David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
Shakabuku Infographics Video

Three Convictions

The fun part of writing my latest book has begun – the second draft. It’s a bit like sculpting, looking at each paragraph, knocking out words that distract and inserting ones that enlighten. What’s really exciting is reading something that I had expressed poorly, and suddenly being able to fix it because I finally comprehend the idea’s deeper core.

I am currently working on the pages that describe my first year of teaching (no computers yet), and I find that I ended that year with three convictions that kept me in the education profession and helped to carry me through the next 40 years.

  1. Teaching is important.  If I had understood this during my early days in the classroom, I would not have allowed myself to get tripped up so easily.
  2. Teaching is a personal art.  A classroom is not a laboratory and none of its subjects can be controlled.  Even though there is much that is known about what works and what doesn’t, the most important tools for a successful teacher are imagination and inventiveness.
  3. Teaching requires a passion for both what and why you teach.  To be imaginative and inventive in your classroom, you must already know a lot about your subject, be in the habitual practice of learning and unlearning, and understand why your students should know it.

Marimuse Interview

In 1993, while I was working at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and exploring the educational potentials of the, then emerging, Internet, I ran across an intriguing and inspiring summer project being conducted at Maricopa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona.

With the local school district, they invited a diverse group of students who would be entering fourth, fifth or sixth grades (all at-risk of failure) into a MUD  or Multi-User Domain.  Essentially, a MUD is a text-based virtual environment.  Think SecondLife  where the environment is read about, instead of seen graphically.

This particular MUD was empty, flat asphalt.  These students, some of whom you couldn’t get to write their names in a classroom, were challenged to create a virtual city in the MUD, by learning a simple programming language and describing its buildings, parks and their own virtual homes, in all their richness, with words.

You can read what Howard Rheingold had to say about the project here.

At the end of the project, I invited a number of the organizers and volunteers to a virtual office I was maintaining at MIT’s MediaMOO, where my avatar was known as Peiohpah.  There I interviewed the team about their experience. I had acquired a virtual video camera, which recorded the exchanges.

Here is a portion of that interview played back on Pei’s TV.

[on Pei's TV]      ***********************************
[on Pei's TV]      **   C a m p   M a r i M U S E   **
[on Pei's TV]      **  An Interview with the staff  **
[on Pei's TV]      **      of the first virtual     **
[on Pei's TV]      **         Computer Camp         **
[on Pei's TV]      ***********************************
[on Pei's TV]
[on Pei's TV]      . . . the camera pans left to right over
                 Pei's Studio
 
[on Pei's TV]  A cozy corner with two comfortable sofas
               arranged for conversation in front of a large
               picture of a schoolhouse. Curiously, the
               walls of the schoolhouse appear to be
               transparent. There is a copy of Tuesday's
               *New York Times* on an end table.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila smiles at the camera
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "I'm here with a few friends today
               to talk about a project that they have been
               involved in this summer, Camp MariMUSE.  I
               call them friends although I have never met
               them face-to-face, and don't even know the
               sounds of their voices.  Yet I have
               profoundly enjoyed their companionship by
               interacting not only with their words, but
               with their imaginations, and -- most
               importantly to this interview -- with their
               innovation."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei turns to the rest of the group.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Hi, Pei"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon  looks toward Pei, pleased to be
               here.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Why don't we start with my guests
               introducing them selves."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody waves to TV land
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K giggles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, ""I am Lila on the MariMuse, a
               volunteer for the project.  I am a student
               at Phoenix college, a returning student"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "I am Billie Hughes aka Avalon
               on MariMUSE.  I worked with the team that
               first brought Muse to Phoenix College."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei senses that another member of the
               MariMUSE team is looking for them and
               disappears suddenly for parts unknown.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila waits for Pei to return
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I am Miss-K on the Muse, and
               Susan Oram in RL (Real life) -- the school
               librarian at Longview Elementary School. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei has arrived.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad materializes out of thin air.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Hi Wlad!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "I am Rod Brashear, Woody on
               Marimuse.  I am a student at Arizona State
               Universtiy-West and also work for the
               Arizona Department of Education.  I
               volunteered to be involved with the Longview
               project."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila waves to Wlad, and thinks she has seen
               him before ;) "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Hi, Wlad"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Wlad, would you introduce
               yourself?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Hi, and I am Jim Walters.  I
               work at Pheonix College and am intensely
               interested in this medium."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Is that everyone?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila thinks that is all for the moment,
               Platoon will join us later"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Thanks"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon turns toward Pei,anticipating a
               question."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei reads from his clipboard, then faces
               Avalon.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Avalon, would you begin by
               explaining how Camp MariMUSE came to be?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Wlad and I were in the library
               one day when the Dean walked in.  We were
               excited about what Muse was doing for our
               college students.  She suggested we do a
               summer camp for kids."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We jumped at the chance and
               the rest is history."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Avalon had heard a rumor that
               Joanne, the principal at Longview, might be
               supportive of a technology linked proposal.
               So we set out to meet with her."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "wlad and Av planted a seed and
               didn't realize how big the tree would be.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "...and still growing!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "it's rather like falling into
               the rabbit's hole with Alice."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei grins with understanding
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila laughs at the rabbit hole analogy
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "So it began as an environment for
               college student?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "We did try to start with the
               basis that it could accommodate learners of
               all ages."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "But college students were the
               group we began with because that was the
               group we had access to."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We tried it first with our own
               students, but always dreamed of a huge one
               room school for learners of all ages."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The dream is starting to come
               true, isn't it?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila nods agreement
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "We took some risks in bringing
               in some of our own students, then to try to
               offer a class entirely in this environment."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei turns to Miss-K.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Miss-K,  Could you describe some
               of the landmarks of MariMUSE that your
               campers saw when they first entered the
               MUSE?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody notices sweat on the brow of Miss-k.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila hands Miss-K a tissue
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K smiles sickly!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei reaches over and touches Miss-K's hand!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Well, we went to Lady
               Starlight's castle first. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei's eyes widen with excitement.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "We also visited some of the
               places the first group of campers had
               created.  Also, Some of the campers spent
               quite a lot of time in an amusement park."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "A couple of the volunteers had
               created a space station that was the initial
               home of all the Longview campers."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Tell me about the students who
               participated in Camp MariMUSE?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "Do you want a feel for what
               they were like in RL, when they entered the
               room?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, “Yes!"

[on Pei's TV]  Avalon sits back listening to those who were
               with the children the most to talk.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Well, it was quite a mixed
               group of children.  Our school is very
               multi-ethnic and those groups were
               represented at the camp."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering just how
               diverse the group really was.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila remembers being surprised at the young
               ages.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The kids were all going into
               the fourth, fifth or sixth grade.”

[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The children who attended were
               children who were definitely at-risk for
               failure in school either because of their
               back grounds or skills.  They were chosen by
               the teachers at Longview on the basis of who
               we thought might benefit the most. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "The first day of camp was an
               exciting day.  Students had heard exciting
               rumors and were very eager, with a bit of
               confusion and trepidation, to come to a
               college and work with the MUSE."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon materializes out of thin air.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "HI Pei, sorry I interrupted"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Platoon, my man! gime five!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon ^5's Pei
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon sits back and listens
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "The first couple of days the
               children were very quite and shy.  After the
               comfort level was attained the kids were
               conversing in the muse and RL with real
               excitement and interest"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "They seemed very young, and shy
               and seemed to be wondering why they were
               here, but then they got started began having
               fun."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K nods.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "How did the students first
               approach the text-based virtual environment?
               What was their early reaction?”

[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "On the first day, I heard
               whispers of, "This is dumb."  By the end of
               the first session, all the campers agreed it
               was about the coolest thing they had ever
               done.”

