Category Archives: Nonesense

Bold Predictions Sure to Go Wrong in 2017

Every year I embark on an expedition to either look brilliant or embarrass myself. (Let’s be honest, that’s more like every day in my life) Since 2013 I’ve set out to make a series of predictions, mostly in the Ed Tech world, that are bold. Now, let’s look at the definition of “bold” below before we get started.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-3-33-51-pmWhile all of these certainly can be applied, I’m going to focus on the final definition and say that some of these predictions stretch the usual limits of conventional thought or action. Last year for example, I predicted that schools would start to implement self-driving buses.  As crazy as this may sound, about a month after the prediction, a company in Perth, Australia, began to pilot the self-driving bus in their community.  It’s only a matter of time before schools use them right?

You get the idea. Some of these are crazy, others actually just make sense, and some I just wish would happen.  So, with that in mind and stressing that this is a “no judgement” zone, let’s proceed:

A Dual-Language school will open with coding as the second language

The immersive dual-language movement has been going on for decades. Why not treat coding as a foreign language? If we really believe that we are preparing kids for a global society, then why not teach them a language many of them will find useful later in life? This does not mean that learning an actual foreign language is any less important, it’s just that we should probably start to value coding and programming on that same level in schools. One sign that this would become a reality would be if a school district actually gave a language credit to those learning to program and code. Talk about taking “hour of code” to the next level!

The POTUS will use SnapChat to give the State of the Union

I’m not even touching the political side of this, but instead, let’s focus on the medium to which our future president will use to communicate the State of the Union with the masses. I get the feeling that Twitter will not be enough for him in the future. I mean, either they’ll have to change their limit of 140 characters (not likely) or he’ll choose a different way of communicating. Enter SnapChat! What a great way to make a bold statement and then have it disappear (sort of) just a few seconds later. Does this sound all that crazy considering where we are today with social media, politics and the recent election?

The Learning “Movement” will take center stage at this year’s iPadpalooza

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iPadpalooza 2017: “Learning on the GO”

Every year, iPadpalooza tries to center our attention around a certain theme. Last year we let the “Learning be with us” via a Star Wars-focused theme centered around looking into the future. This year, we take the PokemonGo phenomenon and flip it on its head with our “Learning on the GO” theme. I mean, what good is it to have all of these mobile devices in schools when kids are forced to sit in desks in rows learning the same traditional content the same traditional way? During this year’s event, there will be a whole lotta shakin’ going on with sessions centered around the theme and even a new type of session called a “Walk n’ Talk” where attendees will actually walk around the campus with a presenter sharing an idea. You’ll want to have a good pair of walking shoes before you join us this summer!

Someone will invent a PokemonGO type app for education

Speaking of PokemonGO, it’s only a matter of time before someone invents an app that has some of the same addictive…er…engaging pieces of the widely popular Niantic app. I know there already is a PokemonEdu Facebook group and Twitter hashtag centered around using the characters from the app in an edu setting, but I’m talking something bigger here.

Imagine it.  As a teacher, you have access to a platform that allows you to upload little learning nuggets into a platform.  Students then actually get up and physically leave the classroom to discover these learning nuggets. Working in teams, they put the nuggets together and get certain badges for completing certain challenges. There could even be time limits, based on the class schedule, so you don’t just have kids wandering the halls all day. It’s like taking the APPmazing Race to a whole other level….hmmmmm….

Data actually gets sexy

I’m always reading stuff about “Big Data” and hearing about some fancy things happening with the IBM Watson project, but in truth, I find data to be extremely boring in its traditional, spreadsheet-focused format. I equate it to going and getting a physical. You don’t want to do it, but you need to if you really want to improve your health. Let’s face it, unless you are an accountant or testing coordinator, you’d rather find something else to do with your time rather than pouring over hundreds of color-coded graphs.

But this year, I think that will change. Now, I’m cheating a little bit here as I’ve been privy to a new program (called CatchOn) that actually puts usage data in a simple, clean, fantasy-football-like format. Gone are the days of me logging into different programs to look up usage statistics and figure out the ROI of a particular program. In this not-so-distant future, we’ll actually be able to see everything that’s being used on a district or school level right on our phone and then adjust accordingly. As someone who delivers professional learning in my district, being able to see this data instantly and beautifully would be powerful in steering what we need to help train teachers on or what we need to get rid of. Now that would be sexy (and save us money)!

Mixed Reality makes it’s way into the mainstream classroom

Virtual Paper Football!

Virtual Paper Football!

For the past couple of years, there have been several one-off ideas of using some sort of mixed reality in the classroom. Maybe it’s virtual through programs like Google Expeditions or Nearpod VR, or maybe it’s augmented like using the Aurasma app to see hidden things (something I attempted to do with my book series). Either way, mixing realities can provide a powerful way to engage students into certain content areas and up until now, it’s largely been seen as a niche or fun side activity. As witnessed by this recent Kickstarter called the ZapBox, it’s not too hard to see a future where the holograms actually do pop up on the desk so you can interact with them. Now, if only they can invent a way to create virtual versions of those paper footballs that I used to flick across the classroom.

VR-Enhanced Movies!

Piggy backing on the VR concept and expanding into pop culture, I see hollywood grabbing onto the VR the concept and expanding it to the viewer. Now, as someone attending a VR-enhanced movie, you put on the VR goggles, much like you do now with 3D glasses, and are instantly in the middle of the movie. You look around at all the characters around you and actually sit in the middle of the room where the action is taking place. Imagine sitting in a car from Fast and Furious 15 as it launches out of a plane and lands on a boat! Or imagine sitting in the living room during Halloween Part 13 and instead of yelling at the screen for the actor to turn around, you can actually turn around as the killer approaches? Doing it in a movie theater gives everyone the same shared experience and you could even make movies more “Choose your own adventure-like” where half the audience goes down one hallway and the rest go down the other. Sound crazy or genius? I’m not sure where I fall on this yet, but hope it happens.

