On June 26th, The Constructivist Consortium hosted the Fifth Annual Constructivist Celebration prior to the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia. In addition to multiple meals, participants enjoyed a day of creativity, collaboration and computing thanks to software and project-based support from representatives of Tech4Learning, LCSI and Generation YES.

The day culminated with a 37-minute conversation between Will Richardson and myself. I am most grateful to Will for his generosity and participation!

Here is video of the conversation. Regrettably, the first few seconds of the conversation were not captured.

A Conversation with Will Richardson from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

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I’ll be in Philadelphia from June 26-30th for the annual ISTE (formerly NECC) Conference. I have presented at all but one of these conferences since 1987 (also in Philadelphia). Over those 24 conferences, I’ve presented somewhere between 50 and 75 presentations and workshops. Being part of the keynote event at the 2009 NECC remains one of the highlights of my career.

Many of you know that I have been critical of the ISTE Conference program over the years and find the exhibit hall to be a vulgar distraction, but I would not miss it for anything. Why? Because I have dedicated 29 years of my life to using computers in ways that amplify the human potential of each child and this conference is the largest event in the field I love

ISTE is always an exhausting whirlwind. Please stop by one of the following sessions and say, “hi!”

The 5th Annual Constructivist Celebration

June 26, 2011 – 8:30 – 3:30 PM

Maggiano’s Little Italy
For the fifth consecutive year, this day-long workshop combines fun, creativity and computing. For a very reasonable $60, you will receive free creativity software worth hundreds of dollars from the world’s best school software companies, breakfast, snacks and lunch, and a full-day workshop led by Gary Stager and other members of the Constructivist Consortium. It’s always a sell-out, but right now there are still a few spaces left to join in the fun, so register today – you won’t regret it!

At the end of the day, Sylvia Martinez of Generation YES moderate a conversation between Will Richardson (author and king of  the edubloggers) and Gary Stager on “Digging Deeper” which is sure to be fun and thought-provoking.

SPOTLIGHT:  The Best Educational Ideas in the World: High-Tech Learning Adventures

Tuesday, 6/28/2011, 2:00pm–3:00pm     PACC 103BC
Gary Stager, The Constructivist Consortium
Join us on a tour of the best education ideas in the world! Lessons learned en route create the productive knowledge construction contexts required for a rewarding life. This presentation is a sneak peek at a forthcoming book from Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

The Fix Is In: Social Mobilization and School Reform (Model lesson)

Wednesday, 6/29/2011, 10:15am–11:15am       PACC 119B
Carl Anderson, East Metro Integration District 6067 with Scott Schwister and Gary Stager
Citizen journalism is a growing phenomena empowered by Web 2.0 technologies. Learn how to use it in your classroom to empower students.

SPOTLIGHT:  LOL@ISTE: Unlocking Your Potential to Laugh

Wednesday, 6/29/2011, 11:45am–12:45pm   PACC 201BC
Saul Rockman, Michael Jay, Roger Wagner and Gary Stager
The usual collection of punsters, jokesters, storytellers, and really terrible singers strives to explain why technology is so important in education and life.  Recommended by ISTE’s SIGGS

SIGTC Forum: So You Want an iPad? K-20 Implications and Integration

Tuesday, 6/28/2011, 10:30am–12:30pm PACC 103A

Camilla Gagliolo, Arlington Public Schools, and Craig Nansen, Minot Public Schools and Gary Stager will speak. Recommended by ISTE’s SIGTC

This PDF contains a schedule of sessions addressing creativity and computing by friends of The Constructivist Consortium.

A kinder gentler version of this article will be published in a forthcoming issue of The Creative Educator Magazine.

Once upon a time, an enthusiastic creative teacher much like yourself used ye olde Visa card to buy a personal computer for her classroom. Back in ye days of Reagan, that teacher was excited by how the computer could be used by children to learn and make things never before imagined. The leaders of the village became so excited by what they saw in that pioneering classroom that they pooled their treasure to buy a dozen personal computers.

The elders of the village wondered what to do with these new computers since there weren’t enough to put one in each classroom and few teachers shared the enthusiasm of the early adopter. Thus a decision was made to gather all of the school’s computers in a cave guarded by a computer teacher. A schedule would be carefully made to ensure that every student got to visit the cave at least once per season and the guard was given a curriculum for what to cover during those visits. As the number of computers increased the goals for what children did with them seemed be lowered. No longer did “computer literacy” mean that every child should have the expertise required to program the computer, but that they would be able to bookmark a web page or identify the mouse in a standardized “tech literacy” test. In 2010, schools have actually erected iPod labs so that students get to see such a new-fangled device, are taught to use it during iPod lessons and undoubtedly tested – resulting in some students failing iPod.

The moral of that tale is that the computer lab is a historical accident that need not be preserved in amber. If you happen to be your school’s computer teacher, you might consider the following pieces of advice for bringing greater benefit to students.

From Pics4learning.com

Ask yourself each day, “What if what kids did with computers was good?”
Don’t be surprised when kids do extraordinary things. Be surprised when adults are surprised. I expect that children can use computers in deeper more thoughtful ways than school traditionally asks of them. Cute may be a subset of “good,” but is a poor substitute.

Remember that quality work takes time
The average American student touches a computer for less than an hour per week at school. That’s obviously insufficient for any serious learning or creativity to result. Why not adjust the computer lab schedule to make it as open and flexible as a library? If students can come use a computer whenever they need to for as long as necessary, they’ll learn more, the computers will be used to greater benefit and the school will take an important step towards learner-centered school reform.

Shun ‘software du Jour’
Lots of teachers make the mistake of confusing quantity with quality. When you make kids jump from one software application to another you deprive them of any opportunity to develop fluency and reduce the odds they will learn or create something of substance. Afford kids the chance to become good at something. There are countless ways to draw a picture on the computer. You don’t need to teach every one of them.

Avoid false complexity
Memorizing menu options in Microsoft Office is a parlor trick that’s easily tested and has little to do with learning.

Stop using computer time for non-computing activities
Curricular concoctions like “keyboarding” are a waste of scarce computing resources and of questionable value. Digital citizenship and assessing information literacy should be part of the broader curriculum, taught by all, and doesn’t need to tie up your computers.

If a kid is breathing, she has probably surpassed the NETs
The ISTE NETs standards are unimaginative and technocentric. Declare that every child has satisfied them and move on.

Do the real thing
If you are thinking about teaching “digital storytelling,” try teaching writing or filmmaking. Those are serious disciplines with 100 to 1,000 years of tradition and wisdom behind them. Digital storytelling is something invented to fit within a class period. Burping into Voicethread is not storytelling. Kids are capable of engaging in serious filmmaking and writing, but only if we respect the artists who preceded us and commit to the entire writing process, regardless of the medium.

Aspire beyond mash-ups and remixes
If you look hard enough you may find a collage here and there in the world’s great art museums, but in most cases collage is the result of gluing magazine photos to construction paper. Mash-ups and remixes seem like new forms of collage to me. Of course you may reinterpret new ideas or stand on the shoulders of giants, but only en-route to the expression of a higher personal aesthetic.

Stop integrating someone else’s curriculum
It is not your job to invent dopey 37-minute Columbus Day computer activities. You’re enabling your colleagues to continue avoiding computers for a fourth decade. If kids develop computing competence and fluency with you, they will know how to integrate those skills into other subjects.

Not with my computers you don’t!
We are beginning to see movement towards using school computers for standardized testing and test-prep. This will reduce the quality and quantity of creative ways in which computers may be used to construct knowledge while giving a public the false sense of modernity and making school less relevant for children. It’s time to standup and say, “Not with my computers you don’t!”

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Photo credit:
Carey, Chris. ocps008.jpg. . Pics4Learning. 7 Dec 2010 <http://pics.tech4learning.com>

I go back a long way with Generation YES, I used to read Dennis Harper‘s articles in The International Logo Exchange journal back in the 1980s before he contributed articles when I became Editor of Logo Exchange in the early 1990s. He brought microcomputers to schools in dozens of developing countries, had taught all over the world and was one of the earliest promoters of microcomputers in education

While Dennis was leaving his last school district position and transitioning the successful Federal Challenge Grant, Generation WHY, into a company, Generation YES, I suggested that he hire my partner Sylvia Martinez to help make the trains run on time. Sylvia is now the President of Generation YES.

Since that time I have worked on various projects with Generation YES, including a science and technology improvement project in Brooklyn, NY and as one of the designers of TechYES, the ground-breaking peer-to-peer technology literacy certification program.


While giant testing companies sell multiple-choice tests challenging students to identify the parts of a computer – cassette drive, floppy disk, dot-matrix printer – as a way to satisfy the NCLB 8th grade tech literacy requirement and ISTE standards, TechYES starts from the premise that children are competent and can demonstrate their technological fluency through the creation of personallly meaningful projects that impress their peer mentors.

There are very few companies outside of the members of The Contructivist Consortium committed to student empowerment, creativity, collaboration and computing. It is much easier to sell products that do things to students, rather than amplify their voice and  potential. Generation YES is the rare exception.

I recently found a VHS tape about Generation WHY that includes a stunning appearance by my friend, colleague and mentor Dr. Seymour Papert, saying some very flattering things about what is now known as Generation YES and their educational approach to 21st Century student empowerment, leadership and service.

The short video clip below is well worth watching. You might even take a look at Generation YES and TechYES.

Incidentally, the host of the 1998 video (below) is now serving in the Peace Corps in Africa.

Seymour Papert on Generation YES and Kid Power from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

Related articles by Dr. Seymour Papert

I finally got around to making my contribution to the NECC 2009 Keynote Debate available without viewers having to wade through two hours of video.

Gary Stager Excerpts from NECC ’09 Keynote Debate from Gary Stager on Vimeo.

Read  a transcript of the keynote address and my reflections on the event, Recipe for a Disruptive Keynote.