YouTube Proves It

While I don’t post a lot (time, time, time), I do read all of the blogs found on the right side of this page (plus about 30 more not published).  I really try to at least track the “conversations” in education and educational technology.  Every couple weeks I also wander around YouTube a bit, just to see what the “people” are buzzing about for the moment.

A couple weeks ago I ran across this video of a student jumping from a balcony at his school onto a large Christmas tree.  I guess the kid was suspended or maybe even expelled for endangering his life and those around him (it was a crowded area with potential for injury).  I started reading the comments (which turned into a conversation about why there was even a Christmas tree at a public school).  Finally, I looked at the video comments (where people can respond to a video with videos of their own).  This video is an interview with the “jumper” featured in the original.  The interviewer asks if the infamous stunt was a political statement (it wasn’t) and then asks if he had a video sharing site in mind when he decided to make the plunge.  Guess what, he did.  He watches YouTube every night and wanted to be a participant.
What a perfect example of Web 2.0 through the eyes of a teenager.  Whenever I talk about Web 2.0 in one of my presentations or workshops I tell them the students are already using many of these technologies and if could just harness those skills and use them for good instead of evil (not really evil in the biblical sense of course), then we could really make some progress preparing our students for the world that awaits them.  As it is, most students have absolutely no guidance online.  No one telling them how to act appropriate, no one telling them how to act professionally.  What do have is stupid people tricks.

This video has been viewed over a million times and has over 6000 comments.  I think he got what he wanted and learned a life lesson that makes his school punishment irrelevant.  And over a million people think he’s the bomb.


A Little Disappointed

After such a positive experience over the summer at NECC, I was hoping that my presentation would be accepted for 2007.  While there were some similar elements to my Choose Your Own Wiki Adventure presentation, I was planning on expanding it to include a variety of other wiki-based projects that the “regular” teacher could incorporate.

Unfortunately, it was not accepted.  While I will try and make NECC 2007, it will be harder to get someone else to pay for it and for me to leave my family (we will have another addition in early 2007).

My original plan included starting a wiki that would provide direction on how to implement wiki projects I’ve integrated into my world history classes.  I still hope to work on that project, but nothing motivates me more then a deadline.

Bummer.  Oh well, I do have a couple other very cool projects outside of my regular teaching job coming up in the next few months.

Web 2.0 Overview

Over the last couple months, I’ve done five day-long sessions with different teachers in my district. My main goal has been to explain to them why they should start using technology (other then PowerPoint) as one of their regular teaching tools and introduce them to specific technologies they could use with their students now (especially since all of these teachers just received a shiny new Mac Book).

After talking about QuestGarden (the WebQuest creation tool), I gave an overview of Web 2.0 and then discussed blogs and wikis as instructional tools.

As I discussed Web 2.0, I kept talking around an idea that I didn’t quite know how to verbalize. Today I can across a presentation by Andy Budd of Clearleft Web Design that really hit it perfectly. Web 2.0 is a state of mind. He uses the example of the steam engine which was intially invented in the 1st century, but its time didn’t come about until 18th century England. That era was full of innovators who looked at the technologies available in a different way and were able to build and innovate in a way not seen before. The same is true today, the conceptual foundation of Web 2.0 is actually quite natural and basic, but people are looking at functionality and integration of these new technologies into our live in a much more meaningful and useful manner. There have been a number of information revolutions, dating back to the printing press, but this phase of it is exponentially expanding the creation of content and the number of ways we can interact with it. It is a state of mind and as the teachers in my workshops started to wrap their brains around it, I saw lights going on (and then heads shaking – there is always too much to do!).

Quick side note: As soon as I read this, all I good think about was Joel’s departure from Alaska in Northern Exposure (my favorite TV show of all time), “New York is a state of mind.” It was a perfect way to summarize his departure.

Go through Andy’s presentation, it is well worth the time.


Review of My NECC Presentation

In my initial post about my presentation at NECC, I included a three links from people who attended the session and blogged about it. David Jakes over at The Strength of Weak Ties blogged about it yesterday and made some critical assessments that I wanted to address. I will probably sound a little defensive, but I am going to look at several of his major complaints. You may want to read his post before going on.

