educationbridges.net – An Elgg for Teacher collaboration

Alex and Arvind have set up an elgg at educationbridges.net. Go sign up. Join the party.

The thing that i’ve always loved about elgg is that the onus is on the participant. If you wish to join a community, you need to go and find that community and join it. If the community isn’t there, create it. If you need a private party, create a group.

Some quick notes for newbies

  1. If you want to know what going on right away (after you’ve signed up) click ‘my blog’ ‘view all posts’ that will give you all the public posts on the website
  2. Do not be afraid to form communities. They are the heart and soul of how the software works. If you find someone who has tagged something the same as you (which you can tell if your link becomes ‘clickable’) then start a community and contact them. Collaboration of this kind is what elgg is all about.
  3. Do not be afraid to join communities. If someone wants to keep a community exclusive (for whatever reason… i don’t really suggest this unless its necessary) they can just moderate it. Otherwise, they ARE LOOKING FOR PEOPLE. Feel free to drop in.
  4. You need to post to be noticed. If you find that you aren’t getting much out of your experience, its because you haven’t posted (and tagged)
  5. Tag everything, all the time. Don’t know how to tag? just write something in the tags box. If you think something’s a tag, odds are, someone else will too.
  6. Click all the buttons. Take some time to click everything on the site. Set aside a half an hour… its the best way to ‘get acquainted.’ Don’t start with a goal in mind, just wander through the software.
  7. And, as always, JUST ASK.
  8. anything else to add folks?

The worldbridges community (and edtechtalk) are very fortunate to have people like Alex and Arvind on the team (as well as twenty or so other people I can think of). I really think this plan has a great chance of going somewhere special. Join up.

My Space At School Watch – What should we teach?

The reality of the read/WRITE web is that students are now part of the discourse.
Steamy night here in c’town. The boy has been sleeping on and off, and tonight he’s not sleeping so much and it’s bon’s turn to put him off into sleep. I’m gonna try and sneak a post into the evening…

Art Gelwicks has been having a debate with a bunch of random students in a blog post that i made a few months ago. I’ve gotten about 1500 google hits from that post, which says MUCH more about how important it is for people than it says about my blog’s popularity. Reading through the comments gives you a sense of how desperate these students are to get to myspace… It’s not as if my blog post promised any support for their plight, and still, they posted. They are, as it were, using my blog as a means for interacting with each other, for passing information back and forth about how to crack through their school’s system.

So Art says

  • Rather than spending time trying to find ways to bypass your schools filtering and policies, wouldn’t it make more sense to pursue getting those policies changed?

The response is so typical it might have been put their on purpose to irritate him (and it might have been)

From Marlene

  • I NEED A MYSPACE

From Karla and Andrea

  • i need myspace at school

So Art responds by taking them to task for taking the easy way out and not applying their education to convince ‘teh autoritays’ to let them ‘make the case for the site you want access to.’ And I agree with him, that should be the kind of education that they have received… but have they?

I’ve often been taken to task for the title of my blog, a new acquaintance of mine (hopefully soon friend) asked me the other day what ‘post-structuralism’ was. I sent her this quote from wikipedia

  1. post-structuralism views culture as integral to every textual work. Essential elements of this cultural context include author(s), location, format, audience, and myriad social and economic factors. A typical post-structuralist position holds that the meaning of any work is itself a cultural phenomenon.

Lets take a step back and look at the comments in that blog post and ask ourselves… what’s going on?

Well… there’s my original post. I had intended to start a series of myspace watches of which this is the second. I was definetely speaking to an audience of peers, probably adults, a quick reference to the Simpsons, and my agenda message… teach them how to deal with a thing, don’t ban a thing out of hand. This with the implicit message that students will find it one way or the other.

Then there’s the responses by people I’ll call educators. They’re mostly in agreement with me, (dave says smugly, of course, it is my blog, so one would assume that they might) i believe, if i interpret it correctly, even Tom Hoffman didn’t completely disagree with me. And i believe that’s the only time that’s ever happened!

The response of the students, however, shows a completely different view of the post. They didn’t see the content, they had a completely different experience on the page. One interpretation might be that they saw an adult who was not wholely unsympathetic, and they dropped another coin in the well… posted here as they might have tens of other places. Another interpretation might be that they didn’t see anything, and we’re taking over my blog for their own conversation. Art’s encounters seem to support this position.

What the blog IS is very different depending on your culture, your feelings about format and who you are as an audience. While, to some degree, this has always been true, Shakespeare, for instance, is a painful experience to many teenagers and great fun to many other people. The reality of the read/WRITE web is that students are now part of the discourse.

We are no longer in a world where a single dominant discourse “shakespeare is good for you” can enforce its agenda. These students are going to subvert the system, and make themselves heard. But in looking at the posts from those subverters of the system, i have to agree with Art, but I’ll change the pronoun “is that the best WE can do?”

Lets break down what they’re looking for. It’s a piece of ‘knowledge’ that is in constant flux. What worked at the start of the comments, did not work for the student at the end (Alex Q). It’s not like looking for a date, or a physics equation… it might not even still be accurate by the time you try it. This is the knowledge that these students are going to need to be able to learn and access. This is how they are going to need to learn.

Simply posting “i need my space” on random blogs is not enough.

How then do we teach students the literacies that they need to be able to excel in a world where knowledge is so fleeting. Where an analysis of culture is necessary in order to get the things you want. Let’s take a slightly different example, as i wouldn’t really teach students how to break through the schools firewall, not because it wouldn’t be a good learning experience, but because they shouldn’t do that.
Lesson 1 

any suggestions? what exercise could they do that would teach them the literacies alluded to above? Something they should do.

My Space At School Watch – What should we teach?

The reality of the read/WRITE web is that students are now part of the discourse.
Steamy night here in c’town. The boy has been sleeping on and off, and tonight he’s not sleeping so much and it’s bon’s turn to put him off into sleep. I’m gonna try and sneak a post into the evening…

Art Gelwicks has been having a debate with a bunch of random students in a blog post that i made a few months ago. I’ve gotten about 1500 google hits from that post, which says MUCH more about how important it is for people than it says about my blog’s popularity. Reading through the comments gives you a sense of how desperate these students are to get to myspace… It’s not as if my blog post promised any support for their plight, and still, they posted. They are, as it were, using my blog as a means for interacting with each other, for passing information back and forth about how to crack through their school’s system.

So Art says

  • Rather than spending time trying to find ways to bypass your schools filtering and policies, wouldn’t it make more sense to pursue getting those policies changed?

The response is so typical it might have been put their on purpose to irritate him (and it might have been)

From Marlene

  • I NEED A MYSPACE

From Karla and Andrea

  • i need myspace at school

So Art responds by taking them to task for taking the easy way out and not applying their education to convince ‘teh autoritays’ to let them ‘make the case for the site you want access to.’ And I agree with him, that should be the kind of education that they have received… but have they?

I’ve often been taken to task for the title of my blog, a new acquaintance of mine (hopefully soon friend) asked me the other day what ‘post-structuralism’ was. I sent her this quote from wikipedia

  1. post-structuralism views culture as integral to every textual work. Essential elements of this cultural context include author(s), location, format, audience, and myriad social and economic factors. A typical post-structuralist position holds that the meaning of any work is itself a cultural phenomenon.

Lets take a step back and look at the comments in that blog post and ask ourselves… what’s going on?

Well… there’s my original post. I had intended to start a series of myspace watches of which this is the second. I was definetely speaking to an audience of peers, probably adults, a quick reference to the Simpsons, and my agenda message… teach them how to deal with a thing, don’t ban a thing out of hand. This with the implicit message that students will find it one way or the other.

Then there’s the responses by people I’ll call educators. They’re mostly in agreement with me, (dave says smugly, of course, it is my blog, so one would assume that they might) i believe, if i interpret it correctly, even Tom Hoffman didn’t completely disagree with me. And i believe that’s the only time that’s ever happened!

The response of the students, however, shows a completely different view of the post. They didn’t see the content, they had a completely different experience on the page. One interpretation might be that they saw an adult who was not wholely unsympathetic, and they dropped another coin in the well… posted here as they might have tens of other places. Another interpretation might be that they didn’t see anything, and we’re taking over my blog for their own conversation. Art’s encounters seem to support this position.

What the blog IS is very different depending on your culture, your feelings about format and who you are as an audience. While, to some degree, this has always been true, Shakespeare, for instance, is a painful experience to many teenagers and great fun to many other people. The reality of the read/WRITE web is that students are now part of the discourse.

We are no longer in a world where a single dominant discourse “shakespeare is good for you” can enforce its agenda. These students are going to subvert the system, and make themselves heard. But in looking at the posts from those subverters of the system, i have to agree with Art, but I’ll change the pronoun “is that the best WE can do?”

Lets break down what they’re looking for. It’s a piece of ‘knowledge’ that is in constant flux. What worked at the start of the comments, did not work for the student at the end (Alex Q). It’s not like looking for a date, or a physics equation… it might not even still be accurate by the time you try it. This is the knowledge that these students are going to need to be able to learn and access. This is how they are going to need to learn.

