Mrs. Who?

February 3, 2007

There are people in this world who enter our lives for a reason and if you ever connect with my new friend Ms. Durff consider yourself blessed. She is a woman of faith, integrity and an unending sense of wonder. In my life, people like this have typically climbed a scaffold of unfortunate, even tragically unforeseen events and come out on top. These are the people who defy the odds. These people are my heroes. No fanfare exists to elevate them to fame, and most never make a movie deal or publish a compelling biography. Why? Because they are simply doing what they do best, helping others, sharing and moving on. Living in the past is the last thing they would consider because they embody selflessness. Mrs. Durff works in a PreK through 12 private Christian school as a librarian and jack of all trades. She is taking her students places they never dreamed of going and it’s all virtual. She is honing her skills and planning new ways to engage learners in reading and writing. Her passion for students, preparing them for the new world is a beacon to others.

I met her through the webcastacademy.net. We are both interns working on webcasting skills that will enable us to host streamed real-time conferences for almost no cost. It’s an exciting concept, like live radio, with numerous possibilities for application in educational settings. The key to the webcastacademy.net is social networking. If you choose to expand your social network, you too will meet people like Mrs. Durff who will inspire you to keep searching for new horizons.

For all the bad press the Internet gets for leading people astray, I am here to tell you that the flip side is even more powerful. I believe that most people are inherently good. My experience has proved this to me. Social networking in your areas of interest or expertise will rekindle your passion for learning. So if you haven’t entered into the conversation by posting on a blog, if you haven’t joined on on-line discussion group on your favorite topic, history, books, knitting, car racing, then you are missing out on connecting with people who will reaffirm your purpose for living. Keep the wonder in your life. Your students/children will feel it.

Compared to Alabama …

February 2, 2007

In the south, we are all familiar with the college rivalries that dictate our moods and social agendas. Alabama’s Crimson Tide compared to rivals Ga Tech and or UGA. Who is the best? Naturally this kind of competition runs deep and seeps down into the elementary school levels as well. It’s not all about football; who has the best teachers, Alabama or Georgia?

It just so happens that Alabama may have the advantage when it comes to teacher collaboration. They have been actively involved in promoting teacher conferencing using Elluminate services. They started small and then the network of teachers involved in on-line conferencing expanded exponentially. Even teachers who never envisioned themselves wearing headphones and using a mic are finding this form of collaboration an exhilarating natural fit. In fact the this project is so substantial that it has become an ongoing part of the teacher-professional development program. Teachers participate and earn SDU’s for time well spent.

Their results have been notable. Explore the best practice center and you will only begin to scratch the surface of their achievements. This is a good example of social networking on the professional level. It works, and it works well.

Do you think something like this might work in GA? For four consecutive months on the third Wednesday of the month in February from 3-4 PM, Heidi Holcomb, 21st C. Project Manager and Kathy Shields, Kindergarten 21st C. Classroom Teacher will host an experimental teacher-focus group consisting of 3-5 teachers from several schools. We have 50 seats available. The teachers will be asked to make a commitment to the four meetings and in exchange they will be able to borrow headsets/mics and their computers will be all set up and ready to go so they can take part in the on-line conference with minimal effort. What else do they get? It’s a unique opportunity to learn a new cutting edge skill and to be part of a pioneering group sharing best and worst practices in the ed-tech forum as well as helping to develop a viable 21st C. teaching model that can be replicated successfully in schools. Many people can point to tech gurus and superstars but have you ever seen a teacher whose best practices in ed-tech make sense for the majority?

If you are a teacher or Tech Specialist and you would like to join this experimental group please contact Kathy Shields, [email protected] Tech Specialists/Coordinators may want to set up several teachers in their own schools. If Alabama can do it… Teachers from Alabama or elsewhere are welcome to join the conversation and let us know what you’ve been learning in this process. Just contact Kathy and you will receive the link and instructions you’ll need to get into the conference.

The Four Principles of Wikinomics

January 25, 2007

Openness, peering, sharing and acting globally are the four principles of wikinomics. So what is wikinomics and how will it impact education? In our free market economy where the ability to change and grow is imperative to longevity, corporations find themselves reinventing the rules of business to survive the flat world created by a global Internet. Don Tapscott’s book Wikinomics, provides an comprehensive view of the changing nature of business. The sub title reads, “How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything”. It got me thinking about the implications wikinomics has for education. How will education cope with new demands business will surely have for our students when they enter the work force and what can we do to prepare students for success?

