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Category: the read/write web (Page 2 of 46)

Spending Time Outside the Bubble

Last week, Karen and I did a session for the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) national conference being held here in the DC area.

Carrying the somewhat cheesy title of “Learn New Tech Tools”, we nevertheless had a good time with it. I think the folks who spent two hours with us enjoyed themselves and left with some new ideas.

Overall, it went well. Considering that none of it – the concept, title, description – was our idea.

This was one of those situations when someone else submitted the proposal, couldn’t travel to DC, and a friend of the local arrangements committee drafted us to fill in.

While I was pleased with our session, the conference as a whole, however, was another story.

For one thing, this NSDC meeting was only slightly more tech savvy than the one we presented at four years ago.

They offered no wireless access in the convention center (brand new this year) and we had to pull some strings to avoid paying for a connection to use in our heavily web-based session.

The lack of tech usage was especially apparent in the program, which was very thin on topics you might expect like online professional development or using the read/write web for instruction.

It was also reflected in the many presenters wheeling around piles of paper handouts, chart paper, and overhead projectors.

And then there were the keynote presentations. Both of those I attended were more like extended infomercials featuring bad PowerPoint shows with lots of text-heavy slides that were unreadable from many parts of the hall.

Ok, I know I’ve been spoiled by the extremely wired echo chamber in which I spend most of my time.

In the past few years, I’ve become very accustomed to have easy, almost continual access to a back channel populated by lots of smart people who have many innovative ideas for improving education and know how to present them in creative ways.

I guess being dropped into a professional situation which is largely cut off from that rich atmosphere of learning is somewhat jarring.

Maybe the next time we present at NSDC (another four years?), the organization will have learned a little more about the ever expanding options for professional development in the 21st century.

Don’t Blog The Dreck

On the Daily Show earlier this week, Arianna Huffington tried to convince Jon Stewart that he should put his thoughts into a blog for her news and opinion site, The Huffington Post.

Stewart responded by noting that “when I have thoughts, I put them on the little screen in the living room”.

Huffington then argued that he likely had “more thoughts than what you use on the show”.

To which Jon came back with probably the best reason I’ve heard for performers (or anyone else) NOT blogging.

Why should I give people the dreck?  Shouldn’t I try to focus it and make it as good as I can… because my other thoughts, there’s a reason I haven’t put them on the show.

Huffington was there hawking a “guide to blogging” book which sounds like recycled versions of advice you can find all over the web for far less than fifteen bucks.

The End of the Rote

In a short piece from the education section of the London Times, Don Tapscott tosses out the provocative idea that there is “no useful place in school for old-fashioned rote learning”.

A far better approach would be to teach children to think creatively so that they could learn to interpret and apply the knowledge available online. “Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the internet is,” Tapscott said. “Kids should learn about history to understand the world and why things are the way they are. But they don’t need to know all the dates. It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google,” he said.

Tapscott denies that his approach is anti-learning. He argues that the ability to learn new things is more important than ever “in a world where you have to process new information at lightning speed”. He said: “Children are going to have to reinvent their knowledge base multiple times. So for them memorising facts and figures is a waste of time.”

While some will object to his rewriting of the traditional model of education, Tapscott is exactly right.

The whole concept of someone being well-educated based on how many facts they can recall no longer applies (if it every really did).

When I tweeted the headline and link to this article, @audhilly took exception to the idea: “disagreeing with you big time… rote = practice = craftsmanship. I’ll agree with you when musicians stop making music”.

Audhilly is also right but we’re working with two different issues here.

There are, and always will be, some skills like music which require rote practice in order to achieve some level of mastery.

But understanding English history (and many other academic subjects) is not one of them.

BTW, I like that phrase “reinvent their knowledge base”. Another I’ll have to steal borrow. :-)

Learning to Connect

A member of the British parliament looks at our recently completed election and concludes that politics in his country are antiquated.

Especially when it comes to the effective use of the internet to connect with supporters and potential supporters.

There are powerful lessons from the Obama campaign for politicians here. The first, of course, is, the technology, stupid. The internet and blogosphere are powerful tools but they change the relationship between politicians and the electorate, forcing us to work harder. Used properly, the net can allow direct communication with voters.

Actually, it’s not about the technology at all. It’s about learning how to use the technology to better involve the large number of people who will be directly affected by your decisions.

However, as good as the Obama campaign was in the process of attracting votes, it remains to be seen whether the people who will run his administration are genuinely committed to fundamental change in the relationship between government and citizens.

Or if they, like their British counterparts, also have more lessons to learn.

White House Connections

David Weinberger asks a very good question: Can the White House blog?

Certainly it wouldn’t be the president writing the posts (hopefully he’s working on more important stuff).

But David suggests that it could be a group effort.

Or perhaps you offer a full plate of bloggers. A White House online magazine, so to speak. Lots of voices, opinions, and styles. A Greek chorus for the President, made up of divergent voices. How divergent? For an official White House blog, I would think it’d have to be pretty mainstream, because it’d be speaking for the President’s administration. Even so, knowing that this blogger is an amazing font of facts about telecom policy, and that one is able to put industrial policy into an historical context, and that other one is capable of occasional crackling sarcasm when discussing energy policy, well, that’d be extremely cool.

Way cool!

While the incoming administration may or may not be considering blogging, that doesn’t mean they don’t plan to continue leveraging all the social networking tools they used so well in the campaign.

The Obama transition team now has a director of new media, along with a team responsible for online communications and outreach.

So even if they won’t be writing a blog, at least it appears as if they plan to make the White House part of the online conversation.

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