A day with Will Richardson, Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my notes from our day with Will Richardson. You also can see the live chat and/or follow the Twitter conversation and/or participate in EtherPad.

  • How are you personally taking advantage of these online / technological affordances?
    • If you’re not, can you participate in the conversation? ‘Cause you don’t have the context.
  • The business sector is behind this; they want specific policy initiatives (can ISEA / SAI / Iowa business leaders / etc. all get behind these?)
    1. Get every kid/home connected (broadband)
    2. A device for every teacher
    3. A device for every (secondary?) student
    4. Do you have a curriculum that supports the things that Will is talking about? (does the Iowa Core go far enough?)
    5. Community forums that educate the average Iowan / statewide visibility initiative
    6. More online coursework options (e.g., statewide virtual high school)
    7. Education of teachers / community members about workforce / 21st century skills / globallization needs/issues
    8. Greater flexibility for schools to use existing funding streams
    9. Repeal / revise Dillon’s Rule?
    10. Different / better assessments
    11. Allow schools to use/create free textbooks and use textbook money for student computers
  • We are the last generation that had a choice about technology (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach)


A day with Will Richardson, Part 1

Here is Part 1 of my notes from our day with Will Richardson. You also can see the live chat and/or follow the Twitter conversation and/or participate in EtherPad.

  • I’m going to make you uncomfortable; you should be uncomfortable
  • If you’re not uncomfortable right now in education, you’re not paying attention
  • Conversations are spreading far beyond physical space, in ways that previously were not possible
  • My learning today looks nothing like the learning that’s occurring my kids’ classrooms
  • There are no adults right now teaching kids how to LEARN, not just be social, in these networks
  • Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuFsDN8dsJU
    • He assumes there’s an audience and that they’ll respond
    • He’s comfortable asking for help
    • He views YouTube as a learning tool (Elliott Smith)
    • This is inquiry- / problem-based learning
    • After 101 views, he had 10 comments (10% hit rate); all 10 had specific feedback/suggestions for him
    • This 12-year-old kid can throw out a question to 1.7 billion people
  • Shirky: We are experiencing a tectonic shift in how we form groups and self-organize
  • Wesch: This is not simply a technological revolution, this is a cultural revolution.
  • Outside of school ALL of our learning is inquiry- / passion-based
    • That’s the way that world looks for anyone with an Internet connection
  • Finland has legislated nationwide broadband access by 2012
  • Schools have a lot of tech, but nothing’s really different
    • Still memorizing a lot of stuff
    • Curriculum hasn’t changed
    • Instruction hasn’t changed
  • This group-forming ability is everywhere
    • Obama’s use of social media for Presidential election
    • Flickr tag: iranelection
  • Raw information is being released rather than it being edited / filtered first
  • We now can live stream video from our phones; imagine a world in 5 years where everyone’s phone is iPhonish
  • Justin Bieber became famous by uploading his talent show videos to the Web
  • Check out surfthechannel.com
  • Today, instead of writing a letter to the editor / Better Business Bureau / CEO, you make a video
    • Business is different today because people can form groups,
    • Allstate (and others) has hired people to monitor the Twittersphere; don’t call; tweet!
    • Best Buy has 1,200 people monitoring TwelpForce; don’t call, tweet!
  • Alvin Toffler: if you’re a cop with a speed gun, the car going by at 120 mph is business, the car going at 5 mph is education
  • This MacArthur Foundation report is a must-read
    • Kids are using social networks to connect with their friends / peers
    • They’re also connecting with adults around the world in interest-based networks
      • Educators need to teach kids how to do this responsibly and powerfully b/c this will be the majority of their online interactions in the future
  • Adults are uncomfortable with the idea of being hyperconnected and hypertransparent
    • They’re wary of being open and findable
  • How are we going to think differently in 3-5 years when every kid comes to school with ubiquitous access (via cell phones) and has the world’s sum of knowledge in their pockets? (see Will’s post on this, along with the 130+ comments)
  • Research shows that the online predation issue is not nearly as big as we think; the threat is overblown; we’ve been Datelined to death; and that most kids are pretty good at navigating the Web safely
    • It’s a basic risk-reward equation
    • Adults are not having these conversations with kids, they’re simply blocking and/or ignoring the issue
    • Just like we have driver’s ed, we need Internet ed (Dave Keane)
  • There’s nothing personalized or passion-based about what we’re asking kids to do in school
    • How can we square this with entrepeneurship, innovation, creativity, 21st century skills, etc.?

