Warning: Some time shifting in this article.
It’s early Saturday morning (on the East Coast of the United States), but I am being reminded that it is not that time or even that day in other parts of the world. First? I downloaded Twittervision 3D, which is a screen saver version of the timewasters at Twittervision. I’m following a picture of a globe that rotates east, and then west, following twitter messages posted from Spain, then Indoneasia, then Japan, then Japan, the Japan, then Germany, the Japan, then Portugal, then UK…
And then, out of Twitter, Ewan McIntosh tweets that he’ll be starting his presentation at BETT in just a few minutes and he’s posing some questions — which I answered, not knowing if he’s paying attention to me or not.
Then scanning through Google Reader, I encounter a blog post from Korea Educator, Clay Burell, which features an audio recording of a SKYPE’ed conversation that he’d had with South Carolina educator, Chris Craft.
It is important to note that, for the sake of this topic and the ideas that started bouncing (rattling) around in my head before I got up this, and then continued to (almost) formulate as I was reading and reading, that Clay was sitting there…
…in Korea on a Friday night, close to midnight, I hop onto Twitter, see Chris Craft is there in South Carolina, USA, and tweet him an invitation to talk on SKYPE. He kindly obliges (and itâ€™s just a free international computer phone call now, so that ainâ€™t hard).
I record it, edit it, and an hour later, self-publish it for anybody in the world who is interested in lessons learned from two humble pioneers of global classroom collaboration.
They are discussing various online collaborative projects and the elements of those projects that lead to success. But what comes out of it, and what’s becoming gradually less murky to me, is that when we insist on, as Clay puts it, “rubicizing and unitizing” our instruction, these contrived contexts are starting to get in the way of learning.
Our efforts should not be to integrate technology into the classroom, but to define and facilitate a new platform on which the classroom operates. When the platform is confined by classroom walls, and learning experiences spring from static textbooks and labored-over white boards, and the learning is highly prescribed, then pedagogy is required.
However, if the platform is a node on the global network; with text, audio, and video links to other uncountable nodes on the network; and the connections are real time and clickable, and tools are available to work and employ the content that flows through those connections; then the learning happens because learners have experienced personal connections — and they want to maintain those connections by feeding back their own value.
In May 2006 I wrote…
…the point is this. Education, defined by it limits, required a curriculum that was packaged into products that could be easily used in the classroom. We used textbooks with scope and sequence, pacing guides, and a teacherâ€™s guide with the answers.
Education, defined by itâ€™s lack of limits, requires no such packaging. Itâ€™s based on experiences, tied to real-world, real-time information that spans the entire spectrum of media â€” crafted and facilitated by skilled teachers, who become more like tour guides than assembly-line workers.
This idea of platform is one that’s intrigued me for some time, and smarter people than me have been working on it. But I see three relatively education-centric information platforms emerging in our midsts.
- Electronic portfolios have been talked about for a long time, and they have been realized to varying degrees.
- Course management systems (Moodle) have also crystallized to a much greater degree because they solve some pretty broad and urgent problems.
- Finally, and equally hard boiled, are social networks (Facebook), which seem to be a central part of our students culture and remain beyond the full understand of older educators.
What I keep wondering about is something that might overlap these three platforms, that has elements of social networking and course management, and that breeds artifacts of learning. Inside the place where the three overlap, how many of the euphemisms that we spout as education reformers might happen as a matter of course, rather than being explicitly designed and constructed — student centered learning, constructivist learning, technology infused learning, inquiry-based learning, you fill it in.
One day later: I’m finishing this blog up at 6:00 EST the next morning, and a Twitter comes across that Jeff Utecht, in Shanghai, is getting ready to record a podcast conversation with David Carpenter over Ustream. I pop in and as I listen and engage in the backchannel chat, as best I can, it occurs to me that I’m talking about a shift from technology as gadget to technology as platform.
Do we want students who are becoming integrated participants in an increasingly networked, rapidly changing, and intensely exciting world, or do we just want USDA-certified commodities to serve the machine?
About the Author: 35 year educator, programmer, author, and public speaker. Read more from this author