Sunday, August 29, 2010

The First Penguin

 I have spent the past couple of weeks getting through Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture."  I have found it to be real, poignant and inspiring.  If you aren't familiar with the book or the theme; Randy, a computer science professor working in the virtual reality field at Carnegie Mellon University, has found out that he has pancreatic cancer and will soon succumb to the disease.  The book is a collection of his hopes for his wife, family and students.  He delivers these in a "Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon for his students.

In most computer science fields, those who are really at the cutting edge of the field have to take risks.  Many times expending time and energy in projects that won't work.  To recognize his students who were attempting to create something new and exciting, but failed to get the desired result, he created the "First Penguin Award." (p.148-149) When in the Antarctic, Penguins travel in groups, but there always must be a "First Penguin" that dives into the water without knowing what is there.  There could be predators that could quickly feast on that first penguin, but the first penguin also gets an opportunity to make a mark in the field and learn so much in the process.   Randy would award the group in his class with the most spectacular failure a stuffed penguin as a recognition of their efforts.

In the Educational Technology field, there are plenty of "First Penguins" out there, who can assist those coming into the field in how to navigate through the issues that arise anytime you try something new as an educator.  Randy starts the section with the quote, "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."  Some have had some huge successes after some initial failures, and some continue to be that "First Penguin" working to make a difference in a field where the institutional predators are often times the most dangerous.  When I eventually become a principal at a high school, I will be looking for some "First Penguins" to come to my school.  Fortunately, I will be able to give them some assurances that I have cleared the water of some of the typical predators.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sifting Through Infowhelm

Over the past several months I have definitely been experiencing "Infowhelm." In my position as the Administrative Vice Principal at Woodside High School, I don't have as much time as I used to to explore everything that was happening in the "EdTech Blogosphere." And there were a lot of things going on besides school, I was on the road a little bit presenting at the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs in March, a few one day professional development sessions, a three day session with Administrators in Georgetown, KY and getting elected to the CUE Board of Directors.

So, my personal professional development took a back seat as evidenced by the lack of posts on this blog and the number of items in my Google Reader account growing to over 1,000 several times during the past 6 months. As you can see from the graphic on the left, my Google Reader account now has no unread items in it. No, I didn't hit the "reset" switch by clicking on "Mark all items read." You can see that there are certain things I found interesting during the past 6 months, but taking a peek at my "Shared Items" list in Google Reader.

One of the items in this list is a short video that was shared by Lucy Gray, a great educator from Chicago, whom I have never met, but we have definitely traveled in the same circles in EdTech. The video illustrates the exponential growth of information in our society today and points out that we are still largely teaching "content" in schools instead of "Information Fluency" skills.

Will Richardson posted this morning on the same topic. What are we teaching? Are we teaching kids how to be better test takers? Are we teaching them how to get into the college of their choice? What should we be teaching them? In my mind, we need to change that paradigm and start teaching skills that will allow them to possess the skills that will be necessary in the economy they will be competing in. Thinking, evaluating, collaborating, applying skill, problem solving, etc. Or as Seth Godin sets forth in his book that is my current reading material, Linchpin, that "schools should teach students how to solve interesting problems."

One way I have seen recently to teach students how to solve interesting problems has been the work of Dan Meyer and his presentation at TEDxNYED. His 4 step process is clearly laid out in the presentation below.

I hope that some of you will see this an comment about where we should be going and how do we get there. I welcome your comments.