Session Discussion for my NECC Presentation

Thought I was getting up way to early this morning.  Now I see that the clock by my bed was about three hours slow.  That could have ended disastrously!

I just posted my session forum discussion on the NECC08 Ning site, and would love your feedback.  To get there, point your browser to:

    http://necc2008.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=1997968%3ATopic%3A13868

You have to be registered on Ning and the NECC08 Ning network.  If you are not and do not wish to join, then please post your answer to my question as a comment here, or post it in your own blog, tagging the entry with my NECC assigned session tag, n08s283.

Here is the forum entry:

Our Students ? Our Worlds
David Istlandoll ? Monday, 6/30/2008 ? 12:30pm?1:30pm ? HGCC Lila Cockrell Theatre
Spotlight Presentation

Description: The world is flattening, and not just economically. Learn about three converging conditions that are redefining education?and providing windows to the future. In this presentation, I will seek to examine and factor together three foundational disruptive conditions that are converging on our schools, each serving to disrupt schooling as we know it, yet also providing direction as we work toward new models for teaching and learning — Learning 2.0.

My Question: What do you believe are the fundamental disruptive conditions that are demanding a new kind of education institution?

Social Networks: The Potential of Profiles

I spent about an hour and a half on a social network yesterday.  It was probably the most time that I’ve spent on a single SN in my life — the most that I’ve been drawn in to the experience.  I say that because I get the sense that this is what is supposed to happen — that you get drawn in.  I’ve just visited again and found myself engaged in a discussion on the new Class Blogmeister group that was set up by Diane Scott.  I also linked into Larry Anderson’s profile page from a search for Second Life among the network’s members.  Cool page, Larry, by the way.  When I saw that he had his Second Life avatar’s name on his page, I rushed back to my profile and added in my Twitter login and my Second Life name, Suriawang Dapto, along with a link to my virtual office there.

This is my avatar on Second Life, Surawang Dapto
So now I’m closing the window to avoid getting distracted again.  But the question I ask myself is, “Am I doing education here (teaching or learning) or am I doing Networking.”   Not fair to answer this seriously without a whole lot more experience — and I can’t promise that I will, as I spend so much time doing education and networking.

I’ve mentioned this in some of my presentations, that I do not believe that we – educators older than 30 (arbitrarily chosen age) – truly understand social networks yet.  For instance, we’re trying to grow individual and independent social networks out of every discipline, school level, and just about any other probable community of educational interest.  I’ll bet I’ve been contaced by e-mail or phone call by no fewer than ten people over the past month, each wanting me to see their social network.  “This social network is going to revolutionize physical education!”

What strikes me is that our students make it work with just one.  The three main choices, as far as I know, are MySpace, Bebo, and Facebook, the later seeming to be the one of choice at present.  So why didn’t we figure out how to use Facebook as the social network for NECC.  I looked there for a group for NECC.  I probably won’t do that again :-/

So, anyway, I keep wondering about this.  What’s the point, beyond costing time, which I guess many of our students have more to spend.  It seems to me, that the true potential for all of this, and something that I don’t even think Facebook has truly captured yet, is the profile.  What bothers me about social networks is that they have walls.  It’s a weekness of Ning, in my opinion, that there do not seem to be easy and logical ways for us to connect to each other, based on common interests, regardless of the networks we’ve joined.  There are certainly security issues.  But for me to learn, to grow, to solve problems, and accomplish goals, I need to connect to people and resources that help me do that.

I guess I’m picturing social networks, whose boundaries become much more porous, and profiles, whose reach extends out into the Net in ways that attract connections based partly on how we populate our profiles, but also having certain aspects of our profiles populated automatically by what we are doing.  There was a search tool out there, many years ago, called Kenjin [Feb 2000 PCWorld Review].  It would read the text from the active window on your PC screen, analyze the text, pick out the major themes, and then comb the Internet for links related to those subjects.

I wonder about a tool that would maintain a profile for us, based on how we’ve populated it, but also based on what we are doing with information.  The profile would be fully customizable, the owner able to determine what would be public, what would be private, and what would be actionable in actively or passively connecting to other people and resources.  Then temporary or permanent social networks could be created or create themselves around people of similar interests, concerns, problems, or goals.

This entry’s gotten to long already, but I’m continuing to try to hash this out.

