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A Whole Blog of Questions

The other day, Brenda and I were driving, and talking about our son’s efforts to get into college. He has a challenge that is new to me. I was happy just to get into any university. For him, he has to get into a university, plus into it’s school of music. The school of music must also have a certain kind of program. So the options are somewhat limited, if we want to stay on this side of the Atlantic.

Writing

Brenda started talking about Martin’s essays, which are now part of the application process (and fortunately not part of the process in 1969). She mentioned, in passing, companies who will take an applicant’s essay, and polish it for them. “Wait a minute!” I said. “Kids are having their essays edited by professional writers, and then submitting them as part of their application packet?”

“Well, yes!” she said.

“But that’s cheating! But that’s cheating?”

Do the universities know that students are doing this? Do they care? How much does it cost? Would I encourage my son to take advantage? (No!)

Do you think that every word and sentence in my magazine articles are mine? (No!)

Does everyone need to be a good writer, especially as more and more work is done by teams in collaboration?

For that matter, does everyone need to be a good reader?

Certainly, everyone should know how to read. But does everyone need to be a good reader? Is it possible that a person, reading on a 6th grade level (or worse), might become a successful contributor to their society and economy, or even highly successful?

Just how silly are standards?

OK, we need educational standards. But do they need to be the trunk of the tree — or are they the roots, a foundation, upon which truly unique, curious, and talented students freely become individuals with identity, value, and pride?



2¢ Worth

State of the Blogosphere: A summary

TechnoratiHere are some high-points from Dave Sifry’s February State of the Blogosphere report, based on analysis of Technorati’s search statistics:

  • 75,000 new weblogs are starting every day
  • 13.7 million bloggers are still posting 3 months after they start their weblog
  • 2.7 million bloggers update their blogs at least weekly.
  • The blogosphere is 60 times larger than it was 3 years ago.

In the second part of Sifry’s State of the Blogsphere (Part II), he describes a new feature called Explore.

Why not use these authoritative bloggers as a new kind of editorial board? Watch what they do, what they post about, and what they link to as input to a new kind of display – a piece of media that showed you the most interesting posts and conversations that related to a topic area, like food, or technology, or politics, or PR. The idea is to use the bloggers that know the most about an area or topic to help spot the interesting trends that may never hit the “A-list”.

The list of topics comprise 65 items, from Advertising to Wine. Conspicuously missing (in my opinion) is education. I’ve noticed this in a number of technology and new media conversation communities. There is a lot of talk about the technology and the exciting potential impact on society, but no one seems interested in talking about what it means to education.

To be fair, I hacked the URL for the Technorati Explore feature to force education, and it came up. However, most of the posts dealt with immigration, religion in school, and Hillary Clinton. If we can break through the labels th

at are pasted across the school buildings of our minds, and actually see the classrooms that this new information environment enables, then I think it’s all people would want to talk about. It’s probably my own narrow point of view, but a compelling story about teaching and learning is needed — now.

Illinois Technology Conference for Educators

Pheasant Run Resort
Pheasant Run Resort
This week, I’ll be flying up to Chicago for the IL TCE conference at Pheasant Run Resort. I’ve worked at this conference once before and it has become one of my favorite. The people are great, the agenda and speaker lineup are unsurpassed, and the resort is a real treat. (See the picture)

Among the keynote and spotlight speakers are

No need to say any more, except that I will be talking about “Telling the New Story“.

If you plan to blog or podcast at or about this conference, please include the tag il-tce. This will enable searching on Technorati, and it will enable conference folks to aggregate entries about the conference. Also check out the Illinois Technology Conference for Educators weblog.

Keep up the conversation!

My New Travel Blog

Serial Teacher
Serial Teacher

I’m following Ewan McIntosh’s lead in establishing a fun blog just based on my travels. It will include pictures that I take — some because they are of beautiful places and beautiful things, and others just to prove I was there. I’ll also be telling some stories about travel, and making some observations about what I see as a crumbling travel infrastructure, and stories about people who still joyously see it as their job to provide quality service to their customers.

The first entry is a picture that I took with a small digital camera (3.2 Megapixel Sony Cyber-shot) that I carry in my computer bag. It’s taken in Philadelphia while I was waiting for my ride to Hershey for the PETE & C conference. There will also be lots of pictures taken with my mobile phone (Treo 600 with a truly lousy camera that sometimes delivers some interesting affects as a result its lousiness). I will occasionally carry my new Nikon D70 digital SLR camera for the truly breath-taking scenery. I will definitely have it in Palm Springs, for the CUE conference coming up.

So visit the blog regularly, or subscribe [atom]. It’s called Serial Teacher.

What does this Mean?

Home at last, and mostly caught up on e-mail — mostly. I observed something about myself today and about this day and time. As I walked by the table, where Brenda places my mail, I saw a the familiar red Netflix envelop. At that moment, I could have easily picked up the packet, opened it, and pulled out the DVD to see what movie or TV show episode had arrived. Instead, my first inclination was to pull up the Netflix site when I reached the computer in my office, to see what movie had arrived.

What does this say? Am I lazy? Geeky? To wrapped up in my work and my message? Or did I just not want to separate the envelop from the DVD yet, knowing that there lies the root of all lost things?

Your guess is as good as mine!

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Richard Florida Presentation

Richard Florida PanelPerhaps more than anything else. Richard Florida is credited for making a compelling case for the connection between economic growth and creativity. Throughout the address, he refered to the Creative Age as a contrast to the Industrial Age.

He explained in the beginning that he would be talking about creativity and globalization, and not so much about education. I think that it was all about education. He said (and I paraphrase only slightly) that, “The transformation from industrial to creative economy is as big, no bigger, than transformation from agriculture to industry.” He continued, “We innovated enormously during the previous transition. Our challenge to innovate today is even bigger.”

The golden age of America (1950s and 1960s) took over 100 years to establish. We have much less time, now, and it may not see it happen. Florida says that he is optimistic in the long run. For the first time the logic of our economy is known. We know what we must do. We know that we can no longer generate wealth through physical labor and raw materials. We must develop our creative capabilities.

In America 40,000,000 people work in the creative sector. This includes engineers, scientists, artist, entertainers, etc. It’s 150,000,00 world wide. He said that if you take salaries of the three major sectors (manufacturing, service, and creative), the salaries of creative sector are more than the other two combined.

In the next 10 years, we’re going to lose 500,000 manufacturing jobs. Grow 5,000,000 sevice jobs. Grow 10,000,000 creative sector jobs. 400,000 jobs in entertainment. This is all in the next ten years. Not only is this all changing our economy, but it’s also changing how we do things. The way we use our time, structure our day, conduct our leisure, and manage our cities.

Florida stresses that we are not just talking about attracting the creative class. The point is much more basic — the critical thing we must understand. Every single human beeing is creative. A big part of the fix is education, but there are other avenues that we must entertain. We’re losing 65% to 70% of the creative potential of our people.

Toyota realized that the real creative potential was on the plant floor. The creativity that brought Toyota out was the workers. The real source of innovation is in the trenches. (Whoa! Teachers are where the innovation is. How do we tap into that. How do we encourage, value, and share the creativity of the classroom. How about students. How do we tap into the creativity of our students to affect education?)

Creativity knows no boundaries. Sex, color, nationality. It’s universal. This is why, the places that are seeing their economies growing are places that are open and tolerant. In America, we cultivated an environment where creative people wanted to be. So much of our high tech (five of six of the founders of Intel were not born in the U.S., the founder of Amazon, and many more. I need to get that list)

In the U.S. we have three deficits. Budget and trade are the ones we talk about. But the one that we need to really worry about is our knowledge deficit. 30% to 40% of our computer science depends on immigrants. Yet we are restricting immigration at a crtical time. In New Zealand (home of Peter Jackson’s moving making facilities), immigration is run by the technology department.

The common theory of globalization suggests that due to the knowledge revolution, the world is becoming more level — flat (The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman). This is half right. Technology and communication have allowed the world to become flat. But there are always two sides. Economic activity is also re-concentrating into fewer and fewer places around the world. Creative people must cluster together in order to be productive. Cities are growing bigger and bigger and bigger. There are about a dozen (i.e., Shanghai, Bangalore). The world is not flat, but spikey. Florida says that we are in one of the innovative centers, here in the Research Triangle. In addition, the world is not only becoming more oriented around cities but the cities are becoming disconnected from their countries.

Florida then talked a bit about what makes people happy (i.e. how do you attract the creative class). He said that when asked, most people say that it is family and friends that make them happy. Many say that its their work experience and challenge. Rarely do they say that it’s the place that they live. However, a recent Gallop poll indicated that where we live has much more to do with our happiness than we think. What is important about the place we live are safety, education, government, and leadership. But these are the basics. They found that there are two prevailing aspects of where you live that run across all demographics. Number one is the aesthetics of the place. How it looks. And the second is our ability to express ourselves. Both were higher than all other aspects.

Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS, and June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Schools, joined Richard Florida for a panel discussion, and they opened things up for a few questions from the audience. I did not take notes during this part of the session, because it was very difficult to hear both Goodnight and Atkinson. But here are some of the themes that came out.

