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Two Hours at ISTE in Chicago

I’m sitting on the shuttle bus now, only a few blocks from the Courtyard where my wife and I are staying. The chatter is wild and expressive as is the buzz of energy that this event sparks. Boarding are educators from across the country and around they world. They’re all here to learn and to be energized. The buzz of anticipated energizing will grow to a roar by the end of the conference on Wednesday. Im only here for a couple of hours, hoping not to be confronted by officials checking for badges. Hopefully my deaf-mute act will release me. My plan is to hang out at the Blogger Cafe, a comfortable corner for bloggers to sit and compose or just geek out with each.

At the Leadership Luncheon

At the Leadership Luncheon

My reason for coming, other than visiting one of my wife’s favorite cities was to attend the ISTE Leadership Luncheon. There, I had the honor and privaledge of sitting with Chris Lehmann. To learn more about this weirdly energetic education innovator, read my upcoming book. The bus is arriving, so I’ll write more later. im in and it’s a sea of people, all educators, moving in currents with no apparent purpose, but certainly directed toward opportunities to learn. They’re educators who are not satisfied with business-as-usual. They are comfortable with discomfort. They see technological, social, economic and cultural chang, not as a challenge to be feared and ignored, but as emerging opportunities to better prepair their students for their future — to own their future. More later…

The Blogger Cafe

It‘s about an hour-and-a-half later. One of my best buddies, Kathy Schrock came over and we shared stories from years past and about our children who are around the same age. If you buy my upcoming book, you’ll learn much about Kathy. Steve Dembo also came over. He was the first educator podcaster that I knew, and a dynamo presenter. Steve is also a drone enthusiast.

Blogger CafeThe flow of educators has not eased, even though presentations have begun. Around me, people are standing and sitting talking and learning. In many ways, the best learning at these conferences happen between sessions, in the hall, in conversations with educators from different states or nations.

Much can be said about education today that is not good. Most of our children are being schooled, but they are not being prepared for a rapidly changing future. It’s the people in this conference center who are trying to change education, and they’re doing it with brilliance, dedication, perseverance, and with enthusiasm. They are my tribe.

 

What’s Wrong

Now that I’m in the quiet of the Chicago airport, on my way back to North Carolina, I want to share my concern for education in the U.S. The people who are attending  ISTE, those I know and most of those I do not know are there for the sake of the future. Their eye is on the future. Part of it is the glamour of education technology — all the shinnies. But most of their presence and energy comes from a mutually held belief that by empowering student learning with information technology we are going to accomplish peaceful and prosperous in our future.  It will happen because we have become more tolerant, more compassionate, more inviting of different cultures for the sake of how they change us, and more willing to adapt our economic system to build a more inclusive society. We will predict and then learn that a country without poor people is a much better place to live.

Its hard to imagine such an America today, because the US is led by a man who continues to run for president, setting policies based on what got the biggest crowds during his campaign rallies. He addresses issues on the most simplistic levels ignoring the nuanced complexities of a country with 326 million people, 263 million of who didn’t vote for him.  He thrives on chaos and shuns the serious informed thoughtfulness that is necessary for leadership in this potentially wondrous time when almost anything is possible. He is a bully and he’s a fake.

..and I hold education responsible. I do not blame individual teachers and principals, except in as much as we have allowed public education to be corrupted into a standardized and mechanized institution for preparing future workers.  Instead, our job is to help our children learn as much as possible about their world and learn to

  • Think logically
  • Recognize the irrational
  • Read habitually
  • Learn as a lifestyle
  • Become information artisans
  • Respect each other, and
  • Find their personal intersect between play, passion and purpose.

 

Another Giant Step Backward

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0
If you think that America’s future energy should be burning coal and other fossil fuels, then you should be happy with Trump. According to a Bloomberg report, the Trump administration plans to use two Federal laws “to order (electrical) grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life…”

Further reversing our country’s progress, Reuters has learned that Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels is forcing renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of $2.5+ billion in large installation projects. According to developers, it also cancels thousands of jobs.

All of this while Britain regularly announces increasing numbers of hours and days that their entire grid is powered without coal. The BBC reported on April 24 that the nation had gone three days without coal – the first time since the 1880s.

Sources:
Bloomberg Article – https://goo.gl/noeSrN
The memo – https://goo.gl/1SqfZx
Reuters Report – https://goo.gl/FveFPd
BBC – https://bbc.in/2HrRyn0

How Much Information?

Here is something from my seemingly endless preparation of The Quiet Revolution.  It’s a story that I often related to audiences to illustrate the changing nature of the information that we are using today and our need to redefine literacy.

VEB Carl Zeiss Jena, 1-Megabit-ChipThere was a study conducted by the University of California at Berkley called “How Much Information.” They discovered that the world generated five exabytes of information in 2002.

You are probably thinking,

If I knew what an exabyte was, I’m supposed I would be impressed.”

To clarify, if we added five exabytes of information to the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, it would require the building of 37,000 more Libraries of Congress to hold that year’s additional information. The kicker, however, is that only one one-hundredths of one percent (00.01%) of that information ever got printed. All the rest of the new information was digital, existing as 1s and 0s and residing on the memory cells of magnetic tape, disks, optical discs and integrated circuits; and requiring digital technology and technology skills to access and use that information. If more and more of our information is digital and networked, then we can take the paper out of our future workplace.

This also begs the question, “Why are we continuing to spend so much time continuing to teach our children how to use paper when we need to be teaching them how to use light – to use digital information?

Trust, Media & Democracy Survey

Critical Media Consumers
Graph 1

I recently ran across a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey entitled American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy.  The poll of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older attempts to measure how our changing information landscape has affected media trust in the U.S. and made it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities.  It is important to note that Trust, Media and Democracy was a nationally representative mail survey.  So a back-of-your-mind question should be, “Who took the trouble to share their views by mail?”

That said, a couple of things especially caught my attention.  First, it seems that younger respondents were more likely to consider the intentional spread of inaccurate information over the Internet and bias in the media to be a “Major Problem.”  See graph 1.

It leads me to wonder if we (educators) did a better job than we thought, over the past 10 to 15 years, of teaching our students to be critical media consumers.  Or perhaps it’s a result of a generation who is, unquestionably, more net-savvy than their elder.  Regardless, we have more work to do.

Fake News
Graph 2
What disturbs me is how many people do not really know what “Fake News” is.  Wikipedia defines it as

..a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines.. (Wikipedia)

That pretty much aligns with my own understanding of “Fake News.” Yet 20% of Democrats believe that an accurate news story that casts a politician or political group in a negative light is “Fake News.” The percent is higher for Independents and Republicans. See graph 2

Fake News
Graph 3

This one surprised me, that the more conservative a person is, the more likely they are to consider “Fake News” to be a serious threat to democracy. See graph 3 and please explain this to me.

There is much more available through the PDF report, which you can download at: https://goo.gl/emk1EM

I created the graphs from the survey data using Create a Graph from the Department of Education web site.

Left, Right, Up & Down in U.S. Politics

I ran across an incredible web site today. As someone who is interested in politics, and especially its ongoing evolution, this really scratched an itch. It’s voteview.com and they record all rollcall votes cast by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, going back to the first congress of 1789-1791.

I was looking for data that I could visualize to indicate the degree to which Republicans and Democrats have crossed, implying times of compromise. But I found the following visualization on voteview.com that showed me exactly what I wanted to illustrate.

graphSm
Click to Enlarge

I have marked the region between 1940, marking the beginning of the Roosevelt/Wallace administration and 1980, marking the beginning of the Reagan/Bush era. You notice a lot of crossover between Republicans and Democrats. The Liberal to Conservative scale was determined by the DW-NOMINATE or Dynamic Weighted NOMINAl Three-step Estimation.  I call that period “the good old days,” because it is the period of U.S. political history with which I identify and measure current conditions.

Another interesting application of DW-NOMINATE is the geography data.  You can enter your zip code and you see the ideology of your district’s representatives.  The positions of the red or blue bars are based on the NOMINATE index value of your representatives during that particular congress.  Below and left shows the ideologies of representatives from Raleigh, North Carolina going back to my graduation from high school.  The right shows the ideologies of representatives from Cherryville, my home town, going back to high school.  I just think this is cool!

GeoRaleigh GeoRaleigh

Lewis, Jeffrey B., Keith Poole, Howard Rosenthal, Adam Boche, Aaron Rudkin, and Luke Sonnet (2017). Voteview: Representing places through time. https://voteview.com/

Lewis, Jeffrey B., Keith Poole, Howard Rosenthal, Adam Boche, Aaron Rudkin, and Luke Sonnet (2017). Voteview: Parties Overview . https://voteview.com/

Paul Ryan is only Partly Right – a Small Part

Entitlements Tag Crowd
A word cloud generated from the text of the articles I referenced here

At the end of last year, our government gave away $2 trillion in federal revenue over the next 10 years, most of it going to the rich and corporations, especially the real estate industry thanks to last minute tweaking of the bill.

NOW congressional leadership is worried about debt and deficit. Paul Ryan said, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

He went on to say, “… it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, … that’s really where the problem lies.”

Our Speaker of the House is talking about Medicare and Medicaid and I think he gets it partly right. I base that on a recent article (http://53eig.ht/2DkPugh) from my favorite data journalists at FiveThirtyEight, whose news comes from the numbers instead of manipulative rhetoric.

He’s partly right in that aging and income are only partly responsible for rising health care costs – and that’s a small part. According to a recent study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, health care spending increased by $933.5 billion from 1996 to 2013. However only…

$133.3 billion came from increased population,
$269.5 billion from an aging population,

Disease prevalence and incidence resulted in a 2.4% reduction in spending while service utilization had no statistically significant effect at all.

The lion’s share came from price and intensity of service, accounting for $583.5 billion of health care spending. That’s pricing for prescription drugs and hospital mergers that reduce competition, among other factors.

The problem is not who’s getting the health care or who’s paying for it. The problem is a health care industry that seems free to bilk the American economy at a rate of 17.1% of our GDP. That’s a higher portion than any other country, except the Marshall Islands, who’s portion has shrunk from 30.8% (1995) to 17.1% (2014).

They need to address the health care industry, not who’s entitled to it.

Sources: https://goo.gl/QB1MYU, https://goo.gl/ZJpjQD, https://goo.gl/muTfJM,https://goo.gl/bsxp1Y, and https://goo.gl/yjrr4k

Better Learning?

Two hands holding a video game controller

Playing a Video Game

I remember one particular week when my daughter was trying to learn the nine types of nouns for English class. She would be tested at the end of the week on her ability to label them in given sentences. Although she was a serious and conscientious student, my daughter struggled with some types of learning, especially memorization. She spent evenings that week, heroically and sometimes tearfully trying to distinguish common nouns from proper nouns, from collective nouns, from verbal, compound, abstract, concrete, countable and uncountable nouns.

Meanwhile, with our attention firmly directed to our her efforts, our son was left to his own devices. He was less academically challenged, but far less serious about school work and spent that week playing a newly-rented video game. Without the manual, he had to trial-and-error himself into the game’s dynamics. He failed and succeeded, made observations, formulated hypotheses, tested his hypotheses and constructed a mental toolbox of strategies so that he could play the game and save the damsel or slay the dragon – or whatever the goal was.

That week of watching my daughter struggling while my son played left me wondering, “Who was engaged in the learning that might be most appropriate for their future? Was it my daughter, who struggled to memorize the qualities of nine types of nouns, or my son, who was teaching himself how to play a complicated video game?”

Look to Struggling Students for Your Future Leaders and Game-Changers

Valedictorian Speech

Valedictorian Speech

Karen Arnold, a Boston University researcher has conducted a 14 year longitudinal study of high school valedictorians, finding that they rarely achieve fame and fortune. To be sure, they usually finish college, many earn graduate degrees and about half rise to top tier positions.

“But how many of these number-one high-school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world?” Eric Barker is asking this question in his new book, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” He cites another study of 700 American millionaires, finding that their average high school GPA was 2.9. Of course, not all millionaires are game-changers.

