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Student Display Names: I Was Wrong I had the opportunity to be involved with some staff development a couple of weeks ago around our Inspired Writing project. All of our freshmen Language Arts classes next year will have carts of Asus eee 1000 netbooks for use during class, with a focus on writing (and perhaps the broader idea of composing/creating if I’ve made any impact at all on my school).

As you might expect, the staff development focused heavily on the writing process and how we could use these netbooks to help with that process, but there was also a piece about Internet safety. It talked about the usual things, and was not a “scared straight” kind of presentation, so overall I thought it was done well. As part of the discussion that resulted we also talked about how students should identify themselves online and whether they should come up with a completely unidentifiable display name (except it would be known to their teacher), or whether they should use something like first name last initial (our current convention at the high school level).

The point was made that first name last initial really didn’t protect the students all that much, since – along with the readily available school information – it might not be that hard to completely identify the student. I gave my usual counterexample that – at the high school level at least – we already make more than that much information available all the time (often with photos) – in press releases, sports teams’ rosters, newspaper articles (both school newspaper and local/regional newspapers) booster club websites and, of course, television broadcasts of sporting events. While first name last initial probably isn’t that secure, it seems relatively anonymous compared to what we already make available.

But the reason for this post is that this got me thinking again about the whole idea of a student’s digital footprint. I talk a lot about how we should be discussing this idea with students and that whatever they publish – whether on a blog or a wiki or Facebook or MySpace or Twitter or. . . [fill in your favorite site here] - that it very likely will be able to be found later by a potential college, employer or spouse. I also talk about how we shouldn’t just be talking to students about not putting potentially compromising stuff out there, but that they should also be building a positive digital footprint, so that when they are Googled – and they will be – that folks will find really good stuff about them, that they should think of this as part of their digital resume/portfolio.

But if that’s a reasonable thing for them to be doing, then isn’t a policy of first name last initial (or especially the unidentifiable display names) actually counterproductive? Shouldn’t we instead be asking our students to use their full names to build their B-D (Birth-Death) digital footprint/resume/portfolio? I’ve long argued when talking about Internet filters that we should educate our students on how to be safe, ethical and effective users of the Internet instead of blocking everything, but now I recognize that I’ve completely blown it in this area.

I know there will be safety concerns, and there should be, but I’ve come to the realization that this is yet one more reason to educate our students about how to do this well, and that if we ask/require them to use their full name, it will actually encourage them to do this well. Instead of hiding behind unidentifiable or at least slightly disguised display names, students would now be asked to stand behind everything they put online with their full name, and also asked to be wise stewards of their online identity and reputation. Now, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to convince the folks in my school/district to go along with this, but I’m certainly going to give it a shot.

What are your thoughts? Can we do this? Should we do this?

[From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291718

Not Education as Usual on the Skype Blog I just wanted to quickly point to this post on the Skype blog about our students interviewing Cory Doctorow via Skype:

The ninth grade students were going through a mock exercise to persuade school board members to add Doctorow's controversial 2008 book, Little Brother, to the reading list . . . So what could be better than to have Doctorow himself speak to the class and explain why ninth graders should be able to able to read his book?
The post also includes some nice quotes from AHS students Ashley and Laura, taken from the story in the School Library Journal. An interview of Anne Smith and me by Howard Wolinsky, Skype's U.S. blogger (via Skype, naturally) is embedded below.

[From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291719

We Can Do This. We Should Do It. I'm way behind in my "personal professional development through RSS" (i.e., I have a lot of unread items in Google Reader), but luckily I took the time to read this post by Scott McLeod. Scott embeds two presentations given by Dr. Richard Miller, the Chair of the English Department at Rutgers University.

I'm also going to embed the two presentations below (the second one is in two parts), and I think it's well worth your time to watch both of them, particularly if you teach Language Arts, but really if you care about education at all. After each presentation I've pulled a few select quotes that really resonated with me.

The Future is Now: Presentation to the RU Board of Governors

We're living in the time of the most significant change in human expression in human history.
Do you agree? If so, what implications does that have for the way we teach Language Arts? What about other subject areas?
This is the room we're particularly proud of - the Collaboratory.
OK, when I build my school, I'm so going to have a Collaboratory. Actually, every room will be one. Perhaps that should be the name of the school?
To compose, and compose successfully in the 21st century, you have to not only excel at verbal expression, at written expression, you have to also excel in the use and manipulation of images. That's what it means to compose.
Shades of "The Yancey." Note that this is additive - no one is suggesting that words don't matter, that what we traditionally think of as "writing" is no longer important, but that the very nature of composition is more complex now, and that our instruction, our pedagogy, our learning spaces need to reflect that.
This is all building towards a larger vision of the humanities for the 21st century.
. . . In the New Humanities what we imagine at the center is this collective, collaborative kind of composition.
Social construction. Social composition.
The real function of the humanities is to engage in the art of creativity - moment by moment - to improve the quality of the world we live in.
I'm certainly not a linguist, but doesn't that get back to the root of "humanities?" And have perhaps some of our academic treatments of the humanities forgotten the human part that should be the center of our work?
That's writing in the 21st century. It's multiply authored, it's multiply produced, and that's where English is going.
Is that where English is going in your school?

This Is How We Dream (Part 1 and Part 2)

It has never been a more important moment for this profession, or for people who take reading and writing seriously.
Do you agree? If so, what implications does that have for your school? Your classroom?
I spent my time understanding writing as a solitary activity . . . I'm a person of the book.
Writing (composing) is no longer exclusively a solitary activity. And we need to expand our definition of composition beyond only text and beyond only a specific medium (book, research paper, academic journal).
An assignment for a class I taught for first year students called Creativity and Collaboration.
This is a class I'll be offering in my new school (The Collaboratory).
Ideas don't belong to us individually, but they belong to us as a culture. And that we as educators must be in the business of sharing ideas freely.
Shades of Pesce.
The limits and restrictions are largely ones we put on ourselves.
No excuses.
This is a way to push ideas into our culture. Why wouldn't we be at the front edge of that?
Yes, why wouldn't we?
We do not have a pedagogy on hand to teach the kind of writing I'm describing. It needs to be invented.
Alan Kay said the best way to predict the future is to invent it. The best way to figure out what composition should look like in the 21st century is to co-create it.
We can do this. We should do it.
We should get started. [From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291720

Thought for the Day 5-30-09

If your organization requires success before commitment, it will never have either.
Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 132. [From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291721

Why Should Your District Continue? Ben Grey had an interesting post recently where he asked:

Why should your district continue to use and pursue technology?
I think it's the wrong question, albeit asked for the right reasons and it certainly is generating some interesting discussion. So I left a comment on Ben’s post and suggested two different questions that I think are more interesting (to me, at least, we’ll see if they are to you).

First question:
Why learn?
I think a discussion around this question might ultimately help with what Ben was trying to get at.

The second question, and really the reason I decided to post this on my blog, simply removes the last five words from his question.
Why should your district continue?
I think this is a much more interesting question, and one that I’m not asking lightly. I think we need to go back to first principles - or perhaps first “principals” :-)
Why do we exist as an institution?
I’d like you to pretend for a moment that you live in an alternate reality, one where right now, for the first time, someone is proposing universal schooling for all children between the ages of five and eighteen. Now, pitch me your proposal for your school district (or, for folks not in a school district, for your institution). Justify your existence. Tell me what your mission is, and why your institution (as constructed in our current reality) is the best solution to achieve that mission.

If you were starting your school right now, from scratch, would you? Or would your solution look very different?

I think your answer is very important. Don’t you? [From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291722

Cory Doctorow Interview: Ustream Archive Today was the day our students Skyped with Cory Doctorow asking him about his book Little Brother. Overall, it went very well. He spent about forty-eight minutes answering their questions (well, more like forty-one minutes, as the first seven minutes before the official start was small talk as we connected early just to make sure we didn't have any issues). He was very engaged, listened to their questions, and made some passionate arguments.

I've embedded the ustream below. Please note a few things. First, as I indicated above, the first seven minutes are small talk (although interesting as well, I think); the formal question and answer portion starts at about the seven minute mark.

Second, the audio quality starts decreasing about halfway through. Not sure if that was a Skype issue, or bandwidth issues on his end or ours, but you'll have to concentrate more as it goes on to understand his end.

Third, you'll notice there are three students asking the questions. This was actually a group of four students, but the fourth student was in a final exam so couldn't be present for this part. Due to scheduling conflicts, this was the best time we could come up with, so the students asking the questions, as well as about twenty-five other students in the audience, were all there in between their scheduled final exams.

Finally, this was part of an assignment where students are reading books that are sometimes controversial and then making a case for why the book should be approved or not by a school board. This particular group was presenting during the final exam period that was directly after this Skype call with Cory Doctorow. They purposely made their first formal question to him be why he though the book should be read by ninth graders so that, less than forty minutes later, they could pull up the archived ustream and easily play his answer (since it was at the beginning - well, after the small talk) as part of their presentation (which they did). Very. Nice.

