Category Archives: Insights

I’m not convinced about 1:1…

Those abreast of trends in education know the fervor with which traditional teaching is criticized. We should throw out our old models of desks in rows, sages on stages, empty vessel filling, and preoccupation with standards and test. I agree. Period. Let’s stop teaching like it’s 1955.

I shouldn’t have to mention it, but criticizing the current paradigm of education is not an attack on teachers or administrators. There are larger forces at play that make it near impossible for well-meaning educators to change things.

(c) Matt Arguello

I’m going to add another idea to the mix. I’m hesitant about the rush to adopt 1-to-1 programs. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. Why is 1-to-1 better? Why not 1-to-2, or 1-to-3?
  2. Wouldn’t one device for two or three students improve information literacy and access WHILE fostering real life collaboration?
  3. Are devices becoming the new desks? With desks, students are isolated despite being in the same room.
  4. Adults don’t share devices (generally, with good reason). Do we really need to give kids a head start? I don’t believe sharing devices will hamper students’ learning to use them. On the contrary, collaborative learning is often more efficient.
  5. Many students have plenty of time to work alone at home. Must we really use precious school time for independent screen time?
Of course there are situations in which each student needs a device, typing essays comes to mind or other individual projects. I’m just not convinced we should be rushing into 1-to-1 use in all contexts.
As will all posts and opinions, I’m willing to be shown the error of my thinking. What good is a blog if one cannot think out loud and get feedback from others. What are your thoughts?

Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Insights, Thinking Out Loud


Time to think

Do you think instant retrieval of information has impacted students’ willingness to take time to think?

Kids are naturally impatient. That’s fine. Patience is learned and many adults don’t have it. But I wonder if students expect themselves to retrieve and process information as quickly as a computer does. In my math class students are often impatient with other when time is required to process a problem. Sometimes the student doing the thinking is pretty quick to say s/he does not know. I don’t think this is a new problem but maybe it’s being compounded.

We should remind our students that taking time to think is actually preferred to being reactive and providing instant answers.


Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Insights


Another awesome CUE conference

What is it about this time of the school year? It seems that every year as soon as Spring hits everything suddenly has more urgency. I suddenly realize that I’m running out of time to finish or start certain projects. Deadlines seem to speed toward me and it all just seems to pile up.

I’m convinced that CUE folks had exactly this in mind when they first decided to schedule the conference for mid-March. It’s the perfect time of year to give teachers that extra dose of motivation or inspiration to finish out the year.

CUE was awesome again this year. It was my first time as a speaker at the conference and it was a great experience to share my knowledge with attendees. For those keeping track, my session was entitled Imaging Basics Using Free Web Tools. I covered some basic techniques and concepts of imaging tools and how these tools can be used in different curricula. As a professional photographer I use Photoshop a lot. It’s a great tool and has almost limitless potential for creativity. However, it’s very expensive. Enter free web tools.

In the past few years many different web 2.0 tools that focus on image manipulation have sprung up. Lately, some of them have begun to rival Photoshop in terms of basic to moderate manipulation. If you’d like to check them out head over to AVIARY.COM or SUMOPAINT.COM. There are others but those are particularly good.

If you’d like to see my slides from my presentation they can be found at Additional resources can be found at

The sessions I attended were great as usual. Particularly useful was Bill Selak’s Improving Student Learning by Creating an Online Video Library. I have already started making short videos for my students. It’s actually quite interesting how easily video engages them.


Teachers are hungry. Reflections on #EdCampOC

After only a few years being an educator I’ve realized that one of the things that drew me to teaching was not only a love of learning but of sharing. To be honest, I am not very fond of delivering information beyond, “Hey, look! Isn’t that cool?”  The traditional top down model of instruction just doesn’t feel right. There is something powerful about discovery and going deeper, about making those new connections but in a collaborative manner. This isn’t really new. Educators have been saying for decades that the “sage on a stage” model is ineffective. So why is it then that most professional development is structured in this way?

Now I can honestly say that my experiences with PD have not been that bad. But from what I gather after speaking with many other teachers, it’s a scary scary world out there. I mean, are all-day PD workshops on how to use a textbook series really the best use of everyone’s time? And, who wants to sit all day and listen to someone speak anyway? Let’s discuss, debate, and learn together.

Enter EdCamp.

After months of planning by local educators, of which I was one, and community leaders the first EdCamp in California was a success. It’s difficult to describe adequately how invigorating EdCampOC was. But before I make an attempt it’s a good idea to explain what an EdCamp is.

An EdCamp is not a traditional education conference. An EdCamp is an opportunity for teachers from diverse backgrounds to meet up, break out into self selected sessions and learn together. Someone thinks of a topic they are interested in learning about, a note card is thrown up on the board to select a room and time and voila! Instant discussion.  No pre-selected agenda. Just organic conversation about education.

Now, I can spend time describing the day but that can be found elsewhere. Check out Dan Callahan’s post for a great account or see The Orange County Register’s piece on EdCampOC. One thing that cannot go unmentioned was the excellent staff members from The Children’s School in La Jolla, CA and their ingenious idea to bring some of their students to EdCampOC. The TCSLJ students were an articulate bunch of great kids who shared their various learning projects, school experiences, and their Urban Adventures study trips.

There are two primary observations I think are really worth sharing about EdCampOC. First, once the other organizers and I finished the basic setup of the day the event basically took care of itself. In other words, it took little effort to get the attending teachers into rooms to discuss and share. They were clearly hungry for collaboration. Attendees were quick to get to the rooms and often went over the allotted time.

Secondly, I noticed during the day that there was little talk of where everyone taught. I can’t help but think that this is indicative of a shift in education. We’re all educators and we’re an increasingly connected bunch. The traditional model of the self-contained, top-down classroom is on its way out. It doesn’t matter that I teach here and you teach there. We have the same goals and are therefore an enormous asset to each other.

So if you were at EdCampOC, or any other EdCamp, don’t forget the energy of that day. Hold on to it.


Posted by on January 19, 2011 in Insights, Professional Development


It’s how you present it…

This was interesting. I have two groups of 7th grade students. This week, we started learning Scratch programming. The first group I taught, I quickly introduced the software, gave them a simple task (figure out how to move their sprite up, down, left, and right with the appropriate keys). Almost immediately, some students were saying that it was boring and that it’s not like video games they know. I tried to explain that Scratch is pretty basic programming and that all video game makers start somewhere easy.

Contrast that situation with the next group. I showed them the video, How Video Games Are Made and gave them essentially the same task. They were a lot more enthusiastic about playing around with Scratch and learning to move their sprite. I think that seeing all the behind the scenes footage and all the work that goes into game making gave them a different perspective.

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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in Insights, Lessons


Emerson Quote

I really like this quote. It reminds me of something I read once that posited, “What if every day is a new lifetime?”

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Insights


Motivation and the work place [video]

I think this video based on Dan Pink’s talk has some really good points that apply to teaching as well. It’s also useful to think about motivation and students. Like adults, students appreciate autonomy in their learning and work. Thanks to my sister for passing this one on. What do you think?


Posted by on September 13, 2010 in Insights

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