Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why call for connected classrooms?

Why call for connected classrooms?

A connected classroom utilizes the current social activities of the web -- cell phones, wiki collaboration, social networks, videos, blogs and comments, etc. -- to engage students in thoughtful conversations of learning.

It's not just the future pulling us forward, it's the need that pull presents us: nuggets of knowledge require critical contemplation.

Our interconnected students click and choose, skim and sort, and decide and delete. Many jump to the next thought with only a glimmer of slim knowledge to support the development of who they are.

So, notwithstanding the motivation of Web 2.0 engagement, why should schools embrace these tools?

Consider what is supposedly lost according to this recent research:

"The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking...

As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, 'Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.' But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver...

In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence."

"What the Internet is doing to our brains--Is Google Making Us Stupid?" Nicholas Carr. The Atlantic Online. July/August 2008

I agree. To read undistracted, thinking and analyzing, creating the "mind movies" of understanding seems lost in hyperlinked snippets of perhaps unreliable texts from which perhaps questionable beliefs add to the development of a student's character; the linked world as peer pressure lends a fragile film of knowledge -- a shell onto which the world view is based.

Yet, is something different happening also? In their texting and MySpace/Facebook/Ning world, are those comments and blogs adding a thoughtful discourse for clarifying how the world works, how the world did work, and how to BE in the world?

I wonder if anyone is studying that aspect?

So why connected classrooms?

To educate! -- from educere "to lead" -- to lead students into the critical contemplation of an educated citizen in a global, connected world. The tools are there: Diigo, delicious, Google, Google Notebook, to name a few. The strategies run the system: tag/label, network, comments, summarize, share, questions. Let's apply them in ways that encourage students to synthesize their world into more meaningful memes.

In 1897, John Dewey wrote, "I believe, therefore, that the true center of correlation on the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child's own social activities." Our students' lives are public and social networks; if we are to lead them, Dewey's prescience provides the reason we must be connected in schools: we must include those social activities in order to engage their energy to lead them to deeper thinking.

Why call for connected classrooms?

The Socratic pedagogy of questioning continues -- we question from their interests and activities; we ask for more information; we pour over their research and ponder together for deeper understanding. By leading students further into their formerly haphazard "click, skim, click, decide, click, delete", we help them find the nuggets that matter as they bookmark, tag, share, discuss, evaluate, analyze, and apply. We encourage the vehicle for the concentrated contemplation that reading on paper once provided.*

We can barely imagine the power of this connected knowledge, that which the doomsayers cannot even envision. To prevent flattened knowledge, schools must get connected.

Another recent article strikes at the physical aspects of the Internet:

"The physical manipulations we have to do with a computer, not related to the reading itself, disturb our mental appreciation, says associate professor Anne Mangen at the Center for Reading Research at the University of Stavanger in Norway...'Learning requires time and mental exertion and the new media do not provide for that,' Mangen believes."

The University of Stavanger. "Storybooks On Paper Better For Children Than Reading Fiction On Computer Screen, According to Expert." ScienceDaily 22 December 2008. 28 December 2008 .

That is precisely why schools must join the connection: to engage students in the time and thought required to evaluate and synthesize information and stories, and to use the physical manipulation to their advantage for careful consideration of what is seen/heard/read/ on the Internet. We need to rethink many things:

Rethink deep thinking: Truly deep thinking occurs on issues that matter -- which brings us back to Dewey and the Socratic Questioning Method -- use the social interests and activities. Thinking is what kids are doing without us. We just don't see it yet, and may not like the results if we aren't part of it. Let's connect and consider, contemplate and collaborate, educate and engage with students.

Why not call for connected classrooms? The kids are leading us there. Let's connect.

1447, from L. educatus, pp. of educare "bring up, rear, educate," which is related to educere "bring out," from ex- "out" + ducere "to lead"
"educate." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 28 Dec. 2008.

More John Dewey quotes:

The progress is not in the succession of studies but in the development of new attitudes towards, and new interests in, experience.

I believe finally, that education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and the same thing.

I believe that the image is the great instrument of instruction. What a child gets out of any subject presented to him is simply the images which he himself forms with regard to it.

I believe that much of the time and attention now given to the preparation and presentation of lessons might be more wisely and profitably expended in training the child's power of imagery and in seeing to it that he was continually forming definite, vivid, and growing images of the various subjects with which he comes in contact in his experience.

