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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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August142006

Back to School: Five Predictions and a Waffle

It’s that time of year, kids - we’re going back to school. (Okay, I’m not going back to school, but millions of educators and students are, so there’s a good chance this applies to you.) In honor of the start of the 2006-2007 school year, I thought I’d offer some predictions as to where things might stand on a variety of things by the end of the school year. So without further ado, I’d like to present Five Predictions and a Waffle.

1. The Cell Phone Wars Will Heat Up Across the Country Until a Number of Parents and School Board Members Spontaneously Combust

We all have a love-hate relationship with our cell phones: we love the convenience of them, but hate it when other people use them in restaurants, buses, name-your-public-space. Now schools are the latest battle front in the cell phone wars, with districts around the country struggling to figure out how to deal with throngs of students armed with pocketable communications devices.

The big trend right now is banning cell phones. I’ve talked about the ban in New York City schools previously, while just last week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina decided to go down the same path. In some cases, parents are leading the charge against phones, but in others, it’s the parents who are demanding their kids have the right to carry them. Last Wednesday, the NYC board of education held a public meeting to discuss the disciplinary code, but the meeting turned into a grudge match over the board’s anti-cell phone policy.

“I am not planning on telling my child not to bring his cell phone to school,” said parent Monica Acuso. “Honestly, I am going to give him the cell phone and tell him to hide it.” Meanwhile, a group of parents are suing the board to allow their children to keep their phones, promoting what they consider to be a more tolerant “use it or lose it” policy, in which mere position of a cell phone wouldn’t be a hanging offense. “When I go to court, the state court, we have to turn off our cell phone,” said Norman Siegel. “And if the cell phone goes off, you’re subject to a penalty.” The school board is refusing, so we’ll see what happens in court.

2. MySpace Loses It-Girl Status To Some Upstart Punk

Has MySpace peaked? It’s hard to be sure, but I think the date is coming soon if it hasn’t happened already. There’s no doubt that MySpace has been the most talked about website of the year among parents and teachers, but the question is whether it’ll stay the most talked about site among teens. Sure, millions of them are still using it, but it’s just a matter of time before another online social network becomes the in place for young people. The video swapping site YouTube may have even already claimed the title from MySpace. Other sites like Bebo are definitely giving MySpace a run for its money. Meanwhile, I’ve noticed a growing number of teachers and parents signing up for MySpace accounts, and there’s nothing as powerful to make something uncool as to have lots of teachers and parents hanging around seeing what the youngsters are up to.

You may not realize it, but there are hundreds of online social networks vying for our attention, and any of them may suddenly become the hot new place online. If you don’t believe me, just ask Xanga or LiveJournal, who were the MySpaces of the teen universe before Myspace became Myspace. (Sorry, I just wanted to see how many times I could mention Myspace in a dependent clause.)

3. Cyberbullying Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

With so much public debate focusing on online predators and student safety, I’m hoping that more time will be spent tackling the very serious issue of cyberbullying. Like I reported last week, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is reporting that cyberbullying is on the rise. In many cases, kids that wouldn’t bully their peers in real-life are getting into the act online, creating yet another venue for children to be emotionally harassed. Unfortunately, it’s rare for the issue to be discussed in-depth at a national level. Sadly, this only seems to occur when a bullied student lashes out violently. But do we need to see another Red Lake take place before we treat it as an ongoing crisis?

To learn more about cyberbullying, I highly recommend Nancy Willard’s Cyberbully.org and Bill Belsey’s Cyberbullying.org. Both contain a wide range of resources to help students and parents deal with online harassment.

4. Moodle’s Meteoric Rise Become a Hurtling Asteroid

I dare you to spend a week reading education lists or blogs and not be able to find at least one reference to Moodle. No, Moodle isn’t a cross between a Mexican Hairless Dog and a Poodle. (I shiver just thinking about it.) Moodle is a free, open source course management system that’s taken the education world by storm. An ever-growing numbers of educators swear by Moodle and evangelize it whenever they can, no doubt because it’s built from the ground up on social contructionist principles. Martin Dougiamas, who first started tinkering with the idea of a free/open source CMS in the late 90s, probably never imagined it would grow to a community of more than 900,000 educators, five million student users and half a million courses. Though it was originally envisioned for higher education, K-12 enthusiasts are flocking to the tool, bringing together a growing number of developers who want to make it as useful as possible to that community. So if you’ve never heard of Moodle, mark today on your calendar, because it’s probably just a matter of time before you see it for yourself in a school near you.

