Monday, November 30, 2009

What are we preparing them for?

Reader Bonnie writes:
A question like “What are we preparing them for?” still stops me in my tracks. I thought all this technology discussion was about ‘how’ to prepare them. I know what I am preparing them for and it hasn’t changed for over 20 years.

I’m preparing them to think for themselves. I want my students to question everything, especially their own actions. I want them to celebrate diversity and respect difference. I want them to be responsible for their own actions and how their actions have global effects. I want them to care for the earth and their fellow living beings. I try to prepare them to act when they see or hear injustice.

The technology I’m avidly learning right now will definitely make my goal easier to achieve and I think more relevant and more interesting for students. These are great things! But I’ve known some amazing teachers who have achieved these goals with very little technology. Technology alone is not going to make our world a better place.

This is part of the reason why I think we've got to hit the mute button on the "T" word.

Fire is technology. The wheel is technology. The compound bow is technology. "Technology" is just the craft of figuring out a way to do something.

When I say “What are we preparing them for?”, I'm not qualifying that as a statement as to the bearings of education (let alone technology) on their rational and ethical thinking procedures.

I'm actually in a way thinking less of the students and more of the environment they'll live in. I fully realize certain limitations in bringing this forward in the debate, but I think about it nonetheless.

I think about what travel will be like in 2110. After all, it was only in 1910 when a North American airplane first claimed the life of a professional pilot; and yet, despite any hassles, air travel stands not only as the icon of the 20th century but as the safest form of getting from here to there.

I think about what art will be like. After all, it was only in 1907 that Picasso up-turned 500 years of European figurative painting. Been to a museum lately?

I think about what music, and the press, and grocery stores, and shopping malls will be like in 2110. In a way, only shopping malls seem relatively unphased over the centuries.

And so, I prepare my students to be critical thinkers. I prepare them to be able to handle abstract concepts and open-ended questioning. I try my darndest to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead no matter what.

But in the end, I realize that the world facing them on the other side of the Digital Revolution is as foreign to me as the world of the Agricultural Revolution was to the hunter gatherers.

I'm obliged to recognize that I'm of a generation caught in the transition between two ages. And these sorts of cultural/technological revolutions just seem to catch up to us now and then.

One way or another, the world is fundamentally changed as a result.

Our students need the critical capacity to be able to handle this change. You better be putting them through the paces of Lao-Tzu, Plato, Seneca, and Kant. But none of that will forecast how the world looks after the dust of this revolution settles.

And thus, for a simple guy like me, all I can ask is: “What are we preparing them for?”

Population and Technology

In 1810, the population of the United States was just north of 7 million.

In 1910, the population of the United States was just shy of 100 million.

In 2010, the population of the United States will be greater than 300 million.

In 1810, the population of the United States per square mile was 4.3.

In 1910, the population of the United States per square mile was 26.

In 2010, the population of the United States per square mile will be at least 80.

Let's put this all into a little perspective.

There are over 270 million cellphones in use in the United States. That's almost double the number of land lines.

Now, if the average cellphone is 4 inches long, then if we set all those 270 million cellphones lying in a straight line, they'd measure out at 1,080,000,000 inches or 27,432 kilometers. That's more than half the circumference of the Earth at the equator.

And that's just the cellphones in the US. There's another 634 million in China. And 427 million in India. And Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia sport numbers well above 100 million each.

As for the Internet, there are 231 million users in the US (on a good day).

In other words, there are more than double as many folks online in the US today as there were people in the US a hundred years ago.

Now I know that these sorts of stats get cited and bandied about all the time; yet no matter how often I look at them they nonetheless give me shivers.

Because 2110 is gonna make 2010 look like 1910. And we've already produced children who will live to see that day.

What are we preparing them for?


The numbers for 1810 and 1910 come from the 1990 Census of Population and Housing, "1990 Population and Housing Unit Counts: United States", (CPH-2).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From the Archive: Books Were Nice

On the heels of the last post, here's another entry from my stint over at

It's a post that stoked a bit of chatter and lots of great discussion.

It's called: 'Books Were Nice'.


And if you like, please check out this oldie-but-goodie on the anomaly of printed books.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

From the Archive: Goin' Mobile

Here's a post from my stint a while back guest-blogging at

It's a piece titled 'Goin Mobile' and it's got a little bit to do with experiential learning and a little bit to do with mobile computing.

It's got a lot to do with homebases of learning.

Friday, November 27, 2009

K12 Online Conference Info

Wes Fryer's got the low-down on the Classroom 2.0 pre-game show and Richard Byrne's got the info on some of the programming.

Here's the word from the creators themselves.

Looking forward to the con, and hoping to (virtually) see many of you there!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nothing says "Happy Thanksgiving" like Freaky Institutional Home Ec Instruction and a Romantic Piano Score

It just wouldn't be a 'Paperless Thanksgiving' without this MPEG archived diamond of a 1951 instructional film about childrens' ettiquette at the dinner table.

Hope you all use cloth napkins!

Thanks to the Internet Archive for this gem.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Logo Hampered Ontologies

I'm beat after another long session battering about the pros and cons of the big three Logo Hampered Ontologies.

Yes, 'Logo Hampered Ontologies'.

Ok, so it's an anagram for: 'Moodle, Google, Sharepoint'. But it's apt. And it's been consuming me.

The short of it: me and a few folks at school are thinking about which of the three will best serve the needs of teachers and students in a 21C setting.

Each have strong points. Each have weak points.

Moodle is 'made' for education. But it's definitely a work-in-progress and may have scalability issues. I also feel like it's sort of set up as a digital version of a 20th century classroom (i.e. it does tests and quizzes really well, but how well does it integrate with multimedia and social networking?)

Google Apps for Ed has all the parts for free -- and the sites are housed on the Cloud; but 'Sites' is pretty clunky (even compared to other free site-building services like Weebly and Wix) and there's quite a learning curve (especially with Wave).

Sharepoint is solid in its own way, but its dropboxes and calendars pale in comparison to Web 2.0 alternatives. And I'm just not convinced that its wiki or blog functions can touch dedicated sites like Wikispaces, Blogger, and WordPress. I've also had so much difficulty running 3rd party ware on MS browsers (and long since given up), that I just don't have much faith in the accessibility and flexibility of Sharepoint. But I may just be out-of-touch with what MS has been developing.

I'd really like to know what you all have to say about these Logo Hampered Ontologies.

What have you used? What do you use? What are the pros and cons and if you were the one making the call, which way would you go?

Looking forward to your responses; and please forward this on to folks who can extend the discussion; I really want to get an idea of what people's experiences are with these three monsters.

Monday, November 23, 2009

From Nit Wit to Net Wit: 4 Social Networking Rules for Schools

On the heels of yesterday's post about mistakes schools make entering into social networking, I submit the following ideas and suggestions to schools who want to get the most out of the opportunities social networking offers.

1. Don't use it just because it's there.

Having a Facebook page does not demonstrate that you understand a darned thing about 21st century networking. There are over 400 million users on Facebook; welcome to the club.

I hear so often how excited some institutions are because they've set up a "Facebook presence". And I want to tell these people: "Don't you get it? It's not about you being excited about being on Facebook, it's about folks on Facebook being excited about you being there."

The same folks tend to use Facebook (and social media in general) as an analogue to the sorts of communications they made in the pre-digital days. And I want to tell them: "No, no, no! The comments wall of a Facebook Group is not a place to post your press releases. It's a place to make an offer of community and to join in the already happening conversation."

Likewise, I see schools creating Facebook pages because they think that's what 'being hip to social networking' is all about. Fact of the matter is, in many cases a user-defined Ning would work so much better to help the institution achieve its goals.

The key to getting the most out of social networking is in understanding one simple maxim: Don't use it just because it's there. If you find yourself creating a need, then you are doing the wrong thing.

Step back, figure out what it is that you want to do (and be specific, don't just say 'reach more people'), and find the tool that best helps you achieve that goal.

Personal example: For years, I maintained a class blog where I'd post homework assignments and links to further reading. Over the last two years, I've found that I can use Twitter along with Delicious and a wiki more effectively than I was using the blog. I post assignments and maintain conversations about classwork on the former and I archive, brainstorm, and create reference libraries on the latter two. So, I stopped using one totally legitimate technology in favour of using another.

The trick isn't 'using technology'.

The trick is finding the technology that's right for you, whether you are a classroom teacher or a large institution.

2. Don't centralize your Facebook communications.

I'm an alumnus; I'm not really interested in whether or not school's closed next week. I was also a bit of a geek back in high school (go figure), so whether or not the varsity football team is having a winning season really isn't all that interesting to me. I was, however, in the Drama Club; I'd love to know what's happening with the Spring Musical. And I was a member of the Jazz Band; I'd love to know what songs are in the current set list.

Now, if you send information forth from a centralized point, you might get my attention once or twice. Soon, however, I get too bored by the football headlines to bother even reading through whatever other information you may have sent out. You lost me.

I still count as a number in your 'friends' list, but you've effectively lost me.

It didn't have to be this way.

This is social media, after all. So be social. Don't style yourself after the PR that worked back in the days of print. Instead, let the individual departments and programs establish networks with their own alumni and constituents; and let me be a part of whatever network I so choose.

If you are using Facebook for networking, this is an essential understanding.

The football team should have it's own network run by the football team and football alums. The Drama Club should have it's own network -- and not limited to current students, but engaging alumni and local professionals.

Now, it's fine to have a 'school' presence. But by-and-large, that central hub serves mostly as a glorified calendar and business card. It's the micro-networks that do the real job of engaging like-minded folks. To use a popular term: your school is comprised of tribes. The job of a communications director or alumni office, therefore, should not be to 'tell constituents the news', but rather to show them where to find the tribe of their choice.

3. Think outside the Tweet.

Twitter is essentially whatever you want it to be.

As a quick and effective way to send a message or link to your public, it's unparalleled. Just don't let the "What are you doing? / What's happening?" prompts squelch your message; they're just red herrings. What you need to do is make your Tweets work for you. For a main office, I suggest a daily morning Tweet with a highlight and a link to morning announcements. For Athletic Depts, go ahead and Tweet your game schedules, rankings, and links to news coverage of your student athletes. Guidance Depts: Tweet college links, links to sites useful for stress relief, and links to sites where students can get further tutoring or mentoring. Academic Depts: there's no reason why the English Dept isn't Tweeting its reading list or why the Math Dept doesn't Tweet classic problems in Analytic Geometry or Calculus.

Now, the first instinct of many an educator is: But, why?

Well, the short answer is: because Tweeting is one of the most positive things you can do to foster motivation.

Students and Parents will appreciate the daily Tweeted schedule; the Athletic Dept may see a surge in its fan-base as videos of players go viral and schools compete against one another virtually for fans -- particularly in the case of High Schools looking to recruit, a sound Twitter community will bode well towards getting great information and a variety of perspectives out to parents and students. For the Guidance Office, you may well find that students start picking up the ball to create their own tutoring programs and clubs based around academic and social issues discussed via Twitter; and certainly the Departmental Tweets have the potential of fostering communities based around common love for a subject.

The trick here is to allow it to grow naturally. Don't force all of the kids to follow your English department feed; that's a disaster in the making. Rather, let the kids discover their own tribes and use Twitter to let those tribes flourish. Go ahead: create content and send it out there; before long, your constituents will be the ones creating the majority of the content and you'll be the one learning what makes a community a community.

4. Don't be afraid of the 'unofficial'.

Despite the best intentions of a school to 'own' its brand, no institution ever really 'owns' its memory. Schools are comprised of people, and the people themselves are the reality of the school.

Now, those folks in charge of creating a web presence soon will have realized that there exist 'unofficial' versions of your brand all over the place -- in the form of blogs, Tweets, Facebook Groups, and more.

What does an effective communications director do?

Well, he or she points to the best of the 'unofficial' and says: "Check this out."

For those of you choking on that last sentence, consider the example of the band Radiohead. For years, the band has listed (under alt/radiohead sites) 'unofficial' sites created by folks all over the world with one thing in common: a love for Radiohead.

The result?

More love for Radiohead.

People love to be in a community with like-minded people. People love to debate the minutiae of their passions. People long for means to connect.

Translate this into your situation.

Now, I realize most of you aren't rock stars. But you are the people who produce the environment in which most human beings undergo the fundamental changes that make them into young adults.

That's powerful stuff.

Now there will be students who have not liked their school experience. And they may use the Net to express this to the world. And that's fine. Because there are also students who will have loved their experience. And some of them too will use the Net to try to express this to the world. You can think of these constituencies as the Yin and Yang of Net identity.

The trick is to mute neither while pointing folks towards what you think is most valuable.

And hagiography and glowing hyperbole is not always deemed 'most valuable', so make your decisions wisely. The goal here is not to use your links to create the impression of what your school is like, but rather to use your links as a means of being a partner in the creation of a broader digital alumni and school community.

'Unofficial' sites and 'Unofficial' networks are good. It means that there are folks whose experience connects in some way to your place. You then have to decide whether given site or given network provides value to your community.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Something for Alumni Affairs and School Communications Directors to Think About Regarding Social Networks

My high school alma mater announced that it's started a Facebook page.

