The Takeaway Book Club: ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I recently took part in a book club conversation on WNYC’s The Takeaway about ‘Between the World and Me‘ by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Here’s the audio:
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I have learned a great deal about the history of race in the United States over the past few years by participating in the CARLE Institute and Undoing Racism. I have also worked with colleagues and friends to speak more openly about race and how it negatively impacts both people of color and whites. Seeing the privilege I have as a white man and learning to work against oppressive racial systems has become an important part of me. ‘Between the World and Me’ provides a perspective that is difficult to read, but important for people who identify as white to hear.

I’m thankful to Abel Bartley and Anita Romero Warren for being so open and honest during this conversation and to The Takeaway for selecting me to participate on this panel.

What are you learning about your racial and cultural identity? How do you keep this critical topic at the forefront of the work you are doing?

Future of the Book – eBook, eMedia or ??

Over my almost 15 years as an educator, I’ve always been on a search for the new textbook, or how to consolidate the textbook onto one device.  Right now, there are numerous eReaders out there.  How we use those devices in education is up in the air.  

Last Friday a group of educators assembled to organize resources that would help us all move closer to an truly electronic book model.  The group organized resources around Devices, Pay and Free Content, and Examples of eTexts.  We recorded much of the afternoon via uStream. 

There was a consensus at the end of the day that we direct our futures by building some examples of what we may see in the future, whether web based or specifically for tablets or eReaders. 

Since this is an ongoing project, I moved this wiki to OPuS1 – The Future of the Book and started a Community of Practice around the resources.  OPuS1 is a good container for this type of project.  Let me know if you ‘re interested in being part of this next work we’ll be doing via twitter or a comment on this post. 

 

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wynnie/3881994177/

Drive, Switch, and Broken Reality

Some themes from this year’s reading:

Autonomy, Motivation, Purpose

Dan Pink’s Drive

The Elephant and the Rider

Heath Brothers, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Tough

Goal, Rules, Feedback, Voluntary Participation = Hard Fun

– Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: What Games Make us Better

Powerful ideas here.  Figuring out how to use them to improve school.  How about you?

Social Media – Part II – The Long Tail

(Cross Posted at edSocialMedia)

The Long Tail was first coined by Chris Anderson in an October 2004 Wired magazine article to describe the niche strategy of businesses, such as Amazon.com or Netflix, that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities.” (Wikipedia)

The Long Tail became relevant to me as I connected with education 2-15-2009 11-37-40 PM (WinCE)technologists around the world through my blog and Bloglines RSS blog reader.  We were the sliver on The Long Tail that was interested in education and technology — a small distributed group with a niche interest.  The Internet allowed us to connect to a global network of educators.  I soon found myself listening to a number of educational technology podcasts.

My first podcasts were conference presentations by Alan November and John Palmfrey at the NEIT conference in 2005.  Then, I found Wes Freyer’s blog where he produces some of the most amazing podcasts from conferences around the country.  Next, I found EdTechTalkJeff Lebow and Dave Cormier hosted a weekly live webcast with a text chat room to participate in the back channel where they interviewed people from the EdTech world.  The live broadcasts with a chat room for listeners to participate created real community around their show.  All shows were archived as poscasts with chat transcripts as part of the post.

blue-with-headphones (WinCE) After listening to a number of EdTechTalk podcasts, Jeff and Dave begin speaking about Webcast Academy, a way to learn how to Webcast.  I thought, “this has to be full and I’ll never get a spot”.  Then, “Is this really free?  Who is funding these guys?  Who else is participating in Webcast Academy?” Jeff and Dave answered these questions and more in their Back to Basics episode.  I signed up for Webcast Academy and arvind grover agreed to be my co-host.  We learned to webcast though a series of podcasts and then a series of screencasts.

After 5 webcasts on Webcast Academy, Jeff and Dave asked us to make the jump over the EdTechTalk.  Our first interview on EdTechTalk was Chris Lehmann, during his planning year for Science Leadership Academy. Over the past three years, we produced 95 shows and have grown a great deal as webcasters.  The EdTechTalk network has grown to over 11 weekly and bi-weekly webcasts.  Webcast Academy continues to graduate classes of webcasters to EdTechtalk.

So why tell this story?  Why do I think it is amazing?  As I said in my last post, social media is all about participating in the conversation.  EdTechTalk allowed arvind and me to be part of a global conversation around education and technology.  We found The Long Tail of educators interested in technology.  A few short years ago, this was not possible.  After 95 webcasts, we learn new tools and techniques each week as we continue to build our network of educators who are pushing the boundaries of learning with technology.

Image 1: http://flickr.com/photos/arvindgrover/770886287
Image 2: http://flickr.com/photos/alexragone/3283792900/

If You Started a School, What Would the Theme Be?

As I’ve been exploring the theme of Disruptive Innovation and its implications new-school for schools in the next 10-15 years, I have imagined that there will be opportunities for new schools to replace some of the schools that have not changed.  Over the weekend, I was thinking about what the theme of a school that I would like to work at would be.  I found this exercise surprisingly difficult so, in order to generate some brainstorming energy, I asked my twitter network.  Here are the replies:

  • gardenglen @alexragone My theme for a school “Digital environment promoting student inquiry and collaboration.”
  • ernestkoe @alexragone what a great question…the love of learning, as cheesy as that sounds
  • andrewjkatz @alexragone flexibility.
  • momcginn The theme would be Belonging.
  • agrill @alexragone collaborative spaces, good citizens and inquiry.
  • pgow @alexragone (1) Think it should be sustainability, although the word is getting a bit shop-worn. Maybe “dignity, equity, and continuity.”
  • pgow @alexragone (2) Lots of place-based teaching: thematic, interdisciplinary, skill-focused units; civic and social engagement as  possible.

As I was thinking about this topic, I thought about science, innovation, and invention.  I was not happy with any of those.  This is a difficult task, especially when thinking about changing a system that has been around for so long.  I  found myself thinking about the skills that students should have upon graduation, but those skills could fit into many of these themes.

So I ask you, if you could create a school, what would it’s theme be?

Phtoto from: http://flickr.com/photos/mirkogarufi/297698145/

Projects for the Year…

I’ve been back to work for a week and many of our faculty will be back next week.  My staff has been hard at work all summer setting up new machines and reimaging old ones.  We’ve rolled out 50 new desktop computers in two computer labs and classrooms.  We are in the process of rolling out 30 new faculty laptops and servicing the other 40 that are already deployed to faculty.  This includes service packs, an Outlook upgrade, and SmartNotebook 10.  As we do these laptop upgrades, we’re requiring faculty to participate in a 30-45 minute training session when they pick up their laptops.  During this training session, we’re reviewing basic laptop maintenance, spending a few minutes training the faculty on Outlook, and making sure our backup script works. 

In addition to the nuts and bolts above here are some of the projects that I’m working on for the school year (Thanks to Jim Heynderickx for the inspiration here):

Outlook Training: During the first month of outlookschool we have to make sure to provide enough support to faculty, staff and students so we can complete our transition from FirstClass to Outlook.  So far, so good as our transition over the summer was completed with only a few minor issues and with a positive reaction from the community.  Change is hard, so I don’t expect that September will be a cake walk, but with appropriate communication and preemptive training and support, we’ll be in a good place in October. 

Continued Professional Development including New Faculty and moodle Student Orientation,  Collegiate Connect (our SIS and communication hub for school constituents), Gradebook, Smartboards, and Moodle.  This is a big one. 

  • New Faculty Orientation is a big one as we need to bring our faculty in, show them what we have to offer and how to find resources about technology at the school.  Luckily, we have two one hour sessions with the new faculty this year and that will allow us to do a nuts and bolts session: file sharing, printing, Outlook email, and Collegiate Connect (SIS).  The second session will be a technology scavenger hunt that our Academic Dean and Lower School Assistant Head are putting together.  This is going to be a fun exercise to see if new faculty can use the training and FAQ material we’ve posted on our department web site to get the scavenger hunt done. 
  • New Student Orientation includes much of the above, plus a heavy dose of Acceptable Use in 20 minutes.  Any ideas? 
  • Collegiate Connect training is usually done in conjunction with division meetings as it consists of specific administrative responsibilities of the faculty in each division.    We’re creating lots of documentation in the form of FAQs on our Technology web site for this.
  • Gradebook, Smartboard and Moodle training.  None of these tools smartboardare  required so we’ll be providing as needed support on them in September and then rolling each out via targeted monthly themes with professional development and communication with the faculty during those periods. 

 

Powerful Learning Practice — This is very exciting.  Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson are running this professional development program for five of our faculty/administrators.  Here’s how they describe it:

Powerful Learning Practice offers a unique opportunity for educators to participate in a long-term, job-embedded professional development program that immerses them in 21st Century learning environments.

Day one of this is September 8th.  I’m psyched. 

Website Upgrade — Yes, we’re upgrading our web site.  This collaborative process has taken longer than I planned, but we’re on track for a January launch providing us a much better look and feel and more integration between our site and Collegiate Connect. 

And a few smaller ones —

Faculty Professional Development Reports — Last year we did these in a DrupalEd environment.  This year, they will be in Moodle.   Just waiting for MoodleRooms to finish up our Moodle config and we’ll be rocking and rolling. 

New Media Gallery Training — Whipplehill just released the new version of their Media Gallery which is a Flickr like upgrade to their photo galleries but wh also includes a slick video and audio player.  Tagging and all sorts of web 2.0 goodies available.  We’re starting with our archived digital photos from 2001 to the present.  Our archivist has two parent volunteers who will be working on this all year.  Very exciting!

Oh, yeah — On the personal front we’re a few weeks away from a working kitchen — you can check out some of the pics here.  Feels like I have two 10 hour a day jobs lately. 

arvind and I will be webcasting again over at EdTechTalk in the next few weeks.  Just need to wait for his teaching schedule to get going. 

I’ve also decided not to subscribe to all of the listserv’s I traditional participate in and concentrate on Twitter, the ISENet Ning and my Blogroll this year.  See you all there. 

I’m sure there is lots more, but that’s it in a nut shell right now.  See you all on the other side!

Social Networking from Faculty and Student Perspectives

Over the past two weeks arvind and I have discussed Social Networking on our webcast over at EdTechTalk.  The first show consisted of us discussing facebook social networks from the faculty perspective based on the Ohio Education Association’s recommendation that educators delete the social networking  accounts.  Here is the first show: 21st Century Learning #58: A Discussion of the Issues Surrounding Social Networking Between Faculty and Students

The second week we were excited to have four students join in the myspaceconversation.  They mostly agreed that it was a good idea to keep some separation between school and our personal lives but had some great insights into how these different media are merging — including the thought that teachers and students might be blackberry texting each other before long.  Here’s a link to the second show: 21st Century Learning #59: Students Discussing Social Networking between Faculty and Students.

I think that these two pieces are a good orientation to social networking for faculty and administrators around the world.  If you’re interested in this topic, you might also want to check out: EdTechTalk #80 with Tom Wood, cyber safety advocate

What do you think? What would you add or subtract?  What social networking resources do you use?

Collaboration Outside Your Classroom — Presentation Update

When I got to Baltimore to present at the AIMS conference, I realized that I had Internet access. I uploaded my slides to Google Presentations, did some editing and got going. Vinnie Vrotny and Patrick Higgings showed up for the presentation (huge thanks to the two of them). Alecia Berman-Dry was a wonderful host (she invited me to present at the conference and blogged about it here).

The audience did a great job keeping their attention during the last session of the day. After my presentation, we all discussed how we could bring collaborative technology to back to their schools and classrooms.

Here’s my updated Google Presentation
AIMS Slide

Also, I forgot to hand out my handouts. Here’s a link to the PDF handout.

As I tweaked the presentation on the train to Baltimore, I realized more and more that these projects are about the relationships. Lucy Gray spoke about it in our conversations, Vicki Davis discusses it when she speaks about the Flat Classroom project. It’s all about the connections we are making. And they are real, even though many are virtual.

I’m working on editing the video of the event and will post that shortly.

Comments appreciated. Thanks!

Circumventing the Great Firewall

This morning, I was at home with my daughter, Claire, who was sick.  I checked my  Twitter feed.  Jeff Utecht asked if someone could send him the K-12 Online Conference Presentations.  Apparently, they are blocked in China.  I direct Twittered him back telling him I could, and forgot about the interaction. 

A few minutes later, Jeff send me a Skype text message.  After a short im session, we decided that Jeff would create a ftp account on his server and I would upload the K-12 files for the next two weeks.  I had uploaded all of the files to Jeff’s server by 10:30 am EST — I believe that’s 12:30am in Jeff’s time zone in China.

What’s the point of this post? 

First of all, you can’t block everything, and in countries that allow Internet communications, there will always be a way to work around the filters.   Great as that is,  I was worried that the Chinese  government might find Jeff and shut down his server if I blogged about it.  I checked with Jeff and he reassured me that it would not be a problem. 

Second, is that always amazes me how small technology can make the world feel.  The fact that I was chatting with someone around the world was amazing. The fact that I was conscious of the differences in freedom between the US and China and was able to get feedback about the realities on the ground.  

Just one more story of how the web has brought us closer together.