Hey Webmaster, Tie Your Shoes

Emerging technology trends (often called Web 2.0 for educators) can sometimes be overwhelming to teachers. For example, my Assistant Principal has been working with me in the library to share new tech tools with teachers at a “lunch and learn” session. Teachers bring lunch to the library and my Principal covers recess duty. That shows commitment to teachers learning technology!

MOOCs & Intimidating New Trends
Last week, I shared my recent exploration of a MOOC (massively open online course) with a group of kindergarten teachers. MOOCs are mostly used for higher education, but the Anne Frank MOOC, which takes place online as well is in a virtual world, is designed for middle school learners and is a great example of how education is changing. I felt kindergarten teachers should be aware of where students are headed. When one kindergarten teacher saw the virtual world avatars, she became overwhelmed and stated in exasperation, “WHO has time for that?”

She paused, looking as though she might cry, and then said, “We need to be teaching our kids the basics.”

Then she said something that really made me stop in my tracks. She asked, “Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?”
I completely understood her frustration with keeping up with technology. I was reminded of the popular essay “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulgham. For the rest of the day, this idea and the overwhelmed expression of the kindergarten teacher, whose face usually appears patient and calm, kept coming to mind. I felt a need to answer her question, not directly to her because the session had other technology tips that were useful and applicable to kindergarten and she left feeling a sense of accomplishment. I needed to answer her questions for my own peace of mind.

1. WHO has time for that?
Who has time to keep up with all of the educational technology trends, applications, upgrades, and online tools as they rapidly change? After several years of trying, I often say that nobody could keep up with them all. The only way we can utilize them is through personal and professional networks. I could stay up all night every night and never conquer all the new apps, online sites, user-generated content tools, and sharing sites. But that does not mean that I don’t need to be aware of them. I think it is important to make time for the networking with the goal of awareness of education on the other side of the digital revolution. Building a “go-to” network of other educators has become crucial.

2.Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?

Have you watched a kindergartener lately? Any 5 year old can pick up an iPad and use it and I see toddlers every day in the mall, at a restaurant, or with parents after school, using digital devices. The world has changed since the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” essay. What has changed our world? Everyone’s world? A kindergartener’s world?

digital life

Graduation in a Virtual World

My virtual world graduation from the University of Washington 2010 was just as real as can be. I documented the milestone with a mixed reality machinima. A year later, at the UW Virtual World Graduation for the Class of 2011, I once again recorded machinima shots. As I was recording, the speaker for the graduation class mentioned me by name and it became clear to me how virtual worlds cross time and space. The speaker (Stylianos), who lives halfway around the world in Greece, had been influenced by my machinima the year before! Through watching my Youtube video (then contacting me), he was intrigued with the UW virtual worlds course. He signed up for the intense coursework, even though it meant staying up all night once a week or getting up well before dawn.

The idea that I most want to express here is the revolutionary concept of meeting those with similar ideas and goals across time and space. Never before in our human history has this been possible. Chance encounters ruled our destinies in the past. Wait…chance encounters may still rule. Opportunities are always at the door and that has always been true. The ability to open our eyes to the possibilities is the significant factor.

I wrote a poem once about the seasons… and here’s a line that fits:

Over and over again
The seasons arrive at your door
Open your eyes and you’ll see
What you’ve never seen before.