“Of Course I know how to Google!” | Starr Sackstein, MJE, NBCT

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“What? Of course we know how to Google! Come on, Ms. Sackstein.”

A full room of seniors stared at me like I had three heads, confused and maybe even insulted that I had the audacity to suggest they didn’t know how to search the world’s more well known search engine.

Taking them at their word, I set them on a mission to search for high school publication advertising policies in NY. They logged into accounts, opened up Google and do what anyone who knows how search Googledoes: put keywords into the line and when the exact hit doesn’t come up in the first three options, proclaim there isn’t any information out there.

Minutes go by and they are all deeply engaged with the computers. I hear rumbles of frustration and questions of what they are supposed to look up.

“Did you find anything? I can’t find anything. There’s nothing here. Ms. Sackstein, there isn’t any information. Am I doing this right?”

“Are you sure? I asked. What did you search?”

“Just what you told us to search.”

“And what was that exactly?”

“Advertising policies in NY, right?”

As I walked to each group, they all had similar information on their screens, but none of them were in the ballpark. They found articles about commercial advertising in schools or policies about laws governing commercial involvement in schools, but nothing specific about advertising policies in scholastic publications.

One group found a lot about bans on selling sugary substances and why schools can’t sell them anymore. Some were searching laws associated with advertising, but all of them definitely missed the mark.

Processing their utter inability to search effectively, we needed to figure out what was going wrong. I mean, if they all know how to use Google, how come no one found information that was appropriate?

“Stop what you’re doing. Attention to the front. Someone please tell me what you did to find information?”

“I put NY advertising policies in school in the line and searched images first. Then I tried a variety of different words but arrived at the same conclusion. Nothing!”

“It’s not enough just have key words. You need to work with what you have. Try using quotation marks to limit what you’re searching for. Try using the advanced search to narrow the field. Then take the time to view different sites, not just the first three that appear. Now you try.”

As I walked around the room the second time, students were still having a hard time, but some were getting “luckier”, closer to what the assignment required of them. They wouldn’t be able to write their own policy if they didn’t research what one looked like and what should be included in it.

One of the greatest challenges my students face is my unwillingness to tell them what to do directly. Always looking to support their learning styles and voices, I offer help and guidelines but never one and only way to accomplish a task. This ambiguity creates a lot of anxiety for my students as they are more consumed with getting good grades than learning. Refocusing them on the learning process is just as important as them reflecting on what they actually know.

My students thought they knew how to Google. They were insistent upon it. I was crazy for even thinking they didn’t know, but what each of them realized is maybe they don’t know. As much as this can be uncomfortable to recognize, it is also the first essential step to changing their situations. Once a student realizes they don’t know, they are receptive to learning and therefore have the opportunity to experience the process and make it their own.

At the end of the class, each pair of students was able to create an advertising policy for the school publications. Using different models and websites to make it happen, their more specific searches were able to get them more reliable sources for the task at hand.

Google is a powerful tool, but like many tools, if it isn’t used correctly it can be useless and frustrating. We can’t take for granted that our students know how to successfully use tools that we see them using all the time.

It is imperative as teachers, that we acquaint ourselves with the full function of technology, so we can use it effectively with our students.

Using technology for the sake of using it serves little purpose, but once we make it an integral means of developing understanding it becomes essential. Students look to us as models of this usage, so the learning must begin on our laptops so we can show kids how to use these tools with proficiency.

How can you teach students to better use the tools they think they know?


“Of Course I know how to Google!” | Starr Sackstein, MJE, NBCT.


Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’

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The fields of psychology and education were revolutionized 30 years ago when the now world-renowned psychologist Howard Gardner published his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences,” which detailed a new model of human intelligence that went beyond the traditional view that there was a single kind that could be measured by standardized tests. (You can read his account of how he came up with the theory here.)

Gardner’s theory initially listed seven intelligences which  work together: linguistic, logical-mathematical,  musical,  bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal and intrapersonal; he later added an eighth, naturalist intelligence and says there may be a few more.  The theory became highly popular with K-12 educators around the world seeking ways to reach students who did not respond to traditional approaches, but over time, “multiple intelligences” somehow became synonymous with the concept of “learning styles.” In this important post, Gardner explains why the former is not the latter.

Gardner now teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is the author of  numerous books on intelligence and creativity. His new book  ”The App Generation,” co-authored with Katie Davis, explains how life for young people today is different than before the dawn of the digital age, and will be published on Oct. 22  by Yale University Press.


By Howard Gardner

It’s been 30 years since I developed the notion of “multiple intelligences.” I have been gratified by the interest shown in this idea and the ways it’s been used in schools, museums, and businesses around the world. But one unanticipated consequence has driven me to distraction—and that’s the tendency of many people, including persons whom I cherish, to credit me with the notion of ‘learning styles’ or to collapse ‘multiple intelligences’ with ‘learning styles.’ It’s high time to relieve my pain and to set the record straight.

First a word about “MI theory.” On the basis of research in several disciplines, including the study of how human capacities are represented in the brain, I developed the idea that each of us has a number of relatively independent mental faculties, which can be termed our “multiple intelligences.” The basic idea is simplicity itself. A belief in a single intelligence assumes that we have one central, all-purpose computer—and it determines how well we perform in every sector of life. In contrast, a belief in multiple intelligences assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers—one that computes linguistic information, another spatial information, another musical information, another information about other people, and so on. I estimate that human beings have 7 to 10 distinct intelligences (see

via Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’.

Sebastian Thrun | Interview with Sebastian Thrun | Foreign Affairs

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I went into education because I learned from my friends at Google how important it is to aim high. Ever since I started working at Google, I have felt I should spend my time on things that really matter when they are successful. I believe online education can make a difference in the world, more so than almost anything else I’ve done in my life.

Access to high-quality education is way too limited. The United States has the world’s most admirable higher education system, and yet it is very restrictive. It’s so hard to get into. I never got into it as a student. There are also fascinating opportunities that exist today that did not exist even 20 years ago.

The conventional paradigm in education is based on synchronicity. We know for a fact that students learn best if they’re paired one-on-one with a mentor, a tutor. Unfortunately, we can’t afford a tutor for every student. Therefore, we put students into groups. And in these groups, we force students, by and large, to progress at the same speed. Progression at the same speed can cause some students — like me, when I was young — to feel a bit underwhelmed. But it can also cause a lot of students to drop out.

A lot of students, when they aren’t quite up to the speed that’s been given to them, get a grade like a C. But instead of giving them more time to get to the mastery it would take to get an A, they get put into the next cohort, where they start with a disadvantage, with low self-esteem. And they often end up at that level for the rest of their student career.

Salman Khan, whom I admire, has made this point very clearly by showing that he can bring C-level math students to an A+ level if he lets them go at their own pace. So what digital media allow us to do is to invent a medium where students can learn at their own pace, and that is a very powerful idea. When you go at your own pace, we can move instruction toward exploration and play-based learning.

When I enter a video game, I learn something about a fictitious world. And in that video game, I’m allowed to go at my own pace. I’m constantly assessed — assessment becomes my friend. I feel good when I master the next level. If you could only take that experience of a video game back into student learning, we could make learning addictive. My deep, deep desire is to find a magic formula for learning in the online age that would make it as addictive as playing video games.

So the “gamification” of education is a good thing?

I\’m hesitant to say that gamification is a good thing, because it comes with many superficial things. And I don\’t wish to replace a master\’s degree in physics with mastery in Angry Birds. That\’s obviously not good enough. But on the other hand, when you play Angry Birds, there is no lecture, there are no office hours, there is no final exam. You get in, and many of us get addicted. So you could take the addiction and excitement and personalization of Angry Birds back into mainstream learning and marry the best of both worlds — go after very deep academic topics but do it with playfulness, with student choice, with student empowerment, and with active exploration. Then, I think we can change everything.

I’ve read that you feel the high points of your life are when you feel stupid, because you\’re confronted with something that you don\’t understand and you have an opportunity to learn. Is that true?

Yes. It\’s true that for me the biggest moments are when I have a new insight. And one of the reasons why I love to venture into new territories is because I don\’t know what the solution is, so it affords me a chance to explore and to learn something new. With the desire to learn comes the acknowledgement that I don\’t know, otherwise no learning would take place. And in the presence of ignorance, it follows logically that I will make poor choices, make mistakes that in hindsight could have been easily avoided. Those are called failures. So failures are an essential component of the process of innovation. If there are no failures, I\’m not really innovating.

Therefore, failures make me very proud. I\’m actually happy to fail, because it gives me a chance to learn and iterate and avoid the same mistake in the future. I honestly believe that if we were to embrace failure as much as success, and celebrate failure as much as success, then we could shed the fear of failure. And if you shed the fear of failure, then you\’d be much more able to make the right choices.

via Sebastian Thrun | Interview with Sebastian Thrun | Foreign Affairs.

Explaining Creative Commons Licensing |

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It is often difficult to explain what Creative Commons licensing is to students and teachers – this short film does a pretty good job of presenting the facts.

