In 2004, I had the great privilege of being hired to consult and lead professional development in India. One of the highlights of the trip was being on a panel discussion with Dr. Sugata Mitra and a billionaire high-tech exec. The purpose of the day was a school convening it’s community and experts to discuss the future of education. (How many of your schools have that sort of event on its calendar?)

Dr. Mitra and his work were damn impressive. Upon returning home I wrote the following article: Let Them Eat Tech StandardsA hole in the wall as science and public policy

The “Hole in the Wall” project is a testament to the competency and capacity of children to construct their own knowledge in a community of practice. Internet access can connect children to each other and the 21st century.

The fabulous TED Conference has just posted a new TED Talk by Dr. Sugata Mitra. It is worthy of the attention of every teacher concerned about learning and every coordinator with “technology” in their job description.

Note: The TED Talk site has better video quality, but Blogger would not allow the Embed to work properly.

Also read Sylvia Martinez’s blog about Dr. Mitra’s work, Hole in the Wall – Can kids learn computer literacy by themselves?


Mission Accomplished!
Although much of what recently elected and newly minted Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin says in her education plan for Alaska reads like an undergraduate homework assignment, she does express support for something called ABC Schools.

While parents are an integral part of the student experience, students bear the lion’s share of the effort. ABC students have nightly homework, back to basics curriculum, patriotism, ethics and citizenship training. Each of these is a key ingredient to providing a child a consistent education that meets the values of their parents while keeping them challenged in class.

Parent reviews of one of the ABC Schools reveals much of what I suspected and feared:

Birchwood ABC is a wonderful magnet type school. This school teaches Kindergarten students phonograms and how to read in the first half of the year and spelling rules and how to write during the second half. My child has already read 40 16-page phonis readers. They are using the Riggs-Spalding methods for reading and Scott Foresman for math. The students will be doing timed addition and subtraction test by the end of the year. I cannot say enough about this school. The teachers are really great and the parents are very involved. The students have gym class and music class twice a week, art class and library time once a week, and recess every day. The school also stresses academics, citizenship, patriotism, responsibility, respect, and courtesy.

Another parent gushes…

I have been involved in this school for 7 years and every moment of it has been pure blyss! The staff members are a joy and the children are wonderful also! The school offers amazing physical and mental chalenges. It hosts a class for gifted children and for even more gifted children. Over all the school deserves 20/10 stars!

I left the spelling errors in to demonstrate just how well their commitment to phonics is paying off!

The good news is that the school has a segregated class for gifted children and even more gifted children!

Here is a review of another Alaska ABC School by another satisfied phonics customer, a student:

this school is so focused on how u behave and the teachers really want to motvate u to get a good grade in every class. ive been at northern lights abc since a 2nd grade and they have really helped me in a lot of things, evn when im struggling really bad in grades.

Also from Palin’s education plan:

The private sector will be integrated into the education system. I am looking for a dramatic change in this area in particular. Employers know what is needed for the workplace. They can provide curriculum and expectations for students to ensure they have all the skills that will invest them in success later in life.


Due to Sarah Palin’s incredibly short time in office, I have been unable to find much more information regarding ABC Schools or her relationship with teachers or her education policies as Governor. Please share any info you have with me via this blog.

This just in… (added 4PM PST 8/29/08)
According to The Boston Globe

The Anchorage Daily News reported that Palin said the following about creationism at a debate:

“Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information….Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject — creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.”


Hey, check it out!

There is a school district in Florida that has no apparent connection to the past century or common decency.

It’s like finding one of those Japanese soldiers who never got the memo World War II is over, but instead of of living in the jungle he’s buying 30 pounds of Twizzlers at Wal-Mart.

Read Florida town backs principal witch hunt

I don’t think we are that different from a lot of districts, at least in the Panhandle, that have beliefs that maybe are different from societal changes,” the schools superintendent said.

“I guess I didn’t realize we were this bad,” Scott (school board member) said after the district lost in court.

Others flatly hail Davis (the bigoted principal) as a hero.

At least you can count on an 11th grader to do the right thing when the educators around her have lost their minds.


Related links:

AP Story (Girl blamed for hurting her town)

Confederate flag? Oui! Rainbow? No! (too suggestive)

Here is a blog with info about the case.

My latest magazine column for District Administration Magazine is now online.

Who Ya Gonna Believe?
The ongoing battle between facts and mythology.

Other professions have a term for when you put your personal belief ahead of facts-malpractice.

Read the entire article here.

Read this fascinating article about Senator Joe Biden’s foreign policy leadership and knowledge.

On September 10, 2001, Senator Biden, then (as now) chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, prophetically warned of the new Bush administration’s exclusive focus on missile defenses in a speech at the National Press Club. He said, “We will have diverted all that money to address the least likely threat while the real threats come into this country in the hold of a ship, or the belly of a plane, or are smuggled into a city in the middle of the night in a vial in a backpack.”

While you’re at it, check out this video clip of Biden reminding John Ashcroft of American values.


This article from The Hill suggests that the Obama campaign wants all speakers to stress a “rags-to-riches” narrative. The article also states that only one sentence was struck from Congressman Kucinich’s Tuesday speech.

They’re asking for another four years — in a just world, they’d get 10 to 20.

Regardless of your politics, the Congressman’s DNC speech was entertaining and energetic – well worth watching!

NOTE TO THE BLOGOSPHERE: Thank you for the interest in my blog and my course book list. I would not normally publish course materials in such a vulgar fashion, but it was brought to my attention (while online) that the book list had not been forwarded to students, so I copied and paste to my blog as it was the quickest way to communicate the information.

I give a great deal of thought to the unique and constantly evolving nature of the courses I teach. I frequently change texts to take advantage of breakthroughs in writing and insight, not to chase fads. I would be happy to share my course syllabi with anyone who ask. Howver, as I wrote here, the syllabus is a fossil image of my course.

There is a 2005 World Conference on Computers in Education paper written about the pedagogical thinking reflected in this course available online and another is in-press with a publication date of October 2008. Including links to those documents here would diminish the element of surprise critical for my students fully enjoying the course.

This Learning and Technology course is taken contemporaneously with “Educating Today’s Learner” which is a slightly more traditional learning theory course with an emphasis on situated cognition and the social construction of knowledge.

You may also enjoy visiting the bookstore recommendations I assembled here and here.

Best Wishes,

Gary


Required books

1. Experience and Education by John Dewey. ISBN: 0020136609

2. The Children’s Machine – Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer -by Seymour Papert. ISBN: 0465010636

3. The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within, Second Edition by Edward R. Tufte. ISBN: 0961392169

4. Choose one of the following: (K-12 teachers MAY choose one of the other books if the subject interests them, rather than The Hundred Languages of Children which at first blush looks like it’s geared for early-childhood education, but its ideas are universal and profound)

(K-12 educators) The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach Advanced Reflections, Second Edition by Carolyn P. Edwards (Editor) – Ablex Pub Corp; ISBN: 156750311X
or

(Non K-12 educators)
Thinking in Jazz – The Infinite Art of Improvisation by Paul Berliner – University of Chicago Press (Trd); ISBN: 0226043819

or

The Long Haul: An Autobiography by Myles Horton – Teachers College Pr; ISBN: 080773700

5. One more book will be selected and named shortly. It will not be used until November so there will be plenty of time to order it once I confirm availability.

Strongly recommended optional books:
Radio: An Illustrated Guide by Jessica Abel and Ira Glass. ISBN: 0967967104
Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson. ISBN: 1412959721

Optional optional books:
Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth by Herbert Kohl. ISBN: 1596910526
Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol. ISBN: 0307393712


Experience and Education is a small, but profound book about learning by one of the giants of progressive education, John Dewey.

The Children’s Machine is the Father of Educational Computing’s 1993 book about the power of the computer in learning.

The third book may be chosen based on your vocation or interest. There are many common ideas in the three books. I used to assign a different book for elementary and secondar educators. This year I decided to use the same book, The 100 Languages of Children, for all K-12 educators. Although the book is “literally” about preschool education, the ideas, research and wisdom of Reggio is relevant to every educator, parent or friend of children. Non-educators, particularly parents are of course invited to select this book for #3.

The two books offered for non-K12 educators are about learning in the jazz and civil rights communities respectively. They are both fantastic books.

My goal is to use primary sources, not boring derivative textbooks, as the basis of our discussions. I am delighted if you keep the book around to read again or pass along to a colleague rather than sell if back to the bookstore for 79 cents.

Many articles and even some multimedia elements will supplement your reading in this course.


Strongly recommended DVD rental or purchase:
We will also watch Comedian, a fascinating documentary with Jerry Seinfeld, later in the semester. In the past, some students have had a virtual film festival and agreed to chat while watching the film at the same time. You may rent or purchase the film during the week I will announce later in the term. Warning: There is adult language, even a bit of profanity in the film. Therefore, nobody is required to view it, especially if you are offended by R-Rated films. There is no nudity or violence whatsoever. The educational value of the film and it’s ability to generate serious discussion contextualizing the theories we learn in OMAET makes Comedian a worthy modern text. Students year-after-year have profited from the experience.

Again, you are not required to watch the film if you have moral objections to it, but it is well worthwhile. The R-Rating may be overkill and is based on the language used by professional comedians when they hang out with one another socially.

Software requirement:
There will be a requirement to purchase a copy of MicroWorlds EX software. It will shortly be available via a special web site I have spent several months arranging. The software will cost $40, instead of the normal >$100. The download instructions will be provided.

All of the other software we use will be open-source or freeware.

MicroWorlds EX offers a rich environment for thinking about thinking and learning in a constructionist context. The experiences should be fun, challenging and in some cases nothing whatsoever to do with your job. It will however help you think, develop some technological fluency and set the stage for thinking about constructing knowledge with computers. Even if you do not teach children, the software will help you think about the big ideas of the course. You may of course work with your own children, neighbors or relatives on the MicroWorlds adventures. If you have no use for the software after the term, I am sure that one of your teaching classmates would appreciate an additional license.



The political conventions are like a four-day Superbowl for me. I can’t get enough. I am however concerned about the stagecraft and the political calculus that requires the Obama campaign to distance themselves from the proud traditions of the Democratic Party

President Carter, one of two living Democratic Presidents, was met with thunderous applause as he and Mrs. Carter walked across the convention stage, waved and then fled. That’s right a former President and Nobel Prize Winner was used as a prop and then made to disappear. The in-house band should have played Ray Stevens’ 70s classic, The Streak during his minute in the spotlight.

What was the Obama campaign afraid of? Were they afraid President Carter would call for peace, not war? Were they concerned that he would call for economic justice, racial equality, disease eradication, civil rights, human rights or an end to torture?

Soon after President Carter was whisked off to an undisclosed secure location, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. took the stage.

He got to speak as a reward for throwing his father, Jesse Jackson, Sr. under the bus. How shameful it was when he publicly chastised his father for personal political gain. Congressman Jackson invoked the bloody battle for voting rights in Selma, Alabama and the heroic leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while expecting the audience to forget that his father worked tirelessly and risked his life for decades in order to help America “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Reverend Jackson was in Selma and with Dr. King on that fateful balcony

Jesse Jackson, Sr. endorsed Barack Obama for President nearly two years ago. The reward for his loyalty is that neither he, Congressman Charles Rangel or Congressman John Lewis were invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

In fact, Senator Obama can’t seem to be photographed in the same room with the civil rights leaders on whose shoulders he stands. Without the heroism and sacrifice of this greatest generation, Obama’s presidential nomination would have been impossible. Without Jesse Jackson’s historic presidential campaigns and the millions of new voters he registered, Barack Obama would not be a viable nominee.

While the Obama campaign pretends that racism is a prehistoric memory, they cannot be associated with leading African American leaders who risked life and limb to make racial equality possible.

It’s all very sad. This denial of history, elders and expertise is reminiscent of the edublogosphere and so much of our culture where youth and immediacy are over-valued.

I have contributed to the Obama campaign and I will vote for him in November. However, I won’t be half as proud as when I puled the lever for Jesse Jackson, Sr. in 1984 – the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential primary election.

At least Ted Kennedy got the attention and respect he deserves. It was glorious to see the enormous smile on Senator Biden’s face as Senator Kennedy spoke and delighted the delegates in the arena.

A wise (OK, wiseguy) old Australian friend of mine just sent the following email…

The McCain campaign keeps emphasizing that McCain was a prisoner in Vietnam, as proof of his qualification for the Presidency.

Well, so was Gary Glitter, and I’m not voting for him either.

As I watch the last day of the Summer Olympics, I just heard the TV host tell the American audience that China increased their medal count by 59% over the haul from the Athens Games of 2004.

Uh oh!

I wonder how long it will take before a conference speaker or professional development consultant tosses out that useless Olympic statistic to demonstrate how American teachers conspire against excellence, American students are videogame-addicted zombie slackers and principals all recite from “The World is Fat,” the next pop-business BS written by the physical education equivalent of Dan Pink or Thomas Friedman.

Wake up America! World dominance in rhythmic gymnastics is at stake!