Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My New Huffington Post Article

Obama Practices Social Promotion

Sent from my iPhone

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Registration Now Open for CMK 2009!

How does one possibly top a summer institute where Alfie Kohn, Peter Reynolds, Bob Tinker, Marvin Minsky and an all-star faculty joined educators from around the world to create remarkable learning adventures?

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009
promises to do just that!

Registration is now open for the professional learning event of 2009!

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009 offers a world-class faculty and supportive environment for educators interested in exploring the intersection of creativity, collaboration, computing and powerful ideas.

Where else can you spend four days tinkering, collaborating, talking and learning with educators from around the world, plus legendary educators, including the first public school educator to be named a Macarthur Genius, Deborah Meier and Herb Kohl, author of dozens of classic books about education

Learn more about CMK '09 at this site.

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See you in Seattle?

I'm off Monday to speak at the NSBA T+L Conference in Seattle.

I'm doing three presentations including:

"The Best Education Ideas in the World" (brand new)
"Ten Things to Do with a Laptop- Learning & Powerful Ideas" (popular keynote)
"What to Do a Year After You Got Excited About Technology" (discussion)

The virtual handout for the event is here. It may change before the end of the conference.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Makes a Good Project?

Here is my latest article to be published in a forthcoming edition of The Creative Educator magazine.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

You Must Rethink "Tech Standards"

In 2004, I had the great privilege of being hired to consult and lead professional development in India. One of the highlights of the trip was being on a panel discussion with Dr. Sugata Mitra and a billionaire high-tech exec. The purpose of the day was a school convening it's community and experts to discuss the future of education. (How many of your schools have that sort of event on its calendar?)

Dr. Mitra and his work were damn impressive. Upon returning home I wrote the following article: Let Them Eat Tech Standards - A hole in the wall as science and public policy
The "Hole in the Wall" project is a testament to the competency and capacity of children to construct their own knowledge in a community of practice. Internet access can connect children to each other and the 21st century.

The fabulous TED Conference has just posted a new TED Talk by Dr. Sugata Mitra. It is worthy of the attention of every teacher concerned about learning and every coordinator with "technology" in their job description.

Note: The TED Talk site has better video quality, but Blogger would not allow the Embed to work properly.

Also read Sylvia Martinez's blog about Dr. Mitra's work, Hole in the Wall - Can kids learn computer literacy by themselves?

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Believe?

My latest magazine column for District Administration Magazine is now online.

Who Ya Gonna Believe?
The ongoing battle between facts and mythology.
Other professions have a term for when you put your personal belief ahead of facts-malpractice.

Read the entire article here.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Shameful Disrespect for History and Elders

The political conventions are like a four-day Superbowl for me. I can't get enough. I am however concerned about the stagecraft and the political calculus that requires the Obama campaign to distance themselves from the proud traditions of the Democratic Party

President Carter, one of two living Democratic Presidents, was met with thunderous applause as he and Mrs. Carter walked across the convention stage, waved and then fled. That's right a former President and Nobel Prize Winner was used as a prop and then made to disappear. The in-house band should have played Ray Stevens' 70s classic, The Streak during his minute in the spotlight.

What was the Obama campaign afraid of? Were they afraid President Carter would call for peace, not war? Were they concerned that he would call for economic justice, racial equality, disease eradication, civil rights, human rights or an end to torture?

Soon after President Carter was whisked off to an undisclosed secure location, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. took the stage.

He got to speak as a reward for throwing his father, Jesse Jackson, Sr. under the bus. How shameful it was when he publicly chastised his father for personal political gain. Congressman Jackson invoked the bloody battle for voting rights in Selma, Alabama and the heroic leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while expecting the audience to forget that his father worked tirelessly and risked his life for decades in order to help America "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." Reverend Jackson was in Selma and with Dr. King on that fateful balcony

Jesse Jackson, Sr. endorsed Barack Obama for President nearly two years ago. The reward for his loyalty is that neither he, Congressman Charles Rangel or Congressman John Lewis were invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

In fact, Senator Obama can't seem to be photographed in the same room with the civil rights leaders on whose shoulders he stands. Without the heroism and sacrifice of this greatest generation, Obama's presidential nomination would have been impossible. Without Jesse Jackson's historic presidential campaigns and the millions of new voters he registered, Barack Obama would not be a viable nominee.

While the Obama campaign pretends that racism is a prehistoric memory, they cannot be associated with leading African American leaders who risked life and limb to make racial equality possible.

It's all very sad. This denial of history, elders and expertise is reminiscent of the edublogosphere and so much of our culture where youth and immediacy are over-valued.

I have contributed to the Obama campaign and I will vote for him in November. However, I won't be half as proud as when I puled the lever for Jesse Jackson, Sr. in 1984 - the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential primary election.

At least Ted Kennedy got the attention and respect he deserves. It was glorious to see the enormous smile on Senator Biden's face as Senator Kennedy spoke and delighted the delegates in the arena.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Reflections on Constructing Modern Knowledge 2008

My summer institute, Constructing Modern Knowledge, was one of the most rewarding efforts of my career. I'm already working on how to make next year's event even bigger and better.

Soon, more multimedia from CMK08 will be posted on the the web, but in the meantime a number of thoughtful reflections have been shared via the blogosphere.

Check out the blogs here.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Modest Advice for a Conscientious Math Teacher

Dan Meyer's blog, dy/dan shares the thoughts, insecurities and efforts of a terrific young urban educator via words and remarkable videos. His blog is worthy of your attention.

Dan should me commended for making his thinking public and discussing issues rarely explored in public. A recent blog started out by wondering if Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's tactics and hostility towards teachers would be fruitful in the public schools of the nation's capitol.