Richard Florida admittedly played the part of the provocateur. He suggested, without advocating, home schooling. He also said, “We have to get rid of the bells. We have to get rid of the idea that the cell phone is the enemy. The classroom should look more like a studio.”

The importance of attracting more children into the fields of science, mathematics, and technology were also discussed, as well as the need to modernize classrooms with appropriate technologies. Goodnight talked a bit about their Cary Academy, a high-tech prep school built by SAS. I need to make another visit there some time soon.

Richard Florida does not like testing. He said so several times, and seemed pretty passionate about it. He described himself as a dropout who stayed in school, but focused his efforts on playing in rock bands rather than study. He dropped back in during college. How many of us could characterize ourselves similarly?

June Atkinson defended North Carolina’s current direction adequately, saying the right things from my perspective. I would like to have seen a more forceful expression of some outside the box ideas, but I suppose she is not in a position to do that. She did talk about a different kind of teaching, a different kind of learning, and classrooms where students are becoming creative inventors (my words) at the same time they are becoming more knowledgeable. I want to see what that looks like. We need a story.

Another theme that generated a lot of discussion was the appalling dropout rate. At least they’re telling the truth now and not cooking the numbers. Public education in North Carolina is losing between 35% and 40% of its students from the time they begin their freshman year and graduation. Some one in the audience suggested that the not allow students to drop out of school until they reach 18. That’s not the problem. It’s the school that are not serving the needs of today’s kids, that’s the problem. But that’s just my opinion.

Near the end of the event, when they said that they would take one more question, I enthusiastically raised my hand, wanting to ask about the teacher dropout rate, the crisis we (in North Carolina) are facing as we need 10,000 new teachers every year and are graduating only 3,500 from all of our schools of education. I was also going to suggest that we try to envision a teacher who are empowered to be creative and creatively empowered students. I yielded, however, to Bill McNeal, the Wake County Superintendent, who made a passionate plea for the resources to restructure teaching and learning in North Carolina.

In closing, I do not remember who said this, but it rings very true to me.

The worse thing a student can say about homework is that it’s too hard. The worse thing they can say about a video game is that it’s too easy.

I’ll have to use that one ;-)

357 Steps

I had a fabulous time yesterday with educators in Cherry Creek Colorado, just east of Denver, but in sight of the majestic Rockies. Over 160 educators exploring contemporary literacy, the new shape of information, and the unique world (and learning skills) of Millennials.

I haven’t had time yet to work through my notes from the Richard Florida speech and subsequent panel discussion, but perhaps on the airplane today. Until then, I want to suggest that any child (or adult) who has played Roller Coaster Tycoon, would be aghast at the layout of many of the travel facilities that I use.

Yesterday, I stayed at a hotel in the vicinity of Cherry Creek. The name will remain nameless, but it was one of my favorite chains, and it will continue to be. But in the morning, when I woke, and needed a hit of Caffeine, I set out in search of their convenient soda machine. I walked straight to it. Unfortunately, the walk took a good number of minutes, and when I found it, the machine did not work (an increasingly common occurrence). So I got on the elevator, went to the next floor, and found a machine that did work. Then I decided to count my steps back to the room.

357

Now I reference Roller Coaster Tycoon because this is a game where the player designs an amusement park. they layout the roller coasters and other rides, design the paths, and all other amenities. The task is to make money by serving people. But the digital people, who are provided by the game, are particular about their comfort. So the most hair raising ride will make no money if the paths are too narrow or if there are no concessions, bathrooms, or water fountains in the vicinity. You design to serve people. It is very cool, very compelling, and one of the most successful video games out there.

Don’t get me started about the hotel I’m leaving right now. The story would involved broken plumbing, clogged drains, no staff to fix it, and they left me with a plunger and extra towels to deal with the mess. Won’t be staying with this hotel chain again.

Sorry for this downer of blog. No time to add sunlight to it. It’s too early in the morning, anyway. But I’m on my way home. That’s a very very good thing.

More Later, but…

Richard Florida at the Friday InstituteYesterday started out with a blast. The Friday Institute will be holding a series of forums, and the first was with public policy academic, Richard Florida. This guy is so on point with where we need to be going in order to haul the decline that my country is experiencing. My favorite part of his delivery was that everyone is creative.

The rest of the day was four and a half hours in the air (mostly working on my presentation slides) and almost four hours in airports (mostly looking for wall outlets).

Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate on Florida’s speech and the subsequent panel discussion with SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, and NC State Superintendent, June Atkinson, because I have to get ready for today’s workshop.

But stay tuned. More Later…

A Day at Home

Blogging at lunchWell, that was yesterday. I spent most of the day trying to get caught up on e-mail, fixing a couple of programming problems, and giving it up and going out to a movie in the afternoon. That’s the charm of being self-employed, Will and John. It’s been four months since I did a matinee, but it’s there.

Today, I fly to Colorado to work with a school district there. But first, I’ll have the pleasure of sitting in the audience for Richard Florida, a public policy professor and author of The Rise of the Creative Class and the more recent, Flight of the Creative Class. The lecture, and following panel discussion (Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS and June Atkinson, NC State Superintendent of Public Schools), will be held at the Friday Institute, where they may have guest WiFi. If so, stay tuned after 10:00 AM EST. I may be able to moblog it.

My play day at PETE & C ended out not giving me a chance to see sessions. So many friends and acquaintances to run into. It was truly an exceptional conference. Being seen having coffee (hot chocolate) with David Thornburg, hanging out with the Discovery Educator Network folks, and chatting with Kathy Schrock in Tony Brewer’s booth certainly didn’t hurt my creds :-)

John Gould made some interesting observations on Hall Davidson’s keynote in a comment on my last PETE & C blog entry. He said,

Using websites such as my.space.com and xanga.com, they are creating their own space and identity to be noticed in this information intense world. He (Hall Davidson) pointed out that educators must understand the tools that students are using, particularly iPods, cell phones, and PDA’s. We need to ask the question, what is the effect of each on learning and how can we utilize them to enhance instruction. He made an observation that over the past quarter century, IQ is increasing as literacy scores are decreasing. If this is true, is it showing that our daily educational routines are becoming increasing disconnected with the changing nature of information?

John, you really need a blog, man!

The study on the rise of IQ comes from James Flynn, a political scientist in New Zealand. Called the Flynn Effect, he has documented how IQ has been increasing since 1947, and that it started accelerating in the late 1970s. They suggest that advancing technology is having an influence on our thinking skills. Think about the digital watch, that will do 25 different things, with only three buttons. It’s why I do not where a watch any more, and why my VCR is a 12 o’clock flasher.

Our students, on the other hand, are adept at reasoning their way into these tools and operating them more intuitively than their neanderthal elders. But the literacy issue is vexing. What kind of society will result from a generation who can adapt easily to the machines, but do not know how to think about them, talk about them, or make decisions about their worth and ethicacy?

Technology is the way that our children work. But we must teach them how to work the information. The technology is merely the conduit. It’s new plumbing. It’s information that flows through it, and although the plumbing is changing the nature of that information, its real-world knowledge, knowledge skills, and communication that people must learn to do. They will not learn it, until we start to understand their plumbing, and using it to guide their learning.

2¢ Worth…

The picture above is John Gould, working through lunch at the Web 2.0 workshop for Tech Directors.

David Thornburg on Visual Literacy

Notes from David’s presentation: [Moblogged]

David thornburgKids spend 90 minutes a day reading. They spend 4 hours a day using video. We spend many years teaching children to read. But do we teach them the grammar of images and motion pictures?

Text addresses the rational mind. Pictures hit our emotions. Now a very good writer can stir our emotions. But it’s the combination of text (fact) and pictures (emotion) that is causing the silence we are experiencing right now, as Thornburg describes and shows us the 9th ward in New Orleans, five months after the disastrous flood that destroyed it.

He asks how many people have an iPod or iPod type device. Then he asked how many had more than 100 songs on their device. Nearly every hand is going up. How many have at least 500 songs? Again, nearly every hand. 1000 songs? Most hands. Then he pointed out that the average radio station has a 100 to 300 song playlist. We live in a world of choice. Choice means decisions, and decisions mean critical use of information.

A majority of textbooks are published in the UK? How might this impact on what history books say about the American Revolution — no reporting about the atrocities that were performed by British troops. I won’t go into detail. But the implication is that we should be careful about our children learning through a single window, a single point of view. It is critical that we make sure that students are learning from a variety of primary source information.

New Literacy

  • Literacy,
  • Numeracy,
  • Mediacy
    • Esthetics
    • Mechanics
    • Communication skills

Our challenges are:

  • Storage
  • Compression
  • Finding content once you have it

A big part of the problem is the user interface. Have you ever downloaded something from the Internet, and then not been able to find it, and you then downloaded it again? That’s the single most damning thing you could say about the interface.

How do you find documents in a terabyte landscape? (A terabyte is 50,000 trees made into books.)

I’ve often suggested to teachers and librarians that they should be archiving students digital productions (music and video). I just saw what that archive might look like. Check out Safari Montage. Very cool.

[Zillow.com will map and also put the value of your house over it.]

keep looking »

Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind
(2005)

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