More Choices — Vango Notes Swaim, an automotive technologies instructor here at Guilford Technical Community College just shared with me a company called, Vango Notes. It appears to be a subsidiary of Audible. They publish audio versions of textbooks by the chapter. So as students are assigned a chapter to read, many of them will pay $2.99 to Vano Notes. 😉

It’s not clear as to whether the files are full chapter or chapter summaries/reviews.

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A Lot of Catching Up to Do

Federal Communications Commission member, Michael Copps said in a Washington Post article yesterday…

America’s record in expanding broadband communication is so poor that it should be viewed as an outrage by every consumer and businessperson in the country. Too few of us have broadband connections, and those who do pay too much for service that is too slow. It’s hurting our economy, and things are only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it.

The United States is 15th in the world in broadband penetration, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). When the ITU measured a broader “digital opportunity” index (considering price and other factors) we were 21st — right after Estonia. Asian and European customers get home connections of 25 to 100 megabits per second (fast enough to stream high-definition video). Here, we pay almost twice as much for connections that are one-twentieth the speed.

Michael J. Copps – America’s Internet Disconnect –

He goes on to admit that

…the agency’s reports seem designed mostly to obscure the fact that weare falling behind the rest of the world. The FCC still definesbroadband as 200 kilobits per second, assumes that if one person in aZip code area has access to broadband then everyone does and fails togather any data on pricing.

I don’t want to sound overly optimistic about a possible direction shift in our government’s leadership, but what if we have access to hi-speed broadband information in every home five years from now. What would you do with it, as a teacher? How might that change how and what you teach?

Image Citation:
Nemo, “Ethernet hookup at hotel #1823.” Nemo’s Great Uncle’s Photostream. 20 Apr 2006. 9 Nov 2006 <>.

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Something Else to Think About

I did three presentations yesterday for Community College instructors and administrators. During a conversation about Web 2.0 and “the new shape of information” the librarian reported that they had been studying the use of their library. They found that of all the books they have purchased since 2003, 60% have never been checked out.

Now this is way too complex an issue for me to draw any conclusions about. But you librarians among the readers of this blog, what do you think this means?

Image Citation
Librarian, Travelin. “New Backroom Shelving.” Travelinlibrarian’s Photostream. 11 Oct 2006. 9 Nov 2006 <>.

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Lots of Virtual Experiences

It seems like the last few days have been spent teaching at my computer. It started with a graduate course at Appalacian State University, with students sitting in their homes and libraries throughout western North Carolina, Mexico, and Australia. It was in a virtual worlds type environment with everyone dressed out in their avatars. I started to appear as a big red bird, but decided, instead, to take on the only av wearing a tie. He did have some spiffy dance steps.

The only complaint I have is with the female av, standing right in front of me, who was programmed to keep looking at her watch. Sheesh!

Yesterday afternoon, I participated in the first Google Teacher Academy, held at Google central, somewhere in the techie depths of California. We used Meratech as the interface, so we had both audio and video. It was good to finally meet Kyle Baumbaugh (nearly) face-to-face. Mike Lawerence kept picking up the camera and moving it around, which was a little disorienting. Is there any such thing as virtual wiplash? It was a great session of four volunteers sharing their insights about the learning that had happened during the day, and me taking a few minutes at the end and sharing my reactions, which was a lot of the same old, “it’s about information not about technology!”

I have to say that I would probably be just as happy using a basic Skype or iChat interface as these course systems. I know that for managing a course, they are very useful, but for a guest speaker, simple is good. No complaints, just an observation. (I also know that things like Skype and iChat make system administrators nervous.)

Image Citation
Terry, Dean. “Blake Wake Attempts to Pray.” Dean Terryès Photostream. 28 May 2006. 8 Nov 2006 <>.

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Authority & Accountability

I’m spending the next three days working with community college folks here in North Carolina. They want to started making use of podcasting throughout the state, so we will be working on some online courses to help faculty learn to produce podcasts. The local college (Guilford Technical Communicaty College) has real estate on iTunes U, so I’m looking forward to learning more about online Us.

In closing, I was going through my Gmail yesterday, a fairly new experience for me, and noticed a little yellow dot by Vicki Davis’ name, in my contacts window. I clicked it, and a chat window popped up. A Chat box appeared, and she typed something to me, and I typed something back, and we chatted. Is that cool or what? Alright, we do it all the time. But there are these opportunities now to just click something, like opening a door you’ve not opened before, and there is an opportunity to share and learn. Conversations everywhere.

Anyway, we got to talking about all of the conversations about barriers to using The Conversation for teaching and learning, and she mentioned that she controlled the filters and blocking software for her classroom. She said something that, to me, says it all.

Give me authority and accountability and I can do my job.

But holding someone accountable without the authority is a recipe for disaster.

Like it? Keep talkin’, Vicki.

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Going Local for NCETC

I finally had time to go through the preliminary program for our North Carolina Educational Technology Conference, happening the end of this month.  I am trilled that Tony Brewer will be delivering the opening keynote address.  His down home, southern humor makes even southerners as happy as a tick on a hound dog.  Patrick Crispen will be back as an old favorite of the conference and the state.  The closing banquet will be entertained by a comedy team, Wavelength.

I am especially pleased that my friend, Tammy Worcester, will be one of the featured speakers.  I’ve known Tammy for many years, and I know that our teachers, especially elementary teacher, are going to love what this highly innovative and accomplished educator is going to share.

Now, for my 2.0 test.  Here are the number of times typical terms appear in the preliminary program (preconference workshops only):

  • Web 2.0 — 4
  • Blog — 9
  • Podcast — 25
  • Social Bookmarks — 1
  • RSS — 1
  • Aggregator — 1
  • Wiki — 9

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Want a cool job? Teach!

Bill’s Persona

That video gamming educator, Bill MacKenty, received a question in his e-mail the other day, “Hello, I am very Interested in games in education and would like to get involved in this as a career move.”

I loved Bill’s answer.

First of all, thank you for asking. It’s actually a great question.

Become a teacher or school librarian!

Bill MacKenty

This is the kind of optimism we need to be hearing a lot more of! You want an exciting and rewarding career? Teaching is going to be the most exciting job on the planet!

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School 2.0 — Watch It decided to take a few minutes this morning and make a meager attempt at emptying out my aggregator. No grand designs, just get some ideas into my head. One interesting piece that I ran across what a video that Science Leadership Academy (SLA) folks, Chris Lehmann and Marcie Hull put together for K12OC. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t seen a lot of the conference. My life has been a cracked up mosaic of hotel rooms, conference halls, and airports, and my time at home has been crazy just getting caught up with e-mail and knocking alligators off the boat. So watching Marcie and Chris try to define School 2.0 was refreshing, and it got me to thinking.

Marcie said, “What’s at the core of School 2.0 is this understanding of change and how change is going to be a constant part of our life, ever since the information revolution has taken place.” She also said that, “Educators intuitively know that schools need to change in preparing its students for the 21st century.”

I agree with this, that most teachers, librarians, and administrators understand that the industrial model, as Chris puts it, no longer provides for today’s children and their future. Chris says that, “A huge part of School 2.0 is that we not cram a lot of facts into students’ heads, rather that we teach them to be critical consumers and producers of information.” He continues by saying that schools need to change in order to reflect the wider world.

History, Biology, and Chemistry teacher, Gamal Sherif talks about equity, which is a central theme of SLA. He also asks, “Can you make ethical decisions because you can use Microsoft Word or PowerPoint?”

From the conversations in the video, it appears that the talk at this technology-rich school is about process. I would suggest that if we have to talk about a thing, in the process of teaching and learning, then we should talk about the information. As students and teachers come to understand and learn to leverage networked, digital, and overwhelming information, then the conversations about ethics and responsibility will come out.

The information is what we read, watch, listen to, and think about. The technology is merely the machine that we look at.

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Back from the SLJ Summit and Still Reeling

First, I’m exhausted. It was an intense two days of work in Chicago, with the SLJ Annual Leadership Summit. It was a highly interactive conference that was incredibly well organized and planned out, with some exceptional presenters and keynoters. But more to the point, it was a working conference where three groups of library media specialists and media services administrators discussed issues of school libraries today and recommended what were called critical opportunities for the field. In my group there was some questions as too what a critical opportunity was, but we sure came up with some.

It is important to note that I was the only technology educator there. It is probably more accurate to say that I was the only non-librarian there, since many in attendance were quite adept at using a wide array of technologies. The ninth and tenth floors of the Drake Hotel enjoyed free WiFi thanks to some library ingenuity. Most folks were very welcoming and expressed appreciation of my short message and my blogging.

I did get pounced on at the end by a number of clawed librarians who had taken exception with some of my bloggings back during the summer. It was a warm and educational exchange, based on some blogversations I’d had around NECC time this year, about the changing nature of information and potential futures (or non-futures) of libraries and librarians. Their concern was that I was overlooking those in the field who are brilliantly adapting their information services to the emerging digital, networked, and overwhelming information landscape, and the new web — and they were certainly right about my oversight and right to express that concern.

At the end of the conference librains voted, with little round stickers, on the critical opportunities that they though were most important. Here is the list, as blogged by my new Tennessee friend, Diane Chen. I am inserting some of my own thoughts from a more purely digital information point of view.  It is important to note that their task was to quickly suggest ideas, not to wordsmith them out.  Also, this list is in order of votes, not a logical sequencing.  This will be done on an ongoing basis through a wiki.

#10 Building Trust and Respect Recruiting Young

This was actually two items that received the same number of votes. I believe that this is important, especially in terms of coming to respect a library’s patrons, their expertise, and their publications, and the new information landscape and its various advantages — without neglecting the more scholarly sources that remain critical to educational endeavors.

#9 How are we going to level the learning playing field? Target the have-nots

Libraries do provide an invaluable service as they make information available to all spectrums.  I also believe that this problem is much larger than libraries. It is a national issue that is no less critical than literacy. What does literacy mean to someone who does not have convenient access to the information.  I believe that creative efforts from libraries to provide access must continue. But I also believe that the problem will not be solved until access to digital networked information is available at an arms reach to anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

#8 Include info lit in teacher preparation curricula

This is absolutely necessary, as many students are not receiving adequate instruction in these skills now. However, the concept must continue to be molded for the information age. I maintain that two things need to happen. (1) That all information literacies (the 3 Rs & Info Lit) must combine into one literacy, and (2) we call it Learning Literacy. Learning will be our way of life, so knowing how to use our information landscape to learn, will be a/THE literacy.

#7 Librarians should be partners in the ongoing assessment of student learning

I’m not sure exactly what this would look like. However, I can see how it would happen. Learning must come to look more and more like work, where students are spending a significant amount of their time constructing knowledge and producing information products that demonstrate their skills and mastery of concepts and content. I wonder if the library might become the place where students do much of that work, that it evolves into a place where information is produced as much as where information is consumed. Think Kinkos for Kids. with skilled library consultants who assist students in gaining and utilizing their learning skills to do good responsible work.

#6 The Technology

I know that this item was much more fleshed out in the original document. However, I suspect that at some point we should start looking at the technology as part of the information/learning skills. If computers and the Internet (and printers, scanners, digital cameras, etc.) become the pencil and paper of our time, then using these technologies will be synonymous with using information.

#5 Taking a leadership role in educational applications for emerging technology

As school libraries become (as many already are) the hub and spokes of their schools, libraries are the perfect point of leadership in identifying and inventing teaching and learning applications and information and communication technologies.

#4 Provide stakeholders with instructional materials, information and model school libraries to demonstrate excellence

This is the job of any professional library. However, I would see this and item five combining, such that the library becomes a primary source for information, information materials, information applications, and information technologies.

#3 Develop and embrace new models for interacting with learners using 21st century technology

Libraries and librarians are uniquely positioned and qualified to be leaders in understanding and developing the new information landscape and shaping it for continued improvement of their schools, classrooms, and the skills of their teachers and learners. There are nearly limitless ways that information and its conduits can be designed and assembled into learning engines connecting the teacher and learner to curriculum and its world.

#2 Demonstrate via use of data & evidence (to our communities) thatschool librarians and library programs pay learning dividends andimprove student achievement

As the other nine or ten items are implemented and as they evolve, a vision of libraries as valuable dividend-paying spaces will emerge automatically. It will become a visible hub and spokes for the school as students begin to be empowered learners by working the information rather than disempowered learners by sitting in their seats. As this happens, the library will be seen as where much of that empowering work takes place.

#1 Mesh library added value into educator learning environments.

This is what all the rest of these items are about, turning the school into a learning engine, whose working parts are engineered and assembled, in large part, by libraries and librarians.

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