Last week at the Personal Democracy Forum, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a story about how as an “older person” he had trouble with the fact that during his one-hour a week staff meeting, everyone had their heads in their computers. So he decided to ban computers from the meeting, and the next week, everyone around the table was leaning forward, looking much more engaged…until he realized they were all checking their Blackberrys under the table. And then, regarding this state of affairs at one of the most successful companies in the world, he said:
â€œThis is a battle that we have lost, and I think itâ€™s fine. And I think itâ€™s a statement of how important this technology is, and I think it is a permanent change.â€
(Click here to listen to the exchange between Schmidt and Thomas Friedman…apologies for the quality.)
Schmidt’s last comment was my first thought after reading, albeit a bit late, this post on Ben Wilkoff’s blog about a very successful wiki collaboration project he was doing with his students in Colorado and a class in Connecticut that was derailed when one of the Connecticut student’s mothers threatened to call state attorney general to complain about the site because:
1-there were three personal pictures â€” all on the map of the home page
2-some kids used their real names on pages or as a username
3-in my post on icon I identified that where I live and that I teach at a â€œblue collar schoolâ€
4-I had pictures of the school and the rooms which could provide a blueprint for a killer
5-some kids put personal descriptors â€œI am five feet tall with brown hair named Samâ€
6-on my â€œlesson plan blogâ€™ One thing i wrote down last Thursday was something like â€œMyspace words of Wisdomâ€ which she interpreted as me telling the kids about how they should join.
This according to the teacher from Ct., who later in the most interesting comments thread writes:
Of course, just like everything else that gets banned, the wikis went underground. More kids created their own wikis in response to this than they did while my class wiki was active. So now instead of one wiki in with the whole team involved (not to mention me), there are now many wikis splintered across the wikiverse.
And so there it is. There is really the crux of this. We. Cannot. Win. This battle has been lost, the problem is most parents, and most educators just don’t get it yet. All this banning of cell phones and taking down wikis and filtering out blogs…all of it is our own little Iraq. It’s not working. It’s not going to work. And all these laws that non-technological legislators are proposing are just a last gasp attempt at a “surge” that is doomed to failure as well. More restrictions, more blocking, more battening down the information hatches is only going to drive it all underground and make the world of our kids less safe. And, it will deny us a chance to help our kids develop and employ the literacies they are going to need to succeed in their future.
This is not a battle worth fighting. Let’s just stop.
(Photo “Text Squat” by Moriza)
Technorati Tags: education, learning, technology, schools, fear, shifts
I’m not sure how having people sitting around the table reading blackberry e-mails under the table while the group is trying to accomplish something is a ‘win”.
I’ve been on both sides of this and been called on to give my opinion about something going on at the “overt” meeting while I was mutitasking on my laptop and been embarrassed because I wasn’t really following the conversation closely.
As the author Susan Musgrave says, “To listen to someone, to really hear what they say, is perhaps the greatest act of love.”
Perhaps it says less about the technology and more about the value people place on being truly “present” at a meeting…or the value of the meeting itself.
I have a belief that “energy follows attention”. Close your eyes and put your attention on your “sit bones”. Suddenly, that part of your body comes into focus in a new way. Close your eyes and focus on the sounds near you, and they become larger and richer.
When we are present to the conversation at a meeting, we experience it fully. It is not just background noise to an e-mail we are typing or reading.
I know I’m focusing on only one of many important points in you post; but I’m struggling with this.
Doug Johnson says
I see genuine education climate change ahead for the very reasons you talk about here. .
Parents are already weighing in on student-owned devices in schools – they want their kids to be connected for security purposes if nothing else.
You as a presenter know that the ante has been upped – if YOU want eyes you need to be more engaging in some way than what is on the screen.
Looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta next month!
I think that the points the Colorado mom makes are valid, but need to weighed up in the overall educational value of the exercise.
Perhaps the need for “Digital Security Awareness” needs to made explicit with the teachers using web2.0 technologies, then if they at least have a policy to follow some kind of governance can be made.
It’s naive to think that young people are not already exposing details of their personal life on the web, but we need further education of the lasting effects of publishing, and an explanation of the possible audiences that are viewing it.
I agree it’s a battle, but it needs to be fought on both sides.
Wikis are fantastic and I have found them quite useful in the classroom. There is value in using them wisely, balancing the needs of all (including parents).
I’m still befuddled as to the reason why the educational process of young people has to be broadcast to the whole world. Unless there is a compelling reason (pedagogically) for wikis to be public, why make them public?
As a parent, I would want to know who my child is sharing their personal information with, like this parent. Was the parent asked to sign a waiver or memorandum of understanding before the project began? Were the details laid out? Was a risk-assessment performed?
