Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Contrasting recent Oklahoma City and Winnipeg morning radio coverage about education

I had a moment of significant cognitive dissonance this morning driving in to work, listening to the radio.

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This past Friday morning, for THREE HOURS, I was a minor guest on the Winnipeg, Manitoba radio station CJOB with Darren Kuropatwa, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Dean Shareski, and Darren’s former student Mark Rabena. The complete program without news and advertisement breaks is an hour and 46 minutes long, posted by Darren to the Internet Archive (the “Our Media” collection) where it will be preserved free, indefinitely.

This was a prime time, mainstream media radio morning program, and for THREE hours, our discussions focused on education, appropriate technology integration, blogging for an authentic audience, numeracy, literacy, and the education all our students need and deserve in the 21st century. It was an amazing and worthwhile experience to both listen and participate in these conversations on live, Winnipeg radio.

This morning driving into work in downtown Oklahoma City, I tuned in to Jack and Ron’s morning show on 98.9 KISS FM, just in time to hear them put down with disgust a news report about a school (in the UK, I think) where the school is remaining open all day, and they are no longer using bells to interrupt learning and signal that students must change classes. Their summative comment was that this is a stupid idea, because “they are making those kids into pansies.” In Jack and Ron’s view, apparently, to be valuable school must involve rigorous studies that are at times painful and distasteful, and without a doubt MUST involve a bell schedule.

Good grief.

It is so amazing that Richard Cloutier of CJOB in Manitoba actually observed several of Darren’s lessons in advance of Friday’s radio program. It is amazing and extremely heartening that as a highly visible, popular, mainstream media personality on the radio, Richard is understanding some big pieces of the puzzle of school reform and educational quality. No, quality schools are not all about test scores. More than anything else, quality schools are about high quality, passionate teachers like Darren. Teachers who go beyond “the norm” and have high expectations of student achievement. Teachers who are explorers and adventurers, investigating new and innovative ways students can not only learn content and skills, but also become the TEACHERS of content and skills to each other and to the world via the global stage which is the Internet.

What is it going to take for Jack and Ron of 98.9 KISS FM of Oklahoma City to “get it” like Richard Cloutier has, and be willing to take the courageous and bold step of focusing an entire three hour morning radio show on 21st century learning? Perhaps Jack and Ron could spend time in some of our Oklahoma A+ Schools, where teachers at all grade levels are focused on differentiating instruction and integrating the arts across different content areas? Perhaps Jack and Ron could spend time listening to the digital stories created by teachers and students in our statewide “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” project, and actually come to one of the TWENTY workshops we are scheduling and leading for COV in 2009?

It’s easy for radio and TV personalities to put down others and others’ ideas. It is rare to find a mainstream media leader, like Richard Cloutier, willing to spend the TIME required to get a better understanding of some of the BEST stories of educational and learning SUCCESS in the local community, and then take the necessary steps to share that professionally with an audience of thousands.

What is it going to take to bring the work of our most innovative, hardworking Oklahoma educators into the public consciousness of our state? How can we bring the voices of those like our remarkable presenters in the K-12 Online Conference to the attention of not only educators but also parents and school board members across our state and nation? Will Oprah help amplify their voices? Will it be the new education secretary of our U.S. President-elect? (I’m not optimistic about this latter possibility.) Will it be our Oklahoma governor Brad Henry, or his wife Kim, who is a former school teacher and has a professed passion for improving education?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I’m working on those answers with others.

As N. Winton, a principal in Perth, Scotland, observed, the conversations in the actual radio show last Friday were not the only amazing thing about this event– the backchannel discussion which took place among 30+ educators listening live over the Internet to CJOB and discussing the show in a Chatterous backchannel were also nothing short of remarkable. Could this type of international learning interaction have taken place AT ALL even five years ago? I think not. He wrote in his post “New Year, New Connections, New Learning:”

Over the course of the three hours (in reality, about two hours when you take the adverts and news out!), there were over 1,000 comments made on Chatterous… absolutely incredible if you ask me! Can you imagine what a difference that level of conversation could make to three hours worth of lessons? Maybe we need to start looking to open up a backchannel in our classrooms. The idea is appealing… and doesn’t need to be hi-tech. A supply of post-its and pens on every desk and a space on the wall to post the questions could be an interesting starting point…

How I yearn for leadership in the state of Oklahoma which will help usher in the learning revolution. We don’t need to keep buying $75 textbooks for K-12 students in all the mandated content areas. That madness should stop now. We need Netbooks for EVERY student and teacher, in EVERY grade, starting in third grade. Yes, I love Macs dearly, but what leader of a 1:1 laptop learning initiative can financially justify a $1000 investment for hardware for each learner compared to a $250 Netbook? You can’t. The digital curriculum, networking infrastructure, and professional development which can be provided for learners with the money saved by purchasing Netbooks instead of full-blown $1000 laptops is staggering.

I am living the early 21st century, but caught in the pedagogical 19th century, wanting to live, teach and learn in the 22nd century. The pace of change in our schools and in our society is SO slow.

Where are the leaders? Where are the mainstream media amplifiers like Richard Cloutier in Oklahoma? I may have met some of them already. I am sure they are out there. I’m looking for more of them. I’m pleased to be working with many of them already. Our work is just beginning.

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3 responses to “Contrasting recent Oklahoma City and Winnipeg morning radio coverage about education”

  1. Charlie A. Roy Avatar

    I had a chance to listen to that show live and it was great. I had the privilege of having my whole family over and i’ve been trying to explain to them the whole web 2.0 and its impact on education. I think it finally helped them to get it. As I helped my sons through their one hour of drill and kill math homework tonight I kept thinking back to how much I hope they have a teacher like Darren in their life someday. Thanks for all you do to spread the “gospe” of authentic learning.

  2. James Manning Avatar
    James Manning

    I work at a school in Seoul that currently has a policy of updating its textbooks every 4 years. We purchased new textbooks and choose the ones that where most like our old ones so there would not be so much change…is there any irony in this? I like you concept of purchasing notebooks for the school. I work in a middle school and I need help in selling the idea to my administration of purchasing notebooks. There are many excuses…They are too small, they are too fragile, they cost too much overseas compared to north america, we don’t have the tec support…but the biggest one would be they would not be used or used incorrectly because there has to be training (another cost factor)

    Do you have a top 10 list of reasons why the notebooks would be so good for our school which I could share with the administration team.

    Thank you in advance

  3. Kent Chesnut Avatar

    Wes, very insightful article.
    James, Gary Stager has a wealth of information regarding laptops in schools at
    Regards, Kent