So here is the money quote from the just released study from the MacArthur Foundation titled “Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project” (pdf):
New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent inÂ classroom setting. Youth respect one anotherâ€™s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, andÂ the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.
I would take a few thousand words to unpack just that paragraph in terms of what the implications are for schools, and if we read that without some sense of both fear and excitement, I just don’t think we’re paying attention.
And please, send your administrators and IT folks this message in 42-point bold type:
Social and recreational new media use as a site of learning. Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technological skills theyÂ Â need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning. Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access â€œseriousâ€ online information and culture. Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions. (Emphasis mine.)
Finally, sit down, and mull this concept over:
Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads. Such learning differs fundamentally from traditional instruction and is often framed negatively by adults as a means of â€œpeer pressure.â€ Yet adults can still have tremendous influence in setting â€œlearning goals,â€ particularly on the interest-driven side, where adult hobbyists function as role models and more experienced peers.
Let me try to make a few points that come quickly to mind.
- Kids respect other’s knowledge online because their knowledge and expertise is transparent in ways they haven’t been in the past. The study says that kids “geek out” by finding those who share their interests both inside and outside of their face to face groups. What a surprise.
- They are more motivated to learn from their peers because they can connect around their shared passions, most of which the adults in the room don’t share.
- They are self-directed because they can be. They can get what they need when they need it.
- Their learning is “knowmadic”, as is most learning in the real world outside of school. We’re not linear, test assessed learners once we leave the system, are we?
- We have to be more willing to support this type of learning rather than prevent it, but, as always, we have to understand it for ourselves as well.
So stop reading this and go read the report, and let these questions hang:
New role for education? Youthsâ€™ participation in this networked world suggests new ways of thinking about the role of education. What would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks? Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of it as a process guiding youthsâ€™ participation in public life more generally? Finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from engaged and diverse publics that are broader than what we traditionally think of as educational and civic institutions?
What do you think?
Eric Grant says
Will, I like your list of points. I especially agree with the first one – kids that discover shared interest amongst peers online are far more likely to seek those kids out for continued and complementary learning when they are face to face.
Jason Alley says
Once again I felt that swell of angst rise inside me (the most recent time was while reading your Fun with Filters post) when I read the quote about how erecting barriers prevents this kind of shared learning from happening. My mother-in-law wanted to use a shared blog with her math class as a place for them to discuss how they came to the answers from their math projects. Not only was it blocked, but she would have had to submit a work order to central IT to give she and her class access to the material. Needless to say she gave up. That’s insane, so hopefully evidence like this report will help steer IT in K-12 toward a more open direction.
Sean Nash says
This post (and .pdf) will take a bit to swallow, for sure.
However, this one near the end: “…what would it mean to think of it as a process guiding youthsâ€™ participation in public life more generally?” …is golden.
In terms of social networking alone, this makes me think of how even so many of the districts that do buy in on a walled-garden level, miss the boat. That approach creates, once again, a “simulation” of what is happening in the real world.
That is not the way to make change IN the real world. Let’s cut to the chase. We need to honor the power in teaching people how to form networks as needed, dissolve them when they have surpassed their purpose or usefulness, and reform them to fit current and future needs.
The ability to adapt and move in that way is a far better skill than anything we teach kids today. The thing is- that could be threaded throughout each content area we deliver today.
The final problem I see (and this is flowing off of my fingers from a morning meeting in my district) is that even if we ALL deliver that quote block to all IT folks and administrators… that doesn’t change the mind of the consulting attorneys. I am now starting to see that even if and when administrators pick up the guidelines in NETS-A… and support teacher in meeting the NETS… and begin to see students who meet the standards… that many of these main, innovative avenues are being blocked to avoid the one dumb teacher ending up in court.
We’ve lived through eight solid years of fear-mongering across all facets of our lives. I suppose this is now such a systemic thing that it will take a decade of hope to emerge in the other end.
The horrific part is that our kids can’t wait that long… in fact, that entire generation cannot endure it.
Will Richardson says
You know Sean, reading your comment made me wonder if/when we’ll ever get to the point when teachers really start fighting for this. I mean really rise up and say “Enough with the filtering already! The world is changing! I’m a professional. Give me access! NOW!” Or something like that.
Btw, the NETS don’t really address networking literacies in the ways that kids are beginning to explore them.
No Will the NETS don’t but they do imply a need for digital citizenship, while it doesn’t spell out networking I would hope that most teacher would infer the need.
