Saturday, May 7, 2011

PD, Crowdfunding and More...

I am now finishing up my Spring graduate class. It's been a nice experience, but I'm glad it's over. Looking forward to having a little less on my plate. Meanwhile, my school crowdfunding experiment is chugging along. We have about $750.00 and we still have over a month left to reach our $2000.00 goal. I am hoping to validate this as a means of fundraising for school programs in the future.

Also, I have been asked to present my first professional development workshop, which I am very excited about. So, now that I have a bit of time freed up, I can fill it up by putting my presentation together. I have a while to prepare, but there is so much I wish to cover. My aim is to develop a workshop that I can deliver to multiple school districts over the coming years - one that can morph into a prescribed-curriculum of sorts focusing on technology literacy.

That's about it for now - more details to follow...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our First Crowdfunding Project!

I am happy to share with you my first crowdfunding project. My school's art teacher and I are hoping to leverage the power of social networks to raise money for a NYC field trip. We are aiming for $2000.00 and our campaign will be active until June 10th. Please check it out here (and donate if you can!):


Friday, April 22, 2011

To Blog or Not to Blog

I have to admit, keeping up with this blog is challenging for me. With all the other demands of my life, it's hard to find the time to get here. However, a discussion this week in my grad class is worth mentioning.

It was about giving students time and freedom to experiment (and sometimes fail) within the realm of classrrom instruction. The term that was brought up was "adventurous teaching." I'm all for it. As often as I can, I allow my students to follow their muse (within the scope of my curriculum and the 9 weeks that I get to work with them). I try to intervene as little as possible when they are flexing their creative muscles. Sometimes their instincts manifest themselves in projects that turn into exercises in frustration, but that's OK. As long as they recognize the decisions that lead them there, then I feel that valuable learning has taken place.

Conveniently, there is a great TED Talk this week that deals with just this type of learning environment. It's about a 4th grade teacher whose students solve global problems through exploring the "World Peace Game." It's definitely worth a view:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crowdfunding, Indiegogo and Kiva

This week I am hoping to launch my first "crowdfunded" campaign on ( You may be asking, "What is crowdfunding?" Well, it's when you use the power of social networks to raise money for an issue or project. Many people point to Barack Obama's presidential campaign as a hugely successful crowdfunding effort, as most contributors actually only donated small amounts of money ($5-10 each donation).

In my case, I am hoping to raise money for a school field trip. As with many districts, ours took a budgetary beating this year and funds for trips, some clubs and sports dried up. I won't let that stop me, as I believe the most important learning in school often happens outside its walls. I teach a STEM course called Project Lead The Way, in which my students learn a great deal about design. It's my goal to take my class (along with our school's Art class) to visit the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to see their Architecture and Industrial Design exhibit. Additionally, we plan to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The art teacher and I performed a rough calculation - for the bus, admission to 2 museums for 42 students and 5 chaperones, it will cost approximately $2000.00. I think the experience truly will be priceless, as this will present a unique and potentially inspiring opportunity for my students (many of whom are embracing a love of design) as most have not ventured outside of their hometown, Red Bank.

By setting up an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign, we hope to utilize another avenue to bring money into our district (when we sorely need it). The campaign will run between 30-45 days. I will post the URL once the campaign goes active.

Along these lines, I saw a wonderful TED Talk the other day. The presenter, Jessica Jackley started a website called Kiva, which specializes in microlending ($25.00 at a time). This allows peer-to-peer lending around the world, letting charity cut out the middle man and do the most work. In some cases this means loaning a poor family enough money to buy a goat or improve their business or home. It's an amazing concept and worth learning more about. Here's her TED Talk:

Here's the link to

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This Should Be The Last of It

OK, OK, I'll shut up about the end of traditional universities. After this post. I posted my views on my Facebook page recently asking for people's thoughts on the matter and this is what my friend (who has his doctorate) posted:

I remember when MIT placed their entire curriculum online for free a few years ago. I thought, how odd - they are giving away knowledge! But then I realized knowledge is not the real product of Universities. Their product is an Ivy League diploma and the network of Ivy League alumni that students (and parents) are buying into when they pay those ridiculous tuition fees year over year. Over time, if the people in positions of power/influence are from Open Source Universities - then there will be a higher value placed on these degrees and there will be a bigger incentive to go this route vs. a traditional brick and mortar route. I am pulling for the Open Source model - I believe brick and mortar Universities are some of the biggest rackets around!

Well said, my friend!
Speaking of open source universities, here's something you should check out. Well, two things actually. First if you don't know about TED, it's a conference which takes place annually that brings together brilliant thinkers in countless disciplines to share revolutionary ideas. 

So many brilliant presentations here to watch, and they're all free:

I use them to inspire my design students and also to show my AVID students excellent examples of public speaking and presentation.
Which brings me back to my other thing. I had always heard about Khan Academy and had seen a few of its tutorials on the Unofficial Khan Academy channel via my Roku box (which signifies the end of cable/Fios TV, but that's for another post), but Salman Khan's presentation at TED really impressed me. It's worth checking out if you believe that the future (which is right now) of education is online/virtual:
While you're at it, use your Google or Facebook login to join Khan Academy and explore the variety of tutorials available:
Check it out and let me know what you think or if you're already using Khan Academy (especially in your teaching practice). I'd love to hear what you think of it!

Friday, March 4, 2011 - It's a Start

Per my last post regarding the impending recalibration of the bricks and mortar university model, I perused the site mentioned in the article I cited:

It seems pretty interesting. For a $99 monthly fee, you can take unlimited courses (with a $39 per course fee), or you can take an entire freshman year for $999.00. Credits seem to transfer to a number of different institutions (both traditional and online).

