Thursday, February 26, 2009

Palm Springs: EduBloggerCon West and the Classroom 2.0 Meetup

Next week is the always-exciting annual conference in Palm Springs. So, of course, it's also time for EduBloggerCon "West," Wednesday, March 4th, which now combines with the Classroom 2.0 Workshops series to provide for a really terrific day of meeting, discussing, and sharing in EduBloggerCon style. The event is free (thanks to CUE), but you do not need to be attending CUE to participate. Both beginners and experts will have a great time.

We meet at the Palm Springs Convention Center, Mesquite F at 12:00 noon and will map out the topics and ideas around Web 2.0 and education that we want to drill down on. If you haven't done this before, you might be wondering how you can organize a conference on the fly--don't worry, it's an exciting process and leads to some really great sessions and discussions. You can see the agenda page we will us for organizing at, and you can sign up (not required but fun to let people know you are coming) at or at Bring your laptop if you have one!

Pretty much guaranteed topics will include:
  • What is Web 2.0? (Begginer Session)
  • Blogs and Blogging
  • Wikis
  • Social Networking in Education (or the politically more appealing: 21st Century Learning Environments) - Beginning and Advanced
  • RSS and Readers
  • Twitter
  • Video Streaming
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Online Meetings
  • Google Everything
  • Podcasting
There is also big news today: Mike Lawrence of CUE has offered to let us use the Wynham Presidential Suite (5th floor, overlooking the pool!) to extend our meeting (for those who want) into the evening. Mark Wagner has suggested that we might do some kind of pot-luck or bring snacks. I've changed the time for EBC West above to having us finish at 9pm -- we have to be out for sure by 9:30 when Mike will get back.

I'll be using my Eluminate Live! meeting room to broadcast the whole of EduBloggerCon this time, so if you can't make it in person, feel free to watch (and participate) at

Hope to see you there or online!

[Photo courtesy of There is often snow visible this time of year in Palm Springs!]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Adult Educators Followup

Yesterday I spoke to a group of adult educators at the "Technology and Distance Learning Symposium" held by the Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) in Sacramento, California. Because the time was tight, and because I didn't do a great job of tightening up my talk, we didn't get all the way through my usual "Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education" points! So I promised to post some links with the additional information, which are below.

Luckily, they had scheduled me during the next hour in an informal discussion format, which allowed me to finish the material for those who were there, and to have a great discussion about social media, learning, and especially, the needs of educators who work with adults.  I was also struck by just how ubiquitous Facebook is becoming, and how much it is opening the door to some understanding by the general public about the value of social media.  (It's playing a role not unlike Wikipedia has played for Open Source, where familiarity starts to encouragae understanding.)  


Monday, February 16, 2009

Thinking About Education Reform

My response to another good post from Andy Carvin's PBS blog, which gave me the chance to think out loud a little:
I think you took away from EduCon 2.1 the same thing that I did. Any "system," no matter how well-meaning, that is implemented from the top down potentially removes the local freedom that seems so evidently important to good education. I think that's a big part of why the great examples have this thread of independent passion that you can't "bottle." So much of what I hear about about education reform is really just wanting a different agenda to be mandated, but still mandated, from the top down. That's not "system reform"--in fact, I wonder if you can even have "system reform?" If a system is the perpetuation of practices that you think have led to good outcome, 1) you must believe first that you know or agree on what good outcome is and the steps to get there, and 2) the act of systematizing often defeats the creative independence that allows the creation and flourishing of good practices.

It occurs to me that our current education system is a set of "laws" when what we really need is a "constitution." I don't think it helps to structure the practices, but somehow we need to demonstrate out cultural commitment to education in a way that supports and strengthens the methods for generating local initiative and success.

As I've played with this idea out loud over the last few weeks since EduCon 2.1, the response I often get back is that such a system wouldn't be equitable or fair. As the parents of four children, my wife and I long ago lost our confidence in believing that we know what "fair" is. Each of our four children is different, and superficial fairness, in fact, is often not really fair at all, since their needs and talents are very different. I would ask: is our current "system" fair? Is it successful (macro level)? If attempts to mandate fair and equitable from the top down don't actually work, might we not consider re-framing the debate?

In some ways, I see this as very similar to the arguments for democracy versus communism. Democracy emanates from an believe in the inherent rights and value of the individual, and a belief that imperfect as we are, we have a right to define our own destiny. That in the messy (and sometimes unfair) process of democracy, there is a greater potential for good that is achieved by belief and support of the individual than when the individual is seen as serving the state, and when fairness and equity are mandated from above.

I know we're diving deep with this discussion, but I think it's a national discussion that I'd like to see us have--and not the discussion of whose particular agenda we are going to see mandated from above. It's also the kind of discussion I am hoping we'll be able to have at if I can make a plug for my interview series there. :)

Thanks for another good post, Andy.
(Another benefit of re-posting my response is the chance to run through spell-checking and being able to re-read words dashed off quickly in a small html reply box.  I hate seeing my mistakes after hitting the submit button!)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Long-Handled Spoons and Collaborative Technologies

Part of what makes it exciting for me to be alive right now is the degree to which the Web as a participative medium, and computing in general, carry within them collaborative capabilities which have the promise of helping to reshape cultural institutions.   In particular I've been watching, as I've given talks about Open Source Software and Web 2.0, a more general and growing awareness of values and motivations outside of the traditional laissez-faire capitalism mind-set that we seem to have been bound by most of my adult life (clarification:  meaning our acceptance of the pursuit of selfish interest as an economic moral justification).    Wikipedia, I've noticed in particular, has had a huge impact on helping people to understand a world of collaborative work that doesn't rely on traditional quid-pro-quo economics, but instead on the more subtle interplay of passion, apprenticeship, long-term thinking, and wanting to make a difference in the world.

My favorite new story to describe what is happening is actually an old story--indicating that the thoughts aren't new, but it's just interesting to watch how the technology is enabling or encouraging them.  I've seen different variants of this story, which is (apparently) a Jewish folktale.  Here's my own telling of it:
A Rabbi asks to see Heaven and Hell. His wish is granted and he's taken to a room where everyone is seated at a long dinner table with delicious food in front of them.  However, everyone there is starving and emaciated.  This is because, the Rabbi discovers, while each has a long spoon strapped to his or her wrist, the spoon is so long they cannot pick up the food and actually put it in their mouths. They are utterly frustrated and bitterly unhappy. The Rabbi is told that this is Hell. 
He is then taken to another room with everyone seated at an identical long table with delicious food, and each individual also has a long spoon strapped to his or her wrist.  These people, however, are well-fed, for they have learned that their spoons are perfectly designed to allow them to feed each other, which they are doing quite naturally.  They are joyous, happy, and contented.  The Rabbi is told that this is Heaven.
This is a great parable for the world of Web 2.0, I believe.  I keep coming back to it because I have a feeling that those of us who were entranced by Web 2.0 early on and became "early adopters" did so because we were, by nature, already collaborative.  (There is some nuance to this line of thinking because while blogging is a Web 2.0 tool, it can be argued that it's not necessarily that collaborative, so early bloggers may have been more "voices waiting to be heard" than collaborators.)  

What makes this intriguing is to watch what is happening as a more general awareness of Web 2.0 grows:  more non-collaborative people and organizations are starting to adopt Web 2.0.  It's not because these people or organizations are collaborative by nature, but it's because Web 2.0 is the "next big thing."  Which means a lot of attempts to overlay collaborative toolsets on top of traditionally competitive thinking.  A particularly common example is the creation of a social network for an organization where they set a numeric goal for membership.  I can just hear the marketing folks talking about "locking customers in" and "gaining eyeballs"--completely missing the real impact that social networking has in truly connecting with an audience, building transparency into organizational processes, and fostering collaboration in ways that are historic.  

I've noticed in myself that the moment that someone starts to talk about a project with me that isn't transparent, or doesn't involve the users in helping to develop the outcome, or isn't inherently win-win-win (you, me, and our audience) , I just mentally turn off and look to close the conversation.  It's as though in this rich new world of feeding everyone, making a deal that you and I will only feed each other or having to negotiate each bite is just downright dumb, a colossal waste of time, and isn't realistic in a world that depends now more and more on trust and authenticity.  

