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

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It is day two here in San Jose at the California GAFE (Google Apps For Education) Summit. What a great summit for educators working at schools that have or are about to adopt Google Apps. 

gafesummit

Mark Wagner and team have put together a great event. With 70% of the participants new to Google Apps many of the sessions are focused on getting educators started with a sprinkling of real geekiness for those advance users. Of course being just a few miles away from Google Headquarters gives this summit a little extra something special with keynote from Jaime Casap and Dan Russell. The pressure is definitely on for my keynote next weekend at the Great Plains Google Summit

There’s a couple reasons why I think these events are and will continue to be successful. There are simple things that anyone planning a conference needs to think about.

Size Matters:

The more conferences I attend the more I am loving conferences that are between 400-600 people. It’s such a great size for discussions, for networking and for sessions. When planning your conference think about the size you want. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. A small group of passionate people can do a lot for the culture of a conference. We could have easily expand the Learning 2.0 conference to be much bigger but that was never our purpose. We want a nice group of passionate people to come and learn from each other. For me these are the ultimate size conferences. 

Trained Speakers:

Every speaker at the GAFE Summit is either a Google Certified Teacher or a Google Apps Certified Trainer. If you’re going to run a conference around a specific set of tools why not get people who are passionate about those tools to do the sessions? That’s what the Ed Tech Team has done and it has worked out well.

Keynotes That Know How to Lecture:

See my last blog post. Keynotes go a long way in setting the tone for the day of the conference. If you are going to have a keynote make sure you get a good one. Someone who understands what their job is and is able to make people laugh, cry and motivate them to learn. Or in Dan Russell’s case today, make you realize just how much you still have to learn and then….go learn it. 

 

In the end if you use Google Apps or if your school uses Google Apps or if you are an administrator at a school who uses Google Apps. This is a must attend event for you or some of your teachers. You can check out the GAFEsummit.com website for up and coming summits near you or if there is nothing in your neighbors have your school host one. I for one am looking forward to hopefully attending more summits in the future. When you are surrounded by passionate educators you can’t help but learn something!

(Blogged on a ChromeBook…more on this fun device later!)

 

Learning2
 

Excited to see the Learning 2.012 conference is filling up fast. The conference that I helped to start back in 2007 continues to explore the meaning of what it means to be a modern day conference. Every year the committee plays with different formats and different ways to get participants involved in the learning process. The one thing this conference has never had is a keynote speaker with the committee always trying to find ways to get participants involved in the learning process.

For Learning 2.012 in October the breakdown of sessions looks like this:

  • Two Extended Sessions led by Learning 2 Leaders (3 – 3.5 hours)
  • One Learning 2 Leaders presentation: the big idea in a nutshell
  • Two additional workshops or presentations
  • Two ‘unconference’ sessions
  • Three ‘cohort’ sessions in curriculum/common interest groupings
  • Three sets of Learning 2 Talk sessions

You’ll also want to check out the website and have a look at this years Learning Leaders. The conference continues to attract some of the best in the field and within International Education. 

I’m honored that after stepping down as a main conference organizer two years ago that the committee has asked me to stay involved and has again invited me back to be a learning leader. It is one of my favorite conferences to attend and be apart of for no other reason in that it’s just different from any other conference I’ve been to.

The Early Bird Registration ends this Friday (June 1st). If you haven’t registered already you might want to head on over and get registered quickly. After June 1st it will cost you an extra $50. I wouldn’t be so worried about the extra $50 as I would be that the conference will fill up. It’s limited to 500 participants.

Have you been to Learning 2.0 in the past? What have been your take aways from the conference?

If you are going in October what is it your looking forward to the most?

 

learning2011
 

Although I’m officially retired from the planning committee this year…..I’ve been honored as being invited as a speaker and cohort leader for next year’s Learning 2.011 conference. We learned a lot last year about using the cohort model along with the unconference approach and this year the organizers are once again pushing to redefine what it means to be a conference. That’s what I love about this conference, it’s created by educators that are looking to get out of the box, do things different and meet the needs of the 400 people who are lucky to attend. 

One great thing about holding this conference in China is presenters and cohort leaders love a free trip to China…that’s something you don’t get the chance at everyday and over the years we’ve been fortunate enough to continue to attract great cohort leaders and this year will be no different!

Year after year cohort leaders tell us this is one of the most switched on group of educators they get a chance to interact with. To listen to last year’s cohort leaders debrief stop by Wes Fryer’s blog where he’s posted a podcast of last years debrief with cohort leaders to get a feel of the conference and what to expect. 

Last year the conference sold out by July so you are gonna want to register early for this one!

