In Line at the Apple Store

Waiting in line for the iPad 3G

I’m multitasking big time, sitting on the tiled floor of Crabtree Mall, number 5 in line for an iPad 3G. I’m monitoring twitter a bit, eying folks walking by, and chatting with the young man next to me, who stood in line for a WiFi, only to take it back because he wasn’t satisfied with the apparent network deficiencies. He said it wouldn’t pick up WiFi in places he knew it was available. So 3G hopefully will be the answer.

I’m also going through my new book, newly back from the editors. She delete about 200 commas in the first 18 pages. Sheesh! Plus, she’s deleted about 29 extra Gs in Gary Stagger’s name… We might get this thing down to less than a hundred pages after all.

I have to admit that I’m not sure why I’m buying this iPad thing. People are actually gawking at us. I suspect, if pushed, that I can come up with two reasons — besides the obvious geek-cool factor.

First of all, the iPad (and the many ‘Pads that are on the way) is remarkably similar to an information device that I described in the first edition of “Redefining Literacy.” That particular chapter was re-written and published in Library Media Connection. You can read it here. It was a personal device, used by teachers and learners, that could be connected to keyboards and larger displays for group work. You could also listen to podcasts, audio books, watch movies, and collaborate with learning teams.

The second reason has more to do with practicality — admitting fully that I do not yet know how practical this thing will be. I’ve gotten enormous use out of my netbook (Acer running Linux), mostly using it for writing at Starbucks, note-taking at conferences, and putting final touches on my online handouts when my MacBook Pro is already set up for a presentation.

The problem with the netbook is the boot up time, uncertainty about WiFi (though my AT&T broadband card works flawlessly on it), the occasional need to work it while standing up, and the inevitable frustrations of fixing things on Linux when you do updates (mostly due to the WiFi card in this particular ACER).

In addition, I’ve found myself using my iPhone as an information device (text entry and web research) a whole lot more than I’d thought I would, becoming something of a nimble thumb’er. More gawking!

I wish I’d brought a lounge chair, like the guy next to me. Hey, I’m number five in line. I’m not complaining.

Apple store just closed. One more hour to wait…

Being a “Learner” is being Responsible

Flickr Image by Becky & Randy Post and Stylized with Pixalmator

There was some interesting and valuable discussion about Wikipedia in the backchannel chat from my day in St. Albert Canada last week. At one point, a participant reminded us that many articles from the “free encyclopedia” include lists of references to other sources for information about the topic. Then “ often do students click through to those other resources?” someone asked.

It’s a good question, and I suspect that few students or even casual users of Wikipedia click through to the added sources. It really depends on the intent of the research, and I suspect that most casual users have little reason to click through. But the educator posing the question during my presentation probably wishes that students, conducting research for their lessons, would dig beyond Wikipedia.

It occurred to me, as I was scanning through and commenting on the chat transcript, that maybe it depends on the level of responsibility that one feels for the work. If I am completing an assignment, following instructions, or fulfilling items on a rubric, I may not be so compelled to click through. However, if I feel responsible, in some way, for the (authentic) effects that my work may have on me or on someone else, then I may see reason to examine other resources — to get it right.

Though open to exceptions, I am not a huge advocate for integrating video games into the classroom. I do maintain, however, that we have much to learn from that experience. When youngsters are playing most video games, they usually do not approach them with a sense that there is one correct and prescribed way of working the game. You won’t hear them say, when they experience difficulty reaching the next level, “But I did it the way the instructions said to.”

They’re not responsible for finding the right answer. They’re responsible for making it work. Their assessment is, “Did it work?” Programming is another good example. There’s no one way of solving the problem. There’s just making it work. It is a responsive experience, and the power of the responsiveness is not so much its immediacy (instant gratification) as it is with its authenticity.

Of course, there is nothing new in this to good educators and those of us who remember the extensive work going on with authentic assessments — before No Child Left Behind Untested.

With this in mind, it occurs to me that there are three fundamental components to being educated today.

  1. What do you know?
  2. What can you do with what you know?
  3. What can you unlearn, and relearn in order to answer new questions, solve new problems, and accomplish new goals?

An educated person is a learner, and a learner is always working to be educated. A student waits to be taught.

A student may not look at the further references in Wikipedia.

But a learner will.