Dewey, John (1897) 'My pedagogic creed', The School Journal, Volume LIV, Number 3 (January 16, 1897), pages 77-80. Also available in the informal education archives,

John Dewey Summary...the necessity for the teacher of understanding the students' past experiences in order to effectively design a sequence of liberating educational experiences to allow the person to fulfil their potential as a member of society.

* A note on reading:

How many kids today do you see actually reading a book and contemplating what they are thinking?

Much reading instruction today focuses on discrete skills, standardized test question practice, and assigned reading.

Where in that time do students practice deep thinking?
Where in that time do students think deeply about what matters to them?


Truly deep thinking occurs on issues that matter -- which brings us back to Dewey and the Socratic Questioning Method -- use the social interests and activities. Thinking is what kids are doing without us. We just don't see it yet, and may not like the results if we aren't part of it. Let's connect and consider, contemplate and collaborate, educate and engage with students.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Geek Geezers

Sitting in lake cantina, enjoying ambiance, adding apps to iphone. Wired Grandparents hope for a positive future for our grandchildren as we embrace our Star Trek tools. Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness. That's our new motto. Will we be the change we want in the world (Ghandi quote)? Don't we want to be connect in peace?

Geolocate this post

Posted with LifeCast The map location is close (we were driving away when I uploaded), so the link is:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer Reading Safety: Street Lights / Tweet Types

"Not it!" chimed three of us together just as the street lights clicked on.

"Gotta go," I called to my friends.

That was the family rule as I grew up: in the summer-time curfew came when the street lights beamed on; we returned to the safety of home.

Today we can choose to exist in a twenty-four-hour, perpetual world. When the street lights start their night-time watch, we've probably already spent an hour watching tv, listening to music, chatting via phone or online instant messaging, emailing whoever,or gaming in simulated or virtual worlds, etc. We no longer arrive home and close the door to the world. We could. But kids and teens mostly do not. The world, good and scary, like it or not, is available everywhere all the time.

And just as previous generations protected kids with family curfews and rules, today's families, and schools, must create structures for safe functioning in the virtual worlds. For information and facts about safety see the links at the end of this blog.

My parents didn't keep me in the house to protect me; they provided expectations of behavior through modeling, practice, and rules. They trusted me and watched me engage with others appropriately, reteaching and modeling if necessary. That's the key to our new world too: model, teach, practice, observe, reteach, trust through real experiences. The media today has hyped the fear factor in virtual worlds (see the actual research in the links below) by pulling partial facts from the data. However, a segment from eSchool News on Myth Busting, explained that most youth who met an online predator were those with troubled lives who were searching for the attention. The video panel focused on the positive: use the technology with responsibility and ethics, teaching media literacy to students. Rather than lock kids out of their new world, we must incorporate that world so we can model, teach, practice, observe, and reteach the ethics and responsible use of their new tools (email, chat, social web-sites, blogs, forums, etc.). Do we want even one child hurt? No. The only way to prevent problems is through education.

Parents, remember this suggestion: "It's risk management. If you can take a few simple steps to try to minimize that risk, such as communicating with your child. They're much smarter than we are when it comes to the computer. You have to have open dialogue. I find that the strongest weapon against online exploitation is communication, sharing your interest" (Peter Brust FBI special agent in charge, Counterintelligence and Cyber Divisions, Los Angeles FBI field office).

Communication, dialogue, sharing interests -- it's the same suggestions my parents were given -- be involved with your child.

Educators know not all of our students will have supportive and involved families. That makes it doubly important to teach media literacy so ALL students have the knowledge to be safe online and offline, and to practice those safety structures.

The school component is important because students are connected to the world and learn within a collaborative community on their own. Yet schools cut off those connections, and David Warlick reminds us this situation is "an insult to the kids and they resent it." David Warlick is an educator and edublogger.

In an interview* he continued: "According to a recent PEW Internet & American Life study, 64% of American teenagers have produced original digital content and published it to a global audience. How many of their teachers are published authors, artists, musicians, composers, or film makers? From the perspective of our children's information experience, they are more literate than many of their teachers. Our classrooms are flat."

He suggests that:
" We need to redefine literacy to reflect today's information landscape and not just teach it as skills, but to instill it as habit.
* We, as teachers, need to model learning, not just inflict it. We need to practice new literacy in front of our students.
* What students learn has become less important. The answers are all changing. It as important today to be able to invent answers to brand new questions. What's become more important is how students are learning.
* We need to understand our students information experience and learn to harness the energy that comes from it, to replace the vanishing energy of gravity."

If we collaborate with students in media literacy in real projects, students will practice appropriate media literacy in engaging ways through a different educational paradigm. In his blog about the recent NECC08 (National Educational Computing Conference), David Warlick found that "Michael Huffman, of the Indiana Department of Education, said, in his narrative about the learning that is happening in their 1:1 open source classrooms, 'our students are using their teachers.' 'Using' is new learning. 'Listening to…' is old learning." Teachers will become academic mentors, focusing students in productive, effective, authentic 21st century learning.

Our virtual world requires new learning so all our students, our children, learn the responsible and ethical rules of the virtual world. If we don't revise our schools to include the new media through which we can model and teach, practice and observe, reteach and trust, we will have hurt kids. If don't include the new virtual world in our schools, kids will continue to tune out. They want and expect more.

To protect them, we will participate as we teach them. We will watch, discuss, and observe them. We will be part of their lives. And we can use the new media to structure their world. We can txt them, chat with them, create our own family social networks online. We will model and define the process of responsible, ethical online and offline behaviors.

And what will be the new street light to bring them home? How about we type them a tweet on Twitter, and say, "Time to visit with Mom now." Street lights become tweet types.

Talk to your colleagues, family, neighbors. Tune the conversation onto kid safety and join the digital world with them. What did you discover about your kids? What did you discover about the digital world? What media ethics would you suggest? What do you recommend to families? schools?

Sheri Edwards
Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...
Reflect curiosity and wonder...

Internet Safety

eSchool News on Myth Busting;_hbguid=64297a3a-cd5f-49d6-be85-34d2eccd3422&d=aasa

PEW Studies

PBS Frontline
Links --

Parent guide --

Information --

Media Literacy

* Link to interview with David Warlick:
Removing the Bricks from the Classroom Walls: Interview with David Warlick

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Daily Growl: Stress Relief

To lower blood pressure, own a dog. They need you to exercise with them, play with them, and be their friend. They listen. Always.

What lowers your stress level?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Summer Reading and Writing

What are you reading this summer? A book? A recipe? A newspaper? A twitter? A blog?
What will you write this summer? A book? A recipe? A letter to the editor? A twitter? A blog?

I teach middle school writing in a small public school. What will my students read and write? More importantly, who and how will they be reading and writing?

Education faces a dilemma: The future is flying by, and the students are zooming ahead learning as they go, and could use some guidance to navigate intelligently, refectivly, and safely. Many classrooms are still in rows with a teacher at the front. Most classrooms have no or few computers. Electonics is forbidden.

I know my students will imho txt bff & rofl at my attempt at this. I asked my grandkids to txt friends to learn how to say in "Good Day" in as many languages as possible. Here's what they found: TXT In order to accomplish this, my granddaughters had plan, solve problems, read and write, and summarize. Good thinking strategies.

Imagine the power of collaborative chatter on a daily basis? Kids today know how to discover what they want to know: google, chat, MySpace, email. They are connected. They also are also more inherently wise to trouble-makers and danger than we give them credit for.

As a writing teacher guiding students into the future, I would hope that my curriculum includes collaborative media. We are now at the "imagination" and "emotion: stage of the Information Age. Check out two other thinkers in this area:

1. A Quote: "We are in the twilight of a society based on data. As information and intelligence becomes the domain of computers, society will place new value on the one human ability that can’t be automated: emotion. Imagination, myth, ritual, stories – the language of emotion – will affect everything from our purchasing decisions to how well we work and communicate with others. Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business." by Rolf Jensen from the introduction to Digital Storytelling at

2. A Questions: "Shouldn’t we be teaching the strategies our students need to be successful in the wikinomic world or are we still stuck on content? Many of the state standardized tests are fact based - not strategy based." from the Make It Happen blog post Wikinomics and The Cool Cat Teacher

I agree with the current comments coming from NECC conference as I follow the twitters of some of the participants since I could not attend.

I can imagine my classroom collaborating on wikis and Google Sites. My questions are:
1. What do families think?
2. How do policies support this?
3. Where do we start?

Think about it. Talk with colleagues. Talk with kids. They are reading and writing this summer, just not usually with book or paper in hand. Spend some summer time reading and writing about it with the youngsters you know. Then comment back. Thanks.

Go boldly, and scatter seeds of kindness.
Reflect curiosity and wonder.
~ Sheri Edwards