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Regator: Aggregating the Web's Best Blog Posts

With tens of millions of blogs written by people more highly educated and affluent than the general population, is it any wonder that so many of us have identified, and read frequently, the musings and articles by this group?

Authors, academics, scientists, doctors, teachers, and those in school administrations write and publish blogs. Some of my favorites are by librarians and museum curators who have a gift at uncovering and presenting the core or essence of a topic or theme.

Is it any wonder why I have 181 blogs subscribed to in my Google Reader? While I don’t read them all, my skimming ability allows me to quickly scroll through posts and discover top ones.

That said, with the maturation of a very interesting service, Regator, I might end up migrating away from my hand-picked blogs and instead use their curated and categorized posts from top blogs…it’s that good. 

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MVU Online Learning Symposium

Pew Internet is one of my favorite resources for understanding the accelerating change we're living in the midst of right now. It is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. They produce a bunch of excellent (and free, I might add) reports exploring the impact of the internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, and civic and political life.

While there just now, I came across this Networked Learners page and saw that Lee Raine, Pew Internet director, is one of two keynote speakers at an upcoming symposium I've never attended. It looks very interesting and, for the first time this year, is being offered with an online attendance option.

In his opening keynote, “Networked Learners,” Lee Rainie will discuss the latest findings of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project about how teenagers and young adults have embraced technology of all kinds — including broadband, cell phones, gaming devices and MP3 players. He will describe how technology has affected the way “digital natives” search for, gather and act on information. 

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One More Example of Knowledge in the 'Cloud'


Yet another major launch has occurred in the area of educational video and this time it's intended for free educative content in the form of online lectures to citizens of local communities and beyond. 

PBSNPR and WGBH have announced the launch of the redesigned Forum Network (forum-network.org), a national digital media lecture service and website. As they state in their press release about it, "Public stations across the country are working in collaboration with local mission-driven community organizations, and cultural and educational institutions to produce free online lectures that educate, inform and engage people in ideas, cultural diversity, and compelling issues of our time."

Describing the content they state, "The updated Forum Network site features thousands of high quality lecture videos and audio downloads by some of the world’s leading thinkers, scientists, policymakers, artists, authors, and community leaders. It incorporates social networking elements that enable audiences to exchange ideas and content through time-coded commenting, discussion threads, media rating, and sharing tools. Closed Captioning, transcripts, and slides are also available for select videos on the Forum Network."

Laudable effort and I'm a sucker for this stuff. In fact, there is so much free, substantive and amazing educational content available on the 'net right now that I could easily spend eight hours a day doing nothing but watching internet video and listening to great podcasts.

Here's a prime example of content I'm interested in (as you should be as an educator) and has several key thought leaders in one venue, hosted by New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue, who takes a look at how reading and books will be experienced in the future. Steve Haber of Sony, Neil Jones of Interead, and Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of Pixel Qi, showcase new technology. Digital librarian Brewster Kahle and Jon Orwant of Google add a big picture perspective on how digitization may change everything. This session also features a musical interlude by Pogue.

Google Tech Talk: Initiatives in Education

Every now-and-then a video comes along that touches me. Not in an emotional way, but in the sense that the message is so right, the focus so clear and the need being discussed so great, that I'm compelled to share it with others. Since you're in the education camp who would find it compelling to know the need Google sees for the types of people they (and, frankly, the world) needs going forward, might spark thoughts about how you nurture budding computer scientists.

Google is all about scale or, as they term it, "internet scale". While many of us tease them in posts about how "my Grandma could design web graphics better than Google", when they deliver a technology it's used by tens of millions of people and has to massively scale from the get-go. The scope of the problems they're trying to solve are so huge, that the sorts of big thinkers and educated technologists they'll need in the future is clearly driving them to take action now.

Though you clearly need to focus on the foundational elements of educating students in science and math, I would argue that discovering and sparking their passion about the future is right alongside it. Are you doing enough to show your students the sort of technologically saturated world they'll inherit?  The trends in the web, social media, computing, mobile, and virtual worlds that they'll be living in but at an internet scale?

If not, you should be since that is where the job, lifelong learning and human connection opportunities will be when they leave college or enter the working world and there are some great thoughts and information in this video:

This presentation is delivered by Maggie Johnson, Google Director of Education and University Relations, and was given at the NSF Computer Science Education Leadership Summit. 

Surprise! Bloggers are Media Literate Communicators

Since I began blogging in 2004, I've looked to the thought leadership and analytics offered up by Technorati, a company whose sole focus is in the blogging space affectionately known as the "blogosphere", as a source of accurate data and carefully considered insights.

In anticipation of the Blogworld/NewMediaExpo conference held last week in Las Vegas, Technorati released their annual report over five days entitled, "State of the Blogosphere" for 2009 and, like always, it provides an interesting set of data, inferences and some conclusions which are always fodder for discussion and interesting food for thought.

"In a world that’s constantly changing — shocked by financial catastrophe and political upheaval, yet still moving faster every day — not much is constant. But as the 2009 State of the Blogosphere survey demonstrates, the growth of the blogosphere's influence on subjects ranging from business to politics to the way information travels through communities continues to flourish. In a year when revolutions and elections were organized by blogs, bloggers are blogging more than ever, and the State of the Blogosphere is strong."

While I encourage you to invest 20-30 minutes in reading the report for yourself, let me point out something that struck me which might be obvious to any educator investing any thinking time about the future of media literacy and the sorts of preparation students will need to be a participating citizen in a world that is one where virtual communications are at the core of our work, learning and social interactions.

There was one "forehead slap" moment reading State of the Blogosphere that compelled me to write this post and ensure that you were aware of the report and the surprising multiple media literacies being exhibited by bloggers within it. 

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Why You Probably Don't "Get" Social Media

You may not intuitively understand social media. Not because of a lack of understanding or technical acumen prohibiting you from using some internet connected device and hosted social media software, but more likely because you don't feel the internal need or drive to put forth the effort or energy to embrace it.

As social media continues to accelerate as a method of connecting people to one another as well as to news, information and other snippets of value, I keep thinking about people who aren't all that social, are not inherently "connectors," or are folks who are not all that interested in connecting with other people, especially in some virtual way.

Years ago I always thought not being social was, well, being antisocial. It meant you were one of the weirdos who smell bad and can't be trusted around small animals or children. The people you see leaving Blockbuster on a Friday night with 10 videos...for the weekend. The hermits whom I always seem to stumble upon when hiking in the Superior National Forest and who abhor bumping in to anyone.

Then I became enlightened.  

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Education Futures & the Concept of Knowmads

Edufutures There is no shortage of thought leaders who will expound in papers and blogs about their particular perspective, approach and beliefs about the future of education. Then there are others who do that but add in a healthy dose of pragmatism that clearly demonstrates they're explorers of the topic and are eagerly seeking trends and the influences driving the exponentially accelerating shift toward a digital future for education.

As a huge fan of serendipity, I can't tell you how often I've been at a conference, trade show or event while in "seek mode" looking for answers to questions about some topic and by happenstance something occurred that changed the course of my seeking. Often my exploration is quite focused, but sometimes it is so vague that I simply point myself in the general direction of an answer and let myself be carried along by the flow of information being revealed. In either scenario, some person, piece of knowledge or technology demonstration appears and I smile as I let the "Aha!" unfold and the dots get connected in my mind.

I had that sort of experience as I was seeking stories and events around Minnesota innovation for a technology site I lead called Minnov8. Clicking on a link brought me to Education Futures, a site founded in Minnesota by a group of educators and theorists who view the rate of change like I do: "Founded on November 20, 2004, Education Futures explores a New Paradigm in human capital development, fueled by globalization, the rise of innovative knowledge societies, and driven by exponential, accelerating change.

Earlier today I reached out to the Education Futures founder by email asking if we could get together at some point and commiserate about accelerating change and my intention is to interview John Moravec, PhD and gain access to insights and bring that to you on this blog.

What I found with their site is yet another data point that validates what you've been reading here at Accelerating Change. Their point of view is something worth discussing as you continue to strive for an educational model that meets and exceeds today and tomorrow's student needs and the world they'll enter in the not-too-distant future. 

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Are You a Teacher or a Curator?


My favorite teacher was a man, prematurely gray at 35 years old, whom we called "Mr. John." This guy challenged me on everything, and I mean everything. He taught physics and our experiments were meant to enable us to follow a chain of reasoning to prove or disprove some theorem. Even when I nailed the reasoning and the data from the experiment he'd force me to look at it in another way, to apply perspective that had nothing to do with physics, and he could then get me to question whether the damn table was solid! 

Mr. John often brought in what he called "delicious devil's advocacy" articles that would question something written in the textbook or even what he taught (or seemingly believed). While I can't remember much of what I learned that year, I do remember that he was a man who knew physics, taught to its essence, made me think, while at the same time causing me to question every single aspect of the science. 

He did that by constantly seeking (and delivering to us) things that would inform our thoughts and our own seeking of new knowledge since, as it became quite clear as the year wore on, even Mr. John didn't believe that he had a corner on all physics knowledge nor did he believe the creators of the textbooks, curriculum or state or federal standards enjoyed it either. 

He described himself as a "curator of knowledge" and he always said, "I'll teach you the fundamentals of physics, but it will be up to you to find the truth." I was pretty clueless about what he meant then, but years later I began to have this visual of him with a white beard accompanying his white mane, sitting in some fabulous museum of science and smiling while telling me how his pal Socrates once said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" and "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." 

It finally sunk in that he was kindling our flames about physics so that WE would be constant seekers of knowledge and truth.

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Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier

If you can shut down your left brain for a bit and suspend any judgement, the anecdotal flow of a PBS Frontline program (online only) called ”digital_nation: life on the virtual frontier” is absolutely worth immersing yourself in for a few hours.

Working within, analyzing and quantifying the emerging always on, always connected and participative world we’re living in, it’s often a challenge to stand back and take a 40,000 foot view of what’s going on and this program does a beautiful job of getting to the essence of the shift we’re experiencing.

The primary categories covered are:

  • Living Faster: Daily life in the age of nonstop connection
  • Relationships: How technology is changing friendship, parenting and love
  • Waging War: The changing nature of warfare in the 21st century
  • Virtual Worlds: The remarkable power of alternate realities
  • Learning: How to educate children for the digital age.

Each of these main categories has several subcategories that drill-down on key aspects. One of my favorite segments within the Learning category is called, "How Google Saved A School" and covers a middle school in the Bronx, NY--with the expected issues of an inner city school in a tough part of the country--that made major measurable gains in student performance (I'd tell you but don't want to be a spoiler).

The Learning section contains so many great segments that I found myself late for an appointment as I became overly engrossed in watching them. "The New Digital Divide", "The Class of the Future", "The Tech Fix", and "How Video Games Can Help" contain many revelations, surprises and realizations so I hope you go there and partake of this wealth of thought leadership and ideas.

Though many of you reading this may have already viewed digital_nation and another program Frontline created called Growing Up Online, if you haven't there is no better time to do so than before this next academic year begins.

What is 21st Century Media Literacy?

Unless you're 50 years old or older, your attention has turned away from newspapers, magazines, TV and radio and shifted toward internet and electronic delivery of content.

That attention is directed at such diverse areas as using search to find any of the ONE TRILLION sites in Google's index; reading any of the 2.6M articles on Wikipedia; watching some of the 70M+ videos on YouTube; trying to read even a fraction of the 133M blogs; act as one of the 100M users who log on to Facebook daily; or attempt to follow some of the more than 3M tweets sent through Twitter daily.

How can a student possibly think critically about the multitude of competing messages and stimuli generated by that flood of content? How can you teach them to handle it all?

Of course, this flood is being generated by both actual media organizations but more often by the audience, formerly known as consumers, who have also become producers of media. Whether a person creates a blog filled with posts on a given topic (and publishes videos, podcasts, and posts that reference other news articles, blogs or websites) or simply actively comments on a blog's posts or sends out a tweet with a link to one of them, those sorts of participative behaviors result in both the consumption and production of media.

THAT is your biggest challenge in teaching media literacy today: media literacy means learning how to be both a consumer of media and a producer of it.

The question then to answer is, "What does it mean to be media literate today and how can I teach a comprehensive curriculum on this subject?"

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.