The Nextbook Must Be…

 

(cc) janthepea

For a science fiction look at textbooks, read about The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer in The Diamond Age and Ender’s desk in Ender’s Game. If you have other suggestions, please comment.

 

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Tom Whitby, wrote a blog article, We Don’t Need No Stink’n Textbooks. I agree with his position, and was especially impressed with the list of components he compiled from Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook Forum.

Responding to Tom’s title, though, I am growing less unhappy with calling it a textbook.  After all, we seem to have no problem calling the device I’m writing this on, something that only a few years ago would have referred, almost exclusively, to “a number of sheets of writing paper, fastened together at one edge.”

So, granting myself permission to call it a textbook, what do I think today’s textbook should be?

Today’s textbook should:

  • Be a Companion (Mobile) – The student’s textbook should never weigh more than half that of a human brain (about 3 lb.). It should be as easy to ask, as the person sitting next to you –and through it, the reader should be able to ask the person sitting in the next room, on the next continent or a radio telescope in Australia.
  • Be an Encyclopedia Galactica ((Wikipedia contributors. “Encyclopedia Galactica.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Mar. 2012. Web. 29 Mar. 2012.)) (Comprehensive and Cross-disciplined) – The textbook should provide content in a variety of formats (text, images, audio, video, animation), selectable by the reader.  It can be drilled into for deeper exploration, and issues of special interest to the reader will trigger seamless bleed-throughs from other disciplines (literature, mathematics, science, the social studies, health, etc.) – No seams! No walls! No boundaries!
  • Be a Player (Responsive & Playful) – The textbook should be active and interactive. It both reflects and magnifies the learner, the teacher, and their world – and it adapts to its interactions with each.  It does not respond with a “right” or a “wrong.”  Instead, it causes the reader to say, “that worked” or “that didn’t work.”  The textbook will also contrive long-term narrative-puzzles that reach other readers, building communities of mutual concern.  Embedded in each textbook are hidden clues that can be exposed through the productive use of the book and shared with other members of the community – the combination of which solve the puzzle.
    • Be a Sandbox (Constructable & Elastic) – The textbook is totally stackable.  Both teacher and learner (to age appropriate degrees) can remove elements, insert elements, re-sequence, edit and even hack elements.  The textbook will edit itself based on changes reader interest and the changing dynamic global information environment.
    • Be Provocative (fueled by questions) – The textbook should tactically and strategically leave things out.  It provokes questions, the answers of which provide mortar for the personal and participatory construction and reconstruction of the book.  It is always broken and always fixable, and the rules belong to the reader.
    • Be a Journal (Turn the Learner Outward) – The textbook will require the reader to observe, interact with, reflect on and work her personal environment.  The reader will talk to people, use a hammer, play a game for fun, explore a forest, and become skilled at something that does not require a computer interface.  She will report her experiences in a digital journal, which the textbook will productively adapt to, creating richer relevance for the learner.
    • Be a Personal Badge (Identity-builder) – There is an element of the textbook that is public, continually and cooperatively refined by the teacher, the reader, and reader’s family.  It is a demonstration of what the reader has learned, what she can do with what she’s learned, and what she cares about.
    • Never be turned in (Grown into a personal digital library) – The textbook grows, year after year, with new elements added, old ones edited or deleted, and continuously curated – the ongoing and ultimate goal being the construction of a personal and lifelong digital library.

    That’s two more cents worth!

      …Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

      After the Beyond the Textbook Forum

      Photo by Joyce Valenza, who came in spite of her broken knee

      I had originally intended to append yesterday’s blog post with more information about, and from the forum.  But I think that I have a little more to say than I left room for yesterday.

      First of all, I left the Discovery Communication Headquarters yesterday with one of those deliciously contradictory sensations of both exhaustion and exhilaration. It was certainly an echo chamber of people who have the room, by choice or by definition of job, to think about and talk about the future of education. But even though we have largely drawn the same conclusions, when you get these familiar ingredients together in the same pot and stir vigorously, new flavors often comes out.

