mixing and remixing to find a balance….
We’re currently using personalized wikispaces and edublogs at my school. While we’re getting more and more folks interested and on board, the handling of media on the sites is raising some challenges. For example, some uses are uploading photos (often huge, unoptimized photos) directly to their wikis and blogs while others prefer to link to images in their personal flickr accounts, but the free accounts sometimes limit what they can do.
So, it occurred to me that it might be useful to pay for a single pro flickr account (or one per division, or…?) with a single login to be shared by all faculty. I ran this by the tech department to look for holes in the logic, but I figured I’d tap the Edusphere to see if anyone had any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, cautions, or alternatives to offer.
Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:
- It’s inexpensive.
- Flickr is already a familiar tool.
- Unlimited storage, bandwidth, etc.
- It’s easy to use.
- This would be a good way to consolidate and archive school-related images.
- It offers simple image editing capabilities.
- Teachers would share a single login.
- Could students have access as well?
- Does it raise privacy/copyright issues?
- Do the flickr terms of service allow this type of shared use?
- With many users, would it become a chaotic mess?
What are we missing? Any and all suggestions are welcome.
And all of this of course leads to the question of the best way to handle audio and video, so please feel free to offer ideas for that as well.
As EduCon 2.0 wraps up, my head is spinning, as it usually does at a great conference. I’ll try to carve out time over the next few days to reflect on my experiences. The first day was actually the preconference, where the early arrivers had the opportunity to visit SLA and hang out with each other. I met some great folks and had a chance to spend time with Chris Lehmann and talk to him about SLA. He and this place are impressive. What a great school in so many ways.
That said, I have to say it was interesting to see that what’s going on in the classrooms was not so different from what happens in other good classrooms I’ve spent time in over the years. I guess I was half-expecting to find Utopian classrooms of totally rapt students, master teachers, ground-breaking innovation, and technology-rich, student-centered lessons. I did see some of that, but I mostly saw passionate teachers of various abilities using a variety of progressive and traditional approaches to reach large classes of generally engaged students, many of whom were on task and some of whom were on Facebook. In other words, I saw the reality of most good schools. This is not meant as a criticism at all but only as an observation of my own preconceptions.
More to come.
I visited the Barnes Foundation collection in Merion, PA last week. What an amazing place (and a fascinating controversy)! Barnes created his foundation as a school to educate people from all walks of life about art. He believed that art could change lives since, in the end, “art and life are inseparable.” It was not his goal to teach people the craft of painting ( “for that would be like teaching an injured person how to scream”) but to guide them to learn how to see.
I suppose that’s really the goal all good teaching — helping our students learn how to see. To see threads, connections, possibilities, and beauty in the world around them. To spot valid arguments and faulty premises. To separate fact from opinion, evidence from bias. To focus on the important details while still keeping the big picture in sight.
At one point in the audio tour through the Barnes galleries, the narrator described Cezanne’s impact on Picasso, explaining that Picasso did not imitate Cezanne’s work but “reworked its influences into his own unique forms.” Fast forward to 2006, and that same remark could describe what’s happening with blogging and the read/write web. Reading, writing, mixing, remixing. Learn from what others are doing, think about it, analyze it, synthesize it, internalize it, and go write about it.
Ultimately, though, it’s not about the product; it’s about the act of engaging in the process, of looking at what others are doing and then putting brush to canvas.
At my school we have a Professional Growth and Development program known as TALL Tuesday. While I can never remember what the acronym stands for, the program represents the earnest efforts of the school to carve out time for sustained professional development. For a set number of Tuesdays each school year (this year we have six meetings) the academic day ends an hour early and faculty members meet for two and a half hours in workshops organized and run by their colleagues. Each faculty member chooses one of the offered workshops and stays with that group for the entire year. This year’s offerings range from Mentoring to Social Justice in the Classroom, Global Warming to Write Your Own Textbook. This year my colleague Michael Bernstein and I decided to run a Web 2.0 workshop.
The group met for the first time this week, and from my perspective the session went well. Michael and I have also gotten positive feedback from some of our colleagues, but I’d welcome folks to use the comment feature of this blog to respond with thoughts, suggestions, or critique as well.
We began the meeting by getting a sense of why people had chosen this group. The answers ranged from general interest to specific ideas or needs. We then showed Epic 2015, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson’s rather dark vision of the future of information and the Internet. It’s a powerful reminder both of the potential of the new tools being developed and of the possible negative consequences they carry. We then offered an overview of our take on Web 2.0 and something of a roadmap for our journey.
