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Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 6

Here is the 6th installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004.  The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

Finally the images fade to a map of the world done in negative relief, appearing as it did millions of years ago. A timeline appears to the right of the map beginning at about 200 million years ago. A citation also appears in off-white indicating a Web site that was the source of their data. Immediately, a pointer, starting at the bottom of the timeline, starts to move up slowly. Simultaneously, landmasses begin to move in a motion with which the students are already familiar. Many of them have also used this animation from the Smithsonian Institute’s Web site.

The team is not downgraded for using the familiar animation. However, the class becomes noticeably more interested as splotches begin to fade in and out in specific locations on the map. Numbers are imposed over the splotches as they gradually expand and become more opaque and then shrink to transparency. Soft but intense music plays in the background, credited to a talented student who had attended Bacon school two years earlier, a short citation appearing in the lower corner of the display. Samuel speaks over the animation and music, describing periods in the planet’s relatively recent history of mass extinctions and seemingly spontaneous raises in species diversity.

“Each rise and fall has corresponded with some dramatic change in global conditions: ice ages, planetary collisions, volcanic or seismic calamities…” Samuel speaks on eloquently.

As he continues, Ms. Crabtree is taken back to a conversation she had with the boy during their work on the ecology project. Samuel is thought by many to be a technical genius. He has a genuine gift for understanding and using technology. He also has a flair for using these tools to communicate persuasively. She had convinced Samuel, however, not to handle the programming and data manipulation for this project, that he leave that up to Johann – that Samuel only be allowed to give Johann verbal directions. She had also asked Samuel to do more of the copy and script writing on this project, an activity that she knew would be a challenge for him.

Several Days Earlier: 

Sally entered the school media center, a faint electronic click registering her entrance from the chip in her nametag. She stepped aside, so as not to block the doorway, and surveyed the room. The media center has far fewer books than it did when she went to middle school in the middle 1980s. There is a section in one corner that consists of shelves with books of various sizes and colors. They are almost exclusively fiction books that students check out for pleasure and for assignments in their humanities classes. These books remain because it is a deeply held belief that students appreciate the experience of reading a story without the benefit of electronic appliances. Regardless, most reading is done with tablet computers and smaller pocket text and audio readers.

The biggest portion of the room is devoted to work areas that Isaac calls “Knowledge Gardens.” Most of these workspaces consist of a table, with a 19-inch display, attached to a folding cradle that can swivel 360o. The display can be assigned to any tablet in its vicinity when the owner touches the print login pad. Scattered around the table are small, but efficient, keyboards, each of which can also be assigned to any tablet with the touch of its print login pad.

There are also two small stages with 4×8-foot display boards where teams can practice their presentations. She also sees a number of work areas that are much more casual, with homey lamps, bean bag chairs, low sofas, and assorted pillows. The media center is set up for knowledge construction, not just information accessing. Students come here to work, and mostly to work in small groups. It is rarely a quiet place.

Sally found the Reptiles and walked over. All four were together discussing their defense of one of the information resources they are using. She caught Samuel’s eye and asked if he would join her for a minute. She had read through the talented young man’s text document for the project, which was comprehensive and well organized. It appeared, though, that he had paid very little attention to grammar and sentence structure.

They sat down at an unoccupied table and she laid her tablet down, saying, “I wanted to talk for just a minute about your report.”

The story continues here.

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 5

Here is the 4th installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004.  The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

With the team’s customary “Slither, Slither” chant, the room darkens and the front display board goes black, as Johann manipulates icons on his tablet with a glowing stylus. As the room turns dark, the classroom door opens and closes quietly as Mr. Ball walks in and sits in a seat toward the back of the room. From the center of the room, Desmone speaks, “The Institute of Ecosystem Studies’ definition of ecology is ‘Ecology is the scientific study of the processes influencing the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interactions among organisms, and the interactions between organisms and the transformation and flux of energy and matter.’” White text of the definition gradually brightens into view on the large display with key terms shifting to red. Then the definition gradually fades away into black.

Desmone continues, “There are no guarantees. The world is in flux. Conditions change, and the ecological balance teeters here and there, sponsoring the loss of some species, and the introduction of new ones. Some weaken, and others become stronger…”

While she speaks images of now extinct species surface into view, and then fade again, while in the background and watermarked to about half brightness, two videos impose on each other. One displays a group of cheetahs chasing down a wildebeest that has been taken by surprise. The other shows a pride of lions failing to catch three gazelles that rapidly dart left and right out of reach. Desmone continues to speak describing specific species of both animals and plants that have disappeared or changed dramatically, and the environmental conditions that seem to have caused the change.

 

 

To be Continued!

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 4

Here is the 4th installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004.  The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

Sally returns to her desk, picks up her tablet and glances at the attendance document that automatically appears, indicating that one of her B2 students is not present, but that he is on the campus. Attendance remains a political necessity, but teachers no longer have to call the roll since the campus proximity system knows the location of all students and faculty on campus by their nametag chips.

A series of checks also appear by the student names on her class roll, indicating that they have submitted their class assignments. Some checks indicate initial submission of the work, others indicate that submitted work has been reviewed by the teacher, reworked by the student, and re-submitted. One student name has no check by it, but one suddenly appears as she is scanning the list. She looks up at the youngster, who blushes and returns his attention to his tablet.

She touches with her finger the Send icon at the corner of her information appliance, and the short message, written earlier in the morning, is sent directly to Mr. Ball’s pocket tablet.

As Sean, the missing student, walks quickly into the room, shaking Ms. Crabtree’s hand distractedly and finds his desk, Sally announces, “As you know, today the Reptiles (“slither, slither” the members murmur at the mention of their team name) will make their presentation. I have to say that I am very excited about this presentation. Johann, Desmone, Alf, and Samuel have all worked very hard on their report, and I think you will learn a great deal from this presentation.”

Ms. Crabtree continues, “But before we get started, I want to mention that you have an assignment posted on your calendars. I want you to read a short story written by a teenager from Croatia. A2 read it yesterday, and we had some very interesting discussions about the story today. Mr. Johnson also contacted the author and she sent a video file, in which she explains why she wrote the story. You are welcome to access A2’s discussion and Nadia Kaufman’s video file from the school’s video archive.”

“Now, without any further adieu, I introduce to you, the Reptiles.”

 

The story continues here!

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 3

Here is the 3rd installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004.  The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

At the ring of the bell, Sally rises and walks over to the door, shaking the hand of each student as he or she enters the room. She smiles as she sees Alf walking rapidly down the hall to join the group as it enters her classroom. A tall young man with uncombed curly brown hair, the dark complexion of a boy who spends a lot of time outdoors, and the customary awkwardness of teenagers who are growing too fast, he shakes Ms. Crabtree’s hand, but does not look up at her, moving away and toward his seat in the rear of the room.

As she turns to her classroom, she recalls the morning visit from Mr. Ball, their balding and portly principal.

Earlier in the Morning:

Ms. Crabtree looked up in mock irritation as the 31-year educator spun one of the rolling student desks over to her work area and sat heavily in the seat without consideration of his greater than average size. Sally and Mr. Ball had been friends for all of the eight years that he has been the chief administrator of Bacon, both professionally and personally. Their long friendship and professional relationship did not require niceties. He began with the heart of the problem. “Alf Greeley was taken in by the police last night for vandalism,” he says.

Sally sighed and replied, “It was probably another fight with his mother. He is still hurting so much from their split, and she simply does not know how her reaction is making things worse for her son.”

“All we can do is to try and keep him engaged in his projects and help him in anyway that we can,” Mr. Ball says. “I just thought you should know, so that you can handle things accordingly.”

“His team, the Reptiles, is making their ecology movement presentation today.” Sally finally smiled at her friend and boss. “If you were to casually come in to watch, it would be an encouraging gesture.”

