David Warlick’s most recent blog and the congratulatory support of his readers confuses me.

Let me begin by sharing a portion of his article with which I agree:

Our efforts should not be to integrate technology into the classroom, but to define and facilitate a new platform on which the classroom operates. When the platform is confined by classroom walls, and learning experiences spring from static textbooks and labored-over white boards, and the learning is highly prescribed, then pedagogy is required.

However, I am left to ask, “What do learners DO in the world of pretty diagrams, false dichotomies and networked learning platforms promised in Warlick’s blog?”

However, if the platform is a node on the global network; with text, audio, and video links to other uncountable nodes on the network; and the connections are real time and clickable, and tools are available to work and employ the content that flows through those connections; then the learning happens because learners have experienced personal connections — and they want to maintain those connections by feeding back their own value. (Warlick 1/13/08)

I don’t teach from textbooks or white boards and never did. My teaching has been far from prescriptive, whether face-to-face or online. This was all possible without the technology platform Warlick fashions for educators of the future. Understanding how meaningful, personal, non-coercive, creative, constructive, collaborative learning environments have been created, and in some cases sustained, around the world should be a pre-requisite for anyone professing a desire to reinvent education.

I love talking, chatting, Skyping, Twittering, blogging, Mogging (yup, it exists) and writing as much as the next guy, but a very small percentage of knowledge is constructed by talking. Much is not. I remain unconvinced that the most vocal proponents of Web 2.0 offer a vision of technology use outside of the language arts or perhaps social studies curriculum. With all due respect, talking about math or science is not the same as being a scientist or mathematician. Papert originally offered a vision of how computers make that possibility a reality.

Learning is an active process with the learner at its center. It is not dependent on instruction, online or face-to-face. I got excited about computing thirty years ago because it allowed me to make things that did not exist before or were beyond my reach. It amplified my creative abilities. Playing jazz and computer programming afforded me a community of practice of like-minded people, of various levels of expertise and shared objectives.

I have since come to understand how knowledge is the result of active purposeful construction and that computers often unprecedented opportunities to explore new domains and engage in a much wider range of projects than have ever been possible before. As Papert says, “If you can make things with computers, then you can make a lot more interesting things.” The process of computer programming was as creatively rewarding and intellectually satisfying as composing music or engaging in a well-reasoned argument. What are examples of the “artifacts of learning” that Mr. Warlick “breeds?”

I fear with all my being that the remarkable potential of computing and the promise for innovation and school reform it once embraced will be lost if all we focus on is the “well-reasoned debate” at best, and looking stuff up, PowerPoint or web quests at worst.

I do not mean to diminish for an instant the power of the Internet. I have personally been online since 1983 and teaching online for more than a dozen years. I used an acoustic coupler to connect from my bedroom to a mainframe in the late 1970s and remember when my Australian host invited her neighbors over to watch me check my email in 1990. I led collaborative online education projects in the late 1980s. As I write this paragraph, even I ask myself, “SO WHAT?”

The network begins at home. Isn’t there MUCH more we can do to make the existing learning environments more social, collaborative and meaningful whether electricity is involved or not? Why do we constantly jump from melodramatic tales of school to some utopian world of online alchemy?

It may be ill-advised to project onto children or the educational system an adult’s excitement about how social networks have reduced their sense of isolation, answered a tech-support question or even helped shape their personal identity.

I sense that we have gone beyond the tipping point of what Seymour Papert calls “verbal inflation.” We are terribly excited about so very little.

David’s triad of “electronic portfolios,” “course management systems” and “social networking” offers not a single clue for a teacher yearning to make school a more hospitable place for learning nor provides a child one ounce of leverage against the system many of you proclaim a desire to reform. In fact, electronic portfolios and course management systems are clear tools of the existing system.

I do happen to agree with David Warlick’s concern about the cacophony of meaningless euphemisms being bandied about, but cannot help but notice the number of additional ones introduced in the comments to his blog.

Last night, around 4 AM, I was awake in a Canadian hotel room and watched my first episode of some show called, Veronica Mars. Canadian TV kept running interstitials announcing that really naughty stuff could appear at any moment. That was the only reason I endured the entire episode. Alas, it was a lie.

I consider myself somewhat literate and perceptive, but after investing an hour in the program I have no idea what it was about or who the characters were supposed to be. Are they cops? Baby-sitters? Spies? Midgets? (I know that’s politically incorrect)

Perhaps one of my colleagues in the blogosphere is down with Veronica Mars (and all things youth culture) and can explain it to me.

I learned about this controversy from Susan Ohanian’s web site, quoting the Washington Post.

Superintendent Porter is of course innocent until proven guilty and fighting the allegations against him.

Here is John Q. Porter endorsing COSN. Porter is also on the Board of Directors of COSN

Mr. Porter is also an advisor to ISTE and The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. He was a recent speaker at a conference sponsored by SIIA.

Here is a link to the profile of John Q. Porter that was published in District Administration in 2006.

Here is Mr. Porter’s January 7th public response to the allegations against him.

I am a lifelong Democrat and will support the eventual nominee. I like Obama a lot. I just think that Americans should know what he believes and what he would do if elected. I have long worked for minority candidates and underdogs. I was 1 percent of Jesse Jackson’s vote in 1984 in my hometown and supported Geraldine Ferraro and Jane Harmon. It would be fantastic for an African American to be President of the United States.

However, the similarities between George W. Bush and Obama scare me.

Both had Ivy League educations, put on fake southern accents, go with their “gut” feelings over facts, dismiss experience and have never done anything before.

Both President Bush and Senator Obama have campaigned as “Uniters.” Haven’t we learned that lesson?

I’m not looking forward to 4-8 years of amateurs and staff running the country.

This all plays into the Andrew Keen stuff about the cult of the amateur and extends the growing anti-intellectualism in our culture.

The system is indeed broken when one junior high school popularity contest causes people with a lifetime of expertise to drop out before a vote is cast. Biden, Richardson, Dodd, Clinton and even Kucinich have a record of accomplishments that Obama does not share.

If Barack Obama happens to win the his party’s nomination and takes the White House it is the result of Howard Dean’s leadership as party chair and first candidate to to use the social aspects of the Web successfully for organizational purposes and to excite young voters.

In 2004, Howard Dean tapped into the anger over the war in Iraq and contempt of the Constitution displayed by the Bush Administration. He said that NCLB was a disaster. He was right on many of these issues and more. He revolutionized online fundraising and introduced the political world to blogs and Meetup.com.

After being destroyed by an open mic and a giddy mainstream media, Governor Dean became Chair of the Democratic National Committee. This represented the first time that the party leaned left and moved away from the Democratic Leadership wing of the party led so successfully by the Clintons.

When Dean became party chair, he promised to have the Democratic party compete in all 50 states for the first time in generations. I seem to remember that the old guard of the party thought that was a terrible idea. The party has gone on to build an effective grass-roots machine all across America.

Obama is now taking advantage of Howard Dean’s vision, contempt for the Clintons and brilliant organizational talents. I just wish Obama had Dean’s courage and willingness to address policy with specificity.

If you are not a member of a political party, because you are too lazy or cowardly to commit, at least for one election, stay home.

I switched parties for one election, in order to participate in a primary. It took a few minutes in both directions. I made the effort and played by the rules.

Primaries are not run by America, they are run by the political parties for their members. I’m sick of “independents” creating mischief in the election when they didn’t make the effort to join a party.

Independents should stay home and watch Matlock reruns until next November!

In commemoration of its 25th Anniversary, PC Magazine has published an article, “The Next 25 Years in Tech.”

They asked

14 industry leaders and PC Mag staffers [what they] see in store for the next 25 [years].

Given the leaders selected, one might conclude that in the future there will only be white males.

I just watched the Republican Presidential candidates yuck it up about the healthcare disaster in this country. There was no discussion of the marketing costs or bureaucratic excess or greed causing 47 million men, women and children from being uninsured or underinsured. Mitt Romney thinks Americans lack health insurance because of personal irresponsibility and greed.

Moderator, Charlie Gibson, asked, “Why we are the only industrialized country that does not insure all of its citizens?” The G.O.P. candidates all blurted out in unison,

“How come everybody from around the world comes here when they need medical care?”

That canard is a big stinkin’ shameless LIE. I’ve never seen any data suggesting that foreigners are beating down the doors of our hospitals, but even if they are, it is only rich people who can afford to travel to America for medical care. (Given our increasingly inhospitable immigration policies, I doubt many sick people, even rich ones, are coming to the USA for treatment).

We need a system that protects the health of all Americans, not just wealthy ones.

Wesley Fryer shared information about a new contest for teachers and kids sponsored by The National Geographic on his blog, Encourage Hands-on Science Inquiry! Winners get a trip to Australia, my second home.

Cool, right?

Not so fast!

I read Wes’ post and then the National Geographic site. I have no idea what sort of “experiment” or “exploration” a kid might do to win this contest. I know of few teachers who can do justice to the spirit of the subject matter.

Perhaps the contest is really just a sweepstakes or a lottery.

The first rule of project-based or problem-based learning is that the learner must have a reasonable chance of getting their head around solving the problem, or taking a reasonable swipe at solving the problem. We frequently fail by asking students to solve problems too adult, abstract or large for them to tackle. The other common mistake is posing a problem that is overly vague. The National Geographic contest offers no clues for what a kid might do. This invariably advantages kids whose parents or teachers direct the activity.

How many teachers know what hands-on geography is? How many kids can figure this out alone? What has National Geographic done to help?

Is hands-on science/geography merely collecting stuff? Is it experimental? How does collecting American flora or fauna connect to “understanding” Australia?

If one of my graduate students authored this challenge, they would be at serious risk of failure.

Oh yeah, be sure to wash your hands with hand sanitizer. (That’s one of the few details offered by The National Geographic)