Sunday, January 29, 2017


Finland's Schools Push Digital Without Evidence - Yes!

Finland's wrestling match over going digital in the classroom is a critical struggle by a world leading educational system. As Doyle (2016) notes: "Finland has launched an expensive, high-risk national push toward universal digitalization and tabletization of childhood education that has little basis in evidence and flies in the face of a recent major OECD study that found very little academic benefit for school children from most classroom technology" (

Finland's schools have no reason to fear the digital age. There was a time as digitalization roared into U.S. work force in 1987 in which the economist Robert Solow famously observed: “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Yet, even by 2011 the Internet as a sector at 3.4% of GDP was more significant to the economy in the United States than agriculture or energy ( A 2016 report says the U.S. sector had jumped to 5.4% (top country was Britain, 12.4%).

It is important for leadership to see that the Internet economy and society is a useful measure able proxy for digital literacy (e.g., digilit). Just as with the business experience in 1987, when digital technology fully enters the field of education in 1-to-1 ubiquitous usage, practitioners will have few mental models of what digital literacy makes possible, negligible experience, and little in success stories to use as models of best practice. Even those who are born into this age often have narrow and minimal digilit skills. Consequently, there will be little evidence of benefit. This too will pass. What should concern us though is that this Internet sector's expansion is severely limited by the talent pool that it can draw on.  What our societies need is a full-court press by educational systems to keep the new digital talent growing their understanding of its potential.

Digilit is a multi-dimensional explosion of what text literacy first enabled.  As a delivery vehicle for new ways for learners to learning by "reading" from a wide range of media, digilit may underwhelm.  But, promoted as a rich digital palette for many kinds of interwoven creations and compositions, digilit will deliver a stronger creative culture. This is the foundation for the powerful Internet economy whose inherent interactivity and collaborative spirit will continue to transform society.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


New York World MakerFaire spectacular!

The September 21 World MakerFaire in New York had a spectacular Saturday and Sunday. As this posting only hints at its depth, do explore the link above. The Faire included acres of exhibits, booths, multiple stages with speakers and presentations, discounted and free books by presenting authors, circus atmosphere (Tic Toc Croc pedal power rides on the right)
crowds, perfect weather

and minds expanding with so many ideas, evolutionary combinatorial thinking everywhere.

It was a wonderful 'New York state of mind'. We stayed nearby in the Parc Hotel, 3 subways stops away in a wonderful mini-
Chinatown neighborhood.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


To make or not to make-that is the question

Makerspace asks certain intellectual, social and political questions. It begins very simply.


If I was not bound by the restrictions of some figure of authority, what might I make? If I could make anything I wanted to make out of any material or combination of materials, colors and textures, what would it be?

In the digital age the question easily moves to computer assisted empowerment. If I could design the object at a computer and have it manufactured, what would it be? How would it fit in with the world of non-digital objects?

More recently the questions goes further, if this design could include electrical conductivity, perhaps wires, and those wires could connect with other computer chips and some possible combination of an infinite arrays of sensors, power sources and gears and network transmitting capacity, what might it be or do?

And Social

And then if there is one of these objects and it can communicate, can it communicate with others of its kind? Can it communicate wirelessly? For what distance? For what purpose? Can, will, it communicate with more than its kind and if so what or who and how and why?

Am I willing to put this design in a public space and share it with anyone?

And Political

Politics is the allocation of resources. These resources include money, materials, the tools of creation and a person's time. In this making what resources will be consumed or reused and eventually discarded? What might be the impact of making a larger quantity, perhaps an almost infinite quantity be on the human social space and environment? If the impact is significant, then what regulates its creation?

Make it

If answers to the above questions are sufficiently interesting and supportive, then how do I make it? What learning resources, tools and experience do I need to make, compose or build it?

To make or not to make, that is the question.

The Maker Movement Manifesto

Thursday, May 01, 2014


The Standards Driven School & Testing Monopoly - Multiple but Rightable Wrongs

Updated/revised May 30, 2014

The standards driven school & testing monopoly is a systemic model for education within which school teachers must work and children must attend that veers towards obsolete, unethical, unprofessional and illegal. The Net and makerspace are modeling interesting alternatives. These are  tall claims and hypotheses whose evidence is worth exploring.


There are so many ways to say that a system or design needs replacing: antiquated, out of date, outmoded, outworn, old, stale, behind the times, old-fashioned, anachronistic, old-fangled, antique, antediluvian, passé, démodé. Tony Wagner, Harvard Innovation Education Fellow says "The system has become obsolete". Wagner analyzed the nature of education's obsolescence in his books Global Achievement Gap (2010) and Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World (2012). They beg the question as to what is making the current education system obsolete, a thought to be considered further-on.

The never-ending teacher-driven authoritarian explicit-instruction of the test-driven state standards classroom is perfectly in sync with the skill set needed by a worker on the factory line or most non-autonomous lower middle and lower class jobs. It is very out of sync with the learner-driven, collaborative, international, project based, creative, entrepreneurial, exponentially-changing, and disruption-focused economic and social culture that has emerged as the greater producer of better jobs and wealth.

I find that a key element of the curriculum problem centers on the issue of redefining composition, the one traditional approved method of "making" for all school children. Over a decade ago this skill was defined as the Neglected ‘R” by the National Commission on Writing (2003). What has become more clear with the passage of time is the need to build competency in inventively creating and problem solving not just with text but all the other media and means in wide use in cyberspace and makerspace today.

This new cyberspace and makerspace culture continues to build a Digital Academy Fixing 21st Century Illiteracy, a digital academy of personal and collaborative learning networks that has broken away from the traditional standards-driven education system. This binary system for communicating and composing with both bits and atoms is the world's largest system for processing questions/problems, ideas, alternative solutions and for organizing multi-age collaborative teams leading to new organizations and businesses. With an opportunity to be a kind of service center for real questions that are local and global, instead public schools and increasingly higher education are starved for funds and mis-focused for the twenty-first century.


An overriding professional ethic is to do no harm. To keep students "on-task" for the volumious numbers of standards requires year-by-year increase in the levels of soft and hard coercion skills to manage behavior. Conversely, there is a year by year decrease in engagement.

"The Gallup Student Poll surveyed nearly 500,000 students in grades five through 12 from more than 1,700 public schools in 37 states in 2012.  Gallup measures three constructs, hope, engagement, and wellbeing, because our research shows these metrics account for one-third of the variance of student success. Hope, for example, is a better predictor of student success than SAT scores, ACT scores, or grade point average.  The drop in student engagement for each year students are in school is our monumental, collective national failure" (Gallop, 2013). Such a system is harmful to the health and well-being of both children and educators. 

Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education at the University of Oregon, finds that such a system drives out initiative, creativity and invention that are essential to the new economy and culture as noted in World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students (Zhao, 2012).  "We not only fail to embrace entrepreneurial students in our schools, we actually neutralize them" (Gallop, 2013). Unfortunately, the  time needed for inventiveness is seen as an inefficient use of time and a subtraction  from time needed to teach how to meet standards.  This results in far too many indecisive, confidence-lacking, initiative-absent, teacher-dependent learners that are either disengaged or dropping out, an observation already obvious by 3rd grade.

When I meet with teachers amidst the love of their profession I find pain and hurt. The systemic requirements of enforcement and standards that are impossible to achieve for all students given the resources at hand also leads to too many frustrated and angry teachers who remain in their posts, along with too many disheartened and/or burned out teachers leaving the profession, many before they can pay off the college debt that was required to complete the degree to teach. As a university professor in a teacher education career, I confess that it took me far too long to conclude that the system was seriously outdated, and in turn the system was abusing and breaking students and teachers. I participated too long in facilitating the maintenance of a system that needs to go, waiting too long to confront and object, to lobby for alternatives.

Whether by conscious intent or not, the current system is designed to reinforce itself. Those with the most wealth are logically taxed the most, have the most wealth to influence the legislative system, and generally work to reduce taxes which reduces the funding available for public schooling. Greater income requires greater education. Poverty is a kind gravity in which poverty is a restraint on getting better health, better education and better jobs that provide the wealth of money and time to create a better education for their children. Poor families and their children generally cannot get the "escape velocity" needed to escape the gravity of poverty on their own. Beyond poor families, most of a child's education comes from their family, which can provide antidotes to the subservient fostering nature of classrooms. These antidotes enable them to gain positions of leadership and greater wealth. Without a stronger universal ethic to create a tide that lifts all boats which in turn lifts the entire community, it is difficult to see when this will end well within the economic system in place.


To observe consistently poor results and avoid making changes until a remedy becomes actually effective is unprofessional. The standards driven school succeeds with a minority of students, some 1/3 graduate high school ready for college (Wagner, 2010). Data also argues for an even lower number, less than 25%. After 13 years in the educational system only 24% of high school senior scored proficient in the last national writing assessment; only 19% of high school freshman graduate from college in 4 years in an era of an astounding knowledge explosion and powerful cheap tools for adding value to analyzed knowledge.

The dominant model of education is perversely addicted to compelling young human beings to review, remember and follow orders.  Computer science starts with a machine without an iota of curiosity, incapable of making decisions and inventing and then works very hard to make computers and their software ever better decision makers that can handle a growing range of challenges. By contrast we have an educational system that begins with a brain that is highly curious, a biological system designed to invent and make choices, and has conversely developed a set of standards which excludes those special abilities and fosters a methodology of explicit teacher driven orders.  Such a system reduces these most unique characteristics of humanity in most and suffocates it many. Why do we allow such an educational system persist?

From Montessori Schools to the progressive education projects of John Dewey to Friere, Piaget and Papert, seminal educational and scientific thinkers have had their arms out pointing to a way beyond the social efficiency driven school system, an 1800's download and derivative of the powerful factory model for producing consistent, reliable, predictable widgets.

Einstein's thought is wonderfully concise on this issue.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift" (Samples, The Metaphoric Mind, 1976, p. 26). I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research" (Albert Einstein, 1931, Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorism. p. 97).

Have we simply failed to compare the differences in expectations that we should have between a thing and a brain or is it only with the digital age that there is a need for everyone's brain to be optimized for its distinct capacity?

An educational system that has a failed definition of learners and their capacity then creates problems for those who must implement it. Finding and retaining qualified teachers who will stay in such a tightly constrained and narrowly defined system of learning is a challenge that will only grow. "Teacher flight" begins with moves to states that pay better (Helms, 2014; Khrais, 2014), and then is followed by teachers recognizing their extraordinary skill sets and shifting to less stressful and more lucrative careers (Allen, 2014). As master teachers in the immediate years ahead become masters of one-to-one student-to-computer classroom settings, their value to the larger economy as skilled knowledge thinkers with great leadership abilities in coordinating the work of diverse and digital teams will be so great that having salaries at half of their professional peers will lead to a significant gutting of an already precarious teacher education workforce. In the near term, this will exacerbate the socio-economic divide between high and low wealth schools as some will be able to offer hiring bonuses and some not. Long term, it suggests a disabling of the nation's teacher corps. Being "first in teacher flight" is not the race for which states should be competing.


