Change – or a return to the past?

A group of Danish academics say we are passing through the other side of what they wonderfully call the Gutenberg Parenthesis, leaving the structured, serial, permanent, authored, controlled era of text and returning, perhaps, to what came before the press: a time when communication and content cross, when process dominates product, when knowledge is distributed by people passing it around, when we remix it along the way, when we are more oral and aural.

This comment struck a chord with me since I heard a similar sentiment expressed at a recent conference (Social Justice: Educating for ACTion). One of the keynotes was Wade Davis, an anthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. His talk was mesmorizing, he held the rapt attention of about 700 delegates with his stories of travels and insights. Several things he said stood out, but he did talk about new technolgies (multimedia) as a kind of return to the ancient traditions of storytelling with visual and oral elements, rather than text. As an aside, another statement that struck me was when he was talking about the destruction of indegeneuos cultures, languages and nautural habitat – essentially he stated that the problem is not change, and is not technology, but is often the greed and self-serving interests of globalization and multinationals, many times by people in far off places. So, do the modern communication methods of multimedia, hypertext and open publishing hark back to what came before Gutenburg?

A video of a talk by Wade Davis, similar to the one described briefly above, follows. It well worth a listen:




And here’s where we run into another major component of bullying… attention. In a world of brands and marketing, there’s a sentiment that there is no such thing as bad attention. Countless teens are desperately seeking attention. And there’s nothing like “starting drama” to guarantee both attention and entertainment. So teens jump in, adding fuel to the flame because it’s fun. They know that it hurts, but it also feels good sometimes too. And this is what makes music videos like Eminem & Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” resonate with both adults and teens. The drama is half the fun, even when it hurts like hell.

Combating bullying is not going to be easy, but it’s definitely not going to happen if we don’t dive deep in the mess that underpins it and surrounds it. Lectures by uncool old people like me aren’t going to make teens who are engaged in dramas think twice about what they’re doing. And, for that matter, using the term “bullying” is also not going to help at all either. We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life. The issues here are systemic. And it’s great that the Internet is forcing us to think about them, but the Internet is not the problem here. It’s just one tool in an ongoing battle for attention, validation, and status. And unless we find effective ways of getting to the root of the problem, the Internet will just continue to be used to reinforce what is pervasive.

This excerpt is from the blog of danah boyd (apophenia), one of the leading experts on teens & social media. In this fascinating post, danah discusses teen’s views of bullying and makes some excellent points (I encourage you to read the entire post!). I agree completely when she writes (above) about systemic root causes of bullying. Kids see adults bullying all the time – in the home, schools, workplaces, in the media. This is not to impy that we should accept this behaviour and not address the problem when it occurs, however, adults need to model anti-bullying behaviour as well and not, as danah points out, validate these behaviours. Increasingly we see the Internet, and networks like Facebook, blamed for bullying, while this inappropriate use must be addressed, we can’t forget that it is the behaviour at fault, not the technology.

How can we best attack the problem of violent & abusive behaviour – at any age?

PolivkaVox: We do not yet realize how big the elearning change is.

Learning at its core is a highly personal activity that the 20th century converted into a mass production process. We industrialized it, and organized it, and processed it so that we could get big numbers of students through a system with a predictable outcome. Digital changes that. Everything can be highly personalized, uniquely mine.

I’ve said it before, but the entire daily educational process was designed to solve a people-moving, time and space problem. Classes, class schedules, class periods, classrooms, semesters, semester hours, credit hours, even the well-worn pattern of lecture-lecture-lecture-quiz, lecture-lecture-paper-exam… all of it is a manufacturing process. The university’s daily, weekly system, the high school and middle school systems, and to a lesser extent the grade school system are our answer to the same problems that those Imagineers had to solve at Disney World: How do you get huge numbers of people into the park and through the rides while assuring that everyone has an equal experience?

This quote is from a post by Bryan Polivka (via Will Richardson’s Posterous). Bryan expresses nicely how digital technology can – and is – changing education, allowing it to be more personal and hopefully breaking away from the old knowledge transmission and drill and kill mentallity. However, we must ensure everyone has access to connectivity, devices and the skills to take part in this new world. There is a real opportunity to connect to others, and widen one’s world view to build an equitable society. How will we meet the challenges ahead?


Videos for Educators

  • Sir Ken Robinson, Changing education paradigms (11 minutes)
  • Sugatra Mitra, The child-driven education (17 minutes)
  • Clay Shirky, How cognitive surplus will change the world (13 minutes)
  • Chris Anderson, How web video powers global innovation (19 minutes)
  • Dean Shareski, Sharing: The moral imperative (25 minutes)
  • Henry Jenkins, TEDxNYED (18 minutes)
  • Daniel Pink, Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us (11 minutes)
  • Dan Meyer, Math class needs a makeover (12 minutes)
  • Jeff Jarvis, TEDxNYED (17 minutes)
  • Lisa Nielsen, Response to principal who bans social media (4 minutes)
  • New Brunswick Department of Education, 21st century education in New Brunswick (6 minutes)
  • Charles Leadbeter, On innovation (19 minutes)
  • This blog post by Scott McLeod lists 12 videos to provoke thinking in educators. I have seen several (all excellent), and will watch the rest. What would you add to this list?

    Quote of the day

    Curriculum can be a guide or it can be a prison.

    This quote caught my eye. It was a single line in a blog post about accountability and curriculum by Joe Bower. A very good question. I ask my students a similar question about lesson plans, I think I will reword it; Is your lesson plan a guide or a prison? In my mind, lessons, like all plans, are a guide, they should be flexible and the teacher must adapt and change on the fly to meet the needs of students and not be a slave to the plan.

    (Thanks, Joe)

    Do Positive People Live Longer? If so, be positive!

    Most people assume that positive thinking is just something that we do to help achieve our goals, or even to get through difficult times. But a host of exciting research has shown that attitude affects our health — so much so, in fact, that a positive attitude can add years to our lives.

    This is the introductory paragraph from a story by David R. Hamilton, Ph.D in the Huffington Post. The article summarizes several research studies that examine how positive attitude affects health. Several studeis point out the benefits of being positive. How this might work is also explained, including the fact that positive people have reduced stress levels. He gives some ideas to help focus on the positive;

    How do we turn our minds to more positive things? Counting blessings is a simple way. Make a list of five to ten things that you are grateful for that have happened in the last 24 hours, and do this every day for a month. Or challenge yourself to go three weeks without complaining, moaning, or criticizing.

    Or do you have a tendency to “make mountains out of molehills”? If so, try out the opposite just for a week. Try making molehills out of mountains.

    Often we whine and complain and look at the worst. As they sing in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, why not try looking on the ‘bright side of life”?


    Admitting Mistakes

    As educators and/or educational leaders, we have to be able to admit when we screw up as well. If we are truly risk-takers, we are going to run into situations where things do not work out the way we planned. Own up to it, admit your mistake, and make it right.

    This excerpt is from a post on the Connected Principals blog by George Couros. In this post, George, a school Principal in Alberta (who writes a wonderful blog of his own as well) talks about how to handle mistakes. He tells a story to illustrate how admitting when you are wrong can gain you respect, in addition to helping avoid useless arguments and escalating tempers. This is a point I try to make with teacher candidates. Kids (& teachers, parents if you are a Principal) can tell when you messed up, so why not bite the bullet, show you are only human and admit you were wrong and how you will improve. I tell my students about my first time teaching a class (in my first student teaching placement many years ago), my first lesson was a disaster, I felt like quitting. Luckily my cooperating teacher settled me down and suggested I go in the next day, apologize and ask if we could start again. I did, and from then on it was smooth sailing. As George points out, this gains you respect and also models how to learn from mistakes, an important lesson for anyone. 


    This also leads to a related point, you do not have to bluff your way through everything, it is okay to admit you don’t know it all. Model how to find out something when you do not know. This has particular application when using technlogy. One of the fears expressed by teacher candidates and experienced teachers alike, is that their students may know more than they do. Well, no one can know it all, why not ask your students for help, they can help with some the technical aspects, however, the teacher should have the expereince and wisdom to guide the use.

    So, what will you do the next time you make a mistake, or don’t know the answer?