Kevin Blissett: Out of the Cave

Leadership, Classroom 2.0, Curriculum, China

New Blog Site

Due to the consistent blockage here in China of sites like Blogger and WordPress, I’ve purchased my own website and moved it here. Come on over.


April 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Top eLearning Tools

Jane Hart at Jane’s E-Learning Tip of the Day lists her compilation below of the top 10 e-tools for learners and top 10 e-tools for professionals (hat tip: David Hopkins at eLearning Blog//Don’t Waste Your Time).

Top 10 Tools for Learners

The current Top 10 list of tools for learners, based on contribution of 47 Learners AS AT 4 APRIL is:

  1. Google Search
  2. YouTube
  3. Firefox
  4. Twitter
  5. Delicious
  6. Facebook
    Google Reader

Top 10 Tools for Learning Professionals

The current top 10 tools for learning professionals to use in their own professional practice for creating learning “solutions” for others and their own productivity is AS AT 4 APRIL as follows, based on the contributions of 21 learning professionals

  1. Delicious
  2. Twitter
  3. Skype
  4. Slideshare
  5. Google Reader
  6. Google Docs
  7. Audacity
    Google Search

I’m currently using almost all of these tools, and I’m slowly introducing more of them to my students. Many of the tools have had a profound impact on the way I teach and keep up to date in education, and on the way my students learn and produce. 

I might also add Digg to the list as I use it often to find top articles on topics of interest.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | social media, strategies, technology, tools | Leave a comment

Yahoo Answers Homework Questions

Charles Sipe at The School Principal Blog directs us to Yahoo Answers, a site which functions to answer any question that might be on your mind, but which also has a sizable education community for students with nagging homework questions. Sipe explains:

It can be a good alternative for students who need help and can’t get help from a parent or tutor with their homework.

One drawback to to community answer sites like Yahoo Answers is that anyone can answer your question, resulting in an inconsistent quality of answers. However the point system can indicate the authority level of the user who answers the question since providing the best answer to a question earns the answerer 10 points.

Yet another good resource for students who may be too shy to raise a hand or, sadly, too nervous about bothering a busy parent.

April 21, 2009 Posted by | resources, technology | 1 Comment

Our Current Reality

Nice cartoon below reflecting contemporary communication. Hat tip: Mashable


April 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Sad State of Medical Care in China

The chances of getting top notch medical care throughout most of China are not high. I know this because I have lived in three different provinces with my family, and we have received one missed diagnosis or treatment after another, particularly here in Xi’an, a city of more than six million. I have had to become my own family doctor to a great degree; moreover, I consistently hear from other foreigners living here in China about similar experiences with shoddy healthcare.

To illustrate the point, a couple of years ago my son had walking pneumonia, which was properly diagnosed via a blood test. My three-year-old was prescribed a medication which is ineffective against this type of pneumonia. I got online and investigated many sources indicating that he should be on Azithromax. I went back the hospital and told them they had misprescribed the medication, and they consented to put my son on Azithromax; however, they insisted that he take the medication in three courses. ALL of the literature on Azithromax says it should be taken in one course over five days…period. I kept my son on one course of the medication, and he was fine by the end of the week. Scary! This type of treatment has been repeated on several occasions. (Doctors here could not even read an x-ray which clearly indicated that my wife’s foot was broken. We got confirmation in the Philippines, of all places.)

One of our teachers  recently had to have an emergency appendectomy, and the doctors almost killed him. He was evacuated to Australia and his doctors there were absolutely astonished at the incompetent care he had received.

As poor as the care is for patients not having life threatening illnesses, the chances of getting proper care if you have AIDS or hepatitis are close to nil, as is evident here.

Lingling had a long history of being ill. From infancy, she suffered colds and fevers, but when her mother took her to the county hospital, doctors would invariably prescribe some medicine and then shoo mother and daughter away, insisting there was nothing wrong with her.

But when Lingling contracted a fever two years ago, Wang Yuehong decided something had to be done and took her daughter to a larger hospital in Xi’an, in nearby Shaanxi province. Tests immediately confirmed the doctor’s suspicion: Lingling was HIV-positive. Ms Wang said she had never heard the word Aids before.

Doctors determined that Lingling had been infected from a contaminated blood transfusion given to her at her county hospital when she was 18 months old, the same hospital that insisted there was nothing seriously wrong with her. 

My family has decided that any serious illness will not be treated here in China, unless stabilization is needed before being evacuated to Hong Kong. In the meantime the government has vowed to make healthcare a priority, though I’m not holding my breath.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Facing Our Fears

denialOne of the hard lessons I had to learn as an inexperienced administrator was that I could not be paralyzed by fear in hearing bad news, nor should I avoid bearers of it. Some of us have the tendency to put our heads in the sand or work behind the scenes to correct bad news without facing those who may have negative opinions. This tactic doesn’t work. As this entry from Franklin-Covey points out, the bad news remains whether one acknowledges it or not so it is better to meet it head on, let folks know you understand their concerns, and work like a demon to correct the impression. From the blog post:

 We all can take advantage of the current economic uncertainty by contacting our most important stakeholders and looking for opportunities to grow our trust account with them. Many people are frozen and afraid to call their customers and other key stakeholders for fear of hearing bad news.  Guess what? The bad news is there whether or not you hear it. Much better to confront reality and give your customer a listening outlet to discuss challenges and feel understood than to abandon the relationship during difficult times. Now is the time to over-communicate with your customers and other key stakeholders. Give them someone they can trust by behaving in ways that inspire trust. 

Read more here.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | principal | Leave a comment

UK Teachers: “Phew!”

So the UK’s Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, assures a teachers’ group the the recent revamping of the national curriculum will not forgo inspiring the nation’s children with a strong dose of history so that it can include skills related to Twitter and other social media. Well, isn’t that special!

First of all, any school curriculum that does not adequately include teaching learners about the past is no curriculum, in my mind. Moreover, as I’ve been pushing since day one on this blog here and here, it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. History and the other core subjects are essential; and so is teaching students the skills they need in today’s world. There is time enough for a skilled teacher to fit them both in.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | social media, twitter | Leave a comment

Ride the Technological Wave in Classrooms, or Get Left Behind

ride-waveThere continues to be resistance among some in education who see learning social networking skills and online publishing as somehow outside of the framework of the set curriculum. I could not disagree more. I have seen my learners’ writing skills improve astronomically via use of our classroom blogs, and recognize that so much of social interaction, finding a job, shopping, etc. is being done online. These are skills that must be developed–emphasizing the benefits as well as the dangers–in order to prepare learners for success in their future lives.

Julie Lindsay addresses this topic in her e-Learning Journeys blog. An excerpt:

I tried to explain that my class does not end when the students work out the door. The collaboration, interaction and socialisation continues. My students interact with each other, they interact with me, their teacher, via online tools of various names and varieties which could all come under the broad term of ‘social networking’. They have their own online areas, including digital portfolios, as well as community areas. They post to blogs and respond to each other. They are out there using social bookmarking, folksonomy, class wikis, creating podcasts and vodcasts and putting them online, using social imaging (flickr) and anything else I can think of to encourage motivation and excitement in their ultimate quest for learning. I do not apologise for this. I do not essentially see anything wrong with this in 21st century learning. In fact this approach has changed my whole teaching style and changed the way I interact with the students. The development of PLEs (personal learning environments) and ubiquitous and mobile computing means I now start my classes with ‘…open your blogs, refer to the class wiki…etc’ rather than ‘..take out your books and copy from the board’.

Read more.

Photo by San Diego Shooter

April 19, 2009 Posted by | skills, social media, technology | Leave a comment

Effective Field Trips


Our school just went on a field trip to a business area here in Xi’an called Xiao Zhai. Our teachers divided students into teams which had to use their Chinese-as-a-2nd-language abilities to get local cooperation with scavenger hunt style photographs they were assigned to collect. Upon returning to school, students were asked to put their photos into a powerpoint and make a presentation to the other students. The team with the best overall photos would be the winner. 

I thought this was an effective field trip for the students involved, and it got me to wondering about other ways to create rewarding and stimulating field trips for the future. I stumbled across this post from Langwitches that details ideas for creating effective learning environments outside of the classroom:

What is in a Field Trip? The answer should be LEARNING! The reasons  should include:

  • an integral part of the broader curriculum
  • extending learning beyond the classroom
  • learning through hands on activities
  • taking learning off the page
  • building a learning community
  • connecting it back to learning in the classroom.

Ask yourself, if every field trip you are taking your students on is a learning opportunity that connects back to past/future lessons in the classroom in some way?

Field Trip 2.0 serves up additional technological pointers for enhancing education outside the classroom:

  • Google Earth
  • Google Maps
  • K-W-L
  • Video Conferencing
During Trip
  • Geocaching
  • Digital and/or Video Photography
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Audio Recordings
Post Activities
  • Create Digital Field Guides
  • Analyze Photos for Details
  • Create Narrated Slideshows, Movies, or Podcasts
  • Comic Strips

April 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Schoolgirl Punished to Death

It’s really difficult to know what to say when I read something like this. These types of events, however, seem to occur all too frequently in Asia due to the cultural, social, and professional demands put on students and teachers. Granted, discipline in American public education is probably too lax, but some of the tactics I read about, hear about, and have observed in many Asian classrooms are truly terrifying.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment