Friday, October 16, 2009

Week 3 Reading: Art of Possibility, Chapters 1- 6

Here are my thoughts on each of the chapters we had to read this week in The Art of Possibility:

Chapter 1:  It's All Invented

I think that this chapter boils down to how one reacts to a situation.  I like reading self help books from time to time, gleaning bits of advice from here and there.  I really liked the example of the two shoe salesmen in Africa.  I feel that almost any situation can come out as a positive one.  It just depends on how you look at it.  You make your own destiny.
"What might I now invent, that I haven't yet invented, that would give me other choices" (Zander, 2000).
Chapter 2:  Stepping Into A Universe of Possibility

You have to kind of reinvent the way you handle things if you want to be more successful in your endeavors.  Our reality is a direct reflection of how we perceive and react to everything (how's that for new-agey double speak).  You have to move in an "ebb and flow" to everything.  Your attitude and actions aren't going to give you overnight results, but they will put you on the right road to where you want to be.
"The universe of possibilities is the place you seek after you have discovered that it's all invented" (Zander, 2000).
Chapter 3: Giving An A

I don't know if I necessarily agree with this chapter, but I understand the rationale behind it.  The central theme of this chapter is seeing the good in everyone.  Encouragement is the key to developing good relationships with peers and family.  You can't do it in a condescending fashion, but go at it with sincerity and passion.  If you help one another in achieving their goals, they will in turn, help you achieve yours.
"The A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into" (Zander, 2000).
Chapter 4:  Being A Contribution

I really liked this chapter, as I believe in helping others and trying to make a difference in at least one person's life.  The example of the lady throwing the starfish back in is a beautiful one.  You're never going to affect everyone you come in contact with.  That is just a fact of life.  You can't let this discourage you though.  You can't look at your efforts on a scale of accomplishment, comparing yourself to others.  You need to look at the bigger picture to see how wonderful and intricate the Universe is as a whole.  Contributing yourself into others' lives instead of measuring the accomplishments of your own will give you a richer life.
"It makes a difference to that one" (Zander, 2000).
Chapter 5:  Leading From Any Chair

The most successful leaders in any industry surrounds themselves with the best and brightest.  You have to be willing to make it a group effort in order to get the best out of anything, whether it's your work or personal life.  The worst leaders are those that think that they are the only ones that have good ideas and never take input from their "underlings".  If you are willing not to receive the glory all of the time, you will find you will get farther in life.
"A conductor can be easily seduced by the public's extraordinary attention to his unique offering and come to believe that he is personally superior" (Zander, 2000).

Chapter 6:  How Serious Do You Make Things Out To Be?

Another one of my favorite chapters.  Your life is going to suck sometimes.  There's no way getting around that.  You're not always going to ride off into the sunset.  Your heart is going to get broken.  You will sometimes fail at what you attempt.  This chapter relies on the principles of Chapter 1 as well.  Your reaction determines your outcome to adversity.  Understanding to let go has been a big lesson to learn in my life.  I'm still working on it, but the better I can make my life.  Sometimes you have to understand that you don't have control over everything, so just let go and know that everything will work out in the end.
"We need to remove the part of ourselves that developed in the competitive environment of the measurement world" (Zander, 2000).
Zander, R.S. (2000). The art of possibility: transofrming professional and personal life. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Week 3 Comment: Amy White's Blog

Amy's Blog Website Address:

Amy's Original Post:

Interestingly, chapter 3 of The Art of Possibility has my favorite ideas and a quote that made me roll my eyes and gag a little. The quote that I didn't like was, "This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into" (pg. 26). I hate quotes like this. I know that they are meant to be inspirational and all that, but, really--gag. That said, I love the idea of giving an A. I don't know if I'd get away with that, but I would love to at least set up the hypothetical and talk to my students about what it would look like. I love the letter writing idea, where they have to look at what they did to receive the A. I think grades have been so inflated in this day and age. I have students (and their parents!) tell me all the time that they "need" to get an A. Some of them are genuinely not capable. They can grow and they can advance, but an A is not really in their league--if we are saying an A is the highest achievement or the highest standard. I am fascinated to see what my students would say is necessary to achieve an A and how they went about earning it. I've been talking to them all year so far about goals and how they define success. I asked them to write their own definition of success and encouraged them to share it with their parents and discuss it. This year we used a graphic by Jim Burke (see below) and talked about the various aspects and foundations of success. I am definitely going to find a way to give them all an A, even if it is only for a day, and see what I hear them say.

Zander, R. & Zander, B. (2000). The art of possibility. New York: Penguin.

