• How Bad is Your Accent? Published 2008-03-28 under ,

    "PDF's are better than web pages..." exclaimed Marge (name changed to protect the innocent).

    I was showing Marge how to use Del.icio.us to compile a list of web resources for a project on which she was working. The idea was to be able to direct people involved in the project to these resources and Del.icio.us provided a central location (single URL).

    "So, why are PDF's better than standard web pages?" was my reply.

    "They're better for printing out... aren't they?"

    Marge's project was about looking at the differences between what Prensky termed "Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants". I had to smile. While she was embracing the idea of using technology to compile the list of resources, her "accent" showed. In the past, Marge would print each article, make multiple copies and compile them in binders for others to use. Prensky calls this her digital immigrant accent.

    There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent. They include printing out your email (or having your secretary print it out for you – an even “thicker” accent); needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL). I’m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the “Did you get my email?” phone call. Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our “accent.” Prensky, 2001

    Within Marge's project, I noticed that the gap in adoption, comfort level, and understanding of the digital world was tagged as a generation gap with the older you are, the more likely you will respond to issues from the digital world with ignorance. Is age really the problem? Superficially, "digital natives" are those born in to this wired world. Thus, someone like me, born in the 60's, could not be a "digital native" while someone like nephew, born in 96, is a native. But who is more connected? Who lives more in the digital world?

    My nephew loves sports and with the exception of the occasional sports video game, he would rather be out playing a sport or watching one on TV. He is not texting his friends, updating a facebook profile, or surfing the web on an iPhone. Ok, so I am not doing those things either. But I do live more in the digital world. Whether it is communication (email, blogging, twitter), information (blogs, rss, search), or work (coding, multimedia, remoting), I operate in a world dominated by digital technology.

    I am not saying that I am a native nor as an immigrant that I do not have an accent. But to attribute a gap in one's adoption of the digital world to age is too simplistic and as we create programs that address this gap, we will do well not to make assumptions based on one's age.

    BTW - I don't print my email, but my accents shows when it comes to IM - I just don't get its appeal.

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  • Defining Success Published 2008-03-14 under , , ,

    After finding a nice place to gather the kids, teacher Monica explains that today's art project will be to create a cow from coffee filters, yarn, and surrounding grass. She holds up an example, passes out the supplies and gives each child a cup to collect their grass.

    The kids get to work and with the direction of their parents, some good looking cows emerge. Ruby, on the other hand, pours mounds of glue, slaps a filter down and pours more glue. Her father looks on observantly but offers no guidance. The result is very much unlike the initial example, receiving comments like "it's certainly abstract."

    Reflecting on this class, I realized just how much we as teachers, parents, and adults define success for our children instead of letting them define their own success. For Ruby, success was pouring the glue and sticking different types of materials together. Success was defined in the process, not in the end product. I will admit that I wanted her to make a cool looking cow and it was difficult to restrain myself from making casual comments like "shouldn't the head be attached to the body?" But, this was not about me. This was not about teacher Monica. It was about Ruby. And we adults needed to get over our personal definitions of success and let the kids explore, learn, and define their own goals.

    Later, Ruby and I were throwing a ball to each other. I found myself saying "good throw" when the ball came to me and "good try" when it didn't. It never occurred to me that for her, success might have been seeing how far the ball would roll after throwing it. In this scenario, throwing it to me would be a failure as the ball would not go as far.

    In the classroom, we define all student success. Everything is held to a standard set by us (or perhaps the state). Are there opportunities for students to define their own success? What would an assignment look like that provided for student defined success? Could students handle such an assignment? What would they define as a success - would it be so simple as to not provide for any learning or so complex as to be impossible to obtain?

    This idea of empowering students has great appeal to me but the pragmatist side of me recognizes the challenges. What are your thoughts?

    By the way, I love Ruby's cow.

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  • EduBloggerConWest08 - The best part of CUE Published 2008-03-10 under ,

    It was a minor miracle that I was able to attend the EduBlogger un-conference this past Wednesday. Between last minute preparations for my CUE presentation, technology glitches, delays in downloading media, and my lack of sleep thanks to our kids' needs, I questioned whether it was worth the stress/hassle to attend the un-conference. Lucky for me, I pushed through the hurtles and made it. I am so thankful that I did; it was well worth the effort.

    The success of the event is a testimony to those in attendance, a group of smart, innovative, educators. We shared quick tech tips (see PicLens below), discussed big picture topics (see Project Based Learning below), and even disclosed our favorite, must have, technology that we carry in our bags (see In The Bag below).

    In addition to the more formal parts of the un-conference, the networking opportunities were priceless. Had a great lunch conversation with Jennifer Wagner (of Women of Web 2.0), was inspired by Rushton Hurley's recounting of the process he went through to get Next Vista up and running, and appreciated the insights offered by Mark Pennington regarding blogging in general as well as my outdated website digiwalks.org.

    Here are some of the take-aways that I would like to share with you...


    Brian Bridges did a 5-minute demo of PicLens. A description of this software does not do it justice. Check out their website and be prepared to be wow'd.

    In The Bag

    Here are three of my favorite items that peopled shared as the "most important technology in my bag":

    1. UStream TV, a site that allows you to broadcast using your webcam. Steve Hargadon broadcast most of the un-conference using his Verizon Internet card.
    2. An Eye-fi wireless memory card that automatically uploads pictures from your digital camera to your PC or Mac and to your favorite photo sharing site (read Flickr).
    3. Advil - need I say more

    Project Based Learning

    This round-table conversation about the challenges to implementing project based learning was fascinating. It was agreed that for a teacher to be successful at integrating projects into her curriculum, she must have experience with projects. So how does one get started?

    Two answers to this question struck a cord with me. The first involves a mentoring program where teachers with experience implementing projects into their classroom help run a project in the class of a teacher with little or no experience in this form of instruction. Certainly, there are issues with funding and coordination, but the idea is not without precedence. There are a number of programs of artists and scientists in residence, helping teachers in areas of instruction that they feel less comfortable. Why not a project based learning evangelist in residence?

    The second solution discussed involves professional development that models project based learning. Instead of the traditional summer conference or workshop that we have all experienced, teachers are immersed in a curriculum that requires them to participate in a project so they can have the experience from the point of view of a student as this is a foreign way of learning to students also.

    I was impressed with the comments from all of the participants of this breakout session but especially thankful to the ideas of Sylvia Martinez (session moderator) and Jane Krauss (who co-authored "Reinventing Project Based Learning", an ISTE publication). I greatly enjoyed meeting these exceptionally informed educators.

    Again, I am so pleased that I made the EduBloggerConWest08 un-conference. It was the best part of my CUE experience. Thanks Steve for all of your hard work!

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  • Why Blog? Published 2008-03-03

    Is blogging all about YOU?

    I ask this because I have been going through a period of questioning "Why Blog?". It seems that bloggers should be the poster children for selfless sharing of information and ideas. But is this altruistic motivation for real, or are bloggers self-obsorbed egomaniac who use their posts to inform others of their greatness?

    I started this blog as vehicle for documenting my ideas and engaging in discussions. A while ago, I went through a period of frustration as reader numbers dropped. Not even my wife reads my posts. Do you write for your audience or is it for you?

    Is the goal of blogging to inform, offer unique perspectives, or to provoke? Is the goal to cultivate a loyal following of readers or to contribute to a wider audience through such aggregators as Technorati?

    I realize that there are many motivations for blogging. If you have an existing audience (e.g. a teacher or CEO), it makes sense to use blogs as a means of communicating and connecting with your audience. Within an educational environment, blogging is fantastic for giving students a chance to reflect, write, share ideas, discuss, and even disagree.

    According to Technorati, there are 3,850 blogs about education technology. Why do these guys and gals blog? What are they contributing to the conversation that has not already been said by one of the other 3,849 bloggers? Or is that not important?

    I ask these question as I get ready for EduBloggerCon - West Coast 2008 this Wednesday. I'll let you know what I discover!

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  • Back From a Break and Looking Forward Published 3/03/2008 10:42:00 PM

    It has been almost five months since my last post. This picture explains why...

    While our Chapin has kept us busy, it would be too simplistic to place all of the blame for ignoring Digital Crosswalks on him. I have been busy with other projects (more on these in future posts). But, really, there is always time to do those things that are important to you.

    So why no posts? Lack of ideas - No. I have outlined numerous posts in my mind, but they never made their way to the blog. Lack of interest - Warmer. I must admit that I went through a period of despair when my viewer numbers dropped. Lack of context - Hot. Over the past five months, I have stopped reading posts from those whom I have (and continue) to admire from the ed-tech world. Dave, Will, Vicki, Bud, Kathy, Steve, etc., I guess I need something different.

    In the spirit of Frans Johansson's "Medici Effect", I have been looking beyond the ed-tech world for answers. In my last post before my 'break', I spoke about a Pop!Tech presentation by Jonathan Harris. The melding of art and science, design and technology, information and story, really excites me.

    From my 'sabbatical', I return with numerous new project about which I will be sharing with you over the coming weeks. For now, it is off to EduBloggerCon - West Coast 2008 and the CUE Conference in Palm Springs, where I will continue to be asking "Why Blog?".

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