Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Professor Julie Dobrow's "Media Literacy and Social Change" class at Tuft's University - Part II

NOTE: I've broken up this blog post into two sections. I was beginning to worry that the length of the post would cause some browser problems, given the number of images and the relative size of the audio download attached to the post. So, this is the last half of the course presentation I made on November 27th to Professor Julie Dobrow's course on Media Literacy and Social Change.

To start at the beginning, link to Part I here. The audio file is located at the bottom of the Part I post.


New media formats fundamentally impact the possibilities of student voices in learning. Whenever possible, student voices must and can be heard. Student performance is critical to learning. New media formats give us a unique opportunity to act on this critical issue.

There's a way of expressing what new media formats do to the learning paradigm. It goes like this:

I hear; and I forget.

I see; and I may remember.

I do; and I understand.

21st century learners can "do" in ways no previous generations of learners could do, unless we go all the way back to before the era of universal education, when "learners" were put to work in the fields, raised the crops, nurtured the land, and cared for the animals as part of the experience of coming of age.

I regularly ask my students to contribute to my performance. Here's a student, Samantha Velez, speaking for herself about her experience in the IT Leadership Academy program that the Center for 21st Century Skills at Education Connection runs for 400 students in 20 school districts.

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So, what are the key steps in 21st century learning once we engage learners through the new media formats?

Participation. The Internet invites participation on a scale never before available... through blogs, through wikis, through "podcasts," through social networks like MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube. The Internet allows for cross-generational, cross-cultural exchanges that are bound to accelerate the participatory outcomes of learning. This will happen, whether we "free" the classrooms or not.

Community generated content. If a page in a book is considered a unit of knowledge; an knowledge artifact, then the web pages that make up humankind's knowledge-base is rising each year at an exponential rate. The explosion of content is community based - define a "community" any way you like; a business, an institution, a solitary blogger with a readership of one. Regardless of any qualitative judgments, the Internet revolution is being led by "communities," including, no... led by our students - creating content.

Syndication. The new web allows us to parse content through feeds, to be dynamically updated on those subjects of our own choosing, at times and in places convenient for us. Learners routinely and instinctively understand the power and benefit of an "info feed," whether its in the creation of personalized news sources, or keeping in touch with "friends" in social networks. Syndication allows the needles to be separated from the haystacks.

As the world goes flat and learning communities are increasingly multi-cultural, learning itself is a social experience. I like to remind educators that this is why we'll always need teachers. Teachers "mediate" social experiences. But the role of teachers is changing and educational institutions need to change a million habits if we're going to insure that learning communities are sustainable in the digital age.

How are we to keep up? The answer comes from a popular marketing slogan - Just do it! There's a limitless set of resources for educators, parents, and learners online. Start where many of us already start - with Google. The Infinite Thinking Machine blog offers weekly tutorials in a variety of audio and video formats.

MIT publishes a magazine called Technology Review. The magazine's website offers videos on a range of topics - most relate to technology, but as is increasingly the case in considering the impact of technology on societal changes, many relate to the "process" of learning. While there are many video resources now available on the Web, take a quick look at this one on evolutionary design. By placing a link to the video into this blog post, I'm demonstrating another tool in the multi-media arsenal available to teachers and learners today.

Whether it's MIT's OpenCourseWare or iTunes' education podcasts or videocasts, there's a tremendous number of learning resources available on the Web. LearnOutLoud offers lots of audio resources for learning. Let students contribute to creating audiobooks out of the classics at LibriVox.

The next wave to hit the shores of education is online gaming. While video games may conjure up images of students playing "Grand Theft Auto" as some kind of homework assignment gone mad, please pay attention. SecondLife is a virtual world used by thousands of people to create (re-create) a real world experience, with almost unlimited possibilities. Some major corporations are looking into SecondLife as a way to do training, and to host "virtual" business meetings. There's a "Teen" SecondLife, which is monitored to prevent incursions of inappropriate materials or activities. Can "bad" things happen in SecondLife? No doubt, but when it's picked up by the community and it violates "community standards," corrective action is taken. Meanwhile, no one gets hurt. It's like being in a flight simulator. The plane may crash and burn, but the student walks away a little wiser for the experience.

Still not convinced that online gaming has a place in education? Then watch the introductory video to Harvard Law School's course in "Argument" at Law in the Court of Public Opinion. Or, try out the Fantasy Congress game, modeled after the very popular Fantasy Football online games. And coming soon, my favorite - total immersion in Shakespeare via the Arden Project.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Blue Ribbon Schools Blueprint for Excellence Conference, Charleston, SC

This is a complete podcast of my presentation titled:
Tech Savvy Students Stuck in Text Dominated Schools - 4 trends that change everything in education

This conference presentation occurred on December 2nd at the Blue Ribbon Schools Blueprint for Excellence Conference in Charleston, SC. For the full effect of the event, the podcast can be listened to along with the movie version of the presentation slides. Simply start and pause the movie slides to stay in sync with podcast.

This podcasted event has been broken up into 3 parts:

(NOTE: These audio files were created as a demonstration of the use of "pocket devices" such as cell phones for podcasting. In the case of the following podcasts, I was in a conference room deep inside the Convention Center in Charleston, SC. It seems that my cell phone signal was not very strong, and so the quality of this broadcast is not particularly good in places. Nonetheless, it serves as an example of how cell phones can be used to create podcasts from almost any location, and without the use of special equipment. As cell phone services improve and Internet communications become more ubiquitous in coming years, the capability for anyone to podcast through the use of cell phones is bound to improve, with significant implications in education.)

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Part 3:

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Professor Julie Dobrow's "Media Literacy and Social Change" class at Tuft's University - Part I

On November 27th, I had an opportunity to go into the Tufts classroom of Professor Julie Dobrow's course on "Media Literacy and Social Change," and engage her students on the syllabus topic: Youth media, media literacy and media training. At the bottom of this post is an audiocast of my talk.

Admittedly, the quality of the audiocast is poor. There are 2 reasons for this. First, I was using a brand new cell phone to create the audiocast, and as is always the case with new technology, practice makes "better." I learned a lot about this particular "pocket device" in the process, and I hope the students who may visit this site do not take offense at being "trial subjects" for this experiment.

The second reason that this "audiocast" is of less than stellar quality is that it's my purpose to demonstrate that audiocasts or podcasts can easily be created by non-technically inclined educators using a wide variety of "pocket devices." In other words, we no longer need costly systems to make rather simple and direct contributions to content on the world wide web. This fact has tremendous implications in education.

Below, I am providing selected slides from my presentation, along with additional information. I had promised the students in this session that I would offer them these slides and information, and hope that they feel inclined to "push back" with information and comments.

The theme of this topic plays on the question of how to engage "tech-savvy" students in the 21st century learning challenges that our general education system faces.

How do we change the "trajectory" of the debate about integrating the rapidly transforming technologies of the 21st century into our teaching and learning systems? I believe we need to address the question from a different perspective. It's no longer the domain of technologists to respond with "5 year plans" or updated "acceptable use policies." Our culture has gone beyond this, and our students - those entering the schools without ever having known the world without having virtually unfettered access to the Internet throughout their formative years - who pose the very real challenge of a cultural revolution in education.

Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" has become a major topic of conversation, not just in boardrooms and policy seminars, but in our education centers as well, because his "solutions" always come back to education. The book, its theses and its ancillary works have become a major focus of educators. If you haven't read the book, here's a little secret. You can watch a 45 minute presentation by Friedman himself at MIT, via a link at MITWorld, and garner a good grasp of all the concepts covered in the text. (Here's an example of using multi-modal, multi-media information resources... And while in the MITWorld space, don't fail to take advantage of the hundreds of other downloadable media files by some of the world's leading subject matter experts. I have often used these resources as classroom substitutes for my own non-expert presentations on relevant subject matter.)

The problem we educators have, being schooled and trained in the iron grip of 20th century Taylorism, is that our perspective of learning can best be summed up with an image of the walled garden. Both physically and psychologically (deeply cognitive, if you will), we do our best to keep the "outside" world from creeping into our classrooms. Most of the walled garden approach to learning is subtle, and yet core to our methods and practices. Ever more frequently, the walled garden approach is running up against a hard stop - no cell phones, no "pocket devices," no iPods allowed in the classroom.

Of course, this places us directly into a space of unyielding tension with what modern cognitive and evolutionary psychology instructs us about learning (See: Bandura Bruner, Sternberg, Gardner, Pinker, et al). According to the science, learning is messy, uneven, uncertain, complex, "wet," and organic. There is no certain outcome. In fact, "certainties" and "non-ambiguities" are to be avoided. "Truths" often depend on authoritative perspectives. Network maps - whether social, information, or neural - operate on much different principles than linear, sequential programs. "Scope and sequence" becomes a consummate challenge in an era of exponential computational and knowledge growth.

So, what Friedman tells us is that we're riding a wave... a really big wave. See that guy on the surf board? That's you - the educator. And no matter how fast you go, that really big wave is about to overtake you. That wave is not technology. It is "culture" - the culture of digital natives!

There are 4 trends that I believe change everything in education. Each can be represented by an icon - Wikipedia, Moodle, Google, and a new high speed broadband generation of public access networks.

What makes a lot of this interesting is how fast technology time-frames are collapsing. We tend to forget that we literally gained access to the Web a mere 10 years ago - 1995 with the launch of the Netscape browser that made the Web and e-mail and Amazon and the dot-com bubble available to the rest of us non-geeks. Web 1.0 was static and read-only. In spite of our awe and early enthusiasm, it wasn't much of an improvement over print media and television.