If all that we assess (and hold our schools accountable for) is what our students have been taught, then we are drastically and disastrously short changing our children’s future — and ours.

Subscribing to YouTube RSS Feeds

I’m back in Banff and pretty happy about it. Anyone who’s been here before would understand. Here’s a link to the photos I’ve taken (and still taking) in the Canadian Rockies. On Thursday, it was TEDxBANFF, which was a singular treat for me (more here). Then, after Friday up in Edmonton, I’m back in Banff for the last day of “Alberta Future,” a conference by the CTS Council (Career & Technology Studies). I was impressed with a video that the council produced as a preview to the conference.

I’ve decided to change my closing keynote a bit, from my typical delivery of “Rebooting the Basics” to some of the learning literacies of the 21st century, specifically tapping into the ongoing and global conversations related to pathway careers being added to Alberta’s curriculum.

One of the specific avenues to knowledge I’d like to include is subscribing to YouTube videos based on a YouTube search. The barrier I’m having to question my way through is the fact that YouTube seems not to have a convenient display of their RSS feeds in the same what that Google’s news and blog searches do. So I did some blog searches, and found a post in the Google Operating System blog, “YouTube Feeds.”

So, to have a resource with instructions, I’m posting this blog entry to link to in my online handouts:

  1. If you are looking for the latest YouTube videos related to robotics, or any other topic, then you start with the base feed URL:
  2.<search term>

  3. Simply add the search term, robotics, to the end (replace <search term>) so that it reads…

    A listing of the most recent YouTube videos with robotics in the title or description, generated with Google Reader. (Click the image to enlarge)

  5. Then, using your RSS reader, subscribe to that URL. If you’re using Google Reader, then simply run your reader
  6. Click the [Add a subscription] button
  7. Paste your feed URL into the textbox, and click [Add].

And you’ll be subscribed and receive a list of the latest YouTube videos that include the term, robotics.

In addition to YouTube keyword searches, you can also construct RSS feed URLs for:

  • Search in a category,
  • Latest videos from a specific channel,
  • Feeds for favorite videos,
  • Your subscriptions, and
  • Playlists

TEDxBANFF is Now a Memory & I was Wrong about Creativity

TEDxBANFF, from the stage, about an hour before the kickoff. For some reason, I didn’t think to get my camera out, once things got started

I think I made a respectable, if a bit shaky, performance yesterday. After I was off the stage, I felt the same way that I always feel when I’ve done something for the first time — wishing I’d done things a different way and knowing that I will the next time.

I was fallowed by two other men (no women in the TEDxBANFF lineup) who talked about the future of schools and the magic of empowering unsuccessful classroom learners, and another talking about wind energy and energy literacy (Oh Gawd! Another literacy). They were all excellent presi-performances.

But! We were all blown out of the water by the 18 year old guitar player. Calum Graham has been playing guitar for four years, which was perhaps the most surprising thing that I learned about the young man, who’s performance epitomized surprise.

I had a conversation with the Calum before the TEDx about guitars — and I asked him, as one must, “What kind of music do you play?” He compared his style to Chet Atkins, I suppose because I looked like a Chet Atkins guy from his 18 year old perspective. I then told him how much I liked Leo Kottke, and he replied that he was probably somewhere between the country tone of Atkins and the folkiness of Kottke. After finally listening to Graham, I knew how uncomfortable he must have been with my question.

I do not know this for a fact, but I suspect, as a guitar player myself, that no one taught him how to play guitar. I doubt, also, that he spent a lot of time trying to sound like James Taylor or even Mason Williams (though he does a mean Calum’ized version of “Classical Gas”).

As I lay awake earlier this morning, trying to figure out what I’m going to talk about today in St. Albert and tomorrow back in Banff, and kept coming back to Calums performance, it finally dawned on me that he was playing the guitar. He was playing beautifully crafted and polished assembly of wood and strings. It was a mistake for me to try to think of guitar players I’d seen when I saw him on the lineup, because it was not trying to be a guitar player. He was playing the guitar.. he invented it!

You see, I was wrong yesterday, when I said that you had to have a goal in mind, a problem to solve, or product to sell, in order to be creative. I doubt very seriously that as Calum began teaching himself to play guitar, that he had any specific outcome in mind except the joy of making music. It was him and the instrument, and he taught himself how to get music out of the thing.

