Alas, Bill Gates too is absorbed by The Blob


Posted on 28th February 2011 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Next | Schools we now have

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Bill Gates proposes another decade or two detour for public USA education in his Washington Post opinion piece today titled: How teacher development could revolutionize our schools. Good grief Gates, as we are so wont to say these days: You don’t get it.

Aaron Sorkin, in accepting an Oscar last night for his Social Network screenplay, thanked his agents, “who,” said Sorkin, “never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free”. A deeply inherent operative in human nature is that teaching is a gift, and those individuals so gifted have to be driven away from teaching with very powerful forces to get rid of them. Sadly, Bill Gates is throwing his considerable weight to just such forces.

“Teacher development” is a concept promoted by what is known in education circles as “The Blob,” described here and here. As the latter link says: “Not really a wall — they always talk about change — but rather more like quicksand, or a tar pit where ideas slowly sink out of sight leaving everything just as it had been. ”

Because teachers are born with their gift, we need to wonder what is meant by “teacher development.” We know that whatever this activity is, it supports schools of education, teacher unions, textbook and standards producers, and layers of education administrators. For all of these folks and factions, the news that the United States’ richest man has bought into the idea that teachers need to be developed is promising indeed. Gates has thrown his support to all of these, and more, “experts” who are paid to tell natural teachers how to ply their gifts.

Most natural teachers do not last long in US public school teaching. How to keep those we have, and how to win back the ones who have left in sad disgust (or much stronger disbelief)? The answer: Cut them loose from The Blob and give them access to the tools their students use in other aspects of their lives, but seldom are allowed to use in education.

Imagine a great natural teacher trekking with a couple of dozen science students through an urban, rural, or wilderness habitat. The teacher and each of his students has a personal eTablet. They are studying the life cycle of city rats, field mice, or forest shrews, respective to the habitat where they are. Or imagine a gifted math teacher in a room full kids, ages 7-14, whose interest in and aptitude for math are high. The teacher would be responding with her own knowledge and telling a kid where to go on his eTablet –  to the level of each student’s mathematical competence — not forcing upon them all some textbook writer’s idea of what math is right for ten-year-olds.

The great Gates error in his Washington Post piece is that teachers need to be “developed” to function in the system in which The Blob has entrapped our kids. Instead, the system needs to be reconfigured to welcome great teaching and engage students in knowledge networks.

Bill Gates has enough clout to help weaken The Blob so reconfiguring becomes more possible. Sadly, he seems to have abandoned this clout by being absorbed into The Blob — where he joins legion company of well intentioned would be education reformers.

Beyond the blob horizon handschooling begins anyway


Posted on 15th March 2010 by Judy Breck in Mobiles | Obamaschool | Politics | Schools we now have

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It is breathtakingly disappointing that Obama education policies both ignore handschooling and dangle billions of dollars that will keep injecting the education blob with political clout. The Obama proposals perpetuate and shape the blob, and will keep federal bureaucratic hands all over it.

Today Democrats posted a shell reconciliation bill that includes proposed language of the Obama education policies (the last 200+ pages). The clip in the image below, from page 2302, is the ONLY mention I could find of anything related to the internet. The language will be changed some, but the essence of what is proposed is there, and I recommend it to you as a way to see the reality of what is coming in the name of education reform. I believe you will agree that the injection shown above is a fair assessment.

The two huge factors now morphing into handschooling are the emergence of superior knowledge online and the tipping to ubiquitous mobile internet browsing. As the illustration depicts, individual students are learning via handschooling already. Inevitably this will only increase.

Findability is the future, not methods for search


Posted on 24th February 2010 by Judy Breck in Findability | Schools we now have

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“How do we – tech-enabled educators – teach students, and even parents, how to evaluate what they find?” Handschooling reader Antoine RJ Wright asked that question in a comment to this post that I wrote yesterday: “Findability in the global commons is the new core of education”

His question goes to the most deeply interesting, exciting, and promising subject in the new learning: How network laws themselves vet and give order  from the online chaos to the best patterns of knowledge.

I think that findability is at the core of engaging knowledge. My starting method in this blog/website has been first to put in place basic sections on all the other issues educators raise as obstacles to those of us trying to move into the future. I will then spend most of my effort on findability. When one says to most pedagogues that online knowledge is self-vetting, let’s use it, the response is seldom to say, “Wow, let’s try that.” Instead you get a diversion like  “what about socialization” or “children need nurture” or “minority kids need more help” or “federal funds will fix it all.” So, I am putting in place discussions of all that sort of stuff to avoid being bogged down by the divertors. (We do not want to be bogged down here by the ways that have earned established education the nickname “the blob.”)

The big, cool, world-changing factor of the new education is findability — which holds the answer to Antoine’s question.

Findability is not about learning how to search. Instead, educators and knowledge experts can transform learning by making the content itself emergent, so that finding it takes care of itself. Google exists because two guys realized they could capture the findability of webpages in the internet. E-commerce grew hugely successful when search engine optimization (SEO) showed merchants how to make their products findable.

Educators, meanwhile, have mostly held the internet at arms length and essentially dared students and teachers to find stuff without stumbling into porn, plagiarizing, quoting something inaccurate, or other perceived horrors of the new knowledge environment. Properly findable web assets avoid all of these bad things and link out to their best kindred knowledge.

The “TOOLKIT” image here is the beginning of my “how to” outlines — and eventually e-books — that I will create soon about findability. As the image below of a real, naturally forming emergent online knowledge network pattern shows, findable online study subjects interconnect cognitively in an open internet. This sequence of images suggest the sort of dynamic emergent network that someone wanting  study its subject online will not be able to avoid stumbling over.

Better still, these patterns are self-vetting. These dynamic patterns shed inferior nodes when better ones come along. This is exciting stuff! Stay tuned . . .