I Know Nothing…

I was thinking about this earlier today while mowing the lawn and listening to Scott McLeod’s discussion with Dr. Lane Mills from ECU.  The discussion turned to higher education faculty and educational leaders feeling as if they can’t say they don’t know something.  This is something I’ve never had an issue with, as I recognize there is a tremendous amount that I want to learn. Being an educator in this day and age is to be just on the edge of spiraling out of touch with the newly available technologies.  Hopefully I’m keeping from dropping totally off the edge of that map.

The post title was inspired by some of the math my brain began to spin while listening to the previously mentioned podcast (thanks to Douglas Adams for the inspiration).  Here is what we know:

  1. I have a finite amount of knowledge.  I have not learned everything their is to know, nor everything I’m interested in knowing.  In fact, there is a rather limited amount of things I have focused on learning.  Though I could not sit and put a number on the things I know, there is without a doubt a finite number to those facts.
  2. In a world where the amount of information is increasing at an amazing rate we are quickly reaching a near infinite amount of knowledge.
  3. If we try to determine a percentage of what I know compared to what their is to know, what happens?
  4. We take what I know (a finite number) and divide it by how much information their is to know (a number approaching infinity)…and if my math skills serve me correctly, any finite number divided by infinity is:


So there you have it…I know nothing, you know nothing, even the two of us together know nothing…and unless you learned something from this post, you now know less than you did before you began reading.  So get over it, recognize we’ve all got a long way to go, and get learning! NOW!


Geocaching and a new iPhone App

I’m not sure how many of you out there are using geocaching with your students, or even how many are familiar with geocaching. From the Geocaching website:

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

The basic idea is this: users log on to the site, get the coordinates for some container hidden nearby, use a GPS device to head to those coordinates and find the container. The educational value here is somewhat hidden but enormous once you begin to dig deeper.

  • Caches are often hidden at historical areas. A recent find in our area took us to the grave site of the first native born Governor of North Carolina who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Dobbs Spaight.
  • The connections to technology and GPS satellite use can be used to discuss triangulation and the infiltration of technology into everyday life. GPS chips in cell phones, car and boat navigation systems, and other uses have made what was once a military-only service available, and used by, the masses.
  • There is also the Earth Science connection where you can examine landforms, talk about environmental issues, and deal with distances around the planet, etc.

Curricular Connections

Our school has used Geocaching as an activity to explore curricular goals. Earlier this year, after my classes created Reebops to study genetic traits, I hid a number of “Reebop Families” around campus and found the coordinates for those positions. Then I created some simple math problems for students to work out and determine the coordinates for the “last known Reebop sitings.”  They used their GPS units to navigate to the location, photographed the Reebops in the wild, and examined their family traits upon returning to the classroom. We then pulled up Google Earth and plotted the locations of the Reebop families around our campus, discussed why some exhibited one set of traits, while others showed different traits.  We discussed geographic separation of organisms and the effects on genetics, all the while the kids had the opportunity to get out and move and be active around our campus.  We also practiced “Cache In, Trash Out” as the kids took plastic bags with them to collect garbage around campus as they went looking for their Reebops.
iPhone/iTouch App

Recently, GroundSpeak, the organization behind the Geocaching.com site has released a Geocaching iPhone app.  This $9.99 app is one of the few that I have purchased, normally opting for a free alternative. Trust me when I say, the money was well spent.  Using the App, you are able to search for caches within your local area by searching your zip code, using current location data from your cell phone provider/wifi hotspot, or by using addresses associated with your contacts.  The App shows you a list of nearby caches, allows you to look at their description, coordinates, hints, and recent logged activity.  You are also able to post Field Notes about caches that you find. If you are an iPhone user these can be uploaded over AT&T’s 3G network, iTouch users are able to save their notes and upload them whenever there is a wifi connection.

Paperless Caching

One of my biggest annoyances with Geocaching was the previous need to plan out a route for my caching trips, including writing down the coordinates, hints, descriptions, and other information.  It was either that or print out gads of information to take with me.  Now, with the Geocaching App, I’m able to store caches for offline viewing.  Everything is stored including Hints and Logs.  Planning my route now involves following the map for areas near where I will be, clicking on the cache to see if it’s one I’d like to attempt, and saving it for offline use.

If you are an iPhone user, you can even use the phone’s built in GPS to navigate to the cache.  Being an iTouch user, I’m quite jealous of this and would love to see it in action.

Five Things: If I Were Brave…

I originally considered this to be an analysis of many of the things Rick Wormeli mentioned in his Keynote address back at the North Carolina Middle School Conference in March.  Thanks to a comment on my original “Braver Teaching” post, I thought this would make a good blog meme.  So, what five things would you do in education/the classroom if you were brave enough? Here’s my list:

  1. Go Paperless – A large part of activities I have my students work on could be done in a paperless environment. The rest would need to be modified slightly. The lack of an “always available” computing solution makes this one difficult. Our school has several labs, and I could probably wind up in one most days, but there are still a significant number of days where my students wouldn’t have access making this one something I’ve not attempted yet. Also, would I have to stop having my kids build paper roller coasters?
  2. Get my Master’s in Education Technology, and not leave the classroom – This may actually be two brave things wrapped into one. With two small children at home my Master’s has been put on hold. I’ve long thought I would get it in Middle Grades Education, but have recently thought more about Ed Tech.  The struggle for me is not wanting to leave the regular classroom.  I get the feeling that use of technology by a classroom teacher goes further with a staff than someone who’s primary job is to incorporate tech into class activities. I also don’t want the hassle of being viewed as a technician rather than an educator.
  3. Teach on a two teacher team – I’m currently on a four person team and really enjoy working with my teammates. However, I’d love to try out a two person team where I taught both math and science. I think the opportunities for integration between subject areas would be much more plentiful when coordinating with only one other person. Also, the number of students would be more manageable with only about 50 rather than 100.
  4. Overseas travel experience – I’m so not there yet, but wish I were. I have the utmost respect for Chad Brannon taking groups of middle schoolers all over the place through EF Tours. I went on my own European tour with EF after high school and it was one of the most memorable and fantastic times of my life. I would love to have the courage to take 10 to 15 middle school kids on a similar experience, but just haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to really consider it yet.
  5. Blogging with students – One of the recent things I’ve seen discussed was that of using a blog for a digital portfolio.  Our school community is not quite on board yet with the idea of student blogging. Evidence of that was my attempt earlier this year to pilot the program with 6 or 7 kids.  We discussed it over lunch one day, they went home and talked it over with their parents, and 1 came back the next day saying her parents were willing to let her give it a try.  This is one I definitely plan to continue pushing toward for the next school year.

I’m specifically tagging Kelly Hines, Chad Brannon, Ben Grey, Paul Bogush (thanks for the idea), and anyone else who would like to be a bit more brave in their teaching lives.