Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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It’s been a whirlwind of a couple weeks and I find myself…yet again out of balance spending more time on work and “projects” and less time ‘disconnected’ with friends, family, my guitar, and just plain down time.

Kim and I have just finished up the first of five course we’re running here at our school for a Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy. Kim has a great post on the course we just finished as Chad Bates and I currently work on putting the next one together.

The feedback has been positive on our first course. When we first introduced the 40+ staff members to wikis, blogs, RSS, Google Docs, and Skype all in 2 weeks (not recommended) there was system overload. To much to fast….but some things just need to be done. By the end of the course most of the participants are feeling more confident and those that just a few weeks ago were ready to throw their laptops out the window are writing me e-mails looking forward to the next course.

What excites me is our next course will not focus on the tools…we’ve already covered that, but we will now focus on why and how these tools change the teaching and learning landscape.

One question that came up in the final day of our last session was one of balance and how do you keep from getting sucked into always being online and connected.

The problem is that Kim, Julie Lindsay (who Skyped in), and myself are not the best examples to talk about balance. It is something I think we all struggle with in life. Technology or not, balancing work and life has been a battle through the ages.

I was talking with Chrissy about this the other day and I think one thing that helps is arriving at a point were the technology works for you instead of you feeling like you are working for the technology.

I feel like I can make technology do what I want, but I have a skill set that allows me to do that. I can pick the right tool, set up a site, send this here, that there, and be more productive with the tools. The tools work for me…I don’t work for them.

How do you get to this point? I think it’s just using the tools. It’s much like anything…practice, practice, practice.

I think about playing the guitar which I’m slowly learning (part of my disconnect time). I practice, and practice, and then one day….it actually sounds like a song. Not sure when it happened, or what I did, but my fingers all of sudden land on the right strings, and the struam finds the right pattern. It just clicks.

I think the same happens for many of us…we use tools, we practice with them, we explore them and then one day….they are working for you instead of you working for them.

Digital Immigrant vs Digital Native

As part of our course we had the teachers read about Digital Immigrant, Digital Native (Marc Prensky) for class. Love it or hate it, it always makes for great discussion. 🙂

Today I was running a session with 4th graders on using Excel to create reading logs as they track their reading at home and at school.

I started thinking about these 10 year olds who were born in 1999 or 2000. What does the world look like to them? They will never know a time without the Internet, cell phones, Skype, Google, and TVs that get 100s of stations. They’ll never know what it feels like to sit in a car for hours without a GameBoy, a DVD player, an iPod, or searching constantly for a radio station as you drive cross country.

They had already accumulated 1000s of hours of screen time before I stepped into there class today (Not saying this is right or wrong…just fact).

Only half the class said they had used Excel in the pass. As we worked through the lesson covering math terms such as column, row, cell, average, sum, and graph, we created a nice little Reading Log that will auto sum their reading time for the rest of the year. As well as continue to average out the time they read at home, school and total minutes read. A fun little activity.

At the end of the lesson the teacher asked them how many in the class felt as though they could do the whole lesson again on their own. All but three students raised their hands.

And that is where I think these kids are different. I do think that they’re brains are wired differently to learn and understand screens and manipulate this learning space because they have been learning and using these tools for years. They have a skill set through their experiences that allow them to learn and adapt quickly to this learning landscape.

Now I know they are fourth graders and not all of them would be able to reproduce the lesson again….but I also know if I was to do this same lesson with adult learners, those that Prensky would say are digital immigrants, that a week from now I would be back in their rooms walking them through the same steps….again my own experience.

This would be an interesting study. But it’s my hunch that kids just retain this type of lesson, this type of learning in this landscape better. I could be wrong…..

It’s been fun watching the teachers at our school get excited about these tools and this learning landscape. You can view some of their final thoughts on the course on their blogs here. I’m looking forward to the next course which focuses on 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues. We’ll be talking about copyright, mass collaboration, privacy, digital profiles, and a host of other issues that are raised once we move into this new landscape for learning. It’s a five course certificate so we have a ways to go and more to learn and think about, but by the time this program is over at the end of next year, I think we’ll have a ground swell of people at ISB ready to take teaching and learning to a whole new level.

I’ve spend the past week doing a lot of blog reading. With 40+ students taking the grad course here at ISB and another 8 that I’m teaching for PSU makes for a lot of blog reading in a week.

I predicted this year would be about building value with these tools and that I personally was going to focus on bringing the conversation to people who are open to hearing it and are ready to hear it.

These courses are just that. Some people never before hearing the word ‘podcast’. While others have wanted to dive in but were waiting for the right opportunity.

This also extends to my approach at up coming conferences. I’ll be leaving next Saturday for Portland, Oregon where I’ll be doing a three hour workshop at the NCCE conference on how teachers and schools can communicate with their communities beyond using e-mail. We’ll talk about blogs, podcasts, and everything Google spending a good hour on each.

With trying to keep up with almost 50 new blogs, I have found myself reading much more of late and want, from time to time, to point out some great thinking that is happening as another wave of educators joins the conversation.

