They Were Paying Attention

They made a map out of my mapI had a great day, yesterday, at Kent Denver School, on the edge of the rolling plains of Denver, Colorado.  It was a beautiful campus that blended perfectly into the rural landscape.  The first thing I did was to moderate a conversation with parents about schooling, the future, video games, cyber safety, etc.  “Maybe I should allow my son to play video games!”

That was followed by a presentation on contemporary literacy in a wonderful lecture hall, that I practically needed climbing gear to enter, the seating rows were so inclined.  Very intimate, and now lapel mic necessary.  Nothing else new here except for this picture.  I did a little activity that I’ve done for years, where I find earthquake data on the Internet, import it into a spreadsheet, and then use the spreadsheet to generate a scatter plot of longitude and latitude for the quake of one month.  It generates a compelling map of the world.

These two young teachers, I’m so sorry that I didn’t get their names, worked through the activity at their seats, and then superimposed the graph onto a map of the world.  So cool!

I hate it when they aren’t paying attention 😉

Ethics & Information

Short blog — hopefully lots of conversation…

I’m on my way out again for a number of gigs due west of here (Raleigh).  Among them with be an information ethcis summit I’ll be working with in San Francisco, sponsored by CTAP and Yahoo.

When I am talking about contemporary literacy to audiences, nothing causes so many heads to bob up and down in agreement as when I insist that ethics needs to be part of the basic information/literacy skills that we teach our children.  I do not spend nearly enough time on this topic, but have tried to break it down into four basic concepts.

  • Respect for intellectual property (copyright, etc.)
  • Respect for intellectual integrity (respect truth)
  • Respect for each other (cause no harm)
  • Respect for the information infrastructure

What do these mean to you?  What have I left out?

Another Random Blog Article … that will likely be misunderstood

Bloggers Cafe in SecondLifeLately, I have had a number of opportunities to speak to education leaders: superintendents, school board members, and yesterday, to district curriculum and technology leaders, mostly from Long Island, New York.  It was the 2020 Vision Now Summit, held in Melville, NY.  The audience was predominantly district superintendents, assistant superintendents, and some directors of technology.

Most of these addresses afforded time at the end for questions from the audience, an experience that I’ve found to be quite educational.  One surprise has been the lack of interest in Internet safety.  This concerns me, as Internet safety continues to be an extremely important issue.  But it also heartens me, as it seems that  we are starting to get past the scare tactics of institutions and industries, in whose interest it is to generate fear.

One question that I consistently get is,  “How do we train teachers to work with today’s information and communications technologies?”  I don’t quite understand this.  It’s probably my own very unique perspective, my outside the box mentality, my own success as a learner, and less success as a student.  But this just doesn’t seem like such a big problem to me.

It’s completely understandable that educators, with the institutional culture that we work in, would attack the problem by asking, “How are we going to teach this to teachers?”  But yesterday, I asked the audience, of almost 300, to raise their hands if they could say that they learned at least half of what they do with technology by teaching themselves — and almost every hand went up. 

I think that it’s part of the job.  It is my job, as a teacher, to be able to teach today — to be skilled at using today’s information technologies within today’s information environments and apply pedagogies that reflect today’s information environments.  We suffer from the myths of old world education, that you go to school so that you will be prepared for the next 30 or 35 years.  But the teacher we are at graduation from college, is not necessarily the teacher we need to be five years later.  Those days are long behind us — and I think that the job has become a whole lot more exciting as a result.

Formal staff development is important.  We all need new ideas, new energy, new inspiration.  Districts and service agencies should continue to make available any kind of professional development opportunities that are successful.  But it’s still the job of the teacher to be competent to teach in the classrooms that today’s students need.

Certainly, the situation is far more complex than this.  Teachers do not have nearly enough time, nor enough compensation.  They do not have the resources, and many resources are actually blocked from access.  They are expected to do so much more than teach, and they are held responsible within conditions that are often entirely beyond their control.  I’ve often said that the very best thing we could do to improve teaching and learning is to give teachers the time.  Every teacher should have one hour of on-the-job professional time for every hour they spend in instructional supervision.

So, I think that if we can simplify the question of staff development by saying that, “It’s part of the job of the teacher to continue to grow,” then we can get on with the far more interesting question, “What does the school and classroom look like where learning is what you see happening, not teaching — where learning stops being a job, and, instead, becomes a lifestyle.”

Now, on to this weeks K12 Online Conference sessions. 

Image Citation:
Bretag, Ryan. “The Bloggers Cafe.” Ryan Bretag’s Photostream. 13 Jul 2007. 16 Oct 2007 <>.

What Kind of Sense?

DHarter, one of the educators participating in the K12 Online Preconference chat, said

A kid the other day said to me that he hates the term Web 2.0…makes sense, it’s 1.0 to him!

I’ve never considered that. Not only have these children always know a world with the web, but they’ve always been able to play with it. What a concept. I just got older! 

It all brings us back to the relevance of teaching these kids from textbooks that are five years old.  What kind of sense does this mean to our children?

