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

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Learning 2.010 Learning 2.010ended last Saturday and four days after the end of the conference I think I’ve recovered enough mentally to actually talk about my experience.

This is the 3rd Learning 2 Conference that I have helped to organize and pull off with no less than 20 other educators from in and around Shanghai. Putting on a conference is a lot of work…and only after you’ve done it can you really know how mentally exhausting the time is during the conference.

What I love about this conference is each year we focus on breaking the conference mold and giving educators new ways to think about learning not only through the content of the conference but the conference structure itself. We talk about the teacher needing to be a facilitator in the classroom, so this year we had no “teacher”. There was no keynote, no presenters just facilitators. I think we did a very good job of finding both international talent and flying in facilitators that understood what we were going for in this conference. You had to be flexible, wiling to adapt, and easy going in order to change as this conference progressed.

FacilitatorsFind another conference that 24 hours before it was to begin nothing was planned. Not one session, not one cohort…nothing. Yet some how when you allow yourself the ultimate flexibility to adapt and change, some of the best learning occurs.

We started planning this conference with the notion that we can not foresee and meet the needs of 400+ participants without knowing what they want to learn.

By using facilitators and the cohort/unconference model we were able to adapt and create sessions on the fly that hopefully met the needs of everyone at the conference in one way or another.

I had a couple people approach me and tell me how great it was to actually attend a conference were you had to be activity involved. If you were not giving feedback to the facilitator in your cohort, or if you were not actively creating, leading or voting for unconference sessions you were out of luck. Participants were energized by the conversations and the flexibility to learn what they wanted to learn.

I believe the best of this came out in unconference sessions around Prezi. Prezi was the hot tool of the conference and because of our unconference model it kept getting voted in for sessions. People were able to go to 4 sessions on Prezi if they wanted to discuss and play with that tool in a collaborative environment.

Hosting this conference in Shanghai, China also has it’s challenges. It’s hard to believe when we ran our first conference in 2007, we were one of the first educational conferences to fully incorporate Twitter into the conference. Now 3 years later Twitter is blocked in China and only those die hard twitters who found ways around the firewall were able to post updates. Still #learning2cn had a pretty good following, but I think there have been more updates to the hashtag now that the conference is over and we’ve all returned to our unblocked countries.

It did however make us be create and come up with other ways to get the community at the conference involved. Darren Kuropatwa introduced us to 12seconds.tv a site that allows you to post 12 second videos. We created a conference channel and used it to capture thoughts and give away prizes at the conference.

It’s only fitting that a student created video ended up winning the grand prize…a Barnes & Noble Nook Reader.

12 Second Movie- Made by Alan (CISS student) on 12seconds.tv

There were a lot of great moments and, as the above video shows, once again I think it was our inclusion of students throughout the conference that will be remembered by many. They helped organize unconference sessions, ran unconference sessions, were part of our cohorts and were treated just like any other participant throughout the conference (alcohol excluded). In the end we had some 50+ students join us over the three day conference and the only complaint from participants was they wish we had more students. Note: we did not limit the amount of students that could come….just trying to find students to give up their weekend to hang with a bunch of teachers is not easy. 🙂

As I reflect on the conference as a whole I think we did a pretty good job. I’m always my hardest critic and there are things I would change for the next one….if there is a next one…..and if I’m involved in it. But people I talked to throughout the conference seemed excited, engaged and on more than one occasion I was told this was the best conference they had ever gone to. I just hope…pray….that what was started at this conference will be taken back to schools throughout Asia and the world and effect learning in some deep and meaningful ways. If that happens….then the four sleepless nights were well worth it!

From cbsnews.com Math Tests For Five-Year-Olds?

The experiment could involve tests as long as 90 minutes and change reading assessments for kindergartners through second-graders in the nation’s biggest school system, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has embraced testing. The approach dismays some parents and educators who see it as mechanizing education.

Show me one piece of research that says a 90 minute test is good for a 5 year old? Heck….show me a 5 year old who can sit for 90 minutes!

The Department of Education unveiled the $400,000 program in an e-mail Monday inviting elementary school principals to participate. About 65 principals have expressed interest, and as many as 12,000 pupils may ultimately be involved, said James Liebman, the department’s accountability chief.

Let’s see why would principals be showing interest in testing Kindergardeners? HHHMMMM……I wonder…..$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

…going beyond No Child Left Behind requirements. For each of the city’s more than 1,400 schools, third-grade through 12th-grade test scores factor significantly in letter grades – which can earn principals bonuses or jeopardize their jobs.

And you wonder why you can’t find people to teach in inner city schools.

The school grades and stress on test scores anger some parents and teachers, who say classes are being drained of creativity and reduced to drills on how to ace standardized exams.

Dear Policy makers….please read A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink. Thank You!

The rise of testing in No Child Left Behind’s wake has caused contention nationally. Some studies show students’ math and reading skills have improved, but that schools have cut back on history, music and other subjects.


