Posted on April 24, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
It’s that time of the year. Across the nation, collegiate faculty members are checking luggage, riding in cabs and staying in hotels to attend and present at academic conferences. Having just returned from a stint of three international conferences in four weeks, I’ve come to realize that the conference format is not an ideal format for professional development. Although many people have begun to question the type of discourse that occurs at traditional academic conferences, I want to just focus on the economics of conferences here. Let’s take a look at AERA, the conference from which I returned last week. The American Educational Research Association was held in Vancouver and over 30,000 educational researchers descended on the Canadian coastal city. Each attendee paid registration fees, airfare, hotel costs, meals and other expenses to participate in the conference. If each attendee spent $1,000 to attend the conference, the grand total would eclipse $30 Million. While the conference was rewarding and helped me grow as an educator and as a researcher, I wonder whether there are better ways to spend that money. I also wonder if there are other ways to foster the same type of academic discussions without the time and money spent on traveling.
Google is attempting to shake up the conference world by offering a free, one-day online conference on May 2nd from 12 – 10 PM Eastern. Drawing on a variety of topics from a group of speakers worldwide, Google Education on Air utilizes Google’s new Hangouts on Air functionality. With traditional Hangouts in Google+, a chat was limited to 10 users. While Hangouts on Air doesn’t allow more participants, the feature allows any number of observers who watch the conversation as it streams through YouTube. For the Education on Air conference, each presenter will identify nine participants to share in the discussion while any number of attendees can watch the conversation live. It’s a really ingenious format and has some real potential to shake up conference formats.
While the structure of the conference might be a little nontraditional, the schedule spans the EdTech terrain and offers some unique topics including Mind=Blown with minutephysics, Becoming a Google Search Ninja, and A Global Hip-Hop Passport. With over 40 different presentations planned throughout the day, Education on Air has been organized around six larger themes that include:
- Hot Topics in Educational Technology
- Communicate, Connect & Share
- Google Apps
- Harnessing the Power of the Web
- Instructional & Assessment Tools
- Get Productive
If you’re interested in attending the conference, be sure to check out the conference schedule and the list of presenters for more information. The best part of Google Education on Air is you won’t have to worry about losing your luggage on your way home from the conference.
Filed under: Google | 5 Comments »
Posted on April 10, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
Google created quite a stir last week by announcing one of its projects currently in development. Project Glass (also known as Google Glasses) will allow users to connect to a wide range of information through a wearable pair of glasses. Using augmented reality functionality, people wearing Google Glasses will be able to access a wide range of information as they go about their normal lives. Want to see a bus schedule? Google Glasses will have you covered. Wondering about the weather? Google Glasses will let you see today’s forecast. Trying to find the quickest walking route to the library? Google Glasses will help you get there. Visiting a foreign city and wondering about when a certain building was constructed? Google Glasses will have that information as well. If you’re having trouble visualizing what this will look like, check out this video created by Google.
While most analysts see Project Glass as being several years away from reaching the everyday consumer, the technology is definitely on its way. As an educator, I see technology like Google Glasses and wonder about its effects on our curriculum and our roles as educators. Think historically for a second. Looking back 100 years ago, most students came into contact with very few sources of information. Students could get a book from a library or possibly read a newspaper, but they relied on educators for most of their information. With reference books being scarce, students needed to memorize facts, figures and equations so they could easily access that information when it was needed. Today’s students experience a much different informational environment, both educationally and socially. Students are literally being inundated with information everyday. Technology like Google Glasses is not causing this information overload, it just makes that process more tangible. With so much information at our students’ fingertips (or line of sight), some may wonder, what is the role of education and teachers? Despite having access to a multitude of resources, students must learn to critically analyze and apply the information they encounter. Learning to do this requires skilled educators. Even with the emergence of technology like Google Glasses, the future looks bright for education.
Filed under: Google | 3 Comments »
Posted on April 2, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
“Democratizing” is a word you’ll hear used by many technology folks these days. Outside of the political connotations of the word, “democratizing” means making something available to everyone. You may have heard that the Internet has “democratized content” and made information accessible to people around the world. Larry Lessig has argued that technology has “democratized production of creative works.” With a laptop and a few inexpensive apps, any teenager can produce a movie, create a song or write a book. It is clear that technology is allowing people to access information, take on new roles and participate globally in new ways. Technology is a democratizing force.
This weekend I witnessed a very different kind of democratization, but one still rooted in technology. My in-laws were visiting my family and were staying at my house for a few days. As some readers may know, I have a 10 year old daughter and a 5 year old son. My in-laws love their grandchildren a great deal and enjoy spending time with them. When they visit, I often see my father-in-law playing games with my daughter or my mother-in-law building Legos with my son. I know this is probably what many grandparents do with their grandchildren but it’s a little foreign to me. I didn’t grow up with grandparents myself and I find this cross-generational interaction really interesting and educational.
I walked in to the kitchen Sunday afternoon to find my mother-in-law and son huddled around my mother-in-law’s iPad. She purchased the device a few months ago and is still learning what it’s capable of doing. Without saying a word, I sat back and watched my son as he taught my mother-in-law how to access different apps on her iPad and explained what each app did. It was very cool to watch. Here were two individuals separated by almost 60 years and yet their roles were clearly reversed. My son had taken the role of a teacher and my mother-in-law had taken the role of a student. Their ages really didn’t matter. My son had some expertise that could be shared with my mother-in-law and it was obvious that both were comfortable in their new roles. My mother-in-law asked questions. My son re-demonstrated certain apps when necessary. In a way, technology had democratized teaching and learning. It allowed my 5 year old son to become a teacher and my 63 year old mother-in-law to become a student.
Before anyone thinks I’m just being a proud papa and championing my son’s brilliance, I don’t think my son’s technology abilities are out of the norm. In its report called Always Connected, the Sesame Workshop examined the digital media habits of young children and found that half of five-year-olds went online daily. While my son would love to go online every day, we try to limit his computer time and vary his experiences. He plays T-ball, rides his bike and gets dirty playing in the yard. He’s not really a techno-kid at all.
Besides, this observation isn’t really about five-year-olds or mother-in-laws. It’s about expertise and openness. We’re entering a world where people have expertise to share. Technology has blurred the definition of teacher and student. Go to YouTube and search for tutorials on almost any piece of software and you’ll find screencasts created by middle school students. And it’s not just software tutorials, either. Want to learn how to do a french twist? Go to YouTube and you’ll find tons of examples. And that’s the real message here. Technology has given people new opportunities to become teachers and students. Whether it’s a five year old demonstrating to his grandmother how to use an iPad or an investment banker choosing to create a worldwide tutorial site like Khan Academy, technology is a democratizing force in education.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »