More on Conversation

Later this morning we will be driving half way across the state to my home town and the town that my mother-in-law grew up in, where we’ll celebrate her 80th birthday. We’re expecting about a hundred people, and Brenda has been cooking all week, mostly experimenting with recipes. She tried an amazing garlic and cheese dip that quickened my heart with every taste.

Yesterday, I walked into the kitchen as she was mixing a large bowl of what looked like that dip. I waited, shrewdly, for her to leave the room, and then quickly pulled out a teaspoon from the drawer, scooped up a healthy taste and plunged it into my mouth, closing my eyes and waiting for a garlic rush. I can not describe the shock to my system, when my mind registered that she was mixing home-made mints. Not what I expected.

Blogging can be like this 😉 You read, reflect, write and then read, and none of it is what you had expected. When I wrote about education as conversation yesterday, my visions of what this looked like or sounded like were clear and firm. However, the varied perspectives of those who read and then commented on the article surprised me, almost as much as expecting cheese and garlic, and getting sugar instead.

What’s important here is that sugar isn’t bad. I like it. I like the comments that I received. They helped me to better build in my own head, this idea of education as conversation.

Tom is right, that the conversations have been going on for a long time. Socrates prodded his students with questions, as they walked the streets of Athens. There have long been conversations between teacher and students, student and student, classroom and home, and school and community.

Conn McQuinn was also right on many levels, when he urges us that it is all about technology. Technologies that we have invented and refined have spurred the unprecedented change that we are challenged by and learning to live with. And it is the technology that is changing the conversation. What are the new conversations that happen when:

  • Teachers and students write together through their classroom blogs (listen to the EdTechTalk interview with Barbara Ganley).
  • When students read and comment on each other’s blogs, e-mail to classes around the world, and Skype interview working experts in the fields they are study.
  • When parents have access to what and how their children are learning through their teacher’s web sites, and can comment from their own experiences on the topics.
  • When teachers can collaborate in creating and cultivating a school-wide social bookmark account, not only storing, but also sharing with each other the digital resources they have found and claimed for their classrooms.
  • What kind of conversations rise in the community, when the school holds a film festival, showcasing the video productions of local young film makers, and exposing the research, reflection, planning, scriptwriting, and collaboration involved in accomplishing the works.

When I think of the exchanges over yesterday’s entry from a wide variety of educators, across this and at least one other continent, and I reflect on what I have learned from these exchanges, it is still in the conversation that the value lies, not the technology. Throughout the day, I rarely thought about my web browser, the blog concept, my aggregators, or Technorati searches. It was the conversation.

Jim Heynderickx gave me, perhaps, the most reason to pause and reflect, when he suggested that it’s negotiation more than conversation. That’s powerful, to me, because that is exactly what I have been doing with the readers and commentors of this entry — negotiating. I’ll probably continue to use conversation, because four syllables are better than five (the poet), but negotiation will be and explicit part of that conversation.

If you have children, who spend a good deal of their time IM’ing, playing video games, blogging, googling, or other negotiations with technology, put yourselves in their shoes and ask yourself this question. Is it the computer, the game controller, the mobile phone, or PDA that I’m thinking about? …or is it the information, the conversation, the negotiation that I’m thinking about. I say it’s the conversations — the information. Information is what its all about.

4 thoughts on “More on Conversation”

  1. I am liking the idea of negotiation as well, but perhaps because it is a concept that introduces the expectation of disagreement and resolution of different viewpoints.

    I have to confess that the blog tipping point I wrote about (and Dave extended yesterday) wasn’t from librarians jumping on board with a new technology. As I have said many times, one of the things I really like about the library world is the high quality crap detectors that librarians tend to have.

    How are the new blogs going to be used? One librarian will use it to extend a book club discussion beyond the 20 mintues they can meet during lunch times. Another is using a blog in a very small K-12 school to manage long-term discussions about topics. Another librarian is hoping to podcast book talks (and then have students do so as well) so others can comment. Actually, as you will notice, this is a combination of blogging, podcasting, maybe a wiki or two. Bogging, though, seems to have become a catch-all verb to define what they want to do. That they are putting these different ideas into a single word perhaps shows that they are more focused on the information/conversation/negoatiation than the tool.

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