Resort Hotel’s are Great — But!

It’s not a good way to start a day at a distance learning conference.  Internet has been down since we arrived last night at the Crown Plaza Resort hotel in Asheville.  Brenda and I have a wonderful view of the city, the air is fresh and only slightly tinted with the blue haze that characterize the Blue Ridge Mountains, and  It is also worth noting that the Rhododendron are in bloom, a plant that is indigenous to the North Carolina mountains and that grows in vast abundance.

So there is much to be thrilled about.  But the front desk reported last night that they had called an IT guy in to fix the Internet, and this morning they (a different shift) say that the IT guy doesn’t get in until 9:00.  I’m sorry to be a crotchety old geek, but this is not acceptable.  It’s why Will Richardson is investing on one of those USB thingys from Verizon that gives you broadband access over their wireless network (in participating towns and cities).

At any rate, very few of the conference folks are here yet.  The event does not begin until after lunch, so most people are driving in this morning.  I did run into Patrick Keough, a community college teacher from Carteret County, on the coast — perhaps a nine or ten hour drive to Asheville.  He told me that in just the last year, they have started blogging and podcasting and now have a presence on iTunes U.  He’s doing a workshop tomorrow morning about setting your college up with iTunes U and the hoops you have to jump through.  I’ll plan to attend that one, because I do not know enough about the service.

The main presentation I’ll be doing today will be Flat World, Flat Information, and Flat Schools.  It’s becoming one of my standards, but I am trying to keep these things fresh.  One idea that I am trying to insert is the mistake that I believe we are making when we emphasize science, math, and technology.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important that we emphasize these subject areas, because they are the engine that drives progress.  The mistake is that we are pushing these practical sciences, at the expense of art, music, literature, drama, etc.  These subject, I believe, should be equally emphasized — because they are the fuel that runs the engine.

Although there are exceptions, we buy a car with an engine, so that we can get some place.  We don’t buy it for the sake of the engine.  We buy it for the sake of going someplace we want to be.  When you buy an HDTV, it isn’t for the sake of the enginering and the circuitry.  Again, there are certainly exceptions, people who want the latest tech toys.  But most of us buy it because we want a better story, better pictures, better sound.  We are actually buying the products of the creative contributors — the actors, directors, writers, musicians, sound and video editors — those whose expertise is in engineering our experiences — and for the most part, this isn’t learned in science class.  It’s learned in art, and music, and…

So again, it’s another flatism thing.  Trying to flatten the subject areas, to understand that they are part of a whole, part of our world experience that we seek to improve effectively, efficiently, equitably, and interestingly.  And I suspect that figuring out how to teach art, music, and drama, via distance learning, might be an interestingly creative endeavor in itself.

WOW! Internet’s Working!  Outstanding!

Some Comments from the Teacher of a Blogging Classroom

Periodically I receive comments from teachers who are using Class Blogmeister.  Usually it is to report a bug in the program, a lost password, or some misunderstanding about the blogging engine’s operations. 

Occasionally, teachers share with me how blogging has impacted their students’ learning.  Here are some excerpts from one such e-mail message from a teacher with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade bloggers.

  • Without a doubt the children that find their voices first and carry the most enthusiasm for blogging are my special needs children.
  • Students who would agonize over a sentence are writing prolifically about their lives.
  • This has created a stronger connection with families as they respond to their child’s blog.
  • Another positive is that the improvements in writing are steadily making their way back to paper and pencil!

This observation is consistent with some informal data that I am collecting from Class Blogmeister teachers, that the lower than average performing students seem to be impacted more dramatically by classroom blogging, and that this distinction seems to increase in the secondary grade levels!

Image Citation:
Inga. “Gloomy Hard at Work.” Dollie_Mixtures’ Photostream. 17 Nov 2006. 22 May 2007 <>.

An Amazing Feat of Collaborative Web

Speaking of Hitchhikr, there exists two listings on the main page of conferences that have been registered to date.  The first listing includes only conferences that will happen in the next 30 days (colored red), current conferences (colored blue),  and conferences that have happened in the last 30 days (colored gray).  Beneath that box is a listing of all of the conferences that have been registered to date, sorted by the number of times that the hitchhikr page for that conference has been used.

At the top of that list, the most used hitchhikr pages, is NECC.  No surprised there.  It’s followed by K12Online, ALA, Building Learning Communities, and two Euro conferences, Les Blog 2.0 (France) and EduBlogs06 (Spain).  Following close behind these is CUE 2007 (hh).

