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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

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Each Choice We Make, Leads Us to the Future

I am often stimulated to deeper thought about the implications of the use of technology by Leo Laporte and his guests at one of my favorite podcasts, This Week in Technology
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In last week’s episode, Leo used one of those inflammatory types of expressions that cause a gut reaction: REDLINING the INTERNET.

Redlining from Wikipedia: It describes the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest; later the term was applied to discrimination against a particular group of people (usually by race or sex) no matter the geography.

Now this may be a bit of exaggeration used to make a point. But it certainly got me thinking!

He said that the effect of our social graphs and digital footprints have become a sort of Social Redlining – how it works is this…
  1. We search for certain things (cookies record this)
  2. We click on certain links (cookies record this)
  3. Then when we load in a new webpage, the web server ‘serves up’ advertisements that correspond with the ‘profile’ or social graph that you have subconsciously created.

Anyone that has shopped for bird feeders on Amazon, for instance, has gotten the email: “
Customers who have shown an interest in bird feeders might be interested in the following products: (numerous related products follow).

For most of us, this is a good thing. It is a given that websites are going to serve up ads. That is how they pay the expenses of gathering content, hosting it, etc. Most of us would rather see ads for stuff we are interested in, so even the consumer benefits.

What was interesting about this though is it has an amplifying, steering affect, which may become a drawback. It may narrow your choices and restrict your experience in a bad way. If you click on one style of music several times, you may never be exposed to other styles. The marketers are making an assumption about you, which may or may not be completely true and like a self-fulfilling prophecy you become more ingrained in the things that were once only a part of the whole picture of who you are.

I am not suggesting that we explicitly teach students to change the way they click and search the internet. But I do thing there is value in discussing this as we talk about modern economics, marketing, consumer behavior and technology (media) literacy.

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image found in Wikipedia article • originally from the National Archives

Reviewing an article
Reviewing an article about Google’s unifying their multitude of services has particular relevance to this idea. One of the results of this recent change in policy is to unite the data they generate to create what will certainly be one of the biggest databases of human activity and interests ever created. What can be done with that information? "The more data and the more signals that you know about any particular cookie or users, the more predictive you can be," said Mr. Wheeler, who expects to see Google release advertising products that tap into the social and interest graph the privacy policy is enabling it to build. "Their data set is being stitched together in a way that I think can bring tremendous value to advertisers." So can your social graph turn into a sort of Redlining of the Internet? What do your clicks and searches say about you?

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What Do Kids in the Hall Say About Your Class?

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A collection of nationally reknown educators recently started a Facebook Group built around Angela Maiers mantra “You Matter”. The “Choose 2 Matter” group asked for examples of how we have helped some one Choose 2 Matter. This blog post is a response to that question.
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In my role as technology consultant, I work with relatively small groups of teachers in two cities a week during the summer and at least 1 group a month during the school year around the nation. Although it is not a required part of the curriculum, I always try and fit in a discussion / activity concerning Classroom Culture.

Classroom Culture is one of the last, but most important areas that teachers still have considerable control. As educators, we set the stage for our classroom. We can’t do much about the baggage that our students bring with them into the classroom, we don’t often get to choose the textbook or course standards, and we often are limited considerably by our physical environment (paint, temperature, sound levels, type of lighting, etc.). But we do have considerable control how learning activities are staged.

So the essential question is:
What do the students say among themselves about your class?

Answering this question may be a depressing thing to contemplate. I think most all teachers want their students to like them, and maybe even more they want them to like their subject area and course.

So I believe this is a very important reflection activity for us as educators…
What do they say? and What would we like them to say?… Once we have answered these questions, the next obvious question is How do we get there?

Some of the first answers to the last question from workshop participants is:
Respect your students, and teach them to show respect to each other. Make them feel safe (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) in the borders of your domain.
Carefully choose your words and perhaps watch video of your self interacting with your students in both whole group as well as small group settings. What does your body language say?
Provide not only wait time following questions, but give students time to reflect and interact with each other.
To create life long learners, passionately share your failures as opportunities to learn. Model life long learning. Props to
David Warlick for this thought.

You will no doubt begin to come up with many more ideas, but I would like to leave you with one additional strategy to consider. Now that digital cameras are on most everyone’s phones, and cameras are readily available in other forms, MAKE PICTURES all the time! Capture your students working, struggling, discussing, debating, laughing, entertaining…. or better yet have a couple of students assigned to be photojournalists for the week.

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Then display those images as bell ringer slideshows, learning celebrations, and possibly on review materials, in webpages, on parent emails and conferences.


What are you communicating to the students and what does this have to do with Classroom Culture?
How about:
  • I care about you.
  • I like you.
  • I want to remember you.
  • What you do in here is important.
  • What your (brother, sister, kid down the street) did was important.
  • People/Students are a focus of this classroom.

This is just one small (fun and easy) strategy for developing a positive classroom culture, and it will take many other strategies to complete that transformation. But there are many side benefits to having a visual record of your classroom… even curriculum goals will benefit: seeing themselves doing stuff in your class will cause the concepts to be revisited and reinforce the permanence of the cognitive structures being created.

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New Product or Special Design for ABC News?

I just don’t know what to make of this... I have frequented the ABC News bar for over a decade. AM’s with Good Morning America, World News Tonight in the evening.

More than once I have felt a mixture of disappointment, sympathy and dismay that my news team was equipped with Windows-based technology.

Yeah, I have my preferences and reserved judgements for those who don’t appreciate the Apple-branded product. So I was surprised and keenly curious when I saw the World News Tonight Anchor Diane Sawyer sitting at a modern glass desk with a very clean, austere, lines- no paper clutter, no legal pad, no ugly blockish, cheap ThinkPad, but WHAT?!!! is that an Apple MacBook Air?!!!

In another segment the papers, pencils and legal pad appear, but I can get another glance at that Apple Logo’ed product...

Second look, no, there is a Bluetooth Apple Keyboard and maybe some type of small display? Or is it... some sort of an iPad????!!! Front screen shots confirmed it was an iPad with typical app icons.

Why didn’t I immediately realize it was an iPad? I knew that ABC News was actively promoting its new iPad app. I certainly knew that the iPad app was flashy and has gotten a lot of media attention. But there was a minor detail that other bloggers had not discussed – the device appears to be about the size of an iPad, but it sure looks like it is in it’s landscape orientation, and the famous pome logo was upright!

So is this just case of lens distortion? Is it really vertical? Fascinating question of optics. Maybe part of the illusion is because it appears to be held by a
Element Case Joule iPad Stand. A paltry $129 statement of good taste and design.
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Another: What's Wrong With This Picture? Obama & The Space Program

I must say... I am kind of in shock. Though I might have expected it, it still seems so wrong and perverse.

I just watched a June 30th, 2010 Al Jazeera (Arabic World’s News Agency) interview with Charles Bolden- President Obama’s appointee in charge of our nation’s National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). In this video interview, NASA Director Bolden says “...before I became the NASA administrator, he (President Obama) charged me with three things, one- he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, (two) he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.”

I understand that this might be a message specifically designed for the Muslim interviewer and his Muslim audience, but even if it is a ‘people pleaser’ statement, it causes me to question our elected and appointed leaders. I have previously blogged concerns about closing down manned space flight, and I wonder why the person in charge of our government’s space agency doesn’t have any immediate direction or goal to explore space. The idea of moving forward with space exploration and science is not even on his radar apparently – the ’Next Big Thing in Science’ doesn’t make his top three goals in any clear formulation.

All of this administraton’s goals are ‘feel good type goals’, although feeling good about things is important, how about some immediate, technology outcomes? Beyond the affective domain, where will human space flight be when you leave office, Mr. President? Are we moving forward or backward?

How do we expect ‘children to want to get into science and math’ when we are telling them that the US will be paying other countries to transport our astronauts to the space station while we close down the income of over 8,000 households?!!! Yes, that’s right kids, you go ahead and study math and science while our tax dollars pay Russia about $56 million dollars a seat for a round trip ticket to the International Space Station.

I guess that covers the 2nd goal that Director Bolden stated - the Obama plan is definitely expanding our international relationships!

”and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.”

NASA Director Charles Bolden

So that leaves me to comment on the third goal. Yes, our numaric system is Aramaic. But should our once proud Space Exploration Agency hold up it’s foremost goal to “make them (Muslims) feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering”??!! Please!!!!

Talk about taking your eye off the ball! The agency that was once the embodiment of the modern American pioneering spirit, the international expert of technological innovation and application, the epitome of scientific endeavor now (under President Obama’s mandate) has as it’s
foremost goal to try and make Muslims feel good about their contributions...

I did listen to the rest of the interview, but honestly feel a great deal of cynicsm based on the opening statements. I would probably not have been as upset if
even one of the 3 goals that Director Bolden had provided had something to do with the United States showing some immediate leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) instead of just trying to make people feel good.

How different this President is compared to the President that kicked off this national endeavor...

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.

“We Choose to Go to the Moon”
President John F. Kennedy, 1962


What do you think?
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Culture & Identity- "On the SpaceCoast of Florida"

When my students were asked to participate in Rock Our World last fall, one of the first things I did with them was discuss branding. We spent a bit of time discussing what a brand is and how important it was to differentiate yourself from everyone else. I thought that this would be an easy exercise as I asked them,

What is the one thing that makes our school system different from every other school in the world?

They couldn’t come up with anything significant.

Maybe it was just the fact that I was born in Melbourne Hospital, the son of a space engineer who had begun working on the SpaceCoast in the early 1950’s. The first thing that leaps to my mind was that WE WERE THE SPACECOAST! And I got to stay up late to see Neil Armstrong on the moon.

or

Maybe as a nation we have had so many things that our media tells us we should be ashamed of, that we have forgotten what we should be proud of.
or
Maybe our entertainment / virtual reality movies, games, tv shows have become so good that we have lost a sense of being amazed when solid rocket boosters hurl living beings several hundred miles above the earth.
or
Our sense of adventure in space was seared by the last two shuttle accidents.
or
The many benefits of Space Exploration and the
inventions of space related-technologies (velcro, metal alloys used in sporting events, insulating blankets, etc.) have virtual no popular association with the Space Program.
or
Our culture’s heros have changed. We no longer honor our astronauts as explorers and hero’s, we only see them in the news when they are part of a scandalous love triangle.


I don’t really know what it is... or maybe it is all of those reasons and more. All I know is that the students never identified the brand of their school with the location of being on the SpaceCoast. And now we are down to a very uncertain future as the SpaceCoast. Two more launches of the Space Shuttle are scheduled and there is no manned launch program in the plans. In fact, the once proud US of A is going to rent seats on a Russian space craft whenever have a need to get to the Space Station or the Hubble.

What seemed like a futuristic, high tech name for a blog has become a historical reference of antiquity. Maybe I need to reexamine my brand...

Ed Tech Thoughts from the Spacecoast

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Technology = Amplify Capabilities

Bookmark and ShareAt the Apple Distinguished Educator Summer Institute last summer, we were challenged to “Create Your Own Brand - the Brand of You”. Now in some ways this may sound egotistical and self-indulgent, but it certainly can be a useful exercise to consider who we are, what are our talents, our experiences and what we have to offer others. It helps us grow to think about what we are good at and what we can get better at, what brings us job satisfaction, what we can be passionate about.

For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think reasonably, as God has apportioned to each person a measure of faith.

Shaul, Letter to the Romans



So I set down to come up with three words that describe what I do, who I am. I decided to go with Amplifier, Truth Seeker, Visionist. I am not even sure that Visionist is a word, but I don’t really think of my self as a visionary, and visionist was the closest I could come to describe myself as one who watches trends and changes and looks for solutions beyond the current reality. Truth Seeker, betrays the cynical, scientific mind while honoring the deeply spiritual interests I carry. And Amplifier, well amplifier describes that part of my career and personal path that I get great satisfaction from.

I hope to help others enrich, improve, and experience greater results as they learn. And this is what an amplifier does, it takes a small thing and makes it bigger and hopefully better. A amplifier is faithful to produce that which it is amplifying, with the nuances of individual components of the original truth receiving equal attention to detail. A good amplifier is very efficient and productive with little wasted energy, virtually no distortion and faithfully reproducing all that was already present in what is being amplified. Amplification, properly used, can be tailored to the audience’s needs- it doesn’t have to be obnoxiously loud, and it can be adjusted to the context of the room or environment, so that all the characteristics of the subject can be appreciated.I hope to help others enrich, improve, and experience greater results as they learn. And this is what an amplifier does, it takes a small thing and makes it bigger and hopefully better.


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