So does anyone else get a little freaked when the whole Google kingdom seems to be offline as it is at 6:30 am EST?
Or is it just me?
So does anyone else get a little freaked when the whole Google kingdom seems to be offline as it is at 6:30 am EST?
Or is it just me?
This isn’t quite as earth shattering as Chapter 2, but the personal reinvention continues with the end, finally, of my Manila blog and the beginning of my new space served up by James Farmer at Edublogs. I have mostly good things to say about my three-plus years with Manila, but I’ve just had Word Press envy for too long, and James was kind enough to shoulder all of the migration load for me. So, with any luck, in the next couple of days, all 4,955 pieces of content that have been created here since 2003 will be ported over. The RSS feed will stay the same, and I’m hoping there won’t be too much of a disruption. Fingers crossed.
And actually, this move offers up the perfect opportunity for me to take a little break from blogging. Unless something major happens, I’m going to turn off the computer for a couple of weeks and recharge my batteries. We’re off to Sweden for 10 days on Friday, and I’ve got two articles that I need to get working on as well as some other projects. As I’ve mentioned before, I have not felt like a very good blogger of late. It feels a bit stale for some reason, and while the conversations are still important, they’re feeling a bit redundant as well. I think I’m feeling a bit of Clarence’s angst when he writes about “seeing other people.” I too am finding the need to move beyond the “echo chamber” a bit, to keep learning about new things instead of revisiting the common themes. We need to extend this conversation, I think, ’cause I’m just becoming more convinced that schools and education aren’t going to change before society changes. To be honest, I’m looking forward to not checking the feeds for a while.
And the other thing is that I feel like this space is becoming way too much about me. (Ironic, huh?) I mean I know that I’ve been getting around more what with speaking and the book, but the offshoot of that is that I have less time to read deeply and blog thoughtfully. Doing a conference wrap is an easy substitute. I really want to stop writing about what I’m doing and focus more on what I find classroom teachers and students are doing. Stop trying to paint in broad strokes and focus more on the details. It may take until quitting day (May 15) for that to happen, but it’s a goal.
And finally, it was nice to get a faint signal from Steven Downes this week. I looked at the pictures from his isolated cabin up north and felt pangs of jealousy. That tells me something. And, as is typical, he wrote something that just resonated in perfect pitch:
I’m trying to find that place, you know, where I can have a meaningful life, where I can be completely engaged and committed and passionate, where I can matter and be important. These pictures will always be special to me, because they will always remind me that I can and sometimes do dare to hope and dream of being something more, and that there are, absolutely, some things worth dreaming about.
Amen to that.
So, Murphy willing, the blog reinvention will be in place shortly. My own reinvention, however, continues at a much more unpredictable pace. Back in a couple of weeks.
Education Week is running a story titled “Educators Experiment With Student-Written ‘Wikis’: Malleable, Open-ended Web Sites Seen as Aids to Collaborative Learning” that highlights some of the work being done by the likes of Tim Lauer, Paul Allison and others. Here’s a snip that I thought was pretty interesting:
“You can�t do the cookie-cutter essay anymore, because it won�t make sense,” Mr. Allison said.
Many students have taken to using his collaborative-writing wiki, which can be used for expository writing as well more-creative compositions. For instance, on the �discussion� page of the school�s wiki on “Macbeth,” students wrote 20 adaptations of the play’s opening scene, in which three witches in a forest conspire on a coming battle.
In Shakespeare’s version, the first witch says, “When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” The second witch replies: “When the hurlyburly’s done/When the battle’s lost and won.”
One student rewrote that exchange this way: “Yo, where we gonna meet at?/In the [sic] Japan, Tokyo, or Mega world?” The second character replies: “When the grasshopper is finished/And the battle is lost or won.”
So many interesting ideas…
The Higher Ed BloggerCon seemed like a pretty cool idea when it was first announced and it’s absolutely fulfilling my expectations, through Day 3 at least. It’s a month long event that features two screencasted presentations a day, and it kicked off this week with the teaching strand. I’ve learned something from everything that’s been posted thus far and I’m really looking forward to what Ewan and James have on tap for Friday. Some pointers so far:
So this 7th grade “Exploring Our Dynamic Earth” blog (with the very appropriate tag line of “Using blogs to learn”) is an interesting example of how RSS can be woven into the work. The front matter is all done by placing feeds from a host of class blogs and a few science news feeds (including a latest earthquake feed) for pretty easy viewing. Click on one of the headline links and it will take you to a specific blog where teachers are posting some pretty thought-provoking assignments and students are engaging in some pretty impressive conversation through the comments.
