Re-telling Stories and A Public Confession

Some stories require multiple tellings.

Following up on what remains one of this blog's more popular posts, I couldn't help snapping this picture the other day. I call it A Public Confession.

A Public Confession - Click to enlarge.

More teens have smartphones today than ever before. To me, this means that more teachers have powerful technology to use as a resource for furthering their instructional purposes. It also means that more teens need more help in learning how to best use that power in safe and productive ways.

If we don't teach students balance and appropriate cell phone use, who will?

In other related news, Dan Haesler provides a nice angle on the state of social media instruction.
Imagine for a second if we taught our teenagers to drive a car in the same manner we attempt to teach them about social media.

1. Driving lessons would be taught by adults (teachers or parents) with little or no experience of driving.

2. Driving lessons would only focus on what not to do.

3. Driving lessons would NEVER take place in an actual car.
Outstanding analogy for an important problem.

My (still) pie-in-the-sky wish is that in all schools:
  1. Policy would allow for teacher autonomy in using cell phones and social media as instructional tools.
  2. More teachers had the technological-pedagogical skills and philosophy required to effectively harness these technologies for in-class use.
  3. More curricula encouraged real-world experience instead of the artificial environments that adults seem to think serve children best.
Yes, some stories require multiple tellings.

Questions Unknown at the Time of My Naming

By my count, there are currently forty (40) different "people" with the name of "Darren Draper" on Facebook. Spelled exactly like I do, creepy parallel universes and all.

I doubt when my parents decided to run with the name of Darren - you know, not Darin, Daron, Derin, Daryn, or Darrin - they had no idea there were so many already in existence, or soon would be, particularly in England.

West Jordan, Utah, never seemed so small.

Darren Drapers - Page 1 of 4

So naturally, when I noticed how many Darrens there were on Facebook, question after question began swirling around in my head.

  1. What would happen if I "friend-ed" them?
  2. How would I feel if I got a friend request. From myself?
  3. What if I friend myself and I end up being a jerk?
  4. Assuming I did friend them, is it too paranoid to wonder if the chain-saw-wielding-mass-murdering-type-Darren-Draper out there would then try to assume my identity? Surely life can't be that wonderful for all of us out there.
  5. How many of them are wondering the same thing about me?
It was hard enough that time I had a female "Daryn" staring back at me while I taught high school Geometry. I'm not so sure I'm ready to be Facebook friends with myself.

Sometimes Silence Can Be Golden

Hybrid Pedagogy

Teaching is a moral act. Our choice of course content is a moral decision, but so is the relationship we cultivate with students. Both physical and digital learning spaces require us to practice a politics of teaching, whether we’re conscious of it or not. However, traditional relationships between students and teachers come freighted with a model of interaction that often impedes learning. They are hierarchical. Progressive teaching, informed by a critical attention to pedagogy, resets the variables and insists on the classroom as a site of moral agency.
If you're not reading the Hybrid Pedagogy blog by now, you should be. They kicked things off back in January and have filled me with so much Cool-aid I'm ready to pop. Look for more excellent thinking as the school year winds up.

As for me and my summer, I've been busy playing, when not making preparations for the coming year and our District's implementation of online enrollment. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2012-13 school year and hope to learn more with you soon!

Twitter and Student Bullying

I appreciate that Vicki Davis and others have taken Paul Barnwell to task for his title selection in yesterday's Why Twitter and Facebook are Not Good Instructional Tools. It really is what you DO with the tool that matters, and I know far too many teachers getting solid pedagogical benefit out of social media tools to merit any type of "poor instructional" label.

That's not to say, however, that Twitter has its clear-cut downsides.

In our district, where students once used Facebook to anonymously bully others through fake school pages, they are now turning to Twitter because accounts can be quickly and easily created and most parents aren't yet savvy to Twitter's potential. Additionally, we've received no support from Twitter (the company) in addressing copyright/bullying issues, whereas Facebook has been more cooperative.

I hate Twitter for that.

