E-Paper is Near…

Livescribe Paper ReplayI got this note yesterday from my friend, Jeff Whipple, in Fredericton, Canada.

I have heard a lot about e-paper over the last couple of years, but hadn’t really seen much evidence as to the possibilities of it replacing traditional paper – until now.

You can read the rest of his notes at his blog, Whip Blog… and also view his YouTube insert of a video that demos (animated) Paper Replay.

I see this and other advances in digital learning as an increasingly widening divide not only between the individual digital haves and have nots, but a growing divide between schools that operate on personal access to digital content and schools that do not.

In the Middle (Redux)

In the MiddleMiguel Guhlin (Around the Corner V2) tells a wonderful story about his daughter’s work on KidPub, “..the world’s largest online collection of stories written by kids for kids!”  She wrote a story for KidPub called in the Middle, about a family of five children, two identical twins, the oldest, two more identical twins, the youngest, and the main character, a single, in the middle.

What’s amazing (to me) about this story is that a brother and sister who read the story on KidPub, wrote to Miguel’s daughter and asked permission to turn her story into a video for YouTube.  Not only did they produce the story video, but they also created two short videos about the making of In the Middle.

Click over to Miguel’s blog for the links.

Like Your Local Chinese Restaurant

Zeng's RestaurantI just finished a presentation for the Clinton City Schools in Sampson County, North Carolina.  This morning session was with central office staff and school principals.  But at least half of the audience was made up of community members, parents, board members, and presidents of the local PTOs. 

It was a fun presentation.  But the most interesting part to me, was that the presentation was done at a local Chinese restaurant.  This Clinton establishment hosts a variety of meetings in the community, including civic groups, various board meetings, agency gatherings — and many of the school central office meetings are held here.  What impressed me was the AV that comes preinstalled at the restaurant.  They have free WiFi, which I sipped from in the parking lot when I arrived this morning before anyone else.  They also have a projector and speakers.

I drew attention to the facility at the beginning of my session, noting that their community has reason to tap into the digital networked information environment in doing their work and accomplishing their goals.  They need to be teaching their children from the very same information environment that is present in the meeting room of their favorite Chinese Restaurant.

How Much does this Really Matter?

[Another Conversation Starter]

I was scanning through one of those “Which countries are doing a better job of taking tests?” reports when I ran across this in the chapter on context.

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF, www.nsf.gov/statistics), the average U.S.
citizen understands very little science. For example: 

  • 66% do not understand DNA, “margin of error,” the scientific process, and do not believe in evolution.  
  • 50% do not know how long it takes the earth to go around the sun, and a quarter does not even know that the earth goes around the sun.
  • 50% think humans coexisted with dinosaurs and believe antibiotics kill viruses.

On the other hand, according to the NSF, the general public believes in a lot of pseudoscience. 

  • 88% believe in alternative medicine. 
  • 50% believe in extrasensory perception and faith healing.
  • 40% believe in haunted houses and demonic possession. 
  • 33% believes in lucky numbers, ghosts, telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, and that UFOs are aliens from space.
  • 25% believes in witches and that we can communicate with the dead. *

Of course we, as educators, are appalled at this.  It is our mission to prevent this kind of ignorance.

But does it really matter that half of the people around us do not know the shape of the Solar System, the function of DNA, and when the last dinosaur died.  Most of these folks are productive citizens.  They have jobs, pay taxes, and care for their children.  They do what they’re told.  They believe what they’re told.  They don’t think very much about it, but they’re busy with the day-to-day. 

Should we be concerned?  If so, why?

*Phillips, Gary W., PhD. “Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators from Comparing States and Nations.” American Institutes for Research. 14 Nov 2007. American Institutes for Research. 18 Nov 2007 <http://www.air.org/publications/documents/phillips.chance.favors.the.prepared.mind.pdf>.

Out of My Black Bag

The last few weeks have been pretty intense with travel.  My life has consisted of navigating a wild variety of travel modes, trying to remember my current hotel room number, presenting to fantastic audiences, conversing and learning, resting as much as I could, and not a lot of writing.

The most of Alaska I got to see…
Dimension BST 1200
Figure 1
Figure 2
 Avenue of Answers
Figure 3

I’ve been home all weekend, catching up with e-mail, doing a little bit of programming, and resting as much as I could.  The dog got me up at 4:10 this morning, so I thought I’d take the early morning wake to go through the  pockets of my computer bag, where I stuff things for later reference.  First out, was my camera.  The photo to the right was as close as I got to seeing Alaska.  It was overcast for the day I was there, and snowing.  The clouds lifted a bit for just a few minutes.

One of the more interesting conferences I’ve worked lately was the Ohio School Boards conference, in Columbus.  It was one of the largest audiences I’ve spoken to, and at least I didn’t have to follow Louis Gossett Jr., their closing keynote.  When I can, I always try to walk through the exhibitor’s hall, to see what’s new.  It was immense, and, for row after row, I saw nothing new.  And then, around the corner, I saw a machine, sitting on a table, with two men discussing it.  One of the men was holding a working gear set (see figure 1), and I knew then what it was.  Personal fabrication is a technology that many say will be the next killer app.  Basically, it’s like having your own personal factory.  You use AutoCad, or what ever, to design what you want, and the machine makes it for you. 

Earlier generations used starch as the building material, but this device uses plastic (see figure 2).  This one (Dimension BST 1200) uses plastic and can refine the textures down to a real sheen.  All kinds of things are possible.  When you want a cell phone, you buy the the chassis and then design your own phone shape and look.  And think of shopping.  Rather than having UPS deliver your lamp, you’d get the lamp’s design, downloading it directly into your fabricator, which would make the lamp for you.

This might be an interesting writing prompt.  What could you do with a personal fabricator?

I also ran across an interesting clicker.  There are probably a dozen of these remote voting devices out there that allow students to click back to the teacher the answers to questions, mostly used for anytime assessment.  What I saw that was new (to me) in the TouchPoint was a PowerPoint addon, where surveys can be embedded directly into your PowerPoint presentation, and as students click their answers, the graphs appear directly into the presentation slide — real time.  This is very cool.

Finally, and this was a first for me, the conference had an entire isle called the “Avenue of Answers” (see Figure 3).  It featured booths from various Ohio state agencies and other groups who were there to simply answer questions.  I spoke at length with the man who was in charge of distance learning for the department of education. 

Enough for now.  Just two short North Carolina trips this week before the U.S. Thanksgiving.

Below is a short video of this personal fabricator or 3D printer in action.

Tapping In to the Conversation

I do not know where this idea came from, that was banging around in my head when I woke at 3:30 this morning.  I think that it was partly a subconscious reflection of a very interesting Daniel Hecht mystery (Bones of the Barbary Coast) that I finished last night.  It may also partly be subconscious efforts to find a way to chisel away 15 minutes of my 1 hour presentation to fit the schedule of today’s opening general session of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education conference.  It could have something to do with waking up in a very elegant hotel room in Mystic, Connecticut. 

Don’t know!

Inconclusive GraphBut I had the idea of searching the blogosphere for the number of blog entries that include the word love and the word hate — in the 10 most used blogging languages, as per Dave Sifry’s April 2007 State of the Live Web.  The results were interesting, though in no way conclusive, as I am not a linguist and must allow that there may be ten ways of saying hate in Arabic and 90 ways of saying love.  Plus Spanish and Portuguese have the same word for love, as do Spanish and Italian the same word for hate.

The findings were so doubtful, that I’ve left out the language titles.  But for the sake of my early morning blogging, they aren’t important.  I think what’s important is that I was able to awake, at 3:30 in the morning, in the town of Mystic, a town that (regardless of the 1,437,000 occurrences on the Web) doesn’t even exist in any incorporated way, tap into an immense global conversation and attempt to make this analysis of value.

I guess that my question of the school board members today will be, are the students in your school learning to be a part of this global conversation, a valuable mixing of people, cultures, and economies?  and is it with love that they are part of this conversation? or is it with hate?

Or is the important thing that I shouldn’t even be up at this time of the morning. 😉

To ELGG or not to ELGG

My Facebook PageOur demonstration of social networking yesterday was nothing less than amazing.  Even Brenda was impressed when I showed her what happened to that wiki page in just the first 10 minutes.  The presentation on social networking in the afternoon, at the MEGA meeting, was over in 45 minutes (something of a real effort for me).  Then I headed out for Winston Salem for the NC School Library Media Association conference.

This morning, I noticed a comment on yesterday’s blog from my friend Bethany Smith, who was in the audience.  She said:

..I’ve been mulling over the concept of social networks for awhile and trying to decide where education fits in it. In your presentation you discussed how teachers (and others I’m sure) cobble together tools such as aggregators, twitter, del.icio.us, etc. to be our social network – while our students use MySpace and Facebook. So where do the two meet? Is asking our teachers to use facebook a way to reach the existing pool of students? Or do we try to create a separate (and relatively safer) social network? I’m investigating the use of ELGG, but wonder if our students would want to have 2 social networks or not?..

Bethany asks some important questions here, about Social Networks. ELGG is certainly a valuable option. I know that the Science Leadership Academy is making extensive use of this tool.

In my opinion, Social Networking is a concept, not a Facebook or MySpace. I don’t think that kids call their Facebook a social network. I’ve never even heard my children use the term.  I could be entirely wrong here.  If so, I’m sure someone will tell me.  Tom Hoffman strongly encouraged the use of Danah Boyd’s definition, which seemed to refer to Social Networking as a single site.

That said, I’m not sure that the best use of social networking is a single networking tool, but a use of what ever tools or combination of tools are available to facilitate learning as a social and conversational endeavor, one that respects the perspective of the learner community and its ability to accomplish its own learning with guidance from participating teachers (master learners).

2¢ Worth!

Participation Requested…

Social Networking WikiI will be doing two sessions in the next two of days about social networking for educators.  There are some basic questions about social networking that I plan to explore, hopefully modeling social networking in the process. 

I’d like to produce a demonstration of social networking by capturing the update of a wiki page about social networking in education.  To accomplish this, I have started a wiki page called Social Networking for Teachers [link].  This Wikispaces page is configured so that any of you can edit the page — and I want to invite you to do so, answering any of the following questions:

  1. What is Social Networking?
  2. What are some of the differences between how our students use social networking and how professional educators use it?
  3. What are your favorite social networking applications?
  4. What’s the latest thing you learned from a social network?

I will then capture the history of the page, and hopefully turn that into a short video by 3:00 this afternoon 😉

Thanks in advance!

Reaching Across Cultures

Gene Krupa Captured for YouTubeI had a pleasant conversation last week with Steve Nelson of the Association of Alaska School Boards while working at their annual conference in Anchorage.  Steve manages their 1:1 initiative called the Consortium for Digital Learning.  Our discussion was mostly professional and may show up as an upcoming podcast (hear two-part podcast with Holly Jobe, program director for Pennsylvania’s Classroom for the Future project [part 1] [part 2]).

However, we digressed into some common experiences as musicians when we were much younger, playing in a variety of bands.  What was odd was that although neither of us can read music, both of us have sons who are master musicians in the more traditional sense — they can actually read sheet music.  My son plays the Euphonium and trunbone, and his son plays a wide variety of instruments, but mostly drums.

What intrigued me, especially from our perspectives of learning to play music in the 1960s (don’t think Steve’s quite that old), was that his son has mastered the chops of the swing drummer greats like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, by watching them play, via YouTube.  When we were young, the best that Steve and I could do was to  lift the needle of our record players, set it gently back just a few lines and listen hard one more time.  Today, young musicians are able to reach across the decades and watch the greats, study their styles, slow the action, and know the atmosphere.  We had only the sound of our increasingly mutilated records, and once a week we could watch Hootenanny [YouTube] to catch glimpses of the folk artists of that time. 

Our children can rich back across cultures to witness in brand new ways, the greats of their chosen passions, and then express it in old world ways — his son mastering the drums and playing in swing bands, and my son’s mastering the Euphonium and playing in british brass bands.

Portland Airport & Transliteracy

Portland SeatsI’m sitting in the delightful Portland Airport with a Starbucks in sight, but nothing else that strikes of a chain.  Right now I’m sitting in an area that is labeled only by the sign for Classic Pianos: Portland’s Lowest Prices for Highest Quality.  The resting area is ringed by two concentric circles of seating pods, each with two cushioned seats on either side, a table between, and a power outlet hidden beneath.  In behind the seats are tall bamboo gardens.  Free WiFi invites me to browse a bit, double check my schedule for tomorrow, and wait for my 9:20 flight to Anchorage.

It was an exhausting two days in Denver, presenting two three-hour workshops on Thursday with more than two-hundred attendees each.  Today, my job was to push the thinking for Jeffco’s Technology Convocation 2.0, a meeting of the team who is developing their technology plan.  It was an interesting morning with a lot of talk about the information experience of our students’ generation — video games and social networking.  The afternoon was a repeat of yesterday’s talk with a much smaller audience, including Bud Hunt.  Great to meet you Bud.

I continue to be encouraged by the momentum that seems to be building toward modernizing classrooms with technology, but focusing on the why, and fueling with information and information skills.  I opened up my chat program for the workshops yesterday, and someone who signed in as ASaylor started with a comment, “transliteracy is the topic.”  I’m still rolling this one around in my mind, but, according to the Production and Research in Transliteracy group blog,

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

My aggregator just got a little bit larger.