[on Pei's TV]  Lila recalls the excitement of the children
               when they left for the bus, how anxious they
               were to come back the second day."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila recalls how quickly the children became
               conscious of correct spelling"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "I had worried that the ones who
               couldn't keyboard might become discouraged
               and quit, but they just hung in and their
               skills kept improving."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Even this morning some kids
               were asking about getting back on the system
               so they wouldn't lose their keyboarding
               skills."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Those of you who were volunteers,
               how did you assist the campers and what sort
               of impact did this experience have on you
               personally?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "My best the very best
               experience I had was when I started paging
               some of the campers and ask them if they
               need help...and they responded where are
               you...and i said that I am kinda far away
               from you...they couldn't imagine that "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight materializes out of thin air.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "I thought that was so cool to
               have to convince them that I am about 20
               miles away from them”

[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "She was having difficulty with
               him being in the same virtual room with
               her."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "To build on Platoon's comments,
               one child initially refused to believe a
               volunteer was really in California."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei smiles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight says, "And another looked for
               a volunteer in the disk drive."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad ecalls one student looking in the disk
               drive slot trying to see Angus."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei laughs and laughs and laughs
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila laughs at the remembrance
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "What, exactly,
               did the MariMUSE campers do on a daily
               basis?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody pulls out his muse curriculum daily
               guide.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "every day the students were
               asked to complete a journal entry.  They
               also wrote at least one article per week for
               the newsletter.  They were also responsible
               for doing some creating in the MUSE."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad recalls some of the homework and how
               serious the students were about getting
               together their descriptions and setting
               their character names.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Azure_Guest says, "What amazed me was that
               they were so unwilling to leave for break."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody adds that they felt three hours was
               too short of a day on the muse.
  
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Do you remember how Ginji would
               go home, make her sister help her research
               so the cave could be exactly what she
               wanted?
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "At the end of the first week,
               the students were wanting to come in over
               the weekend..”
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight says, "They were all very
               proud of their work."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Ginji wears her Phoenix
               College t-shirt often."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Above all, we learned that
               this medium was exciting to students, it
               captivated them despite its text-base.  And,
               they could handle the coding.  They were
               reading and writing for 3 hours a day,
               thinking and problem solving, and loving
               it."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "It taped the intrinsic
               motivation of all the persons connected to
               the program.  Students Teachers, and
               volunteers."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei nods.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Have the kids come back to school
               yet?  If so, what are they saying about the
               MUSE now?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Everyday I am asked, WHEN can
               I come back on line?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "The children are eager to get
               back on-line and are stating that they have
               projects to work on, and they really want to
               check their mail."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I called all the MUSE kids
               into the library this morning and they were
               all talking at once.  They did not want to
               leave to go back to class."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We believe we are just seeing
               the tip of the iceberg.  We believe we are
               on the wave of the future.  This medium is a
               window to a new way of learning."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering the child
               who said, “You don't think I am stupid, do
               you?”
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The kids are so proud of the
               NY Times article.  They all want copies of
               it."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "How did the parents react to Camp
               MariMUSE?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "We had an enormous turn out on
               the parent day.  We were amazed.  The
               parents are especially proud of their
               children.  I think it raises their self-
               esteem too."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Many parents had to take off
               work, with no pay, to attend any function to
               which they were invited.  Such as
               graduation"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Some even rode over on the
               school bus to be here."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "When the parents first met with
               us, PC volunteers and Wlad, There was a very
               small turn out.  After the camp was over
               there was almost 100 percent parent
               participation."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Running Wind's parents went to
               great lengths to attend graduation, they
               VERY proud of him and his accomplishments."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "And parents who had never heard
               their children talk about what they were
               doing at school were getting rave reviews
               and daily updates on the camp activities."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We invited the superintendent
               who was amazed at the children's creativity
               and the amount of writing they did.  We also
               invited state representatives who felt the
               excitement.  And we had parents who knew
               their kids were really excited about and
               successful with learning."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "On graduation day, it really
               felt like one big family celebration."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad laughs remembering how he helped
               Running wind entertain two of his
               younger relatives.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Remember, this was only a 3
               week camp.  All of this happened in 3 short
               weeks."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila shakes her head, and says, "Hard to
               believe we did all that in 3 weeks."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei 's heart is full!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody throws time out the door.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Were there any real surprises?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "It seemed like a magical
               time."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight nods.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "I was very impressed with the
               increase in global awareness."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I was blown away by the
               research that the students initiated!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "One of the other teachers
               committed this week about how important it
               was for these kids to see the volunteers
               from the college working at their jobs,
               volunteering, and going to class.  It
               helped them see they could go to college
               too."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "It was a time of being
               completely accepted."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon grins at Miss-K.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon  says, "it was a time of beeing
               equal"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Actually, I still get misty
               eyed about it. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon hands an embroidered hankie to Miss-K.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K giggles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "What plans do you have for the
               future of MariMUSE?”

