Living is Messy

Brian Crosby republished an article in today’s Learning is Messy – Blog, that makes a compelling call to treat technology and social software as simply a new and valuable avenue for enriching our lives, rather than treating it as the number of the beast, because it’s new and valuable. He starts with…

Paper and pencils can be used to draw inappropriate, hate filled, pictures messages and ideas – and you could poke someone’s eye out. They could even be used to lure your child into a dangerous situation. Should we (and could we if we tried?) cut off access to keep our children safe? No, because they are everywhere and too valuable in so many ways – so as parents and educators we monitor and teach ethical, appropriate, safe use.

Read many more compelling examples at Reprised Because of DOPA.

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Charles bass melissa bean judy biggert marsha blackburn jeb bradley genny brown-waite john campbel michael castle geoff davis john doolittle thelma drake john duncan phil english vito fossella jim gerlach paul gillmor kay granger j d hayworth sue w kelly mark r kennedy mark steven kirk john kline john r kuhi kenny marchant michael t mccaul candis s miller tim murphy todd russell plats ted poe jon c porter adam putnam mike rogers john schwarz pete sessions christopher shays john shimkus patrick tibera curt weldon jerry weller all cosponsored HR 5319, Deleting Online Predators Act, which was introduced on 9 May 2006 by Michael Fitzpatrick.

You can follow the bill via LOC’s Thomas Bills Resolutions database for HR5319.

21 of the 39 co-sponsers are considered vulnerable in November, including Mikie Fitzpatrick 😉

Vulnerable representatives are italicized.

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Two Shifts for Librarians…

smokiesDisclaimer: After reading this again, I realize that I am making some pretty dramatic statements that apply to a lot of people, most of whom I like a lot. So it is important that I explain that the writer of this blog bares no resemblance to any librarian you have known or not known. I have no formal training in the management of libraries or the science of librarianship. I speak as an outsider, and my ideas should be treated as such. With this in mind, please read on -- or not!

Waking up, high in the Smoky Mountains, somewhere west of Boone, North Carolina, has emboldened me to attempt to describe two shifts in the functions of libraries and librarianship. First, we’re up in the mountains, living in a magnificent house, by a golf course celebrating my father’s 80th birthday. It was a surprise to him, although I suspect that the severe gravel roads that brought us up here probably were not entirely comforting to him — until we arrived. All four of us boys are here with our families.

Now, on to the point at hand — since I’m the first up in the morning, surprise, surprise, surprise. I wrote, while at NECC, about a school librarian I rode the conference shuttle with, and the conversation we had about cut-backs in school libraries. That article drew a good bit of conversation (especially after I fixed the problem that initially prevented people from commenting). It is an issue that deserves a great deal of conversation, because there is no doubt that the institution is in jeopardy.

First of all, I would like to make an important distinction that I see, when I think about that conversation. There is an important difference between libraries and librarians. Libraries, as we think of them, are soon to become obsolete. What will be the point of a library, when nearly all of the information that its patrons need on a day-to-day basis will be available to them with a mouse-click. Certainly people will continue to want to come to the library for fiction and for traditional research, but in a world with 500 cable channels and broadband Internet streaming into people’s homes, this will simply not be enough to continue to invest in libraries. I don’t like to say this. I’m a romantic, with it comes to information. However, we live in an exhilarating time of change, and that’s where our enlightened focus should be.

Librarians, by contrast, are more important today than they have ever been. We all live in a global digital library where we search, subscribe, synthesize, archive, and even maintain our own personal digital libraries. The problem is that almost none of us know how to do these things to the degree that would bring full benefit of the Internet home to its users. We need people to somehow teach us how to do these things. No one is more qualified to lead us into the information/knowledge/conceptual age than librarians. Granted, librarians have much to learn about managing digital networked content, and that learning will never be fully accomplished. Life-long-learning is an occupation that we all share. ..and quite frankly, any librarian who does not believe this, deserves the book shelf they’ll be left on.

Yet, we still think of the library as a container. We continue to value books, bookshelves, card catalogs, and the other containers of content. This is the past of information, but it is not the future, nor is it a significant part of its present. We’ve been comfortable with containered information, because it is easier to label — good or bad, authoritative or without authority. Being able to place value on containered information based on who wrote it or who published it, made the job of deciding its appropriateness easier. But when information no longer flows in containers, its source becomes difficult and sometimes impossible to determine.

In a time of rapid change, to disregard information, because its source can not be incontrovertibly determined, would be to waste a wealth of useful content.

Source, as a measure of information’s usefulness does not go away. However, I believe that one of the shifts that we will need to make in how we think about information and in the skills that we bring to bare on research is a shift away from source as the determining factor for using information and a shift toward value. The question will not always be:

Is this an authoritative source?

Instead it will always be:

Does this information effectively help me accomplish my goal? Is it valuable to my mission?

Most certainly the source will often be a contributing factor in determining information’s value, but it will rarely be the defining factor.

In one of my next blogs, I’ll describe why the obsolete library should not go away, but instead, meld into something else.

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Outlaw Teachers — Outlaw Learners

I can’t believe that my children are begging me to let them write.

Even when they’re out sick, students work on their blogs.

I’ve got 6th graders coming in during their lunch and after school to add articles to their blog and to respond to their classmates’ articles

Why would my students want to write on paper for their teacher to see, when they could write on their blog for the whole world to see?

In fifteen years of teaching, I have never seen anything come along even CLOSE to motivating students to write – like blogging does.

Would good teachers be able to watch learning practices like blogging be banned from their classrooms. DOPA, in a effort to gain political mileage, seeks to return these classrooms to what must certainly seem like The Dark Ages of teaching and learning, and I don’t think that teachers could let go. They’ll become outlaw teachers.

  • They’ll create a secret handshake for conferences and code symbols on their business cards making other knowing teachers aware that they are seeking online communities for their students to use as learning environments.
  • Tech-savvy students will be covertly commissioned by their teachers to hack the school’s network and mask blog and community correspondences as Student Information Management data destined for the state’s legislator bean counters.
  • Small wireless computers with folding keyboards will be smuggled into classrooms inside of hollowed out textbooks.
  • The interface of Class Blogmeister will be changed so that it looks like a math facts drilling program rather than a blogging engine.
  • Pictures of 1950s style classrooms will be downloaded from the Internet, enlarged, and then attached to the inside of class door windows, so that passers-by can fell more comfortable about their school.

OK, I’m having a little too much fun with a dreadfully serious issue. Go to the ALA web site this morning and write to your congressman. Then call and fax.

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Call Your Representative Today…

I just got this through Dave Farber’s Interesting People:

ALAWON: American Library Association Washington Office Newsline
Volume 15, Number 73
July 25, 2006

In This Issue: URGENT ACTION ALERT: Call Representatives TODAY and ask them to oppose DOPA

URGENT Action Needed:

The Washington Office has learned that the House may try to expedite passage of H.R. 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), TOMORROW, July 26th.

PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY and ask that they oppose HR 5319. Capitol Switchboard number is: 202-224-3121.


DOPA is sponsored by Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and supported by the House Republican Suburban Caucus. It would require that, as a condition of receiving E-Rate support, all schools and libraries block access to social networking websites and chat rooms.

The bill raises a number of issues:

1) Local school districts and libraries should determine what content should flow into schools and libraries. Federal mandate over content control is very problematic.
2) Districts and libraries already have the power to block access to social networking sites and chat rooms and a number of them have already done so.
3) DOPA imposes yet another burden on schools and libraries participating in the E-rate and may deter many from continuing to participate.
4) This bill paints an unflattering and distorted view of the Internet as a whole, serving to scare away parents, students, teachers and librarians from making use of all its resources.

Last week, YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke testified on DOPA before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on DOPA. You can read her testimony here:

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Feeding Kids in Texas

I just got this week’s Technology & Learning News and was saddened to learn that forces against children have dealt a crippling blow to efforts in Texas to equip its children with 21st century information and communication technologies (Textbook funds can’t be used for laptops). Urged by State School Board member, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, the state’s attorney general ruled that funds set aside for textbooks can not be used to purchase laptops or other computer hardware. That official, Greg Abbott, said,

Funds designated for textbooks “must be used exclusively for the purpose of conveying information, including curriculum content, to students,”

Even from the shallow view of education as the act of pouring information into children so that it will spill out through their number 2 pencils, computers are devices that “convey information and curriculum.”

Perhaps I’m dreaming when I try to envision an education system that invites students into their future, through experiences that help them to develop the learning skills that will serve them for all of their life. Perhaps I should simply resign to the idea that the way of least resistance is what’s best for our children, and that way is backwards.

2¢ Worth!

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NECC Spotlight in Video

David at NECC
David at NECC
I learned today that NECC’s Webcasting of sessions is now available (or I finally figured out how to find them). You can see the video of my presentation at:

Other webcasted presentations can be found at:

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Flat Classrooms in a Flattening World

I had a great day, yesterday, in Davidson County’s (North Carolina) administrative retreat. I opened the day with a keynote on the Flattening World and Flat Classrooms. All of the attendees had been required to read The World is Flat, and dutifully had their copies on the tables in front of them. I tried to share some ideas about globalization as expressed by Friedman, but also some contrary perspectives, based on creative-class writings by Richard Florida, saying that it is as important for us to be teaching our children creative arts as it is the science arts.

