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Well it’s official my 2013 travel season is over. I’m 33 miles short of flying 250,000 miles.

But let’s put this 249,967 miles into perspective.

  • I traveled around the world 10 times at the equator
  • I traveled to the moon and 11,067 miles back to earth

And now for my top 10 ways you know you traveled almost 250k in one calendar year (feel free to add your own in the comments).

  1. Foursquare congratulates you for checking into your home airport 4 consecutive weeks.
  2. The TSA agent checking your documents says “Weren’t you just here?”
  3. The Delta Sky lounge bartender knows you by name and starts pouring your bloody mary as soon as he sees you.
  4. You’ve flown on every international flight that leaves your home airport to Asia and Europe.
  5. You run out of toothpaste, deodorant and shaving cream in your travel case before you do at home.
  6. You start booking flights based on the airplane type and legroom (777, 787 over 330; 747 over 340; 737-900 over 320)
  7. You understand #6
  8. When booking tickets you instantly look for 24A or whatever your favorite seat number is. (I flew in 24A more than any other seat this past year)
  9. When people ask you “Where do you fly next?” you honestly don’t know.
  10. You forget what jet lag feels like, perfecting the art of sleeping anywhere at any time.

I am excited to see where 2014 takes me…..with trips to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil already lined up in the first few months. It’s going to be another great year of sharing and learning with educators all over the world. There is a lot of exciting possiblities coming in 2014. Taking advantage of the pause and preparing for the next big thing.

This week I had the opportunity to do a talk at the ECIS IT Pre-Conference here in Amsterdam. I found it challenging to come up with a message to help drive a conversation forward when you’re speaking to the committed. Usually my talks are aimed at teachers who need a reason to use technology in their classroom not to those already understanding the changes taking place and wanting to know where we go from here.

It was a great challenge as it forced me to really think deep about where we are right now in this world of technology integration…and just where we are in the world in general right now.

What I came up with is this:

To start with I have come to an understanding that this technology trajectory we are on isn’t a straight line. That we go through moments of great technological growth…usually around new hardware….and then we have these plateau periods. They might not be as flat as they look in this image…but there are definitely slower periods I think of innovation as we prepare for the next disruption.

So the image above shows my thoughts on this kind of innovation and plateau idea that I think we go through.

We saw steep climbs when the desktop came out…then there was a period of using them before the Internet came out that created another steep climb of innovation. The laptops and then mobile where other steep moments in technology innovation. These times when we try to figure out what we do with this thing. How does it impact education, what’s it’s best use, etc. We are all trying to figure out how to best use this new technology.

In between these climbs we have moments of pause that allow us to really look at learning, the new technology, and start thinking of ways to really truly use it in the classroom to impact student learning.

I believe we are in one of these pauses right now….we’ve been in one since about 2011…or a year after the iPad came out. There hasn’t been any real new technology. Sure things get faster, smaller, lighter…but it’s all mobile right now…that’s the stage we’re in. I think we also have a couple years left in this pause before wearable technology creates the next steep stage and sends us all once again scrambling to figure out how this new technology impacts education.

I have been thinking about how we use this time well. How do we use this pause to go really deep in our understanding and integration of what we have at our finger tips? Most of you that read this blog are either technology teachers, integration people, IT people…or teachers passionate about technology. I think this is the question we need to be focused on right now. How do we go deep into really changing what the classroom and education looks like? We don’t have a whole lot of time as the next stage….wearable….is right around the corner. We might have two years or so left to really think deeply about integration before we’re all playing with this new phase of technology hardware and figuring out things again….basically starting over. What we learn during this pause will make that next stage that much easier to handle. If we have a deep understanding of technology integration and the role it places in the classroom and within learning then we can apply that knowledge to the new tool, see what it disrupts, see what it changes, and then use the next pause to really integrate it deeply into education.

Below is a hangout done by John Pederson and Dean Shareski. Two smart guys who make a living in this space. John asks Dean the question of what tool in the last year is going to stick? Dean has a hard time answering the question…in fact they both do….why…. because we’re in a pause. Every tool they talk about using is older than a year….in fact every tool they mention have been around for several years now. Why? Because we’re in a pause. It’s an interesting conversation and I just like listening to two smart guys struggle with a question that for people who make a living in this space should be easy.

