Will Your Learners become better Educated as a Result of ISTE 2014

I know that I’ve not been blogging a lot lately, because the first thing I had to do this morning was update MarsEdit, my blog-writing software.

Yesterday, watching the tweets and status updates being posted by educators packing their bags, arriving at airports and train stations, bound for Atlanta and ISTE 2014 — well it got me to thinking. I’ve been an educator for almost 40 years and that many years in such a dynamic field makes you opinionated.  ..and I suppose it’s part of the character of old folks (60+) to express their opinions.

That’s why I tweeted out yesterday…

There were retweets, agreeing replies, and some push-back — reminding me that this old dog will never learn to fit his thinking into a 140 character message. So here’s what I meant to say.

You will speak to vendors and listen to speakers in Atlanta who claim to know how to fix education, how this practice or product will improve resource efficiency, teacher effectiveness and student performance.  Don’t ignore them, but ask yourself, “Are they answering the right question?”

I would suggest that rather than asking, “How do we improve education?” we should be asking ourselves, “What does it mean to be educated?” 

Years ago, when my Great Uncle Jim, the last of my family to live in the old Istlandoll home, passed away, and the house was sold, we were given permission to visit and take any furniture or other items, for which we had a use.  My prize was an old quilt that had obviously been stitched together during a quilting party, dated in the late 1800s.

Both Uncle Jim and my Grandfather grew up in this house, and they both went to college, Jim to NCSU (engineering) and my Grandfather to UNC (classics).  But when they graduated, they returned to rural Lincoln County, without daily newspapers, monthly journals or a convenient library.  They returned to an astonishingly information scarce world.

Being educated then was indicated by what you knew, the knowledge that you’d memorized, knowledge and skills that would serve you for most of the remaining decades of your life.

Today, we are swimming in information and struggling with a rapidly changing world, and the very best that any “education” can do, is provide for us is what we need to know or know how to do for the next couple of years.

Being education is no long indicated by what you’ve been successfully taught.  

Being educated today is your ability to resourcefully learn new knowledge and skills and responsibly use them to answer new questions, solve emerging problems and accomplish meaningful goals.

Being educated today is no longer measured by the number of questions we can correctly answer.

It’s measured by how well we you can discover or invent new answers, effectively defend those answers, and then we them to make our lives, communities and world better.

If they’re trying to sell you something at ISTE, ask them, “How will this help my learners to become better educated?”

If they ask you, “What do you mean by educated?” Then there’s hope.

Exactly 2¢ Worth!

East Meets West

Yang Liu was born in China, but has lived in German since she was 14. A celebrated designer, Liu recently released a graphic exhibit that illustrates her observations about differences between East (China) and West (Germany). The exhibit has been re-interpreted as a series of Infographics.  Just Google “yang liu east meets west.”  Brain Pickings author, Maria […]

Yang Liu was born in China, but has lived in German since she was 14. A celebrated designer, Liu recently released a graphic exhibit that illustrates her observations about differences between East (China) and West (Germany). The exhibit has been re-interpreted as a series of Infographics.  Just Google “yang liu east meets west.”  Brain Pickings author, Maria Popova wrote,

Liu has a unique grip of this cultural duality — and she channels it with great wit and eloquent minimalism in graphics that say so much by showing so little. (Popova, 2013)

Two similar exhibits (left) were installed in Berlin, two in Beijing, and 1 in Nanjing. Liu, though initially apprehensive, says that the response to her interpretations have been positive in both Germany and China.

Perhaps the most elegant part of Yang’s graphic is its simplicity or minimalism. ..which might give learners a unique opportunity to draw conclusions about the differences between people and life in China compared to the West and then look for evidence that supports their conclusions. 

