Friday, February 23, 2007

David Warlick Telling a New Story in New Zealand

I'm sitting in the midst of 1100 people in Rotorua New Zealand at the Learning @ School conference. We are listening to Educator David Warlick's Keynote. I have listened to many of his keynotes already even though I have never been in the same room as the man. David podcasts his keynotes and is one of the reasons my 14 year old son thinks I am cool. The last podcast of David's that I listened to was one where he interviewed his son about the multiplayer game 'World of Warcraft'. After that podcast I had a conversation with my son and he exclaimed, "You know about World of Warcraft!" I thought he was going to catch flies as his mouth hung open. I looked at him down my nose and answered, "Of course".

What do our children need to be learning today? A question asked by David Warlick. Is our new curriculum in New Zealand leading us to answer this question? Maybe it is... I don't want to be pessimistic but some teachers will still go on the way they always have and interpret any document to support that. I am optimistic that our new curriculum is a step in the right direction and innovative teachers will be having that conversation. How do we get the resistant teachers to ask themselves this question? I think the answer to that is to lead by example. Our passion for developing thinking, innovative students will make the difference.

"Being Master, creative, telling a compelling new story." Are we preparing our children like this? Or having them tell the same story in a new way? Do we need to take that step first? Of course we do but we can't stay there. We need to think of the students in our class as the surgeon who could possibly one day work on one we love, the pilot who might take us to new places, the policy maker who will make sure we enjoy a safe community. When you think of the students in your class in this way the importance of teaching them how to be creative, innovative and tell a compelling new story takes on a much more personal relevance.

Children believe that "everything is clickable, even their parents." Vinod Khosla. What an interesting concept. This resounded with me as I thought of how I was sitting in my office the other day furiously writing down something because my son had borrowed my computer. As soon as I had finished writing my fingers automatically made the movement to hit 'apple S' to save my work. I quickly looked around to make sure no one had noticed what I had done!. I also know that when I read a book now and I think to myself, "I remember reading about that already" and I want to click find and search the book. I already think that the world is clickable and accessible to me when I want it. Our Digital children are also feeling like they have control and can make their own decisions and discoveries. How do these children feel when they enter our classrooms and we limit their control in their learning? Do we offer them the concept of 'clickability' in our classrooms?

In the information age the information must compete for attention... If we don't supply students with the information they need they can get it elsewhere, if we don't supply students with the information they are interested in they will go elsewhere.

David mentioned the website - a website with where big corporations post problems that they can't solve. Anyone and everyone has access to this site and can try to solve the problems. The big corporations pay top dollar for the solutions and it has been found that the people providing the answers to these problems are not the ones who are trained in the specific areas. In this information age collaboration and conversation are rife on the web. Problems are posed and problems are solved. Discoveries are made and new conversations are begun. Once again... is this happening in our classrooms?

What are the answers to my questions? Well David says the first step to finding these answers is to:

Pay Attention - talk to the students, see what is happening in their rapidly changing world and how this is affecting them and the way they engage with their world.

Thomas Friedman says that four types of people will succeed in a 'flat world', those who are special, specialized, highly adaptable (those who can learn and unlearn and relearn very easily) and anchored.

David states that the future is not secure - but I ask, has it ever been? There have always been challenges to prepare kids for, but each generation's challenges are different. We need to equip our students to face an unsecure future and find answers to the challenges.

David states that we should prepare our students for a future of opportunity - I counter that this has always been the case but it is different now. We have no idea of the opportunities that we are preparing our students for. They will develop these opportunities and we will help them to do it safely and ethically and creatively in our 21st Century classrooms.

Thanks David for another thought provoking yet enjoyable keynote.

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