Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Collaboration shifts

Had another group of visitors in the lab today, this time from Southern Vermont Supervisory Union to discuss Google Apps. Nice group of folks. We discussed how we proposed the shift here, why we did, how we moved both educationally and technically, the increase in usage and collaboration, cost savings and the like. Looks like we'll be heading down to do a presentation in October.

Taking it all in

Our discussions about the news in class leads down a number of paths. I rarely watch a conventional newscast anymore. Aggregation, the ability to bring data to you rather than search for it page by page, is the direction I take and work with students to do as well.

Sadly the use of aggregation tools is not commonplace in many education circles. Many tools to aggregate data on the web are blocked in too many schools. Proposals in the Lab have moved a good bit forward here on our campus and we're headed for some more discussions throughout this school year I'm sure.

I get asked a lot out and about how I keep up on things, how to manage loads of information, what we work on with students in the Lab, etc. The logos in the pic above are a few of the major information tools we work with in the Lab. At the center of the activity is iGoogle. If you're not familiar with it, iGoogle pulls in feeds you subscribe to from all over the web into a 'newspaper sytle' format. Each site below appears in a small window or 'widget' on the page. Here's a link to a picture of my blog tab/page in iGoogle that may help if you've never seen it.

The advantage to using iGoogle? If it didn't make sense above, here's another way to dish it up: All this information appears in one page. Rather than visiting each site individually the stories all come to me. Again, it's a bit like creating my own newspaper really. See something I'm interested in on my page, I just click on a head line and it brings me to the site to read the article.

Here are a few I subscribe to: In the main tab (or window) I pull in my personal email, calendar and the following news sources: NY Times, AP Newswire, CNN, BBC, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Digg and the Huffington Post. I grab more tech centric news sites as well in: Slashdot, Wired, Gizmodo, Google blog, Google Docs blog, Google Operating system blog and I add in ESPN for some sports headlines.

I also have a TwitterFeed which pulls messages from my personal Twitter account. With Twitter, once you get past the "why would I do this" question, subscribe to a few folks and try out a few posts it's easier to see why Twitter can be very useful. Dedicating some time searching out folks who will inspire you and subscribing to them, then things take off. I pull the TED website posts into iGoogle as well for updates on what's been posted along with a TED Fellows blog. We use a number of TED speeches as conversations starters here in the Lab. If you haven't checked out do yourself a favor and give it a try.

All the headlines from the sites above, all visible on one page.

On another tab/page in iGoogle I subscribe to a number of blogs: Guy Kawasaki (he has a few), Will Richardson, Seth Godin, David Warlik, Chris Lehmann, Liz Davis, Carl Fisch, Samba blog, ReadWriteWeb, PresentationZen and a handful of others. These blogs offer up insights on education, business, technology, collaboration, some good common sense and the like.

Three other tabs I have open in the web browser itself are Alltop, HootSuite and Delicious. AllTop gives me a snapshot of loads of things cooking on on the web, top stories or groupings of things by interest. We've used it quite a bit on research projects in the Lab and the more I use it the more I like it.

HootSuite is a web based Twitter client that has proven quite useful. Subscribe to a large number of folks in Twitter and it can get pretty unruly to keep track of. That's the point though with Twitter... you don't need to see and read everything! Seeing who responds to you directly, what you send and what you receive in separate columns has proven very valuable. HootSuite offers a bunch of other functionality as well but I won't go into it now.

I use Delicious to tag and search web articles all the time. The real strength of Delicious though I think is to see who else 'tagged' the same article you did. Finding people with like interests aka researching similar subjects, well, it's a bit like having a research assistant... without paying for one.

That's a snapshot of what I use personally and what we work on with students here to branch out in their projects. I've been at this since iGoogle first came out. I've tried others. I use Google Reader frequently as well.

Why do this? I feel like I get an incredible snapshot of the world, my interests and my functional tools in a few pages. I feel more connected and informed. It's promoted me to read more... the list could go on and on. Helping people become more informed, to find inspiration, to become better researchers, to promote reading... that's what we aspire to do isn't it? At one point we felt like libraries were inventive.

I can't say I feel this is innovative by any means at this point. Many individuals and schools are doing this in some fashion. The danger I think is that too few students are using these tools in education. We've made some great strides here at BBA changing perspectives on the value of these aggregation tools and keep having discussions on how folks can use them. I've always said we'll get a lot further by promoting sophisticated use rather than pretending it doesn't exist.

Thanks for tuning in, AP

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Inspiration is a funny business. Exciting place to be, yes?

-- Posted from batphone

Monday, September 21, 2009


We got a tip to apply to present at a local conference. Here's the ditty we sent in:


With the ever increasing power of the internet and our access tools, self-directed learning is certainly in our future. This movement presents the potential for some great shifts in education today. New opportunities are at hand to collaborate, promote more sophisticated use and to pursue self-motivated interests in a traditional education setting.

