A Corporate Education Mirror

It’s Wednesday morning in a hotel lobby on the campus of Duke University. With no working Internet in my room, I dressed, packed, and escaped to the lobby where they have very fine wireless service. I wish there had been a descent alternative for the lack of hot water in my room. 🙁

I am in the middle of a two-day roundtable with the Duke Corporate Education group, a firm that provides corporate education world wide. By all evidence they do this very well. They have invited education specialists, especially related to technology, from across North America and Europe (well, one Canadian and one Brit) from the corporate, university, and k-12 realms. Our goal is to explore ways that technology might be more interestingly and effectively implemented in corporate learning environments.

This meeting has been enlightening to me, especially as I have learned that corporate education faces many of the same problems that face public school. For instance, I hear terms like regulation and compliance very often, and that was a surprise.

Another item that has impressed itself on me is that everything in the corporate world is project-based. Now much of the actual education is directed toward content and skills. However, each time that the company is brought in to provide their service, it is to solve a problem or accomplish a specific goal.

More later!

Two Items on My Way Out

I leave in just a few minutes for an event that is quite unique to me. I’ll not say more now, but hope that I will have much to share when it is over. Before I go, however, I’d like to share two items.

  • Readers of Edutopia, from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, should skip over to very fine essay by Chris Cross and Milt Goldberg about the issue of time in the education. I almost hesitate to bring up this article, Time Out, right now, during the first days of the school year, because reading this will make you tired. But the ideas are also extremely critical to the future of our students. Of all the factors that we have tried to change in order to improve teaching and learning, time is the one that has changed the least, and it is probably the factor that more encages us than any other.

    This statement especially struck me.

    No matter how complex or simple the school subject — literature, shop, physics, gym, or algebra — the schedule assigns each an impartial national average of 51 minutes per class period, no matter how well or poorly students comprehend the material.

    Goldberg, Milt, and Christopher T. Cross. “Time Out.” Edutopia September 2005: 35-37.

  • SFETT is back up and running. The San Fernando Educational Technology Team is a group that I talk about a lot. They help students learn to learn, by making them producers of knowledge, not just consumer.

    Each summer, the take down their web site for a redesign. I always receive e-mails from people, wanting to know what happened to the links in my online handouts, and I have to explain about SFETT’s summer schedule. Well, they’re back up and more amazing than ever.

    Visit SFETT at http://sfett.com and check out their latest film festival, iCan 6.

A Great Podcast Discussion

Enormous thanks to Kelly Dumont (The Educational Mac) for pointing me in the direction of The Savvy Technologist, a blog and podcast written and produced by Tim Wilson, in Minnesota. In his podcast, STP #8: A chat with the gang, Tim participates in a recorded discussion about Web 2.0 with Tim Lauer, and Will Richardson, moderated by Steve Burt of Clarity Innovations.

The discussion digressed a bit from the original Web 2.0 topics into the challenges of implementing these technologies in our classrooms. But any discussion of the new information environment that does not slip into defining the barriers, would be just too boring.

Below is a copy of the comment that I posted on Tim’s blog page. But before you read it, I would like to suggest that schools link to this podcast from their school web sites. This is a discussion that should be come part of the community dialog, not just among these A-List innovators.

The can listen to the podcast here!

My comments:

A great podcast. The problem is that people like you and me are listening to this — people who already believe these things. As they say, “preaching to the choir”. This is important, because you have to teach the choir to sing. But I agree with Tim, that there needs to be a broader sense of what students and teachers should be doing in the classroom. It is this broader community who needs to be listening to this podcast. Wouldn’t it be great if schools made this podcast file available through their school web site here at the beginning of the year.

I think, also, that as a society, we need to come to a consensus on what a successful school and classroom look like. What do we see going on in them, and what are the measures of success? Test scores are important. I gave test when I was teaching, because they helped me to measure not only my students success, but mine as well. However, here is another deeper dimension to teaching and learning success, something that can’t really be quantified. It has to be seen. This is where I agree with Will, that it’s the students work, their accomplishments, that should be displayed, not just scores. I believe that parents want to know what, how, and why their children are being taught, not just how well.

Our Schools are Leaking

GadgetsYesterday, I was scanning through the Technology & Learning News for August 23, and ran across a story called Gadgets, Gadgets Everywhere.

Technology’s steady advance has made the challenge of controlling students’ use of electronic gadgets – cell phones, handheld video games, MP3 players – during school time ever more difficult.

It’s a lead into a story published in the August 14 issues of the Houston Chronicle, called Schools Try to draw the line for wired kids.

VETERAN teacher Andy Dewey has taken to quizzing his students on a new subject — where their hands are.

Tucked away in pockets or camouflaged behind backpacks, hidden fingers could be typing text messages, surfing the Web or even taking pictures. In today’s era of tiny, high-tech devices, it’s a constant struggle to make sure hands are kept in plain sight, he said.

OK, our kids are connected. Technology is part of their lives. But lets try to picture this in a different way. As you are, by now, accustomed to my saying, “It’s not technology, it’s information”. These gadgets are their links to information. They talk, text message, and google with their mobile phones, IM on their laptops, access the world wide web, Net-based video games like Halo, MMORPG (did I get that right?) games like EverQuest and Second Life. These gadgets represent intellectual appendages to our children. They are the hands and feet that carry children to new experiences, and cutting these links is like cutting an appendage — and that makes no constructive sense to these children and their world view.

Yet we try to cut it off. And it’s because of something that David Weinberger said in his keynote address at NECC, something that I have carried with me ever sense.

Weinberger talked about the traditional view of knowledge as being something that could be put in a container. He described Encyclopedia Britannica as 33 volumes with 65,000 articles, that it will never hold more than 65,000 articles, because they will never add a 34th volume. By the way, the shipping weight of Encyclopedia Britannica is 125 pounds.

The Wikipedia, on the other hand, holds nearly 600,000 articles (that was late June 2005). At this moment, it is approaching 700,000 [694,000] articles. At .002 pounds an article, Wikipedia would way three-quarters of a ton right now. Add in the other languages and we’re approaching two tons — and no matter how big it gets, it will never get any harder to find your information. He went on to talk about dewey decimal and how the shelves of a decimal based container system can hold only so much information, forcing us to make decisions on what’s going to be put there.

  • 88 numbers for Christianity and its related topics
  • 1 for Judism
  • Islam and all of its related groups get 1
  • Budhists go to the right of the decimal

But this idea of containers was what our lives were about. Even the schedule of the day. During the summer months, we played in the neighborhood. But darkness was a border to the daylight container, and we went home. You could play in the daylight, but not in the dark. However, my children, during their summer months, are up until 4:00 in the morning, with friends, playing video games, and IMing. Darkness means nothing to them because it does not limit their intellectual appendages.

Starting tonight, we are forcing my Son back into a container schedule, because tomorrow he goes back to his learning container (his school), where he’ll receive information containers (textbooks), tied to our knowledge container (the standards), and we will struggle to control their gadgets, cutting off their intellectual appendages, because…

Our schools are leaking!

Through their mobile phones, wireless handhelds, mobile game systems, their laptops, and a simple, yet pervasive sense of a broader world that ignores time and distance, our children’s attention is leaking out of our classrooms, our textbooks, and our state and national standards.

The question that looms overhead is…

Do we continue to container our children, amputating their intellectual appendages during “learning” time?


Do we try to integrate learning into the flow of their attentions, taking advantage of the new porous nature their lives, using their appendages to connect children to the world that we are teaching them about?

If we decide to join the flow, what does that look like?

  • Do textbooks go away? No, textbooks can lay open beside of a laptop, or textmessaging mobile phone (though I suspect that textbooks will be evolving into something else).
  • Do we abandon our classroom and go exclusively online? No, though I suspect that we may be able to teach our children better by spending less time in the classroom and more time working and playing the information outside the classroom.
  • Do we still need teachers with a teacher’s desk, chalk board, and pointer? Yes, though the chalkboard must change as must the pointer. However, our definition of what a teacher does will change from that of delivering skills and content, to that of creating and crafting experiences through which students will learn to teach themselves.
  • Will the class bell go away? No, but study hall and homework are going to become something entirely different.
  • Will college training for teachers change? Yes, but more important than that, the job of being a teacher will also be that of being a student. We will learn constantly, and each day, we will share with our students something that we have just learned.

Your comments are welcomed?

…and, hey, is anyone reading this stuff?

A Testing Story

I’m just thinking out loud here, which means that this is bound to be controversial.

One of the stories that we tell involves our test scores and why ours lag behind those of other industrial countries. We say, “Oh, but we are testing such a higher percentage of our students than they are. They are testing only their best.”

I got to thinking about this the other day. If we say that we are testing 90% of our students (and they are testing only 50% of theirs), are we saying 90% of all 17 and 18 year olds in the U.S.? Or are we saying 90% of the 17 and 18 year olds who are still in school, often as little as 60% of older teens, and sometimes as little as 50%. If we are reporting only those still in school, then I suspect that the percentages may “flatten” out.

Now I have always felt that tracking students into specific schools based on test performances in the early teens was too harsh. To me, personally, it is down right scary. If I had attended such schools, and taken such tests, I’d probably be fixing air conditioners today. I might be happy at it, and I would certainly be contributing enormously to the comfort and happiness of other people. But there is much that I’ve experienced since I was 18, that would have been lost.

Still, what’s better, having 40% of our students in trade schools, or having 40% of our students on the streets. The fact of the matter is that in a world of rapid change, where most of us will have five different jobs to retool for, tracking students for life has become utterly obsolete. Perhaps our goal should be to provide appropriate education to all students at all ages, rather than a robust education to all students until they reach their 13th year, or drop out.

Just thinkin’ out loud.

Approaching a New School Year

It is 2005, and children, youngsters, and adults, young and old, are going back to school to become better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of their future. I thought I would just list a rundown of the issues of the day related to education. What are people fretting over? What’s is the media fretting over?

Following are the issues being reported in the media as the 2005-2006 school year approaches:

  • What’s in the vending machines? When the superintendent of Asheville City School announced, last week, that they would be replacing softdrinks in their schools’ vending machines with fruit juices, there was an overwhelming applause
  • Evolution vs. Intelligent Design. “The Senate majority leader aligned himself with President Bush when he said that the theory of intelligent design as well as evolution should be taught in public schools.” As the future looks increasingly uncertain, it is so easy to just look backward. No matter what you teach, it doesn’t change the truth. Teach students to seek the truth
  • Class enrollment rises again, in the homes of Americans across the land. Increasingly, children are receiving their education in the homes of parents who are dissatisfied with their public schools, want to instill christian values in their children’s learning, and want to increase the family’s bond.
  • “A group of students will enroll at Harvard University in September as the first recipients of graduate fellowships that promote the training of social entrepreneurs — people who use the skills of the marketplace to solve social problems innovatively. This is worth watching!
  • Holding kids back because they failed a test. A policy panel in New York City’s Department of Education voted to hold the city’s students who failed their 7th grade English tests, back for an extra year taking 7th grade courses again. As I’ve said before. It all costs. We want all children reading. If our elected officials will not come up with the money to bring all 8th graders up to speed in reading and math, then the solution is easy. Just charge our children a year of their lives.
  • Children will continue to pledge allegiance in Virginia.

Just a few stories appearing in the New York Times, August, 2005. What’s new? Not much in our schools. Yet the world around them is changing dramatically!

Fix your Connect Learning Subscription…

If you have been using iTunes to listen to my podcast, Connect Learning, you may think that I have been taking a break from the microphone over the past few weeks. That is incorrect. There are probably five programs that you are missing.

For some reason iTunes stopped picking up my files a few weeks ago. I finally created a new feed using Feedburner, and submitted it. The result is that I now have two entrys in the iTunes podcast directory. Follow these directions to re-subscribe:

  1. Remove the existing enter for Connect Learning in your iTunes Podcast song list. Just select it, press your delete key, and confirm the deletion.
  2. Go to the iTunes Music Store and then to the podcast directory. Search for “Warlick”.
  3. Two podcasts will appear. Subscribe to the one with a taylored picture for Connection Learning. You’ll see a picture of me, dressed in black, arms folded in front of me.

You should be able to get three more files for Episode 36, recordings of a Downers Grove Summit discussion, Episodes 37 and just added today, Episode 38.

Blogs & RSS as a School Communication Environment

I received quite a few comments, pingbacks, and even more e-mails regarding a recent entry, Four Reasons Why the Blogsphere Might Make a Better Professional Collaborative Environment than Discussion Forums. I’d like to present a scenario that seems like a potent intersection between the way that a school handles information, and the “new shape of information” (blogs, wikis, rss, etc.)

We have a high school, that is special in some way. We’ll say that they have a high investment in technology, training, and they serve a special population of students. I’m coming from a specific experience here. At this school, as in many, teachers are required to submit lesson plans to the administration each week. Lesson plans are frequently scanned, because the school leadership feels a need to know the day-to-day instructional culture of the school — what students are learning, and how they are learning it. The plans are then filed.

The instructional technology facilitator also collects from each teacher three lesson plans a month that the teacher has identified as a potent example of technology integration. These lesson plans are combined into the school’s intranet site for reference by all teachers.

The school obviously has an interest in going further than simply filing lesson plans away. But how might this process be automated in a way that is flexible, locally manageable (at the teacher level), and value added?

We might:

  1. Require all teachers to stop submitting lesson plans in paper, and instead, keep a daily Weblog, where they would post a succinct description of what they taught and how they did it. In addition, teachers would be required to post some reflection on the lesson’s success, and what they might have done differently. The key here is succinctness, not only for the say of writing, but also for reading.
  2. With a selected aggregator, the school leadership would capture all of the teachers’ lesson reflections and scan them appropriately for the above stated reason. They would also comment periodically with praise, suggestions, insights, and other statements, understanding that comments will be public to the rest of the schools teachers.
  3. Teachers would also be using aggregators. They would probably subscribe to, and compile the lesson blogs from all of the educators in their department. But I suspect that certain teachers are going to emerge as especially skilled at innovative/effective lessons, or at least as entertaining bloggers. The teachers would likely be subscribed to, from outside their departments.
  4. Software would also be employed that could generate dynamic RSS feeds. For instance, if a teacher is looking for insights on using spreadsheets in instruction, they might define a feed that aggregates all lessons that include the keyword, “spreadsheet”. Technorati and other blog wayports can actually do this now, but a more local and customizable solution may be advisable.
  5. With aggregators in use now, the school leadership would start using them for blog-based announcements, meeting notes, policy information, calendars, and other important information. Other special departments such as sports, theatre, music, art departments, and other school culture entities would use blogging to communicate.
  6. Some how, school leadership (and other participants) would be able to look at subscriptionship. Who’s being subscribed to? Who are school employs paying attention to? This is not specifically for professional evaluation. Instead, it would give leadership an interesting and useful picture of the school’s culture, and reveal potential pivot points among the faculty, for improving the culture in useful ways.
  7. The aggregator is the linchpin of this arrangement. Teachers must be able to refine their settings and how their subscriptions are organized. For instance, a calendar view might be useful, as teachers would like to go back to the previous year to collect information on how they taught a concept last year. Teachers would likely integrate news, web search, and social bookmark feeds into their aggregators and they would want to be able to organize them appropriately. It becomes their professional digital library.

    Comments welcome!


See Marc Prensky

Marc PrenskyI guess that it’s a sign that I am still more teacher than business man, that I would laud, so enthusiastically, my competition. There are probably four or five ed tech conference keynote speakers who are on the A-list of people we all need to hear and see. It’s my aspiration to reach this list, but I found a new model to aspire to yesterday, a new A-lister, by watching Marc Prensky present at the New Directions conference in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

His main message was that our children, our students, are actually different people than the ones we think we are teaching. In other words, he defined an education gap between our classrooms and curriculum, and the real world of our children and their future. He expressed this point eloquently and compellingly, and he was a joy to watch.

Marc’s unique twist is gaming, not only the affects that gaming is having on our students and their culture, but also the place that gaming should be playing in how and what our children are learning. It’s a topic that I do not formally present. However, when opening discussions with educators about retooling classrooms for 21st century teaching and learning, video games is a topic that almost always comes up. It is an important part of our children’s culture, and it must also be part of their schooling if we are to remain relevant to our students.

One point that Prensky made was that we do not need to bring games into the classroom in order to integrate them into the learning process. Simply asking students to talk about their gaming and what they are learning, in the process, as they make decisions and achieve new levels of proficiency, may bring new learning experiences into the classroom.

Here are a few quotes from Prinsky’s slides as I madly took pictures while trying to blog the event (see yesterday’s entry, Bloggin’ in the Blue Ridge).

Quote from a high school student when comparing his challenges in the classroom compared to playing video games.

Whenever I go to school I have to “power down”.

Deborah Schwartz, at the Museum of Modern Art, says that when students encounter information, they want to put their own mark on the information. They want to remix, in order to make it personally valuable to them.

Alan Kay says that:

What’s different about the new technology is that it is programmable.

Marc made this point again yesterday as he sat in on my presentation on classroom blogging. We got off into a discussion of new literacy, and he added that information is also programmable. I agree. I tend to embed this concept into aspects of my “changing nature of information”, but he is right. This should be an explicit part of what and how we teach our children.

