Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Microblogging: another perspective

A Tale of 140 Characters, Plus the Ones in Congress Gallery
By Dana MilbankWednesday, February 25, 2009

As with all other good things, it may be possible to have too much twitter...or maybe not. Upon reading this article my first reaction was to pass judgement on the legislators who sent out tweets throughout President Obama's address to the Congress last night. I likened it to an experience I had in Second Life last week when I went to the NPR Talk of the Nation Science Friday show. Instead of listening to the interviews, I found myself distracted by the sidebar conversations, some related to what was being said on the stage and some not, going on between others in attendance. My thought was there was no way the twittering legislators could be taking in the content of the President's speech and how disrespectful to him that was. But then I considered that I was watching his speech on TV and I wasn't getting all the details either because I also had a Wild game on in the corner of the screen, albeit muted.

Why would I do that? Why would I allow myself to be distracted by a mere hockey game during such an historic hour. It is because I knew I would be able to get that speech again in any number of alternate formats after the fact. Understanding that I wouldn't be able to take it all in anyway, I made the decision to not pay full attention during the event, instead resolving to read it later when I could fully absorb and analyse its meaning. Maybe this is what the legislators concluded as well. Maybe to them it was more important to be there and to share the experience with others than to listen in rapt attention.

Kathleen Kennedy Manzo wonders "if we gave those twittering lawmakers a quiz on last night's speech right after it ended if they would pass it." I'll bet they would get a number of questions wrong but I am not going to judge them harshly. For myself, I have learned that if I want to listen to Science Friday I should turn on the radio or download the podcast and when I want network and explore, I'll log into Second Life.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Twitter is a wonderful professional development tool! Combined with the blogs I follow in Google Reader, it gives me access to all kinds of people doing great things with technology in education. I have been spending quite a bit of my time outside of work exploring and communicating with tweeters, so I haven't taken the time to post full blog entries, but here is a quote from one of my favorite bloggers. I believe it is relevant to our search for the appropriate approach to technology curriculum.

"Teach critically, adopt cautiously, and reflect constantly." Alec Couros 2/9/09

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Personal Learning Environments: The future of education?

This slideshare presentation came to me by way of a blog I found by way of twitter. Until this moment I hadn't heard of a PLE, but I believe it decribes what I have been beginning to building these last few weeks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Practicing the sermon

Hare rant 2/16/09

For far too long I have resisted using Web 2.0 tools to establish a web presence. Unpleasant experiences in the past have kept me from exposing myself in any way to people I neither know nor trust. Now after more than a decade in self-protection mode I am gingerly wading into more social seas on the Internet.

It all began with Netflix really. Being able to use Netflix to line up a queue of movies to be delivered to my house was a wonderful thing. With the subsequent finding and joining the Netflix Community Ning, all of a sudden I had a public profile and my world didn't cave. I didn't get spam or unsolicited distasteful comments and I found the people there quite helpful and friendly. My next Web 2.0 venture was into the world of social booking with a Delicious account. Being able to save bookmarks that would always be accessible was one thing, but being able to share them with others and subscribe to a network of bookmarks saved by people who share my interests is huge in terms of spurring me to to greater depths of knowledge.

Then came the the discovery of wikis. While I knew about Wikipedia I didn't see a smaller scale application for wikis until I attended a hands-on workshop at TIES. There we were forced to set up a wiki "for practice". Since I don't like to waste practice on irrelevant work, I set up a wiki for my school with the idea that teachers would be able to use it for find and offer information on using technology. From that point, there has been no turning back. I am in the ocean; I am going to swim and will hopefully encourage others to follow my lead. Who knows, I may even find some folks who'll build a boat with me.

What I find as I work on the wiki is that if I am going to make if a useful tool, I need to have first-hand knowledge of the items featured there. Not many people are contributing at this point, but the people who are have different technology skills than I do. This has prompted me to try out the tools they're using. Hence this blog, likewise twitter. At this point it doesn't matter to me that few people read the blog or that I don't have a twitter following to speak of. What matters is I am learning to use the tools and using them opens up new opportunities to gain new skills and will be able to open up new worlds for those whom I support in my job. My colleague and blog follower, Ghost, affirms me quite often and the other day commented on what a powerful professional development tool blogs and wikis are. This could not be more true. Much of what I have learned in the time since I began this blog I have gleaned from other wikis and blogs, most of which I found through social bookmarking.

The next assignment I have given myself is to learn photo sharing to the point where I can explain it to others. In that vein, I spent time yesterday uploading photos to my folders in Picasa with the hope of sharing them with my 75 year-old parents. If I can get them to upload their photos as well, they'll be able share them without the fear sending huge attachments vie email and we'll be swiming in this exciting sea togther.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Something new

Up far too early for a Saturday morning, but now I figured out how to post from my phone. Don't look for many of these, however. While it may be good texting practice, it will definitely be the vehicle of last resort. I guess that's why we have twitter.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ask the right questions

Hare rant 2/09/09

It's not that our administrators and teachers are technology adverse. They want to use technology, but many have the idea that technology should behave and perform just the way they want it to. Maybe in some world that may be the case, but it doesn't appear to work that way in my public education setting. I find it frustrating to be brought into a conversation about policy and procedures affecting and depending on technology after the decisions have already been made. "Here it is. This what we're going to do, and oh, by the way we're implementing on Friday." Or worse, "Here is what we've purchased, make it work." Well, that may be well and good except for the fact the technology we have available doesn't necessarily work that particular way or with that particular purchase. Despite repeated efforts to explain the tools we have and what can be done with them and multiple requests to be included in technology decisions, this scenario happens again and again. I can usually provide ways to accommodate, but they might not be smooth or pretty and then I am seen as the obstacle to the solution instead of the problem solver.

Many of the blogs I read are well-researched and offer a treasure trove of ideas and resources. It is hard for me not to compare my blog with these. I don't have links to resources or examples of best practice to offer. I guess I am using this space to work through the stuff in my head with the hope that if someone should stumble upon it they might offer a suggestion I haven't considered. This is what I think I'll do. I have already met with the principal handful of times. These meetings did not go well as we clearly do not speak the same language. There is a another administrator who "gets it." I will go again to her with my concerns of being brought in at the beginning of every technology discussion. Whether it be communication, productivity, assessment or instructional technology, if I am going to be asked at any point in its use to make it work or support it I need to be included in the decision-making process.

On the topic of technology curriculum? I believe teaching students to ask the right questions would be of major importance. This is a skill weakness I see in the adults with whom I work. One cannot assume something that looks cool or sounds good is going to work. Yes, critical thinking is a skill far more important that placing transitions between PowerPoint slides.