At last, a VERY encouraging headline about digital social networking in schools! According to Thursday’s article “Seattle Public Schools builds social-learning site for its tech-savvy teens” the district has rolled out its own website for encouraging safe and appropriate read/write sharing by students in the school district. The site is called L3RN:

Similar to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube, L3RN offers a way for students and teachers at schools around the district to post and share videos, listen to podcasts, even read Shakespeare’s plays, via computer, cell phone or iPod.

The L3RN tool has amazing potential for students, teachers and schools, said Ramona Pierson, who heads the district’s department of education technology and oversaw the creation of L3RN.

Schools can create “channels” where they can showcase their best student work, such as class projects and school newspapers, she said. Teachers at schools at opposite ends of the city could develop lessons together. The district could begin offering online classes, or post videos of teacher-training sessions or School Board meeting

Yeah Seattle schools! More school district leaders need to pay attention and follow this lead. We must help our students learn to safely navigate the diverse pathways of the 21st century information landscape, just as we help them learn to use other tools like the AUTOMOBILE. The leaders of Seattle Public schools are powerfully demonstrating their understanding of this imperative by creating and supporting L3RN for district learners and community constituents.

Access the L3RN site to learn more and see videos from teachers as well as students.

Via Mark Ahlness’ del.icio.us links.


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  • http://source.seattleschools.org Ramona Pierson

    I am the manager for the Ed Tech, REA team that built the L3RN tool. This project is a completely open source program and is by the very definition a representation of education 2.0. We are transcending even the definitions I have seen of previous notions of social networking which I have quoted from a previous blog: Stephanie Sandifer wrote:

    It isÅ 
    Å without walls/without borders
    Å flat
    Å transparent
    Å flexible
    Å fluid
    Å just-in-time
    Å hyper-personalized
    Šblended ‹ online & f2f (face to face)
    Å constructive
    Šfocused on learning ‹ not testing
    Å designed to facilitate life-long learning
    Å 24/7
    I would have to say that Education 2.0 and beyond will be a social learning network that is in fact not simply a blog but a way to contextualize content and dialogue:
    1) transcends brick and mortar
    2) not flat, but multidimensional and dynamic
    3) transparent,
    4) ubiquitous, synthesis and integration
    5) flexible
    6) many to many
    7) allows for modeling of relationships and concepts
    8) just in time
    9) blended
    10) self-referential; organic
    11) learning can include authentic assessment; collection of evidence, process monitoring, personalized learning goals; game theory, interactive assessments; reflecting meta-data.
    12) intrinsic reinforcements
    13) 24/7; anytime and anywhere

    What we are basically providing tool that will drive a paradigm shift in education, which will allow people to not only collaborate, but to contextualize their content or learning in ways that allow self or cultural reference, meta-data collection, many to many interactivity and the democratization of social systems.

    It appears we are the first school district to develop a “youtube” type of system integrated with a “myspaces” type of system. In the spirit of social learning networks, we plan to extend the code in an open source license so we can extend the social learning across districts. Thus, through extending a broader social learning system, which offers a safe and monitored environment for students and educators to collaborate and share their learning beyond the borders of a single district, we can move beyond the limitations of NCLB and actually redefine the learning needs of 21st century graduates and educators through a community collaboration rather than punitive interventions.

  • http://tuttlesvc.org Tom Hoffman

    If it is open source, where is the source?

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Good question Tom. I hope to do a skypecast interview here at some point with Ramona or others on this development team. I’ll ask that question. Many people (as you are good to point out in this comment and elsewhere) tend to use the term “open source” when they should refer to something as “free to use.” There IS a big difference.

  • Lindell Alderman

    Tom and Wesley,
    I’m the development manager for L3RN at Seattle Schools. The site is built on a 100% python/django platform and runs on Linux. We are working with our legal department and management to release L3RN as open source. As you know, developing in open source is new and requires educating and process learning for our stakeholders. It is a real cultural shift for a large urban district to move from consuming Microsoft tools, to developing their own novel technology and releasing that back into the community. It is a complex transition and will take time for our stakeholders to internalize this shift and give us the go-ahead to release the code. They have to learn about the culture and philosophy of open source, the complex universe of open source licenses and the benefits and costs of each of those licenses, and they have to learn about the organic development style of open source and how it can leverage resources far beyond the district and grow the technology pie for everyone. We are walking through the process with them and I think we are making good progress towards our end goal of open sourcing the product.

  • http://source.seattleschools.org Ramona Pierson

    Thanks Lindell, Tom, and Wesley,

    This brings up a great conversation as we all move forward. We are essentially functioning like a Dot com within a school district which has its benefits and its struggles. The benefits for a district is that we are nimble and capable of rapid development cycles and we are very customer centered. Our team spends a lot of time working with and listening to teachers, students, and other educators as we design and develop programs. The struggle comes from having a different cultural approach to development…districts tend to purchase software solutions from large companies and are subject to vendors demanding tight controls on their source code; while we have approach development from a community/grassroots approach, which is comfortable being part of a larger open learning and open development community.

    Over time, as the districts become more comfortable with the open source/open community approach to development and problem solving, it will become easier for departments such as ours to release code as it is developed. It is our responsibility to the community and the district to develop processes that provide responsible source code sharing and meet the legal concerns of a district.

    One might ask what the district would worry about with L3RN, but there are other aspects of our development that are not public. L3RN is a module to a larger system we have developed that supports district data so we also have privacy and security issues to manage as well.

    We look forward to discussing our project(s) with you…feel free to email and we will set up a convenient time.

  • http://ahlness.com Mark Ahlness

    Wesley, just to let you know that neither Ramona nor Lindell are with the district anymore.
    This is a very sad day. – Mark

  • http://mguhlin.net Miguel Guhlin

    So, Mark, did they leave to sell the product or did they have to tilt at windmills?

    Sad indeed.

    Miguel

  • http://ahlness.com Mark Ahlness

    Miguel, it’s open source. They did not leave to sell the product.
    I have a feeling we may hear from them again – I hope so – Mark

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