(Not so) Brave New World–Virtual Learning Environments, Boom or Bust (Week Ten Reflection)


Brave New World Picture w Artists Name

Mainly Bust.  Wow.  I just spent most of the day working through the last two week’s assignments.  When I got to week ten, Virtual Worlds, I read the lesson, explored some of the sites and then I joined second life.  I have to say it creeped me out.  There were scantily clad “people,” avatars, whatever they are; in there…  Stupid me, my screen name had my real last name in it and I could not manage to change it to something less identifying.  Thankfully my virtual self did not do anything embarrassing…This long exercise made me ask, “What is wrong with the real world?”

Ok, for those of you who think I am old fashioned, let me talk a little about the sites we explored today.  I looked at the NASA site and it was glitzy and professional.  I would have liked more detail but it served their purpose for the target audience which I am guessing was middle-schoolish.  They obviously invested real money to make it a professional product.  Brainnook also looked polished and fun for young students and I estimate it works well for the intended age groups.

Minyan Land seems a well thought out simulation to teach young capitalists foundational economic principles like saving, investing, budgeting, spending wisely.  I explored it but like so many of the things I explored today, it was finicky.  I attribute its finicky-ness to my internet connection but that does not excuse the technology because our students will likely have similar issues. Minyan Land’s lessons are valuable and legitimate but knowing kids attention spans like I do, they will not tolerate the terrible delays and lag I experienced.  Bottom line:  If possible, parents should download Minyan Land’s entire program so it will run seamlessly without lag.  Otherwise, its professional animation and characters will not be enough to overcome the stilted and slow virtual world.  In five years I will likely discover seamless online experiences.  For now, I wait patiently.

River City looked akin to games my kids played a few years ago.  Oregon Trail was a great one because it taught them the concepts of planning, budgeting, financial reserves, purchasing spares for a long trip in the middle of nowhere, etc.  River City looks like a similar learning environment.  Unfortunately, I do not know how these games fit into an organized curriculum, so while they teach essential principles it is not clear how to integrate them in the classroom.

The 3D Virtual School for Homeschooling appears very well developed and complete.  One would hope so for an annual tuition of $2700 per student.  Because I did not want to pay the tuition I instead looked at several of the demos and read the Physics and Science  descriptions.  They looked professional and well developed and probably support homeschooling very well.  Unfortunately, none of the demos and other screens demonstrated the actual learning environment so I was unable to ascertain how interactive the learning really is.  I think this is a legitimate and probably useful tool for teaching and learning at home.

Edusim turns the SmartBoard into an interactive tool.  The demonstrations were for very young students in elementary school and were similar to drawing and pasting for an art lesson.  While it was cool to watch and very obvious the kids enjoyed it, there is something to be said for putting ones hands in tempera paint—you know the kind, it is thick and smooth like wet chalk and leaves bright colors under your nails—and actually creating original artwork students take home to Mom and have her exclaim, “It’s beautiful!  I will put it right here on the fridge.”  When it comes to trons or tempera, I choose tempera every time.  [Note.  To be clear, I fully support the SmartBoard technology, it is great to have and allows the teacher to project any image and write or draw on it to drive home a myriad of important teaching points.  I just prefer my artwork be tangible.]

Soma.  Active Worlds Education required a software download to join.  Once downloaded, the software was not the latest software (which does not make sense to me…) so I had to download the first two files and install them, then download an additional 335MB upgrade…another four plus minutes…  When AW was finally loaded and I went to my brave new world, I saw very little pertaining to education.  I wandered around aimlessly looking at fake scenery.  Somehow in all of its technological “grandeur” I missed the purpose.  Still do.  I tried to find those cool places shown on the AW web page with Van Gogh paintings and the like–couldn’t find them, which I found a frustrating waste of time.  I recommend purchasing similarly functioning software and loading it ON the computer so it will work seamlessly while learning many of the same lessons with better developed software.  In one instance I found myself in a “bar” with Avatars dancing on the dance floor (on a Friday night none-the-less).  It made me think, if you enjoy exploring and partying in the virtual world, look out the window, that one is better.

Brave New World Soma

M. Carrasco (2013). 

Finally…  Then I clicked on Second Life for Educators (http://kathyschrock.net/k12secondlife/) (Coffman, 2013) and Second Life’s worth became apparent.  I went to Rome and Versailles and understood SL’s great potential.  I still experienced a slow and unresponsive virtual world and when compared to other experiences available online, SL does not measure up.  Its worlds do not have the same level of detail and are not as responsive as my son’s Age of Empires games and have nowhere near the fidelity of Call of Duty or Halo online.  Without ample profit driving sales enough to fund a design team, I fear these virtual worlds will maintain their amateurish features and fail to capture teens’ interest.

The Intangible.  I also felt spookily odd moving around in a world of fake faces and little accountability.  While I did not experience anything untoward, my guard was up (as was my real name).  I could not help but think about how people behave behind masks, unaccountable in their anonymity (possibly too many episodes of CBS’ Criminal Minds).  I will leave that world for others to inhabit.  I prefer the one mirrored in this computer screen, it is crisp and bright and full of color and rustling leaves.  My avatar is jealous, I think.

Roma Customs House

Bottom line.  Faster internet connections would reduce my frustration but internet speed can only solve so much.  In “Rome” there was information to be learned and experienced but is it better than what is already available on line and in books?  The time spent for the paucity of information I retrieved say, “No.”  For instance, I saw a Roman sundial, had the opportunity to speak with several roman “citizens” and took a virtual tour of Rome.  I would be better served taking a Google Maps tour of Rome.  While it would not show me the exact layout of the ancient city, I would still see the existing ruins of grand buildings like the Coliseum and see detailed pictures, maps, writings (and even street level views of the buildings) in much less time than it took me to walk through Rome virtually.  Looking at encyclopedia information on line is still virtual but it is much richer and “realer” than viewing Rome in a fake looking virtual world.  I will wait and revisit this technology in a few years but unless there is money in it, these virtual worlds will continue to lag professionally made commercial games and software.  You get what you pay for.





[Note.  I attempted to view Coffman, T. & Klinger’s, M.B. (2007).  Utilizing virtual worlds in education: The implications for practiceInternational Journal of Social and Human Science, 1(55), 301-305, but the link was incorrect and took me to a graph of green house gasses which does not match the link’s title above.]

F. Dean (2013).  The Independent Brave New World Book Illustration Art Competition, winner.  The Independent, 2 Derry Street London W8 5TT.  Retrieved  November 2, 2013 from http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/in-pictures-book-illustration-competition-entrants-take-on-aldous-huxleys-brave-new-world-8699768.html?action=gallery&ino=6

M. Carrasco (2013).  The Independent Brave New World Art Competition, runner up.  The Independent, 2 Derry Street London W8 5TT.  Retrieved  November 2, 2013 from http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/in-pictures-book-illustration-competition-entrants-take-on-aldous-huxleys-brave-new-world-8699768.html?action=gallery&ino=6

T. Coffman (2013).  INDT 501 course materials, Week 10.  Retrieved November 2, 2013 from http://kathyschrock.net/k12secondlife/ , K. Schrock (2007), all rights reserved.


Mini Projects II, Week Nine–Timelines and Beyond



XTimeline History of Science Screenshot



Tools of the Trade.  Over the past two weeks we were asked to explore the use of various technology tools.  As with any tool, some of them are nicely suited to my classroom and to my personality/teaching style, while others are not at all well suited.  Some appear to be awesome tools for younger students while others will work well regardless of age.  The tools I particularly liked include timelines (for reports, biographies, presentations and researching general background on any subject); possibly the use of Podcasts (for homework, lesson review, reminders and assignments); definitely the use of class lecture videos so students may review the lesson if they have questions or missed a class.  [Sidenote, my mentor teacher tapes all of his lectures and makes them available online.  I reviewed his page and depending on the lesson he receives 25 to 55 hits on each video.  The higher number is approaching 50% review rate.  That is pretty decent coverage for a group with so many other distractions.]  I really like  Wordle’s.  They are great for introducing topics, individuals, speeches, etc. and they are fun and easy to make.  Talking avatars are fun but I am not sure how I will use them, maybe to introduce topics.  In the following lines I provide more detail on how I might use these tools with my students.

