A Great Day of Conversation

[Written last night on the plane]

I’m on my way home, somewhere over Wisconsin, I suspect, but my head is still reeling from a day of conversations with technology, media, art, and science educators at The Blake School in Minneapolis.  We kicked off the day with a presentation to the faculty that wove in and out of the future (the Now), the kids, the new information landscape, and contemporary literacy.  That was followed by several hours of conversation among the key technology folks.

Stained Glass in The Blake School Chapel
Even though they are a non-denominational school, they have a magnificent chapel. Although I have delivered keynotes in a tent before, this may have been my first experience of presenting beneath stained glass.
The issues included security and the place for new tools for learning.  One question that arose more than once was a time line for introducing new literacy concepts — when do you start introducing information evaluation, research, ethics, etc.  We tend to think of these skills as technology or digital skills.  It’s an unfortunate mistake, because it channels us down to thinking of these skills in terms of time-on-machine.

They are information skills that apply digital networked information to accomplish goals — and they can easily be modeled.  I often suggest that educators of primary level children model, as part of their lessons, the practices of researching, evaluating, processing,and expressing digital information, that they talk about what they are doing, and engage their students in conversations about the processes.  Teachers should be doing this all the way through.  It’s another way of convincing students that these are not merely skills, to be demonstrated, but habits to be embraced and adopted.

I was very excited to hear that they had installed OpenSim on an old server (actually it was one of their very talented students), and that art students were using the Second Life(tm) style virtual world.  The students are using the 3D immerse world as a palette for artistic and functional design.  I urged them to consider this as a sandbox for other disciplines.  They are looking at it for physics, because, evidently, OpenSim features the ability to adapt the physical laws, enabling users to alter gravity and other conditions.

One of the most intriguing discussions was on their struggle to incorporate new information environments and associated techniques, while reconciling them to the schools reputation as a liberal arts school.  The Head of School, John Gulla, very eloquently answer my request for a definition of liberal arts — and I sure wish that I could remember his phrases.  Essentially, he said that they wanted their students to understand their world and to care about it — and to be so filled with curiosity that it could never be fully quenched.  I suggested that in a liberal arts school, you wanted your students to walk out of the history classes thinking, “I’d like to be a historian.”  ..and out of the biology classes thinking, “You know, I think I’d like to be a biologist.”

I guess that what we have to learn is how historians use this new information environment and how biologists work together in a collaborative web.  We then went into personal learning networks and how teachers can connect themselves to people in the field of their study, and engage in conversations within that field and within its current avenues of conversation.

There were so many times during the day that I thought, I’ve got to blog about that — and I just can’t remember what so many of them were.

Starting our initial descent.  More later!

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.