K12 Online Preconference Chat is Complete…

I finished going through the transcript for the chat that took place during the first 48 hours of the 2007 K12 Online Conference, while flying from Minnesota to JFK yesterday.  I have to say, first off, that reviewing and commenting on chat was helpful for me.  The conversation emerged several times, about the boundaries that existed in that conversation, that traction was coming from the participants, bouncing ideas off of each other, pushing and pulling. 

Then, I was able to factor out the boundary of time, and insert my comments into the conversation with the benefit of some reflection.  The transcript is four quite uneven pages long — probably because I did the work in four sittings.

One of the many things that impressed me about the chat occurred early on, when much of the conversation was about the slowness of the download.  I deleted much of that conversation from the chat transcript, because it did not really contribute to the topics at hand.  But several folks started brainstorming ways to produce mirror sites for the keynote.  I know of two additional links that were produced, and read in a blog yesterday that someone put it on Google Video.

The resourcefulness and collaboration impressed me.  We were watching learners overcome a boundary.  Perhaps this is one of types of boundaries that we should consider inventing, boundaries that are created to be overcome.  It’s another edu concept in Ender’s Game, that the students were encouraged to play video games, and Ender and other students learned to hack the games, and the teachers were able to discretely observer and assess the future commanders as they accomplished goals by changing the rules.

One of the most interesting sessions that I attended at the Education and Video Games conference a few months ago was a session on cheating, and so much of what was going on was incredible resourcefulness.  Cheating was as intellectually challenging as playing the game the way it was designed to be played.

Have a nice Sunday!

Voters Want More from Schools

Ken Kay just sent me a blurb from a Partnership for 21st Century Skills news release, describing a recent poll of U.S. Voters.  Here’s part of what he sent!

WASHINGTON, DC – Oct. 10, 2007 – A new, nationwide poll of registered voters reveals that Americans are deeply concerned that the United States is not preparing young people with the skills they need to compete in the global economy.

An overwhelming 80 percent of voters say that the kind of skills students need to learn to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century is different from what they needed 20 years ago. Yet a majority of Americans say that schools need to do a better job of keeping up with changing educational needs.

The national poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Peter D. Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

Among the other key findings:

  • Eighty-eight percent of voters say they believe that schools can and should incorporate 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, computer and technology skills, and communication and self-direction skills into the curriculum.
  • Sixty-six percent of voters say they believe that students need more than just the basics of reading, writing and math; schools also need to incorporate a broader range of skills.
  • Fifty-three percent say they believe schools should place an equal emphasis on 21st century skills and basic skills.

You can read the entire press release at the Partnership’s web site.  They appear to be the only source for the survey findings at this time.

K12 Online Conference Keynote Chat…

For the last few days, I’ve been spending a lot of time reading through the chat that was generated parallel to the K12 Online Conference opening presentation.  I’m inserting my 2¢ worth where I can, and am posting the transcript as a wiki for you to read and insert — continue the conversation.

One thing that just occurred to me is that the chat is an excellent manifestation of new boundaries, where these professional educators, as master learners, are using each other as their boundaries, pushing and pulling at their ideas, impressions, and insights — learning and constructing learning as a result.  Then I get to go in, remove the boundary of time, and insert my own ideas and impressions.  This is so very powerful.

I’ve posted the biggest part of the transcript at this wiki page.  It’s more than one page, and will take a long time to go through.  My comments are in italics, and there’s a little icon of my face to the far right.  You are welcome and encouraged to do the same.  Just look at the code that I used to accomplish the indenting and even the picture.

You know, when we became teachers, we all had every reason to believe that we would be doing this, this way, for the next 30 years.  When I started teaching, the desktop computer hadn’t been invented yet.  I suspect that this impression may still be the case.  As we try to redefine education today, do we really believe that it’s going to stay this way for very long.  Do we even suspect, yet, how much education is going to continue to change in the next thirty years? 

Do you know about the Singularity? 

Think about learning French by taking a pill, or inserting a module behind your left ear. 

What’s happening today, that would have seemed just as outrageous only fifteen years ago?

Wow!  That was deep…

Image Citation:
Kim. “Watching.” SuperKimbo in BKK’s Photostream. 8 Oct 2007. 9 Oct 2007 <>.

Third World America

Semi On LineI’m writing, again today, at the risk of offending some very fine people — and that is certainly not my intent.  But I am concerned enough to risk it.  I am in, what appears to be northeastern Wisconsin.  I drove through about an hour and a half of it yesterday on my way to my first day of staff development, and the land is magnificent.  I can see why people look for reasons to be outdoors here. 

It was an excellent day with about fifty educators from a fairly large geographic and relatively sparsely populated area, and we explored issues of contemporary literacy, some new web tools, and the effects that a new web is having on how we think about and use information.  I was especially impressed with the conversations that I had with a number of the participants and the discussions sprung out from the ideas that I was sharing.

But what was hovering just beyond these these conversations was the fact that a large percentage of the population that these educators serve are without Internet and a larger percentage who do have it, are still dialing in.  Part of the problem is that the area is fairly economically depressed.  Few natural resources, little industry, and it is simply on the way to the places that tourists and weekend sportsters go.  The main income seems to come from serving travelers on Friday and Sunday.

Does this mean that understanding the new shape of information, video game culture, and new literacy are less important for these teachers and their students.  Absolutely now.  Event of a majority of their students do not have access to online games, it is the connected students who will be defining the culture of all of our futures.  I’ve occasionally mentioned that in reading The World is Flat, I’ve had the impression that the United States, unless it acts, is risking becoming a third world nation in just a few decades.  I think that the real danger is that we may be allowing portions of the country to slip into the valleys, and it may be happening right now.

The shame of it is that this should not be happening.  The natural resource that defines success in a flattening world is human intellect.   And there is certainly no shortage of talent here in northeastern Wisconsin.  There is simply a shameful lack of access to them, and they have a shameful lack of access to their world.

Pressure should be applied to the telecommunications industry to do what they promised they would do in the ’90s, in return for enormous tax breaks — connect America to the high speed information grid, not just the parts of America that are thick enough, financially, to be in the Telco’s interest to connect.  I’m still disconnected in this hotel in Moose something, and can’t look up the references to the Telco scandal, at the writing of this blog.  But Bill Moyers did a program about it, which may be available on YouTube.  Also try looking up Bill Moyers and NCMR (National Conference on Media Reform) on YouTube.

Today, geography should not be a factor in who has access to the world of information, who the world of information has access to, nor who has the opportunities to tap into the info-verse and harness opportunities to serve and participate in the emerging global economy.

I’m Relaxing…

I’m in Moose Lick, Wisconsin — where they don’t have Internet.  It’s actually not Moose Lick, and it’s probably only this hotel that doesn’t have Internet.  When I checked in yesterday afternoon, and asked about it, the young man said that it was wireless.  After working for about an hour on the chat transcript from K12 Online Opening Presentation (which is quite interesting), I attempted to connect to the Internet.  No Google. 

I checked my IP number and it seemed to be legit, but no Google. So, I continued to work on the chat transcript for another half-hour, tried the Internet again, and still no Google.  So I called the front desk.  The young man said that they were having some difficulties, and that he would call me back in just a few minutes.  Then he called and asked, “Could you come down here and take a look for us?” 

Normally, I will decline this sort of invitation, because I am, as you know, not a techie.  But I agreed, being that I’m almost desperate, and I’m in Moose Lick, and he was so friendly. I was met at the end of the hall by the man and a young woman, who is apparently his wife, or perhaps his mother.  The are both Chinese and, I suspect, in their first semester of English language at the local technical college.  They walked me into an employees’ lounge where the wiring closet is attached to a cinder block wall.  They pointed to a DSL modem and asked, “Can you fix it?”  I did what I do at home, I unplugged the modem waited twenty seconds, and plugged it back in.  A red light came on by “power” but none of the other lights.  I unplugged and re-plugged the phone line, but no changes.

The woman, who was also very nice, called the phone company.  Be reminded that I have an especially hard time with accents because of my hearing problem.  When she got tech support, she handed me the phone.  I know my eyes got big, but I took it, and explained the problem.  The woman on the phone asked for the hotel’s  number and I finally got it, having particular difficulty understanding “zero” in Mandarin (or Cantonese).  She asked about the lights and I explained, “One red light by Power.” 

“It’s not green?”

“Nope!  It’s red!”

“If the power light is not green, then the modem is bad.  We can ship you a new one in two days, but you will have to install it.”

ElephantWell I’ll be in New York in two days, so I relaxed, and remained relaxed the rest of the evening, or until 8:30 when I went to bed.  I don’t need to tell you that they do not offer the G4 channel, though there is no shortage of sportsman channels.  I learned the proper grip for firing an 18 pound handgun — which should come in handy if I should find myself with an 18 pound handgun, facing a rampaging elephant.

Now please don’t mis-understand.  I’m not making fun of immigrant hotel hosts, of Moose Lick (which is not the name of the town), or Wisconsin, or even of people who like 18 pound handguns.  I’m having some fun with myself and the fact that I never really know what kind of situation I’m going to find myself in from day to day.  I find that the very best weapon I have to deal, is a smile!

2¢ Worth.

Image Citation:
Nico, Gonzalez. “African Bush Elephant [Loxodonta Africana].” Nico.Gonzalez’s Photostream. 7 May 2007. 11 Oct 2007 <>.

A Sign of Engaged Master Learners…

I’ve switched off the chat for the K12 Online Conference opening presentation.  I promised it would be up for 24 to 48 hours.  Right now, I’m going through the chat, deleting out what seems extraneous, and adding in my own comments.  This will all be placed on a wiki page for all to see very soon.

Right now, I am reading through a section where folks are talking about the sluggishness of the downloads.  That in itself is an indication of engaged learners.  But the participants in the chat are working together to figure out how they can create mirror sites for the video, to improve access.

Perhaps the best educational boundaries are those that our students are motivated to overcome, and require collaboration, communication, innovation, technical skills, literacy skills, and context to accomplish.