I Doubt I’m a Doubter . . .

Mike got all up in my grill for criticizing the CMS in education. I am apparently both a dreamer (but I’m not the only one) and a “doubter.” He even accused me of listening to Beach Boys music (I do have a theme song in mind for CMS’s – unless some knows a song dedicated to mediocrity?). I will ignore the fact that I was mainly talking about Blackboard and never mentioned HCPS’s Schoolspace. Although that military mindset is very much like some aspects of HCPS.

Mike, be careful with that kind of talk you’re headed toward a job in the nugget factory and I don’t think that’s what you want.

To put it simply, the use of the CMS in education is very often an admission of defeat. It is replacing agile and targeted with clumsy (often forced or coerced) mass adoption. It’s a cookie cutter response to what are very individual needs.

You want a blog, she wants a discussion board. I (the lord of technology) will give you something that does that (sort of, in the next version- I swear!) and 43 other things you don’t want– only it does none of them very well. Now you should be happy. Right?

I’d much rather work with individuals on tools they can control and tweak to really do what they want. Doing things piece meal and gradually isn’t a bad thing. With the CMS it doesn’t tend to work that way.

Now the CMS really tends to go down hill on the implementation side of things. Too often resources are taken away and this is given in exchange. Things are taken away that people used and liked. If you’re going to do this the replacement better be a big improvement for the users (the admins aren’t important). It also costs in terms of credibility. Every new thing that doesn’t quite work or only sort of works really costs in the end- especially when it’s forced on people.

Then it comes down to the conversations around the applications. CMS’s are “so easy” that teachers just need a brief overview and then they know how to use them. Maybe that’s true mechanically (although I’d argue that most use it simply for document storage). But I’d say the conversations about teaching within these environments is often forgotten. That’s not a shortfall of the CMS but it is encouraged by the way they’re marketed.

Finally, the whole paid CMS concept (BlackBoard money is literally insane) tends to cost a lot of money. That’s not including customization, upgrades, and the servers. It’s money that have more impact on instruction if it was spent on other things- like staffdev on how to actually integrate technology into teaching or just teaching in general.

On the fly video mashups

I may have to add Omnision to the tools Jim Groom and I will be talking about this Thursday. We’ll be discussing ways to mashup data without having to sink to the odious business of programming (I’m just jealous because I can’t code). Session title is “Welcome to Non-Programistan” and it’ll be part of the NMC online spring symposium.

So Omnision is a nice way to mash up various Youtube videos at varying points/lengths into one continuous movie. The service also gives you the ability to add comments or allow others to do so (warning: that gets ugly quickly but you can turn them off/on).

The nice thing here is you suddenly have the power to make subtitled videos (like we did with the Baliwood video thing) but now you’ve got a huge catalog of much more varied material. You could really do some creative and interesting work with this.

I’m pretty excited about the possibilities, not Steve Ballmer excited, but pretty excited.
Sweaty Ballmer

Webdesign Rapping

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/a0qMe7Z3EYg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Couldn’t resist this one. It was originally from boing boing or neat stuff.

Posted on a newly updated WP 2.5 installation. It’s taking some getting used to but I think I like it. As a side note, when they tell you to deactivate the plugins before upgrading, they really mean it. Gave myself a little scare that way.

I Want Video Proof of My Poor Judgement

College professors responding to RateMyProfessor via video on an MTV site


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Professors Strike Back Out

Such. A. Bad. Idea.

I’ve rarely seen college professors come off worse. Nothing says class like snarky replies to anonymous comments on web sites. Better yet, I want to do it in conjunction with MTV (who can’t even get streaming video right on the site). And let’s make it nice and permanent.

If the accusations are false, then you can’t really control it. If they are true, then fix things.

Really, I keep looking back to see if this is a joke. It doesn’t appear to be.

Check out this guy.
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“Don’t expect to be entertained in my classroom. Education is a challenge not an entertainment.”

If I were really smart . . .

and less lazy, I’d draw an extended comparison between the way our education system works and the way our Army deals with technology. I’d base it off this Wired article “How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic”. I’d reference this O’Reilly article (which led me to the previous article and is the source of all the quotes because I haven’t finished the longer article).

. . . the military’s infatuation with the bright shiny objects that support the big fight while missing the day-to-day realities of counter insurgency operations; a reality that revolves around people.

-Stogdill referring to the Wired article

I’d sure talk about that quote and how school systems and universities tend to latch onto Blackboard and other huge systems which do nothing for teaching (I’d argue they hurt instruction) but sure make big picture administration much easier.

I would really explore the interesting connections between the security needs of the military and education and the resultant huge penalties in terms of software quality and response time.

I really like this concept for a university or a school system-

Instead of one problem = one application, I want a set of services and components that collectively add up to a generative environment for building stuff quickly. An infrastructure designed with agility as a requirement and with provisions for permanent beta. A Command and Control Platform as a Service – think Force.com wrapped around a map – with a vibrant ecosystem of component developers where Ajax scripting sergeants can take “parts off the shelf” and build their own new pieces of TIGRnet while their boots are still dusty. As if CPOF and TIGRnet were just two applications in a Command and Control Facebook platform.

I don’t particularly care about the details- just sign me up for the place that goes with this concept. People should not have to continuously fight organizations in order to reach the level of technology offered to anyone with $90 (or less) and the ability to think of an unused domain name.

So it’s a good thing I’m not smarter or less lazy the post I should write would be pages in length and I’ve wasted enough of your time as it is.

Have a good Easter (or whatever) I’ve got a strange poem to ghostwrite for a fake rabbit.

BattleDecks- Presentation Ninjitsu

I found these beautiful notes from SXSW via Boing Boing where I saw Battledecks which led to this summary.

SXSW Notes via Flickr
credit Mike Rohde

Powerpoint meets Karaoke in this battle of wits. Watch your favorite speakers craft an off-the-cuff presentation using slides they’ve never seen before. Eight competitors will have five minutes to complete their presentation. Three judges will score the participants based on their use of jargon, gesturing and credibility. Who will take home the trophy and who will totally choke? Come see for yourself!

Two things came to mind for me.

1. Battledecks with your class. You set up a serious of slides that deal with your topic. Divide the class into groups and give out the deck. They’ve got X minutes to come up with the content to match the slides. Points are awarded for relevancy, creativity/entertainment, jargon etc.

For English, this could get really creative. It’d be an awesome way to do work with vocabulary words or story structure. They could pitch a story Hollywood style using as many vocabulary words as possible while working the story through the basic steps (rising action, etc). You could add difficulty by forcing genres on the students (nice way to review those elements as well).

Now, this won’t work at all if you’re giving them traditional bullet point slide decks to deal with. That will result in a massive amount of suck. You’ll get bored students giving you boring presentations and everyone will be unhappy. To do this right you’ll need creative images and it’ll probably help if you’ve been presenting to them in this style otherwise the jump may be too much.

Keep in mind you’ve got lots of ways to mix this up. You could –

  • mix the order of the slides
  • add X number of wild card slides of their own choosing
  • add wild card slides with a points penalty per addition
  • change the time for preparing up or down
  • require certain sentences/references/etc

2. Art Notes- if I’ve got students who are artistic (even just one or two) I might have them create visual versions of the class content. That might be a daily, weekly thing. It’d be interesting to see what that might do for visual learners not to mention the internalization that’d go on with the student creating the art notes.

You’ve also got something interesting to put on the wall or on the web. If you’re really impressed with them, work their drawings into your tests, reviews etc.

Stats, Math, Data and Sociology

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Want some really interesting and topical statistics to use? Of course you do. This is a great site for math, stats, and sociology.

Seems like Zubin Jelveh is writing things that’d mix into Dan Meyer’s class pretty well.

He’s got everything from Pete Rose’s betting stats to the cost of pennies and the economic ramifications of their removal. I thought the stats dealing with the NY prostitution ring were really interesting as well but probably not suitable for most k12 classrooms. The things that’s good about these posts is that they’re all about numbers and stats but they have a real solid tie to our lives and culture. It makes room for some really passionate and interesting conversations and as a result a lot more interest in the numbers.

I can’t recall how I ended up here so apologies to whoever I stole the link from.

Cute Cats, Dissidents & Your School’s Filter?

Cute Cats

I found this great post via O’Reilly Radar.

It’s basically the notes from a presentation at eTech. I found the ideas and applications really interesting. If you want to see examples of Web 2.0 being used in amazing ways to change the world, this is the post for you. It ought to lead to some deeper thinking about the technologies and their possible applications both in schools and elsewhere.

I thought this quote could apply to schools who are filtering in the typical “block all student communication” manner.

(referring to getting a site blocked) This is a good thing if you’re an activist. Most Tunisians don’t identify as activists and might not be engaged with politics. But, like Americans and Europeans, they’re interested in seeing cute cats being adorable online. When the government blocks DailyMotion, it impacts a much wider swath of Tunisians than those who are politically active. Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites. And even those who could care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they’re willing to censor the millions of banal videos on DailyMotion to block a few political ones.

Blocking banal content on the internet is a self-defeating proposition. It teaches people how to become dissidents – they learn to find and use anonymous proxies, which happens to be a key first step in learning how to blog anonymously. Every time you force a government to block a web 2.0 site – cutting off people’s access to cute cats – you spend political capital. Our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.

Proof Blackboard Hates You

So Blackboard’s big time now (80% of the LMS market) and has bought out its rivals or sued them. Let’s ignore the fact that their product really is focused on administration rather than learning.

They made $4.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. So they’re not a one man shop barely getting by.

This is their idea of a search page for online documentation. Really. You’re not confused. Their search function is a really, really, really bad index. Really.

Blackboard is Evil

This was the final straw for me. I have declared a blood feud with Blackboard. One of us is going down.