Well, thing is... they didn't exactly start it. Turns out an '03 alum had launched an 'unofficial' page years back that had gained about 700 followers and was steadily turning out information for alumni about what was happening at the school.

The alumni relations dude at the school stumbled upon the page and was amazed. So he and the director of communications staked out a deal with the alum who'd started the whole thing to take over as admins of the site and bring it all into line with the 'official' brand of the school.

I can only imagine how quickly those original 700 fans moved on to join a new unofficial page.

Nothing destroys a social network quicker than an institution trying to co-opt the resources developed by 'unofficial' means. As an alum, I find it much more interesting to occasionally see updates sent out by fellow alums -- real human-being fellow alums who aren't an institution trying to sell me alumni Beef-n-Beer nights and raffle tickets.

Fellow alums who can share the 'unofficial' history as well as state their own opinions on the current trajectory of the school. Not some nitwit admins and communications directors trying to re-brand the school into my brain.

I went there. I'm an alum. Remember?

If schools themselves are going to get into the social networking game, they have to realize that there are just certain aspects of a network that they'll never be able to replicate as an institution yoked by a necessarily limited voice.

Alumni Affairs folks, head's up: those original alums didn't link together in that network because of the existence of your school and your institution's varied publiciz-able successes. They linked together in that network because of their shared experience in attending your school.

They didn't link there because of you. They linked there because of each other.

And the shared experience of a student body has very little to do with what communications directors like to share with the public.

There are myriad ways institutions can use the Net -- and I hope my alma mater finds a way to make it work. But, taking over an alum's friend page probably ain't one of the most effective routes to building a grassroots community. You may see initial returns in terms of the number of friends you rank, but before all too long, your network will bore of soccer scores and mission-themed posts; and the heart of the communication that existed originally will find somewhere else on the Net to flourish.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Results of the 'Concerning Tech' Contest


So, the 'Concerning Tech' contest wound up producing so many more great results than I ever could have considered.

And there were so many good ideas submitted by so many cool teachers that I just couldn't possibly give them up to the whims of chance.

The result being: everyone who submitted to the contest will receive an invitation to write a post to the whole TeachPaperless readership.

Believe me, this is both a blessing and a curse ;)

Details forthwith; congrats, and, most of all, thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2009


A reader suggested I write a haiku poem distilling what I've learned over the course of 600 posts here at TeachPaperless.

At first I thought it was a silly idea, but the more I considered it, the more I realized it was perhaps the most perfect vehicle for describing what I see as the 'nature' of the discussion that has occurred through these posts.

I myself certainly have been changed by the ongoing conversation; and I dare say that this blog, and the daily interaction it fosters with my PLN, has made me -- over the course of the last ten months -- a much better teacher than I'd ever thought I could be.

And I hope this blog is of some value to you, too.

Thank you for your readership, advice, criticism, and fearlessness.


Signpost, bent metal
On the corner; in the field
Sapling fresh, rising

That's sort of what this blog means to me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Bookworm Who Loves E-Books

Steven Anderson has a post today on whether or not libraries should have books.

He cites the example of the headmaster of Cushing Academy in Massachusetts who -- according to the Boston Globe -- is remaking his school's library into a media center where e-readers replace books. From the Globe article:
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Beings that we're in a sort of transition period between media, it's no wonder that folks will have strong reactions to Tracy's impulse. The article cites students and faculty quite upset with the manoeuvre. I'm sure there will be more than a fair share of supporters and detractors on either side.

Coming down on the side of the tomes, Steven writes:
I am one of the biggest advocates for progressive technology in the classroom you will find. There is nothing I want more than students to be immersed in technology whenever possible. However, one has to question the wisdom of this man. Replacing a collection of 20,000 books just does not add up for me. It is doubtful that even 25% of the paper books that were available before are available in a digital format. While there are services like Google Books and the various eBook outlets, I think it is premature to call books "outdated technology."

I understand where Steven is coming from. My bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, car, and office are all littered with books. I'm absolutely certain that I own more physical paper than most human beings. I love books. As I've said they were nice.

But for all of the books I own, page-for-page I know I've read more digital text than paper text in my lifetime. Because, even for someone has always been as voracious a reader as me, I can safely say that since buying my first laptop some ten years ago, I've seen my own daily reading increase exponentially.

I think part of it is that there is just so much more text out there.

I used to read the front page of the NY Times and the Baltimore Sun each morning. Now, in the course of the day, I read the NY Times, the Sun, the Washington Post, Politico, Le Monde, The Independent UK, the Daily Dish, and the BBC Online along with very generous doses of the two dozen or so blogs I follow daily, the info and links I pick up from Twitter, and the literally hundreds of emails I've learned to filter through.

The way I used to teach, I'd read student writing twice a quarter; maybe three times in some classes. Now I read it via their blogs on a daily basis.

And as for novels and full-throttle non-fiction books? Continuing my traditional ways, I usually have two or three books out from the library on any given week. And I usually have twice as many bookmarked on my computer to read in e-format.

As a self-confessed bookworm, this is what I have to say from an utterly selfish point-of-view: I love the Internet and it has made me ten-times the reader I used to be.

Call me new-fashioned, but I actually prefer reading digital text. I prefer reading it, and I sure prefer writing it. I don't buy into the 'snuggling up with a good book' argument for physical text's superiority to e-text. On any given night, it's a toss-up for me whether I go to sleep reading an old paperback or an e-text. And given the limited and frustrating holdings of our public library, more and more it's becoming a case of the later.

Am I arguing for the end to books as we know it?

No. Because, I really don't think I have to. Time will take care of that.

Understanding Wireless

Katie Ash just published a short piece of an interview with a district's network coordinator that I found frustrating enough to run off a quick response (subsequently withdrawn) asking for more clarity in helping teachers and admins understand how a wireless system works and what challenges these systems face.

Why withdrawn?

Because sure enough, just last month, Katie ran an excellent feature in DD which did exactly what I was asking for. I'd suggest folks who want to better understand the ups and downs of wireless in schools skip passed the interview published today and go straight to the DD article.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Using Authentic Gaming to Engage Kids in Authentic Learning

Here's a reader comment from Steve Lissenden on yesterday's post about gaming and student networks. I repost it here for your perusal as I think he touches on some really important topics -- like using MMOGs to foster creative writing -- that all of us should consider when we talk about authentic assessment and measuring student understanding.
I'm a teaching assistant in a year 5 class (9/10 years old) I am trying to engage one student, who is almost totally switched off from most lessons, by tapping into her interest in WoW. I asked her yesterday to write me a story based upon her adventures in WoW and she straight away picked up her pen and started to list the characters in her story. She has not yet started writing sentences but even so this is progress.

I intend to keep going down this route and intend to bring in opportunities to explore other virtual worlds, such as Myst, as a platform to engage creative writing.

I'm also having conversations with the children about the games they are playing on their consoles to understand the networks they are involved in and the contexts they prefer. This in itself is something new as I have found most teachers either do not think to discuss gaming or, in some cases, actively discourage talk about games. This something I find baffling considering the major part gaming plays in children's lives and the many opportunities this provides for educators to connect with their students in meaningful ways.

Gaming itself is a form of 'text'. And, especially in terms of fantasy MMOGs, games are complex narratives. Well, if you've got a kid who won't read a book, but who maintains a high-level character on a complicated MMOG, the problem likely isn't that the kid isn't able to understand complex narratives.

There's something deeper going on.

I think the key to Steve's method is getting the student to write about his or her character and their experiences in the game. As any gamer knows, it's easily possible to get by on quests after only reading a small portion of the available [directional] text within the game itself; so the experience within the game is often more self-directed and often less driven by a written narrative.

A problem for teaching kids reading and writing?

Not necessarily. Steve's method bypasses the obvious difficulty therein presented. [i.e. Steve makes it not about reading the text necessarily, but reading the experience.]

For if I'm reading him correctly, what Steve is getting at is that he's got a student who may not be a great reader, but who has a natural inclination for internalizing narrative.

And I think most kids internalize narrative. And it expresses itself in different ways whether in MMOGs or running around in the backyard with a wooden sword. It's the foundation of the kinds of role playing games all creative kids enjoy.

The thing we have to consider in terms of reaching these kids is that their internalized narrative might turn out being a better vehicle for expressing understanding and aptitude than any narrative we can pull from the shelf and force upon them. The internalized narrative might prove more valuable to authentic assessment than any of the books on our shelves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kids and Networks: The Gaming Angle

Mashable reports that Sony's PS3 is linking up with Facebook.

And why is this of any significance to us teachers?

Because the majority of your students are using one or the other or both.

You might say: "But my kid ain't on PS3". Ok, so switch out to Wii, Xbox, WoW, etc. One way or another, we're talking about huge gaming networks. And as these networks link to social media, we're talking about bigger-than-huge networks.

Networks in which your students are active participants.

Now, you might think I'm taking this towards some 'security' thesis. I can safely say that I'm not. I'm hardly 'afraid' of kids being a part of big networks; in fact, as I've seen throughout the varied VRs, kids who play these games and systems often 'get' the way things work in a network -- and by-and-large, the players on/in the game are most interested in... well... the game and success in the game.

There's relatively little time to waste on one of these things; task determination is a priority.

Alas, back to the question: Why is this of any significance to us teachers?

Because, you see, your students are taking part on a daily and casual basis in networks bigger than any most of you have ever known.

And they understand the idea of a massive network.

And they understand and are comfortable with the concept of a network disconnected from their physical reality.

Just ask a few of your sophomores about Modern Warfare 2. Or ask a few of your 12th graders about Wrath of the Lich King.

They will demonstrate an understanding of interpersonal skills that would make any human resources exec swoon.

What are you, as a teacher, doing to tap into this?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thinking about Space Shuttles

Space Shuttle Atlantis flew to the International Space Station this morning on what is the penultimate mission of the era of space shuttles.

Exactly 36 years ago today, Skylab 4 took off on the final Skylab mission. Skylab, of course, would be replaced by the space shuttle.

The future is always upon us, and it always has been. We are ever in the process of developing our own obsolescence.

Recognition of this is humorously referred to as 'maturity'.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Educon 2.2

Very excited in that this evening my proposal for a session on 'Free Improvisational Music and Networked Learning' was accepted by Educon 2.2!

More info will be forthcoming, I'm just excited about a being part of a brilliant program.

Here's a link to the official wiki and all its pertinent information.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do You Teach Your Students How to Analyze and Evaluate Micro-Messages?

An article for all educators to read over at TechCrunch today.

It concerns micro-messaging and realtime streams. Micro-messaging is fast become a standard -- if not the standard -- form of realtime communication online; and as the article argues:
Whoever is in the driver’s seat of this micro-message bus will be in an enviable position, which is why everyone is trying to clamor aboard in hopes of taking over the wheel.

If you are like me, you already do more of your communicating online via Twitter than by email. More importantly, it's these streams of information that many of us are becoming more and more dependent upon for getting good value out of the Internet.

The ability to navigate this realtime stream and to teach our students how to get, analyze, and evaluate information coming through on it is a priority skill -- a real network-based immediate-global-connection skill. It's also a little hint of where we are headed as the semantic web develops.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Paperless Friday Rules!

Another Paperless Friday down, and this was the Tweet of the Day:
mdhtoday: @TeachPaperless Epic #Paperless Friday! They were about to copy 6pg doc for dept&admin when I asked to scan as pdf to distrib. Instant hero

Thanks to @mdhtoday and all of the teachers making Paperless Friday a tradition in their schools!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's a good time to be a geek.

Work supplied us with new HP Tablet-PCs.

I immediately installed Ubuntu as my OS. And all I can say so far is that I love it.

Running OpenOffice and PenOffice onboard and Google Apps for Educators on the Cloud. Got my Delicious (a brand spankin' new account, no less) and Diigo add-ons working the scene on Firefox, and got Tweet Deck handling four different Twitter accounts.

I'm one happy teacher.

Now, I'm looking into what to do for my personal machine. Leaning towards a higher-end Ubuntu-running netbook.

It's a good time to be a geek.

ps -- Just a reminder that the 'Concerning Tech' contest closes tomorrow at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Using Animoto to Document Performance Based Assessments

Used Animoto for the first time today.

Last week, my Freshman Latin I students wrote, directed, and produced their own version of the 'Death of Julius Caesar'. Collaborating on the production for homework each night via Skype and submitting rough edits of the script to me via Google Docs, they managed to pull it all together in five days' time.

I took photos during the command performance and was thinking about just posting them up on Flickr when a friend suggested Animoto.

What a great suggestion.

Maybe I'm the last guy to catch this train, but Animoto lets you upload pictures or video to a simple template and then add text, diagetic edits, and music. With a click of the button, the app renders a funky mix of your raw footage and voila -- a new way of documenting performance based assessments.

So for our document: I uploaded the photos I took, I cut-and-pasted the text from the Google Doc in which they wrote their original script, and -- on the advice of a student hanging out in the room at the time -- added a bit of 'Moonlight Sonata'.

Took less than ten minutes.

And bam: we've got a nice looking piece of project documentation that the kids can share with their friends and be proud of. (At the writing of this post about four hours after it went live, over 100 folks have stopped by to check it out).

I can see all sorts of uses for Animoto. Some folks on Twitter mentioned digital storytelling. I think that's possible, but I'm even more interested in taking it on as a post-storytelling media. And so I've set my Latin III kids to the task of using the app to make movie trailers for imaginary bio-pics of the Roman lyric poets we're reading this semester. And to make this more than just an exercise in new media, they'll be sourcing all of their material via Delicious and, if approved by me, they'll be able to access the final edit of each of their bio-pics for information purposes during the comparative lit essay section on our final exam.

I know this is just our first attempt, and I know that we'll get better at it, but I see a lot of promise even in this rather simple documentation of a project. Check it out over at Animoto and leave a comment; and we'd be grateful to hear about and see what other teachers and students are doing with the app.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The 'Concerning Tech' Contest: What's Your Ed Tech Dream?

Asking the readers for advice.

We are several years into our 1:1 TabletPC program at school and are now reviewing things in an attempt to keep just a nose-hair's length ahead of the curve.

Now, if we agree that the network and mobile access are the touchstones of the new paradigm, how would you advise an administration on what kinds of hardware and what sorts of systems best complement a school's role in the technological gestalt?

We're looking at Open Source and Cloud Computing vs. the traditional software driven means. We're weighing the pros and cons of laptops versus netbooks. We're trying our best to position the school's tech resources and capabilities (and our own thinking about it all) in such a way that we meet the future pro-actively.

So the question for you all...

Say you had a blank slate and a bottomless bank account and were in control of your school's tech decisions. What would your tech offering, system, and computing culture look like next year? I'm talking machines; I'm talking operating systems; I'm talking ways of thinking about the networked and mobile environments.

You need hardware? You got it. You need training and mentoring? Got you covered.

And nobody will complain. (Yes, you are dreaming).

So, beings that you've entered the dream-state, come on and tell us what your dream school looks like (tech wise)!

To add to the fun, we'll cast the ideas to a vote and see what the TeachPaperless readership-at-large thinks.

In fact, we'll make this into a little contest. We'll call it: the 'Concerning Tech' contest.

I say top honors should earn a special prize.

Hmm. Money? (Right...).

Hmm. Trophies? (Nah...).

How about: Guest Blogging for a day on TeachPaperless? (Thrilling, indeed).

Entries (in the form of comments to this post) will be culled for voting this Friday, Nov 13th. Voting will then take place through Tuesday and the glorious winning proposal will be announced on Weds.

So, let's go; pony up some ideas! Think big! (And offer us all some good arguments why you're favoring one thing over another). Thanks in advance.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Is It Too Much To Expect Wi-Fi at a Conference in the Year 2009?

Sitting in a local coffee house three blocks from the Baltimore Convention Center.

Reason? Well, hot coffee and free Wi-Fi, of course.

And because only one of those things was offered at the convention center.


Had a talk over there with one of the organizers about the failure to provide access during the ed conference today. And she agreed wholeheartedly that there was indeed great irony in the fact that none of us bloggers or Twitterers could connect during the morning presentation on social networks.

I'm not going to throw around blame; a lot goes into the planning and production of any conference and there will be successes and failures along the way. But I am going to ask three questions of both conference organizers and the sites that offer services to them.

First to the organizers:
1. Do you understand why a Wi-Fi connection is not a luxury, but an empowering and enhancing vehicle for driving meaningful discussion at your conference?

2. Do you understand that teachers are now partaking in professional development on a daily and individualized basis via Twitter and online media, and therefore expect to be able to tap into, share, and dialogue with their personal learning networks the worth and value present in your conference rooms?

3. Do you understand that by failing to provide free Wi-Fi to your conference-goers, you are closing off your conference from any meaningful real-time discussion with the broader education community -- a discussion with the potential to dramatically increase the value of your conference for participants and therefore increase their desire to actively take part in future editions?

Now, to the conference site:

1. What are the physical costs associated with opening up your network to your conference goers? From what I noticed, the network at Baltimore's convention center was in place -- in other words, all that was needed was a password. So, is there a real cost to opening access, or are conference goers just expected to pay a gatekeeper fee?

2. Do you understand the value inherent in having your site associated with free access; and do you understand the future implications of being designated as a site opposed to free access?

3. Do you really believe that you are the only game in town? (That was harsh... what I really meant to say was: Do you see it as a smart business plan to bilk your clients out of every last dime?) Or are there real roadblocks to your technological capacity as a site and you are actually not presently equipped to provide authentic access to a 21st century conference-going crowd?

Conferences are changing. People are paying attention to the access and associated value on a site-by-site and conference-by-conference basis. Furthermore, the folks most likely to provide value at a conference are the folks who can bring outside networks into the fold of the discussion.

Conference organizers and conference sites ignore this at their peril.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

How do you replace a dead iBook in late-2009?

My trusty old iBook is finally dead.

Really dead.

Alas. I do have to admit, it was a good six years; but this puts me in the position now of having to contend with the reality of going on the computer hunt.

And for all the Geek in me, that's really the last thing I want to do.

So, I asked around on Twitter for some advice. After all, it's been six year since I last bought a laptop. Things have changed.

First bit of advice suggested a Tablet-PC. Now, I have nothing against a Tablet, per se; but I've got a work-issued one that -- while practical as a work computer -- languishes with regards to its Tablet-functionality. This is primarily due to my resistance towards using MS Office products.

As this Tablet is set up, OneNote is the go-to program for all pen uses. I just find OneNote clunky, and so it goes unused.


Well, one Twitterer (@tjmeister) suggested PenOffice as an open source solution. Would love to hear reader comments from folks familiar with the app.

Second up was Netbooks. Now, a way's back I bought two Netbooks for my twin sons. And while I love the simple functionality of the little computers, I nearly wracked my mind dealing with the correct (and not constantly overloading) security solutions. The obvious solution is a Linux -- or perhaps in the near future, a Mac -- Netbook alternative. And, though it may be hard to conceptualize in words, I do think some convergence of Netbook and SmartPhone is on the horizon; perhaps with a bio/light-operated, non-physical keyboard and a self-projection screen.

Engineers, feel free to get in touch.

Next up were the SmartPhones (as they exist currently). And while I'm pretty crazy about the new Android (seems like they just went through all of the criticism of the iPhone and came up with a solution for each), as a working-class teacher I'll admit to having to think twice before paying monthly for a data plan and cell minutes that add up to twice the cost of a PC laptop in twelve months time.

Lastly come the laptop replacements to my dead laptop. (Yes, I realize the irony in that six years ago this category would have come first).

I'm partial towards replacing my iBook with the smallest, most stripped-down MacBook Pro. But I wonder about the future of laptop computing and I question whether I really need all the crap that comes with a new one. I mean, why would I want any of the apps that come in free versions online? And do I really want to pay the big money for SnowLeopard when I see free alts on the horizon?

And so, here I stand at a quandry. I literally have no idea where to turn. And so, dear readers, I turn to you. Please give me your ideas. Where are we going with this mobile tech thing? Should I be thinking Netbook or Laptop? SmartPhone or SmartWallet?

Help me out here. Leave a comment and let's see where the TeachPaperless readership stands on this issue.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Stat(s) of the Day

Stat of the Day: According to analysis of global Internet statistics by Miniwatts Marketing, the number of folks in Africa using the Internet grew from 4.5 million to about 66 million between the years 2000 and 2009.

That's a 1360% growth rate.

And yet that only touches less than 7% of the population of the continent.

What would the Net look like if we were able to reach those other 92% of the pop?


Oh, and another thought...

There are now more users of Facebook than there were users of the entire Internet worldwide nine years ago.


Friday, November 06, 2009

I Am Warts

Every semester I have my kids do a Google check on their own names to see what sorts of things have popped up about them.

Some of the kids will find a story or two from athletics. Another may find a mention of the school play in the local online edition of the paper.

Others blanch with fear as they realize that Google is telling them that they have multiple personalities.

I can relate to the kids in this last category, because if you are like me, you have multiple personalities too.

Or is that 'multiple identities'. Or multiple...

Oh, I don't know. All I do know is that I've been online since 1992 and have the Google trail to prove it.

Which (segue) makes building a new website quite the endeavor.

See, what I want to do is create a sort of portal through which folks interested in my ed practice can enter an ed portal and folks who are interested in my art and music can enter there and folks who I'm teaching will have access to their own part of me and the historical re-enactment folks waiting for my wife and I to finish new garb for them will have their portal.

All these portals.

Because we are complex people.

And the teacher in me wants my students to know I'm complex people.

Because I want them to understand that they are complex people.

They are not only defined by lacrosse. Or the part in the school musical. Or the grade on the SAT. Or their legendary detentions-received-to-days-in-school ratio.

Rather, they are defined by these things and everything else that they do; all of these things in flux and boil and ever more and everyday becoming more and more present online -- present in all manner of complexity.

Because these students of ours are complex folks.

So -- in my own case (and in what I'd like to model for my own students) -- rather than try to segregate the parts of my identity and filter some of it away, I'm trying to bring it all together to tell a better story about the whole.

If I'm going to really 'own' my online identity, then I better think about how the whole thing fits together. Because I want my students to think about how their whole story fits together.

After all, the life not Googled isn't worth... (that's a paraphrase, not a prescription).

Nevertheless, I work on this new homepage. And I search my past online. And what I find tells me how far I've come and how varied my endeavors have been.

I find I'm a rather excitable poet (as a young man), a reclusive songwriter (as a not-as-young man), a guy who forgot to update his driver's license (apparently either an ad-vocation of my absent-mindedness or a premonition of my oncoming senility), and presently a lowly Latin teacher engaged in daily warfare (I use the term lovingly) against the likes of megalomaniacal international computer manufacturers and multi-million dollar sh[r]edding school systems.

Such is and will continue to be a life lived online.

We should not be afraid of such things. Rather, we should embrace the new transparency as a way to finally get beyond both the hierarchies of 19th century education (which apparently has continued in many a quarter) as well as a way to finally sheer off the Romantic notions of ourselves and our places in the world.

We are what we are. Warts and all.

Don't be afraid of the warts; rather, teach the kids the value of 'em.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


TeachPaperless is spending the evening learning how to use Google Wave.

Here's the first three things that have popped into my waved-out mind:
1. It could be a remarkable way to keep track of differentiated instruction and individualized learning.

2. The real-time collaborative power puts curriculum maps to shame. Not to mention the ability to turn on a dime and respond to spontaneous current events and situations without everyone getting lost.

3. Talk about a way to rethink school-wide organization.

More on all of this soon.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Voice of a Young Teacher Coming to Understand Social Technology

Here are comments from another of the students in my weekly ed school course on paperless classrooms and social tech integration. You can follow his Tweets and help him to build his PLN at: @teacherben.

I'm particularly struck by his idea that whether or not you might be able to incorporate these tools into whatever current classroom situation you might be in, one of the important things to recognize is that eventually your situation is going to catch up... so you might as well get your brain around the new network now, lest tomorrow you wind up on the business end of your own kicking foot:
I always have the same three thoughts every class session: (1) Some of these social media sites are really cool and some creep me out (the "creep me out" thought is occurring less and less as I get more and more comfortable putting my digital self out there); (2) I wish I could use this in my classroom, but I don't have the resources/ certain useful sites are blocked; and (3) I'm glad I'm becoming more aware of this digital world. My sister is an archivist who some time ago, got into social media professionally (as a person who deals with information technology). Because I'm now more linked in to digital social media, we were able to have a conversation (about storing information on "the cloud") that we would never have been able to have before. Beyond the personal gratification of being more aware of the web 2.0, it has turned out to be a really useful way to build my PLN. The other day, I Tweeted (crap, did I use the right term?) a question about how to upload files on to the cloud, and got a response in minutes- so helpful.

The class has also been helpful from a more theoretical perspective. If digital social media is the wave of the future in education, I'm glad I'm becoming aware of it now so I don't drown in it later. Even if I don't stay in education, it's nice to know what education might be like for my kids (assuming that happens some day). Beyond that, I was really hit by the two videos we watched in class in which two guys spoke at conferences about the social and political affects of social media. I guess Twitter and blogging and all that isn't just "kids stuff," although that's how I used to view it. Now if only my students could use it...

We are in a transition period.

And this transition period is not the pinnacle of the social technology era. It's rather the very moment when the map of that era is being laid out for the first time for the generals in the field to examine.

The decisions we make now and the strategies we develop are going to have long-term consequences.

And so, in the context of teacher education, I urge all of my ed school colleagues and ed school students to campaign for the clear inclusion of 'social tech in ed' coursework to become a standard of teacher preparation and -- and this is the big one -- for the use of and modeling of social technology in the classroom to become standard practice in all ed school classrooms regardless of discipline.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Will the Kids Get to Take Part?

So, as I'm continuing my campaign to get students to speak their minds on the mainstage at ISTE 2010's keynote, I've been getting many bits of advice from throughout my PLN.

Scott McLeod pointed me to a post and a great comment discussion from a 2007 piece on his blog. (I cite parts of it herein in fair use with the interest of furthering the discussion).

The initial post was a response to a blog post by Karl Fisch who had been thinking about the recent NECC 2007:
I can’t help but wonder how much more powerful it would be to have students involved in these discussions as well.

I'm publishing the whole of McLeod's response here because I don't want there to be any confusion about what he said; I find it both provocative and of a broader concern as to the role of students and student perception in education:
I've generally been frustrated with student presentations at conferences. Folks trot a few students out, pat them on their heads for being there and sharing their voices, and then go back to doing whatever they were doing beforehand, giving themselves self-congratulations along the way for 'including the students.' I haven't seen many impactful student presentations in the sense that adults take the students SERIOUSLY and maybe actually change their mindset / practice as a result (of course I haven't seen too many adult-delivered presentations that do this either, but the level of condescension isn't the same). So... I like the idea of including student voices very much but would encourage some very creative thinking about how to do that to best effect. I'm sure the Generation Yes folks, among others, would be glad to help...

Before I try to explain my opinion on this whole matter, let me share with you a couple of snippets that struck me from the first few comments related to Scott's post.
Most of the time students present things we've already gathered. Students lack one thing that is all important: The ability of hindsight, or the experience of retrospectivity which may lift a student presentation from the average to the interesting.

Testimonially speaking, I'd rather hear a student talk about what she's liked and disliked about her learning experiences. But analytically? Adults, far more often than kids, have the historical perspective and cognitive skills to talk about education. Generally speaking, I don't think kids have enough perspective to talk about kids. In sum this feels like a tribute to school-change ideals in, kind of ironically, a forum where they don't fit.

In general, you are right. Most student presentations are patronizing and lack substance. I've seen a few exceptions though. The best was one in which ONLY students presented. The teachers accompanying them didn't say a word after the introduction.

And this, from only the fourth of over 30 comments:
It is completely true that most student presentations are patronizing them. It's not fair that we trot them out once in a while, ask them about things they have no knowledge or control over, and then wonder why miracles didn't happen.

Asking a student, "how would you change education" is crazy. They can't change education, and wouldn't know what to do if they could. As Dan commented, they don't have the perspective. In this sense, student showcases are a more real representation of student voice in action, but are often segregated away from the main conference sessions or exhibit halls.

Including student voice MUST be an ongoing process about real issues that impact their lives in real ways. There has to be adults involved in the process long term committed to making it happen.

I can also tell you from personal experience that any session at a conference with students presenting will not draw a large audience, no matter how fabulous it is. People go to conferences for lots of reasons, and I guess one of those reasons is to get away from their everyday job of interacting with students.

I'm not going to wade into the whole debate that followed; for that, click here and go ahead and read the original comments for yourselves. I am always excited to read the varied opinions of educators on matters like these, and this conversation proved to be no downer.

But, in this post, I'd like to offer my own perspective as a teacher often surprised, overwhelmed, and humbled by the things that come from out of the mouths of my students.

I think students have a lot to tell us. And I think we need to hear it. And I think it needs to be put directly front and center before all of us on that keynote stage.

Because we spend so much time assessing and looking at student 'production', and so little time actually talking to them as fellow learners. We need a major format in which collectively to hear directly from the learners and be reminded that we ourselves are in the same boat.

Left to our own devices and cordoned off from the reality of students' lives and perceptions, we really don't do a great job at these conferences.

For example, at NECC 2009, I was stunned to see just how self-congratulatory a bunch of educators could be. So much so, that you'd think our school system was actually working.

In one case, an administrator who has blocked student email in his district was given an award for excellence in ed tech integration.

And in the gratuitous keynote, we had a bestselling author rehash a speech he'd given before to the United Way as his way of telling us how unique we are.

Rather than cover any of the serious problems and conflicts-of-interest present both on stage and on the exhibition floor, much of the mainstream media diligently paraphrased corporate press releases available in the press room.

And for all of the energy going on in several of the ed tech and Web 2.0 sessions, there were just as many lame presentations remodeling 20th century ed speek for the 21st century.

In the two spots where kids did get up on the main stage: in the debate and in the 'Electric Co' number, it felt forced and rigid. The debate became a rather meaningless demonstration of rhetorical flourishes led primarily by ed speakers known for their rhetorical flourishes and the production number came across as a paid advertisement. Not to denigrate the work of the kids on the teams, but it was an obvious case of exactly what McLeod argues is so often the case with these sorts of things, namely:
Thanks, kids... now off the stage.

The only time I really felt a connection with anything actually going on in our classrooms was -- like one of the commentators cited above noted -- in the student-teacher workshop room where the folks who actually live the classroom life talked about and demonstrated what it was they were doing in their buildings.

I think these folks deserve a stage.

The main stage.

As for criticism that previous student-led presentations have been lame -- well, then I guess the challenge is to find students who aren't lame. (I think in a nation of tens of millions of students, we might be able to find a few).

Anyway, really now, you don't want me to start naming names as to which adults gave lame presentations.

To generalize that student presentations are weak and unreflective and incapable of presenting a perspective that teachers can learn from and be engaged and energized by just points towards an arrogance of the sort that so many of us despised back when we were students ourselves.

I'm not suggesting that we put students up on stage to make them feel good.

I'm not suggesting that we put students up on stage to make ourselves feel good.

I'm suggesting that we put students up on stage to hear what they have to say.

I want them to tell us that we suck at certain things.

I want them to tell us about the hypocrisies they see in our classrooms.

I want them to compare the ways they use tech in the classroom to the ways they use it in their cars.

I want them to give their impressions of what tech-savvy teachers are really like.

I want them to define 21st century skills.

I want them to frustrate us and remind us that we as teachers are only part of and not the center of the field of education.

I want them to stand up there without any of us holding their hands and tell it like it is, not as we'd like it to be.

There are plenty of exceptional kids out there. And I'm not talking about kids who 'do well' in school or have obvious artistic or athletic talents. I'm talking about the kids who are exceptional in the sense that they have the confidence to speak their minds, even if they aren't able to do so with precise academic tone and debate-team panache.

I want to see the kids who aren't prepped for the main stage take the main stage.

They might be perfects students. They may be trouble-makers. They may be student leaders. They may be total slackers.

But they are all students.

21st century students.

21st century students who speak their minds.

They're exactly who I'm not hearing from in this whole discussion of the new paradigm.

And they're exactly the ones who deserve to keynote ISTE 2010.

