Is the Educational Journal Dead?

Certainly, the Education Journal is not dead!  Some folks, though, seem to think that it’s what I believe, or what I want.

[This is an edited version of a comment that I posted this morning on Matthew Tabor’s blog, Education for the Aughts]

Stone Man in Toronto Airport
I took this picture at the Toronto Airport the other day.  Kinda fits here.

Matthew sums up my position by saying…

Warlick’s question rests on the assumption that education blogs are a necessary and irreplaceable part of education curricula.

This is a fair summary.  Then he states, “Simply put, they aren’t.”  I disagree, but more on that later. Then he writes.

I want to know about a professor’s areas of expertise, with whom they’ve studied/collaborated and what they’ve produced. If a professor answers, “I read journals that are peer-reviewed and based on solid scholarship,” I find that a credit to them.

Hey, me too!  In fact, I think that it is reasonable to assume that any college instructor is keeping up with the latest in the literature of their field.  As a student, who wants to perform well, it would serve me to know what journals are read by my teacher.  But Matthew continues later in his post…

Warlick might as well say, “Why would I want an educator who knows how to buy a paper-based journal, open it with his hands and read it when I could have one who knows how to click a Firefox icon, type in a URL and read that?”

I’m not sure why people seem to assume that if one advocates one thing that it necessarily means  the rejection of another.  The fact is that Matthew demonstrates, through his disagreement with my article, the value of an immature publishing scheme. The casualness of the medium makes it difficult to present a complete scenario for a position.  But, it is what’s not said that leads to conversations (like this) where fuller understanding and even new and valuable ideas can be found or even grown. I’ll be presenting at a staff development institute this week, here in North Carolina, where farming is the theme of the event.  Not sure what I’ll be wearing to match the theme, but I suspect that I’ll talk about how today’s information landscape is like farming.  We have fertile ground to cultivate.  There are rocks, and clay, and even weeds that suck nutrients out of the soil.  But the blogosphere can be cultivated by skilled information workers through reading, thinking, writing, and conversing — and I believe that this act of cultivating content in the edublogosphere is critical to any education leader, espcially education professors. When I started teaching, I had no reason to believe that my job would change in any substantial way for the next 30 or 35 years.  In that professional circumstance, the occasional research-based and vetted article directly applicable to what and how I taught was sufficient.  But today, we are working in

  • a new and rapidly evolving economic, social, and political environment,
  • with students who enjoy an outside the classroom information experience that often far exceeds that of their classrooms in depth and richness, and
  • an information landscape that has changed what it means to be literate.

I believe that a profession that is challenged to adapt to such dramaticaly shifting conditions must engage in conversations — must be willing to cultivate new ground.  I think it’s part of why blogging has become so successful, because people need new ground, new ideas, new conversations.  Perhaps it’s out of the blogosphere that new directions in formal education literature might come. So, again, I’d ask what journals my education instructor is reading, if it hasn’t already been stated or implied from the syllabus, and I’d ask what blogs they are reading, to learn what conversations they are engaged in.  If I and other students read the same blogs, it might make for some valuable new conversations in class. Thanks, sincerely, for continuing the conversation, Matthew.

Some good conversations…

I got nearly nine and a half hours of sleep last night.  I must have been tired.  Gary Stager isn’t tired.  Traveling around in Europe must be energizing because he’s been doing a lot of talking on my blog.

Gary is the, in my opinion, the consummate skeptic — among many other things.  He challenges much of what I say and I hope that it isn’t just me, but that doesn’t matter.  He and others are a critical part of what blogging is.  Yesterday, he asked why I would value a college instructor who reads blogs.  The reason is that…

Well I’m not going to write it again.  Just go back to Another Question for Interviewers… and Miami Rocks.  The conversation is the reason.

Readers & Writers

[Live Blogged]

I’m at a learning conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  Robin Martin is sharing some of his experiences with classroom blogging.  He uses  He writes the blog assignments and students respond with comments.

One project involves a friend of Robin, a writer in Japan, has shared some of his short stories.  The students read the stories and then share their impressions and critiques via the blog’s comments.

One of the stories was not popular with the students.  The writer had create some tension in the story by withhold information.  The kids hated it.  Final, one of the students, on his own, wrote a prequel to the story and Martin shared that with the author and engaged in more conversation, via the blog.

Another Question for Interviews…

[This post has generated a lot of conversation, at least partly because it was rather quickly and poorly written, masking its original intent. I have taken the liberty of editing it, a bit, in an attempt to clarify what I was getting at. Can I do that? Of course. It’s my blog. Added text is italicized and deleted text is striked]

More than a year ago, I wrote about questions that school administrators might ask prospective teachers, to determine their 21st century literacy skills.  In seven or eight months, I’ll be posing a new one, questions that prospective teacher employees might ask their interviewers to determine the school’s environment with regard to teaching 21st century literacy.  I’ll be posting that message, at least partly, because my daughter will be entering the education job market and partly because in many parts of my country, we are experiencing a severe teacher shortage.  Future-ready schools might serve to attract talented new teachers.

At this point, might daughter starts classes next week, a number of which are education methods courses.  During the first day, the instructor will introduce the course, its goals, a syllabus, and her formula for grading.  She or he will then ask if the class has any questions.  I would suggest that someone ask,

What blogs do you read? Do you read any blogs? If so, which ones?

I would pose this question primarily to get to know the professor. Learn which journals she reads, the blogs, and other sources of professional discourse, and then read them yourself. It’s a strategy that I was taught early in my college years (30 years ago).
If the instructor stammers or in any other way answers in the unknowing or the untrusting, then there’s opportunity for everyone in this class to learn. 

Of course, you do not want to be the one who asked the question that the instructor couldn’t answer — especially if it might seem, in any way, loaded.  So immediately ask what journals he or she reads.  Save face!

2¢ Worth!

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Miami Rocks

Video Tennis in the 1970s
video tennis today
Video Tennis Today

It was a good day, yesterday, at Miami Country Day School.  I have to say that the audience there was one of the most positively responsive groups of teachers I’ve worked with as long as I can remember.  Maybe there IS something to HUMIDITY.  I felt, at times, like I was walking around in a terrarium.  But the air conditioning worked in doors (more than I can say about my hotel room last night in Orlando).  I suspect that John Davies (mentioned yesterday) has had a huge influence on the school, because they were — well I just can’t think of the right word.

Interestingly, the session that generated the most conversation was video games.  There were a number of younger teachers in in the audience who spoke very eloquently about their gaming experience.  We talked a lot about the freedom to fail, but one young many admitted that he didn’t happily fail.  He got angry when he failed.  He put the game down for a while, went to something else, and then came back and worked at it again.

I think that one of the parts that resonated most with me came when I displayed a slide where I quote Glenn Wiebe (History Tech), “Games haven’t gotten simpler over time, they’ve gotten more complex.  Why?  Because the brain demands it!”

Generally speaking, technology has become simpler over time.  That’s how it sells, by turning the tool into an alliance — a toaster.  Certainly there are exceptions.  But a fairly consistent exception has been video games.  Video games have become increasingly sophisticated and complex — and is it what Wiebe says, that the brain demands more complexity.

Does the brain, at play, demand complexity.

The question that this discussion lead to, in Miami, was, “How can you encourage brains at play in our classrooms?”

What do you think?

Literacy & Loathing in Miami

I was mostly trying to avoid getting lost yesterday, and, so, did not get my camera out.  I pulled this photo from Flickr Creative Commons.  Should see some photos appearing in my flicker badge (to the right) soon.

I’m not sure what I mean by that title.  It’s just sorta came out.  I suspect, though, that it comes from that weekend I spent in Myrtle Beach in nineteen seventy something with some old college friends, and I read Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas sitting out on the deck.  I suspect that any prolonged visit to Miami would be something of the adventure that Hunter S. Thompson described — sans the drugs of course.

At any rate, I’ll be here far too briefly to have many adventures, and I’ve already gotten lost once.  So that’s probably it.  Finally finding the restaurant last night and introducing myself to the leadership of the Miami Country Day School, I enjoyed a wonderful evening of talking about literacy and electronic media.  The headmaster of the school, John Davies, is the author of two books on the subject, Educating Students in a Media Saturated Culture (1993) and DOA: Education in the Electronic Culture (2003).

The restaurant was one of those affairs where the menu doesn’t simply say Ribs or Snapper.  Each dish takes at least five words to describe it, each with at least as many syllables, and the food is arranged symmetrically, either horizontally or vertically.  It was good eatin’.  My dad was say, “You’re in high cotton now!”

They asked me lots of questions, most of which I was fairly well prepared to answer.  It surprised me.  We also got pretty deeply into the ethics part of literacy, bouncing back and forth a lot of questions and positions.  I can’t say that I learned anything new, but I further realized how complex discussions of ethics and information can become — even if you leave religion out of the formula.  We (my generation) are so seated in a published print information landscape, and even if we do become savvy with using the new information landscape, we still carry a lot of baggage with us about information.  These are issues that I have to put myself on the couch over and hammer them out.

At any rate, It will be a long day of presentation, conversation, and learning, hot and humid, and then a drive up to Orlando for work with Orange County Schools tomorrow.

Image Citation:
Minor, Steve. “Lincoln Theater (1936).” Lumierefl’s Photostream. 26 Jun 2007. 14 Aug 2007 <>.

More Ranting about Information…

I just spent about fifteen minutes, at the airport, writing a comment, only to be asked for a Captcha word where not Captcha word was given.  Because of the time I spent writing it, I’ll just dump it here.  The blog is Unknown Future, but I do not know the name of the author, nor the e-mail address.  In I’ve Been Critical Thinking…, the author wrote,

The more I read the more I realize that blogging isn’t just about writing but it’s also about reading.

Sky rockets and star bursts.

I remember when Will Richardson wrote just about this very same thing, and I’ve referred to that blog many times.  He said that blogging is not about writing alone. It’s about reading and writing, and reading and writing, and more reading and writing.  There’s also a lot of thinking in there. Hey! It’s about literacy.

The kids don’t call it Web 2.0. They don’t even call it blogging or even social networks. But they’re doing it. It’s about conversation, and it’s about an entirely different information landscape — which demands a different notion of literacy. The problem is that we have to label it to teach it, so that teachers realize that it’s different. But it isn’t technology that’s different. It’s the information that’s changed.

Thanks, whoever, for continuing the conversation!

The Question has Changed…

[Originally posted to TechLearning Blog on 6 Aug 2007]

Last week, I presented a featured address at the Council for Chief State School Officers’ summer institute in Portland, Maine.  This was a golden opportunity to enlighten state superintendents, commissioners, and deputies of education from each of the fifty states with the realities of schooling in the 21st century — if I might be so self-aggrandizing. 

Alas, I squandered that opportunity on the wrong question.

Dolls dressed alike...For several years, I have sought to make a case for a broader definition of literacy skills, and, consequently, to promote learning environments and experiences that demand these skills — as learning literacies.  It became clear, while in Portland, that the case has been made, the “Why” has been answered.  Many of the talks and demonstrations were centered around the economic realities of our times and the inadequacies of today’s basic skills.  Yet in every conversation that followed, it became increasingly clear that the case is made.  Leadership is convinced.  Certainly many influential people remain doubtful.  Some aren’t even asking the question.  But the time has come for us to focus our attentions and our creativity to the “What” and the “How.” 

At the CCSSO institute, one presentation did aim itself squarely at the “What,” Mark Tuckers presentation on Tough Choices or Tough Times, a controversial blueprint for 21st century schooling.  “How” arose in almost every formal discussion, primarily seeking ways to convince their constituents — telling a new story.

What and how are not new conversations for us.  They are our bread and butter.  But how do we elevate that conversation.  How do we inspire it with energy and new language?  How do we make it our interest to redesign and retool?

What do you think?

PS:  I just scanned through a recent

Image Citation:
Smit, Erik Eti. “Why are we doing this?.” Eti’s Photostream. 1 Apr 2006. 13 Aug 2007 <>.

How Web 2.0 is your News

Google Blogoscoped announced on Wednesday that Google News is adding a new feature.

Google News Adds (Special) Comments:

Google News USA is rolling out an experimental feature that lets people or organizations who are part of a news story add a comment to the news. “Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we’ll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as ’comments’ so readers know it’s the individual’s perspective, rather than part of a journalist’s report,” (Lenssen)

New Google News Feature
As someone who has been misquoted on more than one occasion in the media, and having worked in a state governmental agency, where the pressures are enormous working under the “final” eye of the media, the ability to turn news into more of a conversation, among those directly involved is intriguing.

The Blogospcoped report covers this point as well…

News reports already often interview “all sides” of the story, but they don’t always do – and they might also use selective quoting to skew an issue, either to push through an agenda of the publishing house, or just because the article’s author was keen to make a certain point.

Steve Rubel, at Micro Persuasion (a PR blog), reported on the announcement the same day, and suggests, with some concern, that PR firms might respond to News items with the power of their media skills, and perhaps turn Google News into an editorial source. (Rubel)

Blogoscoped continues…

this feature might also aid to dilute news reports; imagine, say, an Associated Press reporter who researched some weeks to come up with an incredibly fact-checked piece about food poisoning with Acme Inc’s products. Acme Inc, trying to prevent an image scandal, now issues a factually wrong but well-written counter-statement to Google News, who will put it next to the news bits. Readers might now figure, “Oh, AP got it wrong I guess, there’s the counter-statement right there, I’ll move on to other news.”

So, where’s Walter Cronkite when you need him?  Where do we go for the safety and comfort of truth?  Or do we rejoice in being freed from the tyranny of broadcasted truth?  I suspect that it doesn’t matter.  There’s no going back.  Our information infrastructure has technically restructured itself, and we live in the age of the multicast. 

The only comfort — our ONLY safety — is in people who are critical thinkers, skilled information workers, who ask questions about the answers that they find — by habit. 

That puts the ball in our court, teachers.

Lenssen, Philipp. “Google News Adds (Special) Comments.” [Weblog Google Blogoscoped] 8 Aug 2007. 11 Aug 2007 <>.
Rubel, Steve. “Google News Now Has Feedback, Editing and More Risk.” [Weblog Micro Persuasion] 8 Aug 2007. 11 Aug 2007 <>.

Working at Cary Academy Today

I can remember the excitement that we felt and expressed at the NC State Department of Public Instruction, when we heard that Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS Institute, was starting a tech-rich independent school in Cary — Cary Academy.  A paradoxically traditional looking campus, Cary Academy has sense Model for Conditionsdistinguished itself for its instructional use of ICT, it’s careful selection of faculty from around the world and the spirit of innovation, that does not seem to have faded, as they recent initiated a 1:1 program issuing tablet PCs to their students.

That Cary Academy has its own Wikipedia article says a lot.

I’ve been asked to speak to the faculty today, a singular honor, and one that leaves me humbled — and just a little nervous.  My topics will revolve around the new web, also known as Web 2.0, and contemporary literacy.  The basic structure that I will wrap my presentation around is three conditions that are converging in our classrooms, and when realized and harnessed,  can turn classrooms into learning engines, and consequently instill in students a learning lifestyle.