On Monday morning, the K12 Online conference released its pre-conference keynote “presentation“. This year, David Warlick presented Inventing New Boundaries. Here are my take aways from this presentation.
1. David changed the metaphor from the railway to the airport
This is an apt switch, since teachers need to switch their role in the classroom from that of a railroad engineer, pulling the students along a common path, with some excursions down the side rails, all together to that of the teacher as a air traffic controller. Each student is like their own airplane, with their own flight plan. The teacher has to orchestrate all of the movement in the classroom so that each child is able to complete their own flight with minimal delays. In some cases, they are going to have to team up together in order to accomplish this goal, but everyone is following his or her own plan.
2. The metaphor of Ender’s Game
In Ender’s Game, the hero of the book, Ender Wiggin, is a six year old who is selected to attend the elite Battle School. At the school, he is singled out and kept away from the other students, made special. Ender finds a way to create a network of the other students despite the efforts of the teachers to teach other students his tactics in the battle game. Ender shares strategies with the older students. As Ender gains experience, the teachers keep putting him into situations which are more difficult and unfair to his success, including having to fight two armies simultaneously. Each of the armies had the chance deploy and set up. Each time, Ender finds a way to succeed, including finding a loophole to end the game
In each of these games, Ender is having to recreate the rules, on the fly. This is no different than what teachers and students are facing in the classrooms, the fact the the rules of the game, go to school, go to college, get a good job, are changing and due to global competition, the deck may be stacked against us. Just ask recent college graduates if the rules are changing. As many of them are moving back home, unable to find that entry level job that 20 years ago was more easily found.
3. We are not growing up to our parent’s world
Like David, I also remember watching my father get dressed. I too followed a similar path through school, preparing me for a future which was like of my father. But with the turmoil and current changes in the economy, that future never materialized. Instead, jobs are more fluid. It is important to teach students to think and troubleshoot their own learning. More of us are going to be like David and many of the professional athletes that we cherish. We are going to be free agent, contract employees. Major corporations may still exist, but they are going to be filled by a fluid set of workers. We need to teach students to be entrepenuers, who will need to develop their own audience and voice in order to sell themselves. This is preparing our children for a future which was past, with individual guilds.
4. To begin to bridge the digital divide, we need to create our own learning networks
Just as we need to capture the magic of learning that toddlers and young elementary students bring every day, we need to ignite this same love of learning for our students and ourselves. It seems that by the time students reach high school, the love of learning for learning’s sake has been stomped out of their lives. When watching young people, they collaborate with each other to share their learning. They are following their own flight plans. We try to teach children the way we want to teach, rather than the way that they want to learn. I believe that we need to meet half way, but we have to make the first move.
5. The nature of information has changed
The ability to publish has changed the way that students deal with information. They are not longer fed the information by the traditional gatekeepers, teachers and librarians. They are able to access it in a variety of sources, text, audio, and video. Being literate involves being able to create a product and develop an audience for that product that separates it from the white noise of all of the similar products. We want our students efforts to rise like cream to the top.
Likewise, as teachers, we need to find a way to package our message so that it can compete for our student’s attention. They are being bombarded by other’s clamoring for their attention, tv, radio, mp3 players. How do we motivate students? We find a way to hook them, and then through the relationship created, engage them in conversation and personal discovery.
6. How do we drive learning in a flat classroom, freed from gravity?
There are three converging conditions which can become new boundaries. We are producing a Info-Savvy generation who needs us to help deal with and shape the information to fit the framework of their learning. They need guidance and scaffolding to help them deal with it. They need to make mistakes in a safe and effective environment.
These are our challenges. As we continue through the next two weeks of the K12 Conference, create connections and continue the conversation, I am hopeful that when next year when we gather for the K12 Online conference that we will be able to:
- share success stories where teachers are reshaping their classrooms and managing their students individual flight plans like a good air traffic controller, with no accidents or slow downs.
- let the students begin to create their own rules to fit the game which is rapidly changing and often to their disadvantage
- help all learners, students and adults, learn how to develop their voices using a variety of tools, so that they can develop an audience and create their own personal learning networks.
40 sessions and 3 live events to go. I know it will take me longer than the two weeks alloted for the conference. I look forward to my learning and new connections that I will make.