David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
Shakabuku Infographics Video

The Day that It Changed for Me

Bob Geary photo accompanying an IndyWeek article about the NC General Assembly's plans to divert millions of taxpay money from public education to private schools.

Some of you are aware that I am working on a new book.  I wrote about it here, in I Can’t Believe that I’m Doing this Again!  The initial intent of the book is to describe the history of educational technology, as I have witnessed it.  However, I won’t really know for sure what this book is about until I finish it.  Like all living things, it’s becoming…

Reaching the vicinity of 1994 has provoked a long forgotten memory, an event that convinced me that my days, in my cushy government (NCDPI) position, were numbered.

Here’s what happened.

The big thing in leadership circles at that time was Total Quality Management (TQM). It was developed by Edward Deming, at least partly during the post-war years helping Japan rebuild its economy.  I have shamelessly forgotten all of the tenets of this movement, as with all of the improvement schemes of the 1990s. But TQM was really big thing at NCDPI, as the Associate State Superintendent, Henry Johnson, had recently attended a set of workshops. So inspired was he, that hire the consulting firm and required the entire instructional services staff to attend.

I do not remember the name of the firm that delivered the workshops, nor the name of the little woman who led them. I just remember that she came in about every other week, with two or three young minions in tow, prepared to change the way we did things. Although we felt that we could better use the time, we also recognized that we could alway improve our services.  So we came with learning and self-reflection in mind. What we didn’t expect was to have our steady-enough legs swept out from under us.

It was near the end of the day of the third or fourth session, when she asked us, “Who do you work for?”

We said, in unison, more than a hundred of us, “The Children of North Carolina.” She looked a little puzzled, and then repeated the question, “Who do you work for?” We looked at each other, our turns to be puzzled. Some people, hesitantly called out, “Communities of North Carolina?” “Parents of our students?” “The schools of North Carolina?” “The teachers in the schools of North Carolina?” ..after each attempt that little lady would repeat,

“Who do you work for?”

Our frustration turned to horror when she blurted out, “You work for your General Assembly (legislature)!”

We, in instructional services, had all come to the Department of Public Instruction because we were educators. We were not there working jobs. We had missions. We believed that we were contributing to a better world by serving the education of our children. The North Carolina General Assembly was viewed, most often, as a barrier to our work, restricting us with budget cuts, politically motivated dictates, and the effects of increasingly blaming teachers and NCDPI for what these politicians called, “Failing schools.”

Horror probably best describes how we felt when she told us that we worked for the General Assembly, and even more horrible was the sudden realization that she was right. The job of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction was to enforce and support the laws passed by our law-making body.

That was the day that I realized that I would be doing something else, sometime soon.

Vote Today! Vote for…

On this election morning, I am reminded of the second half of Jeff Daniels’ speech in the the first episode of “The Newsroom.” Here’s my slightly edited version…

“We sure used to be (the greatest country). We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons not self-interest, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons not for greed or spite.

We waged wars on poverty, not poor people.

We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest.

We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest scientists, artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men.

We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior.

We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, we voted for the best government, not the most or the least – and we didn’t scare so easy…”

And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed and educated. By great men and women who were revered.”

(full & unedited speech here [http://goo.gl/QSJUP], C/O Brian Hines)

If you vote today, vote for the aspirations of our original patriots, not those of the corporate CEOs and boards of directors, who camouflage themselves with terms like patriots and TEA party.

My 2¢ Worth…

You’re Learning Something Important when It…

My son and I went to Charlotte on Monday to watch the Bobcats’ final game. It was game four of the playoff series with the Miami Heat. It was an unfortunate pairing. If Charlotte had come in 8th or 6th place in the conference, they would have been playing teams that they could beat. But the Heat? The generous predictions gave the Cats one game. But the Heat is just too strong. Monday night, I watched our team, which was outmatched in almost every way possible, keep up with last year’s NBA Champions, with what could only be described as pure and unbridled heart!

My point in writing about this here is to say that if you had handed me the above paragraph three years ago, and suggested that I’d write it in April 2014, I would have ask you for what you've been smoking.

I was a player when I was young, with some talent in baseball and football. I wasn’t exceptional, by most measures, but I won first place in the NFL’s Punt, Pass and Kick competition in my town two years straight and 3rd place after that. I loved playing football and baseball, but I never picked up basketball. I was never very fast and have always had difficulty getting both of my feet off the ground at the same time ;-)

That said, I was never a spectator. I’ve never enjoyed watching any sport and have never been interesting in the whole jockese, sports-talk experience. I followed NCAA college basketball off and on, but only to an extent necessary for anyone who lives this close to Duke, UNC and NC State – but I always thought of professional basketball as lumbering giants brut-forcing their way to baskets and championships.

This all changed about three years ago, when my wife and I found ourselves watching YouTube clips of NBA games, narrated expertly and compellingly by our son, Martin. Like me, he had never had any interest in sports as a topic. He played in the band, and at the high school he attended, it was the band-geeks who were the cool kids on campus, not the jocks.

But Martin has an amazing ability to take a topic of interest and very quickly master its facts and concepts and be able to talk about it with people who have been immeshed in the matter for years. He inspired us by sharing professional basketball’s sights and sounds, and more importantly, its personality.

He showed us

The magical slight-of-hand of Ricky Rubio,

The sublime grace of Kevin Durant,

The nearly unshakeable cool of James Harden,

The fierce tenacity of Nate Robinson,

The unassailable concentration of Tony Parker,

The passion that can be evoked from that too weird face of Chris Bosh,

And the superhuman athleticism of Lebron (king) James.

We became interested and then passionate, and finally increasingly knowledgable about professional basketball, because of what our son conjured up for us. I understand much of the world around me, because I can identify with what I see. I can mentally put myself in the shoes of people and surmise their perspective. But what I see in most NBA games, I can not feel in my own muscles and this is compelling to me.

Our son provoked us by exceeding our imaginations.

Software can’t do this!

Government standards can’t do this!

Corporate models and for-profit schools can’t do this!

Only a skilled and inspired teacher can do this!

Only the “art” of teaching can inspire us by exceeding our imaginations!

 

Why You Won’t See Me at ISTE ’14

San Antonio was great last year, especially EduBloggerCon (now called something else) and the photo walk with my very good Apple Distinguished Educator-friends. It was also wonderful reconnecting with far flung colleagues, even if I couldn’t instantly call up many of their names. It’s one of my many cognitive difficulties.

But dispite my original and enthusiastic intentions, I won’t be visiting Atlanta this year for ISTE’14. I know that there have been speculations about my health. But at this point, aside from a persistently high triglyceride count, I am perfectly healthy, still walking between 2 and 5 miles a day. In many ways, I’ve never felt better. The pressure is off. I’ve let go of the three gigs a week expectation and spend my office time, working on projects that interest me. Lately it’s been converting out-of-print books about local and family history to Kindle-ready formats for my Dad, who needs 144 point font for reading. I’ve also been updating Class Blogmeister code and ramping the service up with some JQuery magic. And I’m still doing some speaking, Kuwait early next month. So don’t stop calling.  I’m just taking the pressure cap off and

..finding a new intersection between play, passion and purpose.

Nope it’s not health that’s changed my mind about ISTE this year. I actually submitted proposals to present, including “Bookbag 2024,” which I had so much fun doing at NCTIES this winter. In a sense, It would have been a swan song presentation, “Heres what education looks like ten years from now, if we continue to do our jobs well and resist the corporate-ization of public education.”

Alas, that proposal was rejected. To be fair, the second proposal was accepted, but not as the spotlight sessions I’ve done for the past decade or so.  That proposal was for an entertaining, interactive, but research-based session about the pedagogies of video games. It was a good proposal, and I suspect that some reader had checkboxes of proposal characteristics and trending topics – and that write-up pushed a lot of buttons, while some role-playing old codger telling stories and speculating about the future didn’t.

I won’t lie and say that I don’t taste sour grapes.  But I take nothing from ISTE.  In fact my wife and I have been trying to figure out some way to start a scholarship to send one or more North Carolina educators to ISTE each year.

I blame and accept the fact that experience that spans from TRS-80 to IOS has become a little less important compared to the creative energy of much younger educators – a fact that I was reminded of earlier this morning as I read a number of  thoughtful and otherwise kick-ass blog posts in my FlipBoard, most of them authored by educators who could have been the children of the students I taught nearly 40 years ago.

This is by no means the end of my public speaking, blogging, tweeting and what ever comes next.  Many of you will see me again, as I walk the stage trying to infect you with shakabuku.

But not at ISTE ’14.

Education 2014, As Seen in 2004

Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century, by David Warlick

In 2004, Linworth Publishing Company released Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century.  They had come to me more than a year earlier to write a book about technology for educators, and, being so flattered, I agreed.  However, as I commenced researching and planning the book, I came to realize that it was not technology that was impacting the work of educators nearly so much as the changing nature of information.  What we read was changing in..

  • What it looked like,
  • What we looked at to view it,
  • How we found it,
  • Where we went to find it,
  • What we could do with it and
  • How we communicated it.

Discussing this with my editor, Donna Miller, we concluded that what was needed more than a book about technology, was a book about literacy, and how our notions of literacy are affected by an increasingly digital, networked and information abundant (overwhelming) world.

To set the stage my first chapter was a story, set in a middle school in 2014.  It was perhaps more of a thought experiment for me, imagining the technologies that would almost certainly be available in schools in 10 years and then learning how they might be applied, by telling a story about the school’s students, teachers and community.

Here is the story’s introduction.

This first chapter is a work of future fiction. I do not call it science fiction, because I have every reason to expect that schools can change this much, and that it could happen during my career. If they do not, it will not be because the technology is not available, but because we did not have the courage or vision to make such dramatic changes in the way that we prepare our students for their future.

Some of what you read in this short story will seem unbelievable. However, if you are aware of the advances in computers and networking over the past ten years, it will not be the technology that surprises you. It will more likely be what learners and educators do while they are engaged in teaching and learning. So let us remove the veil of our own industrial age upbringing for just a few minutes and see one possibility. Welcome to The Bacon School, 2014.1

Continue here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc.

My next few blog entries will be a serialized version of that story.  I want to thank Marlene Woo-Lun for helping me to get permission from ABC-CLIO to republish this chapter and also for helping in the second edition of this literacy book, Redefining Literacy: 2.0, published in 2008.

Warlick, D. (2004). Redefining literacy for the 21st century. (p. 1). Columbus, OH: Linworth Publishing, Inc.

One more Challenge to the Geographically Deprived

After finishing up the last episode of Breaking Bad  Brenda and I applied ourselves to finding another moderate to long-running TV series to binge-watch, two episodes a night.  We were looking for another character-based crime drama, though nothing so emotionally stressful as BB.  Martin suggested The Wire and we gave it a try.  If it had been just me, I would have nixed the show after the first episode.

“What’s going on?”  

“What did he say?”

But, as is often the case, three episodes in to this series created by author and former police reporter, David Simon, and we were hooked.  Essentially, the show is about life, death, business and politics in neighborhoods that the rest of America would rather pretend aren’t there.  In the show, they are “the projects,” “the towers,” “the vacants,” “the east side,” “the west side.”

One of the aspects of The Wire that most impresses me is its portrayal of both good and bad, wisdom and near-sightedness, compassion and cruelty, loyalty and treachery on both sides of the criminal code.

But mostly, it’s about thriving in economically depressed Baltimore in the first years of the 21st century, facing drugs, disease, murder and gangster politics.

And, in season 4, a new evil threat emerges from Eric Overmyer’s scripts, reaffirming the futility of trying to rise out of the streets of east and west Baltimore.  You guessed it.  It’s the effects of high-stakes testing on the lives of children and their teachers.

I find it interesting that a major network, even if it’s a limited-view premium network like HBO, has placed, along side violence, disease, and dysfunctional government, the debilitating effects of an education system, based increasingly on bubble-sheet compliance.

The Most Popular Books of All Time

This is a very confusing, but once understood very well organized infographic. It shares a variety of information in a concise manor. For each book, it shares the number of translations, and number of copies sold, and even the number of editors. I am puzzled as to why the number of editors would be important. What do your students think?

Make each of these books available to your students. In more advanced classes, have students read the books, and argue for or against their inclusion in this list (exclude books of religion if you wish). What made each of these books so important that they were read and shared so widely? Were they important culturally? Was there a certain following? Were they about a certain event that affected the lives of many people. Have the books been around a long time, allowing many people to read it? What books are you students surprised are not on this list?

Science Teachers come to North Carolina

National Science Teachers Association

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will be holding a conference this week in Charlotte, The Queen City of North Carolina.  It is both ironic and opportune for science teachers, from around the country, to converge on my state to celebrate science education and to learn more about their chosen passion and techniques conveying it to their students.

I had planned to explain this event’s importance as part of my address to the audience.  But, alas, I’ll have only 45 minutes, so will be getting right to business.  Instead, I’ll explain it all here, sitting in a Raleigh coffee shop, and proud to be a citizen of this state that owes so much of its recent success to science and education – and a state that desperately needs to be snapped out of its stupor.

Dazed by $80,000,000 worth of campaigning in 2012 (“Follow the money,” 2012), we have witnessed an arrogant government, in effect, vilify science and education.  Helping to spur this backward thinking is John Droz, a retired real-estate investor and  fellow with the American Tradition Institute (which is tied to fossil fuel interests). In a recent presentation [a Droz slidedeck] to the General Assembly, he called smart meters “fascism in a box” and environmentalism a “new world religion backed by the United Nations.” Among his cited sources were,

Whistleblower, the monthly magazine companion of WorldNetDaily  a website that promotes conspiracy theories about topics such as President Obama’s citizenship; Quadrant, a conservative Australian magazine that was involved in a scandal over publishing fraudulent science  and the Institute for Creation Research  a Texas outfit that rejects evolution and promotes Biblical creationism and the notion that “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the Creation Week.” (Surgis, 2013)

Also carrying some influence is John Skvarla, the newly appointed Secretary for the state’s Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.  He apparently believes that oil is a renewable resource, saying “The Russians for instance have always drilled oil as if it’s a renewable resource, and so far they haven’t been proven wrong.

And then there are the legislators of 20 coastal counties, where developers have been stifled by the notion of sea level rise. So to make things better for developers, They introduced a bill that outlaws the rise of the sea, or at least how it’s measured. From House Bill 819, Section 2.

10 (e) The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to
11 develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission.
12 These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be
13 limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be
14 extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios
15 of accelerated rates of sea-level rise. Rates of sea-level rise shall not be one rate
16 for the entire coast but, rather, the Division shall consider separately oceanfront and
17 estuarine shorelines. (“Coastal management policies,” 2011)

This whole business prompted comedian, Stephen Colbert to say on the air, “If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.

The dramatic decline in Tobacco farming in North Carolina, illustrated in this graphic (North Carolina Department of Agriculture), has meant an enormous hardship for rural NC. As part of Raleigh’s efforts to find a new cash crop, the Biofuels Center of North Carolina was established five years ago, researching, developing and testing a variety of crops biomass crops.

The now defunct Biofuels Center of North Carolina web site

The center closed its doors last week.  The General Assembly cut the center’s entire $4.3 million budget. In the words of Steven Burke, the centers CEO, 

“The center, a growing biofuels community statewide, and companies considering new facilities here share dismay that North Carolina has visibly pulled back from the nation’s lead state biofuels agency and from long-term commitment to comprehensive biofuels development.” “No longer pursuing advanced biofuels with a focused, comprehensive strategy will lessen opportunity to create rural jobs, strengthen agriculture, and create an enormous biofuels and biomaterials sector.”

