Choosing what I believe is the Book of the Year is always a fun task —what new book each year most informs, illuminates, and influences me?     2008 the nod went to Tony Wagner’s Global Achievement Gap (Godin’s Tribes the close runner-up), 2009 Perkins’ Making Learning Whole,  and 2010 was the year of Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From (with Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus close behind.)  In 2011 John Seely Brown’s New Culture of Learning took my prize.  (Christensen’s Innovators DNA and McGonigal’s Reality is Broken were also contenders.)

2012 is only half over, and it isn’t impossible that my current nominee will be toppled, but I don’t think it likely.   Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart: How to Thrive Online is terrific: ambitious in scope but humble in tone; enthusiastic about opportunities but tempered by the recognition of the risks and downsides;  sweeping in its broad-brushed depiction of our new era of empowerment and participation while specific in its suggestions of precise techniques and initiatives we can take to best leverage our staggeringly new connectivity.

It should be said that this valuable book is a bit more work than most of the other titles mentioned above.   Johnson’s book was popular in airports, published by mainstream presses and written in a very general non-fiction manner, intended for wider audiences and reasonably easily read on a cross-country flight.   Brown’s book is breezy and accessible, with large font and charming anecdotes, easily able to be read over a 90 minute flight.   Rheingold, by contrast, is published by MIT press, with smaller font size and a greater seriousness— it isn’t an academic monograph, but will take more concentrated and extended attention than the others.

As I noted already in my previous post, Rheingold deserves great credit for his carefully nuanced balance of enthusiasm and sobriety about digital engagement and connected-ness, for which I am so appreciative.    Digital media is (or are, if you prefer) a great gift to us and to our abilities to form community, to collaborate and create, and to gather information and to contribute information, to participate and contribute to the wider world in ways we never had before.

Used mindfully, how can digital media help us grow smarter?  My years of study and experience have led me to conclude that humans are humans because we invent thinking and communicating tools that enable us to do bigger, more powerful things together. (more…)

ISAS teachers, Independent School Association of the Southwest, are invited and encouraged to attend this year’s biennial Teacher’s Conference, Teaching Matters.   This is an outstanding conference, remarkable for its national caliber speakers presenting at our regional event.   The opportunity to learn and be inspired, challenged, informed and perhaps transformed by thought-leaders like Michael Horn, Jane McGonigal, Heidi Hayes Jacob, Pat Bassett, and David Eagleman is not to be missed and may have a life and career length impact.  Be sure to view the slides above, all 7 of them, to see the quality of the program.

But don’t just come and listen: Come and Engage!  A group of us at ISAS are making a special effort to welcome and encourage attendees to become fuller participants via the engaging power of social media.   Become yourself a “voice” by the use of Web 2.0 tools.   We are hoping that teachers and educators in attendance will attend, laptops and smart phones in hand, and connect, comment, and contribute to the intellectual discourse by the use of facebook, twitter, and blogging.   Those of you who have experienced conference attendance in what I think of as the “third dimension” know already how stimulating and growth oriented it is to participate via Social Media, and those of you who have not– this is the ideal time to start.

I extend this invitation in my capacity as Program and Professional Development Chair for the ISAS Southwest Association.    (Please note my full disclosure that this and other forthcoming blog posts about the ISAS conference are less than entirely independent, but potentially biased by my leadership role in the association. )   I will be attending the conference myself, as one among several “official bloggers” for the event and as an introducer for one of the speakers.

Most of all, however, it is my intent as blogger and professional development chair to add value for this conference by enhancing its success and the engagement of its attendees by encouraging others to blog and tweet.   (more…)

In the project to educate our students to be digitally savvy and empower them to use the resources of the web to best pursue their own passions in learning as well as to research, evaluate, and use information in their coursework, we could stand to be more intentional in helping them shape their online environment than we have been thus far.

Truth be told, I could stand to be more savvy in my own organizing of online learning and networking: I’ve been slow to use tools and develop skills for managing online resource, such as the use of vehicles like Symbaloo, Evernote, or Diigo, and I want to take inspiration from the 7th grade student in the video above to move forward in this way and learn and practive better these skills and with these tools.

In a valuable, but not web-posted (as far as I can see), article in the recent Independent School magazine, Wendy Drexler, a former independent school educator who is now directing online learning at Brown University, offers advice on facilitating students in shaping their personal learning environments.

