Taken over North Carolina, July 29, 2010
It’s like dreaming — so real, until you’re back on your feet and navigating your terrestrial world. But when I’m in the air, flying above the clouds, it is a different place, so removed and foreign from the environment that nurtured by growing. I’ve mentioned before that I was already middle-aged the first time I flew in an airplane.
But I was reminded of the magnificence and beauty this morning, when I slide my pocket Canon’s SD card into my MacBook Pro, and downloaded about 40 shots of Chris Lehmann’s keynote yesterday (I find I can get at least one good picture when I just lay down on the shutter button and let it go, click, click, click, click…)
I took several pictures of the cloud, from the plane window yesterday as we’d started our initial descent into Raleigh. It was a thunder boomer and there were lots of other thunder boomers in the area, though we had a conveniently clear corridor into RDU.
The sun, which had already passed beneath the horizon was evidently still high enough that it still shown directly on the very top of the cloud, producing this gold crown.
Sometimes I just have to shake my head at what molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles can shape themselves into. It’s magic!
Flickr Photo – by ViaMoi
NPR calls him an education “technology leading light.” Some who know Gary Stager might rather call him an education “bold of lightning,” inspiring some and irritating others. Regardless, what ever Gary says, we listen to it — and National Public Radio (NPR) was listening yesterday.
The issue was India’s recently announced $35 Tablet for Education, and NPR heard it when Gary tweeted…
Newsflash: India invents schools so its children have a place to store their useless “$35 laptops.” #vaporware ((??Stager, Gary. 24 Jul 2010. Online Posting to Twitter. Web. 29 Jul 2010.))
Contacting him as a source for his story (A $35 Tablet For Education? Cost Isn’t The Only Factor To Consider)?, NPR contributor, Wright Bryan, asked Gary to expand on the tweet. I’ll let you read what he said in the article, which is pretty much what his readers would expect when a fully charged Gary Stager faces any initiative that short-changes learning for the sake of being able to say, “Look how we’re advancing education so cheaply.”
I want to point you to a part of his statement that really nailed it for me. This short paragraph shows why Gary is so much more of a contributor on Twitter than I am — he can put in a few striking words a quality of ideas that expand my own thinking regarding topics that take me an hour to express on a stage.
He says that a computer,
..especially if it’s the only one we can be sure they (students in India) have access to, must be capable of making the poems, musical compositions, movies, radio programs, simulations, video games, scientific breakthroughs and acts of civic participation that we know children are able to create with the right software, support, time and high expectations. ((?Bryan, Wright. “A $35 Tablet For Education? Cost Isn’t The Only Factor To Consider.” All Tech Considered 28 Jul 2010: n. pag. Web. 29 Jul 2010. .))
Learning is Work!
..because, today, Work is Learning!
One of the best times that I had a ISTE this year was facilitating one of the ISTE Excellence Cafes. They took place on Sunday, and each cafe was devoted to a conversation about one of the ISTE NET-S and what excellence looks like in that context. Weeks before, I’d missed the initial conference call for facilitators, and when I was finally able to connect, there were only two NET-S standards left to choose from. This was good. I chose Technology Operations and Concepts, which is the standard that I am least interested in. I chose it for two reasons. One, I was more likely to keep my own mouth shut, making it easier to facilitate the conversation. Secondly, I felt that I might learn more by leading a conversation about something, to which I do not pay a lot of attention.
Technology Operation & Concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Students:
ISTE was about conversations
I was worried when the conversation was about to start. It seemed that Tech and Concepts were not terribly interesting to anyone, except for an enthusiastic educator from Vietnam, and two venders — both of which shared valuable perspectives, but not broad enough to even begin the conversation. But, when the time finally came, folks started coming in, and we had wonderful input from teachers, administrators, technology educators and directors, international educators and vendors — and it was one of the most exhilarating conversations, of which I have been a part.
We had almost no guidance on where we should steer the conversations except for the goal of excellence. We wanted the cafes to take the discussions in their own directions. It was my job to keep it productive.
We looked at each of the goals of the Technology Operations and Concepts standard, and our conversations broke down into what does the learning of the items look like, and what kind of teacher/learning environment would nurture that learning. There was an enormous amount of overlap.
Here is my own condensing of the ideas down to an almost manageable list of teaching/learning characteristics that I think extends way beyond technology operation and concepts.
Minor additional editing July 23, 2010
- Student Choice
- Personalized (not individualized)
- Building expertise more than meeting standards
- Working toward a meaningful product
- Technology is personal — It is not handed out. It comes in with the learners
- Not “right” or “wrong” but “did it work?”
- Permission to get it wrong, and then describe what was learned
- Self-reflection and peer-evaluation (critiquing)
- Regular exposure to and conversation about
- Current events
- New ideas
- New (emerging) technologies
- Learning is…
- with external goals and audiences that extend beyond standards
- Technology literacy is not platform or application based. It is saying, “This tool should be able to do this. Let me figure out how to make it work.”
- Open minded and open ended
- Comfortable with authority that is fluid and porous.
- Willing to take risks and make mistakes, and say, “Here’s what I just learned.”
- Willing to grant students permission to make mistakes and say, “Here’s what I just learned.”
- Publicly learning as professional practice
- High expectations for students — higher than the status quo
- A vision or philosophy of ICT in formal learning that is purposeful, rigorous, and product oriented and that ICT is THE literacy tool of our time.
- Engaged in learning conversations within a cultivated network of colleagues
- Willing to say, “You figure it out!”
- Willing to learn from students
- Willing to give students space to be learners, but hold them accountable for their learning and make them defend their learning, “How do you know that’s true?”
- Be willing to share classroom learning experiences with the community, to invite the community in.
- Respect and utilize the knowledge and skills that students gain outside the formal learning environment
- Be involved in selecting new ICTs, developing curriculum, and setting information and communication policies for the school/district
- Peer Review
- Computer application not computer applications. (the difference is one “s”)
- Multidimensional Conversations about context, values, and leveraging change, potentials, and opportunities
- Information as raw material to be mixed and shaped into new valuable information products
- Student learning affects other people
It all started with ISTE, and interesting is one of many discriptors that might be applied. I’ve already said almost enough about the congpference formally known as NECC.
Speaking to school leaders at the NPLI in NYC
After a wonderful week at home, I headed up to New York City for the National Principals Leadership Institute. Here, leadership teams from a criss the US and Canada gathered to talk about leadership and to answer three questions.
- how might I describe these times?
- What are the imp,ications to education?
- what does it mean to me as a school leader?
A ruin on the Hudson I was lucky enough to capture from the moving train
Nothing more need be said here
Where I found a delicious pulled pork omelet while waiting for my room at the Peabody
Participants worked in mixed teams, formed by the event staff, spending part of each day loosening to speakers and the rest of the day working together on the questions and the ultimate presentation of their answers. Among others, the institute invited soledet O’Brien of CNN, legal activist Cornell West, and students of local performing arts high schools. The day after my presentation, they were to visit local institutions, including a hospital, police department, and Panasonic, one pf the sponsors of the event.
From NYC, I took a train up the Hudson River to Syracuse, for the Central New York 21st Century Conference, three days of presentations and discussion work. Organized by several of the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES, the group listened to Ken Kay, formerly of The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Bernie Trillin, author of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, Yong Zhao, myself, and Debra Adams Roethke, of Henrico County Schools. The challenge here, for me, was to follow two of the most successful articulators of 21st Century skills and Zhao, who speaks so compellingly and authoritatively about many of the same ideas that I discuss.
Today, I am finally in Memphis, for the Lausanne Laptop Institute, perhaps the premier laptop (1:1) event in the nation and beyond, as evidenced by the number of attendees coming in from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
This is one of those very unique conferences, the quality of which I first saw when I keynoted the state ed tech conference (ACTEM) in Maine a number if years ago. It took me months to realize what was different — what that quality was, even though it was really quite obvious. It was a prevailing sense that anything/everything that was being suggested, introduced, taught, or discussed at that conference could be taken back to the schools and implemented.
