I first heard Craig Barrett speak when Mabry received the Intel and Scholastic Schools of Distinction Award for Technology Innovation. He seems to have a genuine interest in education. I also especially appreciate the 5 key 21st century skills Brenda Musilli presents. However, I would love to know more about how the foundation defines collaboration and communications. Just in case you missed it:
Today, Intel announced a new initiative to rapidly broaden the reach of its program, Intel Teach. The Intel effort, started in 2000, focuses on training teachers around the world to use personal computers as a tool in classrooms. The company announced at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York that its program, up to now based on face-to-face instruction for teachers, would add a hybrid online program. In the past, Intel Teach involved 40 hours of in-class training for teachers. The new online offering will include eight to 12 hours of face-to-face instruction, and the rest over the Internet, at the teacher’s convenience.
“This is a way to exponentially expand the program,” Craig Barrett, Intel’s chairman, said in an interview.
The Intel Teach effort has trained 4 million teachers worldwide so far, and the company plans to reach another 10 million or so in a decade. The online teacher training is initially aimed at 1.5 million teachers in 15 countries, from the United States to India, over the next four years.
The Intel approach, largely funded through the company’s philanthropic foundation, revolves around the teacher. “What really drives quality education is quality teachers,” Mr. Barrett said. “Computers are a tool, but no more. Teachers are the most important part of bringing kids into the 21st century with 21st century skills.”
The five, key 21st century skills, says Brenda Musilli, president of the Intel Foundation, are: problem solving, collaboration, communications, digital literacy and creative thinking.
In the marketplace of public policy and educational ideas, few have ever been as effectively, even brilliantly marketed as "No Child Left Behind." Who can argue against mom, apple pie, the American flag, and helping every child? The nickname for this law goes well beyond sounding wholesome and good. In fact, the carefully crafted name commands the dimensions of a moral imperative and a patriotic duty. This alone should have caused each of us to pause and start to think critically.
But we are a busy people. Our lives are filled with endless distractions demanding our immediate attention. We barely trust the headlines, and we certainly do not believe the fine print. Taking the law "by name" and trusting our politicians to take care of our children was quite simply the easy thing to do.
And certainly, the intentions of our law makers were not evil.* However, good intentions do not always sound educational policy make. And unless lawmakers amend NCLB, the number of "failing" schools is about to swell from our present 30% (an absurdity in and of itself) to nearly 100% in the next 7 years. Frankly, this angers me greatly. Such failure will not be on the part of our children and their schools, who will none the less be the target of media's blame, but on the part of the politicians who have crafted poor policy into law.
I am hopeful the law will be substantially amended as having most of America's schools labeled a failure is certainly not a politically defensible position for any lawmaker to withstand. Americans quite simply feel confident that the school down the street is doing a pretty good job.** After all, they know those teachers. They know those children.
Our educators work much too hard. We expect and get more from our students today than at any time in our history. To simply label everyone's hard work and impressive record of achievement a failure is anything but a moral imperative or a patriotic duty. It lacks good common sense and is utterly disrespectful.
But what has caused me the greatest level of concern is the cost of lost opportunity. The unanticipated consequence of this legislation has been the dumbing down of curriculum to fact-based, simple recall for the high-stakes tests--the results from which will punish or reward. (Oh, and the reward? You don't get punished. Wow! And in some high performing schools the system redirects your precious, ever-needed resources to the failing schools. So, I guess you get punished, too.) We need a nation of critical thinkers, creative producers, and problem-solvers, not people who have memorized a minimum body of facts that can be easily tested. Critical thinking is hard to measure. Problem solving is difficult to measure. Creative production is illusive and emotive.
And where has the passion for inquiry and thinking gone? Where has the respect and appreciation for culture gone? These have all been left behind in the wake of frenzied efforts to cram facts, disconnected from their realities and contexts, into the minds of unsuspecting children who would increasingly wonder why they have to learn this if they did not already know: it could be on "the test."
Has the life of this generation been reduced to a test of minimum fact recall? My childhood was framed by my teachers within a context of exploration and discovery, of wonder and of amazement, of awe and inspiration, of the beauty of connection and significance.
We steal from and rob our children so as not to leave a child behind.
California State professor, Art Costa, recently said: "What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value."
Our nation will not feel the horrific cost of this tragically flawed educational policy for at least another decade or two. It will be the invisible numbness of a soulless American society functioning at a basic level of empty blandness and boredom, lacking discovery, invention, and creativity. We will consume more and more in our efforts to discover meaningfulness and significance. We will increasingly become a people incapable of doing the hard work of solving enormous global problems. Perhaps because of our short collective memories, no one will understand how this happened.
Educators and the American people as a whole need to demand accountability of politicians.
I have not followed John Edwards message very closely (and am not endorsing him here), but when I came across this post on YouTube, I was astounded. When asked what he would do to NCLB, he actually says what I've heard numerous state level educators around the nation say has been the administration's explicit purpose for NCLB: to privatize America's public schools--a move I think is against our nation's core values and one that would seriously threaten the very survival of our democracy.
I've posted about TED before. This year's conference is coming to a close. As I read blog posts from the attending bloggers, I am often deeply touched by the power of hope, the affirmation of the positive, the actualization of creativity, and the dense, saturating belief that we can change the negative forces that limit us as a species on a delicate planet. The exact opposite of the evening news, the exact opposite of fear-based politics, this conference is transformative: bringing together luminaries that can lift us above our present to see a bright way forward. What greater gift?
But enough about what this conference does for me. This post is really about one of the three TED Prize 2008 winners and what he wants to do for public schools, yes, for public schools!
The Prize Itself...
