Archive for November, 2007

Links for 2007-11-27

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Links for 2007-11-26

Monday, November 26th, 2007
  • Kid Nation or Kid Manipulation?
    I sympathize with this post. My initial feelings about this show were that it was fantastic… until they completely ruined it half way through the first episode. Now, though, Eva and I enjoy seeing how the kids react to the contrived situations.
    (tags: kidnation)
  • Drape’s Takes: @djakes – Forgive Us, For We Sometimes Forget To Think
    I’m with Darren Draper. @djakes’ tweets have been highlights for me. I’m sad to see he feels others have taken advantage of this – and just in case it was ever me, I too apologize for the liberties I’ve taken.
    (tags: twitter)
  • Texting Reminders to Students
    Dave McDivitt, who has pioneered using video games with his students, now has a very straight forward suggestion for using text messaging with students. I’m all for it, and think there are many other ways a creative teacher (and students) could use this.
    (tags: sms)
  • The First “techPresident”
    Will offers a quick rundown of democratic presidential candidates’ policies on technology in education, and reminds us this should be a major issue for the election… and that we are the ones to make it a major issue. I need to act on this…
    (tags: politics)
  • Data Driven Driving Decisions
    Funny, I just had a friend describe “hypermiling” to get the best mileage in his civic hybrid as a video game. Here Will does the same with his Prius. We’ve looked at both (and love the civic), but are looking at the Saturn VUE hybrid for the baby car.
    (tags: environment)

An Answer To The Tough Question (About Walden University)

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I might also have called this post A Defense of The Quality of My Education at Walden University (And My Interpretation of Vygotsky).

In my frustration over the unnecessary length (and cost) of the dissertation proposal approval process at Walden I wrote a purposefully negative post yesterday. I was expecting that it might kick up some controversy, but I didn’t expect the comment that Chris Craft left. I have no delusions about the approval process being any better at most traditional institutions (I’ve heard plenty of horror stories), and I certainly wasn’t insinuating that the quality of education at Walden was any less. In fact, the outcome I’d most like to see from a post like that (however juvenile it was in title and in fact) is that Walden might exercise it’s freedom to be something new, different, and better. There is no reason for Walden (or Walden students) to labor under the weight of outdated bureaucratic systems. In any case, I feel compelled to respond to a few of the points Chris made in his comment.

First of all, Chris wrote the following:

I’ve been working on my Ph.D. here locally and been reading tons of research and hearing loads of names tossed around, not one is from Walden.

I think it is important to note that Walden is not a research institution. In California this is the difference between a UC School like UCI or UCLA, and a State University like Cal State Long Beach or even Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The UC schools are research institutions where the faculty’s first priority is to conduct and publish original research (I know many of the professors at these schools for whom this is undoubtedly true – some just plain hate to teach and aren’t shy about saying so). At these schools the students often come second and are likely to be handled by TAs. At the state schools, though, the first priority is educating the students. In my experience at Cal Poly, this was a benefit. Classes were small. I was usually in a room with about 20 students and a Ph.D. Things were very different for my friends at UC schools, where lecture halls often held hundreds of students. In this respect, Walden is like the state schools here in California. The faculty’s priority is educating the students. For the most part Walden does not facilitate research by the faculty; the school pays them to teach. Again, I count this a benefit. Online classes were small and access to the Ph.D. was easy and frequent. At the residencies the ratio of students to faculty was around 10:1 – or better (I was told at one point that they shoot for 9:1 at the summer residency). That was fantastic access to the Ph.Ds.

I can understand the criticism that Walden is not a research institution and so grad students do not get the same experience that they might working with a professor who is conducting original research. But, what you give up in exposure to that culture you gain in freedom to pursue your own original research rather than merely working in support of your advisor’s career, which I’ve often heard students complain of at UCI for instance.

Also, most Walden faculty are also associated with other institutions, and if they are doing original research, they are most likely publishing under their other affiliation. So, while our professors may very well still be publishing original research themselves, others would not recognize their affiliation with Walden when reading the results. Regardless, we have access to these professors.

Finally, I think this argument is relevant in this case: in the field of educational technology we are going to need experts with new experiences – experience with online distance education on a global scale, not just experience with a traditional research institution. And I don’t think the names being tossed around in traditional institutions are necessarily the ones that will be important as we forge the future of education.

The next point I’d like to respond to is this passage that Chris wrote, which I suppose hits a bit closer to home for me:

I have to wonder about the quality of education. A prime example is your dissertation regarding Vygotsky when you mention that Vygotsky says learning is all social. I think this might represent a misunderstanding of Vygotsky. I’ve been working my way through him this semester with a noted Vygotsky scholar and I’ve come to entirely different conclusions.

I need to first distinguish between what Chris typed here and what I actually wrote in my proposal. Here he says “learning is all social” (which I would agree ignores a good deal of Vygotsky’s perspective), but what I wrote was that “all learning is social.” In my final paper this statement is not even directly attributed to Vygotsky, though I don’t think it would be a stretch to do so, considering the excerpts from Vygotsky’s work below:

“From the very first days of the child’s development his activities acquire a meaning of their own in a system of social behavior” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 30)

“Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: First, on the social level and, later, on the individual level… All the higer functions originate as actual relatinos between human individuals.” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57)

“Human life presupposes a specific social nature and a process by which children grow into the intellectual life of those around them” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 88).

“Directed thought is social” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 16) Based on Piaget’s definition, directed thought is thought that pursues an aim.

“[Piaget proposes that] social speech is represented as following, not preceding, egocentric speech. The hypothesis we propose reverses this course.” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 34)

“The earliest speech of the child is… essentially social… egocentric speech emerges when the child transfers social, collaborative forms of behavior to the sphere of inner-personal psychic functions” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 34-35)

“In our conception, the true direction of the development of thinking is not from the individual to the social, but from the social to the individual.” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 36)

“With the development of inner speech and verbal thought… the nature of development itself changes, from biological to sociohistorical.” (Vygotsky, 1986, p. 94)

“Education, in every country and in every epoch, has always been social in nature, indeed, by its very ideology it could hardly exist as antisocial in any way” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 47)

“Experience is ‘socially impregnated’ through and through” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 53)

“Ultimately, for man the environment is a social environment, because even where it appears to be a natural environment, nevertheless, in relation to man, there are always definite social elements present. in his intreraction with the environment, man always makes use of his social experience.” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 53-54)

“Education… is possible only on the basis of an appropriately guided social environment.” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 210)

“The nature of man’s education… is wholly determined by the social environment in which he grows and develops.” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. 211)

“The mechanism of social behavior and the mechanism of consciousness are the same… we are aware of ourselves, for we are aware of others, and in the same way we know others; and this is as it is because in relatino to ourselves we aer in the same [position] as others to us” (Vygotsky, 1979, p. 1, as quoted in Dixon-Krauss, 1996, p. 78)

“The adult, even in his most personal and private occupation, … thinks socially, has continually in his mind’s eye his collaborators or opponents, actual or eventual, at any rate members of his own profession to whom sooner or later he will announce the results of his labours. This mental picture pursues him throughout his task. The task itself is henceforth socialised at almost every stage of its development.” (Vygotsky, 1923/1974, p. 59, as cited in Tryphon & Voneche, 1996, p. 146)

“All higher mental functions are internalized social relationships’ (Vygotsky, 1981, p. 164, as cited in Dixon-Krauss, 1996, p. 113)

Though I can’t know what the “noted Vygotsky scholar” Chris is studying with this semester would think of my interpretation, it would seem that despite my admittedly cursory exposure to Vygotsky’s work (it was very peripheral to my study) I am not alone in my assessment of Vygotsky’s theories:

“Vygotsky (1962) stated that language and all other learning are centered in social interactions… children gradually come to know and undersatand the content knowledge that others in their environment know and understand.” (Dixon-Krauss, 1996, p. 79)

“[Vygotsky thought that] personal and social experience cannot be separated. The world that children inhabit is shaped by their families, communities, sociaeconomic status, education, and culture.” (Mooney, 2000 p. 82)

“Vygotsky… showed that children’s cognitive development is affected not only by their physcial development, but also by their social surroundings and interactions” (Mooney, 2000 p. 85)

Bruner on Vygotsky: “thought is often an internal version… of dialog.” (Bruner, 1966, p. 19)

Update: At this point I should interject and say that I’d love to hear what other conclusions Chris has come to, especially if they contradict (or compliment) these ideas.

Ultimately, to answer the tough question about the quality of education at Walden (or any school), I believe that individuals make much more of a difference to the quality of education than institutions.

In every educational institution I’ve been a part of (as an educator and as a student), there have been teachers or professors who have been fantastic – and others who have been appalling. There have been students who made the most of every opportunity – and those who systematically wasted them… which is to say nothing of the students who seemed to be geniuses – and those whose acceptance to the school was mystifying. In my experience, people I’ve spoken to from other institutions of all reputations and calibers share similar stories.

There’s no doubt my experience would be very different at a traditional school, especially those with a culture of research focused on the field I’m exploring: the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Indiana University in Bloomington, or even MIT. But, I don’t think it significantly impacts the quality of my exposure to Vygotsky’s work – or to cutting edge theories about videogames and learning… and I believe that the distributed global network of faculty and students I have worked with is a benefit that I would not experience in a traditional school, to say nothing of the distance learning experience during my coursework. Also, of course, we should acknowledge that I would not have been able to continue pursuing my career here in California if I had attended one of the schools above.

On the other hand, my experience researching and writing my dissertation has been no different than my many of colleagues getting doctorates in education at UCI, who also read and write 99% of the time working from their own homes here in Irvine. The difference is I am plugged into a global network of faculty and students – and I still have access to the UCI library for a nominal annual fee orders of magnitude less than their tuition.

In short, I believe that the individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and have chosen to work with) at Walden – and the efforts I’ve put into my work there myself – have amounted to a high quality doctoral level education… and there’s more to come. I’m still several significant steps shy of earning my degree.

So that you can draw your own conclusions about what I’ve said here (should you care to), below is a link to the current draft of my proposal, which has been approved by an international committee of Ph.D’s (and educational technology experts) and by the university research office, which reviews all proposals to ensure academic rigor. IRB approval is expected, but still pending.

Wagner_Mark_Proposal_Revised.pdf

Also, here is a link to a more exhaustive list of references I’ve used, which should allow you to locate the source of all quotes shared in this post, even those that do not appear in the proposal.

References.doc

Of course, if you see any problems with this post or have a reaction to anything I’ve argued or suggested, please let me know. If I’ve proven myself a fool here, I’d like to hear about it. I’d also love to hear from others at Walden or other institutions who might be able to support or contradict any of these positions. Thanks, Chris, for the excuse to think and write for a purpose other than “work” today… and for putting me in a better mood. ‘Turns out it feels better to defend my school than tear it down. ;)

Now I’ve spent far too much time on this and it’s time to start my Thanksgiving day vacation. Blogging about “the strangest workshop I’ve ever been involved with” will have to wait.

Walden University Exploits Students for Money

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

UPDATE 04/23/08: It turns out I didn’t actually want to bring people out of the woodwork who have had troubles with Walden. I know the issues you’ll read about in the comments below can happen at any University. Also, though this was a frustrating time for me, I know I might have been as frustrated or more in a traditional Ph.D. program. Since that time my committee has been heroic in their efforts to push my submissions through the system – and just last night I had my dissertation approved with minor edits following my oral defense. If I can complete all the form and style revisions quickly enough I expect to graduate next month and to walk this summer. I’m thrilled. And I say again unequivocally that Walden was an excellent learning experience for me over five years, despite this one quarter of frustration. I know other individual’s experiences may very, but I can whole heartedly recommend the school and the Educational Technology Ph.D. program. In keeping with good blogging ethics, though, I won’t be removing this post or the comments below. I’ll let this update set the story straight.

