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, November 30, 2006

Playing the Lesson

My Thursday post at features my first steps into the world of gaming. Be sure to check out the link to Line Rider-it's extremely addicting, and be sure also to take a look at the YouTube videos that capture the rides of the penguin in Line Rider.

We've begun to have some discussions about taking the attributes of gaming that are beneficial for kids and asking the question "How do we begin building those ideas into instruction?"

Try bringing that one up at the lunch table...after that, integrating blogs and wikis will seem easy.

So, how do we begin design lessons that students can play?

That sounds very Warlickian.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I have seen the future and this is it

Have you seen the new version of Edutopia-the new online version of the magazine that you can actually turn pages...?

Imagine the implications...

It's the new textbook, and if I was still in the classroom, I would want my textbook to be like this. Right now.

With this textbook, you can:

Turn the pages
Zoom in and out
Make notes on content
See the magazine page (or textbook) thumbnails for navigation
Bookmark pages
Email content to others (or classmates)
Enable special effects-swoosh for page turning (can you imagine that 30 times!)
Single or Double page view
Post content to favorites, to Digg, and get this, This has integration...

What I'd like to see:

YouTube integration, even perhaps United Streaming (there you go, Hall)
Hyperlinks to other resources
Wikis for collaboration
Blogging capability for reflection, writing, etc.
Podcasts from authors, famous scientists, poets, politicians (well, maybe not politicians)
Podcasts on chapter reviews, important topics for downloading into an MP3 player.
Discussion boards and chats-maybe even some IM.
Cell phone/PDA version

Imagine something like this in a 1 to 1 environment.

David Warlick had a great quote-I don't recall where I heard him say it-but it was something like this: "What happens when my textbook won't play with me?"

Well, play time is almost here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Slideshare and RSS

Slideshare is now offering RSS feeds for individual user accounts, although it seems a little awkward-perhaps I am missing something, which wouldn't surprise me.

When you access a particular contributor's Powerpoint in Slideshare for viewing by clicking on the slideshow, you would expect to be able to obtain the RSS feed for that author. But you get:

which of course displays the latest uploads to Slideshare, which is not what I want.

To get the proper feed, you have to go to the address window of your browser and truncate the URL. Here is an example from my account:

Truncate to:

This page properly displays my individual RSS feed:

They have also added comment notification through email.

For those of you who have not seen Slideshare, here is an example:

Thursday, November 23, 2006


That's how many images are now at Flickr, as of 4:49 PM Central Standard Time, on November 23, 2006. That's amazing. At the 1 million photos per day it receives, Flickr should go over the 1/2 billion mark sometime near the middle of

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

As We May See

The power of a digital story is that different viewers see different things. Such is the case with any kind of visual image, from a painting to a photograph. Such is the case with the actions of individuals-different people look at the actions of an individual, and interpret those actions through their goggles, their perspective...

So, when I saw that a highly respected blogger had posted 69 PowerPoint files to Slideshare, I wanted to know why. As expected, many of these PowerPoints deal with Web 2.0, networks, and e-learning among others.

Now, if I were to use the conjecture and generalization goggles used in this post, I might come to the conclusion that this individual wanted to be the voice of Web 2.0, and that attempts by others to have a voice might be met with an extremely aggressive response. I might also think that this person was interested in his viewpoint only, and wished to silence or intimidate others. I might also think that this person was a tireless self-promoter. 69 Powerpoints?

But if I took off the goggles, and viewed this with clear eyes, honest eyes, I might suggest that this person has some good things to say, and that this person had much to offer, and that we all could learn from this person. I might look at the actions of this individual as what they were-an honest attempt to share knowledge. I would avoid looking for things that were just not there....

Yes, I'm not over this. But this helps, doesn't it?

Share PowerPoints with Slideshare

I had a chance to work through Slideshare today and I like it. It's got room for improvement, but overall I think it could be a very useful tool.

Basically, Slideshare enables you to upload and share PowerPoint files for free. You can add tags and there is an RSS feed, but unfortunately (as far as I could tell) the feed is for recently uploaded files, and not for individual accounts like an RSS feed from Flickr or Perhaps in the next iteration...

Like YouTube, Slideshare provides a URL for linking to the PowerPoint as well as HTML that you can use to embed the PowerPoint in a blog or Web page. I successfully embedded a PowerPoint in a page in one of my test classes in our learning management system and it worked perfectly(some of our kids do not have PowerPoint, so this solves that). What's really nice are the slideshow controls, the ability to comment, as well as the ability to share the PowerPoint's location by using the onboard share system.

Slideshare does contain Google Ads advertising, so if that is an issue for you or your school district, then be careful. I looked around quite a bit and didn't see anything disruptive or inappropriate for schools, although I'm not saying it's not there. A search of some thoroughly nasty search terms yielded nothing inappropriate.

It has a 20 MB limit on individual uploads. I use PowerPoint 2003 which has a very useful feature that enables you to drastically reduce the size of the PowerPoint file if it is graphic intensive. To take advantage of this with a PC, right-click on any graphic and select Format Picture. When the dialog box appears, select Compress, and then select All Pictures in Document, and select Web/Screen. By doing this you can drastically reduce file size and of course, decrease load times.