For example, we’ve got 58 responses to the question “What’s the most dangerous place on Earth?” and if you read through them, you’ll see some real give and take going on. And the writing is pretty audience-centric, as in this snip:
Imagine this: it�s a perfectly normal day, nothing particularly unusual has happened. Everything is going fine until� BAM! OH DEAR LORD, A VOLCANO IS ERUPTING!! EVERYBODY RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!! This is what could happen if you lived in Chile…
Or this gentle push back:
johanna, I know 143,000 people died in that Yokohama earthquake. But that�s not because the earthquake was more dangerous. It�s because the CIRCUMSTANCES were different. Maybe there just happened to be a lot of people in Yokohama walking around, underneath buildings! Maybe they didn�t have very much advance notice. THAT DOESN�T MEAN THE EARTHQUAKE WAS MORE DANGEROUS. A 9.5 EARTHQUAKE IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN A 8.3 EARTHQUAKE. Also, earthquakes in Japan do occur pretty often� but they�re usually of small magnitude, and so not a lot happens. I�ve done research, and it turns out that BIG earthquakes only occur in Japan every 70 years. The other earthquakes aren�t very dangerous at all. So I would have to disagree with you.
Just when we started figuring out exactly what the heck MySpace really is, now it’s destined for the trash heap. At least that’s according to some of Jeff Utecht’s students:
�It became something you HAD to do, people were going crazy, and you had to write something or people would say �Yeah, you haven�t written anything all week.� it just got to be a hassle.�
From the conversations, I get the feeling the students ran into blogger burnout. They got to a point were they were forced to write do to peer pressure rather then having something to say. The blog postings become so diluted that they were boring to read. Having to write something just for the sake of writing something so you are cool, is not cool.
That’s a pretty sit up and take notice point, I think, and it goes to the discussion we’ve been having of late as to the motivations of blogging in general. Jeff, as always, makes some interesting observations about how important purpose is to the writing, and how quickly things can change.
MySpace and Xanga aren’t going away any time soon, but I would be surprised if they keep adding over 250,000 users a day, as MySpace did a couple of weeks ago. What I’m wondering, as is Jeff, is what’s going to take their place.
If you’re here because of today’s series of stories in the Washington Post on educators blogging, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to the “edublogosphere” and to a really great conversation about how blogs and wikis and podcasts and other Web publishing tools are changing what we do in our classrooms and impacting student (and teacher) learning. (If you’re not here because of the Post articles, go read them!) Personally, I think it’s great that this conversation has finally gotten some coverage from the maninstream media. I’m really hoping it encourages more educators to dip their toes in the water, so to speak, and start considering the power and potential of the “Read/Write Web,” the one where it’s just as easy to create content and share it with wide audiences as it is to consume what’s already there.
Although the article states that “blogs can be personal journals for everyone to see,” please know that even more, they can be spaces to share ideas, to push each other’s thinking, to reflect on the practice and profession, and to make strong and powerful connections with people and ideas. I’m a blog snob in that I believe there is an intellectual component to this that can make it a pretty amazing learning tool, not just a place to capture the day’s events (though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.)
So, if you are new to all of this, here are some more links to start you on your journey. First, here is a wide ranging list of ed bloggers to add to those already linked in the article. (Just click on the + sign next to the “Weblogs in Ed” link in the left hand pane.) If you want to click through some links to classroom uses of blogs, try this list. If you want to learn more about how to get started with all of these tools (like you want to know what it means when The Post says you can “tag” the stories,) this might help. (I have no shame.) Or, if you just want to ask some questions, feel free to e-mail me.
Finally, let me just say that I’ve learned more, found more interesting teachers, and been much more intellectually engaged in my five years of blogging than at any other time in my life. This is an amazing community of educators, and I feel very fortunate to have become a part of it. May it be as transformative for you as it has for me…
I love Bloglines, but this article in TechCrunch has me looking at the alternatives. One that I really want to like is Rojo, which has all sorts of social Web goodness built into it. I LOVE the fact that I can tag individual posts…kind of like a built in del.icio.us. Of course, every tag has it’s own rss feed, which creates all sorts of possibilities. And the recommendation feature a la digg is also very cool. But for some reason, Rojo doesn’t seem to update as consistently as Bloglines. And I have to remember to mark all of the posts read manually instead of just marking stuff I want to keep as with Bloglines. And finally, I guess I just really like the framed Bloglines page which doesn’t require a refresh every time I click on something. This is one of those “wish I had the best of both worlds” moments.
The other one I’ve been playing with is Gritwire which is AJAXalicious and therefore fun to play with. It has a wiki function built in as well as podcast support through the Grit Wire Media player (which is a pretty nifty little app.) But even with all of that, it’s just not as simple as Bloglines, somehow. Maybe it’s just old habits.
