I’m blog stuck. Stuck pretty hard actually. Probably a little because of my schedule, the kids basketball games, the furnace breaking…life is getting in the way of blogging.
More, however, because I’m butting up against some real questions, and the answers I’m finding in the reading and conversations out there aren’t as satisfying as in the past. This whole School 2.0 thing is the crux of it. There’s this niggling feeling in my brain somewhere that at the end of the day, I’m totally missing the point. That for the most part, we’re all missing the point. That we have to look further outside of our current frames. That much of the structure we are building those frames on is flimsy at best, that I’m too willing to pull pieces of the experience in because they fit and not willing enough to grapple with those that don’t fit. And that the echo chamber makes it all feel good.
I know. I’ve been here before.
I mean, what if we just stop focusing so much on school and just focus on learning?
What if the mere term “school” limits our thinking as to what’s best for learning?
What if School 2.0 whatever that is is nothing more than a short term transition to a better system for learning that has nothing to do with physical space it the ways we are familiar with it?
There’s nothing new here, really. I know. What’s new for me at least is that if feels like my lens for all of this is changing. And that’s why I’m stuck as to what to write about here. My learning and classroom learning look very different. I will never enter another physical classroom as a “student” again, and that’s by choice. That physical space just doesn’t cut it. And schools are all about physical space. And control. And content.
On my way out here to CalCUE yesterday, I read a good chunk of David Shaffer’s How Computer Games Help Children Learn, and he says this:
Schools as we know them developed in a particular place and time to meet a specific set of social and economic needs. But times have changed, and the way we need to think about education has changed too.
Education no longer necessarily means school in the physical, traditional sense for those that have a connection. And again, I know that for some, it never has. But for the masses, it has. I guess I’m wondering in this environment, however, if our best efforts may not be wasted in trying to make relevant an idea that may just be past its use.
And, so I’m pretty stuck…
Stephen Downes says
“what if we just stop focusing so much on school and just focus on learning? What if the mere term ‘school’ limits our thinking as to whatâ€™s best for learning? What if School 2.0 whatever that is is nothing more than a short term transition to a better system for learning that has nothing to do with physical space it the ways we are familiar with it?”
That’s basically what I’ve been trying to say.
Clarence Fisher says
This is what I’ve been thinking of for a bit as well. I’ve got a poster hung up in my classroom that says: “School is not about doing, its about thinking and learning.” I talk about this a lot with my students. The learning is what is important. Classrooms are of course all about physical space and control. So the question becomes: how does one “break out” of that space? Where do you break out to? How do you create (find) a critical mass of people willing to work outside of the current system if the system will not change?
Will Richardson says
Stephen: My bad…I should have mentioned that your post linked above has been an open tab in Firefox for the last few days. I’ve been reading and re-reading it, and it’s settling in. I’d been hoping to write more of a clarification instead of a questioning post…
Clarence: That is the question. And I’m wondering if it’s not to focus on the individual learner. That’s where more of my thinking is these days, that none of this will change until the critical mass of people see it and understand it (to what extent we can) on a personal basis. Meantime, I think those that do will push themselves and their kids out of the system. I’m getting close…
Harold Jarche says
We will start homeschooling in September.
The problem is the system and the vested interests that profit from the system – teachers (and their pensions), architects, contractors, publishers, busing companies, etc. You will know that you are succeeding in opening a discussion on alternative ways of learning (unschooling perhaps) when you start to be attacked. School is a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s okay to tweak it, but don’t question anyone’s right to profit from it, or you will suffer the consequences.
Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach says
I wrote a little on this myself this morning.
Schools More Walls Than Windows
Nice to see us all clicking along together. Clarence I too have a poster… mine says– Don’t Teach Them– Help Them Learn.
I homeschooled for 16 years. Started out with my four, then homeschooled the children of others, then it grew into an unschool with 31 kids and a handful of parents.
Use to travel the homeschool speaking circut in Georgia. Keynoted the state conference a couple times and many local conferences- learned lots along the way. Homeschools have their own set of issues, but the academic freedom is nice. It is interesting though that just like public school, the third year is the turning point in whether a homeschooling family sticks with it or not. And equally as interesting, often a homeschooling family will set up a minature version of “school 1.0” in their house, rather than rethinking the options and doing it in ways that will rock a kid’s world.
Would love to talk about homeschooling with you Harold if you are interested.
Scott Weidig says
I am newer to this arena, but I do feel similar to current dilema. When I was teaching (I am a tech coord now) there were educators who simply hated text books. They found them limiting, out of date, occassionally down right useless… Often I agreed with them, however, I began to look at then in a new liht when I was thinking about them from my student’s prespective… often at the end of the day it is all that they have if they are “stuck” or trying to learn something that was glossed over in class…
Ok where am I going here…
Take that same context for your “stuckness”… as educators we see where school is “limiting” to the youth of today and where we feel it needs to expand or be re-defined to incorporate 21st century skills… but what do they see? Where is the press, personal angist, the drive for knowledge from their side? Music, video games, TV, internet, social networking, baseball, football, cheerleading… at the end of the day what do they have to refer back too…
I don’t know if we are going to succeed in a complete re-vanp of the school system in the US… where can we nudge and drive a rut in the track to derail it slightly onto a better course for learning in general… is that school 2.0?
I don’t know, but maybe my rambling here a bit helped nudge you a bit into a new track.
Kimberly Moritz says
Knew you were stuck, could tell from your writing. You haven’t been writing about your personal experiences lately, your teaching and learning through your conferences. You’re still doing that, right? You’re still focused on this affecting learning for students and you have a different audience now, us. You’ve changed my learning in ways I write about all of the time. I’m blogging about what’s happening in my school, you’re blogging about ways to change the world–the world of schools–that’s a bit bigger, don’t you think? I’m frustrated with how long it’s taking me to make real change in a high school, you’re talking about the entire system. Good lord man, that’ll take a while. One teacher, one leader, one learner at a time. Keep at it. It’s about finding more and more to learn from each other–how can that idea be past its use?
Will Richardson says
Kim: You’re right in that the idea of learning is not past its use. I’m just wondering if the idea of school as we know it is. It is big…there is so much that needs to be re-envisioned with this. Basically everything.
Sheryl: I want to write more about your post and Stephen’s and George Siemens and Barbara Ganley and others…there is heavy synthesis ahead. But thanks for pointing to it here. Definitely adds to my thinking.
Dave Bauer says
Unschooling http://www.unschooling.com/ is the idea that learning is important, not education.
Moving from “teaching” to “learning” is a big shift. Our students are so dis-empowered by the system…they have “powered down” so much and become so passive….I wonder if in the future the term “student” will have a negative connotation.
The biggest shift coming may be from “student” to “learner”.
Jim Walker says
Harold has the bottom line on the education system, money. I seldom agree with conservative writers, but Charles Murphy has written 3 articles for the American Enterprise Institute about the role of intelligence in education. I also agree with him that higher ed is over sold. When I was in grad school there were way too many students who had no business being there other than paying a higher tuition.
Will, you might want to read some of Murray Bowen. The more I read and discuss his theories of the family structure, the more I begin to understand what happens in the greater society. The concept of differentiation is very profound, not only for the family but for societies.
Kyle Brumbaugh says
Education isn’t stuck, learning isn’t stuck, schools are stuck due to the bureaucracy and government mandates imposed on those who have never set foot in a classroom. As others mentioned above, education and learning can take place in any venue, but we need to facilitate that.
I am playing around with the “Guerrilla Learning” label to give a name and mind set to the skills students really need to use. I have blogged on it a few times and have a presentation page I am using to go through some of the concepts.
This fits into the presentations you have given at CUE the past two days. Your sessions have been broad based enough to bring in the novice, while getting to some things at the end of the session to pull in the mode advanced users.
Mrs. Durff says
I have not admittedly finished reading, but yes we need to focus on the learner. It strikes me that all this Web 2.0 and School 2.0 is being taught to us educators in a traditional school, sage on the stage (or at least in the front), hour long format (or thereabouts). Are we modeling what we are saying? This is what nags at me…Now don’t get me wrong, I think you are fabulous at a workshop and I had a wonderful time at PETE-C. But can we make it better? What does better look like?
I better finish reading now…
Dave Sherman says
I also am fascinated with the concept of using video games for educational purposes. In their book Transforming the Difficult Child, Howard Glasser and Jennifer Easley write about video game therapy (chapter 2) and how video games are perfect for difficult children – those with severe ADHD, ODD, Anxiety Disorder, etc. The authors make a fabulous case for using video games with these children. After reading this chapter, I started thinking about the use of video games, or more specifically, simulation games, instead of traditional (boring, rote) homework assignments for all children. I wrote this post on my blog:
I believe this is where we need to go so we are no longer “stuck” as you write,in the same rut. By that, I mean we have been assigning the same kinds of school work and homework for ages. Sure, kids can complete their work on a word processor, and they can present their research project on a PowerPoint, but is that really much different from how you and I did our work when we were kids? The steps toward completion are the same. Only the final product looks different. It is time for us to break free of this way of thinking and challenge students to truly think differently, not just create a different kind of final product.
Rob Paterson says
I think that many here agree that maybe “Schools” cannot be reformed but that an alternative can be helped such as homeschooling.
I have spent the last 18 months working with public radio and now TV. Public TV used to be the edu channel. Public TV has to find a new model as its traditional content – programs – will soon be available online. They are looking to become more involved in the lives of their community.
I wonder Will if there is an intersection here? Can the new ed link up with the new ed TV and Radio?
Can the to provide parents with the kind of support and interconnection to build a viable alternative to the bureaucratic school?
Illya Arnet says
I’ve been following the developments in web 2.0 since only recently and I’m still in the stadium of excitement about the possibilities. However, I often discuss these possibilities with teachers here in Switzerland, and the general consensus is that so much time is needed, and the resulting of amount of time needed at the computer for (especially) teacher and learner is excessive.
Will the students learn more? What consequences will it have on teaching the traditional, less motivating, but culturally embedded topics? Is it in healthy relation to the time invested by the teachers in getting the ball rolling and keeping it rolling?
I think these questions and possible answers must play a role in the further development of school 2.0.
Jimbo Lamb says
Will, in an earlier response, you said, “Thatâ€™s where more of my thinking is these days, that none of this will change until the critical mass of people see it and understand it (to what extent we can) on a personal basis.”
Maybe this is the problem: we have a goal set, and we are working on getting more people to that goal. What happens when we get there? Do we stop again and wait until industry forces us to change again? We in the schools need to be the changing factor. We need to see the next goal and look beyond. I will finally be getting my classroom where I want it to be in my fourth year teaching as we are a Classrooms for the Future school and I will finally have the technology I need for 4 years ago. Unfortunately, the technology I needed then is not the same technology I need now. I am looking beyond the ideas I had as I came out of college.
Meredith Broderick says
I think I am going to stop reading my self-assigned bloglines reading and just read your comments from now on. I think I learn more from the people who comment on your posts than anywhere.
As for my two cents, I don’t think you are stuck, perhaps your are just facing the reality of mass education. Mass education has never been about learning, as much as it has been about conformity. Real learning in the tradition of Socrates, as in a conversation, a discussion, wherein two or more people assist one another in finding the answers to difficult questions rarely enters the American Classroom, and if it does it has never been a benchmark of success on any kind of standardized test.
School in our country has always been about learning facts, memorize lessons, or to parrot lectures. and most of all conformity and control.
To know truly, to seek wisdom, one must work toward understanding and that is not part of the education system in the U.S.
I think you have to face the fact, that some kids “learn” in spirte of the education system. So how does Web 2.0. effect all this?
Well knowlege is not held in abeyance the way it once was. The access to knowledge is not limited by class or physical space to such a great degree as it once was.
An example of this is I had a couple of briliant philospher professors in college, who introduced me to existential thought and medical ethics and modern economic theory in the modern era, I took 10 classes or so with them though I did not need them, just to keep learning, (ended up with a philosophy degree, as well as an education degree without trying) just so I could keep thinking.These professsors thought with their classes, expected their students to do the same. It is funny a lot of the privelegged stuff I learned, about social economics, religiion, philosophy from these brilliant minds is pretty well handeled in Wikipeda, with suggested reading lists just their for any High school student with an appetite for discourse.
Web 2.0. = Knowledge is accessible
So now that knowledge is accesible and not limited to those with an expensive membership in some elite club, that often has no real interest in knowlege itself. ( Unfortunately learning and knowledge is often not the engine driving the bus in higher ed either.) well what does this mean?
I don’t know? Do you? I hope so! and if not I hope one of these brilliant people who comment on your blog will tell us. Perhaps we will have to slog along, looking for the answer and direction together, in conversation, attempting to think and derive meaning in all of this great social change. But to go back to Socrates, it is the conversations, the journey of thinking that is valuable not the destination.
Karen Denis says
Your statement that read â€œâ€¦what if we just stop focusing so much on school and just focus on learning,â€ followed by â€œWhatâ€™s new for me at least is that if(sic) feels like my lens for all of this is changing.â€ Those two statements really struck me, as I can totally relate to them. Although I have been â€œteachingâ€ at a large Midwestern university for about ten years now as an instructor, my background was NOT in education. I am currently in my second year of doctoral level studies in education (curriculum and instruction), and like you say, my lens for all of this is changing. I had been going off of what my experiences were, as far as my teaching style. Pretty much I did all the talking, using my ppt slides, and then gave a quiz or exam (you know, the 4-walls, the control, and the content!). â€œLearningâ€ was perceived as how well a student could regurgitate what I told them. I have been so fortunate to have some awesome professors in my doctoral studies that have helped me to readjust my lenses. One professor in particular, Dr. Cheri Toledo, has really started me to thinking about education and learning in the 21st century. I have really started focusing on the learning, and what is best for learning. I guess I wonder how many other people are out there â€œteachingâ€ like I was, teachers who were just going off of their previous experiences as a student. Probably the majority, however, I am seeing, and maybe it is just because I am more aware now, but technological opportunities to enhance how we learn are becoming more prevalent now. Even in the department I teach in, there is more talk about using technology to enhance learning. I think what is most important for us to remember is to use technology with a purpose in reaching an objective, as a way to enhance learning, not just use it for technologyâ€™s sake.
I frequently feel that school gets in the way of learning. I know I feel that way about my own school experience and my kids’ current experience. School by its nature is limiting – everyone in a class doing the same thing ’cause its easier to keep track of. No room for individual growth, exploration and those side trips of David Warlick. You would think that with all the new tools there would be a way to allow more freedom of direction in learning. But I think that is the crux of the matter we are interested in learning and education in the broadest, deepest sense and schools are focused on specific, limited, measurable standards. They are at odds in the current configuration. It has been my experience that true, deep learning and understanding have occurred outside of school. As an educator I find that sad and troubling.
Dan L. says
This conversation started 15 years ago:
“The reality is that a new generation of technology has blown the social role of learning completely inside out.”
= Learning used to be a distinctly human process. Now learning is a transhuman process people share with increasingly powerful artificial networks and brains. Even today, expert systems and neural networks are being “trained” by human knowledge engineers; the machines’ automated expertise in turn is providing “just-in-time learning” for car mechanics, powerplant operators, and a growing legion of other wokrers.
= Learning was an activity thought to be confined to the box of a classroom. Now learning permeates every form of social activity – work, entertainment, home life – outside of school. …
= Learning was presented as the result of instruction: a linear, hierarchical process in which an “expert” teacher would pour knowledge into the empty head of an obedient student. With knowledge doubling every year or so, “expertise” now has a shelf life measured in days; everyone must be both learner and teacher; and the sheer challenge of learning can be managed only through a globe-girdling network that links all minds and all knowledge.
= Learning or education was a task of childhood in preparation for entering adult life and work. Now learning is literally the work of the majority of U.S. jobs and will be what virtually all adults – whether employed, unemployed, or “on welfare” – will do for a living by the ealy years of the twenty-first century.”
— and so on from School’s Out by Lewis J. Perelman (Avon Publication, 1992)
You say, “And schools are all about physical space. And control. And content.”
Schools are about physical space. Yes, they are inherently physical. People gather together in a structure made of materials, in the flesh, to interact and learn. Is it so much better online?
Schools are about control. Sounds like the classic Pink Floyd lyric… ‘we don’t need no thought control’. Indeed, teachers are trying to keep the kids down through education! Teachers hate creativity! “Teacher, [you brick], leave those [poor] kids alone….”
Schools control the content. Not really. It’s pretty incredible how much freedom good teachers have to choose what and how to teach in the United States. Or maybe you were talking about China?
You’re stuck. Answer? Tear down the wall! Tear down the wall!
get unstuck by watching Jean’s Killing Us Softly videostream. It’s powerful stuff that I think our adolescents need to be aware of…I put the video up on my blog if you have 34 minutes. =) I’m still new to hyperlinks so I’m not sure how to put a direct link to my blog in the comment box.
Andrew Torris says
A part of this comment posted on http://sentimentsoncommonsense.blogspot.com
I wrote on my blog the following about your post-
I am not sure I can be much help to Will. What do we do? I will say that it is sure fun to engage people in this conversation and see where it all goes. Talk about rocking the world of a classroom teacher when they start interacting with some drawings and text surrounding School 2.0. But Will, maybe it is more than school. Really you are writing (I think) about your own learning! Isnâ€™t really LEARNING 2.0?
In fact, I think it may be LEARNING 2.0 beta! We discussed this at a meeting I as at last week with a bunch of technology folks trying to develop a conference framework. We came up with in a short period of time Learning 2.0 beta: Communications, Collaborations and Connections. A pretty good start if you ask me!
If we really are all about schools, teaching and learning then letâ€™s concentrate on the Learning and not so much on the school and teaching part. Will, youâ€™ve directed and taught yourself to learn without the â€œâ€¦physical space. And control. And content.â€ Isnâ€™t this what we want to instill in (and teach) our students?
Will, I urge you. Donâ€™t be stuck. Move this â€œLearning 2.0â€ forward and analyze not the school, but the results we all dream of achieving.
In closing, I go back to the importance of assessment in our schools and what assessment for LEARNING really means. My fall back position is that we really need to come to terms with what learning is, how to measure it and how to teach ourselves and our students how to manage the learning processes. This is long term goal stuffâ€¦ not just a one lesson plan topic for sure!
Rick Stiggins of ATI states:
“If we wish to maximize student achievement in the U.S., we must pay far greater attention to the improvement of classroom assessment. Both assessment of learning and assessment for learning are essential. But one is currently in place, and the other is not.” (Stiggins, 2002)
Thanks for the opportunity for thought, connection, collaboration and communications!
Luke Rodgers says
All of these perspectives have been immensely interesting to read, and I just feel struck, over and over again, by the similarities between what I see as the mainly US-oriented “education 2.0 debate” (let’s call it that for the sake of simplicity) taking place on blogs such as this one, and the kind of change that we are trying to bring about in Canada.
I work for the Canadian Education Association, and so much of what I read on your blog, Will, on Chris Lehmann’s blog, of the G-Town blog, etc., resonates deeply with our own attitudes towards the change that needs to take place in education. A good way to sum this up is precisely the theme that has been repeated here: the need for a broader focus on learning that can see beyond the walls of the school.
We’ve recently launched, in partnership with The Future of the Book, a web-based project designed to facilitate conversation around a piece developed from our last symposium: Getting it Right for Adolescent Learners – A call to action. We’re hoping to get input from not just educators and leaders, but also from students — and perspectives from the USA would be absolutely welcome as well. Call this an informal invitation.
Carolyn Foote says
It’s been interesting reading this whole dialogue since I just got back from a group site visit of 7 schools in another state and we’ve been talking a lot about improving our campus.
I’ve been struggling with how to respond to this post, and don’t think I yet have the “deep answer” yet.
I think students do learn at school and they do learn from the social element of school as well, and yet I think what we do could be done so much better and on a much more individualized level.
I don’t know that it means disbanding schools per se, but definitely rethinking them.
After seeing High Tech High, which from a traditional standpoint is very nontraditional, but from the standpoint of this conversation, is probably still too conventional–I do see a model of how we can help students make connections in a more authentic and engaging way.
But at the risk of sounding like the devil’s advocate here, I have to say that after walking through 7 schools and many classrooms in those four days, and seeing kids engaged and learning and cared about, I know that there are many things about school that work.
What I wish is that whatever form school takes, that we care about the students, that we have more time for the individual, and that WE are excited and passionate about learning and teaching, because that will convey to our students, no matter what form the learning takes or the structure is.
I know this feeling very well. My sympathies–although I also think there’s a certain energy to the stuckness that may precede some breakthroughs, for you and for the rest of us. Hard to know. Institutionalized schooling has got its hooks very deeply into the fabric of our society.
I spoke about similar concerns recently at the University of Maryland. My thinking’s been influenced a lot these days by Ivan Illich’s “Deschooling Society,” as well as by Parker Palmer’s “The Courage to Teach” and George Steiner’s “Lessons of the Masters.” I commend those books to you as great sources of comfort, challenge, and inspiration.
Terry Elliott says
We need a new story. Where have the new stories come from in the past? From the politicians? No, from the political theorists. From the teachers? No, from the learning theorists. From the top? No, from the bottom. I am speaking of new stories, ones that truly shift our way of relating to the world. The rest is all just fiddling while the Titanic burns.
Scott McLeod says
Will, FYI, after mulling on your post for a few days, this is what my brain came up with:
Maybe you’re stuck because you’re ready for the next step (to make all of this more concrete somewhere)?
I read this a few weeks ago and as I wrote my most recent post http://futureofeducation.edublogs.org/, I realized I am in a similar boat. I am stuck also.
Patients and a good community of people around us will lead us to the answers we are looking for!
David Truss says
A post about how a collective ‘WE’ are stuck in the edublogging world of Web2.0
(with an optimistic tone:-)
Mark Wagner says
I’m finally actually reading this post… after talking to you about a month ago! I’ve finished Shaffer’s book in the meantime. One of the things that struck me about it was the focus on the importance of face-to-face time with teachers and other students (especially in contrast to other video games in education books). I think all of us agree that relationships will continue to be important in education in whatever form… and I think we all agree that the physical and political limits of current schools can often limit potential learning opportunities.
Anytime we talk about changing the physical limitations of school (or the schedule) we quickly run into “the babysitting problem.” I think, though, that the political limits dictating how educators and students spend their time (and money) are probably more of a challenge… after all, having students spend a chunk of time each day with their peers and their teachers for the express purpose of learning isn’t so bad. 😉
In any case, I’m sure I have a lot to catch up on in this thread… and it’ll take me a while. I just thought I’d participate a bit, too.
Thanks, as always, for sharing your challenges.