 

Popova, M. (2013). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2009/10/29/east-vs-west-yang-liu-infographics/

Engage or Empower

Note: Ramble and snark quotients: +99

When I was a student, I was taught to scratch paper. I scratched lines and loops and did it well or poorly, properly or improperly. I hide all of my scratched paper in my notebooks until it was time to give it to my teachers, who measured its correctness by marking what was incorrect.  If there was no incorrectness, then a got a 100 or an “A" ––––– 100 what? "A" what?

The hope was that if it was ever necessary for me to write, in order to communicate across time or space, I would remember enough correct scratching to be coherent and compelling.

When I graduated from high school, writing was still a “just in case” skill.  A sizable portion of my class went to work in one of the local textile mills, planning never to ever have to scratch anything again that was any more important than a shopping list.  

This is an profoundly inefficient and disrespectful way to educate free people.

To say, "One day you'll need to know this," is to admit appalling lack of commitment and creativity.  This is especially true when insult to injury is what's not said, "You'll need to know this for the government test in May."

What conjured this internal conversation in me was a brief exchange in the backchannel transcript from a National Science Teachers Association conference in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago.  Diane Johnson tweeted:

..to which I commented in the transcript wiki,

Stop Integrating technology. Instead, integrate networked, digital and abundant information. It changes what it means to be literate, and it empowers learning. Empowered learners are better than engaged learners. - dfw

That last sentence came from something that David Jakes said at ISTE last year in San Antonio.  He said,

“We need to shift from a focus on’Engagement’ to focusing on ‘Empowerment.’“ (Jakes, 2013)

I, in my schooling, was neither engaged nor empowered, as I learned to scratch paper.  Of course, there were those who were engaged, or acted engaged.  They scratched eagerly and more correctly than I did, because they received more 100s and As.  I don’t know how their scratching was better than mine, because I never saw it.  I couldn't learn from their example, because their scratches were hidden in notebooks as well.  It had no more value or power than mine did.

I don’t scratch any more.  I write.  I put words to paper or to screen, and clarify their meaning with punctuation and capitalization, because I am writing to someone for some purpose.  

I’m still learning to write better. I question what I write and I Google things like, "proper placement of commas in sentences” or "italics quotation marks  and titles." I also use an array of digital tools to help me spell and choose the best words – tool that my teachers, 50 years ago, could not have imagined.  Their notions of our future needs and opportunities did not reach much further than cotton mills and the college that the “engaged" would attend – as well as a few of us who were not “engaged."

Today, engagement has become one of our most earnest pursuits, because we’re teaching children who are accustomed to being engaged  ..and we continually ask, "How do I measure engagement?" 

You can’t, at least in any way that even suggests the quality of learned.

But empowerment can be measured.  You do it the same way that our value is measured after we leave classrooms, teachers and textbooks behind.  Learners demonstrate what they’ve learned, by what they’re empowered to do with it – what they produce, the problems they solve, the goals they accomplish.  Look at a produced video, crafted animation, clear and compelling article, or a creatively designed and marketed bird house, and you can see what was learned.

It's not clean.  It's not clinical.  But what does precision grading mean when the names of state capitals, the chemical symbol for magnesium and the proper placement of the comma can all be Googled.  Why are we so pressured to test our children's ability to live without Google.

Lets face it.  The only ones who want this for our children are those who would politicize and monetize education.

 

 

Jakes, D. (2013, June). In Steve Hargadon (Chair). an unconference discussion. A conversation that was part of Hack Education Iste 2013, San Antonio, TX. 

 

 

 

Schools that Practice Learning-Literacy

Many months ago I spoke at a leadership conference in Vancouver. When the event was over, officials with the British Columbia Principals and Vice Principals Association, held an invitational gathering of school leaders from throughout the province to create a new document establishing leadership standards for principals and vice principals.

To help them prepare for the upcoming conversations, seven relevantly accomplished professionals were invited to spend eight minutes each sharing their insights about school leadership and culture.  They included a former superintendent, international educator, a director of education for a large Canadian school district, a developmental psychologist, executive director of the (Canadian) National Staff Development Council, president of a large chain of grocery stores, a professor of sociology ––– and me.

