Extraordinary Learning

A 15 year old Canadian schoolboy, with a fascination for the ancient Mayan Civilization, recently theorized a correlation between the star positions in major constellations and the geographic locations of known Mayan cities. Based on this theory, he used Google Maps to suggest the location of an unknown ancient city. The Canadian Space Agency was so impressed that they used a satellite-based space telescope to study the spot and confirm the existence of the hitherto, unknown city. 

In my work I ran across many ordinary youngsters who — with access to technology, supportive teachers and unconstrained curiosity — did extraordinary things. It all begs for a more empowering and imaginative way of educating our children. 

Times of Complexity

I received two surprises last Friday at the annual NCTIES conference in Raleigh. The first was being honored with ISTE’s Making IT Happen award. This really wasn’t a surprise for me because they needed my coat size before hand. But it was an enormous career-gratifying honor.

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The second surprise was something a bit strange – a phenomenon that I have noticed in my conference experiences across the United States. You see, in some regions, when you receive an award, you walk up, take the object, shake a hand, thank the organization, pose for a photograph and walk back to your table. North Carolina is a perfect example of this practice.

In other regions, say New England, you take your object of honor, shake a hand, but are also obliged to “say a few prepared words” to the audience – words of understated but eloquent humility in the case of New England.

So when the Outstanding (Tech) Teacher of the Year “said a few well prepared words” after her award on Friday afternoon, I calculated that I had only the “carefully prepared words” from two more honorees left in order to come up with something Warlick’esque to say.

I did, though I bungled it badly behind the microphone. So I thought I would try to say it more eloquently here.

I started teaching in 1976, and in these 40 years as an educator, one fact has become clear. We live in a complicated world. Despite what some would have you believe, there is complexity in our world and in our individual lives – and that complexity is beautiful.

Our problems are not simple and they deserve better than simple tried-and-true solutions. They are complicated and they require creative and complex solutions – solutions that also provide new and wonderful opportunities.

The best uses of technology in our classrooms help us and our students to understand and appreciate today’s complexities and to imagine the opportunities that they offer. But we must continue to understand, as true educators, that simplifying and streamlining education will fail, not to mention the fact that it insults our children.

..because the most beautiful aspect of this exquisite complexity is that it invites us all to be different – and we can continue to permit our children to exercise their differences as long as we are willing to simply say, “Surprise Me!”

 

 

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?

20 Mbps & We’re Still Searching for the Same Stuff

I’ve been doing a lot of deep digging while working on my book about the history of technology in education – as I’ve seen it.  This afternoon, I happened upon some online handouts for one of my first keynotes and its slidedeck.  The address was called, “The Three Ts of Teaching in the Twenty-First Century.”  It appears to have been delivered in November of 2000.

On one of the opening slides, I had listed the ten most searched for terms of that month.  As a comparison, I found the top ten searches on Google in 2014, and have listed them as well.

November 2000   2014
10  Pokemon   10  Sochi Olympics
91  Napster   91  Frozen
81  Playstation 2   81  ISIS
71  NFL   7 Conchita Wurst
Florida Recount   Flappy Bird
Britney Spears   ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Thanksgiving   Malaysia Airlines
Dragonball   Ebola
Election 2000   World Cup
Christmas   Robin Williams

I was actually surprised how little it’s changed?  We have video games, sports, entertainment with a peppering of world-shaping issues.

What if it happened before the Internet?

One of the challenges of writing a history of educational technology is that so much of it happened before the Internet. I have been surprised and disappointed at how much of it, that I barely remember, has never been reported on the now ubiquitous World Wide Web.

As a result, I’ve had to be resourceful in my research, and one of the tools that I’ve found myself going to again and again is Google’s Ngram viewer.  Here’s the situation.  I’m writing about happenings just after I left the NC Department of Public Instruction and discovering that my future is going to be in training and presenting, instead of Web design and development.  I believe that it was during this time when the term “Integrate technology’ was being adopted by ed tech advocates.  But I’m not sure.  How do I determine, on a timeline, the growing use and abuse of the term.

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Enter Ngram Viewer.  The default terms are Albert Einstein, Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein.  The viewer presents a line chart, illustrating the number of Google digitized books that mention the term by year, from 1500 to 2008.  The default shows the gradual growth of Frankenstein from just after the publishing of Mary Shelley’s book (1818), and then a more rapid rise of Sherlock Holmes starting in the final years of the 19th century.  Occurrences of Albert Einstein started in the second quarter of the 20th century and then Frankenstein, again, overtakes and surges well above, starting in the 1960s – possibly as a result of television’s re-running of Frankenstein movies released in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Entering the term, “integrate technology into the classroom,” into Ngram Viewer, I learn that, although the term started to appear in the late 1980s, its popular use started to rise in the mid-1990s, as we left the growing number of education technology conferences with our new mantra, “Integrate Technology! Integrate Technology!  Integrate Technology!”

Ommmmmm!

I Can’t Believe I’m Doing this Again!

One of the nice things about writing again, is that it doesn’t require a huge monitor.  Therefore, I am not chained to my upstairs office.  I can do it virtually anywhere.  🙂

In our 35 years of marriage, there have been only a few instances when my wife realized what a cleaver fellow I am – maybe three. I think one occurred yesterday.

As you may be aware, I am winding down my career as an educator.  My wife, concerned about identity security, has spent parts of the last couple of days looking for my social security number included in two large file cabinets of documents from 19 years of clients and jobs.  She commented, as we were walking up to North Hills yesterday, that I had accomplished a lot in my years as an independent and been part of some pretty exciting developments in education and technology.

Then she said, “You should write a book about all of this.”  

My reply was simple, the same that I’ve said to colleagues who have recently asked, “So now that you’re not traveling so much, are you going to write a new book?”

“No!”

“I’m through!  I’m tired!  ..and writing is really hard work for me…”

Yet, this morning, as I woke and lay in bed, my mind was going like it hasn’t in many months, seeming to have realized that in some deep and evil corner of my brain, the decision has been made.  I had an outline written out by 8:30 this morning – for a new book about the history of educational technology.

I really can’t believe that I’m Doing this Again!

10 Years of iMusic

Technology changes with time. As one piece of technology becomes superior, another becomes inferior. This infographic portrays something interesting, iPod sales and iTunes songs purchased increased together until the mid and late 2000s, but by 2010, iPod sales were decreasing while iTunes sales continued to increase. What could have caused this? Discuss with your students […]

10-years-of-imusic_539f0c508dad0Technology changes with time. As one piece of technology becomes superior, another becomes inferior. This infographic portrays something interesting, iPod sales and iTunes songs purchased increased together until the mid and late 2000s, but by 2010, iPod sales were decreasing while iTunes sales continued to increase. What could have caused this?

Discuss with your students other things that occurred during this time. Could it be related to other technology, such as the iPhone that became increasingly available. There could also be the issue of the economic crisis, and people buying music just to listen on computers.

What other technology has affected the sales of other items. For instance, the record player and the record, the 8track player and the 8track, the tape player and the tape, and so on. Did any of these follow any similar trends. What could be the next technology that makes the iPod obsolete?

Blog: http://visual.ly/10-years-imusic

Progress in Google’s self-driving car project.

Here’s a great look at how far Google has come with their self-driving car technology. I had a hard time thinking the car could do much more than follow lanes and look out for stop lights, but to see how it analyzes and identifies every object around it is pretty amazing. If they can make […]

Progress in Google's self-driving car project.

Here’s a great look at how far Google has come with their self-driving car technology. I had a hard time thinking the car could do much more than follow lanes and look out for stop lights, but to see how it analyzes and identifies every object around it is pretty amazing. If they can make this technology completely flawless, there’s no question that our roads would ultimately be much safer. It’s just a matter of whether Google can develop something that is completely immune to technical glitches, which I imagine is the biggest problem they’ll face.

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The History of Opportunity

In the opinion of you and your students, what was the biggest development that has led to our modern day life? The Gutenberg Press, the typewriter, electricity, the computer? How can your students harness this technology in order to take advantage of the opportunities this infographic claims there is? Most importantly in preparing for tomorrow, […]

the-history-of-opportunity_517bd59389399_w1500-1.pngIn the opinion of you and your students, what was the biggest development that has led to our modern day life? The Gutenberg Press, the typewriter, electricity, the computer? How can your students harness this technology in order to take advantage of the opportunities this infographic claims there is?

Most importantly in preparing for tomorrow, your students must look to tomorrow, what are going to be the technological advances of tomorrow that will build the opportunities of tomorrow. Without knowing what they are, what can your students do to prepare for the technology of tomorrow. Better yet, what can your students do to create the technology of tomorrow.

Blog: http://visual.ly/history-opportunity