EdCamp North-Scott

One of several sessions conducted that day (and the day before) by the high school principal for parents about the 1:1 program

I am home from a grueling couple of days in Eldridge, Iowa, where I spoke to parents and community members of the North-Scott School District and then to the faculties of the junior and high schools.  North-Scott is implementing a one to one program for secondary schools, and the superintendent and school board members thought it might help for me to deliver a couple of kickoff presentations.  They’d seen me at the Iowa Association of School Boards conference a few months earlier.  I must have been in the zone that day, because I’m spending a good bit of time in Iowa in the next few months.  No other explanation.

First of all, the community session enjoyed an excellent turnout.  Too often, when I volunteer to do these things, I’ll get only a dozen or fewer parents show up.  Just too much else going on.  But the seventy-some people who showed up were engaged and put me through rich and progressive Q&A afterward.  There was a lot of concern about how teachers were going to learn to implement the devices and how they were going to keep up.

The next day, the principals and ed tech staff did something that I haven’t seen before.  They ran and EdCamp-style event between the two presentations I delivered, three sets of concurrent sessions, which the teachers defined in the auditorium and one of the principals typed into a Google Doc schedule.  Then they all walked up, took pictures of the schedule with the phones and set out to learn from each other.

I have to confess that I was a little skeptical about this experiment.  Most EdCamps are attended by teachers who are already pretty Web 2.0 savvy and committed to the whole value-of-the-audience thing.  But I’ve never known of this type of unconference PD being imposed on a group of teachers.  These guys surprised me.  I spent some time in about a third of the conversations, and they were active, rich with questions and answers, entirely focused on learning, and most had at least a couple of people who had experience with the topic at hand.  All of the teachers were engaged and seemed truly appreciative.

I have spoken to lots of faculties, who were told to be there and I often get the sense that my goal is to get the clueless to get one, a clue.  But lately, that whole thing seems to have changed.  The clueless seem to be very much in the minority, and they are paying attention to their colleagues who have knowledge and attitude.

It was a hard couple of days for me, but incredibly rewarding and encouraging.

Congratulations and Good Luck as you Climb the Mountain?

Brenda and I had to pleasure of attending a send-off event for area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) high school graduates who will be entering their first years at our alma mater, Western Carolina University. The whole “going off to college” thing has certainly changed, since my day of packing my clothes in a backpack and tossing it and a wooden crate of books into the back of my Fiat and hoping that it makes it up the mountains to Cullowhee. (Point in fact, I attended the local community college for two years, and one and a half years at East Caroline University before going to WCU.)

Unfortunately, none of the youngsters there were familiar with Western Carolina’s celebrated and accomplished 300+ instrument marching band

We were there last night to congratulate the youngsters, 15,000 applicants and just less than 1,500 admitted, and wish them luck, since only 35.1% of incoming freshmen at North Carolina public universities graduate in four years. It is encouraging, though not comforting to parents, that 59.1% gradate within six years (“College completion,” 2012).

The second reason that I attend these things is to count the number of alum who graduated before I did.  I counted one, by six years.  admittedly, It did take me six years to get my four year degree – for a wild variety of reasons.

At the beginning of the organized part of the event, led by WCU admissions and alumni officials, the youngsters were asked to introduce themselves, name the high schools they graduated from and their majors.  All graduated from Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham high schools, plus one from a school in up-state New York and one from somewhere in Florida.  Surprisingly, only two said, “Undecided” when reporting their majors, with a majority aiming for carriers in criminal justice, psychology, broadcasting, and one sociology.

Out of about 30 entering WCU freshmen from the Research Triangle of North Carolina, not a single one hopes to become a teacher.

Even though I am outraged, I am not surprised.




College completion. (2012, March). The Chronicle of Higher Education, Retrieved from http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/college-stats/

Water-Producing Billboard

We all know the importance of water. It’s the basis of our life and we wouldn’t be able to survive without it. It’s pretty scary to think that with all the abundance of resources some of us live our lives with there are still some communities that don’t have regular access to clean water. Well […]

Water-Producing BillboardWe all know the importance of water. It’s the basis of our life and we wouldn’t be able to survive without it. It’s pretty scary to think that with all the abundance of resources some of us live our lives with there are still some communities that don’t have regular access to clean water.

Well the people at UTEC, a University in Lima, designed a billboard that can help with this problem. We all know the air around us isn’t just empty, we are surrounded by all sorts of particles and gases and also moisture, lots of moisture. This billboard is designed to take the moisture out of the air and turn it in to usable and drinkable water.

Not only have they made this common structure much more useful, they are also doing it to inspire young people to come to their university to learn and possibly come up with the next big thing that will save the world.

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Schools that Practice Learning-Literacy

Many months ago I spoke at a leadership conference in Vancouver. When the event was over, officials with the British Columbia Principals and Vice Principals Association, held an invitational gathering of school leaders from throughout the province to create a new document establishing leadership standards for principals and vice principals.

To help them prepare for the upcoming conversations, seven relevantly accomplished professionals were invited to spend eight minutes each sharing their insights about school leadership and culture.  They included a former superintendent, international educator, a director of education for a large Canadian school district, a developmental psychologist, executive director of the (Canadian) National Staff Development Council, president of a large chain of grocery stores, a professor of sociology ––– and me.

As I explained here (Warlick, 2012), I was fortunate to have been the last to speak – addressing literacy and learning-literacy.  It was one of those singular learning experiences for me, sitting on the stage, listening to these really smart people, and changing the outline of my short talk with just about every idea set forth.  I watched as my own presentation morphed into something different, articulate, and –– awesome.

So, with the 2013-2014 school year gearing up, and my own education career spinning down*, I thought I would spend some bits here expanding on each of the items that seemed to spontaneously appear on my iPad that afternoon. 

A school that practices learning-literacy is a school where:

  • The distinctions between teacher and student begin to blur.

    In a time of rapid change, when new jobs emerge and fade faster than any education institution can respond and lifestyles change with a globally connected cross-cultural conversation, literacy becomes something bigger.  It no longer seeks to make readers.  It makes master learners, people who can successfully learn, unlearn, and relearn. **

    In this environment innovation becomes a commodity, the ability to resourcefully learn becomes the defining foundation of literacy, and the principal goal of formal education is to produce learners.  In this environment pedagogies shift from best teaching practices to best learning practices.

    Of course teaching does not go away and neither does a good lecture. but no teacher will deny that we all learned what we teach better, after we started teaching it, than we did as students in the classroom.  Teaching is a potent learning skill.  Therefore, perhaps one of the best ways that we can help our children to become skilled learners is to practice learning in front of them, and one of the best ways for children to learn, is to teach.

    This means, for instance, becoming comfortable using technologies in your classroom, with which you are not comfortable.  Demonstrating and talking about your process for figuring it out, or even asking for help from students becomes a life-size illustration of adapting to change – being a master learner.

  • There is less reliance on textbooks and authority, and more reliance on the work of learning.

    Our information landscape has changed: in what it looks like, what we look at to view it, how we find it, where we go to find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. We all engage in content generating conversations through blogs, twitter, YouTube, and what ever is to come. We can no longer believe it, simply because it was written down.  We are more than information consumers today.  We are participants.

    I learned to assume the authority of the information that I encountered. I was taught with approved textbook, in academically managed libraries and by teachers whose position was based on their learnedness.  Questioning the information that I encountered was not encouraged. It was unnecessary.

    Today, habitually questioning content is required. It is a foundation of being literate.  To become literate, students should learn within an information environment that exemplifies today’s information landscape, where discussions of an idea’s validity become part of learning the idea.  We must learn to be responsible participants.

  • There is a natural convergence between the rich information skills of literacy and numeracy, and the information and data that define the content areas.

    Information is increasingly networked, digital and abundant (overwhelming). Each of the qualities are new and they expand what it means to be literate. If you agree that learning is at least a major part of why we become literate today, then knowing how to employ these new qualities, in order to learn, are basic literacy skills.

    At this writing, I am creating an infographic that tells a story about how today’s North Carolina General Assembly came to be and what it cost.  Because information is networked, I am able to find, evaluate and select information about campaign spending and its sources that would not have been practically available to me in the past.  

    Because that information was digital, I can capture that information, translate, organize, manipulate and interpret it using tools that didn’t exist when I graduated from high school.  

    Because information is abundant (we are all overwhelmed by it), I am using graphic design and publishing tools that didn’t exist when I left classroom teaching, trying the practically convey my findings in a visually clear and compelling message.

    There is a physics to today’s information landscape and accomplishing goals relies, in no small way, to the ability to harness these laws of digital behavior to invent solutions to brand new problems. 

  • Teachers teach from new learning, as master learners.

    When my grandfather was in college, molecules were defined as, “The smallest part of any substance which possesses the characteristic properties and qualities of that substance, and which can exist alone in a free state.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1913)  By the time my father was in school, atoms were defined as “A particle of matter so minute as to admit of no division. Atoms are conceived to be the first principles or component parts of all bodies.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1928) I learned about electrons, protons and neutrons while my children learned about quarks and other strange particles. Today, we’re reading about future computers that will operate on the behaviors of quanta.

    The answers to the test questions are changing.

    According to a 2010 Bowker report, 2009 saw 1,829 new books published in the U.S. about agriculture.  5,131 new books were published about computers, approximately 9,000 each about business and education. 14,281 brand new books were published about history – new knowledge about history.  As we gain more access to information and to each other, the new knowledge that we generate as a society not only astounds us, but it is forcing us to redefine what it means to be educated.  We have rapidly moved from a world of information scarcity to information abundance, and an education is no longer measured by what you can remember, but what you can learn and what you can do with what you’ve learned.

    Teachers, who teach solely from their university experience do a disservice to their learners.  Teachers should model themselves as habitual and resourceful learners, and skilled artisans of what they’ve learned.  We must walk into our classrooms out of today, not from the day that they graduated.

  • Digital Footprints become a central part of the school’s culture, building evolving personal and school identities based on learning and “doing” with the learning.

    When I built the nation’s first state department of education website, there were probably less than 100 parents in the entire state who could access it.  But today, institutions are identified by their web sites.  Some sites have become institutions unto themselves – Wikipedia, Amazon.com and Google.

    When most of our children’s parents think about the institutions that support them in their daily endeavors, they recall URLs instead of building facades.  They expect to interact with their world through the World Wide Web.  They expect to have the same digital access to the schools their children attend and the teachers who manage their classrooms.  It has evolved from the exception to an expectation.

    This is an enormous opportunity for education, to be able to communicate with and even educate the communities that they serve.  We can distinguish ourselves, present ourselves for judgement and tell new stories about education, teaching and learning not through bureaucratic methods of measurement, but by enthusiastically sharing what and how our children are learning, and what they can do with what they are learning. 

  • The library magnifies the world outside, but also reflects the culture inside, curating collections of learner-produced media products.

    As already mentioned, a school that practices learning-literacy cultivates a digital footprint, along with its learners.  One outcome of preparing children for an unpredictable future is that they are learning things that their parents didn’t know.  When those parents visit their schools’  web sites, it should not be merely to learn about their children, but also to learn things that they didn’t know, to be astounded, to spark new conversations for their families and to redefine teachers as master learners, not simply learned.

    Since children are not merely learning, but also doing with what they learn, then they are in constant production, working knowledge, like raw material, into refined and valuable information products.  The school’s library becomes the repository for these products and the librarian, its archivalist.

    Learners will visit the library not merely to find what’s available from outside, but also from inside, to find work that previous students have done, and perhaps even improve on that work.  After thousands of years of civilization, almost nothing starts from scratch. 

  • Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.

    I later rephrased this one to “In a school that practices learning-literacy, teachers model learning, students learn to teach themselves, and schools educate the community.” This sentence, with its three principles, says it all for me.

Teachers Model Learning
Students Learn to Teach Themselves
Schools Educate the Community




* I’ll be preaching for years to come – just not quite so frequently.

** A quote often attributed to Alvin Tofler, but actually his paraphrasing of Herbert Gerjuoy’s “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

(1913). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.

(1928). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.

Bowker LLC, (2010). Bowker reports traditional u.s. book production flat in 2009. Retrieved from website: http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2010/pr_04142010.shtml

Warlick, D. (2012, October 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=3733 

Will Public Education in North Carolina Rest In Peace?

