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I spent a good hour last night before recording the SOS Podcast for the week surfing the iTunes Podcast area. If you are a teacher in ANY subject area and haven’t at least considered using podcasts to augment your curriculum and teaching then you’re missing a huge opportunity. The wealth of knowledge there is amazing.

Royalty Free Music

My best find of the night came from beatsuite.com. A podcast of Royalty Free Music in different genres. I’m always looking for intro or exit music. I want something catchy, something up beat, something that fits the podcast or recording or presentation. I can now listen through their podcasts. Pick the song I want and then head to the web site where I can.

Did you know – Previews can be downloaded

As a beatsuite.com member you can download the preview
files for all Royalty
Free Music
tracks at the touch of a button. Whether you want
to try it in your project, share it with a colleague or pitch it
to a client. Download the preview before you purchase absolutely

Now here is a web site that is understanding the market of the Internet. I was listening to a track today that caught my attention and it cost $60. But once I buy it I own it and the best part is I don’t have to buy it before I try it out in my project.

What they understand is that if you want to rip them off you’ll do it anyway. It’s easy to record sound as it comes through your sound card. Kids at our school do it all the time. Quality isn’t great but hey, we’re use to DVDs where a person gets up and walks out of the theater in the middle of the show to refill their popcorn…what do you expect for $1 on a street corner.:)

What we need to understand is that society is changing and their is money to be had in giving away information if you do it right. Look at Nine Inch Nails who’s record is still tops at Amazon.com (You do buy from Amazon.com…I mean if you buy at all, right? They offer DRM free downloads that can be played on ANY device!) and has made the artist over a million dollars…and they gave it away free to start with.

Here’s what we need to understand. That our society today expects content to be free. Which shouldn’t be anything new to most teachers. We like our content free We expect our content to be free right? How many of you have copied something out of a book…or made copies of a whole book for that matter instead of paying for 30 copies for your class.

Education has been setting the example that we expect our content to be free. We all claim “It falls under fair use for education!” but really we want content and we don’t want to pay for it.

How many of you have done this: Made copies of something and then went to the paper cutter and cut the top or bottom copyright and page numbers off? (I’ll admit it….guilty!)

We either didn’t have the funds to pay for it, or we didn’t want to wait for that purchase order to come through..we want our content free and we want it now!

So where is this taking us? How is this going to effect education? What happens when our students figure out that the content they pay for in schools (and they do pay for it…maybe not in money but in time, energy and wasted hours of their life) can be found free on the Internet. That they can learn when they want, where they want.

Can education sustain a model where the content is free? I think about everything I’ve learned in the past three years from the Internet. At one time I was thinking of going back and getting my PhD…but not for the learning that would happen but for the piece of paper. Is that the right reason? Do kids go to school not to learn but for that piece of paper?

Could education sustain a model like beatsuite.com. Where you have to give away some to get people to pay for more? What does that look like in education? What if organizations that accredit schools instead accredited teachers? What if you could be an accredited teacher in your subject area and students from around the world chose to learn from you…via podcast or pay per lecture or second life.

How many of our students go to school because they have to, not because they want to?

How many of our students could learn what they learn at school from home?

How many of our teachers could teach via the web?

How many of our teachers could or know how to engage students in their learning landscape?

More questions then answers, more thought then fact….be kind in the comments. 🙂

Have you ever been giving a presentation or talking to someone and all of a sudden you say something that makes you stop and think. I do it quite often actually and most of the time these turn into blog posts as is this one. My last session at EARCOS I was all fired up with a standing room only crowd and I was talking about Facebook and having a social presence when this came flying out of my mouth.

“If you don’t take control of your social presence, someone else will!”

I had some shocked looks in the room, some wiggles in the chairs, and after the session ended had three people come up to me and ask “How do I register my own domain name?” (I use godaddy.com BTW)

As educators I think it is even more important. Like it or not, your students are out there and they’re talking about you! You can either allow them to create your social presence for you or you can take control of it.

I’ve talked about the power of your social presence before and it is a scary thing if you do not have a gage on what’s out there. You can’t control what others say about you, but you can try to control what Google and Facebook searches find and rank.

I’ve also been hard on schools lately who are not controlling their social presence in Facebook. If you are a teacher in a high school go search for your school and see what you find. Then ask yourself:

1) Is this what we want incoming students to know?
2) How could our school harness the power here?
3) What do we want students; Past, Present, Future to find and know about.

(BTW schools…blocking it does not make it go away!)

One school that is getting this, I think anyway, is the International School of Kuala Lumpur. When you do a search for ISKL at Facebook the first group that comes up is their alumni group with over 1300 members. I used this as an example in my presentation and the Alumni overseer of the group was at the conference heard that I had use the site and approached me. The site was started by two past students. The alumni association approached them and asked if they could make this the official site. The school’s alumni association now works with the two college students to run the site, keep it updated, and makes sure it correctly represents the school.

Sure, there are other ISKL student ran groups on facebook and I’m sure like most schools they’re not all positive, but when a student comes to facebook and searches for ISKL…this is where they start. They start at the alumni page, they join it, know that they can get answers, makes connections, all before heading out to other “sub-groups.”

As teachers and schools we need to realize that our customers are in this space, and that if we are not going to take control of our information there, someone else will do it for you. Do you want to leave a high school student in control of your profile? How about a group of say 100 students?

Scary? Yeah….then do something about it!

We can’t continue to pretend these spaces don’t matter. Especially if you are like most International teachers and you’re out looking for a job every 3,5,7 years or so (what’s the stat…14 jobs before they’re 37?). Because some where, some time, somebody is going to Google you or do a Facebook search for you and what are they going to find? Who are you allowing to represent you?

I also like to show this poll started in 2006 and still active at USA Today.

The only thing this poll shows is that we do not want a law telling us we can or can not search for someone and use that information against them.

We are in a time of change, a time of figuring out how to use this information and when it is appropriate to do so. Until there becomes some “social norms” around this type of employee searching, you need to control what employers might find.

Do you feel like I’m yelling at you? Feel like I’m getting up in your face about this? If so this post is for you. Do something about it, get connected, get social and start talking control of your online presence! Because if you don’t…..some day some one else will.

[tags]education, facebook, social presence[/tags]

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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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Not sure why I continue to try to do it all. You would think I would learn not to bite off more than I can chew and not leave any time for blog reading or writing. However, I have done it again so bear with me for the next couple of weeks as I try to get things under control.

This Saturday myself and a team of 14 IT guys (most of them out sourced) came into school and installed almost 80 desktop computers in 7 hours into classrooms. These are student use computers that where in classrooms last year.

This year I decided to pull them all partly due to the fact that 62 of our teachers were getting laptops, and we are putting 60 student laptops into ever division (ES, MS, HS). We have a great number of laptops coming and I wanted to make sure that the desktops were placed, where they would be used. Teachers e-mailed their Principals and had to state how many desktops they would like and why they wanted them.

For example, our Middle School newspaper class made a good argument to have four desktop computers and we installed those. The 8th grade team and the Art department also made sound education arguments for their use of desktops and we installed those as well.

In the Elementary school, our 5th grade has gone completely laptop. Every teacher has a laptop with a ceiling mounted projector. We have student laptops that provide a 2:1 student to computer ratio. So we moved those computers out into other rooms.
My main goal this year (as laid out by our technology plan) was to get at least two desktop computers into every Pre-k through grade 2 classroom. I really wanted four but we don’t have the space…so two will do. I personally feel this is where desktops need to be. Teachers can make a computer center in their rotation and load educationally appropriate games based on what skills the students are learning 10 or 15 minutes at a computer for a 6 year old is plenty!

So what else is on my plate other than a full time job?

I’m finishing up the PSU class I taught this summer, it has been a great learning experience for me, and I hope the educators in the course got as much out of it as I did. Having to create a podcast, work on a collaborative wiki project, and have 20 blog entries by the end of the course. I used a Google spreadsheet to keep track of each of their assignments, and shared it with them so that they knew what else they needed to accomplish. I think that worked pretty well.

We are also less than 30 days from our Learning 2.0 conference here in Shanghai. Had a 4 hour meeting on Sunday to put the schedule together. This is only going to take more of my time the closer we get.

In October is the K12online conference where I will be hosting my LAN parties again (as well as two presentations). I already have people asking about them…so that is exciting.

In November, I am doing six presentations at the EARCOS Administrative conference in Kuala Lumpur. I still need to prepare for that.

So here we go! Now that computers are in place, I can focus on my real job….helping teachers and students!

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[tags]work, education, conference[/tags]

There was a point this summer not long after NECC that I started wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Are we barking up the wrong tree?

It hit me as I sat in the car one day looking at a bunch of people waiting at a bus stop. As I sat at the red light I starting thinking about these complete strangers and whether they really know what’s going on out there.

Do they know about blogs?
Do they know about wikis, the wikipedia?
How about podcasts and the fact that with an Apple TV podcasters are as close as ever of being on par with regular television?

and then I asked myself:

Does it even matter?

Do you know how scary it is to truly question everything that you have been preaching to teachers for the past 3 years. To truly look at it and wonder if it was all wrong, if maybe you had it wrong, maybe this isn’t it.

It’s scary really and the more I thought about those people just going about their day and wondering if any of this would or is truly affecting them the more I became depressed. The more I questioned if what I’m pushing in Education is the right thing.

I was pondering this for a couple days when I sat down with a good friend and we started talking. He reads my blog and even though he’s not an educator he kind of sort of gets what I’m talking about most of the time. We started chatting and I told him I didn’t know if I was barking up the right tree anymore…that maybe I have it all wrong. I told him about seeing the people on the street and wondering if any of this ‘stuff’ matters.

He said nothing while I talked and then when I had finished he said:

“But, it’s not about them right? It’s about the kids, about the next generation.”

And there is was…..the part I had forgotten. I had been looking at the wrong people. I had been looking at my generation and the generations older than me where none of this stuff even existed.

Think about it…really the Internet has only been around since about 1996…that’s all! Think of what it has done, the impact it has had on the world. When you think that it’s really only been since about 2000 since the Internet matured to a point that it affected our world in profound ways and what it has done so far…that becomes even scarier.

We are only at the beginning of a huge freakin’ shift. A shift that most of the later generations don’t see or don’t want to see. It’s a shift that includes living in a flat world, where work can be done will be done where it best fits the needs of the organization.

One example of this is our school here in Shanghai. We’re adding 300 more students! Now if you think that’s a lot think about this…we’ve been adding 300 students a year for the past 5 years! This school’s population has grown from 850 students to almost 3000 students since the Internet has been invented….and if it wanted to it could continue to grow.

Who are the students? Families from around the world who’s work brings them to Shanghai. Why? Because this is the best place for their company to do business at this point in time. Will this always be the place?….I don’t think so, but for now this is where companies are coming.

We talk about the flat world, about how the playing field is being leveled…but the students and families at my school are that flat world. They are here because the world has gone flat and their companies need them here.

How many students today realize the chance of them living and working in the same town they grew up in, or the same country for that matter is highly unlikely. That in today’s world you can…and most likely will live and work where your company needs you, and just because your company is based in America…doesn’t mean you’ll work in America.

So I’m refocusing…remembering that it’s our students. The same ones who bring cell phones to school, work on their facebook pages when they should be researching, IMing when they should be studying, and creating YouTube videos when they should be sleeping, that we need to be teaching.

That’s the reason why all this ‘stuff’ matters. It’s not about us…..it’s about them…their world…their future…and it’s exciting!


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A presentation to Middle School parents around technology and their children. Helping parents understand that today’s students are different. Their brains process information differently and the digital world they live in is different then the world we grew up in. Shift happens, and learning to deal with the changes facing our world and how to help your child be successful in it is something educators, parents, and the larger community need to work together on in harmony.

Links for this presentation:

Before viewing and listening to this portion of the presentation please visit The Fisch Bowl and download and watch Did You Know


The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded]: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future




The audio is attached. It’s a 1 hour presentation and discussion with parents. You can download the Power Point Growing up Digital here.

[tags]presentation, education, myspace, Internet safety, digital age, millennials[/tags]

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It’s funny how when you spend time like I have the past 3 days to make a point to comment on others that you start reflecting and things start clicking.

I left a couple comments that ended this way.

I hate to write, but love to blog!

The question is why? I’ve never been a good writer, I’ve hated writing for as long as I can remember. With a learning disability writing and reading were like kryptonite to me. Was never a great Language Arts teacher, but I don’t think I was that bad…having struggled with writing and reading my whole life and being up front with my students about it actually, I think, helped those reluctant learners to keep trying and plowing forward.

So why is it that I hate to write and love to blog?

First, I think a lot of it has to do with the computer and word processing. As I type this in my Firefox extension Performancing every misspelled word is underlined in red for me, giving me instant feedback on what I have misspelled. Does it catch all my mistakes, heck no, but you should see a post before it actually goes live. 🙂

Secondly, I can type faster then I can write…about 75 words/minute and you can actually read what I’ve written when I’m done.

Finally, I don’t see blogging as writing…it’s idea generation, it’s the free flow of ideas between people and it is a conversation. I love to talk (if you have a hard time writing you usually do…coping skill). I would rather stand in front of a group of parents and give a presentation, or have a face to face parent conference than write a letter home. My wife is the exact opposite. She HATES (yes it needs to be all caps) giving presentations, and would rather write a paper than give a presentation.

Because blogging is a conversation, a idea generating machine (the way I use it anyway) it speaks to me. Sure sometimes my ideas are way out there, but that’s how we work through them, how we start conversations, how we move forward and continue to progress as a society. Blogging gives me an audience, just like giving a presentation…I almost feel that way sometimes…like I’m presenting information, my thoughts rather than writing. It could be a podcast, a video, or blogging…it’s about having an audience. I wonder if I would have blogged in school, given the chance? It would have depended, I bet, on how the teacher used it as a tool. Was it a reflective journal to layout your thoughts, or did every period, capital and ‘ie, ei’ combination have to be perfect. If that was the case I’d have hated it.

Blogging is different…it’s not writing in the sense we think about it. People ask me why I blog and I truly can’t give them an answer…I just do, because it’s an outlet for me. I’d bet that I’ve blogged more in the past year then I wrote my whole life leading up to it. It’s been that powerful for me as a tool, and I see it in my students as well. In myspace and youtube…this networking, conversation, sharing atmosphere is contagious!

[tags]blogging, education, writing, conversation[/tags]

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