What Walls Need Tearing Down?


Michael Bugeja’s opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Reduce the Technology, Rescue Your Job,” struck a nerve today.  He started by noting that for “most of this decade, professors embraced the pedagogy of engagement, wooing students via technology and ignoring the costs because traditional methods, from textbooks to lectures, purportedly bored students who multitasked in the wireless classroom.”  He then noted the massive cuts occurring across higher education, and suggested that these “facts alone merit an immediate technological and curricular assessment, or else hundreds more professors and staff members could lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months. You may lose your job.”

Bugeja raised the valid point that too often technology decisions are made without factoring in true costs, but he then suggests that teaching centers (like the one at which I work) are part of the problem for pushing the use of technology for teaching and learning.  His final paragraph reads:

  • “I challenge anyone objecting to these arguments to look in the eye of secretaries, janitors, adjuncts, advisers, and professors of eliminated programs and say that avatars, clickers, social networks, and tweets—and the pedagogies, IT expenses, and teaching centers supporting them—are more important than feeding their families. To believe we can afford both indicates how incapable many of us are of making the difficult choices that the times require.”

It would be easy to dismiss this article if I did not think that his way of thinking was not reflective of many in mainstream faculty.  I have seen a number of faculty in higher education, as well as teachers in K-12, who see technology as an evil.  In many ways, they want to wall off their classes from the outside world.

That image of a wall is particularly relevant today, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  President Reagan has always been one of my favorites, and one cannot think of him without hearing his exhortation:

“Mr. Gorbachev…tear down this wall!”

That is the line most remember, but I like his comments later in the same speech, in which he stated “this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

Bugeja’s comments to reduce technology in order to save jobs ignores the realities of a changing world…much as the Berlin Wall did.  Technology in and of itself is not evil, and technology integrated into education is opening minds, not closing them.  The participatory web and open access to information has created freedoms that never existed in the past.  Those freedoms directly and positively impact learning.  As Derek Bruff noted in a comment to Bugeja’s piece:

“…point out that Bugeja has focused here on the cost of instructional technology, but not on the benefits to student learning. There’s plenty of research that shows that student learning is positively affected by instructional methods that involve more active student engagement before, during, and after class. Technologies that support or facilitate such instructional methods are certainly worth exploring, if our goal is student learning. When conducting a cost-benefit analysis, it’s only appropriate to spend as much time thinking through the benefits as it is thinking through the costs.”

“…if our goal is student learning…”  Well said, Derek!  If one shifts the microscope from technology to student learning, one might find many traditional classrooms in trouble!  President Reagan made his speech in 1987, and during that same period, Chickering and Gamson developed a seminal work on teaching and learning, their Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Instruction.  They synthesized fifty years of research on teaching to develop these principles:

Good practice in undergraduate education:
1. Encourages contact between students and faculty
2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
3. Encourages active learning.
4. Gives prompt feedback.
5. Emphasizes time on task.
6. Communicates high expectations.
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Rather than cast technology as an evil, I would suggest that technology is a powerful tool that encourages contact between students and faculty, provides avenues for reciprocity and cooperation among students, creates new venues for active learning, enables more timely and prompt feedback, and gives new opportunities to keep students on task.  High expectations can now be communicated in multiple ways across social media that students are using, and these diverse and multiple paths respect the talents and new ways our students are learning.

We certainly need to be fiscally prudent with taxpayer and tuition-funded monies, but now is not the time to build walls and isolate our students from a 24/7 wired world.  Instead, we need to actively help our students create the learning networks that they will need to thrive in the 21st Century.

So to Mr. Bugeja and others who agree with him, I say “Tear down this wall!”

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Individual Assessment in a Collaborative World

I had the good fortune last Tuesday to participate in a podcast with Kathyrn Murphy-Judy, professor of French in the School of World Studies here at VCU.  Facilitated by Jeff Nugent and joined by Bud Deihl, we spent nearly an hour discussing the uses of social media in our classes.  As Jeff set the stage, he noted that as faculty continue to explore ways to take advantage of the learning opportunities afforded by the participatory web, they face new challenges about how to assess student learning in a context that values collaboration and shared knowledge building.  After all, we want students to collaborate and build knowledge together, but at the end of the day or course, each student must be assigned a grade.

As always, I learned a lot listening to Kathyrn and bouncing ideas off my two colleagues here in the Center for Teaching Excellence.  Have a listen – I would be interested in your thoughts and feedback!

{Photo Credit: JustABigGeek}

Timesharing Dogs

We had a fruitful faculty brown bag lunch conversation today.  The topic was Building Connections and Communities through the Web.  Ten folks present locally, and since Jeff Nugent was using UStream, another crowd actively joined via the internet.

I used these slides to guide the conversation:

My framing questions revolved around (1) “What is a community?”, (2) “Does building community enhance student learning?’, and (3) “What web tools can now be used to build connections and community?”.  I used three vignettes to illustrate my thoughts on social media and connections.  First, my many connections with Gabriela Grosseck through College 2.0, delicious, Google Reader, our blogs, Slideshare, and Facebook, all of which have informed my own teaching and learning.  Second, the viral reach of Slideshare for one of my presentations from last year.  And finally, a Twitter shoutout by Will Richardson earlier this week and the resultant comments tweeted by others.  These all illustrated connections, but I asked the participants to reflect on how one gets from connections to community (and the image below evolved out of a sketch Jeff made on the back of a notepad):

One participant said that social media to her was like visiting the SPCA.  She could not go in and choose one dog.  All dogs were lovable, all dogs needed to be adopted, and she would leave crying and unfulfilled.  When I suggested that maybe she needed to just rent a dog this week and a different dog next week, she said, that would be like timesharing dogs – an unworkable solution!

The conversation that resulted was rich and nuanced.  It flowed from professional versus personal digital identities, issues of privacy, student misunderstandings on their own digital identity, and time management regarding the tools.  Jeff made an excellent point of differentiating users of social media between broadcasters and instructional.  Broadcasters have to be present in multiple applications and visibly engaged in multiple applications.  Instructional uses suggest more nuanced approaches with clear boundaries.  Bud Deihl illustrated how “conversations” could start in one application and spill over into other applications, such as his networking with his fellow graduate students through LinkedIn.

There was some concern about how we as educators advise our younger students when we are just trying to figure out the – as Michael Wesch calls it – mediascape ourselves.  Conversations like we had today are one way – and commenting via blogs is another.  I would be interested in the thoughts of my readers on how you visualize using the Read/Write web to build connections and community, both professionally for yourself and instructionally for your students.

Of course, one benefit from today’s session was that I did pick up several new “friends” in Facebook!  🙂

ps – One unrelated and yet relevant event today.  I posted the above powerpoint in Slideshare last night so that I could embed it in our wiki and here in this blog.  Overnight, I got an email from Slideshare noting that the editorial team had selected it to be showcased on their Education page.  I also got tweeted by Gabriela saying that she had seen it there,  Another example of connections and community.

Communities and Tools

A week from tomorrow, I am scheduled to lead a Brown Bag lunch session on “Building Community and Connections Through the Web.”

Bud Deihl and I were brainstorming this session (and he earlier also blogged about it).  As we talked, we realized that “community” is very nuanced.  The following slide emerged from our white board doodling:

So that got me wondering.  I belong to many communities.  Some of those communities overlap and others do not.  I use different tools with different communities.  In discussing the tools and their use to build connections, I thought I would tap into my blogging community to see how you would list tools matrixed with communities?  Does one tool suffice?  Do conversations in one tool spill over into other tools?  Are certain tools optimized for certain communities?

Some obvious tools that could be discussed as part of building community and connections include:

  • Twitter
  • Yammer
  • Blogs
  • Delicious / Diigo
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Apps (Reader / Docs / Sites)
  • Ning
  • Wikis
  • Netvibes
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Slideshare
  • Jott

What am I overlooking?  Be interested in your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Dietmar Offenhuber, Judith Donath, MIT Sociable Media Group

Email is For Old People

Yesterday, Jeff Nugent and I had the opportunity to present at the 2008 Virginia School Board Association annual convention.  We had around 40 people attend our session entitled “Email Is For Old People.”  Two were school administrators and the rest were all school board members from around the state.

