This summer and much of the last 9 months have been one of tremendous personal and professional growth -although I’m not sure there’s really a difference in many cases. The obvious learning is simply encompassed in the title of this post: I (We) Can’t Go It Alone.
It seems obvious especially in for those of us in the blogosphere and in education and in just about any human endeavor. However, I (and I suspect a few of the “we” out there) must continually have this lesson reinforced. Too many times I get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent and pull back from my various support networks only to find myself realizing that I need those very people to move forward. Here are two reflections with that idea in mind. I had what I thought was an insightful post about about personal learning networks (PLN) and the testing and evolution of ideas, but I deleted most of it in favor of the following.
The first is the life the post before this one took on. Like many posts on this blog (and comments on others’ blogs), I felt the need to respond to something. I didn’t intend to write a post that more than tripled the average hits on my blog. I simply needed to express an idea in a sort of fit of reflection. I was testing a thought out. You can see by the comments there that others have extended and challenged my thinking. I am better because other have made me better. That happens because a collective “we” are online and it’s humbling, exciting, and wonderful to be part of the conversation.
Which brings me to my second item, a poem, which was, in a bit of synesthesia, inspired by a hearing quote attributed to Will Rogers while I was flipping through the tabs I had open of blogs I was reading. I often write poems, but they are an intimate form of writing and thinking for me and I’m a little reluctant to reveal some of those elements of my thoughts and personalities most times. Maybe it’s really because they are terrible and I’m willingly blind to that fact and I don’t want someone to point that out to me. Anyway, here’s the quote that inspired the poem, which follows that. The poem is, as of now, untitled. I hope if it’s good or bad, you’ll let me know. Linking to it if you find it good and if you think it bad, sending me a direct message to @RickTanski on Twitter-so no one else can see my public Internet failure ;^D. Also, if you’d like to suggest a title, post a reply and extend my thinking.
“A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.” -Will Rogers
To go on so and others deny
Down paths apparently clear
Follows the way Icarus did fly
With motives we think sincere
So like his lofty wings of wax
Pride-melted more than sun
We pay our independence tax
Levied against the one
To see the future uncertainty
Of dimly shadow-cast years
Gives us pause in the alacrity
Firing fiercely our fears
In imperatives to succeed
We consider it wise
To stop sowing important seed
And gorge ourselves on lies
In our veiled appeals for ways made safe
We realize the road’s been blocked
Prudence rules rightly, though she may chafe
Our thinking now, locked and hocked
Venture not down this fear fueled route
Children with little sense
Plainly the hidden truth comes out
They think us all just dense
Further fuel we add with speech made cheap
For outside the times fly there
With us inside time is wont to creep
Here transformation is rare
Sedately seeming standing still
At us they legislate
Righteous and raucous rail we will
Yet moving much too late
Disbelieved we are still doomed to be
Unless we realize this fact
More In others’ wisdom we must see
In our favor that is stacked
To go on and others accept
We build on their success
And then the truth cannot be kept
To grow more means us less
Alan November‘s Building Learning Communities conference in Boston, MA started for me on Tuesday with a pre-conference session with him about leadership. As I look over my personal notes, I have almost nothing there. That’s because I happened to sit at a table that Alan assigned to manage/edit a Google Doc. If you (do or don’t) know anything about Alan’s Students as Contributors approach, he had some of us participate along those lines. It was great stuff and I actually have never been so worn out from a conference session. That’s great stuff, really. It was also an extremely effective way to model his aprroach. I think he has plans to publush the Google Doc, but If you’d like an invite, send me your email and I’ll get you one.
On Wednesday I got to hear (in person) Ewan McIntosh. He’s a challenging and thoughtful educator who actually wants us to focus on the teaching and learning -with web tools, if necessary, but not exclusively and certainly not at the exclusion of deliberate and purposeful thought. His thoughtfulness came through in his post-keynote session to his respose when asked what “effective technology use” looks like. His response was elegantly complicated: there’s no one way; it depends on what the teacher hopes to accomplish. These aren’t his exact words, but I believe the paraphrase encapsulates the thinking there.
Earlier today John Davitt delivered his keynote about everything and nothing in a sort of stream of consciousness approach. His British wit, subtle and engaging, left the gears turning. For a bit of “what if” be sure to check out his Learning Event Generator on his main page. If you have some of your own, find his contact information there and send him an email.
Later I attended a Marc Prensky session titled “The Death of the Classroom and the Rebirth of Learning in the 21st Century: How Technology Changes the Meaning of Teaching.” Especially in the past few years I’ve read Prensky, read what others have said about, but never heard him directly. Now I have. [Warning: Fit ahead in case you’ve missed the blog title above. I may have to apologize for being critical, but I can’t let some of these things go.] I’m not sure my personal opinion matters too much, but I was, on a fundamental level, offended.
I regularly use my laptop to gather some background information on a speaker and this time was no exception. I found Marc Prensky’s site and clicked on his blog link. At first I thought I was having connection troubles because no headings came up and no recent entries, but that’s how it shows up. I’m not sure if he’s changed his blog lately, but articles can only be accessed by the archive link. I couldn’t use the link at the bottom to subscribe either. Okay, we all have tech issues sometimes.
Prensky has lots of experience behind him and has received a certain amount of attention for the Digital Native/Immigrant ideas. Far too many people absolutely stuff themselves with this artificial, divisive, and damaging distinction. Several, including George Siemens, Jamie McKenzie, and Gary Stager, have been critical of the distinction and David Thornburg even apologized for using it. One of my issues here is that by setting groups against each other with this kind of language only serves to widen a divide between teachers and their kids, producing at best, adversarial relationships founded in insecurity and assumed expertise. Additionally it provides some with excuses not to change by allowing them to sit back and point at the “immigrants” and how there’s so much to know so why bother at all. Further, any kind of language which has such polarity becomes prejudicial, judgemental, and discriminatory. Immigrant/Native language smacks of racist talk and all we have to do is look to most any example from history to see categorizations have significant negative impacts for the categorized. By the way, teachers who struggle with new technologies are not new: did anyone else help out with the film projector, slide projector, opaque or ditto machines? I mean all the Web 2.0 items are projectors in themselves, right? I wonder if there are any documented cases of some student helping her teacher out with that new fangled fountain pen? Nothing new, Mr. Prensky.
He calls himself a visionary and futurist but used a PowerPoint with distracting animation, overused sounds, and far too much text which he often rushed through to plug his upcoming sessions. Has he read Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen? How many of us have worked with kids who discovered animation and sound effects but didn’t realize how distracting they were and counseled (taught) them they could do better? The horns and excessive buzzes were annoying and many times condescending because we ignoramuses obviously couldn’t get the point -maybe because we hadn’t finished reading the slides. I also found it ironic hypocritical that for all his proclamations of the death of the classroom and teaching -gravestone graphic included -he still found it necessary to address us, via direct lecture and 20th century PowerPoint. Revolutionary…
Despite all these things, he received quite an ovation from a very crowded room. And, as people dispersed I heard many accolades and I wondered if some had finally found the excuses they were looking for and were relieved an MBA from Harvard and MAT from Yale told them they didn’t belong in this digitally-racist world and that it was okay because the kids have all the knowledge they need.
As long as educators continue to thoughtlessly buy the immigrant/native schism, they will undermine their own credibility, impair their abilities, and destroy their capacity.
The past two days at NECChave been full of great learning and excellent experiences. I received a tweet asking our favorite session. I was having trouble deciding on just one, so I responded with several sessions. Most of the sessions have had something to offer, but Chris Lehmann’s School 2.0: Combining Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools stood out.
In this packed session (notes below), Chris gave us his take on education first and then took us, as a group, the process of developing an UBD lesson. Along the way he masterfully facilitated the development, asking refining and clarifying questions, redirecting as needed. I could almost put myself into his school and see how he works with his staff through this process. really, really good stuff. I think I want to work at the SLA.
Although they appear below, they bear repeating when considering our approach to education, leadership, and related technologies “Tools don’t teach, but they change the way we teach. AND It’s not about the tool; it’s about the teaching.”
That’s the truth.
One of the other benefits of the session and also the conference is that I got to meet several of the authors of the blogs I read including Wes Fryer, Will Richardson, Karl Fisch, Bud Hunt, Stephanie Sandifer, Chris Lehmann, and Ewan McIntosh. For all of our online interactions, it’s very nice to shake hands and talk with people face to face.
By the way, before Chris Lehmann’s session ended, Ewan McIntosh had already posted about the session. When Dean Shareski asked how he could post before the session was over, Ewan tweeted in response “McIntosh always posts before the session’s done. I’m tomorrow’s NECC today ;-)” Good humor.
Chris Lehmann’s Session Notes
In our hurry to learn “What’s new,” we can’t lose sight of “What’s best?” Examine using the new tools in a school-wide, constructivist manner. Recommended by ISTE’s SIGTC
· We work best and learn best when it matters to us
· Create caring institutions
o Who the direct and indirect objects of our sentences are
§ We teach kids first, subjects second
· It’s not about us
· It has to be inquiry driven
· It has to matter
· It needs to be metacognitive
· Technology infused
o Ubiquitous, necessary, and individual
· It has to be driven by understanding
· How do we get there?
· Pedagogy matters a lot
o (it matters for everything)
· Progressive teaching
o Using 21st Century Tools
· How to prevent Technology Overload
o What’s good is a better question than what’s new
§ The best one is the one we decide to use
· 5 things for kids
· A Convenient and Reasonably False Taxonomy
o Tools for each
· Tools don’t teach, but they change the way we teach
· What are your goals and what tools get you there?
o It’s not about the tool; it’s about the teaching
· Understanding by Design
o How much more could kids learn if they didn’t have to spend all this time figuring out the adults
§ Transparent Learning
o Step 1: Desired Results
§ What transfer goals and content goals will be met?
§ What should students come away understanding?
§ What essential questions will students explore and address?
§ What knowledge & skills [content] will students leave with?
o Step 2: Assessment Evidence
§ How do we authentically assess?
§ What performances and products will reveal evidence of understanding?
§ What other evidence will be collected to reflect other Desired Results?
§ (the schools we need) Tests and quizzes are dipsticks to see if kid get the skills
§ (Authentic assessment is not just an end game)
o Step 3: The Learning Plan
§ What activities, experiences, and lessons will lead to achievement of the desired results and success at the assessments?