Monday, July 14, 2008

Social Networking For The Socially Relevant, My Take On The SN World

While social networking seems to be a common Web 2.0 catchphrase it has long existed prior to the advent of the Internet. Long before we were tied to our cell phones, our cars, and our busy schedules social networks primarily consisted of social groups called families. Synonymous with families at one time or another were tribes, clans, units, and in many cases organizations. Social networks are comprised of nodes, which are represented by individuals or groups and when these nodes are combined they make up a network. There has been a constant debate on whether social networking has an appropriate place in education for quite some time and this conversation will continue so long as there are social networking sites garnering unfavorable press like myspace and facebook. However, when properly established, appropriately used, and carefully monitored social networking has a place in everything from education to business to family.

One of the social networking tools I find quite useful and use extensively is Ning. This social networking tool is quite robust and like any effectively Web 2.0 tool, customizable. Ning was started in 2004 with the premise that individuals could create their own social network based upon their own interest or need and in turn could customize the layout of their network. They could then either invite members and maintain a level of privacy or leave it open to whomever had an interest in joining. Today Ning is the largest “build it yourself” social network on the Internet and continues to grow.

Another social networking tool I use extensively that is not generally considered among the social networking applications is called Twitter. Twitter is essentially a microblogging application that lets the user follow designated people as well as other follow them. Each time you post or tweet something all of your followers will be able to read it. Individuals are able to follow as many people and they'd like and respond either to specific individual with personal messages or post anything to their general message thread. There are many third party applications that allows things such as posting to your twitter feed directly from your web browser, you can post hyperlinks that are listed with a tinyurl, you can post pictures using twitpic, among many other options.

At this point I think as long as there continues to be dialogue about social networks there will be some positive fallout. For example, as long as parents and educators are exposed to the social discourse on social networks they will be more likely to at minimum monitor their students/childrens use of them and ideally utilize them to teach appropriate conduct and safety in a Social Networking environment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

4th Of July Reflections

Over this past weekend and since I used to teach US History I could not help but wonder what this country has turned into over the past 15 years. Regardless of ones political affiliation it is vital, no wait, it should be mandatory that ALL Americans at least be familiar with the Constitution and the Declaration Of Independence. There are so many important lessons to learn, things to ponder, and items that people just flat out don't know about these two documents. Why is it required of immigrants that want to become citizens to know the basic foundations of our government, yet year after year high school seniors cannot even rattle of the Bill Of Rights. In my humble opinion important foundational elements of our Constitution and the Declaration Of Independence should be on every single high school exit exam. And if one really wanted to be "revolutionary" all students would be required to take a separate exam on the aforementioned and passing would not be an option. This would at least create a generation of voters that are more informed about the government in which they will or already pay taxes and will be influencing by way of their vote, HOPEFULLY!! Therefore, in honor of the "D of I," I have added the following with a little firework badge for patriotic emphasis.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to
which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent
respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the
causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ˜ That to
secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their
just powers from the consent of the governed, ˜ That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the
People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying
its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all
experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while
evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to
which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to
reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,
to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future
security. ˜ Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and
such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former
Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is
a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct
object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To
prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for
the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing
importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be
obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that
purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to
pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the
conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to
Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their
offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of
Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the
Civil Power.

For protecting them (British Troops), by a mock Trial from punishment for
any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection
and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and
destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to
compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with
circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most
barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the
most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by
repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act
which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in
General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world
for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of
the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That
these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent
States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,
and that all political connection between them and the State of Great
Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and
Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace,
contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and
Things which Independent States may of right do. ˜ And for the support of
this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and
our sacred Honor.

˜ John Hancock

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison,
Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George
Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean (1777)

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

P.S. There was NO 4th of July Party after signing the D. of I.
All the above Signers were British "Traitors" with huge prices on their
heads, Dead or Alive. British Troops raced to arrest Signers at their
homes, but instead arrested Wives and families. They were bound off to
London for mock Trials and long imprisonments by King George III.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Coming To A Tech Conference Hopefully Near You

I will be giving a seminar on E-Learning in a secondary curriculum. Since the use of Web 2.0 is becoming more prevalent and more schools are not able to service the needs of all their students I believe this is the next wave in Secondary Education. The demand for greater access to more diverse student populations and more curricular areas is only going to increase. Schools and school districts will not be able to fully meet that demand by hiring more and more teachers, assuming they find teachers fully qualified, or by adding more buildings to accommodate the classes. Therefore, the only viable, economically and geographically possible solutions are to incorporate more and more E-learning environments. Many school's and districts are already implementing more of an online curriculum for their students, but the current rate of implementation is NOT going to keep up with the demand. Let's face it, many of todays students want more than their school's currently provide and this a way to fulfill that need and then some.

My seminar will incorporate some of the theories behind distance and e-learning, such as Transactional Theory and
Equivalency Theory ,

as well as how many of the Web 2.0 tools augment as well as provide a richer learning environment. More and more school districts are beginning to adopt an e-learning curriculum, but lack the appropriate trained teachers and professional development to ensure proper and appropriate learning of the students. My additional findings and hopefully a Coverit live broadcast of the lecture will be posted here.

During my research I had the unique opportunity to interview a certified expert in distance learning. The interview was conducted with Dr. Lisa Rodriguez who is the Director and Assistant Professor of the Center For Teaching and Learning at the University of La Verne.

Book Review

Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools For Classrooms
by Will Richardson

Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools For Classrooms is a book written by Will Richardson that focuses on several key areas for teachers. The areas are the use of tools to increase student engagement, student motivation, student literacy, and the most important in my opinion is the transition to a 21st Century style of learning. The tools Will identifies as conduits for this are predominantly wikis, blogs, and podcasts. These tools, often referred to as Web 2.0 tools, are each unique in their application, but accomplish similar goals in that they provide students with a plethora of opportunities to increase their involvement in their learning.

Throughout the book Will gives various examples of how teachers are implementing the tools and the steps taken to ensure student safety, security, and conduct with respect to the tools. This is most prevalent in the first chapter in which he outlines a teachers steps taken prior to having her class posting to a blog. Will also makes it a point to emphasize that a teacher cannot simply assign students to a blog or any of the other tools unless and until they have in fact done these things themselves.
Another strategy that Will makes a point to emphasize in this book is that the use of the technology should not be an arduous task to implement, but rather it should augment their curriculum. Far too many teacher frown upon these tools thinking they do not have the time to learn and implement them. Will outlines strategies that teachers can relatively seamlessly implement them and encourages teachers to step beyond the norm and challenges themselves in conjunction with their students.

I would highly recommend this book for all it has to offer and the format in which the information is presented. This book should be treated as a reference book. It should be used regularly and often. Will’s book is not one that you simply read and shelve. It is one that teachers who are either currently using or desire to use the tools can use as a guide and for ideas on how they can use the tools in their curricular areas. I have used the tools mentioned in the book for at least two years to date and will continue to do so. I agree with virtually all of his findings and fully concur with the impact it has on student learning and motivation.

Classroom Blogging: A Teacher's Guide to the Blogosphere
by David Warlick

Another great book for teachers to have is titled Classroom Blogging: A Teacher's Guide to the Blogosphere written by David Warlick. This book is brilliantly written so the it can be understood and a useful guide for all levels of teaching and all levels of technology integration. David does a masterful job of explaining the impact blogging can have within the curriculum to both the teachers and the students. Another subtitle to this book could have been Blogging 101, build you blog from the ground up. And most certainly any teacher building that blog would have a masterpiece by the end of the book if the followed David's guidelines.

It is clear in this book that David's goal is to build literacy, not build bloggers. He uses the concept that blogs are reading and writing and reading and writing = literacy, therefore blogging = literacy. In order to revolutionize our students and build literate 21st century students teachers will need to look at the way they teach and should incorporate tools such as blogging into their curriculum.

Again this is another book that I not only highly recommend teachers read, but also treat as a reference book. The book should be looked at often for inspiration, ideas, and validation that if you are incorporating blogs into your curriculum you are doing the best for your students and yourself.

I had the privilege to meet both David and Will at the NECC 2008 and at the Edubloggercon prior to the actual conference. I find both men fascinating and inspirational on so many levels. Luckily, for me I had the chance to interview them. Therefore, coming very soon a brief podcast of my talk with David Warlick and Will Richardson. I also encourage you to check out their blogs David's blog is 2c Worth and Will's blog is Weblogg-ed

Use Your Noodle- Learn Moodle