Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jeff Pointek Selected ISTE2010 Keynote

Hawaii Technology Academy's Jeff Pointek has been selected to open up ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado June 27-July 2. The selection process gave all 85,000+ members of ISTE a voice in the pick, and I didn't vote for him: I personally wanted Chris Lehmann to open up onstage about his creative and forward-thinking work at Philadephia's Science Leadership Academy. However, I will admit that Pointek was a close runner-up for my vote, since he is the one keynote nominee I have not seen or heard present. Heck, ISTE stacked the deck for success with a tidy collection of stellar options that included the two I've already mentioned, along with Alan November, Peter H. Reynolds, and Gary Stager. I'm glad that democracy has had its way and we should have a stirring keynote address from Jeff Pointek to light the fire in Denver.

There's been a bit of twitterbuzz the past couple days following the announcement, as folks try unsuccessfully to find an article referenced during the selection process, and to streamline things I'll embed what is not actually an "article" but a web "artifact," Pointek's slideshare entitled:



See you in Denver!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

USN Summer Camp Offering for Educators!

My school, University School of Nashville, offers a number of summer opportunities each year. The building some weeks seems even busier than it is in the school year. This coming summer, I'll be offering a week-long, half-day experience for teachers to give them the opportunity to explore social media and Web 2.0 tools under the guidance of moi and in the company of like-minded pioneers. You can find the description here and register for the workshop at the USN Summer Camps website, and you can investigate a bit more about the content matter at my "Web2.0forUS!" wiki. The week is limited to 16 attendees, and we expect seats to go quickly, so register soon!

The path to register is a bit long and circuitous, set up as it is mostly for children's summer camp opportunities, but I hope the following directions will help:
  1. Visit the Summer Camps website
  2. Click on Register Now
  3. Select Adult from the pull-down menu
  4. Scroll down and check the box for Social Media and Web2.0 for Educators!
  5. Create an account as a Non-USN StudentFollow the prompts to select payment options and register!
  6. If all this is too daunting, email me at smerrick@email.usn.org with the subject header, "I want to learn Web2.0 this summer!"

07/19/2010 - 07/23/2010$225
Adults 18 and up
Social Media and Web2.0 for Educators!

  1. Instructor: Scott Merrick
    8:30 - 12:00

    Come spend a week of half-days with Scott Merrick, University School of Nashville's Lower School Technology Coordinator for 11 years and ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Core Volunteer Leader. We'll get hands-on experience with social media of all kinds every day and explore the life-long learning potentials that these offer the tech-savvy educator. Scott will guide you through the intricacies of social bookmarking, media sharing, blogging, and podcasting. You will leave the workshop with your very own Professional Learning Network jump-started and energized for the future, wondering why you didn't get started with it sooner but glad that it's underway.

    See you in the summer!

Last Frontier Band Sales to Haiti


Not "sails," but "sales." For now and until further notice, all profit from sales of the CDBaby.com (and any other outlet--it's available pretty much everywhere, including iTunes) sale of Scott Merrick's Songs for Alaska Featuring the Last Frontier Band will go directly to Doctors Without Borders. There's been a great deal of scrutiny of the way charitable organizations disperse donated income and I'm very satisfied with the way Medicens Sans Frontieres exercises full disclosure with their little pie graph. Read more about MSF fund allocation here.

Move along now, there's nothing more to see here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coveritlive from Microsoft Lap Around PDC Nashville

From Nashville, right now!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Howie DiBlasi contributes version 6 to "Did You Know" Series

Pal Howie DiBlasi, a vocal proponent for educational change to suit the changing learning styles, needs, and tools of our time, has contributed his own information packed version of the classic "Did You Know" series. While I have some issues with what may be in some subtle ways an underlying jingoism, I think it's a must see for all educators. Food for thought, ya'll, food for thought...

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm So Lucky

It's my 1st graders and Kindergarteners using Starfall.com, ya'll. Just sharing...

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Dalai Lama Makes a Joke

Or does he? Happy snow day. I'm getting some work done from home today, but I'm also "paying more attention at [my] inner values." Thank you, David Orban...



Thursday, January 07, 2010

Teachers Prepared for Reform?

THE Journal comes through in the thought-provocation department again with its article entitled "Report Shows Teachers Not Adequately Prepared for Education Reform," By Scott Aronowitz.

Citing the report released in December by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning (CFTL), the author reports that in California, despite top-down efforts to reform education into sync with the demands of 21st century living and working, though many teachers possess the skill set to function effectively, "many more are simply not up to the task."

Details are at the article, and I'm only here to point you to that, but when you go, please budget a few minutes in your busy day to scan the comments and to add your own. This is a discussion worthy of your attention and your contribution. It certainly got me on my soapbox:

"Education reform?" A buzzphrase so hackneyed it's beyond cliche. Alvin Toffler said it, echoing some of the other best minds amongst those focused on the future: "We don't need to reform the system; we need to replace the system." Is there any hope for doing so? A tad, and active administrators like Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in PA, are fighting the good fight. An essential issue that is seldom mentioned is the need for any realistic system of education to value and reward creative, scientific, literary, social, vocational, etc. learning outside of 8 to 4 schoolday instruction. Another is to flex around changing family work and play schedules, perhaps offering something like 20/7 availability of synchronous instructor time, face-to-face or online, with group meetings and their necessary experience with social skills offered the same way. Sit them in rows (or in circles--the "new rows") in classrooms from their least productive circadian hour to a time when a little more non-academic scheduling can keep them in line until their parents can pick them up and shuttle them home? No longer justified. Hope for those kinds of reform? Only a tad from a set of systems so entrenched by custom. The most destructive and inhibiting words in the English language? "We've always done it this way."

The complete report, "The Status of the Teaching Profession 2009," along with summary materials and recommendations, can be found here.


Saturday, January 02, 2010

Federal Trade Commission releases "Virtual Worlds and Kids..."

Alerted once again by my fine PLN on Twitter, I took the time to read this extensive report and I believe it is so worth sharing that I am herein expending even more attention on a brief review. I hope you will share your thoughts with me either here or at the discussion thread I've started on the SIGVE wiki. The report is entitled "Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks."

One might think that the Federal Trade Commission would have other more pressing topics to pursue than underage exposure to adult materials in virtual worlds, but considering some of the committee's findings I have to commend that body for its efforts here. I think the report is not only accurate assessment of the current state of the field but also balanced and objective beyond reproach. I'm sure we can look forward to further explorations by government agencies considering that:

*"The number of youth participants in online virtual worlds is projected to grow to over 15 million by 9. 2013, with the most significant growth among the pre-teen (ages 3-11) segment of users. See Virtual Worlds News, Teen, Pre-teen Migration to Virtual Worlds On the Rise, supra note 8."

and

*"Virtual worlds consultancy kZero estimates that the number of registered accounts in the virtual 8. worlds sector totaled 579 million globally in the second quarter of 2009. This figure represents an increase of 38.6% from the previous quarter when global registered accounts totaled 417 million."

This report, available online in a 92 page .pdf, is the result of a direct assignment from Congress:"The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Public 1. Law 111-8, enacted March 11, 2009) directed the Federal Trade Commission to submit a report to the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations regarding “virtual reality web programs.” Specifically, the statement read: Concerns have been raised regarding reports of explicit content that can be easily accessed by minors on increasingly popular virtual reality web programs. The FTC is directed to issue a consumer alert to educate parents on the content that is available to children on virtual reality web programs. In addition, no later than nine months after enactment of this Act, the FTC shall submit a report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations discussing the types of content on virtual reality sites and what steps, if any, these sites take to prevent minors from accessing content."

The report itself runs only 34 pages, but I advise the careful reader to take the time to explore the exhaustive endnotes as well. Anyone who has any interest at all in the educational uses of virtual worlds needs more than a passing acquaintance with the information in this document. I would go further: Any parent of a child with access to a computer connected to the internet needs to read this document.

The methodology of the investigation is itself a model for further researchers. An initial survey of virtual worlds yielded 187 possible targets, which were pared down to 30, mostly on the criterion of popularity, based on reported number of unique visits. "Because one of the worlds, Adventure Rock, could not be accessed by the Commission’s researchers, and two other worlds, Webkinz and MyePets, required the purchase of a plush toy for registration, the Commission excluded these worlds from its survey, resulting in a sample of 27 online virtual worlds." Researchers also communicated directly with the hosting companies of six of the worlds, gaining further insight into policies and procedures. Here's a list of all the worlds included in the sample:

9 Dragons1
9dragons.acclaim.com

AQ
www.aq.com

Bots1
bots.acclaim.com

Buildabearville
www.buildabearville.com

Dofus
www.dofus.com/en/

Gaia Online
www.gaiaonline.com/

Habbo
www.habbo.com

Handipoints
handipoints.com

IMVU
www.imvu.com

Kaneva
www.kaneva.com

Maid Marian
maidmarian.com

Meez
www.meez.com

Millsberry
www.millsberry.com

My Diva Doll1
www.mydivadoll.com

Neopets
www.neopets.com

Pixiehollow
pixiehollow.go.com

Poptropica
www.poptropica.com

Red Light Center
www.redlightcenter.com

Runescape
www.runescape.com

Second Life
www.secondlife.com

Secret of the Solstice2
solstice.outspark.com

Stardoll
www.stardoll.com

There
www.there.com

Vivaty
www.vivaty.com

Wind Slayer2
windslayer.outspark.com

YoVille
www.yoville.com

Zwinktopia
www.zwinky.com

Directed to explore for sexually explicit content and violently explicit content for set amounts of time, utilizing any means possible, the researchers did so registered as adults, then registered as teens, and finally registered as children. They recorded their efforts using Camtasia software and in an extensive Access database form, then their findings were replicated by another researcher to ensure a "99.5% accuracy." Findings are reported in text accompanied by charts and tables, with screenshots of registration screens and more.

Again, this is not as much a review as it is an invitation for you to read and understand committee's findings for yourself. That said, I don't think it's a spoiler to share the report's introduction to its concluding recommendations to Congress and the industry:

As reported above, the Commission found very little explicit content on virtual worlds open to children under age 13. The Commission found a greater concentration of explicit content in worlds that permit teens to register, and where teens are likely to congregate. Although some of the teen- and adult-oriented online virtual worlds in which the Commission observed explicit content have taken steps to restrict minors’ access to explicit content, their efforts have not fully succeeded. Virtual world operators can do more to limit youth exposure to explicit content. Given important First Amendment considerations, the Commission supports virtual world operators’ self-regulatory efforts to implement these recommendations.

The report goes on with recommendations that include establishing more effective age and content filtering mechanisms, creating better age-segregating structures, employing full-time inworld moderators with policing tools, and creating better parent and youth education. All good measures, all contributing to the value of this timely and informative report. My own recommendation? Read it!

crossposted from Oh!VirtualLearning!