More Loose Change…

Doug Johnson has been posting some important ideas in the last couple of days about our challenges in retooling education for the needs of millennials. His posts have earned, for better or for worse, a large number of comments, becoming, I think, a valuable conversation.

Three ideas came to mind as I read through his entries and their comments, and I began my own two cents worth and wrote so much, that I thought I would just post it also as a 2¢ Worth. You’ll probably need to read Loose change or real change – follow-up and Lobbying for spare change — or real change? and their comments to get the whole context. Then read my 2¢ worth.

One of the ideas is that although performance/production based assessment is messy, messy is what teachers do. Certainly multiple-choice/true-false assessments have always been a convenient crutch to many teachers. But project-based/product-based teaching, learning, and assessment were much easier to implement before high-stakes testing. The critical change is that communities have lost confidence in their teachers (for no good reason), and education has begun to lose confidence in itself. I think that we need to empower teachers and then turn education back over to them, the experts.

Idea number two (and this is actually a barrier) is that education reform is not part of the public dialog right now. Citizens, going about their lives, do not think much or talk about schools and classrooms. We’re pretty comfortable with our own memories of our classroom experiences (happy or not), and do not see the connection between what and how children are being taught and the rapidly changing world that we are all trying to adapt to. We, educators, need to get the conversations going. I think that our school and classroom web sites are our best opportunity, but we need to work out what that would look like.

This last idea concerns me greatly, though I usually get really blank and confused stares when I suggest it. Of all aspects of the education community, the one group that is in the most powerful pivotal point are our students. One day, I’m afraid that they are just going to say, “No!”. “I’m not going to take your tests any more.” “I’m not going to read your ancient textbooks any more.” “I’m not going to listen to your boring lectures, fiddle with your ridiculous worksheets, or worry over your irrelevant grades any more.”

Many of the students in our classrooms today have absolutely no tie with the 20th century. They have lived their entire formative lives in the new century. They and most of their older brothers and sisters are true millennials. They have only one direct and obvious tie to the previous century — their classrooms — and I don’t know how long they are going to put up with it.

Think about IM speak, the abbreviated text that students use when they are messaging each other. We mostly disregard it and blame these habits on declining interest in proper language usage. But think about it. These kids have invented a new grammar, one that is perfect for this new avenue of communication that their generation identifies so much with. …and they did it in collaboration. We would have established a committee of standards to create new grammar rules, then spend years teaching the new rules in our classrooms in the same boring ways that we have for centuries. These kids did it on their own. This is so impressive and indicate so much power of networking, that it almost scares me. It’s like a horse. As long as the horse thinks you’re stronger than he is, then you’re OK. But as soon as the horse realizes that the balance goes the other way, then look out! I’m looking out!

2¢ Worth!

PodcasterCon 2006 — the Day After

I left Chapel Hill right after my session at PodcasterCon, around 4:00 PM. After dropping Steve Dembo off at the airport, I drove home to Raleigh, where we packed up the rest of my daughters belongings, and drove about three quarters of the way to the college town in the mountains that she has transfered back to. It’s still early in the morning, in a hotel room in Black Mountain. It’s a budget hotel, but they have high speed Internet.

Brenda and I will drive on to Asheville soon, where we’ll walk around its beautiful and funky downtown and hopefully find something interesting for breakfast, before heading on up the mountains to Cullowhee.

I thought that the education podcasting session went well. I want to thank Steve Dembo for handling the mike on the south side of the lecture hall, running up and down the isle so that every comment there would be amplified. I also want to thank Brian Russell and Anton Zuiker for taking notes on the wiki page in real time, to Joseph Puentes, for recording the session for future podcasting, and to everyone else who contributed to the conversation.

Now, on up the mountain.

This Was Cool

Yesterday, I facilitated a session at the PodcasterCon in Chapel Hill, on educational applications of podcasting. For about ten minutes, I had the audience break into six groups and discuss six essential questions about podcasting in education. The questions had been contributed to the session’s wiki page prior to the session. Each group was formed around an attendee who had the technology with them to record the audio of the group discussion. They had iPods with iTalks, iRivers, handheld PCs, and the fellow at Trend Junkie, Greg Cangialosi, was using something that appeared totally professional.

As I walked around monitoring the various discussions, I took pictures with my digital camera. (I’ll upload many of them later). During one of my passes of Greg’s group, I pulled out my mobile phone and took a picture with it. As I walked away, Greg noticed me typing into my phone, and concluded that I was uploading the picture — perhaps to flickr. As soon as the discussion was over, he wrote a quick blog entry about the activity, happening to catch one of the moments that wireless was working in that room. He went to flickr and search for the podcastercon2006 tag, and found the picture that I had just taken. Then he included the picture in his blog assessment of the activity.

Now I can’t completely wrap my mind around all of the significance of this series of events, except to be amazed at the intellectual circle of connections that occurred, both above and beneath the realm of our human senses. When we can move our ideas and our experiences around and share them with people who have a logical need or interest, regardless of time and space, then what kind of teaching and learning might we engineer within the new information environment.

What do you think?

More on PodcasterCon later.

PodcasterCon 2006 is Here

PodcasterCon has begun. Brian Russell has sort’a set the stage. He asked for a raise of hands for the number of people (out of 300 attendee) who had produced at least one podcast. Easily more than half of the hands went up. Then he asked for those who are here from outside of North Carolina to raise their hand. Again, more than half. Amazing.

I’m starting out in the podcasting for beginners session. It’s good to learn how other people explain this stuff. They are beginning by passing an iRiver around and asking each person to introduce themselves, and the name of their podcast or blog, if we have one. This is a great way to generate an audio file to demonstrate the technical functions on.

They’re talking about the name podcasting. An interesting point is that at least audio blogging has a word. Video blogging is still struggling for a single term that defines the medium.

Unfortunately, the wireless Internet is not working. This is a huge disappointment to me, but most of the people in this session are just listening. They want to learn the basics.

Podcasting would not be where it is if Adam Curry had not promoted it the way that he did, if the iPod had not been as popular as it is, and if Dave Winer had not contributed the technical aspects of RSS.

It’s not about Apple, Curry, and Winer, but they’ve all made enormous contributions.
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It’s about an hour later and Jean Claude Bradley, of Drexel, and I have moved to the advanced podcasting sessions. This is where I should have been to start with. They are talking about using SKYPE for podcasting conversations. This is what I need to learn. Plus, WIFI is working here, and I can start posting again.

They don’t have a projector going in here, but do have an advance podcasting production center set up. I’ll go down at the end and take a picture.
————————————-
It’s about 30 minutes later in the advanced session, and maybe I’m not in the right place. I’m happy with my iPod and iTalk. This is personal. A lot of folks want the fidelity, especially if they are featuring music. But I don’t want to get bogged down with the tech stuff. So get use to the hiss and my iPod’s drive motor whine.

Steve Dembo is down on the second row. I’ve been commenting on the blog that he’s writing in the session. This is kind’a cool, since I don’t understand what people are talking about right now. There’s a guy with spikie hair who’s very funny. I need to start paying attention.

PodcastCon 2006

I’ll be leaving the office shortly to pick up Steve Dembo at the airport. Then we’ll be going out to eat with some of his chums at Discovery Educator Network to talk about changes, Discovery, and almost certainly podcasting. I’ll have my iPod and iTalk with me, but I have a terrible habit of not remembering that it’s there.

Tomorrow’s conference will be in Murphy Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina. Last year’s Triangle BloggerCon was also held in this hall, and what a treat. Each seat has its own dedicated power outlet. The room is wireless, and almost everyone will have a laptop or tablet computer, and most of them will be blogging the event. I suspect that there will be a respectable number of microphones out and aimed. Brian Russell plans to have the entire conference podcasted, but lots can go wrong, so we’ll hope for the best.

Anyway, I’ll have my laptop open during morning sessions, blogging live. So if you have nothing better to do on Saturday morning, reload my blog and see what’s happening. I’ll also be taking pictures. You can check my stream at:

    http://flickr.com/photos/davidwarlick/

…and the PodcasterCon tagged pictures at:

    http://flickr.com/photos/tags/podcastercon2006/

Hope to see a few of you tomorrow!

Hack the System

Yesterday, I blogged about the Season of Discontent. Through other exchanges, I was reminded of Brett Moller, an Australian educator who has just quit his day job as a teacher. One only had to visit his web empire to know that he was the type of teacher we want in our children’s classrooms. Yet, he encountered to many reasons why he shouldn’t reinvent and adapt his classrooms to stay.

But, as Wesley Fryer recently explained, those discontented with the wave of stagnation that holds us back, need battle banners. We need an alternative that we can talk about — loudly. We need bullet points. We need speaking points, that we can hammer. Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century was written to counter the three bullets of literacy, the three Rs. In the book, I describe the four Es of literacy (tried to keep it to three).

This morning, I woke up about 3:30 AM, which is pretty normal for me. It’s an A.D.D. thing that we wake up early, and can’t get back to sleep because the thoughts start come, and bouncing around, and crossing and intersecting in strange and irrational ways, but sometimes crossing and intersecting in interesting and useful ways. This morning, I started thinking about a model for education to counter the old, industrial model. I’m going to try to remember it all here. This makes sense to me, which may mean very little to you. But I’m also going to make this available as a Word file and as a wiki page, so that you can hack it too.

 
    Industrial Model
    Knowledge-Age Model
    Conditions
  • Published-Print Information
  • Information Exists in containers (books, newspapers, bookshelves, libraries)
  • Work the same job or profession for 20 to 35 years.
  • Socially and environmentally stable (relatively)
  • Information is digital, networked, overwhelming, and exists without containers
  • Job niches emerge and become obsolete in only a few years.
  • A time of rapid social, environmental, cultural, and technological change
    Goals
  • Produce a workforce that can be worked
  • Prepare students for a future of security
  • Produce a citizenry that can specialize and adapt
  • Prepare students for a future of opportunity
    What we Teach
  • Literacy standards — 3 Rs (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic)
  • Academics
    • Deep Academics — for professions
    • Shallow Academics and vocations — for skilled workers
    • Shallow Academics — for laborers
  • Literacy Standards — 4 Es (Exposing Knowledge/Truth, Employing Information, Expressing ideas compellingly, and Ethical Context)
  • Academics
    • Shallow Academics for establishing a common context for citizenry
    • Academic Excursions — Individuals and groups of students embark on guided but self-directed learning adventures to make themselves experts on a topic of interest and to produce information products designed to accomplish goals.
    How We Teach
  • Delivering content and skills
  • Guided practice of discrete skills and components of content
  • Producing formated reports and presentations on components of content
  • Student learn to be taught
  • Deliver content and skills
  • Technology-supported practice for mastery
  • Use of literacy skills to conduct independent learning adventures
  • Individual and team produced information products designed around an area of gained expertise with a specific audience and a specific goal
  • Student learn to teach themselves
    Assessment
Assess what students have been taught Assess what students can teach themselves and what they can do with it

Your Turn:

Tech-Supported Learning Spaces — 2011

Michael Berman, CTO for the Art Center College of Design, is involved in planning the technology for a new building that is slatted for completion in 2011.

The building will include library resources, meeting spaces, instructional spaces, and a “shop” area for construction of models and prototypes. The context is a small college of art and design.

Michael submitted to one of the lists I monitor, a list of mostly assumptions about tech-supported learning spaces five years from now. I’d like to post them here, in light of some of the writings I’ve done lately and my latest podcast. Please feel free to respond with your insights.

Display technology

Large flat screens will dominate for teaching and meeting spaces, with projection technology limited to large, auditorium-type spaces and specialty uses. Users will expect flat screens on multiple walls, integrating content display with touch-screen whiteboard-like functionality. Resolution of 1080p minimum will be a given, with higher resolutions used where appropriate.

