Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 6.59.25 AMIt has been quite some time since I last posted here at HIT.  Since returning to the classroom last fall I have been busy educating the youth of America, at least those that set foot in Room 100 at Adams Middle School.  Our journey together is almost finished in terms of the school year, and we have some evidence to show for it online.  Our American History site can be found at in all its glory.  There are several student projects shared on the home page for your viewing pleasure.  The resources that we use on a daily basis are found mostly via the “Agenda” links in the right hand column, and here you can see all sorts of practice that has been going on on a daily basis.  I hope my students are ready to go to the high school.  I feel like they are getting there, but I also know it will be a whole new “ballgame” for them.  I think they are ready for high school social studies…

Interdisciplinary…is it a goal, a state of education, an action?  As I contemplate my new history course and the awesome math teacher I will collaborate with (Mr. Dan Smith), I am working my mind to find ways to accentuate math throughout the ages and to show how data is an important historical tool that tells great and interesting tales. In this process, I want to share an example of what I am getting at and some data resources that one can utilize with students to inspire their search for truth through data.

The following is a video clip of an older piece from Hans Rosling:  200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes:  a great example of combing data and history…

The next items are links to data resources that may be useful (in no particular order)…

Stat Planet

KML Factbook


Many Eyes

Data First

2011 in 11 Graphs

The Joy of Stats Video 200 Countries, 200 Years in 4 minutes


Google Think Insights

Google Public Data Finder

2010 Census Data

Find The Best

Policy Map

Where Americans are Moving

Another summer has arrived in my life, another school year has ended, perspective rolls in once again.  I am starting my fifth year as the educational technology director for the North Platte Public Schools.  During that time we have gone through 2 superintendents and currently have an interim while we sort out who will be best to lead our instructional team in the future.  Technology in the district has increased and improved, but we have much more to do.

Within this big picture view are some little things that have profound influence on quality of life.  There are so many troubles out there in this big old world, and it is nice to have some tender mercies around to lighten the load.  We got a puppy in the spring and had spent all the time and energy it takes to bring him along as a member of our family.  We determined that the time was right and that we would have the summer to train him and enjoy him.  School ended for my five children on May 18th and my wife followed the next day after wrapping up her school year as a speech-language pathologist.  I have an extended contract that runs into July; so, I continue my service as we ready the district for a new school year.

On May 26th our dear, new friend Shadow was hit by a truck and we had to put him down.  Needless to say, the Memorial Day weekend took on a whole new meaning and was not filled with happiness and joy.  I grew up on a ranch in western Wyoming and have spent my life around animals.  For me, I have seen them come and go, but there are always a special few.  Shadow was one of them.  My children and I have had a special opportunity to reflect on the short life of something that became important to our family.  It has not been easy, but they are learning that it gets easier as each day passes.  This learning is profound, meaningful, and lifelong.  It will never be measured on a standardized test, and my children have learned more from this experience than an entire year of school will ever hope to bring.

We get in such a hurry in life that we forget to enjoy the things that are going on around us.  Events, people, pets, our surroundings often slip by like the scenery we view in a speeding vehicle.  We don’t notice, or cherish the little things, the special things, until they are sometimes taken away without a moment’s notice.  This can be the summer that Shadow died, or it can be something else.  I’m not sure what that something else is as of yet, but our family is searching.

I know a few that visit this blog from time to time, and your visits may be less because I post less.  It is because I have been too busy living life and that’s okay.  I hope you are all having a great summer, but if you are sad I can understand how you feel.  Your sadness may be greater, more profound, and more serious.  Take comfort in the fact that your sadness comes from the loss of joy.  Remember the joy and get it back someway, somehow, as soon as you can.  Goodbye Shadow.  You brought my family true, honest, joy.  Thank you.

It has been a few years since I heard Ian Jukes speak at the T+L Conference in Nashville (October 19, 2007).  However, his words continue to ring in my ears, and I want to share some of them with you as I reflect on where our school district is with embedding technology in learning.

Ian Jukes said:

“We have access to some new technologies but their use is generally optional not integral and certainly not required of all teachers – and the technologies are often used to reinforce old practices and assumptions about teaching and learning and assessment and do not require the teacher to change their current instructional practices.”

“Ask yourself this very important question – would your students be there in your classrooms if they didn’t have to be? Are they there because they want to be there? Or are they there because they have no other choice? And if they’re there only because they have to, what can we begin to do differently to help more students want to be in our classes?”

“…Our emphasis as professional educators has to be on more than just LOTS.”

“The starting point for making the necessary changes is that as educators we have to understand how truly different our students are.”

“This shift is so fundamental – the gap between them and us is so wide – that there’s no going back to the basics. There’s no going back to the way things were when we were kids.”

“The problem is that many educators just don’t get that there is a digital divide. Many of us pay lip service to the notion that this generation is different. We knowingly nod our heads but then we shut the door to the classroom and go back to business as usual where it could just as easily be 1960 all over again.”

“Most teachers know very little if anything about the digital world of their students – from online gaming to their means of exchanging, sharing, meeting, evaluating, coordinating, programming, searching, customizing, and socializing.”

“The bottom line is that we really don’t understand their digital world and we never will until we take the time to honor and respect where they come from. But to do this we have to be willing to acknowledge their world and start to educate ourselves about that world.”

“If we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our children, schools must become a place where students are actively engaged in constructing their own knowledge and know how…”

“The context of a significant event provides a frame of reference and relevance for remembering the specific information about what you were doing long after the event. By providing a context for the new information teachers are actually helping students with long-term memory.”

My summary and challenge to myself and others that continues today:  As educators it is time that we take responsibility for our own learning.  If we want to create self-directed learners, we must become one.  We must model self-directed, independent learning, and we need to discover how our students learn in the 21st Century.

4 Years of Blogging…

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Reflection

Four years ago I started this blog, and time has slipped by much quicker than I ever imagined.  At the start of the blog I was searching for an instructional technology position that I soon found.  That position took me and my family from western Wyoming to Greater Nebraska and the city of North Platte.  Many changes have occured in the North Platte Public Schools, and I can say I have witnessed and been a part of many advances in the technology available to staff and students. Where life takes me next is always up in the air.  I am always looking for new opportunities and adventures.  Sometimes those new things are found right where I am and sometimes they are in a distant place.  We’ll have to see what happens.  Four years from now will be interesting to see…I wonder.

I have been contemplating my personal learning network (PLN) as of late, and I have shared my off and on dealings with such tools as Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  As an educator, a PLN is vital in gaining new ideas, sharing, seeking support, and maintaining all sorts of human relationships that get one through the days, weeks, and years.  I have never been a good giver over my digital PLN, but living as a taker has helped me to survive.

Sometimes people come along and give you a good shot in the arm when you least expect it, and two gentlemen did just that for me many months ago.  Dale and Jarred were two new teachers, just finishing up their programs of study at university.  Last year was their first year in the classroom, and now they march along in the second.  I had followed these teachers, and visited with them on rare occasion, but I lost them for a bit (my fault).  I backed away from my digital PLN to gain some perspective, that I never quite found, and added them back today.  Hopefully they will take me back.

Chances are good they didn’t know I was gone, and that would be my fault for being a taker.  That’s okay.  I need to take from them, I need their enthusiasm, I need to hear of their struggles and triumphs, and I need to be ready to offer encouragement when I think they need it.  That encouragement makes me a giver.  Support is one of the great benefits of a PLN.  It comes from strangers, those you least expect, but they become familiar:  they become family through one’s PLN.

We come to the end of a calendar year.  This is a time of reflection for many, and a time to set new goals.  I’ve been thinking about goals, been taking stock of the past, and wondering how to navigate the future.  I have been looking for perspective.  I was referring to my PLN via my RSS feeder to find some wisdom, and Dale provided just the perspective I needed in the following video (Dale and Jarred:  Thanks for finding me many months ago even though you didn’t realize I needed to be found!):

You can follow Dale and Jarred on Twitter:  @DaleHolt and @JarredRowe and learn from them at “Not Your Average Teacher

They truly are not average, they are great!!!