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Tuesday, July 25, 2017


This incredible short film was shared on Facebook by my dear brother-from-another-mother, James Paige Morrison, and I want to share it out with everyone who might benefit from watching it. That's you.

It's almost a cliche' that the systems which control our growth from infancy to the grave can stifle creativity, almost as if they were designed to do so. They have, in fact, rather evolved to do so. Perhaps with a little more awareness, we can help them further evolve to embrace creativity. LOTS of discussion in the educational arena surrounding this. It's the essential reason that STEM became STEAM. The addition of the A, adding Art to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math is the best development in formal education since the addition of the pencil.

Let's keep the educational trend pendulum swinging in that direction (because you do know it swings, don't you?) and when it gets to its apogee, let's push it a little further! Watch:

Saturday, July 08, 2017

ISTE 2017 -3

So. Where was I?

Oh. ISTE2017 in San Antonio, Texas.

I have a confession to make:

In spite of pre-selecting a good number of sessions at ISTE17, using the online scheduler “Favorites” function, which nicely translated into the conference app for my iPhone, I actually attended

I suppose I am tired of "sit and git." I prefer a more learner-centered experience, with "student" choice and flexibility according to my interests.

It was more useful for me, and more rewarding, and more of a personalized learning experience, to doggedly peruse the Poster sessions that were available at nearly all times of day and to visit Playgrounds. When I first set foot in the long hall when sessions were going on (I had already more or less presented one, with Barbara and Andy, at the Sunday PLN Networking Fair), I was struck by the rapt groups of educators looking at the bulletin boards at each station, scanning their QR codes and iPhotoing displays with links, and listening to truly impassioned educators discuss the topic they had come to present.
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Wes made me want to submit and share a poster session for ISTE18. I don’t know what it will be, but I plan to create one. He was clearly having so much fun! I met a MS OneNote warrior from Bowling Green whose brain I intend to tap for the upcoming year's work. I saw multiple presentations that gave me new insights into how Minecraft can enhance learning opportunities for students. I learned more about 3D modeling and printing. I learned a lot!

Monday early evening our group caught the Online Learning Network’s annual social and ate well there at Rita's on the River. Great food, great beverage, and a fun time for all. Michelle and Nathan do a bang-up job with that event, and with that PLN, and I got to see my dear pal Joanie Roehre. After, we hiked up to another TexMex restaurant, and I had one of those monster margaritas with a bottled beer upended in it. I was to regret that (only a little) in the morning.

Tuesday morning was an early one. Alarms went off and we got up and showered and dressed. A quick forced march the three long blocks to the convention center then the obligatory hike halfway around the giant more-or-less circle that comprises the building to the double meeting room where the PLN Leadership breakfast meeting was being held.

There was LOTS of food. Before helping myself to the gracious plenty of the food tables, though, I logged into Second Life at our table then made sure our Beth was there. Beth O’Connell, aka Beth Ghostraven in Second Life and mostly anywhere, is this year’s recipient of our Professional Learning Community’s “Pioneer of the Year Award.” Since she was not in San Antonio, we planned to bring her into the event in order to receive her award. Last year, Mary O’Brien, aka Selena Offcourse, received hers and we had her up on the projector screen and it was a show-stopping moment.

This year, as we got into our PLN awards (every PLN gives one award, sometimes two, annually), Simon Helton called the presenting representatives from all PLNs up to stand in a line. I would suggest that not be done next year, since in the time we made it all the way to the end--think V in the alphabet--Mary signaled me that my laptop was dying with a drained battery, Andy fire up his MS Surface and got logged into SL, and apparently fitting his video dongle into the input on the podium was something that could not be accomplished in time. Mary bravely turned the screen of the Surface to the audience (there were 200-300 folks in attendance) and the award was awarded. Beth had prepared some words but Andy only had time to share the first two lines, actually only the first line, since the second was thanking Andy and I and Andy is too humble to read that to the assembled. It was GE Good Enough, but next year let’s try setting up the video before breakfast! Congratulations to Beth, who is hard working in the ultimate extreme.

