Were We Ready?

A few days ago my son posted this short statement on Facebook:

We weren’t ready for the Internet

He got some affirming comments and I just added,

Because of the Internet and other advances in telecommunications and broadcasting, we have become a world of nations divided by ideology instead of nations divided by borders. You can’t “storm the beaches” of the ideas that are contrary to yours.

Being a Digital Detective
Being Literate Means being a Digital Detective

This is actually something that I’ve thought about for quite a few years and the reason I spent the last 15 years trying to convince teachers to redefine literacy.

The fact is that we believe what we read on the Internet, because we were taught to believe what we read.  Our schooling was purposely limited to textbooks, compelling (and not so compelling) lectures and library resources selected by librarians with advanced education.  We try to limit our students’ learning to what is reliably accurate.  As a result, our notion of what it is to be literate is limited.  Can you “read and understand what someone, who you trust, has handed you to read.” ..and can you answer questions about it on a test?

In my efforts, I respelled the 3 Rs with 3 Es.  Instead of teaching children to read, we should be helping them learn to Expose what is true.  To expose what is true, you must learn to read it.  But being able to search for, find and synthesize the information, and select that which is most appropriate to your situation, has become just as critical as being able to read it.

I use to suggest to teachers that they should, at every occasion, ask their students, “How do you know that’s true?”  I added that students should be free to ask their teachers, “How do you know that’s true?”  I suspect that if political candidates were regularly asked, “How do you know that?” and we demanded answers, our leadership might be quite different.

The other Es were:

  1. Learning to Employ information, instead just teaching students to calculate numbers
  2. Learning to Express Ideas Compelling, instead of just teaching students to write a coherent paragraph
  3. There was a 4th E – exposing, employing and expressing information with respect for and devotion to what is true, Ethically using information to answer question, solve problems and accomplish goals.

Class Blogmeister Retires After a 12-Year Run

Class Blogmeister - August 2005
Class Blogmeister - August 2005

I launched Class Blogmeister in 2004, realizing that there were a lot of teachers who needed a blogging platform for their students, one that was designed for the classroom.  I anticipated that the service would live for a couple of years, after which other more skillfully constructed and professionally supported services would be available.  They were available, but teachers wanted to keep using CB and I wanted to keep learning from their inventive ideas and add features as they were requested.

Now, 12 years later, I have mostly retired from speaking and writing, and my wife and I are spending much of our time in the foothills of North Carolina, helping and enjoying our aging parents.

So, sadly, I will be closing Class Blogmeister around the middle of June this year.  It’s seen a pretty good run, serving over 300,000 teachers and students from 90 countries, who have written nearly 1.5 million blog articles – and I have been the real beneficiary, learning from this amazing community.

I want to commend everyone who has used Class Blogmeister for your adventurous nature and your steadfast adherence to the idea that teaching is an art.  Student blogging requires courageous teachers – and I believe that “courage” is one of the central defining qualities of all good teachers.

I thank you for your loyalty and patience, and especially for being a good teacher.  I can think of no better compliment to pay.

RIP NCLB

No Child Left Behind Act  1
GW Bush Signs NCLB into Law

On January 8, 2002, George W. Bush signed into law, the No Child Left Behind Act. For 5,084 days, the United States has engaged in despicable acts of child labor, forcing its children to slog through physically and emotionally harmful toil and stresses, for reasons that have nothing to do with what was best for them.

We have speculated about the intent of No Child Left Behind, a title that exemplifies political PR’s employment of the english language to “..make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”1 Our speculations have varied into the realms of conspiracy, going so far as to suspect an all out effort to kill public education in America. We have delighted in our own retitling of the law, my favorite being, “No Child Left able to Think for Him Self.”

Sometime today, President Barrack Obama will sign into law, Every Student Succeeds, overhauling the flawed NCLB, which has corrupted the institution of public education for 14 years. Just like the Bush-era law, Every Student Succeeds emanates from political machinations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel calling it a victory for “conservative reform.”2

Of course, returning education to the hands of parents, teachers, states and school boards is not a solution. It is an opportunity for courageous and inventive educators to seise. So here are some suggestions from one in a minority of educators, who actually remember classrooms unconstrained by policy compliance and political accountability.

R Throw the scripts away and Resourcefully invent practices that work here and now or our tomorrow.
I Return scientifically proven research to its proper function and Innovate. Bring back the art of teaching.
P Reject the practices of beating our children over their heads with test-prep. Instead, inflect them with Passion. Become passionate again about teaching and what it is that you teach, and make it glow with that passion.
     
N Take the “No” out of education. For 5,000 days, education has been defined by it limits.  Education today must be defined by its lack of limits.
C Don’t teach students to collaborate, to be communicators, to be creative. Instead, create learning experiences that utilize Collaboration, Communication and Creativity to energize students’ accomplishment of things bigger than they are.
L Reinvent Literacy. Free yourself and your students from 19th century notions of the three-Rs.  Look for the literacies that instill in us all, a learning lifestyle.
B Be Bold. Courageously teach, what has not been taught before and craft learning experiences that are new and exciting. You students will love you for it, and their communities will fund your educational programs.

 

 

1 Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and the English Language. Penguin.

2 Barrett, T. (2015, December 9). Obama to sign ‘No Child Left Behind’ Overhaul. CNN. Retrieved December 10, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/09/politics/education-bill-no-child-left-behind-senate-obama/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

 

 

Three Convictions

The fun part of writing my latest book has begun – the second draft. It’s a bit like sculpting, looking at each paragraph, knocking out words that distract and inserting ones that enlighten. What’s really exciting is reading something that I had expressed poorly, and suddenly being able to fix it because I finally comprehend the idea’s deeper core.

I am currently working on the pages that describe my first year of teaching (no computers yet), and I find that I ended that year with three convictions that kept me in the education profession and helped to carry me through the next 40 years.

  1. Teaching is important.  If I had understood this during my early days in the classroom, I would not have allowed myself to get tripped up so easily.
  2. Teaching is a personal art.  A classroom is not a laboratory and none of its subjects can be controlled.  Even though there is much that is known about what works and what doesn’t, the most important tools for a successful teacher are imagination and inventiveness.
  3. Teaching requires a passion for both what and why you teach.  To be imaginative and inventive in your classroom, you must already know a lot about your subject, be in the habitual practice of learning and unlearning, and understand why your students should know it.

“Are teachers going the way of local bookstores?”

In my new situation of retired educator (or semi-retired educator. I can’t really decide), I find myself paying less attention to Twitter and more to friends and relatives on Facebook.  But this morning, when I started my computer and Twitteriffic flashed up, I scanned through the most recent tweets from my long-time and famous educator friends – and my eye landed on one by Doug Peterson  actually a retweet of Miguel Guhlin’s,

The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher is a March 25 article in The Atlantic written by Michael Godsey, a “veteran high-school English educator.”  Asked by a college student about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, he writes,

I never think it’s enough to say that the role is shifting from “content expert” to “curriculum facilitator.” Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation’s most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The “virtual class” will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country’s best teachers (a.k.a. a “super-teacher”), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.

To that, I say, “poppycock!” How’s that for post-career reflection and rejection of the ideals that I seemingly promoted for the last 20+ years? But the fact is that I never promoted such a future for the classroom and find the arrangement to be personally revolting and counter-productive to what I believe the purpose of education to be.

It’s an interesting question and one that many of us have challenged ourselves and each other with, “What is the purpose of school.” Here’s a good answer, in my opinion – Why School by Will Richardson and what is described in Invent To Learn, by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.  But here is my ready answer that is short and to the point.

The purpose of school is to prepare our children for adult life during the next 70 to 80 years.

Life doesn’t happen on a video screen and it can’t be simulated with a game.  Goddey’s “fantastic computer screen” will help as will the games and video clips from top thinkers on TED.  In fact, they are essential.  But the fallacy is the assumption and fear that technology replaces the teacher.

To be sure, nobody in education, but those in the darkest recesses of denial, believes that the role of the teacher is not changing.  The shift from “content expert” to “curriculum facilitator” is certainly happening – and it should.  But NOTHING, my most loyal readers, IS EVER THAT SIMPLE.

A phrase like “sage on the stage to guide on the side” is intended as an idiom to focus the attention of experienced professional educators who already grasp the changing conditions that are reshaping school.  It is not an all-encompassing description of the future of classroom instruction.  Frankly, while reading Godsey’s advice to his student, I saw no need for classrooms at all – and that’s the last thing I’d want to see for my grandchildren and their children.

We have to acknowledge that there is a powerful cabal that desires and promotes just the scenario described by Mr. Godsey.  They fancy an education system that spends its billions on their videos, games, tutorials and assessment products, instead of unionized public school teachers.  Products, whose service can be measured (test scores), can be marketed.

In my mind the most preposterous statement in the whole article is the advice of a superintendent, aired on NPR, “If you can Google it, why teach it?”  ..and this gets back to the question, “What is the purpose of school?”  If education’s objective is to equip our children with facts that they can recall on state test day, then I would agree with the superintendent’s statement.  But if its purpose is to prepare our children for adult life, then the job of the teacher is to help learners to understand what they’ve Googled and develop the essential literacy skills and habits of questioning, analyzing and assigning context to the Googled information.

What we can predict about life in the next 70 to 80 years is almost nothing, beyond the timeless practices of responsibility, compassion and providing value to the community.  It will continue to be a time of rapid change, inventions that redefine how we accomplish our goals and discoveries that challenge our beliefs and philosophies.

The common core subject of every classroom today should be learning to learn.

And this brings us back around to Michael Godsey’s apparent fear that his college earned knowledge of literature has become obsolete.  Our classrooms still require experts.  But experts today are no longer known for knowing all there is to know about a subject.

Today’s experts are known for being highly skilled at learning and relearning the ever growing and often changing knowledge about their subject.

This is the notion of expertise that teachers need to model and that students need to see every day, the essential and constant practice of contextual learning-skills / learning-literacies.

Adult life is about learning.

 

 

Back to the Future

Technology & Learning Magazine is running excerpts of my in-progress book about the last 35 years of educational technology. Here is the first paragraph of the first excerpt…

My first direct encounter with the personal computer came during the winter of 1981 as part of a diagnostic/prescriptive reading course I was taking at Wingate College for teacher recertification. The instructor, Dr. Henry Funderburk, also ran a commercial learning clinic on the side.

Read the rest here: http://goo.gl/kfhfvS

Another Conference

It was like a gut punch,

This morning,

When I glanced at my Twitter feed, and realized that the North Carolina Technology In Education Society’s annual edtech conference began today, completely without my knowledge.  How could that happen?

My knee-jerk response was, “I must truly be retired.”

But that wasn’t good enough.  I tweeted about it.  I posted my thoughts on Facebook.  Then a conference representative saw my comments, connected, and invited me over to the convention center tomorrow.  

If I was truly retired, would I go?  If I go does it mean that I’m not ready to retire?

It doesn’t matter.  I’m going.

So I downloaded the conference App and started scanning the presentations.  One observation.  It seems that personalized learning has become the new ready phrase that can be wrapped around any and every technology that anyone wants to sell you.  Sad!

But what really wrinkled my brain was a tweet from Brandy Reader from Davidson County.  Now tell me this (if you’re old enough to remember) 

“How Jetsons would it have seemed, when I started teaching in 1976, that I’d hear someone say (tweet)…

 How could I not go?

Marimuse Interview

In 1993, while I was working at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and exploring the educational potentials of the, then emerging, Internet, I ran across an intriguing and inspiring summer project being conducted at Maricopa Community College in Phoenix, Arizona.

With the local school district, they invited a diverse group of students who would be entering fourth, fifth or sixth grades (all at-risk of failure) into a MUD  or Multi-User Domain.  Essentially, a MUD is a text-based virtual environment.  Think SecondLife  where the environment is read about, instead of seen graphically.

This particular MUD was empty, flat asphalt.  These students, some of whom you couldn’t get to write their names in a classroom, were challenged to create a virtual city in the MUD, by learning a simple programming language and describing its buildings, parks and their own virtual homes, in all their richness, with words.

You can read what Howard Rheingold had to say about the project here.

At the end of the project, I invited a number of the organizers and volunteers to a virtual office I was maintaining at MIT’s MediaMOO, where my avatar was known as Peiohpah.  There I interviewed the team about their experience. I had acquired a virtual video camera, which recorded the exchanges.

Here is a portion of that interview played back on Pei’s TV.

[on Pei's TV]      ***********************************
[on Pei's TV]      **   C a m p   M a r i M U S E   **
[on Pei's TV]      **  An Interview with the staff  **
[on Pei's TV]      **      of the first virtual     **
[on Pei's TV]      **         Computer Camp         **
[on Pei's TV]      ***********************************
[on Pei's TV]
[on Pei's TV]      . . . the camera pans left to right over
                 Pei's Studio
 
[on Pei's TV]  A cozy corner with two comfortable sofas
               arranged for conversation in front of a large
               picture of a schoolhouse. Curiously, the
               walls of the schoolhouse appear to be
               transparent. There is a copy of Tuesday's
               *New York Times* on an end table.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila smiles at the camera
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "I'm here with a few friends today
               to talk about a project that they have been
               involved in this summer, Camp MariMUSE.  I
               call them friends although I have never met
               them face-to-face, and don't even know the
               sounds of their voices.  Yet I have
               profoundly enjoyed their companionship by
               interacting not only with their words, but
               with their imaginations, and -- most
               importantly to this interview -- with their
               innovation."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei turns to the rest of the group.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Hi, Pei"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon  looks toward Pei, pleased to be
               here.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Why don't we start with my guests
               introducing them selves."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody waves to TV land
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K giggles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, ""I am Lila on the MariMuse, a
               volunteer for the project.  I am a student
               at Phoenix college, a returning student"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "I am Billie Hughes aka Avalon
               on MariMUSE.  I worked with the team that
               first brought Muse to Phoenix College."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei senses that another member of the
               MariMUSE team is looking for them and
               disappears suddenly for parts unknown.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila waits for Pei to return
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I am Miss-K on the Muse, and
               Susan Oram in RL (Real life) -- the school
               librarian at Longview Elementary School. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei has arrived.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad materializes out of thin air.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Hi Wlad!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "I am Rod Brashear, Woody on
               Marimuse.  I am a student at Arizona State
               Universtiy-West and also work for the
               Arizona Department of Education.  I
               volunteered to be involved with the Longview
               project."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila waves to Wlad, and thinks she has seen
               him before ;)"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Hi, Wlad"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Wlad, would you introduce
               yourself?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Hi, and I am Jim Walters.  I
               work at Pheonix College and am intensely
               interested in this medium."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Is that everyone?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila thinks that is all for the moment,
               Platoon will join us later"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Thanks"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon turns toward Pei,anticipating a
               question."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei reads from his clipboard, then faces
               Avalon.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Avalon, would you begin by
               explaining how Camp MariMUSE came to be?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Wlad and I were in the library
               one day when the Dean walked in.  We were
               excited about what Muse was doing for our
               college students.  She suggested we do a
               summer camp for kids."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We jumped at the chance and
               the rest is history."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Avalon had heard a rumor that
               Joanne, the principal at Longview, might be
               supportive of a technology linked proposal.
               So we set out to meet with her."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "wlad and Av planted a seed and
               didn't realize how big the tree would be.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "...and still growing!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "it's rather like falling into
               the rabbit's hole with Alice."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei grins with understanding
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila laughs at the rabbit hole analogy
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "So it began as an environment for
               college student?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "We did try to start with the
               basis that it could accommodate learners of
               all ages."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "But college students were the
               group we began with because that was the
               group we had access to."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We tried it first with our own
               students, but always dreamed of a huge one
               room school for learners of all ages."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The dream is starting to come
               true, isn't it?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila nods agreement
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "We took some risks in bringing
               in some of our own students, then to try to
               offer a class entirely in this environment."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei turns to Miss-K.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Miss-K,  Could you describe some
               of the landmarks of MariMUSE that your
               campers saw when they first entered the
               MUSE?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody notices sweat on the brow of Miss-k.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila hands Miss-K a tissue
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K smiles sickly!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei reaches over and touches Miss-K's hand!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Well, we went to Lady
               Starlight's castle first. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei's eyes widen with excitement.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "We also visited some of the
               places the first group of campers had
               created.  Also, Some of the campers spent
               quite a lot of time in an amusement park."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "A couple of the volunteers had
               created a space station that was the initial
               home of all the Longview campers."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Tell me about the students who
               participated in Camp MariMUSE?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "Do you want a feel for what
               they were like in RL, when they entered the
               room?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, “Yes!"

[on Pei's TV]  Avalon sits back listening to those who were
               with the children the most to talk.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Well, it was quite a mixed
               group of children.  Our school is very
               multi-ethnic and those groups were
               represented at the camp."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering just how
               diverse the group really was.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila remembers being surprised at the young
               ages.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The kids were all going into
               the fourth, fifth or sixth grade.”

[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The children who attended were
               children who were definitely at-risk for
               failure in school either because of their
               back grounds or skills.  They were chosen by
               the teachers at Longview on the basis of who
               we thought might benefit the most. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "The first day of camp was an
               exciting day.  Students had heard exciting
               rumors and were very eager, with a bit of
               confusion and trepidation, to come to a
               college and work with the MUSE."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon materializes out of thin air.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "HI Pei, sorry I interrupted"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Platoon, my man! gime five!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon ^5's Pei
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon sits back and listens
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "The first couple of days the
               children were very quite and shy.  After the
               comfort level was attained the kids were
               conversing in the muse and RL with real
               excitement and interest"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "They seemed very young, and shy
               and seemed to be wondering why they were
               here, but then they got started began having
               fun."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K nods.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "How did the students first
               approach the text-based virtual environment?
               What was their early reaction?”

[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "On the first day, I heard
               whispers of, "This is dumb."  By the end of
               the first session, all the campers agreed it
               was about the coolest thing they had ever
               done.”

[on Pei's TV]  Lila recalls the excitement of the children
               when they left for the bus, how anxious they
               were to come back the second day."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila recalls how quickly the children became
               conscious of correct spelling"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "I had worried that the ones who
               couldn't keyboard might become discouraged
               and quit, but they just hung in and their
               skills kept improving."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Even this morning some kids
               were asking about getting back on the system
               so they wouldn't lose their keyboarding
               skills."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Those of you who were volunteers,
               how did you assist the campers and what sort
               of impact did this experience have on you
               personally?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "My best the very best
               experience I had was when I started paging
               some of the campers and ask them if they
               need help...and they responded where are
               you...and i said that I am kinda far away
               from you...they couldn't imagine that "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight materializes out of thin air.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon says, "I thought that was so cool to
               have to convince them that I am about 20
               miles away from them”

[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "She was having difficulty with
               him being in the same virtual room with
               her."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "To build on Platoon's comments,
               one child initially refused to believe a
               volunteer was really in California."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei smiles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight says, "And another looked for
               a volunteer in the disk drive."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad ecalls one student looking in the disk
               drive slot trying to see Angus."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei laughs and laughs and laughs
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila laughs at the remembrance
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "What, exactly,
               did the MariMUSE campers do on a daily
               basis?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody pulls out his muse curriculum daily
               guide.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "every day the students were
               asked to complete a journal entry.  They
               also wrote at least one article per week for
               the newsletter.  They were also responsible
               for doing some creating in the MUSE."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad recalls some of the homework and how
               serious the students were about getting
               together their descriptions and setting
               their character names.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Azure_Guest says, "What amazed me was that
               they were so unwilling to leave for break."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody adds that they felt three hours was
               too short of a day on the muse.
  
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Do you remember how Ginji would
               go home, make her sister help her research
               so the cave could be exactly what she
               wanted?
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "At the end of the first week,
               the students were wanting to come in over
               the weekend..”
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight says, "They were all very
               proud of their work."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Ginji wears her Phoenix
               College t-shirt often."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Above all, we learned that
               this medium was exciting to students, it
               captivated them despite its text-base.  And,
               they could handle the coding.  They were
               reading and writing for 3 hours a day,
               thinking and problem solving, and loving
               it."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "It taped the intrinsic
               motivation of all the persons connected to
               the program.  Students Teachers, and
               volunteers."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei nods.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Have the kids come back to school
               yet?  If so, what are they saying about the
               MUSE now?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Everyday I am asked, WHEN can
               I come back on line?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "The children are eager to get
               back on-line and are stating that they have
               projects to work on, and they really want to
               check their mail."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I called all the MUSE kids
               into the library this morning and they were
               all talking at once.  They did not want to
               leave to go back to class."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We believe we are just seeing
               the tip of the iceberg.  We believe we are
               on the wave of the future.  This medium is a
               window to a new way of learning."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon looks at Miss-K remembering the child
               who said, “You don't think I am stupid, do
               you?”
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "The kids are so proud of the
               NY Times article.  They all want copies of
               it."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "How did the parents react to Camp
               MariMUSE?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "We had an enormous turn out on
               the parent day.  We were amazed.  The
               parents are especially proud of their
               children.  I think it raises their self-
               esteem too."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Many parents had to take off
               work, with no pay, to attend any function to
               which they were invited.  Such as
               graduation"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "Some even rode over on the
               school bus to be here."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody says, "When the parents first met with
               us, PC volunteers and Wlad, There was a very
               small turn out.  After the camp was over
               there was almost 100 percent parent
               participation."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "Running Wind's parents went to
               great lengths to attend graduation, they
               VERY proud of him and his accomplishments."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "And parents who had never heard
               their children talk about what they were
               doing at school were getting rave reviews
               and daily updates on the camp activities."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We invited the superintendent
               who was amazed at the children's creativity
               and the amount of writing they did.  We also
               invited state representatives who felt the
               excitement.  And we had parents who knew
               their kids were really excited about and
               successful with learning."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "On graduation day, it really
               felt like one big family celebration."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad laughs remembering how he helped
               Running wind entertain two of his
               younger relatives.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "Remember, this was only a 3
               week camp.  All of this happened in 3 short
               weeks."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila shakes her head, and says, "Hard to
               believe we did all that in 3 weeks."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei 's heart is full!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody throws time out the door.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Were there any real surprises?"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "It seemed like a magical
               time."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lady Starlight nods.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Lila says, "I was very impressed with the
               increase in global awareness."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "I was blown away by the
               research that the students initiated!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "One of the other teachers
               committed this week about how important it
               was for these kids to see the volunteers
               from the college working at their jobs,
               volunteering, and going to class.  It
               helped them see they could go to college
               too."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "It was a time of being
               completely accepted."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon grins at Miss-K.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Platoon  says, "it was a time of beeing
               equal"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K says, "Actually, I still get misty
               eyed about it. "
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon hands an embroidered hankie to Miss-K.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K giggles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "What plans do you have for the
               future of MariMUSE?”

[on Pei's TV]  Avalon has been assigned to work on grant
               writing and assessment so we can continue
               and can learn as we proceed into the future.
               This is a major commitment from the college
               to a very important project.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Woody boogies about the future.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Wlad says, "By the 15th of September, we
               should have 12 terminals installed at
               Longview for the students to use.  There
               will be a 9600 baud modem line to the
               college.  We know that the equipment will
               work with that speed.  We want something
               that will work right away, so that we can
               get the kids back on-line."
  
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K squeals in delight
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei applauds
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K will never get anything done once
               those terminals are in!
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei rolls in the floor laughing
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon grins and grins and grins with
               excitement about the future.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K wrings her hands thinking of so much
               to do and so little time.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Avalon says, "We have very strong support
               from the Longview, Phoenix College and the
               district offices to continue and build on
               this."
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei looks at his watch and turns back to the
               camera.
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Viewers...I am speechless!"
 
[on Pei's TV]  Miss-K smiles
 
[on Pei's TV]  Pei says, "Except to say that I am deeply
               moved by these people and what they have
               accomplished this summer.  It is impossible
               to know all the consequences of how they and
               the experiences they have provided have
               touched the lives of a handful of children
               this summer.  Or how the technologies and
               techniques they are pioneering will effect
               lives in the future.  But my bet is that it’s
               enormous.”

[on Pei's TV]  From MediaMOO, this is Peiohpah saying "good
               night!"

In re-reading this interview I was struck by four ideas.

  1. The campers were engage in self-directed learning, because they were doing something with what they were learning. 
  2. Their enthusiasm had nothing to do with slick graphics and booming sound effects. It was text. 
  3. The campers were working hard, though they might not have called it work. Students who are engaged in this type of learning experience often call it, “Hard play.” 
  4. There seems to be a direct relationship between learner-engagement and parent-engagement. 
  5. Young Learners need to see adults model meaningful learning.

Two Reasons I Won’t Use My Typical Opening Today

For the last several years, I have been opening my keynote addresses by describing something that I’ve learning in the last 24 hours. It was usually something that I’d run across on my iPad (Flipboard), or a conversation I’d had, or some other striking something that caught my eye.  Today, it would likely be the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Plant just brought on line in Kenya with the assistance of Germany’s continued development of green energies.  I first learned about the plant from the Kenyan cab driver who took me from the St. Louis airport to my hotel yesterday.

But no story today.  The first reason is trivial though not insubstantial.  It’s time.  I’ll only have 45 minutes for my opening talk.  It’s usually closer to an hour.

The second reason is more important.  It is my audience; school librarians, students of library science, and supporters and administrators of school library programs.  I’m not launching into a demonstration of personal learning because librarians and their libraries are almost entirely about person learning.  Their patrons explore, examine, experiment and discover – in much the same ways that we all conduct our essential learning outside of school.

These authentic learning experiences are way to rare in the classrooms of our schools, and this is due not to the best intentions, reflections and inventiveness of our teachers.  It is my country’s continue obsession with market motivated and industrial methodology of public education.

“Follow the Money” to Ferguson

Chris Lehmann challenged us (EduBloggers) last week to join the conversation about the police shooting of an 18 year old African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri and militarized posturing of law enforcement against the resulting protests. To be honest, I was not fully aware of the situation, too focused on getting my daughter ready to return to college and establishing a second residence to be closer to my and my wife’s parents.

I’ll agree wholeheartedly with all of Chris’ sentiments here, here and here, and would expound on them if I could. But, as a white, anglo saxon, protestant, eighth generation American, whose grandfather’s grandfather probably owned slaves, I honestly do not feel worthy to ardently express righteous sympathy with what I would characterize as second Americans. White man’s guilt?

I would like to ask a different question, though – and not as an attempt to distract us from a conversation about the unfulfilled promises (myths) of the American Dream. I ask this alternate question because I believe that there is another struggle happening here, one that possibly goes back to the beginnings of this country.

Looking at the picture to the right, I do not see how anyone could disagree with calling this a militarized police presence. But where did all that military hardware come from? Who bought it? ..and why? ..and Who got paid for it?

If we agree that one reason for learning (being taught) history is to avoid making its mistakes1, then here might be a useful starting question, “What were the historical mistakes that led to the situation of this picture?”

This could go almost anywhere in human history, of course, and why should formal learning experiences be limited (by testable standards)? But that’s a different issue — maybe.

We might, for instance, go no further than a little more than a decade ago, when 19 mostly Saudi Arabian terrorists, attacked the United States at it’s heart, New York City. Those 19 mostly Saudi Arabian men, using our own technology against us, were effective nearly beyond anyone’s imagination.

Our response was to make war in Afghanistan and Iraq and declare war on terror, establishing the Department of Homeland Security.  Although little else happened here, local police forces still find themselves armed for terror both from without and within. ..And you know what they say about a hammer.2

I would suggest that we responsibly and effectively teach history to avoid its mistakes, but also as a guard against having history re-written for us.

I will close here by suggesting that we ask students utilize contemporary literacy skills and do what Deep Throat3 said, “Follow the Money.”

 

1 A paraphrasing of George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.Santayana, G. (1905). The life of reason. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15000

2 The Law of the Instrument, or as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

3 Deep Throat is the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information toBob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post in 1972 about the involvement of United States President Richard Nixon‘s administration in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal.