Wherever you go, there you are.

I may have missed the boat with a TEDxNYED reflection being that it is going on Wednesday and several others have already gushed about the day.  If you had paid attention to the stream of one-liners that was flying from stage to twitter during the day, you would have heard some gems like these:

Now we could donate more than just money, we could donate our skills.  Location did not matter anymore.  It is  “The Death of Distance” (Andy Carvin)

Volunteerism has been redefined and we are the ones redefining it. (Andy Carvin)

Media are not just tools, they mediate relationships.  When media changes, relationships change, and thus we change as a society. (Michael Wesch)

Teachers who are most successfully are the ones who share most successfully with the most people. (David Wiley)

A parade of rainbow sparkle ponies. (David Wiley)

The role of new media should be to increase our capacity to be generous and open.  Let’s get away from static artifacts of learning, and more towards openness and discourse and discussion. (David Wiley)

And that was before lunch had been served.  It was a day where it was easy to get caught up in the gravity of what was being spoken about, or to take what you heard and scream out an “Amen” or two.  For the last few weeks, I had been looking to this as the one big change in thinking I was needing.

It wasn’t.

The event was so well-planned, and so well-thought out by the organizers.  The speakers were right on and I took a ton out of each of them, and it would have seemed that the stars were aligned for a truly transformative event for me.  I’d built it up to that in my mind, and was really trying to make it happen as the day unfolded, but I got to a point where I just stopped it and let go.  It was at that point to that two things happened.

First, I ran into George Mayo, who I hadn’t seen in two years, and whose solid work with students has had a great impact on my thinking over the last few years.  George and I met three years ago at SLA during one of Steve Hargadon’s pre-Classroom 2.0 learning sessions.  Will Richardson spoke for about the necessity to open our own learning and the learning our colleagues and students.  Looking back, that day, meeting those people (Chris Lehmann, Robin Ellis, Cory Pepler, and Christian Long were all in attendance), it’s clear that it changed the course of my career.  From that point, the metamorphosis that’s occurred in my beliefs, my energy, and my learning has been truly astounding.  So seeing George was a clear reminder of that journey, and that was welcome.

Second, I relaxed and let the day come to me instead of placing it on a pedestal and putting immense pressure on it.  It didn’t have to be a milestone day like that day back in 2007 was, and expecting a day like that would surely ruin whatever it was I was going to take from the experience.  Yes, there were some amazing thinkers and doers in the room, but one can’t expect osmotic learning to occur.  The ideas were flying around and I was doing my best to capture them in my notes and in my thoughts; however, it’s what comes next that will prove to be the biggest difference from TEDxNYED: the changes I bring about.


Stephen Wilmarth: Five Socio-Technological Trends That Change Everything in Learning and Teaching

In his chapter of Curriculum 21, Stephen Wilmarth puts forth an argument that we are in the throes of a revolution that will upend what we assume to be true about learning and teaching. The trends are as follows:

  • Social Production: the creation of content through various digital tools
  • Social Networks: the connection of individuals into like-minded groups at the digital level.
  • The Semantic Web: the transformation of the web into patterned information based on the coding of individual “pieces” of information
  • Media Grids: three-dimensional representations of space using computing power and the internet (Wilmarth, 91)
  • The New Zoo of non-linear learning: the mastery of biology through technology.

I can’t recall exactly how he said it, but on Thursday, Chris Dede from Harvard University, described our visions of the future as never being fully realized, but it still matters that we have them. When reading through Wilmarth’s chapter, I got just that feeling–as if I was reading about what our best selves as educators and leaders might look like. In reality, I am not so sure about his vision, but I like that he expressed it in terms of the types of learning that will need to occur for his vision to become reality.

A long-held belief of mine has been that technologies that make us less social and more fragmented will not succeed; they are just contrary to our genetic makeup. A passage from the chapter echoes this:

The way people connect with each other–the community that’s created–determines the power of learning shifts. If a technology makes connections more interesting, more varied, or more frequent, it is likely to be more widely adopted and have disproportionate effect on the creation of dynamic learning communities.

Essentially, the more human technology makes us, the more likely we are to proliferate that technology–we’ll call it technical selection. Wilmarth uses the example of Facebook and Twitter to prove this point. It’s not been lost on me that some of the most reticent users of technology in the classroom I have worked with all now have Facebook pages, yet still ask for assistance when sending attachments via email. One connects us, the other confounds us. Where Wilmarth and I truly agree is in the fact that we should examine the structures within education that can make us more human, more connected and push in that direction.

In his summary, Wilmarth makes a very salient point, and one that after the last two days of interaction I’ve had, deserves restating:

What we thought about teaching and learning, the cathedral-like, elegant, top-down, complex systems we designed to support the formal processes of learning and teaching, just may not be the relevant model. We may have to imagine a model that will behave more organically.

The point has come where we stop supporting systems that are not meeting the needs our students, not pushing our teachers to learn and grow alongside their students, and rooted in tradition rather than research and logic.

It would be great if someone was providing blueprints…