Here are my last three posts on twitter about what happened today:

WOO HOO! Got approval from the research office to proceed with my study! Oh wait, that’s not IRB approval. ARRRGGGG! Are u kidding me!?????

The IRB office has had my docs since August 15th… but couldn’t review them in the meantime, or even concurrently with the research office.

I understand working with bureaucracies, but I feel as if I’m being exploited for $. That’s not good education & it’s not good business.

At the earliest I might get approval from the IRB next week (though it will more likely be in ten business days… plus some). If I get approval next week, I will have spent an entire quarter’s time and tuition waiting for approval to proceed with my study. I’ve done less than 40 hours of work on my dissertation in three months time (this was mostly minor – often contradictory – revisions). I don’t even feel like I’m in a Ph.D. program anymore.

Yes, this post is more emotionally charged than most I share here.. particularly the title. It borders on being unprofessional. But, this blog is my forum for my voice to be heard, and as I clearly have no other recourse with the university (and I’m not going to quit and stop paying them at this point), here is where I will voice my criticisms of Walden University. (That phrase should be Google-able.)

Incidentally, I’m looking forward to the end of the quarter evaluations, too.

In any case, I hope this post matters as much as the times I’ve posted about the benefits of Walden’s program. I’ve lead many prospective students their way. I hope this sends others looking elsewhere. I will need to see evidence of change in the approval process to re-endorse this program. I understand I am not alone in these frustrations.

I hope my feelings on this matter level off in the coming months, especially after I’ve finally completed my study. If not, I will be sad that my long journey ends with this sort of experience.

Note: For more details on much time I’ve spent waiting for approval, see my post from the 17th.

Links for 2007-11-19

Monday, November 19th, 2007
  • my long lost handwriting
    I feel like I could’ve written this post by danah boyd… except for specifics about her college, I think it all applies to me. I am actually much less fluid at handwriting than I used to be – and mistakes seem worse because I can’t fix them as easily as
    (tags: change)
  • Obama is the Geek’s candidate
    I’m picking up a lot of posts from Geeky Mom lately. This one points to Barack Obama’s new technology policy. I haven’t read it in detail yet, but I’m a fan of the general approach. He may give new power to “the voice of the people.”
    (tags: obama politics)
  • 4Barack
    Stanford Law professor and intellectual property expert/advocate Lawrence Lessig supports Barack Obama. That alone might be reason enough to vote for him in my book. ;)
    (tags: obama politics)
  • The Death of a Blogger Part I (Techlearning blog)
    Check out Ryan Bretag’s post contemplating the death of blogging… and my comments. I’d love to hear what others think… in comments here, or on Ryan’s post.
    (tags: blogging twitter)
  • Balls!
    Mr. Belshaw shares an article about US schools ditching chairs for exercise balls for health and academic reasons. I actually do this from time to time – it’s very good for building core strength, for focusing on what you’re doing, and on encouraging you
    (tags: health ergonomics)
  • Games and compulsive internet use
    Bill MacKenty with a very reasonable (and brief) response to concerns over teen addition to video games.
    (tags: edugames)
  • Social networking from a teens’ perspective
    Many edubloggers linked to this and discussed it. I’m saving it for my reference, too… for my next Internet Awareness workshop. It’s Terry Freedman on teen social networking.
    (tags: socialnetworks)
  • More iChat Effects – 24 Free Effects For Leopard iChat « Cool OSX Apps
    I might want a link to this sometime: More iChat Effects adds 24 free effects in Leopard iChat and Photobooth.
    (tags: ichat)
  • Senuti – Transfer Songs From Your iPod To Your Mac « Cool OSX Apps
    This I know I’ll want to share with someone sometime: Senuti is a free application for OS X that allows you to transfer songs from your iPod back onto your Mac.
    (tags: ipodined)

