Archive for November, 2006

New ITM Post Up

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

I’ve posted something new at the Infinite Thinking Machine… my first attempt at explaining tags: Tags and the Infinite Universe of Information

I suppose it falls short (or long) of the brevity goal, and I’m definitely lacking specific examples of student and teacher use… but I suppose those will come (I’ll be looking for them) and someday I’ll have another go at it. Feel free to share any you know of in the comments, too. :)

Learning More About Tablet PCs in Education

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Since I’m leading a cohort of teachers through a Tablet PC Pilot Project, I finally decided to invest in my own. I purchased the same model they received from their district, an HP Compaq tc4200, only I got mine on eBay for $650… sans battery, charger, and stylus. I didn’t read the small print until after committing. Ouch. At anyrate, ordering the other parts separately, it was about $850… and I payed a bit of a premium to get it to me by the 28th for my workshop on the 29th.

I already have a MacBook with Parallels, so I can run OS X, Windows XP, and Fedora Linux on my laptop… but none of those had tablet features… so now I have a tablet. It’s the price of being a generalist, even in a specialized field like educational technology. Anyway, at least Conlay will be proud.

Simulations & Learning Games Website

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Simulations & Learning Games Website (Via EdGames.) Marci Paino over at EdGames (one of my subscriptions) points to a new resource by Marcia L. Conner. I’ll definitely be revisiting this often over the next couple of months working on the lit review of my formal dissertation:

Here is a link to a website about games and simulations. This is a useful resource that provides names of and links to relevant books, magazines and articles, as well as information about organizations that focus on games/simulations and companies who are building tools and games for training and education. Check it out!

To provide professional development Consultancy and School Change.

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Here’s a fun moment I want to share as a former educator in his first year as a consultant… This morning I signed a boiler plate Services Agreement generated by a district I’m working with. The first item of the agreement reads:

1. To provide professional development Consultancy and School Change.

On my business cards and other materials I promote my services as “Professional Development, Consulting, and School Change,” but it’s fun to actually sign an agreement to provide school change as a service. Tall order, though, eh? Or, if looked at in another way, at least it’s guaranteed. ;)

Google-bombing (or reversing the damage, anyway)

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Google-bombing (or reversing the damage, anyway) (Via Scobleizer – Microsoft Geek Blogger.) Wow. Even Scoble got in the game. This might work. Way to go Tom.

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Googlepedia – Must Have Firefox Extension

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Googlepedia – Must Have Firefox Extension (Via iTASC.) Brilliant! I wished for just this very thing only two days ago! Amazing. Check it out:

You are using Firefox, right? Good. Go fetch the Googlepedia extension. It turns your Google searches into Google + Wikipedia searches.

Extend Yourself: You do understand that Wikipedia is less about building an encyclopedia and more about “collecting the sum of all human knowledge and making it available for free to everybody on earth”, right? Please take 20 minutes this morning to educate yourself a bit further about Wikipedia.

Unlearn: Google vs. Wikipedia. Google and Wikipedia. Google or Wikipedia.,

Learn: Googlepedia.

Action: Try it. Tell a friend.

Practical Blogging at CLMS

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I am here with middle school and high school educators learning about blogging. I am asking them these familiar questions… their responses are in italics.
1. What is a blog? A journal. Online conversation. A way for people to share comments, questions, answers, ideas in general. A blog might have a specific target audience.

2. What is the read/write web? Maybe it’s used to respond to something that you read. You can not only read information on the web, but you can post to the web.

3. What do these things mean to you and your students? We work with lanuage arts… this gives students an authentic audience for their writing. It’s a forum for discussion beyond the classroom walls.

We’re going to learn a lot more about these technologies in the next two and half hours… here we go!

Morning in Monterey, David Warlick, & Video Games in Education

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I’m enjoying the weather and the cool crisp air here in Monterey. This image is the view off the balcony of my 7th floor room. Not a bad place to spend a few days, eh? As Mike Guerena pointed out, it’s nice to be able to connect with nature between sessions of geeking out with educational technologists. (I have no idea how I scored such a cool room, btw.)

I’ve moblogged David Warlick’s keynote, and blow are the cleaned up version of my notes. Incidentally, this session is being video podcast by CLMS and CUE and I will link to it as soon as it is available. (I saw it on Amy Murphy’s iPod immediately after she filmed it! Through an inexpensive device, she recorded right to the iPod harddrive. Cool.)

