Crucial Thought Rss

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Chris selected as K12OnlineConference keynote speaker Each year the K12OnlineConference provides tremendous professional development for free, and entirely online. This year, they have selected me as one of their keynote speakers. I am thrilled to have been chosen and look forward to participating in the conversation. Read the full post announcing all the keynote speakers here.

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Two quick links on Cognitive Load Theory I've been fielding lots of questions lately about Cognitive Load Theory. Here are two quick links that may be useful. First is an article talking about the practical implications of CLT on the design of learning. The second are some "recent" (as of 2003) developments regarding CLT. Happy reading! Update: I clarified the second...

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Practical advice on kids and Android app development After hearing about my students' success developing an Android app, I've gotten several emails asking for more details as to how I practically worked with my kids. Here are some pointers that I offered to the first person that emailed me, perhaps they are of some use to you. Please note that your mileage may vary. It's ok to not be...

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Publishing an App Inventor app to the Android Market As I mentioned earlier, my students and I published an Android app to the Android Market. See those links for more information on the background. This post is decidedly technical. First, once we finished the coding process, we packaged the app for to download to the computer. This is an option in App Inventor. This downloaded an .apk file....

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Designing and publishing an Android app with kids This post is designed to provide some context around how/why we decided to build this app. The more technical details of the code and how we published it will come in a future post. My students and I recently completed and published an Android app, and here's how we did it. First, the genesis for this goes back to a question I asked...

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Slideshare’s final slide deck for Presentation Design Tennis

Category : Educational Technology

A while back I mentioned that I was chosen for Day 6 of Slideshare’s presentation design tennis.

Here is the final slide deck.

What do you think of their design techniques?

Teaching undergrads in the 21st century

Category : Academics

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to design a course for undergraduate students. I’ve never taught at the higher education level before, but I’ve been teaching 6th graders for a few years now, how different can it be?

I mean that partly tongue-in-cheek and partly not. Here’s how my course design is shaping up. I’d welcome your thoughts and input.

1. My University offers Blackboard access, which I’ll surely use for a couple of quizzes and the like, but mostly our home will be on a WordPress Multi-User installation on my server, so it’s outside of official university servers. I’m going to use it as a replacement for the locked-down Blackboard discussion forum. Often profs will have students post and respond. I’d rather open it up for outside comments, too.

2. My slides are coming together nicely, with little text and a lot in the notes field. My daily plan looks a bit like this…

Greet them at the door.

Begin with attendance done by CPS IR Remotes (that I bring from my middle school)

Move into the lecture, taking into account both my own thought on avoiding cognitive overload and dan’s next gen lecturer techniques. Lecture is good, and in fact useful when used appropriately with novices. Lecture will be full of good content and good conversation.

After lecture we talk about homework, assignments, etc.

Then we move into our “educational” content arena. This is when we’ll view and discuss some of the more popular educational videos out there and discuss their value (I’m looking at you, Did You Know, Pay Attention, a Ninja video, and a few others).

This will lead to some blog posts from them, and surely some feedback from you. We’ll then use those comments and feedback as fodder for class discussion.

I think it will be a good class. It’s two days a week for a 1 hour and 45 minutes. I think the time will fly by.

I might even ask a few of you to Skype in and talk to them for a few minutes. Interested? I’ll be in touch with you.

So what do you think?


Experts, novices, and cognitive load

Category : General

I’m responding to Tim Wilson here, who touches on some very salient points regarding experts and novices.

My comment on his blog went like this…

Hi Tim,

I think the novices/expert distinction bears a bit more time here.

As novices gain expertise, the amount of cognitive load required for a particular activity lessens. As the behavior becomes automatized, the amount of load required lessens. Then, once expertise is gained the newly crowned expert can reinvest the extra cognitive load into other things.

The classic example is driving. Of course your recall how much you had to pay attention to the brake, gas, shifting, etc when you first started to drive. As that became more of a routine (automaticity was reached) you had to invest less load into driving and could focus on the other things like eating or talking on the phone. A bit silly, but you see the difference.

Take this in the classroom and a new teacher. The new teacher is at such a high level of cognitive load that he or she cannot focus on much more than lesson delivery. Once the behavior of delivering a lesson (for example) becomes more automatized he or she can then reinvest the load into more effective behavior management, etc. That’s why teachers who have been in the classroom for a long time (experts, veteran teachers) seem to have eyes in the back of their heads. The truth behind that is that they are investing load in watching students while the lesson delivery is automatized.