Most of my time was spent on describing the millennial generation and characteristics of the flat classroom. Vinod Khosla’s ideas about media industries that maintain their audiences into media engines came in handy again in helping me to describe classrooms as learning engines. (more about that later)

The keynote was followed by three breakout sessions that the administrators cycled through. One was facilitated by Davidson County Schools technology staff, showing active boards and desk clickers, as well as other neato’s. Another breakout was facilitated by a young man who’s name has completely slipped my mind, and I can’t find memtion of it anywhere in my notes. I am so very sorry. But this Chris Harrington, a public relations specialist from Charlotte evidently, who did a fabulous job of introducing administrators to blogging and podcasting as a communication medium.

I facilitated a book talk about The World is Flat with each group, where I tried to focus the discussion on stories that have come out of the book. I asked them to pretend that they have required the parents of their students to read the book, and then to decide what they would say to the parents at next year’s open house about globalization and the needs for education reform.

I must say that I was extremely impressed with the people in my groups. They get it. There was a lot of talk about project based learning and other issues, but there is a great deal of frustration with the constraints of high-stakes testing (in North Carolina Most high school courses are tested by the state) and general attitudes about education that are so firmly seated in 20th (19th, 18th) century notions about teaching and learning.

Enough for now. Got to get to work!

2 more cents worth!

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New Pew Internet Report & Comments

 33 61933403 Caf65546B8Pew Internet in American Life project just published a new report, Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet’s New Storytellers. I’ve not read the entire report, but the Summary of Finds are intriguing, and indicative of the increasing practice of participating in our information landscape. My comments are italicized.

  • 54% of bloggers in the U.S. are under the age of 30. I find it more interesting that that leaves 46% who are over the age of 30, pre-videogame, TV generation folks, who are making themselves a part of the global conversation.
  • Bloggers are less likely to be white than the general internet population. 60% of U.S. bloggers are white, while 74% of Internet users are. 11% of bloggers are African American while only 9% of Internet users are, and 19% are English-speaking Hispanic and 11% of Internet users are. I think that it would be interesting to get such a breakdown on these blogger’s readership.
  • 55% of bloggers use a pseudonym.
  • There is an interesting breakdown on why people blog. The top reason was to express yourself creatively with documenting your personal experiences a close second. In the ten item list, “To make Money” was the least checked reason.
  • Even though 34% of bloggers consider their blogs a form of journalism, 57% include links to original sources and 56% spend extra time trying to verify facts they want to include.
  • Bloggers are dramatically more likely to get their news and other content from the Internet than non-bloggers. I would like to know how much content and new bloggers access compared to non-bloggers.
  • 45% of bloggers say they prefer getting news from sources that do not have a particular political point of view. But this is roughly the same as non-blogging Internet users. The other 55% still concern me.ther 55% still concern me.

Bøtter, Jacob. “Bloging and Recording — All at Once.” Jacob Bøtter’s Photostream. 10 Jov 2005. 20 Jul 2006 <>.

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Another Large 1:1 Laptop Initiative

I’m sitting in the airport in Memphis, and thrilled to find six power outlets in this one gate. This is a real rarity, as people want to get a little more word done before they get on the plane, hopping to have a full battery charge. The Laptop institute was a real treat and my final roundtable session was most instructive. The issues that were discussed were pretty exclusively limited to laptop and tablet concerns, so I learned a lot. I also recorded the entire discussion, so it may appear as one of my future podcasts.
There seemed to be much interest in tablet PCs for a variety of reasons. One interesting comment that was made referred to the fact that laptops, raised on the desk, cause a sense of separation between the teacher and the student. I suspect that this not a trivial issue, because I have heard to concern not only from teachers, but also from business people who object to the separation. With tablet PCs we’re putting work back on the desk, instead of against a wall. At any rate, there seemed to be two fairly distinct schools of thought here.

 Cnb Televox Photo 2006June22 3Finally, I had a conversation on the bus this morning with two educators who teach in New Brunswick, Canada. Their school was one of three English schools in that that province and three French-speaking schools that have been equipped for 1:1 teaching and learning. They told me that although the final report for the pilot is not due until August, the province has decided to begin phasing in laptops based on preliminary findings. I think that giving students and teachers ubiquitous access to contemporary information technology will happen. It’s a matter of when, not if. The sooner the better.
Here is a link to the New Brunswick press release, sent to me later by Jeff Whipple.

“2,900 Students to have Notebook Computer in Fall 2006.” Communications New Brunswick. 22 Jun 2006. 18 Jul 2006 <>.

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