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Kudos to Dryburgh and Tulip

The audience was large and rowdy. The room was crowded. The people presenting just before the session wouldn't get their stuff out of the way. The equipment was balky. People were floating in and out. Sound like a real live conference presentation?


The crowd grows restless. See the blue geek ready to heckle?

This happened to be at a real Second Life conference presentation given by Kathy (Schrock) Dryburgh this morning at 8AM SLT as a part of the Second Life Best Practices in Education International Conference.  Despite the problems at the very start, the talk was absolutely terrific.

Kathy uses her powers of telekinesis to position the  white board where her slides will appear.

Using an in-world presentation device,  Kathy used nearly 60 slides to show the educational possibilities of Second Life.  She's posted a  resource list is on her blog and a tape of her presentation will be forthcoming from The "talk" - IM'd text that accompanied the slides - was clear, useful and exciting. It worked.
BlueSkunk visits with Elaine Tulip at the CPS poster session.

I also had a chance to stop by Elaine Tulip's (Lisa Perez) poster session at the event. The Chicago Public School Library Department was well represented. I was inspired a few weeks ago by Lisa's presentation on Second Life at a library conference near Chicago and I continue to be impressed by her department's presence in Second Life.

I am in total awe of these two educators. Their knowledge and understanding of this new medium amazes me of course, but I even more astounded by their bravery for putting themselves out there - presenting and displaying in this unpredictable and even controversial new environment. These are very brave people.

Many educators seem to have a reticence about Second Life as a teaching tool, even those folks I would otherwise consider  visionaries in other ways. Yes, Second Life has an "adult" side to it. Yes, it is crash prone, slow and unreliable. Yes, there is a steep learning curve to creating content for it.

Yes, it sounds just like the WWW of about 10-12 years ago. (Doesn't anyone else remember Mosaic and three minute page re-draws?)

I am also convinced that many of us can't quite reconcile "fun" and "useful." Every time I've gone into Second Life I've really had fun and I wonder if anything this enjoyable can possibly be good for a person. It's my inner Puritan.

Anyway, thanks Kathy and Elaine. You've made this new environment really exciting for many of us.

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend (if you celebrate). I am off to see my beautiful grandsons and their beautiful parents this weekend and I am doing workshops in Olathe, KS, next week, so I'm signing off the blog for a few days. See you in June.

Oh, I visited with a fellow who dances with his wife in Second Life whenever he is away from home. I couldn't decide whether this was sweet or sort of weird and pathetic.

I've come down on the side of sweet.  


Twenty (Five) Questions

 The best indicator of future performance is past performance.


It is, hands-down, the least favorite part of my job - hiring a new person. Especially when it's because you have to replace an old (figuratively speaking) person. Your chances of getting a bozo are real high if you aren't careful.

Sue, our Computer Coordinator, is retiring this year. I recruited and hired her the second year I was in my current position - 1992. My relationship with Sue has been one of the best and longest lasting ones I've enjoyed in my life. In a lot of ways, I suppose we are like an old married couple, knowing, accommodating and accepting each other's little idiosyncrasies. And boy, does she have a lot of them. ;-)We seem to complement each other in the department. For example, Sue really likes to work and I don't. It works out pretty well.

The job description has been revised. The candidate applications and resumes screened. The interviews scheduled. The interview team selected. Additional antacid purchased for my stomach. Did I mention this is the least favorite part of my job?

These are the qualifications I am looking for. Walking on water and turning water into wine are desired, but not required. 

  1. Does the candidate have a master’s degree in library science or educational technology?
  2. Does the candidate have a Minnesota teaching license license?
  3. Does the candidate have three years successful teaching experience?
  4. Does the candidate have school district-level job experience?
  5. Does the candidate have a record of successful technology staff development experiences in K12 schools?
  6. Does the candidate show knowledge of current best practices in staff development and knowledge of current technologies including Web 2.0 resources?
  7. Has the candidate used technology and media resources in his/her own teaching?
  8. Can the candidate articulate a vision and/or philosophy of how technology is best used in schools?
  9. Does the candidate express passion/excitement about education and educational technology?
  10. Is the candidate an active member of any professional educational organizations?
  11. Does the candidate have a background in instructional design?
  12. Has the candidate held a position in education that has required…?
  •     planning
  •     budgeting
  •     supervisory responsibilities
  •     team-building skills
  •     interpersonal skills
  •     communication skills
  •     conflict management skills
  •     working to deadline
  •     initiative

So that narrows the candidate field. How do we find out if our candidates have any of these qualifications? Ah, the interview questions. How do these look? (Many were supplied by Dee Davis down in Iowa - thanks!) A little different than those I've long worked with when hiring media specialists.

  1. What do you see happening in educational technology in the next 2, 5 and 10 years?
  2. How do you see your role fitting into the NCLB goals? With district goals? With building goals? With departmental goals?
  3. What do you think is the most important technology tool available right now to aid teachers in improving student achievement?
  4. Looking at the previous question, if you did not have this tool what process would you use to convince the school/district to obtain this tool?
  5. How would you work with teacher-librarians, teachers and curriculum leaders to create a K-12 articulated information literacy curriculum that meets ISTE and MEMO standards?
  6. What are the most important components to consider when evaluating a software program that you are considering?
  7. Describe your ideal relationship with the network managers and technicians in the district.
  8. Teachers need flexibility in use of computer technology.  What is your thinking on what should be readily available to teachers? How “locked down” should systems be?
  9. Have you been involved in writing any grants to obtain hardware or educational software?
  10. What process would you use for hardware/software replacement?
  11. How would you to respond to in terms of solving the problems? A teacher requests that YouTube be blocked by the district filter. A teacher asks that ARD (Apple Remote Desktop) be removed from her computer. A teacher wants to use Eudora instead of Entourage (school standard)  for his e-mail. A teacher skips a required inservice. A department chair asks for new online resource that has a considerable cost.
  12. What experience have you had with: MacOS, WindowsOS, ARD,  Moodle/Blackboard, Interactive whiteboards,  Student information systems, Blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasts, etc,  Gradebook programs, Datamining/data analysis systems, Web page creation tools
  13. What formal training have you had in technology applications?
  14. What you do use to keep current in you area?
  15. What would you like to teach teachers to do to cut down on “duh” kinds of calls?
  16. What kind of processes do you think is best in doing in-services for instructional technology?
  17. Describe a technology inservice you have done recently. What things made it successful?
  18. How do you deal with teachers who dislike or fear technology?
  19. How does a school best determine whether is teacher is technology literate?
  20. What process is most helpful to you in evaluating how well you are doing your job?
  21. What do you see as your role in addressing the problem of the ethical use of instructional technology, i.e., plagiarism, copyright issues, cheating problems?
  22. What experience do you have tracking software licenses?
  23.  What ideas would you have for involving parents in the new ways students are required to do assignments?  How would you help inform parents about their student’s safety when it comes to blogging, e-mail, etc.?
  24. What process would you use to keep in touch with building administrators in the area of educational technology?
  25. What professional organizations do you belong to and what work may you have done for them?

 What else needs to be asked beside "Tell us a little about yourself" and 'What questions might you have for us?"

Personally I like giving people in interviews a chance to tell us about their successes, challenges they've faced and overcome, and show a bit of their personality. A bad fit of person with job is tough on everyone.  Did I mention this is the least favorite part of my job?

Sue will be missed, but it will also be fun having a new person on board, full, I hope, of energy, vision, and optimism about technology and education. Enough to compensate for his/her idiosyncrasies at least. 


23 bites of elephant: Using the social web to support PLCs

Our schools are deeply invested in the philosophy and practice of staff development through Professional Learning Communities. Here is my question: How can read/write web tools support the work of PLCs and how might teachers gain the understandings and skills necessary to use these tools in the context of applying them to their own professional development? Eat the Web 2.0 elephant in small bites?

 One description of a professional learning community is: (underscoring is mine)

"teachers in a school and its administrators continuously seek and share learning and then act on what they learn. The goal of their actions is to enhance their effectiveness as professionals so that students benefit. This arrangement has also been termed communities of continuous inquiry and improvement... The requirements necessary for such organizational arrangements include:

  • the collegial and facilitative participation of the principal, who shares leadership - and thus, power and authority - through inviting staff input in decision making
  • a shared vision that is developed from staff's unswerving commitment to students' learning and that is consistently articulated and referenced for the staff's work
  • collective learning among staff and application of that learning to solutions that address students' needs
  • the visitation and review of each teacher's classroom behavior by peers as a feedback and assistance activity to support individual and community improvement and
  • physical conditions and human capacities that support such an operation (SEDL, Issues About Change, Vol 6. No 1, 1997)
(See also Richard DuFour's ASCD Educational Leadership article "What is a Professional Learning Community?")

Reduced to its simplest definition, a PLC is a group of professionals working collaboratively to discuss and practice effective professional strategies in order to increase student performance. How can this discussion and collaboration be enhanced and extended using Web 2.0 tools?

Modeled after CSLA's School Library Learning's 23 Things and Charlotte Mecklenberg Public Library's Learning 2.0 23 Things (which was inspired by 43 things), the plan below is a set of activities designed to help PLCs learn to use online tools that will enhance their efforts. It is my belief that once teachers experience the educational benefits of these tools personally, they will be more likely to use them with students in their own classrooms as well.

Month One - Blog reading and reacting
Tool: Technocrati

1. Read: Two articles defining and describing Web 2.0. Read the past month's entries for two educational blogs.

2. Participate: Use Technocrati to locate two blogs of personal interest and three blogs of professional usefulness, related to the topic of your PLC.

3. Do: Write responses to two blog postings.

Month Two - RSS feed aggregators
Tool: Google Reader

4. Read: Read the description of RSS and RSS feed aggregators. Read the instructions to Google Reader.

5. Participate: Set up a Google Reader account. Subscribe to the blogs located in the previous month.

6. Do: Monitor the Reader daily. Add five new feeds and respond to three blog posts.

Month Three - Blog writing
Tool: edublogs

7. Read: Two articles on blogging use by educators and about blogging ethics.

8. Participate: Set up a edublog account for your PLC (group activity)

9. Do: Each member contribute an entry and a response on the PLC's each week.

Month Four - Wikis
Tool: pbwiki

10. Read: Two articles about wikis, Wikipedia and/or the theories of collective intelligence.

11. Participate: Use pbWiki to create a document that articulates your PLC's norms and goals. Distribute the password to each member of the PLC. (group activity).

12. Do: Edit the group norm document. Review changes by other group members. Add additional documents to the wiki as needed.

Month Five - Social Bookmarking

13. Read: Articles about social bookmarking, tagging and folk taxonomies.

14. Participate: Create a personal account. Add three bookmarks related to the topics your PLC is studying.

15. Do: Distribute the URLs for each member's account. Create an RSS for a topic search and add it to your Google Reader page.

Month Six - Shared media
Tools: Flickr, TeacherTube/YouTube , LibraryThing

16. Read: Introductory material for each of these sites.

17. Participate: Locate and watch a video from TeacherTube or YouTube. Search for and download a photo from Flickr. Do a search on Librarything for recommended books.

18. Do: Create a Flickr account and upload three photographs that show a teaching practice or upload a video to TeacherTube showing an effective teaching practice.

Month Seven - Personal networks
Tool: Ning

19. Read: The FAQ for Ning.

20. Participate: Create a Ning account for your group. (group activity)

21. Do: Post a message and feedback to your Ning group.

Month Eight - MUVEs
Tool: Second Life

22. Read: Two articles on MUVEs and their potential in education.

23. Participate: Create an avatar and attend a professional development opportunity in Second Life.

Here is where I need your help, dear readers. In your experience, before I start fleshing this out with instructions, links, and assessment measures:

  • Is this a good selection of tools (given strengthened collaboration and communication is the goal)? (Ning still does nothing for me. Does Second Life really support the work of a PLCs?
  • Can teachers be expected to complete these tasks independently, with minimal F2F instruction? Is there enought variety in the activities? How can one encourate reflection in these activities?
  • Any ways you can see to make this more palatable to already busy, even over-whelmed teachers? How might one sustain the use of these tools?
  • Are there better ways to teach these technology tools or support PLCs?
  • Other comments?

I need help here!