A younger educator—well-known and enthusiastic—wrote a post with some points in it that just really rubbed me the wrong way. This educator was absolutely well-intentioned but there were errors in the definitions and in the representation of educational pedagogies of previous recent decades.
What did I do?
I reacted. I wrote a relatively polite, yet pointed, reply. I corrected the errors in his thinking and gave some references and history. I expressed that I was offended.
He wrote me personally and expressed his sadness at offending me and told me how much he respected my opinions and told me he was very sorry and that he meant no offence.
He took his post down.
It gave me pause to reflect on my behaviour.
I was angry. I was upset. I was annoyed by his incorrect claims regarding all the efforts and passion many of us poured into the education sphere in those previous decades that he was inadvertently criticizing. But, he did it out of a lack of information—it was not ill-intentioned.
He made the post from his reference point. My reference point is different. I am older. I have a different lived experience. He is speaking from his lived experience.
As an educator, I should have handled things differently. As just my old regular self, I reacted and hurt this young, enthusiastic educator. My ego and my ‘self’ got in the way of a more measured and appropriate response.
A good teacher wouldn’t make another learner feel foolish. I did that today.
I was a bad teacher.
And I apologize for that. And, I will learn from that.
I think of my dear, recently departed mentor—Jim Milligan—as I write this.
He would understand me and forgive me my error.
I hope this young educator will as well.
The terms ‘deep learning’ and ‘deeper learning’ are de rigueur these days.
Watch the video for some clarification! 🙂
- Deep learning is a term that has morphed over the years.
- One of the main aspects of deeper learning is that of transfer…perhaps of a ‘mental model’ to another scenario (to another domain for example)
- The idea of near transfer and far transfer have been around for a long time
- Design environments to cultivate deeper learning.
- I set up an online, collaborative, journal writing environment for students—actually back in the late 80s 😉
- Each, and every, student has a responsibility to ‘kick it up a notch’ for themselves and for others
- Metaphoria is a game I play with kids that helps them to create mental models with which to think
- Make transfer explicit for your students
- “Specialization is for insects.” We have segregated subjects into ‘subject areas’. This is a human invention. The problems of the world today require an integrated, holistic solution.
The video is from the learning exchange—a site of the Student Achievement Division of the Ontario Ministry of Education. It was recorded at The Quest 2016 conference – Deep Learning in a Digital World.
I’m wondering why teachers use technology in the classroom…
Here are some of my reasons for using technology. Get more context by watching the video!
- I love the notion of ‘cognitive residue’.
- As learners, we are in the business of ‘building our own minds’.
- We, as teachers, are in the business of helping kids to ‘build their own minds’.
- Tools do shape behaviour.
- We see that tools allow us to play ‘what if’…because of the affordances of the technology.
- What is the difference between ‘effects with’ and ‘effects of’ computers. Kids may be better writers while using a computer. Are they better writers after ‘having used’ a computer?
- Technologies should provide ‘mental models with which to think’.
- It’s good for teachers to have a plan…but sometimes your plan can limit what you do.
- Both teachers and students need to be passionate about what they are learning.
The video is from the learning exchange—a site of the Student Achievement Division of the Ontario Ministry of Education. It was recorded at The Quest 2016 conference – Deep Learning in a Digital World.
Don’t say, “We are finally paying attention to the pedagogy!”
It is unacceptable.
Pedagogy is why we started so many years ago!
How many times do we hear the following these days?
“It’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning.”
“We have to think about pedagogy instead of focusing on the tools.”
But the most disturbing claim suggests that ONLY NOW are we thinking about pedagogy before technology—that everyone in the 70s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s paid attention only to the hardware, the software and ‘teaching the tools’—devoid of pedagogy.
…ONLY NOW are we thinking about pedagogy before technology
Please don’t say that. It’s absolutely incorrect—and, in fairness, rather hurtful to many who have had dreams of the kinds of things we are hearing more widely today. We have fought, and fought hard, for effective uptake through those decades in the face of those who ignored, and dismissed, us as outliers.
…some veteran, and influential, educators ignored us in the past…
And, it is not only some who are new to education who are guilty of this. We are seeing some veteran, and influential, educators who ignored us in the past, now moving us all forward with discussions of new pedagogies.
How we wished for their voices three decades ago. Imagine where we might be now.
Build Upon the Past
However, now we have a new generation of educators who, in many cases, have embraced the affordances of technologies. We welcome your enthusiasm, your energy and your building of effective classrooms for our learners.
