Archive for the “Education” Category

Look into our school through the lens that we believe in…

As you walk to the Science Leadership Academy from the Educon conference hotels, you walk past this school.  And it’s right there in the window, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll stop and read the hanging sign in the window, posted for everyone to see.

The school on the way to SLA is the Russell Byers Charter School.  What is in the window is a sign that makes clear the “design principles” of the school, written from the perspective of student expectations.  There are ten statements, printed on a transparent piece of plexiglas, which in itself sends a message.

Here they are:

I make choices that help me learn and do my best work.
I am aware of the needs of others and do great things for them.
I learn about myself and all that I can do by trying new things.
I think of new ideas and share them with others.
I think about people’s feelings and help take care of others.
I learn from my mistakes and build on the things that I do well.
I work with others to learn and complete a task.  I push myself to do my personal best and keep improving.
I learn about and respect different people and include everyone.
I care for and learn from nature.
I take time by myself to think about what I have learned.

There is much commentary in various online venues about school change, and the need for it.  I certainly don’t dispute that need, but I wonder how many schools have taken the steps to deeply consider and identify their core beliefs together.  Understanding what everyone is working towards is what change should be about.

How many schools have clearly identified those beliefs, and made those visible in the way Russell Byers has?  Because it does send a message that this is what we believe in, what we want our students to be, what our learning experiences are grounded by, what we measure success by…

Of course, what Russell Byers has communicated here is a vision, or what my friend Adam Paikai calls a “future preferred state.”  That doesn’t necessarily identify an endpoint because I doubt that there are any endpoints in education, but the statements above clearly communicate what the school wants its culture and climate to be.

If the expectation is that schools must change, where is the place that change will take schools?  Has your school identified that place?  A set of beliefs like the Byers school has composed make clear where that place is, and is a first step towards a common understanding of what is valued, and where and what everyone is working towards. You can’t change schools unless you have that.

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It’s easy to bash presentations.  It’s also easy to bash presentation styles.

Included in this process is always the obligatory derogatory comments directed at PowerPoint.  Standard stuff.

Of course, much of this consternation towards presentations originates with having to sit through some really bad presentations where the presenters are just awful and have no clue how to communicate and engage an audience.  We’ve all been there.

It’s also easy to bash the lecture because everything now needs to be collaborative, on a wiki, shared in a Google Doc, or done together in a backchannel.  But I’ve attended some phenomenal lectures, where the lecturer/presenter just had tremendous ideas.  Mimi Ito and Connie Yowell come to mind, where for an hour I sat and wrote and wrote and wrote, trying to capture every profound thought.  My engagement was with the ideas, and singular.  Me.  Processing.  No one else.  Just a stream of ideas, balanced against my beliefs, with individual processing and plenty of time for collaborative discussion later.  But for an hour-me, the presenter, and ideas…

Most might look at the room and what was taking place with a presenter talking and people listening and characterize that as a passive learning experience for the participants.  But passive?  Only if you wanted it to be.  It certainly wasn’t that for me-it was very active.

And the presenters used slides.  With text.

So I was intrigued by this blog post by John Pederson, who quotes (I think it’s a quote) Heather Gold who proposes something called tummeling.

Basically, a tummler is hired to entertain and make sure everyone had a good time.  Sounds really can watch her explain it here.  Be sure to also examine her comparison between presentation and conversation, which is interesting, if not outright wrong.

It’s easy to dismiss bullet points.  I don’t think they work especially well and a presentation filled with slides of endless bullet points can be absolutely disastrous for a presenter, not to mention the audience.

But let’s not dismiss text.  Text and bullet points are two different things.

And we certainly shouldn’t dismiss slides, because slides can carry a very critical element of a presentation.


In any presentation, you are selling ideas. As Seth Godin says: “Communication is the transfer of emotion.”

And that emotion is communicated through two channels:  the presenter and through the visual content of the slides, and processed by the 3.5 pound (1.58 kg) processor inside your head, all in an effort to make meaning.

