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EdTech Update





Blown away by Students 2.0

We make the mistake of thinking that the people that do well in school are the ‘smart’ ones, but that isn’t always the case. These people may just be good at retaining information and reciting it back under pressure, or may just be good at problem solving. Our schools teach these kinds of people well, because they know how to deal with them. All you need to do with these people is throw facts and figures at them and tell them they need to know them to pass, and get become qualified to get a good job... which is not even proper learning. There is no regard there for our creative ones, or even the ‘smart’ ones who can probably do so much more given the opportunity. There is no other option, no fork in the road, not even a way to have the best of both worlds. Just one path for everyone to follow, with the same goal in mind—to fit in, and become another round peg in a round hole.

The quote above comes from


Scenarios 2.0

When doing ethics workshops, one of my favorite activities is using short scenarios with a few discussion questions. As the poster above suggests, you really can "tell" people what values they ought to have, but you can help them clarify their thinking about them. Good discussions usually bring up consequences of actions and suggestions for appropriate behaviors. These work with both adults and kids. Especially kids.

My book Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age uses scenarios as its core. (The handouts for my ethics workshop have the scenarios as well.) Anyone is welcome to use them.

That being said, the book pre-dates Web 2.0 and I need to create some additional situations for discussion revolving around the read-write web. I've done the three below

  • Lisa posts photographs from recent party that involved drinking on the FlickR website along with a really funny video of kids making out on YouTube.
  • Adele “meets” Frank, who shares her interest in figure skating, on MySpace. After several conversations in the following weeks, Frank asks Adele for her home telephone number and address. Adele likes Frank and gives him the information he asked for.
  • Bob feels his teacher treated him unfairly and creates a “Kill This Teacher” blog that invites other students to submit “creative” means of harming teachers in his school.

For each I would use the following discussion starters:

  • What is the unsafe or unethical action?
  • What harm might it cause?
  • How would you counsel/guide those involved?
  • Similar incidents?
I'd love have Blue Skunk Readers suggest other scenarios, especially based on recent experiences they have encountered with students using newer tools on the Web.

My experience tells me that the scenarios that work best are:
  1. Short - not more than three to five sentences
  2. Somewhat ambiguous - no ages, for example
  3. Based on real occurrences
That's it! Give it a try. It's fun!

OK, this is a little like Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence. But it's worth a shot.


Essential skills - follow-up

A person just never knows when a post will strike a reaction from readers. Last Sunday's "Your list of essential skills?" must have an element of a good writing prompt* in it. I was awed by the wonderful responses, which far exceeded the content of the original post. I want to make sure Blue Skunk readers consider reading these posts in full.

Stephen Downes, who I consider one of the great thinkers and contrarians (this is a compliment) blogging, provided a link to a similar post he created about a year ago. He includes as an essential skill 9. How to value yourself and writes in part:

Valuing yourself is partially a matter of personal development, and partially a matter of choice. In order to value yourself, you need to feel you are worth valuing. In fact, you are worth valuing, but it often helps to prove it to yourself by attaining some objective, learning some skill, or earning some distinction. And in order to value yourself, you have to say "I am valuable."

This is an important point. How we think about ourselves is as much a matter of learning as anything else. If somebody tells you that you are worthless over and over, and if you do nothing to counteract that, then you will come to believe you are worthless, because that's how your neural connections will form. But if you repeat, and believe, and behave in such a way as to say to yourself over and over, I am valuable, then that's what you will come to believe.

Read all his post. It's outstanding.

I was reminded of quite a number of skills I left off my list. Kelly S wrote (and Ron Rivera seconded):

One thing that is not on your list that I try to teach is tolerance. Our school is very ethnically and economically diverse and as a staff we have tried to make tolerance a priority with our students. Through our actions, lessons, and resources I have added to the library, we try to find ways to celebrate our differences.

I certainly agree.

Paul at quoteflections adds: Love for nature and the environment. A sensitivity to nature will result in stewardship decisions. How could I have left that off my original list? Again, read his entire post!  (If you are not a reader of Paul's blog, you should be. His posts are brief, regular, eclectic, always thoughtful, often moving.)

MIguel Guhlin wrote a great list that includes:

Transparency - This is one that wasn't an obvious one for me, but I've come to appreciate. When I was a kid, I hated for people to read my unfinished writing (drafts), but blogging has taught me to practice transparency. If you're a screw-up, it's best that other people know what you're doing to improve that <grin>. And, share the challenges of the journey with others as much as possible. Transparency is critical in a team otherwise, people are wondering what the heck you are up to.

Since I have never screwed-up, I will have to have faith that Miguel knows what he's talking about here. Oh, Sally thinks a sense of humor is critical.

Pete Reilly came through as I anticipated. My biggest take away from his thoughtful list was:

Number 10…Gratitude.
May my children appreciate life and the world around them. The world is filled with boundless gifts and the more they appreciate these gifts, the more they will appreciate their most precious gift, themselves.

He also asks a fundamental question:

Can these be taught? I’ve learned much from spiritual teachers along the way. How did they teach? By traveling the path just a bit little in front of me…

…and helping light my way.
Several folks chided me a little for dropping "basic accounting:" Linda Fox wrote:
Today's headlines announce that the mortgage mess is just going to get worse. Basic accounting? Yeah, man! Maybe if we'd done more of that the past 20 years in schools, we wouldn't be seeing so much disaster in the housing world. OK - I know I'm dating myself here but, when I went to schools there was a required class called consumer economics. Not for nothin' but I seem to be managing my own debt etc.
Mike Curtain, from whom I got the link for the original list, created added:
Knowing where you put things- both physically and mentally:  Complexity seems to be increasing faster than our brains’ capability to manage it.  The ability to leverage tools to stay organized - both in terms of physical items, contacts, and appointments as well as ideas and facts - are invaluable.  And perhaps part of that means managing a storehouse of facts that we can quickly and easily recall - you never know when someone will name-drop “Harold Pinter” or need to know how to convert gallons to liters.  No, I’m not saying it should all be memorized and yes, it can be Googled, but we need to be able to contextualize and use that knowledge effectively.
I'm with you on this one, Mike. And his entire list is worth considering.

Janice Robertson, among others, argued for the inclusion of ...
resilience - being able to bounce back from whatever gets thrown at you... being able to get up and try again after you've failed half a dozen times... being able to think of another solution after your boss has said no that won't work to your first ten ideas... I think resilience goes a long way.
Maureen Irwin observes:
Dustin's list includes things that probably CAN be taught; yours are more inherent, but I think they, too can be learned, bit by bit, by watching the right models. With luck, all kids have teachers, parents or other adults in their lives that live these ideals. Empathy and creativity can be developed; passion is caught and nurtured.

These reactions suggest many educators are yearning for a more comprehensive set of skills or attributes be seen as important to our children. Maybe we are all burnt on the over-reliance on test scores on low-level skills. That education is about the whole child - and whole teacher.

Forgive me if I've left someone out. Oh, and the meme is open for anyone to participate in. Even Cheddar-heads.

* My best writing prompt was "Create the best excuse you can for not getting your writing assignment turned in on time." 

My favorite genie.