Archive for the ‘Wikis’ Category

There are a couple of items I came across today about bending with the world rather than against it.

First, according to the Edublog Awards, Karl Fisch wrote the most influential edublog post of the year by asking, Is it ok to be a technologically-illiterate teacher? I have to admit, Karl’s words are direct and sometimes sharp, but we need to challenge ourselves & our colleagues to keep learning. It’s not acceptable anymore to take pride in ignorance.

The second are the words of Garrison Keillor. If you think Keillor is a folksy traditionalist, you’d be mistaken. From an interview with Keillor on Rocketbook this past week …

On using email & chat for work

“It is so much more efficient and decent and civilized than the old system of sitting around a long table in meetings in which boring bullying people dominate. It’s a huge advance.” (Here! here!)

On Wikipedia

“Wikipedia, although its authority was questioned early on, is now the backbone of any writer’s research.”

See for yourself.


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In September I went to Scotland for a family reunion. For a week, we lived in a castle that had been converted to a educational centre for school children. It was a fantastic place but there was only one computer in the castle connected to the internet. Unfortunately, the computer also had filtering software installed. The reunion was wonderful but, as I stood in line waiting along with the other dozen guests for my turn to check my email, I wondered about the ways we control technology for learners.

The internet is one of the most important ways I learn. I use it to stay in touch and participate in what’s happening in my field. I blog. I bookmark sites. I Facebook. I visit YouTube. I read feeds. I chat. I spend most of my time online using social software. That week, all the sites I use regularly to connect to my community and support my own learning were blocked. The internet turned into a completely useless place for me. It was like a car without an engine. Although I experience some blocking at work, I can’t imagine what it must be like for learners to experience this level of control.

ning blocked

Like a lot of other people, I wonder why we’re blocking instead of teaching. I wonder why we’re banning instead of finding constructive ways to use these tools to support learning. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d admit that security and privacy are less of a concern than our need to control. We don’t always see what learners see. We don’t take advantage of the fantastic teachable moments that learners sometimes give us through their use of technology, as scary or chaotic as they may seem sometimes.

I appreciate that it can be a challenge to teach while people are cruising Facebook. It can be especially frustrating when learners are chatting or text messaging on cell phones. I’ve taught in a classroom of email-checkers. I hate to say it but in a moment of total frustration I once threatened to flush a cell phone. (I’m so sorry!) But I was a lecturer. I was a stand-and-deliver teacher, and that approach just can’t compete with the connection and learning that happens online. Right now, there is no greater challenge to the traditional teacher-centered approach than the internet.

The great thing is we can all learn how to adapt. We can talk to people who are using technology effectively to engage learners. And, of course, there are some great resources online. Here are a few that I grabbed from my bookmarks:

Thanks for listening. I’m off my soapbox now. 🙂

UPDATE: Another point of view comes from Samuel Freedman writing in the NY Times about the new class(room) war.  (I like the line “present but otherwise engaged”.)

(Photo, Ning – Blocked, by Alexander Hayes)

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wikipediaWikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.  What if learners posted their papers to Wikipedia instead of submitting them to an instructor?  That’s what Professor Martha Groom asks her learners to do.  Imagine if publishing to the web was expected?  Imagine that anyone can edit or even delete a learner’s work.  I’m thinking that could offer some wonderful teachable moments or some very serious frustrations.  It would certainly be a personal experience of what happens when we put ourselves and our ideas online.  Take a look at Jon Udell’s screencast of what happens to a typical Wikipedia article.

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I spent a chunk of this weekend trying to catch up on the sessions I missed from the Future of Education conference. (It could take me weeks!) One of the best sessions I’ve come across so far is Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay’s session on the Flat Classroom Project.

The ambitious project developed as a result of a comment Julie left on Vicki’s blog. Students in Georgia and Bangladesh were paired on a collaborative project to explore some of the ideas Tom Friedman explored in his book, The World is Flat. They used a number of tools (including blogs and a great wiki) but Vicki mentions in her presentation that students seemed to get the most value from being able to use the social networks they established through email, Facebook and MySpace.

For anyone interested in developing collaborative projects supported by 2.0 technologies, Vicki and Julie’s presentation is a must-see (slides, camtasia screen capture, elluminate recording).

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Sorry.  I’m slow.  Friends have been pointing me to this video for a few days and I finally got a chance to see it.  Thank goodness I did.  This is a great follow-up to Lee LeFever’s first video about RSS.

Are you new to wikis?  Then this is the video you need to watch.

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Last week, a consortium of scientific institutions announced the launch of the Encyclopedia of Life, a $12.5 million project to allow “citizen scientists” to help catalog all of the world’s 1.8 million species in moderated wiki. The site will offer a range of features that digital natives love … personalization depending on whether you’re a newbie or an expert, rich media, links to discussion forums and the ability to subscribe via RSS to individual pages. What an incredible resource for educators.

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