We felt that traditional course offerings, especially in "tech," were far too limited. In 2005 a new course called RLab (aka Tech Research) was created to "think different."

Students pick their own project studies here in the RLab. With as many as 20 projects going on in the same room and over 60 per semester things can get quite interesting.

We cast away the traditional structure of a class and promote students to control the duration of their project work here. Explore a topic you’ve been curious about for a minimum of five weeks or, as this course can be taken multiple times, extend your study over multiple semesters. Many students repeat this course multiple times and either extend study projects or venture off into new territory. One student has taken this course five times, extended their study over multiple semesters and worked toward professional level certifications. Students decide.

Following the OpenCourseWare philosophy from MIT, all project work is archived with a journal, syllabus, presentation and examples of work for future generations of students to build upon.

Along the way we explore class themes on how technology is changing the face of learning, literacy, education, news, collaboration, government and our personal lives. Each assignment issued to the class is continually modified by all participants for future classes.

Each student is asked to explore "what makes them tick" as a learner, a presenter, a collaborator, and to develop self-discipline, project management skills and their own "philosophy of education."

Our class discussions have led to a series of proposals that have changed the face of access on campus as well as training, infrastructure design, IT support and discussions on the the shift in education in our future.

We feel like we're on to something. The innovative structure has led to gender equity in classes. Many students that repeat the class multiple times and a high following from post graduates and a diverse depth of project work that crosses many skill levels. The scope of the work here presents some new perspectives on "students with learning disabilities and limited registers of language" as well. We'll show you what we're up to and provide resources to get you started if you'd like to participate. All our work is published under a Creative Commons license. See our web site for more details:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ed Jenkins and some perspective...

Catching up on some reading after a three-day trip I ran into a tweet (a post on Twitter for all you non-twittering folk) from Dan French pointing to the video below. The fellow speaking in the vid is Ed Jenkins, a professor of social media at USC.

Good vid!

After prowling around a bit I found that the speech is an excerpt called "The Tech Fix" from a relatively new PBS FrontLine series called: Digital Nation: Life on the virtual frontier. Digital Nation is followup to a series we've viewed in the Lab here and discussed over the last two years called Growing Up Online. The two series appear to be hashed together on this new site.
I didn't see a place where you could view this new program in it's entirety... which I sort of like. Great material for our recent discussions in the Lab lately on our discussions on the differences between generations, how it applies to learning and technology. Here's an ditty on what we've been discussing:

Generations: Summary from Don Tapscott, Grown Up Digital

Baby Boom:
January 1946 - December 1964: 19 years, producing 77.2 million children, 23% of the US population

Generation X:
January 1965 to December 1976: 12 years, producing 44.9 million children, 15% of the US population. Also called the "Baby Bust."

The Net Generation:
January 1977 to December 1997: 21 years, producing 81.1 million children, 27% of the US population. Also called "Millenials," and "Generation Y."

Generation Next:
January 1998 to present: 10 years, producing 40.1 million children, 13.4% of the US population. Also called "Generation Z.

Some introductory statements that have spurred on discussion:

  • "Gen Next" is using technology differently: Cell phone: it's a music player, alarm clock, camera and obtw, it's a phone too.
  • Broadcast: Up to about 1997. TV as thee source of news, weather, sports. Listen to what was being told to you. Very little participation by letters to the editor, etc.
  • Collaborative Era: 1997-present. Participatory era. Multiple sources for news. Multiple ways to collaborate. Most in the collaborative era don't have a "land line" phone (traditional house phone).
  • Writing less, less effective... or differently? Dramatic increase in writing from the broadcast to collaborative era. Online writing via blogs, wikis, facebook, texting.
  • The average "boomer" watched roughly 22.4 hours of tv per week.
  • TV now as background noise?
  • Customization and conversation instead of a lecture.

I skimmed through the Digital Nation site to see if Jenkins had other contributions and I clipped out links (11) that I could find and pasted them below. I'll use these clips as discussion points... probably tomorrow and over the next few days.

Future shock and information overload:

Skill of the Future:

Human 2.0


Is it an addiction:

Mom vs the Computer:

The Human behind the avatar:

Your kids on social media:

The tech fix: This is the one that made it to YouTube that you saw above.

Defenders of the book:

Educational games already at play:

After, well, many years at this... and the journey from music student to consultant (all the way through), lab aide, network administrator, tech coordinator, on through classroom teacher - I still land on the same themes:

  • Denial of service is no way to educate people.
  • It may not be about "right" and "wrong."
  • It's called a "personal computer" not an "institutionalized computer" so lets treat it as such.

  • We're close to a tipping point... and always will be so let's keep moving forward.

  • What we teach now should be relevant and thought provoking for today... and especially for the future.

  • Let's get a computer in every student hands to address the issues of opportunity, equity.

Time to cook dinner! That's a theme I land on frequently too ; P