The Classroom becomes “Smart” with Frank

With devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa really taking off in the consumer market, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that we would soon see an educational version of these tools. I think it should be called something like “Frank”. Frank would be like a fact-checking teacher’s assistant that all the students could also use. “Frank, when was the battle of 1812?” or “What is Bohr’s law?” or maybe “What is my teacher’s favorite treat?”  All of these could be useful in saving time in the classroom and help dive into even deeper learning and higher Bloom’s level thinking. However, I imagine it might also come with a lot of new classroom management issues.  But hey, for every challenge comes an opportunity, right Frank?

I finally publish my first children’s book…and this time I mean it!

Yes, I know this was on last year’s predictions, but I sort of had that whole Mobile Learning Mindset book series to finish first. With that series finally complete, I’m ready to embark on a new journey. I’ve got a lot of good ideas for a tech-centered children’s book that will definitely be some sort of mixed reality book too. It might even come with it’s own pair of VR goggles attached on the back. Like a virtual pop-up book of sorts. Now, if only I can find a publisher willing to take a risk….

There you have it.  A few bold and bolder predictions that may happen this year. What do you think? What do you predict? Add your comments below and maybe together, we can make the future a better place for learning too!

Happy New Year!

 

Review of 2016 Bold Predictions

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Photo credit – goo.gl/YPq23i

Every year I since 2013, I like to take a few risks and attempt to predict which new trends will catch on in the world of education and ed tech.  Some years I’ll get it right, some I’ll get wrong. Among my best predictions were:

2015 – Pearson will lose its massive testing contract in Texas. (100% accurate prediction)

2015 – Drones will make their way into education (mostly true and happening now)

2015 – I will finally publish a book. (took until 2016, but it happened)

2014 – The “21st Century Skills” will be renamed something more appropriate and clever – (sort of happening now with “Future Ready” skills)

Of course, they ain’t all winners folks. Some of my more famous failed predictions were:

2013 – A non-Apple tablet will rule them all (Chromebooks now surpassed iPads in sales in schools, but they aren’t technically a “tablet”)

2015 – A human battery level app will be invented (not yet….)

All in all, I feel like my track record is about 50/50 on these. With that said, let’s see how I did on this past year’s bold predictions sure to be wrong:

Prediction – A school will try a self-driving bus

Outcome – not yet

I know this prediction seems completely unfeasible, but when you think about the practicality of it, should they get the safety part down, I think this will happen in the next 5-10 years. In fact, this year in Helsinki they actually have the world’s first self-driving bus, so it’s only a matter of time until education catches on.

Prediction – MYOT (“Make Your Own Textbook”) Becomes a Reality

Outcome – trending in the right direction

This is actually getting closer and closer to being a reality. With colleges like Rice’s Openstax and MIT’s Open Courseware now entering the fray, I think K-12 will continue to travel down this path sooner rather than later.

Prediction – A “Teen Social Media Prediction” app will be invented

Outcome – Wrong

The truth is, even if there was an app that could predict what kids were doing online it wouldn’t matter. As I wrote in this post (Everything is Social Media) last spring, technically, everything that kids do online can be social. From making comments on Amazon to chatting with friends on XBox, social media is here to stay and it doesn’t really matter if we can predict the next big platform or not.

Prediction – In a district far, far away….someone will develop Star Wars school.

Outcome – NO

Wishful thinking on my part. Learn we must. Create we will.

Prediction – Speaking of Star Wars…the Learning will awaken at iPadpalooza this summer

Outcome – True

We had one of our most engaging iPadpaloozas ever this past summer.  With the theme of “May the Learning be with You”, the event featured lightsabers, stormtroopers (in the bathroom even) and a bantha’s worth of high quality speakers and sessions. Can’t wait until 2017!  Here’s a highlight video of this year’s event:

 

Prediction – The Election Will Be Televised…via Periscope

Outcome – Mostly True

While I was right about the fact that social media would play a large role in the election, I was wrong about the tool.  Periscope and Facebook Live did play a role in the messages online, but in the end, it was the president-elect’s use of twitter to sway the masses that ended up tipping the tide in his favor. Whether you like him or not, in an age where “who ever says it first must be right”, the reality TV star played that card masterfully to craft his message and sway people into his camp. Now comes the hard part for him….actually being the president.

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Prediction – The “Undead” learning movement will happen!

Outcome – Still hopeful

As much as I would have loved a protest of broken #2 pencils being tweeted, snapped, and instagrammed out, this movement never quite took off. That said, more and more schools (like these in San Diego) are seeing the damage of too much standardized testing and thus reducing it from their daily practices.

Prediction – A School will go 1:1 cardboard

Outcome – Almost a reality

With the launch of Google Expeditions spreading like wild fire and the addition of Nearpod’s VR box, we are seeing more and more of these cardboard modeled phone-based VR goggles.  Zapbox even makes a headset that does mixed reality.  I’m a sucker for cool kickerstarters!

Prediction – I’ll Write a Children’s Book

Outcome – I still have a couple of weeks left

I’m in the middle of finishing my 6th book in the 6-book Mobile Learning Mindset series, so my time is very short here. That said, I have some early leads and a couple of ideas that might help me self-publish my first children’s book in 2017.  Here’s hoping!

So there you have it. Some winners. Some losers. Some that remain to be seen. Now comes the hard chore of researching trends from 2016 and attempting to gather them into some sort of coherent list for 2017.  Come back in January to see what crazy ideas come to fruition then and place your bets on which I’ll get right or…more than likely….wrong.

A Zombie’s Survival Guide to Schools

zombie-guide-001In honor of the return of the hit TV show The Walking Dead and my general love of zombie lore, I thought I would post this somewhat tongue-in-cheek “A Zombie’s Survival Guide to Schools.”  

As a zombie limping through the world looking for a good meal, a school may seem like a good place to start. Lots of people trapped in a building for an entire day sounds very appetizing, but you might need to beware of some traps. Follow these tips and you might be able to survive.