As I explained here (Istlandoll, 2012), I was fortunate to have been the last to speak – addressing literacy and learning-literacy.  It was one of those singular learning experiences for me, sitting on the stage, listening to these really smart people, and changing the outline of my short talk with just about every idea set forth.  I watched as my own presentation morphed into something different, articulate, and –– awesome.

So, with the 2013-2014 school year gearing up, and my own education career spinning down*, I thought I would spend some bits here expanding on each of the items that seemed to spontaneously appear on my iPad that afternoon. 

A school that practices learning-literacy is a school where:

  • The distinctions between teacher and student begin to blur.

    In a time of rapid change, when new jobs emerge and fade faster than any education institution can respond and lifestyles change with a globally connected cross-cultural conversation, literacy becomes something bigger.  It no longer seeks to make readers.  It makes master learners, people who can successfully learn, unlearn, and relearn. **

    In this environment innovation becomes a commodity, the ability to resourcefully learn becomes the defining foundation of literacy, and the principal goal of formal education is to produce learners.  In this environment pedagogies shift from best teaching practices to best learning practices.

    Of course teaching does not go away and neither does a good lecture. but no teacher will deny that we all learned what we teach better, after we started teaching it, than we did as students in the classroom.  Teaching is a potent learning skill.  Therefore, perhaps one of the best ways that we can help our children to become skilled learners is to practice learning in front of them, and one of the best ways for children to learn, is to teach.

    This means, for instance, becoming comfortable using technologies in your classroom, with which you are not comfortable.  Demonstrating and talking about your process for figuring it out, or even asking for help from students becomes a life-size illustration of adapting to change – being a master learner.

  • There is less reliance on textbooks and authority, and more reliance on the work of learning.

    Our information landscape has changed: in what it looks like, what we look at to view it, how we find it, where we go to find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. We all engage in content generating conversations through blogs, twitter, YouTube, and what ever is to come. We can no longer believe it, simply because it was written down.  We are more than information consumers today.  We are participants.

    I learned to assume the authority of the information that I encountered. I was taught with approved textbook, in academically managed libraries and by teachers whose position was based on their learnedness.  Questioning the information that I encountered was not encouraged. It was unnecessary.

    Today, habitually questioning content is required. It is a foundation of being literate.  To become literate, students should learn within an information environment that exemplifies today’s information landscape, where discussions of an idea’s validity become part of learning the idea.  We must learn to be responsible participants.

  • There is a natural convergence between the rich information skills of literacy and numeracy, and the information and data that define the content areas.

    Information is increasingly networked, digital and abundant (overwhelming). Each of the qualities are new and they expand what it means to be literate. If you agree that learning is at least a major part of why we become literate today, then knowing how to employ these new qualities, in order to learn, are basic literacy skills.

    At this writing, I am creating an infographic that tells a story about how today’s North Carolina General Assembly came to be and what it cost.  Because information is networked, I am able to find, evaluate and select information about campaign spending and its sources that would not have been practically available to me in the past.  

    Because that information was digital, I can capture that information, translate, organize, manipulate and interpret it using tools that didn’t exist when I graduated from high school.  

    Because information is abundant (we are all overwhelmed by it), I am using graphic design and publishing tools that didn’t exist when I left classroom teaching, trying the practically convey my findings in a visually clear and compelling message.

    There is a physics to today’s information landscape and accomplishing goals relies, in no small way, to the ability to harness these laws of digital behavior to invent solutions to brand new problems. 

  • Teachers teach from new learning, as master learners.

    When my grandfather was in college, molecules were defined as, “The smallest part of any substance which possesses the characteristic properties and qualities of that substance, and which can exist alone in a free state.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1913)  By the time my father was in school, atoms were defined as “A particle of matter so minute as to admit of no division. Atoms are conceived to be the first principles or component parts of all bodies.” (Webster’s revised unabridged, 1928) I learned about electrons, protons and neutrons while my children learned about quarks and other strange particles. Today, we’re reading about future computers that will operate on the behaviors of quanta.

    The answers to the test questions are changing.

    According to a 2010 Bowker report, 2009 saw 1,829 new books published in the U.S. about agriculture.  5,131 new books were published about computers, approximately 9,000 each about business and education. 14,281 brand new books were published about history – new knowledge about history.  As we gain more access to information and to each other, the new knowledge that we generate as a society not only astounds us, but it is forcing us to redefine what it means to be educated.  We have rapidly moved from a world of information scarcity to information abundance, and an education is no longer measured by what you can remember, but what you can learn and what you can do with what you’ve learned.

    Teachers, who teach solely from their university experience do a disservice to their learners.  Teachers should model themselves as habitual and resourceful learners, and skilled artisans of what they’ve learned.  We must walk into our classrooms out of today, not from the day that they graduated.

  • 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.

    When I built the nation’s first state department of education website, there were probably less than 100 parents in the entire state who could access it.  But today, institutions are identified by their web sites.  Some sites have become institutions unto themselves – Wikipedia, Amazon.com and Google.

    When most of our children’s parents think about the institutions that support them in their daily endeavors, they recall URLs instead of building facades.  They expect to interact with their world through the World Wide Web.  They expect to have the same digital access to the schools their children attend and the teachers who manage their classrooms.  It has evolved from the exception to an expectation.

    This is an enormous opportunity for education, to be able to communicate with and even educate the communities that they serve.  We can distinguish ourselves, present ourselves for judgement and tell new stories about education, teaching and learning not through bureaucratic methods of measurement, but by enthusiastically sharing what and how our children are learning, and what they can do with what they are learning. 

  • The library magnifies the world outside, but also reflects the culture inside, curating collections of learner-produced media products.

    As already mentioned, a school that practices learning-literacy cultivates a digital footprint, along with its learners.  One outcome of preparing children for an unpredictable future is that they are learning things that their parents didn’t know.  When those parents visit their schools’  web sites, it should not be merely to learn about their children, but also to learn things that they didn’t know, to be astounded, to spark new conversations for their families and to redefine teachers as master learners, not simply learned.

    Since children are not merely learning, but also doing with what they learn, then they are in constant production, working knowledge, like raw material, into refined and valuable information products.  The school’s library becomes the repository for these products and the librarian, its archivalist.

    Learners will visit the library not merely to find what’s available from outside, but also from inside, to find work that previous students have done, and perhaps even improve on that work.  After thousands of years of civilization, almost nothing starts from scratch. 

  • Where learners learn, teachers model learning, and the school teaches the community.

    I later rephrased this one to “In a school that practices learning-literacy, teachers model learning, students learn to teach themselves, and schools educate the community.” This sentence, with its three principles, says it all for me.

Teachers Model Learning
Students Learn to Teach Themselves
Schools Educate the Community

 

 

 

* I’ll be preaching for years to come – just not quite so frequently.

** A quote often attributed to Alvin Tofler, but actually his paraphrasing of Herbert Gerjuoy’s “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

(1913). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.

(1928). Webster’s revised unabridged diction. Merriam-Webster.

Bowker LLC, (2010). Bowker reports traditional u.s. book production flat in 2009. Retrieved from website: http://www.bowker.com/en-US/aboutus/press_room/2010/pr_04142010.shtml

Istlandoll, D. (2012, October 22). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://davidIstlandoll.com/2cents/?p=3733 

What Trumps Lazy?

Earlier this month I spoke at Wyoming’s WyTECC conference in Rock Springs. Even though I was only able to spend one day at the conference, the hospitality of the event’s organizers and intimacy of the venue made it feel like a longer stay and I left behind some new good friends. Lately I’ve had the honor of speaking at a number of 20th and 25th annual state ed tech conferences. Wyoming was holding their second and there was an enormous amount of energy in that, not to mention excitement and pride. I was proud to be helping them celebrate their 2nd annual conference.

