Friday, April 24, 2009

Thoughts on Last Night's Paperless Classroom Presentation at JHU

Some really interesting responses from the audience last night. One question was about fear.

I say: Fear is as Fear does.

Years ago, when we first started the process of becoming a 1:1 computing school, there was a lot of fear about MySpace. We heard about the threats of online predators, credit-card thieves, and harassment. Years on down the road we look at MySpace and what is it? A glorified mall. It's got record shops, a video arcade, and places for teenagers to hang out. And the whole thing is run by an enormous corporation.

It's a mall.

I remember as a kid watching TV and seeing those news reports of the occasional mall kidnapping. Scary stuff. But did that really make anyone stop going to the mall? Maybe what it did was make some people become more aware of what their kids were doing at the mall. Just like those rare cases of perverts on MySpace made people aware.

Funny way to become aware of your kids. But, fear is as fear does.

The admins here have always been supportive of relatively open Internet access here at school, yet they remain wary of social networking. Maybe it has to do with the word 'social'. That word has certain connotations in a high school. Maybe we should change it from 'social networking' to 'networked society'. Because that's what's really going on from Facebook to Twitter and beyond.

This isn't kids' stuff.

The Obama campaign waged the most unlikely successful political battle in American history using Facebook as a virtual headquarters. If the man who is elected president trusts his staff to use social networking for professional purposes, why in the heck can't principals and supers across this country -- in schools both public and private -- trust their staffs to use social networking for professional purposes?

This isn't kids' stuff.

But fear is as fear does.

Last night, no less than a dozen people came up to me after the presentation and told me that they previously had opened Twitter accounts, but then didn't know what to do with them and so they just sort of ignored them; now, however, they were going to hop right back on and see what it could do. I stopped by Twitter last night before going to bed, and eight of them had already logged in to follow my feed. One was already using her feed to broadcast Autism info into the Tweet-o-sphere.

Reader Knaus stopped by during our presentation last night via Twitter. His Tweet said it all: Twitter is the best Professional Development you will ever have. By the end of a very short session on blogs, Tweets, RSS, and Web 2.0, many of those in the audience were in agreement with him.

I spend all my time in front of high school kids. So, when I get up in front of a room of adults, I often feel weird -- my attempts at humor are usually the first thing to bomb! But I saw a lot of faces come to life last night. It's that same glow of sudden understanding I see in kids when they finally understand the importance of the fourth principle part of a verb or when they realize the connection between 16th century sculpture and its ancient antecedents. It's the reason we are educators.


  1. I love it when I make into your blog!

    Not a day goes by when I don't learn something from Twitter or a blog. It truly is my own Personal Learning Network.

    As for social networks, I tried to use Ning and called it an academic network. It bombed because of the wonderful "13" limit that is in place for everything on the web.

    That said, I think we need to think of it in terms of networks because it is but academic network might be the way to go. You heard it here first.

  2. Just as I was starting to feel like Twitter was jumping the shark, instances like the one you relay here change my mind yet again.

    For me, Twitter has been invaluable in not only finding resources that I can digest on my own time, but also live, "in-the-moment" professional development. There have been countless times that I've contributed to workshops or parent nights in places that I may never physically see.

    Your analysis of fear and its consistent role in our adoption of new methodologies is spot on.


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