The TED Prize was created as a way of taking the inspiration, ideas and resources that are generated at TED and using them to make a difference. Although the winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, that's the least of what they get. The real prize is that they are granted a WISH. This is the forum to help make their wishes come true.
One of the 2008 Recipients...
In this post I want to call attention to one of the TED Prize 2008 Winners: Dave Eggers. Speaking to the audience, this is his wish:
"I wish that you - you personally and every creative individual and organization you know - will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area and that you'll then tell the story of how you got involved, so that within a year we have 1,000 examples of transformative partnerships."
The 1,000 brilliant people who attend and present at this annual conference each directly engaging with a public school?! (Just look at the list of people who participated in the conference this year!) I find this an overwhelmingly joyous thought. Educators often are so consumed with the distractions of NCLB that we forget to seek out and build rich partnerships with people in our communities who have and are willing to share giftedness that will transform the life of a child.
This website, Once Upon a School, has been started to facilitate the realization of this wish. I encourage you to explore it, engage with the project, get ideas that you can implement in your own school/classroom, and find ways to make this wish become real in schools (your own?) across this nation!
On a Personal Note...
I hope that a new administration in Washington will unfetter our schools from the shackles that are leaving all of our children, teachers, and schools behind and constitute policy that will allow our profession to reconnect with the substance of our soul: empowering all of the children in our care to reach their highest potential.
We talk a lot in educational circles, and especially those of us who are technology enthusiasts, about global literacy, global competitiveness, global awareness, global warming, connect, connect, connect. It's a big world out there. Blah, blah, blah.
But in this video from TED, Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International, highlights the irony that in a time when we have the capacity to know more about our world than ever in the history of human kind, we actually know less.
Americans are fed a steady diet of superficial because, according to Alisa, it's simply cheaper to do. I have long decried the sad state of journalism in our country. Listen to her short (about 4 minutes) talk from TED. Then go hug a Social Studies teacher. Then you and the Social Studies teacher subscribe to TED. Watching those presentations will enrich your life!
In the past two weeks I came across two quick reads and two videos that caused me to make some connections worthy of thought.
Bruce Schneier, writing on May 15, 2008, at Wired, made me stop and think about all of the "free" services I routinely explore for their value-added potential in education. I often just make up absurd information when that information is required of me and I don't want to provide it (like, for an email address: email@example.com). I have never stopped to think about the lifespan or later possible use of this meaningless, inaccurate information. I just don't want any more junk mail. Bruce writes:
Our data is a part of us. It's intimate and personal, and we have basic rights to it. It should be protected from unwanted touch.
We teach children about the socially expected behaviors surrounding our personal physical space from casual to intimate. This article really got me to stop and think about the virtual me, my data (from financial, health, social, professional, civic...) and the socially and legally appropriate ways that information should be touched--information, accurate or not, that comes to represent me and affect decisions made about and for me, perhaps without my knowledge about the decisions ever being made. I might not even know the information was aggregated and used.
I also watched Jonathan Zittrain's presentation (from April 11, 2008, at the Tribeca Grand in NYC) about his new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It. The video of the presentation (about an hour) is graciously made available by the New York Greater Metropolitan Area chapter of the Internet Society at this link. In the presentation Jonathan talks about the generative nature of the internet versus a new push to use "tethered devices" as he calls them--devices that close innovation and are controlled by the manufacturer even after the sale. [I have written briefly about the internet as an operating system before. Jonathan's ideas helped me clarify some of my thinking.]
He mentions several really interesting examples before extending his examples to the FBI paying to have the OnStar system remotely reprogrammed in a car owned by people of interest to the FBI so that everything spoken in the car was transmitted to the FBI through OnStar without anyone in the car being aware. He goes on to say that because of consumer demand we have built an unrivaled infrastructure that could be leveraged for surveillance (by the good guys and the bad): cell phones and other devices.
And then I read this article about the National Cyber Security Initiative by Ryan Singel at Wired:
... would spend billions on unproven, embryonic technology, and possibly illegal or ill-advised projects, according to the analysis ...
While many of the specifics of the plan are classified, U.S. intelligence chief Michael McConnell told the New Yorker in January that he wants the National Security Agency to begin eavesdropping on the internet, and a McConnell aide said the spy agency was prepared to examine the content of e-mails, file transfers and Google searches without a warrant.
I'm not really passing any judgement on these examples. Like most everyone else, I want the bad guys caught. I want us to prevent the bad people from doing bad things to good people. But larger issues may be at stake, issues worthy of careful thought and scrutiny. None of us want to wake up one morning and ask, "How in the world did we get here?!"
The rampant pace at which our technologies are developing is vastly outstripping our awareness of the issues that surround that development and our capacity to have informed conversations about those issues to establish public policy and legal frameworks that are both reasonable, fair, and that appropriately safeguard and balance the best interests of a free democratic society, a capitalist economy, and the rights of the individual. And not only is the pace of development rapid, can it also be completely invisible to public scrutiny and democratic oversight? Should it be? These are complex questions!
And during the week I also came across this video interview, on a less weighty, yet more immediately personal level, at Switched with Clay Shirky, adjunct professor teaching New Media in the graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. Clay really informs my thinking about the internet.
The issues broadly touched on in this post are complex and have long term implications for freedom, safety, democracy, privacy, economic sustainability, to name but a few. In order to have more informed conversations with our children about these significant, developing concerns, we need to have greater public and professional conversation about data security, privacy, and ways we can move our social, political, and legal structures to develop policy frameworks that keep pace with the challenges that technology brings to our daily lives.
Dare I say it? Is there a problem? Might the problem have little to do with students and teachers and more to do with policy makers who are radically out of touch with reality? I'm just asking questions here.
In March a principal was reportedly arrested in Texas because he allegedly threatened to kill the science teachers at the school if the students didn't pass the end of year high stakes test--and apparently he seemed to actually mean it.
Anita White, who taught at New Braunfels Middle School for 18 years before being transferred this month to the district's Learning Center, said Principal John Burks made the threat in a Jan. 21 meeting with eighth-grade science teachers.
She said Burks was angry that scores on benchmark tests were not better, and the scores on the upcoming Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests must show improvement.
"He said if the TAKS scores were not as expected he would kill the teachers," White said. "He said 'I will kill you all and kill myself.' He finished the meeting that way and we were in shock. Obviously, we talked about it among ourselves. He just threatened our lives. After he threatened to kill us, he said, 'You don't know how ruthless I can be.'
"We walked out of the meeting just totally dumbfounded because it was not a joke," White said.
New Braunfels Police spokesman Mike Penshorn said the incident was filed as a verbal assault, but is being investigated as a terroristic threat.
And now I read this from Georgia, my home state of 20 years, where I invested 20 years of my best professional efforts as an educator:
State notifies parents before releasing awful test scores
In social studies CRCT, less than 30 percent pass; In math, 40 percent
By LAURA DIAMOND
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/19/08
Georgia school leaders were so shocked by dismal scores on state math and social studies tests, the state superintendent released a statement Monday to prepare parents and others for the results.
According to the unofficial results, only 20 to 30 percent of Georgia's sixth- and seventh-graders passed the state social studies exam. In math, about 40 percent of eighth-graders could be held back because they failed the test.
The state will release official scores from the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests next month.
Parents whose children failed the math test will be notified by local schools. The state requires eighth-graders to pass the reading and math exams to move to high school.
Where will the school districts in Georgia find enough teachers to teach summer school for the increased number of children who can not be promoted? What educational programs will have to do without, or be eliminated in order to fund this enormous additional expense (that now includes sky rocketing transportation costs)?
Will a significant number of 9th grade teachers have to be reassigned next year to 8th grade to teach those students who could not be promoted based on these results? Will the test results from the summer retakes be "fixed" to solve these enormously disruptive issues?
How many assessments are our students required to take from K-12? And how much money has been spent developing and grading all of these tests? What is the total amount of money spent to date on this accountability agenda that is producing these results? The sum must be staggering! Would this money not be better invested in hiring teachers in the schools that can actually offer services to students that promote academic achievement? Is it time to hold this accountability agenda into account for expense versus value added results?
But the two most important questions that come to my mind: What will be accomplished if we completely break one of our most precious and essential democratic institutions--our public schools?! What of the children?
I remain fascinated by the disruptive impact of technology, and not just in schools, in other institutions and whole societies around the world. The ease of use of pervasive technology, digital cameras and video, with access to immediate global distribution will inevitably be used in social activism that challenges existing social, corporate, and political structures the world over in ways that will make the 1960's in the United States look boring and passé.
To date such activities largely have been entertaining and benign as this video by "Improv Everywhere: We Cause Scenes" demonstrates. They mobilize large groups of people via the internet to show up and stage an improvisation in a public setting.
But in the last couple of days two videos have been posted to YouTube that I suspect are an omen of things to come: people leveraging these tools to make global statements challenging the status quo. In this first example, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer begins a lecture at a university in Hungary as a protester stands up, accuses Microsoft of stealing billions in Hungarian taxpayer money and then throws three eggs at the CEO.
Then Russian presidential candidate Garry Kasparov was delivering a speech when a modified, remote controlled, toy flying helicopter carrying male genitalia came flying toward him. Russian speaking commenters over at Wired.com's post about the incident offered the following translation of Kasparov's comments after the flying object was smashed by security:
I think we have to be thankful for the opposition's demonstration of the level of discourse we need to anticipate. Also, apparently most of their arguments are located beneath the belt." Someone in the audience shouts, "Finally the political power shows its face!" Kasparov quickly replies, "Well, if that's its face..." to laughter from the audience.
I do not speak Russian and have no idea if the translation is accurate or not, but another commenter seems to indicate it is. (Don't watch the video if it will offend you. That's certainly not the point of my including this link to it.)
I include these examples, not to entertain, embarrass, or offend, but to make the point that these tools will inevitably be used for activism--probably in more significant ways that these examples begin to demonstrate. Perhaps this is among the reasons we have seen China's efforts to centrally control the internet in China.
And while governments and corporations the world over have been increasingly leveraging technology for surveillance of their citizens, citizens the world over are going to turn that surveillance, that reporting, that global transparency on the goeverments and corporations themselves. The fact that the technology is readily available to everyone will disturb a delicate balance.
As a photographer who reads numerous photo-related blogs around the world, I have seen an increase in posts about the legal rights of photographers as increasing numbers of photographers, while taking pictures in public places, are claiming to be harassed by police and security. In fact a large protest rally is being organized in Los Angeles.
But It Just Got Even Easier
A company in Israel, FlixWagon, has now made it possible to broadcast live from your Nokia Series 60 3rd edition cell phone! (Here is a link to an interview with FlixWagon by Robert Scoble over at FastCompany.TV.) Now, as long as a cell phone signal is available, security will not be able to confiscate the video shot of a staged incident or event as it will already have been broadcast. Certainly this is only the beginning of an increase in this capacity to broadcast your life coming to market. People seem to love it!
As I have mentioned before, our capacity to develop technology is vastly outpacing our capacity as a society to come to terms with how to use this technology in ways society feels are appropriate, fair and proper. Social norms have yet to be formed about any of this. What is private? What is public? What expectations should I have to anonymity of person, of information, of data?
Implications for School
This technology has significant implications for learning. If I were a teacher today, I would be all over uStream.tv! For some time now educational technology enthusiasts have chided our profession for banning cell phones from our classrooms. The more cautious educators have been reluctant to change practice citing the ways the cell phone can be abused in the school setting.
