information literacy

Carol Kuhlthau meets Tim Brown: Guided Inquiry {Design} Thinking

Two books have been guiding my thinking about research & inquiry cycles for the past couple of years.
a)  Change by Design -- by Tim Brown, of IDEO "design thinking" fame.  His framework is not explicitly educational, though IDEO have published a toolkit of design thinking for educators.

b)  Guided Inquiry Design: a framework for Inquiry in your School -- by Carol C. Kuhlthau, Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari.  Kuhlthau is the grand dame of teacher-librarianship and the one who first recognized the emotional element involved in the ISP (Information Search Process) back in 1991.

For me, the most important feature they share is the recognition of that emotional element in research.  We all get discouraged - or should.  If you don't experience any dip in confidence, then it means you're not really pushing yourself in terms of researching.   Tim's sketch illustrates Carol's original insight very well.
Tim's design process is an incredibly simple iterative cycle between Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation (below is my sketch) -- but I think it works just as well in terms of research.

Carol's latest framework is more expansive, incorporating 8 "verb" steps (mirroring her older ISP "noun" stages - shown in parentheses) :
  • Open (Initiation)
    • Invitation to inquiry
    • Open minds
    • Stimulate curiosity
  • Immerse (Selection)
    • Build background knowledge
    • Connect to content
    • Discover interesting ideas
  • Explore (Exploration)
    • Explore interesting ideas
    • Look around
    • Dip in
  • Identify (Formulation)
    • Pause and ponder
    • Identify inquiry questions
    • Decide direction
  • Gather (Collection)
    • Gather important information
    • Go broad
    • Go deep
  • Create (Presentation)
    • Reflect on learning
    • Go beyond facts to make meaning
    • Create to communicate
  • Share (Presentation)
    • Learn from each other
    • Sharing learning
    • Tell your story
  • Evaluate (Assessment)
    • Evaluate achievement of learning goals
    • Reflect on content
    • Reflect on process

Carol's book offers plenty of practical suggestions for implementing inquiry in schools, e.g., she stresses the need for an Inquiry Journal (a workspace for individual composing and reflection) as well as Inquiry Charts (attempts to visualize ideas, connections, questions, etc.) and an Inquiry Log (a record of sources consulted), but one of the most important points she makes is the crucial distinction between the Explore and the Gather stages.

The Explore stage is about browsing, scanning, and skimming.  "Dipping in" means you need to relax, read, and reflect.  Sources should just be tracked in the Inquiry Log at this point.

The Gather stage is about detailed note-taking, comprehensive searching, and "going deep".  This is also the stage when you need to thinking about citing, quoting, and paraphrasing. Too often students think they have to take detailed notes on a source the first time they encounter it - before they have decided on an inquiry focus.

Again, Tim has a simple distinction which I think epitomizes the difference.

Here I have added just two extra descriptions:  Finding Out vs. Sorting Out (a la Kath Murdoch)
When talking to students, I now like to have them clarify which mode they think they are currently in.  And the emotional dip of uncertainty is often a sign that's time for the shift.  What a metacognitive skill -- to know how much first stage searching is enough to work with -- to have enough choices.

This is Carol's Identify stage -- which is about focusing and establishing a meaningful inquiry question -- when the thinking shifts from divergent (broad) to convergent (deep).

Tim Brown insists all ideas (i.e., research questions) must be analyzed in light of three criteria:  Desirability (personal interest/passion), Viability (for Tim this means "makes business sense," but in the educational realm it translates to "fits the assignment or criteria" and satisfies the big "so what?"), and Feasibility (the time and resources to actually complete the project).
Similarly, Carol asks students to consider their question in terms of the assigned task, their own interest, the time available, and the information and resources available.

I think Tim's four basic illustrations concisely convey the key stages of research better than Carol's more elaborate theory.  I still want her book on my shelf, but, until I can get more teachers to read and absorb it, I'll be using Tim's ideas and images in conversation.

Building Digitally Literate Communities, or, what I learned at IASL/SLAQ 2010

"Building literate communities"
and  "Supporting the digital education agenda" were two of the four strands of  the IASL / SLAQ (Int'l Assoc. of School Librarianship / School Library Assoc. of Queensland) 2010 conference held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Sep. 27 - Oct. 1.

Over the course of the week the two themes merged into an essential question for me:

How to build digitally literate communities?

Our school is embarking on a "21st Century Teaching & Learning" program (aka iLearn) over the next two years, part of which will involve going 1:1 with Apple laptops in Grade 6 and above (and 2:1 below that) -- and designing new library/information spaces.

Presentations by two academics - one an education/business/think-tank professor and the other a education/futurist -- gave me some interesting concepts and phrases to play with -- re people and spaces that will support the digitally literate community we want to become.
  • Michael Hough, Professorial Fellow at the Univ. of Wollongong -- Keynote: "In Schools that Face the Future, Libraries Matter" -- & Session: "The Role of the Teacher-Librarian in Developing Leadership Capabilities in Staff"
  • Erica McWilliam, co-leader of the Creative Workforce Program at Queensland University of Technology -- Keynote: "High Standards or a High Standard of Standardness?"

>>> See a vodcast and accompanying slideshow for each keynote<<<

Both explored the e-learning shift underway and confirmed the need for 21st Century Teacher-Librarians (see Joyce Valenza's Manifesto for the definitive description of one), with Hough claiming librarians should become the C.I.O. (Chief Information Officer) of their schools.

He highly recommended the recently published book -- Developing a Networked School Community -- and cited Chapter 9 (most of which you can read via GoogleBooks) by Lyn Hay (who was one of my online professors -- I wrote a paper on Gaming in Education for her back in 2005...)

Hough particularly liked her concept of the iCentre, which she defines as 
"the central facility within the school where information, technology, learning and teaching needs are supported by qualified information and learning technology specialists.  It is a centre that provides students and teachers with a one-stop shop for all resourcing, technology, and learning needs on a daily basis."
(See also the slides from a recent keynote by Hay: "21st Century Teacher-Librarian: Rethink, Rebuild, and Re-brand".)

McWilliam provided an interesting variation on the idea, by surveying the culture of the coffee house from raucous 17th century London up until erudite 20th century Vienna.  A home away from home, a place you want to go to. She argued Hogarth's coffee house was an antecedent of the lifelong learning space -- a round table of communal resources (both liquid and intellectual) -- and that librarians would benefit from considering the various skills and dispositions of those distant coffee house landlords (arbiter, assembler, gossip provider, business manager, service manager, social broker of relationships, etc) over time. 

She suggested today's online model might be nings, an iCafe for shared passions. I think Twitter is a fitter descendant.

#slaqiasl2010 was the Twitter tag for the conference -- and others in my personal learning network were far more adept at typing up the passing thoughts (special thanks to Stacey Taylor, Marita Thomson, and Jessica Jorna for their quick minds and fingers. You allowed me to concentrate on my own more expansive note-taking.)

The whole conference was a community experience, with an overlapping of school librarians, international school librarians, IBO school librarians, and academics.

In line with the same "building communities" theme, Barb Philip, the junior school teacher-librarian at Tanglin Trust School here in Singapore, and I did a presentation on "Building Internationally Literate Communities", based on our library network's efforts to expand the reading experiences of our students.

More blog posts re learning and connections made at the conference to follow...

Teachers, Meaningful Connections, & Mindful Information Consumption

Clay Burell has been on a writing binge over the holiday -- and there have been long conversations in the comments of several posts, which, as Clay put it, have been the equivalent of college-level credit in terms of professional development. NB: Some of my contributions are re-formatted and expanded below.

First of all, see the original Beyond School blog posts (among others):
Clay expressed his fear that we are producing barbarians with laptops and challenged people to to provide good examples of learning that effectively enhanced content and the development of important skills -- and many did. (Check out the responses of Roberto Greco, Monika Hardy, Neil Stephenson, Hellen Harding, et al.)

I cited Michael Wesch's philosophy of teaching outlined in a video in 2008 as my guiding light.

