Tag Archives: Global Cooling Project

Dean’s “Design Matters” – to My Walden 2.0 Project

[Welcome to Beyond School’s new home, by the way. This is my first post since leaving Blogger. If you subscribed to the old “BS,” please update your feed by subscribing to this new home on my own WordPress install. I’m excited to learn more about customizing WordPress by administering my own blog. You can expect to see many new things in the coming weeks.]

It’s only natural that the K12 Online Conference presentations feel uneven to some of us. Each presenter has a different background, level of experience, set of priorities, agenda, audience. Some hit me, some don’t.

Dean Shareski hit me on this biting Seoul Saturday morning. If a lot of the more tech-oriented presenters are the Henry Fords of this Digital Revolution, Dean is more of a William Morris. Aesthetics is the focus of his “Design Matters” presentation, and if you only watch one K12 presentation, this is the one I’d recommend. It puts the ghost back into the machine.

Dean asked for feedback from his viewers, so I gave the below on the comments section of his K12 Online presentation page. I’m pasting it here because it’s the beginning of a new project for me: The Campsite Seminars, I’m calling it for now. Or maybe I like this better:

Walden 2.0

Here’s the comment:

Dean asked for feedback as we watched, and I assume that means feedback here, though it’s strange to be first. Anyway, here’s mine.

I like Dean’s opening point: much classroom-created content (the majority?) Cheese Wrap by chrissamsuffers from poor design – “cheesiness” in the worst sense (think Kraftt).

(Warlick’s keynote touches on the same idea with his “competitive information products,” though the worker-drone connotations of “products” still irks me, as it focuses more than I would like on economics and money-making, more than on aesthetics and character, I would argue – but anyway….)

Christian Long’s interview suffered from poor audio quality, so I couldn’t understand much of it (we’ve all experienced the wrath of the techno gods, so I sympathize). I did catch, though, the exploitation of simple walking distance and space between buildings as a learning opportunity, and that resonated. Our own campus is very restricted by its hilltop, woods-surrounded setting, which is the opposite of the example Christian used of having to walk a mile between buildings: we’re too cramped. But WE DO HAVE THOSE SURROUNDING WOODS. That’s fascinating in this new light. I’m picturing possibilities of assigning students – in small groups, so the discussions are not diluted by too many voices and not enough time – to take voice or video recorders of whatever sort into the woods to record conversations in that setting – I can’t help but hope that the French Cheese by Zeetz Jones Flickrsetting would influence the discussions in interesting and more thoughtful ways. Have them discuss a theme from our reading of King Lear, for example, or whatever topic might benefit from the meditative openness of a wooded setting. Recording these discussions – video seems more desirable, when I think about it – would allay most fears of “unsupervised” students in the woods. Take the footage back into the classroom and quick-edit these “campsite seminars” into short films. I’ll have to try this. It’s literally “Beyond School”

Dr. Schwier: “Does it work? Is it beautiful? Is it powerful? Is it inspiring?” This is refining my “campsite seminars” idea above. I said “quick-edit” those seminars just now. Why rush? That way Velveeta lies.

Why not assign them to be voice-overs for iMovie projects that add BEAUTY and FORCE via film, stills, music, titles? Yes, yes, yes: let’s aim for brie and camembert.

In fact, I’m seeing now that two or three class sessions of this new mode of “class discussion” – sitting on the pine needles under the autumn trees – might be best, to give students time to adapt to talking in natural surroundings, in “nature’s temple.” Talk about “educational architecture” – how about the dome of the sky over a canopy ofTokei-ji by Raiden256 pine?

(I’m liking this very much, Dean. Thanks for this very innovative angle. Much of the K12 conference so far has been school-2.0-as-usual, if you get what I mean.)

At 12:00 now: Planning. I’ll play along with my Campsite Seminars whim above, and apply the rest of your presentation, when possible, to it. Consider this a “teacher think-aloud.”

So the Seminars – I think they’ll actually work better for something more relevant to my students than Shakespeaere (which they and I love). I think, instead, it will work for the classroom blogging “Capstone Project” I’m currently launching with them.

The idea of that project for my high school seniors – so close to the end of their 12 year sentence of infantilization in schools – is to help them learn about whatever their passion, and their possible future (a)vocation, is, by reading real-world bloggers who share their passion(s), and writing about what they read on their own blogs.