Simply posting “i need my space” on random blogs is not enough.

How then do we teach students the literacies that they need to be able to excel in a world where knowledge is so fleeting. Where an analysis of culture is necessary in order to get the things you want. Let’s take a slightly different example, as i wouldn’t really teach students how to break through the schools firewall, not because it wouldn’t be a good learning experience, but because they shouldn’t do that.
Lesson 1 

any suggestions? what exercise could they do that would teach them the literacies alluded to above? Something they should do.

blogevangelism part deux – stephen downes’ response

Wow. It’s a strangely comforting/discomforting confusing feeling when someone you respect takes so much time to deconstruct something you’ve written. Nice, in a sense, that what you wrote seemed worth the effort to respond to in such detail, not so comforting that I took such a thrashing! 🙂 But let me pick up on a couple of issues, and see if I can’t speak a little clearer on them, and why i think they’re important. Here’s Stephen’s post.

and now, an attempt to put enough here to make this understandable without making it 20 miles long… I want to be clear at the outset, that the orginal conversation that i was describing was a real one, and the arguments that I was refuting were genuine. I know the blogevangelist in question. And this was not meant to tar the name of some very good blogevangelists (which is why I changed the title of the last post) because most of them are perfectly reasoned in their promotion of blogging.
dave Blogging (in its wordpress type form) is probably a transitional technology.

  • Stephen Well yes, of course it is transitional technology. Name me one thing launched on the internet over the last ten years that isn’t transitional technology.
  • dave’s response agreed Stephen. But you and I are fully aware of the transitionality of technology, there are many, many people who are not aware of this. And, when they think of tools ‘for democracy’ or ‘for teaching’ they tend to compare them to things that have much longer lifespans. This is a very simple premise that can be layed on the floor of a discussion, you yourself agree that it’s true. When people are as fired up as my friend was, it never hurts to start with an easy premise.
  • Stephen continues “Blogging allows for only a pretty rudimentary interactivity.” Well yeah, but it allows for a whole lot more interactivity than, say, plain ordinary web pages (aka shovelware). and and people are working hard to make that possible. People, I might add, in the blogging community – and not their critics.
  • Dave’s response Agreed. But the comparison that you are making is between internet technologies… The discussion i was having was comparing it to a classroom and live discussion. I agree that people are working hard to make it possible, which is why i linked to ELGG. But again, the person i was debating with is not online at all now… so the comparison of ‘better’ was not super important. It was the legitimacy of his saying that it wasn’t perfect that I was acknowledging. And it isn’t perfect. It does many, many good things. But people who’ve been turned off will focus on the negative, which i acknowledged.

dave It can(blogs), very often, lack accountability

  • actually, i won’t really go into this one too far, I failed to link to the correct article in my post and Stephen assumed i meant Bill O’reilly and I meant Tim O’reilly. Stephen did make an excellent point about traditional media not exactly being perfectly accountable either. This is true, but they are, at least to some degree, more accountable. (I wish i was being ironic by mentioning Bill O’reilly, but i’m not that cool 🙂 )

dave It is not, by any means, a silver bullet

  • Stephen’s response  where is that pundit out there who is actually saying blogs will satisfy every need of every person?
  • dave’s response It was my conversation partner’s perception that he’d been told just that. That blogging was the key to democracy. I’m guessing he oversimplified, but again, simply agreeing to the fact that it isn’t, creates a comfort zone with the other participant that you aren’t a fanatic. And he was talking about a specific presentation and person. People do think that people say this. It ususally is said by detractors “Yeah, you blogging people just think that it will solve everything.” It’s a facile argument that needs a pat response. Just saying “i know that blogging won’t cure cancer,” is often enough to make people slow down long enough to listen to the good side of the story.

dave No one (at least not me) is suggesting that blogging should replace good teaching

  • stephen He wrote alot of stuff… I encourage you to read it. Essentially he said it can. And i think that he took my comments a little out of context (as well as suggesting that my comments weren’t HONEST. which is a little hard to take)
  • dave’s response yes. I agree. blogs are good for many things. A little more clarity on what i meant by ‘replace good teaching’. The person i was talking to is reputed by everyone to be a great teacher (better than good). What I was suggesting to him was not that blogging should replace the good teaching that he is currently doing. (i suggested ways it could be added)

The rest of his response covers many of the many good things that blogging (and associated techonologies) can do for people. Anyone familiar with my work will know that I can’t help but agree with him.

  1. Blogging (in its wordpress type form) is probably a transitional technology.
  2. It can, very often, lack accountability
  3. It is not, by any means, a silver bullet
  4. No one (at least not me) is suggesting that blogging should replace good teaching
  5. There are still a number of very important social justice issues around blogging that stop it from being the IDEAL democracy tool.
  6. Yes. Many of the most vocal bloggers will probably one day work for major media corps.

I think that, in response to my premises, stephen’s post gives a nice outline of the many nice things that blogging can do. I’m not entirely sure if he thinks that I’m being an apologist by using the above premises in a discussion. I hope not.

This sentence does concern me

  • I see no reason why supporters of blogs in learning should roll over before the critics in an effort to be reasonable.

By my count, Stephen actually agreed with 5 out of 6 of the premises (i think he disagreed with the number 4, but i could be wrong) He then went on to elaborate on the powers in blogging in almost exactly the same way that I did in the conversation that I had on Wednesday night. (not surprising considering how much of his work i read 🙂 )

So here’s my question back to you Stephen, as you agree with the premises (even consider some of them facile Well yes, of course it is transitional technology.) then why not just come out and say them in a conversation if it settles the ire and lets the second part of that conversation happen? Is that ‘rolling over’ or is it just a productive conversation style?

I do see the need to roll over to be reasonable, for the very reasons that you described the media revolution as useful. I would like to see more people get a voice, and the more people in decision making positions that I can convince, the more that might happen.

Middle Adopters… the second wave – further thought on the Rosen piece.

(title change – used to say “Why i’m not a blog-evangelist,” but the gist of the post changed before the end.l

I want to emphasize, once again, that I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Rosen and his work, and am not intending to pick on him. It’s just that his article has brought a series of issues to mind, and started some great conversations that I’ve had a chance to be part of. I hope that Mr. Rosen will see this (that is, assuming he does see it) as a conversation spurred on by his thoughts rather than opposed to them.

I got blindsided in a discussion with some colleagues last night. We we’re sitting at the bar, casually talking about some soccer tournament ( 🙂 ) and he turns to me and says “how can you say that blogging is going to democratize the world?” And I said… “excuse me?” we debated, and i was a little taken aback by his enthusiasm for the topic. He explained to me that someone had told him this and he thought it was poppycock. And he was darn tired of everyone telling him he needed to do it. His classes are fine he says, he’s a purist.

Now… blogging is great. I’m writing this, you are reading it. We like blogs. That liking can turn the corner into proselitization, and certainly in the case of this friend of mine, it REALLY TURNED HIM OFF. We eventually came to a common ground once i clearly stated my concerns regarding blogging. It took us about 30 minutes to find that common ground, and, for posterity, i thought i would try and record some of what we worked out here…

Blogging (in its wordpress type form) is probably a transitional technology.

At the moment blogging allows for only a pretty rudimentary interactivity. There is one (or several) central characters, and then peripheral characters. You might argue that in the case of a classroom blog, everybody is a member and primary contributor, but i would say that a learning landscape is better technology for that.
It can, very often, lack accountability

A very clear example of this is during the o’reilly debate some nefarious dude kept coming in and posting that o’reilly was a chaild mohlester. No name. no recourse. Also, people can start a blog on any number of blogging sites and remain anonymous and then slander people.

It is not, by any means, a silver bullet

There are many situations where a blog won’t suit the needs of the given person.

No one (at least not me) is suggesting that blogging should replace good teaching

Blogging, in and of itself, will solve nothing. It will neither make a bad teacher good, nor will it save terrible curriculum. It is one, potentially important or central, but still one piece of the puzzle.

There are still a number of very important social justice issues around blogging that stop it from being the IDEAL democracy tool.

One is access. Can’t get to a computer, you can’t blog. Don’t have time? can’t blog. The second is the requisite literacy set. If you can’t understand Mr. Rosen’s style of English, or don’t understand the western conventions of argumentation, you can’t play. No matter how much you want to.

Yes. Many of the most vocal bloggers will probably one day work for major media corps.

However

There is blogging and there is blogging. Good blogging is bound into a community. A community where people aren’t anonymous and are rewarded (read) according to the quality of their work. This is good. Also, it does mean that we have a media that is not controlled in its voice sense, by money. Nasty comments can be moderated out. And blogging can give voices to many people. It can, in its own way, contribute to a more democratic world.

After we established these premises, we had a very productive conversation, and I might have convinced him of a situation in which blogging would be of use in his classroom. To some people telling them they need to do something like blogging, is tantamount to saying they aren’t currently doing enough. We are all salespeople in the new media revolution. We need to be realistic about what we say the technology can do so we can keep encouraging those middle adopters to join the party.