Lesson learned -- setting up 60 twitter accounts at once may be problematic. Also, Joe's right -- it's both distracting and enriching to have people tweeting during discussion. I found myself largely focusing on one or the other rather integrating both in a good way in real time.
Thumbs up on the student-facilitated discussion -- maybe not every day, but pretty effective, especially with a group of future teachers to give us a chance to practice facilitating substantive conversations with "easy" students. Would love it if this got propagated across other classes in the SMAC program. Also thumbs up on the "standing when I want to take over the discussion" idea -- go Bill! Visible without being disruptive. I also think this would be useful in the secondary school classroom as it pushes kids to develop presence and facilitation skills that will come in handy in all aspects of their lives.
I love the idea of using this year to experiment how to make assessment a) authentic (which for these purposes I'll define as measuring your learning, not your test taking skills), b) scalable (so adding 50% to the students in a classroom doesn't immediately kill the teacher) and, c) standardize-able (so they can be compared across classrooms, schools, districts, states, and nations).
I'm afraid it might be a "pick two" situation, e.g. "time, money, quality" but I'm curious to see whether there are things about newer technologies that can break down some of the structural issues. I love, for instance, the idea of a teacher blog or email list that makes upcoming assignments and their rubrics transparent to parents (and also maybe a regular update on grade status) so they can intervene with their children early in the process rather than waiting until parent-teacher conferences to be shocked at how things are going.
Media21 webinar: So... technology sometimes hurts (oh, the feedback!). But it was great to get a chance to talk to Buffy and Susan directly about their real experience. I think it's fascinating that the students don't equate text on screens / videos with "reading literature", and it's probably a challenge with extended this kind of project, because if there are students who resist it, how much more will the parents? If you respond to, "when are we going to read the Illiad" with "whenever you want -- how about we twitter or blog discuss it over the summer?" would that work?
Where to start: Blogs -- the gateway drug. :)
I think it's interesting that we're back to whether richer input engages or becomes white noise. I'm having a hard time tracking discussion and reacting to it electronically in real time. Do "laptops (only) magnify what's already there?" -- they also present a lot more stimuli and options for distractions that aren't a factor when your laptop is closed.
Cloud computing -- Evernote, gmail -- is amazingly convenient, but always makes me feel squishy about the level of trust required (high). I have to believe that Google and Evernote and everyone else I trust with my data is going to treat that stuff with the privacy and security levels I would wish. In the corporate world, they deal with this by having secured, gated clouds (exchange, intranets), but that doesn't seem to be as relevant in an more money-constrained education environment. (Hey, we're back to time-money-quality again!) What's our guarantee that they the free sites are trustworthy? They need to maintain their reputation... but how much can they transgress before they loose it? (Will definitely look into backupify.com -- looks useful for at least addressing some of the security concerns.)