Final Reflections on ISTE 2013

My reflections & reactions are in red and italics

Photo of Riverwalk

I thought I would take some time to go through the notes I took at ISTE last week and include here some of the ideas that struck me – for what ever reason. This will probably consist of short observations of new ideas and new twists on old ones. As I’ve probably written before, I attend these conferences for the language, new ways of thinking and talking about modernizing education.  With 30 years in ed tech, new technologies are usually a surprise.

While at the conference, a number of people, glancing over my shoulder, asked how I was taking notes. I was using GoodNotes, which I like using because I’m actually writing the notes with a stylus, and I find that I’m process ideas differently in long-hand than when I type them. Also, I can import or take photos with the iPad, such as shots of presenter slides or of the presenter — on top of which I can write down notes or comments. Below is an example notes page. I took a photo of this Hack Education conversation to anchor the notes to a specific place and time.

ISTE, for me, started with Hack Education, formerly known as the “EduBloggerCon.” The first impression that hit me, not long after the first conversation began, was how difficult it is to truly visualize, in general terms, the changes we were talking about – and how do you promote School 2.0, when it can’t easily be seen. If you can’t point to it, how do you describe it to non-educators? As I wrote in a previous blog, I suspect that an answer might be to focus more on “Student 2.0,” someone we can point to – and then design education around that.

Another barrier to retooling classrooms, that became even more apparent to me last week was the lack of consistency in leadership. Some of the most interesting schools that I have seen, have recently had their innovative programs squelched by new leadership – leaving the innovators little choice but to move on.

I think that one of the great brain-wrinklers of the day came from David Jakes, who said,

We need to shift from a focus on’Engagement’ to focusing on ‘Empowerment.’

I’ll jump ahead here to another hacker quote quote. I do not remember who said it, but,

The person who does the work is the person who does the learning.”

If working is what leads to learning, then learners need tools that empower them to accomplish that work.

Someone else said,

We’re actually looking for a rebirth of old ideas!

So true and something that we too often forget.

There was some discussion about our use of the word “FAIL” in conversations about education, as we promote the value of failure in learning. Common notions about failure, after all, are entirely contrary to this positive spin. But I feel that if we can get people, adults, to think about the learning that they’ve done since leaving classrooms, and how that learning was accomplished, they will come to see that failure is an essential part of learning. I thought that this was an interesting acronymic arrangement for failure.

F First
A Attempt
I In
L Learning

I jotted down a number of apps mentioned during the Tech Smackdown – and many thanks to Steve Hargadon for his attempts to keep the self-promoting venders out of the fray. I’ve not had a chance to look at all of these, but here are a few that I made note of.

Somebody asked whether “gamification” was just a marketing scheme? This got me to thinking and I concluded that if we do not understand how games help us to learn, the mechanisms that provoke learning, then marketing is probably a pretty accurate description of our attempts to “gamily” (See my reflections of Jane McGonigal’s Keynote). The comment probably came from a conversation about using badges for motivation. Someone said that if all you’re using is badges, then that’s not gamification. It’s badgification.

There was much conversation about why and how you would plant the awarding of badges in the classroom. I suggested that some badges needed to be hidden, a surprise that students happen upon — the reward for doing something productive that was not an expressed outcome – the learning along the way. Also, badges should not just be something that you wear. Badges should also be a passport to doing things or going places that you couldn’t before — new powers, so to speak.

McGonigal said that “reality is broken.” She said that a billion gamers around the world are using a connected device to play a game during any given hour. The game-nation is a network.

People spend 400,000 years playing Angry Birds a day.

92% of 2 year olds play video games (what are they going to think when we give them a textbook?)

Gamers spend 80% of their time failing.

McGonigal said that,

The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression!

That called to mind a quote by George Bernard Shaw,

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

One of the most interesting learning scenarios that I heard of at the conference was relayed by Cheryl Lemke. In a literature class, the students were reading Hamlet. The teacher created Twitter accounts for each of the main characters, and then assigned students to the accounts. They were encouraged to comment on the play, as they were reading it, in the voices of the characters. Very cool!

