Tribes, News, Technology, Social Media and Education: First Reflections on Speeches During Blackboard World ‘09

WASHINGTON - APRIL 20:  Vietnam War veteran St...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Watching a thing unfold and reflecting on the elements as they construct a larger picture are two different activities and experiences.

Reflecting on the Blackboard World '09 conference, I can begin to make connections between the opening keynote presentation, in which Seth Godin (author of Tribes) discussed the concept of tribes and the power of connectivity, to the closing session by Lester Holt of NBC News, who shared his background and passion for journalism and search for understanding. Given the conference announcement of the partnership between Blackboard and NBC News Archives on Demand, it is not surprising that Lester Holt would promote this new resource. However, the power of his message was above and beyond any promotional pitch.

Seth Godin started with exploration of who we are and how we identify ourselves, and others by the clothing (uniforms), hairstyles, the products we buy, and other actions or items, which become the symbols and banners of our “tribe”. He concluded by illustrating the power of connectivity and how individuals with passion to accomplish a goal can network and form a tribe, which can and will contribute their skills and various resources to implement the changes necessary to succeed. His message also conveyed that the technologies and tools of the day are powerful agents in the process.

Lester Holt reflected on nearly a century of journalism and how media has and can impact our awareness and understanding of events. He stated that news organizations record events and have been the “first documenters of history”. He also addressed the challenges which traditional news organizations face with the advent of the Internet, cell phones, digital cameras, and what some refer to as “citizen journalism”. When asked about information coming from these nontraditional sources, he acknowledged that many times, the professionals have been “scooped” by the amateurs. But he was quick to stress the importance of considering how we gather and verify information to document historical moments. Some of the remaining strengths of professional journalism are archival resources, professional research capabilities, including the ability to ask good questions and verify answers. Who and where did this report come from? When and where did the creation of this image, video, recording, etc. take place? He stressed the importance of a verified timeline, in order to establish that a story has not been fabricated to promote a particular agenda.

So what do the messages of both of these speakers convey to me? What are the links, which connect their stories with education and with my work as I consult with faculty about their teaching objectives and use of technologies in teaching and learning?

Seth Godin reinforced the power of group work and the impact which social media is having and can increasingly have on the formation of "tribes' and world events. He confirmed that the exploration of social media to expand learning both within and outside of the classroom is valuable work, which can benefit our faculty and students as they pursue both formal and informal learning.

Lester clarified, that as learners, we must all ask good questions & that good teaching is about enabling others to do the same. He reinforced the notion that the use of stories, particularly those, which are created and delivered with digital technology, can be a powerful tool in conveying understanding and/or provoking thoughtful discussion. To me, his message is consistent with Constructivist Learning Theory, which holds that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences.

My time listening to these men was well spent. I am re-energized to continue my own learning and gain new understanding about the world in which I live, as it transforms at an ever increasing speed.

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The 3 G's of Mobile Computing in July of 2009.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

I include the date in this title because I believe the "promise" of mobile computing will be fulfilled in the near future, but the current reality is that:

Gee, I have an iPhone

Gee, it has neat features & available APPs

But, Gee it's problematic to get connected!

As I started this note, I was participating in the Blackboard Conference at the Gaylord National Hotel, National Harbor, Washington, D.C. The comments below have been written upon reflection.

I’ll start by confirming that I love my iPhone. Falling in the category of a cell “phone”, I really do not think of this as a telephone; it is a computing and communications device. My expectations are to be able to make phone calls as desired, but equally, if not more importantly, I expect full Internet connectivity and the ability to access and share information from any location, at any time. However, the experience of getting connected and being able to access resources or participate in activities such as Twittering, online polling was widely variable and frustrating. Making a telephone call was the most successful. Within the hotel, I had 5 bars most of the time. However, 3G connectivity ran hot and cold. Just as I started to gain confidence that I could expect service, it would fail. Switching to the wireless network provided by the conference organizers was just as problematic. I did find moments of joy, but all in all it was frustrating. Because I’m on a quest to learn about mobile computing, I kept fighting the good fight. But, all the time, I thought about my dream to leverage this technology in the classroom or in association with learning experiences in any location. Sadly, we are not ready for prime time.

Attempting to use this technology in education should be encouraged and it must be supported. Educators must work with technicians and providers to communicate the issues and solve the problems. We have the world at our fingertips and we need to be able to grasp it and hold on. If we could put a man on the moon, forty years ago this week, we surely can step up to this challenge and open the doors to a new world of communication, collaboration, learning, creating and sharing.

Someone let me know how I can help.

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