What makes this worth noting is that one would think that the top ten conferences would be there because enough time has elapsed to register thousands of uses.  Yet CUE 2007, California’s ed tech conference, happened only a few weeks ago.  In fact, it is the only 2007 conference to appear in the top 18 Hitchhikr conferences. 

Clearly there is a lot of collaborative conversation going on in The Golden State.

K12online is Back
ClustrMap image taken from Wesley Fryer’s Flickr account.  The map marks the locations of educators from around the world who participated in some way with the K12Online Conference.

For those of you who missed last year’s K12online Conference, this is a truly unique event that combines the benefits of face to face conference events with the digital, networked, and sometimes overwhelming learning experiences of Web 2.0.  For two weeks in 2006, educators who are practicing the arts of the participatory web shared their knowledge and experiences with educators from around the world, using blogs, wikis, podcasts, YouTube, flickr, and many other online collaborative tools.

Yesterday, Wesley Fryer (Moving at the Speed of creativity) announced  the 2007 conference (October 15 – 26) with a Call for Proposals.  In the words of that post:

Moving at the Speed of Creativity » Blog Archive » K-12 Online 2007: Call for Proposals!:

There will be four “conference strands”– two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday – Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in any of a variety of downloadable, web based formats and released via the conference blog ( and archived for posterity.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Playing with Boundaries.”  I think that it would be interesting to play that theme across a common phrase (753 hits on that phrase in Google) that immediately popped into my head — “Learning without Boundaries”   I wonder what intersections might be found there.  I wonder if there’s a presentation in it. 

I wonder if I’m just up too early in the morning again!

The URL for the Conference (still with 2006 info):
The URL for the 2007 Conference Hitchhikr page:

Image Citation:
Fryer, Wesley. “Final ClustrMap for K12Online06.” Wesley Fryer’s Photostream. 4 Nov 2006. 22 May 2007 <>.

NC Distance Learning Alliance Conference

I’ve not hidden my skepticism about distance learning just like I remain cautious about multiuser virtual environments (Second Life).  Bandwagons concern me.  You get so many people on them, and they can crack the road, drawing energy and resources from more established technologies and techniques that are proving their worth.  But through the months and years, I believe that distance learning is finding its footing and its place(s) in the teaching and learning institution.

This is, hands down, the best place in the world to have breakfast — on Wall Street in magnificent Asheville, North Carolina.

I can’t say when my stubborn resistance started to melt, but it quite probably was during the North Carolina Distance Learning Alliance Conference last year in beautiful Asheville (the Paris of the South or to some, the SoHo of the South).  The Alliance had already run a number of virtual conferences, and they had lobbied me to present.  But, being me, I resisted.  When they asked me to present (knowing full well my reluctance about the technology) at their f2f conference in Asheville, I agreed.  Well, Asheville.  I mean who could…

Susan Patrick was the keynote speaker.  I’d known of her as the director of the U.S. Office of Educational Technology, but not in her current capacity as President of the North American Council for Online Learning.  She gave a fabulous presentation sharing some statistics that were compelling, and a bit frightening to me, as an educator with romantic notions of what being a teacher is.  Kids like online learning.  They do well with online learning.  Gross generalizations, but enough evidence to start changing my mind.

Then I started mingling with the attendees, mostly teachers, mostly at the community college level, who mostly taught some f2f and some distance learning.  Moodle was big at the conference, as well as one or two other course management systems.  All forms of video conferencing were also big.  Huge, was Web 2.0 — hence, my being invited back for more presentations this week, at the 2007 Distance Learning Alliance Conference.

But what really turned me was that these folks are there.  I have been intrigued for years about the new skills of the technology age.  But I have become much more interested in the information skills (literacy) than in the technology skills.  I’ve tried to convince educators of the critical importance of these skills, but when teachers and administrators are still living in the world of paper, it is a hard concept to grasp.  Distance learning educators, on the other hand, are already there.  They are working purely in the realm of networked, digital, and overwhelming information.  You can not learn here, unless you develop at least some of these information skills.  This is an audience who will listen — and much more important than that, have much to teach about what it takes to use the contemporary information landscape to accomplish your goals.

This week I’ll be talking about “Flat World, Flat Web, and Flat Classrooms,” video games, Web 2.0, and wikis.  What’s more, there will also be sessions on social networking, outsourcing digital services, Pods and iPods, 21st century skills, iTunes University, resource repositories, mobile learning, podcasting, and MMORPGs. 

