David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
Shakabuku Infographics Video

Top Ten Tips for Attending NCTIES Conference

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.

  1. 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, heals may be substituted.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 cape 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 

World’s Worst Session Title

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.

More Evidence of a More Playful Society & A Really Bad Trip

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. 59410 snowmg1 316x422Here 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.

Nc snow meme: Attack on glenwood ave [Web series episode]. (2014). In Slideshows. Raleigh, NC: Capital Broadcasting Company, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.wral.com/wral-tv/image_gallery/13392751/

 

Engage or Empower

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,

Stop Integrating technology. Instead, integrate networked, digital and abundant information. It changes what it means to be literate, and it empowers learning. Empowered learners are better than engaged learners. - dfw

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 engagedRolling Eyes  ..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.

 

 

Jakes, D. (2013, June). In Steve Hargadon (Chair). an unconference discussion. A conversation that was part of Hack Education Iste 2013, San Antonio, TX. 

 

 

 

Why I’m Speaking to Science Teachers

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.

Part of my Kerbal Space Program Diary
One of my early attempts into orbit, achieving a spectacular fall after a 35 meter ascent.
At about 26 Kilometers, my Kerban pilot decided to do a space walk. Alas he locked his keys in the capsule and burned up during the descent.
These three Kerbans made it into an orbit whose apogee was around 1.4 million kilometers and perigee was somebody’s basement on the far side of Kerbal.

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. ;-)

Holt writes,

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.

 

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

My Prep Notes for Connected Educators Month “Personalized Learning Panel”

Panelists included Will Richardson, Kathy Cassidy, Darren Cambridge, Jessie Woolley-Wilson & David Warlick. Other kickoff panels include: 21st Century Classroom Management, Making It Count-Integrating Formal and Informal PD, From Connection to Collaboration & Connected Leadership.

I had the honor of being part of one of Connected Educators Month‘s kickoff panels last week, one called “Personalized Learning Kickoff.”  I strike through the ized part of the title, because parts of our conversation suggested a difference between personal learning and personalized learn.  I went into a deeper discussion of this distinction in “Individualized Instruction Vs. Personal Learning”.

The panel, which was hosted by Darren Cambridge and led by Will Richardson  was one of the kickoff events for Connected Educators Month.  You can find archives of all of these panels here.

I don’t particularly look forward to these things because my hearing is so poor.  It takes me a majority of brain’s computing cycles to translate the mess that I hear and the tiny facial and body cues from Collaborate’s video screen into a semblance of what the speaker actually said.  

Because this leaves me less than confident, I try to have lots of notes that I can readily call on without too much difficulty. ..and since I put so much time and thought into notes, I thought I’d post it all here.  

Potential questions are bold and my ideas are red.

What is the difference between personal and personalized learning?

  • The problem with professional idioms is that the phrase becomes an entity until itself.
    • People can hang on them what ever notions they have of its meaning.
    • They can say “personalized learning” and “personal learning,” and 
      • ? think they’re talking about the same thing, 
      • ? because the phrase has come to mean more than the words that make it.
  • My opinion: A distinction needs to be made between ? learning that happens because of what’s done to the learner (personalized/individualized), and ? learning that happens because of what the learner deliberately and resourcefully does (personal)
  • “Personalized” describes to me something that is done to, designed or produced for, or imposed on the student.
  • Reference Blog Posts: ? Individualized Instruction Vs. Personalized Learning ? Are They Students or Learners

 

Individualized instruction?  Differentiated Instruction?  Passion-based?

  • Individualized and differentiated instruction are a personalization of instruction by the teacher.
    • It’s top-down
    • Its targets are external standards that often mean little to learners.
    • Not to say that instruction doesn’t not have its place. A good lecture, educational game or even drill and practice activity are wonderful things, when appropriate – when needed!
  • Personal, passion-based learning starts with the learner, not a set of external standards.
    • It comes from the learner’s frame of reference, personal goals and passions; and it is future-oriented. Too many “standards” are past-oriented.
    • However, we, educators, need to learn to inspire learner passions that are relevant to-, or create a healthy context for- our children’s culture, environment and their time.