Evolution of a Blog Post

  1. Yesterday I spoke at…
  2. A few days ago, I spoke at…
  3. Last week ago I spoke at…
  4. Earlier this month I spoke at…

Have I become a lazy blogger?

Unlike most first, second and third state edtech gatherings, there was a good deal of tweeting going on in Rock Springs, and I ran my Knitter Chat tool during my two pre conference sessions and the evening keynote. The backchannel was active and rich and Knitter captured both knits and tweets.

One phrase caught my attention as I was reviewing and inserting comments into the backchannel transcript – during my three legs back to Raleigh. Someone mentioned how so many of his students were lazy. It’s a term, lazy, that works quite well in conversations about classrooms, and a term I would have readily used as a teacher almost 30 years ago, “Lazy learners.”

Lazy learners were part of the landscape of the classroom back then and that was OK. Where I taught, lazy learners would become active workers packing peaches and harvesting pulp wood. Where I grew up they would have become lint heads in the textile mills, and not apologized for it.

Today, however, there are not quite so many places for lazy learners to go when they graduate or don’t. ..and fortunately, we no longer excuse laziness. But how do we fuel energetic learning?

I inserted into the wiki page that hosted WyTECC’s backchannel,

What trumps lazy?

Success trumps lazy!

I want to explore two words that have been on my mind for a long time. I want to make a distinction between these two words, though it is one that is not made in the dictionary.  Some may say that I’m making up a distinction. But let’s plow ahead.  It’s my blog after all.

The words are achievement and accomplishment. They are so close that each is often used in the other’s definition and even in descriptions of their etymologies. Yet I would not necessarily use them interchangeably. The contexts determine the word I would us — and in the education context, I most often see, read or hear achieve.

“This student has achieved proficiency.”

“We are narrowing the achievement gap.”

To achieve something is to accomplish attain some predefined goal.

As difficult as it was to avoid using accomplish in that last sentence, accomplishment is, in my way of thinking, a little different. When I accomplish a thing, I can turn around and see something that is the result of my efforts — and it is real. It is not symbolic. And it is not easy to measure. It is, more times than not, of my own design and purpose.  I did it, at least in part, for my own reasons.

The more I think about it, the less certain I am of differences between achieve and accomplish.  Yet the distinction is real.  When our children complete a school task, have they merely learned something new, or have they become more capable.  Can they, the next day,

  • Do something that they couldn’t do before
  • Build something they were unable to before
  • Participate in a conversation that was foreign to them before
  • Sway someone’s opinion or earn a collaborator

Do they, in anyway, feel larger than the day before or noticeably further done their road.

I would suggest that many lazy learners are just tired of standing still.

 

The Purpose of Textbooks – Part 2

I do not think that holograms are on the near horizon, but one can wish

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

  to

Something that we learn to do for ourselves.

 

 

Geurs, K. (Writer), Sanchez, R. (Writer), & Sabarof, R. (Writer) (1988). Home soil [Television series episode]. In Roddenberry, G. (Executive Producer), Star Trek: The Next Generation. CBS Television Distribution. 

 

A Few Tweets from Leaders

An interesting cafe at Narita
The best part of this October from hell is the conferences I am working – mostly leadership conferences. The two that come to mind from the blur of this most haunting month are a conference in Vancouver for principals and vice-principals of British Columbia, and the school boards and superintendents’ conference in Vermont – two quite interesting jurisdictions now that I think about it.

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!”

Long Summer of Programming

Citation Machine on iPad
I’ve been working hard, over the past few months, working on Citation Machine. I hope that the changes haven’t been too obvious. The most striking changes have involved the operation of the help (<- help) buttons to the right of most form elements. You must now clicking them and when clicked, the fold-down messages should run much more smoothly. I’ve taking the mouse-over functions out, because I’m sure that the jumpiness caused pop-up messages reacting to mere mouse-overs was irritating. It irritated me.

