Relevant Questions

I don't know when Scott McLeod is going to post this, but I've copied and pasted the questions and answers I gave him into this blog post. I don't know if he is going to edit and share all of them, but I did want to save them for myself at least.

2. What's something that recently caught your attention from your personal learning network, RSS reader, Twitter feed, etc.? 

The definition of intellectual property and copyright out of Ireland in a recent court ruling. The Internet belongs to all of us and yet there are jurisdictional interpretations of just about everything!

What's something exciting that you're working on right now?

 OpenSim has me fascinated. My students in ninth grade are currently creating OAR (open archive records) files to share with the world and we are working through how this would look and how this can be done. I think that the future of virtual worlds is very much in the hands of harnessing students. With the creation of OAR files several months a go, we can literally unzip a virtual world use it, zip it up and then have another one there for another class. There is a lot of potential. Currently the students have 3 grids: one is the 7 ancient wonders of the world, another is a yellow-brick road Oz experience designed to help students make college decisions and navigate their path towards college and the third is the “Country Club” designed to help students understand different cultures.  The students and I are learning a lot – I don't know how these islands will end up but the possibilities have me excited!

What is a digital technology tool that you can't live without (and why)? 
Wikis – These are the glue that hold the Flat Classroom™ projects together.  Never before have we been able to have cooperative groups with individual accountability.  More than that these cooperative groups span time zones,continents and languages in ways unimaginable just a few years a go.

What is a digital technology tool that you wish you had (and why)? 
I wish that Verizon had the iPhone. My family is a 1:1 itouch family – all 5 of us have one and it is indispensable. There are some things I want and Need that are only available in the iPhone including GPS — and Verizon is the only service in SOUTH Georgia that really gets the job done.

What does '21st century teaching / learning / schooling' mean to you? 
We have to be careful about Jargon. I'm afraid that some companies have hijacked this term and made it too closely related with their products.  Twenty first century learning is about the integration of technology of all sizes into meaningful, effective learning.  Quite honestly, it is still in the very infancy.  A recent student at Abilene University in Texas, for example, showed how Statistics I was taught using an iPhone app. As I read this paper on my Kindle over the weekend, it is so apparent to me how we've taken what we've seen before and force-fit it into what we think it will look like in technology. Some good research is emerging about how to use these tools effectively and the answers may not be as simple as some think they are. Additionally, I think that we need BOTH standardized testing and some sort of project based comprehensive assessment for students.  To have only one and ignore the other is like saying that I need my feet and not my hands! They are both part of being well educated.

What is the best learning experience you've had in the past year? What caused it to be the best for you? 
The Flat Classroom™ conference in Mumbai. Perhaps I'm an adrenaline junkie of some sort but when we mix students and educators from around the world both in person and virtually a certain magic emerges that is not contrived – it is real.  I'm so tired of conferences that talk ABOUT students – in this environment we should bring students into our conferences in project based environments where different participants have multiple outcomes. It is a powerful conference pedagogy and the places where it is emerging (there is a conference somewhat like this in Illinois now) it is making a big difference. (Oh, and 2011 is in Beijing!)

What is a special learning experience you had when you were in elementary or secondary school? What made it special and memorable? 
When I was in fifth grade I picked up the Odyssey by Homer. Until that point I had read what people thought someone my age should read.  Transported into a world beyond I threw myself into Greek Mythology and so many other things – reading everything we could find. I learned that the best education is the one I gave myself by picking up books and reading.  My father and mother were two of my greatest teachers and I loved it that I never asked a question that they thought was “dumb” even if they cringed – Dad opened my mind to history and a love of people. 

Then, as I struggled to fit in, Mom gave me “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and told me to read it until it made sense. I read it every year  until eventually the principles started to sink in.  I have to read it again every year because if I don't, I forget it and start struggling again. But the message that it “isn't all about me” and that to achieve and thrive and succeed if I'll take a genuine interest in others and helping them reach their goals has never left me.  I remember sitting in my bathtub reading the book and feeling like Carnegie was reaching across the years to help me and I told myself that if the good Lord would ever let me write that I would want to do that.  I would want to reach across the chasm (little did I know about the web back then) to encourage others and help them. My life is a blessing and the people in my PLN are a huge part of it.

What impacts do you think ubiquitous wireless broadband Internet access would have on us? 
There are so many things that it would impact, however, I have to say this. I read a book called “one Second After” about the potential for EMP (electromagnetic pulse) and am concerned that although technology and the Internet and all these tools are great that it is extremely vital that we all know how to survive when these things crash.  If technology takes us forward that is great – but if technology becomes a crutch without which we lose the ability to stand as human beings and survive then I worry.

Balance is important. I used to be “always on” and my quality of life was going downhill. Now I get off-line more and “unplug” at certain times in the week – I'm running 6-8 miles a week and I can think again!  Always on is not always good!

So, yes, there are things that would be great.

I think right now also I'm hugely disturbed by “bandwidth snobbery” I see in the USA. There was a competition at UC Berkley where the “hackathon-ers” were asked to invent websites that were of great social good. One group invented an SMS notification system that could be used for villagers in remote places to communicate with disaster experts around the world in the first critical hours– one of the judges dismissed the project because he said “they can just call 911 if there is a problem!)  SMS and Cell phones are what many countries have.  As Julie Lindsay and I work with flattening – we need to make flat, flatter – we need to incorporate options for cell phones, SMS, and low-bandwidth options.

That being said, I'm all for ubiquitous wireless broadband Internet access – but your question said “on us” which often just means that “US.” 

What school technology-related issue is really vexing you right now? 
I need money to replace my computer lab. I could go into it but I won't. I may spew expletives.

What will you be blogging about 5 years from now? 10 years from now? 
5 years) I hope I'll be blogging encouragement and wisdom – using tools well. I pray that there is always room for everyone on my blog – finding and recognizing teachers who deserve encouragement. I also hope that I'll have several books under my belt.

10 years) How I'm more physically fit in my 50's than I was in my 40's. ;-)

How do (or would) you respond to an educator who says ‘I'm not very good at technology.' 
You don't have to be.  Let's start where you are with your interests and see what we can find that you might be able to use.

How do (or would) you respond to an educator who says ‘The textbook and its accompanying materials from the publisher has everything I need to teach my class.' 
Unfortunately textbook publishers don't “get” mobile and e-book and true game-based and virtual world based ancillaries. 

I like to quote Mom “If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?”  Textbook companies have their place but if they cannot wake up and smell the paper molding in the corner then they are not going to have much relevance in the next five or ten years.

Nothing replaces an excellent teacher. That being said, I use a textbook for my keyboarding class and would NEVER use a touch typing program until I'd covered all the keys the “old fashioned” way – it is isn't about using technology for the sake of technology! It is about using technology where it WORKS and forgetting it where it doesn't. Same with the textbook – use it where it works and where it doesn't use another tool.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘I didn't grow up using all of this technology and I turned out okay.' 
Then, when you go into the nursing home we'll tell them to use the same technology from sixty years a go to take care of your medical needs.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘We'd be moving forward if it weren't for the standardized tests.' 
Standardized tests are only part of it – we need comprehensive project based individual assessments as well.  Excuses are like noses – everybody has one.  Time to get past the excuses and do something.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘I don't have enough time to learn all of this technology stuff, plus it's always changing.' 
I take 15 minutes 3 times a week – I call it “Intentional R&D” – that is the key to my personal transformation. I always have 3 new things on my list to explore and learn more about.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘The kids know more about technology than I do. How do I handle this?' 
Empower the kids and let them lead – you have to take the macro-management view – manage the big picture and what tools you'll use.  NOT the micro-management view where you have to know how to do every little bit of everything.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says '21st century skills are fine, but students still need to know content.' 
They need both.  We need food and water – we can't live without both.  Same with our students.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘Students have to learn the basics first. Only then can they work on 21st century skills.' 
When I'm fishing I use a hook and bait. Every school day should have something in it that is attractive to students and makes them want to be there. That is why I think that the EAST program in Arkansas is so effective. There is a cartoon I love to share when I speak that is a little boy coming to school after summer vacation and he says, “You can make my body come to school, but my soul will be at home running through the sprinklers.”  It is about engaging the heart and soul of who they are.  Read Don Tapscott's book Grown Up Digital about the characteristics of this generation and you'll see that we have to have things that interest this generation sometime during the schoolday. Technology is that hook that helps them want to be there to learn the basis. 

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘Students can't be trusted to take laptops home and use them responsibly.' 
People take care of the things that they OWN. Make it theirs. Give them ownership.  Those that aren't trustworthy should have consequences. There are alternatives to giving things to kids who have not earned the right to be trusted.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘If every student had a laptop in my class, they'd just IM and Facebook each other.' 
Lids down.
Learn how to teach with laptops for goodness sakes. You are in charge of your classroom. If you cannot engage them and manage your classroom then stop pretending to teach or learn the skills that go along with having laptops. It is frustrating to learn new things and many places that have had problems have thrown laptops at students and thrown the teachers in the room without any training or guidance. That too is unfair.

How do (or would) you respond to someone who says ‘How are millions of students still struggling to acquire 19th-century skills in reading, writing, and math supposed to learn this 21st-century skills stuff?' 
Kids need both!

What is a question that I should ask of the next person I invite to participate in ‘5 Questions?' 
How do you select the primary sources for your “media diet” or PLN (personal learning network)?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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