Greetings from Northwest Airlines Flight 609, 10,980 meters above planet earth bound for Honolulu, Hawaii via Minneapolis, Minnesota. I thought I would take a few moments to write about the amazing “in-flight entertainment 2.0” system I’ve been playing with for the past half hour. It is increasingly difficult to get bored on and in the 21st century information landscape, and the new in-flight entertainment system on this Northwest Airlines flight supports this contention. Incidentally, I greatly value the experience of boredom for several reasons, but principal among those is the fact that I so rarely have (or make/create) opportunities to be bored. I think boredom is very underrated and undervalued in the fast-paced lifestyle common in “modern” 21st century society, and I think we need to find more opportunities to have unstructured time in outdoor spaces where we cannot help but be bored. But I digress…

I know we are over 10,000 meters above planet earth because of the amazing in-flight entertainment system available at my seat. Let me first clarify I am sitting in a coach seat, this is not an entertainment option reserved for “business class” or “first class” passengers. I’d like to have the opportunity some day to fly first class, but to date I haven’t had that experience. I’m sitting in a “regular” coach seat, enjoying and experiencing the same options available to EVERYONE on this large aircraft.

Before I share some thoughts and photos of this remarkable in-flight entertainment system, I want to explain why I have titled this post “In-Flight Entertainment 2.0” and how this relates to teacher professional development. In the days of “In-Flight Entertainment 1.0,” which is essentially every other commercial airline flight I’ve taken before today (December 2, 2007) the potential entertainment, media consumption, and interactive media experiences available to me as a passenger were MUCH more sharply LIMITED. For a flight like ours today to Hawaii, which lasts over eight hours, there would be at least one in-flight movie available, if not two during the course of the flight. Significantly, there would be ONLY one or two in-flight movies available. If you wanted to watch one or both of these movies, you would watch THE SAME MOVIE, at THE SAME TIME, with EVERYONE else on the aircraft who wanted to watch the movie. You did have a choice, but that choice was limited to the following:

“Do I want to watch the movie(s) which have been pre-selected by someone else for me to watch or not?

In-flight entertainment has not been limited to movies in my past experience, however, in some cases recently where a personal LCD screen was available for each passenger, a series of about ten different channels of pre-defined programming were available to watch. While it was possible to “channel surf” and exercise limited choice in selecting video programming to watch, those choices were still fairly limited.

That past situation contrasts markedly with my potential consumptive and interactive media experiences today. There are a myriad of different choices available to me in this entertainment system, but in the category of “movies” alone there are thirty-five different choices. These are organized into genres (Hollywood Hits, Independent, Critics Choice, and Comedy) and are also browsable under the “All Films” menu choice. There is NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE for viewing any of these movies. I can start, pause, or stop any of the movies at any time during our flight, and am only interrupted when the captain or flight attendant makes an announcement over the airplane’s announcement system. In addition to “movies,” I can enjoy musical channels, games, “marketplace” (items for sale,) interactively explore maps showing data on our aircraft’s current location/speed, and other options.


A robust and diverse array of activity options are available to me in this “in-flight entertainment 2.0” media system. In the past, besides choosing whether or not to watch the in-flight movie(s), the penultimate limit of my personal choice in selecting media to consume was selecting different radio channels to listen to during the flight.

This interactive and differentiated media experience can be contrasted instructively with teacher professional development contexts. In traditional, “teacher professional development 1.0,” educators were not generally given choices. The principal or other administrator selected topic(s) and/or speaker(s) for the day of mandated professional development, and EVERYONE was forced to watch/consume the same presentation. In many cases, irrespective of the interests or professional background of the educator, s/he was forced (in the PD 1.0 world) to consume EXACTLY the same information and idea stream as other teachers. There is minimal or zero differentiation in “educator PD 1.0.” That was the model we generally followed in most U.S. schools in the 20th century for educator professional development, because it was the easiest, the cheapest, was the model with which everyone was most familiar, and it become an expectation.

Just as “in-flight entertainment 1.0” is giving way to a 2.0 model, educator professional development needs to change and transform as well. Let’s examine some of the media consumption and interaction options available to me today on Northwest Airlines Flight 809 and think of the ways this analogy can be extended to educator professional learning. In particular, let’s consider the professional development model of the K-12 Online Conference as we proceed.

