Innovation and education

dnaflickrquicklikeamule.jpg    Yesterday I wrote about the TED Talks, how inspiring they were, how the Encyclopedia of Life got jumpstarted there, and how I was thinking we should begin an innovation group at our campus.

Then tonight, I read on think:lab that a group of education folks have been quietly planning a world wide “TED Talks” for educators, called Learning D.N.A (   To understand why I’m so excited about this, try watching a couple of the TED Talks videos, where world innovators come together to share and brainstorm and urge each other forward.  Just imagining the same kind of forum for education has me thrilled.

As Christian Long explains it on think:lab, like the TED Talks, it’s planned to be a place for “a cross section of bold ideas and passionate thought-leaders.”

There will be both ongoing learning network and an annual conference showcasing innovation.  And the conference will be held in two locations, one overseas and one in the U.S., but it will also be available online.   That’s a conference I can’t wait to attend next summer –maybe it should be appended to the NECC conference next June??  (which happens to be in San Antonio…hmmm.. ) 

The other thing that really excites me about it–other than having a forum for truly talking about innovation in education–is that the network will include students from the get-go, at both the conference and in the online network.  What a way to excite kids about the vitality of learning!

This really spurs me forward on the thought I’ve had in the back of my head this spring about starting our innovation group here, so I’ve just now this minute decided to volunteer to do that for next year.   Anyone want to join in?

(cross posted at  Not So Distant Future)

photo credit:

We are web 2.0

Norman Morgan emailed this video which I had seen floating around the blogs recently, and it seemed fitting to share it on our technology committee’s website as a vision of how the new interactivity of the web is changing our culture.

It was created by a Kansas State professor of Digital Ethnography(interesting title), Michael Wesch.


What  has happened with this video is an example of the new web in and of itself.   On his website, Wesch writes:

On January 31st I released the 2nd draft of The Machine is Us/ing Us hoping to receive feedback from my colleagues…. I sent it to 10 people. Four days later it was the most blogged about video in the blogosphere and the wild ride had begun. It has been fun and amazing for the most part – sometimes overwhelming – but always exciting. It is hard to believe that a little video I created in my basement in St. George Kansas could be seen by over 1.7 million people, be translated into (at least) 5 languages, and be shown to large audiences at major conferences on 6 continents within just one month of its creation. In some ways, the journey of the video speaks volumes that the content of the video could only hint at. I know I could not have done this with the technology available 3 years ago – certainly not 13 years ago….

Also, as part of the “new” open source concept of an interactive web, he has licensed it under Creative Commons, which means that people are free to add to it, change the music, etc. 

As part of the class, students are responding to the video with their own videos.

I found this video an undeniably powerful one that asks us some very hard questions.


I believe in line with Daniel Pink that the new skills that will be important in this web 2.0 world will have to do with design and empathy–and the effectiveness of this video to move us and inspire thought is a tremendous example of the power of communication skills.  

What are your thoughts?

To see a video explanation of Michael Wesch’s class, use this link:

This is cross posted at

Ideas converging

Our technology subcommittee met last week to work on our technology initiative, which we’re calling “WHS 2.1.”   (Meaning both 21st century and one step beyond web 2.0.)

Our chairperson(and student) Christina Chang defines web 2.0 in our planning document:

“Web 2.0 provides the ability for students and educators to connect, share, and publish online and it allows for more individualization and self-directed learning.”

The theme of our initiative is “Connect, Collaborate, Create.”  We wanted a mission statement that was short and to the point,  and that would be something students could identify with.  As Christina  wrote in our planning document, the theme emphasizes using technology:

to continue to make inter- and intra-campus connections, to use this growing foundation for collaboration, and finally to create new opportunities for learning, expansion, and extension of knowledge at Westlake.

Our art teacher, Dale Baker, is going to redesign a logo and  add the motto to it for us so we can “brand” the technology effort.  We want this to be a mission that our staff and students can connect with.

The staff development committee’s survey will help us identify some preferred methods of delivery for inservice.   We’re looking at both short term training goals for the rest of this year, (like use of the document cameras), and longer term goals.

Also, we discovered that we’ll be able to gather data on our incoming student competencies from student surveys being done currently by 8th graders on at both middle schools.  It’ll be very helpful to know what technology competencies our students are entering our school with.

We also have discussed surveying the staff about how they would like to be supported relating to technology–what computer configurations they see working in their classrooms, what software is needed, what amount of time is needed for training, etc.  We’ll be working on the survey at a future meeting.

We’re also hoping to tie in with work from other committees on guest speakers.

One aspect I’m hoping we can do more on is identifying some best practices for using technology in “transformational” ways.  There are a lot of models out there, but I think finding some links or examples we can point teachers to would be helpful.  The Partnership for the 21st Century has a lot of helpful information, including a self-assessment for staff of their technology use, and some best practices models that we can consider.

Another piece we’ve been discussing  is how to share this initiative  k-12 so that the other schools see what direction we are trying to take.   This idea for a community-wide book relating to technology has been floating around, and I would like to look into that more.

It’s interesting to see work from various committees and at the district level converging all at the same time, and it’ll be exciting to see how we can move forward.

Facebook unveiled

This post is by a guest poster–Vicky Abney–who writes about Facebook.

In recent conversations, the site visits team discussed Facebook and the phenomenon sweeping the planet with this online social network that EVERYONE under 25 is addicted to.  So, I went to the site … but what intrigued me was the BLOGS (link found at bottom of Facebook homepage) which were enlightening, relevant, and juicy, maybe because I’m still feeling West Coast-ish!
Check it out:
Readership trends of Facebook (popular TV shows effect whose online)
How to explain RSS the Oprah way
Enthusiast Evangelist at Microsoft – “The newly created position at Microsoft … Our jobs are basically to go out and mingle, bond, and touch influential end users and show them all the cool things that Microsoft has to offer” … (you have to read the blog, name dropping like “I got to see Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer in person. Ballmer screams loudly like Chris Farley’s motivational speaker character … I got to visit the mother ship. I got to be an insider at one of the most influential companies in the world.”), oh but then her next blog …”9-1/2 weeks: Leaving Microsoft not as sexy or tormenting …  I am a creative, right-brainer, and truly passionate lover of the web … (Steph’s life story) explaining, “People are literally creating great things out of nothing because, well, we can, with open source, web-based apps … explaining 2.0 is the democratizing technology making it accessible to anyone regardless of economic status, class, or means. If you have some kind of computer or handheld device, web 2.0 has everything one needs to start their own business … so many thoughts strengths of blogging, Microsoft Office, winning behind the scenes, etc.”  Conflicts from within for this idealist, so she resigns … A great read!

On the world stage

I can see details of Daniel Pink’s book Whole New Mind playing out when I read this article in today’s New York Times about amateur video creators being paid for the popularity of their videos.

A number of video sites now pay contributors if their video ends up getting viewed a certain number of times.  

I particularly am thinking about Pink’s comments about the importance of design as a 21st century ability.

High tech for parents

Microsoft has a new “social networking” tool aimed at parents and families. has a calendaring feature, online shopping list, contacting family feature and photo screen savers.

(similar to the tools in Google, but much more easily accessible).

You can even message your family members via their phones, pda’s or email.

Google tools are excellent, but I do think Microsoft the Cozi group has beat them to the punch on the use of this tool for families, because Google’s pieces aren’t really all collected into one tool yet.

Update:  Thanks to Samantha from Cozi for getting my details correct! 

What is our BHAG?

We’ve been discussing a slogan for our technology initiative.

On the blog Dangerously Irrelevant, I read this excellent comment about that, which makes me think we should work on this idea.

In their acclaimed book, Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras note that visionary companies set Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs), bold mission statements that act as powerful mechanisms to stimulate corporate progress. BHAGs are clear, compelling, serve as unifying focal points of effort, have clear finish lines, and often create immense team spirit.

I think to be effective in a school–it needs to be simple, clear and something that is catchy for both students and teachers, while expressing the goals.

Any ideas?

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Inventive students

Today several of us attended a business fair at the University of Texas, put on by Linda Cleveland’s business class.

Students had to research an invention, be sure it wasn’t patented, create a template and business plan, and create a marketing booth to sell the product at the business fair.  Some of our students from Vicky Abney’s business class were the judges along with other judges.

Some of the inventions presented by the U.T. students  included smart clothing, a smart grocery cart that could tell you what prices were and total what was in your basket, and a gps system that notified your car of available parking spaces nearby.   Two other groups had Ipod devices, including I Tooth which sent bluetooth signals to another Ipod, and IBike which had speakers embedded in the bicycle handles.  Several of the students were trying to work with engineers to actually create these products.

This assignment is a great example of project based learning which we talked about in our meeting on Wednesday, so I wanted to share it!  (It’s also a great example of how we can connect with university students, by having our students attend events like this).

Info literacy

In his article, Teaching Tech Literacy to the MySpace Generation, Christopher Huen comments:

“In an era in which kids download music, publish their own blogs, and gossip via instant messages—all while juggling a treasure chest of electronic gadgets—the idea that schools should be teaching them to be technology literate seems almost silly.

David DeBarr, instructional technology coordinator for the Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Arizona, hears that from parents all the time. “I cringe when I hear that the kids already know it all. The kids don’t know it all,” he says. “The kids know how to text message on their phones, but ask them to type a research paper and format it, they don’t know how to do that. Not many of those kids will be going into business and turning in a business proposal on a phone.”

DeBarr believes that teaching students how to use the Internet or specific software applications is simply a means to an end. “Technology literacy has to be technology as a tool,” he says. “Our approach is not to teach technology. Our approach is to teach it as a goal. It becomes infused in every classroom and becomes part of life. It happens naturally.”

I think this is part of the challenge for our committee–to identify future trends and then find ways the school and district can support the natural infusion of those trends into the classroom.  I think we also have to remember that even if students can use gadgets easily, that we need to continue to teach them how to ask the important questions, how to gather information, and how to evaluate the tools they are using.