[From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291723

Things Just Changed. Again. Do you teach math? Science? Geography? Economics? Health? Business? Language Arts?

Wait, let me start over.

Do you teach?

Wait, let me start over again.

Are you alive, and curious?

Okay, that’s better. I think this is worth 13 minutes of your time. Go watch it, then come back.

I believe Wolfram Alpha is supposed to go live tomorrow. It’s obviously still very, very new (will they change its name to Wolfram Beta later? That will mess up the URL’s. Kidding.) It will be interesting to see what kinds of searches lend themselves to this more computational approach and what kinds don’t, but I still think this is another big step in how humans find, access, digest and repurpose information. Designed to “compute answers to your specific questions,” this once again should make us examine what we are doing in our classrooms, and how we should best prepare our students to be successful in an age with this much computational firepower.

What facts (discrete pieces of information?) do we need to know in order to develop deep understandings of important concepts, and what facts can we just google or wolfram (or will the verb be alpha)? What previously unknown relationships might be teased out of the data by the Wolfrom Alpha algorithms, or what will humans looking at this data in new and unique ways discover? What new questions will we learn to ask, or will we learn to ask old questions in new ways? (You can also view a much longer talk by Stephen Wolfram at the Berkman Center. No, I have not watched it all yet.)

Also note that Google is evolving as well. Joyce Valenza has a good summary post over at School Library Journal that discusses the new features. I also thought this quote she shared from a Google presenter was interesting,

If users can’t spell, it’s our problem. If they don’t know how to form the syntax, it’s our problem. If there’s not enough content, it’s our problem.
Hmm. I wonder whose problem it is if our students don’t know how to question, ask/search, find, evaluate, synthesize, repurpose, remix, and solve problems using tools like Google and Wolfrom Alpha? [From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291724

Create A Movement This TED Talk by Seth Godin is worth 17 minutes of your time. After you watch it, some thoughts are below the embed.

Here are a few semi-random thoughts that were generated by this talk. I’m not saying that he’s necessarily right about everything, but he raises some interesting questions that are worth thinking about.

What do I do for a living? Seems like a simple question, but – as Seth Godin points out – perhaps it’s not. I used to answer, “I’m a math teacher” or “I teach math.” Over time that shifted to “I teach students math” and then simply “I teach students.” But I find myself agreeing with him that perhaps that’s too “narrow” of a definition of what we in education try to do: we try to change everything.

Every day we should at least try to step on that light bulb, clearly indicating that there was “before,” and now there’s “after;” that at this moment in time we changed something in our students’ lives. If we don’t aspire to that, if we accept a too-narrow definition of what we do for a living, then we relegate ourselves to mediocrity.

Godin says that the way we make change is by leading, and that leading is simply helping to connect people and ideas. And, at this moment in time, we are at a tipping point (dare I say a moment of “shift”), because the technology allows us to connect in ways that previously were unimaginable or impractical (see Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody). And we can find others that are interested in and passionate about the same things, not by forcing them, but because we want to be connected. We need to be connecting as educators and, just as importantly, we need to be helping our students connect.

He goes on to say that we need to find folks that are disconnected, but already have a yearning; people who are just waiting for someone to lead them. (Sound like anyone you know?) We need to be heretics, who look at the status quo and say, “I can’t abide it.” (What’s wrong with the status quo? Unless you don’t see any need in the world, any disaffection, any hurt or disconnectedness, then we must try to improve on the status quo.) Is this in your curriculum? Perhaps not in so many words, but it should be, so I’m asking you to add it. Right now.

Godin then says there are three questions to ask yourself if you’re trying to lead something. If educators are leaders, then we need to ask ourselves these same questions.

  1. Who are you upsetting? If you’re not upsetting anyone, then you’re not changing the status quo. (Note that this is not upsetting people just to upset them, but rather with a purpose, with a goal, with an important change in mind that’s necessary to improve things for someone. Editor’s note: I’ve got this one nailed. Unfortunately, I don’t think it stands on its own.)

  2. Who are you connecting? (Think outside your classroom walls for a moment here. Nothing wrong with connecting inside your classroom, but some of those students have yearnings that don’t match up with others in their classroom, so help them find their tribe.)

  3. Who are you leading? (Don’t limit this to the students in your classroom, or the adults in your building/department; leading is not limited by proximity or geography anymore. Also some folks will protest that they don’t want to lead or that’s not in their job description. I say it should be, and I’d ask you to add it now.)
Godin concludes by asking his audience to create a movement, to find their tribe. So, what are you waiting for? [From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291725

Great Expectations So, here’s the problem. Once your students find out that we have the capability to blog and/or videoconference with authors and professionals from around the world, they think we should do it all the time. Imagine that.

I blogged earlier about needing virtual school board members, as our students will be making their cases about whether certain controversial books should be approved – or not – by the school board. (Again, to review, this is simulated, they are not actually taking this to the school board, we’ve just invited our school board – and some of you as virtual school board members - in to be an authentic audience, and most of these books are on our approved reading list already.)

One of the books the students chose was Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow (some of you may also know him from Boing Boing). It goes along nicely with other books they read as part of our curriculum (1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, etc.). Well, one group of Anne Smith’s students promptly emailed him to ask him some questions about aspects of his book that might cause a school board not to approve it (underage drinking, drug use, a sex scene, conflicts between adults and children, etc.). Mr. Doctorow replied with several thoughtful paragraphs about each of their questions. They replied back to him, thanked him, and then said, “Oh, by the way, any chance you’d like to Skype with us?” (Well, okay, they said it more formally – and much better – than that, but you get the point.) As you might suspect, since I’m blogging about it, he said yes.

The only catch was finding a time that worked for everyone (our students’ schedules, his schedule, the fact that he’s in London – seven hours ahead of us, our final exams are coming up, etc.). We finally came up with May 18th, at 9:15 am Mountain Daylight Time, UTC/GMT -6. Oh, you’re welcome to join us (assuming all the tech works), as he gave us permission to ustream it as well (primarily for parents to watch if they want, but you can as well on our ustream channel).

I really like this on several levels. First, obviously, the ability for students to converse with an author about his work is powerful. Second, it demonstrates how easy it is to connect with others, no matter where you – or they – live. But third, and perhaps most important in the long run, I love the fact that these students knew a capability existed, assumed it was their prerogative to take advantage of that, and then took the initiative to contact Mr. Doctorow. If we not only enable our students to be connected learners, but also change their mindset so that they expect to be connected learners, we’ve done a good thing.

[From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291726

What's in a Name?

Update: The conversation continue here and here.

[From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291727

A Digital Footprint Growth Model (Note: This originally started out as a comment on my previous post, but it turns out Blogger has a 4096 character limit on comments - who knew?! This post works best if you read the previous post and the great comments to that post first.)

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. Instead of trying to respond to each one individually, I’ll try to sum up my thoughts in a reply specifically to Dan Maas’s comment. (FYI - Dan is my district’s CIO, and a good one.)

@Dan Maas – I understand the argument but, in the end, I don’t agree with it. I think back to what Tim Tyson said at the TIE Keynote when he asked, “How old do you have to be to make a meaningful contribution?” As Tim and others have argued, our current concept of childhood is really rather new. It was just a couple of generations ago when teenagers – and even younger – were expected to contribute to the family effort, whether it was farming or working in the factory or working in the family-owned business.

Now, I’m very happy that our children typically don’t have to work to help support the family, and I’m certainly not suggesting that we ask our kids to do hard labor. But I think our current period of “extended adolescence” is not good for our students – or our society. I disagree when you say that we ask kids to face adult issues earlier and earlier. I agree that we certainly have been exposing our kids to some adult issues earlier and earlier, and the concomitant pressure that goes with that, but I think we are actually shielding our kids from a responsibility for the life they are living right now. I think our students can make a meaningful contribution now, and that they can handle more responsibility for their actions – and their words.

I’m sensitive to the argument that our students shouldn’t be held to the exact same standards as adults, and that they should be allowed to make mistakes without it haunting them forever. But I think folks are incorrect when they single out technology and students’ digital footprints as somehow different in this respect. After all, students currently earn grades in high school that go on their transcript, and those are certainly looked at by colleges when determining admission. Would you suggest that our students should be anonymous and not have transcripts?

Our student-athletes currently compete under their real names, and statistics and highlight videos are shared with college coaches. Should they compete anonymously? (Or better yet, Dan, given your competitive nature, perhaps we just shouldn’t keep score? :-)

Our student journalists on the school newspaper and the yearbook currently “sign” their name to their stories and take credit – and blame – for their work, and that work is published and freely available (and, as you know, often picked up by local and sometimes national media). Should our newspapers and yearbooks be written anonymously?

And, of course, there’s the press releases that the school and district put out with full names, accomplishments and often pictures of our students; and the district website – take a look at the second story down that's currently on the LPS home page.

