A 15 year old Canadian schoolboy, with a fascination for the ancient Mayan Civilization, recently theorized a correlation between the star positions in major constellations and the geographic locations of known Mayan cities. Based on this theory, he used Google Maps to suggest the location of an unknown ancient city. The Canadian Space Agency was so impressed that they used a satellite-based space telescope to study the spot and confirm the existence of the hitherto, unknown city.
In my work I ran across many ordinary youngsters who — with access to technology, supportive teachers and unconstrained curiosity — did extraordinary things. It all begs for a more empowering and imaginative way of educating our children.
Many would disagree, but I believe that the introduction of new information and communication technologies into our classrooms has had a productively disruptive effect on education. We have certainly not seen its full potential, and reaching it may well be impossible for a human society. But I’ve recently wondered about a new disruptive influencer on the horizon, one that has the potential to further progress formal education – or destroying it – in my humble opinion.
Consider that even though some presidential candidates have promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that America has lost to China, the jobs that actually left our shores are a mere ripple, as Matthew Yglesias put it in a recent MoneyBox article,1 compared to the manufacturing jobs we lost to robots during the same years – and those jobs will not return.
And now we have driverless cars, just around the corner? Sam Tracy, in a 2015 Huffington Post article itemized the numbers of Americans who make their living by driving: taxi drivers, chauffeurs, bus drivers, driver-sales workers, school bus drivers, postal service carriers, light truck deliveries and heavy truck transport. It totaled almost four million jobs, with wages of almost $150 billion a year.
Will there really be new jobs for them to train for?
Then entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Sam Altman, says this in a recent Freakonomics podcast, that, “..90% of (the) people (may) go smoke pot and play video games, but if (only) 10% of the people go create incredible new products and services and new wealth, that’s still a huge net-win.”2 In other words, is there a national economic need for 100% employment in the near future, or even 15% employment – besides what Altman refers to as a “..puritanical ideal that hard work for its own sake is valuable.”
All this is to suggest that the job of schools, sooner than later, may be to educate our children to be unemployed. Consider the recent media interest in the concept of basic income. Here is a Google Trend graph of the frequency of the term’s searches.
In the most general terms, basic income would have the federal government handing out to all citizens enough money to live on. Those who want more would work for a wage. Those who do not, would find some other way of spending their time. Experiments are already underway in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland & the UK.
Even though I suggest an open mind, I do not want to spend this blog post arguing the merits or dangers of such an arrangement. What I do want to ask is, “What would you say to a student who says, ‘I don’t need to know this because I don’t need a job?’” What if he is absolutely right? The next question is “What would he or she need to know for a future that does not require employment?” and “How might preparing our children for productive leisure change the WHY, WHAT and HOW of formal education?”
What do you think?
2 Weller, C. (2016, April 19). A Silicon Valley entrepreneur says basic income would work even if 90% of people smoked weed instead of working [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.techinsider.io/sam-altman-praises-basic-income-on-freakonomics-podcast-2016-4
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.
I’ve been doing a lot of deep digging while working on my book about the history of technology in education – as I’ve seen it. This afternoon, I happened upon some online handouts for one of my first keynotes and its slidedeck. The address was called, “The Three Ts of Teaching in the Twenty-First Century.” It appears to have been delivered in November of 2000.
On one of the opening slides, I had listed the ten most searched for terms of that month. As a comparison, I found the top ten searches on Google in 2014, and have listed them as well.
|6||Florida Recount||6||Flappy Bird|
|5||Britney Spears||5||ALS Ice Bucket Challenge|
|2||Election 2000||2||World Cup|
I was actually surprised how little it’s changed? We have video games, sports, entertainment with a peppering of world-shaping issues.
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!”
For the last several years, I have been opening my keynote addresses by describing something that I’ve learning in the last 24 hours. It was usually something that I’d run across on my iPad (Flipboard), or a conversation I’d had, or some other striking something that caught my eye. Today, it would likely be the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Plant just brought on line in Kenya with the assistance of Germany’s continued development of green energies. I first learned about the plant from the Kenyan cab driver who took me from the St. Louis airport to my hotel yesterday.
But no story today. The first reason is trivial though not insubstantial. It’s time. I’ll only have 45 minutes for my opening talk. It’s usually closer to an hour.
The second reason is more important. It is my audience; school librarians, students of library science, and supporters and administrators of school library programs. I’m not launching into a demonstration of personal learning because librarians and their libraries are almost entirely about person learning. Their patrons explore, examine, experiment and discover – in much the same ways that we all conduct our essential learning outside of school.
These authentic learning experiences are way to rare in the classrooms of our schools, and this is due not to the best intentions, reflections and inventiveness of our teachers. It is my country’s continue obsession with market motivated and industrial methodology of public education.
|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!
Two 2×4 Lego bricks, of the same color, can be put together in 24 different ways. Three can be connected 1,060 different ways. Six can be combined in 915,103,765 different ways. ..and, of course, children (and adults) have enthusiastically assembled them in nearly as many. It’s when useful and reliable resources can be used in so many ways that creativity is invited.1
The best use of Legos, in my humble opinion, never involved lessons or even instructions. You do not sit down and teach children how to creatively make stuff by clicking Lego bricks together. You simply given them the bricks and let them play.
Might we achieve more inventive-minded students, if we could redesign curriculum to simply give our children the prescribed resources of mind, and then encourage and free them to play, construct and learn. One example occurs to me, something that I witnessed in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada many years ago.
In early 2007, I participated in a provincial conference there and in addition had an opportunity to visit some of the area schools with my friend and NB educator, Jeff Whipple. At the time, the entire province was engaged in some pretty innovative initiatives. I wrote about that visit here and here.
I was overwhelmingly impressed with everything that I saw in the schools around Fredericton, but the visit that came to mind as I started thinking about Legos was Chad Ball’s civics class. He had decided to approach it in an entirely different way that year, based on a summer morning brainstorm. Rather than present the content to his students in teacher mode, he simply made it available to them, the vocabulary and concepts of Canadian government, mostly through a wiki.
Students were then assigned to work in groups, to create a new political party. They were to develop a platform, write speeches and even establish a mascot and logo – and required to appropriately and effectively utilize every vocabulary word and every concept of Canadian government in the process. Chad taught in consultant mode, though he reported that he api;d often refer students to classmates who seemed to have a handle on the concept or practice.
On the day of our visit, Mr. Ball had asked, on the class wiki, if there might be ways to extend the project. Even though the posting initially evoked complaints from some of the students, within a half hour there were 102 comments on his posting, mostly suggesting ways that they might take their political parties to the next level.2
This style of teaching and learning is about empowerment, not compliance,
because learners are given access to building blocks,
..and invited to build something.
keep looking »