Disappointed With Walden University

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I’ve often sung Walden’s praises here on this blog, so it wouldn’t be right not to speak out when I am disappointed by the University. In short, though I have tried to remain patient (in action and in mind), I have been extremely frustrated with how long it has taken (and thus how expensive it has been) to gain approval to begin my dissertation study. I understand that many of these steps are necessary and that I would have had at least as frustrating an experience at a traditional university (if not more so), but it seems that in a few specific cases I could have experienced better service – and that in general there must be a better way, especially for a new generation of universities like Walden.

Here is a brief rundown of the timeline behind the approval of my study:

September 15 – This was the second week of the quarter. I completed a major rewrite of my proposal. This was the last week I completed significant work on my dissertation. I waited patiently two weeks for the committee to read the new version and nearly another two weeks until the Oral Conference was scheduled on October 10th.

October 13 – I completed a few minor revisions (which took only a few hours) following approval from the Committee during the oral conference. My advisor sent this version of the proposal to the Research Office on October 15th. Unfortunately the file he sent was infected with a virus (from his computer, not mine) and was thus not received. I waited patiently presuming I needed to wait two weeks to hear back. Sadly, the error was not discovered until I followed up and heard back from my advisor on October 29.

October 30 – The virus issue was finally resolved between my advisor and the Research Office. I was notified that the materials were due back from the reviewer on or before 11/12. My appeal for an expedited review due to the virus issue was denied because “other proposals were received before mine.”

November 14 – After following up with them myself on the 12th (following another two weeks of waiting patiently), I finally receive feedback from the research office… two days late. Contact your advisor is all they say. My advisor is out of the office for the week. I get a response back from him anyway, but without the reviewers’ comments. Luckily, the next day I convince the research office to forward me the comments. I finish the requested revisions (which contradicted recommendations from my committee) that night and returned the proposal to my advisor (again, this only took a few hours). The following day (now the 16th) my advisor informed me he’d look it over and pass it back to the Research Office… on Monday (the 19th). Though the reviewer promised a speedy response with the resubmission, I am not optimistic about getting it back before the Thanksgiving break. :(

November 17th – Today. The quarter ends on November 25. I don’t expect to have approval by then. It’s been exactly TEN WEEKS since I completed the major rewrite of my proposal. Of this, about six weeks of waiting would’ve been understandable. Two weeks were lost to the virus issue and another one due to this week’s difficulty getting the reviewer’s responses from the Research Office. Since September 15th I’ve worked all of 8 hours on my paper – and I’ve paid full tuition.

Waiting on the university is always painful, but the unnecessary delays make it worse, especially since I am racing the clock to finish my study before my first baby is due in February. My study is only eight weeks long, but with the holidays at this point I am not even optimistic about being able to complete my write up to get my final dissertation submitted (and started jumping through hoops) by March 1st, the deadline to graduate May 25th! If I miss March 1st, I won’t be graduating until August, which means another quarter of tuition. This is made all the more painful by the fact that I’ve now reached the lifetime limit of student loans from the federal government and am now paying for each quarter, which is a serious impact on my finances. Note that Walden stopped offering a reduced dissertation rate to students who are ABD just before I completed the last of my other requirements – so we now pay full price. :(

I always heard that the waiting was the worst part of Walden University, but I never understood that. My instructors and my advisor had always been responsive. Now I see, though, that dealing with the larger institution is the issue.