Along the way, Dan asked a serious question about how to improve his students' geometry test scores, regardless of how each of us might feel about the value or use of standardized testing.

Here is my first, albeit incomplete, set of recommendations.

Dear Dan:

First of all, I wish to share my admiration for the sincerity and courage inherent in your question.
I got my 07-08 Geometry results back yesterday and they were not acceptable. Too many kids listing along at Basic levels, not enough kids rising to Proficiency.
My question to so many commenters here: what would you have me do with that data?

Asking this question is critically important. You can't be good at anything, much less teaching, without being reflective.

First, let's assume that the test actually attempts to assess "geometry." Many standardized tests give kids a score for something like "algebraic reasoning" when the test only included one question on the topic. It would also be nice if you continued to work with the same students tested. Having test results after the kids move on to another teacher is hardly useful as a corrective instrument.

Since you can't cure poverty or the other socioeconomic and cultural obstacles experienced by your students, solutions will need to be relegated to what you do in your classroom.

One mistake frequently made when confronting such issues as your geometry scores is to assume that blame lies with either a) the teacher or b) the student. There is a third player at work here - the curriculum. Why don't we ever challenge the assumptions underlying the curriculum?

While I realize you have a limited ability to replace or abandon the curriculum, it is equally true that doing the same thing louder will not achieve a different result.
But both of your responses dodge the question. From the perspective of someone opposed to the accountability measures of NCLB and skeptical of standardized tests, what would you have me do with the knowledge that (e.g.) four out of ten students I taught last year couldn’t find the volume of a unique swimming pool?

Why should students be able to find the volume of a swimming pool? How often do you have to do that? I never calculate unique swimming pool volume.

How many of your students have access to a swimming pool or even swim? (Oh, I know. Tests are supposed to be culturally neutral.)

It's worth asking yourself the question Seymour Papert used to challenge my own teaching and curriculum planning. "What can they DO with that?"

Such a question goes well beyond matters of relevance. Knowledge is constructed as a consequence of experience. What sorts of experiences do your students have?

I'm not a Utopian. I know that you have to "teach" the kids "math." However, you may need to ensure understanding before covering the curriculum. Perhaps you can change the order of the curriculum. Perhaps you can supplement the curriculum with more imaginative texts (including trade books written by experts). Perhaps you can use Logo with kids - still for my money the richest environment for developing geometric reasoning. Perhaps you can find a way for students to be less hostile to the curriculum being shoveled in their direction. In any event, you need to take the kids from where they are and help them move forward.

You may need to change everything, just to "catch-up!"

The research of Constance Kamii and others, plus your own common sense indicates that "practicing" more pool volume problems is unlikely to help students improve their scores, or more importantly understand volume. Check out Kamii's books here. Her videos are available from Teachers College Press.

In that spirit, here are some resources and practical ideas you might consider:
As Papert and Harel teach us, "It's OK to worry about what to teach Monday, as long as what you do points to what you want to do someday." Don't get distracted by the immediacy of the curriculum or tests. I hope this helps.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

They Hate Me, They Really Really Hate Me!

Kevin Carey, of the "independent" and "innovative" Education Sector, didn't have the decency to defame me by name when he attacked the cover story, School Wars, I wrote for the current issue of Good Magazine.

It's ironic to be accused of "policy juvenalia" in a blog oh so cleverly entitled "Bad Magazine."
In a time when smart people of good faith occupy both sides of many heated and complex education debates, it makes sense occasionally to pause, take a deep breath, and denounce things like the incoherent mishmash of policy juvenalia, useless sentiment, and blatant lies found in this article, published by GOOD Magazine, in which we are told that NCLB "requires all of the nation’s schoolchildren to be above the mean on standardized tests," Bill Gates and Eli Broad are spearheading the corporate conspiracy to privatize K-12 education, and standardized tests come with instructions about what to do if students throw up on them. It's sort of a perfect distillation of woolly-minded HuffPost-type conventional education wisdom, and in that sense is oddly valuable, because you can read it and know everything that a not-inconsequential percentage of people know (or rather, don't know) about education.

It's not "useless sentiment" to care about children.

Ever since President Bush told me to "use the Google," I have found it to be an indispensable tool for learning all sorts of interesting things. One thing I learned when I clicked on the "Who We Are" link on the Education Sector web site was that the "independent" and "innovative" Education Sector is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Eli Broad.

It is awfully refreshing to see such "independent" and "innovative" analysts strenuously defending their sugar daddies. It's kind of sweet.

For the record, my article was carefully fact-checked by Good Magazine. In fact, a good deal of my juiciest stuff about Eli Broad was left on the cutting-room floor. Stay tuned, keep reading and don't forget to follow the money!

Note: You may read the Quick and the Ed attack on my article here.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

My First Cover Story of a Magazine Sold at Newsstands!

I'm really honored that the article I wrote, School Wars, is the cover story for the September/October issue of Good Magazine.

While they edited out a good number of my jokes and a bunch of stuff about Eli Broad, I am thrilled to have been asked to write such a large and unconventional article for a lifestyle magazine. After ten years of writing for trade magazines and the web, I think this makes me an actual journalist! (My dues is paid up too)

While you can certainly read the article online here, I suggest you find a copy of Good at a local newsstand, bookstore or Whole Foods so you can see the provocative art they used to enhance my article. Plus, you can have me autograph the issue the next time you see me :-)

It's also not such a bad idea to buy the issue in order to send the message that you wish to read thoughtful pieces about education in the mainstream media. It takes a pretty gutsy magazine to pay me to question the motives of Bill Gates and Eli Broad.

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Monday, August 4, 2008


Here is my most recent article for District Administration Magazine, Enrichment Programs: The winners win more at the expense of their classmates.

