From Home to another Rash of Conferences

Interestingly, I am sitting at home and in the room that I grew up in — Cherryville, NC. It doesn’t look the same. There are doilies and Crystal lamps, elegantly carved furniture, and fluffy curtains. But it fells the same. Of course, we have WiFi. My parents, after all, bought “Pong”, for goodness sake. We went to a fish camp last night and I had fried scollops, shrimp, and hush puppies. We went at 6:35 PM. You want to catch it when the grease is just right. Amazing! 😉

Site of the NCAECT Conference

I’ll drive into Charlotte early this morning and spend the morning at the NCAECT conference. The organizers have been gracious enough to let me wonder around through the various preconference workshops. I’m especially looking forward to spending some time with my friends from the State Department of Public Instruction, Acacia Dixon and Karen Creech, and their session on GEO Caching.

Around lunch time, I’ll head over to the Charlotte airport and fly down to Orlando, Florida for FETC, where I’ll be doing a session tomorrow on the New Shape of Information. This will be about blogs, wikis, RSS, and other stuff. It will be a little more philosophical in nature, but I think that understanding the underpinnings of a new technology is key to implementing it effectively. Blogging and Podcasting are so often approached as isolated technologies, and this is valuable in itself. But It is also important to understand how blogging and podcasting actually connect with other applications making for some uniquely interesting opportunities.

But before that, Tim Wilson will be hosting another NECC’esque Podcast Palooza with Apple this evening. Perhaps I can do another podcast interview of what is certain to be massive crowds of educators waiting to get in.

Then right after my FETC session, I’ll head back to the airport, fly back up to Charlotte, and then do a “Telling the New Story” featured address at NCAECT. I’m really looking forward to that, though I have to work in some time to adapt that presentation to some of the conversations that have been going on concerning Telling the New Story. Here is an RSS feed of this continuing conversation, generated by Technorati:

Continuing the Conversation, Continuing the Story

I hope to see some of you this week.

Blocked Comments

I was just doing a little housekeeping on my blog, when I realized that more than 3,000 blocked comments were being held in my “waiting to be moderated” bin. So I just spent the last two hours, scanning through all of these comments (mostly filthy trash), rescuing about 20 messages. Many of them were critical of my ideas. I’m not sure what the criteria for blocking comments is, but that surprised me — not that people were being critical, but that they seemed to have gotten blocked. I believe that one of the conditions tested, is if a comment from that person has ben approved in the past, then future ones will get through automatically. So look for future firestorms of discontent. 😉

“Am I too controversial?”

I do want to say here, that I did not approve one of the comments. It was highly critical of one of my recent presentations, and for the sake of continuing to try to make a living, I left the block on. I wrote to the author of the criticism, thanked him (or her), and mostly wanted them to know that I had read the post and that I had taken it to heart, like I do all correspondences.

I am a very lucky man, because I have a mission. But I also have to raise a family. So I have to exercise a right to decide what information is included in my web sites. To my knowledge, I have never blocked a legitimate comment before — and plan to mention in my blog, any time that I do so in the future.

Brain Drain

I worked at a wonderful regional conference last week in Southern Illinois, put on by their Regional Office of Education #21. While strolling through the exhibitors hall, a woman came up and asked if she could talk with me about a project that she was involved in. The project is called Brain Drain, and seeks to address a rising problem in Rural parts of this country (and I suspect other countries), where the educated and creative young are leaving their hometowns, and moving to cities for a variety of reasons.

That conversation brought me back to the talk by Richard Florida (Flight of the Creative Class) that I attended a few weeks ago, and his insistence that while the world is becoming flatter, it is also becoming more spiky, that more and more people are moving to few and fewer places.

I shared with her, Forida’s finding, through a Gallup Poll, that the two greatest factors in determining how happy a person is with where they live are aesthetics (the sensual appealingness) of the place, and their ability to express themselves freely. This seems to me to indicate an importance in integrating art, design, and music into the curriculums of small town schools, to provide students and the community with a rich visual and musical environment, that celebrates diversity, self-expression, and creativity.


I’ll be back on the road later this week. I’ll first drop by the pre-conference day at NCAECT (North Carolina’s ISTE affiliate) and hang out for a while with friends before going over to the Charlotte airport for a flight down to Orlando, where I’ll do a general presentation called, “The New Web and the New Shape of Information”, basically the same thing I did as a featured address at CUE last weekend. Will Richardson has already promised to be in the audience, and I hope to see other friends during my short stay there.

I’ll fly back to Charlotte right after my presentation for the last day of the NCAECT conference, where I’ll do a featured address on “Telling the New Story”. The recent blogospheric discussions on this topic are going to give me a lot to think about in preparing for this address.

But back to FETC, Will mentioned something, in FETC Blogger Meetup? about the pickings for read/write web topics at the conference being rather slim. So I decided to capture all of the session descriptions and feed them into a little script that I have that generates a tag cloud. Here is the cloud for the FETC concurrent sessions, showing all words that appeared at least ten times.

achievement activities applications based classroom come communication community computer computers connections content county create created curriculum data developing development digital district education educational educators effective electronic elementary enhance environment exciting explore fcat florida free help high improve information instruction instructional integrate integration interactive internet k laptops leaders leadership learn learning lessons literacy making middle model online participants plans portfolios practical presentation professional program project projects provide reading real research resources school schools science session share skills software standards strategies student students successful support teacher teachers teaching technology tools video virtual ways web world writing

When creating a tag cloud for words appearing more than once, I found that blog and blogging each showed up twice and blogs showed up six times. RSS did not appear at all, which is partly my fault. My session is very much about RSS, yet I didn’t mention it. The original title was RSS: the New WWW. But I changed it. Wiki is not mentioned at all, but podcasting is mentioned 8 times and podcasts is mentioned twice.

To be fair, the descriptions were shore, and this may be the reason why such words are not appearing. So do not be disheartened.

Reactions to Podcast 40: Redefining & Telling the New Story

[Because this is so long and since I have invested an entire morning to its writing, I will also be posting it as a podcast]

Skypecast ParticipantsLast week, while I was driving across southern Illinois, some very smart people were engaged in an important discussion, one of Wesley Fryer’s International Skypecasts. Contributors included, Miguel Guhlin, Mark Ahlness, Ewan McIntosh, Darren Kuropatwa, and Jeff Allen. Wes and I had tried to work out a way that I might participate through my mobile phone, while I was driving, but I had so little access to e-mail during that day, that our messages sort of passed in the night.

I have listened to the podcast now, and have jotted down some notes and reactions. First, thanks guys for your time, and for helping me to better understand my own ideas — growing knowledge. Second, before reading this, it might be helpful to listen to the podcast. Then, on the other hand, it might be interesting to read this blog entry, and then listen to the podcast.

So here are my jotted comments:

What strikes me about the term, “Untried & Untested” is that it makes sense only in a world that is stable and secure, where the testing how we are doing, can be relied upon to predict our students’ future success. In a time of rapid change, the measure of success depends more on how adaptive and inventive the learner is — their ability to turn instability into opportunity. In this world, summative testing makes no sense. I continue to maintain that when we can not clearly predict our children’s future, it becomes much less important what they are learning, and much more important how they are learning it, and what they are doing with it.

Gulin said that the practices of innovative teachers are considered, “…untried and untrue because they don’t connect with the traditional environment of school.” I think that the real story is that our schools are not connecting to (relevant to) their own goals, preparing children for their future.

He goes on to say that change may not happen from within our schools, but as a result of the demands of society. I agree with this, and this idea may be helpful in responding to Darren Kuropatwa’s apparent struggle with what I mean by “telling the new story”. Actually, he seems to understand quite well what I mean. It’s the demands of that society and our children’s future that needs to be made into a story, and then told in compelling ways back to the community (and to communities of teachers). It requires that we observe, speculate, converse, and construct a compelling story that clearly defines what children need to be learning, and how they need to be learning it, and in what kinds of classrooms (or not) it should be happening in. That story has to connect to a market-place, to deeply held values, and it needs to be something that we can point to and say, “Isn’t that the kind of education your children deserve?”

Mark Ahlness, equally confused by the question, and who seems equally to understand the answer, asks why new learning techniques like blogging are not catching on faster. I believe that it is because it does not resonate with today’s prevailing stories, test scores. We have become convinced that test scores indicate an effective school and a successfully educated student, and by extension, a citizen who will prosper, contribute, and be happy in their future. It’s a story that is pretty easy to swallow because it is simple, and it connects easily to our own education-experiences of 10, 20, or 40 years ago. It’s the reason why we need a new story that will be so compelling, that it will shatter the ideas of high-stakes testing, by showing it to be totally irrelevant to our children’s future, and might I add, “our future.”

Ewan McIntosh mentions digital immigrants and talks about the BBC reporter, who was younger than Ewan’s 28 years, but did not know about students’ use of social networks (MySpace and Bebo). He extended his point by saying that “… this is someone who is tapped into youth culture, being a radio reporter for the BBC.”


I have faced similar frustrations, most recently by a blog that is written by our capital paper’s education reporter. It is an education blog, but he has not, in a singly entry, ever talked about education. He writes exclusively about the school board, county commissioners, redistricting, budget and year-round schools, and never about the classroom. I’ve asked him about this, via e-mail, and he says that this is what people want to read. This is the story that they want to hear because it resonates emotionally with them, because these issues are about the market, about their children, and it makes assumptions about the education experiences of their past.

We need a story that equally resonates emotionally, but that forces new conclusions about the needs of learning children.

Finally, Ewan hits hard with what’s haunted me for months. He says that the phrase, “New Story” is annoying and that it verges on jargon. Thanks, Ewan. That was below the belt, but the intent was to knock some sense into me, and you are absolutely right. It is frustrating for people to read what I say about “The New Story” and then they start talking immediately about Digital Story Telling — which is an entirely different thing. So I need to clear this up — allot.

Ewan gets it, as he says that critical mass is not exactly what we need immediately — but evangelists. Mark wants to shout from the rooftops that blogging is the most motivational and exciting tool for student learning that he has ever seen. So where is the rooftop? How and where do we tell that story?

More Questions?

I really like Jeff Allen’s question, “If the technology is a tool, then what is its function?” There are probably a million ways to answer that question, and his, “…the technology is an amplifier,” has an enormous amount of value. But he goes on to talk about Dennis Littky’s “The Big Picture Company” (which I had not heard of, but will certainly learn more about), where students are deeply investigating topics that interest them, and he says that the teachers get out of the way. I think that part of the story is “What does that look like?” What does a classroom look like, where the teacher is getting out of the way of learning. Jeff mentions the phrase, “Guide on the side,” which is certainly useful. I like the shift from teacher delivers instruction to the teacher creates and crafts learning experiences, maintaining the classroom as a learning engine.

Ewan goes on to make a valuable point in trying to draw us away from talking about blogs and podcasts, and more about instruction and learning. Bingo, again. But! The story must be as free from education jargon as it is from technology jargon. The story is about people, how they do things and afford to do things (market), what the care about (values), and what we can point to that everyone (kids, teachers, administrators, parents, legislators, government ministers, and presidents) can all identify with. Wes says it has to be about relationships and connections. Yes!

I guess I’m talking about really big stories, that come in really small packages.

Darren did a wonderful job of tying things together when he asked, “What is it about blogging that makes it transformative.” He then referred to different statements that the participants had said, that it was all of it, and it had almost nothing to do with the technology (at least that what I gained from his statements). I really liked his reference to push/pull learning, and it speaks pretty effectively to the difference between industrial age learning, and creative age learning. When people contributed their muscles to the economy, you wanted to be able to push them along. But when our contributions come from our adaptability and innovation, then you want people who can teach themselves, — pulling learning from their experience.

Finally, there were several instances in the podcast where the following phrase was used:

Flat world technologies and their affect on teaching.

This phrase bothers me a bit, and I think it is for the same reason that “integrating technology” bothers me. It’s like saying, “Jack sold his mom’s cow for some seeds — and the giant fell to earth from his castle in the clouds.”

There are components to this story, and ours, that are missing and assumed, such as:

  • Jobs today, depend on talent, not geography.
  • We live in an exciting time of rapid change, new challenges, and enormous opportunities.
  • We now have access to brand new and compelling opportunities to learn by building knowledge in collaboration with others.
  • Being educated today depends less on what you have learned, and much more on what you can learn, unlearn, and relearn — learning to be specialized, highly adaptable, and creative.

The emotional impact of the compelling new story, is in the details — not a lot of details, but they have to connect with market, values, and it has to be something that we can point to.

In Conclusion:

  • What we need, is a new vision about education, one that reflects our increasingly digital and networked information environment, with new notions of the basic information skills — literacy,
  • That reflects a future of vast opportunities, and untold challenges, for which we are preparing our children — where their economic activities will be based far more on their inventiveness, than their ability to perform tasks and retain knowledge,
  • That reflects a new breed of children, with amazing new learning skills, who are adept at technology, but who desperately need us to teach them how to work the information.

To build that vision, WE need to be telling a new story, one that so compels on an intellectual and emotional level, that it shatters the old stories of seats in rows, nine-pound textbooks, lectures day-in and day-out, and the notion that we can measure success with a bubble sheet.

It’s a story that we tell to anyone who will listen, but especially to parents, community members, governmental leaders, other teachers, administrators, and even to our children. The stories must be short and they must have a moral.

Did you know that…? and
So what are we going to do about it?

That’s my 2¢ Worth!

Too Tired to Blog

This is where I deliver my Keynote Today
The best that my mobile phone’s camera could do in the dim light of the stage.

I’m back from an especially stressful speaking trip involving two very exciting regional conferences. The biggest reason for the stress was a freak snow storm in Chicago that almost prevented me from making it to Friday’s conference outside of Rochester. I made it, but with only two hours of sleep before the conference. The keynote, Redefining Literacy…, went well, speaking from the set of “The Beauty & the Beast”, the play that the high school is currently preparing for.

Then I had a very interesting extended session with educators from two vocational and technical schools in the region. Although many of the attendees were obvious technology users and advocates, I got the impression that some were fairly resistant to the changes that are happening around us. Still, I was very pleased with the session, as I facilitated a discussion, that seemed to lead into all of the things that I was hoping to teach anyway. Facilitated discussions do not always work out that well.

In review, here are some of the salient points that came out of this discussion.

  • We live in a time of rapid change.
  • No one, more than teachers, should be “life-long-learners”.
  • The shape of information is changing, as we are beginning to train information to find us.
  • We need to be paying attention (to our world, to our students).
  • Students are coming into our classrooms with amazing learning skills. We need to learn to tap into them.
  • Turn our classrooms into learning economies and education engines..
  • Allow students to make themselves experts and to share what the teach themselves.

One teacher apologetically suggested that the video games, and machinima that I was showing was too violent, that it makes her nervous to see kids engaged in such violent behavior. I told her that it was tag to them, that I watch my own children and their friends, and the seem very happy and very well adjusted people. More times than not, my son is playing games that they have invented themselves inside of the gaming environment. I think that this is called Emergent Gameplay.

But she later pointed out that the children I am referring to are likely being raised in loving families that are providing healthy guidance and care. A fair point, that points to lingering concerns that I have, as well. I would (glibly) suggest that we have bigger problems than video games, but that isn’t really fair to the daily endeavors of teachers.

What I wish I had thought to say is that:

In 2002, Nintendo alone invested more than $140,000,000 (USD) in research and development. That same year, the U.S. Federal Government spent less than half that much on Research & Innovation (in education).*

I maintain, that these games, even many of the violent ones, are where our children are learning their higher order thinking skills. The nature of the game, however, follows the money.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about telling the new story, once I have a chance to listen to the recent International Skypcast on Defining and Telling the New Story

* “2002 Annual Report for Nintendo Company, Ltd” Corporate Info Nentendo Company, Ltd. 27 Apr. 2003 <>
“FY 2004 Budget for the United States Government” U.S. Department of Education U.S. Department of Education. 27 Apr. 2003 <>

Just Checking In

I’ve been presenting, sitting in airports, airplanes, taxis, sleeping, lately, and not writing, reading, eating (well there was that one sandwich, and that small egg patty at the hotel) — and especially stressing over getting through snowy Chicago last night and on to my final destination, the Fingerlakes region of New York.

I made it, and today I’ll be doing my standard, Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century, gig. There has been a lot said, in recent days, about telling the new story, and I haven’t even had time to read it all. But I believe that this is one of those stories. The 3Rs are part of the old story that has so locked us into a style of teaching that I believe is obsolete and even damaging to our children, in certainly ways.

This message, today, is a bout a new story of new notions of the basic skills that describe what it means to be a reader, when information is increasingly networked; what it means to be a processor of information, when information is increasingly digital; what it means to be a writer, when information is increasingly overwhelming, and the ethical implications that ride with this new shape of information.

