http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Wfzh%2BZq%2BL._SL500_AA280_.jpg  If you haven’t heard, Amazon has announced the Kindle DX. A 9.7 inch Wireless reading device with a larger screen made for reading textbooks and newspapers.

Now this is all great news for technology and e-books. But as I listened to the TWIT podcast episode 194 they talked about what this device really is about.

More important than the size of this device is that starting with the DX it will allow people to upload and view PDF files.

Now this might not seem like a lot but as they said on TWIT and what I agree with is that Amazon has just opened the door to a whole new round of piracy and have backed publishers into a corner to force textbook to be created in the Amazon Kindle format.

How so? Well let us pretend for a second we’re in college and you are trying to save that $110 for something more important than a textbook (in college there are many things more important than a textbook 🙂 ). What if you and your buddy could split the cost of the textbook, use one of the scanners in the school, scan the book to PDF and then put it on your Kindle? What if students from other universities did the same and then shared those files using Bit Torrent or P2P Networks basically giving the book away for free.

Or how about this….most textbooks are in PDF format before they are actually printed. Much like pirated DVDs it takes one person to post the PDF of the book on the web for download to sidestep the publishers and give that content straight to students.

Why hasn’t this happened already? Apple created the iTunes store which with the #1 MP3 player the iPod created both a need (music) with a want (iPod).

Amazon has just done the same thing. The need (textbooks, books, newspapers, etc) now has the wanted hardware device…the Kindle.

Amazon has just created a whole new round of piracy.

So if you are a textbook publisher…or any publisher for that matter what are your choices?

A) Continue to pretend that that Kindle does not exist and continue with your model of creating traditional textbooks. Then try to track down and stop piracy through the courts (because it worked so well for the music industry).

B) Embrace that media and textbooks have changed that this is the start of an evolution of textbooks and content, and start creating ways for students to purchase their books in Kindle format. Making it easier for them to purchase a book rather than to try and search for it illegally (exactly what iTunes did for the music industry).

Has Amazon just changed the game? Will textbook publishers be able to wrap their heads around this fast enought to change their modle?

Even the New York Times after knowing that they could save money by giving everyone a Kindle, can’t seem to fully wrap their head around the change.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post to Launch Trials Offering Kindle DX to Subscribers Who Live in Areas Where Home Delivery is Not Available

I won’t expect the New York Times to just turn off the printing presses tomorrow, but why not give people the choice? They obviously see this as a way to get more subscribers rather than admit that their subscriber base is changing.

Old business models are hard to change…we know this all to well in education. It’s not until they are forced to change that they actually do. It’s not until these businesses are actually backed into a corner where they are loosing money that they decide to change. Can we keep this from happening to education? Or will education as a system follow the same pattern? Ride their business model of how to educate kids to the point that the kids (customers) just don’t show up anymore. Only then will we see real change. Only then will there really be a reason to change education. Until then…what we’re doing is good enough and there isn’t enough pressure from virtual schools or other educational methods to make the model change. In other words what we got is good enough for now…why change.

Full credit for this goes to Vu Lam one of our First Grade teachers who had an idea, played with the technology and then created something very cool.

A Time Laps Video of a Silk Worm spinning a cocoon. This is a day long process condensed into 38 seconds.

Sure I could go on about taking risks, getting an idea and then finding a way to make it happen. I could talk about all the skills involved in making something like this, all the skills that Vu just taught himself to make this great video for his kids. Yeah….I could….but this right here….this is when the technology speaks for itself, when put in the hands of a teacher who starts asking the questions “What if…….”.

(As I promised Kim….full credit for her on the title of this post.)

There is no one size fits all when it comes to education.

There are many different approaches to the same solution.

Technology is no different.

There is no “Killer App” that does it all and does it well.

There is not one tool that you can learn and be done with.

There are different tools for different solutions.

There are different tools for different learning outcomes.

There is no spork for education.

Major Mark Rea sent me this video and wiki to share. He’s a Major in the US Army and uses a wiki with cadets as part of his fitness program. Recently, he recorded his students thoughts on using a wiki instead of using BlackBoard (which I assume they have used before). Some good honest feedback and a fascinating wiki.

Oh yeah….and he has a podcast on iTunes too.

(Full Disclosure: I am the educational ambassador for Wetpaint Educational Wikis)

For many schools and educators, technology is like the topping or finishing touch to the curriculum or a project. It’s nice to have, looks good, adds to the overall flavor, but really when you get right down to it…it isn’t needed.

For many this has been the approach of technology, fair enough….as through the 1980, ’90 and early 2000s as schools were putting computers into labs that is exactly what they were. It often was a free time, a time to play some games, or later on spend some time on the Internet. Once and awhile they added that sprinkle to a lesson. A PowerPoint to show learning, or typing your poem rather than writing it. We started with technology as the sprinkles to our curriculum and our teaching.

Over the years however as these technologies have become mainstream in society our view of technology, for the most part hasn’t changed. There are very few jobs that do not require some computer literacy or typing skills. Yet many schools have yet to replace or add typing as part of the writing curriculum. We still view technology as the sprinkles or toppings rather than looking at how we can mix those sprinkles into the batter and make a whole new curriculum. What we need to do is start from scratch and think about how we build a new curriculum that includes these new skills and ideas. How do we add typing as a writing skill and e-mail as a genre any other way.

Until education, educators, schools, and school leaders decide that these new literacy skills must be taught we’re just adding sprinkles. We’re left with some teachers taking time to teach these skills and some not. If technology remains the sprinkles some people will choose not to use them…no matter their color, flavor, or texture.

We do not need a technology curriculum instead what we need to do is get out the blender and mix up a new batter that looks at this new digital era we now live in and decide what are the skills students need. Yes…something must give and deciding what goes is not easy. Personally I can make a case for teaching e-mail writing as a genre or typing skills within the writing curriculum. I can see global collaboration projects fitting in with social studies and science and exposing student to searching, finding, decoding skills in reading. In some cases the skills and concepts haven’t changed we just need to update the tools we use to teach them. In other areas we’re going to have to make some hard choices between what we feel is valuable in a digital age and what is not. Can we get out the blender and create something new? Can education find a way to truly impact teaching and learning to prepare students for their future? We’ll need a lot of blenders and less sprinkles…but a good recipe never needs added flavoring anyway.

Last week I wrote about the beginning of end for schools with the creation and launch of the University of the People that will accept its first class later this year. A University degree for free…or for very little money comparatively. Using free content on the web and a notion that learners can teach each other the university could be the beginning of the end. Maybe not this university, but this is a concept that I think we’ll see others try and build upon. It’s the idea that is interesting to me and that gets me thinking that the end is just a bit closer.

I feel the momentum of change coming. With the recent news of India trying to create a $10 laptop that would bring the Internet to a whole new group of people.

Again…..it’s the idea that this could even happen. Even if they make a laptop for $50 what have they done? Who have they given access to? And what will be created in its wake?

And then there is the cell phone:

Ten years ago, there was a mobile phone subscription for 5 percent of the planet. Today there are 3.95 billion mobile phone subscriptions (lets call it an even 4 billion, we’ll be at 4 billion in January). Even at 3.95 billion today, that means there is a mobile phone subscription for 59% of the population on the planet.

You might want to read that stat again. Almost 60% of the worlds population has a cell phone. I wonder what percentage of the world has access to paper and pencil? That would be an interesting comparison.

Worried yet?

Me neither…just because you have the tools, it doesn’t mean you know how to learn with them. Good thing we dodged that bullet and bought ourselves some time!

Oh…and then there is this story from David Warlick:

One of the best stories I heard was told by a school librarian, Kathy Gallagher.  Her daughter is a senior in high school and is currently shopping for colleges.  Kathy said that all of the schools her daughter is considering have their own Facebook groups — except for one, a fairly small liberal arts school.  …So her daughter set up the the group for the school.  She said, “In just a couple of days, the group grew to over 300.”

This was very impressive — to all of us.  But hoping to learn more, I asked, “So why did she set up the group?”

Gallagher looked at me, as if I had completely missed the point.  I had completely missed the point.  She said that her daughter was visiting the Facebook groups to get answers to questions about student life at the schools from the perspective of students.  She wanted to ask the same questions about the small liberal arts school, so she created the community for the school, grew the community, and then had over 300 sources for answers to her questions.

Wait just a minute….a student…an actual student….found a way to create a network that gave her the knowledge she was looking for. You mean students might actually search for knowledge on their own..and when they can’t find it create a network that will help them find it.

Please do not let students know they have this kind of power! If they could get information, and/or create learning networks without us and learn on their own we’d be doomed for sure!

Good thing somebody hasn’t applied this to education. I mean you could end up having…say…a University that people could go to to learn from each other in a peer to peer setting.

And then there is Scott McLeod’s recent short post:

I think it is becoming increasingly
clear that our current system of education is going to go away. There
are simply too many societal pressures and alternative paradigms for it
to continue to exist in its current form.

The only question, then, is: How long are we going to thrash around before we die?

Wait a minute a University Professor is worried that our current education system might be going away….and by system I don’t think he’s singling out the US system. Most education systems around the world follow the same age based system the US has adopted.

I don’t know about you…but I see the pieces slowly moving together. It’s like looking at a map for the first time after learning about the Continental Drift Theory…and for the first time you step back and you look…..and you see it….you see how all of the pieces could fit together…and you have a moment…a moment where you go WHOA!

Last week the Ed Tech team here at my school held a 3 hour social networking workshop for parents. The workshop was requested by parents after we made a brief presentation to the school board back in November.

Before we began we took a quick poll of the 20 parents (all mothers):

  • Non had a Facebook account but a couple of them had heard about it.
  • Non had been on YouTube but they all had heard about it.
  • What did they want to know: How to see what their kids were doing on the computer without them knowing about it.

In the 3 hours we covered the following:

  • 20 minutes on introductions and Inside ISB our new educational portal
  • 20 minutes on PantherNet (Moodle) our walled garden for learning
  • 20 minute presentation on why students are so connected (this year’s seniors were born the same year the Internet was invented…they will never know a time without the Internet)
  • 20 minutes on using YouTube as a life lone learning tool (parents searched for ‘how to’ videos on things they were interested in).
  • 20 minutes on Internet Safety
  • 20 minutes on web based library resources
  • 20 minutes on Facebook
  • 20 minutes on Google Search Skills
  • 20 minutes on breaks, Q&A

It was an enlightening three hours for both sides I think. I didn’t realize how little our parents knew. At one point we stopped to explain tabbed browsing and the back button.

I’ve talked about this before, that for the first time in the history of education we not only have to spend time on the students in our charge, but on re-educating our community as well on what it means to learn in today’s world.

Parents were amazed with what they could find on YouTube. One mom improved her golf swing, while another looked up recipes for dinner.

What I took away from the three hours and what has me the most worried is, that it seems that up until now these parents had taken an “Ignorance is Bliss” approach to technology, and rather than learning the tools what they really wanted was to find a way to spy on their kids.

Of course this is a similar approach many schools take….if we just ignore the changes happening then maybe they will go away. The problem is the Internet and all of its content is not going anywhere anytime soon. Worse yet, by taking this approach both in the home and in our schools, the gap between what the students know and what the adults know continues to widen.

The 20 parents that showed up obviously want to learn, think it is important and are hungry to learn more. How many parents at your school would come to a three hour workshop on social networking? 20 is a start…but we have a long way to go in re-educating our communities.

The best advice I ever give to parents is one of conversation. On more than one occasion parents have asked me where should they start. My answer is always the same. Start with your own children. Grab a pen and piece of paper and really care about these spaces. Have them walk you through their Facebook account. Try and learn and understand what they do there. If they won’t let you see their account, then you have an issue. Facebook is not a private space. If they are willing to share that information with their friends, they should be willing to share it with you. Have a conversation about what you see. See a picture that upsets you? Talk about it in an adult fashion. Ask the questions:

  • What do you think this pictures says about you?
  • Do you know all (number of friends) of your ‘friends?
  • Can you trust everyone on your ‘friends’ list not to download that picture?
  • What does that update say about you as a person?
  • Is that who you want to be known as?

These are just a couple questions that parents can use when starting those conversations with their children…again be open and listen to their responses. Even better advice….have your child help you set up your own Facebook account. This has been the most powerful moment for many parents I have talked to.

Limiting access to the computer is also not a bad thing (See Will Richardson). We need to remember that students see the computer as a ‘social gateway‘. The same rules could easily apply that have always applied about visiting or chatting with friends. The conversations remain the same, just the context changes.

Mom: “You can go play with your friends, but be home in an hour.”

which is what my mom use to say….today:

Mom: “You can go on Facebook, but you need to be back here in an hour.”

It’s the same message.

Dad: “Yes, you can go to the store with your friends, just know that dinner will be served at 7 and you are expected to be here.”

which is what my dad use to say….today:

Dad: “Yes, you can go on the Internet, just know that dinner will be served at 7 and you are expected to be here…and disconnected.”

The conversations haven’t changed…or at least haven’t changed that much, we just need to update our vocabulary and understand these social spaces are the new ‘hang outs’ for students.

What is even more important I think are the after conversations….the conversations that allow both you and your child to debrief about their day. My mom use to always ask me how my friends were doing….in fact she still does. 🙂

(After time on the computer)

Mom: “How are your friends doing?”

Son: “OK”

Mom: “What is John up to?”

Son: “Not much, his mom is away again so he and his dad are going out for dinner.”

Mom:  “Oh, how about Susie?”

Son: “She updated her status from downtown somewhere….not sure where but I’m sure she’s with Chad.”

Mom: “With Chad? Are they a…..”

Son: “Yeah, happened yesterday at school….”

Kids want to talk about their friends….we just need to ask. This is the time of their life to be soical and this generation has more ways to be connected socially than any generation before it. But they still want to know we care, we just need to update our conversations…but the conversations are the same.

What I love about kids is that kids are kids. The language might have changed, the conversations might be different, but in the end they just want someone to care about them. They want to know you care enough to ask the questions, to get to know their wired world, and to be facinated by it, not scared by it.

Strike up a conversation with a kid today, learn about their world….they are the most facinating of human beings. 🙂

(Full Disclosure: I do not have kids of my own)

Napster was started in June 1999 and for many marked the beginning of an era of free digital music.

For the next 10 years the music industry would try to stop people from downloading free, and what they claimed to be, illegal music.

In January 2009 the largest online music store in the world, Apple’s iTunes, announced it will offer all 10 million songs DRM free, allowing people to download and share their music without any Digital Rights Management.

It took the music industry 10 years to change to a new model, to understand a new landscape, and to learn to take advantage of it.


The newspaper industry has been in sharp decline for the past couple of years. If blogs, which really started gaining momentum in 2005 (my own opinion), are to blame and if they follow the same slow path of change as the music industry will not find a way to survive in this new free digital landscape until around 2015.


YouTube was created in 2005 and really gained ground in 2006 and 2007. The television industry is just starting to feel the heat, and following the path of its brother, the music industry, has tried to conform the new media to old ways. If it follows the same path as its brother the music industry, we will not see a real revolution in the way television is viewed until 2016ish.

The conversations about the changes that have been happening and continue to happen in education around these new models of learning, and digital landscape have only been going on since about 2002 (my own opinion).

Which means we’re looking at 2012, if education follows the same path as the music industry, before we see some real change. Until then we keep chipping away at it…as it’s little changes that lead to big ones.

Just a thought!

OK….I admit it. I am an information hippie. I believe that information should be free and accessible to all. I believe that filters are over rated, do not protect our kids, and that education is the only way to teach responsible use of this amazing machine we call the World Wide Web.

Man….do I feel better!

As schools continue to roll out 1:1 laptop programs the same conversations keep coming up.

How much control does a school put on student and teacher computers?

Now….I’ve been in education long enough to know that there are all sorts of things people are scared of…most of all….we’re scared of the kids.

We’re scared they know more.

We’re scared they don’t know enough.

We’re scared they’ll do things we don’t want them to.

We’re scared they’ll hurt themselves.

We’re scared they will fail.

We’re scared they will succeed.

I do wish students were mature enough that we could just hand them computers and let them go at it…in fact, I do believe that…and that is exactly what I would do!


1. If you break it, you buy it.

2. If you lose it, you buy it.

3. If you crash it, I’ll try 10 minutes to fix it then it gets re-imaged.

4. The only way anyone ever learns to back-up is to lose everything, so back-up!

5. Don’t steal.

If I had a laptop school those would be my rules. No, students would not have access to school servers, everything would be done via the web. Therefore, you do not need to worry about viruses infecting the school’s system….from their computers anyway.

Every student and teacher would have admin rights! Why not? The only way you can really learn and experiment with a computer is when you have them…and trust me if you try to block them…they’ll find away around it anyway.

“I don’t want to play policeman!”

And the students honestly don’t want to have to hack their machines to put their stuff on them.

“But all the illegal software”

I think this is more of an issue here in Asia than anywhere else in the world…but really…you can tell them they can’t put illegal software on (see Rule #5) and they will. If it crashes their machine…see rule #3. But conversations….conversations about copyright and learning right from wrong is the only way to stop it.

The only true 1:1 program includes student ownership

They need to feel the machine is theirs, why not try to find a way for students to own the machines? Heck, after 4 years you’re not going to want them back anyway. Or find some way to sell them to kids after 4 years at a really cheap price. What you really need is students to feel as though they own the machines. I’ve seen 1:1 programs where the schools have locked down the machines so tight that students go and buy their own machine to bring to school. Ownership means something!

A 1:1 program where the computers stay at school will not work.

A 1:1 program where teachers are not allowed to download and learn will be frustrating.

A 1:1 program where all stakeholders feel locked down will become negative.

A 1:1 program will fail if freedom is not allowed.

I’m an Information Hippie! (my mom would be so proud!)

It’s my job you see. My job is to fight for access, I do it every day. The IT Manager…his job is to make sure that things are secure and running, and my job is to make sure education of students is not being disrupted due to the IT Managers job. Yes…it’s a love, hate, give and take relationship. One that is crucial to every school. I make my case, he makes his…and at the end we come to an agreement based on data and common sense.

We talk about information flattening our world.

We talk about a changing landscape in which knowledge is created at hyperspeeds.

We talk about information and creativity being everywhere and accessible to anyone.

Our schools need to be that….and the only way they can is if users have access to that super highway.

Is my plan fool proof? Nope!

Will people crash their machines? Yep!

Does it allow students and educators to be creative? Yes!

Does it allow teachers and students to experiment? Yes!

Does it foster a learning atmosphere of excitement and possibility? Absolutely!

Then let go….let go of the reigns of control and just see what happens.

I always hated the teacher saying: “Start off hard on them, you can always loosen up.”

Why not “Start off soft on them, you can always harden up”

Will they complain? Yep…but they do anyway.

On the Web we’re all just nodes….let us go, let us explore, don’t hold us back, let us learn the only way in which true learning happens…by making mistakes.

Ah yes….the Information Hippie syndrome….I like it in my perfect world!

I love making predictions….I mean what the heck. If you’re wrong ah well. But if you’re right you get to act like you know what you’re talking about. 🙂

Last year I predicted that ’08 would be remembered as the year of the “Live Web”. Personally I don’t think my prediction was too far off. We saw many things go live. Ustream.tv and now Stickam.com along with a host of other sites took the web by storm. I found myself watching many events and people live. Towards the end of the year Dean Shareski made Qik a twitter hit broadcasting live events via his cell phone anywhere and anytime he felt like it. We saw many podcast shows start to use live video including Leo Laporte going live with live.twit.tv.