David’s handouts are available at online. He also pointed out his video games and education online bookmarks. I was surprised (and pleased) to see just how much this topic then factored into the rest of his keynote. This also made me realize I need to get back to using FURL or Delicious. Back in February I imported all of my FURL links into this blog in an effort to provide one single feed of resources. I had been writing a lot in the FURL annotations – they were very brief blog posts really. I haven’t been able to keep that up, though, and now my link posts are languishing in draft form in MarsEdit.

At any rate, Warlick went on to explain that for “the first time in history, our job as eduators is to prepare our students for a future we cannot describe” and he advocated for telling a compelling (new) story that fits the marketplace and fit the future, resonates with our deeply held values. As is required by all keynoters, he then shared some examples from Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat (his joke, not mine), and he suggested that globalization is now “more about collaboration than competition.” As he said, “no country in walmart’s supply chain will go to war with another country in the supply chain.” He also asked “what kind of classrooms are going to prepare our kids to facilitate this kind of cooperation?”

He provided some great statistics about the aging workforce at NASA as a sort of scare tactic. And it works on me. I think it is a real problem that we do not have a young vibrant national space program.

David shared several stories about his son not investing in the technology, but rather investing in the story. For instance when he purchases video games, he doesn’t buy them for the engineering, but for the art and the immersive story.

David did acknowledge that we as a culture are very good at telling stories, but he also challenged us to be better.

He included a great introduction to the idea of The Long Tail and the new digital bazaar. As an example he shared that he has published his last two books through, a self publishing service that allows you to upload a book, cover art, etc… creates an online storefront to sell the book… and then prints it on demand for customers. Cool! I can’t wait to do that once my dissertation is finished. Maybe there’s no need for big publishing deals after all, at least not when you just want a book to support presentations or vice versa.

Incidentally, many of us talk about students creating a collaboratively authored class text… how cool would it be for them to see their work in print at the end of the year, or the end of a project? How cool!?

Warlick also included a segment on how different our kids are today, and he had a greaet joke/metaphor that he ran with for some time. He started by saying, “we love our kids, but let’s face it, they’re not human. They have powers that can reach through walls.” He went on to describe the alien tentacles they have that reach out via IM, texting, MySpace, online video games, etc.

He also shared a great video of his son’s mashup of audio from The Music Man broadway musical and his own in-home performance with different hats (and mustaches) on. Cool stuff. David didn’t teach him how to do it… and neither did teachers at the high school.

David also mentioned the digital divide between students who can’t do that sort of thing (or don’t have access to the technologies and skills to do it) and others like his son, and he called it is a huge national problem. I’d say it’s a huge global problem.

I loved his bit on IM speak… he said we should be in awe of what they have created collaboratively, and without a guiding committee, as their parents would have done. His wiki also linked to a recent blog post of his that linked to a story saying New Zealand students will be able to use IM speak in their national tests! His focus in the presentation was that if you’re writing to accomplish a goal – to communicate a message – then the question should be which format, IM speak or standard english, would better accomplish that goal? He used WOMBAT (Waste Of Money Brains and Time) as an example of what students value – they value money, so they can buy information (media).

Next he spent a good deal of time on a video games and learning slide. He discussed the learning that happens when playing Rollercoaster Tycoon, and he then cited ideas from Prensky, Gee, and Beck & Wade among others. This was a significant portion of his presentation. Referring to Beck, he discussed how gamers are competative, risk taking, socialable, believe in the role of luck, selfsconfident. He also related overhearing his son’s friends talk about video games the way he knew teachers hoped they would talk about Shakespear. He then discussed the way kids grow up being the hero… by failing and failong and failing until they get it right… while when he grew up there could only be one pitcher or one quarterback.

He finally came out and said that “video games are learning engines… this is who is teaching our students higher order thinking” and he suggested that “instead of the boss, we should become the strategy guide.” He cited an interview with Beck on this… but what an awesome quote!

When he moved on to talking about Google… I found this question particularly interesting: where were we asking those 1 billion questions a day before Google??

I also appreciated his quote from Vinod Khosla, “There is no longer a need to teach kids the facts.” Warlick went on to say that they need us to teach them how to work the information… to find the facts, choose which facts, use the facts… how to make the decisions about where to find the information.

As part of his information literacy examples he shared the bbc and wikipedia articles on the number of planets in the solar system. The news spread from the convention, to the mainstream media, and into Wikipedia in only 2 minutes. Many of the teachers in attendance seemed to know about Wikipedia, but many jotted down Technorati when he brought it up.

Later he said this: “people who know how to make themselves an expert – this is what needs to be coming out of our schools.”

Someone yesterday in conversation was trying to recall this statistic: David said that 57 percent of american teenagers have produced online content for authentic audiences. Vinod Khosla, though, says that content will not stay king… cultivating audience will be key. Warlick asks how can we do this with our classrooms. He also says how do we make our classrooms like videogames? He suggests that might be accomplished by incorporating more of the following elements into our classes:

– responsiveness
– convertible and conversbale rewards
– personal investment
– identity building
– dependability (the answer is there)

As I milled around for a chance to say hi to David again I was thrilled to see that much of the conversation attendees were having with him revolved around the ideas he shared about video games in education. Things are moving in the right direction. :)

When I got to talk to him myself, I brought up some things I thought would be great additions to his games segment, particularly serious games and games for change such as Food Force and PeaceMaker. Mike Guerena also shared our video games in education video with him as well.

I also just this morning got a new comment from David Williamson Shaffer on my old blog. Through the comment I discovered his new site, Epistemic Games: Building the Future of Education, and his new book, How Computer Games Help Children Learn. (I’m sure he’d be happy to learn that I just pre-ordered the book at Amazon.) I suspect these resources would interest David Warlick as well. :)

Tags: millenials, warlick, montereytech06

Focus on What’s Important

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

I know this sounds like the title of an “and life” post, but this is just the next section in the paper I am writing about professional learning communities, school change, and… video games as an educational technology. I completed this draft while traveling yesterday.

I’m currently at the CLMS/CLHS/NHSA and CUE technology conference in Monterey. CUEtoYOU presented two sessions yesterday, and four more today, including my Podcasting session. Sadly, I got a bad review in the batch. But I suppose that’s part of the purpose of coming to conferences (as a learner who presents)… getting feedback and improving. Still, it’s tough to get an outlier like that, especially when I know I’m low on sleep and could’ve done much better. :(

I guess this is an “and Life” post after all. I’m reminding myself to focus on what’s important… I met with a room full of people who signed up for a podcasting class because they didn’t know what it was… and I taught a lot of people about podcasting with their students using free tools. And, of course, all day long I had some great conversations with other presenters and attendees. :)

At any rate, I just finished making some changes to my “practical blogging” presentation for tomorrow afternoon and am only now finding time to post this. Naturally I still have lots of posts to catch up on, including the Google Teacher Academy report/reflection (and my next post at, but for now I am turning in. I want to be able to get up and see David Warlick’s keynote in the morning… and not be quite so short on sleep tomorrow.

Please leave feedback if you read the following draft. I’m getting there with this final KAM…

3. Focus on What’s Important

School change of any kind involves so many variables, it is imperative that change agents focus on what is important. This ability to focus only on what is important is also a critical characteristic of successful professional learning communities.

DuFour and Eaker (1998) pointed out that “schools communicate what is important to them and what is valued by what they focus on” (p. 107). For instance, celebration, which plays an important role in sustaining a professional learning community, “reinforces shared values and signals what is important” (p. 143). However, this focus is also more than just a tool for clear communication. Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour, 2002, described a cultural shift in professional learning communities from “a focus on a wide variety of things and an effort to ‘get the plan turned in’ and then subsequently ignoring it to… a focus on a few important goals that will affect student learning… a vehicle for organized, sustained school improvement” (p. 24). This cultural shift is not limited to the organization; Hord recommended “recruiting external change agents who can ask the important questions” (p. 149) as a part of establishing and maintaining organizational focus.

Most importantly, professional learning community theorists call for schools to focus on student learning. DuFour and Eaker (1998) assert that “the curriculum is a critical component of a school that functions as a professional learning community” (p. 178) and that “the curriculum should reduce content and enable all parties to focus on essential and significant learning” (p. 179; see also Eaker, DuFour and DuFour, 2002, p. 19). Huffman & Hipp (2003) expressed a different but related take on this focus, saying that a professional learning community “focuses, first and foremost, upon learning on the part of professionals in the school as the way to increase learning on the part of students” (p. 76). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) agreed that “the ultimate purpose of the movement to the learning community model is to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for students” (p. 11). They also believed that “the primary focus of professional development is student outcomes; it is results driven and focused on curriculum and standards” (p. 52). As she explained the importance of developing collective values and visions, Hord (2004) described the importance of becoming student focused (p. 45). This focus on student learning is no less important to an educational technology initiative, including one that would include video games and simulations. In fact, improved student learning (and achievement) is the purpose behind introducing such technologies into schools.

This focus, in fact, is what DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005) later identified as Big Idea #1 with respect to professional learning communities, “ensuring that students learn” (p. 32; see also DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker, 2006, p. 2). These authors offered two other big ideas that professional learning communities, and in a broader sense any change initiative, should focus on. Big Idea #2 is a focus on “a culture of collaboration” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 36; DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 3), a key to successful organizational change. Stone and Cuper (2006), too, advocated collaboration (p. 19, 46, 83), as do Hord (2004, p.52, 152), Huffman and Hipp (2003, p 62), and Roberts and Pruitt (2003, p. 137, 179). Big Idea #3, then, is to “focus on results” (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002, p. 44-45; DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 134-148, 175; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 20, 31, 39; DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 4), or in other words to “focus on outcomes rather than on inputs or intentions” (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 63). Wald and Castleberry (2000) included this focus on results not only as a means for change, but also as the end of their “roller coaster of change” process (p. 42). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) also described professional learning communities that were “results driven and focused on curriculum” (p. 52), and Hord (2004) advocated “researching for results” (p. 124). It follows that any attempt to integrate educational technologies such as video games and simulations should maintain a similar focus on ensuring that students learn, creating a culture of collaboration, and on achieving results.

Capacity building is another important focus of professional learning communities. DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker (2006) explained their expectations by stating that “members of a PLC are not ‘invited’ to work with colleagues: they are called upon to be contributing members of a collective effort to improve the school’s capacity to help all students learn at high levels” (p. 8). They also believed that “leaders must start… shifting their focus from evaluating and supervising individuals to developing the capacity of both teams and the entire school to work collaboratively” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 239). Similarly, one of the outcomes of professional learning communities that Hord (2004) sought was an increase in “organizational capacity… the capacity of the staff to work well as a unit” (p. 12). Hord observed that “of equal importance to establishing shared decision-making structures was the ability of the principals to increase decision-making capacity among their staff” (p. 49). Huffman and Hipp (2003), too, called for professional learning communities to focus on “increase[ing] individual and organizational capacity” (p. 11; see also p. 31), and Kaagan (2004) discussed “collective capacity building” (p. 3). Stone and Cuper (2006) were even interested in developing students’ capacity; they promoted a philosophy of “each one, teach one… [which] designate[d] student peer leaders in the classroom” (p. 146). Once again the importance of risk-taking in the culture of a professional learning community is evident, as it is a necessary element of capacity building; Wald and Castleberry (2000) point out that “a climate that encourages risk taking is fundamental when staff members need to stretch beyond what they know and explore frontiers” (p. 24).

While the very act of focusing efforts on what has been identified as important to the organization can improve the likelihood of success for any change initiative, there are also particular elements worthy of focus in many cases. Based on the work of these professional learning community theorists, it seems that any school change effort, including the integration of video games and simulations as educational technologies, might benefit from a focus on ensuring student learning, creating a culture of collaboration, achieving results, and building capacity at all levels of the organization.


Establish Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

I had hoped to write all day today (because I’ll be at the CLMS conference in Monterey this weekend), but there was far too much work to do and one thing continued to lead to another until dinner time. Thankfully, as soon as Eva left for Tennis I started writing, and here is the next section of my KAM… the second of ten for the depth portion, to be followed by my annotated bibliography and the application portion of the KAM.

I find that as I write I seem to be recommending that schools set about becoming professional learning communities in order to increase the likelihood of educational technology change initiatives being successful. As I reflect on this, I realize that this is indeed exactly what I mean to be suggesting. I think this is an important point… just as a computer in a classroom won’t make much difference if the teacher is not working with a constructivist pedagogy, so a major change intiative won’t make a difference in a school if the culture is not explicitly or essentially a professional learning community. This statement sits well with my experience of educational technology and organizational change.

At any rate, here is section two of the depth portion of my KAM. Now on to section three for me…

2. Establish Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals

Establishing a professional learning community (PLC) is important to the success of school change initiatives, and a critical step in establishing a PLC is to generate a shared sense of mission and vision as well as shared values and goals.

In order for any large-scale or long-term change to be successful in an educational institution, the organization must have a sense of mission, or what DuFour and Eaker (1998) also called a shared “sense of purpose” (p. 59). This is not unlike the imperative of moral purpose that Fullan called for (in the breadth portion of this KAM). According to DuFour and Eaker (1998), a school mission statement must answer the question “why do we exist?” (p. 58). Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) described the need for a cultural shift from generic mission statements to specific “statements that clarify what students will learn… how we will know what the students are learning… [and] how the school will respond when students do not learn” (p. 13). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) stated this economically when they explained that “a mission statement is a brief, succinct statement that explains the purpose for which a school exists” (p. 30). Without such a mission statement it would be impossible to know whether or not a change initiative, such as the implementation of video games and simulations as constructivist learning environments would help the school achieve its purpose.

The vision statement, then, answers the question “what do we hope to become? Whereas mission establishes an organization’s purpose, vision instills an organization with a sense of direction” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 62). Roberts and Pruit (2003) described a shared vision as “a shared image of what you desire your school to look like in the future” (p. 30). DuFour and Eaker suggested that the process of crafting a vision statement include representatives of the school, district, parents, community, and local businesses (p. 67). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) agreed, noting that it is particularly “important that teachers be involved from the inception of the vision building process if they are to share in and commit to putting the vision into practice” (p. 30). DuFour and Eaker (1998) cautioned, though, that “informed decisions require informed groups and individuals” (p. 69) who are “operating from a research base” (p. 70). If a diverse selection of stakeholders are to be responsible for a school vision, school leadership must invest in building the representatives’ capacity for vision building. Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) also described the need for a cultural shift from “average statements (or wish lists) that are dictated (or developed by a few) and that are often ignored to… statements that are research based, credible, focused on essentials, used as a blueprint for improvement, and widely shared through broad collaboration” (p. 14). Huffman and Hipp (2003), inspired by Hord’s model (discussed in the previous section of this KAM) included shared vision in their model of the professional learning community as well. Once the vision is established, it should play “a significant role in all aspects of the daily work life of a principal and its importance should be reflected in the principal’s behavior” (Roberts & Pruit, 2003, p. 36). As Wald and Castleberry (2000) wrote, “to sustain this communal energy and hope, the leader must hold the vision high for all to see, constantly revisit it, expand on it, and continuously help members of the community connect with it and find ways to personalize it and make it their own.” This is especially true for change agents who are helping educators learn to use new technologies, such as video games and simulations, to improve learning in their schools.

Values are even more specific than mission and vision statements. DuFour, and Eaker (1998) explain that “while a mission statement asks the school to consider why it exists, and a vision statement asks what it might become, a statement of core values asks people to clarify how they intent to make their shared vision a reality” (p. 88). Despite the increased specificity, they recommend that schools write value statements that are few in number, brief, linked directly to the vision statement, and focused on behavior (rather than beliefs) – and on the school (rather than others, such as parents or the district) (p. 95-97). Later, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) described the need for a cultural shift from “from values that are random, excessive in number, articulated as beliefs, an focusing on the self to… values that are linked to vision, few in number, used as a blueprint for improvement, and are articulated as behaviors and commitments” (p. 16). Huffman and Hipp (2003), inspired by Hord’s model (discussed in the previous section) also included shared values in their model of the professional learning community. Wald and Castleberry (2000) identified “the next challenge of leadership… making visible these mutually held values and beliefs” (p. 22), and this is as much a challenge for an educational technologist as it is for a principal.

Finally, goals describe what steps will be taken and when (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 100). DuFour and Eaker noted that it is especially important that “a school improvement plan must be attentive to creating some clear, discernible victories., not just hoping for them” (p. 101). They went on to explain that “effective goals will specify:

  • Exactly what is to be accomplished
  • The specific steps that will be taken to achieve the goal.
  • The individual or group responsible for initiating and/or sustaining each step toward achieving the goal.
  • The timeline for each phase of the activity.
  • The criteria to be used in evaluating progress toward the goal.” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 101-102)

Again, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) described the need for a cultural shift:

“from statements that are random, excessive in number, focused on means rather than ends, impossible to assess or measure, and not monitored, to… statements that are linked to the vision, few in number, focused on desired outcomes, translated into measurable performance standards, monitored continuously, and designed to produce short-term wins and also stretch aspirations” (Eaker, DuFour, &DuFour, 2002, p. 17)

For Wald and Castleberry (2000), it was important that “members of the [professional learning] community are aligned around common goals” (p. 4). Huffman and Hipp (2003) identified “a set of attainable reform goals with long time lines for accomplishing them” (p. 4) as one of the characteristics of reforms with the most promise. Hord (2004), too, called for “clear goals for high-quality learning” (p. 12) as part of her model for professional learning communities.

An educational technologist or change agent responsible for the integration of video games and simulations into the learning culture of a school must also offer this level of specificity and guidance in order for their visions (or more importantly, the school’s shared vision for these technologies) to be realized. Each of these levels, mission, vision, values, and goals, must be addressed for a change initiative to have the best chance of success. Naturally, this will be most likely if the school has already developed the culture of a professional learning community.