Enrichment is derived from Latin for "children of rich parents who complain.

I sure hope this column generates some conversation.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008



Leg one of my roadtrip is now complete. Despite my son and I having tickets for separate flights to Houston two hours apart, he made it onto my plane. A bit of SMS-prodding from his Mom and finagling on my part and I managed to get the kid upgraded to first class.

We are on our way to Birmingham, Alabama for a civil rights history tour of Birmingham, Montgomery, Selma, Memphis, Little Rock and anywhere we can stop for good BBQ. I've been deeply moved by the courage and sacrifice of the young Americans who changed this country through their heroic principled actions in the South during the 1930s-1970s. This is my way of paying respect to their efforts and learning more about my country.

I have three books on touring historic civil rights sites and have been studying up.

I'll try and keep you up-to-date on our learning adventures.

On to Birmingham...

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Recent articles you may have missed

Here are some recent articles I published in District Administration Magazine...


Keep the Wish List Short

Giving parents a laundry list of supplies to buy is lousy public relations and exacerbates economic hardships.

Published in the July 2008 issue of District Administration

What's a Computer For? Part II
Computer science is the new basic skill.
Published in the July 2008 issue of District Administration

What's a Computer For? Part 1
It all depends on your educational philosophy.
Published in the June 2008 issue of District Administration

Online Videoconferencing
Web tools such as uStream make video broadcasting accessible.
Published in the June 2008 issue of District Administration

Keeping Up with the Future
Consider these suggestions for staying informed and inspired.
Published in the May 2008 issue of District Administration

The Games Teachers Play
We are cheating our students by turning reading into a game of dodgeball.
Published in the April 2008 issue of District Administration

Public Schools?
Be wary of a gift that might squash the benefits of public education.

Published in the April 2008 issue of District Administration

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Banned Collection - Issue 3

I've been writing for magazines for about a decade and on occasion the publisher or Editor-in-Chief objected to the content of a column and refused to publish it. On other occasions I would not make changes I felt would dilute my argument or insult the intelligence of the reader.

My 2008 column, The Children’s Machine - It’s time to turn the network upside down was inspired by thinking about the potential of the XO, aka: the "$100 Laptop."

Emerging technology, universal wireless Internet access and best educational practices will cause increasing conflict with the job security of many I.T. employees. How will your district respond?

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The Banned Collection - Issue 2

I've been writing for magazines for about a decade and on occasion the publisher or Editor-in-Chief objected to the content of a column and refused to publish it. On other occasions I would not make changes I felt would dilute my argument or insult the intelligence of the reader.

Education’s Most Dangerous Idea: Curriculum (from 2006) takes the controversial view that the notion of curriculum is at the root of many education problems.

A friend called a few months back and asked me to tell him my most dangerous idea. What a great question I thought! My answer, “Curriculum is bad.”

Allow me to make the case.

I can turn to almost any page in a textbook, article or website and find an outlandish, inaccurate or confusing idea some curriculum writer thought was brilliant. Even the most well-intentioned efforts at relevance or context stretch credulity, often in a hilarious fashion.

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The Banned Collection - Issue 1

I've been writing for magazines for about a decade and on occasion the publisher or Editor-in-Chief objected to the content of a column and refused to punish it. On other occasions I would not make changes I felt would dilute my argument or insult the intelligence of the reader.

It seems like the blogosphere is a good place to share these "controversial" articles.

Think Different - Lose the Cart was an open letter I wrote to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2002 imploring the company to stop selling laptop carts.

The magazine thought that Apple might be offended. I stand behind the article six years later at at time when schools are inexplicably tethering laptops to desks.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

You Know Him, You Love Him, You Can't Live Without Him!

In addition to hosting The Constructivist Celebration, I will be part of the following sessions during NECC:

Student-Centered Laptop Integration into the Classroom

Ron Canuel, Eastern Townships School Board (Canada) with Susan Einhorn, Sylvia Martinez, Scott Parker and Gary Stager

Monday, 6/30/2008, 2:00pm–3:00pm; HGCC 211

Successful integration of laptop technology into the classroom focuses on having students be active participants in the solution-building process.

What Effective Computer-Using Educators Know about Teaching: An International Perspective

Geoff Powell, St Hilda's School (Australia) with Peter Skillen and Gary S. Stager

Tuesday, 7/1/2008, 11:00am–12:00pm; Grand Hyatt Lone Star Ballroom E

While focusing on increasing their technical fluency, we run the risk of assuming that all teachers understand foundational learning theory and child-centered classroom practice.

Transforming Technology Projects from Good to Great

Melinda Kolk, Tech4Learning, Inc. with Sylvia Martinez, Peter Reynolds, Adam Smith and Gary Stager

Wednesday, 7/2/2008, 12:00pm–1:00pm; Grand Hyatt Lone Star Ballroom E

This panel discusses strategies educators can use during project design, implementation, and evaluation to help ensure that student technology use inspires creativity and improves achievement.

With any luck, these discussions will be Web 2.0 free zones :-)

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Possibility of Doing Good AND Doing Well

The recent Sturm and Drang over the Associated Press' concern about their stories being excerpted in blogs and on web sites without compensation has been continued in blogs [1] [2] by Will Richardson.

Some well-fed fully-employed bloggers long for a Utopian world where all intellectual capital is free. They use the technical breakthroughs of the Web as evidence that expertise and intellectual capital are devalued in a world in which "content" can be had by the barrel at no cost.

Such a view ignores the value of art, culture and civil traditions while viewing the world entirely through the eyes of economists. The answer to runaway capitalism is not Marxism.

I just read a terrific new article about how good old fashioned hard work, competent management, respect for artists and emerging technology is being used to make opera more profitable and accessible.

New York's famed Metropolitan Opera Company is improving the bottom line and increasing its relevance without defaming, devaluing or disrespecting their employees or compromising the quality of their "product." In fact, they are honoring hundreds of years worth of artistic tradition and its importance to Western culture, by building upon those traditions and reaching new audiences.

Surely, there are some lessons here for education.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

I Love this Article!

Last December, New York Magazine published an article The Littlest Hustler: Portrait of a New York childhood, in the extreme. The article tells the story of "tween" Alex Goldberg who through grit, perseverance and force of personality views the world as his kingdom. I've thought about this terrific article over the past six months and my graduate students debated it.

Alex’s adventure ended hours later, at Nobu, where the pool crowd had migrated to feast on junket sushi. He had been chatting up Venus and Serena Williams at a nearby table, and mugging for cameras with a cigar hanging from his lips while eating a bowl of ice cream. Then the faces at his table went blank. Alex looked up and saw what they saw. His mother.

But Alex isn’t like other boys his age. He’s had free rein over the streets of Nolita since before he can remember, and he quickly learned the rules of that playground, turning his relationships with the neighborhood’s shop owners into access to free gourmet meals and designer clothes and trendy sneakers, then turning those freebies into even better stuff (like courtside Knicks tickets), and leveraging those perks into even more valuable things, like connections to athletes, rappers, nightclub owners, and so on.

This article is a reminder that long before Web 2.0 there were kids kids who were competent, clever, resourceful, responsible and eager to learn.

I wish I was as cool as Alex! I love that kid!

What do you think?

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Video from the OLPC Country Workshop

I'm delighted to be a member of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation's Learning Team. The learning philosophy of OLPC and its computer, the XO, are an exciting manifestation of my 25 years worth of teaching Logo to kids and teachers as well as my work with "laptop schools" since 1990.

On May 20th, hundreds of educators, government officials and thought leaders from dozens of countries descended on the MIT Media Lab for a global summit organized by OLPC. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of OLPC, gave a "State of OLPC" presentation in which he reviewed the organization's amazing accomplishments and presented XO 2.0. He also explained how the success of the Give One, Get One program made the XO cost $100 in developing countries.

Several leaders from countries using the XO (the "$100 laptop") spoke about the need for the XO in their countries, the implementation issues and the obstacles they have overcome. Oscar Becera's presentation, "The Starfish on the Beach: Why OLPC for the Poorest and Most Remote? and How?" was particularly interesting. Many children in Peru live a 4 day walk from Internet access.

My old friend and colleagues, David Cavallo and Mitchel Resnick spoke about learning and computing, while the father of the personal computer, Alan Kay, finished the day with another thought provoking discussion of the computer's unrealized potential in education. Dr. Kay's talk is highly recommended.

Best of all, these videos are all available for you to watch online here

The videos are up to an hour in length and available in Flash and OGG formats. The OGG files are easier on the eyes and larger. If you don't have software capable of playing OGG files, try VLC. VLC is GNU free and cross-platform. VLC the Swiss Army Knife of video players. It seems to play anything, including DVDs encoded for another region!

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Is History History in History Class?

During last night's coverage of the final Democratic primaries in Montana and South Dakota, NBC's Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert remarked, "I would love to teach an American History class in an inner-city high school tomorrow morning." (paraphrase)

Read the rest of my blog, Is History History in History Class?

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Powerful Ideas from Constructing Modern Knowledge

I've created Constructing Modern Knowledge, a minds-on institute this July 28-31 in Manchester, NH to provide an environment where educators can learn with computers, explore powerful ideas and raise their game.

In addition to personal and collaborative learning environments, the Constructing Modern Knowledge faculty and guest speakers represent some of the most creative educators in the field. Bob Tinker and Cynthia Solomon invented many of the technologies and methodologies we now take for granted. Nobody embodies creativity quite like Pete Reynolds and Alfie Kohn is one of the most prolific and fearless educational advocates alive today.

Go to to read articles by our stellar faculty or visit their web sites.

Click here for more information on registering for Constructing Modern Knowledge!

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Why Do You Want My Slides?

Read my latest article Why Do You Want My Slides? in The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate.

Each year I make dozens of presentations at educational events around the world. Nearly every presentation is followed by an audience member asking, “Can I have a copy of your PowerPoint?” Sometimes, they hand me a USB drive...

What do attendees intend to do with my slides?

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New Keynote, Workshop & Presentation Topics

I've updated the page describing the keynote addresses, workshops and presentations I offer to schools, districts and conferences. Check out the list of sessions and descriptions here.

Potential clients may also download The Stager Difference, a PDF document outlining the services I offer plus endorsements from colleagues and clients.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Two New Articles By Me in The Huffington Post!

Today, two new articles I wrote were published by The Huffington Post.


Spelling Porn (about the televised National Spelling Bee)

When the Jumbotron says, "Read," You Read! (about the merits of "summer reading")

and my earlier article

The Surge Against First Graders (about the Reading First scandal)

Then comment, cross-post, dig, subscribe - anything necessary to tell the world that different perspectives on education need to be expressed in the media.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Free Software, Computer-rich Learning Adventures & Alfie Kohn!

Only a few days remain for early-bird registration!
Save $50

Attendees get free software from Tech4Learning (Frames, Pixie, ImageBlender, WebBlender, Twist)and LCSI (MicroWorlds EX) in addition to four days worth of immersive project-based learning, world-class guest speakers and terrific social events.

Constructing Modern Knowledge

Hosted by Dr. Gary Stager
July 28-31, 2008
Manchester, NH

For more information, go to

Sponsored by The Constructivist Consortium and the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation

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Monday, May 12, 2008

My new blogs at The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate

The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate is going through a transitional phase, so you may have missed some of my recent blogs there.

