I had to leave at the crack of dawn yesterday morning to catch my train to New York, which meant I didn’t get to see Deneen Frazier-Bowen’s NECC keynote at its scheduled time. But since she’s my long-time edtech homegirl, she was sweet enough to let me sit in on one of her rehearsals this Tuesday.
Deneen’s keynote wasn’t your usual Powerpoint-Slides-and-a-Longwinded-Speech kinda keynote. Far from it. Instead, she basically pulled an Anna Deveare Smith and performed a series of characters to help paint a portrait of what it’s like for today’s kids to be growing up as digital natives. The keynote began with a stiff, know-nothing school administrator fumbling her way through a Powerpoint, talking about educating kids the old fashioned way and knowing what’s best for today’s kids. Eventually, she gets so flummoxed with her Powerpoint that she runs off the stage to argue with tech support.
While Old Miss Frumpmeister is doing her thing back stage, Deneen comes back on stage dressed as a young hip-hop lovin’ teen. Her name is Eddy, and she’s a smart, tough kid who loves technology but isn’t trusted by her teachers. She tells a story about how she brought a palm pilot to class but gets busted for supposedly using it to cheat on a test, which wasn’t the case. The school principal makes a capital case out of it and refuses to listen to Eddy’s side of the story. So what does Eddy do? She posts it on her blog, which, of course, eventually gets back around to the principal. The principal orders her to remove the criticism of him from the blog, even though it’s spot-on accurate, and Eddy refuses. She’s then suspended from school, as people all over the world comment on her blog and rally to her cause.
Once Eddy exits the stage, we get to meet Maria. Maria’s in late elementary school, and she’s a bit hyper, but she’s got great ideas about math and science. She likes to find science websites and hopes to use them in class, but not all her teachers seem to care about her opinion. But thanks to one teacher who values her opinion, Maria gets to talk about her idea about participating in Net Day Speak Up Day during a meeting of the school’s teachers. She’s never spoken in public before, so she uses the voice recorder on her smart phone to practice before giving her big speech, then puts it on her audio blog. Eventually, the school gets involved in the project, and she talks about the results.
Some of Maria’s new-found courage comes from her older friend Joanna, an above average 11th grade student who likes to spend her free time playing online multiplayer games. At first her mother worries about the time she spends gaming, but then starts to notice how she takes charge whenever she’s interacting with others online. Her mother talks to her about how she’s learning leadership skills, a concept pretty much alien to Joanna, but eventually she decides to learn about youth leadership activities to see if she can channel her interests in a positive way. Enter TakingITGlobal: Joanna discovers the network and starts chatting with a girl in Egypt. She gets the idea of setting up a computer recycling program for African kids, approaching the company her mom works for in order to get the computers. Before she knows it, she’s an active TIG member, getting lots of media attention in her community as she mobilizes local businesses to help bridge the digital divide.
Eventually, the obnoxious administrator returns to the stage. While trying to sort out her Powerpoint, she apparently overheard the kids’ monologues. She’s forced to rethink her attitudes towards kids and learning, while recognizing the way technology can be used to inspire and invigorate young people.
Following the performance, Deneen returns to the stage, no longer in character. She describes how she’s spent time over the last few years interview countless young people, trying to get a handle on what it’s like to be a digital native. The characters she introduced during her performance are not verbatim re-enactments of actual people a la Anna Deveare Smith, but are composites and creations inspired by the students she’s interviewed. It was a whole new way to tell the story of education and youth media; I’m really glad I had the chance to see Deneen’s performance before leaving the conference.
