Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Million Puppet Project

I have always wanted to be a part of the Guinness Book of World Records. Ever since I was a kid and saw the Happy Days episode called "The Book of Records," (episode 77, aired on 1/18/77) I have always thought it would be cool to be in the Guinness Book. I remember trying to catch quarters off of my elbow to see how many I could catch and flinging quarters all over the house. I know I was not the only kid who did this in 1977.

Now I see my chance! I can be part of a world record. You can, too! The Million Puppet Project. A million puppets is a lot of puppets...

They even have simple puppet designs to help out the puppetry challenged among us. I am partial to the Jumping Jack. Even the good old paper bag puppets would work. If you want to practice online before you make a puppet, maybe this will inspire you.
The puppets can have an educational theme, or just be for fun. But don't get too attached to them because I don't think they will be coming back. They will be taking a one way trip Down Under.

Of course, whatever puppets I collect I will be shipping to Australia before March 21st, '08, and I have no idea how much that will cost, but I don't care... I want be a part of something big and the world's largest hamburger (removed naughty link 03/04/08) is is already out of my league. It will also give me a good excuse to use Google Earth to locate Fremantle, Australia.
Even if this doesn't work, and the Million Puppet Project fails to make the World Record list I still have a plan. I will thrill the world in October.

Monday, February 25, 2008

An Unreasonable Man

This year is been very difficult for me because I have tried to change my approach to my job as a computer resource specialist. I have worked very hard to drop my flexible, bend over backwards for everyone- attitude and force my beliefs about technology and education onto my staff. In effect, I became the unreasonable educator described in Sylvia Martinez' Generation Yes Blog entry the other day. I had decided to attempt this unreasonable educational position at the very beginning of the year, long before the post. While I believed that I could stick with my convictions because it was the right thing to do, the living of that experience was not as easy as I thought. I was wavering.

When I saw Ms. Martinez' unreasonable educator entry, I thought, "Maybe I am right. I just need to stick to my guns and man-up." I had my doubts about the direction that I had been taking almost since beginning my "unreasonable" implementation. I believed that I was just too wishy- washy, but now I felt I had a backer. She is someone who is a paid expert in instructional technology. Certainly, I must be onto something if someone who gets paid for a living to support people in my position, is of the same mind as little old me.

Meanwhile, up until this point, I felt that I had become an outcast in my own school. Maybe this was just a way for the teachers to postpone the inevitable. They would come along any day. But it did not happen, so this blog entry revitalized me.

I felt that I did not need to try out being super nice to people, as others had suggested. I had attempted this in the past and felt as though everyone used me as a welcome mat. Now, I was determined. The force of my will would be strong enough to get through anything, plus the fact that I am right- even if no one else sees it. I was a visionary, a pioneer, like Davy Crockett.

Then I come back to Generation Yes a couple of days later and I see the entry titled Creating Successful Change. And I am wondering, what kind of wonderful things will be in there today? But after reading it I was more confused than ever. In the post Ms. Martinez seems to be in direct conflict with her earlier post. The first was all about keeping your vision and doing the right thing no matter what. No negotiation. But this new post emphasized creating consensus with the group that you are serving (directing, working with?) to support your personal vision as a major theme. You must have a clear vision and share it, get the group to support you, yet not become authoritarian. Isn't a group consensus a negotiation?

You must recall that Good ole Davy, "King of the Wild Frontier," died when the Alamo was over run by Mexicans. So I am now picturing myself standing on the wall of the Alamo in my Coonskin hat, firing off concessions, while the fort is being invaded by non-native technology users. The end is near.

Immediately I posted a response to her blog, "I am confused. Isn’t your blog entry, “The art of being an unreasonable educator,” in direct conflict with what you are saying in, “Creating successful change?” Please clarify."

Ms. Martinez was kind enough to respond, "I don’t think so. I think part of being unreasonable means that you can maintain a stronger vision. In my head, unreasonable is different than authoritarian. I think being unreasonable pushes you up higher on the vertical control axis in this diagram (she has a diagram of her theory). And like I said, this drawing is just a thought. I’m happy to listen to ideas about adjusting it."

Obviously, I am not an expert on technology, education, or any combination of the two, but I do have some experience here. I am a practitioner, but I am not the master. How could I, the grasshopper, help her, the master, with her theories? She does not see my point, but to me it is as obvious as the fact that day and night are opposites.

So, I am back to square one. Perhaps, when you get right down to it, I am the problem at my school. I have eyes but do not see. I don't know what to think anymore. I am what the Buddhists' call, "in my sleep of ignorance." Hopefully, I will awake soon and discover the true nature of reality. This may, in turn, lead me to find the Middle Way and accept a true practice of non extremism relating to using technology in education.

Or, maybe I'll just hit the snooze button and roll over.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A School That's Too High on Gizmos?

