Yale Education Leadership Smackdown!

On Friday, February 13, the Yale School of Management will sponsor the Yale Education Leadership Conference. Two years ago, the conference ended with Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America, Dacia Toll, president of Achievement First, Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, chairman of the General Assembly’s Education Committee, and Steven Adamoski, Superindendent of the Hartford Public Schools talking about “Closing the Achievement Gap in the State of Connecticut”.

This year’s conference will include keynotes by Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of the Miami-Dade Public Schools. One of the panels will have Rep. Fleichmann return, along with Congressman Chris Murphy, Chairman of the Connecticut State Board of Education Allan Taylor, and Connecticut State Department of Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti.

Concurrent with this, the Yale Law School’s Law and Media Program will be holding a conference, “The Future of Student Internet Speech: What Are We Teaching the Facebook Generation”. This conference will include a discussion of The Doninger v. Niehoff Case and how far school authority should extend.

It is unfortunate that these two events overlap since they cover related topics and I would love to be able to attend both. Meanwhile, I still need to write up my notes from the presentation of the proposed Woodbridge school budget and make it to the next committee meeting where we are discussing a three-year technology plan for the school district.

Against this backdrop, I am hearing people talking about Gov. Rell’s latest nominee for the State Board of Education. Today, Linda McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), testified before a legislative committee. People have criticized the nomination arguing that WWE programs borders on pornographic. They have pointed out the issues with steroid use amongst WWE wrestlers and pondered what Ms. McMahon would have our children learn.

Others asked what her qualifications are, other than significant campaign contributions to numerous candidates. I have been more concerned about her unwillingness to accept interviews about her nomination and her inability to give anything beyond basic answers when asked about various educational issues. Somehow, I don’t expect to see her at any of the educational conferences coming up in the next few weeks.

Yet I don’t expect her to do significantly worse than any of the other members of the State Board of Education. After all, my cynical friends always point out to me, isn’t that how most political appointments are made, not on merit but on connections? Look at Gov. Rell, they point out. She was Gov. Rowland’s Lt. Governor for nearly ten years before Gov. Rowland’s resignation.

Now, Gov. Rell is campaigning on reducing the bloat in government. Perhaps the first place to start is by seeking nominees for political appointments based on their merit instead of how well connected they are. Until then, her comments about reducing bloat in government are going to sound awfully hollow or hypocritical.

Second Life and the Future of ...

I’ve been pretty busy with other things and haven’t been in Second Life much recently. However, I’ve been getting a bunch of interesting emails about different developments related to Second Life and other virtual worlds, and I thought I should highlight some of them here.

… Education

One email that particularly caught my attention was the idea of building an Opensim / Moodle implementation, similar to Sloodle, but with some important differences from Sloodle.

Let me explain a little of this to people whose eyes glazed over as they read that. First, Second Life is a three dimensional virtual world. You run a Second Life client that connects you to a set of Second Life servers. You can move a representation of yourself around in this three dimensional virtual world and interact, real time, with other people doing the same thing. You can see videos, share course material and create objects in the world that you can interact with. You can go beyond whatever physical limitations hold you down in your physical life.

Opensim is a project to create open source server software that acts in a manner similar to Second Life servers. A person with a Second Life client could connect to Opensim servers that are available only to people within a certain community such as a place of business or a school.

I came to Second Life after having spent a lot of time working with text based virtual worlds. One type of text based virtual world is MOOs. I’ve been active on large MOOs, participated in educational MOOs and run my own MOOs. When Opensim first came along, I wrote about how with Opensim, schools could have their own three dimensional virtual worlds, just like how they used to have their own text based virtual worlds.

Moodle is a popular open source course management system, learning management system, or virtual learning environment, depending on who you talk to. I don’t know what sort of relationship there is between Moodle and the MOOs of old, but many of my education friends from MOOs seemed to get very interested in Moodle.

Sloodle is an open source project that integrates Second Life with Moodle. The problem is that Second Life is a close proprietary system, so the integration is limited. Since OpenSim is open source, the possibilities for deeper integration are much greater and much more interesting. However, Opensim is still in alpha testing and changes rapidly. This presents problems for deep integration because what you are integrating with may change significantly, and hence your integration may need to change significantly. Nonetheless, it is an interesting development.

A friend of mine teaches anthropology at Brandeis. Years ago, Brandeis had a MOO up and running that I would visit. When I finally got a chance to visit Brandeis, I knew my way around the campus fairly well from my explorations of their MOO. I would love to visit a Brandeis Opensim world someday in the future, or even a Beecher Road virtual world school. Integrating it with an Opensim / Moodle implementation would make it all the more compelling.

… Healthcare

One of the things that I’ve gotten the most out of Second Life has been becoming friends with people in the disability community there, and learning so much from them. There is a non-profit called Virtual Ability. Their “mission is to enable people with a wide range of disabilities to enter into virtual worlds like Second Life®, and provide them with a supporting environment once there.”

There is a wonderful blog post about health care in Second Life. In a recent email with Second Life educators about videos explaining Second Life, I recommended this video as a good starting point to get what Second Life can really be all about.

