Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sticking a fork in it!

My response to Jeff from the economist sums up six years of watching nothing happen.

Hey Jeff,

I am sorry for my lack of response to the Economist feature on ed tech. I am back in the classroom My Blog after finishing up an MS in ed tech and am more disillusioned than ever about the role of ed tech in US schools.

I am on the verge of comletely bagging as it has made 0.0% impact on the field and has generated nothing but usless blather on the topic to no measureable effect.

I plan on using my limited energy to be the best science teacher I can be for my city public school students and to my (embarressing) song writing. Click here for horrifying sounds.

Oh well..... The dark side wins.

Jim Forde for the last time.
Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Koo"
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2007 16:03:03
Subject: Economist Debate Series. The votes are in.

Hi Jim –

If you haven’t checked out The Economist Debate series on education, you might want to do so today as The Economist has just declared
the winner: . After two weeks of debating on the proposition, “the continuing introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education” the audience has voted and the winner is “con” with 56 percent of total votes for rejecting the proposition.

In his closing statement, Dr. Robert Kozma, Emeritus Director and Principal Scientist at SRI International acknowledges “that educational systems are notoriously slow to change” but urges readers to vote for him to as he believes that “technology is making a positive difference in education.” To illustrate his point, Kozma cites numerous anecdotes from teachers he’s he’s met in Uganda, Chile, Catalonia, Norway and the Philippines where technology is making an impact in the classroom.

Also of note are statements by featured guest participants:

· “Too often technology is simply used to pretty up teaching yet, as many contributors have noted, technology may increase the reach of a poor teacher but it will not improve the quality of their teaching.” - Sir
John Daniel: , President and CEO of The Commonwealth of Learning

· “The lesson for the United States and other countries… is to eventually find a balance between innovation and accountability. That should be everyone’s destination, because that is the point at which educational technology is likely to have its greatest impact.”- Kevin
Bushweller: , Executive Editor, Education Week

· “It is not surprising to me that some of the failures of technology have occurred when schools have tried to substitute it for teaching” - Linda
Darling Hammond: , Professor of Education, Stanford University

· “I’m also concerned with the metrics by which we judge the quality of education in this century.” - Don
Knezek: , CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Our next debate will be held December 10th. The proposition will be on national competitiveness: should governments and universities everywhere be competing to attract and educate all qualified students regardless of nationality and residence?

Look forward for more details on the launch in early December.



Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sun at NECC I am in the heart of ed tech advertising at the NECC! My first impression this morning was a copy of something called the EdTech Show daily. It reminds me of those envelopes full of coupons you don't need that you get at your home. I was hoping for more than in infomercial when I awoke.

I'll update the blog over the next few days and let you know some of my impressions.

So far they are... it's hot in Atlanta, our hotel is frighteningly tall with an atrium that looks like a scene out of the Star Wars senate chamber (Episode 2), and I am ready to be enlightened!

jim :-)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Is there an upside to having less access to computers?

**This posting is not an attack on the great Ms. Bracey as I respect her work and know that her heart is always in the right place. I also don't disagree that a digital divide exists.

Read this blog posting from Bonnie Bracey of the Thornburg Center. She points to severals groups who are touting the importance of the STEM initiatives and that there is still a digital divide that needs to be addressed.

Click here to read it.

There are studies out there that suggest that increased contact with computers at home actually correlates to lower standardized test scores. Many studies that look hard at computing in schools and standardized test scores show no significant correlation. This, btw, after major monetary investments in ed tech. When you consider these facts, you have to wonder whether additional computing resources will have the desired effect. My point is I think that initiative should be StEM with a little T. Let's get more SEM going on.

I know, I know, you'll now send me the handful of meta-studies that show that tech can this and that, but look at data at the local school district level. Look at the pernicious achievement gap. For the cost of ed tech it should be worth it's salt.

You're going to hate me, but why not funnel the money to StEM things like, working science labs in middle schools and high schools? Maybe increasing the funds for math and science staff development would be a better use? Why not institute classes in logic and programming rather than teaching word processing and powerpoint? Why not use the money for after school programs for mentoring and tutoring kids?

You must know by now that all of this crud about "preparing kids for a digital society" drives me crazy. What any society needs is a generation of people who can think! Until there is a clear and statistically significant correlation between the ways technology is being used in a typical (i.e. not a NASA sponsored school or one that is located the campus of an Ivy League university) inner city school and an increase in a kids ability to think I am going to continue to cringe at these catch phrases.

Go to an average school and see how technology is being used. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Does this represent a higher order use of the technology?
2) Does this lesson integrate with the curriculum?
3) Would I want my child or grandchild sitting in this classroom right now?

Honestly, if you give me a well prepared student I'll teach them most of Microsoft office in a very short period of time. Don't EVEN get me started on the whole touch typing thing. I can't wait until voice recognition turns that into the buggy whip, that it already is. Also, if I see another PowerPoint presentation with watered down knowledge on it I'm gonna hurl!

OK, OK, I agree that when ed tech is used well it can make a difference but way too often it doesn't. IMHO, this is generally due to a lack of local ed tech leadership or to the application of a pitiful set of lower order thinking skills tools to a group of students. (usually due to some district level deal from some corporate boheamoth.)

I have had way too much coffee, but, I am particularly sensitive to these issues as the father of a 15 and 10 year old. Believe me, I know of what I speak. I actually spend time in real schools and have a real investment in seeing things done right...and soon!

My gosh it is 2007! We've been saying these things since HyperCard was hip!!!

Have at me on this one.

Jim :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Waitin' on the world to change?

If so...stop! Be the change you want to see in the world!

Go to this posting on the Dangeroualy Irrelevant blog and follow the many links offered for more ideas on change!

Click Here!

jim :-)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Videos on the future of education

Here are a couple of videos on the future of education distributed on

As much as I enjoyed them, I started to get annoyed by the first one about mid-way through. Here are some "ranty" observations.

First of all, I am tired of people telling how great China and India are. Yes, they are powerful countries with lots of people who sort their kids well. I still say that freedom and creativity will define success in the next 100 years and the U. S. will continue to retain the edge. Why else would those two countries be sending so many of their kids to U. S. universities? What country has one the most Nobel Prizes? Don't even get me started on the environmental disaster that China represents and the issues they face with things as simple as providing clean water for their people. Also, there are those little things called FREEDOM and TOLERANCE to consider.

Secondly, cue the dramatic dark music, I was moved by the vision of the future represented by the end of the first video but I still think that educational technologies aren't dramatically affecting the bottom line. This is defined by most communities as test scores. This makes it too easy to slash these programs when things get tight. Don't scowl at me! If you work in a real school, in a real school district, and not in some ed tech ivory tower, you know what I'm talking about! I, Personally, believe in the power of constructivist learning and in the integration of technology into the curriculum, but many times we have caved in the face of the bottom line. This resulted in less powerful applicatons of these amazing learning tools. (think touch typing) We need to be able to prove, with metrics (which seems to be the coin of the realm these days) that ed tech is making a difference. Enough with the emotional speechs and moving music, give them what they want, data from the local level.

OK...have at me.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

2 cents on the NETS

Hi All,

Here is a great posting on the new NETS from David Warlick's @cents worth blog. While the posting is valuable the follow-up comments are evn more valuable!

Click Here!

Jim :-)

Video use and the classroom.

I enjoyed this posting on the Pulse by Gary Stager. Sadly, it rang true in my experience. It also was a nice reminder of the copyright laws associated with vcr/dvd movie use in schools.

Click here.

I hope you enjoy it.

Jim :-)

Monday, June 04, 2007

DA article on ISTE standards

Hi All,

I've been away for a few months due to family demands. But I'm baaack!

Here is a link to a a conversation with Don Knezek concerning the new ISTE standards.

You also get Stager's perspective for no added cost!