Mike's Response to Amy's Blog:

I think that students need to understand what achieving the highest award or standard truly is.  It was my experience in teaching rudimentary courses in college that a growing percentage of students expect a grade to be handed to them without earning it.  I think this is a reflection of an alarming trend in American schools in which they are acting as "standardized assembly line" where a one size fits all attitude is not meeting all of the student's needs.  As more and more students fall "through the cracks", a growing prevalence of "self entitlement" is appearing in more of the student population.

A recent study showed that college students surveyed at the University of California felt that "they deserved a high grade just for showing up to the lecture" (Roosevelt, 2009).  There is a growing trend of "student self entitlement", according to a recent study titled "Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors" by Ellen Greenberger (Roosevelt, 2009). 
Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety (Roosevelt, 2009).
Another article by Ruben Navarrette states that "one of the great long-term threats to the security and prosperity of the United States is a growing sense of entitlement" (Navarrette, 2009).  Navarrette feels that the entitlement is passed down "from adult to child and will be detrimental to the nation's global competitiveness and productivity" (Navarrette, 2009).  Of course, you can contrast this with current student attitudes.  Their rationale is that if "they show up to each class, listen to each lecture and do everything that the teacher requires of them, they should automatically receive a high grade" (Roosevelt, 2009).  Students need to understand that even though they're doing all of the work, they need to put out a quality product.  It would be the equivalent of going to the hospital for heart surgery and the surgeon not being able to fix your ailment.  If the surgeon's response was "well, I did all of the procedures", would you be happy with the results?

Navarrette, R. (2009, March 1). Our entitled youth. Retrieved from 

Roosevelt, M. (2009, February 17). Student expectations seen as causing grade disputes. New York Times, Education section.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week 3: Interactive Tech History Lesson: OLPC: Following in the Heritage of Logo & the MIT Media Lab

Another cool lesson on the state of technology access in the third world. To the unknowing common person, you would assume that internet access in third world countries would be almost non existent. That apparently is not the case. One man's blog claims that Internet access is actually better in some third world countries than it is in America (Shepard, 2009). Contrast that with a blogger that I found in the United States:
People in Canada and the United States have been aware for years that we pay some of the highest prices for some of the slowest internet access in the world. When First World regions like Europe and Japan move to 20 megabit, 50 megabit, and eventually 100 megabit internet access, Canadian and American providers boosted speeds to the 5 to 7 megabit range. While other nations paid roughly $30 per month for speeds up to 20 times faster than ours, we helplessly watched our rates increase to almost $50 per month (2008).
It is hard to fathom, but further research backs up these statements. According to the website World Internet Usage Statistics, Africa has kept up with the United States in terms of Internet Access Growth and Penetration (2009). Asia represents almost half of the world's population in terms of Internet users (2009).

I bring up these statistics for one simple reason: we live in one of the most sophisticated and richest countries in the world, yet we take for granted what a lot of the world does not.  Opportunities are limitless around us, yet we do not take advantage of all of the tools given to us.  The country's math and science scores are way behind that of the international average.  Our technology penetration in our pedagogical efforts are way behind those of other countries, especially Asian schools.  The mission statement of One Laptop Per Child is to bring the technology to those that would normally not have access to it to give them better opportunities and help them catch up with the rest of the world.  Something that American teachers need to think about is this: Why aren't we making this a huge goal for our own students?  I think the newer generations of teachers are working toward this, but we still have a long way to go.  We still face the resistance of the "old guard", economic limitations and other prejudices against technology.  Just some stuff to ponder on as we work toward making our classrooms more beneficial to our students for a 21st Century Education.

(2009, October 15). World Internet Usage Statistics. Retrieved from

(2008, July 9). Living in a Technology Third World Country. Retrieved from

Shepard, W. (2009, May 14). Internet Access in Third World Countries. Retrieved from

Week 3: Interactive Tech Lesson: Seymour Papert & Logo

I really enjoyed this Interactive Tech Lesson on Papert & Logo. I remember using Logo as a child in the Charleston, South Carolina school system. I was fascinated with both LOGO and the BASIC programming language. Had I known then what I know now, I would have stuck with computer programming and steered clear of the Entertainment Industry, but that is a discussion for another time (LOL). I liked how Papert used Constructionism to develop LOGO as a means of help students to learn and solve problems on their own.
While researching this topic, I found out some interesting things about Papert. He apparently was one of the founding fathers of artificial intelligence as well as being labeled one of the greatest mathematical minds of our time. I remember that after my exposure to LOGO, my Math and English grades improved greatly. It helped me understand the concepts of Geometry on a more personal level and increased my interest in technology and computers at the time (Santa brought me a Commodore 64 for Christmas that year).
It is good to see that LOGO still remains in the educational consciousness of today, although it has evolved into something better, SCRATCH from MIT. SCRATCH is something that educators could only dream of when I was a student. SCRATCH allows students to create interactive stories, games and programs as well as allowing them to share their creations with other like minded students. Here are some cool videos I found on LOGO & SCRATCH:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Week 3: Ron Smith Interview Interactive Q&As

  What does Ron Smith do at the New Media Academy at Hollywood High School?

Ron Smith is the lead teacher at the New Media Academy at North Hollywood High School in Hollywood, California.  The academy exposes students to acting, directing, screenwriting and the technical arts.  Several entertainment groups, including Universal Studios, the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Director’s Guild and the Writer’s Guild, support the school.

2.     What types of New Media does Ron Smith see students gravitating toward?

Ron sees a lot of students liking Flash Animation and Animation for website development and video purposes.   Flash Animation is created using Adobe Flash animation software.  Other types of animation include cel-animation, cut-out animation and three dimensional animation.

3.     Why does Ron think students are gravitating toward these types of New Media?

Ron feels that this technology is one of the more popular formats in which students can express themselves creatively.  He feels that there is a bit of a struggle though between getting students started on the hard work involved in creating and finishing an animation project though.

4.     What types of materials does Ron Smith use in his classroom to engage his students?

Ron uses a wide array of different materials in his classroom, both fair and unfair use.   Examples include: movies, sound, websites, even dancing around the room.  Ron tries to get the students interested in whatever is happening in the classroom at that time.  He tries to integrate whatever technology he can into his classroom.

5.     What were some of the early technologies that Ron used in his classroom?

Some of the early technologies that Ron used were podcasts, text messaging and video content creation.  He noted that not all technologies were equally received by the students.  Some students showed greater interest in some technologies while other students showed interest in other ones. 

6.     What are teachers doing in class compared to what their students want to do? 

Ron feels that teachers are behind the technology that students are currently using.  The best example that Ron uses is teachers being fascinated with projecting Power Point and Word documents up on a display in front of the class to pass the rubric.  Students, on the other hand, use several social networking and Web 2.0 technologies, including Facebook, Myspace, Youtube and Blogger.

7.     How does Ron think we can bridge the technological gap between the two groups?

It involves showing the teachers the benefits of using more sophisticated technologies in the student and being able to relate to students on their level.  Technologies that were prevalent and popular in the late 80’s are now deemed archaic and do not reach today’s student.

8.     What does Ron mean by the following statement: Digital Teaching is “Front Loaded”?

The term “front loaded” refers to doing the main amount of work on a project lesson at the beginning before students begin learning about it.  Ron says that a lot of today’s teachers go about education in a linear fashion, creating lesson plans at day and weeks at a time, instead of terms and years at a time.

9.     What are some of the applications that students are getting excited about, both in and out of the classroom?

Ron mentions three specific applications in his interview with Dr. Ludgate: Scratch, Sketch-Up and Blender.

1     What does the MIT application “Scratch” do?

Scratch is an open source, visual programming language that lets students create videos, games and music.

11   What assignment did Ron give his students to complete in the application “Sketch-Up”?

For one of his classes, Ron had students create an entire city block of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina had destroyed it.  Details were very specific in this project, including buildings, topical features and roads.

12   What is one of the interesting features that you can do in the application called “Sketch-Up”?

Students can import Google Map and Google Earth files into Sketch-Up as backgrounds and build upon the files as a source of context and background.

13   What are the differences between the two animation applications named “Maya” & “Blender”?

Both are three dimensional animation software applications.  However, Blender is free open source software that is available to anyone.  Maya is also animation software, but the platform itself costs $3,495. 

14   What is Ron’s approach to giving students instructions on the applications that he described in the interview with Dr. Ludgate?

Ron gives his students the tools they need to create new types of media, but he does not give them specific instructions on what to create or how to use the application software packages. 

15   What are some developing trends that Ron Smith is starting to see in Education?

Some of the biggest trends that Ron has noticed are the concepts of instructional design for education and implementation of online classes for several subjects in all grades of pedagogy. 

16   How do you adapt and develop basic courses such as Mathematics and English into more media-rich experiences that are more beneficial for students?

In order to make these courses and lessons more beneficial to students, teachers have to invest more time in making them interesting, providing other material assets into the lesson plans, including everything from interactive games and songs about the lesson to videos and online chat rooms for students to share their experiences.  Once teachers understand that the technology will help them and not replace them, they will be able to reach more students and be more successful in the classroom.