It Could Be Beautiful: VSTE12 Presentation

This was an Ignite style session where I expressed my own personal frustration with educational technology at scale and attempted to then offer some redeeming alternatives actively being pursued by others. Below are a few of the slides and roughly what I tried to get across.

On the left is good education/learning etc. The middle is roughly what we have now, suffering from extensive damage and quite vulnerable to being completely destroyed. The far right is what a lot of technology integration does. It is covering up gaping holes and damage but at the same time utterly destroying what it purports to be protecting and conserving.

Not only do we do that but we hold up that distorted monstrosity as best practice. We put it on t-shirts and brag about what we’ve done.

We continue to create structures that pretend that a certain level of learning/teaching lives inside a technology without any regard to the instructional context. It depresses me this has been around since at least 2009 and is now migrating to peacocks and umbrellas.

Our society is so desperate for educational alternatives that we lionize a man who put video tutorials on the Internet as the second coming of Gutenberg. This Forbes story was shared 15,000 times when I last checked. Not that this is without value but we seem incapable of seeing it in a rational historical context or as one of many, many shades of gray.

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by bionicteaching
Unfortunately, the opposite of the Khan position seems to be equally distorted and ill-conceived. Technology is, apparently, either our lord and savior or a pre-packaged drek that helps fill a stomach cheaply. For the record, the only lower food form lower than Hamburger Helper is Spam.

We seemed doomed to confuse cheap gimmicks and flash with real potential to help people learn and furthermore we document our complete inability to determine what might interest a student.

The sheer desperation for something positive seems to be driving more and more teachers to corporate driven star teacher awards. I talked about this at length in the past. By all means get anything you can for free. Use companies to help you build relationships with good people. Whatever. Just don’t forget that the company has profit driven reasons for whatever it invests in you. Don’t censor yourself because that company “certified” you.

I can no longer count the number of apps (paid and free) that are simply web pages with shiny new wrappers. Almost all of those websites are both free and hold little interest to teachers/students now. You’d also assume that astronomy plays a majority role in the content and curriculum of all grades by the prevalence of star gazing apps in any educational app discussion. For the record, unless your calculator/dictionary/thesaurus/note app is also grants eternal life it does not deserve to be in any “top edu app” list.

Fluidity is something else entirely. It does something hard- makes equation writing easy on tablets and IWBs and does so in a way that actually matters. This video doesn’t even come close to showing you how intuitive the product is nor some of the more impressive elements (like being able to assign acceleration equations to drawings and then animate them on the fly). This is an app that takes advantage of the technology and helps make math something you can explore and interact with. The linking of changes between the graphs and the equation are also really interesting. I wish they were better at marketing.

These two apps are more typical of what you find. I was searching the iTunes store for ways to help one my children with automaticity and these were two of the better options. Both are really just multiple choice flash cards with a narrative, graphic wrapper, and a few primitive game elements. They aren’t helping him understand anything and in both cases the math is integrated in extremely weak ways that really don’t make sense. In Operation Math you simply answer the math problem to get through progressively more gates to allow access to different uniforms. Math Blaster Hyperblast 2 HD sounds like a joke name but is essentially a game where you fly down a tunnel shooting and dodging things until you reach a “boss” where you have to answer math problems to defeat them.

If you compare the apps above to the work Greg Tang is doing I think there is a considerable difference. These games are engaging (granted more puzzle than video game) but are doing fundamentally different work with math and helping to build understanding and automaticity as opposed to merely sugar coating flash cards. The potential to do things like this is there. We need to expect it.

I see similar ideas around engaging kids in ways that more than frosting and cartoons in the work done by Dan Meyer and others in graphing stories,, the 3 act stories, and most recently the dead simple but amazingly versatile red dot.

There are people like Shawn Cornally who are doing work that is just fundamentally impressive. What he’s doing impresses me so much I get clinically depressed with what I do with my time and energy.

