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

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Shanghaik12onlineBIG.jpgI have to say, I was feeling a little bummed out that Shanghai was holding it’s LAN parties and I wasn’t going to be a part of them. My school here in Bangkok is on break for the week, so with everyone on vacation, it just wasn’t happening here this year.

Of course little did I remember that in today’s world, there is always a way to connect. Last Thursday, and again today, I had the pleasure of being invited to the LAN parties via Skype. Of course that wasn’t enough for me, I had to take it one step further and try and Ustream the event (yes, I feel a need to share all).

Wrap your head around this: A LAN (Local Area Network: Both a computer term and a term that has been coined as the network you create around you with people that are local to your school/community) party that is hosted in Shanghai, is streamed to Bangkok where it is broadcasts around the world.

We know the internet connection in and out of Shanghai has a hard time supporting Ustream, but it does support Skype really well. We Skype out to Bangkok, where I can then broadcast to the world. Are you following this? Is it just me or is it even crazy to think that something like this can happen with a guy sitting in his home office in Bankok creating the connection. We’re talking free software and a Mac Book…that’s it.

Here is the video (not sure if the sound works…we had issues).

At the end of today we went around and talked about what we were thinking at this point. Here were my take aways after today’s discussion.

Learning happens through connections

We learn when we connect ideas, people, thoughts. This isn’t new, but the more I’m in a connected world the more I realize that it’s through connections that learning occurs. Is it just me? Or should we not be teaching students how to connect information to create new knoweldge.

Niche Knowledge

Today’s world is about niche markets. Knowledge is fast become a niche market. You know something, I know something, together we know more. I don’t need to know it all I just need to know where to go to find the knowledge I don’t know and then learn that knowledge and apply it to my own understanding. We all have something to contribute, we all have knowledge, find your niche market, become the node of that knowledge and help others as they help you to expand on your own understanding. We don’t need to know it all, we just need to know where to go to find what we don’t know.

With these two ideas in mind here is the story of the broadcast today. I’m still fairly new to my Mac Book but learning it quickly. Today while trying to ustream people watching could not get sound. I was baffled. I had just done this exact thing last Wednesday and on Thursday had used it for the sospodcast without a hitch. I have not installed any new software on my machine and my machine was telling me everything was running properly.

There were 14 people watching. One person in Hawaii had sound, nobody else did. The people watching continued to try and help me figure out what was wrong. They restarted, I restarted, we tried different browsers, we tried mac vs pc. Finally user howhat writes in the chat:

“Downloaded and installed new flash, restarted machine and working perfect.”

There was our answer, and it was an answer I would not have even known to ask the question to.

So let’s look at this with my two take aways.

Learning happens through connections

By connecting the 14 people watching together we were able to trouble shoot our problem:

Why is there no sound via Ustream? (An Essential Question?)

We then worked together to try and solve the problem…not everyone but a dedicated few. Some people left the chat and said, “Send a twitter when you have it solved.” which was perfectly fine. But those who were passionate….helped to find the solution. Through the connections of people around the world on different platforms, different browsers, and different continents the issue was solved…by a person in Japan.

Niche Knowledge

I would have never of thought of checking Flash. Because first a person would need to know that Adobe just released Flash 10. I did not have that knowledge, I did not even know enough to ask the question to look at Flash as an issue. But someone else had that little piece of knowledge, and that little piece of knowledge helped the community.

Learning to guide and facilitate

I became a facilitator and guide to the problem above. My job, was to continue asking questions and keep track of data that was coming in:

Not working on a mac
Working in Hawaii on a PC via Explore
Not working in Flock
Not working after restarting machine
Not working in Safari
Has anyone tried listening to other live shows in ustream? Is it just my channel or ustream?
Can’t hear other live shows, but can hear archived shows.
Works in parallels on a mac running xp and explorer…why?
Doesn’t work in parallels for another user
@howhat you have sound?
@howhat what did you do?
Anyone else download the new Flash, install, and restart?
That’s it!
Great!

I was not a teacher, I was a guide to the conversation. I facilitated the discussion while the community found the answer themselves. I couldn’t help them, it was working on my end. They had to be passionate enough to want to find the answer, and they did it together. Can we do this in classrooms?

http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agexed/aee522/wsu.jpgA rant: We all learned how to guide in our undergrad education programs right? I mean student-centered learning was not invented yesterday. I graduated from Univ. in 1999. I learned about project-based learning, I learned how to facilitate learning. Didn’t everyone? Was my university really that advance? If so I need to give them more credit! We know, or should know, how to do this. That is what being an educator means. Why don’t we? Why do we feel like we need to know everything, and we fear what we don’t know? What university is teaching that?

We know what we know, therefore we know it

We know what we know: We are all experts in education. We all had 12 years of it, we all made it through, and most of our parent community made it through as well. We know what good schools look like, we know what good teachers look like. Cause we went to them, we had them, and we know what you should be learning because it’s what I learned.

Therefore
we know:
Because we know what we know we know how to do this. We remember what good teaching looked like, we remembered what bad teaching looked like, therefore we know how to teach well. Desks, pencils, linear thinking, text books, etc. Ah….we know how to do this.

Unlearning and relearning a whole community

It’s not just teachers that we need to train. It’s the whole community. Every parent needs to unlearn and relearn what it means to be educated. Every community member needs to unlearn and relearn what a good school looks like, feels like, smells like. Every community member needs to unlearn and relearn school. OK….not every community member, just enough to get the votes for change. 🙂

Are you teaching your community? Are you focused on teaching them what a school looks like today, what skills are needed today? Public education is no longer about K-12. It’s about educating a whole community. You want to pass that next bond? You want to get board approval for a 1:1 laptop program? Teach them why. Spend money and time on training your community. In the end it’s their school you are asking to change.

Tell me knowledge and learning do not come through connections. This whole post came from connecting with people all over the world to help me expand my own thinking, question my own methods, and create new knowledge. All in the span of 3 hours on a Saturday morning. This is the new classroom. This is the new school and I found it right here in the comfort of my own home.

The K12online Conference kicks off today with a Pre-Conference Keynote from David Warlick. I haven’t watched it yet but plan to later today as I make final adjustments to our K12online Shanghai LAN Parties.

k12shanghai.jpgThis year we even have our own wiki site and once again have planned four 3 hour sessions where we will bring the conference local. Our resident digital artist David Gran even remixed the k12online logo to give it a little Shanghai flare for the parties. I like calling these LAN parties which stands for Local Area Network as we have teachers from 4 different schools in the Shanghai area getting together learning and forming those networks of learning we have all be talking about.

Our first K12online Shanghai LAN Party is October 16th. So if you are
in the Shanghai area and want to join please sign up on the wiki and
we’ll see you at the party!

I finished up my presentation yesterday on Sustaining Blogging in the Classroom. Not my best presentation by far. Throughout the presentation you can tell that I too am struggling with how to sustain blogs past that “Cool” factor in our classrooms. Not sure if anything I spew for 20 minutes is worth anything…guess only comments will tell. 🙂 But I also think it is good to show that these answers are not easy as we all in the Ed Tech network try and figure out how these new tools can be embeded into our classrooms as just everyday happenings instead of technology add-ons.

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header.jpgIt’s been two days now since this conference has ended. I’ve been using this time to reflect on the conference. The things that I feel went well and the things I think can be improved on for next year.

First let me state, that I had nothing to do with the conference. My only contributions to the conference was allowing participants, if they wanted, to ‘attend’ the conference and earn 3 graduate credits through Plymouth State (more on this later). I did also, at the request of Sheryl help to create the little table of plug-ins that one might need to view the conference.

Overall, I would have to give the conference a 4 out of 5 starts. Why? Because there is always room for improvement. I consider this a pretty good score. After all I would have given NECC last July a 2 1/2 (But the edblogger met up got a 5). So for a first time conference I think it went amazingly well.

The one thing that really made me go wow, was the amount of people that got involved with this conference everyone from the support people in the tappedin room to those who helped Wes, Darren and Sheryl organize everything. The execution of the conference, I think, was spot on.

Recommendations for next year:

1. I’m not sure how to do this, but I think it might be better if you could release a whole strand at one time. It became confusing going back and forth between two strands. For example the “Week In The Classroom” Strand and “Basic/Advanced Training” strand overlapping each other with blog posts. The categories helped some, but I think releasing a whole strand at a time really allows people the option to pick and choose what they want to view in that strand. Maybe release strand A on Monday and strand B on Thursday. Giving participants a couple of days to go through the presentations and even interact with them without the others getting in the way. I think the best option would be to have one strand a week, but four weeks might be two long of a time period? That’s hard to say seeing this could be archived forever. What’s to long in a digital world?

2. Agree on a common format for the presentations. I have to admit I didn’t think about this as I was creating my presentations for the conference. But now on the participant side I see how frustrating it can be having to search and install plug ins that you might be missing. Maybe just state that “All presentations must be viewable through Quicktime.” I chose Quicktime here as I found it to play most of the formats. If there was one player that could play them all then use that instead. That way everyone understands they need to have one and only one program installed to participate in the conference.

3. I’m still having mixed feelings about this one, but I’ll put it out there. The Elluminate sessions went well. It was great to have a chat, voice, and a white board all on one screen. By the third Elluminate session those taking part were feeling comfortable with the software and the routine. We do like our routines.

The When The Night Falls 24 hour Skypecast was not a bad idea, in fact it was rather fun to be able to come home, pop in to see who was around and what the conversation was about and then pop out again. I found the different windows hard to manage though. As a moderator, trying to focus on the people in the Skypecast and those in the Tappedin room at the same time and never having all in both. The Skypecast also caused a problem as anyone who was surfing skypecasts could drop by. This became frustrating after awhile, although the 11th grader from Toronto who dropped by my session was kind of cool. We talked about the technology at his school and the classes they offered. You could hear his TV in the background as we chatted. Where my mixed feelings come in, is that it might have been better to stick with Elluminate throughout the conference, but at the same time I liked the opportunity to experiment with other tools. As Skype continues to improve this might be a mute point by next year, but as a moderator I found it a little difficult.

That’s it Wes, Darren, Sheryl. The next time we meet in person the drinks are on me. What an amazing idea and an amazing job. This conference was a success if for no other reason then here in Shanghai 18 different people were exposed to these new tools, this new web, and to a new way of thinking about technology’s role in education. And that my friends, is what makes this worth it. This conference did more then preach to the choir, it added voices!

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Our final LAN party podcast…kind of sad really. We discuss the conference in general, the LAN parties, and touch on Anne Davis’s keynote of Overcoming Obstacles. It was a great Saturday morning, taking part in a 2 hour Skype conversation as part of the When Night Falls Skypecast and learning and watching the presentations in the Overcoming Obstacles strand.

Enjoy!

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