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Passionate that they learn . . . February 11, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.

I was tagged by Marion Ginopolis of MI-LIFE to share the thing I am most passionate that students learn in school and to include a photograph. I have chosen BALANCE.


Although it might seem an odd thing, I can reflect that my life has taken a steady course because I tried to see balance in all things. I try to find the other side of an argument so that I can gain a broader perspective. I have seen so many who have become obsessed with work, personal happiness, or acquisitions and they have become miserable over the years. A little balance and perspective would have helped them immensely and made them into fuller and better people. To become balanced means to reach out and learn new things, expand your horizons a little, stretch your body and your mind so that you will be able to manage the challenges that life will through your way. A balanced mind and body will help you to keep a measure of control when the ground becomes unstable.

I am not sure who I will tag next with this meme, perhaps I will not play along and just let anyone interested respond.


MVU Keynote February 6, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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freedman   Keynote address at the Michigan Virtual University conference held in Ypsilanti, Michigan, today. Gordon Freedman from Blackboard (VP in charge of Educational Strategy)

He gave an overview of how virtual and online courses were developing. Envisions a mix on in-class and online someday as part of the inherent structure of schools today.

Report: Building the 21st Century Campus

Top Four Challenges for Higher Education

  • Student Engagement
  • Institutional Accountability
  • Revenue Generation
  • Globalization

Report: Discovering and Enacting “What’s Next” in K-12 Education

NCReL report on the click patterns in the online algebra class.

Note: Students need to develop a strategy for learning
Report: Building K-20 Connections

Dual enrollment (K-12) and (College) exposure to college work is very motivating to some lower performing students

Repeats the idea that students who do not have a good reason for taking the online course do not do so well.

The online experience should be better than what they get in the classroom.  He mentioned how online could bring in online experts. I’m not so sure where they will find the time.

Kentucky has interesting programs – “Pre-K to Gray” is their take on lifelong education.
They have a unique statewide approach to education that makes them more similar to small countries like Ireland. Their benchmarks are unusual and not aligned with those of the rest of the US.

Singapore uses a lot of drill and kill and has one of the best prepared student bodies.
They note that they are missing innovation and they dearly want better innovators.
They have an eLearning week which acts as a readiness drill. Their schools for the future are quite advanced

He is hoping that the US will begin to be perceived as a global player once we get a new presidency. He suggests we reinterpret our curriculum.

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Dinner with Deborah February 5, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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meier   I am excited that tomorrow I will be having dinner with Deborah Meir. She is coming to speak at our Best Practices Conference. It isn’t every day you get to dine with a legend in education. Deborah has been teaching for four decades and has started some of the most profound conversations in education in recent years.

It was with great interest that I read about her experiences in creating a school in East Harlem when I was near the beginning of my teaching career. The students in her school, ninety percent of them, graduated and went on to four-year colleges. She inspired many of us to stay in teaching at times when it was quite difficult.

As a special education teacher in rural Ontario and south Tucson, I took her message of hope and trust in the dignity of her students with me into all my classrooms. I like to think that I still do now that I teach pre-service teachers in Michigan.

To read more about her, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah_Meier.

My Friend, Anne February 3, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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Anne   In 2002, Anne Bulger, my friend from high school, began experiencing trouble walking and exhibited slurred speech. A few months later she was diagnosed with ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The disease wasted her muscles, robbed her of her ability to function regularly, and eventually killed her. But, more horribly, the disease did not affect her thinking processes. It left her bright and insightful mind trapped inside a body that weakened with each passing day.

Her doctor, a wonderful man name Neil Cashman, strongly suggested to her that she write a journal about her experiences and share them. Last week I read her book, Ambushed: My Journey Through the Nightmare of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and it lingers with me still.

It read like a long letter from the past, the sort of catching up two old acquaintances do when they reconnect on Facebook after a few decades apart. Lately I have been experiencing a lot of this electronic reconnecting with my high school memories.

I feel sad not to have known about Anne’s illness until months after she passed less than a year after her diagnosis, but I was charmed by her quirky writing style and so happy to read of her parents’ devotion to her needs right to the end. What parent wouldn’t be so caring?

If her parents, sister, or friends ever read this, please know that a part of Anne’s life resides always in my heart. How wonderful that she has left this book behind to help those who have been touched by ALS. Thank you, Anne.

Gaming in Second Life and in General January 22, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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sl2   Another interesting comment came about from our first Second Life class meeting.

My son (17) showed an interest in the “game” world, how do you keep students out of areas they should not be in? As it was we had non-students showing up [during the meeting] . . . how do you keep your students from meeting people not associated with the class? There’s a distraction you don’t see in a normal environment. Are there parental controls on SnL?

As for keeping young folks out of the game worlds, that’s an issue. There is a Teen Grid though. As educators, we can subject ourselves to a security check for $40 US and gain access to work on K-12 projects. Warning: all your avatar info (and inventory) moves to the Teen Grid and you cannot return to the main grid. So it is best, if you are going to work on the teen level, to create an additional account and avatar.

As for gaming – there are also other things like orgies and high stakes gambling at some of the mature islands. It isn’t all educational, that’s for sure. Teen grid is a response to that. Actually, I am passionately against gambling for money but not for any moral or religious reasons. I find it an enormous waste of time and mental energy. I also find that most people entering into the lure of easy money are about to have their wallets lightened a little.

As for students entering the area in error, some of these were valid intrusions by well meaning mentors or room owners. It is possible to teleport to sections of buildings accessible only by teleportation within the island itself. That might be a solution to intrusions.

First Time in Second Life January 21, 2008

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.

sl   We had our first class meeting in Second Life last night and one of my insightful students wrote, in general terms:

From what we saw last night in our first meeting in 2nL, when do we stop learning the tool and start using it? Do the students come to class already knowing how to navigate all the controls etc? Do you teach a full class on just using the interface?