      I’m not going to present a comprehensive report of the conversation here.  I would point you to better reporters, Audrey Watters (Hack Education) and Wes Fryer (here, here, here and here) and others who will come linked in the #beyondthetextbook Twitter thread that certainly continues.  Essentially, its all about rethinking education, being educated, teaching, learning, and curriculum.  I can’t add much to that.

      Here, I want to focus in on just a few outlying ideas that I walked away with, especially from my internal efforts to put myself in the shoes of our hosts and an industry that has become one of the definers of education.

      One of those ideas got pried loose when a Discovery person asked the un-askable, “How do we monetize this?”  It was the only time that the business of selling textbooks came up — and I can’t fault anyone for making a living.  It’s an important question, because they know that they need to be doing things differently, and I suspect that they are sincerely trying to get on the other side of just digital textbooks with animations, videos and flash games.  There were suggestions of repackaging the conversation, thinking in terms of selling pages (modules), or talking more about digital libraries that children take with them after graduation.  This intrigues me, that being educated is knowing, doing, and cultivating tools that help you to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn.

      Much was said about resistance from many teachers.  Many feel that a classroom without a textbook starts to look like a classroom without a teacher.  In addition, few teachers have the time to construct their digital textbooks or supervise student-constructed learning materials.

      But another barrier became evident to me that gave me – and this is going to open some eyes – a new sympathy for the textbook industry.  I’m for the kids and the future, and I don’t fault an industry for making a living from this endeavor.  Who among those of us in that room are not.  I do fault efforts to influence the shape of education in order to perpetuate a control-model that is clearly no long relevant.

      I want to welcome anyone who wants to be a part of this new adventure.

      My sympathy comes from the fact that the only way Discovery could run a sustainable education support business is to go where the money is, and the most uninterrupted money has traditionally been textbook budgets.  So Discovery has to frame its service as a textbook, as defined by legislation. It’s easy to say, we don’t need textbooks, that “..the Internet is the best textbook.”  But when many politicians hear, “We don’t need textbooks,” what they may be seeing another avenue for slashing education funding.  It’s one of those, “Becareful what you wish for…”

      So, I think I may unapologetically continue to call it a “textbook.”  I could be writing this blog on my tablet (do a Google image search for tablet).

      It just seems to me that with some imagination, a product, either commercial or open, could be designed to help children to develop the literacies of learning from their world and the authentic record of that world — and our world has never ever been so recorded.

      I think that we could see something come out of this, that, as Steve Jobs might say, “We didn’t know we couldn’t live without,” and part of the compellingness of that product will not be so much in what it is, as in what it can become.

      It’s what excites me about today’s tablets, their capacity to become new things.

       

       

       

      Beyond the Textbook

      I have been invited to participate in Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook Forum.  I feel quite honored, especially as I’ve scanned the names of other folks who are attending.  It will be a special treat to spend some time with Steve Dembo and David Jakes, two talented thinkers and conference speakers.

      One thing that struck me about this event is the title.  When talking about my dissatisfaction with print-based textbooks, I often ask, “What will textbooks evolve into?”  This implies some assumptions, that textbooks, as we know them, will simply morph into something else that acts like a textbook.

      The title of this event seems to be asking what the other side of textbooks might look like — and the opportunity of this wide open idea fascinates me.

      We’ve been assigned to use our blogs and Twitter to solicit from our readers some ideas about what we might find on the other side of textbooks.  As a teacher, I need a simile.  I need to be able to say,

      “The learning device(s) that our learners will walk into their classrooms with will be more like a ________________.

      So, if you don’t mind, would you think for a moment about this task and fill in the text box above with no more than 150 characters that complete the sentence. You’ll notice that I’ve changed your question a bit, “..will behave more like a…”

      If you would like to expand on your thoughts, please feel free to post a comment.

      Added at 12:17 PM two days later – Here is a word cloud from the similes that have already been posted.