The educators here to Memphis are coming from schools where ubiquitous access to networked, digital and abundant information is assumed. It is a part of the culture of the school. This is a huge distinction in a world — in a country — where most students are still learning via information and communication technology that was invented in the 15th century, and that’s if the budget cuts haven’t limited access to textbooks.
I suspect that Australian teacher-librarian, Jenny Luca, if she is reading this, is worried that I am calling her on the carpet for calling ISTE10, “a Disneyland.” No worries!
Ian Jukes and others are high energy presenters, not lecturers. There are many styles of communication.
I believe that it was the queen of EduBlogs, Sue Waters who introduced me to Jenny, where-upon I asked her how she liked the conference so far. She said that it was not like the conferences she’d attended in Australia. She continued, mentioning the stage band at the opening keynote and the speakers she’d already seen, and stated that there seemed to be a need to entertain or to be entertained — that it was almost like Disneyland. Then she gracefully softened her statements admitting that she’d only seen two presentations and the opening keynote and that it was probably a cultural thing — and now here I am blogging about it.
No worries, it’s actually something that I’ve been wondering about for a number of years. First of all, it is important to note that the two presenters she’d seen were Ian Jukes and Steve Dembo, two fantastic speakers, who are both high-energy performers — in my opinion.
I have only recently become comfortable with the idea that this is what I do much of the time. I perform, and I do not think that this takes anything away from the importance of what I talk about or degrades it in any way. Someone said once that public speaking is a contact sport. You have to connect with your audience and there are a number of ways to accomplish this, many of them involving performance.
But I use to worry about it, beginning with a NECC, a few years ago, when Terry Freedman, from England, mentioned that in his country, speakers always left time at the end of the speech for questions. I rarely did this and admitted to myself, a little ashamedly, that I’d not really thought about it much. Sometimes there was time for questions, and I’m always happy when there is. But it’s always after a full hour or more of presentation.
So I started to wonder if an hour (or more) was too long. But as I’m planning my presentations they always seem to settle on that time frame, an hour, and there never seems to be anything that I can leave out without breaking the story — and it simply goes way against my nature, as a southerner, to talk faster. The story is important. I’ve seen too many speakers who get up and simply tell us what we should be thinking and often without any logical sequence.
I want my presentations to run, with a beginning, some fun as background, and some twists for tension and suspense. It needs to surprise but not be entirely unexpected. There isn’t anything I can share with you that you haven’t already thought at some point. It needs to come full circle and it needs to evoke ideas, rather than just deliver my ideas.
I found this video cleaning out my office, and clipped together some tidbits with iMovie.
I worried about my style of presenting when I started working abroad, wondering, Should I lecture? Should I stay behind the lecturn? Will I lose respect if I get out and start walking around? Should I not tell stories? ..or should I be myself? I am a former middle school teacher and entertainment/performance was part of the job for me, because I didn’t want to scare the tikes and I certainly didn’t want to bore them. ..and I find adults to be little different. They are typically more motivated (mostly). But we all deserve to have a good time, and if I can make you laugh, or bring a jolt to your understanding through a surprise ending, then I think that’s part of teaching — and I do not feel any less professional in the process.
As for the conference, I think it possibly has more to do with its being huge than its being in the U.S. When you get that many people of similar mind together in one place, with so much at stake for educators, administrators, and exhibitors and so much kinetic energy being generated by the sharing of so many important ideas — well a little bit of glee is necessary, stirring it in with all that vigor. ?
That said, there may be one more factor that, sadly, is an American thing. I get the impression that teachers in the U.S. are not held in the same regard as they are in other countries, especially Europe and much of Asia. We are second class professionals, and unfortunately that has become part of our professional culture. With this in mind, we do what we can, when we can, and with what ever we can afford, to make teachers feel special.
You think the four-piece stage band was wild. You should have been with us in New Orleans!
So why am I posting so many reflections on this year’s ISTE in Denver. The best answer I can come up with is my iPad. That’s not entirely true. It probably has much more to do with how I was taking notes on my iPad, using mind mapping software (see Taking Nots on the iPad). I started with SimpleMind, but migrated over to MindPad because I was constantly having to rearrange the nodes into a layout that made sense. This was not necessarily a bad thing, because it gave me something to do during lulls in the presentation. But I ended out using MindPad.
Since the conference, I’ve taken another look at iThoughtsHD and although its interface is a little less smooth, it has more functionality and exports to a slew of other applications and in a number of ways, including WiFi.
The practical affect for me is that I have a set of distinct notes organized logically, that take me back to the presentation rooms rooms and in front of the speakers. This is preferable to the hodgepodge of notes written down on a note pad, either analog or digital, requiring careful interpretation later on. To the right are my notes for Doug Johnson’s presentation, exported to my MacBook Pro via WiFi and imported into XMind.
Of course ISTE (formerly known as NECC) is a place where smart people go to learn. But it is also the place were we go to care about their own ideas. There are proclamations, exaltations, disagreements, confusion, support for some approaches and recrimination of others. People are made to feel good and made to feel bad because of what they think and sometimes because of how they’ve spent their money. Interactive White Boards are an obvious current example, as many (myself included) are weary of the technology because of its evident support and potential perpetuation of teacher-centered classrooms.
And then comes Doug Johnson’s Change from the Radical Center. Author of the Blue Skunk Blog (one of my favorites) and a range of books for teachers and librarians, Doug brings a practical and mature approach to modernizing our schools, classrooms, and libraries. In his online handouts, Johnson writes…
While polarized views of reading methodologies, filtering, DRM, Open Source, copyright/copyleft, constructivism, e- books, computer labs, fixed schedules, Mac/PC/Linux, and the One Laptop Per Child project all make for entertaining reading and a raised blood pressure, radical stances rarely create educational change or impact educational institutions enough to change kids’ chances of success.
With his Minnesota humor (and no mention of Ollie), Doug compellingly suggests ten principals to follow to cut through the passions of heart-felt beliefs to approaches that may succeed in affecting positive change in our classrooms and libraries. You can read them all here. I’m going to comment on just a few.
I had to reach all the way back to NECC 2007 to find this picture of Doug
One of the first cut through much of the controversial proclamations made in the presentation rooms and during hall and lounge conversations that I witnessed and participated in. He suggests that we “Adopt an ‘and’ not ‘or’ mindset.” I feel pretty strongly that every student should be walking into their classrooms with computers under their arms. I’m increasingly convinced of the power of focused backchanneling during presentations (lectures) and conversations. But this does not mean that students should have their laptops out every minute of the school day, chatting with each other about what the teacher or a classmate is saying. There is room for laptops open and for laptops closed. There is room for lower end Netbooks for the lion’s share of the learning work, and a garden of high-end work stations in the media center for video productions and data visualization.
Johnson also advocated that we look for the truth and value in all of our perspectives and practices. Because someone says or promotes something that appears objectionable to me our you, doesn’t mean that it is all worthy of objection. Find the value and work with that.
Another one that resonated with me was being comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” I think this is important, because it embraces the fact that we are all learning. When I give myself permission to say, “I don’t know,” then I’m give those around me comfort with what they do not yet know — but will learn.
The one that I continue to struggle with was, “Understand that the elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time.” First of all, I’m not to keen on eating elephant. It probably does not taste like chicken. But I fear that the luxury of “small steps” is more than we can afford. I don’t know if our children have the time for their educators to take their time in adopting more contemporary approaches to teaching. How many more years are we going to excuse ourselves as immigrants?
How many more students are going to graduate, perfectly prepared for the 1950s?
There are lots of reasons to attend an Elliott Soloway presentation. To get an energy fix is one of them. Another reason is to tap into an avenue of fresh ideas about contemporary ICT in the classroom. I attended “From Add-on Technology to Essential Technology: Constructing 1-to-1 Aware Curriculum” because of my interest in ubiquitous access to digital and networked information technology, and I know that Cathleen Norris and Elliott Soloway are smart folks who have immersed themselves in these aims for a long time.