So here’s the challenge. If we’re in a pause….let’s take advantage of it. Let’s stop for a moment asking what’s the next thing…..it will be wearable…we know that…and we have some time before it’s here. So let’s enjoy this moment and take the opportunity to go deep in our thinking of how we use the tools we have really really well. Let’s really look at the theory of Connectivism. Let’s really look at SAMR and TPACK and make our brains hurt going really deep and having the hard conversations of how all these tools we have really impact education in meaningful and lasting way.

Those are the conversations I want to be having. The conversation of how does everything we have available today truly impact the learning environment? Stop asking me what device or what platform. Let’s move pass these questions and go deep into something different…something better.

by Rwanda Government
by Rwanda Government

As many of you know I have been keeping an eye on what is happening in Africa when it comes to Internet connect and how it is and is going to radically change the landscape there. Africa just help the transform Africa Summit. There have been some great articles written on what was discussed at the summit. I thought I would just share some information via news reports and quotes that have me shaking my head in excitement.

Rwanda recently signed a $140 million (£87 million) deal with Korea Telecom, which will see the company deliver 4G LTE internet to 95 percent of citizens within three years. Despite 5,000km of fibre-optic cable already being laid in the country, only 8.3 percent of the Rwanda’s 12 million citizens are currently connected to the internet. The government is hoping that the rollout of 4G, which kicks off this week, will change this. (wired UK)

Nsengimana demoed the new 4G in action. In a side-by-side test, it reached speeds 90Mbps, while the 3G network managed just 0.5Mbps. For education, he said, this means the difference between being able to study texts online and enabling students to access multimedia and participate fully in online classrooms(wired UK)(Bold by me)

“They should adopt a leapfrogging approach,” he said. “They should take advantage of broadband, because they are not impeded by legacy industries.” (wired UK)

Last year, 40 tablet computers were delivered to the children of two remote Ethiopian villages. The villagers were 100 percent illiterate—the kids had never seen road signs, product labels, or printed material of any kind.

Within weeks, they were singing their ABCs, picked up from the English-language learning software installed on the tablets. Within five months, some kid figured out that the tablets had built-in cameras—they had been disabled for ethical reasons—and hacked the Android operating system to activate them. (reason.com)

One Laptop Per Child considered the Ethiopian kids’ hack a success. “The kids had completely customized the desktop—so every kids’ [sic] tablet looked different. We had installed software to prevent them from doing that,” a contrite Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, told the MIT Technology Review. “And the fact that they worked around it was clearly the kind of creativity, the kind of inquiry, the kind of discovery that we think is essential to learning.”

On Oct. 1, LAUSD pronounced its ed tech experiment temporarily out of control and admitted that several schools were in the process of attempting to pry the new tablets from their students’ clammy hands. (reason.com)

Both of the articles quoted above are worth a read and so are the links within them. At the same time Bill Gates was interviewed earlier this week about his thoughts on technology being a game changer around the world. It’s an interesting view point from a man who’s mission has been to make this world a better place. I agree with Bill that there are things that giving people a connection can’t solve…or can they? What if you know how to treat a disease? What if you learn how to keep disease down in your tride? What if you learn better birthing techniques by reading something on the web? I don’t know…that connection can be pretty powerful. It’s already overthrown governments and changing the GPD of countries in Africa which means more money for more medicine for more people.

What I love…is right now we’re approaching this from both ends. NGOs and Mr. Gates are hitting things like malaria head on…which is awesome…and now if we can get those same people an Internet connection we impower them to change and learn. To mean it’s not an either or right now but a both.

How time flies as the miles pile up. I have just passed the halfway point of a crazy two months of traveling and presenting. Yes….From the end of September to the end of November I will have flown 70,000 miles and yes….all of it in economy (because I know you were wondering).

It has been a tired, fun, exhausting, passionate time and now that I’m somewhere over the North Pole on my to Seoul, Korea to start course 4 of COETAIL, I finally have time to think about what my learning has been and reflect on this journey.

