Web 2 is Like Logo?

This came up when I searched painting on Flickr Creative Commons.  It’s about painting a new picture — which this is not.  But it’s also about repainting our schools.

It astounds me what can result from a “rant.”  I came so very close to not posting that article (Teachers & Technology — a Rant), because I didn’t think there was enough value in it.  Just me, spouting off.  It is a tribute to the power of casual, colleagial, net/RSS-based conversation, when 27 thoughtful comments are posted to that article, including the ever present Gary Stager (this guy sure reads and writes a lot).  Gary provides an interesting comparison between the implimentation of Web 2.0 applications and Logo — a quite useful comparison indeed.  It probably isn’t important that neither Jeff Utech (whose blog I was responding to) nor I ever mentioned Web 2.0.  In fact the big “2.0” didn’t appear in my blog until Sue Waters included it in a list of topics she was presenting to her teachers.

What is important is the list of comparisons that Gary offered in Why Teachers Don’t Use Web 2.0 — an Historical Perspective.  I agree with most of his statements and find most of them to be quite useful to us as we continue to wrap our minds and our curriculum around an increasingly..

  • networked,
  • digital,
  • overwhelming,
  • participatory,
  • reader directed, and
  • incontainable (still working on this one)

..information environment.  I think that Gary may be a bit too narrow in some of his views, but I’ve recently been accused, rightfully, of being too broad.  I have been exercising.

I had every intention of quoting and commenting on Gary’s list, but then found that Stephen Downes beat me, accomplishing it much more fluently, if also more verbosely — and that’s saying a lot.

The most important idea that I come away with was one of the original “rants” of my blog.

For several years, many of us have been trying to make a case for thinking about education in new ways, largely as a result of technological advancements and their affects on how we use information.  I think that many education leaders are listening now.  I think that they are ready for clear images and stories about 21st century classrooms and what teachers and students should be doing to better prepare a generation of new century citizens.

There is no Mindstorms… for the new information landscape.  There have been a number of how-to books, including myown.  But we have not yet painted a picture — defined, in a compelling way “what it looks like.” 

I hope to start doing that.

Jeff Utech’s Fear Factor
David Warlick’s Teachers & Technology — a rant!
Gary Stager’s Why Teachers Don’t Use Web 2.0 — a historical perspective
Stephen Downes’ Stager, Logo and Web 2.0
Miguel Guhlin’s Why Teachers Use Web 2.0

Image Citation:
Reed, Harper. “Painting Morgans Place.” Nata2’s Photostream. 3 Aug 2007. 5 Sep 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/natatwo/1001034788/>.

Continuing to Find Ways to Relax

Yesterday’s post (rant), Teachers & Technology, reminded me of a desire I’ve had for a long time to integrate threaded comments into my blog.  The rather rambling article attracted 18 comments, some responding directly to the original article, and others responding to the comments of other readers.

For those who may not know what is meant by threaded comments, it derives from discussion boards, where an original message is posted and readers respond to that message by clicking the [reply] link — similar to blogs’ [comment] link. 

Figure 1

However, in a threaded discussion, each response or reply also sports a [reply] link, so that readers can reply directly to the response of another, creating a new thread of conversation.  Threads are usually distinguished through indentions, like figure 1.

As you can see, by indenting the responses of another response, individual conversations (or threads) can be easily identified and followed.  Of course, it isn’t always so simple as conversations can be embedded within conversations — threads within threads.  But it’s usually better than a single stream of comments arranged chronologically rather than logically, as is usually the case with blogs.

I’ve known for a while that there were plugins for WordPress (my blogging engine) that would add threading to its comments, but I have not been able to get them to work, in the amount of time I was able to devote to experimenting.  Yesterday, however, in my efforts to relax (remember, programming is usually relaxing to me), I spent some time with Tinythread by poet, theorist, and idle rambler, Preston Mark Stone — and I got it to work.  It was very nice, probably a little Ajax in there.

Tinythread & ReCaptcha
Figure 2

The only problem left was that in activating the threaded comments, I had installed over my ReCaptcha plugin, which had been preventing spam comments.  Bummer!  And I really like the story of ReCaptcha (see Re-Capturing Books through Captcha…).  So I deactivated Tinythread and re-installed ReCaptcha.