I think McLeod points out the real problem when he says:
I haven't seen many impactful student presentations in the sense that adults take the students SERIOUSLY and maybe actually change their mindset / practice as a result (of course I haven't seen too many adult-delivered presentations that do this either, but the level of condescension isn't the same).

The problem is us.

You, me, and the next guy.

Us and our collective inflated ego.

I'm glad that Scott and many of the folks who left comments on his original blogpost cited problems with student presentations, but expressed a desire to really hear what they had to say. Because the other point-of-view, that is to say the point-of-view that students fundamentally have nothing to say and can't change education -- or anything, for that matter -- is a totally cynical statement. Indeed, if our students can't effect change, then we haven't really educated them.

I want to thank Scott for sending over this discussion from years back. Looks like the discussion continues. I hope that this time, the kids get to take part in a meaningful way.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Twitter Lists: EducationPLN

I'm liking the new List feature on Twitter. Really makes it easy to follow different segments of your Twitter crowd.

I invite all of our TeachPaperless subscribers to join the EducationPLN List; I think it's really going to turn out to be a great resource for prof development, networking, and teacher camaraderie.

Join and Tweet!


ps -- Do note that @TheJLV -- a teacher, Yanks fan from NYC, and member of the list -- is currently live-blogging the MLB World Series... so there are quite a few Tweets describing pop-ups and line drives.

Just don't get yr hopes up thinking our list is all major league baseball all the time ; )

Bring on the Kids

I fully realize that's there's no chance in hell of it actually happening, but I'm still pushing for kids to keynote ISTE 2010.

Russ Goerend Tweeted me this eve with a note that there are a couple other student-led proposals. I say: Right on, let's vote for them, too!

The first is a proposal entitled 'PLN: For Students by Students'. The second is 'Real Voices from Students and Teachers: The Real Impact of 21st Century Learning'.

Either would be fine with me.

When it comes down to it, I just want to see what the kids have to say to us. I find it so frustrating that every time I go to a conference I get talked to by some professional commentator or another.


I want the real thing. I want students to stand up there on stage and give us the low-down.

ISTE is accepting votes through Nov 15. And while there are some noble ideas at the top of the heap -- 'Effective School Leadership for the Digital, Global Era' / 'Trends, Tools and Tactics for 21st Century Learning' / 'Universal Design for Learning' -- the conference-goer in me just finds the topics kinda 'meh'.

Especially given the fact that this crowd-sourced keynote will represent only one of four.

I guess I feel like I've heard the experts. Now, I want to know what's really going on.

Bring on the kids.

My (Current) 19 Favorite Education Blogs

I read a lot of education blogs. And from all corners of the ed spectrum, both in terms of policy and instruction. Here's a list of the folks currently topping my blogroll; these are the ones I make sure to keep abreast of post-by-post.

Subscribe! Enjoy!

1. Andrew B. Watt's Blog: Watt is the Jon Krakauer of the new paradigm in education. He's a writer who sees both the beauty and the danger inherent in our expedition into the digital mountain ranges. He's honest and and critical and he writes about this stuff with a poet's knack for succinct detail. Strongly recommended.

2. Free Technology for Teachers: Byrne publishes a mind-numbing plethora of tools for teachers on a daily basis. Here's a recent -- and representative -- highlight entitled 'Beyond Google'.

3. Moving at the Speed of Creativity: Wes Fryer's work is always a substantive treat. His recent posts from China have been eye opening; especially his recent post concerning proxies and web filtering on the Mainland.

4. Dangerously Irrelevant: One of the standards by which a blog should be measured is the extent to which it galvanizes conversation among its readership. With his merging of singularity theory and ed leadership, McLeod never fails to catalyze discussion.

5. Sustainably Digital: This is a new blog that I've been following ever since reading a great post there on Super Mario and the Scientific Method. Good stuff; will be following this one with much interest.

6. Concrete Classroom: Michael Kaechele never fails to prove that a true teacher is always an artist of learning. Check out his students' recent work with Lego Robots.

7. Open Thinking: Alec Couros' blog is where I go when I'm itching for new ideas. And, we once had a Twitter conversation where somehow we (or at least I) confirmed that the future of education had something to do with Holodecks. How cool.

8. Ideas and Thoughts: Shareski is a generous blogger. His posts, Tweets, ideas, and thoughts have kept me up way too late on way too many nights thinking about the present and the future of education.

9. elearnspace: With Siemens, it's all about the links -- nuggets of information for your perusal and debate. An elegant blog.

10. Digital Education: Where Ash and Manzo demonstrate that mainstream ed journalism ain't all bad.

11. Magistra's Musings: I'm sure I'm not the only educator who really came to realize the power of Twitter through Mahoney's work; and with the wiki she's created to help teachers harness the power of a Twitter network, I doubt I'll be the last.

12. The Fischbowl: Fisch is a legend. Perhaps you knew.

13. SpeEdChange: From the 'constantly challenging your preconceptions' department, Socol is probably my favorite blogger. His recent work on Twitter as Liberation Tool should be required reading in every ed school in this country.

14. Nashworld: Nash is a one-man instructional make-over machine. Check out his 'Four Pillars of Technology Integration'.

15. 21st Century Learning: Nussbaum-Beach is an ed blogger always bringing provocative ideas to the table. Her recent post on Digital Education and the 'Fabric' of Community is one such post -- full of important questions.

16. EducationalInsanity: Somebody, please tell Jon Becker to blog more.

17. The Edublogger: Sue Waters regularly posts on issues specifically related to the concerns of blogging educators. Great information from a great educator.

18. Weblogg-ed: Often stunning posts by Richardson. Definitely a source of frustration in the ed tech community is the fact that we can't force Will to blog several times a day.

19. Design 4 Learning: When a guy who writes a post like this calls you an educational anarchist, you know you're doing something right! [BTW, originally this was a list of '18', but I thought you all needed a little something 'extra' in your lives... enter Dean Groom.]

This list is in no way meant to be inclusive of all that's out there. As I said, there are a bunch of blogs I read that I don't mention here. But as for what's been topping my blogroll recently, this is it.

Please do subscribe to these, and please leave ideas for blogs I should be checking out!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

An EducationPLN Twitter List for You!

I've started an EducationPLN Twitter List and I invite you to join.

Lists are the new thing on Twitter; they give members the opportunity to set up interest-specific networks and I think they are going to prove rather helpful as we move forward in demonstrating the value of social networks to our admins and policy makers.

So join in, and welcome in advance!

(Note: these lists are still in beta form, so if you have any problem adding yourself to my list, please let me know and I'll add you).