While you read this… watch the world change

In the last 10 seconds, 9 iPhones were sold, 90 people joined Facebook, 100 blog posts were created, 6,000 people joined a “social game,” 7,000 tweets were tweeted, 125,000 videos were watched on YouTube, and 2,00,000 SMS text messages were sent worldwide. This is according to a cute little Flash app by Gary Hayes, a social media producer and speaker from Australia. Be sure to click on the social media, mobile, and games tabs to see all the numbers. It’s astounding.

It’s a hyper-charged world out there, gaining momentum every second. And every second, schools are closing the doors to this world to students. Whether this is out of fear, confusion, or a belief that this is just a social fad, it’s lost time for schools.

The world is changing, and insisting it’s not won’t do any good. Schools must grapple with the questions and the implications even though the challenges grow and the rapid changes in technology constantly call every decision into question. Tackling these questions, even if mistakes are made along the way, is better than irrelevance.


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Circle of Life: the technology-using educator edition

Stage: A whole new world
You hear an inspiring keynote at a conference, read a book, or see a colleague use technology in their classroom. It clicks with something inside you.

Stage: Connection
You try to understand the role of technology in your life as an educator. Coincidently, you start to see this topic pop up all around you. It seems to be haunting you. You set up a blog reader and add a few feeds. You find a guru whose words help you make sense of the murky picture.

You read books, start your own blog, or change something in your everyday life. You go to an educational technology conference and attend every session.

Stage: Stepping into the void
You implement a project you never would have attempted before. You get more and more into the subject and are amazed that there is such a vast network out there. You add more blog feeds, listen to podcasts, buy books, start a wiki, subscribe to magazines, and join other networks and conversations. You wonder why grad school never felt like this.

You feel renewed as an educator and lifelong learner. Your colleagues wonder what’s gotten into you.

Stage: Firehose
You try too many new tools and join too many networks. You start to resent it when someone introduces something new. You hate your pile of unread stuff. Your blog feeds start to overwhelm you. No one comments on your best blog posts. It seems there is just too much to keep track of, and it never stops.

You get a bit depressed that you are so late coming to the party.

Stage: The big picture overwhelms
You wonder if what you are doing is just a waste of time. You find analogies to the failure of school in everyday occurrences. Your regular friends look at you funny when you start using words like “pedagogy” and railing about the “factory model of education” in everyday conversation.

You find that it’s not just technology-using educators who feel this way, that education reformers have been saying things like this for decades, even centuries.

You are sure that “school” cannot be fixed.

Stage: Ennui
You commiserate with your network about people who don’t “get it.” People who are coming late to the party annoy you. You tire of the clichés that seemed so fresh at first. You say things like, “If I hear about sage on the stage / guide on the side (or digital natives/immigrants, or anything 2.0, or insert your own pet peeve here) one more time, I’ll kill someone!” You meet your gurus and find out they are just human, and maybe really wrong about some things.

You stop going to conference sessions. Someone accuses you of being in the “in” group.

Stage: Renewal
You accept that you won’t ever be able to keep up with the hype machine and stop worrying about it. Your project goes well and your plans expand.

You start to narrow down your areas of interest and explore them deeper.

Stage: Building expertise
You attempt something on a wide scale, collaborating with other like-minded educators. You find renewed energy as you work with students or teachers and see things change. You find books, even some written decades or centuries ago that support your beliefs. You become better able to articulate the “why” of all this. You think about going back to school. You find experts outside of your newly constructed network.

People look to you for advice and expertise.

Stage: The circle of life
You connect with new people in their own early stages and give them guidance as they figure out what you have figured out. You mentor someone. A student says you’ve changed their life. You learn something new and feel that spark. You rededicate yourself to changing what you can. You think that if these ideas can take hold, even if it has to happen one person at a time, there is hope for the concept of school after all.

You use the phrase, “sage on the stage vs. guide on the side” – see someone’s eyes light up and forgive yourself.


Unpacking John Hughes – Lessons for Educators

Views: John Hughes’s Lessons – Inside Higher Ed.

This is a great little article by Maureen O’Connell in Inside Higher Ed magazine for educators to ponder. John Hughes left a legacy of films about adolescent relationships – with each other, with parents, but also with their own schools and teachers.

But for all of the examples of generational disconnect in the movies of the late director John Hughes (who died this month) also offers cues for avoiding the Bueller Triangle where meaningful interaction among adults and youth simply vanishes. In this light, Hughes’s films are revelatory for educators.

She goes on to plumb numerous John Hughes films for the key interactions between teachers, administrators, and students. You know, we’ve all seen them, identified with the kids, and perhaps squirmed uncomfortably as we recognize adults we know (or are.)

They don’t just want to study the historical, economic, political, psycho-sexual, and post-colonial contours of the red Ferrari. They want to drive it.

