Normative claims that masquerade as objective truth are tools of propaganda. Fear and lies serve devious ends. Do not allow people to use terms like achievement gap, failure, or proficiency without challenging their meaning. The problem isn�t simply “failing” schools. Schools are being asked to clean up a broadly distributed social mess caused by centuries of materialism and greed. Education has been colonized. We are being trampled by our rescuers. This is not a new story.
I’ll be better tomorrow…
(Note: This post got away from me. Sorry.)
(via Kathy Sierra) Last week Danah Boyd posted an essay that talks about why MySpace matters and what the potential fall out from the MySpace panic is. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but I did find this snippet to be particularly thought provoking:
MySpace has grown so large that the needs, values and practices of its users are slamming into each other. It’s facing the archetypical clashing of cultures. Yet, interestingly, most users are not that concerned – they’re trying to figure out how to live in this super public. The challenge is that outsiders are panicking about a culture that they are not a part of. They want to kill the super public rather than support people in learning how to negotiate it. No one knows how to live in such a super public, but this structure is going to become increasingly a part of our lives. It is no wonder that youth want to figure it out. And it is critical that they do, especially since our physical worlds have become more segregated and walled off, partitioned by age, race, class, religion, values, etc. Yet, it is the older generation that did that segregating and they’re not really ready to face collapsed contexts at every turn or to learn how to engage with people who have very different values on a daily basis. Because of their position of power, outsiders are pushing the big red emergency button, screaming danger and creating a complete and utter moral panic. Welcome to a generational divide, where adults are unable to see the practices of their children on kids’ terms.
“Support people in learning how to negotiate it.” What a concept.
I find the culture in this country more and more ironic every day. As Danah says in her essay, we say to kids all the time that they shouldn’t reveal to much of themselves, yet everywhere they look on television we’re engaged in the sport of revelation. We reward our kids with trips to the mall yet say nothing about the fact that we live in a society where 80% of the things we buy are thrown out within six months. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink quotes Polly LaBarre who notes that the U.S. spends more on trash bags than 90 other countries spend on everything. Think about that. (Wendy‘s in the final stages of her environmental tip book…more such items to come I’m sure.) We claim to strive for equality, yet the only voices with any power are white, middle-aged, Ivy League educated, wealthy men who have lost (if they ever had) any perspective of what equality really means. And if you think that’s a problem, try this:
No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you’ve heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.
Oy. It feels pretty hopeless, sometimes…
It’s been interesting reading the threads that have developed around my “To Blog or Not to Blog…” post from a couple of days ago. The comments on the post itself were pretty amazing in their own right, but the extended conversations were equally thought provoking. Chris Sessums, Barbara Ganley, Vicki Davis, Bud Hunt and many others blogged about it, and I’ve been trying to tap into my own reaction as to what they and their respective commentors have been saying. It’s a great example of the messy, distributed nature of the Web these days, and ironically, I think, an example of why many people might find it frustrating.
What strikes me about all of this is the level of engagement of the participants. All of these teacher-bloggers on some level felt compelled to enter the conversation, to take the time to do some deep thinking, obviously, and articulate those thoughts in a post to share with others. Some came here first, then followed up with posts on their own sites. Some just felt compelled to comment on one or many of these posts. There is the palpable energy of a community of learners who are connecting around questions and answers to better understand their own practice and then share back that understanding with the community to further the conversation. And that investment of time and energy, I think, deepens my trust in the community as a place where I can come to ask about what I don’t understand or what I want to learn more about. It is, for me a powerful occurence, one that does not happen with such consistency in my physical space.
I know as a parent, I hope my own children will find the same level of passion that I have about whatever it is they might be interested in. It’s only natural, I think, that an educator who feels the power of that engagement would want to share that experience with his or her students. I love the way Barbara articulates this in her comments here:
Not all of us will be fabulous bloggers, or oral presenters, or readers, or emotionally intuitive. But if each of us will bring our own expertise to give to the others, we will be engaged–our learning will be efficacious.
And that is the most important part of all of this, this question of how do we get our kids engaged? How can we get them to be motivated to learn? And, since these tools seem to be working for us, how can we use them as vehicles, conduits for students to tap into their own passions? And how do we get other teachers to at least consider them?
Not every student needs a blog or a podcast or a wiki to be engaged, I understand that. Blogs and podcasts and the audiences they facilitate will not engage every child. But are we not at the point where we can honestly say that the learning potential of these tools is such that every teacher should have them as a part of his or her toolbox?
I haven’t written too much here about a friend and a colleague who has without question become my main offline teacher in terms of thinking about the Web and how it can influence teaching and learning. He is one of the brightest people I know. We’ve had all kinds of lengthy conversations over the past year ranging in topics from Dewey to school reform to (guess what?) blogging. Of course, I keep urging him to start a blog, and I think he may be ready to give it try. He reads blogs, has a Bloglines account, and I think understands the potential.