Dear Will

Dear Will,

In less than two weeks you’ll be here in Iowa. We’re excited to have you visit. We’ve got an eager bunch of state leaders awaiting your insights.

Just to let you know, this probably isn’t your typical group of school leaders. This session with you is invitation-only and we deliberately kept it small to foster good discussion. We only have 40 attendees and, as you can imagine, we had to make some extremely difficult choices about whom to invite.

The group includes 18 of our state’s most forward-thinking superintendents. Many of them have initiated 1:1 laptop programs, have begun student virtual reality initiatives, and/or are otherwise on the forefront of technology-related school reform. In addition to the superintendents, we’ve also invited 4 building-level administrators who live on the cutting edge.

CASTLE has been working extensively with the School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) and Iowa’s Area Educational Agencies (AEAs) to provide technology leadership training across the state. Four of the attendees represent the AEAs; three attendees represent SAI. We also have the 3 individuals from the Iowa Department of Education (DE) who are in charge of P-12 technology, the new Iowa Core Curriculum’s 21st century skills component, and administrator quality.

We have good relationships with the business associations in Iowa. In attendance will be the executive directors of the Iowa Business Council, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance. One of the education reporters from The Des Moines Register also will be there.

Finally, rounding out the group are 4 attendees from CASTLE: myself; my new faculty colleague, John Nash (who used to be the director of evaluation for the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning); and two of our graduate assistants who have been helping us with our technology leadership initiatives.

You should be prepared for keen thinking and tough questions from this group. They’ve been mulling big ideas and ground-level implementation issues for a while now. They’re chomping at the bit to move forward but also are cognizant of current policy, funding, and staffing realities. It should be an excellent day of conversation.

Here’s what you need to know about us

There are a few things you should know about us. For example, Iowa has long had a commitment to and history of educational excellence, which has resulted in our students consistently scoring at or near the top of all states on standardized assessments. Unfortunately, as our citizens and educators are slowly coming to realize, our past success and current practices often don’t meet 21st century needs very well. Shifting our populace out of complacency and into a different understanding is an enormous undertaking for us. The whole state is struggling to shift from an agriculture and manufacturing mindset into a knowledge economy orientation.

We have other challenges. In a rapidly-globalizing world, we are one of the least ethnically diverse states in the nation, which means that most Iowans have had little substantive interaction with people of other cultures. Most Iowa communities are small; we only have two cities larger than 100,000 and another dozen that are larger than 30,000. Most Iowa school districts are small; nearly a sixth have fewer than 300 students, 70% have fewer than 1,000 students, and less than 9% have more than 2,500 students. A third of our students currently live in poverty. Our young adults leave the state, never to return, at the second-highest rate in the country. Our rural bandwidth and technology infrastructures are less than desirable. Our online learning opportunities for P-12 students are anemic.

We’ve also got some assets. Because Iowa’s communities are so small, they often are more closely connected to schools and students than in many other states. Our state government, local community, nonprofit, and corporate organizations all care about and have been working extensively with our schools for many years; there is a successful track record of engagement and conversation. The Wallace Foundation recently found that Iowa has the most cohesive school leadership system of any state in the country. Our state’s leading newspaper actually prints numerous positive stories about schools.

Here’s what we need from you

We need you to stretch our minds and our imaginations to the utmost limit. They’ve already heard me speak about digital revolutions, globalization, and changing workforce needs. They’ve already heard me challenge existing ways of thinking and doing at the school, district, and policy levels. Many of the educators in attendance have heard Alan November, David Warlick, Daniel Pink, Tony Wagner, Yong Zhao, Richard Longworth, and others.

We’re ready to take the next step. We’re ready for you to take our already-forward-thinking brains into 2015, 2025, or even 2050. We need to hear from you what the new information and technology landscapes are going to look like. We need to hear from you what school organizations could / should / MUST look like. And because you work with schools all over the world, we need to hear from you what innovative schools currently are doing to make the shift.

We can handle whatever you throw at us. Don’t be afraid to E-X-P-A-N-D our brains exponentially by asking us difficult questions and offering us enormous challenges. We need grounding in a future reality, but we also need concrete details about current and potential transformative practices. We need our mental models to be rearranged, reframed, and reconfigured. And, of course we want lots of opportunities for discussion and hands-on experiences. All that is not too much to ask, is it?!

So that’s our context. We appreciate your willingness to come to Ames. We’ll be sitting at tables in small groups. All of us likely will have laptops and Internet access. Rock our world, put us to work, move us forward. Thanks.

