What’s in a Lego

Yesterday, a reader of Dave Farber’s mailing list, Interesting People, wrote:

This morning, my nearly five year old daughter was building an airport with lego. She had three lines of squares, and at one end an arch with a few squares in it. I asked what it was, and she said they were lines.

I assumed it was the runway lines, but then she pointed at the arch and said “and that is where they have the people doing this” and then with her hands patted herself down like at security.

You write the caption for this one!

Image Citation
Bitninja, “Lego.” Bitninja’s Photostream. 1 June 2005. 6 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/bitninja/16944767/>.

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Am I Getting this Wrong?

Those of you who know me, know the high regard that I hold for educators who are working in state departments of education and in the federal Department of Ed. They are there because they are good, they are leaders, they can, and they often work miracles under relentless resistance. But sometimes…

I’m sitting in the airport checking e-mail and just read a forward from Brenda, a link to an article from WRAL, one of the Raleigh TV stations. It talks about digital divide and how white children are still far more likely have access to information and communication technologies than minorities. Then I saw something in the report that caused me to question.

So I went to the National Center or Education Statistics, the reported source of the information and found a study, Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003. The report is dated September 5, 2006.

Now I may be getting this wrong and may be speaking unfairly, but it seems to me that anything dealing with technology, and its application, that is six years old, should be open to questioning. I suspect that this is even more true when we are examining how youngsters are using technology. How many members were there of MySpace in 2003?

Am I being unfair? Or does this published report indicate that people, even in the U.S. Department of Education really don’t get what these technologies mean, the central role that they play in our childrens’ information experience, the pathway that it represents to their future? I’m not finding fault with the report itself. But I don’t think that the problem of digital divide is going to be solved, while the government seems to think so little of technology access that they believe that three-year old data is sufficient for a 2006 report.

Ethers & Others

I am looking forward to being involved in the K12 Online conference in any way that I can. But I want to make two quick points here. First, by no means do I predict, suggestion in any way, or even consider that the geographic, conventions-based, face-to-face conference event is a thing of the past. First of all, it’s where I earn the largest part of my income. Second, I believe that it is in our nature, as human beings, to want to get together. It goes back to our earliest cultures and the great gatherings. And I do not believe that it is culture. I believe that it is in our genes. So the problem is not that we can’t afford to send all teachers to conferences. It’s that we haven’t decided that it isn’t that important. We ned to change our minds, because it is that important.

Now, on the other side of the coin, my son went through a phase where he was making videos. They were clips that he shot with his friends, of himself in his room, captured frames from video games he was playing, images, sound, and other digital media — all rolled together in to creative productions. The thing is that I didn’t teach him how to do that. I know that his teachers didn’t teach him how to do that. He learned from his network, from the people who interact with his MySpace pages, play games with him from around the world, from his IM buddy list, and through the mobile phone that he is constantly pulling from his pocket to read and type into.

What I think that is important about the K12 Online 2006 Conference is that it will help us begin to mimic the learning experiences that our students use nearly every day. We need this experience.

Conference in the Ethers

The edu-blogosphere is a-buzz with news about the K12 Online 2006 Conference. There does not appear to be a link yet to the conference web site, but even without it, there is enormous conversation happening already about this event that will not occur anywhere, but instead occur everywhere.

The already signed conveners and presenters include:

  • Darren Kuropatwa
  • Bud Hunt
  • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
  • Alan Levine
  • Will Richardson
  • Ewan McIntosh
  • Ann Davis

It appears that the only limitations to what can happen in this conference is the imaginations of some incredibly creative people. Definitely an event to be attended, from where ever you might be — and I’ll be in five states during that time. But I’ll definitely be at K12 Online.

Also, I have set up a Hitchhikr page for the conference, and tentatively set k12online and k12online06 as conference tags. This may change, though it is already picking up significant bloggings.

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It’s Labor Day here in the U.S. It is a day where workers can rest. You can read more about Labor day from the Wikipedia, but suffice it to say, most holidays and days of the week do not mean a lot to consultants. You work when you must, and relax and play when you can. I had a wonderful walk around Shelley Lake last night with Brenda and Rasta the dog.

Today, I’ll fly to Detroit, where tomorrow, I will deliver a keynote for the Pinckney School District’s opening day. I’ve done a number of these, over the past few weeks, but I have been especially looking forward to this one. For months, I have been paying attention to a podcast called, Geek!Ed!.

Geek!Ed! is a frequently-weekly podcast produced by four geeks (and occassional guests) from Pinckney Community Schools, MI. Chris and Diane are technology teachers (they have art degrees), Michael does staff development in technology (he has a theatre degree) and Tom is the District Technology Coordinator (he can use UNIX commands). We’re geeks in education who are geeked about the impact of technology on education.

An interesting mix, and one I look forward to knowing better. The keynote’s going to be a challenge, though, a real buffet of topics, including some Telling the New Story, Retooling for Millennial Children, and a healthy helping of Web 2.0. They are especially interested in the Read/Write Web because they have just trained all of their principals to make podcasts. Again, and interesting mix, but one that is bound to work.

If you haven’t already, listen to Geek!Ed! It is an excellent example of an institutional podcast produced by leadership for the organization, yet hold much value for those of use who are miles and hours away. It’s what podcasting is about.

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Where is the Product, and When?

Glasgow educator and blogger, David Muir, wrote yesterday about the product of education versus the process. It’s not an uncommon topic, even going back to my days in education school more than 30 years ago. However, it is probably more relevant now than ever before, as product seems to be THE measure of success today, as students are marched in each year to be measured against some blueprint on what all children at that age must know.

He quotes George Seimens, which I’ll repeat here — but please do go and read David’s perspective. George writes in How Things Change

“We have designed education to promote certainty (i.e. a state of knowing)…we now need to design education to be adaptable (i.e. a process of knowing).”

This reminded me of something that I’ve been thinking about ever since I watched the movie The Lake House a few weeks ago. I remember thinking, throughout the movie, what a great couple the Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock characters are going to make, when they finally get together. You come to love them as individuals. It’s what makes the movie enjoyable. But, do you get to love the couple that they become. Noooooo!

Last night I watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and you’re rooting for Smith and Saunders, and, at the end, they are an item. But do you get to see the pair that they make. Noooooo!

It’s one of the things that’s hard about teaching. You see the kids. You watch them struggle and succeed, and struggle and continue to struggle. You see them at their best and you see them at their worst. You the character that they are building and you know this is going to be a great person one day. But do you get to see that person — the product. Noooooo!

It is about product, but the product is never a part of the movie. It rarely happens in the classroom either. It happens after — long after your teaching is over. Believing that we can find the success in teaching by measuring what students have memorized in their classes is the height of arrogance, in my opinion. Yet, preparing our children for a future that we can not even describe requires of educators more than we have ever expected before.

 27 58678055 D2E5Cd07Dc MWe need teachers who do, indeed, have eyes in the backs of their heads. But not so they can watch for flying erasers — but so, while they attend to their students in the classroom, they are simultaneously observing the world in which they live, and from which they are teaching.
We need teachers who will spend the time to grade the papers, or what ever that entails in a digital world — but also teachers who are willing and able to reflect on their assignments and on student responses in a rapidly changing world, where the answers are changing, and there are more and more new questions.

Teachers will continue to call the roll, but what does classroom management look like when geography (where the learner is) means so much less than what their attention is connected to, where the walls are invisible, and the textbooks live.

It is not a time for teacher-technicians, trained lab clerks who observe a deficiency, and prescribe a scientifically researched strategy. It’s a time for teacher-philosophers, who love their world, love what they teach, love their students, and who love what their students will be.

Image Citation:
Ctd 2005, “Pupil and Teacher.” Ctd 2005’s Photostream. 1 Nov 2005. 3 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/kikisdad/58678055/>.

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Battle Cry of Teachers

I just can’t get enough of great stuff to pass along this morning. That voice in the wilderness and Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis, has published a battle cry for teachers. I’m including part of it here and slightly reformatted. There is a lot in these few words that we’ve been spending megabytes to talk about. You can read here entire blog entry at We will educate by any means necessary: if that means video games, bring it on!

By any means necessary must become the battle cry of teachers.

We will educate by any means necessary!
We will leave behind our preconceived notions!
We will go into territory where we do not feel comfortable!
We will go where our students congregate and interact!
We will do what it takes to reach the most disconnected and connected generation in history.

Education is a perpetual crisis that always leaves us one generation from anarchy!
Teaching must be done by
people of character
who have education of their topic as their aim
and any means necessary as their methodology.


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How should our practice respond?

I found this web page, by way of Susan van Gelder’s reflexions blog. Joyce Valenza has compiled a table that compares the changing conditions that libraries operate under, and makes some detailed suggestions on how libraries and librarians should adapt. I tend to try to factor these things down to three bullet points. But the usefulness is in the details. Thanks Joyce. Also, check out her virtual library.


I Guess this Blog Won’t be Seen in…

Knowledge does not come to us by details, but in flashes of light from heaven.
— Thoreau

Mark Ahlness has delivered another impassioned piece of writing, called “Fighting Filtering.” It’s an old story. But good stories need new energy, and Ahlness is a man of energy and passion.

He points out that EduBlog.org, James Farmer’s blogging service for teachers, is blocked from the Seattle Schools network. So is 2¢ Worth, that tame and docile bed of complacency and conformity. Mark also reports that Technorati is blocked, and I think that this deserves some comment.

Technorati, in a very real way, is the forum of our Athens. This, and other blogging search engines, is where we go to engage in discourse about public affairs, jurisdiction, law, government, right and wrong, and judgement. Open discourse is necessary in a democratic society, and, in my humble opinion, essential in any teaching and learning environment. It’s the hallmark of the new web, but not of our old ways of doing things.

Like the Athens of 2500 years ago, Technorati has alleyways, where the seedier, darker, dangerous, and depraved conversations take place, and because there is that side of our society, I can not say that we should stop filtering content that comes into our classrooms.

However, I think that it is not access to inappropriate and dangerous information that is our only fear. I believe that the open discourse that has been unleashed by these new web applications has come to threaten our notions about how education happens. Education believes in containers. The new information landscape operates without containers. This scares us to death.

From MySpaceWe have taught for decades by putting information into containers. We put it in textbooks, on bookcases, in folders, and on worksheets. We categorized and classified everything from plants and animals to the parts of a sentence. We boxed off and containered information so that we could easily and neatly deliver it to our students, and so that they could easily and neatly report back on their learning. It is a sterile and impersonal way to teach that was designed to prepare children for sterile and impersonal work environments.

The world is changing. Information is changing. How we make a living and contribute to our societies is changing. There are many reasons why education must adapt to changing conditions. But the most imminent and crucial reason is our children. For how many years, or months, or days is the MySpace nation going to allow us to put their learning into containers.

Image Citation
Just Joel, “My Sister.” Just Joel’s Photostream. 23 Mar 2006. 2 Sep 2006 <http://flickr.com/photos/carela/116990476/>.

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Coming of Age 2.0

The Gang from Coming of Age, the free downloadable book on Web 2.0 and education, are busy writing a new version. We’d like to include some instances and descriptions of how people and groups have used the first version of the book. If you have used this book in some notable way, for professional development, technology planning, or self-education, please write to Terry Freedman, the book’s editor. Terry can be reached at:

terry (at) terryfreedman (dot) com