elitesThere has been much talk among the “EduWeb 2.0″ community questioning the value of formal schooling, particularly higher education. Will Richardson has written several blog posts on the subject.

While the democratization of knowledge and unlimited access to information are laudable goals, and perhaps approaching reality, I wonder about the role of expertise, specifically that resulting from “paying dues” in the learning process. Will culture contine to survive and civilization progress if everybody is equal and education is reduced to “looking stuff up” online?

Information access is no substitute for education.


Is this an educator endorsed expansion of anti-intellectualism?


Time Magazine’s columnist, Joel Stein, challenged some of these assumptions in a very witty article, Bring on The Elites. (I’ve waited a week for the entire column to appear online so I can share it with you). Here is a taste of Stein’s column.

Magazine editors and network executives make writers cut references and words they think most people won’t know — even though everybody has Wikipedia. We are becoming a country that believes the rich have earned their money but the well educated have not earned their intellectual superiority. This leads to a nation that idolizes Kardashians.

Antielitism is a cancer waiting to metastasize in any democracy and one that Alexis de Tocqueville worried about for the U.S.

I always get a bit queasy when I hear educators argue against education, including college opportunity, for all students. What do you think?

Last month I was interviewed by NPR (that R no longer stands for radio) about the India’s purported plans for a “$35 laptop” for education.

I was able to get in a few whacks against the visionless plan. Read my interview here

It now appears that “mine’s bigger” has been replaced with “mine’s cheaper.” The Indian announcement, like many of the “responses” to One Laptop per Child, appears to be more about a referendum on Nicholas Negroponte than improving the lives of children.

Like Negroponte or not, the entire high-tech industry swore that low-cost laptops were impossible until a handful of MIT visionaries and their friends proved them wrong.

The current line of attack seems to be, “Well that jerk wants to change the world with a $100 laptop, we will make it even cheaper.”

Nicholas Negroponte of One Laptop Per Child posted similar views here.

Incidentally, I recently celebrated my 20th anniversary of working in schools around the world where every child has a personal laptop computer.

alfie reading smallCross-posted from the Constructing Modern Knowledge site. Web2.0pians should pay special attention to his mention of  “personal learning communities.”

Educators fortunate enough to attend Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010 got to withness an amazing conversation between two of America’s most provocative and accomplished educators, Alfie Kohn and Deborah Meier (watch this site for video in the near future). Mark your calendars for a mind-blowing Constructing Modern Knowledge 2011, to be held July 11-14, 2011. Registration details will be posted here in early September.


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Alfie began his CMK 2010 remarks by reading the draft of a stunning editorial he was preparing for publication in Education Week. The article, Turning Children Into Data: A Skeptic’s Guide to Assessment Programs, is a must read for any educator, parent or policy-maker who cares about children. Ken Bernstein also blogged about this article in The Daily Kos.

Kohn’s article begins with:

Programs with generic-sounding names that offer techniques for measuring (and raising) student achievement have been sprouting like fungi in a rainforest: “Learning-Focused Schools,” “Curriculum-Based Measurements,” “Professional Learning Communities,” and many others whose names include “data,” “progress,” or “RTI.” Perhaps you’ve seen their ads in periodicals like this one. Perhaps you’ve pondered the fact that they can afford these ads, presumably because of how much money they’ve already collected from struggling school districts

and then continues to list six questions that need to be asked…

  1. What is its basic conception of assessment?
  2. What is its goal?
  3. Does it reduce everything to numbers?
  4. Is it about “doing to” or “working with”?
  5. Is its priority to support kids’ interest?
  6. Does it avoid excessive assessment?

As always, Alfie supports his arguments with research-based evidence and common sense. Given the load of horse manure recently published by John Merrow and echoed by Grant Wiggins in a shocking display of contempt for teachers, Alfie Kohn’s column could not have come at a better time. Please share it widely.

Perhaps you’d like to leave a few copies around at Back-to-School Night along with his small book, The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools.

Share your comments below!

Alfie Kohn & Deborah Meier at CMK 2010

Alfie Kohn & Deborah Meier at CMK 2010

I realise that this is late notice, but I will be leading a seminar, The Best Educational Ideas in the World: Adventures on the Frontiers of Learning, 13 September 2010 in the Lecture Theatre at The University of Melbourne’s Trinity College. The seminar will be from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM and costs just $50 (US) ($58 AU). Regrettably, my registration system won’t handle Australian currency.

