An Ideal Conference

California ed tech consultant, Mark Wagner, has an opportunity to help shape a fall conference in his state, The California League of Middle Schools and High Schools.  I can say from experience that this is a fantastic conference, because it is a teachers conference, rather than a technologist’s conference.  Plus, it’s held in Monterey.

Mark is asking for suggestions (What’s Your Ideal Educational Technology Conference?) from his blogging community and since conferences are so much a part of what I do, and because I am currently suffering a bit of conference withdrawal, I thought I would include my response here as well as on Mark’s blog.

Monterey Tech Conference 2006First of all, he’s asking for a conference theme.

Although the use of this term, in my opinion, has been stretched almost beyond recognition, I think that transparency might be a useful follow-up to their first conference, Teaching Millennials, and their second, Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives.  They’ve identified their audience, and explored the boundaries between most teachers and their students.  Perhaps it is time now to explore technology as more than a pedagogical tool — to illustrate how the effects of emerging information and communication technologies are serving to make the boundaries that have constrained education transparent.  Perhaps “Teaching and Learning in Transparent Schools”, or something like that for the theme.

Next, Mark asks for suggestions for keynote speakers, and I was especially saddened to read that they will not be repeating any of their previous keynoters.  It was such a fun conference to be a part of.

A few names come to mind though, considering the theme that I’m suggesting.  Susan Patrick’s talks about distance learning point to instruction that is not confined by walls and distance.  Ian Jukes is talking, these days, about brain research, making transparent the boundaries between our teaching and their understanding.  Debbie Silver would be an absolute hoot for that audience, and she would teach about the transparency between teaching, learning, and humor.  David Thornburg could talk about the transparency of expense, talking about open source as an alternative to huge investments in software.

Finally, Wagner asks for what a middle or high school teacher wants from a technology conference.

If I’m coming from a classroom, I’m coming for new ideas. I want new techniques that I can take back to my classroom and use tomorrow.  I also want energy and I want validation that my chosen profession is the most important thing on the planet to be doing. 

What I need is some new ways of thinking about things.  I need some new lenses through which to examine and re-examine my work, to critically question some of my practices, and invent new practices that result in the kind of success that I imagined when I decided to become a teacher.

2¢ Worth and great luck to you, Mark.

John. “CLMS Monterey 2006.” Johnpat10’s Photostream. 22 Nov 2006. 11 Jan 2008 <>.

Millennial Teachers

Old TextbookAs I’ve mentioned before, my daughter has started her student teaching in a high school in the mountains.  We’ve had a number of short conversations, mostly her describing potential lessons, which are quite creative, and me pointing out potential shortfalls and making suggestions.  Very little to nothing about technology.  That would require too much conversation and she doesn’t have enough time. 😉

She’s starting to stress out a bit, as her time to actually begin teaching approaches, and it isn’t (according to her) the fear of facing a class.  She’s trying to figure out how to present content to her class.  She has a laptop, but the school has only two or three projectors.  TVs are more plentiful, but connecting her laptop to the TV will require more hardware.  She is struggling as to how to present what she wants to present, the way she wants to present it — and the response that I do not dare speak to her is, “Welcome to the real world.”

Here’s the point of my sharing this.  My daughter, like most (if not all) of her friends have been using computers as their principal information tool for much of their lives.  Although their high school experience was relatively technology-poor, nearly all of their writing was on computer, and a significant, if not majority, of their research was networked and digital.

Virtually all of her college classmates came to school, four years ago, with a laptop slung over their shoulder or a desktop dominating their desks.  Although their classes were still predominantly lecture and textbook-based, all of the classrooms had projectors, speakers, and teacher presentation stations, and most of her instructors at least used PowerPoint.

I frequently hear how these millennial teachers are not coming in ready to integrate technology.  However, they are coming in with a different sense of their information environment, one that knows very little boundary.  And now, she’s facing a job of teaching inside the hard walls of a classroom, the covers of a textbook, and no conduit to the world of information that is home to her and many of her students.

If I said, “Welcome to the real world.”  She’d reply, “Yeah! Welcome to the old world.”

After this experience, when she is interviewing for jobs, and the principal asks, do you have any questions?  What is she going to ask for in her teaching environment?

What is her prospective principal going to need to be able to say, in a state that is suffering a near devastating teacher shortage?

Image Citation:
Mueller, Donovan. “Inside.” Donut2D’s Photostream. 27 Aug 2005. 9 Jan 2008 <>.

This is Pretty Close…

The first chapter of my book, Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century (Linworth 2004), is a future fiction about a middle school class in 2014. The story was originally written as a thought exercise for me as I prepared the planning and writing of the book. After reading it, my editor asked that it be part of the book.