These were our presentations slides:

The final slide had embedded this video:

As one can see from the presentation, we asked a series of questions around communication:

1.  Who had sent a hand written letter recently?

Around 20% had done so in the past week – two-thirds had in the last year.

2.  Emails?

Everyone used email.

3.  Instant messages?

About 60% did not IM – we did have a couple of power users.

4.  Text messages on cellphones?

Again, about 60% did not text, a couple of heavy text users.  (…and some misunderstanding of the differences between IM and SMS)

5.  Updates to Facebook or MySpace?

Around 80% did not have social network accounts.

We then had them all stand up and slowly revealed a slide with 18 different web application logos on it.  We asked them to remain standing if they recognized and used at least 3 – and all remained standing.  We then asked about five, and half the room sat down.  As we progressed through 7, 9, and 12, we still had two people standing.  Jeff then revealed the dates at which each of these applications went live, and noted that – given the short lifespan of these applications – the notion that K-12 students are digital natives and we are immigrants is a bit of a leap.  We are all trying to figure out the uses at the same time.  What is different is that the kids are less fearful of attempting apps – and they tend to look to them for socialization and entertainment, not learning.  Jeff suggested that it is the role of skilled teachers to lead them through this web world, just as skilled teachers have always led.

I then gave a quick tour through six families of applications – emphasizing not the tool but the practices associated with the tools (communication, connections, shared knowledge creation, etc.).  Our handout wiki has more details on each:

–  Blogs


Social Bookmarking


– Social Networks like MySpace, Facebook and Ning

Picture and Video Sharing websites

The attendees were interested in our message and acknowledged their lack of background in this area.  One went so far as to basically say – Tell me how I should vote when questions about the use of the internet come up in school board meetings! It was evident to me that K-12 student use of the internet remains an area of fear, and I am not sure we successfully demystified it for them.  They recognized that Jeff and I were advocates and they wanted more info on the downsides.  One member noted a case at his school where a student had emailed in a Columbine warning hoax which shut the school down.  I countered that kids had been doing that for generations – in my day it was notes in the bathrooms instead of electronic notes.  We tried to suggest that the tool (the web) was not the issue – the issue was the practice…as it has always been.

We closed our presentation with the above video A Vision of K-12 Student Today by B. J. Nesbitt, IT Coordinator for Pickens County, South Carolina.  His younger take of the Michael Wesch video certainly sent a powerful message to these school board members.

Now one wonders, will the seeds we planted yesterday have any impact?  Time will tell.

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Students and Laptops in the Classroom

Laptops to many university students today are the equivalent of the spiral notebooks of my generation – a necessary part of attending college.  Yet, students find mixed reactions when they fire up their laptop in a classroom.  Friday, I had the opportunity to facilitate a brown bag discussion with a group of faculty from diverse disciplines regarding student use of laptops in university courses.

To guide the discussion, I created a wiki and placed some vignettes from around the country that illustrated both the successful use of laptops and the banning of laptops in classes.  I worked with Jeff Nugent to craft this wiki so that we took a neutral position going in – presenting two sides of the laptop coin without favoring either.

Vignette One

Interactive Class

But in some classes, students will miss out if they leave their laptop in the dorm.  Christian Jernstedt, a psychology professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, relies on Internet-connected laptops to keep his lectures hopping along.

He pioneered a system – originally with hand-held computers – that uses the college’s wireless network to pose interactive questions to the entire class. Everyone answers on his or her laptop. The replies show up on an overhead display and prompt class discussion.  “The goal is to engage the student,” Jernstedt says.

He asks questions that force students to think – not regurgitate memorized facts – and sometimes make a personal connection with the course material.  For example, when Jernstedt starts a unit on what stress does to the brain, he asks the students how frequently they feel stress in their lives.  “Most students are surprised to see how many other people feel like they do,” he says. “And so that sort of question is, in a sense, a hook to what’s coming.”

