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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inside a Virtual Meeting

I post regularly at Oh!VirtualLearning! about news and events relating to virtual worlds for learning and teaching, and as I talk with friends and colleagues (and sometimes complete strangers) about this avocational interest I often mention last year's PBS Frontline episode called "Digital Nation."

Periodically, I present about the topic to interested educators. One of the things I invariably mention is the segment in the program where the narrator, co-producer Douglas Rushkoff, wanders through the empty halls of IBM's physical office building, his footsteps echoing not because no one is "at work," but rather because everyone is working from their home offices, their dinner tables, or their hotel rooms--meeting in virtual worlds rather than in the physical one.

How does a virtual meeting go? I've taken gigabytes of video snippets to help share that with others, but perhaps if you'll take 86 seconds to view this video, the work of professional film documentarians, you may walk away with a better notion. From Digital Nation's extensive website, packed with footage that didn't make it into the 90 minute Frontline episode:

Inside a Virtual Meeting
More than 10,000 IBM employees collaborate in virtual worlds. Take a look inside a meeting in Second Life from the home of IBM V.P. of Innovation, Francoise LeGoues.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Having discovered this by means of a circuitous route (wave twitter, weblogged-ed, .pdf) I want to toss it out as if not required reading at least highly suggested reading.

Charles Leadbeater and Annika Wong have produced a seminal treatment of educational innovation whose citations and stats should inform any discussion which centers around the future of education. Breaking the options down to only four types, it's holding up quite nicely and inspiring me to think even more radically than I have done in the past.

It's a Cisco white paper called "Learning from the Extremes," and you can read the entire 40 page .pdf at

Time crunched? Want the Cliffnotes version? Will Richardson does a typically great job for you at

but like Will, I highly encourage you to go to the source for its case studies and descriptions of disruptive innovations that likely fall outside your usual media net. The timeline of how schools developed in the first place is by itself enough to warrant the effort.

While the report draws many of its examples from innovation in the developing world, it does address "the developed world" and its challenges. I'm going to print one section of this stunningly detailed report to give you a good taste of it. I hope that taste whets your appetite enough for you to investigate further:

The Developed World: Cracking the Code

For as long as there have been schools, there have been attempts to radically remake them. These efforts gathered pace in the 1960s in the United States and Europe— for example, through more childcentred education, the open-air school movement, and efforts to create more open plan schools, which felt more like communities and less like factories.3

Schools catering for children with special needs, often operating at the margins of the mainstream system, have pioneered more personalized approaches to learning—for example, using individualized timetables and one-to-one tutoring.38 Schools influenced by alternative pedagogies—Montessori and Steiner schools, liberal arts schools such as Dartington and Summerhill in the United Kingdom, and Big Picture schools in the United States and Australia—focus on creativity, social skills, and studentled learning. Schools in special circumstances, such as the Djarragun in Northern Queensland, which serves an isolated, indigenous community, organize learning around real-world, practical, problemsolving learning, which starts from questions the children want to answer. Learning in all these schools is more personalized and fluid, driven by questions rather than a rigid curriculum.

These experiments have tended to be the exception that proves the rule. However, in the past decade, more systematic efforts have been made to introduce disruptive innovation into schooling. In the United States, some charter schools have developed more creative and personalized approaches to learning. A prime example is the High Tech High network of schools, which offers a wide range of project-based approaches to creative learning. In Sweden, parents have been given the power to set up state-funded “free” schools by pooling the budgets allocated to their children.39 This has led to a wave of new, smaller schools being set up. Every child in the Kunskapsskolan chain of schools in Sweden has a personalized curriculum and a timetable assembled from different modules. Children are taught in groups according to the stage they have reached rather than the age they are. At the start of each of five terms, every child agrees on learning goals with their personal tutor and their parents. Kunskapsskolan’s 14 schools are housed in reused offices, hospitals, and stables; only one is in a dedicated school building. In the United Kingdom, new kinds of schools are being created by: academies, which are sponsored by a company and often specialize in a field such as media, arts, or business; schools created by groups of parents; Studio Schools, which are small schools in shopping centers, for children disaffected from standard school; and cooperative schools, which are owned by staff and the community. The spread of more personalized approaches to learning—tailoring how, when, and where children learn to their requirements—has transformed schools such as Cramlington Community College in Northumberland.

The Orstad Gymnasium in Hellerup, Denmark, has been designed so that there are not enough classrooms for lessons, thus forcing students and teachers to use many of the other informal learning spaces in the school, including the canteen, and so to learn in different ways. Schools all over the world are experimenting with virtual and distance learning environments.

Across the world, policymakers are starting to open up routes for new entrants to create new kinds of schools. In New Orleans, the city is remaking its education system based on commissioning services from a range of independent providers, thus giving it scope to continually stimulate the school system with new approaches.

As you can guess, there's much much more in the report, including a beautiful simple four panel grid called the "Education Innovation Grid." While it would be easy to paste that here, I'm going to up the ante to get you to go read the full report by refraining from posting it! Cheers!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Howie DiBlasi Elected to the ISTE Board of Directors!

Congratulations, Howie! May you serve well and have fun doing it!


2010/4/13 Dr. Howie DiBlasi
Call from Helen Pagdett-ISTE President-Congratulations Dr. Howie DiBlasi on election to the ISTE Board.

I am stunned and in SHOCK...

I will do my best to serve all of you that have supported me...

Tks to all of you for your support.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Prairie Home Companion at the Ryman!

We had a wonderful weekend I call our "Bro'deo" after a Kyle Gass and Train Wreck song by the same name. A guys' weekend of camaraderie, brotherhood, and beer. There were many high points (no pun intended), including hearing nephew Bryce's band FTFO (name unmentionable here) at Springwater Thursday night, taking in the Travelin' McCouries at Station Inn Friday, and honkytonking at Roberts, Legends, and up and down Lower Broad all weekend, and the 500+ photos from the invigorating but exhausting pics are up at Flickr for everyone to view; but the high point has to be the live Prairie Home Companion at the Ryman! Hey, I have an idea: I'll embed the show here, and you can fire it up while you watch a complete slideshow of the weekend here too! Snuggle up, grab a beverage, and enjoy. WARNING, SHIRTLESS MALE ROCKERS FROM THE SPRINGWATER AND A FEW TASTELESS SINGLE FINGERED HAND GESTURES FROM OVERENTHUSIASTIC LEONARDS!

Link to more information about the Down in Tennessee show!


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