The Wagner Solstice Party 2012

December 21st is a Friday this year, and the winter solstice to boot. It’s also a traditional date for the party I’ve hosted every year since graduating high school. So, with no ado whatsoever… you’re all invited. Ping me if you’re thinking of coming and I’ll share the address.

This used to be a large party, but it’s been humblingly small the last few years. There’ll probably be a few of my friends from high school, college, and hockey… and with any luck a few Southern California Ed Tech people. If any of you are in the area (or willing to travel), I hope you can make it too. I’ll definitely be serving home made wine to celebrate the solstice and would love to share a glass with some of you face-to-face. :)

Diffusion of Useful Ignorance… and Self Forgiveness

I’ve been inspired to study Thoreau again, and suspect this will generate a number of posts here. I’m heavily annotating what I read and have found much I want to write about, some of which would be in the realm of “and life” posts – though some of it would be relevant to this blog in other ways as well, which is to say it would relate to education and technology. In the interest of getting something posted tonight, I want to focus on one particular idea that has resonated with me. 

The purpose of education might be said to be the “Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” but Thoreau suggests that there is “equal need of a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Ignorance… for what is most of our boasted so-called knowledge but a conceit that we know something, which robs us of the advantage of our actual ignorance?” Elsewhere he asks, “how can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time?”

In short, as educators, it is often difficult to admit that we are ignorant… but of course, no matter how learned we are, everyone is always more ignorant than not. If we are to be true educators (and if we are to grow and learn ourselves – and be lead learners) we must embrace our own useful ignorance. But we must also work to diffuse this mindset within our institutions – and among our students. Helping them to adopt an attitude of useful ignorance might be one of the best learning tools we can offer to students – and one of the best gifts we can offer them in life.

I’m not drawing this from Thoreau, but I’ve found that this attitude works well hand-in-hand with the practice of forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings. Together these two attitudes can help a learner (or members of an organization) to not only let go of preconceptions, but also to let go of the burden of needing to be responsible for having preconceptions (or accurate understandings) of the world to begin with. This makes it easier to accept the world as it is, to learn new things from new experiences, and in short – to grow.

I think Thoreau means many more things when he talks about “useful ignorance” (including his believe that there is a “subconscious magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright”), and I suspect I’ll return to these more abstract ideas, too. But in the meantime, I’m finding this simple reminder to embrace and diffuse useful ignorance a pragmatic source of clarity, particularly in the context of sharing increasingly intoxicating information technologies with others. :)

Thank You

This is an excerpt from a response I wrote to a thread of messages between some of my colleagues and friends who recently connected at the CUE conference. What I wrote, though, applies to so many other people, I thought I should share it here as well (especially since I wound up alluding to the title of this blog, the first place I began to connect with a new sort of community, which might be called my PLN, but has certainly become much more).

This was definitely a special CUE conference… and our shared events have been increasingly so for me in recent years. This feels similar to the sort of connections you might be lucky to make in school, but we’re all geographically distributed already – and this won’t be “over” when we all “leave.” Our remote connections also make our limited times together that much more special… and I love that our “reunions” are spent making new memories. #climbingcue #cabanacue #latehikecrew etc…

There’s also something special about having chosen or found each other, rather than simply being brought together by circumstance (at a school… or home town, or workplace). It’s amazing how much I respect each of you (and so many others in our community) as professionals, as educators, as learners, and as people… and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a more personal relationship with so many of you.

It seems to be a lesson I need to keep learning, but many of you have helped me rediscover the importance of the “and life” element of our work. In short, you make me feel good about being human. “Thank You” is an apt title for this thread. I’m very glad to have been included.

And I’m thrilled to end this message with: More soon…

For some readers of this blog, I’m very much talking about you (or perhaps you’ve experienced this with different people). For others, this might serve as yet another example of the potential power of a Personal Learning Network (PLN). In any case, please share any comments or responses here – or via email. And, as I used to end so many of my early posts, thank you for reading.

Image Credit: woodleywonderworks

Presentation Opportunities at CLHS and CLMS in 2010

I also shared this opportunity with colleagues elsewhere and thought it would be good to share it with you here as well:

Hello again, colleagues. I’m once again pinging you on behalf of the California League of Schools, which is moving to pull together promotional material for the California League of High Schools (CLHS) annual conference January 15 – 17 (in Monterey) and the California League of High Schools (CLHS) annual conference February 25 – 28 (in Sacramento). They generally like to include some “typical sessions” in the registration brochure and it would be fantastic to highlight any of you who might be interested in presenting in the “tech strand” at each event. We will have a hands-on lab (or two) available at each event, but there is also an opportunity to do a more traditional presentation if you like. There is no compensation for this other than recognition in the program, but I hope that many of you in the area will submit a session. :)

If you’d be interested, please reply and fill out one or both of the forms below.



Incidentally, the CLHS conference will focus on Marzano’s instructional strategies that work – and on response to intervention (RtI), so if there’s anyway to incorporate either of those into your session descriptions, that’d be great (but not necessary). I don’t know of any such theme for CLMS yet.

Let me know if you have any questions – and thank you in advance for considering this.

I hope that some of you might take me up on this. :)

iPhone (and iPod Touch) in Education Resources

This morning I was interviewed by a magazine editor writing about the iPhone in Education. I found myself wishing I had previously taken the time to aggregate iPhone in Education resources and lists of applications good for students and educators. Just prior to the call I finally had the good sense to ping my colleagues on Twitter, and sure enough several came through with great links during the interview! Afterwards, I was finally motivated to pull together resources from other recent CUE speakers who had led sessions on the topic. Once I had an email together to the editor, I realized it might just make a good blog post. So, with no further editing, here’s the message I sent…

Here’s a few of the initial responses to my call-out on Twitter for “iPhone in Education” resources:

# soffenhauser use it for classroom walkthru observations – created a google form and have a link on my iphone to the form. Love google forms!18 minutes ago
# Craig Nansencnansen @markwagner Control a preso forward/back & screen was a touch pad 2 control the mouse & the keyboard 4 data entry. minutes ago from TweetDeck
# Jonathan Beckerjonbecker @markwagner not specifically iPhone, but it is Apple…have you seen what’s happening here in VA?: minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to markwagner
# Craig Nansencnansen @markwagner minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to markwagner
# Craig Nansencnansen @markwagner minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to markwagner

And here’s a post from Ken Shelton, who lead the iPhone Supper Session at the CUE conference this year – his slides are included:

And here’s a podcast interview with Kathy Shirley and Joe Morlock, who led the iPod Touch session for us at Macworld this year – plus Kathy’s iPod in education resource site, which links to a list on Kathy Shrock’s site (both below):

Also, Leslie Fisher has lead iPhone sessions at CUE events (and elsewhere all over the world). Here’s a link to one of her PDF handouts… and to the iPhone Applications category on her blog:

There… at least now I took some time to pull together a list of other people’s lists. :)

I still have to write the next “Jailbreak your iPhone For Educators” post I’ve been promising people… meanwhile, here’s a link to everything iPhone from my blog (mostly mentions in my link posts):

And in case you weren’t looking at these two posts before, here’s my two specifically iPhone related posts:

Anyway, enjoy. I hope this helps. :)


Some of these links include fantastic lists (and lists of lists), so there is a lot of material and potential resources here. And please feel free to add more in the comments below. :)

CUE Confernce 2009 Wikis

I’ve created a new page to support the sessions I’m leading at the 2009 CUE conference. I’ve been giving the URL to participants here so they can get back to the resources anytime, but I’m also sharing the same information in this post for readers of this blog who are not at the conference:

Each session links to a wiki with a description, agenda, and links to every resource or example that I mentioned (and many I didn’t get to). In some cases there may even be a ustreamed archive of the session. At this point only the Thursday sessions are entirely updated, but the others will be updated over the next two days. Reply in the comments below if you have any questions or thoughts about the sessions – and feel free to contribute to the wikis as well. :)

My CUE Conference Presentation Schedule

I just wrote this up in an email to colleagues, so I thought I might as well share it here. This is my presentation schedule for the CUE conference later this week – I hope some of you might be able to pop in and say hi:



  • We All Scream For Ustream: An Introduction to Video Streaming in Education, 9:30-10:30 AM, Andreas
  • Build a Better Browser: An Overview of Firefox Add-Ons for Educators, 2:00-2:20 PM, Oasis 1
  • I Want To Believe: What’s the Research Value of Wikipedia and Knol? 3:30-3:50 PM, Oasis 1


  • Blogs, Wikis, and Google Docs: Which One Is Right For Your Lesson? 12:00-12:20 PM, Oasis 1
  • Twitter Me This: Join a Global Learning Community & Feel Good About It, 2:00-2:20 PM, Oasis 1


  • Search, Learn, Share: An Introduction to Google Tools in Education (An Update), 8:00-9:00 AM, Primrose A
  • Maybe You Should Drive: Taking Control of Your Own Professional Development, 1:30-2:30 PM, Mesquite A

For brief descriptions and full abstracts of these sessions (and others that didn’t make the cut), see my earlier post on the topic: CUE 2009 Submissions: Maybe You Should Drive

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or thoughts (or resources to share) related to these sessions. I’d love to give you credit during the session for anything you share or any thinking you spark. ;)

Classroom Learning 2.0

I was thrilled to be asked by Peggy Ericson, Director of CTAP Region 1, to provide this introductory video for the Classroom Learning 2.0 project.

Classroom Learning 2.0 is an online tutorial brought to you by CTAP Region 1 and the California School Library Association (CSLA) 2.0 Team. It is designed for you to do on your own or as a part of a group. This is a self-discovery program which encourages participants to take control of their own learning and to utilize their lifelong learning skills through exploration and play. Participants are encouraged to work together and share with each other their discoveries, techniques, and “how to’s” both in person and through their blogs. Participation is free and open to anyone. If you join the fun, please revisit this blog and leave a comment about what you’re learning.

Professional Development Evaluations

This was written for a recent train-the-trainers workshop I lead for educational technology professional developers. I thought it might be worth sharing here as well. I hope some of you find this helpful – and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic in the comments.

Participants’ evaluations of a professional development session are an
important way to collect feedback regarding what went well (that you
can build on for the future) and what went poorly (that you can do
differently in the future). It is also an opportunity for participants
to request additional follow up. Be sure to include an evaluation after
each professional development session you lead.

If participants will be sitting in front of a computer, you can offer the evaluation online using a service such as (Effective surveys can also be created using forms on Google Docs,
but dedicated services like Survey Moneky still provide more survey
specific features and analysis.) Even if participants are not in front
of a computer, the value of having evaluation data in an easy to use
electronic format might make it worth while to email participants a
link to the survey to complete at their convenience – rather than
handing out paper forms at the end of an event.

Evaluations might be best if kept to a few very specific and very short
questions using a Likert-type scale. Ten might be the maximum number of
questions you should expect participants to answer. Be sure that each
question is asking only one thing (so that participant responses are
not ambiguous) and be sure  that each question will provide data you
will actually use. Otherwise, don’t waste the participant’s time with
the question. Ideally, of course, you should ask questions that focus
on the things that are important for you to get right – or that you are
working on. A glance at the questions in the sample evaluation below
will reveal something about what I value and what I think makes good
professional development.