Using Specific Tools.

Create a Timeline–Timelines are excellent resources for students to learn about the various topics they choses to present in their timelines.  Timelines have a place in almost any classroom, including physics and science but are best suited to social studies and history.  I see they are also useful for English or literature to lay out the chronology of a plot or a historical era.  I will definitely use this tool but its place is limited in my classroom to chronology and paper writing as it is hard to use it day to day in a Physics classroom.

Game Design Using Scratch—As I toyed with the ways I could implement this in my Physics classroom I was at a loss.  I am sure this is great for younger kids but it seemed a little juvenile for high school juniors and seniors.  Additionally, I felt the time to make it work well would not justify the investment made.  Perhaps if I played with it more I would discover a useful place for this tool but it was not apparent to me on the surface.

Art, Music and Literature Tours on Google Earth—This is another cool project for students to use when building a story, recounting a trip or tour or telling the history of something.  It is also a good way to conduct a virtual tour of a place they have never visited before.  Say the senior trip to New York City was cancelled for severe weather but you wanted your students to understand the role of NYC in early American history.  You could assign each student x number of historical sites or events and have them map a route between the events, write a paragraph describing and pictures illustrating the event.  Once linked together the entire route becomes a complete and meaningful virtual tour guided by your assigned events but fueled by students’ imagination and elbow grease.  For Physics, one could assign events throughout the ages and the Google tour would leapfrog from place to place with text, pictures and video bringing to life what many consider a dull topic!

Real World Math/Science on Google Earth—The descriptions for this tool seemed better suited for basic mat levels.  The examples covered basic geometric shapes like rectangles, triangles, determining area, perimeter, etc.  These skills may be useful for sophomores and below but I am not convinced this tool is any better than graphing paper and a worksheet.  Sometimes technology is used for the sake of using technology and not to enhance the learning environment.  I doubt I will use this one.

Create Google Trek—While there was a cool demonstration on using this tool, it seemed very similar to the “Tours on Google Earth.”  See above.

Create a Digital Story with Multimedia—I wrote about this in last week’s blog.  Every time we create a PowerPoint we create a digital story.  Obviously there are good and bad applications to digital story writing, PowerPoint being the most basic (and many would argue the most overused).  When it comes to any story, the bigger your imagination the better the product.  Also, the better the story teller, the less she must rely on technology to tell the story.  Great story tellers use technology to enhance the power of their words; technology is never the main character in the story.  Educational storytellers use technology and words to form lasting and meaningful memories.  My mentor tapes all of his physics lessons.  While this may not be practical in one year, certainly over the course of several years one could accumulate an entire year’s worth of supplementary technology to use in conjunction with the daily lessons.  “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, lived a physics teacher who used technology to enhance learning.  We can too!”

Tell a Story with Comics—Like Austin Powers, “That’s not my bag baby.”  I have never been into the comic book scene and I do not see how I would use this in my physics classroom.  I concede “Relativity for Dummies” uses a lot of cartoons to describe Einstein’s concepts and THAT was appropriate, but as far as making a full fledged comic on physics, I do not see it happening in my classroom.

Podcasts and Soundscapes—Podcasts seem an excellent way to reach students, but I      wonder if they will actually download and listen.  I know my physics mentor gets substantial hits for his YouTube videos, but would students bother to download and listen to audio only?  Maybe, and I am willing to try in order to keep communications open and make them better students.

Use Text  Maps to Distill and Analyze Text—For my first Mini Project I created a Wordle of the Gettysburg Address.  The results were awesome (see just right and down) as the most impoGettysburg Address Wordlertant themes are displayed as the doRobert Wordle Verticalminant words.  Wordles are a great way to introduce a topic or theme or to give a presentation on said topic.  Students could use Wordle as a tool for analyzing statements  or speeches or for presenting papers.  They are visually interesting and I will use this tool for assignments and for presentations.  In fact, I used Wordle to present my literacy interview for EDCI 515.  My student, Robert, gave me plenty of information to work with and his Wordle looked like the one to the left.

Voki Screen Shot Franklin

Create a Talking Avatar .  I think perhaps a little too immature for my target audience.  It is cool to toy with and may be a good way to get students to present short topics but for teaching or introducing a physics lesson or block, I think the use will be limited.  Here is my feeble attempt at an avatar.



Week Eight: Mini Projects–To do or not to do

Galileo Falling Objects

Telling stories digitally is nothing new, every Powerpoint presentation endured by professionals the globe over witnesses a digital story or transfer of information via slide presentation.  Telling digital stories well is a different thing altogether.  The difference, as with all things requiring skill is in how the chosen medium is wielded.  We have all been to briefings where slides were crammed with words to the point of testing even the keenest of eyes and the presenter unimaginatively read every word, verbatim, from the slide.  Each time I endured this particular type of torture it occurred to me one of the two of them, the slides or the briefer, was unnecessary.  The briefer generally got my vote.  Each time I screamed silently, please just email me the slides next time and spare me the time and pain of listening to you read them.  And the presenter just rambled on, turning the thumbscrews ever tighter…  Conversely, and unfortunately rarely, we sometimes enjoy the privilege of hearing a speaking virtuoso.  Her slides are few and present only enough information to make the point and make it stick. The speaker, the storyteller, weaves her words together and draws us ever deeper into the topic, she grasps and holds our attention, she conveys information and it sticks in our brains forever.  I once worked, for a four star general who hated PowerPoint in its most common form.  When making slides for him they were few and very simple, each containing just a few words, perhaps a title or major concept.  In his case he got his thousand words through pictures.  The pictures served as visual reminders of the points he wanted to make.  Forty-five minutes later the crowd walked out of the room entertained and informed.

Note the complex slide in the background

Last week we read about a speaker named Larry Lessig whose slides are very simple slides with pictures or short phrases creating pithy, terse visual reminders of his point while he talked to that point.  His presentations are interesting and clean.  If you did not listen to his presentation, it is well worth watching at least two minutes of his presentation to see how cleverly he makes his points with the simplest of slides (http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html).  The point being, in the proper hands even the common slide as a means of digital storytelling becomes an effective tool for communication and education.

This week we were asked to explore five digital tools for telling stories.  I prefer the term, communicating ideas.  The five include creating a digital story with multimedia, tell a story with comics, use text maps to distill and analyze text, create podcasts; and create talking avatars to enhance learning.

Create a Digital Story with Multimedia.  This I can do at a basic level with my eyes closed.  I spent most of my professional lifetime with Mr. Gates’ PowerPoint technology.  I realize Dr. Coffman calls us to aspire to greater heights than mere words on a PowerPoint slide.  So do our students.  But there are ways, across all content areas, to tell stories by using PowerPoint alone or PowerPoint with pictures.  By way of example, my practicum teacher posts his lectures on line.  I looked at his slide on falling objects and thought, how lame.  Until I saw how he used it.  He projected a simple line diagram of a ramp with tick marks at increasing distances from the end.  He then used the SmartBoard to write in the missing information showing his students how Galileo conducted his experiment on falling objects to discover the very important t2 relationship associated with an objects acceleration due to gravity.  He took a stick figure diagram and demonstrated Galileo’s discovery in a very clear and effective way.  And it did not take a lot of time or effort.  So digital storytelling does not need to be complicated or require loads of technology or digital know-how, it merely requires a teacher using digits intelligently and meaningfully.

Comics.  The following example is not one where a teacher created a comic for use as a teaching tool, but where an educational website used many of the elements of Dr. Coffman’s lesson to create an interactive tool for teaching physics.  In this case, the digital story is told using professional, but simple animation.  The page uses several of the elements addressed in Dr. Coffman’s lesson 8—a comic book feel, cartoon figures, digital storytelling, a mumbling (not talking) avatar, simple animation and humor—to teach students about Newton’s Laws of Motion (http://science.discovery.com/games-and-interactives/newtons-laws-of-motion-interactive.htm retrieved October 19, 2013).  I already used this web page in my EDCI 501 Lesson Plan on Newton’s Laws of Motion.  It will be a useful, interesting and fun way for students to grasp Newton’s laws.

Text Maps.  Thursday night in class I selected the Gettysburg Address to create my word cloud.  Lincoln’s speech was short but Lincoln used repeating themes to show the importance of the the battle.  He spoke about maintaining the dedication of our founding fathers to principles of equality, dedicating the hallowed ground of the Battle to its victors, dedicating the country and its people to the unfinished task of preserving the union to prevent it from “vanishing from this earth.”  The Wordle did an excellent job of selecting and emphasizing the major themes prominently.  The Wordle chose the following words as key:   dedicated, nation, devotion, people, conceived, dead.  This is an important tool as a jumping off point for a discussion on the Address as well as the monumental importance of the battle, its outcomes and where the country would go following it.  It has applications in science, English and history.

Gettysburg Address Wordle

Podcasts.  My kids hold their entire world at their fingertips.  In their handhelds they hold a library of music, phone numbers, music, documents, a camera and the ability to access their friends and the internet at any time of day.  Why shouldn’t teachers leverage that kind of access to the extent they can?  A short podcast is a useful way to summarize a lesson, review a homework assignment, convey any lesson not reliant upon the visual.  A great example comes from my practicum observance of team teaching.  There was no need for visual information, the entire class period entailed reading A. Miller’s the Crucible and discussing its symbolic meaning.  Say a student contracted Mononucleosis and could not come to school for several weeks.  A teacher need simply set up a microphone in the classroom and record the lesson for the sick student to listen to at home.  The teacher could also record the lesson on video and upload it to YouTube (my physics mentor does this for each class) which is a podcast on steroids.  The nice thing about the audio podcast is it can be listened to anywhere, which is helpful for the student who is spending two weeks in Europe for her Grossmuti’s 100th birthday celebration.

Voki Screen Shot FranklinAvatars.  For this lesson I created two talking avatars to introduce units on electricity and focal distance Example Voki Avatar–Ben Franklin.  I am not sold on this for use in a physics classroom but it might be very useful for getting students to summarize concepts concisely by having them make their own two minute talking avatar presentations.

Role in My Classroom.  As far as my use of these technologies, I will certainly find use of the Wordle.  It will be very useful for physics concepts and certainly vocabulary.  While I do not see me making comic books for use in physics, I definitely see applications, particularly of borrowed cartoons such as the web page on Newton’s Laws of Motion, above.  Additionally, my college textbook on Relativity used caricatures and comics to help explain the difficult concepts of frame of reference and relativity.  So, in the hands of a professional company cartoons and animation can enhance and add to lessons, even if borrowed from others.  Which in the “Quality” Air Force we called “benchmarking”!

Digital storytelling has an important role in education.  I see all sorts of applications for English, Literature, Social Studies, Earth Science, Biology.  While it may be more difficult to use digital storytelling in physics, as discussed above, one does not have to get complicated and one does not necessarily have to create the stories from scratch, they may already exist for your use.  Bottom line:  I will use PowerPoint, I will use a SmartBoard and I will definitely use the concept of digital storytelling in my classroom from Wordles to racing apples.  I also see great value in the super-podcast called YouTube.




L. Lessing (2012).  From TED website, retrieved on October 20, 2013 from http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html.

J. Zimmer (2013).  Gettysburg Address analysis from MannerofSpeaking.org and retrieved October 20, 2013, from http://mannerofspeaking.org/2010/11/19/the-gettysburg-address-an-analysis/ .

Padlet (Formerly Wallwisher)–The Coolest Place I’ve Ever Been is… (Week Seven)

5280183727_6dc5d37654_o Potala with Chinese Flag

Melanie Ko, 2010


In 2010 the Chinese People’s Liberation Army surprised the international Attaché community by inviting us to visit first the town of Xining, Qinghai Province, China.  Xining is one of the embarkation sites for the train to Lhasa, Tibet.  Then Lhasa, Tibet.  We rode the train through the night and awoke to the breathtaking vistas of Qinghai province and rode on to the breathtaking panoramas of Tibet.  Arriving after sunset, the city was dark and hidden to the eye.  After checking in at the hotel, we crossed the street to imbibe in some Tibetan libations.  Soon the altitude and alcohol reminded us just how tired we were and we went to bed.  The next morning we awoke for planned tours in Lhasa to include the Potala Palace (where the Dali Lama would live if allowed in China), shown above, and the Jokhang Temple where thousands of Buddhist Pilgrims go, by foot and prostration, to worship.  Their trips are grueling and the Pilgrims live off of the generosity of their fellow Buddhists enroute.  The throng was incredible, the air smoky and the tension palpable between Han Chinese and Tibetan natives….

The picture in the Padlet is misleading because it is cropped to NOT show anything Chinese, just the Tibetan Palace.  But as you see in the picture above, just below the palace is a grand plaza with a Chinese Communist monument and the flag of communist China.  I suppose to show the Tibetans and Dali Lama who has the upper hand, or more accurately, the strong hand, the controlling hand, the hand that came down in 2008…

The Potala Palace is (one of) the coolest place(s) I’ve ever been.

You have one of those places too.  Please share it with us at http://padlet.com/wall/c45ti66ln8 and post your first name, a short description and a photo of the coolest place you’ve ever been.  I will gladly do the same for your Padlet.  Join me on our journey…

Administration.  Once you are on my “wall” please double click on the location you call your coolest location, upload a picture of it and post a brief comment.  Thanks for participating.


We are also supposed to explain how we might use this tool in our classroom.  I see all sorts of applications for any project regardless of content area.

Class, you are to propose a solution to one of the 6 world problems listed below.  From your suggestion you will write a five page paper introducing the problem, outlining the issues on both sides of the argument, offering your best solution, defending your solution and summarizing your paper.  Once you know the problem set, the first step in solving the problem is brainstorming solutions.  To help you brainstorm I want you to use these web pages, [list 1-6].  I posted a bulleting board for each problem at these links.  For whichever problem you draw, I want the five team members to post every idea that comes to mind tonight for homework.  You are to post at least 6 ideas per person, even if you think it is a stupid or impractical solution.  Tomorrow, we will use your spitballs to find the best three solutions.  From there you will begin your research.  So every one can gain from the research of the others, continue to use your bulletin board to share ideas, documentation, resources, etc. throughout the project.  Afterwards we will see if you like this Padlet as a collaboration tool and determine if you think it helped your efforts.  All right, two minutes, for tomorrow you need to do… 

This tool is useful for collaboration in all classrooms.  Say a particular physics problem or set of problems.  The Title could be the unit title and students could post questions and answer questions on the bulletin board, similar to a blog or twitter but to a more focused audience.  I would also like to use it a few times in a classroom setting and get feedback from the students as to its usefulness.  They may think they already have what they need with Facebook and Twitter and find this redundant or they may think it is relevant and cool.  At first blush it certainly has potential.


NOTE.  My idea is not original, I borrowed and modified one of the examples the Padlet page showed.  it so we all can participate (per the assignment) and have a little fun with it.






Flip Out, but be Careful (Week Six–To Flip or Not to Flip)

1471950101_a70a47e1f7_o Flip Out Picture

 (Flickr, 2013)

http://vocaroo.com/i/s0dkGH2rzIkO  My apologies, this website does not allow users to insert mp3 or Wav files for “security reasons.”  Please begin here and listen to my feeble attempt to use Vocaroo to be “at least a little surprising or creative,” as directed by Dr. Coffman.

Flipping Physics.  I read and watched with interest the information on flipping the classroom.  I also read some of the counterarguments from the movements detractors.  After pondering the question of “To Flip or not to Flip,” and writing from the perspective of a pure kibitzer, the idea of flipping the classroom has great promise.  My initial response, though, was a quite different.  I thought, “Why should the student have to increase prep time for my class at the expense of the work he does for his other teachers?”

As I mulled the question over I was reminded of my practicum mentor teacher…  Just yesterday morning I watched him teach a lesson on “Falling Objects” using simple devices like ramps, pool balls and paper to skillfully make his point.  But the simplicity of his presentation should not fool you, he is very tech savvy–he records his SmartBoard to YouTube, has students record practice problems to YouTube, uses multiple other technologies to track student progress, Twitters to communicate with parents; in the course of the day he filmed one of his lessons and by the time I returned from lunch he had it posted on YouTube–you get the picture.

Following a day of Physics, I ran through Dr. Coffman’s virtual lecture and thought, sure, this could work in a Physics classroom and plotted how to accomplish the task.  It occurred to me my mentor is at least half-flipped anyway.  His lesson involved a lecture (the one he recorded and posted that day), he had the students review a quiz in small groups, they self-critiqued and he moved about to answer questions.  If he were to just post his videos BEFORE the scheduled class, he would be abso-flipping-lutely flipped out.

The Slings and Arrows.  Knowing it could be done, I then thought on the stumbling blocks which might foil the flipping plan.  The primary difficulty resides in pre-recording lessons so the student can review the material several days prior to the class session.  Logistically it may require some time, possibly a full year or two, to develop the repertoire of recordings necessary to support the entire years’ worth of study.

Cutting with the Grain.  Physics, it seems, lends itself to this style of learning.  “Class, read pages x-xx, review the example problem on page xx, take a crack at the odd problems on page y, watch my videoed lecture at URL thus-and-such tonight for homework.  Tomorrow in class we will review the problems, address any questions then do a lab to reinforce what you learned.”

Avoiding the Knots.  But what if the material is complicated and difficult to teach one’s self?  Good question.  Teachers may want to revert to the traditional method for difficult course material and topics not well suited to flipping out.  Students get frustrated and give up if they do not “get it.”  To avoid this frustration, teachers must anticipate the knots and determine when it is best to cut around them and when it is best to flip the wood to avoid the knot altogether.

Bottom Line.  Flipping Out IS suitable to my Physics class.  It will require forethought, perhaps collaboration with other teachers to video materials in advance.  It will also require prior analysis to determine if the subject matter is suited to self-guided study where students wade through it solo or if they need a scout to blaze the trail.  Additionally, a teacher’s class schedule may make it very difficult to teach three different levels of Physics and remain ahead of three separate lectures and lesson plans, pre-tape all of the lessons, etc.  I do not see myself doing it on a daily basis, but there are definitely times/topics/projects perfectly suited to flipping out!

Finally.  If you cannot envision how flipping the classroom can be done, consider our own Dr. Coffman.  She is totally Flipped Out.  Think about it.  She has us read and interact with the materials she posts in the modules, we run through the links and tasks and post things to our Blog, ePortfolio or PLN.  Then, in class, she demonstrates, answers questions and roams around the room to ensure we get it.  She is Flipped Out to the max–in a good way.

[If you would like to hear more of “Freak Out,” select this link http://vocaroo.com/i/s0bWPJH3uw6O .]



Chic, Freak Out (Uploaded on Jul 26, 2008).  Retrieved from YouTube, October 3, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-Hhqu3frUQ from the Womad 2008.

Flickr (2013).  Photographer identified only as “Hc_07”.  Retrieved October 4, 2013 from http://www.flickr.com/photos/82684220@N00/1471950101/sizes/o/in/photolist-3f58u2-3f9uh5-4oeLmT-4oiPWL-4QvD7v-4UcJkx-4VaQ9Z-4Vv7bh-4WmDCd-4ZPbTr-58LHfT-5dTSDn-5dTTMD-5dTUtK-5dTVLV-5dTWXz-5dTZFa-5dTZWp-5dU2j8-5dU2zX-5dU37x-5dU4dk-5dU8gP-5dU9h8-5dUa2H-5dUb7k-5dYdnw-5dYdHQ-5dYeyS-5dYePW-5dYfo7-5dYjV5-5dYkUC-5dYoj7-5dYpnq-5dYq1Y-5dYqRj-5dYs53-5dYt9W-5dYw1S-5dYwgG-5jnrMh-5mkYWZ-5Ghmzo-5JhiVd-5Ymq8h-67ebKB-67xCst-67xCuB-67xCw8-67xCxB/ .

Vocaroo (2013).  Recorded and retrieved from Vocaroo, October 3, 2013.

ENERGY–Let’s Get Moving! (Week 5–Creating a Curricular Video)

Screen Shot Animoto Energy Videohttp://animoto.com/play/0CYDZR5BSd0dJ0eqJiWkOg

Energy is in us and all around us.  It is one of those things in nature, like momentum, that is conserved in one form or another.  For instance, matter from biological things millions of years ago is stored energy in the form of coal and petroleum, which we burn but will someday find its way back into a tree and the process repeats.  But, Energy can be a boring classroom topic unless it is made real, interesting and pertinent.  With that in mind, I created an Animoto Curricular Video on “Energy.”  You can view it at http://animoto.com/play/0CYDZR5BSd0dJ0eqJiWkOg .  The main points depicted in the video are Energy is:  indestructible, transferrable, storable; does work for us, yet it plays a major role in many of our greatest tragedies when it works against us; is conserved; and comes in the form of potential and kinetic energy.  If you have time please take a look and provide your feedback…

Animoto–Fan.  Without a doubt the Animoto software is a practical way to create a “cool” video introduction for your class.  It is also possible to create a 20 minute lesson but I caution you on the time it will take to find the pictures and, if necessary, cite the photos (my video was only two minutes long and the process took me hours).  Additionally, Animoto has limited text options so you must be brief and pithy.  Once I had the photos and citations I used Dr. Coffman’s storyboard handout to determine the script and picture order, did a quick edit, then published the video.  Actually creating the video took a relatively short fraction of the overall time.  Animoto inserts the pictures, places the text, times the slides–does all of the rest–for a pretty slick product, particularly at UMW where the internet hookup is much faster than what I have at home (no buffering).

Animoto has multiple formats you can use to suit your personality and topic.  I selected “The Future” theme for the techno-scientific feel and “Free to Fly,” by Mike Gallagher, because it was frantic (in a good way), with a lot of guitar, to grab the students for the two minute Energy jolt.

Probably the main Animoto drawback is you do not have full creative license with the software.  You control the pictures, the order, the music, background, the speed of the slides; but you cannot tell it exactly when to change slides in a song and you cannot speed up/slow down slides for a sequence of pictures (like my dam erosion series, vice damn erosion).  I wanted them to speed up for that sequence so it would not take as long but could not change the pace without impacting the entire show.  Additionally, once you hit “publish” the video is locked and you can no longer access the pictures or edit any subsequent mistakes you find.  So don’t make any mistakes!

Twitter.  Sitting on the Twitter fence.  At first blush I am not a Twitter fan (I do not see the utility of communicating in 140 characters).  So, Jon Stewart and I AGREE on something.  I have to admit, though, I did find useful articles on physics topics that may prove useful for class lessons or bulletin boards in the future.

RSS.  I find Feedly useful to bring all of my Blogs to one location.  Admittedly I had no blogs I followed before this class so we will see if I continue to follow them after December.  Maybe after INDT 501 is over I will finally find the time to read them!  I used Education, Physics, Space as my current categories, which works well for me because my mind stores information like a filing cabinet.

Delicious.  This one seems marginally useful for the fact the links are available from any computer and not just the bookmarks saved on your home c: drive.  At home though, I am fairly certain I will not use Delicious.  Sorry.  I already use Outlook to save a lot of my information and bookmarks/favorites for my favorite web sites.  And Outlook allows files for organization (vice tags), which works best for me.

Evernote.  This could be useful to someone who does not already have similar functions in their email software.  I do, with Outlook I accomplish all the functions of Evernote so I doubt I will use it much in the new year.

Whew.  A lot of time went into this week’s project and “homework” but it is now done.  I must admit I DID find several useful tools which will survive this class.  I hope you did too.



Animoto.  Log on at http://animoto.com/ .

P. Lanman (2013).  Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://animoto.com/play/0CYDZR5BSd0dJ0eqJiWkOg .













Got IL? (Week Four–Information Literacy)

Got IL Cow Small



©(2013 MilkDelivers)


Strategies.  I have been searching for things on line for a long time and have not always been that good at it.  Maybe that was the early internet (dial up, “You’ve Got Mail” days) the early search engines (remember Ask Jeeves, AltaVista, Excite?), but also because I did not know how to tell the computer what I really wanted it to do, in ways it could understand.  Today, it is much easier for the search engine to “guess” what you are looking for, but the vaguer or the more obtuse the topic, the harder it is, even with the modern helpers.

Here are some of the things I do when searching (and a few I picked up from class readings):

1.  I Try to be specific or search for verbatim phrases.  For Dr. Guth’s class we had to write a Literacy Autobiography and I used this method to find all of the citation information regarding books I read in the 60s and 70s.  For instance, one of my sections addressed artfully written song lyrics from my youth.  Unfortunately I could not remember the name of the specific song I had in mind, so I wrote a lyric, “such are lies, all promises and jests” and the first listing was for The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel, at http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/The-Boxer-lyrics-Paul-Simon/52BEB0F5D02F77A54825698A0011170C.  So far so good, but no copyright date so I searched for “the boxer copyright date Simon and Garfunkel,” and got the information I needed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boxer.  In a matter of a minute, maybe two, I had my citation information, title of the song and complete lyrics.

2.  I am selective with terms/words.  Without a verbatim quote or the title, I put as much pertinent information in the search “phrase” as possible.  For instance, I needed to find the author of a story about an Irish setter, in California whose name was Red or Big Red so I searched for “author dog story Irish setter California” and the first offering was at http://www.amazon.com/Big-Red-Champion-Trappers-Winderness/dp/0823423913, Big Red: The Story of a Champion Irish Setter and a Trapper’s Son Who Grew Up Together, Roaming the Wilderness, written by Jim Kjelgaard and illustrated by Bob Kuhn.

3.  I use more than one search engine.  In the early days I preferred AltaVista to all others but over time Google and Yahoo were more savvy marketers and they judiciously and continuously improved their product to the point of dominance, first Yahoo then Google.  Obviously Google proved capable at wresting market share and besting the competition stock performance point of view.  Because they all search a little differently and emphasize slightly different angles, it never hurts to try several sites, particularly when you are searching for an especially obscure subject.  By way of example, this morning I did an unofficial experiment and asked Exalead, Google and Yahoo (U.C. Berkeley, 2013) to find information on “Ichabod Crane.”  All three sites found the same basic information—Ichabod Crane School, Ichabod Crane the Movie and TV show and Colonel Ichabod Crane the real life colonel and military man from the early 1800s.  Main differences between sites were which sites were displayed first and the aesthetic presentation on the screen.  For fun I added Bing and it found the same references except it started with News about the Fox TV show, the only one to lead with the recent television show.  Bottom line, they all perform about the same but it might help find more obscure information if you use multiple sites.

4.  I intend to craft a tailor made search engine in appropriate circumstances.  I have never used this before but it is a clever way to teach young people how to search the internet, receive and discern between relevant and less relevant sites, glean information from those sites, research and compile, cite and write.  Constraining and naming the sites used by the search engine limits the number of sites, ensures they are relevant and appropriate, limits the amount of information students must wade through which limits wasted time on their behalf (Brunsvan, 2013)

Using the strategies.  When I teach I will definitely have to learn how to use technology in the classroom and force myself to use it appropriately because my classrooms barely had calculators available…  I realize the school and school district will drive my technology situation because some counties are much better off financially than others and, therefore, have better and more equipment.  Given the Prince William County school rooms I encountered in Substitute Teaching, I will assume a smart board with internet access and the ability to view video, PowerPoint, word and the rest of the Office suite.  With that in mind I intend to use the Smart Board to show videos on physical topic, show lecture materials and outlines, demonstrate how to work problems, show demonstrations that are not possible in the classroom due to safety or expense.  For the other uses I have not yet thought of, I will have to get back to you!

Information Literacy as a Subset of Literacy.  Merriam Webster’s online dictionary (2013) defines “literacy” in several ways—educated, cultured, able to read and write, versed in literature or creative writing, literary, lucid, polished, having knowledge or competence <computer-literate> <politically literate> [emphasis added].  The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (2003) “defines literacy as both task-based and skills-based” where the skills based definition was added in 2003 and:

…focuses on the knowledge and skills an adult must possess in order to perform these tasks. These skills range from basic, word-level skills (such as recognizing words) to higher level skills (such as drawing appropriate inferences from continuous text). New information provided by the 2003 NAAL is intended to improve understanding of the skill differences between adults who are able to perform relatively challenging literacy tasks and those who are not.  (NCES, 2013)

Finally, according to the United States Department of Labor website cites the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Title II–Adult Education and Literacy,  Section 203—Definitions (12) (Department of Labor, 2010) as defining literacy as:

‘an individual’s ability to read, write, speak in English, compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job, in the family of the individual and in society.’  [the Department of Labor added]  This is a broader view of literacy than just an individual’s ability to read, the more traditional concept of literacy. As information and technology have become increasingly shaped our society [sic], the skills we need to function successfully have gone beyond reading, and literacy has come to include the skills listed in the current definition.

…skills including information, computer, technology literacies.  So by definition it is a subset, whenever you attach a word in front of another word, as in computer literate, the word preceding the defining word, in this case “literate,” further refines the defining term and is therefore a subset of the larger, defining term.  Additionally, the Department of Labor added additional information further explaining the Administration’s interpretation of the Act to include other skills like information and technology.  I concur.

Take Aways.  The reality is, the young of today probably know more about the technology than their teachers and parents BUT they are not as experienced at finding reliable information and properly filtering the information for use in papers, research and daily life; nor are they mature enough to teach themselves these skills in an efficient manner.  Teachers and parents DO know how to do these things and must teach their youngsters to follow suit.  It is also the teacher’s and parents’ responsibility to try to keep the youngsters from accessing information they are not ready to digest or generally unaccepted ideas that will corrupt or distract them from truly reliable information.  Dr. Coffman’s text provided several good examples of internet dangers (Coffman, 2013), most compelling was the example about a student finding three seemingly reputable neo-Nazi organizations as the sole three citations for a paper.  Certainly this was not a very balanced approach though the student felt they had used internet research properly.

Technology as an Aid to Teaching.  Physics is all about figuring things out based on prior, developing and to-be-developed knowledge.  Technology plays a huge role in this discovery process.  My own local example came in preparation for this class.  After spending an hour tinkering around with Twitter I told my wife how I think Twitter is a waste of time because it merely allows someone else to send you a link to something without any real communication or though.  THEN I went to one of the physics Tweet conversations and found three interesting articles I may be able to use in my future classes…I am undecided about Twitter.  Bottom line:  Technology has a place in every classroom AS LONG AS it contributes to the lesson, enhances learning and is not used just to justify buying the gizmo in the first place.



Mr. Brunsvan’s Channel (2013).  Google Custom Search Engine.  Youtube, retrieved September 18, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyTiVDpSAzY&feature=related

National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES)(n. d.).  National Assessment of Adult Literacy.  Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://nces.ed.gov/naal/fr_definition.asp

Coffman, T. (2013).  Welcome to Week 4!  Retrieved September 18, 2013, from https://canvas.umw.edu/courses/835642/wiki/learning-through-evaluation?module_item_id=5624388

U.C. Berkeley (2013). Recommended Search Engines (2013).  Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/SearchEngines.html

United States Department of Labor (2010).  Workforce Investment Act of 1998.  Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://www.doleta.gov/usworkforce/wia/wialaw.txt

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary (2013).  Retrieved September 19, 2013, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literate

“Just Do It” (Week 3, Digital Literacy)

“Just Do It.”  (Nike, 2013.) (Originally coined in 1988.)

Information that is at your fingertips is often believed to have no copyright laws protecting it because it is accessible and it is found online. What are our rights and our students’ rights as creators, readers, and users of information found online? (Coffman, 2013)

Copyright Exercise.  When we were working in class the other day with Google Earth, an idea came upon me regarding a history lesson and activity for the Custis Lee Mansion, Robert E. Lee and the Civil war.  More on that in a moment…  For the images below I used a simple search, “Custis Lee Mansion,” on Flickr (www.flickr.com) and scores of images came up.  A few of the initial images I wanted to use were fully copyrighted.  I then found a picture taken from the north side of the Lincoln Memorial, across the Memorial Bridge to the Custis Lee Mansion and Arlington Cemetery.  It was a very nice shot with nice lighting igniting the gilded statue guarding the bridge.  Because they were both partially copyrighted and the license allowed use according to the italicized text below, I included them below:

You are free:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit      the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

With the understanding that:

  • Waiver — Any of the above conditions can      be waived if you get permission      from the copyright holder.
  • Public      Domain — Where      the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable      law, that status is in no way affected by the license.
  • Other      Rights — In no      way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
    • Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other       applicable copyright exceptions and limitations;
    • The author’s moral rights;
    • Rights other persons may have       either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
  • Notice — For any reuse or distribution,      you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way      to do this is with a link to this web page. (Creative Commons, 2013). 

