Saturday, March 31, 2007

Give me Liberty or Give me Death? - Are we really going there?

Well... Before I was involved in EdTech full-time I was a Social Science teacher, teaching AP American Government. I knew the U.S. Constitution and could quote specific passages verbatim. I would teach students that the Bill of Rights were not 'absolute' that there were limits to the 'freedoms' listed there. I would teach students about how the Supreme Court, using the rule of precedent, would give more definition to the Bill of Rights and clearly define limits to things like the Free Speech and Press provisions of the First Amendment.

I have gone on record publicly a few occasions supporting the First Amendment rights of my students in school. I feel that instead of 'blocking' certain sites on the Internet, we need to do a better job of educating the students we have to be better 'consumers of the media.' Excessive filtering of Internet traffic is akin to 'cyber book burning.' This is the idea behind the 'Global Communications' Course. My professional thrust the past 18 months has been in this vein. The idea I have promoted of being a 'Guerrilla Learner' is wrapped in the philosophy of having a small group of individuals who band together to promote an open ideology.

The events in the blogosphere over the past few days have me worried. Kathy Sierra, a well known blogger, has been receiving death threats as comments on her blog, 'Creating Passionate Users.' These threats got to the point where they couldn't be dismissed as a random 'crack pot' trying to draw attention to themselves. These threats went so far as to list Kathy's home address and Social Security Number. There were even 'Photoshopped' images of Kathy with a hangman's noose next to her head and one where a woman's thong was used like a gag. (I intentionally did not post these images because they are in VERY POOR TASTE!) Kathy has cancelled personal appearances due to these threats.

So, what are we to do? For the most part you have to ignore as much of this type of behavior as you can. As teachers, you learn very quickly to have a thick skin, or you don't last very long in the classroom. Unless there is a direct personal threat to your well being, there isn't much you can do. I have had teachers forward me anonymous 'hate' e-mails and asking me to trace them back to the source. I can typically trace them back to the ISP, but unless you have a court order, that is as far as you can go. ISP's will not trace anything back to the user unless there is a court order authorizing them to do so. In education, this type of behavior would most likely come from a student who feels they have been wronged by a teacher. This is even more of a case to promote Information Literacy and Digital Citizenship in the curriculum.

I hope these types of events do not push some of the truly brilliant people on the Internet, like Kathy Sierra, into an underground status, where they have to fear for their lives because they have an opinion that is contrary to someone else. Danah Boyd, a well-known Information Literacy blogger from UC Berkeley also blogged on this. As citizens of the Internet, we all have a responsibility to model appropriate behavior and not be a 'silent witness' to abuses we come across on our journeys through cyberspace.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Stick and Spread: Educational Viral Video - Teacher Tube and NextVista

Online video has exploded in the last year and over the past month an a half, there have been several videos that have made their rounds through the Internet by going 'viral' and being the topic of conversation, which I think is necessary for 'real change' to happen in education. Will Richardson's post the other day, while disappointing in a one area, did bring my own thinking into greater focus. Like Will, I was very disappointed by the apathy of the younger teachers and their desire to include Information Literacy into the skills they are teaching in class. I knew, from my own experiences, that most new teachers were personal technology users, but they had not incorporated information literacy skills into their teaching repertoire. The teachers that are entering the system now, for the most part, missed the 'MySpace' craze and if they were involved in technology and collaboration it was probably with 'Friendster' or some other early social networking tool. It will take a few more years before we have teachers entering the system that have used online collaboration to perform 'scholarly tasks.'

Because of the 'IL (Information Literacy) gap' we need to bridge the time warp that traditionally exists between education, business and society. Where new technologies are most often picked up first by business looking for a competitive advantage, next by society as entertainment and recreational applications are created using the technology and finally by education because the cost of entry has dropped to the point where education can enter the arena using existing hardware and there is little investment on their part. This is what has happened with online video. The past few months have produced several online videos that benefit education from an instructional and political standpoint.

Michael Wesch's "The Machine is Us/ing Us" video has given a visual context to what Web 2.0 really is. The video, in a very entertaining way, defines Web 2.0 by separating form and content allowing information to be re-purposed and responded to in new and different ways. The byproduct is that people who have never met face to face become collaborators and others create a dialogue based on the material, allowing a broader community to interact with each other.