And now that live CellCasting (remember you first read the term here!) is possible, I can see this debate heating up significantly. I for one do not blame schools for wanting to proceed with cautious deliberation and informed integration. But, in the long term, school is likely to be the place this new disruptive technology has the least impact.
The world is being carved wide open, and, for better or worse, we will all get to see what it looks like.
Wow! I can't believe that I haven't posted in so long on this, my professional blog--not that I haven't been doing a tremendous amount of writing in other places because of my passionate stance in this past election cycle. I try to keep my blog free of partisan politics*, which is very difficult for me to do because of the intensity of my deeply-held political beliefs and my broadening concerns about the future of our nation and the world we are leaving our children.
Additionally, I have been busier in the past few months traveling and presenting to audiences all around the world than I ever anticipated I would be. In fact, I just totaled it up. In the past 7 weeks alone, I've flown over 50,000 miles and worked in four countries with students, parents, and educators from four continents.
Hopefully, with a bit of a slower travel schedule in December, I can catch up on some other things that are important to me, including blogging here as well as working on several recording projects in which I am involved.
In the meantime, I want to share a video I find very moving.
As you watch it, keep in mind that the "Generation We" depicted in this short needs the progressive guidance and wisdom our best educators can offer them.
We, the educators, need to be front and center in facilitating the development of a better future for our youth, the hope of a better tomorrow.
We, the educators, need to shape and fashion an educational setting that speaks to the deepest part of who we are inclusively as an American people, what we as a people cherish in our souls, and what we as educators fundamentally believe is sound educational practice for the children entrusted to our care.
We, the educators, need to aggressively re-evaluate and re-invent our instructional practice.
We, the educators, need to offer the youth of our nation the very best job performance we can breathe our life breath into in this moment.
Never, in my lifetime, has America needed more what we, the educators of this land, can rise up to provide. Never have we needed to be more politically and civically active, more socially active and responsible, more attentive and inclusive, more participatory in the shaping of our communities and our nation's future.
This is an historic moment. This is the time for metamorphosis!
This is a call to our destiny!
*Not to be confused with non-partisan policy positions such as those espoused by NCLB!
I talk about this a lot in my presentations: empowering children to make the world a better place because of their school work. The internet affords each of us, adults and children, that very capacity. It affords us as educators the capacity to empower children to create content in school that literally makes the world a better place. In its purest forms, this is such a simple process.
I just came across this project by a young man, Matt Harding, and his girl friend, Melissa Nixon. They just travelled the world with a video camera dancing with people, mostly children, and set it to Praan, by Garry Schyman, who set to music an adaptation of the poem below, Stream of Life, by Rabindranath Tagore. They recruited vocalist Palbasha Siddique from YouTube to sing the piece for the video.
This project is brilliant, from the way it was conceived to the way it was executed. Matt connects to and shares the joyous rhythm of life that has pulsed through all of time to unite us into one humanity. To see his finished project is to just want to stand up and start dancing with them–everyone, everywhere. What a joyous and celebratory journey made possible by a simple idea to create a new kind of music video that brings people, the world over, together in harmony through social media.
Watch the video, and then check out the next video of Matt talking about how they did this.
In the video below, Matt talks about the project.
The lyrics, which are adapted from a Rabindranath Tagore poem, are also very significant in understanding the full scope of Harding's vision. The poet describes an epiphany in which he sees all of existence, from the natural world around him to the entire history of humanity, dancing with the same blood - the same stream of life. Thus in Harding's video we are all tied by this unseen energy, personified in dance, and illuminated by the joy that surrounds us as we watch. In many ways Facebook, YouTube and the rest of the Internet have improved our access to the stream, but it is up to us to follow Harding and continue to make art that ties humanity together.
The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Classroom Instruction
I was sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my flight. CNN was blaring. As I so rarely watch television, I somehow always feel like I'm being victimized by Big Brother when I walk through a place and the same television channel is talking at me–this is no comment on CNN, it could be any channel attempting to broadcast its way into my cognitive state. But now I'm way off track from the ideas through which I wanted to meander and reflect.
CNN is apparently producing a segment on "Who's Hiring." This particular segment was speaking about public schools as a potential employment opportunity for the millions around our country who are losing their jobs in this terrible time of economic "downturn," of "recession." The reporter presented what is required in most states to earn certification for teaching. One might think, on the face of the idea, this to be a wonderful solution: millions of people need jobs. The nation is in need of millions of teachers. Match made in heaven? Not so fast!
Actually, I was rather troubled by this thought. Being a teacher requires so much more than a state teaching certificate. Teaching is so much more than a profession of economic last resort.
As a retired school principal I believe that perhaps the greatest legacy a school principal can leave in a school is the staff that s/he hires. Finding exemplary staff that are not only passionate about subject matter but also have the capacity to inspire learning within a classroom of human souls is a challenge not to be taken lightly. The teaching profession is both art and science requiring perhaps the highest attainment of creative endeavor to which anyone can aspire. The act of teaching, of truly unfolding substantive and meaningful content in a way that creates a thirst for deeper understanding and for fashioning that understanding into relevant solutions for the world's greatest challenges is, in my opinion, nothing short of heroic work. This is all but the work of gods!
Regrettably this work has rarely earned the respect from American consumption-based culture that is deserved. In the 1990's I recall a school board member going on a crusade to make public schools more like businesses–a model which was gaining national traction and one which I found rather offensive at the time. Emphasis on this model still exists today, fed by the very structures of NCLB, with for-profit industry trying to make money off of the education of our children in what I believe to be a seriously flawed ideology that the public trust is best served by a capitalist model. I could not disagree more! (I'm trying to avoid yet another opportunity to go rogue in this post!)