His hours of practice and experimenting for the joy of the effort, led to a performance and CDs that I know bring great pleasure to many people, and that joy seems to have led to a truly inventive (creative) way of playing the guitar.

It’s like I said to him, before he went on stage, “Surprise me!”

Is This Creativity?

OK! I honestly do not know what this invention was meant to accomplish

Lassanya en verano / Lassanya in summer time by Mònica

Woe! Talk about biting off more than I can chew. But somebody asked a question the other day, during an unconference sessions I was running, and I knew this was going to be “blog-worthy. She asked, “What would Ken Robinson say?”

We were using my idea plotting tool to try to ramp up a basic classroom activity, so that it would provoke levels of thinking higher up Blooms Revised Taxonomy. Folks were suggesting enhancements to the lesson, and, as almost always happens, we got up to creating way to fast.

Each time that I do this activity, I find myself suggesting (while admitting that I might be wrong) that in order to be creative, the student’s work or procedures should be aimed at a specific objective, problem, or audience. There needs to be a goal. On that day someone suggested we click the (i) by Creativity, where upon the following definition popped out.

Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing.

Oops! No mention of “why.” I do not recall where I got that definition, because I hadn’t added the citation feature at the time that I added that scale. But Anderson & Krathwohl say pretty much the same thing in their description of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, defining creativity as:

Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing. ((Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D.R. (Ed.). (2001). A Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: a revision of bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives: complete edition. New York: Longman.))

OK, I guess I was shot down. Both definitions described process and outcome but not intent or goal. No mention of audience. No mention of the “why.”

Then someone asked, “What does Ken Robinson say about creativity?” ..and someone else in the group, within a minute read out,”

Creativity is “the process of having original ideas which have value. “((Robinson, K. (Speaker). (2006). Ken robinson says schools kill creativity. [Web]. Retrieved from

I had to go to the Sir Ken Robinson TED Talk video to find his definition, for the sake of this blog, and I felt vindicated, because Robinson says that there needs to be value — implying that it needs to do something for somebody.

It seems to me that to create (invent, innovate, etc.) you must have direction, and sense of where you are going, what you’re trying to solve, who you are trying to make a little happier. You my student combine ideas, objects, or procedures that accomplish the goal in a way that surprises me, then she has been creative.

But doesn’t come easily, and it doesn’t come without mistakes. How often do we give our students permission to make mistakes. As Robinson says later in his TED talk,

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you wan’t come up with anything original.”

What we do not want our students saying, is what I friend of mine’s daughter said recently when ask about the purpose of school. She said,

School is the place where you do not want to get caught being wrong.

I Recommend This

I’m going to get here one day, Gary Stager’s Constructing Modern Knowledge event. Sylvia Martinez included in her tinkering session at Educon this year, some video clips of teachers working (minds-on) at last year’s event. It was a tinkering session where teachers were building something from various objects they had access to, and exploring the thought processes taking place along the way.

This year guest speakers will include: Deborah Meier, James Loewen, Peter Reynolds and Alfie Kohn. You can register here and then block off July 12-15 on your calendar to be in Manchester, New Hampshire for Constructing Modern Knowledge.

I wonder if Gary would allow me to attend just the first day and the last day?

Coming Home from Asia

Five Reasons Why I Love Incheon International Airport
By Catherine Bodry

I’m back in the Naver Cyber Cafe at Incheon Airport, outside of Seoul, Korea. I don’t know what the worlds most wired country is, but this is certainly the most wired place I’ve ever been. I walked through one of the gadget shops here at the airport and it was pretty much what you’d see at Best Buy, except shinier and smaller. They don’t have iPads yet, but they’ve got some pretty cool looking web appliances.

Even my cell phones 3G Internet access is fast, at least as fast as my Time Warner Internet at home. My plan was to spend some time this morning at the hotel enjoying surreal browsing speeds, but there was a fee, and my initial calculation was $89.44 USD for the first hour. I’m pretty sure that was wrong, but it’s pretty good here at the cyber cafe.

A learning commons area adjacent to the school library. All of the furniture was on wheels — even the bookcases. I’m pretty sure this was Concordia School in Shanghai

It’s been a great week of working with educators at International schools from Asia and the Middle East. This is where I get pushed the most. It’s an interesting paradox, where you have educators who, for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is a sentiment that leads them to an ex-pat lifestyle), are naturally creative, innovative, and adventurous risk takers. Then, on the other hand, they teach students from families who have been successful and probably consider the traditional, academically rigorous, possibly Ivy League education that they enjoyed at least a big part of the reason why — and they naturally want the same for their children.

This conflict came out most clearly, as I read through and commented on the backchannel I had running during my keynote at the EARCOS middle school principals event. It pushed me a lot to re-examine aspects of my message.

Still, many of these schools grow and innovate. I can see two other reasons for this.

  • First, they have money. No-brainer. They teach the children of highly successful people, who can afford and are eagerly willing to pay a price for the curriculum they want for their children.
  • But number two is more interesting. Someone suggested to me that part of it was the transient nature of the schools’ staff. I’ve learned over the years that international educators typically work at a school for about 5 years. Being adventurers, they’re read for a new frontier. But the schools also desire that type of turnover, because new teachers bring with them new ideas. School becomes stale when the same teachers teach there year after year.

There’s one other idea I’d like to share here before I head over to my gate (and 15 hours in the air). Several times I heard people say and read in the backchannel,

Our curriculum is the contract with our parents.

It seems a powerful arrangement to me. Parents want their children in this school because of what and how children learn there. How much they learn is certainly an implied part of the contract. But it’s the actual nature of the learning that they expect. I never really knew what my children were learning — not really. I knew that they were learning to read and write and perform basic math. But the curriculum was never a part of the conversations I had with my children (try it. It can’t be done) and their teachers, and it was certainly not part of the up-front contract. Their schools were very slow to adopt web based classroom to home communication and it may be much better now. But it’s the statistics that are collected at the end of the year that fulfills the contract — and I do not see this getting better fast enough.

What Should we be Imitating?

An Interesting InfoGraphic done by graphic artist John Kumahara

It’s with some apology that I use the term “technology-infused.” At Educon in January, Chris Lehman used the term in one of his sessions, and upon asking us to discuss his posed question, I mentioned to the small group I was with my dislike for the term, after which one of the members, put on the spot to share something that we’d discussed, said, “Well David Warlick said he doesn’t even like the term.” Yikes!

It’s a good term. It’s just that using techno-centric terms tends to give people an underdeveloped idea of what our goal really is, which I would suggest is just what could happen (is happening) with the recent launch of Apple’s iPad. In Colleges Dream of Paperless, iPad-centric Education, author Brian X. Chen reports on three universities that are..

..getting pumped to hand out free iPads to students and faculty with hopes that Apple’s tablet will revolutionize education.

All three pre-ordered bundles of iPads, believing that they represent a potential end to printed textbooks. Among the advantages of the iPad (and tablets in general),

  • Faculty will be able to use more of a variety of textbooks, since digital versions will be less expensive.
  • Even though Apple has yet to announce any deals with textbook publishers (only popular ebooks), a third-party company currently offers 10,000 e-textbooks, which include titles from the five biggest textbook publishers. A subscription-based service, registered students can access the e-textbooks of their choice for a limited amount of time. The company has already announced an iPad app.

  • The iPad will likely not have the limitations that disappointed students who were involved in an e-textbook pilot at Princeton, using the Amazon Kindle DX.
  • Forrester analyst, Sara Rotman, said that,

    The iPad has far greater potential to succeed as an educational device than Amazon’s Kindle DX. Where the Kindle is sluggish, monochrome and limited in interactivity features, the iPad is fast, sports a colorful touchscreen and supports enough apps to cater to a broad audience of students.

“Cell phones and PDAs do not seem to be the primary device of choice that students want to bring with them into the classroom.” That’s what George Fox University found, when they piloted iPhones and iPod Touch devices, intending teachers to integrate apps into their curricula.

“We think the iPad will become the device students carry with them everywhere, and the laptop will become the base station in their dorm room,” said Greg Smith, chief information officer of George Fox University. “The iPad becomes the mobile learning device.”

Abilene Christian drew a different conclusion, where Bill Rankin, a medieval studies professor, called the iPhone program the “TiVoing of education,” because the iPhone enabled students to access to the information whenever and wherever they want it.

Rankin said,

This is really about people re-imagining what books look like — re-imagining something that hasn’t really been re-imagined in about 550 years.

I just hope that we use enough imagination.

I guess I have one real questions.

As we try to re-imagine how new, game-changing, technologies,

Should we be using textbooks and classrooms as the templates for our new visions — imitating “instruction”,


Should we be using something else as the template — the learning that we are all engaged in during a time of rapid change. Might we create a lifelong learning model, and aim our tech at that?

Don’t Touch That…

It’s the way we take vacations these days. I’m flying off somewhere, that’s best flown to from a major airport like New York or Washington. In this case, it’s  Washington.  So Brenda rides the train with me to the nation’s capital, we spend a day or two being tourists, and then we split, she training back down to Raleigh, and me taking off for some far off exotic land that I’ll be too busy and jet-lagged to enjoy.

Yesterday, we walked around (a lot) and visited some of the Smithsonian museums.  It had been many years for me. Brenda had a special interest in seeing the Star Spangled Banner, the huge flag that flew over Fort McHenry after the British fleet withdrew, unable to enter the harbor of Baltimore.  This was what we call “The War of 1812.” The flag has been undergoing conservation procedures and has only recently been brought back out on display at the National Museum of American History.

The line outside the museum was long, but moved fairly quickly. The line outside the SSB display route moved much less so. But we finally got through, got a multimedia background of the war and battle, saw the flag, and then got to play with a huge video display of the flag. The image moved slowly up from top to bottom, with circles around specific spots. You could touch those circles and a pop-out window would explain something about the spot — a shrapnel hole or some patchwork from a previous conservation project.

Near the center of the display was a larger circle with arrows pointing out in four directions. It appeared to me that you could grab the flag there and change its direction. But no one was using it. Most of the folks in line were adults, most of them middle aged to older. There were a few kids who were anxious to get on with it.

Finally, a kid, about nine or ten, reached up to that circle, grabbed the flag image, stopped its move up, and reversed the direction, dragging it down. His mother (I assume) gasped, grabbed her son by the shoulders and pulled him away from the display. It was such a perfect moment, one that probably repeats itself every day as our children seem so much more comfortably with an information environment that is central to how we do things today.

But it’s not about digital natives and digital immigrants.   It’s simply about all of us realizing and acknowledging that we’re all learners — and we should practice it in the light of day…

It Was Good Enough for Me

Our classrooms require a better window on the world than this… ((Han, Churl. “My classroom in Frieze.” Churl’s Photostream. N.p., 29 Jan 2006. Web. 8 Apr 2010. .))

I frequently receive comments and e-mails from readers expressing their agreement with something I’ve written or said. And then they lament the realities. “But, I have only one working computer in my classroom.” “But, interactive white boards are a pipe dream for us.” “But, Internet is too slow and/or too filtered for practical use.” ..or “We’ve been told to stop using technology or any supplemental materials after March and use only materials designed specifically around test prep.

We are not working under these conditions because of our zip code or because of some unavoidably cyclical function of our reality. These constraints do not happen like weather patterns that we simply have to hunker down and wait out. They happen because of decisions that people make due to greed, misinformation, politico-social agendas, or ignorance.

That we continue to try to prepare children for the future under these conditions is not the problem. The problem is that there are some (many) who still believe that these conditions are good enough.

“What was good enough for me is good enough for ‘your’ children.”

My advice?

  1. Dream and decide:
    1. What you want your classroom to become?
    2. What kind of access to information you need, in order to facilitate learning?
    3. What kind of access to information does your classroom need for relevant learning to happen?
    4. What kind of access to information do your learners personally need to drive their own learning?
  2. Answer the questions,
    1. “What will your community’s children be able to learn in this classroom?”
    2. “What kind of relevant and compelling learning experiences might your community’s children enjoy?”
  3. Reject any technologies from item 1 that do not directly contribute to item 2.
  4. Take the answers to item 2 and turn them into a story.
    1. “Here is the classroom that is possible.”
    2. “Here is what your children will learn in this classroom.”
    3. “Here is how they will learn and what they will do with what they learn.”
    4. “Here is the classroom I want, the classroom your children deserve, the classroom that our future requires.”
  5. Tell that story. Set up a page on your web site called “My Dream Classroom.” Update it regularly. Share it with other teachers. Share it with your students, your friends, and the parents of your students.

    Make its upkeep part of your personal professional development.