For starters let’s put the principle- openness to the litmus test. We can agree that education has made great strides within the educational community, nationally as well as globally on this point. The impetus to create public reservoirs of knowledge is growing. But what is peering and is it a principle we can apply to education? In peering, the individual is valued based on their ability to contribute to the greater good. Detractors often equate this principle to socialism but in reality it is something much different. It has more to do with removing barriers and letting ideas form in a more natural way through collaboration. What might this look like inside the classroom? At the elementary levels how willing are teachers to relinquish the reins and allow students to drive their own education? Can this be meshed with standards? This idea has taken root and is evolving in the field of education. Teachers are being taught to guide, facilitate and support learning. Collaborative teams replace individual projects and students are encouraged to discover, share and present understanding in many different ways. Will this be enough to prepare our students for the work force? What more can we do? Next let us examine the third principle, sharing. Traditional wisdom holds that you protect your own, hold your cards close to the vest, and maintain company secrets. In sharing, all that goes out the window.

A company, school or individual will have to learn how to be vulnerable in order to reap the benefits of the new mass collaborative environment. Who will take the lead to create this willingness to allow change to happen with very little control over the outcome? It sounds like a free fall without a guaranteed parachute unless you have faith in the power of mass collaboration. How will schools, hemmed in by the governmental autocracy manage to cross historic state and national barriers to get consensus about how best to develop education that will serve the needs of our ‘modern’ students? Overcoming fear of change and the desire to cling to the past may be the greatest challenge educators face in this century. Gradually, it will become an imperative to change. It may not even be that gradual. As an educator, do you really relish the idea of being dragged kicking and screaming into the future? Be forewarned, the future is already here. Why fight it? A paradigm shift in thinking and responding to change as a positive is absolutely essential.

Finally,students already know this deep down. Each year they become more social, more worldly, more interconnected to one another. They have a global nature. It’s a phenomenon that shoudn’t escape our notice. They are not just unruly and uncontrollable, they are collaborating. Collaboration is a very relevant activity. It’s what they do best. Parachute or no, students are prepared to jump. On the way down, they will collaborate to find a solution to their problems. Are you prepared to jump?

A Whole New Mind-Make room for the RIGHT brain

January 21, 2007

I recently attended a webcast from education bridges with David Warlick and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Check out their blogs listed in the right hand column of this page. The conversation was streamed as part of a weekly webcast by the Women of Web 2.0. A social networking group started by four women. Throughout the streaming conversation those of us who were on the periphery chatted back and forth asking questions of the speakers and sharing with one another. All of the participants were educators from elementary through college level. One of the suggestions lobbed to the crowd was a book by the title, A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. I stopped in Borders the next day and found a copy. Plan to be amazed and inspired. Daniel Pink, former presidential speech writer, is also excellent at putting visionary thoughts into words. See for yourself. According to the author, the right-brained people will rule the future! Find out how you can help your kids sharpen their 21st Century right brain-thinking skills.

What is a webcast? Remember, wikiedia has the answer!

Whatis? What is it?

January 21, 2007

Have you ever been baffled by verbiage that has you gasping for meaning after the first word? For most people this happens whenever they leap into an unfamiliar field of expertise. For example if you overheard a conversation about blocking you might think football but if the next word was template then confusion would set in, all because you have no prior experience to help you construct meaning from these words. As it turns out blocking and templates are terms used by quilters. You may have no desire to become a quilter but what about a desire to become technologically literate? Surely it bothers you when you feel like the world is passing you by. Instead of saying, “Stop the world, I want to get off.”, why not make a  resolution to help the world keep spinning? Here is a great resource to use. Whatis.com is the leading IT encyclopedia and learning center.

How have you integrated technology today?

January 9, 2007

What woke you up this morning? Chances are it was technology. How did you find your way around the bathroom in the dark? Chances are you used a little technology to shed some light on the problem. All day, everyday without making a concerted effort to integrate technology into our lives we succeed. Why is it such an effort in schools? If you think for a moment most of our students use more technology at home than they do at school. From the minute they hop on the old yellow bus which whisks parents back to their own childhood, to the stacks of copies and worksheets, it’s difficult to see any dramatic changes in the last 20 years. When are those buses going to get seat belts anyway? The point is that even with our laptops and computer carts and a smattering of Promethean boards a child’s day is anything but digital. Despite the apparent lack of digital interface between students and classwork they manage quite well. What does this say about the real need for technology in education?

Is the education world like a bubble of protection surrounding students and buffering them from the outside world? Much consideration goes into the schools responsibility for protecting students on every level. The advent of technology in the classroom simply raised the threat level to orange. Sometimes fear of the unknown squash solutions and new to old problems. Next time you hear you cell phone ring or the Outlook reminder tone, consider the children. Is it enough that schools offer them a place to learn and grow in a controlled environment or is something missing that would make school less retro and more reflective of society?

What does society look like? Have you integrated technology today. Have your children? Did you train for weeks to become proficient on the cell phone or expert emailers? Can you imagine life without your laptop? It’s a fast paced world you live in and your ability to adapt and change is critical to your welfare. If these skills are not being taught in schools then the responsibility falls squarely on the parents. Check out the competition. The One Laptop per Child. Nicholas Negroponte of MIT is the project chairman. The goal is to reach children in the third world. It raises the bar for the rest of us!

Check out this recent post from www.downloadsquad.com

Become an advocate for education.

January 4, 2007

Much like the health clubs offering excellent incentives to get fit, the Internet offers many educational incentives to improve your brain. The problem is not how to start but where to begin and how to remain focused. Most people are creatures of habit. Do you regularly listen to certain radio shows, TV programs and read certain columns in the paper. Over time you come to trust and accept the content from specific sources for the informational or entertainment value. Remember the buzz surrounding the Drudge Report? It is an alternative news source supplying people with more than just the headlines. Offering discussion, insights, opinions and links, the public became keenly aware of it’s power when Drudge was the first to break the Monica Lewinsky story. This kind of site changes people’s behavior. If you have any interest in news and politics the Drudge Report is your quick reference news source. The web enables us to develop new habits and to become better informed, better consumers and better communicators.

The purpose of this blog is to keep you informed about educational trends. Education, like our government is of the people, by the people, for the people. You drive it with your demands and you fuel it with your taxes. That should be a strong incentive for you to become an educated educational consumer. Whether you are a teacher or a parent your main concern is how provide the very best education for your children. In this time of sweeping changes in educational technology, being well informed will make you a better advocate for your students. Some experts are predicting that proprietary software (the programs that live on your computer’s hard drive, like word) will be history in 5 years and that schools will relay on web based – open source solutions. These solutions are summed up best by the latest educational buzz word, web 2.0. Web 2.0 refers to the vast array of free web based programs available to any web users. It’s truly difficult to imagine how some or all of these goodies might be used to create safe virtual classroom for our kids. The open classroom exists as a concept for now. Can schools adopt this out-of-the-box approach and if so how will they accomplish it? What role will you play? Become an advocate for education.

How much is your click stream worth?

December 27, 2006
“Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.” Jimmy Buffett

Search

by John Battelle takes a critical look at the evolution of the search. This insiders guide to the ubiquitous Google begs users to examine the motives for Google’s insidious growth.

The Search by John Battelle

The Search reads like a textbook for a Computer Engineering ethics course. That aside, it is possible to examine a chapter at a time without relaying too heavily on dictionary.com. Perhaps the most important revelation can be summed up in two words; click stream. From a marketing standpoint your click stream is priceless. The sooner businesses can develop a way to collect, maintain and apply data from all of your queries the more cost effective and direct marketing will become. In other words your searches a.k.a. click stream create your personal online identity.

Someone is following your every move and that someone is Google. So what’s the big deal? Google has successfully defended their data from all but the Patriot Act. They even prevented the US government from obtaining click stream data which would have been used to identify criminals other that terrorists. In a way you can feel safe. You click stream is in the Google vault. Do you know who guards the vault? Do you have any idea how powerful an entity can become with this kind of leverage? The Search does not point fingers. Battelle raises consciousness regarding internet ethics, information monopolies and corporate trust issues. Can you trust big business? Can Google prove to be more ethical than other big businesses? We all love to search. We all love the instant gratification we get from seeking the oracle’s wisdom. Can this love affair continue? I would like to think so but remember, big brother is watching.

A Standout Australian Librarian

December 18, 2006

Judy O’Connel earned the Best Newcomer award at the EduBlogger Awards. Her blog is called, Hey Jude.  Like any good blog it leads you to treasures she has uncovered in her quest to discover the keys to success in the 21st Century.  She is a librarian!  Scroll down to the second half of her December 13 post.  There you will meet Marco Torres.  He teaches high school students. His tag line is inspiring.  It says, “Stay Curious – Stay Hungry – Be Creative”.  Stay curious.  How many of us lose interest in having in making own our discoveries?  Follow the trail of curious educators. You are sure to learn a thing or two along the way.

Weblogg-ed and loving it!

December 17, 2006

Backed up by 20 + years as an innovative educator, Will Richardson attempts to contruct a skeletal model of what education might look like if educational technology was the very bone of this vital animal, education . Will is by his own perscription an authentic educational blogger. The key to understanding Will’s perspective is understanding the importance he places on structure. Structure maintains it’s integrity by adhering to standards. Mr. Richardon is keen on maintaining educational blogger integrity. In his mind quality and integrity are an ideal couple. One without the other would be an anachronism. He is well known in academic circles as the ‘blog evangelist’. How does he come to be revered as an expert in this educational medium? It all boils down to personal experience in the classroom, collaboration with other ed tech enthusiasts and a desire to master the subject of blogging.

I recently commented on one of his recent posts. The topic had to do with defining the standards for educational blogging. My retort elicted an email response from Will. At first I thought it must be some kind of automated ‘thank you for posting’ responder. To my surprise I opened the email and was met with a true response. He addressed my key points and thanked me for sharing my views. I think blogging should create a meaningful dialogue. It should stimulate converstation. Check Will Richardson’s blog and see if you are moved to make an impassioned comment on one of his posts. He will welcome the discussion.