A PLE is the method students use to organize their self-directed online learning, including the tools they employ to gather information, conduct research, and present their findings.    As the name implies, PLEs give learners a high degree of control over their work by allowing them to customize the learning experience and connect to others, including experts in the field. (more…)

Among my great goals is to assist my students, and my colleagues,  in becoming better “entrepreneurs” in the best and broadest of senses: creative, innovative, risk-taking, initiators who bring new and great things to life, solve problems, and enrich our world.   I want for my students, and for my colleagues and myself, to become more “entrepreneurial,” and think that social entrepreneurship is among the most exciting developments in the world of work and service in the world today.

Even should we find ourselves in the midst of large organizations, it would seem to me that we can have a greater impact and find more fulfillment if we practice habits of entrepreneurship.   In a world of seven billion people, I think we all can find great rewards and can make a greater impact if we seize and grab the tools available to us, including digital and online technologies, to become better communicators, advocates, collaborators and creators.

Three days ago, though, to my surprise, I read a lengthy essay making, poorly I think, the opposite argument: today’s entrepreneurialism, aided by today’s social media, is resulting in nothing but a disappointing “Generation Sell.”

William Deresiewicz has become one among favorite sparring partners; in last Sunday’s New York Times he tackles the Millenials (our students), and, because they are “polite, pleasant, moderate, earnest, friendly,” he decides to deride them as “Generation SellThe millennial affect is the affect of the salesman.” (more…)

This session is one of three (see previous post) sessions delivered this week to all our students as part of our Digital Citizenship bootcamp.

This session was developed and presented by Dean of Students Fred Roberts and English Teacher (and St. Gregory graduate of the class of 2006) Corinne Bancroft;  Jeremy Sharpe, St. Gregory class of 2006, also contributed to its development.

Our session began by showing a Good Morning America video regarding death threats to Rebecca Black.  The reason for this is to show the extent to which social media can go viral, even out of control, and in such a negative way.  This also leads into a discussion of how each person who responded to the It’s Friday video create and leave a digital footprint.

What is the relationship between social media and one’s digital footprint?

On the Internet a digital footprint is used to describe the trail, traces or “footprints” that people leave online. This is information transmitted online, such as a forum registration, e-mails and attachments, uploading videos or digital images and any other form of transmission of information — all of which leaves traces of personal information about yourself available to others online.

Much of our digital footprint is left through the use of social media.  This is where many of us will spend a lot of our ‘digital time’ and may not be as aware of the ramifications of what we are engaged in.  In a more relaxed atmosphere, such as chatting via Facebook, users are more likely to say something they may regret later. The message with this is that regardless of turning in an English assignment of chatting on Facebook, users must be aware of what they are sharing.

Discussing students’ definition of social media. (more…)

This week we are staging at St. Gregory a three day Digital Citizenship bootcamp, (DCbc), for all our students.

[Interested?  Read this post and the following three posts which you can find clicking on the digital citizenship "tag" on the right.]

This project was launched at our end of the year faculty meetings last May, during which we reflected very thoroughly upon our first year of being a 1:1 laptop school.   As at so many other schools, our biggest concern was about the problem of digital distraction: students sometimes play games or check social media when they ought to be doing school work.

As the conversation proceeded, others said that they were just as concerned about the ways students were communicating on social media, and the problem of cyberbullying.   Someone pointed out that we hadn’t really taken a distinct and intentional effort to educate our students about our expectations and the issues involved in these three areas, and it was then that our digital citizenship bootcamp concept was born.

Some have confused this with a “digital skills” bootcamp– that we’d be teaching,  for instance, the use of Google apps.  Rather, this is about citizenship, not skills: it is  exclusively about how we all can be better digital citizens, using digital tools more responsibly and respectfully and in ways which strengthen our community.

Each day this week, our students are rotating through, as paired grades (7&8, 9&10, 11&12) each of our three sessions:

  1. Managing Digital Distractions,
  2. Cyberbullying and What You Can Do About it,
  3. and Social Media Responsibility and your Digital Footprint.  

Our sixth graders have had their own specially designed, developmentally appropriate sessions on these topics.

It is my intent to share, in a series of posts, each of these sessions.   Below (or after the “more” button)  is the program, including the powerpoint slides and the two videos, for our Cyberbullying presentation, (more…)

John Maeda is President of RISD.   His new (2011) book proclaims to be Redesigning Leadership: Design, Technology, Business, Life, but the narrative tone is far different from that grand title.

Shortly after his appointment he became quickly recognized and admired as the leading tweeting, blogging and social media proficient college or university president, and then, just as quickly, got a painful comeuppance when his faculty voted a heavy no-confidence vote in him and his presidency nearly foundered.  One has to wonder whether the book was commissioned and titled before his difficulties, and written or completed after them, such that halfway through its development Maeda’s confidence in his ability to genuinely “redesign leadership” was dramatically altered.  Indeed, at times this is almost a painful read: Maeda seems to be paying public penance for his mistakes, and we the readers are uncomfortable witnesses to it.

Ever since I’ve become President, people often approach me and ask, How are you doing?  My answer is generally a simple but honest, I’m learning.  Then comes the inevitable moment of confusion, as they were expecting the usual upbeat perspective of a CEO.  They say something like, Oh, it’s that bad?  The exchange forces me to clarify how excited I am to be a leader right now because I love to learn.  There is nothing I’d rather be doing than learning.  It often isn’t easy and I’ve made mistakes. (more…)

[As always, this post is available to all and all are always welcome, but this one is, like many of my posts will be in the next ten days, especially  intended for those attending the Annual Conference of the National Association of Independent Schools]

If you are new to Twitter, or contemplating taking the plunge, a conference like NAIS  is a great place to start (in every way but one).

To start, just go to Twitter.com and spend 3-5 minutes (at most) creating a profile.

The NAIS conference, or any big conference, is a great place to start Twitter because you immediately have a conversation to follow and a stimulating forum to join.  To enter the NAIS Annual Conference “feed,” simply type into the search box on top this: #naisac11, and hit return.   (this is called a “hashtag”, using a pound sign in front of a term in Twitter; another great hashtag for independent school educators is #isedchat).

That’s all; that’s all you need to do to experience powerfully and valuably Twitter for the three day NAIS conference.  By doing this, following the #naisac11 feed, you will be monitoring an ongoing flow of thoughts about the conference:  suggestions for good sessions, great takeaways from speakers, amazing quotes, links to websites related to the presentations,  and much more.    Often, for instance, when a speaker makes a reference to a great resource– a useful website, or a valuable book or article–  others in the session on Twitter will quickly shoot out the link, which is very helpful.  Click on the link to open it in a new tab, and then bookmark it for the future.

You don’t need to make any tweets yourself: many people begin as just observers, and many remain that way for a long time (or always).  That is fine.  (more…)

Solitude and Leadership, the title of William Deresiewicz’s much circulated American Scholar article intones.   Solitude and Leadership:  one cannot help but lower one’s voice and slow one’s enunciation as the title is enunciated.

This piece has been shared with me by many, the estimable David Brooks recently cited it as a top essay of the year: there is indeed much wisdom to be found in it.    But before I relay that wisdom, a caveat:  Deresiewicz creates a false dichotomy which simply isn’t supportable: solitude and concentration are valuable elements of leadership and independent thought, but they do not exclude, in any defensible way,  the possibility or even as I would argue the probability that there is great parallel and synergistic value derived from an immersion in the crowd and the stimulating, creative, multitudinous energy of our contemporary Forum, Twitter.

The piece, which indeed everyone should read and discuss, is in two parts. (more…)

The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently ran a valuable piece containing many inspiring anecdotes of university successes entitled “How to Build a Perception of Greatness.”    In it, they “outline some principles of slowly and sustainably building a perception of greatness,” drawing upon examples at dozens of colleges and universities.   It bears to reason though that some of these principles might also apply to K-12 schools.    Four of these principles follow:

Playing to your Strengths. It may be an obvious one to begin with, but as the article notes, “many colleges have been reluctant to focus on just a few strengths.”   The reporting they collect at the Chronicle suggests though that as hard as it is, it is powerful: “identify unique or distinctive strengths and put resources into those, perhaps at the expense of others.”

Examples include Ball State’s immersive learning program, which requires students to complete projects for practice experience, and Northeastern’s required cooperative-education program.   “Even elite universities can end up diminishing and diluting the impact of their programs by refusing to highlight a few.”

This is old news, but still valuable: Know your school’s strengths, invest in them, develop them further, and become the best school you can be in those ways. (more…)

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