Point #1 – I implied technology should be used only when convenient.

Let me explain some of my technology integration background. I have been working at a school built in 1987 that has received new technology for student use outside of the computer classes once. Between 1999 and 2001, we received money from the California Digital High School program to purchase an open lab and several computer carts. In 2002, teachers in my district were all given a laptop. There was a special program before that for teachers to acquire a laptop if they attended a summer workshop without pay.

Other then a handful of teachers, integration of technology into the curriculum was, and still is limited. There are more teachers with projectors that use PowerPoints to deliver lectures, but most teachers at my school teach the same way they were taught. I came out of my student teaching experience with notion that computers were an essential part of education. I am now known as the history teacher who always uses technology. My casual comment about bringing “some technology into the classroom” did not reflect my feeling that IT IS “mission critical.” I have made it my mission and obsession to always bring technology into my classroom. I have also made it my mission to share those experiences at a couple dozen workshops and presentations in the last 10 years.

Point #2 – I said wikis were a tool that allowed anyone to make web pages.

I really think that as educators, especially those of us with limited resources, we should look at every tool as a tool. I know the spirit of wikis, I understand and believe in it, but I also know it is a tool that allows my students to publish their work on the Internet – something I could not have done in my history classes five years ago. The ability for students to collaborate is an important part and I do include it in most of the wiki projects.

Point #3 – I said kids know this technology and all technology.

I did not say that students knew about wikis, I said students knew how to use this type of technology – specifically blogs, MySpace, LiveJournal, and DeadJournal. These types of skills are easily transferable to wikis. I am also basing my comments on my personal experiences. Like I mentioned in my presentation, I spent 10 minutes teaching them how to use the wiki. If I tried that with a class of teachers, it would take longer – it has taken longer. I was more talking about the environment of the web, not the specific application.

Point #4 – I said I wouldn’t want them to build their own wikis.

For my projects (the Holocaust Wiki Project, WWI Battles, and a directed AP World History review) I would not want to give up the control that would come with students creating their own wikis. This also creates a community of users that would not exist in the same area if students all created their. Each year I have about 160-200 students. Doing these sorts of projects can be a logistical nightmare. Yes, I want some control, they are 15 years old. I also work in a conservative community that is very protective of its students and is not afraid to make complaints. I would rather be a bit more conservative so I can keep doing these sorts of projects – and what ever the next thing I want to do the coming years.

If students want to build their own wikis, all the power to them.

Point #5 – Design patterns are limiting.

The purpose of the EduWiki Design Patterns and the WebQuest Design Patterns (both were authored by SDSU Professor Bernie Dodge) are to give teachers ways to incorporate these types of projects into their classrooms without trying to reinvent the wheel. They provide options and direction. Students are not going to just magically create “collaborative content in response to an educational need or learning objective,” they need direction, a specific task, and a creative approach. The design patterns help provide models and to inspire teachers to be more creative then they might otherwise have been. They are not the only way to use wikis or WebQuests, nor do they claim to be. They are just some ways to use them. Maybe an anti-pattern needs to be added.

We need to remember that for many teachers (both old and young) doing these types of projects are tough to envision and create. Design patterns may just get a few more to cross that divide.

I also take a little offense at the comment “perhaps this is an attempt to force wikis into a familiar and comfortable teacher zone…” I have always pushed the limit. When I look out at the web for examples of K-12 teachers using wikis, I am one of the leaders and have some of the more creative uses. These projects are time consuming in their development and their actual implementation. It would certainly be easier for me to lecture and give a few worksheets. These projects look a little different. These patterns do not reflect standard teaching practices.

Final thoughts…

Again, I apologize for being defensive. I appreciate David’s comments and understand his points from a theoritical standpoint. I just feel the reality and practicality is not always in line with the ideal. I have spent many hours planning these projects out and actually using them in my classroom. I also know that after 10 years of teaching, these have been some of my most successful projects for a variety of reasons.

