Friday, March 16, 2007

Will Richardson at MACUL

I went to Will Richardson’s first talk this morning. I almost didn’t because I’ve seen him talk many times before, but I’m glad I did. He is one of those speakers you should go out of your way to see. He helps me to remember why it is important to keep pushing the bounds of technology. I really needed that this morning after spending way to many hours trying to do something that should have been “easy” with my relatively new MacBook. I was able to get it done after much gnashing of teeth and two different work-a-rounds.

Richardson spent quite a bit of time talking about how he has learned more from the internet and the interactions it makes possible than he ever learned when he was a student. He highlighted this by showing the ClustrMap of the people who visit his blog. They come from all over the world as they do for all blogs. We end up in an environment where every one is as passionate about the same things we are. They come to our blogs because they are interested in what we have to say and so they will often interact with us and we end up learning more.

This extends into teaching in two major ways. The internet and the read write web makes interaction so easy. We don’t have to be the only content experts in our classrooms anymore. We can “invite” others in by simply highlighting great web resources or by facilitating conversations with real experts out there in the real world. The tools we have today make this much easier than ever before.

Additionally, many students get involved in online communities where they can share their passion with others. In one example he showed a fanfiction site that has hundreds of thousands of user generated stories. Many of these stories were undoubtedly written by our students who were writing for fun and learning at the same time. They do this not for a grade but because they enjoy it. They will learn a lot from this, maybe more than they will in their English classrooms.

One of Richardson’s recurring themes was that there is a wealth of information and tools for building information available on the web today. We need to be teaching our students how to use these tools effectively, not simply blocking them because the tools have the potential to be used inappropriately.

I could write volumes on everything Will talked about, but there’s more great stu. You can see his outline and talking points on his wiki handout. Now I’m off the the Apple booth to see if they can help me with my iMovie beach ball of death issues (the reason for the teeth gnashing I mentioned above).

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