It is with great pleasure and no small amount of relief, that I announce the second edition of Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network: A Gardener’s Approach to Learning – formerly known as A Gardener’s approach to Learning: Cultivating at our Personal Learning Network. Switching the title and subtitle was the idea of my wife and business manager, Brenda. She’d long felt that ”A Gardener’s Approach..” did not clearly describe the content and function of the book.
This second edition started innocently enough when, with an afternoon to kill, I downloaded Apples iBooks Author (iBA) software, a free download that helps us create interactive iBooks for publishing through the iBooks book store and iTunes. Since it was my latest book, I dumped the text of Gardener’s Approach.. into iBA and started playing. My initial reaction was not that different from what I initially though if iBooks. They glow and flow, but provide little opportunity for the reader to talk back, which I believe should be a core goal for the next generation of learning content. The iBooks I’d seen were still primarily intended for top-down reader-passive content consumption.
However, when I started factoring in the great fun I’ve had with Apple Keynote’s dazzling animation capabilities and the ability to insert keynotes into the iBook, I continued to play, adding animated tutorials for some parts of the book.
I initially struggled with the HTML feature of iBooks, which I couldn’t figure out for the life of me. I’ve been coding in HTML for nearly 20 years. They I learned…
It seems that what iBook Author means by HTML is actually Dashboard Widgets, which are small programs that can be downloaded and installed on your Macintosh computer and run in the background – and now in the widgets space on later versions of Mac’s OS. They have come in nearly every category of software, but are usually utilities such as calculators, calendars and clocks. I saw no use for any of these utilities in my book, so I set out researching and teaching myself how to write my own dashboard widgets.
As I played (which is what learning often feels like to me), ideas started forming for interfacing my iBook with the web and specifically with web pages that would give readers the ability to add and comment on their own stories of networked learning. It was at that point that I was hooked.
Of course, reading through the book, I learned how dreadfully out-of-date it was, so I started editing and rewriting major portions of CYPLN and adding at least one chapter. After all, the first edition was written before the Apple iPad launched. So, after many edits and re-edits, with the tireless assistance of Brenda, and the launch of Bookry, which provides a tool for creating much slicker widgets than I was writing, I’ve published Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network 2nd Ed, in print, ebook (for Kindle), and iBook (with color, motion, and conversation).
The most interesting part of this endeavor was the act of using many of the skills and techniques described in the book in order to learn how to publish it in these new formats and with these new features. My own PLN grew.
I hurriedly produced the video below as an introduction to some of the features of the iBooks version.
The print and ebook versions, like the first edition of CYPLN, feature QR-Codes, which give the reader access to many of the features of the iBook – without the flair.
One concept that jelled for me during the proces was that of scale. Because the ebook and iBook versions of CYPLN was digital, weightless and so easily distributed, I’ve decided to price for scale. So the iBook and ebook (Kindle) versions are only $2.99 (USD). Since the print version (259 pages) must be produced and shipped, I have to charge a little more, $8.99, which gives me a profit similar to that of the digital books.
This will take you to a page with links to the various purchasing venues: http://goo.gl/EUu7B
(cc) Photo by Anja C. Wagner
I mentioned in my ISTE Reflection article that I thought 2012 would be the year that 3D printing and fab labs emerged as a major interest to the education world. But it’s more than just a cool technology that we’d like to see in schools. Personal fabrication may be hugely important to us.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having coffee with my friend, neighbor and fellow blogger, Paul Gilster (Centauri Dreams). A self-made authority on interstellar space exploration and associate with the Tau Zero Foundation, Gilster has inspired me for years, as expressed in the acknowledgments of all my books.
On that day, he told me about work toward sending small spacecraft to specific positions in space in relation to the sun. The craft would look back at our star and utilize the bending of light caused by the sun’s gravitational force to magnify what’s on the other side. The concept is called Gravitational Lensing, and was initially mentioned by physicist Orest Chwolson in 1924 and first quantified by Albert Einstein in 1936. In effect, we would be turning the sun into a gigantic lens, through which we would be able to see, according to Gilster, planets orbiting distant stars, continents on those worlds, and even cities, if they exist.
