Saturday, August 25, 2007

Classroom 2.0 Set Panel for Office 2.0 Conference


Details on our panel discussion set for the Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco have been posted. Ours is the longest session with the most panelists--should be very interesting!

(This is the same conference where the attendees all receive an iPhone or a PlayStation 3. I chose the iPhone, and have been paying with it for a couple of days. I did not activate the phone service, but have just been using local wifi to test it out. Very fun. Not perfect, but very fun.)

From the conference website:

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Time & Location

Thursday, September 6, 2007, 3:30PM - 5:00PM, Conservatory

Speakers

Steve Hargadon (Moderator), Editor, Classroom 2.0
Kyle Brumbaugh, Technology Coordinator, San Mateo Union High School District
Steve Dembo, Online Community Manager, Discovery Communications
Josie Fraser, Advisor, Childnet International
Adam Frey, Founder, Tangient
Anastasia Goodstein, Editor, Ypulse
Karen Greenwood Henke, Founder, Nimble Press
Rushton Hurley, Founder, Next Vista for Learning
Sylvia Martinez, President, Generation YES

Abstract

Schools and educational institutions are finding significant practical applications for the tools of Web/Office 2.0, but the hurdles to adoption are as large as the potential for change (and possibly directly correlated). As in the Enterprise, there are significant practical challenges to overcome--security, filtering, and comfort with and appropriateness of openness--but there is a great potential for a dramatic rethinking of the role of formal institutions in teaching and learning.

The promise of Web 2.0 technologies is so great that almost all of the basic types of online collaborative software are being used by teachers somewhere, whose own use of the tools is minimizing their sense of isolation and creating a strong communities of practice and professional development. But while these tools open new vistas of collaborative learning, distance education, differentiated or individualized instruction, and proactive educational paths, they also inherently challenge our culturally entrenched and traditional learning structures.

Blogs have been the primary entry point of Web 2.0 into education, but educators in growing numbers are also now engaging students by using wikis, podcasting, collaborative documents, social networking, social bookmarking, photo- and video-sharing, and other tools of user-generated content. In many (but not all) cases, students are coming to school with a broad familiarity with these technologies, but not necessarily with the depth of understanding to use them thoughtfully or carefully. Do they park these skills at the door before coming into the classroom, or can schools help students to learn to use them in productive educational ways? Can we afford to have enough computing technology in schools to do so? Can and should we train existing teachers to use the tools themselves so that they, in turn, can help the students understand and incorporate them into their educational lives? How does collaborative technology change the role of the teacher? How relevant is formal education when access to the world's knowlege-base is often more accessible at home than at school? How significant will collaborative technologies become for the administrative side of education? What role will commercial organizations play in filling in the gaps?

Many feel that educational computing has been the great unfulfilled promise of the last twenty years. Come join us as we discuss how this may be changing, and fast, because of Web/Office 2.0.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Starting a New "Ning in Education" Network

In the months since I started the Classroom 2.0 social network, I have come to appreciate social networking as a tool for education. Our Classroom 2.0 network would likely be generally categorized as professional development, but it also seems to provide a rich environment for "conversation," support, encouragement, idea generation, and resource locating.

I've watched educators struggle through their first posts as they've bravely jumped into the world of the collaborative web, only to see them fast become significant contributors. I've watched some pretty deep, amazing conversations about teaching and learning, and have just really been amazed at the potential benefits of social networking and Web 2.0 for education. In fact, it's hard to remember that just a few months ago there was a serious question about whether a social network for educators would be valuable.

I've also interviewed both Gina Bianchini and Marc Andreessen, the founders of Ning, and have been taken with the vision that they have for Ning and social networking in general. As well, they have expressed appreciation for the use of their product in education. And so, earlier this month, I suggested to Gina that they contract with me to provide help and support to educators specifically interested in using Ning. She was very excited about it, and so education.ning.com has been born.

The goal of education.ning.com will be to provide a network of support for educators: philosphical, pedagogical, and practical. I've started a list on the site of educational social networks that are already running--I know is just the tip of the iceberg and you are likely aware of many more, but hope the list will quickly be added to and become a valuable resource in it's own right.

I also plan on holding regular (weekly?) Elluminate/Skypecast sessions as part of education.ning.com that will be open for those who want special help or tutorials on different ways to customize Ning. I'm hopeful that the forum will provide a way for those who have dealt with issues specific to education will be able to document and share their solutions. And I'm sure some of you will have other ideas of things that I can do with education.ning.com that will be of benefit to you.

Classroom 2.0 will, I hope, continue to grow and flourish, and I plan on continuing my avid interest in it. Education.ning.com will be specific to the use of Ning networks in education.

Looking forward to continued adventures...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why I Love Today's Technology

One of my lifetime top-ten books is In His Steps by Charles Sheldon. I've been listening to an audio version of it lately. The true test for me of a good book is my ability to enjoy and appreciate it enough that re-reading it (or re-listening to it!) is as thoughtful an experience as the first time through--if not even more so. I'm about a third the way through again, and keep waiting for opportunities to be in the car or doing something that gives me an excuse to plug my headphones in.

Considered a Christian classic (the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" gained much of its currency from this book), it might not appeal to those who aren't interested in the religious discussion. But I wanted to point out two interesting aspects of this book right now for me that relate to our discussions of web technology:

1. Because of a mistake by the publisher, the book was not copyrighted correctly, and so was in the public domain immediately--and published by others without permission from or compensation to the author. Sheldon does not appear to have let that bother him, and apparently donated what small royalties he did receive to charity. I have often wondered if the incredible popularity of the book, and the attention it continued to bring to Sheldon and his ideas, might not have been largely aided by its freer dissemination through that fortuitous mistake. And I do think this is an idea that authors, publishers, and musicians are struggling to understand in our new world.

2. I've been listening to the book from a series of mp3s that I downloaded for free, and recorded by an amateur. At least, I assume it is an amateur, since there are some pauses and slight sound quality changes at times that are absolutely trivial, but would never be left in a professional recording. Do I care? No way. I listened to a Jane Austen novel this way as well, and the quality is plenty good enough for me to have a great listening experience. Check out Librivox. This is an example of user/peer/amateur production, and I think it's a great thing (and so does the New York Times).

The Transfer of Ideas in the Electronic Age

Some years ago I was working on a book that never came to fruition. My wife and I had been trained as workshop facilitators based on the Jane Nelsen's Positive Discipline book and material, and had become good friends with Jane. She proposed collaboratively writing a book on the fundamental similarities between the acts of parenting and managing people--not in the condescending way of treating employees like children, but in the empowering way of treating everyone thoughtfully. We tentatively were calling the book "Home+Work." At the time (early 90's) I was managing some 40 or so employees in my company, but a business downturn left the project and all my notes in a file box in the garage.

I did write an article for Jane's regular newsletter, that she later published on her website, and until I started actively blogging and interviewing last year, was always the first link to come up when doing a search on my name. Since it ranked first, I figured it had been linked to by others, and maybe had actually been read by someone. The article was called, "Working with (Little) People," and it's copied in full below. I'd been doing a lot of business reading on empowering workplaces, and we had regular staff meetings where we either read from or covered business books that often had snappy little ways of visualizing their concepts (Edward DeBono's Six Thinking Hats was a particular favorite). I felt the need with my own staff to create some visual model for trying to help my managers understand the importance of dealing thoughtfully with their employees/co-workers. So I made the poster shown here. It was my way of combining my thoughts about parenting and managing, and the different tools we often use to try and get things done--and what their effects really are. The light bulb, for me, was the imagery of a better way of working with people, of using the "brain" instead of "force," and I remember how exciting it was to discover that describing the effects of light fit so well into my ideas.

OK, so fast forward to the Institute for the Future workshop I recently attended. One of the participants, at some point in that rich, long day, mentioned "working with all the employees in school, teaching them to recognize a light-bulb moment when you are brilliant, warm, and understanding, and the teachers are learning to identify it and helping others to grow." I was live-blogging, so typing away like crazy, and I later got to thinking, could that possibly have come from my article so long ago? Now, I don't know if it actually did, and maybe that's unlikely, but I kind of have a feeling that it might have. Was it a meme that wended its way back to me after so many years, or did someone else come up with a similar idea? Either way, what an amazing thing the web has done for the spreading and growing of ideas.

Now, the story gets slightly more interesting, because I couldn't find the original poster that I'd had printed up so many years ago. So I went to my huge stack of backup CDs, not knowing if they would even still have retained something from 1993. Voila, I found the original Microsoft Publisher document. Or, at least what I assumed was the document, since the current version of Microsoft Publisher said that it couldn't open up its own older file format. I searched the web and found that:

1) Indeed old versions of Publisher documents are frequently only available by finding an old copy of the Publisher program and loading it on your computer (I wonder if that would even work, depending on what version of Windows one is currently using). Talk about a dramatic instance of why proprietary formats are so debilitating. Seems like such a slap in the face to the user that you can't even open up your old documents. This is the old face of technology.

2) The program manager for Microsoft Publisher was actually open enough to leave the full trail on his blog of haranguing comments, some of which pointed me to a free, web-based conversion program that allowed me to convert the old .pub file into a .pdf file. This is the new face of technology.

Here's the original article I wrote. Now I get to put it in my blog. Which seems much more likely to be a great way to save this whole idea and story. :-)

From the Positive Discipline website:

Tools for Working With (Little) People

by Steve Hargadon


I've had the opportunity to hear Jane Nelsen speak twice. Both times I heard her use a quote from Rudolf Dreikurs that has stayed with me: "When Dad lost control of Mom, they both lost control of the children."

The thought intrigued me because, as a business owner, I could easily add the phrase: "...and so did their future employers." Managing workers today is certainly different than it was 40 years ago. Traditional control, although it is still exerted in many workplaces, doesn't work well with a workforce which doesn't experience that kind of control in other areas of their lives. For better or worse (and I think it is better, although it is harder), the employer/employee and manager/worker relationship must be based in mutual respect and benefit. With this in mind, I'd like to share something that we did at my office that was successful, and that came, rather serendipitously, from Jane's material.

I'm sort of an analytical guy (my wife might use less-generous terms), and I tend to look for systems and structures. After hearing Jane speak last year, and having read much of Positive Discipline with my wife, I wanted some way to quantify what I was learning, some system that would help me to parent in a way consistent with what I was reading. I knew that I agreed with Jane's teachings, but I didn't feel successful in putting them into practice. I wanted some kind of chart that I could look at in the heat of the parenting battle that would tell me what to do. And so, for several days, I mulled this over in my mind trying to create some kind of symbolic device that would help me to know what to do.

The "Tools for Working with Little People" shows what I came up with. Basically, it was designed to help me and my wife determine, in the heat of the encounter with one of our children, if we were on the right track. It's pretty simple, and probably very obvious, but it really works for us. We took this chart to Kinko's and had it enlarged to poster size, laminated it, and put it on the refrigerator door. Let me explain it.


When I am unhappy with my children's behavior and am preparing to take action, I ask myself, "What tool am I using?" There are four basic tools that I use. The lowest level is the hammer. The hammer is an instrument of brute force. It "hammers." It pounds. Whatever it makes contact with, it dents or breaks or smashes.

Next are the pliers. They are less damaging than the hammer, but are still a tool of force. Pliers are used to force, bend, or manipulate. They apply pressure and leave their own mark.

Next, and more of a finesse tool than the pliers is the screwdriver. The screwdriver is used to get down inside. It screws and tightens, and can also be used to needle, puncture or deflate. In some ways, although it doesn't damage the surface like the hammer or the pliers, it can be even more destructive.

The best tool, however, is the brain. I used a light bulb to symbolize the tool of thought and reason because light "enlightens." It illuminates, it warms, it develops, it removes darkness and fear, and it creates understanding. It is a tool, but a different kind of tool. It is the source of creative solutions. When we use our brain to solve problems, we are working on a completely different level than when we use tools like a hammer or pliers or a screwdriver. This, to me, is what "positive discipline" is all about.

Although the hammer and pliers and screwdriver work, they don't accomplish long-term goals of growth, self-development, and self-discipline. And so, when spending time with my children, or disciplining them, I ask myself, "What tool am I using?"

After using the poster on our refrigerator for several weeks, and finding it very helpful, it hit me (like a light bulb!) "I can use this at work!" I had one supervisor in particular whose regular tool of choice with his staff was the hammer, and it was causing real problems. So I changed the title to "Tools for Working with People," and went back to Kinko's and had several enlarged copies made. Then I called the staff together and we went over the tools, and discussed the importance of using the right tool in our encounters and communications with each other. We experienced an immediate deference lasting, personality-changing difference.

When choosing a tool to work with people we need to ask, "What lasting effect will this tool have? Do I just want to get the job done, even if the lasting effects are negative? Or, will I choose a tool that is effective to get the job done, and has positive, long-range effects?" For my children, and for my employees, I want to use tools that encourage now and for a lifetime.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

SH Interviews DK from the UK

DK is the founder of MediaSnackers, which is "a site/weblog/project/call to action for people interested in how young people consume and create media across the globe." He just goes by DK, which are the initials of his given name, but DK has been his nickname since he was a child. His educational background is in communications and media, and started out working with youth--and became the UK's first and only Corporate Youth Officer. His "passion for working with young people (and youth professionals) has been his main focus for the past 8 years."

Here's a video of DK on YouTube.

After I saw this, I send DK an email and asked how he'd feel about doing an interview. As you can tell from how personable he is during the interview, he was quick to say yes.

Don't give up on this interview during the first few minutes when DK's connection is weak. I call him back and it gets better. (I interviewed DK--and a couple of others--before taking a family vacation, and am just now getting these interviews. Sorry for the delay.)

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Will Teachers Be Like in 10 Years?

Yesterday I attended (as an observer) a one-day expert workshop on "The Future of Learning Agents," co-sponsored by the Institute for the Future and KnowledgeWorks Foundation. This one-day drill-down focused on one "hotspot" from their amazing Map of Future Forces Affecting Education. We were ably given a short tour of the map by Andrea Saveri, and I'd spent time some months ago looking at it--but even then, I'm still amazed at the information I keep finding in it. At one intersection on the map, where certain "Drivers of Change" identified for the next ten years intersect with the category of "Educators and Learning," is a trend predicted/identified as "An Explosion of Learning Agents." The job of the invited participants was to try to describe and understand that trend better: what will the teacher (learning agent) of 2017 be like?

This is really my first formal try at "live-blogging" an full event. While I have done something similar at other meetings, they have typically been single presentations. Technically, I'm not sure this can be called live-blogging if I am posting a day later, but the format of this post does reflects the near-constant typing I did during the whole event, and it is LONG. While I'm going to include some of my "take-aways" and questions at the start, I am posting my notes in their entirety--I can see some value in them as a resource and an historical record (even if through one person's lens) for those who were there, and also for anyone really interested in the topic. While I loved the visual imagery of the huge artistic notes that were taken during the session (incredible), I actually found it hard to focus on the content in them because of the art (yikes!), so I am also assuming there may be other text-dependent fogies like me. [UPDATE: Leslie
Salmon-Zhu was the professional graphic recorder at the workshop, and her information is at http://www.ifvp.org/directory/lsalmon-zhu/index.htm.] I take full responsibility for any inaccuracies, and will gladly correct anything that I have gotten wrong. Except for the notes I took during the introduction, I didn't regularly ascribe comments to specific individuals unless I wanted to for my own records.

My Personal Takeaways (thoughts I was grateful to have heard someone say, or to have jelled just from spending a day thinking about them in the atmosphere of thoughtful, articulate folks):
  • That youth production, apprenticeship, "prosumer"/"proam" creation--whatever you want to call it--will and should be a huge part of the learning experience of youth and adults. It is learning. And we are going into an age where true contributions will be possible by a much broader range of students than ever before.
  • That learning will likely, and should likely, be perceived less and less as something done between 5 - 25 years of age. It's somewhat crazy that we do it that way now, anyway, but with the coming changes in jobs and careers, and the need for constant re-learning, it's hard to imagine our current paradigm of schooling-then-life will hold still.
  • That parents are going to become more and more involved in managing the learning experiences of their children, and will be more frequently required, and want, to make choices and decisions about that learning.
  • That we are going to inevitably care more about the interests and desires of children progressing through learning phases, and will customize their educational experiences based on these interest and their particular talents. And I think we'll be able to do so because of technologies that are now just coming to the fore.
  • That we will also see the rise of learning coaches who both inside and outside of the public education system will help provide direction in the above.
  • That we will find that we care less and less about formal teacher training, and will have to have other ways of measuring teacher/facilitator/coach/learning-agent capabilities. I think these measures will evolve out of the rating systems we see associated with for-hire programmers, or (gasp!) the books we buy at Amazon.
  • That the character traits of self-learning, self-motivation, and self-determination--in a world of increasing choices and niches--will become key end-goals for mentors working with learners. I think we are hearing from business leaders that these are some of the character traits and learning skills that they value most highly (see my interview with Marc Andreessen). (Certainly, everyone at the workshop exemplified these traits.) And all of the descriptions of learning-agent in 10 years seemed (to me, at least) to be really built around these traits, with an implied understanding that they would not only be necessary for the work to be done, but also in order to build, support, and encourage them in students.
  • And wouldn't these be the same traits of the learning organizations? I know, it's been said a million times, but if we want students to be learners, the teachers and schools must be learners. (One experience we did have with our home-schooled daughter was a program that reminded us that the best thing we could do as parents for our child's learning was to be actively engaged as learners ourselves. If we wanted our kids to read great books, we were reminded, start reading great books ourselves.) And couldn't we also expect that the organizations/institutions will also need to be self-motivated and self-determining? (Now there's a can of worms!) In the great examples of succeeding schools, is there a common thread of passionate, local leadership? If so, does that tell us something?
  • That the characteristics that were listed for learning-agents in 10 years are not those that are the primary measures today, and in fact may actually be ones that would make it hard to be hired, or to stick around, the current educational environment.
  • That the advent of Internet, and specifically the read/write or Web 2.0 aspects of publishing content as much as consuming it, will be historically and culturally one of the most significant events in mankind's history. Just as the printing press brought the huge social changes of the Reformation and the Renaissance, I would expect we will see changes (including and especially in education) in the next 5 - 50 years that are almost unimaginable now.
My Personal Questions/Thoughts:
  • It was interesting for me to be in a meeting in which there was a general consensus that technology is dramatically changing youth and educational experiences, but to only have a few laptops out and open. Even with general agreement that those involved in education were going to need to be more significantly involved in the current technologies, Will Richardson and I felt a little sheepish as we did some Skype back-channeling--which at some recent ed-tech conferences has been a real enhancement to the conference experiences, but here felt a little subversive.
  • Maybe in the same vein, in a environment with such a general acceptance of openness and peer contribution, the event was pretty programmed. Which is not to say that there wasn't some good time for dialog, but even the dialog was being filtered through a single mediator. There was our one break-out session, but other than that all eyes were up front most of the time. To be fair, there was a pretty tight focus for the event, and it was organized and paid for to accomplish a specific purpose, but it reminded me of how hard it is, even for those of us who want to be forward-thinking in this new collaborative world, to really open up to full participation.
  • And to take this train of thought one step further, I had a general feeling that it was hard for the group in general to let go of pre-set expectations for still being able to "manage" the changes that are certainly going to challenge traditional notions of education. I'm not sure how to articulate this fully, but I think this is something that is going to be hard for all of us: fully-collaborative, open, transparent problem-solving is really challenging when there are certain things we want to hang on to. The idea that we may not be able to control the outcome often pulls us back to wanting to manage the process. At one point the question was asked, "How do you change teaching and learning in a participatory culture?" I wonder if the answer may be: "You don't. In participatory culture, teaching and learning will change from a grass-roots level."
  • I also felt this when there was a brief discussion about having families invite teachers for dinner. Just the day before, during a lunch with Will Richardson and Jim Daly and Cal Joy from Edutopia, the idea of an "invite a teacher to dinner" campaign had seemed so fun; when brought up in this workshop, it felt like an intrusion on the private time of the teachers. In the same way, I hear educators who haven't used IM with students worry that they won't have any free time away from school; while those who do use it tell you it is so rewarding and learning-oriented that they couldn't bear to give it up.
  • I tend to use discussing our family's experience of home-schooling as a litmus test for others' openness to alternative educational ideas, and feel comfortable doing so since we've had such good experiences both in home-schooling and in public school. In this event, the fact that I felt like I sounded like a home-school advocate--which I usually try to avoid--was a clue to me that the expected outcomes were still being placed into traditional solutions. One participant said, "At some point, people are going to get so fed up with public school that they will opt not to go." I think that's already happened (home-schooling, charter schools, private schools), and again, voice my belief that the home-school movement can and should have a very informative role in understanding what more engaged, one-to-one learning, parent-involved education looks like. I also think that this relates to the sense I feel that we believe that we have to have ONE solution that fits everyone. That doesn't make sense to me. We'd never do it to a child, why would we do it to a whole educational system? My four children are each very different, and would flourish in very different educational environments. I'd like that kind of choice to be available.
  • John Seely Brown was possibly slated to participate, but wasn't there. I would have liked his input. I have a recollection from my interview with him that he felt like implementing change from inside our current school system would be about as impossible as changing our auto-manufacturing culture. And that both are going to have to fail in order to be rebuilt. I remember listening to a podcast where he described how there is a built-in disincentive for the suppliers to the auto manufacturers to bring them an innovation, since it ends up actually increasing the likelihood that the manufacturer will take the idea and shop it out to other suppliers. I have often wondered about how a huge system like public education can possibly change, where almost everyone involved at all decision-making levels (both within the system and those who sell to it) has been measured and promoted based on existing priorities. I know I'm not the first one to say that schools often remind me that something that threatens the structure of a system will find itself "attacked" in the same way that the body fights off foreign invaders.
  • Why is it that examples of schools that are already "revolutionary" and succeeding don't seem to really have a larger impact as examples? Is it because there is little opportunity to innovate and experiment in a bureaucratic "system," so examples don't mean much? I've been reading Dennis Littky's The Big Picture, and I've been underlining something in every paragraph. I almost yelled out "yes, yes!" several times as I was reading--especially when he talked about the 75-page autobiography that the students write, and the active involvement of parents in the educational process of the students. Laura Kretschmar, the founder of Lighthouse Charter School in Oakland, and Mark Morrison, the fonding Director of Napa New Technology High School both gave me the impression they were already walking the talk, and I was really glad they were invited. I'm thinking that the edublogger crowd I hang around in is beginning to think about school reform because of the amazing pedagogical implications of collaborative technology; and that we will benefit from also looking at schools that have been living that reform and have been doing it without the technology at the forefront. I imagine really magical things happening when the two are combined.
  • Why is it so hard to have a national dialog about anything of significance right now? It seems like we so quickly polarize into political/religious/social camps that we've lost the ability to listen and hear opinions different than our own, and so have lost the ability to deal with any issues of complexity in a civil way. We desperately need a national dialog on education, but it won't be useful to us if it's a "national argument."
(Waiting to include actual live-blogging notes until I am sure it is OK with workshop sponsors.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Anastasia Goodstein on Totally Wired Teens

Anastasia Goodstein, the author of Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online, was my guest on EdTechLive today.

Anastasia blogs for for teen/youth media and marketing professionals at Ypulse.com, about Teen and Tween online life at Totally Wired. We met virtually when she, Jim Daly (the editor-in-chief of Edutopia), and the Yahoo! for Teachers team selected Ben Wilkoff as the Totally Wired Teacher of the Year.

I stayed up until the wee hours of this morning reading her book, which I had intended only to skim but which kept me totally engaged, and which I recommend as a very insightful look at the online life of youth today. There's even a chapter on technology in schools called "Teaching the Teachers," which I thought did a really good job of portraying the current state of computing in education.

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