Saturday, March 31, 2012

Live Thursday April 5th - Joseph Grenny on Change

Join me Thursday, April 5th, for early live and interactive FutureofEducation.com conversation with Joseph Grenny, coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers with almost three million copies in print: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, Influencer, and Change Anything. Our conversation will attempt to cover the core concepts of Joseph own work and the work of VitalSmarts, the training and development company he helped to found. We'll explore possible implications for this this work within the framework of teaching and learning at all levels--from the personal and the classroom to the institutional and the cultural. In particular, we'll look at how the "positive deviance" process can lead to determining "vital behaviors," and then how combining that understanding with the "six sources of influence" can both dramatically increase the ability to change and significantly decrease the time to do so.

Date: Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Time: 3pm Pacific / 6pm Eastern (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-04-05.1532.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 audio recording is available at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/josephgrenny.mp3.

 
 

Those interested in purchasing these books should note the following substantial price deals (as of the time of this posting) for Kindle editions:

  • Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations are available as a packaged set for U$10.33 (about the same cost as a regular Kindle book) HERE
  • Change Anything is available in Kindle format for U$2.99 HERE

Live Wednesday April 4th - Howard Rheingold on His New Book, "Net Smart"

Join me Wednesday, April 4th, for another live and interactive FutureofEducation.com conversation with Howard Rheingold on his new book, Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. One of my favorite guests, Howard will talk to us about the digital shift from "passive receivers" to "empowered participants," and how to be "grounded, well-rounded people rather than multitasking basket cases."

In the book, Howard outlines "five fundamental digital literacies, online skills that will help us do this: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or 'crap detection'), and network smarts. He explains how attention works, and how we can use our attention to focus on the tiny relevant portion of the incoming tsunami of information. He describes the quality of participation that empowers the best of the bloggers, netizens, tweeters, and other online community participants; he examines how successful online collaborative enterprises contribute new knowledge to the world in new ways; and he teaches us a lesson on networks and network building."

Additionally, the always-thoughtful (and always-colorful) Howard "points out that there is a bigger social issue at work in digital literacy, one that goes beyond personal empowerment. If we combine our individual efforts wisely, it could produce a more thoughtful society: countless small acts like publishing a Web page or sharing a link could add up to a public good that enriches everybody" (quotes from Amazon product page).



Date: Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 01:00 GMT next day (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-04-04.1238.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 audio recording is at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/rheingoldnetsmart.mp3.

Howard Rheingold, an influential writer and thinker on social media, is the author of Tools for Thought: The History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier (both published by the MIT Press), and Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. A full autobiography is available (and worth reading) at Howard's website.

Book Reviews:

"The social media landscape changes quicker than you can say 'future shock.' As soon as you think you've mastered one network, another pops up, demanding its share of time and attention. Thank goodness, then, for Howard Rheingold. He has identified the skills -- simultaneously old-fashioned and cutting-edge -- that not only will help you thrive in this tumultuous world, but also help you shape social media into a force for good. Net Smart is a lifeboat for people who want to participate in new technologies without drowning in the flood."--Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

"A desperately needed and wonderfully written guide to being literate in today's digital, always-on world. This book is not just descriptive. It articulates a comprehensive set of social norms, practices and protocols that help us unleash the collective power of networked intelligence. And, yes, using the web mindfully can indeed make us smarter, as this book will illustrate. A must read for anyone wanting to thrive in today's increasingly connected world."--John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corp and Director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center; co-author of A New Culture of Learning

"Once again, Howard Rheingold has found a way of journeying into the future and coming back with gold. The questions he tackles here could not be more pertinent. Whether you're thrilled at the amazing potential for online collaboration, or just stressed by your email in-box, his insights on how to achieve a new form of digital literacy deserve wide adoption."--Chris Anderson, Curator of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design)

"Education today is woefully inadequate. It's about teaching people information and skills as if we're alone and disconnected, stocking knowledge and tools in our brains. Today, it is important to learn how to find information and how to collaborate. Written in the traditionally smart and fun-to-read Rheingoldian style, Net Smart is the guide on how to think, learn, survive and thrive in the post-internet era. An essential guide and a must-read!"--Joichi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Live Thursday March 29th - Two Events, NPR NewsHour Plus Teacher-Driven Change

Join me today, Thursday, March 29th, for either or both of two live and interactive shows.

First is a quick feedback session for the folks at PBS NewsHour who are asking for teacher help in the redesign of their teacher resource site. Part of the Classroom 2.0 EdIncubator project, this is a chance to both learn about the resources available for free to educators and students, and to help a worthy cause!

Second is a FutureofEducation.com conversation with Dick Gale on teacher-driven change, specifically looking at strengths-based thinking, appreciative inquiry, positive deviance, and building cultures of success. Dick is the Manager/Program Director of the California Teachers Association (CTA) Institute for Teaching, a non-profit foundation, and the school-reform arm of the CTA. More information on their website at http://www.teacherdrivenchange.org.

PBS NewsHour Teacher Feedback
Date: Thursday, March 29th, 2012
Time: 2:30pm Pacific / 5:30pm Eastern (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://bit.ly/GDx2tY. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording will be available after the event in the NewsHour group at Classroom 2.0.


Dick Gale on Teacher-Driven Change
Date: Thursday, March 29th, 2012
Time: 5:00pm Pacific / 8:00pm Eastern (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-03-29.1659.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 recording is at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/dickgale.mp3.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Live Tuesday March 27th - Alec Couros Talks "Open Teaching"

Join me tonight, Tuesday, March 27th, for a live and interactive FutureofEducation.com conversation with Alec Couros on open teaching: the "facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social. Open teachers are advocates of a free and open knowledge society, and support their students in the critical consumption, production, connection, and synthesis of knowledge through the shared development of learning networks." For Alec, the end goals of open teaching are "social, collaborative, self-determined, and sustained, life-long learning." The "Open Course" he has run since 2007 incorporates both formal and informal aspects of social learning within its very loose structure, and has been credited as being one of the inspirations of some prominent MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) offerings (although he describes the Open Course as a "Small Open Online Course").

Date: Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 01:00 GMT next day (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-03-27.1704.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 audio recording is at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/aleccouros.mp3.

Dr. Alec Couros is an Associate Professor of educational technology and media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. He has given hundreds of workshops and presentations, nationally and internationally, on topics such as openness in education, networked learning, social media in education, digital citizenship, and critical media literacy. His graduate and undergraduate courses help current and future educators understand how to use and take advantage of the educational potential offered by the tools of connectivity. Alec blogs at http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Live Thursday March 22nd - A Conversation with David Warlick

Join me Thursday, March 22nd, for a live and interactive FutureofEducation.com conversation with David Warlick, founder of the Landmark Project and widely respected speaker and author. My association with David goes back many years--he was a guest on my interview series in 2007 as part of a series on "School 2.0," and actually generated the ideas for what have become the now-annual Bloggers' Cafe and EduBloggerCon (now SocialEdCon) events at many of the ed tech conferences.

Date: Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 01:00 GMT next day (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-03-22.1715.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 audio recording is at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/davidwarlick2012.mp3.

David Warlick is a 35 year educator.  He has been a classroom teacher, district administrator and staff consultant with the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction. For the past fifteen years, Mr. Warlick has operated The Landmark Project, a consulting and innovations firm in Raleigh, North Carolina.

David’s attribution web site, Citation Machine, serves nearly a million page views a day and his classroom blogging service has served more than a quarter of a million teachers and students.

Mr. Warlick is the author of four books about instructional technology and contemporary literacy and has spoken to audiences throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and South America.  He was recently named one of the ten most influential people in educational technology by Technology & Learning Magazine.

