It’s Silly, I know!

It’s a silly distinction to make, I know, objecting to “personalize learning,” as a term for describing the current flavor-of-the-week in education reform/transformation conversation, preferring instead, “personal learning,” .  

As an advocate, I cannot fault the use of either label for student learning that is personal, needs-based, unconfined and empowered by personal passions and skills. That’s my immodestly paltry characterization that fits both terms.

I could, if I thought it would be the least bit helpful, call attention to semantics, suggesting that one is a verb, “..produce (something) to meet someone’s individual requirements..”, and the other an adjective, “..belonging to a particular person..”

But I guess what disturbs me the most and prevents me from letting go of this argument is that one can be

  • Packaged,
  • Monetized,
  • and marketed

to superintendents and legislators,

 

The other liberates learning.

The Bookbag: 2018

TRS-80 Model III
(cc) photo by Hugo Schotman
Apple IIe
(cc) photo by Mark Mathosian

I’m doing something right now that I have only gotten to do a good handful of times during my career as an educator. I am starting a brand new presentation slide deck.  What fun! Understand that when I left the classroom as a teacher, the standard for technology in the classroom was the TRS-80, and the venerable Apple IIe had only just launched. Persuasion, PowerPoint and Keynote were hardly in our imaginations.

Since I started delivering keynote addresses at conferences, I’ve had about five standard talks. They have afforded me basic structures, reasonable frameworks, about which I could tell stories that provoked new ideas about teaching and learning. Today I am starting a new one – and probably my last one.

103/366
(cc) photo by Phoenix

A compelling speaker needs a gimmick, an idea or object that is familiar, but can be turned inside out in such a way as to provoke a shakabuku, “..a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever,” if I might be so bold. 1

For this presentation, I’ve decided to use the school bookbag. One of the stabling blocks of promoting new ways to think about education is vocabulary. The biggie? “What do you call a textbook that’s not a book?

If it’s not a book, then what do you put in your school bookbag? I have some ideas…

But what do you think?

If students continue to bring bookbags to school in 2018, then what will be in them?

Please comment or Tweet (#bookbag2018).

Thanks!

Added Later

One thing that I do know is that a Bookbag, filled with 20 pounds of books, indicates a school based on standards — and such a school does not teach literacy nearly so much as it teaches compliance.

 

1Driver, M. (Performer) (1997). Grosse pointe blank [DVD]. Available from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119229/?ref_=sr_1

 

One More Thing about Bobby

I found my lab coat! SCIENCE!!!
(CC) Photo by Jake Fudge
Some of the comments that my last two blog posts have incited lead me to write one more thing about Bobby. I have no issue with anything that has been said in those comments. I feel, though, that a big part of the point of my story has been overlooked.

I will say here that I became a teacher because I wanted to help children and watch them grow and become more capable, compassionate and respectful of the culture and society of their community and their world. That said, I believe that teaching has become way to clinical. In our misguided efforts to establish success by being able to measure learning, we have fabricated a system of complex and rigid classifications with symptoms, diagnoses and prescribed treatments.  We have tried to make teaching a science, and it is not.  Teaching is an art.

In the early days of NCLB, being an educator was compared to being a pharmacist, where less than successful learners could be treated with scientifically proven best practices and the application of big data.  

Of course this clinical approach does describe part of what it is to teach.  I call this the teacher-technician.  However, what Bobby’d learned, that enabled him to diagnose my car’s problem from the telling of my entertaining story, did not result from an elaborate construct of scientifically proven best practices.  It happened because of a family or close-knit community that talked about cars; what made them work and what made them work better.  They valued good cars that could be made faster than they were off the showroom floor, and they valued the folks who could accomplish it.  They worked on cars.  They fixed them. ..and sometimes it didn’t work, and they talked about it – and they learned from what went wrong.

Bobby’s story is not  meant to promote classrooms that are shaped by established and described differentiations and toolboxes of prescribed remedies.  What I would rather see are teacher-philosophers who are skilled, knowledgeable and can facilitate a learning community that:

  • Values what is being learned
  • Respects the learning that comes from success
  • Respects the learning that comes from failure and
  • Celebrates what learners can do with what they have learned.

It is a classroom where students can turn around and look back at the concrete and public results of their learning.

 

Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network 2.0

CYPLN in 3 Formats

It is with great pleasure and no small amount of relief, that I announce the second edition of Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network: A Gardener’s Approach to Learning – formerly known as A Gardener’s approach to Learning: Cultivating at our Personal Learning Network.  Switching the title and subtitle was the idea of my wife and business manager, Brenda.  She’d long felt that  “A Gardener’s Approach..” did not clearly describe the content and function of the book.

This second edition started innocently enough when, with an afternoon to kill, I downloaded Apples iBooks Author (iBA) software, a free download that helps us create interactive iBooks for publishing through the iBooks book store and iTunes.  Since it was my latest book, I dumped the text of Gardener’s Approach.. into iBA and started playing.  My initial reaction was not that different from what I initially though if iBooks.  They glow and flow, but provide little opportunity for the reader to talk back, which I believe should be a core goal for the next generation of learning content.  The iBooks I’d seen were still primarily intended for top-down reader-passive content consumption.

However, when I started factoring in the great fun I’ve had with Apple Keynote’s dazzling animation capabilities and the ability to insert keynotes into the iBook, I continued to play, adding animated tutorials for some parts of the book.  

I initially struggled with the HTML feature of iBooks, which I couldn’t figure out for the life of me.  I’ve been coding in HTML for nearly 20 years.  They I learned…

It seems that what iBook Author means by HTML is actually Dashboard Widgets, which are small programs that can be downloaded and installed on your Macintosh computer and run in the background – and now in the widgets space on later versions of Mac’s OS.  They have come in nearly every category of software, but are usually utilities such as calculators, calendars and clocks. I saw no use for any of these utilities in my book, so I set out researching and teaching myself how to write my own dashboard widgets. 

As I played (which is what learning often feels like to me), ideas started forming for interfacing my iBook with the web and specifically with web pages that would give readers the ability to add and comment on their own stories of networked learning.  It was at that point that I was hooked.

Of course, reading through the book, I learned how dreadfully out-of-date it was, so I started editing and rewriting major portions of CYPLN and adding at least one chapter.  After all, the first edition was written before the Apple iPad launched.  So, after many edits and re-edits, with the tireless assistance of Brenda, and the launch of Bookry, which provides a tool for creating much slicker widgets than I was writing, I’ve published Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network 2nd Ed, in print, ebook (for Kindle), and iBook (with color, motion, and conversation).

The most interesting part of this endeavor was the act of using many of the skills and techniques described in the book in order to learn how to publish it in these new formats and with these new features.  My own PLN grew.

I hurriedly produced the video below as an introduction to some of the features of the iBooks version.

 

The print and ebook versions, like the first edition of CYPLN, feature QR-Codes, which give the reader access to many of the features of the iBook – without the flair. 

One concept that jelled for me during the proces was that of scale. Because the ebook and iBook versions of CYPLN was digital, weightless and so easily distributed, I’ve decided to price for scale. So the iBook and ebook (Kindle) versions are only $2.99 (USD). Since the print version (259 pages) must be produced and shipped, I have to charge a little more, $8.99, which gives me a profit similar to that of the digital books.

This will take you to a page with links to the various purchasing venues: http://goo.gl/EUu7B

Enjoy!