It’s not a good way to start a day at a distance learning conference. Internet has been down since we arrived last night at the Crown Plaza Resort hotel in Asheville. Brenda and I have a wonderful view of the city, the air is fresh and only slightly tinted with the blue haze that characterize the Blue Ridge Mountains, and It is also worth noting that the Rhododendron are in bloom, a plant that is indigenous to the North Carolina mountains and that grows in vast abundance.
So there is much to be thrilled about. But the front desk reported last night that they had called an IT guy in to fix the Internet, and this morning they (a different shift) say that the IT guy doesn’t get in until 9:00. I’m sorry to be a crotchety old geek, but this is not acceptable. It’s why Will Richardson is investing on one of those USB thingys from Verizon that gives you broadband access over their wireless network (in participating towns and cities).
At any rate, very few of the conference folks are here yet. The event does not begin until after lunch, so most people are driving in this morning. I did run into Patrick Keough, a community college teacher from Carteret County, on the coast — perhaps a nine or ten hour drive to Asheville. He told me that in just the last year, they have started blogging and podcasting and now have a presence on iTunes U. He’s doing a workshop tomorrow morning about setting your college up with iTunes U and the hoops you have to jump through. I’ll plan to attend that one, because I do not know enough about the service.
The main presentation I’ll be doing today will be Flat World, Flat Information, and Flat Schools. It’s becoming one of my standards, but I am trying to keep these things fresh. One idea that I am trying to insert is the mistake that I believe we are making when we emphasize science, math, and technology. Don’t get me wrong. It’s important that we emphasize these subject areas, because they are the engine that drives progress. The mistake is that we are pushing these practical sciences, at the expense of art, music, literature, drama, etc. These subject, I believe, should be equally emphasized — because they are the fuel that runs the engine.
Although there are exceptions, we buy a car with an engine, so that we can get some place. We don’t buy it for the sake of the engine. We buy it for the sake of going someplace we want to be. When you buy an HDTV, it isn’t for the sake of the enginering and the circuitry. Again, there are certainly exceptions, people who want the latest tech toys. But most of us buy it because we want a better story, better pictures, better sound. We are actually buying the products of the creative contributors — the actors, directors, writers, musicians, sound and video editors — those whose expertise is in engineering our experiences — and for the most part, this isn’t learned in science class. It’s learned in art, and music, and…
So again, it’s another flatism thing. Trying to flatten the subject areas, to understand that they are part of a whole, part of our world experience that we seek to improve effectively, efficiently, equitably, and interestingly. And I suspect that figuring out how to teach art, music, and drama, via distance learning, might be an interestingly creative endeavor in itself.
WOW! Internet’s Working! Outstanding!