5. Vlogging Becomes the New Podcasting

Yes, I know I haven’t done a proper posting about podcasting - I’ve been saving it for a slow news week - but that doesn’t change the fact that podcasting has become one of the hottest edtech topics of the last several years. I still remember showing up to the small Apple podcasting demo at the 2005 National Education Computing Conference and stumbling upon a mob of educators - hundreds of them - practically foaming at the mouth to learn about this new-fangled tool. Podcasting, of course, is a technique for publishing audio online so that anyone can subscribe to it it; that way, any time a new audio file is posted, they receive a copy of it automatically, even downloaded directly to their iPod (hence the name podcasting). Educators all over the world are now using podcasts for teaching and professional development, utilizing other people’s podcasts or having their students create ones of their own. All the cool kids are doin’ it.

But hang onto your hats, cowpokes, ‘cause podcasting ain’t just audio. In fact, while the whole podcasting movement was exploding, another group of multimedia enthusiasts were exploring a similar technique using video. Some people call it video podcasting or vodcasting, but these terms make a lot of the pioneers of the movement cringe. Just call it video blogging or vlogging, thank you very much. Right now, you can probably count the number of K-12 video blogs on your hands - okay, not literally, but the numbers are still small when compared to podcasting. Yet more and more teachers are having their students experiment with video, thanks to the proliferation of editing tools like iMovie. It’s just a matter of time before a few teachers and students start demonstrating really creative educational uses of video blogging. And with the proliferation of bandwidth and free hosting sites like OurMedia and blip.tv, some day soon, it’s all going to click.

And last but not least, here’s that waffle I mentioned:

Web 2.0 Hits a Brick Wall - Maybe

Then again, maybe video blogging might go nowhere, along with other online activities, depending on what happens with DOPA. This legislation, which would force schools receiving federal Internet subsidies to filter out commercial interactive websites, didn’t get much attention until it passed the House of Representatives almost unanimously a few weeks ago. Activists worried about student online safety hailed the bill’s passage, while many online educators lambasted it. Now the bill has moved to the Senate, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next. I’ve previously said I was surprised it passed the House, so now it would make sense for me to not be surprised if it passes in the Senate. It’s all going to depend on whether DOPA remains a pet topic of the educational blogosphere or if it becomes a talking point of the fall congressional election. So basically I’m going to predict that everything will soon change. Or it won’t. Let’s just hope we get some notice so we can all tune into C-Span to see what happens.

What are your edtech predictions for the 2006-2007 school year? Please post your thoughts here. Even better, if you’re a blogger, post your predictions on your blog and tag them so we can all follow along and enjoy the prognostications…. -andy

Filed under : Blogging, Cool Tools, Policy, Safety, Social Networking, Video, Websites

Responses

DOPA

DOPA will pass. It is an election year. The Republicans want people to think that they are doing something to address concerns (given they are not doing much about anything else). The Democrats who are smart enough to understand the Internet (probably could count on one hand) and who are running for Congress will not vote against DOPA because they do not want to see any political ads “My opponent voted against legislation to protect your child from online sexual predators.” By my count, this makes a significant majority.

The real fun will be when this legislation hits the FCC — which is charged with the task of more clearly determining what is and what is not a social network site. After the FCC has decided that over half of the Internet now meets the definition this will lead to an interesting uproar.

Addiction Concerns

I think we are going to see many students come back to school totally addicted to social networking — via web sites and cell phones. These activities appear to be related to social status and social anxiety about social status. Frequent electronic communications translates to popular and accepted. I think some/many teens have been “mainlining” electronic communications this summer and will return to school with what should essentially be considered a “behavioral addiction.” They will have withdrawal symptoms. They will be even more aggressive in finding ways to get around the filter and will be using cell phones more aggressively.

This will add significant fuel to the fire of the cell phone wars.

DOPA …. one positive aspect of passing this could well be to reduce the digital divide between the USA and much of the rest of the world. (in Education and ICT)

That is … the USA slows down while the rest of the world speeds up.

Only a few downsides …

- a generation (or so) of USA students may well be disadvantaged
- other countries do watch what the USofA does and aften catche the political emulation bug
- the motivational incentives for commercial and non-commercial organisations/individuals to spent time or money on pushing the barriers are reduced
- the politicians that supported DOPA get re-elected and continue the (supposidly) restrictive tarifs.

So not too much to worry about really with DOPA is there?

Thanks for some great food for thought! As a result, I
posted my comments and thoughts on my blog.

DOPA Interesting, isn’t it, that on one mountain the polititians are screaming “No Child Left Behind” and “Raise Test Scores”, and “Global Competition”, and on the other mountain they’re screaming “Shut down access” and “You Cannot Use the Tools that Other Students around the world can use.” So much is written about how the country is falling behind in SO MANY areas, and how the education system is failing, and yet what should be expected when the tools are removed?

Maybe we should have a law that says that people can’t make laws unless they know what the heck they’re talking about.

How much legislation could we get through if politicians had to stop haggling and making deals and learn both sides of the impact of their laws.
We were talking about the big profit of education services at work today, I think that our laws are being hugely impacted by the companies that stand to make the money by “protecting” us. The fact that they have money to push legislation through that then has school districts paying them in order to be compliant, is one of my big beefs with education these days.

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