For new features, I have added an iPad version. If you access Citation Machine with an iPad, it automatically switches over to a different version (http://citationmachine.net/iPad) that has a more mobile type of look and feel. The percentage of hits from mobile devices is still quite low, but with so many schools purchasing iPads for students, I suspect that more will be creating citations from their tablets. We’ll see.

I would like to add that I had to teach myself a lot in order to implement these changes, involving some deep researching of my own. I am reminded every day that to function in this day and time, we must all be master learners.

A Time for Professionals

June Atkinson
My state, North Carolina, has a decision to make in November – and it’s not a hard one, in my opinion.

It’s the race for state superintendent of schools. We elect our state superintendents, unlike many states, and from the time that I graduated from High School until I joined the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) 20 years later, my state’s education system was lead through the election and continued re-election (five terms) of Dr. Craig Phillips, a professional educator. Since he left office, we have elected a number of different superintendents.

For the last eight years, Dr. June Atkinson has held the position. Dr. Atkinson is a professional educator, having served leadership roles at NCDPI since 1976. When I was at the department, I attended several meetings with Dr. Atkinson, who was heading up business education, and observed the respect she had earned from everyone else I knew. Shortly after I left, the morale at the department was boosted when June became Director of the Division of Instructional Services.

Dr. Atkinson was elected to the office of State Superintendent in 2004 and then re-elected in 2008.  During this time we have seen North Carolina’s graduation rate rise from 68.3% to 80.2%.

Challenging Atkinson in November is Tea Party darling, John Tedesco. He is not an educator, but he has held a variety of positions –– admirably, several of them have been with charitable organizations. Mr. Tedesco was elected to the Wake (Raleigh) County Board of Education in 2008 and is still serving his first term, a tumultuous four years characterized by secret planning meetings and an often riotous board room. The Wake School Board lost its conservative majority during the 2011 election.

My message is simple. In this time when education is challenged to serve a new generation of learners, within a new information environment and for a future we can not clearly describe…

It is a time for Professionals!

Not for amateurs with an agenda.

Please Support Dr. June Atkinson for North Carolina State Superintendent.

 

A Walk Down Memory Lane and a Big Thanks!

2012 Learning 2.0 Virtual Conference
Several weeks ago Steve Hargadon invited me to deliver a keynote address for his Learning 2.0 Virtual conference, which he has been planning for Connected Educator month (August). I confess that I neglected to respond for some time, because, frankly, I do not enjoy these things and consider them a poor substitute to an actual face-to-face conference. It’s the old and old-fashioned teacher in me that feels that way. But, because I respect Steve enormously I finally agreed do a session, dreading its approach. However, I always, ALWAYS, end out enjoying the experience, feeling good about my contribution, and I’ve watched and learned from a number of the other presentations and keynote throughout the conference.  As my friend, Peggy George, said,

This is such an incredible opportunity for us to be able to learn and connect virtually wherever we are!

..and it was free.

Since I assembled my talk, “The Memory Lane of a 30-Year Connected Teacher and Learner,” specifically for this event, I did not have any online handouts, and since I ended out taking exactly my allotted hour and leaving no time for questions, I thought I would take this opportunity to scan through the chat archive and respond here to any questions or comments that strike a nerve.

First of all, this was not a “Here’s how you do this” sort of presentation nor did I tour through cool web sites or suggest cool  ways to use iPads. There were and will be plenty of presentations that fill that niche. My uniqueness right now is my age and range of experiences, and so I reverted back to my Southern heritage and shared some stories “..about some of the critical and revelatory moments of (my) long career.” You can revisit my talk here, as Steve is archiving all (?) of the presentations.

First of all, I was impressed by the number of learning20 hash-tagged (#learning20) postings on Twitter that were not in english.  In fact, I see now that some of the names in my chat archive included letters that are not among the 26 character Roman alphabet – more evidence of the increasing globalization of education.

Here are some links posted during my talk:

One of the really cool things about these virtual events, and about being part of the backchannel at face-to-face events is when people share URLs related to what I am talking about – and often they are web pages, of which I was not aware.  In a sense, the online handouts just happen. ..because learners are also teachers.

One point I’d like to double-click on is the WIRED magazine issue I’m reading on my iPad, the magazine’s first issue, published in 1993, and now available for the WIRED iPad app.  I love scanning through these old magazines because of the advertisements, seeing the sorts of technologies that were emerging 20 years ago, how big they were, and how much they cost.  There was a Sony GPS that gave you the coordinates of you current location at a cost of only $1,195 (USD).  20 years ago, that was fantastic. Imagine being able to know, at any time, your exact location in relation to the Equator and Prime Meridian. Fantastic!  Yet, I just bought a Garmin app for my iPhone that operates exactly like the Garmin GPS that I drive with, and it only cost 99¢.

We are preparing our children for THE FANTASTIC.

Do we truly grok the implications of this?

I have to delight at the recognition several members of the audience registered for the Radio Shack Tandy computers I talked about and their further references to the Sinclair, TI-99, VIC-20 (I had one) and Atari 400 computers, machines that all helped to define personal computing today.  It made me feel “not so old.”  I guess I’ll be old when I have to explain what a cassette tape is to my audience 😉

In contrast, someone mentioned the current tech-du-jour, Arduino and Raspberry Pi – off-the-shelf computer circuit boards that people (“makers”) are using to create all sorts of intelligent objects.  This is something I want to learn about and play with.  Someone recommended the Raspberry Pi.

Another participant asked about the old computer magazines that featured BASIC programs that you could type into your Atari or VIC-20.  “Compute!” was one of them and it was published out of Greensboro, North Carolina.  Orson Scott Card worked for them at the time – and some of you know him as the author of “Ender’s Game,” one of the best science fiction books ever written.

I told the story of a librarian friend of mine, Cynthia Wilson, who, back in the ’80s got some at-risk 7th graders to write children’s books using Apple IIe computers and FrEdWriter, and then emailed them to first graders down the street using FrEdMail (There really needs to be a Wikipedia article about FrEdMail). The First graders read the books, illustrated the them, and then brought their prizes back up to the middle school where the 7th graders did a book signing.  It’s a concept that has continued as the chat perked up at that point, with lots of ways that teachers and librarians are continuing to empower learners by making them authors. (see links above)

During several of my stories, which involved teachers and learners connecting to the real world, there was some conversation about teachers who are reluctant to allow their students to share their work outside of their classrooms.  I believe that it comes from a lack of confidence, and this is not wholly our fault.  It’s part of what I talked about at the end, how the empowerment that comes from “connected” teachers and learners has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is the various social, political, and commercial interests who have traditionally enjoyed and employed that power – and have a need to exert more. I believe that causing communities to lose confidence in public education has been an explicit part of the school privatization movement that may well have begun with No Child Left Behind.

Someone commented, “Why can’t we have developers of apps working in our schools with our students on projects they are working on?”  I think this is a fabulous idea, and I remember reading about a school in New York that hires game developers to work with teachers and learners.  That has always seemed a brilliant thing to do.  But I wonder if this “developer” needs to be an adult, or if it could be one of, or a team of students.

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed presenting to the conference, from my home office, and am actually getting accustomed to teaching to that little green light at the top of my laptop display that marks the position of the camera.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Steve Hargadon for this and all of the “connections” that he creates and facilitates for educators around the world.  All the wires and cables that circle our globe come to nothing if there is not a community of interest, and that community doesn’t happen without an architect.  Thanks to Steve Hargadon for bringing us all together so many days of the year!