I do think there is a need for more high quality resources to help teach licensing of digital content and especially resources to communicate what it all means to young student. What do you think?


via Explaining Creative Commons Licensing |


How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses | Wired Business |

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Juárez Correa didn’t know it yet, but he had happened on an emerging educational philosophy, one that applies the logic of the digital age to the classroom. That logic is inexorable: Access to a world of infinite information has changed how we communicate, process information, and think. Decentralized systems have proven to be more productive and agile than rigid, top-down ones. Innovation, creativity, and independent thinking are increasingly crucial to the global economy.

And yet the dominant model of public education is still fundamentally rooted in the industrial revolution that spawned it, when workplaces valued punctuality, regularity, attention, and silence above all else. (In 1899, William T. Harris, the US commissioner of education, celebrated the fact that US schools had developed the “appearance of a machine,” one that teaches the student “to behave in an orderly manner, to stay in his own place, and not get in the way of others.”) We don’t openly profess those values nowadays, but our educational system—which routinely tests kids on their ability to recall information and demonstrate mastery of a narrow set of skills—doubles down on the view that students are material to be processed, programmed, and quality-tested. School administrators prepare curriculum standards and “pacing guides” that tell teachers what to teach each day. Legions of managers supervise everything that happens in the classroom; in 2010 only 50 percent of public school staff members in the US were teachers.

The results speak for themselves: Hundreds of thousands of kids drop out of public high school every year. Of those who do graduate from high school, almost a third are “not prepared academically for first-year college courses,” according to a 2013 report from the testing service ACT. The World Economic Forum ranks the US just 49th out of 148 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction. “The fundamental basis of the system is fatally flawed,” says Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford and founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “In 1970 the top three skills required by the Fortune 500 were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999 the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills.”

via How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses | Wired Business |

A Must See Interactive Graphic on Teaching Students about Copyright ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

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Copyright is such an important issue that every student in your class should at least have an idea about what it is and how to handle it. The increasing use of digital media and web 2.0 technologies have blurred the lines between what is and what is not acceptable to be re-used. The majority of students still think that anything online is ok to download, copy or re-use. To test your students on this, assign them a multimedia project in which they have to use pictures and other digital resources and see what they will bring you. It does take some explicit instruction for them to grasp the whole concept of copyright. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has a wide variety of resources to help you teach your students about copyright and fair use. Here are some good resources to start with:

Creative Commons Explained for Students

This is how Students should Use Images from The Web

Tools and Resources to Find Licensed Images for Use in The Class

What Students Need to Know about Copyright

via A Must See Interactive Graphic on Teaching Students about Copyright ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

Going BYOD With Markville SS

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York Region District School Board is a Leader in 21st Century EdTech Initiatives 

(By P. Bennett and J. Steele)

The future of learning and business excellence depends on our ability to effectively use the most current information, resources and tools at our disposal. With a clear goal for student success, engagement and well-being, YRDSB is taking advantage of the proliferation of cloud-based resources and the more natural approaches to learning.

The York Region District School board recognizes that ‘Literacy in the 21st Century’ is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that enable achievement, personal well-being and full participation in an interconnected and changing world community and has implemented programs to build that capacity for all their staff and students.

YRDSB has a comprehensive Wireless IT infrastructure consisting of more than 5,000 Access Points deployed across their 200 school and workplace locations. This infrastructure is designed for density and coverage.

And students and staff are using it!

BYOD has been in place in the School Board for some time.  On a monthly basis, there are over 130,000 unique personally-owned devices connecting to their network. Their teachers and students are immersed in a truly personalized, collaborative and relevant learning environment using YRDSB’s implementation of Google Apps for Education and their Learning Management System, Moodle.

YRDSB’s strategies for continued success and sustainability on their Digital Learning journey include implementation of their internal support structures, Literacy@ School, Blue Prints for Change and their Technology Decision Making Framework.

Editor’s Comments

A recent visit by Dell Canada staff to YRDSB’s Markville Secondary School in Markham,  Ontario illustrated the effectiveness of the 21st Century structures that are in place.  Entire Departments of Teachers are given release time to participate in professional learning activities.  The school has a “21st Century Classroom” that is equipped with modern education technologies and Teachers in the school go through an application process to be selected to be scheduled into this classroom.  I had the privilege of observing some Geography students working collaboratively on an assignment with a mind-mapping tool in one area of the classroom.  Other students were conducting Internet-based research, and yet others were focused on developing final reports for their group.  All students in the class were actively engaged in their learning!

At YRDSB there is a wonderful sense of shared vision and collaboration between academic and IT staff for enabling technology as an effective tool for transforming pedagogy.

Originally published in Dell Bits & Bytes in Education

via Going BYOD With Markville SS.