Inspired by Daring-Do

January 4th, 2011 llcowell Posted in design theory, librarians, social media, teaching & learning 2 Comments »

I absolutely love what Gwyneth Jones does with her blog, The Daring Librarian.  The verve she shares with other professionals has even spilled over into what she shares with her students (see The Daring School Library). Her At-a-Glance Cartoon Tutorials add new appeal to those must-have but often ignored cheat sheets we hand out to teachers and students.  What she does transcends tech connectedness.  Through graphics and style she connects with a studentss where they are now!  I have played with the idea of migrating my own school site into WordPress and wiki formats and her success inspires.

On a side note, I hope to convince our marketing teacher to use Gwyneth as an example of “branding” and marketing oneself.  He’s been frustrated with the same-old-same-old activities where students “advertise” products already released and already branded.  What a powerful exercise this would be.  Check out Gwyneth’s branding adventure here.

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Social Media on the Move

March 23rd, 2010 llcowell Posted in mobility, social media No Comments »

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Appeal for Change

March 7th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, observations, social media, teaching & learning 1 Comment »

Michael Stephen’s Tame the Web features a reprint of the article: The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate, originally published by the Australian School Library Association. Arguing that the financial crisis compels us to move towards the needed changes (when we need those changes anyway) may be an effective lever for those reluctant media specialists who still resist moving into a 21st century already a decade old.  Let’s hope so.  Stephen’s appeal is well-informed and nicely put.  For those of us who have embraced the change, the article provides some nice reinforcement to share with colleagues who question the changes we’ve implemented.  If you’d like to share,  you can download a PDF of the article here.  The article was based on a presentation at ASLA which you can view here.

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Book Report….and more!

March 1st, 2010 llcowell Posted in design theory, social media 1 Comment »

The video below is interesting on a couple of counts.  Obviously, the message intrigues (perhaps scares) us.  It’s a different world than many professionals (and parents) are immersed in.  While we may facebook, our use is more deliberate…less social than that of the young person who’s grown up in a social media environment.  Then…there is the fact that this is a BOOK REPORT. Can you imagine if our students demonstrated their understanding in this way….non-linear,

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Social Technographics and Scaffolding…

January 19th, 2010 llcowell Posted in design theory, learning spaces, multiple literacies, social media No Comments »

From a blog associated with the new book, GroundSwell, the post Social Technographics: Conversationalists get onto the ladder shows how twitter and facebook status updaters are figuring into the the world of social media. Reminds me alot of Gladwell’s Tipping Point.

Conversationalists are now on the ladder of social media

"Conversationalists" are now on the ladder of social media

The author’s note that these “conversationalists” are an intriguing lot with a definate stake in market trends. I can’t help but come back to my own professional observations of how market and classroom align in today’s marketplace of information and media. Consider the following suggestions offered in the blog:

“Convince your boss this stuff is for real, and that if you haven’t jumped on it, you’re late.”

There is a hum (or drum) in education now pushing administrators to recognize social media not just as a tool that could be harvested, but as a new way of communicating that MUST be engaged if we are to remain relevant in society.

“Profile your customer base, and see what they’re ready for, before planning a project to reach out to them.”

Know your students. They don’t learn the same way we did, even 15 years ago. The dilemma in education? Student’s today are technologically MORE ready than we are! At the same time, they’re social aptitude has slipped they navigate through the online social network “willy-nilly.” Shouldn’t we be there with them…to teach, to model?

“Segment your audience; build different strategies for different segments. (Social is so prevalent now that a single approach for your company is probably too broad.)”

Differentiate your approach to reach different learners. We’ve embraced that in the classroom, but too often we settle for seeing “technology” AS an approach, rather than as a space in need of these differentiated approaches. All said, it comes down to…SCAFFOLDING!

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Cliff Notes…REMIXED!

November 7th, 2009 llcowell Posted in multiple literacies, observations, social media 2 Comments »

Literary summaries and analyses.  In developing a library collection, teacher can’t agree.

For some, there is a double standard with regards to literary guides such as Blooms Literary Themes or the Understanding Literature series published by Lucent. One school where I taught shelved every volume (every edition) of MasterPlots “for teacher use only” because…a plot summary and analytical overview is a “refresher” for teachers and “cheating” for students!?  Cliffnotes, SparkNotes…the cheap way out of reading required materials.

Others teachers welcome the guides and the fresh, updated takes they offer.  They generally believe that any student willing to read the guide is probably immersed in the literary experience.  It’s for these teachers that I share the 60 Second Recap, a great site, whose mission is to “make the great works of literature accessible, relevant, and, frankly, irresistible to today’s teens…to help teens engage with the best books out there … not just to help them get better grades, but to help them build better lives.”  This is how the site introduces it’s mission:

“Eat your lima beans,” Mom used to say.

And now that you’re out on your own, honestly, are lima beans a staple of your culinary repertoire?

