Wisdom: How to tell your classroom technology helps

November 21, 2015

This is much an encore post from a couple of years ago.

Wise man Alfie Kohn Tweeted a photo of this list by Bill Ferriter. I’d blogged about it before.

It’s still solid, and most school administrators still miss the point. Teachers get sent to courses to “learn to do a PowerPoint,” but rarely can anyone leading those courses tell when to use a PowerPoint, or Keynote, and when a simple list on a chalkboard/whiteboard is more effective, or perhaps when having students copy a list would be more effective, or when students making a poem/song/poster of a point would be more effective.

An international law firm recently directed that it’s army of a couple thousand lawyers would, henceforth, use Prezi instead of PowerPoint.  Nevermind that the lawyers hadn’t mastered PowerPoint and don’t have a clue what to do with Prezi: Some “managing co-partner” was taken in by the swoops of Prezi.  More than four years ago I learned Prezi at a technology course for technologies my district later decided not to support (money, use, lack of internet connections, etc., etc. — I suspected a lack of planning and thinking about how technology could be used).  In the course, I asked the instructor how to tell when to use Prezi instead of PowerPoint — and how to embed YouTube videos for classroom use of a Prezi.  After working for too long, we decided we couldn’t figure out how to embed videos, and so PowerPoint might be more useful.  Then the instructor confessed he didn’t know how to embed videos in PowerPoint, either.

Let alone, when does a video work better than other instructional methods?  Long or short? Notes, quiz, or oral feedback?

Many Texas districts struggle to teach “keyboarding” to students who have difficulty printing notes, letter by letter, because they don’t know cursive writing (and therefore, cannot read their teachers’ comments on their written work).

Is “integrating technology” really the problem?

Anyway, here’s Mr. Ferriter’s list, a checklist to tell whether you’re getting close to actually using technology, or whether you’re just ringing the bells and tooting the whistles of machines on the desks.

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter The Tempered Radical blog.williamferriter.com @plugusin


What do you want kids to do with technology?

Wrong answers Right answers
·         Make Prezis ·         Raise awareness
·         Start blogs ·         Start conversations
·         Create Wordles ·         Find answers
·         Publish Animotos ·         (Answers to
THEIR questions)
·         Design flipcharts ·         Join partners
·         Post to EdModo ·         Make a difference
·         Use Whiteboard ·         Take action
·         Develop apps ·         Drive change

Technology is a tool,
NOT a learning outcome


“Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome,” Bill Ferriter says.  He’s right, of course.

Tip of the old scrub brush to April Niemela@AprilJNiemela.

Alfie Kohn’s Tweet:

More, generally:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

April is National Poetry Month 2014 — are you ready?

March 27, 2014

If you ask me, we don’t have enough poetry in our lives.

In bygone times, newspapers carried poems almost daily.  Magazines carried poems in every issue, but today you find fewer poems published in fewer magazines — can you name the periodical publication in which you last saw a poem that caught your eye, or heart?

National Poetry Month poster for 2006

National Poetry Month poster for 2006. Click image for a larger, more inspirational view.

Rhyme and meter power their way into our minds.  Teachers who use poetry find lessons stick longer with students.

Shouldn’t we use a lot more?

Since 1996, several groups including the Academy of American Poets have celebrated National Poetry Month in April.  There are posters,and of course April is a month with several poems to its creditPaul Revere’s Ride, The Concord Hymn, To a Lady with a Guitar, An April Day, The Waste Land, and several poems just about April as a month.

It’s a good time to beef up our poetry tool boxes, if we are managers of organizations, or teachers, or parents, or human.

Poetry lovers gave thought to how to do that, and there are many good recommendations out there.  For example, from Poetry.org, 30 activities for National Poetry Month 2014:

30 Ways to Celebrate

Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day
The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with co-workers, family, and friends.
Read a book of poetry
“Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.”
Memorize a poem
“Getting a poem or prose passage truly ‘by heart’ implies getting it by mind and memory and understanding and delight.”
Revisit a poem
“America is a country of second acts, so today, why not brush the dust off these classics and give them a fresh read?”
Put poetry in an unexpected place
“Books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities.”
Bring a poem to your place of worship
“We define poetry as the unofficial view of being, and bringing the art of language in contact with your spiritual practices can deepen both.”
Attend a poetry reading
“Readings have been occurring for decades around the world in universities, bookstores, cafes, corner pubs, and coffeehouses.”
Play Exquisite Corpse
“Each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem.”
Read a poem at an open mic
“It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local writing community.”
Support literary organizations
“Many national and local literary organizations offer programs that reach out to the general public to broaden the recognition of poets and their work.”
Listen on your commute
“Often, hearing an author read their own work can clarify questions surrounding their work’s tone.”
Subscribe to a literary magazine
“Full of surprising and challenging poetry, short fiction, interviews, and reviews, literary journals are at the forefront of contemporary poetry.”
Start a notebook on Poets.org
“Poets.org lets users build their own personal portable online commonplace book out of the materials on our site.”
Put a poem in a letter
“It’s always a treat to get a letter, but finding a poem in the envelope makes the experience extra special.”
Watch a poetry movie
“What better time than National Poetry Month to gather some friends, watch a poetry-related movie, and perhaps discuss some of the poet’s work after the film?”


