David Warlick Ryann Warlick Martin Warlick
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Is Pedagogy Getting in the Way of Learning?

Screen shot of Twittervision 3DWarning: Some time shifting in this article.

It’s early Saturday morning (on the East Coast of the United States), but I am being reminded that it is not that time or even that day in other parts of the world.  First? I downloaded Twittervision 3D,  which is a screen saver version of the timewasters at Twittervision.  I’m following a picture of a globe that rotates east, and then west, following twitter messages posted from Spain, then Indoneasia, then Japan, then Japan, the Japan, then Germany, the Japan, then Portugal, then UK…

And then, out of Twitter, Ewan McIntosh tweets that he’ll be starting his presentation at BETT in just a few minutes and he’s posing some questions — which I answered, not knowing if he’s paying attention to me or not. 

Then scanning through Google Reader, I encounter a blog post from Korea Educator, Clay Burell, which features an audio recording of a SKYPE’ed conversation that he’d had with South Carolina educator, Chris Craft.

It is important to note that, for the sake of this topic and the ideas that started bouncing (rattling) around in my head before I got up this, and then continued to (almost) formulate as I was reading and reading, that Clay was sitting there…

…in Korea on a Friday night, close to midnight, I hop onto Twitter, see Chris Craft is there in South Carolina, USA, and tweet him an invitation to talk on SKYPE. He kindly obliges (and it’s just a free international computer phone call now, so that ain’t hard).

I record it, edit it, and an hour later, self-publish it for anybody in the world who is interested in lessons learned from two humble pioneers of global classroom collaboration.

They are discussing various online collaborative projects and the elements of those projects that lead to success.  But what comes out of it, and what’s becoming gradually less murky to me, is that when we insist on, as Clay puts it, “rubicizing and unitizing” our instruction, these contrived contexts are starting to get in the way of learning.

Our efforts should not be to integrate technology into the classroom, but to define and facilitate a new platform on which the classroom operates.  When the platform is confined by classroom walls, and learning experiences spring from static textbooks and labored-over white boards, and the learning is highly prescribed, then pedagogy is required.

However, if the platform is a node on the global network; with text, audio, and video links to other uncountable nodes on the network; and the connections are real time and clickable, and tools are available to work and employ the content that flows through those connections; then the learning happens because learners have experienced personal connections — and they want to maintain those connections by feeding back their own value.

In May 2006 I wrote…

…the point is this. Education, defined by it limits, required a curriculum that was packaged into products that could be easily used in the classroom. We used textbooks with scope and sequence, pacing guides, and a teacher’s guide with the answers.

Education, defined by it’s lack of limits, requires no such packaging. It’s based on experiences, tied to real-world, real-time information that spans the entire spectrum of media — crafted and facilitated by skilled teachers, who become more like tour guides than assembly-line workers.

This idea of platform is one that’s intrigued me for some time, and smarter people than me have been working on it.  But I see three relatively education-centric information platforms emerging in our midsts. 

  • Electronic portfolios have been talked about for a long time, and they have been realized to varying degrees. 
  • Course management systems (Moodle) have also crystallized to a much greater degree because they solve some pretty broad and urgent problems. 
  • Finally, and equally hard boiled, are social networks (Facebook), which seem to be a central part of our students culture and remain beyond the full understand of older educators.

The Question Mark DiagramWhat I keep wondering about is something that might overlap these three platforms, that has elements of social networking and course management, and that breeds artifacts of learning.  Inside the place where the three overlap, how many of the euphemisms that we spout as education reformers might happen as a matter of course, rather than being explicitly designed and constructed — student centered learning, constructivist learning, technology infused learning, inquiry-based learning, you fill it in.

One day later: I’m finishing this blog up at 6:00 EST the next morning, and a Twitter comes across that Jeff Utecht, in Shanghai, is getting ready to record a podcast conversation with David Carpenter over Ustream.  I pop in and as I listen and engage in the backchannel chat, as best I can, it occurs to me that I’m talking about a shift from technology as gadget to technology as platform.

Do we want students who are becoming integrated participants in an increasingly networked, rapidly changing, and intensely exciting world, or do we just want USDA-certified commodities to serve the machine?

