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Friday, October 29, 2010

My Study Mate: Students in Ireland Hand Coding and Maintaining a Video Sharing Site #msief

David Walsh and Ursula Hynes from Ireland share their cool site ( http://www.mystudymate.ie/aboutus.html ) that started as a school project. In this fascinating project the students hand code in HTML (yes, by hand) and create videos on various topics. They are inviting other schools to participate and it is growing.
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Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 10/29/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Got a Great Project? Share!! #msief

Shea Grisham,North Carolina (USA) and Linda Bradfield (South Africa)
The bandwidth issues experienced here in South Africa, called the most wired country in South Africa, have hit home for me.  Really, I haven't been yelling and stomping my feet - it would do no good. I've been doing what I can do -- grabbing my handy camera and recording everything I can to share with you when I get online.

This is what people do and why we must be flexible as we collaborate globally.  Great barriers have been overcome by teachers here and lots of hard work has been part of what they've done!

Tell Your Story
This has truly been a great experience and I hope that even more teachers will apply for the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Teachers Forum next year. It is a competition and I'm so impressed with those who have made it here. They use a variety of tools -- some Microsoft, some not, but many are using the free tools as a component of what they are doing. Next year, we will be in the US in Washington, DC.  But to get there, one has to compete in three rounds of competition!

Microsoft is worldwide and the projects demonstrated here have a richness and diversity I've not seen at anything else I've attended in the world. Honorees are indeed all incredibly inspirational. I wish I could post a recording with all of them.

I'm tremendously impressed with the diversity and calibre of the educators here and have found myself on the verge of tears many time as my own tendency to complain and whine about the comparatively insignificant problems of my own classroom have reared into my psyche.

Writing the Book on Global Collaboration

I was chatting Julie for the only brief moment we've talked this week and let her know that I've got some incredible stories to add to the Flat Classroom book that we're tweaking this week. These stories deserve to be told and as a teacher, it is an honor to feel as if I am one of the ones to tell it.  People have long been telling our stories for us, it is time for teachers to tell our own story!! (Our book from Pearson will be out January 2012.)

Hope you continue to take time to watch some of these videos and get inspired!

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Shout Learning: Listening to the Organizers #msief

Interview with Michael Furdyk, Co-Founder TakingIT Global and Claudia Brown from the Smithsonian Institute about the ideas behind their collaboration, scientist's student sourcing data collection, and the projects that will be part of the Shout Learning project.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 10/28/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Moleihi Sekese: Integrating Technology with No Electricity? #msief

Moleihi Sekese from Lesotho, Educator's Choice award winner 2009 for the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum, is a teacher who has no electricity in her school.  While studying endangered indigenous plants, she began by having students borrow parent cell phones to text her their observations about the endangered plants. ("I was receiving texts until midnight, she said.)

Moleihi Sekese
The students had a bake sale to raise money to go to the Internet cafe in town (15 km away) to blog. When they wanted to raise awareness about protecting endangered plants, they had teachers bring charged laptops to school so they could scan the hand drawn images and make flyers in Microsoft Publisher.

To create a botanical garden growing these plants, they raised money to go to a botanical garden and filmed how to create their own. They produced the film and then went home and watched it to re-learn the steps for making their own garden to grow the endangered plants and protect them.

This science teacher with more than 50 children in her class makes no excuses and integrates technology anyway! If she can do this, what can other teachers do. (She now has over 100 students in a class! And this class size is definitely NOT OK, but look at her - she has a positive attitude and positively radiates beauty and energy! Look at the nobility of this teacher!)
The only thing limiting technology integration is the excuses we make to ourselves for not doing it.

Part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Worldwide Innovative Education Forum 2010 series. Click the msief tag below to see all posts in this series.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Microsoft VP Anthony Salcito: Getting Technology to the Next Classroom #msief

Free Tools
Highlights of this conversation to me were the conversation on the free tools Microsoft has rolled out for teachers. Things like AutoCollage,  PhotoSynth, World Wide Telescope, Mouse Mischief,  SongSmith, and more including the Microsoft Free Tools Guide. There are some really handy, stable offline alternatives that you can install on your computers at school where you have bandwidth issues or just like the stability of having  a program installed on your machine.