Lemke also said, “Give students non-googlable assignments!I’m not sure that is entirely accurate. I’d say,

Don’t test with questions that Google can answer.”

Will Richardson said, “The path to becoming a better teacher is becoming a better learner!” I agree with that entirely – and I believe that part of the key here is becoming a more self-aware learner, not just learning but reflecting on how you are learning. Here’s another quote shared by Richardson:

We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion.”

— Margaret Wheatley

Richardson then had us talk with each other about what confused us, and during that conversation it occurred to me that if you’re not confused, then you’re not paying attention – and

I regret that too many educators are not paying attention.

There is too much momentum behind making schools better. They don’t need to be better nearly as much as they need to be different. It’s a different world and school is not a “right of passage.” It’s a right of vantage. Its the right to be positioned in true relevance to yourself, your environment, your time, your culture, your economy and your world and the skills to participate.

He suggested that we are shifting from an institutionally controlled world to a world that is becoming self-organized. There are three starting points, according to Will Richardson:

  1. “Knowmatic” learning – Self-organized learning based on passions and I would add “on impending needs”
  2. Design thinking
  3. The maker movement

I think that there is a lot to think about in this list. Self-organized learning is not only a movement, but it is a necessity. It’s the self-organized learner that will succeed in a rapidly changing and flattening world – and it is entirely counter to the desires of the global education reform movement (GERM).

Design thinking is also a necessity, in that we’re all going to be solving problems and improving conditions, not just the engineers. Designing solutions with elegance, well, that is its own reward.

The maker movement is both solution and symptom. Its one more clue to a rapidly flattening world. Old institutional structures no longer support us and our individual needs. I am also starting to question our economic structures, but that’s for a different conversation.

Gary Stager was a perfect follow-up with his emphasis on the maker movement. He suggests

Three Game Changers

  1. Fabrication
  2. Physical Computing (intelligent objects)
  3. Programming

The real game change, he continued, is that shop and academics merge.

Too cool!

I do not clearly remember the context, but one of Stager’s slides stated that, “A good prompt is worth 1,000 words.” Good prompts have…

Three Qualities

  1. Brevity
  2. Ambiguity
  3. Immunity to assessment

Here is my interpretation of Stager’s list. A prompt must be clear and concise. It must be cloudless, as cloudless as a person’s own personal unarticulated observation of a problem. It should also NOT, in any way, suggest the solution. The learner has free reign to design and execute a personally-designed plan. Finally, if the end product can be assessed by any prior-established assessment routine, then the task was not about innovation. It was about compliance. I would suggest that there may be assessment methods that might work, but they wouldn’t be multiple choice, they would not question the designers – and institutional assessment isn’t part of the (learning) process anyway.

The School 2.0 unconference session, facilitated by Steve Hargadon, served to further refine my notions that it isn’t School 2.0 that we need to focus on, but student 2.0. That’s not my term, and I don’t particularly like it. We need a more descriptive term that does not dishonor the old teaching styles, which had their place in their time.

Sylvia Martinez put the icing on the cake of Gary Stagers presentation. Tinkering as pedagogy makes the best sense to me. Its how I learn. No-one could ever have taught me to program. Playing with code is the only way I could learn, and I would suggest, the best way to learn. She suggested that

Many of the best programmers were, at some point in their lives, told that they were not good a math.”

I think that doing math to numbers and using math to work numbers are two entirely different things.

Qualities of the Tinkering Mindset

  • Bricolage, playfulness, soft mastery
  • Time
  • Lower risk/stakes, imperfect data
  • Trust the process, serendipity
  • Expertise available (and not just the teacher)
  • Does not mean unguided “discovery”

In many ways of thinking, Jason Ohler was the high point of my conference experience. It was a spotlight session in a large hall, so the atmosphere was that of a keynote, and his presentation exceed in quality and content any of the other “keynotes” of the conference. It’s been a long time since I saw Ohler present, but I don’t remember it being anything like this.

