Roadmaps


I didn't attend the conference "Campus Technology 2007: Roadmap to IT Leadership" but I was able to take a look at the proceedings online. There are also audio recordings provided by MediaSite from some of this more popular sessions.

With the start of the new school year only a few weeks old, I have already attended 5 meetings where the term "roadmap" came up in reference to having some guide to where a group was headed this year.

Some quick Googling found 1,950,000 results for roadmap education and 7,020,000 for roadmap technology so there's lots of roadmapping going on. There are companies that seem to focus on roadmaps of one sort or another. One such company gives this definition:

In effect, a technology roadmap identifies alternate technology "roads" for meeting certain performance objectives. A single path may be selected and a plan developed. If there is high uncertainty or risk, then multiple paths may be selected and pursued concurrently. The roadmap identifies precise objectives and helps focus resources on the critical technologies that are needed to meet those objectives.

There are companies that do product roadmaps too. Most don't even look like maps to a road.

All of this has me thinking about why we crave these roadmaps in education.

I love maps. I actually collect them. I'm on vacation this week and tomorrow I'll head home with my roadmaps beside me. I know where I'm headed, but I like having the maps. They are reassuring. But, of course, they are flawed because they are out of date when they are printed.

I could have gotten my Prius with navigation, but I didn't. I'm not sure exactly why. Well, there is the cost, but I think it also has something to do with my love of maps. GPS is the enemy of maps, right?

Google maps are cool, but not so up to date. (The high school I work with was under construction in 2005, opened in 2006 and still appears as a vacant lot on Google maps despite the 2007 copyright on the page.)

I think what educators, especially administrators, really want is not a roadmap. They want GPS. They want an ever-evolving, always-updating guide to where to go. They want the roadside attractions to change and the newest and best routes to appear. Alternate routes like social networking & podcasts look good, but they run off the edge of the map. Where will they lead?

It's possible that we are better off in education with roadmaps. A big picture, an overview. Keep your highlighters nearby to mark the roads and possibilities. When the new edition comes out, hang on to the old one. It's a nice record of where you were and how you got there.

YouTube Course


Now we know that YouTube has really arrived. Pitzer College in California is offering a course about YouTube.

I know your first reaction may be that here's another gut course, but you may want to dig a bit deeper before you dismiss the idea.

Alexandra Juhasz is a media studies professor who created the course called "Learning from YouTube." Her students control most of the class content and YouTube viewers from anywhere can comment. Lessons are posted and students are encouraged to post their own videos.

Juhasz wants students to consider issues such as "corporate-sponsored democratic media expression" and Internet culture.

Dr. Juhasz teaches video production and film and video theory. She produced the feature film, The Watermelon Woman, as well as nearly fifteen educational documentaries on feminist issues like teenage sexuality, AIDS, and sex education.Her first book, AIDS TV: Identity, Community and Alternative Video is about the contributions of low-end video production to political organizing and individual and community growth.

You can check out the group site for her course at http://www.youtube.com/group/learningfromyoutube and Professor Juhasz's YouTube profile and videos at http://youtube.com/user/MediaPraxisme

Beach Blogging


I'm at the beach this week. I'll have to do some Moodling for my course, check email a few times and maybe post here a bit, but I'm pretty much offline.

If the local coffee shop can give me free Internet, why are there still major hotels that can't throw in free access with my room charge? So when I can grab someone's open wireless from my balcony chair (like now) or I'm at the cafe with my laptop, I'll connect.

Almost midnight and the moon looks very nice reflecting off the Atlantic here on the Virginia coast. One could almost forget technology and education. Let me give it a little try.


A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines


Turing poster

If Alan Turing was a kid in an American school today, he would definitely be classified in some way. Still, he was a genius who is generally credited with developing some of the basic concepts underlying the computer.

Kurt Gödel was a fearful, reclusive kid who became a paranoid adult. Where were the special services people and child study teams for these two? Gödel was a mathematical genius.

I first heard author Janna Levin interviewed on NPR. She is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Her scientific research concerns the early universe, chaos, and Black Holes. In this book, she puts these two geniuses together in a way that stays mostly in non-fiction but allows some slight fictionalization of their lives.

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machinesstarts in Nazi Germany and passes over several decades bringing them to the United States.

The two never do meet up, though they know about each other. Their lives are not happy ones - loneliness, isolation, introspection, failed relationships.

The book's publisher describes it this way:

"A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines bridges fiction and nonfiction to tell a strange if true story of coded secrets, psychotic delusions, mathematical truth, and lies. This story of greatness and weakness, of genius and hallucination, is based on the parallel lives of Kurt Gödel, the greatest logician of many centuries, and Alan Turing, the extraordinary code breaker during World War II. Taken together their work proved that truth is elusive, that knowledge has limits, that machines could think. Yet Gödel believed in transmigration of the soul and Turing concluded that we were soulless biological machines. And their suicides were complementary: Gödel, delusional and paranoid, starved himself to death fearing his food was poisoned. Turing ate a poison apple, driven to suicide after being arrested and convicted of homosexual activities. These two men were devoted to truth of the highest abstract nature, yet were unable to grasp the mundane truths of their own lives. Through it all, the narrator wonders, along with these two odd heroes, if any of us can ever really grasp the truth."

In an online interview, Levin says about Turing and Gödel:

Alan Turing is most famous for breaking the German Enigma code during World War II. But among scientists, he's best known for pure mathematical discoveries inspired by Kurt Gödel's greatest work.

Taken together their work proves that there are fundamental limits to what we can ever know. In the wake of this massive blow to knowledge, Turing invents the computer.

So here they converge on some phenomenal truth about numbers but then diverge completely in their worldviews - Turing becomes an atheist who believes we are no more than soulless biological machines and Gödel believes in reincarnation of a soul. And then their suicides are bleakly complementary - Gödel starves himself to death in a paranoid delusion that his food is poisoned and Turing intentionally eats poisoned food, an apple, straight out of Snow White. I said you can't make this stuff up.

It's an interesting tale. I don't think the author is trying to equate madness with genius, though you could reach that conclusion. Something the book does use is the Liar's Paradox. The liar says, "This is a lie." That self-referential statement actually influenced Gödel's and Turing's mathematical discoveries. Levin says that she "needed to be in the book to tell the lies that lead to the true story, the fiction that's fact."

Why does Turing get top billing in the title? Is it that he built upon Gödel's work? Is it b ecause we are so consumed by computers now? The Turing machines of the book's titles, though often called the earliest computers, would disappoint most students as computers.

Confession: I actually didn't pick up the book until I saw her interviewed on Comedy Central and she talked about the book with Stephen Colbert who asked if he might be a Turing machine. The answer is yes.

Seeing


"We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

Ian Shive prepping for a show

If you haven't already guessed, I am a believer in serendipity and play (and constructivism if you want to take it into my education world).

This past summer I was able to get togther with a childhood friend that I had not seen in 25 years. Jim Shive was a neighborhood friend that I grew up with and after I lost contact with him, he became a professional photographer.

Another of my friends from the adult portion of my life, Steve Smith, was teaching at Christian Brothers Academy in NJ and ended up having Jim's son as one of his literature students.

Steve shared with me some short stories written by Ian that were excellent and I would get updates about him at college in Montana, working in films etc. And Ian Shive has become a photographer too.

So when I was updating links and ideas for my visual design course this semester about photography, I looked at Ian's web site and portfolio and bookmarking his site led me into other sites online that allow you to play with photography and images.

Cartier-Bresson photo of man leapingThere are sites that allow you to make a mosaic from a photoset, favorites, tags, or individual digital photographs or images. You can build images based on themes, colors, shapes or whatever. That site also works with photos hosted on Flickr or anywhere else. How about a photo wall (a kind of experimental photo viewing interface). You choose the photos and they appear a few at a time creating an ever-changing tapestry.

There's a very good site full of image tools (toys?) that can be used with students. I like playing with Interact 10 Ways from Getty Images. One of those ways of seeing leads you to color and truth. I guess my favorite to demo is one that I think of as an infinite zoom - a section that allows you to zoom in on a very small section of a photo and see that it is "built" of many other images and you can see many ways to explore - by a color that you click or choosing an image based on subject etc.

Then I was reading a piece called "Lighting the Way" by Alexei Bien that asks what would children who are blind show us about the world if they learned to take pictures?

This question came to photographer Tony Deifell in 1991. He had recently graduated UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studied anthropology and he ended up setting up an experimental photography program, called Sound Shadows, at Governor Morehead School for the Blind, in Raleigh, North Carolina. From that program came a book, Seeing Beyond Sight.

Thinking about seeing is a good question to ask our students in a variety of ways. I can think of many classroom moments I've had that might fall in this lesson plan folder. My film students were always asked to watch some film or video with the sound turned off. It changes how you see. Even a Tv commercial or movie trailer without the soundtrack gets a different look.

I used to teach animal tracking classes and they were a great way to do heightened seeing (adults and kids were on the same level in those classes - actually, the kids were proably better)

Or turn all that over and focus on teaching the lost skill of listening. Learning Through Listening is a good site to start you teaching listening with downloadable lesson plans, strategies, activities and case stories. Teaching tools include lesson plans using poetry, music, stories, and case stories of teachers meeting the diverse needs of their students. Learning Through Listening is the web site of the company Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. Are you starting to get ideas about inclusion and individualized planning?

Classroom 2.0


Do we need to start teaching digital citizenship? It's a question I found being discussed at Classroom 2.0 - a relatively new social networking site for people interested in the application of Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in learning.

There's no shortage of social net or Web 2.0 sites out there, but you won't find that many that are devoted to educators.

The site is very beginner-friendly with pages on how to use forums, start new topics etc. and the introductory forum message. There's also a wiki being built there, videos, groups and photos.

And as with any good social net site, you should find good links and other sites by navigating through th sections. I found a UbD wiki (UbD is the acronym given to Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe's approach to curriculum design as outlined in Understanding by Design)

I joined and posted my first discussion starter about our "End of the Essay" series, so let's see what develops there.