Powerful words

You make me a better educator.

Words can be powerful. Sometimes, you never know where that power is going to come from.

I was finishing up a meeting with some wonderful Moodle users tonight. We had chatted about a variety of strategies and use cases. A few shared what they are doing in Moodle. It was a good meeting with some great people. I’ve been in plenty of meetings like this.

This one turned out different. As I was leaving, the organizer of the group thanked me for coming. I thanked her in return for allowing me to be part of the group and her efforts in connecting people together. Then she said something that floored me

“Thank you for all you do. You make me a better educator”

WOW. I didn’t really know what to say. I’m sure that I wasn’t very elegant in my response. I know that I thanked her and said something about being in this for learning. But, I’m sure that it wasn’t as powerful as the gift that she gave me.

I’m very thankful for what she said. I hope that if someone makes a difference for you, you share a similar expression with them. I can tell you that those powerful words touched me very deeply.

Where have I been?

I’ve been focused a lot on work lately. Usually, work isn’t quite as time consuming as it has been through the last couple of months, but this year it has.

I do enjoy my day job. I get to work with a wide variety of wonderful people. I also get to focus on student learning, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.

I do want to post more of the great ideas and implementations of student learning that I come across (and occasionally develop). Here are a couple of things that I need to post:

  • Student submitted videos in Moodle
  • Using Moodle to help develop vocabulary skills
  • Creating a Reading Log in Moodle
  • Students sharing work in Moodle
  • FlashCards in Moodle (I’ve posted about this before)
  • H5P and interactive videos in Moodle

Hopefully, I can start posting about some of these projects soon. Until then, keep working hard for student success.

The Glitteratti


Picture by:h heyerlein


The Glitteratti. This is a term for teachers (and others) who seek the Glitter over the gold. (Please note that this post was very much inspired by the Tech Coach Blog post “Glue, Glitter and Gold, by Bob Harrison). Glitter is the fun, shiny, attractive parts of educational technology use. Gold is the substantive learning.

As humans, the glitter is very attractive. We are attracted to glitter is real, fundamental ways. However, we also need to be careful about not chasing after “fool’s gold” instead of the real thing.

A quick search of ISTE sessions for this year (I wasn’t able to go), provides this as the very first result of Concurrent Sessions: 101 Free Tech Tools for Teachers. The very first session. Skill level to evaluate, understand and process these 101 Tools? Beginner. (In case you’d like to preview the 101 Tools, I’ve provided a link.)

Now, I am just as guilty. Years ago, I attended some of these same sessions. Heck, I may have even presented a similar session. However, it’s not just one of these sessions. There are lots of them. (Check out 60 in 60, which has an entire web site and business associated with it). I’m also pretty positive that these folks mean well. However, if we are going to move Educational Technology forward, we need to focus not on the glitter, but on the gold.

Technology is becoming a fundamental part of education. Whether or not it makes the kind of impact that is possible or not is up to us. We need to make sure that we are leveraging technology to achieve accomplishments that we could only dream of in the past. Those accomplishments are geared around the latest glitter, but are deeply embedded in valuable gold.

Invest in…

“I wasn’t always a fan, but I’m a convert now.”

That was a quote from one of our county people about Moodle. See, this person was big on BlackBoard. After all, BlackBoard was offering great prices. The county was comparing BlackBoard to Moodle and BlackBoard was “prettier” at the time. (And I would agree, BlackBoard was a bit prettier then, but I had some other usability issues with it at that time.) So the county pushed local districts to adopt BlackBoard.

Anyway, the county always thought that we were the odd balls. We liked Moodle. We worked to make it more user friendly. (In fact, I was able to do some contract work to make another Moodle more user friendly. Those teachers were blown away by the changes that I thought were pretty simple and obvious.)

See, I’ve always proposed that you are investing in something. You are investing your time, your energy, your efforts, your thoughts, your money and more. The question for me has always been are you investing in yourself or in someone else. Now to be clear, it is necessary to invest in others. There is no way that you can do everything your self. However, for really important things, I generally prefer to invest in us. I consider lesson delivery pretty important. So I invested in us.

A few years later, at least one of our county people agrees. BlackBoard pulled the great funding rates and suddenly districts were faced with significant costs if they wanted to continue using BlackBoard. Most districts couldn’t take on that kind of cost. We stayed the course with Moodle and have continued to develop our skills. Chris Kenniburg has grown from being an excellent Moodle Administrator to developing Moodle plugins. Great things can be done if you are an excellent Moodle Administrator, but even more control can be had by developing your own plugins and themes. (Seriously, check out the Fordson Theme and Easy Enrolment, these focus Moodle on the K-12 environment).

Teachers face a similar situation with the various tech tools out there. Many teachers follow the “fun, shiny” of a wide variety of apps, sites and more. Much time is spent learning how to certain things, training students, etc. This is an investment in someone else. Some teachers will invest in themselves by learning a great tool and becoming an expert at that. Moodle provides such a vast range of tools and learning opportunities. It is open source. And if you fortunate enough to have(or persistent enough to demand) a Moodle Administrator that cares and will put the effort into making Moodle work for your environment, you can count on a fantastic learning environment for your students.

