Intriguing Ourselves to Death…

a plea for Education…

What follows isn’t anything new, but will likely be all too common – yet it serves as a concrete example of why education must change and what it must address.

Over an hour ago, I thought I’d better see if any comments had been made to a recent post of mine on the InfiniteThinkingMachine Blog. The post was about education learning from Big Music failed response to the digital era (Digital Rights Management, lawsuits, fear campaigns, etc.) and the head of Warner Music now acknowledging this and offering their content DRM-free at Amazon. Fellow-blogger Lucie deLaBruere got me looking into a discussion on Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed –

Open in New Tab #1 Lucie's comment– Skimming through the post and many comments, I was drawn to Ric Murray’s that referred to his post titled, ” Educational System: Blow It Up And Start Anew

ricOpen in New Tab #2 – I know Ric from year’s back when I met him at a workshop in Rome, Georgia. Ric mentioned Tim Holt, whom I don’t know so I skipped off to his blog that has changed into Intended Consequences. There I ran across this cool video where a graduate student at Carnegie-Mellon demonstrates how to use a WiiMote and minimal LED / IR electronics to create a $50 Interactive Whiteboard.

Open in New Tab #3

YouTube Video:

Now if this doesn’t prompt you to further explore Johnny Chung Lee’s Web site, you do indeed have a life! Looking through videos of other projects brought me to something I’ve been thinking since my long-awaited 12-inch Mac Laptop didn’t come out, but the iPod Touch / iPhone did: the next cool super portable Mac should be an enlarged, say, “tablet-sized” slate (iSlate? – you read it here first – oops, a quick Google search shot that one down 😉 – okay so here’s something original (maybe?): you know those silicone cooking trays that bend and withstand heat? Don’t you think that would be a good body for at least the 2nd Generation iSlate? The following video shifts this idea slighter further from Science Fiction and into your backpack:

YouTube video:

These two videos lead me to…

Open in New Tab #4Johnny Chung LeeWhere I looked through the other videos on Johnny Chung Lee’s YouTube Profile where I spotted one of his favourites, a video from Crysis. I had not idea what it was, but it looked cool, so take a look.

YouTube video:

Open in New Tab #5crysis - wikipediaOf course a quick Wikipedia search revealed what one of my least “schooly” tech-using students could have told me: Crysis is a new shooter game published by the assembly line of game creators, Electronic Arts. I was so impressed by the real-time rendered graphics that I wanted a closer look at the company that developed Crysis: Crytek. Especially take a look at their video that demonstrates their CryEngine 2:

cryengine 2

So where does this meandering leave us? A few important things come to mind:

  1. I’ve just spent a couple hours thoroughly engaged, letting one idiosyncratic interest lead to another. How many students in school can say the same thing? Isn’t this the way we all learn? Starting with our prior knowledge, igniting interests, adding new pieces to our body of knowledge? (other models of learning you’d like to suggest?).
  2. However, none of this has anything to do with the paying work I began and set aside four hours ago. So where does the incredible “personal learning” afforded by Web 2 technologies align with the demands of things like work and school? The New Tab Clicks above began with my own work / body of knowledge, then added new info about how to hack an interactive whiteboard (maybe I’ll share this with geekier friends at school?), future gadgetry that I like to share during keynotes and ending with an overwhelmed amazement at the life-like virtual experiences most of our children and students will be used to when they aren’t sitting in school. So, yes, I did “learn”, but when does learning become achievement and accomplishment?
  3. So as challenging as many in education would consider “engaging” students, this isn’t enough. The point is not to repeat the worn lament that kids use technology as a distraction. First off, we all do! Second, I see the challenge as not avoiding getting intrigued (which some see as the answer), but doing something with it. Hence this article. Hence, the need to change education from the inconsequential tasks that turn students to intriguing / amusing technologies, into experiences that “amount to something,” that “matter.” My thinking on how to do this involves CEQ•ALL which begins with a foundation of intrinsic motivation and builds achievement through sincere effort to achieve quality and ends with enthusiastic attitudes and creations that demonstrate the joy of learning.

And this is my complaint with blogging – all these ideas and where do they build? This is our challenge as Ed Tech / Learning aficionados. After 20+ years in the game, I’ve got a few essentials down and a lot of huge gaps – which is our human condition and why an “open source / collaborative” model where teams of teachers, working with administrators and students, need to build a body of knowledge, not just posts with good ideas. Any one interested in participating in this?

8 thoughts on “Intriguing Ourselves to Death…”

  1. Well said!
    Thanks for including me in the conversation. I too wonder about how we seem to be telling a whole lot of ourselves about things, but we are leaving a whole lot of people behind.

    First of all, we are leaving the techno-illiterate behind.
    Secondly, we are leaving the economically disadvantaged behind.
    Thirdly, we are leaving behind those that may be of different ethnicities. (How many of the web 2.0 gurus are middle aged white guys like me?)

