Archive | December, 2009

What I said to the NEA

Earlier this month I asked what you would say to the NEA Board of Directors if you had the chance. Thank you, everyone, who chimed in with thoughts and suggestions. Here’s what I ended up showing and saying to NEA’s Board. As you’ll hear, I pushed them a bit…

UPDATE: Art Wolinsky kindly synchronized the audio and the slides for me if you’d like to watch the presentation as an integrated whole rather than accessing the slides and audio separately. He’s also added the video to TeacherTube. Thanks, Art!

Interesting observation #1: The room was set up kind of like the United Nations. Here is the delegation from North Carolina. And over here is the delegation from Idaho…

Interesting observation #2: If you say the word ‘Walmart’ to NEA folks, they instinctively boo and hiss? Apparently they’re not big fans of Walmart…

Everyone at NEA was very kind to me and I appreciated the opportunity to speak with them. I’m not sure what they’ll do (if anything) with what I said but I guess we’ll see! For those of you who are interested, you can check out my NEA web page, which includes additional resources.

Related posts

School is no longer constrained to how far the bus can travel in the morning

I love this slide (courtesy of Dean Shareski and John Pederson). Click on the image for a larger version.


School is no longer constrained to how far the bus can travel in the morning. Schools will be last to notice.

Photo credit: The School Bus

Secular v. sectarian Christmas displays: What is the obligation of public schools to be welcoming?

I walked into one of the Iowa Area Education Agencies (AEAs) last week and saw a tree in the foyer that was decorated with lights, tinsel, ornaments, a star on top, and presents underneath. The area around the receptionist’s desk was decorated with red and green garland; a Santa Claus candy dish; little stockings with names on them; Santa Claus nesting dolls; and a smaller tree also decorated with lights, ornaments, and a star on top. On the door to the receptionist’s area was a green wreath and a chalkboard sign with a snowman on it that said ‘11 days ‘til Christmas!’

As I walked past the holiday displays, I was confronted yet again with my annual concerns about public schools, religion, and inclusiveness. I’ve blogged about this the past two Decembers:

The Iowa Department of Education speaks

This year I decided to ask an Iowa school law attorney what he thought about what I saw at the AEA. He referred me to the December issue of the Iowa Department of Education’s School Leader Update monthly newsletter, which states on page 11 (in part):

Secular aspects of Christmas. The non-religious aspects of Christmas may be part of students‘ lives at school to the extent that they do not otherwise violate school rules. For example, the following are permissible activities (inasmuch as they do not violate the First Amendment):

  • Hanging pictures of reindeer, bells, other non-religious symbols.
  • Sponsoring a "giving tree" on which students may hang hats, mittens, scarves, other items for donation to less fortunate persons.
  • Handing out candy. [Remember, this does not violate either the First Amendment or state nutrition guidelines (if not provided by the school; check to see if it would violate a local school wellness policy!]
  • Sponsoring sleigh rides.

Read more…

Video – What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?

Here's a new video from Heidi Clark and Anita Bramhoff, two Canadian teachers who made the film as part of some work at the University of British Columbia. Happy viewing!

Some thoughts on U.S. News & World Report’s 100 best public high schools

My father-in-law gave me the January 2010 issue of U.S. News & World Report. It features a number of articles on P-12 education and includes detailed tables of its ‘100 best public high schools’ in the United States. I’ve been playing around with the data a bit…

1. Nationally, it helps to be rich and/or flexible

The tables show that 72 of the top 100 schools are magnet schools, charter schools, or have an application process for students. Only 33 of the top 100 high schools are classified as open enrollment schools. What’s not apparent from the online tables (but is in the printed version), however, is that 5 of those 33 also are labeled as magnet or charter schools and that 26 of the remaining 28 have fewer than 10% of their students classified as economically disadvantaged. In other word, only 2 of the 100 ‘best’ public high schools are traditional open enrollment schools serving a socioeconomically-diverse student population:

  • High School for Dual Language and Asian Studies (#52; New York, New York)
  • Hidalog Early College High School (#97; Hidalgo, Texas)

2. In Iowa, small homogenous schools reign

No high schools in Iowa were given a gold medal by U.S. News. Only 1 of the 47 Iowa high schools given a bronze or silver medal has a sizable number of students in it:

  • Washington High School (1,463 students; Linn County, Iowa)

The remaining 46 high schools have fewer than 600 students. Over 3/4 have fewer than 300 students, often spread out over grades 7 through 12, not just grades 9 through 12. Only 4 of the 47 high schools (including Washington High School above) have racial/ethnic minority student percentages greater than 6%.

3. Are these schools good models for others?

No doubt these are good schools. Some of them appear on the U.S. News list every year. But many will question whether they are good models or exemplars for traditional schools. Are they doing things differently in terms of curriculum, instruction, expectations for student work, teacher training, etc.? And to the extent that they are, how much is due to their greater flexibility compared to more traditional schools?

I’m not disparaging these schools. I’m just thinking out loud here…

Kudos, Dr. Watson!


Bill Watson, Activities Director for the Urbandale (IA) Community School District, received his doctorate this evening from Iowa State University. As his doctoral advisor, I had the pleasure of ‘hooding’ Bill at Commencement.

Please extend your heartiest congratulations to Dr. Watson for successfully completing his doctoral program. Doctorates are always difficult and challenging journeys (particularly when your advisor is me!). Nice work, Bill!

ISTE conference keynote – Final totals (by category and overall)

Here is the final leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. Category winners are Chris Lehmann, Alan November, David Pogue, David Rose, and Karl Fisch.


If votes from all categories were totaled, this would be the leaderboard:

Read more…

Unperceived changes followed by dislocating explosions

Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen, & Harry Lewis say…

Exponential growth of anything can suddenly make the world look utterly different than it had been. When that threshold is passed, changes that are “just” quantitative can look qualitative.

Another way of looking at the apprent abruptness of exponential growth - its explosive force - is to think about how little lead time we have to respond to it. . . . At what point was it only a half as devastating? . . . The answer is on the next to last day. . . .

The information story is full of examples of unperceived changes followed by dislocating explosions. Those with the foresight to notice the explosion just a little earlier than everyone else can reap huge benefits. Those who move a little too slowly may be overwhelmed by the time they try to respond. [Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion, pp. 9-10]

How is your school system responding to some of the exponential, qualitative changes that we are experiencing in our information landscape?

Related posts

HELP WANTED: Looking for some assistance with my next survey of the edublogosphere

I’m looking for a few folks who might be interested in helping me with my next survey of the edublogosphere. I’d love to have some assistance devising questions, analyzing and presenting the results, publicizing the survey, etc.

I’ve done two of these in the past:

My plan is for the survey to go live in early to mid-January and to have the analysis completed by late January or early February. Complete this short online form if you’d like to be involved. Thanks!

12-14 ISTE conference keynote update – David Rose takes over category lead

Here is the current leaderboard for the ISTE conference keynote crowdsourcing project. Not much voting activity. Chris Lehmann still holds his lead over Jeff Piontek. David Rose has taken the lead in the Universal design for learning category.

I’ll post one more update tomorrow, which is the last day of voting, and then another post showing the final results. Have you voted yet?