Two Posts on Second Life in Education

This must be Brian, though I do not recall seeing anyone on EduIsland dressed so nicely — except for the possible exception of Steven Dembo!

I woke up early this morning with mostly incoherent ideas going around in my head — lots of questions and very few answers.  So the first place I went was one of my aggregators, and there I found two new posts about Second life in Education. 

The first one that I opened was one from Brian Mull’s November Learning blog, entitled, November Learning in Second Life.  Brian doesn’t leave his in-world name, and I’m having an especially hard time placing real-world names with in-world names.  Their office is just next to mine, it’s just that all of the avatars are starting to look alike to me — unless their’s fur involved.

Also showing up in my aggregator was a thorough and balanced examination of Second  life by one of the folks at Generation YES (Generationi YES Blog).  Second Life, posted yesterday, Gives a brief description of the environment, but also lists several educational benefits as well as areas of continuing skepticism.

Read their article and comment.  It’s a valuable conversation.

The author’s in-world name is Kay Idziak.  I sure wish I had been able to choose my last name when I signed up.  Mine sounds reptilian!

2¢ Worth!

Join Me at NECC

I was surprised to see that NECC 2007 had not yet been registered on Hitchhikr.  It is now, and the appropriate URL is:

The suggested tags for blogs and flickr photos are:

  • necc07
  • necc2007
  • neccprep (for blogs & photos related to your NECC preparations)

I’ve had at lease one person write and ask when I’ll be presenting, so I thought I would just post it here for anyone who might be interested.

  • June 23 – all day — EduBloggerCon
  • June 24 – 8:30 – 9:30 — NECC Leadership Symposium
  • June 24 – 8:30 – 3:30 — Hands-on workshop “Advanced Blogging, or Dealing with Sidebar Envy”  (Chris Lehmann & Marcie Hull of Science Leadership Academy will kick things off)

  • June 26 – 12:30 – 1:30 — “New Tools, New Schools: Starting the Conversation about Web 2.0,” a panel discussion with Gwen Solomon, timothy Magner, Will Richardson, and Lynne Schrum
  • June 26 – 12:30 – 1:30 — “Podcasting and Podcatching for the Absolute Beginner,”  — (This is another case of overlaping schedule.  Someone else will probably replace me here.)
  • June 26 – 2:00 – 3:00 — “Contemporary Literacy in the New Information Landscape” — This is my spotlight address and will be an entirely new presentation about redefining literacy in today’s digital, networked, overwhelming, conversation based, reader controlled, and people connecting information landscape.  All new stuff…

See you there!

UK Schools to Shun Vista & Office 2007

Microsoft BoothMy recent click explorations have had me bouncing around the ed tech in the UK world lately. I ran across this one as a related article to the one of VLEs for all learners.

Schools told to shun Vista and Office 2007 – 11/Jan/2007 –

Government agency Becta has told schools and colleges to steer clear of Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Office 2007 products as they do not offer any new “must have” features for the education sector.

A report from the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency concluded that while the new features of Vista added value, there were “no ‘must have’ features in the product that would justify early deployment in schools and colleges”.

I’m not sure that I agree with this sort of move.  I say that I celebrate the top-down vision of the UK’s government, but don’t really like to see it reaching into such decisions as what operating systems you are going to use in your classrooms.  The chief question in my mind is, “Are we trying to make our children tech-savvy or information savvy?”

Tech-savvy, to me, means that we want children learning new operating systems and developing an intuitive ability to adapt to new devices and interfaces.  Information-savvy, or literate, students must be able to access, use, and communicate information ethically, within a contemporary information landscape.

I guess maybe we want them both, but it’s a conversation that needs to be happening at all levels of education, not just within BECTA.

*Savvas, Antony. “Schools told to Shun Vista and Office 2007.” 11 Jan 2007 15 May 2007 < schools-told-to-shun-vista-and-office-2007.htm>.

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Every Learner with Online Learning Space by 2008

Going back to my afternoon with Tim Magner of the U.S. Department of Education and the bold new initiatives we’d love to have heard, but didn’t expect, this is one that would have gotten our attention…

All learners in every school will have access to a personalised on-line learning space that can support an e-portfolio by 2008.

Looking out of the Classroom
Looking out of the Classroom

I found mention of this target in the UK’s BSF program (which I talked about in yesterday’s blog) in a news story about Northgate and Fronter partnering to supply UK schools with Virtual Learning Environments (VLE).  Scanning the official BSF site, the only reference that I found to this expectation was a strategies document (see reference below).

Now I don’t want to sound like I think that students and teachers across the pond have it made in the shade now.  They face the same problems that all of us do, that of telling bold new stories in their stakeholder communities that convince people that new schools and new learning activities are critical to our future.  Just like here, the greatest resistance may actually come from inside of the institution.

But I have to also say that the concept, the atmosphere of flexibility and innovation, and the vision from the top to provoke change by opening things up, rather than closing them down — by empowering teachers and learners rather than setting them up for the fall — absolutely excites me.

This has all reminded me of a conversation that I had a few weeks ago with a vendor who is in the business of selling software and hardware related to digital content and also professional development.  They were showcasing a new podcasting product and I asked here where they get all the cool software.  She said, England.  She said that they attend ed tech conferences in the UK and that’s where they find the innovation that they then purchase or license and then bring it to US.

* “Strategy for Change.” Building Schools for the Future. 15 May 2007 <>.
* Susan. “Our Classroom has a Window.” Susan NYC’s Photostream. 13 Jul 2006. 15 May 2007 <>.

New Schools in the UK

Building Schools for the FutureThis is a story that I picked up on BBC News today.  On the outset, it looks like an especially interesting and bold program of a metropolitan city in the county of Merseyside, UK.

BBC NEWS | Education | Council calls time on classrooms:

Knowsley’s seven learning centres will remain open from 7am to 10pm and throughout the traditional holiday period.

And the teachers working in the schools will take on roles as “facilitators” and “coaches”, depending on negotiations with the unions.

The centres will also host courses for adults to upgrade their skills and improve their education alongside pupils.

The whole project will rely heavily on the latest computer technology likely to be provided by RM while Microsoft provides expert advice to the council.

In reading and clicking around, I’ve found a national program for improving teaching and learning, whose scale is boggling.  I’ve heard mention of this once before in a conversation, but it just didn’t scan.  But the UK is investing 45 billion pound to rebuild (literally) every school in the country by 2020.

According to the official government web site:

BSF aims to change the educational experience for pupils and teachers and to increase opportunities for life-long learning for the wider community. Virtually every family and community in England will be affected by BSF,

I especially like the closing sentence in the story, a quote from Knowsley’s director of transformation within children’s services, Nick Page.

nobody knew what the next generation of technological advances would bring, but Knowsley was trying to ensure it had the flexibility in its learning centres to use it.

Here are a couple of web sites on the project that I found:

Customers are Your Best Sales Force

One theme that I see emerging again and again in the new information landscape is customer marketing — that is customers marketing the product for you. My classic examples, which I’ve published before, are conferences that grow dramatically from one year to the next, as attendees started blogging about their experiences there.

I saw it again, as Brenda forwarded me an Associated Press piece (College Recruiters Use Student Bloggers) that was published on, a local TV station’s web news site.

Colleges seeking a competitive edge are increasingly enlisting and sometimes paying student bloggers to chronicle their lives online.

The results run the gamut from insightful to boring, but the goal is the same: to find a new way to win the attention of the MySpace generation.

Further in the article…

Chris Smith, a sophomore at Ohio Dominican University, posts lively weekly descriptions of his life as a college baseball player. He gets $20 a posting and has been unafraid to hide his preference for playing ball over going to class or criticizing professors for assigning too much homework.

“Being in class is literally the last place you want to be at this time of the year,” he wrote on April 12.

How might this manifest itself in the pre-higher ed world.

Early Morning Away from Home

Surprisingly, I do not have access to free Wifi in Penn Station. I’m waiting for the 6:31 train to Manhasset, where I’ll be picked up and driven to this morning’s workshop on Podcasting. They also want some explanations and demonstrations of Web 2.0. I wonder if I’ll have an opportunity to demo Second Life. Am I addicted or what?

However, the more I think about it, the more I’m seeing possibilities. The more I think about the little bit of scripted I’ve learned to do, the more it is occurring to me, “That’s how they make that work.” Do you remember (those of you in your 50s) the hover disks on John Quest. I’d like to make one of those. I’d like to make one, and then challenge a bunch of kids to make a better one.

I had dinner last night with Gwen Solomon and her lovely husband Stan. Before we left, I showed her a few things on Second Life, and we gussied up her avatar. She looks awesome now, though we couldn’t do anything with her hair. I know that Linden Labs is in San Francisco, but I can’t figure out whether Second Lifers got their hair style sense from New York City, or if it was the other way around.

Enough of such ramblings. Just killing time waiting for the train, which should leave in fifteen minutes. So I’d better pack back up and find the gate.

NYC Must be Wifi Heaven

 Jakes World
Another contribution for Dave Jakes and his ever growing Jakes World collection.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop called the Soy Luck Club, on Greenwich Avenue.  My brother did a quick search as I was taking the train from Newark Airport and found this place with free Wifi.  But as I drop down the Airport listing from my menu bar, I count 29 wifi stations being sniffed out by my MacBook — and only one of them is called Linksys.

For everyone I promised to see the next time I was in NY City, I’m so sorry.  Deadline on a writing project, which I’m getting ready to do right now — as I wonder if they would fix me a Chicken avocado dill sandwich without the cucumber.  Yum!

Tomorrow I’ll be teaching a podcasting workshop for a school on Long Island for a friend with Midlink Magazine.

More later!

Of Course I think it Matters

There has been an astonishing and healthy conversation going on about the blog entry I wrote the other day about that NYTimes laptops piece.  The entry is entitled, What’s good about the May 4 NY Times Article about Laptops in Schools. Last night, in his signature prickliness, Gary Stager (not his first comment on this blog post) lamented that we have had computers in classrooms for 25 years, and that some teachers still resist them indicates “…a conscious effort to be non-learners.”

I’ve claimed my own frustration at teachers who ask, “But who’s going to teach me how to do that?”  Sadly, we are a generation who was taught how to be taught — not how to teach ourselves.  It’s one of the many reasons why the experiences that our children have in the classroom must become much more self-directed, relevant, and rich.  They/we need to learn to teach ourselves.  Teachers shouldn’t need professional development.  They should be saying, hey, I’m going to teach myself how to do that this weekend.  It’s about life long learning.  Not about a life of being taught.

More to the point of this post, Gary sayed,

We can hire people to keynote professional development days or run two-hour workshops on Web 2.0 and it won’t matter a bit.

To some, I suspect that this is true.  The highly skeptical scholar, like Stager, is likely impervious to motivational demonstrations and counter-intuitive connections made by the likes of Ian Jukes, David Thornburg, Alan November, Jamie McKenzie, Marc Prenski, Will Richardson, …. or even — me!  I’ve not seen him present, but I’m told that Gary, himself, can whip up a rousing “Amen!” from a pulsing crowd of eager educators.

This image is not a slight to Cory Doctorow. The empty chairs just seemed fitting somehow

But does it really matter?  I think it does.  While teachers should be able to teach themselves, inspiration to want to grow and change to adapt, for must of us, comes from outside.  It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, a teacher comes up to me and says, “You know that session that you and Will Richardson did at the NCAECT conference a few weeks ago.  I just wanted you to know that it changed how I teach.  My students are blogging and we have a classroom podcast now…” 

She didn’t say that her students were learning better.  But this teacher, who was now attending a MEGA conference after school in Raleigh, seemed genuinely satisfied with her teaching and with her classroom — and surprised in her satisfaction.

So, although I agree with most everything that Gary says, here, I’m going to take just a bit of exception.

Sorry, Gary.  I know you must be crushed!       😉

2¢ Worth!

Image Citation:
Fiander, David. “Cory Doctorow’s Opening Plenary.” Djfiander’s Photostream. 2 Feb 2007. 9 May 2007 <>.

What I’m doing in the CAVE

First, I must confess that I am watching shadows.  I’m studying them and thinking about them — and wondering about their workings and their importance.  I have an awareness of the outside, but the opening from my version of the CAVE to the real world (rl) is still obscured.  Yet, still, I’m here.

The CAVE I speak of is only metaphorically the one, about which Plato storied centuries ago.  Virtually, it is the Center for Advanced Virtual Education, the brainchild of Walden University researcher, Kevin Jarrett, and the Second Life residence of myself, Will Richardson, Andy Carvin, and Annette Lamb, to mention only a few.

So I thought I would talk for just a bit about what I’ve been working on — here — in the CAVE.

Einstein at my TableFirst of all, building is fun.  It’s my Legos days back again, haunting me with the illusion of building great things.  I built a typewriter first, and, according to some, not very efficiently.  But efficiency will come.  Then I became aware of and intrigued by scripting, writing programs that apply functionality to the objects you build.  So now, if you click my typewriter, it loads 2¢ Worth, my blog, into your web browser.  A glimpse of that CAVE opening, but only pretending.

I’ve also built a radio, much more efficiently, that when clicked, it will load and immediately play my latest Connect Learning Podcast.  The pattern is clear — access to my RL services, from Second Life.

Latest PodcastTo further this theme, I’ve built a file cabinet, with drawers for eight of my most often performed presentations.  When you click one of the drawers from inside of my office, your browser launches and the online wiki handouts for that presentation are loaded.

Now! The ridiculousness of this does not escape me.  I’m in my presentation, pointing my audience to the online wiki handouts, via a presentation slide.  It points to a web URL that will link SL users to teleport to my office.  There you can click the drawer for the current presentation, which links you back out to your browser.

Online Handouts FilesIf I had access to my avatar right now, he would be shaking his head in confusion and irritation. 

It would appear that I am featuring technology for technologies sake, and there would be some truth to this.  I am in the process of being seduced, yet again, by something new, exciting, and fun.  But it is also something that has very little literal connection to what we are doing as teachers and learners — yet.  And that’s the big YET.  If Gartner Inc. is even close to right, that 80% of Internet users will be partly living, so to speak, a virtual character, then this is something to be paid attention to.  It’s something for me, at least for the time being, to push and pull, and to try to find some traction that we might use as teachers and learners.

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