Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ed Tech Leadership & Transparency

I've been holding onto a couple of quotes for several weeks, but they keep coming back to me, because they help to explain why Web 2.0 has changed education far less than other areas of society.

The first quote is from Will Richardson:

Schools . . . have a responsibility to help kids lead transparent lives online in ways that prepare them for the highly complex relationships they will be having in these virtual spaces as adults. But to do that, schools have to get more transparent themselves.

The second quote comes from fellow ADE '09, Scott Elias:

Of the 52 ADEs that were selected this year, there are teachers, school technology coordinators, college professors, and district-level tech folks. But as far as I can tell, I’m the only school administrator. What’s up with that?

We’ve got amazing teachers doing great things in the classroom and we’ve got district people with good intentions. . . .

Building administrators are the vital link in this chain. How can we get more of them thinking about change? How can we expect our teachers to think ahead if so few administrators do?

It is one thing to read about ed tech, cheerlead and cajole. But how many school leaders are willing to change their own habits and and model their new habits for their staffs? Do administrators use Web tools to communicate? Do they network with other educators through Nings? Do they blog? Do they Tweet? If they don't, then regardless of their best intentions, how can they truly lead their staffs to do these same things?

Changing the culture of a school is necessary to truly take advantage of the read and write Web. It's easier to buy the equipment and furniture than it is to change the culture of a school. But teachers pumping PowerPoint through data projectors and students taking notes on laptops is not change. Such change will only occur if the adults, and particularly those at the top, exemplify a zest for learning about and engaging with the new powerful tools which are radically changing the ways people learn and communicate.


"transparency" Flickr Creative Commons photo by sleepingbear

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Play with Jpegs

Jpeg Joy
I've kicked off my summer vacation with a flurry of jpeg activity. Before I begin my show 'n tell, I should remark that I received lots of classroom compliments for the iPhoto calendar I whipped up for S-7. This creation came in the wake of the "Ann Arbor" Images book that I described in My Friend, Flickr. Also I am pleased to report that I have now converted all my Lit into Film guides into hyperlink format (See Hyperlink Heaven).

Recent Developments!
For the past two weeks I have been dropping jpegs into movies. My first effort was a film review of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. I enjoyed dropping the jpegs into iMovie so much I have the notion of adding a "Five Star Review" to my web site each month. When I told fellow Web Warrior, Rick Strobl, what I had been up to, he tipped me off on an application that sent me off on a bender. I've completed my last two jpeg movies with PhototoMovie (Check out the free trial). In an afternoon I completed an eight minute movie for my film class on documentaries. Basically it's a podcast with jpeg illustrations. Obviously, for a film class, this has tremendous advantages. But I also wish to try it with my government classes and will check back in next week after I am done raiding the public domain jpegs at the Library of Congress!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let's Get Real-- Online Networks Will Change Education

@bridgers sent me the link to Digital Citizenship by the Australian writer/researcher, Mark Pesce. At the heart of this excellent examination of the impact of technology on schools lies this assertion:

The classroom has not dealt with the phenomenal transformation in the connectivity of the broader culture, and is in danger of becoming obsolesced by it.

I follow @bridgers faithfully on Twitter and have frequently shared her observations and information from her links with current students. She is four years out of my classroom and has already become a new media expert. We are co-learners the relationship we maintain through our mutual interest in Web 2.0 demonstrates the "phenomenal transformation" of which Pesce speaks. There were no @bridgers networked into my life when she was a student in my classroom. But I would argue that teachers and adminstrators who have not connected with the @bridgers online in 2009 are actively engaged in "becoming obsolesced":

We already live in a time of disconnect, where the classroom has stopped reflecting the world outside its walls. The classroom is born of an industrial mode of thinking, where hierarchy and reproducibility were the order of the day.

Just looking about myself here in Southeastern, Michigan, the phrase "industrial mode of thinking" is enough to send shivers down my spine. "Way of thinking" is the key. I've found that many of my colleagues regard my zest for bringing web 2.0 to the classroom as a novelty. One called it a "hobby." Others certainly see it as something one does beyond regular teaching. "When do you have time to learn it?" or "How do you fit this into everything else you teach?" And those are the ones who will even talk about technology without sneering.

Administrators think they want "computing" but they are no more likely to buy into the culture of connecting beyond the walls. Case in point, we had a fledgling "tech integration committee" at school for one semester this year. The budget is tight for next year and guess what disappeared? It's easier to buy hardware and software licenses than to truly commit to culture change.

Pesce speaks of the universal solvent of the network dissolving educational institutions as we know them. Some pretty bright minds in the domestic auto industry couldn't or wouldn't recognize change and ended up submitting control of their destinies. Could this happen to schools?


"Connexions - Digital Networks" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by cstmweb

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Wonder as I Blogger

A family member recently asked me what I had been reading these days. I sheepishly said, "blogs." Here's a sampling of some interesting stuff I've come across online:

Twitter is a Player in Iran's Drama

The State Department asked social-networking site Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance earlier this week to avoid disrupting communications among tech-savvy Iranian citizens as they took to the streets to protest Friday's reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Myth of the Parasitical Blogger

"One of the favorite accusations that many journalists spout. . .is that bloggers and other online writers are "parasites" on their work. . . .The reality has always been far more mixed than that, and the relationship far more symbiotic than parasitical." [Commenting on NYT columnist's blatant plagiariasm of a blogger].

The Problem with Faculty Meetings

. . . . basically everything that the administration printed out could just have been posted on a blog. . . .If the information is posted on a blog, then it can be responded to and discussion can continue long after the meeting ends. . . .The admins can present the info, we as a faculty can have a discussion, and then that discussion can continue to happen online.

E-learning 2.0

The structures and organization that characterized life prior to the Internet are breaking down. Where intermediaries, such as public relations staff, journalists or professors, are not needed, they are disregarded. Consumers are talking directly to producers, and more often than not, demanding and getting new standards of accountability and transparency. Often, they inform the productive process itself, and in many cases, replace it altogether."

US Public Ed Like GM in the 80s
Why can Apple suggest iTunes to your teen but we're not smarter about suggesting how to learn physics?"

Flickr Creative Commons Photo of Beware of "Dog" by Doc Acula

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shakespeare & Me -- An Amicable Separation

No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They say sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

-- Bob Dylan

My 32 year relationship with Shakespeare class has far surpassed the average length of a marriage in this country. So without apology, he and I embark on a trial separation. Because some of our children (former students) are startled, I'll offer a few words of explanation. Divorceguide.com has helped me sort out the reasons:

I don't think I ever cheated my students, but this year I cheated on the Bard. I had the sense in class that I was performing. All modesty aside, these were good performances, but I could almost see myself teaching as I taught (not good). Though I continually vary the plays, after teaching some 60-70 sections of the class some of the genuine excitement of sharing is gone. It's not Shakespeare, it's. . . .

I'll admit it. I am tired of teaching literary papers and truly sick of reading them. I'm not proud of this, but it's hard work, and I have paid my dues. It's better to adjust than to simply become altogether bitter and cynical.

Commitment problems
Well , as I cataloged in Making Headway, I have been busy-busy with technology and connective learning. Throwing over the Bard for such a thing has penalized me among our mutual friends (see Shell Shock). And I admit to losing focus on day to day teaching but only because I have been more focused on learning. (And as the world "flattens", won't the better learners be better teachers?).

Change in priorities
I love all my courses, but right now I am fixated on revving up my AP American Government & Politics course with vlogging and a digital anthology. I needed to trim my preps to give this proper focus.

I'll be going to see Macbeth at Stratford in a couple of weeks, and I will still be using that play in Lit into Film. So William and I are still friends. The course will be in great hands with Mike G. And who knows, I might find my way back to Shakespeare class some day. But when I've separated from other great loves in my life like coaching basketball and teaching Dickens, I never went back.

I need this kind of change as a teacher. I'm not remotely burned out-- and after 34 years, I still don't complain when September rolls around. So farewell, Shakespeare. It's been great.

"Change" Flickr Creative Commons photo courtesy of melikirk2001

Friday, June 12, 2009

Over the Top (The Tech Campaign Continues)

Part 3 of 3 - "Year in Review from the Trenches"

In Part 2, I had a chance to moan about "shell shock." But of course, I am not simply going to stay huddled on the ground holding my helmet. Here's my "battle plan" going forward.

* Focus on building my networks beyond my own building and aggressively seek a role as a Web 2.0 curriculum presenter and consultant. (Received confirmation of an October Mame 36 presentation two days ago. Woo-hoo!).

* Focus on media rich skills. I can make basic podcasts and videos, but I want to develop better technical skills with GarageBand and iMovie. The first weeks of summer "vacation" I am really immerse myself in this wonderful stuff.

* Ask fellow Web Warrior, Rick Strobl, to be my Sherpa as I venture as I get into the rarefied air of web media.

*While I dig into media applications, I will cut down my summer blogging to twice a week. But when I blog, I will naval-gaze less and try to engage my audience more. At the same time, I will more consciously "journal" in bursts through Twitter, giving my "followers" more content.

* I will be sampling academic lectures from iTunes U, to see how I can use the material in my courses. I have already begun editing two of these for the AP Digital Anthology.

* When I come beck to my internet classroom projects in the Fall I will focus on streamlined methods of evaluation.

* I will launch the Blog Squad at school in the Fall but will confine my efforts to a pilot approach.

* I am determined to keep pushing into social bookmarking. Sooner or later I will find another Diigo lover with mutual reading interests.

*I will love the heck out of the ADE Institute in July.

The Drive-thru will begin a Tuesday, Friday schedule next week.

Photo: British soldiers "go over the top" at the Battle of the Somme

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shell Shock in the Trenches (part 2)

Shell Shock (Part 2 of 3 - " Year in Review from the Trenches")

I'm not the first teacher to suffer from shell shock, and during my adventures with tech, I've sometimes wandered the classroom battlefield, dazed and confused.

Most numbing is the continual collision with school culture. Despite operating in a 1:1 school and having put nearly every shred of instruction and material online for my bookless course, a sizable number of my students don't readily tap into the pipeline. As I've remarked before, developing online projects has not sparked intellectual curiosity to the degree I might have hoped for (see The Digital Natives Aren't that Restless). But at our school, there is something else going on. 1:1 has not meant fewer P.A. announcements or less paper. And since students know announcements will be made redundantly (and deadlines nearly always extended), they have little incentive to attend closely to email, web sites, etc. Ironically, in class when the P.A. is squawking, the kids are glued into their screens, ignoring it (My temples are starting to throb). Why can't we all support technology in this area at least?

2) My fellow faculty members may be pardoned if they are suffering from Larry-fatigue. I've been honking on about the wonders of Web 2.0. But some of what I've encountered within the building and even in my own departments is passive-aggressive. I make a presentation, no comment. I win a tech distinction, no reaction (that's cold). I guess I have betrayed some unspoken loyalty to chalk and board. In a detailed, staff development proposal for administration I warned of the obstruction of naysayers. Well, the report got lost in the shuffle, but not the nay-saying. Sort of grinds one down.

3) It was tough to see tech integration cut in our building. I understand that the budget is tight, but without vision and planning we will not truly engage in online learning. This speaks to priorities. We have the hardware, but despite popular mythology, the kids will not teach themselves with them, simply because they are keen on Facebook.

4) I have only myself to blame for this one. It's the blog. I've tried to encourage comments, and I haven't really succeeded. Clearly I am operating at cross-purposes by journaling, sharing, and trying to provoke conversation all at the same time.

5) I loved doing the in-services in my building last Fall. That's history. I aiming seeking new audiences, so good will come of it in the long run. But I've been in No Man's Land for the last few months.

6) This spring I taught AP Government and Film, But the three classes of 87 sophomores in American Government were the ones that put me into full shell shock mode. Foolishly, I targeted them for my most innovative methods. But I became overwhelmed with their 87 web sites. This like the other setbacks chronicled here was largely due to my unrealistic expectations banging into reality.

There are some valuable lessons here, so I will gather my forces and close the school year with -- part 3, "Over the Top! and into the Future"

Thank you, Mark Berry - Photographer & Graphic Designer for permission to use your fabulous photo, "Crop Circle Maker-- Matthew Williams"

Monday, June 8, 2009

Year in Review from the Trenches -- Making Headway

Part 1 of 3
I am pleased to reflect upon on a number of techy milestones this school year:

*I have integrated several new applications, sites, and tools into my personal and professional life. (Some listed at my new Presentations Site).

*Being named an Apple Distinguished Educator was the thrill of my career.

*I have been professionally enriched like never before from my Twitter and ADE networks (See Why Twitter).

*Facebook and this blog have generated , stimulating tech conversation with personal friends like @bridgers, Rick, aml, Katy. And Facebook has allowed me to begin lining up classroom visits from accomplished alumnae like Nadia and Monica.

*I launched three very stimulating collaborative projects: The Civil Rights/Liberties Wiki, the Congressional Simulation, and my favorite -- Blogs on Vlogs.

*I enjoyed delivering a number of in-service presentations (fully listed on my new presentations resumé). There is no better way to learn than through teaching others.

*In Resolved.... I announced the New Year's resolution to avoid checking a single "paper" at home for the entire school year. Resolution kept.

*Also Resolved.... was my determination to keep blogging. Forty-six posts since the resolution, I am still going strong.

*Rick Strobl and I have begun collaborating on Web Warriors, and the results have been gratifying.

But not all has been triumph in the trenches. Come back Wednesday for "Shell Shock".

"Success" Flickr Creative Commons photo by aloshbennett

Friday, June 5, 2009

Web 2.0 Summer School (or Camp!)

This post is for teachers like me who generally plan some kind of "work" project for the summer, imagining how good it will feel to salt some big something away for the next school year, but vaguely dreading a tedious task. It's easy to imagine that "technology" might be such a project for a teacher who is anxious to bring a meaningful internet activity with his or her classes.

If so, I suggest that you relax, find something limited in scope, and explore areas that may have lifestyle benefits even if they don't work out for school.

I've put together some possibilities that are QRS- quick, rich simple.

* Open a Flickr account and spend a couple of hours collecting photos on a subject of interest. When I began to search for pictures to publish in my Dad's Ann Arbor Memories book, I became absolutely intoxicated with this resource for personal and/or classroom use.

* If you don't have a Google Account, open one. Go to Docs. Then spend a couple of hours uploading a handful of your most heavily used documents. After they are uploaded, "share" them by publishing them as web page. Be sure to check the "automatically republish when changes are made box". Now you have some options. You might want to book mark your documents. Better yet, link them all to a single table of contents which you also publish and bookmark. The publishing feature of Google Docs has probably impacted my work life more than any other tech application (with the exception of web browsers). I think the experience of playing with Doc htmls will open up your eyes to some great info sharing possibilities.

* Record a lecture with Audacity (or better yet, GarageBand). Choose a topic that is tried and true. If it is longer than eight minutes, plan to break it into parts. Audacity is a free download and if your computer has a built-in mic, all you have to do is press the red button on the application and record. Upload the file(s) to Moodle or some other storage site like box.net. When lecture time rolls around next school year, have the students bring headphones to class or listen to the talk as homework. You'll have discovered the joy of podcasting.

* I won't repeat my Why Twitter? post here, but I have a fast track suggestion if you want to jump into Twitter with both feet. Sign up for an account. Decide what kind of information flow you want. Identify a couple of heavily followed Tweeters in that area, and then "follow" who they are following. For example, I do Twitter for Web 2.0 teaching info. The majority of those I follow provide quality tweets on Web 2.0. If you poached my list, you would get the same flow of information to start and then you could tailor it to your interests. (You don't need permission to follow others on Twitter).

* Enjoy learning about religion, history, math, science, literature, etc.? As summer homework, download some courses from Yale, Stanford, Michigan, or Oxford. Put then in your iPod and listen to them while you garden or walk. Where do you get them and how much will this cost? These lectures are free and available by the dozen on any topic at iTunes U.

* Researching a vacation or prepping a new topic? The next time you complete your research try Diigo. Get used to using tags and enjoy the highlighting and sticky notes features. Better yet, see if you can collaborate with a friend or colleague on this project and have the experience of sharing bookmarks, highlights and notes.

* Many of my baby boomer friends have been bemoaning the demise of their daily newspapers. Have you tried setting up an RSS Reader, yet? Most of your favorite newspapers have set up some rss feeds for their columnists and bloggers. (Locally, the Detroit News has been most successful transitioning their writers to blogging). Of course a Reader has the advantage of pulling blogs from sources all over the internet. Once you start, it will be hard to resist the urge to overload. Educational uses? Hey, teachers deserve a few moments of quiet time with their "newspaper" in order to be at their best with their students.