Through our experiences in the last several months, we've come to several conclusions:
  • Blocking Twitter does not solve the problem because much of the student activity takes place on personal smartphones or through text messaging, not always on campus during school time. Moreover, we'd never ban paper from our schools just because students use it to distribute cruel notes.
  • Student authentication on wireless networks should possibly become an IT project with higher priority in order to provide administrators with more information when researching student online behavior issues.
  • We must be more aggressive in educating parents of the potential power of social networking, along with their students' actual behavior. Far too many parents have no idea what their students do on their phones and far too few parent/child conversations take place about actual and appropriate use.
  • Our bullying policies may need to be updated slightly to specify that following a malicious Twitter account (such as @mt_jordanprops or @diggerproblems) without reporting hurtful behavior is congruent to failing to report physical bullying. See Policy JICFA-R-1-2, which currently reads: Students who observe hazing, bullying, cyberbullying, or retaliation activities have a duty to report such behavior to school administration. Students that fail to report such behavior are subject to appropriate disciplinary sanctions under the District’s student discipline policy.
  • We must, in every school, address the creation of these types of bullying accounts with swift and appropriate consequences. Until students understand how serious, public, and permanent this harmful behavior is, they will continue to seek attention in this manner. (To see an example of administrator success, view @cvms1 - although final success would result in the deletion of this account.
  • Viewing an account's first followers is a good place to start when attempting to find the student - or students - behind the bullying behavior.
What are your thoughts about this? Are students in your school creating these types of pages - under the guise of your school - just so they can berate fellow students?

Why Graduation Ceremonies are Important to Me

I've never really been one for pomp, and few circumstances warrant a love for ninety minutes of "Jon Doe, Master of Science in Science of Science Science and Science..." But I decided to walk the walk yesterday, and here's why.

First, a little backstory.

I successfully defended my dissertation in March 2011 and was told at the time that I was then eligible to participate in the commencement exercises that would take place in early May. I said, "Great!" but quickly learned that a successful dissertation defense doth not a graduate make. So, last year's commencement came and went without my presence and I finished my doctoral requirements two busy weeks later. Why celebrate the completion of tasks when those tasks aren't really complete? My diploma came in the mail four weeks later, and my email signature has read "Darren E. Draper, Ed.D." ever since.

Next, more backstory.

One of the most meaningful aspects of graduate work, for me, has been the opportunity that research and deep, concentrated thinking provides to form strong, lasting relationships.

In August 2011, I noticed that a colleague hadn't yet completed his dissertation. Being the strong friend that I was, I took the opportunity to verbally abuse him first. "Quit your slackin' you slacker slack slack!" I then made him a deal that if he finished his dissertation on time, I would walk by his side at the next USU commencement.

At the time I made that deal, there was no way in a million years that he'd ever finish in time to graduate yesterday, so naturally he finished in time to graduate yesterday.

And so I walked.

We weren't twenty minutes into the ceremony yesterday when I remembered why I'd skipped every other similar opportunity to be miserable since high school (an Associates degree at UVU, Bachelors degree at BYU, Masters degree at USU, and an ESL endorsement in between). I also felt guilty for asking my wife, my kids, my parents, and in-laws to attend this grueling event with me; because two hours of crowded boredom can seem like a steep price to pay just to view dad dress up like Dumbledore for 20 seconds of hooding.

In the end, though, I'm really glad I did.

Because I "walked" and my family was there, they were able to see firsthand that some projects really do have an end; that even though the road might be long - and believe me, this one has been long - there's value to setting goals, working to accomplish them, and carrying through to the end. Because I "walked" and my family was there, I was able to thank them in person for their help and support. Yesterday, the words that I wrote in my dissertation's Acknowledgment were real, heartfelt, and expressed.

I would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Jim Dorward, for his helpful and pointed advice throughout this entire journey. Few know the pain involved in climbing a mountain, but those that have climbed it before.

I also give special thanks to my family and colleagues for their encouragement, support, and patience as I have worked my way up the mountain. I couldn‘t have done it without you, and wonder if my children will ever recognize their father not hunched over his computer while sitting at the kitchen table.
So, I'm glad that I walked the walk. Even though it was nearly a year later. Even though it was boring and long, and even though it was painful for my kids. That's what families are for, and I love them dearly for their support! Here's to the hope that yesterday's experience might aid in inspiring my kids to succeed in school and understand its benefits.

Here's to their eventual, hard-earned, college and career success!

Drape's Recommended iPad Apps

This was a fun email I wrote tonight. If you find these recommendations helpful, all the better.


With Scot wanting to tour my favorite iPad apps yesterday and Hollie asking for recommended math apps today, I thought I'd throw together a quick list for you tonight. Hit delete on your keyboard now if you're not ready for a lengthy email: I won't be offended in the least. :-)

First, the iOS Report that Katie Blunt and others recently created includes dozens of recommendations. I asked them to include specific examples by subject and evidence-based instructional priority and think they've made a solid start. Be sure to use the clickable Table of Contents on page 2 to quickly jump to your interest.

Download here:

Next comes my list. Because I come from a secondary background, these apps are probably best suited for older users - including adult learners - although many are also mentioned in the more elementary-slanted iOS Report.

Some of the apps included below are free, but most are not. Therefore, you can at least rest assured knowing that if I recommend an app here, I've given it a try and found it worthwhile enough to recommend to you. If you'd like to try any of these apps before you buy, you're more than welcome to take them for a spin on my iPad. (Would a list of apps to avoid purchasing be worthwhile to publish on our site?)

To be sure, iOS apps keep getting better and better every day! More to come, if you're interested. Which apps can't you live without?



Drape's Recommended iPad Apps
(Random Order)

iThoughtsHD - Decent mind mapper for brainstorming and thought organization.

iMovie - Very well-designed nonlinear video editor. Easily publish to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and elsewhere.

iPhoto - Powerful photo editor and organizer. Great for digital storytelling and organization!

Comic Life, Skitch - Digital storytelling, different apps for different projects and audiences. I also like Skitch for annotating photos, quick note summary of meeting slides.

PDF Pen - Edit PDFs, think of a textbook that is now editable by each student.

GarageBand - Teach music theory and generate a love for music creation and organization. Try it, you'll like it.

360 Panorama - Quickly and easily create panoramas. 2D pictures are so 2011.

Reminders - Now ties to Outlook Tasks (and has replaced ReQall and IMExchange for me with Siri - thanks Paula Logan for the suggestion).

Quick Office Pro HD - Nice alternative to iWork (Pages, Keynote, Numbers). At $20 for the suite, it's $10 cheaper than iWork if you're going to purchase all three, but doesn't yet support the retina display. Ties into more storage providers than iWork. If on a Mac, though, I prefer iWork - mostly because I'm bored to death of PowerPoint.

Noteshelf - Note taking app, with a Cornell template.

Remote - Control Keynote presentations from your phone, allowing you to wander the room. A little buggy, but better than nothing.

Goodreader, Dropbox - De facto storage solutions for iOS.

Star Walk for iPad - Interactive star map, smells better than most astronomy professors.

Google Earth - Interactive map with geographical highlights. I love using this for historical tours.

ArcGIS - Tap into ESRI's online GIS or create your own maps. Also GeoMobile for ArcGIS. 

GeoMeasure - Would've loved to have had this app when teaching geometry! Have students measure the area of a sector in real life (like a football field or section of lawn), verify answers with GeoMeasure.

iTunes U - Now on the iPad. See also Newsstand, iBooks, and iBooks Author!

ShowMe - View and create digital tutorials. Simple, yet very effective for electronic explicit instruction.

SCOtutor for iPad - Free for a limited time, video tutorials on how to use the iPad!

Study Apps:

TIPPS - SAT Prep, not ACT but still decent
ACT Student - Practice ACT questions
Khan Academy - Instructional videos by topic
Wolfram Alpha and most Wolfram Course Assistants - Nice supplements to traditional instruction
Simplepedia for iPad - Wikipedia reader with offline support
Which apps can't you live without?

My Personal Ed Tech Mission Statement

Power On.

Adapted from a conversation held during last week's round of job interviews. Solid candidate, refreshing perspective.

You! Yes, you! What do you think about the Common Core? Here's what I think...

Our state Board of Education meets tonight to discuss the extent to which we - as a state - will be adopting or ignoring the emerging Common Core State Standards. They've invited public comment on the issues. Here's what I've written on their Facebook post, knowing the kind of right-wing thinking we're often dealing with in the great state of Utah.

The Common Core State Standards are neither distributed by Satan nor designed to send our unique state into a tailspin. Rather, they provide a collective and consistent understanding of that which students are expected to learn, so we all can then focus precious resources on topics that matter most.

Essentially, there are two key reasons I fully endorse Utah’s adoption of the Common Core:

1. If Utah students are to compete with students in other states, we’re better off playing by the same rulebook. (What kind of advantage would the Jazz have when playing the Lakers, if in LA points are scored differently than they are in Utah?)

2. The near nation-wide adoption of the Common Core has already improved the quality of curriculum materials immensely, and will continue to do so in years to come. Giving publishers a target that is common across all states facilitates an increase in competition for educational dollars (good for learners in a free-market economy) while eliminating the need for extraneous solutions (bad for those who insist upon going their own way).
Because we now live in a global society, the Common Core State Standards simply make sense.

What's your take? Am I a fool for thinking this way?

Is there a future for open education beyond privatization? #utpol #utleg

The Utah State of Office of Education (USOE) announced today that “it will develop and support open textbooks in the key curriculum areas of secondary language arts, science, and mathematics.” They also encourage “districts and schools throughout the state to consider adopting these textbooks for use beginning this fall.”

This is clearly a major victory for proponents of open education and a move laden with tremendous potential!

That said, I have mixed feelings about the announcement – or more specifically about the timing and readiness of districts across our state to transition toward open textbook use. Here’s why:

  1. USOE requires Utah districts to conduct standardized testing using a Measured Progress-developed software client that can only be installed on Macintosh or Windows devices. There are no immediate plans for progressing (measuredly) away from this client-based testing solution and no solutions for the iPad or Android tablet devices in sight.
  2. Very few districts in Utah are ready for 1:1 technology access: neither pedagogically, financially, nor culturally. Really.
  3. Any initiative announced just before the Legislative session is subject to immediate suspicion.
Two questions now ring inside my open-education-loving head:
  • Have you ever snuggled up with a netbook to read a good (e-)book?
  • Is this really more of a political move – designed to convince proponents of private and home schooling that public school districts will now gladly hand over students (vouchers) AND develop a viable curriculum for them (open textbooks)?
Openness in education continues to be plagued with more than mere moral dilemmas.

More open?

Refining Purpose for 1:1

For me, there are four key reasons that schools should transition toward 1:1 technology access for students:

  1. Broadband, social networks, and mobility have spawned a new kind of learner (Waters, 2011). Children expect different things out of life today than we did in our youth and as a result, technology is a very important (and fully anticipated) part of their experience. Failing to produce the kind of learning environments that are tailored to those of the rising generation will be the hallmark characteristic of defunct schools in this and future years to come.
  2. In its ubiquity, the Internet has become the primary instrument commonly used to access knowledge on any subject. Under the guidance of a skillful teacher, every student should be privileged with unfettered access to knowledge – unhindered in his or her progress toward understanding. Clearly, an essential role of educators today should be to pay attention to the present (Draper, 2007), while leading students along safe and successful paths to a bright but challenging future.
  3. When used properly, technology can be the avenue through which teachers and students become co-creators of knowledge. Through these more learner-centric approaches to pedagogy, the “banking” concept of education can better subside as truly impactful learning takes hold (Freire, 1963). With greater access to educational technology, the customized learning, social and emotional support, self-regulation, collaborative and authentic learning experiences, and assessment for learning that commonly accompany learner-centric classrooms can be realized with far greater ease (Aslan et al., 2011; Watson & Reigelut, 2008).
  4. Outcomes of previous 1:1 efforts have included increased teacher and student engagement, higher test scores and a narrowing of the achievement gap, more effective professional development, and greater digital citizenship and community outreach (see for example Gray, 2011Digital Education Revolution NSW, 2011).
What are your thoughts concerning 1:1? What are its pros and cons? In your opinion, is it worth the investment?

In your opinion, can schools afford not to make the transition?

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