Yes, students will sometimes make poor choices and include items in their digital footprints that they should not (either due to inappropriateness or simply low quality). And, yes, our thinking does mature over time and sometimes our earlier thinking might be slightly embarrassing. And, if students are creating that footprint with their real names, it will indeed be part of their “permanent record.” But that’s even more reason to talk about this with them, and to have them create that footprint with their real names. As I said in the post, it will encourage them to be more responsible and help us to help them to be thoughtful in everything they do.

Aren’t we always espousing the idea that asking questions is good (“there are no bad questions”), that sharing our thinking is good (as well as reflecting on that thinking as well as others’ thinking), that responsible risk-taking is good and that we can and should learn from our mistakes (and that mistakes are part of learning – and life), that education is the process of “becoming” and that we want our students to learn and grow over time (lifelong learning) and we won’t hold them completely accountable for their former selves (formative versus summative)? If we truly believe those things, then aren’t we being hypocritical if we then say, “Whoa! You better not let anyone see that process.” Over time, their footprints should get better and better and future colleges/employers/spouses will be able to see the improvement and growth in their work.

It’s a Digital Footprint Growth Model if you will, and I think the vast majority of folks will take that into account and will appreciate the entirety of their footprint and not give undue weight to something posted as a ninth grader (or earlier). I think that those students who have a body of work to examine will have an advantage over those that do not (both in terms of their learning and in terms of their future prospects), and I think that any future colleges/employers/spouses that are unable to look at the growth appropriately (they “hold it against” the student in your verbiage) will end up being less successful because they will miss out on the best talent available. (While I’m not an unfettered capitalist, isn’t this essentially a free markets approach, that adults who can’t look at the entirety of the record will lose out in the marketplace to those that can and eventually will become “endangered”, if not “extinct”?)

In the end, I think we cannot make decisions for our students based on the fears and future ignorance of some adults. (“Fear always springs from ignorance.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.) We can do better. Let’s educate our students – and the adults in our communities – about how best to learn, work and live in a digital society. (“Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin.) If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

[From: The Fischbowl, July 6, 2009] 291717

Random Thoughts from the NCTE Convention This will not be any kind of coherent post, just some miscellaneous thoughts from the annual NCTE Convention. (I know, I know, how will you tell the difference?)

Did You Know? Has Jumped the Shark
Gary Stager tweeted a week or so ago that Did You Know? had jumped the shark because his Mom sent him the link (and, the horror, she was proud that he knew me). Then a remix of it played twice on Sunrise, a popular morning show on Australian TV. But I think the culminating piece of evidence is this picture that Bud Hunt made me take.

At the opening celebration for the NCTE Convention, they had it playing in a continuous loop for 60 minutes. But they also had the sound turned down and a mariachi band playing – so picture Did You Know? with mariachi music and light appetizers. Too. Funny. Oh well, Henry Winkler’s done okay since then, hasn’t he?

Greg Mortenson
We went to listen to Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, speak, and we sat in the front row because Anne wants to try to get him to blog with her students about the book. Just before he’s about to begin I start to take a picture of him. But he sees me and immediately walks over, puts his arm around me, and hands the camera to Anne to take a picture of us. After that about fifty people came up to have their picture taken with him. I’m guessing he just knows that’s going to happen so picks somebody out to start the process, I just happened to catch his attention. It was a little awkward, since I wasn’t trying to get my picture taken with him, and I’m still not sure Anne has forgiven me (even though – for the record – it was completely and utterly not my fault).

For folks that liked Three Cups of Tea, you’ll be excited to learn that they’ll be releasing both a children's version and a young reader’s version in January, both of which should be more accessible to younger readers. You might also look at the Pennies for Peace program.

Anne and Kristin
I was part of two presentations at NCTE. Anne and I were the featured presentation on Saturday morning, but it was 8:00 am so sparsely attended. But on Friday Anne Smith and Kristin Leclaire presented and it was fabulous – I predict that NCTE will be inviting them back to do some great things very soon.

Let’s just say that for a conference that was titled “Shift Happens,”

the wireless access was, ummm, pretty “shifty”. I know it’s expensive, but when is it going to be a given that when anyone gets together for a conference learning, especially educators, wireless is a necessity, not an option? Bud Hunt has more thoughts on this, and so do his commenters.

In addition, every single session I was in, including both of the ones I was associated with, had technical issues with the projectors and/or the microphones. Some of that is to be expected with that many sessions, but 100% with problems? I don’t think so.

Miscellaneous Quotes From My Notes

If we really want students to succeed in the future, we have to allow them to work in a participatory and collaborative way.

They did all this work outside of school because our filters wouldn’t let them find these things.

We invited the superintendent, adminstration, etc. – not one of them took the invitation. That was disappointing.

