Best of the blogs

Visitors to eSchool News Online are privy to a very special society. The Ed-Tech Insider at: ETI index is an educator blog community dedicated to putting the promise of technology into practice. The site features more than a dozen ed-tech professionals so passionate about enhancing learning through technology that they’ve agreed to share their expertise in a dialogue with eSN Online readers.

Here’s a sampling of some of the best Ed-Tech Insider posts in recent weeks. All of these posts are still active, so if you want to comment on any of them, simply visit the site to do so. From “Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe … So What?” “Recently there was yet another televised expose on the sorry state of education in the U.S. As has been done in the past, the writers of this program tried to drive their point home by quizzing people on the street. The question asked this time was, ‘Who were the first five presidents of the United States?’ Of course, none of the U.S. residents whose responses were broadcast knew the answer. The only correct response shown came from a child in China.

“Once I’d run through the list myself (I knew the answer, but no one asked me), I realized that this is yet another example of imposing an Industrial Age view of education on the Information Age world. Yes, I was a bit taken aback that some respondents thought that A. Lincoln made the list, but aside from that I found myself asking, ‘So what?’ That bit of knowledge-level information and $2.90 will get me a personal non-fat latte at the local Starbucks. But it’s by no means an authentic measure of whether or not I’m a well-educated individual.

“I’m far more concerned about whether or not students are able to identify a problem, use multiple strategies for gathering information, make judgments about the validity of the information they find, synthesize that information, and then come up with a workable solution. This insistence that ‘good education’ is defined by rote learning of facts with no context is as outmoded as the quill pen! Let’s start asking questions that give people an opportunity to demonstrate problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The responses may still be worrisome, but at least we’d be focusing on something meaningful.” From “MySpace Survey of 6th-7th Graders” “My good friend Ben Harris ( just published the results of his survey of sixth [and] seventh grade students he teaches. Fundamentally, he wanted to … get a sense as to whether or not they actually use MySpace. And, if so, how often … Some of the basic results are as follows: 57 percent of [Harris’s] sixth and seventh graders have their own site at MySpace or Migente; 42 percent have looked up other kids in [their] school on [MySpace] or [Migente]; 25 percent have never used [MySpace] or [Migente]; 33 percent use one or both of the sites every day.

“… Not surprisingly, [Harris’s] students don’t want teachers to have access–at least directly–to their sites. But, more interesting … was that, although [students] are using the sites, I don’t get the sense from their responses that they are engaging in the sorts of dangerous behaviors that so many adults … are so afraid of. Score one for the intelligence of students.” From “A Taste of Sugar” and “Trying Out the OLPC User Interface”

“Wanna see a picture of [a] test board from the One Laptop Per Child project in action, including an early version of its user interface? Head over to Christopher Blizzard’s blog ( He’s a member of the team at Red Hat working on a custom version of Linux for the stripped-down laptop. One Laptop Per Child is really going to happen, and it is going to turn this industry upside down.

“… You can’t underestimate how much the design of this system flies directly in the face of the conventional wisdom in the U.S. of how IT in a school is supposed to work. With mesh networking, there won’t be a hard firewall between the school and the community, or the rest of the web. Chat isn’t disabled; it is explicitly enabled. The underlying software is not locked down; it is unlocked by design. If you’ve been writing this project off as a simple attempt to distribute cheap hardware, prepare to have your eyes opened.”

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