See You in San Francisco

Brenda and I are leaving tomorrow morning for San Francisco and the TRLD conference, at the Hyatt Regency.  I’ve attended and worked this conference a few times, and it is one of the best small gatherings I have experienced.  This is partly because of the range of interests.  The TRLD stands for Technology, Reading, and Learning Disabilities.  Another reason why the conference is so good, is that many of the attendees come back, year after year.  It is something of a community of educators from across the U.S. and I’ve made some great friends here.

Anyway, if you will be attending TRLD and blogging it, I have set up Hitchhiker with trld07 as the tag.  So tag your blogs with trld07 and if you’ll be taking pictures and uploading them to flickr, tag them as well.

So you in SF.

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Take it away! Take it All Away!

I had the pleasure of attending the Science Blogging Conference in Chapel Hill last weekend. It was a good conference, but not like the conferences that I usually work at. First of all, the sessions followed an un-conference format — though many of the presenters had a pretty hard time adhering to that formula. The goal of an un-conference session is to generate conversations among the audience that teach, rather than simply teaching the group. But some great conversations happened any, and one of the best that I was a part of was with a young man I sat and had box lunch with out in the Quad under the sun.

I do not recall his name, but he was a writer/journalist by trade, and he was attending this conference in his capacity as a writer for Duke University. His job involves translating what scientists are doing into language that ex-history teachers like me can understand. We talked for a while around our delicious wrap sandwiches, provided by the conference, and one thread that we followed for a bit was about video games, as his children are just now beginning to play them.

Random Picture
Click here to see a slide show of pictures taken at the conference by attendees and then flickr’ed.

I finally asked if he was noticing any differences between the younger scientists he works with (20s and early 30s) and the older scientists (closer to my age), that might be attributed to the former being digital natives. He said that he did see that the younger scientists were much more eager to collaborate electronically, that distances seemed to mean very little to them in their work. He very quickly added that the older scientists were catching on and adopting collaborative technologies very quickly, but that adoption was a step that they had to go through.

He also said that he was seeing another shift that I found quite interesting. He said that science use to be reductionist in nature. I asked what that meant, and he said that science was about drilling down to components, cutting out and examining bits of the world, reducing it to its barest fundamentals. He said that the younger scientist spend more time synthesizing, that they seem much more interested in systems and networks, not so much how things operate independently, but how they operate as part of a larger organism, ecosystem, or cosmos.

I suspect that all kinds of speculation might be made about why science seems, at least in the eyes of this science communicator, to be shifting, and one could probably make a case relating it to younger scientists digital experiences. The connection that occurred to me, however, was with schools, which seem to me to be in a reductionist mode still. On Saturday, I presented with Nancy Willard at the NSBA Leadership Conference, a gathering of state affiliate presidents and executive directors. After our presentations, we fielded questions from the audience.

The first questioner wanted to know how they could get their hands on an RSS aggregator. 😉

Then someone asked if the literacy skills that I was talking about were part of anyone’s curriculum. The answer is, “Yes!” My own state, for one, has been teaching and testing computer skills for more than ten years. However, it is a reductionist response to the need for digital literacy (what I call contemporary literacy). We have reduced computer skills out into their own list of standards, separated again into objectives, and performance indicators. We’ve reduced it down to components that can be discretely measured.

I don’t think that this happens entirely because of the industrial mechanized environment that many of us come from. I think it’s just easier to separate things out and teach them in isolation, especially when we believe that our job is to simply teach.

I maintain that the best solution to integrating contemporary literacy (digital literacy, information skills, computer skills, whatever you want to call it.) into what and how we teach is simple. It’s dramatic, but its simple — because teachers will do what helps them do their jobs. Teachers will do what solves their problems.

So the solution is to give them a problem.

Take all the paper out of every classroom and replace it with access to digital content, and put digital/networked information tools in the hands of every teacher and learner. Then say, “Now teach! Now Learn!”

Of course you’re going to have to provide them with time for retooling, and a little staff development, but it will happen, when they have little choice.

2¢ Worth!

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Your Thoughts for Rob! Dreamer, Rob Darrow, talks about the upcoming 21st Century Literacies Impact Conference, in UC Berkley this week.  The main sponsor for the conference is the National Council of Teachers of English.  Also involved are:

From the conference web site:

The 21st Century Literacies Impact Conference will focus on how teaching and learning 21st century skills are embedded in and supported by teacher education, assessment, and professional development. Ideas generated at the conference will jump-start collaborative efforts among invited educators and member organizations of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to accelerate the pace of reform, particularly in three “high leverage” areas: teacher education, assessment, and ongoing professional development.