 

How can we create the conditions for personal learning to flourish in classrooms and schools?

  • It’s something that has to start small because it’s about generating school & classroom culture
    • It’s mostly a shift in the prevailing conversation from teaching & instruction to curiosity & learning.
      • I learned this yesterday!
      • How did you learn that?
      • This is how I learn something new every day!
    • Turn the workload over to the learner. Learning becomes more active and teaching more passive
    • Stop asking for the right answer, and instead, ask for an answer that works – and then ask the learner, “Why does that work?”
    • Invite the use of
      • Google
      • Wikipedia
      • Blogs & Twitter
      • As long as the learner can defend his answers
  • Chris Lehmann talks about a powerful question we educators don’t ask enough:
    • “So, what do you think?

 

What roles do networks play in personal learning?

  • Personal learning is not new. It comes from observing, thinking and playing – with intent.
  • Networks have expanded what we can observe, changed our point of view, and created an astoundingly more interactive board on which to play.
  • Growing up, I had…
    • Some books, Life magazine and Boys Life magazine.
    • A set of Compton’s encyclopedias (black & white) (1961)
    • A small public library.
    • Limited TV & Radio programming.
  • Today I have
    • Wikipedia
    • The World Wide Web
    • Youtube
    • Netflix
    • My aggregators
    • ..and it’s in my pocket!
    • It’s a time of no unanswered questions…
    • The work is finding the answers that work!
  • My context has exploded
  • Because of networks
    • How I learn has changed, and
    • Why I learn has changed (bigger context)

 

How can we help teachers and students move from just being connected to experiencing meaningful and productive connections? 

  • We make them responsible (not for the learning so much as what they can do with their learning)
    • We cut-off the paper and ask teachers to produce more and more of their own digital teaching materials, and we facilitate sharing.
    • We provide real audiences for our children’s learning.
      • We ask children and even their teachers to publish and demo
      • We use our school and classroom websites to invite the community into our classrooms, to see
        • What and
        • How their children are learning and
        • What they are learning to do with they’re learning.
    • We give them permission to “Get it wrong” by asking them “Why they think that’s right?”
      • By asking them to defend their learning
    • We ask children (and teachers) to surprise us, to show us something we’ve never seen before.

 

What are appropriate roles for social media?

  • We start off by saying that there should not be a list of appropriate uses for social media.
  • It depends entirely on
    • what’s being learned,
    • how it’s being learned,
    • who’s learning it and
    • Why
    • and who’s facilitating it.
  • Social media’s like any other kind of media. It has to be
    • Resourcefully identified,
    • Judged, and ? Utilized,
    • ..to answer a question, solve a problem or accomplish a goal.  If it leads to success, then it’s appropriate.
  • The Question should be,
    • “Is the answer appropriate to the question?”
    • “Is the solution appropriate to the problem?”
    • Not, “Is that the appropriate source?”

 

How do you encourage students to invest in their own “personal learning?”

  • You help them to understand that learning is empowering.
  • This is partly a result of passion-building.
  • But more, it’s about helping them to own their learning
    • To write and publish a book that gets placed in the school & local public library
    • To produce a video essay that’s posted on the school web site, uploaded to YouTube, and picked up by the local Cable TV Channel
    • To interview the children of recent history (The Great Depression, WWII, the race to the moon, a world without Nintendo) and teach (enlighten) the rest of the class.
    • To create playlists of students compositions, slideshows of their art work, and ask them to talk about the science, mathematics, social studies and healthful living involved in them.
  • You dare them to surprise us.

 

How important is it to have educators and leaders modeling personal learning?

  • It’s not a learning culture, unless everyone’s learning.
  • Students should know us by “What we’re learning!”

 

We speak of education in the language of individual learning and personal growth, but schooling as it is largely practiced is about conformity and external assessment.  Are there larger pedagogical shifts that ultimately will need to precede true personalized learning?

  • End this obsession with measuring learning and comparing schools.  It will lead to the death of public education.
  • Embrace the fact that today 
    • It isn’t what we know that’s the same as everyone else that brings value to the endeavor. 
    • Innovative accomplishment comes from what we know and can do that’s different.


Closing thoughts

  • We, as educators, need to think about the learning that we do and have done since we stopped being students.
    • What have we learned?
    • How have we learned it?
    • and Why?
    • and invent ways to make classroom learning mirror real-world learning.  It takes skills that all our children will need.
  • In a time of rapid change, being a learner has become more important than being leaned!
  • In a school that practices learning culture
    • Teachers model learning,
    • Students learn to teach themselves, and
    • The School educates the community

 

Final Reflections on ISTE 2013

My reflections & reactions are in red and italics

Photo of Riverwalk

I thought I would take some time to go through the notes I took at ISTE last week and include here some of the ideas that struck me – for what ever reason. This will probably consist of short observations of new ideas and new twists on old ones. As I’ve probably written before, I attend these conferences for the language, new ways of thinking and talking about modernizing education.  With 30 years in ed tech, new technologies are usually a surprise.

While at the conference, a number of people, glancing over my shoulder, asked how I was taking notes. I was using GoodNotes, which I like using because I’m actually writing the notes with a stylus, and I find that I’m process ideas differently in long-hand than when I type them. Also, I can import or take photos with the iPad, such as shots of presenter slides or of the presenter — on top of which I can write down notes or comments. Below is an example notes page. I took a photo of this Hack Education conversation to anchor the notes to a specific place and time.

ISTE, for me, started with Hack Education, formerly known as the “EduBloggerCon.” The first impression that hit me, not long after the first conversation began, was how difficult it is to truly visualize, in general terms, the changes we were talking about – and how do you promote School 2.0, when it can’t easily be seen. If you can’t point to it, how do you describe it to non-educators? As I wrote in a previous blog, I suspect that an answer might be to focus more on “Student 2.0,” someone we can point to – and then design education around that.

Another barrier to retooling classrooms, that became even more apparent to me last week was the lack of consistency in leadership. Some of the most interesting schools that I have seen, have recently had their innovative programs squelched by new leadership – leaving the innovators little choice but to move on.

I think that one of the great brain-wrinklers of the day came from David Jakes, who said,

We need to shift from a focus on’Engagement’ to focusing on ‘Empowerment.’

I’ll jump ahead here to another hacker quote quote. I do not remember who said it, but,

The person who does the work is the person who does the learning.”

If working is what leads to learning, then learners need tools that empower them to accomplish that work.

Someone else said,

We’re actually looking for a rebirth of old ideas!

So true and something that we too often forget.

There was some discussion about our use of the word “FAIL” in conversations about education, as we promote the value of failure in learning. Common notions about failure, after all, are entirely contrary to this positive spin. But I feel that if we can get people, adults, to think about the learning that they’ve done since leaving classrooms, and how that learning was accomplished, they will come to see that failure is an essential part of learning. I thought that this was an interesting acronymic arrangement for failure.

F - First
A - Attempt
I - In
L - Learning

I jotted down a number of apps mentioned during the Tech Smackdown – and many thanks to Steve Hargadon for his attempts to keep the self-promoting venders out of the fray. I’ve not had a chance to look at all of these, but here are a few that I made note of.

Somebody asked whether “gamification” was just a marketing scheme? This got me to thinking and I concluded that if we do not understand how games help us to learn, the mechanisms that provoke learning, then marketing is probably a pretty accurate description of our attempts to “gamily” (See my reflections of Jane McGonigal’s Keynote). The comment probably came from a conversation about using badges for motivation. Someone said that if all you’re using is badges, then that’s not gamification. It’s badgification.

There was much conversation about why and how you would plant the awarding of badges in the classroom. I suggested that some badges needed to be hidden, a surprise that students happen upon — the reward for doing something productive that was not an expressed outcome – the learning along the way. Also, badges should not just be something that you wear. Badges should also be a passport to doing things or going places that you couldn’t before — new powers, so to speak.