Survey results: Why isn’t your school organization making more progress?

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in my 3–minute survey, Why isn’t your school organization making more progress? We had a total of 561 participants. Some charts and tables are below (click on images for larger versions). Also, here are some downloadable files:

My online survey software provided some summary data:


The chart below shows the average rank of each item, along with standard deviations. The lower the rank, the more important the reason.


Although Lack of adequate funding emerged as the top reason cited, Ineffective leadership had more top 3 appearances than any other item. I admit that Accountability demands of NCLB came out lower than I expected.


Finally, Jon Becker wondered if maybe some demand characteristics were in play here…


Feel free to do any other analysis you‘d like on the raw data; just leave a link in the comments area for this post so we all can find it. Thanks again to everyone who participated and/or publicized this survey!

3 MINUTE SURVEY: Why isn’t your school organization making more progress?

Why aren’t schools making more progress when it comes to effective implementation and integration of digital technologies? Here’s what K-12 educators usually tell me when asked (list is in no particular order):

  • Lack of adequate funding
  • Unsupportive state / federal legislators
  • Teacher / union resistance
  • Lack of professional development
  • Ineffective leadership
  • Lack of time / space within curriculum
  • Accountability demands of NCLB
  • Parent / community resistance

I’m curious about your own situation. So I created a 3–minute survey! Simply click, drag, and drop the items to reorder them.

  1. Take the survey!
  2. Follow the results live!

Survey closes Thursday, November 19. Hope you’ll participate (and pass this along to others)!


The end of teacher sameness and solidarity

Terry Moe and John Chubb say…

[I]n American education, policy making is not guided by what is best for children or the larger public. It is a political process driven by power. And the most powerful groups in that process are special interests, led by the teachers unions, with a stake in keeping the system as it is. . . . Reforms of real consequence are vigorously resisted and watered down. (p. 149)

Traditionally, teachers have taught students face-to-face in classrooms. This is the standard role, common across virtually all teachers, and has allowed for a pervasive sense of occupational sameness that has long been a very good thing for the unions. It encourages teachers to see themselves as having a common set of work interests, as being equally deserving, and as sinking or swimming together. And all of this promotes solidarity, which is critical to the unions’ ability to attract members, gain their financial and emotional support, and mobilize them for economic and political ends. (p. 158)

[T]eachers unions are steadfast in demanding sameness . . . [t]he idea is to minimize all sources of differentiation, because they undermine the common interests and solidarity that so contribute to union success. . . . [H]owever, technology gives rise to a differentiation of roles among teachers. Some may still work face-to-face with students in classroom settings. . . . Some may work with students in computer labs, handling much larger classes than today’s teachers do (because the computers are taking over much of the actual teaching). Some may work with students online but still do it in real time. Some may engage in distance learning but do it asynchronously . . . Some may work mainly with parents, monitoring student progress and assuring proper student oversight. Some may oversee or serve as mentors to the front-line teachers themselves. And more. These and other jobs . . . require different skills and backgrounds, may call for varying levels of pay, . . . offer teachers a vast array of occupational opportunities they didn’t have before, encourage a level of entrepeneurialism and individualism among them . . . The profession of the future will be a much more differentiated and entrepeneurial one, and such a profession spells trouble for the unions . . . it is destined to be a profession that will no longer concentrate teachers in common geographic locations and monopoly employers – and the resulting dispersion of teachers to new locations, combined with the diversity of employers that goes along with it, cannot help but create additional layers of differentiation that affect how teachers see their own interests. (p. 159–160)

[T]he pervasive sameness that the unions have always counted on will slowly fall apart. As the years go by, they will have a harder time generating the solidarity they need to motivate teachers to join, to keep them as members, to mobilize supportive action - and to do the things successful unions need to do if they are to wield power in politics. As sameness and solidarity decline, so too will their political power. (p. 160)

[Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education]

Previous posts in this series

  1. Education’s resistance to technology will be overcome

  2. It would be impossible for the information revolution to unfold and NOT have transformative implications for how children can be educated

  3. Technology will free learning from the dead hand of the past

  4. Technological change is destined to be resisted by the teachers unions

  5. Correlation or causation? Teacher resistance to state technology initiatives

  6. Greater use of technology allows for decreased numbers, but improved quality, of teachers?

Greater use of technology allows for decreased numbers, but improved quality, of teachers?

Terry Moe and John Chubb say…

There is every reason to believe that technology will only become more effective with time. The same cannot be said of the traditional “technology” of education – teachers and classrooms - unless that world changes fundamentally. (p. 77)

Scores of technology-based instructional programs are being used in schools throughout America. . . . A recent survey indicated that the two main issues holding back technology use are “It doesn’t fit in the schedule,” and “There is not sufficient time to train teachers.” Nowhere does it say that the software is inadequate or that technology has dubious instructional value. (p. 77)

If elementary students spend but one hour a day learning electronically, certified staff could be reduced by a sixth. At the middle school level, two hours a day with computers would reduce staff requirements by a third. High schools, with three hours of usage, could reduce staff by up to a half. This level of computer usage is quite feasible given instructional technology that exists today. (p. 80).

The quality of teachers would benefit from the increased use of technology in at least two important ways. Even after investing in hardware and software, which are trivial compared to the cost of teachers, schools would have funds from staff savings to increase teacher pay and to provide more time for teacher training and planning. Added time for professional development, with proper supervision and accountability, would improve teacher quality. Added pay would help attract and retain better talent. Better talent is the most important ingredient of better schools. The [Dayton View Academy and Dayton Academy] charter schools . . . are already demonstrating the feasibility of these ideas – in the toughest of circumstances. (p. 80)

[Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education]

Previous posts in this series

  1. Education’s resistance to technology will be overcome

  2. It would be impossible for the information revolution to unfold and NOT have transformative implications for how children can be educated

  3. Technology will free learning from the dead hand of the past

  4. Technological change is destined to be resisted by the teachers unions

  5. Correlation or causation? Teacher resistance to state technology initiatives

Chris Lehmann speaks to the FCC

I don't know how Chris Lehmann finagled an invite to speak to the FCC, but I sure am glad he did (and that he filmed it!). Click on the picture below to listen to Chris' 10-minute presentation. I promise it will be WELL worth your time. 

Chris Lehmann speaks to the FCC

Frerichs v. Mao: Showdown at the netbook corral

Chad Frerichs, Director of Technology for the Okoboji (IA) Community Schools, listened to Episode 4 of the 4 Guys Talking podcast and disagreed with Jeff Mao’s assertion that netbooks were not viable options for 1:1 laptop programs.

Here is Chad’s Tweet:


Here is Chad’s follow-up e-mail to me:

We've not been using them yet. I have been demoing varioius units for the last 2 months for consideration for purchase for next school year. I have been loving them. I have to admit I was skeptical and had the same reservations going in, but I have proven myself wrong. I have upgraded each demo unit to XP Pro (we have available licenses), and they have all ran smoothly. I await Win 7 which is supposed to have Atom specific things in it. I have been using Google Earth, Movie Maker, Gimp, OpenOffice.org, etc. without issue. Granted Google Earth is slow during the 3D stuff, and Movie Maker takes a little longer to do massive amounts of transitions/effects, but it is very workable. I have made a 'news cast' on each of the netbooks demoed with multiple transitions/effects with the built in camera and mic. A project I envision students doing. I have edited photos in Gimp and applied multiple filters without issues.
I have been proven wrong about these things. I think they are a viable solution for us, and possibly others. Are there drawbacks? Absolutely, but viable none-the-less. I think we will be ordering 72 or 96 of them for next year.

Your thoughts?

4 Guys Talking – Episode 4 (Jeff Mao)

MacbookindarkYesterday was Episode 4 of 4 Guys Talking, the new ‘talk radio’ podcast series from CASTLE. We spent the entire time talking about 1:1 laptop programs. Our first 50 minutes was spent with Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director for the State of Maine. Among other things, Jeff talked about funding models, professional development for teachers and administrators, pedagogical frameworks, challenges faced by the state over the past few years, and, perhaps surprisingly, the relative lack of emphasis on standardized test scores as measurable outcomes for the initiative. He also shared his strong feelings about laptops v. netbooks for 1:1 programs. After Jeff left us, we spent the last 10 minutes debriefing, sharing thoughts, and raising further questions.

You can download the podcast or listen to a Web-streamed version here:

You also can subscribe to the 4 Guys Talking feed using iTunes or a RSS reader.

Thanks to those of you who joined us live yesterday, either by calling in or listening over the Web. Future dates/times are as follows (all times Central):

  • May 11, 9am to 10am
  • May 26, 1pm to 2pm

[Yes, I'm still reworking CASTLE Conversations, the old CASTLE podcast channel, which will include all previous and podcasts (including 4 Guys Talking). I'll post about it when it's ready (probably not until summer).]

Happy listening!

Photo credit: An Apple in the dark 2