I Want to Learn More About This

I haven’t had my blog editor out much lately.  So it surprised me a bit to find that the interface for Deepest Sender has changed since I upgraded to Firefox 3.0.  Fun!  Last week had me on the road for most of the time, returning home with my first cold of the year.  It astounds me that I went through the entire winter without a single cold, and then I get one in Savannah, Georgia in June.

This is a screen shot from the Agrega catalog, a 98 page PDF document. [Click to enlarge]
I  hope that Stephen Downes has a healthier time in Madrid this week, where he’ll be part of the European LAMS Conference, and where he suspects Agrega will be part of the conversation.  A Creative Commons article by Jane Park, defines Agrega as..

..Spain?s new educational digital object platform, ?which consists of a central repository and other autonomous repositories which have educational content for non-university level centres.? [catalog]

Its emphasis is on content creation and development for primary and secondary educators by providing a space where various digital content of Spain?s Civil Service and the private sector are joined.  The project seeks to promote internet in the classroom by “expand(ing) the pool of online educational content available to Spanish educators and students, particularlly in the fields of finance educaiton and teacher training.”

Here is a link to a Google translation of the About page from the Agrega site, which includes some interesting tutorials on Internet education, including some take-offs on Commoncraft video techniques.  See What is Agrega? (?Que es Agrega?) video.

Agrega also seems intended to support Plan Avanza, the goal of which, according to the European Urban Knowledge Network, hopes to increase the volume of economic activity related to Information Technologies up to 7% of the GDP in 2010.

If any readers from Espania can give us more insights about this project, please comment.

It’s a good time to be teaching about Learning 2.0

I suspect that it has been traditionally believed that the last time you’d want to do staff development was May and early June, just after the school year is over (Northern Hemisphere).  Teachers just aren’t ready for it.  The tests are behind them, the students are behind them, and vacation is just a few weeks, days, or hours away.

But I’m finding that this is changing, at least when we’re talking about schools and learning 2.0.  I found my teacher audiences yesterday in Colorado Springs, and last week in Hawaii to be extraordinarily excited, enthused, attentive, and asking a lot of spot-on questions.  ..and I think that the reason why, is that we’re giving them toys.  We’re giving these educators toys to play with over the come weeks as they seek to relearn how to relax, and eventually and inevitably start to think about the coming year and decades.

I know of many teachers right now who will be starting the next school year with new connections with other educators and potent information resources, streaming into their newly cultivated aggregators.  A few will be blogging, but many more will be contributing to and tapping into their new social bookmarking networks, and also having thought long and hard about what all of this new flow of information means to the definition of literacy. 

Being with these educators at this time reaffirms my believe that it’s actually a good time to be a teacher, that some time well within the careers of many of the educators I’ve worked with in the past two weeks, teaching is going to become the most exciting and sought-after occupation on the planet.

Tying it together is what Networks are For

Just a couple of quick comments before I get into networks.  First, I saw my first Kindle yesterday evening while waiting for delayed (but thankfully uncanceled) flight from Chicago to Denver.  I recognized it immediately, and when the woman came back to her seat and picked it up, I asked her how she liked it.  She then went into a complete demo, leaving no feature out.  I think that what still intrigues me the most about it is the idea of light-reflecting information technology (E-Ink), as opposed to light-emitting LCD.  We’re going to see a lot more of E-ink — on surfaces we’ve hardly imagined yet.

Also, I continue to be surprised and impressed with the response I get from the district school board members who attend state and provincial school boards conferences.  Today (Sunday) it was the Ontario Public School Boards Association, and though I know there are those who don’t understand it, too big  leap from the schools they think they are supposed to be facilitating, the folks who come up and comment are on board with information-rich learning environments that redefining teaching and learning — and they are ready move forward. 

The momentum is building, friends.  Be ready!

Finally, I had an interesting comment shared with me in Honolulu last week.  Actually it was two comments.  A young woman came up before I was to start the first installment of my Personal Learning Networks presentation and asked me how advanced it was going to be.  “Is this going to be over my head?”  I answered that if she was asking the question, then chances are at least portions of it would likely be more than could confidently grasp.  Then I assured her that the important part of the presentation was simply  realizing that we learn in communities today — that it’s the only way we can work to keep up in a time of rapid change.  ..and that our communities of learning (PLNs) were something that we had to think about as a distinct thing or place that has to be cultivated.  So she stayed!

