On My Way to NCAECT

I’ll be spending most of the day preparing for my sessions at NCAECT, North Carolina’s ISTE affiliate conference — this year, being held in Concord, North Carolina, just east of Charlotte.  It is a fantastic conference, not quite as large as NCETC, but certainly as rich and exciting.

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Deneen Frazier BowenOne unusual, but welcomed aspect of this conference is that both keynote speakers are women.  I often hear from conference organizers that they are looking for more women to deliver their large group addresses.  I am certainly looking forward to both of these, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach kicking off the general conference on Thursday and Deneen Frazier Bowen for the closing banquet.  Hmmm, do I need to add something to my name?  David Aloysius Warlick?

Featured presenters include Leslie Fisher, Kevin Honeycutt (from ESSDACK), me, and Tammy Worchester (also from ESSDACK).

I’ll be doing an all-day workshop tomorrow on collaborative web tools.  The main theme of the day will be using the Net for personal learning — personal learning networks.  I am hoping to invite some networked people in to the workshop to describe their personal learning networks, via Skype, and perhaps Ustream a final conversation about personal learning networks, and teaching and learning, tapping into some backchannel exhaust.

I’ll also be doing a video games session and another PLN session at the conference, and, a real treat, Sheryl and I will moderate an EduBloggerCon at the conference.  The one that Will Richardson and I did last year seemed to have been a hit, so the conference wants to continue it as a tradition.

For those who will be blogging the conference, the tags that are registered on Hitchhikr are ncaect08 and ncaect2008.  Conference photographers should tag their photos the same, thought ncaect is currently being displayed on the conference page (http://hitchhikr.com/?id=297).

The Constructivist Celebration

The Constructivist Celebration LogoPerhaps the best single concept that describes where we should be focusing our efforts, as educators, is constructivist learning.  Gary Stager e-mailed me an announcement about an event being attached to NECC this year in San Antonio, the second annual (June 29) Constructivist Celebration.  Here is some text from the web site.

The Constructivist Celebration is an opportunity for you to let your creativity run free with the world’s best open-ended software tools in a great setting; with enthusiastic colleagues who share your commitment to children, computing, creativity and constructivism. You might think of this stimulating event as a spa day for your mind and soul!

The day is kicked off the day with an inspirational keynote, “Creativity, Community and Computing,” followed by five hours of creativity on your own laptop using software provided by Consortium Members, Inspiration, LCSI and Tech4Learning.

The Constructivist Celebration is an incredibly affordable event for you and your colleagues. $30 (early-bird registration) gets you more than $500 worth of free software, a great lunch on the Riverwalk and the day’s activities.

I know that I already have one engagement for this day, but I’m going to try to make some of this, if possible…Gary?

Teaching & Learning Celebration Conference

In this blog post: A conversation with Will Richardson, Majora Carter, and kids making video games

I spent Saturday in my own time zone. It was wonderful, New York City, and I had a wonderful, if strenuous, evening with my youngest brother, who lives there. We started at the Hilton where the conference was, walked up to and across Central Park. Then down to his apartment in Chelsae, and then down into Greenwich Village for an meal of (hot) Indian Cuisine. Then I walked the fifty some blocks back up the the Hilton.

I thought that the conference was great, the parts of it that I was able to enjoy. I was interviewed by Channel 21, one of New York’s Public Broadcasting stations, and had to be made up before had. I looked real good. My hair did not move for at least two and a half hours. My presentation was supported by what seemed to be a full studio of sound and video technicians, not to mention a stage manager and assistant stage manager. That was fun.

One of the best parts of the conference, to me, was having breakfast with Will Richardson. He brought me down — talking about some of the sessions he’d seen the day before, and the incredible disconnect between the message delivered by the presenters and the realities of the in-the-trenches educators who were asking questions. Quite frankly, I think that it is probably more accurate to say, “the realities expressed by the presenters, and the fantasies imposed on in-the-trenches educators.” You can read more about Will’s take on the conference at his blog. At least I didn’t order sausage for breakfast. Read the sixth paragraph in his post, and know that I agree with him. Meat is incredibly expensive to the environment. I do eat meat, but only when I’m on the road where it is difficult to impossible to control my diet.