Just wrapping up from ITSC11 in Portland and a previous conference send me a link to a survey from participants. This one frustrated me a bit:

Here’s the thing…first of all I’m never going to run a session that goes “Click here, now click here, now type here” I’m sorry, that’s not my style and if that is the reason your coming to a session at a conference then you’re telling me you are not an active motivated learner. That’s as bad as kids coming into our classrooms and saying “I don’t want to think, just tell me what to do, what to learn so I can learn it.”

Learners take responsibility for their learning and me telling you to click here, then click here isn’t going to help you learn it because the learning is out of context anyway. How many times have you had previous show you how to do something only to go to do it a couple days later and not remember? Learning does not happen if there is no context for the learning to take place.

I think the other thing that bothers me about these comments (this isn’t the first, and I’m sure not the last) is in every presentation I start by giving everyone permission to be off task and do what they need to do as a learner. If you want to click, go click, go learn. I never expect you to listen, or be active with what I’m saying. If what I’m saying isn’t motivating you, isn’t pushing you, isn’t what you need as a learner then that’s my fault not yours and go be off task. 

On the other end of the spectrum of course you have educators like intrepidteacher in this reflective blog post about a resent conference who is frustrated that many sessions are still doing the click here, then click here type workshops.

So here it is:

If you are looking for a presentation that is all about the tool and has nothing to do with the pedagogy or how and why you would use it…I’m not your man.

If you want a presentation where people just sit and get and don’t want to take responsibility for their own learning….I’m not your man.

That doesn’t mean we won’t “play” or “dabble” with technology. At ITSC we played with blogs for 2 hours, but people were free to click where they wanted to and taught themselves the software. I answered questions, led discussions, supported people 1-on-1, but other than pointing people in the right direction they had to learn it on their own.

What is the role of a conference? As conferences try and redefine themselves, try to stay relavent in a world where content is free and open. They become places of connections, discussions, and motivation. We still need conferences, not for the “stuff” but for the ability to come together with others and learn with them through conversations. 

I’m waiting for the conference that has no sessions, has no structure. But instead is just a specific time and place for people to come together and connect, discuss and learn.

The problem: Try to sell that conference to the powers-that-be. 🙂

I find myself sitting here in Kota Kinabaul, Malaysisa reflecting on what has been a 5 country, I don’t know how many presentation, month. From Bahrain to Iowa with Asia and Australia in between, it’s been an amazing month of travel and I find myself thinking and reflecting on all I’ve been talking about and learning along the way.

So here’s my brain dump of themes that keep emerging for me:

The future is mobile

Whether in the heartland of America, or the deserts of the Middle East and Africa, moble phones are the future of connectivity. We’re also seeing this with Apple’s iPad and the ability to connect to a 3G connection. My guess….every mobile device in 3 years will have the built in ability to connect via a celluar network. We’re already doing this, but it will just become part of the hardware of every mobile device. What this will do to/for places like Africa and a large part of the developing word I can only imagine…….but it excites me.

Society expects us to be connected

I’ve been preaching this everywhere this month as it came out of the TED Talk I did back in September. i think we need to stop making excuses for all of us spending to much time connected and just realize this is now the world we live in. Once we own this fact then we can start having some deep discussions around how do we teach in this new society, how do we communicate, and how do we live in a world that is constantly connected? We continue to have conversations about being “balanced” and I agree that we need to find ways to get off the computer and get reconnected with nature. But balance in the term of 50/50 is not going to happen and it hasn’t been that way for a long time. TVs are in our homes, gaming systems have been around now for 30 years, and we all have a cell phone or soon will. We are now in a time where being connected is the norm and being disconnected is not. We need to make this shift in our thinking. We need to consiously think about disconnecting, taking trips with no connective devices, which goes again societies rules right now and that’s what makes it difficult. A goal of every family should be to take 1 trip a year with no connective device. The only screen that should be allowed is a GPS. Everything else stays at home. I’m not talking just about the kids I’m talking the whole family which is where parents start shaking their heads. They think kids should do this but not them…….and that is not setting the example we need. Disconnecting is good, it’s healthy, and we need to model that.

Standards are past their prime

Here comes the tomatos! This recent post by Clarence Fisher just drives home the point for me. Standards can’t keep up in a constantly changing landscape that no one can predict what the content is students will need in the future. When content is free and open we need to focus on skills, concepts and dispositions. Content based outcomes after 2nd grade are useless and continue to change faster than the curriculum review cycles of our schools. I don’t know how many times in the past 5 years I’ve heard “We’ll fix that in our next curriculum review cycle” meanwhile for 3, 4, or 5 years, depending on your review cycle, we’re teaching stuff we don’t believe in or know is not relavent to students in a digital, always on socieity.

Using my school as an example….I beleive the only outcomes we need for any lesson are these factors that my school has agreed upon:

Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

– Explain its relevance

– Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning

– Communicate it effectively to others

– Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations

– Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning

– Ask questions to extend learning

– Create meaningful solutions

If every lesson, everything we did with kids focused on this, we’d be much better off and we’d return true power of teaching back to teachers.

Socially Connected World

We live in a socailly connected word. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or the next thing that comes along there is no turning back. As social-networks become part of our culture they are affecting the way we do bussiness (foursquare) the way we look for jobs and employees (92% of empolyers now use or plan to use social-networks) and how we communitcate with our friends and relatives. We know that learning is social, we know kids are going to need to understand how to get into college, or get a job being part of a social-network. So let’s start using them rather than continute to make excuses for not. FYI “We MIGHT get sued.” is an excuse.

Conferences Handouts are Changing

I use to use my own wiki for handouts. This year I haven’t had to use it once. Each conference I’ve gone to has had their own wiki, or site to put digital material one….well all except this admin conference I’m at now. But even I’m finding the wiki hard to keep up on, so I’ve moved to just creating a tag or using a tag I already have in Diigo and just giving that as the link to resources. For example, my talk on why we should be teaching students Facebook (read that as social-networking) in schools tomorrow is just using my Diigo tag of Facebook. Easy to update and I can update the list as the presentation is going on. I think this also shows a difference in my presentation style where I’m being much more convesation based and less giving of content. You can view the content when you want/have time. I only have you for 60 minutes and we need to have a discussion on why you aren’t doing these things, or what your fears are.

Social Media Community Manager

In many of the conversations I’ve been having someone also brings up “Who’s job is it to monitor all this stuff? I mean the schools Facebook Page, the Wikipedia entry, the Twitter account, the YouTube account, etc, etc.?

This a great question and my response is, and will be tomorrow to admin here in Asia, that we need a new position in our schools. We need Social Media Community Managers. A quick Google Search brought up some great job discriptions that any school could use to get started. I might write my own for schools when I get a change. This isn’t a new position in the business world, but is a new concept to education. I do think it’s time that we hire people or put someone in charge of managing our online school communities. Someone who has deep knowledge of social-networks and can get the most value out of them for schools.

Well…that’s what has been on my mind this last month…..feel better actually writing it down so I don’t forget. There might be more, but I can feel the jet lag settling in and I’ve gotta talk about Facebook and Twitter tomorrow with administartors……we’re gonna have some fun!

Here at ISB we get next week off for a well deserved fall break. Now most normal people here in Bangkok will head to one of the numerous amazing beaches and relax and recharge. To bad I’m not normal.

My next 10 days: BKK – TPE – NRT – MSP – DSM – MSP – NRT – TPE – BKI – KUL – BKK

(I’m sure there’s a game in there somewhere)

Yep…11 airport stops in 10 days, with a lot of presenting in between. Let me break it down for you.

TPE: Taipei

In about 2 hours I head to the airport and off to Taipei American School to wrap up the first course of the COETAIL program I’m teaching there. Tomorrow we’ll meet from 9 – 6 reflecting on the course, sharing projects, talking about PLNs and setting up Twitter accounts. The second half of the day we’re going to have a K12online LAN party so get ready for some new educators on Twitter and be looking for our podcast of the LAN party sometime next week (I’ll have plenty of time to edit on the planes).

DSM: Des Monies, Iowa

My next stop takes me to the middle of the good ole’ USA to work with administrators and Scott McLeod. I’m a bit worried as what I’ll be talking about includes an open web and students publishing openly in order for us to teach them to be safe. The idea of ‘open’ usually doesn’t go over to well in the State and people look at me like I’m a freak. The fear factor is so high around student’s publishing that is truly breaks my heart…and from someone on the outside looking in it looks really bad.

My work with Scott takes me to Minneapolis where I’ll fly out of.

BKI: Kota Kanabalu, Malayasia

Last stop takes me to the EARCOS Leadership Conference. By far the roughest part of the trip (NOT!). I’ll be talking with administrators in the South East Asia Region about technology and were do we go from here. International Schools here in Asia are rolling out 1:1 laptop programs quickly and by 2012 (a date I set 3 years ago) there will be a clear line of those that are and those that are not 1:1 schools.

So, if my blog posts come in waves over the next week it’s because I was able to do a lot of thinking while flying just short of 20,000 miles. 

Let the fun and travel begin!

 

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!

I have 30 minutes before I leave for the airport and head back to Seattle for what’s left of my summer vacation.

As I reflect on this years ISTE conference a couple things come to mind.

WiFi:
A HUGE shout out to the organizers and the Convention Center. By far this has been the best WiFi access at any ISTE conference since I’ve been coming (this is my 5th). It was slow at times, but overall the ability to keep a connection running among 13,000+ geekie educators was very smooth. I hope it stays this way in the future.

iPads:
They were everywhere! I know they sold 2 million in the first two months, but I swear half of those were here at the conference! I’m not sure what the future holds for this device, but all I heard about was battery life, battery life, battery life! Looking forward to seeing how they are used in schools next year with students.

My first ISTE presentation:
This year I finally made it in the program and gave my first ever ISTE presentation. I hope it was useful to those who attended. You can find the handouts here along with the videos that people seemed to enjoy.

Conversations:
Once again I’ve been reminded on what’s the real reason we still fly to conferences like this. It’s for the conversations. Those planned like the ones at EduBloggerCon and those unplanned like the one’s we have here at Blogger’s Cafe. In the end, we like being with others in person, we like the human factor of sitting and chatting with those we learn from year round. I spent more time offline rather than online this conference just enjoying being here with others. I’m online with them the rest of the year…..I only get three days of being with them in person.

Where do we go?
I keep asking myself if anything has changed in the 5 years since I’ve started attending ISTE (NECC) conferences….and I’m not sure if anything has. There are more people hanging out at the Blogger’s Cafe, there are more blogging educators and that’s fantastic. But looking through the sessions I didn’t notice much of a change. There was no sessions on RSS this year, yet some educators I talked to who are attending for the first time had never heard of RSS.

The theme of “Mobile” and “Global” were prominent and I’m seeing the same trends in conferences around the world. Everyone is talking about mobile devices and how do we help students become more globally minded.

I believe it starts with teachers. We need more teachers to think globally. The tools are here, the ideas and lessons and connections are out there….now we just need to do it.

We need to help teachers to learn to reach (shameless self-promotion) out and create connections that they can bring back into their classrooms in supporting kids.

We can’t help students be globally minded if we are not globally minded ourselves.

So there’s your focus this year. How do you become or help others become more globally minded? How do we help students teach students the power of connecting and understand the networks that this new digital landscape is made of?

Those are the questions I’m walking away with this year from ISTE.

What I love about presenting is how themes emerge within my presentations that I was never thinking about before the conference begins. But somewhere in the process of doing 6 presentations at the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference a theme in my sessions emerged.

What is your container?

We talked in many of my sessions about having a container to house all of your web “stuff”. What that contain looks like really doesn’t matter as long as:

A. It works for you
B. It allows EVERYTHING to be embeded

When you create a “class container” think of it as not just a place to actually put stuff, but a place that allows you to pull in information from other parts of the web. It should allows you to the following:

1. Embed YouTube Videos
2. Embed RSS Feeds
3. Embed Slideshare Slides
4. Anything else that has a standard embed code.

Using the above criteria your container could be:

1. A Blog
2. A Wiki
3. A Ning
4. A Moodle Course
5. Netvibes.com
6. Pageflakes.com
7. Share your container in the comments

All of these above containers work. Find the one that fits your needs and either is unblocked at your school or your school has adopted system wide and start creating your online classroom.

At our school we’ve adopted two formats school wide. Our Elementary Teachers are using blogs and when you view them as a container you can see what I’m talking about. Here are a couple of good examples:

There are others, but I think these four when viewed as “Blogs as Containers” make the point clear.

In our Middle School and High School we’re using Moodle. I can’t show you any examples as our Moodle Courses are password protected but within Moodle you can embed all of the above and put RSS feeds in the sidebars. A Moodle course can easily become your container.

Once you view your class website as a container it allows you to think outside the walls of that container and ask yourself:

What can I pull into my space to enhance the online learning landscape for my students?

You don’t have to create it all….you just have to know/understand that you can pull things into your space to create a rich learning environment.

The Netvibes page we are using with all 5th graders is starting to become a grade level container. You can see how we’ve pulled in a couple of things, we can do more with it, and next year I think as this idea sinks in, teachers will want to use it more as a container than just an RSS Feed reader.

Then there’s the Ning that Alan November set up in about 5 minutes in a presentation at the EARCOS conference. As he was talking to the audience I created the site in literally 5 minutes, added a video, embedded the Twitter feed for the conference, embedded a custom search engine, and created a link to notes from another session. We didn’t even use any of the built in features to get started. Instead we were able to instantly create a container for the conference and pull all of the information on the web into that one spot. A one-stop shop for everyone online about this conference and for the educators of EARCOS. If you are an EARCOS teacher or you are looking to connect with teachers in the Asia region to do a project EARCOS-Ed is the place to make those connections happen.

Take a look at your classroom site…..is it a container? Does it allow you to pull in information from around the web. Can you create a container of learning?

Feel free to show us your example of a classroom container in the comments!

As I sit here in my hotel room an hour away from starting my official Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE) training this question keeps popping into my head.

Do you support People or Platforms?
Flickr ID: Wader

It’s an interesting question…that I continue to reflect on. We all have strengths and weaknesses in the computer programs/platforms that we know. But do we some time support the platform rather than the people?

Is there a difference?

Can you support people without supporting a platform?

Just some questions that are running through my head as I start my 5 day training on everything Apple.