|One of the nice things about writing again, is that it doesn’t require a huge monitor. Therefore, I am not chained to my upstairs office. I can do it virtually anywhere. :-)|
In our 35 years of marriage, there have been only a few instances when my wife realized what a cleaver fellow I am – maybe three. I think one occurred yesterday.
As you may be aware, I am winding down my career as an educator. My wife, concerned about identity security, has spent parts of the last couple of days looking for my social security number included in two large file cabinets of documents from 19 years of clients and jobs. She commented, as we were walking up to North Hills yesterday, that I had accomplished a lot in my years as an independent and been part of some pretty exciting developments in education and technology.
Then she said, “You should write a book about all of this.”
My reply was simple, the same that I’ve said to colleagues who have recently asked, “So now that you’re not traveling so much, are you going to write a new book?”
“I’m through! I’m tired! ..and writing is really hard work for me…”
Yet, this morning, as I woke and lay in bed, my mind was going like it hasn’t in many months, seeming to have realized that in some deep and evil corner of my brain, the decision has been made. I had an outline written out by 8:30 this morning – for a new book about the history of educational technology.
I really can’t believe that I’m Doing this Again!
I’ve been worrying over what’s to become of my 2¢ worth as I come to pay less attention to the education debate and less effort on promoting my own value to that conversation, which is at least a small part of what my pennies’ worth has been. Do I continue to have my children publish their video and infographic contributions, or drop the blog all together.
What continues to play at the edges of this conundrum is what was perhaps the most resounding nail I’ve hammered on during the final years and months of my professional career – that there is a distinct and crucial difference between learning and being taught. I suspect that there has been no time in human history where the ability to skillfully, resourcefully and continuously learn has been such an essential life long working (and playing) skill — lifestyle.
It’s a profound notion that begs the question, do we need an education system to teaches children how to be taught, or that helps them to learn to teach themselves? And if this is a question worth asking, then what does its answer mean to the pedagogies of our classrooms, libraries, school schedules…
As I have turned my attention away from writing about education and preparing for three keynote addresses a week (mostly not an exaggeration), I will must insist to you that I have not stopped learning. To treat my wife, I’ve taken on more of the cooking — applicable learning. I've started practicing the martial art of Aikido — reflective learning. Digital photography and the art and technique of post-production — information-rich learning.
I wonder if it might be useful to write about these learning experiences, removed from formal education. Though I've done a lot of thinking about my martial arts learning, the injured my coccyx (tail bone) from a bicycle accident, has prevented me from visiting the Raleigh Aikikai Dojo lately. I’m not yet mended enough to go and repeatedly fall down again. So let's look think about my photography learning.
I bought a descent DSLR camera several years ago, as an incentive strategy for getting me out of the hotel rooms of the interesting and sometimes exotic places my work was taking me. The scheme worked, and I now have a wealth of snapshots going back close to twenty years. It’s afforded me a richer memory of my global wanderings, but also given me a virtual warehouse of digital images with which to learn and play.
I am mostly using three software tools: Photomatix Pro, to enrich photos by blending different exposures together; Photoshop, to shove pixels around with; and Lightroom for the finishing touches. They are all three, rich and powerful tools for working in a field about which I have no formal training. I simply look at the work of better photographers, watch videos and read blog articles about how they accomplished their masterpieces, pick out a particular technique of interest or need, and teach myself to do it.
And I play.
To the right are before and after images from the train station in Basel, Switzerland, where my wife and I changed trains travel from Frankfort to Milan. The before image is a fine snapshot. It’s clear and crisp. However, there is little sense of the station itself. So a produced a copy of the photo with the exposure cranked up, revealing the high rounded roof and ribbed structure. Blending these two files, with a third lower exposure copy, not only revealed the vast size of the station, but with some play, gave the photo an antique and artistically rendered effect. Near the far end of the building, there was a hint of some open windows with morning sunlight shining through. To excentuate this, I used some techniques that I'd learned the day before to enhance the beams of light add added some extra open windows, giving the photo not only a sense of place, but also of moment.
My point is that
I learn by playing and working and then play and work with what a learn —
..and there is no clear point where one ends and the other begins.
Might classrooms be a little more like this, where students learn by playing and working (accomplishing something of value) and then play and work with what they've learned?
Might these sorts of writings be useful to you, practicing educators?
I know that I’ve not been blogging a lot lately, because the first thing I had to do this morning was update MarsEdit, my blog-writing software.
Yesterday, watching the tweets and status updates being posted by educators packing their bags, arriving at airports and train stations, bound for Atlanta and ISTE 2014 — well it got me to thinking. I’ve been an educator for almost 40 years and that many years in such a dynamic field makes you opinionated. ..and I suppose it’s part of the character of old folks (60+) to express their opinions.
That’s why I tweeted out yesterday…
— David Warlick (@dwarlick) June 26, 2014
There were retweets, agreeing replies, and some push-back — reminding me that this old dog will never learn to fit his thinking into a 140 character message. So here’s what I meant to say.
You will speak to vendors and listen to speakers in Atlanta who claim to know how to fix education, how this practice or product will improve resource efficiency, teacher effectiveness and student performance. Don’t ignore them, but ask yourself, “Are they answering the right question?”
I would suggest that rather than asking, “How do we improve education?” we should be asking ourselves, “What does it mean to be educated?”
Years ago, when my Great Uncle Jim, the last of my family to live in the old Warlick home, passed away, and the house was sold, we were given permission to visit and take any furniture or other items, for which we had a use. My prize was an old quilt that had obviously been stitched together during a quilting party, dated in the late 1800s.
Both Uncle Jim and my Grandfather grew up in this house, and they both went to college, Jim to NCSU (engineering) and my Grandfather to UNC (classics). But when they graduated, they returned to rural Lincoln County, without daily newspapers, monthly journals or a convenient library. They returned to an astonishingly information scarce world.
Being educated then was indicated by what you knew, the knowledge that you’d memorized, knowledge and skills that would serve you for most of the remaining decades of your life.
Today, we are swimming in information and struggling with a rapidly changing world, and the very best that any “education” can do, is provide for us is what we need to know or know how to do for the next couple of years.
Being education is no long indicated by what you’ve been successfully taught.
Being educated today is your ability to resourcefully learn new knowledge and skills and responsibly use them to answer new questions, solve emerging problems and accomplish meaningful goals.
Being educated today is no longer measured by the number of questions we can correctly answer.
It’s measured by how well we you can discover or invent new answers, effectively defend those answers, and then we them to make our lives, communities and world better.
If they’re trying to sell you something at ISTE, ask them, “How will this help my learners to become better educated?”
If they ask you, “What do you mean by educated?” Then there’s hope.
Exactly 2¢ Worth!
I just woke with a start. Did I just miss the ISTE14 ADE (Apple Distinguished Educators) photowalk yesterday? A quick Googling from my office (next to my bedroom) and I see that the event isn’t until next Saturday. Most years I’ve been blogging by now with recommendations for ISTE novices, about what gear to take and how to behave. But not this year. I’ll be mostly taking it easy at home, taking pictures, taking walks, riding my bike, playing with the dog (my daughter’s studying in Europe and we’ve got the dog) and working on a slew of personal projects.
Will I miss ISTE14? Well, I’ll certainly miss the photowalk. Last year’s walk around San Antonio was phenomenal, especially because of the talented and ingenious photographers I followed around — both the gear geeks and the artists.
I’ll also deeply miss EduBloggerCon, now called something else (HackEd), where educators go to learn from each other. I’d planned, for a while, to attend only the photowalk and HackEd, but figuring the cost and how much I’m enjoying becoming a homebody, I finally decided to forego Atlanta this year. I can’t accurately say how many NECC/ISTEs I’ve not missed, but it’s more than 20.
I’d like to say one thing here, about why I’ll be at home on ISTE week – and I’ve written about this before I submitted two presentation proposals.
One was a standup and teach presentation about games and pedagogy. It was accepted.
The other was a very strange interactive performance (see NCTIES), designed to provoke the audience to self-examine their personal ideas about information and communication technologies and education. It was rejected.
Look! The best learning that I have done, was not taught to me. The best learning came from a challenge, or curiosity, or an intriguingly inventive plot – and it involved a conscious and resourceful re-examining of my own knowledge and ideas.
Have fun at ISTE14 and question your learning.
It’s a silly distinction to make, I know, objecting to “personalize learning,” as a term for describing the current flavor-of-the-week in education reform/transformation conversation, preferring instead, “personal learning,” .
As an advocate, I cannot fault the use of either label for student learning that is personal, needs-based, unconfined and empowered by personal passions and skills. That’s my immodestly paltry characterization that fits both terms.
I could, if I thought it would be the least bit helpful, call attention to semantics, suggesting that one is a verb, “..produce (something) to meet someone’s individual requirements..”, and the other an adjective, “..belonging to a particular person..”
|But I guess what disturbs me the most and prevents me from letting go of this argument is that one can be
to superintendents and legislators,
The other liberates learning.
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.
Finally the images fade to a map of the world done in negative relief, appearing as it did millions of years ago. A timeline appears to the right of the map beginning at about 200 million years ago. A citation also appears in off-white indicating a Web site that was the source of their data. Immediately, a pointer, starting at the bottom of the timeline, starts to move up slowly. Simultaneously, landmasses begin to move in a motion with which the students are already familiar. Many of them have also used this animation from the Smithsonian Institute’s Web site.
The team is not downgraded for using the familiar animation. However, the class becomes noticeably more interested as splotches begin to fade in and out in specific locations on the map. Numbers are imposed over the splotches as they gradually expand and become more opaque and then shrink to transparency. Soft but intense music plays in the background, credited to a talented student who had attended Bacon school two years earlier, a short citation appearing in the lower corner of the display. Samuel speaks over the animation and music, describing periods in the planet’s relatively recent history of mass extinctions and seemingly spontaneous raises in species diversity.
“Each rise and fall has corresponded with some dramatic change in global conditions: ice ages, planetary collisions, volcanic or seismic calamities…” Samuel speaks on eloquently.
As he continues, Ms. Crabtree is taken back to a conversation she had with the boy during their work on the ecology project. Samuel is thought by many to be a technical genius. He has a genuine gift for understanding and using technology. He also has a flair for using these tools to communicate persuasively. She had convinced Samuel, however, not to handle the programming and data manipulation for this project, that he leave that up to Johann – that Samuel only be allowed to give Johann verbal directions. She had also asked Samuel to do more of the copy and script writing on this project, an activity that she knew would be a challenge for him.
Several Days Earlier:
Sally entered the school media center, a faint electronic click registering her entrance from the chip in her nametag. She stepped aside, so as not to block the doorway, and surveyed the room. The media center has far fewer books than it did when she went to middle school in the middle 1980s. There is a section in one corner that consists of shelves with books of various sizes and colors. They are almost exclusively fiction books that students check out for pleasure and for assignments in their humanities classes. These books remain because it is a deeply held belief that students appreciate the experience of reading a story without the benefit of electronic appliances. Regardless, most reading is done with tablet computers and smaller pocket text and audio readers.
The biggest portion of the room is devoted to work areas that Isaac calls “Knowledge Gardens.” Most of these workspaces consist of a table, with a 19-inch display, attached to a folding cradle that can swivel 360o. The display can be assigned to any tablet in its vicinity when the owner touches the print login pad. Scattered around the table are small, but efficient, keyboards, each of which can also be assigned to any tablet with the touch of its print login pad.
There are also two small stages with 4×8-foot display boards where teams can practice their presentations. She also sees a number of work areas that are much more casual, with homey lamps, bean bag chairs, low sofas, and assorted pillows. The media center is set up for knowledge construction, not just information accessing. Students come here to work, and mostly to work in small groups. It is rarely a quiet place.
Sally found the Reptiles and walked over. All four were together discussing their defense of one of the information resources they are using. She caught Samuel’s eye and asked if he would join her for a minute. She had read through the talented young man’s text document for the project, which was comprehensive and well organized. It appeared, though, that he had paid very little attention to grammar and sentence structure.
They sat down at an unoccupied table and she laid her tablet down, saying, “I wanted to talk for just a minute about your report.”
The story continues here.
At the ring of the bell, Sally rises and walks over to the door, shaking the hand of each student as he or she enters the room. She smiles as she sees Alf walking rapidly down the hall to join the group as it enters her classroom. A tall young man with uncombed curly brown hair, the dark complexion of a boy who spends a lot of time outdoors, and the customary awkwardness of teenagers who are growing too fast, he shakes Ms. Crabtree’s hand, but does not look up at her, moving away and toward his seat in the rear of the room.
As she turns to her classroom, she recalls the morning visit from Mr. Ball, their balding and portly principal.
Earlier in the Morning:
Ms. Crabtree looked up in mock irritation as the 31-year educator spun one of the rolling student desks over to her work area and sat heavily in the seat without consideration of his greater than average size. Sally and Mr. Ball had been friends for all of the eight years that he has been the chief administrator of Bacon, both professionally and personally. Their long friendship and professional relationship did not require niceties. He began with the heart of the problem. “Alf Greeley was taken in by the police last night for vandalism,” he says.
Sally sighed and replied, “It was probably another fight with his mother. He is still hurting so much from their split, and she simply does not know how her reaction is making things worse for her son.”
“All we can do is to try and keep him engaged in his projects and help him in anyway that we can,” Mr. Ball says. “I just thought you should know, so that you can handle things accordingly.”
“His team, the Reptiles, is making their ecology movement presentation today.” Sally finally smiled at her friend and boss. “If you were to casually come in to watch, it would be an encouraging gesture.”
Mr. Ball stood and said, “Send me a message when they are getting started and I’ll do what I can!”
As the principal shoved the abducted seat back in the direction of the other desks, Sally pulled up her e-mail utility, addressed a message to Mr. Ball, and wrote the note, “Reptiles are starting their presentation! -SC-“. She set it for delayed delivery, to be sent directly to his pocket tablet upon her click of a Send icon that suddenly appeared in a corner of her tablet.
The story continues here!
As the B2 bell rings, Isaac sits at his desk in the media center and touches icons on his tablet causing a white document to appear on the display, a diagram of the Bacon School campus. He then taps with his finger the location on the map corresponding with Ms. Crabtree’s classroom. Suddenly a full motion, real-time video of the classroom appears on his tablet, captured by a camera that is mounted in the back of the room near the ceiling.
An additional document slides out of the video window that lists the owners of a few dozen outside computers that are also monitoring that classroom. There are usually five to ten viewers of any one class, usually parents who are monitoring what their children are doing and how they are behaving. Many pop in just to learn. However, when there is going to be a team project presentation, many more parents, other residents of the community, and often teachers and students from other schools drop in to watch. All teams maintain Web sites that represent the progress of their work, including their work logs, considered resources, defenses, and their presentation date.
As the students begin entering Ms. Johnson’s classroom, Isaac thinks back to an encounter he had with Desmone this morning just before A2.
Earlier in the Morning
Ms. Shuni, the other Media Center Professional, had just walked into their office area from one of the classrooms, where she had been consulting with a teacher. “Konichiwa,” she said as she passed Isaac’s desk. It is Japan week.
“Konichiwa, Margaret-san,” John replies, with a prayer bow gesture.
The 32 year library media specialist walked over to her desk, fit her tablet into its cradle, and touched the print login surface of her keyboard with her thumb, causing a virtual connection between the two devices through the room’s wireless network. As she began typing an e-mail message, a group of students ambled into the media center. Mr. Johnson rose from his desk and strolled out into the larger room to see if he was needed.
Desmone, a member of Sally’s Reptiles, said something to the group she was with and then walked over to Isaac. She was visibly anxious. “Mr. Johnson, Alf got in trouble again last night.” The young man motioned to a nearby unoccupied work area, and they both walked over and sat. “Have you heard from him? Have you seen him here at school yet? Will he be here for our presentation today?”
Isaac asked the girl for her tablet and then pressed the print login with his index finger so that the information appliance could reconfigure itself for his access. He then pulled up the school’s information system, and learned that the boy’s nametag has not been registered for the day. “He isn’t in the building – yet,” said Mr. Johnson.
The library media specialist then accessed the call-in register to see if Alf’s mother had called indicating that he will not be in school that day. “His mother hasn’t called in. Right now, it looks like he will be here.” After a pause, Mr. Johnson says, “Just a minute!”
He pulled up the work folder for the Reptile’s project and accessed Alf’s video presentation, the part of the project in which he had been most engaged. Mr. Johnson touched the icon for the student’s file, then touched the menu bar at the top of the display to select “Info” from the drop down list of options. A small white document appeared with statistical information on the file including its size, type, location and other data. Mr. Johnson touched the word “history” and a second document sprang out. After reading the list of entries there, he looked up at Desmone, smiled, handed the tablet over after touching an icon to erase his configuration, and said, “I think Alf will be here today!”
As she reached for her tablet, Desmone noticed that her friends had gathered their things and were headed out of the room. She quickly thanked the educator, with some uncertainty, and turned to join her friends.
It continues here.
Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction
by David Warlick
Sally Crabtree sits at her desk as her A2 students amble out of her classroom, most talking in pairs and threes, some glancing at their tablets for messages from friends, parents, or project collaborators. Sally crosses her legs, lays her tablet in her lap and begins dragging icons around on the smooth bright surface using the stylus she slides out of the holder on the edge of the information appliance. As she busily works at her device, the information on the large plasma display at the front of the room begins to change, some sections of text and images moving around, new ones appearing, and others disappearing. Blocks of information slide down into view illustrating weather conditions, Web-cams in other parts of the world, and finally Arabic music, care of a Baghdad radio station.
Outside her classroom, students stroll down the halls toward their next class, B2 (B period, 2nd day of the week), or huddle in groups, talking, drawing at their tablet displays with fingers or styluses. Most of the conversations are purely the social exchanges between newly pubescent middle-schoolers. However, a significant number of the interactions are discussions of the class projects in which teams of students are constantly engaged. Projects are the primary activity of Bacon School, and most other schools in 2014.
As she prepares for B2 to begin, Sally thinks back to her drive to school that morning with her young and excitable friend Isaac Johnson, one of the school’s media center managers.
Earlier in the Morning:
Sally had just picked Isaac up at his small rental house, almost exactly half way between her family’s home and The Bacon School. She had been listening to John Grisham’s latest book being read to her in a Mississippi accent by her tablet. She touches the Stop icon on her tablet, as her nearly silent hybrid car glides to the curb in front of the refurbished mill house. Isaac, who has been sitting on the porch scanning the news on his tablet while sipping his customary breakfast cola, drops his tablet into his canvas messenger bag, jumps off of the porch, and slides into the passenger seat. As Sally pulls out onto the road again, their conversation goes directly to Sally’s beloved “Reptiles,” one of her student teams. Isaac is aware that they will be making their project presentation this morning during B2, since he works intimately with most of the school’s teams on a daily basis. She has especially enjoyed the “Reptiles,” since the day at the beginning of the year that they chose their name. It was Alf’s idea, but each of the other members came up with a particular reason why the name fit.
The team is uniquely diverse in terms of academic characteristics. Two members, Desmone and Johann, are random thinkers and attention deficit. Samuel is a high achiever with an excellent memory and analytical mind. Alf remains emotionally traumatized by the unfortunate and vicious separation and divorce of his parents a year ago. Neither of the parents have much interest in supporting their thirteen year-old son through his turmoil, each too engaged in their own bitterness and adjustment. Regardless of this odd diversity, the team has jelled into an exciting force for producing surprisingly insightful work.
Isaac describes how the team has been working after classes, with Desmone and Samuel completing the text report version of the project and Johann and Alf polishing up their audio/visual. He adds that Alf has just as often been working by himself on another component of the project that remains a mystery.
“Finding the resources for their visuals was not a problem,” Isaac said. “But, validating them was a useful challenge. Each of the team members took a section of earth history, and created Web shelves in their personal information libraries with resources that they identified. They shared their Web shelves and used the information as a basis for their evaluation. It was an interesting learning experience for the team. I’ve asked if components of their shelves might be included in the Media Center Common Shelves.
“It was brilliant requiring Johann to handle the audio/visual editing and telling Samuel that he could only support him verbally,” Isaac continued, admiringly. “Frankly, I was afraid that I would be pulled into supporting Johann more than I would like, but I found that he called on Samuel at least as much as he called on me. Also, he grasped the concepts and developed his skill, and he really seems focused on the communication, not technique.”
Sally smiled at the reference to her scheme. “Thanks for supporting me on this, Isaac.”
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