Friday, February 29, 2008


Sitting here at home reflecting on a great week at the IL-TCE Conference and specifically what I learned as I prepared and presented my presentation. Of course I had the advantage of being the teacher, so I learned the most out of anyone in the session.

The presentation itself was on tagging. Well, not exactly tagging. It started with the act of tagging and using it on the low end of Bloom's Taxonomy to categorize and sort information. My goal was to move beyond that and use the technology to get kids to get to higher order thinking in comparing and contrasting, analyzing, and synthesizing information.

One of the examples I used was comparing 2 tag clouds of past presidential speeches:

Easy to see some shifts in focus over the course of a presidency. My point was - which is more interesting and impactful for a kid? Telling them what happened during a presidency or giving them some clues to the mystery and letting them find out for themselves?

I don't want to go through the whole presentation, you can see Mike Bachrodt's backchannel of it here.

Anyway, here is what was reinforced for me by doing this presentation. Connections.

I keep coming back to this theme in my educational career. Life and learning is about connections. These conferences are about connection people and ideas. My classrooms should be about connecting kids to ideas (and to others).

So as I am talking about all of this I am suddenly reminded of James Burke. He had a TV series called Connections, another called The Day the Universe Changed (used it in earth science class), and wrote an article for Scientific American.

Wikipedia describes the Connections TV series as:

Connections explores an "Alternative View of Change" (the subtitle of the series) that rejects the conventional linear and teleological view of historical progress. Burke contends that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting in rational self-interest with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries' actions finally lead to.
You can totally see an example of this at the site Reconnections with James Burke.

This way of thinking is what my presentation really was about. Taking something traditionally linear (text) and tearing it apart and putting it back together in a new way (non-linear) to gain a new understanding through new connections.

I made some new connections as well - I just found a way to link tagging, to tag clouds, to Bloom's Taxonomy, to higher order thinking, to connections, and eventually to James Burke. I am pretty confident that he would understand and appreciate how I got there.


SMeech said...

While I sadly did not attend your session, I can't wait to digest it through UStream archive. I am struck by several aspects of your thoughts.

First, as I began my career in Social Studies, I can't agree enough or shout loud enough from the mountain tops for all to hear that we need to embrace the mystery of history (excuse the rhyme please). Facts and data are a mere clicks away... The skills to contrast, analyze and synthesize are with you for life!

Check out ... The amount of mis-information or blatant glossing over of many historical facts in our textbooks, monuments, and history is amazing!

Second, I am reminded of this viral video as I follow your train of thoughts. The Machine is Using Us...

We need to teach our kids to take control of their learning via the net instead of succumbing to the numbing ease of relying on the first page of a google search. Cloud tagging is an amazing concept when you break down the possibilities it provides.

Third, I have learned more from my personal learning network than perhaps all of my undergrad education! Now that might be an indictment on my alma mater, but I would rather argue on the side of the strength of social networking!

Finally... I need to re-read what you have written several more times as it is loaded! Great stuff...