For those of you who missed it, here are some podcasts of her characters. Not all the performances are complete, but they’ll give you a feel for what she did on stage at NECC. Special thanks to Deneen for letting me record them. -andy
June 30, 2005
June 29, 2005
David Warlick gets down with another podcast at the Apple Podcast Marathon
Even though podcasting was barely on the lips of anyone – let alone educators – when the NECC conference program was planned early last autumn, somehow the conference organizers managed to jump on the bandwagon with surprising success. With assistance from Apple and a team of Apple Distinguished Educators, NECC organizers have posted a series of podcasts from the conference, including recordings of sessions, an interview with the mayor of Philadelphia, and a podcast tour of Philly. Apple also hosted a podcast marathon last night in conjunction with the release of their podcast-friendly iTunes 4.9. They reserved a room that was supposed to fit only 120 people. When I showed up last night about 45 minutes before the session, there was a line out the door and around the corner. So many people showed up that they had to schedule a repeat session the following hour. Both were standing-room-only. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many educators psyched about a new tool that didn’t even have a classroom track record yet.
The excitement was palpable; Dave Warlick and I recorded simultaneous podcasts as the crowd waited to go inside, talking with people and learning about their interests in podcasting. Inside the room, Barnaby Wasson led a team of Apple Distinguished Educators giving an overview of podcasting and a demo of the new iTunes. He also introduced participants to mobile podcasting, encouraging them to set up a Blogger account so they could use Audioblogger for recording podcasts from their phone. One thing he neglected to mention was the need for a Feedburner RSS feed, since Blogger’s feed isn’t podcast-friendly; I made a note of it during ther Q&A session and Barnaby promised to add the info to their presentation slides so participants wouldn’t accidentally leave out this important, albeit technical, step in the podcasting process.
Meanwhile, there were probably at least half a dozen podcasting educators wandering the halls of the conference, posting recordings left and right. Now that I’m heading home I’ll definitely check out the various feeds, including Dave’s and Steve Dembo’s, so I can live vicariously through their podcasts. They’re both off to a great start, so I can’t wait to see what else they’ll be doing there.
Last but not least, here’s an overly excited podcast I recorded a few moments after the Apple podcast marathon. -andy
Against my better judgment, I’ve decided not to go to bed like a good boy and I’ve spent the last half hour or so compressing the podcast of my panel session from the NECC conference today so I could get it online for you eager beavers to listen to in the wee hours of the morning. It’s about an hour long, and features Web education luminaries Yvonne-Marie Andres, Bonnie Bracey, Dennis Harper, Patsy Wang-Iverson, Ed Gragert and David Warlick, with yours truly moderating. In the immortal words of Spalding Gray in The Killing Fields and Swimming to Cambodia, check it out, Sid. Now, where’s that confounded bed? -ac
June 28, 2005
My NECC session jut started. Better go moderate my rowdy guests….-andy
I’ll be convening a panel at the NECC conference in a couple of hours; the session will bring together a group of Web pioneering educators to talk about Web-based education’s past, present and future. I’ll post notes about it later; in the meantime, here are the powerpoints we plan to use.
General Panel Powerpoint
Ed Gragert’s Powerpoint
Yvonne Andres’ Powerpoint
I’m pretty annoyed at the Philadelphia convention center’s wireless policy. It seems that free wi-fi is available in public corridors, but not in the session rooms. When you try to go online during a session, you get a message informing vendors that it’ll cost them 250 bucks a laptop to have public wifi in all meeting spaces. What a joke. Given all the sessions that NECC is finally having on blogging, podcasting, wi-fi, etc, it’s an embarrassment that none of us can do this stuff in real-time in so many of the presentation rooms here, unless you’re luck enough to have access to one of the few ethernet cables set up for the presenters themselves. So I’ll have to step out of the session to post this message. What a pain….
Right now I’m sitting in on Tom March’s NECC session. He’s showing off some blogs created in classroom, with students having a more authentic learning experience by interacting with the online public. Quoting Al Rogers, he said, “Don’t surf the Web, serve the Web.” (Reminds me of Stephen Collins’ old battle cry, Give Back to the Net.) Use Web tools to create student excitement alive, embracing authentic activities that can actually make a difference, like running an online news wire about child slavery or the extinction of frog species.
