Category Archives: new media

the summer (institute) of twitter

As Chance the Gardner from Being There was often fond of saying, “I like to watch.”

And watch I have as NWP colleagues from around the country have taken to tweeting their experiences. Most are currently in some stage of beginning or ending their summer institutes, an event that gathers local teachers together to share practice, engage in a look at current research, write and enjoy the bonding that occurs when you put 20 or so teachers together in a room for 4 weeks.

When I went through my Summer Institute back in the late 90’s, I had very little sense of the national infrastructure of the writing project. I knew only my own Western Massachusetts Writing Project and had a vague notion that we were part of something bigger. It wasn’t until I attended the first NWP Annual Meeting a few years later that I realized the true scope of this teacher professional development organization.

So it’s with astonishment and admiration that I see April Estep in West Virginia sharing her morning writing prompts with Thomas Maerke, who himself is recording video of conversations in Missouri. Steve Moore in Kansas City posts one of the most moving readings I’ve ever heard, right from his phone, and that reading by one of the facilitators of his institute gets retweeted in moments. Cynthia Younger, also in Kansas City, is encouraged to develop her first blog by Steve Moore and then goes on Twitter to seek blogging advice. All the while, Paul Hankins and Donalyn Miller and Bud Hunt and Andrea Zellner and Kevin Hodgson, among a myriad of others, shout out encouragement from their corners of the country.

I could go on and on – from Philadelphia to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Monterrey Bay in California, summer institute teachers are providing a window into their daily work and play.

As I said, I’m astonished. Not because I thought these teachers were incapable of connecting with each other and sharing in this way. I realize that this is what has been happening on Twitter for many educators over the past few years.

It’s more that I didn’t fully understand the power of what would be unleashed when summer institutes connected. As Carl Whithaus so aptly put it in his tweet which I pasted above, it is the “dual sense of community” that has emerged and that has now been – and I’d bet money that this is true – cemented. The way in which, dialectically, a face-to-face experience has supported the use of social media, and social media has in turn amplified the face-to-face moment.

It is the summer (institute) of Twitter.

I like to watch.

And listen.

And, as it turns out, even participate.



Filed under digital literacies, education, new media, social networking

blurred lines

I listened to a fantastic discussion this week on the webcast, Teachers Teaching Teachers. Paul Allison, who through sheer determination and, frankly, stubbornness, has kept this program going has hosted conversations with influential educators from around the world. This past week was no exception.

Folks from Global Kids, along with NYC teachers and educators from Oregon discussed games and gaming.

I plugged into the iTunes feed, participated in a chat that included students and tweeted some of the salient sound-bite-able portions.

I loved listening to the discussion surrounding the educational potential of games and game creation – the promotion of systems thinking, for instance – and how the teachers on the program implement gaming in their classrooms.

As someone who grew up playing games, analog (Risk, Monopoly, Life, Battling Tops – you name it) and digital (I went to college with the Ms. Pacman champ of Connecticut), and as a teacher who used game-playing as a teaching strategy in math with 2nd graders, I was deeply engaged by the topic.

Afterward, as I tried to synthesize the rich conversation, my mind touched on the obvious idea that introducing games and gaming in school is one step towards the blurring of the line between in-school and out-of-school. I thought back to the seminal Pew Internet and American Life study from 2002, “The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their Schools.” Nearly 10 years ago, we were facing the dilemma of students arriving in school aware that the ways in which they acquired knowledge outside the classroom wouldn’t be open to them inside the classroom. At the time, my response as a technology professional development specialist was to help teachers bring the Internet into the classroom, and therefore put the Internet into the hands of students.

But what I’m thinking today, right at this moment, influenced by the blurring of lines for me professionally and personally as I engage more with Twitter and read the book “Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out” is that I need to have greater nuance in my understanding. That my framework of the issue – in-school/out-of-school – may be wrongheaded. That instead, what I need to do is honor our students’ already-existing personal learning communities, which have lives in school and out of school and sometimes in and out of school, and, additionally, help them figure out how to foster new ones so that they can access more and different kinds of knowledge.

It’s a different type of blurring of the lines between in-school and out-of-school, one that is holistic rather than linear. It is a Venn diagram of multiple overlapping circles, circles that represent a student’s many learning communities – sports, music, TV, books – rather than a flowchart of back-and-forth arrows between home and school.

(As an aside, who knew there was a LOTR version of Risk? I may need to buy a game tonight …)

1 Comment

Filed under education, new media

it’s better in finland

Last month, Finland became the first country in the world to declare broadband access a legal right.

This in contrast to the United States, where we’re gouged for access to broadband, either in our homes, on our cellphones, and – most egregiously – at hotels. Honestly, I don’t understand how hotels are allowed to get away with the prices they charge for Internet access.

I’m attending a conference in Philadelphia next week, hosted by my organization, and we are choosing not to pay the cost of Internet access for our workshops because of what the venue would charge us. If the free market is always right, as Milton Friedman has argued, then why aren’t hotels undercutting one another and offering reasonable rates for broadband? I’ve stayed at hotels that offer free broadband access – though they tend to be smaller, and in smaller cities or towns – so I know it’s financially feasible.

Which brings me to airports. Again, many smaller airports offer free broadband. And even some larger ones, like Denver. (At DIA, the wireless network is supported through ads that pop up when you log in. Who wouldn’t sit through ads for free wireless?) At least with hotels, there is the potential for competition someday, however unlikely. But what incentive is there for an airport like SFO to offer free broadband when it is the only game in town?

I realize that with the growing popularity of smartphones, free wireless is becoming slightly less critical in these places. For people with smartphones. That means, as usual, the less privileged have to do without, must be disconnected.

Whatever happened to movements like Philly Wi-fi, in which the idea was to make an entire city one big hotspot with free wireless for all? I understand that efforts like Philly Wi-fi face stiff opposition from telecommunications giants who want to be able to continue to bloat their profit margins.

Perhaps we’d have a fighting chance against these corporate interests if we as a country were also to adopt the stance that access to broadband is a right.

Way to go, Finland. Let’s hope you’ve started a worldwide revolution.

Leave a comment

Filed under new media

teachers teaching teachers

I was involved with a terrific webcast of teachers engaged in a far-ranging conversation about their new media classroom work and new literacy learning generally. The webcast is in advance of the National Writing Project’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia next week.

The program was started by Paul Allison, a high school teacher in New York City (Flushing, in fact, where I was born) and a member of the New York City Writing Project. (Eventually, the webcast will be available online at the Teachers Teaching Teachers website.) Paul acts as host – the Charlie Rose, if you will.

I love the program because like most things constructed by resourceful teachers, the webcast is put together in McGyver-like fashion, seemingly with two twigs and some chewing gum, and yet it runs and functions beautifully. TTT, as it’s affectionately known, uses Skype and an educator-centered online space and the wits and talents of Paul and teacher Susan Ettenheim.

I’ve known Paul for many many years and have seen him do some pretty far-out stuff – my favorite, authoring videocasts while going for long runs. You had to have seen them, believe me. He’s an amazing thinker and a true believer in a democratic classroom. Paul wants kids to push the boundaries and to make school interesting and relevant for them again. His latest project – to have his students call in book reviews from their cellphones to a number that will aggregate their work.

I’m enamored of Paul and his work, though, not because it is experimental, though I do appreciate the courage it takes to experiment in this day and age. Rather, it’s because he can provide sound pedagogical reasons for  why he does what he does. And because he thinks very deeply about the art and craft of teaching with and in new media and is always apt to say something that makes you rethink your assumptions.

It was exciting to hear the work presented by the teachers on the broadcast – two elementary and one middle school, all from different states. Despite the pressures exerted on them to prepare their students for standardized tests, these educators – Robert River-Amezola in Philadelphia, Joe Conroy in New Jersey, and Chuck Jurich in Arizona – find the time to give their students the opportunity to become engaged, digital citizens.

So inspiring, really.

1 Comment

Filed under digital literacies, education, new media