I’m not a buyer of the hand-held solution. Although I think that there are some amazingly useful ways that smart phones and PDAs can be used in learning, I keep going back to what Nicholas Negroponte said when asked why he was promoting laptops when so many children in the developing world already have cell phones. He said that learning about the world should not be happening through a keyhole. This comparison possible comes from an observation he makes in his 1995 book, Being Digital, about an Admiral’s preference to a large map, of a small computer display. ((Negroponte, Nicholas. Being Digital. New York: Knopf, 1995. 97-98. Print.))
That said, the takeaway from the Soloway and Norris session that I am already taking into other conversations is the distinction between essential and supplemental technology use. They made a compelling case that the research being done to assess the instructional benefits of technology that are looking at schools and classrooms where the technology is being used to merely supplement existing techniques, is not giving a true picture of the teaching and learning that those who advocate transformative technologies are calling for.
My iPhone and iPad are essential for me. They are where I go for the latest news from Afganistan or the Gulf Coast, movie showtimes, the weather forecast, or a synonym for “anticipation.” Without them, I have to lay my hands on the daily paper, hope that my wife hasn’t already put it in recycling, or that my son isn’t currently using the local section, or that the whole thing isn’t in the bottom of the bird cage already. The iAccess to the information that I need is essential.
Today, we are working, playing and living in a networked, digital, and information-abundant environment, and learning today requires tools that are essential for accessing, working and expressing ideas and knowledge within this environment.
Supplementing old-school does not prepare our children for their future.
I may (or may not) remember ISTE 2010 for receiving the first copies of my new book, A Gardener’s Approach to Learning. I gave copies to some of the educators I’ve worked with repeatedly over the years. Here, Jeff Whipple, New Brunswick, Canada, receives the first copy. Doug Peterson blogged about the book here, after reading it on the plane home.
It seems like each year we come away from this international conference realizing some new big buzz, some new technology or application to wrap our technology integration attention around. It’s been digital story telling, blogging, podcasts, Twitter, and others going back — probably to The Print Shop.
This year interactive white boards (IWB) had a big presence. But their prominence owed to two related factors. Many schools, ripe with stimulus money, invested in their classrooms by installing projectors and IWBs. It was an obvious choice, from a perspective of supporting teachers, (though not so much from the view point of transforming teaching and learning — I’m not getting into that in this blog post). Secondly, with the sell of who-knows-how-many IWBs, Smart, Promethean, and others were able to impose a heavy visual presence on the conference.
But that doesn’t make a buzz.
Apple’s iPad also made its presence felt with far more lit of faces than I would have ever imagined. I carried mine with me everywhere and will report on that experience later. But just about everyone I talked to felt that the jury is still out on how much transformative impact this device will have on teaching and learning.
All in all, I think that Chris Lehmann said it best in his ..ISTE reflections.
..This year, to me, it felt like there was a deepening at work. People weren’t running around as much for what’s new. Many of the people I talked to were looking to figure out how to make sense of what they already had learned.
I felt drawn to sessions and conversations that seemed to be taking me to where we need to go with what we’ve got. There seemed to be two kinds of conversations going on in the presentation rooms and in the halls. There was training, and then there was professional development. There were those who pursued new tools and their mastery. And then there were those who wished to walk away from the presentations and conversations with new insights, better understandings, new stories, more philosophical backing, and a richer and more practical vision of contemporary education.
I think that both areas were exceedingly covered by ISTE 2010.
After re-reading this post several times, it occurs to me that there was one word that kept popping up in conversations. ..and it is fitting that I share this on July 4th, the celebrated date of my countries signing of its Declaration of Independence.
The word was Revolution.
I’m home and happy. I was lucky enough to catch earlier flights out of both Denver and Dallas (suffering through a middle seat in the back of the plane from DFW to RDU) and was thrilled to get back in time to watch a movie with Brenda before bed.
I know that I am usually blogging throughout the conference, but this year there seemed to be no time reflecting, much less writing. In fact, on Monday it was 9:00PM before I had time to eat, and that was only because I was so starved that I left TEDxDenverED early. But I did take notes using concept mapping software on my iPad, and many of them I tweeted out just after the sessions. I am hoping that the next few blog posts will include some of my reflections from the conference, feeding off of those notes.
The first event of the conference was EduBloggerCon, masterfully organized again by Steve Hargadon. We started off with people writing down unconference topics and then signing their names to the ones that were most interesting. The conversations with the most votes, were worked into a schedule, which was posted on the event wiki.
One of the conversations that I attended to was “.” It was a useful conversation with a lot of complementary viewpoints. Here are some of the statements that I jotted down with my comments in grayed italics:
- There’s doing technology, evaluating technology, and tech knowledge. All three are part of being tech literate.
- Our students do not know how to use technology to learn. I’m not sure I wholly ?agree with this one. They do not know how to use technology to be schooled. But they do, I think, know how to use their information environment to learn. That’s not to say that they do it well and don’t need our guidance. They certainly need that. But it’s a distinction that I think is worth making.
- We need to be teaching computer application, not computer applications. This is something that I’ve written about before (What Difference Might One “S” Make?). The distinction is learning how to apply ICT rather than learning discrete computer applications.
- Two barriers to implementation of technology literacy development are lack of time and the fact that many teachers are not independent learners themselves.
- There was talk about learning by tinkering, and that most of us, in the group, agreed that we developed our technology skills by tinkering. The problem is that the nature of tinkering is not very “schooly.”
- Sylvia Martinez observed that nearly all conversations about technology literacy seem to automatically evolve into conversations about education reform.
I also attended to one of the conversations about iPads, entitled, “.” I think that would have been an excellent conversation. But, instead, we witnessed a back and forth on why the iPad might be an important learning tool and why it wouldn’t. I got the impression that much of the push back came from IT folks, and that at least some of their objections were based on misinformation.
I must admit that the jury’s still out for me, though after a few weeks of using my iPad, I’m increasing intrigued by its prospects in the classroom.
It was an interesting and useful conversation sharing ideas that need to be shared. But, on the whole, I think that it’s a premature conversation. The iPad is new, it’s an infant, and what we’ll be doing with it five years from now, one year from now, three months from now depends more on a community of application developers than it does on Apple. I would hate to see us, though, try to push applications into classroom relevance, just so that we can integrate the iPad, the way that we often do with handhelds and other technologies.
One observation that I thought was extremely interesting was someone’s suggestion that when China can come up with an alternative device, the iPed, two months after iPad is introduced, running on Android OS, we have to wonder how Apple, with its constrained App Store, is going to keep up with the innovations of it’s competition. I’ll have more to say about that later…
A final conversation that I participated in was called “.” This was a challenge to the term, “Personal Learning Network.” The argument seemed to be that being able to connect to people and information sources that help us do our jobs has been around for a long time, and that we should be explaining exactly what this is about, rather than referring to a term like “Personal Learning Network.”
I don’t think that the conversation got us anywhere, except that it forced us to think hard about what we are doing and how we are talking about it. I honestly do not think that the challengers got any traction with the term’s defenders. For instance, several folks said that they would never start explaining networked professional learning with the term PLN. We start with an explanation and demonstration of some of the practices. That’s what teachers do!
I asked on several occasions, “What would give the term credibility?” and did not get an answer. but I think that there is something bigger going on here which I mentioned to a few people in passing. The suggestion didn’t seem to resonate, so I’m going to hold onto it for the time being.
All-in-all it was a great EduBloggerCon, perhaps the best yet. The conversations were fruitful, even when there were few conclusions. They pushed us to think and express, and there was not nearly as much complaint about the barriers that we’ve listened to in the past. I think that, as a concept, the EduBloggerCon, or at least the community that this one draws, is maturing.
Possible follow-ups: My reflections on presenters such as Elliott Soloway, Gary Stager, Kathy Schrock, Doug Johnson, Jean-François Rischard, my whirlwind tour of the exhibit hall and ISTE as Disneyland for teachers.