Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

TxDLA 2008 Conference -Wrap Up and a Crackpot

The TxDLA has wrapped up but not before Gary Stager called himself a crackpot and gave a thought provoking presentation. The crackpot reference to himself came in the context of one who proffered so-called “crazy” ideas. I don’t know about crazy, but he definitely has some serious upstream opinions. He gave us a serious drink from the Stager firehose. In fact I’m still processing some of those ideas and deciding where I land. People like Gary Stager are like that, though. One minute I’m nodding my head in complete agreement and the next I’ve got the mental brakes pressed to the floor. Regardless, he’s a passionate educator who will leave you thinking.

Here’s some ideas from his presentation as they are filtered through my processing and frenetic note-taking. I have added the categories above the bullets for reflection more than anything else.

Right On! 

  • Stager cites a quote from Daniel Hillis’ Pattern on the Stone book [extended slightly for context]: “The computer…is a device that accelerates and extends our process of thought. It is an imagination machine, which starts with the ideas we put into it and takes them farther than we could ever have taken them on our own.”
  • If your classroom questions can be answered with a Google search, then let them.
  • Learning occurs in a community of practice where expertise is distributed.
  • Eliminate self serving and schizophrenic practices and policies.
  • We shouldn’t think of education as a competition.
  • Be open to emerging technologies and decentralizing tools.
  • The tools don’t matter unless they get in the way.
  • Collaboration begins at home.
  • We have operated on the SDSU curriculum for too long (Sit Down and Shut Up).
  • He routine meets kids who have never had a meaning conversation with an adult.
  • For faculty, collect the experts you want to study with.
    • Create a community of practice.
  • We should use technology to create authentic experiences in more domains in ways never possible before.

Hold On!

  • Stager doesn’t really care for Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and wrote an article called The Worst Book of the 21st Century – a review.
    • It would seem to be a little incongruous for me to have a few posts ranting against the corporate influences in our school and then write so much about a business book. Essentially, I think we must look beyond the rigid structure of American education and begin the discussions that will take us there. That’s the take-away of Pink’s book for me even though Pink never intended this book for education.
  • ISTE should take a stand on how computers should work.
    • He said something like this very quickly and got a smattering of applause. I’m not sure where he was going with this, but to generally discount the efforts of ISTE leaves me cold.
  • An educational revolution will not result from web 2.0.
    • Maybe not completely, but it certainly could provide the spark. Indeed, many have suggested it already has.
    • Also, I think he may have thrown a backhanded insult at those of us who consider ourselves bloggers for education, saying we are standing outside the circle of expertise. He seemed to contradict himself when he asserted that a way to join the community of practice was to learn from our [experienced] elders and emulate their behavior and practices. I’m not sure what to do with that. Maybe I should ask Karl Fisch, Wes FryerAlan November, George Siemens, David Thornburg, Dave Warlick, or any of the other educational leaders that write on The Pulse blog.

Go on…

  • There’s nothing new about 21st Century Skills. They are simply the skills that rich people wanted their kids to have in the 20th century.
    • I would like to see a little more from him here than a simple dismissive attack.
  • Every course should be taught as liberal art.
    • He didn’t spend enough time here to give me a good picture and I’d like to know more.

More about Gary Stager so you can check it out for yourself… 

  • Stager-to-Go is the place where Gary Stager can share news & views not suited for his professional outlets.” He’s the Senior Editor for District Administration and its blog The Pulse.
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March 29, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 3.07.08 -Called to the Profession

Passion. Called to the profession. Inspired by another teacher. Making a difference.

Those are the top reasons the book study participants gave today when I asked them to tell their story and frame it within the question of why they got into education. Empathy, chapter 7, in A Whole New Mind contains a portfolio section called Empathize on the Job. In activity #2  How Did I Get Here? Dan Pink writes “Sometimes you work near people for years but have little idea about the path that brought them alongside you.” So today I asked. We, at the request of the group, modified the activity and had each person tell his/her own story to the whole group. I took notes on one side of a notecard and listened for themes in each person’s story. The dominant ones are at the top of this post. The word passion came out of every story directly, simply, plainly, and unflinchingly. This, from a group that ranges in experience from only a few years to 20+.

I wasn’t surprised about passion, being influenced by another teacher, or making a difference. Those seem to be very common bonds among educators. The other, called to the profession, surprised me a little. Many in the room spoke about being called to the profession, having it in their blood, or simply knowing from an early age they were supposed to be in education. More than one took a circuitous path, some resisting, but we all ended up here. It seems to be somewhat anachronistic, especially in today’s postmodern technological realm, to respond to a call.

This identification of purpose or meaning (Chapter 9) resonates and grounds people, making them unshakable stalwarts. Passion permeates what they do, who they are. Not all educators reside here, but the ones who do simply radiate and attract kids (and adults) to themselves. It’s not out of ego or grandiosity; it’s their quality. The same thing happens when the sunrise stops us or a piece of poetry gives us pause. We cannot really quantify it, but we can see its results. Kids, other staff, parents, even you know who these people are.

