21st Century School Continued

Tuesday’s post generated some excellent ideas about 21st century schools — or School 2.0.  But I wonder if there might be a distinction between asking, “What does School 2.0 look like?” and, “What do we see when we look at a School 2.0?”

There may not really be a difference between the two questions, but I’m thinking about two types of answers.  One lists the facilities we look at, the books and desks, Kindles and wireless access, web sites, and blogs.  The other answer is much more organic.  The facilities are the tools.  I would want visitors of the school to see through the tools to what their children are learning and how they are learning it. 

I would want them to see a library — and part of that library would be books.  But some of those books would have been authored by students and former students of the school.  I would want them to see samples of student work.  However, it wouldn’t look like a student showcase.  It might look like a virtual museum or an art gallery.   It would be student produced glossy published scientific manuals and data-rich reports on geo-social behavior.  It might be archived videos of student performances and presentations, and critiques of works provided by other students.

Teacher as “Strategy Guide”

What the community sees, when they look at the instructional staff, is not teachers, but learning consultants, who sometimes teach, but just as often are simply setting goals, facilitating collaborations, and helping students ask the right questions.

A while back John Beck, one of the authors of Got Game, while being interviewed for a podcast, talked about how many of the games at that time ran on multiple levels, and at the end of each level there was a big monster that you had to defeat in order to get to the next level.  This monster was called the level boss. 

He suggested that a boss (or teacher) who acts like a boss may not appear so much to be a leader to a video game generation of workers (or learners).  He or she may, instead, look more like a barrier.  He suggested that the boss (or teacher) might get further by acting like a strategy guide, the book that video gamers buy that publishes strategies and cheats for navigating the game.

Might we think of curriculum as strategy, or even cheats?

Please continue to comment on Tuesday’s post.

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Teachers Learning from Their Future…

J.R. Trinidad Speaking to former teachers at Campbell Hall

Yesterday, I did one of my standard manila-canned addresses for the faculty and staff of the Campbell Hall school in North Hollywood, California.  It was their first day back after the holidays, and folks were both stoked with excitement though also a bit drowsy, already accustomed to a couple more hours of sleep in the morning.  It went fine, seemed well received, with a little less push-back than I usually get from independent schools during the Q&A.

I had no idea yet, how special this address would be.

After a catered lunch, for which the plates were entirely too small, we were treated to a talk by J.R. Trinidad, an employ of Google and former student of Campbell Hall.  J.R. had been recruited to the school, years ago, thanks to an endowment fund, and an elementary school teacher who enthusiastically pointed to the boy, when school officials came in looking for students who needed more academic challenge that what the public schools could offer.  J.R.’s family immigrated from the Philippines when he was four, fleeing political unrest there.  It is a testament to the prints that he left on the school, that they were able to put together a video of his years at CH as introduction.  A truly exceptional young man.

He had planned to be there during the morning so that he could see my presentation and dove-tail in, but it seems that there was a problem with Google in Japan, and he’d been teleconferencing for most of the last 24 hours, and it was continuing into the morning.  Right after lunch, I came back to the meeting hall to start processing the Knitter chat from my presentation, and he was there, behind the podium, practicing his speech, reading from notes.  I thought, “Oh Know!  This kid has no idea what he’s in for.”

I introduced myself during a lull, and completely forgot my plans to interview him for Connect Learning.  He was obviously too nervous to do anything but pace.  I know the feeling well.  Once folks got back in, and were brought to order by the headmaster, J.R. lit in and had us all absolutely enthralled from the very beginning.

He started with his experience at Campbell Hall, listing some of his firsts:

  • “It was the first time I ever wore a uniform, and as a result of that,  the first time I got mugged.”  Uproar of laughter.
  • “I remember when I wrote my first code — and it was wonderful…”
  • “I remember the first time I witnessed something through somebody else’s eyes.” 

Lots of insightful observations.

Then he started talking about his work at Google, which seemed a lot more like play.  For instance, he starts the day with Mandarin lessons.

J.R. has a special interest in YouTube, sharing a number of stories that were informative to the audience about YouTube culture and also inspiring.  He recently had a meeting, expressing his interest in using his 20% personal interest time working on their interface, and they were so impressed with his vision that they offered him the task.  However, it would take more than 20% of his time, and take him away from his real passion, search.

J.R. shared a lot of statistics about mobile phone use, especially in Asia, including the number of best-selling books in Japan that are written on a cell phone.  He plans to move to Singapore soon, because he is so excited about what’s happen in Asia, and “Singapore is the Switzerland of Asia,” as he said to me.

Eileen Powers, who arranged both of the presentations came up afterward complimenting J.R. on the fact that without having seen my morning presentation, he happened to validate everything that I said.  I was impressed that he also managed to validate the more traditional aspect of education that he received there ten years ago, explaining to me that we need to be finding and focusing on the fundamentals of what and how we learn.  I couldn’t agree more.

I was also impressed by the situation itself.  It is often that a teacher runs into a former student on the street, who turns and says, “Mr. Jones, I don’t think I ever told you how much I appreciated being in your class.”  It is far more rare to enjoy a formal presentation from a talented former student who is successfully participating in a future that was entirely unpredictable when we taught him as a teenager.

It’s something that schools should look at instituting on a yearly basis.

Method vs Approach

Unbelievable.  A computer, plastic cup of ice, AA-issued can of Diet Pepsi, and a digital camera, all resting on an economy-class seatback table.

I’m in the middle of about a half dozen books, all fresh from under the tree on Santa day.  But on my way out the door for my first trip of 2009, I grabbed Presentation Zen, by Garr Rynolds.  I’d not started it yet, PZ feeling more like desert, compared to some of the others I’m working my way through.  I’m also having fun learning to take notes on the Linux side of my Netbook, using Freemind.  It’s a bit odd to have room here, for my computer, a plastic cup of ice, an AA issued can of Diet Pepsi, and my digital camera, all on an economy-class seatback table.

Early in the book, as Reynolds is making connections between Zen and business (and academic) presentations, he suggested an interesting distinction.  He writes that designing presentations is not a method.  It’s an approach.  It is not a “..step-by-step systemic process.”  It is “..a road, a direction, a frame of mind.”

This seems to me like a useful way of thinking about how we use technology and how we teach it.  Anyone, who has delivered technology staff development, has witnessed teachers, desperately writing down notes, step-by-step instructions, so that they will be able to repeat that specific function when they return to their own classrooms.  I’m not making fun.  Repeating steps is sometimes the best way to accomplish a goal.

As I think about how “digital natives” and “settlers” go about working through their tasks with information and communication technologies (ICT), compared to how many immigrants go about it, the method/approach comparison makes a lot of sense. 

Considering the differences between my generation’s use of information technology and the way my children use it, I want to think about my wrist watch.  When I was growing up, all watches looked and acted pretty much the same way.  You set the time by pulling the tiny nob out and twisting it, to twist the hands around to the correct positions.  I still wear an analog-style watch.

However, the time-pieces of years later, digital watches, all came with three different buttons, and with those three buttons, you could perform fifteen functions, by pressing the buttons in seeming infinite combination.  I wear an analog watch today, because I can’t remember the steps.  My children grew up learning how to reason their way into the solution.  In fact, they don’t wear watches at all.  It’s all in their cell phones which tell time, keep schedules, record addresses, take messages, and, oh yeah, communicate through a 26-character alphabet with fewer than 26 keys.  You operate these devices natively, by approaching it with a certain frame of mind, not by method.  There is absolutely no harm in this.

The harm comes when we try to teach technology by method.  When we try to teach word processing, spreadsheets, and image editing software through scripted lessons — to kids who are at home accessing and interacting with the world from their pockets — there is a disconnect that may well be a big part of why so few of our children are interested in pursuing technology fields.  The harm comes when we try to test our students proficiency with technology through method, when we ask them to solve a problem with a computer and then score them based not on how resourceful they are with the tool, but to what degree their solution matched the one that was taught.