      Coolest Thing I’ve Seen in a While

      I have felt bad about not blogging lately. It’s partly because of travel, but mostly because of three projects that have drawn most of my attention lately. One of those has been preparation for the NCTIES conference later this week. It’s a special event for me because NCTIES is the ISTE affiliate for my home state and also because it is an especially successful conference. This year’s featured speakers include Richard Byrne, Patrick Crispen (regular), Rushton Hurley, Peggy Sheehy, Kathy Schrock (regular) and Tammy Worcester, with a kickoff keynote by Ken Shelton.

      One of my presentations will explore instructional potentials of data visualization and infographics and in preparing for this session, I found one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while.  I ran across the link via Nathan Yau’s Flowing Data blog, where he quoted Jeffrey Winter…

      There was an idea floating around that continuously following the first link of any Wikipedia article will eventually lead to “Philosophy.” This sounded like a reasonable assertion, one that makes a certain amount of sense in retrospect: any description of something will typically use more general terms. Following that idea will eventually lead… somewhere.

      Winter’s explanation of how he accomplished a test for this idea made it sound easier than I’m sure it was.  But the outcome was an intriguing mashup where you can type in a word or numerous words separated by comas, and his app will thread through the first link in each linked-to article until it reaches Philosophy.

      Sitting in Starbucks, I looked for logical connections between Starbucks, coffee and caffeine. (click img to enlarge)

      What struck me as I played with this data visualization, was how this operation meshes with our notions of curriculum and of libraries.

      When information is scarce and education is defined by knowledge delivery, then the job of curriculum and of libraries is to package content into subjects and units and dewey decimal classifications.

      When I watch seemly unrelated topics threading their way to a common subject and re-examine Boyack, Klavans and Palen’s Map of Science, which shows how various disciplines are interconnected by citations, it seems clear to me how schools and libraries need to become more like learning-literacy playgrounds than managed corals.

      But that’s me!

       

      Follow that Conference

      1. Type the conference tag (#otaem12) into the search box and press [Enter]

      2. Look for the most prolific, sharing and insightful people and click them.

      3. Learn a little more and then click to follow…

      It’s going to be another long day, with a morning of presentations and then traveling the rest of the day from Oklahoma City to Seattle, where I’ll rent a car and drive on up to Vancouver tomorrow.  But today, I’m still at the Encyclomedia conference in OC, and it’s an impressive thing – over 1,600 educators at the general session yesterday morning.

      This morning I will be delivering a presentation about self-directed professional development (learning networks), pretty similar to what I did at ISTE last year. But I’ve already been asked more than once here, “How do you follow the right people on Twitter?” It’s a common question for which I have never really been satisfied with my answer – look to my a twitter page and follow who I follow, or that of Will Richardson, or Jonathan Becker.

      But something occurred to me yesterday (or perhaps last week, I’m not sure) that’s probably already part of the standard practice of many of you. Rather than focusing on one person’s followings as a starting place, focus on an event, a gathering, or even an issue.

      I will suggest to folks today that they go to Twitter and use the search box to find tweets tagged with #otaem12 (hash tag for the Encyclomedia conference).  Then look to the people who are most frequently posting messages about the conference, linking to blog posts about the conference, or linking to resources being mentioned and demonstrated at sessions. Click to their twitter pages, and follow them.

      Another great place to start would be Educon, perhaps the single greatest concentration of insightful ideas about education on the planet. Search for #educon and look for the most prolific, sharing and insightful contributors – better make a cup of coffee for this one. Understand that many of the best tweople engaged with the Educon event were not even there. But that may make them even more valuable to your following list.

      It is so important to realize that a critical element of being a master learner today is the network of people you connect yourself to.

      …Posted using BlogsyApp from my iPad

      The Purpose of Education is…

      One of the most interesting sessions at this year’s Educon was facilitated by Chad Sansing and Meenoo Rami, both of them Science Leadership Academy faculty.  The title was Hacking School: the EduCon 2.4 Hackjam.  I didn’t know what to expect – and what actually happened was beyond all expectations.

