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My keynote for the 2015 K12 Online Conference


My keynote for the 2015 K12 Online Conference is now available. It’s long because within it I profile numerous examples of innovative schools. Here is the description for my session:

Whenever any sort of change or innovation is discussed, the ‘Yes, but…’ objections are inevitable. However, instead of allowing those resistance points to dominate and defeat promising ideas, teachers and administrators can reframe opposition into possibility by asking the questions ‘Why not?’ and ‘How can we?’ Effective educators focus on adaptation, forward progress, and collective effort and efficacy. The ‘yes, buts’ don’t do anything except keep us stuck. Too often we get mired in negativity and defeatism instead of recognizing that – both individually and collectively – we usually have the ability to do and be so much more than our current reality reflects. This keynote focuses on transformative leadership mindsets and features exemplary schools from around the world that are ignoring the ‘yes, buts’ to make amazing things happen for children and youth.

Check it out and get some great ideas for changes you might make in your school. Be sure to see all of the other wonderful presentations too. The four conference strands this year are Maker Ed, Stories of Connection, Overcoming Obstacles, and Beyond The Core: Art and More. Did I mention the conference is FREE?!

Happy viewing!

Some shout-outs this year


A few shout-outs that this blog has gotten this year…

  1. Onalytica calculated Dangerously Irrelevant to be the 5th-most influential educational technology and e-learning blog in the world.
  2. EdTech magazine named Dangerously Irrelevant as one of its ‘must read’ K-12 IT blogs for 2015.
  3. Getting Smart included Dangerously Irrelevant as one of its 55+ ‘great blogs and blasts’ and also was kind enough to put me on its list of 50 people shaping the future of K-12 education.

Thanks, everyone, for the recognitions. Much appreciated!

Happy 9th birthday! (a few thoughts on blogging and online learning)

9th birthday cake

Today is Dangerously Irrelevant’s 9th birthday. That’s a long time in blogging years (sometimes I feel ancient even though I’m not that old yet). Most of the educators whose amazing voices inspired me in those early days are no longer blogging. A few of us continue to write and, of course, new voices have joined us. And left us.

Over the past nine years I’ve learned some things about blogging specifically and about social media generally. Here are a few random thoughts that strike me this morning…

  • The death of the comment. Blog comments used to be the ties that bound us together. It was not uncommon for us early education bloggers to receive dozens – and occasionally hundreds – of comments. That deep, rich discussion was exhilarating and spurred us to think and write even more. Today we’re lucky to get a few tweets. The growth of different writing and sharing outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Medium, tumblr, YouTube, etc.), the overall greater number of voices that have diffused online mindshare, and the rise of both shorter-form feedback mechanisms (likes, tweets, shares) and large, well-funded corporate and/or group blogs all have reduced the on-blog interactivity that many of us individuals used to see. I don’t lament this state of affairs since my work is arguably shared more than ever but I confess that I remain extremely grateful for every comment that I receive and do my best to respond to as many as possible.
  • Lack of attribution. My stuff gets ‘stolen’ all the time. I had a dustup last year with a very prominent writer / speaker whom I discovered had used my material almost-verbatim in numerous paid presentations and a published book, including proprietary material for which I had gotten special copyright permission to use. There was no possible way for the use to be accidental since it was clearly modified ‘just enough’ in a few places to be slightly different. We had a few exchanges on the matter and I moved on. On a smaller scale, I see things that I have said or written all over the place, often without attribution or credit. So I was sympathetic to Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s recent post calling out a prominent online educational leader for improper attribution (and Doug Peterson’s excellent concurrence). This individual is fairly notorious for playing fast and loose with attribution so it was good to see the person being called to account. Shelly was kind enough to do it anonymously – even though the person didn’t necessarily deserve it – and I’ve already seen some attempts by this individual to both remedy the specific instance in question as well as be more thoughtful in general. Personally, I decided long ago not to worry too much about this (with the exception noted above), figuring that I had bigger things to worry about than whether a few of my ideas and statements – which I want out there floating around – were properly attributed. That’s a personal decision and I completely understand others’ desire to take a different stance. Hopefully we all will remember the importance of proper attribution and will model for other educators and students this important linchpin of the Internet. 
  • What’s important. Voice is important. Passion is important. Authenticity is important. Helpfulness is important. Trust is important.
  • Kindness. Despite almost a decade in this social media space, I continue to be astounded by the kindnesses that educators extend to each other on a daily basis. Our sharing, our support, our willingness to lend a helpful hand or a critical eye or a sympathetic shoulder… all are commendable. Despite the occasional hiccups and bumps in the road that inevitably occur, our online sharing and connection spaces generally are serving us well. Keep learning from, helping, and encouraging each other!
  • Refusal. Numerous educators still refuse to participate in our online, networked communities of practice, even as lurkers. The belief that one can be an adequate educator these days without tapping into the vast resources that are being shared by role-alike peers continues to confound me. A few magazine subscriptions that rarely get read, the occasional conference, and usually-useless professional development sessions are insufficient for the demands of our times. We must do better at getting our refusenik peers on board.

I continue to be grateful daily for this blog. It has opened up uncountable opportunities and I have learned incredible amounts from our dialogues and resource sharing. Thanks for all that you contribute to this online space. Thanks for being loyal readers. And loyal commenters.  😉

Image credit: Cake, The Parasite

3 kinds of ISTE sessions


Not including the more informal networking events, there generally are 3 kinds of ISTE sessions:

  1. Tools, tools, tools! These sessions focus on software, apps, extensions, productivity and efficiency, how-to tips, etc. Little emphasis on learning, heavy emphasis on how to use the tools.
  2. Technology for school replication. These sessions focus on the use of digital technologies to replicate and perpetuate schools’ historical emphases on factual recall and procedural regurgitation, control and compliance, students as passive learners, etc. Behavior modification apps, teacher content transmission tools, flashcard and multiple choice software, student usage monitoring programs, and the like.
  3. Technology for school transformation. These sessions focus on deeper learning, greater student agency, and perhaps real-world, authentic work. Learning technologies tend to be divergent rather than convergent, foster cognitive complexity, and facilitate active, creative student-driven learning.

We need more of #3. Lots more. Right now these sessions are still a significant minority of sessions at ISTE (and most other educational technology conferences).

Which kinds of sessions did you attend? What does that mean for your ability to effectuate change back home?

Which kinds of sessions did you facilitate? What does that mean for your responsibility as a presenter to help others effectuate change back home?

We’re wasting opportunities to move our systems…

3 minutes with the ISTE Board

Yesterday I gave a 3-minute video presentation to the ISTE Board on What’s the next big thing in educational technology?

Happy viewing!

5 thoughts from ISTE weekend


Five thoughts from the first couple of days here at the 2015 ISTE Conference…

  1. If “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning,” then why are we centering so many of our sessions on the tools?
  2. Are there uses of technology with students that would offend the majority of us so much that we would stand up and shout, ‘No! We should never do that!’? I see things here and there that concern me but many others seem to be pretty blasé about them or simply accept them as inevitable parts of the landscape (for example, behavior modification software, draconian Internet filtering of children and educators, and drill-and-kill systems ‘for those low-achieving kids,’ just to name a few)
  3. The work of transforming school systems is difficult work. School transformation stems from personal transformation, not from devices or apps or software. How many of us can say that we’re truly transforming more than a small handful of other educators?
  4. The work of transforming school systems is slow work. Some of us have been at this for a decade or two (or longer). How do we invest in and energize both ourselves and each other so that the frustrations, sluggishness, and setbacks don’t win?
  5. We should have more babies at ISTE. Who doesn’t love babies?!

Summer of Code

It’s Summer of Code at our house…

Phase 1 (Group)

Everyone works through Course 2, Course 3, and Course 4 at to ensure that we have basic conceptual understanding of key terms and ideas. I have a teacher account and can print certificates of completion!

Phase 2 (Individualized)


My youngest (5th grade) is diving back into Scratch, taking on more complex tasks and trying to create more challenging games (including, apparently, making Wack-A-Demon!). He likes to make his own board games so we may also try to figure out how to integrate our Makey Makey into his next one. If that works, maybe I’ll borrow my agency’s Hummingbird Robotics kit and see if we can go even further.

My two high school kids are learning Python. Here are some resources that we’re using:

We also found some additional Python suggestions from Carl Cheo:

What else should we be doing? Want to join us? Share what you’re up to in the comments!

Day 2 of TICL and other awesomeness

Tony Vincent

Below are my notes from Day 2 of our Northwest Iowa TICL conference

Tony VincentLearning In Hand@tonyvincent

Powerful Projects (see all of Tony’s resources)

  • The best projects are connected to the real world and to students’ interests
    • Student ownership, authentic audience, make a difference
  • What’s the best project you’ve ever seen students do? What made it so good?
  • Adobe Voice app (free)
  • Psychological ownership – causes = control, intimate knowledge, time and energy – positive outcomes = responsibility, attachment, accountability, and confidence
  • The Ikea effect” – We value things more when we played a part in creating it (even if it’s not perfect) – much more satisfying than somebody making it for you
  • Love also leads to more labor – we work harder on things we care about and in which we are interested
  • Harvard Business Review – “When we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome – by a factor of five to one”
  • Don’t get too attached to tools – they disappear!
  • Apps students can use to show their knowledge
    • Tony is showing us a memory / tribute video for all of the tech tools we’ve lost!
  • The questions you ask will greatly affect the quality of the work you get
  • “Let’s make a dent in the universe” – Steve Jobs
  • How Can Student Projects Make A Difference?How can student projects make a difference?
    • Educating others
    • Solving a problem
    • Calling others to action
    • Building something useful
    • Planning an event
    • Raising money for a purpose
    • Recognizing or inspiring others
    • Designing a better way to do something
  • Developing inquiry questions (get from Tony!)
  • Quozio, QuotesCover, Recite, and Canva allow you to post quotes or questions
  • Photofunia (see also top 10 tips)