Mr. Ball stood and said, “Send me a message when they are getting started and I’ll do what I can!”

As the principal shoved the abducted seat back in the direction of the other desks, Sally pulled up her e-mail utility, addressed a message to Mr. Ball, and wrote the note, “Reptiles are starting their presentation! -SC-“. She set it for delayed delivery, to be sent directly to his pocket tablet upon her click of a Send icon that suddenly appeared in a corner of her tablet.

 

The story continues here!

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 2

Here is the 2nd installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004. The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc. Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

As the B2 bell rings, Isaac sits at his desk in the media center and touches icons on his tablet causing a white document to appear on the display, a diagram of the Bacon School campus. He then taps with his finger the location on the map corresponding with Ms. Crabtree’s classroom. Suddenly a full motion, real-time video of the classroom appears on his tablet, captured by a camera that is mounted in the back of the room near the ceiling.

An additional document slides out of the video window that lists the owners of a few dozen outside computers that are also monitoring that classroom. There are usually five to ten viewers of any one class, usually parents who are monitoring what their children are doing and how they are behaving. Many pop in just to learn. However, when there is going to be a team project presentation, many more parents, other residents of the community, and often teachers and students from other schools drop in to watch. All teams maintain Web sites that represent the progress of their work, including their work logs, considered resources, defenses, and their presentation date.

As the students begin entering Ms. Johnson’s classroom, Isaac thinks back to an encounter he had with Desmone this morning just before A2.

Earlier in the Morning

Ms. Shuni, the other Media Center Professional, had just walked into their office area from one of the classrooms, where she had been consulting with a teacher. “Konichiwa,” she said as she passed Isaac’s desk. It is Japan week.

“Konichiwa, Margaret-san,” John replies, with a prayer bow gesture.

The 32 year library media specialist walked over to her desk, fit her tablet into its cradle, and touched the print login surface of her keyboard with her thumb, causing a virtual connection between the two devices through the room’s wireless network. As she began typing an e-mail message, a group of students ambled into the media center. Mr. Johnson rose from his desk and strolled out into the larger room to see if he was needed.

Desmone, a member of Sally’s Reptiles, said something to the group she was with and then walked over to Isaac. She was visibly anxious. “Mr. Johnson, Alf got in trouble again last night.” The young man motioned to a nearby unoccupied work area, and they both walked over and sat. “Have you heard from him? Have you seen him here at school yet? Will he be here for our presentation today?”

Isaac asked the girl for her tablet and then pressed the print login with his index finger so that the information appliance could reconfigure itself for his access. He then pulled up the school’s information system, and learned that the boy’s nametag has not been registered for the day. “He isn’t in the building – yet,” said Mr. Johnson.

The library media specialist then accessed the call-in register to see if Alf’s mother had called indicating that he will not be in school that day. “His mother hasn’t called in. Right now, it looks like he will be here.” After a pause, Mr. Johnson says, “Just a minute!”

He pulled up the work folder for the Reptile’s project and accessed Alf’s video presentation, the part of the project in which he had been most engaged. Mr. Johnson touched the icon for the student’s file, then touched the menu bar at the top of the display to select “Info” from the drop down list of options. A small white document appeared with statistical information on the file including its size, type, location and other data. Mr. Johnson touched the word “history” and a second document sprang out. After reading the list of entries there, he looked up at Desmone, smiled, handed the tablet over after touching an icon to erase his configuration, and said, “I think Alf will be here today!”

As she reached for her tablet, Desmone noticed that her friends had gathered their things and were headed out of the room. She quickly thanked the educator, with some uncertainty, and turned to join her friends.

It continues here.

 

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction – Installment 1

Here is the 1st installment of a short story I wrote as the 1st chapter of Redefining Literacy in the 21st Century, written in 2004. The setting is 2014. It starts here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc. Reprinted with permission from ABC-CLIO, publisher of Redefining Literacy 2.0

Middle School 2014: A Future Fiction

by David Warlick

Sally Crabtree sits at her desk as her A2 students amble out of her classroom, most talking in pairs and threes, some glancing at their tablets for messages from friends, parents, or project collaborators. Sally crosses her legs, lays her tablet in her lap and begins dragging icons around on the smooth bright surface using the stylus she slides out of the holder on the edge of the information appliance. As she busily works at her device, the information on the large plasma display at the front of the room begins to change, some sections of text and images moving around, new ones appearing, and others disappearing. Blocks of information slide down into view illustrating weather conditions, Web-cams in other parts of the world, and finally Arabic music, care of a Baghdad radio station.

Outside her classroom, students stroll down the halls toward their next class, B2 (B period, 2nd day of the week), or huddle in groups, talking, drawing at their tablet displays with fingers or styluses. Most of the conversations are purely the social exchanges between newly pubescent middle-schoolers. However, a significant number of the interactions are discussions of the class projects in which teams of students are constantly engaged. Projects are the primary activity of Bacon School, and most other schools in 2014.

As she prepares for B2 to begin, Sally thinks back to her drive to school that morning with her young and excitable friend Isaac Johnson, one of the school’s media center managers.

Earlier in the Morning:

Sally had just picked Isaac up at his small rental house, almost exactly half way between her family’s home and The Bacon School. She had been listening to John Grisham’s latest book being read to her in a Mississippi accent by her tablet. She touches the Stop icon on her tablet, as her nearly silent hybrid car glides to the curb in front of the refurbished mill house. Isaac, who has been sitting on the porch scanning the news on his tablet while sipping his customary breakfast cola, drops his tablet into his canvas messenger bag, jumps off of the porch, and slides into the passenger seat. As Sally pulls out onto the road again, their conversation goes directly to Sally’s beloved “Reptiles,” one of her student teams. Isaac is aware that they will be making their project presentation this morning during B2, since he works intimately with most of the school’s teams on a daily basis. She has especially enjoyed the “Reptiles,” since the day at the beginning of the year that they chose their name. It was Alf’s idea, but each of the other members came up with a particular reason why the name fit.

The team is uniquely diverse in terms of academic characteristics. Two members, Desmone and Johann, are random thinkers and attention deficit. Samuel is a high achiever with an excellent memory and analytical mind. Alf remains emotionally traumatized by the unfortunate and vicious separation and divorce of his parents a year ago. Neither of the parents have much interest in supporting their thirteen year-old son through his turmoil, each too engaged in their own bitterness and adjustment. Regardless of this odd diversity, the team has jelled into an exciting force for producing surprisingly insightful work.

Isaac describes how the team has been working after classes, with Desmone and Samuel completing the text report version of the project and Johann and Alf polishing up their audio/visual. He adds that Alf has just as often been working by himself on another component of the project that remains a mystery.

“Finding the resources for their visuals was not a problem,” Isaac said. “But, validating them was a useful challenge. Each of the team members took a section of earth history, and created Web shelves in their personal information libraries with resources that they identified. They shared their Web shelves and used the information as a basis for their evaluation. It was an interesting learning experience for the team. I’ve asked if components of their shelves might be included in the Media Center Common Shelves.

“It was brilliant requiring Johann to handle the audio/visual editing and telling Samuel that he could only support him verbally,” Isaac continued, admiringly. “Frankly, I was afraid that I would be pulled into supporting Johann more than I would like, but I found that he called on Samuel at least as much as he called on me. Also, he grasped the concepts and developed his skill, and he really seems focused on the communication, not technique.”

Sally smiled at the reference to her scheme. “Thanks for supporting me on this, Isaac.”

Continue here.

 

Education 2014, As Seen in 2004

Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century, by David Warlick

In 2004, Linworth Publishing Company released Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century.  They had come to me more than a year earlier to write a book about technology for educators, and, being so flattered, I agreed.  However, as I commenced researching and planning the book, I came to realize that it was not technology that was impacting the work of educators nearly so much as the changing nature of information.  What we read was changing in..

