From the “Shameless Self-Promotion Department” I just wanted to note that for whatever reason, my essay in the November issue of Educational Leadership has been picked for free Web viewing. Would love to hear your thoughts…
From the “Shameless Self-Promotion Department” I just wanted to note that for whatever reason, my essay in the November issue of Educational Leadership has been picked for free Web viewing. Would love to hear your thoughts…
I remember when I first starting teaching journalism way back in the day actually using one of those stinky, buzz-inducing ditto machines to publish my students’ work “widely” up and down the hallways. I remember copy-editing by hand with green Flair pen, the same color my dreaded college journalism professors used, teaching my kids the fine art of marking up each other’s stories and adding suggestions for improvement. And I remember buying about 15 copies of various newspapers every Friday just so we could all spend some time getting our fingers black with ink as we searched for interesting and/or well written stories.
When I think of those days, I feel really old, for sure, but I also feel amazed at how much has changed in terms of media. And now, when it seems that “old” media is finally tipping full force into a “new” digital media model, I have to say I’m somewhat wistful.
Ok. I’m over it.
Yesterday’s New York Times piece by David Carr “Mourning Old Media’s Decline” got me really thinking again, however, about how much more important journalism has become in these days when newsrooms are being cut and reporters laid off. The Christian Science Monitor is closing its print edition. The Los Angeles Times, Newark Star-Ledger and others are making deeper cuts. All of which is going to increase our reliance on not only online media but participatory online media, the form of media that is largely unedited, essay-driven and agenda-ridden. All of which, by the way, should be driving our conversations about how to fundamentally rewrite our curriculum and our delivery system to prepare students to be, um, participants both as readers and as writers.
I loved this graph from the article:
Stop and think about where you are reading this column. If you are one of the million or so people who are reading it in a newspaper that landed on your doorstop or that you picked up at the corner, you are in the minority. This same information is available to many more millions on this paper’s Web site, in RSS feeds, on hand-held devices, linked and summarized all over the Web.
The problem for us is that we’re still teaching like our kids are going to be reading those edited, linear, well-written newspapers when the reality is they’re not. And the bigger problem is that, by and large, we still don’t know enough about the “new” media world in our personal practice to push those conversations about change in any meaningful way.
We better figure it out pretty quickly, or we’ll be mourning much more than old media…
Recently, during a Q & A after a presentation, I had an interesting exchange with a high school principal that went something like this:
Principal: So I just want to give you my take on this.
Principal: You bring up those examples of kids on MySpace and make the point that no one is really teaching them how to use those sites well.
Principal: Well, I’ll tell you when they learn about that stuff. When I drag them into my office and read them the riot act about what they’ve been posting to their Facebook pages and they tell me that they never thought other people would look at their pages. They seem genuinely astonished that I could find them.
Me: And whose fault is that?
Principal: Well, I’d like to blame their parents. (Laughter.)
Me: Well, I think it’s your fault. (More laughter.) I mean, maybe not you in particular. But whose job is it to educate kids to use those sites well and appropriately? I doubt that most of their parents really have enough of an understanding of what their doing to prepare them.
Principal: So how do we do that?
I get into some variation of this discussion on a pretty regular basis, but I’m always amazed at how willing school leaders are to admit this reality and how little they are doing to deal with it. There is a solution to this, one that we all know, but one that for some reason few seem willing to implement other than in the guise of a “parent awareness night” or some type of scary Internet predator presentation by a state policeman. For the life of me, I can’t understand what is so hard about opening up the first and second and third grade curriculum and find ways to integrate these skills and literacies in a systemic way. If you want kids to be educated about these tools and environments, then maybe we should, um, educate them.
If we start talking about this stuff in first grade (in age appropriate ways), AND we involved parents in the process by being transparent about our intentions and our outcomes, I’m pretty sure that we could minimize the number of kids who get pulled into the principal’s office when they behave badly on their Facebook pages.
The Britannica blog is hosting a conversation about Web 2.0 in education, and Steve Hargadon argues that the technologies will make a huge impact on the future or learning while Daniel Willingham says not so fast. Both posts are very well done and provide a measured starting point for the discussion. What I found really interesting though was Willingham’s take on the potential for project based learning in these environments compared to the potentials that we’ve been trying to realize in traditional classrooms. Importantly, I think, he says:
Hargadon is clear-eyed in his list of challenges to making Web 2.0 an important part of K-12 education, but I think he underestimates the seriousness of his third point, “Teachers will need time and training to use these tools in the classroom.”
