Here’s my MovieMaker video. All footage shot using the Flip Camera.

I would like to start by saying that I love my job. Right now, I am preparing for a digital storytelling workshop that I’ll provide over the next two weeks. It is Windows based so I fired up the Dell laptop I’ve got and have spent the last few days playing with PhotoStory and MovieMaker.  I’ll post both video sonce they’re uploaded to YouTube.  (I’ve got them on TeacherTube but didn’t have any luck with embedding them.)  First, I’ll reflect a little bit on the process.

I should start by confessing up front that I use Mac computers exclusively and have even managed to avoid Backpack. I had done a little work with MovieMaker but had only every seen demos of PhotoStory. I was prepared to like the latter program but was sure I would be unimpressed with MovieMaker. I was wrong.

First, I should say that I did like PhotoStory. I drew from digital photos that I already had available and it took about three hours to put together a fully narrated story with a music soundtrack. The only problem I ran into was in using the built-in music creator. I really liked the idea, but it crashed my computer each and every time I tried to save the movie file. I finally resorted to a public domain song I already had and the export worked just fine. Editing was easy, and I’m very happy with the final results.

This morning, I was up early prepared to tackle MovieMaker. I drew on the only material I’ve got: my yard. I shot all the video with my Flip Camera since that’s what my workshop participants will have available. I’ve used the Flip with my macintosh and had only so so results. It seemed much easier with MovieMaker. I just imported the files I had saved from the camera, renamed them, then did some basic editing. A few titles and then I needed some music.

Vivaldi seemed like a good choice. The Mutopia Project had a midi file licensed under the BSD license. I had to convert the midi to wma and used jetAudio, from Cowon to do the conversion.

All in all, I have had a wonderful two days making stories. I put together a wiki page as well.

State report shows many students are not ready for college – Boston.com

From today’s ASCD SmartBrief, a report that while some 80% of Massachusetts high school grads go on to college, 37% of them are ill prepared and require remediation.  The article quotes a higher ed official and a NJ department of ed official about the report:

“This reports what we’ve known anecdotally for some time, and that is there are certain groups of students that, despite our best efforts, are still not graduating from high school ready to pursue college-level work immediately,” said Eileen O’Connor, spokeswoman for the Board of Higher Education.

Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education Jeffrey Nellhaus said: “We hope that the data in this report serves as a catalyst for steps to be taken statewide to improve the academic preparation and performance of the Commonwealth’s public school students.”

Or, maybe now is the moment for us to realize that children and young people and even oldsters like me learn and mature at different rates and are ready for different learning experiences at different times.  I taught one of those remediation writing courses at a public university, where students had three semesters to pass in order to gain admission.  Sadly, some of them took the course three times and still failed.  Some failed because their skills were still weak, but many because they just didn’t want to be there.  I couldn’t help but thinking that we were really wasting their time, time they could have been using to move into the world and learn more about themselves rather than academic writing styles.

I wasn’t ready for my own first experience with graduate school.  I graduated with honors from William and Mary but didn’t really have the necessary passion to be a literature professor nor the discipline to be a full-time writer.  In addition, my personal life intervened, making school difficult.  I dropped out after taking much of the course work and discovering a love for rhetoric and African American writers that I carry with me to this day.   I know what it feels like to fail educationally.  I just wasn’t ready.  I certainly don’t blame WM.   And that doesn’t mean I gave up.  I just had to wait for the right time and the right program.  Later, I found the perfect MA program, designed for writing teachers rather than English professors.  I loved it, and my thesis on literacy continues to inform the way I think about new media.

I finished that degree in 1991; now, 25 years after completing my BA in English at the same school, I’m moving towards completing my PhD.  In those 25 years, I did public relations for an art museum, taught high school and middle school, learned about technology, got pretty passionate about educational technology, and, voila, the perfect PhD program seemed to materialize in front of my eyes.  I was ready, and the education was there.  While I admire young professors who found their passions early on, I’m happy that I waited this time.

OK, I think I’m starting to sound a little mystical here and getting away from the original point:  students are very much individuals, and as much as we would like it if we could somehow guarantee that each one has identical skills and knowledge when they pick up that high school diploma, that simply isn’t going to happen because each person brings her own dispositions, her own passions, her own concerns, her own learning styles to those skills and knowledge.  Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my vision of education.  I tend to be a pragmatist who tries to work with people where they are, but in my heart, I have a sense that if we really were willing to change everything, school could be this amazing experience, rather than something that kids get through.

So, part of my vision of edutopia includes multi-age classrooms where each child gets the time they need to learn, but more importantly, the room they need to find their passions.  One of the hallmarks of a leader according to Warren Bennis is passion.  I think this is easier to envision at the elementary school level because I think there’s a sense that, at some point if we do it right, all students should be at the same place at least when they hit high school.  At the secondary level, edutopia means that we start redefining “college” and finding ways to blur high school and college experiences.  Helping kids make a plan for the future that makes sense to them and supports them beyond their walk across the high school gym stage.

A colleague posted a link to the TED 2008 video about the Worldwide Telescope. What a fabulous project!

Her video led me to the TED website. What an amazing collection of videos of smart people thinking about the issues of our world. I chose the technology topic and found this video of Peter Gabriel from TED 2006. I’ve been a Gabriel fan since his Genesis days, and he is the reason I’ve been an Amnesty International member for some 20 years. In this video, he describes his WITNESS project, which trains people to use digital cameras to document human rights abuses. The group also works to get these videos distributed and provides a hub where visitors can upload their own videos and view others. It’s a different take on how technology can change the world:

These stories always push me towards those big life questions: why me? why here? My video camera is usually right beside me on the desk, not to capture torture, but to capture birds. What a bucolic life I lead. But, I can add my voice to those who say that this is wrong and who are finding ways to use these collaborative technologies to make it impossible to hide human rights abuses.

So, here’s one of those weird conjunctions of old and new technologies. The website is called Flashcard Friends and allows users to create, tag, and share sets of flashcards. The cards can include audio, video, and images. I did a quick browse and found everything from Spanish to medicine. As someone who has used flashcards to study as recently as a semester or two ago, I’m a firm believer in them as a content learning tool. And, of course, I like just about anything that digitizes a formerly analog process, so this makes sense. But I feel just a little ambivalent as well. I mean, we have this technology that can change everything about how we teach and learn, and what are we using if for? Flashcards! On the other hand, as someone who works with teachers and administrators who are all along the continuum of educational technology awareness and use, this might be the low threshold application that gets them in the door.

This is a perfect example of leadership skills in the 21st century. These students know how to take advantage of the media that is available to them. The video below is just terrific!

There are also two websites set up:
http://www.tribeunited.com
http://www.wrengateblog.com

Marc Fisher – College Got What It Signed Up For – washingtonpost.com

This is a bit off topic from educational technology and media, but I think this editorial does a good job of summing up what happened to Gene Nichol.  I am very disappointed in my college right now.  But, I am very proud of Nichol and his unwillingness to let the Board of Visitors shunt him off the field without at least a little fight.  I can’t help wondering what’s going to happen now?  Will the cross go back onto the altar?  Thus reversing the small step that Nichol took towards reaching out to non-Christian students?  Will the sex show go away?  Thus, reversing the small step that Nichol took towards offering a wider view of the world than many WM students have had?  And, finally, what about his work towards diversifying the campus?  Surely, the Board of Visitors can’t have a problem with that, right?

My biggest regret in this whole thing is that I was silent, not offering Nichol the kind of support that might have made the Board think twice before making their decision.

Today I am doing a workshop for principals about integrating technology. This is the third workshop with this group: they’ve had the big picture (globalization, 21st century skills), been introduced to some Web 2.0 tools, and now the job is to put all that together and figure out what it looks like in the classroom. If you want a peek at what I’m doing, here’s the link to the wikispaces page.

The page includes a quote from Education Week, January 30, 2008:
“Technologically literate students not only know how to operate hardware and software, they can also analyze the information flowing through it, evaluate that digital content’s relative merit and relevance, and use it creatively and ethically in communicating with others.”

Boy, that’s got to be one of the best summaries of the skills our students need as they move into their lives.  And, according to the article, we are not assessing these skills at all. Oh, there are tests out there, but because NCLB does not require testing, most schools and states are not interested.  Plus, as someone who was involved in Virginia’s SOL technology test, I would argue that a paper/pencil test is not the way to do that assessment.  These kinds of skills must be integrated into everything kids do in school and assessed formatively rather than summatively.

Ed in 08

I haven’t signed the pledge but the video is very compelling. And, I certainly agree that I would like to hear A LOT more about education from the candidates.

No Limits

An excellent article from my colleague, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach.  I’m am becoming increasingly convinced that getting technology into schools in powerful ways in going to happen one classroom, one teacher, and one school at a time.  And, the best way for that to happen is the way Sheryl is doing it and the way I hope VSTE will do it:  telling stories.

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