Seriously….why is this a shock to anyone? We still have an 8 hour school day and we can only teach so much. If we’re going to teach more math and reading than something has to give.

And to think that at one point in my life my wife and I packed up everything we owned into a storage unit and drove to Albany, New York to find jobs. Lived out of our car and a tent for three weeks with no luck before driving back to Washington and getting jobs in Aberdeen and Westpoint.

What’s the reason for this? Really we need to know where kids are in their reading and math? I mean, teachers can’t and haven’t been doing that for…..like……ever?

Here’s the thing….do we really want America to be like China? Why is America so scared? Yes they have low cost labor…is that what we want? Do we want America to be that country? Do we want America to be the country where you can make a pair of Levi jeans for $4? If so then make sure our students know how to stand in a line, read, and rework numbers.

According to the latest patent stats of 2006 which is the last full year we have stats on:

Applicants from the USA: 390,815 applications

Applicants from China: 128,850 applications

That’s 3 times the patent applications. America needs to understand that it’s place in this new economic flat world is not trying to compete with China but instead being the brains, the thinkers, the creators of the products that China produces. America will never be able to compete with that labor force, but they will be able to compete with their minds, their ideas, their creativity.

That is if there is any creativity left.

This is so interesting….as I can remember at least three different times that I sat down with heads of Chinese schools, people looking to start private Chinese schools, or Chinese school looking to improve their education. I remember sitting and talking about the American system and how we focus on getting students to think different, we encourage them to think, to analyze, to question their findings. We teach them to learn on their own.

There is one man who I remember particularity clearly who wanted to hire me to come help him set up a private school in a province south of Shanghai. He was a wealthy man and he wanted to build a school focused on technology and thinking. His grand daughter lived in this city where he wanted to build the school, because he felt it was the only way she was going to compete.

“She must understand how to think.”
he told me.

So here America is trying to compete with Japan, S. Korea, and the China’s of the world and they are the ones looking at our systems to create thinkers, creators, and inventors.

America can not compete by testing their kids smarter. America will never be able to complete by testing down their kids to the basics.

Screw the basics! We need thinkers!

The issue is (and yes…now I’m on my soap box) that Americans are bombarded by reports of China doing this, and China doing that. China grew by 200% in this and 400% in that. The news is America’s worst enemy. Of course China is on fire. They’ve gone from riding bikes to driving Lamborghinis in about 15 years time! There growth rates should be off the charts and America should be celebrating that they had a part to play in helping the Chinese to open up, to modernize…and now they’re scared of it?

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you are scared.

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you don’t understand your role as a nation?

You will not be able to compete in a global soceity if you do not educate your younger generations to be globally minded, open to new ideas, and give them the abilty to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a fast pace world.

Trying to compete head on with a nations 4 times your size is a garenteed loosing battle. It’s a typical David and Goliath…America must think smarter, not bigger.

(Stepping off my soap box now and going to bed)

What I truly love about the web is when it takes thing that before seemed hard and difficult and all of a sudden makes them easy. Not only that, but when you are trying to get money and funds into a country that is hard to get into to begin with the web allows you access to people on the ground that can help.

SAS (my school) has set up the SAS Myanmar Relief fund. Working with the International School in Myanmar and an NGO on the ground there our school has found a way to get money directly to those helping people in the country.

“IDE Myanmar has operations in practically all of the cyclone-affected areas in the Irrawaddy Delta, and is hence positioned well to provide aid where it is most needed. Here’s what we are doing:

IDE has targeted 20 township areas that are affected, containing an estimated 8,000 -9,000 villages. About 125 staff have been mobilized to work in these areas – approximately six per township. The initial focus will be on providing immediate relief but rebuilding the agricultural and food security systems will receive equal priority and attention.”

To read more about IDE’s activities in the areas of Myanmar affected by the cyclone, click here: IDE RESPONDS TO MYANMAR CYCLONE


This is what it’s all about. Technology allowing us to help those in need. What I love about justgiving.com is that they understand the new web. I’ve already added the facebook widget to my facebook page. You can bookmark it on Del.icio.us with one click, you can add it to Myspace or follow the RSS feed.

You might have heard that Myanmar is not allowing supplies into the country at a very fast pace. By donating to an organization already working in Myanmar we bypass the politics and give directly to people who can help.

Of course we are also giving money and setting up things for victims of the earthquake last week. China has asked for foreign help and you can give to the Red Cross or other organizations that are helping there. There are many groups here at our school who are stepping up to help as well.

Last night when I got home there was a list posted in our apartment building that I could only guess was names of families in our apartment building and how much money they have donated (I’ll try and take a picture tonight). Families were giving anywhere from 100RMB to 500RMB (or $14 to $71).

The Internet still amazes me at times. It’s things like this that make the Internet just totally awesome!

Just a quick post to let everyone know that we’re doing fine in Shanghai. I just finished talking to EARCOS who is an organization that most international schools belong too. The director there told me he had checked in with all the EARCOS schools in the region and everyone is fine.

I have created a quick Google Earth file to give everyone some perspective of where the earthquake was in relation to Shanghai. You’ll find the two campuses, my apartment and the placemarker of roughly where the earthquake took place.

Thank you everyone for your concern.

I’m sure our school will be helping in some way. We are already putting together plans to help those in Burma where estimates of some 32,000 people perished in a cyclone last week….and now this here in China.

As my wife and I say: Live It Like You Love It cause you just never know.

I’ve actually been back for a couple of days, but hit the ground running getting in at midnight and having to full on PD days and friends visiting from the States and then Dubai.

Kashgar was wonderful. Different people, different culture. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were in China and had not actually left the country.

You can view all our pictures from the trip by clicking on the picture below:

We did end up finding the carpets we were looking for. In fact…we found to many of them. Might have to put Google Ads on the blog to help pay them off. 😉

A great trip that we would recommend to anyone! Wonderful people, wonderful culture, and our guide Ali was simply delightful!

[tags]China[/tags]

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We celebrated the Moon Festival earlier this week, and next week we get 3 days off of school for Chinese National Day (Think Independence day in your country). It’s been a heck of a start to the school year, with little time to blog, do deep thinking and reflecting or get the stuff done I want to and on time.

But next week…my wife and I leave the stress of this fast pace busy city for a little Chinese culture. Wes, Sheryl, and Will have all written how Shanghai is in my words intense. It sucks you into its face pace, never sleep, never stop working word and spits you out in June a mangled over worked mess.

We’re headed to Kashgar.About as far west China as you can get and as far from fast pace big city as you can get in China. Kashgar has a population of about 300,000 people which is about as small as a city comes in China.

We’re headed to Kashgar to both get away and to buy carpets. This region of China is known for their carpet making skills. History says that the Uygur (people of this area) are of Persian decent and I’m sure that is where their long history of carpet making comes from.

My wife and I started buying carpets while we lived in Saudi and we really want one made in China, but they are just way to expensive here in Shanghai…so an e-mail to the travel agent and we’re off to Kashgar!

Kashgar is also a very Muslim area which we are both looking forward too. We miss the Middle East, the people, the culture, and are looking forward to the experience once again.

We hired a guide for the trip (we don’t do this often) his name is Ali and he’s outlined for us three great days of sightseeing and carpet buying.

Sunday we’ll be spending all day at the largest bazaar in China this is carpet buying day!

Monday we will be heading out of town to a beautiful lake. Can’t wait to see nature and not cement. Kashgar’s elevation is over 4,000 feet so maybe snow already?

Tuesday we’ll head inland to the end of the desert and if we want ride a camel (which my wife has already done…long story but about got us kicked out of Saudi!). We’ll be mixing with the locals, and enjoying being disconnected for 5 days. I’m not bringing a computer, I’m not even looking for a Internet cafe. The world can live without me being connected for 5 days.

Happy National Day to all and we’ll see ya on the network next week!

[tags]China, Kashgar, vacation[/tags]

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Another long day but a good one over all. Taught middle schoolers how to create header images for their blogs or web sites. Taught a high school elective via video conference about wikis, tags, and rss to kick off the horizonproject. Then brought 9 new teachers into the blogosphere with an after school Professional Development opportunity.

On thing that is becoming clear is that it’s getting harder and harder to find a place to put a personal blog. Edublogs, Blogger, Yahoo 360, blogs.com, are all blocked and I don’t know where to tell teachers to turn too if they want to have a personal blog. I would love to be able to support them in creating one as there is no better way to learn a tool or see the benefits in it if the learner can make a person connection.

If anyone has a site they think might work from China please pass it along. Right now the only way I know how to run a blog is to host one yourself…which the average person doesn’t want to do. They want something, simple and free…a.k.a. blogger.

It’s times like this that living behind “The Wall” is frustrating.

[tags]China[/tags]

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Since Monday all blogger blogs have been blocked by China. It was good knowing you all for the past 5 months while blogger has been unblocked. It became unblocked when Google switched over to the new system and changed the IP address on its blogger server. This week China decided to block it again. Don’t worry the RSS feeds still come through, but I am not able to view a blogger site or leave a comment. So please know that I’m reading you, keeping up with what you’re writing…I just can’t respond.

Until the next unblocking…may your blog continue to bring you learning experiences.

[tags]China[/tags]

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Easy….your anti-virus can’t update fast enough. Last weekend while the western world was sleeping a sneaky little virus came crawling into my computer….by Monday I was sweating to recover my files.

Today another virus attach on our schools system flooding our system with false packets of information therefore not allowing computers to connect to the servers or the Internet.

You see our anti-virus programs are of course U.S. based companies and these latest two attacks have been Chinese born, meaning by the time the U.S. wakes up and the anti-virus companies create .dat files for them it’s too late.

So tomorrow our tech support guys think they can have my computer back to me. Which means a weekend of reinstalling all my programs and customizing my laptop.

It doesn’t alway pay to be ahead of the times. 🙂

[tags]China[/tags]

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