The sheer humility he expresses on stage at being completely incapable of 'understanding' the language around him while visiting a foreign country [it happens to be Italy, for the record] is one of the most profound reminders that being a learner is not always about seeking answers...but is so often most well executed when we let go of needing to be 'right'.
Thanks for leaving the suggestion in your recent comment, Dan. Much appreciated.
Thanks to a recent blog post by shanak08, a high school senior, for reminding me to spend some time with Steve J. tonight. Oh, and that reminds me. Check out her "Lyrics of Illumination(Enlightening the Mind)" blog if you want to see a very solid example of a 'kid' blogging about both the state of being a high school student and the larger edu-blogosphere Q's. Considering all the blah-blah-blah about why this 'stuff' matters, shanak08 strikes me as precisely the type of kid you'd want to 'introduce' at the next edu-conference you go to, or at least add to your daily RSS feeds.
How it begins:
"Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation."
Perhaps you can carve out some time to watch the video itself. While I confess to have inhaled the ideas long ago, watching/listening for the time took me somewhere quite new tonight. A re-discovery.
What he did via his short stint at Reed College (after he dropped out and no longer "had to take the required classes", as he says) is striking if you really care about the underlying reasons we really seek to learn beyond the definition of what school suggests may be the rhyme-n-reason. Striking how a caligraphy course led to his design of the first Mac computer.
What he says about seeing the underlying gestalt of the seemingly random experience 'dots' that grow out of following our passions, even without a clear sense of where they may be taking us, is worth the watch alone:
"You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future...because believing the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even if it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference."
I so want to show this video to my students at the beginning of the semester. Only catch? I can't open up YouTube without expressed permission while inside the school's walls. Need to seek out a better solution, n'est-ce pas?
Can anyone remind a slightly below-average tech-geek-wannabe how to 'freely' download YouTube, Google, Vimeo, BlipTV, etc, videos so that I can bring them into the classroom for the kids' benefit?
Me, what strikes me as pretty wonderful (and ultimately simple) is the investment Apple made in kid-centric (and child-ergonomic) design in such a expensive retail space. Funny. If there is even the slightest chance that a kid might become a lifelong customer, a for-profit org like Apple will invest in making the experience more robust for our youngest participants. Sure, it is just a 'ball' for a seat, but it changes the game 'just enough'.
Schools, on the other hand, have never really had to wrestle with what it means to see their students as lifelong customers who have choices (yet), and thus selecting chairs/desks (and most of the 'school icons' we are so familiar with) remains a matter of efficiency rather than engagement, cost-savings rather than an investment, tradition rather than innovation.
Or perhaps that's only when we approach education in a traditional mindset where it's vital that our learners remain 'still' in efficient rows while learning happens 'to' them rather than something discovered and constructed 'by' them. Just a thought.
A tangent or directly connected? I'll let you decide.
And you might want to wonder what it means when we imagine the impact on our students' most nimble, agile, creative potentials as we look forward to a world that will demand that our graduates are 'response-able' in ways we can only hint at in the present tense.
Imagine a 2-story play net placed in the center of your school. What message does that send? How is creativity and wonder fueled? Certainly this can't have a real value? Literally or metaphorically?
And what about a classroom that would be the envy of most homeowners? Again, value-less, right?
Perhaps such images (and the underlying questions that led to their creation) may lead our proverbial thought-horses to new waters in terms of wondering what the learning experience must be for students and educators in such spaces. Oh, and the definitions of what it means to teach and to learn as we all gaze forward and try to grasp what it really means to be 'learning' centric in whatever future you can imagine.
Again, just a thought. Probably a tangent. One worth ignoring if I were you. (He smiles)
Psst. Hey, Teach. Make yourself ONE promise today/tonight if you have a projector/screen set-up in your room (or future):
Refuse to EVER create/give another PowerPoint (or Keynote, you Mac'ites) presentation to student or colleague again until you have taken the following steps.
