How the book destroyed Community

I recently attended a session by Rory McGreal at the Tlt Summit. Rory was discussing how video games are often considered to be making us more isolated and how they are destroying students ability to communicate. Rory points to the book as the real culprit.

Before the printed book, people had to flock to a select few scholars who had the knowledge and learning that needed to be shared in the community. This oral tradition meant people had to learn in social ways. The book transformed this and made it possible for people to learn on their own and in private. The scholars and teachers of the day had lost some of their power and significance. People could learn in private. The horror!

I think we’ve seen that the book hasn’t really destroyed community and neither will video games or the web. In fact, as Rory argues, most games cannot be done in private but have to be done together. I’ve observed my son many times yell, scream, laugh and have these seemingly incoherent mumblings on a headset and be in contact with several friends and strangers involved with a scheduled raid on WOW. I don’t totally get it but when I ask if he’s going to get together with his friends, he simply answers, “I already am”. Had he been sitting in a chair reading a book all evening, many would be much more pleased and feel his time is being better spent. I’m not prepared to make a complete judgment.  Yes balance will always be important but there is still a shift here that my 45 year old brain is still working out.

  The shift in how we consume content continues to challenge and amaze me. Social reading is something I’m trying to wrap my head around.  Diigo is something I’m recently exploring that facilitates this.  Being able to highlight content, leave sticky notes, see what other parts people have annotated creates a social experience and richness never possible before. Will explains it really well in this post.  As I sit in my easy chair reading online with others many might find that odd. Again, if I had a printed book and was reading alone,  it would likely get more respect.  For many people, sitting in front of a screen is not a social experience.  For my son and I, that’s not the case.

This is certainly not to say that all reading should be social. But as we spend more time working out what learning looks like on the outside, we need to keep this in mind.

So the next time someone blames the web or a video game for destroying community and social interaction, tell them the book started it.
Image: by Yives

ISTE, What up?

A week from today I head to San Antonio for my first NECC. I’m interested in some sessions but mostly interested in talking and learning with a boat load of people from my network. Knowing that many of these folks are progressive, innovative and deep thinkers makes me wonder why the organization that runs the conference is taking this stance.

It’s already been talked about here, here, here and likely in more place. They’ve all spoke about it in detail and added their own perspectives. I’m sure that ISTE has some legal or CYA reason for doing this but at the same time, why is that Tlt and Northern Voice in fact, encourage folks to record and share content?

Is this a US/Canada thing? Are we Canadians just as litigious minded? What am I missing here?

Maybe someone from ISTE will find this post in their technorati feed and respond.  Seems weird.

You should have seen these kids

I must say I was brimming with pride during the Tlt Summit. Our division presented 10 of the 60 non-commercial sessions. As one of 28 school divisions in our province and one of the smaller ones, I think this says something. I don’t apologize for bragging about the people I work with.

Because of a last minute cancellation I was asked to do an additional session. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to suggest the conveners invite Carla Dolman to do a session on her use of cellphones in the classroom. Maybe my smartest decision of the year. Carla agreed and decided to bring with her a half a dozen kids to help her. You should have seen these kids.

I wished I’d have capture it. Carla began briefly by outlining the thoughts behind the experiment to use cellphones. After about 15 minutes she paused and asked for questions. The audience of about 75 immediately began asking the students questions. “Did it change your learning? Were you tempted to use it to text or call in off task ways? Was it just a novelty? How did students who didn’t have a cellphone feel? Are you still using it for learning?” Hard, challenging, important questions. These 13 and 14 year olds handled them with a poise and sophistication that would make any teacher or parent proud. I sat back with awe and pride as they took turns, not by design, but simply as polished presenters would in responding to questions and concerns. Wow. Then Carla allowed them to share their formal presentation where they discussed the details of their learning as well as educated the audience about the language they communicate with everyday. Finally they had everyone take out their phones and begin showing them how to use bluetooth and soon they had everyone buzzing with learning as they facilitated a hands on learning experience.

While the story about cellphones is a great one itself, watching students present ideas to a real audience about something they were engaged with was another Tlt highlight. They blew me away.

Now I’m thinking about how I might get them to share their story with more people in yet another live, interactive setting. I feel a ustream presentation coming.

The buzz at Tlt 2008

I’ve been looking forward to this conference for a long time. It’s been about learning, celebrating and having a lot of fun. For a province of one million, we’ve put together quite a line up of people. In no particular order, some random thoughts:

  • Twitter is real. Meeting f2f people like D’arcy Norman, Brian Lamb, Jennifer Jones, George Siemens and Cindy Seibel as well as those who live her in Saskatchewan is cool and slightly surreal. I spend more time with these people than the majority of people I’d consider my working colleagues. Some might view that as sad, I don’t.
  • Back channeling provides push back. Whether it’s in twitter, ustream chats or informal discussions, no one gets away with much. Generally I agree with Alan November’s talk and position but am glad I have to think deeply about things.
  • We could use an open space format. Alan November says, “it’s not about the technology” and George Siemens says, “it is about the technology” How about the two of them unwrap that idea in an informal discussion. Add Stephen Downes into the mix and you’ve got something. I’d be there in a minute.
  • I hope I make some people mad. We’ll maybe not mad but if there’s some discourse, some disagreement, there should be some learning. My session with my IT manager on ET call IT might ruffle feathers. I think I’ll ruffle a few more tomorrow, at least I hope anyway. But I’m not a bad person.

Oh and by the way, Brian Lamb is fun to watch.

There’s still more good stuff to come.