There’s not much that a few thousand science teachers can do, except to be mindful that science is neither fact nor theology.  It’s a way of looking at the world, observing, hypothesizing, predicting, testing, evaluating and adapting.  It is both personal and social, and following someone else’s standards for what’s to know (to be taught) is as repudiating to what science is as outlawing the results.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the NSTA conference this week in Charlotte.  I’ll be in Convention Center, Ballrooms C&D at 2:00 on Friday afternoon.


Follow the money. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?s=NC&y=2012

Surgis, S. (2013, February 7). Climate conspiracy theorist returns to NC legislature, warns of threat from science ‘elite’. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/02/climate-conspiracy-theorist-returns-to-nc-legislature-warns-of-threat-from-science-elite.htm

(2011). Coastal management policies (House Bill 819). Retrieved from North Carolina General Assembly website: http://www.nccoast.org/uploads/documents/CRO/2012-5/SLR-bill.pdf

North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, North Carolina Agricultural Statistics. (n.d.). Crops: Highs & lows, stocks & storage, biotech, varieties, floriculture, county estimates, fruits & vegetables. Retrieved from website: http://www.ncagr.gov/stats/2012AgStat/Page061_098.pdf

Another Teacher Slips Away

We know why we became teachers. If it wasn’t the reason, then it’s why we remained teachers. It’s..

Seeing the light bulb go off. I think that’s why any teacher gets into teaching, because that’s the best feeling, seeing them so interested and engaged and finally getting it … and knowing that you made a difference. (Stancill, 2013)

“Seeing the light bulb go off.”

That’s how Haley Brown describes it.  She’s a seven-year elementary school teacher in Raleigh, who has just accepted an administrative position – with a homebuilder.  According to the October 24 Raleigh News & Observer article, Haley says that testing has not only robbed her of her emotional and professional energy, but also robbed her students of meaningful learning.  Teacher assistants have been laid-off (state legislation), the workload keeps growing, and she has received only one raise and a 1% cost of living increase in her seven years.

It’s not an uncommon story, but one that has gained traction because of the note her husband, Matt, handed her, when she’d made her decision.  Haley was so thankful for her husband’s support that she posted the note on her blog, earning 1,200 likes on Facebook.  As the letter continued to resonate with some many people, Matt sent it to the N&O, and they published it as an opinion piece.  As of this week, it is the most popular story page on the paper’s web site for 2013.  It’s been read more than a half million times.

Does this really matter.  Is anyone noticing?  North Carolina is a right-to-work state, so there’s no teachers union and teachers don’t strike.  They just slip away.  Who cares?

Pictures to come

There is a new story out there.  It’s made up of lots of characters, plots and sub-plots, but it’s not been assembled yet.

This weekend, I’ll be attending the ReinventEd Unconference at Black Mountain SOLE, in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  It’s going to be one of those learning events that’s driven by questions, not authorities, and no small part of its appeal comes from the fact that its organizer is Steve Hargadon.  

My greatest wish is for a new narrative about education – a new and complete story that will resonate not only with passionate educators, but also with anyone else,

..who’s willing to listen.

 

Stancill, J. (2013, October 23). A husband’s support for his teacher wife becomes a viral sensation.Raleigh News & Observer. Retrieved from http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/10/23/3306958/a-husbands-support-for-his-teacher.html

Paper plane can fly forever.

Paper plane can fly forever.Well, forever if you’re ok with your stove running forever. This is just a neat, and potentially dangerous, experiment where you can make a paper plane fly in a circle indefinitely. The design you see for the plane is pretty complex and not necessarily what you need, but the most important part is having the flaps at opposite angles like you can see towards the end of the crafting. A pretty cool experiment but maybe not the best idea to give a kid unless you can come up with a safe alternative to cranking up the stove.

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
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Raw Materials for the Mind
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