Archive for the ‘community’ category

Engaged Learning

March 19, 2008

Funny how it is so much more interesting, exciting, invigorating, meaningful, memorable, personal, enjoyable, powerful, …. when we participate.

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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?

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!

Ch. 5 – The Peek-a-Boo World

January 29, 2008

(Continuing on with by book club of 1…)

Today, I read a new post by Will Richardson on the topic of Twitter and it resounded so strongly with me (you can read my comments there) because I had just finished reading this fifth chapter of Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and found incredible parallels between the influence of the telegraph, photograph, and television to the newer forms of information technology in this last decade . Will is wrestling with the impact of Twitter on his world, and how folks are restricted to communicating in 140 characters or less and others following up to 600 or more tweeters out there. Wow – have we ever changed from information moving as fast as physical people could carry it to seconds after the “post” or “publish” command has been invoked. Postman introduces the idea that this has produced “context free” information which holds merit simply because it is novel, interesting, our curious, “elevating irrelevance to the status of news”. I don’t think I am alone in being annoyed with the state of news in the US these days. In the morning I get 5 minutes or less of shallow news bytes and then 55 more minutes of the best macaroni and cheese recipes, 5 tips to firmer thighs, and where in the world is Matt Lauer. There is now such an glut of irrelevant information out there that instead of finding productive ways of taking action locally in our own communities, we struggle to stay afloat in the endless sea of information that seems important, but so disconnected that in the end we can’t find ways to take action on any of it. The idea of neighborhood has been replaced with “global neighborhood” – one that Postman defines as “… a neighborhood of strangers and pointless quantity; a world of fragments and discontinuities.”

Although Postman’s thinking evolves into a criticism of the television world, I find meaningful connections to newer worlds as well. To quote Postman once again,

“Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation… Knowing the facts took on a new meaning, for it did not imply that one understood implications, backgrounds, or connections. Telegraphic discourse permitted no time for historical perspectives and gave no priority to the qualitative. To the telegraph, intelligence meant knowing lots of things, not knowing about them.”

As a teacher, I am compelled to help my students make sense out of both the information at their fingertips as well as the impact that the information medium has on his or her understanding and view of the world. I am challenged in new ways to help my students use new information tools in powerful and meaningful ways that do not sacrifice depth and complexity for breadth and glitz. How are we making sense of our world with the presence of such tools and glut of information? Are we struggling just to RSS the headlines and keep up the Jonses… I mean the Twitters? Do we need to be up on every RSSd headline or blog post? Or, are we tackling meaningful projects that positively impact our own communities based on meaningful and powerful uses of information. Are we contributing at all, or have we become so consumed with feeding on information that we have forgotten about our real neighbors and communities? Do we now live so much in Facebook or MySpace that the idea of community service is almost crazy? I mean, I have followers… I have an obligation here to satisfy them and their desire to know what I am doing every moment of the day. (sorry… this is getting a tad sarcastic)

Wow… this is making me think about a great deal. I have no answers at this point as I struggle with all of this. But, I am struggling, reading, and reflecting…, and that is good. What do you think about all of this?