Education is On Folks’ Minds

According to a recent PEW Research Center poll, education is very much on people’s minds as they consider the upcoming U.S. elections.  In McCain’s Negatives Mostly Political, Obama’s More Personal, The PEW Research Center for the People and the Press, reports that 78% of registered voters feel that education is “very important” to their vote.  Also receiving the same percentage are health care and jobs.  The only issue receiving a higher percentage was the economy, with 88%.  Important to fewer voters are energy, social security, Iraq, deficit, taxes, terrorism, environment, moral values immigration trade policy abortion and gay marriage.

Lou Dobbs must be appalled.

Edupunk as Portal

I continue to be a bit uncomfortable about the term EduPunk — for reasons similar to those posted by Doug Belshaw in Are you ‘Edupun’? I’m not.  How ever the idea of DIY teaching practices, tool arrangements, and scenarios intrigues me, as it explains pretty siccinctly a lot of what I talk about today and a lot of my own teaching style, ever since I started learning BASIC (and probably when I started dressing up as Socrates and Martin Luther, to be interviewed by my students).

If, when you scanned down to this blog title in your aggregator, you thought of web portals, then you probably scratched your head and thought, where’s Warlick going with this.  What’s got me excited this morning (anticipating another day of moving furniture) is all of the new educator bloggers I have learned about and then branching ideas I’ve been exposed to as I have tried to track through the conversations about Edupunk.  It’s become a portal to new stuff that I’m still trying to unbundle and figure out how to embed into my own conversations.

The problem with this?  My aggregator just got bigger, and rivets are popping out in all directions.

I’m Not Surprised

Brenda and I are in Asheville moving my daughters things from the temporary appartment she used while student teaching, back home. She’s not here with us. Those of you who are parents know how you spell parent. It’s s-e-r-v-a-n-t. Actually, she already has a summer job and will be working, making money, while we’re hauling furniture.

I guess it’s official now. My daughter’s decided that she doesn’t want to be a teacher. I’m not really surprised, but I am disappointed. I’d looked forward to talking shop with her, having something large in common with her — outside of family stuff. She evidently had a good time with the students, once she got her swing. She said that many of the students were sad to see her go, that they’d enjoyed her style. She went in wanting to be creative, to make it look, not like teaching, but like mass learning.

It was the job. The only really concrete thing she told me was that she was being asked to teach things that she knew weren’t important and in some cases, things that she knew were not true. In North Carolina, most core subjects (U.S. History among them) are tested at the end of the course with state created standardized tests, designed in a way so that scoring them will cost tax-payers as little money as possible.

Her supervising teacher had only been teaching for three or four years, her entire career within the confines of NCLB. Not her fault. If I wanted to blame anyone, it would be her college (the same college that prepared me for teaching). I’m not really in a position to say specifically, except that I don’t think she was ready. She’d taking a bunch of history classes, and she’s still reading history books like candy. But I’m not sure she’d been prepared for the opportunities and constraints of the classroom. I’m not sure any of us were or even could be. I don’t know anyone who had a happy student teaching experience. I certainly didn’t, and it was only in my second year that I thought I might become good at teaching, and even like it.

So, she’s back home, and started classes at the local community college. We’re converting the down stairs section of our split-level house to a small apartment, and moving my office upstairs to her old bed room. More about that later.

She’s decided she wants to clean teeth. The local community college has a program in dental hygiene, a very tough program to get into — tougher than getting into education school. She’ll make almost double her starting salary as a teacher, work only four days a week, and no one will ask her to compromise her professional integrity.

Update: I think that more to the point is that my state, North Carolina, needs 10,000 new teachers every year, and all of our schools of education graduate on 3,500. According to a May 2002 Raleigh News & Observer story, only 2,200 of those teachers enter the classroom. ((Silberman, Todd. Not Enough Teachers.” The News and Observer [Raleigh, NC]1 May 2002)) We can’t afford to send teachers out ill-prepared. Again, no blame to a system that’s worked for years. The blame goes to those who remain satisfied with a system that’s worked for years. We need to hack that system.

What’s this about Edupunk?

My first chance with my aggregator in days was the few minutes I had yesterday afternoon, at Olive Garden, waiting on my meal from the appetizer page — iPhone in hand.  At the top of the list was Stephen Downes’ daily filter — a good reason not to get very far. 

First to catch my eye was mention of North Carolina institution, Wake Forest University.  It seems that they, along with a growing number of liberal arts colleges and universities, are not requiring SAT or ACT scores for acceptance, or are making the standardized test optional.  The concern, according to a May 27 New York Times article (2 Colleges End Entrance Exam Requirement), are growing doubts about the tests’ validity in predicting academic success.  Also, there is growing evidence that these standardized test favor applicants from privileged backgrounds.  The article says that..

Some schools that have made standardized tests optional have found that they have attracted a more diverse student body, with no decline in academic ability.

Wake Forest University’s decision is important, because of it’s reputation, ranked 30th among national universities by U.S. News & World Report.

Cyberpunk Picture What also rocked my boat, and continued to draw my attention through the calamari and stuff mushrooms (a mistake), was reference to Edupunk.  Like Downes, I was drawn to the Cyberpunk movement, read many of the novels, and was intrigued by the network cowboy thing.  Edupunk, I’m not so sure about, for several reasons, partly because I’m too old to be comfortable identifying with the word punk.  Yet there are some very interesting distinctions being made in the still very sparse conversations about the concept.

It seems to have been coined by Jim Groom in his blog, Bavablog.  He starts providing examples in Permapunk.  Another, more direct explanation comes from Mike Caulfield in Edupunk.  It seems to be a rejection of  recent moves, among corporate contributors to the education community, to insert aspects of Web 2.0 applications into their products.  Specifically mentioned was Blackboard.

Mike implies that all the version 2.0 references may be part of the problem.

..Classroom 2.0, Learning 2.0, and even Web 2.0 itself — work against this very notion that what we are chasing here is not product, but style. What does the 2.0 version number symbolize if not a shrink-wrapped box or set of features?

It is certainly one of the most interesting aspects of the read/write web that so much of it has come from very small, garage and dorm-room endeavors, and that the growing toolset lends itself to inventiveness among its users — emoting a do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit. 

As we continue to promote the use of a more participatory information landscape for learning environments, I think that we should be explicitly promoting this DIY aspect — a sense that the information can be shaped and controlled by professional educators, and that sharing this control with students can be an appropriate, information-abundant, learning pedagogy. 

I do not have any real objection to corporate embrace of these tools.  We’re all trying to make a living. 

What worries me, though, is school officials hearing the buzz, and thinking that they can buy their way into the crowd, rather than learning their way in.

Easy to Teach isn’t Easy to Learn

This is another post that comes under the category of Pedagogies for an Information-Abundant Learning Environments.  It was just after my second three-hour presentation today, in Queensbury, New York.  I have one more to go, early evening, with community folks.  I do this fairly often, offering to present a 45-minute session for parents and community.  It’s an important message for them to hear, and I’ll get anywhere from four to a hundred people showing up.

Anyway, Gwen Brilling came up to me just after my presentation and said that she wanted to tell me a story.  She said that although she is fairly close to retirement, she has been very interested in computers and the Internet, attending as many staff developments as she could.  She said, though, that her pattern was to learn something, and then, without using it right away, she would forget how to do it.

So, a few weeks ago she got her son, a Junior at SUNY, to show her how to run a particular program, and she sat their ready, with pencil and paper in hand.  Her son said, “Mom!  What are those for?”

She told him that she was going to take notes and he said, “Mom!  Put that away.”

So they went through the program in a number of ways, and basically played with it, and she said that her perceptions of technology changed dramatically that day.  She said that she had always tried to write down the steps and learn the steps, rather than just running the program.  She said that it was her tendency to take notes, that it was the way she’d always learned.  But now, she just plays (or works) the program until it helps her do what she needs to do.

It seems to me that breaking something down into steps and teaching the steps makes it easy to teach something — a way to explain it.  But it is difficult and probably not productive to lists steps when working in most information-abundant information environments.  There is always more than one way to solve the problem and even more aspects of the problem that need to be factored in.

I think that it’s important for us to model this, as staff developers.  Pull up a program from time to time that you don’t use regularly.  Let the teachers see you playing with the program to get it to do what you need it to do.  Model that learning happens to a mind at play.

More from Jakes’ World…

Picture of Jakes CoffeehouseThree-hour layover at Newark Airport and lots of work to do — and not a single electrical outlet is working.  I’m starting to get PO’ed.  Why would an airport switch off all of their customer-accessible electrical outlets?  I just don’t understand.

Then, about to give up, a good quarter-mile from my upcoming departure gate, I find a little dive with a live outlet in the corner.  I have to buy a bagel and a delicious Jakes Coffee, but it’s good. 

Thanks for Jakes’ World!

Houston Tops Raleigh in Top 25

Just returned from my home town for a a day in the country — church and then pot-luck dinner.  I sampled all of the deviled eggs (one of my favorites), and was especially taken by the one with pickle relish mixed in — and I don’t like pickle relish.  In a few minutes, Brenda and I will leave for the Meymandi Concert Hall for the last in a series of concerts of the Triangle Youth Brass Band, along with the adult band, and alums from past bands, including my son.

