Friday, July 31, 2009

tt4t_094 Teaching Naked, No Thanks

It’s Friday, July 31st, 2009 and welcome to episode 94 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. It is the last day of July and you know what that means. Tomorrow marks the beginning of August and that means that the first day of school cannot be far away. For those of us in the northern hemisphere and particularly the United States many of us will be heading back to school for that first day of the fall term in August.

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Please remember that many staff, particularly technology staff, never left. Summer-time is a time for upgrading machines and systems during the so-called slow time of summer. This cycle has gradually been compressed over the years so that there really is no slow time for support personnel anymore. It is also becoming more common for teachers to work throughout the summer as there are many summer school programs across the US.

Upgrading T-1, DS-3, and other network connections is becoming a necessity for schools across the nation. As we rely more upon technology the underlying infrastructure must be updated to keep up with the demand. This work often is invisible, that is until something goes wrong with the network! Be sure to thank your technology staff that work very hard at providing the networking infrastructure that makes possible all of the magical learning technologies that we enjoy today without giving it a second thought. When we click on a link we expect it to work, to work fast, and thankfully the large majority of the time it does.

Of course things do not always work as planned or work as fast as we would like. In that case all good teachers have that Plan B in their back pocket. If the technology is not working the show must go on. This flexibility is a must for anyone teaching today. At our university every one of our classrooms is what we call a Technology Enhanced Classroom. All classrooms are equipped with a high-speed Internet connection, computer, projector, and most have document cameras and Smart Boards. Our college started this TEC project back in 1999 and ten years later this equipment is an expected part of our classrooms just as much as student seating.

From time to time a projector bulb does burn out or we experience network connection or computer problems but for the most part out TEC’s function as designed. We do have work arounds for most common problems like loaning a projector or laptop to a classroom if some of the equipment is not working properly. This is an inconvenience but certainly not the end of the world.

Some faculty seem to be more adept at rolling with the punches than others when things do go wrong. What type of faculty member are you? Do you have a Plan B? I have witnessed some faculty pack up their bags and stop teaching when something technological goes wrong. What kind of message does that send to our students? Can you teach without the crutch of technology?

Speaking of technological crutches there is a recent article that has been going around teaching circles the past couple of weeks from the Chronicle of Higher Education called Teach Naked, a link is provided in the show notes.

Teach Naked Article - When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom

By Teach Naked the author advocates taking all of the technology out of the classroom. It seems his real issue is with PowerPoint. It is an interesting article and worth a read and a discussion with teaching staff.

I have also provided a link to an article over at AcademicHack that is a counter-point that is also worth reading.

On what would it really mean to teach naked.

My viewpoint coming from a teacher preparation institution is that we are long past the PowerPoint argument. Many teaching programs have adopted constructivist teaching practices long ago (two decades) that makes the non-interactive PowerPoint model of delivery look like the horse and buggy days. In fact I would argue that we are now at a time in the teaching and learning evolution where digital technologies are such a part of todays student learning that adding a fourth type of learning modality called digital is needed in addition to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

The end lesson however remains that teachers must mix it up and use ALL of the different learning styles to be most effective in producing learning results. What is the best way to teach? There are many!

What do you think? I would love to hear your position in this discussion so please leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog, remember, we have the technology and we can use it! ;)

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, relying solely on technology in the classroom is just as extreme as relying on no technology in the classroom. The author of the Teach Naked article is no Luddite and does promote the use of technology outside the classroom by advocating those boring PowerPoint lectures be podcasted and consumed outside of classtime and keeping classrooms as low-tech zones. So we are going to take the boring stuff and turn it into a podcast? Hmmm.

Funny how we in education have long been criticized for teaching in 19th Century classrooms and now there is criticism for teaching in high-tech classrooms. Welcome to public education where there are many opinions and often no one right answer that pleases opposing views. Nothing like a provocative title to capture peoples interest.

The technology available today is here to stay and is being used to benefit the learning experience, the argument is not as simple as removing technology from the classroom but rather in the methods employed during the learning experience, both inside and outside the classroom.

One last comment about the article, what happens when there is no classroom? Many are already there and have been for some time.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is for the elementary level and can be used with or without a Smart Board but it works great with an interactive white board (IWB). The name of this weeks pick is called Stop the Clock and is an excellent interactive site where the goal is to match the correct digital time to each analog clock. It is interesting to note that we are living in times where many elementary level students may not have ever seen an analog clock. A link is in the show notes.

Stop the Clock

This is an excellent example of where interactivity engages the student in learning the content with immediate feedback and also encourages the student to do the activity quickly as there is a competition component for the student that can solve the clock matching activity the fastest.

If you teach elementary level students and are doing a unit on time this year give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

That wraps it up for episode 94 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Monday, July 20, 2009

tt4t_093 We Choose the Moon

It’s Monday, July 20th, 2009 and welcome to episode 93 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Today is the 40th Anniversary of man landing and walking on the Moon. I have provided some links in the show notes related to this anniversary and its importance to the United States and the world.

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I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s and remember the Space race well. It had a profound impact on me. One of the iconic images I have is the TV shot of the Saturn V rocket clearing the tower. I remember seeing the big red U S A letters streaming vertically upward reaching for the stars as the rocket lifted-off. I also remember watching live TV coverage of that first step that Neil Armstrong took for all of mankind 40 years ago today.

NASA at 50

The Space race is also probably one of the reasons I ended up in the teaching profession and definitely why I pursued a science degree. It was as though America propelled itself into the 21st Century four decades prematurely and stands as a testament to what a nation can do when it commits itself to a common goal.

Nearly every kid has looked upward to the moon and wondered what it would be like to go there. It took a lot of science, an extreme amount of dedication, and the focus of a nation to make it there. It was not easy but we did it.

This 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 reminds me of how ancient that event is compared to the children we teach today. If you are teaching freshmen at the college level then your students most likely were born in 1990, are now 18 to 19 years old, and will graduate in 2012. They were born 21 years AFTER Man first walked upon the Moon, an event that is ancient history to them occurring well before they were born. In fact, many of their parents may not have been born when Man first walked on the Moon, ouch, that reflection hurt. How can we make the Apollo 11 mission come alive if it is ancient history for them? Stay tuned for my Technology Pick of the Week for the answer.

How do we teach new generations that have no history as a reference point? That is one of the great mysteries of teaching and learning. How do we go from the unknown to the known? Finding relevance is the key and we must relate to the mental framework and mindset that is present in todays student and build upon it.

A link is in the show notes to the Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2012 that provides an interesting reflection point to the lives of those freshmen that many of us teach. If you teach a younger grade level then your task is even more difficult as younger students have even less of a framework to build upon. Finding teaching methods appropriate for the mindset of our students is necessary in order for students to find relevance to link their new learning to.

Mindset List for the Class of 2012

In instructional design terms this is called defining prerequisite knowledge and too often we teachers make assumptions about what our students know, or are suppose to know.

In Vygotskian terms this is the search for the Zone of Proximal Development that we teachers aim for in guiding our students from the unknown to the known. Start at too basic of a level and we lose them to boredom, start at too advanced level and we lose them to difficulty. It is in the social interaction that this zone is negotiated and found. When we get it right magic happens and students can take quantum leaps in their level of knowledge and ability and can truly reach deep understanding of a subject area.


Determining prerequisite knowledge is one of the first steps in teaching any topic yet so many times we get it wrong before we even begin. We are driven by “covering” the material in the curriculum come heck or high water. Who cares about teaching for understanding when we have so much to cover. For me this is a fatal mistake in the learners development for there is much to be said for scope and sequence in order to reach a deep level of understanding. Skipping steps in the learning process often results in gaps that cannot be overcome.

Many are guilty of teaching the curriculum and not the student. This is where we lose many students, frustration sets in and students turn to mechanical methods of solving problems in an effort to get by rather than seeking understanding. How do we grab the students attention and make learning relevant? The wonders of technology can assist us and make even ancient history come alive for todays students.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a website that showcases the Apollo 11 mission and is called We Choose the Moon, a link is available in the show notes. Many of our students were not around 40 years ago but there is not a reason that they too cannot experience this event in an authentic way.

We Choose the Moon

The We Choose the Moon website has minute by minute mission coverage and is currently running in real-time as things happened on the Apollo 11 mission 40 years ago. It is an interesting approach offering a historic recreation of the events in real-time that is very well done. If one did not know any different the transmissions could pass as happening today. I have been listening to the real-time transmissions today in the background and it is just like being there all over again.

This site will remain up after today and has a wealth of information about the Apollo 11 mission. Too bad many school children are out of school for the summer as this site has some excellent animations of the mission. This site has original video footage and original NASA transmissions that make it feel like it is happening now. You might want to bookmark this site and revisit it again when school is back in session to have as a resource for a unit on Space exploration.

That wraps it up for episode 93 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

tt4t_092 Reflections from NECC09

It’s Friday, July 10th, 2009 and welcome to episode 92 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. I am back from the National Educational Computing Conference held last week and I am trying to find my “techlegs” and get caught up with work that was left undone while attending this conference. I heard estimates of over 18,000 people attending NECC this year, by the size of the crowds in Washington DC this was probably not far off. Despite the workload piling up back home, this conference was certainly worth the trip.

