The Disconnection Myth (A Working Idea in Progress)

“Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.” – Brené Brown Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

If I heard anything in college it was the phrase “it’s all about connections.” I often wondered how in the world I would find my way when I couldn’t nail down what I wanted to do with my life long enough to make the connections it seemed I so desperately would need to get in the door. The what of my path was always, (and still is) a bit tricky and makes me feel uneasy sometimes but the why on the other hand was never an issue. I always knew it was about people. More specifically, I always knew it was about helping people. It was about the constant pursuit of living for others, beside others, with others. It was about bridging the gaps between people and the hope of leaving the world a speck better than when I entered it. It was about connections. This truth still exists. It is still one of the most important factors to finding, and becoming our best selves. It is still all about connections – it’s just that the definition of the word has changed. And that is a good thing, a really good thing. We have the chance to flip the script. To shift the paradigm. To make the good the only – and connections is how we are going to do it. It is no longer just about who you know, who your parents know, where you were born, where you went to school. All of those things are factors, yes but they are not the deciding factor. They no longer have to make or break you, or your path. All we have to do is become connected locally, globally, and digitally, person to person; in all of those spaces. I find myself spending a lot of time thinking about connections- and a lot more time in the world of education defending my stance on the critical need for people (all people) to be connected locally, globally and digitally. I am constantly asking a lot of questions about what it means to be connected and am usually most drawn to how we are connected to each other, what is created because of those connections, and the illusion that connection is a privilege and/or choice. But before we get into any of that we have to start with the why of it all. Why do we desire, seek out, and identify through connections? Because connections are the thing. The fear of disconnection disappears when we realize not only are we all worthy of connection, we are all capable of it on more levels than were ever humanly possible. So go ahead: get connected. Even more so than that, embrace connection. I dare you. Stop believing the myth that we are simultaneously becoming more disconnected as our world is allowing us to be more deeply connected in every aspect of our life. The majority of our students have already figured this out whether or not you decide to join them, but I’m betting on the fact that most of them hope you will.

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It’s a Mobile Natives World, I Just Teach In It

Today I woke up to a text message from my sister that said “Classrooms of the Future on Today Show! Textbooks to Tablets!” I replied with “Awesome! But it should really be called ‘Classrooms of Today’!” and she replied with an affirming “Yes!” She lives on a farm in Iowa. Her husband, my brother in law, works for John Deer and is using technology everyday to help farmers in his area create “smart farms” with mobile technology. It’s amazing. Google it. We do completely different work but are able to vibe out on topics related to mobile technology because he gets it, and so does she. Not only that. They are parents to 3 children under the age of 5 that are mobile natives, meaning they were born in the age of mobile technology. Ben is going to start kindergarten next year and he can teach himself how to do things on a Kindle Fire that it would take my Dad weeks to learn. (Sorry, Dad…but you know it’s true!) They learn differently because they were born into a different world. This issue matters. Society (teachers and Today Show watchers alike) need to understand that mobile technology and the issue of how to best support mobile natives in the classroom matters. A lot. 

Understanding the issues we are facing in education is critical to our society’s progress, but they tend to be so complex that they are difficult to pinpoint and address. More and more it seems like everyone has an opinion about what is wrong with our education system but much less to say about how to effectively (and realistically) fix it.  Regardless of the multitudes of expectations and  complex circumstances educators are dealing with we are all being challenged with the task of helping shape and prepare students to thrive in an ever-changing, globally connected world. Furthermore, our young learners are developing a moral code and a learning style that are different from pre-internet and pre- mobile technology learners. Most teachers (and people born before the late ’80s) are struggling to connect with these developments and how they are not going to, but rather are already, deeply effecting the way we teach, learn, and live.

Research speculates that 65% of the careers our students will have do not even exist yet. This phenomenon is one of the truest challenges the field of education has ever had to face.  Furthermore, the role of teacher is morphing quickly because, for the first time in human history, our youth can have access to unlimited information, resources, and connections. This access could help them transcend virtually any circumstance, but only if we, as educators, work together to provide this access and to create the space our students need to become lifelong learners capable of adapting. And it will only work if we are open enough to see the real needs of a modern learner and the true expectations and capabilities of the modern educator.

This brings me to what I believe is one of the most critical trends—the one that must be addressed and accepted across the board to create real support and solution for learners of today: partnerships. As teachers, we are no longer the primary source of information. Even harder to swallow for many educators, a textbook is no longer the principal source of the information necessary to learn, adapt, and succeed.

Teachers are resources. Textbooks are resources. But nothing can compete with the global bank of knowledge and connectivity that the Internet provides. Knowledge learned can be immediately explored, adapted, shared, and re-created. Our students already do this—they already learn this way. They are digital natives, born and raised. But when they come to learn in our classrooms, we pretend that they are not. We ask them to perform an impossible task: we ask them to be someone else.

They are builders. They are content creators. They are native synthesizers. And they are bored. To fix this boredom, this disconnect, the only option for us is to become partners with them. We must partner to explore real goals, ethical behavior, self-assessment, and productive communication. We must partner with them so that they can learn to create, to tinker, and to find their own voices. We must allow them to use their tools to create solutions to problems of their world. We must work against homogenization so that they can walk confidently into their next phase of life. Right now, they are leaving timid and unsure of their compatibility with our world. I teach high school. I see it everyday. I hope I won’t be writing this same blog when my nephew is starting high school.

