cc licensed flickr photo shared by alicepopkorn

That title may not stick for this post, it may connote something of a religious message.

Which it is not.

I rarely do blog posts by request, but with the right reason and carrot, I may respond (see below). For the benefit of Donors Choose, a project I love supporting (see last year’s story), I oblige- they asked for a post about something in 2009 that “give me home for the future of American education” (I quibble to a minor degree at the focus on ‘American’ — we have a world wide problem).

So to start at the opposite end. A former colleague I saw today over lunch, someone well versed in the statistics, was lamenting the “news” that Arizona, the state where I live, pay taxes, etc, is now ranked dead last, 50th, in the US on what we spend on education. This is quite an accomplishment as for the last few years Arizona has clung to the 49th rank. Now I accept that there is not a direct correlation on school spending to outcomes, but I bet there is some loose correlation, and I am pretty sure Arizona ranks at or near the bottom on the student outcomes.

Dead frackin’ last is Arizona. A state that before the dot bank bust had one of the most vibrant and growing economies. Dead last in investment into learning. How ’bout that as a state motto? “We don’t care if our kids grow up stupid”

I could wax on about why this is stupid, but if you have any common sense (and likely means you were educated outside of Arizona) it seems clear how this state shoots its future. And it will get worse, given the dark circus our legislator is doing with its budget. I bet they can fall to 53rd if they really try (yeah I know, but I am testing for local readers here).

But that is not the story of hope, but of the backdrop.

In 2009 I was involved in a few high level gatherings where the topic was to brainstorm the “Future of Education” (it is always in quotes and caps). Discussions are good, and the bullet points/recommendations are drafted, but I really have trouble seeing what happens beyond this. Moving such a big ship, the good ship Education, makes my feel like a flea pushing on a giant rudder, and no matter how many thousands of fleas I can get to push, it still ends up as a flea covered rudder, going in the same direction.

So my secret hope is not in large scaled Change the World in the Sky Big Plans, but in what I have been thinking about is a lot of really small, tiny micro-revolutions, in the things teachers, students are doing as individuals, of a way tht change might be nudged from below rather than tugged from above (or heck both).

cc licensed flickr photo shared by kevindooley

Now that I write those words, it sounds just as cheesy and overly optimistic pie in the sky inflated “how can we do this when we have no power or nothing changes or we have no money….”

So I can’t really formulate what this revolution is. Or if there really is one. I see just a limited view of “it all” so I might be holding the elephants trunk or something else I don’t want to be holding.

The thing I see that gives me hope are explosions of creativity happening online, in shared media, in writing people di, be it less than 140 characters or more than 50,000 words or people just trying to informally learn photography.

We hear worry about “literacy” which to me, sounds aimed at old notions of consuming media- yet we are now creating more original and derivative content than anytime before (I have no data, I am making that up, but it sound true) and are able to share our creations on a scale never before seen, not in numbers, but in potential reach. And yeah, a lot of it is bad, but that is not the point.

I so believe in the power of creation and expression. I’ve used this example before, but a friend shared with me once how his son and friends, got together on their own after seeing an animation, and tried to sort out how to do stop motion animation. On their own, they scored a video, compose music, published it on YouTube. This, of course is nothing new, it is happening every nano-second of the day. This was not an assignment, this was teen aged youth sitting around in their free time– being creative.

But the thing that hit me over the head was, when I was that age (actually I swore I would never say “when I was that age”) I dont recall a group of friends spending time together talking about creating things- we *watched* moveies, we *listened” to cassettes or radio – we consumed the media that was given to us.

So the thing that happened this year, that fills me with more hope, was remotely watching the activities and publicly shared products of students in Alec Couros’s EC&I 831 class (Social Media and Education) at the University of Regina, run as an open course but also open to the world to see and participate in. And also throw in Dean Shareski’s ECMP 355 course (“Computers in Education”). I am picking these cause they are cool Canadian course… just kidding; both of them asked me to remotely present on 50+Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story, so I had the chance to see the way this future teachers/educators use their creative abilities.

And heck, I never even got to be there for Alec’s students– long story, but I was delayed in a flight to San Francisco and was in the air at the time I was supposed to be on. But that is another story.

I frankly could not keep up with all the things they created – there is a sampling for Alec’s course in a Google Reader shared feed of student blogs and… when I see that much excitement, creative expression, a dropped my fears at the front door approach to things, well it gives me hope that if these future teachers walk into schools full of overly aggressive internet filters, disgruntled administrators, “this is the way we’;ve always done it” peers– I think they will find their own ways to keep that enthusiasm alive.

Well, that is my hope, which after all, is a belief in the highly improbable, eh?

Heck, it might even happen the rock bottom school spending cellar of school support Arizona (a place I put my Donors Choose money).

My hope is in the power of creativity.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by ~Oryctes~

This post is part of the MAT@USC’s Hope for the holidays event. Did you have an experience or witness something in 2009 which gave you hope for the future of American education? If so, please see this post for more information on how to share it.

I got my $100 credit to use for Donors Choose projects- these are the Arizona Projects I contributed to:

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I think hope is, inf act, the most important element of creation. To create is in many ways a ign of hope.

    And having just had bavababy 3, I realized this last time that I never feel more hopeful about my own death as when I see a creature so small. It is a weird irony, but it helps me think through a process of negotiation, imagination, and creation as the very raison d’etre of the human race. And while I am often given over to the darker forces of depression, I’ve found my two streams of hope: my family and the digital landscape for sharing just about anything I want—interesting how sharing and creation may go together in some interesting ways as a model. What we see on the cogdogblog regularly is a form of creative sharing, making it one of the most hopeful outposts on the internet.

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