Wicked Problem

Post Updated 4/27/14 9:15PM – Since writing this post, my group has finished our project. Rather than adding a separate post, I’ve updated the links below to the final recommendation.

The semester is winding down and that means final projects are wrapping up. In Applying Edtech to Practice, my group tackled the problem of “rethinking teaching.” Essentially, we came up with a suggestion for how teachers can improve their practice based on The Danielson Group’s teacher evaluation tool.

The Framework for Teaching has four components:

  1. Planning and Preparation
  2. The Classroom Environment
  3. Instruction
  4. Professional Responsibilities

The instrument breaks each area down into indicators which we used to outline our proposal. Using the TPACK framework as a guide, we looked at each subgroup in the Framework and linked them to simple tools teachers can use to move toward the distinguished level of performance.

To organize everything, we’ve created a Popplet as a graphic organizer. From there, you can learn more about The Danielson Group, the TPACK framework for applying technology as well as see our white paper recommendation and video of the process we used to create the final product.

Any feedback in the comments would be appreciated. The final revision will be posted later this week.

Tech and PD – Survey Results

Survey Analysis

Last week, I distributed a short survey on technology and professional development. I’ve typed up some brief analysis, looking at major patterns and asking new questions, in a public Google Doc. Please head over there to read the full summary and leave comments if you have them.


I took some of my data and made it into a short infographic, highlighting some of the quantitative results. It helps paint a picture of who I heard from and what they had to say about technology use and professional development they’ve done.

As always, comments are welcome on either the post or the full report within the context of the analysis.

Thank you to everyone who took time to complete the survey. I appreciate the help and the insight you helped me to find.

Survey Time (again)

Blog readers, I come to you again asking for help with a survey.

As many of you know, I’m working on a masters degree in education technology through Michigan State University. I have a short survey in circulation looking at technology integration and the associated professional development. It will take 5-10 minutes, and your help would be greatly appreciated.

Please pass the link along to friends, colleagues, or your social networks. I’ll be gathering data over the next few days and then posting an analysis late this week/early next.

How To: See Any Site as it Appears on Mobile

I was working on a Chrome Extension (feel free to download and use it) this evening and I noticed something awesome.

If you right click on a webpage in Chrome, one option in the menu is “Inspect Element.” It shows a lot of programming mumbo jumbo which is extremely useful in programming, but not necessarily for anything else, especially if you’re not programming.

At the bottom of the window, I noticed a new tab that said “Emulation.” So, I clicked on it.

Lo and behold, in the latest Chrome update (M34 stable channel) you can view any webpage as if it were on a mobile device. How. Awesome. Is. That? I was able to select one of dozens of Android devices and then emulate the page (after a quick refresh) to see how it would behave…including any JavaScript you have in there as well.

Click any image to see it bigger.

I used to have to resize my browser window or put the page I was working on up on a secure testing server or something. Gone are the days of trying to test for mobile on anything else because I can do it right in the Chrome browser. It even reads custom CSS based on media queries (if you use those).

Now, do note, that if you’re developing across multiple browsers (and if you’re doing web development, you should be doing that), so you’ll still need to test for compatibility in Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc. This is just one way to easily knock out some mobile responsive design from your browser.

Why is this useful? If you teach any kind of web development class, this will make your life much easier. Also, since 50% of the world accesses the web via mobile as their primary method, responsive design is a must for any design course. This is one way to help make that process easier for quick cross-platform testing as students learn.

Tin Can Phones, Windows, and Horizons

Tin Cans

Twitter chats are often the first point of entry for developing a PLN. It was where I began. I randomly followed some people who had “Education” in their profile, which led me to #edchat which led me to more people with “education” in their profiles. I built a large group of people I could connect with on various issues.

The problem with this approach is that you tend to only talk with people you agree with. We give the other end of our tin can phone to friends.

One-way following on Twitter is dangerous because you can choose which voices you want to hear and which you can virtually ignore. This leads to echo-chambers, reinforcement of confirmation biases, and growth stagnates. I was able to get ideas about what to teach, but I struggled to find reasons for why I should teach the what.

This topic is timely because I just connected with Tobey Steeves, a Canadian educator who caught my attention with this tweet:

I have spent a great deal of my professional life working within and writing on Flipped Learning. When someone wants to talk about the “technocratic diminution” of teaching, I pay attention. Tobey and I have sent a few tweets back and forth and he’s already sent me some literature from Pablo Friere on the “pedagogy of banking.” Tobey is now a part of my network so I can continue to learn from him.

Another influencer on my mind lately is Dr. Sugata Mitra. From what I know, I’m not a big fan. An article in Wired magazine outlined his “hole in the wall” project, which hints at the idea that teachers are obsolete. I’m struggling with that idea.. Two things I’ve realized: 1) How presumptuous am I to think that I know better than an education researcher? 2) Before I can really disagree, I need to know more about his research. I’ve followed his Twitter account and bookmarked his blog.


Blogs: the windows to deeper thought, conflict, and (sometimes) civilized debate. 140 characters is difficult to leverage into an effective medium for debate. Tone is impossible in snippets; implied tone can be mistaken and defenses are raised before you can get to the heart of the conflict. Blogs, on the other hand, allow for exploration of thought as well as more time for the reader to digest those ideas. I can engage with a blog without feeling like I need to engage immediate with the author. I can take time to formulate an opinion and respond with a well thought out comment.

I’m not a fan of exposition on the web. I also struggle when writing is exceptionally heavy-handed in tone. The biggest addition to my RSS reader is Ira Socol. To be completely honest, he pushes my buttons sometimes, especially when it comes to the role of technology in the classroom…which is exactly why I need to be reading his blog more.

Ira has been writing and tweeting about grit lately, so I decided to jump in. His post on Angela Duckworth, Galton, Nazis, and eugenics is not only long (3,800 words), but a deep dive into why I need to pay more attention to education rhetoric. I don’t agree with everything he says about grit, but I’ve been prompted to learn more.

Driving home last night.


What’s next? I’m not sure. The horizon is always there…even though we can chase that dividing line, we’ll never catch up to its secrets. The great thing is through opening our lines of communication through blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever, we’ll have people who can look over the edge and whisper those secrets back to us. We’re only as good as our connections: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Animate (SOME) of the GIFs!

Not all GIFs are created equal. Some just need a little help.

I haven’t posted more than once in a day in a while, but I’m really excited about my little interactive images kick from earlier.

I got links to work on top of an animated GIFs. After cracking my knuckles, I decided to see if I could push myself a little more. Now, I want an image with some instruction text to play an animated GIF on the hover, not jump out to a link. This is all hobby for me, by the way. Lots of coding and refreshing going on to get it working.

The first thing I needed to do was lay out my HTML tree and CSS skeleton

Now, I needed some more information. Problem number one: get the first frame of an animated GIF to use as a static placeholder in the page. Not too hard. I hopped into GIMP, and then copied and exported my first frame as a jpg image to hang out on its own.

Now, the hard part was to get the text to show up in the right place. You can use absolute positioning, but then your div elements can get all wonky. On a static HTML page, it isn’t too hard to do because you control everything. On a blog, it can be messy because you’re fighting with your template’s CSS and if you don’t use the right attribute names or calls, you can end up with a poor layout. So, to make things easier, I just used GIMP to throw some instruction text on to my first frame placeholder.

Now came the tricky part. I had to make sure I layered my images correctly in the HTML and CSS. After adding the correct links and the correct frame sizes, I had the following code:

And the result is:

One thing I’m still trying to work out is how to get the animation to pause when you move the mouse. Because a GIF is just an image, I don’t think there is a way to have the loop paused without some serious coding in the background. I’ve already poked through StackOverflow a little, and can’t seem to find anything promising. With this method, the GIF will continue to loop in the background after the initial hover, so you’ll see a little jump.

Why? Animations can be annoying in the corner of your eye. Giving people control over whether or not they want to see some moving pictures is a courtesy. Plus, I wanted to see if I could do it. So there.

