Research Has Never Been Easier

Research tools have come a long way thanks to advances in technology. Whether you are writing a research paper or simply compiling notes on a topic you’re interested in, using note taking and citation tools can make the process easier–maybe even enjoyable. For a sample of current tools, click the link at the beginning of this article to see a Pearltrees compilation concerning research and citation.

Rediscovering the Learner Within

seaWhat’s the biggest obstacle to learning tech? Access? Training? Age?

Excuses abound.”I’m too old,” “Kids are born knowing this now; how can I compete?” “It keeps changing all the time,” or the big trump card:  “I don’t have time to deal with all that.” People rarely name the problem that research says is the biggest obstacle: Mindset.

People who want to learn something, who are determined to learn it, make it happen. Students who decide they are mastering a task find tutors, spend extra time working, and keep at it until they succeed. We cheer for the unathletic friend who decides to train for a 5k, or the person who decides to challenge herself to do something out of her previous experience. We know that people who decide to master a skill can at least become more proficient than they were by readjusting their mindset and committing to overcoming obstacles.

The mindset that says, “This is interesting, and I can learn it,” is the way “digital natives” seem to approach technology. They are comfortable reframing themselves as learners, and they trust that they will be able to understand and use whatever evolutions technology goes through.

If that mindset is the crucial component to learning, how can we show our collegues, friends and family the value in learning to use technology? What uses would benefit them enough that they choose to be learners?

And maybe more important for teachers, are we still learners as well as teachers? The idea that children are digital natives ignores the fact that they have had to learn how to use technology–and the nature of the beast insures that they will be relearning it all their lives. Tech skills aren’t static, so a person has never finished learning to use technology.  Perhaps teachers become secure in their knowledge, certain of what they know and the students need to learn. When teachers’ tech skills lag, is it that deep down, they are uncomfortable when they know they are not competent?

The main task, then, is develop the desire to be tech-savvy, to define yourself as a tech-competent-learner, then dive deep to see what mysteries await!

What can happen if people believe they can learn and create? The story of William Kankwamba answers that question.


Interested in reading an academic paper about the importance of mindset? Look for “The Potential Role of Mindsets in Unleashing Employee Engagement” by Lauren A. Keating and Peter A. Heslin in the Human Resource Management Review, 25 (2015) 329-341. It’s in the Infohio/Ebsco database.

TED Talk: Education Innovation in Slums (Or McDonald’s vs Chinese Restaurants)

 Charles Leadbeater, an “Innovation Consultant,” considers how technology is by some of the poorest people in the world. Leadbeater’s idea that technology can lead to the “schoolification of the world,” with information and opportunity available to everyone. He suggests that instead of looking at Finland as the example to use as a model–Finland has optimal circumstances which can’t be duplicated that contribute to its success– we should be looking at places where education is thriving and innovating despite serious problems. One major difference, according to Leadbeater, is that schools in those situations attract students by pull, not push. Students are pulled into schools (or self learning) because of their desire; that’s not common here. Instead, we require students to come, and push them into not only being in school, but exactly what and when they learn. Pushing students into school is a natural side effect of presuming a factory model of education, with students essentially on an assembly line. Is there another way to deal with the quantities of students we deal with? Not as we define education now, certainly. But can technology lead to a redefinition of how we educate, leading to more pull and less push? Leadbeater thinks so. That completely changes our concept of curriculum, and it relies on intrinsic motivation, something that American education neither needs or expects.

Leadbeater also discusses Madhav Chavan, who created a non-profit system, Pratham, for getting educational opportunities to poor children in India. At one point, Chavan was offered the chance to create franchises of his method. Leadbeater explains Chavan’s reaction:

When they got to a certain stage, Pratham got big enough to attract some pro bono support from McKinsey. McKinsey came along and looked at his model and said, “You know what you should do with this, Madhav? You should turn it into McDonald’s. And what you do when you go to any new site is you kind of roll out a franchise. And it’s the same wherever you go. It’s reliable and people know exactly where they are. And there will be no mistakes.” And Madhav said, “Why do we have to do it that way?Why can’t we do it more like the Chinese restaurants?”

There are Chinese restaurants everywhere, but there is no Chinese restaurant chain. Yet, everyone knows what is a Chinese restaurant. They know what to expect, even though it’ll be subtly different and the colors will be different and the name will be different. You know a Chinese restaurant when you see it.These people work with the Chinese restaurant model — same principles, different applications and different settings — not the McDonald’s model. The McDonald’s model scales. The Chinese restaurant model spreads.

Currently, America seems determined to create a McDonald’s version of education, pushing students into an increasingly codified educational experience. And technology can be used to scale curriculum and assessment to sizes we couldn’t have dreamed of a generation ago. Technology does standardization well.

But it is only a tool, and it can be used for individualization, connection, and  creativity, as well. If we continue on the path we are currently on, the McDonald’s model of education will win. Leadbeater’s TED Talks offers us some alternative visions of the future. The decision is ours.

Don’t Be A Pirate Part 2

Often, we assume that using published materials for classroom use is legal–and it is…to an extent. However, the guidelines for legal use are very specific.

Stanford University’s Copyright and Fair Use website provides an overview of current copyright law as relating to classroom teachers. (Scroll down to Section 5:  Rules for Reproducing Text Materials for Use in Class – See more at:

The pamphlet Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians  from the government copyright office also offers detailed info about fair use for educators and librarians.

Because technology is changing so rapidly, these laws are in flux. Also because of technology, it’s easier to identify people who are violating these laws. At the least, make certain that everytime you use articles, info, graphics or even quotes from a source other than your textbook, you provide a citation so the students and parents know where it came from. Modeling fair use and responsible digital citizenship to our community helps establish our credibility and it reinforces to the students that they, too, should pay attention to using sources responsibly.


Don’t be a Pirate!

pirateAre you an accidental pirate? Do you pillage photos, graphics, and designs from online searches, using them for “educational use” without getting permission from the owners? If so, you’re not alone! Thanks to easy access, most of us have done that at some point.

The catch-all phrase “educational use” is not a blanket permission for using online material, and in fact is not valid much of the time. The good news is that there’s a site where you can get free, legal graphics and pictures–and the quality and creativity of the materials are excellent. The next time you need graphics or pictures, go to Photos for Class and see what you can find!