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This is What Caring Educators Come to See

Other than the keynote, I’ve been able to see only one presentation here at NCETC (hh). It was the last three-quarters of Tammy Worcester’s featured presentation. As one NCETC blogger, Danita Russell, said,

“I finally went to a session from an experienced presenter. TammyWorcester’s session on Beyond Cutting and Pasting to Build IntegratedTechnology Projects. Great ideas!”

Tammy is a master presenter who cares about her craft and about staying on the edge of what teachers need to know about modern teaching and learning techniques. Her presentation was funny, but never for the sake of satisfying the audience. The point was learning something new, and thinking about things in a new way.

If you every have a chance to see Tammy (or to hire her), go for it!

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Is All Information Knowledge?

I woke this morning and found reference to this blog in my aggregator. I wish people would put their names on their blogs. I assume that the blog was written by Rob Darrow, because that the name in his URL, but I’m not sure. This Rob Darrow’s blog also resonated with me, because of one of the sessions I did yesterday at NCETC. It was a session about wikis, and I mentioned Wikipedia as an atypical example of a blog, and people started asking questions about validating Wikipedia articles.

Anyway, it was an interesting post that made me think. He said…

The other day, David Warlick posted the statement “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the information.” He received some responses from others who questioned if information was knowledge…or when information becomes knowledge. I would agree with him that it is in the use of information that one constructs knowledge.

Is all information knowledge? « California Dreamin’ …about libraries…technology…online learning

This made me think. It’s another reason we should be concentrating more on the information and lesson the technology, that its through the manipulation of information (on many different levels) that results in knowledge. It isn’t the technology thatmakes knowledge. Technology is merely one tool or lens that we use todo the manipulating.

The writer went on to say

Knowing which information is important to use to construct that knowledge is called information literacy.

I believe that it is literacy. I believe that the ability to expose the value of the information that we read is as important, as critical, as being able to read it. Until we come to realize that there is one literacy (skills involved in using information to accomplish goals), rather than lots of literacies (reading, information literacy, digital literacy, computer literacy, blah blah blah), we will not be giving appropriate attention to any of them.

As adults, most of us have a natural information filter that causes us to determine which information is important and which is not. Students do not automatically have this filter which is why it is important to teach students information literacy skills and utilization of information literacy models such as the Big6….

I think that this is also why we teach history, and science, and health. It’s our expanding world view that helps us to intuitively see what is likely and what is not likely. But it’s one of the things that is wrong with the way we have been forced to teach these things. Students are measured on how much history they have been taught by how many fact-based questions they can answer — and there is nothing wrong with this as one measure, so long as it does not suck up all of the learning time and all of the learning resources.

If students are to learn to be intuitive filters, then it happens when they spend time not just learning history, but learning what historians do. Not just learning science, but learning what scientists do. Then learning becomes a human experience, drawing on human curiosity, human communication, human resourcefulness — not just brute memorization.

Thanks mystery blogger.



Image Citation:
Deerbourn. “Evan the Archeologist.” Deerbourne’s Photostream. 1 Sep 2005. 30 Nov 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/bloodstone/39404322/>.

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NCETC BloggerCon

I just finished the BloggerCon session, here in Greensboro, and it exceeded all expectations. It was a small group of about 10, but we were all bloggers with lots to share. I would say that the major emphasis was pedagogy — what does it look like in the classroom. Most of the participants were tech folks at either the school or district level. There was one person who has had students blogging, using Gaggle.com.

Fortunately, I recorded the conversation, and will be publishing it as a podcast very soon.

2¢ and some change!

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A Great Day at NCETC — Now the General Conference Begins

I did a workshop on wikis today, and, by all accounts, it was a huge success. Having never taught it before, I really did not know how well educators would take to it, but it seemed that everyone (teachers, administrators, college faculty) found something in wikis that they could do — that helped them do their jobs. We used Wikispaces, learned how to create hyperlinks, format text, talked about security, learned to embed images, videos from YouTube and Google Video, and even how to aggregate blog entries, news, and del.icio.us web links into their wiki pages. It was very gratifying, and I’ll do that one again (doing two wiki breakout sessions here at NCETC).

Next! I did my first ever Skype conversation during a conference workshop. It was during the wiki session, where one of the first things that the participants did was to take a look at Vicki Davis’ Westwood Wiki Site. Of course, they used words like fabulous and phenomenal to describe it. And then, to their surprise, appears the CoolCatTeacher herself, nine feet tall on the presentation screen. She described her site, answered some questions, and gave a brief description of the Flat Classroom project. My workshop participants were so impressed, as was I.

Thanks Vicki.

Finally, I got a new story yesterday. As I had checked in with the registration desk first thing in the morning and was on my way to my workshop room, a school librarian from Granville County stopped me to chat. She talked about some of the things they were doing in Granville, and as I pointed out how some much about the new information landscape is empowering to learners, she said, “You know, you’re right.”

She went on to describe how one of the social studies teachers in my school had her students produce a video as a class project about their county. This one student was constantly coming into the library to work on his video, which was about muscle cars. He went all over and took digital pictures of every muscle car in the county, and interviewed their owners.

The librarian then said that it was not until after the students played their videos for the class, that she learned that that boy was and EC student with some especially challenging learning disabilities.

Now That’s Power!

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Learner as Communicator

When I talk about blogging at conferences and district staff developments, I usually include a list of quotes from teachers about how their students are literally begging them for writing assignments — how students are writing in their blogs, even if there isn’t an assignment. It’s especially revealing, I think, to see a teacher, who has never really enjoyed writing, admit that blogging can be satisfying, as Danita Russell of rural Currituck Lee County, says in last night’s Random Ramblings.

I realized something today that was a breakthrough, if you will. I was a math and music person all through school. Hated to write and hated English (when I was in school it was not called Language Arts – I went to school a very long time ago), but I did well. I don’t know if it was out of shear determination or fear of my parents (B’s were not acceptable). Now, with my blog, I’m beginning to enjoy writing. I don’t know if anyone ever reads this thing, but I do enjoy writing it. Lightning strike me, I can’t believe I just wrote that I enjoy writing! But, it’s true. Maybe if blogs had been around when I was growing up, I might have been a language arts teacher instead of a math teacher. Nah – don’t see that happening. This must be what the kids feel, too. What an accomplishment for the education system!

Random Ramblings » NCETC Wikis

So what’s different? Why is writing so hard or unenjoyable, but blogging is something that many people want to do? I think that when students are given an assignment to blog, it stops being a writing assignment, and instead, it becomes a communication assignment. When students blog, they are not merely writing to the teacher, trying to comply with some rubric that their text will be measured against. That’s engineering, and it’s no fun because what you are engineering will not be used by anyone.

However, when students (and teachers) blog, they know that what their are writing is going to be read by an authentic audience, if only their classmates. And they know that their audience will be responding in some way to what they are writing. That’s communicating, and I believe that humans have an intrinsic need to communicate — to influence other people.

It’s what’s so disempowering about traditional teaching. We religate the learner to their seats, where they are urged to be vessels, not communicators.

2¢ Worth!

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Fencing in the Learning

Yesterday I taught two three-hour workshops at the NCETC conference — and I was exhausted afterward.  When you do not teach six hours a day, you’re reminded of the degree and type of energy that teaching requires.  ..and I was teaching well-behaved adults ;-)

During a conversation about Web 2.0 applications in schools, the question arose, as it always does, “How do we deal with tech administrators who block out these applications?”  One of the participants shared how his IT guy explained it, that if you had a swimming pool, you would respect the potential dangers of the pool, and you would put a fence around it.  She said that the fellow admitted that resourceful kids will get over the fence, but you still have not choice but to fence it up.

I would suggest an alternative.  Hire a swimming instructor, and teach all of the children how to swim well.  Now that is certainly not a fail-safe solution, and I’d probably leave the fence up. As a corollary to our situation the fence would be a well thought-out, proactive, and dynamic (AUP) policy that clearly describe how the technologies will be used, and why.

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The Flat Classroom Project

For the two or three readers here, who do not also read Will Richardson, check out this new project that started yesterday between Julie Lindsey’s classroom in Bangladesh and and Vicki Davis’ in Georgia. I’ve sorta been listening to this one, but been too busy to bounce it out. Will reminded me of the importance of what is happening here, so I thought I provide another echo.

