Happy holidays!! May the New Year be filled with wisdom, peace and good health!


Jay Thomas attempts to knock the meatball off the Xmas tree

Wake the kids and phone the neighbors!

The last Late Show with David Letterman before Christmas Eve is one of the great unheralded annual holiday traditions in the United States (and wherever Letterman appears on the tee-vee machine).

You owe it to yourself and family to watch this Thursday night (11:35 Eastern & Pacific) Or set the VCR/DVR/TIVO.

I wrote about why this event brings me so much joy a year ago in The Huffington Post.

Read The Most Festive Night of the Year! to learn why I cannot wait for this show year after year after year. The tradition began in 1998!


Other coverage of this most joyous event!

Jay Thomas prepares to re-create annual Christmas miracle on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman.” (From the Nola.com, 12/21/10)

This may be Darlene Love’s 25th annual Xmas performance on Letterman! (NY Daily News)


Jay Thomas interviewed for Philadelphia NBC morning news show about his 2010 return to tradition

Darlene Love on David Letterman – Xmas 1995 – A tradition born in 1986!

Child_conference313Each year I make dozens of presentations at educational events around the world. Nearly every presentation is followed by an audience member asking, “Can I have a copy of your PowerPoint?” Sometimes, they hand me a USB drive.

In the spirit of collegiality I refrain from answering in any of following ways:

I don’t use PowerPoint. I use Keynote and my slides will look crummy on your PC.

• My presentation file is often very large due to embedded video and won’t fit on a USB drive.

• Do you mean PowerPoint slides?

• No, the work is my intellectual property.

I’m flattered that people want a souvenir from my talk, but my slides are a poor simulacrum for attending the actual presentation.

I can’t vouch for every presenter, but I know how hard I work to make my presentations not only informative, but entertaining. A lot of effort is expended in order to hone the performance aspects of my presentation. I work on the narrative arc of each talk. Taking me out of my presentation diminishes its value substantially.

What do attendees intend to do with my slides? Some may use them to job their memory of big ideas presented. Some will present my slides in a professional development context, which will make that workshop or meeting interminably boring. Plus, it deprives me of an opportunity to address that audience in-person or virtually. There have been other cases in which people presented the work of others as their own.

Let’s share!

Slide sharing is increasing in popularity. Every few days someone tells me about a presentation I should see. Based on the recommendation, I point my browser at a site like www.slideshare.com. Once there, I find sides like the following featuring a white rectangle with black text that reads, “Change.” Boy, that really captures the nuance of a presentation I didn’t see.

Picture_4

I make tons of content freely available via my web site, www.stager.org and this blog. I am happy to share my time, knowledge and ideas with colleagues. I answer questions from teachers and students via email. I speak at all sorts of events. As time permits, I  even share video and audio podcasts of presentations via my web site. Then at least my ideas will be shared with the context, inflection and even jokes I intended.

I’m just not my slides!


A version of this article was originally published in June 2008.

A kinder gentler version of this article will be published in a forthcoming issue of The Creative Educator Magazine.

Once upon a time, an enthusiastic creative teacher much like yourself used ye olde Visa card to buy a personal computer for her classroom. Back in ye days of Reagan, that teacher was excited by how the computer could be used by children to learn and make things never before imagined. The leaders of the village became so excited by what they saw in that pioneering classroom that they pooled their treasure to buy a dozen personal computers.

The elders of the village wondered what to do with these new computers since there weren’t enough to put one in each classroom and few teachers shared the enthusiasm of the early adopter. Thus a decision was made to gather all of the school’s computers in a cave guarded by a computer teacher. A schedule would be carefully made to ensure that every student got to visit the cave at least once per season and the guard was given a curriculum for what to cover during those visits. As the number of computers increased the goals for what children did with them seemed be lowered. No longer did “computer literacy” mean that every child should have the expertise required to program the computer, but that they would be able to bookmark a web page or identify the mouse in a standardized “tech literacy” test. In 2010, schools have actually erected iPod labs so that students get to see such a new-fangled device, are taught to use it during iPod lessons and undoubtedly tested – resulting in some students failing iPod.

The moral of that tale is that the computer lab is a historical accident that need not be preserved in amber. If you happen to be your school’s computer teacher, you might consider the following pieces of advice for bringing greater benefit to students.

From Pics4learning.com

Ask yourself each day, “What if what kids did with computers was good?”
Don’t be surprised when kids do extraordinary things. Be surprised when adults are surprised. I expect that children can use computers in deeper more thoughtful ways than school traditionally asks of them. Cute may be a subset of “good,” but is a poor substitute.

Remember that quality work takes time
The average American student touches a computer for less than an hour per week at school. That’s obviously insufficient for any serious learning or creativity to result. Why not adjust the computer lab schedule to make it as open and flexible as a library? If students can come use a computer whenever they need to for as long as necessary, they’ll learn more, the computers will be used to greater benefit and the school will take an important step towards learner-centered school reform.

Shun ‘software du Jour’
Lots of teachers make the mistake of confusing quantity with quality. When you make kids jump from one software application to another you deprive them of any opportunity to develop fluency and reduce the odds they will learn or create something of substance. Afford kids the chance to become good at something. There are countless ways to draw a picture on the computer. You don’t need to teach every one of them.

Avoid false complexity
Memorizing menu options in Microsoft Office is a parlor trick that’s easily tested and has little to do with learning.

