May 20, 2010

Conclusion and Epilogue from Forwardthink

This is the final episode in a long fable, and perhaps the start of another. Unravel the previous chapters here.

The town of Forwardthink has completely changed. At the stroke of midnight  (about 1 pm Pacific Time) on May 12, the doors of the Town Hall opened, and an arm tacked one final message on the door. From inside, the sounds of music and dancing and jingling keys of gold echoed across the near-empty square. Outside, the few remaining Innovators rushed to read the message.

It was a vaguely familiar sheet of paper with a scrap pasted at the end– pasted onto the same message that had been posted for others in mid-March. The scrap bore a few new words explaining that the winners were already inside the Town Hall, apparently ushered in by a secret passageway several days before.  As the handful of remaining, bedraggled and tired Innovators huddled to read and re-read, a small voice from among them sighed,

“The Elders did not even take the time to cross out the old version of the “go away” message and start a fresh piece of paper to tell us they did not want us. They have simply pasted a scrap of a sentence at the end of an old message. I guess we were not worthy enough to see the Elders or hear their actual words.”

“But look! We can see the Winners through the windows!” cried another as he jumped up and down to see over the high sill and beyond the newly opened blinds.

They took turns for a minute or two, boosting one another by the foot so each could see the party of Winning Innovators. But their energy for jumping drained quickly. The MySciLife Innovators drew away from the window and stepped to the sidewalk together.

“I was SURE you would be among the winners,” came a voice from a passerby. Others who passed hummed in agreement.


Although the Elders of Forwardthink have not invited the MySciLife Innovators  to join the Winners inside the Town Hall, these Innovators did not simply pack their knapsacks. As the small gathering around the Town Hall dispersed, careful ears caught the MySciLifers words, “I heard there may be a different kind of Elders in other villages who may be willing to help. Let’s look at our maps, then set out for the unknown territories. If we stick together, we will find our own key of gold somewhere.”



In a tug of war between the wisdom of the crowd and competition, who wins?

[In the spirit of crowdly wisdom, insert your moral here]

July 1, 2009

Nearly drowned: Tweeting at BreakNECC speed

Filed under: edtech,necc,necc09 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 7:34 am

This is the third day of NECC, and I haven’t even been to my blog. This year the conference has been a Tweetfest…people discovering the power of sitting in sessions “tweeting” out commentary, feedback, arguments, links, and tweetlogs of the session proceedings to other in the room, elsewhere, and nowhere. I am waiting for another session to start as I begin this post, and I have joined the #necc09 tweeters off and on, therefore have not “blogged” more about the sessions.

And those of you not here ask, “who cares?” I tell you about this as another example of the swimmers’ obligation.

My BreakNECC tweeting has been another opportunity for the swimmers to give swimming lessons to others. A novice backchanneler myself, I helped three people install and configure Tweetdeck (“Here, just hold onto the side and kick…get a feel for the water.”). I watched the tweets going by and adjusted my technique—watching those swimmers more expert than I. Will I stay in this pool? I’m not sure, but I certainly am glad I jumped in and found the feel of the water. I just tweeted out a request for a recommendation of a good plug in for WordPress MU (the program that makes this blog run), so I can share mytweets automatically in the sidebar. Stay tuned for the results. If you want swimming lessons, I can probably get you to Red Cross Beginner Tweeter level. I’ll have to find out if there is a patch for that. (The Red Cross used to be big on patches, but I date myself here).


June 27, 2009

edubloggercon 2009

Filed under: edtech,education,necc,necc09,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 12:52 pm

Here we are in DC! EdubloggerCon has grown from about 45 people in Atlanta to over 200 here. The topics for discussion range from web 2.0 tools (and these are THE adopters who know the doodads!) to school reform…the most exciting part is that these are educators who takes the time, pay the extra night in the hotel, and bring together serious passion and deep concern for the future of kids and the adults they will become. There is not a person in the room (or hallway, sitting on the floor) who came here to maintain what is. They are all interested in what can be, will be, and should be. There are some who are “consultants” or educators morphed into other roles, but all are here talking about the “what if” and the “why not.”

