Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beware: The Man Behind the Search Curtain

-by Dana Lawit

Everyone assumes the future of the internet will look like this.

In this Internet, everyone has equal access, information is secure and reliable, connections and speed are readily available and we can all tweet, facebook, blog, comment, etc. to our heart's content.

This was shared during a conference I attended for women in the sciences with some students from my school. One of the presenters, Rebecca Fiebrink, outlined some of the global challenges scientists and engineers must solve in the coming decades. Among them, global warming, alternative energy, and the future of the internet. (Note: The puppy featured above is not same puppy from her presentation but you get the gist.)

She went on to say, that the future of the Internet could also just as easily look like this (again, not the same dog from her presentation, but you know...):

In this version, information and access is unreliable and unequally distributed. Private data isn't secure. Censorship abounds.

Today we see instances of each: censored web sites in China, varying bandwidth speeds in different geographic regions, and Twitter served as the free press covering elections in Iran.

The New York Times ran an op-ed earlier this week by Adam Raff of Foundem that outlines some of the algorithms Google uses to index web sites to yield search results and warns that perhaps we need to be a bit more attentive to the regulations that govern not only Internet content, but Internet searching.

I recently asked my students how they thought Google ranked search results. Responses varied from newest, most accurate, "best", and one student suggested most clicked on. The Internet, it turns out is a popularity contest (for now). Recently, Google has come under fire for not merely listing sites in terms of visits, but allowing priority for its own services and sponsors. The Internet it also turns out, goes to the highest bidder.

The reason I find all of this so fascinating is that it reminds me that just as important as teaching how to use technologies, we must teach how technologies operate. The Internet isn't a static force. We must prepare our students, as netizens, not only to use the Internet but prepare them to answer questions of how we use the internet -- how we access information, and what guarantees we want about that information.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friending Students on Facebook

I recently received this friend request from a student on Facebook.
Hey Ms. Nielsen, I had to find you because you made a wonderful impact on my life. Me and my sister were talking about you and I knew I had to find you. I'm glad that you responded. If people only knew how great of a teacher you are... I know its been at least 10 years since you took me under your wing.... Let's talk gotta a lot to say! xoxo To A True Educator, and A Cool VBall Champ!
I stopped teaching students directly in the days before most people had cell phones or email and before Google, blogs, wikis, and social networking were even words or concepts. Those were the days when people were only reunited with their past by some crazy miracle or "This Is Your Life" type TV show. It was also the time when in my school, PUSH, now ten years later, an Academy Award nominated movie called "Precious," was the most popular book among my middle schoolers. And, those of my generation know this was only ten short years ago yet it seemed like a whole different world back then.

Back then, if you left your job you usually lost touch with those there, always wondering what ever happened to...

There were no Tweets to follow, or decisions about whether "To Be" or "Not to Be" a Friend of a student or colleague on Facebook. While you may have kept in touch for a little while, one change of address, often severed all ties eternally. Even in the off chance that you saw in passing a student/colleague or their sibling, parent, or family member, would you react fast enough to exchange contact information by the time you realized you had seconds to do so before the light turned red, the elevator stopped, the subway doors closed????

Today online media provides a terrific way for teachers and students to stay in touch yet sooo many teachers are afraid (rightly so) of what they may see if they are friends with students. Many adults won't interact in those worlds because students may have inappropriate language, photos, etc. That fear is fueled with stories of educators for whom there were repercussions because they were photographed drinking wine on vacation, using an explicative, or because of schools or districts forbidding digital contact between students or teachers. As a result of such highly publicized repercussions and out-of-date policies, even those teachers who would love to interact in their students online world not only avoid it on Facebook, they are also fearful of most any digital, text, etc. Today, the online tween/teen world is relatively devoid of an adult presence and as a result we've protected the adults. Unfortunately, both the adults and the students are losing out.

The adults are losing out on the ability to take advantage of the amazing 21st century opportunity to connect with students who need (and yes, want, us there) and who we need to peak at and poke every so often. Students are missing out on having that wise and caring educator comment on a status update, or provide a private word of advice on how something might be handled effectively. But, most importantly, when we are not friends with our students, we both lose touch with those who can impact us the most. We move on in our lives without the wise insight that only a student can provide to a teacher and a teacher to a student.

How different might Facebook be if every adult knew that their students /children were their friends noticing them as role models? How different might it be if students knew adults, parents, family, teachers were their friends? We might both make each other better and it would be so fantastic for us to be and stay connected in a meaningful environment.

More importantly...

How differently might a student/child's life have turned out if a trusted teacher, mentor, adult been in their life? How might an adult's life been enriched if they knew there were students who were looking to them in their online life?

For some educators, like principal Chris Lehmann and many of his teachers this will never be a question. He and his staff accept friendship requests from their students, follow their tweets on Twitter, email, and text message. Why does this administrator support this? "Because it's there," Chris says. This is how students communicate today and if we're not Tweeting, texting, emailing, commenting, then we're not communicating with our students in their worlds which would not make a whole lot of sense.

As for that friend request at the beginning of my post, did I accept it??? You betcha.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Google Voice as a Powerful "Get to Know You" and Speaking Fluency Tool

Another in the Innovative Educator's "Cells in Ed" lesson series. This lesson is designed for foreign language teachers who are interested in harnessing the power of cell phones in instruction. This can be used for educators who want to integrate cell phones into the curriculum either at school or away from school.

Foreign Language

Google Voice

Lesson Title:
Assessing Speaking Fluency and Getting to Know Classmates with Google Voice

Lesson Overview:
Students use Google Voice to record oral "About Me" reports.

Lesson Description:
Google Voice is a terrific tool to use with foreign language or ELL students and serves as a great way to assess oral fluency across the year. Teachers can use Google Voice at the beginning of the year to have their students share something about themselves in the form of a 60-second oral report. The teacher may choose to guide the report contents i.e.
My name is....
I moved here from...
My family is very proud of....
In my free time I enjoy...
Something I am very good at is....
In the future my goal is to...

The teacher should demonstrate how to do this in class by first recording their own oral report in front of the class. At this time the teacher may review what supports a student may use to create the oral report i.e. textbook, translation dictionary, Google translate. She can also show students how the more clear the speaker is, the better the transcript.

To implement the lesson, the teacher either 1) asks students to click on the icon set up on a website, wiki, or blog where s/he posts assignments and then the student will enter their number which will be called or 2) gives students their google voice number to call into where they can record their report.

Once the report is submitted, teachers receive a transcript of what the student submitted. There is also a space to write a note, comments, grade, etc on each student's recorded voicemessage. Additionally, the teacher has the option to associate each phone number/recording with a student's name or nickname.

These oral reports can be posted on an "About Our Class" page of a website, blog, or wiki." The "About Our Class" page will serve as an engaging forum for how students will publish their work which can be shared with additional friends and family members and even linked to the school website.

The teacher can repeat this assignment at the end of the year enabling students to listen to their oral fluency improvement from the beginning to end of the year.

Here's How to Get Started:

  • Sign up for a Google Voice account at Visit for for additional guidance.
  • Once you receive your Google Voice number go to
  • Next go "Settings," "Call Widget," "Add a New Widget."
  • You'll name your widget (i.e. - "About Me: Class 7-304")
  • Select "go to voicemail."
  • Get a code to embed it on your website, blog, or wiki.
  • Students will click on the widget and enter their name/number. (Note: Students can also call your number directly)
  • Your number will be called and the call will go directly to voicemail.
  • The student will leave their oral report which will show up in your Google Voice account.
  • You have the option to listen to the report, read the transcript, add a note, download, or embed.
  • If you want to embed on your website, blog, or wiki copy the embed code and paste it into your site following the directions on your site.
How lesson is enriched with tech:
Having students record their oral report enriches this lesson in several ways. First, this gives students a safe environment in which record themselves speaking, which can be particularly important to new language learners who are shy or uncomfortable speaking publicly. The tool gives students the opportunity to practice recording their report as often as they like. It provides a fun and engaging way for students to get to know each other in their own voice.

Special comments/considerations:

If a student doesn't have a cell, they can have Google Voice call the number of a friend or family member for recording. Remember you will want to use proper discression as it makes sense for your students if you will use real names or nicknames.

NETS Standards Addressed (see:
  • Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  • Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Contribute your lesson ideas.
If you have a lesson that you are using with your students, please share your ideas at

For more lessons visit:
Bring Poetry to Life with A Cell Phone and A Voki
Using Google SMS to Enrich Social Studies Instruction

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bring Poetry to Life with A Cell Phone and A Voki

This lesson was designed for literacy teachers who are interested in harnessing the power of cell phones in instruction. This can be used for educators who want to integrate cell phones into the curriculum either at school or away from school.



Lesson Title:
Bring Poetry to Life with A Cell Phone and A Voki

Lesson Overview:
Students use Vokis to bring their poetry to life and hear themselves reading their pieces.
Lesson Description:
Voki is a terrific tool to use toward the end of a poetry unit when students are ready to publish their work. A Voki is an animated avitar whose mouth, eyes, and head move to your words. When student poetry pieces are ready for publishing, have them record themselves using their cell phones to give Voki a voice.

Teachers should select a mentor poem to mod
el Voki creation and then have all students create Vokis with the mentor poem. This can lead to a discussion of how various elements affect how a Voki is interpreted and delivered.

Students will then be ready to create a Voki with their own poems. To create the Voki students will visit At the site students will create a Voki that fits the mood and style of their poem by customizing it in the following ways:

-->Character Style Select a character from one of our many styles: Classic, Animals, Oddballs and more!
-->Customization Change the look, clothing and accessories.
-->Background Choose a background from our library or upload your own.

Next students will have Voki call their cell so they can record their poem. They can record as often as they want until they get it just right. The teacher should group students in pairs, threes, or fours because once Voki's are created and posted to a website, blog, or wiki, students should be encouraged to comment on one another's Voki. If students are not familiar with peer review and appropriate feedback, the teacher will want to model a lesson on what is appropriate and the type of comments one might make.

The Vokis will serve as an engaging forum for how students will publish their work. This can also be shared with families and linked to the school website. Students may want to teach their family, friends, teachers, and administrators how to comment on their Voki's as well.

How to get started.

  • Register with your email and password.
  • Select create.
  • Select a character.
  • Select the look, clothing and accessories.
  • Add your own voice by calling the number Voki provides, or have Voki call your number by entering it.
  • Choose a background from the Voki library or upload your own.
  • Click Publish to email to a friend or get code to take your Voki avatar anywhere.

cell phones enrich this lesson.
Having students create Vokis enriches this lesson in several ways. First, it provides students with an opportunity to practice and hear themselves saying their poem. It allows them to do so in a non-threatening way. It alsoprovides a medium for all student's work to be displayed and commented on by each other as well as friends, family, and other staff members.

Special comments/considerations:
If a student doesn't have a cell, they can have the Voki call the number of a friend or family member for recording. If a student doesn't have access to a computer for having the Voki call
their phone, the teacher can partner students in pairs or threes that consist of one student having a computer. This also works great for collaboration and peer review purposes.

NETS Standards:

1. Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Using Google SMS to Enrich Social Studies Instruction

Cell phones are the most ubiquitous digital learning device available to today's students and while I've provided several ideas for using cell phones to enrich teaching and learning I have not shared actual lessons. Here is the first of what I hope will become a series of lessons to provide educators with ideas for using cell phones in education. This lesson can be implemented at school if you are teaching in an environment that allows students to use personal learning devices, or outside of school if students are banned from using digital devices.


Social Studies


Google SMS

Lesson Title:

City Guide - Anywhere USA Using Google SMS

Lesson Overview:
Use Google SMS for students studying communities around the world.

Lesson Description:
As a class the teacher will lead students through an activity where they study various characteristics of their own community including:
-Population: Find out the population of your community
-Local: Get business listings, enter what you want to find and include a city and state, or zip (ex: pizza 10013, Blockbuster boston ma). Brainstorm with your class what type of things would be interesting to look up in your community.
-Movies: Enter movie followed by a city and state, or zip to find out what movies are currently showing in your area
-Weather: Enter 'weather' (or 'w') followed by a city and state, or zip

They will do this using the Google SMS similuator which is a terrific tool because it allows the teacher to project from his/her laptop and model how to do this work. Students will be asked to research another community using Google SMS where they explore these same characteristics. Which community they explore, will, of course, be dependent on the teacher's curricular focus. It might be that they are studying the community in which their ancestors came from, or perhaps various cities in a particular state or country of study.

Once students have gathered this information they take the information they found about the community they are studying, combined with the information the class discovered when studying their own community and write a report sharing what they would like and wouldn’t like about living in this other community. Encourage students to expand upon the information you asked them to find and request that they come up with at least three additional characteristic to explore in each city. For example, they may want to look up amusement parks, churches, hotels, skateboard parks, casinos and compare that across the two communities.

The finished reports can become part of a number of larger class projects for instance:
-A map of the area could be posted on a bulletinboard with each report pinned (in a format that gets unfolded) onto each part of the map. Post its could be placed on the board so others could comment on each report.
-All projects could be posted on a Wikispaces page that celebrated the topic being studied. The discussion tab could be used on each page with a thought provoking question to readers and readers could use the tab for questions they might have.
-Students could record their report using a Voki and all the Voki's could be posted on a site (ie wiki or web page). Students could use the comment feature on Voki to comment to one another about what they heard.

Here's How to Get Started
  • Text message your search query to 466453 ('GOOGLE' on most devices).
  • Google will text message back results.
  • To use the online interactive demo visit
  • The demo enables you to view the results of a query on the phone image which shows how it would look on your own mobile device.

NETS Standards Met:

1. Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
Research and Information Fluency - Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making - Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
Digital Citizenship - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

Explanation of how the use of cell phones enriches this lesson.
The integration of cell phones into this lesson provides students with resources and the flexibility to find information that is not readily available in classrooms without technology. The use of this tool enables students to research, explore, compare, and contrast a multitude of different topics in a city of interest on demand. This provides at student fingertips, access to information that is not available in classrooms enabling them to compare, contrast, and make new meaning in ways not previously possible.

Contribute your lesson ideas.
If you have a lesson that you are using with your students, please share your ideas at

Friday, December 25, 2009

School Rivalry 2.0: Innovative Educators, Make Room for Innovative Students

~by Dana Lawit

Two high schools in Washington are battling it out not by rumble under the overpass nor dance off in the gymnasium but by lip synced viral video. I first heard the story of these schoools on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. The two schools have produced single-track shot, lip-synced videos featuring the entire school. Shorecrest's offering is a rowdy version of Outkast's "Hey Ya." To raise the stakes, Shorewood's reponse is a throwback (Hall and Oats "You Make My Dreams Come True") with a twist -- the whole thing is show backwards.

Watch both. Get inspired. And then join the discussion of which school you think did a better job, here. Happy holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Power of Student Voice in a Video

I just came across this video. Another that really drives home the idea of the power of student voice. In the clip a 12-year-old Canadian girl speaks to the United Nations about environmental issues from a youth perspective and left them completely silent and speechless for five minutes.

This speech was given in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, yet, it is all still relevant today. At the age of nine, Severn Cullis-Suzuki founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues.

Unlike the world when Severn gave this presentation in 1992, today's 21st century students are fortunate to have what Marco Torres refers to as "the global stage" which describes the worldwide publishing potential now offered by the Internet. What messages do your students have to share with the world? How are you helping your students publish their ideas, hopes, dreams...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Five Ways Innovative Educators Can Use Texting As a Professional Tool

Text messaging is the dominant form of communication for cell phone users who are sending more text messages than they are making phone calls, according to a Nielsen Mobile survey. This trend has caught on with educators who are becoming increasingly reliant on texting as a form of communication that is often more appropriate then a phone call, email, face to face visit, or letter. The first step for becoming comfortable with using cell phones as instructional tools is for teachers to use them, themselves. This enables educators to harness the power of these personal learning devices even in schools where students may be banned from bringing digital devices to school. Here are some ways educators can use texting in particular and cell phones in general as powerful and effective professional and educational tools.

Texting as an Efficient and Effective Communication Tool

Texting has become a dominate communication tool for educators because it has proven more efficient and effective then other forms of communication among colleagues. Few schools were ever able to succeed in installing landline phones in classrooms. Instead they use a disruptive announcement system that detracts from learning to communicate with students and staff even though the message usually only pertains to a small portion of the school population...or in some cases just one person i.e. "John Smith, please come to the main office." This instructional intrusion is no longer necessary as texting enables educators to communicate short, efficient messages to one another without robbing students of instructional time. It also enables educators to communicate with one another, when necessary, outside the school day without interrupting their personal lives. In short, educators can text at times when it would be inappropriate to talk on the phone and it's quick.

Enhancing The Home-School Connection

For educators in schools,Meet the Parents texting has become more and important as sms notification tools are increasing parental involvement in their child’s school life and text and email alert systems increase home - school communication. While most schools initially get notification systems for emergency situations, they often end up using it for everything else. In New York City, many schools use SchoolMessenger to communicate through multiple modes: text, voice, mms, email, etc and get messages about all types of things including attendance, truancy, school meetings, and emergencies ( 04/29/08). The Journal has an excellent article on how schools are using notification tools for more than emergency alerts. In fact some schools are using it in a way that can revolutionize parent involvement moving beyond basics using services such as TeleParent ( 04/01/08). In addition to the basic emergency notification TeleParent with its Situational Student Messaging gives parents a daily student profile that includes information like tardiness to class, participation, homework, and conduct. This moves the mundane conversation that usually goes something like, Dad: "How was your day?" Child: "Fine." To something more like, Dad: "I see you are work on a self portrait in art class and that you are having some difficulty with your science project. Can you share more about this?" which can lead to a robust conversation and focused launch into looking at and/or discussing this work. The emphasis on parental involvement is a wonderful bridge to success for students. According to the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory study, “Students with involved parents are more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades, and have better social skills.”

Free Audience Response System
Poll Everywhere provides educators with a simple method to share their voice and ideas right from their phones. If an educator wants feedback on any topic, they can use this tool. With Poll Everywhere everyone's voice can be heard by texting 99503 and texting in your vote just like they do on American Idol. No equipment needed or software to download within seconds educators have audience responses. Another nice feature is that it doesn't matter what cell phones people use. Responses are instantly combined. Educators can use this nifty tool in a variety of ways. Here are just a few. 1) It's cold outside and there is going to be an indoor lunch. Survey the teachers for which movie their class wants to watch. 2) School question of the day. Teachers select one student each day to highlight. That student is given the phone and enters their answer which is sent to Poll Everywhere along with the answers from other classes. This feeds into one stream that can be displayed on digital monitors in every classroom and the building entrance. 3) Use Poll Everywhere to send a schoolwide get well to a sick student or teacher. Each class crafts a message and the link is shared with the absent student or teacher. What a great way to wish a student or teacher well.

SMS Tweeting from Your Phone to Gain a Collective Intelligence on Topics of Importance

Twitter is a great tool for schools to use to share interesting and relevant information with the student body, staff, parents and family. No software to download and with just one teacher cell phone per class, a lot of contributing can be done and modeled anywhere, anytime. There are three steps to follow to get started. 1) set up a twitter account 2) enable texting updates from your phone 3) select your tag. Here's how you do this.

To use twitter from your phone go to and set up an account. Teachers may want to set up a personal account as well as an account for their class where they can Tweet from. Principals may want to set up a school account and give teachers access to send in Tweets. You can Tweet from your phone by entering your number at and entering Twitter into your phone with this number: 40404. Don't worry that it is only 5 digits. Just send a text to it and it will show up in your Twitterfeed. Next you'll need to to select a short tag (an approximately 6 letters or less searchable word or acronym) and then have your audience’s tweets include that tag. For context one of the more famous tags that made Twitter popular was IranElection. Schools can use an acronym. For example, Barack Obama High School might be BOHS. In New York City schools all have a district, borough, location (DBN) identifier i.e. 06M001. The DBN is a unique tag that could also be used. Users can contribute by simply sms texting on their phone and ensuring the text includes the tag. You can capture the Tweets in any number of forms. The easiest is to do a simple Twitter search for the tag by typing it into the search box on the right side of the page.

Once you're set up, you can start tweeting your way into the microblogging community. Here are some ways you may want to use Twitter. 1) If school staff are attending a conference or professional development activity they tweet reflections, favorite quotes, or reactions to what they're learning. You can read how a group of school leaders did this at Leading By Example - Transforming Education for the 21st Century ( 2) School staff can tweet interesting announcements, updates, and activities at any time into the school account. This can be fed right into a school website providing the school community, parents, and more with an ongoing stream of updates about school happenings. See how one school does this at 3) Use your class, library, or lab twitter account to share news and information with your students and teachers. For a great example of how this is done, follow Tracy Karas of Marta Valle High School in New York City at

Google SMS as an Educational Tool That Can Be Used Directly From Your Phone
Teachers may not always have access to a computer, but most do have access to a cell phone. Today, even with a text-only plan, much of the vast amount of knowledge and information formerly available to only those with the internet are available anytime, anywhere directly through texting. Educators have access to an endless amount of information at their fingertips by texting "G-O-O-G-L-E" at 466453. Once you have GOOGLE in your address book you have untapped an unlimited treasure trove of knowledge and information. Here is what you can access with using GOOGLE text messaging listed by "Search Feature" and "Sample Query" below. You simply type in the query and GOOGLE instantly texts you the response.
Q&A - abraham lincoln birthday | Translation - translate hello in french | Web Snippets - web hubble telescope | Calculator - 1 us pint in liters | Currency Conversion - 8 usd in yen | METAR - metar khio | Local - sushi 94040 | Weather - weather boston |Glossary - define zenith| Sports - score red sox | Stocks - stock tgt | Zip Codes - zip code 72202 |Directions - directions pasadena ca to 94043 | Maps - map 5th avenue new york |Flights - flight aa 2111 | Area Codes - area code 650 | Products - price ipod player 40gb |

To see a demonstration of how this functions visit There is endless pedagogical and professional value of having the ability to access this type of information anytime anywhere. Here are just a few ideas. 1) You may have a student who is not fluent in English. Hand him the phone and have him text his message to you in his native language. Enter the query translate in Italian before his text and send it off to Google. You will instantly get the student's message back in English. Respond via your phone in English back to the student in his Native language. 2) You or a student don't know the definition of a particular word? Text 466453 with the query "define" and type in the word. You'll get the definition and the source moments later. 3) Perhaps you and your class is reading a book that refers to the metric system and you're not sure how far 100 kilometers really is. Type in 100 kilometers in miles and you'll get you're answer.

In a class where the teacher-only has a cell phone in hand, she'll always be the smartest person in the room.

Starting with the device in your own pocket
Integrating texting into teaching isn't hard. Especially when you start by using the device in your own pocket/pocketbook. By doing so, educators are not only helping themselves, but they are also providing students with a great example of how these tools can be used for more than just socializing. Using and modeling effective, educational, and appropriate use of cells also lays a nice foundation and provides a comfortable starting point for teachers and schools who want to begin incorporating these devices into the work their students do.

Editors note: Unfortunately, even as a Technology Innovation Manager, I have been cut off from using this innovative digital tool since October after a decision was made for NYC DOE employees that ALL TEXT MESSAGING capabilities for DOE account holders will be disabled. It was a NYCDOE policy decision to disable the text messaging feature from all DOE issued devices. The rational for the disabling this service is all devices provided are for DOE business related communication and this communication must be documented. It is also the DOE position that communication thru text messaging is primarily for “personal use." Upon further investigation I learned the service could be restored if a professional case was made for using texting. I made my case more than two months ago and still have no service.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Don’t force your child to fit in at school. Find a school to fit your child.

Anyone who has or works with children knows that we have a huge crises in education and it has nothing to do with test scores. Our students are literally bored to tears in disconnected schools that kill their creativity, force them to power down as soon as they pass through the school doors and are completely disconnected from their passions, talents, and interests. In many cases these are students who are bright and gifted but struggling in school in some cases to the point of being medicated (see highlighted portion of previous link) so that they can survive the day and fit into an environment they find boring and/or irrelevant. Sadly in many cases rather than fix the boring schools, we try to fix the bored child. This often leaves parents in deep despair and children and teachers frustrated and feeling stuck in their situation accepting this as “the way things are.”

But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is help. There is a solution. And, it’s a little out of the box.

Get your child to a school that fits him or her…however you can. This is not as difficult as it may sound at first blush. There is a growing recognition that many schools are outdated relics from the past that sit awkwardly in a 21st century world. In response to this, there are pockets of educators, schools, even systems around the world that are rising up to the challenge of educating the 21st century child rather than the current industrial model of education that is pervasive in most schools. In fact a new batch of schools has just cropped up in New York City designed specifically for students who have zoned out in the traditional system.

The iZone schools have been specifically developed to challenge the following assumptions about current practice:
  • Schools are comprised of similarly-operated classroom units in which one adult delivers content to a room of between 12 and 34 students, for a set number of minutes per day and days per year
  • Adults dictate a course of study to children, who receive and process information for adults to evaluate
  • As part of one job, teachers manage classroom organizations; research and deliver content; differentiate the course of study according to student needs; assess performance; and deliver feedback
  • Special education students are best grouped and planned for according to class size requirements

These schools recognize the problem which they define as such.
  • Since 2002, the number of New York City students graduating from high school has increased every year, and more students than ever before are headed to college. The fact that a full third of our youth still do not graduate from high school, however, is a call to action. And that of those who enroll in college, only 50% graduate from four year colleges within six years and only 28% graduate from associate programs within the same time frame, is a call to change. (Statistics are from public school graduates who enroll in CUNY colleges)
  • Today’s schools are structured for an industrial model that is increasing obsolete to the 21st century knowledge economy where students will spend their working lives. The foundation of education has in many ways remained unchanged in that it assumes that information and skills must be provided only by adults who are physically in the same room as learners, performing jobs defined in the 19th century, on a notably rigid and brief daily schedule ]
  • In today’s schools, students are grouped in ways that do not maximize the potential of each and every student to personalize their learning.

The schools strive to address the problem with this powerful vision.
  • Transform our schools from a traditional, industrial model to one that reflects and embodies 21st century skills, tools, and experiences, so that our students graduate ready for success in college and in the workforce, regardless of race, language or socioeconomic background.
  • Personalize each student’s learning experience to meet their diverse and individual needs to the maximum feasible extent.

The Innovation Zone has adopted an approach of launching schools that embody a set of innovations that can be evaluated for scaling potential. The core innovations are:
  • Expand student learning time, stretching the school day and the school year without adding teacher work time
  • Optimize a match between individual student learning needs, learning modalities, content and instructional resources through an algorithmic engine
  • Blend distance and online coursework modules and personalized learning management systems into a brick and mortar environment in ways that allow students to differentiate their pace of learning
  • Apply gaming theory to standards-based content, creating challenge-based curriculum and an instant feedback and assessment loop
  • Create job embedded teacher teams as a vehicle for teacher organization and adult learning

If you're reading this and wondering how many thousands of dollars need to be dished out for parents to send their children to such schools, the answer is not a cent. In fact, schools like these have innovative leaders at the helm who believe that the fundamental right of children and responsibility of public education is to provide every child with the opportunity to attend the best schools. These leaders believe that in fact regardless of background or SES You Can Get a Dalton Education at a NYC Public School.

If you are curious What a 21st Century School Might Look Like here is a sampling of the iZone schools. You can see videos about each school here.

  • Quest to Learn - Design and innovation are at the heart of Quest to Learn (Q2L), a school committed to helping every student to achieve excellence in the skills and literacies necessary for college and career readiness. The school believe that students today can and do learn in different ways, often through interaction with digital media and games. Q2L builds on this belief to create a nurturing and vibrant 6th-12th grade school environment that supports all students in the pursuit of academic excellence, social responsibility, respect for others, and a passion for lifelong learning.
  • iSchool - The NYC iSchool has taken a problem-based learning approach to education. Teachers collaborate on thought provoking topics to integrate into the classroom while ensuring they still meet state mandated subjects and testing standards. Students learn in the context of real world problems, and just like the real world, they have access to a host of technology and information anytime, anywhere, and from anyplace. The NYC iSchool is leading the way in creating a culture in education that truly engages students with successful results.
  • The Cinema School - The Cinema School is an academic high school that prepares students for top level colleges through a liberal arts education grounded in creative activity. They emphasize filmmaking because it deepens students’ learning while building confidence, responsibility and leadership. Our curriculum helps students become stronger thinkers and develop the skills needed to accomplish great things. Admission to The Cinema School is competitive no film making experience necessary.
  • The School of One - The mission of School of One is to provide students with personalized, effective, and dynamic classroom instruction so that teachers have more time to focus on the quality of their instruction. To achieve this mission, School of One re-imagines the traditional classroom model. Instead of one teacher and 25-30 students in a classroom, each student participates in multiple instructional modalities, including a combination of teacher-led instruction, one-on-one tutoring, independent learning, and work with virtual tutors. To organize this type of learning, each student receives a unique daily schedule based on his or her academic strengths and needs. As a result, students within the same school or even the same classroom can receive profoundly different instruction as each student’s schedule is tailored to the skills they need and the ways they best learn. Teachers acquire data about student achievement each day and then adapt their live instructional lessons accordingly.

There are schools like these cropping up around the globe. Parents, students, and educators need to start voting with their feet, not as they are currently doing by leaving the school system with high school drop out rates above 50% in many cities, but by investigating what schools will suit the needs of their 21st century learning and teaching styles and then figuring out how to attend or work in such environments. The schools are hungry for innovative educators and students who will thrive in these new environments. Now parents, go find the right school for your child and teachers who are frustrated by their outdated employment situation, start connecting with these school leaders. They're looking for you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fix Boring Schools, Not Kids Who Are Bored

When I came across The Best About Me Page You’ll Ever See on my Twitterfeed I expected to see some funky ideas I could use for my own rather dull “About Me” page. Especially since the “About Me” page belongs to Aaron Iba, the now former CEO of AppJet, the company who created EtherPad which I recently mentioned in 8 Free and Easy Ways to Begin Educating Innovatively. Followers of my blog, Twitter, and Facebook know Etherpad was just acquired by Google for a reported $10 million. Instead of that funky cool idea, I saw a picture of Iba as a child and a link to a clinical psychology report from a 7-year old Aaron that was very similar to my own clinical psychology report my mother shared when I first entered school.

Both reports are trying to diagnose and fix kids who score well academically but were brought in for diagnosis because they don't succeed in school because they are "bored," "hyperactive," and "don't focus or pay attention."

From the report: Aaron's playful attitude toward all school learning will make academic progress very difficult.

