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All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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Sunday
Jun282009

Head for the Edge columns online

My 08-09 Head for the Edge columns that appear in Library Media Connection are now online. These include:

Continuing Education, August/September 2008
From Cop to Counselor on Copyright, October 2008
The Other Shoe Redux, November 2008
Building Capacity for Empathy, January/February 2009
Constructive Criticism, March/April 2009
Starting Off on the Right Foot, May/June 2009

Remember, the FDA has approved all my writings as a non-addictive sleep aid.

Sunday
Jun282009

A day of conversations

On China's policy to filter the Internet:
Once you start censoring the Web, you restrict the ability to imagine and innovate. You are telling young Chinese that if they really want to explore, they need to go abroad. - Tom Friedman

Edubloggercon, the preconference un-event, has been so tweeted and blogged about that I feel redundant posting here. Like others have commented, an entire day set aside to discuss, reflect, argue and learn is a gift. It's a stimulating mix of big Kahunas in the field like Dave Warlick and Joyce Valenza and Vicki Davis, rising stars like Jeff Utecht and Scott McLeod and Kirstin Hokanson, and lots of fresh faces who had the courage to wear little blue buttons that read "Help Me, I'm a Newbie."

I have to say the day started a little slow for me. After sitting on the now annual "Web 2.0 Smackdown," a hour or so of two minute intros to new online tools, I finally had to admit that new online tools are starting to bore me senseless. Judging from the group reaction, I am in the distinct minority here, but just how many ways can you graphically represent a image search or analyze your Twitter posts or shorten a URL? (For those who like such things, Scott McLeod posted a list of the tools shared here.)

What made my day were the policy-oriented discussions in the afternoon. Jon Becker's session asked if schools can fundamentally reinvent themselves. And Scott McLeod and guest Ann Flynn from the National School Boards Association led a discussion on school social web policies, asking the questions, "What do you want school boards to do for you and know about your work?"

The best such sessions can do is bring something simmering in the back one's brain to the front. For me it was vocabulary. Much of the talk centered around "social networking" and policies surrounding it. I've come to the conclusion that we should stop using the term. It connotes recreational/frivolous use of Internet resources.

Instead I propose we talk about "educational networking" and "social learning." When we describe our activities and tools with these terms, they not only sound more substantial, but I believe more accurately reflect what we're trying to do.

OK, so that was kind of a nice take-away for me. Oh, the other thing I learned that I will use was watching over Kathy Schrock's shoulder as she drug a web address out of her browser on to her Mac OSX's desktop, creating a little shortcut icon for the site there. I am probably the last person in the world to know that one can do this, but man, for those sites you only need to bookmark for a short time period, what nice little trick.

Along with the blue "help me" buttons Edubloggers could wear were orange ones that read "I'm an Expert. Ask me for help." I couldn't decide which to wear. It all depends on the topic at hand, I guess.

Oh, as always the topic of Internet filtering was front and center, so Tom Friedman's observation above from his recent column about the need for innovation in tough economic times caught my eye. Ought those of us in the West also take his words to heart? The quote needs to be changed a only little:

Once you start censoring the Web, you restrict the ability to imagine and innovate. You are telling young Chinese students that if they really want to explore, they need to go abroad get away from school. - Tom Friedman The Blue Skunk

 

Where's Waldo? (Edubloggercon '09). Picture from event's wiki.

 

Friday
Jun262009

NECC presenters - you better be good

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant just admitted to walking out of a bad workshop.

Scott, what took you so long and why even think even for a second it might be wrong?

Scott's post is timely. I'm heading for NECC in a couple hours where I'm hoping to see some world-class presentations and keynotes. And may I stress "world-class." I have no idea what the ratio of submitted presentations is to the number accepted, but I'll bet it is at least 10:1.

I pay my own way to NECC*. That's $250 for airfair, $280 for registration, $500 for the hotel, and a couple hundred bucks for meals. Add to that airport parking, transport to the MSP airport and back, public transit at the location, and other expenses and this five day experience sets me back well over $1000. Money that could have been well-spent in other ways - like getting a new motor for my pontoon boat.

After laying out those kinds of bucks, my expectations are damn high. I expect both cutting-edge, meaningful content AND effective teaching strategies in every session. Like Scott, creating better sessions at conferences is serious study for me. And I've written about the topic before:

Quite frankly, I am especially appalled when educators show a lack of teaching skills at conferences dedicated to improving education. My expectations would be more modest were I attending a conference for, say, CPAs or dentists.

Oh, and please hold me to my own standards if you come to my session next Wednesday. I mean it.

*Even before out of state travel was banned for budget reasons in our district, I paid my own way. (Except when I was on the ISTE Board when I was comped.) Personally, I think all educators should always be required to pay part of confence attendance costs - have a little skin in the game as the saying goes. A friend of mine who attends conferences for people who supply equipment to events reports that everyone attends sessions there and that the session are good and attributes this to the fact that everyone is paying his/her own way. I'd tend to agree.