The choice not to use slides, and not to use the capacity of those slides to carry images that communicate visually, represents a shallow understanding of human communication.  As the speaker in the video indicated, effective communication is supported by an “emotional substrate.”  Yes, that can mean face to face emotion crafted by the presenter..  However, it should also mean carefully selected visuals that enhance the emotion channel of the presentation.  Ignoring visuals, or failing to include visuals, means you just ignored or failed to include a very powerful communicative element-an element that might just make all the difference.

To extend your thinking a bit, if you haven’t seen Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Learning, you should.  His book is based on “seven researched based principles for the design of multimedia messages” that we should all learn and apply to presentation design.  Here are four that I think are most relevant to this post:

1.  Multimedia Principle:  Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

2.  Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3. Temporal Contiguity Principle:  Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4.  Individual Differences Principle:  Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners and for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.

Basically, images and text are critical to learning, and especially more so for low-ability learners when the media design is appropriate.

Let’s not forget that presenting is communication.  Let’s not forget that presenting has its place.

And there are numerous ways to present ideas, ranging from Twitter to blogging to sitting on a stool, telling a story.  You can even…ah…tummel.  However, presenting to a small or large audience alike requires, skill, effort, and knowledge as well as an understanding of human communication.  It’s in vogue to consider new ways to communicate, new ways to engage an audience, its vogue to present using a test-based wiki for example.

But having an audience walk away with being energized, being challenged to think, being moved by a message communicated through appropriate media, and with the ability to process additional insights that can lead to actionable next steps that they didn’t have an hour ago is also pretty damn good…

Mayer, Richard. Multimedia Learning. 9th ed. New York, New York.  Cambridge University Presss, 2007. 184. Print.

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If you read the blogs of educators, you can’t miss them.

They’re displayed proudly, so you can’t miss them.

For the individual displaying them, they represent accomplishment, a very visible digital signpost that says: stop and look, I am a qualified educator, a connected educator, someone to be taken seriously.

Back in 1996, I was awarded a fellowship by Genentech, Inc. to their Access Excellence program. The company, over a three year period, selected 100 educators from across the United States, and flew them to San Francisco for a week to learn, to connect, and form one of the first online educator communities. It was a good program; I got a free laptop (albeit a Macintosh), learned some things, and met some great people. What did I have to do to gain admission into this community? The answer: write a really good lesson plan.

The program lacked one thing. A badge for me to display my accomplishment.

There are numerous programs in place now for educators, similar to the one I was part of. You apply, submit some credentials, a video perhaps, and the great race for inclusion takes place.

If you are fortunate to become part of the experience, you often have the opportunity to participate in events and exclusive ones at that. You might get to go to a day-long program or perhaps a special event at a conference, get some bad hotel chicken wings and a few beers, and get to talk and mingle with your hosts, and your fellow program colleagues. You might even get to go on a cruise.

And you get the badge.

I’m talking about the digital icons of programs that are sponsored by commercial companies that provide experiences like I have described above. Badges that can be displayed on blogs, or other digital spaces, that signify the inclusion and participation of the individual displaying the badge in the program that the badge represents.

These companies are smart. They recognize that teachers are generally not recognized for their efforts, either by their own organizations or the communities they serve. They recognize that teachers are generally not recognized for their efforts; efforts that range from the mundane and necessary to those that are above and beyond, and are heroic. The companies recognize that the thirst for this recognition can be quenched with a program that provides that recognition.

And the participants also get a badge.

I generally think that these programs are good. Not as good as most of the participants think they are, not as good as their tweets say, but for the most part the programs are ok. They don’t do much to change education as a whole, but that’s not really the point, is it?

The thing that bothers me about these programs is the badge you get to display. The have-have not mentality that they promote….and perhaps the false sense of accomplishment that goes along with their display.

A serious question. How much of an accomplishment is it to be a part of these programs? How much better was I than the next biology teacher just because I wrote a more creative lesson plan? They didn’t see me teach. They didn’t ask my kids about me. They didn’t look at a portfolio of accumulated work over many years, they looked at a single lesson plan. Yet I was an Access Excellence Fellow-something to be proud of, but something to examine critically, and take it for what it was worth.

So, if you are a member of these programs, be proud of your accomplishment, but get rid of the badge. Revel in the good things you do every single day for kids. Be proud of that. You don’t need a badge for that; you only need to be recognized by the smiles on your kids’ faces, and on the faces of their parents for a job well done. Ultimately, a career, and a lifetime in the service of others will not be measured by an accumulation of badges, but by those that you have served over those years, and their accomplishments.

So be part of the program but get rid of the badge, it sends a bad message. It doesn’t represent who or what you really are.

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I graduated high school in 1977. The English classrooms I see in 2009 are almost identical to the English classrooms I experienced in 1977. I started teaching biology in 1986 and my biology classroom then looks exactly like most biology classrooms do today. Don’t get me wrong- a great deal of outstanding teaching and learning can, and does, take place in such spaces.

Will I be able to say the same thing 20 years from now? Will the English and Biology classrooms of 2029 look exactly like the same classrooms from 2009?

It is my personal belief that they will, and that the notion of what a learning space looks like will not fundamentally change in mainstream K-12 education over that same time period. It is also my belief that the concept of learning space is one of the most neglected concepts of school design. Unlike some, I spend each and every day actually in a school, and I see teaching and learning jammed into a one-size-fits-all space that has the potential to constrict learning.

So I’m interested in something more. Something different, something better. Some might say I’m passionate about learning space, some may say obsessed. So, here is a quote that I posed the other day on Twitter, from Ryan Bretag:

“What are the dimensions of a learning space?”

If I were to ask you to identify a single word that describes a place for learning, you would probably say “classroom.” And that’s a great place to start, but unfortunately, that’s as far as most schools go. So when I think dimensions, I think of all possible spaces for learning, and all the types of learning that could potentially take place in those spaces. I use dimension in that context. To that end, in the school I work in, I’ll be focusing my passion for developing learning spaces on:

Flexible spaces that can be reconfigured to meet the need of the learners. One size fits all needs to go away. (Our library renovation will include a laptop lab with furniture that can be rearranged to align space with learning needs).

Non-traditional spaces, such as commons areas, where students can take advantage of their electronic devices and our open wireless network. (Our hallways, our Student Activities Center, our cafeterias can now have an additional dimension to what is available to learn with.)

Private student spaces where collaboration can occur, spaces for quiet reflection and collaboration. (Our library will contain two glass-enclosed conference rooms for students, complete with whiteboard wallpaper where kids can use the walls to diagram their ideas, their learning, and their passions.

Large open spaces in our library where kids and teachers can push and pull different resources to design their own space, given the immediate need. (Information commons, knowledge commons, what does a library in 2009 and beyond look like? Oh yes, it will still have….books.

Digital spaces where teachers can work, where students can interact, that support the physical space and extend it, to help students master the complex skills of connecting, creating, and learning in a digital context. (Our multidimensional learning space, with Moodle and Google Apps, and the focus on an entire digital school community, will provide students with support for a different type of learning experience).

Opportunities for the support of informal learning, that enable students to pursue their interests, their own learning, but within the context of the traditional learning space, i.e. schools and supported by adults. (Why limit learning? How can educators become mentors outside of the classroom context to help students explore their passions?)

So that’s why I’m passionate about learning space. And I don’t care if any or all of it has been done before, because it hasn’t been done enough….

Of course, this is all in support of a very successful and diverse school with multiple types of programs, services and opportunities for kids, a committed faculty and staff, excellent administrators and a supportive community-we’re very lucky. And we still have a wood shop, an automotive program, and we still offer film photography. Sort of old school, but old school can be good.

