Final Thoughts on GaETC 2006

I was able to hang with some pretty cool company when I was in Atlanta. The highlights by far of my experiences at the conference were the interviews that I helped collect with Vicki Davis and Jen Wagner (women of web 2.0). Vicki has posted many of those interviews and they certainly are worthwhile listening to them. I learned so much by watching Vicki and Jen in action as they interviewed the presenters, other teachers, and some of the support staff of the conference. It felt like being a real reporter!

The sessions were relevant and rich in content, featuring many awesome and well-known ed techies in the industry. I am just so surprised that it is not attended by more educators from other states and countries.

Interview podcasts:

Tim Tyson

Patrick Crispen

What I am still thinking about:

We don’t use enough audio tools in our teaching practices. Inspiration and audacity are excellent tools that can be using to augment better writing practices.

Wikis are amazingly flexible tools that offer great collaborative opportunities for students and solid ways of keeping track of student contributions (through the history and discussion features).

Educational blogging can now be considered accepted by the mainstream. However, we need to continue seeking best practice approaches for the use of blogs in the classroom. We also should be documenting our practices and encouraging qualitative AND quantitative research of these practices to determine if they are effective learning tools.
Information literacy is a critical skill for the 21st century student. It is still too often overlooked by the curriculum set by the educational institutions.

The flattening of the classroom walls is taking place at increasingly more schools; the value of global projects is beginning to be appreciated. This is immensely encouraging to me. I have committed myself to providing at least one global collaborative exchange for each of the four English classes that I teach. So far, my partners are in Russia, Israel, Arizona, Virginia and New York. More to come?? We shall see!
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Will Richardson’s presentation from GaETC 2006 in Atlanta

Will Richardson’s wiki notes from this presentation. The following are notes from two back-to-back presentations by Will on Thursday, Nov. 16th.

Will began his first presentation by presenting a number of different ways in which our young students are using web 2.0 tools to build networks on their own. He showed the clipbandits video on youtube which is the band that claims to have never met face-to-face. Kids are using myspace to build networks and he showed some not-so-great examples of some myspace blogs. Will pondered if we were teaching our kids how to use myspace and I thought of my own daughter who has a very happening myspace blog which I have linked to this blog in one of my pages. She has also developed her own network of friends with whom she shares her poetry and fiction-writing on

Will pointed out that a lot of content being created by kids and being put online – shows the types of networks they are beginning to build

He used Clarence Fisher – teacher in northern Manitoba – Nata village blog – chronicles what it is like to be ravaged by HIV and AIDS.

These things are not going away – according to the PEW Internet study, kids are not using the same tools in the classroom as they are using outside of the classroom.

He discusses how much knowledge there is out there – looks at the MIT Open Courseware – however; no action taking place – just content – no face-to-face interaction. He suggested that one could cobble together a course or a tutoring situation based on this. A different type of learning is going on that equals college education – that has the same value – even if it doesn’t have a degree at the end of it.

We have a system based on knowledge being scarce – but now we have knowledge in abundance – shouldn’t we be teaching knowledge management and knowledge literacy skills?

We should be teaching research skills and knowledge-finding skills. His position validated my own decision with the kinds of projects I have been creating for my students in the last two months.

Almost 1.5 million articles – encyclopedias are dated information – wikipedia is usually relevant up-to-date information.

Will points out that the discussion tab is not as well known or used – it will shown the conversation of the authors – negotiation – what truth is – very interesting process – an important skill for students to have. It is a requisite skill for the future and even now.

Within the last 2 minutes – 500 changes in wikipedia!

Knowledge is soft – not hard anymore – this echoes George Siemen’s connectivism theory of knowledge having a shelf-life.

Looks at site – owned by white supremacists – if students look at this and don’t see the background behind it – we would call these people illiterate.

Literacy is changing – even manipulation of search results is happening.

Manipulation of ideas and opinions – how do we get through this whole thing? I immediately thought of how much manipulation of information was evident in the reporting of the war between Israel and Lebanon last summer.

Will showed us “Truthiness” – in wikipedia – a satirical term.

Teaching is changing too – we are no longer the content experts – he shows off the secret life of bees – readers’ guide to the book – sort of what my students are currently doing with the wiki to the novel, A Tourists Guide to Glengarry. Since hearing Will’s presentation, I have been following a lead to having the author of that novel participate with us in either a wiki or blog form.

Key Point = It is important now to ask what ways can I extend the learning outside of the class.

We are allowing our kids to then become teachers – most kids can teach – have a real audience and a real purpose.

We find audiences and we can find purposes – look for our audio interview with Tim Tyson, principal of Mabry Middle School, on what his school is doing!

So much shifting and changing – it is imperative that our kids use these tools well.

Weblogs in Schools

You can find people and have very intensive exchanges with people that you could not before…

The idea that people can find my thoughts and reflections and leave their own thoughts and comments and it can challenge me or affirm me –

He shows his post on why do our kids need college – many comments posting back – many coming to his blog.

The blog is an extremely important part of his life. He considers himself a blog snob. To him, blogs are more than journals – the link is a powerful thing – small pieces loosely joined (a book) – when we have links we evaluate it by where those links take us – very specific genre of writing – because of the linking and connecting – intellectual sweat for him (takes time and energy).

Anecdotal research states this is a boon to classroom writing – not too much quantitative research data – kids know they have an audience – writing improves – and is enhanced.

Kids are networking; this improves reading skills.

(idea – show kids other students blogs and look at the difference)

Blogs foster collaboration and it has become apparent that the tool can be used safely.

The point we are at with blogs in classrooms – most of what we are using – are not yet pushing the potential. It is very difficult to find best practices – hard to find spaces where students are using them as places of learning, not just places of journaling.

Good blogging starts with reading – from different sources than linking back to them.

Reading starts with RSS – good blogging begins with reading – responding, synthesizing, doing critical thinking before they begin the writing process.

The idea is to get students to read blogs – and challenge how to vet the authority of a blog.

Use technorati or google blog search to find blogs.

Check out:

  • Ideas for blogging – check out Anne Davis’ wiki. She goes out at it from a pedagogical sense

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Report from GaETC 2006 in Atlanta

At last I have a chance to catch my breath here at the GaETC conference in Atlanta. After a relaxing weekend at a ski lodge up at Mt. Tremblant north of Montréal, I flew to Georgia on Monday for a week of intense tech teacher geekiness. Ah…. To be with my people!

Jen Wagner (technospud) and I have been hanging out since Monday. Yesterday, we were joined by Vicki Davis. Jen and Vicki were both workshop presenters at the conference while I was a blissful participant.

I attended two workshops yesterday and learned a good deal about the art of presentation from both. The training for using the eportfolio module for moodle was well done and I learned a few tricks with moodle that I had not known before. While I think that moodle would make an excellent repository for eportfolios, it occurs to me again that a one-enterprise solution for all online environments would be so nice. With so many online environments currently available, their uses and purposes seem to be overlapping.

The other workshop I attended was Vicki Davis’ workshop on wikis and I really appreciated the way she divided the participants into teams and put us to work on collaborative wiki-building to get our feet wet. Wikis are just so great for organizing content and displaying information without having to know a thing about html coding. Such a relief!

Last night, the women of web 2.0 had our second skypecast with EdTechTalk. The topic was why we blog and what it brings to our teaching. It will be available online soon. The turnout was surprisingly good and I have become so impressed with Cheryl’s audiocasting skills.

I also had the great pleasure of going to Patrick Crispen’s session on what’s new and what’s next – sort of Patrick Crispen 2.0. He was using PPT 2007 to make his presentation. After Feb. 19 2009, we will no longer have broadcast television. He highlights IPTV – on-demand television which is a combo of youtube, ipod video, and tivo over the telephone lines. This is important for schools so that schools can have closed circuit television with streaming data between classrooms.

He also discusses the differences between standard definition and high definition television. One should be looking for 1080p if one is buying new equipment in order to prepare for the progressive scan that will be broadcast soon. When buying cables to prepare for the new technology (which is digital), buy very good cables that can convert from analog to digital. High definition multimedia interface (one simple cable) will convert the signals. Eventually we will moving to just one cable. It is okay to buy the cheapest for HDMI. He warns to know about High Definition Content Protection which might prevent these devices from working altogether. One should look for 1080p with multiple HDMI 1.3/HDCP connections.

The notes to his presentation can be found here.
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Web 2.Overwhelmed and Overloaded

The K-12 Online Conference is officially finished and over, but will continue on as all good movements do. There is now a Free-Falling page for the continuation of the conference for those who want to keep in touch.

I have to say that these last few months have been frenetic as I have discovered, taste-tested, and tried to implement some of the latest and greatest web 2.0 tools into my lifestyle and teaching practices. I still have a long list of some to try out. Some are waiting in the wings or quite literally right in front of my face on my web browser (like delicious tagging but I just can’t seem to remember to tag pages). After grappling with a flu-like virus all weekend, I am coming to the conclusion that I just cannot keep up this pace AND have a family life and a social life. One has to draw a line somewhere of how much one can fit into one’s life. So some of those really attractive presentations from K-12 will simply have to wait.

Those of us who took part in the skypecasts in the 24 hour “When Night Falls” culminating event had to agree that there simply could not be *anyone* who had had time to visit and disseminate all the presentation material that was created for the conference. Most of us are full-time teachers and many of us have families (who have had to be very patient with us for the last few weeks). However, of course, the beauty of this free conference is that the materials will continue to be available for anyone to download indefinitely. The drawback is that the opportunity for interactive activity with the material has mostly passed. While it is true anyone is free to leave discussion feedback, it is just not the same.

I have to say my chief frustration with the conference was the absence of face-to-face contact with anyone else “attending” the conference. We addressed this issue somewhat in the skypecast I moderated on Saturday afternoon (Montréal local time). Next year, it would be fun to host a live LAN party à la Jeff Utecht (from Shangai). We decided that if food were involved – let’s make it a potluck! – then more people would attend. I could invite friends and colleagues and we could share ideas as we visited conference presentations.

When I last checked the conference blog’s Clustr map, well over 40,000 visits had been logged. That is astounding! Of course that doesn’t mean forty thousand individuals, but it certainly means a great deal of traffic. The organizers should be pleased that this first attempt was a great success.

Other items of interest for me included Stephen Downes’ address on the Future of E-learning. I listened to it the evening he had made the address – that was how fast he had the podcast up and running. It was interesting – particularly as our school is considering a move to a virtual school as an arm of our school.

I also note that curveriders finally have elgg spaces up and running. While it sounds very appealing, I guess I would want to know if it is worth the money to use their services. Any thoughts out there?

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