An Idea that’s Reaching its Time

I do not believe I’ve seen this before, a YouTube video intro to an upcoming conference session. It’s probably common, though more apt to come to your attention in anticipation to a “local” edtech conference.

This week the North Carolina (My home state) ISTE affiliate is hosting its 2011 educational technology conference, NCTIES for a packed house — and it’s a short bus ride from my home.

NCTIES is an anual event, which I missed last year because I had agreed to keynote a conference in Singapore for ISTE.  ..and coincidentally, that Singapore conference was my first presentation where the

The opening slide for one of the new presentations I’ll be doing at NCTIES this week.

audience didn’t squint with confusion at the QR-Code on the opening of my slidedeck (or Prezi document).  When the image appeared on that day, about 350 smart phones shot up out of the audience, each capturing through its built-in cameras, the URL embedded in the code and loading my online handouts for use during the address.  I say, “coincidence,” because on Friday Jacob Standish and Timothy Smith, both of Mecklenberg Schools (Charlotte), will be doing a session called “QR Codes and Why they matter to education.”

What I’ve not seen before was an @technology_tim tweet, launched just before 10:00 PM last night,

Feb 26, 9:52pm via Twitter for Mac

Presenting at #NCTIES updating our info page! #yam #CMSk12 Who else presenting?

Click the link in the tweet to see the YouTube video they’re using to introduce and promote their presentation.  Again, this might be common, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it.  I’ve often suggested that teachers might create video commercials for their classrooms or even as introductions to upcoming units of study.  But I don’t think that a commercial for your conference presentation has occurred to me.

I hope I’m able to attend their session.  Although I’ve not thought a lot about QR-Codes in education, the idea of hyperlinking physical objects to the digital world intrigues me.

So I guess it’s two ideas that may be reaching their time, teacher-produced video commercials and QR-Codes.

A Haunting Experience

Have you ever attended a conference or had another learning experience that haunted you. By that, I mean it lingers, following you, in the shadows, rising in your thoughts at unexpected times, and surprising you with a, “Boo!” What haunts you is that you don’t know why. There’s a room with a closed door, and the answer’s in there. You approach the door, and you can hear people in the audience screaming, “Don’t open the door, stupid!”

This was the scene outside my hotel. There was a real Emerald City quality to the place.

At this point, I’ve not opened the door, though it occurs to me that I often find my conclusion when I sit down and write. It may have been a simple combination of the exotic. A mixture of tropical flora, chilly temperatures, steep and forbidding mountains next to the dozens of enormous freighters I watched moving intoVictoria Harbor during my walks between the conference site and my hotel — which was exotic by its own right.

It could have been the attendees, mostly educators from International schools from throughout Asia and even Indonesia. Teacher-adventurers is the best phrase I can come up with to describe these educators who have decided to live and work at the edges of their worlds.

Or was it the other speakers, such as Chris Smith, whom I’ve known for more than 10 years and whose career has paralleled mine in several ways.  Yet he, an Englishman, has settled in northern Thailand.  Or Stephen Heppell, who is strange in so many ways that simply draw you in. You want to ask, “Did his eyes just twinkle?” And you feel like he has just opened at your feet a sack of toys, playthings you’ve never seen before, ideas and suggestions that are so compelling that you feel as though you are a beginner teacher again.

Stephen Heppell

Yes! Writing this is helping me to uncover the spook — that and the fact that conference organizer, Paul White forwarded a link to the student performance we all watched with wonder on the last day.

What haunts me is what learners can accomplish in an environment that is unfamiliar, through the tension that is caused when gravity is slightly off center, in a place that seems just a little dangerous in it unfamiliarity and exoticness.

Watch the video, recorded by Chris Smith, and ask yourself, “What if I, comfortable at home and in routine, had to up and follow this.”  My spook was that I had to get up and follow these talented youngsters!

My Extrapolations from a Washington Post Graphic

Click to link to the original Washington Post graphic

In 1986, I was the director of instructional technology in a rural school district in North Carolina, a job that hadn’t existed when I’d started teaching only 10 years earlier. Thanks to researchers at the University of Southern California, we now know something about the state of technology ten years into my career.

For instance, In 1986, 41% of the world’s computer processing power was in pocket calculators. Personal computers made up 33%, with 17% going to servers and mainframes. A whopping 9% powered video game consoles. According to that study things had changed dramatically by 2007. The amount of the world’s processing power residing in personal computers had doubled, to 66% and calculators had disappeared from the picture. Video games accounted for 25% of the processing power and new comers, mobile phones and PDA (which didn’t exist when I was director of technology), held 6% of the world’s computing power. Servers and mainframes dropped to 3% and supercomputer weighed in at 0.3%.

But the real sign of change is in information. Back in 1986, the world held 2.64 billion gigabytes of information — and 2.62 of them resided on analog media (paper, film, audiotape and vinyl and videotape.) The growth of information soured over the next 16 years, when, in 2002, the amount of digital content exceeded the information we stored with analog technologies.

By 2007, our quantity of information had risen to 294.98 billion exabytes of information, and only just less than 19 of them still resided on analog media. If you took only the paper — and film, audiotape and vinyl used to store information today, it would account for only 0.004% of the world’s content. That means that anyone, whose schooling and experience has not included the skilled, responsible and practiced use of contemporary information and communication technologies, well for more than 99.6% of the worlds information, they are practically illiterate!

What it means to be educated has been flipped on it’s side!

Are you Willing?

I just had an interesting experience with my in-laws. We met them at a diner in Shelby for breakfast and over eggs, toast, and grits, Alvin told me that his Internet wasn’t working. So we agreed to stop by their house on the way out of town.

