Advice for NECC Goers

Now that NECC will be wired, as are an increasing number of ed tech conferences, I have two pieces of advice for folks who plan to be there.


Get a blog. It’s easy to do. Go to or to and follow the instructions. You’ll be up and blogging in less than ten minutes. When you have your blog, and you’ve brought your laptop to NECC, blog your sessions. Some people do it in real timel.  Some folks wait until after the session is over. But talk about what you’ve learned, and talk about what you think about what you’ve learned. You can add enormous value to a good presentation by sharing your professional insights about the topic, through the blogosphere. Talk to other people who attend the sessions and write about what they thought, and what you think about what they thought. It’s a conversation, and in a time of rapid change, conversation can be our best source of information.


Come up with a tag for your session. It should be one word and unique. It should be descriptive, does not have to be spelled correctly, should ignore grammar niceties like spaces and punctuation, and it should be easy to remember. For my spotlight session, I will probably use tellingthenewstory. Easy to remember, no spelling challenges, and unique.

In a future blog, I’ll explain how presenters can have the attendees’ blogs automatically incorporated into their online handouts. Cool beans!

2¢ Worth

NECC — Bring your Laptops

Blogging the ConferenceI wanted to double and triple check this before I blogged it, but it’s been confirmed from the very highest levels. NECC 2006, San Diego, will be wireless. All of the session rooms will be wireless with a hard wire Ethernet connection for presenters.

The NECC folks are also working with the San Diego Gas Lamp District to make the entire restaurant and shopping district wireless through the NECC portal. This part appears not to be a done deal, but the potential is here. We can have a different kind of conference, one that exists on new levels of information, sharing, accessing, and growing knowledge about making our schools the experience that our children deserve.

Many many many thanks to the folks at NECC for making this happen!

Way more than 2¢ worth!

Just another day with Mark Ahlness

Mark Ahlness posted a wonderful chronology of his day as a blogging teacher. Please read the entire piece.

Just another day, by Mark Ahlness

During the day, my kids post twelve new blog articles. I approve ten of
them, leave feedback for the rest… These blogs were not directed or
assigned by me. I would say some of my kids are in a true writing
frenzy, so postings were all over the place, from August’s thoughtful I Hear Ya’, to an anticipatory School from Jackson, to Hannah’s wacky my golf ball named Larry! What teacher would not love this?

Added later
I think that what intrigues me about Mark’s day is that it describes a flat classroom, where the teacher is facilitating learning, by facilitating conversations. The students are working less from teacher made assignments and more out of their own energy as curious learners with an intrinsic need to communicate.

What do you think?

An Untold Story

I listened to an incredible podcast the other day. It was Part 3 of Dean Shareski’s Telling the new Story series, an interview with award-winning Canadian educator, Clarence Fisher. I was glued to my headphones for the entire interview, listening to stories from a unique professional who gets the new information environment and is making it stick in his classroom.

But what intrigued me the most, were the untold parts of the story, the parts that were counter-intuitive to what we, progressive society that we are, might expect. One thing that struck me was that Fisher left my Class Blogmeister classroom blogging tool and chose James Farmer’s LearnerBlogs. The interesting story is that he left for exactly the reason why scores of educators from around the world are signing up for Blogmeister. They want and need the control that blogmeister is designed to deliver. Yet, Fisher found that it was the control that was preventing classroom blogging from working to the degree that he wanted. Therefore, he switched to Farmer’s WordPress-based blogging service for students, a system that is open, where student blogs immediately go public.

The other counter intuitive part of the Clarence Fisher story is that he’s not in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, or even Toronto. He’s in Snow Lake, Manitoba. See the map. Why is his story here, and not here?

Fisher Map

To be fair, there are certainly incredible pockets of innovation happening in every city, state, and province. But I believe that there’s a story in where Fisher teaches. What do you think?

Refining the New Story

I have had the opportunity, twice in the last several weeks, to talk about the new story of 21st century education in workshop settings. Because these experiences were conversations rather than presentations and because, in both instances, the audiences were self-selected tech-savvy and forward thinking professional educators, I had a unique chance to reflect on the topic. From these conversations, I realized that we need to refine the story, or at least the focus and message of our stories. So I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest some common focal points.

First of all, I would like to stick with Dr. Jennifer James’ components of the leader’s compelling new story:

  • That the story must fit the marketplace and our sense of the future,
  • That it must resonate with deeply held values, and
  • That it must be something that we can model.

I also believe that our stories should be broken down into the three categories or three audiences that I talked about in “Types of New Stories“, and that Roger Stack, in Tasmania, refined last month (The New Story). But I’m going to let that part sit still for a while.

