Education & Technology Blog Posts by Thor Prichard

The Secret Recipe for Sustainable Professional Learning Communities

Creating and maintaining a professional learning community (PLC) requires knowing both its primary audience (e.g., who does this community serve?) and the content necessary to address their priorities (e.g., what challenges are they facing and solutions/resources are they seeking?). This requires a mix of expertise to tailor a successful and sustainable online community.

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Understanding the Timescale Problem

Of all the industries in our society, education is the least transformed by technology. The needs of education have changed slowly, but the solutions vary frequently. Today’s classroom is nearly identical as it was a generation ago. Why is this? 

I suggest that the cause of all three is the same: there is a mismatch of timescales, the amount time allowed for a process or sequence of events to take place.

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An Idea Looking for a Good Home

About this time two years ago, while thinking about the growing void of quality mobile apps for education, an idea for a way to help fix that was born:  EdAppCamp. The idea was simple, easy to implement and would spark interest in a problem that needed attention. And the perfect domain name was registered: (we thought it was going to be big, right?). Unfortunately, with only 24 hours in a day competing with other priorities, the idea slowly fell by the wayside… until today. 

Before the domains expire and get auto-registered from some remote corner in cyberspace, we’d like to transfer them (for free!) to an organization ready to carry the idea forward.  

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Mobile Learning Works, Regardless of Device

I recently had the opportunity to provide feedback and suggest revisions to a draft report about a yearlong pilot of Android tablet devices in a 5th grade classroom. The lessons learned, obstacles avoided and learning opportunities revealed reaffirmed two things for me:

  1. teaching is always unpredictable and rewarding all that the same time; and,
  2. that mobile technology enriches and empowers the learner.


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About the Brain Train™

The Brain Train™ is a means to get away from the day-to-day distractions and obligations at work and instead dedicate a single day to focusing on the big-picture.  On the journey, we'll brainstorm, share and reflect on the ideas of each other to achieve a common goal: improving the process and practice of teaching and learning.

Departing from Portland in the morning we head to Seattle, where we enjoy lunch hosted by Clarity Innovations. We then board the next southbound train to continue the conversation on our way home. Read more about About the Brain Train™

Reflections on ISTE's conference

Without further delay, here’s my informal assessment of ISTE’s national education computing conference (NECC), which took place last week in San Diego. (Yes, I know, it’s not officially called that anymore, but I’ll refrain from wasting your time about the insignificance of the name change.) This year’s exposition did not disappoint, with a full showing of enthusiastic vendors, countless sessions and, of course, mediocre wireless connectivity. 

Making effective apps: factors to consider

Teaching and learning using mobile devices is fundamentally changing classrooms everywhere. These devices are shifting how students read, communicate and think (and have been for a while now). The potential for using these devices for learning really caught on when the iPad was introduced in April 2010. 

While there’s significant effort to bring the textbook to the mobile learning medium with immersive, multimedia experiences, there’s not much yet available for other instructional purposes. A wide range of factors may account for this education “app gap”, and I wanted to call attention to a few in this post. Read more about Making effective apps: factors to consider

Preeminent edtech event?

At the opening session of SXSWedu this morning, Ken Kay suggested that the event will (or is) becoming the preeminent educational technology event. While I personally don't desire this fate for SXSWedu, it does raise a larger question: what is the preeminent educational technology event for the K-12 education field? Because it certainly isn't the ISTE Conference, formerly (and more widely known as) the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC).

The era of misplaced QR codes is here

By now, you’ve probably seen quick response (QR) codes appearing just about everywhere. These high-contrast two-dimensional barcode graphics were appropriated from obscurity to convey information, mostly as a URL, about an object displaying the QR code. While it’s enjoyed widespread popularity in Japan and Europe for the last six years, it’s only recently become mainstream here in the mobile technology backwaters (better known as the United States). Unfortunately, not everyone realizes how QR codes are best used. Read more about The era of misplaced QR codes is here

Taking time to think ahead

As you can probably extrapolate from the gap in entries here, I've been slightly busy the last six months. (And for that, I offer my sincerest apologies to you, dear reader.) But even with such a pace, one must take time to pause, catch one's breath and look up to see what's ahead; otherwise, one will not see the obstacles ahead. To accomplish this, I tried something entirely different: I took a day trip on the train. Read more about Taking time to think ahead

Knowledge Navigator, where are you?

Over twenty years ago, Apple released a concept video to illustrate a vision about computers in the future. The video, simply titled Knowledge Navigator, anticipated wireless networks, steaming video, the World Wide Web and truly portable netbook style computing. To this day, no company has succeeded in achieving that vision. Maybe after 23 years Apple would introduce a product that does. With the launch of the iPad yesterday, we might be waiting a little bit longer.

Placebo effects in educational technology effectiveness?

After reading a dozen or so "research summaries" of the effectiveness of various popular technologies marketed to schools, the familar experimental design pattern emerges (feel free to recite it along with me): two groups are formed, one with the technology and the other without to serve as the control, etc... Unfortunately, that's about as close as these "research summaries" get to being classified as research. Too many times it seems, they lack rigor in their design, control for bias, analysis and jump to conclusion of a causal relationship in their results. Read more about Placebo effects in educational technology effectiveness?

Results of the 4th annual NECC marketing collage

Each year before NECC, we begin to receive the direct mailing materials from a variety of vendors luring participants to attend their session, watch a demo, win a T-shirt. For the last few years, we've made collages out of the mailers. It's helpful to visualize the variety, as well get a sense year-to-year whether the economy has slowed or not. If this year's collage is any indication, it hasn't seemed to effect vendors' budget for marketing. Read more about Results of the 4th annual NECC marketing collage