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?

“Seat time” 2.0

schoiolbusReports 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?

The “outsourced brain”

socrates vrDavid 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?