Friday, July 30, 2010

2010 Reform Symposium

The 2010 Reform Symposium starts today. Many exciting presenters on today's schedule including George Couros, Steve Hargadon, Mary Beth Hertz, Kevin Jarrett, and Sue Waters. There will also be a panel on Effective Leadership featuring moderator Lisa Dabbs along with Patrick Larkin, John Carver, and Janet Avery.

I'm happy to have been asked to present today. I'll be stepping to the plate at 10PM EST to offer what's billed as a keynote, but I hope will turn into more of a conversation:
Keynote: What We Do
Description: A view from the classroom and a conversation about what 21C learning looks like on the ground level. There will be many examples of the practical and everyday use of Twitter, Jing, Wave, Blogs, Wikis, and more as used by students and teachers alike as well as a look at how to transform the physical space of the classroom into a 21C learning environment conducive to collaboration, mobile computing, and tech-integrated differentiated instruction.
Date & Times: Fri. July 30th 7pm-8pm LA/ 10pm NYC/ 3am, Sat. 7/31, London/ 4am, Sat. Paris/ 12noon, Sat., Sydney/ 11am, Sat., Tokyo
Click here for more time zones!

Click here to see today's schedule, and see you there!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rethinking Leadership

Join Will Richardson and I this evening at 8PM EST for the weekly Ed Open Mic!
On the heels of last week's discussion on redefining teaching, tonight's topic is: "Rethinking Leadership". Join in the conversation -- it's sure to be lively this eve! Click here to enter the Elluminate room at 8 EDT.
Ed Open Mic: No talking heads... just you talking.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Textbook or Not to Textbook?

Nice conversation today on #edchat got me thinking about what (if any) textbooks teachers are deciding on for this year.

Are you using what's been your standard for a while? Looking for online alternatives? Are you mixing it up? Nixing textbooks altogether?

Comment away, I'd love to hear what's going on in your mind.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tonight at 8PM EST: Ed Open Mic -- "Redefining the Profession"

Join Will Richardson and I tonight at 8PM EST for this week's Ed Open Mic!

Tonight's topic will be "Redefining the Profession". We'll be talking about how the teaching profession has changed and is changing, and we'll be asking the question: "What can/should/must a teacher do to help redefine both her or his practice in the classroom as well as to redefine the teaching profession at-large in the digital age?"

Bring your big thinking hats and join us in our Elluminate room at 8PM EST. No talking heads, just you talking. 

Ed Open Mic Elluminate room:
Hashtag #edopenmic on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ed Open Mic: Thurs 8PM EST

Sorry I haven't been posting lately. Been insanely busy using what hours the dog days of summer offer me to write a novel. Kid-sitting every day (which means a lot of field-tripping) all day and pouring sweat over a laptop in a public library carrel writing the book every evening all evening.

I need to finish this thing as I've got just a bit of writing time available; thus efforts at blogging have waned and I figure they will continue to be relatively slack until school picks up again. Will keep you posted.

In the meantime, we have another Ed Open Mic session scheduled for this Thursday at 8PM EST and we're looking for great topics. Do comment here and tell us what you'd like to chat about.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Change at the Grassroots: Open Mic Tonight in Elluminate

Join Will Richardson and I this evening online for an Ed Open Mic tonight at 7 EDT. Here's the link to the Elluminate room where we'll be chatting. The hashtag is #edopenmic

This evening's discussion will be on the theme "Change at the Grassroots". We'll be talking about how teachers can effect 21C change in their own classrooms and beyond.

No talking heads... just you talking.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Interview at ThinkSocial

Been out in the wilderness for a spell and have come back with some exciting news about a project we're about to embark on. I'll be posting info soon.

In the meantime... had a little Q&A with the Paley Center's ThinkSocial project recently. Here's a link to the interview.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Cost Measured in Lives: Responding to John Spencer

John Spencer is one of the best education bloggers on the planet. It is therefore with great delight that I read him taking on the perils of paperless classrooms in a blogpost a few days back. I'm going to quote a bit of it in full because I think we need to get this in front of our eyes.

For those of you who don't know John's work, he's (among other things) the writer of a blog called 'Adventures in Pencil Integration' which basically tells the fictional (yet familiar) story of a late-19th century teacher's struggles with new technology. In this scene, the teacher -- Tom Johnson -- is in a conversation about whether a paperless future is possible.
I'm sitting with Mr. Brown and mention, "I hate this march toward industry.  For all my pencil advocacy, I want to conserve paper.  I want a more sustainable way of life. I wonder if the answer is found in the telegraph.  Perhaps information can go paperless."

"We have that already.  It's called vocal chords."

"Seriously Brown, I'd like to believe that in a paper-free world, where all things are electrical, we would reach the point of technological progress that we can evade ecological disaster. I'd like to think that the pencil is just a step toward something better."

"I'd like to believe in leprechauns, but I'm skeptical of them as well," he responds.

"Factories are more efficient and farms are more effecient and so we would think that this would lead to conservation.  But it doesn't.  We're at the dawn of an environmental disaster.  Replace the methane pollution of horses with horseless carriages. But we've just created a new problem. Yes, the automobile will be more efficient if we keep our same short-distance habits.  But we won't. So, we go paper-free, right.  Sounds good.  But then we switch from a renewable source of trees to coal and oil, which is essentially what's running our city.  People die each year so that you can brew your coffee electronically."

"So, what does that mean for students?" 

"It means that we can't propel a myth that the medium we choose is a free one.  There's always a cost.  A cost on our ecology and a cost on our relationships.  It's never neutral.  So, we traded in slates for paper.  Someday we'll trade it in for an electric alternative. The cost isn't always measured in dollars. It's often measured in lives." 
On the ecological front, I've been asked about this several times over the years and this is how my answer has developed: we are living in an era where the birth of one mode of communication is slowly eschewing the former. This is and will continue to cause redundancies so long as the former method is used with the frequency with which it used to be used in its prime.

In terms of schools, one may argue: "True, but paperlessness is a dream -- because it'll be a long time before every schoolkid has a computer and access to the Internet."

My reply: "But it will happen. The 'computer' may not look like what you or I currently think a computer looks like; but there is going to be a point in the future where every single school (and with deference to my international readers, I'll say 'every single school in the United States') will provide Internet access to students, all of whom will have devices with which to connect 1:1. This isn't science fiction. I just had a conversation with a woman who has a plan to get access to every schoolkid in Colorado for a relatively paltry $150 million; you have any idea how many individuals could afford to drop that kind of change in the name of philanthropy and education? Yes, it will take time, it will take money, it will take guts; but it will happen."

There is an enormous opportunity to overhaul the way we allocate funds in education. And primary to this is the way that teachers can use the free and non-profit resources of the Web to disengage from the world of Big Publishing that has existed in the form of paper textbooks in our classrooms since the early days of public education. Get rid of textbooks and you do three things: you eliminate all of the energy consumption and waste that goes into the making of textbooks; you take the filter of textbook editors out of the classroom and you let students and teachers engage directly with primary sources via the Library of Congress, United Nations, New York Public Library, etc; and you sort of force all those very intelligent folks who used to work in the textbook publishing industry to change careers and therefore perhaps approach things in a different way.

Continued use of paper and analog technologies -- that is the continued use of those technologies in ways that conform to their usage at the height of the pre-Digital paradigm -- will produce a surplus of waste. Is it true that electronics and computers are producing and will produce more waste via non-recyclable materials, poor energy usage, and throw-away consumable design? Yes, absolutely. But to say that the coupling of this waste being produced by a Digital revolution (which, by the way has already happened and isn't going away -- ask the music and newspaper industries) with the waste produced by schools in paper-form primarily as redundant information like daily bulletins, calendars, homework/classwork sheets, and tests (especially of the standardized mega-booklet form) is just a cycle bound to bring us to our knees (John's not necessarily implying this, but I've had that argument levied at me) is perhaps shortsighted as to the change the Digital revolution has already had on shifting our idea of what we 'need' and what we do with what we 'need' after we don't 'need' it -- and this will continue to have an increasingly (by necessity) impact in the way we approach our world as the exploitation of the poor areas of this Earth produce devastating problems that come back up the food-chain. E-waste is an enormous concern and one of the most heinous by-products of the way consumer electronics and computers are made and marketed. As I wrote back when Steve and I started the call for Paperless Earth Day:
As for the electronics waste side of the argument, we consumers should be insisting that manufacturers build 'shell-based' modular computers and mobiles that allow for the easy swap out of old individual components for new while being extra-durable and maintaining the life of the device itself for far longer than anything currently on the market. And we should be demanding (with our pocketbooks) that the companies themselves assist in electronics recycling programs that actually recycle the material components like lead and mercury in safe ways and refrain from shipping junked machines to third-world countries to poison the children of the poor who scavenge them for metals.

As for what we can do in our classrooms, Steve and I are asking that as teachers you pledge to refrain from using any paper or accepting any work on paper this Earth Day (April 22nd). And as for old machines: use Freecycle, support non-profit recycling programs like the National Cristina Foundation, and let's make a difference.
Part of source reduction means negating redundancy; part of it means not creating new problems. The key going forward is to advocate and to teach this generation to advocate for a technological mindset that challenges the traditional waste cycle. The connection made through the technology itself can be the window through which our kids see the world that their use of resources is having an impact on. Their use of the technologies causing the problem could potentially help solve the problem; further, the technological development of the poorest parts of the world will empower those people to engage directly and anti-hierarchically with the people whose consumption is causing the greatest distress. This isn't about pity; it's about connection and collaboration.

As for what this all means in terms of the classroom and the human dimension, I'd say that the single biggest change that has taken place with regards to technology over the past five years has been the increased value of understanding technology as a way to make human connections. Whether we are talking about teachers taking part in the global PLNs on Twitter or grandmothers and grandfathers getting a real-time glimpse into the lives of grandkids who live far away via Facebook and Flickr and Skype, we are talking about new ways of connecting people in an immediate, real-time, worldwide way. And yes it does have all the bad stuff that goes with it -- the privacy concerns, the poor examples of digital citizenship, the blatant marketing and commercialization of much of the Web. But for better or worse, that connection has been made; and it's not going away.

So let's engage our students with learning within the dynamic of opportunity that social technology allows. Let's use 'real-time' to mean something 'real' in education. The trick is to make the tech work for the human and not vice-versa; and I'd argue that the old way of thinking about tech was all about the human working for the tech whereas, in its best moments, social tech is made to be subservient to whatever objective the human puts it too -- whether using Jing to critique student labs or YouTube to broadcast student events. Social tech isn't monolithic; it's all about tweaking it to your own needs.

It was the paper school model world that gave us the Digital Age. Paperlessness and Social Tech driven dynamic learning was made possible by folks who learned via paper, static assignments, bubble tests, and lectures. What will the post-paper school model world give us? I like to think that thinkers raised post-paperless would dream up a new way of computing -- a form of 'sustainable computing' that ameliorates both the degradation that technology does to our environment as well as occasionally to our lives, our relationships, and our sense of being human. Because if Kurzweil and the rest are right about The Singularity, that'll be one of the greatest challenges facing the kids currently in our elementary schools. And it'll be a problem neither paper nor what we currently envision as computers will solve; it will require a new technology for a new time. Hopefully we will have used the technologies at our disposal -- whether the stuff of binary code or the stuff of the heart -- to prepare our kids for that eventuality.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Edu/EdTech Open Mic

Hey kids:

Will Richardson and I are hosting an Edu/EdTech Open Mic on July 15th [NOTE NEW DATE] at 7PM EST. It'll be a sort of audio/video get-together in Elluminate that may or may not turn into a weekly tradition -- at least through the dog days of summer.

We're putting a call out for topics that folks would be interested in chatting about. Think of this as a sort of virtual coffeehouse for teachers where everybody gets their chance to be heard.

Comment here with some topic ideas and I'll post details about the event soon.

- Shelly

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Blog Recommendation: Fed Up With Lunch

One of the most engaging blogs I've been following is called Fed Up With Lunch. It's a blog from the point-of-view of a parent who has decided to eat school lunches everyday throughout 2010.

Here's a bit of explanation from the blog's FAQ page:
I'm eating school lunch just like the kids every day in 2010 to raise awareness about what students eat every day. My hope is that the US becomes more reflective about how the food children eat affects their well-being and success in school. I certainly do not speak for all school lunch programs, but from the comments I have been receiving, what I eat is fairly typical of what most students eat in our country.
In addition to being informative, Fed Up With Lunch is way funny at times and includes a -- healthy -- array of guest voices, as well.

Check it out and see what's on the menu.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Post-ISTE Thoughts

Been thinking about what I think.

And what I keep thinking is this: for all the talking about "science", "technology", "engineering", and "math" (and now, "art" -- which I guess is supposed to make us feel better about standardizing education), we are missing out on a chance to reach kids and engage with them on the issues that really matter: life, death, love, compassion, creativity, truth.

I realize that there are many teachers who will say that they integrate all of these together in their teaching. And that is wonderful.

But it's not enough.

It's not enough to be a teacher of math or a teacher of history; we need to liberate ourselves from 1,500 years of disciplinarian categorization and move into a view of education as the preparation of the self in the matters of living.

Science, technology, engineering, math, and yes even art -- though wonderful and necessary in and of themselves -- are only tools, lenses really through which to measure, process, and evaluate the world.

We need to go beyond that.

I don't know what the "beyond that" looks like. I don't have the answers. But I do think that if we want to stay alive as a species on this planet, we're going to have to do a lot more than create new technologies. We're going to have to learn to love one another.

And that should be the only standard.

Thank you to all of the folks who helped me out at ISTE, from @SenorG who set me up with great hospitality to the ISTE volunteers and folks who were kind and happy to chat and give directions to a guy like me who is perpetually lost.

Thank you.