The seminar is intended for all P-12 teachers, tech directors, computing teachers, university students, parents and administrators.

You may register online here. Please pass this information along to colleagues & friends!!

A poster may be downloaded here.

Maps and location information may be found here.

The Best Educational Ideas in the World: Adventures on the Frontiers of Learning

Contemporary discussions of school improvement focus on the creation of obedience schools for poor children or utopian governance schemes. Neither approach does much to amplify the natural curiosity, expertise, creativity, passion, competence or capacity for intensity found in each child. A leading educator serves as your tour guide for a global exploration of powerful ideas and exemplary teaching practices.

The artificial boundaries between art and science are blurred as children engage in authentic activities with real materials, create sophisticated artifacts of personal and aesthetic value and become connected to ideas larger than themselves. Collegiality, purpose, apprenticeship, complexity, serendipity and “sharaeability” are a few of the common values. Each approach either requires digital technology or may be dramatically enhanced by it. Lessons learned en-route our tour create productive contexts for learning in which students construct the knowledge required for a rewarding life. An ample Q&A session will follow the presentation.

Stops along our tour may include:

  • Personal fabrication
  • Reggio Emilia
  • Constructionism
  • El Sistema
  • 826 Valencia
  • Generation YES
  • One Laptop Per Child
  • and even reality television!

About Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.
Since 1982, Gary Stager, an internationally recognized educator, speaker and consultant, has helped learners of all ages on six continents embrace the power of computers as intellectual laboratories and vehicles for self-expression. He led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools (1990), has designed online graduate school programs since the mid-90s, is a collaborator in the MIT Media Lab’s Future of Learning Group and a member of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s Learning Team. Mr. Stager’s doctoral research involved the creation a high-tech alternative learning environment for incarcerated at-risk teens. Recent work includes teaching and mentoring some of Australia’s “most troubled” public schools. Gary was Senior Editor of District Administration Magazine and Founding Editor of The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate. He is currently Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University, an Associate of the Thornburg Center for Professional Development and the Executive Director of The Constructivist Consortium. In 1999, Converge Magazine named Gary a “shaper of our future and inventor of our destiny.” The National School Boards Association recognized Dr. Stager with the distinction of “20 Leaders to Watch” in 2007. The June 2010 issue of Tech & Learning Magazine named Gary Stager as “one of today’s leaders who are changing the landscape of edtech through innovation and leadership.”

Dr. Stager was a keynote speaker at the 2009 National Educational Computing Conference before an audience of more than 4,000 educators. He was also a Visiting Scholar at The University of Melbourne’s Trinity College during the summer of 2009.

Recently, Gary was the new media producer for The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project – Simpatíco, 2007 Grammy Award Winner for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year. Dr. Stager is also a contributor to The Huffington Post.

Register online here!

chrislehmann200So, in my mission to change the world, I search for opportunities to preach to the unconverted. That’s why I’m prevailing upon friends, colleagues and complete strangers and begging them to vote for my session at next year’s South-by-Southwest Conference (SXSW). (Read the description of my session, The Best Education Ideas in the World, here) Here are the instructions for voting.

While you’re there, you might consider voting for my tricky little pal, Chris Lehmann’s session at SXSW. He and I share common values and several honors. He’s an excellent urban high school principal who is walking-the-walk 24/7. Vote here for Chris’ session, Building School 2.0 – Creating the Schools We Need. But don’t forget to vote for me too!

The voting deadline is August 25th, so act today!

At the 2007 EuroLogo Conference in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, UC Berkeley Computer Science faculty member, Dr. Brian Harvey made a stunning presentation entitled, “How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids.”

How Not to Use Computers to Teach Kids from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

Anyone interested in the use of computers in education should watch this meticulous chronicle of a typical classroom “project,” complete with missteps, trivial computer use and questionable teaching.

Brian is no opponent of computer-use in school. In fact, he has written four of the best computer science texts for young people ever AND has been a leader in the movement to teach children programming since the 1970s. He also created the free and open-source UCB Logo (Mac/PC/Linux) which is the basis for MSW Logo.

You may also download PDF and HTML versions of Brian’s fantastic three-book series, Computer Science Logo-Style, texts. A free version of Brian Harvey and Matthew Wright’s Simply Scheme: Introducing Computer Science, is also available.

Lately, Brian has been excited about Scratch, a new drag-and-drop programming language for kids from MIT. He has also been working with Jens Mönig on BYOB 3, an extended version