Step 1: Spend some serious design/idea soul-searching time with Scott Elias' recently released teacher-oriented presentation entitled, "Taking Your Slide Deck to the Next Level". [Original blog post for those wanting context; highly recommended!] For those short on time, I'll be hinting at some of the reasons why I'm a convert of his prezo-concepts down below. He 'gets' many things on many levels that make school a healthy place to think/learn/teach/evolve. This is just one reason why you should pay attention to him. And follow his lead. Oh, and subscribe to his blog.
Step 2: Add Dan Meyer's design-is-life blog (with a cleverly positioned 'math' oriented wolf costume keeping it snuggly-warm and appropriately education-centric for all school-based new-comers) to your daily reading. Pound for pound, the ONLY consistent voice in the edu-blogger 'game' that has grasped that 2.0 tech salvation matters little if pre-design and audience-impact is not embraced with the unapologetic fever of a Ali set-up jab in Manilla. 2-way conversation and digital content are wonderful precepts for sparking new considerations of the traditional student/teacher dynamic and what it means to learn in the future, but if you don't put epic energy into what it means to 'impact/engage the audience'...we stand to embarrass our collective best intentions with Google-bits of digital content that ain't worth the free YouTube vid download it road in on. Dan may be a bit provocative in tone and reaction at times (ah, the young...), but he's a significant mind-bridge across what most of the edu-blogosphere-blathering is only toying around with these days.
Step 3: Watch Dick Hardt's 2005 "Identity 2.0" presentation to your must-watch list. It's the ONLY really decent use of "2.0" that I've seen (in spite of my own awkward use of it all-too-often)...and it's 2+ years old. He sealed the deal then. Most of the rest of us are barely able to earn a seat in his shadow. Oh, and it's a pretty cool (and humorous) use of presentation slides to make a bigger point. Other than the fact that he stays glued to his laptop in front of his audience -- which is almost forgotten given how well he keeps the audience glued in -- he shows you what it means to use slides as provocation, rather than read-word-for-word repetition.
Step 5: Realize that if you are truly serious about the digital media revolution planting a flag in your classroom (or atop your bloggy-blog-blog ideas), you are only scratching the surface after all of this. Find an authentic design-void 12-step program that can help you admit your/our complete addiction to poorly conceived content-driven presentation slides that have a near-zero ability to convey the depth of meaning nor the value of story when an audience is supposed to care what we believe is valuable. Or true. Seek every possible design-centric and storyboard-empowered presentation idea you can, especially those that have NOTHING to do with education as you/we know it. Do not stop there. Realize it is a life journey that demands more than just being a teacher-of-content expert. And accept that your students/audiences' deserve nothing less than an unapologetic commitment to something better than that silly ol' bullet-point template you're/we're crushing their brains and souls with more often than we are willing to admit.
Step 6: Go back to Scott's presentation. It'll be good for the soul. Here are a few reasons that jumped out at me tonight:
Slide 3: The quick write moment. What matters is NOT the speaker's knowledge. All that matters is what the audience's goals are. One may wonder if we embrace this in our own classrooms, too. It would be ironic -- at best -- if we thought there were a distinction/gap here.
Slide 4: The unexpected (and spot-on) Malcolm/Ghandi moment. Remember, they didn't need slides to put goosebumps on the arms of their audience (live or years later). "YOU ARE" the presentation. Not the slides. Ah. Salvation might be around the corner after all.
Slides 7-9: Information overload. Death by bullets. How many words/minute a student can write down vs. how many we can read. This is obvious, but vital.
Slide 16: White on black. Effective. Simple. Powerful. Thankfully done by a few, while the majority still don't get it.
Slide 25: Guy is the guy. A great reminder to check out this business/design/presentation demi-god for all the teachers who think 'business' is a dirty word. Perhaps one of the best educators on the planet, and he's hanging out as a venture capitalist in a 'garage' somewhere in Silicon Valley. The 10-20-30 rule is a gold. Pure gold.
Slides 34-36. My eyes hurt. My brain is numb. Perhaps we can do better? Slide 37. Wait, maybe there's salvation. Ah. Feeling, much, much better!
Slides 38-43. Haven't we been here before? And lovingly so. Great summary. Vital. Simple. All aboard!