Also, Walden did away with the 4th “blind” reviewer on the dissertation committee about the time I started. This apparently cut down on the amount of miscommunication, conflicting advice/requirements, and general bad feelings associated with the dissertation process. Dissertation proposals, of course, still required review by the IRB for ethical reasons, but I noticed that this review by the Research Office is now called an “Academic Review” and more or less amounts to the 4th “blind” reviewer. The intent of the review (at least in part) is to ensure academic rigor throughout the organization regardless of the committee or committee chair. I think it is counter productive, though, (and not the intent of the review) for students to receive conflicting advice from the committee and the Research Office. The committee chair is in place for this very reason – to resolve conflicts between committee members who disagree, however the chair has very limited power to resolve a conflict with the research office.

Ultimately, there is no ONE BIG ISSUE for me to address here, but clearly this system does not serve the student well. I should not spend 10 weeks of a 12 week quarter waiting on the University bureaucracy while I pay full tuition. When I was taking classes I could understand how I was drawing on university resources. However, I have been a VERY minimal drain on university resources over the past two years of independent researching, writing KAMs, and preparing my dissertation. It is disappointing and frustrating that when I do need university employees to work for me the system performs so poorly.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this… Walden students, Ph.D. students in other schools, prospective students, people who sympathize, and people who think I’m acting entitled. It’s why I’m sharing. ;)

UPDATE 04/23/08: It turns out I didn’t actually want to bring people out of the woodwork who have had troubles with Walden. I know the issues you’ll read about in the comments below can happen at any University. Also, though this was a frustrating time for me, I know I might have been as frustrated or more in a traditional Ph.D. program. Since that time my committee has been heroic in their efforts to push my submissions through the system – and just last night I had my dissertation approved with minor edits following my oral defense. If I can complete all the form and style revisions quickly enough I expect to graduate next month and to walk this summer. I’m thrilled. And I say again unequivocally that Walden was an excellent learning experience for me over five years, despite this one quarter of frustration. I know other individual’s experiences may very, but I can whole heartedly recommend the school and the Educational Technology Ph.D. program. In keeping with good blogging ethics, though, I won’t be removing this post or the comments below. I’ll let this update set the story straight.

UPDATE 04/29/09: It’s been over a year since I wrote anything on this post, and it’s still attracting comments from people having their own negative experiences at Walden. While I’m sure these things happen at Walden as they do at any school, I’m no longer interested in this post, or my blog, being a magnet for them and I’m no longer interested in reading them. I consider the frustrations I had to deal with a challenging part of the process, and as I’ve said many times now, I fully expect they would’ve been worse (and more expensive) at a traditional institution. My frustration was at least in part due to my desire to hold Walden to a higher standard. And as I’ve said many times here and elsewhere, my doctoral experience at Walden was of a rigorous academic program – heavy on research and writing – and lead by amazing faculty from all over the world. Like any school I’ve attended, I know the individuals are more important than the institution and I understand that this therefor might not reflect everyone’s experience. I tend to believe the best a student can do is take responsibility for that, deal the best they can with professors and staff they’re having trouble with, and then do their best to control who they choose to work with more closely – it does no good to point the finger elsewhere. So for the record, I think I was acting entitled when I wrote this, and I’m not proud to have hung this dirty laundry out in public. But I’ll stick to the blogger’s ethic of not deleting a post. As a compromise, this will now be the first post on which I’ve turned off comments. Please email me if you think I can help with your problem… but if you want to vent publicly about your own frustrations, please do so elsewhere – maybe on your own blog. I just hope you don’t wind up regretting it too. ;)

Concerns About “Project Based Learning” (PBL)

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

I’m currently in the final stages of prepping for a “Project Based Learning” (PBL) workshop on Monday for Salem School in Orange. In an effort to avoid direct instruction, we’re asking participants to explore definitions, criticisms, and examples of PBL, and then to articulate their own definition and biggest concern – and begin planning a project for their students. It’s a tall order. Here’s the wiki agenda and resources – I’d love any feedback you have on it.

As you can see, we’ve settled on an agenda and activities for the day, but I have experienced some ambivalence about this approach as I’ve prepared for it. This has led me to thinking (and writing – mostly via email) that forms the foundation for this post.

In short, the more time I spend with PBL resources the more I’m uneasy with the very specific way the term is used. Not unlike professional learning communities (PLCs), PBL means something very specific to those who dedicate their time to it – and something much more broad to the rest of us. To me it still means only this: learning by doing a project rather than through drills and tests. But most of the definitions I find are much more specific, even to the point (in some cases) of saying that PBL must relate to improving the environment or making the Earth a better place.

By brining this specific term into our training on Monday it has morphed from being a day for creating multi-media projects for students into something much bigger – and much more challenging to accomplish in a day. Asking teachers to incorporate multi-media and the read/write web for student projects is one thing (and this is how I imagined the day to begin with). However, asking them to create authentic, cross-curricular, inquiry-driven projects with a connection to the real world is another thing altogether – one that either presumes they’ve already got technology integration skills or doesn’t necessarily require them.

Part of me has thought we might have a better focused day if we backed away from the “Project Based Learning” phrase and reframe the day around incorporating multi-media and the read/write web for student projects. (This is the next step from their previous trainings on iLife and Blogs.) Much of the activities we’ve cooked up for the workshop would remain the same – and we could still have them search for what makes a good student project. But we wouldn’t introduce any additional difficult to meet expectations associated with PBL.

If we do go forward with PBL, I want to frame it in a way that is not overwhelming for the teachers, that gives them a specific goal for the day, and (here’s the tricky part) in a way that does not violate the very specific PBL definitions they will come across. For instance, I would want to (at the very least) focus on the fact that they are creating something for use with their students, and that their work to change their teaching will make the world a better place. This is the only “authentic” element of the day we have planned. Also, I would want to follow as much of this advice as possible if we do PBL.

Also, I have felt that we might consider avoiding the hybrid nature of the day and either have them learn about PBL through PBL (which we’re not really doing as it is, at least in the strict sense of PBL) or else have them create a project for their students (which they probably won’t complete during the day as it stands). Some PBL workshops have teachers complete a project themselves (as if they were students). Others, have teachers create projects for students – Eva went to one of the later types of workshops and it was completed over several days. We only have several hours. Brian Crosby even pointed out in a tweet that when PBL is done under a time crunch is when teachers and students might experience a crisis. Similarly, Chris Lehmann pointed out that projects can sometimes become “high stakes.”

I definitely want to avoid these two pitfalls. I’m increasingly finding that less is more as teachers learn to incorporate new technologies and I want this day to be successful (and even fun) for the participants – something they will want more of. So, I don’t want to be too ambitious.

However, I’m also sympathetic to the position that we need to not only model this type of teaching, but also need to model risk taking. There is no question that the day as it stands is a bit outside my comfort zone as a professional developer. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps the participants (and I) do need to be pushed to the edge of failure, as Tim Surridge likes to say, in order to have the most powerful learning experience.

I’d love to hear any feedback from any of you – particularly those of you who are PBL experts. But also from anyone who can imagine being in this workshop – or who can imagine the teachers they work with being in this workshop. How does this approach look to you? And how would you do it differently?

At this point, I have a day that I feel good about bringing to the teachers – so I’m not worried about Monday, but it has led me to many questions that if explored might make the day even better – or make future workshops even better. Also, of course, though I say we have only hours on Monday, we have almost ten months left to gear up toward the 1:1 initiative starting at Salem next year, so this is still just the beginning.

Links for 2007-11-17

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Intel Classmate PC

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

I’m typing on an Intel Classmate PC right now! I used to work with Steve Glyer at the Newport-Mesa USD. He is a board member for Computer Using Educators, Inc and is sharing with the board right now that he is running a pilot program with students at his district. It’s got a small keyboard, but it’s a full PC with XP, and it’s very rugged. I’m hoping to get my hands on a loaner unit soon. In the meantime, here I am typing on one at the CUE board meeting (with twitter on screen).

Links for 2007-11-12

Monday, November 12th, 2007