Tuesday, February 1, 2011


my lengthy response to Will Richardson's: The New Story (?)

the story we currently see.

the web is allowing personalization in public school. 
personalization has always existed. but on a wide scale, it generally exists within some homeschooler/unschoolers, charters, private schools. where the numbers are down. the key to personalization is, well, personalization.
when Gates talks like this, it riles me, innovation can't happen in public ed, whatever. but generally speaking, it's true. i could go on.. i mean, innovation is learning, learning is innovation, hard for me to see a person learning without seeing them innovate. so basically, we're accepting that learning can't happen in public ed. which is fine to accept that, because it often does not happen there. but dang. we're publicly declaring that we can't learn in public school. that is way more ridiculous than thinking a kid could learn how to learn through studying soccer.
we now can connect to people and info we've never been able to connect to before, allowing anyone with web access the potential to learn whatever they want, whenever, however, whereever and from/with whomever - they choose.
sounds very messy. and from our experience, it is very messy. not so much from the managerial end, but from the mindset end. getting ourselves to believe, we really can learn whatever we want.
from the managerial sense, we have the means to make it not so messy. if we could trust tech to do what it wants to do. if we could trust tech to be more to us than a phone line or expensive paper. if we could trust the web to be a web.

personalization begs redefinition of success, per an individual and their community
we now can choose/write our own success story. one reason we're not moving toward authentic personalization is most of us still assume this universal standard. if you'll notice, most often when people talk change, the part where they bring up a standard, is stated in such a matter of fact, un-debatable way, and usually at the end, or as a sublte aside. it's a given very few challenge. (ie: within great stories of success toward personalization sentences end with, and we held our own on the tests, etc) this subtle mindset is what's keeping us from the very change we seek. each time we say that, we reinforce a standard of measure. the very standard of measure we are trying to redefine.
growing up, for some reason, one value embedded in me was that if i was calling judgment on someone, that very issue was like a top issue i was struggling with myself. this taught me, even before my transformed mindset from reading Carold Dweck's Mindset, to be ever so curious about things that ticked me off or got me riled. they made me look within and wonder - what could i learn about my shortcomings from what i was calling out in others.
i see that value especially important here. most talk on edreform (or whatever you call it) involves standardization and standardized testing. it's so easy now, to call out the tests, the standards, etc, as the culprit. yet - when given the chance, most everyone's reform, involves a fixed standard or agenda, that isn't universal. if we've experienced some type/form of learning, it's hard for us to not think everyone needs it. it's hard for us to let go of the teaching, the control. it's hard for us to believe that learning is natural. (disclaimer - for many, learning is not currently natural. many need detox and time and permission to get back to that natural state. most of us are afraid of the time that detox takes. most of us are afraid of the appearance of non-productivity that we need in order to be. however, if we don't start there, if we don't take that time, we are no different than before, we are not personalizing, we're just differentiating better.)

the story is that it's your story
how beautiful is that. what tech wants is for us for us to be us. to take a deep breath. to chill out. to focus on learning. notice the unlikely, dream boldly, connect to people and info, do what matters most. to learn about what we care about. to follow our fancy. to notice and mingle with people.
statements like that make people uneasy. it sounds so uneducated. but again, how educated does it sound when we declare innovation can't happen in public school. do we really think we're on a better track to curing cancer without innovation?
so how does innovation (again, call it what you want, what we're meaning here is that connection that was never made before that now provides something useful) happen? we believe it happens best when there is no incentive other than that which comes from within. we fear un-productivity, we fear laziness. what if we redefine lazy as lack of hunger. what if we focus on helping people find what they are hungry for. Daniel Coyle refers to a deep practice, that strengthens and grows myelin sheath in the brain. but not only that it would grow at a faster rate, and not only that it would sustain, but it would thrive. doing what you do because you can't not. doing what you do no matter the reward, no matter if anyone is watching, applauding you on. interesting for us to find stability at the core of change and the neurobiology of passion.
we believe choice is the ultimate empowerment. if the learner owns the learning, no one can match that. individuals become indispensable. communities become indispensable.

so what if our message to parents/community - is that -
it's your life/school - design it. we are here to facilitate that.

spaces need to become fluid, malleable like the web IDEO: the new workplace, fluid, disruptive, 24/7
these spaces need permission to learn. period. no agenda.