Archive for July, 2005

BLOGGER TEMPLATE :: Remove the NavBar

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

BLOGGER TEMPLATE :: Remove the NavBar

A great tip for teachers trying to get rid of the “Next Blog” button in blogger… and not too technical… this actually gets rid of the whole Blogger branded Nav Bar. I think it looks nice without it on my blog. :)

Reflections on Raw Materials for the Mind

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

In order of their appearance in the book… here are some of my reflections on Raw Materials for the Mind: A Teacher’s Guide to Digital Literacy

  • I am also reading Malcom Gladwell’s Blink right now and sympathize with Warlick’s suggestion that “research means nothing to preparing our children for their future, compared to what a skilled, experienced, innovative, and inventive teacher can accomplish” (p. 7).
  • Warlick recounts how “enormous volunteer time” (p. 11) has been necessary to get school networks off the ground. I’ve always resented that this was necessary… but in light of the discussions about positive social change and contributing to the common good at the Walden University residency this summer, I now feel that perhaps this is not an entirely bad thing. It is powerful that communities (and so many individuals… many of them teachers and Ed Tech coordinators) have found this worth their time.
  • I’m sure I will need to work on my articulation of this… but, I don’t think I agree with Warlick’s suggestions that “if the student’s work can easily be done with pencil and paper, then it should be done with pencil and paper” and that “if the information is available in an encyclopedia or other reference book then use a book” (p. 19). I think he is missing something here in terms of preparing students for the future, opening additional doors for the assignment at hand… and how these methods are almost certainly outdated even if they seem “easy” and “available.” However, I agree with his overall point that we should not use computers to do what we could have done on paper. I just don’t think it follows that we should do these things on paper… we just shouldn’t do them anymore. As he argues later, students should not be writing papers about something in a way that allows them to complete the assignment by visiting an encyclopedia… even if it is online.
  • There is no question in my mind that the main barrier to teachers implementing new technologies in their practice is indeed time (p. 21). At both the OCDE and N-MUSD we have seen classes canceled due to low enrollment. However, I find it interesting that at the residency I was shown a very recent delphi study (2004, sorry can’t link to it right now, or even properly cite it) in which when ed tech administrators came to consensus and suggested that the greatest need in ed tech right now is research to connect what we are doing with new technologies to higher test scores. Rubish. I agree with Warlick in thinking that many of our current tests are inadequate measurements of our students’ mastery of 21st century skills… and that we shouldn’t even be shooting for higher test scores as a goal. This is a tad bit radical, I know. Thing is… I don’t know a single teacher that doesn’t feel this way… or administrator for that matter… so who is making these rules? I don’t think representative government is working in this respect… either the representatives are not advocating the position of their constituents… or else they are, but they are not expert enough (where educators are) to make the right decisions. Representation requires a fine balance between advocacy for the people, and expert/informed decision making. Hmm… this is another topic altogether.
  • I whole heartedly support Warlick’s call (p. 24) for an 8 hour teacher workday (rather than 6 billable hours and a twelve hour day!)… and for a full hour lunch… but, WTF! He wants to expect teachers to meet during this lunch. This should not be expected any more than it is for a salesman… or me at the county. And I can’t imagine what school would be like if we could come to work prepared… and with a full night’s sleep! (p. 25)
  • “Our reliance on testing is an idustrial age solution to an information age problem” (p. 27). Right on, brother.
  • “We can virtually take students to each continent, to the planets, among the atoms of a water molecule, into interaction with other people…” (p. 28) Sounds a lot like Papert’s (1993) Knowledge Machine. :)
  • This is powerful:

    “The last few decades for much of the developed workld has had the appearance of an unraveling of social fabric. Yet, it is with the very circumstances that initiated the turmoil of our society that our best hope resides. Computer technology, and the opportunities it offers, can become the thread with which we stitch our fabric back together.”

    Of course, I think we also need to keep in mind that one aspect of our society will necessarily become a capacity to unstitch and restitch itself continuously. I recall the fates at their loom… but see three more working as quickly to undo what is done.

    Also, I wonder how we can get this book… or these ideas… into the hands of our congressmen and women. Now that might be a worthy social change project. :)

  • I am of course happy about what Warlick says about the power of IM and Games (and the skill involved) on page 35.

The bulk of the book is then how to use the tools… but there are a few more gems…

  • Oh, I think Warlick’s conservative stance on the blogosphere being potentially inappropriate for students (p. 53) is short sighted. They must learn to confront and deal with the wide variety of information quality and make choices with consequences they will like… we need to teach them to deal with this, not shelter them from it. Now, this may happen in stages, with some sheltering as scaffolding, but I prefer to see that be explicit because so many people are still living in a black and white world where they think protection works… but it doesn’t.
  • Yahoo groups (p. 58) is cool. Check out the Walden Ed Tech group we started at the residency this summer. :)
  • “Using collaboration to create content” is an important sentiment (p. 89).
  • As is the idea of classrooms with “more porous walls” (p. 91).
  • There is a great perspective on the greyness of truth in information on p. 154, and a few powerful examples of when less than reliable information might be ok to use in the classroom.
  • Warlick says “never send students to do internet research (or library research) on a topic unless the students already have a foundation of knowledge about the subject” (p. 159). Though I see where he is coming from here, I think this is foolish. First of all, never say never… when students were completing a Senior Project at Estancia this happened (with positive results) all the time. Also, never (sic) underestimate the intelligence of your students… I have been more often amazed at what kids are able to sort out on their own than vice versa.
  • Oh, and why on earth does David Warlick use Internet Explorer on OS X!!!???

The section on contributive expression gets interesting again, and is well worth reading, particularly the bits on blogging…

  • I say “hallelujah!” to the suggestion that “we have a new record today of human experience that is floating in the cybersphere and available for use” (p. 247). I suspect that a student would probably be able not only to find websites related to just about any topic of interest, but probably a blog related to the topic as well! Seriously… search any topic and add the word blog to your search and see what you find! Talk about connecting with experts… or eye witnesses.
  • “Do not tolerate information inequities in your community.” (p. 261) ‘Nuff said.
  • He concludes that the reader ought to (1) form a community, (2) set goals, (3) continue to learn, and (4) share (p. 289). These principles could be the foundation for the 21st Century Skills Institute at the N-MUSD this summer.
  • However, I disagree with his conclusion that teachers ought to get a copy of the district technology plan and read it (p. 289). In my experience these documents are worthless. It is far more important for teachers to meet the district Ed Tech and IT staff and learn from them what is really going on.
  • I love the idea of seeing myself as a learning consultant (p. 291). :D

Natrually, even this lengthy list of reflections does not do the book justice. I highly recommend it, but with the suggestion that you feel free to skim large chunks of it and to slow down only when necessary… but read the beginning and end closely. ;)

Thanks for reading this.

-Mark

Reflections on Rocketboom

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

Reflections on Rocketboom

Rocketboom is an inspiring example of vodcasting (or video-on-demand casting… or video blogging). As they describe themselves, the show is “a three minute daily videoblog based in New York City” which covers and creates “a wide range of information and commentary from top news stories to quirky internet culture”… with an emphasis on the quirky.

They do a great job of using the video medium to communicate things visually and in ways they could not in a text or audio blog. I look to this vodcast as a model going into the process of producing the OCDE podcasts, which will actually be created using video and offered using iTunes bookmarks in the style of the cutting edge Apple Distinguished Educators podcasts. Robert Craven of the OCDE Ed Tech department has also been involved in the ADE podcasts and is helping to spearhead the efforts at the OCDE too.

Having caught up on several back issues of Rocketboom during flights lately (where podcasting is perfect for driving commutes, vodcasting is great for flying commutes… try it out, ML, if you haven’t already), I’ve had a chance to reflect on the show… in the light of preparing to do one at the OCDE.

  • Especially since the show is an example of cutting edge internet distribution, I wonder why Amanda has paper in her hands… other than for dramatic effect. Do network newscasters still use paper? I seem to remember that they all have video monitors in their desks now, but I don’t watch much news on TV anymore. Will we use paper for the OCDE vodcasts? I hope not. ;)
  • Amanda is a great anchor… quirky, yes… but dynamic and fun to watch. Much of the visual element of this show is simply her performance… and it’s worth it. If we go video, we will need to be as interesting. And if we include visual bookmarks in the audio version in iTunes 4.9, then I hope we can avoid the stationary talking head effect of the Bernie Dodge podcast. Stacy Deeble-Reynolds and I had something of a crack at this when we recorded the Showcase Grant Overview videoconference back in January. (Bummer, this seems to have been taken down from the archive now that the info is no longer needed). Now that I think about it… Stacy and I used laptops instead of paper for this video… and they were beneath the shot of the camera.
  • Still, the best shows are not all Amanda. She has some contributing reporters (some better than others, to be sure), and often includes other clips contributed by her viewers. I hope we can do the same, similar to the way we’re now including community highlights in the Promising Practices newsletter. Perhaps we can also include clips from Michael Guerena’s video conferences and webcasts.
  • The camera work and editing is pretty sophisticated. We’ll need to tap the Media department at OCDE to compete. (The OCDE actually has a full fledged television studio setup). It seems Robert and Michael have already taken this step in my absence. :)
  • That being said, I’ve been reading a lot of Clark Aldrich lately, and am conscious of his phrase, “don’t use calculus when algebra will do.” I know we’ll have to keep it simple, especially since this can’t take more than an afternoon a week for a couple of us to throw together. Rocketboom seems to have struck a good balance, as much of their production is rather low tech, too.
  • Rocketboom is well archived and offered in many formats… I hope we will be able to do the same. (They even offer PSP format!)

This has been a valuable process for me, and perhaps these reflections will be a helpful starting point for others who are interested in producing something similar.

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

New OCDE Ed Tech Homepage!

Sunday, July 31st, 2005


One of the (side) projects I have committed myself to at the Orange County Department of Education has been making sure that the Ed Tech Department (at least) has a reasonably up to date and accurate web page. Until this weekend, I had nothing to show for it, but thanks to Scott Harris, Robert Craven, and many others, the site has gone live despite my extended absence!

I approached this project with the philosophy that simplicity was the key. I didn’t want a major graphic redesign… just a clean and consistent interface… so it is based on the graphic header and colors already used on the old site.

The lion’s share of the credit (did I really just say lion’s share?) goes to Scott Harris, our paid intern, who is also a student of computer science and film studies at UCI (and something of a professional gamer, too). I brought the idea to him and asked him to work on it when he had time between other work requests from our department. He let me know that he didn’t know a shred of HTML, but apparently I was right to have faith in his ability to pick it up. A day later he came back and told me, “I think I have something you’re gonna like.” And he did.

After some tweaking, I asked if it were possible to do a news page and a form to updated it. Again, Scott let me know he’d never written a line of php, but sure enough, a day later he had something I was gonna like.

This too went through some revisions and then I really thought I’d go for it and asked if we could offer the news updates as an RSS feed. Naturally, he knew nothing about it, but a day later he reported that Really Simple Syndication really is simple. I hope you’ll all subscribe to the feed (at least those of you in Orange County, though I think much of the news will be relevant and interesting to others)… see the little blue icon on the left of the page below the OCDE logo.

By now, I’m sure he’s sorted out enclosures, too, for our upcoming podcasts, which are designed to be relevant and interesting to a nationwide (or global?) audience.

No news has been added yet, and might not be until I return to work on the 8th, though I have invited the others in the department to post. I expect we will have daily updates concerning upcoming classes and other opportunities as well as related educational technology news. And, we have a weekly podcast program planned. :D

It was thanks to Robert Craven (and those in the Ed Tech and IT departments he coordinated with) that this project was seen through in my absence.

Ok, here’s that URL:

http://edtech.ocde.us

Note: The old address of www.ocde.us/technology/ will redirect you here. Pretty much any other bookmark on the old site will probably now be broken. If you are missing something and can’t find it’s replacement in the menu, let me know.

Thanks for reading… and I hope you’ll enjoy the OCDE Ed Tech Feed.

-Mark

Publish or Perish: A Blogging Ethic?

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

In traditional academia there is an understanding, sometimes unspoken, that faculty will publish or perish. They need to conduct original research which is deemed worthy for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, or as a book. This is of course time consuming and can overshadow their work as educators. This is not my point here, though.

As you could probably tell from my posts in Bloomington, I was coming face to face with the same sort feeling regarding this blog. There seems to be a similar sort of publish or perish ethic to blogs. This is certainly not a formal thing, but many bloggers will suggest posting at least once a week to build and keep an audience, and many aim for daily contributions. That is certainly the ideal I strive for, though I find my posts often come in bursts when I have the time.