You are always making an investment. Be sure to know who you are investing in and why.

Leadership

This is Leadership. Leadership looks and sounds like.

It’s not about divisiveness. It’s not about winning and losing. Rather, this is about thoughtfulness. This is about being willing to look at reality and ask not what is easy but what is necessary.

 

Just a few quotes:

There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth.

 

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

Heck, go read the transcript or watch the video.

Fun Stuff

It’s always fun to see a different way of looking at things or doing accomplishing goals. Here is a different way to tow a car.

This method has a couple of advantages:

  • It’s quick
  • Less likely to damage the car (nothing is connected to the frame or body)
  • It’s efficient

There are a couple of disadvantages:

  • It requires space on the right side of the car (doesn’t look it work either way)
  • It requires a solid surface around the vehicle

Let’s face it though, this is pretty cool.

What can we do differently in education and achieve excellent results?

 

Moodle Update

Well, I just upgraded to Moodle 3.3. I’ve played around with it a bit (we have it installed at work, so I get to experience it there). There is always just a bit of trepidation when doing the upgrade. However, I’ve got the process down pretty much now:

  • Download the latest version of Moodle.
  • Log into CPanel on the web site.
  • Change the name of the current installation to something else.
  • Upload the .zip file that was downloaded in step 1.
  • Extract the .zip file.
  • Move the config.php file to the new folder.
  • upgrade PHP (it really is supposed to be at the latest version, but I always end up updating PHP).
  • Log into the moodle course and complete the upgrade.
  • Change all the settings. I’ve also installed the Fordson Theme developed by the wonderful Chris Kenniburg.

Chris has done some great work with developing a them that is user friendly and makes commonly used selections much more “discoverable”. Here is a quick video on the previous version of Fordson. The newer version is even better for users.

This has been one of the smoothest upgrades yet. I’m not sure if that is because I’m becoming more experienced, or if the process is getting better.

However, I’m excited about what the newest version brings. This version brings some user centered features that can help students and teachers. (I think that the Fordson Theme really helps that tremendously. Without the Fordson Theme, some of the settings seemed a bit hidden for me. I’m guessing that that is a because I previously knew where to find everything, but some things seem like there was still a click or two too many. With the Fordson Theme, everything is “right there” for both the student and the teacher.

Anyway, now I need to spend some time adding some pizzazz to the courses – things like Header images (or maybe animated GIF’s), course images and more.

Experts at work

I absolutely love to hear an expert talk about something that they love. I truly enjoy the work of Mark Knopfler. I’ve been a fan since Dire Straits “Dire Straits” album. This album introduced Sultans of Swing . I am a fan of lots of the Dire Straits songs.

When Mark Knopfler released a solo album, Golden Heart (1996), I enjoyed the album quite a bit. I’ve enjoyed (and own) each of his solo releases. Lots of good music, lots of great guitar playing.

It is great to listen to Mark Knopfler talk about the various guitars and their sounds.

Focused on the wrong thing

Today I was told how happy a teacher was that MicroSoft Word was installed in the Lab that he is teaching out of. Hm. I wondered why. The teacher went on to state that “the kids can cheat with Google Docs”. See they just share a document and turn it in.

Oh, my.

Were to start with this? How about this. Kids have email. They can easily share a MicroSoft Word document and “turn it in”. If the teacher thinks that using MicroSoft Word is going to prevent students from cheating, well, he’s going to be missing quite a bit.

But, let’s look just a bit deeper. If your assignment is such that students can simply copy and paste the work and successfully complete the assignment, it’s time to look at your assignment. How much is the student really learning? This sounds like an assignment that is fully rooted in compliance. The students are necessarily learning anything, they are probably mindlessly completing an assignment. This will tell us something about how compliant a student is, but we probably already have a lot of information about how compliant students are.

It’s time that we focus on what students’ truly need to know. It’s time to use technology to advance how we learn, you student’s learn and how we demonstrate what we have learned. Let’s stop thinking that we’ve “outsmarted” students from cheating because they can use Word instead of Google Docs.

Finding your work

Whenever we do work, we never know what or where it will impact people. I was reminded of this once again when I discovered that some work that I did for ATEP was featured on Moodle News. Since the title of the post is “Download This Course on Using Moodle”, I’m going to go ahead and presume that there is some support there (it is even referred to as a “quality walk through”).

This is a course that I developed specifically for the ATEP program (which was funded by a National Science Foundation Grant).

It’s these odd times when you realize that the work that you do can go beyond what you know. I know that I worked with some wonderful teachers who developed the material for the ATEP site. I know that positive feedback that I received when working directly with them. The lead investigators were very positive about my contributions. They provided some wonderful feedback.

But I thought that was pretty much the end. Once more, though, I’ve been presented with an opportunity to remember that you don’t always know how, why or with whom that you make a difference.

But sometimes, you are lucky enough to find out.