And hooked students, he adds, are not tempted to toggle over to their Facebook profile or check e-mail.  “You don’t have to think at all about what else they’re doing because they’re engaged in what’s going on,” he says.

Vignette Two

UI College Of Engineering Thrives On ‘Laptop Classroom’

Most people are familiar with the portability of laptop computers. But what does it mean to attend class in a “laptop classroom”? At the University of Iowa College of Engineering, it means that all of the students in a 72-student computer programming class have their own laptop computers. It also means that students are more focused and involved in their studies than ever before, thanks to a first-of-its kind use of technology in the classroom.

“The students are writing more computer programs in class and learning how to use the software right in class,” says Gary Christensen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “I hardly have anyone coming to me for help during my office hours anymore because we answer most questions in class… An exciting thing about the workshop was that there were very demanding computational, storage, networking and visualization requirements to present the material and the laptops and the new classroom networking were up to the challenge,” he says.

Christensen says the notion of the classroom was developed out of his classroom observations and in response to recommendations from his previous students.The teaching environment is far different from computer programming classrooms of the past in which students passively watched an overhead projection of a lecture. Now the students and professor actively engage in discussions of programming techniques while simultaneously writing small programs on their individual computers.

“The students were here about 15 minutes before I was today!” says Christensen at the conclusion of one recent class. “You don’t usually see that in any class.” And then he offers a clue to student enthusiasm: “I’m trying to make them think first, not just sit down and type a program.”

Vignette Three

Why I Ban Laptops In My Classroom

Some years back, our law school, like many universities, high schools, and even grade schools around the country, wired its classrooms with Internet hookups. It’s the way of the future, I was told. Now we have a wireless campus, and incoming students are required to have laptops. So my first-year students are more than a bit surprised when I tell them that laptops are banned from my classroom.

As I explained in an editorial about this for the Washington Post last year,I ban laptops for two reasons. Note-taking on a laptop encourages verbatim transcription. The note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give-and-take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand is so much slower, the student actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes. Of course, if one’s idea of a lecture is a process by which the notes of the teacher get transferred to the notes of the student without passing through the brain of either, then laptops may be the perfect transcribing tools. But if the goal is an interactive classroom, I find that laptops just get in the way.

Laptops also create a temptation to the many other things one can do there — surf the Web, check e-mail, shop for shoes, play solitaire, or instant-message friends. That’s not only distracting to the student who is checking baseballscores and statistics but for all those who see him and many others doing something besides being involved in class. It also takes the student out of the classroom discussion, which itself has collective costs for the learning environment as a whole. (In deference to the modern era, I permit two volunteers each class to use laptops to take notes that are then made available to all students.)

Vignette Four

Taking the Classroom Out of the Internet Age

The University of Chicago Law School has removed Internet access in most of its classrooms because of a growing problem of students surfing the Web on laptops during lectures.

“Every teacher underestimates the amount of Internet surfing going on” in his or her classroom, U of C law Dean Saul Levmore said in an interview Thursday. “Whenever faculty would visit other faculty members’ classes, they would come to me and say, `You just won’t believe it. It’s astounding what happened.’ “But they never believe it’s going on in their own class,” he said.

In a recent e-mail message to students and faculty, Levmore wrote, “Remarkably, [Internet] usage appears to be contagious if not epidemic” during law classes. “Several observers have reported that one student will visit a gossip site or shop for shoes and within 20 minutes, an entire row is shoe shopping. “Half the time a student is called on, the question needs to be repeated,” Levmore added.

Law students’ use of laptops to surf the Web, read and write e-mail and play computer games during class has brought changes at a number of schools, including Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Stanford now has a posted policy that laptops and wireless Internet access may be used only for purposes relevant to the class and “not unreasonably distracting to fellow students.” And Stanford says “Harvard Law and Business [schools] have resorted to shutting down their wired connectivity in classrooms to address such problems” and Yale has considered it.

In his e-mailed announcement Wednesday, Levmore said that U of C law has removed Internet access in most classrooms “in order to ensure the value of the classroom experience.”

