The Blue Nowhere – A worthwhile thought exercise on the “what if” level

My initial post on The Blue Nowhere, by Jeffrey Deaver, dealt with an ethical analysis of the first half of the book.  Throughout my experience with The Blue Nowhere, I found that it was full of surprises, but it was also full of predictability.  I have always wondered what it is about books, movies, etc. that requires them to end on a happy note?  What would have happened had Deaver ended the novel more realistically – would the novel no longer be considered an exciting thriller?  Or, would it just have sold fewer copies because readers would have finished feeling depressed?

And so, in the end, Pattie Nolan was a traitor who, miraculously, was stopped from murdering Gillette after she had just killed Phate. Shawn turned out to be computer whose actions were destroyed by the pressing of a scram switch.  And while Gillette does end up back in prison, his ex-wife and son decide to give him a second chance.  In addition, Gillette gets off scot free from his standard 12 hacking charges, and is allowed to work on a few further hacking cases while in San Ho.

So did The Blue Nowhere leave me with a general feeling of fear, as it did many of my other classmates?  No, it was truly a work of fiction.  In his after-note to the novel, Deaver himself states that a program like Trapdoor doesn’t currently exist, although some day, it could.  And as far as the plot is concerned, what is the probability of any citizen possessing the skills that make him or her a top hacker?  Secondly, what is the probability that any person is demented enough to murder fellow citizens by stabbing them through the hearts, in the spirit of an online game?  The laws of probability state that any two things happening simultaneously are a product of their individual probabilities.  This law makes a person with the above characteristics amazingly unlikely to exist.  Therefore, is it possible?  Yes…. barely. Is it probable?  No.

What this means for the reader is that The Blue Nowhere is a worthwhile thought exercise on a “what if” level, as long as one realizes that The Blue Nowhere is, at best, an extreme-case scenario worth pondering, and at worst, a flight of fancy worthy of Hollywood.

The New C0LL4B0R4710|\|

Professional conferences have always brought opportunities for networking. To those taking the initiative they also provide a hotbed for potential collaboration with peers near and far. However, for me, NECC 2008 represents the leading edge of the new world of digital networking made feasible by free Web 2.0 tools.

Already, I have met two dynamic people from two very different parts of the world and who live and work in very different environments, and yet we three are united in the communication and collaboration technologies made possible by the digital age. Huzefa Dossaji is a new teacher in Louisiana who hails originally from Kenya. His “how I became a teacher” story is quite worth hearing. In the few years of his former profession as a pharmacist, he became frustrated at the level of “pill dispensing” (as he put it) he was doing on a regular basis.

His life change came in the wake of the damage wrought by hurricane Katrina. The area is badly in need of teachers. In response to the situation, several initiatives have been launched to allow professionals to gain alternative certifications in education. This is what pulled Huzefa out of the white coat and into the classroom. I was fascinated with his stories of showing up at the school, his own laptop in hand, and “requiring” a digital projection in order to teach science. We shared tons of common ground about how students can and will learn science. The commons threads of common sense in science education that joined a teacher of sixteen years and a new convert without formal training, were inspiring. We are now connected for future communication via text message on phone, via e-mail as well as the connections of Ning.com.

My second connection was made with Amanda Rablin, who currently works as the Education Officer of Learning Management for Brisbane Catholic Education, supporting e-learning initiatives across its 132 schools. While wearing another hat, she serves schools and teachers across the whole of Queensland. While sitting in the back of a workshop connecting TPCK to the NETS standards, we were first joined by the electrical power made available by the only public outlet in the conference room. While sitting side by side, we quickly realized that we were not only using the same laptop, but in much the same way. After we both tossed back and forth between a dozen open windows, tab after tab, made posts to twitter, clicked key to post in blogs, I couldn’t help but laugh quietly at what was a common workflow by two people from opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean.

During the workshop -with brains in full parallel-processing mode- we shared: two very cool Facebook apps., twitter account names, blog addresses, became “friends” on favorite ning.com sites, career commonalities, and even cellphone images:

Amanda shared what I think is a fantastic publication she authored on “learning landscapes” which is a really cool discussion-stirring piece on imagining and exploring learning in the 21st century. I am excited to share this resources with not only my tech integration cohort but my instructional coaching family as well.

I am now connected with like-minded people who have helped me put a face on the world of new digital learning as it appears outside of little ol’ Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Looking At Student Work With A *NETS-S* Lens

As many educators are starting to figure out, NCLB has a section requiring technology integration and implementation. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has been out in front in articulating standards and performance indicators for educational technology. These standards have been articulated for students (NETS-S), administrators (NETS-A), and teachers (NETS-T). Like any model educational practice, these standards are periodically evaluated and refreshed on a timely basis. In fact, the newest version of the NETS-T are to be unveiled at this year’s NECC 2008 this week.

I just finished a session entitled “NETS-S in Action in North American Classrooms”. The workshop was put on by Bob Choquette of ISTE and Susan Brooks-Young. The centerpiece of the program was a collaborative look at four videoclips of students at work. These videos portray students -usually groups of students- working on a myriad of projects in classrooms across North America. In a group with two of my fellow attendees, I spent an hour collaboratively assessing each video for their alignment to the standards and indicators of the refreshed NETS-S standards (2007).

One really fantastic aspect of this session is the fact that all of the media we used during the course of the workshop is found online for further review. I hope we can get a great deal of good out of these little clips in terms of evaluation and alignment of technology standards for our kids. There is a really nice little “course” within the ISTE site that is already prepared to assist in facilitation of this learning.

I must end now in order to pay attention to my next workshop starting now entitled: “Professional Development: Models Integrating 21st-Century Tools”.