Stop using computer time for non-computing activities
Curricular concoctions like “keyboarding” are a waste of scarce computing resources and of questionable value. Digital citizenship and assessing information literacy should be part of the broader curriculum, taught by all, and doesn’t need to tie up your computers.

If a kid is breathing, she has probably surpassed the NETs
The ISTE NETs standards are unimaginative and technocentric. Declare that every child has satisfied them and move on.

Do the real thing
If you are thinking about teaching “digital storytelling,” try teaching writing or filmmaking. Those are serious disciplines with 100 to 1,000 years of tradition and wisdom behind them. Digital storytelling is something invented to fit within a class period. Burping into Voicethread is not storytelling. Kids are capable of engaging in serious filmmaking and writing, but only if we respect the artists who preceded us and commit to the entire writing process, regardless of the medium.

Aspire beyond mash-ups and remixes
If you look hard enough you may find a collage here and there in the world’s great art museums, but in most cases collage is the result of gluing magazine photos to construction paper. Mash-ups and remixes seem like new forms of collage to me. Of course you may reinterpret new ideas or stand on the shoulders of giants, but only en-route to the expression of a higher personal aesthetic.

Stop integrating someone else’s curriculum
It is not your job to invent dopey 37-minute Columbus Day computer activities. You’re enabling your colleagues to continue avoiding computers for a fourth decade. If kids develop computing competence and fluency with you, they will know how to integrate those skills into other subjects.

Not with my computers you don’t!
We are beginning to see movement towards using school computers for standardized testing and test-prep. This will reduce the quality and quantity of creative ways in which computers may be used to construct knowledge while giving a public the false sense of modernity and making school less relevant for children. It’s time to standup and say, “Not with my computers you don’t!”


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Photo credit:
Carey, Chris. ocps008.jpg. . Pics4Learning. 7 Dec 2010 <http://pics.tech4learning.com>

I just received this photo from a second grade teacher I worked with last month in South Korea. I spent a week teaching programming (via MicroWorlds EX) and robotics (Pico Crickets & LEGO WeDo) to first through third graders while consulting with other grade level teachers and the senior leadership team.

I also received a very sweet thank you note from a 3rd grader via Facebook (I know 3rd grader ≠ Facebook).

Lessons for K-12 from the Best Preschools in the World

When: Session One: Saturday 10:00am–11:30am
Where: Room 208
Who: Gary S. Stager Ph.D.
Affiliation: The Constructivist Consortium
The Reggio Emilia Approach represents some of the deepest richest thinking on the establishment of learning environments, the role of the teacher as a researcher charged with uncovering the thinking of learners and authentic problem solving over the past fifty years. The presenter has studied the approach here and in Italy, will discuss how elements that make the Reggio Emilia Approach so special, share gorgeous books and videos from Italy and discuss how this approach needs to be culturally sensitive, but may inform the teaching of any discipline at any age.

The session will also share examples from American popular culture, including the DIY movement and how accomplished experts “teach” in a similar fashion as an invitation for discussion about our own teaching and learning.

Conversational Practice:

The presenter will share the subtle, beautiful, powerful ideas behind the Reggio Emilia Approach; discuss how it is not a formula; share videos, artifacts and books from and about Reggio Emilia; and present examples of Reggio-like teaching and learning from our popular culture. Participants will explore the materials and discuss how powerful ideas of deliberate materials, teacher are researcher, beauty, children with special rights, the 100 languages of children, classrooms as 1,000 laboratories and meaningful project-based learning could be applied to make their teaching context more productive for learning.

Register for Educon 2.3 – January 28-30, 2011 – Philadelphia, PA

I was bullied by the older neighborhood kids.

I was bullied by the kids in the Scout troop.

I was bullied in elementary school.

I was bullied in middle school.

I was bullied in high school.

I was bullied as a freshman in college.

I was bullied in Hebrew School.

I was bullied in the Boy Scouts

I was bullied while working at Boy Scout Camp.

I was bullied by the sixth grade science teacher who threw a textbook at my head during class.

I was bullied by the 7th grade English teacher who filled my knapsack with heavy literature books and ordered me to hike laps in the “cluster” between classrooms for entire periods. I will write about him in great depth at some point.

I was bullied by the middle school newspaper advisor who followed me into the boy’s room, threw me up against a wall and threatened to kill me if we published another copy of our “unofficial” school newspaper.

I was bullied by a vicious 8th grade math teacher who helped me make the rapid transition from gifted math class to lowest track and destroyed my ability to learn high school math.

I was bullied by anti-Semitic scoutmasters who would not allow me to become an Eagle Scout without re-painting a church as my project.

I was bullied by phys-ed teachers who often engaged in physical and verbal abuse.

I was called, Dexter, Poindexter, Boink, F#g, F%ggot, Dork and countless other names on a bazillion occasions.

My 12th grade math teacher (a great educator) gave me a 30-second head-start to run out of class so I could avoid the violence of my classmates.

Facebook was unnecessary. It would have been redundant.


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Contemporary discussions of educational technology seem consumed with data management, total cost of ownership, testing and everything but student learning. It may be worth taking some time to reflect on our current practice and think about what’s possible. Are we doing all we can to use computers to empower students and change classroom practice?

Want to know how your school or district’s computer use measures up? Read Twenty Things to Do with a Computer, by my friends Cynthia Solomon & Seymour Papert.

This groundbreaking work was published in 1971. How does your school practice compare against thirty-nine year-old predictions?