I've recently run across an abnormally high number of blog entries that I think ought to be thought twice about. Must be the summer heat cooking otherwise cool intellects.
1. In "The Birds Will Be Singing" Ryan Bretag asks "how I could possibly make my upcoming presentations deemed as lectures more interactive?... why not use Twitter?" and suggests setting up a special account to allow attendees to electronically converse throughout his lecture. Personally, I always appreciate groups that actually listen when I am speaking. Adding one more distraction to an already overwhelmingly distractive world sends small shudders up my spine. Sorry, Ryan. I am looking for a wi-fi blocker, not another means for people to engage in side conversations. It's an ego problem, I suppose.
2. "I do see that a lot of people are very stuck on the idea of having face-to-face meetings for things that could be better accomplished online just because that’s the way they’ve always done it or because they just aren’t comfortable with the new collaborative technologies." laments Meredith Farkas in her post "No more f2f meetings… EVER!" Actually the title is the idea I dislike. In the entry itself, Meredith gives a pretty balanced look at the the pros and cons of both f2f and online meetings. The dubious idea here seems to be the complete elimination of either format.
3. Sylvia Martinez does an outstanding job of articulating some of the big questions I've been having about Second Life in her post "Second Thoughts on Second Life." I loved her quote "Second Life is primarily a platform for adults to explore their sexual identity. Ignoring the overtly sexual nature of Second Life is like going to a strip club and then wondering why there are naked people there. The owners of Second Life, Linden Labs, have expressed their support for education, and have discussed their intent to provide more educationally appropriate worlds. However, this is a business model that has to work for them and it’s not going to be driven by education no matter the best of intentions." I've always had the same philosophy as Mrs.Campbell that it doesn't make any difference what you do in the bedroom as long as you don't do it in the street and frighten the horses. Second Life itself just plain creeps me out too much with its half-nekked vampires and programmable penises to ever see it as a viable educational venue. MUVEs, themselves, have brilliant possibilities.
4. Scott McLeod gives "technology advocates" the Vision Challenge Part 1 and Part 2, asking "Can we articulate in a few short sentences or paragraphs what the end result looks like?" and "...what if these visions aren’t compelling enough?" I will forgo the grumble about the label "technology advocate" (if I am to advocate it will be for something carbon-based, not silicon), and get to the heart of this: Who am I to be the one articulating a vision for education, the end result? To a very big degree, I am a servant of the state. I get my marching orders from the people of Minnesota via their elected officials. Is it my job to lobby for the goals of education or only to recommend in a professional capacity the means of best achieving the goals set out for me? Now as a parent and citizen, I have every obligation to lobby for how I think education ought to be conducted. The smell of hubris hangs heavily on too many edtech blogs...
5. Scott is right now and then (surprisingly often for a college professor). He writes "... I don't like them [Internet filters] because of the message they send to students: in an information economy, we don't trust you with information." Welcome aboard, Dr. McLeod, to the intellectual freedom train. I've been hammering on this one myself for a while...
- Internet Filters: Censorship by Any Other Name?, Emergency Librarian (Teacher Librarian), May 1998
- Maintaining Intellectual Freedom in a Filtered World, Leading & Learning, May 2005.
We need more technology advocates ;-) like you willing to speak out against the overuse of filters.
I hope everyone reads blogs with his/her most skeptical eye and is always alert for the dubious notion. Be especially suspicicious of any blog with Skunk in the title.
I'll admit that it was the duct tape on the cover that drew my attention to this book. Like all good Minnesotans, I use this silver miracle to fix almost everything. (If it moves and shouldn't...) Happily, the content lived up to the cover of book...
All of us are marketers. Of ideas, of philosophies, of products, of ourselves. Like it or not, we are in the business of getting people to listen to us, believe what we say and remember to act in ways we'd like them to act. Some of us are better at it than others. Why?
Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick; Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Random House, 2007) suggest that "sticky ideas" have some common characteristics and that all of us can make our own ideas stickier. Sticky ideas:
- are simple
- have elements of the unexpected
- are concrete
- come from a credible source
- contain an emotional appeal.
- use stories to make an impact.
OK, so the acronym SUCCESs is a little cheesy. But, the book is filled with great examples of each of these qualities. Here are a few of my take-aways:
1. Being simple means getting to the core of your message. Not burying the lead. (It's about improved learning, stupid. Not the operating system or size of the print collection or the latest 2.0 application)
2. The Heaths introduce (at least to me) a great concept they call the Curse of Knowledge. Being an "expert" with tons of data and support can easily get in the way of your message when you try to tell everything. They write "You know things that others don't know, and you can't remember what it was like not to know those things...[you] tend to communicate as if the your audience were you." Might this be why the "true believers" in technology and libraries have a tough time getting other educators to accept their message?
3. They quote Stephen Covey who reports on a poll of 23,000 employees:
- Only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their origination is trying to achieve and why.
- Only one in five was enthusiastic about their team's and their organization's goals.
- Only one in five said they had a clear "line of sight" between their tasks and their team's and organization's goals
- Only 15 percent felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals
- Only 20 percent fully trusted the organization they work for. ...
Then Covey superimposes a very human metaphor over the statistics. He says, "If a soccer team had these same scores, only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs. Only 2 of the 11 would care. Only 2 of the 11 would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do. And all but 2 players would, in some way, be competing against their own team members rather than the opponent."
Do we help others get the meaning from our statistics in such a compelling fashion?
4. The authors quote copywriter John Caples: "The most frequent reason for unsuccessful advertising is advertisers who are so full of their own accomplishments (the worlds best seed!) they forget to tell us why we should buy (the world's best lawn!)." Is it: We have a 1:1 laptop project! or is it Students in our school are successful!?
5. When asked "when are ever going to need this?" by his students about an algebra procedure, high school teacher Dan Sherman says:
Never. You will never use this.
It then go on to remind them that people don't lift weights so that one day they will be prepared should one day, someone knock them over on the street and lay a barbell across their chests. You lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or carry your groceries or lift your grandchildren without being sore the next day. You do math exercises so that you can improve your ability to think logically . so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison warden or parent.
MATH IS MENTAL WEIGHT TRAINING. It is a means to and end (for most people) and not an end in itself.
Librarians, do we have as good a reason why kids should be reading quality children's literature?
6. How quickly and convincingly can you answer the question 'Why would the world be a less rich place if ___________ disappeared completely?" Fill in the blank with your area of passion/expertise (libraries, Web 2.0, public schools).
7. Motivational stories have three main plots: The Challenge Plot (overcoming obstacles; The Connection Plot (how a relationship bridged a gap); and The Creativity Plot (how innovation solves a problem). We don't need to be able to create stories, but we must be able to recognize a good story when we hear one. When I talk about how a lack of keyboarding skills prevents some teachers from becoming computer users, I always tell the story told to me by one of our librarians: "I remember when Jim first saw the computer keyboard. He said, "How in the hell do you expect me to learn to use a computer when the keys ain't in alphabetical order!")
Made to Stick is worth a read. Put it on your bookcase beside Cialdini's classic Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
You'll be unstoppable.
Blue Skunk readers know that I try to practice The Lazy Person's Reading Plan - alternating one non-fiction book with one fun read. But I'm breaking my pattern - and not for the reason I usually do by sneaking in a couple extra fun reads. I picked up Keen's Cult of the Amateur and find myself drawn to it like I would a car wreck. It is obviously a book meant to generate heat, not light, and such books I don't comment on. It's like being baited into an argument with an ideologue - there is no possible positive outcome since an angry reaction is all that is expected. If I change my mind by the end of the book, I will let you and my fellow monkeys know.