage that situation. Does your typical kid? I think there is a place for this but there is a very small percentage of kids who have the situation necessary to meaningfully learn in this way. (ie- AP Mandarin Chineese class for which one instructor exists in a 500-mile radius) Take a second to think of three of your most meaningful educational experiences. Could they have been easily encapsulated into an e-learning experience? It's the teachers stupid! This is an OPINION. Am I wrong? Tell me why by commenting below.

All in all...these are good action steps. I guess what bugs me is the need that still remains for some of them and the shift away from the actual and towards the virtual classroom. Could it be the ever changing nature of technology or shifting priorities at the DOE that cause this constant need? I don't know but I hope this posting evokes a response.

Jim :-)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Big Brother in the Lunchroom!

Ok...so maybe it's big mother or big father, but did you hear about Mealpay? This allows you to track what your kids are ordering in school? Using the purchase history feature you can see which items have been purchased in the past 30 days.

The Article

Could this be a solution for the increasingly chubby U.S. student population?

What do you think? Comment below.

Jim :-)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Jamie's 10/05 article - The power of words

Did you catch this in jamie's piece?


"During the past two decades, schools have spent billions of dollars on new electronic technologies with the hope that these tools will live up to the impressive list of promises advanced by their makers, yet there is slim evidence that these investments have paid off in ways that approach the projections, predictions and promises of the technology lobby."

How do you feel about that? What about his other ideas in the article?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Jim :-)

I'm back!

OK...I have absolutely no excuse for being away this long. (Unless you are willing to let me blame my 8 and 13 year olds and their over-scheduled lives!)

I am going to turn over a new leaf and hope to breath some life into this blog!

Thanks for your patience with me and keep usuing the site!

Jim :-)

Monday, June 27, 2005

NECC '05

Hi All,

I am about to get into my car to drive to Philly. I see there are thunderstorms on the radar but I am guardedly optimistic about the trip. I can't wait to see some of my favorite people in action (Jukes, McKenzie, Thornburg etc.) and to see the show room floor. I haven't been to an NECC since 2001 in Chi-Town. Since then NCLB has been performinging it's wonders on the educational establishment.

What has this meant for ed tech? How is the markering different?

What are you getting out of the NECC conference? Any cool learnings?

Respond to this...and let's get this blog rolling.

JIm Forde :-)

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Have you all been using Skype yet?


This is a IP telephony software that let's you communicate via the web for free to any other Skype user. To dial to a regular phone you start an account and it costs about 2 cents a minute (as I understand it)) to call anywhere on Earth.

Not bad!

Chhhheck it out!

Jim :-)

Friday, April 08, 2005

NSTA Sci Guides

The National Science Teachers Association has apparently developed a great set of on-line resources called sci-guides. I was excited about this as I know what a quality organization they are. The issue for me is..... science teachers have to pay about $5 in order to have access to one for a year. (It will rise to about $10 after this introductory offer wears off.) Now, don't get me wrong. For the price of a latte (or two) you have a great resource for a year. Fine. I just don't like it when teachers have to shell out money to get access to teaching resources from organizations with great sponsors. See the quote below....

"A number of federal organizations donated funds to help build the SciGuides resource, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Ocean Service, and NOAA's Office of Education and Sustainable Development. According to NSTA's Wheeler, each SciGuide takes about $30,000 to $40,000 to build, and more SciGuide subjects are in development. "

So what is this rant really about? I was deflated to find out that this was not a free initiative. Period. I realize the 30K per sci-guide is nothing to sneeze at, but there must be some corporate sponsor willing to assist the nations science teachers. Wouldn't 'ya think?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Technology Black Out Day • 4/20/05

Have you heard of this initiative? I made it one of my "sites of the month" at edtechnot.com but the more I think about it the more I question the idea. Don't get me wrong. I get it. Having kids think about the impact that technolgy has on their lives and school experience is great. It's all in how you do it.