Tip #1 – All-in-One desks are traps!

I’ve written an obituary for these pieces of common classroom furniture in the past, but as a zombie, you might want to be aware. These devices are meant for restraint and order, so if you should stumble into a classroom and make your way into one of these desks, you might never get out. Try and find some classrooms with more flexible and mobile furniture.  Not only will the brains be more engaged and tasty, you won’t fall into any of those old deathtraps known as the all-in-one desk.

Tip #2 – Brains taste better after movement

Like I said above, any zombie looking for good brain always knows that they have a fresher taste after the bodies that accompany them have some sort of movement. In a traditional classroom with those all-in-one desks, this might be hard to find, but with recent research about the positive effects of movement and the brain, more and more classrooms are integrating #brainbreaks into their daily routine.  Look for these classrooms as you groan your way through the halls of the school.

Tip #3 – Watch out for No. 2 pencils 

One of the best ways to kill a zombie is a sharp stick or knife to the skull. As weapons aren’t allowed in schools, this means there are fertile feeding grounds to safely roam and moan through the halls. Except for one time of year…standardized testing season. Not only are the brains less tasty then (see above comment) but the students come armed with super sharp No. 2 pencils to bubble in their scantrons.  Sure there are other times throughout the school year where kids use pencils for learning, writing, sketching and creating, but during this time of year, with the brains pretty well drained, it might be best to avoid visiting a school during testing season. Don’t believe me? Watch my mini-keynote about #Undeadlearning.

Tip #4 – Avoid the bathrooms

This survival tip is actually the same for the living as it is for the dead. I don’t know what happens in there, but it’s almost impossible to leave without some sort of combo-stench of urine and lysol. Don’t be an embarrassment to your other undead friends by dragging through the halls with a piece of toilet paper stuck to your gnarled foot.

Tip #5 – Technology in the Classroom can be good (or bad) depending on your viewpoint

More and more classrooms are putting mobile devices in the hands of their students. This can be a great thing for students, but sometimes the way the devices are used can make them more powerful (and dangerous for zombies).  In classrooms where they are only used for consumptive tasks, you can venture safely. However, if the students are using them for research and creative pursuits….beware.  They may discover a ways to survive the zombie apocalypse which would mean the end for you.  A student with an open mind, a problem to solve, and a piece of mobile technology can be a dangerous thing for zombies.

Tip #6 – Stay off of social media

While you might think it’s cute to take a “Zelfie” with your latest victim, remember, what you post online sticks with you long after you have died, even a second time. Best to just keep focused on your prey. Besides, there are clowns on there now and they are even more creepy than zombies.

Tip #7 – Beware of the copy/break room

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Zombies, Run!

Most schools come equipped with rooms that contain a large number of paper (which can either cause multiple paper cuts or set fire to you) or worse, the dreaded paper cutter – a large machete essentially secured to a piece of wood. Some even have pots of two-to-three day old scalding hot black liquid that humans like to drink called “coffee” (and they make fun of us eating brains). Luckily most modern copy rooms no longer contain the deadly odor of Risograph ink (unfortunate for the teachers that liked the smell, but good for you), but you’ll still need to proceed with caution.  Teachers can get moody waiting for their copies or their coffee, so you’ll want to steer clear of many of these rooms while in school.

Tip #8 – There’s an app for that

Of course, technology can help you during your visit into schools.  A couple of the most popular apps out there amongst the zombie youth. If you are looking to lose a little weight after your latest meal, why not download the Zombies, Run! app for your smartphone (assuming the battery isn’t DEAD). Or if you really want to fit in, try something that combines augmented reality with the latest robotic/STEM movement and download the “Rolling Dead” by Sphero.  It’s entertaining and you might learn a thing or two about coding while you are at it.  Who ever said a dead brain can’t learn?

These tips are intended to help you survive your stay in the schools today.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you take my advice.

Best of luck and break another leg.

 

The Most Amazing Conference You’ll Never Attend

YETI logoThere are very few moments in life when you know you are a part of greatness.  I recently returned from a trip to the Youth Education & Technology Integration (Y.E.T.I.) conference and let me tell you, this was true greatness manifest in a conference.  The event itself is kind of like burning man for educational technology (only with out all the fire and naked people). To keep mass-media and the twitteratti on their toes, event organizers actually keep the location secret until mere days before the event.  Both the speakers and attendees are selected completely at random using a complex algorithm of Twitter followers multiplied by latest eBook ISBN number downloaded.  I was lucky enough to be picked as both an attendee and panelist for this year’s event.  An while I signed an agreement not to share what I saw (they have a Vegas-like motto of “what happens at YETI doesn’t get tweeted”) I can’t help myself.  This event is too powerful not to share with others.  So here goes my recap, I’ll leave it posted as long as I can:

Location

A meeting "grotto"

A meeting “grotto” at YETI

This year’s event took place at the gorgeous [omitted] over a mild, partly cloudy weekend. Due to the natural terrain and the landscape of the area, no rooms were needed. Many of the natural grottoes acted as small meeting rooms and the larger caves served as auditoriums.  The acoustics were incredible and because of the location being near the equator, cell carriers signals were amplified along the walls giving attendees incredible 5G WiFi connections.

Speakers & Sessions

One of the most incredible parts of this event are the absolutely ridiculous variety of speakers and educators they have on hand.  I attended a session that was an actual a hologram of Bill Gates speaking to Jaime Escalante.  Some sessions lasted only for only a few minutes and others, like Bill Nye’s lengthy monologue, lasted several hours.

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The YETI Session Starter

There were no start or stop times for sessions too which was a little disconcerting at first.  Sessions were declared over when an organizer or attendee elected to bang a giant ceremonial gong.  To announce the beginning of a new session, a giant alphorn (you know, like the ones from those Ricola commercials?) would blow signifying a new session and new gathering of folks.

