Reality is broken – but being patronising lives

In 2008 is perhaps the year most of todays popular ed-tech gurus first flew solo. In the same year the Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies in Europe, a peak research body drawing on work from numerous Universities and Commercial bodies looked at what the trend to 2020 would be, in terms of preparing societies for work and keeping them in work (relative to technology). They had apparently seen this trend emerging in journals, research and books on the topic. I know, hard to believe bloggers didn’t invent shifting-change.

They found 4 pillars needed in the future of learning which still seem valid to me.

1. Make lifelong learning and learner mobility a reality;
2. Improve the quality and efficiency of provision and outcomes;
3. Promote equity and active citizenship;
4. Enhance innovation and creativity, including entrepreneurship, at all levels of Education and Training.

The didn’t talk about tools or e-society, they just talked about learning, training and employment needs of European societies.

There are those who’s views fit the facts and those fit the facts to their view. Where this report looked at extensive facts, the dominant story of education told via social-media layers between 2008 and now – is that Web2.0 and ‘being connected’ is not the most important factor in ‘change’. Quite different things. We know technology is important, but I don’t think it’s important to learn in a dime-museum.

Yesterday I say Jane McGonagil “Reality is Broken” author and popular TED speaker posted to Twitter how when she gets her 40,0000th follower, she will randomly follow 4 more people. Hey Jane! can you patronise me a little more please – and thanks for pulp-fictionising the works of others for the masses too. BTW you’re ideas on community in your book – lack evidence.

Stick-to-your-guns, follow the evidence – the muffins are a lie.

Twitter ate my brain and I liked it on Facebook

Too much information hitting you too fast? Are we pushing information at educators simply in response to the massive multiplayer game known as Twitter? Maybe so and here’s what I think is causing the potential edu-Snow Crash.

First, I’ve been on Twitter 97.8% longer than everyone else according to some info-mining algorithm. This must indicate I know more than all but 3% of the planet which entitles me to speak with authority. I also have a cute avatar and willing to drop a button on my shirt at a conference for the boyz. What rubbish.

Second, back in the day, blogging was kind of slow. People took time to write, time to think and time to respond in what seems today a very civil conversation between people who had the sense to learn how to search properly. So back in the days when young Will Richardson got a glimmer in his eye and wrote a book called “Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts”, people we’re already connected to a network. Then came people like Clay Shirky and added a dose of moral panic with tales of civic-technology-saves-the-princess and someone kicked off TED talks and scooped $6,000 a seat and a bucket load of ad-revenue. The “PLN” was born – and all of a sudden, it’s not cool unless you’re tweeting motivational messages or summizing Prensky on your IWB. No one got more literate, they got more distracted and a few got paid or joined the Spice Girls.

Twitter is increasingly useless on purpose. It wanted, and has manged to become, the worlds most used bookmarking service as people like @grattongirl endlessly fling link bait into the metaverse and we follow Captain Obvious to whatever bloody web conference he’s at today – RT-ing his own Tweets and telling people what we should do, before hitting the buffet. If you want to be cool, that’s the way to do it. Then we have the social climbers – those who don’t do much at work apart from Tweet, feasting on their public funded iPad until it’s home time. If you want to get ahead, get on Twitter. Bugger reality, just keep saying it and the drones will believe you. Guess what you’re still in reality. Take a look around.

A neutron walks into a bar and asks how much for a drink. The bartender replies, ‘For you, no charge.

Reality check: Twitter isn’t what it was (let’s have a beer and talk about glory days later). To put it into perspective – its the Internet equivalent of CNN’s screen-ticker. It’s designed to distract and hold your attention only long enough for you to snack on link-bait (and download Snack Games to Snack Apps) and thereby pay less attention to the big picture above which is often full of rhetoric that we’re also supposed to consume without question. And we do – as Twitter is the ultimate bar-tender, happy to listen to anyone and everyone. I wontz my MTV, Kittahs and links to Fat Kid on a Rollercoaster as long as it doesn’t stop me yelling at politicians on #qanda where I endlessly ‘top’ them with my dazzling appreciation of culture, media, politics and religion. Is that what you really want to show teachers? Yes, of course someone will pay you good money to do that in a workshop so I hear.

It’s called information fluency. Take a breath, learn from someone like Judy O’Connell. Do you think Judy is drooling over her iPhone, tapping refresh like dog trying to scratch an unreachable itch? No. Do you pay enough attention to what Judy’s been saying about the Semantic Web? – Nope. I just tap my screen and RT things, unless I’m being really cool when I RT it to #yam to impress the boss.

