Learning is Making

Dale Dougherty:

Making is learning. Remember John Dewey’s phrase “learn by doing.” It’s a hundred-year-old educational philosophy based on experiential learning that seems forgotten, if not forbidden, today. I see a huge opportunity to change the nature of our educational system.


I’ve been a growing supporter of the Maker movement over the past couple of years and I hope that it’s starting to pick up steam in some places in American culture. At least it then has a chance to seep into schools.

I’ve always felt that EdTech is too screen-based and that the EdTech community needs to do better melding with the arts, science, math and technology (TechEd). The good news is that there are real and doable opportunities for schools and teachers to do just this within the Maker/DIY movement. Today.

The most important thing I have learned the past six years is that there’s so much more to educational technology than the Web 2.0, interactive whiteboards and video games. I think this movement illustrates what I’ve believed for some time now… that children of all ages be active and, not only engaged, but empowered through concrete, yet meaningful learning experiences.

Digging Deeper

29 years ago Dr. Seymour Papert wrote the text below.  It was recently shared again over at my daily dose of sanity, The Daily Papert.

“I know. I think schools generally do an effective and terribly damaging job of teaching children to be infantile, dependent, intellectually dishonest, passive and disrespectful to their own developmental capacities. I think that the examples I have  given of learning in a computational environment provide a glimpse of a context for learning in which socialization would be based on a potentiation of the individual, an empowering sense of one’s own ability to learn anything one wants to know, conditioned by deep understanding of how these abilities are amplified by belonging to cultures and communities.”

Papert, S. (1982) Tomorrow’s Classrooms?. In Times Educational Supplement March 5, 1982 (pp. 31-32,41)

I think these words reveal how we can start to use technology to help us think, not just different, but deeper about what real learning looks like.  They also provide a guiding light that schools can use to navigate along a path of teaching and learning that is more meaningful and valuable for everyone involved.

What we need is visionary people who step out of the ordinary and lead with their heads, hearts and hands (Lehmann, 200?). For examples of Papert’s thinking and learning click through to his work.  Don’t take it for face value (i.e. – just programming), dig deep and think about the learning process and ask yourself how it might look in other contexts.


The Best Educational Ideas in the World – SXSW 2011

My friend and teacher has put out an all-call for help getting an important message out. Dr. Gary Stager has taught me a lot about learning, teaching, education and children’s “remarkable capacity for intensity”. I love that… capacity for intensity.

I had the pleasure of attending the Constructivist Consortium’s Constructing Modern Knowledge last month where participants experience the very message Gary shares. I think his proposal to the South by Southwest (SXSW) event is a great move, too many are presenting to the very masses that share the same vision for learning, teaching and technology. Branching out to other events other than just educational domains is an important step in democratically addressing the school reform debate taking place in our country today.

Please allow yourself the two minutes it takes to complete registration and vote for Gary’s “The Best Educational Ideas in the World” for the SXSW 2011. He has outlined the step-by-step process for this which I’ve included at the bottom of this post. Knowing that this is a “popularity contest” you should vote.  This is the game we must play sometimes. Here is the session description and questions answered:

Contemporary discussions of school reform focus on the creation of obedience schools for poor children or utopian governance schemes, such as charter schools. Neither approach does much to amplify the natural curiosity, expertise, creativity, passion, competence or capacity for intensity found in each child. A leading educator serves as your tour guide for a global exploration of powerful ideas and exemplary practices. Stops on the tour include personal fabrication; Reggio Emilia; El Sistema; Generation YES; One Laptop Per Child; a juvenile prison; 826 Valencia and more. The artificial boundaries between art and science are blurred as children engage in authentic activities with real materials, create sophisticated artifacts of personal and aesthetic value and become connected to ideas larger than themselves. Collegiality, purpose, apprenticeship, complexity, serendipity and “sharaeability” are a few of the common values. Each approach either requires digital technology or may be dramatically enhanced by it. Lessons learned en-route our tour create productive contexts for learning in which students construct the knowledge required for a rewarding life. Alternative models of school reform in which we treat other people’s students as our own will emerge. The common principles identified in some of the world’s most creative educational practices serve as lessons for parents, teachers and policy-makers eager to help children realize their full potential. Questions

  1. How can we create learning environments that build upon children’s capacity for intensity?
  2. Are there humane creative models of school reform based on principles of social justice where students do extraordinary things?
  3. How are disparate ideas like El Sistema, Reggio Emilia, personal fabrication, alternative prison education and One Laptop Per Child similar and offer new models for education reform?
  4. Is learning natural and are children competent? Why do so many adults think that the answer is, “no?”
  5. How can early childhood approaches be applied at the secondary level and the arts inform approaches to science?