For the story, I imagined the information technologies that will almost certainly be available in schools, ten years into the future and inserted those technologies into the school.  Then I tried to let their applications emerge through the plot.

In the story, I described a tablet style computer that each student and teacher had, and I think that this video , from UMPCommunity, comes pretty close to describing the device I was imagining during the writing of the book (2002 & 2003).

Video Citation:
“UMPC in Education Video.” UMPCommunity. 2 Aug 2006. UMPCommunity. 8 Jan 2008 .

School Wikia

Wikia LogoI just took a quick tour of Wikia and reading a couple of articles (SearchEngineWatch & NYTimes) and I’m both intrigued and skeptical. But this and other things that are happening keep reminding me that there are some pretty concrete and fairly well articulated models out there for engaged learning — where students and teachers might work their learning.

In brief, Jimbo Wales, a co-founder of Wikipedia, is trying to invent a collaborative search engine, where users improve the quality of the tool by interacting with the service. I agree with the articles that this sort of system would be susceptible to people trying to game it for their own ends. But what if we had a curriculum that was open and inviting to being gamed by the learners — in a good way?

I want to do that!

A Bit Later
I’ve spent a little more time wondering around in Wikia and there appear to be some functions of social network here. You can link to friends, set up a profile, include a photo gallery. What intrigues me about this is,

What if Wikia Search might utilize what it know about you to improve searches that you conduct?

What if your school library might make itself more useful to you, based on what it knows about you?

Valued Customers

There is an article today at the Boston Globe web site about how colleges are using web tools to recruit students.  I linked to Colleges turn to Web tools in hunt for ’08 freshmen through eSchoolNews and found it interesting in light of conversations I have had at a number of colleges in the last couple of years about marketing themselves to the MySpace generation.

With the colleges we’ve encountered regarding our own children, we’ve noticed much more proactive marketing to prospective students, at least a lot more than we saw when we were in college.  And once in, their schools have treated them much more like customers than just students.  Yet their use of technology has been very utilitarian, mostly automating processes that use to require standing in long line — a huge part of my college experience in the early 1970s.

But this article indicates a more active and even urgent desire to connect with prospective students at their level, through their avenues.  I suspect that it is a struggle. 

“It’s not about staying ahead of the students, it’s about keeping up with them, but without seeming desperate to be hip,” said David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

As I’ve written in the last couple of days, I find social networks difficult to comprehend, and it appears that I’m not alone.  Colby College has turned to their students for guidance, as it…

..scrapped its traditional admissions brochure in favor of a student-run magazine, (where) online visitors can view photo galleries and video podcasts with interviews with students and professors.

I’m curious as to how much instructors are using social media to capture the attention of students — and then to facilitate more participatory learning.  I suspect that the answer is, “Too little use!”  So how does admissions come to have more motivation to adapt to a new generation of learners than instruction?  How might we come to see students in our classrooms (K-HE) as customers and realize a need to start working through their information experiences, instead of just working from ours?

I think that classrooms could become, and in some place are becoming pretty exciting places, and through more transparent school walls, communities would enjoy seeing it, and might even come to expect it — and value it.

Schworm, Peter. “Colleges turn to Web tools in hunt for ’08 freshmen.” The Boston Globe. 7 Jan 2008. The Boston Globe. 7 Jan 2008 <>.

Social Networks or “I’m a Hermit”

Newspaper with headlines "How to Social Network"Ewan McIntosh posed a question in Twitter this morning, about the effect that social networks might have on education.  Although there is a certain amount of appropriateness to using this avenue, 140 characters just doesn’t seem enough.  I sent a string of tweets, but it made me want to pull out this piece that I’ve been bouncing around for a couple of weeks.

During one of our extended family visits over the holidays, I had my computer out, showing something to one of my brothers.  When we finished, my daughter walked up and asked if my computer was online. 

I had connected with my parents’ WiFi, so I said, “Yes!”

I got up and made room for her, assuming that she was going to check her e-mail.  But no.  She was checking her Facebook page. 

I’m gradually coming to realize that e-mail is so ’90s.  I think I’ve known for a while, somewhere in my head, that the communication tools that help me do my job are viewed by my children as archaic.  But at that moment, I started to realize that maybe some of these tools actually are antiquated.

I don’t understand social networks yet.  Not really.  I’m too accustomed to the network I’ve hobbled together myself, to successfully wrap my mind around Facebook.  But a shape is starting to form that I think describes one place where people connect in ways that seem so multidimensional compared to the experience of e-mail, or even to my aggregator, or even Twitter.  When my communication tools, my work, my audience, their work, our collaborations, my very office, meetings and associations, are all available at one place — well how cool might that be?  How useful?

Maybe it seems obvious to you, and I’m the last hermit to escape into the cave of my e-mail app every morning.  But I think that one reason I hesitate to invest myself in Facebook (or Ning) is that I like to experiment.  I regularly use three aggregators, each has its own function to me.  I use two different wiki sites, because their feature sets are different, and I use the one that best helps me accomplish my job.  I’m down to one e-mail app, but there is an almost regular itch that I experience to try something else.  Social Networks seem constraining to me.  Perhaps they aren’t, but I’m reluctant still.

My own cantankerous reluctance aside, I am increasingly coming to understand what an interesting question this is.  What about social networks in education?  Mostly, I skip over the pedagogies of collaboration and think about assessment.  Even though there are appropriate times for multiple choice, most of us agree that assessment must be deeper and more authentic.  We talk a lot about portfolios, and this is a lot closer.  But in today’s increasingly participatory information environment, asking students to produce, archive, and organize artifacts of their learning, for the sake of assessment, seems almost as contrived as multiple choice.

Rather than evaluating consistently arranged artifacts, it seems to me that assessment should be more about going in to an information site, the information home of a student, and excavating that site for artifacts that help us to determine learning.  Obviously, these ideas are still rattling around, disconnected, in my head.  But I wonder if some kind of social network that students build and cultivate as part of their work as learners might be that place.

Anyway, Jeff Utecht posed some questions, the other day, for recruitment interviewers looking for networked teachers.  Perhaps a good question might be:

Which do you check first in the morning:

  1. The news paper?
  2. Your e-mail?
  3. Your aggregator?
  4. Your social network?

For me, there’s not a correct answer, yet!

Price, Nic. “How to Social Network.” Betnic’s Photostream. 12 Sep 2007. 6 Jan 2008 <>.

Educon 2.0 on Hitchhikr

Logo for Educon 2.0I just submitted the upcoming Educon 2.0 conference on Hitchhikr. The URL is:

Although I’ll only be able to attend one day of the conference, I am certainly looking forward to the conversations and being in the midst of so many really smart people.

I just noticed that there is now an Educon group on Facebook. Perhaps I’ll get to learn what this social networking is all about at Educon.

Thank You Frances

Frances BradburnThis afternoon, I will attend an event that is both happy and sad.  Friends and colleagues will be celebrating Frances Bradburns many years of professional service to education in North Carolina and way beyond.  She is retiring, and many of us are not happy about it.  It seems that her accomplishments are at their peak.  But they shall continue to grow, because, like any good educator, what she has said, done, built, and taught will continue on in everyone who has worked with her.

When I first met Frances Bradburn, she was a professor of Library Science at East Carolina University.  She was one of those bigger than life people, because her name and reputation so impressively preceded her.  I know that before her academic work at ECU, Frances supported hundreds of library media specialists at one of the eastern regional service centers and became a listened-to voice in the entire state.

During the last two years that I worked for the NC State Department of Public Instruction, Frances joined us with the Division of Media and Technology Services.  This is where I got to know her, as we shared a wall between our two cubicles.  I clearly remember the conversations that floated up over that wall, and it was from her that I learned how closely the worlds of media and technology really are, and how we need to be integrating them as we help our children to be prepared for their futures.  It’s a message that she delivered so well at every level.

After I left DPI, Frances began to more formally formulate her thinking in a book called, Output Measures for School Library Media Programs. One reader says:

Excellent source of data gathering charts that media specialists can use to justify budgets, staffing, scheduling and program curriculum needs to those in charge of school funding for libraries.

Finally, Frances was persuaded to become the Director of the Division of Media & Technology Services. (I don’t know what it’s called now.  They’re always changing things there.)  It was during these years of leadership that she and her staff assembled the IMPACT model, which married media and technology in the schools that addopted it, and emphasized, above all other things, the value and crucial need forprofessional collaboration.

I know, first hand, of teachers who were ready to retire within months, but decided to continue their work after their schools adopted the IMPACT model — and they are teaching still.

Thank you Frances Bradburn!

Blogging and Science Education

NC Science Blogging ConferenceA few weeks ago, I mentioned  an upcoming conference in my area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill), the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference.  I will be facilitating a session called Teaching Science: using online tools in the science classroom, and like most of the other sessions, it will be unconference in nature.  In other words, my job will not be to teach, but to generate conversation.

Odds are that people will be coming in with lots of questions and answers.  But I would like to have some sort of starting place, if only in my own mind regarding the issues surrounding using live web applications in science education.

So, what are some of the questions/issues that you might be curious about as a science teacher or if you were a science teacher.  The range will likely be kindergarten through higher ed skewed toward high school and college.

Thanks in advance!