Category Archives: Thinking Out Loud



  1. Just start, small.
  2. Test often.
  3. Change often.
  4. Fail fast, often.
  5. Change your perspective.
  6. Don’t aim for perfection.
  7. Try again.

Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Thinking Out Loud


Conceptualizing Digital Spaces

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about space. Not outer space, but physical and digital space. The concept of physical space is endlessly fascinating. How we interact with our surroundings as individuals, groups, and societies has profound, and mundane, implications for our daily lives. So much attention is being paid to how good design can foster creativity, make us more at ease, and promote social interaction.

But I wonder what attention is being paid to digital spaces? Of course, graphic designers spend time with visual layouts. I’m thinking about how digital spaces that are not primarily visual are conceptualized and created. How will visitors interact, and through what medium? How will presence be represented, if at all?

This is getting complicated.¬†Still thinking…

As always, I would love to know your thoughts.

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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Thinking Out Loud


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


School online accounts


Thinking out loud…

What makes more sense, to have school online accounts for various services and educational sites managed centrally or to have teachers manage their own? I can see benefits for both. If we’re integrating technology, do these tools become another classroom supply like books or pencils?



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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in Thinking Out Loud


In Defense of Khan Academy

There has been a lot of talk about Khan Academy. If you’re unfamiliar, a simple search will yield many results including accolades, news articles, and blog posts.

My first impression of Khan Academy almost two years ago was positive. I was immediately impressed by the idea that a former hedge fund manager would leave his lucrative career to devote his time to a project which started out as an idea to help a relative with her math work. At the time, I was teaching 6th Grade math and appreciated how concise the videos are. They gave my students another avenue to access concepts and also another person, albeit recorded, from which to learn.

The conversation surrounding Khan Academy essentially revolves around two arguments. The first argues KA is transformational. The short, specific video lessons on literally thousands of topics allow students to easy access to instruction, independent of an actually person. Proponents, including some big names in education reform (who are not actually educators, for what it’s worth) argue that KA represents the future of education.

24/7-learning, flipped classrooms, individualized instruction, differentiated instruction, educational technology; KA represents the best of all these, or so say its fans.

Now, detractors argue that KA is just another step in the wrong direction. Yes, it’s a good use of technology. Yes, Salman Khan is a pretty good math teacher. Yes, these videos can be helpful. But the “beef” with SA that I’ve heard from educators is it is simply an extension of the “monolithic teaching” being pushed by reformers (Christensen, et al). Students, or in this case viewers, are taught in the same way, irrespective of individual learning preferences and strengths. KA is not individualized or differentiated at all. It is NOT transformational and should not be the direction in which we, as educators, go. Math educators also argue that Khan presents math as a process removed from real-life application.

Here’s where I have a problem with the naysayers. I agree that KA is basically “sage on the stage” teaching. Videos are inherently one-sided. It is representative of monolithic teaching. But that does not mean there is no value in Khan Academy or video instruction.

We can argue for days about the state of education in the United States. There is certainly progress to be made. But, for better or worse we are stuck with our educational system. That does not mean that it cannot be changed, or that it should not. But changing a system so complex will take a while. In the meantime, there are a lot of students who can benefit from Khan’s videos in order to navigate the current system, one they will not likely see change, with its high-stakes testing and over-standardization. Unfortunately, students must absorb as much information as possible in order to succeed in today’s system. Why not deliver it on the student’s own time and free up the teacher for more in-depth and personal problem solving?

I argue that KA is useful as another tool in the veritable teacher’s toolbox. I recognize that some big names are pinning a lot on this type of education. I think they are wrong. But that does not mean there is not a place for video instruction. Too many people testify to the help KA has provided.

I have not read all there is on Khan Academy so I’m eager to hear other perspectives and welcome any comments.


Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Thinking Out Loud


Discomfort Zone

I’m not sure why I decided to take up running. It’s been about a year and a half since I took it up seriously and realized today, during my run, that I don’t have very concrete reasons for doing so.

You see, I’m not very good at it. I’m not fast and I don’t run particularly far. I’m a short guy so I don’t have a natural runner’s body. Running is hot and it makes your body hurt in all kinds of places.

On my cool down walk after running 4.5 miles today I decided I wanted to at least attempt to nail down some reasons for repeatedly doing something that is not actually that enjoyable. That’s when it occurred to me that the draw, for me at least, is in accomplishing something at which I’m not naturally gifted.

So how does this have anything to do with education? I’m not entirely sure, but I think that there is value in showing our students how to be comfortable with discomfort. Doing so can only make things easier for them in the long run. How better to prepare them for the unexpected trials of life?


Disclaimer: While the act of running is uncomfortable, the benefits of fitness, better sleep, and more energy are greatly enjoyed.


Posted by on July 23, 2011 in Thinking Out Loud


Middle School Business Project

For the past couple years I’ve been having my 6th and 7th graders complete a business project in which they write a script for an audio commercial, record the audio, edit it and add music, create a logo, and post it all to a wiki. The students are always excited about this project and I think this is the case for a few different reasons. I give them a lot of latitude when choosing the type of business they’d like to base the project on. This year I have one student selling cow bells. They also get to use a variety of tools including Garage Band and Aviary.

I’ve been trying to think about other reasons the students seem to really get into this assignment so much. Whether they know it or not, or rather whether they can articulate it, one of the draws is that it has a real world connection to something they experience. Unfortunately, we’re all accustomed to being the subject of marketing.

But I’ve become a little uneasy about this assignment in as much as it’s definitely not my goal to promote consumerism. Perhaps next time my students will be required to “sell” a free service that, in some way, helps others.

Here is a link to my rubric. Feel free to use it, remix it, or print it out only so that you can tear it up.

Business Project Rubric

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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Lessons, Thinking Out Loud

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