But I’m writing about a report Brenda told me about on the way to the country, an upcoming Kiplinger ranking of the top cities in the U.S. economically.  You may or may not know that Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park consistently tops such listings.  But this year it falls to number two, behind Houston.

What I found interesting was the Bob Cook, who evaluated the cities factored in the portion of the population woul were in the creative class.  This includes scientists, engineers, artists, and teachers.  The belief is, and this is consistent with Richard Florida’s writings, the creative class benefits the economic prosperity of a community as well as culture. 

So perhaps one of the challenges of communities today is, “How do we attract creative people?”  “How do we convince our creative children to stay?”

And the Winner Is!

I have a real problem with my aggregator.  It’s got these soft sticky places in it.  I’m reading along, and all of a sudden, I’m stuck on one post or article that’s got me reeling.  I’m researching the topic, figuring out how it applies — how it can be applied, and then, just as suddenly, I’m out of time.  Got to go do something else.  I’ve spent a half hour, and only covered three entries.

Bill's ButtonIt’s one of many reasons why this one sailed way under my radar, a NECC button design contest.  As Dangerously Irrelevant writer, Scott Mcleod wrote on April 18,

If you’ve been reading Speed of Creativity lately, you probably noticed Wesley Fryer’s nifty phrase: I’m here for the learning revolution.

He’s said it here and here.  So Scott and Wes teamed up to sponsor a contest to design a Learning Revolution button, that we can wear at NECC 2008.  Scott announced the contest here, and after much sifting, ranking, and deliberation, the winner has just been announced.

It’s Bill Moseley, architect of this very cool web site.  Bill wins, and I quote, “..everlasting fame, a CASTLE mug, one of the buttons, a t-shirt with his design on it, a picture of a monster from my 4-year-old (Colin’s the one with the curly hair), and a copy of Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky.”

So, Scott and Wes are printing up a few hundred buttons and will be giving them out, started at the EduBloggerCon on Saturday, June 28.  Thanks, Bill, and Scott and Wes.

Machinima in Education & other Findings

From Machinima PromotionI love to prepare for presentations. Next week, I’ll be working with educators in Queensbury, NY, and folks coming in from surrounding districts. The topic will be digital learners, and what I like about preparing is finding new resources and examples out there.

Here’s one, from San Diego State University’s Educational Technology program. They have constructed a machinima that promotes the program, using SecondLife.

You can see it on YouTube at:

I also found and installed a new WordPress plugin, called Sphere Related Content. I’ve explored the Sphere service before, but today I installed the widget on my blog. I places a link at the end of each blog entry that says, “Related Content.”

When you click it, an Ajax popout window appears that lists recent blog entries and other media articles that are related to my post . It detects the relationships based on keyword matches. In the plugin configuration, I can orient the relations to new videos, politics with a Democratic or Republican tilt, or from a balanced point of view.

I don’t know how long I’ll keep the plugin installed, but it’s another example of how information, today, can be trained to behave in a variety of ways, reorganizing itself based on our needs, desires, and the messages we wish to convey.

It’s wizardry, and one more reason why we have to beef up what our notions of basic information skills.

Update: Interestingly — no matches for this article 😉

School-Based LAN Parties

I finished my presentation about an hour ago — video games.  It was a formal keynote style presentation for about 90 technology directors in the Dallas, Texas area.  We’re currently watching a presentation from Lightspeed, a network content management system (content blocker).  They paid for the lunch.  This is actually quite interesting — and the data that is generated about what users of the network are doing, where they’re going, what they’re looking for, and what they’re downloading.  It seems like information that might be useful to school principal and especially the librarian.  If I was a teacher, I’d also love to see what my students are doing on the network.  It could give me an “in.”

I started thinking about these systems and the Passively Multiplayer Online Game, developed by Justin Hall.  It’s a Firefox extension that turns Internet research into a competitive game.  Why couldn’t these network monitor and control programs be turned into a game, fashioning the point system into a competition that rewards responsible and effective research.

Playing Video Game during my presentationWhile paying attention, I moved the chat transcript that was generated by attendees with computers.  I usually try to get that moved over to the wiki right away, and then read through it and insert (wiki-style) my 2¢ worth.  Going through this, I learned about a school that is holding a monthly LAN party in their building about once a month.  Apparently it was suggested by the students, and it is shaparoned by an assistent principal — probably a young person.  The kids still beat him.  I’m hoping to find the person who chatted about this before I leave.  Would love to record a podcast interview.

Finally, to the right is a picture that I took during my presenation.  You’ll notice that he is playing a video game, Guild Wars.  That was a real first for me.