Purpose/ed: Unlocking education, unlocking minds

It’s worth stopping and thinking back to some of the most exciting times in your learning life – to feel once again that cognitive buzz that energized your spirit and made you want to know more.  I mean something deep, visceral, urgent, demanding – like a child building and rebuilding a set of blocks with persistent fascination.  What have these learning moments been for you?

I still feel the utter disappointment of having found only dried macaroni inside the rocking clown that I demolished. I have so many memories from when I was a kid that remain charged with positive frustration (learning) and wonderful, sizzling amazement.   How many of them can I attribute to a learning experience as a by-product of formal education?  How many can you? Honestly!  What about our learners in schools today?

Learning and knowing cannot be separated, and relies on transactions and interactions with information. However, different people, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things. Most models of education and learning have almost no tolerance for this kind of thing. As a result, teaching tends to focus on eliminating the source of the problem: the student’s imagination!

The purpose of education is surely about cultivating the imagination, for without imagination there would be no knowledge, no development, no scientific discovery, nothing. Most of us at some stage in our lives have had the thrilling experience of seeing a new solution to a problem, not necessarily in lofty theories of the professional world, but perhaps in making something, or cooking, or gaming, or solving a social conundrum. You don’t have to be Einstein to experience that wonderful feeling of a strong sense of uniqueness through a new insight or idea – making a connection that you’ve never made before.

For me, this is the challenge and purpose of education – nurturing ‘eureka’ moments for every kid. Not only are Eureka moments extremely exciting, they also reinforce an inner conviction of being special, someone worth having around.

So when it comes to our digital environment, we must work with existing and emerging media tools to promote creative and reflective learning. The challenge is to go beyond the constraints of the classroom and to push the understanding of what is possible. You only have to look at projects like the Flat Classroom Project to appreciate the possibilities.

No-one likes to grow old – but hiding in the 20th century mindset won’t stop you aging!! In fact it will definitely give you digital dementia, and simultaneously disenfranchise your student’s right to learn at the same time.

It’s time to go beyond worksheets, pathfinders, and lock-step learning. We’ve been saying it for years now, but many schools still ‘throttle’ young minds with essays, exams, cross-form marking and more.  It’s not curriculum that’s the mind killer – it’s what teachers do, or are forced to do with it that’s the problem.

I wonder what you could do today to unlock learning and energize the minds of your students?  Eureka!

Work and learning

Effective working now requires an employee to recognize what information is required, to know how to seek out that information, evaluate it’s relevance and reliability, and to be able to translate that information into learning and actionable tasks. And this evaluation needs to be done constantly and consistently throughout an individuals career. Employers now have to accept that learning is an essential part of being able to get the job done – learning IS work.

Oh – at last! It’s worth reading perspectives from beyond the hallowed halls of education – after all, that’s where  our students are all heading in some way or another.

The rest of the post also has further gems in it.

via NoddleSoft.

Kids of Dreams – 2010 marks 21 years!

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It’s not long since our wonderful Friday evening launch and celebration of the 21st edition of our annual Kids of Dreams publication which celebrates literary and artistic talent. Student’s  prose, poetry and artwork from Years 7-12 are included in the publication.

It was an amazing night! Why?  Well it was ‘special’ for a number of reasons.  I was the main editor of the production this year, along with my wonderful Teacher Librarian colleague Kirsten Reim (who wrote a wonderful editorial for me), supported by my ever efficient library team. We came to the job a little late this year, so it was a complete scramble to the end, making sure that everything was as right as possible.  So much writing, so much art, so many decisions about layout and presentation. It was an amazing and rewarding experience to be able to work on a publication that showcases the work of our students who have the courage to speak up in artistic forms.

Author Brian Caswell provided the judging of the student’s literary works. Brian was Writer in Residence at the College earlier in the year.  Brian’s comments for each item he chose for an award are worth reading – so much so, that this year I included the judge’s comments within the publication itself  as a record of achievement for the students.

Kids of Dreams was  launched on Friday 19th November with the help of my talented Twitter friend Mark Pesce (inventor, writer, theorist, panelist on #newinventors, obsessed with language, communication, social networks).  I was able to tell the audience that Mark was the first VIP guest to come to the College as a result of an invitation arranged through Twitter!

Mark provided an inspirational keynote/official launch presentation – and focussed on the power of creativity to drive our learning and thinking. Creativity and inspiration is inside us all, and around us every day. How we harness these talents and opportunities is up to us, and how we share them with others is the key to change and development of value in all we do.

Hey! I never thought I would be MC at an event with Mark!!  Thanks very much Mark for making out 21st celebration a stunning success.

I swear I wasn’t smoking anything!

“I swear I wasn’t smoking anything. But I might as well have been”… is a tantalising statement in an article from Harvard Business Review earlier this year on How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking. To quote:

A study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs. What’s the impact of a 10-point drop? The same as losing a night of sleep. More than twice the effect of smoking marijuana. Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process. You might think you’re different, that you’ve done it so much you’ve become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that. But you’d be wrong. Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you.

The value of this article hit home for me yesterday when I read 7 Powerful Reasons Why You Should Write Things Down. I’ve not read Henrik Edberg’s book – could be good or bad for all I know.

But I do like some of the sentiments he expressed, particularly when I think about multi-tasking, and the use of technology.  I do believe that educators have to stop and think a little about  how important it is to promote reflective writing in our students. There is very good value in stopping and thinking AND there is still very good value in stopping and thinking with a pen and paper.

Well, of course, I’m not pushing against technology so much as pushing for technology melded with the a form of technology that is less  conducive to multitasking – i.e. writing on paper. It’s about capturing ideas. It can be about the tactile experience of writing those ideas down. Of focussing your full attention on the ideas as you write. Of letting those ideas rest. Of crafting and making by hand something that is an expression of our own thinking.

I liked some of these concepts shared by Henrik too:

Unloading your mental RAM. When you don’t occupy your mind with having to remember every little thing  you become less stressed and it becomes easier to think clearly. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important reasons to write things down.

Clearer thinking. If you want to solve a problem it can be helpful to write down your thoughts, facts and feelings about it. Then you don’t have to use your for mind for remembering, you can instead use it to think more clearly. Having it all written down gives you an overview and makes it easier to find new connections that can help you solve the problem.

Well, I have to admit, I do like notebooks, and nice pens.

Perhaps I’m just reflecting my age – or reflecting the values of an age that we shouldn’t lose just because we love technology!

My kids always wrote journals for their holidays and some of these are the nicest things we have to remember who they were when they were young. While I love to see and hear about the amazing feats of students who excel in virtual worlds, gaming and the like – I personally still stake a lot of value in the slow, deep, and reflective practice of writing.

The trick is to allow our students to have the time to acquire the habit and the skill of writing for pleasure, relaxation, reflection and learning. Sadly, I feel that schooling has slammed the door shut on this most wonderful of capabilities.

Excellence at ISTE 2010

Several intrepid educators have travelled across to Denver, Colorado  from various parts of Australia to attend one of the world’s leading conferences for learning and teaching with technology.

The conference  “Exploring Excellence” hosted by the International Society for Technology in Education is of a scale and variety that is never experienced here in Australia. Amazingly this conference gets underway a good day before the official launch.

Edubloggercon2010 was (as always) a totally crowd-sourced “unconference” event – built in the lead up to Saturday on a wiki, then finally voted upon and organized at the start of the day for the full day’s of busy activities. A list of of the shared link. My completely favourite fun session is always the Web 2.0 smack down of new media tools. Check them out and what others are saying.  We could really enjoy doing this for even longer than an hour – it’s just fabulous to get recommendations from practitioners. Overall,  it is amazing to see such grassroots activity resulting in such quality information.

Thanks to Scott Merrik for hosting a lovely evening at his brother’s home. So nice to spend time with Virtual Worlds educators, and to experience a little of Denver home life. I remember the first time I met Scott in ISTE island a few years back – and for his welcoming patience to a ‘newbie’ SecondLifer. 

The Opening Keynote on Sunday evening  by Jean-François Rischard of the World Bank  was a little disappointing – but the shared camaraderie of the crowd at the Bloggers Cafe certainly made up for this in spades. Nuts were shared, jokes were cracked, pictures were snapped, and Twitter humor abounded!

It’s my second trip to an ISTE international conference. It promises to be yet another inspirational conference.  I met one wonderful teacher – three years in the profession, three conferences at which she presented, and engaged in amazing innovation at her school. What an inspiration!

Technology innovation is everywhere! Already we have heard from schools that are integrating iTouch devices and now iPads into their overall curriculum delivery. This is very different to Australian schools who are stumped by network issues. Perhaps more of us should be at conferences like this to bump innovation along by disseminating crowd-sourced solutions to similar problems. This is where a personal learning network comes into it’s own. Someone can always help provide ideas and solutions.

I’m looking forward to learning more, interacting with old friends and new, and being excited about the future of learning. The program ‘at a glance’ gives a peep into the possibilities at ISTE2010.

If you dropped into my session on Monday, here is my presentation for review.

Horizon Report K-12 – future think!

What a buzz!  I helped with the Horizon Report K-12, which has been officially released.

This volume, the 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition, examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative expression within the environment of pre-college education.

Make sure you read it and circulate it to the leadership team in your school or institution.

Thanks to  Larry Johnson and Alan Levine of  NMC  for inviting me to join the 2010 K-12 Horizon Project Advisory Board as an Australian school representative.

Open Source ethos

I have been spending a bit of time thinking about The World is Flat by Friedman in preparation for the first Flat Classroom Project in 2010. Amongst other things, I thought about Open Source thinking and flat world communications which I planned to share in the  Keynote kick-off.

Well, you now how it is – I just couldn’t share everything  I wanted to (lots out in the rough cuts), but the ‘finds’ are still inspirational.

You have to be inspired by the powerhouses of  Open Source software and Open Content. There is no doubt in my mind that an Open Source ethos is the best way to collaborate, create, share, and be empowered to inspire future learning.

For example, during the crisis in Haiti, the Open Source community did amazing work in Haiti OpenStreetMap to assist aid and rescue workers to do their work and help the relief and reconstruction effort. It was a Flat Classroom Project in action – creating up-to-date  maps of  Port au Prince. Dozens of mappers and developers were able to lend a hand, coordinating on the OSM Haiti WikiProject.

Thanks to Paul Hamilton, I was inspired by yet another amazing example of the power of work taking place using Open Source Software to help people. The development of the  Eyewriter is inspirational. The Eyewriter uses low cost creative technology an free open source software to enable graffiti writers and artists with paralysis to draw using only their eyes.

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