Jim :-)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Berkshire Wirless Lap top Initiative: how's it going?

In this article a lap top initiative is reviewed at it's one year anniversary. Although after one year it isn't really possible to see achievement gains (that apparently will be assessed in the third year), there are some positive teacher and student reported effects.

From the article:


Findings by evaluators who assessed the first stage of the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative:

* Teachers and students reported large increases in their use of technology in the classroom and across the curriculum.
* Teachers reported a substantial increase in their abilities to access technology resources.
* Teachers reported large increases in the ways and frequency with which they use technology.
* Teachers reported frequent participation and overall satisfaction with BWLI professional development offerings.
* Students reported an increase in their ability to use technology after five months of one-to-one computing.

What do you think? I think that all of these are positive developments.... but, will the public go for findings like these after one year?

Jim :-)

Are you blocked in China? (cogdogblog)

Here i a web site that allows you to see if your web site is blocked in China!

Click here.

BTW... the edtechnot blog IS available in China. God help them.

Jim :-)

quetioning technology post

HI All,

Here is a post about a post about Interactive White Boards. I think it raises some good questions about one of the latest "gee whiz" ed tech products showing up in schols everywhere to almost universal applause.

My son's high school (with 2600 kid and only one sign out computer lab) is thinking about installing these in science clases. It sounds like an exciting opportunity, and s probably funded by a grant, but what about two or three more lap top carts? Wouldn't that open up better learning experiences for more clases?

What do you think? Maybe I need to learn more about IWBs?

Jim :-)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Jason Ohler Blog!

In an e-mail from Jason...

Hello Jim-

I wanted to let you know that my web journal subTechst is featuring, among other things, short excerpts from my new book, Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning and Creativity.

You can sign up to receive postings via email at the journal site (, or simply visit the subTechst journal when the muse moves you to do so. The site also provides a link to a "how-to guide" for doing digital “green screen” storytelling in the classroom, which I hope you find helpful.

Kind regards-

Dr. Jason Ohler
President’s Professor, Educational Technology
University of Alaska

Monday, February 19, 2007

Steve Jobs- tech won't help until bad teachers are fired

For the record, I am a MAC fan, but I mean, Ouch! I can actually hear the Apple sales falling in the educational world after this article. (I wonder if Apple sales fall if they hit someone like Newton on the head and lead to universal gravitation theories? Ok...I am officially over-caffeinated today.)

The AP quotes Jobs as saying, "I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way." He also states, "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."

After warming up the educational world with his astutue comments..cough...cough.... he then elaborated on his vision for textbook-free schools in the future.

Perhaps the Wiki-like books would save education from the evil tenured teachers?

Come on y'all... let me hear from you on this one.

Jim :-)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Princeton Questions Ed tech in their Classrooms

An article on the Daily Princetonian Web site reveals concerns that Princeton has with the use of ed tech in class, in particular, the use of lap tops and Powerpoint.

Apparently there are experiencing distracting uses of lap tops in class (IMing/YouTubing etc.) and they are looking to regulate, and not ban, lap top use. Also, Powerpoint is being questioned as a meaningful method of instruction.

I commend the Princeton community for their ability to look into these issues in a reasonable way with the goal of improving the quality of the learning experience for their students.

Jim :-)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Assessing 21st Century skills

This is a schizophrenic post, because I see both sides of this issue. One one hand,this article by Scott McCleod is a great resource for finding out about the current set of 21st century skill assessments. I like the authentic nature of some of the tasks that they require and agree that knowing how to use media is useful in the 21st century.

On the other hand, the described goal of 21st century learning as, "to prepare students who can be productive citizens in the new technology-suffused, globally-interconnected economy" always leaves me wanting. Let's not even get into the fact that so many kids are lacking the basic skills necessary to craft a boolean search. I always have a little part of me that wonders if creating little economically productive units should be the "end of education". Shouldn't the goal be a little more lofty? Shouldn't it read a little more like Neil Postman's "learning how to make a life, not make a living?"

What do you think?

Jim :-)

Friday, February 09, 2007

I am a "new Voice".

Hi All,

Scott McLeod has named me one of the "new voices" of the ed tech blogosphere. I appreciate the kind words about the blog and enjoy the fact that I am his "favorite contrarian"! :-) I am taking that as the intended compliment.

Here is a reponse I crafted for his blog, for the many people who may be encountering me for the first time.

It was really kind of you to highlight on your Dangerously Irrelevant Blog (which, by the way, is one of my Blogline feeds that I check daily).

For those who may be new to the site I would like to offer a little background. started as a magazine style site in March of 2001. I was encouraged to actualize the site after a brief conversation with Ian Jukes about my vision for the space. (I doubt he would remember it, but it was over a bite in Stamford, CT.) Many of the "Mavens", who offer varying points of view on the use of ed tech in schools, wrote articles at no cost for the site in order to help generate meaningful conversation. I am grateful that they were willing to do that. In March of 2005 I decided to stop pestering these people for free articles and switched to the blog format ( to allow the world to interact around controversial questions and ideas related to educational technology.

I hope that my contribution to the ed tech blogosphere will allow for open conversation where no "sacred cows" exist. We need to continue to face down the real issues associated with the use of ed tech in REAL schools in an honest manner. This allows the world of ed tech to move forward, not based on business plans and units sold, but on great ideas from front line teachers and those who know what great teaching looks and feels like.

I play the role of contrarian but you all should know that I am a licensed teacher who has a dozen years of science and technology teaching experience in public schools who has embraced the use of ed tech, where I found it to be appropriate. I started with my ed tech journey with Apple IIe Muppet Keyboards with K-4 kids, moved to level 3 laserdisc use with middle schoolers utilizing titles like "science sleuths" and "the great ocean rescue" and even Asst-coached an award winning Lego Robotics team.

I may be a contrarian but I am no luddite. I just think that, given the significance of ed tech, it is worthy of a rolling conversation. As Francis Bacon said, "A prudent question is one half of wisdom." If I ever post a dumb or obvious question, smack it down with a great response.

That's the whole point.

All the best!

Jm Forde :-)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blog Post...Are ed tech conferences obsolete?

Here is an interesting blog posting that asks whether or not ed tech conferences are worthwhile. This is a really taboo question, which is why I loved it. :-)

Click here to see what the author, Jerram Froese. Coordinator of Instructional Technology. Irving ISD. Irving, TX thinks about the topic.

What do you think? Is the "baby being thrown out with the bath water" or are we getting a glimpse of the "emperors clothes" for a change?

Jim :-)

NEW ISTE NETS (standards)

Hi All,

I read with great interest about the new ISTE NETS. You can read about them here!

Any reactions?

Let me know!

Jim :-)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Learning With Technology: research brief

I often ask bloggers to defend their ed tech ideas as a way of generating conversation about the topic. The ultimate goal being to raise the level of that conversation and to educate everyone involved.

Mike Muir of the University of Maine has contributed greatly to this by producing a wonderful research brief with great food for thought and an amazing set of links to follow.

You can access it here. Let me know what you think? Do you agree or disagree with his summary? Any reactions to the resources selected? What was left out?

Jim :-)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wireless Internet in college...yes/no?

This blog posting asks whether or not wireless internet is too much of a distraction in the college level classroom. There seems to be interesting give and take on this at the bottom of his page. Since I was an undergrad when playing "Galaxian" was cool, this is a new issue for me. Would I have zoned out and IM'd my buddies in the student center or cross referenced my professor's comments by visiting Wikipedia for additional inoformation? I'd like to think the latter.

What's your experience?

Jim :-)

Bill Gates talks education tech

This article from MacWorld (How Ironic?) discusses an outline of Bill's vision for ed tech. They quote him as saying, "We are now on the verge of something where technology will make a difference,". What year is this? Hasn't ed tech been making a difference? Is this thing on??

