Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Welcome Will Richardson

This is 4th time I have seen Will present, and I have been encouraging my division to work with him as a part of our professional learning next year. I tell you this up front, so you know the perspective from which I am writing. While I am at it, I'd like to thank Scott St. Pierre who posted yesterday to the blog, and has posted in the past. Will and Scott are both a part of my community of professional learners, and I have read Will's blog for a number of years.

Will's keynote is called Why the Read/Write Web Changes Everything. He start with an example story about a blind gamer and talked about how this is an example of how kids function. While he is very excited about technology and thinks it can change everything, he thinks schools have changed little: "There are few real examples of transformative change." Will cited one of his favorite quotations:

If you think that the future will require better schools you are wrong. The
future of education will call for entirely different schools.
- Knowledge
Works Foundation

Will sees a couple of really critical, "tectonic" shifts because of the Read/Write web:

  • If you have an interest, you can find others with that same interest
  • People can hold a a conversation and make it real for crowds long after the media moves on (Richard uses the example Iranelection)
  • You can't be a politician, a publisher, etc. in the way you used to 5 years ago. When people have choice, they compel changes like interactive content, choice and sharing of ideas (I wonder if that will impact schools, what with the lack of choice).
  • Copyright is in flux - people can steam things they go to, creative commons allows sharing of ideas. Media is changing.
Will acknowledges that schools haven't changed but feels that schools will be compelled. Kids use the tools to connect socially (they are fine there without our help) and in interest-based ways. Will thinks that this is the place where there is a key role for us as educators. We know that connecting to others is very powerful and makes many of us uncomfortable.
Public is the new default. - Erick Schonfeld

Will talked about how most of the pictures of his daughter online are posted and tagged by someone else. We need to teach students to manage their reputations online (for those new to this idea, take a look Joyce Valenza's writing on the subject of digital footprints). Then he showed a map of those who read his blog from all over the world. He has nearly nearly 50,000 hits from the US alone, and over 5,000 from Canada. He says in his children's lives, there is only one reader, the teacher. He wants diversity of passionate listeners for every kid.

Now Will is repeated one of my favorite refrains, that we want our student's learning to be found and we need to teach them how to do it well. He is very negative about walled-gardens, although he is approaching the idea tangentially in this presentation. He is showing us how MIT's content is available on-line and just showed us the Khan academy online.

Will asks: "What changes will this sort of thing online?" He argues that Harvard became popular because it has the biggest library. He also notes that many of our professional learning around technology is misguided. He says we should stop teaching teachers how to use technology and start teaching them why to use them. This is also a favorite refrain of mine.

Will is saying how his kids are still waiting in school to be told what to learn, how to learn it and when to learn it. They don't get to choose how they show what they have learned. Then they come home and have complete freedom. He says this disconnect is a problem.

Now Will is making himself deeply unpopular by arguing wikipedia is a good source. He asked how many people teach kids to use wikipedia and I am one of the "12" who put their hands up. Will notes that all of us know our kids use wikipedia and then he shows all the errors from print texts. I agree that teaching kids how to back track wikipedia is a really important thing, but I think Will may have crossed over into a rant that is making the audience feel badly.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure I use wikipedia dozens of times a week. It's often the first place I go. Authoritative? No. Great overview before finding primary sources? Yes.