      They gave groups of four or five of us, collections of objects (tiny cotton balls, crayons, blocks, etc.) and a complete Monopoly set. We were instructed to play the game, but told that players, as part of taking their turn, were required to change the rules in some way.  On my first turn, I was at such a loss that the best rule I could make was that if you couldn’t come up with a rule, then you had to figure out a way of wearing a colorful pipe cleaner.  Someone may have uploaded a photo to Flickr.

      The rule I took away from the game was to never play monopoly with anyone more than 40 years younger than you.  None of us took the activity very seriously.

      However, as the debriefing began, it became apparent that there was intent behind this exercise.  That follow-up conversation became part of the game.  We continued to change the rules, to hack our own insights – as we exchanged our exceedingly diverse experiences.

      Then Sansing and Rami introduced us to Hackasaurus, a tool that enables you to take most any web page, examine it’s underlying code, and then hack that code to change the look and content of the page.  Learning about Web coding (HTML & CSS) is the ostensible purpose.  But I kept thinking about the playful learning that might result from asking students to hack particular web pages about their current topic of study in history, science, etc.

      Then, what really kicked me in the head was when someone said that..

      “..anyone who is not a programmer is part of the program.”

      The earth trembled under my feet, as I began to parse out the statement’s meaning, and my previously held notions about teaching and learning broke down and recombined into something new.

      “What is the purpose of education?” It’s a frequently asked question these days and I have long said and written that the purpose of education is to prepare our children for their future.  Now I believe that,

      The purpose of school is to prepare our children
      To Own Their Future!

      Are we (educators) making programmers,
      or are we just making software?

      Sustaining an Innovation-Friendly School – Reflection 1 from Educon 2.4

      Some might wonder about the sanity of taking a late afternoon flight out of Fort Worth, later arrival at the hotel, an almost descent night’s sleep, all to attend only the last day of Educon 2.4.  What I wonder about is the potential malign effects of three whole days of deep and enthrawling conversations, nearly every one pushing my thinking in subtile or dramatically new directions.

      I reminded Chris Lehmann, at the end of the last session, that I talk about this stuff just about every day.  Then I confessed that there was a moment during the afternoon that I realized that every contribution I had made the entire day had come from something else I’d heard at the conference.  Educon is a cauldron where our ideas about education get stirred up and mixed with those of others.  Our concepts get disassembled and recombined through  forces of attraction and repulsion that dazzle me, and every time it happened, it left me a little stunned for a moment.

      The one complaint that I have about the Educon experience is the inability to spend at least 15 minutes reflecting after every conversation.  I am not referring to the larger conversation sessions, but every single conversation with every single person I encountered, in the sessions, in the hall, fixing coffee, checking my coat ….

      This is what I hope to be the first of my Educon reflections about what I learned, unlearned, and relearned. ((“The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that cannot learn, unlearn, relearn.” – Alvin Toffler))

      Chris Emdin compellingly making his point

      The first formal part of the Sunday installment of Educon was the large group panel discussion, entitled, “How do Schools Sustain Innovation?”  I found myself feeling a bit sorry for the moderator, Kevin Hogan, because the panelists pretty much took off from the start and didn’t land again until Chris Lehmann had to fairly frantically call for an end.

      It struck me during the discussion, that innovation – a means of finding or inventing a new and better way of accomplishing a goal (my definition) – has become “a goal.”  This is understandable within the education arena, because being an inventive, resourceful, free-thinking goal-achiever is part of the skill-set that we are coming to consider basic.  But innovation for innovation’s sake risks going down the same confusing road of technology for technology’s sake.  It gets taken apart, sequenced, classified, curriculumized — and it simply stops making sense.  Chris Emdin pointed this out when he suggested that innovations can get cooped, branded, and become dogma.  One of the many threads that I rode throughout the day was that there is no one-size-fits-all “vision” for schooling.

      To me, the question at hand is, “How do we sustain an innvoation-friendly school?” and even though the general discussion was riveting, I did not get any clear message on how this is done.  So at some point, I started a branch on the concept map I was using to take notes where I added and eventually sorted a list of principles or process for sustaining an innovation-friendly environment.

