Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Freedom

I accomplished a lot around my house on Monday, Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who have fought for this country. As I was working outside a group of fighter jets flew over the house in the "Missing Man" formation. A few minutes later a group of vintage propeller fighter planes flew over the house. The flight path they were both on would take them past the DFW National Cemetery and over a couple of other cemeteries in the area that were also having Memorial Day Ceremonies.

As I heard either the drone of planes or the whine of the jets, I began to think about guys like my father. My wife and I are both fortunate enough to have both of our parents still alive and in pretty good shape given the fact that they are 80+. Anyway, earlier that day I had watched "Recount" on HBO, the story of the 2000 Election and the Florida debacle. My writting is not about that or the fact that it all happened or that the right or the wrong guy won. My writing is about the fact that all of those veterans out there did a very wonderful thing for us and that is give us freedom or helped to preserve the freedoms that we have.

Toward the end of the movie, one of the James Baker stated something that I am going to paraphrase and that was for us to remember that all of this took place, the election of a president and the dissent and the court hearings, etc., etc, without a single shot being fired, without a tank in the street, without anyone being hurt.

In my Twitter conversations with @jutecht he is always asking if something is down or are the filters killing my ability to get there? FREEDOM! When Santino, one of the original Lost Boys talked about being here or going back he said he would stay here. If anyone spoke bad about the government in his homeland that would be their last day. In America if we speak bad about our government, we live to see another day and gripe some more. FREEDOM! If I want to go to church, any church, no one questions me, I go. FREEDOM!

I dislike war as much as anyone, too many young lives lost and too many families destroyed but sometimes war is a necessary evil. I don't hate it any less and I would love to see all of our service people come home safe and sound. But the things we beilieve in and the freedoms we have were won by some people doing what they had been ordered to do at a great cost to many. FREEDOM!

Thank you for giving me so many opportunities to exercise the freedoms I partook of on this Memorial Day. I keep all of you in my prayers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Power of Words

I came across an article about a woman who lives in N.J. and has been banned in Yemen for what she writes. Seems after 9/11 she decided she needed to know more about the Arab world so she started studying and researching. She came across some different information concerning a journalist that was being held in prison for sedition. As she explored the information she started to blog about it. She has become so well known in Yemen that she has been called a spy, a member of Al-Queda along with many other things.

In April a young man was arrested in Egypt for taking pictures of a protest. He "twittered" the word "arrested" from his cell phone. His network of 48 other people went to work and a few days later he was released from jail. His story is amazing to say the least.

In both of these instances, and I am sure there are many more out there, through the simple power of the written word so many things can be accomplished. So why aren't we using the different tools of Web 2.0 to help our students discover their own inner power? The fear of losing funds through Erate keeps many people holding on to the filters. Some people actually try to work with their IT departments and are able to accomplish a lot. We want technology integrated but does that automatically translate into learning? How much power are we losing in our words or the words of our students by not getting those words out there in the real world?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Business as usual or taking a swim

I recently watched conversations via Twitter concerning what is keeping teachers from being able to move to the next level, to join the revolution, to use the tools that are there, to stop talking and really start doing, etc. As I sat and thought about it, one of the things that came to mind was could it possibly be as simple as ego? The more I thought however, I began to realize it is more than that.

I would like to think that in my 31 years as a teacher/learner, I was able to put my ego aside and work with the students rather than being the sage on the stage. Last October I attended a one day conference in Round Rock sponsored by Leading and Learning. Speakers were the likes of Wes Fryer, David Jakes, Miguel Guhlin and others that I have forgotten since then and if you were one of them I apologize. My point is that I had never "twittered" before that day. So I started with Twitter and was fascinated. Then I played with Ustream.TV and thought "Wow!" Then I started watching the discussion on Twitter and started adding some people. I would go to others Twitter home pages and see who they were following and add some of them.

Then came TCEA 2008. Some of the same people I was following were talking throughout the conference online, through Twitter, live blogging, etc. I then had the chance to listen to Carolyn Foote and later that day followed that with Randy Rodgers and I sat on the sidelines with John Maklary and Miguel Guhlin, Scott FLoyd and many others and drank it all in. Then all of a sudden it clicked. I can't tell you exactly what the trigger was, but I felt like that scene in the "Hellen Keller Story." All of a sudden I got it, I realized what the importance of what I had been reading all along in the TEC-SIG listserv and on Twitter and reading through others blogs. It was as if the heavens opened and a bright light...well you get the picture. It all clicked.

Then, like that scene I was running from item to item electronically trying things out and I actually started blogging, then I tried to Ustream a presentation we did at NCEA in Indianapolis (that failed but I am ready to try again), I have been practicing live blogging and I feel like I have been a contributor.

So what does this have to do with ego in the classroom. I think there are so many things that we are shouting from the rooftops about, that those who don't get it are overwhelmed and what is the fail safe when we are overwhelmed - business as usual. So in an effort to get around the business as usual approach I have started sending out emails to my faculty that have "Did you know..." in the subject line. They have gotten used to knowing that it will be some small snippet of technology that they can try out. I usually keep it as simple and as brief as possible. The result has been teachers asking when I am going to send out the next one. I have gotten responses from teachers such as , Thanks, I like the info, Cool idea, I am going to try that and even I like my technology in small bytes.

So maybe it is time to stop the shouting and start spoon feeding. Those of us who think we get it have been brought to this river of knowledge by many in our PLN's. We drink freely from its cool and flowing waters and we continue to absorb and be refreshed. If others see us drink from it often enough and we share with them and give them sips on ocassion, we might find some others coming back for buckets and maybe an ocassional swim.

All I can say is last one in is a rotten egg.

Friday, May 9, 2008

NECC 2008 - How Refreshing!

I received an invitation to participate in a conference call with some of the higher ups at ISTE and the conference planner of NECC 2008 today and came away looking so forward to the conference. Why? Because anything that was suggested from the group of Texas bloggers present was snapped up and the ISTE folks were going to do something about it immediately or make sure they found out and would get back to us.

Why is this refreshing? Isn't this the way it should be you ask? It is refreshing because all they want to do is get the word out in any way possible so they can help us help others as they do their part to continue bringing the revolution. Are you in Second Life? Go to ISTE Island and see what is on tap there. Most times you can find several people willing to show you around or talk about NECC 2008. Do you look at wiki's for information? See the NECC 2008 version by clicking here and getting information. Simply prefer to read about it? Go here to see the conference web site. Want to know what to do while in San Antonio? Click on @technolibrary's wiki to see when people are coming in and some of the things to see and do. Do you Twitter? Feel free to ask me @paulrwood or @technolibrary or @woscholar and so many others out there. I am sure if we don't know the answer we can sure find the answer.

What about the keynotes? The opening night keynote will be James Surowiecki who writes for the New Yorker Magazine. Here he is being interviewed about his book on Youtube.

If you are here for the revolution, join us at NECC so that you may be fully prepared and equipped. Hopefully the ISTE/NECC attitude will be adopted by the affiliates in the not too distant future.

So much to learn and so much to share.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lead, Follow or ...well you know!

Today I had the chance to go to the TEC-SIG Spring 08 meeting held in Austin. In the past, I have been unable to go as we have been so swamped at school that it was not feasible. A couple of years ago, we were asked to fill out a survey and one of the questions was about video streaming, podcasting, etc. and how would that affect my attendance at meetings. Well if I can't get there to begin with, it would seem that my attendance is already greatly affected.

I am blessed with a great boss and a wonderful, although sometimes frustrating situation at work. We all know how that is, sometimes things just don't want to work right and no matter how hard everyone tries, is there ever enough money? That being said I am glad I am where I am and the situation I work in for sure.

I asked for time off to come to this year's meetings and I had actually thought about runnng for office to try and make a difference. Several friends that I have made through TEC-SIG and TCEA were unable to make it and yet we, the supposed leaders of technology and innovation for our schools, were unable to either podcast, or ustream any of the meetings "due to leagal issues."

It is time that we all make use of the tools that are easily accessible to all of us so that we can make available to all events such as this. With only 76 people here along with budget cuts, gas prices, etc., we have to connect and communicate the mission of this group in each and every way possible. We must continue to spread the word and we can do it with conferencing, live conferencing but we have to have leadership, solid, forward thinking leadership.

Lead, follow or at least get out of the way so that we can help to keep others connected. As @ijohnpederson says SHARING is what it is all about. Let us use the collective to our advantage as opposed to charting the same, stale static course. If we are the leaders then there is only one thing left to say: LEAD!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How Googlable are you?

While spending almost a complete weeek at home due to a bad bout of bronchitis, when I wasn't sleeping I was searching the web through my Twitter personal learning network (pln) and found several presentations by some of the people I follow who were presenting on UStream so I tuned in to a couple by Will Richardson. As I was listening in Will made a statment about when he goes in to school systems and does some professional development, he asks about how they use Google. As always many talk about how they Google applicants to see what might be out there good or bad. He then asked what they were doing about making their students "Googlable" to which they all replied "Nothing." His post about "Making Kids Googlable" can be read here.

This got me to thinking about how do we do that with our students? While I know many of our students have either Facebook or Myspace accounts, I know of a couple of teachers that work extensively with their students to help them figure out the validity of web sites using some of Alan November's techniques. After that it falls off rather drastically.

This was brought home recently when we had a situation of bullying online through some Myspace traffic between students. When one of the students was brought in her first statement was "You aren't supposed to read that, it is private." I was stunned. How could this child possibly think that? We have to continue to work to make our students more aware of what is possible on the web and how they can improve their presence by making themselve more Googlable.

So much to teach and so much to learn!