Then came Web 2.0 (Thanks, Tim O'Reilly). Over the past couple of years, tens of thousands of blogs and wikis and podcasts and YouTube and MySpace have given us a chance to talk back - dynamic content, generated by everyman. A veritable cacophony of read/write interactions.

And even before we can adapt our practices to this new, dynamic, read/write web, what do we make of the next "revision" of the Web? A recent article in the New York Time describes entrepreneurs working on a "contextual" web, an intuitive network that "anticipates" our needs. Scary enough? Maybe, but now my cell phone will be able to tell me when I'm near a friend I'd like to talk with in the flesh as I stroll down a city boulevard, or alert me to a book I'm interested in at a price that I find attractive, as I walk past a book shop I would not ordinarily enter.

Sure, iPod videos can provide me with 150 hours of streaming video in high-def resolution on a screen that'll fit in the palm of my hand. But so will my VCast or Mobile Web services using my cell phone. Who's the gatekeeper that manages my access to an unfettered Web? I am. I no longer care about local area networks. I'm free, and I challenge anyone to come up with an application that I can do on my desktop computer that I can't do on my cell phone or PDA.

The Queen Loana Annotation Project demonstrates the power of collaborative work for scholarly pursuits. To grasp the implications of this tool in education, look at the detail richly woven into Chapter 1. Then look at the discussion tab to see what potentials exist for dialogue with the content creators. And assessment is build right in - look at the history tab and performance credit becomes immediately evident.

A wonderful demonstration of how "mash-up" art is becoming a tremendously powerful medium for cross-disciplinary learning is Google Earth. One of the things that most intrigues me in this new age of un-mediated knowledge creation is the way in which organizations like Google (arguably the most successful "business model" of the 21st century) invite "unqualified" third parties to "hack" their most important assets - the vast array of databases controlled through the Googleplex. The Gombe Chimpanzee Blog (from the Jane Goodall Institute) is just one of several, significant educational blogs that can enliven a cross-disciplinary lesson in earth science, geography, story-telling, and more. Click on a blog post link, and students can be miraculously transported on site! Tempted to comment and ask questions of the Jane Goodall researcher? Be my guest. What primary schooler wouldn't be enthralled and engaged? This is but one example of how Google Earth mash-up art is leading self-determined learners around the world into a richer, fuller learning experience.

END OF PART 1 - click here for Part II

The following podcast covers most of my presentation. For other podcasts of other presentations, wander through this blog and check other posts.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oliver Wolcott Technical High School presentation on "Wikis, Blogs, and more..."

On November 7th, I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation titled "Wikis, Blogs, and more: Technology trends in education" to a group of teachers and school leaders at the Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington, Connecticut. For anyone interested, I offer both an audio (podcasted using my cell phone) and video (saved as a movie file to YouTube) version of this presentation.

Here is the real-time podcast of the Oliver Wolcott Techical High School professional development session.

The following is Part I of the podcast:

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The following is Part II of the podcast:

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Use the start/pause button to sync this talk up with the slices. Thanks for listening and watching and please add your comments to the dialogue!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Samantha's podcast for my AT&T presentation...

Samantha Velez is an example, one of many, of a terrifically engaged student. Samantha is an example of what I frequently refer to as a "self-determined" learner. Last year (2005-2006), Samantha participated in the IT Leadership Academy Innovation Challenge program. While she is not a "techie," she is a prime example of the new culture of students entering our schools and workforces - the "digital natives" of the 21st century. By "digital native," I mean she is fully fluent in the tools - web surfing, cell phones, IM-ing, text messaging, music and video downloading - that allow her to create her own social networks, to collaborate, communicate, and deal with new media archetypes in a natural, socially and educationally productive way.

Too often, we adults dismiss our kids who spend (according to recent studies by the Pew Foundation) up to 3 hours a day using these new tools of communication – cell phones and the web – as being socially withdrawn “geeks” who are becoming disconnected from the “reality” that the adults ("digital immigrants") grew up with. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reality in the 21st century, whether in work, play, or social interactions, is based on the power of our technology to connect and build real relationships, either face-to-face or across time and international borders.

We do our students a terrible disservice by not paying attention to the “cultural” shifts currently underway. It’s not about the technology; it is about a new, emerging culture of global digital natives and we must be responsive or continue to lose ground in educating the next generation.

Recently, I was invited to make a presentation about new communication tools and their implications in education, workforce development, and economic growth to a group of AT&T managers. To demonstrate my point, I asked Samantha Velez to use her cell phone to create a podcast on this web site that I could use in my presentation. Here is her response. Please listen carefully and you will hear a message from a young woman from Waterbury’s Crosby High School who is wiser and mature beyond her years. She is one of many I have had the pleasure of working with over the past several years of my work at the Center for 21st Century Skills @ Education Connection.

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