      At the heart is permission and facility.  An educational community that adapts to changing conditions grants its members permission to innovate and facilities or procedures for pursuing a better way.  It is part of the school’s culture.

      Here is the list that I ended with.  Even though it is numbered, I now see that other arrangements are at least as appropriate as this.

      1. Permission to Identify and Describe a Problem
      2. I added permission here because several times during the day people described environments that were unwilling to admit problems or listen to those who suggested any course other than “business as usual.”

      3. Permission to Solve the Problem
      4. This one might actually be tougher to allow than it seems.  Having worked in state government, I know how risky it is to do anything that jeopardizes your reputation – or that of your boss.  In some environments, it is your job to make your boss look good.

        This one might better be labeled, “Permission to take a Chance.”

      5. Willingness to Let Go
      6. I suspect that many worthwhile innovations fail, because they are simply mounted on top of existing practices, rather than transforming existing practices.  This is illustrated by the three challenges, made by American education reformers, to the Finnish education model (see Finnish Miracles and American Myths).  The U.S. education reform movement seems unwilling to consider letting go of government testing, school competition, and accountability.

      7. Awareness of Other Boxes
      8. This is a bit of a twist from my usual reference to “outside the box” thinking.  It was actually sparked by a previous conversation with the Director of Applications Development at a large school district I recently worked in.  He told me that what he looks for in prospective hires for his programming staff is “creativity.”  He went on to say that the best part of his education was all of the history, literature, science, etc. that he took.

        I think that innovation does not necessarily come from outside the box, but from having access to other boxes that rearrange our perspectives and enable us to come at a problem from a different angle.

      9. Engineer a New Way
      10. This, I guess, is where the innovation happens, and much has been written about this by smarter people than me. I will humbly suggest that it requires research, design, collaboration, negotiation, and flexibility, to mention only a few of the skills.

      11. Permission to fail and re-engineer
      12. This may well be the toughest part to accomplish.  Innovation in business and industry are easy.  Failure in the public sector is fuel to those with political agendas.  In the private sector, R & D are considered a legitimate and necessary cost of doing business.  For schools, it is a waste of tax-payer money.  You can tell that I speak from some experience here.

      Finnish Miracles & American Myths

      skitched-20120123-072951.jpg

      My work to move Citation Machine, Class Blogmeister, 2¢ Worth, et al, over to my new “uber” server is winding down. I’ve learned so many truly geeky skills – most of which I’ll probably never use again.  It’s okay.  It makes me feel young.

      One advantage of this kind of work is that I can run videos on my iPad, which stands just left of my work screens – and I believe that I’ve already mentioned the thrilling tidbits I’ve been learning about prominant actors (via Inside the Actor’s Studio).

      One of the most interesting videos I watched, however, was a talk by Pasi Sahlberg formerly of Finland’s Ministry of Education (notes here).  He’s just published a book called “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?” that apparently explains a lot about the “Finnish Miracle” in education.  Here are just a few items that resonated with me.

      • Education has long been important in Finland.  For hundreds of years, according to Sahlberg, literacy has been a requirement for matrimony.  You can’t get married without proving that you’re literate.
      • Education in Finland is free – everywhere for everybody.
      • Students track down two branches, starting around year 10, with about 55% of students going to upper secondary school and on to university or polytechnic and 40% going to vocational schools and apprentice training.
      • Contrary to the “more is more” approach being promoted here in the U.S., Sahlberg said that Finland has followed a less is more strategy, with
        • Less per-pupil spending,
        • Teachers spending less time in instructional supervision and
        • Students spending less time being taught than in the United States and other industrial countries.
      • Also less attention is paid to grades (it is apparently illegal to apply any grade to students before 5th grade) and NO reliance on standardized tests. (Sahlberg, 2011)

      Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist based in New York, wrote a piece for the Atlantic, where she confirmed some of my own observations about conflicts between Finnish education and the American institution. According to Partanen, in What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, Sahlberg told her that “..there are certain things nobody in America really wants to talk about.”