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Comments

  • http://mtl-peters.net/blog Sharon Peters

    David, I like your paradigm of technology as platform. I know that about a year or two ago, there was some discussion about the possibility of an “all-in-one” platform or environment that could be used for education in some of the ways you envision. It seemed unlikely that one environment or space could really incorporate all those features. And even since then we have seen a few more exciting technologies that have blurred the lines now between synchronous and asynchronous communication. Those lines used to be quite distinct.
    It is perhaps better to custom tailor one’s own personal learning network by cobbling together what works best for that person. For the moment the “platform” for me is my laptop which can connect wirelessly. It permits me to have my own eportfolio, social network, and content management system. Just a thought.
    Another thought – these recent developments of more ubiquitous and available instant communication tools (i.e. ustream, twitter, skype, mebeam) and social networking sites such as Facebook have very much challenged the older (though not so long ago) notion that the Internet is an environment which fosters alienation in one’s social development. There was a time when we saw a clear distinction between cyberspace and “real life”. It was a place for nerds and geeks. Our younger generation (and some older ones too!) simply do not see that distinction. Rather, the Internet is an *extension* of their daily lives – not a separate and distinct place. What strikes me in particular about this trend is how our younger generation have underscored to us the importance of sociality in online communication. They are there online having fun with each other – most of the time with friends they know f2f, but it carries over to those people who they meet online who are not in their immediate environments. They have shown we educators that in order to create successful global collaborative learning situations, that the social aspect must be an integral part of that design.
    I agree with you about the need to change the model of “packaged” learning to one that permit flexibility based on those personal connections. In today’s changing global economy, it best represents authentic learning that will prepare them for a future where those tools will be used seamlessly and unconsciously.
    Thanks again for challenging my thinking – some of your ideas bump up against the models of the work I am doing as I create curriculum for an online school.

  • http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com Vicki Davis

    Great post! I was online when this came through and have already crafted my response particularly to this quote:

    “and the connections are real time and clickable, and tools are available to work and employ the content that flows through those connections; then the learning happens because learners have experienced personal connections — and they want to maintain those connections by feeding back their own value.”

    To be part of the conversation, here is the bulk of my response:

    “While from my experience with Flat Classroom and Horizon, I’ve found that these networks and nodes are incredibly important for learning, I disagree that learning just “happens” at least in today’s collaboratively networked environment.

    Students often take the path of least resistance and although I find that 20-30% of students take to global collaboration well, the other 70-80% need a little help. If you’ll read the reflections on the flat classroom ning, you’ll see that many of the students STRUGGLED with the asynchronous part of the project.

    However, this could largely be because the students were instructed to collaborate with certain students. Could we reach critical mass enough so that WHEN students are online they may collaborate with the other students who are online? Are we willing to do that? CAn we create massive networks of interconnected classrooms and students to allow that to happen… or should we use the platforms that are already there.

    We are experiencing learning because of our networks — twitters, RSS readers, etc. The challenge I believe will be to effectively create networks that are easy to manage, self regulating, and of the highest professional standards to make it move towards what David is advocating.

    The project where we had students exchange Skype names was a great thing, and yet we are linking students directly. We pulled back a little and had them use the Ning, or social network, which students loved, however, we were missing an easy way to collaborate synchronously. It will be a hybrid of the two and it makes people nervous when thinking about giving students 24/7 access to projects… I mean how do you regulate them at home?

    School is evolving… access is becoming ubiquitous, and as with my last post and the push for a $75 laptop, technology is becoming affordable. We must set up the infrastructure today that we may progress towards global schoolhouses of learning… connecting, sharing, while not being communists and allowing freedom of thought. All the while we must remember the ethics and good behavior that must accompany all we do as educators.”

  • http://jakespeak.blogspot.com David Jakes

    At taking the risk of stating the obvious, effective pedagogy never gets in the way of learning, but bad pedagogy does, and prevents learning. In my opinion, nothing replaces a highly qualified teacher, with a good lesson, and with a group of students that want to learn. In my mind, it’s that simple, and that class can go many places.

    That being said, it is also important to have students work beyond the immediate confines of the four walls of the classroom. That requires a thoughtful and well-planned pedagogical process, something that is indeed reflected in the work of Vicki and Julie Lindsay, and is absolutely critical to the process. Making sure kids understand expectations (whether that is in a rubric or not) is good practice; structuring the experience (not necessarily a fan of the Unit either)for students is indeed appropriate as well.

    It boils down to fundamental core values of solid instruction, nothing more, nothing less.

  • http://diegoleal.org/blog Diego Leal

    Um, thinking about sincronicity and serendipity… :D

    I woke up today (Sunday) and started to check my Google Reader on my cell phone, and then this post came up.

    Just last night I was writing about one article from Thomas Frey called The future of Education (http://www.davinciinstitute.com/page.php?ID=170), where he makes an interesting case on the barriers and obstacles that come from having a classroom & teacher focused educational system, along with some trends related to the education defined by its lack of limits that you mention, David.

    I’m not completely comfortable with the idea of having “the platform”. I feel, like Sharon says, that tailoring your own PLE makes more sense, and in the end will be much more flexible and meaningful that yet another centralized system (that kind of system is suggested by Frey sometimes, but I’m not really into that).

    Then Vicki says something quite interesting: “How do you regulate them [the students] at home?” Curiously, this was one of the most interesting things in the Frey document. Why do we think that, as educators, is our mission to control and regulate? I think that for so many of us, there is right now a strong concern about keeping the “control” over our classroom/course (for example, look at the position of so many teachers about keeping cell phones out of the classroom). That has to do with an image of learning tied exclusively to the school and the classroom.

    Like Frey says in his document, we need to understand that, in these days (and always, if it comes to that), the school is not the center of our students’ life. It is just another place where THEIR learning happens, even if sometimes is completely unrelated to their lives.

    So we are talking about a need of having control (generated not by the teacher, but by the whole system) and, when that is in the background, I think that even the most well-intended pedagogy can, eventually, get in the way of learning. And this is because the student is, in the end, trying to cope with the objectives defined by someone else.

    Here’s the link to my review of Frey’s document. Sadly, it’s in spanish by now. (http://www.diegoleal.org/social/blog/blogs/index.php/2008/01/12/thomas-frey-the-future-of-education?blog=2).

  • http://beyond-school.org Clay Burell

    I’m excited by this post, David. I think we’re talking about the same thing, our minds meeting about how learning is beyond schooliness in this new age, and our chore is to somehow replace the factory “unit” approach with the open process learning that comes about through a strong PLN as “platform,” to use your metaphor.

    I’m going to go ahead and drop a link to the podcast you mention, since you don’t link to that permalinked page, but just to my blog, in the hopes that more people will help think through this notion in the comments.

    Nobody gave me a unit plan, a rubric, or any homework to “schoolify” my own creation of my own PLN – I’m convinced my own adult brain would have “switched off” in response to such a schooly approach – so I’m not sure I agree with Jakes’ comment above (if I read it right). I do, however, recognize that as older “tour guides” (I like the metaphor!) to young people in our classrooms, we do have to be able to help them form PLN’s of their own, based on passions of their own – personal Twitterverses peopled with individuals who share their interests, not mine; individuals from professions and avocations separate from the “edublogosphere” and “eduTwitterverse” – writers, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, media specialists, real scientists, on and on – who would welcome young learners with the same interest into their network with the same good will so many of us adults have towards bright-eyed youngsters wanting to learn what we can teach, etc.

    So to me, the challenge now falls more along lines of things like: “guiding” students into PLN’s of their own choosing, beyond the edu-network (that’s hard, as my own PLN is primarily schooly, so it’s something I’m working on learning and making happen on Twitter and other places right now); overcoming the obstructions of current pedagogy (unit plans, prescribed content outcomes, 9-month relationships with students – and this one is probably the hardest and most damning, because it’s taken me a year to begin to experience the explosive learning value of PLNs for the rest of my life, and I don’t get 9 months with my students!); on and on.

    To riff off the cliche: “Teach me a unit, I’ll make an ‘A’ for a day. Teach me a PLN, I’ll learn for a lifetime.”

    So how do we “guide” students into forming their own, self-directed, PLN’s? That’s where I’m stuck, for the moment, and where I hope we can generate some good “platform”-building.

  • http://quirkytech.blogspot.com Diane Quirk

    Just to comment on Clay’s comment here…
    I think we guide students to form their own PLN’s just the way we guide them to learn any concept – that’s where pedagogical practices and thinking skills come together to help students take the information about what all these technologies are and how they function then find the connections to construct their own knowledge about how they are best used to support personal learning.

  • Pingback: Maxim: “Give Me a Unit I’ll Learn for a Day…” | Beyond School

  • http://www.learningismessy.com/blog Brian Crosby

    Hmmm … I’m wondering at what age … at what grade level would this vision of learning become the model. Obviously younger students could be doing projects and lessons that would prepare them to do this … but will students learn how to read this way? Do basic math? Would students enter kindergarten and begin learning this way from the get go all day? If not at what age? Maybe it would be up to the readiness of the individual child? For any age, would this be school all the time? A high school chemistry class (including labs) would be as described? Or just part of it?
    How many examples, especially school wide, district-wide, state-wide examples of schools or students doing this, or anything remotely close to this vision can you list? Any? If so, are the students from every part of the socio-economic and cultural spectrum?
    I bring these questions up because we have bemoaned for forever the lack of examples or models of even just schools doing project-based learning with tech integration.
    How do we sell this concept if no one (or at least so few that they are hard or impossible to find in some communities)if it is all based seemingly on an untried concept instead of concrete examples?
    What are peoples’ thoughts here? This is the wall we always smash into when we talk reform.
    I do see overall a certain level of increased acceptance in the education field and even my local community for a change in how school is done (Goes along I think with this recent political mantra of needing to change), so maybe a door is cracking open … how do we swing it wide?
    Just wondering?
    Learning is messy!

