“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.

Who Believes “Fake News”

Fake news and the effects of its wide acceptance has concerned many, including the U.S. Army [https://goo.gl/cx6hAC]. Recent research at Yale University (described in PsyPost) has added to our understanding of why people believe things that are not true. The author of the study, Michael V. Bronstein, says, “Some false beliefs are relatively harmless (e.g., children believing in the tooth fairy), while others might cause significant distress (e.g., incorrectly believing that others are trying to hurt you) or may be potentially harmful to society as a whole (e.g., false beliefs about global warming or vaccines).”

I have long maintained that analytical/critical thinking should be considered a core part of basic literacy and that we should help our students to habitually practice these habits of mind in every subject and throughout their schooling. But Bronstein’s study has found that people who are not actively open minded or dogmatic by nature are more likely to believe fake news than people who are open to alternative explanations and evidence that revises their beliefs.

If true, this speaks poorly for the homogenized curriculum being legislated for our classrooms and regulated with high-stakes standardized tests. There’s not much room for being open minded when each question has only one acceptable answer. Aren’t we teaching students to believe what their told, when they’re only told what is acceptable to the state standards-based tests.

 

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.

 

 

A Question about Investigating Russian Meddling

There’s been a question, trying to form in the back of my head, like an itch I can’t reach, concerning our investigation of Russian meddling in U.S. elections. I do worry about Trump’s possible collusion with a foreign power and the corruption it would imply – though corruption seems to be the way of things in our capitals these days.

I found that itch yesterday, as I was talking about it with my wife — and here it is.

What’s the difference between Russia’s efforts to sew distrust in our government with social media and our efforts to sew distrust in the Soviet/Russian government during the Cold War with Voice of America broadcasts?

There is an important difference, I believe. VOA sought to “win the attention and respect of listeners” behind the Iron Curtain by offering a “consistently reliable and authoritative source of news.” (Words from the VOA Charter of 1959.)

We wanted to help intelligent people in the USSR, to recognize true news and reject the Soviet propaganda.

Russia, on the other hand, wants to appeal to unintelligent Americans’ willingness to believe sensationalist propaganda and reject true news.

That’s the difference!

Perhaps, rather than investigating Russian meddling, we should be investigating education policy that wants students to memorize the right answers to questions, instead of teaching them the discipline of asking questions and the wisdom to question the answers.

Trust, Media & Democracy Survey

Graph 1

I recently ran across a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey entitled American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy.  The poll of more than 19,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older attempts to measure how our changing information landscape has affected media trust in the U.S. and made it harder for the news media to fulfill their democratic responsibilities.  It is important to note that Trust, Media and Democracy was a nationally representative mail survey.  So a back-of-your-mind question should be, “Who took the trouble to share their views by mail?”

That said, a couple of things especially caught my attention.  First, it seems that younger respondents were more likely to consider the intentional spread of inaccurate information over the Internet and bias in the media to be a “Major Problem.”  See graph 1.

It leads me to wonder if we (educators) did a better job than we thought, over the past 10 to 15 years, of teaching our students to be critical media consumers.  Or perhaps it’s a result of a generation who is, unquestionably, more net-savvy than their elder.  Regardless, we have more work to do.

Graph 2

What disturbs me is how many people do not really know what “Fake News” is.  Wikipedia defines it as

..a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically, often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines.. (Wikipedia)

That pretty much aligns with my own understanding of “Fake News.” Yet 20% of Democrats believe that an accurate news story that casts a politician or political group in a negative light is “Fake News.” The percent is higher for Independents and Republicans. See graph 2

Graph 3

This one surprised me, that the more conservative a person is, the more likely they are to consider “Fake News” to be a serious threat to democracy. See graph 3 and please explain this to me.

There is much more available through the PDF report, which you can download at: https://goo.gl/emk1EM

I created the graphs from the survey data using Create a Graph from the Department of Education web site.

Look to Struggling Students for Your Future Leaders and Game-Changers

Valedictorian Speech

Karen Arnold, a Boston University researcher has conducted a 14 year longitudinal study of high school valedictorians, finding that they rarely achieve fame and fortune. To be sure, they usually finish college, many earn graduate degrees and about half rise to top tier positions.

“But how many of these number-one high-school performers go on to change the world, run the world, or impress the world?” Eric Barker is asking this question in his new book, “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” He cites another study of 700 American millionaires, finding that their average high school GPA was 2.9. Of course, not all millionaires are game-changers.

Barker seems to believe that there is a disconnect between the kinds of students we reward and the kinds of graduates that a rapidly changing world needs. He suggests two reasons for this incongruity, both of which I touch on in “The Quiet Revolution.”

  1. “Schools reward students who consistently do what they are told” – and life rewards people who shake things up. Arnold says that in high school, “we are rewarding conformity and the willingness to go along with the system.Speaking to a group at Business Insider’s New York office, Baker said, “In school, rules are very clear. In life, rules are not so clear. So a certain amount of not playing by the rules is advantageous once you get out of a closed system like education.”
  2. “Schools Reward being a generalist” If you are passionate about political history, you have to restrain that passion for time to spend on your Math, Science, Health, and English homework. The real world rewards passion and expertise.

Surprisingly, Arnold’s study found that students “who genuinely enjoy learning tend to struggle in high school. They find the education system ‘stifling’ because it doesn’t allow them to pursue their passions deeply.”

Lebowitz, S. (2017, May 29). Why valedictorians rarely become rich and famous — and the average millionaire’s college GPA was 2.9. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/why-high-school-valedictorians-dont-become-really-successful-2017-5

Is Print Really Better than Digital?

Business Insider reported on Sunday about a study that indicates that even though college students enjoy learning from digital texts more than print and believe that they learn better, the truth is that print is better.  The article, A new study shows that students learn way more effectively from print textbooks than screens, explores the work of Patricia Alexander and Lauren Singer, both from the University of Maryland. The two also reported their finding here at The Conversation.

The Business Insider article does a pretty good job of drilling down into the specifics of digital print’s failing – and I do not contest their findings. As a long time reflective user and producer of digital content, I recognize that you read differently and often for different reasons with a hand-held or larger screen. My concern is that certain conservative-leaning policy makers will see this as an opportunity to lash out at progressive educators with, “Your new way is not as effective as the old paper print.”

That conclusion reflects a gross and dangerous misunderstanding of technologies’ place in formal education, and a disgraceful lack of imagination. Sadly, the imagination required to understand what technology means to teaching and learning is lacking in  conspicuous sections of the professional education community.

I have long held that to understand how digital networked technology supports leaning we must reflect and come to understand how we are using tech to help us learn after school. We learn by researching and identifying the information that best helps us accomplish our goals, and achieving this by resourceful perseverance. We use the technology to find people and communities who are knowledgable and discussing the topics we need, and dynamically connecting with those communities. We learn in this digital, networked and information-abundant environment by being critical readers, always asking questions about the answers we find. To this end, textbooks are a detriment to effective learning, because they defy critical questions.

We need to understand how we (adults) learn through our screens after our schooling, because continued learning is the defining character of the future for which we are preparing our students.

The flaw in education is that we’re stuck in thinking about education and not thinking about learning – something we’re all intimately involved in.