Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Conferencing with ed tech folks: what's hot and what's not

(cross-posted at BlogHer)

Blog conversations, Twitter, and wet t-shirts, oh my!

Those were just some of the highlights of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) annual conference, which concluded today. Overall, the conference was as all conferences seem to be: some useful sessions, some not so much--but terrific camaraderie and first-rate opportunities for networking with higher ed faculty, faculty development specialists, and ed tech folks from around the world.

And yes, you did read that correctly: I said "wet t-shirts." Allow me to explain. . .

How not to talk to higher ed professionals
If there's one thing I can tell you about faculty, it's that we have little patience for speakers who are tone deaf to the needs and concerns of their audience. We are, after all, people who are committed to research. So, for example, if you're speaking to a room that's at least 50% women--and savvy, intelligent women at that--you probably shouldn't include a "funny" photo of a faceless woman having her bra removed or a reference to "wet" Unless, that is, you want me to stand up in front of 75-100 people and ask you why all your examples of successful folks in the conative domain (e.g. striving, will, desire) were male adventurers (male astronauts, male pilots--and oh yeah, Christa McAuliffe, who died while striving), while at the same time you included references to women's bodies instead of their minds. And when you tell me gender doesn't matter in this conative domain after you gave gendered (male) example after gendered (male) example, you can forgive me for not being satisfied with your answer. (I'm gratified to all the folks--men and women--who approached me after your session to thank me for asking that question and continued the conversation.)

Also: Even if you are a jaded Baby Boomer professor, you're probably going to lose your audience of educators and educational advocates when you say things like, "We need to stop telling young people they can be anything they want." That's not giving us tough talk. That's showing that, again, you don't get the gender (and race and class) thing.

And if you're going to talk to us about educational publishing in the 21st century, you probably shouldn't use phrases like "damned idiot students." Unless, that is, you want the conference cool kids on the Twitter back channel to ramp up the snark to unprecedented levels. We went from initial disbelief to giggles to abject depression within 45 minutes. Some representative samples:

"I can get published on the Internet, yayyyyy!"

"I got a long tail for you right here pal."

"I can see the headlines now: 'Red Hat Co-founder Stoned at Ed Conference' Twitter stream under investigation."

"There's obviously something interesting about his experience, but he doesn't seem to have prepared to share it with us."

"I believe this man was scarred by this teachers. Badly scarred."

Laura Blankenship hit the nail on the head with her blog post about the divided audience at ELI. Admittedly, even though we all see ourselves as active learners and we tend to be more curious about technology than your average Jane on the street, we're a tough crowd because, as Laura points out,

I think a conference like this tries to strike a balance between reaching those who are unaware or only vaguely aware of the bleeding edge and those who are standing right on it.

In short, at ELI you're speaking to two very different audiences at once. We all care about pedagogy and technology, but we're at different places in our journeys.

How to talk to folks in higher ed
Engage us with ideas. Tell us about your project or program or research, but also let us talk. (Tip: letting us speak makes it harder for us to Twitter about your presentation.) Most of the conference sessions I attended gave participants time to chat with one another about what's going on at our home institutions. A+ to those panelists.

At the risk of seeming self-promoting, I wanted to highlight a session in which I was a co-presenter: "Who's Afraid of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and the Big Bad CMS? A Digi-Drama About Fear 2.0." The session description asked a difficult question:

Web 2.0 tools have the power to transform education. Such a transformation requires that faculty, students, and institutions take risks. With those risks comes fear, which is often unarticulated. How do you tackle this fear and make real change? Join us to face this fear together in a multimedia, interactive miniplay.

You can view the video and Voicethread presentations created for the session by bloggers Barbara Sawhill, Barbara Ganley, Martha Burtis, Laura Blankenship, and me. Following a viewing of the videos, we led participants through a brainstorming exercise. The audience participants generated many fabulous solutions for helping faculty, students, and IT staff overcome their anxieties about the collaborative web. Solutions ranged from offering one-on-one tutoring of faculty in tech tools to, er, ending nationalism. Laura provides a full list of the proposed solutions on her blog. (Thanks to all who participated--especially since our session was concurrent with a presentation by Michael Wesch of "The Machine is Us/ing Us" fame.)

What made this session a success was not only the incredible expertise and insight of my co-presenters, but also the quality of audience participation. If you know your audience, you can initiate lively conversations that extend well beyond the session's time slot.

This session also modeled the kind of connections educators can make by blogging. Many attendees were shocked--shocked, I tell you!--that we hail from five different, geographically dispersed colleges and universities. We were asked how we met, and we all said, "We blog!" (In fact, I first met the Barbaras and Laura at BlogHer 2006.) Like the conference's unofficial Twitter stream that provided an additional venue for commentary and critique, blogging was a unifying thread among many of the conference's most provocative and revolutionary thinkers--men and women alike.

My questions for you
How do you confront speakers who incorporate sexist, racist, or classist representations into their presentations, or who make assumptions that you find asinine? Do you prefer to address the issue in public on the spot, speak privately with the presenter following his or her talk, and/or blog about it?

How can we make the more revolutionary, provocative voices heard at conferences in industries (like education) that can be slow to adapt to changes of all kinds?

tag: ELIAnnual08

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In which Mr. Trillwing is a fabulous father

I'm at a conference, so Mr. Trillwing decided to send me a couple of video postcards from home. I thought I'd share for all those Mr. T & Lucas fans out there.


"Stick It to You":

In which Mr. Trillwing and I try to get iChat working. . .

Monday, January 28, 2008

Henry Jenkins keynote, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative

New Media Literacies Project

has been producing a documentary about the Wikipedia movement

Wikipedia is one of the major debates of the relationship of new learning technologies to the classroom over the past few years. Debates, explorations of how knowledge is being created and processed.

History department at Middlebury College in 2006 declared that Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation in papers.

Some skepticism is healthy. Students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. After all, Middlebury didn't say not to look at Wikipedia at all. Might as well say "Don't listen to rock and roll."

Goal today is not to say whether Wikipedia is good or bad, but to talk about how to work with our students regarding thinking critically about knowledge, sources.

With Wikipedia, we have the opportunity to expose kids to how knowledge is circulated and evaluated.

Can we understand the kinds of learning that is taking place as kids gather online in communities, as gamers, etc. Can we use that knowledge to help museums, libraries, etc. integrate learning into their online presences?

Turn around dialogue that takes place around technology and youth. Circulates too much around fear.

Open access digital media and learning books available here.

Kids need to be able to ercognize manipulation, propaganda, and to assimilate ethical values--Jonathon Fanton, MacArthur Foundation president, paraphrased.

It's about a new kind of literacy, not just substituting new terms for old ones. How do we involve kids, parents, teachers. What do kids need beyond reading and writing--even though reading and writing are essential to what we're talking about. Other ways of processing knowledge.

Participatory culture:
- low barriers to expression and civic engagement
- strong support for creating and sharing
- informal mentorship
- contributions matter
- social connection between members

Adults can participate online, albeit in less hierarchical ways than they do in families, schools, elsewhere offline. Adults (digital immigrants) need to be challenged to participate with kids (digital natives).

New Media Literacies:

  • social skills, cultural competencies
  • skills for participation, not just consumption
  • take seriously children's and youths' own cutural lives
  • not simply products of media technologies but also social and cultural practices that grow up around those technologies
  • unevenly distributed among the digital natives
  • shaped through interactions between children and adults at all stages
  • require a shift from a focus on media effects to media ethics
  • Come into play offline as well as online
  • Build on existing framework of literacy and research skills
  • Suggest the importance of integrating media literacy across the curricuum
  • Need to be fostered through schools, after school programs, public instituions, churchs, parents, etc.
Three core challenges:

The participation gap: the unequal access of youth to opportunities, experiences, skills and knowledge that will prepare them for full participation in the world of tomorrow.

The transparency problem: the challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways media shape our perceptions of the world. Need to think critically about games as well as textbooks. Games, maps, graphs, dioramas misrepresent as well as represent.

The ethics challenge: the breakdown of traditional forms of professional trainng and socialization which might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants. Don't pretend problems don't exist, but to engage in real potentials of new media, not to fear them. Make informed, reasonable decisions--kids need to know how to do that.


Collective intelligence: ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal

Judgment: the ability to evaluate the reliabiltiy and credibility of different information sources



The encyclopedia analogy to Wikipedia. Encyclopedia analogy also distorts because it suggests Wikipedia is something we consume, not something we do. Suggests Wikipedia is like finished book on a shelf.

Video: Wikipedia is democratizing knowledge. Bulk of human knowledge produced by amateurs who pursued knowledge for the love of what they were doing. Darwin didn't hold an academic appointment.

Wikipedia reminds us what's lacking in the tradtional media we take for granted: talk with authors, history of revisions/drafts.

Rather than complaining about Wikipedia inaccuracies, change the errors yourself.

How knowledge is connected together by links: high and low culture, past and present, cross-disciplinary. Example: link path from Shakespeare to Apollo Space Program is only 5 links. Emphasizes interconnectedness of content.

What holds a collective knowledge together is the social nature of its creation, not its ownership.

Expert paradigm vs. collective intelligence model. Debates about rules are part of process of the latter. Former have formal education, are hierarchial and expect rules-based creation of knowledge, dialogue about it.

Who gets to be an expert?

car mechanic/race care driuver
architect/construction worker

Many ways to know an object or field.

Collective intelligence is becoming a deeper and deeper aspect of our cuture: see fan culture surrounding Lost as fans try to puzzle out what's going on.

Wikipedia has a code of conduct that emphasizes respect. Different groups must work through competiting perspectives in order to construct a shared resource.

In a traditional encyclopedia, # of words indicates relative importance of topics. On Wikipedia, that doesn't hold true. (e.g. entries on Asimov vs. Woodrow Wilson)


Slowing down in my old age

88 words

Used to be 95 wpm. . .

Where I've been, in brief

Now: San Antonio, at the awesome Educause Learning Initiative conference, which begins midday Monday. My flight on ExpressJet was awesome. The plane itself made me feel a bit claustrophobic, but two colleagues happened to be on the same late-night flight, and the flight attendant sat down and chatted with us for about half the flight, and she was delightful--so much so that I'll be writing a letter to ExpressJet. She's studying to be a pilot, which I find awesome.

I'm up waaaay too late, but I can't sleep because my ears haven't yet popped from the plane trip. My ears really hurt. I really shouldn't fly when I have a head cold.

Why I really shouldn't be flying: Yesterday (Saturday) we had Lucas in the ER because he was having trouble breathing. Ends up he has a touch of pneumonia. I slept on his floor last night to keep track of his wheezing. Mr. Trillwing is a saint for agreeing to take care of the boy while he convalesces.

The ER was overcrowded, so we were put on a bed and a couple of chairs in the hallway. This was actually much better than our usual room because it was hard for the nurses and doctors to ignore us. After a mere three hours, we had our x-rays and prescriptions and were on our way home.

One of the prescriptions was for albuterol. Ever tried to get a 2-year-old to use an inhaler? Mr. Trillwing is good at it. I am not.

Did I mention my ears hurt really, really badly?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Class meme: privilege ahoy!

As seen at Anastasia:

Bold the statements that are true.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college (and M.A.)
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college (and M.A.)
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. (not sure on this one--we may have been close)
9. Were read children's books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs (with loans)
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp (only day camp)
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels (only motels and camping, with an occasional exception)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them ($500, from my grandmother)
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child (print series--does that count?)
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home (by which I mean, they paid their mortgage. They owned it outright shortly after I graduated from college, thanks to money they inherited from one of my grandparents.)
25. You had your own room as a child
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school (We had one TV, on principle.)
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 (I went to the 1976 Olympics at age 1, and flew to Hawaii at age 13)
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family


Saturday, January 12, 2008


Oh dear.

Lucas has learned the correct (if not always appropriate) use of the word "later." He learned the word from me, as over the past two weeks, when he requests something like a cookie for example, I've been telling him he can have one "later," after dinner.

But the tables have turned. Today he has used the word "later" four or five times when I've asked him to do something:

Let's change your diaper. Later.
Are you ready to go to bed? It's about time to go to bed. Later.
It's cold. Do you want to put on your sweater? Later.
Can you pull down your pants when you sit on the potty?* Later.
Time for a bath. Later.

Ah, well. . . At least "later" provides him a way of saying "no" less often.

*As of yesterday, he's once again taken an interest in the potty. He'll say he needs to pee, and then he'll run to the potty. He'll sit there for a minute, stand up, and then point to the potty while saying "Pee in der." But of course there isn't any pee in there because he never pulled down his pants or his diaper. Baby steps. . .

Monday, January 07, 2008

The crisis, in photos

Fang has an excellent and very funny photo essay of our weekend. Had I known there would be so many photos (how could I not have known?) I would not have dressed like a teenage boy grunge rocker from Seattle, circa 1993. (What can I say? It's my comfort shirt. And there was absolutely no hairstyle maintenance going on.)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Back home, with electricity

Just a quick update: We're back home, and we have power, at least for the time being. Lucas is happy, the dog is relieved, and Mr. Trillwing is considerably less tense.

Me, I'm just pissed that I lost a Saturday to the storm, and upset that I had to replace everything in the fridge and freezer. I replaced less than half of what we had, and the bill came to $175. Grrrrrrr. . .

The weather is still pretty sucky, and promises to remain so throughout the week, though I don't anticipate the winds being as bad as they were.

In happier news, while Lucas napped and Mr. Trillwing caught up on his work, I slipped off with a friend to see Juno. Highly recommended. If you like the lead actress and you can deal with the creepy, I also recommend Hard Candy.

We interrupt this crisis to bring you some toddler brilliance

Lucas just drew this. Pete asked him what it was, and he said "face."

It totally looks like a quick political cartoon of Mr. Trillwing. I don't think I could do as well, and Lucas is only 2 years, 4 months. . .

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sturm und drang: a damage report

Oh, where to begin? How about just some bullets today?

  • When I left the house on Friday morning, a tree at the end of our driveway had fallen across the cul de sac, nearly sealing us into said cul de sac and narrowly missing one of our cars.
  • When I left the house on Friday morning, we had electricity. (Do you see where this is going?)
  • On my way into work, I encountered two intersections where the stoplights were completely dead--no flashing red lights, nothing.
  • When Mr. Trillwing arrived at daycare at 7:30 in a distant corner of town, the daycare provider had no electricity.
  • Power flickered all day at work.
  • Mr. Trillwing called at 10:15 to say he had no electricity.
  • Near noon, Mr. Trillwing went to pick up Lucas: "If this is the end of the world, I want to be surrounded by my family."
  • Mr. Trillwing calls occasionally to check in with damage reports: our large butterfly bush has fallen and is partly blocking our sliding glass doors to the backyard.
  • Another damage report: Mr. Trillwing has been outside hacking with his father's WWII machete at the neighbor's tree that fell into our yard, knocking down the fence and resting its branches on our roof.
  • Yet more damage: another portion of our fence is blown over.
  • At about 2:30, Mr. Trillwing brought Lucas to my office to enjoy electricity, heat, and wireless Internet.
  • We all bundled up and went home near 5 p.m. Still no power, though it wasn't raining much, either. Yay for that.
  • At 5 p.m., it was getting too dark to see in the house, so we located our flashlights and lit candles around the living room.
  • We decide around 5:30 that we need to try to find someplace to eat, since we can't cook (electric oven and stove--we rent, so we didn't have much of a choice) and since it's getting very cold in the house--probably too cold for Lucas.
  • Almost everything is dark on our drive; there are a few isolated blocks with electricity, and those people have their Christmas lights on. I'm not sure whether to consider them assholes for showing off, or to be grateful that they're providing some light on the very dark and slick roads.
  • We find a supermarket with a generator, and it's mobbed with people looking for D batteries (sold out), Duraflame logs, water, and any food that doesn't need to be cooked. People look pretty grim. I try to order a deli sandwich, but they're out of basics, so I opt for a dinner of chips and salsa.
  • Lucas refuses to eat his no-cook dinner, a peanut butter sandwich (I forgot to buy jam), milk, raisins, and orange wedges. He eats a couple cups of single-serve applesauce.
  • We spend a very cold night at home, Lucas and me in the master bedroom and Mr. Trillwing on the couch. (He can't sleep in the same bed as Lucas.)
  • When we wake up in the morning, the temperature inside is 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping. Yay. The good news: we may not have heat, but we have hot water.
  • We drive downtown and find the university and downtown grid have power. We have a warm breakfast in a warm restaurant. Lucas takes forever to eat, which is frustrating us because by this time other powerless suburbanite refugees are crowding the restaurant, looking for tables.
  • The morning paper has a photo of house sliced in two by a giant elm, as well as a picture of some guy surfing under the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, wind speed at a nearby regional airport: 69 mph. At the Golden Gate Bridge, it was 70 mph, just 4 mph shy of hurricane status.
  • We call a motel in the next town over and get a room. They let us check in immediately, including the dog. (For those keeping track, this is the same place we stayed when we were refugees from the heat a year and a half ago, when the air conditioner for our apartment crapped out at 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • I call my parents to alert them to our new location. My mom tells me she had to physically restrain my father from driving 400 miles, up into the storm, to bring us a camp stove. Then they tell us they'll pay for the motel room. I tell them that given the choice between hosting visitors and accepting their charity, we'll take Door #2. Small blessings.
  • Lucas's best friend (age: 28) calls to let us know she's OK but is without any power, including hot water. She cooked for a neighbor in her apartment building on her camp stove. She's a grad student and can't afford a motel room.
  • We have a psychologically miserable lunch in this small town at a bakery that offers panini sandwiches. Mr. Trillwing is upset that we didn't go to a "real restaurant," meaning IHOP or Denny's. Much tension and grumbling (and apologizing) ensues.
  • We get back to the motel room. Lucas will not go down for a nap.
  • The next wave of the storm hits. During a lull, Mr. T runs back to our house to check on it while Lucas and I (finally!) nap.
  • I wake up from the nap before Lucas, and anxiously await Mr. T's report. That's where I am now.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Taking bets (with a prize!) on TA orientation

Anyone want to place bets on how many hardy souls will show up to the mandatory all-day teaching assistant orientation I have organized for Friday? Forty-six TAs* registered, but one of our vice chancellors just sent out an all-campus e-mail that included this warning:
The National Weather Service has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for Interior Northern California predicting heavy winds (40-60 mph)** and heavy rain (3-5 inches).***
I'm taking bets from my bloggy readers. Winner gets a choice of either a novel or a pound of See's candy in the mail, should he or she choose to disclose a mailing address (sorry, North American readers only--I can't go broke on postage). In the event two people are equally close to the final number, the person who guesses closest without going over the number wins. (It's so very The Price is Right, I know.) You have until Monday, January 7 at 9 a.m. Pacific to post your guess, at which point I'll reveal the number of attendees.

You can post your guess in the comments or e-mail me at trillwing -at- gmail -dot- com.

*This is our tiny TA orientation. The one in the fall draws about 600 first-time TAs.

**Have I mentioned the neighbors have coastal redwood trees in their front yard? Tall trees + shallow roots + high winds = fun times! Also, we have a mostly dead cherry tree in the backyard that I'm hoping will hang on through the storm. UPDATE: a tree did fall down, blocking the street and very narrowly missing my car, but it wasn't a redwood. Still, it was a sizeable tree.

***The e-mail mentions that researchers should check on the campus livestock and sensitive equipment on the weekend. No mention is made of checking on TAstock or sensitive teaching consultants.