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!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Just wondering...NECC

This is my fourth post of the day-very WesFryer-esqe.

I'm wondering if there was a difference in the perception of NECC by bloggers and those who do not blog. The connectivity that we share as bloggers constantly exposes us to new resources and ideas from some of the best technology minds that are out there. We're tapped in-we get constant updates in our aggregators about what is happening. Was NECC anticlimactic for most bloggers (perhaps that is not the best word)? But has our blogging experience raised expectations for what a conference like that should be? Has it changed our expectations compared to our non-blogging counterparts? I would think so, with probably an emphasis on conversation being the most identifyable difference. If that is so, then the more people that become bloggers, the more quickly we can get past "what is a wiki" to the more important and meaningful conversations about improving what we do.

tags: necc necc06 necc2006

Illinois' First Virtual Elementary School

Today's Chicago Tribune is reporting that Illinois will open its first virtual grade school for 600 Chicago elementary students. Called the Chicago Virtual Charter School, it will serve a range of students from gifted to those with learning disabilities. Students will receive computers and high-speed Internet access, along with, yes, you guessed it...paper-based workbooks.

Sharon Hayes, the principal, estimates that students will spend 20-40 percent of their time in front of their computers. Lessons will be created by k12 Inc. The school will offer opportunities for socialization such as field trips-they'll even have virtual "gym" classes-which should be interesting... no kick ball for these kids.

I can't imagine not sending a kindergarten age student to kindergarten, but I guess that this is the world we live in.

As expected, the Chicago Teachers Union is fighting the virtual school. The Home School Legal Defense Association is also suggesting that virtual schools are not the same as home school environments, as home schools provide more latitude in exactly what kids learn. Roadblocks seem to be everywhere...there are vested interests in keeping education the same, aren't there..?

Read about it here (requires that silly free registration)

200 of 188,474,334

I've recently uploaded my 200th photograph into Flickr, and at the time of submission, it was the 188,474,334 photograph uploaded into Flickr. It's a fall shot from last year taken at the Morton Arboretum that I misplaced but recently found. In February, I posted about Flickr reaching the 100 million mark, so since then the database has grown by 88 million photographs. That's amazing...

I'll go out on a limb and predict that Flickr goes over200 million photographs in September, 2006.

tags flickr education jakesonline

The Davey's: Best of NECC

Here are my picks for the NECC conference held in San Diego:

Best Presentation: DeWitt Jones, keynote, Extraordinary Visions.

Next Best Presentation: Will Richardson, spotlight session, A Web of Connections: Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything

Most interesting presentation style: Richardson again, with his Lessig-style Powerpoint

This was everywhere: podcasting, 2) one-to-one initiatives

This will be everywhere in Atlanta: open source solutions

Most inconspicuous absence:, Flickr and other tools like, Writely, etc.

Least surprising: the emergence, big time, of digital storytelling on the national stage

Most aggravating: 1) cell phones ringing during presentations (big surprise, right?), 2) Powerpointlessness, 3) walking 2 miles to your next presentation, 4) the feeding frenzy around the brownies on Thursday afternoon-wow!

Most ridiculous: Steve Dembo at the Discovery booth with his wings on. Sorry, Steve, I just had to put this in.

Best advancement from previous conferences: wireless conference floor

Best ideas: 1) A conference on the Read/Write Web and 2)a full-time Blogger Cafe for conversations (suggested by David Warlick)

Best new tool for conferences: David Warlick’s Hitchhikr. See the NECC entry here.

Best social event: Edublogger meetup on Thursday night

I finally got to: meet Terry Freedman

Best Quote (or as close as I could get it): "Where avocation and vocation are one, a heart can be united..." DeWitt Jones

Most Amazing: the power of like-minded people to inspire each other.

Best San Diego restaurant: Fleming’s Steakhouse

Best New Product: Supacam

Best almost presentation: Hall Davidson, who had to give a different presentation as the result of Google Earth’s end user agreement

Most important function of NECC: the conversations, especially the informal ones….

Most surprising: the size of the exhibit hall. Just how many electronic gradebooks can there be? See Jeff Utecht's interesting post about the conference floor.

If I see another of these presentations it will be too soon: The “Best of” K-6 Websites. Stop the madness....

Best NECC navigational tool: conference mini-matrix

Best in-your-face, challenging, get it done presentation: I didn’t see one. Will's was the closest.

Most distracting: San Diego’s Gaslamp district

Honorary NECC paparazzi: David Warlick

Must have in Atlanta: Philly has cheesesteaks, Chicago has pizza, but Atlanta has the Varsity! Whata ya have, whata ya have? Take a trip to visit the Varsity, an Atlanta and Athens institution. Order like this: Gimmee two daaawwwgs all the way, walkin’, rah-aannnngggs. Translation: I would like two hot dogs with everything, to go, with onion rings. (I lived in Georgia for five years.)

Place to visit in Atlanta: Little 5 Points Neighborhood

The biggest question to ponder: Where do we go from here? Leave a comment and suggest it....

See you in Atlanta!

tags necc necc06 necc2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

Choose Your own Wiki Adventure: Using Wikis with K-12 Students-NECC 2006

Dan McDowell
West Hills High School
Santee, CA

Presentation Website

Roughly 200 people were in the audience-30 had used wikis before and about the same were brand new to wiki technology. The presenter provided a nice, simple overview of wikis to provide the necessary background for the rest of the presentation.

The presenter mentioned that he always tries to “bring some technology into the classroom.” While this may have been a casual comment, it bothered me, as I think a comment like that continues to perpetuate the belief that technology is something that exists outside of what normally takes place in a classroom. The comment suggests that technology is nice to use when it is convenient but not necessarily mission-critical. Perhaps I’m being too sensitive about his perspective on integration….

Mr. McDowell explained that wikis enable anyone to make a Web page-again, I’ll take exception. I think that wikis should be defined within the context of learning. I’m not so interested that kids can make a Web page with a wiki tool, although I am very interested in a tool that can promote social interaction 24/7, where kids can collaborate digitally to create shared understanding. Perhaps my definition is a bunch of wordsmithing, but I think that wikis should be viewed as much more than just a simple way to build a Web page-view them as a tool that addresses a unique learning situation and that adds value to the learning experience.

I think that we should also become much more sensitive about viewing kids as technology know-it-alls. Let’s be careful about over-generalizing their ability to use technology, a belief that I believe is perpetuated by this digital natives thing. Not all kids have used wikis as the presenter suggested, and not all kids live in front of the computer 24-7 either. A survey of the kids in the schools I work in graphically illustrated that they did not know what a wiki was. Do they possess the comfort level and skills to use these tools when introduced to them-yes. But not every student knows everything….

The presenter continued by discussing the concept of control and the need for it. Mr. McDowell mentioned that “you wouldn’t want them building their own wikis.” Well, why not? Why wouldn’t you want them to learn the tool in school and then use it to develop content online that is meaningful to them? Isn’t that the point? Can’t we extend this kind of learning experience as a methodology to address the issues surrounding content development in MySpace and the immediate need to help kids understanding how content is created in a community?

Now I will agree that wikis need to be monitored in an educational setting…no problem there. I even like the password and invite thing….

But probably the most troublesome part of the presentation for me was the introduction of a matrix of wiki design patterns such as a micropedia, an FAQ, a consensus document, a branching story, a tree simulation, and an ant farm (?). The presenter does have some association with San Diego State, so developing a matrix might be predictable-it looks very similar to the attempt to categorize WebQuest types. Why categorize at all? Why is that necessary? Go back to my definition-it’s a place for kids to create collaborative content in response to an educational need or learning objective. Why do we have to create an ant farm? Perhaps this is an attempt to force wikis into a familiar and comfortable teacher zone….

The presenter mentioned that kids had issues with others editing their content. He asked them: Is it better? They said yes, so he responded by saying “get over it.” We’ve seen the same thing in our district-it’s a new way of writing, a new way of collaboration that kids are initially uncomfortable with.

Mr. McDowell then demonstrated the Holocaust Wiki project, where he provides the framework for the investigation, the wiki construction, and the 200 links to resources for their investigation.

As you can tell, I disagree with the interpretation of the educational application of wikis that Mr. McDowell has, although I think that anytime we introduce a tool like a wiki is generally a good thing. However, I think that the categorization and control of the learning process associated with the wikis as described in the presentation extracts the true spirit of what a wiki is and should be.

Tags: necc necc2006 necc06

Friday, July 07, 2006

Google Earth For Educators...NOT! Or...?

I, like many others, was anticipating Hall Davidson's presentation on Google Earth on Friday at NECC. Unfortunately, Hall was unable to present on Google Earth as the end user agreement for Google Earth apparently does not identify educational use as a valid use and the legal department at Discovery evidently did not want Hall violating that agreement.

However, a search of the Google Earth site yields this, accessed here:

Can Google Earth be used in an educational setting?
The use of Google Earth for educational purposes in primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions is OK.

So, hopefully Google will get its act together and change the user agreement to reflect the content on their help pages.

tags: necc necc2006 necc06

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

NECC Sight Seen-EZ Out Parking

Just in case the presentation isn't very good, check out the seating arrangement prior to the start of this presentation!

NECC Sight Seen

Sight seen in Session 3 at NECC, Open Your Eyes, Listen: Digital Storytelling in the Elementary Classroom. That's a link to my digital storytelling resources at JOL.

Tags: necc2006 necc06 necc

Online Professional Development: NECC Session 2 Wednesday

Final Frontier: Ignite Professional Development with Engaging Online Learning Communities- Betsy Lowry (Program Director for Online Learning Johns Hopkins University for Technology in Education) and Kristin Mainzer, Director of Online Communications, JHU, Elizabeth Ott, Training Facilitator, JHU

Handouts will be available at the NECC site.

I've chosen this session because I'm interested in knowing more about developing professional learning communities, especially in regards to our upcoming Blackboard Learning Teams project in my school district. Teachers involved in our Blackboard staff development program this summer will have the opportunity to have 10 hours of release time throughout the school year to engage with their colleagues to extend the learning experience and continue to develop their skills as they directly learn from their classrooms.

Build it and they will come. Not necessarily.

Boomerangs: getting people to come back, what are the strategies to get people back

Elements of online communities that draw us back into the community wth regularity

examples: access to experts you don't have normally

Now the group is brainstorming ideas of boomerangs, discussion forums, engaging multimedia, forum for exchange of lesson plans, good organization and design, helps people in their job, trusting their source.

CoP (community of practice) boomerangs:

  • begin clear about the community purpose and expectations
  • offering valuable, fresh resources consistently
  • organizing and promoting a range of engaging community events-make sure its good and don't overdo it, make things available for those once a month individuals and those who visit every week.
  • modeling a positive tone to shape communtiy communication
  • Use a blended approach to promote some face-to-face
  • establishing and enforcing community protocols (members as well as leader expectations)
  • recognizing that there will be a natural moments of community "rest." Should this be scheduled or naturally allowed to occur? (my question)
  • Addressing and solving conflict quickly
  • Nurturing collaboration among work groups and/or teams-organic collaboration-chat rooms, etc. for just-in-time collaboration.
  • Gathering useage statistics and changing facilitation accordingly
  • Soliciting member feedback and striving for continuous improvement

Many in the audience of 150 (maybe 50) have taught an online course.

CoP Potholes:

a hazardous pitfall that can inhip CoP member engagement and the meeting of CoP goals.

What are the potholes?

  • balance community input with leader input
  • not having anything new
  • users outgrowing the need for the community
  • member conflict getting out of control
  • making sure everyone knows how to use the technology
  • perceiving your online CoP as an add-on to the initiative-needs to be an integral part
  • overestimating yor ability of "go the leadership road alone." Involve more that one person.
  • throwing open the dors to a new community to all users before it's ready-best communities have been built by staggering userships, facilitators first, dedicated people second, and then perhaps open it up.
  • Hosting heavy hitters too quickly-don't bring in external experts too quickly
  • Omitting external communication-use all different types of communication, email, chat F2F, etc.
  • Letting the community "run itself" after a while-cannot stop facilitation.
  • Expecting a community to grow quickly-takes at least a year or more in their opinion, build this buy-in time into grants if a grant is the funding source for the community.
  • Stifling member feedback-ask for multiple types of feedback continously.

Avoiding Potholes-the ENHANCE Cycle and ENGAGE strategies

ENHANCE cycle:

  • Establish objectives
  • Navigate a strategic plan
  • Handle implementation preparation
  • Activate your plan
  • Note your optimization opportunities
  • Check community efficacy
  • Execute ENHANCE cycle

BIG IDEA: communities take constant nuturing and their application and their development are cyclical.

Facilliator: evolve the conversation but asking other questions, challenging, just don't blow smoke at people. Encourage others to respond to others-push people beyond their comfort zones.

OTHER IDEAS:Jump start your community with a bang, balance synchronous and asynchronous activities, offer 3-D activities (individual activities, small group activities, and full community activites), Use dierse methods of delivery content, introduce new topics, content and activitis on an appropriate and regular basis, create a 12 month facilitation plan for your community. Create rythum and cycles in your community.

Survey the CoP landscape regularly to identify natural sub-groupings of membership-identify emerging leaders within the subgroups.


create benchmarks

collect useage data regularly

oops, there goes the slide....

Overall Presentation: lists became overwhelming, cognitive overload on PP slides, ran out of handouts

Some good ideas overall, decent presentation, gave me a lot to think about which is good, moved me forward which is the point.

tags necc06 necc2006 necc

Discover the Mathematical World of GIS: NECC Session 1 Wednesday

Patty Warren and Daniel Warren, Clemson University , Clemson, South Carolina, approximately 12o people in attendance.

Maps on computers-GIS happens-the most important aspect of GIS is the layering of data sets that enable teachers and students to investigate inquiry-based questions.

Free programs for GIS: Google Earth and ESRI ArcExplorer-Java Edition for Education

Book: Learning to Think Spatially

GIS uses maps, photos, databases, satellite images and graphs.

GIS is not GPS, although you can put GPS information into GIS

Who uses GIS-just about everyone, such as Homeland Security, CDC, fire fighting agencies, urban planning agencies, law enforcement agencies, National Weather Service (has downloadable data)

The National Center for Health Statitics has a GIS data page.

Why do presenters just read their PowerPoint slides?

How does the use of GIS technology impact standardized testing? visualize data, convert word problems, test normative values against empiracal evidence, and build useful technology skills.

Can be incorporated into just about any curriculum.

The presenter is now explaining the interface of the the ESRI interface. She is now demonstrating the query field which enables students to build mathematical functions that can investigate relationships between the layers of data.

Dan is now doing his part of the presentation: Fractions, decimals, ratios, percents, reading and interpreting data.

SCALE: He is now talking about scale, 1 unit of the display is how many units in the map, so he is beginning to develop the idea of mathematical scale and how GIS applications can help kids understand this. He suggests that math is the language of science, and this can form a natural link between the two disciplines.

COORDINATES: talking about latitude and longitudes, making the relationship between scale (1 box on the map = this change in lat and long).

Students must be ready cognitively for coordinates.

Dan has just turned on the layer for cities and is searching the city layer for Paris.

He is suggesting that kids could convert lat and long to decimal degrees as a mathematical.

The presenters are laboring to make connections-hey, a cell phone goes off-big surprise, so far nothing here that my math teachers would jump on.

Scale, coordinates, attributes...oops, the most important slide so far up and gone in 5 seconds...

He is now demonstrating the attribute layer, and talking about the interactivity between GIS data sets and a spreadsheet.

BIG IDEA: This is about visualization of data and asking questions. That's the big idea here. Another way to promote instruction through visual means. Manipulation. Mashup.

Descriptive statistics-lots of applications here, mean, mode.

Now is demonstrating the query feture and showing how to development mathematical functions (is that the right term?) to query the data set. This is good stuff.

This would be really cool projected on a SmartBoard.

BIG IDEA: I would examine my standards, write an essential question for investigation based on those standards, framed within an authentic context, and then projected on the SmartBoard, with students writing mathematical functions to query the database to identify visual data that would help answer the essential question.

BIG IDEA: I would let the kids loose with the software, turn it on, and let them figure out what it can do and what it can tell you.

Hey, the slide is back! Use GIS for descriptive statiscs, extracting a spreadsheet, adding point information, queries.

For science, get a GPS and make your own data-add an event

This program (see link above) cannot build complicated databases, but it is sufficient for may projects. He put a couple of points into the database/map and linked it to a Web page (could be any resource).

He is now showing how to measure distances. Shows a curved and a straight line (Rhumb line-not the shortest distance.

I would have liked a little more information on math applications (actual lesson plans), where to get data, etc. Opening PP presentation was too fast and just read, but the presentation did give me some ideas.

Tags: necc06 necc2006 necc

Welcome to NECC San Diego

I'm in San Diego at NECC getting ready for the first round of presentations. I had a very enjoyable evening with the gals from Technology & Learning Magazine, David Warlick, Mark Pennington and Ted Glazier. I'll be blogging 5 sessions today and throughout the conference so I hope you enjoy the posts. Tomorrow is the EduBlogger meetup at 8 PM at Rock Bottom which promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable time and conversation.