There has been an enormous push to leverage technology in K-12 education in the last decade. The costs in infrastructure, personnel, training, and ongoing access are difficult to pin down, but conservative estimates are in the billions each year.
Why has technology not revolutionized teaching, but rather been a series of “computer fads,” in Hargadon’s term, and an all-around disappointment?
At least part of the reason is that, despite expenditures, support has been inadequate. For example, support personnel tend not to be specialized, although the technology needs of the English teacher are different than those of the Science teacher. If still more money were spent, would that alleviate the problem? It might solve the technology problem, but the inherent difficulty of executing project-based learning well would remain.
Especially when attempting to infuse project-based learning using Web 2.0 tools. As Willingham points out, project based pedagogies are more complex, require more planning, and aren’t as easily aligned to standards as more traditional teaching methods. Throw in some transformative technologies and…
Unless of course you have teachers who “get” the potentials of the technologies and can draw on their own practice to guide their pedagogy, which I still think is the most important answer we need to find in this conversation. How do we help teachers get to that point where using project-based pedagogies (when appropriate and when more effective than other pedagogies) in Web rich environments is as natural as picking up a piece of chalk?
On that note, I have to agree with one of the commentors on the Willingham post, David Zuckerman:
Proceeding from Shirky’s dictum that, “Social tools don’t create collective action – they merely remove the obstacles to it,” I would argue that Ed2.0 needs to concentrate now on the teachers, not the students, and among the corpus of teachers, focus ONLY on those who want to try to make some change, the “early adapters” if you will. The others, some of them, will follow along in due course or they will not; but the enterprise moves forward on the energy of its best players, not on continued, and boring, Soviet-like efforts to lift everyone at once by dint of big meetings where All Teachers are obligated to come so they can receive some hours of poor teaching practice (being talked at, mostly) in the evident expectation (still!?) that somehow, this experience, the lead, will be transmuted into gold.
A bit harsh, maybe, but to the point. Inherent in that statement and in Willingham’s post is the idea that we have to think differently about how we do professional development. The drive by trainings for every teacher are not the answer. We should be investing in those who do show an appetite for learning, for risk-taking, for reflective practice.
Lots more in those posts to mull over…
Longtime readers of this blog know that I really, really respect and admire Lawrence Lessig who early on pushed my thinking in all sorts of directions with his presentations, books, and blog entries. I’m still a big admirer of his work, and I seriously think he will come to be known as one of the great change agents of our times. That’s why his new book about he cultural shifts that are occurring around copyright, intellectual property and art went to the top of the list when it arrived a couple of days ago. (I’ve got a long list to get to, but I’ve also got some long flights ahead of me…)
Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy is a treatise on how we need to start rethinking traditional copyright law in the context of these easy sharing and copying technologies. And what’s especially relevant to our conversation is that he frames it in the way this all shakes out for our kids. In talking about how the government continues to create laws that “wage war” against the copyright infringement that many youngsters engage in every day, he says:
…I worry about the effect this war is having upon our kids. What is this war doing to them? Whom is it making them? How is it changing how they think about normal, right thinking behavior? What does it mean to a society when a whole generation is raised as criminals?
And then he asks the central question:
In a world in which technology begs all of us to create and spread creative work differently from how it was created and spread before, what kind of moral platform will sustain our kids, when their ordinary behavior is deemed criminal? Who will they become? What other crimes will to them seem natural.
To Lessig, this is a war that can not be won.
What should we do if this war against “piracy” as we currently conceive of it cannot be won? What should we do if we know that the future will be one where our kids, and there kids, will use a digital network to access whatever content they want whenever they want it? What should we do if we know that the future is one where perfect control over the distibution of “copies” simply will not exist?
Lots of questions that he will no doubt answer in the book, and that I hope to get back to here. But no doubt, these are questions we should be asking ourselves no matter how difficult or disruptive they may be. If you are reading this, you are doing so on your own personal printing press. That is a different world than the one current copyright laws were written under.