Audio input/output technology

…will be assumed in every room, to support media consumption and production, and telecommunication.

Immersive, “cave-like” environments

While not in every room, will be assumed to be available as an option, both to explore rich 3d models and to support remote presence.

Wireless communications

…will be the norm for nearly every device, with wired (or fiber) connectivity needed only for specialized niche applications. Wireless will continue to develop in a hierarchical manner, with wide area (WiMax, EVDO and successors), medium-range (802.11 & successors) and short-range (Bluetooth, RFID & successors) being used as desirable for the application.

IP-based communications

…will be universal so there will be no need for alternative communications infrastructure such as voice grade twisted pair or coax.
Nearly all student and faculty computing power will either be portable (ranging from laptops, tablets, and cell-phones to wearable or micro devices) or embedded within the network (servers, peer-to-peer) and devices (smart screens) so that “desktop” computers will be used for legacy or highly specialized needs.

Printing

While printing will not disappear, the widespread availability of large, high-resolution displays – both wall displays and personal “heads-up” displays – as well as better and more flexible portable display technology – will significantly reduce the number of printers needed.

Access to wide-area, IP-based teleconferencing capabilities

…will be assumed – you won’t go to a teleconferencing suite, rather you will use the display and sound technologies installed in each space, in conjunction with personal portable devices, to connect with anyone remotely on-demand.

Personal computing

While student access to portable computing hardware will be assumed, access to expensive specialized software (and other expensive IP) will continue to be a challenge, and colleges will still have to develop multi-faceted strategies to give students access to software.

A Season of Discontent

Before I gripe, just a little news. Son of Class Blogmeister went up yesterday to mostly favorable response. There were a number of glitches initially, which I knew there would be, but everything that has been encountered has been fixed now, between the hours of 4:00 AM and the present (11:04 AM).

Programming is an interesting thing. It’s like building, engineering, art, writing… it’s like a lot of things. But really, it’s about building an experience for other people, something for them to do, a place to go to, a way to solve some problem. It is an extraordinarily gratifying endeavor, that could not have been imagined during my schooling years. I’m sure there’s a message there, but I’m leaving it alone for now.

Why a season of discontent? I just listened to a podcast by Bud Hunt, Podcast: In a Hurry. He brought together something that had sorta blown over my head, a general thread of conversation among the educator blogorati. People are voicing a growing discontent with the status quo of the education industry, it’s resistance to change, and our increasing unhappiness with being a part of an institution that seems more interested in maintaining its own comfort than doing its job — preparing children for their future.

Dedication to the mission is still with us. If anything it is stronger. It is the heart of our discontent. We live in an incredibly creative time with opportunities whose realization depends on our imaginations more than any other skill or character trait. Yet, we work for an institution that remains grounded in industrial age notions of itself, and we don’t like it.

Bud mentioned postings by Will Richardson, Steve Dembo, and Stephen Downes, as well as my recent podcast about classrooms in 2015. Certainly the best reference to our growing frustration is the New Year announcement from John Pederson, Quit your Day Job 101. He did it. He quit his job as a district director of technology and is going to have a go at making a living without a job. I can only imagine the courage that this came from. For me, it was my wife. It didn’t even occur to me to quit, until she suggested the idea.

I wish John all the luck, and know that we will continue to be in touch, as I will certainly be paying more attention to his blog. Perhaps it is in becoming small pieces loosely joined that we will best affect change. One thing that I do know, is that the conversation that has grown through the read/write web is different from anything before, and it is through this new avenue of expression that our discontent is becoming clarified and hopefully the solutions will be crafted and irresistibly presented.

Until then!

Who are your Customers?

One of the commentors of yesterday’s post, Roger Stack, closed his response with…

My nephew tells me he does much more complex thinking in his online gaming environments than he does at school. Sad.

This is not an uncommon statement from our students. The information environment that they choose to participate in is often more challenging, engaging, and compelling than most of their classrooms. Roger also says…

I think when students become proficient with new habits of mind they can become more critical of out-dated curriculum and want to escape. Or they can become cynical because their new thinking tools and skills are not used to question their own and others fundamental assumptions about the world in which we live.

It concerns me that these new empowering skills (habits of mind) are being learned by students outside of their classrooms. I know that many readers of my blog believe that education should be freed to evolve, and I do not disagree with this notion. I know that education will and should change in ways that many of us might not even be ready to imagine. However, we must hold on to the notion that public education is a cornerstone to democracy, that all citizens, children and adults, deserve access to effective opportunities to learn, the tools to learn and work knowledge, and unfettered access to the global conversation. The alternative, In my opinion, is a democracy that isn’t.

Upon initially reading Stack’s comments, I was taken back to a post I wrote a while back (The Next Story). The gist was that in only a few years, the students in today’s classrooms will be voting. They will be participating in decisions on school funding, curriculum, capital expenditures, teacher/student ratio, and so much more. The future success of public education is very much in their hands.

They are our customers.

What impressions of education, schooling, teaching, learning, and curriculum are they going to take into the voting booth. How were they treated as customers? How were their enlightened wants and needs fulfilled? How well did we enlighten them?

My friend, Steve Dembo, published a podcast last night in response to a recent audio program of mine, where I interviewed a number of teachers about their visions of education in the future. Steve believes that these teachers, and I suspect the vision that I expressed, are too optimistic, that we will not move that far that quickly.

Unfortunately, Steve has every reason to believe this. NCLB has resulted in substantial literacy gains of students who, before, were shamefully under-supported by their schools. However, the national legislation and its underfunding have also led to an education system that, in terms of a dynamic institution evolving with the changing needs of its students and their future, has remained stagnant during much of the last decade.

Moving forward at a rate that is appropriate to our students’ needs is possible. I think we should also dare to expect it, for the sake not only of our children, but for our future.

Education Session at PodcasterCon

I’ll be facilitating the Podcasting as a Teaching/Learning Strategy session at PodcasterCon on Saturday (January 7). If you haven’t registered already, and are within driving distance of Chapel Hill (which a good part of the U.S. population is), please consider coming.

The education session will be especially interesting for two reasons. One is that there will likely be equal mixes of participants from the K-12 arena, from higher ed, and folks who are not directly involved in education at all. The perspectives are varied, and I hope that an open and lively sharing will be beneficial for all communities of interest.

The second reason is that Podcasting, like so many technologies as they are initiated in education, is a solution without a problem, a hammer without a nail. In June, I attended Apple’s unveiling event for iTunes 4.9 at the National Educational Computing Conference in Philadelphia. Andy Carvin (Waste of Bandwidth) and I (Connect Learning) recorded a co-podcast while in line (with hundreds of educators), waiting for admittance to the way too small room. We interviewed many of the people who are in line, and not one could comfortably describe what a podcast was. None had ever produced a podcast and only a couple had heard one. But they were all there, because it was the buzz of the conference.

In preparation for this session, I ask a couple of education technology mailing lists for some essential questions that we might tackle in the Saturday session. Leslie Simonfalvi, a teacher educator in Budapest, put it very well as she asked how we might utilize podcasting and other emerging technologies when “…quite a few students, especially gadgetophiles, think about modern learning modes as escape routes.” She continues with some typical alibis, which I included on the sessions wiki page.

In my opinion, students view technology as an escape route because they see such a vast distance between the learning experiences of their classrooms and the information experiences that they have invented using IM, text messaging, blogging, networked video games, etc. We’ve left it up to them to meld these new technologies into their lives while we have been too cautious about adapting our classrooms and curriculums to the changing information environment.

I have some ideas and most of them come from a handful of innovative educators who have invented new teaching and learning strategies around media production and narrowcasting, and I’ll share them on Saturday. But I think that the real value of this session will be a mixing and remixing of perspectives that we will all learn from.

Hope to see you there.