Was Leonardo da Vinci a critical thinker?


Summer Institute for Faculty Development (with participants from Hudson County Community College, New Jeresy City University, Passaic County Community College) - June 21, 2005

My framework for this full day seminar was the seven principles that guided Leonardo da Vinci's own learning. For example, what da Vinci may have called connessione (connections), we might call "systems thinking." Leonardo's blending of arte and scienza could be compared to whole brain activities or interdisciplinary studies etc.

Within that frame, there were interactive exercises that require critical and creative thinking both for classroom use and for professional growth. The activities are based in different disciplines and address topics that include evaluating materials on the Internet, creativity vs. creative thinking, abstract language and problem solving strategies. The day was originally inspired by ideas presented by Michael Gelb in his book How to Think Like da Vinci.

If there's interest, I'll post more about the sessions later.

Reach students - teach students


I read two unrelated articles today that just connected right together for me.

from emarketer.com

The first is from emarketer.com and it's entitled "The Net:Teens Gotta Have It"

The piece collects a lot of statistics about teens online and how they are multitasking or, as BurstMedia says: these "uber-taskers" are "simultaneously using various consumer technologies and media types; and using these technologies as complements to one another - producing an effect often greater than if consumed alone."

Now remember, these people are interested in marketing to teens, not teaching them.

Look at the chart for details, but here's the quick version - these teens say they spend three or more hours per day online and that 80% of all US teens are online at least an hour every day.

We know they're not just doing research - though 48.9% say they work on homework while online, 33.8% say they watch TV or a movie and 40% say they text or talk with friends on the phone while online.

(Related Reading: eMarketer report, Kids and Teens: Blurring the Line Between Online and Offline)

Sound addicted to online? When asked, "What impact would having no Internet access outside school have on your day?" , 28.9% said it would "ruin" their day, 39.8% said their day would be "not as good, but not ruined," and 31.2% said they "would be just fine" without online access.

from emarketer.comI'm really surprised by another stat from the NPD Group that found that 94% of households with children ages 4 to 14 had a computer beating out even television at slightly less than 90%. And remember when it was TV that would ruin a generation (mine, by the way) of kids?


OK, now article #2

From a Mississippi newspaper The Clarion Ledger, an article titled "Online courses take heat out of summer school" by Cathy Hayden.

The state has a Department of Education Virtual School that offers summer school classes online. Last year they got 26 takers. This year more than 600 students have signed up for one of 12 free online courses offered. (The most popular classes are English 3 and Advanced Placement American government.)

Not only is it cost-effective, it probably a lot more desirable to their students because it gives them the ability to time-shift that study that normally would cut into their possible working hours or sun worshipping.


Nothing too unusual about the courses - students are assigned all their reading and writing lessons and have deadlines throughout the course to keep them on track. They use discussion forums.

Their only limitation seems to be that actual Mississippi teachers who were specially trained for six weeks are the ones interacting with students through e-mail and online chats, and that pool of trained teachers is small.

And this is $weet - the free Web-based classes were paid for with a $2.5 million grant from the BellSouth Foundation and $1 million from the state.

Courses are monitored by the local school's counselor, including giving the exams. They find that most of the kids are working from 10pm to 3am.

So, you see the connection, right?

Marketers are locked into how to reach teens online. Many schools have the technology in place to teach online.

Are we educational institutions doing as good a job at selling? Are colleges missing a big market by not offering to be the training and technology partners to K12 districts?

I'm always beating the K20 drum at meetings and conferences, but it must be a different drummer that people are hearing because I just don't see higher ed making enough connections. It's another point on the tally column for why I believe should be checking into using free software like Moodle to create online learning environments for their courses during the year and in summer.

I remember having to give those dreaded summer readings & assignments (and it's the best students - AP and honors - that usually get stuck with them) and I recall my own sons having to do them and doing anything they could to get around them. It's possible that kids might actually enjoy doing a few things online over the summer (rather than in a classroom or on their own) and there could be discussion, feedback and time management built into the curriculum. Probably be a lot less of it crammed into the last weeks of summer. And teachers could have quizzes and assignments checked/graded (in some cases by the software) before school started and then pick up from there on day one in the classroom.

