Saturday, April 28, 2007

EduBloggerCon 2007 in Atlanta - Update

There have been lots of fun new sign-ups for the free, all-day EduBloggerCon 2007 Saturday, June 23rd, in Atlanta. I figured it was time to start giving some structure for the day, so I've made some updates to two of the wiki pages.

1. I've put in a proposed time schedule that has 4 major blocks of
time for sessions, followed by discussion time. Those who decide to facilitate a session can add their session to a time block, and we'll see if people are able to balance things out. :) See the bottom half of http://edubloggercon.wikispaces.com/Unconference.

I've also proposed a whole-group starting meeting and a finishing meeting, and indicated some things that I think could get done during those meeting. Let me know what you think or add your suggestions to the page.

2. I've consolidated the two pages that had session ideas and session "offers," and have made it possible to indicate interest in attending a session. This should help give facilitators an idea of what interests others if we can encourage the use of this page: http://edubloggercon.wikispaces.com/Atlanta+2007+Session+Offers.

I also think it might be nice to get some sponsors who could provide refreshments and, if we're really bold, lunch (!) or t-shirts or buttons. Let me know if you think you know anyone who would be interested.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Web 2.0 and School 2.0 Connection

I gave the keynote address to the CVCUE meeting in Fresno this past Saturday, and prepared a presentation on why Web 2.0 is going to be so important to education. When I was driving home I made a connection that I hadn't fully made before: that the transition between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is very similar, if not almost identical to, the change between School 1.0 and School 2.0.

Now, in retrospect, it seems obvious that the technology that is most significantly reshaping our culture and business (Web 2.0) would also have the potential to dramatically change how we view education, but I hadn't really defined the parallels in my own mind. These two simple graphics describe what I'm seeing.

Web 1.0 came out of our existing mindsets of how information is transferred, and very much reflected the 100+ year history of industrialism, with experts/businesses dispensing identical knowledge/products to mass consumers.

Web 2.0 has really been the flowering of new relationships between individuals and businesses, and reflects new ways of thinking that the technology has facilitated or created. It's about engaged conversations that take place directly, and don't rely on top-down management, but peer feedback and mentoring. It's an incredibly effective restructuring of how learning takes place, and somehow we have to figure out how to bring this experience into our learning institutions--or they will become obsolete.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mr. Podcast: Eric Langhorst (Classroom 2.0, Episode 1)

Eric Langhorst teaches 8th-grade American History at South Valley Junior High School in Liberty, Missouri. And he's a great podcaster. Not only does he create audio study guides for his students before tests ("studycasts"), he also has a podcast series for history teachers called Speaking of History.

I interviewed Eric as the first in a planned series of interviews on classroom use of Web 2.0 tools, which I'm calling "Classroom 2.0," and which I'll also post at the Classroom 2.0 social network site.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Seeing Ed Tech Really Working in Indiana

While this is a fascinating description of what is taking place in Indiana's ACCESS program, led by Mike Huffman and Laura Taylor, it's more than that. (Audio interview with Mike and Laura at EdTechLive.com) It's someone seeing a vision for the use of technology in education that is truly transformative. Not unlike Chris Lehmann & gang's efforts at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and others.

From the Fedora Education Initiative mailing list, by Greg Dekoenigsberg:

===

Last month, I went to visit Mike Huffman in Indianapolis. He's in charge of technology in schools for the state of Indiana. He said he was going to take me out to show me how Linux worked in his schools.

I'd seen a bunch of cool Linux labs elsewhere. Good example: I visited Jeff Elkner at Yorktown High School (Arlington, VA) a few years ago and toured his K12LTSP lab. It was essentially a lab for teaching computer skills, in the wealthiest high school in a wealthy school district, with a highly motivated teacher. Impressive stuff, but not what I would call a broadly replicable success.

So on my visit with Mike, he took me to a school in Greensburg, Indiana. This was not a wealthy school; in fact, it was in an economically depressed area. A lot of parents lost their jobs in the past few years when the local plant shut down. Fairly typical story nowadays, it seems.