That is what makes EBC different. I am sitting in a session about the K12 online conference, an “unconference” that has happened for a couple of years and is being planned IN THIS ROOM for later 2009. How do we get teachers to pay attention? How do we avoid overwhelming people who have never heard of it?

What I wonder:

  1. How do we help teachers prioritize which things they MUST know, since there is so much to learn, with more every day. How do we talk about tools entirely in the context of their application and USE for learning? I am listening to people make suggestions for “packaging” new ideas and technology USES in a context that is meaningful and personal to a teacher’s situation.
  2. How much bigger will the gap between Group Know: those who dedicate significant time to personal prof dev and are NOT afraid to appear as a learner in from of their student,  and Group O (for overwhelmed): those who are concentrating on day to day survival in an environment with little professional support, unreasonable bureaucratic demands, and personal lives that are less than “perfect”?? I see the gap growing and growing. The marvelous people who hang at EBC are often those who spend ALL their time on this stuff–and GREAT stuff! They have also  continuously paid attention to new developments in both technology and in learning. Group O is like someone who has had their TV off for six months or suffered a traumatic brain injury. They are not just behind on today’s news or weather forecast. They may not even know who the president is…
  3. Do the people who make it to NECC and EBC have more time in their day/week to continue exploring or do they just skip sleep?
  4. I wonder whether the Facebook idea would help… Teacher apps: Which teacher is more like you? What is your edtech IQ? Take the quiz now… Send an edtech Bravo to your favorite teacher.
  5. Can we embed ongoing learning into everyone’s life? What’s the code?

Just a few thoughts (unedited and without my usual metaphors) as I eavesdrop on session 3 of EBC09 and reflect back on the day so far…

June 24, 2009

The Swimmers’ Obligation

Filed under: edtech,education,necc,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:08 am

Few of us remember the first time we jumped into water over our heads.

I do not recall figuring out that I could not swim. I do not remember discovering the power of  water. I try to imagine how it felt.  I could not get my feet to touch the bottom at the same time as I opened my mouth to gasp above the surface, and I had no idea what to do about it.  But some kind parent or bigger person reached under my armpits and supported me, laughing and congratulating me for a great jump. He or she likely placed my hands on the pitted concrete of the pool’s edge and told me to “kick big kicks and blow big bubbles.” Trusting, I must have done so, because eventually I learned to swim.

Swim coaches describe a knack their best swimmers have to “feel the water.” Watch the good ones: the feel, the ease, the awareness. Witness their flips, their streamlines as they push off walls, the faces they make to keep water out of their noses during those quick flipturns.

Water is not a natural place for human beings, but we can gain a feel for it. Some gain it faster that others, but even the nervous child who falls in by mistake will learn to move about using a comfortable stroke to get where he wants to go, given the right encouragement and support.The swimmers among us owe our time and support to those less comfortable so everyone can find a “feel” for the water. Stop and try to recall the panic you felt at falling in. Remember watching your child or a neighbor who genuinely believed that he/she would NEVER be able to move through water. Think about those you know (maybe it’s you) who swim only with their faces OUT of the water, safe and dry. Their head-out style wastes energy,  but it is what they know. They can change it, but each one’s needs will be different and each will require encouragement, time, and a chance to “feel” the water.

As we go to NECC, edtech-swimmers all, we should remember the swimmers’ obligation to share the feel of the water and find ways to make it part of our “swim practice.”


Risk, people, and toys

Filed under: about me,musing,necc,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:05 am

new computerI am writing this on a brand new computer just days before I leave for NECC and hours before an important semi-annual board meeting for my non-profit company. There is nothing like having a video card die on a  computer just as you are headed into critical days. Yes, I had thorough back-ups, etc., but the time required to reconfigure everything on a new machine (and new PLATFORM!) does not fit within the 24 hours I had. Thank goodness for a helpful spouse who continued installing things while I ran to an emergency dentist visit (on top of all this!) and a thoughtful boss who said, “Just go buy one NOW” when the display on my old brain machine was shutting off at random times.

