Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Two Ideas about School 2.0, and Two More

Jeff Utech compares School 2.0 teaching to being a tour guide:

"A teacher is a guide, much like the guide we had in Vietnam. Arrange the boat for the trip, but allow us to experience the trip, answer questions when we have them, and stay out of the way when we want to experience something ourselves."

Having been a tour guide, I think the analogy is very, very good.

David Warlick, upon visiting Chris Lehmann's Science Leadership Academy, identifies "conversations" being a significant part of School 2.0:

"The word that I most often think of to describe school 2.0 is conversations. In old school, conversation usually goes in one direction. From teacher to student, from textbook to student, from worksheet to student, and the student responds through tests and essays. In School 2.0 the conversations are alive and they flow in almost any direction. I heard reference more than once yesterday to a new conversation between the school and the community, and students are becoming responsible for much of that conversation. "

Again, another great thought for me.

Now, I'd like to contribute two additional thoughts to the discussion of School 2.0 that I think come from (or are informed by) the wider dialog on Web 2.0, and which are a part of the larger societal and cultural change that Jeff discusses. I think they help me to make a connection with the "2.0" meme in a way that reflects the sense in which Web 2.0, like School 2.0, is seen not just as a technology change, but as a cultural one as well.

1. Transparency and authenticity. The business world has always had some good examples of companies that were transparent and authentic with their customers, but there would likely be agreement these were too few and far between. (It is interesting to note that small businesses, as a more immediate part of their community, have been more likely to practice these qualities... hmmm... ) There is no doubt that the technologies we call Web 2.0 have both required and produced transparency and authenticity. Blogging, especially, by its very nature, helps create transparency and authenticity--both for ourselves in our own thinking processes (see this thread on Will Richardson's blog), and for our organizations. This is why true blogging is so hard for companies that don't have an open culture.

Years ago I came across the phrase "generative parenting," which I understood to mean: in our parenting methods we recognize that we are training our children to be parents themselves some day, and so as our children get older we work at helping them understand what we are doing as parents and why. I would suggest that School 2.0 has at its core a long-term, open dialog about teaching and learning at all ages, where the process is talked about as we go along.

The examples of School 2.0 that are most compelling to me have this aspect of transparency and authenticity, and I don't think it is a coincidence that those who are on the forefront of this change are most often active participants in the blogosphere.

2. Collaborative participation. I've been wondering for some time how this incredibly powerful concept within Web 2.0 fits within education and School 2.0. The best definitions of Web 2.0 help to illuminate a new paradigm in which the value of the website, product, or service is in large part the direct result of user participation. would just be a web version of a bricks-and-mortar store if it weren't for the participation of the users (both consciously and also just by participating). Participation is not just built into the value, it is the distinguishing part of the value.

In the same way, it seems to me that School 2.0 will be about involving students, teachers, administrators, parents, and the community in ways that are so significant that this participation becomes the core of learning. I see Chris Lehmann doing this when he has his students help solve the problems if IM abuse. I see Jim Hirsch doing this when teacher-leaders are at the front of looking at integrating new technologies into the classroom, or when his district provides computers to the low-income families they serve. (I've sounded this note before, but I will not be surprised if the best parts of the home-schooling movement will end up providing a fair amount of understanding in this area of broader involvement--and to the questions of how to manage self-motivated learning and "apprenticeship" models.)

One of the resounding themes that has come out of my interview series is the disconnect between the classroom teacher's opportunities to integrate technology and the administrative decision-making processes that take place with technology. So it would seem, as a first step, that the involvement of teachers in all decision-making will be very defining in School 2.0. Then we should expect to draw in the students, the parents, and the community as well.

I hope these ideas are helpful. Because I don't teach (or even work at a school), I try to give my opinions carefully, and with great appreciation for those who are in the trenches. :) I will say that I'm not sure I entirely agree with Jeff in his previously-referenced post when he says, "School 2.0 is not an upgrade to School 1.0…it’s a whole new school." I have to imagine that William Gibson's oft-quoted idea is likely true of School 2.0 as well: the future is already here, it's just not widely distributed.

Hopefully some of this dialog will make it's way to the School 2.0 wiki.
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