Monday, April 23, 2007

TV Turn Off Week?? Does this mean no news for me?

This weeks is the newly renamed TV turnoff week.. ahem.. excuse me... "SCREEN AWARENESS WEEK".

I took a few minutes this afternoon and recorded a public service style podcast with a first grader giving a few examples of what families and students can do when they are not watching TV or playing video games. I personally think my family has a nice balance and we get to watch our usuals, (American Idol, an occasional Simpson episode and our favorite... Lonely Planet Traveler and cooking shows). In typical digital native fashion we surf the web, catch up on our blogs and watch a movie or TV show without a blink of an eye. Despite my age (a whopping 42 years), my mind has remained just flexible enough to do 4 things at once and I think it will mark the beginning of the end when I cannot keep up with my "slightly" younger wife.

My much younger colleague and friend Jeff Utecht has been dragged into the "Screen Awareness week" by his lovely wife Daneah Galloway. Daneah is one of the counselors at my school and she left a great post for him on HIS blog, The Thinking Stick.

She writes:

"For those of you who are regular readers of The Thinking Stick, I offer my condolences. For the week of April 23rd-29th, Jeff Utecht will be unavailable to post any articles, respond to any inquiries, or leave any comments on your own blogs. This is due to his VOLUNTARY (well almost) participation in the annual “TURNOFF WEEK”where we take control of the power screens have in our lives. Jeff will be attempting to evaluate (along with thousands of other people and students from around the world) the amount of time he spends on activities involving a screen.

During this week, I would encourage you to do much the same. Take a break from your televisions, computers, and handhelds…take a break from screens and spend time exploring your life. Minimize your screen time for just seven days and maximize quality time with loved ones. Reevaluate your priorities. Just be."

Common sense tells us that "work" does not count on this week. We "get to" use computers and "screens" to do our work, but we are not allowed to have any "fun" with the "screens". Boy, oh boy, did that set me off with a few choice things to says this morning.

I gave the following excuses as to why I would use screens (tonight) and not feel a bit guilty about it:

1. My work is like play (mostly) so it does not count.

2. My screen time is related to learning and personal improvement, thus it does not count.

3. I live in the PRC and I need to access news outside of this place, otherwise I do not know what is going on.

4. I want to and "plllllllllllllllllzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" on you.

I think that number 1-3 work just fine. Number 4 is a bit suspect, but after having an elementary counselor shake her head no for 10 minutes straight at you while rolling her eyes, you would be giving her the biggest administrative raspberry too!

Théâtre de Verre So what's my point? I think that this screen awareness week has hit the mark with me. No, I have not given up the small screen sitting on my lap. I have just been even more aware of the power it has to facilitate my learning, give me access to a world out of my reach and help me keep active, alive and learning. For you poor slobs (oops... it is also No Name Calling Week in our middle school)... nice, but mislead people who just find themselves sitting in front of the 72 inch plasma screen watching some inane and ridiculous slop (like American Idol... poor Sanjaya, forever to be a Tiger Beat Reject) without being involved in the world of the web. Well.... good luck.

Hey the Bird is in the TVSo tonight... my lovely wife and I sit LISTENING to our music on our iPod, she's correcting math papers and me catching up on my blogs and writing to you. My brain engaged. This was preceded by a family cooking adventure of Peanut Butter Cookies (NOT on my diet, but who gives a rip on Screen Awareness week), and we all reading a couple of kid books before putting the 3 year old down for the night. When I got home, my daughter (she's THREE) explained in no uncertain terms that her teacher told her that we were NOT to watch TV. We were told, and we followed our directions.

Thanks Daneah and Madeline. I hope we last the week... albeit in our own way.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning

If you haven't read A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink, I really think you should.

Why you ask? Well, in education circles the words in the title of post will become (I am predicting here) part of our professional language, as each points to an area of where our careers/businesses, and our intelligence and our educational system will collide with an ever flattening world. The thing that Mr. Pink does so well is that he summarizes a body of research with understandable story telling. If you have not downloaded his lecture (available on iTunes), you really should. It is worth the download.

Think:Lab pointed me to this mind map created by Phil Chambers. Phil does a nice job of capturing the larger points of the book and I will use this diagram to talk about A Whole New Mind using this over the next couple of months.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

What you really need to learn.

In my wanderings around the web I found a great article titled 10 things that everyone needs to learn by Steven Downes. You have to read this article as it is a nice summary and spin off from another piece done by Guy Kawasaki this last fall. Guy who writes for Signum sine tinnitu and several magazine did a piece with a similar title but much different content. Both are dated in the blogsphere in that they were written last fall... that's equivalent to our years.

We just finished with student-led conferences at our school and we asked that students be heavily involved in their own assessment. I keep talking to them about what they really need to know to be successful in life, and those who are paying attention and engage me in this conversation often hit the nail right on the head. Mr. Dowes #1 is "How to predict consequences". Mr. Kawasaki's #1 is "How to talk to your boss".

Common sense would tell you both are important. My question is how do we teach kids how to do either?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Readers of News on the Web: Not Short on Attention

Here is one for you brought to attention by my friends at U-Tech Tips! :

“Web news readers have greater attention span: study says”

You have to laugh! Don’t you?

I did a workshop last week with rousing crowd of four parents on how to use a new aggregator to collect, and read news from the choice stories available on the web. In each of the three sessions one of the attendees asked me “how much time do you spend reading blogs and news each day. I am very busy and don’t probably have the time that you do.”

Common sense would tell you that a principal of two schools with over 700 students, a father, husband and soon-to-be deputy superintendent is a pretty busy guy. “Spare time” is a commodity that I exploit to its fullest because I have so little of it. Thus , you can figure out the reason why I don’t have too many recent entries on this blog! Without a news aggregator and me continuing to collect feeds from news sources, blogs and professional journals, I would be hopelessly lost on current events, professional news and what my colleagues are doing out there in the “real” world. I would guess that the only real time I would get to “read” would be on my morning jaunts to the john!

As it is the RSS feeds that I have keep me informed and I can read them on the fly as I wait for meetings to start, when I am BORED in meetings when people are talking about things that do not apply to me, and when I am sitting in my cozy chair at home in the evenings enjoying a glass of wine or tea and winding down. My “newspaper” is my laptop and I can keep up with the world using the sources I want when I want them.

The great news for me is that in this study, I am purportedly reading more content that those poor folks stuck to traditional news sources. Granted, I still miss that 7 pound paper on my lap on a Sunday morning, but that is just the way it goes. My lap top is always available and doesn’t get damp and drippy on the front door step unless I really lose my cool and put it out there after an annoying email!

Technorati Tags: Attention Spans, aggregators, RSS Feeds, redefining literacy

Web Compliment Day!

David Warlick called my attention to Jennifer Wagner's idea for Web Compliment Day, the antithesis of No Cyberbullying day! My compliments to fellow blogger Jennifer at The Technospud.

She writes: If last Friday, March 30th, was Stop Cyberbullying Day, then I would like to make THIS FRIDAY — April 6th – CYBER COMPLIMENT DAY!!

She is working on a good idea that I am trying to spread here as well. It is tough being on the other side of the world and being a day late, but it is the thought that counts. are my compliments!

I would first like to compliment my good friend, teacher, colleague and go to man Jeff Utecht. The man at The Thinking Stick and U-Tech’s tips keeps me thinking, rolling with new ideas and amazed at the power one Mariner’s fan can possibly have in any given day. He recently spent a great amount of time figuring out how to get the M’s games to stream through at work, and frankly I didn’t have the heart to say….”ahhhh… dude… we’re suppose to be teaching here!”. He gets done in one day what takes mere mortals like me a month. GREAT WORK Jeff! I look forward to changing the world with you!

Thank you to Doug Johnson and the Blue Skunk Blog! Great thinking stuff which I read with enthusiasm each time. He comes up with great quotes. Doug… here is one for you:
"Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways." -Samuel McChord Crothers
To David Warlick who visited us here in Shanghai in February for some heavy lifting and hard work. My compliments to you on your thinking, your energy and your great thoughts around educational change. Your words continue to have an effect on our work here at SAS!

To Christian Long at Think:Lab and Beckett-to-be for keeping me mentally stimulated and celebrating fatherhood! GREAT WORK Christian! His educational manifesto idea will be one that keeps me coming back and reading it again and again. I apply the ideas in my daily work.

My compliments to Scott Mcleod and his 100 Principals/100 Blogs project and the blog Dangerously Irrelevant I am not sure where he stands with the project, but this principal now has three blogs (one for each of his schools and one for himself). I think you can do three tally marks for me thanks to your encouragement! His collaborative blog Leadertalk is one of the best blogs going!!

Technorati Tags: cybercompliment, cyberbullying, Blogging