Saturday, September 29, 2007

NetNeutrality: Do We Still Believe in the First Amendment?

Given my training as a Social Science teacher and more specifically the time I spent teaching American Government, the First Amendment has always been something that I feel very strongly about. When I did teach American Government, my students had it drummed into their heads... "WHAT ARE THE FIVE FREEDOMS OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT?" I never quite created a little mnemonic device to help students learn them easier, but I did keep repeating, "R-S-P-A-P, R-S-P-A-P." Which all of you know, stands for Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly and Petition. And that became the way students learned the First Amendment. I also had what I called the "Dirty Thirty List" of Supreme Court cases that students needed to know the facts and holdings of for tests, expecially for the AP Government examination. I outlined the limits of free speech that Justice Holmes put forth in the Schenck case. We covered student symbolic speech, in Tinker v. DesMoines School District.

I'm worried that the explosion of free speech and press that has been possible through the Internet is going to be restricted, not because there are political disagreements, but because the ISP's (Internet Service Providers) want to charge more for specific services. There are several terms used to describe this practice, but the most common is 'Tiered Internet.' The ISP's could allow their Internet traffic, or the traffic of companies that pay an additional fee to get preferential time slots on their networks. Think of it like a highway that has five lanes. In four of the lanes, there is no speed limit, but you have to pay an additional $100 a month. In the other lane, you can pay the normal rate but the speed limit is 5 miles per hour and it will be constantly jammed or slow. ISP's can also do something called, 'Bit Shaping.' When ISP's bit shape, they charge more for bits that are using a particular service. For example, an ISP will charge customers more if the bits they are being used for Peer to Peer File Sharing or for Voice over IP traffic (VoIP).

There are many sites around supporting Net Neutrality and lobbying against any potential legislation at the state and national levels.
  • Net Neutrality and Civil Liberties: A site put together by the American Libraries Association that has a variety of links to different resources regarding Net Neutrality.
  • Save the Internet: A site that has several positon papers, a lobbying effort and many citizen created videos in support of Net Neutrality.

The videos below are both good examples of how Net Neutrality is important and why it should be preserved.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Presently: The New Google App

There has been a lot of talk over the past few months about the release of the new Google Apps, PowerPoint-like presentation tool. The tool, which has been code named, "Presently," will allow you to create a slide show like PowerPoint, allow others to collaborate on the slide show with you. There are several omissions right now, like animation and video, but I would assume that these will be coming right around the corner since that has been the typical 'modus operandi' of the Google Apps releases. (The graphing tools were added after the initial release of the spreadsheet tool.)

The one cool thing that is there, is a chat function. So, you can have your slideshow and give a live presentation and allow others to chat with you in real time. I can see two different ways this will be used. One as a way to discuss the presentation as it is being constucted and secondly as a feedback tool during a live presentation.

This is just the latest in the series of tools Google has released in the Docs and Spreadsheets tool kit, but it isn't the last... I would suspect that their wiki tool, JotSpot (or a re engineered version of the old JotSpot) will be out before the end of the year.

What does this mean for education? The bar for entering the digital academic world has just been lowered again. Students, most who can't pay even the $150 for Microsoft Office for Teachers and Students can do all of the basic office tasks for free and store them online. I don't have to worry about lugging disks from place to place, scheduling time at the one parent's home that has all of the correct software. I can even go to the public library, a friends home, school, etc. and have access to all of my documents and e-mail. For teachers, this means they can assign more work that needs to be done using technology because the socio-economic barriers to access are so low that students can easily meet them.

Want to learn more about the new Presentation tool... Lee Lefever, from the Common Craft Show has done another of his great videos to show off the Google Apps Presentation tool. Take a look below!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Animoto: A New Twist on Home Video

This is a video I produced online in about 15 minutes, using a new service called: Animoto. Animoto allows you to upload your pictures to the site, add music from their library or add your own and then render the video. When finished, you can e-mail the video to your friends or embed it to a blog like this.

Very cool... I can think of a few projects that could use something like this....

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Digital Citizenship: The "Killer App" For Education

I'm too close... It's too big... I don't know if they can see the forest for the trees, but it is HUGE to me. I keep wondering why everyone can't see it. Can they see it, but choose to ignore it? Is there anyone alive today that believes that the amount of information (media) that we will have access to is going to decrease? Is the educational establishment in a myopic haze that has everyone defending their content to detriment of the students, who spend their waking hours surrounded by four beige walls disconnected from a world that will require them to access more information faster and employ that information in a way that will provide value to themselves or their employer? I often wonder out loud about teachers who were unwilling to grow with the new tools and sources of media available to them and whether they feared being seen as human instead of the oracle of their chosen field of study?

As most of the people reading this blog know, for the past several years, I have felt it is essential to put these tools and skills in the hands of students and teachers. I decided to live by the words of Gandhi and "be the change I wish to see in the world." It is the reason I decided to do the following:
  • Reading blogs and educated myself as to what others are doing in education and how the landscape is changing.
  • Write this blog, which is close to 100 posts now, over the past two years.
  • Go and get my Administrative credential after almost 20 years in the classroom, because I wanted to be part of the change.
  • Pushed the idea and wrote the grant for the Global Communications Class and pathway.
  • Create the 'Digital Bridge' program to assist students who could not reach the point of entry of the Digital Age.
  • Applied for and was accepted into the Google Certified Teacher's program.
  • Started speaking at conferences with some of the other Google Certified Teachers to promote the use of these tools to other teachers.
The four parts of Digital Citizenship: Literacy, Safety, Learning Strategies and Etiquette are not nice additions to the learning process, but are necessary for the students we teach to be productive adults. (thanks to Vicki Davis for the graphic!)