  • http://www.vsafari.edublogs.org vejraska

    I see the idea of students forming PLN’s starting where I am, in the elementary classroom. Outside of the classroom, most students are self-taught networkers..whether that be on the playground where they gravitate to people who can help them learn how to master the monkey bars, to penguins and webkins organizing their own chat parties online. But when they step into many classrooms, they find themselves in isolation- do your own work, ask the teacher if you have questions, here’s what you need to do to get an A. I find myself having to work HARD at the beginning of the year to even break them out of that mindset, and realize that in my classroom it’s ok to connect with others, it’s ok to ask each other questions and work together, and it’s ok to come up with your own ideas about what you want to learn and how you will learn it…seems so far from what we are talking about here. This is why when I read something like this post, I feel overwhelmed. Somewhat overwhelmed with the daunting task at hand, but mostly overwhelmed with possibilities; How much more can I change the learning environment in my classroom to allow for such learning? How far can I take my students towards what we are discussing here? How much can I do in the 9 months that I have them? Most importantly, how much of it will they take with them and demand from others after they leave me? So, I will take all of these questions, mash them up with the reality that will hit me as I walk into my school tomorrow morning, and see how much closer I can get. It’s not really about them learning how to create a PLN, it’s really about ME realizing how important my PLN is to my growth, and then allowing my students to do the same. Thanks for another thought provoking post;)

  • http://hshawjr007blogspot.com Harold Shaw

    David – Your blogs continue to be informative and insightful and today’s caused me to think in several directions (a scary thing…too many tangents).

    I strongly believe in what I have learned since October (when I began my Web2.0 odyssey), that increasing our student’s technological access and awareness is in their best interests. It is like the start of the Industrial Revolution, when it took 10-20 years to assimilate the new technologies into the world of work and academia. Many still teach from that same basic methodology as has been discussed ad nauseum in many blogs and forums, but I don’t believe that we as teachers have the luxury of 10-20 years to integrate the exponential flat world into our curriculums, we have to start now, otherwise we are limiting/crippling our student’s futures.

    I believe that our students are the future, but as Clay said “9-month relationships with students – and this one is probably the hardest and most damning, because it’s taken me a year to begin to experience the explosive learning value of PLNs for the rest of my life, and I don’t get 9 months with my students!); on and on.” I agree we have a very limited time to impact our students and just about the time we have them thinking independently and getting excited about learning, they are gone…back to traditional teaching methods and school has become boring for them again. Then when we ask them how things are going, they raise their eyebrows, shrug their shoulders and say it sure wasn’t like your class. It raises more questions than answers. So we have to make the best of our journey with them and give them skills that they can use inspite of our contemporaries reluctance to get on board.

    Then we have to look at our egos and the egos of our fellow teachers and administrators, all the posters so far I have seen and read in several different “places on the web” and I know that you are leaders in the Web2.0 movement. You and I see Web2.0 to be the future of education. However, many of our fellow teachers and others fear the changes that it is bringing to the classroom. So that ego clash will continue until at least he next generation of teachers and “leaders” come to fore.

    The Personal Learning Network is a great idea, but at what point do we initiate it? At what age/grade/maturity level (they are not always the same thing). There are certain core knowledges that all students should have the basics in, how do we decide when a student has met those standards/requirements. What do we do with the students who lack the natural curiosity for learning or who’s home life doesn’t allow that natural curiosity to come out. What do we do with them or others that don’t fit our new educational mold.

    Then who decides what needs to be in the portfolio, what format, what technology will be used and so on. In my blog (hshawjr@blogspot.com) yesterday I discussed the issues and problems that I have had attempting to find the “perfect portfolio” system/setup for myself, just imagine if we go beyond the personal requirements, to local, state and national standards. Yes, I realize that many places have these standards in place, but if portfolios are to take on the importance that is suggested here don’t you believe that those would change considerably. But still I agree that the portfolio is the most common sense approach, but will it truly be the student’s work or will it be the work of an overly supportive parent or helpful friend? So portfolio’s are not a panacea, but they are sure better than our current reliance on snap shot testing.