From a gaming 16 year old student.

I don’t want to study Rome in high school. Hell, I build Rome every day in my online game, Ceasar III.

Ok, so these kids do not need to learn about Rome? Why certainly they need to learn about Rome. But are there new ways to learn history that leverage our students need and skill at interacting with content? Should we be doing this now, or later? Tick tock! Tick tock!

I loved this one. These kids are not ADD. They are EOE.

Engage me
Enrage me!

I’m not sure if this was Mark Anderson the cartoonist, or Marc Andreessen, the inventor of Mosaic and Netscape, but someone said something pretty important here.

(Today’s learners) are no longer limited by their teachers’ ability and knowledge.

This is so true, from a high school student.

We have learned to “play school.” We study the right facts the night before the test so we achieve a passing grade and thus become a successful student.

Prensky then goes on to say that students are receiving their credentials in school. But they are learning their 21st century skills after school, playing video games.

I’m not going to share any more, because you need to see Prensky speak. High School teachers in the Raleigh area will see him later this month at the Hi5 event, and he’s going to turns some heads.

I’ll add one more thing. I tend to use Presentation slides to add audio visual emphasis to my message. I put very little text on my slides, and coach other presenters not to. Prensky uses a lot of text on his slides, but he does it very well. He places words in the slide in a way to implies intonation and accent. Very skillfully done.

Outstanding work, and a high-point of my week on the road, from this A-lister.

Bloggin’ in the Blue Ridge

I’m blogging live from the auditorium of Blue Ridge Community College near Asheville, North Carolina. This is an absolutely wonderful conference that is in its 4th year, and I hadn’t heard of it until they asked me to talk about classroom blogging a couple of months ago.

First, you wouldn’t believe that the scenery. Rolling hills with tall desiguous trees in their green prime. It will only be surpased by the same scenes several weeks from now as they turn.

Marc PrenskyI just got a call, and had to miss the first few minutes of Marc Prensky. He’s talking about digital natives and digital immigrants, and excellent way to explain the differences between us and our students.

He has just put on his presentation that Learning is Work. Hmmm! Is learning work? or is work learning? I’ll have to think about that. To what degree does learning feel like play. Is this what we need to be going to, making learning fun? Is that what parents expect?

Kids today understand “engagement”. He says that when he was growning up, it was boring. School was a wasteland. “Where did you go?” We answered “out”. “What did you do?” We said “Nothing”. Our kids say that if they can’t find anything to do, they can always go online.

Prensky says that engagement is more important than content. Wow!

What’s different about the new technology is that it is programmable. — Alan Kay.

I didn’t know this. When Deans campaign decided to start collecting contributions online, they went to an 18 year old to write the software. Took him just a few days. These kids love the complexity of the times. Hmm! I have so much trouble explaining the new shape of information to teachers. Would students understand it more easily. I haven’t tried.

Kids want learning to be fun. But what does fun mean now. Fund is the act of mastering a problem mentally. — Rafe Kotter: The Theory of Fun.

Engage me Or I will be Enraged. It’s not ADD, it’s EOE. I love it.

You know, you can’t sit in any presentation today, without hearing reference to Friedman’s The World if Flat. This is a good thing, because Friedman is telling a new story, and that’s what we need.

Students need and want 21st century skills. The skills are not in their children’s schools, and worse yet, their schools aren’t even thinking about them. Kids are getting credentials in school, and they’re doing their real learning after school, playing games, and, Prensky says, that learning is the reason why they play. That’s the secret.

He’s writing a new book called New book don’t bother me, mom — I’m learning!. Should be out by Christmas.

Prinsky says that, as we are trying to compete with what’s out there, “We’re not fighting a war of graphics. We’re fighting a war of ideas”. The games are so rich in ideas, and idea skills. This is what kids find to be “Fun”.

I’m taking digital pictures of many of the good slides, and I’ll post them later.

Tim Rylands (timrylands.com) uses fantisy games in the classroom to improve literacy skills. Prensky lists a number of games that are appropriate and desirable for education. Many of them are free. The problem is that to use these games is to be a Tim Rylands. You have to figure out how to integrate the game into the classroom. Actually, the students don’t even have to play the games in the classroom. Just talk about them.

As I well know, Prensky’s time is almost gone, and he has a lot more to talk about. He points to the following web site for more info.


Are we doing our jobs? “Would our kids be here if they didn’t have to?” Yeah!