In my new situation of retired educator (or semi-retired educator. I can’t really decide), I find myself paying less attention to Twitter and more to friends and relatives on Facebook. But this morning, when I started my computer and Twitteriffic flashed up, I scanned through the most recent tweets from my long-time and famous educator friends – and my eye landed on one by Doug Peterson actually a retweet of Miguel Guhlin’s,
The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher is a March 25 article in The Atlantic written by Michael Godsey, a “veteran high-school English educator.” Asked by a college student about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, he writes,
I never think it’s enough to say that the role is shifting from “content expert” to “curriculum facilitator.” Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation’s most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The “virtual class” will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country’s best teachers (a.k.a. a “super-teacher”), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.
To that, I say, “poppycock!” How’s that for post-career reflection and rejection of the ideals that I seemingly promoted for the last 20+ years? But the fact is that I never promoted such a future for the classroom and find the arrangement to be personally revolting and counter-productive to what I believe the purpose of education to be.
It’s an interesting question and one that many of us have challenged ourselves and each other with, “What is the purpose of school.” Here’s a good answer, in my opinion – Why School by Will Richardson and what is described in Invent To Learn, by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. But here is my ready answer that is short and to the point.
The purpose of school is to prepare our children for adult life during the next 70 to 80 years.
Life doesn’t happen on a video screen and it can’t be simulated with a game. Goddey’s “fantastic computer screen” will help as will the games and video clips from top thinkers on TED. In fact, they are essential. But the fallacy is the assumption and fear that technology replaces the teacher.
To be sure, nobody in education, but those in the darkest recesses of denial, believes that the role of the teacher is not changing. The shift from “content expert” to “curriculum facilitator” is certainly happening – and it should. But NOTHING, my most loyal readers, IS EVER THAT SIMPLE.
A phrase like “sage on the stage to guide on the side” is intended as an idiom to focus the attention of experienced professional educators who already grasp the changing conditions that are reshaping school. It is not an all-encompassing description of the future of classroom instruction. Frankly, while reading Godsey’s advice to his student, I saw no need for classrooms at all – and that’s the last thing I’d want to see for my grandchildren and their children.
We have to acknowledge that there is a powerful cabal that desires and promotes just the scenario described by Mr. Godsey. They fancy an education system that spends its billions on their videos, games, tutorials and assessment products, instead of unionized public school teachers. Products, whose service can be measured (test scores), can be marketed.
In my mind the most preposterous statement in the whole article is the advice of a superintendent, aired on NPR, “If you can Google it, why teach it?” ..and this gets back to the question, “What is the purpose of school?” If education’s objective is to equip our children with facts that they can recall on state test day, then I would agree with the superintendent’s statement. But if its purpose is to prepare our children for adult life, then the job of the teacher is to help learners to understand what they’ve Googled and develop the essential literacy skills and habits of questioning, analyzing and assigning context to the Googled information.
What we can predict about life in the next 70 to 80 years is almost nothing, beyond the timeless practices of responsibility, compassion and providing value to the community. It will continue to be a time of rapid change, inventions that redefine how we accomplish our goals and discoveries that challenge our beliefs and philosophies.
The common core subject of every classroom today should be learning to learn.
And this brings us back around to Michael Godsey’s apparent fear that his college earned knowledge of literature has become obsolete. Our classrooms still require experts. But experts today are no longer known for knowing all there is to know about a subject.
Today’s experts are known for being highly skilled at learning and relearning the ever growing and often changing knowledge about their subject.
This is the notion of expertise that teachers need to model and that students need to see every day, the essential and constant practice of contextual learning-skills / learning-literacies.
Adult life is about learning.
In my efforts to write this book about the history of educational technology (as I have witnessed it), I’m finding myself doing more reading than writing. I guess that’s normal for book-writing, though it surprises me since I am typing this mostly from my own recollections.
This morning, in my reading, I learned a new word. It’s mesofacts. These are facts that, when learned, seem to be dependable, longterm and applicable truths – when in fact, they are likely to change within a lifetime, and often within a few years.
In his Harvard Business Review article, Be Forwarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying Samuel Arbesman relates an example, a hedge fund manager saying in a conversation, “Since we all know that there are 4 billion people on the planet…” 4 billion people is what I learned when I was in school, and it still surprises me when I heard that it was up to 6 billion and now 7 billion.
Arbesman says that these mesofacts are far more common than we realize. It makes me wonder about how much of what we are expecting our students to memorize, will simply not be true in their adulthood, and may even be problematic.
This all supports something that I heard someone say a few years ago.
Any question, whose answer can be googled,
should not be on any test.
Another epiphanic statement, which may or may not be attributable to John Dewey is,
If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s,
we rob them of their tomorrow.
Another word I learned is scientometrics. Its the study of the shape of how knowledge grows and spreads through a population.
In 1993, while I was working at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and exploring the educational potentials of the, then emerging, Internet, I ran across an intriguing and inspiring summer project being conducted at Maricopa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona.
With the local school district, they invited a diverse group of students who would be entering fourth, fifth or sixth grades (all at-risk of failure) into a MUD or Multi-User Domain. Essentially, a MUD is a text-based virtual environment. Think SecondLife where the environment is read about, instead of seen graphically.
This particular MUD was empty, flat asphalt. These students, some of whom you couldn’t get to write their names in a classroom, were challenged to create a virtual city in the MUD, by learning a simple programming language and describing its buildings, parks and their own virtual homes, in all their richness, with words.
At the end of the project, I invited a number of the organizers and volunteers to a virtual office I was maintaining at MIT’s MediaMOO, where my avatar was known as Peiohpah. There I interviewed the team about their experience. I had acquired a virtual video camera, which recorded the exchanges.
Here is a portion of that interview played back on Pei’s TV.
[on Pei's TV] *********************************** [on Pei's TV] ** C a m p M a r i M U S E ** [on Pei's TV] ** An Interview with the staff ** [on Pei's TV] ** of the first virtual ** [on Pei's TV] ** Computer Camp ** [on Pei's TV] *********************************** [on Pei's TV] [on Pei's TV] . . . the camera pans left to right over Pei's Studio [on Pei's TV] A cozy corner with two comfortable sofas arranged for conversation in front of a large picture of a schoolhouse. Curiously, the walls of the schoolhouse appear to be transparent. There is a copy of Tuesday's *New York Times* on an end table. [on Pei's TV] Lila smiles at the camera [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "I'm here with a few friends today to talk about a project that they have been involved in this summer, Camp MariMUSE. I call them friends although I have never met them face-to-face, and don't even know the sounds of their voices. Yet I have profoundly enjoyed their companionship by interacting not only with their words, but with their imaginations, and -- most importantly to this interview -- with their innovation." [on Pei's TV] Pei turns to the rest of the group. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Hi, Pei" [on Pei's TV] Avalon looks toward Pei, pleased to be here. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Why don't we start with my guests introducing them selves." [on Pei's TV] Woody waves to TV land [on Pei's TV] Miss-K giggles [on Pei's TV] Lila says, ""I am Lila on the MariMuse, a volunteer for the project. I am a student at Phoenix college, a returning student" [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "I am Billie Hughes aka Avalon on MariMUSE. I worked with the team that first brought Muse to Phoenix College." [on Pei's TV] Pei senses that another member of the MariMUSE team is looking for them and disappears suddenly for parts unknown. [on Pei's TV] Lila waits for Pei to return [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "I am Miss-K on the Muse, and Susan Oram in RL (Real life) -- the school librarian at Longview Elementary School. " [on Pei's TV] Pei has arrived. [on Pei's TV] Wlad materializes out of thin air. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Hi Wlad!" [on Pei's TV] Woody says, "I am Rod Brashear, Woody on Marimuse. I am a student at Arizona State Universtiy-West and also work for the Arizona Department of Education. I volunteered to be involved with the Longview project." [on Pei's TV] Lila waves to Wlad, and thinks she has seen him before ;)" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Hi, Wlad" [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Wlad, would you introduce yourself?" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "Hi, and I am Jim Walters. I work at Pheonix College and am intensely interested in this medium." [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Is that everyone?" [on Pei's TV] Lila thinks that is all for the moment, Platoon will join us later" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "Thanks" [on Pei's TV] Avalon turns toward Pei,anticipating a question." [on Pei's TV] Pei reads from his clipboard, then faces Avalon. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Avalon, would you begin by explaining how Camp MariMUSE came to be?" [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "Wlad and I were in the library one day when the Dean walked in. We were excited about what Muse was doing for our college students. She suggested we do a summer camp for kids." [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "We jumped at the chance and the rest is history." [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "Avalon had heard a rumor that Joanne, the principal at Longview, might be supportive of a technology linked proposal. So we set out to meet with her." [on Pei's TV] Woody says, "wlad and Av planted a seed and didn't realize how big the tree would be. [on Pei's TV] Lila says, "...and still growing!" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "it's rather like falling into the rabbit's hole with Alice." [on Pei's TV] Pei grins with understanding [on Pei's TV] Lila laughs at the rabbit hole analogy [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "So it began as an environment for college student?" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "We did try to start with the basis that it could accommodate learners of all ages." [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "But college students were the group we began with because that was the group we had access to." [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "We tried it first with our own students, but always dreamed of a huge one room school for learners of all ages." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "The dream is starting to come true, isn't it?" [on Pei's TV] Lila nods agreement [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "We took some risks in bringing in some of our own students, then to try to offer a class entirely in this environment." [on Pei's TV] Pei turns to Miss-K. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Miss-K, Could you describe some of the landmarks of MariMUSE that your campers saw when they first entered the MUSE?" [on Pei's TV] Woody notices sweat on the brow of Miss-k. [on Pei's TV] Lila hands Miss-K a tissue [on Pei's TV] Miss-K smiles sickly! [on Pei's TV] Pei reaches over and touches Miss-K's hand! [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Well, we went to Lady Starlight's castle first. " [on Pei's TV] Pei's eyes widen with excitement. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "We also visited some of the places the first group of campers had created. Also, Some of the campers spent quite a lot of time in an amusement park." [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "A couple of the volunteers had created a space station that was the initial home of all the Longview campers." [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Tell me about the students who participated in Camp MariMUSE?" [on Pei's TV] Woody says, "Do you want a feel for what they were like in RL, when they entered the room?" [on Pei's TV] Pei says, “Yes!" [on Pei's TV] Avalon sits back listening to those who were with the children the most to talk. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Well, it was quite a mixed group of children. Our school is very multi-ethnic and those groups were represented at the camp." [on Pei's TV] Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering just how diverse the group really was. [on Pei's TV] Lila remembers being surprised at the young ages. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "The kids were all going into the fourth, fifth or sixth grade.” [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "The children who attended were children who were definitely at-risk for failure in school either because of their back grounds or skills. They were chosen by the teachers at Longview on the basis of who we thought might benefit the most. " [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "The first day of camp was an exciting day. Students had heard exciting rumors and were very eager, with a bit of confusion and trepidation, to come to a college and work with the MUSE." [on Pei's TV] Platoon materializes out of thin air. [on Pei's TV] Platoon says, "HI Pei, sorry I interrupted" [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Platoon, my man! gime five!" [on Pei's TV] Platoon ^5's Pei [on Pei's TV] Platoon sits back and listens [on Pei's TV] Woody says, "The first couple of days the children were very quite and shy. After the comfort level was attained the kids were conversing in the muse and RL with real excitement and interest" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "They seemed very young, and shy and seemed to be wondering why they were here, but then they got started began having fun." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K nods. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "How did the students first approach the text-based virtual environment? What was their early reaction?” [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "On the first day, I heard whispers of, "This is dumb." By the end of the first session, all the campers agreed it was about the coolest thing they had ever done.” [on Pei's TV] Lila recalls the excitement of the children when they left for the bus, how anxious they were to come back the second day." [on Pei's TV] Lila recalls how quickly the children became conscious of correct spelling" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "I had worried that the ones who couldn't keyboard might become discouraged and quit, but they just hung in and their skills kept improving." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Even this morning some kids were asking about getting back on the system so they wouldn't lose their keyboarding skills." [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Those of you who were volunteers, how did you assist the campers and what sort of impact did this experience have on you personally?" [on Pei's TV] Platoon says, "My best the very best experience I had was when I started paging some of the campers and ask them if they need help...and they responded where are you...and i said that I am kinda far away from you...they couldn't imagine that " [on Pei's TV] Lady Starlight materializes out of thin air. [on Pei's TV] Platoon says, "I thought that was so cool to have to convince them that I am about 20 miles away from them” [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "She was having difficulty with him being in the same virtual room with her." [on Pei's TV] Lila says, "To build on Platoon's comments, one child initially refused to believe a volunteer was really in California." [on Pei's TV] Pei smiles [on Pei's TV] Lady Starlight says, "And another looked for a volunteer in the disk drive." [on Pei's TV] Wlad ecalls one student looking in the disk drive slot trying to see Angus." [on Pei's TV] Pei laughs and laughs and laughs [on Pei's TV] Lila laughs at the remembrance [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "What, exactly, did the MariMUSE campers do on a daily basis?" [on Pei's TV] Woody pulls out his muse curriculum daily guide. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "every day the students were asked to complete a journal entry. They also wrote at least one article per week for the newsletter. They were also responsible for doing some creating in the MUSE." [on Pei's TV] Wlad recalls some of the homework and how serious the students were about getting together their descriptions and setting their character names. [on Pei's TV] Azure_Guest says, "What amazed me was that they were so unwilling to leave for break." [on Pei's TV] Woody adds that they felt three hours was too short of a day on the muse. [on Pei's TV] Lila says, "Do you remember how Ginji would go home, make her sister help her research so the cave could be exactly what she wanted? [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "At the end of the first week, the students were wanting to come in over the weekend..” [on Pei's TV] Lady Starlight says, "They were all very proud of their work." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Ginji wears her Phoenix College t-shirt often." [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "Above all, we learned that this medium was exciting to students, it captivated them despite its text-base. And, they could handle the coding. They were reading and writing for 3 hours a day, thinking and problem solving, and loving it." [on Pei's TV] Woody says, "It taped the intrinsic motivation of all the persons connected to the program. Students Teachers, and volunteers." [on Pei's TV] Pei nods. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Have the kids come back to school yet? If so, what are they saying about the MUSE now?" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Everyday I am asked, WHEN can I come back on line?" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "The children are eager to get back on-line and are stating that they have projects to work on, and they really want to check their mail." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "I called all the MUSE kids into the library this morning and they were all talking at once. They did not want to leave to go back to class." [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "We believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. We believe we are on the wave of the future. This medium is a window to a new way of learning." [on Pei's TV] Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering the child who said, “You don't think I am stupid, do you?” [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "The kids are so proud of the NY Times article. They all want copies of it." [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "How did the parents react to Camp MariMUSE?" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "We had an enormous turn out on the parent day. We were amazed. The parents are especially proud of their children. I think it raises their self- esteem too." [on Pei's TV] Lila says, "Many parents had to take off work, with no pay, to attend any function to which they were invited. Such as graduation" [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "Some even rode over on the school bus to be here." [on Pei's TV] Woody says, "When the parents first met with us, PC volunteers and Wlad, There was a very small turn out. After the camp was over there was almost 100 percent parent participation." [on Pei's TV] Lila says, "Running Wind's parents went to great lengths to attend graduation, they VERY proud of him and his accomplishments." [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "And parents who had never heard their children talk about what they were doing at school were getting rave reviews and daily updates on the camp activities." [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "We invited the superintendent who was amazed at the children's creativity and the amount of writing they did. We also invited state representatives who felt the excitement. And we had parents who knew their kids were really excited about and successful with learning." [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "On graduation day, it really felt like one big family celebration." [on Pei's TV] Wlad laughs remembering how he helped Running wind entertain two of his younger relatives. [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "Remember, this was only a 3 week camp. All of this happened in 3 short weeks." [on Pei's TV] Lila shakes her head, and says, "Hard to believe we did all that in 3 weeks." [on Pei's TV] Pei 's heart is full! [on Pei's TV] Woody throws time out the door. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Were there any real surprises?" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "It seemed like a magical time." [on Pei's TV] Lady Starlight nods. [on Pei's TV] Lila says, "I was very impressed with the increase in global awareness." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "I was blown away by the research that the students initiated!" [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "One of the other teachers committed this week about how important it was for these kids to see the volunteers from the college working at their jobs, volunteering, and going to class. It helped them see they could go to college too." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "It was a time of being completely accepted." [on Pei's TV] Avalon grins at Miss-K. [on Pei's TV] Platoon says, "it was a time of beeing equal" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K says, "Actually, I still get misty eyed about it. " [on Pei's TV] Avalon hands an embroidered hankie to Miss-K. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K giggles [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "What plans do you have for the future of MariMUSE?” [on Pei's TV] Avalon has been assigned to work on grant writing and assessment so we can continue and can learn as we proceed into the future. This is a major commitment from the college to a very important project. [on Pei's TV] Woody boogies about the future. [on Pei's TV] Wlad says, "By the 15th of September, we should have 12 terminals installed at Longview for the students to use. There will be a 9600 baud modem line to the college. We know that the equipment will work with that speed. We want something that will work right away, so that we can get the kids back on-line." [on Pei's TV] Miss-K squeals in delight [on Pei's TV] Pei applauds [on Pei's TV] Miss-K will never get anything done once those terminals are in! [on Pei's TV] Pei rolls in the floor laughing [on Pei's TV] Avalon grins and grins and grins with excitement about the future. [on Pei's TV] Miss-K wrings her hands thinking of so much to do and so little time. [on Pei's TV] Avalon says, "We have very strong support from the Longview, Phoenix College and the district offices to continue and build on this." [on Pei's TV] Pei looks at his watch and turns back to the camera. [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Viewers...I am speechless!" [on Pei's TV] Miss-K smiles [on Pei's TV] Pei says, "Except to say that I am deeply moved by these people and what they have accomplished this summer. It is impossible to know all the consequences of how they and the experiences they have provided have touched the lives of a handful of children this summer. Or how the technologies and techniques they are pioneering will effect lives in the future. But my bet is that it’s enormous.” [on Pei's TV] From MediaMOO, this is Peiohpah saying "good night!"
