Designing for the Margins Where They Stand: In the Margins

As many teachers know, despite great attempts at innovating curriculum or instructional practice, some students still find themselves on the outside, either without interest, investment, or opportunities among their peers to participate in any range of learning activities. Unfortunately, many of these students fall into the same demographics that recent research in the areas of social justice, digital education inequities, and interest-based learning have tried to target: low socioeconomic, ethnic minority, non-native English speaking, or otherwise disenfranchised youth. Despite great efforts on the part of our teachers, these students simply tend to live in the margins of education. This has added to an already increasing call to reform our practices in ways that support student interest and engagement, oftentimes in opposition to standardized assessment and other canonical aspects of schooling.

There have been a number of great studies and articles coming out this past year on interest-based learning and adaptive curriculum – some of which has come from scholars whose work focuses on, and has even influenced, the Next Generation Science Standards that many states in this country are now trying to adopt. A number of scholars have even taken their work outside of the classroom and into the homes of nondominant and disadvantaged youth to study what kinds of personal learning supports (digital media tools, social connections or “brokers,” and opportunities for participation in communities of practice) might exist that can promote informal learning opportunities for students who might have little access to such opportunities in the classroom. By examining how youth participate in such informal learning activities outside of school, there is hope that we may be able to adapt existing classroom practices and structures to afford learning opportunities for youth that promote not just content or skills acquisition, but personal empowerment, autonomy, critical thinking, and community activism – possibilities that many agree exist in far too few of the learning experiences of today’s disadvantaged youth.

Indeed, a great achievement of this recent work has been to expose the dearth in access disenfranchised youth have to such learning opportunities. In many areas, this work has had the effect of prompting schools to adopt more student-centered instructional practices, inquiry- and project-based learning activities, and digital media tools. As such, there has been a narrowing effect in two chief areas of what was once called the “digital divide”: access to digital technologies, and access to learning opportunities in which those technologies might be used to promote agency and empowerment. Yet, a major difficulty of scholarship in this area, as I see it, is that a large amount of research has focused on settings in which youth willingly, or voluntarily, participate in such informal learning practices and communities on their own; after-school and community outreach programs, interest-based online communities, or other arenas in which youth participate in what might be called “productive.” For each student, however, who goes home or to the library after school to engage in Minecraft community forums or produce their own digital media, there are many students who simply do not, either because of other personal responsibilities (such as family care or employment), disruptive home lives, or lack of interest. For this reason, it makes sense to examine the roles that formal environments and institutional structures might play in how and why these youth in the margins either do or do not take up opportunities to engage in student-centered, as well as interest-, inquiry-, and project-based learning activities.

This past June, I presented some research findings on this topic at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences in Boulder. Specifically, my research focused on forms of student resistance to these activities. The group I studied had access to digital media and digital media tools through a one-to-one laptop program, and a progressive, knowledgeable teacher with over 15 years of technology integration experience. In spite of his efforts to introduce open-ended, student-centered, and inquiry-based learning activities to the class, a number of focal students in my study simply did not participate in these activities, or equally disappointing for the teacher, “satisficed” their work, doing the minimal amount necessary to receive a non-failing grade. While we consider the importance of student engagement in informal learning communities and practice, I therefore think it is critical that we examine the structural supports and social mobility of youth in these environments, specifically, “in the margins.” Schooling represents a particular, heavily enculturated structure to which many disenfranchised youth have negative orientations. Beyond promoting instructional practices that foreground student interest and access to resources, I believe it is imperative that we similarly interrogate the social configurations of interest-based learning environments, and how those configurations might inform the structure of schooling. Particularly in how youth see themselves within those configurations, in relation to their peers, to authority, and to institutional structures. This will be a long, difficult process, but it is nonetheless one that I believe is worthy of significantly more attention than it is currently being paid by large grant funding institutions and ed tech start ups.

A colleague of mine once highlighted how we might start thinking about how to ameliorate these problems, tweeting, “Much of edtech creates more access. The affluent have more capacity (financial, technical, social) to use that access, leading to inequity.” In response, I asked, “What can schools do to eliminate this inequity?” His reply: “Design for the margins.” Taking this cue, I think it will be increasingly important to consider what learning looks like in the margins, and what structures produce and reify the existence of those margins – especially in the face of advances in instruction and access to resources. Otherwise, we risk oversimplifying the longstanding inequities that persist today as solvable through high tech tools and money. If twenty years of the “digital divide” have taught us anything, its that the more things change, the more things stay the same. It’s time we begin to focus on the “sameness” part of that maxim, rather than on the “changes” that appear forever on the horizon. Perhaps we can get some venture capital to invest in that, for a change.

Makey Makey, Take 2

This is the second post in a series about the use of the Makey Makey for faculty professional development in technology, design, and creativity.

As I described in my last post, the first incarnation of my Makey Makey project, was a relatively inelegant “instrument” I hacked together using some fruit, kitchen utensils, and a Google Coder project. I left the project out in our faculty lounge for a few days, in the hopes of garnering some interest in attending our first “play day” coming up next month. The project seemed somewhat of a success, since I observed several instances of tones, laughter, and what I interpreted as “contemplative silence” emanating from the lounge while the project was up. A few folks even emailed me either thanks or excited exclamations of “that’s cool!” Thus, at least in terms of garnering attention from my colleagues, the Makey Makey project was turning some heads, and encouraging some play. The project seemed also to inspire a little bit curiosity with regards to electrical circuitry, mostly around how people did not get “shocked” when holding the electrical leads. Some people also began experimenting with different conductive materials, swapping out spoons to pencils or other fruit.

For Phase 2, I decided to up the sophistication of the project, creating a conductive “board” to replace the dangling fruit and wires, and rather than using simple tones on the C major scale, to embed some free loops from GarageBand. The browser I’d be using to display the project is Google Chrome, which can read and play .mp3 files. This created a minor obstacle, because GarageBand loops come in a completely different file format. To work around this, I added each loop to a separate GarageBand project, and then exported each project in .mp3 format. Problem solved. I then found some copyright-free images online (thanks Wikipedia!) to match the GarageBand loops I used. After a couple of more tweaks to the user interface, I had a web page that looked like this:

Image

For the board, I used the underside of a printer paper box, aluminum foil, scotch tape, and an exacto knife to carve out and affix some conductive “pads.” For each of the five pads, I used a wide strip of foil, stretching from the bottom of each pad to the top of the “board,” where I could easily attach the leads from the Makey Makey. For the ground lead, I made an aluminum foil strip at the bottom of the board.

Image

 

I then uploaded the site to the computer in the faculty lounge, and left a little flier of instructions, with a small plug for our “play day” in June. Fingers crossed that this iteration will pick up where the last one left off…

IMG_0070

First Stab with the Makey Makey

So I’ve had a Makey Makey sitting on my desk for a few months, and until last week, I hadn’t even opened the box. After seeing a video of the Makey Makey’s creator Jay Silver on TED back in the winter, I felt inspired and compelled to get one. But as they so often do, work and life get in the way of things, especially creativity. And so the Makey Makey sat on my desk, all but forgotten, until a couple of weeks ago, when my colleagues and I decided to schedule our first technology professional development workshop devoted entirely to “play.”

Rather than simply send out the all-too-commonly unread mass email announcement, or post fliers above the copier machines, we decided to advertise our workshop with whimsical crafts, making use of the same tools we wanted to bring with us to the workshop. Finally, I had a reason to unpackage my Makey Makey, and start playing with the very serious intent of doing “work.”

The Makey Makey is a very simple device, reminiscent of the original Nintendo Entertainment System game controller, but with sharper edges, more holes, and exposed electronic components on the back.

Image  Image

 

It runs off of USB power, and acts as a sort of modified “keyboard” (without any obvious keys). In fact, it would be like having a keyboard for your computer that only consisted of the four arrow keys and a space bar. The sixth input on the Makey Makey functions like a left mouse click. Super simple. The Makey Makey comes with seven colored alligator-clip leads, which you use to create connections between the designated buttons (keys) on the Makey Makey and other conductive objects (spoons, fruit, coins, aluminum foil, etc.). There are also six “ground” input/output connections on the Makey Makey. The “ground” connections serve to complete the circuits you’ll end up constructing to control the buttons (keys) on the Makey Makey. By building these mini circuits, you can control your computer’s interface, such as scrolling up, down, left, or right, entering spaces between text, or clicking on objects. In the video above, Jay Silver shows some examples of this being used to create things like pianos and drums on the computer, but of course, with just a little bit of imagination (and a little bit of computer programming experience), the Makey Makey can do much more.

To advertise for our workshop, I decided to make my own five-key “piano” with the Makey Makey, and the process was made MUCH easier by using some HTML5, Javascript, and some help from Google Coder. The Google Coder site lists a bunch of easy-to-hard web-based projects that are specifically directed towards use with the Raspberry Pi, but are easily adapted for regular computer use. I chose to use their “Music Boxes” project for my Makey Makey for its simple interface and use of HTML5, which I have some experience with.

Image

 

HTML5 is great in that it lets you use media “tags” in your HTML code, rather than fussing with overly complicated syntax or plug-ins like Shockwave. To make a long story short, the Music Boxes project provides you with some basic HTML code and instructions to help create the site picture above, and associate various musical tones (which come with the Music Boxes project download) to the individual colored boxes. The result is that when you click on a box, the browser plays a tone. With a mouse, this means you can play one tone at a time.

Using a combination of HTML and Javascript, however, you can associate the various tone files with keyboard keys, turning your QWERTY keyboard into a virtual synthesizer. Enter the Makey Makey. Using the five Makey Makey buttons (keys), I was able to take the Google Coder Music Box code and write my own little program and create a real-life “synthesizer” that my colleagues and I could play together in our faculty lounge. Here are some images of the result. Not an elegant first stab, I’ll admit, but I have plans in the works for the next iteration already!

Image

Image

Image

 

 

 

Brief AERA Redux and Notes on Participatory Learning

I was at the American Education Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this past week, and in addition to meeting a whole slew of amazing scholars, particularly in the field of the Learning Sciences, I was greatly encouraged by the research and work being done with technology in support of student learning. Interest in educational technologies is growing fast, and is gaining a lot of momentum due to large philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Macarthur Foundation, both of which seem to be fueling a rapidly innovating field. This is exciting. In years past, it seems that much of the research being done in education technology surrounded behaviorist theories of cognition and learning, and focused heavily on the concept of “transfer” – being able to apply the knowledge gained in one domain in other areas. Nowadays, it seems that “learning as participation” has garnered a lot of attention, placing a much-needed focus on student autonomy, authority, and the production of learning artifacts. These form much of the basis of student-centered pedagogies, and are part of the growing popularity in interest-driven learning, such as maker-spaces and digital media hubs, and even “gaming*”.

*I put the word “gaming” here in quotes, because typically, the term “educational game” inspires a lot of suspicion and skepticism, and belief that “gaming” is synonymous with “entertainment”. A lot of media attention and venture capital have been given to educational games that fit this description, and while this is great for Silicon Valley, such games have questionable value for education on the whole (test preparation, maybe, but critical thinking, collaboration, civic action?). But while these entertainment games seem to dominate our perception of gaming in school, there has been considerable research done on what aspects of games actually foster learning, and promote engagement, persistence, and reflection. Anyone familiar with James Paul Gee’s work for instance, will tell you that education has a lot to learn about gaming, without watering down content, or sacrificing rigor, in favor of entertainment.

A great primer on the “participation as learning” approach is Henry Jenkins’ work on “Participatory Culture”. Basically, this approach to learning suggests that by engaging in community-based practices, such as collaborating on a media project together, contributing to the knowledge of fan forums (such as the Minecraft forum), remixing songs or other cultural artifacts, we are in a sense, learning by doing – coordinating distributed knowledge resources (people, tools, websites, etc.) across multiple multimedia, jointly solving problems (especially community-based problems), appropriating materials to remix them for an audience, apprenticing people into the valued practices and ways of thinking about the world around us.

A central part of this type of learning is developing literacies across multiple domains, and applying those literacies in ways to empower our students and ourselves. Nichole Pinkard, whose work focuses on youth-based programs for developing digital literacies. Through the use of mentors to learn various digital tools, students in Pinkard’s Digital Youth Network who develop a strong passion for a medium can then go on to mentor younger/less-experienced students with similar interests.

Another significant aspect of this type of learning, and one that seems to be just finally gaining some legitimacy in schools, is social networking – building connections across settings to access knowledge resources. Facebook and Twitter come to mind as obvious examples of social networking, and these have largely been used for un-academic purposes. But that does not mean they are not powerful tools for things like mobilizing political action (remember the Arab Spring?), or building connections with professionals and experts in a field (see Jen Lavenberg’s post on Personal Learning Networks).

These areas of participation and learning are invaluable for our children, especially since many of them are already doing these things. The trouble is that many children might not see the connection between participating in digital ecologies and “what counts” as learning in school. The question we need to start asking, is how we can legitimize their participation as a valued part of learning, and how we can incorporate the vast range of resources we now have access to into ways of teaching that actually empower students.

I don’t know why I’m defending David Weinberger.

I don’t know why I’m defending David Weinberger. I’ve never met him. I’ve never read any of his publications. I have, however, seen him speak publicly, twice: once this past November at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, and again this past week at the Learning in Commons Conference. He was a keynote speaker at both events. As such, I’ve only seen Dr. Weinberger speak to relatively large audiences, which is ironic in that, in both situations, his central message seemed antithetical to many of my colleagues’ reasons for attending either conference in the first place. At least I think it seemed antithetical to them.

Dr. David Weinberger is a Senior Researcher at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and is Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. His latest book (which again, I have not read), is entitled “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.” Here’s the blurb:

We used to know how to know. We got our answers from books or experts. We’d nail down the facts and move on. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks. There’s more knowledge than ever, of course, but it’s different. Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything. (Amazon.com)

Personally, this is my meat and potatoes. But I’m not a classroom teacher. Nor am I a librarian. The EdTechTeacher iPad Summit and the Learning in Commons Conference were overwhelmingly attended, respectively, by members of each group (or so it seemed to me). So when Dr. Weinberger started to describe how books (remember, this was directed towards an audience of school teachers and librarians) were representative forms of the exclusory, inaccessible, elitist, old world model of education, folks began to shift around in their seats.

Now, I don’t think Dr. Weinberger is wrong here. Books are sort of the hallmarks of a paradigm of education that has systematically privileged certain classes of individuals, while marginalizing others. And really, we’re not just talking people here. Books are notoriously (at least in the past) totems of “knowledge” written by old white men, who have not only used the power of their privilege to promote classist, racist, and ethnocentric ideals, but to marginalize the cultures and ways of knowing of peoples deemed somehow less worthy of access to the Ivory Tower (think: eugenics, or anything Howard Zinn has written against). So books, at least in terms of being vast archives of “knowledge”, may have a somewhat controversial place in history.

Books are also “static,” as Dr. Weinberger calls them. Their physical construction makes books difficult to edit and update, and it is difficult to merge them with other funds of knowledge than might by complementary.

Again, we’re in a room of teachers and librarians.

Books are also perhaps one of the most beautiful, glorious inventions humans have ever created, and the benefits research has suggested books have on psychological, cognitive, and childhood development are difficult to ignore. But let’s ignore that for now, because all of that is somewhat beside the point. In fact, the way I see it, Dr. Weinberger was not in any way foretelling the obsolescence of books, rather, he was criticizing the approach to learning that books have come to represent.

Dr. Weinberger’s argument went something like this: we are in an unprecedented era in human history for the access to information and the construction of new knowledge, largely thanks to the Internet. But in addition to simply delivering information, new tools have made it possible to share information openly, and to bring information together that would otherwise live disparate lives, perhaps tucked away on the shelves of libraries thousands of miles apart from each other. And I believe it is here that Dr. Weinberger has it right. At least somewhat.

The open education and creative commons movements have no doubt created a place for people (especially scholars) to share and collaborate in the creation of knowledge in ways that were previously impossible. Many now have access to rich artifacts and resources that can help further our understanding of historic events, of scientific phenomena, and of human sociology. And sites like the Digital Public Library of America have opened their sites for developers to come and create new ways of accessing that information. The point of all of this goes back to the idea of knowledge construction – building new forms of knowledge that help us understand the world around us.

Depending on whom you ask, this contrasts starkly with the traditional concept of knowledge acquisition – the very concept upon which our current education system was founded, and indeed, much of what counts as learning is still predicated. Lost in this greater debate are two cultural artifacts that have been co-opted to represent a picture of these conflicting ideas: books and the Internet.

Dr. Weinberger would have been hard pressed to find a more stinging metaphor to relate to an auditorium of school teachers and librarians. And for sure, there is still an ongoing crisis of digital education inequity happening across many communities in our country. But ultimately, I believe the point that Dr. Weinberger was attempting to drive home was that, because of the Internet, our society is now better endowed with resources that would help serve to democratize learning and education. What is holding that process back is not books themselves, but our collective idea of what counts as knowledge. 