This is where my legs started to get wobbly.
Getting to specifics, Paul explained that to get a spacecraft to that position, about 750 astronomical units (AU) from the sun (Pluto orbits at an average of 40au), the craft would have to be very small and utilize nano scale mechanisms and even some degree of artificial intelligence.
At that point, a recurring question came to mind, which I asked,
“Assume that we’re approaching the limits of what we would practically want to do with our cell phones and personal computers, and that they’re about as small as we wish them to be, what’s going to drive further research and development in miniaturization – making things smaller? Surely not NASA.”
I didn’t actually speak the last sentence. But Gilster said that aside from the military, it would be personal fabrication, that we would all have our own in-house fabricators, where we would design and “print” our own cellphones, etc.
As my son explained it to me, the lid that holds the batteries in our TV remote is broken and has been discarded. As a result, we have to handle the remote with care to prevent the batteries from falling out. Tape has not been a satisfactory solution. With a 3D printer, we would simply go to the Samsung web site, look up the part and print it. Ten minutes later (or an hour later, it doesn’t matter) the part would be sitting in our printer, where we could clip it into our remote. One of the 3D printers that I saw at ISTE cost only $1,600. The original Macintosh computers were nearly twice that expensive with only 128K of memory and no hard drive. 3D printers may become very important to us.
The true potential is when we can design our own remotes, with our our own sense of flair, using design software, and then print in our own homes. Cottage industries might emerge, contests, DIY markets – and all fueled by creativity and inventiveness.
Now this idea of in-house fabrication and its cultural impact may seem a bit far-fetched to you. However, if you’re old enough, you may remember a time when carrying your personal phone in your pocket might have seemed just as unlikely – a phone with which you could get weather and news reports on demand, have access to an interconnected global library, pinpoint your exact location on a map and participate in any of a million global conversations.
My question is this. What should our children be learning today and how should they be learning it, to be ready to leverage this kind of creative opportunity?
What do you think?
“There are a ton of these out there.” That was my first response when watching this North Texas, student-produced video. But there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact I would suggest that more classes create, craft, and produce message commercials — but not so much for the world as for their local community. I wish someone would do it here so that our school board might get their heads in the right place and out of their …
Did I say that out loud?
What made me decide to post this was the initial teacher blog post. It is followed (reading up) by reflective articles from students. Here’s the text of the initial post and a link to the video (YouTube) and the blog.
As a teacher, I’ve always believed my job is to pose questions, not answer them. Fittingly, this whole project began because of a question. The class was reading Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and the students were wrestling with a seemingly simple question: Could children, using the internet, have a dramatic impact on the world around them? Could they influence public opinion, and make a mark on their world?
Perhaps I should’ve seen what was coming, but it still caught me off-guard. Their question to me was simple enough, though: “Can we try it?”
It did seem the simplest way to settle the question, and so began the greatest experimental education project I’ve ever had the privilege of leading. The scope of our project was mind-boggling. First, figure out the most pervasive internet message-spreading tools. Then, determine the best way to harness them to our advantage. Next, craft our message such that it will spread as best as it possibly can, and finally, prepare all the supporting tools, media, and gear required for such a huge endeavor. I never imagined the variety of tasks that would be required:
- Negotiating with principals for space/allowances
- Negotiating with the district for extra desks and props
- Contacting websites, publishers, recording industries
- Researching all kinds of legalities about Fair Use
You name it, we probably did it. Here’s the best part, though: We had to get the entire thing done and released in four months, using no more than two hours a day, five days a week.
What follows is the account of that adventure – the highs and lows, good moments and bad, through the eyes of the incredible students who made this project happen. If I am to be credited for this, let it only be as the organizer or the conductor of the symphony. The students were the talented musicians who crafted this masterpiece.
It shouldn’t end with a question mark. It should end with an exclamation point.
I’ll give myself a 35 for the infographic (815KB) that I posted the other day (My First Stab at Infographics..) for your consideration. I get that many points for the effort, probably about ten hours of work. The effort was good. Each time I scrapped the whole thing and started again, it was because I learned something. It was because I realized that I was going down a wrong path — a path I will not take again. Each path, never to be taken again, is worth at least 5 points.