Teachers by nature are not fighters; if they are Mavericks the system can be very hard on them. So hats off to youth because many students are engaging in this manner outside of the educational system and some are clever enough to hack the blocks put in place by IT departments. These hackers probably will not end up as educators. We want students to question and teachers to follow!
Shirley Smith says
How do we get there? “We have to understand it for ourselves as well” is key but the sense of urgency and resolve needed isn’t there in critical mass. There are days when a group of my teachers get excited about how we can transform teaching and learning and I feel much hope. Then there are the days when I can’t seem to convince anyone to pay attention–regardless of the latest research. (The historical election offers some optimism that change will come at the policy level in the repeal or at least major overhaul of NCLB–especially given we now have the most high tech administration ever in the White House.)
I would be interested in someone writing–or pointing to– a “vignette” that would describe what a typical day would look like in this new world/education order. Provide a glimpse that could help bridge the gap from fantasy to reality so the regular classroom teacher could see herself “there”.
I take issue with this statement:
“…innovative avenues are being blocked to avoid the one dumb teacher ending up in court.”
We have to realize that it is not “stupidity” which causes troubles. We have to give up on the idea that if we just had the right set of rules (or filters) we could control the student experience. The point is: we don’t and we shouldn’t. It all goes back to your model of learning. Students are not passive empty buckets that we fill. Instead, they are active participants in their learning (and when they are not, I would argue they are not actually learning.) Dewey said all this at the beginning of the last century, and maybe we aren’t doing a good enough job as educators in educating the public about real education. Theinternet is real life, and our job is to guide the students and use all those awkward teachable moments when we get surprised, to teach them concepts of healthy interactions and safety, etc. The problem is a few outspoken fanatic parents who don’t get it, and who elect school board members who don’t get it. I think the report makes inroad into educating society about this when it suggests:
“Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of it as a process guiding youthsâ€™ participation in public life more generally? Finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from engaged and diverse publics that are broader than what we traditionally think of as educational and civic institutions?”
Sean Nash says
@Will – I agree. I too wonder if we can build enough of a local understanding to stand up to that level of closed-mindedness. I suppose much of that falls into my lap, or at least, I put that on myself. I just hope I have time. We have been a very open district to allowing emerging web technologies. However, I am beginning to wonder if that was just simply because we weren’t “paying close enough legal attention.” (not my quote- but one I am currently imagining is being said)
@Shirley – I wish it were that simple. So many teachers want that very thing: the spoon-fed visual. I understand that. But to move toward more learner-centered classrooms, we need help build learner-centered leaders in the classrooms.
@terry – From your larger post, I think we do not have the issue you might have seen at first. That quote was in reference to decisions being considered because of one unprofessional teacher ruining the whole ball of way for the larger group. We detest that kind of blanket discipline in our classrooms. I wish we didn’t have to do that very thing when we have to discipline teachers or administrators.
I agree with essentially everything you say here. Filtering will never be perfect, nor is it the real problem anyway. Kids are not “empty heads,” etc.
Shirley Smith says
@Sean Sigh. I know you are right but the teachers I work with–mainly from what is called “unsatisfactory” schools here in my state are so under the gun from accountability measures, I often feel like a Ferrari on the autobahn when they are still stuck on the dirt road in a Model T. I have to remember to slow way down (especially when I am always hyped up from the progressive bloggers installed in my reader. :)). Sometimes it takes simple and spoon feeding to at least give them a glimpse into a world with learner-centered classrooms. Selling nirvana. Who knew this is where I would end up as an educator?
I think studies such as this should are justified to mark the point of transition that our nation’s youth are currently embarking, but in addition it is important to consider the underpinnings of the study as well. For example when deconstructing “New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in classroom setting” obviously new media would create a rift between the classroom and youth. I am sure the same was said about TV, Cell phones, and the first video games. Reading the white page report it is apparent new digital media create new opportunities for relationship building, many of which we are now beginning to studied and critiqued. But what the study does little to address is if the tools are the root cause for this or just another avenue in the development of human relations, arguments could be made for both. I hope I don’t sound anti-technology, I am in fact a strong proponent of web 2.0 tools and have even participated on one of Willâ€™s PLP groups, but through all the rhetoric revolving around the use of these tools and their relation to learning educators must not become overwhelmed with their flash and glitz and lose sight of the core pedagogic principles of good teaching. Through all my interactions the discourse surrounded the use of these tools as the savior of education, without a word mentioned about whom this intertwine with modern educational reform. In addition these tools serve mainly privilege white sectors of the population, reinforcing the meritocracy that shifts blame on the individual rather the attempting to solve the problem of equal access. â€œThe World is Flatâ€ is an example of this corporate free market propaganda for the sake of innovation that excludes major portions of the population. Instruction is not be about careers, or teaching to the unknown future or the global economy, rather is should focus on the core democratic principles that allow the very foundation of the democratic nation-state to exist. I think Macarthur foundation did not need to invest so much money to tell us facebook, myspace and text messages create more social networks for our youth that leads to new avenues of learning. I think their money would be better spent on studying questions of access, equality for use among all school not just wealthy public or private schools, and the how does the nation go about restructuring NCLB so teachers have the flexibility to implement these technologies in all classrooms.
You know, sometimes I think that the only reason why so many educators don’t embrace web 2.0 is because students got there first – figured out how to use it, and basically took ownership of the whole web 2.0 thing.
“notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads”
This is key. Because students are increasingly aware that they have access to information from sources beside a teacher’s lecture, a teacher who lectures is a less valuable and less credible resource.
Teachers who facilitate access to the wealth of information on the Internet are seen by students as useful, credible people. Teachers who don’t know how to do that (or are unable because of overactive filters) are seen as out-dated, unreliable obstacles.
Though they may not consciously think of how the Internet is affecting their credibility, the hesitant teachers realize:
– students want teachers to change teaching styles
– it will be a challenge to change teaching style
– schools and districts aren’t providing good enough guidance and PD to help teachers change their teaching style. There’s some training, and some great stuff here and there, but on the whole I think PD is focusing on “oh have you seen slideshare it’s GREAT” instead of talking about how to be an online learning facilitator.
Debra Giannone says
I found the MacArthur study and the New York Times article that referenced it to be very interesting. I put hard copies of both articles in my faculty room and they provided quite a bit of fodder for discussion. I do agree that the NY Times article didn’t go far enough and painted cyberspace as this Utopian place where everyone gets along and sings “Kumbayah.” We know based on the MySpace tragedy that cyberspace can be a dangerous place.
A lot of the teachers that I talked to still have the “creepy treehouse” mentality or someone they know has committed some type of online faux pas. When I entered Cyberspace for the first time in 1997 I’m sure I did too but I learned. I explained that students need to learn appropriate digital citizenship. I explained that they are part of the ISTE standards (hoping that they would ask what they were but that didn’t happen).
Technology is here to stay and is becoming a larger and larger part of our everyday lives. We need to stop treating it like contraband. We as Librarians and educators need to not bury our heads in the sand and teach kids how to act responsibly in Cyberspace.
Dr. Davis says
I think that part of our job as teachers is going to be to recognize that students learn from their peers, or whomever they are online with, and take advantage of that fact. Take on the peer level aspect in order to continue to teach in a way that they will learn.
I personally don’t think the majority of teachers are comfortable with “peer learning” because they loose a measure of control.
How do you know what the students are going to learn if the students are teaching each other.
On top of that – if students are teaching each other – why do they need an educator?
(not saying I believe that – but personally – that’s how I think the thought process for some of these teachers works.)
Responsible, professional educators have always seen (I hope) the value in peer to peer instruction. Regardless of the medium, I am constantly saying to students “you explain that to him” because I know they will do it in a way that is easier to understand without giving the answer away and to really gauge “understanding” it’s key to be able to explain the concept/skill to others. Students love to be in the role of teacher and their peers respect them for that knowledge. Why would learning in Web 2.0 be different? Peers assisting peers is good pedagogy, regardless of the medium, and I don’t need the MacArthur Foundation to tell me that. Sometimes, I think, we can’t see the forest for the trees.
As to an earlier post, “but through all the rhetoric revolving around the use of these tools and their relation to learning educators must not become overwhelmed with their flash and glitz and lose sight of the core pedagogic principles of good teaching” is a great insight. Web 2.0 tools are just starting to be uncovered by faculty in my school. It’s amazing to see their faces when you ask them what exactly is their pedagogical/learning goal for the ning project they are envisioning. It’s the glitz and cool factor that impresses them. Most of them have no idea about how to apply Web 2.0 to advance basic thinking and literacy skills.
Gary S. Stager says
The Macarthur Foundation discovered what John Dewey wrote about a century ago, Rousseau wrote about in 1782 and Papert, Holt, Dewey, Ilitch, Gatto, Littky, Meier, Sizer, Goodman, Kohl, Kohn and countless others have said, screamed or written since.
Is there an equivalent term to “digital immigrants” for researchers, policy-makers, speakers and pundits who ignore history and appear allergic to books?
Will Richardson says
Dang…I didn’t know those folks wrote about kids’ uses of online media!
If you look at the US education system, the vast majority of educators appear, then, to be allergic to books. Wouldn’t you agree? Do schools nurture anything like the picture of learning that Dewey et. al. and now, since you suggest the similar findings, the Digital Youth Project paint? And if not, then why does this new study and others like seem to upset you so much? If they validate the voices of those others, shouldn’t you be pleased?
If digital media, because of it’s disruptive qualities, is a way to push the system toward good pedagogy and thinking about learning in the classroom, why is that so bad?
I sense a certain bit of sarcasm in your reply – so I’m not sure about the part about digital media being disruptive was tounge-in-cheek or not.
However, I think that gets back to the comfort zone thing with teachers. If digital media in the classroom is disruptive – then how does an educator teach with it?
Personally, I think it’s difficult for many teachers who’ve come up in the very same education system that they are using in the classroom – to see how to do things differently. Kind of a “if it was good enough for me…” type of attitude.
Jason Alley says
Gary, Will, or anyone else,
Might one of you recommend which one of Dewey’s books (or an article of articles about Dewey’s ideas) to read for those of us interested in discovering these parallels first hand?
Will Richardson says
I’m sure Gary will have a whole list. I’d recommend “Experience and Education” however, which is a pretty powerful read.
Gary S. Stager says
I concur with my esteemed colleague from across the aisle, Mr. Richardson. “Experience and Education” is a great place to start. You may be able to Google an online copy.
Another astounding book from that era is http://tinyurl.com/5lnu9o
A modern example of scalable successful progressive education may be found in this book: http://tinyurl.com/6lfvd5
A library of books I recommend may be found here: http://constructivistconsortium.org/books/
I have to say that this study by the MacArthur Foundation, and your excellent selection of money-quotes from it, essentially argue for technological freedom on the same grounds that democratic education theorists argue for political freedom in schools.
‘Contrary to adult perceptions,’ children are self-motivated to learn what interests them on and off-line. There need be no force applied to have learning take place. In fact, all that is required it seems is an institutional respect for natural rather than arbitrary authority.
This seems to be a new media confirmation of an argument developed in part by both George Dennison and John Taylor Gatto that children do ‘geek out’ when they find adults (or peers) who have demonstrated expertise in a topic or skill, carry a moral authority, or are able to communicate and explain empathetically and clearly.
The next marriage in the philosophy of education? New media technology and democratic education.
Will Richardson says
Thanks, Josh, for articulating what I was trying to say to Gary above. This confirms what many have been saying, but what’s different now is that the world is being changed by these ideas as they are pushed by the tools. So maybe the tools are finally creating the moment when these long held ideas can come to fruition.
Will Richardson says
(I am posting this for Gary since at the moment my blog doesn’t like his comments for some reason. My blog’s feelings do not represent my own, however…Will)
I largely agree with you. Schools seem allergic to books and primary sources in general. Textbooks are a form of antibiotic. You make the situation worse in the hope of it getting better rather than presenting the disease in the first place.
There may be no more joyous moment than when a preschooler is given a book. They can’t wait to “read” it over and over again, even if they are preliterate. Quickly after arriving at school, reading becomes an unpleasant undesirable experience. Why have we done so little to diagnose this prophylactic effect and intervene? The cause and solution are simple and apparent to those interested.
The education community, edtech in particular, also seems allergic to history and powerful ideas.
The problem with your disruptive technology argument is that it assumes a causality that it unlikely to exist. Educators unaware of Dewey, for example, can’t connect his ideas to their practice even if the presence of the computer points them in that direction. This is especially unlikely when the trajectory of edtech is towards reaction rather than reinvention or revolution. The “technology” schools currently spend their money on (White boards, clickers, Brain Pop, test-prep systems, etc…) make it less possible to innovate and create stronger antibodies to fight the disruption you yearn for.
Here are a few links that might interest your plethora of readers:
Jason Kalis says
Two areas of the paper are of particular concern to me. First: “Social and recreational online activities are jumping-off points for experimenting with digital media creation and self-expression. Rather than seeing socializing and play as hostile to learning, educational programs could be positioned to step in and support moments when youth are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest-driven forms of new media use. This requires a cultural shift and a certain openness to experimentation and social exploration that is generally not characteristic of educational institutions…” (p. 35).
I believe that as educational leaders we must begin to actively speak out against the restrictions that many of us face when trying to incorporate Web 2.0 tools in our classrooms. We need to promote research in this area so that we are armed with the data to support our positions.
Second: “When kids lack access to the Internet at home, and public libraries and schools block sites that are central to their social communication, youth are doubly handicapped in their efforts to participate in common culture and sociability” (p. 36).
Having worked in an urban district, I’ve seen first-hand the handicap that may students face. Beyond the read-write web and social aspects, many of these students lack the technology savy to use the web, such as researching and applying to college, that students from other socioeconomic levels have mastered.
I am a member of the NJPLP cohort. I am slowly developing web 2.0 skills and growing more and more eager to learn.
I have read through your post and most of the responses. After reading all of the above, I have a grasp of what you truly believe in. However, I am not clear as to what public schools look like if we were able to break down all the barriers. Please describe for me what a 21st school would look like if you could build your own school exactly as you see it. Is there a physical structure, is there a curriculum. Do students enroll in classes? Is there work graded by teachers or peers… or not at all.
As an educator of twenty five years, questioning everything I’ve known, trying to work my way out of the box, I need some clarity. Can students learn everything they need to know through networking? Are there subjects that are still better taught in a traditional classroom setting? Are there “digital natives” out there who still prefer and learn algebra much better when they are face to face with a teacher?
Will, I have sipped the cool aid and am ready to drink it up. I just need a little less philosophical picture of your vision of the school you want your children attending.
Will Richardson says
Glenn…thanks for stepping out to comment here. Really appreciate it. A vision of a school that I could build is hard to wrap my brain around, but it would certainly include a physical space with lots of face to face time with peers and caring, knowledgeable teachers. But the curriculum would be project based, real world application based, and the assessments would not be paper and pencil but performance and peer guided.
All learning is social, I’m convinced of that. And good physical space classrooms are effective networks that utilize the collective brains and experiences of everyone in the room. One of our goals now has to be to teach our students to do that on their own. So, in my ideal school, the classes truly have “thin walls” as Clarence Fisher calls them. They get outside the physical space all the time and connect to the experts and fellow passionate learners about all sorts of topics, some teacher chosen, others student selected, and they build things, create and publish them collaboratively.
I’m sure that many kids still prefer face to face, and I’m not advocating we get rid of that by any means. But we can take much of what we do and expand upon it in ways that teach the literacies that kids will need to have to be successful. Hope that clarifies it a bit…
Eric Grant says
Will, Glenn –
The sad part is that schools such as the one you describe do exist, but they stay on the fringes and only a few kids get to experience them. Schools like High Tech High, Science Leadership Academy, and New Tech Foundation schools, fit your vision of project-based experiential environments with some element of portfolio- and peer-based assessment. NTF, in particular, has a great model of blended subjects, focus on 21st century skills, eportfolios, and a touch of jigsaw.
I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all, but these schools just seem to fit the needs of today’s learners far better than your average comprehensive high school, and if someone told me to pick one model, that would be it. Add a bit of local and global community involvement and some eco principles and we’d have a connected, thin-wall, relevant, authentic, and sustainable design.
I agree that we need to open the way we teach our students to include the use of technology in the classroom and allow peer-to-peer learning through such technologies. I have seen an increase in effort recently by allwoing more access to the inernet during class. Students immediately search topics in which they are struggling and begin to explain in “kid terms” the way physical systems interact. It has been a welcome addition to my classroom.
Peter Simones says
In response to Richardsonâ€™s ideal classroom, Iâ€™m interested in hearing about the technological background you would want teachers to possess, and how the use of technology would be incorporated into lessons.
You mentioned a more real-world, application based curriculum, which I agree with. However, do you see the need to also include time for students to work independently of technology? A recent Read Write Web article – http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/education_20_never_memorize_again.php – sparked an important debate about whether or not students should be dependent on the web in place of traditional memorization. I believe that the most successful students and people are those that are able to use resources in the most efficient manner, but also those able to gauge when it is appropriate to use technology, and when they would benefit more from coming to their own conclusions.
It seems weâ€™ve reached the general consensus that there is not enough technology being incorporated in the classroom. But along with the incorporation of more technology, comes the responsibility of teaching its most effective and appropriate use. Can this be taught?
Mary Hall says
I was taken with your comment that “Their learning is â€œknowmadicâ€, as is most learning in the real world outside of school. Weâ€™re not linear, test assessed learners once we leave the system, are we?”
This echoes the theme of a chapter I have just had published called “getting to know the feral learner”.
I think this is a really important concept in education for the 21st century – that we don’t (and shouldn’t try to)control what students learn. We’re used to relating to learners as if they were dogs that can be trained to do what we want, when we want. We need to think about it differently (“herding cats” comes to mind).
Changing that mindset – trying to work as a tracker or guide rather than a trainer suggests quite a different teaching style, and quite a different notion of school.