I’ve got a mental stack of blog posts piling up on a bunch of seemingly random though thinly connected topics on NECC, the environment, note taking with Evernote, my kids’ schooling, the death of RSS and other stuff which I’ll hopefully get to at some point here, but this morning I read a couple of things that seem more interesting, to me at least.
Dean’s reflection post on NECC drew a whole bunch of great comments, but the one that made me really think hard was by Ira Socol who wrote:
So, it is not a question of whether these technologies add value somehow to education, but the reverse, can education add value to the communications and information technologies of our present day world, and its future?
That’s one of those really concise shift statements that makes me bend my own frame a bit. I think too often I fall into looking at these tools and wonder what they can add to our classrooms and our teaching when the real question is how can our classrooms and teaching add capacity to the tools. As he points out, we reframed education with the advent of the book; we need to reframe it once again with the advent of a networked, inter-connected medium that creates incredible new affordances for learning. He writes:
It is the job of education to alter itself to prove itself of value to the world which now exists.
Amen. Arguably, there is a great deal about the current system which has lost its value as compared to what is possible for those who are passionate learners with a connection. (More about that connection piece in a bit.) I mean grouping by geography and age are becoming less and less relevant, and while I’m not suggesting there isn’t a body of core knowledge all students should learn, the emphasis on what we know rather than how we learn it is becoming more and more frustrating to those who are already networked learners. As Ira Tweeted later:
Educators often think that school is the point, when it needs to be the path.
Part of being that path, however, is providing the access to our students that’s necessary for them to participate. Along those lines, I came across an interesting post from Renee Blodgett (via a Tweet from Howard Rheingold) who is writing about “Redefining Digital Inclusion.” The seminal question was “do those that enjoy the benefits of technology have a moral right over those who do not?” As Renee suggests, this isn’t a new thread, but the shift here is that the attitude of parents and teachers around this are just as important as the financial and logistical issues. Inclusion can no longer just be seen as having a device and a connection.
We need to redefine Digital Inclusion. The definition of digital inclusion today is basic access. It doesn’t include basic skills such as understanding some of the technology and social media schools to network and make friends not just locally for globally. It increases their job and life opportunities significantly. It’s time to move that definition beyond simple access. We need a new definition that policy makers, technology creators, parents, and educators can rally around. There will be a revolution when more and more students get their hands on some of these devices and start using them in the classroom.
While this is not a post on where the lever is, I’ve been arguing for a while now that not much of this is going to change until the stakeholders, in this case parents, take it upon themselves to demand something new. Something more relevant. But the only way that parents are going to DEMAND access is if they see that not simply as a way for kids to get a computer but to see connections online as a way to a better future, a way to help thier kids become more educated, better learners than by books and paper alone. Unfortunately, we’re losing the media war on this one right now. Feeling like a broken record, but we need to do a better job of making this case beyond our own still small, nascent network.
When a student asks me why they have to learn something in school that they won’t use in the “real world” I tell them school is their real world. In retrospect that is a pretty lousy answer to an excellent question….
Sam Walker says
Being connected is a real focus of my work as an educator. I know it has transformed the way I think about education and the ways I teach, and I hope what I accomplish is students seeing and embracing the benefits.
If we are truly losing the media war on seeing connections online as a way to a better future, a way to become more educated and better learners then I don’t think we’ve done our jobs. Sometimes you have to take the horses to the water and see which ones are thirsty. We’ve go to show parents the impact of connected learning and the best ways I can think to do that are by allowing our students, their children to create products that reflect and connect, and then celebrate their accomplishments. The reflection and celebratory pieces cannot be undersold. They’re very important as education continues to “bend.”
I think you’re missing a huge assumption is your analysis here.
We always need to remember the most imporant gap in education, the one between what schools ought to be doing/accomplising and what they are focusing on doing/accomplishing.
Skipping more a moment differences we might have about what those are, we could probably find near universal agreement that there is a large gap there.
So, when one argue that schools need to adopt to the world or changes in the world, which side of the gap are we talking about?
There are lots of reasons why school focus on what they do, some good and some bad. But if we acknowledge that there is a gap, we can avoid some of the distracting and misleading changes, reforms or fads.
I would argue — and have in multiple forums — that what schools SHOULD be focusing on has not changed, and is not likely to change. What schools actually do focus is usually at best a bad approximation of that, usually far too distorted by the short sighted needs of the momemnt (e.g. teach kids BASIC, or HTML, or some other topic that might be useful at the moment but will be archaic by the time the kids finish their schooling).
If we keep our eyes on the ideal goals, then even antiquated means can still deliver value. But if we lose sight of the ideal goals and instead are driven by the means of the moment, we do not deliver lessons worth learning for a lifetime. Given a choice, I’d rather teach them about different forms of visual display of data (e.g. why, strengths and weaknesses, etc.) than how to do them in Excel 2007. Given a choice, I’d rather teach them about the revision process with a quill and inkwell than how to change the kind of underlining they are using in Word. And the reason is that the kids would be better off in the long run.
So, let’s not confuse means and ends. Let’s not confuse the schools we wish for and schools we have. And let’s keep focused on the long term for our students.
We are preparing them for their lives of decades, not for a job next quarter. Some lessons are far more lasting and eternal than others. That is where our focus should be.
Will Richardson says
We don’t disagree that “What schools actually do focus is usually at best a bad approximation of” what they should be doing in terms of preparing kids. But I do disagree that teaching kids to revise using a quill and inkwell serves them as well as teaching them revision digitally at this point. (And I’m not talking about underlining in Word.) There are lots of important things that we can teach kids that technology makes better, providing we as teachers know how to use it in better ways ourselves. And, more importantly, there are lots of new things that we can teach them using technology that prepare them “for the lives of decades.”
Schools need to change to take advantage of the affordances of whatever technologies develop at the moment. Social online media as we know it today offers a scale and speed to learning that is profoundly different from what was. We can’t simply be looking at ways to use new tools to teach the same old stuff. We need to be looking at ways that we can maximize what the tools make possible, and at this moment, I think that means not just reforming but transforming (Ken Robinson) what we do. That doesn’t mean we lost those timeless lessons about what it means to be a human, a citizen of the world, a contributor, etc. But it does mean that we revisit the contexts that we currently use to frame those lessons for our kids.
1) Oh, come on, Will! That’s not an honest or fair response. At what point did I suggest that teaching students “revision digitally” is inferior or equal to teaching with a quill and inkwell? You so distort what I write that you ignore the point I am actually making. If you want to ignore, do so in a straight forward manner. But don’t impute to me such garbage. I am not your straw man.
2) “Social online media as we know it today offers a scale and speed to learning that is profoundly different from what was.” Really? Learning what? What are you comparing to what? Heck, I am not even clear what you mean by “learning” in this context. Can you expand on this?
3) “We need to be looking at ways that we can maximize what the tools make possible” I think not. We need to be looking at ways to maximize what the important lessons make possible. If the tools do not serve the lasting lessons, it doesn’t matter what they make possible. I get the impression that your folly is a love for the tools that pushes you to reshape the lessons to their capabilities, rather than using the lasting lessons to help you to to figure out which tools would be most useful.
4) In the same paragraph, you criticize “the same old stuff” and laud “those timeless lessons about what it means to be a citizen of the world, a contributor, etc.” Which is it? What happens to my frame — that you open your reply by claiming agreement with — attempting to distinguish between we too often *do* focus on and what we *ought* to focus on?
5) Obviously we need to teach the valuable lessons in contexts and manners that make them accessible to to the students we have in front of us. But that’s not just a comment on technology. That’s a comment on culture, the economy, society and all the rest, too.
The big question here is whether the technology should drive the curriculum and the lessons, or whether the curriculum and lessons should act as a filter or lens for the selection of the technology. You, it strikes me, think that technology changes which lessons are worth teaching. I think that that view is just another way to distract from the lessons worth learning for a lifetime.
Will Richardson says
1. Ok. My bad. I misread that sentence as saying that using technology to teach revision was all about formatting and misspellings. (The comparison is a bit unclear.) I take it back.
2. Learning in the context of getting answers to questions, making sense of events, etc. My point is we need to teach students to deal with that shift by modeling it in the classroom and making sense of it for them. For instance, we need to use the technologies AND hammer home the importance of reflection and synthesis and deep thinking, something we currently continue to attempt to do primarily in the context of linear, isolated, print media. The discussions, as evidence here, are much more nuanced and complex, as well as potentially richer, more cross cultural, etc.
3. Why not? Why shouldn’t we be looking at ways to extend the uses of technologies in ways that they perhaps weren’t created for? Hasn’t that happened throughout history? Online social media wasn’t created for education, was it? And I don’t think that technology and important lessons are mutually exclusive which, while you might not be saying it outright, you seem to imply. The lessons are the lessons; I don’t think the fundamental learnings get reshaped by the technology. But they get communicated and contextualized differently for different generations.
4. I think there is a lot of useless crap my kids are being forced to learn because they have to regurgitate it back on some state test that certifies my school as being “adequate.” Taking THAT same old stuff and teaching it with technology doesn’t change the crapiness of it. Not sure how you’re getting the sense that I equate that crap with the larger lessons.
I don’t think technology teaches which lessons are worth teaching, but I do think technology has an impact on how we go about teaching them.
And having said all of that, I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinions here, with passion, despite the fact that I still have no idea who you are…
2a) “That shift”? What shift are you speaking of?
2b) “we need to use the technologies AND hammer home the importance of reflection and synthesis and deep thinking” No. We only need to do the former “…INSOFAR AS THEY THEY HELP…” The technology does *not* have equal status to the lasting lessing. Or rather, it should not.
2c) “something we currently continue to attempt to do primarily in the context of linear, isolated, print media.” Do you mean to imply that all print media is linear and isolated? Who taught you to read and do research? Footnotes, endnotes, posterniks (or whatever they’re called) are all breaks from linearity. Haven’t you ever turned back to earlier pages, to read them again in light of what came later? Texts are products of a time, place and culture, often written explicitly in response to other texts, though usually only implicitly. Ever read a Letters to the Editors page? Most scholarship is written quite explicitly in the context of prior works, and most of art pays homage (intentionally or unintentionally) to the forms and works that came before it.
(For example, my wife and I just watched a movie that I thought was full of 2001 references, but she saw as TNG references — a show I never watched. Nothing isolated there.)
Heck, I doubt you could easily find an “isolated” piece of print media without monumental effort. I certainly don’t think that I could.
Sure, too many teachers present print media as though it is linear and isolated. But that’s not a problem with this text. That actually poor teaching of some of the bigger lessons about how to read/understand any text, whether it comes in atoms or comes in bits.
2d) “The discussions, as evidence here, are much more nuanced and complex, as well as potentially richer, more cross cultural, etc.” Much more all these thing *than* what or *for* what? What are you comparing here? Are you saying that a transcript of the Frost/Nixon interviews would not be complex? Are you saying that the writings of St. Francis or Satre lacked nuance? What about the centuries of epistolary tradition? Did that lack nuance, complexity and richness? Oh, please!
3) Again, I am not your straw man. When when I suggest that we should limit the use of technology to what it was originally intended for? All that I am saying on this point is that the not everything that a tool CAN do is appropriate for the lasting lessons. I *could* spend time teaching students about the different kinds of underlining that Word supports, and the ability to set various text colors, extending students ability to make their own texts look the way the want it to. Just because the tool makes such lessons possible doesn’t make it worth their time. The goal should *not* be to teach everything that the technology makes possible. The goal should be to teach the lasting lessons the best we can though best use of pedagogy, technology and all the rest.
4) The NCLB-mandated tests are hardly the “old crap.” If that is what you meant by the term, then we agree on this point. But I would expand upon your latest aspect of it. Students have to do a lot of things simply so we can monitor them better, rather than because it directly helps them.
As for who I am? I am a caring, thoughtful educator who has spent decades thinking about the place of high technology in schools, among the other education questions I ponder. Do you really need to know more?
I have been enjoying your ping/pong game, but as a classroom teacher that uses “technology” in my classroom I must say that the only time my students use technology is when it is the appropriate tool for the job. I believe this passes the “real world” test. Accountants don’t learn accounting software to know the software, they learn it to do the job. We should approach students learning the same way.
I think that Will and I might each primarily challenge you in two different way. (That is not to say that there wouldn’t be overlap or further challenges, but these would be the big ones — at least the ones that follow from this thread.)
Will: Are you sure you are really maximizing the technology? If you really think about it, there are all kinds of ways that that lesson can be taught with technology that will help kids to better understand/appreciate/make use of their new interconnected, multi-everything, interactive digital world. The “appropriate” tool might really be the “conventional/traditional” tool, or its mere hi-tech equivalent. Make sure your students are not missing out on how the new technology can transform the lesson into something really fabulous.
Ceolaf: Are you sure those are the right lessons? Or are the simply the traditional/conventional lessons? What would happen if these kids forgot this lesson in two months or in two years? Are today’s lessons really furthering one of the lasting lessons? If so, does your use of technology further the lasting lesson, or merely add entertainment value and “timeliness”?
Accountants know the job at hand. The job at hand is not subject to question or debate. But the lessons are. I fear that Will would lose sight of the real importance of the lasting lessons for the possibilities of today’s technology. (I think that Will might fear that I am not giving enough credit to what a different world out students live in, and therefore must learn to operate in.)
Am I fairly representing your views, Will?
Sorry ceolaf,but I think you are under supposition that I write the curriculum I teach, I don’t. I try to teach what my state expects using my best judgment toward the tools I choose. To me this is not about forwarding an educational theory, this is about doing my best in the classroom for the sake of my students.
When you say the job at hand is not subject to question or debate, I reply that our students’ subjects are and will continue to be the subject of debate. Until we get a clear view of the role of education in the US we will continue to argue about our beliefs while our students suffer.
1) I’m not sure where the disagreement is. Depending on the level and/or content area you teach, you can actually have quite a bit of leeway as to what you are really trying to teach.
2) I said that the for accountants the job at hand is not subject to question or debate. I explicitly said that the lessons *are* subject to debate. I was casting doubt on the appropriateness of your analogy to accountants. It seems that you might agree with me on this point.
3) Are you saying that that arguments themselves are bad for students? If so, I’ve got to say that I disagree. The arguments are a necessary part of the engine for continuous improvement. The arguments are part of how we uncover the role of education and how we improve our goals and means, none of which can be done with finality.
Dean Shareski says
2 quick points.
Regarding “nuances” you cite many classic examples of rich and complex texts but fail to acknowledge that Will’s use of the term “nunace” related to the social component and level of discussion afforded by today’s technologies. Are you saying that there isn’t something valuable about socially negotiated understanding? Without technology, it’s not likely you’d be able to “negotiate” and engage in this very discussion. This is a richness and important lesson for our students to learn and understand. While you might be able to replicate this to a small degree in a classroom without technology, it would be void of the possibility of engaging large numbers of students or even students/people with varying opinions and insights beyond the walls of the school.
The second point which partially relates to the first is, yes I do need to know more about you or at least would like to. While you are able to articulate to some degree an argument, knowing more about your perspectives, background and biases provide a level of credibility that an anonymous commmenter does not. You certainly have the right to keep your identity private but again, the very fact you choose to remain private changes how your ideas are viewed. You might not think so but it does. Knowing the author of any work helps inform the reader.
Actually, I *do* acknowledge that these idea apply to discussions. Frost/Nixon was a discussion held in person. Letters to the editor are discussions. But I can focus more closely on discussions — perhaps Will’s worst point.
There is nothing in modern electronic communications that especially encourages nuance. In fact, there is a virtually infinite amount of evidence that online communication lacks nuance, richness and complexity. Look at comments on most articles or on blogs. Heck, look at most blogs themselves. Nuance and complexity is not the norm, and the more interactive the outlet the less likely one is to find complexity, maturity and nuance.
This is not to say that nuance and complexity are impossible online. Rather, it is to say that the fact that they are online does nothing to encourage nuance, complexity and richness. Instead, it is the subject matter and the audience/potential members of the discussion.
In fact, I have engaged in these sorts of discussion in person, and it was one such discussion that pointed me to this blog. That discussion was no less complex and nuanced than this one, because of the people taking part in that discussion.
What the internet does is allow the potential to open up the discussion to a wider audience. It bridges distance, speeding up response time from distant participants — mostly lag time. Is wider participation or inclusion of more distant participants like to cause more nuance and complexity? Well, only if you lack sufficient local participants who are capable of such thing, and only if you are able to limit participation to those interested in nuance and complexity.
Seeing as a major purpose of schooling is to support students’ development of nuanced and complex thinking and communication, a potential shortage of local voice is not really a good reason for us to put them online. Rather, it is a simple recognition of the nature of schooling and the work of educators. However, you seen to suggest that one cannot have nuanced, rich and complex discussions in a classroom or faculty workroom. I could not disagree with you more.
As for using a pseudonym, I understand that it is a complex thing. It actually is quite traditional online — going way back before AOL and continuing with Twitter and other new forum –and this particular pseudonym goes back decades. I have an established identity online, one that is likely known to at least as many people as know me in person.
You write that knowing more about my perspectives, background and biases. How does my pseudonym keep you from investigating such things? So long as I post under it consistently — which I do — it’s all there. The fact that you think that my pseudonym is some kind of bar to doing research on my view only demonstrates that you have not even tried. I mean, it’s like saying the you can’t find the complete works of George Eliot because it’s a nom de plume. But her consistent use of it rather cancels out such a concern.
Heck, we don’t have to limit ourselves to literature. The Federalist Papers were published anonymously. Did that hurt the quality of the ideas expressed therein? Or did it force the reader to respond to the ideas on their own merits?
Knowing the name author of any work can inform the reader, if the reader is willing to do research about the author. But it can also bias the reader and blind him/her to the ideas in front of him, as opposed the wider work of or associations with the authors. In this particular case, I have more then sufficient writing out there under this name to face that danger.
I think you actually have a different concern, however. I think that you want to know if you actually know me. I don’t think that I’ve ever met you, Will or anyone else who has commented on any thread in which I have commented. However, if you knew me, you’d recognize this writing as being mine. Are you wondering if I have my own blog? I do not.
But I have been writing and posting online using this name since the 1980s — usually using this pseudonym. You are more likely to be able to find my ideas and reactions online using this pseudonym than using my real name.
If the fact that I am using a pseudonym rather than my real name changes how your respond to my ideas, I think you have a problem, one that I can do rather little for. I write clearly enough and at more than sufficient length that you don’t have to know my personal biography to understand what I am getting at. The real irony, of course, in the history of the Internet that use of a consistent pseudonym has been the dominant mode, and you — who presumably are a far bigger fan of building classrooms and lessons around use of the internet — are calling me out for it. I would suggest that if you take issue with it that you might not want your students participate in online discussions, where they are so so likely to encounter it.
I didn’t mean to imply that arguments are in any way “bad”. As I have stated many times before, I love a good argument. My point simply is I see no practical educational value for my class in pedantic arguments on how to teach “valuable lessons” without first defining these lessons… Tell me what you think is important to teach, then we can discuss how to teach them.
BTW is it too late to use a pseudonym? I am fond of Mrs. Silence Dogood. I don’t think the originator is in any position to argue my use of the name.
I am with you on the priorities. That is one of major points I am trying to make here.
As for what _I_ think is important to teach? Well, that a huge question, and one not well suited for this particular format. I think that Diane Ravitch and Steve Koss taken together have given us an interesting list this week.
That’s one angle on it. Obviously, the question can be answered in quite different ways, as well. I would take their general approach, but a few things fundamental lessons about communication — verbal and non-verbal, literal and non-literal.
Clay Burell says
Well I’m glad Dean finally said it.
I’ve read the entire coelaf thread and annotated with Diigo as I went. I’ll copy and paste that digital marginalia here so as to make it less *cough cough* isolated than it would be on a library or home bookshelf – or on Diigo, which is not the right tech tool for this *cough cough* nuanced, complex discussion of Will’s primary text.
By copying and pasting my atomistic thoughts so, I’ll be able to see if and how they’re played upon by others here, and possibly learn from that. Here they go – and they’re not, by the way, all “pro-Will” and “anti-coelaf” (or pro/anti-technology).
1. I see the “same old stuff” and “those timeless [i.e., “old,” presumably] lessons” as far from identical.
The “same old stuff” contains much traditional curriculum that is long overdue a review and overhaul. Much could probably be tossed — in fact, all but a few “timeless lessons.”
2. Everybody seems to be talking about what the relation of old KNOWLEDGE to new TOOLS. I hope this conversation shifts to what NEW KNOWLEDGE students need for the future.
And I hope, if it does, it doesn’t fetishize techonology and 21st century skills TOO much.
I hope somebody modestly proposes the possibility, at least, that there is such a thing as an exaggerated faith in the value of KNOWING EVERYTHING, which tech and the infinite web might exacerbate. Maybe one type of NEW KNOWLEDGE worth considering is how to live more simply and self-sufficiently (okay, that’s a skill, I guess), rather than — or in counterbalance to — the overheated hyperreality that the web can encourage.
I expect “what we *should* focus on” and “valuable lessons” to be specified or at least clarified by the end of this thread.
coelaf, when you write,
“Do you mean to imply that all print media is linear and isolated? Who taught you to read and do research? Footnotes, endnotes, posterniks (or whatever theyâ€™re called) are all breaks from linearity. Havenâ€™t you ever turned back to earlier pages, to read them again in light of what came later?”
–you protest too much. Footnotes are to hyperlinks what butter-knives are to chain-saws.
You can’t talk back to footnotes, either. If you do, hardly anybody else will see them in the libary book you “vandalized” or the private book on your shelf.
It’s hard, too, to refute the relative “isolation” of print compared to digital. Three letters to the editor in the Sunday Paper v. Thee HUNDRED comments on a HuffPo article. (And yes, much of them are crap. And that “them” is intentionally ambiguous.)
Print media is also quickly dying, or at least being inexorably eclipsed by hypertext, so this point is really moot, railing against the very obvious tide of history.
coelaf: “‘The discussions, as evidence here, are much more nuanced and complex, as well as potentially richer, more cross cultural, etc.” Much more all these thing *than* what or *for* what?”
My response: ou seem to have misunderstood the key word: “DISCUSSIONS.” Will’s not talking about TEXTS, he’s talking about _discussions of_ them being more “nuanced and complex” when socially carried out online – as in this thread.
I’ll take it back if you show me a letters to the editors section in any newspaper, or a feedback section to any footnotes in a book, that are as open, transparent, elaborate, accessible, and lively as this here post and thread.
And you’re hearing this from an English/history teacher and bibliophile. Shelly Blake-Plock addresses this beautifully in Books Were Nice. You really would enjoy it, coelaf and everybody. Great writer and impressive mind in that Shelly.
ceolaf writes: “Just because the tool makes such lessons possible doesnâ€™t make it worth their time. The goal should *not* be to teach everything that the technology makes possible. The goal should be to teach the lasting lessons the best we can though best use of pedagogy, technology and all the rest.”
My response: This is your own straw man. Nobody made the claim, afaik.
coelaf continues: “The goal should be to teach the lasting lessons the best we can….”
Me: Define these “lasting lessons”? Please? Anybody?
Or at least estimate: How much of standard curriculum could be tossed as of “no lasting value”? What percentage? 10? 40? 80?
Then ask, “How can technology AND school re-design – not just physical, but also organizational – accelerate the learning of the percentage not tossed into the scrap-heap?
Then ask – back to my first plea – “What NEW knowledge and skills can be learned with the surplus learning time newly freed up by the combination of technology and curricular Spring Cleaning?” (Centennial Cleaning, really, is what’s needed.)
Call me crazy, but I think there are a few skills and knowledge-bases unique to the 21st century, and that need considerably more attention in schools.
Climate change is one. How to study it, how to evaluate other studies of it, how to adapt to it in daily life, how to innovate against it, how to collaborate to avoid the inevitable conflicts it will cause (and is already causing).
It’s here, and it’s not going to get better any century soon. In light of that fact (to all but the ostriches), how important is the epistolary tradition to kids with that in their future?
1. What old learning should die, and more importantly, what new learning – beyond technological savvy and social media buzzwords – should replace it?
I’ll throw one out there, in light of the climate change point above, and it’s real geeky:
gardening/farming/basic food cultivation.
2. Does anybody who actually uses technology in education (thoughtfully), as opposed to the corporate and think-tanky groups that launched the Partnership for 21st C. Skills, really think P21 gets it right? I don’t, and I doubt many others do.
You’ve put quite a lot out there, so I’m going to break up my response into parts.
I start on the straw man point you make, as it most sticks in my craw.
If you want to read me literally, I think you should read will literally as well.
* “I think too often I fall into looking at these tools and wonder what they can add to our classrooms and our teaching when the real question is how can our classrooms and teaching add capacity to the tools”
* “And, more importantly, there are lots of new things that we can teach them using technology”
* “Schools need to change to take advantage of the affordances of whatever technologies develop at the moment”
* “We canâ€™t simply be looking at ways to use new tools to teach the same old stuff. We need to be looking at ways that we can maximize what the tools make possible”
All of those — but most of especially the last one — point towards what you have labeled my straw man. Taken literally — as you take me — it is what Will has written that I am arguing with, not some imaginary straw man — unless Will is far more imaginary than I am.
More importantly though, you — an English teacher yourself — could recognize intentional hyperbole in response to exaggerated claims. My point on this — which Will elevates and builds on in his next post — is one of focus.
People argue about “the chicken and the egg,” but we actually know that the egg came first; many of these chicken and egg arguments actually have answers. While some might think that we need to think about the purpose/lasting lessons at the same time as how we might use technology to teach them, I very much believe that the former must come first. My concern about Will and others is a tendency to get caught up in the latter without giving proper (i.e. 75%+) attention to the former.
I would add here, because it especially germane to this point, that the there is definitive answer to why, there is no definitive list of lasting lessons. These is not technical questions with verifiably correct answers. Rather, they questions that we — educators, parents, community leaders, researchers, academics and the rest — need to continually revisit, even while we accept that different groups can come to different and equally valid answers.
I’ve been asked in this thread for my list, and I would rather decline to give it. It is more important to me to encourage educators to enter the discussion so that they can reexamine their curricula, pedagogy and daily lessons with these questions in mind. I want school communities to come to answers together so that they can provide with students educations worthy of the name. That cannot happen with more imposed goals and teachers closing their doors to ignore them when no one is looking.
This is one of those time when it is about the journey, rather than the destination. So long as educators — and the larger communities — are on this journey, we have a chance of seeing substantive improvement in our schools. We must think about what we are doing, and what lasting lessons we are — or are not — teaching. We must think about why. And with these ideas active in our minds, then we can start to talk about technology.
Butter knives and chainsaws? Which do you think is appropriate for the classroom?
(A glib response? Sure. But it allows me to segue to the point I want to make.)
You — and others — seem to think that I am against these technologies. You couldn’t be more wrong. I LOVE these technologies.
However, I am not so sure that all of them belong in the classroom, or should have a large place in the classroom. Let me explain…
In response to WM, I tried to explain where Will and I were coming from. This is a difficult thing to do, to *fairly* summarize your opponents’ view to someone else. Will did not correct me, and he quotes me doing it in his next post, so I think that I was successful. In fact, in trying to frame both of our arguments fairly and in equivalent terms, it looks like I got him thinking in some new ways that he found worth his while.
How did I learn to do that? How might we teach our students to do that? It involves listening to what you opponent says/writes, listening to yourself as your opponent might hear you, looking for assumptions and foundations of each of your positions and finding a common language with which to express both of them.
Now, is that something that is easier to teach with online discussion, or is it easier to teach with in-person and live discussions. “Wait a second, Ellen. Can you explain to Tom what Eric is saying?…Eric, is that right, or close?Now, Ellen, can you similarly briefly explain your point to Eric?…Eric, it’s your turn, can you explain Ellen’s point, and your point to Tom?….Ellen, does that seem like a fair representation of your point?”
Hell, that’s a great lesson for the playground sqaubble, for the History discussion, for English lesson. It’s even got its place in science and math class (e.g. preferred plan of attack on a problem).
You want to teach that lesson online? I’d rather do that in person with a group of kids than online, any day.
And that’s my big point. In order to teach kids to take advantage of this medium, we don’t have to use the medium. The old lessons (see Will’s next post) apply here as well. And if they are easier to teach in-person, let’s not get distracted by all the bells and whistles.
Clay Burell says
Fair enough. If you meant to hyperbolize Will’s “maximize technology” into “teach _everything that the technology makes possible_,” coelaf, that’s your call.
But literally they’re not the same thing, and hyperbolically it seems only to cloud the issue.
I respect the resistance to dictating the *shoulds*, which is why I always perk up when I read them being tossed around. Your response – that you use it to incite local reflection among stakeholders – is something I have no argument with.
Re: Linearity, Isolation and interactivity
I think you’ve got these ideas confused. Footnotes and the rest address linearity and potentially explicitly show how a piece is not isolated. You are talking about quite a different point, which is interactivity.
Talking to a footnote, you are right, is quite limited. If done literally, it doesn’t last and anyone who hears you might look at you funny. If done in writing, others might not see it, or might complain about defacing the book. (There’s real debate about writing in books. Some thing that it is part of reading, and some think that it is inappropriate.)
I think that hypertextual media is really great. I command-click on links all the f-in’ time. I have no problem with them. Their convenience does not mean, however, that they are the only way to do it. And I would much rather focus with students on the lessons of how to understand the non-hyperlinked connections — especially online when it is so easy to forget about the implied or assumed connections — than the obvious hyperlinked one. But you’re an English/History teacher, so you know how important those lessons are, right?
As for letters to the editor vs. comments on HuffPo? Well, you think that there are more comments than letters? You’re probably wrong. The advantage with the old-fashioned newspaper is that they culled out the “crap” (as you called it/them), and printed a good sample of the best or most enlightening ones. Sure, we have to trust them to do that for us, but in exchange for that trust we are more likely to see the good ones. I mean, are *you* reading all 300 in HuffPo? Of course not! And you claim that being able to read the good ones without having to wade through the “crap” is inferior? OK. Different strokes…
And then the death of print media. Greatly exaggerated. Lots of books. Lots of magazines, and news one all the time. Hyperlocal newspaper are doing ok. What we are seeing is actually a problem with news gathering and daily print distribution. The daily newspaper was supposed to be timely, and it no longer can compete on timeliness. Print was a great, because papers has the distribution network with which they could deliver news, ads, sports, weather, commentary, etc.. With a cheaper distribution medium in place, daily newspapers have been hit, yet again. Furthermore, the problem has not been they they don’t have an audience, but rather than the cost for providing their type of content is not supported by the new media. They’ve got readers, they just don’t have (enough) readers who pay (enough).
So, the death of print media? Greatly exaggerated. It’s the death of daily newspapers that has the media in a tizzy, not the death of print media.
And let’s be clear here: That’s not about print vs. hypertext. Print has explicit links, and much online lacks hypertext (e.g. the discussion on this page is virtually devoid of hypertext). Rather, it print vs. electronic.
I think you — and others — make assumptions about these “lasting lessons.” First, many people outside of education — and Bill Gates is a great example of this — believe that they are primarily deal with transmission of knowledge. I say “Poppycock!” The kids forget the atomic number of nitrogen, the difference between the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet, the meaning of CPCTC and so much more. We, as educators, are not focused on mere knowledge — at least I hope not.
Maybe we focus on skills, like thinking skills. Perhaps aptitudes (i.e. let’s make them smarter). I like Meier & Sizer’s “habits of mind.” They encompass more, and really are the building block to make a life out of.
>Call me crazy, but I think there are a few skills and knowledge-bases
>unique to the 21st century, and that need considerably more attention
>Climate change is one. How to study it, how to evaluate other studies of
>it, how to adapt to it in daily life, how to innovate against it, how to
>collaborate to avoid the inevitable conflicts it will cause (and is already
OK. You’re crazy. I mean REALLY crazy. Climate change has been going on for much longer than nine years. We teach students to understand it the same way that we taught students to understand deforestation 25 years ago, the same way we taught them to understand electricity 50 years ago. We teach them to collaborate, just as kindergarten teachers have been teaching it for over 100 years.
You think that the tools, skills, aptitudes and habits of mind that we need to teach our students to they can deal with climate change are different than what we were supposed to be teaching all along? Really? They are “unique to the 21st century”? Yeah, you’re crazy.
Do we need to do a better job of teaching science? Of course we do! But that’s not because we are in the 21st century. Rather, it is because we didn’t go a good enough job in the 20th century for the 20th century. The baby-boomers don’t understand evolution, nor do their children. They don’t understand climate change, nor do their children. We sucked as teaching science — the method, the rigor, the approach, the discipline of science — last century and look at where it got us! Now, we’ve got to clean up the old problems — not new problems — because we allowed them to fester.
If we were teaching history/social studies properly, adults would better understand how changes over here can impact people over there, often quite disproportionately. Maybe we wouldn’t have people with microphones saying that losing 5% of global GDP ain’t so bad — because they’d understand that that the hits are going to be spread evenly and certainly aren’t hit as hard the people nations who might be able to afford it. Interconnectedness of peoples, nations, trade, resources, all of that stuff? We’ve not taught it well in the past, when it was already what we were supposed to be teaching.
These are not new ideas. The tools that our schools might give students that they can address climate change are not new. Not even close to new.
Clay Burell says
We’re cross-posting here, but briefly:
1. I’m not sure anybody is posing teachers and tech, or f2f and virtual discussions, as mutually exclusive. We’re probably all thinking more along the lines of hybrid instead of either/or models.
So I ain’t about to argue against talking and facilitating discussions.
2. I read publishers’ blogs and websites, and the gist I’m getting is that book publishing is hedging its bets now to publish sure sellers – can you say (or gasp) “Sarah Palin autobiography”? – and reject most of the rest.
I won’t claim to be an expert on the magazine industry, tho’ I see lots of talk of titles folding.
Regardless, they’re declining and the other is rising. The main point.
3. Letters to the editor in most papers are so poor, I shudder to think of the hundreds of rejects. But there’s a value to publishing the 300 online, and “voting them up” so the quality rises. I _do_ read threads quite often when I know the readership is sharp.
And I’m a bit wary of letting media controllers “cull the crap” for me. Gatekeepers cull more than that. Think the NYTimes laying on the wire-tapping story until after the 2004 elections.
We could go on and on, but I’m moving this week. I’ll end by saying I respect and *agree* that tech fetishism can be misguided; but so can its opposite. You can build better stuff with better tools, but only if the thing you’re aiming to build is one of quality instead of crap.
Both tools and value fit in the equation.
Clay Burell says
Cross-posting again. Re: the climate change response, I’m actually applauding your rant against how bad science has been taught over the decades. We’re in agreement.
But my point about climate change is that it’s coming home to roost in this century, if we can somewhat believe the IPCC and Stockholm, etc, in ways that could very well make the last seem a Disney story. And that’s a future I won’t be alive to see.
Anyway, I’ve seriously got to stop. We’re probably hijacking this thread too much anyway.
Bill Kerr says
“As for what _I_ think is important to teach? Well, that a huge question, and one not well suited for this particular format. I think that Diane Ravitch and Steve Koss taken together have given us an interesting list this week”
This was said further down in the thread but I couldn’t reply there because of the nesting levels restriction so will reply here instead
Being clear about what is important to teach is fundamental to this whole discussion. In this respect I’m in agreement with ceolaf. The best expression I have seen of this comes from alan kay in what he describes as the non universals. I’ve attempted to summarise some of this here:
Bill Van Loo says
I am quite looking forward to reading your post about using Evernote. I’ve been using it for about 7 months now and quite like it, especially given its price (free for the basic version) and the fact that is syncs across the desktop, Web and iPhone versions. It’s starting to become a valued part of my “external brain”, along with our curriculum mapping software (Rubicon Atlas).
Inclusion has been defined as access when it referred to the classroom. Self-contained special ed rooms gave way to inclusion which often turned out to be nothing but access or a seat in the regular ed room. What is needed is the ability to effectively use that to which one is given access. In this case, the ability to effectively use technology not just possession of that technology.
I still fail to see how our present mandated babysitting service for grades K-12 is going to prove itself educationally worthwhile/relevant in today’s world. Primary schools I can imagine as worthwhile. But intermediate full day I cannot. Middle School and High School I cannot. I think not the parents but the economy will dictate what happens with our current mandated system.
Sue K. says
This is where I get stuck:
“But the only way that parents are going to DEMAND access is if they see that not simply as a way for kids to get a computer but to see connections online as a way to a better future, a way to help their kids become more educated, better learners than by books and paper alone.”
because for many parents, the status quo in schools gives their kids the future the parents believe the kids need and gives them access to the prestigious colleges parents see as the path to a promising future. I have not seen evidence that the parents will demand anything that might level the playing field for any others or for something different than a traditional post-secondary education. Parents are demanding access to AP courses and high grades and access playing on to winning athletic teams for their kids. So, the question to me is – how do we show them a different future for their kids? There just does not seem to be a sense of urgency for school boards, school district leaders, or parents . . . I am wondering how I play a role in helping create that sense of urgency!
Thomas Sauer says
YES! YES! YES!
It’s like fighting a war on two fronts. Not only do we have to convince our own colleagues/administrators/educators but parents have been brainwashed (by their own experiences as well as a continuous push of “college for all”) into believing in our education system.
Worse yet, when parents or other members of the public talk about failing schools or “bad schools”, they are talking about schools who don’t deliver high grades/scores and college ready kids.
We need to answer the question of the role of school/education. Is it to get kids college ready or getting kids ready for life?
There’s a third “role” that you are missing, the one that those parents *really* lobby for: preparing students to *get*into* to college.
Studies have shown — and this is not really a surprising finding — that colleges and employers want the same kinds of skills (e.g. communication, team work, analyzing, revising, persistence, etc.). Preparing students college and preparing them for jobs are not really that different, necessarily.
I would argue that preparing them for life is not that different, either.
But preparing them to apply and get into college? Well, that’s not about these skills (or whatever we want to call them). That’s about what we “attainment.” The so-called “good schools” provide attainment, regardless of whether or not they encourage the development of skills/aptitudes/habits of mind worth learning for a lifetime. (Habits/skills/aptitudes that are applicable in both college and the rest of life, by the way.)
Will Richardson says
When you come up with the answer to this, let me know. ;0)
Clay Burell says
If nothing else, the shift will happen when today’s parents die off, and today’s students become parents – and teachers, administrators, and politicians.
Or so I hope.
Schools and Churches seem the slowest institutions to adapt to new learnings and realities. Have some sugar with that irony.
What can education contribute to technology????
What, exactly, is so special about technology?
I have a bit of a problem with this. I rather like that it’s become more standard for people to consider “how can I use these tools to teach!” instead of “I have to use this tool. What can I teach with it?”
I *do* think we need to examine just what we’re doing with what we call education, but I think it would be a grave error to decide it should “contribute” to technology.
Will Richardson says
I think the shift here has to be “How can I use these tools to learn.” At the core, this isn’t about teaching. What we can contribute to these tools is a deeper understanding of how the connections they permit enhance our ability to learn. That, then, becomes the foundation for our teaching with them.
Trevor Meister says
Fascinating discussion. Far too many things discussed to comment on all of them, but it is the comments about parents that I think could be explored a bit more. The notion that things will remain status quo until parents Demand changes led to this comment-
â€œBut the only way that parents are going to DEMAND access is if they see that not simply as a way for kids to get a computer but to see connections online as a way to a better future, a way to help their kids become more educated, better learners than by books and paper alone.â€
Other comments suggest that this is not likely to happen because either parents are ignorant of technology or are caught between a rock and a hard place worrying about getting their kids into college, which is best served by status quo.
A third reason this might not happen is probably not much of a factor now, but will be. What about the Parent that sees all to well “connections online as a way to a better future, a way to help their kids become more educated, better learners.” For them the use of emerging tech, web2.0/3.0 and what ever comes next is just a part of life. They are also starting to see major cracks in the old -you have to go to college to get a “good job”, what ever that is because “Employers” require you to have a “degree”. Most of the people they interact with on a day to day basis may be freelancers, independent subcontractors, or entrepreneurs running their own show. To them the idea of saying, “Wow that is amazing work and is exactly what we need, …but I’m sorry, you didn’t graduate from college.” would be ridiculous.
This parent is also not likely to DEMAND greater access and use of technology for better learning. For one, because of their connectedness, they have witnessed the back and forth battles over the same issues for years and can guess that their Demands will be in the minority and are likely to fall on deaf ears. (They may also have figured this out at the last parental advisory group meeting when everyone looked at them like they were from another planet after each and every comment or suggestion.) They have already declared the horse dead and as everyone knows, even if you drag a dead horse to water its not going to drink, no matter how hard you beat it. For another, the level of access and the knowledge of tools available may be higher at home. When the child comes home with a “Research Project” that includes the word- presentation along with the words- Power and Point instead of being thrilled, they send a note back to school – “I am sorry, my son/daughter can not complete said “Research Project” as I had previously vowed to strangle the next person I saw doing another lame power point presentation. Don’t worry, we will do the research, but will choose an alternate form of presentation.” This parent doesn’t feel the need to demand much of anything, they might even be the ones least likely to. They and their child have all the access they need, an awareness of what is available “out there” and the ability to tap into it when needed.
I do want to make it clear that I am not saying this parent is any “better”, this is just their reality. For now, their numbers are probably fairly small, but it is hard for me to imagine that this demographic would not continue to grow. Project forward a few years assuming little change to status quo in traditional public school systems. It is no huge secret that there is an imminent boomer retirement event set to occur in the not too distant future. It is also no secret that many young teachers are leaving the profession much sooner than their predecessors. (Check Tom Caroll Necc09 video) Put this all together and you have the makings for a very interesting time. Take an already stressed system of education, remove much of upper management structure after retirements, fail to replace it at the other end, thus piling the load on those left in the middle. To make matters worse, private schools will also need to replenish their ranks and may even expand (especially if college worrying parents start to scramble for alternatives) luring existing or potential public school teachers away. Take that now larger group of hyper-connected parents, mix with group of hyper-connected educators (especially those that found themselves left behind in the middle) armed with even more powerful technologies and networking know how, and stir. If these aren’t a nearly perfect set of conditions for spurring innovative solutions, I don’t know what is. How long would it be before someone said, enough, would it be possible to organize a series of unconferences or tweetups or #barcamp style gatherings? We could call them #schoolcamps or #learnups, and do follow up in between on-line. …. (many other possibilities exist of course, -perhaps the AI instruction/testing model will finally be perfected. Then a single teacher could preside over scores of students sitting at their stations being adaptively led through dynamic lessons so they can be adaptively assessed later on. If necessary, the teacher could present to everyone on the extra wide IWB, or for really specific material, the class could join with several other remote locations to watch a specialist lecture on the IWB via video-conference.) Either way, something will change, and there is no reason why schools could not become the centres for a more #schoolcamp style open learning environment, I just hope it doesn’t go the other route.
Sue K. says
I have gotten so much out of this discussion! The last part of your comment has really gotten me to thinking more clearly about what things could look like. My hope is that discussions and exchanges like this can continue and build towards more concrete actions! Thank you Will for opening up the possibilities! I believe this is one example of how being a blogger serves not only as a way to communicate your own thoughts, beliefs, and work, but also allows you to be a conduit of sorts to dialogs and discussions for others as well.
Ira has a valid point. And, to get education making that contribution we must implement some successful strategies to have critical thinking skills flourish in students ….
As always, I enjoy reading your blog. It has given me some insight about teaching and I think other teachers will benefit from what you are writing.
I have added it to my education portal at http://www.educationreporting.com/#blogs
Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for your ideas and thoughts.
Steu Mann, M. Ed.
Trevor – I ‘loved’ your comment ‘â€œI am sorry, my son/daughter can not complete said â€œResearch Projectâ€ as I had previously vowed to strangle the next person I saw doing another lame power point presentation. Donâ€™t worry, we will do the research, but will choose an alternate form of presentation.â€’
My problem is nearly the opposite: I’ve struggled with teachers to allow more technology-enhanced products (not necessarity PPT)and not limit their students to pen/paper. It comes down to a matter of what the teacher is comfortable grading – so maybe we should all be looking at the assessment piece(s).
It warms my hears to see these ideas being discussed. This — I believe — takes us closer to instructional improvement and bettering students’ lives.
I want to caution that the goal here is not to come up with a common or agreed upon list between us. It’s great to work on your ideas here, but this is not really the key forum.
The key forum is our schools. We need to have these discussions there, among the educators who need to work collectively to teach those lessons. I am not saying that they should or should not be decided upon democratically, as that is an issue for another day. Rather, I am saying that they need to be discussed and explored among the educators.
Why? Why is that so important?
First, we need to really work on our understanding of these goals, their limits, the way they fit together (or not), what they imply for our subjects and/grade levels. Others can help us to examine our own understanding in ways that are quite difficult to do by ourselves. If we are going to plan towards them or figure out what tools we might use to support them or any of the rest, we need to do more than just come up with lists. We need to work on our understanding of them for our work contexts.
Next, it is really easy to loose sight of our bigger goals, amid all the crap and business and external forces and mandates. We shouldn’t just be thinking about them during them summer months, but rather during all the months. Keeping them as a topic of conversation between educations helps us to keep them on our minds.
Last, none of us can this alone. We only have the kids for an hour or five a day. There are other teachers/periods and other years. If we do not work towards the same larger lessons together, we shall surely hang separately. (Wait, that’s not the expression…) The English teachers and the math teachers must understand that they have common goals, along with the gym teachers and all the rest. Sure, there are different focus, but I offer that every one of the larger lessons — whatever they may be — can be taught across the disciplines. For example communication is a central element of math (with its own accepts language for communicating mathematical ideas and work) and science (what else is a lab write up/report). Problem solving is a central idea of literature, as in trying to unlock the meaning(s) of a poem. And really making the larger lessons stick — I like Meier’s label of Habits of Mind because it suggests more than merely the ability to use them — take years of scaffolding, layering and encouraging.
So, whatever you think the larger lessons might be, I strongly encourage your to talk with your colleagues about them. Like so many other attempts to change our schools, you can turn with a bunch of willing colleagues and expand out later. But don’t just keep your answers to yourself. You’ll understand them better with the help of others, and do more for the kids.
Ceolaf.. I enjoy your analysis.. but what is being missed is the method in which the “shift” perpetuates the white privilege so embedded in our educational system, both public and private. I am sure Will and Sheryl are not donating their services to title one schools with 1 computer for every 15 students… I have to admit.. the brilliance of charging for instructional ideas using free internet tools is pretty impressive. Rather than waste time on the terms that intrigues teachers like… the “shift”… “change learning” etc.. maybe Will and Sheryl should focus their efforts on spreading the open source world to students who don’t attend schools with large amounts of discretionary funding… that is after they return from their goodwill trip to the multi-cultural nation of Australia.