So what’s the problem?
My friend regularly pushes back about blogging, saying that it’s not as easy both technically and psychologically for most as it is for others, that the tool requires a significant change from how most people work and think. He says that it’s easy for me because I’m a writer by training, a journalist specifically, and that the transparency of content is familiar. For most, however, it’s not so appealing.
So it was on a couple of levels that I thought of him when I read a post from Leigh Blackall which pointed to this post from Doug Noon which pointed to this post from Miguel Ghulin. On one level, I thought about the time and effort it takes to follow and try to connect the ideas in these extremely interesting and thoughtful posts. All these guys are pretty brilliant and pushing my meager brain in any number of ways. It’s work, for me at least, and requires a pretty high level of engagement that I wonder how many educators have the time or inclination for. (And I do not mean that to sound holier than them in any way.) Second, the theme of this very distributed conversation goes to the heart of what my friend has been saying, that blogging and read/write webbing may be for a select few and not for the masses. Doug’s post ends with
I made a presentation about blogs to a group of teachers last summer. After I talked for probably too long, a woman raised her hand and asked, �Why would anyone want to do this?� I didn�t know what else to say. You either see it, or you don�t.
Which of us who has tried to bring these tools to a wider audience hasn’t heard or sensed that?
So my brain goes to this…in my echo chamber, I read lots of stories about kids who are getting it, even in Doug’s post, where they are reading and writing and commenting and learning. You read Bud or Clarence or Vicki or any number of others and there are stories that border on transformation. (In fact, Vicki’s latest post is titled “My students inspire me as they “get” Web 2.0.”) But I don’t read much about the kids that aren’t engaged. And I’m wondering to what extent that happens as well. And further, I’m wondering to what extent they compare to the adult educators we’re trying to teach about these tools who choose not to engage. The simple view is that this is generational, that kids are more available to the tools because they live in a connected world or because, well, they’re kids and more open to new stuff than adults…but is it?
You know how a lot of birders have life lists where they check off one species or another when they happen to see it warbling up in a tree or darting past their binoculars? In some weird way it’s akin to what it feels like meeting the bloggers who are in my Bloglines account. Yesterday I got a chance to cross Wes Freyer and Dean Shareski off of my list as we and a few other blogger types got a chance to engage in some face to face discussion about the state of education at a Discovery Educator Network dinner here in Orlando. Wes was in town to receive a Best Blogger Award from eSchool News and to give a Web 2.0 workshop at another conference in town. Also in attendance were Tim Wilson, Steve Dembo and a number of other educators who collectively produced some really interesting conversation, which we tried to record, btw.
I hope the others blog their impressions, but I was really struck by the intensity of what we talked about, the roadblocks inherent in school reform, strategies for sharing these tools with school leaders, ways to expand this conversation to teachers and schools that aren’t currently a part of it. It was exciting at times, frustrating at others. Optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. While we have a lot of these converstaions asynchronously on our blogs, it was a reminder of how effective face to face is. We covered a great deal of territory in a couple of hours.
The upshot? There is a lot of work to do, not so much even in teaching the tools as in figuring out what the answers to all of these tough questions really are. I certainly feel humbled by the sheer magnitude of this conversation, and priveleged to be even a small part of it. But I think that we’re not going to get very far until more voices enter it. And whether or not blogs will save the world, they can at least facilitate that conversation providing access is available and there is enough of a comfort level with the medium to use it.
FETC is without question the “If We Don’t Start Teaching Our Kids 21st Century Learning Skills We’re All In A Boatload of Trouble” Conference. Just about everywhere you look you see a reminder that this is indeed the 21st Century and that we’re teaching to 20th Century standards with 20th Century techniques. It’s almost the message from a lot of the featured speakers is like, “ok…you had six years to figure out that the Century actually did change…why haven’t you changed anything about how you teach?” I’ve heard Friedman’s name dropped three times already, and, the underlying current from many of those speaking is F E A R, or as Willard Daggett said more than once (maybe more than thrice) “They are going to eat our lunch.” Or this photo of the slide that was on screen prior to the start of Ken Kay’s presentation. It’s almost creepy.
Don’t get me wrong, there are bright spots. David Warlick tells somewhat the same story but with a much more hopeful tone. There must be at least 134 sessions on podcasting that, as far as I can see, haven’t resorted to the “Record or Die” meme. And a couple of the bloggy sessions I ducked in on looked quite happy (though I could give you some quotes from the audience that would make you think we were in the 19th Century.)
But I’m feeling kind of…I don’t know…bummed in some ways. I mean if you really want something to get scared about, listen to this podcast from Mark Lynas on Global Warming that I put on during the plane ride down here. If he’s right, we really are all dead, and none of this stuff will mean a hill of spaghetti.
David’s been talking about a new story, and I’ve been putting a post together with my thoughts. But I can tell you this: whatever the new story is, it’s not the one I’m hearing here…
Live blogging and wiki-ing at David’s wiki. I was going to cross post but it’s too long.
Why is the world different?
1. We need our students to become effective 21st Century Citizens�much more complicated. California ballot.
2. The US is falling behind�very conscious about sports, why don’t we have the same awareness of where our students are in the global education�We’re in the middle on content, we’re at the bottom when dealing with analytical thinking and problem solving.
3. The magnitude of our competition is changing�20 years ago when we had a major challenge from Japan we did something about it�business schools weren’t teaching state of the art business strategies�just in time production, TQM�today same thing, not focused on those needs�20 years ago we transformed business schools�those students are pretty much up to speed�can’t say that about people coming out of colleges of education�the threat from Japan, however, was 1/20 that of what we face today from China and India�kids are leaving without the “flat skills”
4. The nature of work is changing�How many of our grandparents had only one or two jobs in their lifetimes�70-80%…how many jobs will young people have by the time they are 38? 10.2�the point is that the model of mastering subject, master content�the skill set we need now is not the mastery of one set of facts it’s the ability to adapatable and flexible, to move in and out of content�need to evolve into a new model of education.
What is the framework for 21st Century skills?
20th Century�core subjects over assessment. 21st Century�life skills, 21st Century content, core subjects, learning and thinking skills, ICTliteracy over 21st century assessment. ICT literacy says that the reason we need technology is to accomplish learning and thinking skills. The role of technology is do you know how to use the tech to accomplish critical thinking. 21st Century content is about those subjects that are underemphasized�global awareness, financial literacy, civic engagement, health and wellness skills. Life skills�need self directed learners. HERE ARE THE Critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and innovation skills, communication and information skills, collaboration, contextual learning, information and media literacy�these are the attributes our young people have to have�kids that know this will succeed. Goal of technology is to accomplish those skills. How does their knowledge of technology link to those skill sets today. Life skills, leadership, ethics, accountabiluty, adaptability, personal productivity, personal responsibility, people skills, self direction, social responsibility. Content: Global awareness, financial, civic responsibility, health and wellness.
Four Critical Issues
1. Accountability and metrics are here to stay�in the 21st Century, how can we only have a metric for content when critical thinking is crucial.
2. Assessment–Can you imagine a 21st computer company that is only measuring it sales of 1960s computers. We need to measure metrics of innovative learning. Our system tells kids the same piece of information a 100 times and then tests to see if the kid can tell it back the 101st time. But can our kids see something for the first time and have the skills to analyze it and make sense of it. Today’s assessments are a conspiracy of convenience–Paul Resta, U of Texas. 21stcenturyskills.org
3. High School Reform–Results that matter report being released tomorrow. New definition of rigor that includes 21st Century Skills. 21st Century skills should become the design spaces for high school reform.
4. Professional Development–can’t expect our current teachers to know how to teach critical thinking and problem solving without pd.
Every student must be a critical thinker, problem solver, innovator, effective communicator, effective collaborator, self-directed learner, information and media literate, globally aware, civically engaged, financially and economically literate. These should become the design specs for 21st Century education.
From today’s New York Times:
“The scale of N.C.L.B. testing requirements, competitive pressures in the testing industry, a shortage of testing experts, insufficient state resources, tight regulatory deadlines and a lack of meaningful oversight of the sprawling N.C.L.B. testing enterprise are undermining N.C.L.B.’s pursuit of higher academic standards,” he writes. And that is from a man who supports the federal law.
Sounds encouraging, huh?
So it just so happens that right up the road from me at Rutgers University is a professor looking to do some research into the effects of blogs, wikis, et. al. Here’s the class description Dr. Erica Bohling is offering this summer:
What literacy skills do teachers and students need in order to succeed in today�s information-rich, digital society? What are some effective instructional tools and models for integrating technology into the middle school and high school curriculum? How can teachers in all content areas support students� information literacy and research skills? The purpose of this course is to explore the kinds of literacies that are needed to succeed in today�s Digital Age society and to investigate the ways in which such literacies can enhance teaching and learning. This 3-credit, graduate level course emphasizes strategies and skills that support an inquiry-based approach to learning where students are able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use information across a range of media. Participants will be introduced to technologies such as Blogs, Wikis, and RSS feeds and will explore the role of new technologies in education.
Sounds like we could all have fun in that class. Well, me at least.
(Full disclosure: Dr. Bohling was involved in the feedback stages of my book.)
So if this isn’t a perfect example of why teachers need to explore these technologies, I don’t know what is. Chris Kenniburg and Jamie Soltis at Long Elementary in Dearborn, MI have combined text, art and audio to create an “ongoing digital storytelling podcast.”
The idea behind the project is to get every grade level at an elementary school to add a new episode (Chapter in the Story) to the podcast by expanding on the previous story submission. The students write and illustrate the next chapter. They then turn to the technology to digitally express themselves creating voiceovers, titles, and animations. These elements are then exported as a �podcast ready� video file to be added to the story. This new �digital book� concept is catching on and the next grade level has begun creating the next chapter in the story. At the end of the year we plan on combining all the video files to create a completed story.
You have got to look at these. Learn from these. Amazingly good work from the kids and the teachers. (Check out the way the pages look…awesome!) They’re just starting, but you can just already tell the type of work these kids are doing. They are writing, planning, collaborating, creating, publishing…all for a real, valuable purpose. To teach what they know and share it with an interested audience. I think if this community started giving out “Best Practice Awards” (hey…there’s an idea…) this would definitely get one.
This is another example of why it’s feeling like momentum is building here. I can only imagine what teachers and kids will do, given the chance…
Yesterday, in three straight presentations about the wonders and potential of RSS to rock our eduworlds, I kept getting more and more embarrased at the fact that when I showed my Bloglines account, which has ballooned up to 197 feeds, it was obvious that while I might be subscribed, I’m not keeping up with my reading. In fact, if you totalled up the number of unread messages in my list, it’s a very audience appealing 3739. If that doesn’t motivate some people to dive right in, I don’t know what will.
Now understand that 2,347 of those are from Wes Freyer, the most prolific edublogger in the universe. (Really it’s “only” 57.) And the problem is that I hestitate to click the Wes link because I know it’s gonna take me at least an hour to read through all of the good stuff he’s blogging about. (Slow down, Wes. Please. I’m begging.)
This is why I had to quit my job…
Anyway, I made the people in attendance yesterday swear that they would take a time out if they ever got up to 20 feeds in their aggregators. Hopefully that will keep them from feeling like a total RSS failure if they should “get behind” in their reading.
The most interesting thing about yesterday’s MassCue Technology Leadership Symposium at least to me, was that two educators came up to me at different times of the day and said the same thing almost verbatim:
I have never seen a technology that has turned my students on more than podcasting.
Seriously…almost verbatim, and kind of out of the blue since I was talking about RSS (though I was hawking my book…I have no shame.) And to both of them I asked why they thought that was. The answer was basically the ease of it, the audience, the ability to hear themselves piping through the speakers wherever they were. And these teachers were downright giddy with the excitement of it all. Very cool.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t “get” podcasting at first, and to be honest, I’m not sure I do still. But that doesn’t much matter, does it? Kids get it, especially elementary kids. And even though it may not be the best tool for conversation (though a blog built around a podcast can help in that) it is a great tool for teaching writing, among other things. That’s the other thing I hear a lot. These kids are really motivated to write and think and prepare these podcasts because they know they are going to be published, that others will hear them. And it’s different strokes with these tools, isn’t it? You don’t like text (like I do) try audio, and if that doesn’t engage you, try video or screencasting or whatever. And there is more to come, don’t forget. We’re only just starting.
Isn’t it cool, however, that in some small measure, the little kids are leading the way???
One of the other pre-conference conversations last night was about the Tablet PC. One of the schools here got a grant to put Tablets into 20 teachers’ hands and the result has been, not surprisingly, very favorable. The responses sounded a lot like those of the teachers at my school who have talked about how the new classroom model has changed not only the way they teach but the way they feel about teaching. Very cool.
One thing I’ve started to do more and more with my tablet is to take interesting blog posts or articles found on the Web, “print” them into OneNote, the most awesome notebook program for the Tablet, and then mark them up as I read with the pen. In doing so, I’m creating a whole searchable library of interesting content, I’m also creating a whole searchable library of my handwritten notes. So now what I can do is not only add tags to a certain article, I can tag pieces of an article for retreival later. (See this example snippet of David Warlick’s latest post…I simply add the number 1 at the end of the tag to separate if from words in the text.) That is very, very cool, I think, and something that I wish I could do on the Web in general. Imagine if you could pick out half a dozen sections out of one piece of content and tag each one individually. That would really separate out relevant content and make synthesis of it all later so much easier.
The problem is that I feel like I’m doing double duty now, creating my own library in OneNote, yet still saving bookmarks in del.icio.us. I’m finding the former more powerful, but the latter more social, obviously. Not going to stop sharing, but I have to say the difference between the two is pretty striking.