Here is the picture by “ehpien”, 2008 (actual name not given):

Custis Lee Mansion from the Lincoln Memorial

Custis Lee Mansion from the Lincoln Memorial










The photo got me thinking about a historic irony.  Prior to the Civil War, when Robert E. Lee was considered a patriot, leader and hero; the Custis Lee Mansion was owned by Mrs. Mary Custis Lee, General Lee’s wife.  The entire property of what is now Arlington Cemetery was wrested from the couple when Lee chose to lead the Army of Virginia against the U.S. Federal forces.  These two pictures show how this beautiful house now looks down on the monument erected to the president who did the wresting…  To round out the assignment I found the bookend picture, also covered by the same partial copyright, of the Lincoln Memorial taken from the Custis Lee Mansion (V. Pickering, 2009).  Both pictures and the copyright printouts are from Flickr (via a link to Creative Commons) and have the same language.  Finding the information was straightforward and took just a few minutes plus the time to sort through the photos, pretty convenient.

View of the Lincoln Memorial








(V. Pickering, 2009)

Teaching Students about Intellectual Property and Plagiarism.  Certainly as teachers it is vital to model proper behavior in all we do, and that includes how we treat intellectual property and copyright law.  Having lived in China for three years it is clear to me how important it is to protect intellectual property from those who would steal someone else’s artistic work and sell it or present it as their own for profit or self promotion.  On every street corner, in the subways and in many Chinese markets were hundreds of foreign movies, many not even released yet on DVD, for sale.  The quality varied but many of them were so true to the original versions one could scarce tell the difference.  Here the same thing happens all of the time with online swapping of mp3 and DVDs.  I had to fight with my kids to leave anything they purchased in China in China, even if it meant rebuying it legally in the U.S.  We did and can watch those movies and listen to the music in good conscience.

On the dishonesty scale plagiarism is even worse to me for the lies it presents to teachers, peers, and self.  To steal an mp3 is illegal and deprives the artist of income, deplorable.  BUT, plagiarism not only steals the idea or words of the one who worked to make the original, it is also deceitful and attempts to con the viewer into believing the work is the plagiarist’s own.  The plagiarist is thief, liar and con-artist in one.  And to what end?  To avoid a few minutes to cite the work in a bibliography?  Hardly worth the risk to reputation and honor and the affront to the actual artist.

With that in mind, we teachers must teach students how to properly write and cite information/media used in academic and research projects.  When we teach the first place to start is to cite our sources using the exact format we expect of our students.  Dr. Coffman’s week three module is ripe with resources to help teachers better understand the rules of copyright and plagiarism.  In addition, the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation has a web page (http://copyrightfoundation.org/) to help educators better understand the rights and limitations they have on copyrighted material to include a useful “Educators’ Guide at http://copyrightfoundation.org/files/userfiles/file/EducatorsGuide.pdf .  In the introduction the Executive Director of the Copyright Alliance, Mr. Patrick Ross, introduced the issue:

Dear Educator,

The issues surrounding copyright have never been more visible.  It’s not unusual to hear stories about kids downloading music files illegally, and industry efforts to stop it.  But the classroom presents its own copyright-related challenges, for students and teachers alike…

The document then went on to put the issue in context on page two:

Copyright:  An Overview. 

Imagine teaching language arts with no examples of stories or poems to share with students.  Or history with no written record of what happened in the past…  Such a blank slate would make education impossible.  Knowledge is, necessarily built upon the achievements of those who came before us. 

The products of these creative minds are known collectively as intellectual property—a term that covers all the novels and poems, scholarly essays and biographies, paintings, photographs, and recordings that you provide students as examples from which they learn and upon which they build a foundation for their own interpretations and insights.  Intellectual property is the fuel of classroom creativity, inspiring students to expand their ingenuity and ambitions.  But intellectual property is still property, and while students should be encouraged to take inspiration from it, they must also be taught to respect the rights of those who created it.  (Copyright Alliance Educators Guide, p. 2)

Furthermore, teachers should explain the reasons for preserving intellectual property rights and use personal anecdotes to illustrate the point.  “Sam, imagine you successfully created the personal device that will unseat the iPhone (TM) as the top handheld device.  Your device has hundreds of hours representing your sweat and effort—four hours a day, five days a week for a year and a half.  Finally your device and software are perfected and you are ready to go to production.  Your cousin, who visited you two weeks ago, downloaded your plans and software and submitted a copyright for a device you created.  How do you feel about that?  What can you do about it?” From this anecdote the teacher should explain, on a personal and legal level, why it is important to protect IP.  From there the educator should explain why it is equally important students document their sources.  It is honest, it is appropriate and it is legal to properly source materials.  To copy or to copy and change a few words then NOT cite the original source is theft, is dishonest, is a lie.  The sad truth is the only cost of properly citing material is the time it takes to document it and include it in the bibliography.

As Nike says, “Just Do It.”



Coffman, T (2013).  Information Literacy page of the Digital Literacy, Week Three Lesson online, retrieved 11 September 2013 from https://canvas.umw.edu/courses/835642/wiki/model-of-information-literacy-2?module_item_id=5624378 .

Copyright Alliance Education Foundation (2009).  Educators’ Guide, retrieved September 11, 2013 from http://copyrightfoundation.org/files/userfiles/file/EducatorsGuide.pdf.

Creative Commons (2013).  Retrieved September 11, 2013 from a Flickr link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en .

Nike Corporation (2013).  Retrieved September 11, 2013 from http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/ , original advertisement campaign 1988.

Pickering, V. (2013).  Retrieved September 11, 2013 from Flickr website, http://www.flickr.com/photos/vpickering/3795832470/in/photolist-6MqCKq-6Uy6aC-6Xfwhz-6XXn7t-6Y2naQ-6Y2ndw-79mzyn-7cNW31-dNjuja-8HDmqk-7QyQDb-8jAULo-bh5PBt-7PqE57-bxWuBU-a6oFkS-aqG9A2-aqFUCr-aqJADj-aqJNmL-aqGagx-8SKanp-cLaZcN-aLTFRk-aLTFQ4-aLTFTV-e6L2Xt-e6RFoE-7QvNeS-a6kMzM-7HvkH7-8RdrQr-aLTFS6-dNMDYg-byNiRu-dNQywJ-bw69SN-7Z6yMd-bsG5Bj-cKASmo-a6pduo-a6peT3-bLRbci-8kE1xG-8kAQDR-8kE2tS-8kAQPT-8kE1Kd-8kE3no-8kE2T9-8kAQui/lightbox/ .

Ehpien (2013).  Retrieved September 11, 2013 from Flickr website, http://www.flickr.com/photos/91499534@N00/2469168821/in/photolist-4Lc8Se-4WKhxv-4WKhL2-4WKhUv-4WKi9g-4WPyzh-4WPyFm-4WPyQW-4WPztQ-52zgQL-58bSMP-5dmAfB-5dmAiZ-5dqVAN-5kshZc-5oS4Xx-5Ck85K-5DesJz-5DiJrN-5LdHzB-6tM5Ge-6y5Mdm-6ybEL7-6ygssH-6yvb6c-6yzhz7-6AguRD-6BxzxU-6MqCKq-6Uy6aC-6Xfwhz-6XXn7t-6Y2naQ-6Y2ndw-79mzyn-7cNW31-dNjuja-8HDmqk-7QyQDb-8jAULo-bh5PBt-7PqE57-bxWuBU-a6oFkS-aqG9A2-aqFUCr-aqJADj-aqJNmL-aqGagx-8SKanp-cLaZcN/lightbox/ [Note.  Real name not given.].

Poe-tay-toe, Poe-tah-toe (Week 2–What to Teach?)

 Core Knowledge Icon                                               VS.                                              21st Century Skills Icon

Poe-tay-toe, poe-tah-toe.  At first blush the Core Knowledge—21st Century Skills controversy appears complicated and unresolvable.  Upon closer scrutiny one finds ample agreement on what each group is FOR and NO unresolvable differences.

In his book “Experience and Education,” John Dewey advocated a hybrid educational approach which melded Traditional (read Core Knowledge) elements like structure, direction, discipline and “maturity of experience” (Dewey, 1938) with the positives of a Progressive education (read 21st Century Skills) elements like cultivation of individuality, freedom of activity, learning through experience and capitalizing on opportunities of the present to prepare students for the future.  In “Experience and Education” Dewey advocated positive elements of both Traditional and Progressive schools of thought (Dewey, 1938).  The same remains true today, educators should use the good from both Core Knowledge and 21st Century Skills and students will reap the rewards.

Some of these things are LIKE the other.  First, let us address similarities.  After a minor massaging of terminology I devised the following table of “Core” subjects, one column as proposed by 21st Century Skills, the second column as proposed by Core Knowledge:

21st   Century Skills

Core Knowledge

History   and Geography Important   Events in World History
Mathematics Essential   Elements of Mathematics
Science Fundamentals   of Science
Government,   Civics, Economics Basic   Principles of Government
English,   Reading and Language Arts Stories   and Poems Passed down from Generation to Generation
Arts Widely   Acknowledged Masterpieces of Art and Music [Art may also include written   masterpieces, not specified by Dr. Hirsch]
Foreign   languages [One   could argue, as many colleges do, foreign languages are part of the History   department…]

(Sources:  Core Knowledge Foundation (hereafter simply “Core”) and Partnership for 21st Century Skills (hereafter “21st Century”) web pages, see citations below.)

Note that six of six Core Knowledge categories match directly with stated 21st Century core subjects.  There is only one of seven 21st Century Skills core subjects not addressed by the Core Knowledge camp, “foreign languages,” which many colleges place under the History Department anyway.

Resolvable DifferencesClearly both sides view the challenge of teaching young people differently which creates the appearance of unresolvable issues, but in fact, both sides seek to give young people the best education available in good faith.  Core Camp followers worry about allocation of resources (mainly classroom time), they advocate establishing a deep foundational knowledge to improve comprehension and “learnability” [my word]; they feel  good comprehension leads to better problem solving and critical thinking.  On the other hand, 21st Camp followers advocate teaching six essential skills (core subjects, 21st century content, learning and thinking skills, ICT literacy, life skills; 21st century assessments)(21st Century, Skills Overview FAQ) which some in the Core Camp see as a daunting list competing for instructional hours.  Fortunately the list is only daunting IF the list is to be taught as separate required classes.  That need not be the case…  Imagine for a moment a Core Knowledge curriculum which incorporates 21st Century “learning and thinking skills” seamlessly as a means to learn and retain “Core Knowledge,” not as a separate and specific class but as the tool(s) to prove competency and literacy in that topic.  That is precisely what the 21st Century Skills advocates propose, “promoting understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects.” (21st Century, Interdisciplinary Themes)

But let us address all of the six skills and see if there is middle ground.

1.  Core Subjects.  As previously discussed, both sides largely agree over general categories of Core Subjects/Knowledge and being agreed, next…

2.  21st Century Content and Themes such as global awareness; financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy; civic literacy; health and wellness awareness; environmental literacy (21st Century, Skills FAQ).

The 21st Century Skills FAQ webpage claims these content areas are “typically…not emphasized in schools today” (21st Century, Skills FAQ).  I must disagree.  Prince William County schools may not represent the average American school district but my five children were taught each of these topics in mandatory or elective courses at different times in high school—world and U.S. history; U.S. government; accounting and finance (now a requirement for freshmen); business (elective) and science.  The only category I agree needs additional emphasis is health and wellness, which requires just two credits to graduate.  Finally, two of my five participated in the after-school “Model United Nations” program which skillfully combined many of the topics in a real life scenario.  While one can argue entrepreneurial literacy is best taught in the classroom called—J-O-B—it is addressed in the now mandatory freshmen accounting and finance course.  21st Century Skills advocates may have opinions on the level of emphasis or specific topics but this “issue” falls into the area of tweakable differences and should not be a critical point of contention.

I also take issue with both sides snidely sniping at each other.  The 21st Century Skills side implied Core Knowledge learners do not know how to “keep learning — and make effective and innovative use of what they know — throughout their lives” (21st Century, Skills FAQ).  The implication is ridiculous.  Quite the opposite, the Core Camp argued once one attains a certain level of core knowledge it is easier to learn more stuff, comprehend new stuff more quickly, better solve problems with the new stuff and to think more critically using the new stuff.  These are tools for life as well.

Likewise, Dr. Hirsch, in his Core Knowledge website introduction (Core, Why Knowledge Matters), implied the Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates a two tier system where the rich have a superior education and all else find themselves in “dull and incoherent classroom[s].”  I would like clarification on this comment as his claim is far from anything I have heard from the 21st Century Skills camp.  If anything they are for all students, all schools, all districts, all states having the same quality education regardless of [fill in the blank].

3, 4, 5, 6.  The remaining 21st Century Skills [learning and thinking skills (critical thinking, problem solving, communication, creativity, innovation, collaboration, information and media literacy, contextual learning), ICT literacy life skills (ethics, accountability, adaptability, personal productivity, personal responsibility, people skills, self-direction, social responsibility) and 21st Century Assessments] are vital pieces of a well-rounded education and must be interwoven into the curriculum as part and parcel of the classroom environment.  Whether a Core or Skills advocate certainly all will agree students must think critically, solve problems, communicate, be creative and innovative, collaborate, know how to use information and media resources; learn in and out of context lessons, know how to use modern technology, be flexible and adaptive and be assessed by more than multiple choice tests and recitation.  These are not things to debate.  They are also not things to teach as individual, semester long classes.  They are techniques, strategies, procedures; tools to be used and practiced in the classroom as students learn their Core Knowledge/Subjects to become well rounded learners.

Dewey said, “Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites…[and] Educational philosophy is no exception.  The history of educational theory is marked by opposition between the idea that education is development from within [Progressive] and that it is formation from without [Traditional]…” (Dewey, 1938).

This argument is still with us, some 75 years later.  We should not expect to solve it today, but it is not nearly as “to-mah-toe” as we are led to believe.

Dr. Coffman asked, “What are the important aspects of your subject area?”

According to the Commonwealth of Virginia, teaching Physics should help the student understand:  experimentation, analysis of data, better use of reasoning and logic for evaluation and foster a better conceptual understanding of the physical world; by exploring energy and how it interacts with matter and grasping how Physics interacts with science and technology in our world (Virginia Standards of Learning, Physics; para. 1).  Emphasis items include observation, experimentation, use of models, examining evidence, using the systematic processes of logical thinking; understanding the rules of evidence; remaining open to rational critique; and understanding physical hypotheses are subject to refinement and change; and the disappointing fact, science can help us understand our world but cannot answer all questions (Virginia Standards of Learning, Physics, para. 2).

Dr. Coffman’s final question was, “How does what you read in each Web site change your view of how you should teach your subject area?”

I hope not at all.  First, I have yet to teach and I am quite malleable.  Second, I see myself as a flexible, (fairly) open-minded person who sees the benefits of any well stated position.  I offer I will borrow from the positive aspects of all theories to which I am presented.  I think though the mental discussion I had to write this blog gives me pause to consider using written papers and presentations in Physics which are not the norm, at least in the Physics classrooms I found myself in.  There is room for content literacy, as well as presentations and papers in the Physics classroom, in addition to formal lab reports.



Dewey, J. (1938).  Experience and education.  New York, NY:  Simon and Schuster Touchstone Books.

21st Century Pedagogy (n.d.).  Retrieved September 5, 2013, from the Educational Oragami website, http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Pedagogy.

