Open Source Sweetness

So in the land of pesonal learning, I have been working with open source software to learn how this type of software can be beneficial. What is open souce software? For the most part it is FREE software that does all the things pay-for software does. People write code for this software in the interest of making good things, and are not looking for money.

I have a computer that I built and have installed Linux OS on (instead of Windows or Mac OS). The particular version of Linux (called a distribution) is Suse version 10.1. Along with the OS comes the web browser, tons of utilites, and more so you can do all the things necessary without the price tag.

Doing open source is not for the faint-of-heart, but it is well worth it. Since it is FREE, the possibilities are ENDLESS. Many corporations, and now schools, are switching to open


source solutions to control costs. Open source may be in your future!


PC Magazine’s August 8, 2006 issue features articles on the future of technology. A comment that jumped out at me is in Mark Anderson’s predictions (p.75). In talking about how one-to-one computing is the key goal in education, one of the things he points out is that it will create “super-learners.” I love the term – it implies a voracious appetite for learning, and the technology provides the endless food to nourish.

I think we have always had super-learners. What we have not had, though, is accross-the-board access to information so that anyone really can become a super-learner. What technology brings to the table is the ability to provide ANYONE with access. One-to-one initiatives strive to make that happen.

Mark Anderson is founder of the Strategic News Service, CEO of the Future in Review Conference, and Chairman of the Board of Project Inkwell. A busy man with his thoughts in neat places. Check out some of his stuff – I plan to!

Revisiting an Old Friend

A number of years ago I saw a quote on the cover of an educational periodical. It jumped out at me and resonated with what I have always felt. To this day I have that cover, albeit a bit beat up, taped to my desk. It is a quote from T.H. White in The Once and Future King:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it thenó to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

To this day the quote is my favorite – I always find strengh in learning. Technology is doing things to learning like never before, but it is STILL the learning that is the key. Technology is an awesome vehicle, but not the destination.

Everyone loves to learn something. What we need to do is connect the desire for learning with the content for learning.

Learning is Everywhere

I love going to workshops. I don’t necessarily find huge new ideas, but there are always great little tips and tricks to hear, and you can observe different ways to teach particular concepts. It is very refreshing to not be in the driver’s seat, and soak up how someone else presents. It is invaluable in the learning cycle to participate in it from all vantage points.

Technology Be Gone!

One of my focuses now moves to talking about what makes learning better – not the technology tool, but rather the situation/experience for the learning to happen. Sure technology can take it to a new level, but the focus has to remain on the learning.

I just finished an introductory workshop on Marzano’s What Works in Classrom Instruction. The focus was on technology tools to support the 9 strategies, but the key is the 9 strategies:

  • Identifying similarities and differences
    Summarizing and note taking
    Reinforcing effort and providing recognition
    Homework and practice
    Nonlinguistic representations
    Cooperative learning
    Setting goals and providing feedback
    Generating and testing hypotheses
    Activating prior knowledge

I’m not sure yet how, but I’m thinking the focus of some posting here is going to focus on these, as they are about the learning, and not the technology.

Coming to the Lab in the AM

The computer lab is a busy place in the mornings. So I’m wondering, what makes you come into school early to use the lab, rather than doing your work at home on your own computer? Is it because the work you are doing is in your server folder? Does something not work on your computer at home? Some other reason?

Just curious – any comments most welcome.


Any teacher has said it – if you really want to learn something – teach it. Exactly the same for kids. If they really need to get a handle on something – they need to teach (share) it. Video production is an awesome and approachable way to tell stories. Kids love video – give them some tools, a task, and time and they can do amazing things.

We are going to start some video production by kids, for kids (and adults) soon – I’m excited for how this can grow really quickly.

Orson Welles the storyteller

What makes a teacher move?

The key to going from point A to point B is knowing where you are, where you want to go, and wanting to make the journey. What is it about technology that makes some people want to run towards it, while others away from it? Personal reasons? Professional reasons? A mix of both? The answer lies most likely in the latter – but there is usually one main point that underlies a person’s reasoning. Finding the reason, and helping to cross that bridge, is the technology facilitator’s role.


A number of years ago, I took a Canter course titled “Helping Students Become Self-Directed Learners.” One of the items from that course that has always stayed with me is the topic of questions, discussed by Art Costa. He talks about 3 levels of questioning – the first level are facutal questions – recalling information, etc. The second level is comarison/contrating questions – making judgements and analyzing different things. The third and highest level of questions are those that ask to predict outcomes or create new scenarios. These questions (and projects that answer them) are far more powerful, interesting, useful, and fun to work on.

I always feel more invigorated when I’m working on creating.


Education is (should be?) a service industry. The cool thing, though, is that the service, learning, is rich and rewarding for everyone. Our business is learning, and our clients are the students. I love days where I’m helping to put technology tools in the hands of students, and guiding them towards their goal. I find more solutions and better questions from talking with kids. Given the right opportunities they can do great things.

Teacher and students