It breaks my heart to think about how many bored students are out there whose schools are trying to fix the playfulness, energy, passion, out of them, so they will do school well. Here are highlights from the clinical report for the brilliant, innovative, multimillionaire, Aaron Iba who was referred to a clinical psychologists office to “shed light on the underlying causes of his overly active and impulsive behavior which has begun to present a serious management problem in school.” In his evaluation the clinical psychologist reports:

Regarding school he complains that he feels ‘bored’ he ‘hardly enjoys anything much except lunch.’ He talked freely and showed exceptionally advanced expressive language skills. Often he was quite dramatic in describing his excitement when playing his many Nintendo computer games. Throughout testing he made constant reference to them, as if nothing else in his life mattered or could capture his attention.”

The report also notes that he performs poorly on certain parts of the test because of the inability to focus on a task he did not much care about and suggests that his inability to focus on tasks he does not care about mirrors his “difficulties in settling down in class.” It also indicates that he is oblivious to the reality demands made in a school setting.”

He is diagnosed with “being troubled by an attentional deficit disorder with hyperactivity.”

They find another problem to be that “he readily feels bored and can be expected to function best in a one-on-one situation in which the pace is geared to his needs. The final diagnosis is this:

Aaron and I had similar experiences. These experiences are what lead me to pursue a career that helps others educate innovatively. This is an excerpt from my mom describing my experience as a pre schooler.

Your nursery school called me in to speak to them because they thought you were slow or retarded. They said I should take you for a professional diagnosis because when observing you during classes they noticed you were not participating or doing your work, you were rarely paying attention, you often slept, and that you were not interacting with others the way you should. They were concerned on several levels. They said they thought perhaps you were mildly retarded, your hearing might be impaired, or you had ADD (though I don't think they called it that in those days).

I took you to our pediatrician who referred me to UCLA - Fernald Child Study Center where they talked to you and gave you tests for about 8 hours. 3 weeks later they called me up and asked me to come into the office for a consultation. I met with them and that's when the three doctors (child psychologists etc) told me that the tests all showed that you were not slow OR retarded only BORED. All the tests showed that you were performing well above grade level academically.

I took you and the report to the preschool. They advance placed you into Kindergarten based on UCLA'S REPORT and they wanted to advance you even further, but, I didn't feel that would benefit you socially so I said NO.

Aaron and I both had educational experiences where schools were trying to fix us because we were bored, not paying attention, disengaged etc. Not surprisingly, like Aaron I was also cured once you put a game in my hand, though at the time I enjoyed the pre-Nintendo games on systems like Atari and Intellivision as well as a variety of handheld games that captured my attention for hours. I’m not sure what Aaron endured to “fix” him. In my case they felt moving me to work with students who had a different date of manufacture might help. Fortunately in the 70s ADD/ADHD was not yet a widely available condition so I was not victim to the drug dependency doctors are now pushing to treat today's bored and disinterest kids. Unfortunately, like me Aaron likely spent the rest of his school days bored, sleeping, daydreaming and wondering why meaningless information was shoved down our throat. Like me I imagine Aaron was disappointed that not a single teacher cared about, asked, or helped students discover/uncover/explore passions or talents...and that our love of games and electronics was brushed aside as a nuisance, distraction...whose power was never tapped into and harnessed.

My frustration about this all is what lead me to my career and this blog. I hope to help other innovative educators and parents do what they can to ensure we stop trying to fix the student to fit in the setting of the school and start fixing the schools to engage our children. We need to help students find their passions using tools they choose, use, and know will help them grow their wings and soar to the heights which most of their teachers and parents were never allowed to reach.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Family Trees Made Easy Through Surgeon General Online Tool

-by Dana Lawit

Not too long ago, Lisa wrote about joining 23andme, a website that allows consumers to purchase home kits for DNA sampling to send off to 23andme for analysis.
Recently, in our 9th grade biology class we've began our investigation into heredity and genetics. My co-teacher and I are always challenged to make the learning relevant and important for the students. While searching for resources we came across a site sponsored by the Surgeon General: My Family Health Portrait.

This tool guides users through the process of creating a family tree of your medical history. This allowed us to look at our biological families to see if we might have any predispositions to medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.. Wanting to be sensitive to the wide range of emotions students feel about their families and the diverse arrangements in which we live, we were clear to discuss that family has many meanings and can look like many different things. For students who didn't want to share information about their family, we provided a transcript of an interview with another family from which they could create a family tree.
After students created their family trees, they research specific conditions that ran in their family to learn what they could do to reduce their risk of illness.

The Family Health Portrait is a useful, relevant, and free (hurray!) tool for teachers to use with their students to explore heredity and risk factors.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Innovative Educator Nominated for The Edublog Awards!

The Innovative Educator has been nominated for an Edublog Award. I am honored to be included among a list of some fantastic bloggers who I regard in high esteem. I credit my personal learning network for being the inspiration for the birth of this blog. They are my blog family (though they don’t know it) and it is their voices that guide and inform much of what appears in this blog. This includes Will Richardson Weblogg-ed (my blog father), Lucy Calkins Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (my blog mother), Jim McDermott
Techomnivore (my blog brother), Penelope Trunk The Brazen Careerist (my blog sister). My blog family taught me 1) that every educator and student is an author Lucy Calkins, 2) Those Who Publish Set the Agenda - Will Richarson 3) The importance of being and having mentors – Penelope Trunk 4) Attention is influence and the importance of educators having a voice – Jim McDermott. I also thank my newest additions to this blog, my contributors each of whom provide a unique perspective as one of the most experienced and well respected innovative educators Jeff Branzburg and the up and coming voice in education innovation Dana Lawit. I also want to extend my sincere appreciation for this Thoughts By Jen post where I first saw I was nominated.

I also want to thank those of you who visit this space to discover information and ideas about educating innovatively…especially those who are following this blog and those who contribute to the conversation with your comments. I encourage you to take a look at the terrific line up of great education blogs you have to read...then, have your voice heard and vote for your favorite.

