If you are a follower of this blog, then you’re aware that I am employing both of my children to curate their own teacher resource blogs (Infographic-A-Day & Vid-A-Day), and that I syndicate them into 2¢ Worth.
One, posted by Martin the other day, really caught my attention (Circuit Scribe, the new way to teach and use circuits). It’s an ink, developed at the university of Illinois, through which electrical current can be carried. Their (electroninks) intent is an innovative way to help youngsters come to understand circuits. They doodle their circuit ideas with Circuit Scribe pens, lay components on their drawings, and throw the switch.
Part of what intrigued me about the project was our education community’s growing interest in helping students learn by making things – with tools, wires and code. This product is such a threshold-free approach to learning circuit design.
that provoked me to comment here is my son – and I hope that Martin doesn’t mind my bringing his personal experience into this. You see, Martin is incredibly talented at becoming an expert in areas that interest him. Many of you know that he is a celebrated master musician. But he constantly surprises us when he suddenly can talk with us about that never seemed of interest to him before, such as some old movie we’ve just seen. He’s telling us about the director, actors, academy award nominations, related works and stories about its production. He’s especially fond of the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson.
He can also tell you almost anything about the NBA and is currently learning a lot about the NFL, via his fantasy football league. He is definitely not the athletic jock type (band geeks were big on campus in his high school) and has never expressed any interest in sports until recently.
To the point of this writing, I find it interesting that my son zoomed in on this video about Circuit Scribe. You see Martin dropped out of the computer science program of one of our state universities, because he hated programming – and I think I know why. They were not teaching him to doodle. I don’t mean literally draw his programs with conductive ink. They weren’t helping him learn to code the way I learned to code. He was being made to learn programming in the same way that I was taught grammar. It was about memorizing proper syntax, instead of learning to make computers do interesting and useful things.
My children will both find their intersections of play, purpose and passion, and it will (hopefully) be something they can make a living at.
..and they’ll do it in spite of the “test-prep” curriculum that dominated their childhoods.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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
- 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
- The World Wide Web
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Brenda (my wife) and I are having a continuing “conversation” about photography. She’s a purist, a once passionate photographer in the age of film. Like many things, she set aside her passion for picture-taking for motherhood. Yet, she continues to have an opinion about what’s good photography and what’s…
Bottom line, digital processing of photos is not photography. She wants the photos to look like photos and the other stuff can be enjoyed by people who enjoy.. well, “other stuff.”
I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain to her the joy I have playing with the photos that I take, using a variety of computer applications, to continue to make the picture – and I think I’ve found an angle.
It started a while back when I was watching a photography podcast, a session about HDR (High Dynamic Range) (see this previous article). The speaker said that,
“HDR enables the photographer to capture what it was that inspired the taking of the picture.”
The more I thought about it, the more sense this statement made. You see, when I look up this mountain, the house, and the distinct cloud formations above it, I’m struck by both the distance and the closeness, the sheer quantity of ground, covered by giant spruce trees standing before me and the changing hues that all seem eager to claim their place, I am overwhelmed by the awesomeness of it – and I aim and snap.
The original photo, where the brightness of the sky and clouds darkens the mountain-scape
Two more exposures, an over exposure (light) and an underexposure (dark)
|I can even push some of the qualities beyond their reality to make a picture even more interesting, and perhaps more inspiring.|
But, when I finally display the photo on my computer screen, it comes out pretty much as it was, though not as I saw it. My mind, you see, saw more than my eyes did. It saw the multiple distances, the sunlight swimming through millions of spruce needles, the warmth in the clouds and coolness in the mountains’ shadows. My mind amplified the vibrant colors and registered that the scene was only part of a 360º panorama of sameness and diversity.
My brain made the vision something that no camera could adequately capture, both functionally and technically.
But, when I take three different photos of the scene, at three different exposures, and load them all into my HDR software (Photomatix), I can bring out specific qualities of each exposure, overlap them, bleed them through and accentuate, approaching the vibrance and space that inspired me to aim and snap. I can also exaggerate qualities creating a surreal version of the image, perhaps making interesting something that simply wasn’t to start with.
Now, there’s a reason why I tell this story here. I use to have a bulletin board in my classroom that read, “This classroom is a lens through which you can see the rest of the world,” and I meant it. But there was only so much of the world that I could show my students through 5+ year old textbooks, a 1948 world map, and three cracked chalk boards. To be sure, there was not a lot more I could have done with more recent textbooks, a brand new map and shiny new white boards. The purist would say that I was doing my job, and perhaps doing it well. I was playing my role – educating my students and teaching them skills.
It was also during those first years of teaching that I started paying attention: to the news, to people who weren’t students or teachers, to science (became fascinated by quantum physics), to geography (we owned the book, Europe on $10 a Day (now Europe on $85 a Day) and dreamed of summers, vagabonding across the old continent). I came to realize just how exciting and mysterious and vibrant the world really was, and was inspired to become a better teacher and better lens for my students.
|Closest that I could come. It’s so hard to find pictures of things that predate the World Wide Web.|
But, I couldn’t do it. I went back to the classroom, continuing my traditional role as teacher, expecting my students to sit still, pay attention, and remember. My passion as a lecturer wasn’t nearly enough.
Here we are today, with a new kind of classroom. Our personal learning devices give us access to networked, digital and overwhelmingly abundant information. We are no longer teaching from information scarcity.
Are we now teaching in a time when we can HDR our classrooms. Might we finally capture and share what it was about our world experience, that inspired us to teach. Might we even exaggerate hues and contrasts and blend colors in weird ways. Can we make knowledge flow and glow and grow and cause learning to energize our children – rather than steal it from them.
Can we push reality into our classrooms and inspire our learners to become members, participants, and shapers of their future? – and ours?
One of several sessions conducted that day (and the day before) by the high school principal for parents about the 1:1 program
I am home from a grueling couple of days in Eldridge, Iowa, where I spoke to parents and community members of the North-Scott School District and then to the faculties of the junior and high schools. North-Scott is implementing a one to one program for secondary schools, and the superintendent and school board members thought it might help for me to deliver a couple of kickoff presentations. They’d seen me at the Iowa Association of School Boards conference a few months earlier. I must have been in the zone that day, because I’m spending a good bit of time in Iowa in the next few months. No other explanation.
First of all, the community session enjoyed an excellent turnout. Too often, when I volunteer to do these things, I’ll get only a dozen or fewer parents show up. Just too much else going on. But the seventy-some people who showed up were engaged and put me through rich and progressive Q&A afterward. There was a lot of concern about how teachers were going to learn to implement the devices and how they were going to keep up.
The next day, the principals and ed tech staff did something that I haven’t seen before. They ran and EdCamp-style event between the two presentations I delivered, three sets of concurrent sessions, which the teachers defined in the auditorium and one of the principals typed into a Google Doc schedule. Then they all walked up, took pictures of the schedule with the phones and set out to learn from each other.
I have to confess that I was a little skeptical about this experiment. Most EdCamps are attended by teachers who are already pretty Web 2.0 savvy and committed to the whole value-of-the-audience thing. But I’ve never known of this type of unconference PD being imposed on a group of teachers. These guys surprised me. I spent some time in about a third of the conversations, and they were active, rich with questions and answers, entirely focused on learning, and most had at least a couple of people who had experience with the topic at hand. All of the teachers were engaged and seemed truly appreciative.
I have spoken to lots of faculties, who were told to be there and I often get the sense that my goal is to get the clueless to get one, a clue. But lately, that whole thing seems to have changed. The clueless seem to be very much in the minority, and they are paying attention to their colleagues who have knowledge and attitude.
It was a hard couple of days for me, but incredibly rewarding and encouraging.
Many months ago I spoke at a leadership conference in Vancouver. When the event was over, officials with the British Columbia Principals and Vice Principals Association, held an invitational gathering of school leaders from throughout the province to create a new document establishing leadership standards for principals and vice principals.
To help them prepare for the upcoming conversations, seven relevantly accomplished professionals were invited to spend eight minutes each sharing their insights about school leadership and culture. They included a former superintendent, international educator, a director of education for a large Canadian school district, a developmental psychologist, executive director of the (Canadian) National Staff Development Council, president of a large chain of grocery stores, a professor of sociology ––– and me.
As I explained here (Warlick, 2012), I was fortunate to have been the last to speak – addressing literacy and learning-literacy. It was one of those singular learning experiences for me, sitting on the stage, listening to these really smart people, and changing the outline of my short talk with just about every idea set forth. I watched as my own presentation morphed into something different, articulate, and –– awesome.
So, with the 2013-2014 school year gearing up, and my own education career spinning down*, I thought I would spend some bits here expanding on each of the items that seemed to spontaneously appear on my iPad that afternoon.
A school that practices learning-literacy is a school where:
- The distinctions between teacher and student begin to blur.
In a time of rapid change, when new jobs emerge and fade faster than any education institution can respond and lifestyles change with a globally connected cross-cultural conversation, literacy becomes something bigger. It no longer seeks to make readers. It makes master learners, people who can successfully learn, unlearn, and relearn. **
In this environment innovation becomes a commodity, the ability to resourcefully learn becomes the defining foundation of literacy, and the principal goal of formal education is to produce learners. In this environment pedagogies shift from best teaching practices to best learning practices.
Of course teaching does not go away and neither does a good lecture. but no teacher will deny that we all learned what we teach better, after we started teaching it, than we did as students in the classroom. Teaching is a potent learning skill. Therefore, perhaps one of the best ways that we can help our children to become skilled learners is to practice learning in front of them, and one of the best ways for children to learn, is to teach.
This means, for instance, becoming comfortable using technologies in your classroom, with which you are not comfortable. Demonstrating and talking about your process for figuring it out, or even asking for help from students becomes a life-size illustration of adapting to change – being a master learner.
- There is less reliance on textbooks and authority, and more reliance on the work of learning.
Our information landscape has changed: in what it looks like, what we look at to view it, how we find it, where we go to find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. We all engage in content generating conversations through blogs, twitter, YouTube, and what ever is to come. We can no longer believe it, simply because it was written down. We are more than information consumers today. We are participants.
I learned to assume the authority of the information that I encountered. I was taught with approved textbook, in academically managed libraries and by teachers whose position was based on their learnedness. Questioning the information that I encountered was not encouraged. It was unnecessary.
Today, habitually questioning content is required. It is a foundation of being literate. To become literate, students should learn within an information environment that exemplifies today’s information landscape, where discussions of an idea’s validity become part of learning the idea. We must learn to be responsible participants.
- There is a natural convergence between the rich information skills of literacy and numeracy, and the information and data that define the content areas.
Information is increasingly networked, digital and abundant (overwhelming). Each of the qualities are new and they expand what it means to be literate. If you agree that learning is at least a major part of why we become literate today, then knowing how to employ these new qualities, in order to learn, are basic literacy skills.
At this writing, I am creating an infographic that tells a story about how today’s North Carolina General Assembly came to be and what it cost. Because information is networked, I am able to find, evaluate and select information about campaign spending and its sources that would not have been practically available to me in the past.
Because that information was digital, I can capture that information, translate, organize, manipulate and interpret it using tools that didn’t exist when I graduated from high school.
Because information is abundant (we are all overwhelmed by it), I am using graphic design and publishing tools that didn’t exist when I left classroom teaching, trying the practically convey my findings in a visually clear and compelling message.
There is a physics to today’s information landscape and accomplishing goals relies, in no small way, to the ability to harness these laws of digital behavior to invent solutions to brand new problems.
- Teachers teach from new learning, as master learners.
When my grandfather was in college, molecules were defined as, “The smallest part of any substance which possesses the characteristic properties and qualities of that substance, and which can exist alone in a free state.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1913) By the time my father was in school, atoms were defined as “A particle of matter so minute as to admit of no division. Atoms are conceived to be the first principles or component parts of all bodies.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1928) I learned about electrons, protons and neutrons while my children learned about quarks and other strange particles. Today, we’re reading about future computers that will operate on the behaviors of quanta.
The answers to the test questions are changing.
According to a 2010 Bowker report, 2009 saw 1,829 new books published in the U.S. about agriculture. 5,131 new books were published about computers, approximately 9,000 each about business and education. 14,281 brand new books were published about history – new knowledge about history. As we gain more access to information and to each other, the new knowledge that we generate as a society not only astounds us, but it is forcing us to redefine what it means to be educated. We have rapidly moved from a world of information scarcity to information abundance, and an education is no longer measured by what you can remember, but what you can learn and what you can do with what you’ve learned.
Teachers, who teach solely from their university experience do a disservice to their learners. Teachers should model themselves as habitual and resourceful learners, and skilled artisans of what they’ve learned. We must walk into our classrooms out of today, not from the day that they graduated.
- Digital Footprints become a central part of the school’s culture, building evolving personal and school identities based on learning and “doing” with the learning.
When I built the nation’s first state department of education website, there were probably less than 100 parents in the entire state who could access it. But today, institutions are identified by their web sites. Some sites have become institutions unto themselves – Wikipedia, Amazon.com and Google.
When most of our children’s parents think about the institutions that support them in their daily endeavors, they recall URLs instead of building facades. They expect to interact with their world through the World Wide Web. They expect to have the same digital access to the schools their children attend and the teachers who manage their classrooms. It has evolved from the exception to an expectation.
This is an enormous opportunity for education, to be able to communicate with and even educate the communities that they serve. We can distinguish ourselves, present ourselves for judgement and tell new stories about education, teaching and learning not through bureaucratic methods of measurement, but by enthusiastically sharing what and how our children are learning, and what they can do with what they are learning.
- The library magnifies the world outside, but also reflects the culture inside, curating collections of learner-produced media products.
As already mentioned, a school that practices learning-literacy cultivates a digital footprint, along with its learners. One outcome of preparing children for an unpredictable future is that they are learning things that their parents didn’t know. When those parents visit their schools’ web sites, it should not be merely to learn about their children, but also to learn things that they didn’t know, to be astounded, to spark new conversations for their families and to redefine teachers as master learners, not simply learned.
Since children are not merely learning, but also doing with what they learn, then they are in constant production, working knowledge, like raw material, into refined and valuable information products. The school’s library becomes the repository for these products and the librarian, its archivalist.
Learners will visit the library not merely to find what’s available from outside, but also from inside, to find work that previous students have done, and perhaps even improve on that work. After thousands of years of civilization, almost nothing starts from scratch.
- Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.
I later rephrased this one to “In a school that practices learning-literacy, teachers model learning, students learn to teach themselves, and schools educate the community.“ This sentence, with its three principles, says it all for me.
** A quote often attributed to Alvin Tofler, but actually his paraphrasing of Herbert Gerjuoy’s ”Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.“
(1913). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.
(1928). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.
Bowker LLC, (2010). Bowker reports traditional u.s. book production flat in 2009. Retrieved from website: http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2010/pr_04142010.shtml
Warlick, D. (2012, October 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=3733
My reflections & reactions are in red and italics
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.
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.
- Buffer – BufferApp.com
- Chirp – chirp.io
- Video is Video – goo.gl/910az
- Tagboard – tagboard.com
- Hopscotch – gethopscotch.com
- Appcraft – appcraft.wikispaces.com
- TourWrist – tools.tourwrist.com — very cool –
- MightText – mightytext.net
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:
- “Knowmatic” learning – Self-organized learning based on passions and I would add “on impending needs”
- Design thinking
- 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
- Physical Computing (intelligent objects)
The real game change, he continued, is that shop and academics merge.
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…
- 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
- 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
- Critical Thinking – he added in creativity, and made the term creatical thinking.
- New LIteracy
- Digital Citizenship
The trends that he included in the conference program were
- 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.
- 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!”
- 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?
- Multisensory Projection – Left out in the presentation!
- Smart Clothes – Left out in the presentation!
Ohler added in
- XTreme BYOD, suggesting that using your own devices is what might turn us into personal learners. Hmmmm!
- and Big Data suggesting that the tension point might be
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].
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.
I will say here that I became a teacher because I wanted to help children and watch them grow and become more capable, compassionate and respectful of the culture and society of their community and their world. That said, I believe that teaching has become way to clinical. In our misguided efforts to establish success by being able to measure learning, we have fabricated a system of complex and rigid classifications with symptoms, diagnoses and prescribed treatments. We have tried to make teaching a science, and it is not. Teaching is an art.
In the early days of NCLB, being an educator was compared to being a pharmacist, where less than successful learners could be treated with scientifically proven best practices and the application of big data.
Of course this clinical approach does describe part of what it is to teach. I call this the teacher-technician. However, what Bobby’d learned, that enabled him to diagnose my car’s problem from the telling of my entertaining story, did not result from an elaborate construct of scientifically proven best practices. It happened because of a family or close-knit community that talked about cars; what made them work and what made them work better. They valued good cars that could be made faster than they were off the showroom floor, and they valued the folks who could accomplish it. They worked on cars. They fixed them. ..and sometimes it didn’t work, and they talked about it – and they learned from what went wrong.
Bobby’s story is not meant to promote classrooms that are shaped by established and described differentiations and toolboxes of prescribed remedies. What I would rather see are teacher-philosophers who are skilled, knowledgeable and can facilitate a learning community that:
- Values what is being learned
- Respects the learning that comes from success
- Respects the learning that comes from failure and
- Celebrates what learners can do with what they have learned.
It is a classroom where students can turn around and look back at the concrete and public results of their learning.
keep looking »