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Record attendance at NECC 2009

For those of us that are relied upon as frontline technology support taking time away from work is difficult to schedule and we tend to pay for this time away with a full in-box and stacks of to-do’s that were neglected when we were away.

Despite this cost getting away to conferences such as NECC is very valuable to me as it allows me to see what others are doing and to gauge where our programs are at compared to others across the nation. I am pleased that we seem to be holding our own and are very progressive with our implementations of technologies to support teaching and learning at our university.

I do get tired of the “getting ready for the 21st Century” refrain from many speakers as we are well into this century and it is time to move on past the rhetoric. Many are still trying to brow-beat teachers into technological submission with the 21st Century argument. Get over it, the 21st Century is here.

In order to change ones teaching practice, teachers must see AND experience value in order to utilize learning technologies. We must demonstrate the practical and avoid the preaching if we are to be successful with encouraging others to gain benefit from what technologies offer for learning. To this end modeling appropriate behavior is the best method for gaining converts.

I did not find any earth-shattering technologies at NECC this year. It felt like we are in a holding pattern now that Web 2.0 technologies are maturing. I did make it to many vendor booths but there was nothing that really grabbed me as being the next big thing.

I did spend quite a bit of time in the Smart Technologies booth and learned more about their new dual touch Smart Boards as well as getting my hands on a multitouch overlay for an HDTV that used some cool multitouch applications. As the cost of this technology comes down I believe we will be seeing a lot more classroom presentation systems with multitouch technologies at next years conference.

Smart Technologies also had their multitouch table at their booth and Microsoft had a Microsoft Surface multitouch table in their booth. With Windows 7 coming out in October we will start seeing a lot more PC apps that support multitouch as multitouch is built into Windows 7 natively for devices with proper hardware.

There were also a ton of netbooks at this years event as many teachers seem to have jumped on the low-cost netbook bandwagon. There were also several sessions on the iPhone and iTouch apps for educational use.

I did make it to the Asus booth where I was able to actually get my hands on the soon to be released eee PC keyboard with built-in LCD screen and a prototype eee PC t91 tablet that supports multitouch in a netbook form factor. Both of these devices fit niche markets but if they are priced competitively they will offer value. A link is available in the show notes to these two innovative devices soon to be released.

Asus eee Keyboard

Asus eee t91 tablet netbook

The best part of the conference for me however was meeting the many people from my personal learning network in person. I met many people that I had met virtually via Twitter and it was great putting a face with their name. Rather than list them here I will just give a shout-out to my new friends from NECC for fear I might leave someone out. You are all very valuable members of my PLN and it was great meeting you in person. I also met many of the bloggers whose blogs I read regularly and had many productive conversations with what they were doing while comparing notes with each other.

Two more big things happened at this years NECC conference. First the name for next years conference has been changed from NECC to ISTE 2010 and will be held in Colorado. After 30 years of the NECC name tradition I am not sure how I feel about the name change but it was presented as a way to focus on a more international audience.

ISTE 2010

The second big event was the unveiling of the new National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators. Last year the NETS Teachers Standards were revamped and this year the new Administrator Standards were premiered. A link is available in the show notes to the new ISTE NETS Administrator Standards.

ISTE NETS Administrator Standards

PDF File for the NETS Administrator Standards and Performance Indicators

One thing ISTE might consider in the future would be to license the NETS standards with a Creative Commons license. The NETS standards are currently copyrighted using the old 20th Century model. Thousands of educators across the nation have provided input to the ISTE standards over the years and this is something that might be considered in the future now that we are living in a Web 2.0 world in the 21st Century :)

Technology Pick of the Week

Speaking of Creative Commons licensing my technology pick of the week this week is a new feature that was added to Google that allows you to search for Creative Commons licensed pictures.

This is great news for educators that want to find images that are not copyrighted and search for images that can be used for classroom projects legally. This new image search option is a tool that educators can use to teach about copyright issues and provides a solution to a long standing problem for online projects.

I have provided links in the show notes to the blog with this announcement that explains how you use this new feature when searching for images using Google. You will need to click on the Advanced Search link on Google’s homepage and then click on the Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more link to see this option to filter the search for only Creative Commons licensed images.

Google Image Search Implements CC License Filtering

This is definitely a step in the right direction and I applaud Google for providing a useful tool for a long standing problem. It is one thing to identify a problem and quite another to provide a useful solution, thank you Google.

That wraps it up for episode 92 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.