Teachers will incorporate bits and pieces, but it was still the same basic curriculum – we needed to change the whole thing.

'They’re on a computer, that’s not English' – but they were doing more reading and writing than in their other English classes.

I didn’t feel like our department had a vision – so I changed schools. At my new school, there was a different way of talking about students, a different way of viewing students.

We believe kids can’t look critically at the world until they figure out who they are.

We should think of ourselves [teachers] as the Designer of the Learning Experience.

Every teacher will have to be tech savvy.

They don’t have to be where the information is.

Blogging is reading, with the intent to write. (Quoting Will Richardson).
[From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291708

Learn Something. Pass It On. I heard a story on NPR this morning that this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving here in the U.S., is dubbed the National Day of Listening. They are hoping people sit down and talk with a loved one, part of their StoryCorp project. From the National Day of Listening site:

This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.
In the NPR story, Steve Inskeep (NPR Morning Edition host) talks with his mother. It’s an interesting conversation and I particularly like how it closes:

Maybe I got my desire from [my parents]. The desire to learn something, and pass it on.
That’s a pretty good description of why I blog.

Consider participating on Friday, and ask your students to do so as well. You might learn something. If you do, pass it on. [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291709

2020 Vision Sighting of the Day I found this story via a tweet by Jackie Ballarini:

A one-eyed San Francisco artist wants to replace her missing eye with a Web cam - and tech experts say it's possible.

. . . Mobile computing expert Roy Want told the Daily News the technology exists.

"It is possible to build a wireless camera with the dimensions of the eyeball," said Want, a senior principal engineer at Intel. "You can find spy cams or nanny cams designed to fit into inconspicuous places in the home."

Want said the camera, which would be encased in Vlach's prosthesis to avoid moisture, could link wirelessly to a smart phone.

The smart phone could send power to the camera wirelessly and relay the camera's video feed by cell phone network to another person, a TV studio or a computer.

In a world where eye cams are common, they might serve as a kind of computerized backup to people's memories, Want said.

"You'd never need to forget anything again," he said. "You'd never lose anything. You could ask it, 'Where was the last time I saw my keys?'"

Sounds like an early version of the EyeMagine to me . . . [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291710

NCTE is Beginning to Shift (Warning: There’s some shameless self-promotion in this, but I think the content is still worth your time.)

As I wrote back in February, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is really beginning to focus on 21st century literacies. I’ll be heading off to their annual convention, Because Shift Happens: Teaching in the 21st Century, in San Antonio this weekend where I’ll be presenting with Anne Smith, Kristin Leclaire and Mike Porter. NCTE has a Ning setup for the convention, are running some sessions in an area called the New Media Gallery, and have Tech to Go Kiosks organized by Sara Kajder with some help from Bud Hunt.

The November issue of the NCTE Council Chronicle (pdf) also has several articles (The “C’s of Change” (pdf), Widening the Audience: Students Reading and Writing Online (pdf), and Reading and Writing Differently (pdf)) that focus on trying to get our heads around what 21st century skills really are, and what it might mean to be literate in the 21st century. They also have an online “extra”, More Thoughts on 21st Century Literacies.

I think all these articles are worth your time – and are worth sharing with any teacher in your building that works with literacy (which is hopefully every teacher in your building). And then encourage those teachers to get involved in the conversation. As Bud Hunt says in one of the articles,

I’ve probably learned more about teaching and learning as a result of being engaged in professional discussions online than I’ve learned in any meeting or class or directive from an administrator.
This is too important for your teachers not to be involved in this discussion. [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291711

Briefing 2.0 To add on to my earlier Democracy 2.0 post, it turns out the U.S. State Department is already doing Briefing 2.0, allowing anyone to submit video questions via YouTube:

Good afternoon, everybody. I wanted to welcome you to the first edition of Briefing 2.0. Let me first start off by thanking everybody who submitted questions to us, who placed some trust in us, and the fact that we’re going to try to answer your questions. So here we are. We’re going to answer your questions.

I want to respond to one thing up front. In some of the write-ups about this, kind of in the run-up to this briefing, a couple folks remarked on, in my video I said, you know, this is going to be fun. And they said, well, you know, it’s foreign policy; there’s nothing fun about foreign policy. And I just wanted to explain what I meant.

It’s fun for me because this is part of something I started three years ago when I first came in here, and I have a great team that’s been working with me. And it’s one of the things that we want to do is use technology and its applications to try to change the way the State Department communicates, not only with the press but also with the public. And this is an opportunity for the public to directly ask me questions, and maybe somewhere on down the line other people questions, and for you to get answers back.

