High School Rant

newsobserver.com | Dropout rate, suspensions on rise in N.C.:

North Carolina high school students are dropping out in increasing numbers despite more efforts to keep them in school, prompting frustrated education leaders to call for raising the minimum dropout age from 16 to 18.

This is the opening paragraph of a story that appeared in today’s News & Observer, our Raleigh daily newspaper. The subcaption of the article’s title is, “Educators call on General Assembly to raise dropout age from 16 to 18 as they seek answers.” I have enormous respect for the state’s superintendent, June Atkinson — and know, first hand, that the Department of Public Instruction and school districts across the state are going to heroic efforts to solve this potentially devasting problem — within almost inpenetrable constraints.

But we all know that you can’t legislate a solution.

The solution is in our classrooms where we continue to school our children rather than prepare them for their future. Where, outside of school and in their future, are people spending all day doing…

OR This

OK! OK! I’m not saying they shouldn’t be reading books or writing on paper. But too often, TOO OFTEN, this is the extent of their education experience, and it is so foreign to the world that they know. Marc Prensky talks about how we are immigrants to their digital world. What are they too our’s?

Article Citation:
Hui, Keung. Dropout Rate, Suspensions on rise in N.C..” The News & Observer [Raleigh]8 Feb 2008: A1.

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Play in the Snow

Kids Playing in the SnowI heard, a few days ago, from a teacher who was using Class Blogmeister, even though it was being blocked by their school district. The teacher gives assignments, which students submit and engage in conversations about outside of the classroom. The other day, she wrote:

..we had a snow day so the students were off. That day I had more students at home working on Classblogmeister than any other day. It felt good to know that the students were taking it serious and blogging.

On a snow day they should have been out sledding but instead some were taking the time to update their posts and answer the assignments. It was a great day for me!

This fascinates me, though I hope that those kids spent some of their snow day sledding or building snow castles. I think it’s great that students are so engaged by communicative class work. But some of my fondest memories are of crackling snow crust, icy sled rides down the hill by our house (which seemed so intimidating then), and fierce snowball battles across West 2nd Street.

Of course I could count on the fingers of my hands the total descent snows we had, as I was growing up.

Image Citation:
Guthier, Christian. “BBC Snowball Advert?.” Net_ Efekt’s Photostream. 8 Feb 2007. 8 Feb 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/383891837/>.

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Comparing Wiki Tools

WikiMatrixRob Barth, an attendee of some of the sessions I did at METC over the past couple of days, shared a web site that enables us to compare various wiki tools.  The site, WikiMatrix, lists dozens of wiki farms and wiki engines, from which you select the ones you want to compare.  Both PBWiki and Wikispaces are included, as is WetPaint — three tools that I hear mentioned in education circles quite frequently.

This could be quite useful, as I’m sure we all get questions about which wiki to use with my class.  The only potential down side with this site, is that it provides a lot of information, too much for some.

Email Citation:
Barth, Robert. “Wiki Matrix, METC Session.” E-mail to David Warlick.5 Feb 2008.

21st Century Communication Skills

Communication in Second LifeSo nice to be at home for the morning. I’m not complaining about the travel, though. METC was a blast, where I had so many mind stretching conversations with folks from Mid America. I also got to spend some time with David Jakes, Steve Dembo, Joyce Valenza and others.

This morning I got an e-mail from a friend who has been asked, by his principal, to design a class for all of their Freshmen called 21st Century Skills. He’s asking for some suggestions, which I’ve shared with him, and I’d like open it up to the smarter part of my thinking, you.

So what do you think should be part of the syllabus for a class about 21st century communication skills?

Image Citation:
“Cisco Tech Chat in Second Life on Unified Communications.” Text 100’s Photostream. 16 Nov 2007. 6 Feb 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/text100/2037516605/>.

More Tag Clouds

Andrew Keen’s Statements
Tag Cloud of Andrew Keen's Statements
David Weinberger’s Statements
Tag Cloud of David Weinberger's Statements

Last Thursday, I posted my notes from Andrew Keens presentation at the Ontario Library Association conference in Toronto.  What’s in that blog are some fairly word-for-word quotes from his address, where I think he drew some unfair and one-sided conclusions from valid and very well delivered arguments.

Last night, while preparing for today’s presentations, I ran across a Wall Street Journal article that included the transcript of a recent debate held between Andrew Keen (The Cult of the Amateur) and David Weinberger (Clue Train Manifesto[co-authored], Small Pieces Loosely Joined, and Everything is Miscellaneous).

It would be interesting to make lists of the words that are included in one debaters tag cloud that did not show up in the other’s and then try to draw conclusions.

Of course, there’s no real short cut to just reading the debate 😉

Tinker Toy Networks

There's a question at the end of this post!
Web 2.0 Workshop Window
I’m at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference (METC) in St. Charles, Missouri, just across the river from St. Louis. There’ll be a bunch of my old friends here, including Steve Dembo, Rem Jackson (Wednesday Keynote), Michael Butler, Gail Lovely, and I ran into David Jakes outside the elevator as I arrived at the hotel yesterday. We talked a bit, as the Superbowl was starting, about social networks and what we were doing at NECC this year, and then I returned to my room to finish preparing for today’s workshop.

Social Networks seem to be on a lot of our minds these days. A session on the subject (moderated by Glenn Moses), at the Educon in Philadelphia last weekend was a big draw. It’s a subject that has no conclusions at this point, and I readily admit to not understanding the concept fully, at least in a way that would be helpful to anyone else. I understand my social network. I shape it, seed it, cultivate it, and glean nourishment from it. But it’s not the same as the one that Jakes has shaped or the ones that Steve Hargadon or Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach are growing.

What I would love to see is that we give up on trying to integrate social networks into our classrooms. I’m not really sure that we can invent a social network and then expect kids to embrace it as a comfortable working platform that Facebook, MySpace, and Beebo have become. I could be wrong, so I’m not suggesting that we do not try. But what I wish is that we could simply let them make it, outside of our classrooms. Let them be responsible. Let them bring into the classroom those elements that help them do our work, and continue to shape, mix, and remix their networks for their own reasons. This too may not be possible, but I think that it would get, more directly, at what we should be focused on right now, and that’s the work of learning.

I’ve said before that I do not visit the Science Leadership Academy to see technology. You won’t. What you see is a different kind of learning at work. The assignments are not, read this chapter, answer the questions at the end, and come in prepared to discuss the questions. The work you see there is not so much about answering questions as it is about finding positions and developing arguments that support that position.

It seems to me that learning today and most certainly in our children’s futures, is not so much about memorizing as it is about exploring, experimenting, conversing, discovering, and constructing knowledge — with some memorizing required.

OK, so lets assume that I’m wrong and we can’t leave the networking platform up to the kids and we can build one. I would hope that it’s a build your own, with components that can be attached anywhere at any time, by both teachers and students, and perhaps even outside observers. Let’s say that we start with a basic profile building element and a way to connect with others through groups or such.

What components do you think should be available for adding?

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