After Epic 2015, we figured it apropos to begin our exploration of Web 2.0 tools with those offered by Google. A few people already had Gmail access, but most had to create new accounts. We briefly looked at the e-mail and calendar, partly as a familiar starting point for discussions, but also as way to demonstrate briefly how AJAX and other similar technologies are changing the landscape of the web. Our main reason for using the Google offerings, however, was to introduce Docs & Spreadsheets (formerly Writely), looking especially at the remote access and collaboration features.
We ended the session with a quick look at the use of weblogs in education, using as an example the Secret Life of Bees blog that Will Richardson had used with one of his English classes. It’s a great example of how blogs can be used to motivate student writing and validate their thoughts and ideas. We’ll pick up with blogs and blogging at the next meeting.
Michael and I are excited that teachers from the workshop are already taking some of the tools they explored and putting them into use in their classes. To wit:
1. As preparation for upcoming parent-teacher conferences, one teacher is setting up shared online documents so that students can write reflections about their work and parents can read and add to them, all before the meeting happens.
2. Another teacher has set up shared assignment calendars that students can link to using iCal and have them update automatically.
Seems that folks are hitting the ground running. I really think that these tools can be quite exciting, useful, and, frankly, fun. Exploring their potential can be, in the words of one teacher, “truly energizing — even inspiring.”
I look foward to session two in January!
Reflecting on last week’s NYSAIS EdTech conference, I’m reminded of the commonly held belief that early mapmakers marked the edge of the known world with the words “Here Be Dragons.” While this belief seems to be something of a folk myth, it provides an apt metaphor to describe the current landscape in the educational technology field.
With rapid technological advances, teachers and students face a brave new world out there beyond the known boundaries. Web 2.0 tools have the capacity to open up new territories in teaching and learning, but their promise also carries with it a fear of the dangers that lurk at the frontiers. Ed Tech visionaries extol the virtues of open, collaborative, organic learning environments, while at the same time parents, teachers, and administrators wrestle with the potential negative consequences in our students’ and children’s lives of venturing alone into these uncharted lands. To make matters worse, the children tend to be the explorers, even the natives, of this new world, while most adults struggle to keep up.
Furthermore, these new technologies are also forcing us to examine and reevaluate long-held beliefs and practices concerning teaching, learning, and knowledge itself. How’s that for a challenge? While this is a very exciting time to be in education, it can also be quite daunting.
What’s the answer? One step at a time, I’d say, even when those steps are sometimes quantum leaps.
Well, I’ve been playing with a number of 2.0 tools over the past couple of years, ever since hearing Will Richardson speak at Mohonk 2004 on a very snowy Friday morning. He convinced me that I needed to explore weblogs, wikis, RSS, and such, and I began to integrate these tools into my work at school and to advocate for their use in the classroom, but until now I never took the plunge and starting blogging my own thoughts and ideas. So I set up this blog and in I go.
It’s fitting that I should start this journey after again attending one of Will’s workshops, this one focusing exclusively on the use of RSS in the classroom. It really got the wheels turning. I’m already regularly using feeds through Netvibes and on my Palm via AvantGo (for the long subway rides each day), but Will’s presentation helped me to see some great educational uses, such as the ability to aggregate information (text, photos, video, etc.) based on keyword and tag-based search feeds and to consolidate a number of sources into a single feed.
Which got me thinking…. I tend to be a person who likes to look for the Swiss Army Knife of online tools–something that does it all well. I want my blog to integrate with my wiki to integrate with course management software and on and on. It’s a search for the grail–the killer information managment app. But then that leaves me open to the paralysis of “but what if I start using something now and then find something I like more?” Today I realized that perhaps a mix of different tools is really a more flexible modular solution. And RSS is the tie that binds it all together.
Which got me thinking…. If every teacher had a blog, and every student had an RSS aggregator, what other course management software would you need? If teachers posted comments, prompts, notes, assignments, handouts, etc. to their blogs, students could simply subscribe to the feeds to create a personalized course content delivery system. And if the students had blogs, and the teachers had aggregators, then the whole thing could become pretty interactive. I’m sure there are some stumbling blocks that aren’t occurring to me right now, but at first glance, this seems encouraging.
NYSAIS Conference – Mohonk 2006