Moths to Flames, or Artfully Augmented Reality?

ImageListening to Katherine Isbister of the NYU Game Innovation Lab on NPR’s Science Friday called to mind the divide that exists among educators today over technology integration.

One caller complained of the “atomization of human interactions” that he sees from “people running around looking at screens.” He said he didn’t see the point in GIL research that could further encourage our addiction to our (mobile) devices.

Another caller wondered about how the GIL’s research could apply to help rural schools that have taken advantage of federal funding initiatives to put more of those same screens in our students’ hands in an effort to keep them from being further atomized by virtue of the isolated physical space they inhabited.

This is a healthy debate to have, but, for the most part, the debate is over and we have moved collectively and decidedly in the direction of greater technology integration in schools, rural and urban. The reality of that move is much more complex than either atomization and isolation versus vastly greater and healthier interconnectedness.

I used to drive a particularly introverted student to and from school, and he would tell me about the massive multiplayer on-line games that he spent a great deal of time playing when he got home. I sometimes found myself wishing that this student were required to participate in athletics, and, yet, I knew that athletics would likely not be an area that would leave him feeling good about himself.

Talk to students today who play massive multiplayer on-line games and they will tell you stories of interactions they have regularly in virtual spaces with people in faraway countries. Through these interactions, they have learned simple words and expressions in other languages, made new friends, and learned valuable (perhaps painful) lessons about cultural stereotypes. Without access to those games, would students like these go outdoors and have consistently healthy interactions with peers in their own communities? Would they have gone out and gotten in trouble, and learned from those experiences? Would they have spent that gaming time in front of the television watching SpongeBob Squarepants? Who is to say, really?

Talk to people who first met in virtual spaces and are now moving in together and planning futures together, as is the case with one of my close friends.

The reality of what Ms. Isbister called our “moths to flame” tendency is that we’re really interacting much more often with many more people through increasing access to virtual spaces made possible by new technologies.

It is no longer really about whether to further integrate technology in education, it is how – as Ms. Isbister so eloquently put it – to artfully use new technology to improve learning outcomes and quality of life.

I celebrate the Game Innovation Lab for thinking of artful ways to enhance our virtual and physical lives as well as our education. I find it fascinating that new research about “power poses” is informing research at GIL on ways to help students deal with math anxiety to improve learning outcomes.

The Game Innovation Lab has the minds to make a difference in education, to keep us away from the flames and steer us in the direction of artful integration of technology. Thank you, GIL!


The Roman Goddess of Wisdom Will be Watching

For a few social media entrepreneurs, fortunes have been made off of our love for sharing our thoughts and photos in virtual spaces. 

It is refreshing to see that some of that money is being put toward transforming higher education models. 

Snapfish CEO Ben Nelson has put his financial resources behind for-profit Minerva University, and the school will open its doors in San Francisco in the fall of this year with the promise of offering an Ivy League-caliber education for a fraction of the cost: $10,000 per year, not including travel costs associated with a global immersion graduation requirement that will have students changing world locations (as yet unspecified) every semester. 

While for-profit education models have not yet yielded the desired results, even those within the ranks of higher education are starting to see the end of the current higher education paradigm. Just last week, Clay Shirky of New York University published a blog post forecasting “The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age.” 

Shirky says that tenured professors have been complacent at best or complicit at worst as state funding cuts have led to skyrocketing tuitions and caste systems on college campuses that exploited graduate students or non-tenured colleagues. You can essentially hear Shirky argue in favor of something along the lines of what Minerva Institute is pledging to offer at various points in his post, including the following: 

If we can’t keep raising costs for students (we can’t) and if no one is coming to save us (they aren’t), then the only remaining way to help these students is to make a cheaper version of higher education for the new student majority.

While Minerva’s Web site qualifies its existence as “*Pending WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) Approval,” there is plenty to lend it credibility in scholarly circles and in competing for the best and brightest in the college admissions arena.

ImageMinerva Dean Stephen Kosslyn is a former Harvard University Dean of Behavioral Sciences. The school will essentially be run through the Keck Graduate Institute, part of the highly respected undergraduate liberal arts group known as the Claremont University Consortium.

After their first year in San Francisco, students will study in a different location in the world each semester. Presumably, much of the content would be delivered online through both LMS and other virtual spaces, with a small number of teaching faculty facilitating the learning process on site. 