 

Sponsors

Another thing that sets this conference apart are the sponsors.  With the terrain being what it was at YETI, sponsors got creative.  Most of their “booths” were actually giant floating platforms, controlled by drones. I was excited to see that both Google and Apple were working in partnership with Facebook as sponsors for the event, even handing out free “Privacy Jackets” (a jacket that apparently blocks all outward internet traffic and data tracking from your devices).

My Panel

The "Thought Band"

The “Thought Band”

I was asked to be on a panel discussing the legitimacy behind this new wearable idea called a “thoughtband.”  The concept is simple.  Wearing a piece of technology on their foreheads like a Bill Walton headband, students’ thoughts are displayed in scrolling LED fashion.  Before we were even able to get into the discussion about data-mining or mind-mining for that matter, someone (who looked like a famous politician) got up and banged the gong, thus ending our session. I wish I knew what he was thinking…

Keynote

Nothing is normal at YETI, including the keynote.  This year’s closing keynote session started at midnight and lasted until the sun began to rise. The closing keynote was delivered by noted scholar and thespian Jon Lovitz.  His message of prosperity, educational equality and the need for more 80’s rap music in education rang true with the crowd of thousands. Following his talk, he asked the crowd to initiate in an awkward flash-mob edu-rave of sorts.  With the 80’s band Baltimora playing their one-hit wonder “Tarzan Boy” in the background,  the attendees went into a sort of strange crowd-surfing/internet-surfing mosh pit of sorts. Culminating in one of the strangest multi-tasking activities I’ve ever witnessed as attendees danced and texted on their smartphones, responding digitally to YETI’s essential question for 2015: Will the wearable flip-flop change the foot of education?

The video

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and unfortunately, my violation of one of YETI’s 7 tenets of attendance (though shalt not video-record) caused my immediate removal before the end of the event. Organizers wiped the video off my phone, but I was able to sneak back over a hill and capture about 11 seconds of the closing coronation where they named one attendee the Patron Saint of YETI15.

While I may risk prosecution or worse yet, not be invited back, I’m making this video public in the hopes that the rest of the world will have a chance to experience just a little taste of what I got to experience. Enjoy:

YETI15 Video Footage

Happy April 1st everybody.

Reviewing my 2014 “Bold” Predictions for Ed Tech

This is the second year in a row I’ve made some predictions about the upcoming calendar year. (Here are my 2013 prediction reviews) I do this for a couple of reasons.  One is to stimulate my own thinking on what’s possible in education with technology. The other reason is to force myself to try something new in the upcoming year. These predictions are in fact “bold” and somewhat unlikely, but with the pace of change in technology you never know what is possible. Let’s take a look and see how my predictions turned out.

1. MOOCs rebound 

Outcome – A little

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Open to the world in 2015!

In the end of 2013, there was a lot of fervor around the quality of learning in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and the amount of students that actually complete the course.  I actually took a MOOC (on the Walking Dead of course) last year just to see what it was like.  Like many of my 5000+ classmates, I didn’t finish the course.  That said, I don’t hear quite as much fuss about these as I did a year ago so there seems to be a little bit of leveling in the Ed Tech community about these courses.  This next year, I’m going to step it up and actually offer my own MOOC on Digital Parenting. (link here if you’d like to sign-up for free)  I have some predictions for how that will go, but we’ll save that for my 2015 prediction post.

2. Textbooks become obsolete –

Outcome – Not yet

This one was really trying (and hoping) to step out there and change the way we think about textbooks in schools.  The internet is our new textbook, but that is going to take time to change that traditional mindset in schools.  This year we’ll be working with our teachers to build their own “textbook” and I’m hoping that’s the tipping point to ridding ourselves of the overpriced “Big 3” textbook providers out there.

YikYak reared it's ugly head

YikYak reared it’s ugly head

3. A new social media platform will take off with teens –

Outcome – Yes….unfortunately

This prediction is not really that bold in retrospect.  Kids have been social media platform hoping for the better part of 3 years now thanks to us “old people” getting on Facebook. Last year it was SnapChat and Instagram.  This year it was YikYak and Whisper. Next year? Who knows.  We’ve had a personal experience with YikYak here in our district this year and I’m hopeful that wherever they go next, it will at least be for a positive experience.

4. Wearable tech makes its way into the classroom –

Outcome – On track

Google Glass was supposed to be a harbinger of things to come in technology (and education).  However, I still haven’t see the tipping point with this one. The fine folks over at Edudemic are doing their part releasing this “Teacher’s Guide to Google Glass in the Classroom” and here’s a handy infographic from TeachThought, but for the most part, it’s still too expensive to be used in everyday classrooms.  With the release of the Apple Watch in 2015, the wearable tech space just got a little more crowded.   That said, I’d be shocked to see a 1:1 Apple Watch school, though I’m sure it will happen. (imagine typing up your papers on that!)

5. Augmented Reality becomes reality

Outcome – True

I think with expansion of uses of Augmented Reality in learning (from NASA’s Mars Rover app to teacher fave Aurasma), this is an area of significant growth in education.  And why not?  With augmented reality you could take those boring textbook that has yet left the classroom and put a layer of augmented reality on top of it to make it interactive!

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Scaring the crowd at SXSW

 

6. My SXSW presentation on “Surviving the Digital Zombie Apocalypse” will make someone sick

Outcome – False, but…

Someone did almost shoot me in the streets of Austin.  Note to self: Next time you dress up like a zombie, make sure you aren’t in an open-carry state like Texas.

7. The classroom desk will truly die – 

Outcome – Not yet

After being a #Student4aDay a few weeks ago, I really think we need to rethink what we are doing to students.  I know what adults will say – “I sat in those desks when I went to school, so why can’t they?”.  The truth of the matter is, these things are just a notch above being a torture device.  It really makes you think…where are the most comfortable chairs in your district?  Who do they belong to? I’m hopeful this will change in my lifetime, or at least before my kids hit middle school.

