2009 was the year that my 4th of July lasted for 42 hours, at least that’s the best I could calculate it at the end of the day. Much of the day was in Auckland, New Zealand, then the flight to San Francisco, a four hour layover, and then five more hours across North America. A bit ragged this morning.
I’ve been been reflecting, though, about my NECC experience — especially the conversations at the Leadership Symposium and a couple of the conversations I had at the EduBloggerCon. The idea is starting to jell in my mind that the next big… Hmmmm!
As I wrote yesterday, it seems that everytime we sit down and talk about education reform, there seems to be something in the way, preventing us from what we want to do right now. We can’t move that tile in the puzzle, until the one next to it is out of the way, which we can’t move until another one has been shifted, etc. etc. There is only one open space in the old Cracker Jack puzzle game, and often only two tiles that can be shifted to make room. In our particular game of education reform, it seems to me that there is only one tile that can be moved into one empty space. But when that one is shifted, a domino affect may result, leaving room for a sudden and complete overhaul of education.
That tile is how we assess the quality of education for the sake of accountability — namely the high-stakes government issued tests. No surprise here. We’ve all had this conversation. And we are starting to feel that there is a new spirit for doing things differently.
However, accountability continues to be a focused part of conversations, especially in the monologs coming from the Education Department — and I don’t think we should hold our breaths for any proclaimations of a different kind of assessment coming from Washington.
So what might spark the change. What might the catalyst be. What’s going to jolt us to a new level. I’m wondering if the next killer app, at least for education, might be a highly innovation new eportfolio platform. It will be something that we all get so excited about, that we’ll all want to use it. We’ll want our communities to be excited about it. We’ll want to switch to eportfolio assessment, because we’ll want to use this new thing.
Here are a few features that would excite me:
- It won’t be just a digital folder. The killer eportfolio app will be about much more than assessment.
- It will be used all year long, not just at assessment time at the end of the year.
- It will be a work platform, not just an archive for assessment.
- It will have elements of social networking, featuring personal profiles and a variety of communication devices, such as blogging, micro-blogging, discussion forums, and commenting.
- It will easily and invitingly accept multimedia products.
- All products will be critiqueable with commenting or threaded discussion, by educators, fellow students, and the verifiable community.
- It will also have components of a course management system. There will be curriculum structures within the platform so that work can be aligned, at least implicitly, with instructional objectives.
- There will be a facility to critique work based beyond mere foundational standards. Work will also be judged on inventiveness, collaboration, quality of communication, compellingness, value to an authentic audience.
- “Standards” will play a minimal roll in this product.
- It will facility portability, so that students can carry their portfolios with them to the next grade and/or as a standalone product on CD or other networked platform.
- It will not merely be classroom-friendly. It will be user-friendly, regardless of the location of the learning.
- Students will want to spend time here. They will have a strong voice and hand in what it looks like and how it operates.
- Students will be able to enter products that are not necessarily curriculum related, such as personal video and machinima creations, art work, game scores, business ventures, and products of personal and passionate interest.
- The work will belong to the students.
- Students, teachers, and parents will participate in selecting the work that is assessed.
- Assessment will be school-based, government-based, and community-based.
- It will preferably be open source, but not necessarily so.
- The social aspects will be reasonably open. Students (and teachers) will be able to collaborate across classroom and school (and even national) boundaries.
- Assessment will be based on content, quality & compellingness of the communication, and value.
- All learning products will include an element of reflection by its producer.
- It will become the talk of the town.
Please suggest your own features. I would love to see this happen before the next NECC.
I’m here, at NECC, for only two and-a-half more hours, so I need to squeeze in as much as I can. So what am I doing? I’m at the blogger’s cafe. The interesting thing about such a big conference that is so multidimensional, is that you can hardly turn around without learning something. I step in the Second Life Lounge, and not only am I re-introduced to some of my best virtual friends (without the purple hair), but I turn around and there’s Steve Dembo, presenting somewhere in this complex, but displayed on a large LCD.
Walking throught one of the large open halls, I run across the Games & Simulations Lounge where I talk for a minute with Jeremy Koester and then get the five minute pitch on a couple of the games featured there.
