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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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EdTech Update





Standards 2.0

If you never change your mind, why have one? Edward deBono

Web 2.0
Encouraging to know that one is only 13 months or so behind in keeping up with the latest in geek-speak.

While dimly aware that the pace and direction of web application change has been at gale speed over the last few months (wikis, podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, etc), I didn’t know these things all fell under the common rubric of Web 2.0 until hearing Michael Keller describe the term at the NLB conference last week. (I am a slow learner, but I am a learner.) The origin of the term seems to have come from the Web 2.0 Conference held in back in October of 2004 by Reilly and Media.

In “What Is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,” 09/30/2005, Tim O'Reilly, compares Web 1.0 apps to Web 2.0 apps (partial listing)

Web 1.0     -->      Web 2.0
Ofoto     -->     Flickr
Britannica Online     -->     Wikipedia
personal websites     -->     blogging
publishing     -->     participation
content management systems     -->     wikis
directories (taxonomy)     -->     tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness     -->     syndication

I’d urge you to read two other pieces as well that hint at some of the implications for education:

Leading to Standards 2.0

Chris Harris’s Infomancy blog entry NETS remixed  points to Jeff Utecht’s The Thinking Stick blog entry “NETS in the 2.0 World”  where he has cleverly substituted “information” for “technology” in ISTE’s NETS standards. This blew me away!

I am convinced  that AASL’s Information Power Standards and ISTE’s NETS Standards need to be revised into a single document. If one does a Venn diagram of each set of standards, it might look like this - with more overlap than one might think:
Librarians need to understand and master the revolutionary impact of technology, including Web 2.0 trends, on their programs and professional skill sets as reflected in their standards. Technology folks need to realize that learning how to use technology without ever applying it to learning (especially research and problem-solving like information literacy standards require) is not worth much. A single set of standards blending student IT and IL competencies with an eye toward the kinds of understandings and skills required of working in a Web 2.0 environment would be powerful indeed.

OK, ISTE and AASL members – let’s put a little pressure on our professional association leaders, Don Knezek <> and Julie Walker <> to make this happen!


Game cheats – and an encouraging discovery

I received the following e-mail today from a reporter:

I cover the federal court system for The Denver Post and I'm working on a story about a lawsuit involving game cheats. Specifically, one cheat site is suing another on copyright grounds…

I've heard about the book you've written, Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age and I suspect you would have some thoughts on some of the other issues I want to touch on in my story.

Beyond the issue of cheat sites cheating each other, I'm also interested in exploring the question of what children make of using cheat sites and how parents ought to view it. Game makers frequently embed cheats into games for a variety of reasons, including access for users. Are there circumstances under which it is ethically acceptable for kids to use game cheats? When not? Some make the argument that violent games beget violent kids. Do video game cheats beget dishonest children?

Since I have not played a computer game since the days of Zork, I gave a somewhat lame opinion based on what I know about my son's gaming and use of cheats. But, I also forwarded the question to Brady, now 19, himself. His reply:

I never thought cheating in video games was much of a problem unless you're playing with other people (multiplayer) This is normally viewed as dishonorable and down right annoying. Cheating in a single-player video game is only as bad as skipping a pages in book or knowing the ending of a movie before you see it. [He found the analogy I tried to find, but couldn't! - Doug]

Also there are two different types of cheating. Developer's cheats are the ones the creators of the game want you to find. The other type are the hacker cheats, which you have to buy special software for. You can buy these devices (Action Replay, GameShark) at any dealer that sells games. I sometimes use both when available, but only for difficult or frustrating games. Also, sometimes there are some interesting secrets that developers don’t want you to find. (Grand Theft Auto’s notorious Hot Coffee scene, and debug rooms)

I have never made the connection between cheating in games and cheating in real life. I always knew cheating was wrong and I never really remember cheating in school. (Well maybe I scribbled some vocab words in my hand once or twice but I never made a habit of it.) I guess I always had a clear understanding of what is fantasy and what is real-life. (I don’t leap off buildings expecting to respawn close by; I don’t jump on people’s heads in hopes that spinning gold coins will come out of them; and I don’t have a pause screen.) [Parallel construction! - Doug] The bottom line is school and work are the exact opposite of video games and recreation, and I think that’ s how most people view them. I just don’t see the connection of cheating in video games to cheating in school – there’s just too big of gap…

I was impressed, as only a father can be, that my son has both writing skills and a good intellect. And has perhaps inherited my writing style – for good or ill. (Who are you and what have you done with Brady?)

This also tells me that kids are capable of more sophisticated reasoning and ethical thought than we might think.

Can your students tell the difference between games and reality? Are we worrying too much about raising an amoral generation who have gotten their values from Mario Brothers?


The fate of libraries - an international question

When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. Wendell Berry
National Library Board of Singapore conference – Day 2
Michael Keller, Stanford University,  began the day with a keynote, "A Knowledge-Based Web." One of the key things he mentioned was the emergence of what is being called Web 2.0, as described by O’Reilly. (A little reading for when I get home – why am always the last to know about these things?) Keller elaborated on the challenges of describing and organizing the web and is a champion for the Google Print book digitalization project.
After the keynote, I headed to the new National Library of Singapore building that recently opened, accompanied by my able guide, Mr Lau Kai Cheong, Director of Infocomm for the NLB. He gave a great tour including a visit to the “Pod,” an observatory at the top the building that gives commanding views of the city – even from the women’s restroom. (Don't ask.) The building is 16 stories tall and houses the library offices, a drama center, a public library area, traveling exhibits, and outstanding collections of Far East materials.

The architecture’s white, geometric structure is tempered by green plants throughout, including “sky gardens,” visible from the exterior of the building. It was interesting watching people do self-check-in and self-checkout of materials – a process using the RFID chips in the books. The kids seemed to enjoy the process especially. Despite the it’s high tech approach to library services, Dr, Varaprasad, the CEO of the National Board, believes his library is not cutting edge. (“But we  are not using RFID to do sorting for reshelving of materials!”) Cutting edge or not, Singapore has a world-class library that is obviously the end product of both visionary and humanistic thought.
After the tour, Mr. Lau treated me to lunch at the library’s café where visited about jobs, kids, and housing prices. Yup, we are more alike than different. We worry about our kids and think health care costs are too high. Mr. Lau exemplifies the spirit of hospitality (and even honor – deserved or not) I encountered in Singapore. There is a talent to making a guest feel welcome, especially one so far from home. Singapore may well serve as a model for the post-industrial age. It a country (city-state) without raw materials or a large cheap labor pool. It's vibrant economy is built entirely on the intelligence and creativity of its citizens.

The afternoon’s sessions revolved around the Knowledge Worker of the future. Some real commonalities among the three presenters:
  • Putting information into context and being able to use it purposefully and creatively are the hallmarks of the successful “knowledge worker.”
  • All librarians will need to see themselves as teachers.
  • And it is our EQ and interpersonal skills, as much or more than our technical skills, that will separate the successful from those less so.

A major thread of the conference was speculation (and concern) about the future role of the librarian. As one participant asked,  “When everyone is a “knowledge worker,” where does that leave us?" A great question that I hear everywhere I go – and asked not just by librarians, but by teachers as well. (I closed my part of the Q&A session with Wendell Berry’s great quote at the beginning of this entry instead of a pat answer - which I surely do not have.)

International conferences such as this one, are fascinating events.  Try one some time. (IASL is in Lisbon this summer and Sydney in 2006. Great excuse to see some places you've always want to see.)

Oh, I learned that one needs be accurate in one’s blog, even when reporting about a distant event. Another set of reactions to the conference can be found on Ivan Chew's The Rambling Librarian blog. Interesting to see another (valid!) perpective of the sessions as well as how one is perceived as a presenter. I was blown away  to read his posts! Thanks, Ivan!

Back in Mankato. Reflecting that two places where boredom is preferable to excitement are on airplanes and at the dentist office.