Hmmm… maybe I need someone to defend me now.

Getting Started with Digital Storytelling

As the name suggests, digital storytelling is a form of activity that combines the age-old tradition of telling stories (typically in the form of personal narrative, but other genres are also popular) through the use of digital tools. Digital storytelling has itself become popular among educators in past decade, due to the activity’s incorporation of writing and “voice”, multimedia, and web publishing. As such, digital stories are often an exercise in both “traditional” literacy practices and technical literacy, making it a favorite activity among education reformers and “21st Century Learning” enthusiasts.

The most often heralded advantages of digital storytelling are 1) its expressive capabilities, which utilize audio (music, as well as voice-over narration), video, still images, and other media, 2) the ability to easily combine research, writing, reflection, and revision skills into the activity, 3) the emphasis onsharing and publishing, which enhance students’ accountability and sense ownership for their work, and 4) its use of now-commonly available (and often familiar) technologies to engage students in critical thinking and analysis.

Students typically use a combination of digital photos and video that they have taken with a personal device such as a phone or digital camera, or have appropriated from other sources, (see “Resources” below for a list of public domain and copyright free sources), and a narrative voice-over, which can usually be recorded in whatever multimedia software they are using to produce the digital story. Background music and effects are also sometimes used to “enhance” the final product, which may require the use of specialized (but easy to use) audio production software.

What you need:

  • Computer or laptop
  • Multimedia software (such as PowerPoint, iMovie, Windows Live, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, etc.)
  • Optional: audio production software (such as Garageband or Audacity)

Media resources:

Instructor resources:

Example of digital storytelling projects:

Death By PowerPoint. And Prezi. And Presentations in General.

Image

I recently wrapped up a three-day technology integration workshop with some friends at an independent school north of Boston.  Over the course of our time together, we discussed everything from theories of learning with technology to best practices for delivering content, collaborating in Google Drive to institutional policies that affect teachers’ use of technology in the classroom.  And while we explored some new tools (TimelineJS) and ways of thinking about using technology to differentiate instruction, one of the most enduring questions in the back of my mind was that asked by one participant about using Prezi.

“Prezi,” I replied, “I don’t know.  I’m jaded about Prezi.”  As I climbed on my soapbox and began to pontificate on why bad Prezi presentations are just as bad – if not worse – than bad PowerPoint presentations, I flashed back to the last two weeks of classes at my school.  During those last weeks, the hallways and computer labs are aflutter after school with high school students prepping for final assessments: large group projects, research papers, and of course, high-stakes presentations.  Fast forward to the last days before final exams, and one can hear across campus the monotone droll of country-club attired young adults anxiously delivering to their peers a laundry list of information that was gathered using a combination of Google, Wikipedia, and not-well understood journal articles or other primary resources (of which they no doubt struggled to grasp because of esoteric higher academic language and the ever uninteresting format of “introduction, problem statement, methods, results, conclusions”).

Now, don’t get me wrong – one of my favorite genres of literature is that same esoteric, confusingly written research that peer-reviewers take years to publish (and upon which so many a tenured universityposition are validated), and I routinely find myself rapt by well-delivered lectures and presentations on what could probably be considered some of the most boring topics under study.  So why am I so jaded with Prezi and PowerPoint?  What is the disconnect for me, as an educator, between helping aspiring young scholars learn and develop their public speaking skills, and the mind-numbing boredom of their 5-10 minute long attempts at displaying some half-constructed knowledge on a topic that I would otherwise be fascinated to hear?

Another thing to understand is that I work at an independent school which has, for years, been a magnet for young athletes and aesthetes. Our drama program regularly wins prestigious acclaim both locally and in the greater Boston region, and our sports teams are heralded in the news for their dominating triumph across the field, court, and pool.  Performance, for manyof these students, is not an uncomfortable, or even a new, activity.  So why is standing in front of fifteen of their peers, speaking on a topic they have all studied relatively recently and in collaboration with one another, such a difficult, and often uninteresting experience?

We have all heard over the last decade of the “Death by PowerPoint” syndrome, which has prompted many an educator to explore other, and perhaps more lustrous, presentation tools.  But I fear that we are endlessly reproducing the effects of PowerPoint Death, only more rapidly and to a more pronounced effect, by thinking that a flashy new piece of software is going to make the flow of information from speaker to audience more captivating, richer, or even more efficient. Indeed, this has been my experience over the last four or five years: someone (perhaps a techie maven at a school) gives a presentation using new tool that has better designed fonts, snappier animations, and maybe even a drop shadow or two, and suddenly everyone’s eyes light up at the novelty of this new sensory input.  Folks begin hopping on the bandwagon, and before long, there is enough buzz about this new presentation software that even the most luddite teachers know about it. Some may even encourage some of their students to use it on their next presentation assignment.  But amidst all of the hullabaloo created by someone’s demonstration of this shiny new product, people often begin to struggle rather quickly with the technological differences between it and older, more enduring standbys, like PowerPoint.  Soon, the novelty of twisty slide transitions and crazy zooming of text around a canvas becomes just as mundane as plain, bulleted lists on a white background, and we start to realize that the words coming out of our students’ mouths are just as poorly formed, understood, and delivered, as they were when overhead projectors were still considered “technology” (in fact, they are probably worse!).

The strengths of tools like Prezi, which can actually expand the possibilities of information design by allowing expert users to paint rich, flowing stories, are lost on most of us.  Why? Because to achieve such a level of expertise requires time, practice, and the ability to reflect upon and critique (at a high level of discourse) the affordances and constraints of its various functionalities.  In other words, it requires a level of technological and visual literacy that we do not often integrate into our curricula or instructional practices.  And who could blame us?  Is it really worth devoting valuable classroom time and energy to learning a piece of software that students will only use once or twice over the course of the year, or even their high school career?  Let me answer that now: no.  No, it is not.  So rather than confine a student’s ability to perform or exhibit what he or she has learned through hours of research and effort to some sort of poorly-used, and not well understood technology, or simply giving up and giving students a free-pass to bore their peers by reading the text off another poorlydesigned PowerPoint slide, how about reconsidering the presentation format at a much more general level?

Back on my soapbox the other day, I told my colleagues that I thought Microsoft Word was, in some cases, just as valid, if perhaps an even more effective, presentation tool than PowerPoint or Prezi.  After our three days of talking about technology integration and planning, one of my colleagues asked what I had meant by that statement.  I gave him some illustrative examples of people using various “simple” technologies in creative, “out of the box” ways, but on my way home, I realized that what I probably should have said was, “Why do youhave your students do these high-stakes presentations at all, anyway?”  While I understand the value of public speaking and demonstrating what one has learned through the venue of lecture-style presentations, more and more I find myself asking if there is a better way to achieve these goals without the burden of anxiety and the painful, or sometimesembarrassing experience, that it causes for both the speaker and the listener.  If I answered that question myself – why have students do presentations – I probably could not come up with any answers that differ from the typical responses about developing public speaking skills or communicating one’s understanding of a concept.  As I think about it more, if “public speaking” is a valuable skill for exhibiting one’s understand, and facilitating others’ learning, why does it have to performed as a presentation?  As teachers, we know that while standing and delivering is sometimes an effective method of instruction, so are group discussion, well-planned activities, and mentoring.  In other words, “teaching.”  Does one need PowerPoint to teach?  While PowerPoint may enhance some delivery of content, I would argue that one certainly does not.  So why not have students learn to “teach,” a concept, rather than stand awkwardly at the front of the room, reading some bulleted text verbatim off a slide?  When I go back to my original comment about MS Word being just as effective as PowerPoint or Prezi, I think this is what I meant to say:

A presentation of knowledge shouldn’t be about the content one is delivering, it should be about the experience of engaging one’s audience, stirring some interesting conversation, and sparking some curiosity.  Doing this effectively requires a lot more flexibility, versatility, and understanding of the topic than it takes to put some slides together and grab a few images from Google.  If a student can do that with PowerPoint or Word, fantastic.  But what about through dance, by creating a lesson plan, by producing a video, by painting a mural, or by some other mode of performance that facilitates their peers’ understanding of the concept?  Sometimes I think it is too easy and tempting to put the proverbial technology cart before the horse.  We want students to learn some fluidity and skills using different technology tools, but if doing so comes at the expense of one’s pedagogical goals or the higher level thinking, what is the point?  Are you trying to bore us to death?