I am a big believer in the Internet as community. Through Moodle and the wiki projects, I have successfully foster a sense of community in individual classes and across all of my classes. But, I also know the reality that I teach in a lower-middle class suburban high school in California. I have standards I must address. I have students with varied amounts of motivation. I think that exposing them to a variety of technologies, even in a somewhat limiting form, is better then not and better then not giving them some sort of structure.

NECC Has Left the City

NECC has left the city. For the last three days, the National Education Computing Conference, put on my ISTE and sponsored by CUE visited my city of San Diego. I have wanted to go for the last few years, but a variety of circumstances got in the way. This was year. As a first timer, I was amazed with the great diversity of sessions, the famous faces of the ed tech world, and the massive number of venders.

One of the major ongoing themes of the conference was the importance of Web 2.0, the read/write web. There were dozens of sessions on blogging, a number on podcasts, and a handful (mine included) on wikis. They covered logistics, specific implementations, generalized applications, and pitfalls of these new technologies. The message was clear; this is the new toolset we need to utilize. Our students are growing up in this environment, we can’t ignore that fact.

In the vender area I was surprised to see the shear number of online community services available to individual teachers and school districts. I also saw two Moodle service companies that do installations, customization, and support. What a brilliant idea. The software is free and the support from is free, so the only costs you have involve server space and transportation for training. Not bad. Hmmm.

I went into this conference with the idea that I might be job hunting (I even threw together a resume). As much as I love the classroom, I seem to want something more. However, after I wandered the hall for a couple hours, I realized that the corporate world, both big and small is so cut throat and so desperate for business. People were being bribed with t-shirts or the chance to win an iPod to sit through a ten-minute presentation about one product or another. As a presenter, I received about ten e-mails prior to the conference from venders wanting me to plug their product during my session. I also realized as I wandered from session to session, that the exhibitors were mostly stuck down in purgatory that was the vender hall. I ran into a few people I had known earlier in my masters program, both of them in the corporate world – they said they knew what the new ideas were, but they had no experience with it. They weren’t the ones expanding their experiences through cutting edge sessions and then applying it to their classrooms or schools or districts.

As I drove that 23 miles home today from NECC, it became clear that I would not become a corporate shill – not that there’s anything wrong with it :). If I leave the classroom, it will have to be in a way that still touches teachers and students directly.

Choose Your Own Wiki Adventure – NECC 2006

I’ve given a number of presentations and workshops in the last ten years, but today was the most significant. As I waited in the front of rom 31 B/C for my session to begin, I wondered how many of the 337 seats would be filled. As 12:30 approached, I was becoming hopeful that it would be a good-sized crowd. When I finally began the presentation, I was shocked to see people standing the back and sitting in the aisle (not quite every seat was taken, but it was close). My usual groups are around 20-30 people. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I once did a presentation to four people. It was a lot of work for four people. Once I got started the jitters I initially felt disapated.

I spent the next hour discussing the use of wikis in the K-12 classroom. I called the session Choose Your Own Wiki Adventure because the largest part of the session focused on the Holocaust Wiki Project. This project has students create a branching simulation about the Holocaust. I also reviewed Wiki basics, drew from Bernie Dodge’s EduWiki Design Patterns, and showed my other two Wiki projects, Strategies of WWI Wiki WebQuest and AP World History Review Project.

Overall, I was pleased – it was probably one of my best presentations. I felt like I connected with the audience and most people stayed throughout the whole session (I know leaving a session part way through is a conference habit). I didn’t leave enough time for questions, but a number of people stayed after to discuss some specific elements of the projects. It was supposed to be podcast, but there was a microphone problem and apparently it wasn’t salvageable.

There were three people in attendance who blogged about the main elements of the session at the Tech Savvy Teacher, Educational Technology and Life (he also took the picture), and Ed Tech: The Blog. Thanks guys for the reviews!

I posted the PowerPoint and important links here.

I don’t think I’ll make Atlanta for next year’s NECC, but maybe in 2008!