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What, Where, When, Who, and How…A Web 2.0 Enigma November 10, 2007

Posted by Joselyn Todd in Educational Technology.
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I have just returned from the Powerful Learning Practice for Teachers and Learners facilitated in Atlanta by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach. Will did the keynote. Sheryl facilitated the nitty gritty details of the collaboration to start the conference. She also worked with the group on developing Ning for the social networking aspect of the group. I attended with a wonderful group of educators from Cary Academy. It was a very enriching experience, and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to participate in it over the next year.

I wanted to attend the conference because I was interested in observing all levels of Web 2.0 users that were learning to use new Web 2.0 technologies. As a Web 2.0 evangelist that is quite tech savvy, I am becoming more interested in some big picture thoughts about the evolution (or lack thereof) of our public and private k-12 educational systems. I am also interested in discovering how adults might use social networking in different ways than teens do and how this might translate (or not translate) into the classroom.

I am boiling down many thoughts swirling around in my cranium into a few points:

What: We need rapid, exponential change in our current k-12 educational system. Every keynote I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But thinking about the “what” is far too insufficient…

Where: We need change throughout the k-12 public/private school systems. Moreover, this change must come from the highest levels of government to the lowest levels of individual school policy. Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But thinking about the “where” is not enough…

When: NOW! Tomorrow is too late. I can think of no greater tragedy than the wasted intellect and creativity in children. Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But talking about the “when” is not enough…

Who: Those at the highest levels of government must begin to understand the urgency of this message. State legislatures and public officials must realize this too. Finally, every person in a school community whether it be the administrator to the teacher’s aid to the 55 year old veteran math teacher must realize this urgency. The world of information and literacy is changing and so must the system at all levels. Adults must accept that they must embrace learning even at their current age. Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But identifying the “who” is not enough…

How: And here lies the enigma… How do we bring about this change? Where do we start? Who do we start with? What does a Web 2.0 teaching pedagogy look like? Is 1:1 the answer? What about Internet connectivity? Where will the money come from to support this kind of radical change? What are the best Web 2.0 tools to use? How do we assess this type of learning? Should we focus on the tools or curriculum augmented and enriched by these tools? Do we teach breadth or depth of information- with children currently being largely tested on breadth. What strategies should we use for professional development of our teachers? What about the inequities that exist regarding socioeconomic status and access to computers and Internet access? What do our children need in terms of an education to be successful 20 years from now? Many keynotes I listen to and the presentation I give tomorrow night will reflect this. But writing or talking about the “how” is not enough…

So, what will get us to where we would like to go in terms of creating this radical change in k-12 teaching/learning pedagogy? There is no secret here. There is not a magical key or a hidden doorway.

I propose a thought. The unknown future lies in the hands of the children that we currently teach. Embrace them and their untainted, creative, and innovative intellects. Let them help us make this radical change. As adults we hold wisdom and knowledge…but what about the unshackled, unfettered minds that are burgeoning with thoughts that might help us in this journey. We have a lot to offer, but they do too. They can text message in a language that we do not know. They can multi-task beyond the level of a k-12 educator and that is quite a feat. They can create YouTube videos and could win the race with most of us at finding any piece of information on the Web. They can fix printers. Social networking is woven into the fabric of their online space. Creativity and innovation is their world- what is this telling us? Let them tell us. Let them show us.

I use this quote in my e-mail signature: “ Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time.” I believe in this quote.

As adults we will be in our retirement years at best when our children are struggling with a new evolution of educational pedagogy and policy. The gift we give…the gift we leave…is the gift of feeling of value and a part of this evolutionary journey. We must embrace our children’s power and strengths and relinquish some of ours.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this…

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Comments»

1. Sarah Ritter - November 13, 2007

As a fellow traveler to the Powerful Learning Practice conference, I echo your thoughts, Joselyn, about the relevancy of Web 2.0 tools and opportunities. The ideas for using this technology with my students flood my mind in torrents of excitement. This is the first evolution of learning I have witnessed in my 30 years as an educator. Oh, there have been bandwagons filled with new math, open classrooms, whole language, computer labs, and, heaven help us, ‘no child left behind.’ Not one of these flashes of brilliance were intended to empower the student in his/her learning, but ways to make the teacher’s job easier or more confusing. With the legislature in many states commanding that all teachers be on the same page with all students, instruction has been completely taken out of the hands of the teachers. Fine, now let it be in the hands (and ears) of the learners!

As I headed to school this morning, I was sharing my excitement about the conference with my 17 year old daughter. She informed me of the academic themes on Facebook she uses to keep up with the Quiz Bowl contests and members across the state, and the practice sessions they hold (on Facebook) all together. With or without us, the kids are already using today’s technology to enhance their learning. I want to be part of this revolution, and, with the help of ‘evangelists’ like you, Joselyn, the time is most definitely now!

2. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach - November 13, 2007

I certainly enjoyed meeting and collaborating with you all in Atlanta.

One thing I have noticed– change in a particular area of science is incremental until there is a breakthrough- then it becomes exponential. I believe it will be the same in education. A breakthrough is right around the corner and you change agents will be in place to usher in the 21st Century and reform education in meaningful ways.

I hope you will cross post this piece in our NING community. I hope Sarah will add her comment there as well.


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