UMPC

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
I’m down in the lobby early to guarantee a ride to the airport, and scanning through USAToday. This is a UMPC (UltraMobile PC) by OQO. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket and it runs Windows Vista. Just like the PERFECT computer bag, I am constantly on the lookout for the perfectly sized computer.

Also in USAToday, for the first time in years there are fewer foreign students in US colleges than last year — and the year before and the year before that. Is this good news or bad news?

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Checking In

I had a wonderful day, yesterday, at the San Mateo county office of education, presenting to about 80 teachers and administrators from across this part of California.  Paul Larson also did an amazing presentation and demonstration of some of the work that his sixth-grade students are doing.  I was especially impress with the emphasis that he puts on communication in their work, rather than just the technology of it.

This is a picture of the gift shop in my hotel, where the shelving seems more important than what’s on them.  At least they had a couple of bags of M&Ms along with all of those gold wrapped dark chocolates.

It’s 3:39 AM, Pacific time, and I’ll be leaving for the airport in about two hours for my flights back to Raleigh, where it’s suppose to be snowing right now.  The conference sponsors put me up in this really Frenchie hotel.  I don’t mean that in any derogatory way.  It’s just an interesting place where all the employees have an accent, wear charcoal gray suits and purple shirts — and the accent is on style.  It’s just different from my usual Courtyard hotels.

Then I’m home for a few days, thanks to a cancellation in New York.  I’m glad to be home, but sympathetic to the predicament faced by my client in NY.  They had put forth a great deal of planning and effort to provide a productive conference for area educators, only to have such a small registration that they had to cancel.  My contact was very frustrated because, as he said, “If we had offered a conference about the dangers of social networking, then we would have been filled up!”

So many of us educators seem to be in a reactionary mode right now.  Irrational attacks from sectors who gain from attacking have put us here.  It will all change!

The up side is that I get to attend the Science Bloggers Conference in Chapel Hill on Saturday.  I’m not quite sure what to expect from a science bloggers conference.  Most of the attendees will be university level researchers and real scientists from across the country, though I understand that there will also be a good many K-12 science educators.  Again, I’m not sure what to expect, but coming at things from new directions do tend to give us insights about things that we might not usually get when we only look at them through our own lenses.  Should be fun!

For the bad news,  my daughter just turned 21.  Egads!

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Not So Weird

Jennifer Cronk, of Computer Teachers, Teach Thy Self!,  was a bit bummed out the other day when I posted my podcast interview of my son while he was playing World of Warcraft.  She’d been planning to record a similar interview with some of her New York students in much the same fashion.  Sorry!

She went on to say, in Teen Gaming — for Profit:

You see one of my student has used WOW to make about $5,000. He is in 9th grade! The way he has done it was to spend several weeks developing certain characters and getting them desirable items to use (weapons, spells, armor). Once he has taken the character to a certain point he sells it on ebay.

http://davidwarlick.com/images/wowcharacterforsell_sm.jpg
This is the first time I’ve thought to actually look.  Here is a World of Warcraft account, up for bid on eBay.  The account provides three level 60 crusade-ready characters.  Level 60 is evidently the cat’s meow.  At least shipping is FREE.

I shared this story with the audience in my video games session yesterday, and as I told it, I thought to myself, and then commented, “This is just too weird!”  Heads nodded in unison.  And it does seem really weird, the idea of an economic community that exists virtually — and one that seems not to discriminate by age, education, credential, or in any other way.

However, this morning (when I should be sleeping), I got to thinking about the first slide in that presentation, where I distinguish between the time of my grand father, where most people’s focus was on agriculture, and my father and my time, when focus was on material goods, getting stuff, and my children’s time, where they focus more on the experiential.  They spend no time tending crops, less time playing with stuff, and more time playing with experiences. 

Should it seem so weird that they can build and sell experiences? 

Has it happened before?

A hundred years ago, did the idea of performing, recording, and selling music on a phono album seem just as weird?

Or go back a few more centuries.  Did it seem just as weird to take a story, set type and print that story, and then sell the story as a book?

Are we lucky to be living in a time that is characterized by the really weird?  Or are we unlucky.  What do you think?

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Not being a Specificist!

I’m so out of practice with all of this that I didn’t even take any pictures of yesterday’s event in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  So here’s a picture out side my hotel room in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where, according to my handy weather widget, it’s 0˚F.

Specificist? OK, it’s my blog.  So it’s my right to makeup words for my blog.  I could have easily said, I’m not an Evangelist, but that wouldn’t be quite so accurate.  My gig is almost never, one thing.  It’s not blogging, or podcasting, or video games, or literacy, or any of the other major focuses of education and education technology.  I suspect that this is largely due to the many formative years I’ve spent in ed tech, focused on so many different aspects of using technology for teaching and learning.  I’m mean, I’m still programming computers.

What’s wrong with all of this is that I talk about a lot of different stuff.  Take yesterday in Menomonie.  The school district hired me to keynote their staff development conference.  I talked about 21st century literacy.  However, I also talked in other sessions about blogging, podcasting, wikis, RSS, video games, ethics, and I spent time simply exploring the fundamentals of an information landscape that many of their children already call home.

It often worries me that I am throwing so many ingredients into the pot, that the stew I’m cooking will be so mixed and pureed that no one will walk away with any real guiding sense of where to take their technology and their teaching.

This is why I was so gratified to read library/media specialist Doug Hyde’s blog this morning.  He walked away with the key elements, the very simple but sturdy skeleton upon which all the rest of it can be worn.

Classroom In Your Pocket:

…It was good to hear someone affirm what I feel about education and technology. I have been concerned that there has been misplaced emphasis on the hardware, and not the attitudes, of people who use assorted technologies to acquire, analyze, and synthesize information…

What particularly impressed me was his 3-E’s: Exposing the information, Employing the information, and Expressing ideas compellingly. These are supported by the invisible ‘E,’ Ethical use of information. In short we need to encourage ourselves and students to look for the truth, find relevance, and create value for information; all the while keeping the information honest, unbiased, and personal by citing sources.

Not only am I gratified to hear from someone who got it, but I’ve also found a great blog about iPods in education… Hyde’s Classroom In Your Pocket.

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Revisiting AUPs

A few minutes ago, UK Canadian educator Sharon Peters blogged (Web 2.0 Integration and New Issues with AUP) about a staff development that she delivered on Web 2.0 applications (podcasts, wikis, etc.), and how thrilled she was about the response from teachers, for whom this is all quite new.  She even has teachers wanting to try Moodle. A challenge that she sees, and one that I had already intended to write about this morning, is that most schools and districts are operating under Acceptable Use Policies that were written before there was a Read/Write Web.

Back in November, EdTech published an article of mine on managing edublogging from a school or district perspective.  The article was called, Blog Rules.  In it, I suggest that we “..shake out those old AUPs and re-dress them for the read/write Web.”  Here are three elements that I believe should be a part of any school or district AUP. 

  • Why — How do these technology applications help us do our jobs as teachers and learners.
  • What — What practices do we believe will result in our goals.
  • What Not — Here are the practices that we do not want to see.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a tech director asking if I knew of any published AUPs that are addressing Web 2.0 applications.  My answer was no, but I’d ask.  So here I am asking.

  • Is your district working on a new AUP to address new web applications?

  • Have you already completed one and have it available for viewing by other educators? 

If your answer to either of these questions is yes, please reply to this blog with any information that will be useful to others who are grappling with making the most of these brand new tools in ways that do not cause any harm to our children, to us, or to our cause.

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Bound for the Frigid North

Photo Uploaded by David Warlick
I’m currently sitting in the Chicago airport, waiting for a crew to fly us on up to Minneapolis, from which I’ll drive a bit into Wisconsin. Calling for -1 degree in the morning — without wind chill. Glad I packed my mittens.

Tomorrow, I’ll speak at a district staff development conference — Menomonie School District. I work a lot of these, and it is an excellent service for teachers. A number of districts hold them in North Carolina. Along with venders, area tech folks, many local teachers, and an occassional paid consultant; ed tech follks from the NC Department of Public Instruction are always around sharing the latest in state resources and best practices.

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about 21st century literacy skills, Web 2.0, video games, and ethics — a full day. Then it’s on to California.

Well enough of killing time. M

y thumbs are starting to spasm.

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A Classic Senior Project

Joe Poletti, at Haulin’ ‘Net describes some of the senior projects that were presented recently in Carteret County.

Haulin’ ‘Net 2006-2007 » Blog Archive » Classic!:

It’s a classic equation: High quality pedagogy yields high quality results. This week, senior English students of WCHS teacher Ms. Nancy Reynolds have been presenting their Senior Projects to peers and panels of judges…

…The car is a classic. So is the Senior Project, done properly. The Senior Project is less about teacher and school direction and more about student opportunity. Students have the opportunity to stretch their limits while focusing on a topic about which they have some passion and/or career aspiration. Other project examples I watched over the last few days include the following:

  • A young lady who organized a clothes drive for Katrina victims
  • A young man who built a computer to donate to his church
  • A young man who designed a blueprint and compiled a materials list for an endzone film tower on the football field
  • A young lady who volunteered for Hospice
  • A young man who developed fitness and dietary programs for four wrestlers

Poletti concludes:

Suffice it to say, the Senior Project—done properly—looks like a convergence field for Future Ready NC. It is a perfect vehicle for horizontal and vertical curriculum articulation. It should be included among the promising programs in the draft of the Joint Commission Report on Information Technology that has been circulating in North Carolina.

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Old School — WPCS –moving futureward–>

I took this picture outside with my phone, looking up the front tower of this beautiful school building.
 
I was lucky enough to visit the library at the end of the day.  One of the most inviting school media centers I’ve seen.  They also had a bronze statue of William Penn in the foyer.

The day after I spent an afternoon at the Science Leadership Academy, I worked at the William Penn Charter School, started by William Penn himself in 1689.  As an old history teacher, you can imagine the thrill.  To top everything off, I got to see a 15 minute snow blizzard — maybe the only I’ll see this season, though New Brunswick, Canada does hold promise.

It was a full day, including a round table discussion with about 20 teachers, a meeting with the technology staff at WPCS, and an end-of-the-day address to the faculty and invited guests on millennials, flat world, flat schools, video games, and 21st century skills (literacy). 

The highpoint was probably two forums that I facilitated with students.  I’ve done this before, and the goal is to learn something from students about their perceptions of what and how they are learning, and what they see as the skills they will need in their future.  In the past I’ve had much more time with the students.  Here, I was with a representative groups of middle school students for a half hour and the same amount of time with the upper school students.  Yet, even in such a short period of time, I continue to be amazed at how articulate, insightful, and resourceful students can be — when given the opportunity and the responsibility.

Michael Moulton, the director of technology there, recorded these conversations to make them available to the faculty of the schools.  The session started with a presentation of ideas about the future: globalization, growth of information, technological advancements, projections about when we’ll have electronic paper or computers that are smarter than we are.  Then I asked the students to come up with one word (maybe three) that they think best describes their future.  Here are a few of the responses that I got:

  • opportunity
  • innovation
  • international
  • rapidly changing
  • growth of knowledge
  • life-long learning

I guess what surprised and impressed me the most was how well this 1920s building had been retrofitted with information infrastructure.  The campus is wireless, all classrooms have presentation computers, projectors, and wall-mounted interactive white boards.  The teachers I worked with directly showed a great deal of inventiveness in some of the activities with their students, especially English and foreign language classes. 

They also exhibited a healthy amount of skepticism, as did I.  One teacher came up and explained that he was teaching his students Flash.  My skeptical question was, “Why?” 

“Well” he said, “If my students are going to be challenged to communicate with a global audience, images and animation will be one effective way to do that.” 

Good answer!

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Prompt Writing?

I’ve been enjoying some e-mail correspondence with Nancy Bosch, at the Neiman Enhanced Learning Center in  Shawnee, Kansas.  Her grades 4-6 students have been blogging for some time.  She has recently introduced them to wikis.  Here are a few comments from her students that she gave me permission to post.

“Boy, I’m glad we didn’t have to write!” (hello….you just spent the whole day writing!!)
“It is so cool to know that somebody might use what I wrote for their research!!”
“I write a lot more carefully knowing the ‘world’ can read it”
“I liked the fact that we could work together, help each other out and link to stuff someone else wrote”

“It is so cool to put something ON the Internet, rather than always taking stuff OFF.”

Nancy mentioned something today I thought I would toss out there for your consideration and sharing.  She says that one thing that’s surprised her is how little she has to prompt her students to write.  She’d thought that she would have to constantly give her students blogging assignments, but they have taken to it as a matter of practice, and are blogging on all sorts of topics.  This is consistant with comments that I’ve gotten from teachers who are using my blogging tool.

So what do you think?  Is it just that they are academically gifted students, or do students actually enjoy blogging, enough to do it for their own intrinsic reasons?

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Smart Places

I just ran across this.  I’m not sure if it is a blog, or a web site, using blog technology.  But there is some interesting information here in terms of places in the U.S. with lots of smart people.

United States:

According to the 2000 Census Decennial, the Counties (or Parishes) in the United States range, in terms of percent of population (over 25) with a Bachelors Degree or Higher, from a high of 63.8 percent in Falls Church city, Virginia to a low of 4.8 percent in Aleutians East Borough, Alaska.

The ten most highly-educated counties or parrishes in the U.S. are:

1. Falls Church city, Virginia (63.8 percent)
2. Los Alamos County, New Mexico (60.4 percent)
3. Arlington County, Virginia (60.2 percent)
4. Pitkin County, Colorado (57.2 percent)
5. Fairfax County, Virginia (54.8 percent)
6. Montgomery County, Maryland (54.6 percent)
7. Alexandria city, Virginia (54.4 percent)
8. Howard County, Maryland (53 percent)
9. Boulder County, Colorado (52.4 percent)
10. Douglas County, Colorado (51.8 percent)

You can also click individual states to see a list of the ten most highly-educated counties or parrishes.  North Carolina reveals the following. 

1. Orange County (51.4 percent)
2. Wake County (43.8 percent)
3. Durham County (40.2 percent)
4. Mecklenburg County (37.2 percent)
5. Watauga County (33.2 percent)
6. New Hanover County (31 percent)
7. Guilford County (30.2 percent)
8. Forsyth County (28.6 percent)
9. Dare County (27.6 percent)
10. Chatham County (27.6 percent)

It might be interesting to ask students why they would want to live in these places.  What draws people to these places, or what is it about these places that produces highly-educated people.

A while back, I saw an address presented by Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and the Flight of the Creative Class.  He said that the aspects that draw creative people to certain places is aesthetics and open communities.

What do you think?

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