I do not recommend its reading as a curtsey to Canadian education thought leaders, as much as to point out a disturbing trend that is not limited to the ongoing education conversation.
This is something of a personal rant, but it has confounded me, the support that many of my country’s poor and aging pay to political elements whose legislative activities serve the rich and powerful — until I realized that there is a narrative being told that in America anyone can become rich and powerful and that we should all protect our potential membership in that club.
In other words, if you aren’t willing to be the first to monetize it, then you shouldn’t expect to be part of the pitch.
Shame on us!
OK! This was Wyoming. So there were dinosaur skeletons everywhere. Tyrannosaurus on the right and Warlickosaurus on the left.
During my presentation, Finding ‘It’ on the Net, at the WyTECC conference the other day, someone asked in the backchannel,
“How do we get educators to understand that students (should) have the freedom of using the Net during class?”
It’s what I love about being able to visit the chat transcript and comment on the attendee’s observations and questions. It extends the conversation and broadens the learning – including my own.
I seems that one way to convince reluctant teachers might be to ask that they imagine their classrooms with really smart students, and imagine the energy that they would generate – and then help them to understand how the Internet is becoming an extension of our/their own brains. Ask them to think of the things that they do today, that they aren’t smart enough to do without the Net. I’d have no trouble doing that.
If students can lookup and evaluate information on the Net and on the fly during classroom work and classroom discussions, extending their own brains, then it may elevate the class, not to mention empower the learners.NCTIES is my state’s International Society for Technology in Education affiliate (ISTE). It stands for North Carolina Technology In Education Society. They will be holding their annual conference this week at the relatively new Raleigh Convention Center. In the last few years the state capital’s downtown has become a descent place to hold a conference. More restaurants, museums, night life and many more people living downtown, making the streets safer.
I finally went through the conference program yesterday and was struck by several trends that seemed apparent during that scan. So I thought I’d spend a few minutes this morning doing a casual frequency analysis.
|Number of term mentions in the conference program|
|Game, gamilfy, etc.||14||73||3.5|
|iPad or iPads||34||68||2.1|
|Professional Development or PD||65||34||-1.9|
|Collaboration or Collaborate||24||22||-.1|
In a casual counting, I found 205 concurrent presentations being made during the conference including the student showcases and not including the two keynotes. Of those 205, 51 of them (24.5%) are being delivered, at least in part, by vendors. 35 are being delivered by presenters representing elementary schools, 20 by presenters from middle or intermediate schools, 15 from high schools and 14 from universities. I am especially happy to see so many presenters from five of our state supported universities, two private universities and one community college.
The happening place in North Carolina seems to be Rowan-Salisbury Schools with 14 sessions being facilitated by 33 district educators. Also notable is Union County Schools with 7 sessions and 18 educators.
I’m doing one session. But hopefully, I’ll be setting a productive tone for the conference.
I’m looking forward to seeing old friends at NCTIES
I finally found a list of last years presentation descriptions, and searched for the frequency of the terms in this table (above and left). I inserted a column for the 2012 conference and then added a column with arrows to indicate the trending up and down. To quantify the change, I added a final column with the number of standard deviations of the total change. This sounds like I know more about statistics than I really do.
Before Educon’s conversations begin, we get to spend the day at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), attend an evening panel discussion at The Franklin Institute (see Pulver) and see the opening keynote address – this year it was Philadelphia’s new Superintendent, Dr. William Hite.
One of the greatest features of Educon is the chance to catch up with friends, whom we see almost daily in the networked eduverse, but with whom we rarely get to shake hands, huge, and enjoy extended conversations, unconstrained by 140 characters limits – and that’s not to say that we ever get to finish our conversations at Educon, because there are always new ones that attract our attention.
We also get to visit classes and talk with SLA teachers. I especially enjoyed talking with Matt VanKouwenberg, about his engineering classes. His process reminded me of the vocational education classes I took in high school, how we all learned many of the same lessens by working on distinctly different projects. He told me that each class starts with a few minutes of sharing, where each student or team reports on where they are, barriers they are facing, and what they are learning (think the first five minutes of each episode of LA Law). He said that it often surprises the students to discover the similarities in what they learn, regardless of what they are working on.
I also enjoyed talking with one of my favorite SLA teachers, Meenoo Rami, an English teacher. Rami teaches a class about Storytelling, which appears to be not about fiction writing, but about how we use stories as a device for communication. I think that this is an often overlooked tool for expressing ourselves, even by many of us who are supposed to be master communicators. Too often I hear keynote and featured speakers simply telling us what to believe, rather than helping us discover our own beliefs through plot and surprise. Never underestimate the power of a good surprise.
Near the end of the Friday night panel discussion, Pulver said that, “The future is unwritten!”
When considering our challenges as educators and the future challenges of our students, we must come to believe that anything is possible. We’re not preparing our children for the 21st century. We’re preparing them for the age of opportunities, when almost any problem can be solved and almost any goal can be accomplished. This affects so much that is involved in formal education.
This implies a purpose behind education that has little to do with an age of opportunity. Instead students learn to read in order to follow instructions and to learn in order to fit in to someone else’s competitive machine. To be ready for an age of opportunity, children must learn to read so that they can learn to do something that they couldn’t do before and to learn in order to make their own machine.
One of the greatest ah ha! moments of the event, was when Philadelphia Schools Suerpentendent, Dr. William Hite said, “Today, teachers do not need to be content specialists nearly as much as they need to be context specialists.”
Educon 2013 is over and I’m on my way home, the Carolinian, Train number 79, on time with a passable WiFi connection. During this year’s conversations, I tried a new app and technique for taking notes. The App is GoodNotes, which is like a couple of dozen other stylus-based note-taking apps. What I like about this particular one is your ability to connect it with the iPad’s camera and integrate pictures into your notes.
I typically use a mind-mapping program, so that I can organize ideas in relation to others. But I’ve always missed the freedom of a blank page. Writing notes with a stylus has all sorts of disadvantages, but I can already see that I am going back to review my notes much more frequently than I have ever scanned my mind maps.
I confessed to a number of people yesterday, that I attend these things, not so much for new knowledge as for new language. I do not manage a school or classroom, so I am not looking for solutions. I need new ways of talking about education in the age of opportunity – which is often counter-intuitive to the my audiences’ vision of classrooms. New angles, phrases or new stories help to produce shakabuku. They sneak up on the listener and surprise them with new realizations.
The first thing I think, when seeing a panel for educators made up of non-educators is, “Why do we assume that business inherently does it better?” I have to confess that after the panel discussion was over and and I was trudging back up to my hotel (why’s going home always up hill?) through the (more slippery than it looked) snow, I asked myself that question – probably out loud.
But rehashing parts of it early the next morning and reviewing my notes, I see lots of ideas that, when unpacked, apply wonderfully to teaching, learning, and classrooms. Here are some phrases from Jeff Pulver, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
- Teachers should model entrepreneurship! I include this statement only because It comes up frequently during unconference sessions on education and entrepreneurship. If we want our children to be creative, then we need to practice creativity in front of them.
- Voice is an application! I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this one, but according to Wikipedia, “an ‘app’ is computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks.” One could say that giving voice to learning helps learners to accomplish something with what they’ve learned.
- The fuel for disruption is passion! This one makes a lot of sense to me. Disruptive technologies, techniques and processes change nothing unless someone is passionate enough to audaciously and heroically use them. Learning is disruptive. If it wasn’t, what would be the point?
Are we fueling our students’ learning?
- Be willing to break the rules! I keep playing around with the idea that rules, in school, are designed to contain the learning. However, in the real world, rules are a way of mapping the perceived constraints of reality. Those who accomplish goals creatively do so by rewriting the rules – reshaping the confines of reality. Personally, I prefer “changing the rules” or “re-writing the rules” to “breaking the rules.”
- Find People who don’t know it can’t be done! Is this an overlooked value of new teachers. I keep thinking that there is great potential to pairing experienced teachers with new teachers, when solving education problems – so long as each is willing to learn from the other.
- Make exercise fun! This one hit hard. It’s one of my regrets, as I approach the end of my career, that I have not thought enough or talked enough about our children’s physical education. I think that Pulver, from his own recent experiences in losing so many pounds, was spot-on, that “Exercise should be fun.”
But, for many, it’s not. I’ve never gotten anything from endorphins, though my wife use to claim an addiction to her afternoon jogs. Perhaps its an A.D.D. thing, because the only effect I feel from the (prescribed) stimulants I sometimes take is that I can suddenly express myself in a little more linear fashion. But no other physical sensation.
Some people don’t like sports. I was good at baseball and football, and played on school teams. But I never took the whole winning/losing thing very seriously – and never had fun playing with people who did.
