The iArm I almost got for Christmas

We enjoyed Christmas Eve with my wife’s family at our house this year. Usually, we celebrate family holidays at that the home of her sister, in Cary, because they have a much larger house and her husband, Kirby, a retired Fire Captain, is a celebrated cook. Don’t recall why, but this year it was at our house, with many covered dish contributions from Kirby — and my wife’s soon to be celebrated banana pudding.

That was followed by my handing out packages from under the tree, being delivered by our niece’s young son and younger grandson — who both struggled to remember the names of their extended family. Then we took turns opening, youngest to oldest.

I started in on a moderately heavy package, about the size of shirt box, but thicker, and weighing about nine pounds — all indications of something special. As I started to tear strips of wrapping from the box, I spied the picture to the right.

It looked like and iPad or Kindle, I started getting excited. Ripping on through, I found the pictures on the left, and my excitement started to be replaced with “Just how geeky do these folks think I am?

And then this..
And this..

Finally, they were all laughing historically, as I opened the box to a small sack of potatoes (which they said they had to get back for tomorrow’s breakfast) and a very generous Amazon gift card. It was a wonderful family gathering with fun had by all.

Comparing Wikileaks to UCF AnswerLeaks

vs UCF Answer Leaks

This is one of those blog posts that’s probably going to get me into trouble. But when has that stopped me.

Today, it’s about Wikileaks, a topic that, until very recently, I didn’t give much thought to. There are two main reasons I have virtually ignored this issue.

One, I haven’t read the leaked files and, therefore, do not know if what they include information that truly endangers the lives of people or merely reveals information that is embarrassing to the U.S. military and/or present or past administration(s).

The second reason, and more regretful one, is that I can’t fully trust those who have read it, neither our administration (the first U.S. administration with genuine integrity in a very long time, in my opinion) and certainly not the media (who is in the business of selling fear, in my opinion).

So I ignored it, except that it reveals an information environment that has changed, and, therefore, requires a change in the climate of how we conduct ourselves locally and globally. I successfully ignored it until just before my banquet speech at the Farm Cooperatives Conference near Denver two weeks ago — Wow, I had to stop and think too hard to remember where that was.

One of the organizers asked me, before the talk, if I would be willing to answer any questions about Wikileaks during the Q&A at the end of talk.  From his expression, I must have reacted the same way I did when Belmont High executed an onsides kick, the end of the season, right into my 17 year old arms.  Guys who play center, don’t carry the ball.  Coach said my eyes got bigger than my head — and the same probably happened when asked to comment on Wikileaks.

I didn’t get the question, but I started to think about it — and even more so when I linked from a tweet by Joyce Valenza to an article (UCF Cheating Incident Sparks Debate about Academic Dishonesty) in the Miami Herald about a cheating scandal at the University of Central Florida. So I got to thinking, is there any way that this college cheating episode might be compared to Wikileaks — and here’s what I came up with…

Issue Wikileaks Answer Leaks
How are they the same? Both stories involved the (covert) leaking of information that was supposed to be secret and secure.
Why are they important? Damages U.S. foreign relations & endangers lives (?) Jeopardizes the students’ preparation for business world and the reputation of the school (?)
Information revealed U.S. Handling of Iraq & Afghanistan Wars and more Answers to test questions on Entrepreneurship (MAN4802 MAN 4720 UCF)
  • U.S. soldiers & allies killed or wounded
  • Damage to U.S. foreign relations
  • Embarrassment to U.S. administration
  • Business school graduates unprepared to be entrepreneurial leaders
  • Graduates having gained knowledge without working for it
  • Loss to school reputation
Morality? Two factions – Those who are morally indignant about the leaks and those who morally support them.

(I do not know enough about the episode to have an opinion though I’m pretty sure that Wikileaks itself should not be held responsible)

Two factions – Those who are morally indignant about the leaking of test answers (cheating) and those who believe that it wasn’t cheating.

(I do not know enough about the episode to have an opinion)

Objective of the leaks Transparency: “The truth is out there” Practical: To accomplish the goal – pass the test.

There is certainly a lot more that I could say about both stories, but not without a lot of speculation.  I do know that today’s information and communication technologies have changed the climate of how nations and people should conduct themselves, and secrecy no longer empowers governments to conduct themselves in ways that they would prefer to remain secret.  I am also fairly certain that much of what happens in school testing has less to do with preparing students for their future and more to do with the business of schooling.  So I am left with two questions.

  1. If the actions revealed by Wikileaks endanger people today or tomorrow — then why?
  2. If passing that test by studying test answers from previous semester tests instead of lectures and assigned readings does not jeopardize the future success of business school graduates — then why not?

iPads make inroads in Triangle schools – Education –

From the newspaper article…

The News & Observer, Raleigh’s capital newspaper, ran an article on the front page of Saturday’s issue about iPads in area schools. iPads make inroads in Triangle schools ((Stancill, Jane. “iPads make inroads in Triangle schools.” Raleigh News & Observer 18 Dec 2010, Print.)) is a fairly standard and objective journalistic covering of contemporary technology in classrooms, with a fair inclusion of pros and cons.  What impressed me most was that the article got all the way to word 827, of the 1054 word piece before it mentioned digital natives.  As a personal experiement, I thought I would column out the pros and cons mentioned in the article and add some comments (in blue):



It’s tech: “Students using a “digital textbook, (for) a fast-paced visual tour of Gothic architecture, the feudal system and the Crusades.”

Durham Superintendent said.“You can actually dissect a frog on the iPad. That was amazing to me.”

OK, so iPads might make very interesting and compelling replacements for textbooks.  No argument there, though shame on us if we can’t go much further than that.

A Wake Forest charter school has been experimenting with 10 iPad this year. “Leaders have been so happy with the results, they recently made plans to order 20 more”

I’d like to know what those results are.  Can’t include much of that in a 1000 word article.  But people are invested in their schools through their children and through their own experiences as students.  We need to understand what success looks like today.

“ are telling us, ‘This is how we learn. This is what we want,'”

I believe that this is a much overused justification and not even a very compelling one.  It’s not because this is where our learners are.  It’s because this is where their world is and this is where their future is.  ..And continuing to insist on paper-based, packaged and controlled learning environments is as archaic as handing out stone tablets

“..young readers who record themselves reading aloud”

This is cool and geeky –but why?  Why is having students record themselves a better way to learn?  I would rather have read that, “Youngsters are recording their reading to be heard by younger students.  The readers are taking greater care with style, flow, and enunciation, because they are reading for a real audience.”  Again, probably too long.

“..used in the right way, hand-held computers can deepen content and produce effective assessments and better links to home.” Chris Dede continues, “If it’s used as a catalyst in those ways, there’s a lot of research that it is very powerful.”

No argument here, though the story continues to be a little thin.  Just knowing that these are the sentiments of Chris Dede is enough for me.  But there should probably be some link to Dede’s work at Harvard.  Go here!

Dede adds that,“..tablets are easy to use, lightweight and allow for small group work.”

Again, no arguments.  But I continue to believe that some of the best and most powerful potentials of media tablets for teaching, learning, inventiveness, and collaboration have actually been designed out of the iPad.

“(Students) like being able to type their notes and have maps and other references at their fingertips while in class.”

Again, why is this a good thing.  My answer is that it makes the learning experience more of a conversation.  When students have access to an Internet of content, during their classroom discussions, they are empowered to participate more fully and even more authoritatively.  Add to that the potentials of having students take notes collaboratively, and annotate each other notes, and you’ve got a new kind of classroom learning — a little more relevant to the future we’re preparing them for.

“impressed by his students’ ability both to work independently and to collaborate to solve problems.”

This is an important statement, because it suggests that one of the approaches we might be making is to simply give over the information technologies that are part of their ‘native’ experiences, and let them show us how they might be used — the new pedagogies.


Michael Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute says, “I don’t see how anyone would believe that throwing a lot of money at iPads right now would lead to improvements in this kind of school. This feels a little bit desperate.”

This is true. Simply putting a bunch of iPads in the hands of teachers and learners will accomplish very little. But I have to hope that professional development and continued opportunities and facilities for self-development will be part of the formula.

We must “..make sure the school’s infrastructure (can) handle all the machines operating at once. ..negotiate volume licenses and find affordable applications to install on them.”

A agree whole-heartedly with this statement.  But I believe that the position needs to be taken that schools that are not equipped to support contemporary learning technologies are relics, and not to be tolerated.

“Some say schools are asking for trouble if they spend millions on mobile devices and iPads that quickly become outdated. It’s easy for the devices to be stolen, lost or broken, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. He predicted headaches for teachers.“I think it sounds ridiculous,” he said. “This is the worst kind of thoughtless technology use.”

Basing your arguments solely on the isolated  possible and probable complications of giving information technologies to learners is lazy — and that’s the best thing I can say about it.

Anyone who suggests that teaching in this time of rapid change should not have its headaches to overcome, has their head in the sand.

Wake (Raleigh) “schools may buy personal computing devices for students and faculty in the four schools.. (but) ..not sure they’ll have enough money.”

If personal learner access  to contemporary information and communication technologies is the way to properly prepare our children for their future (and I believe that it is), then you find a way to afford it.  It’s your job!

Computers can open up new worlds to struggling students, Said Atkinson. “You can show, you can demonstrate, and you can give immediate feedback,”

True, true, true.  But I think we need to be  much more learner-oriented in our descriptions.

“Learners can find, see and interact with new knowledge, and have it respond to them.  This is what evokes learning for today’s children”

Again, I feel that approaching the advocacy of contemporary technologies in our classrooms should not be based on our children’s preferences.  I’d rather suggest that our children are growing up in a world where multitasking is a critical skill, and their learning experiences should reflect this.

My Conclusion

It all comes down to our vision of the classroom. What does it mean today to educate? What does it mean to be educated? There are three conditions that are shifting these definitions.

  1. We are preparing a new generation of learners
  2. Within a new information environment
  3. For a future we can no longer clearly describe

In this world, the definition of rigor is not how much you can be taught, but how well you can independently learn and what you can do with what you learn.

What I want to see in the implimentation of iPad programs is how students are utilizing their learning literacies as they engage in exploring, experimenting, discovering, and inventing in their world.

One Rejected, One Accepted

See you at ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia
See you at ISTE 2011 in Philadelphia

I got my notification email the other day from ISTE, concerning my conference proposals.  It was yesterday afternoon before I mastered my apprehension, and took a look.  “Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience” was rejected.  Drat and double Drat.  I spent the better part of last week working on that presentation — an important one, I believe.  It seems that we are spending a lot of time talking about 21st century learning, 21st century education, and 21st century skills, but not so much about what it actually looks like.  I’d wanted to talk a bit about 21st century pedagogies and suggest that our learners ‘native’ information experiences might be a good place to look for examples.

My backup proposal, what I’d hoped might be a second presentation, “A Gardener’s Approach to Learning: Cultivating your Personal Learning Network,” was accepted.  I’m a little disappointed, because this seems like an old topic, at least for folks who attend ISTE.  I could be wrong.  The folks at ISTE do know what they are doing.  So I guess I’ll need to try to bring a different angle to the issue, something new in technique, approach, and justification.  I suspect there is still room.  Because as some of the Tweets I’ve gotten recently seem to indicated, back home, the idea of teachers acting like learners is still unconsidered and even, in some rare instances, considered an antithesis to their vision of teaching.

All that said, I am pleased and privileged to be on the speakers roster.  Reviewing the statistics on acceptances by strand I feel even more honored.

So, see you at ISTE in Philly.

Being Understood Requires Context…

(cc) Photo by Harold Neal

Seth Godin asked this morning

If you want to drive yourself crazy, read the live twitter comments of an audience after you give a talk, even if it’s just to ten people.

You didn’t say what they said you said.

You didn’t mean what they said you meant.

He follows this with two paragraphs saying, basically, that humans are not so good a communicating understanding — that human language is less than perfectly clear, no matter “…your affect, your style and your confidence…”

I would suggest that a big part of the misunderstanding, that I agree we should expect, is about perspective. The words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that we hear or read are all colored by our own frames of reference. It is why context is such a critical part of speaking and teaching. Our words must not merely tell our audience or class what to believe, but also create the common perspective that makes that belief discoverable and valuable.

This is what frustrates me about teachers and public speakers who simply get up and tell us their facts and opinions — even with the most interesting personalities and greatest passion. Ideas must carry with them a compelling context that the listener or reader can’t help but adopt. There has to be a story.

This, I think, is why I was so warmed by the great compliment paid to me by Josh Alen, when he tweeted,

Was watching @dwarlick’s #k12online closing keynote. Thought he was losing me during garden example then *bam* it all made sense. Wow. ((Alen, Josh. “Was Watching….” Josh Allen’s Twitter Feed. 3 Dec 2010. Web. 10 Dec 2010. .))

The best way, I believe, to create these sorts of learning pyrotechnics, the BAM of understanding, is with stories.

Drawing on My (family) Past

The Warlick Grist Mill(s), Lincoln County, North Carolina

I’m having great fun during these slow weeks of December, working on a personal project that been in the back of my mind for several years now. My uncle, George Warlick, wrote book in 2000 called What I Know about My Ancestors. It isn’t very long, because there isn’t that much to say. But he, and another uncle, Charlie (father of Tenet in Texas) have devoted much of their free time, over the years, researching the family tree and seeking out stories from our family’s past.

My project has become, with Uncle George’s permission, to format the spiral bound book that he printed up for family members ten years ago, into a more publishable form, “US Trade” size and “perfect bound.” My blessing is the opportunity to re-read the pages, as I edit the mistakes made in the scanning of pages and the photocopied documents that I have transcribed with my own aching fingers.

It seems that my family (the Warlick tree) have been famers for generations. We do not know any thing about what the first Warlick did in Germany (or Switzerland) before coming over to the new world in 1729, and moving down to North Carolina, and receiving about 5000 acres of land from Governor Gabriel Johnston, representing “crazy” King George III. He and his family were pioneers in the western piedmont of North Carolina, and my father and his brothers still own four acres of the original land, that portion now heavily wooded.

My particular branch have not farmed in four generations (includes my children), although my grandfather owned and operated a seed and feed store from the time that he returned from World War I and then entered the service again, along with his daughther and my father in World War II. I understand now that he didn’t particularly enjoy the work — always having wanted to be a school teacher (he did teach Greek and German for one year, prior to WWI).

The reason I’m writing about this, here, beyond than simply sharing the joy of learning about my heritage, is that I have been asked to speak at the Farmers Cooperatives Conference next week in Denver (who’s to judge where fate takes us), and I’m wondering how I might use this farming heritage in my talk.

Any ideas?