There is no doubt in my mind that the Gates Foundation is attempting to do great stuff in the worlds of education and public health. It is sort of cozy though that these comments came at, "an annual Microsoft-sponsored conference attended by government leaders throughout Europe." Can you say, "vista sales"?

I think that Microsoft is starting to hear the footsteps of web based software solutions like Google Docs and Spreadsheets, which cost..... oh yeah, THEY"RE FREE!

I encourage you to read the article and form your own opinions.

JIm :-)

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"It's not about the technology" -

I came across a great posting at titled "It's not about the Tehcnology". I liked the way Ben explores his ideas on this topic. While this is not a new idea, the posting is honest and reflects a thoughful educator who has their priorities straight (IMHO). I responded on the site.

I hope you like it.

jim :-)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Generation WE

I have heard of Digital Natives and Millenials but....

Here is an article
on the current 11 and unders now known as Generation WE!

This is a generation of kids with parents that are just as tech savvy as they are. This is an nteresting concept. These are the kids of the Gen Xers and covers me also. We were the Pong / MTV (when their used ot be music videos) generation.

I hope you like it. I have to get back to my Duran Duran album.

Jim :-)

PULSE lap top posting -- response

Ron Canuel has produced a clever posting at the pulse concerning 1:1 computing. I posted the following response to see where the conversation will go. Hopefully we can get a debate rolling at The Pulse.

-------------------- the post below------------------

Let me play the "pencils advocate" for a moment. (A role I am unfamiliar with.) While I found this posting entertaining, I think it still didn't address the reasons why 1:1 computing is so powerful. You refer to research on the topic briefly. You state, "The research on laptops has clearly indicated that, as in any educational tool (I refer to pens, texts, lab materials, paper), integration is the key." Sure, but integrating a pencils costs five cents. Is this not significant in a real-world of shrinking education budgets? (by shrinking I mean the portion of the budget used for instructional materials)

Send us the research links in your next posting. These would go a long to quieting your critics.

Here are some thoughts from a typical (fictional) tax payer.

1) "I had some great learning experiences that were engaging and fun without the use of lap tops. Shouldn't we use the money for staff development for better instructional methods and more hands-on experiences for the kids, or maybe we can use the money to reduce class size which should clearly improve achievement instead?

2) I work in a high-tech industry and didn't have lap tops in my school. Why am I doing well?

These types of responses are not from people who are afraid of change or who are luddites. These are reasonable people who Tivo shows, check their Blackberries endlessly, and maintain encryption on their Wi-fi networks at home.

Also, in my experience, when teachers resist the use of technology there are often good reasons. This posting may be an example of Cuban's "exhiliration / scientific-credibility / disappointment / teacher-bashing" cycle, particularly when you turn to blaming the lesson plan for the lack of lap top success in some settings. What do you think?


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Too much technology in the classroom?

Hi All,

For what it is worth, here is another article questioning the role of technology in the classroom. It is from the BBC.

It covers the regular ground. The only unique aspect of this article is the focus on interactive white boards. I didn't realize how prevalent they were in the UK. It is amazing how consistent the opinions are on these things.

Jim :-)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

FETC changing hands

Hi All,

I just found out that the FETC conference has been acquired by 101 Communications. As you wil see they produce a lot of trade magazines, e newsletters and conferences. They are the T.H. E. Jounal people. I am not sure what this means for these FETC people but I hope that 101 Communications will use their talent because the FETC conference has been very popular over the years. Sure, it doesn't hurt that it is in Orlando in Winter, but anyhoo.

What do you think? is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Jim :-)

ps- My favorite FETC moment was when Todd Oppenheimer addressed an agitated crowd in (help me here) '95 or '96. This was shortly after the publication of "The Computer Delusion" article in the Atlantic monthly. It was, shall we say...... awkward.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Milgram effect and teachers.

