Take Care of Your School Profile — From JUtecht

Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht just wrote an interesting blog (Schools: Take control or forfeit your profile) asking, “Who’s looking after your school’s online profile?” He mentions that during presentations, he frequently recommends that schools take control of their online presence, because if you don’t…someone else will!”

I just got done editing my school’s wikipedia entry where someone had put false information on the site. It was brought to my attention today by a teacher who was told by a student about the edits made to the article.

History listing of Wikipedia Article Of course this issue is of special interest to an independent school, such as the Shanghai American School. But the online profile of all schools have become more important as more of us are hoping on board, and especially as more of the content that we access comes from each other rather than just through Google searches.

I’ll be speaking to school district administrators in Texas tomorrow, and need to remember to bring this up.

Thanks, Jeff!

Another Naysayer Stirs the Pot

Mark Bauerlein is a tenured humanities professor at Emory University, and he has just published a new book, The Dumbest Generation.  In a podcast interview, conducted by Texas educator, Tim Holt, for Intended Consequences, Bauerlein said that the thesis of his book is simple, that,

..teenagers and young adults, in America today, are drowning in a tidal wave of teen, youth, stuff, delivered through digital tools, and the adult realities of history, civics, foreign affairs, politics, and fine arts can’t break through.

I couldn’t agree more, though I don’t blame the technology.  The author, himself, says,

When we talk about the Internet, we have to acknowledge that this is a miraculous resource.  It contains knowledge and art, works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, old documents, maps, definitions, Wikipedia, historical sources.  It’s all there, and we can access it in ways we never could before.

He continues, though, that this is not where the teenagers are going.  Referencing a Neilsen survey, Mark said that 9 of the top 10 web sites that kids go to are for social networking — contacting each other.  Well, no surprise here, as both Bauerlein and Holt mention.  Kids are going to access what kids are interested in.  What’s happened is that, through technology, kids are able to immerse themselves in the social experience, in bedrooms that are often a multimedia center.

Picture of Top 15 Words
Top Ten Search Terms from Students using Nettrekker in Schools
I don’t think the answer, though, is to not bring the technology into the classroom, as Bauerlein implies.  According to Thinkronize, makers of the NetTrekker child-safe Internet search engine reportedly used in 20,000 schools world wide, the top five search terms entered by students in school are games, dogs, animals, Civil War, and George Washington. ((“Index Reveals What Kids are Searching for Online.” eSchool News 16 May 2008 20 May 2008 <http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/top-news/index.cfm?i=53830;_hbguid=084225dc-6d5d-4c92-8323-0a7aefe1f9bb>.))  See the right for the top 15 searched terms.  Again, the fault is not the technology. 

Certainly when he and I were young (Mark’s only a half-dozen years younger than me), we played in the neighborhood with friends until dark, then came home where we read books, did homework, spent time with parents, watched a little TV, etc.  Aside from spending more time with parents, I don’t really see the difference.  I knew kids back then who spent hours on their Princess phones, and I remember educators complaining about the junk kids were reading.

Bauerlein is painting a picture designed to envoke fear and provoke caution.  It’s not that different from the stories that I tell to envoke fear and provoke investment in modernizing classrooms.  If I were to challenge him when he says, that bringing blogging and podcasts into the classroom is a strategic mistake, he’d acknowledged, as he does several times in the interview, that there is huge potential.  I’m often challenged, “Are you saying that we should throw out this, that, and the other?”  No!  Our enthusiasm reaches a boil, and we all have to work hard to temper it.

Bauerlein questions all of the claims about jobs becoming obsolete, and I have to agree that we’re taking statistics and twisting them to support our arguments.  I recently researched the “10.2 jobs before you turn 38” claim, and found that it was based on citizens born between 1957 and 1964, and that half of those jobs happened before we turn 22.  Before I graduated from college, I’d worked as a short order cook, played in bands, washed cars, waited on tables, played guitar in coffee houses for tips, loaded freight cars, and worked in a machine shop.  Nothing new! 

I questioned the 55th among IT using industries claim in a blog entry the other day (Another “Aha!” Video). 

Yet, I still believe that we are preparing children for a future that we can not clearly describe that being a lifelong learner is perhaps the most important skill we should be teaching today … learning-literacy.

Finally, I continue to question the research complaint, that there is no research to show that technology improves achievent.  First of all, there is.  But that’s beside the point.  I don’t think that we should be investing (much) more in providing convenient access to digital, networked, and abundant information to students and teachers to improve test scores.  I think we should be doing it because today’s information environment is digital, networked, and abundant.  Computers and the Internet are the pencil and paper of our time — and insisting that our children can learned to be ready for their future by scratching and stamping text on paper and reading published textbooks, is like saying that children could learn with clay tablets, long after paper was widely used.  Computers and the Internet have changed how information works and how we work it.  Kids can’t learn this in five-year-old textbooks and spiral notebooks.

Nobody guaranteed that we’re going to learn how to make this work in one year, ten years, or even twenty-five.  It’s going to take time, freedom, inventiveness, collaboration, caution, and time time time.

By the way, I learned about the podcast over Twitter. 😉

Clay Shirky Speech

Picture of Clay Shirky Video
Clay Shirky Speech at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco
I just watched Clay Shirky’s speech at the recent Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco (see part 1 & part 2).  Author of Here Comes Everybody, Shirky talks about cognitive surplus, the time and intellectual capital that have spent on Sitcoms for the past 50 years, and are now starting to redirect into the infoverse and other domains, connecting with various places (i.e. Wikipedia) designed to take advantage of that time and intellectual ability (my definition).

Here’s a line that evidently didn’t hit me when I read the transcript for the speech a couple of weeks ago.  After telling the story of a four-year-old, who becomes discouraged when she can’t find the mouse on her family’s TV, he says,

Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for.

Substitute Education for Media, and this is a huge statement the coincides with what a lot of educators and education reformers have been saying for a long time.

I just love it when somebody comes up with a way of saying it all in one sentence!

Resourcefulness as a Basic Skill

As I explore language for describing 21st century skills, I frequently come up with the word resourceful. This is one of the coolest stories I’ve read in a long time and an amazing example of resourcefulness. Brought to my attention by Tim Holt at Intended Consequences, an unsighned band, from Manchester England, wanted to make a music video for one of their original songs. However, as is common among groups trying to break into the big-time, Get Out Clause, couldn’t affort to hire a film crew.

Picture from CCTV Music Video
Sequence of video shot on a London Bus
So, they resourcefully solved the problem by performing their song on the streets of London, home to more security surveillance cameras than any other city in the world. ((Rotenberg, Marc. Limit Camera Surveillance.” USA TODAY 1 Aug 2005: Editorials. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-08-01-oppose_x.htm>)) The group set up its equipment and performed in 80 locations (including on a bus) in front of the ubiquitous CCTV cameras. After they’d finished, they petitioned the organizations who owned the cameras for the footage, under the UK Data Protection Act, Britain’s equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the band, about a quarter of the companies complied, most saying that the tapes had been deleted. However, they retrieved enough footage to assemble the music video, using a consumer video editing program. ((Chivers, Tom. The Get Out Clause, Manchester Stars of CCTV.” Telegraph.co.uk May 8 2008 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/1938076/The-Get-Out-Clause%2C-Manchester%27 s-stars-of-CCTV-cameras.html>
))

You can watch the video on YouTube.

Telling a New Story

Picture of teacher taking a picture...Ewan Mcintosh is continuing a conversation, apparently begun by Andy Gibson, at School of Everything.  In A Teacher, by Any Other Name, Andy reported on a recent meeting about an online project they are developing, where they started questioning the use of the term teacher wondering that it might be considered a liability to the project.

..it’s pretty clear from the general feedback that the word “teacher” also puts off many people with skills and experience to share.

Ewan suggests that,

As adults we rarely refer to those who teach us how to work better as ‘teacher’.

He continues that we have incorporated in our conversations, new words to label teachers, words that we hope re-image our notions of the job.  We want to call ourselves mentor, coach, FACILITATOR

I would suggest that this is too easy.  Language is useful.  It helps us to form images, and sometimes, new images.  But the word, teacher, is not the problem.  It’s the cultural story that prevails and gets retold too often and in too many ways.  We need to re-tell that story, and as we continue to talk about compelling new information and communication technologies and new information (literacy) skills involved in accessing, working, and expressing information (messages) more compellingly, perhaps we educators need to use the same tools and skills to retell our story. 

Personally, I feel that the “us-and-them” aspect is still important in classrooms.  It is perfectly alright and important for teachers to act like learners, and for learners to act like teachers.  Part of teaching is learning, and visa-versa.  Yet, authority continues to be an important component of classroom learning, even if the classroom is a Moodle interface.  The point, from my perspective, is that the job of teaching has become much more complex and much more exciting in the past 25 years — and that’s the story we need to tell.

So, how about Teaching! in 30 Seconds.  You may be aware of a number of contests that have emerged over recent years, most notably, MoveOn’s political commercial contests, and Lafayette, Louisiana’s community campaign  to defeat local telco’s efforts to block community telecommunications initiatives.

What if someone (ISTE, ThinkQuest, etc.) were to organize a contest, asking schools to produce a 30 second commercial that compellingly illustrates what it is to be a 21st century teacher — honoring the traditional notion of expert conveyor of knowledge, but emphasizing all of the other activities that are necessary to being a successful educator today, planner, manager, collaborator, researcher, content developer, advocate, provocateur, master learner, to mention only a few.

We have to tools to do this.  If we don’t have the skills, here’s a good way to develop them. [Image ((Alatorre, Israel. “Metafoto.” Israfel67’s Photostream. 29 Jun 2007. 16 May 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/ixbarnix/662658636/>.))]

Just a thought!

Various Jewels from California

Live blogged -- please excuse typos and awkward wording.

Kathleen Ferenz
Kathleen Ferenz presenting about Calisphere
I’m back at CTAP 3 for their Coordinating Council Meeting, with various presentation during the morning.

Kathleen Ferenz, of California Region IV, is presenting about a media archive projected called HistoryCaliSphere.  She’s doing the presentation from an iPod Touch.

Kathleen makes the point that this is not just a clip art archive.  What they seek to do is to use the images as part of a connecting narrative of the state’s history.  It provides some fairly deep background information on the images and topics.

The team is holding some professional development events for the project, and are deliberately presenting the project with iPod touch, to model the idea that we can bring digital networked information into our classrooms without a full computer and ceiling-mounted projector —  Not that this is an excuse for not having a computer and ceiling-mounted projector in every classroom 😉

Kathleen is now showing an Animoto video of one of their events.  It occurs to me that students might enjoy selecting Calisphere images, anotate them into some sort of specialized history text.  Then they could upload it to one of the self-publishing services (Lulu), and publish their own book.

Alan Phillips Talking about edZone
Alan Phillips
Alan Phillips, of California’s K-12 High Speed Network, is presenting edZone, a palette of web tools for educators.  The site is set up for federated searching, so that a queries access resources from all aspects of the site.  It includes a My edZone page, where you can establish a profile page, set up multiple blogs, and other customizing features.  The interface is very simple and clearly laid out.

Resources (say blog posts) can be made available to the public, other edZone users (trusted community), to groups, or private.  Someone asked about who’s monitoring the content.  They are using a community approach, each piece of content is accompanied by a “Flag as inappropriate” linked, which can be clicked by anyone who judges the information needing consideration.

Other working features are videos, groups, podcasts, and docments.  In development are:

  • Social Networking,
  • Wikis,
  • Messaging,
  • Moodle,

Users can create albums of content, which can be images-only (for instance) or mixed media.  Other users can subscribe to the RSS feeds to receive the content from the albums.

Time for lunch now.  then… “It’s Showtime!”   🙂

The Glue

I’ve spent most of my waking hours this morning catching up on e-mail. I ran into several things worthy of a blog, but, alas, no time left — except to comment on something I was reminded of yesterday.

I’m in Sacramento right now, presenting at a couple of staff development events by CTAP3. Yesterday’s was opened by Ben Anderson, and his very funny and insightful tour of the technologies we’ve seen arise in the past (un-disclosed number of) years since he graduated from high school. I loved his 1976 iPod.

Picture to come, I hope.

But during the afternoon, I did a two-hour session on Web 2.0 tools. How do you do that? So much to share. Anyway, a young school administrator in the back, raised his hand, just after I demonstrated how to run RSS feeds through your wiki page. He said that he had been looking at Web 2.0 tools for his teachers for some time, and was convinced of their benefit and appropriateness to the learning process. However, he hadn’t really understood one of the fundamental underpinnings of the concept, that these tools can connect together, be mixed and remixed to make new tools.

RSS is the glue of the new web.

This Does My Heart Good

The GavelYesterday, a Los Angels court awarded MySpace $230 million dollars in its law suit against the so-called Spam King, Sanford Wallace and his partner Walter Rines. The suit involves the duo’s luring login ifnromation from MySpace users through various phishing sites, and then using their friends lists to to send gambling, pornography and ringtone span. They sent a total of 735,925 messages and racked in $500,000 dollars in the process.

The judge fined the partners the maximum amount under the CAN-SPAM law — $100 per message plus other various fines. ((Spring, Tom. “MySpace Wins Record $230m in Case Against ‘Spam King’.” PCWorld 14 May 2008 14 May 2008 <http://blogs.pcworld.com/staffblog/archives/006956.html>.))

I wonder what MySpace is going to do with the money. The shame is that it takes a MySpace to bring the boom down — but thanks for swinging it.

Do your students know what spam is? ..how it works? ..how people make money from it? ..and what it costs us?

School AUP 2.0

I head back out to the airport this morning, after a couple of weeks at home. During my time here, I finished the biggest layer of a major writing project, re-wrote Hitchhikr, spent a little time in my favorite City, Asheville, with Brenda and my parents, and saw my daughter graduate from college — and move back home.

I spent all of yesterday afternoon shopping for luggage, downsizing to comply with the airlines’ recent clampdown on carry-on bags. My 22 inch rollaboard, it seems, is actually 23 inches long, when you factor in the wheels. I understand the airlines frustrations as delays result from late boarders not having room left in the overhead for their rollaboards, and having to check them through to their destination. It won’t work for me. I’ve had too many valuables disappear from checked luggage, items that all seemed to be exempt from the airlines reimbursement policies (don’t leave jewelry in your checked luggage).

School AUP 2.0 logo But that’s not the point. I want to let you know about a new wiki site that I’ve been working on over the past couple of weeks. It’s not a topic that I have any real expertise in — which is why I made it a wiki, I guess. However, it is a topic that is coming up increasingly in conversations, and one that is related to the perennial discussions about inappropriate content and unsafe net practices.

We wrote Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) in the mid-ninties, as schools added technology to their classrooms and connected themselves to the Internet (remember NetDay?). But many of those AUPs have not changed in more than 10 years, while the information landscape has grown enormously and evolved in some significant and impactful ways.

So I have established this wiki, School AUP 2.0 (sorry), to facilitate more conversation about AUPs, and to provide a watering hole for professional educators who are looking to cross the desert. The page features an overview, a notes page (for random jottings), a structure page (listing common structure elements), and an article about a layered approach to AUPs.

The wiki also includes a number of resource pages with RSS feeds from my own Diigo account and Del.icio.us sites tagged by anyone. There are listings for:

  • AUP Guiding Documents (tagged “aup” & “guide”)
  • Sample AUPs (tagged “aup” & “sample”)
  • AUP Examples (tagged “aup” & “example”)
  • Cell PHone Policies (tagged “aup” & “cellphone”)

There is also an RSS feed listing for blog entries that include school and AUP.

Some of the wiki pages are not editable. However, most of them can be commented. There is an RSS feed for the entire site as well as separate feeds for individual pages.

Homework on Wikipedia

Jon Beasley-Murray is an Assistant Professor of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies in the University of British Columbia (a magnificent campus, by the way).  Each year, he assigns term papers to his students, but this year’s languages and literature learners demonstrated their research and learning in another way — by contributing to Wikipedia.  In an Agence France-Presse (AFP) interview (published May 11), Beasley-Murrary, said that his students were now required to submit their research as Wikipedia articles, saying that the free online encyclopedia “..seems like a much larger stage, more of a challenge.”  ((“Educational Wikipedia.” Islam Online 11 May 2008 12 May 2008 http://www.islamonline.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=117764.))

A picture of the wikipedia article
The Wikipedia Article Contributed by Eva Shiu
I have to confess that as I initially read about this, I was disturbed on several levels.  But the deeper I got and the more I thought about this assignment, the more it made perfect sense. 

I especially like the authenticity of the assignment, because a community of Wikipedians and casual readers alike have an opportunity to comment on the articles, and even make their own edits.  The students’ work must stand on its own two feet.  Beasley-Murray promised a rarely awarded A+ grade to any student whose article was distinguished as a “Wikipedia Featured Article.”

A third-year student, Eva Shiu said, “I was up nights until three or four a.m. in the morning working on it!”  I got addicted to it.”  Shiu and her co-authors contributed an article on Gabriel Garc Marquez’s book, “the General in his Labyrinth.”  It and one other article were published on the Wikipedia homepage on May 5, as Featured Articles.

The second article’s author, Monica Freudenreich, said that she was most excited by the fact that her efforts and contribution would survive online, and not end out in a bin under her bed.

Of course, logistics would prevent all of us from sending our students to write for Wikipedia.  But there are lots of other ways to make learners responsible, not only for learning something, but for doing something useful with it.