Rob will be attending the conference as a representative of the American Association of School Librarians, and has asked, through his blog, for input today on what assessment looks like in the 21st century.  Here is the response that I posted, and as I say below, there is nothing new here.  I want to urge you to give this some thought, and to post your responses on Rob’s blog, so that he will have your great ideas to take with him.

..I’m envious of this opportunity that you have, to bring your voice to this Gathering — and excited that it is happening and that people are starting to pay attention.  

This is probably something that you’ve all thought about and talked about already, but I think that I’ll state it anyway, that 21st century assessment is not simply assessing 21st century skills.  I think that the assessment itself must be different.

Assessment today tends to evaluate  products: knowledge gained (multiple choice tests) and skills applied (writing and math tests).  21st century assessment should be just as concerned about process as product.  When, so much of what we learn in this decade will be obsolete in the next decade (or the next three years), a student’s ability to learn, as a skill, is perhaps more important than what he or she has learned.

That said, I think that our assessment practices should evaluate not only the facts and knowledge, but how the learner found them, what questions they asked and decisions they made, what they did with (and to) the information to add value, and how they chose to express what they found.  It’s as much about decisions as about  facts and knowledge.

Well, that’s about 2¢ Worth!

Again, please post your comments on Rob’s blog.

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Who Needs ‘Em?

Ok!  This is not fair.  But the fact is that many people see librarians exactly this way.  They see computer and think that all they need is a technician.  It’s not about the computer!  It’s about the information!

While at the National School Boards Association Conference the other day, more than one school board member came up to me, a tech guy, and asked, “We’re trying desperately to find ways to deal with budget crunches.  With all of these computers and access to online information, do we really need librarians or libraries any more?”

This is one of those questions that I absolutely love to hear — if I have an hour to answer.  It’s a question that I hate, if I only have a minute to answer.  I said that the key word here is information, that information has not only become infinitely more important than it was ten years ago, but its very nature has changed (digital, networked, overwhelming, and containerless).  In most schools there is only one person who understands this and is qualified and equipped to help the schools adapt — the librarian.  I think that this answer got me about one step toward the destination I was after, but I needed to get about a mile further.

If you have only a minute to support librarians, what would be your elevator answer?

Thanks in advance!

Image Citation:
Martian, Betsy. “nape.” Betsymartian’s photostream. 8 June 2006. 29 Jan 2007 <>.

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Three Bullet Dave

After our talk yesterday at the NSBA Leadership Conference, Nancy Willard and I signed books, an activity that still boggles me.  BTW, Nancy has two wonderful books, Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, and Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats.

After the signing we remained at the desk and talked into my iPod, which will probably be Episode 79, of Connect Learning.  While we were talking, two men came up, the executive director and the president of the Missouri school board affiliate.  The exec had seen our talk, but the president missed it and he had some questions.  After talking for a bit, he asked, “In a nut shell, what was your message?”

Well, this is hard, but it’s what I do.  Factor ideas down to three (four if you absolutely have to) bullets, forming a structure you can hang everything off of.  The are:

  • The nature of information has changed and so too must our definition of literacy change.
  • The market place has changed and so too must how and what we teach our children.
  • Our children have changed and we need to pay attention, respect them, and capitalize on the learning skills they are walking into our classrooms with.

He said, “Fair enough!”  I wonder if there’s a gig in it for me?

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Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
It’s been 30 years, but I’m back at an anti-war protest. From the looks of most foks, they remember 1969 as well. I understand that things have died down a bit, but there are still lots of people here, carrying signs, talking, chanting, and just kinda wandering around. I expect to see Andy Carvin come up at any minute. I have to say that it was kinda weird seeing folks coming back in with their signs, returning to their rooms at the Grand Hyatt. No judgment. Just differn’t.

Now a large group are trying to make a giant human peace sign. And, yes, the smell of cannabis just wifted by. That’s not differn’t.

Well, time to wonder back to the hotel. Early flight out tomorrow.

Dave & Nancy @ NSBA

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
i just finished my gig, and it appeared to be well received. Unfortunately I left my computer on the stage, so I’m typing this on my phone. Nancy is listed the types of abuses that kids engage in.

Many of the school shooting were pre reported on blogs and social networks.

A lot of what we,ve heard about sexual predators is wrong. One in five is not approached by predators. The questions were more about sexual harrassment, and mostly from other teens. We need to addess this.

The key to addressing inappropriate use and abuse, is understanding adolesents. In Korea, they found that children who are depressed make addictive use of cell phones.

I’m quiting this. Not doing Nancy’s address justice.

An In-ter-es-ting Day

This is the best picture I could get, holding my camera phone out the window of my room, which faces into the hotel.  Somewhere, down there, is a floating island with a piano on it.

It’s going to be an interesting day, because I’m at the top of the education food chain.  The National School Boards Association conducts an annual conference for the leadership of the various state affiliated organizations.  These are the presidents, vice presidents, executive directors, and other leaders of the state school board associations. 

What an opportunity, and what a unique morning — because I’m sharing the stage with Nancy Willard, of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.  It’s a point-counterpoint arrangement where it’s my job to present the rosie, “Isn’t this great?” stuff about the new web and the new information landscape, and she will provide the cautionary message about the problems, such as cyberbullying.

Of course my presentation will have its share of caution as will Nancy’s sharing many of the opportunities.  But our goal is to start conversations that will hopefully spread out across the states and across to local SBEs and into every classroom.

I want to invite you to participate.  If you would like to add to that conversation, please post a comment to this blog.  I will be directing audience members here as well, to perhaps even share their reactions and insights.

It’s time to go down and find where this shindig is happening.

Ethics Challenges & Information

A couple of days ago, I posted a question that was sent to me by Cable in the Classroom concerning our challenges, as educators, in making ethical use of the new world of digital content, and helping our students learn to respect the new information landscape on the grounds of ethics.

The question was:

“What is your greatest challenge in teaching appropriate, ethical use of web-based media to your students?”

..and I asked readers to respond either by commenting on that blog post or by blogging their response and tagging their blog with:


So here’s my response!

Content is becoming increasingly networked, digital, overwhelming.  Perhaps even more crucial to this discussion is the fact that information has become nearly impossible to contain.  You can’t keep it in a book, on a book shelf, in a library, in alphabetical order in an encyclopedia, or even on the top shelf of the magazine rack in your local drug store.  It flows on its own and is called up in ways that would have seemed completely foreign to me when I started teaching and the last half of the last century. 

Due to these changes, I believe that we are challenged, from a point of ethics, in three distinct ways as we seek to adapt what and how we teach in this rapidly changing information landscape.

Information Reliability

First of all, we are challenged by the reliability of information.  So much depends on information today.  It is practically the infrastructure that we run things on, and it is only as valuable and solid as it is true to what we are trying to achieve.  This is why it is now our ethical responsibility, as information consumers, to assure that the information you are using is accurate, reliable, valid, and appropriate to what we are trying the achieve.  It is equally our responsiblity to assure and document that the information we are producing is accurate, reliable, valid, and appropriate.  It’s why my students would be accustomed to my pointing to a paragraph in their writing, or a bulleted item in their presentation and ask, “How do you know that is true?”  It would be a regular part of daily activities that I could challenge them — and that they could challenge me.
Information Ownership
Secondly, the ownership of information has challenged not only students but also teachers, as they, in the spirit of the holy mission we are on as teachers, insist on the right to make use of copyrighted information in their teaching.  In the published-print information environment, it was easy to feel righteous in using information that we had payed for.  However, as we all become content producers and intellectual property owners, we must come to respect that ownership in new ways and for new reasons.  We all work hard to put together and publish our ideas and knowledge.  It is worth, if not money then recognition.  Equally, as we work more and more with information as the raw material of our achievements, it’s value changes, and the need to pay for it, if not with money, then recognition.
Information Infrastructure
Finally, the information infrastructure requires a place in our conversations about information ethics.  The fact is that the wires, routers, servers, airways, satellites, etc. are the infrastructure that we live on, to no less degree than our roads, bridges, and railways — and planting a virus on a network is no different from planting a bomb under a bridge.  Education alone,  invests millions of dollars in software, hardware, staffing, and staff development , all designed to protect our information infrastructure from what is simply unethical use.  The solution is not technical. That is merely a band aid.  The solution is to teach the ethical use of information and its infrastructure as a basic literacy skill, and integrate it into every subject, every lesson, every day of education.
2¢ Worth

Image Citation
Gillespie, Richard. “Information Sign 2.” EdgeNumbers’ Photostream. 30 June 2006. 26 Jan 2007 <>.

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FETC Almost Snook By Me

Not much happening in Orland on the Flickr front this year.  This picture was actually taken at last year’s conference by Steve Dembo.

I just took a quick gander at Hitchhikr, and saw that FETC is in full swing.  I’m not there, obviously, but some great presenters are: Will Richardson, Kathy Schrock, and Alan November to mention only a few who’ve been blogged already.  The blog listing was a bit skimpy until I changed the tag from fetc07 to just fetc

Special Thanks to Langwitches (German born and Argentine raised U.S. educator, Silvia Tolisano), for posting on a number of presentations.  You can follow the hubbub  of activities and photos at the FETC Hitchhikr page.

Image Citation:
Steve, Dembo. “EIMG1187.” Teach42’s Phostream. 27 Mar 2006. 25 Jan 2007 <>.

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