  • What it looked like,
  • What we looked at to view it,
  • How we found it,
  • Where we went to find it,
  • What we could do with it and
  • How we communicated it.

Discussing this with my editor, Donna Miller, we concluded that what was needed more than a book about technology, was a book about literacy, and how our notions of literacy are affected by an increasingly digital, networked and information abundant (overwhelming) world.

To set the stage my first chapter was a story, set in a middle school in 2014.  It was perhaps more of a thought experiment for me, imagining the technologies that would almost certainly be available in schools in 10 years and then learning how they might be applied, by telling a story about the school’s students, teachers and community.

Here is the story’s introduction.

This first chapter is a work of future fiction. I do not call it science fiction, because I have every reason to expect that schools can change this much, and that it could happen during my career. If they do not, it will not be because the technology is not available, but because we did not have the courage or vision to make such dramatic changes in the way that we prepare our students for their future.

Some of what you read in this short story will seem unbelievable. However, if you are aware of the advances in computers and networking over the past ten years, it will not be the technology that surprises you. It will more likely be what learners and educators do while they are engaged in teaching and learning. So let us remove the veil of our own industrial age upbringing for just a few minutes and see one possibility. Welcome to The Bacon School, 2014.1

Continue here.

Copyright © 2004 by Linworth Publishing, Inc.

My next few blog entries will be a serialized version of that story.  I want to thank Marlene Woo-Lun for helping me to get permission from ABC-CLIO to republish this chapter and also for helping in the second edition of this literacy book, Redefining Literacy: 2.0, published in 2008.

Warlick, D. (2004). Redefining literacy for the 21st century. (p. 1). Columbus, OH: Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Evaluating Information: The Wrong Way or the Best Way!

A couple of weeks ago, I delivered several presentations to a school district in the mid-west, one of the numerous August back-to-school gigs I’m doing fewer of each year. It was a rewarding day, more so than many. Keeping the attention of hundreds of teachers, just back from vacation, catching up with friends, weighing in the politics of new leadership, and desperately needing to be in their classrooms makes this a pretty tough gig. Not so on this day.

After a presentations about expanding our notions of literacy, a teacher came up asking, “But what’s to be done about students accessing all the information on the Internet that is simply not true.”

I reminded him that I had just made the point that it isn’t just the Internet we need to be worried about. Then I gave him one of my usual responses,

If I was still teaching history, and my students turned in a paper, they would be waiting for the challenge. It happens every time.  It’s part of the ongoing classroom conversation.

Placing a student’s paper on his desk and pointing to one paragraph, I ask, “How do you know that’s true?” If the student can’t answer the question, he’s going to lose points.  Even if the paragraph is true, he’s going to lose points.  My students would be responsible for their information’s appropriateness and the evidence that supports its appropriateness.

I wonder now if this response makes sense only to me, a figment of a private fantasy. So I thought I’d spend some bits trying to unpack this approach into something that better distinguishes a “new way” from an “old way.

The difference is in what we call attention to.  Our tendency, as teachers, is to address the problem by focusing on the mistakes, red-penning what’s not accurate, not reliable, not valid, doesn’t make sense.  It’s logical because whats not true is a fundamental problem to education.  We work to keep wrong information out of our textbooks, whiteboards, libraries and lectures.  We foster a learning environment where we can all take comfort in the assumption that the information is “true.”  

Our position, as teachers, is based on this assumption.

For the problems caused by the Internet, we create checklists to identify the breakage in information.

[ ] Is the author’s name included in the page & can he be contacted?

[ ] Are the author’s qualifications available?

[ ] Is the publisher an educational institution or other reputable organization?

[ ] Is the information fact or opinion?  Is there bias?

[ ] Is the URL domain among the trusted (edu, gov, org)?

If you can check all of the above, then you can use the information.  

We teach research and writing as a practice in avoiding problems,

..but not as a practice in solving them.

If we teach our learners to research and communicate in order to solve a problem, then we entirely change the approach.  We assess their work through conversations about the “best way” rather than the “wrong way,” and learners become active defenders rather than passive accepters of judgement.  The classroom conversation changes.  Students become more active, empowered and invested.  They become stakeholders in their learning, and ultimately, responsible to an authentic context/audience.

They own what they write, present or make, because they did the work and defended it.  They’re accountable.  

They own the learning.

 

Schools that Practice Learning-Literacy

Many months ago I spoke at a leadership conference in Vancouver. When the event was over, officials with the British Columbia Principals and Vice Principals Association, held an invitational gathering of school leaders from throughout the province to create a new document establishing leadership standards for principals and vice principals.

To help them prepare for the upcoming conversations, seven relevantly accomplished professionals were invited to spend eight minutes each sharing their insights about school leadership and culture.  They included a former superintendent, international educator, a director of education for a large Canadian school district, a developmental psychologist, executive director of the (Canadian) National Staff Development Council, president of a large chain of grocery stores, a professor of sociology ––– and me.

As I explained here (Warlick, 2012), I was fortunate to have been the last to speak – addressing literacy and learning-literacy.  It was one of those singular learning experiences for me, sitting on the stage, listening to these really smart people, and changing the outline of my short talk with just about every idea set forth.  I watched as my own presentation morphed into something different, articulate, and –– awesome.

So, with the 2013-2014 school year gearing up, and my own education career spinning down*, I thought I would spend some bits here expanding on each of the items that seemed to spontaneously appear on my iPad that afternoon. 

A school that practices learning-literacy is a school where:

  • The distinctions between teacher and student begin to blur.

    In a time of rapid change, when new jobs emerge and fade faster than any education institution can respond and lifestyles change with a globally connected cross-cultural conversation, literacy becomes something bigger.  It no longer seeks to make readers.  It makes master learners, people who can successfully learn, unlearn, and relearn. **

    In this environment innovation becomes a commodity, the ability to resourcefully learn becomes the defining foundation of literacy, and the principal goal of formal education is to produce learners.  In this environment pedagogies shift from best teaching practices to best learning practices.

    Of course teaching does not go away and neither does a good lecture. but no teacher will deny that we all learned what we teach better, after we started teaching it, than we did as students in the classroom.  Teaching is a potent learning skill.  Therefore, perhaps one of the best ways that we can help our children to become skilled learners is to practice learning in front of them, and one of the best ways for children to learn, is to teach.

    This means, for instance, becoming comfortable using technologies in your classroom, with which you are not comfortable.  Demonstrating and talking about your process for figuring it out, or even asking for help from students becomes a life-size illustration of adapting to change – being a master learner.

  • There is less reliance on textbooks and authority, and more reliance on the work of learning.

    Our information landscape has changed: in what it looks like, what we look at to view it, how we find it, where we go to find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. We all engage in content generating conversations through blogs, twitter, YouTube, and what ever is to come. We can no longer believe it, simply because it was written down.  We are more than information consumers today.  We are participants.

    I learned to assume the authority of the information that I encountered. I was taught with approved textbook, in academically managed libraries and by teachers whose position was based on their learnedness.  Questioning the information that I encountered was not encouraged. It was unnecessary.

    Today, habitually questioning content is required. It is a foundation of being literate.  To become literate, students should learn within an information environment that exemplifies today’s information landscape, where discussions of an idea’s validity become part of learning the idea.  We must learn to be responsible participants.

  • There is a natural convergence between the rich information skills of literacy and numeracy, and the information and data that define the content areas.

    Information is increasingly networked, digital and abundant (overwhelming). Each of the qualities are new and they expand what it means to be literate. If you agree that learning is at least a major part of why we become literate today, then knowing how to employ these new qualities, in order to learn, are basic literacy skills.

    At this writing, I am creating an infographic that tells a story about how today’s North Carolina General Assembly came to be and what it cost.  Because information is networked, I am able to find, evaluate and select information about campaign spending and its sources that would not have been practically available to me in the past.  

