Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Google Voice Transcription for Universal Design

While I wonder whether Google is collecting too much information about me and others, I still marvel at the capacity for supporting the kinds of work we do. Eric and Alex recommended Google Voice so I requested an invitation. It arrived and I am setting it up and testing to see how it works and how I might incorporate it into our work.

Google Voice seems to have potential for supporting universal design for learning. Here is my first test of that function. The snippet below is the transcript. The word "voice" displays in a grey font color so I suspect that the transcriber is less confident in that part of the transcript. But high accuracy including punctuation is a pretty impressive result even if it is not 100% confident.

12/22/09 5:24 PM 10 minutes ago
Hi. This is testing out whether the google voice system can accurately transcribe my voice and take a message and send it to the proper place. Thanks very much. See you later. Bye.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day Technology Leadership

Last March, a heavy snow caused school closures across Maine. But we discovered that the work of ITeams could continue despite the snow using network communication and collaboration. Sylvia Martinez, President of GenYES, commented on that post suggesting that we expand the practice.

When the phone rang at 6:00 this morning with Superintendent Wilhelm's announcement of school closure, I knew we had a new opportunity to follow Sylvia's suggestion. With the full expansion of the MLTI program to the high school and access to new tools, we have even greater opportunities to lead with technology. Let's see what we can accomplish and document with this opportunity.

This year we also have new tools to support this collaboration; I am writing this message in a Google wave shared with several ITeam members. And now I am extending the text in the Blogger editor. When I tried to transfer that message here to the blog, Blogspot stripped the links and formatting in both a copy and paste and a drag and drop. So, we need some more work on making tools operate more seamlessly.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Embedding a Wave 2nd try

Since it did not work as I intended in the earlier post, I am using the sample that Google developers posted on the Google Code site:
That way, I can narrow down where the problem lies. I hope to see something in the space between the horizontal lines:
Paste this snippet wherever you want the wave to show up:

And this one right before your tag:


Embedding a Wave

I have been learning to use Google Wave and want to know how I can share that with others. Here, I am testing Embeddy, the embedding robot. So, I wrote a wave, added the robot and have copied the embed code directly from the bot tools. When I preview the post, I see blank area in page but not any text. Will be interested to see what happens when I publish.

I had hoped to see the embedded wave in the space below this text but it is not there in any form that is useful for readers or even for debugging the failure to render as I intended. If it didn't display, I was hoping that I'd see some kind of diagnostic (login screen, gadget icon, or other indication of what is going on behind the scenes).

And this one right before your </body> tag:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Opportunties to learn about offshore wind energy development

  • Jan 12-14 in Portland, ME The three-day event is free and open to all Maine companies with an interest in wind energy and opportunities for composites in emerging wind power markets. Renewable energy educators as well as international leaders in the composites industry will lead more than 15 sessions. Specific areas of focus during the conference include current industry technology; future market opportunities; design and manufacturing of composite materials for wind power; and installation, maintenance and repair of composite wind blades.

    tags: innovation, iteams, cluster

    • The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center recently received an $8 million grant to develop and deploy three small-scale deepwater offshore wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine.
    • The three-day event is free and open to all Maine companies with an interest in wind energy and opportunities for composites in emerging wind power markets. Renewable energy educators as well as international leaders in the composites industry will lead more than 15 sessions. Specific areas of focus during the conference include current industry technology; future market opportunities; design and manufacturing of composite materials for wind power; and installation, maintenance and repair of composite wind blades.
    • Maine is already becoming a leader in research and development in the wind power market, especially in the area of offshore wind power.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
Diigo provides this interface to various blogs so that users can easily elaborate on the annotations that they are making on pages. The tool provides the clips I selected but apparently requires that I click on a link to get my comments as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Community Organizing for Stronger Schools

In a recent post, But if you teach me to organize, ..., I commented on Ricardo Levins Morales and Reuven Carlyle's encouragement to use community organizing as tools for change. Then, Sally Loughlin recommended an article from the Annenberg Institute "Organized Communities, Stronger Schools: A preview of research findings"  on the value of community organizing for improving student learning outcomes.
Education organizers, researchers, and funders have long debated the impact of community organizing on student educational outcomes. Across multiple data sources, our six-year study found strong and consistent relationships between community organizing and policy and resource decisions, school-level improvements, and student outcomes. Interviews, surveys, and school-level administrative data analyses suggest that organizing helps expand the capacity of urban public schools to support student success by building support for reform alternatives, increasing equity in the distribution of resources, and generating meaningful parent, youth, and community engagement focused on improved student learning.
So, it seems as if we have a win-win opportunity: change and improved learning outcomes. I look forward to reading the new book-length treatment (Oct. 2009) of the issues: Community Organizing for Stronger Schools: Strategies and Successes.
... a richly textured analysis of community organizing for school reform. The authors examine the role of organizing in building social and political capital and improving educational outcomes for students in some of the nation’s most challenged school districts. They delineate the strategic choices and organizational characteristics that foster successful initiatives and consider how community organizing can support increased civic engagement and sustained educational reform. Finally, they discuss the challenges facing this burgeoning field in a new era of American politics.
President Obama has helped us learn where well-developed experience in community organizing can lead.

Monday, October 19, 2009

But if you teach me to organize, ...

Reuven Carlyle, is a member of the Washington State Legislature. He also blogs about his work and perspectives on governing with special reference to support of education. In a recent post in a series on education, on Community organizing for change, he posted an image of a poster about organizing. He did not cite the work or identify the artist. I tracked that information down and tried to add the embed code to a comment so that others can easily find Ricardo Levins Morales and his larger body of work. The Wordpress comment tool did not allow me to add the embed code as the artist's site requests. I add it below to complete the process.

Click on the image to see more work of this artist.

Thanks to Nils Peterson, Gary Brown, and the Diigo Group CTLT and Friends for the reference.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

All for Good support

I added the All for Good widget to this blog and to my iGoogle page to support the Obama initiative for a summer-of-service. I wonder whether we can develop the capacity to serve MSAD 75 volunteer opportunities and have them rendered here and on the District's web site.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Google Wave for learning 2

In an earlier post, I described developments in Google Wave that might apply to our situation: Google Wave for learning. Avital Oliver, a mathematician, has extended Wilson's work (and other) and has produced a Wave Emulator that shows how several gadgets can be implemented and used by people who don't have developer access to Google's Wave servers. Oliver describes some of the challenges he discovered in trying to implement the emulator for his task list.
As I started the implementation, I realized that there are certain difficulties with gadget state management with regard to Wave’s real-time concurrency. Here is an attempt to recreate the learning process I went through, with the difficulties I encountered and solutions I put in place to make this gadget work.
It reminds me of our (CTLT and Friends & Morning Reading Group) discussions of working in public. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Students inspire my professional development

We chose the late start time for iTeam meetings in part because members are engaged in activities that parallel teacher's professional development and collaboration. Brandon has reliably come at 7:30 am nearly every Wednesday since November. Today, we learned quite a bit from each other. 

Initially, he was browsing the workshops page at the "Closing the Gap" conference site. He enjoyed participating in two conferences and wanted to see whether he could find new opportunities to learn and participate. We learned that we missed the deadline for presentation proposals and the conference is held in Minneapolis. So, we used the links tool at the Closing the Gap site to find local connections.

The search produced a link to Maine CITE , the Coordinating Center for Assistive Technologies. The Maine CITE site provided a link to the Maine Accessible Instructional Materials site. And the Maine AIM site provides a link to the AIM Community of Practice. The list of members includes Cynthia Curry, the MLTI specialist interested in AIM and Universal Design. I wonder whether they might be open to having an iTeam member join the community of practice?

Then, he showed me Free Rider 2. It is a game and game creation site that simulates trick riding (dirt bikes, skateboards, wheel chair, ...). He found a particularly challenging course and showed me how to use it. He observed that people must spend tremendous amounts of time to create the tracks they share. I asked him whether he had tried to create any tracks; he had but could not find it. I think he showed it to me because he knows I want to learn how he and friends use technologies. I asked him whether he saw any connections between the game and school. He couldn't think of any. I surprised him by pointing out the games connection to physics and math. I suspect we will see a new round of interest in his work there. I can hardly wait to see where it takes us.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Maine: Historical sense-of-place

Maine has a long history of sharing its sense of place. The Passenger Department of the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Company published this introduction to In the Maine Woods in 1900.

Moose and Maine Guide
In the Maine Woods By Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Company

Google books tries to make it easy for one to add this image to this blog. Select the portion of the page and then post to Blogger. Unfortunately, for this selection, the title and author link may push the link over the limit to transfer to Blogger with no intervention. I had to copy the link and create the page by hand. In pasting the url in the "Edit Html" tab, I discovered that the alt tag can also be improved by users to indicate the content of the image.

When I published the post, I discovered that some of the Blogger tools cover part of the image. I didn't find a parameters in the code to adjust the size of the image to prevent this but when I viewed the post in the "Compose" tab, it provided image resizing controls. It makes the text harder to read but that is not much of a problem because the original text is just a click away!

<a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=tHE3AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&
ci=49,108,886,936&source=bookclip"><img src="http://books.google.com/books?id=tHE3AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&img=1&
ci=49%2C108%2C886%2C936&edge=1" border="0" alt="Text not available"/></a>
<a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=tHE3AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1&ci=49,108,886,936&
source=bookclip">In the Maine Woods By Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Company</a>

I tried to add this clip to our iTeam wiki but Wetpaint doesn't yet support this form of insert.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wilson's Cove Trail Head

Kate participates in the MSAD 75 Wellness program. She discovered that we would benefit from walking more because the steps we take at work don't contribute much to the aerobic steps that we want. So, she has looked for longer and more interesting walks. She heard about the Wilson's Cove Trail that the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust recently improved. 

We have taken that walk several times and wanted to be able to recommend it to others. I tried to find the trail head from the Google Map by using the drawing tool in Maps to find the point 0.9 miles South of Mountain Road. Unfortunately, the designated point did not match what I could see in the satellite view of Maps. But I couldn't see the trail or trail-head in the satellite image. Derrick tells me that the map images are several years old. Then, I thought to use the street view in Maps and it solved my challenge.

View Larger Map

The street view images clearly are much more up-to-date because you can see the HHLT sign even though you can't read it. To see the more conventional Map view, close the street view using the "X" in the corner. Enjoy the walk! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Seth Godin describes ways drive change at TED

The TED Conference invited Seth Godin to present "The Tribes We Lead" at TED in February. They posted the video of his presentation in May. At 8:45 (minutes:seconds) he presents a diagram that ITeam members recognized as similar to our work on infecting people with good ideas.


During the talk, Godin refers to Kevin Kelly's concept of 1,000 True Fans:

The Technium: 1,000 True Fans


Note that TED talks now include a linked-transcript that helps navigate between text and videographic respresentations. I tried to capture the time-code anchor url but the system did not provide it and I could not find the hand-coded equivalent. You need to open his presentation on the TED site to open the transcript window.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Google Wave for learning

Magnetic Poetry of Google Wave ala Wookie.

