Thursday, March 29, 2007

Earcos07 - Day 1

Great start to the conference.

A student from my school, ISBangkok, gave the first ever student keynote address. As expected, she was incredible, speaking to what it means to be a Global Citizen. She emphasized that it took more than being an international student, but also required breaking down barriers that exist between nationalities within an international school and bringing common experience to all. She likened her journey towards global citizenry to exploration for the New Atlantis. A new world of global awareness and of solving global issues.

Not without intent, this led well into the keynote speaker Jean-Francois Rischard who spoke about topics from his book High Noon: 20 global problems and 20 years to solve them. He spoke to global issues that need to be dealt with AND CAN BE DEALT WITH, but require systemic changes in the way the world can approach them. While his outlook seemed bleak, his solutions were do-able...if only world leaders would listen. At times, I wonder whether world experts can get together and begin to develop solutions without the world leaders' blessings.

I attended two sessions by Ian Jukes today. He spoke on the exponential times that we live in. Change is inevitable, but more importantly it is nearly incomprehensible. The degree to which access, processing power, information, and bio- and nanotechnology will infuse our lives in the coming (soon) years is crazy. His best line of the day: "the difference between science fiction and reality? Science fiction is more believable." So what are the implications on our curriculum? What curriculum? Content can no longer be the focus...higher order thinking and communication must be. I worry less about the technology skills of students and more about their ability to use with responsibility, with understanding, and with critical evaluation. We cannot prepare them for the tech. that will exist. But we NEED to prepare them for the thinking that they'll require.

So when and how can we re-invent schools to focus on thinking skills instead of "content"? Who makes this call and how do they make it with majority teacher, parent, and administrative groups that are stuck in 1960's educational needs and outcomes?

Good stuff.

Looking forward to hitting Jeff's workshops in the coming days.

[if you are reading this post, then you are visiting Harter Learning. I am in the process of moving the blog over to edublogs (for a variety of reasons which I detail on that blog) under the name, Thinking Allowed. If you are one of my few subscribers, you may want to switch to the Thinking Allowed Feed, though for the near future, I am going to post on both blogs.]

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Earcos begins tomorrow

I will be attending the EARCOS ETC conference in Bangkok, starting tomorrow and running through the weekend. This year there seems to be a focus on technology as there are a bunch of quality presentations going on regarding 21st century learning skills and other tech-focused subjects. Ian Jukes is one of the keynote speakers and I will also be attending a pre-conference session with him.

The hard part this year is going to be choosing which session to go to when multiple 'interesting' sessions happen at the same time. I will try to blog about some of the thoughts that come out of this conference, as I am sure that Jeff Utecht, from Thinking Stick will do as well (he is also presenting).

One cool random fact about the wife designed the "cover" art. She'll probably kill me for telling people, but I'm very proud, she's got a great sense of design.

On a side note, if you are reading this post, then you are visiting Harter Learning. I am in the process of moving the blog over to edublogs (for a variety of reasons which I detail on that blog) under the name, Thinking Allowed. If you are one of my few subscribers, you may want to switch to the Thinking Allowed Feed, though for the near future, I am going to post on both blogs.

Posts on the ETC conference to come...

Monday, March 12, 2007

"The Resilient Power of Common Sense" - Wikipedia in the Economist

The Economist just ran an article on Wikipedia, which while behind the times for us in ed. tech. blogging, is a good indicator on how the rest of the web-not-quite-2.0 world perceives it or will come to perceive it. After all, the Economist is the intellectual's magazine.

"Wikipedia has strengths too, chiefly the resilient power of collective common sense."
The article shares how anonymity can be a problem with Wikipedia, but then argues that collectively it is in fact VERY well maintained and that even many of the pretend-experts are conscientious, careful, and accurate.

"Constant scrutiny and editing means even the worst articles are gradually getting better, while the best ones are kept nicely polished and up to date. Someone, eventually, will spot even the tiniest error, or tighten a patch of sloppy prose. Mr Jordan, for all his bragging, seems to have been a scrupulous and effective editor."

It's a great article to share with your teachers. As much as I have tried, I come across teachers who are resistant to the idea that Wikipedia can be trusted or that Wikipedia can be used as a source by students. They think that they are teaching good research skills. I think they are missing an opportunity for students to think critically, to defend arguments, and to confirm information from other sources.

Has anyone else come across the attempting-to-be-web-savvy teacher who in efforts to show they are "with it" with new technologies, make the pre-emptive ban on using Wikipedia as a source with students?

Are we not missing out on conversations with students on "collective common sense"? Or global participatory culture? Educators complain about misuse and abuse of social networking sites like MySpace, but fail to acknowledge the powerful force for shared knowledge that Wikipedia (and other sites have become). Web 2.0 is being used for good right in front of even the most tech-resistant noses, but they miss it hiding behind "anyone could write it, so it's not allowed."

"The quality of writing is often a good guide to an entry’s usefulness: inelegant or ranting prose usually reflects muddled thoughts and incomplete information. A regular user soon gets a feel for what to trust."

I thought that was a nice quote to describe exactly what we are missing out on, by not allowing kids to use Wikipedia. Don't we want kids developing that skill of getting "a feel for what to trust"?

I'm going to be sharing this article with my staff. Let's see if it can get our own conversation started.

[on a side note...Conservapedia?!? Really?!]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our Imperative to teach Safe, Responsible Social Networking

The Washington Post has had some gems lately...glad I have them on my Netvibes.

A recent article delves into a continuing, but also growing problem in online social networking sites where rumors and disinformation and personal attacks are impacting people's lives negatively (to understate it). It's a very scary article on what happens when the Web 2.0 tool gets used badly.

The article starts with the story of a Phi Beta Kappa, Yale Law graduate who did not get many call backs and received no job offers. Though admittedly difficult to prove, she claims that this was a result of deragatory postings about her in a well-read public forum on AutoAdmit.

"The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online."

The forum in question contains useful information about law schools and law firms, but also contains hundreds of posts filled with racism and bigotry. But the site's founder says it's free speech.
"The students' tales reflect the pitfalls of popular social-networking sites and highlight how social and technological changes lead to new clashes between free speech and privacy. The chats are also a window into the character of a segment of students at leading law schools. Penn officials said they have known about the site and the complaints for two years but have no legal grounds to act against it. The site is not operated with school resources."

This is out there. It's real. How much more hiding from it can educators do? Ignorance on this type of thing is simply no longer acceptable for teachers. This is the world that a participatory web 2.0 has created. One in which anyone can say anything about anyone else. We can't just teach kids to protect themselves, instead teachers have to assume the responsibility of teaching students to be responsible users as well.

The technology is new(ish), but it isn't going away. As a teachnology facilitator, it's my job to make sure that teachers get this. I need to show them how important it is for our students to learn how to use the tool properly AND responsibly. It is worth noting here that the "misuers" in this article are law students slandering their peers.

Dare I quote it? "With great power comes great responsibility." (Thanks, Spidey.)

The educational power of Web 2.0 is out there for us to embrace: collaboration, critical thinking, communication. But not all teachers have jumped on board. Maybe we are still too content focused in our curriculum. Maybe "the kids are going to learn the technology anyway", since they spend so much time on it outside of school (side note: why wouldn't this be a reason to make school more like that?). But even if that's the case, this article reminds us how important it is to have conversations with students about the implications of their actions.

So whose job is this? Only mine as the tech. guy? Parents? What about all educators? What about the village? But here in lies the rub: most of those people don't even know what's out there. They don't know that this technology exists, that kids are using it, that kids are learning in it, and that kids are misusing it too.

Like so many things, the answer lies not in protection, but in education. But that adds to our problems as more and more schools are knee-jerking their way to blocking access and sealing off their schools from the participatory culture that's out there. So we emphasize the good, make little of the bad (see Jeff's ThinkingStick post on this), and get people on board.

So when's a good time to bring in the bad? To have those real conversations with kids? How about ALL THE TIME. Damn...that puts me back at square one...I have to get our teachers to see this as their job. I want to be obsolete as Jeff suggests (well, the job anyway...not me personally), but I don't see that happening any time soon.

That's the key to this Web 2.0 participatory's put power into everyone's hands. And we just haven't prepared everyone for that kind of responsibility.

It's no wonder that there is misuse, just as it is no wonder that some are learning on their own how to behave well and how to protect themselves (great post on this from Justin at Medagogy and teacher directed kids learning based at ThinkingStick).

But we can't rely on self-learning anymore, because it is about more than skills that we can scope and sequence. It's about responsible use as well. It's the job of all educators to make sure that students get that. And teachers will get there, because we can't afford not too...I just hope it's fast enough for our students' sake.