Picture Post #5, VSTE Edition

A few of my favorite shots from the Virginia Society for Technology in Education conference from a few days ago. More are in theVSTE 2015 album on Flickr.


Dean Shareski was our keynote speaker and reminded everyone about the need to keep joy in our work. He was watched over by Yoda himself.

Jumping for Joy

And later Dean and some friends jumped for joy.


Margaret takes a selfie, from my point of view.


With Josh leading the way, the Hackerspace playground at the conference was usually busy.

Social Media Board

I was surprised that so many people liked this very analog way of capturing digital information.

We’re All Criminals

Earlier this week, as I was discussing my lawbreaking activities, Dean addressed a similar subject, writing about how all of us, especially in education, are being driven to a life of crime by bad laws.

He’s talking about the personal privacy laws, including those directed at specifically at children, that don’t fit with the current reality of the web.

We live in the cloud and we don’t particularly care where the cloud is located. Many would argue we should care. Many see privacy concerns being ignored by people like me. I don’t think that’s true. This once again is tied closely to helping our students and teachers develop and understand their online identities. I understand the intent of the law is to protect our information and privacy and schools do have an obligation to protect. However the challenge is that these laws completely miss the affordances and opportunities that exist for students as they publish and share online.

Although Dean is commenting on Canadian policies, things are very similar here in the US.

We spend way too much time and energy in the futile pursuit of trying to shield students from exposure on the web and miss many great opportunities to help them learn to establish and maintain their online identities.

Instead of blocking Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the new school filtering favorite around here Pinterest, teach kids (and more than a few adults) how to read the terms of service and what all those privacy settings mean.

As an alternative to yet another traditional term paper, let’s work on effective ways of crafting media to share ideas with an international audience. Or even start with something as seemingly simple as writing an effective blog comment.

The whole alphabet soup of laws (COPPA, CIPPA, FIPPA*), not to mention our current attitudes, need to be revised. There are better ways to use our instructional and legal efforts than in a losing battle to keep kids and their thoughts (good and bad) behind an increasingly porous wall.

* That last one is Canadian. Ask Dean. :-)

Educators Are Snobs

At least according to Dean we are.

Schools are text snobs. Most people reading this are text snobs. Our institutions are built around the written word. That in itself is not bad and we owe much of our culture, knowledge and understanding to the written word. It’s not our fault, we’ve been living in a world that up until a few years ago, only offered us to easily produce content via the written word. But like the revolution of the printing press, we are in the midst of a revolution of a digital nature that’s allowing us to easily create and consume context in many different forms, specifically audio, video and imagery.

And to exercise a little practice-what-you-preach, he includes some video and audio as part of the post.

I agree with Dean’s premise that we are not doing as much as we should in most schools to help students become better consumers of media, much less to enable them to become producers.

After all, we see kids wearing ear phones or sitting in front of some kind of screen (sometimes both) all the time. They don’t need any help in that area, do they?

Which, of course, is the same as saying that kids with their face always in comic books (or the Mad Magazine from my childhood) don’t need reading instruction.

Anyway, even when it comes to text, I’m not sure we do an especially good a job.

The way people in the real world create and use text has been changing drastically (along with everything else) yet much of our “language arts” curriculum is still focused on reading from the printed page and largely from works of fiction.

Writing in most schools continues to be centered around the classic essay and research paper, often on topics that are little changed from forty years ago, produced for an audience of one.

And, as Dean notes, traditional reading and writing is what gets tested, so that’s what get taught.

However, there are other reasons why audio and video are not used more in K12 classrooms.

For one thing, in the memory of most teachers, the process of recording and editing is still a cumbersome, expensive, technically difficult process. Sometimes even playing the files, especially video, used to be a cranky process.

It’s certainly not that way anymore, all of which ties into what I was ranting about a few days ago.

Too many teachers also reject having students create media because they believe the process must be time consuming and that the end project needs to be close to perfect.

With the inexpensive cameras (even still cameras do a decent job of video) and audio recording devices available, it becomes easy for kids to do first drafts on the spur of the moment and then refine by rerecording rather than spending hours in the editing software.

It’s also a simple process to capture and use the everyday classroom, not just special events.

One of my goals this year is to help more of our teachers to give cameras to their kids and to encourage them to create.

I also want to follow Dean’s lead to do more with video in my own professional life and become less of a text snob.

Just don’t expect to see me in front of the camera very often. (You’re welcome. :-)