The New Learning Ecology

Breakthrough means breaking things – reading MISC magazine, Summer 2014

I’m here Mr. O-C! – Student attends class via Twitter

I take attendance by having my Theory of Knowledge students draw a picture of themselves at the start of class. They have three minutes to do this and if after that time I have no picture it means they were late or absent. (Hat tip to Linda Barry – this has turned out to be a terrific threshold activity.)

One of my students, Danielle, had to be away at a hockey game so she sent this via Twitter–and made the deadline:

I'm here!!

I call that being present.

Full marks.

MISC magazine, Fall 2014

What Developing States Might Teach Modern Edu About Mobiles

on mobiles, in MISC mag

Inspirations reading Collings, Patrick. “Africa: Innovating the Mobile Consumer Experience” MISC Magazine. Fall 2014: 65. Print.

On the African continent, “Education is the second largest application of mobile connectivity behind messaging.” So, the question I have is whether that means the phenomenon of mobile delivery of education is simply better than nothing–and so give their druthers, Africa states would adopt our brick-and-mortar model–or if their might be something we in the developed West can learn about thinking differently about what it means to be going to school.

Several things make me wonder:

This 1964 CBC Massey Lecture series, The Real World of Democracyby C. B. Macpherson. Delivered at the height of the Cold War, Macpherson’s lecture explored the rival ideas of democracy–communist, Third World and Wester-liberal–and suggested that the West has nothing to worry about if it is willing to change its values. I read the transcript back (way back, but not that far back) in university and need to reread it now because the details of his argument have faded. Nevertheless, the Real World of Democracy was a bucket of cold water in my face. The seminal read made me look for the first time at the contextual complexities of the real world and the possibility that my world view and my values might not be as neutral as I believed. That idea transfers to ideas about education, too.

This is reinforced by this morning’s reading of Carol Black’s Occupy your Brain: On Power Knowledge and Re-Occupation of Common Sensea critique of introduction of centralized control of education in traditional cultures and, by extension, of our own modern culture. It’s not easy to stand against the idea of a global standard (or any standards in education)–there are some things that every human ought to know, aren’t there? But Black isn’t taking issue with what people should know but about who controls that knowledge and the delivery of it:

Once learning is institutionalized under a central authority, both freedom for the individual and respect for the local are radically curtailed.  The child in a classroom generally finds herself in a situation where she may not move, speak, laugh, sing, eat, drink, read, think her own thoughts, or even  use the toilet without explicit permission from an authority figure.  Family and community are sidelined, their knowledge now seen as inferior to the school curriculum.  The teacher has control over the child,  the school district has control over the teacher, the state has control over the district, and increasingly, systems of national standards and funding create national control over states. In what should be considered a chilling development, there are murmurings of the idea of creating global standards for education – in other words, the creation of a single centralized authority dictating what every child on the planet must learn.

We’d be wrong to take say Black fails to appreciate the social contract that is public education. To see the danger, Black asks us to look at the difference between public-supported education and centrally-controlled education

The crucial confusion here is between the idea of publicly supported education and the idea of centrally controlled state-administered education.  To really get your hands around this distinction simply replace the word “school” with the word “radio” in the following sentences and see what you get:

I am in favor of publicly supported radio.

I am in favor of centrally-controlled state-administered radio.

Not the same thing, are they?

This brings to mind an old post, Public Education is Like the Roman Empirein which I say schools ought to run more like cities and less like empires. “Cities work because they create conditions, rather than outputs, and because civic governments largely stay out of the way of the people they govern.”

Macpherson’s and Black’s message takes a sharper edge in this video, Why is my curriculum white?

And the same message gets a laugh from my friend, the very witty Yong Zhao, who calls standards-based education, sausage-making:

Zhao keynote

Syllabus: Notes From An Accidental Professor

99% of Climbing Is Falling & Other Pearls from TEDxTeen London

Education & the Second Screen: Give Your Students’ Mobiles Some Love

Inspirations reading Cohen, Jonathan. “Branding in the Age of Smart TV and the Second Screen” MISC Magazine. Fall 2014: 32-33. Print.

Download (PDF, 1.36MB)

The potential of the second screen in education is largely unexplored. Students have them–smart phones and laptops–but phones are ignored as learning tools and laptops are used simply as personal productivity tools or mirrors of what the teacher is presenting on the first screen (e.g. the white board or projector.)

social complex

There’s an echo here of the a16z Tech Summit I attended in the fall of 2013: digital is bridging itself (in business) and I wondered then how it might augment the in-class experience. I wonder, what in education are the equivalents of rapid market testing, post-purchase loyalty and driving to local shopping (as opposed to buying online.): rapid lesson testing? a desire to dive deeper in classes? connecting the learning across subject domains for a richer experience…?

My students and I have been using Twitter as a go-to tool in classes and though it’s been quite successful it’s still an artifact of the first screen experience. but I think there may be something even richer here…going give the “second screen experience creation” some serious though over the winter break.

QQ: Do schools have an obligation to help students get more sleep?

Changing the education question from “What is…?” to “What if…?

Some quick sketchnote captures at the the Apple Education Leadership Institute last week.

My favourite line of the event, for the way it drops the full weight of what we do on our shoulders: “…the way we design our classrooms today will ultimately define our future…”

John Couch

apple eli

More sketchnotes on my Pinterest page.