Becoming a Fish:

For those that find an end to their learning (which we all must know as never existing) whether it be acquiring that degree or comfort level in their profession, they have fallen short of their potential. When one stops seeking knowledge or even questioning their current knowledge and understanding, they have failed themselves.

Do Bloggers Care About Copyright Laws?:

So, I’m curious…is there a different standard for information found in blogs? I doubt it, but I have a sense that bloggers don’t care really. They’re all about sharing.

How are My Thoughts Changing?:

I’m not sure how my thinking has changed yet.  I am just sure that it is changing and I am so interested to see how these new ideas play out.  I am excited to be in a profession that has the opportunity to engage directly with these ideas with children and youth.  It is an exciting time to be in the field of education.

Connectivism:

So my questions are these:  Knowledge…is it something we construct (constructivism?)…something within us?; something always there, but masked by our own delusions (Buddhism)?; or does learning and knowledge now depend on CONNECTIVISM?  I am still not sure how constructivism and connectivism are entire different. Do we not build knowledge (constructivism) through our interactions with others and our experiences?

A little rain for the 2.0 parade:

Did anyone else read the articles on Connectivism and Messing Around and wonder “What’s the big deal?” I don’t see much novel about those discussions, just technology-specific applications of pre-existing ideas.

Addressing Truth and Bias in the Classroom:

Imagine the individual who cares deeply about a subject is dedicated to finding truth. To avoid bias, it makes sense to work with other passionate individuals with alternative points of view. Compelling arguments may win the day. Reporting the truth involves admitting the biases and reporting the truth from multiple perspectives, pointing out the gray areas and areas where further investigation is needed. Is it possible that truth is relative depending on perspective or truth is “the best information available.”

Connectivism the new constructivism?:

I guess since I entered adulthood in a pre- internet world I would attest that learning can and does take place off line and maybe, I would argue, in a more visceral way. I will never forget the first time that I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. It had to be at least 20 years ago and I remember waiting on line to see it and being surprised at how small it was and being distracted because the painting was under glass and there was glare on the glass.

These are just a couple of the posts that have me thinking this week. I’m really enjoying teaching teachers, and adults in general for that matter. Wonder if there is a way to make a living at it. 😉

As the graduate course I teach for Plymouth State University starts up again I’m reminded of the fact that at some point it’s about the tool.

Sure I understand that it’s really about the learning, but it is also about the technology. It’s about all the “How To” videos on YouTube. It’s about the team at CommonCraft making a living out of the “How To” part of technology.

And at the end of the day, 90% of the PD I offer here at my school is how to do different things with technology.

A comment left by Dan Christian yesterday on my post about the changing landscape of blogging. Has me back here thinking about my job as an educational technologist.

First I think we need to understand how I view my job and what I think the job of an educational technologist should include.

First and foremost we are educators. Our job is to educate. Our students range in age from 60+ to less than 5 years old. Our mission is to teach them how to use technology to learn, create, be more productive or make a task easier. The only way we can do that is to have a solid understanding of what is out there, that tools exist both as part of the computer’s operating system and on the web that allow us to do our job easier, to learn differently, or connect us to people, thoughts, ideas that we never had access to before.

This morning before leaving for work I was enjoying a cup of coffee with The Thinking Chick (the new nickname for my wife by my colleagues). We were discussion a video created by one of Chad Bates‘ students in class.

Me: “It’s a great video! And think how much more she’s going to remember about Excel. Way more then she would if someone just told her how to do it.”

Thinking Chick: “Yeah, but it’s not really about Excel right? I mean you’re always preaching about the skill is more important than the content. That the process she went through to teach herself Excel and how to create a graph is where the real learning took place.”

Me: “Yeah, but she now has the skill of creating a graph in Excel.”

Thinking Chick: “But that is actually just content right? Excel is going to change, creating graphs are going to change. Don’t get me wrong I’m glad she knows how to create a graph, but the larger picture here is that she learned how to learn. When Excel changes, when created a graph changes she will be able to learn to do it again. She knows, or is learning, how to learn. Isn’t that what you are always saying?”

————

Yes, that is what I’m always saying that the content is great, and we need the content for the here and now, but the bigger picture is this girl was working on a life long skill of researching, learning, and then sharing her knew found knowledge with the world by created a video. That is what I’m always saying!

Even I find change difficult. I was so excited about the content that I took my eye off the real learning. That’s what I love about the Thinking Chick. She keeps me focused, keeps me real, and when I do get excited about the technology piece she brings me back to the learning. To what we are here to do….teach students how to learn.

I too constantly battle with this change thing. I was taught the same way everyone else was. I was talk to learn….and, well that’s it…just learn.

I do seek change. In my job (6 different positions in 7 years) in my life (3 different countries in 7 years) and in my thinking (constantly reorganizing my rss reader). But it’s a mental shift that even I from time to time fail to reach.

I hope everyone has a Thinking Chick either at work or at home that constantly pushes your thinking both in education and in life.