The Squeaky Wheel

So here’s a fun one. Happened yesterday.

I’m checking out the Dish Network website and notice they’ve got a deal on a DVR upgrade. Only $5.98 a month. Sure, I can handle that.

So I give 'em a call, tell 'em about the deal and, "Hey, I'm all over the upgrade. What do I need to do?"

"We're sorry, but you'll need to upgrade receivers in order to take advantage of this offer," I'm told. "Only $100 and you'll be in business."

Now, will that be paper or plastic?

"So your website is telling me a lie?" I retaliate.

"Well, that deal is for new customers only."


"Then cancel my account, please. We're switching to DirectTV." At this point I explain how sorry I am to do this, I mean, we've been faithful customers for over eight years.

The lady on the other end then asks to speak to my wife. Sure, I know she's the primary name on the account but I figure this is female bonding time.

Five minutes later and it's still my turn to watch the kids while my wife deals with the dudes at Dish.

"Sometime between noon and five? That sounds fine," says my wife in her normal cheerful tone.

Man, is she good.

Turns out the dudes at Dish want to keep us as customers after all. A free DVR upgrade and a special deal later and they've retained us as patrons - they're happy because we've decided to stick it out for yet another day and we're happy because we're paying only two bucks more a month for a service we've wanted for years.

So what's the moral of the story? I count three:

  1. Always let your wife make the phone calls demanding better service.
  2. Some services cost money, and time, and a little extra effort - even if they should come free with the standard subscription.
  3. The squeaky wheel always gets the grease.
It's a good thing that schools don't do business the way satellite TV providers do.


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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Looks like Google really is making us stupider. Or maybe we do a good enough job at being stupid without their help, thank you very much.

Salt Lake City police say a 27-year-old man was trying to go north to Bountiful. He pulled up Google Maps on his cell phone to find an alternate route.

Instead of heading home, he ended on a four-wheeler trail somewhere above City Creek Canyon near 5500 East and 1900 North.

Detective Jeff Bedard, spokesman for the Salt Lake City Police Department, said, "He was about seven miles or so off-road." Bedard said the man eventually rolled his Jeep Liberty.

Bedard says it underscores the limitations of services like Google Earth and Google Maps. He says, "If you look at something from a bird's-eye view and just think, ‘I'm gonna get from point A to point B,' if you're going over the top of the mountain that's not necessarily gonna be the easiest way."

Wow. You just can't make this stuff up.

Image Source: Google Maps. Millions of maps in the hands of millions of morons. Heaven help us.

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Massive Open Online Course

This is what I call open professional development:

Facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, this should be a fantastic course and an opportunity to learn more about connectivism. Having perused the support wiki for the course, I'm very impressed with the methods they will be using and pleased to see that in addition to offering a wide range of asynchronous content, they will also be holding synchronous, "live" sessions in elluminate. Apparently, these sessions will include a combination of presentation and discussion.

Open education: onward and upward.

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The Breakfast Buffet of Educational Technology

I received an email from a long-time friend and colleague, an excellent teacher in his own right. I think that most of us share his concerns and know that I hover around this stage of thought on a nearly daily basis.

Darren: do you ever have time to eat? How does one deal with all this information and comment? I just spent some time reviewing the Plaxo site.... Your site..... Myriads of Methods: desperately searching for ways to overcome a society unconcerned with the mechanisms of fulfillment. We have... children filled to overflowing with activities created by technology and social routines that require SUPER teachers to compete successfully with teaching legitimate curriculum. Have you ever experienced the breakfast buffet table at an expensive hotel? Attempts at consumption defeat the sumptuousness!
This is how I responded.
I hear you, brother, and love your analogy! So, my advice to you would be to pick an entree, start there, and ignore the rest. In other words, start with something you're already doing in your classroom and find one way - only one - to include a technology component into your instruction.

If you want to run the activity by me, I can probably suggest a good tool or two to help you enjoy the banquet in a more controlled fashion.
Not sure if that's the kind of answer he was really hoping for, but it's all I had at the time. In hindsight, I likely should have mentioned how fruitless it can be to include technology into teaching and learning just for technology's sake - but then again, this is a person that already knows that.

So, what selections of advice would you add to my paltry share?

Image Source: Flickr user sacofat

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How Real Men Spend Their Free Time

Image Source: Flickr user misterbisson

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Come On Disqus, Don't Make Me Hate You

I received some feedback this morning about Disqus that I'm sure is more universal than many would like to admit. No complaints were made, just questions, but the message was still the same: How do I really use this thing?

Any ideas why since I clicked the verify button on one of my responses to a post on your blog that I now have trouble submitting a comment because the submit button is not present? Seems weird, the other day it took me about half a dozen tries, going back and forth refreshing the page before I could submit. Verifying is the only thing I have done differently :(
Disqus is definitely a pain that way. I'm very close to removing it for that very reason but the threaded discussions keep me with it for the time being. Nevertheless, if they don't get their act together soon - making the log in process more intuitive, adding the ability to receive future post comments by email - I'll revert to Blogger's built in commenting system.

The trick is to click the button first, then click log in. And while it has it's utility, checking the Verify button means that you have a Disqus account (and thus, Disqus can verify that you are who you are). Why Disqus doesn't accept OpenID is beyond me and another huge concern.

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The Most Effective Teachers Have Much More To Learn

In Michael Pressley's final keynote address (given in 2006), he said what I've been thinking for years. Oddly, I didn't know that he had said it until today while learning more about a subject outside the realm of educational technology: Reading First.

Let me tell you about one of the most consistent findings in our interviews of teachers over the years. It is always the most effective teachers who have told us that they have much more to learn. They are always the ones seeking the professional development. The weaker teachers are often very confident that they already teach well. So, I think that rather than simply providing professional development, it may be necessary to select teachers who know they need to get better and are open to getting better, actively seeking ways to do so. (p. 6)
This experience and thousands similar have taught me that we have a lot to gain by extending ourselves beyond the comfortable. Sure, it may be easier to discuss that with which we are familiar, but it will likely be in moving beyond our field, that we finally encounter success.

What things could we learn by studying topics other than Twitter, Arthus, School Reform, and FBs?

(Not that there's anything wrong with these topics - I'm just sayin'. Isn't it possible that we need to get out a little bit more?)

  • Pressley, M. (2006, April 29). What the future of reading research could be. Paper presented at the International Reading Association Reading Research 2006 conference, Chicago, Illinois.
Image Source: Flickr user Stephen Poff

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No Good?

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I had a very interesting experience today as my doctoral cohort met with Dr. Fred Hunsaker, Utah state legislator. In our meeting, he discussed a number of leadership principles that have helped him to succeed, my favorite of which being a quotation from Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing in the world that has.
Little did he know that many of the small groups to which I belong consist of people with highly specialized interests and abilities, geographically spread over several continents.

Most striking to me was his nervous manner. Sure, ours is a formidable group, highly intimidating – and don’t get me wrong, he was far from a nervous wreck. Nevertheless, he carefully measured most of his words, as one skillfully comfortable in the political frame. Moreover, on more occasions than one, he mentioned how intimidating I was, what with Google at my fingertips and my apparent facility with technology. Ironically, the word that he continued to use was power.


I wonder how often people like us consider ourselves to be in positions of power, simply because we are able to play with technology, learning as we go, and highly engaged merely because we love it.

Image source: Flickr user veo_

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Classroom 2.0 Live Workshop, Salt Lake City 2008

The Classroom 2.0 live workshop to be held in Salt Lake City on August 14th and 15th is quickly approaching! The workshop will be held from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm each day at the Jones Center, Granite School District, 382 E. Baird Ave (3605 S.), Salt Lake City, UT 84115.

Classroom 2.0 LIVE Workshops are "collaborative" and highly engaging events that focus on the practical use of Web 2.0 technologies in education. The workshops are FREE to attend, are organized by local educators, and have a unique format of demonstrations, facilitated discussions by participants, and "drill-down" time. This is a conference for and by the people attending.

We need your help! Please consider leading one of the sessions as a discussion facilitator. Look for any open yellow highlighted facilitator spot, edit the page and add your name. Sign up today to be a facilitator!

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Making Informative Decisions Based Upon the Research of Others

[Three weeks ago, I promised to write more about my thoughts concerning Reading First. I also illustrated one BIG reason why everyone should understand what is at stake here, and how the cards are dealt. While the effectiveness of Reading First remains in question, we still have something to learn from this political nightmare. Sadly enough, I know going in that this post will receive far less attention than others less deserving.]

Update: The discussion over the effectiveness of Reading First is far from dead. Stephen Krashen's recently posted editorial in USA Today, Scott's reaction on Reading Coach Online, Miguel Guhlin's challenge for the leadership gurus, and Matthew K. Tabor's briefly summarizing take are only a few current examples. While my take here is that we have something to learn from all of this, what's your take?

Just thought I'd ask.

For Gary Stager and every other school board member, superintendent, principal, teacher, policy maker, parent, and critical thinker:

Only in America will the Secretary of Education actually be named “Spellings” but that’s neither here nor there. On one count, I couldn’t agree more with the logic that Secretary Margaret Spellings (2008) has presented in her recent article.

When we don’t get reading instruction right, the consequences extend beyond our schools and into our prisons, hospital wards and unemployment lines. It’s no surprise that people who lack fundamental reading skills are more likely to drop out of high school, more likely to encounter health problems, and less likely to have a job. (¶ 4)
Hence, the responsibility to effectively teach reading throughout the curriculum lies with every educator, parent, and responsible adult. It seems that this particular shoe fits us all – teachers, parents, and responsible citizen alike.

Apart from this well-articulated idea from Spellings (2008), however, I see little reliance on logic and far too much reliance on rhetoric. Unfortunately, her inclusion of phrases like “sound science” (¶ 5) and “research-based reading instruction” (¶ 12) do nothing to convince me that Reading First really has succeeded.

Please. Help me keep up.

Does “sound science” refer to the one size fits all approach encouraged by Reading First or our government’s tendency to rely on data assembled through a clumsy, hurried, and shallow approach to data analysis? When reading instruction is “research-based”, does that mean that it’s only based on a limited number of conveniently selected studies?

Admittedly, in today’s highly scrutinized academic climate, it is increasingly important to identify the most effective practices in reading instruction. Therefore, it is only natural to turn to the work of researchers whose interests lay at the heart of reading instruction and best practices alike. It is in turning to the research that one might uncover a plethora of truths, openly exposing the many flaws with which Reading First has been plagued. In this brief post, a number of the flaws inherent in the Reading First program will be explored, as well as flaws deep-rooted in human nature and the attitudes we may have in relation to the research base.

First, Reading First would be more effective if it wasn’t so strictly prescriptive. To be clear, a “one size fits all” approach to reading instruction - or any kind of instruction, for that matter - simply doesn’t exist. As has been stated so accurately by Richard Allington (2005):
Effective teachers are much like the effective physician who offers a multi-pronged approach to reducing cholesterol… Teachers, like doctors, must make decisions based on the unique evidence they observe in their students. This makes “replicability” of effective instruction something very different from teaching from a scripted lesson plan. (p. 463)
Hence, an essential quality possessed by effective teachers is the ability to exercise good judgment. Because of this truth, teachers must be given autonomy in deciding which practices will work most effectively for the varying types of learners with whom they may work (see Garan, 2005, p. 442). Reading First, unfortunately, affords no such freedom as it mandates that scope and sequence of reading instruction be followed religiously.

Second, while Reading First may be touted as “research-based reading instruction” (Spellings, 2008, ¶ 12), it may not be as efficacious as anticipated. According to Richard Allington (2008):
No intervention has raised the achievement of 90 percent of poor readers to the 50th percentile. Moreover, no research suggests that the classroom teachers can help 90-95 percent of students acquire grade-level reading proficiencies by learning more about phonology, using a scripted curriculum, teaching systematic phonics, or following some “proven program”. (p. 25)
Therefore, simply because a program claims to be “research based” doesn’t mean it will be effective.

Timothy Shanahan (2002) has been clear in the reason why one must move forward with caution when considering the research so as to better make more informed decisions. “In our ardor to apply research findings to reading, we can make things worse rather than better. Too often, when we consider what the research says, we systematically ignore and misinterpret the meaning of research evidence” (p. 9). Accordingly, a conscious effort in interpreting research findings is crucial.