Step-By-Step Voting Instructions

  1. Go to: http://bit.ly/cxq78J
  2. Follow the instructions for creating an account
  3. An email will be sent to you containing a link to click that will return you to the voting site
  4. Click the link in the email
  5. Login using the email address and password you just created
  6. Click on the Explore the Interactive Proposals » link (http://bit.ly/bk31Hl)
  7. Type Stager into the Organizer field
  8. Click the SEARCH PANELS button
  9. My session, The Best Educational Ideas in the World, should appear
  10. Click the icon of the THUMBS UP to vote for my session.
  11. If you wish, click on the title of the session, scroll to the bottom of the page and leave a message of support. Every bit helps!

Gaming & Education

Today, I woke up, grabbed some coffee and settled into my ritual of reading my daily feeds of news and blog posts. First in my aggregator as this post by Sylvia Martinez related to gaming and education. My comments on her post were from the perspective of professional development and how sometimes we don’t think deep enough about what we, as educators, can learn from games or anything else for that matter.

That said, next week I’m co-teaching a Gaming in Education workshop for teachers in our area. We’ve invited a high school senior (and gamer) for this workshop who will be introducing our participants to the world of gaming via a LAN experience. He will
also lend his perspective to our discussions planned throughout the session. We’ve planned a spectrum of games for our participants to
experience, but the meat of this workshop, I hope, will come through in the conversation.

I’m iming for experiences and dialogue that start subsequent conversations back in faculty rooms, hallways, classrooms and homes. I don’t mean the ones that imply that more educational games need to be created or that we need to implement games in the classroom. I plan to throw these questions at our participants. What would you add to the list?

  • What level of engagement is necessary for learning?
  • How can game design impact instructional practice?
  • What aspects of gaming can we use to build engaging learning experiences?

Local Over Global Network Building

I’ve been thinking more and more about the networks/communities we build using technology. My experience at Educon had me thinking even more about it as several of the attendees discussed building global networks vs. local networks. Reading about the Science Leadership Academy’s culture you’ll see that local communities of learners (educators included) without the focus on making global connections can be extremely powerful for learning.

As I read more I’m finding that there is power in the using all these tools available to us on the web for connecting with those in our areas. A recent article in Wired Magazine states (substitute educational words where appropriate):

One day, perhaps, virtual communication will become so good we’ll no longer feel the need to shake hands with a new collaborator or brainstorm in the same room. But for now, the world seems to be changing in a way that actually demands more meetings. Business is more innovative, and its processes more complex. That demands tacit knowledge, collaboration, and trust — all things that seem to follow best from person-to-person meetings. “Ideas are more important than ever,” Glaeser says, “and the most important ideas are communicated face-to-face.”

I’ve always hailed the power of having global connections and I will continue to do so, but I now believe a lot more time and energy should be put towards building our local connections and sharing the power of these tools to collaborate locally or regionally. Connecting with folks from places around the country or world is powerful for sure, but what of the immediate connections here at home? It’s one thing to show a nay-sayer administrator or colleague how a classroom is connecting with another in a remote location, but another to show how several local classrooms are collaborating to take on an authentic environmental or cultural issue in their local area. Wouldn’t we all benefit from building stronger connections that add value to what we are doing locally?

In terms of professional networks, I like the concept of the regional PLP. This is an opportunity for us to connect with each other, share thoughts and ideas, build blogs to share information/projects to join, ask questions and lend support for each other. It’s our chance to really set an example for the rest of our region and local districts to take a look at what is possible in the new learning environments that we are exploring here.

Photo Credit: Nebraska Library Commission

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eXperiencing cOllaboration

XO Laptop from OLPCFriday, I had the opportunity to work explore the XO laptop with Bud Hunt. If you aren’t familiar with the XO you can learn more about it at www.laptop.org and at the OLPC wiki.

We (my wife and I) decided it might be a good idea to contribute to the Give One Get One program being that was offered from mid-November to December 31, 2007. Two reasons, one we’d like to expose our daughter, who is now four, to a computer that is collaborative and built for learning. The second is that I am very interested in the OLPC project. Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of OLPC, states that this “is an education project, not a laptop project“. I think most educators find that statement pretty much sums up a lot of the interest in the XO.

Photo take from the XO laptop.My experience with Bud was very cool and I’ve heard he feels the same. We both visited our respective Starbucks and tapped into the Internet via the 1-year T-Mobile service that came with a G1G1 donation. We weren’t sure how we were going to collaborate to start so we settled on using our “good old” mobile phones to talk through the experience.

Admission: I felt pretty silly working in Starbucks with the childlike appearance of the XO while talking to Bud using my Bluetooth earpiece which is normally reserved for my car only. But it was worth it and I’ll do it again.