In preview of their conference session at the Tech Forum 2007, Wes Fryer and Miguel Guhlin posted the following introduction to their co-keynote.
Whether we're with them or not, today's young people are venturing into the virtual world where they face challenges of the sort we could hardly have dreamed of a few decades ago. If we ban new technologies in schools we are not protecting our students from them; we're simply asking them to venture into this new world alone. Just as adults must help young people learn to drive before setting them loose behind the wheel of a car, we have a responsibility to help our students and children learn how to safely navigate the virtual environments of the 21st Century. In this session we will explore how to be proactive rather than merely defensive, how to reassure community members without ignoring real dangers, and how to help students make the connections and participate in the collaborations that are crucial to digital citizenship today.
So, how do we do this? Some of the following should be a little thought provoking.

- Karl Fisch's post on his blog, 'The Fisch Bowl,' titled, "Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?"

- "Knowledge resides in the network. Students need to know how to find that knowledge, whether it’s on a server in Indiana or in a human brain in India."

- “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”- Alvin Toffler

- “In times of rapid change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”- Eric Hoffer

- In Australia, the government spent several million dollars creating a filter to keep pornography away from teens and children. It took a 16 year-old student 30 minutes to bypass the filter. Australia Teen Cracks Filter

Here are a few video's that might provide a little thinking about the issues of Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Feeling comfortable with the Shifts.....

My last post talked about some of the 'shifts' that this blog will go through, since I am writing this personally and have created a new blog specifically for SMUHSD EdTech Professional Development. (SMUHSD Tech Bytes) But there are other 'shifts' that are going on that are worth noting.

On Thursday, I was involved in a training session on the use of 'DataDirector,' a new data presentation tool for schools to better use data to guide instruction. I have been a fan of 'DataDirector' for a two years now, I was very pleased when the SMUHSD decided to dump Edusoft and pick up 'Data Director.' In speaking with some of the other teachers in the session, the reviews were very, very positive.

In the afternoon, I was part of a panel of EdTech people speaking to a group at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco. The members of the group had been corresponding with each other via e-mail and building out some ideas on the 'Classroom 2.0' social networking site on Ning and on a wiki provided by 'Wikispaces.' This group of people are 'HEAVY HITTERS' in the EdTech arena and I am a High School teacher and Technology Coordinator. Steve Hargadon, the moderator of the group, is one of the Infinite Thinking Machine bloggers, as well as founder of k12 Computers. Steve Dembo, is the author of the Teach42 blog and works for the Discovery Educator Network. Adam Frey, is one of the co-founders of Wikispaces, a wiki tool that is free for educators. Anastasia Goodstein, is the author of the 'Ypulse' blog as well as the book, "Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online." Sylvia Martinez, is the President of Generation YES, a firm that assists schools in making transitions into 21st Century learning. Rushton Hurley, is the founder of NextVista for Learning, a site that allows students and teachers to post educational video to share with others. Karen Greenwood-Henke, is the founder of Nimble Press, a San Francisco educational consulting firm, and the author of the 'Grant Wrangler Blog,' aimed at the educational market. Guillaume Cohen, is the founder of Veodia, a live streaming video firm that provides service to conferences and other events. Veodia was on hand and took video of the entire presentation, which you can watch here, look for the 'Classroom 2.0 presentation.

Friday started with another meeting, the County Technology Coordinators as SMCOE. The meeting was a little awkward, since the County Technology Director has recently resigned and there isn't a replacement as of yet. Kathleen Ferenz, from CTAP and the GoogleIT sessions this summer, pinch hit for the county. To her credit, Kathleen set up a wiki for the County Technology Coordinators to begin the process of organizing for the remainder of the school year. There were plenty of new faces in the room, it made me feel a little dated. Most of the brainstorming session looked at different district goals and there was plenty of talk about "Cyber Safety," "Digital Citizenship" and "Information Literacy." Three topics we have done some work on in our Global Communications course.

This school year has started with lots of ambivalence and uncertainty and I know it is going to keep changing on all fronts; school, district, county, state and nationally. As an individual, I will just have to learn to 'feel comfortable with the shifts.' Perhaps all of us should?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Going in a different direction...

The school year is now three weeks old. Hard to believe, especially since my daughter doesn't start school in Fremont, CA until this coming Wednesday, September 5, 2007. The school year has been particularly busy with a variety of different things going on and I have been doing double duty for some of it.

During the summer, I published to this blog frequently, finishing up on some of my 'works in progress' during this time. I received many positive comments from teachers in the SMUHSD regarding some of the posts that were here. There were also those who disliked the frequency of the posts during the summer and the fact that there was 'opinion' in some of my postings. At the first SMUHSD Tech Coordinators Meeting, the issue of this blog came up for discussion. The issues of frequency of posts and posts that were 'opinionated' that went out to the masses were discussed. As a result, I am going to continue to write on this blog like I have in the past, seeing what I believe are the emerging trends in educational technology and sharing my opinions as to the best ways these emerging technologies can be used in the classroom. In addition, I will create a second blog, SMUHSD Tech Bytes that will publish only once per month and will have just professional development activities and resources on it. This blog will be e-mailed to all SMUHSD teachers.

There will be some duplication on the two blogs, but for the most part, this blog will be my space where I can be a little contraversial and espouse some views that are my opinion and not be worried about offending someone due to the nature and number of posts. The SMUHSD Tech Bytes blog will be limited to professional development items and it may have some links back to this blog and will only be published once a month.

For those of you who read this blog and are not SMUHSD teachers, nothing will change, maybe a little, since I won't be holding things back on this blog. It will be me, 100% of the time. Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment on what you see here anytime.