#edcampswct follow-up

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During the last session of yesteday’s #Edcampswct (see edcamp.org about what an Edcamp is), I led a discussion on MakerSpaces and Maker Programs.  I want to summarize what points I made there, and provide links to deeper insights on those subjects; and make a few further points that I don’t think I made in the time allowed, but were on my mind.

Here are the key points, which are further summarized below (@MrPerraultGES took a photo of my notes):

  1. Visual Thinking
  2. 2D makes 3D
  3. Tools Make Tools Make Things
  4. What Hands Make, Mind Knows
  5. Recycle and D.I.Y.
  6. Space Requirements
    1. Tool Storage
    2. Materials Storage
    3. Project Storage
    4. Workspace
    5. Input/Receiving
    6. Archive Process
    7. How-To Library
    8. Repair (and Sharpening)
    9. First Aid
  7. Best Practice vs. Liability
  8. (And to these 7 steps  I’m adding—
    1. Games and Game Playing
    2. Past vs. Future Orientation )

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Reaction: YouTube comments

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I got a few comments on YouTube today.  Not about my recent videos on China (though I persuaded my friend Geoff, who’s a China buff, to at least view a few of them, and comment on one), but the videos I did several years ago, about English language and grammar.

This one:

Apparently, I’m now the English teacher of some sk8er dude somewhere.  This guy:

This is what I was talking about in a post not that long ago.  If a teacher can’t figure out a way to connect with  students, any time, any where, in a comprehensible and compact form…  that teacher may not have students for much longer.  They’ll reach out and find solutions any which way they can… but they won’t be looking to their official for answers. That’s a problem.

It’s a problem for a couple of reasons. First, it favors the web-connected over the non-web-connected student.  Second, it favors the students whose teachers have access to technology over those who don’t.  Third, it favors imaginative and creative teachers against those who merely adopt procedure.

There’s monetary issues too, which I’ll talk about in another post.  Schools, technically, may own some or all of the intellectual property their teachers create.  Yet unlike other professions, there’s no tried-and-true bonus system for teachers to benefit from the materials they invent, and the stuff I put on YouTube essentially robs both my school and me for the benefit of YouTube and Google.  How’s this all going to sort out?  How are ordinary creators going to benefit from the new creative opportunities in teaching here?

Colleagues Approach

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Today, four colleagues approached me for advice on blogs and wikis.  It seems that my experiment with wikis this year is making waves in the establishment.  One of the teachers was the newest member of our staff; the other was among the most senior members. The third person is on our tech staff.  And the fourth was the head of our school.

The younger, newer teacher was bubbling over with excitement. She’s taking a course on technology in the classroom, and one of her final projects is to start a blog or a wiki (or both).  I’m hoping to convince her that she can in fact do both (but one step at a time!). We have a second appointment tomorrow to discuss what she wants to do, and what kind of platform she wants to use.

The older, more senior teacher was more hesitant but pretty excited. She’d watched over the shoulder of one of my students editing a page, and thought it would be a good tool for her multimedia class.  Each student could have a page of their own, with all their multimedia files attached in one place.  I demonstrated how to start pages, and how she could track what each student had worked on, and how to read the history of a page.  I think what’s really exciting is that this tool is going to grow on her in some awesome new ways, and while she was reluctant to start her wiki project on my wiki (the school currently has each class that wants a wiki placed in a different environment behind one of several log-in screen, rather than in a single environment), I think she got, intuitively, that this is a tool that benefits from mass collaboration.

The tech-gal saw me making Jing videos, and wanted to know why I wasn’t using some other program.  When she saw what I was doing, she said, “That makes the program I’m using seem antiquated. Thanks for the tip.”  I think we’ll see a massive update of our help-videos pretty soon. What do you think?

Finally, the head of school stopped by to see what I was doing, and what our techie thought was so cool.  So I showed him Jing, and he watched a couple of videos, and then helped me make one.  (That will be a shock to the kid! The head of school commenting on his homework!?!?) Only, I erred and hit escape instead of save… darn!)  When we were done, he turned to me and said, “This could be huge.  Huge.” And walked off with a thoughtful tilt to his head.

In some ways, a teacher’s lounge right in the middle of the school, where people are always passing through, is the best place to sit while you’re using new technology.  Everyone sees what you’re doing; they see that it’s easy, and powerful, and good-looking, and brings potentially incredible results.  And then they step up, and want to learn.

Weblogging about education technology

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I’ve recently started reading a couple of online blogs about education, and I’d like to find more. Anyone have any suggestions. Also I’m thinking about starting my own, specifically to address the problems of technology in a private school.

The image of private schools is that we have unlimited budgets and all sorts of fancy toys for the classroom. While that is true at some schools, it’s by no means true of all schools, and certainly not true of mine. It’s telling that we have a SmartBoard, which is a nifty piece of technology, provided that it’s used correctly. However, ours has an inadequate computer running outmoded software attached to it to make it work, so that it’s slow and unmanageable. Currently, the projector that makes it work with photographs or Keynote or PowerPoint presentations is assigned to a different classroom, and the cable that allows it to record drawings on it is missing.

In other words, great idea, doesn’t work.

By contrast, the upcoming PicoProjector could do amazing things in the classroom. In theory they’d be cheap enough, and portable enough, for five or six teachers to have one, and reliable enough that they could be carried from classroom to classroom. They could also be used for impromptu demonstrations in the hallways, in the dining hall, in the dormitories and elsewhere. You could even use them during study halls to show movies, educational programming, and more.

But there’s no budget, and there’s no curriculum plan for how these technologies will be used, and who gets to have access to them. And many of my colleagues have given up on computer technology to create learning experiences because the tech is unreliable (broken machines, buggy software), difficult to get at or use (locked doors, problematic security software, limited access to tech support in-school or through outsourcing), subject to student misuse (inappropriate browsing online, Internet use, Facebook), and no clear ideas of how to teach technology use despite actual experience (how to teach podcasting when you know how to do it, but don’t have a podcasting lab available, how to teach newspaper layout when you have only one copy of the page layout software, etc). Hmmm.

Clearly this is something in need of solving, either through an incremental process or a change in philosophy. What that change is, though, I have neither the authority to implement, nor the collegiality to create.