Missing the Roadmap

George Siemens:

Anytime someone provides a list of steps to achieve complex tasks, my reaction is to turn and run. Lists are generally only useful for the people who make them. Situations and contexts change rapidly. What works now in one organization will likely not work in the future in another organization. But, complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty are difficult to manage. So we turn to little techniques and ploys that provide us with a pseudo-sense of what’s really happening. Consider this article: The 10 Stages of Social Media Integration in Business. This is exactly how not to implement social media…at least if you’re looking for the transformative impact the author cites early in the article. If you make lists for managing social media, you’ve misunderstood social media.
I guess the question I have - for anyone realistically capable of providing an accurate answer - is how should schools be managing social media? Even after the relatively extensive experience I've had with social media, I'll be one of the first to admit that we simply don't have all the answers.

Sure wish I hadn't misplaced that roadmap.

Image source: Flickr user Anua22a.

Not If I Can Help It

An interesting piece of interestingness was put out there a few weeks ago by Dean Shareski and John Pederson.

While I love the first sentence and the possibilities that it brings, here's my reaction to the second:

Not if I can help it.

When I think about the kinds of things students need to prepare for college success, I think of those traits possessed by the autodidacts of today: persistence, drive, and easy access to numerous avenues of learning.

What are you doing to help "schools" notice that some of the most powerful avenues of learning today are only a click away?

What is the Purpose of IT?

An important question has been posed by our district’s Superintendent that has heavily occupied my thoughts over the last few days. My initial take follows (complete with an ample supply of cutting-edge, 21st Century, digital-age buzz).

What is the purpose of IT in preparing students for college success?

  • To assist all educators in the task of teaching students to learn how to learn.
  • To assist all educators in the task of teaching students to effectively function in the same kinds of technologically rich learning environments found on and around college campuses.
  • To provide access to knowledge and information outside of the immediate school environment, while enabling teachers to understand best practices in empowering students with that access.
  • To provide functioning technologies that can improve the learning process, while supporting teachers in empowering students with these technologies.
  • To facilitate communication and collaboration between all members of Canyons District learning communities.
In other words, the purpose of IT includes supporting teachers in their use of technology to:
  • Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity
  • Design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments
  • Model digital-age work and learning
  • Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility
  • Engage in professional growth and leadership
...and supporting administrators in their use of technology to:
  • Provide visionary leadership
  • Facilitate a digital-age learning culture
  • Promote excellence in professional practice
  • Enable systemic improvement
  • Model appropriate examples of responsible digital citizenship
Well, there you have it (kind of reminds me of this). Anything you'd add to or remove from my list?

Practical Theory

Chris Lehmann, in Principal Leadership magazine:

Those of us who work in education talk a lot about student engagement, but I don’t think that goes far enough. Engagement is certainly better than boredom, but schools should set the bar for themselves is much higher. What schools should strive for is student empowerment.
My questions:
  1. Once students are empowered, what need will they have for their teachers?
  2. If students (think they) no longer have a need for their teachers, what do they then do in school?
  3. What if students learn empowerment in Elementary school?
My answers:
  1. There are more skills to be taught than that which will show up on a test.
  2. The best lessons in life can finally be learned only after one realizes that there is always a need for good teachers.
  3. Seems to me like the perfect fast-track to preparation for college.
Teach a person to fish and they fish for life.


Cross posted at Thinking Out Loud... Let's learn together.


More from where I sit on the open education debate, kind of hodge-podged together in a sorry-so-sloppy kind of way. All in all great stuff in the open education discourse, but I think it's telling how few practitioners engage in this dialogue, particularly in the K-12 arena. Until more idealists make it clearer how better an open education system can be than what tradition has spent years developing, then very few in the trenches will ever jump to embrace any seat, regardless of the table.

That's just the way it is.

Kicking it off...

Dave Cormier:

“What do you mean by open?” has become the theme of the open movement, sign of maturity or impending senility. Or, as my son would say, maybe both. Cast all thoughts of definition from your mind, openness is a state of mind… a state of YOUR mind. Be open. ’nuff said.
While openness may be a state of mind, having an open mind (open-minded, open in mind, willing to share?) is far different than being completely open (transparent?) with others. And given that everything in education is political, there's a time and a place for transparent communication and a time and a place to remain silent (and even unwilling to share). In my mind, being clear on what we mean about "open" is a very good thing.

David Wiley:
Remaking our educational institutions into places where openness is a core, ambient, unconscious value of all who work there is a more intricate and involved matter than giving everyone on campus a copy of the OSD and saying “apply this in all aspects of your professional and personal life.” “Openness” the ideal needs to mean specific things in specific contexts in order for it to be applied usefully in those contexts. It will mean one thing in the IT context, another in the research / scholarship context, another in the teaching and learning context, another in the broader policy context, etc. And we need to thoughtfully develop these different meanings through writing and debate.
Exactly. But I also wonder how consensus is ever met. With so many stakeholders having so little in common (apart from a love for learning and a wrenching gut feeling that "open" is the right thing to do), it's difficult to reach that holy grail of agreement without some form of governance.

