Archive for the “Now I’m In Real Trouble” Category

If you have been on the Moon for the past two days, you might have missed this.  Google is offering a Google Teachers Academy for Administrators in San Antonio.  After looking at the announcement, I couldn’t help thinking that its basically the same program offered for teachers.  Even the title of the program might suggest that…

Personally, I think programs like this are generally beneficial, but not as beneficial as everyone thinks.  I’ve written about his before, especially in regards to my distaste for the badges that participants display on their blog.  I think most do not consider the implicit support for a commercial entity that results from the use of the badge, especially within the context of being a public employee (in most cases).

I also think that this represents a great opportunity for Google and a great opportunity for administrators.  But, if it’s just the GTA re-purposed, I think it might miss its mark.  Why do a teacher academy for administrators?  I guess it could imply that everyone is a teacher, or it could simply mean the organizers did a bad job of crafting a title.

It’s a different audience with a different need.  And if they don’t know the tools by now, which is a reality, they shouldn’t apply.  That’s directed at administrators, not at Google.

The time has come for a different kind of experience, moving beyond tools.  Tools could certainly be included in the context of the day, but it needs to be more.

Before I give you my perspectives, here are my biases from which I operate:

  • I’m a 12 month administrator and have been for 10 years.  I taught for 15.
  • I work in a school.  I face the challenges that that brings on a daily basis.
  • I’m a Google Certified Teacher by default-I presented at the Chicago conference.  I have not engaged in the Google online community-I do enough of that already, and my engagement online with others must be larger than just Google-focused.
  • I believe that the Google Academy is a good thing for most teachers, although it could stand a heavy dose of pedagogy.
  • My school district has signed up for Google Apps for education, and it is a component of a much larger vision of how learning can occur in digital environments.  Google tools, and what they bring, are incredibly important to us.
  • I think that in 2009, Google represents the true spirit of innovation.  I’m amazed at what they produce.


So, if I were designing an administrator academy, these would be my underlying questions that I would hope the day would answer for attending professionals.  Embedded in this is the understanding that some tools would be explained, and that the experience from the day could be expanded through online community participation.

Here they are:

  1. Will the academy help administrators understand why teachers in their schools could benefit from being part of the GTA program?
  2. Will the academy help administrators understand why they should adopt Google Apps for Education in their schools?  Will the academy demonstrate to administrators, clearly, the affordances that the use of such a system brings, and demonstrate how they know?
  3. Will the academy help administrators understand the necessary policies that need to be developed to effectively scaffold the use of Google tools in schools?
  4. Will the academy help administrators understand how they can meet mandated legal requirements (such as email archiving) when using various Google tools?
  5. Will the academy address strategies for the systemic application of Google technology to support increased student achievement?
  6. Will the academy address initiatives such as Response to Intervention and how Google technology can be used to address the student support required by such programs?
  7. Will the academy address the negotiation of the uses of learning environments featuring Google tools and how that can be balanced against high stakes testing regimes and NCLB?
  8. Given the focus on the role of Google tools, and that they should be used by teachers to help students learn, will the academy address, or offer suggestions and strategies, on how schools might address the technology gaps that exist in under-served populations in schools (defined here as those without home technology) so that access is equitable?
  9. Is the academy taught by fellow administrators or is it taught by the same teachers that instruct at GTA?  If teachers, do they have the requisite systemic experience to understand the larger context of schools that administrators operate within?
  10. Do the presenters, if administrators, have school-based examples to share, in the context of what Google offers, of what works, and can they explain how they know it works?

So, those are my questions.  And while I understand that a lot of administrators aren’t there yet in their understanding of…tools…well, I might suggest that there is a different place where that can occur.  In my opinion, the day should be learning more than tools, and realizing that we can connect to each other digitally.

Administrators have different needs than teachers.  They just do.  That’s not bad, it just is.  Technologies that are offered by companies like Google, and that are used by teachers, require some rethinking of how we operate.  That’s good.  Google could help admins understand that, with a day dedicated to just that.

I’d be glad to offer my assistance in planning or helping to adjust the program, or explaining this in more detail to Google planners.

Please let me know what you think.



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It’s easy to bash presentations.  It’s also easy to bash presentation styles.