They’ve already created their blogs, and this weekend, are composing their “about” pages and searching for feeds about their passion(s)/interest(s) on Bloglines (I still haven’t found a better feed-searching engine than Bloglines’). They’ve claimed their blogs on Technorati, embedded Sitemeter and Clustrmaps. Now they’re ready to connect.

The problem I think I’m fighting, though, is that they don’t understand the magical potential this project offers them to make connections with people in the world of kindred passions. They’ve never linked to a writer in a blog post, and seen that writer turn up a day or two later in comments.

They’ve been too busy writing 5-paragraph essays – or homework-assignments-as-blog-posts, which is the New Abomination – about irrelevant subjects to tired teachers all their lives to write about what they love to real-world readers – so they just don’t get it. They don’t know how to dream, how to let themselves be visionary; and they don’t know how dreams and visions can become realities through connective writing.

So, in short, I’m trying to introduce them to the world beyond school, but they’re so “studentified” they seem unable to see this as anything but homework because, after all, I’m a “teacher,” and they are “students,” and all of this is happening in a “school.”


So I think these Campsite Seminars are better suited to serving as a “retreat from school” in both the spatial and the psychological senses. I want them to think – possibly for the first time, since so many of Art Nouveau by Face It Flickrthem are so constantly addled by the pressures of “schooliness,” the homework, the SAT’s, the college applications, the school spirit jive, on and on – about which world they want to enter when they leave school forever – in seven short months.

So back to you, Dean: How do I plan for these 70-minute retreats into the woods to bear fruit? [Clicks “play”….]

“What’s the purpose of your movie?”
–Hm. In an attempted nutshell, to figure out:
1. What makes you tick.
2. What you want to become.
3. Which is what you will read about on blogs and other sites.
4. And what you will write about…
5. For an audience you want to attract.

Okay, that’s about as far as I’m going to take this here. I see Dean asks for feedback on his blog, and on the wiki he made for this, etc, and suddenly feel like my students when they’re dealing with my tendency to have a million sites for classwork :)

Dean, it was a very valuable presentation. You got beyond the tools and beyond the generic edublog talk.

Thanks for that.

For more on the quest for the student blogging grail, see these posts:

Photo credits:
Cheese Wrap by chrissam42
French Cheese by Zeetz Jones
Tokei-ji by Raiden256
Art Nouveau by Face It

Technorati Tags:

Beautiful, Relevant, Teacherless

Way past bedtime, but it’s Chusok – Korean Thanksgiving holiday – and I have the week off. And I want to share this link to the prototype of the Project Global Cooling website, which we’ll migrate to its own URL next week, and permanently open up to global, student-created content for annual contributions.

I share it for two reasons: first, the theme design is an example of WordPress at its aesthetic and functional best. Refresh the page and watch the header change, for a taste of the aesthetic. And click the flags on the left, and watch – this is just magic to me – watch the language change, within the theme. This is ideal for a global collaborative project, though more than Euro-languages would be “more perfect.”

Second, a few minutes noodling around on the site should clarify the project idea for anyone unclear on it, or wanting a link to forward to others.

April 19 – Earth Day Saturday, 2008 – is still comfortably far away. Plenty of time to find a place for a concert in your area, book a few bands, and hook a few of your more visionary and creative citizen-students up with others like them around the world. Here’s the badge for our planning Ning – we’d love it if some of you could embed it on your own blogs, Facebooks, what have you. Just click for the embed code, and if you do – thanks :)

Visit The Global Cooling Collective

PGC Update: An Invitation to Students Wanting to Learn Website Administration

A message to all members of The Global Cooling Collective

Visit The Global Cooling Collective

This is Mr. Burell in Seoul. I just bought the projectglobalcooling.org web address (“domain”) from godaddy.com, and am going to teach any students – in any participating country – the process of creating and administering that website. (That site will be empty until we install everything to get it running next week.)

It’s a real-world skill for the 21st century.

We’ll use Yugma.com‘s free desktop-sharing to let you learn this. You’ll be able to watch the process, and talk with the rest of us on Skype, as we go through the steps of:

1. Renting a host server for the site.
2. Installing WordPress blogging software on the server.
3. Adding plugins and other add-ons to WordPress to make it do more cool stuff.
4. Being the website administrator.

If you want to learn, just reply soon – like, by this Saturday, 29 September.

While I have you: thanks to all of you who are in. It’s only natural, since the school year has just started, and what we’re trying to do has never been done before, for there to be “messiness” right now. Hang in there, and don’t hesitate to contact me, the Seoul students, or anybody else with questions or ideas.

Finally, a cool update: Timothy Stott, a student in Kazakhstan, is visiting Paris right now, and seems to have succeeded in getting a “Paris” group on the Global Cooling Collective Ning.

Timothy, whether France comes through or doesn’t, you’re already a star for doing your part to give them a start.

Get in touch if you want to host your country’s PGC website – and do it soon!


Clay Burell

About The Global Cooling Collective
The “Year of Global Cooling” network in cities worldwide, planning student-organized and -promoted global Earth Day concerts. A “live earth” movement for local bands and green-minded students. All concerts streamed online. Join!

Click here to visit The Global Cooling Collective!

I’m Still Amazed: Notes from Shanghai Learning 2.0 Conference

Oof. 1.42 a.m., not through my first cup of coffee after sleeping off the return flight from the Learning 2.0 Conference in my old home and Favorite City in the World, Shanghai, and so probably ill-advised to attempt this post right now. But it’s back to class in 6 hours, and we all know how fast the life train moves. So here goes:

Jeff Utecht (his blog The Thinking Stick here), my old guru from my days at Shanghai American School, deserves a Geeky Award for the work he put into organizing this (and if we don’t have Geeky Awards, we need to invent them). It was an amazing experience, and if you know Jeff, you know it was surely due in no small part to his endless energy. The amazing thing about Jeff is that he always looks rested, when you know he can’t be. I suspect he has a make-up artist. Great job, Jeff! My evidence is that the “uninitiated” teachers who came down from my school were exploding with insights that I couldn’t successfully impart locally at my school in Seoul (“a prophet in his own land” and all of that) – particularly Wade Hopkin, science teacher, who jumped into the Twitter conversation within ten minutes of arriving and never looked back, and Jason Spivey, history teacher and my first “flat classroom” wiki collaborator last year with the French Revolution Ant Farm Diaries, and who was ready to move beyond new tools to questions about new pedagogy.

To be clear, here’s The Thing about conferences like this: after physically participating in the conference and seeing and hearing the thinkers and ideas of this new world, Wade and Jason now have a list of people they want to stay connected with – and that need has made them understand the power of RSS subscriptions in feed aggregators. They want me to walk them through setting up a Google Reader account this week so they can follow these ideas now. (Hidden agenda: I want to get them blogging as well.)

Kim Cofino and Justin Medved at International School of Bangkok and I finally got to meet in person. It’s funny how I can’t remember how Kim (her Always Learning blog here) and I first came to know each other last year. All I know is that Kim was one of the first non-high school educators to jump in to the 1001 Flat World Tales globally collaborative wiki writing workshop I blogged so incessantly about when trying to find willing partner schools. She has since become one of my top-shelf edublog inspirers. Meeting her over beverages at the Night One social was such a pleasure. Even more pleasurable was being able to inform those in her school who also came that they had what I don’t hesitate to call an educational genius as a colleague, with a world following – another prophet (and one whose feet I’m unworthy to wash). Coolest moment: watching one of Kim’s colleagues, whom I’d told the night before about my Cofino Fan Club membership, come up to Kim the next day and say, “Kim, I just want to tell you that I’ve discovered that You are The Bomb.” Helping that realization sink in at Kim’s school can only make her more effective in pushing The Shift more widely with teachers at her school.

Justin Medved (here for his blog MEDagogy) appeared out of nowhere during the social hour at the end of Day One to perform one of the nicest Random Acts of Kindness I’ve received in my life. After introducing himself, he said, “Clay, I know that you’ve been frustrated by the lack of response to your Project Global Cooling in the last few months. I just want to say that at International School of Bangkok, we’re concerned about global warming too, and want to help prepare our students to deal with its challenges when they become world leaders. We love your project idea, and we’re in. So that’s a verbal commitment that ISB will be on board. School just started, so give us time to settle in, and we’ll be in touch.” He didn’t have to do that.

I took a walk right after that to clear my head and digest everything in the swirl, and realized during that walk how huge our movement is. Justin was one of the NextGenTeachers who interviewed me last year about the French Revolution Ant Farm Diaries and the 1001 Flat World Tales for a podcast, but there were seven or eight NextGenTeachers on that conference call, and I was too new to the edublogosphere to have discovered all their blogs and gotten to know them that way. And life was just too fast at that time to follow up on that podcast and explore all those NextGenTeachers’ blogs to get to know them. Like Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, whose keynote discussion comments made me an instant fan, but whom I had somehow managed to remain ignorant of after 9 months of edublogging, Justin was someone I hadn’t found and subscribed too. That’s remedied now, far later than it should have been. It was so great talking to Justin, comparing our roles at school and learning from each others’ local experiences, and simply discovering what a Good (and Sharp) Human Being he was. That’s another take-away that only comes from attending a conference in the flesh, and getting to know the virtual community face to face. (Thanks, Justin, for the encouragement. FYI, Kazakhstan and Hawaii have joined Seoul already in Project Global Cooling, and Amy Jussel of the San Francisco non-profit Shaping Youth is a good samaritan working overtime to support and spread the project, so we’re off to a promising start!)

The Big Leagues: Wes Fryer, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and Will Richardson

Wes Fryer: Because my high school is in its second month as a 1:1 Laptop school, I had high hopes that Wes Fryer’s “I’ve Created a Podcast – Now What?” workshop would answer more technical questions about bandwidth issues, storage, file compression, and so forth about podcasting. Another example of how hard it is to keep abreast of the galaxy of expertise in Learning 2.0, I had lost contact with Wes’ blog (Moving at the Speed of Creativity – one of the most resource-rich blogs I know of) over the last school year – there are only so many hours in a day, and when you’re a full-time classroom teacher and edublogger, one of the first casualties is time to keep up with the avalanche of posts in your feed reader. But Cindy Barnsley, Australia’s brilliant Thinking 2.0 edublogger, had recently brought Wes’ blog back into focus for me in several posts featuring his thoughts and (masterful) podcasts.

At that workshop, I thought it would be a good idea to share that globally-connected anecdote about how I had re-discovered Wes in Kansas via Cindy in Australia and assigned Wes’ podcast “Strive to Engage, not to Enthrall” to my AP Literature class on the first day of school in Seoul, just in case any of the workshop members were so new they didn’t understand the literal magic of this new world. I loved noticing how Wes was still open to the wonder of that magic when he heard that anecdote: it seems like the magic never fades for us, no matter how experienced we are or how long our participation in this world.

Anyway, I took away from Wes’ workshop such a helpful list of resources and tools that delivered what I needed and then some, so it was a brilliant way to start the day. And as was the case in meeting Kim and Justin, so with Wes: the virtual acquaintance through the edublogosphere made the face-to-face acquaintance seem more like a re-union than an introduction. It’s been said a million times re: NECC and other conferences, and it’s true: we already know each other before we ever meet each other, which makes that first meeting a strangely easy and wonderful thing.

The second of Wes’ workshops that I attended was on how to compose music on GarageBand, and how to find copyright-free music with 2.0 tools like CreativeCommons search and other resources. It was amazing how, in a 40-minute session, Wes was able to teach me how easy it is to use GarageBand to create original music through both its loops library and its “real intstruments” function. I hadn’t been able to make the time to learn this myself by using AtomicLearning or even the GarageBand “help” menu, so 40 minutes with Wes took care of that and, again, “then some.”

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach: Watching and listening to Sheryl (her 21st Century Collaborative blog here) on-stage during the round-table keynote discussion was my first real introduction to her, and I experienced one of those instant bonds with a person in a hard-to-pin-down, holistic way. Her passion was pure, her personality wonderfully playful, her ideas infectious. It was Sheryl’s sharing of an epiphany she had during a K12 Online Conference 24-hour, around-the-world-by-timezones Skypecast, that especially hooked me. Sheryl shared how she was asked by the Skypecast participants to repeat something she’d said three or four or five times, until she asked, “What, is this Skype-connection breaking up? Why can’t you all understand me?” Her epiphany came when she, this American woman, heard the answer: “No, it’s your accent. We’re having a hard time understanding your English.” Hearing this simple story was a Moment for me. Maybe it was that Sheryl was not sharing some “credentialed moment” as a “2.0 expert” in which others learned from her, but instead shared a moment in which she learned from 2.0 a valuable lesson; or maybe it was that what she shared was a lesson in American humility in our community of nations that all Americans could stand to learn (and I say this as an American more and more aghast at the disastrous consequences of the American influence on the world not only politically, economically, socially, and environmentally, but also educationally) – but whatever it was, I’ll carry the memory of that moment to the grave.

