New Workshop Descriptions: Thoughts?

This past year has been a blur, with 20 Google in Education Summits and dozens of other events. I’ve really honed (and continue to improve) my favorite three sessions:

I still love these sessions (and the seemingly timeless Blog if You Love Learning) and I feel like they are eye-opening to most of the educators I reach. But, it feels like it’s time to put something new into rotation… and I have a few opportunities this summer. Here are three new sessions… I know they’re not on the currently beaten path of Common Core  (or other hot topics), but these are what I have to offer right now – and I hope I might be able to reach educators who could benefit from what I have to share. Meanwhile, I’d love any initial feedback any of you can offer. :)

What’s New from Google in Education

You’ve seen sessions on Google Search, Google Docs, and other free tools for years. Now come learn the latest features (and inspiring ideas) that will benefit you and your students. Google releases “early and often” (with over 120 updates to Google Apps last year), so this session is always new! Discover citations in Google Scholar, news archives in Google News, research tools in Google Docs, multi-media editing “in the cloud” with Google Drive, awesome new mobile apps, and… “even more” – including items newer than this description! This fun high-paced session is delivered in a “play along” format with something for everyone.

Make More of Your Time: Productivity Tools for Educators and Students

Learn simple tips, tricks, and apps for automating tasks. Text Expanders save hours of typing. Clipboard buffers save hours of cutting-and-pasting. Paperless faxes, forms, and signatures save hours printing and scanning (and save trees). Automated rules, filters, canned responses, and prioritizing tools save DAYS dealing with email… and visual voice mail! Collaborative documents, calendars, and to-do lists make teamwork easier… especially with free video conferencing and desktop sharing! These tips and more can benefit any busy educator or student, whatever your roles and responsibilities. Mastering these tools is part of being literate and successful in the today’s high-paced world… and most importantly, they can give you back time for the slower things in life.

Now It’s For You: Open Source in Education

Open Source Software is secure, feature rich, and FREE… perfect for educators and students. Open Source Solutions used to be best for techies and geeks, but recently they have entered the mainstream and *surpassed* expensive proprietary efforts like Windows, Mac OS X, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, iLife, and more. Android Phones and Chromebooks are both Linux at the core. Ubuntu is a beautiful and easy to use operating system. Firefox is a fast, flexible, and secure web-browser (and proudly non-profit). Shotwell and OpenShot replace iPhoto and iMovie. GIMP replaces photoshop… and there are more free tools available to customize (and secure) your computing experience than ever before. Plus, with favorite apps like Google Chrome now available on Linux, it can be the best window into everything “the cloud” has to offer education today, with online and local copies of all your writing, media, and collaborations. (NOTE: This more or less chronicles my past year using an Ultralap 430 running Ubuntu as my main laptop, in conjunction with various Chromebooks and Nexus Android devices… I’m happier with my the tools I’m using, and I saved a ton of money.)

Thanks for taking a look at these, and thanks in advance for any comments or feedback you might be able to leave. :)

Early and often, right? ;)

PS. If you miss me blogging here, you can find me microblogging and social networking at Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

New Laptop, Phone, & Service: Open Source, Unlocked, & Contract Free

UPDATE: I buried the lead… by switching from AT&T to StraightTalk I’m basically getting my new phone AND laptop for FREE. :)

Wow. I exhausted all the possibilities and finally settled on a new laptop, phone, and phone service. I’m going all open source, unlocked, and contract free. :)

Laptop: ZaReason UltraLap 430

Phone: Google Galaxy Nexus by Samsung

Service: StraightTalk Unlimited (Month-to-Month)

BTW, I’ll save more than $1000 over two years by leaving AT&T… plus another $1400 since I’ll be canceling my MiFi as well. I can buy a new phone whenever I want! (This made it easier to say no to the Samsung Galaxy SIII for now, as did the promise of Jelly Bean sooner on the Nexus… not to mention the Nexus was half the price unlocked. I really wanted to do the SIII on Credo for $199, but the two year contract at AT&T like prices turned me off despite Credo’s social mission.)

Also, the laptop has double the RAM of a Maxed out Macbook Air, and more SSD storage than possible with a Macbook Air… for over $300 less. And, I found great looking alternatives to all my favorite Mac Apps, including TextExpander and FlyCut. Oh, and they’re all free.

These are still not inexpensive purchases, but I feel like it’s money well spent… I was out the door for 15% less than I would’ve been with a maxed out Macbook Air and a basic iPhone 5. And with the savings over time with the cell plan, I basically just got my new phone and computer for FREE!

I guess I buried the lead, eh?

And of course I’ll be sharing my experiences switching from OS X and iOS to Linux and Android… and I’m looking forward to finally walking the open source talk. :)

K-12 Open Minds Conference

Conference – K-12 Open Minds Conference (Via Steve Hargadon.) Steve sent out an email last week asking some fans of open source software in education to get the word out about this conference. I’m including his comments below. Click the link above for more information.

The first K-12 Open Minds conference is going to be held October 9 – 11, 2007, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The kick-off reception is Tuesday, the 9th, with the regular conference sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, the 10th & 11th.For me, this is the must-attend event of the year relating to Free and Open Source Software in K-12 education. There are more tracks and topics that I already want to see than I will have time to attend. There are currently over 55 planned conference sessions, covering a the use of Linux and Open Source use in classroom, teaching, technical, and leadership aspects.

The individual registration fee is $100, or $89 each for groups of three or more. Register on the website or call Anthony Yanez, Registration Coordinator, at 800.940.6039, extension 1348.

Holding the conference in Indianapolis has two distinct advantages. The first is that nice hotel rooms are available for under $100/night at the conference location ( Sheraton) if you book before the 19th of September. Considering that the last conference I went to, the hotel cost for one night was more than this conference, and three days of hotel, all combined, makes this the bargain of the year.

The second benefit is that the conference is being organized by Mike Huffman and Laura Taylor, whose rich credentials in the area of actual implementation of Free and Open Source Software in K-12 education are really unparalleled in the United States. See my interview with them, and an audio recording of their session at NECC 2007, on my EdTechLive website.

Mike is also preparing blog tags for the sessions, and I’ll post on that as soon as we have that information.

Wes Freyer on the CUE K12 Symposium at MacWorld (and the OLPC)

In the wake of the Stevenote, MacWorld continues, including the CUE organized k12 Symposium. Wes Freyer is there, and blogging the sessions he attends. Among them was this one that caught my attention…

Engaging Brains Through Games and Simulations by Bernie Dodge (Via Moving at the Speed of Creativity.) Bernie has been talking about (and teaching about) Games and Learning for some time, and it’s great to see him presenting the topic to mainstream (education) conference attendees. He discusses Brenda Laurel (who I’ve been reading a lot about lately in From Barbie to Mortal Kombat and Gender Inclusive Game Desing), complex games (a la Marc Prensky), the elements of a good game, Second Life, and more, including an interesting formula for learning: Power = Attention x Depth x Efficiency.

OLPC marches on (Via Moving at the Speed of Creativity.) Today, Wes also commented on recent and significant updates to the monumental open source project, One Laptop Per Child (also known as the $100 laptop project).

Respect The Realities of Change (Part II)

The depth portion of my KAM is following the same structure as the breadth portion. As such I begin by tackling those elements that facilitate organizational change, the first of which is once again to respect the realities of change. The DRAFT of this section is below.

Meanwhile, while writing I occasionally take a mental break and surf the web. I felt I needed some motivation, so I thought I’d look up what percentage of Americans actually complete their PhD. According to this 2005 article, less than 1% of Americans earn a doctorate degree (and this number is declining). Also, approximately 60% of all doctoral students (in the humanities) do not complete their degree. I’m trying my best to be a part of that 1% (and to keep it from declining further), and to not be a part of that 60%. :)

Schools of Education, by the way, award the most doctoral degrees per year in this country. I suppose that’s not a surprise.

In any case, on to my clumsy DRAFT. I hope this at least communicates how much reading and note taking I’ve done for this project. ;)

Facilitating Organizational Change

Each of the authors introduced in the previous section is a prominent theorist in the field of professional learning communities. The implementation of professional learning communities in keeping with their philosophies can greatly improve the efficacy of school change efforts. Therefore, in order to further develop the preliminary working theory of school change presented in the breadth portion of this KAM, a thorough review was conducted of these professional learning community theorists as well. This review has revealed ten elements of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment. Some of these elements are very similar to those presented in the breadth portion, however most are additional elements that can be used to guide to implementation new educational technologies, such as video games and simulations, in schools. The first five of these elements relate to facilitating organizational change: respect the realities of change; establish mission, vision, values, and goals; focus on what’s important; develop leadership; and, develop teaching.

1. Respect The Realities of Change

To be successful, change agents must respect that organizational change is a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process – especially in an educational institution. This was illustrated by the work of Senge, Evans, and Fullan in the breadth portion of the KAM. Below, this is further supported by the work of leading professional learning community theorists.

The DuFours and their co-authors expressed the complex nature of change in many ways. DuFour and Eaker (1998) reviewed the failures of previous school change efforts including A Nation at Risk, the excellence movement, Goals 2000, and the restructuring movement (p. 1-9). They also reviewed the failures of the industrial age educational system in general (p. 19-23). Their conclusion was that this system, and the efforts to reform it, have failed “for a number of reasons: the complexity of the task, misplaced focus and ineffective strategies, lack of clarity on the intended results, failure to persist, and lack of understanding of the change process” (p. 17). DuFour and Eaker knew that school change was a messy and unpredictable process; they considered “problems and conflict… [to be] the inevitable byproducts of serious reform” (p. 49). They believed that “if schools are to be significantly more effective, they must break from the industrial model upon which they were created and embrace a new model that enables them to function as learning organizations” (p. 15), which they prefer to characterize as professional learning communities. DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005) believed that changing an organization is not a matter of top-down directives, but rather that “changing an organization begins with changing the conversation within the organization” (p. 183). And, like Senge, they believed that the skills of systems thinking would play an important role in making sense of the complexity inherent in the change process (p. 94, p. 218).

Other authors writing about professional learning communities noted similar complexities in the process of facilitating organizational change. Wald and Castleberry (2000) discussed what they call “the roller coaster of change” (p. 42), a process which at its best is still an emotional journey of getting aboard, generating a vision or idea, encountering constraints, experiencing despair, entering into dialogue, engendering hope, planning, taking action, and finally getting results. The path is neither an easy one nor a straight one. Huffman and Hipp (2003) consider how many elements are necessary in order to provide the right supportive conditions for school change; these include caring relationships, trust and respect, recognition and celebration, risk-taking, a unified effort to embed change in the culture of the school, resources (such as time, money, materials, and people), facilities, and communication systems (p. 144). Lists of necessary conditions cannot only begin to capture the nuances of organizational change; as Roberts & Pruit (2003) point out, “meaningful and continuous conversation among teachers about their beliefs, their teaching, their learning, and what they have learned about teaching is necessary for teachers to develop into a community of learners and leaders” (Kruse, Louis, Bryk, 1995, as cited in Roberts & Pruit, 2003, p. xi) capable of successful school change. Hord’s (2004) model for professional learning communities includes such diverse and complex elements as “supportive and shared leadership, shared values and vision, collective learning and application of that learning, supportive conditions, and shared personal practice” (p. 1). Kagaan (2004) points out that even if such elements are formalized, there is none-the-less a “distinction between theories-in-action and espoused theories – the differences between what school professionals really do and how they really interact, as opposed to what the mission statement mounted on the wall of the school foyer says about what they do and how they interact” (p. 4). Ultimately, team work in a professional learning community is daunting; members of the community must show respect for each other, keep an open mind, talk about difficult issues, be flexible, and be clear (Stone & Cuper, 2006, p. 9-11).

A change agent attempting to integrate constructivist pedagogy or new educational technologies, such as video games and simulations, into a school will encounter all of these levels of complexity as well. The challenges of introducing new teaching techniques and new technologies to a school are largely the same challenges that professional learning communities are designed to overcome. The efforts of change agents will be much more fertile in an environment characterized as a professional learning community than in traditional school structures. To some degree, a change agent hoping to introduce a new technology such as video games into a school would do well to help the school build its capacity as a professional learning community in order to increase the chances of success with their initiative.


More Workshop Wikis

I’m presenting five sessions at the San Diego Computer Using Educators Tech Fair on Saturday. Here are the wikis I’ve put together for those sessions. These presentation notes are a bit sparse without the speaking I’ll be doing, but I know at least one of my sessions will be recorded, and I’ll share that here, too.

In the meantime, feel free to contribute to the new wikis. :)

Power Up: An Introduction to Video Games in Education
It Really Is Really Simple! An Introduction to RSS in Education
Wiki While You Work: An Introduction to Wikis in Education
What More Could You Ask For? An Introduction to Open Source Software
Google More… An Introduction to Google in Education