Digital Native Theory Further Disproved

Willfully Ignoring the Lessons of the Past
Alfie Kohn's Latest Masterpiece
Public Schools?

You may subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate with

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Let's Put Deborah Meier on Our Money!

Popular Web 2.0 enthusiast, Will Richardson, live-blogged about a recent conference presentation by Deborah Meier and Dr. Diane Ravitch. Several people, including myself felt compelled to explain who Meier and Ravitch are to Will's readers.

In fact, I contributed the following...

You owe it to yourselves to read Meier’s seminal works, “The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem” (1995) and “In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization.” In most countries it would be assumed that every teacher has read a Macarthur Genius like Deborah Meier.

Dr. Ravitch worked for President Bush 41 as Assistant Secretary of Education and works for the Hoover and Brookings Institutes. Despite her right-wing background, she is rational and thoughtful. She has been smeared and attacked repeatedly by the Bloomberg/Klein junta. Dr. Ravtich has demonstrated courage, integrity and an admirable capacity for growth. Her book, “The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn,” is a great read.

Those two women are the type of speakers every confrence should feature. Their expertise is awesome, accomplishments great and ideas are timeless.

I have long admired Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch and have recommended their books to my magazine readership, graduate students and friends.

I wrote about Ravitch's book in a 2003 article, "The End of Textbooks."

My interview with Deborah Meier was published in 2002 and may be read here, "The Power of Her Ideas."

The more I think about it, the more I believe the point I made about American educators' awareness (or lack thereof) of powerful ideas is important. Why hasn't every American educator read Meier, Kohl, Dewey, Holt, Papert, Sizer, etc?

Until the recent adoption of the Euro, Italy's currency featured educator Maria Montessori. Can you imagine if our nation afforded great educators that level of respect and admiration?

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Please Say Thank You

The time is now to thank your mentors and heroes!

Please Say Thank You, my latest column for District Administration Magazine, is a reflective piece on the role mentors play in each of our lives.

Please read my latest article and share your thoughts here on the blog.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hey Apple, Sell the Damn iPhones!

(2/17/08 Apple Reality Distortion Field)

I just walked 20 blocks in the rain to the flagship Apple Store on 5th Avenue in NY. I wanted to buy the new Aperture 2. I've surrendered a couple of hundred thousand of digital photos to Aperture and the new version promises to be at last usable. The speed of the previous version is excruciating.

As a big Apple fan and stockholder, I was thrilled to see the store packed with customers on a rainy Sunday evening at 11:30 PM. There is a $99 upgrade path to Aperture 2, but not from education/academic versions. So, I'm out of luck, but at least I can save $20 off the retail version as an educator, right?

OF COURSE NOT. "You can't get the Apple academic discount in the Apple store. Why not order the software online and wait for it to arrive?" asked the store employee. I figured that if I walked back to my hotel, I would make up for the price differential and surrendered more money to the Apple Gods.

As I went to pay I noticed customers on either side of me purchasing five iPhones each. "Woo hoo! Perhaps my stock will rebound," I thought to myself.

Not so fast, the clerk swiped the credit card of the customer to my right, read the display and exclaimed, "You've already bought five iPhones! Her arms scooped up the product he was trying to buy with actual money."

Apparently the Apple Point-of-Sale system is sophisticated enough to detect if someone buys lots of iPhones, but not capable of giving me the academic discount.

Back at my hometown Apple Store I've watched customers turned away for trying to pay cash for an iPhone even when purchasing other items as well. Using legal United States tender is some sort of no-no for iPhone customers!

I realize that people are hacking the iPhone, but do not understand why that is a problem for Apple. Even if they lose the kickback they may receive from AT&T, they still made money on the device.

As an Apple stockholder who lost more 1/3 of value since January, I want Apple to make lots of midnight iPhone sales. I don't care if people are crushing the iPhones and snorting them!

Either should Apple!

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Happy Independence Day Kosovo!

I was exiting the subway at Rockefeller Center when I heard horns blaring and sirens wailing up 6th Avenue. Hundreds of (luxury) cars and SUVs full of exuberant flag-waving Kosovoans were jamming traffic and ear drums in all directions.

My first thought was that Kosovo won a soccer match, but then I noticed all of the American flags.

This was no celebration of a sporting victory. Kosovo, with the help of the Clinton Administration and NATO, had earned their independence from Serbia.

Congratulations Kosovo and Americans from Kosovo!

I love NY!!

Sent from my iPhone

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Monday, February 4, 2008

There IS a Difference Between Teaching, Learning and Curriculum!

Last Friday, I enjoyed the great privilege of participating virtually in a discussion of Daniel Pink's dubious book, "A Whole New Mind," with terrific high school students from Arapahoe High School in Colorado. Karl FIsch, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Moritz earned my respect for inviting "outsiders" into the discussion and for their preparation. Based on the comments from their articulate students, they are doing something right.

(You may read the discussions I participated in here: Period 4 & Period 5)

In preparation for the book discussions, Karl Fisch's Fishbowl blog, Karl Fisch shares the following quote from another blog.

Twenty-first century education won’t be defined by any new technology. It won’t be defined by 1:1 laptop programs or tech-intensive projects. Twenty-first century education will, however, be defined by a fundamental shift in what we are teaching—a shift towards learner-centered education and creating creative thinkers.

This comment makes an all-too common mistake. It confuses teaching, learning and curriculum. They are not the same! "A fundamental shift in what we are teaching" refers to content, not how students learn or think. In fact, I do not believe that you can create creative thinkers since learning is what the learner does - not the result of teaching.

It seems peculiar to me that there is so little discussion of changing curricular content among those who spend their time blogging about school "change." Surely, you cannot keep adding content to the overcrowded curriculum. Not only does some curricular content need to be cut to make room, but some content is irrelevant while other "content" is counter-productive, unteachable or bad for students.

Kids at Arapahoe High School understood me when I suggested that "kids go to school to be taught." This is not the same as learning. Too many educators and policy makers seem to have a tenuous understanding of terms central to their mission.

Here is a primer...

What you teach is curricular content. How you teach is pedagogy. Learning is the process of growth undertaken by the learner. Knowledge is the consequence of experience.

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More Disturbing than the Great Shamu Mystery!

For many years I have been troubled by the timeless mystery of Shamu. How is it possible that every SeaWorld features daily performances by Shamu, the killer whale? Is there an elaborate system of subterranean transcontinental waterways connecting SeaWorld venues in Florida, Texas and California? Or, is there a more nefarious explanation?

Today, I received an email from Ticketmaster (often scary enough). The email was trying to sell me tickets to see The Harlem Globetrotters "play" in California. For Christmas, I gave my nephews tickets to see The Harlem Globetrotters "play" in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Both Globetrotter games are on the same day; 3,000 miles apart!

How can that be? Scooby Scooby Doo... where are you?

Scooby-Doo Meets The Harlem Globetrotters

Check out David Letterman's tasteless, but funny, report about an incident where "Shamu" nearly drowned its trainer.

Askelin, Laura. "shamu on Flickr - Photo Sharing!." Welcome to Flickr - Photo Sharing. 10 July 2003. 4 Feb. 2008 .

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6X Zoom lens for the iPhone

iPhone Central reports on a 6X lens for your iphone here.

Only $19.99!

Get 'em while they're hot!

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The Talent Economy

If Microyahoo becomes a reality, the New York Times asks if anyone will want to work there.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Teach the Kids You Have!

My latest District Administration article, "Teach the Kids You Have - There is no substitute for getting to know every student," is now online.

Here is an excerpt...

Our obsession with finding mechanistic explanations for human behavior is time consuming. We can spend time on diagnosis with little left for actually collaborating with students in meaningful learning adventures. Classrooms are not sterile laboratories where a change in one variable reliably predicts an outcome. Good teaching and learning are far more fluid, serendipitous and personal.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

I Love Nothing More than Watching Wolf Blitzer Use a Mouse

When CNN launched the 37-hour daily program, "The Situation Room," I immediately thought how profoundly boring it was to watch America's funnyman, Wolf Blitzer, and other "digital immigrants" (mostly generals) demonstrate their tech literacy and mouse for those of us at home.

Jon Stewart finally annihilates the multi-screen short-attention-span pandering format of the show here..

The Situation Room is about as interactive as all those white boards schools are buying to "teach 21st century learners."

Too bad kids don't have the ability to change the channel while in Algebra class.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Moralistic Hypocrite Faces Charges

"I think it's ridiculous that you can't watch a movie without seeing sex, nudity or extreme violence. I don't understand why they're trying to keep that in there."

Those were the words of Daniel Thompson, founder of Clean Flicks, the Utah company that sanitized Hollywood movies for people who want all of their thinking done for them. Major directors, such as Steve Spielberg, sued Clean Flicks for rampant copyright violation (you can't paint underpants on Michelangelo's David for example).

Well, it now seems that Puritanical entrepreneur Daniel Thompson is in BIG TROUBLE - lots more trouble than when he was convicted for selling unregistered securities a few years back. Authorities believe that Clean Flicks was a front for a pornography studio and that Daniels had solicited sex from 14 year-old girls (after all, they're not old enough to watch "Saving Private Ryan"). The girls were also asked to appear in one of his movies. Authorities say that Daniels paid two 14 year-old girls $20 for oral sex for himself and a friend. A 16 year-old girl helped Daniels recruit underage "talent." There is reason to believe that he tried to get girls intoxicated as well.

A former employer who fired Danies from managing a clothing store said, "He was always talking about fighting Hollywood for the good of the children." Touching stuff!

The Daily Herald newspaper also reports the following:

Thompson also was founder and former member of Truth in Politics, a group started in 2006 purportedly to expose the people behind anonymous political attacks. The idea for the group was conceived at Thompson's former CleanFlicks dealership in Orem.

Daniels is the latest moralistic scold to be exposed as a jerk. He joins Hypocrite Hall of Fame members Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Bob Livingston, Henry Hyde, Newt Gingrich, Rudolph Giuliani and Rush Limbaugh. Unlike the others, Daniels faces serious jail time.

Teach your kids to run away from men who lecture your family on how to behave.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stop the VoiceThread! Please!

Wes Fryer spends a great deal of time and effort on his blog and in workshops touting VoiceThread as an important new educational tool. VoiceThread (and similar products) may in fact represent interesting technical achievements, but a heathy dose of candor and critical reflection is needed.

I know that if I dare criticize Wes' examples I run the risk of being called a big meanie and told that the examples presented are just quick vignettes not intended to be exemplars. However, lots of educators are being led to believe that such web-based software tools represent sophisticated practice and new learning opportunities. Such a conclusion would be wrong.

The VoiceThread examples I have seen are little more than digital book reports with images not owned or created by the student (author) and with narrations suffering from too little planning and editing. The audience for such "productions" eludes me.

Some of these slapped together multimedia collages are about as entertaining as a slideshow of someone else's vacation photos.

In case you think I'm wrong, too harsh or making a rash judgement, please watch and listen to the VoiceThread video here.

This matters to me! I have been disappointed by how hard it is to engage the educational blogosphere in issues of social justice and civil rights as demonstrated in the following recent blogs:
Twittering While America Burns
The State of Race Relations
I'm Worried About America
Oh! The Humanity!
What's the Difference Between School and Prison?
Observations from the NSBA Conference...

In this blog, Wes Fryer shares a VoiceThread project he created about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "Dream" speech.

It is unclear as to whether the voices you hear are a mixture of students and teachers or just teachers alone. (there are no credits) The "educational objective" of the activity seem to have to do with evaluating audio quality more than understanding Dr. King. However, the enormity of Dr. King's contributions and sacrifice deserve far more than a soundcheck.

The following are some questions and observations that arise from the King VoiceThread video published by Wes Fryer:

Did the students (or their teachers) listen to the entire March on Washington speech? (few classrooms ever do) Did they discuss the purpose of the 1963 speech or read the speeches of others present that day?

Did they consider (re: READ) other work by King or his contemporaries?

Do the students (or their teachers) think that the nation healed immediately after that speech?

Do the students (or their teachers) know that the Supreme Court just made voluntary school desegregation illegal?

One speaker says something like, "one speech by one man with one dream change everyone's life even if you don't think about it?" This is the filibuster of an unprepared student and then you used your platform to share such nonsense with the world.

Why should we be impressed by a web-based slideshow of what kids or teachers) think/feel/believe based on exposure to a few sentences uttered by a prolific political leader?
This dangerously equates the teacher who rambles on about how American life is consumed by the "almighty dollar" with the Nobel Laureate. This is a display of egocentrism, narcissism and ignorance.

If the VoiceThread I watched and listened to is just an early draft, then why publish it? Respect your audience by keeping drafts private. Can someone please point me to the good VoiceThreads?

I wrote about the miseducative way in which Dr. King is taught in "If You Really Want to Honor Dr. King..." I hope some of you will read this article and "The Truth Shall Set You Free!"

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

EduCon 2.0 Preconference Homework

In preparation for Educon 2.0, please use this tool to create a graphical metaphor for teaching and learning.

Don't be a digital tuber!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Eradicating Meaningless Euphemisms by Bombarding them with New Ones

David Warlick's most recent blog and the congratulatory support of his readers confuses me.

Let me begin by sharing a portion of his article with which I agree:

Our efforts should not be to integrate technology into the classroom, but to define and facilitate a new platform on which the classroom operates. When the platform is confined by classroom walls, and learning experiences spring from static textbooks and labored-over white boards, and the learning is highly prescribed, then pedagogy is required.

However, I am left to ask, "What do learners DO in the world of pretty diagrams, false dichotomies and networked learning platforms promised in Warlick's blog?"

However, if the platform is a node on the global network; with text, audio, and video links to other uncountable nodes on the network; and the connections are real time and clickable, and tools are available to work and employ the content that flows through those connections; then the learning happens because learners have experienced personal connections — and they want to maintain those connections by feeding back their own value. (Warlick 1/13/08)

I don't teach from textbooks or white boards and never did. My teaching has been far from prescriptive, whether face-to-face or online. This was all possible without the technology platform Warlick fashions for educators of the future. Understanding how meaningful, personal, non-coercive, creative, constructive, collaborative learning environments have been created, and in some cases sustained, around the world should be a pre-requisite for anyone professing a desire to reinvent education.

I love talking, chatting, Skyping, Twittering, blogging, Mogging (yup, it exists) and writing as much as the next guy, but a very small percentage of knowledge is constructed by talking. Much is not. I remain unconvinced that the most vocal proponents of Web 2.0 offer a vision of technology use outside of the language arts or perhaps social studies curriculum. With all due respect, talking about math or science is not the same as being a scientist or mathematician. Papert originally offered a vision of how computers make that possibility a reality.

Learning is an active process with the learner at its center. It is not dependent on instruction, online or face-to-face. I got excited about computing thirty years ago because it allowed me to make things that did not exist before or were beyond my reach. It amplified my creative abilities. Playing jazz and computer programming afforded me a community of practice of like-minded people, of various levels of expertise and shared objectives.

I have since come to understand how knowledge is the result of active purposeful construction and that computers often unprecedented opportunities to explore new domains and engage in a much wider range of projects than have ever been possible before. As Papert says, "If you can make things with computers, then you can make a lot more interesting things." The process of computer programming was as creatively rewarding and intellectually satisfying as composing music or engaging in a well-reasoned argument. What are examples of the "artifacts of learning" that Mr. Warlick "breeds?"

I fear with all my being that the remarkable potential of computing and the promise for innovation and school reform it once embraced will be lost if all we focus on is the "well-reasoned debate" at best, and looking stuff up, PowerPoint or web quests at worst.

I do not mean to diminish for an instant the power of the Internet. I have personally been online since 1983 and teaching online for more than a dozen years. I used an acoustic coupler to connect from my bedroom to a mainframe in the late 1970s and remember when my Australian host invited her neighbors over to watch me check my email in 1990. I led collaborative online education projects in the late 1980s. As I write this paragraph, even I ask myself, "SO WHAT?"

The network begins at home. Isn't there MUCH more we can do to make the existing learning environments more social, collaborative and meaningful whether electricity is involved or not? Why do we constantly jump from melodramatic tales of school to some utopian world of online alchemy?

It may be ill-advised to project onto children or the educational system an adult's excitement about how social networks have reduced their sense of isolation, answered a tech-support question or even helped shape their personal identity.

I sense that we have gone beyond the tipping point of what Seymour Papert calls "verbal inflation." We are terribly excited about so very little.

