Imma blogging like Will Richardson

I can’t really remember why I started this blog. I do remember it was sent to a training day, not about technology at all, and there was Judy O’Connell – chain-gunning me about the web. I knew about the web. For goodness sake, I was in the Editors office at the Sydney Morning Herald telling him we wanted to put a banner-ad on the home page. He had no idea what one was, and I think we paid about $100 for it. I’d put Australia’s Wild FM on streaming audio to WAP phones, to a world that didn’t listen to Internet radio or have WAP phones.  I’d sent SMS messages via the web to unsuspecting mobile phone owners, and failed to convince Channel 7 that viewers would pay to send them back to vote for stuff on TV. Hell, I’d even managed to get slot-machine Flash games in gas stations and motels via Las Vegas, until someone in Canberra decided a computer could be a gambling machine.

I figured I knew the web by the time I got into the Education game, but there was Judy, hitting me with stuff I had no idea about, telling me the Internet was something I didn’t believe. So I wrote my first post about education, mostly announcing I wasn’t gonna live on the desktop anymore. I had no idea what I was going to do, apart from explore what might be.

I think that’s the point of a new technology – not having some ‘standard’ or ‘pattern’ of how to do things, who to do it with etc, but just to be brave enough do what you imagine might be a good thing. Today, I think that, to kids is what they find in games, not least Minecraft. Not only can’t you take that away from them (as games are teaching whether you care to admit/like/notice or care). They are letting kids imagine things that are not in any book or in any study.

I re-read a 10 year old post by Will Richardson

One week left…too many things to do. It’s 6:30 a.m. and I’m already at school, the only one here no doubt. Tied up with yearbook kids all day today. Meetings all day Friday and Tuesday. Slow connection at home precludes any real work on templates or sites over the weekend. And my list is loooonnnggg…Still waiting to hear from Pat about the newspaper template, so that’s kind of on hold (unless of course Joe wants to share his p-machine template which I think he said he got working at some point)…trying to get a weblog/reader study guide site set up for my lit kids to use with our new book The Secret Life of Bees (highly recommended, by the way) and later, Lords of Discipline…trying to figure out the best way to set up my individual logs in journalism since I haven’t been able to get the callback scripts for the template (everyone is too busy these days!)…thinking about the professional portfolio template, the class template, the independent study portfolio/weblog template…hmmm…is there a pattern here? I’ve got weblog fever in a bad way, and I know JUST enough about making them work to make them dangerously intriguing. Should be an interesting few days (and late nights).

You see to me, this is where imagination lives. It’s not defined, worked out and there’s no one to ask. You just have a feeling that the ‘patterns’ as Will puts it mean something. It’s not about a giant vanilla learning network where most people know a little of something (that’s the problem with school isn’t it), it’s something much closer to home. We can’t afford, in my view, to allow the Web2.0 topic to settle into a set of things that over years, we all know something about. If you read stuff Will was flinging on line 10 years ago, you get an almost John Teller narrative.

A year later and Wills, taken the idea and thrown it at the web

Our school’s collaboration via Web log with a local elementary school and two “gymnasiums” from Poland will be beginning shortly after school begins Wednesday. So far, just the home page and the first topics page are up. Still trying to get a feel for the best way all of this will work since we’ll have around 75 kids at any one time participating. Could be a lot of posting going on throughout the process, and I’m thinking of feeding the posts from the topic pages to the home page in some way. We’ll see. I’m still tweaking the banner, and the picture is stock, but I’m having fun getting into Manila again and building some pages. No better way to learn CSS that to start fooling.

My point is this. Just because more people can now show you a pathway more people are on, doesn’t mean it’s going to go somewhere you want to go – or one that is more useful to students who are still faced with the same destination.  The premises from which we begin to think about ‘new ways to learn’ are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination.

So while I like to think I do all sorts of stuff with technology, I’m always drawn to read the same kind of thing today as I did ten years ago. Blogs of people who are working stuff out in their imagination and then doing something with it that isn’t polished, packaged or even likely to be correct.

I guess this is why I like reading blogs and forums that kids are creating around Minecraft so much – they have that sense of adventure and imagination – they are writing for people like them, so that they can both help and spark new ideas. Take Ajnin’s blog – It’s so simple, yet so driven. It’s not telling you want to do, it lets you imagine where he’s going.

I guess the thing no teachers are seeing from Massively Minecraft, or any other multi-player game are the stories about learning that are passed about ‘in-game’. It matters nothing that schools or teachers don’t want/like games or game based learning – what matters is that they are already the most dominant force in connecting kids with imagination, fun – and learning. They seek now stamp of approval, nor see any need to justify themselves to education at all. Why would they.

I’m not sure what my agenda was on day one, and I’m still not sure now. I sometimes think I should have ‘got off’ at some point and put a flag in the ground. But then I meet someone like Kieren Egan whos not a gamer, but been working on a theory of Imaginative Education for 30 years, and he’s pinging off people before that. There are no guru’s and experts – there is just two things that matter – evidence and imagination. Evidence will always be the past, and imagination will be the future. It’s brain missing then to ask for both at the same time.

But let me give a word of warning. Where speculation ends – in real life –  real, positive science begins: the representation of the practical activity, of the practical process of development. Kids have a real history with the web – one that is remarkably different to their parents or teachers, these abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever unless we accept evidence and imagination is already bursting out of the Internet.

We just have to look in more unfamiliar places, and make sense of what kids online are saying. They fact they are not saying it to us, or in a way we can ‘flip’ into a classroom says something. I think it pays to go back to your roots, see what you agenda was – and if it’s changed. The hard thing is working out what it is I guess.

Wonder how Wills going with it? From that picture – I think what @jokay is doing just out of view in the top right. Which seems the place to be if you’re a kid too.