The techieteacher blog is my chance to muse, share, teach, discuss, vent, and write about educational technology. You can find more resources elsewhere on the techieteacher site - just use the navigation menu above!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Google's lost a little of its luster...

Ever since my high school friend Craig went to Stanford to study computer science, met up with these two guys who were starting up a little search engine, and became the first employee and technical director of Google, I've been a fan. Aside from the fact that such a mega-company follows a mantra of "Don't be evil," and treats its employees well with such perks as rock-climbing walls and no-charge gourmet restaurants, I've always liked it because it simply makes a good product. From services developed in the Google Labs - like its original search engine, Gmail, and Google Maps - to those it has acquired as part of its vision - like Grand Central, YouTube, Writely, and Picasa - not a day goes by that I don't use some Google product online.

But now I find that my eye has begun to wander to another very attractive, if much less well-known, name on the web: Zoho. While it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Google does, Zoho has a serious suite of web-based applications which not only encompass more features than the comparable apps in Google Docs - it has more applications, such as a database manager (Zoho Creator), web conferencing (Zoho Meeting), online organizer (Zoho Planner), and project management software (Zoho Projects). While I haven't yet had a chance to delve deeply into all of the applications, I suspect that it may become my new favorite web-toy.

While an entirely online office suite may not be the most appropriate for schools to use exclusively, it does present some interesting options:
  • Zoho Meeting could allow teachers and students to conduct online study sessions, or even teleconference in other classrooms for a collaborative lesson.
  • Documents and presentations could be imported into Zoho Writer and Zoho Show, which in turn could be imported into Zoho Notebook to create a virtual professional learning conference - or to make all of the materials from a face-to-face conference available to a wider audience.
  • Zoho Wiki could be used by a teacher to create a class webpage - or by students to create a wiki study guide on their current unit of study.
There are plenty more possibilities - check out Zoho yourself, and let me know what you think! Better yet, let Zoho know - it appears that the Zoho support team checks their forums regularly, and are quick to implement suggestions from users.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Future of Education... ?

Edutopia had an interview with Alvin Toffler, a well-known futurist and author of the revolutionary book Future Shock. In the interview, Toffler discusses some radical ideas about the current state and structure of education. He proposes a radical shift in the public education system - one that would be a herculean undertaking, given that change in education is always met with resistance and hesitation. If a change is made and the theory isn't sound, one or more generations of children can be affected.

While a complete, one-shot overhaul is highly unlikely and could certainly be detrimental, many of the ideas proposed are starting to make their way to the forefront of education reform thinking. Here's my take on them:

How does the 24/7 internet change education? Many classroom teachers still cling to the notion that the classroom is the primary source of learning, that teachers are the primary disseminators of information, and that students must be told what to learn through lesson plans and state standards. Does classroom teaching need to have such an emphasis on the study of facts, when most (or all) of those facts are quickly available at one's fingertips? Students have more opportunity now than ever before in history to become self-guided learners - perhaps education needs to focus more on how to learn, rather than what.

With distance learning and content management systems like Moodle, the classroom no longer needs to be a physical location.

The current compulsory education model was designed for an industrial society - does that apply any longer? While some might argue that the school day mirrors the work day of a larger percentage of the working population, is it necessary for all students to attend school on the same schedule? Barring scheduling issues due to transportation, extended days may become a more viable option for students who are invested in their education, by taking opportunities to study additional interests outside their normal course of study. More and more students are working to support themselves or even their families - how do we integrate that into the school day?

How much "general education" do students need, compared to focusing on what they love? Should we revisit the age at which students can specialize in what they study? Should students be able to choose a major in high school as well as in college?

Does this lend credence to the idea of home schooling? Home schooling gives students an opportunity to study more of what interests them, and even subjects that don't in a fashion that does interest them. Home-school teachers and parents are able to take more liberties with what and how they teach, as long as students are still meeting the state requirements. Is it because they have a smaller "class size" and more personal attention, or can innovative teaching methods really be effective?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

School 2.0

I stumbled across this amusing video illustrating the differences between (using techie parlance) School 1.0 and School 2.0.

On his 2¢ blog, David Warlick has several posts about School 2.0. He has developed an excellent graphic organizer illustrating it - hopefully he won't mind if I reproduce it here.

Several things strike me as I look at the diagram:
  • School 2.0 uses verbs like create, evaluate, express, and respond.
    School 1.0 uses verbs like read, listen, and remember.
  • In School 2.0, learning is active. In School 1.0, learning is very passive.
  • School 2.0 is learner-centered or involves teacher-learner collaboration.
    School 1.0 is very teacher-centered; delivery of information is "from on high."
I like his diagram, but interestingly, the casual observer might think that School 2.0 looks like School 1.0 - figuratively and literally. And for many educators, they assume it does. I've seen many teachers introduced to new technology only to implement it in an old-fashioned classroom - still teacher-centered, still strictly guided instruction. With respect to David, I'd like to revise the diagram, so that it not only reflects the difference in verbs, but also illustrates how School 2.0 would look, feel, and function differently.

It takes a huge paradigm shift - and an awfully daring leap of faith - to transform a classroom from 1.0 to 2.0, not to mention what it would take to transform an entire school, school system, or national public education system.

Social Software - the real Web 2.0

Jenn Kelley has created a wiki discussing the concept of social software - she quotes from Tom Coates' blog plasticbag:
Social software can be loosely defined as software which supports, extends, or derives added value from human social behaviour-- message boards, music taste-sharing, photo-sharing, instant messaging, mailing lists, social networking.

I think that social software and the term "web 2.0" may be somewhat interchangeable. With the development of open-source, platform-independent, web-based, collaboration-fostering tools like Basecamp, Blogger, PBWiki, Writeboard, del.icio.us, Facebook, and so many more, the model is shifting from delivered-to-the-masses to the-masses-delivering-unto-themselves.

The rise of social software I think also reflect the changing trends in education. It makes sense - people who were students when technology was gaining popularity in education are now those who are designing the next generation of technology. It makes me wonder what the students of today will create - and are we serving that future by how we teach with technology in schools today?

How to Start a Blog

So in considering what my first blog would be, I thought it would be appropriate to write about just that - why would someone start a blog? What reason would someone have for wanting to put their ideas, opinions, thoughts, comments, critiques, and so forth on the web for anyone to see?

Well, let me start with started me. I am an instructional technology specialist for a large high school north of Atlanta, GA. Part of my job involves training teachers on using various technology tools in the classroom - that includes co-teaching in the classroom, conducting professional development sessions, researching new tools and developing classroom applications, etc. And while I love my job and enjoy working with the faculty at my school, I can't help but acknowledge that not every single teacher is receptive to everything I have to teach them. Why not get more out of my efforts by sharing what I've learned and developed with a larger audience?

I think it also can serve as - if you, dear reader, will forgive the guttural imagery - a "brain dump." I stumble across various articles, conversations, ideas, etc. that don't necessarily fit into a training or a tutorial, but are still worthy of sharing.

I am by no means the authority on everything educationally technological, but that's part of the wonder of tools like blogs. I can share what I know, and my readers can learn from it. In return, readers can leave comments which can direct me to additional resources, tools, and so forth. I have a list (to the right) of other blogs, wikis, and such that I've been checking out to see what others have learned before me.

So, enough for this first post - before I lose what few readers I might have left. This blog is just one element of my additional technological resources. If you are so inclined, check out techieteacher, my educational technology website.

And if you have something to share with me, please do. The more, the merrier...