As for proven techniques, from a cognitive load perspective (Sweller, Kalyuga, Feldon, Ayers, Van Merrionboer and others) in order to accelerate that continuum as you say, one must practice. It is only when behavior becomes automatized can the extra load be reinvested in other things.

How does this help a new teacher? He or she should practice classroom routines ad nauseum. Not necessarily with students, but they need to be down. Everything from attendance to transitions to where to put stuff and so on. This way he or she can focus on lessons and students effectively lowering load.

There was an excellent article that speaks directly to this. It’s called Cognitive Load in the Classroom, the Double Edged Sword of Automaticity. Here is the citation, devour it and you’ll see the research behind what you think here intuitively.

Here is the link, but it’s in Educational Psychologist, so you’ll need journal access.


If you don’t have access, email me and I will send it to you (with the author’s permission, which I have).

Hope this helps..


Your thoughts?

Slideshare Presentation Tennis

Category : Educational Technology, General

Slideshare’s presentation tennis group has chosen one of my slides for their daily choice.

To see all of the daily picks (and the first four or five were done professionally, and I was day 6!) click here.

Here’s the announcement…

I think they chose mine because it makes for a nice transition between the professionally designed ones to the community designed ones.

Also please note that I did attribute the photo (it’s from stock xchng which doesn’t require an on-slide attribution) when I uploaded it.

Here’s the slide…it’s for my first day teaching undergrads and it’s time for them to introduce themselves.

Here’s the entire slidedeck thus far.

Terry is talking about me

Category : Educational Technology

For some reason, this is interesting to me. The entire conversation regarding my disagreement with Terry’s last two minute tips video took place entirely on Twitter, which he mentions.

Now’s he’s responding to me via Seesmic.

Honestly, I’d have preferred a blog post or something a bit more text-based to make it easier to process (he mentions this as well).

Here is the video for your consideration. What do you think?

Does a subject matter expert a good test creator make?

Motivation in education (also titled breaking the blog silence)

Category : Academics

I’m breaking my self-imposed blog silence. I have to. I can’t keep quiet any more.

I happened to see a tweet from Lisa Parisi about her summer to do list. I scanned through her blog which I hadn’t spent much time on and came across a notice about her being involved in a new EdTechTalk show called Conversations. That note is at the end of the post I referenced a moment ago.

This is what I said…

Are you really going to talk about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Please oh please go read everything by Eccles and Wigfield.

Then go read a fantastic book called Motivation in Education by Schunk et al.

And then, make sure you’re familiar with B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning.

Bottom line, there’s no such thing as intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

There are lots of amazing theories that surround motivation, such as the Expectancy-Value theory and others.

I’d almost rather you chat about motivation in general and get out of the specific question of extrinsic or intrinsic, it’s a false dichotomy.

Motivation in education is a much larger topic than solely that, in fact there is a large body of research that indicates that this dichotomy is totally wrong.

Lots of folks are doing great work in the arena of motivation. Please go search them out and involve them in your conversations. I dare you to contact Schunk, Eccles, Wigfield, Feldon or any of the other major names in Motivation and ask them to appear on your show.

If you do, you’ll surely learn a lot and get beyond the echo chamber of intrinsic v extrinsic and what we all do in our classrooms. Let’s get some outside info from folks who have been researching this very topic for many years and can shed some real, research-proven tactics and theories with us.

Just my thinking..


I know I am going to be accused of being academic and uppity. I know I’m going to be accused of being snobby or something.

Either way, there is a lot more out there than solely the intrinsic versus extrinsic discussion. MUCH MORE.

A topic that has been running around in my head for a long time is the disconnect between the research being done at the University level and what is considered best practice on the K-12 level. A lot of what we consider best practice is not so good after all. I suppose that’s another post.

Man I wish I had more time to blog. Honestly, there’s little value in it right now as it’s not going to keep this roof over my head. I’m prepping for a sick course load next semester, so less blogging (not that I do much anyway).

NB: I didn’t link to the book in the comments to her post. I did in this note. Here it is again if you missed it the first time.


Category : General

Testing out the integration of Flowgram into WordPress.