McGonigal said that “reality is broken.” She said that a billion gamers around the world are using a connected device to play a game during any given hour. The game-nation is a network.

People spend 400,000 years playing Angry Birds a day.

92% of 2 year olds play video games (what are they going to think when we give them a textbook?)

Gamers spend 80% of their time failing.

McGonigal said that,

The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression!

That called to mind a quote by George Bernard Shaw,

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

One of the most interesting learning scenarios that I heard of at the conference was relayed by Cheryl Lemke. In a literature class, the students were reading Hamlet. The teacher created Twitter accounts for each of the main characters, and then assigned students to the accounts. They were encouraged to comment on the play, as they were reading it, in the voices of the characters. Very cool!

Lemke also said, “Give students non-googlable assignments!I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. I’d say,

Don’t test with questions that Google can answer.”

Will Richardson said, “The path to becoming a better teacher is becoming a better learner!” I agree with that entirely – and I believe that part of the key here is becoming a more self-aware learner, not just learning but reflecting on how you are learning. Here’s another quote shared by Richardson:

We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion.”

– Margaret Wheatley

Richardson then had us talk with each other about what confused us, and during that conversation it occurred to me that if you’re not confused, then you’re not paying attention – and

I regret that too many educators are not paying attention.

There is too much momentum behind making schools better. They don’t need to be better nearly as much as they need to be different. It’s a different world and school is not a “right of passage.” It’s a right of vantage. Its the right to be positioned in true relevance to yourself, your environment, your time, your culture, your economy and your world and the skills to participate.

He suggested that we are shifting from an institutionally controlled world to a world that is becoming self-organized. There are three starting points, according to Will Richardson:

  1. “Knowmatic” learning – Self-organized learning based on passions and I would add “on impending needs”
  2. Design thinking
  3. The maker movement

I think that there is a lot to think about in this list. Self-organized learning is not only a movement, but it is a necessity. It’s the self-organized learner that will succeed in a rapidly changing and flattening world – and it is entirely counter to the desires of the global education reform movement (GERM).

Design thinking is also a necessity, in that we’re all going to be solving problems and improving conditions, not just the engineers. Designing solutions with elegance, well, that is its own reward.

The maker movement is both solution and symptom. Its one more clue to a rapidly flattening world. Old institutional structures no longer support us and our individual needs. I am also starting to question our economic structures, but that’s for a different conversation.

Gary Stager was a perfect follow-up with his emphasis on the maker movement. He suggests

Three Game Changers

  1. Fabrication
  2. Physical Computing (intelligent objects)
  3. Programming

The real game change, he continued, is that shop and academics merge.

Too cool!

I do not clearly remember the context, but one of Stager’s slides stated that, “A good prompt is worth 1,000 words.” Good prompts have…

Three Qualities

  1. Brevity
  2. Ambiguity
  3. Immunity to assessment

Here is my interpretation of Stager’s list. A prompt must be clear and concise. It must be cloudless, as cloudless as a person’s own personal unarticulated observation of a problem. It should also NOT, in any way, suggest the solution. The learner has free reign to design and execute a personally-designed plan. Finally, if the end product can be assessed by any prior-established assessment routine, then the task was not about innovation. It was about compliance. I would suggest that there may be assessment methods that might work, but they wouldn’t be multiple choice, they would not question the designers – and institutional assessment isn’t part of the (learning) process anyway.

The School 2.0 unconference session, facilitated by Steve Hargadon, served to further refine my notions that it isn’t School 2.0 that we need to focus on, but student 2.0. That’s not my term, and I don’t particularly like it. We need a more descriptive term that does not dishonor the old teaching styles, which had their place in their time.

Sylvia Martinez put the icing on the cake of Gary Stagers presentation. Tinkering as pedagogy makes the best sense to me. Its how I learn. No-one could ever have taught me to program. Playing with code is the only way I could learn, and I would suggest, the best way to learn. She suggested that

Many of the best programmers were, at some point in their lives, told that they were not good a math.”

I think that doing math to numbers and using math to work numbers are two entirely different things.

Qualities of the Tinkering Mindset

  • Bricolage, playfulness, soft mastery
  • Time
  • Lower risk/stakes, imperfect data
  • Trust the process, serendipity
  • Expertise available (and not just the teacher)
  • Does not mean unguided “discovery”

In many ways of thinking, Jason Ohler was the high point of my conference experience. It was a spotlight session in a large hall, so the atmosphere was that of a keynote, and his presentation exceed in quality and content any of the other “keynotes” of the conference. It’s been a long time since I saw Ohler present, but I don’t remember it being anything like this.

He used the phrase, “trends that bent,” and suggested that the three trends that are influencing education are

  1. Critical Thinking – he added in creativity, and made the term creatical thinking.
  2. New LIteracy
  3. Digital Citizenship

The trends that he included in the conference program were

  1. Augmented Reality – Think virtual field trip. I wear my Google Glass to a museum and project my experience back to my students. Of course there are all kinds of ethical issues. There’s a bar that have already outlawed Google Glass because of privacy issues. Where do kids talk about this stuff. Also, this is not the only kind of augmented reality.
  2. Semantic Web – You search the web and it returned what it thinks you are looking for. A bit problematic, though, because it depends on who “it” is. Ohler also suggested Web 4.0, which is the web of things. “Everything holds an app!”
  3. Transmedia Storytelling – Where the audience becomes part of the cast, so to speak. It’s about fan involvement. I wonder, to what degree, is education fan involved. How do we make that happen?
  4. Multisensory ProjectionLeft out in the presentation!
  5. Smart ClothesLeft out in the presentation!

Ohler added in

  1. XTreme BYOD, suggesting that using your own devices is what might turn us into personal learners. Hmmmm!
  2. and Big Data suggesting that the tension point might be

Predictive Anticipation

Vs.

Choice and Breadth

Ohler went on to suggest we watch http://www.kurzweilai.net for evidence of new trends. It’s in my Flipboard now.

About Adam Bellow’s keynote. I have to say that if the conference had opened with that presentation, I would have been a bit disappointed. But as a closing keynote, Bellow nailed it. He honored ISTE, the learning, the tech and our continuing struggles to make formal education as close to real life as possible.

Over the past couple of years, Adam’s presentation style, his confidence on stage, and his content have improved many fold. He’s one of those unique individuals who has been a teacher, but also understands today’s emerging information and communications technologies – as a builder. He’s a programmer and a communicator, and that combination is a rare jewel.

You can see my entire set of notes [here].

 

Jane McGonigal’s Keynote — Reflections

I saw McGonigal's keynote last night, through the din of subdued Bogger Cafe murmurings. It was a fun presentation with lots of useful information, especially the statistics. But I was certain that the last time I saw her, McGonigal had a British accent. I'm old. Forgive me.

One set of numbers that I thought were especially telling described student aspirations — that 43% of students want to start their own business and 42% plan to invent something that changes the world. Is it the job of formal education to support our children in these aspirations, or indoctrinate them with the harsh reality that they will work for someone else, follow instructions and fit in. I suspect that a lot of the products in the exhibit are designed for the latter.

Another compelling part of the presentation was a listing of the 10 positive emotions that result from playing games. Although I am certain that there were many educators in the audience who needed to see that video games are not, necessarily, the root of all evi — I watched the keynote, wondering if Jane McGonigal was speaking to group of game designers, is this the presentation she would be giving? How playing games affects children is useful. But what would truly help me is understanding the mechanisms that evoke those emotions. How do games do it — and how might formal learning experiences pull those same triggers.

Of course, what was most fun was the MMTW, that is Massively Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling. I won't tell you how I did, but it might be my next book.

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Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Books Written

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
(2007) • Lulu
• Amazon
Raw Materials for the Mind
(2005)

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