The teacher focuses on the empowerment of people. Business focuses on profit margins. Capitalism gone awry focuses on maximizing profit margins above all else to the complete neglect of the social contract that each of us has to our fellow humans. We have seen where unfettered desire for profit takes business: the creation of an unsustainable "it's all about me" consumption based economic model that has little regard for those upon whom it feasts.
Greed and excess can not sustain themselves. We have seen this before in our own history. Sadly, how quickly we forget.
For over a year now, I have had the great privilege of traveling and meeting teachers the world over. In every city, every country I've been, I see the same characteristic in the teachers I meet: Teachers don't work a job, as do many business people. Teachers live a calling. They thrive in their reflections in the eyes of their pupils as they join together to explore, to create, to fashion anew, to inspire, to empower, to unleash, to transcend, to care. Teaching isn't about profit margins or numbers, despite the appalling emphasis on the later by NCLB. Expertise in teaching is not earned by a degree nor by a state teaching certificate.
Teaching must always remain a calling of the heart and soul.
I've been a huge fan of Yo-Yo Ma for many years. His recordings stretch the bounds of classical music, infusing into art a remarkable dance of depth, joy, and celebration. I could go into specific recordings with delight, but I want to focus on something he is doing now, in collaboration with Indaba Music, that is stretching the bounds of classical music in a very new way.
In my December 2nd post about Link2App, I provided some screenshots of iTunes that featured Yo-Yo Ma's holiday recording, Songs of Joy and Peace. This project features a collaboration with several well-known musicians. But he has now extended that collaboration to anyone in the world!
Since this past October, anyone could go online and, using the site's in-browser mixing console, add his/her own accompaniment, counter-melody, or set of variations to Yo-Yo Ma's recording of the melody from Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace). Submissions are no longer being accepted, but now everyone in the world can go to "the voterator," listen to a random selection of submissions, and vote each of them "Hot" or "Not."
The winner will have the opportunity to record with Yo-Yo Ma in a special one-on-one collaboration! The winner's rendition will also be featured on Yo-YoMa.com, Yo-Yo's MySpace page, and here on Indaba Music. The top ten, as voted by the Indaba community, will each receive a signed copy of Songs of Joy & Peace."
And kudos to Indaba music (a Zulu word for collaboration within community) for providing an extraordinary social and collaborative site to serious musicians. Until recently, I had no idea this even existed. Music teachers, this is huge! I'm a former music teacher myself and now officially feel like I've been living under a stone.
Members at Indaba music can network, collaborate, and discover new music, create a recording session, join one, watch one, upload an audition, participate in contests (such as the Yo-Yo Ma contest), find musicians, get hired, and even create virtual bands. This is unprecedented and makes me want to teach music again!
It's easy for us to assume that technology access and functionality is only limited where we are. Apparently, it is even an issue for the new administration, one of the most technology savvy teams to take office.
If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past. ...
One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.
Note to self: Should I have surgery, check beforehand to make sure my surgeon is paying full and undivided attention to my operation and not his stupid Twitter client! In my humble opinion, this is nothing short of absurd and represents non-standard medical care!
Wake up everyone, and pay attention! Stop paying partial attention as you fragment and compartmentalize your mind pretending to be more efficient and effective. The research on this is now pretty clear. You can't do it!
Surgeons have found a new way to send updates to other doctors, medical students, and the public during surgery -by using the social networking site Twitter! Last week, doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit “Tweeted” an operation to remove a tumor from a kidney.
Dr. Craig Rogers, the lead surgeon in the Henry Ford surgery, said the impetus for his Twittering was to let people know that a tumor can be removed without taking the entire kidney.
“We’re trying to use this as a way to get the word out,” Rogers said.
Observers say Twittering about a procedure is a natural outgrowth of the social networking media revolution.
“Doing this removes a real communication barrier. It helps make something scary much more comprehendable,” said Christopher Parks, co-founder of the Web site changehealthcare.com. “It brings us closer together and makes us more engaged.”
I've posted before about LittleSnapper, a screen capture utility for the Mac. I've just downloaded their latest version, which includes some very strong improvements. I especially like the ability to automatically sort the captures in your library by type: Screenshot, Websnap, Photo, Illustration, Mockup, iSight (camera capture), iPhone (screen capture), and other; the ability to create collections, save searches, maintain smart search folders; and I also like the enhanced tagging features.
Additionally, the new online Ember operability enhancements are awesome! Who ever would have thought about building social networks around screen capture?! Well, they did. You also have flickr upload and ftp upload capacity. They have also added some helpful screencasts on tips for use.
LittleSnapper is a great app for managing your computer and iPhone screen captures!
NetNewsWire for the Mac and FeedDemon for the PC are undoing a big transition. I'm not sure I am all that enthusiastic about this as I will lose two functions I use a lot: embedding live blog rolls on blogs and being able to create clippings folders that generate their own RSS feeds to which others can subscribe.
The stated reason for the change: the new feed readers will now sync with Google Reader instead of NewsGator's online service, which will only continue to exist for their enterprise clients. Newsgator claims this was their most requested feature. Hmm...
And, just for fun, using Little Snapper to capture the web address for "the connected scale" by Withings, I present the ultimate humiliation: a beautiful, elegant bathroom scale that is WiFi enabled, talks to your iPhone, and publishes you weight and body fat index (BMI) to the web and your iPhone. It will automatically recognize up to eight users and generates detailed graphs.
I predict we are going to see an onslaught of very personal and practical technological convergence over the next few years: embedding microchips in any- and everything and connecting it to the web. Your scale will just be the beginning.
Patientslikeme and similar services will begin to connect patients and medical machinery to other patients and their doctors' iPhones. Don't sneer, one such system has already been FDA approved allowing physicians to monitor your well being while you are connected to medical contraptions in intensive care no matter what dinner party they are attending.