As context to my reaction, I go back to the Leadership Symposium yesterday, and some of the general theme of conversations here at NECC — that it is a time to blur the walls of schooling, to recognize and respect the opportunities that we and our students have to learn outside of our classroom walls. The Internet and the new flow of information that has resulted from Web 2.0 applications offers an anytime/anywhere learning environment — where learn becomes a lifestyle, not just something you do in school.
Yet, both of the games I learned about were constrained by the rules of the grant providing organizations, a desire to produce a game experience that could be safely administered in traditional classrooms. Both of the representatives I talked with admitted that the games would have been something different, and probably better, had it not been for the insistence for classroom-ready products. They wanted the games to be schooly – and in my opinion, they stopped being games, at least from the perspective of the gamers that many of our children are.
We need to object to this and to be more vocal in our proclamations for learning lifestyles that are independent of time and space.
I’m finishing this up at the San Francisco Airport, one more leg to New Zealand. It’s currently 8:20 PM on Monday, and I’ll land around 5:00 AM on Wednesday — somewhat west of the DateLine. Blows my mind.
I used that setting on my camera that take multiple shots, and this is the only one that came out nearly clear. I’ve seen it before, but, out of curiosity, I Twitpic’ed it this morning to see if anyone knew what it was. Here’s what I learned.
There is a Civil War memorial near Fredericksburg, VA that is a twenty foot high stone pyramid. It was built in the 1890′s by a railroad company to commemorate the Confederate victory there in 1862. It is right next to the auto-train tracks. It’s far away from where the National Park Service wants you to look at it, across a ditch and the railroad tracks. It might be possible to get closer to it, but I have never tried. I think Amtrak has a fence up and the pyramid is either on Amtrak or private land.1
This information was contributed to RoadsideAmerica.com by Willie Zaza in June of 2001. Someone else added this later.
It’s known officially as Meade’s Pyramid. It stands 23 feet tall, is built of granite, and was erected in 1898 by the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, who originally just wanted a sign. The railroad vetoed that idea, so the Society built a 17-ton pyramid.
What I find interesting is that I learned of this, in less than ten minutes, by way of Jo Fothergill, from her home, in New Zealand.
Who says learning has changed!
- “Mysterious Confederate Pyramid.” RoadsideAmerica.com. 14 Jun 2001. 27 Jun 2009 <http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/3837>. [↩]
Yesterday, while waiting in line at the Harris Teeter, with the various items Brenda had texted to me, I was mesmerized by the Time Magazine cover to the right. So is Twitter “…changing the way we live?” I was awakened when the cashier started waving her arms to get my attention and as she checked through the milk, broccoli and my special blend of nuts and rice crisps, I mentioned that I was intrigued by the Time cover story on Twitter. She said, “I don’t do it. I don’t even know what it is.”
So it probably isn’t changing the way that we live, in any substantial way, but it is a very useful, and for many, a very essential tool for sharing and learning.
There are many ways to describe Twitter — none of them foolproof. But in the context of this series, it would probably be most useful to say that Twitter is micro-blogging. When we blog, we type what we want to say into a textbox, submit or publish it, and our message is available to a global audience.
Twitter works exactly the same way with just a few differences. First, and perhaps foremost, Twitter messages (or tweets) are limited to 140 characters. So the messages are short, taking little time to write and little time to read. Another distinguishing feature is that you can not comment on tweets in the same way that you can with blogs. However, you can reply to specifics tweets, which automatically places @tweeter in the message, tweeter being the user name of the person who posted the original statement.
Another important difference is that although tweets are technically available to a global audience, under most circumstances, the only people who automatically receive your tweets are people who have clicked to “Follow” you. This concept has created an interesting authority dynamic, where your “importance” is based on the number of followers you have compared to the number of people you follow. The formula is flawed in a number of ways. For instance, I do not follow very many people, 62 at present. So my importance is deceptively high. But it is interesting, none-the-less, this sense of measuring and drawing meaning from our information landscape.
So, the first thing you have to do is to set up a Twitter account. Here is a YouTube video that will walk you through the process. It’s easy.
The second thing to do is to start following some people. There are a number of services on the Internet that can help you find people to follow. Twellow is essentially a directory of Twitter users. Click [Browse] and then click [Education]. This reveals a number of subcategories, such as e-learning, educational toys, teachers, librarians, etc. If you are a librarian, clicking that subcategory will list the nearly 5,000 school librarian Twitter users, listed in order of their number of followers, so those at the top of the list, with thousands of followers, may be good folks to follow — initially.
