Brainstorm wrap up – Bud-the-teacher joins the edtech brainstormers

Had a really great chat with a bunch of people last night on the show. Bud the teacher, Todd Vanek, Ant Jackson, Jeff Lebow and Jeff Flynn, Learndog and Pete Pasque all joined us at different times to talk about all kinds of stuff including the private public blog e-portfolio debate and what each of us has been doing over the last week trying to pull our edtechs together. Bud was telling some great stories about directing student blogs toward the guidance councillors in order to create some safer and more honest dialogue. It did alot to quell some of my fears from the post I made a couple of days ago. I’m still “scared of the people who are going to be scared of the honesty,” but as there is nothing that can be done, it’s just a question of being ready to face it when it comes.

If any of you are interested, feel free to join the live shows… times at

I’m also working with Jeff F. trying to put together some online feedbook examples. The wiki has just been put up, feel free to put up any feeds that you like, and either put them in their catagory, or just leave them lying around and I’ll put them away. A quick copy and past from delicious accounts or something more focused, any help would be appreciated. Bud was talking about how he works to get the people around him using the new technology, which is what got Jeff and I thinking about getting these feedbooks ready.

Great open source for education article tagged by Stehen downes. If you are trying to convince your people to go open source…

Post a Secret… Education and the ‘Real’

Strange thoughts strangely fitting for a night spent refreshing a resume. It is a strange process of ever increasing ‘truthiness’ the older you get… No longer do I have ‘worm farmer’ or ‘house painter’ on my resume, I don’t need to stretch the teaching credentials anymore, and that feeling like I need to describe the way I walked around the work site to fill up that extra two lines is gone (”and I always put my tools away”). I now shrink the font, instead of enlarge it. But there is very little ‘real’ in a resume. I try to sneak some in, but I have, once again, decided that that would have to wait for a future interview process.

It’s the blog real that it gets me thinking about. Much of the things that I hear myself and others smarter than I say about blogging is about students ‘getting a voice’ and being empowered. I wonder about students ‘getting a voice’. We live in a culture of repression, where our feelings are governed by propriety, by the necessity to conform to given situations. Something that came into full focus upon reading technorati’s second highest rated blog Post a Secret. Some of the posts are no doubt people playing around, trolls in the blog as it were, but some have that real feeling of truth. That kind of truth that binds us together with people at the oddest of moments, when eye contact is followed by that rare pronoucement of truth. I remember my first one as an adult “we really don’t like each other alot of the time, if it weren’t for the kids we wouldn’t be together at all, are you REALLY sure you want to get married.”

There is a natural restraint in much of the blogger universe, particularly amongst teachers. We are a wary crowd (wary used in lieu of more direct and honest terms that I wont use without three paragraphs of context). What happens, I wonder, when the ‘I want to kill myself’ posts start showing up in the classroom blogs. (I’m sure it’s happened somewhere by now, with all the accompanying questions about what the poster ‘really’ feels) I remember being a teenager, my voice wasn’t very happy. And I, for one, am quite pleased that there isn’t a portfolio of all the silly things that I wrote and felt at that time. While I do see my identity as one created by my history, I also wonder about my history never going away… There’s something about all this ‘publicness’ of the private that scares me. The honesty doesn’t scare me, I strive for that kind of honesty. It’s other people’s reaction to honesty that scares me… and i really don’t know why.

late night, and good night to all of you.

My Secret Postcard for tonight – I always wonder where you all are, and if you are happy when you are in front of your computer screens… I sometimes feel a little addicted.

Edtechtalk – a brush with two very decent people

Had a great show today with Will Richardson and Stephen Downes on Edtechtalk. They were very interesting, brought up some great points, and really quite a coup for us to have them on the show today. The thing that struck me the most was how nice they were. This is something that I have found consistently inside the blogging community (so far), everyone is willing to listen. They are willing to let people make mistakes. In talking about the software they like, and don’t like, they are always respectful of the work that people have done, whether it’s by Microsoft or billy joe rubberboot from down the street.

The other thing that struck me (and i mean in terms of personalities, they said lots of tech and ed things that struck me, but I’m going to need more time to process that) was their talk of the roles that they fill inside the community. Stephen as researcher and philosopher and Will as teacher and practitioner. I didn’t explain it very well during the show but I can’t help but think that these two groups NEED to come together to produce ‘official’ material that can trickle down to the public that isn’t ‘wired in’. An invitation with the authority of the academic and the wisdom of the practitioner…

Education and postmodernism – a toolkit of plenty – or how i learned to stop worrying and love the postmodern

I once hated postmodernism… at a real, visceral level. I didn’t like the word, I didn’t like the smug looks on the faces of people who used it, I didn’t like the way they used the word ‘text’. “Well, this painting makes a very interesting text blah blah la la (insert snooty tone).” That was ten years ago. In the interim, I’ve studied a little, and thought a little, and become alot less confrontational and have found myself quite liking this new thing (it’s at least over 40 years old) that I’ve discovered. The problem is, by the very nature of what it is, you can’t say ‘postmodernism is this’. It isn’t one thing. Not everyone even agrees on what it isn’t. It’s very different in architecture, for instance, than for educational theory. A more useful way of thinking about it, I’ve found, is not asking “what is it?” but rather “what can it do for me?” Over the next few months I’ll be delving occasionally into this uncertain word to talk about my understanding of this ‘toolkit’ that is postmodernity, no doubt incurring the boredom of some readers, and the scorn of others. But it does make sense to me somehow, and that’s what I’ll try to work out here. First some quick thoughts and then a layout of the plan for the short term.

My concern, and indeed my fear, of postmodernism is that it does away with any clear, definable truth. Truths are dependant on context, and power structures and hierarchies PoMo tells us, the Truth that you believe in (sometimes ‘common sense’) is usually one of a group of dominant narratives of a society at a given time and therefore not really True in the sense that there aren’t other ways to do it, but more true from a certain point of view. Take the idea that ‘history is written by the victors’ and expand it to society as a whole, so “The truths in society, is what is true for the people with the most power.(that is not necessarily a single group, but the more powerful for a given situation)” Trickle down economics is a great example of this. According to wikipedia Trickle-down or Reaganomics are “is the view that to benefit the wealthy is to benefit the middle classes and even the poor. These benefits then trickle down.” The benefit to the wealthy is easily measured, the rest, well, is more a matter of opinion. But there are many people who still consider this to be ‘True’ even though “Reagan’s Economic Advisor later characterized supply side economics and trickle down economics as rhetoric.” (both quotes from here. Why, you might ask would people continue to believe in it? It is a dominant discourse. It is a narrative that is equated with power. To agree with it, is to agree with ‘common sense,’ a common sense that one of the people who created it calls ‘rhetoric’.

In the past fifty years we done away with many of these dominant narratives in the classrooms. They are things, for good or bad, that aren’t true for us anymore.

  • corporal punishment
  • the military classroom model (desk rows)
  • transmission style teaching
  • The Three Rs (although this little nugget seems to have staying power)

all once thought true and right, and now things of the past. We can all recognize them now, we can see them for what they are. Some of the changes of the dominant way things are done (often dominant ways, the powerful do not always agree, nor is there only one layer of hierarchies) we may not agree with, but, like it or not, they aren’t ‘the way things are done.’

The next question then is, “how can we judge the things we are doing now?” How can we look at our practice and decide which things we do are good, and which are not good. RESEARCH is the most obvious answer. Get some experts to test it. Problem is, we don’t really believe in experts anymore. When a doctor says “take this medicine”, we now say “what is it?” If someone tells us 300 students were tested and we found that those who scored high in Math scored low on the ‘english aptitude test’. We ask “what was on the test?” There are always variables, and always contexts that can affect a given study (not to metnion out and out bias) that affects the ‘truth-value’ of any research.

Enter the toolkit version 0.1
Jacques Derrida is solely responsible for some of the best sleeps I’ve ever had. There’s nothing like an incredibly dense bit of material writing in response to something that you haven’t read. He was deconstructing ‘modern’ narratives. This idea of deconstructing a ‘text’. I wont do Derrida the disservice of trying to shorten the tool to a short description…

Jean Beaudrillard is still alive and kicking. His take on the term simulacrum gives us another tool to interpret our world. A simulacrum is a copy of a copy etc… of something until the copy no longer represents the original, but represents something entirely new. Think of the ‘mainstreet’ in Disneyland where everyone is happy, there is no crime or poverty. This is meant to resemble the ‘good old days,’ which, if you talk to someone who grew up in the depression, weren’t really all that good. These similacra own central places in many dominant narratives.

action research
In reality, that’s not how we do most of our adaptation anyway. If the person at the workshop says “wow, i tried this new trick on my students and it really worked.” we listen, we ask questions, we tune in. Action research is designed like this. A researcher, usually a classroom practitioner, follows their way through a project, using their PoMo toolkit, and talks about how things go. Are they making truth… no. Nor do they need to.

oh… even in writing them, i feel like I’m on shaky ground. But I feel like there is an honesty to writing this way. cheers for making it this far!

Project updates

We interrupt your regular scheduled programming to bring you this Dave’s Ed update…

Saturday morning of a very solid week. Worldbridges New Media Offer has attracted another pretty interesting project. Student language and culture exchange between Oberlin College in Ohio and an all women’s College in Jedda Saudi Arabia. Have had some great chats with some cool people and for this Sunday it looks like Will Richardson at 10am EST and Stephen Downes at 11EST live on the show.

The New Media Program that I’ve been working in and around over the last several months seems like it will make is to its alpha run, which is good. Jevon MacDonald, Rob Paterson and Tim Carroll were kind enough to invite me to sit around their table in their planning sessions for this course. The details are still not nailed down, indeed, keeping them in the air and letting them develop naturally is part of the plan. Essentially it is a course, designed to bring people together to learn to use new media by working on projects together. The idea is to keep the tech itself as transparent as possible and have the collaborators develop new media literacies ‘as they need them’. Unofficial start date is November 2nd. They’ll be regular posts for anyone interested.

The first entry in my ‘blog novel’ is posted on my personal site. I kinda like the idea of trying to do it in this medium. I’m also hoping for some comments along the way, and am interested to see how comments would affect the direction of the novel… there is a plan, but i’m not committed to it.

Teaching is great. I like blogging. Most other things are still ‘in the fire’… back to your regular scheduled programming.

Cheating, intellectual property, privacy and the read/write classroom

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005 (cut off in the great server crash of ’06)

I’m sitting at an old computer, in a windowless room at the university where I teach ESL students. It reminds me of my old university days in the rat warren, otherwise known as the ‘Life’ Science Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Legend has it that the architect committed suicide after building that coffin. I’d […]

Who is powering the publication?

Monday, October 10th, 2005 (cut off in the great server crash of ’06)

A nice weekend away from the computer, chilled out a bit, and refocused myself for the coming weeks. We’ve got a bunch of stuff we’re doing, including the moodle moot some curriculum development not to mention my classes and the shows. But i’m looking forward to it all, which i suppose is a good sign.
I’ve […]

Patience in Podcasting

Friday, October 7th, 2005 (cut off in the great server crash of ’06)

Got brought up short tonight on the show by Jeff Flynn(gently as always, what a great guy)… I was ribbing him about podcasting in his new moodle installation, and about just doing his podcast with a microphone from his laptop. He says, “then it’s going to be about the technology, the kids are going […]

Microsoft supporting Linux development

Thursday, October 6th, 2005 (cut off in the great server crash of ’06)

Not technically education, but i found this while searching for educational stuff… so close enough. I was checking out the ‘mono-project’ which is the backend that I needed to get ‘epresence’ working and found another project called race to linux which offers a new xbox to people who can write the code […]