    This leads me to the next line of questions/worry. Are “we” or “will we” (the Web2.0 community) be scaring the traditional leadership communities (politically and academically). They are unable to “police/control” our ability to communicate with each other “where ever and whenever” we want, as you discussed in your blog and then to teach our students students this powerful skill. How scary is that? I believe even in a democracy this is at least a bit intimidating to those in power (no matter at what level that “power” is at) that they have no control over what is being said or talked about. Free exchange of ideas on a global scale while it is a dream for me, has to be a nightmare for many. I just hope I never see the backlash or repression of the openness we are now just beginning to experience and enjoy on a world wide scale, but in the back of my mind, I know how “small” some are when their power base is threatened.

    We here in the Web2.0 community are trying to shift the current academic paradigm, but it won’t happen as quickly as we would like and therefore, we will be frustrated by our lack of progress, but emboldened by our small victories. I know that this blog for me, raised many questions, but I do thank you for causing me to do one thing, THINK. I enjoy your blog very much and hope for your continued ability to make me question…what I normally wouldn’t even think about.

    I apologize if I step on anyone else’s answers, I started this response earlier this morning and finished it up late in the afternoon.

    Thank you — Harold – hopefully I didn’t take too many tangents

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  • http://mtl-peters.net/blog Sharon Peters

    Harold – great comments! I agree with you about the shift in power. The changes David and we others are advocating implies a shift in power and control beginning at the classroom level and all the way “up” from there. Many teachers are not comfortable with this shift and it may explain their own reticence to make a move to using these environments and tools and think beyond the classroom walls. There is safety in the “old ways”. This shift has already been felt – look at the way bloggers are influencing mass media and politics (no question that manipulation and propaganda are being used as well which obfuscates the ability to discern “truth”). What educators can offer is the opportunity to expose our students to appropriate uses and language as well as critical thinking skills they will need to validate, authenticate, and filter information. In this new “information economy” where discernment skills are so important, our students will need a skill set to survive and flourish. This can be our rationale for the integration of the online social spaces and tools beginning at the elementary level.

  • http://eduspaces.net/dtruss/weblog/ David Truss

    It seems to me that the conversation around PLN’s is being somewhat confused with PLE’s. The key to a PLN is that it is a Personal Network. At school we can create PLE’s (Environments), but that can only ever be a NODE in a student’s PLE. You should not (or should I say ‘can not’?) create PLN’s at school, but you can introduce and engage students with ‘E’nvironments that fit into their PLN’s. You can help students create knowledge that fits into their PLN. You can model how important your PLN is to you, and share your enthusiasm for learning in a connected world.

    In a recent post I wondered what I did B.G. -Before Google? Where did those 3633 questions (in 8 months) go to? I now share interesting articles in my RSS with Google Shared Items, and more importantly have a network that share theirs with me. I now connect to the world and have discussions that help me and my network understand what PLN’s are… on Twitter-simultaneously with people around the world that I’ve never met f2f (at 140 characters at a time!)
    Why mention all this? Because I have a PLN that I can no longer live without! You won’t create a PLN that does (all) that for students, but you can build one that encourages them to go beyond the school’s learning environment! You can point the way, you can excite them about the potential of ‘their’ network and the joy of learning. You can make their school node a valued node in their own PLN.

    I love Clay’s quote:
    “Teach me a unit, I’ll make an ‘A’ for a day. Teach me a PLN, I’ll learn for a lifetime.”

    “Is Pedagogy Getting in the way of Learning?” No!
    • Meaningless content and standardized testing are.
    • Access to resources (and platforms) are.
    • A mindset that ‘I can do that without technology’ is.
    • A lack of training and professional development is.
    And finally,
    • Assessment is. (Because what matters and what is being measured don’t match.)

    To end on a positive note: My network is filled with extraordinary teachers doing amazing things, who also link me to outstanding, exemplary models of what education can and should be. How do we share this with others? Perhaps we should spend more time working with the willing:
    http://mscofino.edublogs.org/2008/01/13/work-with-the-willing-moving-teachers-into-the-21st-century/
    and make the difference ‘one teacher at a time’!

  • http://www.stager.org/blog Gary Stager
  • http://thecleversheep.com Rodd Lucier

    The pedagogy isn’t so totally new… The tools are.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opXKmwg8VQM

    In order to get more people using the tools, we need to ‘get rid of chalk’. My rationale for this is available here:
    http://thecleversheep.blogspot.com/2008/01/lets-ban-chalk.html