Another service called Twits Like Me actually match the nature of your tweets to those of others, intelligently suggesting potential friends to follow. Make sure you are logged in to Twitter, and then type your username into the Twits Like Me textbox and click [Who is Like Me]. The service kept timing out for me so there may be a significant problem with the service — or it may have just been me. You might also try MrTweet. I’ve only just signed on, so we’ll see how it goes.
For the purpose of the upcoming National Education Computing Conference, we can find people who are already tweeting about it, by going to Twitter Search. This is a search engine for the Twitterverse, and typing in necc with a click of the [Search] button reveals a list of the most recent Twitter messages that mention the four letter string. Scan the messages, looking for people of interest. Click their usersname and in most cases you be able to read all of their recent tweets. If it looks like someone who might help you have a better NECC experience, then click the [Follow] button just beneath their icon.
..and here is the power of Twitter — that the entire conversation can be searched for the latest that is being said on virtually any topic. And if you have been following me, you’ve probably already trained your eyes to catch the little orange RSS symbol. So we can follow tweets related to NECC as well as blogs. Below is my NECC Netvibes page with NECC tweets coming in.
Following your Twitter conversations can be difficult. Fortunately, you are not limited to continuously updating the Twitter web page. There are a number of third-party applications, Twitter apps, that monitor your Twitter account for you, notifying you of new tweets from friends. The Twitter web site has a listing of applications here, one of which I am especially fond of, called Tweetdeck. In fact, I think I learned about this application at NECC last year.
Tweetdeck offers versions that run on Macs, Windows, Linux (a bit of a bear to install), and now for the iPhone. Like most clients, it will list tweets from the people who follow you, and enable you to post your tweets through the application. However, Tweetdeck is unique in that you can create additional panels to list other categories of tweets, such as replies to your tweets, your direct tweets (Twitter message posted directly and privately to another users — d username). You can also have a panel for specific Twitter search results and Tweetdeck recently added Facebook status updates. The application pretty much takes over your entire screen and adds to my near-constant lament — “Too many channels!”
I wrote yesterday that if blogging…
…was, then blogging would be little more than a bunch of web pages posted on the Web — thousands per minute. There is some sophistication behind the simplicity of blogging that kicks up its value, especially when blogging around a common topic or experience.
No truer statement have I made, ’cause thar be magic in them thar hills. First, it should be no surprise that the blogosphere (where blogs live) can be searched. Google has an excellent and fairly thorough blog search engine, Google Blog Search. Or you can just go to Google, do your search for web sites, then click down the [more] menu and select [blog].
A search for necc09 reveals 3,701 blog posts that mention term, at the moment of this writing, sorted by relevance. I can click [Sort by date] in the upper right corner and get a list from the most recent – backward — topped by an entry posted nine minutes ago. A few minutes ago, I posted a tweet (more about tweeting in my next BloggingNECC post):
I wonder what it would be like to follow the “swarm” at NECC. Just go where others are going & not look at the program.
In a sense, this is what we can do, during and after the event — we can follow the swarm around by reading their notes, and even engaging the swarm through comments. Dave Sifry, the CEO of Technorati, says that “…the blogosphere is the exhaust of our attention streams.” We have never been able to do this before, take what you and I are paying attention to and lay it down onto the record. Sifry continues, “…they are a tangible reflection on what we are spending our time and attention on.”1 ..and it is recorded, accessible, and measurable — in some pretty astounding and revealing ways. But more on that later.
What we get from Google is blog postings that included necc09, which in this case is pretty useful. But if I go to Technorati and type the same thing, I get the 66 most recent blog posts. If I drop down the second menu in the search line, and select [tags only], I get the latest 26 blog posts where the blogger tagged or labeled their blog with necc09. If I drop down the third menu and select [some authority], we get, at this writing, the 22 most recent blog posts that mention necc09, written by bloggers who are respected by other bloggers. Your authority is measured by Technorati through the number of other bloggers who have linked to your blog. This is a bit of a slippery thing as there are lots of reasons why a blog may link to your blog. However, this appears to be reasonably reliable way of measuring a bloggers creds.