Some of the 65 points that I didn’t get was explained to me by Steve Ruddy, who commented..
An infographic usually uses the info to convey a point, I cannot figure out what you want me to deduce by all of this information. Most importantly I don’t see what the top half has to do with the bottom half at all. Hope this feedback helps you make better infographs.
He’s absolutely right. All that I did was to convey individual chunks of data as blocks of images and then stack those blocks in a way that made sense to me. There was a story there. There was a purpose to the sequence of blocks. But I didn’t tell tell story. There was no mortar to give the blocks substance and meaning. To Ruddy and others who viewed the graphic, it was just a stack of blocks with no exclamation point.
|Thursday’s IGAD usually points to a data source that teachers or learners might use to craft their own infographic or data visualization. Today, however, I add an extra post about “breaking news” infographics, which are explicitly designed to tell a story. The examples are graphics, telling the story of the raid on Abbottabad.|
As a result? Well, I’m scrapping my current infographic and starting over again. But it’s not so much to reshape the blocks, but to mix the mortar.
My point in sharing this is to say that I’m still proud of that 35. I didn’t fail, because I learned from that experience and will do a little better next time. But, as a learner, it makes me wonder…
Is it wrong to expect a 100? Does that emphasize the wrong thing?
Shouldn’t we wait until the end of the course for something near 100? ..or the end of the term? ..or graduation? ..or a long time after that?
I’ve been fascinated by infographics and data visualization for a few years now and have started doing some presenting on the topic at conferences. But one of the questions that keeps arising and perhaps the greatest barrier to making stories with numbers and images is, “How do you do the design?” The tech is easy. It’s crafting the story or message that’s hard.
So I decided to try making one myself, hoping that some reasonable process might come out of it. I’m somewhat pleased with the graphic, as a first time effort, but can’t say that I have any handle on a design process. All I can say is that it involves a lot of trashing the whole thing and starting all over again. I guess its about a willingness to play and permission to make mistakes and do it again differently.
You can click the smaller image to the right to get the full 1024 x 6000 pixel infographic. The graphic is based on a March 2011 study conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications and Stanford University. They surveyed just over 1,100 18 to 24 year olds about their education experience.
This also seems like a good time to finally mention a new blog I’ve been working on where I plan to post infographics that have interested me. My plan is to post a link to one a day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, something that I suspect might be used within some instructional discipline — and then a data source for creating infographics on Thursday, and something for the fun of it on Friday. This who excercize has informed me of the vast quantity of infographics that are being produced today — not all of it good.
Hope to have another one coming out in the next little bit to feature a video a day, which will be curated by my son.
Have you ever attended a conference or had another learning experience that haunted you. By that, I mean it lingers, following you, in the shadows, rising in your thoughts at unexpected times, and surprising you with a, “Boo!” What haunts you is that you don’t know why. There’s a room with a closed door, and the answer’s in there. You approach the door, and you can hear people in the audience screaming, “Don’t open the door, stupid!”
This was the scene outside my hotel. There was a real Emerald City quality to the place.
At this point, I’ve not opened the door, though it occurs to me that I often find my conclusion when I sit down and write. It may have been a simple combination of the exotic. A mixture of tropical flora, chilly temperatures, steep and forbidding mountains next to the dozens of enormous freighters I watched moving intoVictoria Harbor during my walks between the conference site and my hotel — which was exotic by its own right.
It could have been the attendees, mostly educators from International schools from throughout Asia and even Indonesia. Teacher-adventurers is the best phrase I can come up with to describe these educators who have decided to live and work at the edges of their worlds.
Or was it the other speakers, such as Chris Smith, whom I’ve known for more than 10 years and whose career has paralleled mine in several ways. Yet he, an Englishman, has settled in northern Thailand. Or Stephen Heppell, who is strange in so many ways that simply draw you in. You want to ask, “Did his eyes just twinkle?” And you feel like he has just opened at your feet a sack of toys, playthings you’ve never seen before, ideas and suggestions that are so compelling that you feel as though you are a beginner teacher again.
Yes! Writing this is helping me to uncover the spook — that and the fact that conference organizer, Paul White forwarded a link to the student performance we all watched with wonder on the last day.
What haunts me is what learners can accomplish in an environment that is unfamiliar, through the tension that is caused when gravity is slightly off center, in a place that seems just a little dangerous in it unfamiliarity and exoticness.
Watch the video, recorded by Chris Smith, and ask yourself, “What if I, comfortable at home and in routine, had to up and follow this.” My spook was that I had to get up and follow these talented youngsters!
I enjoyed working with Art teachers yesterday from across Iowa as well as a smattering of folks from Nebraska and South Dakota. I did the keynote described in my previous blog post and also a session on personal learning networks, which I will be repeating this morning. When my breakout was over, at 4:00, I was talking to a couple of teachers and taking my time disconnecting my computer, when a woman came up and very politely slide here MacBook Pro next to mine. It hadn’t occurred to me that the next presenter would be needing the projector and speakers. This was an Art teachers’ conference after all. Shame on me!
I disconnected and slid my computer and adapters over to the far side of the table so that I could pack them up as she continued to expertly set up her Mac and a colleague arranged various matted art works on other tables — the sort of thing I was actually expecting. The presenter was Ronda Sternhagen and her session was entitled Art and the Evolution of Mass Media.
I had scanned the program the night before selecting session that I might attend, and knew that there was one just after mine that interested me and that it had something to do with mass media — and although I was quite tired by then and had every intention abandoning that plan and heading back to my room to resting before a long walk around Sioux City, I chose to stay and rest in the back of that presentation room.
Sternhagen introduced her topic as the focus of her masters thesis, which she held up fairly close to her heart. It had been an ongoing theme in her family where she got her children in the habit of pointing out major works of art that appeared in the mass media, (magazines, TV commercials, etc.) and try to explain why those works had been selected.
This approach to art instruction evolved into a course, which she described. The process that emerged had students, among other things, select major works of art and then photoshop themselves into the works. They also looked at how some art work was used to promote social issues, American Gothic being a favorite. This approach had such and impact on some of the other teachers and on the principal, that she will be team-teaching with one of the social studies teachers this year, finding ways to integrate works of art in to history and other social studies.
I was blown away by the presentation, which is saying a lot. I got a lot of take-away ideas from it. But I also walked out with two take-beyonds — which are different from take-aways, because they are ideas that I heard, that the presenter didn’t actually say (at lease I don’t remember here saying them).
Sternhagen, as she described these engaging activities and told stories about how the student responded, kept concluding that these techniques were great ways to help her teach art. What I heard was that her students were learning great ideas from history by working the art. When students take a specific work of art, and then photoshop it to illustrate some social (or scientific or mathematical) issue, then this production of media campaign becomes an avenue for exploring deeper curriculum issues.
The other take beyond was this idea of her team teaching with a social studies teacher. Social issues are easy. Might she team teach math, by integrating works of art into math instruction, or science, or literature, or literacy? Might she not become the school’s art integrationist? Would that be of benefit the entire school? My answer? Heck yea! She’d be a huge boost to the entire school. She might even be of more benefit than a tech integrationist.
But! Why not a literature integrationist? Or a literacy integrationis? ..or a math integrationist?
What I can’t shake is that this all seems to be pointing to a radically different arrangment of professional staff in our schools, and a different model for how teachers work together — a model that represents an antithesis of how teaching and learning is arranged in traditional schooling?
What do you think? And if you agree, what might that model look like?
Flickr photo by UK photographer odh!
I’m on my way to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I will deliver the opening keynote address for their Art teachers’ annual conference tomorrow. It’s an honor and I’m very happy to be going back to Iowa (May have some delicious pork tenderloin to look forward to).
But I’ve been wondering what a former history teacher and current instruction technologist going to talk about in front of hundreds of Iowa Art teachers? I’ve been asking myself that question for weeks, and even asking for help from my personal learning network. I posted the question on Twitter and on my Facebook wall, since so many of my FB friends are progressive educators. Twitter bounced back with some great suggestions for reading and people I might contact. Facebook, unhampered by 140 character limit, provided for a richer and sometimes contentious conversation — and I’m wondering what my old high school chums are going to think about that.