If we walk with them to learn in their way, then they will not feel alone as they walk away from us. If we work with them to create empathetic connections to all humans, then they will never feel disconnected from our world or even from a world that does not exist yet. We must embed our content into the problems we are solving in the classroom. We must use our common core strands to guide projects and to inspire in-depth usage of that core to solve problems of the world, not fill in bubbles. We must activate passions and we must side-step who we formerly were. We might even take a step back. Yes, a step back is what we need; to truly partner, we must consider ourselves learners too. When we all begin to truly utilize the partnership approach in every school and in every classroom, we will see the change needed to support our students at the most critical level and all of us will be much better off because of it.

The Plight and Possibility of Romantic Attachments

In this article Sugata Mitra argues that “We have a romantic attachment to skills from the past.” I personally have a romantic attachment to skills from the future but I am aware that the majority of people I’m surrounded by, especially when I think of myself in a school, are far more attached to skills from the past. 

Why?

What is it?

Why are we holding on to a system and a skill set that no longer benefit our people or society?

We praise the most innovative and free thinking of our world yet continue to teach in the exact same way and think we are magically going to mass produce innovators, problem solvers and people that deeply care and connect to their work and their world. It isn’t going happen that way.

What if we detached from those skills of the past and attached to creating and supporting skills of the future? 

If you’re thinking that might make sense then hopefully you’ve already realized that we are going to have to change some things. Maybe even a lot of things. Drastically. 

We have to change the way we teach and learn. We have to start by changing the way we define teaching and learning all together so that people can be free to teach, learn, and live in a new way that is congruent to our world today – not our world from 100 years ago. 

I challenge you to do two things today: 

1. Read this article and then share it with someone else. The possibilities of connecting and learning with and from each other in the world we live in are infinite and also critical to creating a new way of thinking and learning. 

2. After you have read, questioned, thought deeply, and shared ask yourself: What is the true purpose of education?  How can we do a better job of creating and living that true purpose? 

Get in a passionate argument with someone about your answers. 

Write them down.

Draw them.

Share them.  

Then work every single day to make them happen.  

I promise you’ll be better for it, and so will the world. 

 

 

 “We don’t need to improve schools. We need to reinvent them for our times, our requirements and our future. We don’t need efficient clerks to fuel an administrative machine that is no longer needed. Machines will do that for us. We need people who can think divergently, across outdated “disciplines”, connecting ideas across the entire mass of humanity. We need people who can think like children.” – Sugata Mitra 

Loon

Please watch this video. 

Then apply whatever you’re most passionate about to the message in the video.

Then make that happen.

Create it.

Don’t stop until it happens.

Because if you do that…

then maybe in our lifetime, everyone will actually mean everyone.

Maybe finding the answer starts with looking somewhere new.

Or asking another question.

Or starting a conversation with someone you’ve never met.

Because everyone really could mean everyone. 

And you could be a part of making that hope a reality.

So, go.

Try.

Create your own loon.

Be the loon.

You really can do it.

I’ll be over here trying too if you need to talk.

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Wear Your Heart on Your Blog

At approximately 1 in morning on June 6th, 2013 I was inspired by Seth Godin’s 5000th Post and tweeted this: “@whittmister I am creating a summer #SethGodinChallenge We commit to writing something EVERYDAY & posting it on public blog. In? #youthcc“. The truth is I am inspired by something Seth Godin nearly everyday; like it is annoying for those closest to me who have to hear me reference him the amount of times I do. None the less his work lights (a lot) of sparks in me and thus the “Seth Godin Challenge” was born. The idea is as simple as the tweet suggests: write a new post once a day and post it in a public space; which for me will be here and for Daniel will be here. Aside from that I thought I might make a sporadic list of other supporting reasons I (slash we…because partnerships are where it’s at) are doing this so here goes…

  • Because Seth Godin is doing it and he doesn’t understand why more people aren’t doing it (and neither do I).
  • Because I have a lot to say and a lot more to do if I plan on making any type of a revolutionary educator/person dent in the world.
  • Because I am expecting my poetry team to write every single day so I am prescribing myself with a little “practice what I preach” medicine.
  • Because I am currently failing at my daily detox of talking to myself for 2 minutes a day so maybe I can write for a couple minutes each day instead?
  • Because I want to be a better writer, communicator, educator and you know like in general human being.
  • Because I am working on making a ruckus.
  • Because I want to be more connected and transparent in a consistent and personal manner.
  • Because maybe somewhere someone is waiting for something like this and all they needed was one erratic list with a lot of “becauses” and “Is” to begin their own writing odyssey.
  • Because I am ready to get a little more uncomfortable in the hopes that more people, more often, feel much more comfortable expressing themselves in whatever format they see fit…even if that might make some other people feel uncomfortable.
  • To wear my heart on my sleeve (and also on my blog).

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Seth Godin Summer Writing Challenge Disclaimer from the creator of the Seth Godin Summer Writing Challenge: 1 sentence counts as a post. 1 word might count as a post too depending on how great of a word it is. So does a run on paragraph. So does a run on [run on] paragraph. So does a completely unedited blog with completely random subject matter. So does a picture of something I am doing that makes it impossible for me to write. Basically everything counts. 

Onward.