In summary, to create students who make meaningful connections we need to
  • find a grand narrative and provide context and relevance (i.e., semantic meaning);
  • create a learning environment that values and leverages learners themselves (i.e., personal meaning); and
  • do both in a way that realizes and leverages the existing media environment
Technology isn’t an end in itself -- it’s about leverage in the service of meaningful connections. So if it doesn't enhance the learning in the classroom and it's not authentic participation in the existing media environment (read: busywork), you shouldn't feel obliged to use it.

Cliff Stoll is someone who comes down squarely against computers in the classroom. See his 1999 book, High-Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian -- as well as his Feb. 2006 TED talk (which provides an excellent preview of how he would perform as a teacher in a classroom).

(And if you want an example of what it means to be a ruthless and natural inquirer, read his 1989 book The Cuckoo's Egg: tracking a spy through the maze of computer espionage .)

Here he is talking about computers in classrooms -- from an interview in 2000:

Stoll: The one thing that computers do extraordinarily well is bring information to kids. Computers give kids access to vast amounts of information.

EW: Don't computers have a place in the classroom, then, if merely as a source of information?

Stoll: Is a lack of information a problem in schools? I've never once had a teacher say to me "I don't have enough information." Teachers say they don't have enough time. The problem in classrooms is not a lack of information. It's too much information. ......

: ... The problem is that the use of computers subtracts from the student-to-teacher contact hours. It directs attention away from the student-teacher relationship and directs it toward the student-computer relationship. It teaches students to focus on getting information rather than on exploring and creating. Which is more interactive -- a student and a teacher or a student and a computer? ...

Re the love inherent in classroom teaching and the importance of time with a teacher (technology aside), I can't help but re-recommend a commencement address by Margaret Edson, teacher and playwright. There's a link in this blog post (skip the first 3 min of her talk and get to the heart of it).

Umberto Eco in this interview also brings up the problem of too much information, but sees the teacher (in the role of master to apprentices) as instrumental in dealing with it.
Eco: ... These [Google] lists can be dangerous -- not for old people like me, who have acquired their knowledge in another way, but for young people, for whom Google is a tragedy. Schools ought to teach the high art of how to be discriminating.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that teachers should instruct students on the difference between good and bad? If so, how should they do that?

Eco: Education should return to the way it was in the workshops of the Renaissance. There, the masters may not necessarily have been able to explain to their students why a painting was good in theoretical terms, but they did so in more practical ways. Look, this is what your finger can look like, and this is what it has to look like. Look, this is a good mixing of colors. The same approach should be used in school when dealing with the Internet. The teacher should say: "Choose any old subject, whether it be German history or the life of ants. Search 25 different Web pages and, by comparing them, try to figure out which one has good information." If 10 pages describe the same thing, it can be a sign that the information printed there is correct. But it can also be a sign that some sites merely copied the others' mistakes.
Last year Clay Shirky pointed out It's Not Information Overload, It's Filter Failure.

In that light, Umberto Eco is proposing teachers as human filters** for disciplinary knowledge and practices, teaching students to discriminate.

Frank Schirrmacher recognizes this same need to question what we're consuming in the way of information.

He talks about humans as ''informavores" in this video/transcript: Edge In Frankfurt: THE AGE OF THE INFORMAVORE— A Talk with Frank Schirrmacher.

I think it's very interesting, the concept — again, Daniel Dennett and others said it — the concept of the informavores, the human being as somebody eating information. So you can, in a way, see that the Internet and that the information overload we are faced with at this very moment has a lot to do with food chains, has a lot to do with food you take or not to take, with food which has many calories and doesn't do you any good, and with food that is very healthy and is good for you. ....
As we know, information is fed by attention, so we have not enough attention, not enough food for all this information. And, as we know — this is the old Darwinian thought, the moment when Darwin started reading Malthus — when you have a conflict between a population explosion and not enough food, then Darwinian selection starts. And Darwinian systems start to change situations. And so what interests me is that we are, because we have the Internet, now entering a phase where Darwinian structures, where Darwinian dynamics, Darwinian selection, apparently attacks ideas themselves: what to remember, what not to remember, which idea is stronger, which idea is weaker.
It's the question: what is important, what is not important, what is important to know? Is this information important? Can we still decide what is important? And it starts with this absolutely normal, everyday news.
Having introduced the metaphor of information as food, I can't help but end with a link to one of the essays David Brooks gave a 2009 Sidney (best essay) award to:

Is Food the New Sex? - Mary Eberhardt - Hoover Institution - Policy Review
Try reading it, substituting the word "information" for "food" or "sex"....
These disciplines imposed historically on access to food and sex now raise a question that has not come up before, probably because it was not even possible to imagine it until the lifetimes of the people reading this: What happens when, for the first time in history — at least in theory, and at least in the advanced nations — adult human beings are more or less free to have all the sex and food they want?
This question opens the door to a real paradox. For given how closely connected the two appetites appear to be, it would be natural to expect that people would do the same kinds of things with both appetites — that they would pursue both with equal ardor when finally allowed to do so, for example, or with equal abandon for consequence; or conversely, with similar degrees of discipline in the consumption of each.
In fact, though, evidence from the advanced West suggests that nearly the opposite seems to be true. The answer appears to be that when many people are faced with these possibilities for the very first time, they end up doing very different things — things we might signal by shorthand as mindful eating, and mindless sex. This essay is both an exploration of that curious dynamic, and a speculation about what is driving it.
[bold added]

Here we are, for the first time in history with all the information we want. It's the "Informavore's Dilemma" ***. Now we just need to develop the discipline for mindful information consumption.

** Social bookmarking is a form of discriminating filtering and Roberto Greco, with over 17,500 bookmarks on Delicious is one of my richest human filters for reading material. As a librarian, I'm impressed with both his descriptions and his tags.

*** I thought I was being clever vis-a-vis Michael Pollan's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma", but Google tells me used it first...

p.s. Wherever I've used the word "teacher", I obviously include "librarians".

Image of Umberto Eco via giveawayboy on Flickr / Image of bento box via Cowism / Image of Google log via the Telegraph UK

21st C Learning@HK: a team approach

Keri-Lee and I are now the East IDL team.

IDL? you ask.

Take your pick: idol, idyll, idle, or, the correct answer: Information & Digital Literacies.

It's a tag I am more comfortable with than "21st century" (no matter what you put after it, whether "skills" or "learning" or "tools") -- because, as Dennis Harter points out, we're already in the 21st century and will be for the rest of our lives, and the adjective "21st century" (like "Web 2.0") may have instant recognition to those in the educational blogosphere, but induces either alienation or only vague comprehension in others.

It's understandable to want to stress the new and to avoid focusing on technology alone, but I'm voting for a return to Information and Digital Literacies as the label for what we are trying to spread and embed in the classrooms, which I think David Warlick captures in these statements:
"As I say again and again, it is not the computers that are impacting us as a society or as individuals. It’s what we can do with information that is changing things." (2008)
"... embracing tools that give all their student-learners and teacher-learners ubiquitous access to networked, digital, and abundant information — and the capacity to work that information and express discoveries and outcomes compellingly to authentic audiences." (2009)
Information & Digital Literacies also nicely combines the main characteristic of our respective subject areas -- me as the Teacher-Librarian and Keri-Lee as the ICT Facilitator.

What's new this year besides recognition of us as a team?

One, Keri-Lee is no longer an ICT "teacher" on a release-time, weekly fixed schedule with classes; instead she's a facilitator on a flexi-schedule, collaborating with classroom teachers on different units of inquiry, as I have been.

Two, we're using the ISTE NETS for Students as our roadmap and are working on a document for our teachers, translating the NETS Profiles into possible experiences/scenarios for our students based on our curriculum and taking the IBO PYP Transdisciplinary Skills (Communication, Research, Thinking, Self-Management, and Social) into account. In addition, we're looking at the NETS for Teachers, Administrators, and Technology Facilitators.

Three, we have some new technology toys, which teachers can book, just like they can book us: a set of iPod Touches and a set of video cameras.

In celebration of this shift, Keri-Lee and I attended the 21st Century Learning @ Hong Kong: Extending Tomorrow's Leaders with Digital Learning, held September 17-19, 2009, at Hong Kong International School (HKIS).

With over 500 attendees, many of us from overseas, there was a good mix of teachers (a lot of IT/ICT, but also librarians and others) - and the program had plenty to offer.

(NB: I presented a workshop with Beth Gourley, from the International School of Tianjin, called Digital Gist: Harnessing digital content for learning and the library: an inquiry into texts online in audio, video, and e-book formats.)

One of the most useful sessions Keri-Lee and I attended, in terms of our goals for our own school, was Walking the Talk: 21st Century Learning in Curriculum Design and Learning by Greg Curtis, Curriculum Director at the International School of Beijing (ISB).

He started off with this video (from The Onion) re the "21st century skills" our kids are going to need.

Greg stressed that the 21st century movement (yes, they do use the term at ISB) is a learning one, not a technology one -- and therefore needs to be driven by the curriculum unit, not the IT department -- that it's about strategic planning and future visioning, not IT planning. (Read: management buy-in is critical.)

At ISB they are trying to create a "pull" culture, rather than a "push" one -- to infuse technology into learning experiences and explorations, not force it. A culture where technology is expected to be used and will be drawn in. Never technology for its own sake. Context is everything. It's all about the learning -- always about the learning.

He walked us through ISB's Learning 21 framework -- with Standards in the center, then moving out a ring to the Learning 21 Approaches, and then the outer ring of Learning 21 Skills. (I was pleased to learn they had blended the library and technology standards.)

All these are incorporated, along with Understanding by Design constructs, into their Curriculum Mapping system, which allows them to visually check the spread of assessment tasks and see how the Learn 21 Approaches and Skills are being integrated.

To implement this program, ISB has initiated an early release afternoon on Wednesdays, providing two hours a week of concentrated staff professional development time.

What a tremendous commitment to a program and a process. I look forward to following ISB's progress over the next few years.

See Greg's handout - scanned and uploaded to Google Docs

See also my rough notes on his presentation - in Google Docs

(By the way, I was pleased to see Sharon Vipond, the secondary librarian at HKIS, has posted her notes on all the keynote speeches from the conference.)

It was such a beneficial and collaborative exercise attending the conference together with Keri-Lee -- we were continually bouncing impressions and ideas off each other. We'll see how we get on with our own integrated standards, approaches, and skills initiative -- and our efforts to infuse information and digital literacy into our East campus classrooms.

And hats off to the conference organizers -- it was a well-executed event and I would definitely attend it again.

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Allan Luke online... and other luminaries in the field of new literacies...

If you're interested in literacies -- critical, new, or multiple -- and you don't know Allan Luke, then please watch this webcast of him speaking about "New Literacies" in Canada in May 2007, hosted by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. (Thanks to Susan Sedro for pointing the link out on her blog, Adventures in Educational Blogging...)

He's a huge presence on the literacy scene -- especially in Australia. See, for example, this list of literacy links, including Allan Luke's Four Resources model, gathered by Rosemary Horton at the P.L. Duffy Resource Centre at Trinity College (Western Australia).

I'm also a fan of various colleagues of his over the years (all connected with Australia or Canada):
It's interesting that Allan Luke has connections to Singapore as well. He worked here for a few years (some time ago) and is the Foundation Dean, Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

In the webcast, Allan Luke mentions Vivian Vasquez -- a name I hadn't come across before in the field of critical literacy. I'm pleased to see she has plenty of podcasts on critical literacy in practice to listen to. Another lead to follow....

Questioning projects and assessments

The importance of generating good, meaty, essential questions, especially for student projects, is something everyone agrees on. However, those of us in a school with an explicit inquiry-based learning framework in place often feel ahead of the game.

For example, at Doug Johnson's EARCOS 2007 pre-conference workshop for teacher/librarians on Designing Projects Students (and Teachers) Love, those of us at PYP schools felt his 4-level Research Question Rubric -- where Level 1 asks for simple recall, Level 2 asks a specific question, Level 3 asks for personal response, and Level 4 includes a call for action -- simply reflected different stages in the inquiry process.