Patience is a Virtue
Photo take from the XO laptop. When working with the XO one has to understand that it doesn’t work like the Windows, Mac or Linux platforms we are used to using. What I liked about the conversation Bud and I had was that we kept trying to think like students or teachers in a classroom different than what we are immersed in here in the United States. That’s difficult to do if you haven’t been to a developing country or if you are stuck in a mindset of meeting a set of curriculum standards. But I thought we did a pretty good job of it. At one point, Bud overtaxed his XO and was very patient about it and that helped me understand the importance of being so, especially so early in the project’s deployment.

Our purpose in meeting was to learn more about the XO’s functions and Activities, and to learn more about its collaborative, sharing capabilities. While each Activity can be shared, we agreed to look at a few of the default Activities (Write, Browse & Record). I like that they are called Activities, not programs or applications on the XO. It adds to the concept that the laptop is built around learning and collaboration.

Another thing that was cool was that while we were working a gentleman approached me and asked, “is that what I think it is?” I proudly explained that it was an XO laptop and he asked how he could get one. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that the G1G1 program had ended on Monday and that he could learn more at laptop.org.

So, OLPC if you are reading, know that the more we take these devices out into public (and I intend to) the more publicity it will receive. I understand a few of the reasons for having the program open for a limited time, but I would bet that after a small amount of success there will be even more people willing to donate.

I know Bud and I would like to work more on the XO in the future together. What about you? Do you have one? Would you like to get connected with us to try it out? If you don’t have one, did you know you can still help out by working on content?

Students 2-Oh (My Gosh)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/gwQOyEwspKY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Just came across this this morning as I was skimming some “tweets” on my Twitter network this morning. Arthus, posted that he was checking on and talking up Student2.0.

I’m excited about this. I love the line “Watch out Edublogosphere… the silent majority is here” at the end of this video. I wonder, how many more students are out there doing this? While I know students are the majority in education, how many are actually doing the things that the students of Students2.0 are doing? I’m assuming that’s what this project is all about, students2.0 pushing educators and students to think and learn differently.

BTW, Arthus is one of the people who encouraged me to make a donation to OLPC through the G1G1 program.

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I have the Shifts

My mind is all over the place lately.  After NYSCATE earlier this week, I’ve been giving some thought to my focus lately.  My focus has been on connecting and networking online.  That’s good.  But I think it’s just one phase of the shift that educators need to work through.  It’s very much a journey for me.  I’m not sure where I’ll end up (if at all), but I am enjoying it. 

Right now though, I feel like I’m stuck with choosing a direction.  Mind you, I’m speaking personally here, not professionally.  On second thought, I’m not sure that is even possible for me anymore. What I do on my own time is embedded in what I do professionally. 

Here is some of what I’m looking to do:

  • continue to teach and promote connective learning
  • explore more creative applications for learning
  • learn about programming as it applies to learning
  • study more on the impact of social networks for learning

Note to self: What is the common denominator?  Learning.

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Seeing 20/20

When I read this local district’s vision I immediately thought of School 2.0. First, this vision was created for and by the entire school community. That is the entire community, faculty, students, parents, administration, local organinzations like the Chamber of Commerce, local experts from local universities and businesses totalling over 500 people.

This community sought answers to the following questions:

  • What should our schools look like in 2020?
  • What do students do in those schools?
  • What do teachers do in those schools?
  • What do we need to do now to get there?

The central themes of this vision, Safe, Healthy Environments; Strong Starts; Global Perspectives; Active and Engaged Learning; Effective Communication; Individual Flexibility; Collaborative Work; and Real World Applications, describe an environment each of us would love to work in.

A few of the areas really resonated with me, such as how they will teach foreign language, “Asian as well as Euro-centric languages, history, arts and culture” in elementary school. The vision of Global Perspective proclaims:

We will make use of the resources of our community as a microcosm of the globe and offer students exposure to the many varied cultures with which they likely will interact in the course of their lifetimes.

The part that really caught my attention was the Effective Communication theme:

The world is our classroom in 2020, and technology helps make that so. Students are no longer bound by location or time; knowledge is transmitted instantaneously, as are learning resources and opportunities. Teachers, students and their parents will use technology seamlessly in communicating expectations, strategies, performance, and assessment. Teacher lessons, units and instructional resources will be digital, web-based, and available asynchronously to students and parents throughout the school year and beyond. Computers, Smartboards (TM), media storage and projection, email, blogs, podcasts, and other means of utilizing technology as a tool for inquiry, storage, exposition, and reporting will be the commonplace elements of communication between the teacher, the learner and the learner’s support network.

Finally, I think that a district willing to address questions it may not be able to answer by itself is an indication that a shift IS happening. One quote, “Transparency in expectations and acheivement will be commonplace“, proves true as the district is posts updates on progress on the web. This district is a local district for my organization so I’m excited to learn more about their vision and the plans that they have for the future. Not to mention some of the cool projects in which I might help.

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