My main reason for writing this growing piece is to urge educators who will be attending this conference and will be blogging it, to tag your blog entries and flickr photos with: ncdla

The conference has been registered on Hitchhikr and photos from last year’s conference have already been picked up.  So lets expand the experience, and if you can’t come, hitch hike there by visiting the NC Distance Learning Alliance conference on Hitchhikr <>.

Image Citation:
Shannon. Early Girl’s Photostream. 27 Feb 2007. 21 May 2007 <>.

EduBloggerCon at TechForum

Yesterday was the last TechForum.  Hall Davidson kicked the conference off with a keynote and I think we saw him at his very best.  The closing was flawless.  It was a lot of things that I’ve seen him present before, but much that was brand new.  He’s expanded on the concept of unique uses of the Net for conducting research that leverage the new read/write quality of the digital realm. 

As an example, he brought up a study of Katie Couric, to determine if she was too perky for a night time anchor slot.  So they searched the web for references to perky and Katie Couric, along with other names.  She ranked higher than Kathy Lee Gifford, Paris Hilton, and Margaret Thatcher, who topped Dick Cheney by only a few references — and Condoleezza Rice only trumped Quasimodo by 22.

The point was that they were not searching what Toyota, Stanford, and the Department of Energy thought of the night position candidate — sources of content for the old web.  They were interested in references left on the Internet by people like you and me, and because of the new web, we are leaving our presence and experiences for others to see, study, and learn from.

After the keynote, Hall, John Fleischman and I participated in a panel discussion about emerging technologies, and it was one more of the many times when I wish I had turned my iPod recorder on.  I shared the same old stuff about the new web and our need to expand our notions of literacy.  But John blew us all away with what he shared about Internet II and asynchronous collaboration tools.  Hall presented more about media, including demonstrations of using iPods as presentation tools.

But the high point for me was the afternoon EduBloggerCon.  These things can be tricky, especially when you have educators who are prevented from using blogs and wikis because of filtering software and district policy.  There is a great deal of frustration there, that is difficult to get positive new knowledge from and also impossible to ignore. 

Yesterday’s session practically ran itself.  We had Quizdom clickers in the room, and conducted a quick survey at the beginning of the session.  Patrick will send me the data, but in only a couple of questions (RSS & Aggregators) did more respondents indicate less than confident knowledge than those who considered themselves knowledgeable.

Actually, the only point where I had to do any real teaching was to demonstrate how RSS and aggregators work.  They were on the edges of their seats. 😉  We ended with a killer apps sharing, “what’s your favorite Web 2.0 tool?”  Mainly, I tried to remind the participants that at the same time that we were talking about these cool new tools, that it was critical that we understand that these cool new tools were changing how we use information, and, as a result, changing the shape of information.

TechForum — Southern CA Style

Jen Wagner, of Women of the Web, just asked in a comment on my receipt imp post, where I am in California.  Today, I’m in Long Beach, on the 8th floor of some fairly swanky hotel, with a partial view of the Queen Mary steam ship.  I’ll probably walk over there this afternoon for my Cholesterol walk.

Today is the last of this season’s TechForums, the tech leadership conferences sponsored by Tech Learning Magazine.  My responsibilities are minimal today.  Hall Davidson opens things up with a keynote address, and then I participate in a panel discussion on emerging technologies with Hall and John Fleischman, Director of Technology Services for the Sacramento County Office of Education.  Hall will talk about digital media, John about high speed Internet, and I’ll have to find something to say in less than 15 minutes about Web 2.0 and Second Life.  Weuwwww!

Then I’ll do an EduBloggerCon in the afternoon — which is always a challenge.  So many schools have so much trouble even getting permission to use these tools, that the tendency can be spending to much time talking about barriers and not so much about what can be done, once we get on the other side.  Both session should be podcasted, so hopefully it will be shared.

By the way, it just turned very cloudy here.  I didn’t know it could do that in Southern California.

2¢ Worth.

Math on a Milk Carton?

Missing @ NECC -- MathI ran across an interesting posting on Hitchhikr yesterday attached to NECC 2007.  Lcrosswe, a Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina Math teacher, laments in NECC puts math on a milk carton

I have spent the last few days trying to refine my schedule for NECC and have run into a problem. I teach math at my school and while I am very interested in going to presentations on topics that are applicable in all disciplines … I would like to also attend some sessions that deal specifically with technology integration in mathematics. I am having a very hard time locating sessions that deal with math at this conference – they seem to be missing (thus the title of this entry.)

He (or she) has found only two sessions at this national/international technology conference that explicitly apply to math.

  • Technology and Mathematics: The Right Angle
  • The Art of Math: Cleveland Museum of Art Math Resources

This got me to thinking — because in the early days of personal computers in the classroom, these almost unapproachable machines were seen as the exclusive purview of Math teachers.

So what happened?  Why are we not spending as much time creating math applications for these almost exclusively mathematical devices?  This is the question that has been popping up in my thoughts ever since.   And it occurred to me this morning — because computers have changed.  They are no longer seen as computing machines, but instead, they have become media machines.  They are not about crunching numbers (though they’re stilled used for that).  Our cultural view of computers today is about machines that help us find, enjoy, mix, and make media — information-rich experiences.

But there are new possibilities for Math teachers — and once again,  I wish I’d known about this nine months ago when we were submitting our NECC proposals.  What’s got my head spinning (almost out of control right now) about Second Life is not so much the social and collaborative aspects as the technical workings that rest just beneath the surface, but well within our reach for study and play — scripting.

SL CodeHere is a piece of code that will move an object on any of three axis.  Apply any number of algorithms that change these numbers in desired ways, and the object can be programmed, using math, to train the object to behave like a car, or a hover craft, or an elevator, or a buzzing bee.

How much fun (not a bad word for learning) would it be to use algebra, trigonometry, calculus, whatever math you are teaching to make a virtual but working soccer-playing robot.  Fun?  Math? Could it happen?  Sorry about that.  I taught math for a year and I wasn’t very good at it.

But perhaps asking, “How might we use today’s computers to better teach math?” is actually the wrong question.  If I might be forgiven for once again stepping way off the edge here, what if the question we should be asking is,

How might we change what math teachers teach to reflect today’s computers and how they have changed the nature of information?

What do you think?

Image Citation:
Morgan Hsu, William. “Blur Milk Carton.” Williammmm’s Photostream. 18 Apr 2005. 18 May 2007 <>.

He’s Not What We Think

I’m up early in the morning.  It’s 2:50AM, but I am on the West Coast, so that’s not so very early my time, and I was in bed by 8:30PM last night, so things aren’t so difficult as they might seem. 

But wait until 3:00 this afternoon.

More to the point of this blog posting — while walking, bare feet, down the carpeted hall of my hotel for ice, to go with my early morning caffeine of choice, Diet Pepsi, I caught a glimpse of something so magical that we almost never talk about it, except with our very most trusted confidants.  It was the receipt fairy, that barely visible imp, who noiselessly slips receipts under the doors of our hotel rooms. 

And guess what.  He wears a uniform!

OK, you’re probably asking yourself, “he thinks this is funny?”  It is 2:55 in the morning.  ..And I am in California! 😉

Two Funny Things…

..or at least they seemed funny at the time.  First, I was doing my early morning bike ride around Shelley Lake and happened upon a man who was looking for his dog — a Rottweiler.  That in itself is worth noting, but then he said, “He’s got a chair with him.”

I can only imagine the quizzical look that must have appeared on my face, so he explained that his wife had tied the dog to a lounge chair in the back yard, while she went inside to get something.  When she returned, the dog, and the chair, were gone!  That dog shouldn’t be to hard to find.

Then, I was messing around on Second Life this morning, trying to build a personal hovercraft.  I’ve been working around in my head, the possibilities of math students building virtual robots in Second Life, so I was experimenting in programming motion into objects.
Later on in the afternoon, I was showing off for Brian Mull (aka. Thompson Coronet) and my hovercraft plunged 40 cm under the floor of my office, sucking me down through its vortex.  Dang!

I had the craft so that it would move forward, backward, and to the right or the left.  Next I wanted to be able to click a button and have it rise, just a foot off the ground.  So I programmed that in — not realizing that I had misplaced a decimal by two places.

I reached over, touched the button, sparkles floating out of my hand, and suddenly my hovercraft was gone. 

For some odd reason, my brain started scanning science fiction books I’ve read, looking for some similar occurance from which I might find some notion as to how to find my hovercraft, in the ethers of Second Life.  Finally, I walked up stairs to Doug Johnsons office, expecting to find my toy jutting awkwardly out of his ceiling — to no avail.  Then I walked back down stairs and pointed my sparkles exuding hand (in object edit mode) down toward to core of planet Second Life, wondering if my craft had transported itself into solid granit.  Again, no objects.

Then I decided to go flying, straight up, and just before I reached the clouds, I found my hover craft, hovering some number of meters in the air, some factor of 10, I’m sure.  I grabbed it, took it back down stairs, and then set out figuring out how to add a failsafe return routine.

More later!