“Currently…”

An Ancient Repository of Knowledge

What was at the core of much of my advocacy for retooling education came from a condition that can best be illustrated by the Knowledge Doubling Curve. Recently adjusted by Faras Batarseh of the London School of Economics, it states that Until 1900, knowledge was doubling roughly ever century. However, by 1950, it was doubling every 25 years. 2000 saw it doubling every 12 months. Today, says Batarseh, “knowledge is doubling every day.”1

There are a number of logical reasons, but it leads to a society that is plagued by VUCA.

  • Volatility is about the nature and dynamics of change, and the nature and speed of change forces and change catalysts.
  • Uncertainty, describes the lack of predictability and a loss of the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.
  • Complexity, considers the multiplex of forces leading to and confusion.
  • Ambiguity, represents the haziness of reality and the potential to misread information.

Change is the new normal and there is not a single area of study or interest that is not in affected..

and..

Change has embowed a new significance to the word, current.

Public school instruction can no long afford to lag decades behind what is known today about science, health, mathematics, philosophy, and even history. It’s the reason I use to say (back when people were paying attention to what I had to say.)

We need to stop teaching students how to be taught, and start teaching them how to learn for themselves.

We will have achieved real education reform, when no teacher believes that they can teach the same things, the same ways, year after year; and when we are providing them with the resources and the time to retool their classrooms every day.

For this technology-rich and information-driven world, the best thing we can be teaching our children is literacy – learning-literacy.

1Batarseh, F. A. (2017, September 21). Thoughts on the future of human knowledge and machine intelligence [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2017/09/20/thoughts-on-the-future-of-human-knowledge-and-machine-intelligence/

Twice Exceptional

Attending a meeting yesterday, regarding Western Carolina University’s College of Education and Allied Professions, I learned a new term, twice-exceptional.

In education’ese, “exceptional” children are usually students with some learning difficulty, such as A.D.D., dyslexia, hearing impairment, emotional disturbance – or are academically talented in some way.

When I asked, the speak explained that a “Twice-Exceptional” student is one who has some learning disability but is also academically and/or intellectually gifted.

I suspect that this describes a lot of extraordinarily accomplished individuals, who later admit to being poor performers in their school experience, i.e. Richard Branson, Charles Schwab and Steve Jobs. Sadly, this also, more than likely describes a lot of wasted talent caused by our assigning opportunity-limiting labels to children who are simply divergent learners, children who are not suited to regimented learning environments.

The Table of Contents

Click to visit the book’s web site.

My chapter titles are a bit cryptic, so I am adding some explanation to better anchor the reference points.

A Rough Start

I admit that there are some biases in my book. What’s a revolution without biases. To provide some context for my particular philosophies about schooling, I spend about 19 pages describing my pre-(technological)revolution education, including my less than spectacular career as a student.

The Confabulator

TRS-80 Model III, the first personal computer I ever laid my eyes (and hands) on.

Here, I describe my first experiences with personal computers, starting with how I was knocked out of my seat by an idea.

Leaving Kansas, Apples & Kindred Spirits

In 1983, I moved from teaching Social Studies in rural South Carolina to leading an instructional technology program in rural North Carolina. I also joined a users’ group (MICRO5) and transitioned from monochrome Tandys to color Apples – dazzling.

Networks Open the Gates

My first experiences with modems and learning to use computers to communicate. Project based learning (PBL) became our modus operandi – using computers for collaborative learning.

A Line is Drawn

Moving to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction I learned what a small team of passionate and imaginative professional educators could accomplish. I also learned how little could be accomplished from inside the system. I have to note here that what hindered us was not the nature of state government, but the nature of state politics, and a manipulative narrative that sought to demonize government.

New Education Models

After leaving NCDPI, I lucked into a project instigated by Allan Weis and Advanced Network and Services. It was called ThinkQuest and it showed us how we could make students active learners by making them innovative teachers.

My First Flat Experience

I was so embarrassingly naive on my first trip to Asia.

A Bad Day for Education

Our work toward using technology to encourage more progressive styles of learning ground to a halt on January 8, 2002. No Child Left Behind successfully shifted the aim of public education from active learning by doing, to passive learning by memorizing facts to pass tests. Computers became teaching tools instead of learning tools.

Literacy 2.0

This became my most passionate mission, promoting a model for literacy that addressed the changing nature of our information experience. As information became increasingly networked, digital and abundant (and social), merely reading and writing (and arithmetic) were no longer nearly enough to be truly literate.

The Day that Education Almost Became Fun

As video games became more sophisticated and social networks became places that our students visited and collaborated, we started to recognize the unique skills that they were developing – that much of their play was actually the hard work of learning. We began to look for ways to structure classroom activities to trigger the same learning practices that our students were gaining outside of education.