The ones who answer their calling are not limited to education, but few other vocations so poignantly intertwine people and purpose, message and meaning, wisdom and wonder. Can we teach kids to answer a call regardless of vocation? I’m not sure, but we can prepare them to be ready, receptive, and reflective. The purpose of education starts there.

February 23, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 2.07.08 –What’s the big IDEA?

As part of the blog and discussions, I have developed some points overall and for each chapter to spark thoughts and conversations. In keeping with the Whole New Mind theme, I call it IDEA. No, not the special education acronym, but one for the book as a whole and then each chapter on the aptitudes.  I ask A Whole New Mind book study participants to consider…

Overall

  • Intersection
  • Discovery
  • Examination
  • Application 

For Design

  • Incorporation
  • Democratization
  • Engagement
  • Alignment

For Story

  • Intention
  • Direction
  • Explanation
  • Association

For Symphony

  • Innovation
  • Determination
  • Elevation
  • Assimilation

For Empathy

  • Intuition
  • Demonstration
  • Emotion
  • Amplification

For Play

  • Invigoration
  • Distribution
  • Enjoyment
  • Advancement

For Meaning

  • Implication
  • Discussion
  • Epiphany
  • Analysis 

One of the interesting parts is that any IDEA in any chapter could be applied to any other chapter. I don’t define the bullets very much leaving the connections to the individual members. My goal is to get them looking at each bullet and find intersections of the book and their professional practice, uncover discoveries of ways to engage themselves (and later kids) in the big-picture ideas, examine the way they (and kids) do what they do, and apply all of it in a 21st century (or a Whole New Mind) context. The results are as mixed and as varied as you might think.

As a side note, besides Dan Pink, I have to give credit to Dan Maas who first made a presentation about A Whole New Mind at a CASE conference session that provoked some thoughts that wouldn’t stop needling me. As a result, I read the book and began thinking about the implications for education.  I needed to hear from others and the book study was born. I still need to hear from others, which is why it’s here now.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Whole New Mind Book Study Part 1.07.08

This school year I have been meeting with a group of teachers for another book study centering on Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  This time I have two art teachers, a counselor, a special education teacher, three social studies teachers, two English teachers, a technology teacher, a math teacher, and a science teacher. It’s my privilege to be a part of it once again. Be sure to see my post about last year’s book study and what that group did.

I have had some interest in the process I use for leading the book study. So I post here a few guidelines. I’m a little reluctant to put a bunch of content up here because the true power is to customize the study based on the group and their common community. With that said, I did develop some questions for the first three chapters specifically and the remaining chapters generally. I’ve listed some of those below.

The structure of the study has us meeting once a month through the school year (weather permitting) on Saturdays for two hours with the discussion revolving around one chapter. The first three chapters encompass one meeting at the onset. For the chapters on the six senses, we discuss the chapter part and usually transition into some items in the Portfolio section. When I prepare for the group meeting each month, I see what resources I have bookmarked from the Portfolio section and spend some (often too much) time following links and reading blogs and going down digital rabbit trails. Those trails have turned up some goodies that really seem to get great conversations started or help transition to new ideas.

In addition to the meetings, I have created a blog using our district’s web software. I password protect this blog for various reasons, but mostly because I think the sharing among peers is a little more honest and reflective when it’s not subject to the scrutiny of the outside world. Some would argue that we’re missing out on the exchange of ideas on a global scale, but right now, the ideas are for them. I also have them complete a culminating project of some kind to satisfy the fiduciary duty to the district and taxpayers. Projects have ranged from a simple reflection paper to unit designs to in-service sessions to redesigning entire courses and course expectations.

I have approached the first meetings of both studies in much the same insidious way: we’re here to change the world one classroom at a time. The book studies aren’t about complete indoctrination; they’re about giving perspective and providing reflection. The best meetings have often resulted when I have only made the opening welcome and comment or question and have said nothing more. To listen to the conversations, to see the ideas germinate and grow, to feel the energy build as professionals honestly and passionately discuss how they can change the world with their classrooms, that’s why I got into education.

The questions for Chapters 1-3 often start by directing them to a specific point in the reading and turning their thinking to an element of education or culture. Some of them are unsettling once you kind of jump in and get dirty. Some simply elicit a nod of sympathetic recognition. Even though the book is not directly about education, the implications for education are staggering. Should you end up deciding to use the questions, I’d simply ask you to refer to the Creative Commons license on this blog for attribution information. If you’d like more information or to discuss more about the book studies, leave me a comment indicating so with whatever contact information you deem relevant.

A Whole New Mind of Questions -Part 1 -Chapters 1-3 and on

  • What is a knowledge worker?
    • Are schools designed to produce them?
    • What will be the responsibility of schools of the future related to knowledge working?
  • What kind of thinking has dominated the last few decades?
    • Where do schools fit into this structure?
    • What will be the responsibilities of schools of the future?
  • How is the organization of the book metaphorical for the brain?
    • How do schools touch both sides of the brain?
    • How should schools touch both sides of the brain?
    • What are obstacles in making this happen?
  • What is high touch and why is it important?
    • Where is this important in our schools?
    • Who has the aptitude to make this happen?
  • What is high concept and why is it important?
    • Where is this important in our schools?
    • Who has the aptitude to make this happen?
  • What is L-Directed Thinking?
    • Where has been its role in the Information Age?
    • What is the importance of this thinking in the Conceptual Age?
    • What has been education’s role related to this kind of thinking?
  • What is R-Directed Thinking?
    • What is the importance of this thinking in the Conceptual Age?
    • What will be education’s role related to this kind of thinking?
  • What are examples of abundance in education?
    • What do schools in general or our school specifically offer of value and meaning in this age of abundance?
  • Will Asia and related outsourcing be a factor in education?
    • What parts of the educational program could be outsourced?
  • How will automation change education?
    • Note: The question is not will, but how.
  • Why is high tech no longer enough in education?
    • Did education even get there?
  • How have MBA’s (or their thinking) had a place in education?
  • Do MFA’s (or their thinking) have a place in education?
  • Is education at the end of the Information Age if it has it made it there?
  • How does Education currently answer the three questions?
    • What is the value in coming to the schoolhouse?
    • Or how does our school answer the three questions?
  • How should educators respond to the ideas in the IQ and EQ section?
    • Should education emphasize both IQ and EQ?
    • How could this be done?
    • What would an EQ school look like?
  • How does the Money and Meaning section play out in the educational structure?

Big Questions -Part 1 and throughout

  • What are the implications of these ideas for the classroom?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the school?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the district?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for the state?
  • What are the implications of these ideas for education in the U.S. and the world?

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A Whole New Mind for Educators

I should be careful what I wish for. I wished that those of us in my school could look into the future and prepare for it. Then I read Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind. Shoot! I had to do something about it; it was desperately inspirational. (See my post from earlier today for more information.) So I thought I’d offer a book study to my staff to see if there was any interest. This is an excerpt of what I sent out:

In A Whole New Mind, released in 2005, Dan Pink argues that Western society in general, and America specifically, is moving “from an economy and society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and society built on…inventive, empathetic, big picture capabilities.”  This movement, Pink claims, is a result of three social and economic forces: Abundance, Asia, and Automation. He posits three questions related to these forces: 1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper? 2. Can a computer do it faster? 3. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance? According to Pink, “If your answer to 1 or 2 is yes, or if your answer to 3 is no, you’re in deep trouble.” To survive and thrive in this new Conceptual Age, Pink asserts that we must learn and develop six senses: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. We must be “high concept” and “high touch,” not in a touchy-feely way, but able to do things that are meaningful and unable to be automated and/or outsourced.

Using the human brain as a metaphorical backdrop for his book, Pink –acknowledging that human beings are not exclusively governed by either side of the brain– illuminates how left-directed thinking and right-directed thinking will both impact and influence the future in which we are about to live. The book is neither directly about education nor written by an educator; however, the implications for the future of education run just below the surface. A Whole New Mind prods the reader to look beyond the age in which we are rooted and to look forward to an age that will stand in as stark a contrast as the Information Age does to the Industrial Age. 

I had 12 teachers respond from art, business, English, math, science, social studies, special education. Even our Library Media Specialist joined. It was the single most inspirational and rewarding staff development experience of my 14-year professional educational career. We met once a month for 8 months over the course of the 2006-2007 school year. Below are some educational fallout results from our book study.

The first group who met last year have taken their experiences and ideas from the book and worked them into our school world (and probably beyond).

  • Two of our English teachers have used AWNM as required reading for our Honors Senior Composition and Literature course with the idea that it may be a pilot for required reading in all senior English classes.
  • One of the social studies teachers has tweaked/redesigned his instruction in his classes with a focus on the 6 aptitudes.
  • Our Marketing/DECA teacher has changed how his marketing students design and present their marketing class presentations. This is significant because he is working from a place of extreme success before reading the book and sees the future need behind the ideas and has essentially moved his approach and classes from a place of demonstrated success to a somewhat riskier, yet necessary, approach.
  • Our Library Media Specialist is co-leading a class on 21st Century Learning skills for over 15 of our staff. The first 20 minutes of each meeting is dedicated to AWNM principles.
  • The math and science teachers in the first book study have made unit modifications based on AWNM ideas.
  • One of our art teachers changes and modifications in her classroom has inspired the other two to do the book study this year.
  • Lastly, several members of our staff asked me if I could offer the book study again this year. I have and 12 different teachers from art, English, math, science, social studies, and special education who have signed up.

This future stuff is hard work; change, even on a classroom scale isn’t easy, but our kids will reap the rewards.

What are you wishing for?

October 6, 2007 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments