Robinson’s “Changing Education Paradigms”

October 25th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, teaching & learning No Comments »

Food for thought here…

We’ve been working heavily on UbD and common assessments lately, and this leaves me wondering about the foundations (or perhaps the interpretations being applied) that tie these two together.  My right and left brain are playing tug-o-war at the moment.  And the point Robinson makes about the “arts” (or perhaps more aptly, the “liberal arts”) being the victim in a system caught between old and new paradigms (a vortex in the shift?) demands some attention.

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Pondering the Personal Plundering

July 20th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, observations, uncategorized No Comments »

I enjoyed participating in an online interactive interview with author James Bach on Self-Education and Passion held this evening and hosted by  Bach is the son of author Richard Bach who penned Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the first book I read that encouraged independent and critical thinking.  James dropped out of high school and has gone on to build an impressive career in the software world, self-education.  He supported his own son’s decision to leave formal education at the age of twelve, choosing to facilitate his son’s learning as interests in subjects and topics arise.

Bach’s ideas are radical, to be sure.  Many educators will cringe at the ideas of unschooling heralded by self-made individuals such as Bach.  As a librarian, I don’t find it such a stretch.  I strive to provide students  with an IDEA lab…a place where they can explore and learn what and through those subjects/ideas that draw them.  There are lots of people who agree.  Check out SelfMadeScholar, a blog dedicated to these concepts.

Two puzzles are continuing to rattle around…things I’ll need to think more about.

1.  Many of the individuals who associate themselves with unschooling actually promote it through the institutionalized concept of “home-schooling.”  It seems to me that doing so not only appears a bit converse to their own concept (why use the work schooling at all?) but also pairs these learning revolutionaries with others whose opposition to public schools is founded in very different ideals…fear that public schools are not strict, not structured enough.  Strange marriage.

2.  I’ve noticed that in schools that opportunitites to participate in the most motivating alternative learning environments (conferences, field trips, extra-curriculars activities) is generally limited to those students who are successful in formal school.  Those students who would most benefit from these opportunitites are either restricted or left unaware of their availability.  I wonder, are “unschooled” students presented with opportunitites for immersive learning.  As a professional, these are the places where one networks with like-minded people.  Should students who are self-educated be introduced to these opportunities, at the very least.

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What’s Your News iCue?

May 8th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, media, teaching & learning No Comments »

Current events are a standard part of many curriculums, particularly in those field where technology and research are rapidly changing common knowledge.  In my own school, I routinely work with World Culture teachers to identify relevant current events, and to identify the validity of the sources that they use.  Too often, though, students scramble into the library at the last minute to clip or google a news story to “hand in” as evidence that they are keeping up with current events.  So, I’m in search of new approaches to reaching students through current events. I think NBC’s iCue has something to offer.  As they note: ”iCue is a fun, innovative learning environment built around video from the NBC News Archives.”  The experience is social (engaging online community members in discussion) and interactive (using videos, games, and other online activities) helping students (and other lifelong learners) immerse themselves and interact with world news as it happens.

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Appeal for Change

March 7th, 2010 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, observations, social media, teaching & learning 1 Comment »

Michael Stephen’s Tame the Web features a reprint of the article: The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate, originally published by the Australian School Library Association. Arguing that the financial crisis compels us to move towards the needed changes (when we need those changes anyway) may be an effective lever for those reluctant media specialists who still resist moving into a 21st century already a decade old.  Let’s hope so.  Stephen’s appeal is well-informed and nicely put.  For those of us who have embraced the change, the article provides some nice reinforcement to share with colleagues who question the changes we’ve implemented.  If you’d like to share,  you can download a PDF of the article here.  The article was based on a presentation at ASLA which you can view here.

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Social Technographics and Scaffolding…

January 19th, 2010 llcowell Posted in design theory, learning spaces, multiple literacies, social media No Comments »

From a blog associated with the new book, GroundSwell, the post Social Technographics: Conversationalists get onto the ladder shows how twitter and facebook status updaters are figuring into the the world of social media. Reminds me alot of Gladwell’s Tipping Point.