So, can anyone give me a reason to switch from Bloglines? Anyone using FeedLounge or Google Reader (which got the highest ratings in the TechCrunch article)?
Some good news from the New York Times:
African-Americans are steadily gaining access to and ease with the Internet, signaling a remarkable closing of the “digital divide” that many experts had worried would be a crippling disadvantage in achieving success.
Civil rights leaders, educators and national policy makers warned for years that the Internet was bypassing blacks and some Hispanics as whites and Asian-Americans were rapidly increasing their use of it.
But the falling price of laptops, more computers in public schools and libraries and the newest generation of cellphones and hand-held devices that connect to the Internet have all contributed to closing the divide, Internet experts say.
Good news, indeed.
MySpace has been in the news again, this time because of the role it played in organizing the recent protests across the country (but primarily in California and Arizona) against the immigration bill. The first thing that jumps out to me, at least is that MySpace is now officially a “social networking site,” not just a blog site. Thank goodness we’ve figured that out.
There’s no doubt that the high school student protests that emptied several schools, blocked traffic and packed the state capital lawn were real.
It’s the way they were organized that was virtual.
Although the student demonstrations Monday and Tuesday paled in comparison with Friday’s 20,000-strong march, the city’s biggest, they likely marked the first appearance of a new generation of activists savvy about using electronic gadgets, text messaging and the Internet to organize.
And read this account by a Social Studies teacher in California:
Asked how the students organized so quickly, Ray Siqueiros, a Sunnyside social studies teacher, said, “It’s called technology. It’s called text messaging. It’s called myspace.com.” Students at Cholla and Pueblo coordinated their march within a matter of minutes during lunch by calling and text messaging each other on their cell phones, they said.
Now, I have to tell you, I have a hard time picturing a bunch of grownups doing quick, mass mobilization this way. Seriously. We’re so e-mail. And I’m pretty much done with that whole natives and immigrants meme because there’s nothing stopping any of us from becoming fluent in this language except our own unwillingness to learn it (and, ok, maybe some time issues…where do kids get the time for this anyway?) We can debate whether or not the kids should have done what they did (read the comments to this Danah Boyd post; in fact, read the whole thing) but we might want to recognize it for what it is: a powerful example of the connectedness that technology can create.
And almost as important here, to me at least, are the reactions from some of the school administrators and law makers. From the Republic:
Sunnyside Principal Raúl Nido said he wanted to work with the students, not contain them.
“If you know what the cause is and you’re passionate about it, then tell me why,” Nido said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing then you’re being led. This is a very hot issue.”
Students said they were appreciative.
“I expected them to try and stop us, but instead they’re encouraging us,” said Alex Gonzalez, 17, a junior and Sunnyside student body vice president. “They understand where we’re coming from.”
And from Arizona Central:
“I commend these students because this is a lesson in modern civics education that we can all learn from,” said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. “Their voices are being heard, and they’re doing it on their terms. This is very exciting.”
We really can all learn from this, not become it, necessarily, but understand it. We might want to think about how to put their engagement and connections in these communities to positive use in our classrooms instead of simply trying to surpress their importance. Just think of the possibilities…
The folks over at the CCCC Blogging SIG are taking the blog by the horns in terms of beginning to gather some empirical research about the effects of blogs in the classroom. I still think it’s weird that no one has published any results of studies with this tool yet. I may have to carve out a few hours to go digging around some more. They’ve also got some other things on the agenda. One of my favorite snippets is this one:
…we need to move the profession towards a space where we’re more aware of blogging as professional activity. To what degree can we “get credit” for blogging? And, deriving from that, how can we start thinking about blogging as professionals? (One question that was asked in response: if blogging becomes a professional activity, does it lose some portion of its value as teaching/writing tool?)
Wow…we’re finally getting serious about this stuff, huh? Good questions that we’re all grappling with on some level, and I’ll be interested to see how things progress.
So Chris Sessums is learning from his blog by deconstructing his learning, on his blog, which is what this is really all about. I know I sound like a snob when I start talking or writing about how blogging is an intellectual exercise, but that’s what this is for me, and I think his post today is a good example of what I mean. I also like the way he defines the scope of what teachers can do with a blog:
1. Modeling: the teacher �puts his/her mind on display�
2. Coaching: teachers observe students performance of a task, offering feedback
3. Scaffolding: helping a student complete a task slightly more difficult than the student is capable of completing on his/her own.
4. Articulating: drawing students out dialogically, helping to convert tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge
5. Reflecting: debriefing, replaying and discussion after an activity
6. Exploring: students tackle new areas on their own
What’s interesting to me is how the items in that list have less to do with teaching than facilitating and creating a learning environment. And thanks to a bit of Web serendipity, I stumbled across this relevant link in one of my del.icio.us feeds today excerpting Carl Rogers’ “Freedom to Learn”. There’s more than what I’m snipping here, but this will give you the gist of what he has to say:
a) My experience is that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To attempt it is for me, in the long run, futile.
b) It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior.
c) I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behavior.
d) I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influence behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning.
e) Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another.
f) As a consequence of the above, I realize that I have lost interest in being a teacher…
Like I said, there is much more to it that needs reading in order to fully understand his ideas. But the learning here for me at least is an even more heightened sense that blogs can be spaces for self directed learning, and that to use them well as teachers, we may need to stop thinking about how to teach with them as much as focus on how we might bring them into our own practice to model what our students can do with them.
Let me first say that I love Kathy Sierra’s blog because so much of what she writes has relevance to education and because there is such a spirit and energy to it that it just makes me motivated to, as she says, “kick ass.” The name of her blog, “Creating Passionate Users” is what education should be all about, shouldn’t it? Helping kids become engaged. Helping them find their passions. Helping them be able to create a life around whatever it is they are passionate about. Notice that it’s not about teaching them to do that. You can’t teach someone to be engaged or passionate. Sure, you can model it, and I think every teacher should share her passions with her students because I’m not sure kids see a lot in the way of healthy passion in the world these days. But there is no text or curriculum for becoming engaged.
Passion bubbles to the surface only when experiences draw them out. Lately, I’ve been looking at my own children and seeing them begin to feel passionate. For my 8 year old daughter, it’s horses. Yesterday I had to almost drag her away from scooping poop at the horse farm down the road to come home and eat dinner. After riding, everything about her smells like pony, and she refuses to change her clothes to put us out of our misery. (That may be less passion that it is obstinance.) For my 6 year old son, it’s basketball. All of a sudden, all he wants to do is spend time at the end of the driveway dribbling and shooting this old beat up basketball that looks like it’s coming unpeeled as the leather separates from its black rubber body. Seriously, he must take a couple hundred shots a day (and he makes most of them, I might add.)
But when it comes to school, they have very little passion. I’ve written about this before, but they are bored silly. It’s already become just a routine they put up with so they can see their friends. Wendy and I give them extra work at home, try to make words and numbers fun, but that almost serves to make their disenchantment with school worse. They are disengaging. And I can guarantee that as they take more and more tests that have no obvious relevance to their lives, they will become more and more disengaged.
I know a fair number of passionate learners, people who seek out opportunities to think seriously about thier lives and world around them. I wish I knew more. I don’t see many passionate learners in classrooms, however, students who are always “learning, growing or improving in some way” (as Kathy puts it) simply for the sake of knowing more instead of for getting a grade. My kids are riding and dribbling not for an assessment but to get the buzz that comes with being able to do it well (as well as for many other non-graded reasons.) That doesn’t guarantee that they will be life long learners, but it’s a start.
So the question for me becomes can schools create passionate users? Can we begin to teach the stuff we need to teach in the context of our students’ passions? And in doing so, can we instill and nurture in them a love of learning and growing? For the vast majority of our kids, school is a game, and though it may be hard to admit, most of us on this side of the desk are complicit participants. The outcomes are clearly defined, and very few of them have anything to do with fostering passionate learning. And in a world where our students can much more easily connect to people who share their passions outside of school, we risk a great deal when we fail to think seriously about how we might create passionate learning opportunities in our classrooms as well.
(Via cogdogblog) Since I got tagged as a huckster the last time I floated an interesting use of one of these tools in the classroom, let me state clearly that I offer these up simply to get people thinking about what can be done. Sometimes I get a bit too excited about the possibilities. So sue me.
Here’s a wiki that’s being put to good use by a track and field team in Deer Valley, CO. Here’s the rationale:
Making our website a wiki makes it easier for us to keep it up-to-date. And a wiki is perfect for a track team since we have so many coaches working in the many track & field events. We can all up date when we feel like it.
Seems so, I don’t know, logical somehow. And I have to say that pbwiki (which is where I’ve been creating most of my wikis lately) is really doing some neat things to help make wiki sites prettier too. (Uh-oh…was that hucksterism?)
And speaking of wikis, have you been to Wikiville lately? More and more kids from around the world are adding information about their places. It’s one way that you might want to think about introducing your students to wikis. (How was that, Tom?)
(From the “Somewhat Shameless Self-Promotion Department”) I just wanted to note that my book is now officially available on Amazon, but even more, look what other Read/Write Web type things you can do:
And, most important of all, of course, don’t forget that you can add my book to someone’s wedding registry…