11 Year Old School Network Administrator

Interesting story.

When Victory Baptist School, a small private school in Millbrook, Ala., was struggling to keep its computer network together last year, an 11-year-old student named Jon Penn stepped in as network manager.

This sounds like an interesting learning experience for the young student. Although, if I had his email address I would try to get him to switch to Linux.

Letting Go

Bob Cringely of PBS (thanks Keith) recently wrote something that resonated with me. His was one of those articles you find every once in a while that helps your mind coalesce scattered fragments of thought and helps to give clarity to an important idea. He begins:

There is a technology war coming. Actually it is already here but most of us haven’t yet notice. It is a war not about technology but because of technology, a war over how we as a culture embrace technology. It is a war that threatens venerable institutions and, to a certain extent, threatens what many people think of as their very way of life. It is a war that will ultimately and inevitably change us all, no going back. The early battles are being fought in our schools. And I already know who the winners will be.

Now without reading the article, do you know what he is talking about? Do you see it? If you are reading this, you are likely closer than most of your colleagues to understanding it. Now read this:

Here, buried in my sixth paragraph, is the most important nugget: we’ve reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools.

Now read it again. The idea has been an underlying notion in the edublogosphere for a number of years, and of course, it has a much longer philosophical history. Whether the approach is schooliness, deschooling or School 2.0, I do not think we are anywhere near in understanding what the future holds for the education of our children, and theirs.

And I think there is something big here for me. After reading this article, it wasn’t that I was surprised. I felt guilty. Really guilty. As a professor of edtech and media, i have the opportunity to effect hundreds of preservice and practicing teachers. I have typically focused on helping improve technological competency, media literacy and instructional practice with these individuals. This seems OK, doesn’t it?

But what if you know it is just a band-aid? What if you know deep down that schools need to change drastically or cease to exist at all before there will ever be any significant change? What if you feel you are just prolonging the inevitable, and simply giving temporary life to a model that is clearly in its death throes?

It is about honesty. It is about being truthful to our students about the flaws of our educational system. It is essential that we open a dialogue with our children to help them design their educational processes. Together we can do more than simply patch the existing system, and we need to do it soon.

The walls are crumbling, but it’s OK. The future is in good hands.

Related: While you are here, check out Mr. Winkle Wakes, “an amusing, animated retelling of a popular educational story”. Thanks Matthew, this is a nice conversation starter.

Slide Rocket – PowerPoint Killer?

I just noticed SlideRocket on ReadWriteWeb. SlideRocket is an online presentation application built on Adobe’s Flex platform. I got in on the limited Beta and this looks like a very promising app!

SlideRocket has everything you’d expect from a presentation app — powerful slide and presentation authoring tools, pretty transitions and image and video manipulations and animations, charting and table creation, and the ability to import PowerPoint files (export is coming soon). It also has some features you wouldn’t necessarily expect in an online application, like the ability to import your own fonts, a plugin architecture that will allow third-parties to create their own transitions and effects, and an offline Adobe AIR-based player (a full AIR-based version of the editor is also planned).

But where SlideRocket really shines it in its approach to community, sharing, and collaboration. Already active in the application is the concept of an asset library, where you can pull in assets (images, video, etc.) from any source, as well as directly from the web. Right now, SlideRocket searches Flickr and Yahoo! Images from inside the app and can add images it finds to the user’s asset library. (link)

Sign up for the limited Beta here.

Adobe Launches PhotoShop Express

Adobe has released PhotoShop Express, a basic version of Photoshop which is available to use online.

The maker of the popular photo-editing software Photoshop on Thursday launched a basic version available for free online.

San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe Systems Inc. says it hopes to boost its name recognition among a new generation of consumers who edit, store and share photos online.

While Photoshop is designed for trained professionals, Adobe says Photoshop Express, which it launched in a “beta” test version, is easier to learn. User comments will be taken into account for future upgrades.

Photoshop Express will be completely Web-based so consumers can use it with any type of computer, operating system and browser. And, once they register, users can get to their accounts from different computers. (link)

I just signed up, and it seems like an easy-to-use basic photo editing service. It features some integration with the online album services of Picasa, Facebook, and Photobucket, with the notable absence of Flickr. I assume this may be due in part with Flickr’s relationship with Picnik, likely my favorite online photo editor.

It will be interesting to see how well this product is received and how quickly it will bring in new features. Obviously Adobe has name value in software market, but there are many services online including Picnik, PhotoFlexer, Flauntr, Pixenate, LunaPic, Phixr, Pixer

Conversation with Chris Lehmann

Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, was last night’s guest in EC&I 831. Chris shared his experience as a progressive educator/administrator, and provided many valuable insights for our participants.

The recorded Elluminate session is available here.

Ustream version available below:

And finally, Rob has provided an mp3 version.

Thanks so much for presenting Chris. This was an excellent way to round off a great group of presenters!

Sue Waters on Al Upton/Mini Legends Closure

We were very fortunate to have Sue Waters as a guest for EC&I 831 last Wednesday (March 19/08). Sue had previously written a post related to the order for closure for Al Upton’s MiniLegends classroom blog. EC&I 831 was very interested in hearing more.

We used Skype to mediate the conversation, and the result was streamed via Ustream. I noticed over 30 participants at one point, and it is clear from many related blog posts that the issue has generated much interest over several continents.

Sue did an amazing job recording the details and summarizing this conversation, including many of the the major points brought up by course participants and other Ustream guests. Check out her post here.

Also, the mp3 version of the conversation is available here. There may be a couple of anomalies with the audio due to the way it had to be lifted from Ustream. Sorry, it was mostly unavoidable.

I would also like to take this opportunity to comment on a few ‘aha’ moments I had regarding this experience, not directly related to the issues discussed, but related to the networked affordances made available through this course. This a short list of things I really like about this particular experience in terms of pedagogy.

1) The idea of the session came from Cindy, one of the course participants. After it was suggested, there were several other classmates that were excited about the idea. It is great to have students bring direction to the course, and I wish I had made this more of a common thread throughout.

2) Through Twitter and the edublogosphere, I was able to quickly contact Sue. Sue and I had already been connected through various tools, but had never had the chance to collaborate. This goes to show the importance of the network, and highlights yet another example of the generosity apparent in so many people I have connected to. This is not only apparent in Sue’s participation on the conversation, but additionally in her thorough, voluntary summary of the session.

3) This issue, although global, has great relevance to the course content and to the practice of many of the participants in their roles as teachers and administrators.

4) The issue was timely. We were able to have this conversation within a week of its occurrence.

5) The conversation was global. The Ustream conversation included participants from 4 countries, and 3 continents.

These previous points are attributes shared with many online educational experiences. Al Upton’s Mini Legends initiative demonstrated some of these and other valuable characteristics. Thus, I believe it is important for all of us to share the positive attributes of online interactions and collaborations that cannot be duplicated using more traditional approaches to teaching and learning. The contrast of great advantages over limited risks is likely the best justification we have for emerging, digital pedagogies.

Drug Deal? – Google Maps Streetview

This is almost too crazy to be real, but the link to Google Maps is authentic. NotCot.org points to this very focused view in Google streetview in Chicago.

The zoom/street view on Google Maps is crazy, here’s another great find – in Chicago of a car break in . Yes, this is real.

Google Streetview theft

Now I can’t tell exactly what this individual is doing. NotCot reports a car theft, but I do not see verification of that anywhere else. For all I can tell, it could be two people trading baseball cards.

Google Maps, amazing, but still more than a bit scary. See also “Top 15 Google Street View Sightings“.

We Tell Stories – “The 21 Steps”

Penguin Publishing has put out a neat site where it seems six stories by six authors will be told in the coming weeks via Google Maps. The first story is 21 steps by Charles Cumming, and with this, you can quickly get a sense of how the stories will be told.

21 Steps

Content and marketing aside, this could be a very powerful way of telling a story.

EC & I 831 Tour of Second Life

A bit more than a week ago, some of the participants of EC&I 831 , a few other guests, and I had the fortune to be led through Second Life with Kirk Kezema as our personal tour guide. I have not had much experience with this virtual world, and so I thought it was best to have someone with a better understanding lead the tour. Kirk was an excellent choice, and he masterfully led our tour group through various Second Life locations including:

    # Information Communications Technology (ICT) Library
    # Georgia State University
    # Discovery Educator Network (DEN)
    # Teacher Network Center
    # International Spaceflight Museum

Kirk has blogged about the experience here. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Kirk for the wonderful experience. I know it took some time setting up the tour for such a large group, and it really helped all of us better understand the educational potential of the tool. Thanks again!

Lamb & Norman on Open Repositories

It was our great pleasure to have had D’Arcy Norman & Brian Lamb speak to EC&I 831 last night on the topic of open educational repositories. As expected, our presenters shared important insights and engaged students to thinker deeper about concepts which have a continually shifting focus. The presentation helped me to gain a better understanding of the issues around open repositories and open educational resources, and I am very pleased with the depth of conversation that arose.

The recorded Elluminate session is available here. D’Arcy and Brian have shared the session resources on the EC&I 831 wiki. Finally, Rob Wall has produced a podcast (audio only) version available for download.

Thanks again Brian and D’Arcy. I cannot wait to meet you both in person at TLT.

Update: Wow, after reviewing the audio I don’t remember ever sounding so incoherent when introducing presenters. That was just a very poor introduction!