Judge Manning has been the NC Supreme Court's legal monitor of a long standing legal struggle that began with a court battle in 1997 known as the Leandro Case. The struggle has continued to this day: "The state has abandoned its constitutional commitment to provide all North Carolina children with a sound, basic education, say lawyers for low-income school districts, who cite years of budget reductions, jettisoned programs and tens of thousands of low-scoring students" (Stancell, 2014). Judge Manning has issued multiple decisions that have concurred with that position (Court filings: Too many NC children aren't receiving adequate education). The court case appears to be caught in a constitutional gap in the state government system. The state Supreme Court has ruled that students have a state constitutional mandate to receive a free and equitable education and they concluded that with vast numbers of students in low wealth counties, that they are not.  Given the separation of powers between the legal system and the legislative system, the Court has not been willing to rule that the state legislature must spend the money to fix the system, as it is the legislature's constitutional prerogative to decide how much to spend and on what. In short, the state legislature's policies are unethical at best and illegal at worst.

The larger issue is how this plays out across the other states of the United States. All state constitutions require a public education system, which implies an education for all of some given level of quality and equity. If the educational system is illegal in NC, then there is an implied issue of illegality in every state. In point of law, the legality of the equity a state's system resides in the rulings of its state supreme court. To date, I know of no comparative summary of the rulings of the other 49 state supreme courts.

Will putting more money into our system of high pressure, high stakes testing yield equitable results? If we accept that the command and control teacher centered system is obsolete for preparing even the best students for the collaborative and creative needs of the current culture and by it nature is demoralizing for most students and especially for poorer students who predominantly live in low wealth communities, then radical systemic reform is required before funding is applied.


If we finally repel from a system with the characteristics of obsolete, unethical, unprofessional and illegal, what characteristics are the positive pull of the alternative?

Other solutions to the problems above begins with significantly changing the model that is not only driving out teachers and pushing students to disengage or drop-out but drives down the reputation of teachers who remain and therefore the state's interest in paying them better.  Addressing teacher salaries is a serious but second order problem. Those committed to the value of teaching and a great educational system have sufficient need and justification to collaborate in doing something distinctly different, something that abolishes the standards driven factory model. Historically, it was not that long ago that Child Labor Laws were passed (1938), legislation that is still insufficient for the ongoing abuse in the field of agriculture. Such legislation could be expanded to also include aspects of the standards driven testing system now abusing children and educators.

However, an actual revolution, one that produces radical change, does not come from mere rejection but with simultaneous hope provided by a tenable alternative. Some see hope in the map of 1:1 computing which shows the steady though glacially slow movement of digital power into the hands of every student, which is building nicely in North Carolina. What prevents that digital power from merely reinforcing the dismally functioning status quo is the more important ray of hope for a learning revolution, what I title "Dewey's revenge".

John Dewey, "the most significant educational thinker of his era and, many would argue, of the 20th century" (PBS) produced some of the world's most seminal educational thinking. One of his more relevant and elegant works to the topic at hand was titled Interest and Effort in Education, which proposed a rationale for alternative options to rote-learning focused and authorization models of schooling. In short, the degree of interest in a topic or project generates a proportionate effort. Are the too often lamentable efforts of American education and students an indication that today's learners are no longer so interested in learning or challenging problem solving?

There are at least two areas of development outside of the educational system that indicate there is an intense large scale self-motivated interest in learning: the Internet and makerspace. They raise further questions. Why is there such a contrast? Is it the same group of people that did well in school and are merely transferring from school to "after-school" and "after graduating" learning?

The Net

The Net allows researchers to put real numbers on self-motivated human activity. Hundreds of billions of online searches are conducted every day. Many are interested in much. More clear indication of ongoing persistent effort that is more equivalent of the hoped for intensity of classrooms can also be found in Mary Meeker's much acclaimed Internet Trends Report of 2014:
  • In an increasing global world the need to communicate across languages is significant and yet a difficult topic for most. Yet, over 25 million people, a 14 fold increase of the previous year, use Duolingo to learn a new language. 
  • Khan Academy's heavily used YouTube channel of tutorials has achieved 70% growth with over 430 million views to date.
  • iTunes University has seen the downloading of over 65 million courses, over 59% growth from year to year.
  • The online coursework model of Coursera has attracted 7 million users, doubling growth in the last year.


The Web remains an ongoing global project about composing and designing and sharing many virtual things. Makerspace is the dawning global project-based makerspace movement focused on learning how to make things. It is in part in parallel to cyberspace world of the Web and yet it is also gradually subsuming or integrating the rich, powerful, still rapidly evolving and more mature virtual systems of cyberspace. Some of this development is explored nicely in Makers: The New Industrial Revolution (2012) by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine. (Don't forget the next Maker Faire in North Carolina in Raleigh, Saturday, June 7.)

One article that addresses such factors is found in the featured essay of ISTE's Leading and Learning with Technology magazine, The Maker Movement: A Learning Revolution, by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager (Apr 18, 2014). A book-length treatise on the larger global cultural setting for such change can be found in Jeremy Rifkins 2014 published Zero Margin Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (summary and GoogeTalks video of the author). The exploration of this hypothesis will expand faster if many will share ideas that support or refute these claims.

There are schools that have already moved on to full makerspace constructs (Bricolage Academy, New Orleans) or in advance stages of diluting the dominating yet obsolete system in place with makerspace project based learning (Albemarle Schools, Charlottesville, Virginia). These schools that are advancing cyberspace and makerspace ideals are so busy reinventing themselves that their stories are hard to find and thin in description for those who might follow or explore and expand on this leadership. They seldom have time to create the tweets, blog postings and chapters that explain and promote their story. These stories and case studies need to get told and told in sufficient depth and detail.

There is also a parallel development emerging. The Maker Education Initiative led by a Maker Ed Board appears to be in the early yet rapidly developing stages of a kind national "Maker Scouts" movement (my phrase not theirs), a kind of parallel to the Boy and Girl Scout movement. It operates outside of the national educational system, outside of the state's teacher education programs and outside of the professional development requirements of practicing teachers. Such effort is well intentioned and being effectively done. Is it sufficient?

Is it also time to ask the  hard questions about the system of schooling that is currently in place? Is it time to ask the nation's colleges of teacher education for their alternatives to a broken system? Is it time to offer a different model of education for the approval of state legislatures? The progress of transformation will be glacial in comparison of having the force an entire state or nation behind it.

Will we measure progress in generations or years? What, exactly, if anything, should we be measuring?

We have arrived at an interesting trifecta of knowledge systems, two of which are steeped in digital knowledge and skills of the 21st century. They excel in supporting and facilitating the ideas and advice of numerous seminal education thinkers including and beyond Dewey. They conflict at fundamental points with the current public education system, a design that emerged in the 1800's, which does not support such seminal thinking.

The Web/Internet (the Net) and makerspace represent sites in which so much is being reimagined and hold so much potential for reimagining education. Our challenge it seems is to invent how to reimagine the entertwining of the Net, makerspace and our national systems of education around the globe.

There are many ways to proceed. I, for one, would like to see it begin with a curriculum of authentic questions and problems, a database that can be be sifted for problems from local to global in scale, a database that offers hooks to the numerous social Web options for assembling resources and teams to solve them.

Tap into the comments area below. What say you? What is your school system's story?

Where is the bibliography for further related thought? Please make me aware of more, but here are a couple of further places to start: ;

Hashtags: #edchat #pbl #pln #makerspace #makeed #Teacherpreneurs #edreform #EducationNation

Shortened URL for this posting:

Updated May 30, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Interwoven Social-multimedia-threaded-communication

An emerging trend might be tagged as Social-multimedia-threaded-communication (SMTC); this interweaves the deeper ideas of multi-page web sites with the context of the tweet moment; it enables theory/research to dialog with practice, a long standing educational gap. SMTC is a simple expansion of current developments.

A tweet, a short comment, has been the mark of a more socially aware voice in educational and community circles. More experienced tweeters find that great starting point often leaves change on the table; their tweets expand the text with an image, a connection to visual thoughts that unpack the tweet further. Further, through hashtags, they connect the reader with other communities that inform the idea(s). Yet though a tweet comment has become an important dimension of 21st communication, it is just one dimension, yet one with great potential to lead to other dimensions, blogs and multipage sites.

The idea of Social-multimedia-threaded-communication (SMTC), provides a 3 dimensional framework for communication. Linking to other types of web pages provides a depth vs frequency dimension. Tweets, limited to 140 characters max (though often must shorter in terms of message), are easy to produce frequently. When a tweet posting includes a link to a multi-paragraph blog posting which in turn is linked to a longer form Web page essay or other long form media or chapter of material (which takes more time and space to produce), the social group has a chance to guide its members into deeper more nuanced discussions that are interwoven up and down the scales of communication depth and frequency.

A second dimension is multimedia. National Geographic Magazine has long gone to the bank on the knowledge that media can be sequenced to pull thinkers faster and deeper into ever greater levels of textual thought. Tweets, blog postings and Web pages all allow increasing levels of types of the common media of cyberspace: photo/graphic, audio, video, 2D animation, multiple forms of 3D, sensors/actuators/robotics.

Finally, a 3rd dimension is social extension. Hashtags and twitter handles in each of these levels of communication types have connected readers with people and communities of discussion, e.g., #edtech, #edchat, #pln (personal learning network), #pbl (project based learning). Social extension is also social process. The interest in better consensus building and decision making tools was highlighted recently by Loomio reaching their funding raising goal and still stretching for more.

These trends in social media and across cyberspace are clear: more links, more media, more hashtags. My experience with state and national conferences this year is that tweet action during the conferences has become very important even though the percent of attendees participating is still a small minority; I found tweeting to be as important if not more important than actual physical presence in terms of networking and learning about those interested in conference topics. Thought leaders are tweeting big time. SMTC makes tweeting so much more valuable. Will we see SMTC continue its growth in our communciation steams?

Of those using Twitter to date, most are only readers which provides great opportunity for even more contributing in the future. Recent research showed highly skewed distribution.  While a tiny percent have posted thousands of tweets, only about 13% overall of the billion twitter accounts have posted a hundred tweets or more (Koh, 2014), though 130 million is not an insignificant number of active users.

Social media, including SMTC, like web conferencing software such as GoToMeeting or WebEx, is all a part of what my DigiAcademy table of contents graphic labels Team Workflow. Team workflow is critical to building out a Personal Learning Network or extending a PLN into a Collaborative Learning Network (PLN to CLN).

I primarily author and think across these 3 levels, each of which provides different ease of authoring and time to create factors.

* (a sentence or phrase)
* (paragraphs)
* (chapters and textbooks)

From a theoretical point of view this idea of threaded communication by social media users enables higher education faculty and others engaged in theory and research to more effectively approach a long standing problem in the field, the theory practice gap; the descriptor for this in ERIC (database of educational literature) is "theory practice relationship" (which used to be "research practice relationship"). A couple of well cited references indicate the long time concern of this idea.

Robinson, V. M. (1998). Methodology and the research-practice gap. Educational researcher, 27(1), 17-26.

Nuthall, G. (2004). Relating classroom teaching to student learning: A critical analysis of why research has failed to bridge the theory-practice gap. Harvard educational review, 74(3), 273-306.

In short, practitioners such as classroom teachers generally don’t have the access or the time to read the refereed works that get its authors promoted. They too often don’t find them relevant to their classroom practice when they do.

 However, theretical ideas in 100 characters or less are far easier to approach and digest. Done properly SMTC authors can use links as threads to longer and deeper works from a context that practitioners can grip, and a practitioners find themselves in a setting in which they can frequently query and connect theorists with reality. This enables all stakeholders to find their mutual common ground. As Lincoln and Guba noted long ago in their heavily cited Fourth Generation Evaluation (1989), developing and sharing a wide range of facts among stakeholders leads to far better decision making.

Social media, and in particular the interwoven nature of social-multimedia-threaded-communication (SMTC) is the best concept to come along with the potential to help close the theory practice gap in education and in all fields, a rising tide that lifts all the boats.

Shortened URL:
Related hashtags: #pln #pbl #edchat #edtech #ncmle #makers #DecisionMaking

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Understanding the formation and the health problems of the knowledge society

I'll get to cyberspace and the knowledge society, but first a little story. Let's imagine for a moment that you are extracting ore from a gold mine. You are studying some recent reports.

The good news

You are confronted with a report from the experts (geologists in this case) that the size of your gold mine will grow 40% a year forever, doubling every two years.

The amount of the best ore that converts more quickly into gold will increase from 22% to 37% in just the next few years, and will continue to improve (IDC, 2014). Using your techniques, there is not only a rapidly growing number of other gold mine sites that have high potential, but an astonishing number of other kinds of valuable ores that are appearing as well. There is a high amount of financial capital not currently in use that is interested in financing mine expansion.

The bad news

The investors need to see a higher level of actual gold (profit) before they will invest. Though you are highly automated, there are only two of you working this particular gold mine. The  personnel report shows that the number of people finishing their education who have the skills at any pay grade to  work gold mines or assess and prioritize the values of the other types of mine sites is at best 1 in four and is actually decreasing. The funding to produce more of the needed highly skilled workers and management is decreasing. Because of their low production rate, those who prepare skilled workers are being starved for resources to improve or punished and leaving the teaching field and the numbers to replace them are dropping. Anyone else available to work is already working in a gold mine.

Cyberspace - the Digital Universe

Now replace the word gold with data. In addition to data doubling every 2 years, the amount that is tagged and therefore more easily found and analyzed is growing significantly as well. This scene only begins to describe the current challenges and opportunities in the digital universe, cyberspace. There is an astounding amount "... of valuable data in the digital universe, but it will take determination and skilled workforce to find and put to use" (IDC, 2014).

How does the difference between digital data and actual gold change what it means to effectively use it? Just how rapidly is the amount of digital data growing and what problems is this creating? What do we do about it?

Doing something about it begins by understanding that the knowledge society is as different from the skills of finance and Wall Street society as Wall Street finance is from farms that grow food. They share much but the differences are critical in maximizing the best of each.

Some concentrated effort is needed to understand the formation and the health problems of the knowledge society.  #ncmle #pbl #edchat #data #cosn #pln

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Burlington MakerFaire

The Burlington MakerFaire is scheduled for Saturday, April 12, 2014. They requested that Twitter and social networks work with the hashtag of #BMMF for sharing tweets related to this event. Ideas that emerge from those tweets and my own photos will appear later in this blog posting. Tweet on!

Sneak preview video below.

And use the comment box below to chime in with observations and ideas.

Ben Harris is the founder of the Burlington MakerFaire. His question for Steve Wozniak as Elon University's 2013 Fall Convocation notes the educational interests of the Alamance Maker Guild. This videoclip will require some patience with the audio echo.

The makerfaire movement helps answer an interesting question. Is the makerspace movement a passing fad or the revenge of progressive education (Paulo Blikstein, Feb. 3, 2014)?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Maker Schools and Makerspace

"We learn by doing" Aristotle
"To understand is to invent" Piaget
"Constructing solidifies learning" Papert
Invent to learn" Martinez & Stager
"The Makerspace in the library is an oasis for student self-directed learning. It serves as a rejuvenation center for inspiring love of both formal and informal learning. In my opinion, a space like this should be a priority for all schools in the twenty-first century; and you do not have to break the bank to create one." Eric Sheninger, award-winning Principal at New Milford High School, Bergen County, NJ.

Maker Schools and Makerspace

For over 30 years the personal computer revolution has expanded cyberspace into our homes, businesses, government, the globe and our pockets and purses and ever so glacially slow into 1 to 1 computer-to-student-technology for our public school classrooms. Meanwhile, technology races on ahead, transforming and giving rebirth to long dormant ideas. Sprouting out of the advanced sensor and robotics areas of the cyberspace cloud, a makerspace uprising of 3D printers and more drives what many call a new industrial revolution. The maker movement is not just a digital transformation of our country's strong heritage of inventive making; it is also a potential trojan horse hiding deep intellectual, economic and school change (Brynjolfsson & McAfree, 2014; Rifkin, 2014).

To over-simplify, a makerspace (zoomable international map) is a room, often a community center, with tools and collaborative people that encourage making. There are other titles for the makerspace movement that are variations on this theme, titles like Fablab which come with slight distinctions.  Makerfaires (zoomable international map) are events in which makers share the works and ideas that emerge in their makerspaces. At present the makerspace movement is a fertile mix of the interests of the arts and crafts, science, hobbyists, digital composers, the Internet of Things, sensors, citizen scientists, industrial designers and entrepreneurs.

As our North Carolina schools take advantage of their move to 1:1 computing to innovate further, they should look closely at makerspace developments. Many interesting discussions center around the #makered and #pbl hashtags. Readily visible for those who have ever read the seminal work of John Dewey is the reinvention by other names of his progressive education movement. His book on Interest and Effort in Education should be considered a primary supporting document to the makerspace movement manifesto. Unfortunately Dewey's hands-on, project based learning door to creativity and innovation did not quite match the needs of his 1900's factory centered time like they do of our exponential 21st century age. Early makerspace movers and shakers are surfacing that are revitalizing their communities and libraries and Dewey would not be surprised to note that they are beginning to re-imagine the methodology and curriculum of public schools as well.

Makerspace is just the latest phase of our evolutionary layered literacy. This new direction does not conceptually leave cyberspace skills behind, though in practice it is sometimes hard to see the rich digital heritage of compositions for computer screens being hailed in makerspace communities. At the same time its reweaving of digital tools with hands-on making and thought in building objects draws on the very earliest literacy, the hands-on composing and communication skills of the first signs of human intelligence that emerged in the stone age. Given the deep digital foundation that is already in place, makerspace advance will happen much faster and perhaps with even greater impact than any of the prior ages of literacy. A digitally inclusive makerspace cloud would have the opportunity to expand and integrate all that has gone on before it. As a new kind of space for community learning, makerspaces of physical tools in libraries or community centers also become 21st century role models for a new approach to the meaning and methodology of schools.

As librarian Jeff Sturges of Detroit’s Mt. Elliott Makerspace said "this is about creating creative people". MakerFaires show that creativity in events held all over the world. One was held just down my highways in Raleigh on June 7. One cannot help but feel the footsteps of Dewey's Chicago School in the 1890's and the project based learning and inquiry groups of today (#pbl, #pbi). Much more recently Papert's ideas about constructionism pulls together Piaget's "building knowledge structures" with Dewey's experiential "learning-by-making" (Wikipedia; Papert papers).

The desire to make is so universal that the makerspace movement also raises the question as to whether separately tracked college-bound courses and vocational courses involved with physical design, creating, building and maintaining should have ever been distinct tracks for students over our long educational history.  The emerging digital fabrication palette of makerspace has re-ignited the deep American frontier spirit so thoughtfully described by the Pulitzer Prize winning work of Frederick Jackson Turner in 1933. It has also raised a storm of interest around the globe. There will be many competitors to American global leadership in manufacturing. For example, Barcelona, Spain (once home to Gaudi, Picasso and Dali) is revitalizing their spirit through plans for many makerspace centers around the city for public use. It is in this need for revitalization that makers and makerspace provide such an opportunity for everyone around the globe. In an age of rapid change and exploding knowledge, everyone in every culture has a need for what Sheninger called a "rejuvenation center for inspiring love of both formal and informal learning".


Many schools are at the forefront of establishing makerspace basecamps for further exploration, including equipment with specialized rooms, after school programs, library spaces and in-classroom time. These are school makerspaces within a school and classroom that tack such activity on to the current school model. Some are thinking about building a "maker school" and transforming the educational pedagogy from top to bottom. The "thinking about it" effort of West Michigan in Detroit has come to my attention. Another, the National Inventor Hall of Fame School in Cleveland, Ohio, was designed as a STEM school. It has been in operation for a couple of years beginning as a 5th - 8th grade school with nearly 300+ students and feeding the approximately 100 students in 9th & 10th grade at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics High School. Their mission statements sound close to the goals of the makerspace effort but an analysis of their methodology and operation are not available at this time.

Only one (to my knowledge), Bricolage Academy of New Orleans has entirely erased the board and reimagined a school from scratch.
They've gone far beyond schools that are beginning to provide maker space in a library or spare room, tools, resources and time in the schedule;  they've planned an entire multi-graded school from Kindergarten on up, building one year at a time. Bricolage has built an entire charter school around the thinking of the maker movement; they began with kindergarten in the fall of 2013. They are growing and moving to new space this fall (link to school below), expanding to include first grade. They also gave great leadership to New Orleans' first MakerFaire, held, Saturday, April 5. I took this photo of the the marble ramps their kindergarten classes invented, replete with QR code for each that showed a video of the "engineer/designer" talking about their work.

But change also occurs in other ways.  Albamarle Schools in Virginia have spent more than a dozen years building project based learning, so makerspace was a natural progression. And moves to 1:1 computing only rev those engines further.

I would also claim that Montessori schools have had a similar mission since their inception in the late 1800's, but have not given sufficient leadership to digital age thinking using their methodology. So, who and where are the other Maker Schools that are in process or who have begun a "maker school"? Comment space below!

I was privileged to attend the entire day of this "first annual" event in NOLAland (New Orleans, LA), April 5, 2014. It was especially rewarding to also hear, meet and discuss why the maker revolution matters with Sylvia Libow Martinez, co-author with Dr. Gary Stager oInvent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, a book on my Kindle that has long been well "thumbed". She was presenting at the National School Board Conference (conference ; events ; #NSBAConf) there and made the extra effort to also present at this MakerFaire. Kudos to Sylvia for her talk on "Why Can't School Be More Like MakerFaire". Josh Denson, founder of Bricolage and the rest of the event team deserve a special Kudos for a highly successful first makerfaire and to the graciousness of so many in responding so thoughtfully to my queries throughout the day.

The third annual Burlington, NC maker faire that I also attended April 12 was impressive in that a much smaller city could provide a much larger and more significant set of exhibits from their community.

There is a difference between viewing a virtual object (e.g., computer screen, web compositions) and holding an object, whatever the composition is. Both are forms of composition are important. However, I've been concerned that maker movement efforts tends to leave cyberspace out of the focus of their thinking or at least underplay it. Compare this image on the left of the cyberspace digital literacy palette (click for an infographic loaded with clickable hotspots) with the makerspace palette above to see similarities and differences.

It was especially heartening to see that cyberspace for computer displays (image on left) was not excluded from maker exhibits at state and regional fairs; unfortunately this is not true of the world faires.  Elements of this cyberspace palette that were in the exhibits of NOLA's and Burlington's MakerFaire include: cardboard marble ramps with QR code linked to digital video story telling; image capture manipulation to study plant photosynthesis; video/image/audio with visual dj software using Arena and remote video viewing and capturing with a camera mounted on a drone; sound composition and manipulation with made instruments; and digital animated story telling with a wide variety of props which certainly could be 3D designed. This is how it should go with makerspace,  the creation of real world objects and events intimately integrated with the power of computer screen communication.

A final exemplar for now is the Maker Education Initiative  which is busily and productively engaged in creating a national youth movement of maker activities and locations. Not directly engaging and challenging the system of schooling currently in place has enabled it to grow dramatically, not impeded by past practice. Unfortunately this also means that a large, capable and interested professional work force is not contributing at its scale to makerspace advance.

To gain a better idea of what he makerspace movement is producing in enthusiasm and learning, Google Search "maker faire OR makerfaire" for your state or country and attend some this year. For North Carolina folks, this means April 12 for the MakerFaire in Burlington and June 7 for Raleigh; otherwise, visit

Educational Theory

It is interesting to watch the maker movement seek to invent from scratch some persistent but long marginalized educational ideas long promoted by Montessori, Dewey, Piaget, Freire and Papert, among others.  For example, Piaget's thinking, To Understand Is To Invent (entire book online). It goes much deeper than that. For a great study of the real genius behind the invent to learn idea and the science on which it is based and practiced for a century, see A.S. Lillard's work, Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, 2005, Oxford University Press. Her book and related thinking is a tour de force of Montessori's thinking and the research that continues to uphold the value of the key elements of her methodology. Perhaps at last the many disconnected yet historical allies of the maker movement can be networked to a tipping point that takes us beyond the obsolete notions of "the school as factory and the child as a blank slate" (Lillard) that "are firmly ensconced in the standard operating procedures of today's schools" (Lillard citing Resnick & Hall).

As Lillard has shown of Montessori's work, there is an effective evidence-based world of choice, personal interest, intrinsic reward, learner centered boundaries, inter-age grouping, context learning and order. Makerspace is redefining this evidence based world as both digital and physical constructivism and constructionism. Dewey made a good run at this with the Progressive Education movement at the beginning of the 20th century before its star was driven off the road after WWII by a growing national addiction for the promise of "measurement driven efficiency".  That only 24% of high school seniors rated proficient in the last national writing assessment is one more indication that the current measurement efficiency model fails, in this case failing to sufficiently lift 3 of 4, 75% of our public school population. An even smaller percent graduate from college in four years. Too many see digital technology as the "at last" savior of what in reality has been revealed as a negligent and inhumane model for both teachers and students. Education has lingered long enough in trying to resuscitate this increasingly obsolete system.

Digital technology can be used to assist many causes. The makerspace movement is offering one more new-day alternative in the educational firmament of the 21st century. Which one do we choose? Will makerspace sustain itself over the long haul? Can it continue to transform the traditional school model? What allies might collectively work with it to do so? Will colleges of education lead or ignore such practices in the preparation of new teachers?


Below are some additional high interest resources for Makerspace developments in public libraries, school libraries and classrooms.

***Library concepts
"the emphasis is on creating with technology ...teaching our patrons to think for themselves, to think creatively, and to look for do-it-yourself solutions before running off to the store."
Jeff Sturges of Detroit’s Mt. Elliott Makerspace said in ALA TechSource’s December 3 makerspace webinar, “Beyond engineering and STEM, this is about creating creative people.”

-Bricolage Academy, charter school, New Orleans, founded 2013.
-Albamarle Schools in Virginia

***Public libraries

*** School Libraries
Leslie B. Preddy ( ). School Library Makerspaces: Grades 6–12, $45.00.

*** North Carolina Libraries (NC)

***School Classrooms after school

***Makerspace design

Curt Gabrielson, Tinkering: Kids Learn by Making Stuff, 2013.
Rifkin, J. (2014). The Zero Margin Cost Society.

Twitter tools and tags: #pbl #pbi #makerspace, #maker #makers #makered #inventToLearn

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Updated May 14, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014


LMS vs Net? Deep decision time on budgeting types of learning software

As schools move rapidly towards widespread rollout of 1:1 computer per student systems, educators and culture also stands at the cross-roads for critical decisions about the kinds of software and learning methodologies to be used. Following the money will indicate what choices are being made, as a great deal of it is going to change hands in going forward. Will instruction be authoritarian, top-down state competency, teacher centered instruction delivered to students as containers for holding and repeating information and directions using CMI/ILS/LMS software? Will it be democratic, bottom-up student-interest centered, envisioning students as generators, composing with the rich interactive multimedia of the age, learners as eduentrepreneurs of inventive solutions to interesting problems and participants whose independence and teamwork grow globally by constructing their own personal learning networks and learning products?  Might it be blended? To what degree? How did we get to these choices? There is a history here worth a quick review.

For a century schools and teaching practices have been increasingly guided by the philosophy and psychology of Frederick W. Taylor (efficiency expertise for the industrial age) and B. F. Skinner (behavioral psychology). Taylor provided the foundation for the thinking that organized factories and later corporations with claims for greater efficiency leading to greater productivity. Such thinking lies behind a school division of labor separated by grades, subdivided into skills levels, and further separated into time segments and into tight sequences of curriculum. Having mastered the training of pigeons and other animals, the most influential psychologist of the 20th century, B. F. Skinner, showed that even humans could be guided and directed to required behavior by reasonably frequent, properly timed offerings of high interest, followed by positive reinforcements of compliments and praise. Textbooks, teaching methodology, educational evaluation and assessment and coursework have long and often been beholden to this line of thought. This thinking was also foundational and reinforcing for the physicist Patrick Suppes at Stanford. His early work with instructional computing in the 1950’s led to books on Computer Managed Instruction which led to a string of growing companies (Computer Curriculum Corporation which was bought up by Pearson; RiverDeep, an effective competitor, was later bought by Houghton-Mifflin). Some of the struggle to determine future directions can be found in the Pearson report Impacts of the Digital Ocean on Education (DiCerbo & Behrens, 2014).The CMI label was later changed to the more palatable marketing labels of Integrated Learning Systems (ILS) and LMS (Learning Management Systems). Many similar companies also have been built up around the e-learning label.

Digital systems are excellent for delivering instructional content that is prescribed, measured, monitored, reported and managed, and content that can be delivered with edutainment’s high-interest state of the art multimedia and interactive response resources.

Others have taken a decidedly learner centered approach. For an even longer period of time, the seminal thinkers of education who have been most deeply involved as actual teachers, inventor of schools, participant observers and creators of instruction, including Montessori, Dewey, Piaget, Freire, Moore and Papert, have advised that learner centered was best. In their writing and practices they used and recommended community and learner motivated projects, student choice, personal planning and multi-age teamwork. The Internet and the Web have been built with exactly this type of social and inventive thinking and this type of productivity by adolescents and adults. The Web stands as a model of the most productive system yet devised by human capacity; the information explosion stimulated from this design yields results beyond any current capacity to contain it, demanding immense growth in personal knowledge in order to use it ever more wisely and productively. Standing on this foundation are a long list of companies inventing new practices, careers and jobs that are beyond the space to list here. They added further and immense creativity, value and efficiency to society and culture.

Digital applications are excellent for inventing, creating, exploring, discovering, assembling, analyzing, sharing, critiquing, posting, producing, composing, building and more, using a digital palette of at least 10 different categories of media: text, audio, still image, video, 2D animation, many forms of 3D composition; sensors/robotics, interaction and coding. The digital palette is also a hot-spot clickable cover page for  the DigiAcademy Web site drilling down into elements of digital literacy and its implications.

In this digital palette infographic, shown on the right, there is a ring or collar around the inner circle of composing and understanding. It is titled team workflow, representing teamwork. That teamwork area represents an ocean of diverse Web apps, that are far too numerous to fit into that space. Most fortunately, they are wonderful charted in the infographic below by Brian Solis and JESS3. Will they are someone turn them all into a Web graphic of hotspots some day that link directly to the apps?

Web apps excel at using some combination of the digital palette media above to stimulate many different elements of teaming.  This network nature of Web includes sharing, evaluation, critique, praise, collaboration, cooperation and more. Twitter is just 1 part of the ocean of local and global team conversations.

Click the image below for a larger view of the circle. Even Blogger and Twitter are just a part of a much larger ocean of the social media of teaming.

Visit Conversation Prism for choices of different much more readable sizes of the full circle of the teaming or social media chart that is above. 

Dr. Young Zhao examined our current national and state efforts at standardization and school reform, along with views of education in China and India, and concluded that: "The only way to go is to liberate human beings so they can create their own space."

See some of his TEDx presentation below.

Which path will the software used in school practices of learning and teaching follow? Do we learn best by following decisions or making decisions? Will the major decisional power rest in the software system itself or in the minds of learners and teachers? What software and hardware will best support these path or paths? In which way should our money and our time go? At the moment, the centrality of the learner, the question of who has the decision making initiative, is not a factor in overall assessment of state educational systems: Digital Learning Now's

What hashtags are engaged in hashing out these themes? A place to start would include:

#PLN #maker #makerspace #LMS #elearning #cosn14

Monday, March 17, 2014


Keeping 21st Century Faith in Middle Level Educational Philosophy

There are certain facts and questions that would be useful to serve as foundation for curriculum planning. New ones have emerged since I wrote, The Long View – Curriculum into the 21st Century, for the NC Middle School Journal (2014).

In short, the adult world is awash in the "new oil", digital information, the product of the silent, invisible and endlessly expanding information explosion; information dominates all other forms of capital, and the economy and culture use digital technology to build new businesses and new careers on it every day.  Over 80% of the population in the United States uses the Net and the Web every day if not through most of its hours. Such a rapidly changing culture requires inquisitive, question-seeking, self-actualizing edupreneurs. To survive let alone thrive in such a current setting requires a learner centered, student centered educational system that graduates everyone with such skills.

Such thinking has long been central to stated Middle Level educational goals and this is reinforced by elements of the Common Core. These goals are further supported by a new movement that is helping to change community perspective about the value of open-ended project based learning. The makerspace movement (see part of global makerspace map below) has been creating community centers to share 3D printers and other digital fabrication devices for personal projects, and individuals, teams and families have begun to explore their potential.

The longer view then shows multiple forces at work pulling and pushing to build a learner centered question and project focused culture: the adult economy; middle school philosophy; the NC legislature requirement for 2017 to be the year in which all textbooks and instructional materials are digital; 1/3 of state schools (map and discussion) on the march by the fall of 2013 to having a digital device for every student in that (see map above); Common Core making higher order thinking skills a priority; and the new industrial revolution creating a new makerspace explosion on top of the cyberspace explosion still underway.

Against that background it is important to look at the resistance to such change. Have conditions changed in the last decade or if it is still the case that  "intelligent inquiry is an illusion at this point in educational practice" (Graesser, Ozuru and Sullin, 1994, p. 122)? The evidence questions our progress: “State  and  national  systems  of  so-called accountability have had a devastatingly negative effect on student-centered  middle  school  programs”   (George, 2014, p.3). Legislative action has treated students as excess labor at a time when we have run out of enough brains to bring in the harvest from the digital information frontier. This is also leading to one more surge to expand the H1B visa program to import talent from other countries. Such argument is being made without equal emphasis on refinancing schools at the level needed. Of equal concern, too many legislatures think finance invents all by itself and are thereby anxious to lower taxes under the theory that this produces jobs. Our state and the nation are left without any evidence that one day we can meet the demands of the digital age with our own citizens.

"We have met the enemy and it is us" (Pogo cartoon). What questions will continue to drive us in the right direction?

George, P. S. (2014). The struggle for middle school in North Carolina: Taking the long view. A speech to commemorate the life and work of John Van Hoose. North Carolina Middle School Journal, 28(1), 1 9. 

Graesser, A.C., & Person, N.K. (Spring 1994). Question Asking During Tutoring. American Educational Research Journal31(1) 104-137.

Shortened Web address for this posting: Hashtags: #50NCMLE14, #makerspace


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