…we must build upon that which has been done in the past
I believe that it is important that we must build upon that which has been done in the past and move forward from there. If we start fresh—as if it is all new—we are not leveraging the successes and failures of previous times. We must learn from our experience.
To do this, one needs to know the history of educational computing.
I will share some of my experiences and observations having started on this journey in 1977.
This will require a series of posts. 🙂
A Series of Posts
I could do this by topic—coding, global projects, inquiry, science and math investigations, leveraging productivity software for inquiry, and so on. Or I could do it chronologically—which is the way I shall choose to approach this very rich history.
- Developing thinking and metacognitive skills through programming (coding) with grade ones in 1977, the Logo movement of the 80s, programming in HyperCard and HyperStudio in the 80s and 90s, teaching kids HTML through the 90s
- Connecting kids through global projects in the early 80s with a command line interface on our computers, a Day in the Life project run with the Soviet Union via fax machines, National Geographic Kids’ Network collaborative science investigations in the 80s with teams of students from around the world, Global Schoolnet, FrEdWriter and FrEdMail (free wordpro and email networking for kids in the mid-80s), iEARN (International Education and Resource Network)
- Being mathematicians, scientists, and engineers through building robotics and making in the mid-80s with Lego TC Logo robotics kits
- collaboration – in addition to the collaborative global projects mentioned above, we had the development of CSILE (Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments) in the mid-eighties; ThinkingLand (late 80s), and Journal Zone (early 2000s). These were environments focused on creating knowledge building communities in our classrooms
- Inquiry-based uses of productivity software (mid-80s onward)—using drawing tools, databases and spreadsheets for mathematics & science inquiry of geometry, speed, acceleration, etc.
- Exploring, tinkering and creating in Virtual Reality (Mandala and CitySpace) in the 90s
- Multimedia creation (HyperCard, HyperStudio, Web Creation, desktop publishing, Laser discs)
- Beginning in 1982, we deliberately focused our formalized professional learning on curricular implementation by including curriculum and/or pedagogy in the workshop titles (Math Investigations using Spreadsheets; Planning Ahead with Outliners; Metacognition and Programming in Logo)
This is just a sampling of topics.
The next post will tell the story of how—and why—we got involved with microcomputers in the late 1970s. It will include a description of the educational context of the 1970s—the student-centred, inquiry-based, open-classroom, student-in-charge environments where we were believers in a Piagetian constructivist approach and had dismissed the Skinnerian behaviourist, operant-conditioning principles of earlier decades.
…students learn about the importance of dignity…
Hello teachers and other school leaders!
On Wednesday, October 12th, 2016, schools and organizations from around the world will once again celebrate Global Dignity Day (GD). This year’s celebration marks the tenth anniversary of Global Dignity Day in Canada, and we hope you will celebrate with us from coast-to-coast-to-coast!
Global Dignity (www.globaldignity.org) is an independent, international, non-political and non-partisan organization focused on empowering individuals with the concept that every human being has the universal right to lead a dignified life. It is celebrated every year in October and now has over 500,000 participants in 60 countries around the world.
Established in 2005, by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman and CEO John Hope Bryant and Professor Pekka Himanen, GD is linked to the 2020 process of the World Economic Forum, in which leaders from politics, business, academia, and civil society join efforts to improve the state of the world.
Last year Global Dignity Day connected 2,000 students and young leaders across Canada, in eight schools, from Nova Scotia to Nunavut. Along with our organizational partners and event sponsor, The Samuel Family Foundation, we were also joined in celebration by Rwandan Genocide survivor and public speaker, Emery Rutagonya and National Role Model, Ashley Callingbull, Mrs. Universe 2015, who both shared their dignity stories.
Every year, throughout the GD celebrations, students learn about the importance of dignity in their own lives and the lives of others. From there, they learn how to express what dignity means for them and how their own dignity is mutually dependent on the dignity of others.
A decade after its first Global Dignity Day event in Canada, the movement has impacted over 1.5 million young people around the world and aims to impact many more in the years ahead. Overall, it is our hope that by acknowledging existing inequalities, students will see that they have the ability to impact and enrich the lives of others through their own actions and choices, thereby promoting awareness and a social consciousness during a key time in their development.
For more information please visit www.globaldignity.ca, or click here to register your school or organization for this year’s celebration on October 12th, 2016. You may also wish to share this invitation with any individuals, groups and organizations who may be interested in supporting, volunteering or encouraging more people to participate in this important movement. Kindly register your school by October 5th at the latest if you intend to participate.
Thank you for supporting our youth!
As a long time member of the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (since 1980), I wish to express my appreciation for the life and work of Seymour Papert. He contributed widely and significantly to Ontario education through those who have learned from him since the late 1970s. Countless Ontario students grew up with Logo and Lego TC Logo robotics—and, more importantly, in learning environments that honoured their freedom to invent, to err, to create and to tinker in wonderment.
This is rather a personal glimpse although I shall provide many wonderful tributes and resources from other members of this wonderful, brilliant community.
Dr. Seymour Papert has often been recognized as the Father of Educational Computing. His impact on the early world of information technologies in schools is legendary for it was borne from his collaboration with Jean Piaget, theories of constructivism, and the ‘tutee’ concept within Tool, Tutor, and Tutee.
But Seymour has been much bigger than Logo.
What You May Not Know
But what you possibly don’t know about Seymour Papert is his significant contribution to the field of cognitive science. With Marvin Minsky, he cofounded the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. He collaborated with Marvin Minsky on Perceptrons (1969), which temporarily reduced the focus on neural networks and encouraged increased study of symbolic models. Indeed, in the early 80’s, the exploration of neural networks rebounded and became a prominent force in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development. I don’t pretend to understand the ins and outs of these very technical arguments among the Newell & Simon cognitivists, artificial intelligence supporters, and cyberneticists. However, these times were central to the creation of the current theories of cognitive science.
The Human Side
I had the good fortune of spending some time with Seymour Papert. I wish I’d had more time and I wish that I’d had more opportunities for debate with him—not about cognitive science but about cognitive psychology and his dreams for schools and children’s learning.
We were at a conference together in Israel in 1987 (Second International Congress on Early Childhood Education: Childhood in the Technological Era. I helped usher him away from the throngs of people after his presentation to his hotel in another city. He was always deluged in those days and he valued his privacy. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind driving his rental car for him. He found it crazy to drive there and, of course, I was happy to oblige. On the way, we stopped in the old city and were happily walking along, browsing at the stalls. Then, I turned around and he was gone! Oh my goodness! It took me some 20-30 minutes to find him. He was contentedly sipping tea with a shopkeeper and deeply involved in a wonderful conversation about the state of the world.
Another meeting was at the Media Lab when he invited me to sit in with his graduate students to discuss the social implications of a group (gathering) of untethered, programmable turtles! You see, Fred Martin (one of his graduate students) had created what became the RCX programmable brick controlled by an IR sensor which received instructions from the computer. So the turtle no longer needed to be connected via cables! Freedom! 🙂
Seymour was asking the students to think what might happen if we tried to replicate human interactions based on cultural differences. Turtles could be designed differently in some way and the sensors on each could detect the differences. People across cultures have different comfort levels with proximity to other people. Some don’t mind being close. Others like to have a little more personal space. Could we replicate that with a turtle community? This was a fascinating time for me because, once again, it revealed to me Seymour’s humanitarian sensibilities blended with his expertise in artificial intelligence.
LCSI (Logo Computer Systems Incorporated)
I started using Logo with my Grade 2s in 1980. Seymour, Brian Silverman and others started LCSI (Logo Computer Systems Incorporated) in 1981. It is based in Montreal, Canada. I switched to using LCSI’s logo shortly after that. Then my job changed in North York Schools. I became a centrally-assigned instructional leader and was able to make central purchases and decisions about professional learning at the district level. This gave me the opportunity to become friends with the folks at LCSI—including Susan Einhorn and Michael Quinn (current president). Now, that sounds like a conflict of interest (LOL), but the reality was that we were all part of the Logo community and ended up at the Logo conferences at MIT through the 80s.
Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO)
I regret that we never had Seymour at our ECOO conference. I don’t know why! It was an error. I take some responsibility for that as I was involved with both the ECOO Board and conference committees over the years (since 1980).
But, we did have a Special Interest Group for Logo (SIG-Logo) from approximately 1983 – 1989 or so. I was honoured to be its leader for most of that. In 1986, we had a wonderful conference called Look to the Learner. Many of the famous Logophiles of the day presented. (See So You Want Kids to Code! Why? for the agenda—along with some other Logo bits and pieces.)
Many influenced by Seymour have spoken at ECOO
Gary Stager (keynote many times), Sylvia Martinez (keynoted in 2015), Artemis Papert and Brian Silverman (keynoted and ran Minds On Media centre in 2014), David Thornburg (featured speaker several times), Norma Thornburg, Bonnie Bracey (featured), Mitch Resnick (keynote), Ron Canuel, Judi Harris, Margaret Riel, Brenda Sherry, and many more have shared his work and his influence on their own practice over the years. Indeed, I also have shared much Logo related work and thinking many times as a speaker—both featured and regular.
I miss Seymour’s presence. He was severely injured in a motorcycle accident several years ago. His strength of passion and genius should not be missed. Read his work.
A Last Word about Logo
If you have not explored using Logo with kids, I can still recommend that you do this. I am sure it must fit a 21st Century Skill or two. 🙂 There are many versions available. Seymour Papert was the Chair of the Board of LCSI for many years and they have, in my opinion, made the best versions of this computer language.
Please check out some of these wonderful resources and tributes to this revolutionary educator.
- Daily Papert – http://dailypapert.com/
- MIT: https://mitpress.mit.edu/blog/tribute-seymour-papert
- MIT Media Lab: https://www.media.mit.edu/people/in-memory/papert
- Seymour Papert: Revolutionary Socialist and Father of A.I. in Forward: http://forward.com/…/remembering-seymour-papert-revolution…/
- National Public Radio (NPR): Here is the NPR story on Seymour Papert (with audio) – http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016…
- Lego Foundation: http://www.legofoundation.com/…/2016/honoring-seymour-papert
- Conrad Wolfram: http://www.conradwolfram.com/home/2016/8/2/seymour-papert-1928-2016
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/educati…
Thank you Seymour.
And thank you to all in that community who have impacted children in Ontario and beyond.
…and obviously the other stuff too!
Click on this picture to make it larger and more readable!
I continue to hear that we need ‘pedagogy before technology‘ and that it ‘isn’t about the tools, it’s about the learning‘! Well, I am somewhat frustrated by these relatively simplistic statements. But, before you shoot me, understand that a strong emphasis on both pedagogy and learning are foremost in my mind. Also, let me clarify that this is somewhat a new educational battlecry—one that didn’t exist when many of us started with kids and these technologies back in the late 70s. We just took it for granted that we were implementing these tools in deep and significant ways! (After all, you either took a constructionist/constructivist approach or you adopted the beliefs of CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction—aka Institutionalization! LOL)
It is only since decision-making was taken out of the hands of classroom educators that computers (and other technologies) have landed unceremoniously in classrooms, along with expectations that they will be used effectively. This has gained momentum since the onslaught of cheaper tools such as tablets, Chromebooks and BYOD and even more decision-makers and policy-makers have arrived on board (finally)—because they have a ‘device’!
So, trust me. I get why we are hearing this battlecry. People didn’t necessarily come to it themselves and now we have a plethora of devices and not enough forethought and preparation.
Having said that, it is dangerous to claim that it is not about the tools. It is also about the tools. Read on, and click on the links, to find out why I think so.
I have decided to make this graphic representing these ideas that I have written about in the previous posts:
If you would like to see an interactive version, please click on the link below.
What affordances do technologies provide for deep learning in students?
One of my favourite books ever – got a revision in 2013!
I will quote the simple example I have repeated for years as a teaser for you to think about your classroom and how it is designed. Also, think about working with your students to understand design as they are making their artifacts in these revised constructionist classroom cultures of design thinking.
This book will also help you to think seriously about the affordances that newer technologies provide for deep learning within, and among, students. The book is not focused on that topic—but might be a provocation for you to think about it!
“If I were placed in the cockpit of a modern jet airliner, my inability to perform well would neither surprise nor bother me. But why should I have trouble with doors and light switches, water faucets and stoves? ‘Doors?’ I can hear the reader saying. ‘You have trouble opening doors?’ Yes. I push doors that are meant to be pulled, pull doors that are meant to be pushed, and walk into doors that neither pull or push, but slide. Moreover, I see others having the same troubles—unnecessary troubles.”
He continues to explain that the “design of the door should indicate how to work it without any need for signs, certainly without any need for trial and error.” In other words, a flat panel on the door tells you to push whereas a rounded bar tells you to pull. An indented handle invites sliding the door. But this is often not the case!
So, read the book just for your own interest!
But, more importantly, think about what you provide to students and how it invites their actions.
I experienced something wonderful this week.
It was an event which perhaps has finally convinced me that this time it is different—this time we might have crossed the chasm…that well-documented adoption chasm.
The Think Tank for CECCE (Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est) did indeed bring together a wonderful panel of ‘experts’—but, let’s be clear: expertise is something that is both distributed and collective if transformation is to occur.
That collective was present in that room that day.
I was extremely nervous participating on that panel as one of those ‘experts’ – yet indeed honoured that my ideas were invited.
I introduced myself as the OG—the ‘original gangster’ (or, indeed the ‘old guy’)—because I have been involved since the late 70’s in the movement to transform education leveraged by the affordances of digital technologies. Among other things, I expressed my frustration at the lack of institutional traction to date. It has been an exciting journey these past 40 or so years but also has been challenging as efforts were thwarted or ignored.
But, the CECCE initiative is the one thing in this recent flurry of the past several years that has given me pause to reconsider. We might be at the tipping point.
My colleague and friend, Brenda Sherry, and I have often spoken about the peaks and valleys of the trends related to educational technologies and their impact. I have experienced several chasms*.
First Appearances – We smelled a revolution!
When microcomputers first arrived on the scene in the late 1970s, we saw an uptake and educational technology conferences were full. Mind you, the ever present discord between CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction Institutionalization) and constructivist/constructionist, student-driven approaches was evident.
These were the heady days of Seymour Papert, Logo, constructionism and ‘student-in-charge’! I headed up the Special Interest Group for Logo in Ontario. I was a regular at the Media Lab for their Logo conferences.
We were engaged in global projects focused on environmental and peace issues. Kids were using technologies to do research with other kids and subject experts across the world: National Geographic Kids’ Network, Global SchoolHouse, iEARN. Heady times indeed.
We smelled a revolution!!
But, alas, it slowed down.
Then, after our excitement with the onset of hypermedia (the ability to click on a link and go to another page) in HyperCard in the mid 80s, we saw the development of hyperlinking on the internet. Thus was the birth of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s.
We saw ‘non-computer users’ get involved with technology. This meant members of the general public—but, more importantly for us, we watched as system leaders in education took notice. They not only took notice, but they took charge. They started networking schools and pouring vast amounts of money into educational technology.
Once again, the excitement rose as the newer technologies afforded greater opportunities for student construction with new media. Global projects were easier and more accessible to greater numbers of students. Information was readily accessible. We saw the potential for great empowerment of students.
We smelled a revolution—again! 😉
But, alas, not everyone saw the vision.
And, things slowed down.
Third Round – The Ubiquity of Portability
The ubiquitous nature of technology and the social aspects have changed the cultural consciousness. This has empowered more individuals across the strata of decision-making. People who normally hadn’t taken to technology have become immersed. They have come to feel the empowerment that earlier adopters felt with previous, albeit lesser, technologies.
But, here we are. We are here.
Others have described eloquently the nature of the CECCE day. See Heidi Siwak’s The Ottawa Think Tank on Transforming the Learning Experience and Brenda Sherry’s inspirational observations regarding students’ comments in Think Tank: Transforming the learning experience.
I wish to simply thank some people for helping me to realize that I may have been too skeptical this time around! (Although I’m still at it—so I obviously had a good load of optimism deep inside!)
First of all, thanks to Eugénie Congi, Superintendent of Education for her leadership and vision on this project.
- Josée Beausoleil, EEAS au CECCE
- Marc Côté, 21st Century Director – Pedagogical Services
- Jean-Marc Dupont, educational learning advisor to 21 c for CECCE
- Melissa Riley, Teacher on special assignment with CECCE in 21st Century Learning
- Sylvie Tremblay, Executive Superintendent of Education
- Bernard Roy (Director 2010-2015)
I know I’m missing folks from this team. Forgive me. Please add them in a comment!
Friends on the Panel – from Afar
I must thank:
- my old friend, Sylvia Martinez for her continued passion in this field.
- Will Richardson—we have shared laughs and great thoughts.
- Garfield Gini-Newman – much learning together from Ontario Teachers’ Federation events
- Jacques Cool – a regular friend from Twitter—we finally met—and felt a real kinship
- Heidi Siwak – who is teaching me about integrative thinking
- Chris Dede – an inspiration to me for several decades now
- Alec Couros – friend and colleague whom we have had at ECOO (BIT)
- Marius Bourgeoys – an educator whom I wish to know better
- Michael Fullan – a man who has obviously had incredible impact on this team and many others across Ontario and the world
- Brenda Sherry – my optimistic friend and colleague who shares the same deep passion for education as I do. She keeps me real and balances my skepticism with her hard work for a transformed educational future.
Normally, one could skip reading the ‘credits’ as I am listing them here.
But, for me, this is not an insignificant moment.
I truly have been transformed by what these people have accomplished and by how they welcomed this OG into their family.
I thank you all.
Notes: *This is somewhat different from the standard chasm described by Geoffrey Moore.