Learning 2.008 Has Begun — Nearly

Picture of Arrivals at Shanghai Airport

For me, it started at the Shanghai airport, passing almost effortlessly through immigration and customs, and seeing Jeff Utecht, standing just behind a scattering of people waiting for arrivals from Hong Kong.  We walked over to a neatly modern lounge where he enjoyed a delicious looking BLT.  I’d already had something made from chicken on the plane, so I enjoyed a Coke Lite.

He talked about his new job and I, about the work I’d done in Hong Kong.  I’m not sure where it came from, but we started talking about SMS (Short Message Service), and how people in the U.S. still prefer talking on the phone to txting.  Jeff was talking about going home over the summer and how his friends kept asking why he was txting them instead of just calling.

This reminded me of a conversation I’d had with Helen Wong, my Hong Kong host (she was usually introduced as my agent), and how disappointed she was at the turnout of parents for one of the schools I worked in.  I’d thought it was a pretty good turnout.  She said that they usually sent and SMS out just before such events, as a follow-up to what ever avenues had already been used to make the school’s community aware of an upcoming event.  She said that since it had been a holiday weekend, SMS would not have been useful.

But the way that she talked about it, made it pretty clear that for the school, and all of the schools she works with, txting is a heavily relied upon method of connecting with parents.  In the U.S., I do not know of any schools that are doing that.  I’m sure there are some, and there may be many.  But I suspect that it hasn’t occured to many administrators consider SMS as one of the contact items they collect and use.  At this point and in most communities, I doubt that there are enough txting parents to make it practical.

This will certainly change as younger parents enter the schooling years, but it ocurred to me, in our efforts to improve communication with the homes and communities of our students, what a powerful thing it might be to extend the conversation of our children’s educations into the pockets of their parents.

Learning 2.008 Pre-Conference

Picture of Panel in Second LifeJust had a wonder time being a panelist for the first Second Life? pre-conference event for the Learning 2.008 conference in Shanghai (Sept 18-20).  This was also my first experience in a speaking roll on Second Life, and it wasn’t half bad.  In the picture, moving from left to right, they are Chris Smith (Bangkok), Myself (Raleigh), Jeff Utecht (Bangkok), CogDog Alan Levine (Denver I think he said), and David Gann (Shanghai).

It was great fun with a lot of conversation about RSS, tags, social networks, and new learning.  I’m even more excited about the upcoming Shanghai event than before.

An Hour In-World

The site of the Pre-Conference Events [click to enlarge]
I’m just back up to my office from breakfast, and rolling around in my head the experience I just had in Second Life™ with Chris (Shambles) Smith. Tomorrow will be the first Learning 2.008 pre-conference session in SL. Basically, it will be a panel discussion with two of the conference’s invited speakers, myself (Suriawang Dapto) and Alan Levine (CDB Barkley — or something dog-like), moderated by Chris and David Gran, Shanghai American School Art Teacher.

I’d stepped in world and teleported over to the site of the event, on International Schools Island — and I suddently found myself completely black (except for my flowing gray hair). I was completely at a loss as to why or how to fix it. Searching through my menus, I found nothing about rebooting my avatar. No matter what cloths I put on, it didn’t help. I would have been happy donning some dreadlocks, except that I didn’t look so much like a Rastafarian than some Hindu devil.

Anyway, just as I was about to give up, I saw the tell-tell signs of another person on the island. Flying over, I found Chris Smith, who I suspect is responsible for fitting the place out. He immediately averted his eyes, until he realized that I was not naked, just completely black. So we tried several things, even taking off all of the clothes that my inventory indicated I was wearing. Fortunately there were some bushes near by. Nothing helped.

So Chris then took me back to orientation island to seek out help from one of the guides. I have to confess that my memories of Orientation Island (the starting place for all Second Life residents) are not all pleasant. Learning to walk in a straight line was a special challenge for me, and I kept falling off the cliff.

Anyway, there were several very knowledgeable helpers there, if also rather scantily clad — and they tried everything, to no avail. My rather scruffy gray jacket would appear for a moment, and then turn to black again. They finally gave up and sent me to Help Island.

I’d never been there before, and wasn’t sure that Chris hadn’t slipped me the wrong landmark when I arrived. But he suddenly materialized beside me, and suggested that I just ask out loud if anyone knew why I was completely black. I hesitated more because no one was speaking English (mostly languages I didn’t even recognize) than bashfulness. But finally I asked the question, mentioning that I was from New Zealand, which accounted for the accent. They didn’t buy that one. But immediately, someone walked up and asked, “Are you using two monitors?”

I nodded my head and said, “Yes!” into my microphone.

“Is Second Life running in the secondary monitor?”

Again, I nodded my head and said, “Yes!”

Then he explained that there was something in the programming of SL that prevents the textures of clothes and skin textures from rezing when the window is in a secondary monitor. I moved the window back over to my laptop monitor and then rebaked my textures. That did tickle a bit.

Finally, back to my same old self. Now that I’m back at home, typing into my blog, I’m thinking that this is similar to conversations that my children have all the time, where they have a problem or a goal, and go someplace virtual miles away, to find someone who can help them.

I still don’t know why folks want to dress so flamboyantly in Second Life. Glad Brenda wasn’t looking over my shoulder.

Hope to see you at the Learning 2.008 Preconference event at 9:00 east coase time on August 31 (tomorrow). Interestingly Chris’ wife called him to dinner at the same time that Brenda called me down to breakfast. You see, Chris lives in Thailand.

29 Days to Shanghai

I’m trying to focus on getting ready for tomorrow’s address for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools convocation.  But taking a quick glance at my e-mail, I just had to pass this one along — a video produced by my friend Carrot Revolution author, David Gran, an art teacher at the Shanghai American School.  It’s entertaining and always eye-opening to see what a Photoshop master can accomplish, such as making David Jakes look good on the cover of Vogue Magazine.

Click here to watch videoIt’s worth noting that the conference is only 29 days away and will certainly be a mega-watched event.

Yes we try and make the Learning 2.008 Educational Technology conference a little different each year. We don’t just talk about changing the ways we teach and learn, we try and model it as well.

I have to confess a bit of unease at this eagerness to stir things up, especially when conference organizer and Thinking Stick author, Jeff Utecht continues, “We don’t always succeed but it’s about taking risks and pushing ourselves as educators.” It is about pushing ourselves, and it’s what disruption is about — a willingness to re-think, re-act, and re-learn.

Being an international conference presents challenges.  Being in Shanghai presents challenges.  For instance, it becomes more difficult for schools to release teachers for extended on-site time, when they’re traveling up to 12,000 miles.  To address this, Shambles man, Chris Smith is building a site on International School Island in Second Life.  Scheduled appearances there include:

Each event will take place at 06:00 SL time (09:00 East Coast, 06:00 Pacific, 14:00 UK, 20:00 Bangkok, and 21:00 Hong Kong).