    Because that information was digital, I can capture that information, translate, organize, manipulate and interpret it using tools that didn’t exist when I graduated from high school.  

    Because information is abundant (we are all overwhelmed by it), I am using graphic design and publishing tools that didn’t exist when I left classroom teaching, trying the practically convey my findings in a visually clear and compelling message.

    There is a physics to today’s information landscape and accomplishing goals relies, in no small way, to the ability to harness these laws of digital behavior to invent solutions to brand new problems. 

  • Teachers teach from new learning, as master learners.

    When my grandfather was in college, molecules were defined as, “The smallest part of any substance which possesses the characteristic properties and qualities of that substance, and which can exist alone in a free state.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1913)  By the time my father was in school, atoms were defined as “A particle of matter so minute as to admit of no division. Atoms are conceived to be the first principles or component parts of all bodies.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1928) I learned about electrons, protons and neutrons while my children learned about quarks and other strange particles. Today, we’re reading about future computers that will operate on the behaviors of quanta.

    The answers to the test questions are changing.

    According to a 2010 Bowker report, 2009 saw 1,829 new books published in the U.S. about agriculture.  5,131 new books were published about computers, approximately 9,000 each about business and education. 14,281 brand new books were published about history – new knowledge about history.  As we gain more access to information and to each other, the new knowledge that we generate as a society not only astounds us, but it is forcing us to redefine what it means to be educated.  We have rapidly moved from a world of information scarcity to information abundance, and an education is no longer measured by what you can remember, but what you can learn and what you can do with what you’ve learned.

    Teachers, who teach solely from their university experience do a disservice to their learners.  Teachers should model themselves as habitual and resourceful learners, and skilled artisans of what they’ve learned.  We must walk into our classrooms out of today, not from the day that they graduated.

  • Digital Footprints become a central part of the school’s culture, building evolving personal and school identities based on learning and “doing” with the learning.

    When I built the nation’s first state department of education website, there were probably less than 100 parents in the entire state who could access it.  But today, institutions are identified by their web sites.  Some sites have become institutions unto themselves – Wikipedia, Amazon.com and Google.

    When most of our children’s parents think about the institutions that support them in their daily endeavors, they recall URLs instead of building facades.  They expect to interact with their world through the World Wide Web.  They expect to have the same digital access to the schools their children attend and the teachers who manage their classrooms.  It has evolved from the exception to an expectation.

    This is an enormous opportunity for education, to be able to communicate with and even educate the communities that they serve.  We can distinguish ourselves, present ourselves for judgement and tell new stories about education, teaching and learning not through bureaucratic methods of measurement, but by enthusiastically sharing what and how our children are learning, and what they can do with what they are learning. 

  • The library magnifies the world outside, but also reflects the culture inside, curating collections of learner-produced media products.

    As already mentioned, a school that practices learning-literacy cultivates a digital footprint, along with its learners.  One outcome of preparing children for an unpredictable future is that they are learning things that their parents didn’t know.  When those parents visit their schools’  web sites, it should not be merely to learn about their children, but also to learn things that they didn’t know, to be astounded, to spark new conversations for their families and to redefine teachers as master learners, not simply learned.

    Since children are not merely learning, but also doing with what they learn, then they are in constant production, working knowledge, like raw material, into refined and valuable information products.  The school’s library becomes the repository for these products and the librarian, its archivalist.

    Learners will visit the library not merely to find what’s available from outside, but also from inside, to find work that previous students have done, and perhaps even improve on that work.  After thousands of years of civilization, almost nothing starts from scratch. 

  • Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.

    I later rephrased this one to “In a school that practices learning-literacy, teachers model learning, students learn to teach themselves, and schools educate the community.“ This sentence, with its three principles, says it all for me.

Teachers Model Learning
Students Learn to Teach Themselves
Schools Educate the Community

 

 

 

* I’ll be preaching for years to come – just not quite so frequently.

