Twenty-Three Things: Discovery

I’ve challenged some of my colleagues to take the 23 Things challenge to become more invested in online learning this summer. This website includes a 10-week game plan for learning some online learning and presenting methods that are useful for teachers, and that are appropriate activities for the age group we teach.  There are other 23 Things lists out there, I know, but this is the one that we’ve chosen to work with, and that I’ve decided to complete.

And I’ve run into my second challenge: the website we’re using has a broken link to the 7 and a half habits, so I had to find a workaround through Google and This time’s entry is going to be a response to the list of the “seven and a half habits of life-long learners”.

And this is critical:  the World Wide Web (www) is constantly changing. Parts of it are breaking down because no one is maintaining them or caring for them.  Parts are walled off behind paywalls, or broken-down phone lines, or being taken down for copyright violations. Learning to find what you’re looking for, easily and quickly, is part of the challenge of being an online learner.  I’ve written about this (a long time ago) when I suggested that learning to improve one’s search-fu was really important in the 21st century.  We’ve got less than 90 years left in this century to figure out what we’re doing to change education, people.  Maybe it’s time we, you know, did it?

Anyway, the seven and a half habits.

Let’s take a look at these habits:
  1. Begin with the end in mind
  2. Accept Responsibility for your own learning
  3. View problems as challenges
  4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner
  5. Create your own learning toolbox
  6. Use technology to your advantage
  7. Teach/Mentor others
    (and a half) PLAY!

As teachers, we’re often given the goal of teaching with the end in mind.  The end is important:  if I want to be a competent carpenter, I can’t just buy a saw and a couple of boards, and just keep sawing away until all I have left is sawdust.  I might improve my sawing skills, but it’s no way to become a carpenter.  And yet, as teachers, we accept responsibility for OUR own learning, but rarely do we expect that students will have responsibility for their learning. We put outside motivators on them in the form of grades, because (while everyone likes to learn) no one really likes to be tested on their learning.  Furthermore, many students don’t know how to view problems as joyful challenges, like hurdles on a race-track.  It’s not a thing to go over — it’s a place to stop and dawdle; they didn’t expect to encounter an obstacle, and they have few ideas about what to do at that point, when it comes to school.  Fear of failure is often an excuse for paralysis or excuse, not forward movement.

How do we help students think of themselves as competent rather than incompetent?  How do we, as teachers, learn to accept a larger tool box for ourselves, and learn to accept that students will use (and should be allowed to use) a larger toolbox of learning tools, than we had as students?  What technology in schools gives the advantages unfairly to students over teachers? What technology makes the teachers (already powerful in schools) too powerful indeed, causing the helplessness of students? (I’m mindful here of another side of my life, where Gordon reminds us that the current archonic world seems to be crumbling).  We as teachers have a duty to teach our students how to think, not just what to think — providing only knowledge of the facts as they were handed down to us, without being able to think critically about those facts, is not our mandate.

The seventh habit, to teach and mentor others, seems critical.  We have our own relationship with technology, we teachers.  We’re suspicious of it, I think, in part because we know that it can replace us.  That said, though, it can’t — not really.  Genuine knowledge is passed in part through darshan, as I’ve said here and here before — particularly when the knowledge we’re passing is of the kind that’s not facts and figures, but methods and means.  Some of Darshan can be communicated through a computer screen, but not nearly as much as we’d like.


So, the audio for that slideshow isn’t working (not for me, anyway… for you?). But the last few slides are about setting up an online contract.  I don’t have the original worksheet, but I can at least write my own Digital Learning / 23 Things contract here.  Their contract has seven parts:

  1. Goal
  2. Obstacles
  3. Toolbox
  4. Resources for help
  5. Path to goal
  6. Check-in
  7. Sign it!

Starting with the last bit first, I can’t really sign this contract.  But I’ve posted it here, in the sight of my online friends, and I can ask that you hold me to this — if you haven’t seen a 23 things post or two this week, challenge me in the comments to uphold my end of the bargain to my local-meat-space colleagues, and finish this challenge of 23 Things this summer.

As to the others:

1) My goal is to learn how to better integrate digital tools into both my teaching and my learning.

2) My obstacles are that I have a love-hate relationship with technology.  It gives me a creative outlet, but it often makes me feel isolated from colleagues and friends. And sometimes it makes me feel like I’m pushing a rope against a wall in a windowless courtyard — failing an an insane task with no witnesses to tell me to stop.

3) My toolbox.  I’m already pretty effective as an online learner.  I have the digital equivalent of the Library of Alexandria in my pocket a lot of the time.  I have effective search-fu, and I can route around a lot of obstacles to learning pretty easily.  I am a fast reader, and a fast writer.  I have a lot of publication venues: a Facebook account, a Tumblr account, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel and a Flickr account.  So I can get my stuff out there and get feedback. All that means, though, is that I’m just as likely to fail in public.

4) Resources for help.  This is trickier.  I’m one of the most effective online learners I know, but one of the least effective online teachers I know.  Most of my role models in online teaching are a long way away, and I want folks that are more in my local area.  Time to rustle up some network contacts, I think, and start talking to friends.

5) Path to Goal.  Well, first of all, I’m committing here, publicly, to finishing the 23 Things challenge this summer. I’ve also promised to buy a bottle of wine for any member of my school team who finishes the 23 Things challenge alongside me this summer.

6) Check-in.  Honestly, I’m not sure that I know what this means.  But I guess it means, I’m looking for a couple of partners in learning who are willing to dive into what it means to be a teacher in this digital age, for as long as this digital age lasts.  Are you willing to bounce ideas with me, learn from one another, and make discoveries together? If so, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. Let’s chat.

7) Signed it.

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