This is not a test!

Posted on April 7th, 2011 in The New Learners | No Comments »

Even Anderson Cooper would not have made the journey that these two independent journalists made to investigate the situation near the Fukushima Daichi power plant.

No one will be returning any time soon. Yet, seeing these readings makes me think of second grade where we study weather patterns and which way the winds will blow. Yet, some second grade students in Korea reportedly missed school because of the rain – not too much, just radioactive. The irony of this is the reported fact that 10x the amount of radiation will fall on California. Are we realizing what is happening?

21 Days (and counting)

Posted on April 1st, 2011 in The New Learners | Comments Off on 21 Days (and counting)

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I cannot begin to comprehend the life changing effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that has hammered the people of Japan. With each report since 03/11/11, heartbreak and heartache have been compounding with each new turn of events. Yet, rays of hope have come at times. Today another example was shared as a dog was found floating on the roof of a house about 2 kilometers out in the ocean. (I’ll no longer designate which part of THE ocean with Pacific, Atlantic, etc. as we have learned through this example that they and we are all connected.) This came after the revelation that, in their rush to leave their homes for safety, pets were left behind. Yet as each day passes, the horrors of this tragedy compound. What will become of this island nation – the Land of the Rising Sun? I believe even greater strength will emerge as truth is washed clean by the receding waters. Three examples of hope and heroism have stayed with me since the earthquake on March 11, 2011:

A young lady working in the government office was probably adorned in her office attire, perhaps having served the afternoon tea to colleagues and supervisors. Shortly after the tsunami warning was sounded, she took the microphone and began to alert the citizens to move to higher ground. She probably had rehearsed this act each month for as long as she had served in that position. With the 10 meter wave approaching with unbelievable speed and force, she continued to announce to the people that they needed to move to higher ground (and very likely heard her plea that, “this is not a test.”) Many heeded her call and moved out of the path of the the killer wave – leaving behind possessions, pets, and even loved ones. Yet, this young lady stood her ground. She did not move from her position – from her duty to serve the people. To the best of my knowledge, she was not rescued or found in the area of the office building. She is one of many who served with the ultimate sacrifice of her one life.

A university professor who studied the effects of tsunami on the region had worked with students over a period of years to train them on what to do in the event of a big wave. He worked with the junior high students to instruct them on how to go to the elementary school, pair up with their assigned partner, escort them to a designated meeting place on higher ground, and wait for help to arrive. As the waters receded on 3/11, the professor raced to the meeting place to greet the survivors. To his horror, none were there. He looked down at the devastation in the valley – fearing the worst. He envisioned the junior high students following his direction to go into the valley to meet the elementary students only to be swept away by the torrent. Had he just contributed to the deaths of the entire K-9 student population? As he contemplated this horror, he was greeted with words of hope and joy. His plan had worked. The students followed it exactly as he instructed with one small deviation. As the students all reached the meeting place on higher ground, they saw the wall of water approaching and determined they needed to move to higher ground, which they did. The professor’s tears of horror turned to tears of joy in a moment. His plan and preparation saved the children of this one community.

A 59 year-old man approaching his retirement was among those who responded to Tokyo Electric Company’s (TEPCO) request of employees to return to the Fukushima Daichi reactors to serve on a crew of 50 people to cool the fuel rods and prepare for whatever may follow. Reports of late show that the levels of radiation have reached lethal levels. Yet, teams of workers share a single detector to warn them of dangerous levels of radiation. The soldiers and fire fighters had no choice in the matter, but this man was under no such obligation. He was done. He could live the rest of his life without ever setting foot on TEPCO property. And yet, he returned to serve the people, the Nation, and the world.

I believe that Japan will rise from this current crisis stronger than ever before as a result of the character and commitment of its people, along with the support and inspiration of the world. This crisis is far from over. Corporate corruption is coming into focus. Government ambition is called into question. Yet, people are starving and dying for lack of heat, shelter, and clean water. Supplies have landed, but distribution presents challenge. Others are living in quarantine, away from family, due to the radiation received internally and externally over these 21 days. How can we work to support and honor the people of Japan? In addition to prayer and monetary contributions to The Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse, here are some additional options:

On April 16, 2011, 400 cities will unite in the art of Pecha Kucha to support Japan.

Cranes-For-Kids OshKosh B’gosh will send an article of clothing for each paper crane sent to them. A senba zuru would bring 1000 articles of clothing to children in need. If you have never made a paper crane before, here is one way:

We are all connected.

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On Snow Days (and Retooling Schooling)

Posted on February 6th, 2011 in The New Learners | Comments Off on On Snow Days (and Retooling Schooling)

No Plows
Having recently dug out from the blizzard of 2011, my thoughts turned to the concept of snow days (having expended two due to the conditions preventing safe transportation of staff and students to and from school). Seeing images of vehicles stopped along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive (some for 12 hours before a rescue was made) confirms that it is not logical to transport people physically during such times of calamity. However, should the processes and products of learning need to be “put on ice” as well? Imagine the collective stories told of how the snow day was spent by students, parents and teachers. Imagine if these were somehow reported and linked for the world to view. Some in Canada or South Dakota might laugh at our inability to function in two feet of snow (as some do when a light dusting shuts down the Southeastern US). Yet, I contend that the problem is deeper than the snowfall amounts. It is the system that calculates financial resources on average daily attendance (as in attending a physical place called ‘school’ rather than demonstrating innovation and creativity while out of the desks and chairs). Of course, there are some who will claim that until we close the digital divide, we cannot implement a system of any time, any place learning. I understand how frustrating it is to be without access wherever and whenever it was needed. I lost service to my home phone, cable and Internet during the first snow day. Still, my iPhone kept me connected to text, voice and Internet via the Edge (even while shoveling the roof of my mother’s house). I could have walked to the nearest Starbucks or Panera if needed. Finally, I might have asked my neighbor (whose Wifi appears in my list) to grant me access until my provider came online. Instead, I chose to take my camera out in the snow and capture some moments to share with my (someday) grandchildren. Now I just need to record the narrative to accompany the images.

While our neighbors to the north may be able to help us cope with snow removal on a scale that is just beyond our norm, they may also be modeling some great ideas to address another cleanup of sorts. Stay tuned . . .

Well done New Brunswick (on both fronts ;-).

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On Privilege in 2011

Posted on January 16th, 2011 in Privilege | No Comments »

A friend came to me and said, “You’re overdue for a post.” Yikes! We are already halfway through the first month of the second year in the second decade of the third millennium since the shift from BC to AD. Where have I been?

For the most part, I have been on a hill of privilege. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not dining on caviar every day or being shuttled about by drivers and managers. Yet, I am the product of affluence and privilege. I was born into the majority race at a time when the US was in its quest to be the first country to land a man on the moon. I watched Delta wing fighters fly circles around my community practicing “touch-and-go” landings at a Naval Air Station in the heart of our community (while a war was fought on the other side of the world). I have only vague memories living my first four years in a townhouse in the City of Chicago before my parents decided to move us to the suburbs to ensure a better shot at this American Dream. There was only one period in my life that I can remember not having enough food on hand to eat (and even that was a choice lasting a relatively short time). And yet, while I see the hills that loom above my own, my heart and eyes are pulled to those whose current state has them in valleys or elevations below sea level.

I believe that we are all privileged in some way. Yet, privilege is a continuum of sorts. I am reminded of a billboard on Highway 64 leading up to Highlands, NC which stated, “At some point we ALL live downstream.” With this metaphor of running water and elevation, I invite you into this conversation on how to best leverage our privilege. I have been thinking about this topic a lot over the last five years. Yet, I was prompted to do this in a more public way by 1) my dear friend, and 2) the words of Pastor Harvey Carey as he told a story of how his church in Detroit, Michigan was providing toilet paper to a local public school at the January 15, 2011 Willow Creek Community Church service. When I think of all the toilet paper that adorns trees as a form of celebration (or vandalism – depending on one’s perspective) it certainly shows that despite the elevation of the hill, it is important to recognize the need that exists at all elevations and to live in preparation to make level this playing field of life.

Stay tuned . . .

Charles Leadbeater on Education Transformation – Now!

Posted on July 1st, 2010 in The New Learners | No Comments »

Leadbeater’s talk brought memories of Dr. John Ingram’s Negotiating Classroom. Leadbeater’s reference to El Sistema links the technology of music to the transformation of learning in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. See Jose Antonio Abreu’s TED Prize for the story of a vision that has changed the world for so many. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? What truly intrigues me is the consistency of the message to look at the developing world and how learning is facilitated in the places where people have nothing (in terms of “schools” as we know them). Both C.K. Prahalad and Christensen, Johnson & Horn emphasize the importance of a disruptive technology taking off in the hands of the non-consumers. Yet, I still go back to Neal Stephenson’s prophetic cyberpunk marvel, The Diamond Age, to paint the image of what is possible when global networks and the impoverished masses combine to facilitate learning. Is it fiction? Of course! Just like Jules Verne!