This morning, around 3:30 AM, I awoke with desire.  I wanted both threaded comments and ReCaptcha.  So I got up and reactivated and re-installed Tinythread, and then searched through the comments script used in ReCaptcha, looking for the specific code that caused the captcha code words (from undigitized books) to appear.  Then found the spot where threaded comments were displayed within the Tinythread code, and inserted the Recaptcha.  It didn’t work at first, but with some fine tuning, well, I’m happy now.  Sleepy — but happy!  (see figure 2)

I’m  not entirely sure it’s working 100%, so let me know if you encounter any glitches.

Teachers & Technology — a rant!

This morning, I was scanning back over last weeks TechLearning blogs, written by my esteemed colleagues, when I was struck by Jeff Utecht’s post,  Fear Factor.  Jeff’s comments resonated with me because of several conversations I had last week with administrators and tech integrators from schools I worked for in Connecticut and Maryland.

The idea of fearful teachers came up several times, and I have to admit an increasing frustration with this issue.  Why do we treat teachers so delicately?  Why do we forgive them year after year for not adopting contemporary information and communication tools?  Why are we satisfied with small steps?

Well, the answer is simple.  Teachers are special.  They are smart, resourceful, incredibly accomplished, and they work miracles — they make a difference.  They influence so many lives and they are revered.  It’s clear.  How can we treat them with anything but awe and respect — especially when no one really has a clear picture of what integrating technology means?  If we might fast forward to ISTE’s new NETS, what do creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, research, information fluency, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and digital citizenship really look like in a technology rich classroom?

For several years, many of us have been trying to make a case for thinking about education in new ways, largely as a result of technological advancements and their affects on how we use information.  I think that many education leaders are listening now.  I think that they are ready for clear images and stories about 21st century classrooms and what teachers and students should be doing to better prepare a generation of new century citizens.

Howling at the Moon For me, I have to admit that I’ve become fairly comfortable howling at the moon.  Refocusing on sharing and even inventing concrete applications will be a pretty hard corner or me to turn.  But it will also be exciting.

As for the teachers?  Well, I’ve become dissatisfied with Marc Prenski’s portrayal of digital natives and digital immigrants.  It’s a useful distinction, but not if teachers make it an excuse not to try.  I think that our children have every right to expect that their teachers will teach more from today’s information landscape.  If you think about it, they only taste that most children have of the 20th century, is their classrooms — where we’re supposed to be preparing them for the 21st century.

I almost lost it when I read, in Cheryl Oats’ comment, “..someone told me they didn’t want to learn one more new thing, they didn’t like new things..”  I would want to ask, “You call yourself a teacher?”  Who more than teachers should be willing and eager to learn new things?

Calming myself back down again, I have to remind myself that technology is anything that was invented after you were born.  Our kids, as Jeff reminds us, grew up with computers and the Internet.  They become so accomplished with these tools because it’s play for them.  I think that I took to computers simply because I remembered playing with Legos.  Perhaps we need to teach teachers to play again.

Sorry for the rambling rant!

We’re Telling our Own Story

At the risk of starting another friendly argument about the true nature of information, I’d like to talk a bit about this almost sacred topic.  But I do not want to talk about information itself, but about the information landscape that has formed around us under the seismic forces of the “Oh so” seductive advances in technology over the past few years.  I say seductive because, ..well have you had a chance to actually fondle an iPhone?

As I reported yesterday, I’ve been working on the sidebars of my blog.  It relaxes me.  But this morning, I decided to follow that theme a bit, and to look up some of the widgets that are offered through one of my favorite web sites, Technorati.  I usually describe this site by saying that, “Technorati is to the blogosphere, what Google is to the web.”  If you want to learn about a thing, you go to Google, where you’ll get thousands or millions (got a billion the other day) of web sites, most of which have been formally published.  However, if you want to know what people think about a thing, what the anticipate, what they love, what they hate, what they don’t understand, or what they think they understand — then you go to Technorati.