Moreover, while the National Reading Panel initially put forth some effort in examining the research base (prior to Reading First and its effects), the kind of base that must be examined would require a far more detailed – and honest – effort than was ever put forth. Said Joanne Yatvin (2002) of her experience as a member of the NRP, “Along the trail, pressured by isolation, time limits, lack of support, and the political aims of others, we lost our way – and our integrity” (p. 364). She continued, offering additional detail about some of the decisions made in haste coupled with questionable methods employed:
Members convinced themselves that, because they had worked hard under adverse conditions, the report was satisfactory. Most of the scientists also seemed to believe that the standards they had set and the methodology they had developed were accomplishments important enough to compensate for the shortcomings in their work. To justify themselves, they added a special section titled “Next Steps” that explained the small number of topics investigated and suggested areas for future investigation. Another special section called “Reflections” was also added to summarize and emphasize the panel’s accomplishments. These last-ditch efforts were to no avail. The panel’s claim to scientific objectivity and comprehensiveness was lost. (p. 367)
If panel members themselves have felt so unsure about the breadth and scope of their efforts, why should others feel so compelled to acknowledge their undertaking with reckless abandon?

Finally, as an attempt to interpret research findings is undertaken, a careful consideration of the research methods employed can aid in the process of identifying valid studies. Sadly, the “research” reported by the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) provides a contrasting example in connection with this topic as a number of inconsistencies in the data presented and weaknesses in the methods employed have been identified in this once seemingly valid research report. Krashen (2004), for example, cites a considerable number of examples that demonstrate that methods utilized by the NRP were less than ideal. Allington (2005, p. 466) goes even further when he aggressively calls the report produced by the NRP “anti-scientific” (see also Yatvin, 2002). Again, just because a program claims to be research based, doesn’t indicate effectiveness. A careful analysis of the methods employed in the study will help in determining validity.

In conclusion, as further detailed, comprehensive attention to the research base is undertaken, more informative decisions can be made to ensure better instruction as we continue in our struggles to effectively teach children to read.

  • Allington, R. L. (2008). Setting the record straight. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 61(6): 22-25.
  • Allington, R. (2005). Ideology is still trumping evidence. Phi Delta Kappan. 86(6), 462–468.
  • Garan, E. (2005). Murder your darlings: A scientific response to The voice of evidence. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 438-443.
  • Krashen, S. (2004). False claims about literacy development. Educational Leadership, 61(6), 18-21.
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction [Online]. Retrieved June 14, 2008, from
  • Shanahan, T. (2002). What reading research says: The promises and limitations of applying research to reading education. In S. J. Samuels & A. Farstrup (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed.) (pp. 8-24). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Spellings, M. (2008, June 7). We need more Reading First, not less. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 23, 2008, from
  • Yatvin, J. (2002). Babes in the woods: The wanderings of the National Reading Panel. Phi Delta Kappan 32(5), 364–69.
Original Image Source: Flickr user thejbird

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What Are We Really Doing Here?

A number of recent experiences have left me scratching my head:

  • Yesterday, I watched a group of teenagers play Ultimate Frisbee. During the 10 minutes I watched, one particular youth checked his mobile phone every minute, sometimes replying to a text, sometimes only reading.
  • The other day, I went to see Iron Man. During the entire movie, the tween-aged youth sitting in front of me found the movie to be so non-compelling that she chose to text on her phone with more frequency than the Ultimate Frisbee specimen. I could tell because her phone would shower the theater with light - a lot of fun, let me tell you.
  • Now let's get personal. For the Fourth of July, we went to a small town, watched a parade. A sixteen-year-old relative of mine spent the parade text-ing away. His frequency wasn't as drastic as FrisbeeText and IronTween, but his actions were certainly in the running. Now, his nine-year-old sister has a mobile phone, too. Needless to say, my wife didn't get far in convincing her that nine-year-olds, properly supervised, should rarely have need to send a text message.
What, in teenage (waste)land, could possibly be so compelling that the conversation in the cloud could be more incessantly important than the conversations that might be had with the person sitting next to them? Am I anti cell phones? Absolutely not. I think we all should be using them to teach and to learn. But what I'm talking about is a balance that may be missing in the lives of the rising generation.