Once again, the issue of motivation comes to the center of the discussion (see Dan Pink’s DRIVE for another look at this topic – Theory X and Theory I). How could compulsory education attract a kid generating $200K per week in the drug trade away from the worldly rewards to which he had grown accustomed? It couldn’t! But create an environment that is compelling and offers hope (and a life expectancy beyond 25 years) and you just might succeed. But how do learning environments need to change to meet the increasing diversity of learners? On this, the last minutes of his talk he displays a matrix that presents four quadrants (i.e., Formal Sustaining (FS), Formal Disruptive (FD), Informal Sustaining (IS), Informal Disruptive (ID)). This will be a topic of its own in a future post.

When you consider Leadbeater’s “What if?” challenge at the end of his 2005 TEDTalk, one can only wonder how long before the developing world will surpass the “developed” world. Dan Pink shared in A Whole New Mind that a small percent of a very large number is a VERY LARGE NUMBER. What if 1% of the 54 million students in the US alone were to shift from “users to producers” and “consumers to designers” of educational curricula, instruction (i.e., opportunities to learn), and assessment? How might this one element disrupt and transform education as we know it? How many students represent the 1% in your world? Do you listen to them? What do they tell you?

Can YOU teach Amanda Fish?

Yes, Every Child!

Posted on June 19th, 2010 in The New Learners | Comments Off on Yes, Every Child!

Thanks to ABC for capturing this great story and sharing it with the world. As the results of high-stakes tests begin to roll into school districts determined to meet the ever-increasing requirements of AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) in all subgroups, it is important to remember that each group is made up of individuals who, when truly loved and cared for, will excel.

When I think of the Marshmallow Challenge as a metaphor for student success, this example is one that exceeds those masterful structures designed by architects and engineers. The love and investment of family, friends, teachers, and peers, combined with intensive learning and a personal belief in oneself, reinforced the structure that contributed to the remarkable elevation that Eric has attained thus far. Never give up! Never make or except excuses.

There is no ceiling. There is no box. There is no subgroup.

Thank you, Eric, and all who have supported your efforts in these first chapters of your remarkable life. You have already changed this world! The best is yet to come.

He’s Back!

Posted on May 25th, 2010 in The New Learners | Comments Off on He’s Back!

I have enjoyed Sir Ken Robinson’s contributions to conversations about creativity and the institution of Education. His most recent TEDTalk reviewed some familiar material, but certainly delivered on the timing of questioning what we have come to expect from our institutions. Yes, I too wear a wrist watch 😉

What is it that we take for granted?
In what ways do we as “human communities” depend on our diversity of talents?
What are those things to which we are enthralled?
How might we begin to “reconstitute” our sense of ability and of intelligence?

Stay tuned!

If management is a technology that has grown long in the tooth . . .

Posted on May 11th, 2010 in The New Learners | Comments Off on If management is a technology that has grown long in the tooth . . .

See Gary Hamel’s, “The Future of Management” and Dan Pink’s, “Drive” for more on what follows management as many of us know it. View this video for a hint at why “Classroom Management” in the age of social networking may be the next prime cut of the sacred cow (IMHO). The ultimate question is not how do schools manage access (or, more often block) but how to design learning opportunities that REQUIRE the purposeful use of these and new forms of social media.

My appreciation goes out to the Art teacher who brought this link into my line of sight . . .

Leaders Communicate the “Why” of it all FIRST.

Posted on May 6th, 2010 in The New Learners | Comments Off on Leaders Communicate the “Why” of it all FIRST.

This one is worth a thousand words . . .

Listening to the Learners

Posted on April 6th, 2010 in The New Learners | Comments Off on Listening to the Learners

I enjoyed listening to Adora Svitak as she addressed TED.

I especially liked her comment about the children’s book publisher who claims not to work with children. Moreover, she emphasizes the need for trust and high expectations throughout her talk. At about 3 minutes 30 seconds into her presentation, she offers a suggestion for the classroom. Within a minute from that point, she challenges the way that Acceptable Use Policies are used in schools. Well done!

Enjoy!