First of all, it seems to me that the foundation of the changes in our workplace, especially as described in the flat world conversations is globalization. It’s certainly not the only catalyst for change in the market place, but it is one that people know about, talk about, lament and even fear. It’s a story that is already being told and one that we can piggyback on to with messages of how education must adapt, not so much to make our students competitive, but to make them collaborative. To adapt in a global economy, they need to have global skills.

I can’t find the specific source, but Charles Darwin seems to have said that, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

As far as our values are concerned, we all care about our children. We want them to be happy and prosperous, and we want them to have a fulfilling future. An untold value also points to our future, which rests, to no small degree on the prosperity of our children. But I think that a lot of our story must be about our children.

Marc Prensky is probably most focused on these stories if you have a chance to see him present at a conference. David Thornburg and others, including myself, also talk about the ways that our children are different from any generation before. They have more access to information and have more technology and skills in using that information than any generation before. They are almost totally focused on information and not merely the consumption of content. They want to play the information, to work it. They are producers of new content — mixers and remixers. We need to illuminate the incredible disconnect between our children’s world view and the classrooms that we sentence them to.
Modeling the Story

Finally, we need to be able to model the story. We need to be able to talk about our classrooms, where they are and where they should be. We need to be able to paint a clear and compelling picture that will drive people to want classrooms that work today. I think that shaping our stories around the image of flattening classrooms could serve us both in terms of aligning with an already told story, but also because it is a accurate and easily illustrated condition of today’s learning environments, perhaps even more universally accurate than that of a flat world.

From their perspective, as information users, students see themselves as being more literate, more connected, and more practiced information artisans than are their teachers. Teachers, curriculum, textbooks, and standards no longer rest on a hill or even a pedestal. The classroom is flat. There are stories that describe what the flat classroom looks like and how it could work.

So the focal points are:

• Fitting the Market Place? Globalization
• Resonating with deeply held values? Our Children are different
• Modeling the story? Flat classrooms

I believe that it is critical that these three story points must have a common thread. Clearly, that is the sudden networking of our world. Thomas Friedman points to the Internet that we installed into various points around the world in order to help us prepare for Y2K, and how that network remained and began to flatten the world, accelerating globalization.

Our kids are connected in ways that would have been unimaginable to most teachers and grand parents, and many of their parents, and they are doing amazing things with that connectivity. Their are stories around their mobile phones, Internet-connected video games, and their experience in MySpace-style online communities.

Classrooms have become flat because our students are so connected, have so much access to information, and are so practiced at utilizing that information. The teachers, textbooks, and standards that they face in their classrooms seem irrelevant and small, compared to the content and media-rich experiences that they have outside the classroom.

This blog has gotten long enough and I fly to Florida today for a workshop tomorrow on blogging and podcasting. I look forward to your comments and to continuing this conversation.

Raleigh Blogger Meetup

Not a coffee cupLast night I attended the bi-monthly Raleigh Blogger Meetup in the WiFi rich Cafe Cyclo, a combination coffeeshop and Vietnamese restaurant. Cool!

I’ve attended a number of these. It’s a personal challenge. All of the other attendees are deep inside the technology industry. They’re mostly programmers, working for Sun Microsystems, IBM, BB&T, and one who says, “I can’t tell you. I’d have to kill you” .

It is a huge challenge for me, because the language (mostly acronyms) and the incredible clip of speech that many people under the age of 30 can attain when their excited, make it very difficult for me to follow. If find that I can understand what they are saying for about fifteen seconds, and then I lose it. My mind just isn’t as sticky as it use to be.

But one notion that I walked away with last night was the sense that the Internet is becoming the computer. I know that Web 2.0 is often described as the web becoming the platform, but much of the programming that these young guys were talking about treats the entire world wide web as a single machine, whose content is there for the tweaking. Mashups are a perfect example, but this is much more serious. I wish I understood it better, but I suspect I’m past understanding these things that well any more.

They are kind to me, and pat me on the back when I show them my meager tools.

The Story Continues to Evolve, Way Down Under

After following Roger Stack’s comments in one of Vicki Davis’ blog posts, I revisited Stack’s Holistic and Integral Education blog — to discover that he’s talking about The New Story. Seems that on April 22, he took up my challenge and hacked my story. He even hacked my graphic. I like it.

I’ve already taken the liberty of hacking David’s graphic to include ‘shared vision’ – a suggestion from a comment on his post – as well as changing ‘reform stories’ to ‘curriculum stories’ because I think we are involved in more than re-forming curriculum – there is a necessary degree of trans-formation going on as we move beyond traditional structures and processes. I’ve also tweeked some of the words to suit a local audience.

Cool Cat T, talks about Ethics and Education

Vicki David, the Cool Cat Teacher, wrote a great post yesterday about cyber cheating and teaching honesty to our students.

Cool Cat Teacher Blog: Candid Cheating with the Camera Phone?:

We’re paying for kill switches, security cameras, aplagiarismism checkers ( to keep students honest! How about kids just being honest?

Here is an edited version of my comment to her post, following an equally valuable comment from Tasmanian educator, Roger Stack.

I agree whole-heartedly that the solution is not in the technology.  We can’t geek honest and reliable assessment from our students.  It’s just a challenge to them.  It’s like Internet filtering.  The better our blocking becomes, the more resourceful they become at getting past it.  Eventually, all we’ve done is bricked up our classrooms — again.

Assessment is the same way.  If we continue to treat assessment as a laboratory endeavor, then all we’re doing is teaching students to act like lab rats.  Assessment has to be real world observation.  We have a unique opportunity today to remove classroom walls as a barrier between learners and the world they’re learning about.

Finally, I also agree with your call to instill honesty in our students.  This was the reason that I included ethics as one of the four components of contemporary literacy.  Information has become so important to our endeavors and even our survival and prosperity, that the honest, respectful, and protective use of information must become as critical as a literacy skill as the ability to decode text on a piece of paper.

Here is a link to an Student & Teacher Code of Information Ethics.  It is an MSWord file so that educators can tweak the document for grade level and even turn it into a contract.

Again, great post, my friend.

Tagging NECC

Mashup of blogger and NECC LogoOne month from now, I’ll be at NECC. Certainly the richest and deepest educational technology conference, probably in the world, NECC offers more to more people about new technologies in education than any other event, and it proves each year to be exhaustingly exhilarating experience — almost a high.

During most years the conference becomes a focal point for the new big thing. Often that new big thing is only a whisper in the program book. Last year it was podcasting, even though mine was the only conference session about the practice. The year before it was blogging, though the only formal mention of it was Will Richardson’s appearance on the keynote stage with Intel CEO Craig Barrett.

I remember when it was handhelds and video production, and even laserdiscs. But last year, even with the furor over podcasting and Apple’s mile long line of attendees, waiting to get into their podcastorama, what truly made the event glow (in my opinion) was RSS, and I mean quite literally glow. Through blogs, podcasts, and wikis, a conversation emerged out of NECC that extended out before the conference, out around the world during the conference, and continued long after the event was over.

We read the blogs, and listened to and watched the podcasts. We interacted in the wikis, but the glue that tied all of it together, giving it the anchor that is NECC, is RSS. Even though I now see about 90% of the hands go up at technology conferences when I ask about the concept, I suspect that RSS’ true and potential influence is still something of a mystery. As I continue to demonstrate how RSS enriches blogging, podcasting, wikis, social bookmarks, search engines, and on and on, audiences are still falling out of their seats with amazement. One media librarian jumped up out of her chair the other day and started speaking in tongues 😉

Still, I suspect that it is a technology that education has yet to wrap itself around. Fact is, you can’t RSS a test. You could RSS a textbook, a teacher, a classroom, an assignment, a research paper or documentary movie, a web search, an expert community, and you can also RSS a conference.

I just did a Google search of the NECC 2006 web site, and also used their site search engine, and found no mention of RSS tags for the conference. I miss this. On the front page of every conference web site and on the cover of every conference program should be the text:

Conference Tags: necc necc06

Imagine if all conference bloggers and podcasters tagged their publications the same, how attendees and those not privileged to attend could attract all of those event descriptions and all those insights and perspectives to their computer display. I shutter with excitement to think about it.

But perhaps, it is more in the spirit of blogging, that we decide, the few and the far-between of the edublogging community, across Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America, how we’ll tag our publications. That said, I want to suggest the tags above, necc, so that we can aggregate all NECC conversations and necc06 for conversations pertaining to the San Diego event.

What do you think?

Botter, Jacob. “Blogging and Recording – All at Once.” Jacob Botter’s Photostream – flickr. 10 Nov 2005. 6 Jun 2006 .

Conversation with a Web 2.0 Teacher

This is a truly comprehensive conversation with a teacher, Clarence Fisher, who has been exploring pretty deeply the use of Web 2.0 in his middle school classroom. 

Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech » Telling the new story Part 3 Podcast 18:

Here is the last of my interviews with teachers telling the new story of teaching and learning. Previously we heard from a grade one teacher, a high school calculus teacher and today we hear from a middle years teacher.

A great listen — and many thanks to Dean Shareski for making this available to us, through his podcast.