Combine this idea with our recent discussion about what's best for our students, ageism, respect, fame, public perception, collateral damage, digital immigration, apologies, and the Beatles and I'm forced to ask:

What are we really doing here?

I'll close with Ryan Bretag's sobering addition to Wednesday's exchange:
My point is what about all the things teachers have students doing online where it isn't a choice but the teacher's mandate that some, most, a little, whatever of their learning, risk-taking, mistakes, failures, and success are public by way of the Web 2.0 tools we hold so close...

Are we doing our students a disservice by wanting so much of their learning to be shared through the tools provided by today's Internet? Should this be a choice made by each student? Do they truly understand the gravity of such a decision? Will anything in their future be impacted, positively or negatively, because of this public display of their learning?
Extremely important issues that must be considered.

Image Source: Flickr user ::: Billie / PartsnPieces :::

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Success In Distance Teaching

In their book entitled Distance Education: A Systems View, Michael Moore and Greg Kearsley provide an informative summary of their view of what determines the success of distance teaching.

What determines the success of distance teaching is the extent to which the institution and the individual instructor are able to provide the appropriate structure in design of learning materials, and the appropriate quantity and quality of dialogue between teacher and learner(s), taking into account the extent of the learners’ autonomy.

The more highly autonomous the learners, the greater is the distance they can be comfortable with (i.e. the less the dialogue and the less the structure). For others, the goal must be to reduce distance by increasing dialogue (ranging from online asynchronous interaction, perhaps using the telephone, or at the most extreme, face-to-face contact), while providing the security of sufficient structure. (p. 234)
Translation as it relates to OpenPD:

  • Moore, M. G. & Kearsley, G. (2005). Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
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The Possible Price of Being A Student 2.0

I feel partly responsible for this:

[Images removed]

I realized today that if Arthus were my son,
I would never want somebody in the blogosphere
recording forever something that should
be learned from and then forgotten.

May bygones be bygones.

So tell me, kids, what do we learn here - and what have we done to manufacture such an attitude?

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Thoughts From NECC

So here's the hodge-podge of thoughts that I managed to record during the blur I now call NECC08...

What we’re learning about Social Networking in Professional Development:

  • It’s important to have immediate purpose, solve a problem.
  • It’s important to generate feedback.
  • It’s important to welcome newcomers.
Along this line, Kevin Honecutt stated that we should “meet them at the door” He continued:
Wal Mart does it, why don’t we?
Kevin, the king of the ed-tech one-liners also came through with this gem:
Staff development shouldn’t be something we do to people. It’s something we do with people.
In discussing how social networks must have a purpose, David Warlick correctly stated:
EduBloggerWorld didn’t work because it didn’t solve a problem.
I was particularly appreciative of Brian C. Smith's comment regarding his use of Ning networks:
I used Ning for NYSCTE because it gave teachers an instant audience.
Brenda Berreda stated the following, very much in line with ideas surrounding Viral Professional Development:
The value of social networking is just in time learning.
Bud Hunt made a number of interesting statements throughout the conference, most of which I have unfortunately failed to record. This was one snippet, however, that I thought was scathingly true:
We will perpetuate what we know, whether it’s good or bad.
Hall Davidson was as vibrant as ever this time around. Here's a jewel that I couldn't resist writing down:
Why not show kids the code? It might not do anything for you, but you’ve got kids that will dive right into this, tearing the code apart, trying to figure out how all of this works. Those are the kids that will be turning bicycles into airplanes.

Finally, I found a quote from Seth Godin to be incredibly relevant for teachers today. This idea was shared by David Jakes and Dean Shareski in their excellent session about design:
Why would you use words on the screen when they do just fine in your mouth?
Image Sources: Flickr users Edublogger and shareski.

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Sometimes Low-Tech Trumps High-Tech

Amazingly, the biggest hit of EduBloggerCon's “Web 2.0 Smackdown” session was Kevin Honeycutt as he displayed the most non-tech tool of the lot.

Highly ironic. And educational. And "Wow. Can he get away with that?"!

Paraphrasing Kevin:

On each of these laminated cards - we laminate them because teachers never throw anything away that's laminated - is listed a tool, where to get it, and what it does. And then on the back, we've listed the contact information of the person willing to help when the teacher is ready to learn more.
Kevin’s laminated keyring of tools is one of the most refreshing ideas I’ve heard in a quite some time.

Image Source: Flickr user elemenous

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iJohn's NECC Post

[Since John Pederson was unable to make the trek this year to NECCa, I thought I'd write his annual NECC post for him. Better late than never.]

Low hanging fruit:


Image Source: Flickr user derrallg.

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When Students Become Teachers Become Students

Karl Fisch says that he's "stuck" and that this year's NECC was "a less than stellar experience" for him. Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach seem to be in the same boat.

For me, this year's NECC was filled with many stellar moments. I think this is why:

  • My most productive learning experiences were those wherein I was deeply involved - either as a member of a panel or as a host for a facilitated discussion. As a result, my learning was self-directed and highly emotionally and cognitively engaging.
I strongly believe that in teaching, we learn the most.

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Favorite Moments @ NECC

I learned a ton at NECC this year.

Not sure what else to say.

Except that this was one of my favorite moments (Chris Lehmann, not pictured, is inconspicuously taking out his copy of Learning & Leading with Technology - the issue with Karl Fisch on the cover. Oh, and Karl was sitting next to me. Very funny moment. Guess you had to be there.):

This was another favorite moment (it really doesn't get any better than this):

Both of these moments took place in the Bloggers' Cafe: Facilitated discussions, planned but still casual. AKA: The kind of learning environments and conversations I had always hoped could grow out of NECC Unplugged.

Along those lines, this moment and its accompanying hour was also incredibly productive:

To be able to discuss social networking and professional development with Steve Hargadon and other key players was time very well spent for which I am extremely grateful.

Not long before this picture was snapped was also really good:

It was then that I met Robin Ellis for the first time in person. Having taught three classes and given three conference presentations together already, I feel like I've known Robin for years. Nonetheless, it wasn't until this time that I had actually met her face to face.

Weird, I know - but pretty cool, too.

This moment was classic, as well (but for more personal reasons):

After EduBloggerCon, Robin Ellis, Kelly Dumont, and I decided to hit the Alamo. A part of my personal MO is to take pictures of myself with important geographic features in the background - you know, a kind of photo journal of places I've been, things I've seen. Never before, however, had I been caught in the act. Here's the picture I took for my personal journal of vanity.

Image Sources: Flickr users mrplough, kjarrett, Wesley Fryer, and derrallg, and Robin Ellis

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 11: Promise, Tool, Bargain

There is no such thing as a generically good tool; there are only tools good for particular jobs. Contrary to the hopes of countless managers, technology is not an infinitely elastic piece of fabric that can be stretched to cover any situation. Instead, a good social tool is ike a good woodworking tool - it must be designed to fit the job being done, and it must help people do something they actually want to do. If you designed a better shovel, people would not rush out to dig more ditches. (pp. 265-266)
  • What makes a good tool good?
  • Why is that a good tool can be ineffective if the user doesn't use it correctly?
  • What are some of your favorite educational tools and how do you use them to teach?

The most profound effects of social tools lag their invention by years, because it isn't until they have a critical mass of adopters, adopters who take these tools for granted, that their real effects begin to appear. (p. 270)
  • Which educational tools are just now being used by a critical mass of people?
  • Which tools do you take for granted? How about your students?
As this is the final chapter in Shirky's book, I would like to conclude with one over-arching question:
  • How has the book Here Comes Everybody changed the way you see our modern, collaborative world?
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user lounger

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 10: Failure for Free

Failure is free, high-quality research, offering direct evidence of what works and what doesn’t. Cheap failure, valuable as it is on its own, is also a key part of a more complex advantage: the exploration of multiple possibilities. (pp. 236, 247)
  • In what ways can we make positive, learning experiences out of our students’ failures and why would we want to?
  • Describe one of your recent failures (if you’ve had any).
  • What did you learn from failing?

