Tweets from the RMS Titanic

History repeats – or so they say. Edward John Smith’s ship was thought un-sinkable until 1517 people died on the night of 14 April 1912 when it hit an ‘iceburg’. It used the most advanced technology available at the time – yet failed to recognise the significance of the warnings, but more importantly, communication technology.

“a message from the steamer Amerika warned that large icebergs lay in the Titanic’s path, but as Jack Phillips and Harold Bride, the Marconi wireless radio operators, were employed by Marconi and paid to relay messages to and from the passengers, they were not focused on relaying such “non-essential” ice messages to the bridge.”(wikipedia)

History shows that time and again we fail to recognise the importance of communication technology until it reaches a critical point. Schools have a history of using computing as an instructional aid, university as a communication tool. Metaphoric ‘tools’, previously used for instruction, are now exploratory and constructive – they are best used for communication. Something that still appears lost on even the BBC.

As the new school year starts – teachers are relaying, what some consider non-essential messages about technology and pedagogy. Imagine if the passengers on the Titanic had Twitter – how different the story, if not the tragedy, might be. It’s a silly allegory as obviously today’s technology prevents such thing from repeating.  Please don’t hassle other teachers, executives, principals, politicians about non-essential messages about education – the party is in full swing and the water is calm. I wish all other radio operators sucess this year – and look forward to working with you.

Like Fire

bush fire growthIn a Talk With Howard Rheingold and Will Richardson now on Ustream – I was particularly taken with their discussion on how social media impacts pedagogy.

Rheingold talks about it acting like ‘fire’; ideas and interests to leap from one area to another quicker and faster than institutions can react and slow change may in part be due to the terms of employment not encouraging professional development leading to large scale pedagogical shifts in learning. Interest and peer driven social media in education allows teachers to make this shift regardless of institutional objection or indifference. Right now there is little alternative for teachers as ‘leaders’ dither and procrastinate.

I took from this conversation a real sense that the ‘systems’ binding and controlling pedagogy now will be less important in the future.

Constructivist approaches to learning that understand and embed social media in read/write approaches – brings about renewal. Renewal means staying relevant to the world around us, recognising that our 19th Century pedagogy is failing. Rheingold talks about ‘fire starting’ ideas – exemplified by someone posting a ‘tweet’,  they talk about how it gains their attention and takes them to new places and new people – where they learn. The example highlights how people are essentially interest-driven difference engines. We notice things that look interesting – especially if they also appear different.

Rheingold calls George Siemens online Connectivism course –  a ‘roll your own University’ – and that people are now finding connections and learning in places that are off the institutional radar.  Rheingold suggests that learning to prioritise and manage online activity is something we must to learn and teach. To focus on the immediate, but be aware of the peripheral opportunities and connections, and find time to explore them. Rhiengold talks further about how he has to manage his message boards for class, his blog, his social bookmarks and the various other ‘network’ demands that he considers vital to his professional life.

Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

This conversation highlighted to me that a ‘networked’ learner means being in at least two realms constantly – because we are at a time of cross-over. We cross back and forth from the 19th to the 21st Century. While some school leaders enjoy the ‘cudos’ that  creates – students need the renewal of pedagogy and schools need to support teachers in this goal – not alienate staff or continually debate wether or not Web2.0 is a ‘good idea’.

The conversation starts talking about the landscape around where Rheingold lives. Living in Australia, it amazes me how fast a bushfire can move and the devastation it appears to cause. I am equally amazed how fast the ecosystem renews itself – it is a natural process for which we cannot dictate terms – merely be prepared for the event.

The metaphor of the bush fire leaping great gaps in the pedagogical landscape, causing havoc and then renewing learning is entirely apt in Australia’s current K12 educational climate. Right now we have a few spot fires … but sooner or later the wind will change (or so the students hope).

Great interview that once again challenges my thinking.

Going Global

I’ve just joined and hope that I can extend my PNL to other classrooms delivering Web2.0.

Specifically, I posted a collaborative project request.

As part of PBL, students are graded on their communication and presentation skills, roughly every 5th week of our school term.

 School Term Dates
   2008  2009
Term 1  29 January to 11 April 2008  27 January to 9 April 2009
Term 2  28 April to 04 July 2008  28 April to 10 July 2009
Term 3  21 July to 26 September 2008  27 July to 2 October 2009
Term 4  13 October to 19 December 2008  19 October to 18 December 2009

We are attempting to record all presentations live using UStream or some similar service. We would like some of you global EduBloggers out there to spend 5-10 mintutes watching their presentations, then complete a Google Form for evaluation.

If possible, I’d like to arrange an online meeting with you and the students in which you can ask them questions to defend their presentations, justify points they have made and to see if they have understood their research and end solution. We will be grading them on their presentation itself, it’s effective use of available technologies (they have a Classroom 2.0 setting) and their communication with the audience.

The review panel will consist of teachers (in school), parents and we hope … real live people from outside our local community.

We think the video call would be 10 minutes … times/dates/technology to be agreed.

We are also seeking outside bloggers to occasionally look at student work in progress and leave comments – particularly to those students who find blogging a challenge.

If you can help me out in the review process, or just to post a comment on a kids site, it would boost thier confidence and make a huge difference to our PBL initiative.

Contact me by leaving a comment and I’ll email you!