I’m reading another book, and this one is a beast. I don’t think I’ve read anything so deep since I was in Graduate School, and I probably didn’t read that. It’s James Paul Gee’s, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” Gee is an academic, teaching reading instruction at the University of Wisconsin, I believe. The book, so far, is more about principals of learning, than about video games. Maybe I’m just getting to the good part. But one thing that I have gleaned from the reading is the value of taking on an identity.

If I understand correctly, Gee seems to be saying that our identity, as a student, can be a barrier to learning powerful concepts. When I entered the classroom as a 9 year old child, and continued to be that 9 year old child as a learner, then I was limited to my perceptions of what a 9 year old child could learn. However, if I entered a video game, as a starship captain, then, according to my perceptions of what Gee is saying, I start to learn as a Starship Captain, breaking through the barriers of a kid’s perceptions of himself.

When this fiftysomething year old man, who can’t run across the street gracefully any more, gets on a snowboard, only one force of nature is accessible to my mind — gravity. However, when I dress up in a video game, as a 19 year old champion, wearing the logos of my sponsors, picking out my own board, detailing it to my liking, and then hit the slops along with other champions, concepts of angle, centrifugal force, spring, flight, gravity, and mass and momentum come into explicit play. Well, mass and momentum do occur to me when I’m really snowboarding. Well, there was only that one time! 😉

But it seems like Gee is saying that allowing or empowering learners to take on a new identity, provides a bridge to learning, and I suspect that this is not limited to a video game. In blogging assignments, we might ask students to write from the perspective of a newspaper reporter, political operative, world traveler, space astronaut, or 16th century explorer. From new identities, students might think in different ways, grasp concepts they didn’t before, and come out of it with a slightly larger perspective of their own identity.


Image Citation:
Sharghi, K. “1080 On the PC.” Ksharghi’s Photostream. 1 Dec 2004. 15 Nov 2006 <>.

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My Avatar’s Smarter than Me!

NYUI guess this has been a long time coming. A lot of people I respect have been paying a lot of attention to these online immersive virtual environments, where you take on or design an avatar.

The classroom of the future isn’t on a college campus. It’s in the virtual world of “Second Life.”

In “Second Life,” virtual residents — cartoonish-looking characters controlled via keyboard and mouse — create anything their hearts desire.

Also known as avatars, the residents start up businesses, stage their own concerts, sell real estate and design fashion lines. Reuters news agency even has a correspondent based in the cyber community.

Educators explore ‘Second Life’ online –

I’m going to say something really grumpy and old, but “What’s wrong with the first life?” I know that there are many instances where distance learning solves some vexing and opportunity-constraining problems. But are the problems ubiquitous. Let’s get these empowering technologies and opportunities into our classrooms!

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Where Did I Put Those Keys…

I just can’t remember anything any more. Where did I put my keys, my downstairs reading glasses, my wallet, that presentation file, or did I walked the dog yet. Well the dog will remind me. But if I had a camera watching everything I did, I could rewind my life back, and see that my keys are probably resting under the avalanche that occurred on my desk yesterday.

Sure, there have been plenty of helmet-cams available to vanity videographers over the years, but few of them have represented such quality dorkiness as this ActionDVR system does to the everyman. The system is based on a fairly high quality 480p CCD, inside of an all-weather, clip-on camera module, which hooks up to a clip-on mic and the DVR unit. The 3.5-inch screen on the DVR allows for instant replay of your recordings, and the whole system is backed by roughly 8 hours of battery. ActionDVR’s main market right now seems to be hunters and fisherman hoping to capture their exploits for posterity, but if we’re lucky it’ll catch on with the YouTubers — giving us unwashed masses some of the best dang reality television we’ve ever seen. This setup can be yours for $1095, but the memories could be priceless.


OK, I know that recording everything is a difficult and contentious ttopic. But what do your students think? Are they aware of all sides of the issue? They have little or no recollection of a government that survals almost everything.


Well an antidemocratic government, anyway.