ICS Addis Ababa – COETAIL

It was great to return to Ethiopia where things continue to move at an incredible rate within the country. I was there for a week to kick off course 3 of COETAIL and while there was asked by the Administration if I would help them bring the Learning2 conference to Africa. I’m exciting to announce that Learning2 Africa will be held September 18-20 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the campus of the International Community School. You’ll be hearing more about this for sure here on the blog. We believe this is the first ever educational technology focused conference on the continent and definitely the first geared towards international schools.

glassGoogle Apps Summit South Korea

Jim Sill and team put on another great Google Apps Summit in South Korea. It was very well attended and I got to finally try on a pair of Google Glasses. Mind blowing cool.

Learning 2.013 in Singapore

Another amazing Learning2 conference this year in Singapore. This conference continues to change and evolve and re-event what a conference experience should be. I find it so interesting that this conference and it’s different formats have been HUGELY successful over the last 7 years yet no conference has tried to replicate it. I have been to a lot of conferences but none that push the boundaries of participants expectations, learning, and community building like this one.

ITEC Keynote

I had the great pleasure of keynoting the Iowa Technology Educators Conference in Des Moines. As the second day keynote I saw it as my job to motivate and spark passion in the conference goers to make this conference matter to them and their schools when they went back to the classroom. We’ll have to wait for the survey results to see if I hit my mark.

It was also great to chat with Scott McLeod again. A great guy doing great things in the state of Iowa.

ISTurin 50% Anniversary Celebration

I was honored to be asked to keynote the 50% anniversary of the International School Turin in Turin, Italy. I had a great time with the staff and the keynote went well. Best part was an hour talk to the high school students challenging them to create their digital profiles now. To be creative, to tell the world they exist and to matter. Still love talking and working with students.

What’s my big take away?

Throughout all this travel and experiences I have to say my biggest takeaway is just how amazing of a time we live in. As I said in my keynotes, we are living in a time where science-fiction is meeting reality. Flying cars by 2020, self-driving cars by 2017, watches that we can talk to and talk to us, glasses that give us information instantly when we need it and space travel becoming a common thing. Just the fact that I leave Iowa and 18 hours later can be in Italy is amazing…it really is.

We are so lucky to be living in this time period….and it’s just getting started. What about 3D printing, medical advances, and the global connections that will continue to change our way of thinking. The world is changing at an amazing pace and most of it, I would argue, for the better.

However, when I look at education I’m not sure where it’s going. Is it keeping up? Is it transforming like the world around it? If it is…..I don’t see it. If it isn’t then where does that leave us? 99% of all schools in America will have Internet access the greatest resources known to man by 2018 and yet it hasn’t changed the way we think about education or educating. The Internet is the greatest app on any device. By itself it allows new learning opportunities that we couldn’t and still can’t imagine possible. Yet very few classrooms, fewer schools, and even fewer districts are really looking at how this single resource transforms learning in amazing ways.

Something has to give right? I mean the educational system at some point needs to adapt to society’s norms correct? If it doesn’t where does that leave us? I understand that education is conservative. I understand that education is slow to change. But the world has changed I’m experiencing it first hand from conversations on airplanes with business leaders (yes….they fly economy too…I know right?…who is in business class?) and global workers, to just what I observe in the corners of the world I have been so lucky to visit. We need to do better for our students because the world that they are going into is incredibly awesome and my hope is they’ll be ready to take full advantage of it.

This article from The Guardian has been sitting in my inbox now for about a month. Waiting mostly for me to calm down so I can write about this halfway intelligently.

Let’s start with this:

Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University, said sexting – where schoolchildren are encouraged to take explicit photographs of themselves and send to other pupils – was a problem in most schools, despite the study revealing that 89% of parents believe their child has not been touched by cyberbullying or sexting.

“There is a disconnect between how safe parents think they can keep their children online and their actual ability to do that,” Phippen said. “Those conversations are not being had – we have a hell of a long way to go on internet safety. In schools we hear teachers unwilling to talk to teenagers about sexual images because they worry about their jobs, schools unwilling to record instances of cyberbulling because they are worried about their Ofsted reports.”

Now add this:

AVG security expert Tony Anscombe said half of the parents consider a school’s internet safety policy when making their selection, and 95% thought online safety should be mandatory in schools. “We know parents take responsibility of online safety seriously […] yet we’re not living up to the standards we’re setting by avoiding conversations about exposure to explicit adult content, privacy or other Internet-related threats,” he said. “It comes as no surprise then that nearly 90% of parents aren’t aware of whether their child has been exposed to cyberbullying or sexting – two of the most common internet risks facing children.”

So where do we go from here? Well it should start with conversations both at home and at school. However, conversations at school are hard when the sites that we need to have the conversations about are blocked and do not allow us to teach about them. When we don’t face websites like Facebook head on, we allow them to become places of Cyberbullying. You want to help decrease cyberbullying on Facebook? UNBLOCK it! Not one school that I have talked to has said that cyberbullying has increased once Facebook was unblocked. Instead cyberbullying decreases because:

  1. We have shined a light on the dark corner
  2. We can now talk about it in school
  3. We can use it and show students how powerful of a tool it can be as well as how dangerous it can be
Photo Credit: Joybot via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Joybot via Compfight cc

Two of the most common internet risks facing children are sexting and cyberbullying. Not predators on the Internet. By blocking sites, we are not keeping our students safe, we are giving them a place to hide. The online predator thing was and has continued to be an overblown idea since 2009 with this report (NYTimes article worth a read).

Yet when schools tell me “we need to keep kids safe” they more often than not are talking about online predators when really we should be talking about keeping kids safe from kids. That we can do by educating, but we can only educate if we are given the tools to educate with. Which means unblocking social-networking site and teaching students how to use them propertly.

Let’s start by giving every student a public blog in say 3rd grade and then teach them what it means to be in public. Who can access it? Where does the content go? How does this all work becuase class after class that I visit from 4th grade through seniors in high school have no idea where their content goes when they click “Publish”.

The survey of 2,000 parents carried out by AVG technologies and Plymouth University found 92% were confident about their ability to teach online safety. “People tend to think they are protected in some way, that there are parental fixes in place – but that is not always the case,” said Phippen.

Let’s get over this idea of “protection”. The best way to be protected is to be educated. The best way to educate is to be in these spaces, understand them, learn how to use them, with an adult. Sure at my last school we had students misuse their blogs, but it led to a conversation to help that student understand. I would much rather have a conversation about how to use these sites properly in 4th grade before habits are set and they mess up their careers later in life. We’re so worried about protecting that we are not educating.

The only way we are going to help solve this issue is through education. By unblocking sites we not only actually help educators do this, but we open up amazing learning opportunities at the same time. It’s a win – win situation for everyone.

I was reading and commenting on COETAIL blogs when I came across this blog post from Julie. Julie and Gwen (a teacher and a librarian) work at the American Coopertive School of Tunis, where on September 14th a protest across the street from the school at the American Embassy turned violent.

The school was burned and looted during the protest. Gwen put together this video of some of the destruction that happened at the school and specifically the library.

Julie’s blog post talks about the frustration of going from a technology rich enviornment to having one computer and a document camera. Which got me thinking….if I was in this situation where I had 1 computer and a document camera what would I do?

Skype:

Would be our new best friend, not sure if the school has the bandwidth for it, but I’d try Skype or a Google Hangout (which has worked better for me overseas) and try to connect with others in the outside world. I’d be Skyping in other classes, authors, friends, heck my own parents to talk to the kids, teach them something, tell a story and as Julie puts it “get off the stage.”

Twitter:

We would set up a class twitter account and make connections with others. We’d follow other classes, people of interest, even comedians. We’d find ways to connect with the outside world and bring that learning back into our classroom some how, some way.

Stop Motion Video:

Using the document camera we’d create stop motion videos taking images from the camera and importing them into a video editing program. The whole class would be involved in the production from layout, background design, to making of characters. You can make homemade Play Dough with basic ingredients so even that becomes a math lesson. Our goal would be for my kids to be the best stop motion crew in the country by the time we got computers back in the school.

Tell Our Story:

Photo by Gwen Martin

Because this is me, it would be a blog. But I don’t really care what the platform is, we’d be telling our story to the world. We’d find a way to be taking pictures and telling our story about how we’re rebuilding our classroom and our school. There is an audience out there for this I’m sure.

Some times we got caught up in how much technology we have or don’t have or wish we had rather than finding ways to use what we have the best way we can.

What would you do in this situation? 1 computer, 1 document camera…..go!