“The benevolent future of the Internet”

I first heard this TED Talk through NPR’s TED Radio Hour. Links to both the video and the NPR segment are below.

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/18/152883399/how-do-you-make-a-virtual-choir?sc=17&f=57

In the transition to a 1:1 school, and at the beginning of the school year for many years after 1:1 was established, there is a great deal of concern over the dangers surrounding this tool, a networked laptop.  These concerns need not be minimized by pointing out what an interviewee in this story calls “the benevolent future of the internet.”  What a wonderful term that is, “the benevolent future of the internet.”  There is hope and grace in connectedness.  That doesn’t make the dangers any less real, but it does change the calculus in our decision to allow or restrict our children’s access to the internet.

Seeing YOUR world through someone else’s eyes

Penpals, epals, skype sessions, Hangouts…

skyping with HI5For decades students have benefited from the classroom practice of communicating with students from other cultures.  Two decades ago email allowed that communication to be almost immediate.  Chat, and then videochat gradually increased the value and the linguistic and social-emotional power of creating connections across borders.

A colleague recently forwarded me a blog post from the HI5 English School in Bétera, Spain.  In the post the writer chronicles the connections that his students have forged with students at my school.  Seeing pictures of my students and athletes projected on a screen in front of engaged and curious Spanish schoolchildren deepens my understanding of how powerful (and how necessary) this practice truly is.

When I see a student from another school projected on a screen in one of our classrooms, she is a novelty.  A fun, interesting, and potentially meaningful artifact (please forgive me for referring to a person as an artifact) of student learning.  When I see MY kid (let’s call her Lucy) projected on their screen, I see a child, one of many at my school, LIFTED UP as a representative of the school.  What makes Lucy unique and lovable in our community makes her equally well-regarded to that far-flung group of students.  And even better, she projects that image on our school as a whole.

I saw MY WORLD through the eyes of someone else today.  It made me realize how important it is to share my world with others.  And to welcome their world into mine.

The Tiered Technology Toolkit #li12

Today I attended Elizabeth Helfant’s “1:1 for Everyone” session at the Lausanne Laptop Institute 2012 #li12.  We talked a great deal about the content, pedagogy, and technology needs that may be addressed alongside a school’s decision to go 1:1.  A common (or not-s0-common) practice is to create a “canon of  technology” for the whole school.  It’s a great idea!  However, I suspect that the messaging often comes across as “The powers-that-be have deemed permissible the following applications:….”

What if, rather than a “list of sanctioned and supported technology,” we created a tiered technology toolkit?

  • Tier 1: “In order to be employed here, you must know these.”–This would include your classroom management software, email platform, and grade reporting mechanism.  This should include VERY few applications (those that you need in order get done the bare minimum with and for your students).  These need to be few in number because you want the emphasis not to be on what they must learn; rather on what they may learn.
  • Tier 2: “Try to learn two of these applications…”–We want to encourage exploration, experimentation among our faculty.  So rather than mandate and limit opportunities, present them as…opportunities!
  • Tier 3: “We (the school) lift you up as a leader-learner if you integrate some of the following into your teaching practice.”–We need to celebrate those who venture into the unknown, who’s choice of technology leans toward the surrender of “sit n’ get” learning, an emphasis on student content creation.  Put those wonderful web 2.0 tools in this category that put students in the driver’s seat.

Creating a tiered technology toolkit makes sense for many reasons:

  • It limits the firehose of websites, software and apps.
  • It allows the school to benchmark technology literacy for faculty and students.
  • It gives faculty an idea of how and to what extent they can stretch their own learning.
  • It allows interest-driven networks to grow organically among faculty.

If change is the constant…

used with permission of the creator, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arifur_rahman/

Change is not a variable.  Change is a constant.  Whether we like it or not, circumstances of our life change on a daily basis.  Even the things that seem consistent, relationships, jobs, our homes, are on an ever-evolving spit, sometimes turned 180 degrees from how we once “saw” them.  And sometimes they return to a sense of familiarity that reassure us that “things never change.”  But that sense of familiarity, too, is temporary.  The glacial or cyclical types of change don’t tend to bother us that much.  But what about more abrupt change?  What to make of it?

My school is struggling with the process of change.  For many, I don’t mean “struggle” in a pejorative sense, however.  The struggle just is.

We have recently made a fast-paced switch from PC to Mac.  What’s more, we are also phasing in a 1:1 laptop program.  (previous posts might elucidate further).  There are some faculty, however, for whom the struggle is incredibly upsetting, and the inertia of the school comes as little comfort.  And although I understand discomfort with meteoric change, I have to wonder if those folks were hoping or assuming that change would NOT take place, or merely hoping or assuming that it would not take place at this pace.  Both of these notions, whether a hope or an assumption, is built upon a false premise.  That there is anything consistent about change.

If we insist upon beholding change as this mysterious, ever-looming circumstance that we must fight to suppress, then we define ourselves by our stagnation.  Rather, if we simply accept that things change, that life is an ever-present evolution, a fluid state, and that change can and will occur at an unpredictable clip, then we are characterized by our adaptability.

I happen to stand in favor of the changes that are being made.  My reason is simple:  I have lost nothing (other than comfort and convenience and a hint of “the familiar”) and I have gained untold multitudes.

And if you’re reading this, I encourage you to challenge me the next time you find me griping about a change that didn’t go my way.  But in the end, if we live our lives and do our jobs with the expectation that circumstances WILL change, often in unpredictable ways, our powers of adaptability will be fully engaged for that inevitable moment.

And who knows, we may be the ones to drive the change.

featured image (appearing in banner) used with permission of the creator, Arifur Rahman (http://www.flickr.com/photos/arifur_rahman).  View the original image.

Community learning

We all learn at our own pace. As adults, we choose our opportunities for learning according to the time we have free and the resources at our disposal. Maybe that’s why our students roll their eyes when we (adults) harp on about how much fun learning is. They’re not learning at their own pace. They’re doing it at our pace. But, that’s a post for another time.

At Westminster, we (the adults) have a genuine opportunity for community learning in our hands. Westminster just made the switch from PC to Mac. As one of the facilitators in the training of faculty, I will periodically post to the school’s New Westminster Mac Users blog site for faculty seeking advice. I’ll crosspost here.