Faculty present represented the mixed views regarding student use of laptops in classes.  Some were strong advocates and were looking for more ways to engage students.  Others were concerned about the temptations laptops offer to get off message, and one math professor outright banned all technology (including calculators) from his class.

Concerns revolved around issues of focus and engagement with learning if students were also Facebooking, IM’ing, or emailing during class.  Because other students can see screens, one student’s off-task viewing coiuld be disruptive to other students sitting in view of this laptop.  While students have zoned out in decades past, some felt that the wireless laptop offers greater temptations to do so now.  The key one faculty noted is engagement.  If students are engaged in the class and are co-opted into the learning process, the laptop becomes a powerful ally for learning.

The discussion was rich as faculty reviewed opportunities associated with laptops.  One faculty designates a student as a Google jockey to fact check items that come up in class.  Jon Becker discussed using CoverItLive so that students can collaboratively develop class notes on sessions.  (I found out later that Jon had actually been live blogging our brown bag with CoverItLive).   He also noted the potential associated with backchanneling comments and questions during a session.  (Ira Socol had an interesting blog post recently that discussed a similar use in his classroom.)

I doubt that any minds were changed yesterday, yet I do think each faculty left with the realization that one cannot take a laissez-faire approach to the use of laptops.  One needs to consider the context under which the use of a laptop can enhance learning.  One then needs to actively build that use into the curriculum and look for opportunities to model that process to students.  At the same time, there are occasions in some teaching moments when laptops can become a distraction, so classroom management rules are needed to provide for “lid down” moments in the class.  As in many scenarios, communicating one’s expectations can lead to improved teaching and learning involving student use of laptops.

I would be interested in your thoughts and comments.  Do you have policies for your classes?  Do you have innovative ways of tapping into the potential laptops afford?  I would love to learn more!

{Photo Credit: Justin}

The Interconnected Tool Set

It has been a busy week but I have had some enjoyable experiences.  Last night, I covered Jeff Nugent’s class, Learning with Digital Media, while he was at the POD Conference. Today, I worked with the faculty of the Occupational Therapy program on instructional uses of the web.  In both cases, I got to see light bulbs come on as people realized that it was not blogging, or twittering, or screencasting, or Slidesharing, or any specific tool – it was the mix of tools that made the difference.

With the Mass Comm class, we spent time talking about YouTube and Michael Wesch‘s An anthropological introduction to YouTube.  This class of juniors and seniors were pretty insightful in examining how YouTube, which has only been around less than 4 years, has become a cultural landscape where people are connecting, communicating, and sharing multiple aspects of their lives.  Several of Jeff’s students blogged about the video in his class sandbox.  I particularly liked how one of Jeff’s students, Frances, stated it:

“Throughout the course of the semester, I have been looking at the tools we learn about on an individual level, interacting with them accordingly. I appreciate how Welsh shows the audience how all the tools really connect as a user-generated machine. A video is created in Youtube and tagged through user-generated aggregation sites like Digg and Delicious.  RSS feeds then serve as user-generated distribution. Content can ultimately get more and more views depending on what users like and find interest in. It is truly a massive user-dependent media machine. This knowledge makes me feel like my interaction makes me a part of the process.”

This morning, I met with the OT faculty as part of their every-two-weeks professional development.  A month ago, Jeff had spent time with them discussing what the research suggested about how people learn and how students are using technology.  My job was to follow up with a discussion on instructional uses of tools.  I therefore surveyed them this week to see their level of interest on ten different web applications.  The results were mixed, but in general the interest across the board was high.  So we spent two hours today playing.

We started by creating a wiki in Wetpaint to hold the resources we found.  We then spent time discussing possible uses of blogs.  One faculty is taking some students overseas this summer and saw the blog as a way these students could both reflect on their experience and stay connected with their peers back home.  Super idea!!!  From blogs, we played with Twitter (with a tweet arriving from Jeff at POD).  From some of the tweets they saw, we jumped into Flickr, which led us to SlideShare, and then back to Delicious.  Lee Lefever’s CommonCraft videos got quite a workout!  What they began to understand was how interconnected my network was across all of these tools…and they began to conceptualize how that fit their world.

As I said, a fun day!

{Graphic developed by Jeff Nugent}

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The Digital Divide – Students versus Faculty

As you know from my last post, I spent Friday with Jeff Nugent co-facilitating a full-day workshop at the INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium.  It was rather exciting to spend a full day with a room full of mathematicians!  I am still reflecting on what transpired, but wanted to share some thoughts on one aspect, triggered by a couple of articles today.

The October 17th issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education contains an interesting article by John Seely Brown entitled “How to Connect Technology and Content in the Service of Learning.”  Brown noted that:

“Web 2.0 has blurred the line between producers and consumers of content and has shifted attention from access to information toward access to other people.”

In a view similar to Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody, Brown illustrated how the internet offers incredible opportunities for like-minded passionate people to connect and explore their passions.  These niche communities provide an environment which supports lifelong learning.  If we are not tapping in to these social aspects of the internet, we are missing an opportunity to connect with our students.

Meanwhile, the corporation CDW-G released a report entitled “The 21st Century Campus: Are We ThereYet?“.

Key findings of this corporate (and probably biased) study include:

  • More than 80 percent of faculty teach at least some of their classes in “smart classrooms,” yet just 42 percent of those faculty use the technology during every class session
  • Topping students’ technology wish list is online chat capability with professors; just 23 percent of higher education IT staff say their campus offers it
  • Faculty and IT staff agreed that lack of technology knowledge among faculty is the biggest barrier to technology on campus

Biased or not, the findings do not surprise me.  They illustrate that – contrary to conventional wisdom, our students DO want to connect with us, their faculty.

I do not believe in faculty-bashing, but I do fear that a new form of digital divide is developing.  Outside of class, our students are developing skills in connecting and communicating via text, chat, IM, FaceBook, blogs, and video.  With the exception of a few early adopters, few faculty have these same skills.

This brings me back to our workshop last Friday.  I had the 21 faculty brainstorm their assumptions regarding the Net Generation.  Some of their assumptions included:

  • Students want to be in control of their resources
  • Students take a consumer approach to education
  • Students want to be spoon-fed
  • Students want to understand the relevance of what they are studying
  • Student are focused on grades first, learning second
  • Students use the internet to find information and communicate

When I asked whether allowing students to bring technology into a classroom was a good thing or a bad thing, the comments made indicated that some of this group of faculty saw technology as a distraction which broke the rhythm of the class and prevented students from “getting the basics.”

One participant made the interesting comment that he wished students would just take what he was teaching on faith rather than immediately wanting to know why.

I wish I had Jeff Utecht‘s eloquence, but he said it best today, so I simply will quote him:

I have come to hate the phrase “21st Century” whatever: Learner, Thinking, Teacher, Skills.

Has anyone noticed it’s 2008…well 79 days until 2009!

We’re 9 years (depending on how you count) into the 21st Century and we’re still calling for 21st Century things.

I’m sorry we’re in it! These are just skills! They are just what we should be doing and if we’re not teaching them, helping students to understand them then we’re letting them down….big time!

So that’s it…I’m done. No more 21st Century for me.

They just are today’s skills

They just are today’s schools

They just are today’s students

They just are what we should be doing!

No more putting them off.

No more pretending we are thinking of the future.

Either you are a 21st Century school working on preparing students for today or you are a 20th Century school that just doesn’t get it.

That goes for teachers, skills, content, curriculum, students.

Amen, Jeff!

{Photo Credit: Dubber, Unhindered By Talent}

Swimming in the Complex

Every now and then, you are reading a book or article, and a phrase jumps out and grabs you.  It happened last night on page 198 of David Weinberger‘s delightful Everything is Miscellaneous.

“The task of knowing is no longer to see the simple.  It is to swim in the complex.”


David’s book is an interesting look at how our attempts to categorize knowledge by systems such as the Dewey Decimal System worked for books but fails in the messy interconnected web world…and that is not bad!  In essence, the web allows every person to have a customized library of knowledge built around what makes sense to that individual.

Teachers and educators are in the “knowing” business.  When I work with faculty and suggest 21st Century solutions to their problems, I am generally met with resistance.  It is easy to understand why.   With the exception of a few early adopters, faculty generally have an established concept of how to do research.  They correctly note that they gained their success and became tenured professors through a time-honored process that did not involve the web.  Social networking has not been part of that process.

Tomorrow, Jeff Nugent and I will be working with operational research faculty at the INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium. We are going to discuss what the research suggests about how people learn, how students have incorporated the web into their lives, and how technology can transform teaching and learning. We have a full day with them, so it should be interesting.  I am looking forward to seeing how open they are to ideas of messiness in teaching and learning!

Two nights ago, Jeff was a member of a panel discussing the Millennial Generation to Mass Communications students and faculty. One panel member stated that FaceBook did not have a place in education. Jeff countered that social networking was vital to education today. He noted how Twitter was typically the first means by which he learned of breaking news, and tried to describe how following in Twitter was akin to friending in FaceBook. He realized that the older members listening to him had no idea what he was describing. They did not get it.

I am starting to realize that one reason I do get it is that I swim in the complex every day. My normal routine every morning  and routinely during the day (7 days a week) is to first check emails, then Twitter, and then Google Reader, where I subscribe to over fifty blogs, a dozen news feeds, and some that are difficult to classify but definitely form part of my personal learning environment. I now assume that I will be part of a backchannel conversation in any meeting or conference I attend. This did not happen overnight, but it did happen in less than two years, and I now cannot conceive of returning to the old “manual” way of learning and knowing. It certainly is not simple, but it is right in line with David Weinberger’s reasoning.

Back in June, I used the stream analogy to reflect my emersion into Web 2.0.  It still fits, which is why David’s words resonated so powerfully with me. So, my advice to my colleagues is simple – the longer you try to keep your life simple and organized, the less you will know and the less you will be relevant.

Strong words or on target? Be interested in your thought!

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No Teacher Left Behind

Darren Draper had an interesting and thought provoking post Monday, which is no surprise from Darren.  In “No Teacher Left Behind?,” Darren began by noting that he believed the positive message David Truss had posted in “Who Are the People In Your Neighborhood?“, but then asked if:

  • In spending so much time to create (shallow?) connections with such a wide range of educators on a global level, isn’t it possible that one might also neglect local relationships that are equally (if not more) important?
  • What can we do to consistently maintain a healthy perspective?

Shifting gears to a higher plane:

  • Do we really think that all teachers need to be this connected?
  • Can every teacher (human being) handle all of the information? Are they “bad teachers” if they can’t?
  • And what about those teachers that take 25 minutes just to create a Gmail account? Will it really be worth my time – and theirs – to help them enter the 21st Century? Or are the benefits of such efforts simply not worth the costs?

I guess what I’m really wondering is this:

  • Is it ever OK to simply leave some teachers behind?

He DID note that he was tired as he posted these questions!  🙂

I think many of us that work with faculty wonder some times if it is okay to simply leave some teachers behind.  However, let me suggest an alternative view.  I have been excited this week as my online class of graduate students – all older K-12 teachers and many self-labeled technologically-challenged, began to submit their projects on Web 2.0 tools.  My 21 students have each taken a different tool, explored it, and then begun to share their exploration with their fellow students in ways that reinforce Web 2.0.  So I am starting to see teachers who had never ventured beyond Powerpoint suddenly using some of the tools CogDog lists in his 50+ Ways to Tell a Story.  I am finding new tools that I have never seen before, such as RockYou.Com, which allows someone who has never published multimedia before to mix photos, effects, and music in compelling ways.  SlideShare, Camtasia and Jing are being used.

It is early yet, and only a quarter of my students have posted so far, but I am excited by what I have seen so far.  It reminds me that it is worth the time to get teachers excited about using 21st Century skills!

{Photo Credit: Saffanna, weinnat }