December 2008 GEC Computers in the Classroom Newsletter

This past week, my wife and I watched the Gemini Awards on television. The Geminis recognize the very best in Canadian broadcast television. My son works in production for the Survivorman series and they were nominated for three awards.

The show was well produced with a great deal of interesting personalities on and off the stage, the red carpet, and all the goodies that you would normally expect to see in a show like this.

For me, an appearance by The Amazing Kreskin stole the show.

I recall being fascinated by Kreskin in my youth and we were faithful viewers of the show. His basic premise was always the same – he is a mentalist and has you sitting on the edge of your chair as he does his thing.

He could always read minds, or make predictions, or somehow do that little extra something that put him above the audience and left us all in awe. He was the ultimate showman and performed his parts with such flair.

Years later, he still has the flair and enthusiasm that I so fondly remember.

On the show, he predicted a couple of the winners by tuning into host Jason Priestley’s thoughts! To ensure the integrity of these predictions, he was locked into a sound proofed glass booth with a couple of accountants to keep tabs on him.

Of course, the great mentalist was correct. Who would have doubted it? However, it was his style and his flair that came through during the broadcast that kept us interested and intrigued in his predictions.

So, what’s the deal with the props? After all, couldn’t he just have written the predictions on a piece of paper and it just be turned over at the end of the bit? Sure he could. I would also have changed the channel.

We face the same thing with students in classrooms every day. Think about the good old days of education where we would hang on the noise of every stroke of a piece of chalk.


It didn’t work then and it sure doesn’t work now.

Much has been said and written about 21st Learning Skills and what students are bringing to the table these days. Does this mean that we bring technology into the classroom to entertain? I sure hope not.

What technology does bring is the opportunity to dig deeper and create better and deeper understandings of the subject matter. Compare a pencil and paper mathematics activity to one with a Fathom or Geometer’s Sketchpad or spreadsheet alternative. Beyond the simplistic “get the answer”, we now afford opportunities to find more, think deeper, and ask the question “what would happen if I just did this”.

We could colour a map or we could explore a related layer in Google Earth. We could create another bristleboard display or we could add three dimensions to it by using Hyperstudio and some internet research to add much more to the activities than a simple display.

Using technology isn’t just a simple transference from one media to another. A favourite quote of mine is attributed to Henry Ford who once said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

Therein lies the genius of Kreskin. He constantly would be looking for innovative ways to keep us engaged in his show. Technology, used properly, can do the same for us in the classroom.

As for Andy, unfortunately, they weren’t winners this year. But the recognition and participation lives on to next year. We’re still proud parents nonetheless.

You can access all of the December GEC Computers in the Classroom Newsletter at:

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Christmas Cards for Geeks

I know that I’m a little under the weather.

But, I don’t care who you are.  These are funny.

Of them all, three really tickled my fancy.

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links for 2008-11-29

Mr. Tweet

Twitter has had just an enormous impact on folks who would grow their Personal Learning Network.  It’s a conversation; it’s a collaboration; it’s chatter; it’s making new contacts; it’s all of this and none of this depending upon how you handle it.

It’s also an area with a very friendly and open API that inspires all kinds of folks to write utilities to interface with it.  I’ve been trying to keep up with them on my wiki at this page.

In the past, I’ve offered a number of suggestions via this blog for finding interesting or related or celebrity or news/sports/weather people/services to follow on Twitter.  It’s a good way to increase the power of Twitter for fun and learning.  And, oh the learning.  If you’re not using Twitter, you’re missing so much.

Recently, a newcomer has shown up on the scene.  It’s name is Mr. Tweet.

Mr. Tweet offers yet another alternative. 

Unlike previous strategies which require work on your behalf, Mr. Tweet does much of the work for you.

All that you need to do is follow Mr. Tweet on Twitter.  When your time has come, you’ll receive a direct tweet indicating that this service has done its work for you.

What’s the work?

Well, the first thing is to produce a list of people that are following you that you aren’t currently following.  Often, you’ll get wrapped up in using the service and perhaps ignore those who start to follow you.  You can play catchup with this component of the service.

The other component is even more interesting.  Through some sort of algorithm, Mr. Tweet purports to find your trends in friend gathering and offers some suggestions for people that perhaps you should be following.  This is another very interesting route to take.  Unlike the previous suggestions, this will find many more people that you have never heard of before.

I gave it a shot and was quite impressed. 

Twitter offers so much if you use it to its maximum.  Using the additional utilities make a great service even better.

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links for 2008-11-28