Sunday, July 30, 2006

Is it time for the master to become the student?

I recently come across a posting in a Yahoo Group I belong to titled Ban iPods in school, says teaching union By Andrew Denholm ( and I have to say I was some what taken back by the article.

I find it fascinating that we can spend billions of dollars world wide to teach students to use technology in meaningful ways. Then when there is any type of technology that may disrupt our educational process, BAN it.

I am giving away my age here but the Sony Walkman was the hot technology when I was in school. Rather than ban the device we were simply told to put them away. And believe it or not, we did. Sure there were a few of my classmates who tried to sneak their Walkman into the classroom, but their singing usually gave them away.

Given the ease and growing popularity of digital audio and podcasting, this teachers union is in need of a wake up call. Perhaps it may be time for the teachers to become the students and pay attention to what the kids are doing with the technology. Sure, they may be exercising some behavior that we feel is not appropriate. However, that is an issue of behavior not technology.

Thinking back to my days in school… If I were bouncing the basketball down the hallway, I was told me to stop. If I did not, the teacher took the ball way. Given the line of thinking of this particular teachers union, I wonder if they would have the basketball courts removed. (Sorry for the sarcasm but…) Having said this… refocusing the behavior while using the technology may prove to be quite powerful.

Personally, I think they need to embrace the technology and consider how it could affect student learning.

I have attempted to make this point about the iPod in a less sarcastic voice last May. See blog posting Dad I need an iPod for School (

PS… Stop by Yahoo and sign up for the k12dvr · Digital Voice Recording in the Classroom group. ( You will need to register with the group.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Have we become soft and dependent?

Recently I took my annual trek to Lake Powell with a few of my buddies from high school. Like most men on the back side of 30 (a few of them are closer to 40 than me); we talk about what we have done over the years since graduation, make fun of our ever expanding waist lines and this year gray hair entered the conversation. Beyond the typical male bonding, we also make a trip up Hole in the Rock where Mormon settlers once traversed in the late 1800's. As we huff and puff (okay I was huffing and puffing) our way to the top of this trail, I couldn’t help but feel admiration for the hearty people who first made their way down this narrow canyon. Reaching the top of the trail, I looked around at the vast and rugged terrain and felt fortunate that I didn’t live in the 1800’s. After a walk out to the edge of the main canyon, I returned to Hole in the Rock to hike back down this trail looking forward to the refreshing lake below, with each step downward, I tried to imagine the tenacity of these individuals and felt a level of guilt that I have become so soft.

With all that said, the purpose of this entry is not to discuss my trip and certainly not my ever expanding waist line. I do however want to point out some of the technology that accompanied us on our trip and the reason I wonder if we have become “Soft” and dependent on technology.

Twenty years ago we put the boat in the water and gleefully motored away from civilization. Outside of the internal combustion motor, the only technology we depended on was the audio cassette player.

Today we can hardly function without all the modern technical comforts. For starter each person had a cellular phone. In this day and age, that is really not a shock to anyone. What was a shock is the expectation the phone would actually work 40 miles up the lake and in a few places it did. Move the boat twenty yards… we were searching for a signal. Oh how that annoyed us.

For a moment I was excited when I learned that one cell phone could actually connect to the internet. Fortunately I quickly came to my senses and asked that Dave never speak of his phones internet capabilities again. Whew… that was a closed one!

Another technical addition to the trip this year was a GPS. Considering we have been running this lake for over twenty years, I thought a GPS was a bit odd. However, when you consider how much the appearance of the lake can change with a change in the water level, finding the same beach from one trip to the next can be a challenge. However, with the GPS we floated up to one of the three beaches marked on the GPS from previous trips. The best part… Next year we can check the altitude of the lake level. If we are within ten feet, we know where there is a
great beach to pitch horse shoes. Sounds like a ringer to me.

If you have read my blog or listened to any of my podcast, you know that I love my iPod but normally use it to listen to the podcast of others or audio books. However, my iPod is loaded with music. Prior to the trip I spoke with Rick to find out if the stereo in his boat had inputs for my iPod. I was so excited to learn that his stereo not only had inputs, but he had an FM modulator that fit my iPod too. Once we were on the lake, the technology became more impressive. By tuning the stereos in each boat to the station set on the FM modulator, we could
all enjoy the music of our iPods. Such a deal…

As you can well imagine music on the lake is important. On this trip I experienced satellite radio for the first time. As if 17 gigs of music in the iPod’s were not enough, we were all thrilled to relive the music of “Big Hair” bands when we were young and skinny.

So, sitting here in my recliner typing on my keyboard thinking about all the technology we had at the lake, are we softer and dependent? I guess in many ways yes. Sure, we could leave the phones in the truck, drive around the lake looking for a place to camp and pitch horse shoes and I recon we could even dig out our “Big Hair” band cassettes. But should we?