Year End Reflections

I have been involved in educational technology since 1981. The years have been characterized by long steady periods of learning and development. These times have been like riding a long a plateau with little significant change. However, these years have been accented by dramatic lunges upward, as a discover something new that so thrills my sense of the possiblities that it is like being violently lifted to a new plateau. Here are some of the discoveries that Have caused these lunges upward:

  1. 1981 – BASIC (Programming the computer, using incantations that enchant these machines to be or pretend to be almost anything)
  2. 1987 – FrEdMail (Using e-mail and discovering that classroom walls may become transparent)
  3. 1990 – Hypertalk (another programming language and even more magic)
  4. 1993 – HTML (publishing information to a growing global audience and linking my information to a global web of content)
  5. 1997 – PHP & MySQL (Applying the magic to the web: Citation Machine, PiNet, etc.)

Each upward lunge lasted a couple of weeks as I discovered a new technology and its potential, and began to grapple with new technical skills. Then things leveled off as I became accustomed to a new altitude.

During this last year, it happened again. A steep incline began in late December of 2004, and it simply has not stopped. I had decided to devote two weeks to reading the weblogs of a number of educators I had come to respect, and the result has been an entire year that was a stunning dash up an amazingly steep hill of new ideas; new technologies; new ways of thinking about what I do, how, and why I do it; and of new possibilities for helping teachers and students.

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.

Then came podcasting and new ways to apply what I was learning about RSS. My personal learning network expanded to forward-thinking people, many of them the inventors of these new technologies, who were reflecting on the potentials of this emerging collaborative information environment — and I was hearing it from their own voices. I started using Technorati and Blogpulse, discovering that this expanding blogosphere can actually be a valuable source of content. I learned about and implimented Moodle and Drupal sites for managing my own content and instructional services, and learned to connect them to my grown personal network and a personal digital library of published content — I used Skype to hold interviews with people and to collaborate in creating multimedia information products. This last Monday, I had a practice session for an upcoming Kansas conference presentation that I will deliver from the comfort of my office, through my laptop and iSight camera.

I could go on and on. But it is important to note that there are two underlying concepts that thread through all of these discoveries.

  • They are all connected together in ways that were foreign to me twelve months ago, and
  • they are all about learning.

My philosophy of education has been rocked this year, and it still has not settled down. It is with some anxiety but even more anticipation that I face a new year.

I want to close this out with a list of people, whom I would like to publicly thank for being a part of my learning network, and for making this the most exciting professional year of my life.

I know that I’ll leave some names out, but as they occur to me, I’ll add them in.

John Beck
John Blake
Joe Brennan
Tony Brewer
Jay Bryant
Andy Carvin
Dave Cormier
Karen Creech
Hall Davidson
Steve Dembo
Tim DiScipio
Acacia Dixon
Steven Downes
Terry Freedman
Thomas Friedman
Janice Friesen
Wesley Fryer
Miguel Gulin
Tom Hoffman
Rem Jackson
David Jakes
Doug Johnson
Ian Jukes
Doug Kaye
Vinod Khosla
Eric Langhorst
Jeff Lebow
Chris Lehmann
Lawrence Lessig
Gail Lovely
Jeff Moore
Nick Noakes
Marco Polo
Bernajean Porter
John Raymond
Will Richardson
Brian Russell
Donna Sawyer
Robert Sawyer
Kathy Schrock
Tom Sheehan
George Siemens
Chris Smith
Bob Sprankle
Meg Turner
Jeff Utecht
Tony Vincent
Jennifer Wagner
David Weinberger
Tim Wilson

I also thank every audience I have worked with and event facilitator who has brought me in. All have helped me to refine what I do. I’ve never been happier professionally.

14 thoughts on “Year End Reflections”

  1. Hi Dave,
    it was great to chat with you last night. I find your reflections most valuable. I have nowhere near as much experience with technology and all my learning has been in the last 6 months but reading about your discoveries has really helped mine. Thank you

  2. What are we doing to encourage our girls to embrace technology and make their way onto these and other lists? Is this a trend that only exists in the US? Statistics show that the number female students pursuing careers in math, science and technology is shrinking.
    This comment is not meant as a criticism of your list, but as a commentary on the situation.

  3. Dave,

    You have done a great job of creating an exciting and educational network this year. Thanks for your input with my blog and your willingness to engage in so many different learning enviroments. I head to the US in the next few weeks….. it would be great if our paths crossed while there.


    Brett Moller

  4. Dave,

    I am so grateful for coming across your blogmeister software in a Google search back in August. That led me to your 2cents blog which was my personal spring board into this whole edublog world. Up until I started really getting involved in the edublog world I was considering going back and getting my PhD, but now thanks to you and the rest of the edublog community I know a PhD program could not compete with what I’m learning and reflecting on daily. Thank you for making my 2005 a year of discovery. Because of you there are another 134 blogs in the world. (128 student/teacher blogs and 6 edublogs) You are one of the ‘must reads’ and I look forward to someday meeting you in person. Thanks for including me in your Personal Learning Network. You are at the top of mine.

  5. I have been lurking here, reading your comments for a couple of months now. I want to tell you how thought provoking your comments are to me. Thanks to your article on RSS and Bloglines, I too have had a whirlwind year, well maybe 6 months. I am excited about the future and about learning more–energized. I’ve not started blogging yet, but am toying with the idea. Anyway, thanks again.


  6. David — I’m honored to be on the list. I know you know how large you loom in the landscape of my mind when I think about educational technology.

    Here’s to continuing to push the envelope of what we believe to be possible.

    — Chris

  7. I am just catching up with my blog reading and was surprised to see my name here

    I am also flattered to be on your list with so many other names of people that I learn from. Thanks for all that you have inspired me with!


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