Tag Archives: technology

Museum trips #throughglass – Metropolitan Museum of Art (@metmuseum)

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the chance to experiment with Google Glass. I’m not even sure I thought it would be worth checking out, but when the invitation came, I felt like it would be something worth doing – this video did a lot to make me think that there were real possibilities for Glass in the classroom, and that made it instantly interesting to me.

Mat Honan, in a recent post to Wired’s Gadget Lab titled “I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass” sums things up nicely:

The future is on its way, and it is going to be on your face. We need to think about it and be ready for it in a way we weren’t with smartphones. Because while you (and I) may make fun of glassholes today, come tomorrow we’re all going to be right there with them, or at least very close by. Wearables are where we’re going. Let’s be ready.

But what can you actually do with Glass? Right now, I’m not sure. I can ask it to look things up for me, but that would require talking to my glasses – talking to my phone was enough of a nerd-hurdle to clear, and talking to glasses feels so much worse. I can use it to show me interesting things nearly, which is pretty cool. I can also use it to give me directions and actually put them in front of my face, which is great.

One thing it’s great for is taking photos and videos and sharing them via Google+, Twitter, or email. It’s also pretty good for Google Hangouts (but for anyone to see me, I need to be standing in front of a mirror, which I normally don’t have handy). I can really see using media and hangouts together to give as close to an field trip-like visit to all sorts of places without actually having to be there. That example video I linked to above wasn’t lying – this could be very cool.

The other day, we took the boys to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and here’s what we saw. Some highlights for them were the Christmas tree, Henry with Henry VIII’s suit of armor, the Temple of Dendur, and the mummies, while I was particularly taken with a couple of sculptures, particularly one of St. Bartholomew carrying his skin around.

Not too shabby, but I need to get over the awkwardness of wearing Glass around to capture more #throughglass. The future is coming, and it might even be here. “Let’s be ready.”

Why do we need to hitch our wagons to movements?

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(I don’t know where this graphic originally came from, but thanks for sharing it, Karen Blumberg.)

A couple of years ago, social media was supposed to be the thing that unlocked so much potential in education. We can communicate with each other online! Revolutionary! No it wasn’t, no it isn’t. It’s the way people go about their every day anyway.

Then the maker movement came with its emphasis on creation, which was supposed to unlock the practical, engaging, and innovative. This works, and it’s great, but it’s also almost exactly how kids play anyway when given the chance.

Design thinking is all the rage now, and we’ve taken a meta view to creation, focusing on the process of creation and making it ok to fail safe in our classrooms. It’s a great thing and all, but I think the empathetic element of DT is actually something that’s been missing from most education for a while. This feels a lot more like we’ve restored some balance in our classrooms more than anything else.

So… what’s going to be next? And how revolutionary will it really be?

Each of these three things — maybe a snapshot of some educational trends from the last five years or so — is nothing new or revolutionary. What they do more than anything else is move classrooms from a one-and-done model of assessment and proof of knowledge (“Oh, you got an 55 on your math test? Then you know 55% of math.”) and make them more in line with how the rest of the world works — more than one chance to do something, often with a chance to have a little fun while you’re doing it.

The true innovation in these three examples was the reintroduction of real-world relevance and immediate engagement into classrooms that needed it. A student should never have to ask “Why am I learning this?” or “What does this have to do with what I’m learning in that other class?” If we’re not making that clear, then we’re doing our students a disservice, just as we’re doing them a disservice by asking them to operate, between the hours of 8 and 3 on weekdays, in a way that is fundamentally different from the way that they would ordinarily get things done. We should be making our guiding questions, significant concepts, or whatever else you want to call them make sense for our students, and making sure that they can see how the things that they learn in one classroom connect to another.

So students should know that social media today is not only a great way to communicate — both personally and with the rest of the world — but that it’s also the modern day equivalent of American Revolution-era pamphleteering. They should know that people have been making things using trial and error and iteration, and also trying to design better solutions to real problems for a long time. And they should know that empathy isn’t a new thing, and in fact is something that should never have been out of any discussions.

A very wise and now-retired colleague once told me, as we were making a push for rapidly increased technology integration, “Young teachers won’t have an easier time using technology in their classrooms. Good teachers will.” So let’s all be good teachers who know what will work and how to use it. Whatever comes next, let’s just figure out how to let common sense guide us past the restrictions of practicality. I bet we’ll have more fun with it, have an easier time trying, failing, and improving with it, making better teaching and learning experiences for everyone involved.

Mindset over specifics

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I recently had to migrate my blog from Posterous to WordPress because the former is closing down shortly. It wasn’t the end of the world because I’ve done this before and I know what I’m doing, but I’m sure this is going to be a real pain for a lot of people who aren’t into blog backends and importers and plugins. These people stand to lose all the content and discussions that they have created on their blogs unless they can find an easy way to move on.

But this sort of stuff happens all the time. A year or two ago, I thought we had finally found a way to give all our students free and easy access to a powerful set of creative tools with Aviary‘s suite of web-based applications. I even remember a meeting that my department had at Aviary’s NYC headquarters that sold us on widespread use of their stuff. And then, with a simple change of corporate focus, those tools were gone. We worked around it, but it was a real disappointment from a group that we personally wanted to trust and continue working with.

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A lot of educators who put in conference proposals have the “thing” that they focus on for the current season of conferences, and this year mine was that technology isn’t about the stuff that we use but what we make of it. In short, it’s about creating flexible mindsets in the teachers and students that we work with so that they are never hung up on a specific tool that may or may not be available the next time they go to use it.

By focusing on what we want to make instead of how we’re going to make it, we allow for experimentation, curiosity, and serendipity. We let someone find a way to make something happen instead of giving them a recipe to follow. Ultimately, that process is more important than any “finished” product, especially if we allow for revisiting, revision, and continual improvement.

This isn’t just about blogging platforms and computer programs. I’d imagine that we can all try to do things in different ways. The next time you think you how you’re going to get something done, try something different. You might just find a better way to do it.