How is a kitchen remodel like distance education?

I have to admit that when I came up with this topic that I was thinking it was an interesting title but that it should not take too long to make the connection.  I then said to myself this needs to be about my most recent kitchen remodel and that the readers need to understand that I just remodeled a kitchen at a rental property that was at a distance (some 140 miles away to be exact).  Now, of course, everyone would get it.

Not Quite!

Then I thought explain to them how you remodeled the kitchen without stepping one foot on the property until last Saturday to review the completed work.  Yes, right now they would understand.  Well, OK, I need to explain a little more.

So, during the most recent kitchen remodel, I knew I had one big problem.  Time and Distance.  The costs are real so I started using the Internet for resources.  First stop was Angie’s list where I found a great kitchen remodeling company with good reviews.  I contacted them and asked them to give me a quote.  I compared the quote to other companies, and I decided it was reasonable based upon comparisons over the internet.

Next I had to coordinate and settle upon a contract with the vendor.  The details were discussed, a contract was sent via text, signing occurred, and a four to five week wait was needed while the factory took the measurements and created the counter tops.

Also during that initial contract time I needed to visit Home Depot (one mile away) to pick out the Formica brand counter top number and style as well as sink, faucet and drawer options.  All information was communicated via text images and writings via a smart phone.

Obviously payment plans were easy over the phone and I set up a before, during, and after completed installments.  It was even nice to use the Bank of America 3% back on all purchases credit card.

I then reached out to my tenant to coordinate a convenient time for final measuring and future installation.  The installers waited for the counter tops to be built at the counter top factory then on two quick days (that were clearly communicated to all) it was installed.  During the installation process, I received timely photo updates from my tenant and communicated constantly with both the company and tenant via cell phone and email.

Then just this last Saturday I visited to see a wonderful kitchen remodel that has improved the value of this distant property.

Oh yes, so how is this like distance education?

To me, this series of events is similar to design of a distance education project.  I knew my subject matter ( a kitchen in a house that I have lived in previously for many years ).  I researched a company on a service that provided checks and balances, coordinated a clear project design document, and established a payment plan of checks and balances.  I communicated via email, text messaging, and phone calls with the project manager and the tenant at various phases during the project.  I was involved with the project, but I let experts do their job and gave ownership to key constituents.  I was at a distance so I never met or communicated with the installer but there were checks and balances in place to make sure it was done well (payments, project company, tenant).  Finally, I checked in, and  I followed through on the project.  And Yes, I recorded on iPad video the final project for documentation.

The kitchen is great, and so are distance education projects.  Project based learning really is the way to go to prepare students for a complex world that could easily give them a project that needs to be completed remotely.  Checking in with your students at various stages is extremely key in distance education as it promotes regular and effective contact, insures that students are following the rubric, helps you teach at a distance, and models what distance education is about for your students.   Always create checks and balances in your projects while leaving room for student creativity, engagement, research, and problem solving.

Thanks for listening to my crazy comparisons and as always I appreciate your positive feedback.  I am glad this did not end up the The Goldbergs kitchen remodel!

July 2nd – John Adams – What a brilliant failure?

With great enthusiasm for the event and an accurate understanding for the significance of the event, John Adams wrote that the July 2, 1776 approval for independence would be celebrated for years to come.  Off by two simple days, many might call this a failure.  However, I tend to view this proclamation to his wife as a clear understanding of the times and a brilliant prediction.  I also think he continued on as a great reminder of what America would become.  I think he was successful.

So then why do we continue in education to look for the discrete facts and tiny moments to evaluate success?  Why are we so involved with demonstrable test taking and fact memorization?  Is that what the future world needs from its workforce?  Is that where innovation begins?  Is this what the world is going to remember?  Do your most successful leaders have 4.0 or higher?

I think we need to find ways to incorporate project based learning into the classroom.  I think we need to lessen the rigorous approach to test taking.  I think we need to design projects that increase skills that are defined by the workforce.  Finding the right answer, reaching a consensus on the right answer,  debating an approach, presenting the circumstances around that answer, and evaluating your success in communicating the answer are much better predictors of success.

So to my ISTE 2015 friends, I am sorry that I went to Philadelphia two weeks prior to the conference, and I was unable to participate in the demonstration of project based learning through technologies. You might call that a failure since I missed it by two weeks. However, as I am listening to the great presentations and feedback you gave on YouTube, I sense that I am a small part of a growing movement.  I predict one day we will have digital learning that analyzes skills rather than content and produces wonderful citizens rather than “know it alls”.  Ouch, Happy Independence Day!


Wow, as I reflect over the past year, I find that I have missed many goals.  One is obviously that I did not update Zoombla over the winter break, and another is that I have somehow left this blog absent of good thought, advice, and personal experiences.  So why or why not should you continue reading . . . .