So New Zealand turned out to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and aside from some pretty unhelpful airline personnel, the people were more than friendly and helpful. Even though I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked to, we saw a lot of the South Island and can honestly say there’s nary a bad view in the place. Wendy and the kids absolutely loved it, and we can’t wait to get back someday. (Problem now is I’ve got about 250 pictures to sort and upload and make sense of…)
Of all the places we visited, however, all the beautiful lakes and cliffs and beaches and parks and mountains and gorges, we all agreed that the highlight of the trip was a place called the Adrenaline Forest which is basically an ever increasing in difficulty set of zip lines and wire-climbs strung across a beautiful pine forest culminating in some very hairy highwire walks about 60 feet in the air. Now, this had absolutely nothing to do with New Zealand per se; they have these spots in the States from what I hear. But this was our first encounter, and with the snow capped mountains off in the distance, and the New Zealand birds singing in the branches, it was pretty amazing.
Basically, you get a harness and two carabiner straps one of which has to be hooked onto a wire at all times in case you fall. So as you keep progressing up, you’re constantly clipping and reclipping with the idea that something will always catch you. That’s fine for the lower elevations, but when you get up to Level 5 (which just opened) you’re working on faith. In all, there are over 60 traverses that you have to make, some are zip lines, some are walking on logs, some even more creative. It was really fun…
…until the last level. I mean, it started out ok, but then there were two highwire walks over about a 75-foot span, uphill, that just busted my psyche. I’m not afraid of heights, but these two humbled me. I had several “Oh *$%^, I can’t do this” moments, and in those instances, I felt very old and very scared. Little half-seconds of panic pulsed through me before my brain reeled me in, told me to keep breathing, keep moving, keep going. If you want to get a sense of what it was like, here’s the last 30 seconds or so of the last, long traverse. Listen to my kids (who had already finished like 30 minutes beforehand) cheer me on way down below, and listen carefully to what I say and look at my eyes right at the end.
But here is the thing. As much as I hated those moments, as much as they made me nauseous with fear, I will not soon forget the feeling of pushing through it. Of not getting stuck. Of continuing to move forward, and of sailing through the air on that last, long zip line to the ground. It was a great reminder.
And it’s got me thinking…
(BTW, in case you’re interested, here’s a Wendy-eyed view of one of the zip lines.)
Just back from New Zealand and still wondering what day it is, but I did want to make sure to post this before I got into one of the other 47 things on my list. The deadline for submissions is November 1, and if it’s anything like 2.0, this may be the best gathering of the year for those of us immersed in this conversation.
EduCon only happens when a community of educators come together to make it something special. With that in mind, we are announcing our Call for Conversations for EduCon 2.1 — January 23rd – 25th at Science Leadership Academy.
About EduCon 2.1:
EduCon 2.1 is both a conversation and a conference.
And it is not a technology conference. It is an education conference. It is, hopefully, an innovation conference where we can come together, both in person and virtually, to discuss the future of schools. Every session will be an opportunity to discuss and debate ideas — from the very practical to the big dreams.
The Guiding Principles of EduCon 2.1
- Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members
- Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen
- Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
- Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate
- Learning can — and must — be networked.
We want people to share ideas, lead conversations, challenge each other and have conversations that can further our dreams of what schools can and should be. We want sessions that move past the traditional presentation style of conferences to create interactive and engaging moments of learning for all involved.
Really hope to see you there.
Nelson, New Zealand
Yesterday, we drove about four hours from a beautiful little town named Hanmer Springs (many Flickr photos to come) up here to Nelson which sits at the top of the south island. On the way, we stopped to zip line across a gorge, herd some sheep off the road that had gotten through an open fence, and roll some boulders out of the way on a one lane (barely) gravel and dirt (to be generous) mountain pass road that when we finally descended to the bottom turned out to be closed to all vehicles trying to come up the way we had just come down.
Pretty boring day.
What was occupying much of my brain power when we were on the two-lane, paved roads, however, was trying to stay on the right (or should I say left) side of the road. It took a while for my driving mind to get into some balance after the initial dissonance, and I was trying to pay attention to all of the things I had to “unlearn” in the process. For about the first hour, every time I went to signal a turn, the windshield wipers started up. Right hand turns were a real, real struggle, as you can imagine, surpassed in difficulty at the outset only by trying to navigate the roundabouts and always feeling like I was looking the wrong way. (A couple of times after going over one-laned bridges, I reflexively went over to the right hand side of the road only to have my kids scream “DAD! Wrong side!”) And the hardest part for me, at least, was getting in the habit of glancing to the left to see the rear view mirror. A bunch of times, cars that I didn’t even realize were behind me came whizzing by (on our right) almost causing me to drive off the road in the process. After a few hours, though, it all started to make sense in my head. No more wipers. No more screaming from the backseat. No more surprising passes. I actually started enjoying the view. (Actually, that part was easy.)
There is a point in here somewhere about unlearning and re-learning and fighting through the dissonance of change to come out the other side doing some things differently. Maybe a microcosm of what Sheryl and I have been over here prodding teachers to do. There is no question that they are further down the road in all of this than we seem to be, at least from an understanding that there are some technologies out there that are challenging the status quo of classrooms. And, from the standpoint of making it a national initiative to understand that stuff as well. New Zealanders seem to be much more in tune with the value of reflective assessment and the uses of assessment in general to help guide choices that kids make in addition to seeing what they “know.”
Still, it comes down to individuals getting comfortable with doing things differently. Driving on the “other” side of the road really isn’t so hard once you get used to it.
Christchurch, New Zealand
So we’re all in New Zealand, having survived almost exactly 24 hours of non-stop travel from Philly to Christchurch, and already it’s as beautiful as advertised. We left leaves drifting into the gutter at home for freshly blossoming trees and flowers, and it’s just wild how everything, weather, time, etc. gets literally turned upside down. My brain is feeling it right now. Looking forward to a great 10 days of seeing the South Island (with a few presentations mixed in.)
New Zealand has a literacy rate of 99%, and in that context, I found the Times’ newest installment in its series “The Future of Reading” to be especially relevant. I guess my first reaction is why do we need to “[Use] Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers” when some parts of the world are obviously doing fine with pretty much just that book thing. (But then again, we seem to be falling on some difficult times in a number of different areas these days.) While the article does a good job of reviewing the complexities of trying to figure out just what kind of role gaming can play in reading, what really jumped out at me was near the end when games were described as a “gateway drug for literacy.” Seems that kids who are engaged in games read blogs and boards about the games and even start to write about them. Love this quote from a parent:
“I was so surprised because he does not like writing,” said William Tropp, Noah’s father. “I said, ‘Why aren’t you like this in school?’ ”
The obvious answer is because in school, Noah doesn’t get to learn reading and writing in the context of the things he’s passionate about. And in that respect, if games are a way to get kids engaged in words, great. I guess I wonder how much of a connection there really is in that regard, and how we would be able to create that connection in classrooms even if it does exist.
Anyway, just some tired thinking at 4 am EST…or 9 pm NZ time.
Just a thought…
I remember when 9/11 occurred I was teaching a journalism class when another teacher came in and said a plane had hit the World Trade Centers. We had a TV in the room, and I immediately flipped it on and we started watching as Aaron Brown tried to make sense of what was happening. After a couple of seconds, I told my kids to take out their notebooks and begin jotting down key quotes, interview names, etc. as the pieces began to trickle in. It was a mistake on my part, I realized, as the gravity of the event began to grow and settle in. At some point, I told them to put their notebooks away, that this wasn’t a great time for an exercise, and we watched until the TV feed was cut by our superintendent. Still, for the next couple of weeks after the dust cleared a bit, I threw out the curriculum, and we divvied up the pieces of this complex story and followed them, reported to one another and the school about what was happening, and worked through our emotions in the process. We learned a lot about the world and the times as they presented themselves.
I’m not in a classroom any longer, but moments like the one we’re in right now I wish I was. We are watching a slow unfolding of history as opposed to that day seven years ago that came at us in such a rush. In the midst of all of this angst and uncertainty that we’re dealing with, there are a host of teachable moments that would serve to make all of our kids better, more able, more functional citizens. I’m sure there are more, but how about these topics, just for a start:
Please feel free to add your own in the comments if you like, but I wonder how many teachers are throwing out the curriculum at this point and focusing on real events that have real consequences. (Here is one example by a social studies supervisor who I used to teach with back in the day.) If we’re not doing it now, when?
One last point. This is a perfect time to teach our kids “editing” as well. I’m still struggling with this whole debacle in terms of what it means for the average person. This morning on the news, I heard one “expert” put it simply: if credit dries up, the economy stops. In other words, if banks don’t have money to lend, not only will we not get loans, our credit cards will be pretty much useless, and cash on hand will be king. If that’s true, inaction could be really, really costly, which is what many seem to be saying. But who do we trust at times like these? We have to teach ourselves and our kids how to answer that question.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a president who was a teacher as well? I think the times demand it.