So I ended on a somewhat sunny note. Education could be beautiful and is in some places. We need to raise the bar in terms of what we expect and not always in relation to what is good relative to the low bar set in education generally. We need to think about grading in different ways and in totally restructuring the way school works to get at things that actually matter.

Internet Culture as Digital Content: VSTE12 Presentation

This presentation is essentially a pitch for the idea that we ought to be looking at the world with open eyes and paying attention to the content that is exciting to ourselves and others- the things we read/watch/listen to without being coerced.

The introduction it is a rehash of the RSS aggregator pitch that I’ve given off and on since 2002. I know Twitter is much cooler and RSS is pronounced dead on a regular basis but Twitter fills a very different niche for me and I think the RSS aggregator still has a lot of value. I also stressed the idea that you have to aggregate feeds you actually want to read. That’s very different than feeds you feel you ought to want to read. Make this unpleasant for yourself and you will never, ever, read them. Build feeds that rejuvenate and interest you and then bring that into your instruction.1

My goal was to point out the huge swathe of low hanging fruit waiting for the right teacher to look at it in the right way- essentially the antipode of most of the content we use in education. This is really more of a change in philosophy than anything else. I’m hoping people open their minds to a larger idea of what might qualify as digital content.

I started with a lot of the usual suspects and then wandered into stranger territory. I’ll repeat them here because no matter how common things seem, or how many times I feel they’ve been discussed, they still aren’t for large numbers of people.

cc licensed ( ) flickr photo shared by Smithsonian Institution

Flickr Commons was one stop. I choose the picture above as an example because it was a slight twist on the idea about using images as examples for writing. I liked the idea of having images of actual historical scientific journals to use as an example for students working on their own scientific journals. The image being from the Smithsonian also adds credit to the resource.

Another more targeted potential is the fact that there are many, many podcasts in iTunes that are meant to be informative.2 For instance, I listen to BackStory.

On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what’s going on today. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.

I listened to Love Me Did: A History of Courtship which gave an interesting history of dating and courtship but also highlighted the blog Advertising for Love which is a culling of interesting historical personal ads that offer a unique kind of insight into our culture. This kind of thing being served up on a platter for you to use with students still amazes me. The fact that you can also dip into the LOC archives for historical newspapers to do your own research with students is more than just icing.

An American gentleman, thirty years of age, wishes to form the acquaintance of some American lady (an orphan preferred), not less than 18 nor more than 24 years of age, with a view to matrimony. She must be of the highest respectability, prepossessing and genteel in appearance, of good education, accustomed to good society and of a loving disposition. Any lady answering the above can do so with the utmost confidence, as all communications will be strictly confidential, and letters returned when requested; for this means just what it says, nothing more and nothing less. Address for three days, giving real name and where can be seen (none others will be noticed), Knickerbocker, box 164 Herald office.

From Advertising for Love

I put forward some of these more Internet culture-ish options that I happen to follow while stressing, once again, that I’d read these for my own amusement anyway. Some of these are no doubt well known but others are a bit stranger.

  • Quantified Self – “Are you interested in self-tracking? Do you use a computer, mobile phone, electronic gadget, or pen and paper to record your work, sleep, exercise, diet, mood, or anything else? Would you like to share your methods and learn from what others are doing? If so, you are in the right place. This short intro will help you get you oriented.”
  • Global Guerrillas – “Networked tribes, system disruption and the emerging bazaar of violence. A blog about the future of conflict.”
  • The New Aesthetic – “Since May 2011 I have been collecting material which points towards new ways of seeing the world, an echo of the society, technology, politics and people that co-produce them.

    The New Aesthetic is not a movement, it is not a thing which can be done. It is a series of artefacts of the heterogeneous network, which recognises differences, the gaps in our overlapping but distant realities.”

  • Street Art Utopia – street art/graffiti from all over the world
  • Nothing to do with Arbroath – really strange news and videos from all over the world
  • McSweeny’s – an English teacher’s dream for content and ideas for projects, writing prompts etc.
  • Junk Charts – bad charts and breakdowns of why they’re bad
  • boing boing – an old standby
  • SuperPunch- cartoons, art, and really interesting links
  • pretty much an endless supply of media from Grateful Dead bootlegs to drive in movie commercials with dancing cigarettes

1 I will note that if you aren’t interested in your subject or the world in general as it applies to your subject you might consider alternate employment.

2 Think educational and interesting but without the need for a grade to make someone listen/watch.

Daily Shoot Meets #VSTE

We were looking to do something to get participants more involved in documenting the VSTE conference this year. Essentially what we decided to do was create a random assignment generator and aggregate that content to a Posterous blog.

We’ll work on our Tebowing skills but all in all it feels like it worked pretty well. Given that we only had three people 1 tag anything with #vste2011 on Flickr we had pretty good participation.

The goal was to try to keep the assignments really small and quick. We tried to mix opportunities for serious stuff in with a fair amount of fun things. I believe this was originally worked in as part of a QR code activity. I’m not sure if that hurt things. I saw multiple people struggling to get QR codes to work at a few other sessions where a tinyURL would have done a much better job.

I’d describe how I used Google to find a php script or two that would allow me to randomize some text to make the page I used but . . . if I’d be thinking more clearly I’d have just used WordPress to do this. I also tacked on a Google Form to allow for the submission of additional project ideas (WordPress comments would have been simpler). No fuss, no muss, and I still hate code.

1 John Hendron, Tim Owens, and myself

Common Tools, Irregular Uses


VSTE Conference Presentations


I’ll be updating this post as I pull the content together. These are presentations I’m doing at VSTE this year.

Common Tools, Uncommon Uses

Take a sideways look at educational uses for common tools and websites. Projectile motion in Word? Google forms for a choose-your-own-adventure novel? Yep. Stuff like that.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list and the goal is more about encouraging people to look at these tools and realize that no matter the goal of the creators/marketers we can use them in all kinds of powerful ways that were never intended. I think in the end, I’m going to organize it by concept and show multiple applications that support those concepts.


  • Movie frames for comics
  • Capture motion data
  • Summarize movies


  • Visual timer
  • ComicLife/Mind Mapping
  • Choose Your Own Adventure


  • Text manipulation
  • Self-Correcting Crossword Puzzle
  • MadLibs
  • 8 bit graphic design


  • Onion skinning to map motion
  • DIY ComicLife, Omnigraffle etc.


  • Choose your own adventure
  • Intelligent assessments


MOOCs: Define and Applied to K12

Massive Online Open Courses are catching on. What are they and what can K12 teachers learn from them? Both professional development and concrete classroom applications will be explored

After I explain what a MOOC is and show a few examples that might be interesting for K12 educators. I’m going to take what I found to be the most interesting elements from my participation in DS106 and talk about how and what I’d apply to the K12 environment both the classroom and the professional development arena.1

Stuff from DS106 that’s applicable to the classroom.

  • Aggregation blog
  • Student spaces
  • Student created assignments
  • Mixed online and f2f communities
  • Multiple media outlets
  • Cheerleading

Professional Development

  • Leveraging existing MOOCs
  • Integrating the concept into the district
  • Providing for mixed experiences for teachers
  • Aggregation and promotion

Also coming out of our office are-

iPads in Early Elementary

Henrico just deployed 4 iPads in every K/1st grade classroom. Why’d we do that? What Apps are we using? How are we managing devices? How are we documenting results?

Reflective Friends- Changing the Culture of Henrico County Public Schools

Ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels? Getting nowhere fast? Come learn what Henrico County did to establish an expectation for 21st century, student-centered instruction in all K-12 classrooms. After years of one step forward, two steps backwards, we have implemented a reflective friends process that consists of a series of classroom observations by “outside consultants” (in-house and outside our county) using our Teaching Innovation Progression Rubric (TIPC). Data is collected on 21st century instruction comparing select teachers versus random teachers, students and teachers are interviewed, and all data is triangulated to paint a baseline picture of a school’s 21st century instruction. Additional observations are performed at the end of the year to measure growth. Administrators from all schools have been an integral part of this process and learned how to use TIPC to further develop their own observational skills surrounding 21st century instruction. We are beginning our 3rd iteration of observations this year will bring all 46 elementary schools into the process this fall. We are also beginning to help school teams develop their own observational teams by bringing department and instructional leaders into the process. Reflective Friends, along with Henrico 21, is setting expectations and accountability for 21st century instruction in HCPS.

Henrico 21- Part 2- One year- 238 lessons later…

Teachers are ready, willing, and able to implement 21st century instruction in their classrooms but their cry is always “Help! Show me what it looks like!” Henrico 21 does just that. We have currently posted over 230 lessons that teachers can use as models for 21st century lessons at various levels of implementation. Participants will learn how we use the power of WordPress to format and post lessons and take advantage of the social networking aspects of WordPress. We are using this constantly evolving site to change the culture in our schools and develop community surrounding 21st century learning. Participants will learn how we use our Teaching Innovation Progression chart (our 21st century rubric) as the foundation for high quality lesson development. Henrico 21, along with Reflective Friends, is helping us begin to experience real change in instruction which is evidenced by the growth in the site from 8- to 238 lessons in less than a year.

Digital Curriculum

Changing Instructional Practices

Henrico County Public Schools is currently in a two–year process of replacing textbooks with digital curriculum. By 2013, we will create curriculum for 40 secondary content areas. The content will serve multiple purposes including face-to-face, blended, and eventually online courses. This process will involve multiple stakeholders including educational specialists, classroom teachers, instructional technology resource teachers, and the department of instructional technology. The work we are doing centers around the TPCK model with heavy emphasis on 21st century learning experiences that align with our Teaching Innovation Progression chart (TIPC). Courses are being developed using the Backwards Design framework and will include 21st century performance-based assessments. As part of this project, we are working to develop a container for curriculum and content that will be transparent and open to anyone. This is a work in progress. We will share our journey as well as any materials we have developed with all participants. We look forward to sharing and collaborating with others who are working to meet the same goals.

1 I have some more expansive ideas on how higher ed could leverage this concept to provide semi-facilitated PD for school systems but I won’t torture anyone with that right now.

#VSS2010 – DAY 1

This is my first time at the virtual school symposium. So far it’s very similar to NECC or any of the other edtech conferences I’ve been to. The format is very traditional. It is vendor heavy. Wireless sucks. They don’t take nearly the advantage they should of the Internet. If conferences want to survive they’ll also figure out some really useful things to do that can only be done by having this many people in the same physical space.

I know that sounds pretty negative. I’d say it’s accurate. If any of the conferences want to share their profit margins on these things maybe I’d feel more magnanimous.

Random thoughts so far1

Just because something rhymes does not mean you have to retweet it as gospel. I know there’s research that shows that rhyming has something to do with people’s perception of veracity but still.

Many people have not read Disrupting Class (or maybe I don’t understand the book) but they insist on quoting it. One of the major points of the book was that the disruptive innovation occurs in a place where there is no competition. The product is also usually inferior to the product in the main space (Apple PC as toy vs IBM mainframes). That’s certainly not how people are using it. I’m not really buying chunks of that book anyway but it seems we ought to be able to use the term in the same context.

One of the vendors was giving out the book2 Waiting for Superman as a gift people could win. I asked the vendor if they’d seen the movie. As she ran away, she said it was great and may have missed my comment about corporate propaganda.

One thing, I have seen is that the parallels between online ed and tech integration are more similar than I’d like. Both groups seem to continuously conflate3 pedagogical concepts with tools that might enable them. Both groups have a dearth of good examples available to the public and yet that’s one of the strongest needs I’ve seen. The vendor is also playing a major role in presenting at these conferences in ways that are subtle and overt. People seem to be waiting for one-size-fits-all solutions that they can buy.