Will the San Francisco parking grid will tell your iPhone where the nearest empty parking place is to where you currently are? Maybe soon it will also issue a ticket if you stay past the metered time.
Use your iPhone to monitor your baby and send you an SMS when the child wakes up or becomes noisy.
iPhoto sports a rather astounding level of accuracy with facial recognition technology. Soon every photo will actually be able to tag itself by identifying the people in the photo while knowing exactly where you were when you took it.
Just this week a stolen iPhone was identified as the "alleged" thief was walking with it down the street. The police just followed the pulsing dot on the computer screen until they identified the very pocket it was in and the teenager with that pocket.
Collect and then pile all of the data together online, mash it up this way and then that, and we can know everything about you without even knowing you at all. Won't that just be grand!
In our food diet, in our creative expression, in general purchasing decisions, in our quarterly return on investments we demand more, more, more. We are quick to make an acceptable level of sacrifice in quality to get a better deal. But the constant small sacrifices all add up. We have begun deceiving ourselves into believing we don't ever have to pay what something really actually costs over both the life of the product and our life expectancy and that of our children's. In fact, I'm not so sure we even consider what the actual cost of anything really is. We believe the lie: we can have everything we ever wanted faster and cheaper than ever before.
We fail to see the connection between the billions we pump into Walmart sales and the loss of manufacturing jobs in our country as well as the devastating human and environmental impact these purchases have on the other side of our ever shrinking world. We have substituted true freedom for freedom of choice on the discount rack. We listen to a steady diet of in today/out tomorrow tripe and wonder why creative artistic expression and careful deliberation that requires attention to nuance and inflection/reflection is dead. Well, we're probably too busy looking for the next big sale or must have hit to even notice the downward spiral massive consumption is really costing us financially, culturally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Are our souls so bankrupt?
I have also observed a profound shift in our definition of and practice of faith as well, but I'll avoid this topic on my professional blog.
And I fear our current technology use is no exception. Distilling everything down to binary choices is just craziness: on or off circuits on a circuit board billions of times per second does not adequately represent the substance of soul I consider to be the breath of humanity. And I am an advocate for technology--technology well used to enhance the quality of the human experience, not dilute life with more facsimile, more "good enough" coming at us so fast we don't even notice we are accumulating a whole lot of nothing thinking we have more of something.
I had a great conversation with a university professor and department chair on Monday that was somewhat similar to this. True human connection will, in my humble opinion, never be replaced or adequately approximated by an electronic equivalent. I do not particularly like the direction our culture is rushing without much open, honest, principled thought or discussion.
Perhaps the American Indians understand something our culture completely has missed: Maybe, just maybe, every time you take a picture of someone, you really have stolen just a bit of his or her soul. The approximation is never adequate, but at how many megapixels do we consider it good enough?
The Digital Revolution Killed Quality By Rick Aristotle Munarriz August 18, 2009
We owe our senses an apology. In the mad dash for digital convergence, we have made compromises that are cheating our ears and our eyes. We put up with "near" CD and DVD quality, just for the sake of snappy downloads or greater variety from compressed content. Now, quality hounds are about to lose another battle.
Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone is overtaking Canon's (NYSE: CAJ) high-end EOS Rebel XTi as the most popular source for snapshot uploads to Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO) photo-sharing site Flickr.
According to Flick's perpetually updated "camera finder" graph, the iPhone and Rebel XTi are neck-and-neck when it comes to populating the site with imagery.
The iPhone doesn't have a bad camera -- it's just not a very good one, relatively speaking. The new iPhone 3GS introduced autofocus and bumped up the megapixel count from two to three. However, there's no flash. There's no zoom. The quality pales when pitted against Canon's 10.1-megapixel workhorse.
The iPhone's camera may be good enough, but that doesn't mean that it's good.
Regression to compression We settle for the sake of immediacy and ad-supported freebies. Social networking sites will take your treasured photographs and put the squeeze on their quality for bandwidth's sake. Don't even get me started on the grainy mobile uploads!
We haven't been any kinder to moving pictures. "Instant watching titles are available in multiple levels of video quality," explains Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX) website. "Netflix automatically determines the level you receive by analyzing your current Internet speed. You can't select the video quality level yourself, and the level will change from time to time depending on actual network conditions."
It's hard to look a gift stream in the mouth, because Netflix offers digital playback at no additional cost to subscribers of its unlimited DVD plans. However, sometimes you pay and still have to settle for less than the original.
Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) doesn't sell movie downloads in high-def. It offers television shows in HD, but it will only spit out temporary rentals if you crave high definition. And only recently did Apple begin selling HD movies through iTunes.
Oh my bleeding earbuds Audiophiles are suffering, too. Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) began charging most of its subscribers for online access earlier this year, in exchange for the promise of higher audio standards.
"The upgrading of this service allows for customers to listen at near CD-quality sound (128k) for a better listening experience," reads the site's FAQ.
It's definitely better than the original streams, but will folks really pay between $3 and $13 a month for "near" CD quality?
Then again, the sonic quality of satellite radio itself has long come under fire. "Don't get me wrong, I love Sirius' programming, but I hate the sound," wrote Steve Guttenberg in CNET's The Audiophiliac column last year. "It's grungy, harsh, with no actual high frequencies and muddy bass. The music's dynamics are squashed flat as Kansas so it sounds like a low bit MP3. Digital smigital, Sirius sounds awful, way worse than FM radio."
I'm not hating on satellite radio, because I too can't get enough of Sirius. I've been a subscriber for five years. However, championing quality on satellite radio is often a losing battle. Subscribers want more programming, yet broadening the channel list comes at the expense of crummier compression.
