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It’s only natural that the K12 Online Conference presentations feel uneven to some of us. Each presenter has a different background, level of experience, set of priorities, agenda, audience. Some hit me, some don’t.
Dean Shareski hit me on this biting Seoul Saturday morning. If a lot of the more tech-oriented presenters are the Henry Fords of this Digital Revolution, Dean is more of a William Morris. Aesthetics is the focus of his “Design Matters” presentation, and if you only watch one K12 presentation, this is the one I’d recommend. It puts the ghost back into the machine.
Dean asked for feedback from his viewers, so I gave the below on the comments section of his K12 Online presentation page. I’m pasting it here because it’s the beginning of a new project for me: The Campsite Seminars, I’m calling it for now. Or maybe I like this better:
Here’s the comment:
Dean asked for feedback as we watched, and I assume that means feedback here, though it’s strange to be first. Anyway, here’s mine.
(Warlick’s keynote touches on the same idea with his “competitive information products,” though the worker-drone connotations of “products” still irks me, as it focuses more than I would like on economics and money-making, more than on aesthetics and character, I would argue – but anyway….)
Christian Long’s interview suffered from poor audio quality, so I couldn’t understand much of it (we’ve all experienced the wrath of the techno gods, so I sympathize). I did catch, though, the exploitation of simple walking distance and space between buildings as a learning opportunity, and that resonated. Our own campus is very restricted by its hilltop, woods-surrounded setting, which is the opposite of the example Christian used of having to walk a mile between buildings: we’re too cramped. But WE DO HAVE THOSE SURROUNDING WOODS. That’s fascinating in this new light. I’m picturing possibilities of assigning students – in small groups, so the discussions are not diluted by too many voices and not enough time – to take voice or video recorders of whatever sort into the woods to record conversations in that setting – I can’t help but hope that the setting would influence the discussions in interesting and more thoughtful ways. Have them discuss a theme from our reading of King Lear, for example, or whatever topic might benefit from the meditative openness of a wooded setting. Recording these discussions – video seems more desirable, when I think about it – would allay most fears of “unsupervised” students in the woods. Take the footage back into the classroom and quick-edit these “campsite seminars” into short films. I’ll have to try this. It’s literally “Beyond School”
Dr. Schwier: “Does it work? Is it beautiful? Is it powerful? Is it inspiring?” This is refining my “campsite seminars” idea above. I said “quick-edit” those seminars just now. Why rush? That way Velveeta lies.
Why not assign them to be voice-overs for iMovie projects that add BEAUTY and FORCE via film, stills, music, titles? Yes, yes, yes: let’s aim for brie and camembert.
In fact, I’m seeing now that two or three class sessions of this new mode of “class discussion” – sitting on the pine needles under the autumn trees – might be best, to give students time to adapt to talking in natural surroundings, in “nature’s temple.” Talk about “educational architecture” – how about the dome of the sky over a canopy of pine?
(I’m liking this very much, Dean. Thanks for this very innovative angle. Much of the K12 conference so far has been school-2.0-as-usual, if you get what I mean.)
At 12:00 now: Planning. I’ll play along with my Campsite Seminars whim above, and apply the rest of your presentation, when possible, to it. Consider this a “teacher think-aloud.”
So the Seminars – I think they’ll actually work better for something more relevant to my students than Shakespeaere (which they and I love). I think, instead, it will work for the classroom blogging “Capstone Project” I’m currently launching with them.
The idea of that project for my high school seniors – so close to the end of their 12 year sentence of infantilization in schools – is to help them learn about whatever their passion, and their possible future (a)vocation, is, by reading real-world bloggers who share their passion(s), and writing about what they read on their own blogs.
They’ve already created their blogs, and this weekend, are composing their “about” pages and searching for feeds about their passion(s)/interest(s) on Bloglines (I still haven’t found a better feed-searching engine than Bloglines’). They’ve claimed their blogs on Technorati, embedded Sitemeter and Clustrmaps. Now they’re ready to connect.
The problem I think I’m fighting, though, is that they don’t understand the magical potential this project offers them to make connections with people in the world of kindred passions. They’ve never linked to a writer in a blog post, and seen that writer turn up a day or two later in comments.
They’ve been too busy writing 5-paragraph essays – or homework-assignments-as-blog-posts, which is the New Abomination – about irrelevant subjects to tired teachers all their lives to write about what they love to real-world readers – so they just don’t get it. They don’t know how to dream, how to let themselves be visionary; and they don’t know how dreams and visions can become realities through connective writing.
So, in short, I’m trying to introduce them to the world beyond school, but they’re so “studentified” they seem unable to see this as anything but homework because, after all, I’m a “teacher,” and they are “students,” and all of this is happening in a “school.”
So I think these Campsite Seminars are better suited to serving as a “retreat from school” in both the spatial and the psychological senses. I want them to think – possibly for the first time, since so many of them are so constantly addled by the pressures of “schooliness,” the homework, the SAT’s, the college applications, the school spirit jive, on and on – about which world they want to enter when they leave school forever – in seven short months.
So back to you, Dean: How do I plan for these 70-minute retreats into the woods to bear fruit? [Clicks “play”….]
“What’s the purpose of your movie?”
–Hm. In an attempted nutshell, to figure out:
1. What makes you tick.
2. What you want to become.
3. Which is what you will read about on blogs and other sites.
4. And what you will write about…
5. For an audience you want to attract.
Okay, that’s about as far as I’m going to take this here. I see Dean asks for feedback on his blog, and on the wiki he made for this, etc, and suddenly feel like my students when they’re dealing with my tendency to have a million sites for classwork
Dean, it was a very valuable presentation. You got beyond the tools and beyond the generic edublog talk.
Thanks for that.
For more on the quest for the student blogging grail, see these posts:
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