Seeing stars

A high school science teacher brought this to my attention:

 http://www.stellarium.org

A great example of the potential benefits of open source to schools.  Compared to some of the commercial offerings, Stellarium probably lacks features and polish.  But for the high school science teacher who does a unit on astronomy, it’s “just enough” — you can learn it in 10 minutes, students can download it at home, it doesn’t issue a knockout punch to the school software budget.  I’d love to see it in a dark classroom with a good XGA projector. 

 Is anyone out there using Stellarium (or a similar program) in class?  How?

Take Two

This is the second time I’m writing this, my first-ever blog post. I started out with a “Who am I and why am I here?” approach but quickly realized that not many people care and while I don’t know exactly what I want this to be, I DO know what I don’t want it to be : one of those whiny, confessional, ego-centric blogs where everything is about the author. Suffice it to say, I know a good deal about technology, learning, and playing guitar, and I want to learn more. That’s who I am and why I’m here.

In the last twenty-four hours I had the pleasure of hearing Will Richardson and Gary Stager speak on technology in schools. Both intriguing and articulate gentleman who challenged us and stretched our imaginations about what is possible. And they smashed a few idols in the process: most notably, in Stager’s case, Marc Prensky’s “digital natives/digital immigrants” distinction. Gary gets a big cookie for deconstructing what I have recognized for a long time as a false and disingenuous dichotomy. To tell adults – especially teachers – that they are “digital immigrants” who lack the native technology literacy of kids is to let them off the hook. I think the people in my schools who would most readily accept Prensky’s argument are the same ones who have been saying “it’s all hooey” all along. Forced to abandon the “it’s just a fad” argument in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they now shrug their shoulders and say that educational technology is something for the “young guns” on the faculty, way beyond their comprehension. It’s too bad that Prensky has provided them with powder for their cannons with his argument that young people today just think differently and the old folk just can’t understand these new doohickeys the way their children and grandchildren do.

The fact is that some of the most interesting and inspiring projects I’ve seen have come from teachers who grew up writing term papers on manual typewriters and reciting Latin declensions ad nauseum. In spite of all that is wrong with education, “lifelong learners” didn’t just come into being at the end of the twentieth century. There are a lot of them out there and I’m sure many of them take exception to the idea that they are just visitors to the world of computers and the internet. Bottom line: we all exist in cyberspace and we are all constantly growing, developing, and learning there. Whether you’re 8 or 80, there’s more out there than you can ever know but for some reason you just keep on learning and stretching yourself. Thanks for reminding us of that, Gary!