Tom’s now showing how easy it was to buy a domain name for his son and setting up a space for him to create his own content. The site is scottyjensen.com – not sure if anything is live yet. Seems like a no, but maybe by the time you read this it’ll be different.
It’s a nice size crowd here – about 250 people. Not bad for a conference with more than 300 concurrent sessions over the next few days.
As soon as David Weinberger finished his presentation, thousands of NECC attendees streamed out the ballroom to make a run for the buffet tables set up in the reception hall. The reception took place in a long, thin corridor, creating an ugly bottleneck of tote-bag-toting educators eager to scarf down free food laid out on some sponsor’s dime. Meanwhile, a large group of brass-wielding mummers performed parade music, much of which was drowned out by numbers of people calling out to friends amidst the throng of hungry teachers. Sheer chaos. Welcome to yet another NECC.
Patsy and I looked around for a moment or two and decided to bolt. I’ve done nine other NECC receptions: the food quality varies, but it’s usually greasy, and the last thing my jet-lagged stomach needed was an overdose of fried food. So off to the train station we went to head back out to the suburbs. Hobnobbing with friends and peers could wait.
The 2005 National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) kicked off in Philadelphia today with an opening keynote by David Weinberger. I haven’t had a chance to write an article about what he said, so he’s a brain dump of all the quotes and ideas I managed to capture. -andy
“I will never live philosopher in chief down – let that never leave this room.”
His presentation, entitled “The Shape of Knowledge,”
“Darn bloggers, you can’t say anything.”
Knowledge is “in pretty rocky shape.” He talked about Dan Rather’s fall from grace; unfortunately the media portrays it as the result of a “blogger hit squad,” he said the issue was that today’s media doesn’t have the authority it once did. “When the authorities don’t even know they’ve lost authority, that’s funny – that’s comedy!”
Jon Stewart: “He’s the only guy on TV capable of blurting out the truth.”
Wikipedia: In a couple of hundred years, people will point to wikipedia as an “epochal event.” If you want to understand what the Internet can be, you should point to Wikipedia. “By all rights it should be the world’s biggest crap magnet…. But in fact, Jimbo Wales has done something remarkable.”
The Greek agora: it’s where affairs of state were decided. “that’s where knowledge got started.”
There’s only one thing we can really know: I think, therefore I am. Descartes. A single sentence that even God couldn’t fool with it.
Four aspects of knowledge. Two of them mirror the nature of reality, while the other measure the nature of political reality.
We assume there’s onlyone knowledge we share. On reality, one knowledge.
Knowledge is neatly organized, like the way we organize things like laundry. Putting it in piles of things that make sense to us.
One of the consequences of this, is as with physical things, we assume that in a perfect knowledge structure that everything will have its place.
Because we doing these knowledge structures, we need experts to do it. “We need experts – it’s tough to do this.”
The experts are going to have a lot of power who help us what’s the right knowledge, what’s the best knowledge.
Dewey: creating a map of knowledge like a map of the local landscape. This ultra rationalism of his forces some constraints: English is put somewhere else than Latin or German or Portuguese or Ural-Altaic or Dravidian, while southeast Asian languages “don’t even get an integer.”
Religion: 88 dewey decimals assigned to Christianity, jews get one, Buddhists and muslims one, etc.
The point is, is that this is NOT a solvable problem. There is not one world so there is not one knowledge.
But digitizing changes everything a whole bunch.
First order: organizing physical things themselves, like photo archives with pencil metadata written on back
Second order: physically separating metadata from the physical objects themselves, like a card catalog representing the knowledge of books
Third order: everything is digital, both objects and metadata. So what can you do now?
Photographic equipment: One thing usually goes into one pile; now you can sort digital cameras in as many places on an e-commerce website as you want.
Messiness is a virtue: hyperlinks can be as messy as you want. If you can’t even count them or follow them all, then you’ve succeeded.