David's triad of "electronic portfolios," "course management systems" and "social networking" offers not a single clue for a teacher yearning to make school a more hospitable place for learning nor provides a child one ounce of leverage against the system many of you proclaim a desire to reform. In fact, electronic portfolios and course management systems are clear tools of the existing system.

I do happen to agree with David Warlick's concern about the cacophony of meaningless euphemisms being bandied about, but cannot help but notice the number of additional ones introduced in the comments to his blog.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

What the Hell is Veronica Mars?

Last night, around 4 AM, I was awake in a Canadian hotel room and watched my first episode of some show called, Veronica Mars. Canadian TV kept running interstitials announcing that really naughty stuff could appear at any moment. That was the only reason I endured the entire episode. Alas, it was a lie.

I consider myself somewhat literate and perceptive, but after investing an hour in the program I have no idea what it was about or who the characters were supposed to be. Are they cops? Baby-sitters? Spies? Midgets? (I know that's politically incorrect)

Perhaps one of my colleagues in the blogosphere is down with Veronica Mars (and all things youth culture) and can explain it to me.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Troubled by the Similarities Between GW Bush and Obama

I am a lifelong Democrat and will support the eventual nominee. I like Obama a lot. I just think that Americans should know what he believes and what he would do if elected. I have long worked for minority candidates and underdogs. I was 1 percent of Jesse Jackson's vote in 1984 in my hometown and supported Geraldine Ferraro and Jane Harmon. It would be fantastic for an African American to be President of the United States.

However, the similarities between George W. Bush and Obama scare me.

Both had Ivy League educations, put on fake southern accents, go with their "gut" feelings over facts, dismiss experience and have never done anything before.

Both President Bush and Senator Obama have campaigned as "Uniters." Haven't we learned that lesson?

I'm not looking forward to 4-8 years of amateurs and staff running the country.

This all plays into the Andrew Keen stuff about the cult of the amateur and extends the growing anti-intellectualism in our culture.

The system is indeed broken when one junior high school popularity contest causes people with a lifetime of expertise to drop out before a vote is cast. Biden, Richardson, Dodd, Clinton and even Kucinich have a record of accomplishments that Obama does not share.

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If Obama Wins, Thank Howard Dean!

If Barack Obama happens to win the his party's nomination and takes the White House it is the result of Howard Dean's leadership as party chair and first candidate to to use the social aspects of the Web successfully for organizational purposes and to excite young voters.

In 2004, Howard Dean tapped into the anger over the war in Iraq and contempt of the Constitution displayed by the Bush Administration. He said that NCLB was a disaster. He was right on many of these issues and more. He revolutionized online fundraising and introduced the political world to blogs and

After being destroyed by an open mic and a giddy mainstream media, Governor Dean became Chair of the Democratic National Committee. This represented the first time that the party leaned left and moved away from the Democratic Leadership wing of the party led so successfully by the Clintons.

When Dean became party chair, he promised to have the Democratic party compete in all 50 states for the first time in generations. I seem to remember that the old guard of the party thought that was a terrible idea. The party has gone on to build an effective grass-roots machine all across America.

Obama is now taking advantage of Howard Dean's vision, contempt for the Clintons and brilliant organizational talents. I just wish Obama had Dean's courage and willingness to address policy with specificity.

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Why Do Independents Get to Vote in Party Primaries?

If you are not a member of a political party, because you are too lazy or cowardly to commit, at least for one election, stay home.

I switched parties for one election, in order to participate in a primary. It took a few minutes in both directions. I made the effort and played by the rules.

Primaries are not run by America, they are run by the political parties for their members. I'm sick of "independents" creating mischief in the election when they didn't make the effort to join a party.

Independents should stay home and watch Matlock reruns until next November!

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

PC Magazine Whitewashes the Future

In commemoration of its 25th Anniversary, PC Magazine has published an article, "The Next 25 Years in Tech."

They asked
14 industry leaders and PC Mag staffers [what they] see in store for the next 25 [years].

Given the leaders selected, one might conclude that in the future there will only be white males.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Shame on National Geographic

Wesley Fryer shared information about a new contest for teachers and kids sponsored by The National Geographic on his blog, Encourage Hands-on Science Inquiry! Winners get a trip to Australia, my second home.

Cool, right?

Not so fast!

I read Wes' post and then the National Geographic site. I have no idea what sort of "experiment" or "exploration" a kid might do to win this contest. I know of few teachers who can do justice to the spirit of the subject matter.

Perhaps the contest is really just a sweepstakes or a lottery.

The first rule of project-based or problem-based learning is that the learner must have a reasonable chance of getting their head around solving the problem, or taking a reasonable swipe at solving the problem. We frequently fail by asking students to solve problems too adult, abstract or large for them to tackle. The other common mistake is posing a problem that is overly vague. The National Geographic contest offers no clues for what a kid might do. This invariably advantages kids whose parents or teachers direct the activity.

How many teachers know what hands-on geography is? How many kids can figure this out alone? What has National Geographic done to help?

Is hands-on science/geography merely collecting stuff? Is it experimental? How does collecting American flora or fauna connect to "understanding" Australia?

If one of my graduate students authored this challenge, they would be at serious risk of failure.

Oh yeah, be sure to wash your hands with hand sanitizer. (That's one of the few details offered by The National Geographic)

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My New Article About Technology Policy is Online

My new article suggesting a novel New Year's resolution guaranteed to resolve 99.7% of all school conflicts, Beyoncé Feels Your Pain, is available here.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bill Gates and Eli Broad Go Gangsta

Bill Gates and Eli Broad can’t revolutionize public education alone. They need a posse. Realizing that they needed to appeal to more than billionaires and ex-Governors Ed in ’08 teamed up with another education policy expert, rapper Kanye West.

Read Bill Gates and Eli Broad Go Gangsta

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