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 Outdated gadgets containing arsenic, bromine, cadmium, hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), lead, mercury and other nasty chemicals often end up in landfills, leaching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 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 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

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 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 and A slick website that evaluates wikis head to head is 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 (, 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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