Scott Wilson of CETIS, reported on Monday June 1st, that he had successfully implemented a Google Wave gadget on Wookie server as a W3C Widget. He commented:
By itself this is not a very exciting example, as most of the cooler examples need a participants model, and so lend themselves better to running in something like Elgg or Moodle than a plain blog site like mine. However the basic principle is that Widgets with this level of interaction could easily replace LMS-specific tools in the near future.
He goes on to say that he has only tested in Firefox and Safari4Beta. I tested on the iTouch and can see the tiles move on the Touch when I use computer browser to interact with the gadget but the Touch's interface does not allow me to move the tiles.

While I agree that this particular gadget is not the most compelling demonstration, it convinced me that we should attend closely to developments at Google Wave and CETIS. Wilson has demonstrated the principle that Lars Rassmussen articulated in his video introduction to Google Wave that they intend for Wave to be free and open to developers at several levels including running local servers. This may be the venue for open source effort that Sally Loughlin and I discussed recently.
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Friday, June 5, 2009

Testing rss bookmarks with Safari

Put feed in the toolbar and then watch to see if it updates the marker with the index of number of items to read.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Embedding and crediting CC audio

Kate and I are exploring the possibility of creating a short video to demonstrate a dance activity that she and I discovered. She thinks it will amuse her students and I think it may augment our wellness routines. We need some music to drive the simulation and want to use files that are shared with a Creative Commons license for remix. I searched for "Creative Commons" and audio and found the legalmusicforvideos page at the Creative Commons site. That page points to the ccMixter site with its editorial/picks page. We played several clips and found one that matched our requirements. This post tests of embedding cc link to audio. I pulled the embed code from the share/19174 page and pasted it into the html editor in my blog. The embed code adds the player button and two links to the source.

The share page also encourages correct citation by providing this credit code, too:

The Ellinas performer's name link seems to be redundant but the CC BY 3.0 link probably marks the page for CC searches. I added the Trouz link because Ellinas remixed her work. ccMixter also invites remixers to provide information about uses of resources from their site. I'll add those after I finish this page. I added this post as a webpage that uses the licensed material but it has not yet been approved.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

ITeam support for STEM learning

In Wolfram|Alpha data for analysis, I wrote:
Ruben Puentedura describes some of the Promise and Perils of Wolfram|Alpha. If we want to create cultures that use data to improve our practice, then we should invest some effort in navigating between the promise and the perils.

FBProjectImage by SCSpaeth aka k6 via Flickr

I have been thinking about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) because the MLTI Student Conference next week chose it as a theme. I hope we can address the theme in our presentation in ways that will engage both students and teachers. An ITeam member told me that he thought the abstract I had written about our work for the conference was accurate but not engaging for students. He predicted that teachers may attend but students may choose to go to sessions that capture their interest.*

If Wolfram were interested in hoarding their data, then why do they offer access to it in various forms? The Live Mathematica link obviously promotes the purchase of their flagship product. But they encourage use and make Mathematica available to K-12 educators for a reasonable investment of time and money (30 Minutes to Mathematica: Watch three video tutorials for 30 minutes and pay only $50 for two copies of a program worth hundreds).

I don't expect mobs of K-12 teachers breaking down the gates to take Wolfram up on the offer. But if we find ways for ITeam members to do for Wolfram|Alpha and Mathematica what Brandon is doing with iTouch, then teachers may welcome the contributions as some are doing with the Air Mouse, screenshots, and other tools he and other ITeam members are exploring.

The ITeams Lobsterman's Research Project (Center Island Weather Station) seems to have potential as a driver for this approach. This project grows out of members' interests and may provide them with a motivation to apply math in a meaningful context that I did not experience until I was a graduate student. Wolfram|Alpha's Examples - Weather and Meteorology may provide us with starting points.

*Reflection: We are clearly making wonderful progress developing ITeam as a collaborative community of practice if they feel free to assess my work with such candor.

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Wolfram|Alpha data for analysis

Wolfram|Alpha makes it possible to use data in several ways. This request via an iPhone to Integrate x sin dx displays information about the integration. The output frames provide access to the underlying data in several ways.
  • gif images of functions, plots and data tables
  • plain text versions of data tables with pipe delimiters
  • Mathematica notebooks to download for further analysis
Ruben Puentedura describes some of the Promise and Perils of Wolfram|Alpha. If we want to create cultures that use data to improve our practice, then we should invest some effort in navigating between the promise and the perils.

Note that I used a technique to share this the image from W|A that Brandon, a middle school ITeam member taught me. He demonstrates it at the end of this brief screencast.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Posting via iTouch

Testing iTouch with various sites. This HTML editor takes input but the visual interface does not.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Leno: 3-D Printing for Everyone

This video clip from Jay Leno's Garage shows why iTeams should devote some effort to understanding 3-D printing and manufacturing. Note that the embed tool made it incredibly easy to post this video to a variety of places including this blog. I will need to show this to iTeam because the blocking software needs some adjustment.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Learning through reuse

Hitachi J100 adjustable frequency drive chassis.Image via Wikipedia

Candy, the Middle School lab tech, recently offered the Middle School iTeam a broken eBook reader as a learning tool. Some members might want to find out what makes devices tick. This could generate some interest in what Sylvia Martinez calls Sustained Tinkering Time.

But middle school students are unlikely to be able to bring a single-purpose device back to life. An article at Wired's How-to Wiki shows how to take this a step further:

The consumer electronics and personal computer markets are largely built on the concept of planned obsolescence. Today's must-have is tomorrow's has-been. That works out well for manufacturers, but it has some very serious environmental and health consequences. Outdated gadgets containing arsenic, bromine, cadmium, hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), lead, mercury and other nasty chemicals often end up in landfills, leaching their dangerous toxins into your soil and water supply.

