The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Midwest Education and Technology Conference

I’m in St. Louis at the Midwest Education and Technology Conference, one of the stops on the 2005-06 Out of Options Tour, which grinds to a final merciful, screeching halt on June 22, 2006 in hot, dry and dusty Amarillo, Texas, when it will be time to move on to bigger and better things. I’ll be presenting on Wednesday morning and afternoon after a pre-game meal Tuesday night at Dierdorf and Hart’s (they have a 16 oz filet-how about that, David?) where I will consume some of St. Louis’ finest beef. We’ll see if the restaurant is good enough to make the list of finer dining establishments listed on my JakesNation page.

On Wednesday morning, it will be 21st Century Assessment: Rethinking the Classroom Test, where I’ll talk about our work in my school district with inquiry-based learning and information literacy, and how we have used both assessment for learning and assessment of learning strategies to radically change how we assess students during the course of a traditional “unit.” This approach also includes assessing students in the library where they have access to all the information tools and resources at their disposal for problem-solving that they normally would have as adults, in a complete re-working of the classic unit test. The idea for this program had its genesis with David Warlick during steak at Gibson’s in Chicago, and has been implemented by three teachers who get after it, Chris Gales, James Workman and Scott Parker, all of Downers Grove South High School.

In the afternoon, it will be The New Shape of Information, which is my take on blogs, wikis, RSS, etc. I’ll start with eight slides from different aspects of the Hurricane Katrina disaster that dramatically illustrate how information is created, distributed, accessed and utilized in 2006. Then its back home in 43 minutes on American to the greatest city in the world-Chicago, home of the World Series Champions, the Chicago White Sox. Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks….

Friday, January 27, 2006

Our day in D99

Today we had our district-wide inservice day. Here's what we offered:

1. Two general sessions on an Introduction to Blackboard. Both sessions were filled to capacity with participants building out their Blackboard sites for most of the day. Direct instruction on how to use Blackboard took a little over an hour. We now have roughly 250 teachers trained in Blackboard (about 120 power users) with 50 newbies coming on board today.

2. A single session on Advanced Blackboard. Filled to capacity with 25 teachers. Discussion boards, evaluating discussion boards with Discussion Grader from Joliet Junior College (it rocks), creating learning groups and learning units, integration, blogs, wiki tools, along with a glance towards podcasting.

3. A single session on integrating video into instruction with United Streaming. We've just started with this great product and it will be an easy sell-we'll get it to tip very quickly and it will become district-wide in a short amount of time.

4. A single session on, our online test preparation and skill building tool. Teachers really were pumped about the product, especially our special services teachers.

5. My session on emerging technologies, which included RSS, blogs, wikis, Furl,, podcasting and screencasting. Filled. Lots of people with wide-eyes. I had a blast.

6. My session on Teaching and Learning with Technology for administrators. Great conversation, challenges, concensus-building, and an opportunity for me to spend some time giving them something to think about...

7. A single session on teaching and learning with technology success stories. Let's share what works.

All presenters for these sessions were in-house, as we have spent several years building internal capacity for such programs. Registration and evaluation of the sessions was accomplished by using our online system, Electronic Registrar Online.

We'll follow this up with direct support of these sessions by myself and my staff of curricular technology consultants. We'll continue with an aggressive evaluation program targeting organizational readiness and support for these initiatives, teacher implementation, and we'll even take a stab at evaluating the impact of this day on student achievement. We know that one day staff development events can be seen as ineffective; our challenge will be to continue, extend and build upon the momentum we've started and perhaps in some cases recaptured.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Letter to Principal Warlick

This Monday, in the Techlearning Blog, David Warlick posted a letter from a ficticious principal to the parents of his school. In the letter, the principal apologizes for the obvious failure of his school to prepare students adequately for many of the new literacies that are now so obviously critical to the success of learners now and in the future.

I've responded as the ficticious parent, in a post entitled:

A Letter to Principal Warlick

Thank you for your letter of January 23, 2006. As a parent of two students in your school, I was deeply concerned and saddened by your admission of failure. I have had a chance to talk with my kids about the content of your letter and that, along with my own observations about the school's climate and culture, indicate that your letter is indeed truthful....

Read the rest of the letter at the blog.

David Jakes publishes every Thursday at Techlearning. See his T+L posts here and meet the rest of the T+L Blogerati.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Two RSS Resources You Need...

I ran across this great document, RSS Ideas for Educators, by Quentin D'Souza (via Steven Downes) that contains 50 ideas of how educators can apply RSS technology to learning situations. It's a great read, and it's filled with creative insights. Couple this with Will Richardson's RSS Quick Start Guide for Educators, and, between the two documents, you've got a really solid foundation about RSS and the Read/Write Web.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dave as a Podcaster?

I ran across this last weekend listening to a podcast from George Siemens. I don't listen to many podcasts but I'm glad I did in this case-not so much for the content but for the delivery tool, If you are a podcaster you probably know about this site, but this neophyte was impressed with the ease and quality of Odeo, and my ability to record right online-Odeo makes it as simple as possible. I can see where this could be a really easy tool to use to introduce kids to podcasting-it might even cause me to give podcasting a try.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

If Your Car Was Open Source....

I get tired of people bashing products like Blackboard, in favor of open source products like Moodle. Not everyone is a big fan of open source software, and open source is not for every school district. So, with that in mind, I'll poke a little fun at open source and get my swings in. Don't take it too seriously-not that anyone would....

If your car was open source:

You would tell everyone it was free, but ignore the total cost of ownership.

When it needed fixing, you would rely on the generosity of others to help you fix it by self-diagnosing the problem through the use of various listservs and discussion boards.

You would have to paint it as it came very white and gray from the "dealership."

It might have 3, 4, or 5 wheels as the manufacturers argued about standards.

Your car would always be under construction and never really finished.Recalls, well, you're on your own....

Optional features may or may not work and might be unstable and make your car perform poorly, but, hey, at least they were "free."

Owners would support their cars with self-righteousness and with indignant and incredulous comments directed at those who have chosen a different direction for their transportation needs.

Your car's radio would be tuned to a talk show bashing Microsoft as you pulled into your driveway excited about firing up your Macintosh....

Sorry about the Mac thing.

Everyone's climate and culture are different.

Choices need to be made in concert with that. Make your decision based on your situation.

Be comfortable with the decision of others....

It's not about having a specific learning managment system (Blackboard vs. Moodle vs. something else) if that is important, it's about having one, should that be desired.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Reflections on Narrative Writing and Digital Storytelling

We've recently finished our best round of digital stories at one of our schools, Downers Grove North with a group of senior composition students under the tutelage of master teacher Matt Formato. We've made some major strides forward, specifically with the creation of stories that honor intellectual property rights as many students used music from and used Flickr imagery from the attribution only and attribution-noncommercial Creative Commons photo pools. The use of Flickr photography greatly, and I mean greatly, enhanced their productions. As many of you know Flickr contains some stunning photography, and it was amazing to watch these media-centric kids blend the imagery to portray meaning within their stories.

We also learned a great deal from the kids about the use of Flickr. I'll share that in another post.

But for now, it's important to focus on some reflective work about the writing process and what they've learned. So, Matt gave the kids four questions. Here they are:

1. Was there a time that you discovered new levels of meaning or a story within a story in the writing process or in the construction of the digital story; can you state what that deeper story or theme is and how you re-worked your material and your product to convey this deeper story?

2. What did you learn about your own life and/or your ability to express yourself and to communicate significant ideas through the production of your digital story?

3. What were the problems you had to solve in the creation of your digital story? That is, how did you work out the expression of ideas and feelings in the written narrative and in the technical representation in the sight and sounds of the digital story?

4. In what ways has the digital story medium enhanced not only your final product but also sharpened your abilities as a writer; would you agree or not that creating a digital story is a valuable writing experience?

Look at the essence of the questions: new levels of meaning, discovered, writing process, reworked, conveyed, product created, what did you learn about your life, express, communicate, significant, ideas, problems solved, ideas and feelings, technical representation, sharpened your writing....

That's what kids do when they do a digital story....

I'll let you know what the kids said as soon as I can.