Meet Me at NECC 2006!

Tomorrow morning I head off to California, first to The SF Bay area to visit relatives, then on to San Diego on Monday to attend the NECC 2006.

My blog is listed, along with a number of others, on the Blogging NECC page. If you are going to be there or are interested in the conference, please do visit the other blogs as well. I have visited a number of them and have been impressed with what I have seen. As Kevin Clark points out on his blog, only 22 bloggers covering 300 concurrent sessions by about 13,000 participants is not enough blog coverage! If you are blogging NECC, please let us know by leaving a comment so others can find you too.

In order to give you an idea of what I am planning to cover, I posted my NECC schedule. I will also be covering a few of the sessions as an eSchool News Conference correspondent – a new experience for me. Please look me up if you are attending the same session!

One of my goals at the conference is to find other teachers from around the world willing to participate in online collaborative literature exchanges in the coming academic year. I will be teaching English to grades 7 and 9 next year. In particular, I want to do at least one project from issues and topics related to the book by Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle. Our school has chosen it as our “LCC Reads” book choice of the year for 2006-07 and all staff and students will be reading it. If you are interested in participating with your class, please let me know. I have a moodle set up for students’ discussion and participation.

Hope to meet a lot of you at the conference!

Skypecast: Changing Nature of Knowledge

Because my school responsibilities are finished, I am finally catching up on my blog-reading and it has been a treat to jump around the net and follow my own interests. Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to be involved in a skypecast – a new experience for me. I guess you can call it an online audio conference hosted by skype. I have been using skype a lot lately. For those of you who may not know, you can use skype now to phone regular phone numbers. More importantly, between now and the end of the year, one may call any North American phone number for free. I have been calling all over the place taking advantage of this freebie. And you can believe I will be using it a great deal when I am at the NECC in San Diego next week!
The skypecast was hosted by George Siemens (see his thoughts on connectivism) on the topic of the changing nature of knowledge. As a kickoff to the event, he posted a podcast earlier so that those attending would have some ideas to work with and respond to.

In George’s podcast, he presents 10 ways in which he believes knowledge has changed over the last few centuries (to me, it seems like a much more abbreviated space of time – more like 50 years?). Some key points include the pace and development of knowledge, access to knowledge, relationship and flow of knowledge, and the lack of knowing with certainty about anything.

About 15 or so of us showed up for the skypecast and it was an interesting mélange of people – mostly educators it seemed to me. George moderated the discussion and posed the questions: Has the nature of knowledge changed? And what is the most significant attribute to that change? The responses were varied. There was quite a bit of discussion about the manner in which some perceived private corporations were becoming more exclusive about access to knowledge and the creation of knowledge. While this is certainly happening, my own observation in the past half decade is that there has been a decided shift toward more openness and sharing between educators – as displayed in the movement to open source sharing of products. The Internet has permitted a much wider range of the sharing of resources, information and knowledge.

My own responses to his questions are grounded in my experiences as a classroom teacher of young teenagers. Yes, the nature of knowledge has changed since I was an adolescent learner; the access and amount of knowledge has certainly changed. Between these two features of change, young learners today are confronted with a huge volume of information presented in a range of multimedia approaches – much more visual and audio than my generation. It is imperative for we educators to provide much more than content to our students, but information literacy tools which will permit the students to use critical thinking and discernment skills as they sift through and choose information. Frankly, this seems to be an area in which we are falling short. Part of the reason for this neglect may be because of the generational gap between our teacher and students. Today’s teenagers are of the “Net Generation” who are digital citizens while the teachers may still be the digital immigrants. Teachers and administrators may not see the pressing need for info lit skills or do not how to teach them. We teachers are also overwhelmed almost daily with our responsibilities as it is. Keeping up with information flow is very challenging.

In his earlier podcast, George had asserted that knowing today means we must rely upon a network; we must create trusted networks where we take our knowledge and store it so that we can access it in the future. The Internet, and Web 2.0 tools in particular, enable this creation of a network. This resonates well with my own experience. I very much rely on my email archives, my server, and my laptop to act as my personal repository of stored knowledge.

Something we did not explore too much during the skypecast was the notion of how much the access and amount of information has empowered the ordinary individual; however, we did discuss how this is available really to only the developed nations. Third world nations do not have this kind of access to information but there is a growing movement to address the digital gap. The potential of empowerment of the ordinary individual because of access to information networks is huge and may yet be a force to revolutionalize society. I have the privilege of communicating with teachers from around the world who are providing their students with opportunities to communicate and collaborate with students from other nations so that they can develop those skills in global citizenship and global responsibility. I hope to meet even more global educators next week at NECC 2006. If you are there too, please look me up!

About the skypecast itself – the audio quality was great, and you can’t beat the cost (free), but it was a little frustrating at times not knowing who was speaking (no visual marker for who was speaking at the time) and not having access to the real names or bios of those who were in the skypecast area.

Responding to the AALF 4i Conference blog postings

Life was too crazy-busy last week for any of us from LCC to attend the AALF 4i Conference in Boston, but a few of us were certainly drooling over what it had to offer.

Today I found a couple of blog postings from the conference. Mike Muir posted on Ben Shneiderman’s session on Leonardo’s Laptop.  As we move to “a ubiquitous computing environment”, I am greatly looking forward to the kind of creative productivity that Shneiderman has mentioned. Further, this kind of environment provides rich potential to make activists of our students and empower them to create, innovate and donate meaningful projects to authentic audiences elsewhere in the world. This has certainly been my experience with global collaborative projects.

Muir also blogged Michael Furdyk’s session on TakingITGlobal which is an organization which provides opportunities for young people to make friends globally and take action.

This is not the first I have heard of TakingITGlobal – they had also presented at the Illinois Online Conference back in February and I have had a chance to explore their website. They will also be presenting a session on NECC 2006 and I hope to see them firsthand.

Blogging and the “Living Web”

Just read through Mark Bernstein’s article “10 Tips on Writing The Living Web” and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has been roughly a year since I began blogging and I see the sense in his tips.

I confess that I really blew #2 – “Write often”. I wish now that I had found the discipline to do that. I would heartily encourage new bloggers to take that advice and just throw a few words down maybe not every day but often. Just today, I bumped into two of my teaching peers who are seriously considering becoming bloggers. As educators, perhaps it is even more important for us to be reflective practitioners and blogging is the perfect vehicle for that exercise of reflection and good writing practice.

While his article is a must-read for newbie (and perhaps seasoned) bloggers, I am with Stephen Downes about tip #8. There are some things that you really don’t need to know about me…. 🙂


From “laptop program” to “a ubiquitous computing environment”

I have a modest proposal that has nothing to do with consuming impoverished Irish children. A few months ago, at an IT director’s Canada-wide mini-conference that our school was hosting, a number of the participants aired their frustration that it was time to move along to another designation beyond “laptop program”. This put the focal point too much on the technology and not on the intended learning opportunities of the program. It reminded me of Howard Levin’s excellent keynote address at the Laptop Institute conference last year. He talked about “making the laptop disappear” and offered some excellent advice on the implementation of such a program.
My proposal is that we change the term “laptop program” to “a ubiquitous computing environment”. Too pretentious? Too airy-fairy? Possibly too ambiguous? Will it have some people lunging for their thesaurus? English teachers like to believe that people other than themselves really do that. I like big words which can confusticate potential detractors….

Revving up to NECC 2006 in San Diego

Phew! It has been a long eight weeks and certainly a lot more since I have been able to dedicate some time to this poor neglected blog. Not that I haven’t thought about it – again and again and again.

The grades are now all submitted, the school books are put away, and the dust is finally settling. After a very hectic week of two graduation ceremonies and two proms as well as final meetings, I was able to catch up on some sleep over the weekend.

Now is the time to turn to prepping for the NECC 2006 in San Diego. I am thrilled to bits that my school has agreed to send me and I look forward to it with great anticipation.

After reading David Warlick’s bit on tagging the NECC blogs, I am good to go. Last year I blogged the Laptop Institute conference in Memphis and found it an enriching experience and valuable practice.

I will be working hard this week to catch up on all those bits and pieces of news and information that have been pent up inside of me for a few months now and sprucing up my blog so it is very presentable for the NECC conference.