Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Picasa and SketchUp and Wiki's ....Oh My!

On January 26, 2007, 30 SMUHSD teachers had the opportunity to spend the day with Chris Walsh of WestEd and the Google Teacher's Academy and Kathleen Ferenz of CTAP, who is also a Google Certified Teacher. The 6 1/2 hours flew by with hardly any breaks and teachers leaving with a wealth of new tools to use with their classes.

As the host of the day, I started with a quick synopsis of the Google Teacher's Academy, which I also attended and showed my 'Google Teacher Video.' The video was probably one of the items that was the most difficult for most applicants to complete. I also showed the group the 'EPIC 2015' Video that was one of the things that really crystallized my thinking about the Global Communications Pathway.

After I introduced Chris, the day went from 0-100 mph in about 3 seconds. We were able to see all of the cool tools that Google has and their application in the educational process. Most people know Google for search, which is their primary business, but we quickly learned the path to: 'More' and 'Even More.' inside of Google Search and Advanced Search. As Chris talked about the SMS functions of most cell phones, I was able to demo it by pulling out my cell phone and texting a message to '46645' or 'GOOGL' and putting in a few search terms. Within about 20 seconds, I had my results, which were my recommendations for lunch. Soon after, I did my demo, there was a room full of teachers performing SMS searches on their cell phones. Wait until the kids see this one!

After about an hour, Chris moved into the computer lab and went through Google Earth, SketchUp, Blogger and Docs and Spreadsheets. One of the cool things was the ability to draw a house in SketchUp and then place it anywhere in the world using Google Earth. During the Docs and Spreadsheets demo, Chris created a document and shared it with me in the other room and I was able to edit it in real time and have the teachers working in the room see the changes pop up on the screen as I made them on my end. This isn't the first time we have done this... Remember Monterey, Chris. If you want to see an end product with students using Docs and Spreadsheets, here's my Fall Semester Final Projects with the kids using 'hyperlinked writing.' (See post on Three Dimensional Contexts)

I know we could have gone on for at least another hour, but it quickly became 12:30 and it was time for lunch. Fortunately, some of the teachers took my lunch recommendations and were back right in time to start the afternoon session with Kathleen Ferenz. Kathleen is a former teacher and is now a Professional Development Trainer with CTAP covering San Mateo and San Francisco counties. Kathleen started her presentation with some great Hawaiian music. Why Hawaiian do you ask? Because Kathleen taught us all about wiki's, which is the Hawaiian word for quick and also comes from the little buses that cruise around the Waikiki area of Honolulu transporting pasty skinned tourists from place to place.

So, what's a wiki in the educational sense of the word? Well, most people know about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Kathleen started with this group of teachers having them look at their school's page in Wikipedia and correcting any entries they feel might be inaccurate. From that point, Kathleen introduced the wiki she had created for the day and how she used it as a scaffold for student collaborative work. If you would like to see the demo wiki Kathleen used, click here. There are currently three wiki tools that are available for teachers to use with their classes: PB Wiki, Wikispaces and Wetpaint.

All in all the day was a HUGE success and based on the evaluations, I hope we can do another day again next year.

To all of those who attended... thanks for your participation. If you didn't get the chance to attend, talk to someone who did and get their notes.

Oh.... and I forgot the best part of all of this... All of the tools that Chris and Kathleen shared with our teachers are absolutely FREE!

Want to see a few pics of the day... click here!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Three Dimensional Contexts: Stick and Spread

I have had a lot of ideas rattling around in my head for a few weeks about the read / write web and the potential it has in education. Some of this goes back to conversations I have had with Kathleen Ferenz at CTAP, other parts refer to Wesley Fryer's presentation at the Macworld Educators Symposium, some come from the items I have gleaned from David Warlick presentations I have attended and Will Richardson blog posts.

So, how can the I take all of this and mash it up in my brain and get something different out of it? Well, mashing things up and remixing them is really what the read/write web is all about to me.

"Stick and spread." I heard this term in a few different contexts, but I really got a jolt out of it when I was talking with Kathleen Ferenz, from CTAP, about professional development and analyzing its effectiveness in changing the ways in which teachers teach and students learn. Part of this idea goes back to the idea of early adopters of technology in education or other fields, where new ideas or methods would 'stick' with some and not with others. The 'spread' would often come from some of these early adopters, who upon becoming energized by their new skill set would assist colleagues in adopting these technologies as well. Evangelism is also part of this process, even though I have begun to embrace the term 'guerrilla' more and more. (Just my personal preference here!)

In the read /write web, the idea of 'stick and spread' also takes on a third dimension as well. As more and more teachers begin to internalize the skills, we are seeing not just a spread to colleagues, but to students as well. I know what you are thinking here... Isn't that what the goal of all of this is? Yes, but in the past, the skill sets usually related directly to teaching and instruction. In this context, the way people access and process information is fundamentally changed and students are right behind the teachers. The gap between teacher and student is slim. This is uncomfortable for some teachers, who want to make sure everything is perfect before using it in class. So, in this sense, the third dimension is when these skills quickly move from teachers to students.

The connotation of 'stick and spread' is changing within a hypertexted world. Wesley Fryer's talk at Macworld, relating to blogging and hypertexted reading and writing, giving depth to the basic writing assignment, the third dimension. The spread to other web sites, defining unfamiliar terms, using other articles that support the authors point of view all support the new Bloom's Taxonomy that Wesley Fryer Blogged on recently. To me this new 'Blooms Taxonomy Pyramid,' takes some of the theory of the older linear Blooms Taxonomy, where students learn to delay gratification and work on longer assignments and Abraham Mazlow's 'Needs Hierarchy' where individuals meet basic needs and move up the pyramid to the point where they become "Self-actualized."

Will Richardson also picked up on this strand in a recent post, where he mentioned using blogging and three dimensional writing specifically, to teach reading. Will says on his blog, "And for me, the biggest reason my reading has changed is because of blogging. I now read with an intent to write, and my writing (or blogging) is an attempt to synthesize and connect ideas, not simply summarize or paraphrase what I have been reading (if I even get to that.)" Therefore, blogging (the synthesis of ideas), leads to a deeper understanding of the material read. The reading and the writing afterwards, with hyperlinks back to the original material read creates our third dimension.

David Warlick also pushes the 3rd dimension forward with his three E's, (Exposing the truth, Employing information and Expressing ideas compellingly) which are part of his most recent presentation. "We are preparing our students for a future, we cannot clearly describe." Therefore, we need to teach students how to teach themselves, and this includes teaching them how to validate sources found on the Internet and to critically evaluate them for opinion or bias. As students begin to 'express ideas compellingly' they draw upon many sources to validate and support their ideas, in most cases these are hyperlinks to other Internet based resources. In the new educational paradigm, information is the raw material that students will use to construct their own ideas, and when they write about them, they will be invariably hyperlinked.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Macworld '07 - The Cool Stuff

I know that everyone has seen the iPhone from Steve Jobs' keynote (which you can download on iTunes) at Macworld '07, but until you have seen it actually demonstrated live, you really don't have the full flavor of what this device can and WILL do. The demo on Apple's site, doesn't do justice to the iPhone, but more than the iPhone being cool, it will cause everyone in the consumer electronics business to play catch up for the next few years. The iPhone is going to be a big hit because it does (however effectively) most of the things that people want a small mobile device to do. I wonder how freaked out the people at Research In Motion (Blackberry) and Palm (Treo) were when they saw everything the iPhone can do. The live demo at Macworld allowed those in attendance to see what the device could do and how it could be the ultimate 'single' device. Hacker's are also waiting to get their hands on the device, so they can add even more functionality to the device. In the live demo, the presenter listened to their iPod, answered a phone call, located a image file in memory, sent the image to someone attached to an e-mail, went back to the phone call and finished it and automatically went back to listening to music on the iPod function. Other things that are very cool about the iPhone is that the orientation of the screen changes automatically from portrait to landscape depending on how the unit is held and that all of the functions are touch controlled, there are no mechanical buttons on the user interface. Want to check out the iPhone? Watch David Pogue's video off his blog, the link is located on the right hand side of the page.

There were definitely other cool things at Macworld, but they mostly involved one of two areas. The first were services that allow users to share data of all types over a web connection. The second were ways to boot Windows on a running Macintosh computer, the most notable of these was an application called 'Parallels.'

After we cruised the convention floor, we went back to the Apple Educators Symposium and caught the last part of the session with Hall Davidson and the cool things he is doing with iPods as a portable media storehouse that allows you to carry your media anyplace for presentations. (The Mega VCR in your pocket!)

As part of the day, Chris Walsh from WestEd and the Google Teacher Academy did interviews of teachers attending the Educator Symposium and asked a few standard questions of each and video taped their responses for posting on Google's education blog, The Infinite Thinking Machine. The one question he asked was, "If every student in your school/district had an iPhone, how would that change education?" I think my response startled him a little, I said, "it would force teachers to change." "It would completely level the playing field, there would be no such thing as a 'digital divide.'" Teachers would have to find a way to integrate, there wouldn't be any excuses any longer. The students will quickly and easily adapt to any technology they have access to, but once any technology becomes common place, a critical mass will soon develop and teachers will become accountable to find ways to use what they have at their disposal. The second question surrounded around personal project that teachers were doing in their own schools. In this area, I happen to have two projects that I believe will change the educational process and how students interact with information and each other. The first is the 'personalized desktop' that I have blogged about previously, but I have altered slightly using 'Google Apps for your Domain.' Check out: to see some of the things we are providing for the students. Another project I am working on is called: Digital Bridge. In the Digital Bridge project, we are collecting donated computers and refurbishing them with students from my class and giving them to students who do not have a computer at home. We are also trying to find a way to provide Internet access to students who do not have resources to obtain Internet access on their own. Look for more information about all of these projects in the future.

If you want to see more check out the Slide Show of the entire day at Macworld 07

Friday, January 12, 2007

Macworld '07 - On the right track

After spending an hour listening to Dr. Monica Beglau as part of the Macworld Educators Syposium, (It wasn't as bad as I made it out to be in my previous blog post.) it was time for Wesley Fryer to speak about blogging. This was actually one of the talks that had initially interested me in signing up for the Educators Symposium. I had followed some of Wesley's blog posts on the "Infinite Thinking Machine" and "Moving at the Speed of Creativity" blogs and had found them to be quite interesting. In fact most of the posts I had read closely mirrored my ideas about students and blogging. It was very interesting, and completely coincindental, that I had a blog post the previous week that Wesley had commented on. I wrote an e-mail back and mentioned that I would be at Macworld at the Educators Symposium. As part of one of Wesley's posts, he embedded a video with three testimonials from teachers who are blogging as part of their classroom assignments, I used this with the teachers in our Global Communications team last week as a start for our monthly meeting. The six minute video (Download here!) became the introduction of his talk at Macworld.

Wesley's talk about 'Safe Classroom Blogging' started very simply. 'Asking the Right Question.' He followed with a minimalist outline: 1) Vocabulary. 2)Tools. 3) Exemplars. I liked the style because it allowed for more of a free flow of information from the speaker and didn't overly complicate things by trying to keep up with the information on a PowerPoint slide. After the presentation, during the lunch time, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and chat with Wesley for a few minutes. He mentioned that he was emulating the style of Lawrence Lessig from Stanford. Among Lessig's contributions to the Internet society are chairing the 'Creative Commons' project and serving on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation. I think the talk was a great introduction for any teacher thinking about blogging with their class. You can download a podcast of the entire talk from Wesley's blog by clicking here. There is also a wiki that contains all of the materials from the presentation.

After lunch, there was a presentation from Bernie Dodge from San Diego State University. Bernie is widely known as the 'father of the web quest.' The talk that Dr. Dodge gave 'Engaging Brains with Games and Simulations' was good and started me thinking in many different areas regarding games and simulations and their use in education.

The most interesting thing I took from Dr. Dodge's presentation was the 'Power Learning Equation.' (Wesley Fryer posted his notes here.) The equation: P = ADE, translates to Learning Power = Attention x Depth x Efficiency. In this equation, Attention is the percentage of brain power that the individual is devoting to the task, in this case a game or simulation. Depth, relates to the amount of thinking that is required to complete the task or compete in the game / simulation. Efficiency relates to the amount of time that learners have to think about what you are trying to teach or having to think about the rules of the game / simulation.

The remainder of the talk went through several games / simulations that relate to this model, including the new virtual world / role playing game, Second Life. In Second Life, you can also create your own custom worlds and cities to use for different purposes. The one resource Dr. Dodge did introduce that I think all teachers would benefit from, would be 'Gliffy.' Gliffy is a free-open source mind mapping tool, like Inspiration. Here is the page Bernie set up with all of the links from the presentation. There is also a podcast that Wesley Fryer created of the presentation.

All of what we saw from both Wesley Fryer and Bernie Dodge really let see that we are heading in the right direction with what we are doing with the Technology Arts classes and the Global Communications course. As time moves forward, I think we will end up expanding the skill set of the Global Communications course and doing more collaboration with courses on our campus and around the globe.

Macworld '07 - The Beginning

In an effort to keep my blog posts a little shorter, I am going to break up my blog posts on Macworld '07 into at least three separate posts. This is because I know there is at least three separate blog posts that will come out of this and since its been two days since I was at Macworld most of the hot stuff has already been reported by someone else. My posts on Macworld will tend to focus on the Educators Symposium I attended and the walk around the showroom floor with Dominic Bigue and Geoff Hinman from Capuchino.

Well, the day started for me with a ride over from Fremont on BART, which I was initally hesitant to take over to Macworld at Moscone Center, but I decided that with the traffic, bridge toll and whatever pound of flesh some parkling lot owner was going to forcibly take from me it was easier to do the public transit thing. Because of this, I arrived earlier than my compatriots and walked around a little ahead of time. I also needed to use the restroom, so I headed inside and almost ran over David Pogue from the New York Times. I subscribe to his blog and his talk at last year's TED conference is something I show all of my classes. I introduced myself and quickly made a fool of myself by babbling for 30 seconds. I apologized for nearly running him over and he mentioned he was giving a talk in a few minutes. I didn't look into where it was because I assumed it was a 'premium' conference session, much like a 'E' ticket ride at Disneyland in the 60's and 70's. As it turned out, Dominic arrived later and was able to just walk into and see most of David's talk and when we met up, he started to tell me about this cool session he had just seen... man was I bummed!

The three of us; Dom, Geoff and myself met up at the location of the Educators Symposium for the 10AM start. The keynote was given by Dr. Monica Beglau of the University of Missouri. She is working with educators using a training program called, eMINTS. Wesley Fryer, another of the speakers, took detailed notes about all of the sessions of the symposium and blogged them on his blog, 'Moving at the Speed of Creativity.' The one session he left out was his own, which I thought was one of the best and I will blog about separately. The best thing about Dr. Beglau's talk, including the fact that they couldn't get the technology to work for 5 minutes, was the graphic on the first powerpoint slide. A small mouse, suspended over a mousetrap like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. About 10 minutes in to her talk, our conversations turned to interesting ways to commit hari-cari and the more comical references to John Belushi as the owner of the 'Samurai Delicatessen.'

Good thing that Wesley Fryer's talk was next....

Friday, January 05, 2007

Aren't we in the business of Education?

A simplistic question, yet the answer painfully eludes us when referring to EdTech. We have administrators that don't support efforts to enhance the learning environment of the students in their schools. There are Information Technology Directors blocking web sites that have a worthwhile educational purpose. There are teachers who stridently refuse to learn how to incorporate information literacy skills into the curriculum.

Why is this happening?

Personal ego? Fear of the unknown? Not wanting to look incompetent in front of peers, students or administrators?

I would say that all of the above is true. This isn't a revelation to anyone that has been involved in EdTech for any length of time, but why I am blogging on this now? Because there is a critical mass beginning to form within the EdTech community and more specifically from society as a whole, to change the status quo.

Most of the notable EdTech bloggers have written on this topic over the past week and many other national publications have done the same thing.

David Warlick's - Two Cents Worth - "The Collision" and "Looking Forward"

Miguel Guhlin's - Around the Corner - "Consciousness" and "Truth, Trust and Transparency"

Will Richardson's - Weblogg-ed - "Perfect Storm"

TIME Magazine's Article - "How to build a student for the 21st Century."

I have functioned in my role as a Technology Coordinator on the premise of: "I'd rather move forward, knowing there will be mistakes along the way, instead of waiting until everything is 100% secure and knowing that day will never come." As EdTech professionals we need to educate the Administrators, Information Technology Directors, teachers, students and parents about the appropriate use of technology in an educational setting and in life. To do this, we must take risks that are educationally sound and support the process of teaching and learning.

Kimberly Moritz's in G-Town Talks echoes this sentiment.

"Enter the alternative to blocking everything—education.
Stop filtering everything, teach kids how and where they can go on-line while in school, and give consequences to the 2% who make a mistake. Our students are supervised at all times in school, so add software that allows the study hall teaching assistant to monitor all computers from his desktop. Talk to teachers and students about appropriate use. Remind parents in the district newsletter about our acceptable use policy and explain our philosophy about educating our students rather than prohibiting them."

As I mentioned in my previous post today about digital citizenship, there are programs to be undertaken that will make it easier for the Administrators, Information Technology Directors, teachers, students and parents to understand. As we move forward in the process we need to remember that most of us involved in EdTech, chose to do what we are doing. And that we didn't choose this because it was easy, but because it was a challenge and a chance for each of us to make a difference in the lives of teachers and students. As we move forward there will be a greater demand from the students and society as a whole to move toward transparency.

Digital Citizenship... Ranting Away

I originally wrote this as a comment on David Warlick's blog. His post on "The Collision" got me a little fired up, so I had to comment. 30 minutes later I was still going....Ranting Away. I wish I had the comedic and quick wit of Dennis Miller, prior to his current status as a President Bush lackey, when he would rant on the topics of the day a few years back,

What is the role of teachers regarding Digital Citizenship in our classrooms?

This is the conversation that needs to take place and part of our role as educators is to push it out infront of everyone’s face. We have this great tool, with no real instruction book/manual. We need to have the conversation, because we, as teachers, become the conduit by which this makes sense to the society as a whole. We have connected teenagers and young adults, who have 24/7/365 access to more information than can be contained in any High School or College Library. Yet, we also have administrators and others in the educational profession, who see the information explosion we are experiencing like the parents of the 1950’s saw Rock and Roll music. They didn’t understand it, it brought out in youth issues and topics that most adults felt uncomfortable about and in the end they realized they couldn’t control it, but only hope to make sense of it.

We are the people within our society that become the ‘connectors.’ The one’s that facilitate the conversation between the movement forward and the status quo. In the 1950’s and onward there were certain ‘protections’ that were instituted to attempt to contain the behavior of teens. Remember dances where there was a rule about how close a boy and a girl could be to eachother? “You had to have a foot between,” or a teacher had to be able to see ‘light’ between a boy and girl. We are at the same place when talking about technology and our teens. We already have rules establishing ‘appropriate use’ and which devices can be used on school grounds. But these ‘rules’ are all reactive, they are not ‘proactive.’ This is where we come in… We are the one’s who must be ‘proactive’ in the use of technology and bridge the gap between the connected teens and disconnected adults. While this looks like more of Marc Prensky’s “Digital Native and Digital Immigrant” premise, it has a slightly different flavor since it has permeated the roots of our society.

So, as I finish this ‘rant’ and I apologize for that… I think we need to become even more vigilant and proactive in teaching ‘digital citizenship,’ since it will the digital medium by which social and political discourse will take place. It will become necessary for all to be able to communicate using these tools to function within the societies of the future.

End Note:
As part of our Global Communications class we are teaching Digital Citizenship skills to the students. One of the best resources I have found is the work of Bailey and Ribble from Kansas State University. The thing I like best about their work is that they have drifted away from absolutes and more toward treating each instance as a separate event where there are judgements that students need to make.