[on Pei's TV]  Avalon has been assigned to work on grant
               writing and assessment so we can continue
               and can learn as we proceed into the future.
               This is a major commitment from the college
               to a very important project.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody boogies about the future.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "By the 15th of September, we
               should have 12 terminals installed at
               Longview for the students to use.  There
               will be a 9600 baud modem line to the
               college.  We know that the equipment will
               work with that speed.  We want something
               that will work right away, so that we can
               get the kids back on-line."
  
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K squeals in delight
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei applauds
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K will never get anything done once
               those terminals are in!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei rolls in the floor laughing
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon grins and grins and grins with
               excitement about the future.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K wrings her hands thinking of so much
               to do and so little time.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We have very strong support
               from the Longview, Phoenix College and the
               district offices to continue and build on
               this."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei looks at his watch and turns back to the
               camera.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Viewers...I am speechless!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K smiles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Except to say that I am deeply
               moved by these people and what they have
               accomplished this summer.  It is impossible
               to know all the consequences of how they and
               the experiences they have provided have
               touched the lives of a handful of children
               this summer.  Or how the technologies and
               techniques they are pioneering will effect
               lives in the future.  But my bet is that it’s
               enormous.”

[on Pei's TV]  From MediaMOO, this is Peiohpah saying "good
               night!"

In re-reading this interview I was struck by four ideas.

  1. The campers were engage in self-directed learning, because they were doing something with what they were learning. 
  2. Their enthusiasm had nothing to do with slick graphics and booming sound effects. It was text. 
  3. The campers were working hard, though they might not have called it work. Students who are engaged in this type of learning experience often call it, “Hard play.” 
  4. There seems to be a direct relationship between learner-engagement and parent-engagement. 
  5. Young Learners need to see adults model meaningful learning.

What if it happened before the Internet?

One of the challenges of writing a history of educational technology is that so much of it happened before the Internet. I have been surprised and disappointed at how much of it, that I barely remember, has never been reported on the now ubiquitous World Wide Web.

As a result, I’ve had to be resourceful in my research, and one of the tools that I’ve found myself going to again and again is Google’s Ngram viewer.  Here’s the situation.  I’m writing about happenings just after I left the NC Department of Public Instruction and discovering that my future is going to be in training and presenting, instead of Web design and development.  I believe that it was during this time when the term “Integrate technology’ was being adopted by ed tech advocates.  But I’m not sure.  How do I determine, on a timeline, the growing use and abuse of the term.

Click to Enlarge

Enter Ngram Viewer.  The default terms are Albert Einstein, Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein.  The viewer presents a line chart, illustrating the number of Google digitized books that mention the term by year, from 1500 to 2008.  The default shows the gradual growth of Frankenstein from just after the publishing of Mary Shelley’s book (1818), and then a more rapid rise of Sherlock Holmes starting in the final years of the 19th century.  Occurrences of Albert Einstein started in the second quarter of the 20th century and then Frankenstein, again, overtakes and surges well above, starting in the 1960s – possibly as a result of television’s re-running of Frankenstein movies released in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Entering the term, “integrate technology into the classroom,” into Ngram Viewer, I learn that, although the term started to appear in the late 1980s, its popular use started to rise in the mid-1990s, as we left the growing number of education technology conferences with our new mantra, “Integrate Technology! Integrate Technology!  Integrate Technology!”

Ommmmmm!

I Can’t Believe I’m Doing this Again!

One of the nice things about writing again, is that it doesn’t require a huge monitor.  Therefore, I am not chained to my upstairs office.  I can do it virtually anywhere.  :-)

In our 35 years of marriage, there have been only a few instances when my wife realized what a cleaver fellow I am – maybe three. I think one occurred yesterday.

As you may be aware, I am winding down my career as an educator.  My wife, concerned about identity security, has spent parts of the last couple of days looking for my social security number included in two large file cabinets of documents from 19 years of clients and jobs.  She commented, as we were walking up to North Hills yesterday, that I had accomplished a lot in my years as an independent and been part of some pretty exciting developments in education and technology.

Then she said, “You should write a book about all of this.”  

My reply was simple, the same that I’ve said to colleagues who have recently asked, “So now that you’re not traveling so much, are you going to write a new book?”

“No!”

“I’m through!  I’m tired!  ..and writing is really hard work for me…”

Yet, this morning, as I woke and lay in bed, my mind was going like it hasn’t in many months, seeming to have realized that in some deep and evil corner of my brain, the decision has been made.  I had an outline written out by 8:30 this morning – for a new book about the history of educational technology.

I really can’t believe that I’m Doing this Again!

Evaluating Information: The Wrong Way or the Best Way!

A couple of weeks ago, I delivered several presentations to a school district in the mid-west, one of the numerous August back-to-school gigs I’m doing fewer of each year. It was a rewarding day, more so than many. Keeping the attention of hundreds of teachers, just back from vacation, catching up with friends, weighing in the politics of new leadership, and desperately needing to be in their classrooms makes this a pretty tough gig. Not so on this day.

After a presentations about expanding our notions of literacy, a teacher came up asking, “But what’s to be done about students accessing all the information on the Internet that is simply not true.”

I reminded him that I had just made the point that it isn’t just the Internet we need to be worried about. Then I gave him one of my usual responses,

If I was still teaching history, and my students turned in a paper, they would be waiting for the challenge. It happens every time.  It’s part of the ongoing classroom conversation.

Placing a student’s paper on his desk and pointing to one paragraph, I ask, “How do you know that’s true?” If the student can’t answer the question, he’s going to lose points.  Even if the paragraph is true, he’s going to lose points.  My students would be responsible for their information’s appropriateness and the evidence that supports its appropriateness.

I wonder now if this response makes sense only to me, a figment of a private fantasy. So I thought I’d spend some bits trying to unpack this approach into something that better distinguishes a “new way” from an “old way.

The difference is in what we call attention to.  Our tendency, as teachers, is to address the problem by focusing on the mistakes, red-penning what’s not accurate, not reliable, not valid, doesn’t make sense.  It’s logical because whats not true is a fundamental problem to education.  We work to keep wrong information out of our textbooks, whiteboards, libraries and lectures.  We foster a learning environment where we can all take comfort in the assumption that the information is “true.”  

Our position, as teachers, is based on this assumption.

For the problems caused by the Internet, we create checklists to identify the breakage in information.

[ ] Is the author’s name included in the page & can he be contacted?

[ ] Are the author’s qualifications available?

[ ] Is the publisher an educational institution or other reputable organization?

[ ] Is the information fact or opinion?  Is there bias?

[ ] Is the URL domain among the trusted (edu, gov, org)?

If you can check all of the above, then you can use the information.  

We teach research and writing as a practice in avoiding problems,

..but not as a practice in solving them.

If we teach our learners to research and communicate in order to solve a problem, then we entirely change the approach.  We assess their work through conversations about the “best way” rather than the “wrong way,” and learners become active defenders rather than passive accepters of judgement.  The classroom conversation changes.  Students become more active, empowered and invested.  They become stakeholders in their learning, and ultimately, responsible to an authentic context/audience.

They own what they write, present or make, because they did the work and defended it.  They’re accountable.  

They own the learning.

 

Blog Worthy Topics

It’s one of those ideas that has occurred to me during those moments when a perfect example presents itself, but then loses itself in the stack of other ideas of similar birth and death.  But here, at the beginning of the school year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), it seems like a good time to suggest Blog Worthy Topics.  I’m thinking specifically of learner blogs, classrooms where both teacher-learner and student-learner are blogging, and sometimes looking for topics for writing, sharing, and engaging about.

