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 with higher order functions,* to support an undergraduate-level introductory computer science course, and on establishing such a course at Berkeley.


Please vote for my session, The Best Educational Ideas in the World, to be included in the South-by-Southwest Conference! I need LOTS of votes!


Constructionism 2010 logoWow! What a week. I’ve taught in Tampa, Seoul and after 25,000 miles, I am now in Paris to be a plenary speaker at the Constructionism 2010 Conference.

It is such an honor to be invited to speak at a conference featuring some of the smartest people in the world and pioneers in thinking about thinking and learning with computers. Two of Logo’s three inventors, Cynthia Solomon and Wally Feurzig, are here. Seymour Papert‘s influence is ubiquitous and in many ways, the conference is a celebration of Papert’s ideas, work, friendship and leadership.

There is a lot of talk these days about personal learning networks and learning communities, but this is a true learning community featuring experts who have been evolving ideas for as long as 40+ years and newbiews. There is serious expertise here! The conference attendees range from 20ish to 80+ years old. In the spirit of Papert’s Samba School metaphor, we get to spend the next five days “dancing together.”

My paper, A Constructionist Approach to Teaching with Robotics, sounds overly dry and specific, but I hope some of you will take a few minutes to read it since robotics is a metaphor for rethinking the nature of teaching and learning. I even briefly explored the severe weakness of what Apple is now promoting as Challenge-based Learning.

I hope to upload some of the slides I’ve created to supplement the presentation at a later time.


Please vote for my session, The Best Educational Ideas in the World, to be included in the South-by-Southwest Conference! I need LOTS of votes!


istock_000011751237xsmallDear Friends,

I could really use your help!

You know how passionate I am about making schools better places for children. That’s why I have submitted a proposal to speak at the 2011 South-by-Southwest Conference. This conference could afford me with a great platform for educating the creative community about the current political threats to public education, and more importantly offer a constructive, creative and uplifting message illustrating alternative approaches that build upon each child’s remarkable capacity for intensity.

That is why I submitted the proposal, The Best Educational Ideas in the World. (Find the session description below and on the voting site.)

In order for me to be invited to speak at South-by-Southwest, (SXSW), I need for you and your colleagues, friends, relatives and students to spend a few minutes voting for my session. I apologize for how clumsy the web site is. That’s why I’ve included the following step-by-step instructions below:

  1. Go to: http://bit.ly/cxq78J
  2. Follow the instructions for creating an account
  3. An email will be sent to you containing a link to click that will return you to the voting site
  4. Click the link in the email
  5. Login using the email address and password you just created
  6. Click on the Explore the Interactive Proposals » link (http://bit.ly/bk31Hl)
  7. Type Stager into the Organizer field
  8. Click the SEARCH PANELS button
  9. My session, The Best Educational Ideas in the World, should appear
  10. Click the icon of the THUMBS UP to vote for my session.
  11. If you wish, click on the title of the session, scroll to the bottom of the page and leave a message of support. Every bit helps!

I am really grateful to each and every one of you who takes the time to follow the steps outlined above and votes for my session. Reaching multiple and varied audiences is the most effective way I can influence public opinion and help kids.

Unfortunately, this IS a popularity contest. That’s why I need your assistance.

All the very best,

Gary


The Best Educational Ideas in the World

Contemporary discussions of school reform focus on the creation of obedience schools for poor children or utopian governance schemes, such as charter schools. 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 practices. Stops on the tour include personal fabrication; Reggio Emilia; El Sistema; Generation YES; One Laptop Per Child; a juvenile prison; 826 Valencia and more.

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.

Alternative models of school reform in which we treat other people’s students as our own will emerge. The common principles identified in some of the world’s most creative educational practices serve as lessons for parents, teachers and policy-makers eager to help children realize their full potential.

Questions answered during the presentation:
1.    How can we create learning environments that build upon children’s capacity for intensity?
2.    Are there humane creative models of school reform based on principles of social justice where students do extraordinary things?
3.    How are disparate ideas like El Sistema, Reggio Emilia, personal fabrication, alternative prison education and One Laptop Per Child similar and offer new models for education reform?
4.    Is learning natural and are children competent? Why do so many adults think that the answer is, “no?”
5.    How can early childhood approaches be applied at the secondary level and the arts inform approaches to science?