This is the individual remote control which I have at my seat in this airline flight, and was able to detach from the armrest which separates my seat from the person beside me:


The screen in front of me, at eye level in the back of the seat in front of me, provides helpful instructions in multiple languages which permits me to learn this new media system. I have never used this system before today. I did not receive instructions prior to boarding the flight about it. I did not attend a hands-on workshop from an instructor about using this media system, to include a helpful step-by-step printed handout with instructions and colored screenshots. This media system assumes I have the capcity to be A NAVIGATIONAL LEARNER, able to explore the options available in my environment and, on a trial and error basis, determine how to get information or share information through the system without “formal instruction.”

I hope you are already seeing some important implications of the design of this media system to our teacher professional development habits in many schools, as well as Internet access environments for both teachers and students. As the user I AM IN CONTROL of the content I watch and utilize. A limited but still robust menu of options have been provided for me, which reflect a variety of decisions made by the “content gatekeepers” of this media system. As an example, of the 35 movies available to watch, only two are rated “R.” The rest are rated “G” (appropriate for all ages,) “PG-13” (some material may be inappropriate for children under 13,) or “E” (edited for airline viewing.) None of the movies, for some reason, are rated “PG” (some material may not be suitable for children.) Most of the movies (17) are rated “E.” 12 are rated “G.” 1 movie is rated “PG-13,” the rest are “not rated.”

Just as this Northwest Airlines in-flight media system provides diverse and differentiated, but yet pre-selected options for entertainment, our educator professional development programs should offer a similar range of choices.

After finishing this blog post, I’m going to watch a movie full of memorable music from the 1980s, “The Wedding Singer.”


My fellow passengers may not share my nostalgic enjoyment of music from the 1980s, and the humor of Adam Sandler. That’s OK. They have the opportunity to choose their own media selections, and I have the power as well as access to technology devices to select my own.

I love this in-flight entertainment system. I did find the following menu choice quite amusing, however. The last available menu choice on the system is “email.”


After selecting that choice, passengers are presented with a screen titled “What Is Email?”


The last paragraph of the email screen series reveals the hidden catch: Feel free to send as many emails and SMS messages to your friends back on planet earth, but Northwest Airlines and the makers of this in-flight entertainment system (Panasonic) will happily charge you $2.50 US per message.


Just swipe your credit or debit card using the provided slot on the side of your personal remote control:


Wow. Imagine if an older adult is reading that screen for the first time….. What is email? According to the information presented on this media system, “It is a system of sending messages electronically to people around the world with a cell phone or an Internet connection for $2.50 US per message.” Somehow I’m thinking this introduction to email might go over like a lead balloon with most folks….. I’m wondering who decided the “fair market value” of a SINGLE email or SMS message sent from the airplane is $2.50?! It could likely go without saying (but I won’t let it) that I think this is a RIDICULOUS price. I can purchase unlimited high-speed Internet access for my home for $15 per month. That’s unlimited email messages and web surfing for thirty days, for $15. Similarly, I pay $15 extra per month for my iPhone plan to have unlimited email messages and web access. (Currently on the speed-challenged, but still highly accessible EDGE network.) Why would I ever pay $2.50 to send a single email message? I wouldn’t and I won’t.

This in-flight airline system IS wonderful, and I love the fact that there is not a charge for seeing or using any of the media options (including video games) with the exception of email. Why the exception? Have the designers of this system heard of “micropayments?” I might pay ten cents to send an email message, but I certainly won’t spend $2.50. I would be more likely to spend $10 for unlimited WiFi Internet access for the duration of this 8+ hour flight to Hawaii… especially if that access permitted me to access my own IM networks.

Despite this somewhat amusing strategic error in the pricing plan for in-flight email, overall I think this media system is remarkable and wonderful. Unlike other in-flight entertainment systems, including the one on Northwest Airlines which my wife and I experienced in September in our flights to and from Shanghai for the Learning 2.0 conference, there are NOT any forced advertising or commercials in this system. I LOVE that.

I will close with two more observations and comments.

I think the provision of an interactive survey option right within the media system menus is very smart. Question 9 specifically asks how important you think the availability of video games is for in-flight entertainment. Interesting.


The results of this survey may be unreliable and invalid, unfortunately, since the same person can take the survey an unlimited number of times. (I took it twice so I could take the image above.) I’m not sure how many people actually take it twice though, and I suppose the system may just permit one survey result per seat per flight. If it does not do that automatically, certainly the system could be programmed that way to improve validity.

Lastly, I’ll share two quick pictures of the contents of my backpack at my feet. Ugh. I am SO FAR away from the dream of a completely wireless computing experience!


I would guess I’m the only person, or one of a very select group, flying today to Hawaii with a 300 GB fireire hard drive in my carry-on luggage! 🙂


TSA scanned my backpack twice in Oklahoma City, and I’m guessing that hard drive could have been the reason. I don’t normally travel with such a robust data tool, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of space to save, edit and publish video podcasts during this week of travel!

Aloha for now from NW Flight 809. The interactive map shows we’re about to leave the airspace over North America and venture out over the Pacific… Hawaii here we come! 🙂

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5 Responses to In-Flight Entertainment 2.0 and Educator Professional Development

  1. […] In-Flight Entertainment 2.0 and Educator Professional DevelopmentBy Wesley FryerI thought I would take a few moments to write about the amazing $B!H(Bin-flight entertainment 2.0$B!m(B system I$B!G(Bve been playing with for the past half hour. It is increasingly difficult to get bored on and in the 21st century information …Moving at the Speed of Creativity – […]

  2. diane says:


    I love the fact that all of life is fodder for your blog!

    Your description of PD events is woefully accurate and a sad commentary on both the lack of vision and the lack of trust that many administrators exhibit towards their teaching staff (and, unfortunately, some of their mistrust is warranted).

    The next application of “in-flight entertainment 2.0” might be for student engagement and enlightenment. Once they’ve completed a certain “educational” activity, perhaps students could have to access to additional “entertainment” options. We’d just have to be careful that none of the kids realize that entertainment and education can happen simultaneously!

    Enjoy Hawaii.


  3. Raj says:

    I totally agree on the part of boredom – it is very underrated. If you think about it, as children, it happens often. So often that we become averse to it. Then as adults, we pay for the privilege when we go for resort/beach holidays. Maybe we all need to slow down a little. As educators, maybe we should try to “build in boredom” in some manner, but shape the boredom in some manner so the stillness can help encourage reflection and personalization of the content that has been delivered. Having said that, being bored where you are comfortable is likely much better at encouraging this form of reflection than being bored in some place that you are not.

    PS. The TSA seems to like scanning dense electronics these days, I had to get my new lens inspected on my last trip and airlines, like hotels and cell companies in Canada have certainly got some misguided notions of how much their services are worth.

  4. Gary Stager says:

    Isn’t it a stretch to equate a remote control and bowdlerized movies with some sort of learning revolution?

    Aren’t you suggesting that every student get their own filmstrip projector?

    Consuming content, especially entertainment, is low-level of learning at best.

  5. Wesley Fryer says:

    Certainly we shouldn’t limit education to being a consumptive activity– I am a vocal advocate for helping students become content creators and not merely consumers– that is the key focus of our Oklahoma World War II Stories and Digital Learning Project. Yes, I absolutely AM suggesting that every student should have their own iPod, which can be a 21st century filmstrip projector. I AM suggesting that being able to differentiate our learning, including our consumption of media, is a good thing. When we consider the general LACK of choices which exist in many professional development contexts for teachers, I think introducing choice would be a very good thing. Consuming content can be low-level learning, but it can also be high-level learning if the learner has adequate or even rich sets of schema/pre-existing knowledge on which the new “consumed” content can be attached. I think there is still room for “synchronous non-interactive” learning contexts, but I think more of those learning situations should be taken offline so learners can time and place shift, as well as rewind and pause. I still think there’s lots of benefit to taking in lectures, which incorporate rich media as appropriate. We shouldn’t limit our learning environments to those situations of one-way content delivery, however.

    In my workshop for SITE in March 2007 titled “Powerful Blending” I attempted to elaborate on these ideas with the following graphic. There IS a place for lecture. It just shouldn’t be the centerpiece for all learning.

    A Framework for Thinking Instructionally About Web 2.0 Tools

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