Joanna, Chris, Jason, Sam and I took a fantastic voyage to Chicago last week. After four of us sat still for four hours on I-94 outside Michigan City, Indiana (Chris, the smarty, took the train), we had a late-night meal in a faux English pub and got up early Friday morning to hear a gent called Alan November talk about the future of education.
I had seen Alan nearly twenty years ago in San Francisco when I was teaching at the Urban School there. He was talking about the future of education then, too, and much of what he predicted has indeed come to pass. He asked us in 1995 to envision a future in which each of our students has a screen, and we could see what was on every screen, and we could post one of the screens up in front of the room and discuss what was on it . . . . . in other words, exactly how we do much of our work today.
In Chicago, Alan talked about the fundamental shift that technology has wrought. He argued that the revolution was not in the devices, the toys of technological innovation, but in the nature of information. He contends that good teachers no longer pre-select information for their students. Rather, we orient them toward good questions, urge them to consider multiple perspectives, train them in finding worthy information, and push them to explore questions thoroughly and responsibly.
The SK contingent was proud to consider that many of these radical re-imaginings of education were already well in process at our little school. We also came away newly familiar with many fantastic tools for using technology and for helping our kids navigate this brave new world.
Alan pointed out, memorably, that 'Google does not speak English'. Coincidentally, the website Lifehacker recently posted a thread called 'The Most Useful Life Skills', one of which was 'Search Google Like a Pro'. We'll be training soon so that we can all make better and more efficient use of search engines. Everyone thinks they know how to search. If you do it inadequately, the internet doesn't break. But there are incredible depths to what's possible that we haven't yet plumbed.
Here's a link to the Lifehacker article. The Google item is in the comment section.
We also learned about sites called Diigo, Prism, Pollev, Kaizena and others. We'll be busy reviewing these over the coming weeks, and deciding which is most useful, and in what forms.