K12 Online - The Kick Off ... and a touch down

10/17/2006 11:47:00 am

The web is abuzz with excitement following yesterday's keynote presentation by David Warlick and the Fireside Chat we had with him less than 12 hours later.

You can watch David's keynote, read people's contributions to his wiki and keep up with the distributed conversations across the web by hitchhiking to the conference.

The rest of this, I think, is going to be hard to follow. I haven't blogged much in the last several months and I'm just letting loose a stream of consciousness ....

I feel an powerful sense of satisfaction and gratefulness. I've been working on this project for months ... it's incredibly gratifying to see it start to come to fruition. The quality, depth and passion of the presenters and presentations is astounding. David spoke with passion, sincerity, authenticity and a genuine concern for the education of teachers and all our children. David sitting in the park giving his address was interrupted twice. Once by a jogger out with his dog; he just ran by. Then again by an older lady who stopped to chat with David and talk about what he was doing and who he was speaking to. What a beautiful metaphor for what this entire conference is all about.

We've been having this conversation here for what feels like a long time now. Months for some of us, years for others. This conference is about those conversations but it's about a lot more than that. It's about the joggers out with their dogs who pass by with barely a glance ...

  • All of us who have immersed ourselves in the world of online learning, 21st century education, web 2.0, education 2.0, whatever you want to call it ... we all have those colleagues who we'd like to see join the conversation but don't. They're caught up with other things. They pass us by with barely a glance in the course of their day. They pass us by without realizing that the little webcam was a window to the world.

It's about the little senior citizens who stop to chat, maybe derail the conversation briefly, but at least they start asking questions.

  • Their curiosity draws them in, without their even realizing that in that brief moment, they can touch people all over the world. Just by the fact of their curiosity they can impact people they've never seen. They see there's a window to the world there, intellectually they may understand it, but they don't "get it" until the world touches them back ... like in an Elluminate room where over 170 people drop in over the course of an hour. Some have questions and they're looking for answers; some have answers and expertise and they're just looking to share it; some are just curious ... they drop in just to listen and soak up the atmosphere ... the energy of all these people that span the globe, connecting and learning by talking and sharing. How can we make our little corner of the world a better place by helping more kids get better and more deeply educated, in a world where the only constant is change and the rate a which things are changing means we don't even know what world we are preparing them for?

I keep telling my students over and over again ...

Learning is a conversation. If you're not talking to someone about it ... you're not learning it.

There's a real conversation stretching across the globe, right now, that a year ago I never imagined would be possible. There's real deep, meaningful learning going on that we'll all be able to bring back to our daily teaching practice as we continue to reflect on it. But how do we get that jogger (our colleagues and neighbours) to slow down and look in the window? Maybe even go so far as to chat a while by the fire? How do we get our senior citizens (parents, grandparents, entire families) do to more than just express a passing interest in someone who seems up to something weird?

My own children are sitting in classes that are not making these global connections. I'd like to help those teachers join the conversation but I can't; we teach in the same school division ... they don't seem to want my help. The offer is intimidating and creates barriers I would like to avoid. Sure, my kids (and my nieces) have blogs. They know dad is connected globally. They hear me get excited about their projects and the dynamic tools they could use to make powerful artifacts. "But that's not what the teacher wants" they say. K12 Online is a beginning ... there's still a long way to go to get my own children educated.

When you head back to the conference for the next event. Bring a friend. Please.

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  1. Hi Darren. I was out last night but logged into Elluminate when I got home and listened to the Fireside Chat. What an inspiring conversation - I only wish I had been part of it. As a technology leader in my building (here in Winnipeg) I'm working SO hard to get some...even a few...on board with 'globalizing' their classrooms. Seems like an uphill battle but even the small payoffs are SO worth it!

    Keep up the FANTASTIC work. I look forward to taking in more of the conference!

  2. Keep the faith, Darren, I'll be bringing some friends. Once the first set of sessions get posted, I'll be sharing them with my staff development groups. I think we're going to have our first cohort of teachers (the ones with a year of experience) "preview" the sessions for us and figure out which ones would be best for our cohort 2 teachers (the ones just starting) to see. We'll see how that goes.

    Of course, I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to find time to watch all of them - because they look like they're going to be great.

  3. Quite honestly, I didn't think of the metaphor of the passers-by until you pointed it out. We all experience the others who don't get as excited about all of this as we do. What a brilliant keynote on so many levels!

    Thanks for having the vision and perseverance to put this conference together. It's going to be great.

    I posted about it on my newsletter blog, e-mailed colleagues, and even posted it on a rather large listserv. I invited people to get together and take some classes together. I thought most everyone was "passing by", but a few watched the keynote today and enjoyed it. That's a start.

  4. Thanks you Mrs. Phillips, Karl and Janice for the encouraging comments.

    I think I may have given the wrong impression with my closing comments. I'm not feeling "like giving up." I am feeling an incredible tension (irony?) between my day job as a teacher and my real job as a father.

    In my day job I will continue to use blogs and other online tools in my teaching. I will continue to foster excellence in my students by having them contribute to the world's knowledge commons via their online presence. And, as one of them said in our recent podcast, I will continue to try to make them feel as though "the ordinary in our class is extraordinary."

    In my role as a father I'm watching my kids go to school each day. They're are bringing home assignments that have the potential to be something extraordinary in the way they are presented. If my kids school work was online they'd get encouragement from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends from across the world. I see them write in their blogs and get excited over any sort of comment. I see them do their school work as quickly as they can just to "get it done;" often the lesson in the assignment is lost because they are not engaged.

    The painful tension I'm feeling is this: I teach other people's children to grow into making the ordinary extraordinary. Who will do the same for my kids? I'm trying in my own way, but, if you're a parent ... you know what I mean?

  5. Darren,
    I feel exactly the same way as a teacher and parent of three daughters (1 in Middle School and 2 in High School). I went to three different open houses, sat through almost 15 different teachers and was impressed with 1 (!!!). That one teacher talked about her passion for her subject and how she planned on passing that on to our children. You could see her eyes sparkle when she talked about her classes. ALL the others had nothing else to say, but how they tested, what they behavioral rules were and what the students could expect as a consequence if they broke those rules. They talked for 5-7 minutes about "houskeeping" items, such as where the basket was to turn in late work etc. Most of the time they ran out of things to say. I increasingly grew frustrated and the same words that you used to describe your feelings "Who will teach my children the real sense of learning?". I am working so hard to open the world and learning up to my own students, but my own children are being left behind with short sighted, over-worked, lost their direction, non- passionate kind of teachers.
    After all three open houses were over, I sat down with my three girls and expressed to the my concerns. I told them tht there job was to go to school and "hand in" what each teacher expected of them so they could get the grade, the credits, the diploma. The real learning would have to be up to them though and I would do anything possible at home to support them, by making sure that I shared the things that I am passionate about with them. We also sacrifice a lot, compared to some of their friends who seem to go to Disney World every other week and buy homecoming dresses worth hundreds of dollars. All so I am able to take my children to visit friends and family around the world during the summer months. Priorities for us is to make sure they see other cultures and experience real learning.

  6. Darren,
    Thank you so much for all you do professionally because we all are learning from you.
    OTOH, as a parent, I share your frustration. I have two in high school and we keep reminding them that they just have to "survive" high school and play by the rules and they will do great in life. They have so many gifts and talents that aren't being tapped in their 20th century classrooms.
    One point I want to make is that I believe educators need to understand the incredible power they have over students in their role as teachers. They have a role of authority that clouds the student/teacher relationship. ("Oh, my teacher told me I don't have to know that for the test," or "I can't go back for extra help, my teacher will think I'm stupid.")
    That is one of the things that I love about social networking, Web 2.0 tools - they level the playing field and allow our children to see themselves as competent, skilled learners/teachers. The lines are blurred and everyone models life-long learning. Isn't that our ultimate goal?

  7. We have been blogging at school for about 6 weeks now and my class love it. But it only brings into direct contrast a much bigger problem. The current curriculum just does not reflect the sorts of cultural tools the children are involved with at home. It was wonderful day when a child in my class, who really struggles with literacy, came up to me and said. "I have made my own blog!" He was super-chuffed about it and had done it all himself - we all had a look at his first post together.
    About three quarters of my class (10 year olds) have their own mobile phones! What place does this technology have in our curriculum? None.
    I told some boys that we could blog from our phones and even send pcitures - they loved the idea and I suspect would be pretty good at it too!
    It is about time our curriculum changed and became more flexible to meet the needs (and current experiences) of it's learners.