Friday, May 21, 2010

Skype Keeps on Getting Better

Image via CrunchBase
Download the beta version of Skype for Windows

I have been enamored of Skype for as long as it has been around.  It is one of those tools like etherpad, diigo, and zotero that just works.  It is the one tool that I recommend all teachers become friends with because it is a gateway to long distance sharing and learning with others.  Now Skype has five-way video conferencing.  And as David Gurteen points out it has screensharing as well for both Windows and Mac.  Here are some more 'hidden' features:

Forward your calls for free to another
Skype name, e.g. from your home PC to your work PC.

Use Skype and IM-chat simultaneously--redundancy is good.
Emoticons add-on.  And how to add them to Mac.
A directory of plug-ins.
Use it as an answering maching or a lie detector.
Or just read this very clear and useful post.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bionic Teaching
Education is failing.
Our solution is not to work, to spend money and time on our teachers, to help them become better, instead we send our money away, spending precious time testing products of a system we insist is broken.
We buy software. We buy content. We buy external experts.2 We buy reputation. We buy “trust” and “quality” because we don’t believe either really exists in our schools.
Invest that money in our teachers, on smaller classes, on things that have been proven to matter.
Make teaching a career that isn’t based on martyrdom. Martyrs die flaming deaths. Systems based on them don’t last. There are no easy answers. You can’t buy, process, software, magic your way out of this.
There is no microwave dinner version of educational reform.

Lots of very strong sound bites.  I suspect that the writer would agree that we have had a problem with the experts being on top and not on tap.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Twitter: Gateway to Teaching Professionalism

Image via Wikipedia
Educational Hash Tags  

Many of us started demonstrating Twitter without a thought as to its practicability.  I know I did.  I recalled showing it to a group of teachers in a summer writing academy almost three years ago to the deafening yawn of....meh.  I knew it was a big wave building, but had no idea how its complex iterations would flood my own professional life.  Now?  If I want to get my 'regular' work done I better not open up TweetDeck.  Just this morning I followed the #wisdom2conf hashtag to a fabulous TEDxTokyo talk by Dr. Hiroshi Tasaka on Invisible Capitalism  and from there to Umair Hacque on Behavioural Innovation and from that to RSA Animate's glorious animations including Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilisation.  The biochemical high from scratching the itch of the curious is my mostly positive addiction especially when combined with its necessary consequent--sharing.  I guess that is why I conflate teaching and learning to the point where I am so overcome by my good fortune that I occasionally turn to my class with a conspiratorial whisper and say, "They pay me to learn!" 

One of my goals this summer is to get my twitter professional development on track and to help others do the same.  This means taking in another river of information.  I can hear you saying good luck with that to which I respond with a hearty, "Thank you.  Any help you might lend in this OED-ian task would be gratefully acknowledged with words but no money."  The educational hashtags link above is a good place for me to start sharing a little bit more deeply with the Twitter community what I am raking in.  It is time for me to innovate my own behavior, to disrupt my own personal learning algorithm, and to extend an empathic toe into my professions water in preparation for leap into the shallow end.  At least I think it is the shallow end. 

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