I know that I’ve not been blogging a lot lately, because the first thing I had to do this morning was update MarsEdit, my blog-writing software.
Yesterday, watching the tweets and status updates being posted by educators packing their bags, arriving at airports and train stations, bound for Atlanta and ISTE 2014 — well it got me to thinking. I’ve been an educator for almost 40 years and that many years in such a dynamic field makes you opinionated. ..and I suppose it’s part of the character of old folks (60+) to express their opinions.
That’s why I tweeted out yesterday…
— David Warlick (@dwarlick) June 26, 2014
There were retweets, agreeing replies, and some push-back — reminding me that this old dog will never learn to fit his thinking into a 140 character message. So here’s what I meant to say.
You will speak to vendors and listen to speakers in Atlanta who claim to know how to fix education, how this practice or product will improve resource efficiency, teacher effectiveness and student performance. Don’t ignore them, but ask yourself, “Are they answering the right question?”
I would suggest that rather than asking, “How do we improve education?” we should be asking ourselves, “What does it mean to be educated?”
Years ago, when my Great Uncle Jim, the last of my family to live in the old Warlick home, passed away, and the house was sold, we were given permission to visit and take any furniture or other items, for which we had a use. My prize was an old quilt that had obviously been stitched together during a quilting party, dated in the late 1800s.
Both Uncle Jim and my Grandfather grew up in this house, and they both went to college, Jim to NCSU (engineering) and my Grandfather to UNC (classics). But when they graduated, they returned to rural Lincoln County, without daily newspapers, monthly journals or a convenient library. They returned to an astonishingly information scarce world.
Being educated then was indicated by what you knew, the knowledge that you’d memorized, knowledge and skills that would serve you for most of the remaining decades of your life.
Today, we are swimming in information and struggling with a rapidly changing world, and the very best that any “education” can do, is provide for us is what we need to know or know how to do for the next couple of years.
Being education is no long indicated by what you’ve been successfully taught.
Being educated today is your ability to resourcefully learn new knowledge and skills and responsibly use them to answer new questions, solve emerging problems and accomplish meaningful goals.
Being educated today is no longer measured by the number of questions we can correctly answer.
It’s measured by how well we you can discover or invent new answers, effectively defend those answers, and then we them to make our lives, communities and world better.
If they’re trying to sell you something at ISTE, ask them, “How will this help my learners to become better educated?”
If they ask you, “What do you mean by educated?” Then there’s hope.
Exactly 2¢ Worth!
I just woke with a start. Did I just miss the ISTE14 ADE (Apple Distinguished Educators) photowalk yesterday? A quick Googling from my office (next to my bedroom) and I see that the event isn’t until next Saturday. Most years I’ve been blogging by now with recommendations for ISTE novices, about what gear to take and how to behave. But not this year. I’ll be mostly taking it easy at home, taking pictures, taking walks, riding my bike, playing with the dog (my daughter’s studying in Europe and we’ve got the dog) and working on a slew of personal projects.
Will I miss ISTE14? Well, I’ll certainly miss the photowalk. Last year’s walk around San Antonio was phenomenal, especially because of the talented and ingenious photographers I followed around — both the gear geeks and the artists.
I’ll also deeply miss EduBloggerCon, now called something else (HackEd), where educators go to learn from each other. I’d planned, for a while, to attend only the photowalk and HackEd, but figuring the cost and how much I’m enjoying becoming a homebody, I finally decided to forego Atlanta this year. I can’t accurately say how many NECC/ISTEs I’ve not missed, but it’s more than 20.
I’d like to say one thing here, about why I’ll be at home on ISTE week – and I’ve written about this before I submitted two presentation proposals.
One was a standup and teach presentation about games and pedagogy. It was accepted.
The other was a very strange interactive performance (see NCTIES), designed to provoke the audience to self-examine their personal ideas about information and communication technologies and education. It was rejected.
Look! The best learning that I have done, was not taught to me. The best learning came from a challenge, or curiosity, or an intriguingly inventive plot – and it involved a conscious and resourceful re-examining of my own knowledge and ideas.
Have fun at ISTE14 and question your learning.
A few days ago, I posted an article explaining “Why You Won’t See Me at ISTE ’14.” In it I wrote,
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…
Our discussion, however, had almost nothing to do with technology, but concerned the era in which we began teaching.
For me, it was a full 25 years before No Child Left Behind standards-based teaching and punitive high-stakes tests stained the “art of teaching.” Things were quite different in terms of the autonomy that teachers exercised in determining what and how their children learned – and some mediocre teachers, admittedly, took advantage of the freedom. However, most, whom I came in contact with, used their academic freedom as a seedbed to create dynamic and effective learning experiences for their students.
For years I have felt that this-too-will-pass, that the arrogant belief that we can know and teach everything our children will need to know to be prepared for their future simply makes no sense, and that we would come to our senses.
But it occurred to me, during that email exchange, that more and more of the teachers in our classrooms today were trained to test-prep and have been indoctrinated to an education system based, more than ever before, on an industrial production model.
So I did some research and tinkering with a spreadsheet, and found that about half of the teachers in U.S. classrooms today have never worked in a school culture free from high-stakes testing.
To illustrate this, I made an infographic that shows the decline in teachers who have experienced academic freedom and the rise in teachers who have always worked under the constraints of government/corporate standards.
To be sure, this does not mean that there aren’t young educators, today, who are courageously and creatively going beyond the regimentation that is the character of test-prep classes, nor that there aren’t older teachers who are happy to model their classrooms on mass production.
But it does suggest a dramatic shift in the culture of our schools,
An approaching point of no return.
To complicate things, the table included only data for every 4th year, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011, which was not enough to plot the level of accuracy that I wanted. In addition, the years experience were grouped, i.e. less than 3 years, 3 to 9 years, etc. I searched further, but could not find any more complete data at the national level. If you know of such a document, please comment below.
To fill in the blank years, I worked my OO spreadsheet so that it calculated trends from the 4 years and the experience ranges, and filled in the blanks, across and down, based on those trends. Not a perfect solution, but the point of my infographic was to illustrate a trend, not precisely measure a phenomena.
Having such a seemingly rich data set enticed me to plot for other trends and anomalies, such as specific rises or declines in teacher numbers, indicating times of sudden influx of new teachers, or increased retirements or, and I hate to suggest the possibility, mass resignations. Alas, it would take more completely accurate information to do such a thing, not just calculated trends.
It’s a silly distinction to make, I know, objecting to “personalize learning,” as a term for describing the current flavor-of-the-week in education reform/transformation conversation, preferring instead, “personal learning,” .
As an advocate, I cannot fault the use of either label for student learning that is personal, needs-based, unconfined and empowered by personal passions and skills. That’s my immodestly paltry characterization that fits both terms.
I could, if I thought it would be the least bit helpful, call attention to semantics, suggesting that one is a verb, “..produce (something) to meet someone’s individual requirements..”, and the other an adjective, “..belonging to a particular person..”
|But I guess what disturbs me the most and prevents me from letting go of this argument is that one can be
to superintendents and legislators,
The other liberates learning.
|in a sense, this presentation was a follow-up of a short story I wrote as a first chapter of a book I wrote in 2004, describing a middle school in 2014.|
I’ve never had so much fun doing a presentation — that I had never done before. The fact that the 2024 version of myself had traveled more than 87,000 timezones to get to the NCTIES conference, and the jet lag that implied, took a lot of the pressure off.
The scenario went like this. My wife, children and granddaughter chipped in to buy my a trip back to 2014, to visit an old education technology conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. I walked into the session dressed as the eccentrically old geezer I am certain to become, limping with a cane, because of a self-defense class injury. I am toting my granddaughter’s book bag, which we will excavate to reveal clues as to what education becomes ten years from now.
I did a Q&A, fielding a number of quite interesting questions, for which the trickier ones, I was able to hide behind the FCC Commission on Cross-Temporal Communications Act of 2022, paragraph 14.
I was also honored to find Adam Bellow in the Audience and convinced him to take a selfie of us together, which I could pick up later from the Twitter archive, housed at archive.org.
— Adam Bellow (@adambellow) March 6, 2014
My only regret was having left my notes back in 2024, so there was much that I forgot to include, such as, “If you want to party like it 2024, then you’ve gotta wear argyle socks.” You can write that down.
At first I was a little relieved that ISTE turned that presentation proposal down. Now I wish they’d accepted it. :-/
It is customary, as famous conferences are approaching, that experienced attendees post tips to help newbies pack and prepare for the event. So I, as a professional conference go’er, thought I would contribute ten more tips for NCTIES 2014.
- Raleigh is always swelteringly hot this time of year, so wear light-weight, loose fitting clothing. Conservatively styled bathing suits are also common. But, because the Raleigh Convention Center is huge, wear boots, big ones, with lots of laces. You will be doing a lot of walking. If preferred, heal may be substituted.
- You’ll want to take lots of notes, so carry several spiral-bound note books. Also carry pencils — #2s. If you can find them, use white or aluminum grey pencils. They’ll impress the people sitting near you.
- In the presentation rooms, be careful not to sit near anyone with a laptop or tablet computer. They have almost certainly left their email notification alarm on, and when it goes off, everyone will turn around and look — at you! If someone with a computer sits near you, get up and find a more secluded spot.
- If possible, sit on the front row and straighten your legs out as far as possible. This is where the boots come in, because presenters love to navigate obstacle courses while presenting.
- The exhibit hall is the reason you came. There are treasure here. It’s also a great place to play. Pretend you’re invisible. Wearing a dark cap will help. If you can achieve invisibility, then you’ll have the run of the hall. Simply walk into any booth and pick-up all the pens, pencils, letter openers, and soft fuzzy balls you can find, and slip them quietly into your bag–preferably a large brown paper bag. Chocolate is an especially treasured item and worth a return for more. If someone in a booth confronts you, then carefully put the pencils back on the table, look down at the floor and slowly back away.
- You’ll see areas in the conference center with comfortable chairs, where people will be milling, talking, and showing each other their computers. Shun these places. The people will try to brainwash you.
- If someone approaches you, wanting to talk, then turn invisible. If this doesn’t work, then look very stupid. You’ll need to practice this in front of a mirror. If they persist, then speak gibberish and walk away.
- If you hear anyone speak with an English accent, don’t believe anything they say – no matter how intelligent they sound or cute their accent.
- When the day is over, or by 4:00 PM, which ever comes first, flee back to your hotel room. This is the real challenge of conference-going, finding things to do in your hotel room. I like to remove the lids of shampoo bottles and guess their scent. Also, the extra blankets in the closet are expressly provided for the construction of elaborate blanket forts. ..and I hope that you are a fan of “Law and Order.” It will be playing during your entire visit – on at least three channels.
- What David really wants you to do is be comfortable, hungry to learn, ready to laugh and willing to cry, tweet your heart out and hashtag with #ncties, take every opportunity to meet someone new, and wear something strange. I like those satin slippers with toes that curl up and a tiny bell on the end.
If I see you at NCTIES, please forgive me if I’ve forgotten your name. I’m way past the need for excuses.
It is with enormous pleasure that I will be part of the American School of Bombay’s 2014 Un-Plugged event in Mumbai, India. It is also an even bigger privilege to be working with International educators again. I’ve said many times that if I was in the beginning of my career, this is where I would be, expat’ing in some exotic land, making great friends, teaching great students and growing in educational institutions where innovation is part of the currency of success.
Even though my workshop, on Friday and Saturday, will be about visual literacy, and contemporary literacy will be part of the underlying theme of the day, this workshop will primarily and overwhelmingly be about something that I believe is the
Coolest thing on the Net,
Infographics and Data Visualization
Of course this, and most all of what we do in our classrooms concerns basic literacy, “The skills involved in using one’s information environment to learn what you need to know to do what you need to do.” (my definition)
As a teaser, here are two word clouds. The first is taken from the descriptions of ASB Un-Plugged pre conference and hands-on workshops from 2012. The second comes from the same category of sessions to be held next week in Mumbai.
2012 Preconference & Hands-On Workshop
2014 Preconference & Hands-On Workshop
Of course, this is a small sampling of the themes that are part of the conversations hosted by the American School of Bombay. However I found a couple of things interesting. First of all, might it be that we are finally getting over this whole 21st Century craze. After all, we’re good and there. Also, design seems a little more prominent and create and maker/making have emerged.
I’m so looking forward to next week and counting on the journey being less challenging than last week.
Those who have seen my “Cracking the Code of the ‘Native’ Learning Experience” presentation are familiar with my theory that we have become a more playful society. We spend our cognitive surplus in more interesting ways than ever before. Here is more evidence, a photo taken down Glenwood Avenue, just minutes after Brenda and I had driven through last Wednesday on our way toward a hotel near the Raleigh-Durham Airport. WRAL.com invited people to playfully add to the photo. You can see a slideshow of the photo manipulations here.
This part was not fun. Often, when snow is in the forecast and I’m flying out, I’ll stay in a hotel near RDU the night before so that I’m only a shuttle-ride away the next morning. It had only just started snowing when we left the house for what is usually a fifteen minute drive. Shortly after riding and pushing our sedan up and down Glenwood Avenue and seeing the gridlock that had already formed in the in-bound lanes, we decided that she would not be able to drive back home. So we went straight to the airport, parked the car, and set out looking for taxis, one to take her back to Raleigh and one to take me to my hotel. The hotel shuttle had stopped running, as had the contracted airport Lincoln Town Car taxi service.
Smaller taxi companies had come to the rescue, older green and yellow and electric red cars and minivans, mostly from Japan and driven by young men with exotic accents. Brenda got one of the early ones, headed for North Hills. I got one of the next ones, delivering folks to airport hotels. After two hours of pushing, both ours and many other cars around us, I was in my room, and after another hour, Brenda had been let off at North Hills, from where she walked the remaining mile+ to the house, and lucky to do so.
The next day, I learned that my flight, one of only two leaving RDU that day, had been delayed until 12:00 noon, messing up my connection in Atlanta. Lacking the confidence change my connection on the web (Brenda does that stuff), I called Delta to do the rescheduling for me and I got a new itinerary, keeping the first class seats Brenda had paid extra for out-of-pocket.
I took an early yellow and green cab to the airport, planning to spend the morning in the Delta Sky Club. It hadn’t occurred to me that the lounge might be closed for the snow. No problem though. We had the rest of the airport to relax in.
The plane out of Raleigh, which had been parked there for two days, ended out leaving around 2:00 PM, because they’d waited until nearly noon to start preparing it, as even the engine needed de-icing. Trying to board with a 1st class boarding pass, I was informed that they didn’t have me listed in their manifest, that the Delta agent I’d spoken with on the phone had mistakenly canceled that flight. They gave me the last seat left, 16A, right next to a Duck Dynasty-looking fellow with a sleeveless shirt and tattoo on his shoulder that said M-R-Ducks. The part about the tattoo a bit of an exaggeration, but the rest of this is true.
Of course my delayed delay out of Raleigh caused me to miss my rescheduled flight, but on landing in Atlanta, a very friendly agent told me that I had already been rebooked on a new flight, leaving in an hour and a half. I walked over to the Delta Ski Club there, only to discover that it was more crowded than the concourse. So I spent 45 minutes in the lobby of the club, talking with Brenda on the phone.
The flight on to Louisville was without incident and I was lucky enough to grab a Ford Fusion Titanium to drive over to the hotel. The next day my talks at the Sacred Hearts Campus in Louisville went very well, such a gracious audience, and thankful too. Brenda and I both had been keeping them updated on my adventures of the previous two days.
Flying out of Louisville the next day was only slightly complicated by more snow during the night, the slight delay leaving me only ten minutes to get from gate B24 to gate A20 for my connection in Atlanta. I made it, though I’m sure that at my age and size, running all that distance with luggage was not a pretty site.
The good news is that every once in a while, I will have a trip like that, where everything that can, does go wrong. And then, I’m charmed for the next 24 months or so.
So, may the remainder of my speaking trips be without incident, and leave me with only the best memories of this professional life as a vagabond educator.
Note: Ramble and snark quotients: +99
When I was a student, I was taught to scratch paper. I scratched lines and loops and did it well or poorly, properly or improperly. I hide all of my scratched paper in my notebooks until it was time to give it to my teachers, who measured its correctness by marking what was incorrect. If there was no incorrectness, then a got a 100 or an “A" ––––– 100 what? "A" what?
The hope was that if it was ever necessary for me to write, in order to communicate across time or space, I would remember enough correct scratching to be coherent and compelling.
When I graduated from high school, writing was still a “just in case” skill. A sizable portion of my class went to work in one of the local textile mills, planning never to ever have to scratch anything again that was any more important than a shopping list.
This is an profoundly inefficient and disrespectful way to educate free people.
To say, "One day you'll need to know this," is to admit appalling lack of commitment and creativity. This is especially true when insult to injury is what's not said, "You'll need to know this for the government test in May."
What conjured this internal conversation in me was a brief exchange in the backchannel transcript from a National Science Teachers Association conference in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago. Diane Johnson tweeted:
..to which I commented in the transcript wiki,
That last sentence came from something that David Jakes said at ISTE last year in San Antonio. He said,
“We need to shift from a focus on’Engagement’ to focusing on ‘Empowerment.’“ (Jakes, 2013)
I, in my schooling, was neither engaged nor empowered, as I learned to scratch paper. Of course, there were those who were engaged, or acted engaged. They scratched eagerly and more correctly than I did, because they received more 100s and As. I don’t know how their scratching was better than mine, because I never saw it. I couldn't learn from their example, because their scratches were hidden in notebooks as well. It had no more value or power than mine did.
I don’t scratch any more. I write. I put words to paper or to screen, and clarify their meaning with punctuation and capitalization, because I am writing to someone for some purpose.
I’m still learning to write better. I question what I write and I Google things like, "proper placement of commas in sentences” or "italics quotation marks and titles." I also use an array of digital tools to help me spell and choose the best words – tool that my teachers, 50 years ago, could not have imagined. Their notions of our future needs and opportunities did not reach much further than cotton mills and the college that the “engaged" would attend – as well as a few of us who were not “engaged."
Today, engagement has become one of our most earnest pursuits, because we’re teaching children who are accustomed to being engaged. ..and we continually ask, "How do I measure engagement?"
You can’t, at least in any way that even suggests the quality of learned.
But empowerment can be measured. You do it the same way that our value is measured after we leave classrooms, teachers and textbooks behind. Learners demonstrate what they’ve learned, by what they’re empowered to do with it – what they produce, the problems they solve, the goals they accomplish. Look at a produced video, crafted animation, clear and compelling article, or a creatively designed and marketed bird house, and you can see what was learned.
It's not clean. It's not clinical. But what does precision grading mean when the names of state capitals, the chemical symbol for magnesium and the proper placement of the comma can all be Googled. Why are we so pressured to test our children's ability to live without Google.
Lets face it. The only ones who want this for our children are those who would politicize and monetize education.
Yesterday, Tim Holt wrote “Why I am At a Science Conference,” describing his work at this week’s Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), and why it is so important that we edubloggers and techspeakers should be sharing our messages into other communities of interest, science teachers for instance. I agree. I’ve tried, for years, to get into social studies conferences. When I succeed, it’s to do a concurrent session, and only 12 teachers showed up. It’s part of the nature of the profession, that we owe our professional identity to our particular area of specialty.
I have keynoted foreign language conferences, library conferences, administrator, and even book publisher, real-estate developer and farmer conferences. Perhaps the most receptive to my particular message are school boards conferences. But Tim is right. Little of this actually makes it into classrooms, especially the “Common Core” classrooms.
Holt referred to the fact that I too will also be speaking to Science teachers this week, in Charlotte, at one of the regional conferences of the National Science Teachers Association – and my efforts to tailor my presentation to that audience. I admit some concern about speaking to science teachers, because I taught social studies, and my examples tend to be more social studies oriented – though I would maintain that any good social studies teacher is also teaching science, math, health, literature, and everything else. It’s all societal.
Tim mentioned me because of a string of posts I made to Facebook and Twitter yesterday, reporting my progress in playing with Kerbal Space Program, a sandbox-style game that has the player designing, building, and flying space craft, on missions from the planet Kerbal. It’s been fun, regardless of my immigrant clumsiness with video games – though I am experiencing some pride in finally getting a manned (well a Kerban-piloted) space craft into orbit. It cost the lives of 12 fellow kerbans and several billion $kerbols worth of hardware.
And although (David’s) message is VERY general, it is at least a start. He is trying to tailor the message to the audience by demoing the Kerbal Space Program online game (https://kerbalspaceprogram.com) so good for him. But those opportunities are few and far between.
These opportunities rare and priceless. ..and forgive me if I seem overly sensitive and even defensive, but there is nothing general about this. The message is singular and it is revolutionary. It has nothing to do with, “Look, here’s something that you can do in your classroom with technology.” It is,
“Look, here’s what many of your students are doing outside your classroom. It’s fun, but it’s work. It’s hard work. And it is entirely about learning. The energy of our students’ youth culture is not based on how high you can jump or fast you can run. It is neither wit nor the appealing symmetry of your face. The energy of their culture is the ability to skillfully and resourcefully learn and to inventively employ that learning.”
My message is that children are entering our classrooms with learning skills that, although based on long understood pedagogies, they are skills that we are too often ignoring and sometimes even handicapping. When I say that we “chop their tentacles off,” it’s not about cutting them off from technology. We’re amputating their access to the learning skills that they are so effectively developing outside our classrooms – their avenues to personally meaningful accomplishment.
Perhaps those of us who have chosen to pursue education technology or have been seduced by its potentials are in a unique position to notice our children’s ’native’ learning skills – more so than science or social studies teachers. But we all must be careful to shed the glow of tech, and get right down to the point of being educated in this time of rapid change.
It’s not about being taught.
It’s about becoming a learner.
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