Experimenting with Pictures

I have a permanent item on my to-do list which says, “make pictures better on the blog.” I don’t really know what that means in the long run, and that’s the point. I want my content to be more dynamic. WordPress is great for that, but it still feels cumbersome for me. I have to think about a lot of other items like plugins, widgets, and having to dig to get something like custom CSS applied to a post. I’ve looked into switching over to another open-source CMS called Anchor, but I haven’t gotten around to migrating yet. It’ll happen eventually.

Either way, one thing I wanted to experiment with the other day was giving an image a mouse hover overlay which would link to something else. I have a working sample on a post from the other day, but the gist is shown below.

I tried to do this with inline CSS, but as it turns out, using the :hover pseudo property inline is a big no-no.

The reason you can’t do it inline is you have to add some extra div elements to the blog content, and then style each based on it’s id. Not too hard, but the code editing in WordPress really stinks, so it took me a while.

I had an idea of how to do this, but couldn’t figure out how to stack my new div elements. I found a demo that gave me the HTML structure and accompanying CSS. All I did from there was apply my own image URL and tweak the size of the box as well as the padding applied. My final code ended up as:


CSS – put this in style tags at the end of your content in the WordPress HTML editor.

So, it isn’t perfect, but it works. If I ever make the switch over to Anchor, I know this process is much simpler. Until then, I’ll keep posting tips.

Nine Skills

I’ve done a lot of writing this past week. I mean, a lot. Many late nights, cups of coffee, and pints of beer went into my body and magically flowed through my fingers and into my paper.

For class, we were asked to create a personal manifesto which outlines skills essential to teaching. Along with a narrative of why we chose those skills to highlight, we pulled articles, blog posts, journals, videos…anything we’ve used in the past for growth to share with our readers.

I boiled mine down to nine skills essential to teaching. I outline this in the introduction of my paper, but I approached this from behaviors or attitudes rather than “hard” classroom skills like instruction and management. I did this partially because I think skills like Balance and Compassion are oft overlooked in teacher preparation programs. I also think the way we approach the relational side of teaching dictates our effectiveness in the classroom. I have no way to support that claim other than it’s been my experience, but I’ll stand by it.

I’d also like to thank Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Lindsay Cole, and Christiane Schicke for taking the time to leave comments as I was still writing.

Speech-to-Text to the Rescue

Have you ever tried to read an article or paper but gotten so bogged down with the vocabulary that you didn’t understand what was going on? This happens to students every single day in schools, and especially to ESL, ELL, or reading disabled children. There is evidence showing that this is due to an overload on their working memory and can be addressed with some simple interventions in the classroom and with therapy outside the class.

Chrome Extensions are a great way to improve the web, including speech-to-text. I used them in my teaching to help students focus on the context of the entire article and not necessarily on the vocabulary on it’s own. What I saw was an improvement in comprehension and summarization of the text as well as a more open approach to scientific literature.

You can read the full Google Doc and, as always, comments are welcome.


Download the extension

Living the Connected Life

Everyone is connected. There are reports of so-called “disconnect anxiety” afflicting our society because our desire to know what’s happening all the time. I have to admit, I’ve suffered from this. When I had a flip phone, I felt like I was missing out on the flow of my PLN and missing out on great ideas being shared. I have a smart phone now, but I’m ready to take it to the next level.

Tomorrow, beginning at 8AM, I’m going to begin my Connected Life experiment. For one entire day, I’m going to broadcast my life through a Google Hangout on Air.

Want to know what it’s like to work from home? Tune in to the Hangout. Want to know what my house looks like? Tune into the Hangout. Curious what I wear when I work from home? Tune into the Hangout.

This is an unprecedented look into my life, and I want my PLN there. Feel free to share it with your friends, turn it on in the background, or just hop on to see what’s up. I’ll also be doing a live Q&A through Twitter all day, so if you want to know more, hit me up at @bennettscience.

Looking for the live stream? Here’s the link. It’ll go live tomorrow morning at 8AM!