I Went Flat Last Night

Video ConferencingIt’s not nearly as good as being there — Especially if I could have been in Sidney Sydney, Australia.  But, lets face it.  It’s a flat world.  To export my services, I do not, necessarily, have to export myself. 

So, after only two and a half hours of sleep last night, the alarm on my phone strummed a single guitar chord,

Waking me up,
To get dressed, and
Walk down to my office,
To deliver a presentation for a conference,
Clear Around the world,
Where it was 14:15. 

We were using conferencing software from Adope called Connect Professional — which provided for video and audio from me, video from their side (which they were not using), and the ability to project PowerPoint slides and even my computer desktop.

I’m actually taking to this virtual teaching much better and much more easily than I had anticipated, as I’ve presented from my office several times.  I find that using body language in front of an iSight camera is different from a stage, but it can be just as effective.  The experience is far better, and, frankly, a whole lot more honest than the teleconferencing we use to do from the State Departments of Education back in 1991, when I was trying to be Peter Jennings.  No way but failure there.

The technology, in my opinion and from my experience, is simply not there yet.  We’d worked everything out, before I went to bed.  I was logged in, my audio and video were going through just fine — if a little choppy.  The slides were loaded and I had control over them.  I was able to confidently slip off into a few hours of restful sleep.

When I re-entered my office, I found that the slides were not working.  Alex Hayes, the Project Officer, worked on things, but they didn’t get better.  With only minutes to go, I got bumped from the virtual room entirely, and couldn’t get back in.  I was reminded of a nightmare I’d once had, where I stepped out of a presentation hall for a drink of water, just before the address was to begin, and on returning, I found that the doors were closed and locked. 

Signs I was going to use with the camera
Signs I was going to use with the camera

I finally raised Alex on Skype, and after trying several things (now eight minutes into the presentation time), we decided to do the session with audio only, over skype, with Alex advancing the slides.  It was a little clunky, and not the first time I’ve had to resort to Skype or iChat. 

What’s put a spur under my skin, is that Alex said that the error messages I was getting indicated that there were bandwidth problems on my end.  I was plugged directly into my Cable Modem, after midnight.  Should have been pretty fast.

I do not know why I wasnot getting the bandwidth I needed.  I do not understand the nuances of this stuff.  But the question that this experience compells in me is — “How is my country going to work in an increasingly flattening world, with a telecommunications industry that seems satisfied with and forgiven for taking our money and then providing substandard service?”

Virtual Ed

When you spend as much time traveling, as I and others do, time has a way of weirdly skewing.  It’s sort of a doppler effect thing, where what I’ll be doing for the next week, tends to bunch up in front of me worrying me, demanding my time and effort, and what I did only a few days ago, gets flung back — way back — into a stretched back and fading past.

Out of that dim past, there is one school that I visited only last week (seems much longer) that is worthy of some comments here.  The Odyssey Schools, in Las Vegas, provide instruction almost exclusively online.  Located in an office building, that a local telephone company at one time used for telemarketing and tech support, the building actually looks very much like a small school — until you learn how many students they serve.  I do not remember the number, but it was a lot.

High School Science Department
High School Science Department

Most of the teachers work at cubicals, leading learning through a course management system.  They use eCollege.  The science teachers, social studies teachers, etc. are separated by a five foot wall.  I think that what intrigues me the most is simply that teaching, as a profession, has expanded a great deal since I entered the classroom 31 years ago.

Students report to the school for four hours every week.  during that time, They receive an hour of math, an hour of tutoring, and an hour of rhetoric.  This made my ear perk up as well, that these kids are being taught logic and the art of argument.

What reminded me that I had not written about this experience, was a short piece that I read yesterday, while finally scanning through my September EduTopia.  It was part of the section on “What’s Next” a brief examination of virtual education.  The short piece that caught my attention, written by Tamar Snyder, was about teachers who are moving back and forth between virtual and face-to-face teaching — call them “trans-classroom” teachers.

In the article, Susan Lowes, director of research and evaluation at the Institute for Learning Technologies, at Columbia University’s Teachers College, observes that…

virtual educators return to classroom teaching with renewed vigor and enhanced teaching methods.

the article continues that these teachers:

  • View student participation as key,
  • Encourage wallflowers and even slackers to speak out,
  • Have learned to clarify directions and provide more detailed instruction,
  • Ask probing follow-up questions,
  • Give more meaningful assignments and freflective questions,
  • Lecture less and facilitate more, and
  • Are more efficient with time.

This appears to be an ongoing study, as I did find a number of presentations that Dr. Lowes has used at AASA and NACOL.

Finally, that article was also on the same page as eduTopia’s “Edublogs We Love.”  The list runs:

Needless to say, the list is in alphabetical order.  But with a name like Warlick, I deserve to be at the top of the list every once in a while.

Snyder, Tamar. “Virtually Real.” EduTopia Sept 2007: 41.

A Good Day in PA

Atlanta airport seems to have undergone some major face lift.  Marble floors, more upscale eateries, and cushy chairs at the gates.  Nice!  Still crowded, but nice!  I pulled out my laptop, and thought for a moment, “free WiFi?”  But no, your choice: Boing, Concourse, Sprint, Access, Opti-Fi, or T-Mobile, all for $7.95 for 24 hours. 

I really need one of those gadgets I can plug into my laptop and get broadband through the phone system, because it’s going to be a really bad day, when I spend 24 hours in an airport.

Network SetupIt was a good day, yesterday — a play day.  Breakfast was with several of the teachers who are members of this growing family of Classrooms for the Future (CFF) coaches.  They’ll be supporting the teachers in their home high schools, as the laptops appear on their students’ desks.  I kept asking, “why would you want to do this?”  I had my recorder, but never got enough time to record any of their answers.  I’ll be back there next week for the second wave and may get some conversations then.

Later on, I spent a couple of hours with Joe Brennan, who was teaching about video production to the second year coaches for Discovery Educator Network.  It was a good presentation, professional, and entertaining – how to make good video that tells stories well.  We got an assignment, four or five of us had to make a 90 second video of someone, at the door of their hotel room, when there’s a sudden spooky noise, and the door lock doesn’t work.  I contributed the sound affect from one of the ring tones on my new iPhone (more on that later).

Holly Jobe
Holly Jobe

Then I watched a great keynote by Jim Gates, which I wrote about earlier.  But the high point was getting to spend a few minutes with my friend, Kyle Peck.  Kyle was supposed to do his presentation, via iChat, but something wasn’t working right, so he hopped in his car and drove over.  We talked a bit about the findings from their first year of Classrooms for the Future, and I did record that part — coming up on Connected Learning at some point in the future.  I won’t go into details here, except that they were seeing surprising shifts in how teachers were teaching and students were learning, statistically significant data.  The surprise is that they have only had laptops in these classrooms for a few months.  He said that the coaches seemed to be the key.  Sounds an awful lot like what we’re learning about tech facilitators and the kinds of professional development that’s working here in North Carolina.

I also got to talk with Holly Jobe just before I had to head out to the airport.  Holly is the director (not sure about her title) of the project.  I hope to have time, next week, to do a proper interview.  She did say that from their experience, so far, with the project, the state department of education seems to have simply struck a match to a field of oil, that was just waiting to be lit.  These high school teachers seem ready to rethink and retool their classrooms. This is pretty exciting.

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My Head Hurts

Jim Gates PresentationOK, I’m sitting in Jim Gates’ keynote at the Classrooms for the Future Boot Camp — great stuff, lots of cool online tools.  He’s also showing a wiki page that was created by a student as part of an assignment.  The student found a great video on YouTube about the culture of the country he was writing about and included it.  Then, when he went to present his project in class — the video was blocked.

At the same time, I’m scanning through the transcript from the chat that the audience from last night’s keynote  generated, and am blown away.  The transcript has been transported over to a wiki page, that will continue to be available to the audience — and I’m adding in comments and further explanations in the wiki.

OMG! He’s showing Gapminder.org — plotting time-based graphs. 

My head hurts!

The World is a’Twitter

There use to be, at conferences, a bulletin board, where you could post messages for friends.  This, of course, was before laptops, WiFi, and mobile phones with SMS.  This, of course, was a long time ago (nudge nudge, snicker snicker).  It always seemed kinda useless to me, because I do not think that I ever went and looked at one.  But today, we have Twitter.

A bunch of us, in the Blogger’s Cafe, discovered Twitter and it’s potential at NECC, in Atlanta a few months ago.  I was sort’a on the fringes of this, as folks like Chris Craft, Wesley Fryer, and others started inventing new applications.  I follow a lot of folks, but do not do a lot of twittering myself. 

The Shanghai Learning 2.0 conference seems to be bringing this avenue of conversation to some maturity.  To the right is a picture of Twitter Camp, a concept that I’ve Googled a couple of times, but still haven’t figured out.  Basically, it’s a bulletin board that people can post to, from their laptops or mobile phones.  Of course, since you do not have to be at the board, at any particular time, to use it, and since the board can also be read from your laptop or your mobile phone, it stops being a bulletin board, and starts to be a conversation — just what you want to see happening at conferences.

A Twitter CampThe image to the right is only good for eavesdropping.  Of course much more can be done with it, as this sort of set up might actually be used during a presentation, so that questions and comments are instantly available to the entire audience.  I haven’t had the courage to do that yet (grin).

Last night, I did run my Twitteresque Chat program, so that my audience could be chatting with each other during my presentation.  I use AjaxChat, so that I do not have to direct people to join Twitter, though I do spend a few minutes explaining Twitters — as best I can.  I think that it is useful to folks during the presentation, and to me afterward, as I hack the transcript of the chat over to a wiki, where I can read and insert my comments.  I was up enjoying that little process until after midnight , last night — way past my bed time.

I got about half way through the chat, when I ran across a comment from a teacher who, when he or she needs to bypass the school’s filter, he or she jumps onto the wifi transmission of one of the homes in the neighborhood.  Interesting.

Anyway, I decided to write about this, when I discovered, scanning through hitchhikr this morning, that the Scottish Learning Festival (starting this week), will be doing very much the same thing.  Ewan Macintosh has called for the Twitter pages of attendees who plan to post comments during and about the conferences.  I assume that he will set up an account to follow all of those Twitters, and then RSS feed them to something — like a Twitter Camp. 

I guess someone needs to explain Twitter Camp to me 😉

BTW, you can enjoy a collage of other pictures from the Learning 2.0 conference here, and at the Scottish Learning Festival here.

Image Citation:
Baker, Tod. “Learn2_sun (1).” Todbaker’s Photostream. 16 Sep 2007. 18 Sep 2007 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/todbaker/1393712088/>.

Classrooms for the Future

Harrisburg Airport Making my ClaimI’m on my way to Pennsylvania, where I’ll speak to a group of coaches.  They aren’t sports coaches, in the traditional sense.  But they will be going forth, to lead their schools in the exciting sport of “redesigning education.”   It’s certainly going to require teamwork, and it’s going to require that team to exercise their thinking and to their very notions of what it means to be a teacher.  It’s going to take stamina, enthusiasm, dedication, and hustle.  And it’s going to take, perhaps more than anything else, imagination.

Here is the list of technologies that each high school core (English, Math, Social Studies, & Science) classroom will receive.  It’s pretty impressive, in my opinion, not in how much and how cool this stuff is — but in how a classroom like this might stir the imagination of a truly inventive educator.

  • one laptop per student desk (cart of 25)
  • a teacher laptop
  • a printer/scanner
  • imaging software
  • productivity software
  • a web cam
  • an electronic whiteboard
  • a projector
  • up to three digital still cameras (per eligible school)
  • up to five digital video cameras (per eligible school)
  • Infrastructure (wireless network, servers)
  • technical support

So, in what fundamental ways might a school be transformed, when every core classroom can provide this kind of access to a networked, digital, and overwhelming world of information? PS, During my talk, tonight, I’ll also be making a case for figuring out how to integrate the creative arts into the mission of this $200 million state initiative.

Could it Happen Here?

September has been a wonderfully relaxing month for me, with most of it spent at home.  Septembers and Mays are typically slow.  But for the last few days I’ve been on the road for one of only three travels I’m doing the entire month.  I got home, late last night, from working at a middle school in Fort Worth, and the day before, I worked at a very unique school in Las Vegas (which I’ll talk more about in an upcoming blog).  So, as much as I could, I’ve been following the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai through Hitchhikr and by following the Twitters of my friends who are there.

Educators at Learning 2.0So here’s the question that just occurred to me.  Could something like this happen in the United States?  The conference in Shanghai is being attended by educators, mostly from international schools in Asia.  They are mostly private schools that mostly serve the children of families who are working abroad.  The conference is sponsored by ACAMIS (Association of China and Mongolia International Schools) and EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools).  There invitation is to…

“Come join the search as we together build the future of schools.”

I do not know what the turn-out was, but I’ve worked with international school teachers before and, well, most of them would eat this up. 

So, could such a conference happen here, in the U.S.?  Two years ago, I would have said … Well I wouldn’t even have asked the question.  Today, I see hope.  In fact, even though I haven’t attended Alan Novembers Building Learning Communities conference, I suspect that it’s close, if only because so many of the attendees are from outside the U.S. that it would be difficult to remain focused on test scores, as is so often the case at U.S. conferences — teaching better with computers.

I’m really not sure if I’m going anywhere in particular with this, other than simply making an observation.  Perhaps I’m simply, subconsciously, wishing I was in Shanghai — and, at the same time, so very happy I’m at home.

Image Citation:
Chris, Smith. “DSC_0218.” Shambles Work & Play’s Photostream. 16 Sept 2007. 16 Sep 2007 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/csmith/1391199316/in/photostream>.

Collaboration in Action and a Foreshadowing

Photo of WOW2 Tele Conference
Jennifer Wagner, Vicki Davis, Sharon Peters, and the host, Cheryl Oakes.

I was preparing for my workshop today in Las Vegas when I ran across this photo from Cheryl Oakes Flickr stream.  It evidently comes from the recent WOW2 podcast gathering and using iChat’s Multi-way conference feature.  I have just one question.  Would your students be impressed with this?  Would they find it to be native?

I woke up thinking about Prensky’s digital natives and digital immigrants descriptions (link to pdf).  If you’ve been reading 2¢ Worth, you know that I’m not a great lover of the simplicity of this distinction, though I do appreciate its value.  But I woke up thinking about it, and comparing it to other contexts.  I did a little research this morning, but will have to hold off on exploring this further, until I have some more time.  On the Road.  Not much time!

Image Citation:
Oakes, Cheryl. “Group4.” Coakes50’s Photostream. 12 Sep 2007. 14 Sep 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/coakes50/1368427257/in/photostream>.

Having Hitchhikr Envy

It’s rather early in the morning.  I’ve already been to Second Life, for the first time in weeks, and scanned through the education folder in my aggregator, and now, find myself pining over the upcoming conferences I wish I was attending.  Starting tomorrow is the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai.  This conference, as I understand it, is attracting mostly Learning 2.0 Logoeducators from the Asian international schools community.  I worked at the Shanghai American School a few months ago, and can imagine the learning that is going to emerge out of that fertile community.  Among the invited speakers are:

  • Alan November
  • Will Richardson
  • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
  • Jamie McKenzie
  • Gary Stager
  • Wes Fryer
  • Chris Smith

Plus, they do such great logos at SAS (see right).

Then there’s the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow.  It’s another conference that I’ve attended as a presenter, and another rich experience with educators in a place that is happening.  Ewan McIntosh introduced us, yesterday, to the team of young film makers who will be “..capturing the underbelly of the Scottish Learning Festival..”  See Capturing the Scottish Learning Festival — Meet the Crew.  Speaking for the second time at SETT will be David Weinberger, author of the recent, Everything is Miscellaneous (archived virtual one in Second Life — see comment from Ewan).  Also speaking will be Michael Fullan, Stephen Heppell, Mick Waters, and Pasi Sahlberg.

Both conferences are being aggregated at Hitchhikr, and both have avid, reflective, and enlightening bloggers and tag conscience photographers.  You might also listen to some of the Twitter’ers including:

jutecht, wfryer, snbeach & willrich45, and at the Scottish Learning Festival: ewanmcintosh, & dweinberger.

Alas, I’m only flying to Nevada today, and not Glasgow, and, thankfully, not Shanghai.  ..and I just got a first class upgrade.  Life is good!

You can Hitchhike to Learning 2.0 at (http://hitchhikr.com/?id=263) and the Scottish Learning Festival at (http://hitchhikr.com/?id=265).

Animoto Easily Rocks

When I looked at Animoto today, and realized what it did, my initial thought was,



Screen Shot of AnimotoIt’s pretty much the same response I experienced when I saw Garageband for the first time. “They’ve made it too easy.” “Now anyone can make music. ”  “I’ve invested enormous time and effort into meticulously assembling musical recordings, one note at a time — and now you just lop in and stretch out prerecorded loops… ”

Probably the same reaction I use to ridicule as DOS wizards objected to the graphical users interface of the first Macs.

Like Garageband, Animoto is a new tool designed to perform a specific task. I use Garageband to add and slightly alter the music for each of my podcast programs — takes about 10 minutes. I will continue to work as meticulously as always, assembling notes into more complete works, using my old software, as I have time — perhaps when I retire [shrug].

Animoto is not for video production. It doesn’t communicate in the sense that I usually think of using video to compellingly convey a message. It makes exclamation points. It gets attention.

My daughter will be delivering her first lesson in her methods class in a few weeks. I’m going to suggest that she consider opening it with a short Animoto video to get attention — generate some curriosity.

Check out my second attempt with pictures from Flickr, tagged with edubloggercon07 and Salsa On Toast, my brief foray into Latin music.