As we drove out to Greensburg, Mike told me the story of how he came to believe that open source in general was *the* solution to the "computers in education" problems in his state. He told me about how Microsoft was squeezing him at every turn, and yet how the computers he had were sorely underutilized. He really explained to me, for the first time, the ideas around one-to-one computing -- and why open source is ideally positioned to make one-to-one a reality in his state.

===

I was expecting Mike to take me to a computer lab. Instead, he took me to an English class.
The kids filtered in, chitchatting like kids do. When the bell rang, the teacher directed their attention to the URL she'd written on the board. The kids turned on the monitors mounted underneath their plexiglass-covered desks, fired up their web browsers, and got to work.

The URL was a Moodle quiz. Something about "The Red Badge of Courage" or something, I don't remember. (As so often in my school days, I wasn't paying attention to that bit.) But the kids were done with the quiz in, oh, five minutes. When they were all done, the teacher started to teach her class. The kids would occasionally Google something. The teacher had a supernatural instinct about which kids were working on class-related stuff and which kids were fooling around, and kept the class pretty well in line.

I talked to her after class. "Moodle and Criterion have saved my life," she said. "I used to spend hours grading papers and quizzes. Now, Moodle takes care of the quizzes, and Criterion grades the papers for spelling and grammar so I can focus on the content. This software saves me 10 hours a week -- which I spend building the actual curriculum."

When I asked her about how she created the content, she said "oh, I get help from the other English teachers; we build the lesson plans together." Whereupon Mike Huffman broke in and told me that this was one of the first lessons he'd learned: the absolute necessity of collaboration. When Mike put *one* lab into a school, that lab failed. The teacher was intimidated by the technology, wouldn't ask for help, and the computers would sit unused. But when he put *three* labs into a school, the labs prospered; the teachers compared notes, learned from each other, and ultimately took fierce ownership of these fantastic new tools they'd been given.

The next day, I went to the symposium for the teachers in the state of Indiana, and heard similarly breathless stories. I heard from a teacher of *twenty-five years* who said that her one-to-one lab changed her mind about taking early retirement. "I can focus on actual teaching now," she said.

The common wisdom that old teachers can't adopt technology is clearly wrong. If you give smart teachers the tools to do their jobs, they will use those tools. In fact, the veteran teachers will be *more* effective than the younger teachers, because they've got the classroom management skills to make it work. I've seen the proof.

===

All of this tells me that a lot of folks have been selling the whole "computers in schools" concept completely wrong. In Indiana, they are not, not, *not teaching computers*. They are teaching *kids*, and they are *using* computers to do it. It seems like an arbitrary distinction, but it is in fact a *fundamental* distinction -- and it's a distinction that so many people seem to miss. Until very recently, myself included. Sometimes you have to see these things firsthand to understand the impact.

So why don't teachers embrace technology? The common "wisdom" goes something like this:

"How can you expect a teacher to learn all this computer stuff when they've got all this other work to do, like grading papers?"

When the success stories go more like this:

"How can you expect a teacher *not* to learn all this computer stuff so they stop wasting their time on grunt work, like grading papers?"

===

Web 2.0: A Personal Learning Renaissance

Yesterday, on the Classroom 2.0 social network, Elizabeth Davis posted:

"Following and reading blogs, participating in ning, contributing to wikis, writing in my blog, I haven't thought this much in years. It truly is an amazing phenomenon. I feel so intellectually alive. I'm inspired and challenged constantly. The blogs I read lead me to question and explore new tools and Websites. I haven't written this much since I was in school. It is all so exciting and energizing. For me, classroom 2.0 could just be about my own growth and learning and that would be enough."

"Teacher K" then commented:

"
I agree! I am reading and thinking and writing far more now than I have in years. All of this content is helping me to do new things in my classroom, and helping me to see new possibilities for my colleagues as well."


I would echo by saying that Web 2.0 has meant a personal learning renaissance for me as well. Starting to blog kindled in me something that led me to be an active learner again, something that had been missing from my life for some number of years in the midst of other good things: raising kids, serving in my church, and working. Now I am feeling engaged in learning again. Will Richardson captured this, I think, when he said: "I've learned more in my four-plus years as a blogger than I have in all my years of formal education."

I think it is our new personal learning experiences with Web 2.0 that are driving many of us to look for ways to bring this feeling of engagement into the school and the classroom. It's not the tools, necessarily, but the level of engagement we want to share. This is also why I sense a growing consensus among the educational bloggers that the best way to bring change to the classroom is to help the teachers feel it themselves. As Elizabeth says in the same post:

"I hope I can help my colleagues to see the potential I see and feel the buzz that I feel. This is the first step to bringing it to the kids. I think teachers have to feel it for themselves first. I hope I can bring that to them. I think, with the help of this community, I probably can!"

Friday, April 13, 2007

Interview with Brian Behlendorf on Apache

Brian Behlendorf was a primary developer of the Apache Web server and a founding member of the Apache Group, which later became the Apache Software Foundation. I frequently mention Apache in my interviews on Free and Open Source Software: while it runs 70% of the world's web servers, while all the code is available to look at/modify, and while it will run on virtually any PC that a school has sitting around, Apache is virtually untaught in K-12 schools in this country. (I have yet to get a good answer as to why this is true. I have the feeling that because there is no marketing money taking Apache to the ed tech shows, most technology teachers don't even consider it.)

The theme for me continues to be Free and Open Source Software (FLOSS) as education--the ability to provide learning opportunities for students by working on and with FLOSS. Programs like OpenOffice, Audacity, and Firefox are great for use in education, but for teaching programming it is rare to find educators using FLOSS programs like Linux, Apache, PHP, or Python--all of which would pretty much guarantee not only a great learning experience, but even job opportunities (heaven forbid).

Great interview with a modest man who helped to create our experience with the Web.

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EduBloggerCon 2007

Edubloggercon2007 – This first-ever, international, one-of-a-kind all-day “meetup” of educational bloggers will take place on Saturday, June 23rd, at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta just before the start of NECC.

All are invited–whether you yourself blog, are just an educational blog reader, or even just want to hang out with an interesting group of people. The event is free, and you can indicate that you are coming (and see who else will be there) at the Edubloggercon wiki. This event will be unique in that it is going to be organized by the participants in real time at the wiki. We have access all that day to the large Open Source Pavilion room at the Conference Center and there will be free wi-fi: beyond that is up to you. So come join the discussion and help us plan a fun and stimulating experience.

Interview with Gina Bianchini from Ning

Gina Bianchini is the co-founder and CEO of Ning, the "do-it-yourself" social networking site. Gina is no ivory-tower entrepreneur--she is an active participant herself in several Ning networks, and she demonstrates her passion (and her hands-on style) in this fun interview. We talk about the original vision for Ning, some of the ways that Ning is being used by different groups, and what features are coming down the road. It's the future features Gina describes that will get current Ning users excited.

The power and scope of Ning is truly amazing. Let's just say that I got off the call and immediately created a group for my kids drama troupe, and thought of several others.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Amazing, Amazing Use of an Old Computer

I'm having an incredible brainstorm about used computers and homeless shelters, emergency shelters, low-income housing units, schools, etc.

This is our kitchen computer. Actually, it's just the monitor and our small stereo. The computer is below, and pictured below. The computer is an old Dell GX240, rather beaten up, with a 4GB (that's right, only 4GB, not the original) drive, 256MB of memory, CD drive, but no floppy or usable Windows license. Probably worth well under $100; I'm imagining this would work easily on pretty much on most P3s.