I recently read an article from the Washington Post that really hit home with me. I am certainly not the only person to comment on it (Will Richardson, Conservative Teacher, GenYes, Joanne Jacobs, and a Zillion Others) but the article is important to me because it illustrates the opposition that I face every day in my position as Computer Resource Specialist.

To sum the article up- a teacher is complaining because the staff of his brand new school are being forced into using technology for instructional purposes. They want to do what they have always done. In their eyes, the world has not changed. They feel that they are doing the best possible job using the traditional tools and don't want to be forced into changing.

Change is the important element here and how teachers, as well as school systems, handle change.

I think it is human nature that makes people avoid change, it is easier that way. Inside, I believe that we all say this- I can do what I did before, it was ok then, it will be ok now. Teachers have always been the vehicle of instruction. Stand in front of the class and pour out knowledge to the students. "Write down what I say, because it is important." Teaching with technology requires that teachers teach differently. This different way of teaching is a direct challenge to how teachers see themselves in the classroom. They are no longer the expert, but a learner and the technology is now seen as the vehicle for instruction. The teacher's role is diminished. Of course teachers will resist this educational technology change- right up until they retire, or they see the light.

I think as a rule, school systems handle change very badly. If the change can't be managed over a 10 year time frame, schools will not be able to adjust. Technology is changing much too rapidly for any school system to keep up, so school divisions tend to make leaps and jumps with the technology they put in schools. Funding does not supply a steady stream of techno-goodies into the classroom, and normally as soon as technology gets there, it is obsolete. Administrators somehow believe that technology purchases are finite. That this big purchase this year will solve all of our problems for the next few years. They are not eager to "dump" money into the bottomless pit of technology, year after year, so the spending ends. You can not approach a long term problem with short term answers.

Teachers have seen all of this influx of stuff before in some previous technology incarnation, or educational trend, and refer to this as just another part of a cycle. Next year it will be something else. Teachers, deep down, believe that if they can just get by this year, they will be able to wait out this latest technology push.

It is not all the teacher's fault; they are not adequately prepared by their employers for the change of using new instructional tools. When the techno-goodies arrive, in most cases, the teachers are just thrown in the deep end of the pool without any training. Most of the time any training that is offered, is up the teacher to acquire on their own time, and does not translate into the much needed core area professional development that teachers must have to stay certified. Optional training allows teachers to opt out.

So, now we all know there is a problem, how do we address it? Elementary my dear Watson, everyone involved in education must accept that technology is changing education and that each of us has a role to actively perform in this continuing process. The world is changing, do something to make these changes positive for the classroom. I thought this was going to be hard!

School divisions must implement long term plans for acquiring technology and demand that all staff members learn the skills needed to use the tools provided by giving mandatory training. All teachers should be evaluated on the technology training that is provided, during the yearly teacher evaluation process.

Acceptance of educational change must begin at the top. This is the most difficult task to achieve because the people in charge are the ones with the most experience and are the least accepting of any changes. Administrators must embrace technology changes because they set the tone in each building. If they don't believe in the value of technology, neither will their staff. It will not matter what gizmos the school gets, the overall educational technology program will suffer.

Teachers who resist this technology change need to understand is that this change will not undo itself and go back to 20 years ago. While it may be easier to do what we have always done, evolution dictates that only those who can adapt to changes in their environment will survive. If teachers are given the chance to change through appropriate instructional technology training and are still incapable of using these new skills, they should be removed from the classroom. The new teachers may not have the experience that older teachers have, but because they want the job, they are much more adaptable.

Mr. Welsh, the writer of the Washington Post article, is an experienced teacher with 30 years of service. He resents the technology changes that he is forced into using for instruction. I have a simple solution for him and all of the other teachers who resist the educational technology changes. Retire. Supplement your income with a job at Wal-Mart as a greeter. Wave hello to people and slap stickers on little kids who visit the store. You are a dinosaur and your resistance to change hurts the population that you are paid to serve. This unappreciative teacher has an administration that supports technology change in education, a brand new building, and it seems, a lot of useful technology. Mr. Welsh (and all those teachers like him), while I am sure that you are a good teacher, your inability to adapt does not make you a superior teacher. Do your students a favor, and get out of teaching.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I have always hated Spam. I always practice the same technique that I preach to my teachers- delete and forget. I rarely give these unwanted pieces of external contact any thought at all. Until the other day…

I was checking my text messages on my phone and came across one from someone I did not know. I was curious because I have never received a spam text message- this was my first. So I looked at the message. It used a term that I was not familiar with, so I really had to look at it hard and think, "What does that mean?"

I must admit, it took me about five minutes to figure it out- I am apparently not very bright. The term that confused me was “FILF.” For those of you who are slow, like me, it basically means- Father I'd Like to "get friendly with," (I did edit the explanation a little).

For a middle aged man, this was the most flattering message I have had in years! I was strutting around the house like a new man. I said things to my wife like, "Hey baby, check me out. I am FILFy!"

Amy said, "Yes, you are filthy," and became amused whenever I attempted to correct her intentional mispronunciation of my new title. I don't think she understands what an incredible ego boost that text message was for me. I don't exactly fantasize about some FILFy list floating around out there in cyberspace with my name on it, but wouldn't that be totally cool?
Wow! Me, FILFy at 41, who would have thought it? If my mom were alive, I am sure she would be very proud...

I think it is important to thank people who make me feel good inside, so I would like to thank Emma- you know who you are! Of course, it would be wrong to contact her directly- even if her email address did work (her URL didn't work either), so I won't. I don't think that her "random" act of kindness will be forgotten when she is sitting in judgment before the Lord (it should definately be a bonus for her, or is it a him?). It couldn't really be a random selection, could it? Wasn't I picked special? None of the other guys I talked to about this were sent a FILFy message.

In any case, I am going to choose to call this a positive experience and wear my FILFy label proudly. I will try to keep my looks up for my adoring fans, even if my wife doesn't appreciate my FILFiness. Maybe I can hold on to my title for a few years before graduating to FFOG (Fabulous and "Friendly" Old Guy) status. I just made that up, but it sounded good to me.

I thought it would be nice if I shared some news in my blog about some "good" spam for a change instead of the spam that makes you feel like you are incomplete as a person without the special creams, pills, or diet plans the email is trying to sell you. Those other emails make me angry. They are just assuming too much. I don't need any of that stuff. Hey, I didn't have to buy my FILFiness, it was presented to me in a little 63 character text message.
Me? I'm FILFy and you just can't take that away from me now. :-)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

It's a Twitter World

I have really come to enjoy using a little web 2.0 tool named Twitter. I have even mentioned it in my Blog before (here, and here). I like it because it lets me connect with people, some of them don't even know. That seems odd, but aren't relationships sometimes about the enjoyment we get out of vicariously experiencing others lives?

I suppose some chose me to be in their Twitter group of people they follow because of where I live, what my job is, or maybe it is completely at random. It does not matter, because I really look forward to hearing what everyone else is doing. One guy who is following me works for the NFL and is at the Super Bowl today. His little bits of insight into that world are fascinating to me.

Sometimes the postings are lame- I don't care, almost all of my postings are lame! I still want to know what is going on with everyone. I think there is a connective power in sharing 140 characters at a time. Thankfully, I am not the only one who thinks like this or it would get boring very quickly. But there are limitations to Twitter- sometimes 140 characters is not all that I want to share.

I am excited to say that there are many tools out there that borrow from the Twitter idea (which was not the first tool of this type) and make a different communication tool, or use Twitter to add to their own tool set.

Jaiku is a similar to Twitter. You can post what you are doing or thinking, but you can also add in your other social RSS feeds such as Twitter,, Flickr, this blog or anything else that has a feed url you can copy and paste. I like this micro-blog but I must stay were my peeps are, and I can keep this one active without visiting it (I really only have one active friend there so I don't think she misses me).

Pownce is very Twitter like, but you can add in links, files and calendar events along with your message which can be longer that 140 characters. You can even import your friends from Twitter.

Plaxo Pulse is interesting because it allows you to have one place to access all of your social services (RSS feeds), email, and more. You can host photos, videos and snyc your calendar. There is a place for notes and tasks and more. It kind of does a little bit of everything. I am only playing with it now. Once I figure everything out it might just be a good starting point of my day...

Viygo is an interactive timeline that you can use to pull in your messages and your friends messages from Twitter. You can create your own timelines and pull in news to the timeline. A different way to see what is going on.

There is a new service called Seesmic which is like Twitter but with video messages. I haven't been able to play with it because I can't get an account set up (still waiting for an invitation code) but it sounds like a cool idea.

Yedda is a social service that revolves not around people, but questions and the answers that people have to the questions. When you sign up, it asks you what subjects you feel that you are an expert in, and then when questions are submitted that are a fit for you, you get a chance to help someone. I like the idea of helping others a lot, but hate the adds on the side. Nothing is perfect, and people do need to make money!

Tweetmeme looks for postings on Titter that link to outside content and then it compares the links it finds to sort out what are the post popular links. Like a Twitter popular links aggregator. Interesting...

Because Twitter uses an open API, things like Tweetmeme are possible. Some smart people have taken the API, and pulled political Tweets and compiled them at Politweets. Candidates are posting to Twitter and so are political reporters and bloggers who are following the primaries. If you are interested in politics- it keeps an up to the minute commentary about what is going on right now in the campaign. I don't think you can be any better informed of what is going on.

Twitter has become a different way of sharing information that is beginning to be taken pretty seriously a valuable tool by many people. But even though it is fun, you do need to know how to behave while using Twitter, or you risk annoying your friends. Of course, we can all be better Twitter users. It does bother me that some people over-think things about Twitter, but I am sure that Twitter is something that is a little different for everyone. It does not worry me any because Twitter will become what people decide that it should be, or they will just move on to the next free social tool...

My Twitter (and Twitter-like) Links -