P.S. If you wish to explore more easy to use tools, check out the Web Warriors.
"Summer Relaxation" Flickr Creative Commons photo by Third Eye Studios

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A School's Choice-- Parent Pushback or Feedback on Web?

This weekend my Facebook unwittingly hosted a brief exchange critical of my school. This was initiated by a Friend who is also a parent of a student. A day later I came across Scott Mcleod's Help Wanted-- Parents Who Are Blogging about Their Local Schools

The conjunction of two experiences got me thinking about the importance of schools providing 21st Century communication online. Our school's web site is typical. It is primarily set-up on the Web 1.0 model of providing one-way communication of what we suppose folks ought to know about us. Schools should move to Web 2.0 for several reasons:

To Provide the Information that Folks Really Want
Check some of the web pages at your school's site. I bet some are extremely detailed. A case in point: We have a 1:1 program, and the details we post about our laptops are incredibly dense and technical. Quite possibly parents investigating our site and considering sending their child to our school would actually learn more with less of this variety of one-way information. Providing a FAQ with a section for visitor questions and our tech department's expert answers would be more focused and engaging. Some questions could be uncomfortable, but ignoring them will not make them go away. Most importantly, the school would be supplying information that the parents actually want.

To Cultivate Ownership
Won't parents feel a greater stake in the school if their input is valued? What would be the downside of an athletic director blogging and then promoting a conversation with filtered comments to the blog? A school play director could do this. The attendance officer or the principal herself might. Instead of burdening individuals with the responsibility of maintaining a blog, several could take turns on a School Activities page. The options are limitless.

If a group is doing a fund-raising at the school, why not draw stakeholders into the activity by welcoming suggestions in addition to providing information?

It is easy to imagine classroom teachers hosting guest blogs on special activities. Last semester, we had some mock election activities. A blog might have provided interesting information and even elicited parent participation in the activity. There would be no reason to insulate such a civic minded activity.

I think opening up activities to dialogue in this way promotes a sense of community and places the school the posture of being open to constructive conversation.

To Improve the School
Isn't it quite possible that more than good feeling alone may be promoted through dialogue? I've certainly seen my students produce some exceptional out of the box approaches to Web 2.0 collaboration. Isn't it likely that the parents could bring some good suggestions to the table? Why not take advantage of the full range of a community's perspectives and expertise?

The Media is the Message
We have a 1:1 school. We promote Read/Write Web instructional design. Shouldn't we practice what we preach? This is "scary" because it means greater transparency. But in fact this is a change that is happening in the great society (a very change that instigated our push for ed tech in the first place!).

Of course it is possible to continue avoiding doing any of the the things that I have suggested here, but as Mcleod's article implies, this will not stop parents from communicating and interacting online. It seems to me that a school only stands to gain by welcoming constructive two-way communication with today's technology.

I would love to hear your suggestions and reactions.

"One Way Out" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Wombatunderground1

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Web Warriors Collaboration

Friday, I ranked My Vast Tinker Toy Playground as one of my favorites posts. In a nutshell, it reflects that my web interests usually shoot off in multiple directions simultaneously. They then connect and mutate in ways that I never could have imagined when I embarked.

Case in point-- The Web Warriors. Web Warriors was originally conceived as an extracurricular club for students at my school who could network with design professionals and provide service for the school community. I broached this subject with web designer and Facebook friend, Rick Strobl. He became quite enthused and immediately developed a logo, which somehow made the club seem more real, despite having no members!.

The convergence of FaceBook, blogging, and the cold, cruel world pulled my original conception of the Warriors apart and reassembled it tinker toy-like into a very different shape. The tepid response from teachers, students and administrators convinced me that a web design club was not in the cards. My faithful reader knows that I rebounded with the idea of a Blog Squad, instead. (Much stronger response from teachers and administrators). This mutation is going forward.

But wither the Web Warriors? Through our heated Facebook correspondence, Rick's protean energy, and Weebly; the Web Warriors is now a web site, instead of a school club. For the time being, Rick and I are the only two warriors in the tribe, but in a matter of a few days we have put together a pretty large Web 2.0 shed of our favorite tools and toys. You are welcome to visit and borrow any of them. Better yet, join our virtual club and contribute a tip or two of your own. How do you visit? Just click our good, old logo, below. It's the only aspect of the original plan that has not changed at all!

Blog Archive