Thursday, June 28, 2001

An interview with Steve Krug, author of Don't Make Me Think . This is one of the web usability gurus who is so simple he makes great sense even for a hardhead like me. He suggests: "I think the best thing you could do is to set up a morning of on-site usability tests (which just means dragging three people in and paying them $50-$100 each to spend an hour using your site while you watch and learn)" If I don't do that when I have my web site up, you have my permission to kick my ass all the way down the steps of Cherry Hall. Lots of good advice here. Another pearl: "The real way to keep people on your site is to a) have things that they want, whether it's products, information, or useful tools, and b) make sure that it's easy for them to get to these things and use them." How to get from point A to point B? Test the thing when it's built. Then test it some more. Usability

An editorial in eLearning advocates gaming as part of learning. "When we say "games" to our educators, they don't seem to know what we're talking about. Why? Because they've never spent an entire weekend building a civilization, or solving physics problems while constructing a virtual rollercoaster. What we need are rich, deep simulations for engineering, biology, chemistry, biotechnology, and literature, built so that anyone can succeed based on competency instead of age, gender, race, or previous degree." Great idea! And I'll have some good black joe with that pie in the sky. 'Tis the translation, man. No one has done a decent translation. Am I going to allow someone who has played Railroad Tycoon for a couple years route my container to Tulsa? I might if I had faith in this new paradigm. I can't even imagine the paradigm. I guess that's the nature of the new new thing, you can't see it until the little kid jumps up and says, "Hey, the emperor's got no clothes!"

Still, I am heartened by this article. It means that no one has figured it out yet and there is hope for me to make that first billion yet. The author calls for large scale embeddable learning environments. Just like a Microserf to suggest fixing the system with a hammer. In an environment that calls for continual learning, everybody and everything is a teacher. Not a teacher in the usual sense of the word. An enabler might be a better word. Maybe DNA is a better information literacy model for what we want. I think the writer is onto something when he says that what we need is "development of new worlds where enchantment and meaningful learning occur". Somebody finally gets it. Magic. We need an environment in which we are under the spell of meaning. Hmmmmm. More thought needed here. Further, he says, "we have to consider creating similar environments that make technology ubiquitous and invisible, and at the same time enable human communication and interaction to accelerate the pace at which we learn together--not in isolation." So the next step must be taken with a committee? Or is this more like a tribe on a quest? The latter-- if enchantment is to rule.Enchanted Learning

Friday, June 22, 2001

A marathon web stroll (hey, when you are as gravitationally challenged as I am that is not an oxymoron) leads to unexpected, but not un-looked-for sites. Take for example this site. BotSpot . Information literacy is not specifically on any of my district or state educational goals or objectives. Students happen onto search engines, but they don't systematically approach their use. Students are continually amazed that even though a site may be down when accessed on Google that they can get it from Google's cache. I've never ventured to talk to them about 'bots. This could be another part of the web site--Research. We will certainly hear more about this when Spielberg's A.I. comes out A.I.. Chat with the chatbot. It's fun. Wouldn't it be useful to have a chatbot function on the bottom of every informational screen?
The net is truly revolutionary. Yeah, yeah,yeah. No, really. You're not hearing me. This article Instant Messaging Generation says so. "Among the most striking findings is the degree to which the Internet is beginning to challenge the telephone as a means of communicating among teens," according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey. This is a sea change. One of the most interesting anecdotes is that it is easier to type than to talk. I never would have expected to hear a high schooler say this. I will be asking this question in class at the beginning of the school year (type or talk?). Also interesting is the study's bias toward upper middle class and higher families. My students are still typically less than 50% wired (in the hardware type way, not the brain pan way). I will need to know even more about the tech savvy of my students next year. Where can I get computers and on-line fee money for my non-tech. affluent families? Anybody listening? Mail me at

An appropriate article on FT about Blended Learning . "Blended learning is the new buzzword," explains Jan Hagen, head of the solutions group at online learning company Widelearning. "That means using whatever method is most suitable." kShortcut term for "Whatever works." But I can see the need for a cd-rom for students who have no web access. Put it all on a cd and put it on your school servers and put it on the net. Redundancy. Plans A, B, and C . I love this quote, The virtual classroom can be very rickety."

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

This is a marvelous example of the way an on-line course might go alternatively. This is is so beautiful and readable. I have always loved comix (comics, too). Check it out. Coins of the Realm
My eyes are shot. I have been sketching approaches to on-line classes all day when I realized that what I want is a website that will supplement what I am doing in the classroom. I want projects, resources, and information that my students can use outside of class to make their learning richer. I want interaction. But I also want something a home-bound student or a home-schooled student could pick up and go with. All the web development sites and resources tell me that is the wrong way to go about building a web site. But a big, sprawling site feels right to me. I am thinking about an old bookstore I used to haunt in downtown Louisville, Zimmermans. His books were sometimes stacked neatly, sometimes in boxes, sometimes in great tall stacks with their spines turned so that you had to unstack them. That's how I feel about this prefab notion of building a learning environment. I would prefer to grow a learning tree. Some parts die, some parts grow. Sometimes a storm blows the whole freaking mama to the ground.