8. My “Giving Up Google” for lent experiment will be the stuff of legends

Outcome – WRONG

Unlike my giving up email for lent experiment in 2013, I only lasted 3 days without a search engine of any type. I ended up asking people for help on social media or calling people whenever I had a question I couldn’t find the answer too. (essentially outsourcing my Google search)  Realizing I couldn’t lean on my friends and colleagues for 40 days (and have them remain friends and colleagues) I gave it up after the third day.

So that wraps up 2014.  Some interesting outcomes there and I already have a few in mind for 2015.  What are some things you predict for the next year?  Comment below and if I use it I’ll give you full credit!

 

How Modern Technology Could Have Changed These Classic Movies

starlingiPhone

What would Starling do with an iPhone?

There are some movies I just love watching over and over again.  I consider these types of movies “classic”.  When I say classic, I mean a movie published before inventing of the smartphone in 2007, so it doesn’t necessarily mean going back to some black & white film or “talkie” from back in the day. However, lately I’ve been amused while watching some of my favorite movies. I start to think about how different it would be if they just had the internet or a smartphone.

What follows are some of my all-time favorite movies and a particular important scene that could have been severely altered if it took place with today’s modern technology.  But rather than stop there, I’ll also offer the “2.0” version that could retain some of the major plot points despite modern technology. This isn’t all for entertainment folks…stick around to the end to see some classroom ideas for getting your kids to reflect on this as well.  [SPOILER ALERT – If you haven’t seen some of these films, I give away some major plot points]

Cujo –

This movie adaptation of a Steven King classic has many of the modern horror movie tropes: Damsel in distress, lack of resources, no one else around to hear, etc.  A majority of the film takes place with the mother and child trapped by a large rabid St. Bernard in their Ford Pinto.  Unable to escape, they are terrorized throughout before finally making a narrow escape at the movie’s end.

Cujo TODAY –

Discovering they are trapped in a non-working Pinto, Donna takes out her cell phone and asks Siri for help.

“How can I help you?”

“Contact a local dog catcher”

“Let me find that for you.”

Movie ends.

Cujo 2.0 –  

She’s trapped in the car, asks Siri for help only to hear repeatedly “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that” because of the growling dog in the background.

Silence of the Lambs – 

In one of the more tense scenes, Agent Starling is trapped in a basement looking for Buffalo Bill.  He kills the lights and dons a pair of night vision goggles adding to the tension.

Silence of the Lambs TODAY –

Agent Starling, shocked when the lights go out, calmly pulls out her phone and turns on her flashlight app, blinding Buffalo Bill and helping her save the day.

Silence of the Lambs 2.0 – 

Her flashlight app requires an update to iOS8 that doesn’t work with the crappy wifi in the basement.

The Godfather –

When the family sets up the meeting between Michael and Sollozzo, a stressful sequence follows while the family tries to discover where the meeting will take place so that Michael can have a gun planted there.  They discover the location right as Michael’s about to walk out the door and they are able to plant the gun in time.

foursquare_edited-1The Godfather TODAY –

Michael shares his Apple ID (KidCorleone@gmail.com) with his brother who uses iCloud and the Find My iPhone feature to locate where Michael is at.  Michael doesn’t have to find a gun behind a toilet because now the gunman can just come in and mow everybody down.

The Godfather 2.0 –

Michael forgets to enable Find My iPhone…essentially keeping him off the grid. Luckily his brother discovers that Sollozzo is at Louis’ Restaurant when he inadvertently checks in on Foursquare and posts:  “About to get my grub on (location: Louis’ Restaurant, Bronx)”

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner –

A great movie about early stereotypes and beliefs around interracial marriage, young Joey is excited to tell her parents all about her new fiance, John Prentice, only to be thrown into the turmoil around their prejudices when they discover the color of his skin.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner TODAY –

Joey’s parents may have still been shocked, but if she had created an Evite to the dinner invitation, they would at least have had a warning by seeing who was on the guest list.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 2.0 –

Instead his face on Evite, John Prentice just uses the default avatar, thus hiding his identity.

instagramselfie_edited-1The Sixth Sense –

In one of the most quoted lines of all time, Cole Sear reveals that he “sees dead people.”  This unbelievable declaration drives through most of the film and really throws the viewer for a loop when the final plot twist is revealed.

The Sixth Sense TODAY –

Rather than tell people he sees dead people, Cole starts taking “Selfies with Dead People” to prove he’s not crazy. (or “Cray-cray” as the kids today say it)

The Sixth Sense 2.0 –

He’s unable to post the selfies to Instagram because he’s not 13+, thus rendering his evidence useless since we all know if it’s not on Instagram, it can’t be real.

Psycho –

Norman runs the Bates Motel, a place that seems to have perpetual sudden vacancies and an inn keeper that doesn’t seem to be all there.

Psycho TODAY –

A series of bad Yelp reviews about the blood stains and peep holes drive travelers away from the motel. One yelper reveals “I’ll never go back here again. The owner guy’s mother can be heard hollering at him day and night.  #soannoying”

Psycho 2.0 –

Norman’s mother creates a bunch of fake Yelp accounts and sways the rating and feedback to be overwhelmingly positive.  One such dummy review states that “long, hot showers are a must” in the spacious bathrooms with tear-away curtains.

Breakfast club –

From IMDB – Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. A major point of this movie is Mr. Vernon checking on them to make sure they are obeying and sitting quietly not talking to each other.

Breakfast club TODAY –

The kids happily agree not to talk to each other, because that can just be plain awkward anyway.  Instead they friend each other on SnapChat and have loads of “private” conversations without Bender ever finding out.

Breakfast Club 2.0 –

Shermer High School has a strict policy banning any and all cell phone use. The kids are now faced with an uncomfortable decision of having actual conversations rather than burying their faces in their phones.

When Harry Met Sally –

This classic Rom-com shows the main characters (Harry & Sally [Spoiler]) continually running into each other throughout their lives.  These cause amazingly funny and quaint scenes where they share anecdotes of their previous lives and eventually lead to their following in love with each other.

whenHarrymetSallyOnFacebook copyWhen Harry Met Sally NOW –

After college, Harry and Sally stay connected via Facebook.  While this means they can always keep up with each other, it also means that those charming little anecdotes can’t happen because they can always respond with “Oh yeah, I saw you posted that on Facebook.”  They stay friends, but never fall in love.