More information on David can be found at http://davidwarlick.com.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Live Tuesday March 20th with Cathy Davidson on the Brain Science of Attention

Join me Tuesday, March 20th, for a live and interactive FutureofEducation.com webinar with Cathy Davidson to talk about her new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. "Using cutting-edge research on the brain, she shows how 'attention blindness' has produced one of our society's greatest challenges: while we've all acknowledged the great changes of the digital age, most of us still toil in schools and workplaces designed for the last century. Davidson introduces us to visionaries whose groundbreaking ideas-from schools with curriculums built around video games to companies that train workers using virtual environments-will open the doors to new ways of working and learning" (from the Amazon description).

Date: Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 01:00 GMT next day (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-03-20.1007.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 audio recording is at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/cathydavidsonnysi.mp3.

Cathy N. Davidson served as Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University from 1998 until 2006, where she helped create the Program in Information Science + Information Studies, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, and many other programs. In 2002, she co-founded HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, or "haystack"), a virtual network of innovators with over 6500 members that directs the annual $2 million HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions.


Davidson is the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and has published more than twenty books, including Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America; Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (with photographer Bill Bamberger); and The Future of Thinking (with HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg). In 2010, President Obama nominated her to a six-year term on the National Council on the Humanities, a position confirmed by the Senate in July 2011. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Social Learning Summit - Call for Participation


I'm really pleased to announce the call for participation for the worldwide 2012 Social Learning Summit, a one-day virtual conference being held as a partnership of Classroom 2.0 and the Discovery Educator Network on Saturday, April 21, 2012. This is a free event, with a focus on inclusion and participation.

The conference theme is the use of social media and Web 2.0 in teaching and learning, and we are calling for proposals immediately at http://www.SocialLearningSummit.com. To be kept informed of the latest conference news and updates, please join the Classroom 2.0 network. This will also allow you to correspond with the presenters and other members, and to comment on sessions and discussions.

Sessions will be 30 minutes in length, and can focus on practical classroom application or pedagogical frameworks or both. Please do not submit a session if your are a vendor or a vendor representative. While presentation proposals will be accepted through April 7th, session acceptances will start to be issued on March 26th, at which time presenters will be given a chance to use a scheduling calendar to pick an available time to present. All sessions will be held in Blackboard Collaborate (previously Elluminate), and training sessions will be available both "live" and in recorded form.

We particularly encourage those who are working on (or have completed!) chapters or the 5th-anniversary Classroom 2.0 book project to present, and for those presenting to consider producing a book chapter! Because this adds preparation time, we are extending the book chapter deadline from this Thursday, March 15th, to the date of the conference, April 21st. For those who have already submitted their chapters (and what a great batch we have received so far!), we'll arrange some special treatment for you as a reward for your good work!

See you online!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The 100-Country "Love from the World" Project Needs You(th)!


Sun Ho, founder of the Singapore-based Little Lives educational network for children, is engaged in her own personal global project to sew together fabric artwork created by children in 100 countries--with each contribution showing the flag of their country. Sun is currently at 25 countries, and I KNOW WE CAN HELP HER DO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT (Classroom 2.0 alone has members from 180+ countries)! We do need to hurry just a bit, as her deadline is the end of March...

See the awesome "patchwork gallery" of youth with their contributions on the "Love from the World" page at http://littlelives.com/lovefromtheworld/index.html (totally heart-warming), as well as instructions to communicate with Sun and to have youth participate.

Appropriate disclosure:  I think this is a great idea; it wasn't my idea; but I do act as a consultant for Little Lives on their networking project. :)

SocialEdCon and CUEunplugged Next Week in Palm Springs!

Next week is the CUE conference in Palm Springs, and we have some great fun happening this year on the "community-organized" side of the annual activities in Palm Springs.

SocialEdCon--which in previous years we've called EduBloggerCon--is an all-day unconference that we're holding Thursday, March 15th (if you've come in years past you'll want to make note that this is not the day before CUE, but the first day of the conference this year--wahoo!).  We'll gather at 9:00am in Oasis Room 4 before the regular conference sessions start, we'll map out a schedule for the day of great "conversations," and then you can come and go to regular sessions or our SocialEdCon conversations the rest of the day. It's a TON of fun and we hope you'll join us! More information (and on the day, the schedule of conversation) at http://www.cueunplugged.com.

We also have two other activities that those attending CUE may be interested in.

All day Friday we have the UNPLUGGED presentation sessions--anyone who's ever wanted to present at CUE can sign up to present in our special area, even if you didn't get on the formal program this year! The presentation time slots are 12 minutes each, and it's a great way to get your message out or give your first presentation ever. We have a special area in Oasis Room 4 with whiteboard, microphone, and seating, and we'll also be streaming all the sessions live through Blackboard Collaborate to anyone not at the conference that wants to watch. Sign-up and schedule information also at http://www.cueunplugged.com.

And for all three days of the conference, we have our Bloggers Cafe area to gather and chat with other social media fans at any time. Thanks so much to the awesome CUE conference organizers!

If you're headed to CUE, can't wait to see you there!

Live Monday March 12th with Mimi Ito on Education in a Digitally Connected World

Join me Monday, March 12th, for a live and interactive FutureofEducation.com webinar with cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito. We'll talk broadly about youth and digital media, then drill down specifically on her own research, connected learning (both as an idea and the new MacArthur Foundation supported website), entrepreneurial learning, and educational badges--and how these conversations all came together at the recent Digital Media and Learning Conference.

Date: Monday, March 12th, 2012
Time: 3pm Pacific / 6pm Eastern / 23:00 GMT (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate recording is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-03-12.0838.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and a portable .mp3 audio recording can be found at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/mimiito.mp3.

Mimi's bio from her website:  "I am a cultural anthropologist who studies new media use, particularly among young people in Japan and the US. During my graduate work at Stanford, I worked at the Institute for Research on Learning, Xerox PARC, and Apple, studying up the emerging field of social and cultural studies of digital technology use. My doctoral work was part of the Fifth Dimension project led by Michael Cole. For many years I had a research group at Keio studying mobile technology use. A few years ago I completed a study with Peter Lyman and Michael Carter on a multi-year project on digital kids and informal learning, with support from the MacArthur Foundation. As part of this, I did case studies of anime fandoms in Japan and the English-speaking online world, focusing on anime music videos and fansubs. I edited a book for MIT Press with Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda entitled, Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, and my book on children's software is Engineering Play: A Cultural History of Children's Software. My co-authored book reporting on the digital youth project, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media." Mimi's book on anime fandom Fandom Unbound: Otaku Culture in a Connected World has just been published.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Politics, Big Business, and Ed Tech


Tell us what you thought about or figured out, try to convince us of the value of your ideas, then let us decide.

Do not ask us what we think, or watch what we care about, and then try to match your rhetoric to our authentic passion just to get us to buy or endorse you.

The value comes first, otherwise you're playing a game.  Whether in politics or educational technology products.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Live Wednesday, March 7th - Panel Discussion of Seth Godin’s Stop Stealing Dreams

Join us Wednesday, March 7th, for a live and interactive FutureofEducation.com panel and community discussion on Seth Godin’s new education manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams. I will be hosting a panel that includes Patrick Ferenga, Lisa Nielsen, Lisa Cooley, Lisa Nalbone, and Nikhil Goyal, asking them and the audience to share their thoughts around the topics addressed in the book--including K - 12 and higher education reform, home schooling, and what parents, students, and school boards can do to affect change.

With a growing sense that something has to change, Seth Godin’s manifesto addresses the need to update outdated teaching practice. He explains, “School was invented to create a constant stream of compliant factory workers to the growing businesses of the 1900s. It continues to do an excellent job at achieving this goal, but it's not a goal we need to achieve any longer.” In his 30,000 word manifesto (information on free download and discussion options here), Seth Godin imagines a different set of goals. He warns that one thing is certain: if we keep doing what we've been doing, we're going to keep getting what we've been getting.

Date: Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Time: 4pm Pacific / 7pm Eastern / 00 (next day) GMT (international times here)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: In Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate). Log in at http://futureofed.info. The Blackboard Collaborate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Blackboard Collaborate, please visit the support and configuration page.
Recordings: The full Blackboard Collaborate is at https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-03-07.1603.M.9E9FE58134BE68C3B413F24B3586CF.vcr&sid=2008350 and an .mp3 recording is at http://audio.edtechlive.com/foe/stopstealingdreams.mp3.

Lisa Cooley - School Board Member
Lisa Cooley has been agitating for changes in public education for eight years. She serves on the school board of Maine’s RSU 3. She is also a Suzuki violin teacher and a glass bead maker and jewelry designer. She has 2 children in public school. She blogs at http://mindsofkids.blogspot.com.

Pat Farenga - Home Education Expert
Patrick Farenga is a writer and education activist who worked closely with the author and teacher John Holt, until Holt’s death in 1985. He is the president of HoltGWS LLC. and was the publisher of Growing Without Schooling magazine (GWS) from 1985 until it stopped publishing in 2001. GWS was the nation’s first periodical about homeschooling, started by Holt in 1977. The Farengas unschooled their daughters, now aged 25, 22, and 19. Unschooling is a word created by Holt to describe how people learn in the world without using conventional school techniques and materials.

Farenga speaks as a homeschooling expert at education conferences around the world, as well as on commercial radio and television talk shows. His media appearances include The Today Show, Good Morning America, Voice of America, Geraldo, Learning Matters, CNN’s Parenting Today, The Dr. Drew Pinsky Show, and Fox and Friends.

In addition to writing for GWS for twenty years, Farenga’s books include Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling (Perseus) and The Beginner’s Guide to Homeschooling; articles about homeschooling and democratic education (Encounter Magazine, Summer 2011); and essays about unschooling in a number of publications such as Un Mundo Por Aprender (University of Colombia, Bogota, 2011), and the entries about homeschooling for the International Encyclopedia of Education, 3rd Edition (Elsevier, 2010) and the online edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (2012, forthcoming).

Nikhil Goyal - Student, Upcoming Author, Entrepreneur
Nikhil Goyal is a student at Syosset High School in New York. He is currently writing a book on education reform: Time to Think Different: Why America Needs a Learning Revolution. In addition, he writes weekly columns for the Huffington Post and guest blogs for the New York Times: Dot Earth blog. Goyal is empowering students, educators, parents, and administrators with the upcoming Learning Revolution movement to shake up the American education system. Goyal’s email is ngoyal2013@gmail.com.

Lisa Nalbone - Parent to Dale Stephens who is leading the Uncollege Movement
Lisa Nalbone has been a community activist since her long ago graduation from Duke University. Her interest in peace and social justice issues led to her work in education and with libraries. She taught various grades and subjects in public school for almost 15 years, usually stirring the pot by asking “Why can’t we do what’s best for the student?”

She began the homeschool/unschooling journey with her son Dale in 2002, wishing that all students could experience such learning freedom. Oddly enough, she still assumed Dale should enter traditional higher education even though she had such mixed feelings about her own university experience. After much research about WHICH college, she sent Dale off without really asking the bigger question of Why?

This past year she has returned to the education reform conversation at a whole new level. She has connected with many people around the country, who are asking important questions about school reform and change, for both K-12 and higher education. She blogs at www.lisanalbone.com.

Lisa Nielsen - Innovative Educator
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech and Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading and Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A "Tail" of Two Ed Tech Agendas


At the Digital Media and Learning (DML) 2012 Conference in San Francisco this past week, during a panel discussion on investment in education innovation in which promises of large amounts of funding for schools were being dangled as carrots to an all-too-fawning audience, Rudy Blanco came to the microphone to ask representatives of the Gates and MacArthur Foundations why his poor school in Bronx doesn't seem to be able to get any of the millions being discussed. The answers he got were a largely uninspired description of how organizational decisions are made, and I don't think they felt any more satisfactory to those giving them than to Rudy or to those I spent the rest of the day talking to about this moment. Rudy became our focus for trying to understand a more general discomfort with what we were seeing and hearing at the conference, and the day ended with my own coming to a significant realization: two very different conceptions of technology-driven education reform were being conflated into one larger story, and if I'm right, it's very important that we break them apart.

The Long Tail, as popularized by Chris Anderson, is a graphical description of a shifting world in which previously only those products or services which sold in high enough quantity (the high end, or "head" of the curve) were carried in physical stores, as their sales justified the combined manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and warehousing costs. The products or services in the "long tail" of the curve, sharply demarcated at the point at which they were not popular enough to make it to the physical stores, for the most part just didn't used to get distributed or sold. The Internet has significantly changed marketplaces that reflect this curve of demand, and it is believed that Amazon may sell more product in aggregate in the "tail" than in the "head"--meaning they sell more books in total that don't make it to the remaining traditional bookstores than do.

The head is very vertical, as volume is the key. The head is about scaling and scope, and success is more of the same. The tail is very horizontal, as it is about as breadth and depth, and success in the tail is differentiation, diversity, and choice. The head requires hierarchy, corporate decision-making, and control. The tail requires networking, an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and freedom. The head is about money, by which approval is conferred. The tail is about passion, and approval is less about the financial and often more about relationships and fulfillment. The head and the tail are actually very different economic models, and it turns out they may also be a powerful way to differentiate two different ed tech reform models. 

What I came to realize last week is that what Rudy from the Bronx really wanted was appreciation. Because of the way the conference and its sponsors defined support as financial, he rightly felt unappreciated. But I think what Rudy, and most educators, really want is the kind of support that has nothing to do with money. It's the kind of support that the network now brings, the collegial support of those working hard to make a difference in the lives of children, and the money is a red herring. Ed tech reform in the head is about using money to scale simplified solutions of that which is popular, or the status quo. Ed tech reform in the tail is about using the network to provide freedom and choice. Ed tech reform in the head is like a diet pill, addressing the symptoms, whereas ed tech reform in the tail is like learning to eat healthfully, addressing the cause. The diet pill is easy, learning to grow and eat healthy food is much harder. Or: vertical ed tech reform based on money is like the scaled food at McDonalds, whereas horizontal ed tech reform based on diversity is like the wonderful variety of restaurants in a city like San Francisco.

Let's go even further. If more books are being sold in the tail than at the head, we might argue that it's likely that more jobs in the future will be in the tail as well--that is, entrepreneurial jobs, not corporate ones. This is actually quite stunning if you think about it. The skill-set we often say that we want for students--for them to become self-driven, passionate, independent learners--very much fits the job demands of an entrepreneurial work world. But it occurred to me last week to me that this kind of true independence of mind and of spirit is not really likely to be valued in corporate jobs, since they depend on workers assuming and complying with a corporate culture and viewpoint. In fact, if we were to describe what the corporate world is saying it needs right now, the basic message is for more skilled, compliant students. Students who do better on the standardized tests, but who don't revolt against the standardized test as a measure or pathway to successful lives. Those organizations with the big money to hand out live in this world of organized, compliant, corporate values. The people that work in those organizations gain power and influence within them by following that model. And their definitions of educational success aren't likely to be the kind of self-empowerment that, say, a Big Picture Learning school provides.

I know this sound awfully dramatic. I don't know if that's just me, or if it's actually because the divide between these two messages of education reform are as different as they seem right now to me to be. But if I'm right, then those of us who really care about teaching and learning as ways of helping to liberate the passion and independence of learners are going to have to both recognize--and figure out how to avoid--the hidden compliance agendas of the big money being doled out. And also how to make sure we're building the kind of appreciative support networks that will help the Rudys of the world.