I told this story as my 10 minute TED talk at Learning 2.008. As September 19th was The Stick’s 3 year anniversary.


The Thinking Stick turned 3 a few days ago and it’s hard to imagine that it’s been 3 years since I installed WordPress and just started writing. As I started looking back through those first posts I started thinking about the journey that this blog has taken me on.

My first blog post was about a 5th grade classroom called the Polar Bear Class. The website no longer exists but this was my beginning into blogging. Talking about a class that was creating there own website. The website was not another subject, but was just what they did. It was apart of their classroom, it was a part of their learning.

My first comment came on post #10. Made by a good friend who at the time was teaching in Dubai. It was at that moment that I realized people where reading, even if only my friends….people were reading.

Post #14 Titled: Microwave Popcorn. One of the great first posts. Those of you that blog you know this post. The one that is going to get lots of comments. The post that will make people want to write, want to respond, want to engage in a discussion. The post talks about how technology works it’s way into our daily lives. How in 1982 I remember my father driving a combine in the Palouse all summer to save enough money to buy our first microwave and how today it is a part of every kitchen. My wife and I just moved to Bangkok, Thailand and our first major purchase…..a microwave.

The post was great, well written, well scripted. Guess how many comments……0!

Post #21 The Stick gets its first comment that is not from my friend Reece. The comment was left by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Little did I know at that time that Sheryl would become part of my learning network and over the next three years I would learn more from her about building virtual communities on the web than from anyone else. You see, The Stick was the start of our connection.

Post #25 I recieve my second comment from someone other than my friend Reece. This one left by Dean Shareski. My favorite part of the comment was this:

PS. Did you know your flickr zietgiest includes pictures of nude women? I was a bit taken back when I came on your site. Just curious if you intended that or not.

You see I was still trying to figure out the tools and some how didn’t have the flickr badge configured correctly. I made changes to the badge that day and learned some quick html as well.

Over the next 3 years Dean would become a valuable node in my network and at one point while he was teaching an undergrad class in Canada and I a graduate class in the States we would have our students create a wiki together. Learning from each other and learning the value of wikis in education. The Stick started that connection.

Post #28 Tim Lauer leaves a comment on a Firefox extension that allows you to highlight text on a web page. I would later meet Tim at NECC that year and he would become the first person in my Personal Learning Network that I would meet face to face.

But the big coming out party in my eyes for The Thinking Stick was on post #36. The title: NETS in a 2.0 World. I remember writing that post while in a meeting and posting it. Basically I took the NETs (the old ones at the time) and did a find and replace with the words Technology and Information.

I went to bed that night not thinking anything of it and woke up the next morning at 5am to find 6 comments and trackbacks on the post. I was completely taken by surprise. Up until this point to my knowledge I had 4 people reading my blog and all of a sudden I have 6 comments?

One comment/trackback was left by David Warlick. I couldn’t believe it! David was one of the first people I found in the blogosphere, he’s one of those “big bloggers”. He’s reading my stuff? Not only that he left a comment and gave me the hightest complement you can give to a blogger….he linked to my blog.

I remember going back into the bedroom and waking my wife up.

“Honey….it’s time to get up.”

“5 more minutes”

“No honey you have to get up now and you’ll never beleive who left a comment on my blog.”

“You’re waking me up because someone left a comment on your blog?”

“No, I’m waking you up because it’s time to get up, and not just someone…..David Warlick!”

“Who’s David Warlick?”

That was the moment when I realized what this network really was. It’s not about blogging. It’s about understanding that leanring takes place through connections. Whether we are connecting people, information, knowledge, or thoughts. That the learning lies within the connections that we make. My blog is where I started in making those connections, connections that have lead me down a path of deeper learning than I ever knew possible.

The Thinking Stick is now 3. It contains some 598 posts and over 2200 comments and trackbacks. I’m not sure how it all happened. It’s a learning blur that just seems to be there. My blog is my connection creator, my reflection engine, and where my journey of learning has been over the past 3 years. Thanks you for reading, Thank you for being a part of my network.

Other stats if you are interested. Not that they mean anything, just kind of fun to look at.

Technorati Authority: 226
Technorati Ranking: 19,182

From Google Analytics
54% of traffic comes for Search Engines

From Clustrmaps
Running total of visits to the above URL since 12 Jun 2006: 73,720
Total since archive, i.e. 17 Jun 2008 – present: 15,145 (not necessarily all displayed – see below).
Visits on previous ‘day’: 174.

Photo Credit: Zenat_el3ain

Yes we try and make the Learning 2.008 Educational Technology conference a little different each year. We don’t just talk about changing the was we teach and learn, we try and model it as well. We don’t always succeed but it’s about taking risks and pushing ourselves as educators. We can not expect educators to go to a conference where we tell them that they need to take risks, learn something new, and reflect without us as conference organizers doing the same.

We continue to try and do that sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. We’ve already learned a lot this year about the hassle of trying to accept Credit Card payments. It’s not as easy as one might think and then put China on top of it and…well…let’s just say we took a risk and this time it didn’t pay off. But we learned something! We learned that Pay Pal is not the answer and that if we do continue the conference in the future we’ll have to rethink some things.