  • http://techfridge.blogspot.com Josh Allen

    Great article, David! And what I like even better about the post is the comments afterward. I’ve done more thinking already this morning than I did all weekend. Lucky me, huh?
    I strongly feel that this year is the year when technology makes a big jump in “normal” school districts that haven’t formally accepted technology as a way to teach. My district is one of those districts that hasn’t “seen the light.” Yes, we here reading this post are all the choir and we have been preaching to each other for a while. But I’ve seen more and more signs that we are beginning to take our pulpits to the streets and working on recruiting a larger congregation. David Fisch’s award winning blog post (most influential), like this post here, needs to be a wake up call that technology does belong in a classroom. But we already know it. Find a neighbor who hasn’t gotten the memo and pass it on to them.
    I have long struggled with the practice of requiring student access to their own personal online communication tools (whatever they may be, Facebook, Gmail, Blogger, the list continues), but I have come to realize that we (more so I) shouldn’t look at this as giving students wide open access to online materials. It should be a time to bring parents into their learning. At first thought I saw this paragraph being a bit off topic, but if we are going to create that platform, just like the teachers, the parents need to be aware of what their students are learning.
    Very thought provoking. I’ll be back to continue reading the comments and re-reading the ones already posted.

  • Jim Lerman

    May I commend to readers Stanley Fish’s blog in the NY Times titled “The Uses of the Humanities-Part 2″ at
    http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/?th&emc=th ?
    This is a lengthy and wide-ranging discussion of the place of the humanities in higher education. At times the writing gets a little self-congratulatory and precious, but there is much solid thinking in evidence that addresses the concerns of the meaning and purposes of education.
    That topic, I think, is an important part (though hardly the only part) of the discussion present here.

    To respond very briefly to some of the thoughts raised here, I must say that I really love David’s focus on the use of technology to reach a state of educational “flow” [from Wikipedia: Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.].

    Brian Crosby and Harold Shaw make similar points about the requisite, or basic, knowledge that students need in order to reach this self-actualizing state supported by technology and that seems to me to be very important.

    We are not in an either/or situation here but rather a both/and one. A jazz musician must master a universe of fundamentals and possess an extensive knowledge base of songs and performances in order to be an effective practitioner of the improvisation that so distinguishes her or his artform. It seems to me that something similar holds true for students. In our case, the technology comes to metaphorically resemble the instrument through which the musician/performer/learner expresses oneself. The network metaphorically connects with the web of fellow performers in one’s ensemble (as well as the audience and personal experience/knowledge of the musician) in similarity with the PLN (actual and/or virtual) of the student.

    In terms of David’s beautiful Venn diagram, may I suggest that the thing to go where the question mark is is a digital PLN. [In this case, I'm suggesting a digital PLN based perhaps in something like iGoogle, composed of RSS feeds, links to delicious or furl, blogs, wikis, etc.]

    I’m working on a piece now (probably both a preso and a writing {book? article}) to explicate further what I mean by the digital PLN, how it differs from a real-world PLN, how to organize it, and uses to which it can be put by both teachers and students.

  • http://teachersbag.edublogs.org Joel
  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave

    It’s been more than 24 hours since I posted this, and I’m getting back for the first time, having been traveling with Brenda for the past day.

    In response to Vicki Davis’s appropriate criticism, I first stand by the statement that “‘Learning Happens’ because learners have experienced personal connections…” However, you make a valid and experienced observation that not all students respond the way we would like to these learning experiences. I would suggest that at least part of their desire to “take the path of least resistance” comes from habits developed in more pedagogically contrived activities, which they often see through. It seems that students who are accustomed to being free range learners may tend to act more constructively.

    In response to David’s comment, sometimes the obvious does need restating. I do not mean to say that pedagogy is dead, but that pedagogy as we typically think of it and apply it is less relevant to a flat classroom (or a different platform for teaching and learning). I have no doubt that students are learning every time the engage in any information exchange, whether it be face-on or virtual. For our purposes, however, learning under our supervision needs to be directed or channeled. I’m just suggesting here that pedagogy designed to teach reluctant learners in side of physical and culturally ingrained confines is different from facilitating learning on a more open, dynamic, and user-directed platform.

    It seems to me that a teacher who finds himself in a fully networked education environment who thinks of the experience in terms of leveraging a dramatically new platform for learning will facilitate more relevant and efficient learning than one who enters with traditional notions of pedagogy — what’s always worked in the past. As you say, effective pedagogy never gets in the way. I’m just suggesting that was is going to be effective in a school 2.0 for lack of another way to put it, will spring more from examining the new platform, than from evolving out of the old pedagogies.

    Brian Crosby makes another important point about the age appropriateness of more student directed learning within a more open platform. I’ve always said that somethings do need to be taught, and this is probably more true of younger children. At the same time, the constructive learning that comes from kindergartners, playing in a sandbox, though unmeasurable, we’ll probably agree is a powerfully positive developmental experience. I’m picturing an educational platform that is less like a maze and more like a sandbox.

