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“Best” Teachers


Several weeks ago I came to the realization that my concept of “best” teachers has changed dramatically. Perhaps that awareness came in part because it dawned on me that so many of my best teachers have died. But clearly my definition has broadened and become enriched rather than diminished as it has changed across the course of my lifetime.

Simpson family

Without doubt early in my life my best teachers were members of my immediate family—in fact they still are and I love and respect them dearly for how they have impacted my life. Also, I can easily identify significant high school, college, and graduate school master teachers and Carroll emeriti who nurtured my love of learning, introduced me to new ways of thinking, challenged and encouraged me, and served as role models of scholarship, intellectual curiosity, fairness, integrity, and decency.


Many of my “best” teachers, today, however, are much younger than I, or are of different species, or are scattered across the globe or, are virtual, rather than human.

I learn so much from playing with two (and almost two-year-olds) and four-year-olds in all their innocence.

*Training with Abby

Robin the Newf

Newf Teacher

Robin-the-Newf at 8 years of age continues to teach this Old Dog, if not new tricks, the value of being puppy-like.

My research assistants are always teaching me new things or by their behaviors reminding me that I am no longer nor ever will again be 21-years-of age! My new Internet International friends in Turkey and Lithuania and Spain remind me, through their teaching, of the universality of a belief in the importance of teaching and learning and of the importance of creating bridges of  learning activities across age, culture, language, and gender differences.  And, I find more and more resources available for computer-mediated professional development and self-directed learning.

Who (what) are your “best” teachers?

Curious DavidJane Hart's Top 100 Learning Tools

What IPad Apps should all university students be familiar with?

Robin is counting the days until Christmas. Maybe an IPad Air is in her future? If so, she needs apps.



What Ipad Apps should all college and university students be familiar with? I posed that question to my student research team and here are the responses they shared with me on Google Drive.

What MUST-HAVE apps are they missing? Which apps in your experience are most useful for College/University students? What makes them useful to enhancing student success? Are these tools equally useful to faculty?

Curious David

From Russia with…Love?

I would be interested in the thoughts of some of my global friends and international travelers on this piece I read thus morning. I found it insightful, well-written, and generalizable across my admittedly limited crosscultural living experiences.

Let Them Eat Borscht

Preemptively fearing that we would flounder here, our director presented us with a mathematical plot depicting the “stages of cultural adaptation” during orientation. Consequently, a sarcastically meticulous self-examination of our current stage of cultural adjustment has quickly become an ongoing joke within our microcosmic group of seventeen Americans. Take notes from the premed students – a sine curve can save your life. Culture shock, for example – and evidently a favored topic of discussion by Russians – can be split into four subgroups:

  1. The Honeymoon: You have arrived and are fascinated by the language, the people, and the food. You are so excited, not even jet lag can hold you down (!).
  2. Frustration: You become critical of your host country and the culture because you cannot understand it or are confused by it.
  3. Adjustment: After some time has passed, you begin to feel more comfortable and competent in the…

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MoveNote: Advice from My Student Consultants


This semester has been especially challenging with my teaching three consecutive 70 minute courses three days a week. I have found it quite difficult to make a smooth transition from the past 35-years of teaching in 50 minute blocks. In the past I have often had an hour between classes for regrouping, reflection, meeting with students and gathering my thoughts. I have missed very much the usual abundance of in person quality time with my student assistants. whichg is vital to my happiness.

We have often had to coordinate their work efforts for me via electronic communication. I am most fortunate to have highly skilled, patient, playful student research assistants who can respond to a hurried, fly-by query from me “learn how to use Movenote and report back to me its potential value”with a quality response like this. Thank you for your most able and cheerful support!

Here is their preliminary assessment (click on link) of this learning tool which just came to my attention. I can see this “cool” tool quickly earning a place on the Jane Hart learning tool list.

I have much for which to be thankful.

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How Can One Avoid Social Media Controlling One’s Day—or Life?

My work day begins at 5:30 a.m. I confess that I check my email and assorted social media accounts (especially Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin) upon arising, far too many times across the course of the work day, and again before bed-time.  Thursdays is my research day. There are so many technological learning enhancement tools that promise me increased efficiency and enhanced opportunity to  collaborate. I notice that Jane Hart have created a slide-share presentation of technology learning trends. I review them to make sure that I am familiar with their promise.  I visit Profhacker.  I try and make a substantive, constructive contribution to the creative work that some of my fellow educators across the globe are involved in. I have a wonderful 45 minute Skype session with an international colleague. Sometimes I get the most done by avoiding the Internet the whole day. I want to avoid the life described in the clever infographic below.

Courtesy of: RazorSocial
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Reversing the Professor Student Role

How wonderfully disruptive to find myself learning from former and present students and from fellow teachers across the world who are far younger than I. Thank you, Carroll alumna ’95 Dr. Michelle Braun, for returning to your undergraduate alma mater and sharing insights about maintaining brain health. You are truly deserving of the Joseph Runkel Award for Excellence in Psychology which you recently earned.

Photo: Carroll alumna Michelle Braun '95, Ph.D., today received the university's Joseph Runkel Award for Excellence in Psychology. She visited with students and an audience in the Campus Center's Stackner Ballroom to give a talk on brain health that was featured earlier this year on MPTV.<br /><br />See it here:<br /><br /> you, too, Irma Milevičiūtė (Lithuania), Inci Aslan (Turkey), and Luis Miguel Minarro Lopez (Spain) for introducing me to Etwinning and for facilitating and creating global opportunities for me to learn from you and from your elementary school students. I admire and am inspired by your teaching and your willingness to share. You have greatly extended my opportunities to learn and to overcome artificial boundaries hindering learning. And, how blessed I have been these past 35 years of teaching at having worked so closely and learned so much with and from talented student research assistants. You keep me young at heart. May we continue to enjoy watching Sesame Street parodies together!
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Sorting My Technology Learning Tool Box (Part 2)

Many thanks to student readers who have shared their thoughts about the technology learning tools from Jane Hart’s survey (identified as favorites by 500+ learning professionals from 48 countries worldwide). I found your responses thoughtful and helpful in informing my reflections about which tools to teach, which to further investigate, and which to use in my own personal learning plans. I found especially interesting your sharing which apps help you become a more effective learner. Keep those insights coming.

Continuing my ruminations from Part 1, I have mixed reactions about Tool #14, Wikipedia. I do use it as a starting point when I explore topics about which I know little. I am amazed at how current its articles often are.  Moreover, I am intrigued by the Association for Psychological Science’s Wikipedia Inititiative to improve it. However, I can’t convince myself of its credibility nor can I motivate myself to dedicate time to joining others in making it better.

I have played with Prezi (Tool #15) as an alternative to PowerPoint,  but find it too “jazzy” a presentation tool for my purposes. I can see how it might readily engage and entertain an audience younger than I ordinarily interact with.  I have found Tool # 16 (Slideshare) more useful as  a personal learning tool than as a teaching tool. I am fascinated with the potential of Tool # 99,  Learnist.

I can’t image NOT using Tool # 17 (Word). Though I presently prefer blogging tool WordPress (Tool # 8) over Tumblr (Tool # 65), and Blogger (Tool #18) and Typepad , that is more a personal preference that has evolved over time. Here is a recent comparison of some of the elements of several blogging tools. And here are some “scoops” about technology learning tools as my top tool preferences evolve.

Which of these tools allude to above serve your learning needs best? Why? What tools like this do you use most often?

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Sorting My Technology Learning Tool Box (Part 1)

Time to revisit Jane Hart’s Top Learning Tools list (7th edition) and her invaluable, newly updated Practical Guide—well worth purchasing, studying and using. I regularly consult it, especially the web-based version, when I am interested in trying to find a “right” tool for the particular type of learning experience I am seeking for me or for my students. In concert with Michelle Pacansky-Brock’s Best Practices for Teaching with Emergency Technologies, Susan Manning and Kevin E. Johnson’s The Technology Toolbelt for Teaching, Steve Johnson’s Digital Tools for Teaching, and Alec Couros’ Becoming a Networked Learner, these resources have demonstrably changed how I teach, how I learn, and how I “reach out” to others  via social media. Clearly, as Curtis J. Bonk has evangelized,  my world has been opened and expanded. The challenge is to find balance between tool use and the tools controlling me. For a horrific example of such a dystopia I recommend your reading Dave Eggers novel The Circle.

Though I have explored every year each of the 100 learning tools,  I have no “favorite” tool. Which tool I use most is very much a function of the learning/teaching task I am engaged in, the discretionary time I allow myself for being online, the audience I am working with, and the particular computer/operating system I am using. All these factors change very quickly.

This year I am using the #1 tool Twitter much less often than last year (when I was an active Carroll Technology Fellow) I could see my use of Twitter increasing suddenly if I decide upon  it as a tool of choice for communicating with my newly acquired and rapidly increasing global fellow-teachers. Since English for them is their strategic language of choice, limiting communication to 140 characters or less makes some sense.

Because of an increased need for collaborative work with on campus committees, cross-national collaborations, and with my student research group and because across the course of a day I move between a desktop PC, a desk top Mac, a laptop PC, a laptop Mac, and IPads, I am now using to a greater degree Tool # 2 Google Docs/Drive . Without Google Docs or a similar sharing capacity I would be plagued by not remembering upon which machine I  stored information needed to be shared.

Clearly my International colleagues (and my students) are more facile with the use of YouTube, Tool #3 and have much to teach me about its value (or lack of value) as a learning tool. Jane’s Practical Guide often includes YouTube links which I have found quite useful as an additional modality of learning how to use technology learning tools.

Tool # 4 Google search is my search engine of choice though I grossly under-use the sophisticated and nuanced search capabilities it provides.

I intentionally under use Tool # 5 PowerPoint (see the preceding link about the evils of PowerPoint!).  Tool # 6, Evernote, is one I keep intending to master and yet, the Kindle book version about it and Quick Guides about it remain neglected pixels on my screens. I even am using some Skype-recording apps which can export into Evernote—and I have found a number of occasions where I need to use Skitch to annotate a web page .  Maybe I need to read and heed this link.

I have the same usage problems with Tool # 7, Dropbox. I have it—it exists in the background of all my machines, but I have failed to devote the time to master it. So many tools; which ones deserve my time?

Tools # 8 (WordPress), # 9 Facebook, #12 (LinkedIn), and #13 (Skype) now  play an  integral role in my teaching, learning, promulgating, networking modus operandi. I’m still struggling with finding additional value from further investigating Tool # 10 Google+ and Hangouts (they just are too informal or duplicative in function with other tools) for my present perceived needs. I have ignored learning Tool # 11. Moodle since I find such LMS structures constraining

Help me out.  Help me learn. Which of these tools have you used? What am I missing in discovering their utility for teaching and learning?  Which would be most useful in advancing my interests in cross-national cross-generational teaching and learning?

Which develop skills that all global citizens should be familiar with?

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So much to learn….

One of the many joys of being a professor is being afforded many opportunities to learn and discovering new ways of learning and teaching.  My Thursdays this semester are especially devoted to research, learning, and reflection. Among today’s learning activities I engaged in were

  1. studying a successful Comenius  grant kindly shared with me by a fellow teacher from Turkey. Thank you, present and former fellow teachers Inci Aslan (Turkey) and Irma Milevičiūtė (Lithuania)!
  2. further exploration of the curating learning tool, Here is some background information I “scooped” today  to better know Turkey.
  3. having a simultaneous Skype sessions with three of my undergraduate students and a graduate student where we test the usefulness of two Skype recording applications Pamela and Callnote. Skype is becoming an increasingly useful teaching and tool for me.
  4. rediscovering an old neglected audio recording “app” Tapedeck and finding that it worked with the new Mavericks operating system OSX 10.9 and seamlessly interfaces with YouTube and Itunes
  5. providing feedback to a blog post of a teacher in Spain. I continue to learn so much from etwinning elementary and secondary school global colleagues who are far more adept than I in using learning technology

Last Tuesday I updated my MacBook Pro to MAC OSX 10.9 . Now I have the challenge of updating my far-too-many applications (I just received notice within the past five seconds of the need to update 8 of them!) . So much to learn…so little time. Yet what fun to have so many learning opportunities and new teachers of all ages and from all over the globe!

Curious David

CONFIDENTIAL: Teaching Students with Disabilities

Wheel Chair

The sealed envelope stamped CONFIDENTIAL from our Counseling Center  appears in my campus mail the day before classes begin .  Some semesters none arrives; other times I may get three or four.  Inside is a form letter addressed to all faculty teaching classes for “Student X” indicating that the student has provided proper documentation for a diagnosed (but unspecified) disability. In addition,  the letter lists special accomodations that, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, my institution is required to provide the student to better allow an equal opportunity to learn and to be fairly tested.

Over the 35 years I have received more and more such letters though whether that is due to increases in enrollment of such students, broader definitions of “disability,”increased enrollments of students in general, or increased fears of law suits is unclear to me. Although I actively endorse the concept of equal learning opportunities and I clearly indicate in my syllabus that I am open to private discussion with students about any special needs, I often question whether I should be privy to this information and wonder whether there are better ways or better times to communicate it.

I have taught students with a wide range of ages, abilities and “disabilities.” It is definitely helpful to know in advance if a student has special physical needs (e.g. wheel chair access; special versions of course materials) in the classroom or if their presence may mandate my changing how I teach. In my classroom all students are special and all have special needs. I make special efforts from day 1 to create an atmosphere of trust so that students will feel comfortable alerting me in timely fashion to idiosyncratic special needs or special learning or testing accomodations. But I am also wary of prematurely labeling a student—or of reinforcing their dependency. So many times such students and I have been able to celebrate their academic successes without the recommended accomodations. It is especially thrilling to see them graduate having developed skills to succeed academically.