Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Protest 2.0

Over the past few years, I've had a few richly engaging conversations with Peter Purgathofer, an associate professor at the Vienna University of Technology: Faculty of Infomatics. His email tonight is a striking story that has yet to grab headlines here in North America.

"In the last 7 days, we've had massive student protests against the accumulated mis-management of universities by the ministry (most universities here are financed by the state).

What is amazing is the way these protests are organized; they are neither initiated nor supported by the student unions. They just "happen", and are organized mainly through the means of social software and mobile communication.

Twitter plays a major role here (search for the topics #unibrennt (University Burns) #unsereuni (our university) and #tubrennt (University of Technology Burns) and you will find an amazing stream of support messages, coordination, calls for activities, etc. Also, there are a number of Facebook groups; is used to stream video from the occupied lecture halls at the Vienna university ( and the Vienna University of Technology (.../tubrennt); wikis are used for working groups that organize food, garbage handling, sleeping; but also demonstrations and rallies, actions, and support the discourse surrounding the formation of demands of the protest.

Also, the students have collaboratively written and created a newspaper that can be printed out by every student and dropped in public transport or public places, in order to explain what is going on to the broader public.

Of course, there is a blog with all the news, and a YouTube-channel with videos produced by the students about the protests and everything around.

Today, a giant demonstration took place, around 40,000 students marched through the city for two hours, without any noteworthy excesses, riots or other negative events (other than a bag of paint thrown at the facade of the ministry building) - everything organized without participation of the traditional political caste that usually carries the flag here. It's really the base speaking, facilitated through the means of social networking, mobile communication and a series of meetings in occupied lecture halls. Absolutely fascinating to watch. It feels like protest 2.0.

There is no end in sight. they are determined to stay until policy-level politicians (minister and chancellor) discuss their demands with them.

I'll keep you updated."

The order and organization demonstrated in the videos I was able to find, are striking. I'll be happy to share more as Peter shares first hand news...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Top Ten Tech Tools (Fall 2009)

For the past few years now, Jane Hart of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies has been compiling lists of preferred e-learning tools, including my Top Ten Learning Technologies.

In revising my list for Fall 2009, it's happened again, that free web-based tools dominate my list. To shake things up a bit, I've done some thinking about the tools I use most frequently, and I've decided it's time to rank my top 10 in order.

1. Firefox: Recognizing that so many of my favourite tools exist on the World Wide Web, I've got to lead off in referencing my browser of choice. Although other browsers can fill in in a pinch, I currently do much of my professional learning within the tabs of Firefox.

2. G-Mail: Simple, reliable, sortable, with effective filters (including spam filters) and plenty of room for large files and archives. Now that my professional and personal calendars have been ported to Google Calendar, along with my Task lists, Gmail has become the hub of my 'cloud office'.

3. Tweetdeck: While Twitter remains the lead tool I use to connect with educators around the world, I'm still hooked on Tweetdeck as my choice for keeping in touch with my personal learning network. On my iPhone, I continue to use Twitterific.

4. Compfight: I continue to make frequent use of Flickr's Creative Commons, but the elegant, user-friendly tool I use to access images, is Compfight.

5. Garageband: Having produced 200 episodes of my podcast, Teacher 2.0 I'm now working with students to produce engaging audio announcements. Surpassing Audacity and other audio-editing tools, Garageband remains a staple in my e-learning toolbox. I also use Libsyn and iTunes in my podcasting, but I can't yet justify listing these tools in my top ten.

6. Blogger: Although I've been publishing less frequently, this tool is still my favourite choice for hosting my blog: The Clever Sheep.

7. Keynote: Using a Zen approach, most of my presentations are light on text and heavy on graphics. It's the stunning templates, engaging transitions, and exports to clickable movie files, that lead me to favour Keynote as my favourite presentation tool. My completed sliseshows are often posted on Slideshare, another online tool that just missed making my list.

8. Skype: In communicating with educators around the world, it seems almost too easy to engage in rich conversations for free, courtesy of Skype. Although I also use Google Video Chat, Adobe Connect, iChat, and DimDim, the recent addition of screen-sharing to Skype, makes it my number one tool for connecting!

9. ScreenFlow: Optimized for OSX 10.5, I still love to make use of the most polished screen capture utility available. It's the best tool out there for creating engaging software demos and tutorials, but it remains a Mac-only option.

10. WetPaint: With so many of my projects calling for collaborative development of e-learning solutions, I continue to make regular use of WetPaint. With free sites for educators, and unparalleled community tools, WetPaint wikis are the backbone of Twitter for Teachers, and The Golden Fleece Wiki.

Honourable Mention: Posterous has the potential to become one of the top wiki/blog tools I'll be using at school. Working to engage students and teachers in the creation of e-portfolios, it's the most polished and user-friendly tool I've seen.

Photo Credit: Suzie T

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Building a Community of Learners

The first of many Tech 20 workshops took place today, and though the turnout was modest, attendees amounted to 10% of the staff at my school.

In 20 minutes, we managed to have teachers register with Animoto, and create short video presentations. Most satisfying, was the fact that so many of the attendees were novices in making use of technology. The example below was created by one such novice, the chaplain at our school:

I'm confident that word about this experience will spread. Guidance, math, language, social studies and chaplaincy were all represented, with teachers from special education and the humanities requesting rain checks.

I owe a big thank you to my PLN whose affirming comments and suggestions have helped to shape this initiative. Next up, I'll be whetting the appetite of my colleagues at a full staff meeting, by demonstrating Wordle as a literacy resource.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tech 20 Tuesdays

In order to provide support to teachers who wish to engage tech tools, I'm about to launch Tech 20 Tuesdays. In no more than 20 minutes, teacher-attendees will have a chance to learn about one tool or strategy that should make it easy to incorporate ICT into their classroom practice.

My aim is to create a low stress; questions welcome; just come and explore environment that will promote greater use of a wide range of tools. Today's podcast, tells the story in more detail:

Are there any one-hit-wonders you'd recommend sharing with teachers in such a format?

Photo Credit: Tray

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change: Reflections from the Bus

As promised, I really am blogging from the bus. We're on the way to a volleyball tournament in Belleville, Ontario, and the team is resting after filling up on pizza. So why write now? And why further stress a computer with a cracked screen?

Sure, blogging from a bus is one way to demonstrate how technology can now be leveraged anytime, anyplace. And while I'm accessing the web through a tethered mobile phone, players are listening to ipods, watching DVD's, and playing games on portable devices.

But no one on this bus is thinking about arguably the most important issue facing the citizens of planet Earth.

Although the players and coaches on board do not realize that it is Blog Action Day, I'm compelled to reflect on the topic chosen for the day: Climate Change. With the Global Climate Summit slated for Copenhagen in a few short weeks, a more suitable topic would be difficult to find.

Even though I know of the power of words and images, I was still stunned in viewing the time lapse photography embedded in James Balog's Extreme Ice Loss presentation at TED. Witnessing the fracturing of glaciers during his extreme ice survey, the viewer can't help but conclude that "Climate Change is Real".

I'm not sure what you or your students have discovered about climate change, but it seems to me that there are few topics of greater importance for the future citizens of the world. Maybe you and your students will plan your own lesson for your community during next week's International Day of Climate Action?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Imagining Conversations with Former Students

Have you ever bumped into former students and been surprised by what the students remember?

"Hey, I remember you! You taught me how to copy notes from the blackboard!"

"Remember when we did that algebra work, where we all filled in the spaces on that photocopy?!"

"Oh, and that time we read from the text book and answered the questions at the end of the section!"

In reality, these sample recollections are never celebrated. More commonly, the students with these memories are likely to pretend not to notice the teachers in question.

In preparing students for a future so difficult to predict, how is it that such activities still comprise a significant portion of a typical student's day?

The Classroom Matters

This weekend, I came across a The Fun Theory, a post at Mashable, that demonstrates how the environment significantly alters the way participants behave.

I look forward to the day when it will be the norm for classrooms to be arranged for discussion, rather than for teacher presentation. I anticipate the day when teachers regularly connect their learners with those in other classrooms; in other cities; and in other countries. I await the day when students can expect assessment of their learning to include performances that are beyond essays and exams.

If students walk into learning environments designed for interaction; with tools for meaningful collaboration; challenging future citizens to demonstrate their learning in engaging ways, then we will indeed be preparing our charges for a future of lifelong learning.

Though modern tools can be the catalyst to reforming our schools, significant changes to the classroom are beyond hardware & software. Whether or not we leverage emerging technologies, we can amplify the engagement of today's students by creating environments for interaction.

When you cross paths with your present students 10 years hence, how do you anticipate the conversation will begin?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Taking Risks in Media Creation

When I first began teaching in the late 1980's, I used to use video production as a tool to engage the creative minds of my students. At the time, the equipment was bulky, expensive, and difficult to access. Today in contrast, far more powerful tools for media creation and editing are available in the homes and on the desktops of our students.

This brief podcast introduces a film production project that will put 'at risk' students into the roles of writer; director; properties manager; video-editor; producer; actor...

Do you know of an 'expert' in the field of professional media who can help us out by acting as a mentor and live 'Skype-in' guest?

Photo Credit: pt

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Google Wave on the Back-of-a-Napkin

The real challenge of today's World Wide Web, is to condense any idea into a nugget that can be digested by a diverse audience, in very short order. Rather than calling for a 5000 word essay as an explanation, the attention span of today's networked audience demands that that even the most complex idea be distilled into a back-of-the-napkin presentation.

Now that Google Wave is in limited release, this 2 minute explanation is rising the charts as the most efficient way to explain what may soon become E-mail 2.0.

Whether or not Google Wave changes the way we collaborate online, this presentation by Epipheo Studios, serves to remind teachers and students that there is a real art to explaining concepts for today's attention deficit world.