I’m not the only one interested in this of course. Consider the 2010 American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting in Denver. Their conference theme is Understanding Complex Ecologies in a Changing World and they have a list of suggestions for presentations, which include:

  • How educational settings—formal and informal—can be designed to address the interrelated cognitive, social, and emotional demands of learning;
  • How learning occurs within and across time and space in complex dynamic systems;
  • How alternative organizational spaces for education, such as for-profit schools, colleges, firms, community organizations, and museums interact with schooling in recruiting and expanding repertoires for learning.


If you are looking for an outstanding resource to get started, look no further than Educause’s excellent set of essays, appropriately entitled “Learning Spaces.”

Yeah, we will always have classrooms. I get it. But I would encourage you to think bigger, think beyond that typical space to take advantage of every opportunity for learning, and that includes a consideration of how space can impact learning, and what kinds of learning can take place in those spaces. I think that consideration is something that we dismiss too easily, it’s too much of an assumption that we don’t seriously reflect upon.

“Space can have a powerful impact on learning; we cannot overlook space in our attempts to accomplish goals” (Chism, 2006)

Chism, N. V. (2006). Educause. Retrieved July 8, 2009, from Learning Spaces:

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As more social technologies and processes enter the classroom, new questions arise about how these tools/processes serve teaching and learning. As many of you know, many of these tools have the potential to create dynamic learning environments where students interact with each other in new ways and with information and content in new ways. It’s my belief that we must have some very honest conversations about our perceptions regarding this interaction, especially in regards to our belief about academic integrity (a term I favor over academic dishonesty).

Take social bookmarking for instance. Suppose you are a biology teacher who has asked students to research a variety of topics in life science-for example, stem cell research. Let’s suppose three students have chosen this topic and are working on answering an essential question regarding the ethical considerations of this type of biological research and are doing so independently. Let’s also say that each has an account at a social bookmarking site like (yeah, I still like typing the periods) and has tagged a variety of resources about stem cell research. Each is aware of each other sites but no formal collaborative effort is required by the teacher (that’s another post). Student A knowingly goes to Student B and C’s site, examines the tag for stemcellresearch, finds some new resources, and tags them into their account at

Appropriate? Or a violation of academic integrity?

I think you would be absolutely amazed at the responses you would get from a group of teachers. Many would consider this cheating and would equate the process to a situation where one student had photocopied several research articles, left them on a table, and then another student came along and took them.

Today’s “cheating” is tomorrow’s collaboration.

Anyone with a account knows that calling the actions of the above student inappropriate is absolute nonsense and that the ability to reach into another account to see resources is part of the game.

It’s. Called. A. Network. And it’s called social bookmarking for a reason, isn’t it?

Of course, this arises because most teachers do not have such an account and do not understand how participation in a social network can be leveraged to improve what one can do. But this lack of understanding is very real, and represents challenges to daily instruction, as well as policy regarding technology and teaching and learning.

If you haven’t had that discussion, I urge you to try it.

Here is another scenario. Suppose a student subscribes to the tag stemcellresearch in This means that you will receive every resource tagged worldwide by all users. Let’s say Student A does this, goes into the subscription area of, and examines the resources, and tags several into their account. Would you consider this to be part of a research process? Again, I think you would be surprised. Many will say they want students to find the information themselves….

Many have not yet considered that information flow is in two directions. You can find it, and it can find you. In my classroom, this process would be taught, encouraged, expected, and evaluated as part of a student’s ability to ask a question of importance to them, and to be able to develop a response.

For some, such a process is completely out of the question. It’s not how we’ve done things.

The two scenarios above relate only to social bookmarking and as a result, consider only one component of a complex social system for information sharing and learning. We still have a long way to go before we understand, and negotiate systemically, what these collaborative sharing environments mean to student learning.

No wonder these tools, and the environments they create, are labeled disruptive.

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How innovative are you?

Like the concept of best practice, defining what constitutes innovation is probably a relative term and a moving target at best. What is innovative for one teacher might not necessarily be considered so innovative for another. I’m not so sure that there is a clear line in the sand where something, some practice, some technique, or someone, becomes labeled as innovative. I think you know innovation when you see it.