This is one more reason why I am increasingly insisting that we, as educators, need to began to picture ourselves as master learners, and to project that image of ourselves to the community.  If we become enthusiastic learners, then we are modeling the concept and process of life-long learning.  If we walk into our classrooms as master learners, then we might come to better understand that working with information is as much about approach as it is about method.

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Educon Bound

I just learned that my session proposal for Educon 2.1 has now been scheduled, 2:30 to 4:00 on Sunday (Jan 25).  I didn’t even know for sure that I would be able to attend until yesterday, when Brenda worked out my transportation.  I’ll be at the TRLD conference in San Francisco until mid-day on Saturday.  She has me flying across that evening, where I spend the remaining hours in a hotel in downtown Philadelphia.  Then, bright and early to educon on Sunday.  She also arranged a train trip for the next day to Western Virginia for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools Heads of Schools Conference in Hot Springs.

I’m more than a little disappointed at what I’ll miss while I am facilitating my session, not the mention by missing the first two days of the conference.  How could you not be disappointed at missing anything at Educon.  I probably shouldn’t have proposed anything at all, but so rarely do you get a chance to do a purely unconference session.  Still, the rooms will be a buzz with bleed-throughs from the previous days, and it will all be thouroghly blogged.

There are so many ways to see how exceptional this conference will be.  But perhaps the most interesting way is to scan through the list of attendees.  Those who have listed themselves on the wiki will be coming from 18 states, two provinces of Canada, and Victoria, Australia.  He’ll certainly win a prize.

The image to the left is a collage of photos taken at last year’s Educon and uploaded by attendees to Flickr.  You can see other photos and blog entries from last year’s event and the upcoming Educon 2.1 at the conference Hitchhikr page.

Hope to see you at the Science Leadership Academy, 23-25 January.  I’ll be there on the 25th.

Wishing I was There

Photo by Danny Nicholson

It’s odd, for someone who gets to attend as many conferences as I do, to lust after one more, but BETT09 is certainly it for me right now.  Starting January 14, this London Conference is advertising itself as “..the world’s largest educational technology event.”  I do not know what criteria that is based on, not that I have any reason to doubt it.  But knowing something of what’s going on with education in that country, and having attended the NAACE conference last year in Torguay, this could be an immense learning experience for anyone who is interested in 21st century education.

So this is a friendly reminder to any British readers of this blog about BETT and for anyone interested in hitchhiking there, BETT’s Hitchhikr link is:


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Talked about In Technology – 2008

Picture of SearchMe Stack with videos of multitouch technology.

In a December 23 article, Technology Review writer, Kate Greene described three technologies that have received special attention this past year.  The first, I find interesting today, because of mention that Greene makes of a  do-it-yourself (DIY) spirit that has emerged around it.  Most of us were introduced to multitouch through our iPhones.  But the real potentials were illustrated by Microsoft’s Surface device, and the slew of videos that popped up on YouTube demonstrating the technology.  Here is a SearchMe stack of other MT videos.

There’s little that is really new about multitouch technology, except that it has become cheaper.  Nordt, a research studio (I like that term) in New York, now offers a product called TouchKit.  With this $1,000 kit, anyone can make and modify their own touch-screen table.  In a referenced article, Greene writes about Addie Wagenknecht [Eyebeam Profile, Wikipedia Article] and Eyebeam’s project called Cubit.  She and Stefan Hechenberger wanted to illustrate how anyone could build a multitouch table with a few simple items — for $500 to $1,000.  Here is a video demo of Cubit.

Image from [link]

Computer memory has also taken some interesting twists during the past year, especially with the appearance of the “popping up all over technology conferences” netbooks, many of which utilize flash memory for long term storage, rather than hard disks.  Greene talks about some advances that were talked about this year, and will likely starter emerging as early as 2009.  The first was phase-change memory, “..which stores data by altering the crystal structure of a material (rather than using the charge within transistors)..”  Samsung and Swiss startup, Numonyx, have already started sending test samples to gadget makers.

It seems that information devices might be getting even smaller.  Makes my head hurt!

Microprocessors are also seeing advances, partly stemming from our new love affair with anything green.  The most notable development is Intel’s Atom processor, a low energing chip that is appear in small notebook (netbook) computers and some handhelds.

But to take things even smaller, researchers at the university of Michigan have designed a chip for small sensor applications.  It uses 30 picowatts (one million millionths [10-12] of a watt) (( “Picowatt.” Wictionary. 2006.Wikimedia. 29 Dec 2008 <http://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=picowatt&oldid=1917664>.)) of power while idling, and only 2.8 picojoules (one million millionths [10-12] of a joule) (( “Picojoule.” Wiktionary. 2007. Wikimedia. 29 Dec 2008 <http://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=picojoule&oldid=4539693>.)) per computing cycle.  Probably means no more to you than it does to me.  But the thing could be powered by a battery no bigger than it is.

Read more about wireless advances, and mobile mania at The Year in Computing from Technology Review.

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Grid-wide Holiday Fun…

PBS Teachers have organized what appears to be a scavenger hunt on Second Life™.  The intro reads,

Need a stress breaker or are you stuck in the house due to all the white stuff everywhere? Log in to Second Life and play the Happy Holiday Hunt with PBS Teachers!

Clues will be posted via Twitter, so you just need to follow PBSTeachers.  Set up an account on Twitter, if you you do not already have one, login, and then go to http://twitter.com/pbsteachers and click [Follow].  Yesterday’s clue was, “Remember the Alamo! More details about this clue at: http://tinyurl.com/8kesdd.”  Today’s is, “This is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space.http://tinyurl.com/9nk4mz.”

You can participate in the game by following these instructions:

  1. Following http://twitter.com/PBSTeachers for Grid-wide clues
  2. Joining PBS Teachers Connect in SecondLife Group in-world
  3. Joining PBS Teachers online at www.pbs.org/teachers
  4. Uploading your SecondLife Grid snapshots and related PBS resources on PBS Teachers in Second Life Ning (http://pbsteachersinsl.ning.com/)

Learn more about PBSTeachers’ Holiday Hunt at their Ning site at:


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Just Numbers

It’s just numbers, but some time during the night, a student or teacher became the 200,000th Class Blogmeister.  By coincidence, I’m doing a small face lift of the tool, or else it would have gone completely unnoticed — by me.  A few other current statistics:

  • 200,051 Student & teacher bloggers
  • 589,616 Blog posts
  • 30 Blogs posted in the last hour (4:04 PM EST – 081219)
  • 887 Blogs posted in the last 24 hours
  • 6,664 Blogs posted in the last seven days.

Again, it’s just numbers.  But here are just a few statements from teachers about their blogging students:

It is all about audience. My students can tell by the “reads” feature that people are reading their writing and it inspires them to write and to write better.

Kathy Cassidy

They are participating in a read-a-thon for which they have to obtain sponsors who donate by the number of pages they have read. The students prove that they are reading by blogging about what they read. Sponsors can follow the kids’ progress by reading their blogs.

Students also read each other’s posts for ideas about what to read next. (Blogging) is a cornerstone of my library instruction this year.

Sheila May-Stein

CB has increased my students’ motivation to complete and participate in assignments that would ordinarily be completed with traditional paper and pencil. The work they complete serves an authentic purpose that can be shared amongst not just their peers but world wide.

Hiliana Leon

One of the main benefits is that Classblogmeister makes learningmeaningful for students as their learning goes beyond the four walls of the classroom and becomes part of an active, interactive, worldwide

Carolyn Knight

This is my first year of blogging with my second graders. I am so pleased with their excitement over using the blog. I have already seen improvement in their writing skills.


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