That brings me to change. Part of me is appalled by the philosophy of constant change. Why the hell should I, for example, concern myself with an article about e-books. It's a crappy technology that is nearly stillborn. Yet... I know some version of electronic portability will be born and grow. And so it means climbing the learning curve every day with no guarantee that the hard-won knowledge won't be lost like some Sysyphean stone that crushes the life out of you. That is real teaching... the opportunity to constantly regale your friends with the depth and breadth of your foolishness. Teachers must be early adopters, they must struggle with new ways of learning no matter how feeble because they might just grow from a palsied childhood to greatness. It takes real courage to say to yourself that nothing you do will ever be good enough. But I hate change... I think John Berryman once said in a sonnet that risks may be our safeties in disguise. I put my hope in that paradox. I put my heart in the safety of change.
Whoa. Word97 Web Pages Neat tutorial for those using word as their introductory web page creator. Lots of good ideas and theory, plus they also recommend learning HTML on the fly. I know these are old sites but I am thinking in terms of making my experience more universally applicable. Because I am a teacher I seek out those who learn with fear and trepidation.
Here's a site Teaching through the Web that was developed a few years ago but still remains fresh albeit general. Lots of good sample sites give rise to your imaginative insights into intelligent web design. An interesting observation on the site: web development is like lesson plan development except more challenging. I am previewing different web editors including the Evil One's Front Page and Word.. Ubiquity has its pluses. Keep you posted.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Ah, yes the school of the future, all bells and whistles. Here it is in Australia, damned Aussies will try anything and everything. I will be watching closely the results of this school without classrooms. It's quite a bit like my experience homeschooling my own three kids: put the food down where the goats can get to it.
School of the Future

Wednesday, June 13, 2001


Post and Publish when you are done. To answer your questions--I plan to support information about them in every way I can. I hope to supply you with some sample work next Monday if not before. Beowulf I presume.
I'm "post"ing--not sure exactly what the difference is between that and "post & publish."
Thanks for taking me through some of your formats. I'm a blogger--never thought I'd have a need to say that.
I'm curious about the content of your web pages. You catalogue the authors, but I'm not clear if you plan to have their works available on line or just support information about them or what.
There is no concrete notion of what a directed study requires. Obviously, I'd like to see the tangible results--actual pages that you construct (as well as, of course, ready-made applications that you would utilize, such as blogger).
Well, here's what Dr. LeNoir has been asking for--content. In a nutshell this is what I am trying to put on my website: Early English lit (Anglo-Saxon dudes), Middle Ages (emphasis on Chaucer and medieval drama), Shakespeare (basically Macbeth and Elizabethan English history/culture), Renaissance (Sonnets, carpe diem poetry, John Dunne), Restoration (Milton, Pope, Grey, and rest. dramatists), romanticism ( Keats, Shelley, assorted young dead white British males), English novel (emphasis on Pride and Prejudice and Dickens), Victorian poetry (Brownings, Arnold, et al.) and modern British poetry and drama.

Yeah, I know. No surprises there,,, yet. That's Brit. Lit. mild. Within this content I will attempt to follow my district objectives, the states's "Program of Studies" for twelfth grade
POS Englishas well as the "Core Content" for writing Core Content Writing and reading Core Content Reading. Not to mention use the "Implementation Manual"
(either traditional Implementation Manual
or non-traditional IM Non-traditional) and "Transformations" Transformations .

Looks like a minefield doesn't it. All of the material above is fairly generic and what you would expect of any good teacher who knows better than to teach by the book.

An important adjunct to the Brit Lit part of the website will be pages on the writing process, writing forms (narrative, literary, transactive, on-demand, and open response), state benchmarks and scoring guides, reading strategies for different reading forms (literary, informationsl, practical, persuasive), grammar, and the kitchen sink.

The third part of the web site would be the administrative site (tentatively using Manhattan class software) which would include assignments, lectures, anti-lectures, handouts/notices, internet resources, self tests, chat, post office, and, of course, grades..

I am not sure how much of this can actually come under the perview of the Directed Study. That would be subject to intense negotiations over a cup of coffee or a pint of Guiness in the very near future. Typically, an on-line course takes a year to produce. What I am proposing is somewhat more ambitious. There is always the chance that what I will be doing is re-inventing the wheel, but a major function of this directed is to learn how to create an online course and how to manage learning after you have things running. deep resource. Parts of the site are premimu for members only. but the best part is free. Went to IJET , read news on a cool new application coming out at the end of the month called EduCommons EduCommons (peer-to-peer, Gknutella-like software for educators), and got information and links to Western Governors University's Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design (ID) . Pretty impressive. I might even join up for $75.
What to put on a website intended for anyone interested in high school English? Ha, ha, ha. I know that doesn't have an audience. I'll just have to build an audience. There are a few audiences for this locally: my classes, "homebound" seniors, other students (not mine) who want a different take on their class. There are potential audiences outside my classes: new or pre-service (meaning they don't have job yet) teachers, students outside my school who wish to see how other classes approach English, teachers looking for new ideas to steal (I mean this in the best possible sense), non-English speaking students from wherever, homeschoolled students of all ages, and miscellaneous. I guess that means that it is worth doing.

My plan is to make a website that is fairly conventional in terms of curriculum (what's to be read and done)--Senior English "mild". After I have done that I want to work on Senior English "wild" for those who like it spicier. And that gets me to content. Next post.

Monday, June 11, 2001

I love the everyone-is-an-expert nature of education. I've been through it, so I know what's wrong and know how to fix it. Plastic recently weighed in on this. A former high school teacher (he really knows how to fix it: snipe from a safe distance outside) suggests (fanfare) tracking. The torrent of interesting talk is well worth reading and responding. Go on. Be an expert. Expert You can also visit the "offending" ex-teacher's web site to get more information Offending. Pop quiz: how many negative points do you get for skipping school?