You may wonder what is the value of just posting a PowerPoint. If you develop PowerPoint shows like me which are mostly visual in nature, there's not much worth. You need to have the presenter to make sense of the slides. Unfortunately, there are no annotation tools available in Slideshare, so you can't add any description of the intent of the slide. There is a slide transcript feature, but that simply captures the text on the slide, which can be seen anyway.

My workaround? What I did was create a textbox in PowerPoint, added my description of what the slide was about in the text box, and sent it behind the graphic (my graphics usually take up most of the screen with very little text, if at all). Slideshare recognized it perfectly and sent the text from the text box into the slide transcript window.

There is a Slideshare blog available.

All considered, a nice tool.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Blame Game

In one of his latest posts, Owning the Teaching...and Learning, Will Richardson laments the lack of buy-in teachers have regarding their own personal learning and their lack of desire "for exploring his or her own learning through the tools" of Web 2.0.

I do not see teachers doing this either. Professional learning is still centered on graduate classes, master's degrees and workshops they take through professional development providers. Why? To learn certainly, but to also move over and down in the salary schedule. Many teachers have no idea of the ability to develop a sophisticated network of teachers through the tools that many of us use every day. And if they did know about those tools-well, so what-I'm doing just fine, thank you.

My post, Gap Analysis, on the Techlearning blog explored the change required to develop personal learning in greater depth:

"But if you are a teacher, why change? Seriously! Why? Will you make more money? You are already grading papers, coaching sports, serving on committees, and chaperoning the freshman dance-you can’t do more. And you really aren't that interested in doing things differently. Will you get more respect from your kids, your peers, your parents and your administrators if you do? Unlikely. The obvious answer is that the kids will learn in a new way and will probably be better prepared, but many teachers have been pretty successful for a number of years, so what does working harder with poorly understood tools and little support actually buy them? Would you change?"

As Will's title to his post suggests, it's about teaching and not about student learning. That's what's at the heart of all this. If it was about learning, truly about learning, then the altrustic thing to do would be to change for the sake of the kids, because it would mean potentially everything to their education. I'm not just talking Web 2.0 tools, I'm talking about teaching them how to learn....

Will continues:

"But the litany of reasons why this can’t happen are on the tips of too many tongues."

I won't make many friends with this, but here are the excuses, the reasons, why most won't extend themselves-why they won't alter what they've always done-why they won't develop a learning network, and why they won't teach this to their kids. The excuses are presented by a hypothetical teacher giving thanks...

Thank you for standards that are content-based because I am a content expert, and none of the standards mention anything about Web 2.0 or a personal learning network.

Thank you for high-stakes testing, so that can be the focus, and take the pressure of using new learning technologies off of me.

Thank you for all the research that says technology does not make a difference in student learning (or in mine?).

Thank you for the administrator, who I can defer blame to for not providing the right climate, the right amount of time, and the right whatever else…

Thank you for my textbook and the support materials that come with it. It provides everything I need to know.

Thank you again for the administrator who does not value technology, does not understand technology, does not evaluate me on my application of technology to the learning process, and wouldn’t know an effective lesson that utilizes technology properly if it smacked them in the nose. They don't use Web 2.0 tools either.

And thanks again for that same administrator who stays in their office, oblivious to the kinds of instruction, and who only emerges when it is time to “evaluate” me.

Thank you for filters, because they block all these tools, so that I couldn’t get to them even if I wanted to, which I don’t.

Thank you for not having a process to request that a site be unblocked-how lucky can I be?

Thank you for making professional development optional.

Thank you for my file cabinet which contains everything I need, from now to retirement.

Thank you for my 6X5 grid and my lectern. Thank you for pencil and paper. Thank you for multiple choice tests that I can run through the scanner. Thank you for all the videos I can show on Friday.

Thank you for all the bad assessments I have to grade, which gives me an excuse not to move forward because I spend most of my life grading…

Thank you that there are only 24 hours in a day, because I don’t have the time for this.

Thank you for the technology coordinator who focuses on changing print cartridges rather than helping build proper lessons with technology.

Thank you for the librarian who dismisses tools like Wikipedia, and who will find Web sites for me so I don’t have to, and create a book cart that can be wheeled into my classroom in place of teaching kids how to locate information for themselves.

Thank you for refrigerators, so that my students will have a place to post their most creative and interesting pieces of work, at least for several days.

Thank you for technology that sometimes doesn’t work, so that I have another handy excuse.

Thank you for tenure. Thank you for valuing mediocrity or worse. Thank you for a job for life regardless of performance.

Thank you for the courage to give kids embarrassing and worthless assignments, like requiring kids to make a human cell made out of a jello mold (which is kept inside of the refrigerator rather than posted on it), which causes them to utter “Are you kidding me?” as soon as they are in the hallway.

Thank you for my community, who, after all the bad press surrounding social software tools, lives in a culture of fear.

You might think that I am teacher bashing here, but I'm not-I've managed to offend everyone. Look at the excuses-it's not hard to understand why this is not getting done.

Blame is everywhere...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Full Disclosure Statement

I've decided to post my version of a full disclosure statement on my Web site. This is in response to the rapidly changing nature of the edublogosphere where it now seems that everyone is a critic of each other. So if you are interested it's here.