Monday, July 30, 2007

Phishing: A Few Basics

Phishing: is the practice of sending a fradulent e-mail (spam) to someone in the attempt to get them to reveal personal information that will allow the phisher to illegally access the victim's online banking, shopping or other online (e-commerce) site and transfer or use the assets available on the site.

Why am I sending this to a group of teachers? Because you, and your studnets, need to be aware of these types of schemes and it clearly illustrates the need for Information Literacy and Digital Citizenship skills in our schools.

As part of this effort, I would like invite you to take a short quiz that will ask you to determine which e-mail or web page is a phishing scheme and which one is legitmate.

This article and the short video below will go into phishing in a little more detail.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Great Online Tutorials

A few months ago, I embedded a video titled, "RSS in Plain English." The video was done by Lee LeFever of the CommonCraft Show. I really liked the way that the video simply explained RSS and how to set up a feed reader. The video also didn't concentrate on one type of reader but gave a few options. (Google Reader and Bloglines)

Recently, I found two additional videos done by Lee and the CommonCraft people, titled: "Social Networking in Plain English" and "Wikis in Plain English" I'm embedding them into this blog post below, so you can just click on them and watch them from this blog. (Remember embedding of media we talked about a few weeks ago with the Simpson's Slide Show!)

Social Networking in Plain English

Wikis in Plain English

I think all three of these videos are a great way to introduce these concepts to teachers and to students in your classes. They are also a great refresher to keep around when you forget the basic concepts in each of these areas.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Wikipedia Education

In the process of one of my most recent posts, I coined a term to refer to the bloggers in the Educational Technology community. I added 'EdTech Bloggerati' to Wikipedia as a term to describe these people. (I mostly did this as an experiment to understand the process for myself!) Members of the 'EdTech Bloggerati' are concerned with engaging with many different members of the community for the purpose of scholarly discussion and conversation about the future of education and technology.

I wrote what I felt was an average definition of the term and included several bloggers who could possibly defined by this term.

I returned to the page the next day and found a warning that the article may be removed due to 'obscure neologism.' According to Wikipedia's own sources, neologism is a word, term, or phrase which has been recently created ("coined") — often to apply to new concepts, to synthesize pre-existing concepts, or to make older terminology sound more contemporary. Neologisms are especially useful in identifying inventions, new phenomena, or old ideas which have taken on a new cultural context.

Well... essentially they are correct, but if you look at the definition, you'll see the reasons why I coined the term.

1) This term is applied to new concepts: The integration of technology into educational practice is a new concept and members of the EdTech Bloggerati are those individuals who are at the forefront of synthesizing the previous uses of technology in education and developing new ways to use technology in education.

2) EdTech Bloggerati also defines the older ideas of education and technology which have taken on new cultural context due to the inclusion of Web 2.0 tools and in decrease in the POE (Point of Entry) for students to have an Internet presence.

I'm hoping that the term survives... There have been two of Wikipedia's editors that have dinged it for being too obscure, but regardless of the outcome, it has been an education for me and something that I will definitely pass on to the students I work with on a daily basis.

You could show your support by clicking on the link here and adding to the definition of the term...

Monday, July 23, 2007

What Every Educator Needs!

I just happened to be in Costco this afternoon and found the new version (3.0) of The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman available in paperback for $8.99. A great price, for a great book, completely updated for Web 2.0.

Pick one up for your favorite teacher and / or administrator.

If you want reviews, take a look here!

Passion: It's The New Word... What Does It Mean?

There have been several members of the 'EdTech Bloggerati' (a term I just coined.... and defined... I can do that in the read/write web!) over the past two weeks using the term, "Passion" as the source of student learning and teacher energy.

Is it just paying homage to Kathy Sierra? Or is there a deeper connection to being passionate about what an individual does?

(I actually initially saw this picture when I was out with the family at the local Red Robin restaurant and it just screamed... Passionate!) (Keith Baker - Playtime)

David Warlick's Posts:
It Isn't Easy
Is Something Brand New Really Happening Already

Will Richardson's Posts:
Learnin' at BLC
EduBloggerCon I
Open Source Blogging Session

Jeff Utecht's Posts:
From Hand It In to Publish It
NECC 2007: Archive
(There is an entire chat published with the word passion being debated!)

Wesley Fryer Posts:
Lessons to Draw From Video Game Passion
Nuggets from NECC (2)

Vicki Davis Posts:
EduBloggerCon 2007 - My Takeaways
These Games are Why Kids Wake Up in the Morning

Miguel Guhlin Posts:
Pursue Your Passion
The Moon Worth Reaching For

So, as you can see, there has been enough 'passion' in the EduBlogosphere to go around. But where is it going and what does it all mean? I think that is the question many people are asking because it forces us to try and fit it into the current context of what is happening in schools and about learning. The point of 'passion' for some is that it doesn't fit within the current context of teaching and learning.

The debate goes on and I, for one, am enjoying the conversation, the debate, the synergy, and the energy 'passion' has instilled in process.

More to come...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

EdTech Trends: 2007-2008

Is this going to be the year when things in Educational Technology (EdTech) finally hit critical mass and begin to change the way teachers teach and students learn? The predominate EdTech bloggers (Will Richardson, Wesley Fryer, David Warlick, et al) have been espousing this for the past year, but is there any concrete evidence that this year is going to be any different than previous years?

Will has two blog posts from the Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston this week and they are evident that the status quo is changing, but maybe not at the rate that some would like it to. (Learning at BLC)(BLC Day 1 -Brain Dump) I thought the most telling piece of the 'Learning at BLC' post was the reaction of Marco Torres' students about the learning behaviors of the attendees. The students couldn't understand how teachers were 'passive' in their learning behaviors; sitting in rows listening to presenters and asking the students for technical assistance. Although the other interesting thing about the post is that really struck me was the fact that Will said he was "basically chucking the script because it just didn’t feel relevant." To me this was 'evolutionary' because it was Will's professional admission that the 'conversation' or the 'synergy' of ideas between those involved was more important than the straight 'lecture' format of conferences. (Two-way vs. One-way) So, do we know where we are going?

Can we anticipate what the future holds and create a path that will allow the educational community to intersect it at some point in the near future? Wesley Fryer, in one of his posts quotes a Wired Magazine article about the fact that the innate ability to 'anticipate' actions comes from 'unstructured play' and the ability to pick up on subtle environmental cues. The example they give is of Wayne Gretzky and the amount of unstructured play he was able to engage in with his friends in his back yard. Is the difference between digital natives and digital immigrants the amount of time that kids have in 'unstructured play' with the technologies, so as new technologies are introduced, kids have the innate ability to 'anticipate' on how to use them?

To make the next leap... if we are going to plot a point where the technologies of tomorrow and education are going to intersect, we need take a good look at where business technologies are going right now and what educational applications do we see in these technologies? The graphic below is the current state of the Read/Write Web or Web 2.0. There are two things that I believe are the most telling in this graphic. The first is the fact that there are forcasts for the future of different firms and identification of which level (Web 1.0, Web 1.5 or Web 2.0) of technology the firm engages in. The second thing that really struck me was that Google is entangled, emeshed or the basis of many of the new and emerging technologies. (Click on the graphic to get full size view.)

So, the question to teachers now becomes (Borrowing freely from Sean Connery in 'The Untouchables') what are you prepared to do now?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Chemical Reaction Theory of the Future of Education

One of my first blog posts after I went through the Google Teacher's Academy was written in response to David Warlick's Keynote Presentation at the Monterey CLHS/CUE Conference last November. In the presentation, Warlick spoke about the idea of a 'Flat Classroom' (original blog post 4/06) in reference to Thomas Friedman's book, "The World is Flat." In referencing David's original post, he mentiones that the source of power in the typical classroom was provided by the teacher in the form of gravity. The teacher was superior (on top of) to the students in the fact that he/she had 'educational expertise' in their subject matter, was located in the front of the room being the focal point of classroom activities and in some cases had an elevated platform to teach from.

There have been a few examples of 'flat classrooms' in the past year, including Vicki Davis' awesome "Flat Classroom Project" with a school in Bangladesh.