Barker seems to believe that there is a disconnect between the kinds of students we reward and the kinds of graduates that a rapidly changing world needs. He suggests two reasons for this incongruity, both of which I touch on in “The Quiet Revolution.”

  1. “Schools reward students who consistently do what they are told” – and life rewards people who shake things up. Arnold says that in high school, “we are rewarding conformity and the willingness to go along with the system.Speaking to a group at Business Insider’s New York office, Baker said, “In school, rules are very clear. In life, rules are not so clear. So a certain amount of not playing by the rules is advantageous once you get out of a closed system like education.”
  2. “Schools Reward being a generalist” If you are passionate about political history, you have to restrain that passion for time to spend on your Math, Science, Health, and English homework. The real world rewards passion and expertise.

Surprisingly, Arnold’s study found that students “who genuinely enjoy learning tend to struggle in high school. They find the education system ‘stifling’ because it doesn’t allow them to pursue their passions deeply.”

Lebowitz, S. (2017, May 29). Why valedictorians rarely become rich and famous — and the average millionaire’s college GPA was 2.9. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/why-high-school-valedictorians-dont-become-really-successful-2017-5

Are blue states financing red states?

I heard something on a podcast the other day that surprised me.  So I found the data and crunched the numbers myself, so that I would know (I love playing with spreadsheets).

It works like this.  Our southern neighbor, South Carolina, pays $24 billion in federal taxes.  However, the state receives in federal spending (benefits, grants, contracts, and salaries and wages) $48.8 billion.  That comes to $4,978.26 per South Carolinian that comes in from the federal government.  It becomes spending money.

In the other direction a northern neighbor, Delaware, payed about $22.6 billion in taxes but received only a little more than $9 billion in federal spending.  That comes to a deficit of $14,278.28, that’s not being spent in that state.

What’s interesting is that of the 30 states that benefit from federal spending, 21 voted to elect Trump as President, 14 of them by more than 10 percentage points.  Of the remaining states that are paying more in federal taxes than they are receiving, 9 voted to elect Hillary Clinton by more than 10 percentage points – that’s 9 of only 13.

When you put it all together, citizens of red states gain $915.70 from the federal government, and deep red states get $1,874.60 to spend.  Blue staters pay $176.84 and people living in deep blue states give up $2,101,84.

So where’s the logic in voting for a candidate who promises to reform federal taxes?

Sources:

The PEW Charitable Trusts: https://goo.gl/iFxBAp

The New York Times: https://goo.gl/6OkmXX

 

Is Print Really Better than Digital?

Business Insider reported on Sunday about a study that indicates that even though college students enjoy learning from digital texts more than print and believe that they learn better, the truth is that print is better.  The article, A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens, explores the work of Patricia Alexander and Lauren Singer, both from the University of Maryland. The two also reported their finding here at The Conversation.

The Business Insider article does a pretty good job of drilling down into the specifics of digital print’s failing – and I do not contest their findings. As a long time reflective user and producer of digital content, I recognize that you read differently and often for different reasons with a hand-held or larger screen. My concern is that certain conservative-leaning policy makers will see this as an opportunity to lash out at progressive educators with, “Your new way is not as effective as the old paper print.”

That conclusion reflects a gross and dangerous misunderstanding of technologies’ place in formal education, and a disgraceful lack of imagination. Sadly, the imagination required to understand what technology means to teaching and learning is lacking in  conspicuous sections of the professional education community.

I have long held that to understand how digital networked technology supports leaning we must reflect and come to understand how we are using tech to help us learn after school. We learn by researching and identifying the information that best helps us accomplish our goals, and achieving this by resourceful perseverance. We use the technology to find people and communities who are knowledgable and discussing the topics we need, and dynamically connecting with those communities. We learn in this digital, networked and information-abundant environment by being critical readers, always asking questions about the answers we find. To this end, textbooks are a detriment to effective learning, because they defy critical questions.

We need to understand how we (adults) learn through our screens after our schooling, because continued learning is the defining character of the future for which we are preparing our students.

The flaw in education is that we’re stuck in thinking about education and not thinking about learning – something we’re all intimately involved in.

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Photo taken by Ewan McIntosh in a Taxi in Shanghai

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

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

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