Fits & Fugues

Education can be so much more.

TxDLA 2008 Conference -Day 1 and A Crazy Man

Today I’m attending the Texas Distance Learning Association Conference in beautiful Galveston, Texas. Alan November delivered the opening keynote and had a follow-up breakout session. At both presentations he rather strongly suggested insisted that we redefine student roles in the classroom. I have included an excerpt from his page below.

Student as Contributor: Digital Learning Farm
Before tractors and combines, more that 60% of the population in North America was involved in farming. Today less than 2% lives of the population works on farms. Farm children made a vital contribution to the family with real chores. While technology eventually eroded the meaningful work of children, we have enough technology today to restore the dignity of real work in school. All of our students can use collaborative online tools and research and global communications skills to add value to the learning community.
These contributions include:
* Curriculum Review Team
* Tutorial Creation/Organizing/Design Team
* Global Communication Team
* Official Scribes
* Resource Finders
* Technical Editors

If you are unfamiliar with Alan November, I would encourage you to check out the November Learning website and all the resources there. I’ve already registered for his Building Learning Communities Conference in July. Alan is crazy. I heard him say so today. And you know crazy people have dangerous, sometimes blasphemous ideas. The excerpt above makes myhis point. That’s dangerous stuff when you think about it. Are we ready to have kids do those things? (For an expansion on those ideas, check out TxDLA’s “blogstress” Harriet Watkins’ post about the keynote.)

As for his blasphemy, he suggested we actually let kids use Wikipedia with all its errors and unreliability! Only he took the insanity one step further when he suggested that we use that type of technology to give our students a global platform for publishing, commenting, and idea refinement. That kind of crazy talk will surely have some reaching for their benzodiazepines. (If you are going to click on that link to see what that word means, you are risking your educational sanity by using an unreliable source even if you get everything you need to know in the first sentence. You’ve been warned!)

Maybe we only want to give lip service to this whole 21st Century Learning stuff. Alan doesn’t. He made his doctoral students actually contribute to a Wikipedia article for their peers to review. Wow! I want to be crazy like Alan November!

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March 25, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lessons from the Music Industry for Education

Seth Godin’s post on Monday, January 7 about lessons that can be learned from the music industry turns a bit uncomfortable when you substitute “education” for “music” and “educators” for “musicians” and conceptually replace similar educational themes with his referenced music themes. Really, how many of his list below have a direct connection to education? Obviously some of them have a pretty strong connection and others you have to stretch a little for an application or analogy to education. I added a little something extra to each one for our education discussion. If I overgeneralize in some areas, it’s to make a point or point out commonly held perceptions.

0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.

     -How many of us have outlasted the next thing because we (or those initiating) lack the fortitude to commit to seeing something through?

1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success

     -I wonder of current performance is a guarantee of future success…

2. Copy protection in a digital age is a pipe dream

     -I can see some significant issues here. If we keep trying to protect facts, statistics, algorithms, and other outdated ideas regarding the dispensation of knowledge from the “menaces” of wikipedia and Google searches, we’re doomed. It’s not about the distribution of information anymore; it’s a raw material from which we synthesize new ideas.

3. Interactivity can’t be copied.

     -We still need our teachers and mentors. Our roles will must change.

4. Permission is the asset of the future

     -Seth describes this in part “…delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.” The industrial model of the comprehensive (high) school can’t work any longer. If we don’t make our educational opportunities personal and relevant, someone else will. (Again see below).

5. A frightened consumer is not a happy consumer.

     -Translation: A frightened learner is not a happy learner. We are stuck on ideas like seat time = education and other assembly line principles. We make statements like “How can you give credit to someone who completes an online course in a few weeks when there are kids in school who spend 18 weeks on that?” Outdated Carnegie thinking only serves as a consequence hammer, essentially scaring families into, consciously or not, choosing the same old model, reinforcing it over and over and over.

6. This is a big one: The best time to change your business educational model is while you still have momentum.

     -Momentum feels good; it’s how we were successful. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is broke -always has been.

7. Remember the Bob Dylan rule: it’s not just a record monolith, it’s a movement.

     -One size (set of courses, times of day, methods of delivery) doesn’t fit all. Our kids are all different, will lead different lives, and need more than the canned canon.

8. Don’t panic when the new business model isn’t as ‘clean’ as the old one.

     -See 0 above.

9. Read the writing on the wall.

     -It’s been there long before a Nation at Risk, we did nothing about it then, so we have NCLB now. It’s our own fault; we should have developed our own systems of excellence and accountability. How much longer before the changes we should be implementing are legislated for us?

10. Don’t abandon the Long Tail

     -Seth says it well “Do a great job, not a perfect one. Bring things to market, the right market, and let them find their audience. Stick to the knitting has never been more wrong. Instead, find products your customers learners want (and need).”

11. Understand the power of digital

     -It’s not going away. Educators often lament their unappreciated status in society, but are the last ones to catch up with its trends. It’s almost insulting to the society to which we belong to keep rejecting its innovations. It’s definitely a disservice to the kids we release into society.

12. Celebrity is underrated

     -But we keep raising new ones up anyway. Instead of being thoughtful and purposeful and having the guts to work through the always-uncomfortable process of change, we look for the next program or method or product or, or, or. No two schools even in the same district are alike; no two kids in each school are alike. Why do we (still) make it to be that way?

13. Whenever possible, sell subscriptions

     -Those of us in public schools in public schools have to make it free (or nearly so), but we don’t have to live by the get-what-you-pay-for mentality. The power of subscriptions is in giving people what they want (and need). All good education has a solid foundation in certain essentials; let’s make the essentials great and then add some value by developing what they want (and will need).

Under #7 Seth says “…this is about taking initiative and making things happen.” Are we doing this as an industry? Is it happening fast enough for our kids?

January 10, 2008 Posted by | Education, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment