Value of Twitter as Professional Development for Educators

During my sabbatical, I’m hoping to dive into research around the value of social networking tools like Twitter in the professional development of educators (including administrators). Today, I began with a some reconnaissance around the topic.

At this point, I’m still developing developing questions that need to be answered. Please take a look at the conversation captured in this Storify, and I’d love if you could either add to this discussion or provide advice as to what questions on this topic are worth exploring. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks!

Student Work – Winter 2012

As I’ve done previously (see 20092010 and 2011), I wanted to share some of the best examples of student work from my ECMP 355 (Technology in Education) undergraduate course. These students are all preservice teachers and they range from being in the first to the fourth (final) year of our program. If you have any questions about the work featured here, please comment below or email me. I hope that you will find these projects valuable.

Final Projects: The goal of these projects varied – essentially, they were either of the ‘build a learning resource’ or ‘learn something of significance using the Internet’ variety.

Blogfolios: Students were tasked to create blogfolios in the class as a means to strengthen their digital identities, and experience an important form of alternative assessment.
Summaries of Learning: These summaries of learning are typically a 3-5 minutes reflection/presentation/celebration of what students learned throughout the course.

Teaching & Learning in a Networked World (Keynote)

I am on my way home from the Quest Conference held at Richmond Hill, Ontario where I was fortunate to have given a preconference keynote presentation. The conference was really great, and this trip gave me a chance to enjoy time with old and new friends, many who I’ve met online via Twitter. There are really some great things happening in Ontario schools, and I’m very proud to know some of the wonderful people creating positive change.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share the recording and the slides of my keynote in case this is useful to anyone. Thanks to the organizers of Quest for inviting me to your excellent conference.



View more presentations from Alec Couros.

Ning Alternatives, Collaboration, & Self Hosting

Ning announced today that it plans to “phase out its free service“. What this means for the educators who use Ning for free (or even pay for some services) is uncertain at the moment although it was stated that a detailed plan of the new services will be released within two weeks.

Right after the announcement, Twitter was buzzing with people wondering about viable build-your-own-network alternatives. A few services were mentioned and retweeted, but I felt that something more proactive should be done. Seeing that Google Docs has gone real-time, I thought it would be great to collaboratively build a document with Ning alternatives, including examples and comments on services other have tried. I created a new Google Document and tweeted a call for collaboration.

Twitter / Alec Couros: OK, with all of this talk ...
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Within minutes, we had several pages of options for both hosted and self-hosted social networking services. Six hours later (the time at which I write this), there have already been hundreds of collaborators/viewers and hundreds of edits. There is now a good list of alternatives for those that would like to migrate to or use another service. As well, those involved were able to see first-hand the power of real-time collaboration. From my perspective, this process was truly awesome!

I have noticed that Ning’s announcement has made some people angry which has caused others to temper concerns until more is known. No matter what the outcome, or the options within Ning’s new pricing plan, there is a more important issue here. I do not see a future where there are more free (of charge) services available. It is more likely, at least for the short term, that more Web 2.0 companies will focus on premium services. For the many teachers who have benefited from the wealth of free services available over the last few years, this ‘less free’ reality becomes difficult, especially when schools are increasingly budget-conscious.

This is why the F/OSS movement becomes important (again). With all of the free services that have been available, fewer educators have likely felt that the time and expertise needed to install, maintain and host open source software is worth the trouble. However, with this impending shift, I do believe that this is the time for schools & educators to (re)consider and (re)discover the importance of F/OSS and self-hosted software.

Update: Sylvia Curry made a screencast of the “Ning Alternatives” document being edited in the first few minutes. This process really was quite incredible.

Money As Debt – Animated Video

I just finished watching Paul Grignon’s 47 minute animated video, Money as Debt. The video is at least a year old, but has regained some popularity with Bush’s proposed 700 Billion dollar financial sector bailout dominating the news. The video describes, in very understandable terms, some of the underlying issues with our monetary systems. It describes the history of the current monetary system, describes how fractional reserve banking began, identifies the problems inherent in our debt-based credit system, and suggests several alternatives for monetary reform.

Sounds a bit boring? Actually, it was very interesting. I recommend the video, and as always, view with a critical mind.

Sarah Haskins Targets Advertising to Women

Adfreak featured a piece on Sarah Haskins today who has been putting together some really neat literacy pieces related to advertising targeting women. Take a look at some of the “Target: Women” series on Current. I have posted links below.

Birth Control:

Yogurt Edition:

Weddings Shows:

Chick Flicks

I like Haskin’s approach to media literacy. While I don’t find it very deep (nor think that’s her intention), she identifies key issues and does it in a humourous way. The technique is key. And, if you are looking for something to critique with your students, here is my growing list of videos for discussing media representation.

