A Moodle Keynote Conversation

Live Blogged at the AIMS Retreat near St. Michael, MD — please forgive misspellings and awkward wording

http://davidwarlick.com/images/keynotediscussion.jpg The morning Keynote is about to begin, and announcements are being made.  There are 128 members here, so it’s a group who knows each other.  One young man has announced that he has a networked projector here, and offering to show it off.  Another young man announces that the attendee who was going to drive him home, didn’t et to attend afterall.  Is anyone driving to Northern Virginia after the conference.  He found someone.

Michelle Moore, the keynote speaker, is very sick this morning.  Michelle is a Kansas Moodle consultant and was going to present about this tool.  It’s disappointing to me because a briefly got to know her last night and discovered that we have mutual friends in Kansas.  So Bill Pickett, one of the board members is picking it up, describing how his district useds Moodle.

He’s taking us on a tour of this service.  It’s started with a an listing of services.  A new module is now available that I didn’t know about, SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model).  With it, you can bring a variety of content into Moodle.

The session has turned into a discussion of Moodle users expressing their favorite features.  Some of them include:

  • The ability to track how students are using the service, and to check to see if a student did indeed try to submit their homework, or that they saw the page that described a project.
  • The kids are much more engaged in the content of their classes because of the discussion boards.  They talk in class and outside of class.  One participant mentioned that she was, at that moment, monitoring a conversation of her students.
  • Another teacher is talking about a teacher who has to fly back to London to clear up a Visa problem.  So, she sits in the Chicago airport, connected to the Net through her Tablet PC, with head set on, and lectures her lession, recording it, and posting on the class Moodle site.  Now we’re seeing the lesson, here in the conference.  She’s talking, and on the board, we are seeing her work through the algebra problem.  Are these the capabilities of a 21st century teacher?
  • One distinction that one attendee found to be interesting was that as they started watching the logs of use of Moodle, the saw that tens of thousands of activities were being logged.  However, when they looked at the content that teachers were posting, it just wasn’t that robust initially.  Of course it has become much more robust, but it indicates that students have been chomping at the bit for this kind of information activity.
  • This is simple but important.  Nothing gets lost.  Kids use to lose their rough drafts, their homework assignments, etc.  Now, everything’s online and safe (reasonably).
  • Individual teachers feel a part of the entire knowledge base of their students, as they can visit the Moodle pages of their other teachers.
  • At the primary grades, Moodle is being used for the sake of parents, to give them access student work and to conversations with each other.
  • There are problems.  One middle school child was having problems sleeping.  They learned by going into the Moodle log, that the child was IM’ing at 1:00AM.  Moderation in all things!

I is still a shame that Michelle was not able to deliver her address, but it turned out to be a very useful session.  It was a conversation.

The Week’s Highlight

I’ve just started another week on the road.  It’s my last time I’ll be away all week for a long time, as my schedule thins out over the next month or so.  I spend the first couple of days at the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) Retreat acting as keynote speaker and conference journalist.  Then a couple of days in Baltimore for the MICCA conference.  I can’t remember what MICCA stands for, but it’s Maryland’s educational technology conference.  Once again, I follow Hall Davidson, but at least there are 24 hours between us.  After that, I fly to Charlotte for an International Schools event, and then…

http://davidwarlick.com/images/performance2.jpgI may have mentioned on several occasions that my home town, in western North Carolina, has a rich heritage of music.  There use to be a famous mountain music festival near there called the Pumpkin patch (or Pumpkin Corner or Pumpkin Square) Blue Grass festival — or something like that.  I may also have mentioned that Beach Music (or what came to be called Beach Music) was also born there, as a band formed in the early 60s called the Shakers (not to be confused with the Fantastic Shakers) formed and started playing dances and pavillions all over the souh east.   I remember when I was about ten, my Dad taking me to Blackwoods (the local teen hangout) where the Shakers were set up on the roof of the building and playing their songs, to throngs (well what constitutes a throng in that very small town).