After breakfast I had some online image uploading, some emails, and some blogging to do, so I headed over to the Bloggers Lounge to work a bit and to watch the second keynote on the flatscreen feed there. My friend Helen Compton was working on a paper there and we hung out together with occasional chit chat catching up the way I do with colleagues I see in person only once a year but whose works I follow online all year. Helen, who is a Professor at Old Dominion University in Roanoke, Virginia, has published over 90 scholarly chapters, papers, articles, or books over the past four years and is on track for early tenure at ODU. She’s a writing machine, whose special area of focus is mobile learning. I watch her globe-trotting over the year as she is in high demand for speaking engagements all over the world.

The second keynote was even more well-received than the first. Jenny Magiera, of the National Teachers Academy, proved eloquent, well- but simply-spoken, and charismatic. My attention was in and out of the presentation, but I was listening closely when she talked about how when you meet someone in day to day life, you might not learn she’s a lawyer until well on in the conversation, but a teacher will share profession early on. Why? Because it’s what she/he is. It is core to a teacher’s existence to be a teacher. Coming to ISTE every year, it strikes Magiera that everyone she meets feels at home, liked, embraced, since literally everyone in the vast room knows their challenges and shares their passion for teaching and learning. This year, with 21,000 people in the “room,” that effect was never so powerful for me. I relate, and apparently the audience did too!

Helen had to get down to a Poster Session and I met Andy to do a little Expo Floor “exploration.” I spent much less time out there this year--I don’t know why. Yes, I do. It’s because I’m not in need of much. And the commercial feeding frenzy that the Expo Floor represents is less appealing to me in this day and age of budget cuts to Education. At least I think that’s it.

I went back down to the Poster Session floor. Every year when I tell local colleagues I attended ISTE, it seems I get the question from someone, “What was the buzz word? What’s the hot trend?” Well, this year I can list a handful.

  • STEAM--To the four STEM strands of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math the Arts addition has been mostly adopted. IMHO that’s a good thing. The Arts, and the art within each of these fields of focus, can help tie each one of them to the rest, as well as stand alone. Long ago, we called that a Liberal Arts education, and yes, it’s a pendulum, and yes, the pendulum swings.
  • Virtual and Augmented Realities--These have come along nicely, and as the application of Moore’s Law finds its connection with them, and as price points go down and size decreases as memory and functionality increase proportionally, they will continue to. Our Virtual Environments Network is broadening its scope to embrace these topics/technologies and you could certainly tell that at our Virtual Environments and Games & Simulations Playground. Treat yourself--visit the one-hour-plus Periscope I did for our Playground, which lasted three hours. It was a hoot doing that for people who could not attend and if that is a category of educator that fits you, this was for you. I did so under the auspices of the SLMooc17, a month-long sharefest of learning and teaching ideas from virtual worlds.
  • 3D printing--more than a few of the Poster sessions celebrated the Makerspace movement. If students get involved in creating things, especially in creating tools and objects which can make a contribution toward solving real-world problems, this will continue to gain traction.
  • Coding--It the words of Reshma Saujan, ISTE17 final keynote speaker, “Coding is the new Craft.” As those who made and maintained horseshoes were relegated to a small population of specialists in the past, those who drive trucks, repair auto bodies, and deliver, well, anything, will need new skills. Many of new jobs will require coding skills--in banks, corporations, factories, you name it.

Tuesday, of course, was the Playground for us. I was disappointed at first by two of the three scheduled table presenters, including Classcraft and a group of VR and AR presenters who had been scheduled to be there at 1:30 to set up and scrambled to have some content there for folks. A lovely young teacher named Heather came to the rescue to play and talk about Minecraft at one table, while I set up Second Life at the other until Devin Young and crew showed up (apparently waylaid by reps from Microsoft, as I understood it) for that table. One can’t be mad at that crew for long though. Said Gavin, “We work for the students first and then for the business.” That’s a good working business model, and it’s working for them. Look into Classcraft.

After the Playground it was a quick hike to the other side of the convention center and the Edumachinima Festival. As you likely know, we have been putting this on with Kae and Chris from the Games & Simulations Network for several years. This year, in an effort to create a larger audience than in the past, by creating perceived shortage of space, we printed tickets and handed them out. It was a fun hour, but we need to rethink a number of things about it for next year--turnout was light to say the least. Still, it was fun!

Boom, then it was time for EdTechKaraoke.

I had never attended, but aside from the $15.00 beers, it was totally fun. I’d recommend it to anyone attending ISTE18 in Chicago. By the time we had grabbed a gnosh at Pat O’Brian’s and hiked over there, the three finalists were performing and we heard their mostly really good performances. A good time was had by all. Some pics:
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To bed and done with all presenting. Wednesday was another day of a little Expo floor, a run through the Posters (I met a Microsoft OneNote wizard high school teacher from just up the road in Bowling Green and learned a lot from him in a short time), and a quick lunch down at Stella Public House a mile or so from my friend Bill’s studio. That proved fortuitous, since I was able to have my Uber driver drop me at his place then walk to Stella. Bill had gifted me an autographed copy of a book celebrating his The Wall installation/performance in San Antonio and I had left it there when leaving. I now have it and I’m glad I do! Here’s a link to a story about Bll’s work.

After lunch I ubered back and met back up with Andy, Mary, and Barbara to cash in that Special Entry entitlement one last time. We sat for the music, this time a solo performance by another local talent who sang and played an open-tuned acoustic guitar. I did not catch the artist's name, so please comment if you know it! Good stuff.

Mila Fuller, ISTE Board President, introduced Reshma Saujani, who outlined her work with “Girls Who Code,” a non-profit dedicated to addressing the gender inequity rampant in Computer Science and in particular the Coding professions. I’ve already written about coding, above, but you should know that Saujani has turned out tens of thousands of afterschool program graduates, and that 93% of those grads have declared their intentions to pursue a major or minor in Computer Science in their post-secondary educational lives. I was particularly struck by her plea for everyone to pursue their passions, as she related her own failures to enter politics and her discovery of the CS gender inequities that fueled her pathway. Take a step, she said, take that first step, then you’ll find that the second one comes, then the next, “until you have taken so many steps along your own path that you can never go back.” For her, the first step was buying the domain for $1.99. What is yours?

I quit the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center at the end of the day Wednesday with the gratification that comes from being a well-recognized fish in a relatively small but challenging and forward-thinking pool. ISTE17 is my happy place, just like Tinwings is my lovely Lee Ann’s. I learn and share, that’s what I do, and Lee Ann cooks and shares, that’s what she does. I’ll stay in touch with my colleagues via various social media and tech platforms throughout the year and I’ll see you, one and all, in Chicago next year at #ISTE18. Be there. That is all.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

ISTE 2017--2

It has long been my opinion that anyone sent to a conference on a school's budget should be required to report out in some detail about how his or her time and energy was spent at that event. Though my school and district did not fund me this year, I want to thank ISTE for providing me complimentary registration and also for the gift of a complimentary membership as outgoing PLN leader. I had been chair of the Virtual Environments Network for 2016-17 and am stepping down to Co-Chair this year, giving the capable Andrew Wheelock the virtual reins. This swap is not unprecedented, he laughs.

I encapsulated Sunday already, but let me go back. Flying into the San Antonio International Airport Saturday evening, I looked around for someone who looked like a teacher in order to persuade them to share a ride to downtown hotels. Who but I see but Marrie Duhart, MNPS Learning Tech wizard, and her husband, and after introductions and a little pow-wow we grabbed an Uber into town. I had it from dear friend Barbara Seaton, who had arrived earlier, that the cab fare was 32.00, and a little google fingertipping had uncovered the average Uber fee to be more like 22.00. That worked just fine, as the Duharts were staying across the street from my hotel, the Fairmont Inns Alamo Plaza.

Checking in, I discovered a flashing light on my room phone and on picking up the message was introduced to a new thing--deferral of housekeeping services during my stay in return for Marriot member points. I went ahead and made that choice, telling myself I'd make sure to confer with my roomy, pal Andy, when he got in. I texted my friend, artist Bill Fitzgibbons, and he was downstairs to pick me up within 15 minutes.

Bill is rather famous here in San Antonio. We just started working on the 50th anniversary edition of Druid, a Humanities Magazine but had been friends and staff members on that publication back in 1969-70 at UT Knoxville. I hadn't actually seen Bill in person since around then. But now he shuttled me out to the Lonestar neighborhood to tour his fantastic art studio properties and to meet his son Sean, who is the culprit responsible for the whole anniversary issue idea (I'll be sharing more about this project here as it develops--target date May 2019). We had a beer together, caught up, and then he returned me to the hotel from which I set out into San Antonio for a brew and some sustenance at Yard House San Antonio. Andy joined me and Barbara once he hit town and peeled off on the way back to the hotel to meet up with friends elsewhere as I headed to sleep.

Up in the morning both of us worked out in the hotel fitness center, anticipating a big day, which we got. The included hotel breakfast was really quite good and we moved over to pick up registration materials and begin to explore the conference. I was surprised by what felt like a relative sparsity of people in the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. Later I found that 17,000 more attendees came in later that day, Sunday, or that evening. It was the largest ISTE conference ever in terms of registered attendees.

The rest of that day has been summarized in the previous post, but I will add that the PLN Networking Fair was really fun and well attended this year. Here's a pic, featuring Barbara and Andy working their networking magic--we had lots of interest and hope to get some new participants in our copious activites throughout the year. It's such a blessing to have the tools to stay synchronous with our colleagues throughout the year without traveling...:
Barbara Seaton, left, and Andy Wheelock, right-center, sharing what we do at VEN, a LOT.

So the elitist thing kicked in when we packed up the materials from the PLN Fair and headed over to the "Ballroom" where the keynote was to be given. Easing around the thousands of educators moving into the huge room, we approached the ISTE staff members holding up little signs that said "Special Entry" (I think). Each one by turn directed us to the other until we were it seemed blocks closer to the stage than the vast numbers of teachers behind us. I admit I like that. If you want to get that for yourself in the future, hook up with leadership in any of the 20+ Professional Learning Networks and help with the PLN Fair. The whole reason for it is so hardworking volunteers aren't penalized for working at events that butt up against keynote addresses (there are three). We grabbed seats toward the back of the front special section, where we could clearly see the presenters without resorting to either of the two huge flatpanel displays on either side of them. 

The 3-piece local band, Tiarra Girls, were great. High school sisters with attitude and talent. The keynote was great, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jad Abumrad of NPR's Radio Lab was intense and sincere and augmented his keynote speech with his musical segues so that I felt as I were in a taping for the show. After, I heard criticisms that he didn't talk mainly about education, and that he went too long, but the real criticism I did not hear but was the elephant in the gigantic hall was this: He got so far into his talk that he convinced himself he was in his home talking to friends, and he said at one point, "Goddamnit,..." Though I wanted to stand for him at the end of his talk--which had brought me to tears during his deep decription of the "Gap" between question and answer, and that between an artist's creative vision and his successful execution of it (are you listening, my Colin?)--I did not. You deserved it, though, Jad, you deserved it. You just didn't filter your talk to the morality/beliefs of likely 80% of your audience. 

After keynote we returned to The Yard, a party consisting of Mary Howard, Andy, Barbara, and David Fleischer. We had a decent dinner, though, yes, Andy and I were underwhelmed by the Reuben sandwiches, and adjourned for home. That does Sunday, right? If you've read the previous post. 

Jump to Wednesday when my dear brother, Ed, picked me up and took me to his lakehouse 3 hours away in Mongomery, TX, then to now, Sunday, when I'm about to shower after 4 days of fishing here and take his ride to the airport bound home for Nashville. I'll fill in the blanks soon. ISTE17 was GREAT! And as a teaser, I'll mention that the 2nd Keynote had a marvelous description of the ISTE experience. I'll detail that next post, but it has to do with being in a room where everyone understands you--the challenges you face, the inequities you battle, and the passions you bring to your work. That's a wrap today. 

White bass catch at Chez Merrick in Montgomery. Yeah.


Gus by Scott Gardner Merrick  I wear these navy slacks I found behind O'Shaugnessy's, in the dumpster there. And they'r...