I don’t seem to have lost any of the readers (that I can track through bloglines or feedburner) during the last few weeks, but I’ve enjoyed watching those small numbers creep upwards and hope I can continue to be relevant.

So, coming up…

  • Reflections on Raw Materials for the Mind: A Teacher’s Guide To Digital Literacy
  • Reflections on Rocketboom

Because I am no longer posting discussion topics for coursework, I am finding that my email may be the writings best suited for repurposing here… so you may see some of that soon.

Also, I hope to get my feet wet with the academic sort of publishing. It will be some time yet before my original research is ready for peer-reviewed journals, but other publications can go on the c.v. I include with my dissertation as well… so I am considering answering this call…

—– Original Message —–
From: Sage Advice [sage@edutopia.org]
Sent: 07/22/2005 02:37 PM
To: MWAGNER@OCDE.US
Subject: From Edutopia: Sage Advice

Dear Colleague,

Edutopia, The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s new magazine, invites reader voices and comments for our next issue. They’ll be featured in an ongoing department called Sage Advice, in which our audience suggests solutions to problems we bring up. (Think of a reverse Dear Abby.)

You can see a few of the many notes we received in response to our last topic, “How do you get the most out of substitute teachers?” at http://www.edutopia.org/sageadvice.

The question for the next issue is:

What technology is most effective in the classroom? Give an example.

Send your 25- to 100-word replies, or even suggestions for future questions, to sage@edutopia.org.

(The fine print: The deadline is August 8, 2005. Be sure to include your name, title and affiliation, and location. Responses may be edited for length and style.)

We’re looking forward to your response.

Best,

Edutopia staff

I will certainly post my write up here if I do it.

Oh, and thanks for reading.

-Mark

My old blog and OLD homepage

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

After a conversation with my brother James (pictured) this morning, I realized it is hard for readers to find my old blog and my OLD homepage… I left pointers only in the first post of this new blog. Therefore I have added links to the right hand column of the blog, just below the automaticly generated archives. For those using the feed, here are those links again.

My old blog
My OLD homepage

-Mark

In Irvine for the Weekend

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

As you may have noted from my absence here at Educational Technology and Life I ended up becoming absorbed in the residency at Bloomington.

Then, this past week, Eva and I were on vacation in Puerto Vallarta. The included picture is of one of those sunsets that just goes on and on.

Some of the faculty at the residency gave me their left over campus access cards at the end of the residency, in return for having helped with the technical set up for the colloquiums. (I helped the facilitator with laptop setup etc… and we iSighted my advisor, Dr. Jock Schorger, the education faculty chair, in from Colorado after he left the residency early!) So, I was able to get a new camera (a little HP Photosmart M22) for half off at the campus technology store at IU. It has a great sunset mode, doesn’t it? (The panoramic feature is also particularly cool and easy to use! However, the on/off lense cover door is a pain to keep closed in your pocket!)

Tomorrow we leave again to celebrate our 5th anniversary at a secret location (it was Eva’s turn to plan this year).

Yesterday, I caught up on a week’s worth of email, news feeds, Rocketboom, etc. It was good to feel connected again (it was certainly good to be free of it for a week, too), but yesterday I felt I was merely listening to the web.

Today I hope to actively contribute to the symphony of chaos. So, with any luck there are more posts to follow this.

It looks like I won’t do much formal work on my KAM again until Thursday, when I really dig into writing about Prensky, Gee, Aldrich and the other (more academic) theorists and consider their work in light of a working theory of constructivist human development already developed for the breadth portion of this KAM demonstration.

-Mark

Wikispaces – A Place To Grow Communities

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Wikispaces – A Place To Grow Communities

Wiki’s with Feeds! For free of course. I think I’ll try it. Guerena should check it out too if he hasn’t already beat me to it.

Wired News: Blind Teen Gamer Obliterates Foes

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Wired News: Blind Teen Gamer Obliterates Foes

I’m back… and this was the first WOW I came across this morning. ‘Not sure if its replicable, though.

Serious Games Pathfinder

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

Serious Games Pathfinder

A place to find research, and people, related to games and learning.