Much of the advice I’ve received, I have taken to heart. But the Art Educators of Iowa have hired me to talk about the times we are teaching in and the challenges that we must realize and face. It’s what someone on the conference committee saw me speak about at some tech conference somewhere and it’s what they want me to share here — and I can do that. But I feel obliged to funnel my talk in the direction of art as much as I can, so here are some of the points I hope to make.
First of all, I will be mentioning Daniel Pink once during the presentation, much to the devastating disappointment of one of the more loquacious commenters on my Facebook page. The point that I hope to make is that art has become core (to quote the Iowa association’s web site). So much of what we do today, where we do it, and the tools with which we use to accomplish our goals is touched by design — and not merely for the sake of ergonomics. Aesthetic appeal is a huge part of what we are seeing. One of my favorite TED Talks was delivered by the design currator of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Italian-born Paola Antonelli (Treat Design as Art). She talks about how, “In Italy, design is normal.” ”What you find at the store at the corner, without going to any kind of fancy story, is the kind of refined design that…” for which Italy is known. But it is not design for decoration.1
Another angle that I will take will be from my typical message about literacy, more specifically the wRiting part of the 3Rs. We live in a time where we are overwhelmed by information. In the same way that many of products we shop for must include a sense of design in order to compete for our attention, so too must information. The content that we use, among the flood of information, it that which successfully earns our attention, and in much the same way that products must be designed for function, the same is true with information.
Information can sometimes be creatively laid out on a page in such a way that makes it easier to read and also appear easier to read. In addition, the use of images, motion, and graphics can aid in the conveyance of a message — and who’s teaching that today? I plan to spend some time talking about info-graphics and data visualization, a very interesting and valuable combination of mathematics, data, and art.
There is one more angle that I would like to take. I went to the jobs site, Monster.com, and did a search for the most recently posted job opportunities that included the word artist — a technique that I learned from David Thornburg. In analyzing the job descriptions, what emerged was not so much an appeal for people with specific artistic abilities, but more about workers who were creative problem solvers, goal and product oriented, self-directed, and able to collaborate within a team. Much of what I saw in these descriptions seemed to come right out of our ongoing conversations about 21st century skills.
So I have to wonder if Art class might actually be a uniquely ideal place to help learners develop some of these skills.
- Antonelli, P. (Performer). (2008). Paola antonelli treats design as art [Television series episode]. In (Executive producer), TED Talks. TED Conferences LLC. [↩]
I took this picture while taking a bicycle ride around the southern end of Manhattan Island with my youngest brother a few months ago. There were many places like this, where people could rest, read, talk, think, and engage in Tai Chi.
I frequently talk about the arts and how they apply to living and working today. I think that one of the misconceptions that many of us have about creativity, when we think and talk about 21st century skills, is that we confine our notions to art, music, and drama. We look at a picture that a student drew for her book report and say, “You are so creative.” As I’ve written and said before, I prefer the term inventive over creative, because it implies resourcefully solving a problem or accomplishing a goal — which to me is a large part of what 21st century skills are about.
Inventiveness certainly does not exclude art and music, especially when the picture drawn for the book report expresses some aspect of the story in a way that would not be possible with mere words. Artistic, musical, and performance expressions are highly effective tools for solving problems of communication and fabricating useful experiences. I continue to maintain that the creative arts should be emphasized in schools to the same degree and often for the same reasons that we are emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Along these lines, I ran across this Twitter post from Richard Florida, announcing a webcast being sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts
Looking to the Creative PlaceMaking Event today with NEA & Canada Council RT @LivableCities -http://bit.ly/a2HbeP
The panelists (Carol Coletta [moderator], Richard Florida, Tim Jones, Rick Lowe, and Ann Markusen) will talk about the role of the arts in creating livable and sustainable communities. You can read about the 3:00PM (EDT) webcast in the News Room of the NEA web site and also at LAStageBlog.