Sunday, February 25, 2007

Net Neutrality - Keep the Internet free!

There has been a lot of talk about Net Neutrality over the past few weeks. The issue is confusing enough when you have a member of the US Senate referring to the Internet as a 'series of tubes' that the government needs to regulate. I just saw this video on Miguel Guhlin's site and wanted to share it. Please take a look and pass it on!

Save the Internet | Rock the Vote

This reminds me of one of my favorite Voltaire quotes. "I may not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I am here defending your right to free speech and expression. Please join in!

Original Source

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ed Tech Guerrilla - Defining the Habitat

I just finished two presentations to educational groups using the "EdTech Guerrilla" philosophy I have blogged about previously in this space. (Picasa Web Album of my PowerPoint slides) I was surprized at how well they were received and even more surprized at how quickly these groups began the process of implementation of some of the tools.

On Friday (2/23/07) afternoon, I spoke to a small group of student teachers in Stanford University's STEP program. The initial contact for this presentation was through the Google Certified Teacher's group, which started last November. Google had their second Google Teacher Academy in New York last week. So, I have 50 new colleagues in the Google Certified Teacher group. Welcome, New York GCT's. The goal of the session was to help teachers create web pages, but I quickly expanded the goals for the session to include many of the Web 2.0 (School 2.0) tools many teachers are adopting. I wanted to start with Michael Wesch's video on Web 2.0, but alas, YouTube was blocked. I will learn my lesson and get a copy on my laptop that I can have for presentations.

The second group was a group of graduate students at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA in a Educational Technology Leadership class. Mary Buckman, another GCT is the teacher of the course and invited me in to go through the presentation I previewed with her a few weeks back. The students in this class are all teachers, lead technology teachers or administrators. I was able to access YouTube and show the Wesch Video and it realy set everything up. The best part of this presentation wasn't my presentation, it was the dialogue that it started among the members of the class. I was psyched to see the synergy that was created between the members of the class.

The framework of the presentation came from an idea I had a few months ago and blogged on. In the early days of Apple Computer, the sales people and those who were Macintosh afficinados, were referred to as Apple Evangelists. I started seeing the 'Evangelist' label around with people in EdTech, primarily Will Richardson, who had an article about him in Teacher Magazine with the title, "The Blogvangelist." (I hope to meet Will this coming weekend at the CUE conference in Palm Springs!) I wanted description that evokes a little more action on the part of teachers and students. I started using the term 'Guerrilla' because I wanted to emphasize the idea that guerrilla fighters usually found weapons, or used unorthodox tactics to defeat a larger, better equipped foe. I decided to structure the presentation around this. I went to Wikipedia and pulled out the first paragraph of the definition of "guerrilla warfare."

Guerrilla warfare (also spelled guerilla) is a method of unconventional combat by which small groups of combatants attempt to use mobile and surprise tactics (ambushes, raids, etc) to defeat a foe, often a larger, less mobile, army. Typically the smaller guerrilla army will either use its defensive status to draw its opponent into terrain which is better suited to the former or take advantage of its greater mobility by conducting surprise attacks at vulnerable targets, often deep in enemy territory.

My goal was to try to frame the situation that exists today in schools in regards to Educational Technology and Information Literacy. In the paragraph above, the words that are colored red, better describe the students we work with on a daily basis: connected, mobile, agile, using surprize tactics, taking advantage of its greater mobility and to draw its opponent into their terrain. The terms that are in green, better describe the way teachers, administrators and schools deal with the same issues. Schools act like a larger, less mobile army that has vulnerable targets and forces students to work in enemy territory.

Part of understanding the issues that face teachers and students in the implementation of EdTech and information literacy skills is understanding the native habitat or environment the students, teachers and administrators live in. David Warlick makes the point in his presentations that we 'cut off the tentacles,' or the access to technology, of our students when they enter our classrooms. We have many district information technology departments blocking certain pages because of their 'potential' of misuse, eventhough there are plenty of valid educational uses of a particular web site or application. Classrooms with a single computer, firmly planted on the teacher's desk or located in such place that the students don't even think about using it. The habitat our students and teachers live in is foreign, sterile and disconnected to the outside world.

