Some random reflections and thoughts from Building Learning Communities Day 1:
–In a lot of ways, I can’t believe this is my fourth BLC conference, and if nothing else, the one thing that really stands out is that there is very extensive intellectual (if not practical) understanding of the Read/Write Web as compared to my first year here when a lot of people looked at me funny as I talked about blogs and RSS and the like. Yesterday at a session that Tim Tyson was running about leadership, just about everyone said they wanted to learn more about Web 2.0 stuff, and in a weird way, it was a moment of some validation. Another signal that the train has left the station. But still, the fact that I am still doing a lot of talking on an introductory level speaks volumes, especially about RSS.
–Although the conference has doubled in size this year, from 300 to over 600, it so far has retained its feeling of intimacy. And I just never go to conferences where there are so many people from outside the US. One really funny moment today was sitting down for lunch with a contingent from Northern Ireland and asking them what they thought of the workshops and presentations. They all said they hadn’t learned a thing, and they were serious. It seems they’ve been talking about this stuff for a long time over there. After a little prodding, they admitted their thinking was getting tweaked, but it was fascinating to listen to them talk about the ways in which they were already rethinking their schools.
–There is one technology director here who brought two kids from his school to attend the conference. What a concept. Can you imagine a conference where really high level ideas about schools and education were being discussed where there were just as many students in the rooms and in the discussions as adults? Whoa.
–For some reason, I decided to get pretty edgy in my “New Literacies” presentation and I basically started by saying the whole concept of having people get up and give a presentation at conferences like this is really becoming ironic amidst all of this talk about conversation and collaboration. And so it was nice in that about 15 minutes of the hour (at least) was taken up with discussion. While Tim’s keynote this morning made plain the power of publishing, I wanted to push past the feeling that the product was the end of the process, and I tried to move the concept of what we can do now into the realm of building sustained, trusted, relevant, safe learning communities and networks in which the products nurture the conversation and the learning. That creating and sharing a movie or a podcast or blog post is important, but it is the connections we make around those artifacts, the discussions and interactions that surround them from the community where the most powerful learning takes place. It’s where the “meta” stuff happens, where the true potential lies.
—Ewan McIntosh is a rock star. Plain and simple. “The Italian mafia makes you an offer you can’t refuse. The Scottish mafia makes you an offer you can’t understand.” Priceless. David Jakes and Dean Shareski came back from Ewan’s second session awestruck, and I was truly sorry I was presenting opposite. (That is one of the personal frustrations of this conference…so much I want to learn and see.) Waiting for Jakes to post the “Chat Cast.”
–For reasons yet unclear, I am falling more in like with Twitter. Oy. Jakes put up a reflection on his blog that really resonated.
With Twitter and Skype, I have access to immediacy. My aggregator and my del.icio.us network (18 people I follow, 80 who follow me) are more asynchronous, and not as immediate. I need both types of networks.
–I found this quote this morning via Stephen Downes and used it in my presentation.
“We have been seduced by our inability to imagine ourselves as superfluous to student learning.”
Now I’m serious…that wins the “Best Sentence in a Blog Post of 2007” award (so far at least.) Amen. Amen
–Warning: We’re all heading downtown tonight…Tweets ahead.
(Photo “chatcast” by jutecht.)
I wouldn’t say that we’re superfluous, but, if we do our job right, we’ll guide our students to a point where they won’t need us to continue on their journeys.
Will, I couldn’t agree more with you about the idea that publishing/showcasing our studentsÂ´work is merely the first step in truly taking advantage of Web 2.0 on the classroom. One thing, however, with which I have had trouble in my classroom is getting much beyond the point at which my class blogs/wikis are fancy bulletin boards. We get tons of participation and interaction among the students, but the outside readership that the writing of fledgling learners of Spanish attracts is (believe it or not ) extremely limited. Do you have any suggestions for how I could make my class blogs more likely to attract comments from people other than my students?
Meredith Broderick says
Will I attended the workshop today. I loved the quote about teachers being superflous to the learning process. My best teachers have all been self directed learners, that inspired me not by stuffing things down my throat, (create a wiki, blog, produce content,ect.) but by making transparent their own passion for learning.Giving me a peek at the fire in their belly,
I know it when I see it as a learner, and i know it when I do it as teacher. At that point teachers are not really irrelevant, they are relevant, but only in that they have made a connectiion, and are a small part of the learning processs.
Kern Kelley says
Will thanks for the mention. I brought the students today and have no doubts about the value of the educational experience they are getting and that they’ll make meaning contributions to the discussions going on here.
Speaking of superfluous: My 4 year old asked me today why he should learn to read in kindergarten and my dad and I were talking about the ways in which reading would be useful throughout his life. My dad said, “if you know how to read, you can pretty much learn anything you want.” And my son said, “then why would I need to go school?”
Terry Elliott says
I think that the word ‘teacher’ like the word ‘school’ are increasingly difficult to use. Perhaps they are simultaneously to generic and too emotionally specific. I mean that we all have a specific idea of what a teacher is because most of us have been taught or worse ‘schooled’. It is too general in that teaching has many faces many of which are not commonly recognized as such. The quote muddies the waters so I think I need to go read it in context. In my brightest moments teaching is my calling and a necessity. There is noone on earth who can convince me at that moment that I am superfluous. On the other hand if our ultimate goal in teaching is to ‘transform’ others then we had best superfluize ourselves.
The natural model is parenting. I think any good parent gets satisfaction from holding his or her child’s hand and helping them, but the larger effect of this help should be to become superfluous… but only after a long apprenticeship and a promise to help when needed. Of course in the end we hope they will help us, too.
Rob Nelson says
Jason, maybe an idea might be to ask parents to respond to someone other than their own child? I know if I saw something that was written really well by a another student I’d mention it to someone else and so on….
Linda Schueler says
I enjoyed reading your post. I am a graduate student in the School of Educ. at the University of Michigan.One of my many classes is a technology class where we are learning how to use technology in the classroom.I agree with your assertion that while all this technology is wonderful and useful,the connections and discussions that they produce between people are what’s really exciting.
John White says
1)Great sessions–thanks for the passion
2) I met some of Marco Torres’ students here at BLC, and when I asked them what they thought, they were stunned that adults would pay for a conference like this,when all we had to do was ask their students…and the children will lead us
Jason–you might consider a collaboration with another classroom; for instance–our 4th-6th graders are going to read Treasure Island. I’ve created a blog where I’ll post questions for reflection. http://robertlewisstevenson.blogspot.com You could chose a book, read it as a class and ask another class in the school, in the country, or in a different country to join the discussion. Even though contrived, at least the kiddos would be discussing with people that were not sitting next to them.
Mrs. Durff says
You say: “For some reason, I decided to get pretty edgy in my â€œNew Literaciesâ€ presentation and I basically started by saying the whole concept of having people get up and give a presentation at conferences like this is really becoming ironic amidst all of this talk about conversation and collaboration”
Good for you! I have been pondering this for so long and am so glad someone thinks this too!
Mrs. Durff says
We ARE totally superfluous to student learning and our inability to recognize that is just plain sad.
Ewan McIntosh says
I think you’re missing the point, Mrs Durff. Teachers are the most important element in the learning of children. It’s a myth to think that just giving kids the room to do what they want and removing the teacher will lead to something better. It’s a give-take relationship and, if you ask these now famous filmmaking students of Marco Torres what makes it, they’d probably say Marco, even though he would say he empowers the kids to do as much on their own as they can, from tech support to directing films.
The teacher is NOT superfluous if the teacher is empowered and empowering. Without those, even when physically present, is almost certainly superfluous. Thankfully, I think that’s the minority.
Mrs. Durff says
I do think we superfluous as teachers. If we are attempting to teach as the sage on the stage-forget it. We can facilitate the learning of another, with scaffolded support. But the desire for learning must originate from within. It must be intrinsic. Therefore, our presence is just extravagant baggage. What do children spend hours learning outside of school when we are not there? They learn what is intrinsically motivating to them. We could be there and it wouldn’t matter to their learning at all. Superfluous. In this country that appears to be the majority.
The real question is if we recognise that we are superfluous, then what should our role be?
Parents are the most important element in the learning of children, not teachers.
I am not supporting chaos, good Lord, there’s enough of that in my life to go around several times.
Paul Harrington says
I have to agree with Ewan on the point of ‘the value of the teacher’ in new literacies. It is our role to act as instigator, instructor and nagger ( when deadlines slip). In other far too overused words we help to fascilitate the learning process- an example from a project from my Year 6 pupils this year – they had read as part of their Literacy a novel called Rose Blanche, set in WWII Germany. Half a term after reading it one girl decided she wanted to film her own version of the story – my role :
* Discuss her storyboard and check shooting days ( I had to be around merely to supervise them)
* Briefly give camera operators tips on shooting.
* Show pupils how to use iMovie to edit their film
* Show them how to add a sound effect
The how and what was then up to them – this group taught me things I didn’t previously know about film editing – the result an excellent film which is 99.9% their own work – however they needed someone just to ensure they were on track ( my role ) not redundant yet 🙂
Jason Hando says
I’ll throw my opinion behind Ewan as well on this one.
In the understandable excitement of having independent and empowered students we must be careful not to disregard the very important research that says the most important aspect of effective education is the teacher. For example, take a read of one paper that was presented to our school staff by the author, Dr Ken Rowe, and you will understand that the anecdotal experiences of Marco Torres and Paul Harrington tell a very accurate story.
The trick is to model to other teachers the type of influence they should be – as Stephen Downes summises, the job of a teacher is to model and demonstrate, while the job of a student is to practise and reflect. A teacher’s role can be very empowering rather than domineering.
We can all agree that the writing is on the wall for teacher roles to be redefined but I can’t see there ever being a time when teacher’s are completely redundant. Redefined but not redundant.
Mrs. Durff says
That research was done on web1.0 classrooms and teachers and it was very true-for web1.0.
Now we are in web2.0. The research no longer applies.
Our seduction, as Stephen Downes says, is very real-in web2.0. We consider ourselves important to studernt learning. We are important for crowd control, for a taxpaid childcare service here in the States. Maybe the redefinition needs to change the nomenclature as well.
What better titles? I am starting to think of myself as a classroom leader, rather than a teacher. What do you all think?
Interesting conversation. What I see are teachers who are not intrinsically motivated and a system that can offer little to those who are. Those referred to as “obsolete” are exactly that and they are not here reading, thinking, learning, reflecting … nor do they have any desire to be here in this place.
Sad. Yes, a teacher’s role can be very empowering but they have to choose it first.
Stephen Downes statement, quoted in this post, has deep meaning… and in my opinion holds true for the many teachers who have fallen out of love and knowing for the true meaning of learning. It’s not about teaching…..it’s about knowing.
I know you posted this over a week ago, but today’s eSchool News online contains an article that addresses the issue of educational relevance
In a Washington, D.C. meeting, convened by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE), a recent high school graduate stressed classroom innovation. â€œWhen we talk about needing technology in the classroom, weâ€™re not just talking about using a laptop to type a book report,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re talking about using outside-of-the-box thinking to foster learning.â€ Belle gave the example of a student learning math so he could develop a video game. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of geometry and physics involved in creating a video game,â€ she said. â€œIf you want to design your own game, you have to know the basics.â€
Let’s hope our legislators were listening.