We talked about what Skydrive really means for students (you no longer have to open up that MLA paper into a Google Doc or other tool and lose all your formatting but can use skydrive and open the file on any computer with Microsoft Word or in the free online Microsoft Word editing tool.)  I've found that the only programs that can handle MLA papers are offline word processors so this is amazing news for teachers who have students write term papers! Skydrive also gives users 25 GB of storage with the free service. I've been using the predecessor Office Live for some time and we find it very useful for coordinating the global Flat Classroom projects, conference, and for editing our new book that will come out in January 2012 from Pearson.

Scalability and Reaching the "Next Classroom Over"
Anthony retells a riveting story from his keynote this morning about going into a school and being taken to a classroom where teachers are doing amazing things.  He says as he travels the world, he has begun asking to see the classroom next door or the one down the hall and that the response most often is "you don't want to see that classroom there's nothing special going on there."

This is why Microsoft has been working with Harvard's Chris DeDe on Scalability models.

A Hidden Gem: Microsoft Academic Search
It is about reaching the next classroom over, and when he mentioned the work Chris DeDe has been working on with scalability and as I searched for it, I hit upon something from Microsoft that I didn't know was there.  Microsoft Academic Search which seems to be in Beta.  Now that is cool! (The Google engine actually turned this up, so no, it wasn't "rigged.")
Microsoft Academic Search (Beta) for Chris DeDe

See the screenshot - this handy tool shows how many citations, allows you to download the papers and also creates a graph on the amount of publishing he's done! There is an RSS feed for it so you can subscribe to new papers by your favorite academics in your RSS reader! (OK prof, time to get it!)
Options for Generating Embed Code for Microsoft Academic Search

The embed code is just phenomenal and you can extract articles and have them ranked by "importance" or the most recent first and up to 10,000 articles by one person! Wow!

Here is what it looks like embedded:


This publication list is generated by Microsoft Academic Search®,  please visit Microsoft Academic Search for more info. Please check here for terms of use.

One caveat... what happens when people start searching for an academic and instead find a page like aggregated above. Spammers and engines could actually generate traffic off of an academic's content, particularly if that academic scholar has no web presence. (Search engines weight on traffic.) This is another wake up call to academics and everyone that they must protect their online identity by having a presence on the Internet.

As I was talking to Frank Schmit from Luxembourg, he mentioned that he had to join Facebook because his students had created a fan page for him on Facebook!  Tongue in cheek it was called "the bestest English teacher on Facebook" and it was kind compliments of his abilities as a teacher.  This just points out that many academics are joining these spaces for the imperative of having a presence.

Academics if you don't join a space, someone else will join it for you.

Again, as I summarize, I hope you'll listen to the conversation with Anthony above. Although the world has seemed to have a love affair with "free" and Open source -- honestly, there is really no such thing as free and I do find it refreshing to have tools that aren't tracking student data or requiring a sign of up any kind for my students to use!

South African Teacher, Naomi Julius: Meet the Rose that Blooms Among 500 Students and 14 Teachers

When you think that you can't do it any more, meet Naomi Julius. A teacher who had me laughing and crying and inspired to overcome all excuses, particularly those I give myself in my own mind.

This teacher often has forty or fifty children in her school in this school in South Africa. Her comments on teaching and love for the children shine through for those who make make excuses for themselves. Sometimes one must see the true face of inspiration to realize that often we limit ourselves by our own mindset.

Her school, Hout Bay Secondary School has over five hundred students with fifteen teachers and a teaching principal. A more affluent school down the street has forty teachers for their 500 students! yet, even in the face of injustice she inspires.She has created an "enviro club" and as she greeted us teachers she said:
"usually we have one teacher and lots of students. Now we have lots of teachers and a few students, so feel free to grab one and teach them something!"
She also commented before I started filming that when she talks to parents about problems they say:
"I don't know what to do with them, that's why I send them to school."
"If I have a class of 40 and 5 get connected, then I can be proud. I can open opportunities for them, that is all I can do."
Also in this video is Maryam Allouzi principal of Al - Jubaine School in Jordan. We join them as they are discussing the difficulty motivating students when the news media paints a bleak picture of the potential for getting a job even with an education.

Her computer lab is old crt computers and boxy towers with 21 -- students work two per computer and they struggle just to teach the basics.

 Interestingly, because of size limitations, I've been hearing at the conference how many of these teachers are appreciating and  Mouse Mischief, a new free multipoint PowerPoint add in. I've found it fascinating how many of the african teachers have mentioned this one tool.

Naomi is inspiring. She has an enviro club and they were putting in a green house as we were meeting them. She does so much with so little and yet she feels she has so much.  My favorite quote -- when she was asked about how well she is paid, she said:

"I have enough for bread and if I do not have enough for butter, then I just do not buy the butter."

Naomi, what an inspiration to teachers around the world you are!

Part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Worldwide Innovative Education Forum 2010 series. Click the msief tag below to see all posts in this series.

Thank you to the kind commenter below who pointed out a flaw in the scrolling text in the original video. I've remixed and reuploaded the video and embedded above.
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The Face of Change: Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Education Forum Photos #msief

I'll be adding to this flickr stream set. Make sure you view the descriptions to understand the meaning behind each of these photos.  Come back to see more as I upload them.

Six and Seven Year Old Boys Collect 8 tons of waste in "Trash to Treasure" #msief

In this interview with Linda Bradfield from St.John's College in South Africa she discussed the Trash to Treasure project. It is so exciting to see teachers work with parents and make changes in behavior and also improve technology skills.

"This project involved 6 and 7 year old boys collaborating with their peers to collect eight tons of waste in six weeks. The boys, together with their parents and teacher, found online information about recycling and collated it in their Trash-to-Treasure wiki. They also used '2Create aa Superstory" to create e-books and used Skype to communicate." p 71 Microsoft Worldwide Education Forum 2010 p 71

This project was presented at the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in Capetown South Africa, 2010.

Part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Worldwide Innovative Education Forum 2010 series. Click the msief tag below to see all posts in this series.

Student Sourcing Science: Shout Learning Announced at Microsoft Innovative Educators Conference #msief

Students at St. Cyprian's band a tree with scientist Josh Falk
I want to make this announcement so you can dig in although I will come back and enhance this post with the recordings and photos of the last few days.

Microsoft, Taking IT Global, and the Smithsonian Institute have just announced a collaborative three year platform for students to study Land, Air, and Water. This year's focus is on land and will kick off with an extension of the Deforest-action project that first came from the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum in Asia this past year.

The website is www.shoutlearning.org and will allow students to interact with scientists at the Smithsonian and each other as they collect data on tree growth. Leading the science team are Geoffrey Parker and Josh Falk of the Smithsonian. Dr. Parker made splash in the news earlier this year as he discovered that trees in Maryland are growing faster than they should be according to traditional data.

Anthony Salcito, VP Education Microsoft Corporation
Five hundred kits will be distributed to schools around the world to measure tree growth, collect data, and share the data between students and classrooms as they learn to analyze tree growth in this important project.

When asked about how students could be expected to collect such data, Dr. Parker commented that there are methods to help distinguish between "signal and noise" meaning that the "noise" caused by improper techniques is pretty distinguishable from the signal of data change using statistical methods.

Citizen science has been emerging through projects like Project BudBurst that tracks blooming data and many citizen scientists have joined in around the world. Now citizen science has moved to the classroom with students collecting data.  In a world of academics, this approach seems to be somewhat revolutionary.
Student at Hout Bay High School bands a tree and learns to measure growth.

I asked Dr. Parker "what will you say to those scientists and people around the world that students cannot be trusted to collect data properly and be accurate in what they are doing?"

"I'll prove them wrong," says Dr.Parker.

Not only will Dr. Parker prove that this can be done, as a blogger and co contributor to this Flat world I believe that this partnership between the Smithsonian, Microsoft, and Taking IT Global will begin showing the power of student sourcing science and is only the beginning of a trend that will continue to shape education.  I hope that many foundations, organizations, scientists, and companies will look to fund such projects to help science, math, and social action learning become real to students.

A video documentary about 1 million students saving the rain forest is being filmed now by an Australian Film maker will be narrated by Hugh Jackman about the deforestaction project which is part of the shoutlearning.org network now.

Expect more on this story later... As a person who believes in "flattening" the classroom - seeing scientists work with students is very powerful and exciting.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Emergence of Transcence: Unhook the Stars #msief

Sometimes meaning can transcend language barriers.  Take this, for example. As I prepare to attend the Microsoft Worldwide Innovative Education Forum in Cape Town, South Africa as my first true event as a "member of the press" I have been following our hashtag for the event #msief  - this tweet came across the tag:

"RT @cafepedagogique: Innovative Teachers already present in the Café Pédagogique blog .. In French http://tinyurl.com/2vsd4ay #msief"

Curious, I went to the post aptly titled, Décrocher les étoiles , translated as "Unhook the Stars" and saw French and Arabic coexisting on the same post.  Curious, I started translating.

Now, I know that Google Translate is SO FAR FROM PERFECT and there are thousands of you out there who will translate this for me in a much more accurate way, but in this case, the translation that came through Google translate had a certain halting poetic beauty that caused me to stop and reflect:

A Pedagogical Innovation Lexicon Emerging?

The original French beginning this post:
"Kamal Essouafi, enseignant scientifique pour des enfants de 12 à 14 ans, à Foum Ejamaa, Bzou, Azilal au Maroc a répondu à mes questions par mail interposé.  Il l’a fait en arabe, nous rappelant au passage que l’univers de la francophonie s’avère multilingue. A Cape Town, nous rencontrerons, des enseignants anglophones, hispanophones, russophones, dont les langues natales composent la mosaïque de la richesse linguistique mondiale. Nous emprunterons alors notre anglais hésitant pour nous parler et retraduire approximativement dans notre langage quotidien les teneurs d’une rencontre que l’on imaginera plus dense que ce que l’on en percevra. Mais après tout, se comprendre entre les mots, broder des ponctuations pour combler les points d’incompréhension, nous permet de construire un nouveau vocabulaire où l’innovation pédagogique fait office de lexique.
L’interview de Kamal Essouafi en arabe et en français nous offre un premier aperçu de ces rencontres en mode multiculturel."

Became this

"Kamal Essouafi, science teacher for children aged 12 to 14 years, Foum Ejamaa, BZOU, Azilal in Morocco has answered my questions by mail interposed. He did it in Arabic, reminding us in passing that the world of Francophonie is multilingual. In Cape Town we meet, the English teachers, Hispanic, Russian speakers, whose native languages make up the mosaic of the world's linguistic richness. We will take our time to talk about halting English and translated back into our everyday language about the contents of a meeting that is denser than imagine what we perceive. But after all, understanding between words, punctuation embroidery to fill the points of misunderstanding, we can build a new vocabulary which serves as a pedagogical innovation lexicon.
The interview with Kamal Essouafi in Arabic and French offers a first glimpse of these meetings multicultural mode."

Let me repeat something that lured me in:  

"we can build a new vocabulary which serves as a pedagogical innovation lexicon."

ce fabuleux univers

Hmmm.  Then, later down a translated question and answer that again inhaled my thought processes about just what a session with more than 60 countries might mean to both me and the participants:

"Comment vous en est venue l’idée ?

J’ai constaté que les élèves rencontrent  beaucoup de difficultés quand on parle de l’astronomie. Un simple  livre ne suffit pas pour  guider nos élèves afin de mieux  comprendre et saisir les secrets  de ce fabuleux univers."

Google Translate says

How do you get the idea?
I found that students encounter many difficulties when it comes to astronomy. A single book is not enough to guide our students to better understand and learn the secrets of this amazing universe.

A single book is not enough?

Really?  A teacher in Morocco writing in Arabic to a French blogger finds the same conclusion as  a United States teacher in the remote town of Camilla that "a single book is not enough."  Tens of thousands of you are also drawing the same conclusion and grappling with this question of: "if this is the case, so what do we do now?"
The Daily Green

Isn't that one of the premises of a modern education. Despite what we "say" that we can have a "textbook" for each class that completely embodies all a student should know about a particular topic in a particular year?

So, what does this teacher do? It seems that the teacher has a model of the solar system that the students use. In the last item which I translated from arabic to English.

Original Arabic:

بواسطة ما يوفره الدليل من إمكانات، سيتمكن التلميذ من الاقتراب بشكل كبير من بعض الظواهر ،التي كانت مبهمة عنده و منها.
شكل الكرة الأرضية .
دوران الأرض حول نفسها .     
الحركة الظاهرية للشمس.
أن أنجز نموذجا لاتبين حركة الأرض حول نفسها .
منحى دوران الأرض جول الشمس .    
السنة البسيطة و السنة الكبيسة .
أن أنجز نموذجا أتبين به دوران الأرض حول الشمس .
أطوار القمر .
ظاهرتي الكسوف و الخسوف و احدد أسبابهما .
أن أتبين سبب اختلاف أوجه القمر .
النظام الشمسي .
أن أميز النجم عن الكوكب
أن استثمر تعلماتي في وضعيات جديدة .

English version:

"By the evidence provided by the potential, the student will be able to approach greatly from some phenomena, which were vague and he has them.
The form of the globe.
The earth's rotation around itself.
Virtual movement of the sun.
That the completed model to notice the movement of the earth around itself.
Direction of rotation of the Earth Jules sun.
Year simple and leap year.
I determine that the model was completed by the earth's rotation around the sun.
Phases of the moon.
Phenomena of the eclipse and lunar eclipses and I set their causes.
I determine that the cause of the different phases of the Moon.
The solar system.
Tell the star on the planet
Talmati that invested in new positions."

Yes, you can see that the accuracy of Arabic to English isn't so great, however, let me ask you this?

How many of you are able to highlight the Arabic text on the original blog post and paste into Google Translate?  

Do you know why it is so difficult?  

Although you may know this in mind, in practice you may not realize that when highlighting Arabic that you have to highlight from the right of the first sentence and NOT the left! Go on, try it!

I have to admit that even highlighting the text to turn it into a block quote on this blog was tough for me.

So, here, Kamal in Morocco is talking to Monique in France which is tweeted out by Marsattac in France to a hashtag followed by Vicki in Camilla where she learns and relearns the nuances of translating arabic. A simple thing but how many people would give up and not translate? Could something as simple as this cause communication barriers to those who use online translation services?

Just going to this conference has opened up many questions in practice in my hometown.

Do I know anyone going?
Why yes, I do. I've been following the twitter hashtag since it came across my inbox this week and have now "met" twenty people who will be there in fact, I may go on a tour with a group of teachers traveling from the US on Saturday morning.  Yes, I met them on Twitter.

Why are you going?
I'm going as a member of the press.

Why are you considered a "member of the press" don't they know you're just a teacher in a small town?
And this, my friends presents the most interesting answer. In shock as I review my first press kit this morning - I realize that although I am inherently distinct and different from mainstream media in almost every way -- from the occasional typos to the personal voice I interject -- but somehow this world now considers someone like me a "member of the press."

Become Part of the Story

The interesting thing is that this type of "press" - the blogger is a totally different "animal" so to speak as we are organic in many ways. The moment I started tweeting about going, I started getting dm's and emails from my friends who have been or are going - the moment. I don't have to go to the conference to have "sources" and "interviews" lined up. It is happening already.

Also, I am inviting my friends who have attended this Worldwide Innovation Forum in the past to email me at vicki at coolcatteacher dot com - put in the subject #wwief if you will so I can pull you out of the hundreds of emails I get every day. I'd like to know when you went, what you learned, your thoughts on the process, and about your project. You're part of this story.  Give me the story.

Unhook the Stars
Back to this lovely discussion about Kamal's "organic" experience of arranging planets and stars and watching them interact.

We have become a society that is empowered to learn with kinesthetic, practical, hands on experiences.  

  • Like Kamal's invention.   
  • Like the fact that I was reminded about copying Arabic from right to left.  
  • Like the realization that as I've been teaching that bloggers who have a following have become considered part of the media of the world.   
  • Like the fact that I'm asking you to give me your thoughts on the conference and some of you reading will respond via twitter and email. 

Immersive teaching is important and immersive experience is transcendent.

Sharing experience to create vicarious learning experiences is important.

Sell Out?
Is going to a conference as a member of "the press" a "sell out" as I asked myself when invited to attend 
at the expense of Microsoft? (Who is just paying my travel expenses.) 

I tell you this - I sold out a long time a go and it wasn't to a company but rather to a dream. It is to the fact that there are many people out there who need encouragement. That we need to use technology to improve our world and what better way to do that than to do it in the classroom? That we need to encourage one another and tell the story of the real teacher.  

Not the press release packaged - glossed over experience that makes it to most newspapers, but rather the real experience of the teacher who has good days and bad days and sometimes struggles with staying in the classroom.

I am sold out to a dream of who I feel called to be.  And who I feel called to be has a job of participating in experiences such as this one to funnel learning, perspective, best practices, and encouragement to those of you who honor me with your presence and attention. To help us make sense of how we can well-use this technology arsenal that has the power for great harm and great good.  To unhook the stars that lie within these processors, these teachers, and these students as we do what we can do to improve things from the "bottom" up.

To build this lexicon of learning pedagogy that transcends language and barriers. 

We no longer need our "official organizations" to build bridges but teachers are connecting directly - classroom to classroom and it will impact the classroom and our society in ways that are going to be another jolt to our world's psyche. 

A real classroom teacher can go to a conference about teachers to let other teachers know what she thinks about what is happening. This needs to happen more often. Teacher to teacher.

Thank you for journeying with me. Thank you for reading my blog, for ultimately your readership is the wind that is propelling me to South Africa and beyond.  I look forward to streaming, beaming, and sharing with you in as many ways as possible over the next week.

When you see me post sometime Tuesday, I'll be a whole ocean and continent away from Camilla, Georgia. 

You've come a long way, baby and many miles more to go before you sleep.

Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 10/23/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 10/22/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 10/21/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Should Classrooms Evolve?

Setting the shotImage by J Patz via Flickr
In my email today:
"Could you imagine sending me a short quote about why you think it is important to teach using technology and/or why there should be global connections?"

Here was my answer.

Our students who participate in Flat Classroom and Digiteen are graduating from high school able to say that they have collaborated on a global basis. Sure, twenty first century skills are important, however, twenty first century connections are just as important. Additionally, there are now three forms of writing: traditional essay writing, first person blogging, and collaborative writing such as done on a wiki.

There are also other forms of expression. We already have: written expression and verbal expression but now we also have audio expression and visual expression (through video and photography.) To be a well rounded, well educated student they should be able to express themselves well in all of these forms of expression. 

There are PhD programs in the United States that now require a video to accompany the doctoral thesis. Additionally, there are high schools requiring complete efolios and some of us (myself included) think colleges should add the ability to submit hyperlinks to the college application.  

In this environment, we must move to specifically incorporate these forms of writing and additional forms of expression into our curriculum from the lower levels all the way through college.  In short, global collaboration and the accompanying multimedia, technical profiencies and collaborative skills required is essential to producing a well educated student.

For those people who just completely did not understand the words in the previous paragraphs, this points out that also, we as educators must become more literate ourselves in understanding the requirements of an increasingly technical and interconnected world.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Inhaled by the Undertow of Chat?

It was amazing - at 5:00 pm Eastern Time I brought up the chat feature on the Digiteen Ning (FYI - chat is private for members only) before 5:01 pm - I had two students from Iowa and a couple from Korea in the chat. Within six minutes we had 8 students in the chat! I just went back in to write this post and had this conversation:

The first mistake was one of using IM speak. I talked about how we don't use IM speak because it leaves out those who have English as a second language and we embarked on a great discussion about just that point.

The students were amazing and very up front about the conversation and having live chat on the Ning. They were just "there."

This is what floors me - this generation is SO eager to connect. They want it and in some ways need it. Live chat pulls them in like a magnet. So, we have 900 something kids on the project but to immediately have 7-8 kids pulled into a technology that quickly makes me think.

When we put in new technologies how often are the kids "sucked in." What do they think? Well, they told me and I have permission to let you know what they think.

You know when a big ship goes down, survivors try to swim away so they aren't pulled into the undertow.  But perhaps there are certain technologies that have this same undertow - that by their very presence kids are inhaled into a learning experience.  What are those technologies? Have we mastered how to use them?

 Backchannels have potential

I think I'm still just learning how to master the backchannel but I think that backchannels and live chats are important. The thing that scares most people away is the sandbox experience. The first time a kid comes  into a live chat with kids around the world they are almost giddy and want to talk about seemingly frivolous things! They get a little silly. And yet with time, I see them evolve to useful tools of collaboration.

Chat?  Backchannels?

These are very useful tools and yet, are we afraid of what live chats can do? Still thinking on this one, but I sure do like technologies that draw students with their magnetic embrace. 

Chat may be a lot of things but it is magnetic to students. It just is.

Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 10/19/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Under the Microscope... uhm, make that "the cell phone"

Chargepod is a 6-way charging device that allo...Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia
Popular Mechanics has a great article on the brilliant ideas. In this month's issue, they feature a new cellphone microscope that can:
"diagnose disease cheaply and effectively anywhere in the world."
I love how the originator of this technology, Aydogan Ozcan, University of California, Los Angeles says:
"“The key to everything is the cellphone,” Ozcan says. In 1990, fewer than 12.5 million people worldwide had them; today, 4.6 billion do. While conventional lens-based microscopy has essentially plateaued, fierce competition causes cellphone-camera technology to advance rapidly even as prices plummet. Eventually, Ozcan believes, point-of-care facilities in the U.S. will begin replacing expensive and time-consuming lab procedures with cellphone-based diagnostic tools. “Once insurance companies start to accept this,” he says, “we will have better, more affordable healthcare and better quality of life.”
I seem to also think that education could be cast in this light as well. We are looking and working towards more SMS based collaborative models with our projects. How can this work?
Is the key to everything the cell phone?  Well, I wouldn't go that far, but this thought takes me back to February in India at the Flat Classroom mini-conference. (Hey, Beijing is only four months away!)

When I think of the Akanksha organization that works with the poorest of the poor in cities like Mumbai India. Back in February, I sat on the floor of that schoolroom watching the beautiful teachers deliver a flawless lesson on how to speak English to young children with only a notebook and pencil and a dry erase board. No technology.... except.
The teachers had cell phones.
Bandwidth Snobbery Limits True Diversity of Connection
We have to be so careful about bandwidth snobbery. It is important to remember that there are those we will only be able to connect with using SMS (standard text messaging) that may never have a computer.
While I think that high-bandwidth projects like Flat Classroom are essential to being an effective global citizen. It is also vital to communicate with a wide variety of people around the world and this means cell phones.
Cell phones -- they're going to be microscopes and in fact, they already are in the mind of this genius, Aydogan Ozcan, featured by Popular Mechanics.
But cell phones are the key to much more for us. Sure, right now they are disruptive. They can also be cost prohibitive. They can be misused and are a huge distraction if allowed to be used improperly.
I was talking to a person in Iowa who said their tech departments came back from ISTE and said
"It is all about smartphones... that is where everyone is heading."
These smartphones are voice and text-disabled phones that are used primarily for the apps. However, we can do so much more.
Taming the Majestic Stallion of Cell Phone Potential
I'm reminded oThe Man from Snowy River Posterf one of my favorite movies, the Man from Snowy River, where the boy who becomes a "man" through the course of the movie tames this one, beautiful majestic stallion and it completely changes his life and leads to the woman of his dreams.
Somehow, I think that cell phones are much like "the Stallion." Tough to tame and master -- once we get our arms around these devices and what they can do we are going to find that our schools are indeed, improved.
No technology will be the "savior" of schools. The true champions of improving education are the teachers and administrators on the front lines, however, in an environment where we have limited resources, cell phones may just fit the ever shrinking "bill."
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