Marco Torres Keynote @ BLC 2006

The conference started off with a keynote presentation by Marco Torres. I also attended his follow-up workshop. I'm not blogging his presentations as that has already been admirably done by Susan and Steve.

One of the points he made that really resonated with me was the idea of channels of communication (or learning).


(I think there were more channels in the Now column, maybe including blogs, but I don't remember. Does anyone else?)

Marco said that kids today have more options in the ways that they can communicate. For some kids a text channel just doesn't resonate with them in the same way that video does. He gave the example of reading Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech vrs. watching it on video; video is a much more powerful channel than text. (Try reading it before watching the video.)

He underscored the nature of digital students vrs. analog teachers by sharing a story about a student of his who graduated high school and went to university. She was asked to submit a 15 page paper for a class. She approached the professor to suggest she submit a video instead and was turned down. In the follow-up session this lead to Marco showing the video Digital Students @ Analog Schools:

What's most interesting about this video is that the kids did it themselves; on their own initiative. It wasn't for a school assignment or project. It was spawned from the frustration they felt following their first year's experience at university; what should be the highest quality education and pedagogy but wasn't. (I tried to get a university professor friend of mine to watch it. He couldn't watch more than half of it before he stopped the playback and began to explain to me "the realities of being a university professor ... I'm not doing justice to his perspective -- maybe I can get him to guest author a post where he can articulate his position in his own words. ;-)) None of the kids in the video attend the same university, they never met face-to-face to produce or edit it. They planned and edited it using IM. Each had their footage shot locally and then they shared the files over the internet. Marco provided editorial assistance. Watch the credits at the end. They chose to do the credits in the same format they used to produce the video.

Marco apparently went to look up the professor's PhD thesis. Since it had been published it had been signed out only twice. Both times by the professor himself. His kids videos are downloaded tens of thousands of times. Marco makes a good point here, but I couldn't help thinking that quality scholarship is not a popularity contest.

Marco teaches his kids to "be distinct or be extinct." In other words, if you can be replaced you will be. What makes you special is your creativity. (An echo of a presentation I saw by Sir Ken Robinson at the 2006 TED Conference.) And his kids are creative. Watch this 30 second spot called Parents:

And this one called The Power of One:

A point Marco emphasized over and over again was that our teaching should be "relevant, meaningful and applicable." This results in kids motivated to produce outstanding work. He shared what seemed to be a limitless supply of powerful examples. But not everyone was happy with his keynote.

At lunch some people expressed the opinion that Marco was a poor choice for a keynote presenter because the pedagogy he modeled for us is not transferable. He is an exceptional educator with an unusual talent for video production married to a passion for teaching kids. Much of the pedagogy Marco shared with us was made possible only by the force of his personality and innate talent. The question they asked is: "How can I take this home to the teachers I work with and implement it in classrooms across my school district?"

In the follow-up session I asked Marco about this. I teach math. I have a tremendous amount of content to cover in a very short time. Marco teaches Social Studies. I said: "You must have a set of outcomes from your state that must be met. With the additional pressures brought on by NCLB you must feel pressure to 'cover the content.' How do you find the time to have your kids do projects like this and still complete the curriculum?"

Marco said that all the movies he had shown us were produced in a single day. Sometimes shooting the video also takes a day but that is usually done on the weekend or after school. (Marco puts in lots of after school time; including weekends.) The lion's share of the time involved in making a video is in learning the background information and storyboarding the production. As a matter of fact, occasionally Marco will have his students go through the entire process of creating a video, storyboarding every shot, and then not shoot the video. "By the time they are ready to shoot video all the work [learning] has already been done." This frustrates the kids but his goal is to educate them. Marco said that The Power of One addresses 4 different learning outcomes in his state curriculum. You can take that two ways: either his kids are learning the material superficially, just what they need to know to make a movie, or they have learned the material very deeply. So deeply that they manage to distill the essence of the issues they are wrestling with and, through the channel of video (the right one for them), sharing their learning creatively and powerfully.