Could be a nice, affordable way for college bound students to get all those pre-reqs out of the way in an affordable manner (and on their own schedule). Check it out...

Monday, February 21, 2011

The End of Bricks and Mortar

Just as the Internet has irrevocably changed the music, movie and travel industries (to name only a few), I feel strongly (and hope) that higher education will be the next time-honored tradition (industry?) to be transformed by the leveling agent that is technology. My wife and I are both teachers and we often wonder how much it will cost to send my 3 year old son to college fifteen years from now. I found a handy little calculator online to help me figure it out:

According to its projections, sending my son to an in-state public university will cost us roughly $186,000! Yikes. His senior year alone will cost in excess of $50,000. Seriously? I can't justify an expense of that kind. Imagine if we sent him out of state to a private institution?! Don't get me wrong - I LOVE my son. I want him to have a great life, but I think there's a more sensible way to obtain it. One where that money is more wisely put to use for his benefit.

I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way. In fact, I know I'm not. I actually found an article that sums it all up pretty well. One of its predictions is that "The totally free online university that is stitched together from MIT-quality professors is going to happen very soon.” When you think about it, it's not much of a stretch. I put this blog together as a requirement for an NJCU grad course I am taking online. It's my fourth online class. I've never met my classmates or professors and my work is largely self-guided (albeit through course assignments assembled by NJCU). In fact, in the one month that I've been in my current course, I've had only one communication with my instructor and it was initiated by me via email. So, how would it be different if it was open source?

Of course, like with any new model, details will have to be hammered out. Who will recognize a degree from this type of institution? What body will provide accreditation? Who will ultimately contribute and validate the content? I'm sure there are a million more questions to be asked, but I'm certain it's coming. Here's the article:


Sunday, February 13, 2011

STEM in America - System Reboot

I just got the results back from the Praxis exam I took a month a go. I passed the Technology Education exam (0050). I'm glad that I took it (and passed) for my own professional development, as I have wanted to be considered a highly qualified teacher (HQT) in this area. According to the NJ State requirements, I am now highly qualified:

However, I find it disconcerting that Tech Ed teachers are not required to demonstrate expertise in becoming highly qualified (while other subjects and education generalists are). In President Obama's recent State of the Union address, he emphasied the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in keeping America competitive in the 21st century global economy. Here's part of the transcript from

"Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations...We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. (Applause.) And over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math. (Applause.)"

So why is it that we aren't demanding more from our schools NOW? We can't afford to wait ten years. Why shouldn't technology educators be held to the same standards as other subject area teachers? I guess it's because technological aptitude isn't assessed (unbelievably) on standardized tests in America. In my opinion, technology education is as important as Language Arts in providing students with marketable 21st century skills. In my experience, I have met many "old guard" teachers who are woefully unprepared to meet the demands of today's students in regards to providing stimulating, tech-based activities in their lesson plans. In general, I tend to disagree with Governor Christie's approach to education reform, but he may be right that some teachers abuse their tenure (by not continuing to improve their own skill set in keeping with rapidly evolving times). For instance, to compare teaching to another profession - medicine, you wouldn't want your doctor diagnosing your ailment with a 30 year old (or more) approach (or technology). Being a parent myself, I certainly would not want my child attending a school where its approach to technology was antiquated (or non-existent).

In my opinion also, school districts should make it a priority that a higher percentage of professional development time be devoted to augmenting the tech skills of educators as well as administrators. Too often, PD is wasted on the abstract, instead of supplying teachers with boots-on-the-ground skill augmentation.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hands On

I just attended a staff meeting where they announced that my school would be partnering with local marine science groups to build science based curriculum units for all subjects. This would involve a number of faculty members attending a training session involving field work (on the beach and in other marine ecosystems) this summer and then implementing that training and developing lesson plans to be delivered during the following school year. I am very excited about the collaboration. I love hands on work and I love to impress upon my students how fortunate we are to live near the ocean and beach.

I hope to integrate the things I learn into my PLTW class - specifically the Energy and Environment unit I teach.

I will blog more as this initiative develops...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Welcome to my Blog!

Hi Everyone,

This is my first official blog entry. I've had blogs before (back in the days of myspace - remember myspace?), but this is the first one dedicated to my profession. I am a technology educator and I currently teach at the Red Bank Middle School in Red Bank, NJ. I teach 2 courses - one is called Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and the other is called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). Both are challenging and rewarding in their own regard for me as an instructor (and hopefully for my students as well!).

AVID is a course that focuses on preparing students for college and turning "students in the middle" into academic superstars. For the purpose of this blog, most of my posts will usually refer to what I am instructing in PLTW, which is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum that our district just adopted this year and I was fortunate enough to be asked to teach it. At the moment, I teach students in grades 4 through 8 the finer points of mechanical drawing, the basics of robotics and spend a great deal of time exploring alternative energy. I love the course because it is predominantly hands-on, project-based learning.

If your interest is piqued, you can learn more about PLTW here:

Meanwhile, I thought I would share something that I have been somwhat obsessed with lately. It's a 4-part series airing on PBS called, "Making Stuff." It's all about materials science and each episode is fascinating, covering topics like carbon nanotubes, hydrogen powered vehicles and genetic engineering. I especially enjoyed the latest installment, "Making Stuff Cleaner," as it ties in nicely with my alternative energy unit. Full episodes are available online. Here's the link: