Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The form & content of the future

For all the virtues of virtual connections, there's nothing like a few days of face-to-face with large numbers of peers for some mental and social expansion.

Last week I had two such valuable experiences at overlapping conferences:

[The EARCOS one is listed on Hitchkr (a compendium of blog postings on different conferences) but not the IBAP one. As for handouts to download, the IB ones are listed on the conference website given above, but for the EARCOS ones you have to drill down into the sub-pages, e.g., the Workshop Presenters page, and look under each name.]

I'm writing up my notes here and here, but the focal point of both experiences was on the form and content of the future that educators, in particular, need to start acting upon -- and each conference provided an excellent guru.

Technology is obviously the form, but while anyone can get up and rant about exponential growth and the need to embrace change, not just anyone can show us workable paths and original thinking.

At the IBAP conference, Stephen Heppell (check out his bio, if you've never heard of him) pulled up example after example from his crowded Mac desktop screen showing us how he's involved in getting students and teachers to learn collaboratively using the latest technology (see notschool.net, teachers.tv, the learnometer project, the "be very afraid" film series, etc.). His presentation lived up to the tags on his website: learning, ingenuity, research, policy, design, technology, and delight. (I'll blog more about his ideas in a separate posting.)

Global issues are the content. The appearance of Jean-Francois Rischard, author of the book High Noon, at the EARCOS conference was very timely. Consensus on the pressing problem of global warming has coalesced (thanks in part to Al Gore's movie) over the past several months, so it was wonderful to hear from someone who has been thinking seriously about the problem -- and even bigger ones -- for several years.

His overall message was that we need to come up with a new methodology of global problem-solving because the problems now facing the world must be resolved by countries working together. Like Heppell, Rischard is someone who has been involved in the system he's critiquing, as he used to work for the World Bank and is very knowledgeable about the current international organizations available. (I'll blog more about his ideas in a separate posting.)

The popular meme that was killed for me, thanks to these conferences, was Marc Prensky's digital immigrant/digital native divide. I've been guilty of spreading it myself, but, I'm sorry -- given the rate of change, doesn't the divide continually shift? Is it meaningful? Each cohort born will be exposed to some technology at a younger age than those born a few years before. There was a "Student Perspectives on IT and Education" forum at the IBAP conference and the teens who participated (from two different international schools in Singapore) admitted they marvel at how younger kids are utilizing technology at a younger age than they did, e.g., mobile phones. The term "digital natives" did not resonate with them, though they did gripe that many of their teachers were not as digitally fluent as they were. I much prefer the idea of a digital literacy or fluency continuum, regardless of age.

A focus on an age definition of "digital natives" (e.g., born after 1973 or whatever the current year-marker is) also ignores the very real economic digital divide. To speak sweepingly of a whole digital generation, when many children have yet to touch a digital device, is misleading.

Brain research is strongly linked to this concept of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants". I must go back and review the latest reports because almost every speaker (especially that stand-up comic/evangelist preacher Ian Jukes) made it sound like kids' brains have eternal neuro-plasticity while ours are hopelessly hardwired. I'm sure I've recently read about the window of neural-plasticity staying open (longer), e.g., that the elderly can even continue to build new neural pathways if they keep mentally fit (the old 'use-it or lost-it' saying). Anyway, something to look up later.

As I've mentioned Jukes, I also want to point out something that strikes me as odd about his blog. I've clicked on at least six different postings (see, for example, Video Games Focus on Exercising Brain and The Handwriting is on the Wall) and they appear to be his comments on an article, for which he provides a link at the bottom of the posting. BUT, when you go to the article, it's word-for-word the same as his posting. So he seems to be posting whole copies of article texts on his blog with no attribution (neither publication nor author) on the blog itself -- though he does provide a link to the article (which doesn't always work though -- e.g., several link to expired articles (Students use IM Lingo in Essays and Shoes Track Children Using GPS) and one posting appears to be an image so you can't actually click on the link (1867 Nanomachine Now Reality)). My impression of him was as an energetic re-packager of ideas (I had heard them all before from other sources) and his blog makes it look like he doesn't even do that very well.

Would we really let students copy an article on their blog without indicating that it was NOT their own words in the posting, even if they did provide a link at the end to the real article? Must review online ethical etiquette sometime...

More thoughts in separate postings...

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1 comment:

  1. There is small online video from Stephen Heppell if readers have not see him before.

    "Education guru Stephen Heppell talks to Connected Magazine's Nicola More about bringing his unique vision of learning to Scotland."

    There is a link to it at this "Future Education" Blog
    http://futureeducationvideos.blogspot.com/

    Does anyone know of any other videos from him available free online?

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