Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

BLC08 Excerpts -Tainted by Digital Racism

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.

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July 17, 2008 Posted by | Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

NECC Day 1

My first day at NECC started with a SIGTelForum: Connectivism, Curriculum, and the Virtual Classroom in 21st-Century Telecollaboration with Manorama Talaiver, Judi Harris, Allison Powell and David Thornburg. Some notes below.

Session Description

How is the read-write Web appropriated for connectivist learning and teaching? What are the implications for teacher knowledge-building, professional development, and assessment? This forum will connect theory with practice to address these questions.

 

Special Features

·         iEARN –International Education and Resource Network

o    http://www.iearn.org/

o    From the About us Page http://www.iearn.org/about/index.html

o    iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) is a non-profit organization made up of over 20,000 schools and youth organizations in more than 115 countries. iEARN empowers teachers and young people to work together online using the Internet and other new communications technologies. Over 1,000,000 students each day are engaged in collaborative project work worldwide.

o    Since 1988, iEARN has pioneered on-line school linkages to enable students to engage in meaningful educational projects with peers in their countries and around the world.

o    iEARN is:

§  an inclusive and culturally diverse community

§  a safe and structured environment in which young people can communicate

§  an opportunity to apply knowledge in service-learning projects

§  a community of educators and learners making a difference as part of the educational process

o    Brief description for linking: iEARN(International Education and Resource Network) is the world’s largest non-profit global network that enables young people to use the Internet and other new technologies to engage in collaborative educational projects that both enhance learning and make a difference in the world. Established in 1988 as a pioneering online program among schools in the the Soviet Union and the United States, iEARN is now active in more than 25,000 schools and youth organizations in 125 countries.

·         GlobalSchoolNet

o    http://www.globalschoolnet.org/

o    About GSN http://www.globalschoolnet.org/index.cfm?section=AboutUs

·         KidLink

o    http://www.kidlink.org/english/general/intro.html

o    http://www.kidlink.org/english/general/overview.html

§  Kidlink is a non-commercial, user-owned organization that helps children understand their possibilities, set goals for life, and develop life-skills. 

§  Its free educational programs motivate learning by helping teachers relate local curriculum guidelines to students’ personal interests and goals. Kidlink is open for all children and youth in any country through the age of 15, and students at school through secondary school. Most users are between 10 – 15 years of age. Since the start in 1990, used by children from 176 countries.

§  The Kidlink knowledge network is run by 500 volunteers in over 50 countries. Hundreds of public and private virtual “rooms” are used for discussion and collaboration. Information is available in over 30 languages. Statistics.

Assessment and Supervision of Online Teachers

-Allison Powell, Vice President NACOL

 

NACOL Standards

·         http://www.nacol.org/nationalstandards/NACOL%20Standards%20Quality%20Online%20Teaching.pdf

 

Education in the Post-Digital Age

-David Thornburg

·         OR Going Back to Tomorrow: Leaping Past the Future http://www.tcpd.org/ http://www.tcse-k12.org/ http://www.tcpdpodcast.org/

·         In the beginning

o    Mainframes

o    Dumb Terminals

o    Smart Terminals

o    Truly Personal Computers

·         Where are we headed

o    From Personal Computers to Networked Personal Computers

o    Online Applications

§  Smart Terminals

o    Dumb Terminals

§  With built in web client connected to distributed servers

o    Will we leap past the future?

·         Entering the world of Cloud Computing

o    The network is the computer

o    What happens when bandwidth approaches processor speed?

·         Thinking Influenced by

o    Lev Vygotsky

o    Henry Jenkins

o    George Siemens

o    Pierre Levy

·         Technology as a pedagogy amplifier

o    Stand-alone computers support Piaget’s cognitive constructivism

o    Networked – Vygotsky

o    Seymour Papert

·         Reality of the Cloud

o    Beyond hardware

o    Knowledge lies outside ourselves

o    Thoughts exist in space and time

o    Learning is a network forming process

o    Our view comes from node

·         Pierre Levy

o    Everyone knows something; nobody knows anything; what anyone knows can be tapped by the group

·         Networked Learning  is about

o    Connections, not just content

o    Connections between nodes builds understanding

o    Moves beyond content and concepts to causes

·         Groups and Networks

o    Different

·         Rhizomes vs Trees

o    Deleuse and Guattari

o    Hierarchical vs Non-hierarchical

o    Hierarchical impose structures

o    Non-Hierarchical reveal structures

·         Henry Jenkins Participatory Culture

o    Affiliations

§  Second Life

§  Orkut

o    Circulations

§  Blogging –Introduces concept of beta reader

§  Podcasting

§  Skype

o    Collaborative Problem Solving

§  Cmap http://cmap.ihmc.us/

·         Can put inside own firewall

§  Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

§  Moodle http://moodle.org/

o    Expressions

§  Fan Fiction http://www.fanfiction.net/

§  Flickr http://flickr.com/

§  Scratch http://scratch.mit.edu/

§  YouTube http://www.youtube.com/

·         Today’s Learning Space is all the above

·         Small World

o    Six degrees of separation

o    The power of the network increases as the square of the number of users

o    Powerful jumps when every student has networked computer

·         Are Schools Ready? [No]

o    Bandwidth limited

o    Many ban blogging

o    Many ban social spaces

o    Filters are mandated

 

Connectivism, Curriculum & Telecollaboration: Shifting Knowledge

Judi Harris, School of Education, College of William and Mary

·         Her site http://virtual-architecture.wm.edu/

Now

Then

connection

separation

similarities

differences

common goals

competing needs

global view

local view

collaboration

competition

unity

singularity

o    Happens via networks

·         Telecooperative VS Telecollaborative

·         http://txtipd.wm.edu/

 

June 30, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments