Working for Value

Attendee of my workshop being a Personal Learning Network

I have to say that last week’s NCTIES conference was one of the most valuable conferences I’ve worked in a long time — and it was a treat to be able to use Raleigh’s new and quite impressive Convention Center.  The only complaint I had was about the projectors and displays.  The featured speakers presented in two nearly identical rooms that were visually striking, roomy, and cozy at the same time.  However, there were no drop down screens, and we had to project onto a side wall that was entirely too small and uncomfortably angled.  I think that this is the sort of thing that you learn the first time you use a new venue.

A little less forgiving were the Promethean IWBs that were installed in the other presentation rooms.  The worked quite well, but were intended for classrooms, and were simply to small, and even more frustrating, to low to be useful to attendees sitting further back than the forth row.  It was a technology conference, and part of the point is to be exposed to new technologies, but not at the expense of the teaching and learning that is at the heart of conferences.

The information experiences that help to define our Digital Natives:

  • Responsive
  • Measure Accomplishment
  • Values Safely Made Mistakes
  • Demands Personal Investment
  • Rewards with Audience & Attention
  • Provokes Communication
  • Is Fueled by Questions

I was satisfied the the results of my sessions, two of which were more unconference in nature than presentation.  The first of these sessions, ambitiously entitled something like Foundational Structure for Learning 2.0, sought to build a framework, so to speak, for formal learning experiences that take advantage of specific qualities of our students outside-the-classroom information experiences, or native information experiences.  The qualities, which resulted from an extended activity I did with teachers in Irving,Texas several years ago (read more here).

I described each element by illustrating how it might manifest in a particular video game or genre of game, while operating within a social network, or engaging in conversations via IM or text messaging.  For instance, I showed a rather richly adorned player avatar from an MMORPG, to illustrate measured accomplishment and personal investment, and a video clip from Justin TV (Ustream-type service, where kids broadcast their video game play, while engaging in conversation with a global audience, illustrating audience and attention.

The conversation that followed this brief introduction revealed some aspects of these experiences that had not occurred to me — which was, of course, the purpose of the activity.  I asked the audience to work for a few minutes in groups and to come up with a story that illustrates what formal learning activities that incorporate these qualities might look like. 

Now that I think back, none of the stories were imagined, but true life learning stories, some of which mutated from traditional assignments into something more interesting.  For instance, one person told about her son, who was preparing a report for sociology, and his questions could be answered only from web sites that were blocked by the school’s filtering system.  He resourcefully found a way to redirect the content of the sites into his classroom through sites that were acceptable.  I wish I could remember how he did that.  He also put together a way to digitally survey his classmates, to collect further data to support his study.  His activities were fueled by questions, demanded personal investment, and he used the web to provoke communication.

What most resonated with me came out of conversations about responsive information experiences.  I showed a nostalgia-evoking video of Pong and a Facebook thread to illustrate this quality.  Most of the stories incorporated responsiveness in that they involved students writing or in some other way producing for an authentic audience.  One of the attendees, a rather precocious youngster from a middle school in Union County, described a project from his class, where students produced videos (don’t remember the topic), and then invited their parents to come in on evening to watch and talk about what they saw.

As I often do, when the teller exclaims how motivated the students were, I ask, “Why!”  “Why did it excite you to have your parents see your videos.”  What came out of these follow-ups was a fairly dramatic distinction between authentic audience and teacher as audience.  When writing, let’s say, to the teacher, you are communicated to be evaluated.  Assessment is the outcome, based on some set of expectations involving skills and/or knowledge.

However, when writing to an authentic audience, what you are trying to earn is not an evaluation (though there may be one coming in the process).  What you are writing for is a response, and that response will be directed toward what you have invested in the work, not just the facts you have included or the skills you have demonstrated.

One difference that occurs to me is that when delivering to the teacher, you are working for for correctness.  When delivering to an authentic audience, you are working for value.  It’s not an either or, of course.  We should be striving for both evaluating of learning and response to value.

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Opening Day of NCAECT

I have the privaledge of sitting in the audience during the opening keynote for the 2009 NCTIES annucal conference (use to be NCAECT).  The keynoter will be Vickie Davis of Georgia.  I’m sitting here with Kathy Schrock and Meg Ormiston — and trying to concentrate on the task at hand.

The organization just gave $3000 to three schools to be used in “disrupting” their classrooms. 😉

Now introducing Vickie Davis, and I’m impressed with what she has accomplished in only a few years.  I didn’t know that she has just published her first book, Click Smart.

Vickie’s up, and we’re all clicking.  Sounds like crikets in the woods.  “If you like something, then click it.” 

“…and you never get payed enough..”  click click click click. Interesting.  Here class now has space in an OpenSIM, called Digiteen Dream Team. Got to learn more about this.  The only schools I’ve found that are using OpenSIM are private schools.

Just saw an amazing video produced by Peggy Sheehe, at:

Hmmm! What is a teacherpreneur? Teachers in Finland, best education in the world, select their own textbooks.

Vicky is delivering a very passionate speech in support of strong professional teachers, willing to own their classroom and retool them for the 21st century.

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Two Conferences

Flickr Photo from Naace Conference Blogger

I have right fond memories of my time at the Naace 2008 conference in Torquay, England, this time last year.  This is partly because both Brenda and Martin went with me, train’ing through the country side, the day we spent in St. Ives, and the nearly 24 hours we spent learning the subways of London.  Then there was the part that was the hospitality of the folks at the conference.  Honestly, I felt so far behind where those folks were, not so much from practicality as in the direction and momentum for change for schools in that country.

Last year, the Rt Hon Jim Knight MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, presented the opening keynote from Second Life™.  I was blown away by the (political) courage involved in that.  This year, he’ll be interacting with conference attendees via Twitter.  I can’t help but believe that when our department of education (not just edtech) is interacting directly in the conversations of in-the-trenches educators in U.S. schools, we might, then, start seeing progress and momentum.

Naace 2009 is taking place right now, and I’ve added Twitter tracking to Hitchhikr.  Naace can be followed at

From the convention center web site

Speaking of U.S. conferences, North Carolina’s ISTE affiliate, NCTIES (use to be NCAECT) starts their conference tomorrow, here in Raleigh.  I’ll be working all three days, and spending the night at home 😉  Keynotes will be Vicki “Cool Cat Teacher” Davis and Meg “Writer” Ormiston.  Invited speakers include:

I didn’t have to be invited.  I’ll be doing some of my regulars, a pre-conference workshop on PLNs and my virtual worlds session.  However, I’ll be doing a new one, called The Foundational Structure for Learning 2.0, and I’m still working on it.  Also, for fun, Will Richardson and I will be doing a conversational (unconference) session together, back by popular demand from a similar session two years ago.

NCTIES can be hitch hiked to at:

Anyway, it will prove to be an adventurous three days of conferencing in Raleigh, named for Sir Walter, the great British colonizer, and watching Naace, this year in Blackpool, England.

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