Laptops are Not the Answer!

I woke up at 3:30 this morning. It’s not uncommon when I’m delivering a keynote address that day. It’s partly nervousness. It’s possible that this morning had more to do with the chocolate cake that I ordered last night, resting on a trio of chocolaty truffle’s. Allow me to pause for just a moment over that sweet memory!


I’m certain though, that it had more to do with the fury that I woke up with, when it finally dawned on me what the librarians I had dinner with last night told me. They are laying off librarians in Michigan, and BUYING LAPTOPS!

Josephine Kirkbride is the one and only librarian for her school district. Maybe it’s that I come from a state with laws that mandate a professional librarian (graduate degree) in every school that makes this seem so outrageous to me. But you’ve heard me say it before. It’s not the technology, it’s the information. It’s not the laptop skills, it’s the information skills. Angus King, the former governor of Maine will tell you, “You don’t put laptops in children’s hands to improve test scores. ” There are better reasons. Yet Michigan is starting its 1:1 initiative with their 100 lowest performing school districts. Research after research after research shows that professional librarians correlate with higher student achievement (see below).

I would rather see the state invest in its future buy putting a professional librarian in each library than buy laptops for every child. They desperately need both. I could even make a case for getting rid of the library’s. But not the librarians!

Our students need to learn to teach themselves, not how to be taught. ..and this requires that they become skilled information artisans, able to effectively and responsibly access, use, and express new ideas and build new knowledge within the context of their history, their environment, their society and future. Anything less, is just preparing them for the 1950s.

  • Lance: The role of the librarian correlates with student achievement (1993)
  • Krashen: Higher reading scores for students with professional librarians (1993)
  • International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Attainment: Pupils in schools with a professional librarian attain higher reading scores (1992)
  • Philadelphia / Offenberg and Clark: Library Power results in higher SAT-9 scores in reading

Gniewek, Debra. “School Library Programs and Student Achievement: A Review of the Research.” Library Programs and Services. 12 Aug 2001. School District of Philadelphia. 26 Oct 2006 <>.

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Unconference Questions, Please?

I am thinking of handling Friday’s TechForum new web session in a modified unconference style, facilitating conversations in the room, rather than just teach — in the Web 1.0 fashion.  If I should decide to do this, and if there is a lull in the conversation, what are some questions that you would ask a group of very bright web savvy educators, tech directors, and school administrators? 

What would you want to talk about?

Waiting for change!

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Catching Up!

Clint Kennedy’s Podcasting Session with attendees spilling out into the hall

Will Richardson once said that, “When I’m not blogging, it isn’t because I do not have time to write, it’s because I do not have time to read.” I think that this statement says a lot about blogging. In my case, I’ve not had enough time to breath. Yesterday had me at home for the first time in a week, and I always look forward to such times for the rest I’m expecting. As it turned out, I got to about a quarter of the e-mails that had backed up, not counting the ones that came in yesterday. This is actually quite serious, and I don’t know what I’d do without Brenda to handle the ones about business.

Without much time for thinking, I thought I would just jot down some reflections on the various conferences I have been to lately, and a couple that are coming up.

  1. ACTEM in Maine (hh) — I’ve tried, but I just can’t put my finger on my impressions of this conference. The best I can do is to say that I felt more like I was in another country, with another language, than going to another state. It isn’t that people seemed foreign or the language was different, but that what people talked about was different. Teachers were asking different questions. They were telling different stories. The sessions were different. When they talked about what they were doing in their classrooms, it was the students who were doing the doing. Again, I can’t pinpoint why, but I left even more convinced that the threshold for retooling education for our children and their future is every teacher and learning (interchangeable) with ubiquitous access to digital, networked, overwhelming information.
  2. K12OnlineConference (hh) — This conference has turned into something of a controversy, but fortunately, more people are paying attention to the conference than to some of the back-of-the-room murmurs. I must admit that I haven’t had time to pay attention to much of the goings on (I’ve downloaded a number of WMP and QuickTime files to watch on the plane today), but my experience in producing the keynote was unique, and seemingly well received. I listened to the first few minutes of Jeff Utecht’s LAN party with seven of the educators at the Shanghai American School today, and was intrigued by the concept of a Tupperware conference. My hope is that the real value of this conference will be realized when it’s over, and people continue to come and learn, and interact.
  3. ERB Conference in NYC — Part of the charm of this conference was taking Brenda with me, though I still refuse to allow her to see my keynote. I’m not sure I want her to see that person I become on stage 😉 The conference was national, put on by a company that produces and markets assessment tools. They use this conference to explore advancements in teaching and learning technologies, and they invite their national customers (mostly independent schools) to participate. The keynote was well received, but I have come to enjoy the perspectives brought to these conferences from schools that are not so constrained by the strings tied to federal dollars. I sat in on a session about writing AUPs that was presented and moderated by the tech coordinator at a Quaker School. Again, the conversations were a bit different. They are thinking hard about filtering, policy, implications, and the instructional opportunities of inappropriate content, rather than simply reacting to federal laws. They were conversations that I do not regularly hear at conferences attended more prominently by public school educators.
  4. CECA (hh) — The best thing that I can say about this Connecticut conference, and really all of them, is the incredible hospitality. It’s a conference that is struggling with venue to support the numbers of attendees (almost every session was PACKED), the incredible menu of presentations by people who are both locally and nationally known, and continue to spearhead with conference innovations such as giving each attendee a digital camera for recording the conference, a hand-held computer, and, this year, a Nano MP3 player to take much of the conference home with them through a conference Podcast. Incredible!
  5. MAME (hh)– Today, I head up to the Michigan Association for Media Education conference. They’re trying something that I do not recall seeing before. They have a conference wiki. I posted some content on the wiki, more of a comment, on the page for the keynote address. This is an interesting idea that may get some real traction in the future. Anyway, I’m looking forward to this conference because it will be attended by librarians. I like this, because they get it. It isn’t about the technology. It’s about the information. Blah blah blah. You’ve read this before.
  6. TechForum (hh) — From Grand Rapids, I’ll fly to Austin, Texas (what the heck am I going to do with my overcoat?). This will be the second of this season’s TechForums. I will get to enjoy my friend, Dave Jake’s keynote address, and then moderate a panel discussion on video games in education, a roundtable discussion on open source (which I’ll probably podcast), and a beyond the basics session on Web 2.0. For the new web session, I’m thinking of making it a modified unconference session, where I’ll moderate (and podcast) an open discussion about blogs, podcasting, RSS, social bookmarks, social media, mashups, and what ever else comes up. I tried this at CECA and it seemed to go well. Several people came up and said that it was a great session to attend and participate in at the end of the conference.

So that gets me up to the weekend and another…

2¢ Worth…

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Take your Conference With You

I’m sitting in my hotel room, getting ready for the CECA 2006 conference, here outside of Hartford, Connecticut. The theme of their conference is Communicating In A Global Society — and they are taking that theme seriously. Each attendee will receive a free iPod Nano. Let’s pause for a moment for affect.

This is not simply a ploy to get people to attend the conference, though it will almost certainly have that affect. The Nanos will come preloaded with a number of audio files about the conference, the theme of the conference, and pre-recorded highlights of many of the presentations, including the keynote address.

In addition, a team of podcasters has been assembled with missions to record specific presentations, with permission from presenters, and then dash to podcaster central (some boardroom somewhere in the bowels of the conference center) where highly trained technicians will upload the files and attach them to a conference podcast feed.

As a result, conference attendees, after the conference, will be able to subscribe to the CECA feed and download all of those podcast presentations to take home with them. This is too cool for school!

full disclosure: I do not receive any compensation from Apple Computer and all mentionings of companies or their products are trademarked.

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Art & Tolerance are Basic

Brenda and I are rolling down the rails on the Silver Star, bound for New York City, where I’ll be speaking at the ERB conference tomorrow (pdf). It’s relaxing and romantic, and aside from rail work being done north of Raleigh, necessitating a bus ride for about 30 people from the city to the train station in Rocky Mount (and the fact that the bus driver got lost twice), it has been a trip without adventure — and this is a good thing right now.

What’s gotten me thinking and wanting to blog is the many small towns that we are riding through, beautifully picturesque small towns, and the sadness of seeing boarded up storefronts. Some of the towns are just next to completely abandoned. It reminds me of the town I grew up in. When I graduated, a majority of my classmates were going right into the sixteen mills in that town, destined for 35 years as lint-heads, not a bad life, and retiring with a pension and lots of grand children. All of those mills are gone now, as well as the trucking company that was headquartered there. The town continues to thrive, but its years are numbered as its children leave. It is a beautiful town, exactly what the new style of open mall is trying to emulate.

This is the issue that Richard Florida talked about here in Raleigh about a year ago, and the topic of his latest book, The Flight of the Creative Class. The children of these towns leave because they see no future there. If they see no future there, then we are not doing our jobs. The fact is that there is almost nothing that I do professionally in Raleigh that I could not do as easily in my home town. The only disadvantage would be a farther drive to the airport — and proximity to an airport is a unique condition of how I make a living.

First of all, we should be teaching our children that because of the revolution in information and communication technologies, they can be creative contributors to their communities, local and global, from their small towns. Many people do it. We should be teaching this.

Secondly, Florida discussed two aspects of where creative people live that were not intuitive, but surfaced to the top of his research into why the creative class is gravitating to certainly places (NYC and San Francisco, to mention only two in my country). One of those was aesthetic appeal. San Francisco is a beautiful city, as is New York. But so is my own home town. It is in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and from certain spots you can see them, purple in the distance. There was also a rich musical heritage in my town, where a giant blue-grass music festival was held for decades, talked about all over western North Carolina. It was long gone by the time I was born, but it was a heritage that should have been celebrated as part of the aesthetic appeal of the community. Are we teaching the beauty of where we live in our schools? Are we using our schooling to help make our communities more beautiful. Is this seen as a problem that we have any influence over? I think that we do. It’s why music and art must be seen as basics in our children’s education experience, not secondary to the workbot curriculum.

Third, and this is the real toughie. Florida says that the other factor that seems to draw creative people is openness, a freedom to express yourself, to be yourself. I’m not sure how to teach tolerance, how to include it in your curriculum. But I suspect that those teachers who are willing and able to give their students the opportunities to express their ideas and to engage in conversations about their experiences, their desires, their impressions and insights, withing and beyond their classrooms are possibly trail-blazing a path for us.

Just 2¢ Worth!

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Online Conference Keynote

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
(Moblogged) I want to thank everyone for the very warm reception to my K12 Online Conference keynote ( I hope that it does justice to the potent opportunities that will emerge from this event over the next couple of weeks.

As a counter-point to my virtual address, Brenda and I are back at the Raleigh train station. The rails are there but our departure is delayed — due to fog. You figure out the metaphor here. 😉

Science in Minnesota

I am getting ready to deliver a keynote for the Minnesota STEM Digital Content conference. They hold all of their science teacher conferences here at the Science Museum of Minnesota, which has a relationship with the state association of science teachers. The auditorium here is magnificent, with eerie DNA sounding music playing from the ceilings. I’m impressed.

I was surprised how easily I was able to adapt my contemporary literacy slides for a science teacher audience. It all cuts down to the notion that it isn’t about the technology. It’s about the information, and information is at the root of teaching and learning. The information has changed (digital, networked, and overwhelming) and so the literacy skills — learning literacies — must also change, expand, and continue to adapt to the ever-changing information landscape.

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K12 Online Conversation

I can’t thank enough, the busy and courageous educators who have organized and continue to maintain the K12 Online Conference. Last night was amazing, even if a bit stressful for this cranky old guy. This morning, I had even more fun reading through the online notes recorded by people who saw the keynote and jotted down insights and questions as they went along.

I took some time this morning to respond in most of the notes pages. It’s continuing the conversation. You can see the keynote wiki site at:

There is a list along the left of the content of people who have created their wiki notes pages. Click the names to get to their notes and my reactions. Fun!

This photo is my first practice with adding notes to pictures using flickr.  Click the picture to go to the flickr page.

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A Tough Day

It was that.  The day started with lab work for an upcoming check-up.  Needles.  Then there was a 12:30 telephone panel discussion with folks from eMints, HighTech High, and other high places.  A bit intimidating, but I learned a lot from the other contestants.  The discussion will be transcribed into an upcoming journal article.  I’ll keep you posted.

The day ended with a fun, but stressful fireside chat with about 50 participants in the K12 Online Conference — all of us sitting around the glow of our computer screens.  I do not have much experiences with on-line webinar style work, and the software was a bit intimidating to me, though others who have had extensive experience have already, in their blogs, raved about Eluminate, the system that we used.  I personally applaud, once again, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, who served masterfully as the session moderator.  She was the perfect host.  I can’t help but picture her with wires coming out of her ears, and light flashing on her forehead, because she was managing an enormous number of people, and handling the  heading and air conditioning at the same time — and our voices, our applause, E V E R Y T H I N G !

Outstanding Job!

Now it’s back to normal — back to the airport today for St. Paul, where, tomorrow, I’ll give my contemporary literacy speech, adapted for an audience of science teachers.  That ought to be interesting.

Heading for the airport with changing in my pockets!

Here’s a screen shot from Wes Fryer from last nights fireside chat

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