Yes, you would have to give the teachers some training and pay them some summer stipend, but I would have jumped at it in those years when I taught "summer school" from 8:30 - 12:30 in an un-air-conditioned classroom to 25 kids who didn't want to be there.

I'll be curious to see if I can find any other places that are doing this already. If you are, or know of examples, please comment below.

Reach students and teach students - tough to succeed as an educator without both.



Reading Our Own Statistics


OK, we have all Googled ourselves to see what turns up. It's a modern day form of staring at your navel. And web servers offer all kinds of statistics about sites - who visits, when they visit, what they look at...

This Serendipty-powered blog offers that too. I hadn't checked the stats before today, but here are some things that it tells me.

Our first entry was February 2. 2006 and as of June 25. 2006 and we have 79 entries. Here are 3 stats that I found interesting.

Not surprisingly, the top ten visited articles on this blog are all older postings. The lowest are the ones that have been posted in the past week, which tells me that the entries have "legs" and a life beyond the day that they are uploaded. Here are the top ten articles visited (and, of course, there's no way of knowing if the article was "read":
This conference is only online (HigherEd BlogCon 2006)
11548 visits
Online Socializing: How Are Schools Reacting?
10184 visits
William Gibson - his blog
9885 visits
Personal Broadcasting: Podcasting and beyond
8499 visits
Hot Issues in Ed Tech at the Campus Technology Conference on Education Technology
8408 visits
Education Bridges
7477 visits
Roadmaps Through the Blogosphere
7391 visits
Mashing It up in Philly (NEWUG WebCT Regional Conf)
7372 visits
Thoughts at the Podcasts, Wikis and Blogs Seminar at NJIT
7082 visits
Do Professors Enjoy Teaching Online?
6930 visits

Where do people find this blog?,
One thing that's clear here, it's Google in its many incarnations (like on our university site, in Australia, Mexico and Sverige (that's Sweden).

The ten longest articles are listed below - they're not the most visited, so does that mean that people prefer the short articles? Personally, I'm not a fan of blogs that just give you a summary of some other blog or article and then link to it. I prefer to get the story there and have the links be extensions (links to further info), but maybe the one paragraph entry is what people want to read. If USA Today is McPaper, maybe I should buy the domain www.mcblog.com. I just typed that fake URL and then decided to check it out and guess what - uh huh, someone already has it!

  1. Social Computing (NJEDge.Net Best Practices Showcase)
  2. K12 links
  3. You've Been Facebooked!
  4. Online Socializing: How Are Schools Reacting?
  5. What should you read next?
  6. Lifelong Kindergarten
  7. Personal Video Online: YouTube and others
  8. Answers to the ultimate questions
  9. THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT & ALIENS - The Newark, NJ Connection
  10. The Evolution of the Web: Big Waves

We'd be glad to hear your reactions to the stats or thoughts on blog entry length and content.

Blikis and phlogs?


I have now accepted the entry of words like blog, bloggers and wiki into the dictionary.

I'm getting used to the term "blogroll" to mean either that part of a blog that lists links to other blogs, or when someone posts their personal list of blog favorites publically (using Bloglines etc.)

BUT I'm not willing (yet) to give in to: webophobes, blikis, bloki, blogdom, blogosphere, blogworld, blogorrhea, phlog or moblog.

I can't even bear to define them for you - but if you want to sound more tuned in than me, check out what the Oxford Dictionaries online have to say about the meanings.




Ken, how do you read all those blogs?



A friend asked me the other day how many blogs I read regularly. I wasn't sure, so I checked my Bloglines account. As of today, it's 37.

How do I read so many? (Don't ask me why I read so many.) I use a service that aggregates all of them in one place. That's what Bloglines does for me. I log in and it pulls the RSS feeds from blogs that I have subscribed to and gives me the new entries that I haven't read. I can have it show a summary of the entries or the complete entry.

