Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Guernica in 3D

An example of what can be done with media - wow!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Future of Adult Ed in the New Digital World

I attended this event at Virginia Commonwealth University a couple of weeks ago, convening a group of adult education practitioners and researchers to consider how technology will affect the field of adult education. The keynotes by Steve Reder of Portland State University, who led the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning and is now developing the Learner Web, and me, are now posted on the site.

SixthSense Technology

Dennis Porter sent me this amazing video about work happening at MIT to merge computing with the physical world. It's quite mind boggling!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Goodbye Butts in Chairs

Can't resist this one - to the tune of Candle in the Wind. Thank you, Gina Lobacarro, for posting this on the New Digital World Ning site.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More on mLearning

Mlearning seems to be the topic that is getting the focus of ed tech attention these days. Cell phones in the classroom, or no cell phones in the classroom. Adult education doesn't have the same constraints as K12, so issues like cyber-bullying aren't so relevant for adults. But this blogpost by Rob De Lorenzo made me think, again, about how our ways of learning are evolving so fast, and how education is not keeping up.

Why do we call looking up information "cheating?" We look up information all the time. When we want to know something, we go online and look for information. Is that cheating? No, it's a life skill! We should be encouraging, not punishing this behavior. Rob makes the point that education used to be about memorizing a lot of information when information was scarce. That is no longer the case, information is now abundant. Finding it and thinking critically about it are the skills we need to be teaching now.

Recently, Aug. 3, the Sacramento Bee ran an article about using cell phones in the classroom. Articles like this are a big step towards educating parents and the community about the possibilities of mlearning. Along with interviewing some technology-using teachers and tech leaders, the article provides links to more information, such as Liz Kolb's blog on mlearning. (Liz has written a book on the subject, Toys to Tools, published by ISTE.) It was from her blog that I learned about YouMail, free service to listen to your voicemail online. OK, I'm not promoting it as educational, but I'm really liking it for my personal VM.

This is all to say that mobile learning is happening, ready or not. Arguments that sounded radical a year ago now just sound like common sense. Why shouldn't students look up facts, definitions, locations, using their phones? They should!
(Photo credit: silly_a1804)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

mLearning in Africa

Information from an mLearning summit in Zambia.

A link from the Teachers Without Borders Diigo group sent me to a number of sites about mlearning and other technology in Africa.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

ePortfolios for ABE

California has created an ABE Initiative, supporting adult education programs to look at different ways to support Adult Basic Skills students and to serve them better. We have an online community for the Initiative (not open to the public). I recently received a request from several program administrators to look into the possibility of having some kind of eportfolio system for ABE students.

The things they want to be able to add to an eportfolio are: education plan, personal goals, employment goals, resume, checklist of competencies, work samples, awards, recommendations. The idea is that the student would add to or work with the portfolio maybe weekly, the instructor could check in weekly or monthly, and the student might review their portfolio with the counselor each quarter or semester. The portfolio would go with the student to higher level classes, post-secondary, or employment.

I imagined that there were several free options online, but it hasn't been so easy to find them. I started with EPAC (electronic portfolio action and communication) and their extensive list of resources, which was quite overwhelming, so I emailed Helen Chen at Stanford who was kind enough to talk with me about our goals and the various possibilities. She made several recommendations regarding programs that have implemented eportfolios, including Penn State which has a nice description for students of the steps in creating an eportfolio.

Helen also recommended Helen Barrett, who currently provides information on how to create an eportfolio using Google apps - Google Sites, Google Docs, Google Groups, etc. This might be beyond the comfort level of ABE teachers and students, though.

My current favorite possibility is Mahara - an opensource product from New Zealand that incorporates all the features we're looking for, and is also easy to use, and best of all, free! Students can create a profile, a set of goals, and a resume. They can upload files and media, as well as embedding. They can create different views of their portfolio - one for the instructor, one for prospective employers, another for themselves and their friends. You can create a demo account to try it out.

