Edublogs, thanks for the memories

Thinking Allowed has moved … finally.

So I finally got my butt in gear and put my money and my effort where my mouth was.  My thoughts over the past few years hosted here terrifically by Edublogs have been exported and imported to their new – hopefully permanent – location.  Edublogs combined with the power of WordPress have provided an amazing service, helping me find my voice online and participate in a conversation that pushed my thinking and continued my learning.

I am grateful.  Thanks Edublogs.

The introduction of ads onto my educational blog was perhaps inevitable and completely understandable from Edublogs side, but not something I wanted.  It served as an impetus for me to take control of my online identity, learn more about WordPress installs, coding and such, and finally take that last step into owning, managing, and developing a domain.

With the change in location comes a change in name as well. 

“The old king is dead! Long live the king!” – Coldplay, Viva la Vida

My continued online thoughts on education, techonology, learning and leadership will take place at my new blog, Building Understanding.  (more on the name can be found in the first post over at B.U.)

If you have enjoyed or been provoked by anything you’ve read here at Thinking Allowed, I hope that you will join me at Building Understanding and subscribe to that feed as well.  I have redirected the Thinking Allowed Feedburner feed, so many of you will automatically be subscribed to the new site.

Here at Thinking Allowed, I have made some good “friends” who have been part of a great conversation.  I didn’t ask you to help me move, but I hope you’ll join me at my new place.

image by RBerteig, found using Flickr Creative Commons

It’s not you. It’s me.

Edublogs have made some necessary changes.  By necessary, I mean that I assume that, like the rest of us, the great people at Edublogs have to earn an income for all their hard work and creative design.  Of course, it is their perogative to do this, they know their needs, they have nothing but positive intent, I’m sure.

Like Edublogs, as an educator, I too have my own uses and needs related to blogging.  Edublogs provided for years now, the best product that I could access.  I passed the word, encouraged new edubloggers and was able to get a message out.

And I get that that’s worth supporting.

But many of those services are behind a wall of payment now.  I cannot justify their use with yet-to-be-convinced teachers and students and expect them to pay.  Being able to create blogs from an admin account spoiled me.  And maybe that was edublogs greatest flaw…offering me so much for so little.  Now I expect it, want it, demand it.

I use it to spread a message of 21st century learning and now, how can I keep pushing teachers thinking if I have to make them pay first.

Of course, it could be that I’m cheap.

Regardless, it’s time we part ways.

If I am going to be putting out money, then it’s probably best if I begin to spend it on a domain and the ability to host to suit my needs and those of my clientele.

Thank you, edublogs for all that you have provided.  It’s is an unfortunate parting of ways.  But we both have different needs now.

I feel like I’m breaking up with someone….it’s not you, it’s me.

It was probably time, anyway.

image by zanzibar, flickr creative commons

Let’s not forget First Life

A story in the news lately has a 13-yr old Italian boy diagnosed with addiction to PlayStation.  Is this a case of lost in translation from Italian to English or does it mark the beginning of a new medical diagnosis?  The American Medical Association thought otherwise last year when it essentially stated that “while overuse of video games and online games can be a problem for children and adults, calling it a formal addiction would be premature.” (Wash Post article)

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

I watched this story and had some thoughts…

I believe that people become obsessed with games because they represent an outlet from a “regular” life that doesn’t live up to expectations or desires.  Gaming provides feedback, praise, challenge, success, and potential that many are not finding in their non-virtual experiences.

If teens in our schools are becoming addicted (for lack of a better word) to escaping reality, then we need to find ways to include positive experiences in their real lives.

I get that we are about embracing who they are and how they interact with the world.  I get that games are here to stay – in fact, I quite like most of them.

But we have to care about the whole child.  If we are really producing 21st Century success stories, then let’s make sure that includes being a part of a world.  I think we will increasingly value this as it becomes less and less a part of our lives.

What are we talking/sharing/doing about ensuring that kids are out helping people, feeling like they count for something, and are important?

Are we challenging kids?

Are we praising kids for accomplishments they care about?

Are we engaging kids to be better than they were?

If we can do that, we will find that kids are having fun with games, and are addicted to life.

What technology can do (differently)

Technology can do a lot of things.

Some are faster ways to do tedious things (like repeated calculations, making graphs, or maintainig draft versions of writing).  These are helpful.

Others provide flashy ways to present ideas (like web sites, presentations, and publications).  These can be incredibly powerful.  They can also be painfully mis-used.

