Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The storytelling of Webheads in Action

Some weeks ago, my dear community of webheads celebrated our 10 year jubilee. The narrative has developed over time, and for each of us, there is a different story to tell. It has been told literally hundreds of times, and for every time there are new datails added, and some things that are more relevant than others. From my personal viewpoint, the webheareds narrative is about a very open ended, welcoming community of education practitioners in the field of computer supported language learning, that has evolved over time, initiated by a very experimental group of educators that were looking online for students who were willing to engage in their ongoing, playful exploration of varied communication modalities, from IRC text only based chat and MOO, sometimes voice and video. People from all over the world, with many different ocnfigurations of hardware, software and different obstacles in terms of slow connections, heavy firewalls administrated by protective system operators on schools and university sites (where protection is indeed an urgent matter, but there are ways to know which ports to allow open for legal communication. And, because of these many frequent and regular sessions, a broad fan of knowledge sharing and troubleshooting procedures developed, constantly updated and documented over time.

The ultimate connections CCK08

For some years I have taken part in and followes the evolving discourse about knowledge building in community contexts, about connectedness and collective intelligence. This month, a huge massive experiment is unfolding around two key persons in this field, George Siemens and Stephen Downes. They are developing and sharing a highly actual and open ended course on Connectivism in education, with a paid and certified version hosted by the University of Manitoba, supplied and partially followed by some thousand registered participants. Honestly, I had the best intentions to be an active part of this, but after some weeks of just taking a look occasionally, I admit that I am just lurking. There was some very aggressive conversation so typical for old hat righteousness power game, something about who was dominating the Moodle threads, and this made me feel like I would rather stay silent, and so I did.

The course structure is exemplary for our current web 2.0 with multiple layers of tagging, blogging, the Moodle and the Wiki, plus two weekly synchronous sessions, slides on Slideshare, photos on Flickr, Facebook group and Twitter hash tags, you name it. State of the art. And, oh yews, also some presence on Second Life. Too bad that I have currently only ONE life...

Kudos to the two busy key persons, Stephen and George. They are making it obvious that this flat world of web 2.0 interested folks now counts thousands of edducation minded people all over the world.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Controlled Chaos - a School caring for Learning Styles

On DR2 tv (one of two public service channels in Denmark), there are ongoing reports from school experiment. One was presenting a rather traditional teacher from Norway taking over a grade six for one week, in Denmark, at a newly built, open plan school for grades 0-9.
The plot was obviously to show how a very undisciplined and anti authoritarian class would cope with having a foreign language speaking guest teacher with a different approach to classroom management. Thorleif Høyvik, the Norwegian teacher appeared as a friendly but somewhat stressed person. His ambition of having all of the children do the same thing simultaneously, like in the ordinary classroom, was challenged by these autonomous children who were already more familiar with a very open, individual and trusting pedagogy.

I don't think this short film was really doing justice to the open plan system. The two daily teachers were almost anonymous, not saying much, apart from a very short presentation statement about this school being built so that everybody could see everybody all of the time, and a brief evaluation of the second day (which was a totally messy kitchen class).

Some years ago, I've visited this school at an evening arrangement at an early point when it was either just started, or just about to. It was very confusing indeed. Although I admired the master plan and the background ideals for this choice, I actually disliked the architecture, feeling uncomfortable with the very open space and almost labyrinthic inner logic. I was just wondering which learning style I would have been preferring myself as a child, had this opportunity had any actuality by then. Probably a nice and cosy reading corner with very bright light, and not too many disturbing factors - one of those corners or niches where one could be less visible, more private. And which the Ny Hellerup Skole building also tries to provide.

How one school can change totally over a period with much attention and full teacher and leadership support, working from a Learning styles approach is the ongoing experiment now shown in TV2 -

Hurricane salvation volunteers web 2.0

The Katrina hurricane three years ago had an informal army of web volunteers trying to coordinate rescue work, people finding and housing. This actual Gustavian period is showing many virtual footprints. There are bloggers and tweeters commeting on prominent problems regarding the eventual effects on the President campaign and how the Republican Convent has conventiently cut down on their more festive activities (such as the Good President G.W.Bush not showing up), and there are the volunteer calls for action. Andy Carvin, NY has started a Ning group, there is a coordination wiki http://www.gustavwiki.com - and there is an updated entry in the English language wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Gustav

Following the fast forward edits of this page might be one interesting study for those who wish to get some idea on the folksonomy efforts to share detailed information, in a decent manner.

Being in another part of the world all I can do is to observe; well actually I might jump in eventually giving a hand, from transcription of chatlogs in the IRC channel, to collection of donations for rescue work. This would be perfectly doable, because The world is Flat *), grace to the web, and our more and more complex interconnectedness. However, it seem that thre are already many hands in action, and some confusion about multiple purposes and channels (for example on Twitter, and competing with other SMS services).

*) The World is Flat is the title of a most popular and highly relevant book, by Thomas Friedman. I'll get back to this, eventually (my current motto).