Monday, December 3, 2012

Flip: I Say "No."

This was published to the ISTE Communities Site on April 4th, 2012.  After reading it now, and since I've learned more about "Flipping" I would amend some of my comments, but essentially I stand by what I wrote below.

To Flip or not to Flip

No. Flipping your classroom is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. For most its a waste of time, it does not allow for exploring topics of interest and just changes the order of an already flawed teaching style.

Flip your classroom is very similar to printing off the notes that the teacher used to lecture in class, have students read the notes at home and then come to school to do “homework.” Instead students no longer read the notes but now view a video or some kind of “digital notes.” This is not the definition of technology integration. Some may consider having students doing homework in class as learning by doing, but it's not what constructivists like Vygotsky, Dewey and Montessori had in mind. Once again, with flipping a classroom, teachers are not being constructivists. This is just a different model where the teacher is the leader of the class, disseminating information to students like a farmer feeding chickens.
The problem is flipping the classroom might actually be good for some teachers. It can create a conversation and have the teacher re-evaluate what they do in the classroom, and put real thought into how students learn and if the teacher’s current methods are working. With that said, for most teachers, flipping the classroom is way too low. Teachers can do so much more to create confidence in students, help students to discover their unique abilities and explore topics that students are interested in. For many teachers, going to a flipped classroom from what they already do would be taking a step backward. Many teachers do chemistry labs, go outside to collect data or even photograph a solar eclipse using a weather balloon so that the images are cloud free. To now have students view a video for homework and have them do traditional homework in class would be going from active to compliant learning.
I just spoke with a fourth grade teacher today who collaborated with the schools new media specialists to create what was called a living wax museum. Basically, the media specialist taught kids how to research, write a script, become a character and speak in public. Students had a button on their hands and when the button was pushed they became that character explaining the importance their character had on the world. Some of the living wax museum characters were Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King. This project was so popular it was later opened to the public and “performed” at the local library. Does this kind of rich learning happen in a flipped classroom? I would argue that it does not.

The flipped classroom takes an already broken, didactic, teacher-lead style and changes the order of a flawed style. We are great at rearranging this flawed teaching method. No matter what we call it we continue to control knowledge as if we were still in the industrial age. It is time we shift from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Google Changes Background Customization

On a quiet Saturday morning, November 3rd, 2012, I fired up my computer in an effort to do some work.  Often, at least at my age now, formal work and Saturdays don’t mix.  On occasion I will work on a Saturday and, when I do, it is usually just answering some emails on my SmartPhone or checking on what I have going on Monday through a calendar app.  Today I went to Google Docs and noticed a notification.  Basically it was a thank you and a warning.  The thank you was for using Google’s background imaging function and the warning was that it is going away on November 16th.  Google allows people to add their own picture to the background and customize their Google Homepage.  This is ending soon.  Most people would not find this to be such a big deal.  Most people have a pretty picture of a cute, white, fluffy puppy or a setting sun beyond a dock over a lake or pond.  Not me.  I actually customize my background so that whenever I open Google I see my goals for the year shining right back at me. I can't help but see them and find this a very powerful tool.  Now I’ve never read the book The Secret by Rhonda Bryne, but I intend to.  One of the quotes from this book is “what you think about you bring about.”  What better way, for someone who spends many hours a day on a computer to see and think about their goals than customizing their Google background with a screenshot of their goals?  I really have no idea how many times I see my goals, think about my goals and plan to achieve my goals after looking at my customized Google home search page.  This might be very strange for one man in a small Pennsylvanian town to ask this but, hey Google, could you let us keep customizing our search homepage?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The Breakfast Inventor’s Club was launched but we had minimal success.  With that said, I am not giving up.  Many students did come over and start building with Legos.  Also, I had some teachers say that “my child loved to play with legos.”  I think that many people don’t know that the Lego Mindstorm Kits, that I have, include a small computer called an RCX.  This small RCX computer is programmable.  This small, programmable computer can be turned into a robot that is only limited by the inventor’s imagination.  The other stumbling block that I encountered with the Breakfast Inventor’s Club was time.  Time is a common stumbling block in any school.  Basically, students are not allowed to really go to classes or breakfast until 7:30 and the first class period starts at 7:45.  This is really not enough time for a student to invent anything.  

So, here is what I have decided to do.  Many students wait just inside the school doors for the clock to strike 7:30.  I am going to move the Breakfast Inventor’s Club to the hall near the doorway.  This should give students more time to work/play.  Also, eventually if students decide to come to school early, they will still be able to work on their projects and not violate school rules.  It is also my hope that the Breakfast Inventor’s club will expand to after school.  I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Breakfast Inventors Club Experiment

I had this idea recently.  On the days I’m in the Cattaraugus Little Valley School District I would start a club.  The club would be called the Breakfast Inventors Club.  The club’s goal would be to help students learn by playing, experimenting and programing, while having fun before school starts.
This morning, at 7:30 am, May 30th, 2012, I brought a box of Legos and a project I was working on.  I believe that if you build it they will come.  I also believe that if you build and what you work on is cool enough, students will come because of curiosity and help you build.  It worked this morning.  Basically all I did was sort Lego pieces into gallon bags.  One student came over and asked me what I was working on.  He was so interested that he started programming in MicroWorlds.  Also, I gave him a copy of the software so that he could download it to his computer and work on it.  We are both in the process of thinking up projects.  I want to make a car that follows black electrical tape using a light sensor.  I’m not sure what the student will come up with.  I will keep you posted.   

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Breakfast Inventor's Club

Today I have decided to do something new.  I plan on having a breakfast Inventors Club with students.  I will be starting little technology based projects in the morning in the cafeteria.  My plan is to start small.  I will start building a project and hope that students will be interested in what I’m doing.  We have a bunch of Lego Mindstorm kits at one of your office buildings.  We also have PicoCrickets and a bunch of materials that could be recycled and used as projects.  I am sure I could probably round up a few computers to run scratch or logo to do programing. Below is a brainstormed list of projects that either the students or I could do.  Students could use both Legos and PicoCrickets, one or the other or none.

1) bike wheel windmill
2) a bike shirt with turn signals
3) a bubble machine
4) a pop can solar heater
5) a robot that follows a piece of tape  
6) Archimedes screw as a solar battery
7) Make a robot that pops a balloon 10 ft away
8) A robot that draws a picture of a house
9) A noise maker that follows light
10) robotic arm that picks up an egg
11) a zip line crane
12) A random number generator
13) A mobile carbon dioxide detector
14) a robotic food grinder
15) a lego cider press
16) mobile rocket launcher
17) Take a picture from a kite that is off the ground
18) a robotic computer keyboard cleaner
19) a Lego Record Player
20) a lego tape cassette player
21) a lego operated rock tumbler
22) a submarine
23) a remote control operated mobile camera with light
24) a programable air freshener
25) a remote controlled black mark remover (from school floors)

My plan is to start this Breakfast Inventor’s Club on the morning of May 30th, 2012.  I will report on how it goes.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Changed My Mind: Google Lit Trips

image from this website
Have you ever written something that you regret writing?  I remember writing a blog post many years ago that had to do with Google Lit Trips and why I thought they were really not great for education.  My feels on Google Lit Trips have changed.  So, now I feel that in some circumstances having students create Google Lit Trips might be an activity that engages students with literature in a way that brings it to life for them and brings in a bit of geography.

Do you ever have students read books that take place in multiple locations or the main characters travel around?  Have you ever considered having students create their own Google Lit Trip.  

So What exactly are Google Lit Trips? 

Below is a description of Google Lit Trips from the website
The short version is simple. Google Lit Trips are free downloadable files that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature on the surface of Google Earth. At each location along the journey there are placemarks with pop-up windows containing a variety of resources including relevant media, thought provoking discussion starters, and links to supplementary information about “real world” references made in that particular portion of the story.

The focus is on creating engaging and relevant literary experiences for students. I like to say Google Lit Trips “3-dimensionalize” the reading experience by placing readers “inside the story” traveling alongside the characters; looking through the windshield of that old jalopy in The Grapes of Wrath or waddling alongside Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’’’s duckling family in Make Way for Ducklings.”

There are two great videos created by a teacher on how to create your own Google Lit Trip.  Here are the links to part one and part two.

The teacher in the video does a short example of a Google Lit Trip for Johnny Appleseed.  The teacher in the video also talked about how she used the Google Lit Trip as one of her center stations.  I feel that the real power of Google Lit Trips is when the students create them.  What better way to meet the common core standard of having students describe characters in a story and explain how their actions contributed to the sequence of events than a Google Lit Trip.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Technology in Kindergarten

In the morning after all of her 1/3 sized people arrived in her class and took off their coats, Ms. Grube announced that Mr. Weinberg was coming to their class. She announced that he would be bringing something.

Mr. Weinberg brought a whole tub of digital cameras. In a semi-circle the students gathered around Mr. Weinberg as he explained how the digital camera worked. Students listened intently and worked hard to control their excitement.

Ms. Grube and I went over how to use the camera, how to take good pictures and a couple rules. The rules were designed to keep the cameras and the children safe. After the brief explanation, Ms. Grube paired up the students and Mr. Weinberg handed out cameras to the pairs. Then Ms. Grube gave students little prompts for them to follow. “Take a picture of something red,” she would state. Or “Take a picture of something that represents spring,” she explained. Students followed directions.

This was the first day, what we called an introduction day, of a project that requires students to work together and use digital cameras. On Wednesday March 7th, 2012, students were given a clipboard, check list and a digital camera. In pairs students participated in a “letter sound scavenger hunt.” A few students got “hung up” on taking pictures of the letters instead of taking pictures of objects that start with the letter sound. After a couple corrections students understood the difference. Students alternated taking pictures of objects that represented each letter and its corresponding sound in the alphabet. The student not taking the picture had the responsibility of checking off the letter on a piece of paper on a clipboard.

In 2003, 87% of all jobs involved using a computer in some way. The percentages of jobs using computers most-likely has not decreased. Exposure to technology at an early age is a great way to get students ready for their lives after school here at Cattaraugus Little Valley.

Using a digital camera is a simple way to help emerging readers learn phonics in a different way while exposing them to technology. Students were also required to be responsible with the cameras and to get along with their peers. These skills are important for all of us but is especially important learning for kindergartners.
Students in Ms. Grube really enjoyed this project. Most students were able to complete the project and find all the letter sounds. Now, Ms. Grube is taking the cameras and is going to print out a picture book for each of the students and have them write about their pictures using inventive spelling.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows users to converse with large or small audiences with a text message-type blurb in a 140 characters or fewer. Messages or “tweets” can be sent via text message, from basically any mobile device.

The experience on Twitter really depends on how many people “follow” you and your tweets and who you follow. Some people find that the people that they follow have nothing but negative things to say. Others say that they find out information from Twitter that either mainstream media has not cover yet or will not cover because mainstream outlets do not find it important.
m a regular computer or a mobile device. There are also a bunch of third-party Twitter applications that allow users to create time-delayed tweets, organize tweets into search-able columns by topic or rank tweets by popularity worldwide.

Still others use Twitter as a tool for social justice and helping to cause positive change in the world by communicating ideas and beliefs that benefit people. During the massive and destructive earthquake in Haiti, a plane from the program Doctors without Boarders was attempting to land in Port-

au-Prince. The plane, filled with critical life-saving supplies, was unable to land due to the U.S. Air Force having taken over the airport. People from all over the world started tweeting to the U.S. Air Force’s Twitter feed and an hour later the plane was able to land. At one point the U.S. Air Force tweeted back and said they were working on it.

What can Twitter do for students? Like any type of communication tool,

Twitter can be used for negative as well as positive uses. One negative use was reported by KNWA, which is a Television Channel from North Western Arkansas. Three teenage girls were “picked up” for bullying a fellow teen on Twitter. The student who was bullied did not return to school for 3 days because her self-esteem had been so damaged.

Other students have had their self-esteem affected in a positive way. Oscar Lozoria, a shy 14-year-old student from East Los Angeles, said that after tweeting in his high school social studies class, his fellow students no longer made fun of him. Oscar goes on to say that he is respected by his peers for his thoughts that his classmates see in the form of tweets. Osc

ar said that, “They see me as somebody now, like an equal.” Here is the link to the

No matter how you view Twitter, it is important to know about. Whether you are sending out tweets about how many pancakes you ate for breakfast or are receiving tweets from authors who have written books you are reading in class, this new type of communication is something to be aware of and is not going away anytime soon.