Unknown order. Most of Macy’s is noise: stuff that doesn’t fit you. Imagine getting a wheelbarrow that pulls out everything you can use, you’ve got your own personal store. The owner of info no longer owns the organization of information.
Go to a website shopping for digital cameras and sort the search based on your parameters, not theirs. That’s an enormous release of power, a transfer of power.
Users are contributors. Social labeling: allowing the public to contribute meaning to information, like labeling online photos
Externalized thought. Cites Andy Clark: human beings have always externalized thought, like a physicist requiring a white board in order to think. Now we’re doing the same thing with google. How can you get your kids to memorize the state capitals when they can look it up easily?
If our scaffolding now is bits, what does that mean?
Wikipedia: wiki is not paper. It’s obvious, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. It’s size is infinite; it’s not limited.
What’s the size of a topic? According to Brittanica, you can only have 32 volumes of knowledge, not 33 – that’d break your back. Artificial constraints to what is considered shared knowledge.
Snip the paper chain, the connection to reality, and build an encyclopedia out of bits, and watch what happens. You get entries like Deep Fried Mars Bar and the Heavy Metal Umlaut. These are somewhat frivolous, perhaps, but we know the size of these topics, and shows what matters to us as a culture, as humans and individuals. This is much closer to the passion of knowledge than what brittanica is.
Linnaeus library: you had to physically have the species to make it official. It’s a map of all species. Linnaeus created a stack of 3×5 cards, laid them out, then made physical maps of them. This makes it tempting to lump things in one category to make life easier.
We have a container model of the mind. It’s an insane idea. We’re doing an internal representation of the world based on what we can store in our heads, or in a book, but they’re both finite.
He then shows Doc Searls’ blog: one of 11 million known and tracked blogs, though I’d guess there are at least double that. Shows his blogroll – all the links he shows to others. Lots of entries, lots of links. Blogs get represented as people writing publicly; but they’re really people in conversations linking to each other. Goes against commercial website philosophy of not linking to outside sources. When you put it all together you get a stinkin’ pile of generosity.
The NY Times: lots of news, lots of links. Except all but for point internally, the rest point to ads. And they have the nerve to call the blogosphere an echo chamber.
Why should you believe Doc Searls? You shouldn’t necessarily, but you should believe the world he lives in more than the NY Times’ world.
Objectivity: the world that is
Subjectivity: the world that matters
Multisubjectivity: it’s not just lots of viewpoints; it’s that you get viewpoints in conversation with each other.
If you want to learn about open source, you won’t find it in Brittanica; instead, go to Doc’s site and follow the links. Go to technorati and see what bloggers are saying. An endless set of links of people conversing with each other. And with all of those people, you’ll get a better sense of what the truth is than reading a single source.
Multi-dispute-ism: when you get into an argument in public, you get hyper rational and try to tear the other person a new one, getting them to admit they’re wrong and you’re right. On the Web, it’s more typical you get a dialogue. It’s a big web – there’s lots of room to disagree and move on. The conversation is never going to be resolved.
When you want a beer, you don’t look for a perfect beer, just a good one. With information gatekeepers, they want knowledge to be perfect, rather than just good enough. With good enough, we barely need gatekeepers. It’s pragmatic: we want the beer. “Pragmatic, local and damn refreshing.”
Knowledge in the age of connected abundance. The solution to the over-abundance of information is more information. Connected abundance. Should we shove content into our kids’ heads? Should we test them as individuals even though they learn socially? Should we imply ambiguity is a failure? Should we insist on being right?
Knowledge is an unending conversation. I mean this absolutely literally. It’s not content that we all decide on. It’s the engagement in the conversation. So we need to understand the context of knowledge – it depends on the discipline. We need to learn how to listen, seek ambiguity. If they’re being too precise, we need to muddy the waters. And we need to love the difference in things.
Conversation, by its very nature, is a paradox. We base differences on identifying what’s common. The simple act of a conversation is miraculous.