I hope to write again very soon! 😉

Conference Day near Rochester, NY

[Please forgive in grammar errors and mispellings. I am blogging this on the go without a spell checker]

Blogger  Chris HarrisI am sitting in a session being presented by Chris Harris, of Infomancy, about blogging. He is show educators some of the more objectionable content on MySpace. He made the teachers raise their hands before they went in, and pledge that they would not freak out. One of his major points is that kids are going to be having these conversations, regardless of the technology. We can’t stop the conversation. Kids will be kids. He says that we need to be talking about this in our schools. We need to start that conversation, so that we can start dealing with this.

He is now talking about instructional applications, mentioning Bob Sprankle and his 3rd and 4th graders.

So how do I start a blog?

  • Read
  • Think
  • Write
  • Read (re)

(This is from Will Richardson’s writings)

He’s talking about Class Blogmeister as an option for the classroom, because it is not blocked. He mentioned that teachers should donate to the programmer. I really need to add a link to my Starbucks card…because I’m running a bit low! 😉

Christine DowdI’m now sitting, now, in a session about iPods. The presenter is Christine Dowd, whom I have blogged about before.

I think she just said that 14% of all Internet traffic goes to the iTunes Music Store. I’ve got to validate that. Meanwhile, there are 25,000 podcasts.

Here’s a link to the 14% issues (MacNN).

I like the way that she just held up her digital camera and her iPod (with an iTalk) and said, “This is my field trip” Shift in is what it’s about, “Shifting the time and place of learning.” She just showed a slide with a picture of an iPod on a class podium, with a big red X. It doesn’t replace the teacher. It can, however, replace some of the functions that teachers engage in, and allow them to do more powerful learning engagements that they do not have time to do now.

She just heard the statistic that by 2017 (?), 55% of school aged children will not be native English speakers. I did find this quote in “A Look at the Progress of English Learners“, from California’s Legislative Analysts Office:

In Los Angeles, for instance, 55 percent of first graders are classified as ELs.

Telling the New Story

Telling the New StoryI just read that Wesley, Miguel, Ewan, and Darren are going to be doing another Skypecast. I would so much like to be part of one of these conversations. How does one get an invite? Alas, I’ll be driving across Illinois at that time, so will have to listen later on, when Wesley has posted it as a podcast.

One of the issues they’ll be talking about is affecting change in education, and their agenda indicates some talk about “The New Story”. I’ve spoken quite a bit lately about “The New Story” and will be again, next week, at the NCAECT conference in Charlotte.

The best stories are told by people who are respected (believe it or not, teachers are respected as people who “know” things). They’re also told by children, and by grandparents. They can be long, but the best stories are short. They begin with, “Did you know that…” and there is an implied question. It’s the question that’s the hard part.

Did you know that if Walmart was a country, it would be China’s eighth largest trading partner?

Did you know that at any moment 2% of the world gross domestic product is in the back of a UPS truck?

The typical American question is, “Why are we outsourcing all of this manufacturing?” We need to teach ourselves to ask, “What do I need to know in order to facilitate this sort of supply chain?”

Dr. Jennifer James talks about story telling as an effective leadership skills. She says that a compelling new story must have three elements. It must:

  • Fit the marketplace and our vision of the future
  • Resonate to deeply held values
  • Be something that we can model, something that we can point to.

Hands down, the marketplace is changing. It’s getting bigger and there are a lot of new players. What we value, are our children. And we have to have some vision of that classroom that is not centered around the technology, but around what our children are doing, what the community is seeing, and how that vision fits the future vision.

To me, personally, the value of conferences has more to do with the stories I come away with than the new technologies. There are a number of books right now that are telling compelling new stories. Aside from Freidman’s, The World is Flat, look into:

  • The Flight of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida
  • Got Game, by John Beck
  • Growing Up Digital, by Don Tapscott (it’s a bit dated by with valuable)
  • As the Future Catches You, by Juan Enriquez
  • Get WIRED Magazine for your professional library.

[Please suggest other sources of new stories!]

Be willing to be bold. Small changes don’t excite people. Big changes do. The other day, I suggested, in my CUE webcast, that each teacher should have three or four hours of planning time every day. First off, think for a minute, about a classroom based on three hours of planning every day. Isn’t that the classroom that our children and our future deserves.

If we are not willing to at least consider changes that are that radical, then we simply aren’t going to make it.

2¢ Worth!