I met Sheryl later and – for some reason I’m laughing to myself as I type this alone at 3.30 a.m. in my apartment – I Just Like Her So Much. I can’t wait to plumb her blog, start commenting, and extending our acquaintance.

And here’s a cool bonus: Sheryl brought her son Noah to the conference. Noah’s a junior in college and an IT worker for a telecommunications company in Virginia (and who Sheryl home-schooled, which I more and more think I will do if/when my fiancee and I have a child, unless Things Shift in our schools). Noah is also a techy with a knowledge base I don’t have, and need to gain to fulfill some duties at my school. So I persuaded Noah to become my Tech Support Consultant on an as-needed basis, with pay. I foresee some very cool applications of Yugma-Skype desktop sharing over my cPanel and WebHost Manager as Noah teaches this old dog how to do stuff smarter. (And like his mom, Noah was one of those people who is just instantly cool and easy to talk to.)

Finally, there’s Will Richardson (his Weblogg-ed blog here). Because I have a possible personality disorder of sorts (don’t take that literally), and just don’t do well in crowded spaces – physical or virtual – I’ve always been intimidated by Will’s blog (same with Jeff Utecht’s). Their comment pages are just too crowded for me to be any more comfortable than I am at crowded social functions. And that has kept me from availing myself of the opportunity to converse with Will on his Weblogg-ed by leaving comments, which is so idiotically self-defeating. (Maybe it’s a fear of rejection, I dunno). I tend to follow newer and lesser-known bloggers, and comment more actively on their blogs, because of this “disorder.”

But as was the case with Wes, so with Will. I’d managed to wise up and return to regular readership of Will’s blog over the past few months, and in so doing to develop one of those strange “one-way connections” with him that comes from maintaining a “lurker” status on someone’s blog. That connection came from gleaning from Will’s blog that, beyond the 2.0 stuff, Will shares with me a concern that the edublogosphere may have a blind spot, a myopia, that I don’t hesitate to call tragic: namely, its refusal to come to terms with the imperative to elevate issues of ecology and citizenship to our discourse about what education should be. I’m sorry, but no matter how much you Twitter, blog, wiki, or podcast, if you’re not facing the realities of our unique historical situation as inheritors of an Industrial Age Gone Mad, and our unique educational imperative to face the consequences of that in our schools in order to seek “radically sane” Shifts in response – while there’s still (hopefully) time – then in my book, you’re still somewhat Irrelevant 1.0.

Will is the only top-tier edublogger I know of who doesn’t skirt this issue. And that made me look forward to meeting him to get more of a sense of who he is, and hopefully make a connection.

It’s now 4 a.m., and I’ve got lesson-planning to do before school starts, so I’ll have to give Will short shrift for the moment by saying that a) when I finally went to one of his workshops, he did an excellent job of facilitating conversation instead of saging on the stage with a lecture – and that conversation was pregnant with solutions; b) like Sheryl and Wes, he was easy and enjoyable to talk with from the start; and c) because I had to leave the conference early, due to a monumental muck-up by my school’s faculty support office that scheduled our return flight to depart before the conference was over, I never had the opportunity to talk with Will the way I did with Sheryl and Wes. I wanted to pick his brain about ways to more effectively launch, promote, and extend Project Global Cooling, and point out to him that in the same week I blogged about how the Big Names in edublogging were not promoting citizenship, climate change, and “beyond school” relevance in their posts, Will had distinguished himself in my book by his post about Live Earth (of which our Project Global Cooling is essentially a global schools version, student-led instead of celebrity-led) entitled, “Before We Get Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging. . .Let’s Save the World.” But, damn, damn, damn, that conversation didn’t happen. I sought Will out and sat down with him to seek an opening for that conversation, but it was right as he had to leave for a tour of Shanghai with Jeff, Sheryl, and the rest. (But this is web 2.0, so there are ways.)

No time for a fitting conclusion – and in this world, conclusion is not a fitting word anyway – so I’ll just end by saying stay tuned. I’ll follow up with my conference notes, links, and more.