There, in a lima bean, lies the problem confronting the great works of literature. We’re all forced to read them in school so we can get good grades so we can go to a good college so we can get a good job so we can forget all about that literature they used to force us to read so we could get good grades.

The 60second Recap™ aims to break this cycle of canonical irrelevance. We want to help teens (yes, teens of all ages!) engage with literature. We want to help them see it not as some chore to be endured, but as — dare we say it? — the gift of a lifetime. How? Through the language of our time — the language of video. Video that’s focused, engaging, informative … and short enough to hold just about anyone’s attention.

Smirk if you must. Consider this yet another mile-marker on civilization’s road to perdition. But here’s the fact: You won’t get non-readers to read by forcing them to read more. You’ll get them to read by opening their eyes to the marvels awaiting them between the covers of that homework assignment.

With the 60second Recap™, teens finally have an alternative to the boring, text-based study guides that have burdened them for generations. And — who knows? — maybe that’s just what they’ll need to begin a love affair with literature, one that will last a lifetime.

The site offers teens an opportunity to join ClubRecap, where they can get quick instructional videos that clarify literary concepts and terminology, as well as comment on the recaps offered through the site and request additional recaps.  The opportunity to participate in community is irresistible to a generation of young people hooked on the power of social networking!

One thing I’d like to see here…the opportunity for teachers to post video segments into a blog or website…for guided, manageable instruction.

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Lessons in the News

October 15th, 2009 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, multiple literacies, observations, social media, teaching & learning 1 Comment »

On September 30, 2009, John Temple, former editor, president, and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, posted a transcript of his keynote presentation at the UC Berkeley Media Technology Summit, delivered that same day.  Under Temple’s direction, the paper won a total of four Pulitzer Prizes.  And yet, seven months earlier, that same paper printed it’s final edition, after almost 150 years of publication.

I see valuable lessons in what Temple has to say to news professionals that apply in the secondary school setting–not just in our journalism classes and school publications, but also in the classroom and school paradigm in general.  Below are some key points to consider:

Newspapers, like schools operate under  long-established and respected models of delivery. Each is served by professionals rigorously trained to operate within these models. And those models and the paradigms they support are difficult to shift, largely because they have deeply engrained conventions and cultural functions. Temple notes:

“…we thought we were in the newspaper business….and put the vast majority of our efforts into the print war. We didn’t understand what was happening to the playing field. Media companies used to think they were in control. That they could “own” a market. What we didn’t take into account is that in this new era, consumers were going to be in control.”

Failure to adopt technology was not “the problem” that plagued Temple’s newspaper, anymore than it is a failure in most American schools today. And yet, too often technology is seen simply as a way to make existing tasks easier or more efficient. Use and development stop short. We adapt the adopted technology to fit the existing model of delivery, rather than adapting the model of delivery to adopt the new ways of thinking made possible by the technology.    Temple writes:

“Right from the start, new offerings were measured by what they did for the core product, not on their own merits…The Rocky’s first Web site…grew out of the newsroom’s night copy desk crew, a few of whom had learned some HTML… the attention of the paper’s leadership was on print, not on new possibilities…The message to the newsroom at that time regarding the Web site: “Do not let it interfere with the print edition.”

Because the adoption of technology is so often reactive in established institutions, its application is mostly hit-and-miss.  Temple continues:

“We knew the Web was a place we needed to be. But we didn’t have a clear strategy. Mission. Or objective. It was a “complement to the paper,” as we said in our initial ‘About us’ page.”

How often do we hear that in the school setting?  Yes, we’ve moved beyond “teaching technology for technology’s sake,” but our new mantra–”technology as a tool”–falls short of innovative use.  The word processor is the accepted new “typewriter,”  as we continue to teach the literacy of writing for print publication (rather than online or other media).  PowerPoint (and sometimes, even SmartBoards?) are often harnessed as multimedia presentation tools, rather than the means of promoting more interactive, user-driven learning.

The problem, as Temple sees it?  Focus is all on “keeping the newspaper alive.”

“We didn’t understand the Web or new technology and didn’t have the time to learn much about it. We weren’t a consumer-driven company…”

Just as new technologies in Temple’s world were neatly seperated from the “real business” of running a newspaper, technology in our schools often remains departmentalized.  And while, as Temple admits, “it was probably a smart move to get the Web out of the newsroom”  because “it made it possible for the Web staff to carve their own path,” it  ”also separated the newsroom from its new online product.” According to Temple, “that clearly had its downside.”  Temple explains:

“A pivotal moment – perhaps the most telling about the paper’s approach to the Web – came on the morning of April 20, 1999 when two students opened fire at Columbine High School. The world was watching. At that time, we had one content producer whose job was essentially to shovel the newspaper onto the Web. The Web team was on the first floor of our building. The newsroom on the third. After news of the shooting broke, the producer came to the newsroom and asked the city editor for any news he could give him. ‘I’m not giving you anything for the Web site,’ he remembers being told. ‘They’ll steal it.’ They, in this case, was The Denver Post. The culture of the newsroom at this point was still to save any possible scoops for the morning paper to keep the Post a day behind us. The Rocky’s Web team ended up relying on our TV news partner for its reports.”

This particular insight cuts straight to the heart of what is happening in our schools–particularly secondary schools.  As departmentalized entities, we jealously guard our resources. School libraries and other common resources are too often not seen as centers for ideas and sharing, but rather as places for going and getting.

This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been some incidental progress…in schools, as in the newsrooms. Temple remembers:

“Something else happened that day, though, that changed the perspective of the newsroom. We decided to give all our best photographs from the high school to the Associated Press as soon as we had them in our computer system. The result, the Rocky pictures you’ve just seen appeared on front pages around the world the next morning. The staff saw the tangible benefits of sharing in real time. The quality of their work captured the attention of the world and raised the paper’s profile. That day was a turning point for how the newsroom worked with the web, although the results wouldn’t become fully visible until a few years later.”

Temple recognizes (partially in hindsight) what was needed to maintain the progressive momentum:

“If you want to compete in a medium, you have to understand it… you need to get the right people into an organization, people who can see and seize new opportunities…The question is why would talented people want to join companies that are held back by their past? I think that’s a real problem for legacy media organizations.”

And so we stand, in our schools.  Too often, the innovators are quickly “humbled” and silenced by the culture of tradition that surrounds education. Too many young teachers retreat to the oasis of the department or the individual classroom. Or, they leave the profession altogether, to pursue careers in field where new ideas are encouraged and their fresh points-of-view respected.

Some might argue…and I can’t agree..that what happened at the Rocky Mountain News can’t truly be seen as a harbinger of what is to come for schools, or even other newspapers–that I’ve stretch the analogy too thin. But like Temple, in expressing his concern for the future of historic titles like The New York Times, I am concerned about the future of schools as the center of education. “There’s still too much of a sense of entitlement in the industry.”  Rather than blame the innovations (media remix, blog proliferation, etc.) for the demise of the institution, Temple advises:

“The industry should be focused on building new and better products and services…look for ways to answer the needs of the people in their communities. They have to know what business they’re in. We thought we were in the newspaper business. [We're] not. [We're] in the news, information, knowledge and connection business.”

Temple’s parting advise to news agencies is pretty solid advice for educators (administrators and teachers, alike)–”Know your customers.

Imagine new potentials for your students…not just their potential to learn what you know, but their potential to learn in new ways. “Partner more with others and invite more people to participate.” Reapply Temple’s advice and give students more control over how they learn.  We’re still thinking too much about how we ourselves learned and not enough about what today’s student know and needs.

“And, of course, finally, the most difficult recommendation of all…stop making decisions…based on how they’ll affect…legacy business.”

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The Medium is the Message?

August 28th, 2009 llcowell Posted in observations, social media No Comments »

A cultural phenomenon…you know a medium has gone mainstream when it’s become and informational source…Science Tattoo Emporium from The Loom (Blogs at Discover Magazine Online):  Below are just a few examples from 23+ pages of images.

thumbs_macroscope thumbs_equationtatwide600-webatom-future-300thumbs_tree-dna-web

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The Machine is (Changing) Us – Michael Wesch

July 22nd, 2009 llcowell Posted in multiple literacies, reviews, social media No Comments »

I’ve admired Wesch’s work since I was first introduced to it a couple of years back. His digital ethnographic studies are facinating and address the crucial changes that are occuring in our culture (and should be occuring in our classrooms). His youtube presentations include Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/ing Us, A Vision of Students Today, Information R/evolution, and Twitter and the World Simulation. Wesch spoke this spring to to Wisconsin educators at WEMTA, and the following, from the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum reiterates much of what he presented to us. I look for opportunities to share these ideas…and hope readers here will too.

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Virtually Attending the Whole Time

June 19th, 2009 llcowell Posted in observations, social media No Comments »

With semester exams and end-of-year details, attending this year’s Games, Learning and Society Conference (GLS 5.0) in Madision wasn’t a possibility (booooo!).  But then again, through the magic of “Twitter” I was practically there, if only wandering the halls, evesdropping on the buzz, rather than actually participating.  While I was thrilled to be part of the Educator Symposium held on Saturday (great panels), it was painful to hear all the “backchatter” and know just what a great conference I was missing.

That said, the BACKCHATTER game was interesting, particularly in light of the Twitter Analysis for GLS09 provided by Mike Edwards, who, along with others, set up and ran the game.  Wishing I had a stronger background in stats, I am still gratified to find my other self (hattiebb) figuring “loudly” in the chatter.  Everytime someone asks me why I’ve (recently!) taken up tweeting (something many argue is nothing more than naked status posting) I have to defend the meaningful possibilities in the tool.  Twitter allows me to push content (my own and that of others) beyond my limited sphere of influence and do what library information and media specialists do…find it…share it…market it…and in some cases, create it.

Click to read the analysis...

Click to read the analysis...

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