What I find intriguing about this site, and about today’s emerging information landscape is that for the first time in history, we are laying our thoughts, desires, loves, hates, and conversations down for the record.  We are remembering ourselves in a way that has never been possible before, and as a result, we can now produce a photograph, so to speak, of the human experience, as reported by the tens of millions of people, world-wide,  who are blogging it.

State of the BlogosphereDave Sifry, the CEO of Technorati, posts in his blog, Sifrey’s Alerts, a quarterly report on the state of the blogosphere.  His latest, on April 7, 2007, reports on the growth of the blogosphere, what people are blogging about, who’s blogging, and how many people are reading them.  To the right is a portion of one of Dave’s graphs, illustrating how many blogs are posted on a single day, and the world events that may have contributed to spikes in blog writing. 

Another part that I enjoy watching is the languages that are being spoken in the blogosphere.  There is an ongoing competition between English and Japanese.  Today, it’s Japanese, with 37% of blogs, followed very closely by English, with 36%.

View top news

Back to the widgets — Technorati features a web page with a number of widgets that you can install on your blog or other web pages, that produces a pipe from the greater blogosphere directly to your readers.  Here’s one that lists the news stories that are being written about the most by bloggers.

Here are two others that display the search terms that people are using most often today as the seek to tap into the global conversation about various topics. The second one is a tag cloud of terms that bloggers are most frequently tagging their blogs with.

Technorati Top Searches Technorati Top Tags

There is also a ticker type display that scrolls through search terms that people are entering in real time. I won’t display that one, because we are a weird species with very weird interests.

By the way, what is a … Oh, never mind. I really don’t want to know!

This one was, by far, the most interesting.  You can type in a topic, and the widget will generate a graph that illustrates the number of blogs that included the term over the past 7 to 360 days.  Again, it’s a picture of the human experience.

Posts that contain education per day for the last 30 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

Those of us educators who blog are occassionally asked, “What is Web 2.0?”  Sometimes I’m even asked, “What is Web 1.0?”  Of course there are many ways to distinguish the two, but one comparison that I think is useful to us, as educators, is that Web 1.0 respects authority.  For years, web pages have been published by people who had the technical skills to publish to the web or institutions who could afford to hire people with the technical skills to publish on the web.  There are certainly lots of exceptions, and the Web never earned the creds of almost any library.  Yet credentials were required, if only a working knowledge of Frontpage, and monthly payments to a web hosting company.

By contrast, Web 2.0 respects the community.  With free blogging, anyone with access to the Internet, basic spelling, and something to say, has a voice to the world.  From blogger.com, almost anyone can set up a blog in about five minutes — without any help.

So the question that continues to nag at me is, “What does it mean to be literate in an increasingly networked and participatory, digital and reader directed, overwhelming and uncontainable information environment?  What other skills should students be learning that are as critical today as the ability to read text, process numbers, and write a coherent paragraph?”

“Technorati Widgets.” Technorati. 2 Sep 2007. Technorati, Inc.. 2 Sep 2007 <http://www.technorati.com/widgets/blogwidgets>.

Sidebar Envy

My New Tag CloudAs you may be aware, I’m home, and relaxing a bit before I get back to work.  This morning I decided to spend a little time playing (while the rest of the family is still asleep) at sidebar envy — a phrase coined by my friend Sharon Peters in Montreal.

First, I got rid of my blogroll.  Too dangerous.  There are just too many bloggers to list, and to tell the truth, I don’t really read them all.  It’s sad.  So I replaced it with a list of blog postings that I share from Google Reader.  It works pretty nicely, because I can call up Google reader anywhere — even my phone.

I also went to my del.icio.us pages and learned how to include my latest bookmarks, tagged with blogsneducation, including an RSS feed.  I tried to figure  out a way to enable readers to click in other tags for display, but I couldn’t get WordPress to pass those variables through, and mucking around in php right now just seemed like too much fun, so I settled with a link and an RSS feed for nine of my most populated tags.

I also worked on my tag cloud script, which I wrote on another playful day.  It now color codes words by frequency as well as sizing them.

Time for my early morning 12 mile bike ride along the green way, and then some serious relaxing, or some serious work.  Heads or tails!

2¢ Worth