21st Century Skills Framework (n.d.).  Retrieved September 5, 2013, from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website, http://www.p21.org/overview/skills-framework.

21st Century Skills Overview FAQ (n.d.).  Retrieved September 5, 2013, from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills website, http://www.p21.org/overview/p21-faq.

Virginia Standards of Learning, Physics (n.d.).  Retrieved September 6, 2013, from the Virginia Department of Education website, http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/science/courses/stds_physics.pdf.

Why Knowledge Matters (n.d.).  Retrieved September 5, 2013, from the Core Knowledge Foundation website, http://coreknowledge.org/about-the-curriculum.

Technology Integration Matrix–Week One

Background.  Before addressing Dr. Coffman’s assignment on the Technology Integration Matrix (see at http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/matrix.php ) it is important to understand the context as regards my own education.  When I began my education in the 1960s, Crayons, pencils, paper and chalk were the tools of the day.  Boards were not white because they were black (or green).  Videos were called movies and came on celluloid film; very little in the classroom required electricity.  By high school there were calculators but they were primitive.  My father bought his first for around one hundred twenty 1976 dollars, and all it could do was add, subtract, multiply and divide, oh, and it could figure percentages.  Back then we had telephones (with curled cables) we actually used to talk to other people.  In college there were mainframes and stacks of perforated programming cards, no PCs (or MACs or Apples for that matter); and we used HP calculators.   They could do algebra, exponents, trigonometry and were marginally programmable.  Even the really expensive calculators could not graph.  To write papers we used this loud, clacking device called a typewriter and White Out for the all too frequent mistake.  The internet did not yet exist because Al Gore had not yet invented it.


Contrast my educational journey to the cognitive path of my sons and daughter.  Their entire lives have known electronic companions such as computers, video recordings, video games; their academic world was and is filled with graphing calculators, Smart Boards, BlackBoard (similar to Canvas), the internet, Skype, Facebook, texting (because apparently cell phones do not work for talking), laser pointers, PowerPoint, Excel, Word…  These things allow my children to collect, process, synthesize and communicate information in far less time than I ever imagined.  Consider, I spent hours and hours over the course of days in a library researching a topic.  I had to use Mr. Dewey’s Decimal system to find the books, a pencil and 3×5 card to log and record my supporting documentation; and my draft papers were handwritten on yellow legal paper–several times.  Conversely, my children can quickly access ten libraries in one sitting without leaving their chair; they can compile detailed information in minutes, run through several drafts of their paper in a few hours and have a finished product in the course of a long afternoon and evening then submit it to their teacher without it ever gracing paper.  These are powers we only dreamed of in my youth.

Fortunately we teachers are likewise bestowed with these powers and must strive to understand them and use them effectively and unobtrusively.  Even old guys like me.  Last semester I had the privilege to substitute teach and conducted a practicum in two separate schools.  In one I was able to watch a teacher deftly demonstrate the Smart Board in multiple meaningful, effective and unobtrusive ways.  In the other I was schooled by a student as I clumsily used the archaic mouse and left click.  She popped out of her seat, approached the smart Board and used her fingers to communicate with the computer via the Smart Board—zoom, zoom [Collaborative, Adaptation.  In this case the student was the teacher and we collaborated on the internet to find information on volcanic eruptions worldwide.].  I also witnessed students learning with modern scientific probe-ware in a Physics lab.  Their hardware and software technology were synchronous, slick, appropriate, saved loads of time on calculations and graphing; and measured events to accuracies my stopwatch and eyes could never hope to match, even in 1979 [this lab showed technology being used at the Collaborative/Constructive/Authentic/Goal, Adaptation portions of the TI Matrix].

Reflection.  It is in this light I reflect on the high school examples Dr. Coffman gave us, two of which I found lacking interest or compelling need for the technology employed.  The other two, however, provided exciting opportunities to engage students in inquiry learning activities they will remember for a lifetime.

Entry, Active—Technology for the Sake of Technology.  The first example involved a middle school math teacher who used a tablet to write equations (order of operations using the PEMDAS acronym) on the board.  In his hands the tablet was little more than a glorified piece of paper.  The teacher, rather than writing on a chalk board or white board, merely wrote on a tablet to show his work on the projected screen.  In this case his use of technology was neutral, at best, and may have had a negative impact by distracting his students from listening, thereby reducing their ability to follow his instruction.  Technology in this instance was not compelling or necessary and did not add to the learning process.

Entry, Collaborative—Technology Like an Encyclopedia (useful but not powerful).  Similarly, the second example, while adding to the students’ understanding of Muslim culture through text and internet research, was not interesting, engaging or stimulating and failed to meet the stated collaborative objective.  The teacher even complained he did not like the software as it did not foster collaboration.  This is not just a failure of software, it is also his failure as a teacher to properly orchestrate the lesson to use the software to accomplish his intended result.  He cannot merely place software in front of his students and think that is enough.  He must provide the students their “big idea” and guide their efforts throughout.  He must empower his students by “identify[ing] the questions” and make his students responsible “for identifying the specific procedures and strategies for obtaining the appropriate information on the posed questions” (Coffman, 2013, p. 10).

There is hope.  In the next two examples teachers did an excellent job and applied inquiry based learning activities infused with sound educational pedagogy to include Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, Engaged Learning; authentic, challenging, multidisciplinary, sustained and problem based Tasks; and Experiential Learning opportunities.  The following two examples include many of Dr. Coffman’s Inquiry Oriented Learning Activities:  WebQuests, Web Inquiry, Problem Based; and in the poetry example, Telecollaboration.  The videos are convincingly clear, the students were motivated intrinsically and excited about the projects at hand.

Authentic, Collaborative—“The One Less Travelled By” (Frost, 1916).  In the first example the teacher had students select a poet and poem, proposed “big ideas” to guide their research and stepped back.  These budding poets independently used technology seamlessly to:  access biographical information, conduct research on their assigned poet and one of their poems, develop a lesson on the poem, teach the lesson, create a video conveying the poems meaning, collaborate with classmates, and, in one case, to communicate directly with the poems author via the internet.  This example was ripe with instructional power and used technology to accelerate research; it modelled Dewey’s Experiential Learning on several levels, and, finally, technology provided students the unique opportunity to collaborate beyond their peers and with an actual poet who mentored them on their own poems (view video at http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/lessons/collaborative_adaptation_languagearts ).

Authentic, Infusion—“Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season” (Buffet, 1974).  The final example highlighted a well-orchestrated project which sadly but fortuitously occurred at precisely the right time to reinforce the lesson.  This compelling project took place during a particularly bad hurricane season and the students’ interest was piqued by real world events—real world learning and applications [In fact, the teacher in the video commented the students were out of school for two weeks following Katrina and how relevant the lesson became when they were able to see it play out in their real world.].  The “science team” included groups of four students in different roles—one mathematician, one scientist, one meteorologist, one sociologist—who collected data on several real world hurricanes.  They determined strength, track, intensity and attempted to ascertain the meteorological causes of the track and severity.  With their self-generated model, the sociologist then projected storm impact/damage to populations affected by future hurricanes of similar strength and location.  From their research the students collaborated to brainstorm and devise means to divert, mitigate or diminish the impact of future hurricanes.  They briefed their ideas to a team of instructors.  Just watch the video clip for compelling evidence the students were active and engaged, their eagerness and interest apparent in their eyes and body language (view at http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/lessons/authentic_infusion_science ).  Several weeks later the students’ work was validated by scientific experts who developed similar potential solutions.  This was a home run exercise they will never forget.

Today’s technology is wonderful, liberating, exciting and has the potential to work so positively to the student and teacher’s advantage—if judiciously and properly used.  It will be a tremendous challenge to learn the information ourselves then to apply it gradually moving from left to right on the Technology Integration Matrix.  I look forward to developing these skills with you over the next semester.



Coffman, T. (2013); Using inquiry in the classroom:  Developing creative thinkers and information literate students; Second Edition, (pp. 2-17).  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield.

Coffman, T. (2013); Prezi presentation on “Learning Theories;” retrieved from http://prezi.com/enhn2ce3jgyy/learning-theories/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy .

Gagne, R. M., (1985) The Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction.  New York: CBS College Publishing.