Lessons learned: 

Each of us is at risk of the unexpected every day. Nothing will ever prepare you.

When push comes to shove, it’s the people who make the difference, not the machines.

New toys are not nearly as much fun on a deadline.

I hope all at NECC will help me continue to learn about this new machine. It IS the people who make the difference.

July 18, 2008

Guerrillas in the Mist: Education and where we are headed

Filed under: education,musing,necc,necc08 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 3:04 pm

I promise to get off the NECC discussion- apologies to those who are sick of hearing about it.

I have been back from NECC for two weeks, and I am sifting through so many possibilities and ideas. I have wandered down many paths of links and discussions, finding blog posts from some who carried inspiration home with their tired feet and some who left feeling hollow. The consistent message from all is a passion for changing the entity we know as “education.” Everyone seems to sense that we are inside a cloud of change but none of us has the ability to see beyond it.

Analogy of the day (if you read me often, you know I talk in analogies): I live on a lake where the morning light often brings a heavy, inscrutable mist over the water. Even though there is fresh daylight reflecting off each water vapor droplet, we cannot see even as far as the end of the dock. Despite expanding light, we cannot see. Occasionally an intrepid kayaker will venture through the mist on a true voyage of discovery. If he finds another, they talk from deep within the mist, and their voices carry much farther than they realize — yet lack defined location. Under such dense cover, they can sneak up on anyone, anytime: guerrillas, seeking.

As educators create global collaboratives, web 2.0 networks for learning, and blogs about all of it, we are guerrillas in a very heavy mist. We have no idea when we will be able to see beyond the brilliantly reflective vapor droplets:  the many current projects and moments of new learning. Kern Greenwood Henke interviewed NECC participants  (and more) to ask them what will be there when my figurative mist burns off: “what does the future of learning look like?” I question whether any lone kayaker — or even the entire kayaking club with voices reverberating across the water — really knows.

Where will changes in the electronic media and changes in education finally go? I have guesses, but right now I am enjoying the brilliantly misty morning.

July 5, 2008

NECC, Hats, and Invisibility Cloaks

Filed under: about me,necc,necc08,personal learning network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:11 am

Apologies to any readers who may not have been at NECC or even know what it is. This post is part of my personal reflection/debrief on the National Educational Computing Conference, my biggest annual opportunity for formal professional development.

I have concerns about the hats we wear — or the choice of invisibility cloaks — for the many forward-thinking educators who come into NECC  with more than one role.

Feeling the Tension

When I arrived at NECC this year, it was with a sense of regret that scheduling had prevented me from attending this year’s EdubloggerCon (EBC), my favorite part of NECC ’07 in Atlanta.  I followed enough of the blogflak about video and gleaned between the lines of ISTE’s policies about recordings, though,  to know that Pearson’s videotaping at EBC was a hot issue.  I also read and commented on pre-conference discussion on the NECC Ning regarding “commercial” postings there. A conversation with friend Jim Gates on NECC day 3 was the third time I felt it: there is a stigma attached to any role or affiliation that makes a NECC attendee or presenter “unpure.”


As a  27 year teacher who went over to the “dark side” two years ago by switching my moonlighting  job to a full time job, I am aware that no modifier I can include in the description of my role running TeachersFirst can erase the stigma; “free,” “ad-free,” “service,” “non-profit,” “noble,” even “saintlike” would be inadequate.  If I choose to don my TeachersFirst hat publicly, I am tainted. Even worse, my ideas and contributions become suspect.

I would maintain that many respected contributors and organizers at EBC, NECC, and the most respected educational technology/ education reform collaborations have additional “hats.” Many individuals moonlight outside of their classrooms as consultants. Others have relationships with publishers, tool developers, or hardware/software companies. I have no problem with that. Teachers need the money, and the good ones have good ideas to share. Many in the “inner circles” at EBC or NECC are aware of the consulting/training  that others do. I would suspect that there are quite a few other “hats” would show if everyone engaged in complete disclosure.

So what to do?

The dilemma: is it better to don an invisibility cloak  (and remain quieter) or wear your hat? Aren’t we, as teachers forever (for that IS what I am– a teacher — no matter who pays me) , just as entitled to learn and grow out of genuine interest in the topics at hand? If NECC is a part of my personal learning network, what is the best way to participate: hat on head or invisibly? Are my ideas less valuable because I changed jobs? Should I refrain from speaking because I come from the dark side? I don’t think so.

I wear my name badge with job title. I tell people what I do when asked. I share ideas that others seem to value. But I must “be careful.”  At what point do my ideas become suspect as an agenda instead of the honest contributions to the conversation they are meant to be? And at what point does the suspicion prevent me from learning as well?

I am frustrated at Pearson for raising the suspicion level of everyone by showing up to “document” EBC. I will admit that I am also suspicious of them, given the fact that they are not participants or teachers, just a commercial company videotaping. They recently launched a “foundation,” and that raises my antennae, too. Will their “foundation” status end up throwing more suspicion on genuine David (to Goliath)-sized non-profits such as my employer in the long run? Is their foundation an intentional invisibility cloak?

So I throw these question out ot the twitting-blogging-Ninging-gadgeting crowd from NECC and beyond:

1. Where and under what circumstances are teachers who wear multiple hats allowed to go for fully-engaged professional growth?

2. How would you prefer to see the hats that these teachers wear?

3. Is there a difference between moonlighting educators and those who retire and take that second career?

What are your thoughts?

July 1, 2008

NECC idea: Game show sessions and the wisdom of crowds

Filed under: necc,necc08 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:53 pm

This post is from the Bloggers’ Cafe at NECC in San Antonio.

I know this sound facetious, but I am serious. I had two ideas for new types of NECC sessions for 2009, since several BYOL sessions have been “closed” due to fire safety regs. Clearly there is a real desire to participate in every session, whether lecture or BYOL. Live bloggers and multi-taskers outline the perimeter of all seating space, strategically sitting in end seats and on the floor in aisles close to wall outlets or for quick movement to the next popular session.

So here are two possible session formats, both with audience participation: Name a Use Challenge and Teach Me Now

Option 1: Name-a-Use Challenge (actually, I am seriously considering OFFERING this session, so please be ethical and do not steal it without checking with me first).

As they enter, audience members are assigned onto teams for competition (and perhaps prizes from some willing vendor?). Team members need not sit together.

Audience members may also volunteer to serve as one of a panel of 5  judges for the competition/collaboration. The judging team may meet F2F or remain in their seats in relative anonymity. I haven’t decided about that yet.

The session begins with the audience providing their personal suggestions of favorite or interesting web 2.0 tools, one per person. This submission could be done in real time (via web 2.0 tool, of course).  Offline audience members can meet their laptop neighbors or walk to an aisle-sitter to have their choices submitted by proxy. Immediately, points are awarded for for the more obscure or unique offerings. Duplicate offerings gain no score.

Web 2.0 tools are then presented randomly , with the original submitter explaining the tool’s capability in 30 seconds or less.  Judges can award points for particularly powerful descriptions, but penalties will be assessed for providing the “answers” for how to use the tool. (Already the judges are under pressure). Members of the “receiving” team have an opportunity for a 60 second collaboration  (any way they wish) and to “answer” with ideas for “ways to use this tool effectively in support of teaching and learning.” The responding team  garners points for ideas, with extra weight for pedagogically sound, unusual, creative, or other “bonuses,” all determined by the judging panel. All ideas are recorded online for later review and sharing beyond the session.

Teams alternate, responding to as many tool options as time permits.

Comments and discussion, real and virtual, are welcome from all participants. Judges have permission to change the rules at any time, provided they can reach consensus on said changes.

