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.


It Was Good Enough for Me

Our classrooms require a better window on the world than this… ((Han, Churl. “My classroom in Frieze.” Churl’s Photostream. N.p., 29 Jan 2006. Web. 8 Apr 2010. .))

I frequently receive comments and e-mails from readers expressing their agreement with something I’ve written or said. And then they lament the realities. “But, I have only one working computer in my classroom.” “But, interactive white boards are a pipe dream for us.” “But, Internet is too slow and/or too filtered for practical use.” ..or “We’ve been told to stop using technology or any supplemental materials after March and use only materials designed specifically around test prep.

We are not working under these conditions because of our zip code or because of some unavoidably cyclical function of our reality. These constraints do not happen like weather patterns that we simply have to hunker down and wait out. They happen because of decisions that people make due to greed, misinformation, politico-social agendas, or ignorance.

That we continue to try to prepare children for the future under these conditions is not the problem. The problem is that there are some (many) who still believe that these conditions are good enough.

“What was good enough for me is good enough for ‘your’ children.”

My advice?

  1. Dream and decide:
    1. What you want your classroom to become?
    2. What kind of access to information you need, in order to facilitate learning?
    3. What kind of access to information does your classroom need for relevant learning to happen?
    4. What kind of access to information do your learners personally need to drive their own learning?
  2. Answer the questions,
    1. “What will your community’s children be able to learn in this classroom?”
    2. “What kind of relevant and compelling learning experiences might your community’s children enjoy?”
  3. Reject any technologies from item 1 that do not directly contribute to item 2.
  4. Take the answers to item 2 and turn them into a story.
    1. “Here is the classroom that is possible.”
    2. “Here is what your children will learn in this classroom.”
    3. “Here is how they will learn and what they will do with what they learn.”
    4. “Here is the classroom I want, the classroom your children deserve, the classroom that our future requires.”
  5. Tell that story. Set up a page on your web site called “My Dream Classroom.” Update it regularly. Share it with other teachers. Share it with your students, your friends, and the parents of your students.

    Make its upkeep part of your personal professional development.

New Year’s Resolutions

The Post-it Man by Tim Ove ((Ove, Tim. “The “Post-it” Man.” Flickr. 22 Dec 2009. Web. 31 Dec 2009. .))

It is customary to offer your new year’s resolutions — a custom I usually avoid. Why set yourself up for disappointment. But over the past few mornings I’ve been thinking that NYRs might be an interesting way to make a statement — something I’m obviously not very shy about.

So, here are my 2010 New Year’s Resolutions.

  1. I will accept that I may no longer be a believer — Over the years, I have been gradually, and not without resistance, losing my faith. I am afraid that I may no longer believe in education.
    There is no problem with education.
    Education is the problem.

    Our goal is preparing our children for their future, and I am becoming convinced that education — our belief in education — is preventing us from accomplishing that goal.

  2. I will avoid, at all (most) costs, using the following words:
    • education — It gets in the way. Anybody know what I might substitute the word education with? 😉
    • student — Implies learning as passive and separate from living. I’ll try to use learner instead.
    • technology — What does it mean to you? me? I think it is better to tell the story — what the learner is doing, with what, and to what ends.
    • teach — The active and accented verb in our conversations should be “learn” not “teach.”
    • teacher — I’m actually not too sure about this one. I may start referring to us a teacher-learners.
  3. I will try, at all costs, to speak plaining and to clearly paint pictures for what I am striving to convey. If we agree that “it takes a village to teach a child,” then we need to be speaking in villagese, not schoolese. We need to try to avoid the vague terminologies that portray us as experts, and instead, use sentences that more effectively spread our knowledge and experience.
  4. I will more aggressively and compellingly speak out against standardized testing, and to direct conversations toward alternatives.
    I believe that standardized, high-stakes testing has done far more harm to more children then all the social networks on the planet.
  5. I will try to spend less time sitting at my computer and more time doing something unrelated to “education” and “technology.”  Anybody know where I can download the guitar tabs for It is One, by Jackson Browne?
  6. OK! I will also get my weight down to 190, hug my wife more, be nicer to the dog, and eat less meat.

Happy New Year, My Friends!

Dreaming in Digital

Dreaming in Digital

A mashup of Dreams by Ragesh Vasudevan
& Day Dream by Gauri Ma

My MacBook, I fear, is on its last leg.  Over the past two months it’s crashed three times during presentations, which is about three million times more often than it has ever crashed before (that is never) — and that’s with being re-booted only once every three weeks or so.  I’m sure there is something that could be done to fix this, but the hard drive is too small, the machine too heavy, and the battery life is too short — and I’m starting to lust for new tech. 

I spent some minutes on the Apple Macbook Pro web site earlier this morning and watched the video about the unibody design and its manufacturing.  Having worked in a machine shop and being familiar with many of the processes for carving out an elegant device enclosure, I was entirely impressed.

..and I’ll be dreaming tech tonight.

But this is part of our problem, I believe, that we continue to dream in tech because we still think and speak in tech.  I went back and reviewed some of the recent discussions about the power of “audience” with contributions from Dean Shareski, Clarence Fisher, and Jeff Utecht’s posts, and my additional pocket change — and this line struck me from a comment posted day before yesterday by Christian Long.  He wrote:

But in time, I truly hope that we will no longer be amazed that someone from ‘far away’ visited a ‘blog’ (after all, location matters not a bit when its all *one* Internet).

So what replaces the ‘far away’ appeal?  What should amaze learners when the novelty of audience fades?  Should learning amaze us?  Does learning amaze you?  Christian continues:

Instead, we need to shift to ‘quality’ being the point of both the content our student-learners create and the way our audiences respond (and mash-up) what we create.

Bingo!  What might be amazing to learners (what amazes me) is to see what happens to our ideas when we see them grow, become larger (or more condensed), attach themselves to other ideas that we’d not imagined, or explored from brand new perspectives — by virtue of their being bounced off of other people.

In one of my new presentations, I talk about the power of traction.  You can’t move without traction.  We need hard places upon which we can push and pull, and pushing and pulling with our ideas, testing them, confirming them, or growing them seems a wonderful way to learn.  Audience can be a huge part of that traction — but it’s not the only hard place.

Considering all of this, I’m happy to see that the word technology doesn’t appear in my Twitter Cloud for 2009. (click to enlarge)

We can also take an idea and punch the data around it into a computer and learn from the visualization that we chisel out of it.  It’s what comes back to us when we try to express our idea with an animation and learn more by pushing it through the interations that make it move.  It’s about using a word processor to work the words into the most precise and sublime expression of our idea — making it fresher, more crisp, and easier to talk about.

But we continue to think and talk in technology.  I continue to think about that brand new Macbook Pro riding more gently from my shoulder at my first 2010 conference.  But I need to shun the language of tech and think more in the language of digital information, networked information, in the language of information-abundance.  It’s this language that we should be using in our conversations and our presentations.

Zenas Lee writes in her blog that in Korea, dreaming in English is the people’s “dream,” that if they are dreaming in English, then they have achieved a significant level of fluency.  But in researching this idea, she seems to conclude, along with Linguist, Steve Kaufmann, and various others, that it has less to do with fluency, and more to do with dedication. ((Lee, Zenas. (2007, December 4). Dreaming in another language [Web log message]. Retrieved from ))  We should direct our thoughts to the flow and glow of networked digital information and concern ourselves less with the tech.  The learning experience has to do with the information and what we can do with that information.  Our dedication should be to free and empower learners to push and pull their ideas and knowledge through the digital, networked, and information-abundant roadways. 

Our “dream” should be to dream in digital…

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