But there is a part of technology that we have only begun to tap into that is transformational.  There are things technology can do for us now, that simply were not possible before.

Technology can connect us to anyone.

Watch this.

(you most likely have seen this Connectivism video at either Wes Fryer’s blog or Jenny Luca’s)

Pretty powerful.  And technology allows us to do that now.

Supervisors’ role in developing teachers

Both administrators and teachers are busy.

(Phew, I got that out of the way.)

Many of the ideas we share in the edu-blogosphere revolve around new ideas (for education) and new practices.  Embedding technology into the classroom no longer means making sure that students word process, do spreadsheets, and “do PowerPoint”.

Thank goodness.

Instead, we now want teachers to understand that best practice technology use should be “transformational” (Alan November’s word).  The use of technology should be to do things we couldn’t do without a computer.  Kids should be collaborating, communicating, and managing information in ways that simply weren’t possible before.  Even using technology to provide efficiency to allow for greater depth of reflection and understanding is powerful.

We know this.

But teachers are busy.  How can they begin to learn and know all of these practices?  Who will “develop” their skills with technology and learning?

The tech folks?  Sure, but it’s an uphill task and let’s not forget that “busy” thing.  If teachers are expected to spend time developing their pedagogy involving technology one of two things need to happen:

  1. They get it.  They see the need and they believe they need to learn it so that their students will learn.
  2. It needs to be made clear that this is valued by their administrators.

I wrote before about the need to get administrators on board with the necessary shift in education.  This is important to school-wide change.

But administrators are busy too.  How can they possibly keep up with best practice?  They can’t know it all, but they can know enough to ensure that they are fostering positive professional growth in their faculty.  Using their supervisory role as an opportunity to see what teachers are using technology for and sharing what they value by asking questions, teachers are more likely to reflect upon their use of technology and make changes with the help of their tech people.

I recently presented at the EARCOS administrator’s conference on this very idea.  Titled, “Looking for Learning – How supervisors can foster best practice technology use,” I shared various best practice “things to look for” in how a teacher is using technology in their classroom. (I’d share the slides, but in doing it “presentation zen”, without the talking, they don’t read particularly well – a curse of “the zen”.  I did include a handout on my presentation wiki, but forgot to tell my audience.)

The goal: give administrators enough knowledge to do more than check off a box that indicates whether a class was “using technology” or not.

Give them enough knowledge to ask reflection-provoking questions and professionally grow their faculty.

Photo by Stephen Poff
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Here’s what I presented…

Physical space:

  • Does desk layout foster collaboration (kids on computers are isolating enough)?
  • Can a teacher move around and see all computers and all students?

Classroom Management:

  • When the teachers wants attention, do they have students lower the lids (so simple, yet so under-used)?
  • When students are working, is the teacher in front of the room only able to see the back of the laptops? (walking around checking on student understanding and work has ALWAYS been best practice)
  • When beginning class with instructions and learning outcomes, are the teachers saving time by having their machines logging in?

After sharing these simple tips in how teachers use physical space and manage a class of students on laptops, I offered some key suggestions for what can be different with best practice use of technology.

Great pedagogy with technology can provide:

  1. audience
  2. voice
  3. connections
  4. collaboration
  5. communication

All ultimately leading to important learning.

I then shared several questions for that post-observation conference:

  1. In what ways did the technology enhance the learning?
  2. Who were the students’ audience?  What feedback will they get?
  3. What other audiences, could enhance the learning?
  4. What technology skills did you expect students to have in order to be successful?  Did they have them?
  5. What technology skills did you expect students to acquire if successful?  Did they get them?

Equipped with these questions, administrators share the thinking that goes into best practice technology use.  They encourage reflective pedagogy and consideration of what matters when selecting technology to enhance a lesson.

I hope it struck a chord.  I hope it leads to better instruction and more importantly better learning.

I hope we all continue to professionally grow.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thinking together

I am at the EARCOS Admin Conference in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

I have just come out of the room after presenting the I.T. Curriculum 2.0 presentation that Justin and I developed a year ago and its newest iteration.  Was a great turn out and a wonderful conversation.  People offered terrific insight and questions and it is an awesome reminder how smart the people running schools are.  And it’s an honor to start a conversation with them about rethinking how students learn and what they need to learn.

(Click on the Presentations tab to get to my wiki to see notes and resources from the presentation.)

What’s additionally cooler though, is having a colleague like Jeff who live blogged my whole session to his audience and created a back channel conversation on all of those thoughts.  Thanks Jeff.  Check out the unbelievable conversation that happened online, live as I was presenting.  Talk about shared learning!

Next presentation on Tuesday, 13:45 my time which I believe is GMT +8.  Looking for Learning – How supervsiors can foster best practice technology use.  The more I’ve been talking with administrators, the more I see that this is something a lot of schools want to know more about.  I’m excited.

Bridging the Gap

In returning from the Learning 2.008 Conference, I have had a lot on my mind.  The conference brought together educators new to all of this “shift happens” talk and those that were on board – our “converted” that echo in the blogosphere, sometimes too much.  And the conference continues to succeed in bringing an enthusiasm and energy to those new to these ideas – getting more people “on the bus”.  If that’s happening, then the conference is doing its job.

But I wonder where the rest of us are going.

Sifting through my RSS reader, reading through the blog posts of my Personal Learning Network, commenting and being commented upon, I find myself questionning where we stand.

How much change are we affecting?

How much “shift” is happening in our schools?

In isoloated projects or classrooms, some incredible stuff is happening.  Kids are collaborating.  They’re networked, wired, savvy, and being prepared to succeed.

But in those same schools and throughout education, we still that the majority are not on the bus – they didn’t even know that there was somewhere to go.

What is going to be the tipping point of this shift?

Will schools resist changing and render themselves obsolete? And at what stage does this become unethical to allow?

Real widespread change is going to have to come from administration.

In schools, we find ourselves clinging to proven pedagogy and content curriculum, because they have worked in the past and it’s what we know.

Now however, we also recognize that students need more different learning.  They’ve always needed the skills of communication, collaboration, and meta-cognition.  We’ve always valued Gardner’s disciplined and ethical minds (and other Five Minds).  But the context for which they need these skills and minds has changed, sped up, and arguably gained in importance.  As a result, students need different learning experiences to ensure their participation and success in a rapidly changing world.

So, here I go again, joining the echo chamber, preaching to the converted.  Where am I going with this?

Educators who get this idea, are on one side of a chasm from the rest of education still rooted in old practice (with best intentions).

In trying to lead change, educators are trying to manage this gap between what we’ve done and what we need to do.  It needs to be school administrators who lead this shift, by bridging the gap between the tried-and-true and the bold-and-new.

The edublogosphere made up of consultants and librarians, technology facilitators and teachers are doing their best and making headway, but the fog is still thick and they are navigating through it with a flashlight.

It will take school administrators who see the need for educational change (reform is too intimidating a word) to take isolated innovation and make it practice.

Truly make it the way we do business.

So, get to work on your administrators and get them on board.  Or better yet, become administrators yourselves.

Keep in mind that you lead a staff who are generally good teachers.  They have great intentions.  They care about student learning.  And all the good that they have done and can do is not yet obsolete (no matter how often we tell ourselves it is).

We find ourselves at a pivotal time, I believe, where a new wave of administrators could be coming through, grounded in traditional schooling, but also thriving in a wired world.  Educators who understand both sides of the gap.

It is these administrators who can bridge this gap.

You won’t find these educators satisfied getting on the bus – they’re ready to drive it.

Maybe one of these people
is you.

Or me.

Photo by tread
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

This Week – Learning 2.008 – woo hoo!

The Learning 2.008 Conference in Shanghai, China is later this week. Continuing ISB’s dedication to always improving learning, we are sending a large group of teachers to the conference.


Keynote and other presenters include (does this look like a who’s who of blogrolls or what?!):

Just to name a few.

In addition to thought-provoking sessions, one key element to the event are the “un-conferences” where conversations develop in pre-determined time blocks about anything.  The conference will monitor Twitter tweets to determine what unconference sessions will occur and then people will just “join the conversation”.

This year, I won’t be presenting – which I did do at last year’s Learning 2.0 with colleague Justin – so my focus is really going to be on learning from others.  This conference is always a tough one because there are always 3 or 4 sessions you want to go to in the same time slot!

I have quite a few former colleagues in Shanghai as well, so it’ll be great to catch up with them and to continue the great networking that this conference brings face2face.  Looking forward to meeting Brian Lockwood and Jenny Luca (all the way from NZ) who are a big part of my Personal Learning Network.

See you in China!

(man, this international education gig is good!)

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