The coolest part of all of this is a little symbol just above and to the right of the search results (see right). The symbol stands for RSS, which is usually translated into Really Simple Syndication. The original meaning is so esoterically technical that no one remembers what it is. As you move your mouse over the symbol, it turns into a button-clicking finger, meaning that it is a hyperlink to something. The address of the hyperlink is important. It is the RSS feed, and in this case, it looks like this:
With this URL, you can do some pretty magical things. For instance, I can go to a web site called Netvibes, set up an account (click [signup]), create a new tab, called NECC 2009 (click [New Tab] and type NECC 2009), and then click [Add content] in red in the top left corner of the page. Click our RSS symbol, and paste the URL (above) into the appearing textbox. After a moment a small “FEED” box appears. We click [add], or drag the box into our window space, and presto (see left).
We might go through the same process to list bloggers with any degree of authority and add a second box listing the latest blog entries. We could even drop back to Googles Blog Search, search again for NECC09, and get a reference to RSS in the left panel. Add that one in (see right).
The result is a single web page that we can visit to catch the latest that is being written about this year’s National Education Computing Conference, starting in three days in Washington.
If we are also interested in the happenings at the third annual EduBloggerCon, held on Saturday at the conference site, we can do a Google Blog Search for EduBloggerCon, move that RSS feed over to Netvibes, and we have added yet another box, the latest being written about the bloggers’ gathering (see below).
There are many tools similar to Netvibes, which are generically called aggregators or RSS readers. Here is a very limited list of free readers to choose from:
|Google Reader||http://google.com/reader||Here is a three part YouTube video series: part 1, part 2, (by Liz Davis) part 3 (GR in Plain English)|
|Bloglines||http://bloglines.com/||YouTube video about setting up and using Bloglines from|
|Pageflakes||http://pageflakes.com/||Another YouTube Video about setting up and using PageFlakes.|
|Netvibes||http://netvibes.com/||A YouTube Video about setting up and using Netvibes.|
Most Browsers can also incorporate RSS feeds.
You can even geek this out and display RSS feeds on your web page or blog. Using Feed2JS, a tool, brilliantly coded by Alan Levine, we can generate a Java script, plug it into our web page (or blog entry) to generate a list of the 10 latest blog posts that mention edubloggercon. He has made his tool distributable, so here is the version on Landmarks for Schools.
This is magical, in my opinion. We are able to not only access flows of information, be actually redirect it, re-combine it, further working the information to make it more valuable and to improve our own capabilities. It turns an event, such as an education conference, into an explosion of knowledge and experiences. It’s how we learn in the 21st century.
It’s a huge part of how teachers teach!
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- Sifry, David. “Oct 2004 State of the blogosphere: Big Media vs. Blogs.” [Weblog Sifry's Alerts] 14 Oct 2004. Technorati, Inc. 23 Sep 2008 <http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000247.html>. [↩]
A common feature of some of the most successful Web 2.0 applications is their simplicity, and nothing has demonstrated this more than blogging. Blogger.com, a free blogging platform from Pyra Labs, was launched on August 23, 1999. (( Yassar, Isaac. “The History of Blogger (www.blogger.com).” [Weblog Isaac Yassar's Blog] 6 Mar 2009. Web.24 Jun 2009. <http://isaacyassar.blogspot.com/2009/03/history-of-blogger.html>. [↩]
This came to me the other day from Mike Kruger, Online Outreach Specialist for the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives. Chaired by the Honorable George Miller, the committee is apparently holding a series of hearings about the future of learning.
Mike pointed me specifically to the testimony of Abel Real, a current Freshman at East Carolina University, and graduate from Greene Central High School in Snow Hill, NC. It’s a compelling story about the potential impact that respecting our kids with efforts to modernize their classrooms and learning experiences can have.
One line from Real’s testimony caught my ear. He said that
Technology helped me to create, learn, explain, document, and analyze the different aspects of my life.
I can’t think of a better way to describe what education is supposed to do.
As we attend NECC next week, we should keep in mind that the reason we are there is so that this might become a common story.
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Blogging NECC is an excellent thing to do for lots of reasons. First of all, it is a useful way to take and keep your notes from sessions you attend, appealing products you find in the exhibit hall, and people you mean and conversations you have. Blogging NECC is also a wonderful way to share with colleagues at home your new-found knowledge, friends, and insights. Blogging NECC also earn creds — it will get you read.
Thusfar, by “blogging,” I mean any journalistic recording of experiences at the international conference that might be discovered by other people — and discovery by other people is exactly what you should be striving for. Blogging conferences adds a new and potent dimension to the event. It extends the knowledge and energy generated by the conference beyond its geography and its time. Networking a conference also extends your experience by giving you a variety of perspectives. You are not only able to visit presentations and workshops you were not able to bodily attend, by reading the bloggings of those who were; but you are also able to re-attend sessions that you did experience, by reading the bloggings of others in the room.
With a few days at home, and a semblance of routine, I plan to write a series of blog posts to help you extend the conference experience, utilizing your laptop, cell phone, and free tools available for registration or downloading. We will look specifically at blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), and photo-blogging (Flickr). If there is another W2 avenues to cover, please comment it here. If you want to add your own insights and tutorials, link them here and/or tag your blogs with bloggingnecc.
See you in Washington.
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Written yesterday at the airport
I’ve been at home for just more than 24 hours. It was a good day — a fathers day. The kids gave me two seasons of The West Wing, including season 4, whose first episode, “20 Hours,” is the most YouTube’d WW of all seven seasons.
I spent the last couple of hours scanning through NECC blogs. It’s been fun and has helped me to find the spirit. It would be easy for me to say that I go to so many conferences that one more… But it’s not the case. NECC is huge — in just about every way you can imagine.
I’ve especially enjoyed the packing blogs. “What do I pack?” “Do I take my MacBook or the new Asus netbook.” “Which camera, my pocket Sony, or the cool dSLR I got for Christmas?”
The most interesting post was from the SL team at Discovery Educator Network. In NECC Prep Sessions a Big Hit, Lori Abrahams describes a series of recent sessions put on by DEN with reps from ISTE, including program chair, Anita McAnear. The purpose of the sessions was to provide some tips for people who will be attending the international edtech conference for the first time. Many conferences have sessions first thing, first morning, for newbies. But advancing this one to Second LifeTM makes a ton of sense.
Several people talked about sessions they will be conducting, including Harry G. Tuttle, who’ll be sharing ideas about assessing Web 2.0 tools. I have to confess that there’s a place on the back of my neck that always starts to itch when I see someone wanting to evaluate technologies. I can’t help but feel that as soon as you start applying rules, the tech stops being the Swiss Army Knife that it should be.
But Tuttle makes an excellent point in his post, Woeful Book Wiki Turned to Wow Book Wiki. As he has visited many school and classroom wikis, he has become increasingly discouragedl, as he notices that..
..most wikis are simply an online collection of student work. For example, all students in a class may do a book report and these book reports are posted to the class wiki. The students post their book report and the project is done when the last book report is posted. There has been no interaction among students or other adults. They have only worked in one learning style, linguistics. Likewise, the students have paraphrased (summarized) their book; they have not analyzed it.1
Harry then describes a wonderful alternative that creatively expands the wiki from collection of ideas, to an idea collective. Read his blog post for the details.
Of course, this is not an uncommon situation. So many people come to these conferences looking for the tech de jour. Then they bring it home and integrate the life out of it.
It may be the way that we present the technology — like snake oil salesmen. I’m raising my hand.
Or perhaps it’s just what people come to the conference for — to discover and embrace the new cool thing.
I would like to suggest, for the coming conference, a moratorium on the phrase, “Integrate technology.” Don’t say it at NECC. Don’t even think it. I’ll have nanobots loose at the convention center floating on the breeze, listening for utterances the IT. If you say it, or think it, my nanobots will hone in and drain the electricity from your iPhone.
Enough of the fun. The answers we return from NECC with should not be, “This is the technology my students should be using.” The answer should be,
“Here’s how my students can learn that is more relevant to their future, their learning skills, and the information landscape on which we all live.”
I’ll see many of you there, for the few days I’ll be attending NECC.
- Tuttle, Harry G. “Woeful Book Wiki Turned to Wow Book Wiki.” [Weblog Education with Technology Harry
G. Tuttle] 20 Jun 2009. Web.21 Jun 2009. <http://eduwithtechn.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/woeful-book-wiki-turned-to-wow-book-wiki/>. [↩]