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We’re Just Not Paying Attention

Brought to our attention by Scottish blogger and linguist, Ewan MacIntosh, John Naughton electrified last week’s Society of Editors conference by passionately savaging newspaper’s coverage of today’s youth. Please read the text of his speech. He could easily be talking about teachers and education.

The novelist William Gibson coined the term ‘cyberspace’, and he’s as sharp as a razor. He also said: ‘The future is already here: it’s just not evenly distributed.’ As it happens, I think he’s right and I’m not sure it’s good news for those of us who work in the newspaper industry. Because if the future is already here, then the only inference one can draw is that our industry hasn’t been paying much attention to it.

Young people don’t like us. Who can blame them? | Business | The Observer

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Apple Apps Fade Away…

I realized a trend yesterday, when Brenda and I agreed that we were going to drop Apple’s iCal and start working my calendar exclusively on the web.  That was not an easy decision.  iCal is good.  However, the frustrations of managing a single calendar from three computers (her iBook, my desktop Mini, and my PowerBook) — and added to that the extreme difficulties of getting the calendar over to my Moto Q smartphone simply meant that something had to be done differently.

We tried Yahoo’s calendar first, because I could bring up single day displays of it with the web browser on the phone.  But when I discovered that the ical format calendar that exports from Google’s Calendar imported beautifully and quickly into the Moto Q, the deal was sealed.  So iCal’s out, and Google Calendar is in.

Over the past several months, I’ve been running a Google Mail account in conjunction with  However, when I moved my web sites over to the dedicated server, running a separate POP mail account became a challenge — for me, not the techs who use to handle all of that with the shared hosting services I was using.  I’m not a techie.  I’ve said that before.  I don’t want to learn to manage a POP server.  So, now, I’m  Brenda is  What can I say.  I got a court  order.  It’s legal.

The added plus of Gmail, is that it works beautifully through the web browser of the Moto Q.  It isn’t as slick as the mail client that came with the phone.  But it is pretty darn reliable.

Finally, the browser.  Safari’s been ditched for a long time.  Don’t get me wrong.  Safari is by far faster, cleaner, and easier to use than anything else.  I can hear to ding of those web pages slapping against the glass of my LCD display.  But those open source extensions!  It makes FireFox a toy — and you know what they say about boys.

I’ve recently switched almost exclusively to Flock.  The flickr and integration are great, but it’s simply being able to hit CMMD B and start typing my blog that’s too cool for school.  I even figured out how to have the text read to me — but I don’t remember how I did it    :-/

Anyway, the world continues to be connected — as my Dock gets leaner.

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Stopoff in MASS CUE

I’ll be at home for the first part of this week. Then I tour across three time zones, starting at the MASSCUE conference in Sturbridge, and then on to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Collaborative Online Network OnLine Learning Symposium. After Wisconsin, I’ll fly to San Jose, CA and rent a car and drive to Monterey. I hear it’s beautiful there. In Monterey, I’ll particpate in the Technology Conference. This conference is the result of a collaborative between the California League of Middle Schools, League of High Schools, the National High School Association, and California’s Computer Using Educators.

Massachuetts is what I’m focused on right now. Will Richardson will be speaking there on Wednesday and I hope to get to the conference in time to at least say hello. Deneen Frazier Bowen will be delivering the opening keynote, and, once again, I’ll miss what seems to be an amazing performance. I also hope to see Kathy Schrock while I’m there, as well, so she can tell me about all the cool things she’s using here Moto Q for, that I haven’t even heard of yet.

I did a quick count up for a Web 2.0 index for MASSCUE and the rundown on occurances of terms in the concurrent sessions only is:

  • Web 2.0 – 1
  • Blog – 13
  • Podcast — 25
  • Social Bookmarks — 3
  • RSS — 7
  • Aggregator — 1
  • Wiki — 5

Of course this doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s kinda fun to count.

My main task today is to find a substitute for my Martin Luther King Jr. demo. I’ve used this site for at least six years, as a way of illustrating the importance of critical evaluation as a basic reading skills. It seems now, however, that everyone is using this one. It was mentioned twice in the latest issue of EduTopia in two different articles by two different authors. So I’m finding another one. Of course there is not shortage of reasons to “..ask questions about answers you find.”