Some people aren’t good at sports. One of my brothers could run faster than anyone in four blocks. But he never learned to catch a ball gracefully.
How do you make exercise fun? Here are a few thoughts.
- Sports should not be limited to those who are good at it and only for the good of the school. Invite everyone to play and celebrate the play. Playing is fun. Winning requires losers.
- (and keep my feet on the peddles).
- Find new human-powered routes. Greenways are huge in large cities, and I’m starting so see them in smaller cities. There are also some instances of walking and biking trails that connect towns, which is something I noticed a lot of in Germany. I believe that there’s a trail between Richmond, Virginia and the shore. Go to TrailLink to find trails in your state and community.
- Find new places to walk to. Just walking or biking is often not compelling enough. There need to be reasons to be on those trails, places to go, reasons to be on your feet. Making your community more bicycle and pedestrian friendly is essential. But how do you make them desirable or fashionable to use. Ask students to invest in them by devising solutions. Take a picture of your downtown and ask students to edit the picture, adding features for the self-propelled. Ask a Maker class to design and build bicycle racks for your community and work with stores and municipal establishments to install them. Get creative. Get going on your own two feed.
One of Philadelphia’s many building murals
I’m at Philadelphia’s EDUCON, a unique sort of learning event where sessions start with a proposed question, to be answered by the audience through conversation. The function of the presenter is to generate that problem-solving conversation.
Day one focuses on the Science Leadership Academy, a unique sort of school that hosts the conference. SLA students conduct tours of the school where we can talk with them and their teachers. It was my fourth tour of the school, two during EDUCON days, and two during normal school days walking through with its principal and founder, Chris Lehmann. Of course, nothing about SLA is normal.
Today, I had a personal tour, just me and Tyler, a senior with an interest in astronomy. He is working with the astronomy staff at The Franklin Institute on a number of projects. Needless to say, I shared with him my neighbor, Paul Gilster’s blog, Centauri Dreams.
Each time I visit SLA, I walk away with a different aspect of the place resonating between my ear. I remember my second tour with Lehmann, walking around and people would walk up, interrupting the tour, for a conversation with the principal. I suddenly realized that most of the time I unable to tell whether the person was a student or one of the school’s young teachers. The topics of the conversation never concerned the logistics of schooling, but were about the work of accomplishing some important goal or mission.
Today? Well it was authentic learning, a term I heard and overheard several times in the halls and classrooms. What struck me, was that there was always some sense of apology at the use of the word, like the speaker had not choice but to invoke it instead of some better phrase.
Authentic learning is a term with a long history in education, spanning well before NCLB – and it is a term that, frankly, has seen better days. I suppose it is true in most professions that a term or phrase becomes used by so many people, in so many places, within so many contexts, that the label’s weight shadows it’s original meaning. Many of us come to distrust the term and are left to use examples to convey our meaning – and examples rarely reach its essence.
I won’t presume to define authentic learning here. But during my conversations with instructors at the school and with Tyler, and seeing similarities between the educational practices at SLA and the vocational classes I took as a high school student, I saw a commonality that was informative to me. The linchpin effect of authentic learning is that..
The value of what is being learned is obvious to the learner
Does not have to be explained by the teacher.
There is great power
When the learning why
Is part of
The learning how.
I’ve spent the last several days at the EARCOS Education Leadership Conference in Kuala Lumpur. It’s been an interesting conference for heads of school and board members of international schools from throughout East Asia.
They’ve been working me pretty hard, but I have had the opportunity see some friends, make some new ones and attend some sessions. Milton Chen delivered the opening keynote address, my first time seeing him speak. The second day was opened by Alan November, perhaps the best keynote I’ve seen him deliver. He shared an idea that he had suggested during the pre-conference workshop I facilitated on Wednesday (I think it was Wednesday). Probably more on that later…
Since the Internet access was spotty, at best, throughout the conference, I was not able to tweet statements out that I wanted to. So I thought I would just tweet them here with a few more than 140 characters of commentary.
We shouldn’t be talking about schools of the future.
First of all, we have no way of knowing what schools of the future will look like. What we need to be addressing is the schools our children need right now.
Whitby, in comparying industrial age schooling with what’s more relevant to today’s children, he said that we need to..
Make learning compulsory and attendance optional.
It’s an excellent shakabuku., but its practice would need to be explained, if possible. Still, like so much of the conversation I’m witnessing at conferences today, the focus is on the learning.