When Harry Met Sally 2.0 –

Sally doesn’t believe in social media and isn’t on Facebook.  However, her friends convince her to get on Match.com and her profile keeps matching her with the same guy over and over again, who turns out to be….her old acquaintance Harry.

 

Educational tie-in:

While this is fun to think about and ponder, how could we apply this to learning?  What if a classic fairytale got a modern reboot?  Or how about contemplating how a major historical event would have changed if we had modern technology?  You could even reverse it and try to get the kids to imagine a recent event and what would have happened if the same event happened in the 1950’s.   Lots of potential here….post your ideas in the comment section below.

Teachers Make Good DJs

My first gig

My first gig

On January 16th, 2014 I held a press conference to announce my retirement.    There comes a time in every person’s life when they know it’s time to move on.   I’ve seen some of the most memorable sports retirements and wanted mine to be modeled in the same vain.

Unlike those memorable speeches held in stadiums around the country, mine was held in my kitchen around the table. No microphones or press (unless you include the 3 precocious girls running around at the time).

It was time.

And so, with a heavy heart I told my wife that I was retiring from the DJ business.  Instead of tearful goodbyes and interview questions those athletes face, my exit interview was much more steeped in reality. My wife’s response was, “that’s great honey, can you change the baby’s diaper?”

From a career that had humble beginnings DJing a friend’s wedding as a favor in 2010 to the height of my career in 2012, I had a lot of joy in getting the crowd up and moving during a wedding.  I’m not blessed with much musical talent and I’m notorious for singing the wrong words to songs.  One thing I’ve always been able to do well is motivate an audience to get up and dance.

I realized something those last few wedding gigs – good teachers are essentially classroom DJs.

Think about it.

Performing at TCEA 2012

Performing at TCEA 2012

Your job as a teacher is to motivate the kids to learn.  The good ones know when things are going slow, when the crowd is starting to get bored and they change the song.  Sometimes, you even need to get out into the middle of the room and get the kids up and moving. I mean, if we didn’t do that, we could essentially be replaced by a really good Pandora station for learning.  Here are four traits that really good teachers and DJ’s share:

Audience-

Just as there are classic songs that we play, there are classic lessons that teachers teach.   However, the same songs don’t always work for the same crowd.  If I tried to play some hip-hop at a predominately country wedding, I’d get a lot of listless, slack-jawed stares.  The same is true for the how we teach.  I used Google Docs with the Bride and Groom to request songs for their ceremony in advance.  This “formative assessment” told me a lot about their styles and tastes and I could tailor the music to fit their needs.  I see teachers doing more and more of this in classrooms as they change the direction of a lesson based on the crowd’s tastes.  Sometimes, you have to remix it, change the style and suit the interests of your audience.

Content –

One other thing I loved about DJing was discovering all the new music the “kids these days” were listening to. Keeping my material fresh and up to date was a big key to my success.  There’s nothing more embarrassing than playing MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit to an empty dance floor.  As teachers, we also must make an effort to stay up to date.  The influx of technology and tools available on the web are infinite and sometimes mind-numbing.  However, using these fresh tools can keep your crowd more engaged and often will save you time in your day.

Pacing –

This one was a challenge for me early in my career.  I felt it was so important to keep people dancing non-stop for 4 hours that I never planned for breaks or mixing in slow songs (“drink-getters” we call those in the biz). A good DJ knows when to change things up by reading the audience. With the amount of content we are “forced” to get through in the classroom, it’s easy to put the petal to the metal for 180 days straight.  However, you’ll leave your students exhausted and drained if you went at that pace every day.  Instead, change it up a bit.  Have a “slow dance” from time to time to allow kids to catch their breath, reflect, and then get ready for more.

Participation –

Some of my most memorable moments of being a wedding DJ are when the crowd responds to a song.  (The Isley’s Brother’s “Shout” being the ultimate audience response song) .  Sometimes in the classroom there can be that magical moment where the kids are so engaged you can almost feel them learning together “out loud” as a group.  While you can do you best to anticipate this by judging your audience, adjusting your music and pacing, sometimes, you just have to let it go and let them take control. Pass the mic around and let them sing their rendition of “Sweet Caroline” so they can make those memories.

While I may be retiring in name, I’m not retiring in spirit.  My crowd has shifted from inebriated party-goers to teachers and administrators that are thirsty to learn.  My music is now the infusion of technology and dynamic learning in every day classroom life.  I still need to judge the crowd for interest, avoid the empty dance floors, and allow them time to get a drink every now and then.  So, in a way, this isn’t a retirement, it’s a melding of my previous career with my current one.  I’m teaching like a DJ.

And that is sweet music to my ears….even if I get the words wrong from time to time.

View from the DJ Booth - my last gig

View from the DJ Booth – my last gig

 

 

 

#NoEmail4Lent Dies a Quick Painful Death

What started out with a bang, ended with a whimper on Sunday afternoon. I had made it nearly 19 days without interacting with email but the wheels were starting to come off some time late last week.

Our district is in the midst of it’s final iPad roll-out to 6th & 7th graders to complete an entire K-12 1:1 district.  My position plays a key role in a lot of the decisions being made about these roll-out events and I have been out of pocket from these conversations to the point it was starting to hurt.

So, on Sunday (appropriately) at 4:53PM, I ended my ban on email by taking part in some discussions around the roll-out.  My immediate reaction was a mix of depression and relief.  I had made it a lot longer than many thought (including myself) and gained quite a bit of knowledge out of this experiment.

Logistics – If I had to do it all over again, I would have planned this better.  I didn’t need 15 ways to get in touch with me. Turns out I only needed about 6 or 7.   Every night while doing my counts for the day, I would catch myself skimming the previews of each email in case there was something exciting happening. While I focused my energy on my work email, I included my consultant email, my personal email and even my iPadpalooza account in the initial research.

Timing – It’s everything, right? At least that’s how the saying goes. While Lent seemed to outline a good amount of days to do this research, I had other events begin to get in the way.  One was the fact that we were closing the early bird registration on iPadpalooza and the only way districts could register with PO was by emailing iPadpalooza@gmail.com.  That meant I had to check those email’s and auto-forward them to our PO person. Not exactly fair to her.

The latest Hooker ver 3.0

The latest Hooker ver 3.0

Personally, I had two major events happen in my life within 12 hours of each other.  I was named an Apple Distinguished Educator and became a father of 3 all in the same day.  The ADE notice came….via email.  My twitter friends quickly pointed that out to me.  It was nerve-racking but once people started to tell me they were in or out, I had to sneak a peak.

The birth of my 3rd daughter meant time away from work, which meant the experiment and data changed course.  Before I went on paternity leave, face to face interaction had definitely increased and in fact, led all other non-email interactions.  Now that I wasn’t there in person (and a little pre-occupied) I had to rely on other means to communicate with people.  To be quite honest, unless you were on Facebook, text,  or Twitter, you probably didn’t hear from me for a while.

The Hypothesis –


The original hypothesis was that by giving up email as a primary communication tools, others would be forced to try out new means and hopefully expand their horizons.  This both succeeded and failed in some senses.  I noticed within the first day or two that while almost everyone was on board, there were a few that felt I was cutting myself off from them by not being on email.  I got called to task about making others find different ways to get a hold of me when “email is just the easiest.”   While that was the point of the experiment, I didn’t want it to negatively effect teachers who already have a lot on their plate, much less trying to figure out how to reach the tech guy.

Other (hopeful) outcomes –

I had hoped that I’d be able to do “more meaningful” work while not checking email.  While I did get quite a few more personal chores done in the evening, work seemed largely unaffected.  It seems much of my “meaningful work” came from the sometimes mundane tasks assigned to me via email.  I feel like this wasn’t as much of a success also largely to the fact that I had to spend more time checking all the various methods of communication. (see Logistics above)  That said, I was able to read an entire book for the first time since I can remember (World War Z – zombies of course).

My other hope was that not sitting behind my screen as much would force more face to face communication and collaboration.  I can say without a doubt, this was the greatest success of this experiment.  I spent more time with my family, talked to district staff I hadn’t seen in a while and even got to sub in a first grade classroom!  While this seems like a simple idea, I was amazed at how touched people were by this concept of walking away from email to spend more time with others.  I even had a small group of people (in admin no less) suggest we have an “unEmail Day” once a month to get out and see the kids, campuses, and staff.  This will be something I employ going forward every month.

My last hopeful outcome was that I would have others communicate in different ways. Aside from a few folks that were stuck on email as the only method of communication, I felt this was a success as well.  I had a principal join twitter, a GT teacher chat with me via Edmodo, and I got to chat with someone face to face (virtually) via Skype rather than a back-n-forth email exchange. I even had one parent communicate with me using smoke signals.  The use of Dispatch for collaboration came in handy and will likely be a continued resource going forward with the team. I also finally got myself on Instagram (hookertech) since that seems to be the preferred communication method of kids. While the only letter I got was a printed off email, I really feel like making others aware of the alternative methods and the way kids communicate put things in perspective for most.

Final Data – 

Thanks to Google Docs, I was able to track all the data on a spreadsheet.  Final numbers:

Unread email = 1545
Twitter conversations = 299*
Facebook = 256
Face to face = 185
Text = 149

chart_1 (3)

 

Next steps – 

As stated, I’m going to continue to increase my face to face time in the district via self-imposed “unEmail Days”.  I’m also in the process of sorting and labeling all 1500+ emails I received while I was away.  Once I gather that data, I’ll go through and see areas that I can optimize in my own email to make it a more efficient tool for myself and hopefully others.  While this social media experiment is over, I’m actually still in the midst of a 12-week social media diet challenge (via Facebook group).  Only 5 weeks to go, but I’m down 25 pounds and in second place!

As for the next experiment, my wife has kindly suggested (or insisted) that the next challenge be giving up my iPhone for Lent. Just the thought of that makes my stomach hurt.  How will I get anywhere?  How will I contact people? That sounds a little too crazy for me.  But then again, maybe that’s why I should do it…

 

“Give Me Your Digits” – the Evolution of the Telephone

Rotary iPhone Dock

I remember a day, not so long ago, when everyone had ONE phone number. It was sometime in between the movie Wall Street and the TV show “Saved by the Bell”. In our household, we just finished a major debate about the validity and cost-effectiveness of keeping our home phone. This isn’t a new argument as many of our friends are “Cell-Only” friends. Times sure have changed….

Our family has the benefit of having access to a great resource when it comes to the history of telephones; Her name is Aunt Gloria. Aunt Gloria worked for “Ma Bell” for 50 years (and 1 day she likes to throw in). She started working in the 1950’s and can vividly recall what switch boards were like and if you wanted to place a call from Austin to El Paso you had to route through Chicago. The scary thing is that wasn’t all that long ago, but light years in terms of technology evolution. TV’s and Radio’s from that era have certainly come a long way as well, but they still have a place of relevance in our society (although declining).

Home telephones are on the verge of obsolescence. Without a doubt cell phones have had a large affect on this, but taking a look at history you’ll find that telephones, and the numbers themselves, have been evolving too.

Up until the mid-1960’s, telephone numbers all started with 3 letters followed by 4 numbers (the “LLL-NNNN” format) thought to help us with memorization. When you’d call the switch board operator, or “hello girl”,  you’d give them a word then the number so they know where you were placing your call (i.e. “TREnton – 3403”) The Russians were the first on record to actual go to the all-numeral approach in 1968 which has now evolved into our current automatic dialing format. The letters required to call certain places remain on our phones and lots of advertisers still take advantage of that via mnemonics that help us remember their business. (call 1-888-BOLOGNA)

LBJ Phone

Can you hear me now?