For those who will be attending this conference, Hitchhikr has the following three tags listed:

  • masscue06
  • masscue
  • masscue2006

The Hitchhikr URL for the conference, and you there is also a small tool for generating tag code for your blogs.

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New Zealand students may ‘text-speak’ in exams

Ok, so I will frequently congratulate the millennials for inventing this new language, that I refer to as IM-speak. But what do you think of this, from CNN and brought to our attention by Gary Stager at Pulse?

New Zealand’s high school students will be able to use “text-speak” — the mobile phone text message language beloved of teenagers — in national exams this year, officials said.

New Zealand students may ‘text-speak’ in exams –

Shouldn’t you use the communication style that is appropriate to the task at hand? So what style do you think students should use in answering the questions on their exams?

Image Citation:
r5d4, “365.016.” r5d4’s Photostream. 8 Oct 2006. 11 Nov 2006 <>.

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National Faux Pas

I learned about this Wikipedia entry from Boing Boing. As students insocial studies classes study and report on various countries, thecommon faux pas of the countries might be a useful required piece ofinformation to be included.

This list contains generalized information about the social expectations in various countries. Changing attitudes and multiculturalism within countries mean that some entries listed here may apply to the social expectations of only a few individuals. To avoid giving offense, it is best to use a conservative and observant approach in any social situation where one is unfamiliar with cultural expectations.

List of faux pas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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StudiVZI just took a break from working on this online course and did a quick visit to Technorati. I glanced at the most searched terms and discovered, at the top of the list, the term StudiVZ. I remembered noticing it a couple of days ago during a presentation, but it wasn’t at the top of the list them. So I clicked it, only to be surprised that all of the blog entries were in German (or Dutch).

First of all, there is no value judgement going on here, but I was surprised to find that the most searched-for blogs right now are in a language other than English. This is a good thing, because to points to the growing global nature of the web — probably owing to the new web applications.

Secondly, what is StudiVZ? Is this an instructional application, or something else? Anything new going on here?


Young and Wired Internet & American Life Project has published a new presentation about teen use of the Internet and the impact I could have on traditional libraries — Young and Wired.

…there are concerns about the future of physical libraries, given that so many of us have easy access to virtual libraries of information on our computers at home. Recent Pew Internet Project research examines technology use by teenagers and suggests how the behavior and expectations of young internet users might shape the libraries of the future.

Pew Internet & American Life Project Presentation: Young and Wired

One of the slides, which appears to be a quote says…

Libraries are connected nodes of information and community exchange that we use to communicate, collaborate, share resources and preserve knowledge.

Sounds pretty similar to how a teenager might define their net-based social network. The two arguments for a continued need for libraries, offered early in the presentation are frequently quoted to me. One, libraries provide Internet access for the digital have-nots, and two, that with all of this information glut, we need librarians more than ever. I agree with both of these — that they are critically important. However, I suspect that they will not be enough.

A lot of it is perception. Do our younger dig-native generation see the library in those terms? One slide lists some findings:

  • Teens need libraries, but are among the least likely to recognize what they have to offer.
  • OCLC study finds that teens and college students consider search engines a better “lifestyle fit” for their information needs.
  • While more than 50% described search engines as a perfect information source, just 17% described libraries this way.
  • Teenagers are increasingly becoming library immigrants in a land of library natives.

As I scan through the remaining slides, it’s a rundown of the history of the digital realm and information about the Millennial generation. In fact, I may have seen this slide show before. At any rate, I become more and more convinced that the library must set itself up to be and to appear much more like a work place, than a place to go sit and read. I know that most libraries are there already, but the image is still about a place where you go to consume content. I think that a concerted effort must be applied to equipping libraries with the tools to produce content as well, (scanners, printer, digital cameras, recording equipment, musical keyboards and midi editing software).

That’s what kids do with information. It’s a raw material that they build with.

What do you think?

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