Flash from the Past

Just took my son to the Honda place.  He just got his drivers license and will need something reliable for college.  But he’s only been driving for 2 months, and both kids are required to drive the Volvo for at least six-months. 

My main reason for going, though, was to see the old 1972 Honda Coupe they have on the display floor.  I haven’t seen one in years.  No decades.  In fact, I looked for a picture on flickr a while back and then on the web and couldn’t find a single decent image.

So here’s my contribution.  I had a friend in college who owned one.  As I recall, it used a motorcycle engine, which my friend could mechanic.  The main thing I remembered about them was that from behind, it looked like a scuba mask.

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“Reexamine Social Network Policy,” says the NSBA

Wes Fryer tipped us off, yesterday, to a Boing Boing article about the National School Boards Association.  Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing’s principal writer, says, (referring to a Tech Blorge article from August 7, Schooboards: Net Dangers Over-Rated; Bring Social Networks to School, by David Cassel):

Boing Boing: School boards: The Internet is safe and we should use it more:

National School Boards Association (a nonprofit that represents 95,000 US school-board members) did a comprehensive study of students’ experiences with the Internet, especially with social networking sites. They determined that the much-touted risk of online stalkers and predators was basically nonexistant (0.08 percent of students surveyed had ever gone to meet a stranger without parental permission). The best part is their recommendation to schools: stop fearing the Internet and embrace it as an incredible tool for instruction.

According to the Tech Blorge article‘s reporting of the NSBA report (pdf), based on an online survey of 1,277 students, 1,039 parents, and 250 school district leaders:

  • 20% of students said they’d seen “inappropriate” pictures on social networking sites in the past 3 months
  • 18% said they’d seen inappropriate language
  • 7% said they’d been “cyberbullied,” or asked about their personal identiy on a social networking site.
  • 4% said they’d had online conversations that made them uncomfortable
  • 2% said an online stranger tried to meet them in person.
  • Only one of the students, out of 1,277 said that they had met a person from the internet without their parents’ permission.
Graphic from Creating and Connecting
Graphic from Creating & Connecting (pda) report from the National School Boards Association.

By contrast, the study, Creating & Connecting, reported that 59% of online students talked about education issues, and 50% said that they talked specifically about schoolwork online.

I’ve had the privilege of working with the NSBA staff on several occasions and once with the state leadership, and have come away with the very same impression that I had from the Council for Chief State School Officers institute last week.  They get it.  They believe it. 

  • Our economic environment is changing.
  • Our children’s information lifestyle is dramatically different, and
  • The very information landscape has almost entirely reshaped itself over technological advances of seismic proportions.

But getting it is only step one.  As I implied in my TechLearning blog this week (The Question has Changed), we’ve done a pretty good job of answering the “why” question.  Now we have to figure out how to sell it.

Recommendations from the report:

  1. Explore Social Networking Sites.
  2. Consider using social networking for staff communications and professional development.
  3. Find Ways to harness the educational value of social networking.
  4. Ensure equitable access.
  5. Pay attention to the nonconformists.
  6. Reexamine social networking policies.
  7. Encourage social networking companies to increase educational value.

Many many thanks for this new report from the NSBA!

Cory, Doctorow. “School Boards: The Internet is Safe and We Should Use it More.” [Weblog Boing Boing] 8 Aug 2007. 9 Aug 2007 <http://www.boingboing.net/2007/08/08/school_boards_the_in.html>.
David, Cassel. “Schoolboards: Net Dangers Over-Rated: Bring Social Networks to School.” [Weblog Tech Blorge] 7 Aug 2007. 9 Aug 2007 <http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2007/08/07/schoolboards-net-dangers- over-rated-bring-social-networks-to-school/>.
“Creating and Connecting // Research and Guidelines on Online Social — and Educational — Networking.” National School Board Association. 9 Aug 2007 <http://files.nsba.org/creatingandconnecting.pdf>.

Would Edgar Allan Poe like the Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd?

That title has no real meaning, other than the fact that it was one of the subterranean conversations that happened during my six hours with educators in Irving, Tx yesterday.  I’ve written about this before, where I use AjaxChat, installed on my web server, to create a chat room that operates very much like Twitter.  It’s just that everyone has an account, and every one follows everyone else.

That folks were debating the speculative musical tastes of a 19th century American poet, while I was almost certainly saying some very important things in my presentation, concerns me a bit.  But after scanning through the transcript (now extracted to a wiki page), and reacting to some of the conversations, I have to say that I am thrilled with the out come.  I learned, in the reading, because there were teachers and learners in that conversation, and because those roles switched around so much that I stopped keeping track.

Much of what I learned came from questions that pushed me to think.  But one concrete item came from a question, “Is his ability to zoom in and out a Mac feature or can we do that and if so how?”  I use a Universal Access feature of my Mac to zoom in on sections of my screen to clarify a point.  “How do you do that?” is a frequent question that I get, and I have to say, “It’s a Mac thing.”

Virtual Magnefying GlassGuest4223 (most chatters kept the random guest id assigned by AjaxChat) described Virtual Magnifying Glass, a free PC (Win XP, 2000, NT, ME, 98 or 95) application that provides a magnifying glass for zooming in on sections of the screen.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it reminds me of an app I use to use in my Win 98 days.

There were several questions about using this sort of chat application in class (Irving is a 1:1 district), and several people expressed concern about distractions.  Well I worry about that as well.  But it seemed that only a handful of attendees actually participated in the chat.  The real value, I suspect, is that the transcript can then be posted to a wiki page, and the entire class can go in and work on the document, wrapping content around discussion elements, adding value to the experience.

I guess what impressed me the most was this exchange:

Todiehl • 2007-08-07 12:57:45\\
I have to say Walt Whitman would be ecstatic about web 2.0

Book by Walt Whitman guest_9999 • 2007-08-07 13:00:59\\
@ TODIEHL: Is this what you’re referring to? “Walt Whitman self-published his Leaves of Grass and only sold eight copies–to friends and family. He couldn’t get a publisher to accept it or even anyone to review it. So he wrote some reviews of his book himself under various pseudonyms and got them printed in different newspapers and magazines. Only THEN did he start seriously selling the book and gain the reputation he deserved.”

Todiehl • 2007-08-07 13:02:48\\
Yeah! I didn’t know that. I was thinking about how much he loved the open exchange of information, and giving everyone a voice and a chance to speak, and combining all those voices. That’s one of the things he tried to do in Leaves – get every American voice in there. He’d be proud of web 2.0guest_9999 • 2007-08-07 13:05:21\\
AND – he coulda self published in less than a day… 😉

jwitter • 2007-08-07 13:05:44\\
So ‘www’ really means Walt Whitman Writing

I really have to figure out how to work Walt Whitman into my Web 2.0 presentations… 😉

The entire transcript has been ported over to my wiki site.  I welcome you to read it and comment here.  If you’ve ever been in one of my workshops or presentations, then you know the password, and you may feel free to go in and tinker with the transcript — adding value.

Image Citation:
Harry & Tiggy. “Walt.” Hary and Tiggy’s Photostream. 4 Apr 2007. 8 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/harryandtiggy/446643763/>.

Guilt 2.0

Lost Luggage Tango
Hard to explain this picture in terms of this posting.  It showed up in a Flickr Creative Commons search for luggage.  The photo is called, Lost Luggage Tango, and it made me think of people who are on the go, and will likely never be here again doing this.

This is one that’s been rolling (ricocheting) around in my head for weeks now, and it’s one of those, “me being honest” blogs.  Last week, I presented in Maine at a Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) event.  So there were lots of laptops in a richly wireless environment.  The event planners asked me to do a three-hour workshop on new literacy, and one on web 2.0 — the literacy session first.  In planning, I kept asking myself this question, “How much can I teach them in three hours about contemporary literacy?”  “What is the most that I could teach that they would actually internalize and take back with them?”  My answer, after much planning and replanning, continued to be, “Not enough!”

I also continue to struggle with the itinerate trainer issue, that I come in, teach my stuff, and then I’m gone.  It’s why I insist on having local instructional tech staff on-hand when I facilitate hands-on sessions, so that support can be identified with local people, not with me — who’ll be gone in a couple of hours.

So, with all this in play, I decided to hold my sessions as conversations, posing questions, entertaining responses and ideas, and provoking continued conversation.  My strategy is to provoke learning out of these conversations, and, perhaps, awaking a much more casual professional development from communities of Maine educators.  This is also, very much, in the spirit of Web 2.0, respecting the community for answers.

I’ll likely be doing the same thing today, in Irving, Texas, another established 1:1 learning environment.  Do I go in and teach, or do I respect the community and provoke learning from them?  Since my sessions have not been finely described (literacy and flat classrooms — very mushy), I will likely utilize my twittereque chat, wikis, and social networking to fashion out some resources based on the conversations that happen in my sessions.

As usual, I’ve spent way to much time setting the stage for the point that my title implies.  The fact is that I feel guilty, and I suspect that I’m not the only one.  I was taught in the 1950s and ’60s.  I taught in the 1970s and ’80s.  During those decades, teaching was a highly defined set of activities, involving expertise and the conveying of that expertise.  Today, we are promoting a different kind of activity, one that involves the crafting of learning experiences that provoke new knowledge and new skills.  There is still some teaching, but much of it is respecting the community, respecting the class to teach itself. 