This session has everything: the wisdom of the crowd, practical ideas, collaboration in real time and after, and competition. A little humor won’t hurt,either. And I’d love to be the emcee. It’s no different than working with 100 middle school gifted kids…

Option two: Teach Me Now!

This session format presents new (and not so new) tools with audience participants as guinea pigs. Audience members volunteer, saying they are willing to act as guinea pigs, learning the tool in front of the audience. The actual guinea pigs can be selected randomly from those who offer. The guinea pig’s  (or 2-3 guinea pigs’) screen(s)  is(are)shared with the entire audience. The presenter proceeds to “teach” the tool or technique to the guinea pig(s). Audience members are encouraged to chime in with ideas and or strategies at stop-and-swap points during the session. they may also “follow along,” silently learning the tool from their own laptops.  At any  stop-and-swap  point, a guinea pig may ask to be “swapped” with someone from the audience. 

Audience members who are simply “watching” can comment or send kudos to the teacher and/or guinea pigs at any time during the session for moral support or extension.

I haven’t figured out how to add competition to this format of collaboration. Maybe this one would be better for those who are a bit afraid to try without seeing how easy something is? If they are afraid to be on the “stage,” they can still participate silently.

Just some thoughts…

June 30, 2008

web 2.0- why is it important and further musings for the afternoon at NECC

Filed under: musing,necc,necc08 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 5:47 pm

The NECC  session on Steve Hargadon Classroom 2.0: Exploring the Potential of Web 2.0 with backchat at presented a good philosophical and “historical perspective” on what web 2.0 is and what it means. The panel had some diverse comments and angles (wise crowd or homogeneous group?). I was left a thought to ponder, followed by a couple of random thoughts from fighting with interrupted network connections and riding the bus.

From the session:

If collaboration is the key to wisdom and the cure for cancer, when will funding models catch up with the slippery nature of “ownership” in these collaborative successes? For example, university researchers must guard their results in order to demonstrate their successes when applying for the next round of grants. People who are truly creative have to balance the choice of ownership with the power of collaboration.  It seems that web 2.0 (and a global collaborative model) is, in a way, analogous to the Native American model of non-ownership of land/the earth. The different is that this time the interlopers are declaring that they DON’T own anything.  Creative Commons is there, sure, but what about ownership of the innovations that generate the income to fund the thinktanks, etc. Somehow there must be a way to make money “collaborate,” too. I wonder.


Doesn’t it seem ironic that a group as heterogeneously gung-ho about collaboration and openness as NECC attendees still rushes to get free doo-dads as fast as a six year old in the exhibit hall? There is proof that each of us has a dark side.

Everybody is so busy Twittering that Twitter is down.

OK- time to get some sustenance. Back tomorrow.

Internet Safety Town Hall- part 2

Filed under: necc,necc08 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:50 am

Amanda Lenhart of PEW with data re internet use and teens 12-17.

66% households have Internet, 22 still on dial-up, 10% not online at home. SOe populations very different.

What are they doing online? (lots of good) 94% research for school, 81% research info on entertainment info

58% have profile online, 77% of those 15-17. Girls bigger users.


  • inappropriate contact (wanted/unwanted)
  • inappropriate content (wanted/unwanted)- hard to determine the def for this b/c it is a community standard

She continues to list out other Pew research results. (not as much connection to normal motivation and behavior of teens, Anastasia’s approach). No assoc between stranger contact and hte content of your profile. Photo and profile, and being female are factors that do correlate to stranger contact.

Interet monitoring software (monitors, NOT filters) is related to lowering dangerous contact. More than half the solicitations were from people they knew/their age. 4% ave received “aggressive” contact (tried to make offline contact). Much is SOUGHT. They know what theyare doing (UNH 2005 youth and law enforcement study).

 more stats…..but you could read these in the study.

We should change the message re profiles to “you may be putting yourself reputationally at risk” instead of at risk for predators.

My battery is dying…so back to paper.