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May 10, 2007


Dan Meyer

Crud. I only meant to describe my gripping inability to distinguish my left from right but inadvertently included a deeper visual metaphor.

One that kinda damns me, no less, as one of those teachers who drones from the front at his kids who dutifully write down what he says in anticipation of the test where they will regurgitate it, etc etc.

If there's a poster boy for the School 2.0 movement, those photos up there are sort of the farthest thing from it, right?

*sigh* It's way too early to figure out what connective paragraph goes here.

I just don't buy it. Not fully. And maybe it's because I'm math. I've got no vested interest in control or authority or convenience, but this idea of kids developing all the requisite course knowledge exclusively by collaborating on wikis or using manipulatives (that is, _without_ this linear teacher-student relationship) just rings flatly against my career so far.

It isn't fast enough. It involves too much frustration, too much thudding of skulls against rock walls as they try to navigate the exit. Perhaps this is where the School 2.0-ist would say "_that_ is what learning is about!" but I can only agree to an extent. To a huge extent, students want (and need) a guide.

I believe that both extremes are unhealthy places to be. As long as there are people who are smarter than other people, who have attained knowledge sooner and know better how to explain it, there's going to be a place for a linear speaker-audience relationship. But that shouldn't be the default or sole modality at work.

I just get these particular comments and e-mails on my presentation posts, you know? People who are really attached to this good-hearted idea of student's constructing all their learning and who think that "presentation" takes us far in the other direction. And to make their point, they almost always resort to this really dishonest portrait of a teacher droning from the front at his kids who dutifully write down, etc. Like the teacher can't be asking stimulating questions, or asking students to make up a question and share it with their neighbors, or any of a hundred other techniques for stimulating lecture. It feels like School 2.0 is painting the middle as a extreme for the sake of the opposite extreme. I don't suppose you get the same sense, do you?


Dan -- Here is the end of a much longer email I just sent you, but felt it germane to the conversation and your points:

You mentioned in the blog comment the sense that 2.0 voices seem to disregard that teachers can ask stimulating questions. Yes. And they forever will. But the promise -- in the past -- was not that the kids/students would be expected to ask stimulating questions of their own. Sure, they show up that way as 5 year olds, but 'school' asks them to replace this instinct with the ability to sit still and retain someone else's question/expertise. Up until recently, Dan, one could argue that asking teachers to change was fancy at best. But today, and into the future, the premise of learning will demand that teachers spend as much time engendering in their students a willingness and ability to frame (and own) profound questions of their own, for teachers to shift from 'expert' (even if they are -- which I agree with you, BTW) to 'guide', and that the classroom is not the 'point' of the exchange but is only one (of many) hub/filter for a much more global/fluid exchange of ideas and collaborations over time.

As for today/tomorrow?

Keep doing what YOU are doing.

You are blending the classic model and 2.0 innovations in a way that deserve much credit. You have -- I would imagine -- 35+ years ahead of you to 'master' what it means to teach and to shape young lives. To be where you are after 3 years? Impressive. And many of us are learning from you in the process


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