In re-reading this interview I was struck by four ideas.
- The campers were engage in self-directed learning, because they were doing something with what they were learning.
- Their enthusiasm had nothing to do with slick graphics and booming sound effects. It was text.
- The campers were working hard, though they might not have called it work. Students who are engaged in this type of learning experience often call it, “Hard play.”
- There seems to be a direct relationship between learner-engagement and parent-engagement.
- Young Learners need to see adults model meaningful learning.
One of the challenges of writing a history of educational technology is that so much of it happened before the Internet. I have been surprised and disappointed at how much of it, that I barely remember, has never been reported on the now ubiquitous World Wide Web.
As a result, I’ve had to be resourceful in my research, and one of the tools that I’ve found myself going to again and again is Google’s Ngram viewer. Here’s the situation. I’m writing about happenings just after I left the NC Department of Public Instruction and discovering that my future is going to be in training and presenting, instead of Web design and development. I believe that it was during this time when the term “Integrate technology’ was being adopted by ed tech advocates. But I’m not sure. How do I determine, on a timeline, the growing use and abuse of the term.
Enter Ngram Viewer. The default terms are Albert Einstein, Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein. The viewer presents a line chart, illustrating the number of Google digitized books that mention the term by year, from 1500 to 2008. The default shows the gradual growth of Frankenstein from just after the publishing of Mary Shelley’s book (1818), and then a more rapid rise of Sherlock Holmes starting in the final years of the 19th century. Occurrences of Albert Einstein started in the second quarter of the 20th century and then Frankenstein, again, overtakes and surges well above, starting in the 1960s – possibly as a result of television’s re-running of Frankenstein movies released in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Entering the term, “integrate technology into the classroom,” into Ngram Viewer, I learn that, although the term started to appear in the late 1980s, its popular use started to rise in the mid-1990s, as we left the growing number of education technology conferences with our new mantra, “Integrate Technology! Integrate Technology! Integrate Technology!”
Chris Lehmann challenged us (EduBloggers) last week to join the conversation about the police shooting of an 18 year old African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri and militarized posturing of law enforcement against the resulting protests. To be honest, I was not fully aware of the situation, too focused on getting my daughter ready to return to college and establishing a second residence to be closer to my and my wife’s parents.
I’ll agree wholeheartedly with all of Chris’ sentiments here, here and here, and would expound on them if I could. But, as a white, anglo saxon, protestant, eighth generation American, whose grandfather’s grandfather probably owned slaves, I honestly do not feel worthy to ardently express righteous sympathy with what I would characterize as second Americans. White man’s guilt?
I would like to ask a different question, though – and not as an attempt to distract us from a conversation about the unfulfilled promises (myths) of the American Dream. I ask this alternate question because I believe that there is another struggle happening here, one that possibly goes back to the beginnings of this country.
Looking at the picture to the right, I do not see how anyone could disagree with calling this a militarized police presence. But where did all that military hardware come from? Who bought it? ..and why? ..and Who got paid for it?
If we agree that one reason for learning (being taught) history is to avoid making its mistakes1, then here might be a useful starting question, “What were the historical mistakes that led to the situation of this picture?”
This could go almost anywhere in human history, of course, and why should formal learning experiences be limited (by testable standards)? But that’s a different issue — maybe.
We might, for instance, go no further than a little more than a decade ago, when 19 mostly Saudi Arabian terrorists, attacked the United States at it’s heart, New York City. Those 19 mostly Saudi Arabian men, using our own technology against us, were effective nearly beyond anyone’s imagination.
Our response was to make war in Afghanistan and Iraq and declare war on terror, establishing the Department of Homeland Security. Although little else happened here, local police forces still find themselves armed for terror both from without and within. ..And you know what they say about a hammer.2
I would suggest that we responsibly and effectively teach history to avoid its mistakes, but also as a guard against having history re-written for us.
I will close here by suggesting that we ask students utilize contemporary literacy skills and do what Deep Throat3 said, “Follow the Money.”
2 The Law of the Instrument, or as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.“
3 Deep Throat is the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information toBob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post in 1972 about the involvement of United States President Richard Nixon‘s administration in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal.
|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.