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I am humbly honored to have been part of a stellar invited panel for Monday’s Minding The Future event at the University of Mary Washington (I don’t mind it at all BTW). Along with Audrey Watters, Kin Lane (first time meeting, he is a genius), David Wiley, and Gardner Campbell (subbing eminently for Jon Udell, we missed ya Jon), I prepped a 10 minute “FredTalk”

I kept the description vague not to to tip the hat for how I would discuss my topic

If asked whether they would like to be remembered, almost no one would answer “No”. But multiple choice questions can be trickier than they seem. The education future some are painting for us is a path focused on a destination, reached via an unmemorable journey.

Rather than the normal, plop the slides into Slideshare (well after having to convert Keynote to PDF), I am just embedding them below with the rough notes. I don’t use a script, so the notes are the gist. Or the grist

I bet everyone has vivid memories of favorite teachers or school experiences, and we can extrapolate lessons about the reasons why. But I wondered about the parts we remember less well might indicate. Follow me as I walk through my own, and then make a metaphorical leap into the future of education.

I sat in the second row, 3rd seat in, for Mrs Foreman’s 2nd grade class in Baltimore. I thought of myself as just another kid, not very special until the day she returned a math quiz. She said that only one student had earned a distinction- a check plus fantastic.

I did not imagine it was me, until that was on my paper she handed back. Now just a simple assessment, but that was the day I felt a magic sensation for wanting to doing well in school. I wanted more.

I’m not sure with high stakes testing and mandated curriculum if teachers still have students do reach out projects, but this was also the year I was diagnosed as a diabetic– I still have these notes Mrs Foreman had my classmates send me in the hospital.

Mr Fike taught third grade math, and he was a bit intimidating, a tall man with a beard. But I remember the elegance of the way he showed how to do long division, and a film strip we watched where Donald Duck explained geometry through an analogy of a pool table.

Mrs Piggot captured my imagination in reading with her real demonstrations of things like how the Winkle in Time worked.

I can barely remember MIddle school.at Sudbrook. 7th and 8th grade are faded. There was the pressure of fitting in or not, exerting “cool”, and getting beat up a few times. And that was by the girls.

Mrs Walker must have been a first year English teacher; she taught us the structure of Western stories by taking us on a field trip to see the premiere of a movie . You may have heard of this little movie, it was called “Star Wars.”

Ahhh Mr Pitz. How did he ever survive school with that name? We knew he was nerdy, but that was his charm. I had no idea of what pedagogy even was, but there we was having us do peer instruction by giving us a challenge to teach the rest of the class abut non Euclidian Geometry. He also seeded my interest in computer programming; we learned FORTRAN by coloring in punch cards and riding a bus once a week to the school in the district with an IBM mainframe.

Mrs Kershman was strict and unrelenting in teaching us 10th graders how to write essays. She pushed us hard, but she also opened my eyes to what was the electric words of Thoreau and Emerson.

In fact, my core group of high school friends gathered around these writers; you could say we created a non-conformist group.

Perhaps the most inspirational teacher, Mt Witts made Calculus vital, he had regular challenges that were meaningful and relevant, not just book problems. He pushed us to think not just get answers to word problems.

I entered the University of Delaware as a computer science major… and hated it. I cannot remember one teacher, I cannot visualize even being in any classes here in Smith Hall. I do remember the computer room in the basement, the introduction of the first CRTs, and playing some sort of dungeon game on the mainframe.

I switched majors and buildings, and can remember just about every Geology teacher I took classes from in Penny Hall.

It was Dr Wehmiller’s Geology 101 course that hooked me. He may not have had the most dynamic lecture style, but this was a match of my own interests. I was the kid eagerly taking notes in the front row, I read the whole textbook, when only half was required reading.Classes were small, and you never felt anonymous.

After I continued on to graduate school at Arizona State University, I remember meeting Dr Wehmiller on a highway outside of Santa Fe in 1989. I was on a research road trip, he had taken his son to a music competition. It was not until recalling this on a visit 2 years ago, that he told me how his son had gone on be the bassist for Duran Duran and Missing Persons. Wes tragically passed away at only 33 from thyroid cancer. See http://cogdogblog.com/2011/09/13/geology-like-the-wolf/

Doc Thompson (every one called him “Doc”) was a huge influence on my choice to go to graduate school, he taught many practical and life lessons in class, but his love for geology and passion came through out in the field. He was the one who uttered in class once that in fields like Geology where we have classifications, “Some people are lumpers and some are splitters” — I have used that many times in other contexts.

Doc was popular for his personality and humor , but he had an aura of really caring about his students.

Doc was popular for his personality and humor , but he had an aura of really caring about his students.

As a graduate student at ASU, a relatively small department that had a high profile because of their success at getting research grants, you go to know your professors (and they you) in and out of class. I could mention many, but I owe much life wisdom to what I learned from my advisor Susan Kieffer, who had achieved so much against a lot of adversity in a male dominated world. She had a fresh way of appraiching problems, but really stressed the importance of writing and promoting the role of science. But more than that, when I reached a point midway in a PhD program where I knew I could not continue, she supported my 10000% when I told her I wanted to go into education.

So here I am supposedly talking about the future and bringing you my past. The converse would be the saying about not being doomed to repeat history?

Who am I to take on NYU professor, author, and TED speaker? But I say that Clay Shirky is wrong, and you cannot cast education as an industry; While the public perception is being undermined by these assertions, the driving forces of education as a public good cannot be described by those of for profit businesses.

Because if we take that one, our services become driven by forces of lowering costs and mass production.

Because if we take that one, our services become driven by forces of lowering costs and mass production.

The models of higher education being pushed are reducing the experience to something that is transactional. Pay this, do this class, and get a credit. There has to be more to creating an educated society than cranking out courses and badges. What will be memorable when you are not able to directly communicate with your instructor and your assessments are not handed to you with a Check PLus fantastic story, but just a machine stamp?

Because all you will end up with is a pile of courses.

And despite the grandiose claims, these startups funded by investors have to make a profit, it is their primary mission. Do not forget it.

And I have grave doubts if we really have the kinds of memorable experiences with corporate entities that we would put in our albums.

But here is the thing- trying to be memorable as a teacher should never be the goal, it should be the positive by product of a memorable learning experiences.

But here is the thing- trying to be memorable as a teacher should never be the goal, it should be the positive by product of a memorable learning experiences.

And it flows the other ways, as teachers, mentors of students, we should have memorable experiences from them. If we do not, I suspect that what we do has shifted into the transactional stage.

Did you think I could do a talk and not mention the most memorable thing happening in edtech?

The work of students like Nancy, taking Obamas inaugural address and creatively by deletion turning it into a poem about the Gay Rights movement, is memorable.

Rossaanna's artisitc capture of the moment from the movie the 500 Days of Summer is memorable

Rossaanna’s artisitc capture of the moment from the movie the 500 Days of Summer is memorable

John’s work was memorable because he often avoided the assigned work, and only followed his super passions, in Maxwell’s Tea Cup, he turned a simple Daily Create exercise to film somthing into reverse into a fully developed metaphysical story. His interests in talking about the higher order outcomes of this class are memorable

And students like Haley, who could critically look at her experience and describe it in this powerful way... memorable.

And students like Haley, who could critically look at her experience and describe it in this powerful way… memorable.

Here it is in video form

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com 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.

Comments

  1. One of the qualities your work so often has is hard for me to capture in words… The closest I can come is “soul”. This piece has heaps of soul, and I wish everybody who associates online education with dehumanization could experience this.

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