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Reactions to Podcast 40: Redefining & Telling the New Story

[Because this is so long and since I have invested an entire morning to its writing, I will also be posting it as a podcast]

Skypecast ParticipantsLast week, while I was driving across southern Illinois, some very smart people were engaged in an important discussion, one of Wesley Fryer’s International Skypecasts. Contributors included, Miguel Guhlin, Mark Ahlness, Ewan McIntosh, Darren Kuropatwa, and Jeff Allen. Wes and I had tried to work out a way that I might participate through my mobile phone, while I was driving, but I had so little access to e-mail during that day, that our messages sort of passed in the night.

I have listened to the podcast now, and have jotted down some notes and reactions. First, thanks guys for your time, and for helping me to better understand my own ideas — growing knowledge. Second, before reading this, it might be helpful to listen to the podcast. Then, on the other hand, it might be interesting to read this blog entry, and then listen to the podcast.

So here are my jotted comments:

What strikes me about the term, “Untried & Untested” is that it makes sense only in a world that is stable and secure, where the testing how we are doing, can be relied upon to predict our students’ future success. In a time of rapid change, the measure of success depends more on how adaptive and inventive the learner is — their ability to turn instability into opportunity. In this world, summative testing makes no sense. I continue to maintain that when we can not clearly predict our children’s future, it becomes much less important what they are learning, and much more important how they are learning it, and what they are doing with it.

Gulin said that the practices of innovative teachers are considered, “…untried and untrue because they don’t connect with the traditional environment of school.” I think that the real story is that our schools are not connecting to (relevant to) their own goals, preparing children for their future.

He goes on to say that change may not happen from within our schools, but as a result of the demands of society. I agree with this, and this idea may be helpful in responding to Darren Kuropatwa’s apparent struggle with what I mean by “telling the new story”. Actually, he seems to understand quite well what I mean. It’s the demands of that society and our children’s future that needs to be made into a story, and then told in compelling ways back to the community (and to communities of teachers). It requires that we observe, speculate, converse, and construct a compelling story that clearly defines what children need to be learning, and how they need to be learning it, and in what kinds of classrooms (or not) it should be happening in. That story has to connect to a market-place, to deeply held values, and it needs to be something that we can point to and say, “Isn’t that the kind of education your children deserve?”

Mark Ahlness, equally confused by the question, and who seems equally to understand the answer, asks why new learning techniques like blogging are not catching on faster. I believe that it is because it does not resonate with today’s prevailing stories, test scores. We have become convinced that test scores indicate an effective school and a successfully educated student, and by extension, a citizen who will prosper, contribute, and be happy in their future. It’s a story that is pretty easy to swallow because it is simple, and it connects easily to our own education-experiences of 10, 20, or 40 years ago. It’s the reason why we need a new story that will be so compelling, that it will shatter the ideas of high-stakes testing, by showing it to be totally irrelevant to our children’s future, and might I add, “our future.”

Ewan McIntosh mentions digital immigrants and talks about the BBC reporter, who was younger than Ewan’s 28 years, but did not know about students’ use of social networks (MySpace and Bebo). He extended his point by saying that “… this is someone who is tapped into youth culture, being a radio reporter for the BBC.”

Bingo!

I have faced similar frustrations, most recently by a blog that is written by our capital paper’s education reporter. It is an education blog, but he has not, in a singly entry, ever talked about education. He writes exclusively about the school board, county commissioners, redistricting, budget and year-round schools, and never about the classroom. I’ve asked him about this, via e-mail, and he says that this is what people want to read. This is the story that they want to hear because it resonates emotionally with them, because these issues are about the market, about their children, and it makes assumptions about the education experiences of their past.

We need a story that equally resonates emotionally, but that forces new conclusions about the needs of learning children.

Finally, Ewan hits hard with what’s haunted me for months. He says that the phrase, “New Story” is annoying and that it verges on jargon. Thanks, Ewan. That was below the belt, but the intent was to knock some sense into me, and you are absolutely right. It is frustrating for people to read what I say about “The New Story” and then they start talking immediately about Digital Story Telling — which is an entirely different thing. So I need to clear this up — allot.

Ewan gets it, as he says that critical mass is not exactly what we need immediately — but evangelists. Mark wants to shout from the rooftops that blogging is the most motivational and exciting tool for student learning that he has ever seen. So where is the rooftop? How and where do we tell that story?

More Questions?

I really like Jeff Allen’s question, “If the technology is a tool, then what is its function?” There are probably a million ways to answer that question, and his, “…the technology is an amplifier,” has an enormous amount of value. But he goes on to talk about Dennis Littky’s “The Big Picture Company” (which I had not heard of, but will certainly learn more about), where students are deeply investigating topics that interest them, and he says that the teachers get out of the way. I think that part of the story is “What does that look like?” What does a classroom look like, where the teacher is getting out of the way of learning. Jeff mentions the phrase, “Guide on the side,” which is certainly useful. I like the shift from teacher delivers instruction to the teacher creates and crafts learning experiences, maintaining the classroom as a learning engine.

Ewan goes on to make a valuable point in trying to draw us away from talking about blogs and podcasts, and more about instruction and learning. Bingo, again. But! The story must be as free from education jargon as it is from technology jargon. The story is about people, how they do things and afford to do things (market), what the care about (values), and what we can point to that everyone (kids, teachers, administrators, parents, legislators, government ministers, and presidents) can all identify with. Wes says it has to be about relationships and connections. Yes!

I guess I’m talking about really big stories, that come in really small packages.

Darren did a wonderful job of tying things together when he asked, “What is it about blogging that makes it transformative.” He then referred to different statements that the participants had said, that it was all of it, and it had almost nothing to do with the technology (at least that what I gained from his statements). I really liked his reference to push/pull learning, and it speaks pretty effectively to the difference between industrial age learning, and creative age learning. When people contributed their muscles to the economy, you wanted to be able to push them along. But when our contributions come from our adaptability and innovation, then you want people who can teach themselves, — pulling learning from their experience.

Finally, there were several instances in the podcast where the following phrase was used:

Flat world technologies and their affect on teaching.

This phrase bothers me a bit, and I think it is for the same reason that “integrating technology” bothers me. It’s like saying, “Jack sold his mom’s cow for some seeds — and the giant fell to earth from his castle in the clouds.”

There are components to this story, and ours, that are missing and assumed, such as:

  • Jobs today, depend on talent, not geography.
  • We live in an exciting time of rapid change, new challenges, and enormous opportunities.
  • We now have access to brand new and compelling opportunities to learn by building knowledge in collaboration with others.
  • Being educated today depends less on what you have learned, and much more on what you can learn, unlearn, and relearn — learning to be specialized, highly adaptable, and creative.

The emotional impact of the compelling new story, is in the details — not a lot of details, but they have to connect with market, values, and it has to be something that we can point to.

In Conclusion:

  • What we need, is a new vision about education, one that reflects our increasingly digital and networked information environment, with new notions of the basic information skills — literacy,
  • That reflects a future of vast opportunities, and untold challenges, for which we are preparing our children — where their economic activities will be based far more on their inventiveness, than their ability to perform tasks and retain knowledge,
  • That reflects a new breed of children, with amazing new learning skills, who are adept at technology, but who desperately need us to teach them how to work the information.

To build that vision, WE need to be telling a new story, one that so compels on an intellectual and emotional level, that it shatters the old stories of seats in rows, nine-pound textbooks, lectures day-in and day-out, and the notion that we can measure success with a bubble sheet.

It’s a story that we tell to anyone who will listen, but especially to parents, community members, governmental leaders, other teachers, administrators, and even to our children. The stories must be short and they must have a moral.

Did you know that…? and
So what are we going to do about it?

That’s my 2¢ Worth!

Comments

  • http://www.psesd.org/weblogs/edtech/ ConnMc

    Hi, David -

    Great thoughts on the discussion! I’m going to focus on just one part for this comment. You quoted Jeff Allen’s question “If the technology is a tool, then what is its function?” I think the best answer to this is whatever the user wants it to be. The great impediment we have in education is that we limit what students do with technology and we limit what teachers do with technology. There are a variety of reasons that we don’t let them have free reign (access, test scores, security issues, etc.), but we can’t really take advantage of the power of technology in classrooms while the application of technology is so severely limited. How can we use technology to create more student-centered learning if students (and teachers) can’t decide how to use the technology itself?

    At a deeper level, I don’t even really agree with the question. (No disrespect to my buddy Jeff!) Technology is not a tool, and I wish we would stop saying it. Technology is a whole shop full of tools and materials, with a whole community of artisans making new tools all the time. A tool is a static object – a hammer is a hammer is a hammer. Its basic form and function have remained unchanged for centuries. In contrast, loook at the world of Web 2.0 – a whole raft of new technologies that didn’t exist five years ago, many of them being used in ways that nobody thought of when they were first created.

    I think the metaphor is crucial, because if we think that technology is a tool, then the underlying assumption is that we need for students and teachers to learn how to use technology. If, instead, technology is a dynamic process of invention and adaptation, then we need for students and teachers to be able to create technology. Which one sounds more learner-centered?

    Conn

  • http://PEPTechTalk.blogspot.com GEMalone

    Great review! I loved this discussion and follow-up discussions I’ve had with Darren & Ewan…only thing I can think to add to the discussion is “what do you think about Jeff’s pic ?” Looks like he was on a geocache…I love ya Jeff!

  • http://www.learningismessy.com/blog BCrosby

    Dang! – Conn said what I wanted to say! Great post and great comment!
    School districts, schools, teachers, parents – all limit what we do and can do – mostly based on not knowing or understanding technology and its implications for student learning. There is so much fear about what “MIGHT HAPPEN” that could be bad (predators, porn content, etc.) that we not only get limited by administration and the public, but we limit ourselves from fear of doing something controversial. We also need to have the ethics as part of learning (should be) conversation.

    I feel a new post coming on.
    Thanks,
    Brian

  • http://edu.blogs.com ewan.mcintosh

    I have enjoyed the debate I’ve seen, but I’m still aching after organising the Communicate.06 conference (http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2006/03/tired_aching_bu.html – one for your newcon tag there). Give me a day – if the blogosphere can allow that – and I’ll put my own reflections together. I do have a feeling, though, that we’re all on the same wavelength, if different time zones ;-)

  • http://www.brettmoller.com/ Brett Moller

    I really enjoyed this critique of the conversation and your thoughts on the story of the use of technology in our education world. The very thought that a “new story” needs to be told and spread through the powers that be worries me a bit, especially when we have a society that is controlled by media stories about the chaos that our schools are in when it comes to the “basics”…. or the 3 r’s. I think we have a dozen stories a year in our media blaming schools for the poor performance of the basic 3r’s skills. I can’t see how there will be much needed change in our school systems when our society seems to be up in arms about the lack of literacy skills amongst our students. I would be interested to hear what our parents of students are thinking about this “new story.” How well would this message be received by a parent world that is constantly told that test scores on standardised tests is all that matters?

    I would spend a minimum of 30mins a year with each of my students parents, and an overwhelming number where more concerned with where their kid placed in the state wide tests rather than how they developed as a learner. I also remember the criteria we placed some years ago on students interested in competing in Lego robotics competitions. We decided to only allow the students who placed in the top % of mathematics and science exams!! What does this say to the creative learner?

    Yes blogging, podcasting etc is exciting new tools or ways to enhance the learning, however, I feel that we have a need to help parents of our students have a mind shift on what matters. Parents are voters and governments seem to make the final decisions on these areas.

    I am enjoying this line of thought…. I will write more on my blog http://blog.brettmoller.com

  • http://edu.blogs.com ewan.mcintosh

    I think the whole point of our skypecast is that there is NO new story per se. It’s just back to working out what makes good teaching and learning. These new technologies add one aspect, though, that has been sorely missing: audience. These very tools are a great way to communicate with parents, not by sending them messages but by trying to involve them more in the education of their child, seeing and helping their children improve on the three Rs.

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

    Respectfully, I disagree, Ewan. On the level of classroom instruction, you are right, that we have a new tool that provides audience for students to voice their learning. But on a broader level, there are new stories, because we are preparing our children for a world that is dramatically different from the one I was prepared for. I am pretty close to twice your age. When I started teaching history, the desktop computer hadn’t been invented yet. But technology aside, I think that the very philosphy of what children learn and how they learn it has changed, and we need brand new stories to convince our society that these changes need to take place.

    We, the industrial world, have a hug challenge, because our old stories have been so successful for so long, that it may well be impossible to retell the story of the classroom. There may simply be too much momentum. I hope not. It’s why we need to find that rooftop, Mark was talking about.

    Thanks Ewan, for your insights and eloquence!

  • http://edu.blogs.com ewan.mcintosh

    You’re right that some stories need told to certain groups for whom those stories are new. The industrial age is so embedded in their minds that it is new. For me, it ain’t new at all. I’ve been tapping code into ZX Spectrums since the age of 5 and I’ve enjoyed playing computer games since I can remember. The stories of these latest technologies are just the way I think things should be – and in my mind and the mind of the kids using them these tools aren’t even that new.

    This attitude allows me to be enthusiastic about it and try to forge through to find new ideas. But I can/do find it frustrating when others don’t see it that way. It’s as if they are saying black is white and white is black. This is what mean when I say that the words ‘new’ story are jargon – they mean too many things to different people. It’s be better to find a definition for what we’re wanting and go for that. I don’t like calling things new when they aren’t new for our kids.

  • http://www.oesd.wednet.edu/blog Jeffrobodine

    Great conversation guys! The power of discourse…WOW!

    A couple of points I’d like to add…

    1) I also tire of the use of jargon like “integrating technology” or “technology is a tool”. However, I think these terms can be useful when they are used to start a reflective conversation with educators…”what does, ‘integrating technology’ really mean to you?” The point I was trying to make, and Ewan was getting there also, is that our conversations and reflection should not be about technology use in schools as much as they should be about effective instruction. This is why I frequently use the “technology is an amplifier” phrase. I contend that technology impacts student learning only when it is used to enhance (or amplify) effective instructional practices and the tasks we engage students in.

    2) After reflecting on the conversation and still trying to wrap my mind around what the story could be, I was drawn back to a book I recently read… Experience & Education. It presents a thought provoking comparison of what we consider as “traditional education” and a much more progressive picture where the focus is on the experiences we provide students. It is a wonderful philosophical statement of what the new story should be based upon. This kicker is that it was written nearly 70 years ago by John Dewey. Reading this book makes me wonder if the story really is “new” or is it an old story that simply hasn’t been told enough.

    I agree with Mark, we need to be shouting from the rooftops, but we also need to be discussing it around the lunch table. During the Skype-cast, I made the statement, “We may not learn much from reading a book, but we learn a lot when we discuss it with others.” That, I believe, is our mission. The real changes in teaching and learning we are working for will happen as a result of the deep, reflective conversations that educators will have with each other to form (warning…buzz-word-alert) a common vision. It is through these conversations that educators have with each other, which form a new vision of learning, which then lead to change… that new stories are born. Those stories are then shared, discussed and reflected, which then build upon the vision.

    Knowledge is an unending conversation. Our job is to keep the conversation going.

  • http://www.psesd.org/weblogs/edtech/ ConnMc

    Wesley and David, you two hit a nerve with this podcast and blog!

    I keep going round with this in my head. On the one hand, as Ewan pointed out, the story isn’t new for our kids. Even for educators of my (ahem) vintage and beyond, what we regard as really progressive education goes back before our time, as Jeff mentioned. So whether or not a story is “new” depends both on who’s talking and who’s listening.

    This whole discussion brought to mind a recent posting in Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users blog. She described the difference between old testimonials and new testimonials (warning: she uses a three-letter expletive to describe a person’s rear end). In old testimonials, we tell the customer why our products are so great; in new testimonials, customers describe how they themselves do great things because of the product. We have to stop worrying about what we provide students, and concentrate more on what they can do.

    Here’s my thinking of the moment. The reason that podcasts and classroom blogs are so powerful is that the teller of the story is the kids, not us. The stories they are telling are of surprisingly sophisticated, and often full of excitement, possibility, and hope. (That will always be more effective than a bunch of us adults running around and telling scary stories about flat worlds and test-crushed students. Negative consequences are an ineffective motivator for change.)

    What makes these stories (I’m using the plural on purpose) new is who is telling them. We have millions of new, young voices that have a boundless sea of stories to imagine, to live, and to tell. Our goal should be to help open the channels that allow those stories to reach the ears of those that need to hear them.

    When David shows the videos of Consuelo Molina, nobody worries about her SAT scores or how many engineers are being trained in China. They do immediately recognize that the opportunity for students to do that kind of work is powerful. How can we get the stories of the Consuelos to a wider audience?

  • http://www.brettmoller.com/ Brett Moller

    This is certainly turning into an interesting discussion… I must say though, that just because something is old hat to students and us young teachers doesn’t mean that there is not a message that needs to be sent to teachers, administrators and parents that is of course very new. Young teachers that automatically integrate these ways of teaching are seen as too far out of reach for many educators that have been sticking with the old ways. Many of them see a ‘new’ way (in their eyes) and run the other direction because it seems too difficult or too hard. Therefore, I agree with Dave, that there is certainly a “story” to be told that to some may seem old hat but to many will certainly be new. I think it takes those who understand the need for change in our classroom to be the guide on the side for those educators that don’t understand the need for change.

  • http://ahlness.com Mark Ahlness

    Mark here, not exactly shouting from the rooftops. Where am I? buried in the basement, preaching to the choir. Look at the amazing comments following David’s post. I am here at # 11. It is truly a waste of everyone’s incredible intellectual resources and energies to say them to a small group, who already believe the same thing. Where wilI this comment thread go? How many will read it? How many precious hours did great minds waste down here? I am wasting mine as well. But since I’m here…. I will say that I will continue to pursue – in as public an arena as possible:

    1) the idea of finding the right way to get the word out to teachers about 2.0 stuff. What is spreading the word right now is clearly not working. It’s incredibly cumbersome and slow, relying on the same top down, inflow/outflow cascade of information. Tech conferences? Books? Blogs? It’s not going to do it fast enough, folks. Teachers are not getting it. Quit blaming the teachers, or giving them (us) excuses. The technology exists. We have to use it, and use it very differently. I do not have an answer yet, but I’m looking.

    2) the idea that the new story really IS a new story. That CONTENT has changed as the result of technology. That we are teaching, even at third grade, new skills – skills that must be taught now or our kids miss the boat. Folks are so careful, tiptoeing around the idea that new technologies are a tool – no, we shouldn’t call it that, etc, etc. I’m here to tell you, technology is changing WHAT we teach, not just how we teach.

    I will push these ideas forward when I get the chance. In spite of my cynical sounding remarks here, it is truly amazing to be involved in this conversation, even in the sub-basement :) – Mark

  • http://www.brettmoller.com/ Brett Moller

    Mark you raise an interesting point here about technology changing what we teach. I actually think the technology is determining what is important to teach and therefore the technology in itself must become an integral part of all learning. I explain this a little better in a blog I wrote about 5 mins ago. http://blog.brettmoller.com

    I actually think that employers have or will soon go beyond looking for the techno literate workers to looking for those who can assess and adapt skills to any situation. I think the web 2.0 tools actually begin to develop those skills better than any traditional method of teaching can.

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

    Brett,

    Thanks for this post, and for your other contributions to the “New Story” conversation. I like your suggestions that Web 2.0 may have some unique applications within the new story of education. I also appreciate your observations about the state of education in the U.S. where our leaders talk the good story about science and research, yet our classrooms have been turned into such factories of conformist learning, that fewer and fewer students decide on careers in science and engineering, especially when compared to what is happening in other parts of the world.

    What I like about the potentials of implementing Web 2.0 applications into learning environments is that the tools pretty much become what the user needs. It’s like spreadsheets. Anyone who truly uses a spreadsheet program becomes an inventor. That what you do with it. You invent number processing applications that help you accomplish your goals. The thing about Web 2.0 is that it enables and empowers the user to collect and shape content into a resources that help them do their jobs. Every aggregator is different. My own online handouts change, almost daily, not by my hand, but by the behaviors of people who attend my presentations and then talk about what they have learned.

    We need an education that is like a flexible glove. It fits any hand and protects against any condition. Textbooks and high-stakes testing try to focus every hand into a concrete glove designed to protect them against conditions that no longer exist. …and the greatest harm is that many students with fat hands, bony hands, hands that are shaped differently, hands that are especially strong, feel like failures when they don’t fit easily into that concrete mold. We are wasting so much talent in this country, because they are not talents that are treasured by our education system.

    Thanks again for your contributions, Brett.

  • mattandi

    What a wonderful conversation this is! You obviously struck a cord David. Visionaries often do.

    Regarding my comment on Wesley’s blog following up the skypecast http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2006/03/16/podcast-40-defining-and-telling-the-new-story/#comment-618. Ok, maybe I missed the boat. Or maybe I’m on the boat and just didn’t realize where it was going. Either way I figure I’ll wind up somewhere interesting.

    There is so much here that I agree with, and there is much here that disturbs me a bit. I guess I’m still a little disappointed that there still seems to be so much energy focused on figuring out what the new story is regarding technology. I’m encouraged by all the new stories that are possible. This conversation is evidence of that.

    Mark, remember that even something as ubiquitous as the blackboard took years to be embraced by teachers. It also fundamentally changed the nature of the typical classroom and educational experience. Keep looking for your rooftop.

    Jeff, isn’t it also possible that an amplifier can drown out? Even the best symphony orchestra can’t compete with Metallica in the same hall. I find both of them valuable though.

    Today’s new technologies are tools, but I agree that I’m troubled by many hiding behind this proclamation. Problem is their use usually is not predetermined. This amorphous quality is very disconcerting to many.

    Dave, in your original post that started all this, you suggested that the best stories are short and usually begin with “Did you know that. . .” I would like to suggest that they may also begin with “What would happen if . . .” For instance “What would happen if we let ninth graders design the ninth grade curriculum beginning to end?” Man, can you imagine! Duke university recently asked “What would happen if we gave every incoming freshman an iPod and taught professors how to podcast their classes?” That story is still unfolding. We could also begin with “Is it possible. . .” We might get “Is it possible to build a factory that produces no waste at all?” or more close to home “Is it possible to determine that students have got it some way other than a standardized test?” I agree that the best stories usually begin with a question. Unfortunately, it seems, we don’t really want to teach students to ask good questions. Most of our stories today still begin with “Once upon a time. . .”

    Let me offer a short story. Did you know there are other ways to measure knowledge? I remember this student. By our typical metrics she was not what anyone would describe as a good student. My state has decided that every student that receives an education here must understand how a cell divides. Try as she might she failed to demonstrate that she understood this on several occasions. She begged for the opportunity to use a different language a language she was comfortable with. Her teacher agreed. I had the opportunity to witness her explanation using interpretive dance. She “explained” cell division perfectly. She’s finding her way now in college. How’s that for a new story?

    Matthew

  • abelcher

    Wow, great insight. I guess I’m torn right now on where I stand with the new story–I certainly see both perspectives. I envision a changing classroom that certainly is influenced by technology. At the same time I see the foundation of learning deeply steadfast in the traditions of learning, like that of dialectic of Greek thinkers. I think the ideal is perhaps a crossroad. The crossroad is, maybe the “new story” and all the other roads (the former stories) lead to the new story…… still pondering though.

  • http://dare-to-dream--classroom-technology.blogspot.com/ Barb

    This discussion provides much food for thought in a variety of areas including the impact of the shift in educational focus as we have left behind the assembly line model which has formed education in the industrial world for so long. Systemic change requires many things to move it forward and I believe the most important is vision. All of you are visionaries and you have fueled my own vision and dream. To my way of thinking, the challenge before us if we are to be “evangelists” is to clarify the message (s) and suit them to the audience(s). then …tell me show me and let me try it….

    I do not mean to be simplistic and in fact find the above to be a daunting task. In my own blog I have asked for input on “evangelizing” my community. (http://dare-to-dream–classroom-technology.blogspot.com/) David’s points abbreviated below articulate a vision/reason for the change. How do we communicate this to all stakeholders? As administrator I have to lead by example , I have to provide support, in-service and time for my teachers *to “see and do” and somehow I need to help the parents grasp the vision too.

    • new notions of the basic information skills — literacy,
    • where their economic activities will be based far more on their inventiveness, than their ability to perform tasks and retain knowledge,
    • children who are adept at technology, but who desperately need us to teach them how to work the information.

    In re-reading the discussion I sense your eagerness to spread the news and your frustration at the slowness to change…but it is happening. I am living proof …I have only been reading these blogs and moving into this whole area for two weeks now yet I am full of plans for the future!
    Side note:
    * I find it interesting that even my “20- something” teachers do not readily embrace this new vision of education even though they are technologically savvy in their personal life but that may be another blog post…