Conversationalists are now on the ladder of social media

"Conversationalists" are now on the ladder of social media

The author’s note that these “conversationalists” are an intriguing lot with a definate stake in market trends. I can’t help but come back to my own professional observations of how market and classroom align in today’s marketplace of information and media. Consider the following suggestions offered in the blog:

“Convince your boss this stuff is for real, and that if you haven’t jumped on it, you’re late.”

There is a hum (or drum) in education now pushing administrators to recognize social media not just as a tool that could be harvested, but as a new way of communicating that MUST be engaged if we are to remain relevant in society.

“Profile your customer base, and see what they’re ready for, before planning a project to reach out to them.”

Know your students. They don’t learn the same way we did, even 15 years ago. The dilemma in education? Student’s today are technologically MORE ready than we are! At the same time, they’re social aptitude has slipped they navigate through the online social network “willy-nilly.” Shouldn’t we be there with them…to teach, to model?

“Segment your audience; build different strategies for different segments. (Social is so prevalent now that a single approach for your company is probably too broad.)”

Differentiate your approach to reach different learners. We’ve embraced that in the classroom, but too often we settle for seeing “technology” AS an approach, rather than as a space in need of these differentiated approaches. All said, it comes down to…SCAFFOLDING!

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Google’s Real Time Exposes Real Frustration of Web Searching

January 18th, 2010 llcowell Posted in design theory, learning spaces, search engines, teaching & learning, web 2.0 tools No Comments »

I have to say that while the concept of Google’s “real-time” search results in seductive at first (and a bit awe-inspiring to watch)…it’s real value in the classroom probably lies in its potential for illustrating the rapidly cycling, ephemeral quality of information on the web.  The updates cycle so quickly when “latest” is chosen, it’s difficult to remain oriented.  Considering that orientation with information has proven, already, to be a challenge for learners, I can’t imagine how this is going to make things better.  Some things are just too “gee-whiz.”


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Sharing Jane Hart’s Top 100 Review…

November 16th, 2009 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, teaching & learning, web 2.0 tools No Comments »

This is a great review of tools…a few I haven’t had the chance to play with yet.  Again…it can be overwhelming!

View more documents from Jane Hart.
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Reflections on the Print vs. Ebook Debate…

October 28th, 2009 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, observations No Comments »

It’s a mystery to me why the print vs. online wars rage.  In a recent USA Today article, School chooses Kindle; are libraries for the history ‘books’?, Cushing Academy’s bold move from mostly print to all electronic resources was revealed, rationalized, and ultimately railed against.

Reading the story, I found much about Cushing’s move that appealed to me.  The coffee house library…not a new idea. Others have done this successfully.  And the success of these ventures is more complex than the appeal of a “frothy beverage.”  Walk into any Starbucks or Barnes and Nobel and witness the people engaged with media (computer and print) while they engage with one another, calmly and thoughtfully. Libraries are idea forums.  Coffee houses, in our culture, are symbolic of the type of learning dialogue that should take place in a library.  Marrying the two makes a lot of sense.

I couldn’t help thinking, too, that the arguements offered by some over the loss of print volumes was as old as the practice of collection weeding.  A society whose advancement is bounded by its knowledge (quite literally) reveres its books.  Librarians willing to weed the old, out-dated volumes from the stacks have always battled scores of “book-lovers” who, as I was once  told, “love the smell of old books.”

I am, myself, am an avid collector of the past.  I collect realia, ephemera, and books whose patina invite me to touch where hands once touched long ago.  I sometimes share those collections, showcasing them in the library at school.  I also maintain a community archives in our school library…yearbooks, significant ephemera, representative defunct media devices, all available for historical inquiry.  BUT …I don’t store these precious artifacts in my stacks.  A library’s stacks must, by nature of their purpose, reflect accurate and current information. Even the classic literature deserves a fresh cover, an intact binding that will draw attention to the fact that the ideas within still hold relevance to the learners who come into the library today.