Judy – like many other curate their information sources, as they know how to organise it into useful collections for a purpose. I’ve been to Judy’s house – there’s no digital dumpster out the front.

If it takes a 3 seconds to read a Tweet, it takes 30 to follow the link – it takes 3 minutes to read the post and 3 hours to digest what it said (assuming it is a post intended to make you think). That is nuts, no one can process that kind of information. If however, it comes to you, behaves itself and sits in the spot you want it, then like a good dog – you are it’s master. No one wants a dog that barks and bounces around when you’re trying to think. 90% of links that get RTs are not about getting people to think – they are like information coupons offering you a discount in the knowledge isle, or about you buying into someones Top 10 hyperbole.

This would be one of those circumstances that people unfamiliar with the law of large numbers would call a coincidence.

This is the tragedy of blogging these days – people want a free coupon not a conversation – we want it now and we don’t want to work for it. It just may be that we are now more dangerously irrelevant than we’d like to admit.

I thought the the point of social media was that it could help fill the (_____) gap in thinking, and yet, just a few years on we’ve managed to invent snack-media. Yey for us … for we are many and they are n00bs. There, I said it, leave a comment in 140 characters of less  or just maybe go and blog something that tells me a story that changes everything.

And please follow and RT @massMinecraft if you notice it *wink*

Why edu-systems need a social media PD strategy

I read a couple of reports this week about life in perpetual beta and try but never buy culture. Both of these things relate to the way teacher educators carry out the formidable task of mediating the exploding internet and entrenched expectations of how and why we go about professional development.

Print technology – the thing most people are saying must shift in order to make room for screen technology has existed for a relatively short time in history. It has evolved through form and social-function to be seen as ‘the authority’ – where a few dictate truth and what is correct to the majority. Most people won’t write a book, let alone see it distributed to the far reaches of the world. Slightly below the book most people see newsprint as a secondary authority along with television media and magazine. Word of mouth was relegated to hear-say for much of recent history.

With lives in perpetual beta – Ryan (who is looking at militants online) point outs

the internet facilitates “amorphous communities but it has a culture of initiative that facilitates individual activism. This evolved from the “hackers” at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from the late 1950s,and the rise of a community of phone phreaks that spread and evolved into network hackers and software pirates. By the 1980s a new breed of phreaks was so defined and self-aware that it had established norms and conventions to which its members loosely adhered.

So in many ways, this subversion began long before teacher’s started talking about reform on Twitter, and indeed started inside academia itself. In the ‘try but never buy culture’ of today’s online world, we play out life in perpetual beta – we are exposed to, show interest in, and try on networks, technology and other people’s identities, not though books – but through conversation. These online places continue to establish new norms in behaviour, method and expectation. A book doesn’t do that – it is forever set in immovable type. If you’re a gamer, you get gaming – if you have already learned that a PLN will teach you more in a month that you learned as an under-grad – then you probably don’t see ‘traditional PD’ as effective.

Matthew Salganik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University. His interests include social networks, quantitative methods, and web-based social research. In his research he suggests

People look to others for cues because of the overload of choices available. “You could listen to music nonstop for the rest of your life without getting through it all,” he says. “The simplest shortcut is to listen to what other people are listening to.”

If I relate this to much of the way teachers are expected to learn (three ring binders etc.,) in PD sessions – it seems that few teacher educators either have, or are able to have – a social media strategy to carry out their ‘job’ -as well as they could with it.

I find it brain-missing that education – with all its incumbent power is unable to get someway close to Edublogs for example. Edublogs has a social media strategy – and has built a global community, essentially off conversation with one person – Sue Waters. Teachers could just use WordPress – but they don’t – they have build Edublogs on community and professional development of teachers as a core-value.

I knew Sue when she was still an avatar, struggling to deal with hamster-brains in her ‘full time’ job. And there is the problem – the really great teacher educators have sufficient agency to ‘teach us’ in amorphous communities. They ‘hack’ the system so to speak – while at the same time – the book-believers struggle to reconcile ‘social media’, let alone think maybe – just maybe, teacher education should be taken to the communities, should be facilitated online – and should be maintained by people like Sue, who clearly achieve what is only endless debated in rooms and committees. Edublogs didn’t do this by publishing a book.

Does your organisation have a social-media strategy in order to use online communities for effective professional development? If so, I’d love you to post the link from whatever portal it may reside.

Ineffable Essence of Nothing

In my first post this year, I put forward my predictions for 2010.

I’d like then to pick up on the first point — Bubblegum EduPunk – the ineffable essence of nothing.

Stepping into 21st Century learning — should be a leap into tomorrow — Buck Rogers style. My idea of punk is not exactly the same as Malcomn Mclaren’s. So, even if education has been frozen for 50 years like Buck Rogers– its never too late to thaw out and kick some Draconian butt.

What is Edupunk anyway?

For me, eligibility for the dubious label “edu-punk” means delivering more than content – digitally. It is about reacting to popular culture, not being scared to pioneer and explore ideas yourself or with students in ways that are experiential. The degree of punkyness is very much relative to the environment and opportunity.

Poking your finger in the membrane of learning is not about being a radical throwing tweet-grenades into staff rooms or buying a Nerf gun. You don’t even have to be a hero, heroine or martyr  — you just have to want to be a better teacher and be willing to be experiential in doing it.

Conceptually, I think EduPunk is just a datum point. For many teachers it was an awakening to the insanity of making kids learn by absorption in an era where for any given topic, no one human can absorb that amount of information — nor do they need to. Get out of whatever orbit you are in and be a punk for while — even if that just means reading a different kind of book . We all react differently to technology, so for some — talking to the Librarian or approaching an integrator is a commendable first step. Some however do nothing, deny it or block. These are the one’s who need a metaphorical kicking. There is no excuse for this behavior in my view, unless you have been frozen in time, staunchly demanding everyone revert to your way of thinking should get you Zooka’d.

Fortunately many teachers create amazing things like the Flat Classroom or wikis that change thousands of minds (Andrew Church). Many more develop resources for their students like Mr Miller and create vibrant networks for students, such as English ClassIIIA. At some point all these people went punk because they wanted to. Punks create conversation – and this is sound of the (digital) suburbs that like it or not are the future of education — formal or informal – playing out in the metaverse.

Bubblegum Punk

The urban dictionary is tough on bubblegum music, saying “many bands use this style to make their music because it so effectively goes right to the top of the charts and gets them money”. A close relative is Sugar Punk — which usually involves wearing baby blue and pink, with lots of intricate designs and layers.

Truly disruptive teachers —  are those who don’t take sufficient care to immerse themselves in the culture and networks — but go online anyway. Those who lecture others about technology, but themselves are almost invisible online. More worrying are those projects which get kicked off because of someone’s bureaucratic or political agenda — often manifesting as pilots — which teachers then have to follow. These often consume time, effort and resources that could be better used elsewhere. These are the bubblegum edupunks.

Never mind the learning, heres the text book

Way back in the 1930’s, Hugo Gernsback, the’ father of science fiction’ didn’t settle on leaving his Amazing Stories in print. He took his protagonists onto the radio when few radio stations were interested in Science Fiction. This punk-mindedness is what we all need to have. Gernsback  did get his airplay … and now we have the movie Avatar. We too manifest ourselves worlds that have long been imagined — as avatars, but it takes real effort to download Aion and play when you don’t know why. We have to force our minds to deal with them and not ignore or dismiss them.

The digital-datum point

Each of us have unique datum points and stick to familiar channels. I looked for a story and found this old radio play from the 1930s. The hero is presented with an un-recognisable version of himself in from the future after noticing a strange notice in a store window —  the Ineffable Essence of Nothing (You can listen to it). This is very much how the majority of teachers currently see technology in professional practice.

Upon entering the store the owners tells him. “Nothing is impossible, Mr Castle … and none of this is real unless you make it real”.

For some teachers, trying the impossible means allowing students to communicate in a forum. For others it will means teaching English in World of Warcraft. For students, every day is real. They don’t get to choose.

This is punk-mindedness. Repeating something without going somewhere new, just to look like Buck Rogers? … bubblegum … Wilma Darling, I’m home!

End of Web

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End of Web – A Game Based, Virtual School Project

Playful learning always seems more interesting that being powerpointed (guilty). And I did make a powerpoint last week.

So to make amends, and to follow up on numerous conversations in the last month, I have been trying to figure out how to offer professional development and at the same time embed some of the 21st century ‘soft’ skills that we know are important, but often really hard to align, assess and justify in out existing curricula – and in that I’m talking K20, not K12. So this is virtual school, a game, social action and professional development – all in one.

The start date would be February 2010 – 6 months. Then run the project.

It’s based on the simple game of ‘what if’. This seems apt as many of the barriers to 21C learning are based on ‘what if’. So the idea is simple; between here and early 2010, a game is developed which not only engages students in a social action, enquiry project but allows them to engage in ‘virtual school’. In essence, playing the game will allow them to demonstrate 21st Century learning outcomes in a safe fail environment, allow teachers to determine tha classroom activities – and align the game with content and standards/outcomes. It will run for 60 days over the internet, but not all activities need to be ‘technology’ based.

The aim is to create a massive multiplayer game – active not just in one space, but fluid over many. It’s a chance to get together and make a robust learning object that not only allows creative publishing of information; but allows teachers to learn from each other and along side students. We might even convince the world, though the action that the alternate reality is actually real. A kind of pixel based War of the Worlds.

What I need, is for people to click here – and help shape the idea, the activities and the assessment; so that we can evaluate it – and all of that is open for discussion. No filters, no standard tests, no yeah buts … this is virtual school. Right now it’s a 3 page wiki – I hope we can develop it into something that can work in K12 and showcase some of the amazing opportunities that we have as educators. No more problems, this is solutions only. Please join in.

The End of WebAn alternate reality game

The scenario:

It’s 2020 and the world has changed. Some say for the better, for others it is the worst of times. The internet, the technology that connects us, will be turned off in 60 days. The world leaders have agreed that the internet is making the world worse, and is now to big and too powerful. It must be stopped. The official orders have been given … the internet is closing down, to be replaced by a single information service called the “Alternet”.

The sides:

Each day, the “Alternet” publishes information and news about the status of the internet closure and will become the one place for information. Those opposed to the groups have called themselves the ‘Cylores’. The don’t agree with Alternet and want to stop the closure. Somewhere in between are ordinary people like you and me. It’s time to think about how the world got to this point, and how it might would change as the days pass by and what will happen when we reach day 60.

What will be your story?

Imagine yourself in those 60 days … what will happen … what would you do, how could you stop it, do you want to? – how will it change your world. What could you say to stop it; what could you do. Do you even want to stop it?

This is a game; you get to choose your character – you need to tell your story in any way which you choose – as in 60 days the internet will be shut down. You can connect to others, read their pages and add your ideas. Each day, you can use social media and human networks to highlight those stories that you think are fantastic! but beware – Alternet is watching – and you might well find yourself being asked to explain yourself. Do you keep a blog? do you make a film – do you organise a protest?

Look for information being published by the Alternet and the Cylores; share it with others … take action … the end of web is near.

So that’s the plot line (right now) and here’s a link to a graphic (which you can make better – or maybe even a film trailer … ideas and input welcome)

Russian invasion!

INCREASINGLY it seems, newcomers are taking their classes online in blogs, wikis and online communities. There is a wealth of published materials that encourage and celebrate the adoption of technology in the classroom. Schools need to  provide adequate orientation and safety assurances; taking the newcomer through practical guidance be an effective, safe, online course facilitator. As soon as part of a course is online, the role of teacher is opened to greater risk and responsibility.

Schools with hundreds of kids online, without obtaining any additional ‘permission’ or ‘advice’ on social media risk assessment is a reality.

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I noticed a Ning site, for middle school students that was left open. It appeared that the site was abandoned. A russian ‘porn spammer’ had joined the group, and immediately added all the students as a friend, leaving a comment on their wall inviting them to visit ‘her’ online. It is highly likely that kids signed up to the Ning with an email address, and that they receive notifications – as a year or so later this new member, produced a flurry or activity in the ‘old abandoned’ Ning.

Replies and comments to the new user flourished.

There is an excellent Social Media Guidlines project in the USA that is well worth adding to; and modelling from developed by Gina Hartman, Educational Technology Specialist in the Francis Howell School District. As more newcomers arrive, and more technology appears in classrooms, the risk grows – as I believe that the risk has a proportional relationship with experience, ability and understanding.

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Providing orientation training to the online space is very important – and seeking help to do it is advisable and you want your employer to support and acknowledge that in sharing the risk – else you may wear all of it, if you have an invasion.

Demonstrating that you can operate effectively and safely, just like ‘safety’ tests in an industrial workshop or science laboratory – is something that should be a norm, like manual handling and OH&S.

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An Intro to Social Media in Education

This is probably a fairly unremarkable ‘power point’ … as an introduction to social media I gave to general staff and students this week. I find it really hard to pitch social media in education as a dry – theory, so have tried to liven it up by having people leave comments during the presentation. I am much more comfortable with learning frameworks and nitty gritty stuff. Part of the process of delivering this kind of message, which is not ‘my’ lens – was to try get them to engage with the idea of a two-way interchange, in what is a passive presentation. I have used Etherpad, and created a live document to accompany the presentation. Sessions like these I think tend to attract ‘digital tourists’, so I am hoping to capture two voices – those attending, and perhaps some more experienced educators. It would be great if you could leave a comment on the Etherpad, to give the ‘next’ bus load of tourists some sense of conversation, as this will be a repeating session. I’ll also be giving this presentation online via Live Classroom next week … May13, 10-11am, you can register FREE here for that. I hope that you can spare some time to participate.