I'm running Puppy Linux on it, a Linux operating system which runs from the CD-Rom drive, and weighs in at around 50MB. You read that right. I downloaded a version of Firefox 2.0-something, Flash 9 for Linux, and then Skype and Gizmo. Now the operating system and programs are still less than 150MB. Puppy then saves the configuration and data files on the small hard drive. If I were more of an expert in Puppy, I could do away with the CD-Rom and have it boot from the hard drive.

This is our main family computer. Here's what it can now do:

1. Anything Firefox. Great YouTube/Google/etc. video playback, perfectly synchronized (not sure I feel confident about Puppy's use of the codecs, but still have to research that). Puppy has good word processing, spreadsheet, and other programs, but truth be told, I now live almost entirely on the web. To have Firefox 2.0+ on an old computer, where the operating system takes almost no overhead, is like working on a P4.

2. Skype and Gizmo phone calls. I plugged in a headset/mic combo tonight and made phone calls. OMIGOSH. OK, can we talk about emergency relief efforts? Deploying old computers in disaster shelters where people will instantly have access to both the web and calling?

3. I've tested Puppy on my recently-purchased Toshiba laptop, and the wireless drivers work great, so it can do wireless. Municipal free wi-fi efforts, here you go. Get computers and Internet access into the hands of those who need them the most.

4. We've even uploaded our family CD-music collection to MP3Tunes, and we now listen to them, or to Pandora, directly out of our stereo thanks to a cable from the computer to the stereo auxiliary jacks. OK, that's a luxury, but it's pretty amazing to have all of our music (thousands of songs) stored on the web for free and to have an old computer acting as the control-panel from a web page.

Here's the deal. Over 100,000 computers are discarded in this country every day. Estimates are that less than 5% get re-used. The major manufacturers have recycling programs, but you have to know that recycling is not re-use, and recycling a computer gets very, very little back in terms of raw materials. Re-use is SIGNIFICANTLY better for the environment. Recycling is just politics. Here are the stats from Jim Lynch today announcing an EPA calculator for computer reuse:

====

Reusing just one computer with a CRT monitor saves:

30 lbs of hazardous waste
77 lbs of solid waste
77 lbs of materials
147 lbs (17.5 gallons) of water from being polluted
32 tons of air from being polluted
1,333 lbs of CO2 from being emitted
7,719 kilowatts of energy

This is equivalent to taking ½ of a car off the road, saving 68% of one US household's allotment of electricity for a year, and a net cost savings of $670.

====

If that's not incredibly compelling, I don't know what is. We don't re-use computers 1) because the marketing tells us we need to upgrade, 2) we can't legally re-use Microsoft Windows without the original CD and manual, 3) maintaining old versions of Windows is not viable or cost-effective, and 4) computers keep costing less and less. If Firefox is really the new platform of computing (and in many ways it is), and if a Linux distribution like Puppy can run the newest version, and if the use of the Internet is significant to the ability of individuals to communicate and participate in society, then we have a really compelling model for making a huge difference to those in our society who are least likely to have had access to computing before.

And think about schools. Just think about it. Hmmm... basic, stable computing at under $100 per computer. Maybe way under.

So what is it going to take to make this a reality? Well, it won't be the commercial market, because there is no money in it. It's going to take committed individuals and some kind of sponsorship. But it can be done.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Where Is the Technology Revolution in Education? (School 2.0, Part 10)

Yesterday I recorded this audio interview with Michael Russell of Boston College, whom I had recently heard speak at the COSN's 12th Annual K-12 School Networking Conference on the topic of "Where Is the Technology Revolution in Education?"

I was captivated by his talk, and quickly arranged an interview with him. You'll notice that I organized the interview in slightly different order than his presentation (a .pdf version of which is available here)--while Michael started his presentation by talking about the ways in which technology has transformed business, I wanted to jump right into the discussion of educational technology and the history of education, then to look at the business examples. Even though I think Michael has some very interesting things to say about trends in business technology that are likely to be played out in education, I prefer to downplay that concept a little because I'm not sure that business examples are always the best ones to trot out for education (although, to Michaels great credit, I think he's largely on the mark).

Here is Michael's COSN conference description of his original presentation (my notes on our interview follow):

----
Where is the Technology Revolution in Education? Essential Skills: Leadership and Vision, Education and Training

Computer-based technologies have revolutionized business, politics, and entertainment. They have allowed businesses such as Amazon.com and Netflix to dramatically expand the range of products from which they generate profits by creating large niche markets. Political candidates employ tactics that profile and target customized messages to potential voters. Children and young adults are no longer dependent on broadcast networks and movie houses for entertainment, but instead instantly access media and games that spark their current interests. Yet, despite dramatic increases in the presence of computers in our schools and repeated efforts to increase use of technology by students and teachers, education has been largely unaffected by computer-based technologies. Students rarely use computers in schools and they have little choice in what and when they learn. Most teachers still stand and deliver a curriculum that is imposed from above. And the predominant model of education is nearly identical to that introduced over a century ago. Why is this? This presentation explores the many impediments that have limited the use of technology in today’s schools. We see how access, leadership, support, and test-based accountability impact the ways in which technology is used by teachers and students. Learning from lessons in business, politics and the entertainment industry, we also explore how computer-based technologies might support dramatic changes in how education occurs if we are willing to move away from the paradigm of schooling adopted a century ago. These changes include targeting learning so that it is aligned with the interests and needs of students, creating networks of learners instead of classrooms of students, and integrating what is currently separate fields of studies.

----

I used the outline below to organized the topics in my own way to prepare for the interview. Of course, I didn't hit all of the points, but Michael does a great job of exploring the concepts that we did touch on.

Introduction:
I. What Is the Problem?
  • We've spent a lot of money on computers, the ratio of computer to students is higher than it's ever been, schools are more connected to the Internet than ever before. Why is there a problem?
    • Where Is "Engaged Learning" actually taking place?
      • Are kids learning more outside of school than in school?
      • Are their learning environments more compelling outside of school?
      • Has school changed, or just what we are comparing it to?
    • What are computers actually used for in schools?
      • Are they just "expensive pencils?"
      • Are they not integrated enough?
      • What about 1:1 programs?
      • How ubiquitous do computers need to be for transformation to take place?
    • Is the cost of computing in schools too high?
      • If we've spent so much money, why aren't we seeing results?
        • Have we actually spent that much money?
          • What percent of school budgets actually goes to technology? (Is 3% correct?)
        • Spending money doesn't necessarily equate to student time on computers (Indiana)
        • Is there too much of a separation of purchasing/maintaining roles from teachers and classroom?
      • Are we just waiting for the "lag-time effect?" (infrastructure built out, then some years later innovation takes place--computers, data examples)
      • There are inexpensive alternatives for computing. Why aren't we using them? (Linux and Open Source Software)
    • What can we expect of teachers?
      • Younger teachers were supposed to bring the technology with them
        • They use these tools even less in the classroom than their older peers?
      • How do we help teachers understand the potential
        • Help them to learn to use the tools themselves?
        • Recognize the need for time
        • Recognize the need for training
II. Why Is the History of Education Important to This Discussion?
  • What are the paradigms of schooling that have been adopted in this country?
    • Charity Schools, Common Schools, and Cubberley on schools as factories.
      • Schools as “factories in which the raw materials (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life”
    • If we could all afford private tutors, would we sit at desks in rows, have bells, and learn the same things at the same time?
    • Is there any truth to John Taylor Gatto's themes of social control?
  • How could computer-based technologies open the door to changes?
    • What kind of resistance will there be?
    • Where is change taking place?
III. How have computers revolutionized business?
  • Can we look to any of the business changes for a model of possible ways they will affect education?
  • Can education respond as the business world does, or is education too much of a "machine" that "chews up and spits out innovation?"
  • What examples are there now of "transformed education?" (Gibson quote: the future is here, it's just not widely distributed.)
IV. What are the potentials for the use of Web 2.0 in the classroom?


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