Let's invite the Huns

Since I got back from the South Carolina EdTech Conference, things have been hectic around here but I wanted to share some things I got from the conference. It seemed for me and some others I spoke with, this conference could be a transition conference. What I mean is that we have been hearing Web 2.0 hype for awhile. While Web 2.0 is important for the future of education I feel there is something bigger building up and coming down the pike soon. My guess is distance learning will be the coming thing because it will bring together all of the Web 2.0 tools and can link students to teachers who can help them.

The other thing I took away is it may be time to bring students into the conversation on how best to educate them. For the second year in a row, we heard experts talk about how today's students are different because they are "Digital Natives" and have a different way of doing things. Districts across the country are spending millions or maybe billions of dollars, hiring and firing consultants, hiring and firing school administrators, to make Federal Government mandates. Yet, I have never heard of any true discussions about education which involves students. There was one brave young man who entered the Fireside Chat during the K12 Online Conference who provided thoughtful contributions to the conversation that night. Perhaps we need to hear more from young people like him. Perhaps it can give some fresh perspective on what needs to be done.

All in all, it was a good conference and I am looking forward to next year.

Building Relationships to Change Society

In August of 2004, Dr. Laurie Bassi of McBassi & Company met with a group of teacher from the new Bluffton High School (SC) which I was a part of. During a break Dr. Bassi told me the factors of production have changed to reflect a service based economy. The new factors of productions are Land, Human Capital, and Relational Capital. This stayed with me and I used them in an honors economics class I taught. Today I heard Clarence Fisher talk about how education will be built on relationships with no regard to geography in his keynote address for the K12 Online Conference. This will be very important as the walls of classrooms are torn down bit by bit as technology progresses.

I see this happening in two ways. First, students with specific educational needs will be matched with teachers who can meet those needs regardless of physical proximity. Technology will bring the two together. Virtual schools are just the beginning of this trend. Next will come classrooms where a teacher might only be teaching half of the students in the room. The rest of the students will interact with the teacher via distance learning. The group of students who are not working with the physical teacher will be working with another teacher at another school. Second, as teachers and students search for new experiences, they will build relationships with groups of students and teachers from anywhere in the world.

Mr. Fisher mentioned something else that interested me. He said society will have to change for our classrooms to change from the current model of rows of desks with the teacher at the front. Fisher sees classrooms becoming more like studios where there will many different activities going on at once managed by the teacher. This classroom will be noisy and chaotic which current administrators and teachers will have a hard time with. Will society change? Absolutely! Society is already changing as digital natives are moving into adulthood and going to work. Blogs, wikis, social networks, and other Web 2.0 applications are finding their way into business. Eventually, this way of thinking will find its way into education but education moves very slow. It will take time for the changing of the guard to effect the total change in education as digital immigrants will inevitably move out and pass the torch to the new generations.

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

David Warlick said in his keynote address for the K12 Online Conference the walls are coming down. What he means is that technology has progressed to the point where boundaries set classrooms, offices, and other traditional places where people interact are disappearing. Two events that happened to me this week have proven him right. First was participating in the Fireside Chat with David Warlick and personally conducted an in service for the teachers at my school online.

I have participated in chat rooms before and talked to friends via instant messaging. Hey, I even had an interesting conversation with someone from Hong Kong years ago using ICQ. The event this past Monday was different for me. I was participating in an online event that had professional purpose with colleagues from all over the world. Just like physical conferences, I was able to interact and even made a friend or two. However, it was the side chat while David Warlick was fielding questions that impressed me the most. There was some interesting conversations going on and I learned more from this than David. I am looking forward to the rest of the conference which lasts for the next two weeks. If you want more information you can click on the link above or on the right of the blog site.

The other event was born out of necessity to inform teachers about their technology portfolio requirements for this school year. I had tried to do this earlier but could not get the time to do it after school approved. It was recommended I do it on a staff development day this past Tuesday but Teachers were going to be busy with parent conferences. I scheduled several sessions but I remembered hearing about an online conferencing application called WizIQ. I set up the sessions and informed teachers about the session times and how to particpate. Over one third of the teachers participated online. There were a few technical difficulties but overall the sessions went well. So well, I am planning to do it again Tuesday for a session on One-Computer Classrooms. This means any teacher can hold class but not have all the students physically present such as those who are too sick to come to school.

I have been looking out for other online meeting applications and three stand out and all are free. First, is Google Presentation which has a chat function when you share a link to a presentation. Next is Zoho Meeting which is part of the Zoho Online Office Suite. The drawback to Zoho is there is no voice unless you use Skype. The final application is UStream.tv which allows you to stream video live over the Internet. There are also several fee-based applications and I am sure there will be more to come which will break those walls down a little more.