Sure, bitrates have improved over the past year. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Zune offers MP3 files as high as 320k. That's a far cry from the 128k standard that most online stores were promoting just two years ago. Still, the MP3 format remains all about compression, even if a smaller subset of the audience notices.
The younger generation may not care. They've grown up jamming on their muddled iPods and watching grainy YouTube videos. They will never know the joys of vinyl wax, clean air, and Crystal Pepsi.
Consumers chose quantity over quality. Until a tech company can deliver both, I say the digital revolution is a failure.
Starting July 2010, every person in Finland will have the right to a one-megabit broadband connection as an intermediate step, says the Ministry of Transport and Communications. By the end of 2015, the legal right will be extended to an impressive 100 Mb broadband connection for everyone.
What a time for awesome learning, breaking existing ideas about what a classroom is! I've worked with some great school systems over the past two years that certainly should have some of their older students and younger teachers explore this program.
This opinion piece, Is the American Dream Over?, in the New York Times today is an interesting read. The comments were at least as intriguing as the article itself. But one of the comments, by M. Crothers, is what really caught my eye:
Dr. Soji Adelaja, Director of the MSU Land Policy Institute was on a local Public Radio program last Thursday. He offered the suggestion that in the 20th Century, people followed jobs (agriculture, manufacturing, entertainment, energy, housing, etc.); in the information century, jobs go with people. The importance of this insight is resonating with me -- every day. His point was that the technologists aren't geographically dependent, but 'smart cities' are cultivating these types of people (i.e. Ann Arbor, MI - the 'life-ring of South Eastern Lower Michigan). As a sign of how fast this is occurring, I am an unemployed commercial television producer with over 15 year experience -- international productions, multi-million dollar budgets, superbowl air dates, etc. I have lots of 'visual storytelling' know how (technical, aesthetic and financial), but after four months looking all over the country, I must conclude that none of this matters. Unless your skill set is 100% digital, your past is negligible if not simply a commodity in a market overrun with adequate/competent suppliers. So, it's get digital or die trying.
In the rush to leverage technology in the learning (school) environment, we must never forget that knowing how to create digital media (for example: making podcasts, digital movies, digital storytelling) or collaborate and share using a blog, ning, or wiki is not the end goal. We have the far more complex task of empowering people to make significant contributions that matter, that transcend geographic limitations, using the understandings they build from the curricular knowledge we teach with and through the new digital tool set as well as traditional tools.
Problem solving, critical thinking, acquiring essential, relevant and accurate information, persuasive presentation... all of the things now commonly referred to as 21st century skills must focus on preparing today's learners to create a "quality of life" not simply a standard of living.
We live in such interesting, challenging, and complex times.
My background includes music education, piano performance, and composition. Naturally then, I value creative expression, arts education, independent thinking, emotive eloquence expressed through nuanced abstraction, the creation of beauty in the many different forms it can take in our human experience. Such achievements require far more than merely knowing the parts: "Boys and girls this is what an eighth note looks like."
Certainly, learners must know the parts. But as I often say, "Music is not about the notes. Math isn't about the numbers and symbols. Literature isn't about words and parts of speech." For those children whose educational experiences were not providing them with the basics upon which they could build understanding, appreciation, complex meaning and the beauty of expression, then standards-focused accountability for their teachers may have been a logical remediation. But how many teachers in our country didn't provide their students with a quality basic education? Every single one of them, as the national standards movement and NCLB seem to indicate?
Our educator friends in Canada still value the liberal arts education, still view the purpose of education as vastly extending beyond "global competitiveness." Working with them is so refreshing.
Placing value on diversity isn't just about ethnicity. Of great and equal importance is diversity of thought, ideas, and expression. I shudder to think what the long term outcome of standards-based education will be. It actually frightens me for the future of democracy, creativity, curiosity, independent thought...
Alfie Kohn's entire article is important reading. Quoted below, from the extended version of the January 14, 2010, Education Week article by Alfie Kohn, are some concluding thoughts from the article.
Finally, what’s the purpose of demanding that every kid in every school in every state must be able to do the same thing in the same year, with teachers pressured to “align” their instruction to a master curriculum and a standardized test?
I once imagined a drinking game in which a few of those education reform papers from corporate groups and politicians were read aloud: You take a shot every time you hear “rigorous,” “measurable,” “accountable,” “competitive,” “world-class,” “high(er) expectations,” or “raising the bar.” Within a few minutes, everyone would be so inebriated that they’d no longer be able to recall a time when discussions about schooling weren’t studded with these macho managerial buzzwords.
But it took me awhile to figure out that not all jargon is meaningless. Those words actually have very real implications for what classrooms should look like and what education is (and isn’t) all about.
The goal clearly isn’t to nourish children’s curiosity, to help them fall in love with reading and thinking, to promote both the ability and the disposition to think critically, or to support a democratic society. Rather, a prescription for uniform, specific, rigorous standards is made to order for those whose chief concern is to pump up the American economy and make sure that we triumph over people who live in other countries.
If you read the FAQ page on the common core standards website, don’t bother looking for words like “exploration,” “intrinsic motivation,” “developmentally appropriate,” or “democracy.” Instead, the very first sentence contains the phrase “success in the global economy,” followed immediately by “America’s competitive edge.”
If these bright new digitally enhanced national standards are more economic than educational in their inspiration, more about winning than learning, devoted more to serving the interests of business than to meeting the needs of kids, then we’ve merely painted a 21st-century façade on a hoary, dreary model of school as employee training. Anyone who recoils from that vision should be doing everything possible to resist a proposal for national standards that embodies it.