It was an exhauting meeting since we had to learn how to chat with each other and most of us were still looking around and exploring. They were all such valid questions. There is no way a professor is going to begin a class unless and until all the students have some basic understanding of the environment. That is a major learning curve for some and a real challenge for some computers. One solution adopted by some of us was to use the microphones.

I think at least two sessions of just working out the bugs before any actual real classes might barely cover it.

Newcomers’ Caution December 20, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Colleagues.
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edmt faculty

Here is a photo taken during the first meeting of the year in my Department. It’s a beautiful photograph and shows us all in our new Teacher Education Department t-shirts. It dawned on me that all five of the new faculty were cautiously standing along the back wall. That’s 100 percent of us. A few of the tall ones were scattered among us but, without exception, we were on the periphery of the group – physically and metaphorically. Just an observation. It makes sense though. We don’t want to barrel into the front of the camera. To do so would be evidence of pride, arrogance, or both. So, as our careers evolve in Higher Education, we will likely move closer to the front of the photo.

Fun with Twitter December 7, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Information, Online Tools.
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obama twitter   For the last two months I have been playing with Twitter. For those of you who do not know what Twitter is, it is a kind of instant messaging program that limits you to 140 characters. The idea behind it is that you send out brief messages to your friends throughout the day just letting them know what you are up to are any interesting ideas that pop along into your head. There are also ways to the size of long URLs so they fit within the 140 character limitation.

I met several new colleagues at a conference in Macomb near Detroit just last month and I have added several of them to my Twitter list. These are the people that I follow are also two dozen or so people who follow me so that when I type a message these 24 people can see what I’m up to. It is also possible to have these messages sent to your cell phone as text messages. I don’t bother with that.

My colleagues don’t seem to be writing very much these days so I thought I would look around for some famous names and see if they are using Twitter . Of course there is a Twitter for GW Bush and for Bill Clinton but these are intended to be used for comic relief, a Joke Tweet of the Day of sorts. Instead I am choosing to follow several of the candidates in the upcoming presidential election.

If the degree to which candidates are in sync with what geeks are doing is any indication of how many votes they will get, the Democrats have won the next election hands down. This is an unscientific survey, to say the very least. I now follow Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee, and Dennis Kucinich for brief Tweets from their campaign staff. I tried to follow Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani but neither of them had accounts set up.

Interestingly, Barack Obama’s campaign immediately replied and began to follow my tweets. This means that in all possibility somebody in his campaign is following all of the Twitter chatter to determine if there is any buzz about Obama. Presently Obama has 5,736 followers, Clinton has 145 (but hasn’t updated in months), Kucinich has only 37, and Huckabee has only 22 followers on Twitter. I will revisit this in a couple of months and see if Twitter numbers change.

Tweet me at mcveym.

Swimming into Change December 7, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in leadership.
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“The President has 100 days; you have 90.”

swimming   This is the premise for an interesting book on transitions titled The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins. I came across it while sitting in the natatorium (love that word) watching my daughter do length after length of the backstroke, crawl, butterfly, and breast stroke,

While there, I struck up a conversation with one of the other swimming dads. It turns out he is a pediatrician working in Ohio. It is a long commute and a long story but the short version is that he is in transition and is working on becoming a leader in his organization. This book was his personal homework.

Transitions certainly are an essential part of everyone’s lives as they change careers or move along in life and they should not be approached too lightly. When you are making a transition into a leadership role, you also must realize you are creating a change for those around you. Your new co-workers are figuring you out as much as you are figuring out them. The difference is that they know the invisible networks and the institutional culture, the edges of the pool, so to speak. You, as the new member of the team will inevitably spend time bumping into walls.

It is funny how we all find ways to test out the culture and reach out to find the walls and sharp edges. I use humor. I heave learned some jokes that work in Tucson fail miserably here. We learn, sometimes the hard way, where the walls are. I used to use that analogy for my students when I was teaching high school. You toss them into the big pool that is society and encourage them to figure things out. Oh, and the lights are off, did I mention that?

They flail about in the dark, in a crowded pool and don’t even know where the edge of the pool is.


It is only natural that they will reach out and push the limits of their space.


How else will they find the walls, the edges of the pool, the other swimmers, and the deep end? I tell jokes. Others quietly observe.


Still others dive into the fray, impose their will, and summarize the damage when it’s all over. I’m figuring out my own colleagues, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their patterns of interaction just as they are figuring out mine.


I think my 90 days has just ended and, interestingly, that was just about enough time to figure out the basics.

Skin on Metal December 7, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Colleagues, Hardware.

glasses   “How many pairs of eyes do you have?”

When I first began work as a Director of Technology, I would amuse myself by gathering up my network manager’s reading glasses from behind computers, under desks, next to phones, wherever you could lose them in the normal course of a day. When I reached thirty pair of them I just piled them on his work bench.

When you only have one pair of glasses, you tend to take care of them. When you have thirty pair, you become careless. Such is the case with IT security these days.  According to the Great Lakes IT Report, almost 40 percent of IT professionals have lost a handheld computer, zip disk, or memory stick. Half of the respondents copy secure data onto memory sticks and almost half appear not to have a basic understanding of basic security policies.

If each memory stick cost a couple of hundred dollars, I suspect we would be more circumspect about the information we transferred onto it and where we kept the little thing during the day. But if they are as easy to come across as a cheap pair of reading glasses, then there is little motivation to monitor them.

It’s interesting to me that part of the solution to IT security is so bound up with basic human traits and habits. In the IT world, where the “rubber hits the road” is where the “skin touches the metal.”