Tag Archives: classroom

Learning is Messy

This post is a cross post from my original in the  OSSEMOOC  June 2014, 30 days of collaborative blogging “Picture and Post” series.

In some ways, this picture says it all.


On the other hand,  maybe not.

I think the real question is:  what does is look like in the classroom? – or the work place for that matter.  Rows of cubicles are no different than rows of desks.  Learning, and collaborating, in messy mode requires a shift.

How do we build greater comfort and capacity to let go,  let the messiness happen and let the students/staff benefit from less control and increased socialization?

Please share.  What does this look like, sound like and feel like in your classroom or work space?


Back to the Future Tablet Style

During a recent trip to the Netherlands,  we had the opportunity to visit the  Netherlands Open Air Museum & Park.  It is an interesting stop.  Additional information is available in this  Wikipedia  article.

One of the points of interest at the site was the Village School (Lhee Dr.) originally built in 1750, relocated in 1953.  The interior as you see it in my photos is vintage 1800-1830.

I have added comments to each photo applying a current  educational lens.

A peek in the door: open space and welcoming. 


Central heating, flexible space (no rows!),  support for  small group instruction and a respectful design reflecting that learning is social. 


Evidence of the use of mobile tablets to support personal educational experiences


Hands on, independent use of tablets. It looks like they are actually drawing on the screens so I am assuming that these are not touch-screens.  I wonder about the wifi access.


On a more serious note, this early classroom was certainly forward looking in many respects.  Perhaps they were simply learning while waiting for the thinking around the C’s and the whole ‘internet thing’ to become a reality.


Cell Phones in the Classroom Debate

On Sunday afternoon, I received a tweet from @jmuellertate about contributing to a cell phones in the classroom discussion via twitter for a new teacher education class at WLU.  I had to do a little multitasking to contribute, but was happy to contribute to the discussion.

I captured the twitter stream of discussion based on the #cellinclass hashtag. Although many of the Twitter contributors were in favour of leveraging this technology within the classroom settings, @jmuellertate indicated that the faculty of education students tended to be on the cautious or no use end of the scale.

@brendasherry  raised a great point in the follow up discussion tonight: Would these new teachers feel the same if they experienced first hand how cell phone technology could enhance the learning environment?  Great question indeed. Perhaps this topic should be revisited after some of the classroom sessions have been completed.

As for me, I am in favour of leveraging cell phone technology to enhance learning.


Puzzles: math and language in harmony

This past weekend I celebrated that ‘annual milestone’ day with my family. Great food, lots of fun and I still feel as focused and energized as ever – just with a little more experience. 🙂

One of my presents was a new puzzle book – one that I had not seen around anywhere before. For those of you that know me and/or have been following my blog posts, might guess that the puzzle book is based on word games. If that was your guess, you are right but the book is much more than ‘just a word game’.


In many ways the book reminds me of a chess book I purchased many years ago. If my memory serves me correctly, the book was by chess great Bobby Fischer. The book presented a series of puzzles with partially completed chess games and the reader had to determine a sequence of moves to place one set of players in check, check mate or establish a draw. I recall spending hours pouring over the book to determine the various solutions.

End Flashback

Back to my new puzzle book. It is a delightful combination of language, math and problem solving all wrapped up into one concept: series of words in Scrabble plays , 3 sets of tiles to place on the board (write on the page) to achieve a predetermined or required score and an opportunity to boost your vocabulary all at the same time!

Ding Ding Ding – This is a winner with me. If you enjoy puzzle books, check out Scrabble Puzzles by Joe Edley, published by Sterling.  A book like this might be a nice fit in a classroom. I am heading off to check out a new puzzle!

~ Mark

Are Netbooks Ready For Primetime?

The right answer is yes, no and maybe. It all depends on your point of view.

End User: If you need a nice small travel laptop for work or learning that runs mainly web based applications, your answer might be a resounding YES! Many of the netbooks available today have plenty of ‘horse power’ to run a few key applications and perform well when running web 2.0 applications. I have been ‘road testing’ one of the Lenovo IdeaPads. I loaded it up with a few apps including open office, skype, the first class client, MSN, iTunes, Adobe Reader and Smart Ideas, a graphic organizer. Other than these apps, everything else is web based. Other than the quirkiness of the keyboard <SHIFT> key and <ENTER> layout (or my slow adaptability to a new layout) and the screen being a little small as far as real estate goes for some applications, the IdeaPad performed well and behaved in a stable manner.

Point to ponder: Would you give up your desktop or full sized laptop for a netbook?  Personally, I would not be ready to make this type of a switch at this point in time. At least for the type of work I do, there are too many times where have a full screen to facilitate multi window operation of some sort, more serious document editing or something more intensive such as audio and/or video editing. I would find the small screen and extending timeframes working with tight key arrangement on the keyboard less than idea. Perfect for travel, but I am keeping another computer or full size laptop.

Enterprise needs: I am changing hats now. Let’s look at this from the IT Management viewpoint. In the setting of our school board, interest in netbooks (or the promise of the Mac tablet) is on the rise. From a planning point of view, the price point is certainly positioned to allow you the opportunity to buy more equipment for the same level of funding. On the assumption you could match the application suite and access to the equipment to maximize the use, netbooks look pretty attractive. But, before you rush away to buy a large number of netbooks, there is another side to consider.

Many current netbooks ship with Windows XP Home with no supported upgrade or conversion path to Windows XP Pro. The XP Home version limits you to local machine and workgroup access.  Using the netbook in a network domain environment with group policies and defined security permissions is not an option. In addition, many enterprise level tools for imaging, patching, software updating and application package distribution rely on a domain based structure to properly manage the computers.  This is where I think we are stuck yet. If you can manage the netbooks, at least easily, then this is a double edged sword. The price point and web usage is there, but you are limited in maintaining and supporting the machines. You can’t say you don’t need to support the machines – just wait until you have a few messed up and now some class in not functioning properly. They staff and students will want support to fix the computers or restore them to a usable state.

Things look more promising with Windows 7 on the horizon. Then again, how many large organizations are ready to roll with a Windows 7 deployment backed up with an organization wide support model?

My View: At least at this point in time, I stand by my yes, no and maybe answer. I do believe netbooks are here to stay, and will be valuable learning tools. It is just a little to early in the game. I will be interested to see how things unfold over the next few months because I think we are close.

Related Reading:

Test Freaks:  Netbook reviews and ratings

PC World:  Road Warriors Guide to Netbooks

Sync Blog:  Should your child have a netbook?

~ Mark

Classroom: Twitter in Action

In my August 19th blog post, Classroom: Student use of Twitter, I ended my post with the following comment:

“Communication strategies and student engagement are often given as reasons for looking at Twitter use in the classroom. I believe the skillful teacher will find the right fit for Twitter as a curriculum support tool.”

Last night I found a good example of a skillful teacher using Twitter in the classroom. How appropriate that I found this example through Twitter!

In the video, The Twitter Experiment – UT Dallas, Dr. Monica Rankin, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Dallas, School of Arts and Humanities, who has been using Twitter in her classroom talks about her approach and initial observations of this new tool. Dr. Rankin acknowledges that Twitter use in her classroom is experimental, and that it is important to ‘play in the mess’ to figure out the most effective use for her classroom, students and subject matter.

While acknowledging the 140 character limit of a Twitter message, both Dr. Rankin and students interviewed identified a number of advantages to incorporating Twitter into the classroom setting. Comments included:

  • greater participation of students
  • accommodation of more input/comments than could have been spoken in class
  • shy students that may not have spoken in class were involved in the discussion
  • the discussion continued outside of class time
  • the instructor participated in ongoing discussions even when duties took her away from the university

I noted that students accessed Twitter with a variety of different technologies: desktops, laptops, netbooks and smartphones. Students that did not have access to technology were accommodated  by having their hand written Tweets entered on their behalf after class.

The YouTube video,  The Twitter Experiment – UT Dallas (apprx 5 1/2 minutes) is well worth the watch.

~ Mark

Classroom: Student use of Twitter

 In Monday’s blog post, Twitter in Education, I outlined a few perspectives on using Twitter in the K12 Educational setting. Based on the reading I have done, there are 2 emerging trends.

1. There is little question about the value of Twitter as a tool that plays a key role in people developing their Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and expanding their resources.

It is interesting to note a recent blog post on Mashable, reported that “Nielsen has compiled data from its NetRatings panel of 250,000 US Internet users and discovered that there are fewer young people on Twitter than on the Internet as a whole: one quarter of US Internet users are under 25, Nielsen says, but only 16% of Twitter users lie in that age range.”

Note: “While Nielsen is only measuring people who visit Twitter.com (not desktop and mobile clients), the analytics firm additionally claims that over 90% of TweetDeck users are over 25, making it unlikely that there are masses of uncounted young people on third-party Twitter apps.”


2. Despite the statistics that are currently available, there seems to be a slow but steady growing interest in using Twitter in the classroom as a communication tool for students within the curriculum delivery framework. I believe the key is finding a fit where Twitter makes a difference in the learning process and learning outcomes. In many respects, we are ‘early in the game’ of social media uses to deliver curriculum. Certainly, if developing collaboration and problem solving skills and PLNs is important for adults, then it stands to reason that this must be important for student learning too. Communication strategies and student engagement are often given as reasons for looking at Twitter use in the classroom. I believe the skillful teacher will find the right fit for Twitter as a curriculum support tool.

A Few Ideas for Twitter in the Classroom

Mashable: Twitter Guidebook

Songhai Concepts: Classroom Twitter

Tame the Web: Twitter in the classroom

Online Colleges.net 25 Twitter Projects for the College Classroom

~ Mark

iPod Roundup 2

Earlier in the summer, I posted ‘iPod Roundup’, a collection of resources and ideas for using iPod technology in the classroom. Since then, I have run across a few more sites and blog posts related to this topic. The resources are listed below.

The Digital Backpack:  voice recorder ideas

Teacher Magazine:  Adding a ‘Touch’ of Technology

Newhartford Schools:  iPods in the Classroom

School CIO:  Getting Started with iPods in the Classroom

My earlier post:  iPod Roundup


~ Mark

Skype in the classroom

I have used Skype for both personal and work related projects, so I have a good feel for the capabilities of the application. Over the summer I have been following a few interesting blog and Twitter conversations about using Skype as a collaboration tool in the classroom. A few of the posts referenced using Skype with iPod Touches and iPhones. Interesting reading!

I checked the Skype website, and sure enough, they had posted information about releasing a client for the iPhone and iPod Touch through the iTunes store. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the new Skype client was available on the main iTunes store in the U.S., but not the Canadian one. After watching the Canadian iTunes store for a few days, no client was posted. I decided to contact Skype directly to gather some additional information. On August 10th, I received the following response from Skype support staff:

Thank you for contacting Skype Support.

We apologize for the delayed response. Due to a recent increase in
inquiries it has taken longer to respond to you.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

The Skype for iPhone application is not available for use in Canada at
this time. There is an ambiguous restriction in one of the
standards-based technology licenses, and we are looking into it. The
issue is not related to Apple, nor is it specific to Skype.

Best regards,

Skype Customer Support
Visit http://www.skype.com for latest news, updates and tips.

For Canadian customers, it looks like the availability of the client will be caught in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future.

~ Mark

iPod Roundup

As we cross the midpoint of the summer, my thoughts turn to projects for the next school year. One of our initiatives will include more extensive work with iPods in the classroom. I have been checking net based resources over the last month and thought I would share some of the links in today’s post.


iPod Touch: School wide Implementation Classroom 2.0

on Ning: iPods in the Classroom

on Ning iPod Teachers

Why iPods? K-12 project

Classroom project (with commentary) iPod Touch Project

iPod Touch Classroom Mobile Learning

iPod survey Google spreadsheet back end

Interactive multimedia iPods and whiteboards

The Wired Educator: iPod in every classroom

The Wired Educator: iPod Touch in the classroom

David Warlick: a blog post

Ed Tech Bytes: Managing a Class Set

Enjoy the reading!

~ Mark