My month of international travel starts…now. Fifteen more hours on a plane with the wife and kids and we’ll be in Melbourne, then Lorne for the Expanding Learning Horizons conference, then to the reef and rainforest via Cairns with a stop for me in Mackay, then Sydney, then home, about 12 days total. Not enough to be sure and I’m thinking blogging will be light, but Flickring will be heavy assuming I can connect. And, to be honest, I’d be surprised if the Tweets were frequent. I’m sure there will be much to catch up with…
This week’s Business Week magazine has a cover story on the “The Future of Work” which has some fodder to add to the discussion. The thesis is:
The rapid growth of broader, richer channels of communication–including virtual worlds–is transforming what it means to be “at work.”
Here are a couple more outtakes:
“What’s more, the modern workplace no longer resembles the factory assembly line but rather the design studio, where the core values are collaboration and innovation, not mindless repetition.”
The percentage of 25- 29-year-olds with at least a bachelor’s degree has actually fallen during this decade. This raises the real possibility that this generation of young Americans may actually be less educated than the previous one, creating a growing gap between the kinds of people companies need and the workers who are actually available.
Complicating matters is the fact that the very idea of a company is shifting away from a single outfit with full-time employees and a recognizable hierarchy. It is something much more fluid, with a classic corporation at the center of an ever-shifting network of suppliers and outsourcers, some of whom only join the team for the duration of a single project.
And collabortive capability is becoming more and more important:
The hard part for multinationals is getting people to work well together, especially given that day-and-night collaboration across the globe is growing…Nokia is careful to select people who have a collaborative mindset…Accenture, which spent $700 million on education last year, says its 38,000 consultants and most of its service workers take course on collaborating with offshore colleagues.
That makes me think (again) of the quote by Tom Carroll about good teaching being a collective/collaborative effort. I wonder how many teachers are getting ready for the new school year by developing a deeply collaborative curriculum, one in which they model for their students not just connections with other teacher/learners but co-creation of knowledge, in whatever forms that takes. I wonder how many of them are being supported in that effort. We have the capability to create these types of environments; what we need is to provide more and more opportunities for teachers to connect and learn with other educators and professionals from around the globe.
- Quote: The research suggests that kids who live online understand the process
by which knowledge is produced and shared in an online environment,
whereas those kids who come in within 10 minutes, they’re trying to get
the answer and get off. So they’re not as critical of a corporate Web
site, for example. That’s just one example of some fundamental
inequalities in access to social skills and culture competencies
between the information-haves and have-nots.
Note: Interesting interview with Henry Jenkins, who I personally think articulates the moment very clearly. I find that access gap as it relates to literacy to be really interesting.
- post by willrich
Technorati Tags: jibjab
I’m poking around in “Presence” by Peter Senge (and others), a book about “profound change in people, organizations, and society.” (I can hear the chorus of boos already…why another non-education book to figure out education?) And when I say “poking,” I mean it. As I’m sometimes wont to do, when I got it from Amazon a few days ago, I just kind of broke it open somewhere in the middle and started reading. (I do plan on taking the cover to cover route at some point…)
What I landed on was more or less a conversation between the four authors that took place about four months after 9/11. And a lot of it resonated in terms of this discussion about schools and education. For instance, that this is a time of “epochal change” and that “traditional mind-sets and institutional priorities are under great threat, and they are fighting to preserve themselves.” And that “as the need for reflection and deeper learning grows, the pressures against that need being fulfilled grow too.”
But there was one part that really jumped out. Senge quotes Thomas Berry who says that “the primary problem of the present era is that we are ‘in-between stories.’”
The old story that bound Western culture, the story of reductionist science and redemptive religion, is breaking down. It simply no longer explains the world we are experiencing or the changes that confront us. (217)
And other myths are breaking down as well. The hero myth, that someone is going to ride in and save the day. The economic myth which focuses on short-term self-interest as a way to success. All of these stories and structures are being challenged, and, as Senge puts it, we are “trapped between stories.”
David and others have been writing about this before, and it seems we return to this conversation periodically, trying to define what this new story for education is. But it’s proving difficult, and right now, it does feel like we’re trapped between a story that most of us feel just isn’t serving our kids very well at all and one that is yet to be created or, at minimum, has yet to meaningfully resonate and take hold.
That sentiment connected to something we talked about at the Institute for the Future workshop I wrote about earlier that, not surprisingly, raised some hackles in some parts. The discussion centered on the “Map of Future Forces Affecting Education” that they created with the KnowledgeWorks Foundation. One part of that map talks about how we will be “rescripting life,” how “the standard narratives of adolescence, early adulthood, and post-retirement get rewritten.” And I think we’re seeing the early stages of that right now in a lot of different, complex ways, most clearly perhaps in the post-retirement story. (What is “retirement” anyway?)
Teaching narratives are going to have to be rescripted too, obviously. One statement at the workshop (among many) from Tom Carroll of NCTAF that really stuck with me was the idea that “quality teaching today is a collective effort, not an individual accomplishment.” That’s an important reframing that we need to support teachers in moving through, providing examples of teachers doing that on a global scale already. As Chris pointed out in a NECC Skype chat, these days, “You’re only alone if you want to be.”
It’s no great leap to see that much of our (my?) frustration here lies in the fogginess of that new story. I think the outlines are coming more clear: it is about connections and collaborations outside the physical school and the creation of knowledge and the conversations that ensue. (The 4 Cs.) But we’re still searching for the language that will really make it stick, that will allow people to really see the change and invest in the dialogue about change, or innovation, and, most importantly, that can be widely consumed in a way that will start a dialogue about reform at a national level.
I still think we need a movie, a “Sicko” for education that will articulate the problems with the old story and find language for the new story in a way that will move the mountain a bit more quickly. And there actually might be something happening in that vein. Stay tuned…
A nice column in the Wall Street Journal yesterday by Lee Gomes that rightly points out that the best part of Wikipedia are the discussions that occur behind the entries themselves. This is my experience too, these days:
Reading these discussion pages is a vastly rewarding, slightly addictive experience—so much so that it’s become my habit to first check out the discussion before going to the article proper.
Maybe because I’ve always been interested in the craft of writing, but I’m curious to see what the sticking points are in the construction of the article. How are people negotiating the facts and the bias that they see? Who do they accede to? When does debate end? As I find myself creating more and more collaborative pieces of writing (Google Docs and Google Notebooks in particular) I find the process to be very different from the writing I normally do. And I keep thinking what a necessary part of the writing process this type of negotiation is going to be as we collaborate more and more on wikis and documents and videos and whatever else. When I ask teachers whether their students are writing employing truly collaborative practices (not simply “cooperative”) and whether they are writing either alone or together in hypertext environments (which I also believe is a part of writing literacy these days), blank stares usually ensue.
Teaching Wikipedia gives us the opportunity to do both, especially if we tune into those back channel conversations.
Gomes includes some interesting examples and statistics:
- The 9,500 word article “Ireland,” for example spawned a 10,000 word discussion about whether “Republic of Ireland” would be a better name for the piece.
- Wikipedia editors have spent 242,000 words trying to define “Truth.”
- Here’s a quote from one entry: “I am not sure that it does not present an entirely Eurocentric view, nor can I see that it is sourced sufficiently well so as to be reliable.” That from the discussion on “Kittens.”
- And ironically, if you search for the word “Discussion” you are sent to the word “Debate” where the discussion page includes a debate over whether “discussion” and “debate” are synonymous.
More reason why I still think Wikipedia is one of the most important sites on the Web right now for educators to fully get their brains around.
Technorati Tags: wikipedia
Yesterday I spent the day in a pretty heady, day-long workshop sponsored by the Institute for the Future out here in Palo Alto talking about what schools, and specifically teaching might look like at some point down the road. It was titled “The Future of Learning Agents” and Steve Hargadon was there too, sitting in as the unofficial, official blogger of the event. I tried to add some value to a great conversation that included folks like Howard Rheingold from Stanford (and author of Smart Mobs), Tom Carroll, the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), and Mark Morrison, the Director of Leadership Development for the New Technology Foundation among about a dozen others.
Bottom line? As one of the participants said, “There are 1,300 teacher preparation programs that are preparing teachers for schools that none of us think should exist.” It was pretty edgy.
At one point we were put into small groups and asked to come up with a job description and an ideal candidate for a “learning agent” 10 years down the road. The result was pretty interesting. None of the job descriptions were for traditional teachers. Few of the candidates’ qualifications emphasized schooling or even classroom experience. Instead, the group identified candidates that had a wide variety of life experiences and attributes, most centered on the ability to facilitate or connect, and an understanding of social technologies and deep collaboration. And my take away was that we’re looking at a future where there will be many different opportunities for working with kids and communities in a teaching role other than the traditional idea of what a teacher is.
How long it’s going to take for that future to arrive is another question altogether, however. I think there was consensus in the room that it could take a very long time. But where we lacked consensus was where the pressure points for real change are. Some said it has to happen on a national level (myself included.) Others said that change in education might actually be driven by the faltering health care system or environmental pressures. It was a wide-ranging discussion that really left my head spinning.
For some context, you can check out this Education Map of the Future that IFTF and Knowledge Works Foundation created that looks at some of the “drivers” that are pushing change and some of the trends that are cropping up in response. And, you can check out the pretty awesome graphic recordings and some other photos from the day. Zoom in and scroll around to get the gist.
More on this later…long plane ride home today.
So I remember when I was in the classroom, (something I’m missing at the moment, btw) writing with my students, and there would be days when we’d come in and as soon as the bell would ring (or I guess it was more like buzz) we’d all take out paper and just do a Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg 7 and a half minute freewrite where we’d pour, literally, everything that was in our brains out through our arms and fingers and pens and pencils onto the page as fast as we could, without ever stopping, just writing “I have nothing to write about, I have nothing to write about” if that was what was in our brains and eventually, that wasn’t what was in our brains and we moved on to whatever it was, like the traffic officer at San Francisco airport earlier, this gentle looking older woman somewhere between 55-70 who almost duked it out with a insolent cab driver who parked right in the crosswalk and didn’t answer when she threatened him with a $350 ticket and almost drove over her foot as he left, watching her in the rearview mirror as she wrote down his license plate, shaking her head back and forth, or how the baby three rows back on the plane who wouldn’t stop crying reminded me of Tess when she was like six months old and the nice stewardess who offered to hold her for a few minutes only to have her launch a stream of vomit all over her new, dark blue dress with the gold buttons, or this hotel room which is nice enough, or this workshop tomorrow where I get to meet some of the people who are making me think the hardest, all the while wondering when these silly seven and a half minutes will be over and why it’s so hard to blog sometimes (like now, like these last few weeks) even though it’s such an ingrained, rooted, deep-seated habit that I find almost as hard not to do as it is to do, and thinking that this is a really stupid blog post that no one will want to read and not really caring because every now and then I just have to open up a vein and let it all run out, whatever it is, however stupid, however meaningless or trite because this is where I write these days, not on paper, not on a typewriter, not in a word processor (which is so different from a food processor) and I have one minute left and I’m thinking I’m going to have to post something else really fast so this doesn’t stay on the top of my blog for very long so that not so many people will read it until I remember that damned, dreaded RSS feed that’s gonna shoot this sucker out the moment I post it, after, of course I go to Flickr and try to find a suitable image that is Creative Commons licensed and finally, the buzzer on my iPhone just went off.
Move along now…nothing to see here.
Technorati Tags: freewrite
- Quote: The United Nations, notorious for endless deliberations, is trying a
technological quick fix. Its Global Compact Office, which promotes
corporate responsibility, has embraced a once fringe social
technology—the wiki—in hopes that it will help staff in 80 countries
share information and reach consensus with less deliberation and more
Note: Nice quote by an IBM VP as well: “Collaborative software has become a very important part of how businesses will invent and innovate.” I think it’s going to be interesting to see how schools deal with this new collaborative drive.
- post by willrich
This has already been widely blogged, but the fact that the National School Boards Association is encouraging schools to take another look at the use of social networks in classrooms is big, big news. And I have to tell you, after reading through the results of a study NSBA undertook, it all of a sudden feels like their be a moment close at hand where “innovation” (as Chris puts it) might be possible.
While the study confirms that the risks of the Internet are overblown, here’s the finding that really raised my eyebrows:
Social networking may be advantageous to students — and there could already be a double standard at work. 37% of districts say at least 90% of their staff are participating in online communites of their own — related to education — and 59% of districts said that at least half were participating. “These findings indicate that educators find value in social networking,” the study notes, “and suggest that many already are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use social networking for educational purposes with their students.”
To be honest, that’s not representative of the reality I’ve found as I’ve talked to teachers over the past couple of years. I think it would be interesting to see what the definition of “online community” is in this instance. Still, even if it’s defined very broadly, that’s an encouraging number. And I wonder how many of the students surveyed would affirm that their teachers are involved in these communities. How much modeling is going on? I’d be interested in what others think of that finding.
And here’s another finding that I found interesting:
In fact, 76% of parents expect social networking will improve their children’s reading and writing skills, or help them express themselves more clearly, according to the study, and parents and communities “expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology.”
Now that is very cool, and clearly gives an opening to this conversation on a broader scale.
It’s nice to get some good news on the social networking in schools front, isn’t it? Now we need to think about the best ways to move toward a systemic, K-12 integration of these tools into the curriculum.
Laura D’Elia was in Boston a couple of weeks ago attending the Building Learning Communities Conference and she’s put together a VoiceThread presentation that she’s going to present to her colleagues. And the cool thing is that she’s invited some of the BLC folk to add their own voices to the presentation.
What a concept, huh? I wonder what would happen if every conference goer at NECC and BLC and where ever else went back and used one of these new tools to communicate what they had learned and to model the ways we can create and collaborate using the Web. Think we’d get a little further down the road?
I know I repeatedly say that creating and publishing is only half the opportunity here, that it’s the conversations and connections that occur around that content where the most potential for learning lies. But this is a great example of beginning to participate in the virtual community that is “out there” for anyone (with access) that wants to take part.
I have to say that one of my favorite reads of late is Doug Noon, for a couple of reasons. First, because he writes about things that are admittedly out of my comfort zone in ways that compel me to reach (like all good teachers do) and, second, because he does blogging (the verb) really, really well. I know most people don’t spend a lot of time deconstructing blog posts for style, but at the risk of bringing up a whole slew of old debates from past years (like here, here and here), I am firmly in the camp that blogging (the verb) starts with reading, and that great blogging is using the text to connect ideas and patterns from sometimes disparate sources and experiences in a linked environment that allows the reader to wallow in the context of the ideas being presented. That’s not to say that posts that don’t do that aren’t worth reading. But to me, at least, that’s where the magic of this is, both as writer and as reader.
And so I think Doug does this exceptionally well, as evidenced by his “Like Cranky Talk Show Hosts” post yesterday. In it, he weaves a whole bunch of different sources into a pretty tightly knit piece that pushes back against the standards movement and instructs as to the real motives behind those pushing “reform.” Doug writes:
Consider who profits from education reform. The standards movement is not a national response to a grassroots outcry. It’s a corporate business-initiated movement that has been sold to a fearful middle class worried about economic and social insecurity.
As educators find themselves re-imagining learning based on their own tech-based awakening, the sense comes quickly that this is not about new technology, access to information, 21st century skills, or even 2.0-goodness, but broader-based education reform. But just as quickly, it starts to feel like there is no hope of changing a lumbering, entrenched educational system with a tiny lever called technology. However, we are not alone, and it would be a win-win for both tech-loving educators and education reformers to join forces. The tools of Web 2.0 could tip the balance in the effort to reshape education “in more productive and democratic fashions.” The virtual voices of students and teachers alike could finally be heard in force.
Which pushed me back to a conversation I had last week with a new physical space connection (what a concept,) someone with a great deal of traditional creds (Stanford Ph.D.) but little facility with technology (or the Read/Write Web), and someone who has been working to bring change to districts for almost 15 years. We were talking about the roles of technology and how they have pushed the conversation in many ways, and how now more than ever, we need to start crafting a compelling vision of what schools can become for our students. After we both agreed that schools in their current structure are not going away any time soon, she point blank challenged me to begin to really fashion a vision for myself of what “reform” looks like, to articulate it, make it real.
Which brought me full circle to Doug again, remembering a post he wrote a couple of weeks ago, a post that “attempt(s) to make sense of what ‘school 2.0′ might mean,” one that has been sticking in my brain ever since. In it, he writes compellingly about the friction point we’re at:
Right now, most of the discussion that I read among teachers on the web assumes that technology will deschool education by subverting institutional norms, and we’ll migrate, somehow, from classrooms to distributed networked learning systems without disturbing the institutional death grip that schools and the economy have on each other. Economic motivations encourage people to see education as a means to acquiring certifications of technical competence. Communications technology can facilitate networking, but the need for technical certifications is still going to ensure the preservation of existing educational structures. Even if the uncoupling of curriculum and certifications happens as an unintended outcome of testing and the standards movement (since testing may make schooling optional) schools in some form will still be needed.
And to this statement in an even earlier post, which I hope he’ll pick up on:
The real issue now is deciding what’s worth keeping and what form that should take.
So that’s a question I’m going to try to focus on more and more in my personal “study” this coming year. Knowing what I know about how my own learning has changed and the influences that these technologies are having, and knowing pretty well what I don’t know about the fundamental educational influences that have gotten us to where we are as a society and a system, I’m going to try to put a curriculum together for myself that can inform an answer. It may not be a compelling answer when all is said and done, but I really do think the time is now to try to make sense of it for myself, if for no other reason than my kids turn 8 and 10 next week. Not a lot of time left…
One of the metaphors I find myself moving more and more to of late is “Aggregator as Textbook.” Google Reader is the place (along with Twitter of late) that I head to first every day when I open up my computer, and on an average day, I end up going back there at least 4 or 5 times. It’s become an important part of my learning process, because my daily study almost always starts and flows from what’s collected there.
That being the case, I’ve been thinking more and more about my own use of RSS, and trying to reflect on the choices I make in my aggregator. Frankly, I am still amazed that so relatively few people (not just educators) have made RSS a part of their practice, but I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with how disruptive a technology it is when you really think about it. It changes the traditional information structures in fundamental ways, and it forces us to be much more involved with the information we consume. I’m no longer just a reader; I’m an editor who is constantly at work in the process of finding feeds to read, determining what’s relevant, trying to connect ideas and patterns, making decisions as to what to do with all of the information I come across.
The technical side to RSS is not that difficult. But I constantly wonder if I’m “doing RSS well” in the way I use it. So, anyway, here are six things I wonder about my own use of what I think is the most powerful of all of these technologies.
What’s my optimum number of feeds to read? I’ve gone between 25 and 250, and now at about 60 I’m still not sure if that’s the “right” number. And it’s not just a time factor that determines that number, although that has more to do with it than anything else. The scope of topics and a diversity of views also has a lot to do with it.
How do I not become “married” to the feeds I already have? It would be easy to keep the 60 or so feeds that I have for a long time, but I’m not sure that’s the best strategy. As new voices appear, as my interests shift, I need to be willing to let some old voices go. That’s exceedingly hard, at times, because I don’t want to miss anything, and because I feel connected to those teachers on many levels.
Do I rely too much on a handful of feeds? I’ll admit, while I struggle reading every feed every day, there are a half dozen or so that I try not to miss. I think of these as the ones that do the best job of culling out the important ideas of the day. In many cases, these people are reading many of the same sources I am. I wonder if this makes it even more difficult to read more widely.
How many individual pieces of information can I realistically make sense of? There are days when I could easily find 50 or so interesting, relevant posts or links to sites, and I wonder if that’s always such a good thing. If I were to try to process all of that, will the best filter up?
How do I best organize the information that is most useful? I have a del.icio.us account, and I stow away some snippets of things in various spots. I tag and tag and tag. But this is my most difficult struggle. I’ve yet to find a really effective way of processing all the ideas and links that make it easy to return to later.
Should I read ideas, or should I read people? Stephen Downes advocates for the former, and I can understand why. It’s the concept, the exchange of ideas that is important, not the person so much. Still, I find it very difficult to separate the two, and I do think that knowing the person through the writing adds context to the ideas. But, again, reading people also tends to limit the scope and diversity of the ideas, I think.
Without question, my aggregated text requires much more intellectual sweat than the traditional form. And that’s actually why I want my own kids to become adept at writing their own texts around the topics they find engaging. I’ve put together Pageflakes pages for my kids built on RSS feeds about horses and the Phillies as a way to get them started. But that’s just the first step.
So, I wonder, what do you wonder about RSS?
- Quote: According to the 2007 Digital Media Survey, conducted by Entertainment Media Research in conjunction with media lawyers from Olswang, illegal music downloads have reached an all time high.
Note: What will the new model for music be?
- post by willrich
- Quote: SharedBook, the publishing
platform provider for online content, will release a new version of its
Blog2Print widget today. We first covered the SharedBook Blog2Print widget here. Included in the upgraded widget is a embedded photo feature, which
will automatically flow photographs and other images from your blog to
the book format, alongside associated text. This means that those using
your Blog2Print widget will now be able to gain the full context of
your published content, from an online format to a physical printed
format, retaining the integrity and intention of your original posts.Note: So if you have your kids blog for an extended period of time, they can be writing a real book as well, one that they can publish and sell.
- post by willrich
Piczo has partnered with top publisher Penguin and six of the coolest
bands and musicians to let you do just that. This is your chance to
design a cover for such classics as Alice in Wonderland, Dracula,
Animal Farm, and others.
Note: Might be a fun class project.- post by willrich