Powerpoint Killers?

This blog post started out as a reference to Alan Levine’s February instructions for tricking CoolIris into a presentation tool — which I wanted to post to a private blog I have for shelving ideas to return to at some point. But I decided to post it here, as the article grew and it’s implications became more apparent. We live and are raising and educating our children in a world where a kid in a garage can dramatically alter an industry. Think about what Sergey Brin and Larry Page did to Yahoo, and how YouTube impacted Google Video. Here, I’m talking about CoolIris, started by three recent Stanford grads, and in less detail, about Prezi, developed by two guys in Budapest, Hungary.  Are these Powerpoint killers?  I do not know!  Probably not.  But they indicate a time when geography, age, language, culture, all take a back seat to your ability to observe, think, context, improvise, build, and provoke.

A CoolIris display of images. ((http://www.flickr.com/photos/acoustic_punk_sound/3062605208/))

I’ve seen this done with varying degrees of success, using CoolIris as a presentation tool.  I’ve resisted trying it, because I am not that interested in having to upload my slides to Flickr to display them, and I am a vicious slide deck rearranger. However, with CoolIris now accessing files from your iPhoto library, there may be more room for those “morning of” customizations.

Of course I’m speaking from inexperience.  Alan Levine (CogDogBlog) referenced in this morning’s report on a New England road tour, a February 7 blog post of his, Tricking out CoolIris as a Presentation Tool.  In this post, he talks about a keynote he delivered to the Scottsdale Community College, and his desire to “..delve into two trends (he has a) growing interest in” —

..one being YouTube / video as a communication and its evolving culture. I borrowed heavily from the brilliant videos by Michael Wesch (I am convinced I could make an entire presentation just by playing his videos). And the other the rise of DIY culture and media creativity as a past-time.

Levine continued…

In the back of my mind, I had wondered about the capability of using CoolIris (actually pack when it was PicLens) having just seen its lush 3D wall of images you get when viewing a flickr or facebook page. It is very elegant. And I had noticed they’d added support to explore YouTube in the same interface. I saw that you could use arrow keys to move through images sequentially and said, “One day I will do a presentation in this format”.

Now I would have to actually play with this to determine if CoolIris, indeed, enhances the quality of my presentation, or simply dazzles the audience with the motion.  It’s a question I continue to ask myself as I continue to use Prezi.  Thusfar, I rationalize it with the shifts it has forced me to make in the planning of my presentations with more focus on the central idea(s).  The crowd of people coming up after every presentation, asking about that cool presentation software I was using, is not enough to prove its value — or is it?  Shrug!

You can see Lee & Kim’s two part show on CoolIris here:

  1. Using Cool Iris — Part One
  2. Using Cool Iris — Part Two

THEN! Scanning through YouTube, I found this apparent TV show with Kim Cavanaugh and Lee Keller — and yes that’s our Dean Shareski he mentions as the source of these techniques they are demonstrating.  So I’m immediately thinking, this is a Canadian show, especially as the main speaker sports a ponytail.  But then I see the name of the show, Palm Breeze Cafe, and it rings a bell — because those two guys look familar.  I look it up, see the full list of show hosts, and there’s my friend Lee Cobert, of —


Palm Spring County Schools.  But when would they have seen Dean Shareski. 

Yes again!

The very same conference I presented at several weeks ago.  I just love these kinds of discoveries. 

No man is an island,

any more,

ever again!

Anyway, this is just something that I initially wanted to write up for a little private blog I have for archiving resources and ideas I’ll want to come back to — but decided to post it here instead.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Not Your Grandmother’s Tag Cloud

Tag-based Poetry MagnetsThis is one of those cool tools about a cool aspect of the global conversation, tag clouds — from CogDogBlog.

Here’s a big twitterbution to robin2go (who was so cool to meet in person at Penn State) for sharing a really cool WordPress Plugin — Tagnetic Poetry. It displays your WordPress tags as something that looks like the magnets you make into poems for your fridge– and just as they do, in your blog you can re-arrange them (below is a screen shot; link to go to the real deal):

Powered by Qumana

Why Libraries?

One of the things I enjoy most about what I do is searching Flickr for CC photographs related to my writing. (( Mason, Randi. “TerryMoore’s Librarian Sketch.” Flickr. 15 Sep 2006. 15 May 2009 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/lucy_anne/728900655/>. ))
Anyone who knows a good librarian, knows about militancy. (( Puckett, Jason (JassModeus). “Librarian Tattoo.” Flickr. 15 Sep 2006. 1 Aug 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/jazzmodeus/2723560261/>. ))
I understand the need for these rules, but this shouldn’t be the first or last thing that patrons see when using a library. (( Dombrowski, Quinn. “Librarian Rules.” Flickr. 15 Sep 2006. 26 Mar 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/2363131151/>. ))
Librarians being librarians.  I wish I knew who that blue guy was. (( Metitieri, Fabio. “Second Life, Librarians Meeting.” Flickr. 15 Aug 2008. 15 May 2009 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/yukali/2764611639/>. ))
In searching for library images on Flickr, I discovered that some people have some pretty interesting fantacies about librarians. 😉

A few days ago, that Blue Skunk dude, Doug Johnson, published a blog post resulting from a conversation he was involved in with the fellow leadership of his school district.  The question at hand was, “How can middle school and high school library programs and facilities be improved to support student learning and achieve the ISB Vision for Learning?”  However, through the course of the conversation, the question morphed into, “Does a school need a library when information can be accessed from the classroom using Internet connected laptops?”

Well I can think of no one, NO ONE, whom I would rather be sitting in the presence of such a question.  If this statment puzzles or intrigues you then just google [“Doug Johnson” librar].  Johnson also offered up a list of published articles he has written about the essential need for libraries today.  Go to his blog post (The Essential Question?) to see this list — and bookmark the articles.

Part of his blog entry was a request for answers.

The new question is uncomfortable, messy, and incredibly important and not restricted by any means to one particular school. It is one to which all library people need a clear and compelling answer.

Then he closed with,

Do you have a good response? What part does a facility play in a ubiquitous information environment? How does the librarian’s role change? How do we assess our impact if physical visits become less frequent?

This blog post — which you are reading now — comes under the category of, “I spent so much time and energy writing that comment that I have to put it someplace else as well.”  So here’s how I answered Doug’s question. (Italicized text was added for this article)


I think that this is one of the most interesting questions in education today, “Why do we need libraries (or librarians) when virtually all of the information we need on a daily basis is only a mouse-click away?”

I ask the question a lot, and the answers often seem to fall into two categories.  The first is about books and their special place in our culture.  Why?  The answers frequently seem to be personal (I like the feel and smell).  The second reason is about librarians.  We need librarians to teach students how to be critical users of information — and much more.

Frankly, I do not believe that either reason will fly in the face of budget cuts and an increasingly information-ubiquitous landscape.

That said, I also do not believe that there has ever been a more exciting time to be a librarian.  Reinvention thrills me.

The traditional vision of the library portrays a place, where you go to consume content, to find information, read information, and sometimes to check it out.  Certainly many, if not most, libraries have extended beyond this limited function.  Yet the vision continues to be the same.

As you know, I talk about literacy a lot, and try to tie it to the old and recognized structure of the 3Rs.  I think it’s a good place to start, because it is about accessing, working, and expressing information (reading, arithmetic, & writing).  It seems that if the library could come to be seen as a place for all three…

  • Find, access, understand, critically evaluate the appropriate information for your goal;
  • Add value to the information by utilizing tools of analysis, translation, manipulation, and visualization of information;
  • Compelling express ideas through the appropriate combinations of text, sound, images, video, animation; and
  • Accomplish these things socially, collaboratively, and joyously.

…if the library might come to be seen more as a workshop where information isn’t so much a product, as it is a raw material (a “Kinkos for kids,” if you will), then it may remain not only viable, but an essential institution.

That’s my 2¢ Worth.

Again, go read Dougs post to see many other responses.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Most Controversial Issues

Flickr Photo by Leo Reynolds

Someone who is no longer teaching, asked me the other day,  “What are the chief current issues in education?  What are the most controversial and nagging questions that we face?

I gave her a couple, but my perspective is unique.  What do you think — in as few words as possible — are the greatest questions facing education in this digital age?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Early Morning Scan

I’ve not written in a few days.  It’s funny what happens during my extended times at home, where I have a chance to relax, smell the roses, do a little reading, pet the dog, and take lots of walks with Brenda.  Well, I’ve actually spent a few minutes with most of those distractions, but mostly I’ve been crunching trying to catch up on e-mail, preparing for an upcoming virtual address, re-orienting myself for an old client that has come back into my life, blah blah blah.

From Jeff’s Blog

So I spent about 15 minutes this morning looking “out there,” mostly Facebook and Twitter, and a few things caught my attention.  First and foremost, an early morning post by Jeff Utecht (or could it be yesterday already in Bangkok?) on why 1:1.  It’s one of those questions I scratch my head about — it’s simply not an “if” question any more.  It’s “when!”

But Jeff steps back to a May 4th 2007 New York Times article, Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops, which recently resurfaced in the Twittersphere, and responds to a number of the article’s points in What’s the purpose of going 1:1.  It’s a great read from a young man who’s living what he speaks.

Doug Peterson pointed to this Simple Thoughts post listing the “Top 10 Twitter Clients for Mac OS X.”  It somewhat discredits the list that Tweetdeck was not present — in my humble opinion.  But there were several I didn’t know about.  I think I’ll take a look at Spaz — and Lounge looks pretty useful, without taking over an entire desktop.

Click image to enlarge

I’m still looking for a descent Twitter client for Ubuntu.

Finally, Boing Boing posted an art student’s project to make a car almost invisible.  I’m sure there’s a metaphor here.  Any help?

Oh Yeah!  I did finally get Tweetdeck to work on my Linux-powered netbook.

Powered by ScribeFire.

The Containerless Learning Environment

I had to try to capture this in the low light of the restaurant.  I ordered the Yellow Fin Tuna, and this is my meal after I sent the fish back to be cooked.  I have to say that, “I’ve never eaten from a ruler before.”

Written a few days ago.

I’m still at the Reaching and Teaching Conference and Calgary.  It has offered an interesting and broad range of ideas, from Larry Lezotte on Thursday, through Ian Jukes yesterday, my thing this morning, and now sitting in Will Richardson’s Web 2.0 presentation.  But just a minute ago, something congealed in my head, related to a bit of tension that’s been with me since Lezotte’s address. Richardson just pulled up his clustr map for his blog, Weblogg-ed — adding that, “The number of dots is not the point.”  With Will’s map, it would be easy the assume that quantity is its value.

But then he said, “This is my classroom.”


It is a thread that runs throughout his presentation, that he learns from his network.  The main thrust of Lezotte’s presentation was that you can’t prepare children for their future in 20th century, factory-designed, brick and mortar schools.  He even talked a bit about school design, and his work with architects, and the constraints that they continue to feel from school boards who are too uncomfortable straying too far from the factory norm.

I’ve written about this before, that we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that you need containers to teach and learn.  It happens within the fixed walls of the classroom, between the covers of our pre-packaged textbooks, and the inflexible confines of the daily schedule.  We even measure learning, to a certain degree, by the amount of time students are contained in their seats.

Yet, the only thing containereque about Will’s map is its visualization.  His teachers connect with him regardless of geography, regardless time, regardless of where they happen to be sitting (home, school, office, coffeeship, cybercafe, etc.).

There is no starting and stopping point.

Well that may not be entirely true.  The starting point is the inception of an idea, its growth, and shaping through the forge of conversation.  The ending point is when it is fully formed and fitted into the engine of another larger idea or concept.

I’m wondering if its possible that the shape of the classroom or even the schedule of the day may not even matter that much, that our task may be to figure out how to morph learning activities so that they flow (or overflow) out into the flexible space of our networks.

Many would say that I’m talking about Project Based Learning (PBL), and in a way I am.  ..and that may be the extent of what I’m thinking about.  But sometimes I wonder if we’ve defined and structured PBL to the point that it, also, might become a container.  I don’t know.  The only thing that I am certain of is that we haven’t come close to exhausting the possibilities of our networks as learning environments, and the continually emerging tools for working those networks.

Contained learners and learning is about control, and formal education that is entirely about control is the antithesis to the knowledge and learning skills our children will need in their future.

Three points to my bottom line:

  1. Know that you are a learner — it’s at the heart of being a teacher.
  2. Cultivate your own networked classroom and acknowledge that it is perpetually beta.
  3. Talk about your network with your students and provoke them to talk about theirs.

I think that if we can do these things, then a less containered learning environment may start to emerge.

Larry Lezotte in Calgary

Help Me!  There’s WiFi in the Telus Convention Center in Cagary, but it requests an access code.  There’s no one to ask, because I have the only laptop in the entire hall — except for Larry Lezotte, who is sitting on the stage.  I’d go up and ask him, but he looks too comfortable.  I never look comfortable before I have to present.  I can’t even access the web with my phone, because data is switched off — wicked expensive outside the U.S.

OK, things are underway, with short speeches by directors, associate superintendents, etc.  One guy, who just got up and read a very clever digitalesque Dr. Seuss poem, is lamenting that millennials, by the time they are 21, will have watched TV for 11,000 hours, used their cell phones for 9,000 hours (etc.) but only 5,000 hours reading.  Those numbers are not exact, but the impact is the same.

I understand his sentiment, and I am not unsympathetic — and I wish our children were spending more time with extended examinations of large ideas and rich plots by reading.  But they are reading.  It’s just a different kind of reading and with a different goal.  I isn’t schooly style reading — but that doesn’t make it unworthy of our understanding and even respect.

Lezotte gets pretty feisty here about the need to change our schools

Now, we’re welcoming Lawrence Lezotte.  He says that education in Canada and the U.S. is heading toward the perfect storm.  There are three fources that are converging.

  1. Rising standards and expectations because of technology and competition
  2. More and more children present challenges to teachers for a variety of reasons
  3. We’re expected to do all of that with fewer resources (with or without a declining economy)

He says that, “Your school division or district is perfectly aligned to produce the results you are currently getting.  If you’re happy, then no problem.  But you aren’t addressing these converging forces.” (approximate quote)

First we have to frame the problem.  Part of the problem is changing expectations, accountability, and changing clients.  A futurist said that, “Your demographics are your desteny.”  This is true.  Demographics are an enormous influence on our future.  That point was made eloquently by a keynote speaker at NECC a few years ago.  Can’t remember his name.

Bell curve was perfect years ago, because the purpose of school was to sort people out. If we tested ourselves with standard IQ tests and then tested our children, Our children would out perform us by one full standard deviation.

Our clients are changing.  Increasing numbers are poor and economically disadvantaged and minority — especially limited English proficiency.

In order to bring those students up (close the gap), we have to be able to assure 30% more time on task than advantaged students.  He says that the U.S. insists on a sameness standard.  We want to treat everyone the same.  We have to find a way to break out of that.  This hearkens, in my mind, to my recent rant about Duncan’s call for more time in school for students.  I think that the time isn’t the issue, so much as what they are doing — what the “task” is.

He’s making a pretty passion point about treating kids differently based on their performance.  He says that if you look at the percentage of kids with profound handicaps of all types, it has remained constant, about 5%.  But if you look at the students who have been labeled with learning disabilities has increased constantly.  Lezotte, says that it’s because of “accountability.”

He quotes, “Form follows function.”  You design the system to accomplish the function.

Lezotte says, “You will never get J curve results from a a bell curve school.”

Think about having 1/3 of your students to be in tutoring about 1/3 of the time.  What does that look like.  Is that what we need.

He talks about a professor in Florida who says that the closer a school system gets to 100%, the more and more it costs to achieve each additional percentage point.  You reach a point where you need a new paradigm.  Lezotte suggests that the paradigm shift is to move from teacher-centered education to learner-centered education. Bingo!

Battery died shortly after this, as did my attention.  It was 10:30 PM my time.  But I did manage to scratch this into my conference program.

Authority is delegated from the top!
Leadership is delegated from the bottom!

Powered by ScribeFire.

It’s Not just about Motivation

Where I’m headed today

I’m at the airport again, way earlier than usual — and I think that the security folks have been taking “be nice” courses.  They’re friendly, engaging, and asking question, such as, “How do you like that brand of underwear.”  Just kidding.  But I had a great conversation with a young woman in blue about where to get Breathsaver mints in bulk.

I was just scanning through tweets for the first time in days and ran across some RTs of something I tweeted last week,

I tire of hearing people say, ‘We integrated technology because it’s what kids use outside of school.'” 

I realize now it wasn’t the sort of thing that can be properly expressed in <140 characters.

It is not a bad reason integrate technology — to motivate learners with more familiar information experiences.  But what bothers me is that it appears to ignore the greatest and most critical reason — that an increasingly connected, technology-rich, information-driven, and rapidly changing world alters the “what” and “how” of education.

We are no longer preparing children with the skills and knowledge that they will need for all of the rest of their years.  In my father’s time, it was common to graduate from high school (or not), take a job, and do that job for the next 35 or 40 years, retire, and live another 10 years.  Expectations were not much different when I graduated from high school almost 40 years ago.

But today, I suspect that much of what we teach won’t remain valid for five years after graduation — and that may be a generous statement. 

Our focus should not be on using technology to make our students easier to teach.  It should be on crafting learning experiences, within networked, digital, and information-abundant learning environments, where students are learning to teach themselves, and begin to cultivate a mutually common cultural and environmental context for for their lives.

Without contemporary tools and contemporary information environments — all we can do is continue to prepare our children for the 1950s — no matter how many hours they’re in school every day.

Powered by ScribeFire.

RezEd at GLS

This just in — and causing me some consternation.  RezEd, the popular social network for educators interested in virtual worlds, is connecting with the Games Learning and Society Conference this year in Madison, Wisconsin.  I have attended the GLS conference for the past two years, but decided to take a break from it for 2009.  Now, after filling the dates with working gigs, I learn that RezEd is organizing a two-day conference concentrating on virtual worlds.

Are you an educator using virtual worlds for learning? Interested in gaining inspiration for your work, showing off your program, learning practical tips, and connecting with your peers within this emerging field of practice?

If this fits you, or if you have a passing interest in an application that is growing and evolving in learning contexts, then work toward spending a couple of days in a very fine and friendly city. 

The conference will run from June 10th – 12th in partnership with the renowned Games, Learning and Society Conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As an official “working group” of GLS, RezEd conference attendees will participate in RezEd-only sessions and gatherings while gaining full access to the always remarkable GLS agenda.

The keynote speaker will be Robin Harper, former VP at Linden Lab.  Other speakers will be Peggy Sheehy, Sasha Barab (invited), Lane Lawley, Amira Fouad, Audrey Aranowsky, James Paul Gee, and others to be announced.

You can register here and also visit the event page in the RezEd site.

Powered by ScribeFire.

“information Architecture and Classical Music”

Zoö Keating is my new hero.  I just can’t leave this music alone.  I’ve been listening to this for hours and am intrigued by the multiple talents of this woman.  And Yes!  She’s another Canadian…

Zoö Keating makes entrancing, hauntingly beautiful music using a traditional French cello, a MacBook, and an arsenal of audio-crunching software and scripts.

She’s one of a growing group of musicians who use computers to record snippets of music as they play. The computer records these snippets and then plays them back in loops, allowing Keating to create complex, layered compositions. ((Tweney, Dylan F.. “Avant-garde Cellist Zoe Keating.” [Weblog Gadget Lab] 4 May 2009. WIRED.com. Web.5 May 2009. <http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/keating/>. ))


“My music is the fusion of information architecture and classical music,” Keating says in this Wired.com video. “The way that you problem-solve in the world of technology … really lends itself to problem-solving with the kind of music that I do.”

Added Later, Keating at the San Francisco Airport
Zoe Keating at the San Francisco Airport

Powered by ScribeFire.