While this history lesson is useful and entertaining (Aunt Gloria tells a great story about how she hung up on then President LBJ), it doesn’t help us with our current domestic dilemma. Do we keep our home number or get rid of it? After a couple days of contemplation, a brief trip to the store made our decision for us – we decided to keep it.
While the ability to locate the house for a random 911 emergency was a very important factor, it wasn’t until we went up to the check-out line of a local Randalls grocery that we realized our home phone number is a part of us. We use it at the gas station. We use it to get discounts on toys at Toys R Us. We even use it to work-out. It’s amazing how quickly the phone number has become our defacto replacement for identification. One of our friends actually uses our phone number when going to the store. This change has been happening over the last several years and while it’s true we could switch all those memberships to our cell phone, who wants to go through all that mess? So instead of paying for home phone service, we now view it more like we are paying for “multiple membership identity” service. Think this is crazy? Recollect how often you give out your home phone number to people. Now think of how often you use it to verify membership for some service or signing up for something. Which do you use if for more often? Last year I’d estimate we gave our phone number to 2-3 people and used it over 30 times to sign-up for something, and even that might be a low number. So then next time you go to Home Depot or 7-Eleven, see what the googly-eyed clerk behind the counter reacts when you tell him your number is “Trenton-3403”.

 

Resources: A short history of the telephone & Aunt Gloria
 

What Were Your Parents Thinking?

Being in education, I’ve come across several names that are, well, just plain crazy.   Having grown up with a last name like Hooker, I heard all sorts of jokes as you might imagine.  My sister, Anita, had an even worse time of things (go ahead, say it out loud and you’ll figure out why).  One of the first questions I always get is “what were your parents thinking?”

Since my parents never could come up with a believable answer to that question, it inspired me to look for other names out there that might prompt the same question.  What follows is a list of some of the names that either I, other educators, facebook friends, or twitter followers have come across in their lives.  I realize this has nothing to do with technology aside from the fact that social media is great for even the minutia (credit Dean Shareski for that one)

To keep this in some sort of orderly fashion, I’ll list these in categories:

Food Related Category: 

I’m not sure why parents like to name their kid after food items.   Maybe it’s America’s fascination with eating. Perhaps it’s what was on the menu the night of inception.  Who knows, but here goes:

Candy Cane

Pepper Mint (I think these two were related)

Cinnamon Danish – A middle school student from Sweetwater

Brocolli (I kid you not, can’t remember who told me this, but at least it’s a break from

http://www.flickr.com/photos/87007053@N00/2103770302/

Her middle name could be "with cheese"

the sweet names)

OrangeJello (or-ange-ello) and LemonJello (Le-mange-ello) – Again, relatives.

Mister Alfredo (Actual spelling – Not quite a food, but close)

Razi Berry (pronounced like raspberry)

Alternate Spellings and Pronunciations:

I’m not talking about adding a “y” in Robyn or anything either.  I’m talking blatant disregard for the English dictionary.

Butiful Mellody (supposed to be “Beautiful Melody”)

La-A (pronounced La-dash-ah)

Neveah (Heaven spelled backwards)

Nirmal (wonder how normal this kid will turn out)

Espn (Pronounced Es-Pin)

Social Media at work

ABC (Pronounced uh-bee-cee)

ABCDE (Pronounced Ab-sud-ee)

Pajama (Pronounced paj-ee-may)

CacheMonet (Pronounced like “Cash Money”)

Name, Profession or Both?

Bus Drivers – Mrs. Sippi (probably not a good name for a bus driver) and Mr. Safety (much better name for a bus driver)

OB/GYN – Dr. Cassinova and Dr. Hurt – Which one would you go to as a woman?

Kindergarten teacher – Mrs. Gizzlebox – Just sounds like a teacher’s name.

And of course, Dick Chopp – A famous local urologist who’s motto is “There’s more vasectomies to be done”. Seriously.  Here’s his site: http://www.urologyteam.com/?q=dr-richard-chopp

Family trends:

A family of three named: Lamblight, Moonbeam and Starshine

Another family of three: Sir Galliant, Sir Courage, Sir Valiant

Twins: Dorothy and Dorothea

Ima and Eura Hogg – Former Governor of Texas Jim Hogg’s daughters

April May – Her last name was June ‘

Three girls – Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

The Liss Family – Ruth and Dick

Literal Names?

Justin Case

Ferrel Hogg (no relation to Jim from above)

Howard E Butts (Founder of the famous H.E.B. grocery store – probably a better name than Butts Market)*

Pearl Harbor

John The Baptist (that’s his first name)

Your Highness

Orion Starr

Borderline Inappropriate Category:

Already mentioned my sister Anita Hooker – Especially fun when a principal calls her down to the office, comes out like  “I need a hooker to the office”

Richard Blower

Motivational Educator Harry Wong

Richard Head

Harry Wong

Harry Dick (Senator)

Marcus Pucci

Phil McKrackin

Phillip Ajarapoo (a teacher in Round Rock)

Shitthead (pronounced shi-thead)

While all these give me more inspiration than every to name my next child “@” or “Google”, I think with a name like Hooker he/she will have a hard enough time.  Finally, I bring you one more late addition:

Batman Bin Suparman

This one actually comes with a picture of a driver’s license:

Thanks to contributers Chris Parker, Jolynn Rettig, @Kristy_Vincent, AJ Muller, Mary Ries, Shawn Clark, Sean Forkner, Joan Hughes, @computerExplore aka Lisa Johnson, Jim Ford, Sheri Ford, Shawn Clark, Donyle Clark, Karen French, Tracy Lord, Sue St. Germain, Jane Mullen, Catherine Searcy-Edmund and of course, my sister, Anita.

*Thanks to Molly May for pointing out that Harry E. Butts of HEB fame, is actually Howard E. Butts