Obviously, the responsible thing to would be to recycle your electronics. But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Plug in to eCycling program, only 15 to 20 percent of our PCs, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices are being recycled (those figures are from 2005, which is most recent data available).

So how to stop contributing to the electronic landfill?
This page is a wiki. Got extra advice? Log in and add it. ...

Kevin Purdy of Lifehacker has seven tips for giving an old laptop new life.
  • Low-power, no monitor spare
  • Home server
  • Digital photo frame
  • Fly again with Linux
  • Stand-alone monitor
  • Salvage an external backup drive
  • Extend wireless coverage
As John Seeley Brown suggests in his advocacy of Tinkering described my post Tech Studios- places for iTeam work, through the engaged reuse, you find out whether your ideas work.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Elgg: Reblog test

SCSpaeth Seamless Services Blog GraphImage by SCSpaeth aka k6 via Flickr

When the MSAD 75 Tech Department first established an Elgg network to evaluate it as part of the ZEDS initiative, users needed to self-register. I was still working as a community representative to the Technology Committee so I did not yet have a link75.org email address. I used a personal email address and chose a user name consistent with that address. In order for people to understand the value of networking for learning and collaboration, I modeled the use of all features that make sense in our context. I used the blogging tool the most.

Within a few weeks, the District hired me part-time to advise the iTeams; and gave me a link75.org email address. I tried to switch the email address of my SCSpaeth Elgg account from the personal address to the work address and in the process, lost access to the Elgg account. So, then I created a new Elgg account that conformed to the standard district naming conventions: spaeths and have continued my work in Elgg under that account. The double accounts confuse some Elgg users because they invite me to become their friend using my inactive account. But, I don't even get notified much less have the capacity to respond. But I have valuable parts of my working portfolio tied up in the inaccessible account so I haven't wanted to wipe the slate clean. This reposting of a post from that account is an effort to find out what it will take to recover those parts of my portfolio in a more accessible venue. I copied the post below.

I chose to make this adjustment now because I tried to use Yahoo Pipes to learn how to aggregate posts from multiple sources and discovered that Pipes threw an error for the SCSpaeth Elgg blog feed.

Joint work- the strongest form of collaboration

October 29, 2008 by Stephen Spaeth comments (1)

iTeams, collaboration

I have been reading Fullan and Hargreaves' book What's Worth Fighting for in Your School. I find it very helpful because of the respect they accord teachers and the solid recommendations of ways to support transformation. During a Graduate Coordinating Committee meeting on Monday, I saw an application of the concept of strong forms of collaboration to our work. Since we don't have common language around this idea, I found this paragraph from the book to share the gist of the idea (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1996 p.47):

Little [1990] observes that the fourth type -joint work- is the strongest form of collaboration (e. g. team teaching, planning, observation, action research, sustained peer coaching, and mentoring, etc.). Joint work implies and creates stronger interdependence, shared responsibility, collective commitment and improvement, and greater readiness to participate in the difficult business of review and critique. This, says Little, is the kind of collaborative work and culture most likely to lead to significant improvement. In the quest for improvement, other kinds of collaboration may support this basic thrust, but by themselves are likely to be poor substitutes for it.

What can we do to build support for this strongest form of collaboration? How can iTeams contribute to this form of collaboration, too?

Little, J.W. (1990) "The persistence of privacy: Autonomy and initiative in teachers' professional relations" Teachers College Record 91 (4), 509-36 cited in Fullan, M. and Hargreaves, A. What's Worth Fighting for in Your School, Teachers College Press, New York 1996.



SC Spaeth cites this post in http://elgg.link75.org/pg/pages/view/62/

Stephen Spaeth 132 days ago

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Monday, March 9, 2009

iTeam Self-Reliance and Leadership

A close-up snapshot of the built-in iSight on ...Image via Wikipedia

My position as iTeams Advisor for MSAD 75 is part time. That aspect of my work turns out to provide unanticipated advantages. I have been trying to foster a sense of leadership among peer mentors. I knew that we reached an important milestone several weeks ago when I learned that three iTeam members at the Middle School met during their Academic Support Time (AST) even though I was attending a meeting at the High School. They even used the iSight camera of one of the workstations in the Media Center to record their meeting. Large glass windows in the wall that separates the Computer Lab from the Media Center allow iTeam members to monitor the need for their support and for Computer Lab staff to provide formal supervision.

With the video, I was able to view their work and use it as part of our assessment for learning. The next time we met face-to-face, we reflected on their meeting. They took responsibility for their work, they helped in the Computer Lab as needed, and did not impose on the time of staff. My view of their work on the Teamboard was not sufficient for me to assess the details of their work but the progress on process issues dwarf the details.

Today, Monday, I chose to telecommute to my other work (Instructional Design with UNEOnline, a program for in-service teachers working at a distance) from home. While I worked, I recalled that an iTeam member had told me he might meet with a teacher about a Technology Assistance Project Monday mornings.
I think I can handle it, ast starts at 10:27 and goes until 11:07
I dont think it will be hard but if i need help i can always recrute somebody
How's that for self-reliance! If we keep this up, iTeam members will take over my work and I may need to find a new position. We can work on the spelling and grammar over time.

