Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"21st Century Learning" Interview with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (School 2.0, Part 1)

Last week I interviewed Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, focusing on what Sheryl calls "21st Century Learning." Sheryl is fast-paced, energetic, and devoted--all of which really come through in this hour-long interview, and make for very interesting listening.

Show notes:
  • Sheryl is a technology and education consultant and adjunct instructor in the School of Education at The College of William and Mary, and she was one of the organizers of the recent K12 Online Conference.
  • Right now, Sheryl believes, we are in a place where computing in the classroom is really going to take off.
  • She feels that it is a moral responsibility of teacher-leaders in the school to figure out how to access the tools of the web and help students to learn to use them in a safe environment. (Again, I'm fascinated with the contrast of Larry Cuban's views here, and also with the apparent difficulties that grass-roots technology efforts face in school decision-making.)
  • "You can't give away what you don't own." Until school administrators are experiencing the benefits of the new technologies, there cannot be more widespread adoption of them. (This touches on the point above.)
  • The students of today don't have a choice as to whether or not they will master the skills of the read/write web (and being collaborative and self-driven)--if they don't, they will be left behind in the work world.
  • The magic of Web 2.0 in schools is individual growth toward the sense of being "self-actualized:" students can be transformed by being able to write things that others are interested in reading, and by being able to collaborate with others.
  • The "Golden Question" right now is: can tie these new tools to student achievement? She believes it they can be, but it's very hard to measure because of all the other variables.
  • Sheryl points out the need for balance: when you use any pervasive educational strategy (not just the new computer technologies), you need to make sure that there is a marriage between the passion that is generated with a rigorous education. This should be a deepening of learning, and be challenging. "Rigor and passion."
  • Many students are going to be coming to school already well versed in the read/write or participatory web. Her experience has been that they are often motivated learners from these experiences.
  • Sheryl talks about moving from the "Information Age" to the "Age of Conceptualization." I'm not sure I know what the "Age of Conceptualization" is...
  • The most gifted students are good at the way school is played right now, and they can have the hardest time adjusting to a learning environment that is cooperative and self-directed. It is the kids who have struggled previously that really benefit the most by being able to use these technologies. (This goes along with Sheryl's desire to bring computing resources to homeless youth, and her belief in how important this will be for them. See below.)
  • She sees more of the writing tools being used in the classroom--blogs and wikis--but not as much podcasting.
  • The real skill needed by teachers and students will be the ability to be our own "digital age librarian," knowing how to access, select, and synthesize all of the available information. We need to tap into the power of "self-directed interest."
  • On homeless or transient children: she is a living example of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. If we don't empower these children with the same technologies that the affluent child will get at home, then we are trapping them in their poverty. Homeless children move around a lot, and often the teachers are unaware of the true situation at home. After the interview, Sheryl and I talked at length about creating a program for teacher mentoring to homeless children, and the providing of computing resources at homeless shelters (see www.PublicWebStations.com).
  • Her blog is 21stcenturylearning.typepad.com.
To join in a discussion of "School 2.0," please visit www.School20.net.

Listen to the the Interview in MP3 format
Listen to the Interview in Vorbis OGG format

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  1. Anonymous9:31 AM


    I think the path to 21st Century learning goals lies not through traditional education structures but by using the Internet to draw other adults into the process of preparing kids for 21st century learning and careers.

    At http://www.tutormentorconnection.org I have a library of information about volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs that connect workplace adults with inner city kids. There are thousands of such programs around the country, with many thousands of volunteers involved as tutors/mentors, board members and/or donors.

    My aim is to use web 2.0 learning concepts to connect these adults with each other, and with people within the education system who are struggling to apply these concepts, so that they become a force that drives 21st Century Learning innovations and expands learning opportunities for disadvantaged kids, as well as kids in more affluent school districts.

  2. I'm very interested in what you are describing here. In fact, Sheryl and I talked at length about the difficulty homeless kids have sustaining a good mentoring relationship, and have felt that the technologies of the web could really facilitate this. I hope you'll send me a note to steve@hargadon.com with some contact information. Thanks!

  3. Anonymous8:18 PM

    Hey Steve, I just found your blog via Technorati the other day. Looks like your iTunes link points to something that needs to download, rather than to an actual page on iTunes. Just a heads up!

  4. I just checked the feed and it works on my machine for iTunes. But I certainly could be missing something. If anyone else is having that problem, please let me know.

  5. You wrote:
    "Sheryl talks about moving from the "Information Age" to the "Age of Conceptualization." I'm not sure I know what the "Age of Conceptualization" is..."
    While she does not identify the source of these ideas explicitly, I suspect that she is referring to Dan Pink's book A Whole New Mind: Moving from the information age to the conceptual age. A Whole New MInd

    Pink describes the kinds of learning experiences will help people thrive in a flatter world and suggests ways that learners can acquire them.

  6. Thank you, SC. I've heard reference to the Dan Pink book several times. I'll have to look it up!


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