      Our particular tinted glasses seem to be canceling out what is one of the most central elements of the Finnish solution – the most important of the top two, according to Sahlberg – equity.  There are almost no private schools in Finland and the few that do exist are financed by their government.  No one pays tuition, ever.  Even though equality is part of the American story, I sometimes wonder if we really believe in it?

      Recently a presidential primary candidate defended his privileges in a victory speech, saying that this country (U.S.A.) is being divided by “the bitter politics of envy.”  Deciding not to include the long passionate political commentary I’d originally written here, I will simply say that we seem to believe that some people deserve a better education than others. The Finnish ideal and investment in equitable education is so foreign to our national story, that it simply does not register. This may be one of our greatest barriers.

      Sahlberg says, according to the Atlantic story, that Americans consistently “obsess” over three questions.

      1. How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly?
      2. How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?”
      3. How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? (Partanen, 2011)

      The first of these questions puzzles me.  I left classroom teaching more than 20 years ago, but we tracked student performance the same way that teachers had for decades.  Teachers evaluated student understanding and mastery as part of the learning/teaching process.  Are our teachers no longer being prepared to evaluate the progress of their students?  Have we completely turned this over to the “testing industrial complex?”

      Which brings us to question two.  I know that marketplace competition is part of the American narrative.  It works for apples, oil, shovels and automobiles to compete in a fair market.  But is this where I children belong?  I believe that we are forcing our schools to compete because it’s cheaper than taking the responsibility of providing the best education we can imagine for all citizens.

      And this segues into question three.   Sahlberg says that “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish.”  He later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University that,

      “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”

      Aren’t teachers responsible for quality education in sufficiently supported schools? Isn’t that why they chose the profession? A while back I was having dinner with a group of education administrators (all from union states).   They had been or were at that time school principals.  After sharing some stories about teacher’s they’d known, they all agreed that,

      “Getting rid of bad teachers is easy.”

      “What’s hard, is keeping the good ones.”

      Can we benefit from the Finnish model.  I believe that we can.  But we will not do so by trying to fit their miracle on top of our current institution.  We must first disassemble some of our fundamental beliefs and practices, construct a new American ideal of equity and quality, and then look to the miracle in Finland.

       

      Sahlberg, P. (Writer & Performer) (2011). Finnish lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?[Web]. Retrieved from http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/12/finnish-lessons/

      Partanen, A. (2011, December 29). What americans keep ignoring about finland’s school success. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

       

       

      Rolling Along…

      I’m writing today, simply as a way of keeping a certain amount of momentum going here. I just got back to my office from an afternoon cholesterol walk, two miles, with my camera, but nothing worth removing the lens cap.

      At this point, I am fairly isolated from much thought about education, beyond passing one or two things via Twitter and/or Google+. I have several long posts in draft box, but probably will not get back to them soon.

      It became clear during the final months of 2011, that my two web servers were not  adequately handling the load of Citation Machine and Class Blogmeister, and certainly not the millions of readers of this blog. So I have a new “Uber” server and only two weeks to move all of my sites over. Trouble is that I have no idea how this move is going to go, how many of my sites it’s going to break, and how much debugging I’ll have to do to fix them. So my head’s going to be pretty deep in code and Linux shell commands.

      EduCon 2.4
      January 27-29 in Philadelphia

      The good part… it’s the sort of work that allows me to have some video going in the back ground, and I’ve discovered a channel on YouTube that carries old episodes of Inside the Actor’s Studio. Great fun and interesting to learn which actors are actually as gregarious as the parts they play.

      Chances are that I’ll not surface again until EduCon, which I’ll attend only for the Sunday portion. I anticipate much frustration deciding which conversations I’ll attend.

      So Here’s What I’d Do

      I can not remember when I have thought so little about work for so many days.  It was probably 25 years ago. This has been a wonderful holiday season and I have been a relentless participant. Alas, among my gifts were an iPhone 4s and an iPad 2. I’m back to work.

      But I’ll insert here that I’ve enjoyed this time outside my professional box and will selfishly be seeking more of it. I’ve been practicing education for 35 years now and ed tech for 30 of it — and it’s time to start considering my next great passion — what ever that is.  🙂

      Until them, I’m still around, and this all comes around to what got me up this morning, an article posted by Tim Holt in his HOLT THINK tumblr blog. It’s number six of his 10 Bad Trends in Ed Tech 2011. He wrote it on the 21st, but I caught up yesterday, thanks to Stephanie Sandifer’s Tweet. His sixth bad trend is “Ed tech gurus not offering solutions.”

      Photo of a lighthouse

      A lighthouse is a tower, building, or other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses or, in older times, from a fire, and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways. ((Lighthouse. (2011, December 20). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:57, December 29, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lighthouse&oldid=466924292))

      I agree with some of what Holt says, but take exception with a great deal of it.  Scott McLeod expresses much of what I would add to the conversation and brings a great deal of balance. Be sure to read the comments, to which I may add something after I’ve finished this post.

      For 2¢ Worth, I’d like to turn it into a challenge, “What solutions would you have, David, if you were back in that rural North Carolina school district you left 22 years ago?”

      I would consider the following ten-action plan is based on my past and current knowledge of that school districts, and would almost surely be altered by a closer association.  But here are the solutions that this challenge brings to mind.

      1. Eliminate paper from the budget and remove all copiers and computer printers from schools and the central office (with exceptions of essential need). “On this date, everything goes digital.”
      2. Create a professional development plan where all faculty and staff learn to teach themselves within a networked, digital, and info-abundant environment — it’s about Learning-Literacy. Although workshops would not completely disappear, the goal would be a culture where casual, daily, and self-directed professional development is engaged, shared, and celebrated — everyday! Then extend the learning-literacy workshops to the greater adult community.
      3. Establish a group, representing teachers, staff, administration, students, and community. Invite a “guru” or two to speak to the group about the “Why” of transforming education.  Video or broadcast the speeches to the larger community via local access, etc. The group will then write a document that describes the skills, knowledge, appreciations and attitudes of the person who graduates from their schools — a description of their goal graduate. The ongoing work of writing this document will be available to the larger community for comment and suggestion. The resulting piece will remain fluidly adaptable.
      4. Teachers, school administrators, and support staff will work in appropriately assembled into overlapping teams to retool their curricula toward assuring the skills, knowledge, appreciations and attitudes of the district’s goal graduate.
      5. Classroom curricula will evolve based on changing conditions and resources. To help keep abreast of conditions, teachers and support staff will shadow someone in the community for one day at least once a year and debrief with their teams identifying the skills and knowledge they saw contributing to success, and adapt their curricula appropriately.
      6. The district budget will be re-written to exclude all items that do not directly contribute to the goal graduate or to supporting the institution(s) that contribute to the goal graduate. Part of that budget will be the assurance that all faculty, staff, and students have convenient access to networked, digital, and abundant information and that access will be at least 1 to 1.
      7. A learning environment or platform will be selected such as Moodle, though I use that example only as a means of description. The platform will have elements of course management system, social network and distributive portfolio. The goal of the platform will be to empower learning, facilitate assessment, and exhibit earned knowledge and skills to the community via student (and teacher) published information products that are imaginative, participatory and reflect today’s prevailing information landscape.
      8. Expand the district’s and the community’s notions of assessment to include data mining, but also formal and informal teacher, peer, and community evaluation of student produced digital products.
      9. Encourage (or require) teachers to produce imaginative information products that share their learning either related or unrelated to what they teach.  Also establish learning events where teachers and staff perform TED, or TELL (Teachers Expressing Leadership in Learning) presentations about their passions in learning to community audiences.
      10. Recognize that change doesn’t end and facilitate continued adapting of all plans and documents. No more five-year plans. Everything is timelined to the goal graduate.

      If the institution of education is not transforming fast enough, I do not believe it is because the “gurus” are not getting their hands dirty enough fixing the problems of specific high-need school districts.  I believe that every student deserves educators who are capable of adapting to changing times.