Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Great School 2.0 thoughts from Will, Chris and Steve

Earlier today I listened to the great WOW2 podcast from January 23, 2007 with from Will Richardson, Steve Hargadon, and Chris Lehmann, and jotted down a few notes. They had a great discussion about redesigning schools and this idea of “school 2.0” that I’ve been thinking and speaking about a bit lately. Of course there are LOTS of people talking about these ideas inside and outside the edublogosphere. Will, Chris and Steve gave me some new terms and thoughts that are worth recording here.

Chris reminded us all that “meaning is co-created.” This is the heart of constructivism as a learning theory, but many people who are “traditionalists” when it comes to education and learning still seem to be in denial about this. At a basic level, when we read we interact with the text. The text does not have any meaning outside of what we create when we interact with it. This is as true for digital texts (in various forms) as well as traditional analog, paper-based texts.

Chris views an essential part of school 2.0 as learning and school work being transparent. That is such a radical idea in many educational contexts, particularly in “the academy” of higher education. I remember the very suggestion that our faculty members in the College of Education at Texas Tech should post all their syllabi online was met in some cases with STRONG opposition. This mystified me a bit, but I grew to understand that in some contexts the culture of higher education can very much be one of “shut the door, leave me alone, and let me teach.” At least some professors (I don’t have a broad enough perspective or research data to generalize or even speculate what this percentage might be) are openly hostile to the idea of opening up their classroom to outside scrutiny. I think there is definitely a group within the K-12 teaching cadre who feel the same way. Why is that? Well, certainly the idea is radically non-traditional. I can think of several reasons, but I won’t speculate on those now. Suffice it to say that I agree with Chris: Transparency in what we do in school should be both a hallmark and a benefit of school 2.0. It is also a challenge, but I think a challenge in a positive way because it introduces powerful dynamics of accountability via connections to the “real world” outside the classroom that I think can be very constructive for educational learning quality.

Chris shared that in his view, the best gift teachers have to offer students today is WISDOM. How different that is than our traditional view of the teacher as the lecturer, sage on the stage, and purveyor of knowledge! David Warlick a couple of weeks ago at TCEA remarked how in some classrooms the teacher’s desk at the front of the room is actually raised up, personifying this idea that knowledge is being transferred from the brain of one “on high” to those students at lower levels of cognitive development and understanding. This also reminds me of the post I wrote before Christmas titled, “Apprenticeship learning and critical thinking.” I agree we need to think of ourselves as teachers more as mentors, and our students as apprentices, than many people do today.

That also reminds me of part of the discussion I had with David Warlick and Tim Wilson at TCEA in the small (it was just the 3 of us at Starbucks) but very thought provoking “edublogger meetup.” Tim asked how long it was going to be until someone like a high school chemistry teacher could “put up a virtual shingle” by offering their instructional services online, and get students studying from their homes (or coffeeshops) around the world to pay a fee and learn from and with them. My response is it’s not too far off. We discussed that one of the biggest gatekeepers for this change are the college admissions offices. When they stop requiring everyone to have a high school diploma and start accepting other forms of evidence for learning (like the evidences home schoolers are and could obtain and demonstrate) then we’ll see some really radical things happen in the world of virtual blended learning. In that sort of environment, we’re going to need a matching portal for mentors and apprentices. (Anyone looking for an Internet startup idea? That’s certainly a good one.)

Chris rhetorically asked what it means to create a digital identity– He may have used a different word, my notes are incomplete on that point. Essentially, however, he was getting at this idea that students are writing their permanent records NOW on digital social networking sites. I learned via a blog comment from Janetta Garton last week that a:

Virtual Tatoo [is a term] to describe how today’s students are creating a virtual image of themselves that can/is inspected by scholarship programs, college admission boards, etc.

The adults alive today did not learn how to safely create an online identity when they/we were in school, because it was not possible to create one. The kids today need opportunities to discuss and learn about what to do and not do in the context of “virtual tatoos.” That is what my session (which I’m giving again in St Louis at METC on Wednesday) on safe digital social networking is all about.

I resonated with Chris’ exhortation that technology use should be like oxygen in our schools today: Necessary, ubiquitous and invisible. His point that we HAVE to change the teaching schedule (change the ubiquitous and powerful bell schedule in schools) also resonates with me, parallels some things I said at OTA on school 2.0 a couple of weeks ago, and directly challenges more than anything our traditional views of what “public schools” (especially high schools) look like and are structured like. Chris reports that at his school, they are overstaffed 20% so teachers have 4 preps, and students and teachers are in class together for longer periods of time. He maintains “this teaching is harder, demands more of us, makes every class a new prep, and is the ONLY way to really teach today.” (That is a paraphrase.) I also agree with Chris’ ideas that each teacher and school needs to take small, baby steps and most importantly GET THE KIDS excited about learning and using digital tools to move the agenda of school 2.0 forward. (create momentum)

Vicki made a great point during the conversation that I think more educational leaders need to consider and act on: Many if not most of the jobs “left in America” due to outsourcing will require LOTS of collaboration. So true. Most jobs TODAY require lots of collaboration. Mine certainly does.

Will’s closing question that students should be asked, “How does your teacher learn” was also great. That is a great question because it gets to the heart of what a great teacher is always doing: Always learning, always changing. Learning is change. If teachers are not learning each day and changing each day, they are instructionally dead and likely NOT an asset to the children or young adults in their charge. That last statement is my own elaboration on what Will said, and I know it is a strong statement. Note I did NOT say “all teachers need to be using digital tools to be good teachers.”

Will sees school 2.0 as a need for a new OPERATING SYSTEM for our schools, and I like that metaphor. I think about the operating systems I’ve worked with in my short life… This is probably the list:

  1. whatever the Commodore 64 OS was
  2. MS-DOS
  3. Windows 2.0
  4. Mac OS 7.1
  5. Mac OS 7.5
  6. Mac OS 7.5.3
  7. Mac OS 7.5.5
  8. Windows 3.1
  9. Windows 95
  10. Mac OS 7.6
  11. Mac OS 8
  12. Mac OS 9
  13. Mac OS 9.1
  14. Mac OS 9.2
  15. Mac OS X Beta
  16. Mac OS 10
  17. Windows 98
  18. Mac OS 10.1
  19. Windows ME
  20. Mac OS 10.2
  21. Windows XP
  22. Mac OS 10.3
  23. SUSE Linux
  24. Ubuntu Linux
  25. EduBuntu Linux
  26. Mac OS 10.4

I didn’t include Windows Vista because I haven’t actually used it beyond checking out the start menu on a PC in Best Buy. But that is quite a list. Quite a list of dynamic operating system changes from approximately 1982 through 2007. When it comes to computing, many of us change operating systems all the time. For some people, changing an operating system is like saying you have to start communicating completely in a foreign language. It represents some BIG changes. I think for that reason, Will is on to a good metaphor here. School 2.0 should be about changing the operating system of learning in our schools and communities.

Will did emphasize the community-based aspect of learning and school reform in his comments as well. He outlined the following as needs for school 2.0 reforms:

  • time
  • resources
  • training
  • conversations
  • Key: teachers using the tools THEMSELVES

Will also used the term “thin walls” to describe how our schools should be architected now and in the future. I like that term as well.

All of this brought me back to the three essential characteristics of school 2.0 that I’ve been ruminating on for a couple of weeks. (I’m late with an article I told Christian Long I’d write on school 2.0, and I hope to draft that soon.) My acronym is similar to ADD, but instead is RDD:

  1. Remix
  2. Differentiation
  3. Deregulation

Those, to me, should be at the heart of school 2.0.

But enough of my thoughts. What do YOU think about all of this? 🙂

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One response to “Great School 2.0 thoughts from Will, Chris and Steve”

  1. Stephen Downes Avatar

    As for this: “‘meaning is co-created.’ … but many people who are ‘traditionalists’ when it comes to education and learning still seem to be in denial about this. ”

    They could be “in denial” because it’s wrong.

    People do not “interact” with text. The text just sits there. People perceive text just as they perceive any other phenomenon. Perception is at heart personal. Meaning is not ‘co-created’. ‘Meaning’, such as it is, is each person’s individual (and unique!) attempt to make sense of the phenomena. It is a natural process (and not some sort of ‘construction’) that starts at birth in both humans and animals. It proceeds through a process of association and other network functions.