Don’t like Learning Alone?

Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht, wrote a blog post today that really resonated with me.  Just back from the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference (ETC),  Utecht reflects on why he attended only two session, other than the four that he presented.

It’s the first conference that I’ve gone to where I truly did not “do” the conference. Other than my own four presentations I only went to two others….one if you don’t count Kim’s.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why I didn’t feel motivated to go to more sessions. I like learning so what was my problem?

Then it hit me…..I don’t like learning alone!

I don’t like Learning Alone! « The Thinking Stick

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Kim Cofino's Presentation

Teaching Sagittarian, Chrissy Hellyer, took this picture at Kim Cofino’s presentation.  You notice how many people are paying attention to the Projector.

I’ve had this same experience, though I am more likely to attribute it to fatigue.  But the thing is, if learning is the only reason we are going to conferences, well, then, who needs them.  I have been at home most of the day, sitting in my office and working.  Principally I have been preparing for tomorrow’s ISTE Eduverse talk show in Second Life.  As a result, I’ve been teaching myself how to build and install animations and gestures and to face the person I am talking to.  I also learned to install a captcha on the Education Podcast Network, to try to prevent spam from getting in.

Jeff says, “I don’t like learning alone.”  At no point did I feel that I was learning alone today.  At least, I was learning from blog posts and YouTube videos posted by people just like me.

I think that the loss of social interaction that results from unreliable Internet at conferences is a huge part of the issue.  But I also suspect that we are becoming accustomed to working within a greater brain — no longer limited by our own dendrits.  We have become accustomed to having quiet conversations within our networks, to asking questions and getting answers back from people we respect, and to contributing knowledge and insights to a larger community — and not just for the sake of helping others, but for the value-added that occurrs when it comes back.

<em>It’s like trying to learn with half your brain tied behind your back</em> — or a full three-quarters in my case.  I think that his extension to students is a valid one.

And then I started thinking about our students. Our students who spend there day not just in front of screens but connecting with people, learning in the moment and creating content.

They play together, learn together, work together, and grow together.  Then, in the classroom, we value the space between their desks more than their tendency to connect and the power of it.

I think that this is something that conferences need to understand and facilitate.  It’s no longer merely about sharing.  Today the conference has to be about growing the knowledge.

Added Later:  Kim Cofino made a particularly interesting contribution to this conversation here:

I love learning. I used to love professional conference too – mostly because they were a great place to learn. But, last weekend, at our regional teacher’s conference (ETC), I made a realization… (more here)

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One of the Best Conferences I Never got to “Attend”

I finished off last week, and a pretty exhausting string of engagements, with one of the best organized and idea-rich conferences that I have been a part of — better than any I can remember.  What’s more, it was a local school district conference.  I’m seeing more and more of these events, conference-style professional development days that bring the big ideas to the teachers, rather than sending them all to the big state or national events.

Pano of the Opening Session
Panorama of the primary site for the opening session

Of course, the 2009 Educational Technology Conference should be good.  It is the eleventh put on by The School District of Palm Beach County.  The event was organized by the ed tech staff and it ran smoothly with the help of more than a hundred volunteers.  There were nearly 2,500 attendees (large by the standards of just about any state conference) and the keynote was broadcast into overflow venues.

Tent Studio
Tent Studio the night before

The district’s Television station, T.E.N. (The Education Network), had a tent-covered studio set up in the courtyard of the school, where they interviewed presenters and attendees about using technology in their jobs.  The interviews where piped into various locations in the school, where attendees were resting and re-organizing their agendas.

They worked me hard at this conference, presenting during each of the three concurrent slots.  I started with the opening keynote, in front of one of the most responsive audiences I’ve presented to in a very long time (Something about Southerners — they know when to laugh at a southern speaker 😉.  That was followed by a session on casual ongoing professional development (PLN) — two hours to administrators and an hour in the afternoon to teachers.  I was very happy to do this, but it meant that I missed the more than 100 local teacher and vendor presenters and a lineup of features speakers that would be the envy of almost any state conference.  They included Dr. Mark Benno from Dallas, Steve Dembo from Chicago, Karl Fisch, who barely got out of Denver before the snow storm, Kate Kemker from the Florida Department of Education, and Dean Shareski from Saskatchewan.