Shirky’s blog post is a shot across the bow, to say the least, of higher ed as it exists today. Nelson’s resources make it possible for him to do much more than blog about the need for change in higher education. And, even if he hopes to capitalize off the venture, Nelson has made a decision to put his financial resources into something that offers the promise of transforming higher education to better suit the means and needs of the overwhelming majority of today’s students.

They will be competing in a global economy when they graduate. Having had a variety of cross-cultural, immersive experiences will certainly work to their advantage. Having accumulated a lot of debt along the way will not. 

On Super Bowl Sunday, I celebrate Nelson, Kosslyn, and all the others working to make Minerva succeed. I feel certain that the Roman goddess of wisdom will be watching to see how this unfolds. 

Celebrating Gibault Catholic High School



A good deal has already been written about the end of snow days at Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo, IL.

As it should be.

Certainly, kids should be kids, and they should go out and play in the snow.

I suspect, though, that even on elearning snow days, they will find the time.

The incentive toward greater student engagement and productivity while working in an elearning environment is certainly influenced by the deployment of effective online pedagogy aligned with Bill Pelz’s principles.

Productivity in particular, though, is probably most influenced by the simple pull of fun in the outdoors, or perhaps the pull of the sofa and a video game. For adolescents, in particular, knowing that you’re confined to a single space for a given time – the bells at school, the four walls of a few different classrooms – can demotivate. The current paradigm also doesn’t allow for high school students to start the process of making difficult choices such as the ones they will face in college or the work world – whether to put work before play, and how best to manage time.

Gibault’s move toward eteaching and elearning in virtual spaces on snow days represents a significant step toward fulfilling the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning to better suit the needs of a modern and highly mobile – and sometimes immobilized – world.

It should be celebrated, studied, and refined.

Gibault is helping its students  prepare for participation in a world which will require a high tech skill set as well as a  lifelong learner, work-on-the-go mindset.

It both acknowledges the motivational sway of flexible schedules and makes the most of the hardware and software available today, technology already the palms of so many hands and facilitating a paradigm shift toward anytime, anyplace learning in virtual spaces.

From the “Snow Day Simulation” rollout to actual full-on implementation, Gibault has proceeded thoughtfully, and initial signs of student and teacher buy in are apparent.

Soon, if not already, the rollout evaluation and the harder questions will come. What kinds of skills and content are being cultivated and delivered on those elearning snow days? How profound is the collaboration between peers in the virtual spaces deployed? To what degree is formative assessment, statistical sampling, and scaffolding happening in My Big Campus? Is there a philosophical framework for the whole enterprise, such as Pelz’s principles of effective online pedagogy?

But today, I celebrate Gibault Catholic High School for making important strides toward fulfilling the promise of technology, and toward preparing its students to compete in a global economy and a technology-infused society.

I celebrate the students of Gibault for seizing the opportunity their school has given them to learn WITH technology, and to view their computers, tablets, and smartphones as cognitive tools rather than as simple entertainment-delivery systems.

Just don’t forget to play in the snow some, too.

QR Code Adventures on the Small Screen

20140120-130742.jpgToday’s post expands on my previous link to Joe Dale’s thorough and thoughtful look at the trend toward QR Codes in the classroom.

QR codes are particularly relevant to those of us fortunate enough to work in 1:1 tablet teaching and learning environments. If you are among those, please proceed! If you prefer to go directly to my Explain Everything/YouTube video rather than to read, please simply scroll to the bottom of this post.

First, you don’t need a projector to make the most of this approach to active learning environments and potential differentiation. You can print your QR codes and supply each “pod” or group with its own QR code printout. Those codes could link to the same or different sites/activities, and they could link to some Google Forms for statistical sampling or self evaluation purposes. With regard to the latter, among the QR codes that live in a folder on my desktop are those that link to Google Forms allowing students to reflect on their class performance or to view samples of stellar student work from weeks or even years past. Responses on Google Forms are automatically compiled in tidy spreadsheets. This is a huge time saver!

If you’re like me and try to save yourself those trips to the copy machine (not to mention help save the planet through reduced paper use), then you will likely want to embed your QR codes into a Powerpoint or Keynote file. Kids can either get out of their seats and scan, or scan from practically wherever they are seated.

If you use DropBox to deliver assignments to your students, you can get the URL to that file simply enough. Click on a file in DropBox and the link to the right of that file. Click “Get Link” and, presto, you have the URL copied to your clipboard.

Next, head to any Web-based QR code generator if you’re on your laptop, or simply use your QR code reader on your iPad to generate a code. I use

Download the QR code generated, project, and you have just taken a small but significant step toward paperless, active teaching and learning environments. 

QR Coding the Classroom

ImageAt Educational Technology Today, I found a feed linking to a very helpful piece written by Joe Dale about various classroom applications for Quick Response (QR) codes. Download a free QR Reader to your tablet or smart phone and scan the QR image at left to explore some of the possibilities presented by Mr. Dale (or simply click HERE). I will follow this teaser post up with more detailed observations of my own from personal QR-coded classroom experiences, but I wanted to give Mr. Dale a cyber shout out for this very helpful contribution to the dialogue on active learning environments.

How is Technology Transforming Education

Happy New Year, and welcome back! I hope you’re settling into 2014 in a transformational mindset (or at the very least having enjoyed a peaceful end to the 2013 year)!

If you’re not, I hope you will consider watching  Sir Ken Robinson’s video below, which came across in the feed at my virtual newspaper, Educational Technology Today (I am offering free subscription in the New Year, which would be a great deal, except it is already free anyway).

My favorite quotes from Sir Ken Robinson’s talk is as follows:

“The tools themselves are creating cultural changes and possibilities which are really quite new. Our students are connected just with the people in the room around them, but with literally anybody on the planet they care to be connected to.”

Sir Robinson’s comments provide a link across time and space to my end-of-year post here at What’s Transforming Teaching and Learning? I wrote in December about and the potential of Twitter to link our students to the leading voices in their preferred fields of study. It may not be quite as easy to connect “with literally anybody” as Sir Robinson would suggest – not all of the leading voices post their thoughts in social media spaces or, if they do, they may not allow unfettered access to the virtual spaces that their thoughts inhabit.

With regard to his comments on creation, I only wish that Adobe wasn’t boosting CS prices to the point where schools are starting to have to consider free but inferior alternatives available in the marketplace.

Enjoy the video, and, again, thank you for visiting. I hope 2014 is all you wish it to be.

YouTube Synopsis:
Published on Dec 7, 2012

“Technology is changing the world rapidly, impacting the way students learn and opening new possibilities for educators. Take a look what Sir Ken Robinson had to say when asked about the role of technology in education.

Follow the series at

How is technology is changing your classroom? Do you find that it is allowing for greater creatvitity? Join the conversation on Twitter using the #createnow hashtag and be sure to tag us at @adobeedu!”

A Plea for a ( Holiday Gift!


With the holidays already upon us this will likely be my final post of 2013. I hope that each of you who has visited my new blog this year has a safe and fun-filled holiday season!

Today’s post focuses on and also serves as a call for your support in building an invaluable online resource for those who share my passion for a profound paradigm shift in education. Consider it your holiday gift to me! – which describes itself on its Twitter page as “The curation platform that enables you to turn Twitter, Facebook & RSS into online papers and treat readers to fresh news, daily” – has considerable potential to enrich professional development and to facilitate dialogue in teaching and learning, as well as to help our students stay abreast of the very latest developments in whatever they may be researching for their senior project (K-12) or thesis (undergraduate/graduate student).

Based on your own source selections, pulls online content tailored to your specific interests and passions into a nice-looking cyber journal. You simply curate through your source selections, which you can edit at any time as you discover new and better sources.

At my school, where senior project serves as the culminating experience of each student’s high school education, this could really be a research game changer, provided plenty of guidance is supplied from project mentors on the subject of evaluation of Internet resources. It could put our students in touch with real leaders within their respective fields of study, with those who update us daily on new and exciting developments via social media channels.

In the past, I have developed a cyber journal for the school I currently serve that targets the passions of our particular student population. It gets regular retweets from a few devoted followers.

Last night, I spent considerable time putting together a new cyber journal geared toward my fellow educational technology enthusiasts, which I have called Educational Technology Today.

One of the stumbling blocks I encountered was the 25-source limit on There are simply so many sources out there commenting regularly via social media on developments in the field of educational technology, which is both wonderful and challenging to the curator.

So, please consider giving me a holiday gift this year in the form of your curation suggestions. What Twitter, Facebook, and RSS feeds would you include among your sources? Feel free to email me at

Happy holidays, all!