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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twitter #K12perfectschool to Contribute!

I started a project [hears the Bee Gees "I Started a Joke"] on twitter that I'm hoping gains some legs and provides some interesting diversion from the eternal discussions about "school reform."

Here's the gist: Assuming that prominent futurist/thinker Alvin Toffler was correct when he recently said in an interview:

Alvin Toffler: Shut down the public education system. just how do we proceed to do that? Well, I don't know, but I do know that Twitter holds some interesting promise as a dialog facilitator, so I thought to myself, why not see?

The image below is the beginning of what will hopefully be a response to my call for educators on Twitter to contribute little pieces of how they envision a changed landscape of the way we teach and learn. Do you have ideas? Open up your Twitter, type the hashtag "#k12perfectschool" and have at it. I'll be noting my ideas along the way. The goal?

After we get 2010 tweets I'll dig in and summarize. Maybe we'll have something of a starting point. Maybe we won't. It'll be interesting, at least, and will be a valiant effort to end-run the timeless and endless talk about reforming a system that is so fundamentally wrong and so clearly failing to invent one that is fundamentally right and that works.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Educator's PLN Live Chat with Alfie Kohn

While snowbound on Monday, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the Educator's PLN live chat with educational philosopher and author Alfie Kohn. There were over 120 educators "in the room" and since questions had been solicited online prior to the event, I was asked to speak up and ask mine. Thanks to the event organizers and to Dr. Kohn for giving me the opportunity to ask a very pointed question about educational reform. I am sorry that it seemed to throw the good Dr. for a loop! What was the question? You'll just have to view and listen:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DigitalNashville and Google's 1Gb "open access" broadband network?

I'm a more or less "lurking member" of a large group of more or less business-focused participants in "Digital Nashville" -- it's a ning-based learning and sharing network led by Nashvillian Elin Eifler Mulron, whom I haven't met personally but whom I'm very much looking forward to meeting in the near future. Mulron, along with a plethora of Nashville volunteer staff, has built this network into one populated by (currently) 1,661 interested local parties. That, to me, looks like a strong base to build a lobby for Nashville's selection to host an initiative recently announced by Google. Hence, I posted at DigitalNashville discussions the following: regards to Google's recent call for municipalities to express interest in their initiative to develop 1Gb "open access" broadband network. Who can lead this--hopefully someone with experience? I want it for our community but I'm not in a position to lead the drive. A petition? To whom would it go.

Obviously someone in an official position of civil service needs to deliver the actual request. Who's got the connections to the authority who can make Nashville a "contendah?" will serve you up more information. It may well be that Nashville's status as a "big, but not too big" metropolitan city will help. The competition is on. Wish us luck!

Friday, February 05, 2010

See ya, Geoff-boy

Geez I hope my blog isn't turning into a toney obituary column. Reflecting upon that possibility, I can't really see it happening, since I don't have that many friends as close as Geoff Feiler was. Geoff took off away from this earth on Sunday, and it's a measure of how distant we had become (though I just Skype-chatted with him a couple weeks ago) that I didn't discover he'd left until yesterday, when I was copied on an email discussing pictures for a memorial gathering--scheduled for Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska.

I'd talked with Steve, another close/distant old friend over the weekend and knew Geoff was in dire straits, lungs collapsed, not much hope for a transplant, at ICU in Providence Hospital there in Anchorage hanging on with assisted breathing, and had him in my thoughts all week. Now to learn he left without my having a chance to give him a proper goodbye.

When Geoff came to Hillwood High School for his 10th grade year, I was already practicing social networking out of the box. I recall an intense sit-in-the-middle-of-the-room-and-let-the-group-talk-about-you session at dear departed Albert Gaines's home during one writer's group meeting my senior year of high school. A comment someone made was they felt I wasn't committed to the group, that I seemed equally committed to fraternity friends, music friends, "greasers," jocks, and nerds. I can tell you right now that was a very true observation, and because I knew it was true I carry it with me to this day. Some might say that's a character flaw, but I would say it's just an indication of my core solitude. I joke that I was left too long, too often, alone in a baby playpen very young, but that's not really a joke, is it.

Anyway, Geoff on the scene, I introduced myself to him the first day, brought him into the fold of Sigma Phi Omega, the national high school fraternity (read "social gang") I had somehow gotten into, double-dating with him, and working with him at a burger joint called "Burger Chef," located at the highway 70/100 split in the building that is now Sportsman's Grill. We got into a modicum of trouble, really culminating when we were each called separately into the principal's office to explain why we were sitting in a car in the high school parking lot on Prom Night when an empty beer can was tossed out the car window. Mr. Garriott (sp?), our famous one-armed principal, received separate identical accounts from us: We were waiting for our dates (with whom we'd actually spent the entire night on a blanket under the stars in Percy Warner Park) in the car (they wanted to see the decorations and make an appearance so they could describe the Prom to their parents) and we found the empty can on the ground by the car, and Geoff picked it up to throw it away then realized if he was caught walking to the trash can he'd be in trouble, so he tossed it away. I still remember the teacher, heck I think it was Gaines but it may have been Schumaker, leaning into our car asking us what we were doing. He reported the incident and there we were being grilled separately. Here's my point: WE HAD NOT DISCUSSED A COVER STORY. We came to identical stories as if we were one mind.

In a sense, at that time, we were.

A quick note: the age to consume alcohol had been 18 up until the beginning of the year 1968, when legislation reverted it to 21. Geoff and I were so nearly 18 that we felt cheated by "The Man" and that we were justified in having a couple beers on our prom night--it was 1968, remember, and we were the Revolution. Kids don't try this at home. It's not 1968 anymore. It never will be.

A couple years later I'd dropped out of college, hacked at a snotty creative writing professor who wouldn't let sophomore me into a writing class for juniors, and I'd gotten married. We lived in a house in East Knoxville, and Geoff moved in to help with the rent. He brought with him a 7 foot boa constrictor who got along quite nicely with my two cats. I was working in the library and I'm not sure what Geoff was doing, maybe working in the campus faculty food facility. One week he announced he was going to Alaska and off he went, snake, military ambulance from WWII, earthly belongings, and all.

Several years later, divorced and raucous, I joined Steve in Knoxville, we traveled to Nashville to see John Prine before heading off, and Steve and I drove to Anchorage. That's another story. But the reason we went there was to visit Geoff. I ended up staying in Alaska for 6 years, playing music, acting some, and enjoying my young adulthood immeasurably. Steve never left.

I could and may likely write more, but I won't do it here. This ain't no obit column. I told my dear wife Lee Ann and my dear son Colin that I hope I get a lot more practice with this grief thing, as I continue to survive my friends. Whether that prediction is a prescient one remains unclear. I'll just keep truckin', the way Geoff did 'til the end.

The obit is here:

And here is a pic from our class reunion in 2008, with Geoff down front and me 'way up in the back. It was a fun time and I'm glad we did it. Otherwise...well, I'm glad we did it. Thanks to Mike Hickey for the stellar group photo.


Monday, February 01, 2010

Watch PBS TV TONIGHT for "Digital Nation"--check local listings

I had the opportunity today to preview the show online. This one will be controversial, ya'll, and I'd love to start a discussion here. Watch it, because you will most certainly be called upon for an opinion by parents and administrators...

From PBS email:

Last March, we launched a Web site to start a conversation about how
digital technology is changing almost every aspect of modern culture -
from how we think and learn to how we build relationships and even
conduct warfare. We asked for your feedback, and you shared your
stories that helped to shape our 90-minute documentary which airs
Tuesday, February 2, at 9pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

This program is guaranteed to make you think, to question your understanding of and use of technology, and to cause a big stir in educational technology. Very well done, I initially report. Controversial? You bet.

I had seen some of it early on, and we hosted a presentation by the producers--thanks to ISTE member and colleague Malinda McCormick--at the Second Life Playground at NECC09 in Washington, DC last summer. But watching the show in its finished format is even more powerful, incredibly so. What is your response? What does this mean to our work? I'll ask you the same thing I would ask any of my students: What are the creators of this media intending to communicate? Share here.

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