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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Call to Share from Julie Lindsay in Qatar!

A friend of mine said last week that she's underimpressed with folks blogging other people's work. I present this in order to beg to differ. I'm absolutely impressed with sharing out valuable efforts to bring others into the Great Conversation that is Web 2.0. "Find your story and tell it. If you put two individual teachers together, they're always better than two individual teachers." I rest my case.

This is a MUST-SEE from Julie Lindsay.

Educators internationally gathered together at Qatar Academy on February 20 to
discuss 21st Century Learning. As a result they decided to take action and share
their experiences in the hope that others will be inspired to embrace change in
education using new tools, new skills and a new mindset. See for
more information.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Facebook Exchange with a Former 3rd Grader!

I just want to share a gratifying Facebook comment exchange I had with a former third grader, now a student at Princeton. I happened to be on a couple days ago when he posted:

Alexshould be working now, but cant find the will.

I was just about to logout and slam my laptop closed after working all day trying to edit down audio from a recent presentation to a serviceable file for inclusion in a new podcast, and I'd decided to just quit for the day and finish it up ad hoc this week. Seriously, I'd been working on it for 8 hours (post-production is highly underappreciated!). I wrote to him:

Scott Merrick at 6:03pm February 23
Will it to happen, Alex, you can you can you can. I'm stopping. Been working all day and into the night! You get started! Here's the torch!

and almost immediately got this back:

Alex wrote at 8:19pm
thanks for the encouragement! I guess you never cease being my teacher!

If that's not the bee's knees I don't know what is. Here's a public thanks to Facebook for making it possible for me to "never cease!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Professor Spot Video

Kaplan University is running a commercial that made me weep a bit when first I saw it. I'm pleased as punch that my lovely wife Lee Ann excitedly looked it up on YouTube to share it with me. "This is what you're always talking about!" she said.

She's right.

I know little about Kaplan University but I bow deeply to a commercial that says important things. Watch:


Friday, February 20, 2009

"Why Second Life?" Presentation to the Center for Science Outreach and School for Science and Math

My presentation to colleagues at Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach went pretty darned well!

I'll flesh this out more in a bit, and I have most of it on audio so it'll likely be our Snacks4theBrain! episode 80, but here's the slideshare, ya'll (with the caveat that I talked over the slides like a madman and had a great deal of fun doing it!).

There'll probably be a tidied up version by the time of the podcast. Several links came to mind as I was chatting the dozen or so folks up. Thanks to Ronee Francis, my new friend and colleague at the Vanderbilt Discover Archive for coming in, and thanks so so much to our driving force, Dr. Virginia Shepherd, Director of the CSO, for being there. Her cancellation of a trip to Cleveland likely had nothing to do with my little session, but it sure was good to see her there...

Oh, for grins, here's the version, which I worked on for hours and had to set by the wayside due to its automatic and currently apparently unfixable tendency to truncate long URLs. I have it on good authority the makers of Prezi are working on the issue and I hope to use this fun and "non-linear" presentation tool more in the near future!

Here, by the way, is the URL for the ISTE/SL beta orientation I mentioned a couple of times. If you go there to create your avatar, you land first of all at ISTE Island, a great place to start out!


Friday, February 13, 2009

3 Controversial but Intriguing Statements in One Business Journal Article

From Fairfax Business Media's New Zealand CIO comes this article, originally published in May, 2008, and penned by Byron Reeves, Thomas W. Malone, and Tony O’Driscoll. Leadership's online labs

It's a loooong article, but to tease you into reading it I provide but three perspectives culled from its over 2500 words. Imagine an extended analogy between online gaming communities and complex corporations, embedded in a complex analysis of leadership in both environments.

Consider these elements of "games such as Eve Online, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft":

1) Leadership roles are often temporary. Perhaps the most striking aspect of leadership in online games is the way in which leaders naturally switch roles, directing others one minute and taking orders the next. Put another way, leadership in games is a task, not an identity — a state a player enters and exits rather than a personal trait that emerges and thereafter defines the individual.

2) Dashboards, or cockpits, display both status and communication functions on the same densely populated user interface and often on a single computer screen, eliminating the need to open and close different software applications. Constantly visible during play, the cockpits allow a leader to stay within the narrative of the game while acquiring necessary information about players and communicating instructions to the group. Unlike a corporate dashboard that is located on a handful of computers at headquarters, with access limited to the senior executive team, these personal, view-as-you-go game cockpits give people in the field access to information as soon as it is available. That, in turn, allows game players to act on it without waiting for instructions from a guild leader. What’s more, the information allows players to assume impromptu leadership roles as needed. In many of our video clips, we see three or four people barking orders to team members during a raid, briefly taking the lead in the improvisational style of a jazz ensemble.

3)Leadership demands speed. A game hour is unlike 60 minutes at your desk or in a meeting. Actions that might take weeks or months to unfold in real life are often compressed into hours or even minutes online. The lightning pace of games is unlikely to become widespread anytime soon in the business world, except perhaps in selected contexts such as high-velocity financial trading. However, business decision making is accelerating, driven in part by the almost instant, if not always complete, availability of certain kinds of data. To keep up with rivals, real-world leaders will increasingly need to be willing and able to act on such information without pausing for long periods to weigh options.
Reeves, Malone, O'Driscoll, "Leadership's online labs." New Zealand CIO. 05 May 2008. Fairfax Business Media. 13 Feb 2009 .

