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EdTech Update





Who is worth $40 an hour?

Two interesting news items caught my eye this week, and somehow they seem to be related:

In  The New Untouchables (New York Times, October 20, 2009), Tom Friedman writes:

This problem [American's debt and the jobless economic recovery] will be reversed only when the decline in worker competitiveness reverses — when we create enough new jobs and educated workers that are worth, say, $40-an-hour compared with the global alternatives. If we don’t, there’s no telling how “jobless” this recovery will be.

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

In Younger workers want more than a paycheck. Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 21, 2009, Jackie Crosby writes:

They want to work when it's convenient to their lives -- not punch in at some 9-to-5 job and be stuck sitting in a cubicle. They relish a challenge more than a paycheck, and resent it when bosses look over their shoulders or fail to reward them for a job well done.

For this, the 120 million members of Generations X and Y have been called self-centered, spoiled, slackers and lacking in motivation. But in the coming decade, 40 percent of America's baby boom workforce will be eligible for retirement. And ready or not, employers are going to have to reckon with the workplace desires of the next generation of workers -- and customers-- if they hope to survive.


"Talent sometimes comes through experience from old people like me, but sometimes talent comes from that 18- or 25-year-old," said Pamela Ostrom of Creative Process Consulting in Brooklyn Park. She works with Fortune 500s and mom-and-pops to make businesses work more effectively. "Companies are going to fall down if they don't understand how to recruit younger talent. Even in a poor economy, where there might be 100,000 people looking for jobs, there may be only be five people who can do the job you need. Maybe the job is so technologically forward that the only people who understand it are Gen X."

At the seminar, called "Rock Stars @ Work," companies talked about tactics that seem to be working. Cargill has created a "talent development program" in which young workers rotate through various jobs for their first year, and all employees are encouraged to move horizontally into other divisions to keep learning about the business.

At Best Buy, about one-sixth of workers are 16 to 19 years old, said Tim Showalter-Loch, a community relations manager. Keeping them loyal to the company and its products is vital, he said. A Web-based initiative called "@15" gives teens in that age group a chance to invest money in social causes of their choosing. Best Buy's "Results Only Work Environment" helps give young workers flexibility to work from any location that works for them -- so long as they get their jobs done.

OK, we have a work force that needs talented workers and talented workers that need work that is more than a paycheck. This all about building, hiring and rewarding those who demonstrate "expert thinking."

Wouldn't you think businesses and the politicians who are supposed to represent them would lobby harder for schools that encourage problem-solving, creativity, and communications - not just basic reading, writing and math demonstrated by testing?

And wouldn't those same folks want schools with excellent libraries and technology to help make this happen?

Oh, and I still think most organizations are still more frightened of "creative" expert thinkers than see the value in them.




Practicing visionaries

I was, to say the least, surprised by the reaction caused by Joyce Valenza and my School Library Journal article, Things that keep us up at night, published earlier this month. The article itself was more or less a distillation of observations, predictions and warnings that Joyce and I have been making for some time - not really covering a lot of new, radical ground. So why the reaction?

Joyce, on her TeacherLibrarian Ning, calls out these substatial reactions to the article:

* Beth's "guest post" on the Blue Skunk Where are the Others?
* Buffy Hamilton Refuting Inertness
* Cathy Jo Nelson Something for the "yeah buts" and Filters, a problem of complacency
* Karen Kliegman Cheering from the sidelines
* Jim Schneider Change, leadership, teaching and learning
* Tyler Reed (Scholastic) Why we need to embrace change
* Carolyn Foote's So, what can we do?


* TeacherNinja Become Change
* Walter Carmichael Contemplating the Future

I received, as I am sure did Joyce, some direct e-mail comments as well.

So why this article, why the reaction, and what did I learn/observe?

  1. The conversation began, for me anyway, with a strong, thoughtful disputation of the article. Had it not been for Beth's taking us to task a little, this may have simply died a quiet death. The richness of this experiences came as much or more from the great critical comments to Joyce's post, my post and Beth's post as it did from the article itself. (Go back and read the comments if you haven't!)
  2. I find it interesting that the original article appears in the electronic version of an (old) traditional publication. Wide readership of SLJ plus convenient access = lots o' reactions??? Is this an example of an "and" rather than "or" kind of future envisioned by Walt Crawford and others?
  3. The vision of future libraries and services is coming from practitioners, rather than traditional "experts," resulting in a new generation of leadership emerging from the field rather than academia. Carolyn, Buffy and Cathy Jo linked to above who responded in their own well-known blogs all lead by example - with Joyce being the model for this type of in-field leadership. Best practices are less research-based and more driven by what actually works.

Five years ago the "conversation" this article may have produced would have only been a couple (heavily edited) letters to the editor of SLJ and perhaps a few e-mails on LM_Net.

Today I am blown away, still reading, still digesting and still thinking that next time I write for SLJ I'll ask for a damn raise ;-)


Virtual Worlds Coming of Age: Guest post by Judy (Hey, Jude) O'Connell

While I was playing with my grandsons all weekend, my Ozzie colleague Judy O'Connell who writes the prestigious Hey Jude blog was busy putting her thoughts together about virtual worlds. Our Australian friends have long been leaders in online learning, so Judy knows where of she speaks. Thanks, Judy, for the infomative post!

Virtual Worlds Coming of Age – with help from ‘downunder’

Virtual worlds are providing new environments for learning, with new interfaces and new options of choice for schools.  This shift represents a recognition of the value of experiential spaces, where learners have rich, embodied, collaborative and cooperative interactions and  where they think with complex tools and resources in the service of complex problem-solving (Gee, 2003; Squire, 2003). The idea of 'serious games' is fast converging with educational virtual worlds with more organisations and schools exploring the benefits of game play within immersive experiences - to learn and assess learning.

The key in virtual worlds is matching the promise of technology with the creative minds of educators and their students. Virtual worlds can be interdisciplinary, provide authentic cultural, historical or scientific experiences, and offer systems of teaching that point the way to a new way of learning – one that is immersive, interactive and virtual (Hutchison, 2009). Planning a new curriculum that incorporates virtual worlds requires a re-evaluation of our technology strategy, and a re-alignment of our school library services.  No doubt, whatever we do needs innovation and careful planning for a successful integration into the curriculum.

If you are actually wondering what all the possibilities might be, take a look at this short review from Education.Au 


Immersive Learning: It’s Game On

But how do you find out what the options are or stay in touch with developments?

Australians are generally an innovative bunch, and so it’s easy for me to find the inspiration I need ‘downunder’ – and would like to share some of this with the readers here.

Visit the blog of Jo Kay  , and delve into her newly created Virtual Worlds in Education Wiki! She has established this wiki to document the educational uses of a range of virtual worlds as part of her work as facilitator of the Islands of jokaydia Community of Practice.

Australia's Second Classroom Ning  also provides an online community of practice for educators who wish to share how they use immersive media with and myself (co-founders of this Ning), are particularly keen to support developments in virtual worlds areas after the conclusion of some research we’ll undertake at the Macquarie University sim at ReactionGrid. The SecondClassroom duo set out to explore ReactionGrid , and have learnt so much more about the potential of Open Simulator to provide the learning experiences we have been looking for.  The next year is going to result in some amazing developments for schools – and timely too as demonstrated by Steve Collis in his 5 year plan for virtual worlds in education.  See, anything is possible! 

 My favourite resource for keeping in touch with global virtual worlds developments is Australia's own  Metaverse Journal  which  provides news, projects, and events for virtual worlds across industry and other sectors around the  world. Here you’ll find  a clear indication that education cannot ignore the transition and transformation that is taking place in computer-based and online learning environments.  I suggest that you plug this excellent online resource straight into your RSS reader.

Go on – get into virtual worlds today! Explore how a virtual world’s 3D environment might fit within existing learning programs and teaching strategies, and what changes might need to occur?


(Gee & Levine, 2009 p. 50)

When teachers use meaningful digital media for learning their role changes. They become designers of and resources for their students’ learning – such as video games or Web quests – they become mentors and guides, offering feedback and formative assessment that fuel students’ self-initiated learning”

Some key steps in your planning phase might include:

  1.  Understanding the basics in order to explore your choices and options
  2.  Collecting best practices relevant to your school’s setting, and where possible, observing a class or group of students in action.
  3.  Trying out virtual learning environments is to better understand how to boost student engagement, and create a new option for lesson delivery.
  4.  Planning curriculum changes, remembering to make it different to the existing curriculum.
  5. Determining the best ways to manage teacher support and development.
  6. Determining the implications for your literacy and information literacy programs.
  7. Working out the role that the teacher librarian and the school library can/will take in this new learning landscape.
  8. Making it fun and make it count.


Gee, James  Paul 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning, New York: Palgrave.

Gee, James Paul, & Levine, Michael H 2009. ‘Welcome to our virtual worlds’, Educational Leadership vol. 66, no. 6, pp. 48-52.

Hutchison, David 2009. ‘Video games: Ideas for teaching and library media links’, School Library Media Activities Monthly  25, no. 7, pp. 56-58.

Squire, K. 2003.  ‘Video games in education’,  International Journal of Intelligent Simulations and Gaming, vol. 2, no.1.

Judy O'Connell <>












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