Whitby also warned that we have to get this right and do so with a compelling narrative. If we don’t, then someone else (Silicon Valley) will step in, and…
What we could get is good technology, but poor pedagogy.
This rang my HackEducation bell and the ongoing reporting of Audrey Waters. But then he said something that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around. He said that,
The more personalized the education experience, the more we know about the learner and the quality of the learning.
I’m not sure how this works except that personalized learning may result in more conversation between teachers and individual learners.
Another very simple statement that doesn’t need much expiation was that
Schooling today is (1) personalized, (2) de-privatized, (3) technology-invisible and (4) agile.
It was odd, a video that Whitby played during his keynote, about a school in Australia 250 students in one enlarged classroom and several teachers. You see we were taught about “open learning spaces” when I was in education school more than 35 years ago. I student-taught in an open space with a team of teachers. The the problem was that we didn’t have a new narrative to attach the concepts to. It stood no chance. Today we’re trying to write and tell that story –– and we’d better not get it wrong.
As I write this, I am in Tokyo’s Narita Airport, waiting on my third and final day of travel to Kuala Lumpur (KL) Malaysia. It’s EARCOS’ annual leadership conference, which was canceled last year because of flooding in Bankok. The flooding is happening closer to home now, with Sandy bearing down on New Jersey and New York, where my kid brother lives – on the ground floor of his building I might add.
During all of the travel, I have enjoyed and learned from the backchannel transcripts from BC, Vermont and also an amazing media and ed tech conference in Winnipeg. As I’ve read and commented on the transcripts, via KnitterChat, I have set aside some tweets and knits, that seemed especially salient to me, intending to re-tweet them back out. With my spotty Internet access (paying by the minute at the Hilton here in Tokyo), they’ve back up. So I thought I would push them out through this blog. So…
This was my response to a tweet from the Vermont conference.
The Graduates of today’s education need to be uniquely valuable, not identically valuable.
Here’s one that came at the mention of learning disabilities.
..often, a learning disability is not so much a difficulty in learning, as it is a difficulty in being taught.
Tinkering and the whole DIY movement came up, as it increasingly does, as a counterpoint to all the social networking and video games kids engage in.
When was the last time you made something. Can you make something without learning something?
What is unique and fresh about Vermont is that they seem honestly enthusiastic about the future of education there. Vermont is different from the rest of the U.S. in so many ways, and they do not seem to feel so confined by national trends and federal mandates as the rest of the country. From talks of testing, this statement surfaced.
We don’t ask enough questions for which we don’t know the answers. We should respect our learners that much.
That Vermont’s backchannel was so prolific surprised me. It is rare that school board members and superintendents are so chatty when their statements are publicly accessible. I added this in…
I’m wondering how many of your schools’ stakeholders are following your conference tweets. It’s an interesting idea.
It wouldn’t be a bad thing, from my reading.
While in Vermont, I sat in on a great presentation by superintendent Dan French. I was, in no small part, intrigued by the fact that he did his presentation with a Linux computer. Cool thing, a techie super.
He talked about their process for establishing a district vision for 21st century learning. The session was called “Making Community Part of 21st Century Learning Vision” and I posted my notes (taken with the Mindo iPad app) here. Basically, he played selected videos from Youtube for members of his volunteer visioning group, including Sir. Ken Robinson, Dan Meyer and one about New Brunswick’s education, and then asked groups to discuss.
He said that even attendees who were usually critical of the school system bought in. French reported that one critic commented, “I didn’t you you talked about issues like this!”
I had the pleasure and good fortune of speaking at the Connecting Leaders conference this weekend in Vancouver. Organized by the British Columbia Principals and Vice Principals Association, the conference consisted of two days of keynotes, breakouts and meetings. I keynoted the second morning (Saturday), delivered a breakout and the closing remarks around 11:30. Pretty standard fair.
After the conference adjourned, the association held an Educational Leadership Forum to assist in revising their Leadership Standards for Principals and Vice-Principals in British Columbia. Eight panelist were invited to deliver 7 to 8 minute talks, exploring specified topics that are relevant to school leadership. I was panelist number seven and was asked to talk about literacy.