Research also took me to David Warlick's recent post on ePortfolios as the next killer app. He includes a list of features that he would like to see included. The comments and discussion on this post are interesting, and contain links to other products. I will be presenting Mahara at a meeting this week, and will see what kind of feedback it gets.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mowing with Goats

This has nothing to do with technology, really, but did you know that Google is now using goats to keep their grass mowed? That's pretty cool! As they say on their blog, "the cost is about the same as mowing, and the goats are cuter to watch."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Twitter at COABE

I want to write about the COABE conference, (national adult education conference) but for now, I'm just going to comment that there was a lot of interest in Twitter. I think Ashton Kutscher and Larry King can be thanked for that! I twittered the conference, and encouraged others. So far I don't think anyone joined me, but I got a number of follows for OTAN.

In my workshop on Web 2.0 Tools for Administrators, the first thing they wanted to hear about was Twitter. Now that's different! I tried to explain how I use Twitter as a professional development tool. I follow links to what my fellow ed tech twitterers are reading, doing, thinking about, arguing about, and I've found lots of interesting material that I never would have seen on my own.

So I will just re-tweet here a post this morning from Ira Socol:

irasocol: Filosophical Friday- If our students could learn as much from a day in school as I do from a day on Twitter we'd be a really educated world.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Social Networking for Professional Development

I'm at the CATESOL conference, and it's been a mixture of wonderful conversations and depressing realizations; wonderful because of the opportunity to see so many colleagues that I don't get to see all the time, and depressing because adult education in California, at least the K12 adult schools, is being cut and curtailed by state budget cuts. The adult level meeting, which is usually full to overflowing, was this time full of empty chairs, and when someone asked how many were from continuing education in the community colleges, more than half the room raised their hands. That means that teachers and coordinators from the K12 adult schools aren't here this year. There was no money for travel. There was also no one from the Adult Education Office of the California Department of Education because they also are not currently allowed to travel.

One of the wonderful parts of being here in Pasadena has been sharing a hotel room with my friend Jan Jarrell from San Diego City College. She used to teach ESL with me at Centre City Adult Education Center in San Diego, and we used to walk at the bay every Thursday and strategize about how to solve the various challenges we perceived in our classes, our program, and the district, not to mention our personal lives. I've missed that since I moved to Sacramento in 2001, and had forgotten how deeply satisfying it is to talk to someone who knows you and your history, and who shares many of your values and beliefs. We don't have to start at the beginning of a conversation, we can start in the middle and still know where we are.

In a year when the opportunities for face-to-face networking are fewer than in previous years, I found myself giving a workshop on Social Networking for Professional Development to a very small audience at the end of a long day. (The slides are posted, and the links on the wiki are just the ones that aren't in the slides.) The audience was small partly because the topic doesn't appear directly related to teaching English to speakers of other languages. But the people who were there, the 3 or 4 intrepid souls who sat up front and really talked with me, were sincerely curious about social networking, and I had the opportunity to share my passion for the subject.

Today I listened to a bunch of episodes from NPR's This I Believe, so let me borrow from their format to articulate here some things I believe:
* I believe we human beings are social animals
* I believe that learning is an innate human drive like sex or the need to find food and shelter - we can't go on for too long without it
* I believe we learn through relationships as much as if not more than through solitary reading and studying
* I believe that we learn through a web of connections between reading, conversations and experiences that interact with each other in some chemical way inside our brains
* I believe that passion is one of the keys to a productive life

In my presentation I talked about Twitter to people who had never seen it, about how many things I've learned from links people have posted there. I talked about Delicious and what an excellent improvement it is to be able to save and tag bookmarks online, and to share them with others and have others share their bookmarks as well. I talked about listservs, and Facebook and LinkedIn, and I realized that I'm still excited and passionate about these things.

I talked about people I've "met" through these networks, like Stephen Downes for instance, someone I will probably never meet in real life, but whose thinking affects my thinking, and my ability to share those thoughts with others. He talks a lot about how ideas are socially generated, and I recently read a biography of Einstein that made me acutely aware of the same thing - ideas are developed socially, feeding off each other, pushing each other, disagreeing with each other. Not to negate the importance of the exceptional brilliance of some minds. I often, in this stage of my life (I'm 61), run smack into the limitations of my own intellect. But Einstein, by putting his ideas out to his field, developed relationships with the other people who were thinking about the same things he was, and through those relationships developed his ideas further. He did that through the social networks that were available to him, but now every one of us has wide social networks available to us. This, to me, is like magic.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I didn't go to TESOL this year, but got a partial experience of it through blog posts, tweets, and photos people posted on FaceBook. Here is an interesting post by Vance Stevens, a person who has been active in the technology interest section and various online developments over many years and always has something interesting to say. I didn't get to hear him speak this year, but here he is recapping a panel presentation he did as part of celebrating 25 years of the CALL (computer-assisted language learning) interest section. He talks about 10 mind-shifts that educators must make to function in the 21st century. I won't repeat them here, but the most Vance-ish one, to my mind, is:
6. Formality – from Trepidation, fear of being exposed as not knowing TO F.U.N. = encourage class to explore despite risk of Frivolous Unanticipated Nonsense

I'm for that, Frivolous Unanticipated Nonsense. We need more F.U.N.!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stephen Downes on Personal Learning Networks

I found this video by following Stephen Downes on Facebook. It is a 20 minute talk to educators about how to think about Web 2.0, and how to make it work for our own personal learning, and that of our students. He is a teacher and researcher from Canada who has a job that lets him focus on technology and education issues full time. Pretty cool! You can subscribe to his newsletter, or read his blog, to get an idea of where he's coming from.

This video (which will only be online until March 30, because Google Video is going away, it says) talks about how to collect and organize information for your own personal learning. He talks about using a blog to take notes on a class, or take notes on the things you are learning from everywhere. That struck a chord with me because this blog is really my notes on ed tech sites/developments/information that I want to remember and to share with others. He also mentions his view that content management systems are bound to be dysfunctional because they aren't built for networking, they are built on a broadcast format - one person broadcasts information to many passive recipients. Yes, there are blogs and chats and discussion boards, but they don't really solve the problem. That framed for me the frustration I feel with the CMSs we have now, they are too static.

Then he goes on to talk about the power of networking, the wisdom of crowds, and how important it is to participate, not just be a lurker, to put your ideas out there, and to respond to the ideas of other people, because that is really how we learn and how ideas develop. Information is not a static thing, it's a conversation. Today I read (in Steve Hargadon's slides) this quote, "Information has always been a conversation, it's just that most of us weren't part of it, until the Internet." Now we can all participate in the conversation, and Downes's view is that it's important to participate.

One of the first rules of participating, Downes adds, is to be authentic. Be yourself, put your real self out there. It's true, that's one of the really nice things about all this participatory media online. I feel like I've gotten to know people whose ideas I'm interested in because I listen to their podcasts, watch their videos, read their posts, and it feels like I'm in a conversation with them. I can't say that I participate back with many of them, but they are still part of my personal learning network. But the personal connection is an important part of the learning, I believe. On the other hand, as he points out, it's hard to do. For example, sitting in front of your webcam and giving a presentation when no one is present, it's hard to just be yourself. Hopefully it gets easier with practice. For example, Loic Lemeur is very used to being himself with a camera pointed at him, since his whole business, Seesmic, is based on people making short conversational videos of themselves and posting them. In the interest of authenticity I will say that personally I'm still struggling with this.

It seems like not long ago (it was last April, almost a year ago) that I first came across and blogged about the PLN concept, and now these ideas are getting much more developed. So what constitutes your personal learning network? I recommend watching Stephen's video and seeing where it takes you.

One issue that I have not resolved, though is that all of this only works for the very motivated learner. That's us teachers - we like to learn, we loved school, we enjoyed the pursuit of new fields of knowledge. But what about that learner who isn't so motivated, who has some learning challenges, for whom school was more of a misery than a joy? Those people, and there are many in adult education, may not experience the personal learning network concept the same way. But, people are motivated to learn many different things, and I can't think of a topic for which there isn't a great quantity of information and networking opportunities online. Maybe the task of the teacher is to help that student find information about the thing they are the most passionate about, and go on from there.
Photo Credit: Luc Legay

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education

You can now see video of Steve Hargadon's presentation at the Symposium, or you can listen to a similar presentation here. This is an earlier version of the talk, but I'm posting it here because it has the audio, and his slides are very visual so you miss a lot without the narration. This version doesn't have the dolphin story, though, so if you want the full effect, watch the video!

Brain Rules for Presenters

I happened upon this presentation AFTER giving 4 workshops at the Technology and Distance Learning Symposium. Good information to remember. Steve Hargadon did a nice job of following these rules in his keynote address - lots of photos, lots of stories, a few cogent points with examples. I promise to do better in the future!

My favorite point from this presentation? Spend some analog time preparing the presentation before you sit down to make the slides. Don't think and write at the same time. This totally goes against my habits, but I will try it.

And, yes folks, I discovered this through a link posted on Twitter. Have you noticed that the term Personal Learning Network has become ubiquitous and referred to as PLN? Didn't take that term long to get into our vocabulary.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Online Video Resources

This is a session that I didn't get to attend, but they created a wonderful wiki page with descriptions of a variety of video sites, whether you can upload to them, and what their special features are. Take a look!


The first day of the Technology and Distance Learning Symposium went well, despite rain and budget cuts of major proportions. Those who showed up were fired up and ready to latch on to new ideas.

Gary Lopez from Monterey Institute of Technology did a presentation on Hippocampus, a website that hosts free online course content for high school diploma courses. Although the audience was small, the teachers seemed very interested in the possibilities. The courses can be customized, deleting the content that is too high for our students, or not relevant, and it appears that each teacher can create their own customized course. He didn't talk about tracking results, though, so not sure there is a management side to it.

Although some of the content is designed for AP courses, and written at too high a level for our learners, there is an Algebra course with a lot of movies and interactive activities. This would be good staff development for teachers who now have to teach Algebra after being away from it for years. It's just in time, any pace, which are both helpful. I look forward to hearing more about what teachers think of it, and seeing if we can get something going with online high school instruction.

Here are the slides from the presentation:
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Sunday, February 08, 2009

21 Ways to Reach 21st Century Learners

This page lists 21 ways to use new technologies in the classroom to engage learners and make learning more interactive and self-directed. Each of the items is a link to examples. For example, the item "Make flash cards for phones and iPods" links to instructions for how to put slides on a iPod, and also to a gallery of educational slides sets that you or your students can download to an iPod. Sets include flashcards to practice identifying the states, or a quiz on US Government. There is also a set of response cards. If all your students have an iPod, and they all download these response cards, then when you ask a question they can hold up their iPod with their response on it, such as the green Yes card, giving you another way to check comprehension or poll students.

Here are the first ten items. Go to the Web site to see the rest.

1 Contribute to a wiki
2 Read and write to a live blog
3 Collaborate using a Google spreadsheet
4 Bring YouTube into the classroom
5 Assign roving reporters
6 Students create podcasts
7 Create interactive maps
8 Create online quizzes
9 Connect to the world through Skype
10 Make flash cards for phones and iPods

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Inauguration and Adult Education

Wow, what a momentous day that was! The photos posted by the Boston Globe are really wonderful, showing how people were engaged all over the earth.

Larry Ferlazzo collected some good sites about the inauguration to use with students.

Christina Nivens created some interesting ESL activities, including a venn diagram about Barack and Michelle.

At the Sacramento County Office of Education, which provides Internet service to the school districts in the county, we had the highest demand on our bandwidth ever, twice as high as normal. I think every school in the county was trying to stream the inauguration!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Learn to Change, Change to Learn

Saw this on Twitter, and it supports a conversation at the CAEAA conference this afternoon about what implications changing technology has for adult education.

We as a field are far from the world of education described in this video, but it's important for us to start thinking in this direction. And then, one step at a time...