Today the HASTAC / MacArthur Foundation opened comments on the applications to the Digital Media and Learning Competition. Mine is called “Our2020” and seeks to engage a global audience of teenagers to explore and develop media artifacts and knowledge around what they can expect the world to look like in 2020. If accepted, we will use multiple layers of online environments to support students’ intrinsic yearning to make meaning and problem-solve authentic challenges.
In terms of technology, we are looking at a 1:1 mobile learning platform where students have netbooks – or better yet – Apple’s new device. It would be a shame if something so powerful became a platform for textbooks. Better, but we can do WAY better.
As I mentioned in the NML Conference debrief, Denmark is taking the lead in piloting full Internet access for students taking their end of high school exams. Nice to see the BBC article verifying that this has taken place. As was indicated at the conference three main elements inform the decision:
This is the real world
Students can be trusted
Meaningful tasks are beyond copy-and-paste / regurgitations
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 #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.
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:
Open in New Tab #4 – Where 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.
Open in New Tab #5 – Of 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:
So where does this meandering leave us? A few important things come to mind:
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?).
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?
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?
It’s no secret that the music industry has played hardball with users of filesharing networks. Leaders in the field worked hard to ignore the fact that those who swapped files via BitTorrent were also the greatest purchasers of music. Now it seems that Big Music may be crumbing just like the Berlin Wall, Big Tobacco and WMDs in Iraq. It seems Edgar Bronfman, head of Warner Music has signaled a change of heart:
“We used to fool ourselves,’ he said. “We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won.”
Although I work with many creative and innovative teachers, capital E Education doesn’t seem to get that the last couple years has witnessed a transformation: schools are now islands of impoverishment whereas homes, Starbucks and McDonald’s with their broadband WiFi access can be a better place for the motivated learner to get on with what they love. Because, although not everyone loves school, the joy of learning is universal.
Reports have been surfacing about different ways students use the daily bus ride to school. One particularly interesting one comes from Arkansas where it’s reported that Sheridan Turns School Bus into Classroom. This program is a joint effort and demonstrates some smart thinking. For instance, in combination with the WiFi’d bus in a maths & science curriculum:
The bus project and the Internet lessons are different because, in part, they not included in the regular school program, Hudson said. Instructional time is on the bus and in a satellite location — not at school.
As this begins to break down the criterion of “seat time” as a measure of learning, schools will need to take a look at other dimensions. Conversely, maybe information overload will become the bus butt of the future?
File this post under: “Intriguing ourselves to Death”
Check the cool new mashup of Google Maps, Wikipedia and László Kozma’s programming that he calls WikipediaVision. It’s a great illustration of the changing nature of “knowledge.” WikipediaVision provides relatively realtime markers for who just added content to Wikipedia from where and on what topic. Like the search voyeur sites, it’s easy to get caught in the experience. I paused a little while to capture what I thought was an interesting juxtaposition. Here we have someone from Florida adding content to the entry on one of the grand old repositories of knowledge.
Like the last post, I suspect that’s what’s most needed for educational change to not descend into oxymoronic cliche is to re-envision school as a place that fosters the joy of learning that WikpediaVision and most Web 2 apps amply illustrate is alive and well.
David Brooks’ Op-Ed piece “The Outsourced Brain” in the New York Times is a must read for educators. Beginning with a GPS goddess that gently steers the author in the right direction, Brooks goes on to invoke his use of calculators for math (a given), iTunes for musical selection, search engines for memory of spot knowledge, smart phones for all the personal details we used to memorize, and finally syncing it all together with the wisdom of crowds that actually makes such “choices” with more validity than most of our own decisions.
It’s a fresh look with a bit of tongue in cheek, but what I love is that there’s plenty of common sense that’s obvious for any who live much of life “enhanced” by the New WWW (90% of those between 12 and 25?). What I find interesting is that many teachers object on something like moral grounds: “it’s just not natural,” “not the way it should be,” “isn’t what was good enough for us,” etc. These comments remind me of two anecdotes related to change. First, we know that Socrates objected to writing as it would diminish the power of the brain and oratory. The fact that what this wisest of men said was true didn’t alter the outcome: tablets, papyrus, scribes, Gutenberg, newsprint, paperbacks, Webpages, etc. “Digging in” against change “on principle” is no more valid than excusing ones self due to skill deficits or technophobia. Professionals work within reality to continuously improve what they do.
The second anecdote I’m reminded of springs from the complaints made by the parents of many of today’s veteran teachers during the last Generation Gap. The complaints could have been about Rock ‘n’ Roll or cohabitation. Even though parents in the 60s didn’t like the, these seismic shifts, they are now mainstream: The Beatles are Muzak and living together commonplace. The point of this minor rant is that many in education have to get over the “liking it” delusion. Not liking the firestorm doesn’t dampen the flames, but turning your back on it is likely to get you burned and place our children at risk. Maybe part of the trick is learning to live in a reality that seems so unreal?
The Seattle Times ran this article from the Gannett News Service that I think highlights why outsourcing aspects of teaching is inevitable. While districts around the U.S. entice teaching candidates with signing bonuses ($4000), laptops, and gym memberships, the article points out the obvious reality. Tom Carroll, president of the nonprofit National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, states
The real problem, Carroll says, isn’t attracting teachers — it’s keeping them.
Almost half of all teachers leave the classroom within five years. In high-poverty, urban schools the article contends “about half of teachers leave after two years, Carroll said.
The article doesn’t refer to the high costs involved in recruiting, interviewing, training, and incurring these expenses all over again when the revolving door swings past and our young colleagues move on. Hang-on, it’s not just the young, NEA President Reg Weaver concludes the article with, “I cannot tell you the number of people who are just waiting to retire because of lack of support, lack of respect and [low pay]. Rather than face those conditions, they leave.”
Here’s another example of why I see the 2nd10 as a time of (real) transformation for education. Once again, necessity is the mother of invention.
In this opinion piece, Jay Mathews at the Washington Post draws attention to something most visitors to most high schools in most parts of the developed world would echo:
For the vast majority [of high school students], academic stress is pretty rare.
Mathews’ attention was brought to the topic by the buzz around Alexandra Robbins’s new book, “The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids.” His point is that among overachievers – students who take multiple advanced placement classes and seek admission to elite universities – life can be stressful. At issue is that this population comprises no more than 5 – 10 percent of students in U.S. schools. Mathews cites data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. The Institute –
regularly asks about 400,000 college freshmen how much homework they did in high school. About two-thirds say only an hour a night or less.
So an hour or less. Hmm. It’s not that there’s anything holy about homework, but Mathews references other research to highlight how time is being spent:
The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research collects time diaries from American teenagers. These documents make clear our youth are not taking long walks in the woods or reading Proust. Instead, 15- to 17-year-olds on average between 2002 and 2003 devoted about 3 1/2 hours a day to television and other “passive leisure” or playing on the computer. (Their average time spent in non-school reading was exactly seven minutes a day.)
The point is not to bemoan slothful youth, but to help these people poised on adulthood to enter their world ready to take their places. And I think we’d all agree this isn’t prone on an easy chair in their parents’ living room. Reminds me of Chungian Motion…
Two days this week I worked with Editure – a new company made from several including myinternet and CSM. Editure and its strategic partners and customers gathered for this first annual Thought Leadership Conference. I am fortunate to work with Editure as a consultant charged with developing a thriving community of users. We got lots of great feedback during sessions and explored how “Web 2.0” might stoke “Education 2.0.” Ilook forward to working together to develop a global group of leaders and users of editure software.