  • http://www.learningismessy.com/blog BCrosby

    David -

    The “New Story” hasn’t caught on because it is not a new story – it’s not even a tech story or a web 2.0 story. The New Story doesn’t catch on because it is not a story you can hear or read about and really understand. To understand it you have to work with a class of students that you really know. You know who knows how to do “traditional school”, who gets traditional work done, who doesn’t, who is motivated and who isn’t, who is outgoing and who is shy – even painfully shy, who is in control and who is out of control – even spooky out of control, who likes to please and who could care less.
    Next you have to do things differently. You have to empower students in group decision making and social skills. Allow students to do work that brings out the hidden talents in the room – from artwork, creative writing, problem solving, “making things” and tearing them apart and putting them back together, etc. You have to teach them how to find and think about information and then give them permission to show what they know in various ways and “their way” at least sometimes. Then you have to come up with an idea for a project – as real world and community service based as possible I feel is best. Then turn them loose in cooperative groups to do it.
    What happens next is often magic. Students who are out of control are not out of control (at least for longer than they usually are). Students that are shy might not be shy today – and might even blow your socks off with a flurry of outspokenness or leadership. Your unmotivated students might still be, but some will be among the most motivated in class. Those that know how “to do” traditional school (old school) might be lost – and might be watching or listening to a usually unmotivated or out of control or bullied student to find out how the heck to do THIS. Students that never get excited will FIND YOU and constantly report to you what they found or learned or did or didn’t do (even though you didn’t ask them to). Students will ask you or other students how to do something they don’t know how to do because they HAVE to know how to do THIS.
    And your classroom becomes a bee hive – there is a palpable buzz of activity and learning – what you became a teacher to experience.
    But if you are an outsider observing in that room… And you don’t know THESE kids… then you might see a glimmer of the magic… but you don’t experience the magic or get the magic. You don’t know that when Molly is berating her group for getting off task and they listen to her… that all year she has been that dirty, quiet, strange girl that no one really pays much attention to unless they are making fun of her, but now her group is following her lead…amazing. Or that Darrel who… “he never does anything” has just spent the last 30 minutes helping a group member paint their dirt “Mars Red” because then they are going glue it down on the bottom of the greenhouse he designed and he needs that kids help. If you don’t know these kids you miss that (and many other things) and so you miss the value and the point.
    You can’t plan for all the good things that are happening, you can just design projects that meet certain standards knowing that a whole bunch more are going to be met along the way… and some things are going to happen that aren’t standards but you know are just good things. Things that a well rounded person needs to know about – but doing nothing but small reading groups and keyword summaries and circle-seat-center and reading about science and social studies and art in reading groups but almost never doing them – aren’t going to be learned.
    So where’s the tech? It’s there. It’s how much of the research was done. It’s how some questions were asked and some answers were received. It’s how product was produced and edited and questioned and talked about with peers and experts from anywhere. AND it’s how the work was presented and shared and discussed and questioned and tweaked and archived and copied and more – much more.
    But if you don’t know those kids – you just might not get the whole story. That’s what we have to overcome to spread the word and activate change. We have to get more people to experience THAT.

  • http://www.learning-blog.org alex.ragone

    This is from a post on my blog at http://www.learning-blog.org/2006/03/22/the-new-story-attempt-1/

    So I’m home on paternity leave with my four month old daughter for three weeks. We’re having a good time playing, eating and napping. One of my addictions (other than coffee) is listening to WNYC. As I listen, I have been thinking a lot about David Warlick concept of the new story and the discussion that has surrounded his idea. On WNYC, I have heard a few stories over the past few days that given me ideas about this new story.

    I have listened to David’s podcast of Reactions to Podcast 40: Redefining & Telling the New Story a couple of times and although the following ideas don’t meet all of his criteria, they are a start.

    Here goes:

    Did you know that: The polar ice caps are melting and the North Pole will no longer exist during summers by the end of this century; By 2050 all weather will be caused by human created greenhouse gasses; Increased CO2 allows more water vapor to be carried in the air, causing more humidity, which is the fuel for large storms. (Data from Weather Makers by Tim Flannery – NPR interviews here and here).

    These points are very scary for a young parent or anyone around the world who cares about the future.

    So what are we going to do about it?

    We are in a race for the future of man kind. The best scientists and creative minds of the world must unite to work on this. Never before in the history of man is it easier to bring people together to collaborate to solve these problems. We need to be empathetic and put ourselves in the situations that people face around the world each day.

    We need to speak foreign languages, be historians, be scientists and mathematicians while writing and publishing about all of our experiences. We can’t be compartmentalized into a department, but must use all of our disciplines to create conversations about these problems.

    You can swap almost any big picture problem for the above Did you know that… question. All of them are critical big picture problems that will effect the world and our children. The next generation will not have the same opportunities and comfort we have unless we work to find solutions for these problems as a world.

    One part of this fight is to meld our educational system to shape students into empathetic and creative life-long learners. Does high stakes testing do this? No. We need to produce students who can solve the big problems of our world, for the sake of humanity. (See this keynote by Dr. Janet Swenson for educational examples)

    Finally:

    David wrote that, “I continue to maintain that when we can not clearly predict our children’s future, it becomes much less important what they are learning, and much more important how they are learning it, and what they are doing with it.”

    Skills are much more important than content. The big picture is about moral, life-long learners. Those are the folks I want on my team. The team to save the world.

    What’s your story?

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