... and civic engagement

Then, today, I received a message via pointing me to another great video about health care and Second Life. This one was about people interested in healthcare talking together via Second Life and provides another great view of what Second Life, or related virtual worlds can do when used properly.

Whether your top issue is education, healthcare, civic engagement, or whatever other cause, it is crucial to find effective ways to communicate with others, and more and more virtual worlds, like Second Life are proving to be an important part of the mix.

Live Blogging the SEEC hearing on the Citizen’s Election Program

Today, the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), is holding hearings about the Citizen’s election program, what worked, what didn’t and what can be done to improve the program. The hearing started with comments about the dust settling and a chance to look back at a very successful first run of the program.

The first person to testify was Speaker-Elect Chris Donovan. He spoke about how well the program worked and his appreciation that the program brought campaigning back to the fun days that reminded him of his first campaign, with much greater emphasis on going around talking with voters.

Speaker-Elect Donovan was followed by State Representative Andrew Fleischmann. Rep Fleischmann made similar comments about how well the program has worked. He also spoke about how good it was to be able to talk with voters, and tell potential donors that he only needed $5 dollars, because he had already raised enough money, and just needed more supporters. He did suggest that candidates should be allowed to continue fundraising, after they raised their requirements and received their grants, with money going to the help fund the Citizen’s Election Program.

Updates are below the fold

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#nanowrimo The Week Ahead and The Week Behind

Last week was a difficult week for me to write. I spent Tuesday electioneering and then going down to the NPR Studios in Washington to blog about the election results. Since then, I’ve been trying to catch up on my sleep, fight a cold, and try to make sense of the week that was.

This coming week is going to be equally challenging. I have a tentative client visit on Monday, some personal issues to deal with on Tuesday, and some important blogging events the rest of the week.

On Wednesday, at 10 AM, in front of the New Haven City Hall at 165 Church Street, Barb and Robin Levine-Ritterman of New Haven, who were plaintiffs in the Kerrigan case will be applying for a marriage license. Love Makes a Family is encouraging people to join in the celebrations on this historic day.

Then, at 2:30 in the evening, there will be oral arguments in Doninger v. Niehoff et al on a motion for a summary judgment. It should be interesting to hear the arguments in light of emails that have been disclosed as part of Freedom of Information Requests, which the Plaintiffs claim demonstrate that one of the defendants lied on the stand.

As a side note, the link to the document listed above is only available to people who have PACER accounts. Pages accessed this way are charged $.08 per page. I include this link and a comment about it because, I believe that as part of open government, which I hope the new administration will be bringing, we should do away with fees like those on Pacer and make information about our government more readily available.

On Thursday, there will be a conference at Central Connecticut State University on Journalism-- Where We Are; Where We’re Going. Speakers include several friends from online media, and I hope to make it up to the conference.

Friday, I will be speaking in Second Life about the relationship between Second Life and other online media. Then on Saturday, the Investigative Reports and Editors will be running a workshop at Southern Connecticut State University entitled Watchdog Workshop which will combine elements of two different workshops. The IRE is a great organization and I hope to be able to attend. Unfortunately, I only heard about the workshop after online registration had closed so I am not clear if I will be able to attend.

As with last week, the coming week doesn’t leave a lot of time for novel writing. On top of that, my initial idea for my novel just wasn’t coming together. It was too close to a memoir, and too far from being a novel. I didn’t find the experience engaging, so I abandoned it. I’ve started off on a new track, but I’m several days behind now and the writing is hard. We shall see if I can catch up during a busy schedule.

Election Night Updates

It is 8:44 and I’m down in Washington, waiting to hear some news from Connecticut. Several friends promised to Tweet me when there were election results, but I haven’t received any tweets. The Secretary of State’s Site doesn’t have any information yet. News 12 has some good information that Kim called me with and The Hartford Courant has some good initial results. They’ve called the 1st CD for Larson and the 3rd CD for DeLauro.

The 2nd CD is showing incumbent Joe Courtney leading Sean Sullivan at 64 to 32 with only 8% in. The fifth CD is showing Chris Murphy leading David Cappiello 52 to 46 with only 5% in. The most interesting race is the 4th CD, where with 16% in, challenger Jim Himes is upsetting Congressman Chris Shays 63 -36. However, that is only with the large cities reporting.

In the State Senate races, there aren’t a lot of results yet, but a couple interesting developments. The 22nd State Senate Race with 19% in has Anthony Musto taking back Bill Finch’s old seat from Robert Russo 66-34. Even more striking is with 17% of the votes counted, Democrat Mark Diamond is leading Republican Scott Franz in the 36th State Senate District. This is a district that had been held by Republican State Senator Bill Nickerson for ages. There had been some in fighting between Stamford and Greenwich Democrats about who should be the candidate and Mark Diamond did not qualify for public funding. It is worth noting, however, that the only districts reporting are from Stamford where Mr. Diamond lives, and none of the Greenwich Districts where Mr. Franz and Mr. Nickerson live have reported.

Update: News 12 is reporting "Voters at Reed Elementary School in Bridgeport were told by a poll worker that they could not vote unless they had ID".

Republican Registrar of Voters, who filed a complaint against ACORN "says he will try to get to the bottom of why some voters were misinformed."

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