When I think of Guerrilla fighters, I usually think of someone who is an idealist. Firmly committed to a particular ideology and is willing to take on extraordinary measures to advance their philosophy. This is how I feel about the students in our schools and my commitment to information literacy. We must use any tool at our disposal to teach our students these skills. I know this may run counter to the philosophy of some, but doing nothing perpetuates an educational system that will fill non-existent factories.

Gingerly, stepping down off of the soap box... not to say I might just jump right back on it in a few days!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Google Earth Tutorial

On the Google Operating System blog there is a video posted that has an hour long video from one of the people working on Google Earth. I watched about 15 minutes of it immediately and I have it book marked for teachers and students who may want a more indepth explanation of what Google Earth can do. The presentation starts with the Google employee telling us about how people really like Google Earth, but just like the fact that they can look at their house from over head.

So, what can you use Google Earth for in education? Let's rattle off a few ideas that you may want to use in your class. You can also ad graphics, links and even embed video into the 'popups.'

Jerome Berg, another Google Certified Teacher, is creating Google Lit Trips, where students are plotting the path on a map that follows the path of a novel. One of the Lit Trips is based on "The Grapes of Wrath" journey from Oklahoma to California along Route 66. There are other teachers that are collaborating with Jerome and plotting out several other novels on Google Earth.

Here is another article from a teacher in Great Britain using Google Earth in Language Arts classes.

There are already overlays created in Google Earth for battles in the Civil War, World War I and World War II. A 1960's civil rights tour has already been created in Google Earth.

So, what else could you do? Just off the top of my head....

Plot out a rock band's tour and link to the newspaper reviews and maybe even a "YouTube" or "Google Video" embedded into the 'popup.' Students could compile an entire tour journal and write a final tour review.

Plot out the schedule for a sports team, with records and team logos on the placemarkers. Students could calculate batting averages (Baseball), goal scored averages (Hockey), shooting percentages (Basketball) and yards per play (Football) statistics. Students could do this for a game and/or a season. You could also have students calculate travel distances and determine the total number of miles the team traveled in an entire year and if you want to get even more crazy, have the students calculate how many free trips they would get if they were allowed to keep their frequent flier miles.

One of the projects I am starting to work on is the "Global Families Project" where we will be asking students to post a picture of their family on a wiki and answer a few questions about them. The next part of the project will be to have the students place a push pin in a Google Earth file (.kmz) of where their home is located. The pushpin will be linked to their family's picture on the wiki.

There are plenty of ideas you could come up with.... the only limit is your imagination.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Librarians - Get 'Geeky' with it!

Well... what it comes down to this. Librarians, we need you to make a 'leap of faith.' There is no better way to do it than to say, we need you to come and try Web 2.0. I have read posts over the past year from David Warlick, Wesley Fryer and a cast of others about librarians. I am encouraged by what I see from librarians just finishing their Library Service credentials from schools like San Jose State University, but I also see many librarians sticking with the tried and true online databases that have the information 'cherry-picked' for the students. I ask librarians about using these resources with students and the answer that always comes back is "Why not use these sources, they have been checked out and we know the information is valid." I personally have two problems with this. First, I think that the information that is provided by some of these online databases is usually several months old by the time it is listed. Nothing new or topical that increases student interest is included. Secondly, we create a false sense of security with our students that all of the material on the Internet is trustworthy. The arguement that I get back from Librarians is that, "Wikipedia is edited by members and therefore cannot be considered a 'trustworthy' source." OK... Does inaccurate information get into Wikipedia? Absolutely, but inaccurate information gets into any encyclopedia on the planet. What's the difference? In Wikipedia, the information gets updated almost immediately once it is deemed to be inaccurate, with a print encyclopedia, it takes several months to years to get the information correct. Wesley Fryer had a great post on this point. How fast was Wikipedia changed when Pluto's status was downgraded from being a planet to a star? Almost instantaneously... Look at the time of the press conference and the time Wikipedia was edited to refelect that change. How many print encyclopedias still have Pluto as a planet? Almost all of them. Look around schools... There is misinformation everywhere! How many maps and encyclopedias are there still in classrooms and Libraries that show a united 'Soviet Union?' Shouldn't it be our goal as educators to provide the best and most accurate information possible to our students?

How do we do this? Well, we need you Librarians! We need you to get get a little 'geeky' with it! We need you to embrace some of the new technologies and techniques to find and validate information.

1) Wikipedia is a source. No better or worse than anyother, but it is one source and should never be used in isolation without corroboration from other sources. This is true for 'every' source students use in preparing reports. This also includes text books, newspapers, magazines and teachers!

2) Students, Teachers and Librarians need to be trained in how to locate, validate and think critically about information. We should be skeptical about all information until we can validate it. The one thing we haven't done a great job of in the past and we need to in the future, is to evaluate the 'bias potential' for any information or web site we encounter on the Internet. Every teacher and student should know how to perform a "site search," a "link search" and an "whois search."

3) Libraries need to be restructured into collaborative learning and sharing spaces. There are way too many new libraries being built today that look identical to the facilities that were built in the 1950's. Like it or not, the way information is collected and stored have changed over the last 50 years and we need to have facilities that allow for the effective use and manipulation of that information. The type of information we are collecting and archiving today has also changed. Audio and video files are now collected in huge repositories on the Internet. I would make the case that 'YouTube' and 'Google Video' are nothing more than an online video libraries that can be searched like any other library.

So, my feeling is that we decrease the number of subscription databases we subscribe to (not eliminate) and spend the money we are using to subscribe to services to provide additional professional development opportunities for Librarians and Teachers. Some librarians have gotten the point of Web 2.0, like this one! Joyce Valenza in Pennsylvania has a great matrix of how information has changed and how the role of Librarians will continue to change. There is even an online course for librarians to create a "Social Library."

Make these skills available to all and include them in the curriculum. We need to give these tools to all people involved in the educational process and allow them to use them create new structures that can be built upon by those that follow them. Information in the 21st Century is not static, where each successive generation learns the same material and may add some additional skills or theories for improving the practice of some particular action. The goal of education in the past was to possess information that would allow you to perform a particular skill. Today, possessing information that can be recalled via human memory is inefficient for the most part. The skill set we teach should be concentrated on how to access and use the information available to solve questions that the environment or society puts to us on a daily basis. It's not enough to possess a certain set of facts anymore, its what you can do with the information you have access to is what is going to make the difference for the students we have in our classrooms today.

Librarians... we want to be your partners. Meet us at 2.0 and we'll travel together!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Anti-Teaching or Students Teaching Themselves

I read an interesting blog post today about teaching, but not in the classical sense of teaching. The post was written by Michael Wesch of Kansas State University about 'Anti-Teaching.' If you have been reading my blog and other educational blogs over the past week, the name will sound familiar. Michael Wesch is the creator of the video "The Machine is Us/ing Us." The post surrounded the structure of his introductory Anthropology course at Kansas State University. There are over 200+ students in an intro Anthropology course... now that is impressive. The culminating activity of the course is a World Simulation. Watch the embedded video below.

The major points of the article surrounded the idea that students learn best when they have to teach themselves and apply the knowledge they have attained in some quantifiable way. The phrases like: problem solving, thinking outside the box and active lifelong learners were used to define the characteristics we would like all students to exhibit. The journey, as we are reminded by others in the educational community, provides depth and clarity to students in the way they internalize and personalize academic material.

A good part of the article, emphasized 'Asking better questions' of students. While we would like think that students would be 'self-actualized' in their educational life, we know that the reality is always much different. So, as we ask students questions we are providing a path, or trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow to the goal. This is much like the methodology of a socratic seminar. The questions we ask of students must push them outside of the comfort zone they have enjoyed in their earlier years.

The one book, Dr. Wesch cites is: Teaching as a Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. In public education, with NCLB and other government mandated testing we must ask, "What do students need to know for the test." The question we need to be asking is, "What do students need to know for their future?" How do we do both? This is part of the question I have been trying to answer with Global Communications. Part of what we have learned is that we are chasing a moving target. There are innovations that come along, some times weekly, that allow us to do something that has has a significant educational impact, while at the same time teach the skills that will assist students in meeting the requirements of standardized testing.

This year, we have learned a lot about the right questions to ask and when learning when it is appropriate to take off the training wheels from the Internet and the read/write web. I don't know what next year will look like, but I think we have made a great start.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

2007 CUE Conference - Bloggers Meetup

Anyone going to CUE? Is there any interest in having a face to face blogger's conference in Palm Springs?

I have seen that at many of the other EdTech Conferences this year there have been Blogger meetings at the conference. I say, why not at CUE.

If there is already someone coordinating a Blogger's meetup at CUE, please let me know!

Hopefully, I see some of you in Palm Springs!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Information Literacy: The Points of the STAR

With the explosion of Web 2.0 and all of the media surrounding it, it is hard to escape hearing or seeing some example of its use in our daily lives. Along a somewhat parallel path has been a 'School 2.0' discussion that has traveled along the web. While there has not been an explosion of Web 2.0 tools used in schools, there are many instances where you can see these tools in use. Due to the role in society where schools are found, change in education is often a slow and often tedious process. In most cases, when you start talking about change in education, it is often some recycled program or idea that has been repackaged and sold as something new.

This is different. Information Literacy is on everone's mind now... and trying to define how that will look in schools is definitely starting to take shape. In my own mind, I want to define it for myself, so that I can accurately define and articulate it for other teachers and members of the community. So, this is just one way I started organizing things so that I can speak to teachers and members of the community and make sure I hit all the right 'talking points.'

So, here we go!

As I started looking at this I wanted to have a visual model where I could quickly draw in front of someone and have a few words connected to it that would organize my thoughts. Your own model may be completely different, but I am looking at this as a mini-graphic organizer.

I decided to use a 'star' as my organizing point. It's quick, easy to use and I can draw one with out much assistance, despite my lacking artistic skills. If you think of colors and light, the combination of all colors in light produces 'white light,' which is where all members of the school community need to be. Everyone needs to be able to see everything, it needs to be 'transparent.' Transparency, has become the new educational 'buzz word' of the day, taking over from 'ubuqitous.' In the model, where the white light is are: Students, Teachers, other Adults and Retention. The students, teachers and other adults are obvious, but the reason I added 'retention' was that I wanted to emphasize a 'shared set of skills and experiences' that will facilitate the conversation between all of the other three groups. The center of the star becomes the focal point of the five points that surround it. Each point taken separately sheds some light on the center of the star, but only when all five points of the star combine their light together do they become 'white light' or transparent.

So, what are the five points?

1) Tools / Applications: The tools of the Web 2.0 are now for the most part free. If you purchase a computer and have an Internet connection, most of what you want to do, you can find a tool for free that will allow you to do it. Some come connected with ads, others dont, but the point to be made here is that the 'point of entry' into the digital world has come very close to zero. It makes me understand Nicholas Negroponte even more. What tools... Open Office, Blogger, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, SketchUp, Google Earth, Picasa, Google Pages, Glifffy, wikis and the list could go on and on. The other issue surrounding 'point of entry' is the increasing power of cell phones becoming a computing tool. Everytime I do an SMS search infront of a new group of teachers, watching their eyes get really big and do a search with their own cell phone it is a very cool thing.

2) Relevance: As students and others move through there lives, there is always a desire to find ways to give meaning to the things that are part of our lives. Students are already using e-mail, text messaging, Instant Messaging, Social Networking sites (MySpace, Friendster), podcasts and online video (YouTube, Google Video). The use of Web 2.0 tools in education, which students are already using to connect to each other, gives them a level of comfort that is traditionally missing in most classrooms with desks in rows and a teacher standing at the front lecturing away.

3) Validation: Being able discern the difference between fact and fiction is an important skill in the lives of all adults today. But the even deeper importance comes from being able use information in a meaningful way. Search strategies, using the 'advanced search' functions of Google, the Way Back Machine and other search engines, allow students and others to find the history of different web pages, as well as sites linking to and sites being linked to.

4) Ethics: As part of the process of introducing a new 'Literacy' into schools, we need to understand that students do not understand many of the implications of their behavior in the connected society of today. This is something that many of us as adults have just learned over the past couple of years. Imagine turning the clock forward 10 years on the students we have today and the ability of a future spouse or employer performing a search on them and digging up some blog post or random reference on a web page that may not portray them in the most positive light. It has already been well documented where colleges and employers are using searches to determine admission and hiring practices. As part of the Global Communications curriulum, we included an entire unit on Digital Citizenship, much of which we used the material by Bailey and Ribble from Kansas State University.

5) Synthesis: Putting it all together is the key to all of this. Whether you call it remixing, synergy, mashup, sampling or something else, the goal of Web 2.0 and School 2.0 is to take the material available to students and synthesize it into something new and different. Once you have brought several ideas into a new form, you need to share that in some way, through a graphic, a podcast, blog post, video, etc. As students, and others, become more comfortable with this process of bringing together ideas from several different sources and sharing them out, it starts a conversation.

The conversation is what this is all about... We want students and their teachers and other adults in their lives to have a conversation. This conversation will take many forms, but it ultimately create situation where students will learn to work collaboratively with others towards a common goal and learn to teach themselves. This process will allow them to solve the issues that will undoubtedly face in their adult lives.

I once wrote an article about coaching, and the first line said, "Teachers and coaches are the biggest thieves known to mankind." I still believe this, but I need to refine it and say, "Teachers and Coaches are the biggest facilitators known to mankind." This is the role of teachers, where we become the facilitators of learning, not the source of it. In the past, teachers performed the remixing, mashup, sampling function for the students we teach, we did this for several reasons. First, it allowed us to have a deeper understanding of the curriculum we were teaching and improve our ability to relate the knowledge we had to the students. Secondly, we drew upon our own experiences in school, knowing that we didn't automatically 'get it' the first time the teacher introduced material and developed different ways to represent the same knowledge. Anyone that has been a teacher more than a few minutes has heard the phrase that we are moving from being "the sage on the stage, to the guide on the side." It is now time to really test all of that out.

In developing all of this I have taken and remixed and mashed up all of the things I have read and experienced over the last 2 years from: Alan November, Will Richardson, David Warlick, Miguel Guhlin, Wesley Fryer, Chris Walsh, Mike Lawrence, the Google Teacher's Academy, Vicki Davis, David Pogue, Mark Wagner, Kathleen Ferenz and a countless band of others that I read and interact with. I have not met all of these people face to face, but that is the strength of the new literacy, the ability to have the conversation, regardless of time or location.

So, to finish in the words of Dennis Miller.... ' of course I could be wrong.'

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Welcome to the Conversation! Thank You, Google!

One of the issues that I am sensitive to being a teacher and encouraging the use of technology by students is that there is a 'point of entry' for students to join the conversation. The cost of computers is coming down ($350 for the basic system) to the point where they are affordable for most students and high speed access (AT&T - $14.99/mo. - 384k DSL) is becoming as affordable as the old dial up connections. We are doing things to assist students who cannot afford this level of access, with refurbished computers and 'Internet Connection Scholarships.' (Digital Bridge Project) For quite some time, this was only part of the equation, because after you had the computer, you needed to buy several software applications to write a paper or create a project that a student could take to school and have it run on the computers the school has.

This is why I am really impressed with all of the Web 2.0 applications that are available to students absolutely free. Why am I writing about this now? Because over the past few months, there have been several things that Google has done that will bring all of this together in one package and easily accessible to every student in the world. OK... so, what is all of this about?

Google has purchased and re-released several applications and packaged them all together. Google purchased Writely and re-released it as Docs and Spreadsheets, attached the Google name to Blogger, SketchUp and Keyhole's Earth. Today, Tech Crunch and the Google Operating System blogs have reported that there is a presentation tool similar to PowerPoint in the works. It is well known that Google purchased 'JotSpot,' an online wiki tool a few months ago and I would suspect that it will re-released before the end of the school year in June 2007. Google Apps for your Domain, which launched toward the end of last year, is already integrating several of the basic Google tools, like: Gmail, Calendar, Chat and GooglePages. How hot is Google Apps for your Domain? When I showed the district Technology Coordinators the 'portal' I set up for Capuchino, I had two Technology Coordinators pull out credit cards and create accounts for their school.

Many of the comments around the Internet talk about other online word processing tools like, ZohoWriter, etc. But the point is that Google will soon have all of these tools integrated into a single package of some sort, which will create the 'Google Student Desktop' I blogged about in November. The benefit of all of this to students is that they don't need to have all the applications on every computer they use. They have access to everything they need at school, Mom's or Dad's house (in a blended family), the public library, Starbucks, etc.

The point of entry will be zero! All students will have the ability to be members of the conversation, the collaboration and the creativity of what we are calling Web 2.0.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

As I went through my typical routine of scanning through the 15 or so feeds I follow on a daily basis, I saw one post on Digg that caught my eye. Digg, if you have never used it, is a peer-production news site. This means that people all over the Internet submit stories to the site and the readers of the site select the stories (digg them!) that become the most popular and therefore get a spot on the front page. The title on Digg was "Web 2.0 - Explained through inventive video." I have been trying to find different ways to define Web 2.0 to people who are not 'Internet-savvy,' but have not been 100% successful. This video is the definition I have been looking for and it will help those who still don't get what Web 2.0 is all about... finally get it!

The video is produced by Michael Wesch, an Associate Professor in Antropology at Kansas State University, and uses the term 'Digital Ethnography' to define the genre he uses to bring Web 2.0 come to life.

The video starts with pencil and paper and quickly transitions into a digital format with a screen and a word processing application making the point that the difference between the written word and the digital word, which can be linked and extended. This creates a depth, a third dimension (Which I blogged on last week) giving the author and reader the opportunity to create a living document, which lives in a digital world that can stand alone or take on a life as a source for others inspirations or documentation of a path from one point to another.

Things move pretty fast in this 4 minute video, but there are a collection of things going on that bear mentioning. The 'Way Back Machine' from is a way to look at the historical look of pages from the late 1990's. Web 1.0 is defined as using HTML, where the code and the content were linked, or bonded together. Digital Text, XML, RSS and Web 2.0 allow the content and the code to become separated, allowing the content or information to be moved, fed and linked. The content can be moved without the constraints of the formatting of the web page. Most of this part of Web 2.o comes in the form of blogs and online journals.

The video then makes the jump from text, saying "It's not just the text" and brings in YouTube and Flickr as other forms of media that can be dynamic in the way they are stored and used. "XML facilitates automated data exchange and allows users to 'mash' the information from two sites into one." There is a scrolling Google Earth map, with Flickr photos linked to push pins in the map and displaying thumbnails of the pictures as a mouse scrolls over the push pin.

The question is asked... "Who will organize this data? We will," followed with a quick scroll of a page. The next image is of a Wired Magazine article, "We are the Web." The video pulls out several lines, which illustrate the points the fimmaker is trying to make. (I am piecing together the lines highlighed in the video here.) "We are teaching the machine." "Each time we forge a link" "we teach it an idea." "Think of 100 million times per day humans clocking on a web page." "Teaching the machine." "The machine is us... The web is linking people."

" Web 2.0 is linking people...
... people sharing, trading, and collaborating..."

And the video finishes with a few new ideas.

"We will need to rethink a few things...
- copyright
- authorship
- identity
- ethics
- aesthetics
- governance
- privacy
- commerce
- love
- family
- ourselves"

I hope you take a look and are as inspired as I am by the conversation this 4 minute piece of video will allow us to have with those around us. How rich can we make our conversations with the tools we have available to us today? I can't wait to find out!