Critical Thinking, Howard Rheingold and Cancer at the NCCE conference

Internet literacy issues aren't new, but the goal of the Northwest Council for Computer Education's conference is to help teachers on the front lines and raise awareness of the issue.
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I've mentioned on Huffington Post before that Howard Rheingold's piece, Crap Detection 101, was influential in our thinking around Bing's role in education and our push to help teachers/librarians make kids into great critical thinkers. We've also been working with Howard Rheingold on sessions for various educational conferences on the topic of critical thinking.

What I haven't made a big deal about is that Howard's been working with us during a very uncomfortable time for him, which is to say, chemotherapy for a (thankfully curable) cancer in a Fairly Embarrassing Location. The only reason I can even lightly joke about this -- I was a bit freaked out when he called and told me -- is because he's made jokes about it on his blog and urged others to join him. (Note: he's upbeat but VERY frank about what cancer is like, so be ready for clinical clarity before clicking the link. Also, I think that's Michelangelo's David statue he's peering out of in the profile picture).

Up until the point cancer struck, Howard was working with us on a formal lecture and a brainstorming lunch at the Northwest Council for Computer Education's March conference in Seattle a gathering place for more than 2,000 educators and presenters to talk about educational issues and technology. NCCE is a non-profit that brings technology resources and career development opportunities to teachers and other educators and they were very excited to have Howard speak.

Because it turned out the week that he would present at the NCCE conference in Seattle he wasn't well enough to travel, we opted to use social networking approaches to work around his physical absence. Howard Skyped into the lecture hall, played some short videos to get people's brains going, and fielded questions from the 100+ person audience with the help of myself and University of Washington professor Kathy Gill.

It's of course not the same as when Howard comes onstage in his purple suit and sends out his exuberant energy but we felt it important not to let cancer win. Howard Rheingold's lecture wasn't ever meant to be just talking at the audience -- it was always intended to be the prelude and call to action that others join him this year as he researches for a book about this topic and shares the research with others. Internet literacy issues are not new -- they have been around since the Internet started -- but the goal here is to lend a hand to the teachers on the front lines, and continue to raise awareness of the issue.

Later that day, Kathy Gill and I led a small group of educators and librarians in a "workshop lunch" using Howard's and Daniel Poynter's curriculum (puzzles, handouts and Web site resources -- see wiki link below). We let the lunch and prior lecture attendees know we had setup some online locations with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to host community content (lesson plans, articles and handouts) and have discussions between Howard and other educators about critical thinking. Microsoft's Education team and Bing will also be offering up critical thinking curriculum and teacher aids in the very near future in this wiki space.

We're hoping that teachers, parents, journalists will share their own tips and techniques on the ISTE wiki and discuss issues related to critical thinking and teaching critical thinking in the Bing group. Feel free to join us there!

Critical Thinking Wiki (collaborate here with Howard Rheingold on teaching materials)
Critical Thinking Discussion Group with Howard Rheingold


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