Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It’s Time to Upgrade: Making the Case for Change

Dr. Tim Tyson will be presenting the keynote addresses at each of the three AzTEA conferences this year. Every keynote will be different. After enjoying his keynote at the Peak Performance conference, I'm looking forward to hearing his presentations at the next two conferences.

Dr. Tim Tyson has been an educator for over thirty years. He currently works as a consultant and speaker. Prior to this, he was the principal of Mabry Middle School in Cobb County, Georgia. School Library Journal has referred to him as the "Pied Piper of Educational Technology." He started a student-led digital film festival at Mabry.

Here are my notes from his keynote:

It’s all about perspective. We get stuck until some tragic emotional experience shakes our perspective. Are we powerful enough to change our perspective without a tragedy?

The nature of work has changed because of technology. Global competition, consolidation, mergers, and layoffs have resulted in a third of America’s work force being laid off. They’re now independent contractors. To thrive in the economy, right-brain skills are essential. (Both Tim and LSLibn highly recommend reading Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind.) Unfortunately, many schools still focus on Rules, Rituals, Routines, and Right Answers.

Tim said he worked in a middle school with “hormonally handicapped” kids. (Sounds pretty typical, eh?)

Students sitting in rows is an outdated practice. We need to be doing project-based learning to prepare them for the workplace.

John Dewey (1916): “One learns through direct experience, by being engaged in authentic tasks. Learning is not, then, a process of transmitting information from someone who knows to someone who doesn't; rather, learning is an active process on the part of the learner, where knowledge and understanding is constructed by the learner. Moreover, learning is a social process: learning proceeds by and through conversations....”

A Big Question for Teachers

Who owns the learning? Teachers are working themselves to death and their students aren’t. Students need to take ownership of their learning.

The way we work, play, communicate, build and maintain relationships, travel, etc. have been transformed by technology. But school is pretty much the same. There’s LIFE and then there’s school.

Trivia: People in one out of every eight marriages in the U.S. last year met online.

The New Bad Word (per Daniel Pink) Is Routine

We need routines to be efficient, but anything that can be reduced to routine can be automated, digitized, and sent around the world at the speed of an electron. If you’re engaged in a job filled with routine, your work can be outsourced.

Students believe what happens in schools is irrelevant to both their present and their future. We can’t continue school as usual. It's time for new beginnings! Opportunity! Potential! Transformation! Metamorphosis!

The transformational power of the laptop is more potent than the printing press.

School 2.0

- Authentically engaged learners
- Self-directed learning - “If you require a boss, you’re already too expensive to hire.”
- Project-driven instruction
- Independent problem-solvers
- Empowered by technology innovation
- Collaborative learning community
- Relevant

Connectedness, meaningfulness, significance, and contribution are hallmarks of School 2.0.

We shouldn’t think our job us to pour information into children. Instead, they need to gather information on their own, assimilate it, and then use it to make the world a better place.

Put kids’ work into global distribution. This is the first time in history that we can do that and it doesn’t hardly cost anything. It’s simple and cheap. Tim started the school year at his middle school by asking students: “What do you as a student have to say that is so important that everyone in the world needs to hear or read about it?” This was very inspiring to his students.

His podcast, MabryOnline.org, on iTunes has had 2.2 million downloads so far in 2007.

In New Zealand, every teacher and student has a blog that serves as a digital portfolio.

Authentic Assessment

The concept of childhood is very recent. Tim's grandmother started early to make a valuable contribution to her family. Her contribution was respected and essential. Children today are entertained and minimized.

When does meaningfulness start for a person? When students graduate from high school? College? Get a job? Marry? Have kids? It should start today. It’s time to refocus our thinking.

What’s on Students’ Minds?

Inspired by Tim's challenge, some Mabry students wanted to shoot a video about human embryonic stem cell research. Tim, concerned a bit about the volatility of the topic, told themm “Come up with a plan and keep me informed on every step you take.” Their next progress report was to request a field trip to Emory University to speak with Dr. Chedda, a researcher, who had committed to spending two hours with the students. Tim went with the students and their parents wanted to go, too. The researcher gave the kids the same presentation she gives to colleagues. She didn’t dumb it down, but she drilled down to explain concepts and vocabulary. Students toured the lab, saw actual stem cells, and witnessed experiments being conducted. The video they made after the visit was judged by a panel, including someone from Georgia TV.

Other topics of student-created Mabry Middle School videos:

- Children’s slave labor in the chocolate industry on the Ivory Coast
- Commercialization of pure drinking water
- Saving lives in Africa from malaria - Students collected donations for bed nets when it was aired.
- Captivity of elephants -- The teacher had shot video of elephants during a vacation in Africa. Tim rejected the student request for a field trip to Africa (!), so students filmed videos of elephants during a field trip to the Atlanta Zoo. They discovered the elephants in the zoo had a skin condition because they don’t have enough room. They researched that and raised people’s awareness.
- Organ donation

Students are not assigned a letter grade for their films. Their reward is what a thousand attendees say when they watch the project on Film Night.

The point is not the technology. The effective educator in this age of hyperconnectivity is the educator who uses tools to get students involved in their world.

Children want to be prepared to make a contribution today.

“The self depends for its wholeness upon its surroundings.” - John Dewey

Tim claims his greatest fear is that No Child Left Behind will accomplish its goals and will create an entire nation of minimum achievers. Will -- or have -- the students who are achievers be overlooked because we’re emphasizing the bare minimum?

Contact Information



tim@drtimtyson.com - He invited attendees to email him “if I can help you in any way.”

You can watch some of Mabry Middle School student videos by searching for MabryOnline on iTunes.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Project-based learning is the way, but managing the process is a challenge. Try www.projectfoundry.org They've figured out a way to make the process work in over 50 PBL schools.