Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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book

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(Prepare yourself it’s a long one!)

(Read to the bottom to find out why it took me over 12 hours to post this reflection!)

What a week this has been and with the launch of the book today, it’s made it all the more amazing of a week.

As of this writing, Reach was downloaded 801 times today. My networks and communities once again surpassed my expectations. As I told my wife yesterday, I’d be tickled if 200 people downloaded the Free PDF. To have 800+ do it in the first day alone is just mind boggling. As I say in the book, once you become connected to this network, professional development like you have never known before starts to flow your way. This book as been as much a part of my own professional development this year as anything else. On top of that I get to reap the benefits from people posting about it, quoting it, and thinking about it on their own blogs, twitter updates, and everywhere else on the network.

Some have asked if the book is OK to share with others. I have released Reach under a Creative Commons 3.0 License as found on the copyright page of the book. Meaning you are free to distribute it as you wish to your school community or to your own network within the guidelines of the Creative Commons Copyright.

Part of what I wrote about in the book, and part of what I believe overwhelms people, is this idea that you have to be everywhere and that every site is a silo. When really, once you understand the connectivity of the Internet, it can all come to you in one place, and you can talk to your network through one channel.

So in sharing Reach today I decided to do a little experiment on where my network and community (and yes they are different….you’ll have to read the book to learn how) are coming from and how they are connected.

So I released the Free PDF within all my networks and communities. This blog, the U Tech Tips blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Here’s how the downloads panned out (as of 10pm June 15th).

This Blog: 511

Twitter: 228

LinkedIn: 0

U Tech Tips: 32

Facebook: 32

I was surprised at first that more people downloaded Reach via my blog than via Twitter. I was expecting the ReTweets on Twitter to help push that to the top spot.

But here’s what I forgot. My blog is connected to everything. So when I posted the link to download Reach to this blog it went to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Plus to a lot of RSS readers. My blog has always been the center of my connected universe and still is today. LinkedIn surprised me. I don’t use it that much, hardly ever post anything there, and although there are a lot of people there looking to connect, not too many people are reading that stream. Of course my LinkedIn network could have used any of the other links as they all feed into LinkedIn, again that’s how that site fits into my personal learning network.

Why give it away for free? It’s my first book and we’ll wait to see what you all have to say about it as a book and me as a writer. Some of you have commented already that you can hear my voice in the book, and I found that I’m a much better writer of my thinking than a technical writer. We’ll see if it translates to a book.

Let’s be honest. If I wouldn’t have given this book away for free, I’d have been lucky to sell 100 copies (thanks to the 15 people who bought copies today!) and I have a day job that pays. It was more important to me to get the message out there. To basically throw my writing out there and see what you all think about it in a different form. My “Reach” is much greater with the free copies than it ever would have been with a book that had to be bought.

Yes…some of you will still buy the book. As Seth Godin (who’s idea and thoughts on this I have followed) has said, “We buy books as a souvenir”. I believe in that. Some of you might buy the book because you’ll want it as a souvenir, and for that I’m greatly honored. But, for most of you it will be a one time read and never thought of again. It’s information that will be out of date as soon as Facebook decides to change it’s privacy settings again. 😉

The PDF passwords will work until Friday night around 10pm PST. After that I’ll shut them off. The first two chapters will always be free via the Reach website. If you come to any of my 8 presentations this summer you’ll be given a code for the free PDF as well…and who knows I might always give it away free again at the start of school. 😉

Of course this has me very excited, that I was able to give something back to the community. But the launch of Reach today was over shadowed by a more amazing gift this week. A gift that….well…..can not be topped.

Last Tuesday I sat in a crowd of about 200 people watching the Class of 2010 from Aberdeen High School recieve their scholarships and awards for the year. I had been invited down by a former 4th grade student of mine, Claire. She had written me a letter saying there were a bunch of students that I had taught who are now graduating that would like to see me again. Little did I know that Claire and my wife had been planning for months to get me to Aberdeen for something very special.

I sat there in the crowd listening for names of past students, trying to recognize my little fourth grade students in these now 18 year old bodies. Some were easy, others I couldn’t believe the changes.

Claire had received a couple scholarships and awards and then without warning she started giving a speech.

“Each year the Renaissance Action Team senior members along with many other seniors recognize teachers that have made a difference in their lives. This year 21 seniors participated in the program started by the Renaissance team called honorary diplomas. This program allowed these seniors to dress in cap and gown and go visit a teacher that made a huge difference in their life. These seniors prepared brief speeches and presented diplomas to their teachers while telling them exactly what it is that changed their outlook on life.

For some seniors this was easy, they just walked down the hall, into a classroom, and made the presentation. Six teachers at Aberdeen High School were honored this year. For fourteen others, they went back to their elementary or junior high school to tell a past teacher of the impact they had. With thirty pairs of eyes watching them these seniors presented diplomas to their teachers. For one, the process even included tracking down a retired teacher’s family and making a surprise visit to him, and then, there was me.

In this audience is a man who has no idea what is about to happen, in this audience is a man who changed my life. For the past month or so I have been working to make this moment happen, and right now, as I stand here, I really hope he is out there, and possibly catching on to why his wife was so insistent on him making the trip here.”

About this time Claire’s mother takes a picture of me and I catch the flash out of the corner of my eye. I look at her and she’s smiling….and then it hit me.

I’m not going to share the whole 3 page speech that Claire gave…it’s way too special and humbling for me to share it (sorry…but true).

I will share my favorite two sentences out of the speech and the two that sent tears rolling down my own cheeks.

“Mr. U found things we liked, and created a way to learn around them. He talked to us as if we were equal, not like we were ten, and Mr. U was always smiling. It was obvious and still is that Mr. U is passionate about what he does, and he cares about the students he has.”

That meant more to me than anything…for the simple fact that it was my own fourth grade teacher Mrs. Hubble who always referred to us as “Ladies and Gentleman”. She told us that we are all equals and should be treated as much. That has stuck with me through the years and to this day, I have always only referred to a class as “Ladies and Gentleman”. I do believe we are all equals in a classroom, and sometimes it’s as little as how you refer to people that makes all the difference.

Claire, if you’re reading this, know you have made my teaching career. Your speech was simply perfect and how you remembered ever project we did in such detail after all these years I’ll never know. Please know that for all you feel you have learned from me, I learned from you ten fold! Thank you for being such a special person in my life.

It’s been one amazing week that has reminded me why I love learning.

“Education is not the preparation for life; It’s life itself” ~John Dewey

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As I’m ready to post this last night I get a phone call from my brother. My nephew was on his way. At 4:40 this morning I became an Uncle for the second time. I’m not sure one person deserves this much amazement in one week. What a week to remember!

Honestly….I can’t believe I’m writing this blog post. My 4th grade teacher would be so proud of me right now (I might have to look her up and send her a copy).

Many readers to this blog who have been following me for more than a year probably realized that I’ve not blogged as much this year. That it seems like at times I forgot about blogging. I wish I had a better excuse other than you’re right.

In August I started writing a book. After being contacted by Corwin Press late last year, I started working on an outline and eventually working on the book itself. To know that there was a publishing company that might actually consider publishing something I wrote was an honor, and the motivation I needed to take that thought of “can I do this?” and make it a reality. Along the way Corwin Press and I parted company. It was a mutual parting of ways as we had different ideas on the direction of this book. Maybe I’ve had too much of the Seth Godin Kool aid, but this book was never meant to make me money. No, this book has way more meaning than that.

It was September 2006 when this blog turned 1 year old, and I, for the first time publicly, talked about my learning disability. It was a big moment for me in so many way. In writing it down in public, in the amazing response I received from my readers at the time, and the connections it would lead to in meeting, talking with, and communicating with students around the world who were dyslexic. That moment changed me, and I have a feeling releasing this book will do the same.

I’m not a writer, never claimed to be one, I write what I think, how I think, which is tough to put into a book format. It’s not a master piece by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s mine, done the way I see it, in my voice, and in my words….and that to me is enough.

The book is on schedule to be released on June 15th. I wanted to mention it now because…..well I can’t hold it in any longer. Very few people have known that I was working on it (just in case it didn’t happen) and even fewer (10 peer reviewers) have seen the finished manuscript, but on the 15th of June that will all change.

I am so glad that I decided to self-publish this book through Lulu.com. I’ve learned so much by self-publishing and at the same time, and more importantly to me, I remain in control of the content, meaning I’m free do to with it what I please. What do I want to do?

Give it away!

That’s right I’m going to give it away to everyone, and anyone who has made this book possible. I’ve never had a way to give back to the community that has supported me and taught me so much these past 5 years, until now. Now I can give something back to all of you who have made me believe I could write this book. The 700+ blog posts that are housed here are a large part of my growth in this field of educational technology and all of you made this book possible. Even if you just have my blog in a forgotten RSS reader, it was still a reader. It gave me a reason to post and reflect…..a reason to continue to grow and learn.

Of course you’ll be able to buy the book (and of course I hope some of you do). It will be available in a number of places online in a number of formats. But for anyone reading this it will be free.

I have decided to give away a DRM free PDF copy of the book to my community and network. To my followers and friends. What does this mean?

If you follow this blog and are around on June 15: Free PDF for you

If you follow the U Tech Tips Blog and are around on June 15: Free PDF for you

If you follow me on Twitter on June 15th: Free PDF for you

If you are a fan of my Facebook Page on June 15th: Free PDF for you

If you are a connection on LinkedIn on June 15th: Free PDF for you

If you are a subscriber to the On Deck Podcast or SOSpodcast: Free audio version for you (coming in September)

If you come to any presentation I give after June 15th (ISTE2010, BLC, EARCOS): Free PDF for you

On June 15th when the book launches, I’ll post a PDF copy of the book online for download via a password that will give you access. Once you have the PDF you can do with it what you like. Share it, trash it, give it away, make copies of it for your school. It’s yours to share. If you feel like leaving a review on Amazon, or lulu.com or another site, I thank you, but there is no obligation.

Next September after I get back here to Bangkok and get back to my podcast studio upstairs, I will record and release for free an audio version of the book via my podcast site On Deck (iTunes). I am an auditory learner and it’s important to me to release the book in as many forms for different learning styles as possible. That is something I’ve always promised myself I would do.

So that’s it…..if you are around on June 15th the book will be yours. If you happen to miss it, the first 3 chapters of the book will always be free on the book’s website (still under construction) for download. Again DRM free PDF.

As for the paid copy of the book, I’m hoping to be able to sell it for around $10. That’s the goal anyway, we’ll have to see what Lulu says about that when I upload the finished copy of the book.

I feel so much better spilling the beans! I’m excited, and I hope you’re excited too! I thank you for your support and making this possible by being part of my online community and learning network.

(Picture is the cover of the book. A thank you to woodleywonderworks on Flickr for giving me permission to use his photo for the cover.)

I reach a point where I have so many things I want to share that I need to do a dump of information. So once in a while I’ll be sharing blogging bits. Little things that cross my mind, that I’m thinking about or have seen or have been apart of to share with the community.

I’m pretty proud of this….and at the same time it freaks me out. This book Wired for Learning: An Educators Guide to Web 2.0 was just released and I was fortunate enough to be asked to write a chapter for it. So chapter 19 Planning for 21st Century Technologies is written by me. Crazy to think that I’m actually published in a book. I’m not a writer, I’ve never claimed to be one and I continue to read this post that I wrote when this blog turned one…what an adventure this has all been.

I’m not a writer I’m a composer and I wonder if I’ll ever be a writer. But in the mean time I continue to compose. You the community helped to write the chapter over 5 separate blog posts and a PDF that you can download. The chapter of course is a little more thought out but know that this was written by you…and for that I thank you.

Carol Jordan, an IB Science teacher who I worked with in Shanghai, has once again finished a year of blogging with IB students. The student group blog Chemical Paradigms is an amazing piece of student learning. She ended the year with having students reflect on their year of learning and blogging by replying to this post. Take some time to read what the students had to say about there learning journy and please share this with other teachers. It’s powerful words coming from students. My favorite quote:

To blog is not to simply relay facts, nor is it to blab personal
gossip. A blog is not someone’s personal diary of critiques and
cynicisms. It is not an encyclopedia of intangible knowledge. A blog is
a no-loitering zone. Now that it is clear what a blog is not, I will
tell you what it is. A good blog is an interesting discussion of a
complex topic. It is on the continuum somewhere between fact and
opinion.

I couldn’t have explained blogging better myself.

I wrote about the student e-portfolios that our first graders were working on. Yesterday parents came in to watch as the students talked about their learning journey this year. It was great to watch parents ask questions about the pictures and have the first graders pause the slide show and then talk about what they were learning at that point in the school year. It worked great and each student will take home their movie on a CD.

There has already been a lot of conversations from teachers about using e-portfolios next year from all grade levels. I have to admit that I’m excited as we continue to create systems at our school that will allow both students and teachers to easily use the tools they need when they need them. As this year comes to a close I’m already getting excited for some of the projects that I’ll be a part of next year.

We change education, one year at a time.