And adults like Andy Walsh’s broken-hearted father, Jack, or her eclectic boss, Iona, in “Pretty in Pink,” who teach young people by demonstrating what learning looks like — neither relating to them as peers nor hovering to try to protect them from life’s inevitable failures — provide the materials students need to make their own prom gowns, a now classic metaphor for navigating the drama of adolescence.

Sure, prom gowns and cars aren’t going to be on the test, but these kinds of connections to real life and the real motivations of kids are the priceless threads that connect, motivate, and teach.

John Hughes knew it. Some might think he was denigrating education because he often showed adults in an unflattering light. But he did also showed educators in moments of clarity when the walls came down and they saw students as real people on the ageless quest for identity, connection, and meaning in life.

RIP John Hughes, a great educator.


Part 2: What Makes a Good Project

Creative Educator magazine has Part 2 of the article series What Makes a Good Project by Gary Stager.

In Raising our Standards, Developing Projects that Endure, Stager argues that good projects meet higher standards than those found in state mandated lists of curricular objectives.

I suggest that educators plan and evaluate student projects based on a loftier set of goals. Teachers should embrace the aesthetic of an artist or critic and create opportunities for project development that strive to satisfy the following criteria. Is the project:

• Thoughtful
• Personally meaningful
• Sophisticated
• Shareable with a respect for the audience
• Moving
• Enduring

Read the article online here, or download the PDF here.

I recommended Part 1 in this blog post last November, and highlighted the other excellent articles (still free, still online!) found in that issue here.

Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge 2009

Ever question why technology seems to have gone missing in so many math and science classrooms? What happened to the “compute” in computing? Wondering what STEM really looks like?

Yes, technology, math, and science can be friends!

Constructing Modern Knowledge is organizing a one-of-a-kind educational event for January 22, 2009 at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy. Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge is a minds-on institute for K-12 teachers, administrators and technology coordinators looking for practical and inspirational ways to use computers to enhance S.T.E.M. learning. Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge is a pre-conference event for Educon 2.1, an innovative conference and conversation about the future of education.

The presenters represent high-tech pioneers and seasoned veterans at the forefront of innovation in math, science and computing. Read more about them here.

Come to Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge and stay for Educon 2.1!

  • Early-bird registration (before December 15) – $100
  • Regular registration – $130

You may register for both Constructing Modern Math/Science Knowledge and Educon 2.1 with one click.


More on Fair Use and ending copyright confusion

Last week’s post, Fair use explained for educators announced a new resource, The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. In the comments, Kristen Hokansen, a Pennsylvania educator and tech coach added more support resources that deserved a new post all their own!

Kristen actually attended the announcement event in Philadelphia and helped create a wikispace called Copyright Confusion that will become a forum for educators. If you have time, watch the ustream and a live blog of the event that are archived here, there are some really great points brought up. Kristen also wrote about the event on her own blog The END to Copyright Confusion~and a new beginning that adds more explanation and nuance to this very confusing subject.

Kristen says, “I encourage folks to visit, and join, and share how they are dealing with this release and encouraging folks to exercise their rights as content creators under fair use. I also recommend checking out the Teaching About Fair Use page on Temple Media Lab’s site. There are all kinds of great lessons, examples, case studies and materials that can be used to help develop understanding.”


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What Makes a Good Project?

The Creative Educator magazine is running first of a two-part article on project- based learning by Gary Stager and illustrated by Peter Reynolds.

What Makes a Good Project? covers eight elements of projects that make them worth doing:

  • Purpose and relevance
  • Sufficient time
  • Complexity
  • Intensity
  • Connected to others
  • Access to materials
  • Shareable
  • Novelty

Stager concludes with questions teachers can ask themselves to improve the design of project-based learning experiences for students.

Project-based learning does take extra work to design and implement, but the results are worth it for everyone involved. So if you make the effort, it’s worth doing it right. As Stager says, “Making things is better than being passive, but making good things is even better!”

Update – Part 2 of this article is now online!  Part 2: What Makes a Good Project

Fair use explained for educators

“Fair use” is the doctrine that allows some use of copyrighted material for education purposes without requiring the permission of the copyright holders.

However, confusion about what exactly is allowed has caused many educators and students to either avoid ALL copyrighted materials just to be safe, or to use ANYTHING without regard to copyright laws. According to a report last year from this same organization, teachers’ lack of copyright understanding impairs the teaching of critical thinking and communication skills.

To help everyone understand fair use, The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education was released today by the Center for Social Media in the School of Communication at American University.

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education outlines five principles, each with limitations:

Educators can, under some circumstances:

  • Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works, and use them and keep them for educational use.
  • Create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded.
  • Share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded.

Learners can, under some circumstances:

  • Use copyrighted works in creating new material.
  • Distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard.

The limitations and circumstances are explained more fully in the report.

Along with reports like this one, the Center website contains some really useful resources for classroom use. Classroom and discussion guides, videos that are perfect to start class discussions and projects, and more.

Thanks to Doug Johnson of the Blue Skunk Blog for the heads-up on this valuable resource!