|(cc) photo by Hugo Schotman|
|(cc) photo by Mark Mathosian|
I’m doing something right now that I have only gotten to do a good handful of times during my career as an educator. I am starting a brand new presentation slide deck. What fun! Understand that when I left the classroom as a teacher, the standard for technology in the classroom was the TRS-80, and the venerable Apple IIe had only just launched. Persuasion, PowerPoint and Keynote were hardly in our imaginations.
Since I started delivering keynote addresses at conferences, I’ve had about five standard talks. They have afforded me basic structures, reasonable frameworks, about which I could tell stories that provoked new ideas about teaching and learning. Today I am starting a new one – and probably my last one.
|(cc) photo by Phoenix|
A compelling speaker needs a gimmick, an idea or object that is familiar, but can be turned inside out in such a way as to provoke a shakabuku, “..a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever,” if I might be so bold. 1
For this presentation, I’ve decided to use the school bookbag. One of the stabling blocks of promoting new ways to think about education is vocabulary. The biggie? “What do you call a textbook that’s not a book?“
If it’s not a book, then what do you put in your school bookbag? I have some ideas…
But what do you think?
If students continue to bring bookbags to school in 2018, then what will be in them?
Please comment or Tweet (#bookbag2018).
One thing that I do know is that a Bookbag, filled with 20 pounds of books, indicates a school based on standards — and such a school does not teach literacy nearly so much as it teaches compliance.
I will say here that I became a teacher because I wanted to help children and watch them grow and become more capable, compassionate and respectful of the culture and society of their community and their world. That said, I believe that teaching has become way to clinical. In our misguided efforts to establish success by being able to measure learning, we have fabricated a system of complex and rigid classifications with symptoms, diagnoses and prescribed treatments. We have tried to make teaching a science, and it is not. Teaching is an art.
In the early days of NCLB, being an educator was compared to being a pharmacist, where less than successful learners could be treated with scientifically proven best practices and the application of big data.
Of course this clinical approach does describe part of what it is to teach. I call this the teacher-technician. However, what Bobby’d learned, that enabled him to diagnose my car’s problem from the telling of my entertaining story, did not result from an elaborate construct of scientifically proven best practices. It happened because of a family or close-knit community that talked about cars; what made them work and what made them work better. They valued good cars that could be made faster than they were off the showroom floor, and they valued the folks who could accomplish it. They worked on cars. They fixed them. ..and sometimes it didn’t work, and they talked about it – and they learned from what went wrong.
Bobby’s story is not meant to promote classrooms that are shaped by established and described differentiations and toolboxes of prescribed remedies. What I would rather see are teacher-philosophers who are skilled, knowledgeable and can facilitate a learning community that:
- Values what is being learned
- Respects the learning that comes from success
- Respects the learning that comes from failure and
- Celebrates what learners can do with what they have learned.
It is a classroom where students can turn around and look back at the concrete and public results of their learning.
Yesterday (or several days ago) I wrote about success as the element of learning that trumps lazy. By success, I mean learning that accomplishes a meaningful goal, as opposed to one that achieves an external and often symbolic outcome. This morning, I thought of a classic example.
After my first year of teaching, I traded in my aging Fiat station wagon for a brand new 1977 Toyota Corolla. It cost $2,700 and was a wonderful car; drivetrain, chassis, body and four wheels – basic transportation that I kept tuned myself. It cranked every time and never failed to get me to work or to Arizona or wherever I was going. Until four years later.
The starter motor would turn, but the engine simply would not engage. However, if I left it alone for about a half hour, it would start right up. This didn’t happen every time I used the car, but each time it did, the pattern was the same. I took it to a number of auto repair establishments, but, as is always the case, it would start flawlessly.
I remember as if it was today, a rather short stocky fellow, slipping his Exxon cap off as he leaned under the hood and with grease- and tobacco-stained fingers, flipped open a plastic box that was mounted to the wheel well. Seated into a circuit board were several microchips. He said, “That’s your problem. I don’t know what that is, but that’s your problem.”
The car cranked right up and I drove back home. It was the next day that I was telling this story to a teacher friend, outside our rooms, during class change. Several students were lingering close by, including a young man we’ll call Bobby.
I can picture him today; a good looking kid, tall, straight as an arrow, curly back hair and day-old stubble (before it was cool), and the broadening chest and shoulders that come to some boys as early as 15. ..and he was still in the 7th grade.
From the other side of the radiator he said something that I didn’t understand. My teacher friend asked him to repeat and he said almost clearly, “h’it’s yer cule mista Warlick.”
After engaging him in something similar to a conversation, I got that my coil was the problem. An ignition coil is ”an induction coil in an automobile’s ignition system which transforms the battery’s low voltage to the thousands of volts needed to create an electric spark in the spark plugs to ignite the fuel.“1
This was better advice I’d gotten from any of the trained and experienced auto mechanics I’d consulted, so that afternoon I stopped off at Advance Auto, bought an ignition coil for a Corolla, installed it myself, and the car ran without fail until I sold it a couple of years and 95 thousand miles later for $2,300.
I’d never taught Bobby, but I knew that the teachers liked him, one of those guys they didn’t mind holding back year after year. I told the story to another friend, whom I respected deeply, a woman who’d taught Bobby for all of these years, and she said,
“Don’t worry about Bobby. His Dad owns a trucking company that hauls trees to the pulp wood plant. He’s a millionaire, though you’d never know if you saw him. Bobby’s going to go work for his Dad when he turns 16 and he’ll inherit the business. He’s not dumb, he’s just lazy, and he always will be when it comes to learning.”
I don’t know what happened to Bobby. I do know that pulp wood played out in the region, and Bobby’s business either folded, or he found some way to repurpose his assets into another line of business.
What I do know is that Bobby was not a lazy learner. That he was able to diagnose the problem with my car, just from the telling of my story, convinces me that he engaged in deep and powerful learning experiences that taught him not only fundamentals, but how to apply those fundamentals for solving real problems.
They were learning experiences that were qualified by
not by a SCORE.
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.
As a matter of disclosure, Ethan Warlick, whose comment I am responding to here, is my nephew. He will be graduating from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington next month and moving on to the real world of work and learning by joining a social media startup. I’m not sure if this is why I’ve elevated my response to full blog-status, or because of the story he tells, that..
..one of my roommates recently received a failing grade on a paper for “plagiarism.” Whether it was or wasn’t, he says he “missed a quotation mark,” I think that it will be interesting to learn new ways to deal with plagiarism from the summit! Especially from a collegiate perspective, as I hear about issues on campus constantly.
I scanned through a number of definitions of plagiarism from a number of sources and the most inclusive one came from Wiktionary, “The act of plagiarizing: the copying of another person’s ideas, text or other creative work, and presenting it as one’s own, especially without permission.”(Plagiarism, 2013)
There seem to be three parts here, or three questions. Did he copy the work of another person? Did he present the work as his own? ..and Did he get permission to use the work? Considering these three questions, I would have to read the offending paper to determine if he committed plagiarism. But in my own work, attributing the expressed ideas of another person is more than just punctuation.
When I write (or draw, paint, compose, etc.) something, I am presenting it as my work — a representation of my ideas. When the expressed ideas of another adds value to my work, and I include the expression of those ideas, then it is my responsibility to credit the creator of that expression; and that is not simply a matter of punctuation.
Quotation marks simply, “..set off and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from somebody else.” (“Purdue online writing“) They indicate ownership, but they do not attribute the owner. To avoid plagiarism, I must identify the creator and do so in a way that the reader will not fail to recognize the information’s source and the roll that it plays within my work. That credit best falls within the text along with some form of assistance to the reader who wants to validate its accuracy, reliability and validity. If Ethan’s roommate credited the work with a phrase such as, “John Battelle recently said in a lecture..” or “Berkman Center fellow, David Weinberger wrote in …” Well, the writer isn’t presenting the work as his own, and is not plagiarizing.
So, if the roommate was simply careless in his punctuation, then was the failing grade fair? From a student’s point of view — that is to say, academically — then perhaps it was not fair. However, from a learner’s point of view, especially if the learner is preparing himself for endeavors that will rely on written communication, then I might consider it a fair, if not authentic, response.
When we finish school and begin to work (and continue to learn), we can still fail by leaving out a quotation mark. A potential client, customer, or employer can, and often does decide to choose another provider because it appears that I have used the words of another as my own. In my opinion, the concept of intellectual property should be an integral part of our basic notions of literacy — receiving, perhaps, even more attention than it already does.
But that said, I’ll let you in on a little secret; something that my teachers never shared. In the world, after formal schooling, we almost never do anything, that’s important, alone. It was one of my surprises when I left the solitude of classroom teaching to work more directly with other educators (district office). Those other professional educators were constantly asking me and each other to read their writing before they sent it; and I adopted the habit myself, when what I needed to say was important. Almost every day Brenda and I ask each other to read our emails before we hit the send button, and we usually catch each other’s careless mistakes. When the conveyance of an idea is important, then it takes more than one head to effectively construct its expression.
This leads me to wonder, are your school writings important enough that instructors encourage you to read each other’s work? ..or are they just grammar?
Purdue online writing lab: How to use quotation marks. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/577/01/
Clipart, curtesy of http://internet.phillipmartin.info
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.
As I ease into retirement (over the next five to ten years), I’m giving myself permission to learn some new skills that I always wanted to try my hand at, but never made the time. One is learning to create animations.
Here is my first attempt at an animation with a message. Its message is based on a blog post I wrote for Smart Blogs a few months ago but never got around to reposting here. This is version 4.1 5.0 of the video, which has been edited and re-rendered MANY times and will likely be rendered many more times.
Enjoy! ..and let me know what you think…
My friend, Darren Kuropatwa, mentioned me in one of his “WhileWalking” video reflections, referring to one of the conversations we had at Educon last week. I love his new reflections series for many reasons, not the least of which is the delightful sound of Canadian snow crunching as he walks.
In that conversation, on the last day of Educon, he told me about how students were using Google docs in preparing their presentations and how convenient it was that Google built in an image search tool that returns only Creative Commons licensed media and even includes citations for the images that can be pasted into the document.
I was less than thrilled about this and Darren, in his reflection, wonders why. He’s asking if there is a relationship between my reluctance about Google’s bundled services and why many educators resisted their student use of calculators decades ago. It’s an excellent question, which I guess is why it occurred to Kuropatwa, while tundra-walking.
There is a very real relationship between the emergence of calculators in the early 1970s and the rise of the World Wide Web, dynamic search engines, and smaller useful information tools like Creative Commons licensers and citation generators. But to understand why I feel Darren’s described scenario is, in ways, counter to the mission of education, I need to briefly define that mission, as I see it.
A continuing factor in my own reflections is the fact that from my time as a high school student to the waning years of my career as an educator, the tools for working with information have advanced from sliderules to tablet apps – an astounding revolution in information and communication technologies, from sticks to chips. Our mission is to prepare our children for jobs, lifestyles, tools, processes, problems and goals that we can hardly imagine. We’re preparing them for the unimaginable.
I am certain that their lifestyles will be (is) fueled by the daily practice of learning and that the mechanisms of that learning will be constantly and sometimes rapidly evolving.
Many of us were fairly certain that calculators would be a prevailing information processing tool in our students’ future, as we know that our children’s future will continue to afford them a vast and dynamic aggregation of information – that also obliges them to new and interesting ethical responsibilities.
Each of these advances in information and communication technology warranted a role in our children’s formal (and informal) education.
Now, my objection to Darren’s scenario has little to do with Google’s purported desires to dominate the world of information, or even the fact that Google has made research, production, and attribution easier – as was implied in several tweeted responses to Darren’s post. We should probably be concerned about the dominance of one company in any realm of interest, but there’s nothing wrong with “easier.”
What concerns me is how these tools might be packaged to help children do school work, at the expense of helping them learn to use information to do real work.
If Texas Instruments had created a curriculum-friendly calculator, one designed to help children learn math, as apposed to using math to work numbers, then I might have had the same objections – though I can’t confidently speak for the 22-year-old me.
What I believe today is that our children need to be developing a learning lifestyle, with the skills and habits of utilizing a tumultuously shifting and advancing information environment and the unimagined opportunities that an unwritten future provides. This is the mission of education.
Darren has invoked the best word for my thinking, that learning should be be “deliberate,” as deliberately authentic as possible.
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.
So, continuing from my last blog article, if the answers to our questions are changing and they are constantly available to us, and helping our children learn to find, validate and use valuable information/media has become a central defining component of literacy, then of what use are textbooks. If stripped of the content – the right answers to questions – then what is left and to what purpose.
In my opinion, quite a bit is left. I took one of those remedial classes in my first year of community college, something like “Improve Your Study Skills.” I remember the professor telling us what to do upon receiving our textbooks each semester. We should scan through and register key items and sequence of ideas in the table of contents and also scan the index, looking for names, words and phrases that stand out. Each of these textbook elements provided anchor points within the content, giving it shape and meaning.
If the teacher or learner is starting without a packaged and provided collection of content, then a locally maintained table of contents (outline) and index (list of essential terms) become something quite different. Instead of anchor points, they provide idea magnets, serving to help draw together the most contextually relevant and defensible information in a sequence and shape that provides the deepest meaning to the content. It is, in a sense, a skeleton that gives shape to what might otherwise be an ugly bag of mostly water. (I always wanted to use that phrase – Geurs, Sanchez & Sabarof, 1988)
I had originally written a long technical examination of metadata here, but it would be one of many avenues to this sort of learning tool, and who am I to suggest how this might technically work. But what comes closest to being my personal and professional textbook today is Flipboard, a magazine-forming social network aggregator for both iOS and Android. I’ll be attending the upcoming Educon at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy this week. In preparation, I’ve configured Flipboard to grab all tweets that are hashtagged with #educon, as well as the resources that are shared by those tweets. The effect is a new chapter to my textbook, capturing content from others who will also be attending or simply paying attention to the event via the social network. My textbook (Flipboard) is a carefully arranged, personal and constantly evolving set of information magnets, that attract the content that I need or want to see.
Might the day come, when a subject to be taught, is conveyed as a flexible outline of tags (so to speak). The job of the teacher would be to locate (or cause to be located) and attach content (both open-source and/or commercial), in any appropriate format, to that arrangement of scope and sequence-forming tags and constantly filter and refine that content based on changing conditions and newly available content?
What might this process look like as an integral part of teacher education? Might the act of starting their own flexible digital textbooks be a part of learning to teach. (Is “Flexbook” trademarked? How about “flexibook?”)
My point is that we have every reason to conclude that learning tools that assume a static, centralized and standard arrangement of content is irrelevant to the needs of today’s learners – and that today’s prevailing information environment provides for us some pretty compelling opportunities.
- That teachers can easily construct and refine learning tools based on local and universal conditions and individualized to the circumstances of specific learners.
- That learners can personalize their learning tools based on their self-discovered learning styles and their evolving personal interests.
- That these learning tools need not be turned in at the end of the course, but carried on, edited, adapted and grown.
- That learners can graduate with more than a paper diploma – that they might take with them a personalized digital library or network of content that they continue to maintain and evolve based on their continuing needs and interests.
- That this action of personal curation can become an integral part of formal education, further shifting it from
Something that is done to children
Something that we learn to do for ourselves.
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