The newest version of "The World is Flat" (3.0) has recently come out, and while I haven't personally read the new version of the book, there are a few news articles that point to the directions that Friedman sees a 'flat educational' system coming into form. A round table discussion with Friedman and several other notable industry leaders in December 2006 pulled these four characteristics of a 'Flat Educational System."
  1. The uber-skill will be the ability to learn as technology gets outdated quickly.
  2. Those who have a high curiosity quotient and a high passion quotient learn better than those who test well.
  3. Navigational skills will be important. "Every mouse should come with a warning -- judgment not included," he said. "The Internet is an open sewer of good and bad information." Many people can't tell the difference.
  4. Right-brain work will prevail. Everything done today by a person's left brain will in the future be done faster by a computer or cheaper by someone in India.
Over the past three days, a few posts by David Warlick, Will Richardson and Wesley Fryer have addressed these issues in different ways. Each of them, in their own way, has posed basically the same question. Can the current educational system change itself enough to meet the needs of students in schools today, or do we need to scrap the current system and build something new?

I pulled out another Kathy Sierra graphic to illustrate part of the process education is going through right now dealing with these issues. In this graphic, the users are the teachers. The problem is that we have too many teachers on the blue curve, instead of the purple one. We have engaged in multiple forms of professional development for technology integration for teachers, but there is always a barrier that keeps them from getting past the 'Suck Threshold.' If you ask most teachers about technology integration they usually fall into two camps. One group is the one that has interest, but not enough access. And the other has access, but not enough interest.

So, how do you get teachers up to the 'passion threshold' in Kathy Sierra's graphic? If you scroll back up to the top of this article, one of the things that Friedman mentioned regarding the future of education was 'passion.' I just finished reading Will Richardson's 'Raw Food' post and the point ended up being following your passion and the ability to teach yourself. So, we have identified 'passion' and one of the key ingredients in the future of education. This also connects with the ideas set forth in Daniel Pink's book, 'A Whole New Mind.'

In reality, we are asking teachers to give up being the source of student learning and become the catalyst of the informational chemical reaction inside of each student. Teachers need to assist students in learning on their own and guiding them to find their personal passions. Students will make their own connections, instead of the one's teachers want them to have. School systems, by definition cannot do this, since there is a test that evaluates their effectivness that is published in the local newspaper and is the source of status by students and teachers. The lack of control is terrifying for most teachers, since they were trained to be the source of student information and now there is a source that is accessible 24/7/365 from any home, public building and cell phone.

I personally see the process much like coaching an athletic team. A coach can run through a set of drills to develop certain skills, but when the game begins, players must decide which skills to use to complete a particular task. As athletes move up the levels they are rewarded based on their personal initiative by the amount of practice they do on their own and the flexibility and creativeness they use to play the game. Personally, I am a big baseball fan and the watching Omar Vizquel play shortstop for the Giants the past two seasons illustrates this point.

Teachers... be the chemist, the coach, the mentor or the sage, but take yourself out of the role as the sole source of information for your students.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A little fun and a little teaching.

I know that some people have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Simpson's Movie on July 27 and one of the cool promotional ideas is that 7-11 has re-decorated 12 of their stores around the world as 'Kwik-e-marts' in honor of the Simpson's favorite convenience store chain. The slide show below was take on our visit to the location nearest us on July 4, 2007. The location of the store coincidentally is about 2 blocks away from the Googleplex.... Do you think some one in marketing planned this... I think so!

So, what am I going to teach with the Simpson's? How to present information to your classes in a new and easy way... its also a way to have students publish their own ideas on the Internet without having to have a digital camera or own their own computer!

One of the coolest things that has occurred over the past few months is the ability to mix media forms together with relative ease. That is what I am doing with this slide show. I took all of the pictures with my Motorola RAZR cell phone. Uploaded them using my Verizon service to their web site and then e-mailed them to myself using my GMail account that has virtually limitless storage. I downloaded the pictures onto my hard drive and then uploaded them to my Picasa account and created a web album. I then placed the pictures in the order I wanted them to be displayed and added captions. (You can view the captions by clicking on the cartoon-like text bubble!) After saving the entire slide show, I opened the 'embed' link in the lower left hand corner of the screen and copied the 'html' code from the window that popped up. I then came back over to Blogger and transitioned my post window from 'Compose' mode to 'Edit Html' and pasted the code in the location I wanted it.

From start to finish, it took me about 45 minutes. It was about 1 hour, 15 minutes to do the entire thing, including writing this blog post and inserting all of the hyperlinks to other sites.

I think this pretty cool and makes the technology and cool tools available to the students.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day: Bringing the conversation forward

I'm following the lead of Scott McLeod's 'Dangerously Irrelevant' Blog and doing something regarding involving adminstrators into the process of brining information technology tools into their professional lives. As I have tipped off several times in this space, I am approaching this dilemma from the other side. I am the Technology Coordinator from the school site, who does the professional development for the teachers, is a Google Certified Teacher, does local and regional professional development sessions for teachers, teaches information technology courses, has written grants to create two different technology initiatives (including our current Global Communications initiative.) and has developed a new academic discipline at my school. (Technology Arts)

I am also in the process of trying to move into the adminstrative ranks in my district or in a neighboring district. I am currently the summer school principal at San Mateo High School, cuting my administrative teeth with about 1,000 students during our summer session. When I discuss this with my peers in the teaching ranks and among the people I work with in professional development sessions, the question they ask me most often is: Why? Why would you want to move into administration and deal with the discipline issues, the parents complaining, teachers wanting more than you can possibly deliver and students trying to find the newest way to circumvent school rules and stay one step ahead of the adults running our schools. My response is clear and measured. I want to change the educational process. The way we educate our children has some fundamental flaws and we need to change that process.

I took the graphic from Kathy Sierra's, now defunct blog 'Creating Passionate Users,' because I think it acurately illustrates the plight of education and the type of students we need to graduate in the 21st Century. I can sit here and rattle off statistic, after statistic about how students will have 10+ careers by the time they are 40 years old or how the fundamental nature of information is changing and doubling every two to three months right now, but what we need to eventually get to is the fact that the process doesn't meet the needs of the current students. My solution is to step up to the plate and say that I want to part of the process of changing the educational system and I can only do that as an administrator. (I know it sounds a little arrogant... trying not to be!)

I want to be the administrator that drags the rest of his peers into the information age. Whether that be by using wiki's to collaborate with the staff, blogging a weekly newsletter to the staff and parents, creating podcasts for the students to listen to, or posting videos on sites like 'Teacher Tube' or 'Next Vista for Learning' for teachers and my fellow administrators to get professional development training.

I know that there was a slogan during the Vietnam era (I was about 10 years too young for that!) that stated that if you weren't part of the solution, you were part of the problem. Well, I am definitely going to be part of the solution and break the doors and barriers down as best I can from my position.

So, on Independence Day, I am saying I want to be a leader to move education into a new age and grant it independence from the industrial age of assembly lines and students moving from class to class like products to be built, and become one of minds and souls to be cultivated and allowed to discover the process of constructing their own learning.

OK... off of the soap box now!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Google D&S: New Look and better management

There have been a few blog posts out and about this past week regarding the new look of Google Docs and Spreadsheets (D&S), and the new look does improve an already powerful tool, but the functionality of D&S will continue to increase to the point where Google will at some point in the next year have a full blown office suite... watch out Bill Gates.

To add to the functionality of Google D&S, there is a new dictionary and thesaurus tool that is a big plus for teachers and students. D&S also has many of the same keyboard shortcuts that are available on the commercial word processing and spreadsheet applications. Here is a link to a cheat sheet for these tools. The Google D&S Help Center is also very helpful for those of you using an online application for the first time. You can now add folders and categorize your documents, just like in Windows or Mac OSX, but now you can share these documents with anyone regardless of their computing platform. (Windows, Mac OSX or Linux)

So, why is this important? For the basic reason that it again lowers the point of entry into the Web 2.0 age on two fronts, skill set and cost. Now, many basic level computer users have been stuck in the Word/Excel (Pre-Web 1.0) mode for years, not wanting to venture into other applications, especially online applications, fearing that the learning curve would prove to be too steep to climb. Google D&S solves that by making their interface very intuitive and allowing a huge amount of positive transfer of skills from Word/Excel. The cost issue is obvious, a student who could not afford Word/Excel now has an online option that is free. The other major benefit of an online application is that it is available from any Internet accessible computer. For students this means that they don't have to worry about having access to the same applications at school, home (sometimes multiple homes) and elsewhere.

Here is a video I have blogged before showing how Google D&S works from the lead of the team at Google working on the project.

Here are a few predictions:

1) Google D&S will include a PowerPoint type presentation tool by October 1, 2007!

2) Google will have a wiki tool (modified JotSpot) ready to go by the end of the 2007 calendar year.

3) Expect Google to begin to market these applications as a "Google Productivity Suite" by the beginning of 2008.