Will says about the project…

Teachers must be willing to be connectors. …in the context of those connections, we can give our students real, meaningful, relevant opportunities to teach the rest of us what they know. The fact that the work of these students will be published in its many forms to the world as a whole is just so radically removed from the ways most educators still look at what happens in the classroom. If we are simply content to shuffle paper back and forth only for the sake of slapping an assessment on the work, we are doing our students a grave disservice.

Weblogg-ed » Flat Classroom Project Wiki

The basic synopsis, by Vicki reads…

Our students will be paired with each other to create wikis and multimedia resources discussing the educational and industrial implications of the “flatteners” as outlined in Thomas Friedman‘s book, the World is Flat.The project will be wiki-centric and is designed to require research,information literacy skills, and high level critical thinking.

I was especially interested in Vicki’s discussion of teacherpreneurs, which she defines as…

…teachers whosee opportunity to make profitable learning experiences for studentsthrough their partnership with other classrooms with common curriculargoals and expectations.

She goes on to say that…

They understand the best practices of teaching well enough to beentrusted to continue with high standards of achievement and learningwhile utilizing new conduits of information conversion into knowledge.

Very cool!

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This is the Testing We Need to be Paying Attention To

Because the clock is ticking, and I’m not sure if we have years or only months.

(Originally posted yesterday on the TechLearning Blog)

It’s Sunday, and I’m on my way out the door for my state’s ed tech conference, NCETC.I cannot think of any year, in the past six or seven, that I have feltthis optimistic about our future as educators. Spending much of my timeat conferences, I am hearing less and less about test prep, and moreabout 21st century skills and new literacies. The latest indicator ofchanging times comes from Susan McLester and Todd McIntire’s article inthe November issue of Technology and Learning magazine. The title, The Workforce Readiness Crisis struck me by its use of the word crisis.

I’ve written some lately about why we might need to start using scare tactics to facilitate change (see Scare Em). Talking about a crisis certainly does that. The authors described a recent report, released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society for Human Resource Management. The Workforce Readiness Report Card(pdf) claims that this nation’s new workforce entrants are…

woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s — and tomorrow’s — workplace.

The survey of employers was designed to verify assumptions about theupcoming workforce. However, “..even those commissioning the reportwere (not) prepared for the dramatic results.”

The following graphs (generated from data available in the report)indicate the percentage of respondents who found employees right out ofschool to be deficient in applied skills (blue), adequate (red), andexcellent (yellow). The skills are sorted in order of their importanceas indicated by employers of workers by education level.

A mere glance clearly indicates that workers coming out of a 4-yearcollege faired far better than the other two categories, while highschool graduates entering the workforce seem totally unprepared for the21st century workplace. This data deserves much consideration, but atthis point I’ll only mention some of the obvious:

  • At all three levels, the applied skill that employers seemthe most satisfied with are graduates’ application of informationtechnology.
  • They also seem relatively satisfied with worker’s understanding of diversity issues.
  • One skill that seems deficient at all levels is written expression.

So why am I optimistic? Because this is scary stuff. What employersthink about the products of education’s work is far more important thanwhat our celebrated test scores show — especially in a time where theglobal competitive labor market practically defines today’s worldeconomy.

The message is clear. If we want to go back to the basics, thenbasic is what we’ll get, and that is clearly not enough for the 21stcentury experience. If we do want citizens who are prepared tocontribute and prosper in an information-driven, technology-rich world,then it is time for education to re-invent itself.

The clock is ticking, and I’m not sure if we have years or only months.


Afternote:
Conn McQuinn commented on yesterday’s posting of this piece. He suggested research that shows that “positive vision that clearly describes the potential benefits of changing, rather than the negative consequences of NOT changing..” is more effective. I agree, and had read the article (Change or Die) in FastCompany that reported this research. I suspect, though, that a combination what we need. Shock factor is necessary, because of the extreme entrenchment of today’s edu-culture. Then share the compelling positive vision — the New Story.

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It Is about the Information

When you write as much as I do, you tend to start seeing the larger context of your world view, and forget that some people are just poking their heads in every once in a while, for snapshots, and those snapshots can easily be misinterpreted.

Hence, yesterday, when someone I happen to respect a great deal, completely misunderstood something that I said, I feel a need to re-explain.

I said, It’s not about the Technology, It’s about the Information.

This statement comes from my extreme dissatisfaction with the term, integrate technology, as it is used a conferences and other staff development events to urge teachers to modernize their classrooms.

Many people say that, “technology is only a tool,” and this is correct. I would continue by saying that information is also a tool, used to construct knowledge. My question is what should teachers be thinking of as they are working through ways to modernize their classrooms. Should they be thinking of the machines? Or is there something else?

I think of my children and the learning experiences that they engage in on their own time and for their own reason. I believe that this is a valid place to look, because the future we are preparing them for will be the future that they choose. So their practices are quite relevant.

When I see them playing their video games and working their MySpace sites, I do not see them thinking about the technology. It’s merely the pencil and paper they are working with. it’s what their muscles are working. Their minds are engaged in the information. It’s the information that they are thinking about, not the machines.

Perhaps this is where we should be, thinking about the information. The information has changed dramatically in the last few years. It glows, it grows, it can be reshaped in amazing ways and with amazing affects, and it is even beginning to reshape itself. It’s fluid and dynamic, and that’s scary for a lot of us. But it is this new information landscape that our focus should be on, as we work through modernizing our classrooms — not the machines. If we think about the new information and the new literacies that they demand, and try to integrate that, then the technology will come on its own. Technology is the conduit. It’s the pencil and paper. The real tool is the information.

Of course, that guy is a really smart fellow. Maybe I’m completely wrong!

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Hiring Tech-Savvy Teachers

Those who have read my blog for a while, know how vexed I get about educations willingness to beg for funding to do its job — to the point that begging has become a part of the institution. So you can imagine that I didn’t start this month’s issue of Interactive Educator with enthusiasm, when its feature article was Need Funding? Grant Providers and Winners Share Tips for Getting Approved. It’s a shame, because it probably colored my reading of an interesting and valuable article by Don Lipper and Elizabeth Sagehorn, called How to Hire Tech-Savvy Teachers.

On first scanning, I was not impressed by the article, especially it’s list of “Dos” and “Don’ts“. Reading the article more thoroughly revealed a prevailing theme that the teaching part is of greater issue than the technology part when considering new hires. Can they Integrate Technology. Even Will Richardson is quoted saying, “From a hiring perspective, if you hire learners who can teach, the technology will take care of itself.” I disagree that the technology will take care of itself. But Will continues with the most important thing I found in the article. He says,

If you hire teachers who aren’t really lifelong, continual learners, then you’ll have problems, not just with technology.

Bingo! You know, it’s not about the technology. It’s about the information. If a prospective teacher can demonstrate to me that he or she is a continual learner, and that he is using technology to learn, then I’m interested. Otherwise, I see a relic of times that are long past and a danger to the students in my school.

I talk often about contemporary literacy, where reading expands into the ability to find the truth in the information you encounter, and math expands into the ability to employ information to accomplish goals, and writing expands into skills for expressing ideas compellingly, and all of the ethical issues that accompany an information driven world. Increasingly, I see these new notions of literacy as learning literacies, the skills necessary to learn what you need to know in order to do what you need to do. This is what I would look for more than teachers who know how to integrate technology — I want teachers who are learning literate. THEN the technology takes care of itself.

All that said, the article did include some great questions for interviewers to use when looking for 21st century educators for your 21st century schools. Here are a few:

Note: Some of these are extrapolated from related statements.

  1. Tell me how you think the future you are preparing children for will be different.
  2. What web services do you use on your mobile phone?
  3. What is your favorite gadget and why?
  4. How often do others come to you for guidance in using technology?
  5. Describe the last new technology that you used and how you used it — and how you learned it.
  6. Describe the last thing you learned related to your work, that you didn’t learn in a classroom or from a book, and describe how you learned it.

Finally, I would make sure that the vacancy announcement would state that a teacher portfolio will be asked for.

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