I’m thinking about this, because I just got off of the first leg of my flight to Baltimore, having sat next to the guitar player for the southern rock band, Dakkota.  They use to be quite famous (I texted Brenda and she remembered them) and are still playing gigs.  Anyway, our conversation got me to thinking about what happened with the Shakers.  They started becoming famous, but there was a core of musicians who didn’t really want to be famous.  They liked the small town family life, and the band broke up and the core formed a new local band.  Meanwhile, the glory hounds would form the next BIG Beach Music band, and the local band would start to travel.  When the travel became too intense, the local band would disband again, and this continuing pattern spawned groups like The Embers, The Spontanes, The Catalinas, and eventually The Fantastic Shakers (not to be confused with the Original Shakers).

When I got old enough to drive, I’d picked up the guitar and then keyboards (can’t read music a lick), played in a couple of bands, and was invited to join the latest incarnation, Liberty Ark.  It was great fun, but the travel got to be too much (even for me as I was going to college in Dallas, NC.  We disbanded.  But periodically, a bunch of us get back together and play, and this weekend, I’ll drive home from Charlotte, and we’re going to try to record some of our music, before some of us get to be too old to pick up a guitar.  Should be fantastic fun, and I’m taking my video camera along.  May be something on YouTube about this.

Distance Learning Gets It — Mostly

Virtual typewriter I made in Second Life.  When you click it, my blog is loaded into your browser.

During the last week, I’ve been working with community college faculty, first at the North Carolina Community College Adult Education Association (NCCCAEA) conference and then for a consortium of community colleges who are using Blackboard.  Both events were extremely rewarding to me, especially since my first two years of undergraduate study were at a community college in Dallas, North Carolina.

In yesterday’s workshop, approximately two-thirds of the 70 attendees are involved in distance learning.  Virtually all of them use course management, specifically Blackboard.  My job was to introduce them to Web 2.0 technologies, qualities of their younger students’ information experiences (video games, MySpace, etc.), and introduce them to Audacity for producing podcasts.  It was my first time at using the Windows side of my new MacBook in a presentation and it performed flawlessly, actually holding on to some of the best Mac presentation features like zoom and Expose.

It was an especially receptive audience, with lots a VERY GOOD questions.  Community college folks are especially challenged by the fact that they are teaching students right out of high school (many more of them as four-year colleges have gotten harder to get into), and also displaced workers in their forties and fifties who are entirely illiterate in terms of digital networked information.  I didn’t ask, but I would suspect that they now offer remedial computer-operation and Internet classes as well as reading and math remediation.  It would make sense that these technology classes be taught by someone in their fifties or sixties.  I might think about that in a few years.

What really rocked their boats, however, was virtual learning environments.  I introduced them to Second Life, we talked a bit about the virtual campus that Appalachian State University is using, and also some instructional applications, including business and ecosystem simulations.  It was a very stimulating day for me, and many people said that their heads were spinning.

I have a question though.  Is this a good thing, to spin people’s heads?  I personally experience this sensation nearly every day, learning something that causes me to lose my balance — until I make sense of it.  But how normal is this sensation for most people.  Do they like it?  Does it disturb them?  Should I be careful?

What do you think?

Research Vs. Humanity — the conversation continues

Alex Ragone, of Learning Blog, made some important comments yesterday (Educational Research and Re-Envisioning Schools) about a recent poll that I conducted on 2¢ Worth.  The poll question was:

Thinking of those great teachers that you had who truly influenced who you are today, what percentage of what those teachers did do you think might be effectively measured by scientific research, and what percent do you think is not measurable?

Ragone begins by describing two books he has read from ASCD, Improving Student Learning One Teacher at a Time and Classroom Instruction that Works.  It seems to me (my interpretation) that Ragone is suggesting that the lessons from these books, their scientifically researched findings, might be expanded beyond direct instructional objectives and influence larger life issues, such as what I ask for, “teachers…who truly influenced who you are today.”  He says…

I see this pattern: goals, instruction (conversation), assessment, feedback, in Management books such as Good to Great or Now Here are My Strenghts. It’s amazingly flexible and seems to be a process that is running through many different realms of my life.

I have absolutely no objection to this position, as I suspect that he has made way to much of the survey results by holding them up against the work of Jane Pollock and Robert Marzano.  That was probably my fault.  I left the survey up too long as it became too disconnected from the original blog post that introduced it — where I wrote…

…these surveys are not meant to be scientific.  They are, instead, meant to generate some conversation about teaching and learning in this time of rapid change.

..and the survey did provoke 17 comments, which is big stuff for me, and Alex’s blog post continues the conversation.  If I had taken the survey, I probably would have clicked the same 75% measurable 25% not measurable, just like Alex — or at least 50% by 50%.  But it’s not those numbers that are important.  It is the life of a classroom.  I’m concerned that we might just scientifically research the life out of the classroom, if we do not do it very well and with a lot of humanity.

Ragone quotes President John Adams as saying, “There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living, And the other how to live.”  I think that this distinction has been true for a long time.  When I started teaching, I had absolutely no reason to believe that I would ever do anything else or would ever do it any differently than I was in the 1970s.  I had no reason to believe my students would do anything else but leave middle school, graduate from high school, some graduate from college, and then simply use what they learned in school to get jobs, perform those jobs, and then retire 30 or 35 years later.

Of course, things have changed, and change has accellerated.  What we do, how we do it, the tools we use, what we need to know, it is all constantly changing.  Because of this, it seems that the two types of education President Adams spoke of have become inseparably intertwined.  Making a living means living to learn.  It means a lifestyle that loves to learn.  If our goal is merely to assure that our students have learned a defined base of knowledge in a way that they can demonstrate that mastery, then scientifically measured best practices can certainly achieve this — and, no doubt, this is a huge part of what teaching continues to be about and should be about.  But if we should also be graduating citizens who are prepared and eager to continue to learn, to adopt a lifestyle of learning, then its going to take a lot more than just best practices.  It’s going to take much more than what can be described in research findings.  It’s going to require flexibility, serendipity, relationships, and humanity. 

I’ve not read either of the books that Alex describes, so I can say that either of them do not address these qualities.  They probably do.  It’s an ongoing conversation — and that was the point of the survey, to generate ongoing conversations.

Thanks Alex…

You can read the report of the survey and the comments.

Roller Coaster on Real Data

Roller Coaster RideThis, from Audry Hill, as reported to WWWEDU.  It’s a video game style roller coaster ride, but the ups and downs of the ride are tied directly to housing prices, adjusted for inflation from the 1800s to 2006.  I almost didn’t want to reach the end.  I’m afraid of falling!

This video can be seen at any of these spots:





Housing Graph

Hill, Audry. “cool visual representation.” E-mail to Audry Hill.20 Apr 2007.

Two Levels of Internet

I had a first time experience last night that I’m going to be thinking about.  We got to Hickory and checked into the Courtyard by Marriott, one of my favorite hotels (you’re going to sleep at any Marriott).  We went out for Mexican and drove around downtown (my Dad grew up here), and then back to the hotel for some episodes of The Web Wing.  When I went to log on and check e-mail, I had two levels of access to choose from.  Standard high speed (300+ somethings — good for surfing, etc.), or the really high speed (1500+ somethings — good for web applications).  The Really high speed Internet was $5.95 for 24 hours and the other was free.

I’m using the simply high speed, for free, and it works just fine.  I’m getting ready to try Second Life, and we’ll see.  It’s a strange economy this information world, and companies are continuing to figure out how to monetize it.  This is ok, as long as democracy and our intrensic need to learn are not compromised.

Hmmm!  I wonder if that last statement might brew some comments!

The New M.B.A.?

David Gran, an art, film, and technology educator I met in Shanghai, sent me a link, this morning, to a recent article (Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.?) from the New York Times about film schools.  The article talks about how more and more people are entering film schools, while the job market in Hollywood and other motion picture and TV Meccas is relatively stagnant.  Media has become so much a part of our lives, and increasingly a tool for business, political, and even cultural endeavors.

…it is not altogether surprising that film school – promoted as a shot at an entertainment industry job – is beginning to attract those who believe that cinema isn’t so much a profession as the professional language of the future.

The article points directly to DVDs being produced by street gangs to scare member into loyalty, and the uses that terrorist are making of video for intimidation.  There is power in video media, not just for harm, but also for good.

Several times in the article, the term literacy was used to describe what film students are learning.  Elizabeth Daley, the Dean of the USC School of Cinema, the nation’s oldest film school, said,

“The greatest digital divide is between those who can read and write with media, and those who can’t,” Ms. Daley said. “Our core knowledge needs to belong to everybody.”

What if college shifted away from profession preparation, and more toward specialty peparation (media, deep mathematics, information structures, social structures, behaviors, physical systems, biological systems, etc.) and we went to college for those specialties, and then market ourselves based on what we’ve made ourselves an expert in.

Just dreaming off the top of my head!

Image Citaton:
De Buysser, Klaas. “Intonarumori.” Klaas De Buysser’s Photostream. 20 Nov 2006. 19 Apr 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/klaasdebuysser/302284921/>.

The Stolen Flame

I really do have to get a life.  Now that I’ve gotten a little more dexterous in this virtual environment, I’m finding it almost addictive.  I think it’s like athletics.  As you get better at something, you want to keep working on it.

LS MemorialAnyway, as I was flying around, looking for the paramecium, I ran across this, a virtual memorial to the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre.  It was quiet.  Three other avatars were there.  Lots of flowers and pictures of many of the victims on the wall.

There was also a pedistal, with nothing on it, entitled, “The Stolen Flame!”

If I were better at this, I would have thought to copy the SLURL and pasted it here.  Alas, I just don’t think of that sort of thing yet.  If anyone else finds the location, please comment it to this post.

Second Life 2.0 is Here?

Yesterday, I wrote about my first impressions of Second Life, and received some great comments.  But principally, this one from Ryan Bretag, of The Four Eyed Technologist, who reports that SL 2.0 is already here.

2 Cents Worth » First Impressions of Second Life:

Second Life is already at the 2.0 stage you refer to but it has been this way in its first generation. It needs expanding, yes, but it is already there.

There are some great examples like the SL ecosystem, http://slurl.com/secondlife/Terminus/131/115/34/, or the emergency response simulations from play2train, http://irhbt.typepad.com/play2train/

In fact, I attended a great presentation by members of Oxford Unversity in which they discussed some of their early endeavors:

  1. Public Health and Medical Scenarios: massive outbreaks, disabilities, and treatment regimes
  2. Social Interaction case studies
  3. Simulations: spread of diseases, first response setup, physiological processes, identification of diseases by physical symptoms, etc
  4. A Body Simulation: possibility of an island that functions as a human body. Can you imagine? Wow!

I think the real issue is that there are so many exciting things being discussed and even brought to fruition but people just aren’t aware of them. Also, from my perspective in secondary education, these things are impossible to bring to my students and my teachers because it is on the adult grid.

The true fight is how to maintain the security of the Teen Grid and the benefits of the Adult Grid. In my eyes, this means a new grid —> an education grid! Maybe I’m the only one wanting this… maybe it simply is selfish but I believe this is when Second Life will take off in the k-12 world!

Woe!  I’ve got to get back in there.  And, by the way, here’s the Paramecium I was talking about yesterday!

What do you Look for in a Keynote Address

My friend, Dave Jakes, will be delivering the keynote address at Next Week’s TechForum, in Chicago.  He’s done a few keynote addresses, but lots of conference presentations, and he is very good, on target, engaging, and very smart.  I’ve had lots of conversations with Dave in the past few months and each time I come away with something important, that I have to pass on to others.

He asks, this morning, in The Strength of weak Ties, what you look for in a keynote address.  I guess that this would be from the context of a technology conference, but also from the broader context of any general, focal, large group address at a conference.  You away from work, here to be recharged.  What do you need?

The Strength of Weak Ties:

So now I’m asking you. When you attend a conference, and attend the keynote, what kind of presentation are you looking for? Do you look for more philosophical, or practical or a mix of both? What attributes does a good keynote have?

Please pop over to David’s blog and post him a comment.