Podcasts for educators

My wife and I listen to many podcasts. Most are tech related, but seldom address classroom use of technology. I have struggled to find podcasts focused more directly on educational technology. Often, efforts in this area lack the production value and quality that keep me interested over time. I also get tired of some offerings that mostly seem to be self-promotions.

Here are the ones I presently follow:


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Tweet length

Twitter experimenting with a possible expansion of its tweet character limit has brought some interesting reactions. Some suggest that this would be a mistake and ruin the Twitter experience (e.g., innovation and tech today).

I am a supporter of the proposed expansion to 280 characters. I base this on two observations:

  1. Twitter is often used for purposes for which it is not well suited. I see Twitter chats as frequently lacking substance and quite inefficient for the time expended (my analysis). Expanding the potential length of a tweet would allow participants to explain themselves in greater depth.
  2. I don’t experience annoyance others must in a scrolling experience. The logic that if you have more to say just author two tweets (see the link above) makes no more sense to me that proposing that if you have little to say just stop when you have said what you are able to express. Of the things that annoy me about the Twitter experience (e.g., autoposting long lists of tweets) and increase my scroll time, I find the length of individual tweets pretty much irrelevant.

There are some options to Twitter that allow great length (e.g., Mastodon). I regard Mastodon as a much better experience, but without the following Twitter has attracted by establishing itself as the big player in the microblog space. Inertia is difficult to overcome when it comes to online services.

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Google Photos Magic

I am traveling and I noticed something interesting about the photos I was uploading to Google Photos. I shot the following image with a Sony Nex 6. This is a great small camera that takes very nice photos. When I uploaded images to Photos, I noticed that it was attaching a location to the images. This is pretty much where I was when I took this image. The Sony Nex 6 does not have GPS capabilities. This image is not a landmark Google might be able to identify. How does Google do this? This is not the location from which I uploaded these images. Is it using other images in the sequence it can identify (Castle at Ha Ha Tanka) to assign a location?

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Demands of deliberate practice

Homework seems to be a popular topic among educators posting online. I get it – students would rather not do homework and educators would rather not spend the time to grade and provide feedback. Fact is, learning requires an investment of time expended on a variety of cognitive tasks and this time simply might not be available during school hours. Conclusion – homework plays a useful role in learning.

I would refer educators interested in the logic and research on homework consider the Schwartz, et al chapter on deliberative practice. This is a different kind of book providing what some instructional designers would describe as a job aid. The ABC thing is an organizational feature I find kind of artificial, but the idea is to identify specific learning challenges and what is known about specific tactics that can be applied.

The authors consider homework within the context of deliberative practice. This concept implies a specific type of learning activity and homework may or may not be understood to serve this need.

Deliberate practice involves focusing on what is beyond one’s current skill set rather than just executing what one is already able to do.

I recognize that homework may also be about repetition to develop automaticity. When deliberative practice is the goal, Schwartz and colleagues contend:

Deliberate practice, if done well, requires a degree of concentration that people cannot sustain

Schwartz, Daniel L.; Tsang, Jessica M.; Blair, Kristen P.. The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them (Kindle Location 842). W. W. Norton & Company.

Without getting into the work done in support of this position (you can read the original using the reference I provide above), the authors suggest that short, but intense engagement is what educators should be assigning to meet the requirements for effective deliberative practice.

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Content Trap

Wannabe edupreneurs would do well to read Bharat Anand’s The Content Trap. The book addresses the naivete of creators assumption that success will come from simply creating great content. Using a great number of what are likely to be familiar examples the book identifies factors that determine what gets noticed and what has influence. Success comes mostly from content and connections – creating and enabling connections among people, connections among components of content, and connections between content and larger systems.

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Apple vs Google and Adwords

Apple and Google have very different revenue models and these differences in their stance of embedded, online ads. Just to be clear the issues associated with ads can be argued on different levels (do producers deserve compensation, what information should consumers have to reveal, etc.). As one might expect, the positions taken may be argued on the level of consumer or production rights, but the positions taken also tend to align with the revenue models of the companies arguing for the services they provide.

So Apple makes it money on equipment and offers other services at very level cost to support the value of the equipment. Apple’s browser, Safari, might be considered one of the added services. Apple has modified Safari to offer information consumers protection against unwanted ads.

Google makes money off ads. Google tries to use an approach to ads and revenue generation for producers by the use of ads that are minimally obtrusive (at least the link ads are small and do not limit consumer attention to content. Google also argues that its ads are smart and offer opportunities that may be of interest to consumers. To offer smart ads, Google has to collect information about users. How and what information is sold to third parties is an important issue and one that is not perfectly clear to me.

Google is seeking a middle ground by attempting to address the problem of “third party” cookies. A third party cookie collects user information – information collected across sites. In a way, this is what Google does, but in a way I think is different. Google collections info from services such as your search history to inform the ads it displays when Google ads are used. Other services use cookies that reside within your browser and send back information to services other than the service/host that you happen to be using. As I understand the Google model, the idea is to delete third-party cookies after short periods of time. This supposedly allows immediate benefits to consumers, but not the long-term accumulation of information. Of course, this fits with Google’s general approach. If you are searching for new car dealers today, you might be interested when ads for local car dealerships show up when you view other web pages. There is little need to keep track of this information on you for 6 months.

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Top online EdTech MA/MS programs

I ran across this listing of the top online edutechnology master’s programs. The methodology for the ranking is not provided. It seems to me that the top programs are long standing and long visible. When those who work in such fields are asked to suggest outstanding programs (aside from their own), they tend to list such programs. These programs also have larger and more diversified programs that may offer opportunities to those in the online programs and contribute to visibility.

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When is it innovative?

I am not a Betsy DeVos fan, but I think public schools put themselves in a vulnerable position by limiting the ways in which they are willing to be innovative. The base position for public schools seems to be assuming a traditional staff of teachers and administrators. This finance focused blog post argues that the staffing costs of schools on average make up 81% of the budget and within a minimal resource environment this limits what changes can be made.

Private schools do not necessarily start from the same assumption (from the finance article):

For example, the often touted Rocketship model (a chain of charter schools), makes extensive use of learning lab time in which groups of 50 to 70 (or more) students work on laptops while supervised by uncertified “instructional lab specialists.”

I cannot claim that this is wise and I am sure many would argue this is horrible, BUT such options do allow significant innovations to be tested. Just for sake of argument, it might be suggested that such an approach offers some similarities to a “flipped model”. If presentation-oriented tasks can be completed in a more efficient manner, interactive experiences with experienced teachers might occur at a higher rate.

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When states and communities don’t/can’t support

The NYTimes article on companies supporting teachers to use their products has generated quite a response in the community of ed bloggers I follow. The new thing appears to be statements of personal policy when it comes to accepting resources. A follow-up opinion piece to the original article continues the conversation.

The follow-up describes the plight as being in an interesting bind and likens it to educators who spend some of their time writing grants or launching online fund-me drives to provide resources for their own professional needs and for students. All of these efforts raise questions of best use of teacher time and equity when it comes to the students who learn in classrooms of teachers unwilling or unable to be fund raisers.

[my original post in reaction to the Times article]

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Remembering – again

Repost of a blog post following Katrina (unfortunately, the pictures are gone)


Andy Carvin urged bloggers to devote entries of Sept. 2 to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. It is an extremely difficult topic and a situation in which words sent from a distance seem of little consequence, but I thought I would try.

Grand Forks FloodAt first I thought I might have something to say to the people suffering in the aftermath of Katrina. I know what it is like to leave your home as water comes up your street in the middle of the night. I know what it is like to worry what condition your home will be in when you are allowed to return. I know what it is like to stay in a shelter. While I was there for only one night, I remember the smell. I remember the sound of helicopters circling overhead. The picture above is from the Grand Forks flood of 1997.

Our experience was regarded as a great disaster because the flood required the evacuation of the entire community and nearly every building was damaged in one way or another. In comparison to your situation, it was nothing. There was little actual threat to human life. Help was close at hand and it was a disaster only in economic terms.

The present circumstances seem more akin to the terror of combat. The devastation is so total and the needs of people so basic. What I see on television is haunting and disturbing. I cannot understand what I see.

When I was first back in Grand Forks after the flood, I posted a web page with some pictures of the damage and some I thought portrayed the goodness in people I observed while living through the experience. I looked for these images for a long time tonight, but without any luck. However, remembering was a good thing for me.

What I hope for all of you presently living in such misery is that a few years from now you are able to look back and have memories that also convince you of the goodness in the people around you. I have no explanation at present for how this will happen, but I urge you to know that you are not alone.


Words are not likely to be enough – a little more is required from all of us.

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny then God bless you!

(Not sure why “Christmas is Coming” keeps running through my head, but the sentiment seems appropriate)

Hey, you are just going to spend it on gas anyway. (Ways You Can Help).

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