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.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.