Also, always be sure to leave an opportunity for open-ended feedback at
the end of the evaluation. The opportunity to express themselves
through natural language is the best opportunity for participants to
share suggestions for improvements – or to share praise for what you
did well. I always find the open ended responses the most valuable at
the end of the day… both for making changes in the future and for
feeling good about a job well done. Also, these responses will often
shed light on otherwise confusing responses to the closed (multiple
choice) questions.

Finally, give participants the opportunity to leave you their contact
information (particularly their email). This can be invaluable for
contacting them regarding follow up – and make it possible for you to
contact them regarding future professional development opportunities.
It is best, however, if leaving contact information is optional for
participants. This way, it is still possible for them to complete the
survey anonymously, which will make it more likely you will receive
honest (and helpful) feedback.

The sample evaluation (and results) below are representative of the
online evaluations I use for all workshops that I lead or arrange.

Sample Evaluation

Sample Results (based on what is entered into the sample evaluation above)

I’d love to hear your comments or feedback on this sample evaluation (or on this post in general). How do you handle evaluations for workshops you’ve lead? What have been some of your challenges and how did you overcome them (if you did)? Or… what have you seen as a participant that you’ve appreciated or disliked? In other words, what makes a good professional development evaluation? I look forward to learning from what you might share.

Google Hacks

I recently read (or skimmed) my way through Google Apps Hacks by Phillip Lenssen. I got a lot of great tricks out of it and recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about ways you can use or customize Google Tools. Sometime later I’ll have to put together a post about the implications of some of the hacks for teachers and students, but while I was reading I was inspired to use my Google Notebook more. Then I was inspired to create this post using a pretty cool series of “hacks”:

  1. As I went to web sites that described some of the hacks in the book in greater detail (or provided a necessary tool) I sometimes saved and annotated them in my new Google Hacks notebook.
  2. Then, I used the Tool menu in Notebook to export my Google Hacks bookmarks and annotations to a Google Doc… this gets even better.
  3. Next I used the Share menu in Google Docs to select “Publish as web page…” which gave the opportunity for me to “Publish to Blog.” (I also selected the “Automatically republish when changes are made” option, which is a great trick for live blogging.)
  4. Finally, I edited the document to add this introduction with these instructions, which you are now reading on my blog. Cool, eh?

In any case, the following list is not at all exhaustive, but you might find a few gems in here. Some of these didn’t work well for me, so please share if you know of better options, especially for the signature problem I have. ;)

Export the Feeds from a Google Reader Folder
Google Reader lets you export the feeds from a folder:
(you should replace FOLDER with the actual name of the folder)

I literally wished I could do this just earlier today! Sweet.

Gmail HTML Signatures –
Automatically inserts HTML signatures into your Gmail messages based on which address you are sending from.

I so wanted this to work! No luck. It would only remember the most recent signature I added. So I tried the new Blank Canvas Gmail Signatures Firefox Add-On, which is newer, but it was a complete no-go. Guess I’ll still be cut and pasting my signatures. :(

25 Incredible Skins, Resources & Tools for the Gmail Power User
These tips, monster resources and tools will change the way you use Gmail.

I plan to try a lot of these!

gdatacopier – Google Code
GDataCopier provides a command line tool called ‘gdoc-cp‘ that allows system administrators to automate bi-directional copy of documents & spreadsheets between local machines and Google document servers.

This was fun to try, but the stable version doesn’t yet support presentations. Using Greasemonkey, DownThemAll, and GoogleDocsDownload in Firefox worked better – in fact, it’s a great solution. I do it weekly now. Give it a try.

Publishing Google docs to your blog at bavatuesdays
Once you have a document you want to post to your blog, click on the Publish tab in the far right-hand side of the Google doc, and you will see the option to Publish to Blog.

I just used this to publish to edtechlife – and might use it from time to time for rich posts in the future.

Developer’s Guide – Google Chart API – Google Code
The Google Chart API lets you dynamically generate charts.

You enter values and labels directly into the url and Google Chart creates the visual. Very cool and easily embedable in blog posts.