Archive for the ‘communication’ category

What Is Our District Offering?

February 26, 2008

Well, the latest discussion happening over on Will Richardson’s blog in conjunction with my prior blog post got me to thinking. What does our local school district offer in terms of professional development for my kids’ teachers? Are they learning about new spheres of practice, learning, communication, participation… Here is the list of what is being offered between February and June.

– IEP Open Lab

– SMART Boards for Beginners (X3)

– Social Emotional Learning Building Team Training

– Best Children’s Literature in the Classroom

– Adult CPR

– First Aid for Coaches

– Music: the Orff Express

– Web Portal Pages

– ESOL Inservice

– Para Support Group

– Implementing the District Lesson Plan Format (That sounds invigorating!)

– IEP Open Lab

– Excel Basics

– Mandarin Training Report Tool

– Building a Caring School Climate through Service Learning

– the Art of VideoStreaming

– Motivating hart to Reach, Uninterested, and Disruptive Students

– Building Circles of Support for Autistic students

– What Talented Readers Need

– Introduction to Computer Animation Basics (Art teachers only)

help.jpgAll of these topics have merit, of course. They are all important. But most are discipline specific and don’t have a wider audience appeal or relevancy. There are few general sessions that could benefit any and all teachers. But what I want to stress is that there are NO sessions dealing with Web 2.0 or any of its related technologies and certainly nothing on empowering teachers to connect, learn, contribute, participate… in larger communities of practice. So, do teachers know they can participate in such new forms of learning networks? Well, they are not learning about the possibilities in our district. So, I think Will Richardson’s estimate…

“But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don’t know that they can have this network.”

…is probably on target.

For those many teachers who can’t seem to make these after-school PD sessions for some very valid reasons (children, other jobs, other commitments or responsibilities, nothing relevant offered, no follow-up support,…), new on-line learning/networking opportunities would seem to make a great deal of sense. Do we just need to sit back and be patient in this regard? Will it come in good time… or too late?

Kitchen Conferences

February 25, 2008

So, I wanted to attend a few sessions held this weekend at Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation. Problem: I am at home with my two kids, activities, lunches, dishes… you know – the stuff that real life is made up of. Solution: UStream in the kitchen! I set up my laptop on the kitchen counter where I could view and participate in the sessions, and presto! The only problem was dirty or wet hands. They are not the keyboard’s best friend. And, even if I could not attend live, sessions and backchannel chats are archived.

But, I think that this type of professional development is so valuable in our busy lives. Many teachers can’t seem to find the time for professional development. Both asynchronous and in this case, synchronous (UStream, TalkShoe, Elluminate…), opportunities have really grown over the last few years. They have helped me out tremendously. However, so far, they have not really taken off in the more “scholarly” educational conference venus like SITE, AERA, NCTE, NCTM, CUE and the like. Granted, some do have a few webcast sessions, but little to no opportunity to “participate”. Of course, things like membership and dues play more of a role here, but how long are we these “fences” to professional development going to stay up in this web 2.0, connected, collaborative world? How much do such fences contribute to NOT attending?

alone.jpgFinally, those not involved in these current conversations are probably not even aware of these types of opportunities. After all, I only found out about them from reading a few select blog posts and from a few tweets that came in on folks that I follow. What about those folks who don’t have developing borderless 2.0 networks? All the more reason to hop on board, I’d say. Teachers NEED to know about these opportunities with such limitations on time, finances, and schedule.

And, just as I am writing this, Will Richardson tweeted a new post that fits like a glove here! My point exactly. No RSS? No Twitter? No Network? Then, you are most likely not to be in the “know”. Will writes:

“But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don’t know that they can have a network….The passionate learning network of which I am a part is an amazing and important part of my life. The fact that most teachers still have no idea that is possible is distressing on one hand, motivating on the other.”

I couldn’t agree more. Teachers need time to talk, share, network,… and that time is often not going to be during the school day when their students are there. But, sadly, I think, as Will writes, that most are not really aware other options. My graduate students are not aware of such options and are so excited to be learning about them in class… one class in their entire degree program. Hopefully I can get some of them to explore these “kitchen conferences” and realize that their professional world and lifeline is not contained in the walls of their school or classroom. 🙂

Twitter for Us Old Folks?

February 21, 2008

Stumbled across an article in the NY Times titled, “If You Can’t Let Go, Twitter“. It it, the writer describes her attempt to connect with her 3 daughters (digital natives, right) via Twitter. Let’s just say, it didn’t work. After trying a number of tactics, including giving away money, she consults with a Walter J. Carl, an assistant professor of communications studies at Northeastern University, who said he wasn’t surprised. He is quoted as explaining the problem in the following way:

“You want to use these tools to keep up on others, in a good way, of course, and to let them keep up on you,” said Professor Carl, whose research focuses on social media. “But their perception is it’s surveillance.” One of the main reasons people embrace social media — Facebook, for instance — is to create identities for themselves and control other people’s perceptions of them.”

And then…

“Maybe Twitter isn’t the right tool for that job,” he said. “The people who I see using it are an older demographic, people in marketing or P.R. or advertising, who use it for work, to present themselves as particular types of people. They’ll twitter, ‘I’m traveling,’ or ‘I’m going to interesting restaurants.’ They’re using it to do identity work.”

Isn’t it interesting how this new communication tool that so many adults are using is not considered all that useful with kids… that they are more concerned with “creating identities for themselves and control other people’s perceptions of them”, as happens on Facebook and MySpace. But here’s my question: kids to love to IM and text. They thrive on social networking. One would think, in combination with social networking services, that a tool like Twitter would be “phat“. Huh!

In this new age of information glut/data smog, the importance of being information literate has grown exponentially. How do we reconcile this generation’s desire to “control other people’s perception of them”? Seem’s natural, for sure. But is the digital realm blurring the line between fact and fiction in a way that we must better address in education? Are students more accepting of blurred realities? And, if so, how does this impact one’s ability to value the truth and seek it out?

Ch. 7 – “Now….. This”

February 16, 2008

Continuing on with my reading – and thinking/blogging – about Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, chapter 7 continues to lay out the argument that the rapid-moving format of our television culture is duping us all into being satisfied with shallow, fragmented, and decontextualized ways of “being informed”. Postman attacks American news in particular in this chapter – news as pure entertainment, delivered in tantalizing disconnected chunks, interspersed with commercials, music, and other eye candy. I agree wholeheartedly. That is television. However, he does make a few points that really made me stop and think hard about our digital “natives” and their proclivity toward multitasking, remixing, ubiquitous socialization tools, mashups, and other schizophrenic-like behaviors.

The result, Postman writes, is that “Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the Western world.” He goes on to write:

“What is happening here is that television is altering the meaning of ‘being informed’ by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation… misleading, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing.”

and…

“In presenting news to us packaged as vaudeville, television induces other media to do the same, so that the total information environment begins to mirror television.”

So, this all got me to thinking about our “digital natives” and us, those adults who have embraced new ways of expression and communication. I think that in this new world of data smog, info glut, and info garbage, it has become even more critical than ever to help our students learn deeply, to see information transformed into knowledge that is deeply connected, grounded, and complete. I am not so sure that the emphasis on multi-tasking, mashups, remixes, and the like qualifies here. Expressive, it is. But, are we becoming satisfied with shallow learning wrapped up in impressive packaging? Our national obsession over testing has certainly railroaded any movement toward depth over breadth. However, I think more than ever before, we must help our students become well-informed, be highly skilled at navigating through the data smog, and produce learning artifacts that demonstrate a deep understanding and mastery of knowledge. We have more tools than ever to gain a broader cultural understanding of ourselves and of the world – past and present. Lets not let these tools trivialize it. Lets help students focus on a task and exhaust it. Lets not, as Postman writes, “let the information environment mirror television.” Is a college-level course taught on YouTube or a course taught over the cell phone head in this direction? Yeah… the digital natives love this stuff. And as a tech geek, I think it is all quite amazing. Does something of value get lost along the way? Are we heading in the direction of learning as a mirror of television?

What do you think?

Need Information Anonymous?

February 12, 2008

squirrel2.jpgDo you ever feel like you just have to keep up with all of the information out there… and are drowning? I feel like that today after spending about 2 hours on things that were not a priority yet were calling to me.
The first step to admitting information addiction is to admit that you have a problem. Here are the first 2 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps a la 2.0!

1. We admitted we were powerless over the amount of information—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

So, what is that power? How does one tame the beast in us that feels like we must be connected to a hundred zillion other folks using every possible tool out there – that we can’t miss one blog post, article, tweet, wiki update, ning contact, e-mail, IM, Skype call, UStream broadcast, slideshow, video…. for fear of being “left behind”… Alone. Uninformed. Ignorant. Does your RSS reader make you feel ashamed for not giving it the attention it deserves? Can you not look it in the eye and say “I love you.”?

Where is the time for deep reflection, peace, quiet,… Has your insatiable “need” for connectivity and information robbed you of something quite valuable? Are you unable or unwilling to unplug when necessary? Or, if you do unplug, do you feel the beast gnawing at you?

Do you dare silence the twittering birds? Or, is the tradeoff worth it. Has the world changed in such a way that we are required now to live this way?

Please share either your “Power” or your need to find that “Power”. Perhaps we can help each other here.

Enough With the Silly Pencil Argument!

February 5, 2008

pencil.jpgOkay, I understand the basic premise of the pencil argument (and here). But, come on now… this is far from an equal analogy! Here is what Doug Johnson had to say about the potential risks that pencils bring into the classroom in the February 2006 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology. It was referenced in Wesley Freyer’s latest post over on his Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog.:

1. A student might use a pencil to poke out the eye of another student.
2. A student might write a dirty word or, worse yet, a threatening note to another student, with a pencil.
3. One student might have a mechanical pencil, making those with wooden ones feel bad.
4. The pencil might get stolen.
5. Pencils break and need repairing all the time.
6. Kids who have pencils might doodle instead of working on their assignments or listening to the teacher.

Now, again, I understand the rationale behind this argument, but let’s compare:

1. Only psychopathic students would gouge out another’s eye… with anything. However, teachers have been known to be violent pencil wielders. Imagine what they could be capable of with an iPod in their hands!

2. A written insult or profanity is seen only by the one who holds the written note. We all fully understand the far-reaching implications of digital bullying!

3. One simply cannot compare pencil-envy with things of high value that create classes of students and do create envy (high-fashion clothing, shoes, and yes… electronics!)

4. In fact, pencils do get stolen all the time. I have rarely seen a student fall to pieces over it. However, if it were a $250 pencil, I could see why that could happen.

5. Pencils break. So you sharpen them again. The “repair” is done in seconds. Electronics break and are repaired with greater cost, time, and learning interruption/disruption.

6. I would much rather have a student doodle with his or her pencil than be consumed with the vast array of on-line distraction. And, most other classmates don’t usually get distracted by one student’s doodling. Not so with a laptop or other electronic device.

So, if we are to present a compelling rationale for issues surrounding freedom to learn and teaching/learning innovation, we at least need to bring valid and sound arguments to the table. To do otherwise only serves to make light of real and pressing concerns of many stakeholders. If a pencil is the equivalent of any other learning device, then I say, let’s stick with the pencils. They are cheaper, easily replaceable, quite reliable, disposable, efficient, highly portable, facilitate collaboration and sharing of information, they have excellent battery life – heck, they don’t even have lead in them anymore, making them environmentally friendly to boot!

But, if there is a significant difference here (and I would agree that there is), then we had better not be making such silly comparisons. Folks might just want to settle for the pencil, then.

Note:
Freyer’s blog post is otherwise right on the mark.

Mesmerized with Twittervision

February 3, 2008

Okay, I don’t know if you have already played with Twittervision or not. It has been around for a while, but , I just discovered it the other day and sat there staring at the screen for quite a while, pretty amazed. It allows you to see twitter posts as they are happening, but within a globe or map view. You also have the option to allow it to track your own tweets. Here are a few clips of what it does. First, the 3-D version:

And there is also this 2-D view of the same thing:

I am not sure what the educational value of it is – or if there is one. If you have any thoughts, please share!