What happens when you think outside the box?

THINK Global School is a travelling, international highschool which opened in September 2010.  The current group of 15 students and their teachers  don’t have a physical school building, but move every 90 days to another city somewhere in the world.  They study via the local museums and other cultural organisations in an anyplace, anytime classroom organised around their learning tools - an iPhone, iPad and Macbook ProImagine. Think Global is about doing  schooling in 12 countries in 12 trimesters.   Takes a lot of dollars, but what a great chance for some. Do parents get to go along?

via Edubeacon

Digital divide – what can go wrong!

Wrangling with online tools has become part of the daily work expectation for many – but not for many of our teachers in schools and universities it seems.

The more I work with educators, the more I worry about the learning opportunities we are creating for our students. Of course, I am generalising here, but nevertheless, I remain perplexed by the idea that teachers feel they are too “time poor” to learn something new each day. Every day, teachers expect their students to ‘go forth’ and find new information, learn new ways of approaching a topic, write another essay, fill another wiki, write another blog post, make another movie, sit another exam…..you know, it’s endless.  So students should stick at it…but not teachers?

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful full day of workshops at Tara School,  run by some trusty colleagues for the ICTENSW teachers.  Attendees came from city and country locations – some even found their way there from Singapore.  My workshop is one that I plan to run in a  few different locations in Australia and NZ during the year.  I wasn’t sure if it was really worthwhile – but Saturday reminded me of the great digital divide that is emerging  in teaching ranks. Here were keen teachers, willing to learn – what about the rest?

It’s not an issue of resourcing – it’s an issue of understanding and capability.  We need to make sure we remain sufficiently skilled to actually be quality mentors for our students!

Two areas stick out like a sore thumb - digital footprint and information seeking.

It’s the same problem we have always had – the expectation that only teacher librarians need to really know how to find stuff! I’m afraid that in our digital era, the stuff finding has to become a core digital skill for all teachers.  This is all the more paramount, when you juxtapose information seeking skills and knowledge creation strategies with digital footprint/digital citizenship and the power of positive digital interactions for professional learning.

The two are not mutually exclusive!

Learning to wrangle the web correctly and well  for information, communication, collaboration, social networking, gaming etc is an essential core skill for 21st century students.

I created a Livebinder to drill into some of these questions.  We didn’t get to do very much at all, even with two hours,  but at least the resource is there to learn more!

The rationale behind Knoweldge 2.0 is acknowledging the information maze; recognising that googling is the default skill that poor teaching promotes; finding out what else is around and why you would craft different approaches to information seeking; discovering the difference between seeking, and having information & news delivered with the power of RSS;  considering the power of academic databases and RSS; pegging cognitive skills into the mix, and dipping into the Howard Rheingold bunch of goodies; and then setting up your own personalised strategies.

All that can take a day to work through, not just a workshop. But it IS the sequence of thinking that every teacher needs to go through at some point if they are going to consider themselves as proper participants in Knowledge 2.0 or 21st century learning, or whatever else you want to label the learning  of today’s kids!

Let me know if you’d like to have a workshop like this at your school or institution.

Innovation and attention ~ locally

For many  campuses [and schools], the question is which learning technologies to support locally to support deeper student engagement with learning.

The information in the Horizon Report, published annually by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and the New Media Consortium (NMC), can help.2 The report identifies and describes the key trends and critical challenges associated with those emerging technologies that are likely to have a significant impact on teaching, learning, creative inquiry, and student engagement in higher education over the next five years. It categorizes six areas of emerging technologies within three adoption horizons: a year or less, two to three years, and four to five years. A quick review of the report and its vast collection of examples and practices can serve as the preliminary research needed for an institution to proceed tactically.

This article from Educause Review addresses three technologies from the 2010 Horizon Report: electronic books, mobile computing, and open content. Both mobile computing and open content are within the one-year-or-less time-to-adoption; electronic books are in the two-to-three-years adoption horizon.

Read the full articleDeploying Innovation Locally.

Other articles in the  current issue Attention, Engagement, and the Next Generation — Volume 45, Number 5, September/October 2010 – are also worth reading.

Howard Rheingold’s article has some important points for us all to consider in  Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. Always enjoy reading Howard’s thoughts!

If we want to discover how we can engage students as well as ourselves in the 21st century, we must move beyond skills and technologies. We must explore also the interconnected social media literacies of attention, participation, cooperation, network awareness, and critical consumption.
Although I consider attention to be fundamental to all the other literacies, the one that links together all the others, and although it is the one I will spend the most time discussing in this article, none of these literacies live in isolation.1 They are interconnected. You need to learn how to exercise mindful deployment of your attention online if you are going to become a critical consumer of digital media; productive use of Twitter or YouTube requires knowledge of who your public is, how your participation meets their needs (and what you get in return), and how memes flow through networked publics. Ultimately, the most important fluency is not in mastering a particular literacy but in being able to put all five of these literacies together into a way of being in digital culture.

Grand challenges or a common way of thinking?

In the old epoch...

Many schools (and organisations responsible for K-12 education) worry about moving to the cloud for their knowledge pathways and   learning interactions.  But while ‘we’ worry, have we stopped long enough and looked far enough into possibilities in order to gain a better perspective on the scope of the digital [r]evolution around us?

I see this worry as being associated with a number of things:

  • A learning agenda that is essentially about achieving a ‘competitive’ edge (exams, tests, scores)
  • A learning process that is tied to a fixed content/curriculum approach (state or district syllabus directives)
  • A learning belief system that claims constructivism while operating in an industrial model of schooling.
  • A learning approach that still has to learn about connectivism as the source of powerful learning practices.

In such a scenario school libraries wishing to be placed at the centre of innovation in 21st century learning environments are faced with a remarkable challenge. While it could be said that the whole school, or education itself, is facing a challenge, the strategic importance of school libraries in forging new places and new approaches to learning should never be underestimated.


Anytime anywhere

This is as true for the smallest central school in Australia as it is for large learning enterprises such as my own school.  I believe we still have a little time up our sleeves  simply because the majority of people – from the stake-holders to the senior administrators – do not yet understand the extraordinary opportunities before us.  But getting ourselves sorted is getting urgent.  And no, the solution isn’t just going to a laptop program. It’s much more than that.

I believe it is time to start digging deeply into the new learning culture that is emerging. I am not talking here about using Web 2.0 tools, or creating content, connections and conversations online, of playing with tech tools on laptops.  I know that we are all busy exploring these options, and many teachers are demonstrating that they CAN adopt cloud-based activities to

empower learning, and do know how to challenge their students to develop the best thinking skills possible.


Uncommonly flexible..

What I would like to see is a growing understanding of the shifting base-line of our
technology-enhanced learning environment. From there we can move to develop an adoption strategy for each school that will shape the nature of a learning commons – agile learning spaces in the real sense – i.e. a school and a school library that is both physical and virtual, and which is pervasive, real, and enmeshed in all aspects of student learning.  Some are on the way – but many are not!  Where do you fit on the spectrum?

It takes time for any enterprise or organisation to adjust to new technologies, and schools are no different in this regard, particularly when K-12 moves to the cloud.

It is easy to

point to the online professional learning networks that many educators participate in as being key to helping share ideas about how to best use these tools in their classroom.

The real-time web in the classroom is here to stay and are busy lowering the proverbial walls of the classroom, giving students access to information that far surpasses the print-bound copies of encyclopedias and periodicals that were once the standard for K-12 research projects. As technology-educator Steven Anderson argues, these technologies

really make the world smaller for our students and show them that they can find the answers they need if we equip them with the tools and resources do to so.

The next step is to create a vision, form and function for your school library that is free from edu-speak conventions (which can become quite stale) and is intuitively accessible to the wider school community. Re-engineer what your library has to offer in whatever ways are possible to you. It is easy to write about whole-scale change, but not so easy when you look at each school and each school library because of the underlying thought changes that have yet to happen.

Give it time – but put KNOWLEDGE at the centre of your thinking rather than ‘library’ and  ‘information services’.    Knowledge and knowledge creation – globally – is the ticket to the future!

Smithsonian Commons Project

It’s in the context of this thinking that I really enjoyed learning about the Smithsonian Commons project.  I haven’t had time until now to catch breath and absorb the implications of this important endeavour.

Michael Edson, Director of Web and Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Strategy at Smithsonian Institution, talked about his project, explaining that foundational concept that everyone should have access to the raw materials of knowledge  creation – everyone, for any purpose.

The project is a significant one and speaks of an approach or philosophy that should be the motivation for our educational endeavours.  It demonstrates a new model of knowledge creation – one that is fast, transparent and open. The spirit and philosophy of this project is one in which they define success as a truly open sandbox that belongs to everybody.

The Smithsonian commons is a project that is just beginning and the goal is to stimulate innovation and creativity and learning through open access to s resources, expertise and communities. In the old epoch institutions like the Smithsonian and like universities were built on the model of enduring wisdom. “we didn’t have to change, we didn’t have to look outside ourselves to strenuously because wisdom endures, wisdom is slow”.  In this epoch I think we’ll be measuring our worth, this library will be measuring its worth, the Smithsonian will be measuring its worth in terms of how successful we make people outside our walls. It’s a very different way of thinking. It requires a great deal of institutional humility and generosity.  I’m inspired by the work of Kathy Sierra, social web thought leader who said “in the old days the pitch for business was follow me, I’m great. The big opportunity now is follow me or my product because I help make YOU great”.

Watch  TWIL #22: Michael Edson (Smithsonian Institution) from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Be inspired by the idea, and visit the related websites:

Smithsonian Commons – A place to begin -  wiki

Smithsonian Commons Prototype  – wiki

Smithsonian Commons Prototype – Live