I know all too well one of the counter-arguments, because I so frequently feel it that I have trained myself to overcome it mentally:  If I just start giving out my ideas and advice freely, haven't I given away everything of value?  No.  First of all, ideas have always been easy--it's the execution that is hard.  And being free with ideas in a world of unlimited conversation is the best way to gather around you a team of people devoted to the same ideas, and it's the team that really counts now, since I've also found that my really good ideas don't end up actually being really good without input from others.  I also think that the mental energy of trying to constrain our ideas is incredibly counter-productive.  I'm sure this sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I will just say that the more that I have been free and open with what I'm working on, the more good work I've had to do.

I don't think this is an accident.  I do believe that it's been particularly enhanced by our new world of the highly-participative Web and by being able to make our own opportunities so much more easily than when we faced the pre-Internet barriers of time and distance.  But I also think we're re-discovering some wonderful truths about being human that have been hidden by how we've thought about business and culture in the Industrial Age.  

I keep thinking about the recent book The Go-Giver, which I bought in an airport to have something to read and have ended up seeing as very much a touchstone in my thinking this last year.  While there is nothing about Web 2.0 in it that I can remember, I think it's all about how we interact with each other in this new world.  And I'm glad to see these changes.  Amidst all the economic turmoil and very real difficulty, I am incredibly optimistic about the future.

Web 2.0 for Education Outreach to Low-Income and Minority Students

I've been asked to help facilitate an event at the end of March with educational and government representatives on the topic of using the new technologies of the Web specifically to help low-income and minority students--and in particular to open greater opportunities for higher education to them. If all goes as we're planning right now, I'll be broadcasting the event live as a part of the interview series here and for anyone with an interest in this topic.

My job for that day will be to lay out the vision and possibilities for this angle on Web 2.0, as I've told them that I don't have any direct expertise here, but want to be a part of helping to bring the dialog forth.

I'm interested in what ideas you, dear readers, have on this topic, and if there is anyone you think I should particularly look to for thought leadership here. I'm also interested in involving some students in the discussion. The discussion forum for this topic is at my Future of Education network:

Thank you for any help.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meetups: Honolulu and Palm Springs Coming Up

Could you ask for two nicer places to have "meetups" than Honolulu and Palm Springs? 

Friday and Saturday, February 20 and 21, is our Classroom 2.0 Live Workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the St Louis/Chaminade campus.  Our free and fun two-day workshops are an opportunity to gather with other educators and learn about Web 2.0 and classroom practices.  In particular, we hold them to help educators just learning about the "participative" Web to do so in a friendly and hands-on environment.  They are also a great gathering place for the community of educators looking at Web 2.0.  More information on this event at

Wednesday, March 4th, is our second annual EduBloggerCon West (and Classroom 2.0 meetup), held in conjuntion with and the day before the CUE show in the Palm Springs Convention Center in beautiful Palm Springs (which usually still has snow on the mountain peaks at this time of year!).  This year we're going from 12 noon - 6pm, but we reserve the right to linger into the evening hours!  If you haven't attended an EduBloggerCon, get ready for some fun.  Part social, part drill-down, and all engaging, it's also a great way to spend time with like-minded educators and learn and trade best practices around education and the Web.  Best of all--it's free.  More information on EduBloggerCon West at and on the event wiki at

For those interested in the organizational side of EduBloggerCon, we're going to have a working brainstorm for planning the event (and the 2009 EduBloggerCon in Washington DC before NECC) on Tuesday evening, February 17th, at 5pm in the Classroom 2.0 Elluminate room:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Future of Education Interview Series in Full Swing

My "Future of Education" interview series is moving forward in full swing now, and you can see the details at  Tomorrow (Wednesday, February 11, 2009) I interview Julie Evans, the CEO of Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization (formerly known as NetDay), about what has been learned from Speak Up, the annual national research project facilitated by Project Tomorrow. The Speak Up data represents the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, 21st century skills, schools of the future and science instruction. Education, business, and policy leaders report using the data regularly to inform federal, state, and local education programs. A copy of the "top ten" report is attached to the discussion page at the discussion page at Future of Education. Join me for the interview and a Q & A session--details at the bottom of this post.

On the docket for upcoming interviews are:
  • Erin Reilly, the Research Director for Project New Media Literacies (NML) (more information)
  • Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)
  • John Palfrey, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, on his book Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. (In conjunction with the PBS - Classroom 2.0 Webinar Series.)
  • Gary Stager, progressive educator and all-around gadfly
  • Bud Hunt, Ben Wilkoff, and Karl Fisch on "Learning 2.0" and their annual conference on the topic
  • Mike Huffman and Laura Taylor on the bold experiment in Indiana with Open Source Software
And we're just getting started... :)  Recordings of previous events with Tom Friedman, Don Tapscott, and Carol Broos are also available on the Future of Education site.  Hope you'll consider joining our conversations!

Julie Evans Interview Information:

Date: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 1am GMT (next day) (international times here)

Location: In Elluminate. Log in at The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early.

To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit  The interview will be recorded and the recordings placed in the discussion page at Future of Education linked above. 

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Jaw-Dropping, Exciting, and Historically Groundbreaking--Coming Soon

This past month I spent some days in Florida at the annual company meeting for Elluminate, Inc. I've known Rajeev Aurora, their vice-president of Marketing and Strategy, for some time and we'd developed a friendship over many discussions of our shared interest in the growing alignment of "online meeting" and social networking technologies. Rajeev had called me after I blogged on the closing of my consulting contract with Ning and asked if I might be interested in doing work for Elluminate.

I went to the meeting pre-disposed and wanting to find a way to work together. My work with Ning had convinced me that I can play a valuable with technology companies: to represent education and educators' needs to them, and to authentically represent the value of their services to educators. I was also an avid user of Elluminate for Classroom 2.0 events, and had experienced several epiphanies around the incredible changes I was seeing take place in how collaboration can happen when using their online tools.  I was somewhat amazed at the good fortune to potentially work with another company that, like Ning, I felt was going to make such a difference in the world.

What I saw in Florida was significant. In retrospect, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that a company built around offering online collaboration tools would itself be inherently collaborative, but I was genuinely taken aback by the collegial and highly productive nature of the company.  I was very impressed, and there was a quick consensus that the fit was good when they offered me a job as their Social Learning Consultant.  

What this means from a practical standpoint is that I will continue in most of my other endeavors, but with the substantial added bonus of having the resources of Elluminate available for helping to support and promote the significant potential of online collaboration.  In addition to the weekly Classroom 2.0 show, the PBS/Classrom 2.0 interviews, and the new Future of Education interview series, I'm going to be looking for ways to leverage my association with Elluminate to explore the frontiers of online conferences, social networking, and connecting educators in real-time online.  

Look for some fun announcements this month that I believe are going to be jaw-droppingly exciting and historically ground-breaking.  How's that for a teaser?!

Monday, February 02, 2009

CNN - Facebook Mashup: We Should Be Able to Do the Same Thing

Last week I was at the EduCon 2.1 conference. It was a GREAT event, in no small part because of the streaming video of every session and the back-channel chat. But in most sessions I was in the back-channel chat was fragmented. Some were using the chat from the Ustream page, some from CoverItLive, and others through Twitter.

So, I've been thinking about the CNN - Facebook mashup from the presidential inauguration that was so amazingly powerful. It was an international event that you got to talk about with your own network by logging into your Facebook account on the video page. It was simply brilliant.

There's no reason we should be able to do this for any event we attend or hold with streaming video. I don't think this is rocket science, but I am at an impasse and am hoping the network will pick up where I have gotten stuck and figure this out. All we really need is a web service that lets you embed the code of the streaming video and then place a Twitter widget that the watching user can use to log into using their own Twitter account. Then any event could have a page where the discussion could take place with our own twitter network.

Pageflakes should be able to do this, but they are down and any assurances that they will be up again are muted by the fact that there is not even a "we'll be back soon" message on their page. It's just gone. Netvibes is confusing me--what used to be a Universe page is now a shared page (??) and I don't see a way of having the Twitter widget allow for the individual viewer to put in their own account information. Wiki services like Wikispaces could let you build the page, and would be a great way to track and coalesce all the different event pages, but it would require a Twitter widget that didn't have the username/password built into the widget, but which could be specified by the user at the time the page was accessed.

Any ideas?! I think this would be an amazing step forward for conference/event attending and viewing.