Schools promote drivers ed – learning by driving with guidance. Schools should do same with social media.

When students reach a certain age and responsibility level, I believe that school should permit – promote even – the use of various social media tools. I think we should “Be safe and teach them to drive.” If we truly  are preparing students to lead and serve in a changing world, then we should teach students to utilize respectfully and responsibly the methods and processes that can be used in an engaged and purposeful citizenry. Literacy in today’s terms essentially demands that schools take an active role in educating our learners about how to connect with others from whom we can learn and with whom we can contribute to causes of import and worth.

I regularly think and engage with others about the reasons why students should or should not be allowed to use social media as part of school. These sessions, of course, include the opportunities, as well as the potential consequences. Perhaps soon, I will try to write a post that summarizes more of these ledger items, arranged as assets and liabilities. For now, though, I am focusing on two aspects of social media that I crave for my students: 1) encouragement and interaction from a wider, more authentic audience, and 2) opportunities to engage in civil discourse to develop one’s thinking and understanding.

1. Encouragement and Interaction from a Wider, More Authentic Audience

On Friday, December 23, 2011, I published a blog post entitled “Homework – Conforming to School Norms, Opps for Exploration, Unnecessary, Essential?” Moments after pressing the publish button, the following response came via Twitter (see image).

I know @occam98 personally; we work together at the same school. As a colleague and as an educator, I admire and respect @occam98, and I value his feedback and encouragement. To my knowledge, though, I have never met @bauerphysics. Because @occam98 tweeted about my blog, I now have encouragement and support from another educational thinker and teacher. Such feedback is wonderful. And, thanks to these two immediate responses, I may garner more comments on the actual blog post that will help me further to develop my thinking and understanding about homework as a school practice.

What if my exploration about the practice of homework were more confined, as if I could only talk to my immediate classmates and my teacher about my developing thinking and research about homework? I would have fewer potential network nodes on which to connect my thinking and learning. For students, I wish that they could engage in such connected communication through appropriate use of social media in schools. Some schools permit such use. Some schools promote it. Other schools forbid such use. Yet many students use social media independent of school. Duh! I prefer that students have the opportunity to benefit from the co-pilots, navigators, and coaches who are their school teachers (in addition to their parents). With such over-the-shoulder Yoda-dom for the emerging Luke Skywalkers, I believe students can safely interact and receive encouragement from the “teachers” whom they’ve never met in person…without turning to the Dark Side.

2. Opportunities to engage in civil discourse to develop one’s thinking and understanding

On the same day that Twitter brought the responses detailed above, I also engaged in another Twitter discussion with an acquaintance and a never-before-met-face-to-face person. If I am remembering correctly, I believe I met @SarahebKaiser at a Solution Tree event. But I have never met @Paul_Mugan. As in the above example, Sarah tweeted a blog post that I had written (“Pracademics”). I deeply appreciated the tweet and the encouragement, like I appreciated the support from @occam98 and @bauerphysics. In this second example, though, my learning advanced as a result of a different kind of online interaction than I had had in the first case. During this second case, I enjoyed participating in a fairly vigorous civil discourse, from which I grew immensely.

@Paul_Mugan, a follower of @SarahebKaiser, disagreed with an idea that Sarah tweeted – an idea specifically drawn from my “Pracademics” blog post. What then transpired was a fabulous learning opportunity for me…with a “stranger.” In the Scribd document below, I provide a taste of the dialogue and discussion. I did not capture the entire conversation on Scribd, but one could find the full exchange on Twitter. In total, I think over 30 exchanges occurred. We discussed and debated the nature of learning – acquiring versus applying knowledge. My views and opinions on the topic were both reinforced and altered. I grew tremendously in my understanding of learning – a topic that I think about quite actively. And thanks to an acquaintance and a “stranger,” I was able to think even more actively through the course of a civil disagreement and interchange. The back-and-forth provided a great opportunity for me to develop even more perspective consciousness about the complex domain of learning.

I would love for students to experience more opportunities for such civil discourse. Potential debates and discussions and teachers and learning opportunities are everywhere. With open minds and open media, we can immerse ourselves in invaluable conversations.

Also, as students engage in more project-based learning, I believe that their school activities increasingly  will tend to address various issues that confront our communities. Through such connected-communication tools as WordPress and Twitter, our students could write about their growing understanding of the issues (like our Writing Workshop: Environmental Studies eighth graders do on WordPress). Blog posts could be tweeted and readers from around the globe could engage in great discussion and civil discourse about the issues. With coaching from trusted teachers, our students could both solidify and expand their understanding. Students could connect with other thinkers and advocates on such issues as obesity, the importance of sleep, computer-assisted language translation, mass-scale window gardening, and developing better prosthetic limbs for amputees (all topics that have recently benefited from open-source problem solving). I would love for more students to contribute to such problem finding and problem solving.

#itsaboutlearning

Because of the connected learning in which I am involved, I believe my knowledge and understanding has accelerated exponentially in the last two years – yesterday alone provided a hyper-speed movement of my thinking on homework and learning. “School” is anytime and anywhere for me now. What’s more, on a sociological level, I tend to believe that people are good and want to help – I experience such examples from “strangers” on a daily basis now. And as a teacher, I want these lessons and perspectives for my students, too.

Tilling some soil and playing with links – some rough draft blogging to think out loud

Third graders at The Kincaid School in Texas are cultivating their learning in a community garden of global connectedness:

At my school the 3rd grade teachers have established a terrific blogging program for our 3rd graders. Not only do our students blog openly but they also visit and comment on other blogs. This year, a comment that a 3rd grader made on the blog of an author of a book his class was reading started a process that ended up with the author having a Skype call with the student’s 3rd grade class. [empasis added]

– Larry Kahn, http://plpnetwork.com/2011/12/21/meet-our-team-larry-kahn/

Bravo to these third grade teachers and their students for growing positive digital footprints among an authentic audience of beyond-school readers and thinkers. Such connectedness and the powerful learning that can come from such harvest are under-surface themes of @jgough’s latest post, “Integrated Studies: Gardening, Obesity, Open Source Learning.” Moreover, @whatedsaid placed the exclamation mark on the themes with her post, “What does it mean to be educated?

Most students want to grow something meaningful by planting seeds, watering and fertilizing the sprouts, and sharing the harvest of their labors. As the students in Edna’s video proclaim – to be educated means to seize opportunities to make a positive difference in this world. We teachers should make sure that we are facilitating that “playing in the soil” at least as much as we are asking students to read from a recipe book. In my opinion, students should be doing the gardening and recipe creating much more than just following others’ recipes. Students deserve to be creators, not just consumers. In so doing, they just might learn better to feed themselves as lifelong gardeners and inventors…I mean learners – lifelong learners.

“Fallor ergo sum” – St. Augustine, 1200 years prior to Descartes

Do we structure school in such a way that we truly promote and achieve that intricate balance between: 1) wanting to know and to understand and 2) keeping perspective that we have to be wrong quite a bit in order to gain deep knowledge and understanding?

By the time you are 9 years old, you have already learned, first of all, that people who get stuff wrong are lazy, irresponsible dimwits, and, second of all, that the way to succeed in life is to never make any mistakes. We learn these really bad lessons really well. And a lot of us…deal with them by just becoming perfect little A students…perfectionists…overachievers. – Kathryn Schulz, On being wrong TED Talk, near 7:00 mark, March 2011 (emphasis added)

Is the secret to great success never to be wrong? Of course not! I cannot imagine that even one teacher of children (or adults, for that matter) truly believes that we define “the successful” as those people who always get the right answer, or even as those who tend to get the right answer. Or do we? How do we view our “A students” versus our “C students? Perhaps I have my head in the sand. I don’t think so, though. Yet, I wonder if we people who help to structure the workings of school are ensuring that the fundamental pillars of school reflect this basic principle:

I thought this one thing was going to happen, and then something else happened instead. – Kathryn Schulz quoting Ira Glass of This American Life, On being wrong TED Talk, near 14:00 mark, March 2011

Do we overly penalize learners for their mistakes? Does the traditional, typical school currency – grades – serve best those at the core of the instructional-learning exchange? Do we allow for “returns” to be made after a transaction, or are “all sales final?” Do we allow for enough “do overs,” prototypes, iterative attempts, and second chances? Do we model our classrooms and learning spaces on the real-life tendency for all of us humans to be great mistake makers as we risk to know and to understand our world? Do we facilitate learners growing from “white belts” to “black belts” by awarding them with an average – “a grey belt?” As educators, do we understand the 10,000 hour theory? Are our scope and sequences reflectively cognizant of the 10,000 hour theory? Do we tend to sort and label, or do we tend to recognize that mistakes come with regret that should be embraced if we hope to grow from our errors?

If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or loose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets…the point it to not hate ourselves for having them….We need to learn to love the flawed imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly; it reminds us that we know we can do better. – Kathryn Schulz, Don’t regret regret TED Talk, near 16:00 mark, November 2011

An Intro at the Conclusion

This morning, I had planned to work on my resume. It needs some updating, and I need a job, so I thought this morning would provide me a good opportunity to revise and edit my curriculum vitae. As I awoke from sleep, I even seemed to have some revision ideas on my mind. But then another thing happened instead.

As I sat to enjoy those first sips of morning coffee, I decided to check my Feeddler app – my way of organizing and reading my Google RSS Reader. In the queue was a new TED talk from Kathryn Schulz, the “wrongologist.” I love her work, so I thought I would watch her latest published talk while waking up with my coffee. Then, I would get to “work” on my resume. But then another thing happened instead. I was reminded of this powerful blog post by friend, colleague, and former student Peyten Dobbs. And I remembered the This American Life episode that I listened to during my Saturday afternoon walk with my dog Lucy.

I felt I had important threads dangling loosely in the wind of my thinking. I wondered if writing a bit would help me ground and weave some of those threads together. I puzzled over Peyten’s feelings expressed in her blog post, and I empathized about my own similar feelings from being a perfectionist-bent student of old.

So…do I now have all of these mysteries about grades and being wrong “all figured out?” No. But I am further down the path than I was when I awoke. Do I have revisions completed for my resume? No. If I were to need to “turn in” my resume to a teacher for grading, I fear I would receive an F or an incomplete. Yet, I engaged in some lifelong learning this morning about the nature of being wrong, the nature of regrets, and the structure of schools. I learned. But for that I will receive no formal grade. I may later regret that I don’t have a revised copy of my resume ready on Sunday, December 4. That’s okay. My regrets remind me that I can do better. And I tend to engage in super efforts to learn and grow and get better. Where does that go on my resume?

Curiosity and Connections – #edu180atl 11-29-11 cross-posted

Curiosity and Connections

This morning began like most mornings for me. I rise early so that I can read and write, mostly about educational ideas related to the future of schools and schools of the future. I began this practice years ago because I wanted to enhance my own knowledge and understanding so that I might better serve others on this dynamic path of school transformation in the 21st century. My formula is easy: maintain deep curiosity and make strong connections. The catalyst for the reaction, though, demands constant commitment and daily practice. Like I tell my two sons, ages seven and four, “If you want to get better at anything, you must practice.”

So, by 5:30 a.m., the time at which I am drafting this post, I already have two more hours of learning practice under my belt. I have made a field of mental Velcro so that I can be ready for connections of curiosity throughout the day. This Velcro is made of numerous “curiosity-connection hooks and loops” formed by the countless curiosities and connections pursued by others. I am indebted to others for sharing openly. For you see, my morning routine utilizes Kindle, Twitter, Google Reader, and the blog-o-sphere to connect me to curiosities and connections from vast numbers of amateur and professional educators around the world. Every morning, I am fortunate enough to enter the greatest faculty lounge on the planet wearing David Letterman’s Velcro suit!

Today, I feel Velcro-ly grateful for curiosity and connection practice!

_______________________________________________

Bo Adams (@boadams1) is a learner first and foremost. Currently, he is the principal learner at The Westminster Schools Junior High School. The photo shows his older son’s recent artwork as he, too, pursues curiosity and connections.

[This post was created and posted originally for edu180atl (http://edu180atl.org/), on Nov. 29, 2011.]

Connecting Ideas – Action, Traction, Reaction

In Synergy, a non-departmentalized, non-graded, transdisciplinary, community-issues-problem-solving course, we use blogging as a means to communicate and collaborate on ideas as well as to reflect and to revise thinking.

Currently we offer our learners an Action-Traction-Reaction prompt to spur their thinking, reflection, and writing.

One of our learners offers this reflection that connects his thinking about his team’s project with the ideas from Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish:

Relating Jamie Oliver’s Prize Wish to my Project

Posted on November 17, 2011
.

Jamie Oliver, a celebrity chef, wished to educate every child about food as a use of his TED prize. I’ve known about his fight against obesity and eating right since learning about his TV show in 6th grade, so this wish makes sense to me. He’s creating a

Strong, sustainable movement

to educate every child about food.

The core of this action is to create a movement. This core action could be applied to my project, because in my project we are trying to get people to clean up after themselves, and stop cutting in line. Both of those problems are just bad examples that people have seen and copied. Creating a movement would create new standards in the community for cleanliness in the lunchroom, and could reverse the bad examples in place there.

For Jamie’s wish, he wants to create an online community and also a movement. He said

The grassroots movement must also challenge corporate America to support meaningful programs that will change the culture of junk food.

I didn’t know what a grassroots movement is, so I looked it up. I came up with this. “A grassroots movement (often referenced in the context of a political movement) is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.”

For Jamie’s project, he is relying on creating a following, that would create the foundation for his project and help spread the message. But he also would like to create traveling kitchens and a traveling food theater to make his project entertaining and interactive. From my perspective, the traction for this project is based on two components: people and interaction. This is a good formula for other projects who are looking to gain traction in a community. You draw the people in with interaction, and then rely on them to feel passionate and spread the word.

In the comment section of the article, many people were eager to partner with Jamie’s project to support and help organize his ideas. I think that the biggest way to attract reaction like this, is to be backed by TED! But the other large factor is that he’s addressing a large problem and is presenting a sound project plan. Creating this plan is an easy thing to do in Synergy to make sure our projects look attractive in the eyes of the administrators inside and outside of Westminster. If our projects only look half-baked, they won’t attract support.

“Grassroots.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

[Permission to post obtained from student and student’s parent.]

Do we write to read and learn what we are thinking?  Do we prototype, seek feedback, and revise?  How do we connect our thinking to the ideas of others?

Shouldn’t we practice?

[Cross-posted at Experiments in Learning by Doing]