CMK ’09: Introductions

Gary Stager: Welcome! I’ve been in education for 26 years, trying to help teachers understand digital technology, and teach them about the potential in these new tools.  The digital technology teachers. Many powerful educational ideas and powerful pedagogical practices.  I got interested in computers because they made me feel creative and powerfully expressive.  These tools have the power to get kids to play and express themselves in new ways. Lots of toys, books, materials available  to you. There will be much time to experiment and invent and reflect.  We want you to get deeply engaged in project-based development.  It breaks my heart to go into a classroom and see students staring into their laptop screens on Facebook and looking for flash games to play; there’s all sorts of tools and materials around them, but they don’t know how to engage with them, because they haven’t been introduced.  We’ll have dinner tonight at a banquet facility.

Talk to brain scientists: they have tremendous humility about saying, “we don’t really know how the brain works.” Talk to ASCD members; if they’re paid-up, they know exactly how the brain works! (laughter) Why does knowing how the brain works make us better teachers? It’s like knowing how the mechanism works, does that make it easier to justify treating each child as an individual human being?

Science education is really like Bigfoot: everyone knows it exists, but no one has ever seen it.

We tend to have an additive curriculum. We keep adding to what teachers are supposed to do, and leadership requires us to subtract material from that lists.

it’s as if we had a secret meeting, and we decided that we were going to shut children out of all learning processes connected with the technology which surrounds them all their lives.

Habits of Mind: Be able to sniff out BS.  Be able to be curious, creative, persistent. Look at problems from multiple angles.  Swim in the beakers with the molecules. Put yourself into the shoes of an ancient Egyptian.  Cultivate the habits of mind first, and all things follow from that.

Computing vs. Technology; computers were the game-changer. We talk about “the technology” but it’s really the microchip that changed the game. Regardless of how much we lower our standards, the resistance remains constant.  We need to have higher standards and expectations because the resistance will remain constant regardless.

Having a good rolodex is a good thing. Everyone talks about their professional learning network or PLNs these days, but I used to call them my friends.  Now apparently you need an NSF grant to have “friends”.  Where learning occurs is where there’s a community of practice.  There need to be newbies, intermediates, masters (look, apprentice-journeyman-masters), and learning occurs across all three levels, as newbies try things, intermediates try things, masters try things.

There’s a camera in the room so if you feel like being a documentarian, you can do that.

Try to focus. Try to play.  Work with others. Play with others.  Introduce yourself around to everyone, and communicate your ideas to others.  Introductions of some of the faculty: John Stetson, master learner and tinkerer and one of the best teachers I know; Sylvia Martinez, president of Generation YES!; Cynthia Solomon, an old, old friend who was partially responsible for the LOGO programming language, recently working with OLPC; Brian Silverman, a mathematics teacher and someone with a hand in almost every programming language for kids in the last two decades – he’s involved in Scratch, built a computer out of TinkerToys, and built some Turtles (Me: I have no ideas what this means), and is an amateur mathematician [but real math, not that stuff they do in high school; that stuff should be called Ma, so it’s not dignified with too many letters].

Major pieces: Brian Silverman on science, math and computing this morning.  Deborah Meier tomorrow, followed by Lesa Snider on Photoshop CS4 in the afternoon.  Dr. Lella Gandini, talking on the Reggio Emilia education method, on Wednesday.  Dr. Marvin Minsky and Peter Reynolds on Wednesday evening.  Sylvia Martinez on Thursday morning.

[ME: I am a history teacher.  I have a feeling that I’m in way over my head here… a lot of these folks are science teachers, mathematicians, and computer programming teachers… I think I’m either going to learn a lot, or be overwhelmed.  I hope the latter]

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