Yes, we want excellent teaching and learning for all -- although our emphasis should be less on student achievement (read: test scores) than on students’ achievements. ... "
I hope you take the time to explore the Digital Nation web site before the upcoming special on February 2, 2010. I'll be traveling then but have already set the TiVo to record this. If the web site sample videos are any indication, this program will be informative as the producers explore the impact of technology on our minds, our relationships, warfare, learning and virtual worlds. They discuss many complicated issues about how technology is embedded in our daily lives as well as how it may impact our futures. I've eager to see this.
OK, 2 more examples, and then I'll leave the augmented reality topic for a bit.
Esquire Magazine includes some other interesting features I haven't seen before. Turn the magazine from side to side to change the 3D streaming environment from summer, to winter, to spring, etc. The magazine talks communicates with your computer and even knows the date/time.
And Adidas is coming out with 5 shoe styles that will have the AR markers built into the shoe tongue. The shoes, when worn in front of your computer camera, will become game controller devices.
I often, if not always, speak about perspective. Our perspective shapes everything we see, hear, feel, think, and therefor do. Our perspective is greatly dependent on the inputs we receive from our sense, especially from those sources we trust.
We have been conditioned to believe that the USA is the best, number one, top of the list. Our media tell us so. Some media outlets have even gone so far as to equate naïvely accepting this notion of USA superiority as our very patriotic duty. Should you question, your patriotism is held in question.
Yet, as I travel abroad, I increasingly see evidence that suggests we as a nation have lost our way. We are rapidly and seriously falling behind other nations on an ever growing list of measures. We are distracted by the least important. We place greater emphasis on just patching the mess in which we find ourselves and not committing to long term investments that will build a better future for our country.
Have we really become this selfish: we demand the good life, all of it. We want it now. We will sacrifice the future to have this moment?
Instead of investing in the infrastructures of the future, we chug along ever increasing our dependencies on the infrastructures of the past, like fossil fuels. Our national lifestyle has become an orgy of consumption, debt, stress, and ill health. In my mind, we continue to foolishly invest untold sums of money in the military which should be, by default, reactive to threats.
Why are we not proactive? Why are we not investing vast sums of money in the future through educating our children? Instead, we continue with a decades-old failed educational policy that has been over 30 years in the making. I just don't get it!
Only 33% (up to 40 depending on your source and definition of "degree") of Americans have a college degree. Increasing numbers of young people do not see any point in going heavily into debt to get a college degree as they see so many with (meaningless) degrees without jobs. The USA now ranks 12th in the world of degreed citizens. And, in most states, the percentage of our youngest Americans without a degree often exceeds 50%! (Source: College Board Advocacy & Policy Center - pdf)
Let me be clear: Unlike our politicians, I donot blame this on educators. This is a deeply cultural, economic, and political issue that has divested the majority of Americans from any semblance of the American Dream. This is the fault of failed leadership at the highest levels! Leadership matters! As long as our government sees the teacher in the classroom as lazy, incompetent, or a threat, then nothing will get better.
Instead of seeing serious efforts to fund a revolutionary educational policy that rewards the highest levels of academic and artistic achievement instead of focusing on labeling "failure" at every hand, that places education as the centerpiece of economic reform and stimulus, that makes college attainable, that rewards (culturally and economically) educators, that meets the fundamental needs of children (an enormous percentage of which live in poverty), that provides an emphasis on social justice and ethics as well as critical thinking that questions a government that is failing its people, I just see policy that is racing to the bottom to privatize and destroy the most essential aspect of democracy.
I try very hard to avoid partisan politics on this blog, but this isn't politics. This, citizens, is our livelihoods, our health, our well being, our retirement, our economy, our infrastructure, the very future of our country. It's past time to hold federal and state governments accountable for failed educational policy and inadequate educational funding. That reinventing and adequately funding educational policy hasn't been a top priority of this administration is scandalous!
The iPad is popping up across the nation's classrooms. Not only does it offer numerous education-related software titles, is an affordable classroom computing device, and sucks students right into the learning content, the device also is attracting some very bright and creative minds in the soon-to-explode field of digital books.
I have known of Mike Matas' work for several years. He has just launched a new company, Push Pop Press, that will begin releasing books for the iPhone and iPad. Mike first came to my attention when, at the age of 19, he created Delicious Library at his office, a coffee shop. Shortly thereafter he went to work for Apple for several years.
Matt McInnis, also a former Apple employee, created the startup Inkling. I first met Matt several years ago when he was in China and willingly helped some of our 6th grade students at Mabry Middle School craft a digital video project with the purpose of raising funds for an impoverished Chinese family to purchase a water buffalo for farming. The students did a video conference with Matt as part of their final project.
When a textbook is more than a textbook
Imagine what's possible. That's the hard part, isn't it—breaking the mold that binds us. Imagine a textbook on which students can take notes and ask questions. Oh, and their fellow classmates and their teachers can answer them, right there, in their textbook, in real time. This is just one of the innovations these young men are making a reality: "to have your entire social network turned into a learning network."
I also read today that Buford City School, in Buford, GA, a bit north of Atlanta, has purchased iPads and iPods for all of their K-12 students.* Amazing.
I am fascinated to see where the digital textbook will take us. The journey will be an interesting one!
*Tip of the fedora to Jo-Anne Preston, of Mabry Middle School fame.
I avoid political positions on my blog, but for years now I have been advocating for teachers to become politically active to protect the educational interests of our nation's children.
Most of the nation's teachers are women. Most of the US population are women. Women are substantively under-represented in the political process. I sincerely believe that if 51% of our politicians were women, just like the nation as a whole, we would be in far better shape than we are as a country today.
I heard last night that the state of Ohio is working to send 10 teachers to the legislature this November.
Teachers, male and female, why shouldn't you seek public office?!
I applaud this effort and hope that other teachers in ever state will follow this lead!