Fear & Death! Fear & Death!

Yesterday’s post (And a Picture, Too), about the high school senior whose name and picture were included in her Charlotte Observer review of the movie, Fracture, generated a lot of conversation — especially for a Sunday.  The responses sat pretty much on opposite ends of the issue’s spectrum, initially reporting dismay at the news paper

…readers now have the girl’s name, face, area of residence, approximate age, and school district.

Also expressed, was dismay at all of the hysteria,

It seems to me that the raising of concern about publishing a name and a photo reveals not only a certain sense of unjustified paranoia, but also a real misdirection regarding the source of potential danger.

Given that this misdirection is so evident, one wonders why it would be perpetuated.

Safety is certainly a concern, but what truly concerns me is our desire to be afraid.  Where does that come from?  Why do news sources and politicians get so much mileage out of fear and death.

I saw it again in this month’s EdTech, a CDW-G sponsored magazine, that is actually quite a good publication.  But this month, the cover offers in bold print Cyber Predators, and features an elementary school child, sitting on a raft, using a laptop computer, being circled by sharks.  Fear & Death!

The story reports on two gruesome cases of girls who were murdered.  One met her killer in a chat room, and the other was reported to be active in MySpace.  These stories were directly followed by the sentence…

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five children ages 10 to 17 has received unwanted sexual solicitations online.

Although cause for concern, the Justice Department report is somewhat less shocking with it is read in its entirety.  According to the same report, 16% of the solicitations came from females, 43% were younger than 18, 30% were between 18 and 25.

Again, this is a reason to be concerned and to teach safe practices when using the Internet — and it is quite a good article (Thwarting Cyber Predators) offering valuable tips.  But the image of one in five teenagers being stalked by sexual predators is far from substantiated by the actual statistics.  I look forward to every issue of EdTech and have written for the publication and will continue to if asked.  And although I respect and like their editor, I do not respect their portrayal of the dangers of Internet usage.

It’s all about a system that is floundering.  We’re looking for solid places to pull ourselves to or to push off of.  We’re looking for the new pavement on which we can get traction, and the best way, in my opinion is through these conversations.

What do you think?

Image Citation:
Babick, Betty. “Safety?.” Betty Babick’s Photostream. 28 Apr 2007. 30 Apr 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/bettybabick/475834261/>.

And a Picture, Too!

I’m at home, in my home town, in western piedmont North Carolina.  I was just reading a movie review in the Charlotte Observer about Fractured, a suspence thriller that Brenda and I went to see last weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed. 

The review was right on, reporting just enough of the plot, the ease at which Anthony Hopkins played the confident but obviously guilty murderer, and Ryan Gosling as the over confident and unlikely hero.

At the end of the article, the reviewer was described as a 12th grader at a Charlotte high school — and they provided a picture of her.  This confuses me in about seven different ways!

Never Underestimate the Power of a Superintendent

 Superintendent of Greene County Schools
Steve Mazingo, Superintendent of Greene County Schools

On Wednesday night, I was invited to a leadership dinner at the MICCA conference in Baltimore.  It was good food and good thought.  Anthony Salcito, General Manager for Microsoft Education, gave an engaging presentation about Philadelphia’s School of the Future.  He talked mostly about what went into the planning and the catalyst for wanting to create models.  Salcito said that they were spending less per child at the School of the Future than was being spent at other Philadelphia schools.  I’d like to see that analyzed and explained.

Salcito was followed by Steve Mazingo, Superintendent of Greene County Schools in eastern North Carolina.  As Anthony described what went into the planning for 21st century learning environments, Mazingo demonstrated what the outcomes might be.  I grabbed a couple of his slides with my camera, and according to Mazingo…

  • 53% of high school students were at or above grade level before 1:1, and now it’s 78%
  • 59% of middle school students at or above grade level before, and now it is 76%
  • Prior to 1 to 1 laptops, 25% of high school graduates entered college.  Last year it was 79%.  84% have already been accepted among this year’s graduating class
  • Teen Pregnancy rate was #2 in North Carolina.  Now it’s #18.

I know Greene County and much of that part of the state.  It is incredibly economically depressed.  It is almost exclusively agricultural with almost no industry.  Mazingo reported that they have just built a community recreation center and a golf course resort, and in the first two weeks, they sold out on the first two phases of property offerings — people who wanted to move in.  Knowing the area, this probably impressed me they most.  They’ve made Greene County a place people want to move to.

I’m sure there are other factors, but I suspect that their 1:1 initiative was the catalyst…

Oh yeah!  I almost forgot.  We are so often impressed by the multimedia shows put together by young students.  At the end of his presentation, Mazingo played a multimedia show that he, a superintendent, had produced.  Now I’m really impressed 😉

Grand Theft Calculus

I’m sitting in a session being taught by Scott Osterweil, inventor of Zoombinis and director of the Education Arcade at MIT.  The session is, of course, about games, and he just distinguished between the two far extremes of the game spectrum, from the gamer, who imply that we should just take kids out of classrooms, have them play games, and they learn what they need to know.  The other end is obvious.  The effect is too often, somthing that he calls  Content Stuffers.  You take a game concept, stuff content into it, and then expect players to learn.  He shows a picture of “Grand Theft Calculus.”

He has also described a study that demonstrated that kids, under many circumstances learn more by playing a information experience than when they are taught it.  This is not true for everything, but it illustrates the power of play — the freedom to play.

The four freedoms of Play

  1. Freedom to experiment
  2. Freedom to fail
  3. Freedom to try on identities
  4. Freedom of effort

4 freedoms of play = 4 freedoms of learning ≠ 4 freedoms of school

What about fiction?  It’s entertaining.  It was originally about entertainment.  Some is appropriate and some not.  But we teach it, and we teach with it.  An interesting idea.

Scott is not demonstrating a new game that is still under development at MIT.  It is called Labyrinth (working title) and it starts with no instructions.  This is one of the most interesting cocepts of many of these games, to me, is that you go into the game environment, figure out what the rules are, what the goal is, and how to use the rules to accomplish the goal.

I had to leave after that…  My only chance for a meal today.

Playing with Light

great gameI walked over to the Inner Harbor at lunch, to find some good food and some quiet.  I ate at Phillips, in what was essentially a food court.  After I finished, and was walking back through the mall area,  I saw a young mother and her daughter, perhaps two years old, jumping around on the floor.  As I eased over, I realized that there was a projector mounted on the ceiling, directly above them, projecting a game court on the floor.  There was a  digital ball (of sorts) bouncing off of the projected walls, and the two were trying to step on the ball the change its course to the opposing goal.

It was one of those times when you just seen, for the first time, something that you suspect will be huge in the future.

The Change Process

This article was mo-blogged, so please excuss any misspellings or awkward wordings

The Change Process and How Schools Change With Technology with David Marcovitz.  I was not originally coming to this session.  It didn’t tap me on the shoulder when I was going through the program.  But as I walked by the sign, saw it, read it, and I walked in.

In a single bulleted slide:

  • Change is a Process (Hall and Hord)
  • Some are Quick, others slow to adopt (Rogers)
  • Innovation must be judged differently in each situation (Bruce)

A model of innovation, (when all you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails)   Innovation is not the main character.  People are.  Innovation is not at the center.  It is only one element in a very complex system.  Sometimes we push blogging or podcasting or information literacy, and it looks like a hammer from within that complex system.

Support is another actor in the efforts to innovate…

The models of

The three models that he describes are:

  • Concerns- based Adoptions — states of concern and levels of use
  • ACOT Model — five stages
    He likes this one.  It’s be around for a long time.
    1. Entry (first-year teacher problems
    2. Adoption _ new tool, same routine (symbolic change)
    3. Adaptation — increased effectency
    4. Appropriation – changes in practice and beliefs (real change)
    5. Invention — new beliefs about teaching
  • Szabo — three stages
    1. Play
    2. Use
    3. Create

Here are the conditions that are needed to be innovation-friendly(P.D. Ely)

  • dissatisfaction
  • knowledge and skills
  • resources
  • time
  • rewards and incentives
  • buy-in
  • commitment (from administration)
  • leadership

I think that I’m going to be doing a lot of reflections on this session.  There was something serendipitous about running across it.


Somebody's HouseI want to apologize to the owner of whoever’s house it is that I keep landing in, every time I try to teleport home in Second Life.  I think that perhaps it wasn’t there when I first set that landmark.  It’s the one just by my left hand, with the white roof.

Fried iPod and other assorted thoughts

Thanks to history teacher, Dave Ehrhart, for correcting my on the name of the ship, here in the Boston Harbor. It’s the Constelation

I had so many wonderful and stimulating conversations at the AIMS event this week.  I did a Web 2.0 conversational session at the conference (actually all of the sessions were conversational), and there was such a difference between what educators from independent schools  want/need to talk about and educators from public schools.  The major focus was on pedagogy, how to get the most instructional benefit out of blogs and wikis.  In public schools the focus is on how to get administration and school boards to allow blogs and wikis.  That’s not to say that permission is smooth sailing for private schools, and that there aren’t public schools who are making brilliant uses of the participatory web.

Anyway, my reason for mentioning this again is that I’d recorded a lot of these conversations for a podcast that is very (very very) late in coming (I guess it’s been a month) — and when I started to put it together, I found that my recordings were all scrambled.  Hard drive problems on my iPod.  I restored the software with iTunes, and as a result, the iPod wouldn’t even boot.  I tried restoring again, the next day, and now it’s working, though as I listened to my Lincoln Child audio book on my drive from St. Michaels to Baltimore yesterday, there were hesitations in the playing.  I suspect that my iPod is showing its age.

So, some more waiting for my next podcast.

taxi?Finally, I’m in Baltimore now, getting ready for the MICCA conference (hh), being held at the Convention Center.  It’s been many years since I was here, probably back in my ThinkQuest days.  Having a couple of hours before sunset, I took my cholesterol walk around the harbor.  There were lots of families and other tourists and some business people out and about, and the traffic was pretty tight.  But it was all very pedestrian, and I had a good walk.  One of the most interesting things I saw were two NEVs (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) that had been converted into taxis.

Lady MarylandThere were also a bunch of interesting ships in the harbor, including this replica of a Chesapeake Bay Pungy schooner.  I guess that the most amazing sight, to me, was The Constitution Constellation, the Navy’s oldest ship.  I tried hard to get a picture of it, but with only my cell phone as a camera, I just couldn’t get the whole thing in the picture in any kind of meaningful way.

But what struck me, was what people must of thought, who might visit a harbor town in the 19th century, and see such a sight.  How amazed they must have been, that people could build such a thing that could sail, almost undaunted, any ocean it wanted.  How small and humble it must have made them feel and at the same time, proud.

May we never forget, what we can achieve — today!

The AIMS Conference Retreat 2007

AIMSI’ll be writing this blog over the day, sharing some of the things I learn, hear, get validated, and some of the fun and energy of this very interesting conference.  It is first important to note that although they don’t call it this, the AIMS retreat is an unconference event.  All of the breakout sessions are intended to be conversations.  I just finished a session on Web 2.0, for which I spent about ten minutes introducing the concept and the rest of the time presiding over conversations.

I have said before that having this conversation with independent school educators is quite different from where we go when exploring the issues with public schoolers.  Although security is a huge issue for private schools, and mention of it came up several times during the session, just about all of the conversation was about instructional applications. 

One of the primary issues discussed was how to get kids to converse on their blogs in a deep way.  There were lots of suggestions, but the consensus seemed to be that when kids write as a conversation among themselves, for themselves, they seem more willing to take their writing to deeper levels.  If, on the other hand, they are working on what is seen as a teacher assignment, then the tendency is to write what they think the teacher wants to read — and that is usually more shallow in depth.

Michelle Moore is back, feeling a bit better, and she is doing an overview of Moodle.  She’s doing an excellent job of describing the various modules with examples.  I’m sold.  She’s using a Moodle course called Welcome to Moodle from Remote-Learner.Net.  You can click here to go directly to the course.  However, it may ask for a login.  You can select guest login.

Michelle is amazingly good at using a remote mouse control.  I’m very impressed.

Now this is interesting.  They are starting to talk about Moodle and curriculum mapping, ways that Moodle might be tied to a schools curriculum map, or curriculum map tied to teacher’s Moodle resources.  I do not understand the environment enough to understand where they are going, but there is definitely some excitement in the room.

I’ve moved to a session called, Back to the Future: Information Landscape: Past, Present, and Future.  I wish I could sit in all of these sessions, and that I could have started with this one.  These folks (mostly librarians) are talking my language.  They are talking about research assignments, and a young man (Fred Haller) states that it is essential that a research question be crafted that can not be easily found with a single search of Wikipedia or even Encyclopedia Britannica.

The very important question has been asked.  What’s going to happen to the library space?  There was a lot of talk about the tactile nature of books – that people still want to use books.  But Fred, again, held up his tablet PC (a lot of Tablets at this conference) and suggested that the form factor still has some evolving to do.  Will there be a device in the future (near future?) that truly replaces the book as the desirable way to read?  If so, what happens to the library space?  I suggested that I had heard, during their conversations, a lot about reading and research.  But I’d not heard so much about processing information and compellingly communicating it — other parts of the literacy spectrum.  I then suggested that they think about encompassing all elements of literacy and turn their libraries into places where people come not only to consume contention, but also to produce it.

I final question from the presider at the end.  What about copyright.  It didn’t get talked about here, but it is something that must continue to be thought about and become a part of conversations.

It’s the afternoon now, and I’m in a session on distance learning.  But I was reminded, during a lunch conversation, how difficult it is (impossible) to address the needs of education, without also considering much much larger issues of society.  Just thought I would drop that in here.

There is a lot of talk about MIT and Stanford — and that the University of Maryland is now offering online courses available to high school students.  An initial concern among the group is, “do I have enough bandwidth?”  One participant said that the distance learning courses their students take are only text.  Very little bandwidth is needed.  Michelle Moore suggested later in the conversation that distance learning courses will likely become more media-rich with audio and video. 

The session has become rather geeky, which everyone seems happy with.  They’re here to learn what they need.  I don’t understand a lick of it.  Finally, someone has asked the question.  Why?  What problem(s) is distance learning solving for us?

I’ve moved to a session called,  Splendor in the Class: Connected Students – How Much is Tool Much?  This might be the central theme for my closing address.  Connectedness!  Why do we need to be connected?  When do we need to be connected? 

What is the need, among us tech savvy people, to always have our cell phones and Blackberrys available so that we do not miss anything?

An even more question to me is, “why do our children who seem to need to be connect, not consider themselves as tech-savvy?”

What occurred to me, as I was walking back to my room, is that so much of what we expected from the future has come to be entirely different.  For instance, it’s not really big brother that we’ve come to worry about, but lots of little brothers.   Also, at the same time that the world has become smaller, our personal worlds have become larger, and this is the reason, I think, for a need to be connected. 

Because our world sense extends far beyond what we can see and hear.  In order to feel a part of this larger world, we have to be connected to it, and this not truer for any group than educators.  At the same time that the world has gotten smaller, our classrooms have gotten larger, our curriculum has gotten larger, the basic skills required to use information to accomplish goals (literacy) has gotten larger, our students’ individual frames of reference has gotten larger.  It’s why it is so essential that our classrooms, our students, our curriculum, and our teachers must be connect.

It’s the next day, and one more session before my closing address.  The session I’m attending is called “Don’t Bother Me Mom — I’m Learning!” after the book by Marc Prensky.  Several of the attendees have their copies with them.  The initial conversation involes our trying to determine if we are digital natives or digital immigrants.  I think that you’re born a native or an immigrant.  I once heard that “Technology is anything that was invented after you were born.”  If this is true, then the best that we can do is to lose our accent.

A little later in the presentation a young man (self-proclaimed native) talked about a friend whose extended family plays a MMORPG every Sunday, and they live in different geographic locations.  In this family, for a particular week, they think of their grandfather as someone who saved them from invading marauders last weekend. 

Preaching to the Choir

I sat with a group of independent school educators during lunch today — back in the shade (or near shade) and away from the rest of the conference attendees. They were the tech staff of a single school, and were all quite knowledgeable and experienced in the issues of managing a technology program for a K-12 school.

We discussed many of the issues of modernizing classrooms that come up in nearly all of these conversations, and at one point I asked, was there anything compelling in last nights address about why teachers need to think of their job in a different way. They all said, “Yes!” (why not?)

“But you are preaching to the choir.” Said the woman sitting directly across from me.

Then I asked, “Was there anything that I said that would help the choir to sing better?”

Without hesitation, she said, “No!” She continued explaining that she had thought about the presentation for much of the later evening, and although it was a good and compelling presentation, there was nothing in it that helped her to accomplish her goal. I’m not sure how I responded. I know that I maintained an even keel, but I also knew that this was something that I was going to be thinking about for much more than a single evening.

Wait a minute… I have to do the closing address tomorrow morning. Not much time!