Friday, April 29, 2011

Something "Wired" This Way Comes

Recently, Scott McLeod wrote about 12 predictions for the future of learning. In an effort to demystify the list for my colleagues, I've informally set out to write about each of the predictions, some of which I've already written. On April 14, I wrote about the mobile movement. On March 25th, I presented a video on gaming from James Paul Gee, who can encapsulate the concept much better than I ever could. This is the next installment. 

McLeod's other predictions about the future of learning (beyond the two cited above) include, 
  • digital learning rather than analog/ink on paper
  • online, 
  • networked/interconnected, 
  • multimedia rich, 
  • self-directed/inquiry-based, 
  • open/accessible (in the sense of open educational resources), and 
  • project-based. 

The challenge, then, is to find an example of a current tool or mechanism that embodies all of these characteristics of what learning will be like in the future. Is there a legitimate educational example that is digital, online, socially networked and open but media rich and inquiry/project-based? A tall order indeed. Enter, MOOC, or a massive open online course. 

Although a bit Utopian, the concept of a MOOC does illustrate all the characteristics of McLeod's predictions for learning in the future. No, this particular presentation of the concept does not address how it would deal with complexities such as poverty, learning disabilities, deliberately planned curricular scope and sequence, alignment to rigorous (core) standards, accessibility to bandwidth/hardware, appropriateness of content to developmental level, formative assessment and subsequent instructional adjustments, summative assessment and subsequent parental and mandated state/federal reporting of student progress, or student motivation. 

This does, however, allow us to get a glimpse of pedagogical possibility, especially possibility beyond our restrictive and traditional brick-and-mortar-school doctrine and paradigm. And, as you just read, it's easy to posit why an idea or concept will not work, but what if we imagined how a MOOC could work in K-12 education? Any suggestions?

Friday, April 15, 2011

District Administrators, Can You Hear Me Now?

I've written before about the possible elements that will drive change in the field of education; one of these drivers of change is the mobile learning movement, which gives affordable, widely accessible (in terms of cell signal and 3G), and completely persuasive opportunities for communicating, learning, and consuming. These devices require low maintenance on behalf of our tech departments, gain access to bandwidth through means that we don't provide, are low cost--student owned--and entirely personalized for personalized learning.

I know district administrators who own smartphones but only use a fraction of their capability; I know superintendents who unequivocally reject what smartphones do and what they stand for; I also know administrators who are crafty users of smartphones but still don't appreciate them as a  viable alternative in 1:1 environments. So, here's an overview.

Here is a review of the movement of mobile access:

Here's how we can use them to connect and learn:

Here's some of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as the movement of mobile access relates to learning:

Here is an example of what the use of mobile access could look like:
Using Mobile Devices with Teaching & Learning
View more presentations from Michael M Grant

Here is a framework for approaching mobile learning:

Here are some resources and current thinking on mobile learning:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scott McLeod's Predictions on the Future of Education

Scot McLeod recently advanced a number of predictions for education (if not now in some cases). What has struck me the most about the list is that most of the predictions are "cloud-based" initiatives. I was also struck with how the likelihood of these trends move in opposition to the content of most of our strategic plans. Take a moment and read McLeod's predictions. Think about the target areas within your strategic plan and how the time, resource allocation, and action steps stand in alignment or misalignment to the predictions below. 

  •        digital rather than analog / ink on paper
  •         informal
  •        online and less dependent on local humans
  •        mobile
  •        networked / interconnected
  •        multimedia
  •        self-directed / inquiry-based
  •         individualized / personalized
  •        computer-based and software-mediated, less dependent on humans
  •        open / accessible (in the sense of OER)
  •        project-based
  •        simulation–or game-based

At the end of McLeod's blog, he poses the question: "How do we design and operationalize our learning environments to reflect these characteristics? And if we don’t, can we have any hope of staying relevant to the needs of students, families, and society?" Certainly it's a difficult question, but in truth district administrators need to be logged on, plugged in, knee deep in the digital "stream" to even be able to determine how the strategic intent of the schools we are leading is in concert with the thrust and force of the predictions above. We exist in a global world that is changing 24/7. I argue that more than ever before, we need to have the presence of mind to recognize McLeod's predictions not as threats but as tools to hasten our aligned, strategic intent of facilitating the conditions for powerful learning. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Everything is amazing. And nobody is happy.

My apologies if you've already seen this. The commentary may be the most accurate set of observations I've seen in how our relentless and insatiable need for progress reaps disorder on our gentle consciousness.

Of course, I look at this through the lens of leadership. In my estimation, people become unhappy when without direction. Vision, mission, and purpose matter. Leadership and the horizontal accountability and support of PLCs are the means through which vision is realized. Indeed, we live in amazing times with more options than we have capability. What we need are less amazing tools and more dynamic leaders who have the courage to face challenge, to embrace the resources that we have, and to activate passion behind direction in order to create transformative and empowering landscapes of amazement and enthusiasm.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Doomed to Filter Failure

It's true, I'm an advocate of helping school district administrators learn digital-age tools so that they can better realize their school districts' visions. Without that understanding, superintendents are exposed to sales pitches about false technology trends, being overwhelmed with edtech information without skills to determine what is most salient, and an over-reliance on inexperienced (in terms of district-level leadership) techno-consultants who have all the answers but no researched-centered results. Part of the solution to this leadership dilemma is to help district administrators grow in their knowledge of digitally-oriented tools so that they can filter for quality, applicability to school district vision, and sustainability for the future.

With skills that allow us to filter information for empowered leadership, we-as district administrators-will be better able to facilitate a return on investment in technology, to increase opportunities for amplified learning, to develop potential relief for overworked employees, and to impress constituents and enhance branding for enrollment of prospective students. Below, Clay Shirky talks about "filter failure." After watching the video, what skills do district administrators need to effectively handle the inefficiency of today's information flow? What dispositions do we need in order to effectively filter information so that we aren't doomed to failure in the translation between edtech chatter and boots-on-the-ground school leadership?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Your Digital Identity

Many of you know that I consider George Couros a "must follow" (both his regular blog, his visually-oriented blog, and his twitter feed). Below is his slideshow on digital identities for educational leaders. As you run through the slides, reflect on this question: "How can we as reform-minded school superintendents help principals, teachers, students, or other stakeholders in the educational community understand how to properly engage, safely communicate, or learn while on the web or within online educational communities if we don't engage ourselves?" The Networked Educational Leader-Day 3 (Digital Identity)

The result of genuine engagement on the web (in the form of a digitally-oriented PLC) is a digital identity. My recommendation is that you have a three digital applications you use to engage on the web. For me, its my blog, my Twitter feed, and my Diigo social bookmarking account. For you, your three could include a Facebook page (social media page), a Plurk micro-blog, and a Digg content sharing account.  Many have more than three means of engaging in the " digital stream," some have less. I would encourage you to begin your journey of developing a digital identity by starting with three different modes, each with a different purpose.

Monday, April 4, 2011

District Administrators in Digital Darkness

Last week I had the privileged of being invited to and presenting at the District Administration Magazine's Leadership Institute Summit; I was asked to speak about social media. My thesis? You guessed it: To "lead it," superintendents need to "get it," meaning that district administrators today can choose to amplify their organizations through the use of digital-age tools, or remain in digital darkness. To extend the metaphor using Scott Klososky's "high-beam leadership," I encouraged my colleagues to start to "lead with their brights on" by developing personal learning networks through twitter.

After viewing the slideshow, what reactions do you have? To what extent do you agree with my thesis that superintendents need to understand digital-age tools in order to effectively lead their organizations in this age of ever-present technology?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Let me introduce you to David Rushkoff

Winner of a Neil Postman Award and a professor of Media Studies at NYU (and a colleague of Clay Shirky), David Rushkoff is a figure with increasing authority on the influence of the web and how it can both transform and inhibit the transformation of the human experience. In his latest book he provocatively asserts that we either digitally engage and direct the web or remain complacent and allow the people who have mastered the web to direct us.

After viewing this short lecture by Rushkoff, do you think we as educational leaders are "operating in a binary medium" of educating our nation's children? How do we guide reform to "an analog system," built separate from the legacy systems of the industrial age? What are the deep embedded "biases" of our medium of educating children? How can we as school district administrators reform our system to instill capacity in children to solve the biases of tomorrow? (And not for the dying, archaic systems that now decay in disaggregation.)