Gary Stager has posted a great piece comparing the famous Milgram Effect experiments and the practice of teachers. It raises some really good questions about why we do what we do and whether we are being ethical in doing it. If we sense that we are doing harm how should we react? Should we fight the entrenched system, quit our jobs, close the door and do what we want?

See it here.

I posted a reactionary response to see if anyone will take the bait. :-) I do believe that teachers deserve more credit than they are given by society and to point to them as unprofessional for doing their job (as defined by their school district) is a cheap shot.

Jim :-)

Monday, January 08, 2007

How much ed tech do teachers need to know? ( a rxn)

In this Blue Skunk Blog post entitled "Just How Much do Teachers need to Know About Technology" Doug Johnson (Director of Media and Tech at the Mankato Public Schools) is concerned that ed tech trainers may need to spend more time reflecting on what is essential and avoiding what is confusing during staff development. He refers to the annoying uber-wonk, that we are all too familiar with, as the "Alpha Wolf" due to their need to flaunt their superior intellect.

While I can't argue with this idea, I do feel some reactions bubbling up from this post.

1st- Educational technology staff development should be about creating better teachers. Whether or not they know the origin of the acronym "URL" is irrelevant. Will the ed tech staff development session offer them ideas that will make them better teachers, with their specific kids, in their specific setting? This should be the ultimate assessment

2nd- Many of the frustrated reactions that teachers share via informal body language, rude comments or (in the worst case scenario) thrown objects are often the result of the disconnect of the "expert" from the classroom teacher. It isn't that they aren't organized, but it is that they really have no idea what great science, language arts, or math teaching looks or feels like...but "boy do they have a technology solution for you!" The reluctant veteran teachers are then labeled recalcitrant Luddites. Poor alpha wolf. :-(

3rd- As it relates to the "omnivore's dilemma" and the depth of knowledge necessary, I don't want a great reading teacher worrying about why the ISDN line works or the origin of Spam. I want them to have the tools they need to entrance kids with wonderful lessons that encourage them to be life long learners. This is where their focus should be, not on why the tech around them is not working.

I probably just woke up on the wrong side of the lap top. Let me know what you think.

Jim Forde :-)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Headline...."On-line Schools Slammed"

Here's the article.

This not the kind of headline you will find in an ed tech journal. While this certainly doesn't represent all on-line schools in all states, here is an excerpt from the article about the major issues facing Colorado on-line schools.

This may be a cautionary tale or an aberration. You tell me.

Jim :-)

Overall online education issues


An analysis of student data over three years found online students perform worse on state exams than their peers across Colorado, and the performance gaps are larger in middle and high school. On average, the audit found, online students' performance on state exams actually declines over time.


Five of the 12 online schools audited did not appear to comply with either state licensing requirements or with federal rules mandating teachers have completed college courses in their subjects. Hope, for example, had four licensed teachers for 1,500 students.


Colorado Department of Education officials did not follow their own monitoring rules. Despite recurring problems with online programs in four of seven school districts reviewed in the audit, state officials did not place them on academic probation.

Online schools typically said their student achievement was poor because their kids are "at risk," but there is no standard definition for that term. Some schools said their students were at risk if they had jobs or participated in rodeo programs."

IM stats from an AP-AOL poll

I thought you would find this interesting...Happy '07.

According to the AP-AOL poll: The original article was here.

-- Almost three-fourths of adults who do use instant messages still communicate with e-mail more often. Almost three-fourths of teens send instant messages more than e-mail.

-- More than half of the teens who use instant messages send more than 25 a day, and one in five send more than 100. Three-fourths of adult users send fewer than 25 instant messages a day.

-- Teen users (30 percent) are almost twice as likely as adults (17 percent) to say they can't imagine life without instant messaging.

-- When keeping up with a friend who is far away, teens are most likely to use instant messaging, while adults turn first to e-mail.

-- About a fifth of teen IM users have used IM to ask for or accept a date. Almost that many, 16 percent, have used it to break up with someone.

The original article was here.

jim :-)