He used the phrase, “trends that bent,” and suggested that the three trends that are influencing education are

  1. Critical Thinking – he added in creativity, and made the term creatical thinking.
  2. New LIteracy
  3. Digital Citizenship

The trends that he included in the conference program were

  1. Augmented Reality – Think virtual field trip. I wear my Google Glass to a museum and project my experience back to my students. Of course there are all kinds of ethical issues. There’s a bar that have already outlawed Google Glass because of privacy issues. Where do kids talk about this stuff. Also, this is not the only kind of augmented reality.
  2. Semantic Web – You search the web and it returned what it thinks you are looking for. A bit problematic, though, because it depends on who “it” is. Ohler also suggested Web 4.0, which is the web of things. “Everything holds an app!”
  3. Transmedia Storytelling – Where the audience becomes part of the cast, so to speak. It’s about fan involvement. I wonder, to what degree, is education fan involved. How do we make that happen?
  4. Multisensory ProjectionLeft out in the presentation!
  5. Smart ClothesLeft out in the presentation!

Ohler added in

  1. XTreme BYOD, suggesting that using your own devices is what might turn us into personal learners. Hmmmm!
  2. and Big Data suggesting that the tension point might be

Predictive Anticipation

Vs.

Choice and Breadth

Ohler went on to suggest we watch http://www.kurzweilai.net for evidence of new trends. It’s in my Flipboard now.

About Adam Bellow’s keynote. I have to say that if the conference had opened with that presentation, I would have been a bit disappointed. But as a closing keynote, Bellow nailed it. He honored ISTE, the learning, the tech and our continuing struggles to make formal education as close to real life as possible.

Over the past couple of years, Adam’s presentation style, his confidence on stage, and his content have improved many fold. He’s one of those unique individuals who has been a teacher, but also understands today’s emerging information and communications technologies – as a builder. He’s a programmer and a communicator, and that combination is a rare jewel.

You can see my entire set of notes [here].

 

Jane McGonigal’s Keynote — Reflections

I saw McGonigal's keynote last night, through the din of subdued Bogger Cafe murmurings. It was a fun presentation with lots of useful information, especially the statistics. But I was certain that the last time I saw her, McGonigal had a British accent. I'm old. Forgive me.

One set of numbers that I thought were especially telling described student aspirations — that 43% of students want to start their own business and 42% plan to invent something that changes the world. Is it the job of formal education to support our children in these aspirations, or indoctrinate them with the harsh reality that they will work for someone else, follow instructions and fit in. I suspect that a lot of the products in the exhibit are designed for the latter.

Another compelling part of the presentation was a listing of the 10 positive emotions that result from playing games. Although I am certain that there were many educators in the audience who needed to see that video games are not, necessarily, the root of all evi — I watched the keynote, wondering if Jane McGonigal was speaking to group of game designers, is this the presentation she would be giving? How playing games affects children is useful. But what would truly help me is understanding the mechanisms that evoke those emotions. How do games do it — and how might formal learning experiences pull those same triggers.

Of course, what was most fun was the MMTW, that is Massively Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling. I won't tell you how I did, but it might be my next book.

My ISTE Un-Presentation

Untitled
As a result of my not doing any presentations at ISTE, I may appear to be a little unfocused – as Peggy George found out when photographing me at the Hack Education event.
As my wife was driving me to the airport on Friday, I suddenly noticed how relaxed I was. It was a striking realization that, because I decided not to submit any proposals to the ISTE committee this year, I am approaching the conference with a new and unfamiliar perspective. I’m an attendee. My attendee badge is entirely unadorned with ribbons. It feel so good.

That said, a number of weeks ago someone with the K-12 Online Conference re-posted a presentation that I did for them back in 2006.  I watched it, and with only a few exceptions, there is little that I could talk able today that isn’t part of that virtual address from seven years ago.  

So, I downloaded the video, deleted out some of the dated material (2006 was pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook) and reposted it to my own channel.  If you get a few minutes, give it a view.

Individualized Instruction Vs. Personalized Learning

This is one of those blog posts intended to help me shape my own thoughts – and asks you, “How close I am to the real world of teaching and learning?”