Now it is nearly every conference that I work at that more than one person comes up and says, “I thought I was on top of this stuff.  Now I know that there is much more I have to learn.”  If I’m feeling my oats, I’ll respond, “Get use to it!”  But near the end of the EdTech conference, that same young woman came up and said, “You know, after attending yours and Will Richardson’s sessions, I realized that I actually knew a lot more than I thought I did.”  She continued that she knew about and had played with blogs, wikis, and RSS, and understood them functionally.  But she said that after this conference she saw how they all worked together, that there really is a new connectedness today where information flows in logical and directable ways, connecting us not only to the content we need, but to the people we need, not merely because of proximity — but through the content.  We simply have to understand how to harness this new information landscape.

NECC Sessions…

It’s quiet at Newark airport, where Brenda and I are waiting for our connection to Buffalo, where we’ll get a cab across the border to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.  I’ll be speaking at the Ontario School Boards Association conference tomorrow, and they selected one of my more provocative topics.  We’ll see how that goes.

It’s customary for us to post the NECC session(s) we will be presenting.  For me, I’ll be doing some work with David Thornburg for SETDA (State Education Technology Directors’ Association) on Sunday.  I’m not sure what I’ll be presenting.  I know I will not have much time.  If Thornburg presents on science, then I may counter with something on the creative arts.  Not sure yet.  But it will be fun.

Then, on Monday, at 12:30, in the HGCC Lila Cockrell Theatre, I’ll talk about our students and our worlds, describing three disruptive conditions that are converging on every school, classroom, teacher, and learner.   It’s a fairly big-picture session that I have not done at NECC before, though it is being increasingly requested by conference planners as a large group general addresses.

I spent some time last night going through the conference program, selecting the sessions I was interested in.  After finishing, I had my calendar subscribe to my selected sessions as an iCal file, and my calendar gave an audible groan under the strain.

A couple of things did strike me as I was reading through the sessions.  Their attraction may have had more to do with things I’ve been thinking about lately, rather than a count of sessions. 

First of all, I saw a lot of sessions about using technology in science instruction.  There is certainly a lot of interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics right now, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.  I also saw a lot of sessions with Web 2.0 in the title or description.  What was interesting was the many of them seemed to assume a basic knowledge of the tools.  The sessions were geared toward bringing together some meaning to these new tools within the context of teaching, learning, and improving student performance (not one of my favorite phrases).

I also found it interesting that podcasting seems to have fallen in popularity from the past couple of years, but what has risen is ePortfolios.  I’ve been sensing a renewed interest in alternative assessment methods, and there may be some logical and valuable connections between collecting artifacts of learning and the increasing interest in blogs, wikis, mashups, and other Web 2.0 applications.

Blogging your Music Lessons

Jonathan 'Jeep' Briones with his Ukulele
First two stanzas of 'Lovely Hula Hands'
This is perhaps one of the most interesting and practical uses of a blog that I’ve seen.  It’s author, Jonathan “Jeep” Briones, walked up to me, during the EdTech conference in Honolulu, told me that he had a blog called Jeep and asked how to get more people to come and read it.  I gave him my standard line, “You have to become part of the conversation.”  “Find other people who are blogging about the same things, read them, comment on their blogs, and then be sure to include a link to your blog.”

A PDF of the ukulele chords are included in the blog
As it turns out, Jeep was the sound guy for my keynote, and as we were talking later, he mentioned that his blog was designed to help people learn to play the ukulele.  I was intrigued then.  Each post is a different song that he helps you learn to play.  It includes an mp3 file of him playing and singing the song (Jeep has a fantastic voice) and a pdf file with the words and cords.  So you listen and play along, as if we was there with you.   But he isn’t, so you aren’t embarrassed when you make a mistake.

There is also a link in the side bar to another pdf that displays an Ukulele cord chart, so you can figure out how to play the chords.  It’s all you need, delivered through a free piece of software.  Brilliant in its simplicity and use of information. 

Now if only I could figure out how to string this thing…

Another First

A while back, I was talking about trends that influence education with a group of tech directors in Texas, and captured a shot of a young man who was playing a video game during the presentation.  This morning I got a comment on a blog that said,

I’m the guy in the photo and I was playing Guild Wars. I’m ADHD but can multitask rather well. I was listening to David’s every word and also transposing those words to the screen in the game I was playing. Almost everyone there thought the ideas he was sharing were very good. ( My guild is almost all Adults) The only problem with what he was saying was that he was saying it to the Techs and not the Teachers. Most Techs I know truly believe in what he was saying and almost all teachers I know think games are bad. Hence I hope he gets a chance to tell it he same things to teachers in the near future.

Learning can happen in so many ways today, and most of them we can’t even imagine — as individuals.  But as communities? — or guilds?

How Have I Missed This?

First of all, I want to say out loud how much I enjoyed the EdTech conference in Honolulu, and not so much for the obvious reasons.  Much more because of the genuine and constant kindness that was shared by everyone.  The hospitality that I received there, and everywhere I went in Honolulu warmed my soul. 

During the conference, I did three installments of a session called Personal Learning Networks.  One of the interesting things about this session is that you can take just about any event at a conference and kick off your presentation by saying, “That was part of your personal learning network.”  So why talk about a personal learning network when its about EVERYTHING?  The reason is that your PLN is something that you have to cultivate.  So it’s something that you have to think about as a manageable part of your environment.

I added a section this week called Mining the Conversation.  This included tools for drilling into the participatory web and drawing out information and meaning from people’s information behaviors that may be, but are not necessarily associated with you.  On example is Blogpulse’s (http://blogpulse.com/) ability to generate trend charts illustrating the popularity of terms among bloggers over a period of time.  Another is the ability to generate tag clouds (http://tagcrowd.com/) from URLs, files, and pasted text.

I found another one this morning while looking through one of my aggregators for references to the “E” word and accessed a video that was put together, evidently, by tony Hirst of OUseful Info.  I also traced through a wiki Edupunk Manifesto and a number of other DIY videos expressing Edupunk principles, all laid over ’80s punk music.  Sorry, I just can’t listen to much of that.  I still associate punk with a hood outside a pool hall.

Searches for obama since the middle of 2003 (click to enlarge)
At OUseful, Hirsh referenced something called Google Trend.  Why hadn’t I heard of this before?  Or if I had, why didn’t I remembered it?  It works like this:

  1. You go to google.com/trends and type in a keyword, such as edupunk.
  2. You get a message back saying that your term does not have enough search volume to show graphs (hmmm), so you try another one, obama
  3. We get a line graph illustrating the frequency of Google searches for obama since the middle of 2003.  The sizable blip in early 2004 was probably his speech at the Democratic Convention. 
  4. It also delivers a ranked list of countries from which the search has come (US, Canada, Australia, UK, Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain)
  5. ..delivers a ranked list of cities (Reston VA, Washington, Richardson TX, Chicago, Austin, New York, Raleigh, Portland OR, Philadelphia, and Pleasanton CA — some of these raise questions)
  6. ..deliveres a ranked list of languages (English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese)
Searches fro all three candidates since the middle of 2003 (click to enlarge)
When we add in clinton and mccain, seperated by commas, it delivers a superimposed lines.  We can also narrow the chart down to specific years, specific months of the last year, and the las 12 months or 30 days.  We can also narrow down to specific cities, countries, or languages.

Searches for all three candidates in 2008 coming from China (click to enlarge)
The tool also provides drop down menus listing all countries and subregions, so that we can see a trend chart for the three candidates based on searches from China, and labels pointing to specific news stories that provoked the search peaks.

I think that learning about history, science, health, geography, reading, mathematics… they’re all more important today than ever before.  But in a time of rapid change, when communication and cooperation have also become more important than ever before, it becomes critical that we also learn about ourselves, as a society.  It means being able to use a mirror, and this is one of the best mirrors I’ve seen.

Hawaii Not What I Expected

Just a quick note.  It’s almost show time and I’m by my self getting my head together for my address.  Will Richardson keynoted yesterday, so it’s going to take me about ten minutes to fill in the little bit that he left out.  Another one for my list.  Don’t follow kids, school board members who’ve just read The World is Flat, kindergarten teachers, and now — don’t follow Will Richardson.

I just want to say, for the record, that Hawaii is not what I expected.  Honolulu is a thriving and very lived in city, not just an enclave of tourists, doing touristy things.  I’ve really enjoyed the live music that is playing every where.  I just didn’t know you could do that with a Ukulele. 

I’ve also met some very exciting educators and education workers.  Last night I had dinner with Alaska educator and pioneer, Mark Stanley, and Don Zundel of Apple.  They both told me stories of some amazing ways that eduators and learners are taking the disruptive conditions that are facing us, and turning them into opportunities.  More on that later!

Aloha! A hui hou!