We’re also rethinking how to hold a pre-conference. With over 150 teachers (at this point) flying in from all over the world for the conference during a school week we had to think about how we best utilize time. We wanted to run a pre-conference but found that many schools and educators weren’t willing to release teachers (or didn’t want to miss time with students) for a pre-conference day or two before the actual conference. David Gran one of the main conference organizers contacted Chris Smith who owns International School Island in Second Life. Together they’ve been working to create a SLearning 2.008 Pre-Conference not only for those who will attend the conference in Shanghai, but for all of you who want to participate virtually.

Chris has created an amazing setting on International School Island in Second Life for our 3 pre-conference sessions. Below you will find the dates, times, and events. I hope you can make all three events, but I’d like to draw your attention especially to the third date, Sunday, September 14th. This event, one week before the “Real Life” conference will be an open forum for our Learning 2.008 Committee to meet and talk with participants. Note that this will be 9 PM Shanghai Time.

Dates (Sundays)


  • 6:00am S.L. time (California)
  • 9:00am New York time
  • 2:00pm UK time
  • 5:00pm Dubai time
  • 8:00pm Bangkok time
  • 9:00pm Hong Kong/China time

If you are unfamiliar with Second Life, its a great opportunity to log on and give it a whirl. It’s pretty easy to get started, but you’ll need to download the program from : http://secondlife.com/ . Once you’ve downloaded the program, entering the SLurl below into your browser will take you directly to International Schools Island. If you need any help at all, contact Chris Smith or David Gran.

* International Schools Island
* SLurl http://tinyurl.com/2o44dw
* http://slurl.com/secondlife/International%20Schools%202/71/172/56

Chris has done an amazing job in organizing this, and it will be a great opportunity to participate in an online collaboration in a 3D environment. I hope you’ll join us.

Today I had the pleasure of doing a short presentation for our IB Theory of Knowledge class. I was invited in to give a lesson on how knowledge is changing in the 21st century. My first thought was “How do I tell students knowledge has changed, when they already know that?”

I set up 3 Skype accounts for students to login to and keep notes on. I did not want to only talk about how knowledge is changing I wanted them to experience it. To feel the power of collective note taking, the power of multiple perspectives on a subject or theory. The 3 Skype accounts where for 17 students making them anonymous. I figured that if they were  anonymous that the students would fell free to write more about what they were thinking, willing to take a risk and stretch their thinking.

In the end the laptops didn’t have Skype installed (it’s part of our image but these were Science laptops and didn’t have the new image on them). But I did at the same time podcast the conversation (to be posted later) telling students that in this new world of knowledge, not only do you acquire it, but you then publish it for others to use as an information nod as well.

I used George Siemens Connectivism Theory as a starting point and we went from there. I put together a little Wiki page for the students so as they do their homework assignment tonight they have the links that we talked about today.

So here I was in the middle of teaching students about how knowledge has changed. How it is the connections that the Internet allows us to make that is changing knowledge and information acquisition, and at the same time thinking about the conversation that has been sparked by a recent techlearning post of mine.

If you’re out of the loop on the conversation here’s a recap:

1. Fear Factor
2. Teachers & Technology – a rant!
3. Why teachers Don’t Use Web 2.0 – an historical perspective
4. Why teachers Use Web 2.0
5. Stager, Logo and Web 2.0
6. Web 2 is Like Logo?

And now this post.

There are a lot of great quotes that I could take from all of these posts and they have all made me think.

First off….logo? Seriously…I know the program was popular but I never saw it in school. I never knew it was made to be an educational program and I have no experience with it. Now, Stager takes me on a little history of educational technology and what a great lesson, but at the end of the day, like most teachers. I really don’t care. What I want to know is how is this going to affect my teaching and student learning today?

Warlick makes an interesting observation in his Web 2 is Like Logo? post where he finds that neither I nor himself used the phrase Web 2.0 in our posts and it wasn’t until Stager’s post that the conversation shifted to a Web 2.0 focus.

In my original post I talk about tools, tools that I feel could be using in education. They are not educational tools, but then again neither are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but they seem to be used in education a lot. We loaded these tools because if teachers were open to exploring them, we wanted them to feel free to explore, to use, and to change the way teaching happens and knowledge is acquired. Today I was excited to show a teacher just how Skype could be used (or any IM application for that matter). Instant Messaging is not Web 2.0…in fact I think it would pretty much fall under the Web 1.0 heading. But neither is the point. My real point is that this is a tool that students use, that students know, and that I believe if used properly in the classroom could have and impact on student learning…or at the very least student note taking.

Downes writes:

When I speak to teachers these days, I don’t tell them how to improve the way they teach their students. I talk to them about how they can improve the way they teach themselves.

I think this is where we need to begin. After giving my little talk today to the 11th graders I helped them sign up with our Moodle installation for the class. It was interesting to watch them learn. To watch them help each other out and watch them teach themselves and each other. This came through in Warlick’s Rant as well. You can not introduce these new connectivist tools and not change the way you teach. By connectivist tools I mean a computer with an Internet connection.

It’s not about Web 2.0 it’s about learning! It’s about changing the way we all learn and then as good teachers do take those skills and teach others. If our teachers are still learning in traditional ways they will continue to teach in traditional ways. However if you’ve ever been with a teacher that has learned these new literacy skills, who has embraced them and seen their power like all of us, then they teach them to their students.

We are finishing up our third week of school and the 5th grade teachers who I worked closely with last year have already set all their students up with blogs, are starting to teach RSS and are planning a unit on having their students create blog grading rubrics. Why? Because they see how these new literacies change teaching and learning. They are excited about it and in return the students are too. Some students have blogged every day so far even though they’ve only been given one blogging assignment…and it’s not about blogging…it about writing at this point. One student has written 3 chapters of a story on his blog…that is writing done outside of class, on his own.

We need to understand how connecting to this wider and deeper body of knowledge changes our classrooms. It’s not about Web 2.0. It’s not about where we were in education, nothing has ever been accomplished by looking backwards. We need to focus on teaching teachers these new literacy skills so they can in turn teach students.

You can not teach that which you do not know! The kids are ready…today after reading Siemen’s Connectivism Theory paper I asked the 11th graders what they thought. One student blurted out “I agree!”

They’re ready…we need to get over our fears, get messy, and get with it or like everyone I’ve quoted here says: School will become irrelevant. And that should be our biggest fear of all.

[tags]David Warlick, Gary Stager, Stephen Downes, Miguel Guhlin, Web 2.0, education[/tags]

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I swear I passed myself in the hallway today. The last two weeks have been a whirl wind but I wanted to take some time at 11pm tonight to actually reflect on the past two weeks and some fun and amazing stuff that is going on here.

Last week I set up all 3 of my classes with a netvibes account (RSS reader). This week we started taking the first 10 minutes of each tech class to read through our feeds. We learned all sorts of stuff. A strange shark found off of Japan. Parents suing Myspace, we get the latest football and basketball scores from the guys and the girls give us the latest scope from the entertainment world. I allow the students to wonder away from tech in these 10 minutes although I always share something about technology to model what I expect. I see it as connecting, as gathering and reporting information. At first they were a little unsure about the whole netvibes thing. This week they are adding feeds left and right, reading, looking, interacting and today started responding to others. I’ve decided to do this backwards this time. Starting with RSS, then reading, then responding, then writing. It’s working I think as today every class asked me “When do we get our blogs?” so the interest is there.

I did try and get the students registered with our WordPressMU installation today. But for some reason it wouldn’t let them register. There are 122 blogs registered at the site and I’m not sure what happened today. It said they had registered, but their blogs never showed up and the confirmation e-mails never came.

Also over at our blog headquarters I successfully installed a plug-in that list the latest postings. So now when students go to the site, the latest 10 postings show up with the first 100 words. It’s fun to see an 11th graders post on the human brain, next to a 5th grade reflection of their day of learning. A great mix that I hope will see some cross river (our two campuses) and cross grade level comments.

I also set up the 5th grade teachers with netvibes accounts and showed them how RSS works so they can easily monitor all 18 of their student blogs. They loved it and just kept saying how much of a time saver this was going to be. I also gave them 22 edublogs to start reading (Full Disclosure: The Thinking Stick, U Tech Tips, Pudong Nerve Central, Teentek.com and Techlearing, all blogs I post at were included in the 22 links)

Last Friday was our first podcast at Pudong Nerve Central for the 2nd Semester which meant two new DJs for the program. I also was thinking about….and continue to do so….how to help students to understand the issues behind downloading illigal music from such Peer 2 Peer programs as LimeWire. So I talked to our DJs and we decided that each podcast will feature a “Free Download of the Week”. This song will be a legal free download from such sites as www.podsafeaudio.com or music.podshow.com. Each week the girls will choose a song they want to share with our listening audience. In the podcast notes we will provide a link to that artist’s web site where others can download the song for free under an open-source or CC license. Last week we featured Win or Lose by Donny Carver. Yesterday we received a Thank You e-mail from Donny for playing his song. Which we thought was pretty cool. The DJs are into it now, I just hope the student body gets something out of it. I know it won’t stop them from downloading songs via LimeWire, but my issue here is they don’t get that it’s illegal. Everyone does it here in China and most of the rest of the developing world. I understand that it’s not going to stop, but I want them to at least understand the issues around it, which I’m finding to be very difficult. I struggle with this on a daily basis. Ethics when it comes to anything digital in China, doesn’t exist.

On top of all this I’ve also been chin deep in planning our upcoming Tech Fest. Trying to finalize David Warlick’s schedule that spands a week on two different campuses, includes two parent talks, and a host of other meetings is one thing. Trying to organize 30+ technology sessions is something completely different. I’ve been luckly as I’ve had a couple of tech team members step up these last two weeks and help out a ton.

It’s now 11:30 and I’ve only commented on one of about 30 postings I want to. But the eye lids are calling my name, so the comments will have to wait yet again.

Update: The opml file that I started my students with.

[tags]SAS, Techfest, David Warlick, podcasting[/tags]

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