May 19, 2008
After much delay (sorry, been pretty busy), here are a few of my favorite Web 2.0 apps. Keep in mind that there are a number of issues that must be addressed before using any of these applications in the classroom. Discussing these issues up front will be critical to a successful project and the safety of your students. In particular:
  • Privacy: Take the opportunity before using these tools to discuss issues of privacy with your students. You will have little to no control over what they post on these sites, so you will be relying on each student's sense of what they should and should not post. It is your responsibility to plant a sense of what is OK and what is not in their minds. Safety should be your number one priority.
May 15, 2008

Consider This

Consider the classroom of tomorrow. That place where students come not just to gain, but to consolidate their gains. That room with no barriers, no boundaries, no limits. That place of infinite height and depth, unlimited reach and unhindered access. A space with many addresses, many cultures, many views. A place where success is honored, and failure is embraced. Where creativity is rewarded, where collaborations are built, where teams are celebrated.

There are no time limits there, no restrictions, or walls. Ideas are welcome, voices are heard, friends are cherished, connections are nourished. This is the classroom of tomorrow, the "open" classroom, and it's time to start building it today.

May 13, 2008

Today I was referred to this excellent article by a high school senior from Plano Independent School District in Texas, entitled Open Minds with Open Source (page 46, should your browser not automatically take you there.) It was written by Alex Hirsch, son of Plano ISD's Jim Hirsch, who is a long time open-technologies advocate and former board chair of CoSN. I was particularly taken with his perspectives on open content and invasive copyright enforcement in our digital age:

It is at this point that we must look to the government, as well as large institutions and libraries of knowledge, to continue the march forward, not only to get the information out there, but to ensure true availability. That means no more proprietary formatting and no more invasive digital rights management. We need to unite under a common front of distribution before the system can really work to its fullest; it all starts with cooperation on a global scale.

Music to the ears of many of us who have been for so long preaching the gospel of openness and freedom. How refreshing it is to read that the next generation - the future of America - not only understands, but seeks to right the ship and set a course that might just restore this nation's great legacy of creativity and innovation.

And yet, many would disagree with Alex. Many still believe that the knowledge ownership model is superior. To them Alex offers this warning:

While I admit Wikipedia may be much more enjoyable for some than "Intro to Physics" or Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, the fact is they all hold equal potential for education, and should be as equally available to students. The danger lies in that if one is easier to obtain than the other, students are much more likely to opt for the easier option, and may miss out on experiencing fundamental concepts of science and literature.

Alex's words speak volumes to the demands of 21st century learners in an age of ownership and control and, while I think he could go further in his call for fundamental change in the education environment, I applaud his thoughtful vision of an "open" future with unhindered access to knowledge and information.

May 12, 2008

Open Source Roundtable

Last Friday I had the pleasure of hosting a round table on the topic of open source software in education at Technology and Learning's Tech Forum West in Long Beach, CA. Our lively discussion included K-20 classroom teachers and IT people from both education and industry. Topics truly ran the gamut of open source, including desktop applications, security, deployment, perception, web applications like Moodle, and ultra-mobile devices like the Asus EeePC.

It's a little noisy, but I hope you enjoy the recorded discussion and, more importantly, will share your thoughts on the topic!

Download mp3

May 2, 2008

OK, so it's been a year since I dared to float the controversial idea that interactive whiteboards are little more than a big, expensive white mouse, whose functionality can easily be replaced by far less expensive solutions (see my prior post, "Is the debate over the value of interactive whiteboards really about the boards?") I received tons of feedback from a variety of sources, which did little to sway my view of them. Most from proponents were testimonies of increased student engagement, etc., etc., very similar to those I mentioned in the prior post, all subjective and lacking in any real data. Even Smart's favorite "evidence" of student achievement from the EU is vague at best, listing their boards as one of a number of technologies (emphasis on the words "one of") that were implemented. Then there are the health risks, which are only just starting to surface.

Don't get me wrong, I too can appreciate the value of including a variety of media types when explaining a key concept or working through a problem,