Long time readers of A Difference know that I have been thinking about having my kids produce instructional math videos all year. My friend and colleague, Erin, actually had all her grade 9 students do this. The overwhelming obstacle for me has been time. (Erin teaches the grade 9 curriculum over a full year, all my courses but one are semestered.) Marco and I chatted briefly after his follow-up presentation. He has put together a site to help teachers and students learn how to make educational videos. It's called Flick School (click on [Podcasts] at the top of the page). We talked about collaborating. My students will generate the content and shoot the videos, his students will tutor them through the production process ... if I can find the time. ;-)

Tags: BLC06

Whiplash! Update

Whiplash! has been updated with the audio from the BLC presentation. I had overlooked asking people to leave comments on The Muddiest Point page. If you were there or go through the workshop with the new audio files please leave your comments there (or on this post). The password for editing the wiki is whiplash! -- don't forget the exclamation mark. ;-)

Tags: BLC06

Back From BLC

The Building Learning Communities conference last week was great. I got to meet a number of edubloggers face to face: Will Richardson, John Evans, Joyce Valenca, Jim Wenzloff, Chris Burnett, Tim Tyson, and Steve Denbow. I also made a number of new friends from all over the world. Tony Parkin, Glynn Barritt and Alan Mills from the UK, Barbra Jenson from Texas (it seems Texas is it's own country ;-)), Susan van Gelder from Quebec, John Proeve from South Australia, Isabel du Toit from South Africa and many more. I also had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend from Montreal, Mark Watson and his wife Kathy.

The best part of the conference was the conversations we had between and after the presentations. In particular the three keynote presentations by Marco Torres, Andy Hargraves and Chris Dede were very thought provoking. There are some excellent blog posts summarizing the keynotes (Marco and Andy's by Steve, Chris by Natalie Watt). Lots to blog about over the next week.

I had the good fortune to attend Tim Tyson's presentation The Blogging School (more about that later). Tim is a dynamic and passionate educator and speaker. We had a chance to chat briefly after his workshop. That will also be another blog post later this week.

Will and I kept trying to find time to sit down and talk to each other but the pace of the conference was so hectic we decided it would have to wait until we could skype each other. (How's that for ironic? ;-)) I think we got in about 15 minutes in total; and most of that was on the bus back to the hotel as we were getting ready for the next event. We kept saying: "We'll chat on the boat." We never even saw each other on the boat. ;-)

Conversely, John (who lives just outside of Winnipeg) and I had been trying to get together for months leading up to the conference. We were only able to meet and chat face to face in Boston. C'est la vie. ;-)

Steve Denbow taught me how to modify the feeds in my blog template in the course of a very brief conversation in the hotel lobby. Right now I think there are three feeds (maybe more) for A Difference. In the next couple of weeks I'll be cutting that back to one. That way if I ever move my hosting service people who have subscribed to my feed won't have to make any changes. As for right now, if you subscribe to A Difference you'll want to update your feed so that you are subscribed to this feed. I'm not changing it right away but it will be changed before the end of the summer. I'll blog about it again before I make it final.

I wanted to sit in on one of both Will's and Joyce's presentations but I was scheduled to speak in the same slot as both of them every time.

In one of my workshops I showed my blog with the picture from the previous post prominently displayed. It turned out that the fellow who had taken the picture was in the audience; Abu Nasara from Cleveland. Now I'm subscribing to his flickr photo stream as soon as I can find it again. ;-)

It was announced at the conference that all the PowerPoint presentations from the keynotes would be posted on the conference blog. I haven't been able to find them yet. Has anyone else?

Tags: BLC06

Multi-Lingual Blog Tools Update and BLC

I was showing my blog to a friend from South Africa yesterday. When we were trying out the translation tools you see below each post they didn't work. It's all fixed now. They work again. If you want to get the updated code for your blog you can pull it off one of the pages from my Whiplash! workshop here.

Whiplash! has just been updated. I'm presenting three (two really) workshops at Alan November's Building Learning Communities conference near Boston next week; OLÉ (x2) and Whiplash!

The last part of Whiplash! looks at The Cool and The Uber Cool of online tools. Take a look at it and let me know if I've left out any of your favourites; if I can, I'll add them in. Of course this begs the question: What's the difference between the cool and the uber cool?

