Work Keeps Diversifying…

Ethernet Work Spaces at the Bismarck AirportI love this about the Bismarck airport.  Nice wrap-around work desks with Ethernet.  Yes, that’s Ethernet — and pretty peppy too.  I actually have no right to be this easily excited at 3:40 in the morning.  But the front desk set my wake-up for 1:45 instead of 2:45.

Then I learned that they didn’t actually arrange the cab ride that I asked for.  Fortunately, somebody else had called from his room, so we split the fare.

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I had two virtual presentations during the afternoon, and I was afraid of trusting flights to get me home in time.  So I stayed an extra day in North Dakota.  Brenda set me up with the best Internet connected hotel in the city, though I don’t know how she did that.  The connection was flawless, however, and that isn’t the kinda service that I’m accustomed to these days.

Fire alarm,
No Smoking, &
Access to the Metaverse

I started preparing for the presentations when I got up, and as it is my nature, almost completely re-did my slides for Redefining Literacy 2.0.  That took me almost all the way up to the first presentation, only to find that it was too late to upload a new set of slides.  So I had to retool for the original sequence of slides.  Bummer!

That too me up to the two hours before the next presentation, which was done via Skype.  That was much more fun.  I used CamTwist to control the visuals, and it was a joy.  Rather than install slides, I just converted the slides into images, and as I wanted to display them, I simply dragged the file into a box and CamTwist, and then increased the opacity.

Virtual EducationIt was a bit of a challenge doing all of this on a laptop screen.  See the picture to the right, and click it to enlarge.  At home, I’d have an external display to do the work on.

The only weakness of CamTwist is its inability to send audio through.  There are instructions for pipping audio through SoundFlower, but I couldn’t get that to work.  So I had to find some alternatives for the audio-dependent videos that I wanted to use.  No Prob!  The day’s biggest problem was that it was 6:30 PM before I stepped out of my hotel room yesterday.  Walked across to a grocery store where I bought some Wild Rice Salad, garlic bread and a small vat of chocolate pudding 😉

With all that’s going on in the world today, I suspect that I will be doing a lot more of this sort of virtual work.  The only thing that, at this point, that is uncomfortable to me is how the presenter is switched on, and then switched off.  I connect and pop up on the screen.  I do my thing, punch through my media, answer some questions, and then I get switched off.  …Gotta get use to that.

Minds that are Asking Questions

Quick Pict in ND

I’m in Minot, North Dakota, about as far north as you can go in the U.S. and still be urban.  I’m in a wonderful suite at the Grand International Hotel, where I’ll be working, today, with the North Dakota Engineering Technologies Pathways project, a grant from NSF to promote STEM education.  I rode up from Bismarck yesterday, with RebeccaSavelkoul, the project coordinator.  They actually have a fairly broad range of aims, and today I’ll be working mostly with  technology leaders from across the state.  Tonight starts one of their two annual state ed-tech conferences.

Those who have seen me present recently know that I’m trying to get into the habit of starting my sessions with something I’ve just learned.  It’s part of a concept that is increasingly surfacing in my conversations, that teachers, today, must not only be master learners, but they should also demonstrate/model their learning lifestyle.

Yesterday, I didn’t know about this really cool mashup, a tool for visualizing industry campaign contributions for the past 10 years.  The circles represent various industry sectors, and as you drag the bar (at the bottom) to the right, along the years, the balls adjust their positions, indicating their contributions along the Republican and Democratic axis.

Give it a try!

What impresses me about this sort of interactive visualization is that it compels us to ask questions.  Why is that ball doing that?  Why did that ball change directions?  Minds that are asking questions, are ripe for learning.

I want to learn more about APIs.  Brenda promises a lighter October.

Chris Quotes

Chris Lehmann Speaking at IgnitePhilly

Sitting here at RDU, waiting for my 8:00AM flight to Bismarck (by way of Minneapolis), I realize that I’ve been sitting on this one for a couple of days, a presentation that Chris Lehmann (principal of Science Leadership Academy and Practical Theory Author) delivered at IgnitePhilly, where,

If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers… and now it has come to Philadelphia!

First of all, I didn’t know that Chris could talk any faster.  But his usual fast paced and quick minded stream of ideas is surpassed here, in front of the crowd, pressured by the automatically advancing slides.  What you see in the performance is why SLA is one of the top schools in the country that I recommend to my clients as they are looking for exemplary programs to visit.

I know that Chris’ performance video has already rounded the edublog circuit.  But I wanted to post just a few of his comments that I think deserve an appearance in print.

Good data is the work kids do every day, not the answers they get on the test.

Chris says that we need good data, and we preach the need for data driven decision making, but we can’t afford it.

