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Monday, October 8, 2007

K12 Online Conference - David Warlick's Keynote

Listened to David Warlick's keynote for the K12 Online Conference earlier today. First off, I just have to say that David Warlick has to be one of the nicest people you will ever meet and talk to, which is all the more remarkable when you realize he is in the business of challenging educators. This keynote gave yet another example of how he makes ideas accessible and real while gently prodding and challenging us all.

Many analogies made sense for me from his keynote - the first thing being the idea that if there are no boundaries and therefore no walls, where do we get traction? How do we orient ourselves? He talked about how he isn't entirely comfortable with speaking to a video camera sans a live audience and how he misses the "furrows in foreheads" and other feedback when giving a presentation. If we have no walls and no boundaries how do we know where we are, where we're starting from, where we're going?

He talked about the Orson Scott Card book "Ender's Game" (which I love - I read it as an assignment in grad school) and how Ender's soldiers learned to work within the constraints of no real walls or boundaries, and even used the other soldiers who had been rendered unable to move, as traction. (Note: a fascinating aspect of this book not mentioned by David is how Ender and his sister become these agents of change in society, using the Internet-like communication described in the book to influence politics. They were pre-bloggers!)

He also said his was the last generation to look at their own fathers and see their future careers and in a touching evocative way described how his dad would shave and put on his white shirt and tie his tie every morning and go to work. David instead works at Starbucks, or in his basement office or on airplanes or at schools and corporations all over the world. He said we educators are preparing our students for a future we cannot describe, because the world of work is now so different.

The idea of networks and how students and young adults use their networks is another fascinating discussion he touched upon. How when he and his wife were at college on his son's first day there, that he continually kept checking his cell phone, sometimes closing it, sometimes texting something - to his friends all over the country who also were just starting college. When David went to college he said goodbye to his friends, some of whom he never saw again. His son didn't say goodbye - he took his friends along with him. (Note: I keep thinking - who's in our networks - how are we connecting - Twitter and listservs and social networks keep me rooted and allow me to ask amazing people questions and they ... answer! Teachers, of all people, need rich networks because the nature of the classroom can be isolating.)

So these adolescents and young adults are creating their networks full of tenacles and they come to school - and school chops off the tenacles. He said it's because we want the students to be who and what we want them to be, and don't accept who they really are. Whoa on that one, and wow and other things. I keep thinking of how we were told to "chunk" information - but that I found a lot of kids don't want the chunks, they want the whole thing. Tenacles cut off. I am still thinking about that one.

David also talked about how students and adults are creating material and publishing it directly from the author, sans editor or librarian. How then to create our own personal digital libraries.

Information overload was another topic - how information is competing for our attention - and what does it mean to be literate today? How to shape and reshape information? How to safely make mistakes?

He said one of the most important things we have to teach our students is how to teach themselves.

It would seem we need to model that and show them how we are teaching ourselves as well.

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