Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Constructing Modern Knowledge

Sitting in New Hampshire at the Constructing Modern Knowledge Workshop this week, we started the program off with a short trip to Boston on Sunday going to the MIT Science Museum and followed that with a guided tour of Boston's Freedom Trail. One of the joys of walking through the MIT Museum is watching the eyes and the imaginations of the kids, young and old, light up in the museum as most of the exhibits have some type of hands on aspect to them.

After watching a young lady up on the second floor playing with the combination waterfall/strobe exhibit, I had a chance to ask her a question before she left with her parents. "What was the most interesting thing you saw or played with today in the museum?" Her response caught me totally off guard, especially given the time she took at the waterfall/strobe exhibit. Instead of talking about the strobe display with the waterfall, her response was the exhibit that talked of the use of zebra fish for cancer research which was located on the first floor and probably about the third exhibit you come across. I thanked both she and her parents for the chance to ask the question and to talk with her and we parted ways.

As Scott Floyd, Gary Stager, a young lady named Bobbi from Oregon and I walked through the museum, we came across an exhibit by Arthur Ganson. While just about every piece he did that was on display in the museum was a fascinating piece of work, Gary, Scott and I were fascinated by a sculpted piece of work with a series of connected worm gears, a crank and rice. As you moved the hand crank the rice undulated in the box and looked like a wave type machine or maybe even ground that had some type of worm getting ready to come to the surface. It was really cool looking.

The next day we sat and listened to different theories about play, tinkering and the chance to have hands on experiences and what that does for the mind and for learning. At a time when budgets are being cut in arts and extra-curricular activities, it was easy to come to understand the need for the chance to simply play and explore. When given the chance, Scott, Frances from Mississippi, with a wonderfully southern voice that was like warm syrup, and I all decided that the rice sculptor was what we wanted, but we wanted to motorize ours so that it could merely become zen like to watch. We also had to add some special effects. No different that kids would.

So off to the suitcases of Lego's, and the adventure began. Here is a video of the final product.

So what did I take away? Given the chance to think, and play and tinker brought out the ability to work with others, get frustrated, be creative, laugh, learn, try, fail, try again, succeed, fail again and retry some more. Are we giving our children that chance? Are we giving our children the chance to fail yet be supported? Do we give them the chance to tinker without punishment? Are we comfortable with the amount of time it takes to create or do we just want to cover material? We need to think about these things and how they affect the education we help our students to achieve. We all need the chance to play and "tinker."

Day two of CMK08 coming up. Scott and I are committed to tinkering with Tali from Israel and she comes across as wicked smart. Why do I say that? As she approached our setup she immediately started saying you could use that for teaching about sand dune erosion, wave simulation, teaching about weather and cloud formation and on and on.

We will see if these two Texas boys are up for the fun and the challenge of tinkering at a new level.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

NECC 2008 in Review

As I reflect back on the National Education Computing Conference there is truly a lot to reflect on. One of the things I thought about was the words I heard - Pedagogy, scaffolding, tools, social networking, blog, wiki, ning, NECC, release form, learning networks, ubiquitousness, just to name a few. Of course if you went down into the vendor area that covered two Texas counties you heard even more words and language that was all geared toward "this will do _____" (fill in the blank) as long as you purchased it during the show.

I started early this year but not as early as those who have been working on this for a long time like a year or more, but I started by volunteering. We set up work stations on Thursday at the back of the Convention Center so that we could stuff bags with all the materials that vendors paid to have in there by way of sponsorship. I actually came back the next day and had a crew of 6 or 7 people and we stuffed bags for over 3 hours.

On Saturday I came and attended my first Edubloggercon. It was an interesting experience that I was amazed at, especially since this was my first one. Most of the discussion on the side centered around the presence of Pearson and their camera crew and the structure of the "unconference" which apparently left much to be desired. I can only imagine that NECC 29 years ago probably began to feel and hear some of the same things and it has grown from there. Steve Hargadon, I thank you for your time and energy. I found the day very valuable and while maybe I was a little star struck seeing so many people that I watch and read online, it was a good experience and I enjoyed the chance to be there and participate.

On Sunday I was lucky enough to get in on The Constructivist Celebration sponsored by Gary Stager and his Constructivist Consortium. A wonderful day of creating and meeting and watching and enjoying. Many people there to help and as a result I look forward to the chance to go to Manchester New Hampshire in late July to spend four days in the Gary Stager think tank. By the way there are a few seats still available. Come join us.

After the Constructivist Celebration I hustled over to the hotel where along with four other wonderful Texans, Scott Floyd, Mike Gras, Brian Grenier and John Maklary who had been hard at it were prepping for the Ribfest. What a great time that was as we sat and ate and drank and listened and talked with a lot of folks from the north and also learned and drank from the fountain of wisdom within the group. There was also lots of good food.

The conference started on Monday and moved at light speed - sessions, vendors, workshops, live blogging, ustreaming, conversations in the halls and with folks from all over the world at the same time as they participated in the back channel chats from whatever session was broadcasting. It was amazing to watch and participate in for sure. The tools became the venue only from the standpoint that the cameras and live blogs opened up a truly wonderful conference to more than just the 17,000 plus people located in Texas.

ISTE and NECC did an excellent job. Sure there will always be some glitches and grousing along the way but I think a truly wonderful time was had by all. My thanks to all the volunteers. I know the ones I worked with were so wonderfully Texan with hearts just as big as the state.

To those I met, thank you for taking the time to teach me, mentor me, to drag me on occasion kicking and screaming and mainly for allowing me to be a part of the world of Educational Technology. However, if I heard one thing over and over again, everyone and I do mean everyone of the attendees that I came into contact knows that t is all about the students. Let's make sure we keep it that way. They are our future and one day they will be making decisions for us. Let's lead them properly into their future and not backwards into our past.

I look forward to Washington D.C.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Idea Karaoke at NECC 2008

"Idea Karaoke" I would like to say it was my idea but it wasn't. Steve Hargadon and I both got a kick out of it as Kevin Hunnicutt tossed out that phrase while interviewing Steve for a vodcast done by Kevin. I was sitting in the Blogger's Cafe at NECC 2008 in San Antonio as I wanted to play a little bit with Ustream as I had not had the chance to do that. So while I sat there and worked on my ustreaming (which I hate to say I didn't do a very good job because I couldn't get the link right and working) but in the process I recorded about 35 minutes of video and at the same time talked with Miguel Guhlin, Henry Thiele, Clif Mims and then Kevin saw what I was doing and he said well let's do a vodcast and get both of them going.

Will Richardson said that a lot of conversations would happen in the hallways. While that is true anyone who comes to NECC no matter what year, needs to make sure that they don't just run from session to session one after another. I mentioned to my team from BDHS that you have to take time to reflect on what you have just heard. Go to a session, then talk with others. meet others learn from others, bu no matter what you do come in to the conference with the idea that there are things to learn and make sure you learn at least one a day.

Talking with people over the last year and changing my attitude a bit I have been able to start blogging, live blogging, trying to ustream and I will get there, jail breaking iPhones, podcasting, Skyping, posting to youtube, etc., etc. Does it mean I am an expert, not by a long shot but I have tried and I continue to learn. Isn't that what we want to create in our students? The ability to be lifelong learners ? Or are we simply hoping to make them totally dependent on us?

Empowering or enabling? What are you doing with your staff and more importantly your students?

More learning and sharing coming up tomorrow.

Strategic Ed Tech Thinking

Will Richardson & Sheryl Nussbaum Beach

Ian Jukes @ 12:30 pm