Using Kath Murdoch's inquiry cycle model, a Level 1 question is equivalent to Tuning In, a Level 2 question might be Finding Out or Sorting Out, a Level 3 question reflects Going Further or Making Conclusions, and a Level 4 question falls under Taking Action followed by Sharing/Reflection. So, while he was trying to get us to generate a Level 4 question to assign to students, we all felt the rubric was just a spiral students would move along themselves in any one project or unit of inquiry.

When the question of appropriate assessment (or assignments) came up at the IBAP conference, Prof. Stephen Heppell had a few great substitutions he threw out to us (likes scraps to hungry animals) -- especially after the IB Diploma students participating in the forum complained about two years of effort being assessed in a 2-hour handwritten exam worth 80% of their grade.
  • ~ instead of an 80% exam, why not require a 3-nation collaborative task for students?
  • ~ instead of assigning a 1,500 word essay, why not require either a) scripting and posting a 3-minute podcast, or b) managing an online discussion for a week, or c) annotating 10 website links?
  • ~ instead of bemoaning the availability of "free online essays" for students to pinch, why not assign the task of choosing 4 "free online essays" and critiquing them, and then improving on one of them?
I mentioned this to my daughter and a friend, both of whom are about to take the IGCSE/GCSE exams, and they leapt onto the last idea, saying how useful it would be for them to critique other people's essays -- to internalize the examiners' rubric and understand more fully what it is they are being asked to perform.

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Pre-search, or look before you leap

  1. The initial, guided investigation of topics, themes and main ideas for schoolwork before delving into the deeper research process.
  2. An activity sincerely appreciated by overworked librarians, offered by

This is clever marketing aimed at librarians on the part of

"Presearch" isn't a term explicitly used in well-known research models like the Big6 or the NSW (Australia) Information Process, but it was definitely a focus of attention in several workshops I attended at the EARCOS and IBAP conferences (see previous posting).

Most people agreed that "Define" as step one implied a big first step that students find daunting. They need to be encouraged to take their time.

That's why I like the first step in Kath Murdoch's inquiry model -- which is called Tuning In (followed by Finding Out, Sorting Out, Going Further, Making Conclusions, Taking Action, and Sharing/Reflection).

Tuning In is also more in line with the first step of the revised Bloom's taxonomy (in which Remember replaced Knowledge as the lowest level; another revision was to switch the positions of Synthesis and Evaluate -- putting Create as the highest order):

1. Remember
2. Understand
3. Apply
4. Analyze
5. Evaluate
6. Create

Remembering is a good way of tuning in -- asking what we already know before we start finding out. It also reflects the level of just being able to spew out undigested facts.

At the IBAP conference, Cathy Hill and Yvonne Hammer introduced me to a new model: Parnes' Creative Problem Solving model (which they say is frequently used with gifted and talented students, based on the belief that creativity is a set of behaviors that can be learned).

* Clarification stage:
1. Mess Finding (e.g., brainstorming)
2. Data Finding (collecting the facts, acting as a camera while looking at the "mess" -- a major evaluative tool)
3. Problem Finding (prioritizing options, speculating, focusing, and finally forming a statement or question)

* Transformation stage:
4. Idea Finding (generating ideas and feeling responses, elaborating, more brainstorming)

* Implementation stage:
5. Solution Finding (evaluating, re-examining the focus, identifying leads, and analysing views of the problem)
6. Acceptance Finding (considering the audience, target the priorities, developing a plan of action, editing, presenting work)

I particularly like the word "mess" as the place to begin -- because that's exactly how I feel when I start off on a new project. I create a big mess of information and have to sort through it.

Perhaps "digging in" is a better phrase for that first step -- as it combines the idea of "tuning in" and making a "mess".

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The form & content of the future

For all the virtues of virtual connections, there's nothing like a few days of face-to-face with large numbers of peers for some mental and social expansion.

Last week I had two such valuable experiences at overlapping conferences:

[The EARCOS one is listed on Hitchkr (a compendium of blog postings on different conferences) but not the IBAP one. As for handouts to download, the IB ones are listed on the conference website given above, but for the EARCOS ones you have to drill down into the sub-pages, e.g., the Workshop Presenters page, and look under each name.]

I'm writing up my notes here and here, but the focal point of both experiences was on the form and content of the future that educators, in particular, need to start acting upon -- and each conference provided an excellent guru.

Technology is obviously the form, but while anyone can get up and rant about exponential growth and the need to embrace change, not just anyone can show us workable paths and original thinking.

At the IBAP conference, Stephen Heppell (check out his bio, if you've never heard of him) pulled up example after example from his crowded Mac desktop screen showing us how he's involved in getting students and teachers to learn collaboratively using the latest technology (see,, the learnometer project, the "be very afraid" film series, etc.). His presentation lived up to the tags on his website: learning, ingenuity, research, policy, design, technology, and delight. (I'll blog more about his ideas in a separate posting.)

Global issues are the content. The appearance of Jean-Francois Rischard, author of the book High Noon, at the EARCOS conference was very timely. Consensus on the pressing problem of global warming has coalesced (thanks in part to Al Gore's movie) over the past several months, so it was wonderful to hear from someone who has been thinking seriously about the problem -- and even bigger ones -- for several years.

His overall message was that we need to come up with a new methodology of global problem-solving because the problems now facing the world must be resolved by countries working together. Like Heppell, Rischard is someone who has been involved in the system he's critiquing, as he used to work for the World Bank and is very knowledgeable about the current international organizations available. (I'll blog more about his ideas in a separate posting.)

The popular meme that was killed for me, thanks to these conferences, was Marc Prensky's digital immigrant/digital native divide. I've been guilty of spreading it myself, but, I'm sorry -- given the rate of change, doesn't the divide continually shift? Is it meaningful? Each cohort born will be exposed to some technology at a younger age than those born a few years before. There was a "Student Perspectives on IT and Education" forum at the IBAP conference and the teens who participated (from two different international schools in Singapore) admitted they marvel at how younger kids are utilizing technology at a younger age than they did, e.g., mobile phones. The term "digital natives" did not resonate with them, though they did gripe that many of their teachers were not as digitally fluent as they were. I much prefer the idea of a digital literacy or fluency continuum, regardless of age.

A focus on an age definition of "digital natives" (e.g., born after 1973 or whatever the current year-marker is) also ignores the very real economic digital divide. To speak sweepingly of a whole digital generation, when many children have yet to touch a digital device, is misleading.

Brain research is strongly linked to this concept of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants". I must go back and review the latest reports because almost every speaker (especially that stand-up comic/evangelist preacher Ian Jukes) made it sound like kids' brains have eternal neuro-plasticity while ours are hopelessly hardwired. I'm sure I've recently read about the window of neural-plasticity staying open (longer), e.g., that the elderly can even continue to build new neural pathways if they keep mentally fit (the old 'use-it or lost-it' saying). Anyway, something to look up later.

As I've mentioned Jukes, I also want to point out something that strikes me as odd about his blog. I've clicked on at least six different postings (see, for example, Video Games Focus on Exercising Brain and The Handwriting is on the Wall) and they appear to be his comments on an article, for which he provides a link at the bottom of the posting. BUT, when you go to the article, it's word-for-word the same as his posting. So he seems to be posting whole copies of article texts on his blog with no attribution (neither publication nor author) on the blog itself -- though he does provide a link to the article (which doesn't always work though -- e.g., several link to expired articles (Students use IM Lingo in Essays and Shoes Track Children Using GPS) and one posting appears to be an image so you can't actually click on the link (1867 Nanomachine Now Reality)). My impression of him was as an energetic re-packager of ideas (I had heard them all before from other sources) and his blog makes it look like he doesn't even do that very well.

Would we really let students copy an article on their blog without indicating that it was NOT their own words in the posting, even if they did provide a link at the end to the real article? Must review online ethical etiquette sometime...

More thoughts in separate postings...

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