Because FAIL SPACE is important.  How we educate today is so dependent upon personalized learning environments where students can create, test, fail, and make better.  There is so much brain research that supports that when we struggle and rebuild we are building skills that are life long learning needs that will help is in any endeavor.  Consequently, we need classrooms that support project based learning, flexible design, group collaboration, making, designing, and presenting.  We need to place process over content, and we will find that students thrive, are more engaged, and take the redesign and editing phase as a game level to do better.  Students actually do like to break something and then figure out how to make it better or design, test it, and fix it.

So yes, I have failed you, my readers, in many ways this past year in the sense of content predictability, and while I have been engaged in large projects such as faculty development, the online educational initiative, student orientations, two learning systems management, and course review, I have failed this blog.  (or have I?)  However, you must also know that in my desire to fix, rebuild, create, and maintain this blog that I have simply written this post with gusto, in a quick manner, and with total belief in the success of FAIL SPACEs for the modern learner and, of course, me.

An Absolutely Learning perspective on The Mozilla Foundation

As the Mozilla web site clearly states, “Mozilla exists to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the Internet. Mozilla is a proudly non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the power of the Web in people’s hands. We are a global community of users, contributors and developers working to innovate on your behalf. When you use Firefox, or any Mozilla product, you become a part of that community, helping us build a brighter future.”So I am assuming that I can proudly say that I part of the Mozilla community as I definitely use the Firefox web browser for most (90%) of my web browsing, and I have also unleashed Thunderbird as a desktop email client from time to time.

Also most recently when I needed to make some quick changes on my web sites I downloaded and executed html editing and file transfers with their products KompoZer and FileZilla.  These are all well designed software tools that empowered me to provide for you, taught me more about the Internet through project based learning, and saved me from having to purchase a newer version of another software editing tool for my MacBook Pro.

So, of course, this leads me to the non-profit question.  How does it function?  Well, of course, Mozilla needs our support financially and in the form of promotion.  If you find yourself using their products then perhaps you could donate too.  I recently donated for the first time, and I received a cool Mozilla Firefox T-shirt that I wear proudly wear to promote the brand.  I also recommend it in my classes, and I am writing about it on my blog at this very moment while the monster FileZilla is transferring over 3500 files of my students work to another web site as I reorganize my web contributions.

Mozilla truly empowers us to freely gather information efficiently and without secondary objectives of profit in mind.  Mozilla is a democratic organization that allows us to express ourselves for the better of the world.  I support Mozilla, and I hope you do too because I don’t know what would happen in a world without these types of smart, caring, and easy to use products.

NECC 2006 : One Perspective

NECC came to San Diego this year, and because I am local I had the opportunity to visit this national conference for educational technology in school environments. I was only able to visit on Thursday July 6 because of other engagements (some of which were job interviews (YAHOO!)), but I do have some general comments about the trends in educational technology that are being discussed at the national level. As usual, I will focus upon the aspects that I believe are positive for our profession.

First, it was refreshing to hear educators talk about integrating technology into the curriculum in ways that create individual learning moments and provide motivation for learning subject matter content and practicing higher level thinking skills. Project based learning that involves collaboration and constructivist work seems to work nicely for technology integration, and I saw projects that used video, photos, testimonials, authentic materials, good writing, and excellent presentation skills. Our students are very lucky to have this technology in our schools, and NECC is a great place for teachers and administrators to learn about implementing technology into their established curriculum.

In addition to good teaching with technology, I was impressed with the videoconferencing projects that I saw and the prices of the software and hardware to make that happen. There were many vendors represented, and that competition is allowing a teacher to do a lot with a few hundred dollars. There is also competition among video and audio editing software companies, and I believe that this competition will create the availability of software that allows creative teachers in a variety of subjects to create entertaining materials with educational objectives that can be shared just like lessons, tests, and quizzes are shared currently. With a clear plan educationally sound projects can be created with increasing motivation.

However, there were two particular vendors at NECC that I believe were the best part of the conference, and the price is right at their tables also. The first is our Library of Congress. Of course, we have heard it before that the materials there are an incredible resource for our students. They are the warehouse of national free realia that can be used in your classes, but every year their digital version of this realia gets better and better. It is truly worth every educator’s time to visit their site and think of ways to increase learning motivation and understanding through the use of their materials. I could see many ways to incorporate their materials into subjects other than history too, and if you need ideas please feel free to write me.

Finally, I am simply sold on the idea of refurbishing older computers and installing Linux (the open software of choice) onto these computers. I am sure that there are tons of companies that would love to find an educational institution to use their old equipment, and with the availability of this free software you can do wonders on a small budget. Of course, the linux machines will not do everything that you need. However, I do believe that you could save a lot of hardware and software costs by creating labs that run these machines for the most basic of tasks such as operating systems, connecting to the Internet for research, word processing, spreadsheet creation, and basic web creation. With the money you save you could buy a few really high end machines for the more advanced features of video editing, computer programming, etc.. Budgets are always a concern in education, and this is a great way to stretch a dollar. In fact, I would even suggest that our friends from developing countries follow this same model. There are tons of computers that can be reused for these purposes; and therefore, I hestitate to agree with the building of new laptops for the third world. Why not reuse what already exists in combination with open source software?