Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lessig and the Change Congress Movement

Well... I have to come clean.

I am a dyed in the wool democrat.

When I cast my vote for Bill Clinton in 1992, it was the first time in my adult life where I voted for someone that actually won the Presidency. So, in the 7 Presidential elections in my adulthood, I have only voted for the winner twice.

I have spent most of my life within 30 miles of Redwood City, CA, that means I was born, grew up, went to school, went to college, settled after college and have worked my entire adult life in this area of the country. It is a great place to be and if I could afford to buy a bigger and better house in the area, I would.

I have been a teacher for many years and spent a considerable amount of time teaching American Government. Capuchino High School, where I have worked for the past 20 years, is directly in the middle of the 12th Congressional District in California. This happens to be the same high school where the late Rep. Leo Ryan taught.

When I taught American Government, I took a keen interest in local politics. I had candidates for city council debate in front of the students and I even had Rep. Tom Lantos, speak to my classes on several occasions. Tom Lantos has represented this district for the past twenty-five plus years, since there was a Republican in the seat in the two year period after Rep. Leo Ryan's death in Guyana during the Jonestown Massacre. Tom Lantos passed away two weeks ago from cancer of the esophagus. The area will have a special election in April to select a replacement for the remainder of the current term. It is a little ironic that the leading candidate for the seat is Jackie Speier, a former aide to Rep. Ryan and who was also shot at Jonestown. Jackie Speier has represented the area well in the state senate and assembly for the past 20+ years and was eventually forced out due to the new term limits law.

Now, a new candidate is emerging... Lawrence Lessig. Lessig is a Stanford University law professor, the founder of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, the founder of Creative Commons and the leading advocate of reduced legal restrictions on copyright and trademark restrictions. I have read some of Lessig's work... I can't say that I am an expert on his writings, but I do agree with the things I have read, especially surrounding copyright and privacy. Will Richardson refers to Lessig as "one of his heros." In January of this year, Lessig announced that he would be changing his focus and concentrating on changing the political system in this country. He launched a new web site to spread his new message, change congress. Lessig's philosophy is that money has tainted the political process and that members of congress should not take money from special interests, earmark money for specific expenditures and support the public funding of elections. When I hear some of these things, I just remember Robin Williams performance in the Presidential Debate in Man of the Year.

So, Lessig hasn't decided to run ... yet. His collegaues created a 'Draft Lessig' wiki page and he has created his own exploratory web site. The video below reviews his past and current thinking on copyright, privacy and the political process. He is also very complimentary toward his potential opponent, Jackie Speier.

So, will Lawrence Lessig run? The question will be answered in the next week, but regardless, I think the conversation is going to change...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How Do You Do That? Tools for the Future

I feel like there is a tipping point that is on the horizon. The conversation that has been swirling around the EdTech Blogosphere for the past few months has been much more abstract than concrete and in some cases difficult to follow. Will Richardson, David Warlick, Miguel Guhlin, Scott McLeod, et al have all tossed their spices into this strange mix of new and emerging learning styles and technologies. The discussion has been lively to say the least.

For me, the conversation is necessary, since it provides me a perspective that is different than my own and it begins to frame the question in new and somewhat different ways. Most of this really relates back to a post Will Richardson made just before New Year's Day. There was quite a conversation that ensued about how to best make substantive change occur and which changes were necessary. I posted a comment and blogged a reaction to Will's post and mixed in a diagram that David Warlick had been working on as a way to get me to start thinking about things in a different context. As I mentioned in my comment to Will's post, I have been looking to move into the administrative ranks, but I now see other possibilities, especially in smaller schools where I think substantive change is easier to achieve.

Over the past 6 weeks or so, I see things starting to bubble from new and different directions. First, both of the top Democratic contenders for the Presidency (Obama and Clinton), in favor of willing either to fund NCLB or dismantle it. Regardless, NCLB will more than likely be in a different form than it is today. Secondly, there is much more awareness of the need to move forward. I don't know if it is because of the attention being paid to things because of the presidential election, or that there is finally a critical mass of technologies, both hardware and software that create such a low cost of entry that they cannot be ignored or dismissed because of cost. Change is definitely upon the horizon, but like the sunset, looking at it too long can cause you to go blind. Miguel created a wiki page to compile all of the ideas from Will's most recent post on the subject. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. The conversation is extremely valuable, because it allows a synergy of ideas to come together from a variety of perspectives and gives us the greatest amount of information to make better choices in the future.

The Digital Ethnography project at Kansas State University is still churning out mash-up video's that illustrate the changing mediascape. The video below is created by mashing up 10 other videos that had previously been posted on 'YouTube.' This was all done by a biomedical engineer in his spare time. The quote below appears at the end of the video and to me crystallizes how teens interact with media today. Things are going to change in many ways and there will definitely be some surprises along the way.

"You can't kill the instinct that technology produces. We can only criminalize it. We can't stop our kids from using it. We can only drive it underground. We can't make our kids passive again. We can only make them pirates. In a democracy, we ought to be able to do better." - Lawrence Lessig.

Comiqs: An Online Comic Book Creator

Being a PC user, I have been somewhat jealous of some of the tools that Apple users have at their disposal, one of them was ComicLife, a tool to create comic book pages. I had been looking for a PC version and found one in Comic Book Creator and I purchased several copies for the lab computers at Capuchino High School. Now, there is an online alternative. Comiqs, is a tool that allows you to upload pictures or other images and add 'thought bubble' and other types of text to the images. I have always liked having students use comic book or cartoons to show cause and effect relationships and to illustrate complex ideas into a step by step process. I also like the fact that it allows students who may not be 'wordsmiths' an opportunity to shine using another medium to demonstrate that they have synthesized the material covered in class.

While I think the original intent of the application was purely recreational, I do think there are some definite educational applications. I will be adding this into the presentations I am doing with Picasa and Guerrilla Learning. Check out the demo below from YouTube.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Social Mathematics: CQ + PQ > IQ

I have been missing being able to blog the past few weeks, since over the holiday season and into the new year since I was working on the revisions to the SMUHSD Tech Plan, and it's subsequent submission to the State Department of Education, and on developing the 'Guerrilla Learning' wiki for my presentation yesterday at the Silicon Valley CUE conference. I just learned I will presenting the Guerrilla Learning at the CLMS Statewide Conference in Sacramento at the end of February. I was very pleased with the reaction the presentation received yesterday and will do a little refining before I present it again at CLMS.

This morning I have been catching up on reading blogs and looking at what some of the new conversations are in the EdTech Blogosphere. There are a few posts that really caught my eye... the first was a 'YouTube' video that Miguel Guhlin posted on his blog that was a mashup of a Barack Obama speech intermixed with actors and other notable people repeating the words along with him. It was very powerful, but I began to think about what has contributed to this resurgence of populism and the inclusion of more young people in the political process. The video, produced by from the Black Eyed Peas and Bob Dylan's son, Jesse.

I am very interested in Barack Obama's campaign, since he is the only presidential candidate who has made a positive statement regarding net neutrality. Danah Boyd makes an appeal for Obama on her blog post this morning stating that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are very close except for the net neutrality issue. Net Neutrality, I believe is necessary for our government and educational system to be transparent and grow in a postive direction.

The other post I read this morning that caught my eye was Scott McLeod's post on Dangerously Irrelevant, where he links to an American Association of School Administrators article of Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind) interviewing Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) about education and the future. The interview went back and forth connecting each other's work into an educational setting. The piece that struck me right between the eyes was when Friedman made the point that in China and India, college graduates are great in math and science, but have trouble innovating because they have aren't well rounded. Friedman mentions that both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college dropouts. Friedman, then related his equation that he uses to explain the dominance of the United States in world economics. CQ + PQ > IQ or Curiosity Quotient plus Passion Quotient is greater than Intelligence Quotient. Pink then added that humans are naturally curious and that, the educational system takes that out of them. It is a great article and will definitely be the basis of future discussions out on the blogosphere. I can't wait for the 2 Million Minutes Documentary to come out and for me to look at it using this filter!