With nearly four decades of experience in education, I’ve seen initiatives and memes come and go, pumped up and deflated by the hot and cold air of the education conversation. None of it, quite frankly, has had much effect on my personal philosophies of education – and I suspect the same can be said for many of you. Hopefully, we’ve simply become better at voicing those philosophies.

So this morning, I’d like to explore what appears to me to be a passing of conversational energy (hot air) from the term, individualized instruction to personalized learning. This shift can be seen with a Google Trends analysis, comparing the number of searches of both phrases from 2005 to 2013 and projected beyond.

Graph of the shifting interest (Google Trends) between Individualized Instruction and Personalized Learning

The concepts, in my mind, are quite different. However, in practice, I fear that they could be implemented in the same way. Personalized learning, in essence, is a life-long practice, as it is for you and me, as we live and learn independent of teachers, textbooks, and learning standards.  Individualized instruction is more contained.

So here is a little more breakdown, as I see it, of the differences between personalized learning and individual instruction – acknowledging that this is not strictly an either/or proposition. Please comment your thoughts.

  Individualized Instruction Personalized Learning
Definition Planned & implemented instructional strategies based on knowledge of best practices and analysis of individual student readiness, learning styles and areas of interest. Learner devised learning activities based on reflection and conversations with teachers and other stakeholders, and a resourceful use of a growing knowledge of resources and personal learning strategies.
Literacy Becomes a.. ..mastery of a defined scope and sequence of institutionally established reading and writing skills — in addition to numeracy ..wide range of evolving information skills developed around the activities of learning – the ability to acquire knowledge and skills through the resourceful and responsible utilization of information.
Teacher’s Role Use data that provides a description of individual students’ proficiencies in order to select best practice strategies that help each student to master competencies defined by established standards.
  1. Create, craft and maintain a learning environment where learners are free to safely and effectively pursue personal interests.
  2. Guide learning experiences in order to maintain a healthy and comprehensive environmental and societal context that nurtures knowledgable, resourceful and caring citizens.
  3. Assist learners in developing and refining personal learning literacies and habits.
Student’s Role Pay attention to the teacher, follow instructions, remember and perform. Pay attention to the world, consult with the teacher (and others), identify and pursue emerging areas of interest, resourcefully learn and produce from that learning.
Standards A rich set of institutionally and politically established competencies that are founded on basic literacies and that can be tested, measured and converted into data that is optimally available to teachers for refining instruction. A much more shallow framework of competencies, founded on learning literacies, and demonstrated through original, compelling and valuable published or constructed works.
Outcomes Literate and knowledgeable performers. Skilled, knowledgeable, curious, compassionate, wise and engaged life-long learners.
It’s Essence Education is done to the student Education happens as a result of what the learner does.

What do you think?

 

ISTE Session Trends

In the past I have done word counts from ISTE’s conference programs to illustrate topic trends, especially during the early days of the social web.  Its fairly unscientific,

ISTE Conference Trending - an HTML5 Animated Infographic
because there are lots of factors that determine the verbiage of session descriptions, especially for a conference as discerning as ISTE.

This year, I decided to do the same, but also use the activity as an opportunity for playing around with Tumult HYPE 1.6, a Macintosh app for creating HTML5 animations.  From their web site:

Tumult Hype’s keyframe-based animation system brings your content to life. Click “Record” and Tumult Hype watches your every move, automatically creating keyframes as needed. Or, if you’d prefer to be more hands-on, manually add, remove, and re-arrange keyframes to fine-tune your content.

As is often the case, I probably payed more attention to pushing the tech, than perfecting the communication.  This was a learning experience, after all.  Take a look and see what’s trending down and what few topics are trending upward.  Click [here] to see the animated infographic.

Conference Gear – ISTE Photo Walk

From the archive of last year's Photo Safari
This blog post is going to be in two installments.  This first one is my opportunity to share my gear, but also to promote ISTE’s 5th annual Photo Walk / Photo Safari.  Organized by Apple Destinguished Educators (IDEs), the gathering and 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM on Sunday.  I attended last year’s more extended walk in San Diego, and from that, I’d recommend a health application of sunblock.  Here are photos taken during that walk.

This year, I’ll be taking the following gear as of now.  Main tool will be a Nikon D5100 (more camera than I deserve) with 24-120 and 55-300MM Nikon lenses.  You also see a remote for taking those sensitive low-light shots where camera movement is death to the end product.  It also comes in handy for HDRs, which abuse, admittedly.

David Warlick's Gear Gathering for the ISTE13 ADE Photo Safari in San Antonio on June 23 2013
My gear for the Photo Walk. A tripod for the big camera is still under consideration.
 There are also an unglamorous assortment of filters, and a variety of methods for getting photos from camera to computer (or iPad).  You can also see two embarrassingly low capacity and slow memory cards.  

For my iPhone 4 (older iPhone 3GS standing in), I’ll have a miniature tripod, mostly because I can.  There is also an alternative and easier to attach tripod mount and an ōlloclip, which is a very cool lens set for iPhonography.  Most of the umpgh in my iPhone is in the apps, my favorite of which are Snapseed, TiltShift, Pro HDR, AutoStitch and ToonCamera.

Go here to register for the ADE ISTE Photo Safari 2013.

Top Ten Tips for Attending ISTE 13

This article was first posted on June 17, 2012 for ISTE 12

How to dress at ISTE13
Everyone is posting their dress and packing tips for the coming International Society for Technology Education conference – ISTE13. So I, as a professional conference go’er, thought I would contribute ten more tips for ISTE in Texas.

  1. San Antonio is cold this time of year, so wear heavy clothing. Dress in layers, because conference centers are notoriously hot. You’ll be doing lots of walking so wear boots, big ones, with lots of laces – Unless you’ve brought heals.
  2. You’ll want to take lots of notes, so carry several spiral-bound note books. Also carry pencils — #2s. If you can find them, use white or aluminum grey pencils. They’ll impress the people sitting near you.
  3. In the presentation rooms, be careful not to sit near anyone with a computer or tablet computer. They have almost certainly left their email notification alarm on, and when it goes off, everyone will turn around and look — at you! If someone with a computer sits near you, get up and find a more secluded spot.
  4. If possible, sit on the front row and straighten your legs out as far as possible. This is where the boots come in, because presenters love to navigate obstacle courses while presenting.
  5. The exhibit hall is the reason you came. There’s treasure here. It’s also a great place for play. Pretend you’re invisible. Wearing a dark cap will help. If you can achieve invisibility, then you’ll have the run of the hall. Simply walk into any booth and pick-up all the pens, pencils, letter openers, and soft fuzzy balls you can find, and slip them quietly into your bag–preferably a large brown paper bag. Chocolate is an especially treasured item and worth a return for more. If someone in a booth confronts you, then carefully put the pencil back on the table, look down at the floor and slowly back away.
  6. You’ll see areas in the conference center with comfortable chairs, where people will be milling, talking, and showing each other their computers. Shun these places. The people will try to brainwash you.
  7. If someone approaches you, wanting to talk, then turn invisible. If this doesn’t work, then look very stupid. You’ll need to practice this in front of a mirror. If they persist, then speak gibberish and walk away.
  8. If you hear anyone speak with an English accent, don’t believe anything they say – no matter how intelligent they sound or cute their accent. This goes double for Australians and New Zealanders.
  9. When the day is over, or by 4:00 PM, which ever comes first, flee back to your hotel room. This is the real challenge of conference-going, finding things to do in your hotel room. I like to remove the lids of shampoo bottles and guess their scent. Also, the extra blankets in the closet are expressly provided for the construction of elaborate blanket forts. ..and I hope that you are a fan of “Law and Order.” It will be playing during your entire visit – on at least three channels.
  10. What David really wants you to do is be comfortable, hungry to learn, ready to laugh and willing to cry, tweet your heart out and hashtag with #iste13, take every opportunity to meet someone new, and wear something strange. I like those satin slippers with toes that curl up and a tiny bell on the end.

If I see you at ISTE13, please forgive me if I’ve forgotten your name. I’m way past the need for excuses.