Random Thoughts

Shift happened what's the hook?

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I’ve been catching up on my RSS reader over the past couple of day. I’ve decided I need to prune the aggregator again and really focus in on some good solid learning that I need to do.

George Siemens’ connectivism blog is one that always makes my brain hurt. I’ve just tried reading four articles in a row and now I’m looking for the advil. George has a writing style that is so clear, so true that, for me at least, pulls me in and really makes me think about my own learning, my own beliefs and question what it is I’m trying to accomplish. If you don’t use an RSS reader he allows you to sign up for a bi-weekly newsletter that is well work an extra e-mail in your inbox.

Out of the four posting I just got done reading, the posting on Digital natives and immigrants has me thinking about where we are in society.

Siemens believes that the Prensky analogy of Digital Native, Digital Immigrants has

outlived the role it initially played in getting educators to think about the different types of learners now entering our classrooms.

I agree with this statement the more I think about it, but I’m still left searching for a better analogy of the shift that has occurred.

Siemens goes on to explain that the shift has been in society and not in the generation itself. Something that easily hits home with me working at a school in China that has gone from 850 international students to almost 3,000 in the same time the Internet as we know it today has existed. Coincidence? I think not.

As I gave a presentation to parents today explaining to them their children and how they learn, communicate, collaborate, and live digitally, I found myself still using Prensky’s analogy. Those of us in the business need to understand that it is society that is changing and why we need to change our educational systems. But for mothers and fathers understanding that the tools their children use are different, allow them to communicate and live in different ways continues to be an emotional attachment that the digital natives, digital immigrants argument still fits nicely into.

In 2001 when Prensky wrote the paper I do not think many of us understood the changes to society that were and would take place over the next six years. Many people credit Thomas Friedman and his book The World is Flat with bringing this social shifts to the main stage. But yet I’m left looking for a ‘hook’ when talking to parents and other educators that might better explain to them the children they are now raising and teaching. To understand that these children are different because of the tools they have available to learn with not the generation itself. Although they are a great generation but they would have been without these tools. They wouldn’t have been as connected, as global, but still great.

So I’m left thinking; what’s the hook? What is it we tell educators, administrators, parents, school boards, and community members for the reason we need to shift the way we teach? They have been part of this social shift yet they don’t understand it, or refuse to see it. Out-sourcing is part of this shift, so is in-sourcing, so is innovation, and business. We all live in this shifted society but do we understand it? Do we understand what it means not only for us but for our children?

What is the hook?

[tags]shiftedlearning, Thomas Friedman, World is Flat, 21st Century Learning, Connectivism[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,

    We have been saying this for a while, and I most recently heard it from Alan November, but the revolution is not technological, but rather informational. What separates this generation and the modes we will use to prepare them is their access to answers, and thus to better questions.

    Our role, as you and many others have pointed out, becomes less about what we can fill their heads with, and more about what we can show them how to process and create anew. The “democratization of information” and the flattening concepts that Friedman wrote about change their relationship to the information and to the world, and I think this is what really causes Prensky’s phrase to be outdated. We are all feeling our way around the mass of information, regardless of age.

  2. Susan Ashcroft Reply

    Some really interesting information can be found on innovation, globalization and information age, on the website mkpress.com
    Please check it out.
    You may want to see http://www.mkpress.com/flat
    and watch http://www.mkpress.com/flatoverview.html
    for an interesting counterperspective on Friedman’s
    “The World is Flat”.

    Also a really interesting 6 min wake-up call: Shift Happens! http://www.mkpress.com/ShiftExtreme.html

    There is also a companion book listed: Extreme Competition: Innovation and the Great 21st Century Business Reformation

  3. @Susan Ashcroft: Quite apart from the rampant paranoia of the ‘extreme’ presentation, I am shocked at the lack of reference and/or credit to Karl Fisch’s original. Whilst the original is CC, that still requires you to acknowledge the source.

    Speaking personally, if you are going to lace adverts as comments then please take the time to ensure that you don’t cause offence in doing so.

    Please note, I am speaking entirely on my own behalf and have no idea whether anyone else agrees with my opinion!

  4. Do NOT click on any of Susan Ashcroft’s links as it is just advertising for her company. She has riffed off of Karl’s video without attribution and made it a commercial for her publishing company.
    (And definitely don’t waste your time watching her video!)
    Now, Jeff, to answer your question – What is the hook? The hook is always – the children, they are waiting….and their patience is running thin. We continue to lose them as we become “dangerously irrelevant” in Scott McLeod’s words. Our kids are our most valuable resource, let’s not lose this generation.
    In the high school classrooms I observe, I see “learned disengagement” and it’s time to overcome. How do we restore a love for learning in a time of exponential change? Is it possible using an education system as it currently exists? (It’s not just a rhetorical question.)

  5. [Copied my comment over from your other blog because it seems folks are commenting here.]

    This is a thought provoking post that asks a great question while raising many others. I suspect that we need multiple “hooks”. The most compelling hook for me is a response to the sad fact that education as we’ve known it has been failing far too many learners.

    Traditionally, in order to do well in school, an individual has needed strong “academic skills”–the ability to process words that come from the front of a room, an strong aptitude for interacting with the printed word, and proficiency in taking tests. This may over-simplify it a bit, but it’s pretty clear that very few do well in school without these skills.

    Part of the problem is that it is only a relatively small elite who have strong academic skills, and educators are drawn largely from this elite. There have always been way too many otherwise smart people who fail in school because they learn differently. We as teachers have difficulty responding to learners with other learning strengths because it is hard for us to identify with them.

    Current research suggests that ALL learners, including those with strong academic skills, benefit from the kinds of approaches that have been long been used in special education–emphasis on visual supports, multi-modal re-enforcement of learning, alternative ways for students to show their learning, etc. It’s worth checking out the work on universal design for learning by CAST at Harvard. I think every educator should read their book “Teaching Every Learner in the Digital Age”, which is available in its entirety online.

    Advances in technology, mean that we now have ways of better engaging learners across the learning-style continuum. We also have wonderful new ways for learners to demonstrate their learning. This is why I love the many new options for digital storytelling.

    So, I believe that one potential “hook” is to emphasize that with the new digital tools that are available, especially those springing to “life” on the web, we can enhance and facilitate learning for ALL learners–for academic stars as well as for many others who have been less successful with our more traditional approaches.

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