The panelists were:
- Taken before the event
- Dr. Avis Glaze — International educator, speaker and former administrator with the Ontario Ministry of Education
- Julie MacRae — Director of Education/CEO of Regina Public Schools, Saskatchewan
- Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl — an Applied Developmental Psychologist and Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia
- Dennis Sparks — Emeritus Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council
- Robert C. Kidd – President of Overwaitea Foods
- Dr. Charles Underleider — Professor of the Sociology of Education at The University of British Columbia
- David Warlick – In high cotton ;-)
The event was brilliantly organized with eight round tables in the room, each devoted to two of the addressed topics. Around each table were invited and distinguished principals, vice-principals, district administrators, university folks, and representatives from the BC Ministry of Education. Four of the panelists spoke on their topics and then the eight of us dispersed to our assigned tables where we discussed our first assigned topic. Then the remaining four returned to the stage to address our topics.
What really helped was being able to listen to six of my stagemates share their perspectives before I had to speak, each of them provoking a new twist on one or more of the qualities I had listed. I certainly hope that the frequent tweaking of my notes (see above & right), on my iPad, at my end of the stage, didn’t distract anyone.
So, a school that practices learning-literacy will be a school where
- The distinctions between teacher and student begin to blur.
- There is less reliance on textbooks and authority, and more reliance on the work of learning.
- There is a natural convergence between the rich information skills of literacy and numeracy and the information and data that define the content areas.
- Teachers teach from new learning, as master learners.
- 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.
- The library magnifies the world outside, but also reflects the culture inside, curating collections of learner produced media products.
- Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.
How does this ring for you?
Portland Head Lighthouse (HDR)
Haddock Stuffed with Lobster, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots (chocolate cake not shown)
Wordle of Twitter Backchannel Feed
Stitched Panorama of General Session
On Wednesday evening, I enjoyed a great dinner and warm fellowship with ACTEM’s MAINEducation conference committee (ACTEM is Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine). They were celebrating their 25th conference and the 10th anniversary of the state’s celebrated 1:1 initiative. We met at Slates in Hallowell, as I had not yet gotten to my hotel –– having meandered up from Portland, looking for lighthouses to photograph.
Leaving the restaurant, after a satisfying meal (code for filling), I dashed across the street to my rented Kia, remounted my Garmin GPS, typed in the address of the hotel and started driving. It was dark, wet, and black, the blackness that comes with wet streets that swallow light rather than illuminate what’s in front of you. So it was one of those slow drives that had me focused primarily on Lady GPS saying,
“TURN RIGHT – HERE!”
“TURN LEFT – HERE!”
I’d gone through about twelve of these, only three of which resulting from missed turns and the machine’s ,
.. and It had gotten blacker. I’d felt that I had entered a residential area which might have concerned me anyplace else. But I’d glanced at a satellite view of the area, and knew that it was surrounded by homes. What was alarming, and what you REALLY don’t want to hear at a time like this, was,
“TURN LEFT – HERE and NAVIGATE OFF-ROAD!”
I said, out loud, “No!” did a U-turn and found my way to the hotel with my iPhone, my face lit up from the glow of that 3.5 inch display.
My point in telling this story here, and to the 800 Maine educators gathered in Augusta yesterday, is to say that this northern state did not say, “No!” They’ve been courageously and inventively navigating off-road for ten years, and in no small way paving new avenues to learning –– and too few of us are following.
The last time I keynoted the ACTEM conference, I composed a list of conditions that indicate that you’re in Maine. I don’t think I can improve on that list, which I’ve included below. But I would add one item.
You know you’re in Maine, when you believe that you have a firm and compelling vision of where education needs to be going, only to find yourself struggling to re-frame that vision, simply to catch up with the conversations around you. A Wordle of the Twitter backchannel feed illustrates this beautifully, where students and learning stand out, and you have to struggle to find mention of technology.
Here’s my list from 2006, most of which is still true.
You know you’re in Maine when…
- The first thing attendees to your workshop ask is, “Do we have WiFi?”
- Teachers are checking their students work, during the workshop, on their comput’a.
- When you insist on tech support for your hands-on workshop and none was needed.
- When, in a workshop, everytime you ask, “How many of you have done this before…?” and nearly every hand goes up.
- When two members of your workshop organize their own workshops in the back of the room.
- They don’t give out a conference bag at conference registration, because everyone’s going to be carrying a computer bag anyway.
- The former governor of the state is attending an education conference.
- Nearly everything that people say, in an easy-going, slow, mumbly sort of way, carries wisdom!
- When you had to fly in a little soapbox derby sort of plane to step into the future.
- When you start to feel optimistic, and think, “You know, we may just be able to turn this thing around.”
..then you know your in Maine!
I’d add that if you fly into Portland’s magnificent new airport, you can avoid the soapbox derby plane.keep looking »