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Connecting with former classmates halfway around the world

University of Melbourne (Ormond College), Park...Image via Wikipedia

Rosa flew to Australia to study at the University of Melbourne for a semester. She wants to immerse herself in another culture and share her experiences. Initially she was disappointed because of the challenge of getting access to the Internet. Then she discovered free wireless at the public library near her apartment. She and Jenn are starting a food blog to tell about some of their culinary excursions: kangaroo and chorizo.

The distance doesn't break connections with former classmates. Monday morning after a Sunday NCAA game, I opened this email from Rosa:
Check this out:
Ali is # 5. You can see him in the video. Pretty amazing that he's in the NCAA tournament. I think this has been his dream since he was 8.
Rosa knows about Ali's dream because they were first grade classmates in Pullman, Washington but both moved away from Pullman several years ago.

ST. LOUIS -- Northern Iowa shared the Missouri Valley regular-season title with Creighton. The Panthers celebrated alone after winning the conference tournament.

Ali Farokhmanesh scored eight of the Panthers' 12 points in overtime, helping the top seed overcome an Illinois State rally fueled by tournament MVP Osiris Eldridge in a 60-57 victory in the championship game Sunday.

"The way that game felt, somebody was going to have to do something," said coach Ben Jacobson, whose team was picked to finish sixth in the conference before the season. "Ali came up big. He comes through for us."
Networks now make it possible for us to stay connected even though time and space intervene. Seeing Ali's last name - Farokhmanesh - reminded me fondly of the cultural diversity that Kristi Rennebohm Franz celebrated in her first-grade classroom.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wikis for Cooperative Learning

History comparison reports highlight the chang...Image via Wikipedia

Jon F. Orech, a teacher at Downers Grove South High School wrote in Turbo-Charged Wikis: Technology Embraces Cooperative Learning about challenges in the use of wikis for collaborative learning:

When educators first tried wikis in the classroom, the realities often fell short of expectations. Usually students were disinterested in the topics or were not familiar with the technology, or were not adept with collaborative writing. The results usually consisted of disproportionate work distribution and copy-and-pasting: in other words, very little learning. Even if the work was evenly distributed, it resembled a “quilt,” with each student stitching in their own panel with little regard for what their partners wrote.

What was missing was a sound pedagogy for learning. By infusing structured Cooperative Learning strategies (Johnson and Johnson, University of Minnesota http://www.co-operation.org/) student-generated wikis become a much more productive activity.

Orech continues in his post to describe Johnson and Johnson's strategies to collaborative wiki projects. He summarizes the approaches and provides examples from his experiences that I will try to incorporate into our iTeam work. I recommend Orech's suggestions to anyone considering wikis for collaborative learning. Orech also includes links to a couple of popular hosted wikis that encourage use of their tools for education by providing free educational spaces and support specifically oriented toward educators:
Some of the more readily usable wiki interfaces are http://wikispaces.com and http://pbwiki.com. A slick website that evaluates wikis head to head is http://wikimatrix.org. Try it!
The selection of the most appropriate tool for your situation can be a daunting task (dozens of criteria for dozens of candidates). The third link in Orech's recommendations provides a web-based wizard to help with the selection process. Unfortunately, the Wikimatrix designers have not included many pedagogical criteria. I have used PBWiki (msad75.pbwiki.com), and Wikispaces (an experimental site before PBWiki solved the challenge of accounts for students who don't have email).

Do they differ pedagogically? Does it matter in the constant development of new features?

Friday, March 6, 2009

iTeams and Economic Recovery

iTeam members Discuss CalibrationImage by SCSpaeth aka k6 via Flickr

Dennis Harper, the lead developer of the GenYES program, sent a newsletter encouraging their community of users to prepare for the distribution of Stimulus Funds:
Stimulus package contains $650M for educational technology
Get ready, get set - GO!

For U.S. educators, there has been one primary source of funds from the federal government for educational technology over the past few years. It's part of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Title 2d, or Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT). With the passage of the stimulus bill, there is new, additional funding in the range of $650M that will be IMMEDIATELY shared between the 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The key word there is immediately - so the time to get ready is NOW. The next few weeks should see a flurry of activity as state education departments decide exactly how to do this. If you've been saying -- gee, if we only had the money -- this is your chance. Watch your state ed tech department closely. This will happen FAST.

Harper's message excited me; he identified a potential source of support for MSAD 75 iTeams to use an evidence-based approach to help enhance the learning of all students in our district and, by example, the state. GenYES clearly has a marketing strategy here but I believe in the approach so, I looked at our state Department of Education's site to learn more. I found several references to EETT but no current activity. Through the grapevine, I heard that the Department may focus on extending the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI statewide 1-to-1 laptops and professional development) from middle schools to high schools. While I appreciate and benefit considerably from the MLTI, we need support for innovations at all levels in the system.

