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, July 26, 2005

The Sounds of Keyboards

We've taken our workshop participants into the world of global conversation. They've all created accounts in Blogger and are furiously entering their first post. They have been charged with contributing to a discussion of the following two themes:

How has the nature of information charged over the past ten years?

What is the difference between information and knowledge?

Here are the first perceptions of our neophyte (and some experienced) Summit bloggers:

I feel like I'm stepping out there. But it's daunting, knowing that there are people out there in Georgia and England and all around. It's scary, but there os a potentional...

There's a light shined on your ideas.

You are responsibly, so you have to analyze and verify the information that we share.

We also have to be careful not to be missunderstood. I'm responsible. I don't have the body language to go with it. It's a challenge.

I worry about technological information, the loss of personal contact. But I also like the speed of information.

David Jakes tracked us through a conversation that he had recently trough it blog, demonstrating the techniques that he used to explore the authors of the messages that were being sent to him.

I'm a chemistry teacher, writing is a painful process. It takes me a long time to consolidate my ideas -- to communicate precisely. I read blogs and follow a number of them, but writing them is going to be a challenge.

What do you think?

downers grove warlick

Friday, July 22, 2005

H2O Playlists

From Will Richardson, (check out Steve Dembo in the picture!) via Clancy Ratliffe, comes a new tool for creating lists of resources for sharing that differs slightly from and furl and all the others. H2O creates playlists, which are collections of online resources as well as other offline resources such as lecture notes, citations to books or academic journals, mp3 files (podcasts?), a video (digital story), or anything that supports an intellectual topic. As expected, a subscriber can have multiple playlists each with their own set of tags, and each playlist generates an RSS feed. The site is searchable for easy access to playlists of interest.

Users can also use playlists to build other playlists, although to be honest, I'm still digging through that. Each playlist is rated by its influence, so if your playlist is used to build another playlist, the influence of the original playlist within the H20 system increases. For example, check out Brian Del Vecchio's playlist on social bookmarking with that contains 24 resources. Listed within this playlist are other playlists built from Brian's (12 in all), playlists with the same items, as well as playlists with the same tags. So, I can see how it could be very easy to create a personal playlist by taking just the resources of interest from many playlists.

Individuals can comment on playlists and each playlist can carry Creative Commons licensing. They've thought a lot of this through....

This takes the social bookmarking site to the next level, and extends it certainly just beyond bookmarks. I'm sure we'll introduce this in our Emerging Technologies conference in Downers Grove next week with David Warlick. Tools keep emerging almost every day it seems-quite an exciting time to be involved in education with all the possibilities that access to information and people bring. So many new tools, so little time!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Blogs and Blackboard

Today I spent about an hour looking at the Campus Pack building block for our Blackboard system from Learning Objects that will enable our Blackboard Portal to host blogs and wikis. The system enables students to have blogs and wikis within a Blackboard course, or outside of a course but within Blackboard. The system is closed, with District 99 Blackboard guests (non-registered users) not able to interact and leave comments although any registered D99 user can. Unfortunately, the Wiki associated with each student, but outside a class, does not support multiple authors, so I guess you really can't call it a wiki (they actually don't on their website, sort of). Anyway, the wiki tool associated with each class (they call it Teams LX) does an outstanding job of disaggregrating contributions by wiki teams, so this will give us really a jump start on developing assessment tools for this kind of product. Additionally, students can export any of their blog or wiki products and host them in another location if they desire, such as Blogger.

The company is developing RSS capability for the blogs and wikis produced within the system and these feeds will be able to be sent outside of our Blackboard system into any aggregrator.

We liked the system very much. It gives us the capability to provide a safe environment while teaching kids how to use these tools correctly. Anyone who read Will Richardson's post and examined the wiki page (via Paul Allison's writing class) contained within the post will probably agree that we need to be careful with such tools. And it still gives kids the opportunity to post their content on an open system and in the future, distribute their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives to anyone.

The New Shape of Information

Next week, on July 26 and 27, my district will host a workshop on the new shape of information and how blogs, wikis, RSS, et. al. will reshape the identity of teaching and learning. We'll take two days to introduce a number of outstanding teachers from our district (as well as several other nearby districts) to these tools, use these tools to drive the workshop, and in the end, hopefully, develop a vision and a pathway for the implementation of these tools within our respective situations. This workshop, at least for our district, will represent the beginnings of a collaborative dialogue to identify how these tools will be used to create dynamic learning environments for students. I'm very excited about this, as are the participants, because it we have the good fortune of having David Warlick join us for two days to facilitate the process. We are certainly looking forward to his contribution as I know he will challenge the perspectives of all.

We are deliberately preceding with caution. The experiences of others suggest this is a wise course. But we'll get there, and hopefully this upcoming week will be a springboard. I find my self being ultra-conservative about the use of blogs and wikis with kids, although I'm typically not that way. I'm from Chicago, where we make no small plans, right? But this stuff is too powerful, too cool, and potentially has a chance to change how we educate kids, and how kids view their education, that I want to do it right. So, we start Tuesday.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I don't get it.

I didn't have the opportunity to attend NECC in Philadelphia but I did have the opportunity to follow the activities through several blogs. Obviously, from what I read, podcasting was a big hit and I'm not really sure why, other than the name and the obvious link to Apple's iPod.

Now I have listened to my share of podcasts. But what is so exciting about an audio file? I'd rather read a blog and interact with hyperlinks, and process and scan for interesting content, but maybe that is just my learning style. I know you can download them and listen to them on another device but do I really want to do that? I've read that others listen to the podcasts in their car-well, you know, I think I'll listen to some Springsteen or Bodeans or some Steely Dan, cranked with the windows open (but the air conditioning on) and turn loose the 265 horses of my Nissan Maxima and do some driving, thank you very much. I spend too much time with technology as it is.

I certainly respect the right to podcast, and I think podcasting can and will contribute to open source thinking and learning, but not on a large scale. I could be wrong. Realistically, is the average teacher going to Podcast? Unlikely, given the demands of the daily grind of teaching and the technical nature of creating and posting a Podcast. I'd be happy if they just filled out my online surveys on professional development. Will kids podcast-probably, some. Will it be our responsibility to teach them? Hmmm.....I think we have other things to teach them that ultimately be more important.

I don't object to podcasts at all-what bothers me is that this is the latest and greatest and people are jumping on the bandwagon. Education has been criticized for years for doing this. How many of you who are teachers have invested time and energy in some initiative to find out next year it's something different. And the next year it's something different. With this in mind, why do we wonder why change is so difficult for educators?

We need to focus on fundamentals, with a glance towards more substantive tools. How many teachers right now could outline a plan to implement information literacy into their instruction? How many could explain fair use? How many could teach kids how to locate Web resources effectively? How many can design an effective presentation to kids that models the priniciples of visual literacy effectively? More importantly, how many teachers could actually describe what constitutes effective technology use within the context of effective instruction?

We wonder sometimes if technology makes a difference in student performance and student learning. Many people say it doesn't. We all know it does. But continued hopping on the newest bandwagon actually moves us further away from what is important.