Sunday, July 28, 2013

Networks: Power With vs Power Over

A long time ago, when I was a university student, I was fascinated by how context can change understanding and perception.  The philosophers, theologians and thought leaders that I studied were all shaped by a particular historical context and in order to fully appreciate their work, I needed to understand their context.

The Network Shapes and Creates

Today I understand that the context has a context; it's the network.  I first became interested in networks after watching Nicholas Christakis talk about the hidden power of networks.  I bought the book and read it twice.  Afterwards, serendipity (actually it was CBC's Nora Young's interviews with Luciano Floridi and David Weinberger) brought me "Too Big to Know" by David Weinberger.  From this book I learned how the network (the web) is actually changing the shape of information, as well as how we interact with it, understand it, curate it and do everything else we need to do with all the terabytes of data that we create everyday.

Finally, I found Albert László-Barabási, the Hungarian physicist who explained in language I could understand the structure of networks and how they create everything from economies, terrorism, neural maps, epidemics, the world wide web and virtually anything you can name. In fact, he maintains that any two web pages are connected by no more than 19 clicks.
See Barrett Lyon's OPTE project for the history of this
amazing image mapping of the internet

 I listened to his book "Linked"  and then went back to Christakis and Weinberger with some of my own ideas about effective school administration, bringing change and reshaping the school culture.

I am convinced, in a visceral way, that school administration can become more effective in leading the change we need when we understand the power of networks.  I presented these ideas at a retreat of the Quebec Association of Independent Schools (QAIS) heads of schools back in April of 2012.
The slide deck below needs to be updated to reflect how my thinking has evolved but still, it offers the bare bones.

Power with vs Power over

The network maps and explains the movement of information, ideas and power.  If we think of power as "power with" instead of "power over" then we can begin to understand how harnessing the network and its hubs is an organic and highly effective way to bring the change we need to our schools.  The change is already happening at the post secondary level.  Ten years ago, MIT began the Open Course Ware movement and today we have MOOCs (massive open online courses) potentially challenging the debilitating financial investments necessary for university degrees.  It is inevitable.  The network will change the secondary schools too and you can participate in this paradigm shift by joining a hub of educators and thinkers who understand that "power with" is the logic of the network, of learning and of this century.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Twitter for Teachers & Storify

I will be giving a workshop in the upcoming Future of Education conference this August 19, 20 & 21st in Montreal.  This will be the second time I give this workshop and hope to get more teachers onboard with using Twitter for professional development.

Storify is powerful tool for curating content from Twitter (as well as other social media networks). While there are other apps that curate into slick magazine formats, like and Flipboard, I like Storify's annotation feature.  Each element that I drag from the social media feeds into my storyline can have an annotation.  This is especially important for adding context and insight into the story/narrative that we build and share.  Here is an example of one that I have been working on for the upcoming Twitter for Teachers workshop: 

Storify could be used in the classroom for teaching media literacy and real time search techniques. Students can demonstrate their knowledge of evaluating sources as well as choosing the most relevant and interesting feeds to build their stories of breaking news events.  In today's media landscape, students are not just consumers of content; they are creators and curators as well.  Storify is a useful tool that will help students shape and organize the media that they want to share with their networks.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

When the Invisible Needs to be Visible

Yesterday I discovered this video about three Norwegian guys who constructed a device that uses light (80 LED lights) and long exposure photography to 'see' the invisible wifi signal fields.  (Shout out to William Stites' blog for this one.)  Their question that prompted this invention was one that we all have; why does the wifi signal vary in intensity from one spot to another?  Their work (two years ago already) revealed the network of wifi signals in our urban landscape.  (Their fab photography is copyrighted so I can't share them on this blog but click here to enjoy them on flickr.)

Later on that same day and over lunch with a friend, our conversation explored the health concerns developing over the effects of wifi signals on the human body.  It would seem that the jury is out on this one according to Health Canada.  If school administrators are worried about the effects of the wifi networks on teachers and students, they should first begin by warning about cell phone use.  (The radio frequency exposure from wifi is less than 1% as compared to a cell phone.)

Wouldn't it be great if teachers had a device that rendered student learning visible?  Wait, I think it's called authentic assessment.  Thoughts for another day.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Symbaloo for Curation and Sharing

Today I learned something new about Symbaloo thanks to MMartin JMT's YouTube channel.  I can make tiles for individual Google docs, videos I store in Google drive and other applications I use like Educreations, Slideshare and Prezi.  Check it out!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Malala & Sarah Kay

Today is the first day of my summer vacation; ok, this afternoon marks the beginning of that sweet time that belongs to me. The first thing I did was watch the YouTube video of Malala Yousafzai speak to the UN assembly on the occasion of her 16th birthday and the inaugural "Malala Day". This amazing 16 year old Pakistani teenager who survived a brutal attack on her person by the Taliban for the crime of going to school, humbled me with her words and gave me goosebumps as I listened to her invoke the great leaders of history who fought for dignity and freedom with only words as their 'weapons'.
"One child, one pen, one book and one teacher can change the world." I will take those words with me throughout my vacation as I reflect on my teaching practice this year. I will remember her words and her voice when I begin classes in September.

Still thinking about Malala's words and listening to Krista Tippett's interview with Sarah Kay, the spoken word poet (featured on TED), I scoured the local garden store for whatever was left to plant in my sorry balcony garden that I have neglected since the traditional planting weekend of May 20th.  I found something amazing; the intersection between Sarah Kay's 'rediscovery of wonder', her love of words and Malala's message of the power of young voices to change the world.
 These two young women, Sarah Kay and her mission to help the young find their voice in spoken word and Malala who understood that the Taliban's bullets will never silence the voices of women and children bring me joy.  If you take the time to listen to either of them, and if you have the privilege of being a teacher, I hope you remember them when you walk back into your classroom.  Words matter.  Voices count.  "One child, one pen, one book."