If you are a teacher, you probably know the teachers in your building who are considered to be the true innovators. They’re fairly easy to recognize. You might admire these people, and at the same time, you might resent them. If you’re an administrator, you’re probably not so sure about these teachers either-in some cases these individuals might be viewed as a nuisance or worse yet-as a potential threat. These individuals are constantly pushing the envelope, and are probably the source of the next volley of policy writing, agenda items at faculty meetings, notes to “see me in my office” or worse yet, calls home to parents. Others may see these teachers as incredibly valuable-they can point to these teachers as examples of innovation in their buildings and models for their peers.

In 2009, pockets of innovation aren’t enough.

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to travel to quite a few conferences across the United States, and some in Canada, Europe and most recently China. I’ve had the opportunity to surround myself with people that are truly innovative and I’m better for it. You can see them in the school I work in, you see others writing about their ideas in blogs, you see them at conferences, those that step out on the edge and test themselves, push themselves in new directions. Sometimes they fail, but most often they succeed, however failure itself is seen as a success, and an adventure in the direction of learning, which in itself, is reward enough for these individuals.

In my opinion, too many schools are satisfied with having pockets of innovation.

Here’s a sincere question: does your school equate being innovative with being excellent? If you do, rethink that and rethink it quickly. They’re not the same, and one doesn’t guarantee the other.

Of course, the easiest way to be “innovative” is to jump feet first into the waters of Web 2.0. Be the first to use a wiki, be the first to podcast, be the first to blog, be the first to say one of my kids got a comment from Argentina, and that’s great faculty lunch room fodder. But it just doesn’t mean much…sorry, it just doesn’t. There are much more important things at stake.

You can also be a seen as an innovator among your professional peers, and this of course is a very nice type of recognition. It can be very gratifying. Simply join Twitter to find out how much.

I’m not interested in being satisfied with pockets of innovation. Yes, they can be recognized, which for many schools, is the end point and the final rest stop of innovation. There can certainly be more however, with those same pockets analyzed for what works and why, amplified to increase their visibility and importance, and systematized to make a difference for all.

I’m interested in the systemic application of technology to teaching and learning. I’m interested in an equitable experience for all students. I’m not satisfied with some kids getting a rich experience in technology; I’d like all kids in a school to interact with the technologies that support the instructional techniques that lead to increased student achievement.

If you are an innovator, then you perhaps can be a leader in the change process that enlarges innovation, and that indeed, can potentially be considered a component of what constitutes excellence. If you’re not on board with a leadership role, then follow but follow well. And if you won’t follow with the best of intentions, stop reading this and grab your ditto master. There’s duplicating to be done.

When it’s all said and done, this is a leadership issue, pure and simple-just like everything else in schools.

The recent release of the CoSN Report, Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise & Reality has eight major findings, and focuses the viewpoints of leadership. Does Finding 7 surprise you?

“While there was broad agreement that Web 2.0 applications hold educational value, the use of these tools in American classrooms remains the province of individual pioneering classrooms.” (p.11)

and, Finding 8, which is troubling, but probably has been true for a long period of time regarding technology, not just Web 2.0:

“Web 2.0 is outpacing K-12 education’s current capacity to innovate.” (p 11)

And then, Finding 9:

“District administrators, the persons responsible for decision making on Web 2.0 in schools, are more passive than active users in the Web 2.0 space. (p 12).

Changing Finding 7 and Finding 8 begins with changing Finding 9….

“Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise & Reality.” CoSN. 05/01/2009. Consortium for School Networking. 6 May 2009 <>

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How difficult is all of this? 

In diving, there is something called a reverse one and a half somersaults with three and a half twists, in something called the free position.  Me, I’d just do a cannonball. Not a pretty image, I know.

When you go into a high end coffee shop, people can order a Grande White Mocha Frappuccino.  Me, I order a black coffee.  Large.  Not Grande.  Just large, like me, thank you very much.

Ok, so what I’m wondering about is the complexity, and perhaps the unnecessary complexity, of all this Web 2.0 stuff and what it means for schools.  Add in the discussion on skills versus literacy versus fluency, personal learning networks, and the changing landscape of classroom instruction and what is now possible, and for the most part, it’s simply overwhelming.  I’m not discounting the importance of all of this of course, just wondering if we make it all too complex.  But it sure is fun to talk about it, isn’t it.

For those of you deeply embedded in connective technologies, do you think, given the context of the typical school and the “typical” classroom teacher, that part of the resistance to all of this is the “entrance energy” required to take part and become a participant in what appears to be a very fast-paced, rapidly changing, and complex, teaching and learning environment?   After all, there is only so much energy…and for those of us working in schools, we know that these new discussions and the new capacities that ultimately may arise from them, are a small part, and in some cases, a very small part, of the overall job of running a school.

Let’s take a step backward.  Take teaching for instance.  What really is the secret of being a good, effective teacher?  Is this a complex question?  Basically, in my opinion, it’s actually pretty simple:  be prepared, be enthusiastic, be honest, be fair, and get involved in their lives.  Nothing top secret here, but generally if you fit that bill, you’re probably are a pretty good teacher.  Not that complex at all.

But we’ve got 21st Century Skills, NCTE’s Definition of the 21st Century Literacies, the National Council for the Social Studies Statement on Media Literacy, NETS-T, NETS-A, NETS-S, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation’s 2020 Forecast on Learning, PEW Surveys, great stuff from Educause, School 2.0, blog posts, new discussion forums, podcasts on impending revolutions, and of course, the never –ending flow of information in Twitter.  A lot of this is absolutely great stuff, and important stuff. UPDATE:  Be sure to read Ryan Bretag’s excellent post “What is Your Department Discussing and Doing” to see additional perspectives from a variety of groups (ACOT, NCTM, NSTA)  not mentioned in my post.

 But just where do you look first?

So, consider this question.  Is this really that hard?  Do you really need to consider all the pieces above?  Or, is it a more simple set of considerations, and are we smart enough already?  What skills do you want kids to exhibit?  What technology tools can serve the learning processes that help build those skills, and extendthe learning experience to a new place, as a result of the technology being included?  How do we structure the lesson, or lessons, so that these skills can be developed?  How do we assess it so that we know what we set out to do?  And how do we make it all replicable?

It’s time to simplify.  This is not that hard. 

Just order the black coffee.

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Over the next several days, I’ll be writing about different issues that can be viewed through different lenses, and as a result, create different perspectives among educators. Many of these issues are also climate and culture issues, so I’m very interested in where you stand personally, as well as where your school district stands. I’m planning on identifying the endpoints of the spectrum and I’ll ask you to weigh in on where you are at across that gradient. And if you believe that there are different endpoints to the spectrum of positions, please let me know that as well.

The first post in this series is an important one, and addresses a serious fundamental question that I believe schools must revisit, or in some cases, visit. I’ve included this topic in recent presentations, and it always creates a great deal of conversation.

As educators, we are inundated with phrases such as “21st Century literacies” and what does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century. At the same time, other groups advocate for 21st Century Skills. There is certainly a difference between literacy and skill, and how we define the relationship between the two in our schools defines how we approach teaching and learning.

So, what do you believe? Are there new literacies, 21st Century literacies, that are afforded by the new connective technologies at our disposal? Or, is literacy simply literacy, and a timeless concept? Where do your beliefs fit within that spectrum, skills to literacy?

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When I taught ecology, my students studied the concept of “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which was popularized by an ecologist by the name of Garrett Hardin.

Basically, it’s about the exploitation of a commonly shared resource. When all who share the resource play by the rules and share equally all benefit, while the resource generally remains intact and capable of sustaining future use. However, given human nature, a single member (or more) may eventually consume more of his/her share of the resource, prompting all to be more aggressive and utilize more, in an escalating pattern of consumption. Gradually, through this process the resource, or “The Commons,” is destroyed.

So, I’ve been struggling with this for awhile, but I can see parallels between this concept and what I believe is an exploitation of the new digital commons-I’m talking Twitter here.

At its best, Twitter is a place to share a resource, a link to a new blog post, or an insight, and even a place to have a little fun. It’s a place that could be about learning. At its very worst, Twitter is a self-indulgent exercise in self-promotion and pettiness.

Right now, I think we are watching Twitter change right before our digital eyes. Be the first with the tool (Diigo, for example), be the first with a post, be the first with the wiki, be the first to uStream, stake your claim in a never-ending game of name building and recognition. Take advantage of the commons, go ahead. But where will that eventually lead to?

In my opinion, Twitter really has also changed how some people interact, and not in a positive way. When did the defacto standard greeting at a conference become “Hi, I follow you on Twitter.” How about “Good Morning?” Then, “But you don’t follow me.” Gee, sorry, not my responsibility…


When did getting called out for not following someone become something you did? When did sending an email to someone who doesn’t follow you, and you want to know why, become something you did? How absolutely ridiculous! Get over it. Do you want it that bad-is it really that important? Seriously!

What about connecting to share ideas in the service of learning?

When did it become about becoming noticed, when did it become about taking your rightful place in the line of technology “experts.” When did it become about “cocktail parties” and “inner circles?” And since I’m thinking about it, I’m wondering if the people promoting the idea of ridiculous idea of a cocktail party or inner circle would be the first wanting to join if such a thing actually existed?


What happened?

Take Educon 2.0. It’s Friday and if you were there, you had the opportunity to visit the kids and teachers of the Science Leadership Academy. However, most stayed in the library bantering about Twitter and finally meeting those people in real life that had become some important in their digital one. What a missed opportunity to observe a truly unique school.

So here comes NECC, with the Blogger Café and EdubloggerCon. I can only imagine what a scrum for attention those could potentially turn into. But EdubloggerCon provides the opportunity for those who have blogged and twittered for a year to step up-let’s hear what you have to say face to face. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to earn it-really earn it?

The more I think about all this Twitter nonsense, the more I think about fundamentals. Writing. Commenting. Reading in your aggregator. Putting links into and supporting that network. Reading research. Reading outside of the ecochamber. Reflecting, questioning, getting uncomfortable—and then perhaps challenging the assumptions of your foundation. Personal growth. How can I grow and change as an educator? What can I do better to help kids learn?

And then put it into practice. What worked, what didn’t.

Put that into Twitter.

Twitter has diverted many from what is important, what should be the true goal. And that’s the real tragedy…

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When I was at CUE, I had the opportunity to see Vince Cerf do the opening keynote presentation. He gave a very interesting keynote, and one thing really stuck with me, and it was about what constituted a contribution in a networked environment.

Mr. Cerf suggested that we would never publish a single word as a book, as a journal article, or magazine article. He continued by saying that in a Web 2.0 world that included Wikipedia, you could and would publish a single word, and most importantly, it could be a significant contribution.

So, last night in Dean Shareski’s uStream session, many of us had a very interesting discussion about online contribution, and levels of contribution. Clarence Fisher was the guest and he was talking about his ideas relative to the classroom as a studio as well as what it meant to improve information. Some interesting ideas from the chat:

Jeff Utecht: How would you assess a student who changed a single word?
Ryan Bretag: Think about contributing one word from a poetry standpoint, how critical is one word? Writing in a hypertext society makes that one world critical.
EdtechVision: (paraphrasing here). How would peer assessment enter into this?

Personally, I think you can begin by taking a look at Darren Kuropatwa’s framework for his classroom wiki, where he defines what a significant contribution is and what a constructive modification means.

Back in the chat, after much discussion, a single question was distilled:

How do you assess contribution in a networked classroom?

Ok, so what does it look like? What’s new, what’s different, what’s the same? Your ideas?

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