** A quote often attributed to Alvin Tofler, but actually his paraphrasing of Herbert Gerjuoy’s ”Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

(1913). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.

(1928). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.

Bowker LLC, (2010). Bowker reports traditional u.s. book production flat in 2009. Retrieved from website: http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2010/pr_04142010.shtml

Warlick, D. (2012, October 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=3733 

Is it Important Enough to Collaborate?

As a matter of disclosure, Ethan Warlick, whose comment I am responding to here, is my nephew. He will be graduating from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington next month and moving on to the real world of work and learning by joining a social media startup. I’m not sure if this is why I’ve elevated my response to full blog-status, or because of the story he tells, that..

..one of my roommates recently received a failing grade on a paper for “plagiarism.” Whether it was or wasn’t, he says he “missed a quotation mark,” I think that it will be interesting to learn new ways to deal with plagiarism from the summit! Especially from a collegiate perspective, as I hear about issues on campus constantly.

I scanned through a number of definitions of plagiarism from a number of sources and the most inclusive one came from Wiktionary, “The act of plagiarizing: the copying of another person’s ideas, text or other creative work, and presenting it as one’s own, especially without permission.”(Plagiarism, 2013)

There seem to be three parts here, or three questions. Did he copy the work of another person? Did he present the work as his own? ..and Did he get permission to use the work? Considering these three questions, I would have to read the offending paper to determine if he committed plagiarism.  But in my own work, attributing the expressed ideas of another person is more than just punctuation.

When I write (or draw, paint, compose, etc.) something, I am presenting it as my work — a representation of my ideas. When the expressed ideas of another adds value to my work, and I include the expression of those ideas, then it is my responsibility to credit the creator of that expression; and that is not simply a matter of punctuation.

Quotation marks simply, “..set off and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from somebody else.” (“Purdue online writing“) They indicate ownership, but they do not attribute the owner. To avoid plagiarism, I must identify the creator and do so in a way that the reader will not fail to recognize the information’s source and the roll that it plays within my work. That credit best falls within the text along with some form of assistance to the reader who wants to validate its accuracy, reliability and validity.  If Ethan’s roommate credited the work with a phrase such as, “John Battelle recently said in a lecture..” or “Berkman Center fellow, David Weinberger wrote in …” Well, the writer isn’t presenting the work as his own, and is not plagiarizing.

So, if the roommate was simply careless in his punctuation, then was the failing grade fair? From a student’s point of view — that is to say, academically — then perhaps it was not fair. However, from a learner’s point of view, especially if the learner is preparing himself for endeavors that will rely on written communication, then I might consider it a fair, if not authentic, response.

When we finish school and begin to work (and continue to learn), we can still fail by leaving out a quotation mark. A potential client, customer, or employer can, and often does decide to choose another provider because it appears that I have used the words of another as my own. In my opinion, the concept of intellectual property should be an integral part of our basic notions of literacy — receiving, perhaps, even more attention than it already does.

But that said, I’ll let you in on a little secret; something that my teachers never shared. In the world, after formal schooling, we almost never do anything, that’s important, alone. It was one of my surprises when I left the solitude of classroom teaching to work more directly with other educators (district office). Those other professional educators were constantly asking me and each other to read their writing before they sent it; and I adopted the habit myself, when what I needed to say was important. Almost every day Brenda and I ask each other to read our emails before we hit the send button, and we usually catch each other’s careless mistakes. When the conveyance of an idea is important, then it takes more than one head to effectively construct its expression.

This leads me to wonder, are your school writings important enough that instructors encourage you to read each other’s work? ..or are they just grammar?

  

Plagiarism. In (2013). Wiktionary. Wikimedia. Retrieved from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/plagiarism

Purdue online writing lab: How to use quotation marks. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/01/

Clipart, curtesy of http://internet.phillipmartin.info

 

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Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network
2nd Edition (2012)

Redefining Literacy 2.0 (2008)
Classroom Blogging
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Raw Materials for the Mind
(2005)

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