Class Business Cards

Business CardI’ve just finished a keynote for the ITL Summer Institute in Westport, Connecticut.  In the audience was Bob Greenberg, a teacher in Stradburg, a Class Blogmeister.  Bob has his students blogging many of their assignments.  He also reported that his students were engaging in blog-versations through the site outside of class — unrelated to the assignments.  This isn’t really a new story, just another example of how students, as communicators, are empowered with audience.

What I hadn’t seen before was a business card that he designed and printed for his class.  Students get cards, which they can then take home to their parents, hand them out, so that the community has a paper link to their ongoing blogging.

At this minute, I’m listening Bill Derry, the main architect of this event, whom I’ve not seen present before.  He just talked about how, in a sense, our personal experiences have been invisible to the greater society that we live in.  He said, it’s like we were the invisible man, who could only be seen when wrapped up, or painted with make up.

Through blogging and other collaborative community tools, we are able to carefully paint our individual experiences, bringing them to view to our society.  The potential value is that sometimes our individual experiences and activities can be of value, especially in a time of rapid change.

Twitter on Steroids…

Tweetdeck
Click image to enlarge...
I’ve only got about four minutes before I head over to the school (after six hours of delays yesterday) 🙁

But I had to stick this one out there.  I’m probably way behind on this, but it could, upon further exploration, change my Twitter habits.  I confess that I don’t have it on all the time.  I don’t Tweet a lot.  For me, Summize (now search.twitter.com), has turned this global, runaway conversation into a research tool.

Enter Tweetdeck.  This interface seems to do an excellent job of dividing out my conversations.  One column for general tweets, one for replies from my tweets, and one for direct mail tweets — and there’s room for more columns.

Can’t wait to work with this one more, but got to go catch my ride.

Added Later:  BTW, the URL for Twitterdeck is:

http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/

Meme: Five Things Policymakers Ought to Know

Here’s a meme I can sink my teeth into.  “Five things policymakers ought to know!”  I have not been formally tagged, as far as I know, but I ran across Cathy Nelson’s and Doug Johnson’s reports this morning and a Google Blog search [rss] revealed five others.  A straight Google search found a bunch more, including its launch, which appears to have been Nancy Flanagan of Teacher in a Strang Land (wish I’d though of that one).

For the most part, I’m borrowing pretty heavily from others, but just inserting my 2? worth. [Image ((Verde, Amodiovalerio. “Directions.” Amodiovalerio Verde’s Photostream. 30 May 2005. 10 Aug 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/amodiovalerioverde/16434738/>. ))]

  1. Keep politics out of education. 

    I remember when the 1983 Nation at Risk letter was published by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, stating that our children were attending schools of mediocrity.  I had already been teaching for many years, and I remember saying, “This is fantastic.  With this, our government has to start investing more in education.”  Little did I know that their political interests would not come from paying for better classrooms.  Instead it would be in redefining education — and as a result, the institution was taken over by amateurs.

  2. Accountability can be demonstrated in better and more relevant ways than tests. As we examine any

    listing of 21st century skills, we see nothing new.  These are skills that have long been valued.  What is new, as revealed by the, “Are They Really Ready to Work?” report from The Conference Board and others, ((Casner-Lotto, Jill. “Are They Really Ready to Work?.” The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 2006. The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, & Society for Human Resource Management. 19 May 2008 <www.21stcenturyskills.org/documents/FINAL_REPORT_PDF09-29-06.pdf>. )) is that these are entry level skills.  Traditionally they were skills gained “on the job,” and they usually led to promotion. 

    Today, they will best be gained in our classrooms through on-the-job style learning experiences — and these learning experiences will best occur as a result of performance-based assessments that are authentic to 21st century conditions.  High-stakes testing is nothing more than an industrial age solution to an information age problem.

  3. The greatest assets of your schools are in its people.

    A vast majority of teachers and administrators are highly educated, experienced, dedicated professionals with a sense of success based on high expectations.  It is also crucial that we start to consider the learners in our schools as a critical asset to the learning experience.  The greatest gain to education will not come from modernizing our classrooms with projectors and smartboards, though these are necessary refinements. 

    The greatest gain will come from the collective knowledge and experience of the education community.  Infrastructure must be invented and implemented that cultivates an ongoing professional conversation across the entire education landscape where a learning lifestyle is not only taught by teachers, but also modeled throughout the profession.

  4. We skimp on the creative arts at our own peril.

    The STEM subjects are critical to a future of prosperity.  However, in the market place, it is the aesthetics that we value, that we shop for, that we choose and buy.  For the very same reason that we promote STEM, we need to invest just as much in the creative arts. 