The most unfortunate parallel is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water. One of the oft tweeted phrases was something like “Let’s focus on next practices, instead of best practices.” That pains me and seems to indicate continued confusion about what is a tool and what is a proven learning strategy that will work just fine online.

1 Session summaries and day #2 will be saved for the plane ride back.

2 Who knew there was also a highly biased book?

3 Higher Ed’s favorite word

What do you wish you’d learned in school?

I was conversing with Jon Becker on Twitter a while back. He’d retweeted this tweet1 to this 50 questions project. Basically, the idea is to go someplace and ask 50 people a fairly open ended question. In this particular case, they asked people “Where would you like to wake up tomorrow?”

That stirred up some interest for me because I’ve been kicking around the idea of interviewing random people about education. I have a variety of reasons for doing this.

  • One, I suck at talking to strangers2. This would force me to do it and in what I see as the hardest way possible. No one likes to be approached by a random stranger with a camera. Hopefully, practicing under adverse conditions will result in an increased rate of improvement.
  • Two, I think it’ll be interesting. You never know what people might say. Everyone’s been through some kind of schooling experience. I’ll be looking for trends and hidden/not-so-hidden truths. Even if nothing like that develops, I’m curious.
  • Three, I occasionally have layovers in airports or I’m waiting in other places and I’m bored. It’d kill some time to do interviews like these.
  • Four, I’d like to compile the eventual pieces and parts into something that’s interesting.

So, on the drive up to NYC for WordCamp I was talking to Jim Groom and throwing around some questions. I ended up picking “What do you wish you’d learned in school?”

So with all that build up, I give you the only interview I shot that day.

What do you wish you’d learned in school? Attempt #1 from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

For a variety of reasons, I only asked two people this question. You see one of them above. The other turned me down.

I don’t know if this will have any attraction for other people but if you’d like to join in and submit videos that’d be welcomed. I’m opening to tagging or other options to make them easy for people to find. Comments? Thoughts?

1 still hate that word

2 If you’ve ever met me, you’re likely agreeing that I need to work on this quite a bit.

The Circle of Openess is Complete

Alan Levine, the magical CogDog, interviewed me a few weeks back asking about good things that happened to me because of the open way I share my work. He compiled a huge number of these stories for his presentation at the Opened Conference and they are well worth watching.

Amazing Stories of Openness

Watch the archived version of Alan’s presentation below.

OK, with all that as a set up here’s what I thought was wild about today.

I’m in Virginia watching the conference which is in Vancouver1 on uStream 2.
Up pops Alan’s presentation and I end up watching my own video interview which was a surprise.

At almost the same moment I see over twitter that Jim Groom is there watching me as I watch me.

Picture 4

I don’t know why this seemed so amazing to me but it did and still does. I see this as an amazing story of openness on so many levels and such a cool example of the beautiful way information can flow in instantaneous ways.

1 3,000 odd miles away and nearly 3 days of driving

2 because it’s a conference about openness after all

A Blogging Bestiary

Soooo, I had to do another presentation on blogging and “Bob on Blogs” wasn’t really the style I wanted for the UR crowd. Time for something new. This is my basic thought process in case it might interest someone.

Concept (learning objective): There are two key things I want viewers to come away with

  1. A blog is just an easy way to get content (multimedia and otherwise) on the Internet and you don’t have to do commenting, regular posts, etc.
  2. There are lots of interesting ways to use blogs in education

The problem I ran into was that I had lots of blog examples but when I started trying to break things down to show the flexibility it got way too complex. I was initially trying to show things like:

  • Group blog, with comments, using text and images
  • Single user blog, without comments, using text
  • Group blog, aggregating via RSS, with comments using text, video and images

So, instead I divided the presentation into two parts. The first portion would be a more traditional presentation with slides to add some humor and associate some interesting visuals with the relatively dry topic of the conceptual use of blogs, their limitations etc. I really wanted to keep the audience engaged and thinking about things in terms that made sense to them.

The second portion ended up being built with Exhibit so that users could select the design elements they wanted and then be linked to an a blog with those elements. I got the idea from this Exhibit page that allows you to select a variety of political positions and end up with the presidential candidate you should vote for. The nice thing is if I felt others would contribute interesting blogs, I could have them submit via google forms.

Now I had to come up with something that visually and thematically/spiritually carried across my point. I thought about lots of things but eventually settled on the idea of the medieval bestiary.

My rationale was pretty simple. The pictures are really interesting and unusual- and likely to stick with people. The dichotomy between using medieval illustrations to talk about blogs also appealed to me. Finally, using these images helped frame my presentation. I could parallel the strange/mythical animals to the way people are describing new web applications (like blogs) today. The monks who related the “facts” in the bestiary are about as accurate as modern day people who define blogs as “online journals.”

I’ll walk you through the presentation slide by slide below.
Intro Slide for the Bloging Bestiary
I like to have something fairly interesting to start things off that hints at what’s to come without making too much sense. I want to create a sense of intrigue. This image is put up as people come it so they, hopefully, begin to think and wonder about how in the world this weird guy is going to make a relationship between a bestiary and a blog.

This slide is my background as I describe a little of who I am and what I plan to do.
Fancy B Blogging
Now I mention there are many animals in the Bestiary of Electronic Creatures but today we’ll be discussing the blog. I make a joke about being sure there’s a B in there somewhere and start asking a few questions. Who has used a blog? Mastered one? etc. Depending on the audience knowledge I might ask for a definition.
Which one do you choose?
Here I ask the audience to decide which of these three animals a blog is most like. I encouraged them to talk to their neighbor etc. but I don’t think anyone did. I next asked the group what they choose- rhino? octopus? or hydra (which I called a many-headed-thing-a-ma-jig as a joke which didn’t work with one of the librarians in the crowd who volunteered the official name)? After giving them a short amount of time to talk (I only had 30 minutes) I asked if anyone wanted to volunteer their rationale. That worked pretty well.

Old woman fights a dog
This where I compared html etc. to being a lot like an old woman fighting a dog- no one enjoys it. I think I related the story of how I used to do what is essentially a blog by hand and how miserable that was. A need existed for a quicker easier way.

The next point was that all these “experts” defining blogs often were like the monks of old- they only had second hand information about a new animal and their writings often had motives beyond presenting simple facts. They changed or added facts to make their descriptions more interesting or to make them fit allegories.

a bonnacon spewing fiery manure over 3 acres
As Jim Groom related not too long ago, I did use a bonnacon as a comparison to the way a lot of people described blogs- namely that they were for spewing acres of fiery manure. My point was both that this didn’t have to be the case and that colorful “reporting” resulted in this stereotype.

I actually used a animated transition here. My rationale being that I wanted the bonnacon to be mysterious and then I transitioned it in with fire to emphasize the fiery nature of the bonnacon feces. And I’d always wanted to use that transition.

Blogging evolutionary tree
Now it was time to show how blogs had changed over time. I used Alan Levine’scat diaries” analogy as the origin of blogs- namely boring stuff put up sequentially that only you would be interested in.

Then things got really exciting and you could put up pictures to go with your cat diary. That’s where most of the blogs were today with a few also doing cat videos. However, there were two important divergent evolutionary paths- the multimedia publishing octopus and the static priest. These were the two offshoots that we were going to examine.
Bear licking offspring into shape
This seems slightly awkward here but it seemed to work during the presentation. I think I’d move it were I to do this again. The story is that medieval people believed that bears gave birth to shapeless blobs of flesh in the winter and the mother bear had to lick that shapeless lump into a bear cub. I paralleled to it to the author’s ability to “lick” the blog into any shape they desired. It’s just a way to get stuff on the Internet, you can make it what you want.

solo author vs group author
Now we get into the defining characteristics of blogs and why you might want to go certain ways. Solo vs group for instance. I talked about keeping the voice pure, different reasons you might want the content to just represent you, the options for multiple blogs, ways to control other users that you might want making content but not fully trust, ways to pipe in other people’s blog content via category/keyword – that type of thing. That covered the next four slides or so.

Multimedia octopus
Then I got into all the ways that blogs played nicely with multimedia (pictures, video, text, file downloads, etc.) and ways to integrate that into teaching. There was emphasis put on how easy it was.
carven monk update style
Then I got into how update styles are not set in stone. While blogs are seen as content that’s added sequentially over time, they don’t have to be. They can be set up and used as webpages very easily. This type of use cuts down on expensive software, html or WYSIWYG webpage learning curves and lets the author take advantage of lots of free design templates.

There were a couple of other images indicating a more stately update style (chameleon) and a faster frantic update choice (lots of fleas).

Security rhino
So I wrapped it up with some discussions on how and why you might want to restrict access to your blog (copyright, sensitive information, more open communication of sensitive topics). I discussed the levels of restriction. Starting with no one else can even see it and going down to anyone can comment while trying to cover the risks/benefits of each option.

In the end I compare the blog to an octopus for several reasons that I backed up with video at the very end after my two guest professors spoke.

  1. The octopus can change color to blend into any environment (blog themes)
  2. The octopus is fast and agile (like blogs but not like chameleons who are sloooowww)
  3. The octopus is flexible/malleable and really smart (my whole point about blogs- starts about 1:45 in with some wild shots of an octopus crawling through a clear plastic maze)

I was lucky enough to have Dr. Darell Walden (Accounting) and Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt (Education- really nice podcasts for elem. teachers) talk about their experience using blogs in the classroom.

Anna C has a pretty good write up of the content minus my stupider jokes if you’re interested. She did a much better job over the whole conference taking notes than I did.

The images, plus a few I didn’t use, are up on flickr.

The Keynote is here.

Avoiding the Echo

Dan’s got a post about how-

. . . much easier (it is) in this tech-enamored ‘sphere of ours to write those posts than it is to criticize them. I’m not saying my rejoinders don’t demand a more objective tone (I’m saying the opposite) just that, having exhumed a lot of dusty blog posts the last few days, a lot of people seem less offended by my tone and more offended that someone bothered to contradict their majority opinion.

I think he’s right and I’m glad to hear he’s working on his tone (just a little- generally I find him funny) because I see his ideas as rock solid and it’s too easy to end up dismissing ideas because of things like tone.

I’m thinking of the stock edtech conference. Why not have debate style presentations on the topics? It’s an idea that’s old as dirt but edtech conferences tend to just have one point of view presentations. Why not a timed debate style? Something with over the top titles like those below

  • 1 to 1: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
  • Internet Safety: Pedophiles’ Playground or Digital Utopia?
  • Digital Natives: Naive Name Calling or Nuclear Children?

I saw this done really well at our law school Friday. The two law professors wrote a humorous biographical introduction for their opponent. This starts things off in a positive way and gets people laughing. They referred to each other as “pathetic,” “monster,” etc.

They were supposed to argue for 13 minutes, 15 minutes then each would get a 3 minute rebuttal. The time was completely ignored by the first participant. I think this hurt things in the long run.

The point is you don’t really see this kind of point/counter point going on the edtech environment. It’d be interesting to see. I’d like to see it being done in blogs. The point being, the disagreements could be pleasant and even humorous rather than spiteful. That can be a hard line to walk but the conversation would be worthwhile and if done correctly it’d be pretty entertaining as well.

There might even be value in doing this in a fake way- really making the points black and white while ramping up the hyperbole. I think people would see pretty quickly that there is a whole lot more gray in this area than there seems to be.