Perseverance


New Tech Comes To Education … Slowly, But Surely 1

I’ll be honest up front — this won’t be an overly long post. For one, I’m not sitting at my desk/keyboard in my comfy office chair. For two, I’m writing this post on my iPhone, via the oh-so-wonderful WordPress app [get it], which let’s you do such magic. And for three, you may infer from the timestamp on this post and from the subsequent (yet to be written) paragraph What I Should Be Doing Now — instead of this. [For another reference to What I Should Be Doing — check out Should Be Sleeping ]

Google Doc on iPhone

Rather than go off on a tangent about a recent conversation concerning teenagers sleeping with their cell phones, I’m simply going to state that I decided to undertake a bit of bedtime reading this evening (morning) before firing up aSleep [get it] and heading off to Dreamland. And given that my grade partner and I are planning on meeting tomorrow to discuss the essays which our respective classes of grade 7s are currently working on, I figured I’d take a look at some of the work that my students shared with me earlier today (yesterday). And so I simply fired up Safari on my iPhone, logged into my class’ GoogleDocs site, and started reading. Shared with me, you see, not by printing out a piece of paper which I would have had to have carried home and had sitting here within reach, but rather shared with me electronically. And, in a number of instances, shared with me electronically from the students’ homes, after school, as they each completed working on their writing according to their own timeline!

Now I realize, for some, this won’t come as a grand revelation. As previously discussed, Yes, The Future IS Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed. But, for all my years of forays into the intersection of technology and education, I’m still finding the combined capabilities of these converged/juxtaposed technologies to be all quite magical. Adding to the realization that I can read my students from-their-home submitted work from-my-home on my phone, came the complementary acknowledgment that I could also blog about it, including an image of a doc (note, too, that I have removed the student name — on the iPhone — using a simple iPhone app called iRetouch [get it]) without leaving the extreme comfort of my current reading location/posture.

Providing feedback on the writing will need to wait for morning, when I can access the full editing capabilities of the full Browser interface. But the reality is that New Tech IS coming to education — and that is a good thing. Granted, at this point, it’s my personal iPhone and the setup-by-me Google Apps site that’s bringing this future a bit closer. But my principal is supportive of this direction, and is actively working to get us a half-dozen Netbooks to further allow our students to collaborate in new ways. So the Slowly, But Surely is happening. And other pieces will fall (or be contrived to fall) into place.

What does it take to help these changes come about? Some research. Keeping an ear to the ground. Trying to see new evolutions and how they might help learners (and educators) go about the wonder of learning in better ways. Finding support. Collaborating. Championing innovation. Persevering. Not settling for the Status Quo. Pushing the Envelope. Reflective Practice. Beginner’s Eyes. Yada Yada Yada.

[Appended: Being Willing To Try. Being Willing To Do. (Yoda Yoda Yoda)]

I’m conscious that I would prefer to have some inline hyperlinks up above for a couple things, and that I’ll place them below for expediency, along with the pic (auto appended by the WordPress app). I’d also likely apply a but of text formatting, were I writing this full-bore at my desk. But it’s time to launch aSleep. Good night.     NOTE: Dec. 16th, 2009.  This post was enhanced (links added, bit of text formatting) via desktop/keyboard.

iRetouch app

aSleep app


The Future is Already Here 7

DougPeteTweetDeckThe Future is Already Here … it’s just not very evenly distributed.
William Gibson
Attribution

Listen to the NPR Interview Nov 30, 1999

Ontario educator Doug Peterson (@dougpete on Twitter) sent out a tweet yesterday morning which immediately caught my attention, “Just blogged: Great opportunity for Ontario Teachers. Yesterday, the Ministry of Education announced …”

A short link through to Doug’s Off the Record blog had me reading about the immediate availability of a new piece of OSAPAC-licensed software for use in Ontario publicly-funded schools, Bitstrips for Schools.  The Ontario Ministry of Education, supported by the direction of OSAPAC, had finalized licensing arrangements to procure a modified-for-education version of the existing Bitstrips, and was announcing that the augmented site was ready-for-access by Ontario teachers and students. Not only would the modified version provide an “education-friendly” environment, but it would also include an easy-to-use management framework.

Here’s my first attempt with the software (with a small measure of editorializing thrown in for spice):

TheFutureHasArrived

So, as referenced in piece above, shortly after reading Doug’s post, I was on the Bitstrips For Schools site. Within mere moments, I had activated my account, created a class grouping, and set up my student accounts. (The registration page included a drop down selector for school district, and then school — it then validated against my district email account. Easy Peasy.)

And it is in this ease-of-access that I find a profound potential.

The ease with which Ontario teachers can access this new software application, with all of its attendant student-collaboration potential, is unheard of in my experience  for an OSAPAC release. (Certainly the local implementation of Gizmos, for example (another OSAPAC-licensed web-app) — and the attendant user codes — have yet to make their way out into our schools from the district office. Not sure what’s up with that.) Granted, some teachers may require some support and/or training to make use of this software. Finding an appropriate curriculum context will also be important for others. But there’s no doubt in my mind that students will take to this with ease. The fact that it requires NO installation or subsequent technical support on the part of district IT departments, however, really strikes my fancy. And the ability for students to access the web-app from home, bodes well for where we need to be going. As an initial case-study, I see this as a wonderful indication of what is potentially to come. If the easy registration of teacher accounts and subordinate student accounts (as established via OSAPAC/EDU) works in this application, then it paves the way for OSAPAC and the Ministry of Education to employ the same strategy in rolling out other web/cloud-based applications. The sooner, the better. A provincially-licensed blogging or writing process tool, anyone?

Granted, this may run the risk of being potentially perceived by some as a bit of a challenge to local district edicts/policies — if they’re not already onboard — but I hope not. After all, the times, they are a’ changing. With eLearning providing education directly to some students in their homes already, we all need to be looking forward and embracing the aspects of educational technology that can truly work to empower learners and educators alike.

As for the Gibson quote, there’s no doubt that the uneven distribution of the future remains a significant issue for us all to wrestle with.

But I,  for one, applaud OSAPAC and the Ministry for their vision in taking this step forward. This act clearly demonstrates the potential for a more even distribution of the future moving forward …  🙂

What are your thoughts?  Is this a good way for OSAPAC and the Ministry to keep moving?


Push Back the Outside of the Envelope 1

There was a demon that lived in the air.

They said whoever challenged him would die.

Their controls would freeze up. Their planes would buffet wildly.

And they would disintegrate.

The demon lived at Mach One on the meter. 750 miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way.

He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass.

– opening narration from The Right Stuff

The first seven minutes of the film: (removed from YouTube) Another, edited version:

The metaphor of “pushing back the outside of the envelope,” as referenced here in the tangible attempts of breaking the sound barrier, has been a touchstone for me since I first saw this film in the early 1980s. Coupled with a reluctance to ever be satisfied with the Status Quo, the notion of continually working to advance methods and practice to support improvement in learning remains a prime motivator for me to this day.

TheRightStuff If you have never seen Philip Kaufman’s “The Right Stuff,” I wholeheartedly recommend it. Based on the bestseller by Tom Wolfe, not only does it paint a truly heroic picture of the history of the flights of the early test pilots and Mercury 7 astronauts, it skillfully blends the work of many fine actors in both leading and cameo roles together with historic archival footage to produce in an incredibly entertaining epic. (8 Oscar nominations, 4 wins.)

Wikipedia entry on the Flight Envelope

Wikipedia entry on idiom Pushing the Envelope

Where did the phrase pushing the envelope originate?

  • Is striving to “push the envelope” a component of your professional practice?
  • How important is this metaphor in your context?