Don't know what blogs to subscribe to? You can browse their directories in different categories and see what is popular. All it takes to add a site is a click or if you know the site's RSS feed address.

For example, you can subscribe to this blog by pasting in the address http://devel2.njit.edu/serendipity/index.php?/feeds/index.rss2 or you can click a button if it's on the site like this one:

Subscribe to this blog with Bloglines

You'll notice that we have a whole set of RSS feeds on this site in the right side column on the home page. when you see one of these images
you don't need to click them.You want to right click and "copy the link location." That's the code you need to subscribe. Bloglines is not the only game in town.

Another popular service is Feedburner. Clicking one of their icons will take to that blog's Feedburner page (blog's have to register with Feedburner). So, if you click on our Feedburner image it goes to http://feeds.feedburner.com/serendipity35 If you have a Feedburner account, this would allow you to subscribe, otherwise it will show you the latest entries reformatted by Feedburner. Go ahead and click to see - no obligation!

Do I "read" every entry in all 37 blogs? Not really. I scan most the way I scan headlines in the newspaper. I read what interests me. There's no way I have the time to even click on 37 links to see those sites and even if I did I would have to rely on my memory to know which entries I hadn't already read. I gave up on my memory for that sort of thing a few years ago.

You can mark blogs and other web sites that you subscribe to as public or private and then make your public items really public so that others can see them in your "blogroll."

Don't trust that domain name


I did a workshop this week and part of the content was about helping faculty/students evaluate materials on the Internet. One thing that was clear is that many people make assumptions about sites based on domain names. That's an iffy proposition. Yeah, most .com sites are commercial, and .gov sites are from the U.S. government. But having a .org at the end of a domain tells you almost nothing. It may have been intended for non-profit sites (and that sounds noble) but anyone can get a .org domain that's not taken. No one is checking your tax status. Here are a few items we discussed.

An example I used in the workshop is the martinlutherking.org site. It looks like an educational website about the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. that you'd want students to use ( or that you'd expect on a bibliography) but it's definitely not. It's a smear site produced by Stormfront, a white supremacist group.

Stormfront's home site is also a .org. They're not hiding who they are or what they believe. It's right there. But their MLK site is trying to pass itself off on first glance as something else, and I'm sure it works for many students, especially our youngest ones.

That site comes out on top when you do a Google search on Martin Luther King. Out of more than 46 million hits, they are at the top. Many of you probably know that Google results are in some way a popularity contest. The more people who link to a site, the higher it goes in search results. That's why I haven't linked to the site or its owner here.

A situation that's less clear in teaching research: Which site would you or your students trust more for information about global warming - an .edu (college) site or a .gov site? Thankfully, the teachers in my workshop were distrustful of both, knowing that each could have an agenda.

We need to teach the "re" in research and have students use more than just Google or Wikipedia. Both of those are good places to use and banning Wikipedia from being a source of research (which apparently many teachers are doing) is putting your head in the sand, because it will still be used - it just won't appear on the sources cited.

One last (and lighter) example is the domain .tv. Assumption: they are associated with the television or video industry. Actually, .tv is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the island nation of Tuvalu. (The domain is currently operated by “The .tv Corporation”, a VeriSign company.)

Any person in the world can register a .tv domain for a fee, part of the income goes to the government and people of Tuvalu. The domain name is popular since it's the abbreviation of the word "television." Japan's .jp doesn't have that appeal, but .fm, .am, .cd and .dj have potential. Domain names used this way are sometimes called domain hacks.

Many of the websites with .tv URLs are pornographic or otherwise sexually explicit sites. Apparently this has caused some controversy on Tuvalu which has a large conservative Christian population that feels that revenue from those sources is immoral. (Trivia: I do think it's interesting that the Tuvalu government's web site is a wiki, see http://www.gov.tv)

It is worth educating yourself about domain names for your own research as well as passing that information on to your students.