So I want to suggest a Twitter hash tag, #bwtopic.  I just did a search of bwtopic in Twitter and it appears to be a unique string..  So, as you encounter a newspaper or magazine article, blog post, speech, YouTube or TED video, or whatever, that seems like an appetizing topic for learners to explore and build on, then Tweet it with the hash tag #bwtopic.

We can follow the suggestions via RSS.  Here is the feed (Atom) for a Twitter search for #bwtopic.

http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=bwtopic

I’ll be posting this feed on the Class Blogmeister Ning network, so that teachers there will have ready access to the latest topics. 

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Do We Trust the System Enough


I crave routine.  For the past week and a half, I have started my morning with a bowl of Cream of Wheat (It’s better than grits) followed by a mile walk to the local Starbucks, a bag (above) over my shoulder.  Unpacked, I have my mobile office — Acer Netbook with Ubuntu waiting for login, a wireless mouse, and a mug of Cafè Americano.  I’m writing a new book about network professional development — how learning is like gardening ;-)

Tim Holt recently wrote an interesting entry (Do I Trust the System Enough) in his blog, Intended Consequences.  In it, Tim describes his plans to write a book for administrators about a particular type of professional development.  He is planning to follow my example of self-publishing the book, hopeful that “..enough people purchase it so that (he) can put (his) kids through college.”  My experience with self-publishing has been almost entirely positive and fruitful.  I’ll never make a living at it, and I’m still working on my son’s tuition, but writing for yourself is a true pleasure.

His central question, however, is an interesting one — a “test of faith.”

I talk a lot about collaborative work. I talk a lot about sharing. I talk a lot about using professional networks to enhance learning and your professional work. So here is a perfect example of something that I can put “out there” for my PLN to critique, add to, subtract from, tell me I am full of it, or give me a pat on the back. I want folks to work with me through the process, to share, to be part of the product. Everyone would get credit.

There are a number of notable examples of books written publicly on wikis or in similar environments.  I’m not absolutely sure, but it seems that one or more of Lawrence Lessig’s books were written publicly, as was Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, through his blog.

But Tim is concerned.

..I just hesitate putting it out there because I keep thinking that it is going to be ripped-off before it is done and someone will take my idea and run with it.

I’ll say here that I have been working on a short (hopefully) book about networked professional development for a little over a week now, trying to take advantage of an almost three week stint with no traveling.  I explained a little more about the project in my comment on Tim’s blog.

But that asside, I also tell a story where several years ago someone (I do not recall who) sent me a package with a note asking if I was aware of this.  The note indicated the page number, in a paperback book enclosed in the packaging, for a chapter which was, word for word, an article I had written a few years earlier and published through a now defunct online journal.  I was furious and immediately shot off an e-mail to the publishers, who were in India.  There was never a reply to that e-mail. I quickly settled down, realizing that there was nothing I could do that would be worth the expense, and I forgot about the whole episode until now.

Things are different now, aren’t they? India is not nearly so far away.  I would probably have no more success with the publishers.  But today, I have a blog.  And many of the readers of my blog have their own blogs.  And we could fill the edu-blogosphere with our indignation about an instructional technology book that so blatantly plagiarizes the work of another.

I think that Tim has a valid concern.  He is talking about investing a lot of work into a project — A LOT OF WORK, and he has a right to be concerned about the property that will result.  But our community is so much more transparent today that if I were considering writing my book publicly, fear of theft probably wouldn’t stop me.

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So Little Time

You can tell when your hotel is in the shadier part of town when the safe is sitting right out in your room.

So many blog articles in the hopper, and so little time. 

I’m sitting in a hotel near the Philadelphia Airport, from where I’ll fly to Toronto later today.  But I’m hold up here working on an article that I’d thought was finished.  It’s always the case, you agree to write an article.  It seems like a no-brainer, you write it up, send it in, and it comes back to haunt you.

“Would you expand on this?” “More detail here?” “We’d love it if you could add this idea?”   I’m not really complaining, because it always — ALWAYS — makes it a better article. 

But time is precious!

..and deadlines are loom like a — well I’m currently reading a book about the French Revolution, so you can imagine my imagery!

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Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind
(2005)

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