It is this gap that distributed exploration takes advantage of: in a world where anyone can try anything, even the risky stuff can be tried eventually. If a large enough population of users is trying things, then the happy accidents have a much higher chance of being discovered. (p. 249)
  • What kind of environment must we foster such that "happy accidents" might be discovered?
  • In such an environment, how is failure viewed?
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user sldownard

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 9: Fitting Our Tools to a Small World

Perhaps the most significant effect of our new tools, though, lies in the increased leverage they give the most connected people. The tightness of a large social network comes less from increasing the number of connections that the average member of the network can support than from increasing the number of connections that the most connected people can support. (p. 225)
  • What does it mean to be connected?
  • In what ways is the more connected educator better and/or worse than the less-connected educator?
People whose networks span structural holes have early access to diverse, often contradictory, information and interpretations which gives them a good competitive advantage in delivering good ideas. People connected to groups beyond their own can expect to find themselves delivering valuable ideas, seeming to be gifted with creativity. This is not creativity born of deep intellectual ability. It is creativity as an import-export business. An idea mundane in one group can be a valuable insight in another. (quoting Ronald Burt, p. 231)
  • Why is diversity important in an academic environment?
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user Luís Vieira

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 8: Solving Social Dilemmas

When your neighbor walks your dog while you are ill, or the guy behind the counter trusts you to pay him next time, social capital is at work… Societies characterized by a high store of social capital overall do better than societies with low social capital on a similarly wide range of measurements, from crime rate to the costs of doing business to economic growth. (p. 192)
  • Describe the store of social capital in our society.
  • Does it vary from location to location?
  • What does this mean to you as an educator?
The internet augments real-world social life rather than providing an alternative to it. Instead of becoming a separate cyberspace, our electronic networks are becoming deeply embedded in real life. (p. 196)
  • In what ways have you found electronic networks embedded in real life?
  • Does this integration help or harm the learning process?

Our new freedoms are not without their problems; it’s not a revolution if nobody loses. (p. 209)
  • What new freedoms do today’s social tools grant us?
  • If we are, indeed, witnessing a revolution, who loses?
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user schoschie

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 7: Faster and Faster

The military often talks about “shared awareness,” which is the ability of many different people and groups to understand a situation, and to understand who else has the same understanding… Shared awareness allows otherwise uncoordinated groups to begin to work together more quickly and effectively. This kind of social awareness has three levels: when everybody knows something, when everybody knows that everybody knows, and when everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows. (p. 163)
  • How do the three levels of shared awareness related to your experiences as an educator?
  • How can the concept of shared awareness be used to more effectively teach?
The more ubiquitous and familiar a communications method is, the more real-time coordination can come to replace planning, and the less predictable group reactions become. (p. 175)
In a recent study, it was found that 73% of the teens surveyed own cellphones.
  • How does this trend affect the planning habits of teens?
  • How does this relate to school, teaching, and how we interact with our students?

  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user AdamLogan

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 6: Collective Action and Institutional Challenges

Collective action, where a group acts as a whole, is even more complex than collaborative production, but here again new tools give life to new forms of action. This in turn challenges existing institutions, by eroding the institutional monopoly on large-scale coordination. (p. 143)
  • In what ways to new tools (online collaborative tools, for example) and the new forms of action they bring about actually challenge existing institutions?
Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies – it happens when society adopts new behaviors. (p. 160)
  • True or false, and why?
  • What new behaviors have been largely adopted by our society as a result of changes in information technology – and to what end?

  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user spanaut

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 5: Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production

Wikipedia’s self-correction process (Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales calls it “self-healing”) is very robust. There is considerable value created by the public review process that is continually ongoing on Wikipedia – value that is very easy to underestimate, for those who have not experienced it adequately. (quoting Larry Sanger, p. 116)
Search Wikipedia for an article related to your field or possible dissertation topic.
  • Describe the accuracy and detail of the article.
  • Were the results surprising?

Any system described by a power law, where mean, median, and mode are so different, has several curious effects. The first is that, by definition, most participants are below average. This sounds strange to may ears, as we are used to a world where average means middle, which is to say where average is the same as the median. You can see this “below average” phenomenon at work in the economist’s joke: Bill Gates walks into a bar, and suddenly everyone in the bar also acquires a below-average income. The other surprise of such systems is that as they get larger, the imbalance between the few and the many gets larger, not smaller. As we get more weblogs, or more MySpace pages, or more YouTube videos, the gap between the material that gets the most attention and merely average attention will grow, as will the gap between average and median. (p. 127)
  • Which systems can you identify that are largely described by power laws?
  • What does this tell us about the systems?
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
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Parties, A Caution, and Additional Evidence


I find it interesting that I've been lumped in with others as an ed-tech insider. The difficult thing about these perceptions is that those on the inside likely don't know it. I remember Stephen Downes commenting recently that he's felt just like new bloggers may feel - likes he's not really invited to the conversation and as much of an outsider as anyone.

In truth, I feel the same.

What have I done to earn membership in any club? What have I done to earn any status? Maybe my job, maybe share, maybe speak up.

But I've done nothing special - in my mind - to earn such distinction.

Several weeks ago, as I argued back and forth with Jon Becker about why people should "step up" and sign up to present at NECC Unplugged, he correctly noted that I was teetering on the idea of there actually existing this notion of a cocktail party of ed-tech elite. To be honest, I can see both sides of the situation.

I feel like a pawn, caught awkwardly in the middle of two schools of thought.

On the one hand, I can see how people may not feel welcome. I've felt that way before and I've forced myself to get over it, step up, and speak my mind anyway.

On the other hand, I can see how this perception is just that: only a perception. Is there a cocktail party of learning? Sure, but the price of admission is nothing more than trust. Step up, speak your mind, create quality content, earn the trust of others, and you, too, will be as elite as any other passionate educator trying to do what's best for education.

A Caution

One final word of caution to those who want EduBloggerCon to succeed. Again, from Shirky (2008):

For any given [community effort], the question “Do the people who like it take care of each other?” turns out to be a better predictor of success than “What’s the business model?” (p. 259)
As I inferred yesterday: We're all on the same (small) team, hopefully fighting for the same cause. Can we care for each other enough to make this a success?

Additional Evidence of Ed-tech Strata

The creation of the #dlist Twitter hash-tag is a publicly displayed example of how some people simply don't feel that they're in the same league as other members of our community.

Image Source: Flickr user capitano_teo

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 4: Publish, Then Filter

The media landscape is transformed, because personal communication and publishing, previously separate functions, now shade into one another. One result is to break the older pattern of professional filtering of the good from the mediocre before publication; now such filtering is increasingly social, and happens after the fact. (p. 81)
  • What kinds of filtering are required when effectively utilizing the Internet and why?
  • How can we best teach students to filter?
  • How is filtering an “increasingly social” phenomenon and how is that good and/or bad?
Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society; they are a challenge to it. New technology makes new things possible: put another way, when new technology appears, previously impossible things start occurring. If enough of those impossible things are important and happen in a bundle, quickly, the change becomes a revolution. (p. 107)
  • In what ways are our social tools a challenge to modern society?
  • In what ways are we currently experiencing a revolution?

  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
Image Source: Flickr user elkrusty

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Quotes & Questions - Chapter 3: Everyone Is a Media Outlet

The future presented by the internet is the mass amateurization of publishing and a switch from “Why publish this?” to “Why not?” (p. 60)
  • Consider for a moment both the positive and negative repercussions of mass amateurization. What will school look like in the future?
  • Describe our future culture.

There is never going to be a moment when we as a society ask ourselves, “Do we want this? Do we want the changes that the new flood of production and access and spread of information is going to bring about? It has already happened; in many ways, the rise of group-forming networks is best viewed not as an invention but as an event, a thing that has happened in the world that can’t be undone. (p. 73)
To me, these changes can be quite scary – not because I sense any imminent danger, but rather because, as a teacher commissioned to prepare people for the future, I’m frightened of the unknown. Like it or not, we’re facing a future that is largely unpredictable.
  • How can we best prepare students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technology that hasn’t been invented yet, in a society that is virtually unknown to us today?
  • Do you see the changes that the Internet has brought to our society as good or as bad? Why?
  • Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes everybody. New York: The Penguin Press.
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