Karl Fisch's "Did You Know" video, the first 'EdTech' video that has gone viral and is becoming the rallying cry for a EdTech renaissance. Will Richardson and Scott McLeod have both blogged on this video over the past few days bringing it back into the conversation again. Karl has also blogged on his own reaction to "Did You Know" going viral.

Vicki Davis' "Technology Fear Factor" video, the first one that I have seen posted on 'Teacher Tube' is a cool film with a laptop keyboard and a Information Literacy message for teachers and students. I really liked the music... I know it is something recent, but it has that mid 1980's feel to it.

The Net neutrality video,"Humanity Lobotomy " isn't really an EdTech video, but the reason I am adding it to this list is the fact that it shows teenagers and young adults using the tools they have at their disposal to become part of the political process. The other part of this video that really impressed me was the fact that at the end of the video, there was a URL that led to a site where someone who was interested in collaborating on the video could download the Final Cut Pro file and add to the video that has been posted. This is the type of thing I wished the kids would have done when I was teaching AP American Government. The things I saw in the film: Students using video to assert their First Amendment Rights, showing how business was attempting to infringe on those rights and students taking the initiative to call members of Congress to express their position on the issue.

Well, the issue with some of these videos and education is that many schools summarily block 'YouTube' and 'Google Video.' The two newest alternatives are 'Teacher Tube' and 'Next Vista for Learning.' The new Teacher Tube site is getting a lot of attention and CTAP4 staffer, Anne Bubnic blogged on it last week. The other site, Next Vista for Learning was founded about a year ago by Rushton Hurley, a fellow Google Certified Teacher.

I am invigorated by the increased media that is being produced by teachers and is available over the Internet. The availability of this media shows teachers and students what is possible and gets more eyes on the issues and the tools and encourages more teachers and students to take part in the process. The kindling has been there for sometime, with teachers and students working on some of these issues in isolation. I know at our school, there are over 500 student created video's posted on the site. Some are serious, some are silly and every other genre in between, but the conversation has started. With outlets like TeacherTube and NextVista, there will be a few central repositories of educational videos that students and teachers can access and hopefully will not be blocked by over zealous District Information Technology Directors.

Let the conversation and collaboration begin!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Digital Bridge: Reaching out to the Community

Over the past few years, we have worked to bring 21st Century skills into the classrooms at Capuchino High School and throughout the San Mateo Union High School District. When I would talk with teachers about integrating more information literacy skills into the curriculum, the normal refrain was that "a good percentage of my students do not have access to a computer or the Internet at home and I don't want them to be at a disadvantage." I would mention other points of access outside of the school day that students could use to complete assignments using information literacy skills, like the public and school libraries. This issue has been referred to as the 'Digital Divide' for several years now. About 2 years ago, I started brainstorming ways to make the Internet more accessible to the students in our school who do not have the advantage of having Internet access at home. One of the first thoughts was trying to create centers in the community and place computers there for the students to access during the evening hours and on the weekends. There were always issues with potential vandalism, support and supervision. I finally came to the realization that the only viable solution was to find a way to get the technology in the home and provide students a way to access the Internet from their homes. I likened the situation confronting students in the early primary grades who are struggling readers. How can we expect students to learn how to read if there aren't reading materials(books, newspapers, magazines) in the home?

I made it my goal to do my small part to alleviate this situation for as many low income students as I could. Granted, I had some advantages in this process. First, I teach a computer repair class and I have access to computers and computer parts to build computers from donations received from the community. I did receive a large group of computers from San Mateo County Regional Occupational Program last year that have been the primary source of computers given to students this year. San Bruno also has a municipal Cable TV company, meaning I could go directly to the city and not have to deal with a monolithic corporate bureaucracy like Comcast or AT&T to get Internet access to the students. I enlisted the support of several people on campus including, Ed Marquez, the Principal and decided to make a pitch to the City of San Bruno. Initially, we met with Connie Jackson, the City Manager, and Tenzin Gyaltsen, the Director of San Bruno Cable. My pitch to them was simple. As a city, how much could you cut the cost of Internet access to disadvantaged students at Capuchino High School? Initially there was silence, but soon I think the City officials saw the great benefit to these students. The first meeting ended with a preliminary agreement to work towards a 50% cut in the retail $29.95 monthly service cost. At that meeting there was also talk that Artichoke Joe's Casino had been looking for worthwhile community projects to support and this project might interest them.

Over the next few months; student surveys, research and interviews provided the information we needed to set some parameters on the program. The initial goal was to provide Internet access to all 9th grade students who were receiving 'Free and Reduced Lunch' services, so we did not have to create another formula to determine student need. In the current 9th Grade class 23 students were identified to be eligible for the program, with an additional 8-10 potentially eligible pending additional information.

In early February 2007, a meeting between the City of San Bruno, San Bruno Cable TV, Artichoke Joe's and Capuchino High School finalized an agreement to provide free Internet access to 9th grade Capuchino High School students on 'Free and Reduced Lunch' for a full calendar year. I personally feel great that many different people within the city government, business and schools have come together to provide a program that promotes student learning and citizenship.

Many thanks to: City Manager Connie Jackson, Cable TV Director Tenzin Gyaltsen, Ron Cox of Artichoke Joe's, Mayor Larry Franzella, Vice Mayor Ken Ibarra and Principal Ed Marquez.

The San Francisco Examiner and the San Mateo County Times also covered the launch of the project.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Following Up: Transitioning to the other side

Over the past few months I have written several blog posts about learning strategies and the teacher's role in the process. I have examined the strategies to define the relationships that exist between teachers and students: 1) Traditional Assembly Line method, where our students miracously change each hour for teachers to perform their selected tasks on the new product in front of them. 2) The Digital Native / Digital Immigrant perspective first espoused by Marc Prensky in 2001 and recently updated by Wesley Fryer, to include Refugees into the mix. I included my own premise of Guerrilla Education, where students learn in environments that are not conducive to their preferred modalities, but manipluate the environment to learn things that are important to them.

I want to transition to include myself in the process. I have always felt that it was my professional responsibility to grow in my level of skill and knowledge as an educator. It has been in this responsibility that I have undertaken many of the tasks I have worked on over the past two years. (Blogging, becoming active in the larger EdTech community through RSS, Google Certified Teacher Academy, etc. ) Through the conversations (both personal and over the Internet) I have began a transformation to a more constructivist approach to education and seeing myself, not as the teacher, but as the lead learner. This approach leads to the idea of creating a 'community of learners.' Groups within this construct are fluid, changing their composition as the tasks to be undertaken change. This is what led me to some of the posts I have written over the past few months. I took on the idea of 'Guerrilla Warfare' in education, stating that we needed to be realistic and understand that the transition of the educational process isn't going to come from the top, but will have to come from the classrooms of the world. Teachers will have to, like their students already have, find ways to become quicker and more agile in the way they teach. During this transition, teachers will have to find examples from outside of education to help them move forward.

So, I am going to conclude with something corny... and steal from a friends planned presentation this week. (I doubt that many people will read this prior to the presentation!) The text below is from a training session between Luke Skywalker and Yoda in 'The Empire Strikes Back.' I think it illustrates the crossroads we are currently at in education. I've even found the video, its about 5 minutes long if you want to take a look.

Yoda: "You must unlearn what you have learned."

Luke: Okay, I'll try."

Yoda: "No, try not. Do or do not. There is no try."

Luke: I can't. It's too big.

Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

Luke: “I don’t believe it.”

Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

School 2.0 - Learning 2.0: Expanding the Circle

David Warlick has had a few posts over the past week about the transition to 'School 2.0.' The most recent post is about the issue of being 'rigid vs. flexible.' Steve Hargadon started a Google Group on 'School 2.0.' which I joined, but there hasn't been much activity on the group.

The point that I would try to make about 21st Century Literacy is that as students become more adept in using the skills, that the compactness of the circle David used in his post begins to expand. As the circle expands, there is more space between the students and more of the communication lines travel outside of the circle. You have three lines traveling outside of the circle in this diagram, I would suspect that you would see many more as student skill increases. This would also be the case for the physical stucture of the school. The current assembly line school structure would become looser and looser as the learning skills of the 21st Century are adopted, teachers are trained, and best practices are established. As for teacher training and learning in general, I am taking a more constructionist approach where students will create as a process to learn, therefore teachers will not be the 'possessor of all knowledge' but the one guiding the process and becoming a 'lead learner.' So, instead of titling this 'School 2.0' we might be better off calling it, 'Learning 2.0.'

Not that anything in this post is new, but it is just a slightly different way at looking at the same set of information. I want to see the conversation expand to include more voices, which will give the depth and width to the process that is necessary to make the necessary changes happen.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

CUE 2007: The Will Richardson Trilogy

From the time I saw the lineup for this years CUE conference, the sessions I have been looking forward to the most have been the Will Richardson presentations. I have been blogging for about the past 18 months and my 'EdTech Epiphany' happened when I went to an Alan November presentation and started reading blogs and began to explore the blogosphere. One of the first blogs I subscribed to was Will's 'Weblogg-ed Blog' and his RSS Guide is one of the first things I put into a teacher's hand when they want to start getting into 21st Century Literacy. As I applied to become a Google Certified Teacher, the video I made as part of the application process featured stills of Alan, Will, and David Warlick. I even bought several copies of Will's book for each of the teachers in our Global Communications Program. Since I have seen Alan and David on several occasions, Will was the last of the "Big Three" that I had not seen present in person.

Now, during Will's first presentation he went through many things things that I was familiar with having been a reader and commenter on his blog and it was validating in the fact that I had interpreted things the same way many of the people in the blogopshere have interpreted 21st Century literacy. OK... So, Will is about 40 minutes into his 60 minute talk and I have a few notes on my notepad and then it starts... There's something that catches my ear. I had heard the term 'Folksonomies,' but had never really thought about the process of what makes a folksonomy. The idea that there are connections to resources and ideas that are user created and defined was interesting to me. I am intrigued by the prospect that that individuals can take the same set of facts and come to different conclusions, not to say that one conclusion is better than the other, but the sharing of these ideas can create a third conclusion that make the 'conversation' we are having in Web 2.0 much richer. There have been several terms used to describe the conversation and mixing of ideas: remixing, mashup and sampling, etc. I think one of the bloggers that embodies these ideas is Danah Boyd at UC Berkeley. The tag line of her blog, 'apophenia,' is "making connections where none previously existed."

Will gave several references on how individuals can do this and share back out to others. One of these ideas was the use of specialized or personal tags within his '' page. You could then use this specialized tag to collaborate with a group of people and create a common reading list of items. The other items that facilitate the process of sharing a common set of ideas with a group of collaborators are: and The one 'trick' thing Will threw out was the 'RSS to Java Script' Translation tool. I immediately went through about 15 different things I could use this for. The one thing that immediately came to mind was to create blogs for each teacher and then create subscriptions on the Department pages on our school web site to allow teachers to access the school web page without having to use an intermediary to upload the pages.

The second session Will gave was on Podcasting and Vodcasting, we have been on the cusp of doing some of this with the Global Communications course and with the courses connected to the Global Communications course. (Health, English and Contemporary World Studies) Will presented several free MP3 creation and publishing tools, including: Audacity, Podomatic, GCast, and Odeo. He also presented a few open source / share alike music sites that can be used for student projects. (Jamendo and CCMixter)

The third session did have some repeats from the first two sessions, but there were a few very valuable tools that came out during this session that will facilitate some of the tasks I have been trying to complete with teachers and students. The most important one was the idea of 'screencasting,' or the ability to create a video that is a capture of a computer screen. I have known about screen capture software for sometime, but the cost was just a little too high to justify the costs. Will mentioned that the SMART board software includes this function and it's free... I downloaded the software as soon as I got home and was impressed with how well it works.

If you want the compete rundown of the resources Will uses in his presentations, try his presentation wiki.

CUE 2007: Teacher Collaboration in the 21st Century

Dr. Joy Lopez: Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland, CA

Dr. Lopez did a good presentation on how teachers can use many different tools to facilitate collaboration between teachers within disciplines and schools. The steps she gave created a scaffold onto which teachers can build relationships with each other and create a richer and deeper sharing of resources.

The students we teach live in an ‘on-demand world.’

As we look at the teachers presently in schools, we find several types:

Veteran Teachers:

- Jurassic Teachers: These teachers are completely reluctant to using any technology that may be available to them.

- Tour Bus Teachers: Will try something, but will not stay with something unless they see an immediate value in what they are doing.

- Converted Teachers: These teachers have it. They see the value in the use of technology in education and have integrated its use into their teaching repertoire.

Newbie Teachers:

- Gap Teachers: These teachers have had professional experiences other than teaching. Most of these people have a working knowledge of technology and its use in business, but do not understand the process of using technology within education.

- Tweener Teachers: These are the recent college graduates, who may have used technology while they were in college, but are making the transition of using technology as a teacher.

The teachers that will be entering the profession over the next few years will be: Net Gen Teachers. The Net Gen Teachers are fully integrated in using technology in the professional and personal lives. These teachers have already created a positive transfer of personal technology skills into their professional lives.

As a technology leader, how can you be all things to all teachers? The short answer is that you can’t. Therefore, you create a ‘360 degree – reciprocal’ teaching/mentoring program for teachers to assist each other and begin the collaborative process. Collaboration takes on many forms in education and among teachers.

- Share Knowledge

- Capture Learning

- Build Community

- Track Growth

- Modeling the skills needed in 21st Century learning.

As teachers, or others, begin the process of collaborating online, they take on one of a few different roles.

- Lurkers: Look, but don’t contribute due the fear of the unknown in cyberspace.

- Newbies: People, who have looked and watched for a certain length of time and now feel comfortable in contributing to the conversation. Students spend less time in this role than teachers or other ‘Digital Immigrants’ do.

- Experts: These people feel comfortable in contributing in many different online areas.

In order to get teachers to collaborate, you must provide an online area for the collaboration to take place. The three places Joy, identified were:

- Course Management Systems: Like Blackboard or Moodle.

- Blogs: Like Blogger or Word Press

- Wikis: Like PBWiki and Wetpaint.

All in all, I thought the session gave structure to a process that many people are already doing, but it allows those who are not yet doing it a path to follow in their own schools.

Friday, March 02, 2007

CUE 2007: Keynote - Fun, Games and a Message

Well, we just finished up the 2007 Computer Using Educators (CUE) Keynote. I have to be 100% honest, I really wasn't expecting much, since I didn't know the speaker and was going into the unknown. Boy, was I in for a surprize...

Deneen Frasier Bowen, was the Keynote speaker and she entertained us through her several alter egos and drilled down to some of the critical issues facing education today. The first of the psersonalities she introduced us to was the curmudgeonly school marm who was resistant to any introduction of technology into the educational process. "These kids are too wired.... we need to get rid of all of these wires," she stated as she showed a "Time Magazine" cover with a student covered in all of the technological periperals they have in their life. This reminded me of the presentation David Warlick gave in Monterey in November about "cutting the tentacles" off of the students as they walk in the classroom. Deneen did all of this with a huge brace on her knee, and hobbled around from place to place, but did her cruising though the crowd on a Segway scooter that the CUE organizers arranged for her to use.

The second character Deneen introduced us to was Edy, an 8th grader who has discovered blogging and her personal voice and power as a citizen journalist through blogging. Her pseudonym on her blog was 'Saran Rapper,' which I thought was prophetic in several ways, only one in which she explored through her presentation. She mentioned that she was 'transparent,' like Saran Wrap, as a student prior to blogging, but the experience gave her an outlet for the personal feelings she had inside. The transparency issue with the Administrator Edy has a difference of opinion with, is something as educators we need to be much more sensitive to as more students use the technology to publish their ideas and views. Students do not shed their First Amendment rights as they enter the school house gate. Edy's blog is eventually seen by a teacher in Chile, which validates her reach and personal voice.

Deneen transitioned to Edy's 5th grade mentee, Maria who became involved in the use of technology through 'Digital Storytelling.' Maria's first story was about her family's move to another town to get medical care for Maria's younger sister. Through this process, Maria become more and more engaged in the use of technology in education that she becomes a mentor to her peers and eventually to her teachers. Maria expands her circle of influence by bringing in other technologies, like podcasting and digital recorders to keep track of her expanding imagination.

The final charater is a video of a teacher and a dog.... the idea of reciprocal teaching and learning more from the process than the actual content was designed to teach.

All in all... I was WOWed by this session... If you missed it, find a place where Deneen is speaking and get into see her presentation! Deneen! Great Job and keep the message going!