Majora CarterThe second “best” part of the conference was getting to see Majora Carter.

Majora Carter is connecting poverty alleviation with environmentalism by demonstrating solutions for urban public health problems and global climate concerns. Carter lives and works in the South Bronx, and founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 to fight for environmental justice through innovative, economically sustainable projects that are informed by community needs.

You can read more of her bio here and here. It was an amazing talk from someone who has an amazing stage presence. She has spoken at TED as well, and here is a link to her talk there — which appears to be disabled at this moment. It isn’t everyday that you get to see a real hero!

The third best thing that I learned at the celebration was a real surprise. While dashing through the exhibitor’s area, I caught site of a booth from Homeland Security. Well the hairs stood up, a bit, on my back, and I ambled over to learn what they were doing here and to, perhaps, pick on them a bit. The man there was probably around my age, though much more fit/slim, and dressed quite casually. I asked about their presence at an education conference, and he started talking about video games. He first gave a rather rehersed sounding speech about how video games are being used to train emergency workers.

But he quickly fell into a more comfortable topic, that of teaching students to develop their own video games. He showed me Scratch, a video game building platform, developed at MIT. My new acquantance was a full time teacher and he works part time at MIT. He explained that they had been trying to align the instructional benefits of having kids program games to state standards, but weren’t getting any where with that. So they are now promoting it as an after school activity. I think that this says a lot about the abysmal place that U.S. education is in.

Why are our standards a reason NOT to teach something?

Programming ScriptAnyway, I came home yesterday and downloaded Scratch, and in only a few hours, taught myself the fundamentals of the language, which is object oriented. Your programming elements are graphical objects that you drag out of bins and then attach to your programs/scripts in logical positions. To the right is the program script that controls the ghost in the game I made below.

I’m thinking of all kinds of math and logical process thinking that this sort of activity can promote. It really shouldn’t be so hard to make a case for student’s programming as a learning activity, but it is and it has been for a very long time.

Perhaps part of the problem is that it’s not about teaching. It’s about learning. When students are learning about angles and measures by directing a sprite (or a turtle) around on the screen, based on outside influences, they are learning these concepts and practices, not being taught them.

Well, I had fun playing with it. Here’s a game called Ghost Trap that I put together yesterday and uploaded to the Scratch site this morning.

Scratch Project

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Another Few Minutes to Sit Still

Vertical Panorama outside my Hotel RoomI arrived at the Hilton in downtown (or is it uptown) NYC about midnight last night.  It’s one of those cool little “Look at Me” things that occassionally acompany what I do, to land in an airport and be picked up by a limo (town car).  Wouldn’t seem like much to most, but where I grew up — well that’s special.  Of course, as I ride down that escalator at Newark Liberty Airport, there are about fifty drivers, dressed in black, probably from more than 50 nationalities, each holding a sign out with somebody’s last name.  They each lift their signs, as the see me paying attention, as if they’re saying, “pick me, pick me!”

My driver, a very friendly young man at the end of the line, took my bags and led me out into the rain where his car was so tightly wedged into its parking place, that I had to wait (in the rain) while he squeezed into the driver’s seat, and backed the car out so that there was room to open the door.

Morning Audience at Literacy Promise ConferenceYesterday’s Literacy Promise Conference in Salt Lake City was phenomenal.  Most of the presentations were very traditional, in that they addressed standard classroom challenges of teaching reading, vocabulary, etc. — and they did it brilliantly.  I should buy some of their books, because the classroom ideas were amazing, all paper-based, but amazing.  I presented on contemporary literacy, once in the morning and again in the afternoon.  The morning session was fairly full, but the afternoon audience seemed much more filtered — many obviously warned to stay away, because he wasn’t talking about OUR literacy, but a few told by the mornings attendees, you have to see these ideas.  It was a great audience.  This was possibly the best blogged session I’ve presented in a very long time, with giants like Darren Drapper and Kelly Dumont in the audience.