I also wonder about the best way to track all of these conversations if they are to be held in the blogosphere. Might a standard set of tags be useful in tracking conversations surrounding a specific context for openness? Maybe.

Jim Groom:
The larger question in my mind is that what’s under girding this discussion is an even more insidious logic than a denatured sense of open, and that’s a sense of entitled leadership... Isn’t the push away from these legacies of power and privilege a part of what open is working against on it’s most powerful and truly transformative levels? Why does their need to be a continental congress on open? Why do we have to conflate it with system and then elect officials to define it for us? Part of the power and the hope of this space for me is a new scale of working though these ideas that’s both hyper-individual and communally local at the same time. To frame the discussion around a table of designated players that move us forward seems in many ways contrary to possibilities these connections and relationships provide us.
I think it's easy to confuse EduPuNk with openness, the wild west with structured reality. However, I also think it's very important to remember that the open education movement is far more than just the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want to. To me, openness is about sharing, giving, taking, using, reusing, being willing to help and be helped. To you, it might be something different. However, I think we're approaching a point in the field where we need to draw well-defined lines depending upon the context of open we're hoping to explore. Failure to do so, in my mind, will only lengthen the time it will take before any real progress can be made with regard to research on the topic(s) and the promulgation of openness to areas of education outside of higher ed.

In a similar vein, I remember attempting to discuss the "rules" of etiquette that surround participation in the blogosphere. While some balked at the idea of even attempting to identify any normative view of blogging etiquette, others greatly appreciated the suggestions made - having remembered the times when they, too, were new to the practice. As time went on and our discussions deepened, it was clear who had a real interest in the "cause." It also became very clear who the leaders were, although no attempts were ever made to identify them by name.

I think the same thing has happened/will happen with openness. Leaders (have) emerge(d) and lines will be drawn.

Moving on...

George Siemens:
The quality of our thinking in these still early stages of openness will produce future systems and related affordances. The Federalist Papers, for example, were important in shaping the future of the Western world. Much of the debate could be treated as irrelevant and inconsequential. But the time spent in establishing idealistic roots – rather than pursuing more readily achievable pragmatic goals – has paid substantial dividends.
Perhaps. But if so, then what are those dividends?

Has any of this debate really changed the way teachers teach and learners learn? Fundamentally no, from my point of view, but I do find it extremely interesting that the open education movement coincides so strongly with the movement surrounding public schools, their efficacy, and the (once?) growing popularity of charter and private institutions.

In advocating an open education system, aren't we really aiming for a more public form of education - one that's truly built by the people for the people, following a more distributed model than the public system currently in place? If so, then I think Cuban's words (2001) have particular relevance and introduce an aspect to this debate that I think may have been overlooked.

Larry Cuban:
It is seldom noted publicly, but many promoters of new technologies [like open education] seem to have forgotten the historic civic idealism and broad social purposes public schools serve in a democracy. Well-intentioned reformers eager to make schools efficient... concentrate upon how schools serve the economy and how much individuals can gain, rather than on the public good. Recapturing the broad democratic purposes that Americans have sought through schooling and the critical importance of the schools in building and sustaining social capital challenges the assumptions passionately held by promoters of technology in schools.
Until now - as long as the one of the primary reasons we're placing technology in our schools is to provide a more open learning experience for our students. If that's why we do what we do, then technology can be a powerful conduit for building social capital globally and locally through the learning connections that only an open, networked learning environment can provide.

Frances Bell:
Technology-enabled change can/will happen in societies where education is more and less available. In the former, I would like to see any change preserve the quality of educational experiences whilst extending its reach; and in the latter, I would like to see new models explored where developing countries can... contribute to knowledge from their unique perspective of growing their education systems in a new socio-technical environment.
I, too, look to technology as a means for us to bring learning, in all its forms, to all people - regardless of geographic location and social status (i.e., "extending its reach"). To me, that's what open education is all about. Idealistic, indeed, but that's still why I share. In sharing, I'm able to give to others some of that which I have learned, in turn receiving a better understanding of others and the world around us as they return the favor from their perspective.


Stephen Downes:
We need "some good ol' radicals in open education," he writes. "You know, the types that have a vision and an ideological orientation that defies the pragmatics of reality. Stubborn, irritating, aggravating visionaries..." Well, maybe. I could use the company.
What's not to love, here, really?

I welcome your thoughts on the subject as we enter 2010 together. Peace.

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