One thing that is definitely affecting my opinion is the fact that most of the schools in the Northeast are on Spring break during that week. This reduces the emotional impact of the day. Also, the lesson plan for grades 6 - 8 that was posted on the site lacked a little "Umph" for the typical middle schoolers I know. A lesson that I liked (and always had on hand for a non-technological substitute teacher) was technology in 1900 - http://pbskids.org/wayback/tech1900/snapshot.html I used this lesson to have the kids think about the predictions for the future that people made in 1900. I then asked them to think out 100 years and envision where we will be. Middle schoolers ate this up! Lastly, for my 7th grade son to truly feel the impact of a technology black-out day you would have to take away his iPod, iMac, Digital cable, wireless network access, and the cell phone his best friend carries. Ouch. Now THAT is a blackout!

Friday, March 25, 2005

More NELMS conference reactions

HI Again,

It dawned on me that there were a couple of people I hung out with at the conference that I didn't mention in my last posting. You always take your friends for granted!

I wanted to be sure to thank Alan Forsythe for his wonderful presentation and comrade-ship at the conference. Alan is a very hard working tech teacher who has created his own curriculum from scratch using applied technology stations and information technology stations built around themes. His most dramatic unit is on aeronautics and relies heavily on NASA for inspiration. To find out more about Alan and his work head to http:// magnetmiddle.org and go to the 8th grade team page. He is the 8th grade tech teacher at the awesome Scofield Magnet Middle School in Stamford, CT. (OK...I brag on that school because it is my second home and where my son attends 7th grade.)

There were many other Scofield teachers and administrators at the conference which is a testament to their professionalism and openess to new ideas. It is tough to stay enthused about concepts like "constructivism" and "brain based learning" in this testing driven educational climate. Hang in there guys.

Another person who I was glad to re-connect with was Joe Mastrocola, a technology integration specialist and coordinator from Sommerville, MA. I often tell Joe we are living parallel lives. He is always willing to volunteer his valuable time to support the technology strand at the NELMS conference. He is always one step ahead of the crowd in his educational technology thinking. I recommended that he read Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Points and Blink as I know he would "get it" if he did. Check out one of his websites at.... http://www.teacherweb.com/ma/eea/educationenlightenment/

It is great to know that there are people like Alan, Joe and the Scofield staff out there, in the trenches, helping kids and teachers.

All the best..... Jim :-)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Post-NELMS post!

Hi all,

I am assuming that if you made it to this blog page you were at my workshop, "Wikis, Blogs and Podcasts" at the New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) Conference in Providence, RI, ......or you are on the edtechnot.com mailing list.

Either way, welcome!

I enjoyed hanging around the third floor of the Providence Westin listening to tech workshops given by veteran teachers. Their passion and energy was truly inspiring. The highlight of the conference for me was listening to Mike Muir of the University of Maine describe the learning coming out of the Maine lap top initiative, in which all kids in 7th grade are issued an iBook. So much wisdom is being generated by this large scale expreriment. See the Maine Learning technology Initiative Educators' Site - http://www.mainelearns.org for more.

Another recent ed tech experience for me was the production of my first podcast. If you want to hear me playing the accordian (I'm serious.) Go to ...http://www.edtechnot.com/notpodcasts.html I hope to make more meaningful use of this medium in the near future on this Blog. Special thanks to Gary Stager and David Warlick who assisted me in my struggle to go from iPod to website.

Until next time....Jim :-)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Welcome to my BLOG!

OK...it is the the fourth anniversary of edtechnot.com and we are having a bit of a public identity crisis. I think trying a few new formats on the site will help revive my enthusiasm for the project and maybe serve our audience better. it isn't that I have lost my committment to producing a site that lists ed tech content free of advertising corporate sponsors but I am wondering about the need for it. Ah...what the heck. Maybe this is just an example of paralysis by analysis. I'll keep giving it a go and you just keep letting me know what you think.

Hang in there, it can be tough out there in the ed tech world.

Until next post.