One of my favorite business bloggers helped me put my disappointment in perspective. In "Why the Internet is as important to our recovery as the stimulus package", John Sviokla, a former Professor at the Harvard Business School, recently wrote:
In short, I’m optimistic because the United States has always had two great assets: immigrant talent at a scale and quality unknown to the world ever before and the most liquid market not just in capital, but more importantly in business models. That is, we are willing to allow existing business models to be pulled apart by innovation. this means that we have a constant supply of hungry, smart entrepreneurs, who are allowed to challenge the status quo – who now can find it cheaper and easier to start and scale. It is a powerful combination, and the one that I think will be the real engine to take us out of this malaise.
Sylvia Martinez, GenYES CEO, points to discussion among practicing professionals from whom we can learn:
So all I'm asking, on behalf of the thousands of nerds who could one day change the world for the better, is that we give them access to simple, open, programmable devices; a little time to work on them; and a safe space to work in. They'll take it from there. They don't need adult supervision, or a certified curriculum. If we network them together, they'll answer each others' questions and collaborate on projects we can hardly imagine.
And Clement commented:
Eric – As always, your post is not only insightful but shows incredible wisdom that can only come from years of on the ground experience.
My question to you is – Why would someone with such incredible ideas and professional success want to wait for bureaucrats to take action? Our current environment calls for capable individuals to act immediately. I encourage you to start moving on this idea as a grassroots program instead of waiting for others to do it.
And Eric, author of the original blog post, replied to another commenter who shared his experience March 4, 2009 9:46 AM:
How should we devise a program to network these kids together, even those that go to schools where there isn't (yet) a volunteer ready to teach them one-on-one, as you're doing? To me, this is one of the reasons why we need good public policy engagement.
Personally, I think Eric and others in this discussion are too narrowly focused on a small group of students in just one type of engaging activity. That's not enough. We need to provide opportunities for all students to engage in their learning. As I quoted Diana Laurillard recently in "Tech and Education: It's not rocket science, it's harder"
Change in education is not a matter of a small number of extremely highly educated people moving a collection of obedient atoms form one place to another. It is about large numbers of partially trained people moving minds; millions of them. (p. 320)
Sure, I'd welcome $450,000 of stimulus funds to support a regional effort to empower students to help their teachers to integrate technology in ways that will enhance learning of all students. But if Sviokla and Clement are right we don't need to hold out for that windfall, let's leverage existing resources and act as if we believe in Fosdick's characterization of democracy:
"Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people." Harry Emerson Fosdick 1926
MSAD 75 iTeam members convince me every time I see them or interact with them online that they are ready to learn and engage in new roles. Let's co-create solutions.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Putting iTeam Footprints on Snow Days

Snow Day 2009-2-25Image by SCSpaeth aka k6 via Flickr

Sally Loughlin observes that the established school schedule is packed with obligations and expectations. We frequently look for opportunities to engage students in learning outside of the normally scheduled "footprint" of school. The 2008-2009 Winter has cut into the standard schedule of school more frequently than most years. We have already missed school five or six days this year.
Unfortunately, today's snow day disrupted a meeting that Derrick planned for working with Mrs. Singleton's seventh-graders on the Site Selection Technology Assistance Project. Mrs. Singleton requested iTeam assistance to help her students select a free website for their community awareness efforts associated with their service-learning project. Her students developed a list of the criteria they want a site to meet. The Site Matrix tool supports data collection and analysis of the evaluations.

Derrick and I both looked forward to that meeting. Fortunately, like Herodotus' couriers, "Neither rain, nor sleet, ..." kept us from meeting today. At 10:03 am, Derrick's chat status changed to online and we spontaneously agreed to meet online.

SCSpaeth 10:19 AM
I see that you are viewing the Site Matrix spreadsheet
Derrick T 10:19 AM
yes i am
SCSpaeth 10:20 AM
Do you have some time to look at the spreadsheet?
Derrick T 10:21 AM
the one that you made
SCSpaeth 10:22 AM
Derrick T 10:24 AM
SCSpaeth 10:24 AM
Let's switch over to using the Google chat so that we
don't have to keep switching applications to continue the conversation.
Derrick T 10:25 AM
how do i get there
SCSpaeth 10:28 AM
In the upper right corner is a viewing now bar. Click on it.

We clearly need some practice in working with these tools but they open a world of possibilities. I look forward to the time when Derrick helps other iTeam members learn to work with these tools and members routinely employ them to support new Technology Assistance Projects and community service-learning activities.

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Mentor Match Wiki

Terri Willingham, a community organizer in Tampa Bay, has created Tampa Bay Mentor Match on Wetpaint Wiki as a way to test the potential for using collaborative tools to build mentoring communities.
Tampa Bay Mentor Match is a community project of Learning is for Everyone*, a nonprofit education resource group working to empower families and learners through information and networking, on the web and off. We believe that by pooling our collective intelligences together, our kids potentially have access to some powerful learning resources we can't achieve alone. The opportunity to spend time with someone who shares a child's interests or career goals provides a more meaningful and enduring education than any classroom can provide.
I like the focus on communities, empowering learners and families, and a collective greater than the sum of the parts. Unfortunately, it seems as if Willingham has not drawn in a critical mass of participants to the site. The mentor pages are only sparsely populated and I don't see much evidence for student participation. The Sitemeter for Mentor Match stats indicate limited engagement with the site. She seems to have casual visitors from across North America.

What does it take to move this promising concept to engaged and robust participation that supports a community? I wonder whether iTeams can establish a critical mass of activity that would then grow virally. What should we try?
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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Raising metaphorical barns in collaborative networks

In his post Magma Roots, Doc Searls describes his effort to search for an alternative to the "grass roots" metaphor for networked collaboration. He finds inspiration in Ron Schott's effort to build global resources for learning geology:
But maybe we can go deeper than that, below the Earth’s crust. How about “magma roots”? That occurred to me while reading Ron Schott’s post, Building a Google Earth Geology Layer. Ron is a hard rock geologist who has been a good source of wisdom (and occasional correction) toward my own geology obsessions. What Ron proposes (in both his posts title and its detail) is a great idea — for Google, for the geology field, and for the rest of us.

Ron’s goals are modest in manner and ambitious in scale:

What I’d like to do here, with the help of the geoblogosphere (via the comments to this post, initially), is to set out some goals, examples, and use cases that could guide the development of a Google Earth geology layer. If there’s interest in building on this idea, I’d be happy to set up communications tools, create KML tutorials, or do anything else to facilitate a coordinated effort to develop such a layer. Hopefully, by leveraging the knowledge and efforts of the geoblogospheric community, along with excellent new resources for developing KML, we can make a real start toward building a useful geology resource.
Searls concludes his post by disclaiming any formal expertise in geology but strongly supporting the concept:
I’m not a geologist, but I want to do everything I can to help raise this barn. Or, to keep from mixing metaphors, uncork this volcano.

Ron Schott replied to Searls' post by revealing a thought that he had considered in writing his original post but that he left on the editing floor:
The barn raising metaphor is definitely what I was aiming to evoke. In fact, I came very close to including one of the YouTube clips of the “Building the Barn” sequence from Witness (Maurice Jarre’s soundtrack captures the spirit so well), but I figured it would have been over the top.
I agree with Schott's editorial decision, Hollywood's production effects might lead readers to conclude that Amish Country and Hollywood are the only places where people work together for community in this way. Local examples from people like us may inspire us work toward similar projects. The Shelter at Berman Creekside Park in Moscow, Idaho illustrates one such example.

Shelter at Berman Creekside Park, Moscow, ID

Groups of volunteers built the shelter at Berman Creekside Park as a community collaboration under the leadership of Nils Peterson. Volunteers pre-cut the posts, beams, and pegs for months ahead of the raising. Volunteers worked at the Farmer’s Market and other public locations to build community awareness of the project.
Now, the Moscow community builders are raising the Palouse Prairie Charter School: Palouse Prairie to Collaborate with U of Idaho Design Students. The school leaders' commitment to working in public as much as possible means that educators every where can learn from their process, successes and failures:
This news item exemplifies one of the ten design principles of an expeditionary school. # 5 Success and Failure says: "All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.” The March denial and appeal process was an occasion for the Palouse Prairie Board to learn from perseverance.
How will we share iTeam processes, successes and failures? How do we build a distributed collaborative community?

Shaping strategies for K-20 education and beyond

Doc Searls raising his camera in salute after ...Image via Wikipedia

In a discussion about goals, Sally Loughlin recommended a recent article by John Hagel, John Seeley Brown, and Lang Davison entitled Shaping strategy in a world of constant disruption.

Hagel summarizes the shaping strategies concepts in his blog:

The concept of shaping strategies

These strategies use positive incentives to mobilize and focus thousands of participants in shaping specific markets or industries. In times of high uncertainty, we all have a natural tendency to discount rewards and magnify risk. The result is often paralysis or, at best, hesitant small moves on the margin while we wait for the fog to clear. The opportunity for aspiring shapers is to flip that risk/reward perception by magnifying perceptions of rewards and discounting perceptions of risk. By re-shaping mindsets, shapers can unleash significant investment by many participants and ultimately re-shape broad markets or industries.

Then, Hagel points out in his blog that the ideas apply more broadly to educational institutions, too.

Broader applications

While our HBR article focuses on the application of shaping strategies in the business arena, this approach to strategy has the potential to to be applied in many other domains. For example, we have held workshops exploring its application in such diverse fields as public diplomacy and and education. Even movements for social change may find that shaping strategies can provide significant leverage.

Washington State University's CTLT is using shaping strategies in their thinking about directions for higher education - The Harvesting Gradebook
We see a conflict between the AAC&U assumptions and the goal of maintaining relevance in a Web 2.0 world.

The work we are reporting at the conference comes from a different set of assumptions about the learning enterprise. The perspective is community centered. It uses a set of assumptions that have previously existed within institutions of higher learning, and to some extent, still exist at the PhD level, but which seem to have been displaced by the challenges of increasing scale and decreasing resources. We are exploring ways in which the Internet, and particularly the Web 2.0 perspective of the Internet, can facilitate a transformation to a different set of assumptions.

In a similar vein, Jason Cole presented his ideas about reshaped higher education at the Open Education Conference 2006.
In the new organization, students and tutors collaborate to create and remix educational resources to meet emergent needs in real-time. Students are supported to create their own learning environments and pathways through a rich body of open content, guided by their peers and tutors. Academics add to the body of knowledge through research and create learning designs that students can choose to use if they find them helpful in achieving their goals. The university then becomes a platform for collaborative, supported learning and an arbiter of quality through assessment. Courses become a set of services to help the student achieve learning goals, not a packaged product based on ‘seat time’. The presentation will discuss the potential for this vision to increase access, lower costs and increase learning.
Learn more about his perspective from his presentation and a video his presentation linked at the OpenEd 2006 site:
Remixing Higher Education-The Open Content University
Jason Cole, Open University
Presentation (2.1 MB, PPT) :: Video (212.8 MB, MOV*)

Cole apparently prepared a couple of slides that he did not have time to include in his presentation. "Mass Amateurization" includes a reference to Doc Searls and his "Do-it-yourself IT" concepts. The quote uses comes from an interview with Searls that Doug Kaye produced for his show IT Conversations. When I listened to the podcast, I found this .mov clip about self- and peer-based learning rather than formal institution-based learning most compelling. Searl's informal survey of practitioners in this field indicate that they rely more on self-organizing learning networks than they do on institutionally organized learning.

How do these ideas apply to student and teacher learning in K-12? In our communities? Outside of the normal school day?
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

President Obama recognizes student intiative

The President delivers the annual State of the...The President speaks to congress
via Wikipedia

After President Obama's Inaugural Address, I spoke with iTeam members and wrote about the connections of our iTeam work to his messages. Last night, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress and reinforced one of the ideas of the discussions with iTeam members. Identify things that need to be done and take initiative to do them or recruit others to help you do them. Here, he shares the story of a student who took the initiative to recruit the President's help:

And I think about Ty'Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina - a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says: "We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters."

We are not quitters.

These words and these stories tell us something about the spirit of the people who sent us here. They tell us that even in the most trying times, amid the most difficult circumstances, there is a generosity, a resilience, a decency and a determination that perseveres; a willingness to take responsibility for our future and for posterity.

What will we do to identify needs and take the initiative to do them and recruit help from others that can assist?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tech Studios- places for iTeam work

The Carnegie Foundation for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning held a conference entitled "Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production in a digital age" and captured perspectives of several speakers on video. John Seeley Brown describes a new world for learning.

Tinkering as a Mode of Knowledge Production in a Digital Age: John Seely Brown from carnegie commons on Vimeo.
Here are some key points (load the whole video and then use the sider to go to the indicated minutes:seconds):
  • 0:40: "Play with creating knowledge ..."
  • 1:20: "Create, reflect and share".
  • 1:35: "Peer-based learning communities..."
  • 2:33: "How do we construct an environment where we are constantly learning and teaching eachother?"
  • 4:50: "The architectural studio ... all work in progress is made public" (ideas similar to Donald Schon's Reflective Practitioner.
  • 7:00: "Technologies- Distributed communities of practice ..."
  • 8:35: "Put my stamp on something and then pass it back to the community ..."
  • 9:40: "Identity gets constructed in how I have participated in these networked communities..."
We watched snippets of this clip during our last iTeam meeting. Students clearly recognized that Brown was describing the process that they are helping to develop.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Learning educational entrepreneurship

Micon wind turbine, Dithmarschen.Image via Wikipedia

Farmington's Regional Technology Center has created the first accredited program in composite technologies as described in the following news article. What can we learn from this example of educational entrepreneurship? It seems as if the drive for change has come from John MacDonald, a teacher at the Center. He seems to have built from some prior experience with the technology. He recognized the opportunity and marshaled support for development of the comprehensive program. He seems to have developed visions of opportunities for his students and their school. Note that Harbor Technologies in Brunswick and Custom Composite Technologies in Bath, two innovative employers, are engaged supporters of the program despite the more than 60 miles that separate the program and the businesses.
In Farmington, MSAD 9's Foster Regional Applied Technology Center is the first Maine school to develop a state-accredited program in high-performance composite technologies. After years of teaching short units to his technology and pre-engineering classes, John MacDonald decided to make the technology a complete program.

"My goal is to provide a way for students to become skilled in this growing industry," MacDonald said. "At the same time, we can plant the seed for future entrepreneurial ventures."

The Maine Technology Institute gave him a $30,000 grant with the stipulation that FRATC must raise matching funds from in-kind donations of materials and expertise. MacDonald's grant funding launched the renovation of the school's 40-year-old converted industrial-arts lab. Old wiring, poor air quality, inefficient shop layout, and outdated equipment had to go. He replaced outdated sanding devices with dustless sanders and collectors, added vacuum infusion and pressure molding stations, a freezer, and a curing oven. He hasn't looked back.
"Six of my eight students in my 2007 class have continued their education in the composites field." he said. "Ten students completed the training in 2008, and I have a full class enrolled for the next year."
"I found Mr. Macdonald's composites program and facilities to be a classic example of educational entrepreneurship," he said. "What seems to make this program so unique is the innovative combination of basic educational elements, technical skill exercises, and 'adult-style' mentoring."
What can we do to help make this program less unique? How can we develop our own examples of educational entrepreneurship so that they become the norm rather than the exception?

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Digital awareness- info sharing

Invite Friends To Facebook ConnectImage by SCSpaeth via Flickr

MSAD 75 technology leaders are helping students and staff understand better practices for use of social networking sites like Facebook. Students seem to have broadly adopted recommended practices on restricting the display profile information. However, it seems to me that we have more work to do on helping ourselves and our students to understand another aspect of information sharing.

Facebook makes it possible for 3rd party application developers to tap into Facebook tools and data to provide new and innovative services: Facebook Apps. They run the range from trivial to serious (Facebook's own developer app that supports the development of other's apps). I suspect that many students choose to sign up for third party apps. I also suspect that students don't understand some of the implications of making these choices. Facebook provides information about what is shared in the following terms statement that users "accept" before they get access to an application:
(a) Information That May Be Provided to Developers. In order to allow you to use and participate in Platform Applications created by Developers ("Developer Applications"), Facebook may from time to time provide Developers access to the following information (collectively, the "Facebook Site Information"): ...

(b) Examples of Facebook Site Information. The Facebook Site Information may include, without limitation, the following information, to the extent visible on the Facebook Site: your name, your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown location (city/state/country), your current location (city/state/country), your political view, your activities, your interests, your musical preferences, television shows in which you are interested, movies in which you are interested, books in which you are interested, your favorite quotes, the text of your "About Me" section, your relationship status, your dating interests, your relationship interests, your summer plans, your Facebook user network affiliations, your education history, your work history, your course information, copies of photos in your Facebook Site photo albums, metadata associated with your Facebook Site photo albums (e.g., time of upload, album name, comments on your photos, etc.), the total number of messages sent and/or received by you, the total number of unread messages in your Facebook in-box, the total number of "pokes" you have sent and/or received, the total number of wall posts on your Wall™, a list of user IDs mapped to your Facebook friends, your social timeline, and events associated with your Facebook profile. user_terms
While Facebook restricts access to specific pieces of information and encourages users to control which information can be accessed, I think that we need to understand this aspect of social networking help ourselves and our students become better digital citizens.

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