How is it that we have so many passionate dedicated educators and so many really failing schools?  The problem is, that you put a good person in a bad system, the system wins every time..  We need to change the system.

Teachers become teachers because they have a vision of successful learning looks like.  When the system is not set up for success, well, we lose them.

It’s not about a workforce.  It’s about a citizenry.

I admit an emphasis on workforce in my presentations.  To be compelling, the story has to fit the market place.  But, to be compelling, the story also has to resonate with deeply held values.  Democracy and the future well-being of our children (and ourselves) is critical — and so much of that depends on our what and how our children are learning today.

Talk about learning…

Our kids built a flow-process biodiesel generator.  We’re patenting it, and we’re sharing the plans with a village in Guatemala and a school in Ecuador.  They’re taking their villages off the grid.  Kids doing it, because it matters.  “Applause”

That was powerful, plus, I really wanted to write, “flow-process biodiesel generator.

It’s (what we assess and are accountable for today) recall-based learning, and you know what?  In the age of Google it’s just absolutely obsolete.

My line, “What are we going to ask on our tests, when our students are walking in with Google in their pocket?”  “Are they going to be better questions than we ask today?”

If you want to see what kids have learned, give ’em a project.  Dare them to show you what they can do with their own head, heart, and hands. That’s when you’ll get kids engaged.  That’s when you’ll get kids learning.  That’s when you get kids who can change the world.

More applauds!

Connect Learning is Back

Podcast Interview at EduBloggerCon Shanghai

I can’t really express the guilt I have felt about neglecting my Connect Learning podcast.  Especially as so many people comment personally on the program — more than the blog.  The problem, of course, has been time, and I have been struggling with a way to streamline the process so that post production is not nearly so time-consuming. [Image ((Levine, Alan. “David Warlick Podcast Interview with Dear Librarian.” Cogdogblog’s Photostream. 18 Sep 2008. 3 Oct 2008 <>. ))]

So, as a solution, I have abandoned GarageBand as my audio tool of choice, and adopted Audacity as the prime means of cranking my podcasts out from the audio recorder to the RSS feed.  I’ve put together a standard music opening, using GarageBand, and a closing file, and created a template Audacity file with both tracks.  When I want to post a new program, I simply drag the recorded audio file from the USB recorder into Audacity, move it to start just as the opening ends, and then move the closing track over to the end of the recording and save as MP3.  Upload that into SlapCast and link the audio file to WordPress.

I will likely, at some point, jetison the WordPress blog and just use Slapcast as the RSS feed generator, but that will take some more experimenting.

At this point, you’ll find a new podcast at Connect Learning, an interview with Ann Krembs (Dear Librarian), head librarian of the American School in Bombay.  We met at the Shanghai EduBloggerCon as month and amongst all of the other conversations, I asked her to tell us about the virtual library project at her school.

Regretably, it will be a bit difficult to listen too, because of all of the background talk.  But I think that everything is perfectly understandable.

Here is a slide show of Flickr images the result from a search of Shanghai and edubloggercon.

As a reminder, Connect Learning can be reached at  In case you have given up and dumped Connect Learning from your aggregator or iTunes, you can resubscribe from this RSS Feed.

A Very Interesting Day in Texas

Waiting for me...Yesterday, I spent the day at Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district in suburban Dallas, Texas.  I haven’t seen such a forward thinking and forward reaching school district within the boundaries of the United States, in … I don’t remember when.  Not only are the embracing Web 2.0, but their CTO took representatives, including teachers, to the Web 2.0 Expo in California.

I was there to talk about video games, and start some conversations about how they might integrate games, or at least some of the elements of gaming into their school culture.  One of the schools I visited focuses on multimedia.  In a sense, it reminded me of a music school with single practice rooms, where individual students could check in for personal practice.  This school, however, had Edit Suites, small rooms with video and audio editing stations.  I loved it.

The best part was a chance to talk with some of the students.  Some of my take-aways included the student who talked about how he expored the gaming sites that had instructions for moding the video games that he played.  I accused him of cheating, and he said —

That’s not cheating!  that’s programming!

Now technically, it’s not programming.  But somehow, in a broader sense, it seems like a wholy appropriate term.  Another student, when askied why he was interested in a carreer in video games, said, It’s about entertainment, and entertainment is universal.

The best was a young man who, when asked what he liked about this school, talked about how there were so many other students here who understood him.  Then he said,

There isn’t a problem that I can’t find someone at this school to help me solve.

I can’t think of a better compliment to pay to any school.

Finally, walking into my Courtyard Hotel room yesterday evening, I saw this (picture above).  Does this look like an aging, ex boxer, rabbit waiting for me to arrive? — or have I been on the road too long?

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