Josh Ehn (@mr_ehn) & Tim Hadley (@mrhadleyhistory)

Awesomeness 101 – Tim

  • The truth is you’re already awesome, we’re just going to help bring it out
  • If you’re happy and you know it…
  • Awesomeness is a choice – what will you choose?
    • Who can I be awesome to today?
  • Steps to be awesome
  • We come up with all of these great ideas – why don’t we ask students?
  • If you don’t live kids, please stay home. If you love content, write a book…
  • Mt. Pleasant CSD (Iowa) teacher reconfigured room to favor collaboration – behavior referrals dropped in half
  • Genius Hour work should be authentic but not graded
  • Students will meet the level of expectation that you set
  • Read. Learn. Get Better.
  • Our capacity to learn these days is endless
  • It’s all about relationships
  • Daily routine: 1. Wake up 2. Be awesome 3. Go to bed
  • I’m not here to be average…

Awesomeness 101 – Josh

  • 3D printing is awesome and is going to revolutionize manufacturing
  • Videoconferencing – ask an expert, “hey, do you have 10 minutes to talk to my class?’
  • The world’s best teachers are already stealing your students (online for free, live streaming or recorded video) – Periscope, Meerkat
  • Internet of things
  • Raise your hand if the phone is the #1 / #2 / #3 / #4… thing you use your smartphone for
  • Your smartphone is a computer, not a phone
  • The conversation should not be about keyboarding anymore – we’re heading toward voice dictation – typing is going to become like cursive
  • Embrace the smartphones – teach teachers how to use them in the classroom
  • LinoIt of Awesomeness

Innovation, 3D roller coasters, and questioning the status quo

Change Post Its

Below are my notes from Day 1 of our Northwest Iowa TICL conference

Tony Vincent, Learning In Hand@tonyvincent

Question the Status Quo

  • Entrepreneurs are curious, creative, and fearless about experimentation – Hal Gregersen
  • Showing us a series of ‘life hacks’ to help us think outside the box
  • What does innovation mean to you? (using the Post-It Plus app to display audience responses)
    • Sometimes innovation means you have to stay within a box and think creatively
  • MyScript Calculator and PhotoMath
  • Use ‘-teacherspayteachers’ to exclude that site from your Google searches for teaching resources
  • Other places to search for resources include Pinterest, Diigo, Slideshare, YouTube, Twitter, etc.
  • Eric Schmidt – “the best way we’ve found to foster [innovation] at Google is to create an environment where ideas can collide in new and interesting ways, and the good ones are given resources to grow”
  • Plickers is an innovative tool created by an educator
  • Limitations can lead to innovations (e.g., using the address app to make our own dictionary / word wall)
  • Using Amazon book reviews with 5th grade students
  • Inklewriter allows students to make ‘choose your own adventure’ stories
  • Obvious to You, Amazing to Others video (Derek Sivers)

Oculus Rift 02

Dane Barner, StuCamp, @MrBarnerWCMS
Sustainable Innovation: Creating a Space for Innovation to Happen
  • No Box Thinking chat, #nbchat
  • Is lack of change just implementation fidelity?
  • Me: If you say to a teaching staff that we’re going to try a bunch of stuff and expect most of it to fail, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy
  • Dane: Innovation is change with purpose. Innovation is not something that we do, it’s something that happens.
  • Adam Bellow: Innovation occurs at the intersection of fear and bravery
  • Dane: Innovation requires an innovative mindset, the removal of restrictions, the right people, and failure as an option
  • Rachelle Mau: Fossilized mindset = they have concrete in their shoes and they’re buying concrete for others…
  • Dane: growth mindset = doing things you haven’t done before, innovative mindset = thinking in ways you haven’t before (and accept them)
  • Two core beliefs in schools: just tell me what to do, and there is a right answer (I just have to figure out what it is) – for both student and adult learners
  • What does it say about us as educators that we tenaciously hang on to what we know doesn’t work?
  • The curse of the three Ss – sports, schedule, and staffing
  • How do the people around you affect your ability to be innovative?
  • Dane: Dreamers and grounders
  • Failure is an event not a destination
  • Learning to walk: After falling, have you ever seen a baby say, “That’s it, I’m a crawler!”

Iowa State University FLEx trailer, Pete Evans, @petemevans #ISUFLEx

  • I experienced a virtual roller coaster wearing Oculus Rift (very cool!)
  • Also present: 3D printer, Little Bits, and more!

The DENny Awards with Dean Shareski

Here are a couple of Dean Shareski’s online promos for the DENny Awards… Happy viewing!


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