Friday, September 21, 2012

Why School Indeed?

Will Richardson has just written an interesting book called Why School?  He publicized it on his social networks, it was only $3 for an eBook copy, so I got one on my Kindle Fire and read it on the plane from Dubai to Istanbul, where I was going to present a paper at the aPlanet conference at Yeditepe University on Saturday,

Will's TEDx Melbourne video:

I was coming to Istanbul to give a talk on which I have been organizing each week since 2010.  The time it takes me to archive and podcast the outcomes of those weekly events, at, is one reason I've been blogging here so rarely lately.  But now, having had the opportunity on the plane to read Will's book while coming to speak on my project, I've come up with some pieces I can loosely join in a blog post, and again in my presentation.

Incidentally, I've been following Will since his early days with He made one of the first Elluminate webinar recordings I ever watched (I watched it in 2003) wherein he explained with screenshots on the whiteboard how teachers could get their students to blog and then follow what they were doing in Bloglines, amazing stuff back then.  This technique still works in Google Reader.  When I have my students blog I can follow their blogs and see when they have updated content when the blog title turns bold.
In his book Richardson explains how schools are designed on models of information scarcity, when now that we live in a world of abundance, people can, and do, learn what they want to know, when they need to know it. This renders many aspects of the top-down model of teaching irrelevant, and there are two approaches to the problem.  Since school is a $500 billion-a-year business in K-12 in the USA alone there is a money-politics faction that seeks to cash in on the solution by delivering the old model better. Richardson argues that the answer is not better, but differently, yet educators whose experience with school is rooted in an era of scarcity are poorly equipped to grasp the concept of different in a world of abundance. Going on Herbert Gerjoy’s definition of illiterate as being not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot ‘learn, unlearn, and relearn’ Richardson articulates 6 steps to help teachers relearn their trade. These are

  1. Share everything (or at least something)
  2. Discover, don’t deliver, the curriculum
  3. Talk to strangers (filter and interact with others in your personal learning network)
  4. Be a master learner
  5. Do real work, for real audiences
  6. Transfer the power (over who drives curriculum)
To help teachers become master learners, that is teachers adept at unlearning and relearning how an abundance of tools can be applied to transformative outcomes for students, a number of educators worldwide have been meeting regularly online each Sunday afternoon (in the UAE) in some form or another for the past decade, but since 2010 as Since EdTech SIG started its Ning Learning2gether events have always been listed at Learning2gether is a wiki, which means that anyone who wishes to contribute a presentation, or lead a discussion, can join and write that event in.  Through this way of learning together, we seek to model for one another how to best prepare students to relearn how to compete for jobs that haven't been invented yet. By discovering for ourselves how learning occurs using online tools and connections with one another in real projects with meaningful outcomes, we learn how we can empower our students to learn likewise once we have gained familiarity with the available tools and processes.

Seth Godin provides his own take on "What is school for?"  Good morning boys and girls, listen up!

Richardson, W. (2012). Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information are Everywhere. Ted Conferences and Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 51 pages (estimated).

Will's blog post on his book:

And finally, Sugata Mitra on re-envisaging learning ...