As an educator, I want to make sure my students have a safe learning environment, where their mistakes can be used formatively for their own learning benefit. I fail to see how broadcasting these learning initiatives around the world helps with their future career, especially at a young age.
“…the problem is most parents, and most educators just donâ€™t get it yet…” That’s a sweeping statement. Does a parent “not get it” because he/she has concerns about the safety of his/her children that may not have been addressed by the educators?
(And I fail to see how this issue is our own little Iraq. If you mean to compare this to a dictatorship, then there would be no open discussion or debate about these issues.)
There are two extremes–those avoiding all technology and those embracing all technology without due process. We can help reduce “battles” by skillfully assessing and addressing concerns before they arise. Educators can use this as an example of what information should be shared, and how parents can be a part of the solution.
Will Richardson says
Pete: Thanks for the comment. I think the issue is how do we work toward teaching ourselves and our students to use these tools for learning/communicating while at the same time attending to what is happening in physical space and living up to the expectations of that space. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive at all. I don’t think, at least, that banning the stuff is the solution to the attention issue. The reality is that that in the world my kids are growing into, they need to be able to employ the tool and engage in the conversation. I’m reminded of what Chris Lehman experienced with his kids at SLA and the IM “problems.” He didn’t pull the plug, which he could have. He decided to work with the kids to find some way for the technology to coexist with the classroom.
This is something new this ubiquitous connection stuff. We’re struggling with it. But for my kids sakes, we better start figuring out a better “solution” to the problem.
Will Richardson says
Doug: Thanks for chiming in. Looking forward to NECC as well, and I hope you are right in that change is coming. In terms of my presenting/teaching, everyone in the room has a choice to make (if they have a connection) and that choice is based on a very complex set of conditions. Is the message interesting and engaging? Is it interactive? How does respect enter into it? All sorts of other expectations. It is a different environment…not necessarily better or worse. It requires different approaches, ones that we are just now learning.
Will Richardson says
Paul: Thanks for the comment. My point is that we need to rethink our strategies for keeping kids safe. And I think it’s not so much a policy as it is a different way of doing the learning business. The huge push for teachers here is the drastically different ways learning online looks from learning in a classroom. Until they get some personal sense of it, it’s going to be hard for educators to counsel kids as to how to be safe, ethical, and effective in the use of the tools.
Will Richardson says
Monica: Thanks to you too for the thoughtful comments. Much appreciated. I think the compelling reason why we should make this work public to the world is so that they have experience doing that with us in the “room” to guide them. I really parallel it to teaching kids to drive. We wouldn’t only let them drive around the neighborhood before sending them off to get their license, would we? Or we wouldn’t say “here are the keys; go practice on the Interstate by yourself.” Their worlds are going to be globally connected. Now is our chance to help them navigate what that means.
And certainly I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t be concerned about their child’s safety. I have those concerns for my own kids. But again, the way we are going about it strikes me as absurd. My kids will be most safe if I can educate them to keep themselves safe, not by trying to prevent them from participating. This is a part of the MySpace, Dateline mentality that the media
has totally blown out of proportion.
Finally, I am all about a process here. I don’t embrace all technology, but I do think that technologies are changing things in some drastic ways, and we need to start conversations on many different levels to respond to those changes in ways that best prepare our kids to live in a much more transparent, much more collaborative world. Thanks again for entering this conversation.
Tracy Franck says
Last week I was reviewing the technology instruction portions of Praxis portfolios created by students in our Teaching Professions Academy. I was taken aback by how many students made specific reference to the safety and relavance of .org and .gov web sites, just becuase they were .org or .gov. When I questioned the instructor about this, she informed me the English instructors at the school (our programs are sattelites) were teaching this to the students. Talk about an argument for not blocking! Because all the “bad” sites were blocked the students were just taking the word of the misinformed teacher(s), who themselves couldn’t get to any sites, either, to learn the error of their ways. Wow. So by “protecting” our children we were in fact, in my opinion, causing far worse harm.
David Jakes says
As a former biology teacher, I can’t resist…
Life will find a way…
Let’s take the conversation a bit further. (at least the portion I’ve focused on – divided attention)
I don’t think inevitability is the best argument for deciding whether a particular behavior is permitted or desired…and I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that we ban things, without thinking them through.
Here are some divided attention scenarios that we should think about:
A student comes to see a teacher about a problem either content related or personal. It’s serious and they are nervous about approaching the teacher for help. While they are explaining what is going on, the teacher continues to turn to the computer to type and looks up once in awhile, to nod and say “uh huh”. How is the student feeling? This can happen with a teacher and administrator, parents, etc.
You are at a Broadway play with you family and your teenage daughter is typing away sending text messages. You shelled out $100 bucks for her ticket.
You are out to dinner with a friend who is constantly answering her cell phone and having conversations with her friends.
Or someone has asked to video conference into a statewide meeting to save travel time. They have their mic on mute all day, and the poor shlubs who have traveled and are at the meeting look up and see her doing other work, talking on the phone, and to other folks coming into her office all day.
I have heard many presenters talk about the ability to multitask and the plasticity of the brains of millenials.
What about appropriateness, attention, and basic courtesy? Are we saying that because the tools allow us to do these things, we should?
Are all things multitasking equal?
Isn’t this a great time to redefine what a meeting is? What a classroom is?
Anyway, I think “accept it all because we can’t ban it all” is not an answer that is satisfactory.
Still struggling with this and am looking forward to your thoughts.
Will Richardson says
Pete: Great questions. I’m not saying we should accept it because banning won’t work. I’m not saying we should “accept” those behaviors because that’s the new way of the world. But I am saying that we shouldn’t be surprised these things are happening right now because in very, very few places are these technologies and these shifts being addressed in terms of appropriate and ethical use. I’m not surprised at much of this behavior, just as I’m not surprised at what kids are putting up on their MySpace sites. We’re not teaching how to use these tools well. We’re not modeling it. I think our role as educators is to set and model expectations that lead to our kids not doing most of what you refer to above. But blocking the technologies certainly is not going to get us there.
I may be naive, but I think we’re in the tough spot right now, when we’re all struggling to find balance. It’s all coming very fast. I’m hoping there will be a settling out where we do start to come to terms with these cultural and technological shifts and begin to help our kids manage them instead of try to insulate them from them.
I think sometimes, as proponents of technology, the message we are delivering can lack clarity and it can seem like we are endorsing concepts like “divided attention”. That’s what I heard when I read the anecdote about Eric Schmidt.
In the early 90’s when I was trying to get educators to do multimedia reports, I remember warning English teachers that kids will want to spend 90% of their time on the production values and 10% on the content…and that they should not abdicate their role as teachers. They needed to keep bringing the focus back to the content of the project. Outside of class, kids can spend as much time as they like on the production.
Technology is presenting us with a rich fabric of choices. The choices we make and model, as educators, should always represent what we value and hold dear. For me, it’s about recognizing the gifts of the students in our care and helping those gifts come to life in the world.
The technology available today presents unprecedented means by which to foster connection and connectedness. We should be channeling connection, not putting up roadblocks.
Drew Buddie says
I’m an avid reader of your Blog and REALLY respect every point you make. Usually. But for the first time, like a commenr above, I find myself questionning why the Blackberry example can be described as lost. Surely had the CEO faced up to the issue and said – “LL OF YOU, POUT THOSE BLACKBERRYS IN THIS BOX.NOW.” And left them there throughout the whole meeting. Then he would not have ‘lost’. H’d have regained ground.
I also do not agree that this is generally fight that we cannot win. I just don’t like that attitude to ANY event n life.
I firmly think that some aspcts of social software are dangersous and have no place in schools , and to jut let them be used because we feel impotent is a defeatist attitude that I cannot agree with.
Drew Buddie says
SORRY about the typos in the above comment which I cannot seem to edit it.
I’m an avid reader of your Blog and REALLY respect every point you make. Usually. But for the first time, like a commenr above, I find myself questionning why the Blackberry example can be described as lost. Surely had the CEO faced up to the issue and said – “ALL OF YOU, PUT THOSE BLACKBERRYS IN THIS BOX.NOW.” And left them there throughout the whole meeting. Then he would not have ‘lost’. He’d have regained ground.
I also do not agree that this is generally a fight that we cannot win. I just don’t like that attitude to ANY event in life.
I firmly think that some aspcts of social software are dangersous and have no place in schools, and to just let them be used because we feel impotent is a defeatist attitude that I cannot agree with.
Drew Buddie says
Grrr technology. My computer is not showing the letters I am typing 🙁 What a time to pick to make my first post to your Blog.
I think it’s too early in the wired revolution for us to be giving up.
Dean Shareski says
The blackberry example continues to describe how we view technology in isolated and separate from the real issue. The issue is manners and appropriate behaviour not blackberry’s cellphones and laptops. Kids have been using imaginary blackberry’s for years in the form of daydreaming, scribbling and unrelated discussion. The blackberry/ipod/cellphone/whatever is just form in many cases.
The other issue already touched on is that using these devices in new ways means the “meeting” or “classroom” must adjust. I use my laptop in many meetings and yes, I am doing things unrelated to the meeting at hand but am still feeling connected and productive. We need to adjust to this. When I conduct workshops I’m up front with folks and tell them that if what I’m doing is not engaging or interesting, feel free to tune out. They will anyways so why pretend otherwise. The fact they may have a device that allows them to be productive is a bonus.
Do you see how much this means school needs to be way different?
Also in regards to social networking, if by “aspects” you mean behaviors I agree. If you mean the ability to share content and connect with people, I disagree.
If students are supervised and taught how to use technology responsibly, they will be more successful in the future. The problem is that a lot of parents just trust their kids to do the right thing and aren’t actively involved in their kids’ choices. I admit this is getting harder and harder to do. I do think that there are times when people need to interact with each other without technology. Real conversation can actually be enjoyable.
John Dewey believed that human beings are natural organisms who, in relation with their environment, have evolved and developed intelligence. Intelligence is not innately given; it is developed out of habit of inquiry, reflection, and problem solving or adapting to an environment; it is the result of attempting to overcome problematic, threatening, and unstable characteristics of experience. Human beings, in the face of precarious situations, work out conceptual frameworks and instruments or tools in order to make these situations more stable and reliable. Intelligence is the human instrument for adapting to, altering, and refining one’s transaction with the environment. Intelligence is for life and the enhancement of life; it is directed to improving the quality of experience. John Dewey wrote this at the turn of the 20th century. I have said it on this blog before, as advocators of technology and educators who want to challenge the intellect of the 21st century learner we need to address a pedagogical paradigm shift in the classroom first and foremost. These tools are here to stay and kids will use them appropriately or inappropriately no matter the amount of regulation thrust upon them, that is the essence of intellectual development and what Dewey was trying to convey to educators ninety years ago. Students will find methods to fulfill their intellectual curiosity, banning or prohibiting the web 2.0 tools only steers them done the wrong path and sends a wrong message. “Build it and they will come”.. well its been built and they are coming, putting a fence around it will not stop them now they have experienced it. The question we must ask ourselves is do we want them to play in the streets with no supervision or on the grass fields with umpires? The problem before us is not access but rather the training and development of the umpires. When educators and policy makers begin value process rather than product and knowledge rather than numbers then and only then we can begin to facilitate the learning experiences that encourage the development of life long learners rather than producing mere cogs that run the industrial machine.
Lisa Nielsen says
Technology is here to stay. There’s no turning back and banning is a useless option. I think we always have to have acceptable, appropriate, and safe use at the forefront of our minds. If that’s what guides us, I think everything else will fall into place. In all the aforementioned scenarios, when you ask what is acceptable, appropriate, and safe, the proper course of action seems clear.
I really like what Dean Shareski said. The technology is just a symbol for what we were doing anyway when we weren’t exhibiting manners or paying attention. Sometimes it’s the fault of the person not listened to and other times the fault of the listener.
When I am presenting I know basic techniques like place your laptops at 45 degrees, close and focus, etc. I also think it’s great that I have to be engaging enough to keep my audience’s attention.
If people are multitasking or sleeping in the 21st Century audience then 21st Century presenters must learn new classroom management skills.
Ben Wilkoff says
Thanks so much for linking to my post. I think that this is such an important issue for us to start tackling as a edublogosphere. I just had a meeting with some of the heavy hitting tech “guys” in our district. I was presenting them with my ideas for a School 2.0 within a School, and while some of them got fired up about it, at least one took the view that having the minimum technology base in a classroom is the direction we should be heading in. He was basically saying that the students will gain these skills at home, and until we fully allocate funding for the integration of technology into the classroom with the professional development to match, that is just where all of the learning is going to stay.
I have a hard time agreeing with that concept, even if funds are scarce. We cannot consciously make ourselves irrelevant as teachers and mentors. But, this is exactly what we will be doing if we continue to ban what is valuable and underfund what is essential.
Oh, if anyone wants to check out the School 2.0 within a School proposal, head over to http://academyofdiscovery.wikispaces.com. Thanks again for the blog love.
Can anyone define a â€œprogressive direction??â€
We are focusing too much on the tools and not the artisans…To honestly think that technology is the end all is, well ignorant. The focus must be on the development of instructional practices that enhance the emotional and cognitive development of the modern student to meet societal “demands” and I agree technology helps, but it is by no means the solution. We need to rethink what WE do in the classroom, not what we use…. our methods need to change in order to adapt to new technological advances.. not vice versa..
Hammers are only hammers until they are put into the hands of a master carpenter…
should we be focusing only on the hammers??