When we arrived, I went straight to his boy-room (the man never got over his childhood, and has always bought interesting things for himself) and pulled out my laptop to test his WiFi. No problem. Then I went to his Toshiba laptop, and again, no problem. We talked a bit more, and I discovered that it was his iPod Touch he’d bought himself for Christmas that was the problem. (I’ll say here that I hope that this stuff is a lot simpler when I’m 92)

So I ended out solving his problem by reminding him of the button he needed to touch to bring up Safari. We continued to talk and I did the whole, “Now here’s my current killer-app.” And then it occurred to me.

“Have you ever used YouTube, Alvin?”

He thought for a minute, and then mentioned a video he’d used to learn a line dance (I also, hope I’m dancing when I am 92). He told me that he had found the video through a Google search. So I pulled up YouTube, talking about what a wonderful learning tool this was. I typed in iPod Touch tutorials, and a whole slew of videos came up. I clicked into a number of them, including one on how to move YouTube videos into your iPod Touch.

And here’s the interesting part. All of the videos were produced by boys, around the ages of 10 to 12. So I turned to Alvin and said, “You can learn to do most any thing you want with your iPod Touch her, as long as you’re willing to learn from a 10 year old.”

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tech for Creativity

Some of you may be aware that I have spent a good part of the last week in the air, about 27,000 miles as near as I can calculate, from Raleigh to Calgary, to New York, to Brisbane, to Christchurch, to Melbourn, to Los Angles, to…

Much of it is a dramamine induced blur, but for many enjoyable hours, I illustrated a point made by Kevin Kelly in a recent podcast that I watched. The Author of What Technology Wants, Kelly, like myself, has followed much of the emergence and evolution of personal information and communication technologies — and has had a hand in guiding its use for many people. Among his many contributions was Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, which was required reading for the principal actors of the film, The Matrix.

I haven’t read What Technology Wants (yet), but it appears to be a cautionary tale. Kelly doesn’t tweet or participate in many of the techs de jour. However, one thing that he said that really stuck with me was that ICT’s power is in it’s providing new avenues for expressing ourselves creatively. As near as I can paraphrase, “We would never have had a Jimi Hendrix without the invention of the electric guitar.”

Rebirth by Propellerhead
Rebirth by Propellerhead
Back to my time in the sky — just before leaving I purchased a new music app for my iPad. I have pages of music apps, most of them mocks of musical instruments, and none of them have captured much of my attention. I’m not a very good musician. The exception was Propellerhead’s Rebirth (see right), which resembes no instrument I’ve ever actually played. ..and so, even that was not all that much fun. I did complete one project (Shangri La) and upload it to my Sound Cloud.

My new toy is MusicStudio, “..the only complete music production environment for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad” to quote the developers, and they’re not off the mark. It gives me access to a number of instruments (with more purchasable sounds), a virtual piano keyboard to perform and record from, audio effects devices, and a piano-roll style track system (see left) for fine tuning. This is where I spent my time, copying and pasting, dragging, and editing those little dots and dashes that represent individual musical notes.

Continuing the music work with Logic Express 8 on my office computer

I often demonstrate this process in some of my talks as an example of working numbers to accomplish goals — working the numbers embedded in digital sound. But doing music like this has always required me to break out some fairly sophisticated software, sit at a desk, with mouse, and sometimes an attached musical keyboard. Now, I can do it from a flat surface (iPad) that I can carry in a shoulder bag, sitting at the park or in an airline seat. (demo here)

Here are the results of my 50+ hours in the air! Because Brenda likes it, I am now refining the work using Logic, a more professional music editing tool. But this is the version done exclusively on the iPad.
Brenda’s Song by dwarlick

Sorry for the self-indulgence, but, you know, I’m getting old enough to not have to apologize for it.

Two of the Coolest things I’ve Heard Lately

My blogging has been down lately. Partly it’s because of the time it takes to prepare for upcoming work, and partly it is a growing selfish desire to steal back more time for myself. But the great thing about the traveling that I do is that I get to listen. For instance in Calgary, I got to listen to by Dr. Dennis Sumara, Dean of the School of Education at the University of Calgary. I wrote about his talk in my last blog post, but one of the ideas that he shared that struck me was that the way that we teach and run schools seems to assume that people are logical. He said that instead of logical, we are analogical.

Owing to my dense mind and inability to hear clearly, it took me a moment to figure out that he was playing with the word analog and not antilogical.

He then gave us some time to talk about that idea with our tables, where we pushed it even further. My suggestion was that logic, in instruction, makes the teachers’ and the curriculum developers’ jobs easier. That’s probably an exaggeration, and that’s probably not a bad thing in such conversations. Exaggeration breaks paradigms. The truth is probably that logic also helps us to learn. “This is true because that was true and those were not true.”

Perhaps it’s where we apply what we’ve learned that the analogical comes in. We need to factor into our learning experiences people’s real-world tendency to make and work with personal connections, so that the learning gets applied, not just reported.

The other cool thing that I heard was while riding on the wrong side of the road in New Zealand. There’s something about that sort of tension that makes you hyper alert, even at 1:00 in the morning. Rob Callaghan, a principal in Christchurch, had picked me up at the airport and was driving me to my hotel. We were talking about the upcoming conference and he mentioned that Stuart Hale, from Auckland, was working with his faculty on using Apple’s Keynote software.

“So why a special emphasis on Keynote,” I asked.

Well it seems that they are switching to an e-portfolio style of assessment for students. Now I’ve only recently started digging deeper into Keynote and uncovering some of it’s more dramatic features. But any special practicality to e-portfolios did not intuitively come to mind. Then, Calahan told me that they were going to start holding more frequent and regular parent-teacher conferences, which will include the child, and that these conferences will be led by the learner using Keynote to present what he/she has learned, and their reflections on their learning.

This one policy change seems to fit in to so much of what is sense is missing in American education. What do you think?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad