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Sunday, January 18, 2009

End User Networking

My local supermarket, the Acme in Randolph, NJ, recently installed do-it-yourself check out lanes. They were one of the last of the bigger stores in the area to go this way, distributed checkout now available as a growing option.

In the late 80's, I worked for Pan American World Airways, in the department termed End User Computing. The idea was that instead of having secretaries and assistants who did word processing and interacted with a computer, the end user, from the chairman on down, would all have a computer and do their own work including email, word processing, database analysis and reporting, spreadsheets, etc. This was an enormous change in approach and philosophy and was, frankly, one of the attempts to save the airline which had not made money since the 70's. The concept was to distribute the computing work to the actual person who needed the work done, not through an intermediary (word processing department or secretary or assistant.) Now it seems in most organizations this is how it's done, with a few people having secretaries or assistants, but most doing their own email, word processing, spreadsheets, etc.

In the end, by the way, computers (of course) could not save the airline and in 1991 it closed its doors. According to a friend of mine still there at the time they piled up all the computers with the trash and threw them out. I hope some went to good use in some way.

Now we have Web 2.0, cloud computing, ATM's, grocery store self checkout, home/school/work/cafe and nearly everywhere Internet access, social networks, personal networks, online shopping (which didn't suffer so much economically as retail stores during this past holiday season),Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, Diigo, and more. Nearly everything pushed out to the fingertips of us all. End user networking in effect. No go between, no one to separate us from the work and the activities.

How far will it go? I think we will see eventually the end of the IT departments as we know them - although there will be a need for experts in centralized support. Instead of everyone having servers at their locations, they'll connect to server farms where redundancy and security are part of the package. This is already happening of course but not so much yet at schools. But in a recessionary economy, cost cutting and consolidation rule, and IT will be examined closely.

Who will survive, who will thrive? Most likely the people with the end user networking perspective, who have a strong PLN, who have seriously seen and considered the shifts happening, who can understand infrastructure and grids and large scale information delivery, who have become experts at some things and generalists at other things, who can articulate their vision, and who can form and strengthen learning and working communities.

The product I'm personally waiting for is the fully functioning portal to gather together all the various networks that exist, with a single signon, with feeds and updates and access to everyone and everything in my personal and professional learning network, where opportunities/ideas/discourse/information/learning/teaching/microblogging/news feeds are all available from any networked computer anywhere. I know parts of this exist but not in a fully formed environmental consolidated one stop shopping way.

But as we consolidate and distribute and bring back to the end user, how to we strengthen communities where we actually see one another? Wouldn't it be great if along with this fully functioning one stop shopping portal there were a fee charged that would go back to local communities that would set up localized drop-in in person community centers that would be physical spaces, with full Internet access, which would allow people to drop in, socialize, interact, speak in person, hold meetings, share information, read and relax together. There might be specific things set up to gather say teenagers together, others for retired people, others for family. It used to be that every town had a movie theatre and lots of people went to the movies nearly every week and saw their neighbors and friends and met other people routinely. This new physical community center could help tie us together in online and personal ways.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Link to 21st Century Keynote/Teaching of a Class

The link is live for the session to happen on Tuesday 2/24/09 in Dearborn, MI for the One-to-One Institute.  I am really excited about this - it's going to combine a lot of thinking about teaching, learning, planning, assessment, new tools, student-centric classrooms, and more.  Participants will have access to a Wiki instead of handouts. The link has all the details including a flyer and how to register.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

21st Century Classroom/One-to-One Institute in Michigan

On a snowy day, I'm having a great time planning for an event next month. Will post the URL when it's ready (soon, during the week) - but it's for for the One-to-One Institute to be held at University of Michigan Dearborn on February 24, 2009. Synopsis is I'll give a keynote on 21st Century teaching and learning followed by my teaching a 21st Century classroom of 6th, 7th and 8th graders while observed by the participants in the morning and then again in the afternoon, closing with a panel of the students. With much deconstruction of the process, the planning, the resources, the tools, the goals -- and with an eye towards making the ideas replicable, accessible and practical for teachers. A Wiki will be fully populated for all participants in lieu of "handouts."

The idea of 21st Century learning is in many ways a new moniker for many existing important educational ideas. Collaborative learning, team learning, higher order thinking, student-centered learning, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, critical thinking/problem-solving skills are part and parcel of what is now termed 21st Century skills and learning. In the end it's all about the facilitation of deep thinking. Deep thinking doesn't involve repeating facts or finding information, although facts and information inform thinking. Teachers viscerally know when thinking and synthesis is going on in their classrooms. Those educators attuned to these ideas will thrive in a 21st Century classroom.

The difference, however, between these concepts as they were employed even 5 years ago and today's classroom is the abundance of new resources and tools for engaging students and facilitating their deep thinking. And the tools available for the teacher while planning, executing and assessing the project. We'll be using Wikispaces, Voicethreads, Animoto, Apple Keynote, Google Maps, Excel, Smartboards, laptops, blogs, Twitter, and probably more. All without Webmasters or a tech department. All planning is being done at home on my wireless network and at various Internet-enabled cafes and libraries. With reliance as always on my PLN (Personal Learning Network) contacted and polled through Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook and email.

This is going to be way too much fun.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

HotChalk Column Live

The HotChalk column is live - predictions for 2009.  It always means going out on a limb to predict these things but at the very least there will be something to chuckle at in 2010 - at the most some of them might happen!