So here’s a 5:30 am brain dump because I woke up thinking about all of the minds on fire at TEDxNYED yesterday and there’s no way I’m going back to sleep, not with the brilliant voices the likes of Andy Carvin teaching me how social media can save people’s lives, saying “voluteerism has been redefined, and we’re the ones redefining it;” and Michael Wesch, saying “there is no opting out of new media,” making the point that we’re going to be living in a world of almost ubiquitous networks, almost ubiquitous computing, almost ubiquitous information at almost unlimited speed, about almost everything, almost everywhere, from almost anywhere, on almost all kinds of devices, but that “almost” is “the site of all of our battles,” and that to fight those battles we need “open, daring, caring, collabortarive and voracious learners;” and Lawrence Lessig, my hero, who once again challenged us to challenge the staus quo and change the world; and David Wiley, who blew me away with more than one line but especially this one, that “if there is no sharing, there is no education;” and Jay Rosen who made me think deeply about the potential at our fingertips when we participate in the crowdsourced compilation of information to change the world, wondering as he spoke, how do we teach this to our kids, (Jay, whose self-description as “an introvert who has learned to fake conviviality” rang really true, and how when I Tweeted that out a whole bunch of people replied with “me too”); and Jeff Jarvis who pretty much threw education under the bus but made a pretty compelling comparison between our current state and the current turmoil in journalism, (seeing him being interviewed in the hallway afterward, Flip video camera in his face, saying “the things that are happening to journalism right now are going to happen to education sooner than we think”); and George Siemens, who after throwing Jeff under the bus, echoed David, saying “when we learn transparently, we become teachers”, me going “Yes!” inside, and then George adding “The solutions to the problems of education concern me more than the problems themselves” which occupied most of my time during my 75-minute drive home; and Amy Bruckman who talked about how we need to be active managers of our own learning; and Dan Meyer, the very tall Dan Meyer who so eloquently articulated the need for and showed how to get to “patient problem solving” for our kids, me thinking about my own kids’ impatience, and, in turn, my own when I was a kid (and to some extent, still as an adult…wondering if having Dan as a teacher might have changed that); and, finally Chris Lehmann, amped up on about 38 hours straight without sleep, making the articulate and compelling and passionate case that we need schools, we want schools, but we want them to be places of inquiry, of love, and of compassion, not places of standardization, thinking about all of these ideas and the conversations at the breaks with Sylvia Martinez and Christian Long and Alex Ragone and Amy Bowllan and many others, and for the most part wanting to spend every day like this, steeped in the ideas and the interactions and the passion, but all the while, in the back of my brain, wondering, “what now?”…what’s going to change?…a few hundred people in the room, a few thousand more online, and a few thousand more soon to be watching the archives, but still, wondering…how much further does this get us?…and wondering, feeling the discomfort of the lack of diversity in the room, lack of real diversity in the opinions, the fear of spending yet another day in the echo chamber which, no doubt has me energized and has my brain buzzing and has me thinking and reflecting but also has me wondering “so what?”…wondering how many of these conversations are going to be required to push education in a meaningfully different direction, wondering if our “solutions” are any better than our problems, wondering if we’re seeking one solution when we should be seeking many, that we’re moving away from an easy “one size fits all” vision of education to a much messier, more difficult to imagine “many sizes for many learners” vision, and wondering, finally, how we make sense of that for our kids.
Patrick Larkin says
Reminds me of the slide you showed a while back that said something like – “if you are in education and you are not overwhelmed, then there is something wrong.”
As a school principal, I feel like (I know) that we spend too much time celebrating initiatives and “new ideas” (i.e. school schedules, handbook changes, tech integration) that really amount to tinkering.
I pray that what speakers at TEDXNYED talked about are coming soon. In the meantime, I worry that our focal points inside the schools are time wasted because they are not changing things fast enough.
Somedays I feel like the penguin from Happy Feet (Mumble?) that is captured and put into captivity in an aquarium. He subsequently falls into a mindless state. Gosh, I wonder if the students feel the same way? Why am I asking like this when I know most of them do?
I could not agree more with Jeff Jarvis. Now what do we do from the inside to make this happen?
Sweetie Berry says
The places I taught were often the places no one else wished to be…inner cities…rural tiny towns….remote locations…which allowed the teachers and administration the freedom to live and teach with almost no reins, because no one else cared to be there. What happened was fascinating. Because we were a group of creative folks, unbound by traditional standards we almost functioned like a charter school, unleashed from what everyone else in the districts were bound to. Learning became an endeavor to delight, enrich, and experience …to help children become citizens, healthy people…the classrooms by their very nature were a mixed bag of abilities, culture, and expectation…so we returned to teaching with a focus from roots to leaves in our scope and sequence, we knew they were all over the place, so it was more about objectives of learning to learn than of specific covering 2.1 to 2.21 this year.
Funny thing about each of those school years? We set the curve on tests in each area despite having the lowest scored kids coming in, we didn’t teach or prep for tests except to teach them what a test was and why it mattered. We had learning experiences, we returned to holistic methods of integration of experience, exposure, and excitement about what happened. It was good, and repeatable, as it worked in inner city Dallas, rural Arkansas, remote Alaska, and now Alabama.
We have to remember in the midst of NCLB, that the original intent was simply to make sure all children are taught and focused on…not focusing all eyes on tests.
Great sharing…and I appreciate your tweets!
Shanna “Sweetie” Berry
Steve Ransom says
I think many of us are thinking the “so what now” question. Hopefully, we think that question every time we are challenged. I’ve heard you say many times that PDFs are where ideas go to die. Too often (not always), our minds, and dare I say our blogs, are where ideas go to die as well. We were there. We were inspired. We were challenged. We went home. We continued on as if we were never there. Were never inspired. Were never challenged. How do more administrators, teachers, leaders,… take on these inspiring mantles? For certain, going it alone is tough – maybe almost impossible. I really liked what Sylvia Tolisano said in one of the EDUCON sessions – that it is our responsibility to share in open ways what we are doing, what we are struggling with, our successes, our failures. I think that when these ideas and actions reach a critical mass, we may gain enough momentum to move more collectively. But we still have a disproportionate number of folks who don’t share. Who won’t share. Who feel that they have nothing worth sharing. Who don’t feel proud about what they do. Who don’t know how to share. Who are afraid to share. Who want to protect what is theirs. To me, the sharing of ideas, successes, and failures, due to action, is the stuff that makes sure our inspirations don’t die. It allows the community to rally behind us, around us, challenge us, refine us – even celebrate us.
So, “what now?” Do something. Try something… and share.
Carolyn Foote says
Interestingly, yesterday while Chris Lehmann was presenting, I was sitting in a session with Sam Chaltain, of the Forum for Education and Democracy, who spoke about creating a democratic learning community, and was talking about a lot of the same issues.
Patrick, when you mentioned the outside changes, that resonated with what Sam had to say yesterday. He talked about it in terms of the “social fields” and how most changes that are made involve the visible aspects of schooling, but how what was needed was for us to consider the invisible aspects–the so-called “inner conditions” which we operate from in a school(like what are the quality of relationships in a school).
Chaltain talked a lot about changing the way we frame the discussion, and trying to move the conversation to ‘a national culture of learning instead of a national culture of testing’ and about moving from a hierarchical school structure to a networked school structure(which really is what you are getting at, isn’t it?) When I was reading your post, I kept thinking of this idea of schools–which really, to be agile and changeable, we need school to function like a network of nodes, not like a top/down organization.(your ‘messy’ many sizes for many learners)?
Chaltain drew on the work of biologists in talking about replacing the language of hierarchy with the “balance of a network”.
His book American Schools summarizes a lot of this.
What struck me the most, though, about your post is that this is how kids should feel after a great day of school. Completely jazzed and impassioned by what thoughts have been stirred up in their brains at the end of the day. And in an environment where they feel empowered to ask questions, converse, and build further relationship.
Ben Wildeboer says
While the event yesterday was a self-selecting echo-chamber of sorts, when it comes to the “what now?” it’s important to realize many of the people there didn’t come from the SLAs of the world. I’d be willing to bet decent money that almost no one I teach with is familiar with any of the speakers yesterday, let alone the ideas they champion.
Many of the people at the event yesterday (me included) are pretty lonely figures at their own schools. We push for change but get easily worn out by the large numbers that are in opposition and the lack of a local community of like-minded support.
Yesterday was empowering for me- for my ideas. Perhaps Jeff Jarvis would say it’s “bullshit” that I need validation, but for me, where I’m coming from, I yell “bullshit” right back. Darn right I need validation. I need to be reminded now and again that I’m not in this alone.
Roderick Silva says
The hard work of planing, preparing, traveling, and lack of sleep, transformed into passion, laughter, inspiration, and insite yesterday at TEDxNYED. All of that is wasted unless we as individuals turn in into actionable goals.
Just because the think-leaders of education dropped inspirational science on us yesterday does not mean a magical wave will washup at the doors of every school on Monday morning. We are the wave. It is not magic. Just like fanatics at a stadium, we need to stand-up when the wave comes our way. If we don’t stand up then there is no wave.
Stand up on Monday morning and make a change. What change? Your change…what ever it is. Don’t let it all go to waste.
I’m certain that you already know the answer to your ‘Now what’ question. Another event will be planned, more ‘leaders’ lined up to speak, more ‘preach to the choir’ audience registering, more ‘get up & get em’ rallying cries. And so the cycle continues…
And sadly for most, this comment will be valid 10 years from now.
arvind s grover says
(full disclosure: I’m a TEDxNYED organizer, and an independent school educator)
Will, thanks for your post. I too woke up many times since yesterday with thoughts firing in my mind. I have to disagree with Christina above. Yes, there will be more conferences, but I can’t tell you how many people I met yesterday (online and face to face) who were so overwhelmed at what they were hearing. So many people said they were going to do things differently on Monday. Many will, many won’t, but the process of social change is slow, laborious, and painful. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do it one teacher at a time. I too am working out my thoughts on yesterday. The problems, the successes.
There’s much more to come, I honor that and accept that. And I’m quite looking forward to it.
Karen Szymusiak says
I listened to the TEDxNYED speakers yesterday and felt inspired. There were so many “take away” phrases in their thoughtful presentations.
I still think that if change is to come it will be due to a critical mass of educators who begin to make what changes they can in their classrooms and schools. I understand that there are limitations and short-sighted individuals who don’t recognize the potential for a new way of learning. But if we can expand the grassroots effort to help our kids learn in new ways, to help our parents understand, to show our stakeholders that we must approach learning differently, we will continue to focus our efforts where we can make a difference – in our schools. The voice of change will come from our children.
I am looking for action not reasons for inaction. I intend to keep at it until we see change in our schools. TEDxNYED and other venues offer inspiration. That’s critical because we are marching uphill toward change. But we don’t need answers. We don’t need someone to show us the way. We need purposeful and thoughtful action in our own classrooms and in our schools. We need educators committed to change and meaningful learning.
It will happen because there are educators who believe that we owe our children opportunities for learning in new ways.
Melanie W says
Educators with passion will adapt and bring these new learning avenues to their students. They will, because that’s the only way to truly give their students global access, and global opportunity. Those who are not willing or feel able to adapt will get out. the institutions are slow, limited and full of short-sighted individuals, but the technology is overwhelming the institutions and bringing change no matter what. Yes, we need action, and educators need to lead, because we are in the unique position of seeing the potential futures of our children, either equipped with new learning or imprisoned by the our inaction. It’s not about expensive new gadgets, its’ about leading the way for children and parents to become constant learners.
Amy Bowllan says
We can move to the next level, Will. I truly believe that and thanks for the shout out. And what I didn’t get a chance to say to you during our brief chat was this. Pardon my brain dump. 🙂
1) we have to include those “experts” who NEVER get a chance to speak in a global forum.
2) the “real” experts need to listen to other’s voices – you do that very well.
3) We have to stop talking about “singing to the choir” we sing to and start to teach others how to sing (or in my hood, “to sang.” lol
4) We can’t talk about having students in “rows” and sit in them, at these conferences.
5) We have to make the information we know so well, palatable for those who don’t speak the common language.
6) We have to have the teachers become the reporters and turn their classrooms into newsrooms!
There’s a big world out there, Will, and we can’t isolate the knowledge bank, because “we know.” EVERYONE needs to know what WE know. That’s the task. Getting others to understand what we know.
Arabella Pope says
It all resonates strongly – but there is such huge gap between what is possible -> desirable -> necessary, and what is. My only two coherent thoughts:
1. Patience – change as deep and different as this takes time. This is as much a social and attitudinal change as an educational one. Look at Civil Rights, it took decades. (Generations actually.) What’s frustrating is that the pace of our capabilities and imagination is logarithmically outstripping the pace of our ability to embrace and implement.
2. Parents – we have to be addressing and persuading them as much, or more, than teachers. If they don’t want/understand it, they will throw up roadblocks. If they get it, they will advocate for it.
Megan Connolly says
What is the one thing you will do differently tomorrow morning, now that you’ve been fired up by TEDxNYED? How about having a conversation with a student or colleague about your own learning? How about talking to a math or science teacher you know about patient problem solving? How about reaching out to someone in your school and share your hopes and dreams? Make a connection, and then feed it.
Damianne President says
I remember going to many conferences while in university, and as teacher and finding it very frustrating. I enjoyed the discussion, the ideas, the conversation but I didn’t have a mechanism for moving on from there. I stopped going to conferences for several years actually because I couldn’t reconcile my lack of follow-up with the energy and excitement that I felt “in the moment”. I think we need to be bringing the conversation to our schools, our administrators, colleagues, students and parents especially those who may not yet be involved in PLNs and immersed in learning 2.0. I’m interested in seeing the thinking and ideas of others because so often, I feel that the follow-up is the missing link.
I did NOT attend this session, but Will’s report and the many comments tell me this was one of those sessions that put (or sustained) the fire in your bellies.
I am about to move out of the “system” as a 42-year educator. I have seen and heard many things in my career. In 1984 I experienced my first electronic “lessons” on early computers. I immediately wanted to use unknown “modem” tools to provide my students with an authentic audience beyond myself and my very closed-in classroom. I predicted in 1985 a future in which all levels of institutions could communicate together, in which learning cut across barriers of walls and no teacher worked without a wide support system. That single idea moved me to seek others with similar thoughts, and to move through 25 years of my career, often sustained by the same level of excitement you probably felt after this gathering.
How do you keep the fire burning in your bellies and present that fire to the larger universe? That seems to be a question, and I have an answer. Distill it down to your personal vision of 20 years from now. Then LEAD to that vision. Keep it front and center and pursue others who can articulate their visions too.
FORM the community of FUTURISTS that the next generation needs, and don’t worry about the masses, because they are watching for you as they go about their daily business!
Jeremy Browne says
“…feeling the discomfort of the lack of diversity in the room, lack of real diversity in the opinions.”
The problem was not the lack of divergent opinions, but the assumed shame of disagreeing with the enlightened few. Disagreement is discouraged by default – it must be encouraged – and the TEDxNYED (no panels, no Q&A) – doesn’t encourage disagreement. I knew that going in, but it doesn’t lesson some disappointment.