    El Paso Texas

  2. Tom,
    I’ve been so thinking about all you wrote here lately. Thinking about what a luxury it is for me to get lost in the what you call “hours of iinquiry” sometimes known as online TimeSuck. I love finding new ideas (how to turn a wii remote into an interactive whiteboard) to great conversations in the edublogger world. I’ve been asking “so what next for me”.? Struggling about whether to spend my time “adding to a conversation” that primarily reaches like-minded people? Struggling about going back into the classroom to reach a group of kids the way I use to in project based learning where kids discovered new technologies, learned how to learn, all while contributing something meaningful to the world around them (your post made me go back and watch the excitement my students felt when they were involved in a labor of love creating a community web project celebrating Franco American Culture– (see video link in this old blog post ) . This is a world education is straying furthern and further from. Listening to podcast, I wonder the same — there are so many good ideas– how do we turn them from a a random collection of good ideas to a body of knowledge that can be organized and accessible for high quality learning. I’m currently working with a small group of educators who are focussing on creating PLAYLIST of audio/video ideas that can be used and resused to scaffold a conversation that can grow a body of knowledge in a learning community (teachers, students, parents, etc). I’m not sure where it’s going to end up… but I’m happy to have found others who are on the same wave length. Keep me posted on your journey.

  3. Tom,

    Thanks for including me in your conversation. It’s good to see Tim here too, with his big time hit from last summer.

    I think the CEQ*ALL approach might just lead to “intriguing ourselves to becoming educated.” I do believe there is that “basic level of knowledge” all should know, but somehow we must be able to agree on what the basics are, so we can then allow students to pursue their intrigue.

    One thing I have rolling in my head, and it has been for some time, is the role of student experiences, in congruence with their knowledge base, has toward “doing something” that will “amount to something,” that “matter[s].” Going a step further, what can be done from a school standpoint that will give students experiences that matter?

    Example: This past weekend my son had friends over to play XBox, eat pizza, and catch up with each other while they were on break from college. One girl, now a Sophomore at Vanderbilt University, who was a 7th grade student of mine was here. As she collected empty water bottles and soda cans I recalled a video she created in my classroom. It was The Lorax: Part 2 – where the boy plants the seed he is given at the end of the Seuss book. I asked her if she remembered making the claymation video. She said, “Not really, but I have always recycled since your class.” Later she recalled the video, and now it is posted at TeacherTube.

    The she said, “I remember the Web thing we did on the Children of China [Does the Tiger Eat Her Cubs WebQuest]. It changed my life. I don’t know what I want to do yet (occupationally), but I know it has to be something to help people, probably children.”

    She was intrigued by the Dying Rooms section in the WebQuest. She continued to learn more, on her own. Now, seven years later she remembers and may seek to spend her life trying to make a difference in the lives of people because of it.

    So, back to my hope for experiences to coincide with knowledge, I hope to discover a way to make experiences a reality for my students next year. If I cannot, then the WebQuest and CEQ*ALL processes will be my substitute.

  4. Hi All,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful replies.

    Here are some quick ideas to add to the mix before we head out for a little holiday:

    Ric – you said: “what can be done from a school standpoint that will give students experiences that matter?” You’ve hit the core issue. What I’m going to work on this year (since I’m back in one school more often) is to help teachers develop ClassPortals. Remember the Child Slave Labor Network? Students have made a huge contribution. I’m thinking that if I can help a teacher and group og students get excited about a main issue, then we can create a portal around it. The students could serve as sort of a investigating things like “What really happens when hundreds of thousands now buy a goat through charities at Christmas? – Does it really help? Are some scams? Do the goats get treated more poorly because of increased demand? Is a smaller scale, distributed approach better?” etc. I’ll keep you posted, but this is the kind of concerted effort I’m thinking of. For instance what if we each helped a teacher a group of students get into real solutions to global warming? We’d then have a great point for international collaboration, wikis, podcasts, videoconferences, etc. – all that could be really meaningful. Your input on Does the Tiger Eat her Cubs is great and a signal that meaning matters.

    Lucie – your podcast playlist is a great thing. Is there a way to harvest and package a set of rich audio/video podcasts in a way like we can with a hotlist of links? What have you found is the best way to share these so students can whack them right onto their iPods? I’m still burning CDs, but is there a better way?

    Tim – I’m looking at phones and the lowcost laptops (ASUS / XO) plus cheaper, ubiquitous broadband as helping in a lot of the areas you mention, but my experiences lead me to beileve that changing the way people think of education to be the biggest challenge. People seem to “get” the coolness and power of technology, but the weight of media and culture (and habit?) seem to funnel into amusement and diversion, not intrigue and achievement. Taking the “school” out of the “learning” is something tech is good for. What do you think?

    Cheers all and thanks again.
    Tom —

  5. IMHO, you are on target that there are many voices, ideas and models for education in a technological world, and I agree to help. Your goal is similar to my own.

    Many people that you may not even know have been blogging about philosophical content similar to that you describe, so all we have to do is join the 1’s and 0’s into coherence.

    Here are some related threads on a few blog postings:

  6. Hi Tom,

    I have been a fan of your webquests from “back in the day.” I, too, find myself surfing late in the night. But I don’t assume that nothing comes out of it. Somewhere in my subconscious, these nuggets are stored to be reactivated when the time is right.

    Having said that, I do agree with the idea that students need to be called into action for deeper learning. I believe that a teacher’s greatest role is to inspire that into action by providing students with an authentic challenge and the tools for tackling that challenge.

    “How?” Here’s one example from my latest blog post. QuantumShift TV’s student contest! In this authentic challenge-based activity, students create two three minute videos. The first is to present how they plan to be the change in the world that they would like to see. The second is to report on their results. Students compete with others from around the world in a social action learning project with real-world consequences and real-world prizes.

    I think it provides a great example of how late night surfing can lead a teacher and his/her students to strive toward greatness.

    All the best,

    Gregory Louie
    Efland, NC


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