Included in this process is always the obligatory derogatory comments directed at PowerPoint.  Standard stuff.

Of course, much of this consternation towards presentations originates with having to sit through some really bad presentations where the presenters are just awful and have no clue how to communicate and engage an audience.  We’ve all been there.

It’s also easy to bash the lecture because everything now needs to be collaborative, on a wiki, shared in a Google Doc, or done together in a backchannel.  But I’ve attended some phenomenal lectures, where the lecturer/presenter just had tremendous ideas.  Mimi Ito and Connie Yowell come to mind, where for an hour I sat and wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to capture every profound thought.  My engagement was with the ideas, and singular.  Me.  Processing.  No one else.  Just a stream of ideas, balanced against my beliefs, with individual processing and plenty of time for collaborative discussion later.  But for an hour-me, the presenter, and ideas…

Most might look at the room and what was taking place with a presenter talking and people listening and characterize that as a passive learning experience for the participants.  But passive?  Only if you wanted it to be.  It certainly wasn’t that for me-it was very active.

And the presenters used slides.  With text.

So I was intrigued by this blog post by John Pederson, who quotes (I think it’s a quote) Heather Gold who proposes something called tummeling.

Basically, a tummler is hired to entertain and make sure everyone had a good time.  Sounds really can watch her explain it here.  Be sure to also examine her comparison between presentation and conversation, which is interesting, if not outright wrong.

It’s easy to dismiss bullet points.  I don’t think they work especially well and a presentation filled with slides of endless bullet points can be absolutely disastrous for a presenter, not to mention the audience.

But let’s not dismiss text.  Text and bullet points are two different things.

And we certainly shouldn’t dismiss slides, because slides can carry a very critical element of a presentation.


In any presentation, you are selling ideas. As Seth Godin says: “Communication is the transfer of emotion.”

And that emotion is communicated through two channels:  the presenter and through the visual content of the slides, and processed by the 3.5 pound (1.58 kg) processor inside your head, all in an effort to make meaning.

The choice not to use slides, and not to use the capacity of those slides to carry images that communicate visually, represents a shallow understanding of human communication.  As the speaker in the video indicated, effective communication is supported by an “emotional substrate.”  Yes, that can mean face to face emotion crafted by the presenter..  However, it should also mean carefully selected visuals that enhance the emotion channel of the presentation.  Ignoring visuals, or failing to include visuals, means you just ignored or failed to include a very powerful communicative element-an element that might just make all the difference.

To extend your thinking a bit, if you haven’t seen Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Learning, you should.  His book is based on “seven researched based principles for the design of multimedia messages” that we should all learn and apply to presentation design.  Here are four that I think are most relevant to this post:

1.  Multimedia Principle:  Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

2.  Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3. Temporal Contiguity Principle:  Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4.  Individual Differences Principle:  Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners and for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.

Basically, images and text are critical to learning, and especially more so for low-ability learners when the media design is appropriate.

Let’s not forget that presenting is communication.  Let’s not forget that presenting has its place.

And there are numerous ways to present ideas, ranging from Twitter to blogging to sitting on a stool, telling a story.  You can even…ah…tummel.  However, presenting to a small or large audience alike requires, skill, effort, and knowledge as well as an understanding of human communication.  It’s in vogue to consider new ways to communicate, new ways to engage an audience, its vogue to present using a test-based wiki for example.

But having an audience walk away with being energized, being challenged to think, being moved by a message communicated through appropriate media, and with the ability to process additional insights that can lead to actionable next steps that they didn’t have an hour ago is also pretty damn good…

Mayer, Richard. Multimedia Learning. 9th ed. New York, New York.  Cambridge University Presss, 2007. 184. Print.

Comments 6 Comments »

If you read the blogs of educators, you can’t miss them.

They’re displayed proudly, so you can’t miss them.

For the individual displaying them, they represent accomplishment, a very visible digital signpost that says: stop and look, I am a qualified educator, a connected educator, someone to be taken seriously.

Back in 1996, I was awarded a fellowship by Genentech, Inc. to their Access Excellence program. The company, over a three year period, selected 100 educators from across the United States, and flew them to San Francisco for a week to learn, to connect, and form one of the first online educator communities. It was a good program; I got a free laptop (albeit a Macintosh), learned some things, and met some great people. What did I have to do to gain admission into this community? The answer: write a really good lesson plan.

The program lacked one thing. A badge for me to display my accomplishment.

There are numerous programs in place now for educators, similar to the one I was part of. You apply, submit some credentials, a video perhaps, and the great race for inclusion takes place.

If you are fortunate to become part of the experience, you often have the opportunity to participate in events and exclusive ones at that. You might get to go to a day-long program or perhaps a special event at a conference, get some bad hotel chicken wings and a few beers, and get to talk and mingle with your hosts, and your fellow program colleagues. You might even get to go on a cruise.

And you get the badge.

I’m talking about the digital icons of programs that are sponsored by commercial companies that provide experiences like I have described above. Badges that can be displayed on blogs, or other digital spaces, that signify the inclusion and participation of the individual displaying the badge in the program that the badge represents.

These companies are smart. They recognize that teachers are generally not recognized for their efforts, either by their own organizations or the communities they serve. They recognize that teachers are generally not recognized for their efforts; efforts that range from the mundane and necessary to those that are above and beyond, and are heroic. The companies recognize that the thirst for this recognition can be quenched with a program that provides that recognition.

And the participants also get a badge.

I generally think that these programs are good. Not as good as most of the participants think they are, not as good as their tweets say, but for the most part the programs are ok. They don’t do much to change education as a whole, but that’s not really the point, is it?

The thing that bothers me about these programs is the badge you get to display. The have-have not mentality that they promote….and perhaps the false sense of accomplishment that goes along with their display.

A serious question. How much of an accomplishment is it to be a part of these programs? How much better was I than the next biology teacher just because I wrote a more creative lesson plan? They didn’t see me teach. They didn’t ask my kids about me. They didn’t look at a portfolio of accumulated work over many years, they looked at a single lesson plan. Yet I was an Access Excellence Fellow-something to be proud of, but something to examine critically, and take it for what it was worth.

So, if you are a member of these programs, be proud of your accomplishment, but get rid of the badge. Revel in the good things you do every single day for kids. Be proud of that. You don’t need a badge for that; you only need to be recognized by the smiles on your kids’ faces, and on the faces of their parents for a job well done. Ultimately, a career, and a lifetime in the service of others will not be measured by an accumulation of badges, but by those that you have served over those years, and their accomplishments.

So be part of the program but get rid of the badge, it sends a bad message. It doesn’t represent who or what you really are.

Comments 25 Comments »

It’s been awhile…since my last post about Twitter. I wrote this right after that post out of frustration so I let it sit. I’m posting it now for your “enjoyment.”

So, now I’ll be in more trouble with all the Twitter kool-aid drinkers, but oh well. I had some fun with the script of A Few Good Men. It’s meant as humor, nothing more, nothing less…breathe deep! Here it is:


You want answers?

We think were entitled to them.

You want answers?

We want the truth

You can’t handle the truth!

People, we live in an online world with tools like Twitter. And Twitter has to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, (insert your name here)?

I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom.

You weep for Twitter and you curse @djakes. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that @djakes Twitter post, while tragic, probably saved lives.

And @djakes’ existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…

You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at Twitter meetups like at NECC, you want @djakes on that wall.

You need @djakes on that wall.

We use words like blogs, wikis, and (but not diigo)…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent creating online communities.

You use ‘em as part of a 140 character punchline.

@djakes neither has the time nor the inclination anymore to explain to people who refuse to actually read the post, then question the manner in which @djakes wrote it! He’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way.

Otherwise, I suggest you grab a mouse and write a post. Either way, I don’t give a @&^%$# what you think you’re entitled to!

Did you write the Twitter Post?

I did the job you sent me to do.


You’re #%*&*&% right I did!!

I suggest the jury be dismissed.The Blogger has rights.

Captain (insert your name here)?The members of Twitter will retire to the antiroom.

What the &$#&$^ is this? I wrote the post, I’d do it again.

I’m going back to my office.

You’re not going anywhere @djakes

MP’s: guard @djakes

I committed a crime? A crime?

But it’s got 106 comments!

This is funny, that’s what this is!


OK, let me have it…

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