Best Individual Edublog 2009

Nominations in alphabetical order

  1. 2 Cents Worth
  2. Always Learning Blog
  3. Betchablog
  4. Blogush
  5. Blue Skunk Blog
  6. Dangerously Irrelevant
  7. dy/dan
  9. Education Innovation
  10. elearnspace
  11. Free Technology for Teachers
  12. Ideas and Thoughts
  13. Informal Learning Blog
  14. Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom
  15. Jane’s eLearning Pick of the Day
  16. Joanne Jacobs
  17. Kalinago English
  18. Kathy Schrock’s Kaffeeklatsch
  19. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites Of The Day For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL
  20. Learning Is Messy
  21. Learning Vision
  22. Learning with ‘e’s
  23. Making Change
  24. Moving At The Speed Of Creativity
  25. Open Thinking
  26. Pair-a-Dimes for Your Thoughts
  27. ProfBlog
  28. Scholastic Scribe
  29. Six Things
  30. Social Media in Learning
  31. Stephen Downes OLDaily
  32. Sue Waters Blog
  33. Teacher Reboot Camp
  34. The Ed Techie
  35. The Innovator Educator
  36. The Neverending Search Blog
  37. Weblogg-ed

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Shed the Paper and Allow Books to Grow their Digital Wings

At a recent Innovation meeting when talking about what a game changer digital books are, a colleague posed the question, "What is lost when you are not holding an actual book?"

OR GAINED!!??!??!!!!! I heard myself blurt out...when it wasn't my turn to talk.

Paper trained heads that were mid stream nodding in agreement and reminiscing about their disappearing friend (the book) spun my way. **Oopsie** "We aren't losing when we allow our students to Ditch Paper and Get to the Thinking Faster." I whispered. This got me thinking, if some of the most innovative educators in town still haven't bought into going on a paper diet, what does this mean for our students?

When I polled my Personal Learning Network (PLN) to see if they would be sad when books shed their paper and grew wings most who responded said yes, though these followers/friends/friends of friends shared my sentiments:
  • MrChase - As sad as when cave walls, papyrus and parchment fell by the wayside.
  • Dianewoodard - NO! The static content of yesterday will become dynamic & allow for ongoing interaction! I love digital content!
  • Shawn Gross - The death of paper is great thing for kids, the environment and economy.
  • Thomas Whitby a friend of a friend Jeff Branzburg - We cannot tell our students that we are not comfortable using an E-reader rather than a book. If this is what the future holds, then our comfort is irrelevant to one who will live with that E-reader as reality. -Reflections on Today’s Education from an Old Guy
  • Andrew a project produced specifically for the web has the potential to be far more powerful, relevant, and contextual than anything that can be done with the same project in print. - My case for moving beyond a printed senior thesis

Yet most of the over-35 crowd is instantly in defense of the way things were/are and express it in comments like these. Ahhh, the smell of the New York Times hot off the press (I am allergic to newspaper ink), the joy of turning of the crisp pages of a magazine (I am paper cut prone), the common bond when sharing a good book (Gone forever. I never remember to get them back.), the feel of pen to paper (my hand cramps and I revise like mad), and so on and so on, and so on.... Below are what most of the comments from my Personal Learning Network looked like.

Comments from some of my online PLN members

Fred Deutsch For me there's nothing like the simplicity and beauty of a book. I enjoy the ease of dog-earring a page, placing physical bookmarks, underlining key sentences, writing notes to myself in the margin, etc. Sure, all of these can be done with pdfs, but for me the e-applications of the above are just more cumbersome and not quite as intuitive. Just my personal preference.
gimst I would miss the pleasure to handle a book, paper smelling, the sense of touch, books are special tastes of sensibilit.
I don't believe in death paper books the pleasure of reading paper book is not the same reading digital book, they will coexist.
Kelley Riley Lanahan My (over 45) eyeballs just can't read as efficiently on small screens! But there's a difference for me in reading for work and reading for pleasure.....
Laura I like to hold a book and enjoy the fonts, the spacing in the margins, looking ahead to see how many more pages there are until a break in the paragraphs, or the end of a chapter. I like to find a bookmark or fold up a piece of paper to use as one. I like to browse the library for new books, for books by authors I like, for interesting titles and dust jackets.
Kelley Riley Lanahan Ha ha ha. As much as I'm NOT a Kindle fan (other than the fact I can read late into the night and not disturb the hubby), I do like the analogies here. For me, there's something about old-style that still turns me on...
Fred Deutsch I enjoy the ability to crack open a book for the first time . . . to hear the binder creak as I open it . . . to feel the texture of the page as I run my fingers over the written word or grasp the corner of the page to turn it . . . or even sometimes the smell of book can have impact. Certainly digital will continue to compete with paper... See More, but I would be suprised if it ever become more popular than paper. Books simply provide a greater fullness of the sensual experience associated with reading and learning, imo.
iansands as long as there are beaches, there will be books. Cause it's no fun when sand gets in your laptop. :)

Kelley Riley Lanahan Nothing like thumbing through a great read though. And it's been REALLY interesting pulling some of my "classic" reads (e.g. Beowulf) off of my library shelf to compare with the versions being brought home by my HS-aged sons. There are some things, I believe, that can't be substituted....makes for a great dinner conversation if nothing else!
Suzanne Montaperto I love the instant access of the Kindle and other wireless devices....but there's nothing like the smell and feel of reading a good hardcover book!
Troy Fischer @Suz... when was the last time you felt/smelled a true leather bound ... Point is, someone said the same thing when the industry started making cardboard covers with lots of graphics. AND stay tuned, Barnes and Noble's nook designers heard your claim and the Nook covers feel like bound books, hey they may even offer a fragrance "eau de book toilette" you can spray safely all over your eBook LMAO.

My intent in bringing up this conversation is to open the eyes of the paper trained to the virtues of digital because:
  • It is much better for the environment if we all ditch the paper
  • You can do more, making the experience richer
  • Students like it better
  • It's interactive allowing for not only for easier consumption, but also production of information
  • A school or personal library of books and print materials are expensive not just to purchase, but to preserve and store. Digital content is much cheaper and richer than any print material. This speaks to the cause of demise of the print newspaper and magazine industry. Textbooks should soon follow suit. If we rely on digital materials the cost drops. Furthermore, with digital content, we don't have to pay the text book companies as richer content exists outside that outdated and ineffective learning tool This article touches on some of the reasons why - Textbook Example of What's Wrong with Education - A former schoolbook editor parses the politics of educational publishing).
  • We can't ignore the impact of digital text. From the New York Times: The advent of e-books and Google’s online book archive mean “2009 may well prove to be the most significant year in the evolution of the book since Gutenberg hammered out his original Bible.” The E-Book as Gutenberg’s Bible
  • Many kids already have devices that can serve beautifully as digital readers i.e. smart phones, laptops, netbooks, why not have them pull the devices out of their lockers and pockets and harness the power of the tools kids own. Cellphone Apps Challenge the Rise of eReaders. This comment from one of the readers captures the sentiment.
    , Chicago November 18th, 2009 10:27 am
    I had a Kindle, but as soon as I got my iphone, I sold the Kindle on ebay. I have read about 20 books on my iphone, though I also buy paper books, only because not every book is available on the iphone. The reading experience is much better on an iphone than on paper: find characters that I forgot and can look up words. The big problem with the downloaded books: once I have finished reading the book, I cannot share it with anyone else. I am not sure there is any scientific evidence to show that there is less eye strain with the Kindle or the Sony reader compared to the iphone. For those who don't like the font size on an iphone, it's easy to adjust with the different book apps.

Responses to My PLN

The two valid advantages paper has over digital today is battery life and functionality in the sand (I'm at the beach a lot). Beyond that, the resistance to me seems to be the result of my colleagues being paper-trained. When I look at what these folks prefer there is very little that you can't get digitally and digital provides for a much richer experience. Here are some of my responses.

@Fred, I think you like reading longer pieces better with paper because you are used to it. I don't see your advantages. Although I grew up a voracious reader of paper, I've spent the past few years digital and love the advantages. For example, I like to read several books at a time, but don't want to carry several books. I never know when I'll have a moment to read, and don't want to always have to have various books with me. Having them digitally in my computer alleviates that issue.
As far as the actually reading, I love doing it on my laptop or smartphone (I don't believe a special device is necessary) because...
I can easily highlight, make notes, bold, underline, right-click (rather than skip over) a word I don't know, search a concept I don't understand, listen to a word I don't know or a passage I would like to hear rather than read while I'm doing something else like getting ready for work, or copy an excerpt to paste and share with my PLN. I don't get it dirty and I never lose it.
I enjoy all those things when I read digitally, but I can actually do them better and change and adjust them to my liking. For instance, I know how many pages I have, I can change a font I don't like, I can adjust the font size to be bigger, smaller, or a different color as a prefer, I can easily not only bookmark, but also share a page of text. As far as library browsing, I like that too, and appreciate the ability to do it digitally where I can see ratings and comments from other readers and also see what my friends are reading.
@Kelley, for 40-something eyeballs, unlike with a book, you can go to system preferences and enlarge the font. Can't do that with a book.
@Fred, so, we simply need a creaking sound to give you the audio you are missing...there's an app for that! Additionally, texture isn't too difficult, you can already do the turn the page motion in most apps. I'm surprised that you would be surprised about digital overcoming paper. It already has for newspapers.
@Kelley, You are right, there's nothing like thumbing through a great read, and doing so digitally adds layers never before imaginable including making texts accessible to many who never previously would have the opportunity by enabling them to do things like listen to text, enlarge it, define and translate what they are reading. And, as far as the classics, for those with out the cash or room for storage (like us in these teenie NYC apts), they are all available for free online.

An argument missing in these virtual conversations, that often comes up when face-to-face is the edubabble where I'm told, "You can not underestimate the importance of Gardners Multiple Intelligences." You know, Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Visual-Spatial, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalist (more are added all the time). Like @Suzanne, @gimst, @Fred, et. al. as they remenisce about the feel of the book, the physical paper appeals to the bodily-kinesthetic, and tactile learner. While most educators support Gardner's theory, it is not an argument for keeping the paper, it is rather a case for ditching the paper. Digital text is uniquely suited to address the unique learning styles of students far more fully than paper. For those who still need convincing and like me prefer some tangible concrete evidence, I share with you some articles and videos that come to mind as those that can well demonstrate why we must allow books to shed their paper baggage and grow digital wings.

A Few Strong Cases For Letting Books Shed Their Paper and Grow Digital Wings

Joe's Non Netbook
Watch this video about a student who is frustrated as he encounters the extreme limitations of the outdated paper technology. This video was an impromptu exchange between Joe the student and @MrChase who teaches at Chris Lehmann's Science Leadership Academy. Think about if it is paper or digital that is more suited to meeting various learning styles and needs of students.

What Happens When You Combine A Phone and A Book?

It’s a really simple idea (essentially a cardboard box with an iPhone sized hole!) that combines print and technology beautifully.

What Happens When you Give a 3, 4, 8-Year-Old an iTouch?
I recently happened to come across all these pieces separately. Each of them addresses in a different way how a digital iTouch has become an engaging and preferred tool for student reading and writing. I don't think any of the creators knew about one another when crafting their pieces. They all make strong cases about the power of providing tech to students. The message that comes to mind strongly is the tactile experience that digital technology provides. When I hear folks reminisce about the "feel of the book" I think about how much richer the experience could be digitally. This first video does an amazing job of conveying this.

Why an iPhone could actually be good for your 3-year-old

Should a 4-year-old have an iPhone?

Marc Prensky shares how his four-year-old uses his iTouch for reading, writing, drawing and more.

What happens when you give a class of 8 year old children an iPod touch each?

In this video you see students using iTouches devices like it's second nature just like they do outside the classroom. They use the devices for reading, writing research and more using applications that are either free or much less expensive than the traditional textbook.

Devices to Take Textbooks Beyond Text

I am not a supporter of textbooks, but if educators can't break away from the outdated habit, digital is an improvement that is considered in this NY Times article. From the article: NEWSPAPERS and novels are moving briskly from paper to pixels, but textbooks have yet to find the perfect electronic home. Now there is a new approach that may adapt well to textbook pages: two-screen e-book readers with a traditional e-paper display on one screen and a liquid-crystal display on the other to render graphics like science animations in color.

Until educators see the value of conducting our reading and writing digitally, I believe our students will continue to drown in the paper. I am not promoting that we go out and purchase kindles or other eReaders for our schools either. The real opportunity is to embrace the technology our students already have access to and harness the power of the fourth screen to engage in their reading, writing, and thinking 21st century style.