Archive for November, 2010

Deschooling Education

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

–Mark Twain

As I continue to try to wrap my head around the concept of formal education and why/how it needs to change, I’ve found it increasingly necessary to go back in history to read the arguments and proposals of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.  Sizer and Postman & Weingartner have all put miles on my library card this year, and I’ve got Seymour Papert on deck sitting on my kitchen counter.

Several months ago I read Deschooling Society, written by Ivan Illich in 1971, in which Illich calls for a radical change in how education is delivered conducted.  I can’t do justice to his entire argument in a blogpost, but the gist of it is that the entire system needs to be completely destroyed (not as in, “everyone use computers now” destroyed; he means “raze it and salt the earth” destroyed) and re-built from the ground up.  I found one section oddly prescient in that it seems to predict the concept of online learning communities a good 30+ years in advance:

Educational resources are usually labeled according to educators’ curricular goals. I propose to do the contrary, to label four different approaches which enable the student to gain access to any educational resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:

1. Reference Services to Educational Objects–which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these things can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories, and showrooms like museums and theaters; others can be in daily use in factories, airports, or on farms, but made available to students as apprentices or on off hours.

2. Skill Exchanges–which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.

3. Peer-Matching–a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.

4. Reference Services to Educators-at-Large–who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators, as we will see, could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients.

(Illich, 1971, p. 56)

I see the potential for utilizing online tools to build these educational networks (dare I say Professional/Personal Learning Networks?) and databases such as Illich describes, and I would love to know the extent to which this has already started to happen in our schools (public, private, charter, home, or otherwise).  I don’t mean doing a long-distance wiki or blog project with a class in another state or country (not that those are without merit), but rather teaching kids to use these tools to pursue whatever it is they feel is worth knowing by connecting with other “real live” people around the neighborhood, state, or world, and then not only giving them license to do it, but encouraging it.


Illich, Ivan.  (1971).  Deschooling society. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

NJEA Convention 2010: Five Thoughts

In no particular order, here are some of my ‘takeaways’ from NJEA Convention 2010:

  • While I enjoy presenting, doing 5+ hours per day precludes me from attending interesting sessions and speakers (I was most disappointed about missing Sir Ken Robinson while he was in the same time zone as me).  That has to change next year; I’m thinking about limiting myself to 2-3 hours per day so as to allow myself some time to learn as well as teach.
  • When an internationally recognized educator sits down in your session, it’s like getting up to bat with Babe Ruth watching from the stands.
  • In a completely unscientific study (read: my personal observations), the drop-in sessions about tools seemed far better attended than drop-in sessions about ideas. Glad to see people interested in new technology tools, but shouldn’t there also be some discussion to go along with the shiny new toys as well?
  • The EdCamp model of professional development is one I really like, and it didn’t get nearly the attendance or recognition I think it deserved.  Then again, I don’t know if an enormous, open convention center is the ideal place for intimate discussions to take place.
  • It’s always great to meet up in person with the forward-thinking educators with whom I correspond online, and Convention was no exception.  Whether it was “Stumping the Geek” with David Warlick, Mike Ritzius, and Alex Rosenwald, hanging out in between High Tech Hall sessions with Lisa Thumann, Kevin Jarrett, and Darryl Ensminger, or discussing different ways of “doing” school with Mike, Patrick Higgins, and Christine Miles, even our downtime was intellectually stimulating (as well as a lot of fun).

If you’d like to catch up on any of the online activity from this year’s convention, you can search Twitter and Flickr for the hashtag #njeaconv10.

NJEA Convention 2010: My Itinerary

If you’re an educator working in New Jersey, I highly recommend popping down to Atlantic City this Thursday & Friday, Nov 4-5, to catch some or all of the 2010 New Jersey Education Association [NJEA] Annual Convention.  As if keynotes and workshops from such educational luminaries as Sir Kenneth Robinson and David Warlick wasn’t enough, the High Tech Hall exhibit (click the link to see me interviewed by NJEA’s Vice-President, Wendell Steinhauer) promises to be even bigger and better than last year – quite an accomplishment, considering how good I thought it was then.

I’ll once again be attempting to earn my keep in High Tech Hall in the shadows of folks like Lisa Thumann, Kevin Jarrett, and Patrick Higgins.  As if that wasn’t enough, Mike Ritzius, one of the co-founders of Edcamp Philly, has organized Edcamp NJEA, a “free-flowing, participatory event where the attendees are in charge — from planning through presentation”.  The theme of this year’s Edcamp is “Technology in our Schools”, and the offerings so far promise to both complement and augment the already-packed schedule of High Tech Hall.

For my part, I’ll be busy on three fronts: as a HTH presenter for the NJEA, working Rider University‘s booth for a 45-minute session, and ending my convention batting cleanup at Edcamp NJEA’s final session.  Here’s what I’ll be up to this week:

Thurs., November 4

11:00am – 1:00pm: Exploring Online Personal Learning Networks (HTH Main Floor)

1:00pm – 2:00pm: Collaborative Tools for 21st Century Learners & Leaders (NJEA Classroom)

3:00pm – 5:00pm: Collaborative Tools for 21st Century Learners & Leaders (HTH Main Floor)

Fri., November 5

8:00am – 10:00am: Exploring Online Personal Learning Networks (HTH Main Floor)

10:15am – 11:00am: New Classroom Technology Tools (Rider University booth)

12:00pm – 2:00pm: Collaborative Tools for 21st Century Learners & Leaders (HTH Main Floor)

2:00pm – 2:45pm: Stump the Geek!  Making Tech Work For You in School (Edcamp NJEA)

Kevin’s got a great post on why this event is important, especially given the “conversation” (and I use that term loosely) taking place about public education, both in New Jersey and the US.  Definitely swing by his blog to read his thoughts, and definitely swing by A.C. if you can later this week.  Hope to see you there!