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Stepping Back to the Future

I had an unusual request from a client a few weeks ago.   They were organizing a professional learning conference day for their school district and asked me to open the day with a keynote, selecting an address on contemporary literacy.  Nothing unusual there.  However, agreeing to also do three breakout sessions, they requested the three presentation topics that I am least frequently asked to deliver — all three of them.

I was a little taken a’back, since I’d not presented any of them in at least a year, more than two or three years for two of them.  My initial inclination was to say, “Oh!  I’ve been meaning to take those (all three) off my list.  Would you mind selecting three others.”

However, they selected those particular sessions for a reason, so I went with it, and spent a good bit of time preparing.  The real surprise was that as I continued to refresh the presentations the more relevant they became, especially in light of the keynote I was delivering.  For instance, the first element of contemporary literacy that I address in the speech corresponds with the first R, Reading.  In today’s information environment, I believe that the ability to find information that is appropriate to what we are trying to achieve is as important and as basic as being able to read it.  Evaluation, decoding, translating, etc. are also in there.

So one of the oldies requested was “Finding It on the Net: Being a Digital Detective.”  The last time I’d taught that one, I was still introducing folks to Google and boolean searching.  But today, it involves so much more.  Not just finding the evidence, as a digital detective, but also witnesses.  So I included a discussion about blogs and wikis, and using Technorati and Google Blog search to locate and select experts in a given field, and to use BlogPulse to map the frequency of specific conversations.  We also looked at some examples of using wikis to tap into the collective knowledge of communities.

When it came to the digital detective seeking evidence, I did an old demo, illustrating a process-approach to conducting searches.  I call it SEARCH, which is an acronym for the process.  We also discussed the Wikipedia and other social content sites and their effectiveness as a reliable source.  This discussion, alas, continues.

Finally, I demo’ed RSS, as a tool for not just finding information, but for training information to find you.  So much more to finding information today.

The second breakout that I did was “Harnessing the Digital Landscape,” which matches almost perfectly the second R (arithmetic) — which I expand into a range of skills involved in employing or working the information.  The last time I’d don this session, it was entirely about digital cameras and what we can do to add value to digital images.  But, as a result of refreshing the session, It grew into a much more comprehensive exploration, including digital photos, but also looking at processing audio with Audacity, an intro to podcasting, some machinima (for fun), and then visualizations of data and text using TagClouds, IBM’s Many Eyes, and some network visualizers.  I closed that one with a few examples of web mashups, how data from various web sites is being combined and create new tools, such as Buzztracker and Twittervision.

Finally, and this was the tough one.  They wanted my presentation on Plagiarism, which plugs in to my forth E, ethical use of information.  It’s always been a difficult presentation, because it is not, for me, a daily working concern, as it is for teachers.  So I researched, looking for tips, put them on slides, and be absolute sure to cite the source ;-)   The problem — There is not a better way to do this than with slides and lots of bulleted lists — and I hate to use bulleted slides.  I apologized repeatedly to the audience, and they forgave me — and I did promise myself that I would remove this one from the list.  However, I had also been asked to do this presentation at the NC Community Colleges Association for Distance Learning conference after my trip to California, and decided to make it a test.  Is this plagiarism?  Why?  Why not?  That went much much better.  Plagiarism may be a keeper after all.

Anyway, it was an interesting exercise to dredge up some old presentations, do a refresh, and find life pulsing through those crusty joints.

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  • http://xpatasia.edublogs.org Paul McMahon

    I often get something from your posts David. This one gave me BlogPulse which I have not encountered. Will look into it and roll it into my presentations on essential Web2.0 tools here in Hong Kong.

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  • http://durffsblog.blogspot.com/ mrsdurff

    These presentations look really interesting! Any chance of a ustream, podcast, or something?

  • http://school20.siglersite.com James Sigler

    I like the quiz idea of using examples/nonexamples of plagiarism. It is a much more inquiry-based approach to a presentation than bulleted slides. Great approach to a difficult topic.

  • Sara Armstrong

    Dear David,

    Copyright will be with us forever! I found this excerpt very interesting, although for some reason the link to the actual study at eSchoolNews doesn’t work. I’ve written them to ask about it and haven’t heard back yet…. Internet safety study

    Report: Teach children to maximize their Internet safety
    Computer networks are most secure when students are taught about cyberdangers, according to a company’s School Safety Index project. Although 95% of districts filter student access, 89% place monitors in view of adults and 81% track Internet activity, just 8% of districts teach students about Internet safety, the survey found.

    The above can be found at http://cslaresearchupdate.blogspot.com/2007/10/internet-safety-study.html

    Best to you,


  • http://www.socialstudiescentral.com Glenn Wiebe


    Glad to see that you decided to keep the plagiarism topic fresh and on your list! We spent part of yesterday with a group of middle school kids / teachers and watched multiple examples of direct cut and paste from web to project without a blink of an eye.

    No citation. No use of Google Notebook. No record of the the information.

    Some of it was basic facts but much was opinion and not public domain kinds of stuff. I really believe we’re missing the boat on the concept of intellectual property.

    I’ve also struggled with how best to share this type of information with groups! I like the example/non-example approach.

    Have a good trip this week!


  • entuli

    I went through your link SEARCH and I really liked the idea of teaching teachers how to use the internet and become more effective “net searchers.” I have noticed that not so many teachers know how to use the internet effectively. When searching for information in most cases they do not follow any process like the one outlined in your acronym. If teachers cannot use the internet effectively, the students won’t learn much as well. I agree with you when you said “The Internet can have more and better impact on classrooms when it is in the hands of skilled and creative teachers..” you are right, there is great need to teach educators how to search valuable information using the internet.

    Your topic on plagiarism is important and should be addressed by every teacher. I have seen so many students in my writing class failing to understand that information from the internet should be cited properly and given the attention as information from books. The problem of internet plagiarism is more of an issue especially when teachers do not know how to use the internet properly. Some teachers let students get away with internet plagiarism which I think is a grave mistake considering that books are now published on the internet.

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