Being Comfortable Being a Beginner

Being Comfortable Being a Beginner

I was excited and then frustrated today. Yesterday I read about the changes Google was making to Gmail. Changes that when I read said to myself “That makes sense, that will work for me”. Then today I opened my inbox saw the pop-up that said I had gotten the upgrade and clicked continue. I then went on to struggle figuring out where things were: How do I delete a draft? How do I align something center? Where’d the link button go? Where? What? How do I? I saw my producitivy today plumit. I felt myself getting frustrated because all of a sudden I was a beginner again. You have to be comfortable always being a beginner This is the world we live in. Things change, and change without warning. Yesterday I felt I was a very productive user of Gmail. Today I was a beginner. Today I had to learn, I had to play with a program that I had mastered and start over at being a beginner. And….I’m OK with that because I realize I’m really never going to master anything again. I’m constantly working towards mastery but as soon as I think I have reached it, things change, progression comes, and I’m back at the beginning. I live in a state of prepetual beta. I was a master at my Galaxy S III, then I got the latest update and I was a beginner again. I was a master of OSX 10.6 then 10.7 and now working back to being a master on 10.8 on my Mac Book Air. I was a master at running, then decided to run barefoot and had to learn to run again. We, humans, now live in a time that is constantly changing and we need to be comfortable at being a beginner. We need to get to a point where we understand we’ll probably never master a technology again. I don’t expect everyone to be like me, where I almost crave change, crave something new. I’m crazy like that (hence the changing jobs/countries/schools every 2 to 4 years). I see change as the future and I live for it. But I know not everyone is that way…but everyone needs to be comfortable with being a beginner and once you allow yourself not to master things but instead learn things, you feel much better about technology and life in general. So be...

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Why do I get a computer?

Over the past couple of days I’ve had one simple question that I can’t get out of my head. Why do we believe that every teacher having a computer on their desk will benefit teaching and learning, but giving one to students wouldn’t? It’s a simple question isn’t it? I mean….when I started teaching in 1999 I walked into my 4th grade classroom with a computer sitting on my desk. Not every teacher had one at that time, but the next year, at a new school, every teacher had a laptop. We’re talking the 2000-2001 school year. Every school since has provided me with a computer. At some point, someone somewhere decided that every teacher having a laptop benefited teaching and learning. That this “tool” no matter how expensive had benefits that out weighed the cost. And you can’t tell me that there were not conversations before this happened around: Will they use it appropriately? How are we going to make sure they use it? What if they screw around and get off task? What happens if it breaks? How are we going to measure its effect on learning? How are we going to measure its effect on teaching? and for those of you who were in some of these conversations I’d love to hear the other questions/concerns that were raised. Here’s the best part….10 years later here are the answers to those questions as I see it: Will they use it appropriately? Some will some won’t How are we going to make sure they use it? We won’t, it’s a tool that is there for them to use when they need it to help them do their job. What if they screw around and get off task? They will, it’s a fact, we have teachers updating Twitter and Facebook during the school day, sending personal e-mails, looking up movie times for after school, and booking flights. They screw around on the computer all the time! What happens if it breaks? We’ll keep a couple spares to replace it. How are we going to measure its effect on learning? We won’t but we have a hunch that it does. How are we going to measure its effect on teaching? We won’t but we have a hunch that it does. 10 years later and these are the best answers I can come up with? We have no data, we have...

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Amazon Kindle backs Textbook Publishers into a corner

  If you haven’t heard, Amazon has announced the Kindle DX. A 9.7 inch Wireless reading device with a larger screen made for reading textbooks and newspapers. Now this is all great news for technology and e-books. But as I listened to the TWIT podcast episode 194 they talked about what this device really is about. More important than the size of this device is that starting with the DX it will allow people to upload and view PDF files. Now this might not seem like a lot but as they said on TWIT and what I agree with is that Amazon has just opened the door to a whole new round of piracy and have backed publishers into a corner to force textbook to be created in the Amazon Kindle format. How so? Well let us pretend for a second we’re in college and you are trying to save that $110 for something more important than a textbook (in college there are many things more important than a textbook 🙂 ). What if you and your buddy could split the cost of the textbook, use one of the scanners in the school, scan the book to PDF and then put it on your Kindle? What if students from other universities did the same and then shared those files using Bit Torrent or P2P Networks basically giving the book away for free. Or how about this….most textbooks are in PDF format before they are actually printed. Much like pirated DVDs it takes one person to post the PDF of the book on the web for download to sidestep the publishers and give that content straight to students. Why hasn’t this happened already? Apple created the iTunes store which with the #1 MP3 player the iPod created both a need (music) with a want (iPod). Amazon has just done the same thing. The need (textbooks, books, newspapers, etc) now has the wanted hardware device…the Kindle. Amazon has just created a whole new round of piracy. So if you are a textbook publisher…or any publisher for that matter what are your choices? A) Continue to pretend that that Kindle does not exist and continue with your model of creating traditional textbooks. Then try to track down and stop piracy through the courts (because it worked so well for the music industry). B) Embrace that media and textbooks have changed that this...

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How long does change take?

Napster was started in June 1999 and for many marked the beginning of an era of free digital music. For the next 10 years the music industry would try to stop people from downloading free, and what they claimed to be, illegal music. In January 2009 the largest online music store in the world, Apple’s iTunes, announced it will offer all 10 million songs DRM free, allowing people to download and share their music without any Digital Rights Management. It took the music industry 10 years to change to a new model, to understand a new landscape, and to learn to take advantage of it. The newspaper industry has been in sharp decline for the past couple of years. If blogs, which really started gaining momentum in 2005 (my own opinion), are to blame and if they follow the same slow path of change as the music industry will not find a way to survive in this new free digital landscape until around 2015. YouTube was created in 2005 and really gained ground in 2006 and 2007. The television industry is just starting to feel the heat, and following the path of its brother, the music industry, has tried to conform the new media to old ways. If it follows the same path as its brother the music industry, we will not see a real revolution in the way television is viewed until 2016ish. The conversations about the changes that have been happening and continue to happen in education around these new models of learning, and digital landscape have only been going on since about 2002 (my own opinion). Which means we’re looking at 2012, if education follows the same path as the music industry, before we see some real change. Until then we keep chipping away at it…as it’s little changes that lead to big ones. Just a...

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Systematic Change Part 2: Unlearning your community

(As you can tell from Kim’s recent post. Systematic change at all levels is on our mind at ISB) How much time to we spend helping our community understand the changing landscape of learning? If we want to change the system, then we need to be prepared to change the whole system. We need to help our school communities understand that this isn’t the learning they had, and it’s not the school they had either. The hardest part about changing a school system, is that we are all experts…and I mean all of us. We all went through the system, we all remember what good teaching looked like, we remember the bad teachers as well. We remember those teachers that engaged us, and those you just did the work to get by. We remember that you took spelling tests on Fridays, went to Library, learned how to use a card catalog, and learning how to take notes out of an encyclopedia. To change a system that everyone knows, we need to change the thinking of everyone in the community. Last year Kim helped to start Elementary Parent Technology Coffee events. The first Wednesday of every month parents are invited in to chat about technology and learning….more specifically about learning, but technology is a part of that. This is part of relearning a community. Our team went to a leadership meeting and for an hour talked with the leadership team about learning, and the changing environment we fine ourselves in. This is part of relearning a community. Tonight we spend 30 minutes with the school board, talking about the skills our students will need in the future. Helping them to understand why we need to revisit our schools vision statement and rethink what it means to be a learner today. This is part of relearning a community. Next week Kim, Tara and I will lead the elementary staff around the changing landscape of learning and rethinking what it means to be a learner today. This is part of relearning a community. Systematic change means changing the whole system. It’s the small steps, the conversations with all the stakeholders. Are we there yet? No way, not even close. Have we started the conversations? Absolutely, and we’ve started them in multiple places, with multiple groups. That is how change starts. Slow and steady and swells. Never before in the history of education...

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