Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Open Course for Educators & Administrators

From Free Technology for Teachers:

An Open Course for Educators & Administrators: "Dr. Alec Couros is teaching a graduate course this fall titled Social Media & Open Education. Anyone can participate in the course online. On his blog Alec outlines the various ways that you can participate. You can learn more about the course here. You may also want to watch the trailer developed for the course. (The video is short and entertaining).

Applications for Education
This course could be an excellent professional development resource for anyone that is interested in the roles of social media in education. This may be a course that teachers would want to participate in along with their building administrators. By participating together, administrators and teachers could discuss how social media can be used within the context of their schools.


Why We're in Trouble

From Ian Juke's blog:

Why We're in Trouble: "This is the bext of Jay Leno's walking segment where he asks people questions that are part of our curriculum. No wonder we're in so much ..."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bits: In Study, Online Education Beats Classroom

From the NY Times:

Bits: In Study, Online Education Beats Classroom: "Education that includes at least some online work is more effective than classroom-only teaching, according to a major research review done for the Department of Education."

The class of 2013: this year’s Beloit survey

From Liberal Education Today:

The class of 2013: this year’s Beloit survey: "

A popular undergraduate worldview survey from a liberal arts campus has released its latest edition.  The Mindset for the Class of 2013 from Beloit College sketches out various details of the historical landscape for eighteen-year-olds.   Some excerpts relating to education and technology:

They have never used a card catalog to find a book.

Text has always been hyper.

They have never understood the meaning of R.S.V.P.

American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing

Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.

They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.

Women have always outnumbered men in college.

We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.

Amateur radio operators have never needed to know Morse code

(via Melanie Hoag via Twitter)


Monday, August 17, 2009

The Use of Web 2.0 by Military Families

From the Wikinomics Blog:

The Use of Web 2.0 by Military Families: "

On August 6, the Department of Defense sparked a discussion on their Web 2.0 Guidance Forum (a blog used to “engage the public in considerations of web 2.0 capabilities”) asking military families about the value of social media in keeping in touch with loved ones. They asked three questions:

1. How valuable and what are the benefits of Web 2.0/social media tools to military families with love ones who are deployed? Is this a critical necessity, or merely a useful addition to your options?

2. What impact would there be to families, with loves ones who are deployed, if Web 2.0/social media tools were NOT available to military members serving over seas?

3. When communicating with your love ones who are deployed, which social medium do you use most frequently?

The result has been an incredible 230+ comments, many of which are carefully crafted responses telling personal stories.

I thought I’d point out a few of those responses here:

“When my husband first deployed to Iraq in 2002 we used chat with webcam alot. This allowed our son then aged 2 1/2 the chance to see Daddy and communicate with him. For the longest time he was convinced his Daddy lived in the computer. It also allowed my husband to watch our newborn baby grow up and regularily hear his cries. The interaction that the social networking sites allow the soldiers and the families are of utmost importance–it makes the seperation a little bit easier by allowing the soldier a glimpse into the daily happenings at home.”

“Without the social networking tools, the immediate communication will be lost unless they can get a call thru and there isn’t always time to stand in a line and wait to use the phone. The nice thing is they can go to any base or outpost that has internet and get a quick message thru to say “hey I’m ok” when on a long mission or they aren’t back when expected due to problems. I also know of other families that would use the video feature on different messaging software to see their children. I would say there isn’t even a word for the peace of mind it gives parents, spouses, etc to be able to have almost immediate contact with their soldier and Marine.”

“Generationally, we have seen communications methods change in a deployed environment from letter writing, telephone calls e-mail to social media networks, each with accessibility, timeliness and cost pros/cons. The current generation has grown up with the hi-tech / real-time communications options and the previous generations are adopting them. If the tools were not available, I think it would adversely affect morale and possibly lead to decreased enlistment/re-enlistment. Perhaps some partnership can be accomplished between DoD and the media providers to better secure these sites or communities within those sites for military member use.”

“As an ex military member and a spouse whose husband is currently deployed, I say Security and Safety are first and foremost. We personally only use email correspondence and are looking into web cams but are concerned about security of his location. I agree these social networks can be great morale boosters however, if these are in anyway unsecure and can place our troops and/or their mission in harms way then stop them now, no questions asked!!!! Years ago families survived without them and although I know they are wonderful for morale, unless the governement can be 100% certain that no breech of security exists by using these then I say better safe than sorry and we can learn to live without them.”

I’d encourage users to visit the forum and scroll through some of the responses. They paint an amazing picture of how consumer Web 2.0 technologies have allowed those deployed to keep in touch. Through the forum, the DoD was also able to get a feel for what tools are important for families (Facebook and Skype seem to be the most popular) and what some of the risks might be (e.g. a webcam revealing someone’s location). As stated in a followup post, the next steps will be learning how to mitigate those risks and implementing training programs and policies to allow families to safely use social media tools.


Romila Thapar: Perceptions of the Past in Early India

This really goes against what I've read about the history of India and is definitely worth a listen.

Romila Thapar: Perceptions of the Past in Early India: "One of the world's foremost experts on the history of early India, Romila Thapar, winner of the 2008 Kluge Prize, discussed the rich and ancient civilization in a lecture titled 'Perceptions of the Past in Early India.' In her talk, Thapar critiqued the notion that the civilization in India lacked a sense of history, and discussed the recognition of historical traditions in the early texts of Northern India."

Is Education going the way of Newspapers?

Is Education going the way of Newspapers?: "Will Richardson, @willrich45 just tweeted about a post he was reading at Seth Godins Blog

Seth Godin is talking about the changes in post secondary education....

Should this be free or expensive?

Wikipedia offers the world's fact base to everyone, for free. So it spreads.

On the other hand, some bar review courses are so expensive the websites don't even have the guts to list the price.

The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by iirraa

So what does this mean for us teachers out there. For those of you who are reading this not much since you have embraced change and see a new model being available for students. But what about our colleagues who still refuse to change or see the change coming. Is the newspaper analogy strong enough to bring about change.

Most teachers understand the death of newspapers in their current form is imminent. This article might push a few more teachers to explore the possibilities of the changing educational world around them. I have passed the article off to a few of my teacher colleagues hoping that they come back to me and ask questions.

What do you think about the article?


Try to Control Pandemics in New Online Game

Try to Control Pandemics in New Online Game: "

Beware the Gamers Flu - it could wipe out humanity.

This fictional malady, which breaks out in China and Japan following a game convention, is one of five viral illnesses that can be tackled in The Great Flu, a new online game created by reserachers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

The Associated Press reports that the object of the game is to prevent a global pandemic:

To fight the emerging outbreak, players use measures including setting up surveillance systems, stockpiling antivirals and vaccines, and closing schools and airports. Players also have a limited budget and are warned that "your actions to control the virus cost money, so keep an eye on it."

A running tally of the numbers of people infected and those who have died sit above the budget. Newspaper stories about the deadly virus and the global response to it — like riots breaking out worldwide — pop up to help players monitor the outbreak.

After a couple of play-throughs, I found The Great Flu to be a real-time strategy affair which is surprisingly enjoyable despite its chilling subject matter. The game challenges players to make difficult, real-world decisions about the timely allocation of healthcare resources when confronted with a potential pandemic. These choices range from relatively inexpensive options such as public information campaigns and distributing face masks, to tougher calls, including massive investments in vaccine or closing schools and airports. One of the game's key lessons - policy makers, take note - is that an aggressive early intervention can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

So how did I fare against the Gamers Flu? Not so well. After just a month, 24,000 people had died around the world and there was rioting in the streets of cities along America's East Coast. The great thing about games, however, is that you can always start again.


7 Signs of Creative Professional Learning Communities

7 Signs of Creative Professional Learning Communities: "

Professional Learning Communities
are a proven element of building successful schools. While a major
proponent of PLCs, I argue that creativity is often lost in the meeting
process and the examination of student achievement data.
Author of Group Genius, Keith Sawyer,
has spent years researching what makes for effective creative teams.
Not just effective, but teams that are creative and innovative at what
they do. Keith has identified seven key characteristics of creative

1. Innovation Emerges Over Time
“Successful innovations happen when organizations combine just the right ideas in just right structure.”

main issue here is time. Having enough time for teachers to meet and
not only plan lessons, analyze student learning data, and prepare to
meet student learning needs, but time to get creative. Often problems
re-surface because teachers only have enough time to manage the
problem, but not truly solve.

Secondly, the processes and values that schools choose to use when teachers meet is a key factor as well. According to Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and Disrupting Class,
“The reason why innovation often seems to be so difficult for
established firms it that they employ highly capable people, and then
set them to work within processes and values that weren’t designed to
facilitate success with the task at hand.”

2. Successful Collaborative Teams Practice Deep Listening
“Most people spend too much time planning their own actions and not enough time listening and observing others.”

Stephen Covey might say, “Seek first to understand.”
Deep Listening is a doorway to trust and understanding. Being able to
hear and truly understand the issues, feelings, and values involved in
a team’s discussion requires that team members put aside their agendas
and spend time listening deeply to what other team members have to say.

Deep listening will help teams understand what Tim Hurson, author of the book Think Better,
calls “What’s UP.”  What are the underlying principles at work here?
Teams need to listen to each other to understand these underlying
principles and trust that they will be addressed in their work

3. Team Members Build On Their Collaborator’s Ideas
“When teams practice deep listening, each new idea is an extension of the ideas that have come before.”

other words, the best ideas are a mash up of the team’s ideas. Ideas
are like Legos or Tinker Toys. Individual ideas can be combined and
built into a great idea. Much like a recipe, the individual ingredients
work best when they are combined into a wonderful dish.

4. Only Afterwards Does The Meaning Of Each Idea Become Clear
a single idea can’t be attributed to one person because ideas don’t
take on their full importance until they’re taken up, reinterpreted,
and applied by others.”

Often, we react to the new idea by attacking or fleeing from it, "We can't do that." or "It'll never work."

Teams need to avoid attacking or fleeing from and idea by not being too quick to respond to ideas. Like a fine wine, ideas need time to breathe.

Think of the team like a band of improvisational actors. “Individual
creative actions take on meaning only later, after they are woven into
other ideas, created by other actors. In a creative collaboration, each
person acts without knowing what his or her action means. Participants
are willing to allow other people to give their action meaning by
building on it later.”

5. Surprising Questions Emerge
most transformative creativity results when a group either thinks of a
new way to frame a problem or finds a new problem that no one had
noticed before.”

Teams need to take time to reframe
problems and ask questions. The major weakness of most PLC teams I have
watched or participated in is a failure to ask questions of themselves
and each other and a failure to reframe problems to get to underlying

Believing you have the answer or the solution before
you are even sure of the real issue is a failure of many PLC teams.
Teams must learn to question their assumptions, their ideas, their
data, and their plans.

Questioning and problem reframing might lead to the surprising result of finding new problems. That’s
critical because creativity researchers have discovered that the most
creative groups are good at finding new problems rather than simply
solving old ones.”

6. Innovation Is Inefficient
innovation makes more mistakes, and has as many misses as hits. But hit
can be phenomenal; they’ll make up for the inefficiency and the

Failures are part of the process. PLC teams
should expect for some of their ideas not to work. That is part of the
creative process. Think of the story of Edison and the light bulb. It
supposedly took Edison thousands of attempts to get it right. But when
he got it right, he changed the world.

“When we look at an
innovation after the fact, all we remember is the chain of good ideas
that made it into the innovation, we don’t notice the many dead ends.”

7. Innovation Emerges From The Bottom Up
Principals and managers, get out of the way.

improvisational collaboration of the entire group translates moments of
individual creativity into group innovation. Allowing space for this
self-organizing emergence to occur is difficult for many managers
because the outcome is not controlled by the management team’s agenda
and is therefore less predictable.”

Principals, you need to let go of the process and let PLCs develop their creativity and innovation.

Most Principals, “…like
to start with the big picture and then work out the details. In
improvisational innovation, teams start with details and then work up
to the big picture.” 
This is especially true when teams are
creating and innovating from student achievement data. PLCs need to be
free to discover the big picture based on what they discover through
the data.

These 7 signs of creative teams would demonstrate your PLC to be more creative in their approach to the PLC
process than the typical team. It is important that PLCs ask and discuss what they want
students to know, how they will know if students know it, what will
they do for students who know it, and what will they do for students
who don’t; but to do so creatively will make the team all the more
effective and innovative.

The model I have advocated here at Education Innovation is the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative. The PNLC operates around the values of ICE3(Imagination, Innovation, Inquiry, Collaboration, Creativity, Curiosity, Exploration, Experimentation, Entrepreneurship) Creativity and Innovation are two of the key components that are expected of PNLCs. The PNLC embeds creativity and innovation into its work because it is a core value of what the PNLC is. In either case, PLC or PNLC, the more creative the approach the easier it will be for teams to adapt, meet the complex needs of students, and reach the goal of all PLCs or PNLCs....results.


Bringing liberal education and computer gaming to college prep

Bringing liberal education and computer gaming to college prep: "

A liberal arts campus professor taught younger students about computer gaming and storytelling this month.  Harry Brown (Depauw University, English) presented to the Pittsburgh-area Hightower Scholars:

Brown is presenting an introduction to ludology — the study of games — to five local middle- and high-school students at this week’s Mary P. Graham Summer Academic Enhancement Academy.

The academy is offered to minority youngsters to encourage them to pursue higher education and give them a taste of what college life is like.

Brown published a scholarly book on gaming and education last year.


Free Grammar Ebook from Daily Writing Tips

Free Grammar Ebook from Daily Writing Tips: "Daily Writing Tips is a blog that I've mentioned in the past as a good source of content about writing in English. Yesterday, they announced the release of an ebook about English grammar. The ebook is 34 pages long and is free to anyone that subscribes to their email newsletter. Visit Daily Writing Tips for all of the details about the ebook.


Stanford Online Writing Courses – The Fall Lineup

Stanford Online Writing Courses – The Fall Lineup: "

A quick fyi: On Monday morning, Stanford Continuing Studies opens up registration for its fall lineup of online writing courses. Offered in partnership with the Stanford Creative Writing Program (one of the most distinguished writing programs in the country), these online courses give beginning and advanced writers, no matter where they live, the chance to refine their craft with gifted writing instructors. As you will see, there are a couple of courses offered in conjunction with The New York Times. The idea here is that you’ll learn writing from a Stanford writing instructor and then have your work reviewed by a New York Times book critic. Quite a perk. There’s also a course being taught by Seth Harwood, a crime fiction writer who also contributes to OC. Some of these courses sell out quickly. Registration starts Monday morning, 8:30 am California time. For more information, click here, or separately check out the FAQ and the testimonials.

Caveat emptor: These classes are not free, and I helped set them up. So while I wholeheartedly believe in these courses, you can take my views with a grain of salt.


Room for Debate: Do Teachers Need Education Degrees?

Room for Debate: Do Teachers Need Education Degrees?: "Graduate degrees mean higher pay, but not necessarily higher performance."

Arabic Chemists From The 'Golden Age' Given Long Overdue Credit

Arabic Chemists From The 'Golden Age' Given Long Overdue Credit: "It is a little known fact that Arabic scientists made important contributions to the fields of astronomy, geography, engineering and mathematics, and chemistry that last to this day, a researcher reports."

Mexico: Anniversary of Fall of Aztec Empire

Mexico: Anniversary of Fall of Aztec Empire: "

On August 13, Jesús Chairez commemorates the 488th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire in Mexico by visiting Tlatelolco, also known as the Plaza of Three Cultures, which is the site where Emperor Cuauhtémoc was defeated by the Spainards.


New issue of Educational Studies in Mathematics

New issue of Educational Studies in Mathematics: "
The September issue of Educational Studies in Mathematics was published last week, and - as always - it contains a number of interesting articles.
I would like to point your interest to Tobin White's article in particular, since this is an Open Access article. So, regardless of whether you are a subscriber or not, this article is freely available to all!


A new entrée to college

A new entrée to college: "They’re rarely beach reading, those assigned tomes that incoming freshmen desperately skim through in the last weeks before college."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Five Challenges Social Media Will Bring to Business

Five Challenges Social Media Will Bring to Business: "

A recent survey conducted by Proofpoint found that 8% of companies had terminated employees due to social media usage (common causes including sharing sensitive information on a network). And while the statistic seems significant, it only underscores one of several upcoming challenges nearly every organization will face as changes in people, process and technology fueled by the collective movement we call social media begin to transform business. Here are a few challenges that every organization should be planning for right now:

1. Integration. Becoming a 'social business' (meaning true participation as opposed to leveraging social media as a new form of marketing) can impact nearly every function of a business. Marketing, PR, communications--even supply chain and any function that deals with employees. So where does it live? Is it a department? Do organizations hire a 'Chief Social Officer' much like they would a Chief Technology Officer? All organizations will eventually grapple with integrating social into their entire ecosystem adopting either centralized, distributed or hybrid approaches.

2. Governance. Many organizations now understand that anything that can and will be said about them on the internet will be. The good, the bad, the ugly. And this includes content produced not only from the general public, but also from internal constituents such as employees. Organizations will not only need to begin actively listening so that they are in the know, but they will need rules of engagement for how they deal with multiple types of scenarios from responding to a compliment to dealing with a detractor to following up with an employee who just posted something inappropriate or sensitive.

3. Culture. All organizations fall somewhere on a spectrum of being 'open' or 'closed' meaning that they are either more transparent with how they operate and collaborative or they hoard knowledge internally. Consider that it's probable that the Zappos purchase by Amazon had a good deal to do with their notoriously open culture. Likewise, even Apple, which can be notoriously secretive, is benefiting by leveraging a strategy that opened up their iPhone application ecosystem. Sure Apple has a great deal of control over it, but for the first time in history, they have legions of people developing applications that run on their hardware. Organizations have the potential to benefit from embracing customers and employees in new ways, but will have to manage it intelligently and with purpose.

4. Human Resources. In order to transform from a business to a social business, companies are going to have to upgrade their HR protocols, as well as legal. And it's likely to be a never-ending process as new technologies continually hit the scene. Before there was Twitter, companies scrambled to publish blogging guidelines for employees, now the wrong tweet or Facebook status can get you fired. Organizations will not only need to update guidelines but actually train their people who may be leveraging social technologies for work. Customer service in particular comes to mind.

5. Measurement & ROI. Every organization will continue to struggle with measuring results and reporting ROI. Philosophically, this question can be answered with another question: 'what's the ROI of e-mail'? But it's a question that won't go away. New social constructs will be needed to measure social initiatives such as attention (the size or number of participants actively engaged) or authority (the amount of influence a participant has in the ecosystem). Because social business is enabled by technology, it is by definition measurable. However, tying it to realized revenue or savings becomes more of a challenge.

In order for business to transform into something that can function in a less formal, fast moving social space--it will need to do so at scale. These 5 issues are but a handful of the types of growing pains we'll see as this happens.

David Armano is part of the founding team at Dachis Corporation, an Austin based start-up delivering social business design services. He is both an active practitioner and thinker in the worlds of digital marketing, experience design, and the social web. You can follow him on Twitter at


Online learning comes into its own - Carol Lloyd, San Francisco Chronicle

Online learning comes into its own - Carol Lloyd, San Francisco Chronicle: "As the job market grows softer and less nourishing than a jelly doughnut, reports show more people are returning to school to immunize their careers and feed their souls. But 'school' is not necessarily the idyll of leafy campuses and long afternoons arguing philosophy in oak-paneled rooms. Online education, long an ugly duckling of the ivory towers of the world, is coming into its swan years. Vicky Phillips, founder of, which rates online education degrees and filters out diploma mills, says that in the past 12 months, she has seen an 18 percent increase in enrollment inquiries for online college degrees on her Web site - with the strongest increase in associate degrees and certificates.


LEGO Movie Announced: Have They Gone Too Far This Time?


LEGO Movie Announced: Have They Gone Too Far This Time?: "

LEGO logoWith the G.I. Joe and Transformers movies doing well at the box office, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that more toys-to-movies concepts are jumping on the bandwagon. Plans have been in the works for a while to make movies based on (among others) Stretch Armstrong, Hot Wheels, Battleship, and even View-Master. And now plans have been announced for a movie based on LEGO.

Yes, LEGO, which is well-known for resisting efforts by Hollywood to get their products into movies, has now inked a deal to make a movie based entirely around them. Reports are that the movie will be aimed at families, centering on themes of creativity and imagination, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just let Pixar use their toys for the Toy Story movies.

Now, one can hardly blame LEGO for wanting to get in on this cash cow. But, really, I think the reasons LEGO is so wonderful are that people love to build and destroy things, and that it represents real life in such a whimsically blocky way. The videogames are successful because they include a lot of building and destroying, just like real LEGO, and because they present familiar stories in a really fun new way. I don’t see how a LEGO movie can hope to succeed, really, since it won’t be interactive and, I assume, won’t have any licensed characters in it.

I could see, perhaps, a series of short LEGO films — maybe ten minutes long each — based on their different themes, because a short LEGO Pirates or Agents film could be really fun. But I don’t see a feature-length film working.

So, what do you think? Please take our poll below, and please leave a comment if you want to elaborate.

Is a LEGO movie a good idea?(polls)