Cool tools do one job very well, are freely available and easy to use. Uber cool tools mash together web 2.0 features or tools to further improve workflow and broaden interactivity. For example, Firefox is a cool tool. It's the best, most secure, freely available browser out there. Flock is uber cool. It does everything Firefox does but mashes together several web 2.0 features in a way that simplifies their use and accessibility. Two drawbacks to Flock: (i) it has a bit of a learning curve, and (ii) some pages don't display as well as they do in Firefox. Mind you, Flock is still in development; it's getting better all the time. ;-)

I'm presenting OLÉ on Tuesday, July 18 at 11:30am - 12:45pm and Thursday, July 20 at 9:45am - 11:00am eastern time. Feel free to drop in on the groups using the chatbox on the site. Your presence will help make the experience uber cool. ;-)

If you can make it leave me a comment on this post or drop me an email so I'll know to expect you.

Update July 25
The translation tools aren't working again. I checked in on Leigh Blackall's blog. He's the fellow who gave me the original idea. His translation tools are all gone. I wonder what happened? I'll keep working at though. I think these tools are an important educational resource.

It's a ...


My daughter (#3) was born on Friday July 7. Mom and baby are both doing well. We got home from the hospital yesterday evening. She's 6lbs. 5 oz., 19.5 inches long, beautiful and perfect in every way. ;-)

She has kept us on not more than 1 hour sleep at a time for the last few days. Last night she was very generous -- we got 4 hours straight!!

It'll be a little while before I'm back to regular blogging. Hope you're all enjoying your summer as much as I'm enjoying mine. ;-)

Dean Shareski: Telling The New Story Part 4 of 4

I'm exactly one month late with this. Dean has had his post up since June 5. This is a mirror of Dean's post where he, Kathy, Clarence and I had a chance to chat together about the new stories coming out of our classrooms as a result of our using web 2.0 tools with our students. The purpose of the mirror is mostly just for my reference -- I'm borrowing Brian's "outboard brain" idea. ;-)
The New Story Wrap Up (26MB, 1 hr. 4 min.)

Show Notes
The New Story Podcast Series, What Came Before ...
Part 1, Part 2, Part 2 - the video, Part 3
Darren Kuropatwa's Blog
Kathy Cassidy's Blog
Clarence Fisher's Blog
Dean Shareski's Blog
Cheryl Oake's Blog
skypecasting conference calling info
Jeff Utecht's Blog - The Thinking Stick
Excellence and Imagination
(Clarence's Classroom Central Blog)
State of Maine Standards & Assessment
Cheryl's Class Blog
BPRIME the new format
Bloom's Taxonomy
Apple 1 to 1 Learning
Maine Learning Technology Initiative
Article from The Vancouver Sun: Boys exhibit high literacy skills with video games
(Registration required)
Sim City
George Siemens Blog
Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age
Fundamental Change
(Clarence's post re: becoming a "network administrator")
Kathy's class saw a shark
Doug Noon's Blog (Borderland)
DOPA - The Wiki
(Resources and community opposed to DOPA)
Finding a Voice - Fighting Peer Pressure
(Clarence's post about his kids' posts)
Skypecast Directory
Dean's Digital Storytelling Workshop
David Warlick - Blogging and the Flat Classroom
Dean's RSS Analogy
Bob Sprankle

If you wish, you can continue to grow this podcast by leaving an audio comment. Tell us how you've begun to use web 2.0 tools in your class and something about the impact it has had on you and your students. Or if you haven't yet started using these tools in your classes then tell us what's holding you back. What are your worries or concerns? If you just want to leave a question for any of us you can do that too. ;-)

Don't Break The Chain ...

I just got this email today. As my sister-in-law put it, "A decent cartoon of a difficult topic."

The thing to remember is that the six million Jews who were murdered would, today, be the parents and grandparents of 20 million.

IN MEMORIAM - The event that cannot ever be erased!

It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain. It was launched during Passover 2005 "The Jewish Holiday of Freedom" until Holocaust Memorial Day, in memory of the six million Jews who were massacred during the Holocaust.

Don't break the chain ...

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