I’ll be presenting basically the same topic today at the Teaching & Learning Celebration conference, organized principally by WNET TV in New York.  But I have an interview with a station reporter earlier today, a meeting with a future client, the presentation, a book signing, a reception, and then I get to relax with my brother (who lives in NYC) for dinner.  Then I fly home tomorrow morning.  Sigh of relief

I think that the question that I’m walking into that interview with is, “What do we have to celebrate?”  Well I think it’s easy.  We are teaching and learning in one of the most exciting times in human history, a time of amazing new opportunities that are limited more by our imaginations than the emerging potentials and possibilities.  Of course, you can’t say this without being reminded of the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!”

We are celebrating those who see the potentials, not those who fear the curse.

As for me, I’m tired and ready for a routine, a few days at home, and then to a North Carolina Conference, NCAECT, that I’ll travel to in my little car.

The Literacy Promise

Student Carrying Books
Image from the brochure of The Literacy Promise
It’s really been hard for me to distinguish the days of the past week.  For instance, it seems that it was only a few hours ago that I presented at the NAACE conference in Torquay.  Then we got on a train for about three hours, then a plane for about seven hours, then a hotel room for about three hours, then another plane for five hours, then I’m in a hotel in Salt Lake City, and it’s 5:00 PM.  Where in the heck is the sun right now, anyway?  My clock says it’s 5:30 AM, Mountain Time.

Today, I’ll talk about contemporary literacy again, but at a conference that is entirely about literacy — The Literacy Promise Conference.  There isn’t a web page for the conference, but here’s the brochure, using a tool called Issuu, which I learned about from Ian Usher.

I’m rethinking some of the verbiage of the presentation.  When I talked about literacy at NAACE (a technology conference) and asked for questions at the end, a delegate offered a piece of constructive criticism about my use of the phrase “Exposing Truth.”   It’s not the first time I’ve heard this.  The term, TRUTH, has meanings to people that do not seem to fit in with a conversation about literacy. The TRUTH seems almost mystical, like it belongs on a higher plane.

I use this phrase as a catch all, not only for what we traditionally think of as reading skills, but also skills that address concerns that come up more frequently in conversations about technology — how do you know that information from the Wikipedia is authoritative?

The questioner suggested that what I was talking about was finding the value in the information, and he was exactly right.  Reading is more than just decoding the text on paper and understanding it.  It also involves uncovering its value in terms of what you are trying to accomplish.  There are other terms that I’ve considered that are perhaps more appropriate than TRUTH, but they would all require more explanation — what do you mean by valueTruth is pretty clear, and I think I’m going to stick with it for the time being.  Perhaps I’ll try Exposing What is True, rather than Exposing Truth.

Some Last Coments about NAACE 2008

A Mini at Torquay
A Mini I caught pulling out onto the bay road.
We landed around midnight last night at JFK and spend a few hours sleeping in a Fairfield inn.  I left Brenda and Martin at American Airlines for a short flight home and I’m spending a fairly comfortable morning at the JetBlue gates with WiFi and 110 electricity.  Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking at a literacy conference in Salt Lake City, and am anxious to learn how my geeky ideas will resonate with them.

I’d planned to spend part of the morning listening to my recording of Ewan McIntoshes keynote at NAACE, but unfortunately, a combination of the acoustics and McIntoshes Scottish rhythm leaves the recording difficult to impossible for me to follow.  It’s a shame, though readers of his Edu.Blogs.com blog know the message.  Part of it was that we can make this work.  He described the amazing success of the school(s) he worked with in East Lothian, where blogging and other community-forming tools caught hold and have resulted in many indicators of improved learning and learning environments.  He also offered that it was not any one influencer that caused this — referring to Duncan Watts’ recent work with Yahoo.  Here’s a paragraph from a Fast Company article about the study:

In the past few years, Watts–a network-theory scientist who recently took a sabbatical from Columbia University and is now working for Yahoo –has performed a series of controversial, barn-burning experiments challenging the whole Influentials thesis. He has analyzed email patterns and found that highly connected people are not, in fact, crucial social hubs. He has written computer models of rumor spreading and found that your average slob is just as likely as a well-connected person to start a huge new trend. And last year, Watts demonstrated that even the breakout success of a hot new pop band might be nearly random. Any attempt to engineer success through Influentials, he argues, is almost certainly doomed to failure. (Thompson)

We had some conversation about this after the keynote and there seemed to be some skepticism that Ewan (a quite charismatic personality) actually had little to do with the initial and continued success.  I suspect that the the issue is far to complex to say that this work and this doesn’t, that all things depend on influencers or nothing does.

The one thing that was clear, from my very brief experience with edtech’ers in the UK, was that the are in a different place from us.  Their government has provided far more (FAR MORE) material support to schools with ICT.  Professional development seems also to be much more a part of their conversation than what I see here in the U.S., though this may be arguable.  Like us, they are struggling with the challenges of changing the direction of an institution that is, by design, conservative and difficult to move off of its well tracked course.

Yet subversive was a term I heard several times and in several contexts,  indicating to me a land that is more fertile for the germination of well planted seeds. 

One idea that truly caught my imagination was delivered most directly by Niel McLean of Becta, which is apparently England’s chief ed tech government agency.  His message seemed to be that schools needed to become more  demand-oriented, addressing the needs of their customers (students, parents, and communities) rather than service as usual.  This is my interpretation, so please correct me if I’m getting this wrong.

Terry Freedman, Ewan McIntosh, and I talked about this after the address, while Terry was recording comments from Ewan and I for his podcast.  I expressed some excitement about the approach, as some conversation about customer-based education is beginning to emerge in the U.S.  Ewan, on the other hand urged caution, that education should not necessarily use business shifts toward customer oriented/filtered services — a logical response considering the example that had been offered from the business world.

What I saw in the presentation, and especially from a conversation I’d had at breakfast with Julian Nietrzebka (independent consultant in Cornwall), has more to do with tapping into customer needs and tendencies, rather than just serving their needs.  It has more to do with a different pedagogy of learning, that is more customer led.  That’s just my impression.

A wonderful time in England, but glad to get back to my Diet Pepsi on ice and a quick five and a half hour flight to Salt Lake City.

Thompson, Clive. “Is the Tipping Point Toast?.” Fast Company.com 122Feb 2008 6 Mar 2008 <http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/122/is-the-tipping-point-toast.html>.

Niel McLean Keynote at NAACE

Live blogged! Please excuse typos and awkward wording

Niel McLean of BECTA
Niel McLean, of Becta, is talking about what technology is doing for students. He makes a point about how traditionally we have seen boys work in bursts, while girls seem to move through their learning fairly steadily. However, when ICT is involved in the learning experience, boys tend to become more steady with their activity.

People often say, we’ve been here before, with television, etc. People have used it as an argument that ICT will not follow through with the revolution. However, TV did fulfill it promise in that it impacted on what children expect from their childhood experience.

Now this is a theme I’ve heard several times, while here at this conference, demand-side empowerment. From the perspecitive of assessment, it means making assessment part of the learning process and making it personal. There are questions that learners ask that we have traditionally not answered well. The include:

  • Why suhould I learn this?
  • What can I learn about?
  • How could I study it?
  • How will I learn it?
  • How do we know I’ve learned it?
  • where will it get me?

Empowering learners is a phrase that he is using pretty regularly. Part of it is universal access, which, he says is doable. They could provide it in three years. Another part is the safety issues, which is coming up here in Torquay more than I expected it to.

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Day 2 of NAACE Begins

In the hotel we’re staying in, the only Internet access is in the lounge and library, which is where I am right now.  My presentation on contemporary literacy begins at 10:00, after an opening day keynote from Niel McLean — ‘Harnessing Technology’ and current developments.  Last night was a real treat, and Ewan McIntosh certainly raised the bar for today’s presentations, not to mention time at the bar afterward.  I didn’t last very long and was back up in my room before it was late.

Unfortunately, the battery on my computer was down, so I wasn’t able to take notes during Ewans address, but he talked about many things that resonated with me.  For instance, he used the image of thin slicing ideas in a way that really made me think.  I have to get him to talk about that some more.  He also talked about the connection between community and privacy.  He believes that people come to online communities (social networks) because they want to connect from the privacy of their homes, where they are not required to wear their public faces.

Since my computer was down, I recorded his address and will listen and further dissect it later.

Keynote Address in Torquay

Live Blogged! Please excuse typos and awkward wordings

I’m sitting in the opening session of the NAACE conference in Torquay, England. On my way over to the Riviera Convent Centery, I ran into Ewan Macintosh, which was a wonderful surprise. The first person we saw, entering the hall, was Terry Freedman. So I’m among friends, and making new ones.

The keynote is being delivered via Second Life, and actually quite effectively. This very intriging show is being delivered by Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and Learners,. There is a video screen in the middle of the virtual hall for viniettes about embedding ICT. The only weakness is that there are only three people in the virtual audience. That said, this took a lot of courage.

In one of the viniettes, someone predicted that in 10 years, we’ll have schome, a blend of school and home. The speaker was logged out for a moment, but returned to inteview the manager of a learning space that is being used to acquaint teachers with the possibilities of Second Life.

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You can learn more about the virtual environment where this keynote address from the Learn 4 Life space. Here’s a blog post about the keynote.

Professor John NaughtonThe current speaker is Professor John Naughton, and he is drawing extensively from Niel Postman. He’s making an interesting point about our shift from information scarce environments to information abundant environment. He says that our mistake has been to think of information as an economy. It’s why, with the rise of broadcast TV, it was predicted that TV would wipe out Radio. He says that it may be much more helpful to think of the information environment as an eco-system. It does a much better job of handling the complexities of the information landscape.

He says…

A new organism has invated the ecosystem, and the older organisms are having to adapt.

Noughton mentions a presentation he saw for the NY Library Council where Lee Rainie describe six new realities for today’s youngsters. I found the powerpoint used by Rainie to get the correct text of hte realities.

6 new realities in the life of digital natives and what they mean for them and for you

  • Reality 1
    Media and gadgets are ubiquitous parts of everyday life
  • Reality 2
    New gadgets allow them to enjoy media and carry on communication anywhere
  • Reality 3
    The internet is at the center of the revolution
  • Reality 4
    Multi-tasking is a way of life – and people live in a state of “continuous partial attention”
  • Reality 5
    Ordinary citizens have a chance to be publishers, movie makers, artists, song creators, and story tellers
  • Reality 6
    Everything will change even more in coming years

Rainie, Lee. “Digital Natives.” Metro New York Library Council. Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn. 27 Oct 2006.

“The Internet is not a fire hose.  It’s a bean stalk.”  A useful visual.

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At Torquay for NAACE 2008

Initial Flickr upload from England
The initial Flickr upload of photos from England
Brenda and Martin and I arrived at Torquay around 15:00 this afternoon.  We started in Saint Ives, with a couple of morning walks in the sun — evidently a rare occurrence right now.  The color of the water seemed to change every time I looked at it.  Then we took a train from Saint Ives to St. Erth, then another on to Newton Abbot, and a cab on down to Torquay.  Brenda and I took a long walk looking for food, and finally settled on a couple of pasties, as all of the interesting restaurants were closed until 18:00.  We’re both full now, so there won’t be out again today.  We found a Burger King, and brought back a burger and fries for Martin.

The NAACE conference begins tomorrow afternoon, and I am certainly looking forward to it.  As I have mentioned many times before, conversations about education and education innovation seem to happen in a language that is different from ours.  There is a different sense of confidence and I am looking forward to doing a lot of listening during the next couple of days.

I will talk some more about what I hope to contribute tomorrow or the next day.  Until then, I’m switching off and heading back up to the room for the rest of the evening.  Click here for the first load of pictures uploaded to Flickr.