Featured presenters
Left to right: Steve Dembo, Kate Kemker, David Warlick, Karl Fisch, Mark Benno, & Dean Shareski.

Another interesting feature of the conference was the competition that is held each your with the students, to design the cover art for the conference.  The winner, who also designed the conference posters, was recognized at the conference.

Conference Posters
The winning poster & conference program design

I think that it is worth noting that she, and the school chorus, who opened the opening session with an inspirational singing and signing of the Star Spangled Banner,  were both recognized for skills that most of the teachers in the audience could not match.  This doesn’t mean that all teachers should be able to do digital graphic arts or harmonize along with the American Sign Language.  Certainly not. 

However, I do believe that it is important, because it is another demonstration of how we need to come to respect the learner — not just demand respect as the teacher, but pay back with respect for the learner and the places they’ll take what we teach.

I can’t close without commenting on the conference program, which was very effectively organized, illustrated, and offering just enough content to supplement the conference.  This is worth noting because often conference programs are seemingly organized with little or know consideration of how the attendees will be using it to support the best possible event experience.

The School District of Palm Beach County was a wonderful way to end a long and exhausting tour and begin an extended rest at home.  Thanks!

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Flickr Hits 100,000,000 CC Photos

Flickr Photo by Joshua Sosrosaputro

I got this from a Twitter post this morning from iJohn Pederson, “Number of CC licensed photos on Flickr just passed 100,000,000. (Congrats world!)”  I retweeted it, as have several others.  You can read the details at the Creative Commons blog, article Celebrate 100 Million CC Photos on Flickr…

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been keeping a close eye on the number of CC licensed photos of Flickr. Our calculations now show that Flickr has surpassed 100 million CC licensed photos sometime during the day on Saturday, March 21st, 2009. As of Monday, we’re calculating the total number of CC licensed photos at 100,191,085.

From a teacher’s point of view, this is important in view of one of the most important questions that faces us today.  Let me explain it this way.

When I was still teaching, my grandparents moved from the house they had lived in for more than fifty years.  Because I was the only teacher in the family, they gave me their decades worth of National Geographic Magazines.  I must shame myself by admitting to you, that as I leafed through those magazines, I had scissors in my hands.  I cut those things to pieces — because I wanted to bring the pictures, maps, diagrams, and captions into my classroom, put them on the wall, so that my students could learn from them.  That’s how information-starved my classroom was.

I had five year old textbook, some old maps (one was pre-WWII), and what I could draw on the chalkboard.  My pedagogies — the pedagogies that I was taught in university — were based on information-scarce learning environments.

The question we ask today is,

“What are the pedagogies of information abundant learning environments?”

When Flickr is received 2.5 million new photos a day, and now more than 100,000,000 have been designated to the Creative Commons (you have the photographer’s explicit permission to use them), then how does that change how we teach — how we learn?

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10 Disruptions that could Transform Your Classroom

So I’m not in Doha any more….

I’ve made it to the iTSummit, and luckily, before the end of the day.  I’m sitting in Dean Shareski session on disruptive technologies.  He’s acknowledging that the word disruption is not necessarily a seductive term to educators.  But let’s face it…  Handouts are at

Dean is using CoolIris for the presentation.  Jeff Utecht told me about using it for presentations a while back, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen.  It sorta like the geography of Prezi, without leaving the structure of a slide deck. 

We were just asked to talk for a few minutes about what excites us and what scares us about education in the next fivt to ten years.  I’m talking with Cathy Cassidy.  What scares me is what our children will be resisting 15 years from now, that we aren’t even imagining today.


  1. Smart Phones — There’s a school near by where a corporation gave Blackberries to a class of 8th graders. 

    Dean is showing a video, probably a dramatization, of a school where all the students have iPhones.  Students are doing things like collaborating, voting in classes, and forming groups — all over their iPhones.  Graphing calculators are $149.  You can get an app that does the same thing for $0.99.  Now he’s showing a video of an app that’s not out yet, that you aim it, as you’re going through the store, and it pops up windows telling you about the things that are present.  That’s pretty cool!

    Now using Poll Everywhere.  Lots of Ahhhhh’s!

