Paradise Valley Mediafest

I’m heading to Phoenix, Arizona tomorrow morning to visit one of our Generation YES districts, Paradise Valley, a fast growing suburb of a fast growing city. Paradise Valley is hosting a Mediafest tomorrow night to showcase their district’s technology efforts.

The 2008 PVUSD MediaFest will showcase technology and how it impacts — and adds value to — the classroom, as well as to thank parents and citizens who supported the Paradise Valley Unified School District’s capital budget override.

There are 17 schools in this district doing GenYES, where students are responsible for helping teachers with technology integration. These students are a big part of how PVUSD defines successful technology integration now and in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing the students in action.

The smart thing they are doing is making sure that the parents and citizens of Paradise Valley can truly see that the money they gave the district was well spent. This Mediafest will show how technology can be used for appropriate, academic purposes by students and how it’s making a visible difference in every classroom, grade level and subject area.

I think the ONLY way to convince people that technology belongs in the classroom is to show them what it looks like, and make it so good that it’s undeniable.

Plus, thanks to Twitter, I’m having dinner with some people I’ve never met in person before! Very cool.

Meme: Passion Quilt

It’s meme time again! Memes are the Web 2.0 version of a chain letter, an idea passed from one person to another to create variations on a central theme.

This one is called the Passion Quilt Meme and I’ve been tagged by Barbara Bray. The directions are to find an image that reflects what you are most passionate for kids to learn about. That’s a pretty tall order!

Browsing through Flickr I found an image that spoke to me and added a poster frame.

Learning: I create myself

Because in reality, there is not any one thing that I think kids should learn “about.”

To me, learning is not about things or facts or tools. It is about a child building an image of themselves that has power. If that is instilled in youth, there is no limit to what they can decide to learn about.

I just hope that every child in the world can think of themselves as learners. I hope they have the opportunity to find their passion. I want them to be welcomed as valuable participants in society. I want them to care and be cared for. I hope that they can envision a future where they are in charge of their own lives.

Directions: Find or create an image that captures what you are most passionate for kids to learn about.

  • Post a picture from a source like Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

Tagging people from my Flickr/Twitter/Facebook network:

Webcast Academy – Free lessons in a learning community

Interested in learning how to host and manage live webcasts? Join the Webcast Academy – free lessons and an active community of people interested in producing and hosting their own webcasts.

There is a new series of classes at what they call the “intern” level (free for educators) starting January 13, 2008. (More info here.) There are six weeks of online classes lead by experienced facillitators, and you get a Webcast Academy ‘Certificate of Webcasting Proficiency’ on completion. The class gives you free access to some tools, space to upload projects, and what looks like a very supportive and friendly community of like-minded learners.

Webcasts are great learning experiences for kids and teachers alike! They can connect parents, experts and students together for a vibrant experience that breaks down the walls of the classroom. Learning the tips and tricks from a community might be just the ticket to get you up and running, and past the early hurdles that come up with any new technology.

Note that I have not personally spent enough time in the community to really get a feel if this is 100% appropriate for students, but there seem to be many teachers involved, so that’s always a good sign.

Check it out!


When bad pineapples happen to good students

… recently, I was on the receiving end of an insult that ripped apart my wall, tore though my defense and took a deep bite into my self-esteem. My worth was questioned, not by a peer, but by a teacher.

Nick Giulioni is a college-bound high school senior in Los Angeles. He writes for the Los Angeles Times education blog, The Homeroom: Southern California schools from the Inside Out. This week, he wrote – How a pineapple ruined my day

Nick writes about a recent class period spent graphing points and connecting them to form a picture of a pineapple. This was in a math class years past algebra.

…I found myself graphing this morning because my teacher was absent for a day and got behind. So instead of doing what a rational person would do (not assign busy work) this teacher decided to give some of the most degrading busy work I have ever experienced.

Just overblown dramatic teenage hyperbole? I don’t think so. Kids get assignments like this all the time, and are expected to silently complete them. Don’t complain, just connect the dots, solve the world search, and color in yet another family crest for a fictional character. Of course this will help you get into college!

Nick’s outrage is only unusual because we rarely hear such talk from students, much less successful students. The wonder is that more kids aren’t enraged. Maybe they are checking out, both mentally and physically, because there is no way that their voices will be heard if they speak up. Degrading? Yes, it is degrading to be just considered an annoyance that needs to be kept quiet for a class period–not a learner and certainly not an individual.

What about the teacher? Maybe he or she really was busy, stressed, or having personal problems? Hey, everyone has a bad day, but really, that doesn’t matter in the long run. Whatever the teacher’s excuse might have been doesn’t change the way the assignment impacted the students. It was a clear message of power. You do what I tell you to, no matter how inappropriate, and do it quietly and without thinking.

Perhaps I’m just more apt to get upset about this because I tend to keep myself very busy, but I felt as if my time was being disrespected.

So I spent 40 minutes working on a pointless assignment that I can’t possibly gain anything from. I decided to neglect exercise to fit this busy work into my schedule. But, hey, at least I got to draw a pineapple.

Even Nick feels he has to apologize, as if he only has the right to be upset because he’s a busy guy. At least he’s amusingly snarky about it. But I don’t think that he should have to temper his anger at being the target of a remedial assignment randomly tossed his way. Lucky for him, he has an outlet at a blog run by a world-class newspaper. I guess every kid should have one.

This week under the big top

Blog Carnivals are collections of posts organized around a topic. Now there’s one for Educational Technology! The very first Educational Technology Carnival featured a post from the Generation YES Blog:

Sylvia Martinez presents Acceptable Denial Policy posted at Generation YES Blog, saying, “Share your vision of educational technology with students and parents, rather than Acceptable Use Policies that focus on punishment.”

I rather did like that post.

The Educational Technology Carnival will be published every other week on Monday mornings, the next one is set for October 15. You can submit your blog posts for upcoming carnivals here – good luck!

A 3D Favorite – Free! Bryce 5.5

Bryce sampleIf you go back a few years (hey, let’s not say how many), you’ll remember one of the best tools for 3D illustration on the Mac was Bryce. You could create amazingly realistic 3D landscapes and animations with a simple drag and drop interface. You could plop in trees, adjust the sun angle, and do all sorts of cool things. Reflections and textures that PhotoShop still can’t do were easy in Bryce. Time passed and the software changed publisher hands a few times and now belongs to Daz Productions, which specializes in 3D modeling software.

Good news – they have made Bryce version 5.5 for Mac OSX completely free to download. Given that many students want to produce art and animation like they see in their favorite games and movies, this could be something that would spark interest in many students. The program comes with a huge library of samples and tutorials and is really perfect for a beginner with an interest in 3D.

TechRepublic has a nice pros/cons summary of the tool and download links.

The Daz Productions website also has many free samples and a community forum. I would guess that most high school students could easily use this program, as well as some motivated middle school students. (By the way, check out the site before sending students. This is not a specifically educational site, and more than a few of the 3D models are either super gun-endowed robots or super-endowed females. I didn’t see anything you wouldn’t see on prime-time TV, but fair warning.)


K-12 Student Digital Photo Contest

Technology & Learning’s Digital Photo Contest for Kids – Sponsored by Adobe Digital Kids Club

Technology & Learning invites K-12 students to participate in the sixth annual digital photography contest. The competition, open to US and Canadian K-12 students, challenges you to capture—and share—your unique vision of the world in a “Digital Diary—Through My Lens.” If you have an artistic side, you also have the option to digitally enhance your photos with your favorite imaging software. The best digitally enhanced photo wins a special prize from Adobe. Other prizes include a digital camera, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and more!

First Place Winner - HS 2006 Contest
See more 2006 winnners

So much to do, so much to do…

I’m back from my Eastern European jaunt. It was fabulous, I have tons of photos that need to be sorted through, and I’ll post my paper soon from the Eurologo conference. The conference was definitely the highlight of the trip, it was inspiring talking to educators from around the globe who are doing amazing work with children and programming. I’ll have much more to post from that too!

For now, I’m feeling a bit of a blog overload, I literally had to just flush my blog reader account and skip a month’s worth of blog postings. I hate missing stuff, but really people, some of you just write too much (hint, hint, Miguel – what happened to that moratorium, anyway?)

There are SO many things I need to post that I’m having trouble doing any of them! So I’m doing what my 7th grade English teacher told me to do, just write about not being able to write.

More to come!

The 8 random things meme

Elvis is deadI have been tagged by Rick Weinberg (The Tech Ed Guy) with a meme, which is sort of a blog chain letter.

The Rules

  1. Post these rules before you give your facts
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself
  3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  4. Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged.

My 8 random facts

  1. I worked on a City of Los Angeles survey crew one summer and walked the entire length of Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills measuring curb cuts. The crew chief refused to use my newfangled calculator because he didn’t “believe in it.”
  2. My middle name provides mild amusement. “What’s your middle name?” “Kay” “No, your whole name!” “Kay” … hilarity ensues.
  3. My first job in ed tech was drawing underwear on a black and white line drawing of a naked baby. It was a Hypercard stack created in England designed to teach children about body parts, and the drawing with body part labels had to have underwear, or else American schools wouldn’t buy it.
  4. I am a second generation Los Angeles native, a distinction only important in Los Angeles.
  5. A big tree in my yard caught fire (spark from a bigger nearby park fire) and it’s on YouTube. No real damage, amazingly enough.
  6. I was within a few blocks of ed-tech blogger Technospud, Jen Wagner on August 16, 1977, the day Elvis died. We discovered this through the POWER OF THE INTERNET!!!
  7. That seems like enough…

I’m not exactly sure who started this meme or where anyone else’s lists are. I know I’ve seen a few, but it seems like too much work to try to track down who has been tagged already. If you’d like to blog about 8 random things, I give you permission to blame me.

8 People to tag next: You, you, you, you there in the back row, you, those two over there, and sure why not, you.