So, am I doing my job?  On a professional level, I believe that I am.  But, on a personal level, one that still gets its sense of the job from decades of experiences, I sometimes feel guilty.

I guess I’ll get over it!

Photo Citation:
DaKidd, Michael. “Lost Luggage Tango.” Michael DaKidd’s Photostream. 4 Apr 2007. 7 Aug 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/commortis/445710159/>.

What Value — the Profession of Blogging

There is no doubt that blogging has become a profession for some.  For most of us, it’s a hobby, sideline, by-product, or just one essential aspect of what we do as educators.  But, for some, it’s their job and their principal source of income.  I suspect that this has not been so clear to me as this morning, when Brenda showed me this article in the News & Observer, our capital news paper — Bloggers Debate Forming their Own Labor Union.  In the opening paragraph…

In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, some loosely affiliated left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards. (Heher A3)

Camera & Newspaper ArticleWe, edubloggers, do not see blogging as our profession, but merely another avenue for communicating — something that is almost exclusively our job.  I guess what resonated with me, when I read through this article, is the growing access that we all have to opportunities for expressing ourselves, and even opportunities to generate income in the process.  It isn’t just writing, but photography, art, video, music, animation, etc.  Self-expression as a lifestyle, or even as a line of work, no longer depends on geography, who you know, or even being the most talented at your craft. 

So how does this change what and how we teach?  Does it?

Rather than copping out with a “What do you think?” — I’ll just go ahead and answer this one.

In most classrooms, we have done an excellent job, for many years, in teaching our children to be good consumers of content — good readers and learners.  I believe that we must now become just as successful in teaching our children to become good and responsible producers of content, writers, artists, composers, etc. — good communicators.  In the information age, it is information with which we will work, to fashion content products that have value, that entertains and teaches.

Rather than just making students information consumers, make them information artisans.

Article Citation
Heher, Ashley M.. Left-leaning bloggers debate forming their own labor union.” News & Observer [Raleigh]6 Aug 2007: A3.

Presidential Tag Cloud

This is very cool.  I was just scanning through the transcript of one of the twitteresque chats that were happening during my sessions in Maine.  Someone, Amy, suggested a web site that offers tag clouds for major presidential speeches, mostly inaugural addresses. 

The URL is http://chir.ag/phernalia/preztags/.  The interface is not very intuitive.  There’s a bar above default speech, Presidential Tag CloudGeorge Bush’s Jan 2007 State of the Union Address.  You’ll find a scroll tool at the far right of the bar.  Grab it and drag it back to the left to scan through other addresses, going back to “Foundation of Government,” Jan 15, 1776, by John Adams.

It’s kind of interesting to see references and prominence of education.  In the image to the right, Thomas Jefferson evidently made many references to education when he called for a Bill of Rights for the Constitution.

Maine is Different

I’ve commented on this before, that working with teachers in Maine is different.  I keep trying to put my finger on what it is, fundamentally, and I still can’t do it, but I came one step closer this week at the Summer Teacher Leader Institute in Castine.  One of the themes that seemed to emerge from start to finish was projects where students are conducting research on their local communities.  I’ve already written about Ernie Easter and Michael Cushman and their students’ work in New Sweden. 

Maine Memory ProjectThere were many other conversations about the history of Maine and students’ engagement in discovering that history.  One that struck me and compelled me to pull out my Olympus WS-100 recorder was with Laura Richter.  Her students have been researching the history of their community for a number of years as well as broader aspects of Maine’s history, and using the ICT that is readily accessible to them to find meaning in what they are learning and then communicating that meaning.

Students at Laura’s school also contribute what they learn to Maine Memory Network, a state of Maine version of the American Memory project of the Library of Congress.  One example of the students’ contribution is this page, Medicine in Times Past.

Then there was the conversation that I had with Kern Kelley (of The Tech Curve) and two of his students, who’d accompanied him to the conference.  I’d met Kern before, at the ACTEM conference in Augusta, and I mean this in no way as a criticism, but this is an exhausting fellow to try to keep up with.  I’m sure that 16 and 17 year olds have no trouble at all.  One of the students interviewed me after my short keynote, but, unfortunately, the recording didn’t take.  It’s probably just as well. 