    In the end, the time I put into this blog post was well worth it, if the only comment was from Josh Allen…

    Great article… And what I like even better about the post is the comments afterward. I’ve done more thinking already this morning than I did all weekend. Lucky me, huh?

    I’m not sure if you noticed, but there was a question mark after the title of this article. Many of my article titles end in a question mark. I can’t help but feel that part of what is preventing us from reforming our education system is the way that we are thinking about standards, teachers, learning, curriculum, and especially technology. I like to ask questions, because it forces me and many of the readers here to rethink…

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  • http://hshawjr007blogspot.com Harold Shaw

    David – After reflecting upon my comment yesterday, I believe that one group of students are kind of being “left behind” by much of the Web2.0 revolution and that is the special education population. Their needs are individual and unique (which is a super strength of Web2.0 and why I am such a supporter). I look at many of the projects being constructed out there and the level of sophistication and background knowledge required even of middle school students…that my special education high school students can not hope to do or participate in simply due to their age or ability.

    Special Education teachers are creatively trying improve how their students are taught and many try to include their students into the Web2.0 by doing a lot of outside the box thinking.

    But most are overwhelmed by the caseload/workload many of them face. They are so busy attending IEPT/PET/Consulting with Teachers/Family/Caseworker and other meetings,and then the paperwork that accompanies each meeting that they have little opportunity to actually “teach”, much less plan interesting lessons or connect into this burgeoning community of knowledge providers. I personally see Web2.0 as part of the answer to many of these issues.

    Looking at most of the discussion going on, I do have to question if we are creating a larger two tier educational system then presently exists, one for the best and brightest and one for those for those who are less adept academically????

    It is an issues that bothers me daily because I see the need to challenge our students to the best of their abilities. Then I see the limitations (of the students and teaching styles) where I work, what is happening when I visit other schools and in discussions with other special education teachers about their experiences, frustrations and treatment of their students in public school.

    This is probably food for another entire post, but I don’t know the answer and need some help from people who are more experienced in education than I am to help me sort this issue out. I just can’t get my head around what I am actually trying to say???

    I don’t believe in limiting the potential of anyone, but at the same time, I don’t want to see an entire “population” left even further behind.

    Thanks for listening to me ramble. –Harold

  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave

    Harold, thanks so much for bringing this issue into the conversation, and I agree when you say, “Their (special ed population) needs are individual and unique (which is a super strength of Web2.0 and why I am such a supporter).”

    I think that one of the cornerstone strengths of many Web 2.0 applications is the empowerment that it gives to learners by inviting them to engage. One of my favorite teacher-blogger quotes comes from a Class Blogmeister educator named Elsie. She says,

    Without a doubt the children that find their voices first and carry the most enthusiasm for blogging are my special needs children. Students who would agonize over a sentence are writing prolifically about their lives. (…the improvements in writing are steadily making their way back to paper and pencil!)

    Who’s going to be more empowered than someone who has traditionally been unempowered?

  • http://beyond-school.org Clay Burell

    @Harold: Can’t we see multimedia, creative content created by students with special needs as an option? I see creativity as every bit as desirable (arguably more so) as academic ability. Give me a singer over a scholar almost any day of the week.

    @DATruss: (Hey, twitterpal) I appreciate your distinction b/w PLN’s and PLE’s (and god how I hate the jargon, but labels sometimes serve as good shorthand), but think I’m seeing in my own elective PLN class that these things CAN be brought into our classrooms now.

    A too simple sketch because it’s late and I’m busy, but e.g.: Pageflakes as example of PLE, Twitter/Skype/blog-commenting “mentors” or “co-learners” as PLN – just like Chris Craft was a co-learner for me via the Twitter-Skype-podcast-blog-comments cycle.

    My school’s network is open, it’s 1:1 with MacBooks, iLife, Skype, Twitter, the whole thing. My elective class allows them all, in the classroom, and only requires a learning record of whatever sort as the basis of the grade, and a practical project showing growth over time.

    (And that it’s an elective is a hugely important detail, as I’m not sure this could work in classes with prescribed curriculum instead of self-chosen and self-directed project-based learning).

    Doesn’t that sound like a PLN that’s being created in a classroom? Hope to read your feedback.

  • http://hshawjr007blogspot.com Harold Shaw

    Clay – I have been reading your blogs since November and I really enjoy your writing style and responded to your student the other night as you requested. I must say that I am more than a little jealous of the freedoms you have in your school.

    Clay responded to me: “@Harold: Can’t we see multimedia, creative content created by students with special needs as an option? I see creativity as every bit as desirable (arguably more so) as academic ability. Give me a singer over a scholar almost any day of the week.”

    I just wish you were the parents, administrators, or government officials that have a completely different set of goals and expectations for special needs and all students. Under current laws they are to be fully “proficient” (not sure if the exact phrase) academically by, if I remember 2014. NCLB is long on expectations just short on common sense.

    I am very fortunate where I work, my class size is very small under 5 in all my classes, small caseload typically under 20 students, a technology coordinator who is fantastic, a great resource and attempts to open things up as much as he can with the system administrator (who would keep up a wall about 200 ft high). But we battle with something called “student confidentiality”, we are also under mental health licensing and run into the HIPPA laws.

    We are so small (how small are we? Only 9 teachers, 1 technology coordinator, librarian and 2 ed techs), that our electives are extremely limited, but we cover quite a bit for what we do. Go to gwh.org if you want more information. Our size to me is our greatest advantage.

    So while we have advantages we also have some pretty high level obstacles to surmount. Google is open to us (they don’t realize yet how open it is), but most of the social networking is walled out, but we have “gaggle.net” for email and they are going to let us into the State’s Moodle network after 2/1/08. So progress is being made — slowly.

    Your comment and I believe the PLEs and PLNs are more natural and logical, and is much more to how I believe we should teach in every class to each students strengths and potential without limiting them. (Boy have I gotten liberal, since I became a teacher). What I attempted to discuss in my previous post indicated there are simply some wrinkles that would need to be ironed out, certainly not insurmountable issues.

    By the way when are you running for office ? I will vote for your educational platform yesterday.

  • http://hurricanemaine.blogspot.com Louise Maine

    Harold,

    Though I am no where near the level of work of many of the educators responding, I find that my special needs students outshine the average student. My classwork is primarily authentic instruction. We use many web 2.0 tools but I don’t overwhelm them with too many too quickly. They are motivated because it is more engaging and in life there is no one right answer (maybe that is our problem here?). I am amazed at the response of various students. The special needs are not necessarily the ones who struggle.

  • http://hshawjr007blogspot.com Harold Shaw

    Wow – Louise I am glad to hear that! I am finding that my students are doing much better with the 2.0 concepts also, than the old drill and kill (i.e. boring). Your’s is the first post that states they are doing better than the average student. I think that the teaching options and individualization available to teachers and students is much more interesting and useful to both.

    Perhaps many of the so-called special education students simply learn differently than what the old instructional model stresses and therefore with the new models, Web2.0 and other more innovative teaching methods there will be fewer special education students. We can only hope to lessen the labeling of students.

    Harold

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  • http://beyond-school.org Clay Burell

    @Harold Shaw (comment #24),

    That’s a rough set of constraints you’re working under. I’m sure you’ve tried all sorts of valuable things, but if it’s test-passing info-regurge you need to instill, good old forums (pleez tell me at least those are available on your network) a la Moodle or whatever have served well for such purposes for me. A couple of essential questions that require synthesis of the declarative knowledge base in answering, and then let them go at challenging, qualifying, and/or extending each others’ responses?

    Or podcast – damn, you can’t use Skype, can you (but you can still huddle around a microphone) – discussions about the content in some sort of “talk show” coffee klatsch kind of way?

    I dunno. I’m stumped. But I’m struggling toward some way that creativity can still be the route to learning those blasted testable items we all know are a google-search away when we ever may need them in the future (which most of the time, of course, we won’t).

    Me run for office? I’d rather run over it. ;)

    Now let’s read the latest trackbacks. Looks like Dean and David have extended this a bit.

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  • http://durffsblog.blogspot.com/ mrsdurff

    The intersection is accessed artifacts made by learners which add to the conversation. The intersection of you diagram is the conversation.
    I really don’t expect this to occur across the PreK-12 educational landscape until 2012. I, of course, want it yesterday!
    Parents influence our learners and are paying for the education (whether public or private). The PreK-12 learners are already there, it is their parents, the admins, the politicians, the electorate that we must totally convince. Do I hear cries of educational revolution in the distance or is that just tinnitus?

  • http://2cents.davidwarlick.com Dave

    Mrs Durff, you make a very good point. It’s one of the things that you learn as an educator who’s been teaching, or otherwise part of the education industry, that public schools are run by the public.

    To answer your question, I think that there is much more clamber about the appropriateness of today’s education for today’s children and tomorrow’s challenges. But will it be enough and is it too late? That’s still a question.

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  • http://doodeesthailand.blogspot.com/ Doodee

    Thanks for sharing

  • http://xtqsmsl.freebiehost.net/map.html Berttonfoge

    I’d prefer reading in my native language, because my knowledge of your languange is no so well. But it was interesting! Look for some my links:

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