And I think this is part of a general trend in the way that government and its publics communicate with one another, and it’s going to change over time. I think, inevitably, there has to be more interaction. There can’t be all this change and ferment going on outside the walls of government, and then government kind of continuing to operate as it has for the past 200 years. So that has to change. It’ll change eventually, and hopefully this is one small part of that change.

I’ve brought in a piece of paper. I just want you to know, all it has is the names and the locations of the people asking questions. I don’t know what the questions are, so I’m going to see them for the first time along with you.

Here's the intro video from the U.S. Department of State's YouTube Channel:

And here's the first briefing:

Very, very interesting. They also have a blog.

Brings up a few questions:
  1. Social Studies Teachers: Don't you think this gives you some ideas for some assignments? Shouldn't you have your students submitting questions to the State Department?

  2. District Internet Filter Czars: If you're blocking YouTube, isn't this yet another argument why, if you don't unblock it altogether, you at least need teacher overrides for the filter?
[From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291712

Thomas Friedman is Stealing My Ideas Kidding. But in his latest Op-Ed piece he posits Steve Jobs going to GM and creating the iCar. If you think back to 2020 Vision, I had Apple teaming up with Google, creating the iMagine (and then the EyeMagine), and Google purchasing Ford and creating an electric car with wireless mesh capabilities. I decided to call that car the gCar, not the iCar as Friedman suggests, but I still want royalties.

And, looking back, do you remember who I had as President in 2018? As I said in that post, "I think this is a case of where the truth will end up being stranger than fiction." Umm, yep, I think that was an understatement. [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291713

Google Gets the Flu Google is using its search trend results to help the CDC fight the flu:

We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for "flu" is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.
Bottom line? The CDC has more and better data, but it's delayed data - Google is up to date. Want to see where flu is on the rise right now? Go to Google Flu Trends and take a look at the individual state data. Here's today's take on Colorado:

I think we will see more and more of this - Google (and others) being able to tease meaningful and helpful information out of the humongous data streams. They'll be able to pick up on trends, make hypothesis, and then follow up on the data to test those hypothesis and come to conclusions that humans would either never come up with, or would come up with much later. (Again, this reminds me a little of the data mining inferred in 2020 Vision.) [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291714

Shift Happens New Vocabulary Word of the Day I was watching this presentation by Thomas Friedman about his recent book Hot, Flat and Crowded (which I haven’t read yet) when he told of a new unit of measurement apparently coined by Tom Burke, co-founder of E3G.

Americum [uh-mer-i-kum] n: any group of 350 million people with a per capita income above $15,000 and a growing penchant for consumerism. (p. 56 when I Searched Inside This Book at Amazon)

In the presentation Friedman says there were about 2.5 Americums in the 1950’s (America, Western Europe and Japan) and now we are approaching 9 (America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Russia, Japan, India, China and South America) – with 2 more just around the corner (India and China each giving birth to a second Americum). He refers to them as America’s “carbon copies.” Ouch. He goes on to say that the energy and natural resource implications of that are staggering, and therefore we need to redefine what it means to “live like an American.”

As a red-blooded, Prius-driving American, I can’t help but agree, but I also thought of this in terms of a presentation of my own. America used to be 40% of the Americums on the planet, now it’s 11%. Unlike some folks, I see that as a good thing overall (notwithstanding the environmental impact which I agree must be addressed immediately), and I’m optimistic about what that could mean for the human race, with people living free everywhere, and enjoying a much better standard of living than they have previously.

But it also means we need to change the way we teach our students, with not just global awareness as a goal, but global collaboration. We need our students to be working with students (and adults) around the world, to learn with and about each other, and to foster relationships that will help us solve problems that know no borders. With how many of the nine Americums (or other countries) have your students collaborated? [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291715

Democracy 2.0 In the presentations I’ve been giving over the last six months or so there’s a part where I talk about how schools need to make these changes I’ve been blogging about not just so that students will be effective students and eventually employees in the 21st century, but also so that they can become effective citizens. I’ve pointed to the 2008 presidential election campaign as a prime example, comparing the resources I had available to me growing up to learn about the candidates and the issues with the resources available to students – and voters – today. I’ve talked about YouTube and how you can chart the rise and fall of various campaigns based on the current viral political video, and the plethora of websites where you can find detailed information (and misinformation) about candidates and issues, and the candidates own websites where you can read, hear and watch what the candidates themselves have to say. I’ve pointed out how both campaigns have used the Internet extensively, but that the Obama campaign took it to another level – not just with the unprecedented fundraising, but with the outreach and community building. And I always closed that part of the presentation by saying something like, “When the historians write the history of this election, how big a factor will they say the Internet was? And how are we preparing our students to be successful citizens in such a world?”

Well, that was before we knew the outcome of the election. Now that we do, it appears clear that the answer to the first question is, “Big. The Internet was a very, very big factor.”

From the Denver Post:

Barack Obama's Internet-based campaign has not only made history, it has forever changed the American political process.

. . . Over the past two years, Barack Obama carried Dean's pioneering techniques to an exponentially more sophisticated level. Realizing that America is really thousands of separate if often overlapping communities of interest, Obama used the power of the Internet to identify, organize and unite them. He raised probably more than $800 million when the final numbers come in, and that mostly in small sums from millions of donors. In turn, Obama used much of that cash to convert his virtual communities into a network of field offices and a get-out-the-vote team that brought millions of new voters to the polls.
From The Mercury News:
Former vice president Al Gore said Friday he was overwhelmed by Barack Obama's victory in the presidential election and credited the Internet for the campaign's success.

"The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration that all human beings are created equal would not have been possible without ... the Internet," Gore said.

From The Guardian:
While most pundits focused on the question of race, one largely overlooked factor was his powerful techno-demographic appeal. . . . It is no coincidence that one of Obama's key strategists was 24-year-old Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder. Hughes masterminded the Obama campaign's highly effective web blitzkrieg on everything from social networking sites to podcasting and mobile messaging.
From U.S. News and World Report:
A key turning point in the long and brutal presidential election involved a YouTube battle between dueling online videos.

It was primary season and Barack Obama was being battered in the press because of his relationship with controversial pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Some of Wright's more inflammatory sermons were captured on video and were flying around YouTube.

Instead of letting the clips fester online, the Obama campaign immediately posted on YouTube the candidate's full rebuttal, a 37-minute-long speech on race he delivered to an audience in Philadelphia.

The video clip helped calm the controversy and attracted around 5.3 million views on the video-viewing website, proving the popularity and impact of a medium that was first used widely this election cycle.
From the NYTimes:
One of the many ways that the election of Barack Obama as president has echoed that of John F. Kennedy is his use of a new medium that will forever change politics. For Mr. Kennedy, it was television. For Mr. Obama, it is the Internet.

. . . Mr. Obama used the Internet to organize his supporters in a way that would have in the past required an army of volunteers and paid organizers on the ground, Mr. Trippi said.

“The tools changed between 2004 and 2008. Barack Obama won every single caucus state that matters, and he did it because of those tools, because he was able to move thousands of people to organize.”

Mr. Obama’s campaign took advantage of YouTube for free advertising. Mr. Trippi argued that those videos were more effective than television ads because viewers chose to watch them or received them from a friend instead of having their television shows interrupted.

“The campaign’s official stuff they created for YouTube was watched for 14.5 million hours,” Mr. Trippi said. “To buy 14.5 million hours on broadcast TV is $47 million.”

There has also been a sea change in fact-checking, with citizens using the Internet to find past speeches that prove a politician wrong and then using the Web to alert their fellow citizens.
From Information Week:
And it's only the beginning, said Trippi. That kind of networking will likely transform the White House. Trippi anticipates Obama will create a similar social networking for his legislative initiatives and recruit supporters to lobby Congress to get his policies enacted into law.
That last quote is key, “It’s only the beginning.” We’ve already got, a website for the “Office of the President-Elect,” where the not-campaign-but-not-yet-administration is not only keeping followers updated on what they’re doing, but they are also soliciting input under a section titled “Open Government” with a link titled “It’s Your America: Share Your Ideas.” Does anyone think for a moment that after building up this huge network of supporters that they aren’t going to try to leverage it to help them govern? That they aren’t going to use the incredible community they’ve built to help them drive the conversation and pass legislation? Not to mention, of course, keeping these folks involved so they’re ready, willing and able to going into motion four years from now for Obama-Biden 2.0.

Yes, the issues facing the soon-to-be Obama administration are huge and not quickly or easily solved, and changing governing and politics is a difficult task, but never before has an incoming President had the kind of network and tools at his fingertips that President-Elect Obama has, nor the people who apparently know how to use them well.

So, all this goes back to the second question in the opening paragraph above (and my previous post), how are you helping prepare our students to be successful citizens and participants in Democracy 2.0?

Update 11-14-08: President-Elect Obama is taking the weekly radio address to YouTube as well. [From: The Fischbowl, December 2, 2008] 291716