There's more. I highly encourage you read the entire article, available without charge online at New Zealand CIO. Thanks also to Genie Tanner for tweeting the link. I think she was just testing out her new Twhirl client, but wow, what a gem she shared. I tweeted back that I was using the free version of ReadPlease to have it read aloud to me whilst I was setting up for 4th graders in Quest Atlantis, and now she has that tool, an information gift from me in response to an information gift from her. That's how it works, pilgrims...


Monday, February 09, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Social Networking

My apologies for the long post, but I'm not feelin' the love here and need to share that.

Always on the lookout for dialog on this topic, I followed a link in my email newsletter from Technology and Learning this morning to an article by podcaster and Web 2.0 advocate Terry Freedman. It's an interesting, casually phrased defense of social networks by an author who is clearly even more embedded in the phenomena than I. He admits/claims to be a member of no less than 63 networks (I haven't counted--should I?).

What to me is most interesting about the post, however, is not the article itself, but the first (and as of this writing the only) comment upon it, from renowned social network critic and self-proclaimed expert on children and the internet, Douglas Fodeman. Fodeman is founder and CEO of "Children Online, LLC" and Director of

Fodeman, in his response comment, points Freedman and the rest of us to his recent article at the National Association of Independent Schools' "Resources" page, to read his article The Impact of Facebook on Our Students (January 12, 2009, Doug Fodeman & Marje Monroe). In this lengthy and extremely well-written article, the authors systematically make their case that online social networking is bad for children (Monroe, btw, is Co-Director of

We have Facebook accounts and actually see it as a wonderful, and valuable, resource. However, just because Facebook says that anyone 14 years or old CAN use Facebook, doesn't mean that they should. It isn't an age-appropriate or developmentally healthy place for our children and younger teens to hang out. Facebook is not working to protect our children and the laws in our country are terribly inadequate to safeguard our children online, in general.
These are pretty hefty charges, and, by the way, the allowable age for a Facebook account is not 14 years, but rather 13. I know this both because by noon the day of his 13th birthday, my son had established his fb account and had nearly as many friends as I have on mine. It's also pretty clear at the extensive "Facebook Safety" page the folks at fb offer at their website. Let me quote from that site, to support the counterpoint I'm about to make:

Facebook aspires to be an environment where people can interact safely with their friends and the people around them. We have implemented many safety and privacy controls on Facebook as part of our goal to enable people to share their information with only the people they want to see it. And we are constantly improving our systems for identifying and removing inappropriate content and people from the site.

Children under 13 years old are not permitted access to Facebook. In addition, parents of children 13 years and older should consider whether their child should be supervised during the child's use of the Facebook site.

And here, friends, is my point: Families need to talk with their children, monitor (not constantly, sheesh, but sporadically) their children's use of the platform, just like they would any online activity. As interesting as ChildrenOnline's arguments can be--and I truly do not disagree with many of them--their conclusion that I don't believe that social networking is inappropriate or damaging to our children. I FIRMLY agree with one of Fodeman/Monroe's proclamations: "We need to help our students become more media-savvy, understand the value of personal information, and how to protect it." I just don't think that the way to do that is to label good tools "inappropriate." I have absolutely no doubt that the ChildrenOnline folks are well-intentioned, or that they have carried out the years of research they lay claim to at their website. I just have seen too much good connection to agree with their conclusion. It's simply not that simple.

An odd aside: When looking for information about Mr. Fodeman past his own organization's website, I came upon a page about using videoconferencing for distance learning put up long ago by my friend Steve Bergen, upon which my name appears in a list of educators directly after Douglas Fodeman's. I really did LOL at that one! It's a small world, smaller than we might sometimes think.

I have recently shared some resources for parents at our independent school, which can be found in wiki form at I don't have a book (link to Mr. Fodeman's and Ms. Monroe's book, which btw I own and highly recommend) or a speaking program (link to ChildrenOnline's speaking programs--uses frames so click "Programs" in the sidebar)to sell with it, nor grants to support it, but it's there for one and all. There are many more resources about online safety available at the Facebook safety site noted above, and I'm going to just paste those in here as I take my leave--temporarily I'm sure--from this discussion...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Major Accounting Firm Donates Half-Million to NC State University's Second Life Efforts--Call for Suggestions!

As reported on the Carolina Newswire yesterday, "The Ernst & Young Foundation recently awarded $400,000 to the NC State College of Management to support development of a Second Life presence for the college’s Department of Accounting." An additional $100,000 was added to the grant to bring it to a cool half-million. Further, according to the article, the "combined gift of $500,000 represents the largest single gift to date to the accounting department at NC State University."

Now, this is news! I'm not alone! Others see the potential!

While that last set of comments is perhaps a bit over the top, considering the robust global community of educators in Second Life, it can feel pretty lonely for an educator who believes. Those of you who know that loneliness (weep with me here!) may also be heartened by the recent announcement of my own one hour presentation on February 20 to the faculty and staff of the Vanderbilt Center for Science Outreach and the Vanderbilt School for Science and Math on the topic, "Second Life."

That's pretty open, for a topic, isn't it?

I have some pretty good notions about how I will use the hour, but I'm wondering if anyone else has had the experience of standing in front of intelligent colleagues to share the potentials of virtual environments for teaching and learning. If so, how'd it go? What do you wish you shared that you didn't? What did you share that you wish you had not? What brief engaging illustrations did you offer? How can I knock this outta the ballpark? If it were you, how would you proceed?

Please comment here or visit the presentation's wiki to provide your input! Thanks!!!


Gus by Scott Gardner Merrick  I wear these navy slacks I found behind O'Shaugnessy's, in the dumpster there. And they'r...