  2. Low Cost Computing — Re: One Laptop Per Child

    Netbooks are $250, what the kids might be spending on their sneakers.  Is this a way to get to 1:1.  Maybe with this, we can rely on the students to bring them in (not sure about that). 

    With all the newspapers going out of busines, “Giving every subscriber a free Kindle e-reader, and then deliverin the paper through the Kindle, at today’s subscription rates, it would cost 50% less than they’re spending now.  Would love to have the citation for this.

  3. Cloud Computing — A lot of schools are looking at Google Apps.  Says he things that Regina Schools are looking at this.
  4. Live Streaming — Lots of conferences are Ustreaming presentations, and, according to Dean, it has some interesting implications for the classroom.  Now showing Brian Cosby’s video of a student in his class who is home-bound because of illness.  She’s attending the class via Skype.

    There is a classroom where the teacher is UStreaming all day.

    Back Channeling — Happening more and more in classrooms.  There is a presentation on the K12 Online Conference about back channeling in the classroom.

  5. Microblogging — Nough said! Read it for a few minutes, and it looks like blather.  Pay attention for a day, and it starts to look like a short story.  Pay attention for a month, and you have a novel.  That’s pushing it a bit, but I certainly happens.
  6. Immersive Environments — Video games and virtual worlds.  Showing a video of a teacher talking about her class in Second Life Teen Grid.

    Shareski says “It’s like social glue.”  I like that.

    Dean just asked which of the tech are a long way off.  I think It’s all close.

    The Next Pertain more to Pedagogy

  7. Privacy — Who do we deal with so much of our lives is going online.  Referring to U.S. school where the decree was laid that no teacher under any condition should come in contact with students via social networks.
  8. Time shifting — Dean’s question is “What’s face-to-face good for?”  Talking about California teachers who are recording their lectures for students to watch at home.  I asked some students about this in Edmonton, and they didn’t like it.  They said they’d much rather watch lectures face-to-face.  It’s certainly worth trying.
  9. Open and Connected — MIT has course on line for everyone.  It isn’t just software.  Also Academic Earth, talks from the top people available to us for free.
  10. Outsourced Instruction — Clarence Fisher is doing a project that he calls Thin Wall Classroom, where he and another class somewhere team teach.  I get it now.  It’s about me being asked to deliver a lecture for another class.  May be a future in this.
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Personal Learning Networks — The Beginning

Jen Hegna's PLN
Flickr Photo by Jen Hegna

I’ve gotten this question several times over the past week, via Twitter, “Who coined the phrase, Personal Learning Networks?”  I’m not sure why I’m the person being asked, but I first used the term in a 31 December 2005 2¢ Worth blog post, Year End Reflections.  In that post I wrote:

What’s new is that these discoveries, by their own nature, caused a breathtaking loop of new discoveries, each leading to something else, just as dramatic. It began with Blogging, which I had been doing for nearly a year. However, when I started reading the blog postings of other educators, and learned to subscribe to their writings with aggregators, I began to understand the importance of XML and to explore RSS. I started to integrate these technologies into my web services and staff development and to form, what I now call, a Personal Learning Network of people who have something to say that helps me do my job.

I’d not heard or read the term before that time, at least to the point of acknowledging it.  My intention was not to lable something new, but to find a way of expressing what I was experiencing at the time.

To look further back, I started with a Technorati search — and although typically find this tool to be very good at this sort of research, it was no help, since we can’t sort results based on date.  Then I went to Google’s Blog Search, which will sort by date.  I searched for blogs from 1 Jan 2000 to 31 Dec 2006 that include the key phrase, personal learning network.  The earliest was Heidy Trotta’s 13 December 2005 post, Contributing to the Whole.  In it, she refers to Personal Learning Network while discussing George Siemens 12 December 2004 paper, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age — in which he uses the phrase on page 3.

A Google Scholar search lit up with George Siemens’ groundbreaking work, but also listed a 2005 book, The New Learning Revolution: How Britain can leade the world in learning, education and schooling, by Gordon Dryden and Jeannette Vos, where they devoted a section to the book to “Your Personal Learning Network: Linking home, school and the real world together” (pp 113 – 127).  However, the secion was more about learning environments in general than personal digital networks.

Moving on back, I found Yann, Denaual, Tapio Koskinen, and Vana Kamtsiou’s Scenario Planning and Gap Analysis, 8 Apr 2004.  It seems to refer to “Relatively homogeneous types (of) learning groups, which (are) geographically widespread…” as “highly sophisticated training environment(s) already in place compris(ing) LMS, (or) Smart Personal Learning Network(s).”  It was difficult to gain more from this work, as it seemed to have been a translation from Dutch.

At any rate, I would have to say that the phrase, as we typically use it today, was most likely coined by George Siemens in his discriptions of connectivism, and that I probably, subconciously, captured it in reading Siemens work, and used it in that 2005 blog post.

Added 10/6/09 — Stephen Downes has done even deeper research on the origins of PLN/PLE.  Check out Origins of the Term, ‘Personal Learning Network.’

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New Online Journal from MIT Press

Screen Shot of IJLMI’m probably a bit late with this, and only have a few minutes, but I got this news release this morning (5:15AM GMT+3) and am very excited about the potentials.  I got the link from MIT Press Journals intern, Johna Picco, announcing IJLM, The International Journal of Learning and Media.  Here is a snipit from the release and a link.

MIT Press, in cooperation with The Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE), is pleased to announce the publication of the first issue of The International Journal of Learning and Media (IJLM). A first of its kind, the journal is devoted to examining the intersection of media and learning in multiple contexts… Facebook | The MIT Press

The first issue includes the following titles and more:

  • Learning: Perring Backward and Looking for Forward in the Digital Era
  • Childhood: Changing and Dissonant Meanings
  • Why Virtual Worlds Can Matter
  • Let Everyone Play: An Educational Perspective on Why Fan Fiction is, or Should Be, Legal

I cant’ wait…  Read it here.

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Information & Knowledge — Should Literacy End There

It is time to give up on sleep.  I don’t know if its the eight time zones I find myself from home.  Or it may be the six hours of my twelve hour flight that I slept and then the additional eleven hours that I slept after arriving in Doha Sunday night.  It could be the usual jitters that wake me up before an important presentation or workshop.  But it’s time to give it up and start orienting myself to the day at hand.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation in Wadi Rum
Flickr Photo by Chris Booth

But, before I do that, here’s something that I ran across in a quick breeze of my aggregator last night, a Brain, Mind, Conscious and Learning post by Javed Alam entitled, We Need Wisdom.  He says…

We have too much information and knowledge. It is creating a false sense of security that we know enough to deal with any kind of crisis. The current economic crisis prove that knowledge in itself is not enough to anticipate and avert crisis. As a group we seem to act more or less as a reactive mind. We rarely foresee problems and mostly lurch from one crisis to another.

Brain, Mind, Consciousness and Learning: We Need Wisdom

Brenda and I have talked often about this mess, and how we should have seen it coming.  Our leaders should have seen it coming.  The media should have seen it coming.  But until reading Javed’s post, I hadn’t thought about this from the perspective of what I teach and promote.  I celebrate the age of information and although I caution folks of the dangers and try to describe the literacy skills that a networked, digital, and abundant information environment demands, I still imply that all of this free-flowing, dynamic, and glowing information is a good thing.  And I still think that it is.

But Javed continues to quote the SciFi writer, Arthur C. Clark…

The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information— in the sense of raw data— is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.

I think that information and knowledge are very much what we are about in education. But where is the wisdom and with it the foresight?  It’s easy to say that, “Well, it can’t be subjectively tested, and we are pushing the information and knowledge and their accompanying skills at the expense of wisdom.”  But quite frankly, I’m not sure what wisdom instruction would look like.  I feel so far removed from anything but the workforce preparation mode of formal public education to figure out where wisdom fits in with literacy.  I talk a lot about the ethical use of information, but wisdom and foresight seem much bigger than that.

Maybe I’m just too far from home to be making any more sense than this.  Today, I’ll just teach!

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Headed East

Just needed a picture here…

I am sitting, once again, in the Raleigh Durham airport, waiting for preferred boarding of a small American Airlines commuter jet.  It will be a quick flight to New York’s JFK, where I’ll find a locker for my luggage and spend the rest of the day with my youngest brother.  He plans a trip out to Coney Island.  I hope there are no rides in the plans.  I dislike experiences that challenge my center of gravity.