Take a poem out to lunch
Adding a poem to lunch puts some poetry in your day and gives you something great to read while you eat.”
Put a poem on the pavement
“Go one step beyond hopscotch squares and write a poem in chalk on your sidewalk.”
Recite a poem to family and friends
“You can use holidays or birthdays as an opportunity to celebrate with a poem that is dear to you, or one that reminds you of the season.”
Organize a poetry reading
“When looking for a venue, consider your local library, coffee shop, bookstore, art gallery, bar or performance space.”
Promote public support for poetry
“Every year, Congress decides how much money will be given to the National Endowment for the Arts to be distributed all across America.”
Start a poetry reading group
“Select books that would engage discussion and not intimidate the reader new to poetry.”
Read interviews and literary criticism
“Reading reviews can also be a helpful exercise and lend direction to your future reading.”
Buy a book of poems for your library
“Many libraries have undergone or are facing severe cuts in funding. These cuts are often made manifest on library shelves.”
Start a commonplace book
“Since the Renaissance, devoted readers have been copying their favorite poems and quotations into notebooks to form their own personal anthologies called commonplace books.”
Integrate poetry with technology
“Many email programs allow you to create personalized signatures that are automatically added to the end of every email you send.”
Ask the Post Office for more poet stamps
“To be eligible, suggested poets must have been deceased for at least ten years and must be American or of American descent.”
Sign up for a poetry class or workshop
“Colleges and arts centers often make individual courses in literature and writing available to the general public.”
Subscribe to our free newsletter
“Short and to the point, the Poets.org Update, our electronic newsletter, will keep you informed on Academy news and events.”
Write a letter to a poet
“Let the poets who you are reading know that you appreciate their work by sending them a letter.”
Visit a poetry landmark
“Visiting physical spaces associated with a favorite writer is a memorable way to pay homage to their life and work.”

How will you use National Poetry Month in your classroom, teachers?  And by “teachers, ” I mean you, math teachers, social studies teachers, phys ed teachers, biology and chemistry teachers.  You don’t use poetry?  No wonder America lags in those subjects . . .

What’s do you remember about your teachers’ use of poetry in learning?

What’s your favorite poem?


If a student values education, he will overcome much

November 13, 2013

But, really: See what some students put up with, just to learn?

We usually had enough chairs in Dallas.  Usually.

Those kids don’t have any.

Wisdom, a checklist about students’ use of technology

August 18, 2013

Cheat Sheet:  What do you want kids to do with technology?  By Bill Ferriter

Cheat Sheet: What do you want kids to do with technology? By Bill Ferriter The Tempered Radical blog.williamferriter.com @plugusin

“Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome,” Bill Ferriter says.  He’s right, of course.

Tip of the old scrub brush to April Niemela@AprilJNiemela.

More, generally:

History of America, or art in America, or American art, or . . .

July 9, 2013

Brilliant piece from Grant Snider — history teachers, this should be a poster in your classroom, no?  Art teachers?

Grant Snider's

Grant Snider’s “American Art, exploring a country through its paintings”

In the course of a junior-level, high school U.S. history class, students should experience each of these works, and many others.  This is one whimsical way to work with serious and uplifting material, no?

Mr. Snider has a short essay — inspiring — and the information on each of the works he portrays, at the Modern Art site (I’ve added links below, here).

Since that formative vacation, the art museum is always one my of first stops in visiting a new city. In the comic above, I’ve curated my ideal collection of 20th-century American art. Here’s a list of works in order of appearance:

Jasper Johns, “Flag”

Edward Hopper,Morning Sun

Ellsworth Kelly, “Red Blue Green”

Wayne Thiebaud, “Refrigerator Pie”

Grant Wood, “Young Corn”

Roy Lichtenstein, “Whaam!”

Stuart Davis, “Colonial Cubism”

Andy Warhol, “Campbell’s Soup Cans”

George Bellows, “Dempsey and Firpo”

Jackson Pollock, “Autumn Rhythm”

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Sky Above Clouds III”

What are your favorite American art works, and what do they portray or demonstrate that you like?


Quote of the moment: Neil Gaiman, on what keeps civilization from barbarism

February 19, 2013

Found it on Facebook.

Neil Gaiman:

Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism.

Looking for the citation of where Gaiman wrote that; probably here.  Gaiman is a contemporary British author of short stories and other works.

No credit line appears for the photo of the library, nor for the design of the quote on the photo.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen.


Darrell’s corollaries of education + technology: No good work goes unpunished, most opportunities missed

January 27, 2013

Aristotle, and his pupil Alexander

Does this 19th century engraving show the perfect learning situation? Alexander had no iPhone, no laptop; Aristotle used no PowerPoint, no grading machines, not even a chalkboard. Have we come a long way, or is this a measure of how far we’ve fallen? “Aristotle and his pupil, Alexander (c. 340 BCE)” (original source?)

David Warlick‘s blog serves up a lot of stuff to make teachers think (cynically, I wonder whether education administrators can be shoved into thinking at all . . . but I digress).

David Warlick

David Warlick, in a taxi in Shanghai, probably off at some education conference or other.

Recently he pondered his own son’s use of several different kinds of media at once.  In a longer discussion that would be worth your while, someone asked, “Has the nature of information influenced the emerging ‘appropriate technologies’ like the digital learning object called an iBook?”  David responded:

My knee-jerk response is, “Not nearly enough.” This current push toward digital textbooks, urged on by our Secretary of Education, concerns me. I worry that we’re engaged in a race to modernize schooling, rather than a sober and thoughtful imagining and designing of learning materials and practices that are more relevant to today’s learners (ourselves include), today’s information landscape and a future that has lost the comforts of certainty, but become rich with wondrous opportunities.

What I enjoyed, though, about my experience in publishing an iBook was learning to hack some features into the book that were not part of Apples general instructions for using their publishing tool. This is the ultimate opportunity of digital learning objects and environments, that they can be hacked into new and better learning experiences by information artisans who see what’s there and what it can become.

In a cynical mood, I commented on an earlier statement Warlick made, about how technology has changed the education landscape:

“… we live in a time of no unanswered questions.”


1.  The internet and especially portable devices have exponentially increased the probability that difficult questions will be answered incorrectly.

2.  For teachers, no longer is it possible to ask a simple, factual question as a teaser to get students to search for the answer, and thereby learn something deeper along the way.  Portable computer devices present one more non-print medium in which education appears to be abdicating its duties, and the war.  (We missed radio, film, television, recorded television, and desk-top computing; now we’re missing portable devices.)

English: Cropped picture of Jaime Escalante

Legendary AP calculus teacher Jaime Escalante; pencil, paper, chalkboard and chalk, maybe a slide rule, made up his technology kit. Photo: Wikipedia

3.  No question goes unanswered, but what is really rare is a question that is worth answering; even more rare, that good question that can be answered well from free internet sources.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary:  When administrators and policy makers tell educators (especially teachers) they wish to utilize “new technology,” they mean they want new ways to figure out ways to fire teachers, because they don’t have a clue how technology can be used in education, nor have they thought broadly enough about what education is.

Darrell’s Education Technology Corollary Corollary: When a teacher effectively uses technology in a classroom, it will be at the teacher’s instigation, the teacher’s expense, and administrators will get revenge on the teacher for having done so.

I’ve wondered whether I wasn’t too cynical; David offered a solid response.

A couple of weeks later, my cynicism is growing.  I’m warning you, teachers, you adopt new technologies at your risk, often — especially in some school districts like Dallas ISD.

It’s a caution only.  Teachers, being teachers, will continue to push the envelopes, as Fionna Larcom related at Warlick’s blog.  Good on ’em.  One out of 500,000 will get accolades outside the education system, like Jaime Escalante did.  Many others will face reprimand.

But if education is to improve, this experimentation by teachers must continue.  So teachers slog on, under-appreciated and often opposed in their attempts to fix things.

Someday a school system will figure out how to unlock teachers’ creativity, knowledge and skills.  Not soon enough.

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos

Teacher in primary school in northern Laos.  Photo: Wikipedia

(Can someone explain to me how Warlick’s blog, with much better stuff than I do here, gets fewer hits?  Teachers, not enough of you are reading broadly enough.)

More, not necessarily the opinion of this blog:


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