In the recent week I have had the pleasure of taking part  in a social network for Norwegian teachers and educators called del&bruk. Formed by Ingunn and other entrepeneurs it has seen a mushrooming of new members by the day. One of the main issues predominant in discussions are the fear of sharing. The idea is to share your ideas on implementing ICT in your lessons and hopefully find useful ideas that others have posted. I have to admit that I haven’t been good at sharing specific lesson plans yet, but I am however engaged in discussions regarding past or ongoing projects in my own work. This network has given me an ample opportunity to share concerns and enthusiasm about my efforts to implement ICT in my lessons.
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An interesting article at Betchablog addresses the issue with The New Digital Divide and points out the sad fact that the ones who usually find themselves in networks like del&bruk are already into the whole Web 2.0 community and are active in an array of networks from Flickr to Twitter and bookmark using del.icou.us and attend courses in Second Life. There is a distinction between the “will’s” and “will-nots”, and the latter have many excuses why they don’t want to take the plunge. Where does the responsibility lie?

The sole responsibility relies on the individual teacher and his/her willingness to try out new digital applications and technologies in the classroom. This is the case in most schools in Norway and beyond I dare say. Personally I do feel overwhelmed myself with all the possibilities and having actually taken the plunge myself with a trusted colleague we’ve now started blogging, making digital stories and films, producing music and taking advantage of Quizlet in language classes, Tutpup in Maths and Dipity in Social Studies. It does create a lot of extra work, but the experiences we make are valuable lessons to us as teachers and it is very rewarding discussing them with others attempting to do the same in communities like del&bruk.

Life itself is in fact lived in beta, and the most important thing is to take the plunge and try new things. Teachers are often being accused of being conservative, but del&bruk is yet another example of how we do take responsibility and try to change the status of the classroom and bring us into the 21st century. It will be interesting to see how things develop and I hope I will continue to share and participate fervently.

On Thursday this week I had a lecture in Norwegian class on “Farlige Bøker”, dangerous literature in regards to the freedom of speech and violating it in different contexts and how it has been challenged in Norwegian literary history as well as in world literary history. Names such as Agnar Mykle, Salman Rushdie and Anna Politkovskaya.NRK, Norway’s national broadcaster, has a massive archive of in-house programs available for streaming on their website. The program Bokprogrammet presents different thematic approaces to literature and society. I had a specific program in mind (Farlige Bøker, 06.02.2007) that would compliment and exemplify the lecture.After a brief introduction I used a PC, projector and an online connection to stream the specific programme on the whiteboard. No asking around for a VHS cassette in case some teacher had taped the program a year ago.

A common New Years resolution is getting better organized, and I’ve been looking for many ways to keep my act together as a teacher and in private. But, in spite of all the calendars on my mobile, on my Macs and my physical organizers like my Teacher’s organizer, I still find it hard to stay on top of things. The biggest problem is accessibility and usability.

In a perfect world I would come across an environment where all my jotting-downs of appointments, details, to-do-lists and deadlines could be easy to access and easy to alter if there are changes. It wouldn’t matter if I was online/offline or home or at work. Previously, and particularly when traveling and living abroad I’ve had diaries and a numerous amount of notebooks and scrapbooks for notetaking on the run. Nowadays I try to use my mobile, but it still doesn’t excel the notebook and it definitely does not work to its full potential like synching to my Macs, one laptop and a Mac Mini stationary.


So how to go about this? I tend to use iCal on my Macs with varied luck. It’s neat and tidy, but it does not sync with my Sony Ericsson K810i (No, I do not have an iPhone…) and neither my Teacher’s organizer book. I do use Google Calendar though, and I do import my iCal calendars into Google Calendar for easier access from work. I do sync my iCal calendars with my .Mac-account, but for convenience sake it’s easier to use Google’s alternative since I prefer using Gmail, Google Docs and Google-owned and compatible Blogger to my Mac-mail.

I crave simplicity. I started playing around with Tumblr, a simple utility to collect feeds from different social networks. In my case I collect Flickr- and Blogger-postings as well as my own videos form You Tube. They call it a lifestream and I like the idea. I like the idea to collect my online activities in one place in a simple way. Could this be done for my organizing needs as well?

I use Netvibes as well, and that’s a tremendously simple starting page for online surfing. I know I could embed my calendar there, but it still has proved rather troublesome to have access and be able to change it quickly on the spot. I guess the key to this is mobility, and I got mobility in my hands – my mobile phone (be it an iPhone or a Sony Ericsson…). I came across GooSync – an app to sync my Google Calendar with my mobile, but I haven’t made it work satisfactory yet, but it’s a start.

Lars is doing his master on human interaction with machines and computers, and he had a project last semester where he had to find the best system for a family to use a planning utility on iPhones (the omnipresent…). Again, Lars argued for simplicity, usability, safety and omnipresent accessibility. A planning system for a family has to be simple or else it wouldn’t be used by its members. But perhaps, we as humans would continue being disorganized and messy regardless of the means to help us to improve the clutter of loose papers and half-finished entries into our online and offline calendars. I’m still searching for a better way.

Here’s a thought:
Internet and blogging make us dumb… and dumber. I have a past as a firm tech-skeptic, but got turned over after living in Tokyo. Technology and in particular Internet has transformed how humans interact and communicate. This year’s Nobel Prize winner in literature, Doris Lessing, is not impressed. She believes that it has stalled intelligent dialogue and debate. Commentator and author Andrew Keen has criticized the Web 2.0.-development and the “cult of the amateur”, including schmucks like me who blogs for nobody. Mrs. Lessing and Mr. Keen thinks the Internet has spawn a generation of semi-thinking individuals with superficial knowledge of their cultural inheritance.

If anyone cares… I agree and disagree.

Personally, reading books and immerse myself in meaningful intelligent pursuit of knowledge have been increasingly harder after the intertextual multimediality of the web with constant IM, mobile communications etc. On the other hand, it has given me the opportunity to access a global community of information and communication with people with shared interests and shared past through social networks such as Flickr and Facebook. It has given me the opportunity to build knowledge together with others through communities like Wikipedia, and as a teacher I have helped students find an enthusiasm for writing through blogging.

There’s a lot of BS out here, and a lot of meaningless gibberish, but that’s nothing new in human activity. I’m an optimist, and I believe the likes of Mrs. Lessing and Mr. Keen tend to have valid points, but lack to see the full potential for meaningful discourse and communication through the advances of technology. A, to me, new magazine (printed and an innovative online edition) named Monocle is an example of this. Covering a vast area of topics ranging from politics and culture to architecture and design it has an interesting look at the near future. Have a look!

The ECIS conference in Madrid has presented me with many inspiring and enlightening lectures and workshops amid a flow of high expertise and know-how. The entitled workshop Web 2.0 Cocktail enticed me and was exactly what it advertised to be: a cocktail: short ‘n’ sweet, creating a buzz and leaving you wanting more.

A great mix of teachers and IT directors from international schools in France, Czech Rep, Austria and Quatar gave the audience a brief lowdown on what’s moving and shaking online in terms of the woed and much talked about web 2.0 and how to incorporate it in your lessons and use it as a pedagogical tool in a responsible and efficient way.

A range of resources were revealed as well as a great amount of online sites were discussed and presented. Social networking websites like Ning, Linkend, Flickr, Myspace, Facebook and Second Life were given attention and examples were given on how teachers have used these virtual environments to initiate student-generated projects across the globe. International students in Prague had an ongoing project with two schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, on Ning where they posted videocasts, communicated on IM and collaborated on essays.

The inspiring Julie Lindsay, Head of IT at Qatar Academy, focused on wikis and blogs in the classroom. She pinpointed the incredible wave of pedagogical tools in the surge of the web 2.0 and mentioned resources for adventurous teachers such as Mashable, Five Sites, Go2Web2.0, and Atomic Learning. Mrs. Lindsay has spent the past years on research and utilization of wikis in schools – wikis that work – for student-based project work. A great place to start is Wikispaces for teachers, whereas PBWiki and WetPaint can be great starting points as well. Mrs. Lindsay did close her contribution to the Web 2.0 cocktail session with a tribute to Twitter and the curious phenomenon of miniblogging – oddly enough I was the only one in the crowd twittering.

Chris Chater had a nice run-through on Audio 2.0 and excellent web tools for the music teacher. The cute and funny Flashy Horses from Sweden is definitely an online classic. Mr. Chater did devote most of his time to the value of podcasts in teaching, and pulled out of hi sleeve online resources like Podcasting Tools, Odeo, Podproducer and the very interesting newcomer Gabcast – a no-nonsese way of podcasting directly from your mobile phone to the web.

On an end note Google Docs and Zoho were discussed. Particularly interesting was Barbara Stefanics’ keynote on the cautious first steps to using web 2.0. tools in the classroom. She had her class set up an Gmail account each before she opened a document in Google Docs and invited them all in. She posted questions and her 12 students responded in real time to them. A genuine act of dynamic word processing was unfolding – and that’s just the beginning.

There’s a lot of hype on the sexiness of web 2.0., but used in the right ways for the right purposes it might very well be the transitional bridge into the 21st century that flabbergasted teachers have been looking for.