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Tag: Education

I could be almost anywhere, I suppose, and you could find me. You don’t need to know where I am, just how to get a hold of me. Need some help with your blog? Can’t register for a workshop? I’m right here, just a click away. Two weeks ago I was three time zones away but right here when you needed me. That’s why living on the Internet is so important. And I don’t mean you need to be in constant contact glued to a screen. I’m not a Tweeter and I make just limited use of social networking. Yet I always pack my virtual Internet bag with presentations, word processing documents, blogs, calendars and forms no matter where I go. I don’t leave home without them.

I live in the land of Google. Some might think trusting everything to Google is risky; and you might have a valid argument; but not living in Google means you either aren’t in contact or you have to trust someone else like Microsoft or Sun Micro Systems. I’ll take my chances with Google. I do my writing in Google Documents, prepare and share presentations there and keep track of the world with Google Calendars,  iGoogle and Google Reader.

Living in cyberspace is the way the digital world is headed. And the Oregon Department of Education has figured that out. Oregon is the first state to sign an agreement with Google to bring Google Apps for Education to every school district in Oregon. Google Apps will put us all together all the time. Students will be able to access documents anytime they have access to the Internet not just when the class troops down to the computer lab. Students can share documents, collaborate simultaneously on the same document, give access to teachers, publish to the Web and join virtual classes and meetings. Teachers can even grade papers on Google. Think of the money schools can save on paper, printers and Microsoft Office licenses.

Google Apps for Education is a big step in the direction of the blended school day. Way to go Oregon!

In the early 1990s Web browsers were in their infancy and anything but interactive. Web pages held information, mostly text, and there really wasn’t much to click on. But even with a lot of green screen text and almost no graphics, communities of online users were built and flourished. Here are a couple of personal examples from almost twenty years ago:

I had been working on a database software problem and I was stymied. I went online and found the software vendor’s Web page. I noticed a link to an online forum where you could actually type in your question and others visiting the site could respond. A novel idea I thought; but because it was Sunday afternoon I doubted if anyone would be reading my plea for help. I logged off to continue my struggles. A half hour later I logged on  again to see if I had gotten lucky. And there it was: An answer to my question and a solution to my problem. It was a very detailed but clearly delineated answer. And it came from a person in Sweden.  Today that wouldn’t even make us blink; but back then it amazed me that sitting in Eugene on a Sunday afternoon I could get help from someone half a world away.

Here’s one more example: Three friends and I were awarded a grant to attend a summer institute at Stanford University. We flew to Palo Alto where we saw each other for the very first time. All of our interactions prior to that meeting had been online without the benefit of a Web browser. We had no idea what the others looked like yet we knew each other as friends, helping one through a loss of a job, another with the death of a parent and a third through a divorce.  To say we had built an online community was an understatement.

The Internet can create community and, for better or worse, social networking sites like facebook and My Space are demonstrating that everyday. But there are other communities that don’t necessarily involve the sometimes mindless postings about what we had for lunch. These networks of people often revolve around a common interest, vocation or passion.  And even though most of us would prefer and greatly benefit from face to face interaction, it doesn’t mean that online interactions can be any less powerful or meaningful.

Web 2.0 applications can position any individual or group to create or participate in virtual communities whether or not the participants are in Sweden or Pleasant Hill.

When I was an eighth grader in Spokane, the desks in our classroom were bolted to the floor. The aisles between rows of bolted-down desks were so narrow they didn’t accommodate the 16 mm projector cart. With the projector at the back of the room, the image was about one third larger than the screen causing the top 25% of the picture to show on the ceiling. This lead to some peculiar optical illusions. Our teacher, Mr. Bohanan, managed to adapt this state of the art technology to the less than state of the art classroom furniture.desk

Yes, this was 50 years ago and things have changed. When it comes to technology, as educators we often pride ourselves in how successfully we’ve adapted or adopted a new technology. We manage to twist and push the latest gadget into our classroom structure whether it is the physical structure or instructional framework. And that, at times, seems to be the problem. What if, instead of showing the movie from the back of the room, Mr. Bohanan had the desks unbolted and rearranged or had us watch the movie in the hallway or in the gym? The school structure could have changed to meet the demands of technology.

Fifty years later we’re still showing movies, albeit through a video projector, from the back of the room or from a makeshift teacher station in the front of the room. And our unwillingness to change structure is like bolting the chairs to the classroom floor. Maybe, just maybe, the technology should, at least occasionally, dictate a change in the school structure, not the other way around. It certainly is dictating change in society as we are seeing with smart phones, social networking and online business and news.

So here’s my question: What part of public education are you NOT willing to change? What things can you unequivocally say must stay in place to fully complete our mission. Below you’ll find a short anonymous survey. Take a moment and check those things that are NOT negotiable, that you absolutely aren’t willing to give up. I’d also encourage you to post a comment to this blog to start a dialog around the issue of technology and education.

If Mr. Bohanan is still alive, he’s in his mid 70’s and probably posting on facebook. I’ll have to look him up.

In the 1940s bowling alleys introduced the overhead projector.  It was a remarkable innovation. Next to the automated pin spotters, this projection system  helped popularize the sport of bowling.bowlingpin But this blog entry isn’t about bowling. It is about how quickly, or slowly, educators adopts  technology, because it wasn’t until the 1960s that these first overhead projectors showed up in the classrooms of America. That’s 20 years for the math challenged among you. What took so long? Didn’t anybody see the application beyond the Pine City Lanes bowlers?

The easy answer is a lack of money. Adding unproven technology to school district’s budgets wouldn’t have had many advocates.  But the real answer, I think, is two-fold:

1. It has to do with our willingness to change. And change can be a slipper concept to grasp. If I’m using an video projector and document camera in my classroom, but using this technology  with the same instructional model I used pre-technology, is that really change?

Here’s another example. In 1994, the Bethel School District passed a $3.5 million bond for technology. I walked every inch of each building to help determine where network drops (wall ports) would be in each room.  As it turned out, the ports ended up being place where it was either physically the easiest to install or where the teacher wanted the port based on how she taught pre-technology without any consideration for how technology might best  be used. Back then we talked about not letting technology be the dog wagging the tail. Boy, did we have that wrong!

2. Secondly, with the introduction of educational technology, a knee-jerk response is often “this looks like more work to me. I already have enough to do.”  What doesn’t always get addressed is how will technology change what I do or what am I going to stop doing. And this might be the bigger stumbling block if, as an educator, you identify with a specific set of behaviors that you are not comfortable changing. What happens all too often is trying to mold technology to fit what’s comfortable not what’s appropriate.

Which brings us to the crux of the issue: What exactly are the basic assumptions about education that we can all agree on that should be part of any educational experience? Once we’ve answered that question, we can build from there instead of building on all the existing structures that currently exist in public schools that may not be needed in a technological future. Do we need whole group instruction 95% of the time? Are desks and chairs lined up in rows appropriate in a Web-based world? Why have schools open five days a week for 6 hours a day? Why are we not educating most children during the summer? Do we need classrooms or buildings to house those being educated? If we value the importance of a face to face interaction as part of an educational experience, how might that be facilitated as part of a technological world?

If we can answer those questions and free ourselves from the shackles of erroneous assumptions about what education has to be, we’re well on our way to shaping a new educational model and we’ll all be bowled over by how quickly it might happen.

An educational blog is a great way to provide information and resources to parents, students and colleagues. However, blogging in the Web 2.0 world is much more than that. Using a blog to simply provide information is more Web 1.0 than Web 2.0. Blogging in today’s Internet is all about creating community. So here are three  suggestions for how, as an educator, you might create that community:

Tell the world every chance you get. . .

Tell the world every chance you get. . .

1. Use your blog to illicit input. Ask questions, post a survey, wax philosophical, sollicit volunteers or talk about a educational challenge for which you need help.

2. Use every interaction with your audience to encourage them to participate with you in blogging. This might mean having a volunteer at parent-teacher conferences show parents how to get to your blog on the Web. It might mean highlighting your blog in newsletters that get taken or mailed home. You might make a brief presentation at your next staff meeting or PTO meeting.  Ask your district’s Web master to post a link to your blog. Every contact you make might be an important link to creating your blog community.

3. Join other educational bloggers through RSS feeds and online readers (discussed in the next posting). This might initially mean just educators in your building or district. But there are educational blogs state-wide, nation-wide and even world wide that you might find interesting. Most importantly, joining these bloggers creates a larger community where the sharing of ideas can have a very positive impact on both your job performance and on you personally. It is rewarding and exciting to know that someone in North Carolina has read your blog or given you a great idea for tomorrow’s lesson plan.

Leave a comment here if you would like your blog added to the links on this blog; or if you know of an educational blog that would be useful to educators, pass it along.

Welcome to the world of blogging as we now know it!