    It is equally critical that our students become full citizens within their entire physical, cultural, societal, and political environment.  This means that greater investment must fall to the entire curriculum, health, physical education, communication, literature, ethics, and the social studies.  If you think about the real problems of the world, they are not problems of science and math.  They are problems of communication, people, communities, and values.

Anyone who reads this and is inspired to share their list, can consider themselves tagged.

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Some Quotes from Doug Johnson’s Presentation

Doug JohnsonI’m at a leadership conference in rural Pennsylvania.  The audience is school and district administrators from the three counties served by the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20.  My main address is at 11:00.  But until then, I am sitting in a presentation by one of my main influences, Doug Johnson.  So during this period, I am just going to jot down some quotes from Doug that strike a chord with me.

“In Mankato, MN, I have more choices for how I educate my children than food restaurants.”

“No body buys a quarter-inch drill bit because they need a quarter-inch drill bit.”

“You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth!”

“Our face to the community is not long just the appearance of our buildings and lawns.”

Johnson just said that the data-driven decision making is not fulfilling its potential because our professional culture does not value data.  This reminds me of a conversation I had with a central office person in Houston.  She said that she showed her child how she was now able to access data about students and schools to help her provide here services.  She said that her daughter responded, “Why wouldn’t you do that?”

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Social Networks for the Dogs

Brenda sent me a link to this article from the WRAL web site in Raleigh.  It made me chuckle.  It made me ask, “Why didn’t I think of that!”  It made me ask, “Woe!  We have way to much time on our hands.”

At Doggyspace, social networking goes to the dogs :: WRAL.com:

Doggyspace LogoCici confesses on her Web page that she likes to greet everyone by licking their feet.

Dolce admits to being a mamma’s boy. And Jake and Tycho posted a video that chronicles their adventures of rolling around on their backs. It’s not on Facebook or MySpace, but the canine equivalent – Doggyspace.com.

A crossbreed between MySpace and YouTube, Doggyspace allows dog owners from all over the world to come together, create profiles, and share photos and videos of their pups.

The Virginia-based site is part of a growing trend of niche, or content-focused, social networking sites that target interest groups looking to connect with like-minded people.

Then that last sentence struck me, “..trend of niche, or content-focused, social networking sites that target interest groups looking to connect with like-minded people.”  Isn’t that what mailing lists were doing 25 years ago?  What’s the difference?  What’s new?  Well, certainly, there is a lot that is new.  But it’s still people going into containers, where they have access only to people of like minds.

I continue to think that we’re missing something here.  What’s so valuable about my social network is that I connect to people through their ideas and through their reactions to my ideas (positive and negative).

More to come!

Action Research & Teacher Leadership

Convention Hall
This was, hands down, the largest hall I've ever presented in. It doesn't look like it, but there were nearly 2,000 people out there.
It was a good day in Houston yesterday.  Transportation even worked.  With a rental car place a short walk from the airport hotel, I was able to rent a small car for $60 (including insurance), plus $8 worth of gas; instead of a $120 cab fare into the city and back.

I got to the Reliant Convention Center a couple of hours early, and enjoy the magnificent hospitality of the central office folks for the Houston ISD before my keynote.  Particularly, I met a Mr. Cruise.  Apologies for not remembering his first name, and I can’t find him in the HISD directory. But he told me about two programs that he is involved in that intrigued me to the point of sharing here — at 4:34 AM 😉

First of all, like North Carolina, HISD is experience the challenge of attracting enough new teachers to the district to fill their yearly needs.  They, like NC, are having to even go the Central America and Europe to recruite.  Cruise is involved in a program to develop teacher leadership in the schools.  They are finding, like many of us, that it is not necessarily the less than professional salaries that teachers receive, that is driving them from the classrooms, nearly as much as it is the condition of the job.

Picture of face with I’ve said many times that teachers choose this profession because they want to succeed.  But their measure of success is not the same as the governments, and they often clash, costing educator’s their professional integrity.  One of HISD’s strategies is to cultivate leadership among the teachers in their school, not to groom future administrators, but to build sustanable teaching and learning cultures in their schools. [Image ((“55:366 – February 28: Teach.” Emtboy9’s Photostream. 28 Feb 2008. 7 Aug 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/justageek/2300396608/>. ))]

Another program that intrigued me is action research. Educators are being trained to perform research studies within their schools to explore and discover problems and the often hidden causes of those problems.  He told me about one school, that, by most measures was a success, but not a resounding success.  They’d not been able to make Exemplary Status.  They discovered, through their action research, that devoting more resources to ESL learners in grades K-2 would would bring all students up to a more even keel.

He said that when folks at the central office learned of this, their response was that, “We could have told them that.”  But the difference was that the school invested itself in learning the problem, and, as action researchers, were more intune with the probable solutions.

On another note
: I’m sure, over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be seeing a lot more presentations and workshops at the conferences that I work, on writing grants.  Not all — but many of the states I’m working in are experiencing crippling budget cuts.  I’ll never forget the principal of my children’s high school telling us how their central office was mandating this list of expectations, but simultaneously saying that there was no money for them — that you have to apply for grant money to pay for them.  It’s a question I’ve asked before,

“Why has education in America, institutionalized begging?”

It occurred to me this morning — what if our classrooms received all of the resources they needed, by virtue of being a future investing, citizenry inspired, government service.  What if the grant money was going to the students to conduct their own action research?

2? Worth!

Sometimes It’s Practical! Sometimes it’s Not!

Textorize Photo
Click to Enlarge
I’m trying something new with my keynotes.  Usually, I kick things off by trying to find something funny to say — usually about my southern’ness.  But in the spirit of my frequent demands that we, as educators, model ourselves as master learners — that we bring something into our classrooms everyday that we just learned — I’m trying out a little three or four minute demo or explanation of something I’ve learned in the last 48 hours.

Yesterday, it was an article from the Boston Globe, referring to an upcoming paper being published in Nature Neuroscience about how Magicians have understood for years, something that neuroscientists are just now beginning to discover.  Co-authored by five practicing magicians, the paper describes our body’s literal limits in how it perceives the world.  For instance, it claims that our optic nerves are capable of the visual resolution of a typical cell phone camera.  Yet we see the world so much more clearly.

It’s our minds.  Our minds fill in the blank spots, building the richness of it, and our minds can be fooled.  Enter magicians, who are experts at tricking our world building attentions away from the reality building activities happening up their sleaves.

Made with the app
This Textorize was made with the Mac download app
I’m not really sure I did that one justice in three minutes.  This morning, during some explorations of a topic I’ll likely be blogging about soon, I discovered a tool called Textorizer.  It’s a clever hack, created by Max Froumentin, at lapin-bleu.net.  Simply used the online version to point to an image, paste in some text, tweek some of the configs, if you want to experiment, and “Textorize!”  See above.

There are also downloadable apps for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.  Initially, I wanted to slip this one into my “Nearly No Practical Applications What So Ever” drawer.  But after playing with it, I found myself thinking about what I wanted to say with it.  With only a little time, I chose my current standard profile photo.  But a spent a little time finding Education Revolution‘s Manifesto, 25 Rules to Live By as my text.  Students could find appropriate photos to the poem they just read, and mix them together.

They might like this, here in Houston.

Web Browser of the Future?

Click to Enlarge
Mozilla and Adaptive Path (a product development firm in San Francisco) have released a new web interface concept called Aurora.  Like many new concepts, it is a consolidation of capabilities and techniques that are already possible and practiced, but packaged into a single product — potentially making the web even more of a meeting place than Facebook.  You can read more about it at Mozilla and at Adaptive Path, and watch a concept video here at Vimeo.

What I find interesting about the video is the scenario of two people working information in collaboration, in order to get to the bottom of a disagreement.  It’s very slick.

Could this be the Beginnings of Something New

I’m obviously catching up on my blogging.  It’s hard to, when I’m on the road, especially when Brenda is traveling with me.  It seems that we actually get out and do things then, rather than my holding up in a hotel room.  I’m back off this morning, headed to St. Louis and then down to Osage Beach, Missouri for an administrator’s conference.  Then its off to Texas for a Houston ISD professional development event.  From their, I’ll fly to Philadelphia and then on to some resort by some lake for the CIU20 administrator’s conference.  Makes me tired to think about it. [Illustration ((Ng, Amy. “Illustration Friday’s Open.” Amy.Ng’s Photostream. 11 Oct 2008. 4 Aug 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/amy_ng/1546611299/>. ))]

Friday's Open IllustrationThe reason for this blurb is an article I saw in this morning’s News & Observer, the Raleigh Capital paper.  It seems that many of the government services of Wayne County, in the Southeast of the state, will switch to a four-day work week.  The article didn’t say when, but indications are that it’s already happened.  Their projected savings are about $300,000 a year in utility bills. ((Dees, Matt. Wayne Shifts to 4-day Week.” The News & Observer [Raleigh, NC]4 Aug 2008, Triangle& Co: B1. ))

Other counties in the state are paying close attention to this experiment, including the much larger Wake (Raleigh), Durham, and Mecklenburg (Charlotte) counties.  Sue Guy, Wayne County human resources director, said that she had gotten calls from 14 other NC counties and others in Florida and Virginia.

The print version of the article reported that in Utah, more than 1,000 state buildings will be closing on Fridays as the state goes to four 10-hour days a week.  They expect to save $3 million annually.

I guess I have mixed feelings about this.  What about services that may be lost to citizens?  Is it the job of government to save money?  Or is it to serve its citizens?  Of course we want government to run efficiently.  Well I’m not getting into that debate right now.  We are in a budget crunch phase, and savings are necessary, as real revenues are not enough to pay for promised services.

But the energy crisis is not a phase.  It will continue until we’ve invented some long range and sustainable solutions, not simply opening up the North Carolina coast to drilling.

So how might instruction change, if it becomes necessary to hold school for only four days a week.  How would you and your students spend their long weekends?  How might we leverage them?

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Checking for Net Neutrality Violations

It’s a story that been streaming by me over the past few weeks (and months), that Comcast, the largest cable company in the U.S. had installed facilities to throttle back bandwidth for BitTorrent users.  BitTorrent is a method for sharing large fills over the Internet by leveraging the network and its nodes, rather than putting the entire load on the distributor. [Image ((McBride, Melanie. “2012: The end of the internet.” Melmcbride’s Photostream. 4 June 2008. 4 Aug 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/chandrasutra/2552081071/>. ))]

Mockup of Internet Charges of the FutureComcast, according to this August 2 NYTimes article,

says that a small percentage of its customers using BitTorrent consume a large share of its network capacity, degrading the Internet access of other customers. So it installed equipment that slowed ? but did not completely block ? file transfers using BitTorrent. ((Hansell. Saul. “F.C.C. Vote Sets Precedent on Unfettered Web Usage,” The New York Times 2 Aug 2008. 4 Aug 2008 <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/02/technology/02fcc.html?ref=technology>))

A formal complaint was issued by Free Press and Public Knowledge after a widely publicized report on tests of Comcast’s network were run by The Associated Press.  The complaint was filed with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which held several hearings about the issue.

Bitorrent is commonly used to share copyrighted movies and music, though sharing of copyrighted files is not all that it is used for.  The FCC voted Friday (Aug 1) to uphold the compaint, saying

..that it had illegally inhibited users of its high-speed Internet service from using popular file-sharing software… Kevin J. Martin, the commission?s chairman, said the order was meant to set a precedent that Internet providers, and indeed all communications companies, could not keep customers from using their networks the way they see fit unless there is a good reason.

Many of us educators, myself included, have not paid a lot of attention to these issues and the prevailing views of the FCC over the past several years.  We’ve had more pressing issues to attend to.  But we must remind ourselves that the information and communications realm that we have seen emerge, practically before our eyes, is still forming, not only in its technology, but also in how we will use it and who will be in control.  Is it our network?  Or does it belong to the Telcos?  Which is in the best interest of our children as the move into a rapidly changing world and must utilize complex literatcy skills within an expanding information landscape to adapt to, and prosper on change?

The ruling was favored by the FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin, a Republican, and the two Democrats on the commission.  It was opposed by the other two Republicans, Robert M. McDowell issuing a lengthy dissent.

According to an August 1 Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) press release,

“The sad truth is that the FCC is ill-equipped to detect ISPs interfering with your Internet connection,” said Fred von Lohmann, EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney. “It’s up to concerned Internet users to investigate possible network neutrality violations..” ((“EFF Releases “Switzerland” ISP Testing Tool. Press Release.” Electronic Frontier Foundation. 1 Aug 2008. Electronic Frontier Foundation. 4 Aug 2008 <http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2008/07/31>.))

In response, the EFF has released the alpha version of an open source program called Switzerland, giving Internet users “..a no-cost way to check if your ISP’s trottling your BitTorrent downloads.”

“Until now, there hasn?t been a reliable way to tell if somebody ? a hacker, an ISP, corporate firewall, or the Great Firewall of China ? is modifying your Internet traffic en route,” said Peter Eckersley, EFF Staff Technologist and designer of Switzerland.

Still a command-line utility, designed for sophisticated net users, the EFF is working toward making the tool easier to use.

Might we prevail?
Might the networks remain ours? 

What do your students think?