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A Victory for (Video) Sharing

In a California copyright infringement case, Io Group v. Veoh Networks, the Court has granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, on the basis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), holding that the defendant’s video-sharing web site complied with the DMCA and was entitled to the protection of the statute’s “safe harbor” provision.

In its 33-page decision, the Court noted, among other things, that the DMCA was “designed to facilitate the robust development and world-wide expansion of electronic commerce, communications, research, development, and education in the digital age”, and rejected that plaintiff’s contention that Veoh had failed to reasonably implement its notification policy for repeat offenders. (link)

Read the entire 33-page decision here.

10 Worst Consumer Tech Trends – Education Edition

PC World has released an instantly popular list of the “10 Worst Consumer Tech Trends“. As soon as I read the list, it was easy to see the parallels in education. Thus, here’s my educational take on the list.

10. Closed Source Technology – I’ve been an advocate of FLOSS for quite a few years now, in fact, my dissertation had much to say about the topic. While we are nowhere near a world where Linux is ubiquitous, we’ve made a lot of progress through Firefox, Open Office and newer software like Google Android for mobile devices. In my courses, I make use of our Windows and Mac machines, but introduce many open source apps on the desktop. As well, Linux Live CD’s are used often to get beyond the tyranny of the desktop.

While we have a long way to go, my best indication of how far we’ve come is that the terms “open source” and “free software” (not simply a the “free in beer” sense) have become much more common in conversations with my non-techy students and colleagues. I think there are many experiencing a mental shift, however, we need to catch up through user interface and viral marketing approaches.

9. Over-promising and under-delivering: I’m still convinced that salesmen do more educational technology planning than educational administrators. I know of institutions locked-in to student administration systems like SCT Banner for periods of more than 10 years when (I’ve been told) there are other open source solutions available. I hear nothing but complaints from institutional users of Blackboard, people who’d rather learn Moodle on their own than go with the supported, Blackboard “solution”. IBM Learning Village is a common “instructional portal” in many school districts, one that has been abandoned by many teachers in favour of flexible, free environments, services like Ning.

And while we’re talking “over-promising, under-delivering” we can go beyond the issue of proprietary software. Larger, conceptual frameworks like course/student/learning management systems or just about any monolithic learning “solution” (or learning theory for that matter) can be critiqued in a similar manner.

8. Fanboys: “The definition of fanboy (or fangirl) is an individual who harbours a fanatic devotion to something without logical reason.” While at times I might be considered an Apple fanboy, I’d argue that I’m promoting a particular concept more than an specific product. I wrote a while back re: the Apple iTouch and the potential implications for learning. And while I love my iTouch, I was more critical to the fact that I needed to Jailbreak it before it actually became a usable, personal learning device.

And in relation to this point, I’m witnessing a disturbing trend in some parts of the edublogosphere as of late. I’ve ditched several, (once) trusted blogs from my reader in the past few weeks due to their less-than-critical, over-promoting of certain Web 2.0 tools and services. Note to those (few) edubloggers: if you’re on the take, your readers deserve full disclosure.

7. Region-encoding: I couldn’t think of how this applied to education in any significant way. Any ideas?

6. Licensing fees: Put simply, I do everything I can to avoid any content or products where licensing is required. I promote freely available media through such sources as the Creative Commons and As well, I nurture a learning environment where learners become producers nearly as much as they are consumers. At the same time, I do recommend exemplary copyrighted works, and do understand this livelihood model. However, the bar has been raised in relation to what I will spend money on. In this abundance economy, I need a strong demonstration of “value-added” before I ever consider pulling out my credit card.

5. Format wars: I haven’t much to say on this topic other than getting into a rant on the Open Document Format, and others have said it better. Anyone?

4. Proprietary file formats: Most proprietary products produce proprietary formats out of the box. Whether it’s a .doc, AAC or even .mp3, these formats can cause a huge issue, proprietary file format lock-in.

3. Annoying web ads: I won’t get into a rant against web-advertising. I am one of those people that pays to make my learning environments ad-free. For instance, I pay about $20/month to turn the ads off in my Ning groups, and I pay a smaller fee for my Wikispaces pages. For those in K-12, it’s great that you can turn off the ads in both of these services for free.

2. High cost of wireless data plans: It’s remarkable how many of my students have mobile phones. Even when I visit K-12 classrooms, the number of cell phones is high. For now, I can only dream of the possibilities for mobile learning. Our data plans in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada are simply too expensive to do anything creative. And beyond that, we’re not even at 3G yet. Maybe someday.

1. DRM: If DRM has done anything for our education system, it’s helped to nurture authentic, problem-based learning activities in our hacking communities. DRM does not work. It will never work. The system has to change. We are now seeing the power of an emerging, decentralized era. See Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

That’s it. Would love to hear your thoughts.