Wow. This has been quite a week and it is not yet over. I have been having some outstanding discussions and challenging opportunities to think at the SITE 2006 conference in Orlando, and have had the chance to meet face-to-face many individuals who I have previously “met virtually” and engaged in dialog with in the blogosphere prior to this conference. Those experiences have been superb, but I am also continuing to be strongly affected by all the discussion and dialog emerging as a result of last week’s skypecast.

First, let me say thanks to all of those engaging in the conversation about the new story and our 2nd international skypecast last week when I was on spring break holiday up in Kansas.

I just listened to Bob Sprankle’s latest Bit by Bit podcast, in which he shared his responses and ideas about this ongoing dialog and discussion. While it might be useful to listen to preceeding podcasts before listening to Bob, I don’t think that’s necessary. This is one of the most impassioned and “from the heart” podcasts I have heard from Bob. I thoroughly agree that we are in a new day, when we can engage in these types of professional development interactions irrespective of our geography and time zone. While the initial international skypecast was ‘synchonous,’ the subsequent conversations have all been asynchronous via blog posts, blog comments, and podcasts.

My own thinking about teaching and learning is changing (and I think improving) as a result of these conversations. I love this quotation from Bob’s podcast (at 4:17) in response to the question of whether read/write web tools like blogs and podcasts are distractions in the classroom:

I guess my first first question is, distraction from what? From an enterprise that is by its very nature full of distractions… aren’t we constantly being pulled into a million or a billion different directions as we try to meet the needs of the whole child, times twenty or more children in the class? Aren’t we constantly being distracted by new mandates, expectations, requirements, methods, knowledge, etc? Clearly that which is identified as “tested and tried” can’t be rock solid, or districts wouldn’t be pouring oodles of money into workshops and staff development. Also much of this constant retooling is self-induced, teachers encourage students to be lifelong learners by practicing the same, which is one of the reasons why we teach: we love to learn. If in fact it is a distraction, is distraction bad? Surely if we are on the wrong path, we’ll pull off the road to examine the distraction and learn something we didn’t expect… People are seeing the technology as what web 2.0 is all about, when it is just the tool… Perhaps we should start calling it communication 2.0, because that is what it is all about… We have evolved because of the tools which are now at our fingertips, we are able to learn and share information in ways that were never before possible. These tools are now making it possible for the conversation that has been going on for ages to finally take hold.

Education for me comes down to two basic things: conversations and experiences. By blogging, blog commenting, podcasting and listening to podcasts, we are all engaging in vital conversations that matter. These are experiences that can change our perceptions about the world, and therefore DO change the world. Should we worry that we are wasting our time speaking and writing in an “echo chamber?” Absolutely not. The world is changed one person at a time. Do others outside the relatively small sphere of the web 2.0 world need to hear these messages too? Yes, of course. But for whoever is reading, listening, writing and speaking about these messages today– that message is meant for them. And the distribution of those interactive messages– which are not 20th century one-way broadcasts– is sufficient for today. Because the conversation is global. And it is all-volunteer. This is the era of pull information, not push. Tomorrow will bring different opportunities for another audience to hear the message, as well as those already engaged in the discussion.

Like Joe Lambert said today following his keynote follow-up on digital storytelling: We will continue to change the world one story at a time. One person at a time.

By engaging in an interactive dialog via web 2.0 tools, we are defining ourselves as people who are ALIVE in our own personal as well as collective journeys of teaching and learning. We are on learning quests, and our conversations are the pathways we follow on this journey. As Bob says, this is what teaching and learning is all about. We are engaged in a conversation. Education is a conversation.

Real education is not about simple memorization or regurgitation of information, although those activities can still form legitmate elements of an educational experience. They will never define the most engaging or worthwhile elements of that experience, however. We need to share this message with other teachers and especially administrators: That education is conversation. It is experiences. It is engaging in dialog with others which connects to our prior lived experiences. Authentic education is not about standards and testing. We may have to deal with those, but that’s not the jewel.

Remember the Wendys’ fast food restaurant ad from years ago, “Where’s the beef?” I’ll tell you where the beef is in the blosophere. It’s right here, in the conversations we are having and the interactions which are helping us grow into the people we are today and the people we’ll be tomorrow.

And I’m quite honored to be here in the dialog with you. 🙂

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3 Responses to Education is conversation

  1. Cheryl Oakes says:

    I used to say that my job as a computer teacher was the best job, it was like a holiday every day. The students were always enthusiastic, happy and delighted to open something new. I was just as excited and delighted to open something new each day with them. Now, while I am still experiencing the same enthusiasm in my computer lab with my students, Web 2.0 has opened the blogesphere to me, much like my computer lab has opened opportunities for my students. Each day, I check my bloglines to see who has published a new blog or podcast that I just have to read. I too am learning so much through these conversations. I read the comments, I link to people who comment and I add a whole new slew of people to my bloglines. I am lucky enough to be able to have face to face conversations with Bob Sprankle each day as we are colleagues in the same school. However, with web 2.0 I am now having conversations with so many of you, I am learning so much I should be paying you all for my professional development. I agree, keep the conversations going.

  2. Nancy Pratt says:

    This is a conversation I would like to join. Few colleagues in my district are having these conversations. I am meeting with my excellent Director of Technology this week to discuss blogs and podcasts; he is very forward thinking and totally on this page of our conversation. He “gets” it. I am looking for fellow teachers who are on my same page. Perhaps I have found some of you……..The beauty is that I don’t have to move to Texas! (Not that it isn’t pretty, I’m sure!)

    Thanks for your insights.
    I will keep peeking in, and listening too. 🙂

  3. […] Who are the risk takers, the innovators, and “the creative ones” in your organization or life sphere? How are they treated by others? The blogosphere can be a great place to hang out, think, read and write because like-minds can connect. It can bring someone like Nancy Pratt, who commented on a blog post earlier this month, into conversations she might not be in otherwise. But this brings us back to the idea and challenge of the echo chamber. Is this where the creative people are relegated? Is this where we have to live and stay? […]

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