Where Cushing may have jumped the gun is in dismissing paper/print as “old technology.”  I am constantly telling my students (and collegues) that regardless of MEDIUM, it is the information that counts.  Some information is more (or only) accessible via print, some electronically, displayed visually or audibly, or both.  My goal is to provide texts to my community in ALL of the mediums still accessible in today’s world. I seek a balance that says…”Look!  Information is all around you.  Seek it, engage in it, respond!”

More….Bookless Libraries? (Inside Higher Ed)

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Lessons in the News

October 15th, 2009 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, multiple literacies, observations, social media, teaching & learning 1 Comment »

On September 30, 2009, John Temple, former editor, president, and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, posted a transcript of his keynote presentation at the UC Berkeley Media Technology Summit, delivered that same day.  Under Temple’s direction, the paper won a total of four Pulitzer Prizes.  And yet, seven months earlier, that same paper printed it’s final edition, after almost 150 years of publication.

I see valuable lessons in what Temple has to say to news professionals that apply in the secondary school setting–not just in our journalism classes and school publications, but also in the classroom and school paradigm in general.  Below are some key points to consider:

Newspapers, like schools operate under  long-established and respected models of delivery. Each is served by professionals rigorously trained to operate within these models. And those models and the paradigms they support are difficult to shift, largely because they have deeply engrained conventions and cultural functions. Temple notes:

“…we thought we were in the newspaper business….and put the vast majority of our efforts into the print war. We didn’t understand what was happening to the playing field. Media companies used to think they were in control. That they could “own” a market. What we didn’t take into account is that in this new era, consumers were going to be in control.”

Failure to adopt technology was not “the problem” that plagued Temple’s newspaper, anymore than it is a failure in most American schools today. And yet, too often technology is seen simply as a way to make existing tasks easier or more efficient. Use and development stop short. We adapt the adopted technology to fit the existing model of delivery, rather than adapting the model of delivery to adopt the new ways of thinking made possible by the technology.    Temple writes:

“Right from the start, new offerings were measured by what they did for the core product, not on their own merits…The Rocky’s first Web site…grew out of the newsroom’s night copy desk crew, a few of whom had learned some HTML… the attention of the paper’s leadership was on print, not on new possibilities…The message to the newsroom at that time regarding the Web site: “Do not let it interfere with the print edition.”

Because the adoption of technology is so often reactive in established institutions, its application is mostly hit-and-miss.  Temple continues:

“We knew the Web was a place we needed to be. But we didn’t have a clear strategy. Mission. Or objective. It was a “complement to the paper,” as we said in our initial ‘About us’ page.”

How often do we hear that in the school setting?  Yes, we’ve moved beyond “teaching technology for technology’s sake,” but our new mantra–”technology as a tool”–falls short of innovative use.  The word processor is the accepted new “typewriter,”  as we continue to teach the literacy of writing for print publication (rather than online or other media).  PowerPoint (and sometimes, even SmartBoards?) are often harnessed as multimedia presentation tools, rather than the means of promoting more interactive, user-driven learning.

The problem, as Temple sees it?  Focus is all on “keeping the newspaper alive.”

“We didn’t understand the Web or new technology and didn’t have the time to learn much about it. We weren’t a consumer-driven company…”

Just as new technologies in Temple’s world were neatly seperated from the “real business” of running a newspaper, technology in our schools often remains departmentalized.  And while, as Temple admits, “it was probably a smart move to get the Web out of the newsroom”  because “it made it possible for the Web staff to carve their own path,” it  ”also separated the newsroom from its new online product.” According to Temple, “that clearly had its downside.”  Temple explains:

“A pivotal moment – perhaps the most telling about the paper’s approach to the Web – came on the morning of April 20, 1999 when two students opened fire at Columbine High School. The world was watching. At that time, we had one content producer whose job was essentially to shovel the newspaper onto the Web. The Web team was on the first floor of our building. The newsroom on the third. After news of the shooting broke, the producer came to the newsroom and asked the city editor for any news he could give him. ‘I’m not giving you anything for the Web site,’ he remembers being told. ‘They’ll steal it.’ They, in this case, was The Denver Post. The culture of the newsroom at this point was still to save any possible scoops for the morning paper to keep the Post a day behind us. The Rocky’s Web team ended up relying on our TV news partner for its reports.”

This particular insight cuts straight to the heart of what is happening in our schools–particularly secondary schools.  As departmentalized entities, we jealously guard our resources. School libraries and other common resources are too often not seen as centers for ideas and sharing, but rather as places for going and getting.

This isn’t to say that there hasn’t been some incidental progress…in schools, as in the newsrooms. Temple remembers:

“Something else happened that day, though, that changed the perspective of the newsroom. We decided to give all our best photographs from the high school to the Associated Press as soon as we had them in our computer system. The result, the Rocky pictures you’ve just seen appeared on front pages around the world the next morning. The staff saw the tangible benefits of sharing in real time. The quality of their work captured the attention of the world and raised the paper’s profile. That day was a turning point for how the newsroom worked with the web, although the results wouldn’t become fully visible until a few years later.”

Temple recognizes (partially in hindsight) what was needed to maintain the progressive momentum:

“If you want to compete in a medium, you have to understand it… you need to get the right people into an organization, people who can see and seize new opportunities…The question is why would talented people want to join companies that are held back by their past? I think that’s a real problem for legacy media organizations.”

And so we stand, in our schools.  Too often, the innovators are quickly “humbled” and silenced by the culture of tradition that surrounds education. Too many young teachers retreat to the oasis of the department or the individual classroom. Or, they leave the profession altogether, to pursue careers in field where new ideas are encouraged and their fresh points-of-view respected.

Some might argue…and I can’t agree..that what happened at the Rocky Mountain News can’t truly be seen as a harbinger of what is to come for schools, or even other newspapers–that I’ve stretch the analogy too thin. But like Temple, in expressing his concern for the future of historic titles like The New York Times, I am concerned about the future of schools as the center of education. “There’s still too much of a sense of entitlement in the industry.”  Rather than blame the innovations (media remix, blog proliferation, etc.) for the demise of the institution, Temple advises:

“The industry should be focused on building new and better products and services…look for ways to answer the needs of the people in their communities. They have to know what business they’re in. We thought we were in the newspaper business. [We're] not. [We're] in the news, information, knowledge and connection business.”

Temple’s parting advise to news agencies is pretty solid advice for educators (administrators and teachers, alike)–”Know your customers.

Imagine new potentials for your students…not just their potential to learn what you know, but their potential to learn in new ways. “Partner more with others and invite more people to participate.” Reapply Temple’s advice and give students more control over how they learn.  We’re still thinking too much about how we ourselves learned and not enough about what today’s student know and needs.

“And, of course, finally, the most difficult recommendation of all…stop making decisions…based on how they’ll affect…legacy business.”

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Duck Duck Go…..Web 2.0

April 28th, 2009 llcowell Posted in learning spaces, reviews, uncategorized 1 Comment »

There isn’t generally much “new” about a new search engine, at least when it comes toGo Duck Go Web 2.0 their appeal among young adults. Google, with it’s images and broad/deep search extras reigns.

But wait… Duck Duck Go turns out to be more than just another search engine. Aside from it’s slick interface and fast results, the engine is embracing Web 2.0 by sporting a handy little right-hand dashboard that lets you search popular social media sites with a simple click. Take time to play with this one.

No competition for Google…but since I’m looking for content to on Facebook, Twitter, and a slew of other app sites, it’s worth the time to stow this in my toolbox.

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