The Evil Empire Strikes Back

As technology became more prevalent in our schools, investors saw a “golden moment.” There was an opportunity to use that technology to “profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.” This has become, in my opinion, the greatest threat that public education has ever faced.

The “Perfect” Technology

Apple’s iPad. It didn’t surprise anyone. But is it so “perfect?”

BookBag 2024

I end with a few pages of casual predictions of where education might be ten years from now (2014, when I started writing this book). This chapter mirrors the first chapter that I wrote in Redefining Literacy, describing education ten years from then, 2014.

Quiet Revolution Promo Video 1

Click to visit the book’s web site.

I will be producing little 2-minute videos over the next few weeks to promote my new book, The Days and Nights of a Quiet Revolution.  This first one sets some context.  When I was in high school, computers were giant machines that were installed with forklifts.  My father use to take me to his work, a trucking company, to show me their Honeywell computers.

Even after I graduated from college, computers had nothing to do with education.  I had no reason to believe that teaching would be changing in any substantial way over my assumed 30 years as a history teacher.

Video 1

Klaatu Barada Nikto

Novelty UFO at the visitor's center in Moonbeam, Ontario, Canada.

When I was out in the world promoting modern ideas about education, I frequently suggest for several reasons that students should be studying science fiction literature in English classes along side Milton, Melville and Faulkner. But This was not one of the reasons:

I had a chat yesterday with my neighbor, Paul Gilster (Centauri Dreams), who is an expert on all things outer space, and especially the latest that is known or suspected about the nature of the universe. He was telling me about ‘Oumuamua, the first interstellar object (not from the Solar System) that we have detected passing through the Solar System. It was discovered with the Pan-STARRS telescope, which is the only instrument on Earth that could have seen it. Pan-STARRS first came online only eight years ago.

Our classification of the object has changed as astronomers have learned more about it, ruling out various theories. One of the few speculations that has not been disproven is that ‘Oumuamua is some sort of autonomous space craft, built by a technologically advanced civilization, and sent out to encounter star systems and gather data about their planets and moons, perhaps to be “phoned home.”

Personally, one of my favorite moments in movies is from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” when Klaatu (played by Michael Rennie, not Keanu Reaves) lands his flying saucer on a baseball field in the middle of Washington, DC. Are we ready to meet our neighbors? What’s the etiquette?

This, and other discoveries, have more and more scientists suggesting that we should be making people, our Earth’s inhabitants, ready for the possibility / probability that we may well discover hard evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations in the near future.

Sources:

Paul’s Centauri Dreams blog article about ‘Oumuamua – https://goo.gl/8RhTBb

Wikipedia article about ‘Oumuamua – https://goo.gl/TqDqEt

Opening scene from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – https://goo.gl/CPXLdh

Gilster, Paul. Personal interview. 9 Jan. 2019.

It really is a Revolution

Click to visit the book’s web site.

I’m sitting here with my first stack of books for giveaway and thinking about why I called it, The Days & Nights of a Quiet Revolution. There’s nothing in it about education or even technology. I admit that many if not most of the participants in my workshops and audiences of my talks walked away thinking that it was about technology in education. That’s my failing. Educators, perhaps more than most professionals, are hyper focused on methodology of their job. When you have 20 to 40 students in your classroom, some of whom might be just as focused in disrupting your methods, big picture is a sky away from your notice.

I, on the other hand, spent my 40+ in education as a classroom teacher, a district administrator, part of a state-wide support staff and a parent. This gave me a unique perspective that encompassed both the day-to-day of classroom instruction, and the larger concerns of the why of education.

To be sure, it has not been a technology revolution, an idea that was difficult to convey to practicing teachers.  I would stand in front of my audience and illustrate some technique that empowers learning by demonstrating a trick with my computer.  Teachers, whose computers had been dumping into their classrooms and told to “integrate technology,” would see me demonstrating technology.  The fact is that I was talking about a different way of education, one that goes back to Socrates and more recent education philosophers (Jean Piaget & John Dewey) – required reading for all practicing teachers.  It’s an education that empowers students to become fearless and resourceful learners.

What better thing for students to become in a time of rapid change, but fearless and resourceful learners.

There were many of us mapping out new modes of teaching and learning with these new tools, and sharing them widely – and mostly, we did it during the days and nights of our own time.  The index of my book includes a pretty good representation of their ranks, though not nearly complete.  We were disrupters, and many teachers resisted our disruptive ideas, as they thwarted disruptive behavior in their classes.  They resisted giving their students access to computers and the internet because they felt a loss of instructional control in their classrooms.

But many times I watched the most resistant teachers become the most creative users and enthusiastic advocates when they realized the potentials of technology as a flexible learning tool.

The greatest and most persistent force against our quiet revelation was not resistant teachers.  It was a vision for computerized education held by an emerging education industrial complex.  They were companies that saw the computer as a tool to better administer instruction on students, and they saw a market for products that could do that.  Before 1990, companies were selling packaged technology solutions that included columns and rows of computers, equipped with software that drilled students in math and language arts, and required procedures, from which teachers were told not to deviate.  All students were marched into and out of the computer room, regardless of their need or learning style.  It irritated the kids, frustrated the teachers and disappointed administrators when they found that the rapid gains shown by the product were always short lived.

That was the late 1980s.  Attempts to turn our classrooms into a marketplace and our children into compliant vessels continues, helped along by government legislation.

The Revolution Continues…

Announcing “A Quiet Revolution,” about the Evolution of Technology in our Classrooms

The Days & Nights
of a Quiet Revolution

Click to visit the book’s web site.

Most practicing teachers have never taught in a school without computers. Yet it was only a few years ago that the earliest machines started to appear in a few classrooms. These scattered Atari, Radio Shack and commodore computers were barely noticed by most educators.

A few, however, recognized these rudimentary data processors for what they represented, machines with which we could program new interactive learning experiences that would turn our students into explorers and discoverers of knowledge.

For us, education was no longer limited by what could be taught, but liberated by what could be learned.

These education revolutionaries set about embracing the emerging computer and network technologies, experimenting, discovering, inventing and sharing wondrous new ways to ignite learning. We were empowering our students to act as agents of their own educations and helping them to cultivate the learning-lifestyles that will be critical in their rapidly changing futures.

This story is about thirty-five years of disruptive new technologies that challenged education, an institution that, by design, resists change. It also celebrates the heroes who passionately sought to understand these new technologies and use them to promote schools that empowered learning, instead of administering it.

This story is about thirty-five years of disruptive new technologies that challenged education, an institution that, by design, resists change. It also celebrates the heroes who passionately sought to understand these new technologies and use them to promote schools that empowered learning, instead of administering it.

About the Author

Author of “A Quiet Revolution”

David Istlandoll has been a classroom teacher, district administrator and staff consultant for the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction. Since 1995 he has worked as an independent provocateur, developing popular interactive websites, writing for magazines and journals, and authoring four books and an influential blog. He has also traveled and spoken to audiences on five continents promoting a vision of education that empowers learning with contemporary information technologies.

A Quiet Revolution is written for:

  • Senior teacher technologists who would like to remember those giddy years gone by when we used MECC software on 5 1/4” floppy disks, bulletin board systems (BBS) to collaborate, and Gopher and Mosaic for surfing the Internet.
  • Practicing teachers eager to enrich their knowledge about technology by visiting a time when creativity and resourcefulness were key to hacking rudimentary computers into inspired learning experiences.
  • School leaders who want to better understand the forces from within and without that seek to keep, unchanged, the How, What and Why of public education.
  • Anyone who, for any reason, is interested in twenty-first century education and how these emerging technologies are opening the way to classrooms that empower learning and usher a return to “the art of teaching.“

Eight Practices for Promoting Media Literacy
or My Challenges for School Year 2018-2019

This Media Bias Chart is maintained by Vanessa Otero at mediabiaschart.com

A friend of mine just questioned me on Facebook, “(With) the increase in access to media/information … are people more adept at separating fact from fiction or are they more willing to let others make that decision for them?”

I quickly made a snide reference to recent elector events as evidence, but continued by blaming education.  There is so much about the ways that teachers must teach that actually discourages students from critically questioning the information that they encounter.  We (educators) teach them to learn and believe what it is that we teach and not to question what they have learned.  Teachers are forced into this mode of instruction because schools have become a one-right-answer world.  It is because of high-stakes testing and teachers are responsible for their students knowing those one-right-answers.

But what if critical evaluation of the information we encounter really was a core part of what we teach.  Here are some ways that teachers might encourage their students to develop critical habits.

  • Research the author(s) of your textbook and start the year introducing students to what you’ve learned.  Explain how the author’s background gives them the authority to write such a textbook.
  • Tell students that not everything in the textbook is true.  Explain that part of their job this year is to find its inaccuracies and support their finds.
  • Use as much content from the Internet as you can.  As you present the content, explain the process you used to finding it and the criteria you used to validate the information.
  • When discussing students’ work or their answers to questions, get in the habit of asking, “How do you know that’s true?”  Encourage students to have supporting evidence for their answers and the ideas that they share.
  • Encourage students to ask you, “How do you know that’s true Mr. ######?”  Be ready to answer with supporting evidence.  If you don’t have the supporting evidence, ask you’re students to give you a day to research it.
  • When you get it wrong, apologize and describe to you students what you learned in the process of getting it wrong.  Make use of all wrong answers.
  • Talk about your own interests and the research that you conduct to learn more about your interest.  Practice contemporary literacy in front of your students
  • When you encounter false information or a manipulative message, bring it into your classroom and provide the evidence that proves that it is incorrect.  Ask students what they think someone might have to gain by spreading false or misleading messages.

Tell your students that the world as we know is,

Is not the same world the we knew.

What more, it’s not the same world that we will know.

They (your students) are going to be the explorers and discoverers of that world.

 

 

Final Days before Publishing

This was my original cover idea. Then I decided it was too dark, and opted for something lighter and with my own art work.

I started working on the book in 2014. It’s short title is A Quiet Revolution, and it chronicles the 40+ years I have spent as an educator, the last three decades as an advocate of modernizing classrooms with contemporary information technology.

I’m experiencing the last days before publication, fixing problems that the final processes have exposed and polishing the final work.  The problem is that a task like this is never finished.  I re-read and edited the book six times, and I could do it six more times and make as many changes.  I completely changed the cover today.  But I am rapidly committing myself to the publishing.  Until then, I want to share some of the promotional text that appears on the back of the book and other places.

This is some text that didn’t make the final cut, so I’ll place it here.

This story is about thirty-five years of rapid change that have challenged education, an institution that, by structure, resists change. It is about the heroes who sought to understand and utilize emerging technologies to help their schools adapt. This story celebrates their passion for education, their inventiveness, resourcefulness and their persistent advocacy for schools that empower learning, instead of administer it.

..and the revolution continues.

Two Hours at ISTE in Chicago

I’m sitting on the shuttle bus now, only a few blocks from the Courtyard where my wife and I are staying. The chatter is wild and expressive as is the buzz of energy that this event sparks. Boarding are educators from across the country and around they world. They’re all here to learn and to be energized. The buzz of anticipated energizing will grow to a roar by the end of the conference on Wednesday. Im only here for a couple of hours, hoping not to be confronted by officials checking for badges. Hopefully my deaf-mute act will release me. My plan is to hang out at the Blogger Cafe, a comfortable corner for bloggers to sit and compose or just geek out with each.

At the Leadership Luncheon

My reason for coming, other than visiting one of my wife’s favorite cities was to attend the ISTE Leadership Luncheon. There, I had the honor and privaledge of sitting with Chris Lehmann. To learn more about this weirdly energetic education innovator, read my upcoming book. The bus is arriving, so I’ll write more later. im in and it’s a sea of people, all educators, moving in currents with no apparent purpose, but certainly directed toward opportunities to learn. They’re educators who are not satisfied with business-as-usual. They are comfortable with discomfort. They see technological, social, economic and cultural chang, not as a challenge to be feared and ignored, but as emerging opportunities to better prepair their students for their future — to own their future. More later…

It‘s about an hour-and-a-half later. One of my best buddies, Kathy Schrock came over and we shared stories from years past and about our children who are around the same age. If you buy my upcoming book, you’ll learn much about Kathy. Steve Dembo also came over. He was the first educator podcaster that I knew, and a dynamo presenter. Steve is also a drone enthusiast.

The flow of educators has not eased, even though presentations have begun. Around me, people are standing and sitting talking and learning. In many ways, the best learning at these conferences happen between sessions, in the hall, in conversations with educators from different states or nations.

Much can be said about education today that is not good. Most of our children are being schooled, but they are not being prepared for a rapidly changing future. It’s the people in this conference center who are trying to change education, and they’re doing it with brilliance, dedication, perseverance, and with enthusiasm. They are my tribe.

 

What’s Wrong

Now that I’m in the quiet of the Chicago airport, on my way back to North Carolina, I want to share my concern for education in the U.S. The people who are attending  ISTE, those I know and most of those I do not know are there for the sake of the future. Their eye is on the future. Part of it is the glamour of education technology — all the shinnies. But most of their presence and energy comes from a mutually held belief that by empowering student learning with information technology we are going to accomplish peaceful and prosperous in our future.  It will happen because we have become more tolerant, more compassionate, more inviting of different cultures for the sake of how they change us, and more willing to adapt our economic system to build a more inclusive society. We will predict and then learn that a country without poor people is a much better place to live.

Its hard to imagine such an America today, because the US is led by a man who continues to run for president, setting policies based on what got the biggest crowds during his campaign rallies. He addresses issues on the most simplistic levels ignoring the nuanced complexities of a country with 326 million people, 263 million of who didn’t vote for him.  He thrives on chaos and shuns the serious informed thoughtfulness that is necessary for leadership in this potentially wondrous time when almost anything is possible. He is a bully and he’s a fake.

..and I hold education responsible. I do not blame individual teachers and principals, except in as much as we have allowed public education to be corrupted into a standardized and mechanized institution for preparing future workers.  Instead, our job is to help our children learn as much as possible about their world and learn to

  • Think logically
  • Recognize the irrational
  • Read habitually
  • Learn as a lifestyle
  • Become information artisans
  • Respect each other, and
  • Find their personal intersect between play, passion and purpose.