technology Archives - The Jose Vilson


The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide

EdSurge, a popular education technology website, recently invited me to write an article for them. My mouth was agape at the offer, mainly because everyone knows I won’t hold back on issues of equity. I applaud their courage for taking me on. Here’s an excerpt:

Of course, this means I am advocating for tech as tool, not tech as teacher. A common misconception, especially for many education reformers, is that we can put a set of YouTube videos in front of a student and they will learn all the material they need better than if they had an experienced in-person educator in front of them. This sort of structure, commonly known as the “flipped classroom,” assumes students will use their devices at home to get all the lecturing they need and come to school to get their activities. In theory, this sounds great for the self-motivated student and looks to “free up” teachers to innovate with the time they got back from having someone else teaching.

In practice, however, our students tend to need someone in front of them, working with them. Even online teachers need to develop relationships with their students. Most adults I speak to don’t remember exactly what a teacher taught them but they remember the teachers they had based on how they felt about them. Plus, videos can’t adjust themselves to the students’ needs and don’t align themselves to the way the teacher or the school approaches the material. Pretty colors and 3D animations may attract students’ eyes but it doesn’t automatically lead students to create ideas or delve deeply into the curriculum. If anything, the ed-tech landscape as of now suggests badges, gradients, and glossy commercials make students learn, to the detriment of students whose parents buy into it imprudently.

Read up and share with your friends! Thanks everyone.

Mr. Vilson



More importantly, if a portable reading device is more intuitive and more interactive, doesn’t that (at least minimally) connect the reader with the text? People still want to read, but no matter what the medium. Much of it is a matter of relevance and engagement. Conde Nast, for instance, made an excellent move recently by developing app versions of their magazines. Wired Magazine particularly functions MUCH better under the iPad than the print version. Computers lend themselves to a different depth than the print version. Kids get that. Why don’t we?

For more, read here. Share and share alike, please. Comment.

Mr. Vilson, who’s gonna shimmy some more to “Thriller” tomorrow …

We Get To Say We Do

by Jose Vilson on June 6, 2011

in Jose

Steve Jobs

Today, Steve Jobs and Co. blew the roof off the house with his WWDC conference today, where he introduced some mega-updates to his software on all current Apple devices. For those of us who have been buying any new devices made for mass consumption, our jaw continues to drop that Moore’s Law (the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years) has yet to fail, which is why cameras get sharper, TVs get flatter, and our phones become more feature-filled. This is all great for technology as a whole, but it boils the blood of even the most mild-mannered of us. By the time we decide on a device, a better one is reportedly on the shelves in a matter of weeks.

And that’s how I feel about these educational models now.

A typical conversation between principals who have to acquiesce to the whims of their district leaders sounds less like Sparta, more like high school:

Principal A: “Wow, we just got this brand new education program for our school. It’s going to be fantastic!”
Principal B: “Oh, that’s alright, but my teachers have that already. What we’re about to get will validate the work we’ve done for the last 10 years”
Principal A: “Oh, wonderful, but our teachers already bought into a foundation of great pedagogy from some of the greatest education speakers of our time!”
Principal B: “Right, I feel that way too, because my teachers brought in UBD and use data on top of the data they already had to continue the work they have to get done!”
Principal A: “Wonderful. Did you know that Heidi Hayes Jacobs came to our school and told us that we had a wonderful curriculum?”
Principal B: “Great, but we’re doing great things. We’re one of the first schools that says we do Elmore [instructional rounds].”
Principal A: “Oh yeah? Well we do Elmore and Danielson.”
Principal B: “Is that so? Well, we do Elmore and Danielson and differentiated instruction.”
Principal A: “Mmm hmm! Did I forget to say that we do Elmore and Danielson and differentiated instruction and Singapore Math and the Santa Cruz model!”
Principal B: “That sucks for me. We could only afford to do all of that and the Teachers’ College model.”

At this point, it’s worse than we thought. Teachers often sit there like the children of a broken marriage, hoping when one or the other will just stop the arguing so they can get back to work. Half the time, we’re wondering, “Who cares about any of these people? Are the children learning?” The other half, we’re wondering, “Does this mean that the thing we just started doing has to change again because a random outsider said so?” And the answer is a mix of no and yes, depending on what day we’re walking in.

For the last decade, teachers have raised the issue of bringing in programs like America’s Choice, some that have had good effects, but mostly that have had deleterious effects. It’s not necessarily that people like Danielson, Elmore, or Marzano are themselves wrong for education or evil on some deep-seated level. It’s that when people execute their systems, they rarely take into account the teacher expertise locally and don’t model very often what these ivory tower speakers have to say.

Now, if a principal said, “Well, I’m doing Freire, Dewey, and Darling-Hammond,” then we would be in business. But instead, we’re talking about band aids that, once these people retire from their work, will be gone like the other programs the way our Gameboys and big flip phones have given way to Nintendo DSs and iPhones. They get in the way of the things we know actually work: authentic assessment, teacher expertise, appropriate and equitable resources for schools, consistent professional development, and reduction of child poverty.

Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with our devices right now, ladies and gentlemen. Sometimes, we just want a better battery.

Jose, who likes surprises …


On Why It’s Lonely Out Here for a Black / Latino Teacher Blogger. Really.

December 15, 2009 Jose

A week or so ago, I ended a blog entry about my appearance at’s fundraiser likeso: While at times in that gathering, while chewing on some wonderful chocolate chip cookies, I mulled over whether a Black / Latino man severely outnumbered ethnically and culturally in the many educational arenas I’m involved in even really […]

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Aaron’s Revenge: A Perspective from a Web Designer on Education

September 15, 2009 Jose
Light Bulb

I‘m going to pull a Dan Meyer here and quote someone, then tell you to replace every web tech word with an edu-jargon word, then tell you that I’m in concurrence with that statement. Check the brilliance that is Aaron Halford (on 5am unrest and too much caffeine): ….Jose might be kind to you on […]

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OMG My Teacher Blogs LOL LMAO

March 17, 2009 Jose
Kids In Shock

Yesterday, my Google Image results showed up in my classroom computer. Not that it’s uncommon, but more who made it show up. A few of my students looked me up online and thought it’d be cute to revise my photos for some reason. Photo #1: Looking out towards the sky. Photo #2: Fresh in greyscale. […]

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