Yesterday, I blogged about our enjoyable night out at the Montgomery Gentry concert. I tried to talk about the difference between Concert 1.0 and Concert 2.0, because to me, there was a big difference. I’ve also had the opportunity within the past week to read Miguel Guhlin’s blog entry “Question Everything” and Richard E. Miller and Paul Hammond’s post “How to Tell if You’re Receiving 1.0 Support“. I would suggest to you that both of these are excellent readings and I suggest your response should be a call to action for classroom technical reform. Both of these readings reminded me once of working the OSAPAC booth at an ECOO conference. A young lady pulled me away and wanted a copy of a licensed title that she’d heard so much about for primary mathematics. All she wanted was a copy for her memory key so that she could use it with a couple of students who were having real difficulties with mathematics. When I told her that she had to go to her district’s OESS representative to get it, she broke down crying. In her district, computers are “imaged” once every three years and so those kids that could use it now would be in Grade 5 by the time it was installed in her classroom.
So, back to the concert.
There were lots of people in the audience – the hall sits something like 5000 people. Like most events, people would like a keepsake for the night and so there were cameras and phones and smart phones taking in the imagery all over the hall. I used my Android phone to snap a couple before I put it away and enjoyed the evening. You probably don’t care.
I uploaded a photo to my Facebook page to share with my family.
I posted a blog entry yesterday and wanted a better picture for that purpose. Looking at the image above, I realized that there was lots of black space in it that gave me nothing and the details could be a little sharper. Normally, I’d fire up Photoshop Elements to do the task but double clicking the image brought up the Preview application on my computer and I learned on the fly that I could do what I wanted right in that application. I’d never tried that before and was proud of myself for this new revelation.
If we conservatively estimate that 1000 of those in the audience took a picture and did something with it yesterday, it would only be a fool who would think that they all edited it with the same software. Some might do it right in their phone, some in their camera, some on a Mac, some on a PC, some on Linux, some on some web-based editing application – some might have tried some new technique – you probably don’t care about that either.
Nor, should you. The goal here was that I did something with the image to meet a personal objective.
In my blog yesterday, if it was a typical day, there might be 300 people who read it and looked at my images. I’d like to think that you marginally care about that since you’re here today reading this post.
For all the indifference outlined above, the end result might well be some sort of interest that perhaps 1000 people did something with their images. Imagine in your mind’s eye that this was the world’s biggest classroom. Under current thinking, would we allow this? Absolutely not. How could we manage and control so many people with so many different devices and goals in mind for the end images? Could we actually allow someone in their seat in the classroom to whip out the device of their choice to take a picture and then independently go ahead and edit it?
Never in most educational situations. Instead, we’d take a 1.0 approach. We’d march all of those people down to a computer lab where we might put the image on a shared drive and we would step through a process of editing the same image a thousand times to give a sense of what life might be like “in the real world”. Of course, this is based on the premise that the software was installed properly and ready for use, having been assigned to individual student profiles and the lab was available for us at that time. If not, we could always do it next week and just try to pretend that we’re doing things relevantly and in a timely manner. Ah, the real world.
Hopefully, you read the two articles that I referenced above and are nodding in agreement. This isn’t a slam against IT Departments. I managed one for a while and they are under incredible restraints. Sadly underfunded with dated materials, they’re doing their best to make everything work to the best use of their time and abilities. It’s just this darned real world that keeps changing. If we could just lock everything down so that we don’t have to embrace any change, maybe we could get on top of everything. In the meantime, we have students frustrated, parents demanding more, administration demanding more, and teachers crying.
There’s another overriding assumption in all of this as well. “The end user doesn’t know what they’re doing or they’re actively trying to break the system.” The second part may be true but I think that, in most cases, it’s just a reaction to controls and limitations put on them. In terms of knowing what they’re doing, we’re really underestimating abilities if we buy into that concept. Are all 1000 people who are working with images from the concert computer scientists? Obviously not. They’re just people motivated to get a job done – they know their abilities and their devices. They use the best tool at their disposal. What do they do when they run into a problem? In the real world, you don’t put your hand up and wait for the answer. You talk to the person next to you, a co-learner, or do a little ad hoc online learning to acquire enough knowledge to solve the problem. It means that the individual takes charge of the learning and performs the action. If it means asking for help or accessing a previously unavailable resource, then you do it.
I think it’s time to stop and consider just what 2.0 means. It’s not just a 1.0 world with a tweak here and there. It’s something completely different and it has less to do with wires and chips and more to do about people, projects, and connectivity. Smart people need to sit down and analyse current practice and allocation of resources. Now is not the time to re-invent the horse. It’s time to take that horse for a last walk behind the barn. It’s not going to be easy but a considered approach to what everyone is doing in the process is necessary if we’re truly going to announce that “we’re 2.0”.
In my own experiences, I lived with the lab concept which we were able to disband in favour of laptops and wireless access. I was able to see an environment where we would invite students and teachers to bring in their own devices to attach to a ubiquitous wireless network. There still is the mindset though that the serious computing is done with school provided computers and we wrestle with how to incorporate the non-school provided devices. Are we in the real world? Hardly.
We’ll only be there when we take a serious look at technology at the point of instruction. We will only be there when we realistically embrace individuals bringing in the appropriate tools and using them effectively. We will only be there when we realise that not everything a student will learn about technology has to be taught by a teacher. We will only be there when we embrace the real world. We will only be there when we realize that the personal computer is more personal than ever before. The real world won’t be defined by the 12 pieces of software that we can get to work reliably over a network. The real world has access to powerful web-based tools, and even more importantly, the number of people that care enough about our learning to join us in the endeavour.