You may see more politically-focused writing from me in the near future.  Though I’ll continue to write about education, certain developments here in North Carolina and in the United States have me concerned about the future of public schools and the future of democracy.


Suffered from the decline of tobacco and cotton, and local manufacturing, the town of Wilson (pop 50,000) decided to reposition itself for the emerging digital economy. With a long history of investment in local infrastructure and utilities, the town built Greenlight, a municipally owned and operated fiber-to-the-home optic communication network. The decision and its subsequent implementation earned the town recognition and praise and, according to a recent ILSR paper, “

People and businesses have moved to Wilson to take advantage of the new network and even some who initially opposed it are now strongly supportive. 

One of its most avid and vocal supports has been Branch Bank & Trust (BB&T), a major employer in the town.

Wilson had long been frustrated by the poor service provided by CenturyLink and Time Warner and tried for years to work with the incumbent providers to improve the town’s and county’s broadband service. CenturyLink (then EMBARQ) worked with the city for a time, but then backed out. Time Warner had literally laughed at the idea. (O’Boyle, 2001)

By 2011, customers of Greenlight were the first in the state to enjoy 100 Mbps home service. Businesses could purchase up to 1 Gbps with existing equipment and even higher speeds could be accommodated. The price for home service was less than what families in neighboring communities were paying for a tenth of the speed. (O’Boyle & Mitchell 2012)

That same year, North Carolina’s legislature, which had just won Republican control for the first time since reconstruction, passed House Bill 129, called “Level Playing Field/Local Gov’t Competition.” The law effectively stops local governments from competing with telcos by preventing them from establishing their own common-good broadband services. Backed by Time Warner, AT&T, CenturyLink and the North Carolina Cable Television Association (NCCTA), and more than a million dollars ($1,159,930) that they donated to state legislative campaigns – and supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) (O’Boyle & Mitchell 2013), the law follows a disturbing trend in this state – the legislative takeover of local governments’ authorities to implement taxes, enact environmental regulation and manage their own landfills, water infrastructures and airports, to mention only a few.


On another front, our General Assembly, further empowered by the obscenely funded 2012 elections (infographic to come) that resulted in a Republican Governor and more conservative ALEC influenced legislators, has set about what I can best describe as the systematic discrediting and disassembly of public education in North Carolina.

Ironically, the Fayetteville newspaper web page cited here also displayed this Google ad urging readers to consider becoming school teachers.

They have dramatically cut funding and vital programs, eliminated class-size caps, phased out teacher tenure, eliminated higher pay for teachers who earn graduate degrees and eliminated more than 5,000 teaching positions and nearly 4,000 teacher assistants. (Hasty, 2013)

During the same legislative session, state law makers, seeking to save deserving children from our “failing public schools,” appropriated $10,000,000 of taxpayer money to award $4,200 vouchers to families so that their children can attend private schools. The program grows to $40,000,000 the second year. Portrayed as a “way out” for low performing public school children, a fiscal note that accompanied the original bill (House Bill 944) showed that 30% of the children receiving the vouchers were going to be attending private schools, even without the vouchers.


If we might follow the purpose and practice of this regressive regime down a few more legislative sessions, it may not be too extreme to envision a law that prohibits local towns and counties from providing public schooling for their children.

The tax which will be paid for [the] purpose [of education] is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.
–Thomas Jefferson to George Wythe, 1786. (Coates)

Coates, E. R. (n.d.). Favorite jefferson quotes: From the writings of thomas jefferson. Retrieved from http://www.famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff5.htm 

Hasty, K. (2013, July 26). Partnership for children luncheon: Governor’s education advisor says there’s hope for n.c. schools. The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved from http://fayobserver.com/articles/2013/07/26/1272034

O’Boyle, T., & Mitchell, C. (2013). How national cable and dsl companies banned the competition in north carolina. Retrieved from Institute for Local Self-Reliance website: http://www.ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/nc-killing-competition.pdf

O’Boyle, T. (2001, April 19). Interview by Grant Goings

O’Boyle, T., & Mitchell, C. (2012). Wilson gives greenlight to fast internet. Retrieved from Institute for Local Self-Reliance website: http://www.ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/wilson-greenlight.pdf