Then I board a Qatar Airways flight to Doha.  They reportedly have chefs on their flights — and a fully equipped gym.  They are a “five star” airline, and there are no U.S. airlines in that category.

Landing tomorrow evening and being whisked to some Dutch (or Danish) hotel called the Moevenpick.  I’ll have all day Monday to get acclimated to the warmer temperature — not to mention continue planning for my workshop, and then three days with Qatari educators in Education City, part of that country’s program reinvest in its people.  QC includes branches (so to speak) of Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown University, and Northwestern University.  I’ll be working with teachers of the K-12 schools, including The Learning Center, “..for students who have average or above average potential but have experienced academic problems.”

I’ll also get to spend a morning with educators at Julie Lindsay’s school, Qatar Academy, having a conversation with their 21st Century Learning group.  That should be fun and enlightening.  I ALWAYS learn from international educators.

Anyway, almost time to board.  Will be back on line in a few (dozen) hours.

2¢ Worth

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Two Not-to-Miss Professional Development Events this Summer

I ran across both of these in the last 24 hours, both from education leaders I respect a great deal.  First is Dr. Gary Stager’s Constructing Modern Knowledge.  I have threatened to attend one of these, both in jest and out of genuine interest.  Gary’s background and his spirit lend to some interesting and spot-on approaches to teaching and learning.

Constructing Modern Knowledge is a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in intensive computer-rich project development with peers and a world-class faculty. Inspirational guest speakers and social events round out the fantastic event.

Also entering my radar range was a professional development event, being organized for school administrators by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.  The Web 2.0 Bootcamp will take place at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Here’s a quote from the site:

If you are a superintendent or principal, you know that your students are or will be using the Web, cell phones and other technologies to connect and create social networks. But do you also know the profoundly transformative opportunities for learning these technologies offer? Do you understand fully how schools and classrooms are being challenged by these new technologies and what the implications are for your teachers and students?

Stagers event will take place in in Manchester, NH, July 13-16, and the leadership Bootcamp will be from July 15 to 17.

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Media Clouds and Media Literacy

I learned about this one via a reference from Doug Peterson from Facebook. It reminds me of, and is probably related to, a famed TED Talk by someone from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society did about how news seems to focus on western societies and the U.S. specifically.  I haven’t seen that video, so am probably getting this wrong.

But Media Cloud is a pretty cool tool from the Berkman Center.

Media Cloud automatically builds an archive of news stories and blog posts from the web, applies language processing, and gives you ways to analyze and visualize the data. The system is still in early development, but we invite you to explore our current data and suggest research ideas. This is an open-source project, and we will be releasing all of the code soon. You can read more background on the project or just get started below.

Media Cloud VisualizationThe graph to the right illustrates the top ten terms in the New York Times, BBC, and the only North Carolina newspaper included in the tool.  For the NYTimes the top terms were united states, washington, barack obama, and california.  For the BBC, they were united kingdom, united states, london, and britain.  For the Charlotte Observer, they were christmas (which also showed up on BBC’s list), north carolina, race cars, and somebody’s phone number.

You can also enter a search term, and receive a similar graph illustrating other terms related to your search from the three media outlets that you chose.  Again, our NC paper relates Oil, my search term, to NASCAR and Indy Racing.

The third type of visualization, and the one that made me think of that video I’d heard of, shows a map of the world, color coding individual countries based on how often they are mentioned in the selected news outlets.  Here, to the left, are the three maps for the NYTimes, Charlotte Observer, and BBC.

While the world moved, this was the top story aired by U.S. News in February 2007.  Why?  It’s cheap news!

It seems that this would be an excellent tool for helping students learn about media literacy and globalization.  Media Cloud is actually in early development and I do not seem to be able to find a listing of all of the news sources included.  That would be useful.  But in general, with this type of data available out there, and tools for visualizing that data, it seems that many topics and concepts might become easier to teach — learn.

Correction: I found the video that someone told me about a while back.  It was “Why we know less than ever about the world,” delivered by Public Radio International head, Alisa Miller.  It’s a compelling watch and I recommend you see it.  It’s all the more reason why we need to find new ways of teaching media literacy and globalization — and new reasons.

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