Saturday, February 03, 2007

distributing the future

Thinking about the slogans on the School 2.0 site and systematically writing down and categoring my own slogans (my categories are significantly different to School 2.0) is causing me to change my presentation to the connectivism conference. My current presentation is too academic and theoretical. Learning theory is important but I need to restrict what I say here to what I have learnt in a nitty gritty way, my current zone of proximal development. I want teachers to become more like activists, not more like academics.

The important point is this: The radical transition that we are now in the process of going through is mainly about power and the challenge to exisiting hierarchies that control School education. This is also reflected in the media with their moral panic about the risks to children on the internet.

I like this quote from William Gibson: "The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet"

That has a "web2.0" flavour but it also has a timeless flavour. The future is always here and not distributed yet. Many of the slogans below go way back, eg. to the time of Nietzsche (1844-1900). Rebellion against hierarchy and slow to adapt authority has been with us for a very long time. Distributing the future involves understanding the past.

I think what is happening now is the transformation from a niche community of "edubloggers" (a term which I think is self restricting) into a political movement. That is what is required to distribute the future. That needs to be spelt out and grasped. If we don't become political then we will remain confined to a niche, where (some) benevolent School administrations give our students permission to participate in the rich potential offered by new technologies.

Papert's theories of learning hit a political wall a few years ago. School won that battle. Now Vygotsky's theories about language have teamed up with modern technology like blogs and once again there is political repression, censorship and restriction on the child's right to communicate and explore modern technologies.

The struggle continues but this time the protest movement is bigger and far more organised.

FREEDOM / CHOICE / RIGHTS / INEQUALITY (structural inequality)

one laptop per child (Negroponte)
Elaboration: If the third world can have one laptop per child then why can't the first and second worlds? (Bill Kerr)

support the rights of the child to explore new technology
Elaboration: The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice. (Article 13, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)


a risk free society is very dangerous (Bill Kerr)

learn to be free (pinched from Christopher Harvey's old blog but he taken it down now)

"All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth" Nietzsche

The fear of what might go wrong can't stop us from doing what is right – Chris Lehmann


"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star" Nietzsche


search is the opposite of sit and listen

Look it Up or Die.- Chris Long
Elaboration: "It's old skool but sometimes remind me to look it up. Or die.

"But don't stop there. Don't pat yourself on the back quite yet. I may be pretty quick on the Google or the Wikipedia, but I have no idea how to make sense of what I'm finding. That's your job.

"Back in the day, if it was in a book, you taught me how to write down some copyright details on a note card. But things got funny on the way to the Internet forum. Facts don't just come in books anymore, and I need more than copyright details to help me make sense.

"Are you teaching me to think? Or just to take notes?

"And one day when you're nowhere to be found and I got a kid with a fever and he's vomiting and its 3am and I got 15 minutes to figure this crazy thing out, I got Google. And I need to know NOW what will keep my kid alive and what will instead send us over the edge.

"Can you do that? 'Cause that's one part of my future and I won't have time for index cards."


"The doer alone learneth" Nietzsche

"The press, the machine, the railway, the telegraph are premises whose thousand-year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw" Nietzsche


Education is like being taken to the world's greatest restaurant and being fed the menu – Murray Gell Mann


Isn't a mobile phone a learning device?

Technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born – Alan Kay


eat your own dogfood (open source slogan (?), not certain of origin)

"we use language to author ourselves, assisted by many co-authors as we grow up" (Daniel Dennett, Kinds of Minds, Ch.5)

What we want to teach we must become


"On the mountains of truth you can never climb in vain: either you will reach a point higher up today, or you will be training your powers so that you will be able to climb higher tomorrow" Nietzsche

"Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind" Nietzsche

"What is a man so made the he can understand number and what is a number so made that a man can understand it" - Warren McCulloch

"There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy" Nietzsche

"You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist" Nietzsche

"From being to becoming" - Ilya Prigogine

... when you are able to change the nature of representation and argumentation, those who learn these new ways will wind up to be qualitatively different and better thinkers – Marshall McLuhan


"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's then we rob them of tomorrow" - John Dewey

"The future and its enemies" – Virginia Postrel (book title)

"Small pieces loosely joined" - David Weinberger (book title)

the best way to predict the future is to invent it (or, the best way to predict the future is to prevent it ) - Alan Kay

"Playing Small Does Not Serve the World."-- Your Brain is Your Brand.- Chris Long
Elaboration: "Your Brain is Your Brand.

"Marianne Williamson wasn't being cheap with words. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. Or that we're simply being measured by small dreams.

"You've got one choice. Play big or stay home. Serve the world or be forgotten.

"Ultimately, you've got your heart and your brain. Both can serve. One will do so when nobody is watching. The other is your brain. It needs attention. Give it fuel. Make it stand out. Be the brand that makes a difference.
The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet - William Gibson


The crux of creativity is variations on a theme – Douglas Hofstadter

Most creativity is a transition from one context into another where things are more surprising. There’s an element of surprise, and especially in science, there is often laughter that goes along with the “Aha.” Art also has this element. Our job is to remind us that there are more contexts than the one that we’re in—the one that we think is reality - Alan Kay


... you can never regulate goodness or excellence because goodness and excellence comes from the hearts and minds of people within the system - Tom Sobol

Best practice is a limiting concept – Greg Whitby


"I don't know who discovered water but it wasn't a fish" - Marshall McLuhan


Chris Harvey said...

Hi Bill,

I'm still trying to get motivated to write something with real substance so thanks for the reminder of the slogan, I put it on my banner and added Education is Freedom at the start. It looks a bit dodgy, perhaps I should put it at the top but its a start.

I made your hackergotchi using your image, I hope thats ok, if not I'll promptly remove it.

Sylvia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Kerr said...

hi Chris,

It's back there now, mmm ... I think "Learn to be Free" on it's own is better. btw Daniel Dennett has written a book called "Freedom Evolves" in which he tries to show that free will has evolved in a Darwinian evolutionary sense.

No worries about the pic, thnx

Sylvia said...

sorry, I messed up the previous post. Here is what I tried to post!

Site with a possible origin of "eat your own dogfood" - it's what I'd always heard, that it was a microsoft expression.

Pete Reilly said...

While I agree with so much of what you say in this post; I think this is not just a case of revolutionaries fighting hierarchies of power. I believe politics can help rid us of NCLB; but that is only one part of the challenge.

I have worked with many in the hiearchy...superintendents of schools, school principals, regional and state agencies that are doing their best to transform teaching and learning. They are not just talking about it but putting significant resources behind their efforts and they are frustrated at the lack of progress, too.

The great challenge is the cultural shift that has to take place at the point of teaching and learning today...the classroom. Changing the beliefs and behaviors of teachers cannot be successfully mandated from above.

We're living through a great example of that now in Iraq. We haven't been able to mandate a functioning democracy no matter how many soldiers we have sent nor how much of our national treasure we have spent.

Changing the belief structures of deeply rooted cultures is both political and to some degree spiritual. I don't mean spritual in a religous sense but more of an inspirational appeal to the heart. It is a combination of the politics (mind) and spirit (heart) that will begin to shift the culture of schools.

Personally, I haven't heard the words, the story, or the narrative yet that will awaken the hearts and minds of the hierarchy and the educators in our classrooms to the possibilities of the coming "Golden Age" of learning.

I see the search for the moral clarity of an "I have a dream" speech for the transformation of teaching and learning and the leader(s) to deliver it as an important step forward.

In the meantime, each of us can do more to inspire change in our own environments.


Bill Kerr said...

thanks, sylvia, suppose I didn't want to believe that but looks like it's true

Bill Kerr said...

hi pete,

I think the challenge and pressure comes from below - the students. Just like the push in the civil rights movement came from below.

I wrote this the other day on the connectivism forum:

"The core problem is that not enough adult teachers "get it" and while there is some progress it is at an agonisingly slow pace for those who do get it

The most interesting answer to that problem I have seen in a while is provided by the one laptop per child project: bypass the adults and go straight to the children

Now if every child had a laptop wouldn't that provide some real leverage for the teacher adults to catch up quick? Every child did have a laptop at Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne in 1991. It is possible.

How come we are in this world situation where one laptop per child is on the agenda for the third world, while in the first and second worlds we still have computers chained up in special rooms with limited access?"

Tony Forster said...

Now I wonder whether the use of computers is any better in laptop schools. Do they spend less time on Google and Powerpoint in IT classes? Does the network administrator still lock down the internet for Myspace and Youtube?

Pete Reilly said...

I agree with your point that students need to become major advocates for change. Maybe the fact that we have dis-empowered them so effectively in our k-12 schools is a reason so few speak up for themselves.

In prepping for a future blog post on this, I recently interviewed my 15 year old son about his school career. I was troubled by the lack of expectations and passion around his formal learning. It's almost as if he is saying, "School's ok. I don't expect much from it anyway."

Do you remember back in the beginning of the civil rights movement? A large part of the message was targeted not to the white power structure; but to the African American community, to get them to feel empowered to speak up. "I'm black and I'm proud!"

In fact, if I remember correctly, the shift in language from "negro" to "black American", to African American was a very important part of the awakening.

It is for this reason that empowering our students is so important for change. How much of our message is targeted to our students and parents to awaken them to their power to transform their schools?

I wonder whether some day being referred to as a "student" will carry with it the negative history of a dis-empowered learner?


Bill Kerr said...

hi tony,

The laptop program at MLC 1991 was focused around logo software. They held at least one international conference with people like Gary Stager, Brian Harvey and Idit Harel presenting. The Principal, David Loader, was an innovator and visionary. He moved on, I'm not sure what MLC does with their laptops now.

I think you need a visionary driving the process as well as the young kids who will pick it up and run with it once they are given a chance

The core problem is that not enough adults "get it"