Doran showing David Warlick LeopardThen the other fellow walked me over to his computer, a MacBook Pro, and proceeded to take me on a tour of Leopard, Apples new OS software.  Some of you are, no doubt, aware that Leopard is not even out yet.  But this sixteen year old kid is taking me on a tour, because he’s a beta tester — or something like that he’s a Mac Developer.  Yet two more examples of students who are reaching out into their world.

The guys also let my try out the Myvu

Certainly, these innovative uses of technology are not happening in every classroom or school in Maine, and they may not even be the norm.  Yet, they and other applications are becoming a clear standard of how these increasingly available information and communication technologies can be used to make learning more personally meaningful, more relevant to our children’s future, and more effective in helping them to learn basic and contemporary literacy skills.

Clearly, these are classrooms whose walls have become incredibly transparent, and, at times, absolutely gone.

This is our goal, to use contemporary technologies, and inventive and caring teachers, to make all barriers to learning disappear.

History = Future ?

Michael and ErnieI had a very interesting conversation last night in the Inspiration Station, a room set asside for chatting at the MLTI Summer Institute — sort of a blogger’s cafe.  But before I share that conversation, it’s important to have the context of the short keynote I’d delivered just before.  In it, I suggested three converging elements of what we do, and how, through the shared electrons of those elements (if I might carry the metaphor a little further), we might generate the energy that we need to drive learning in flat classrooms, turning them into learning engines. 

Those elements are:

  • We are preparing children for a future we can not describe
  • We are preparing children, who as a generation, are enjoying a rich information experience outside-the-classroom.
  • We are preparing children within a new and dynamic information environment with new qualities that seem ready made for teaching and learning.

As I walked up behind Ernie Easter and Michael Cushman, they were working with some video using iMovie.  As a matter of full disclosure, the only reason that I remember their names is that I took pictures of their name tags.  Michael (or Ernie) looked back and asked, “Do you know what this is?”

I shrugged and then he answered, “8 millimeter film.”

“OK, that’s cool.”  Then I may of shrugged again.

They commenced then to describe New Sweden, a town or small region of Maine that was settled by immigrants from that country, where they remained fairly isolated for generations, continuing to speak their own language and practice their own culture.  Michael and Ernie have collected old 8mm films that have been taken in that region, recording their practices, celebrations, and everyday life.  They are employing their students to interview their relatives and other members of their community and to help in archiving the film, organizing it, and make it available online.  Much of it will be available through the Maine Memories project. 

I asked how the video clips will be tagged, and one of the young men said that they are using Library of Congress methods, but the other guy Michael or Ernie, interrupted and said, “He’s asking about Web 2.0, and he’s right.  We could get the kids to tag the clips.”

It was about that time that something started bothering me.  This is a good thing, because it means that there may be something important going on that my A.D.D. contaminated brain simply can’t pull together into a singular concept.  But then it occurred to me that there was a real disconnect going on here — and so often disconnects lead to profound connections. 

I’d just gotten through talking about the challenge and opportunities of preparing children for a future we can not describe.  And here are kids who are engaged in learning about their past.  I asked, “What are your students learning in this process?”

After a pause, “They’re learning to research, to think, to work with media, to organize, to draw conclusions..”

“And all of this combines to do what?”

“They are learning!”

“They’re learning by teaching themselves.  And isn’t that the best thing we could be doing to make them ready for an unpredictable future — to teach themselves?”

Wow! What a Question!

blogging monkeysI’m back on the grid now, more or less, sitting in the Maine maritime Academy in Castine, Maine — a beautiful little town next tome some beautiful water, dotted with beautiful sail boats, some made of fiberglass and some made of polished wood.

I checked in at registration around 3:00 and was immediately accosted by six — seemed like more — ed tech mentors asking about conferences that they should attend.  I listed just a few of my favorites and then just got them talking about what they looked for in a conference.  I don’t mean to imply that this was an unpleasant experience.  It’s just that after a day-long vacation with my wife, well I just wasn’t prepared 😉

Then, one young woman asked (and I paraphrase quite poorly), “When you blog all this material, what’s left to teach?  What can you offer in person that’s better?   Again, I was still too addled by the drive up from bangor and an entirely disturbing book (fiction) on my ipod to give an adequate or even coherent answer.  I remember during my early days of blogging, that I was fairly guarded about what I would share, fearful of giving away the services that are, in part, my bread and butter. But that concern drifted away over the months — to where the revenue aspects of what I do no longer filter what I blog about.

Still, I suspect that the question was even deeper than that, and I think that it could raise some interesting discussion.  So what do you think?

“What does blogging replace?” 

“Does it replace anything that was already there?”

Photo Citation
Stinson, Peter. “Blogging.” Tidewater Muse’s Photostream. 20 Jun 2007. 1 Aug 2007 .