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This is one of the most thought-provoking comments this blog has ever seen, one which was posted weeks ago but which still messes with me:

David Cox: What percentage of the population do you think has the eyes and/or ears to know the difference [between soundtracks done well and done poorly]? When I watch a movie or listen to a song, I don’t see the things that you see. I try, but I don’t understand why certain shots are done certain ways or why a particular piece of music was or wasn’t used. Can I learn that? I don’t know. But if my audience won’t know the difference, should I take the time to learn it?

Two incomplete thoughts:

1. The software programmer should not write your lesson plan.

The programmer cares about consumers, not students. The programmer’s job is to make as many features accessible to as many consumers as easily as possible, without glutting the program. Your job is to challenge your students. Your job is very, very different. So don’t feel weird telling kids not to use a) bullet points in PowerPoint, b) filters in Audacity, and c) the “Add Track From iTunes” button in iMovie. The existence of the button does not make good pedagogy out of the button.

2. To put students in a place to care about the difference between good and bad production and not to equip them is wrong.

Which is to say, if you don’t know why those closing montages at the end of Grey’s Anatomy and Lost are insipid shortcuts to genuine emotional interaction with a story, then you should have the humility to recuse yourself and say, “Maybe I’m the wrong person to teach students to make movies.”

This isn’t about amateurs and experts. That fight is over. The amateurs have won and I wouldn’t reverse that ruling if I could. But it’s extremely important to understand where teachers fit into the new creative structure, a structure which has seen the quantity of published media increase at the same pace as its median quality has declined.

We must act as bulwarks against that decline, not accelerants of it.

33 Responses to “Aiming Right At The Bar”

  1. on 02 May 2009 at 6:59 amEric Hoefler

    So are you suggesting that if a teacher doesn’t have the time to learn to master a form, then they should not use that form as a means for helping students develop knowlede/skills in the teacher’s subject area/domain of mastery? In other words, if I don’t know much about film making, I shouldn’t ask my students to make a video to demonstrate/explore their learning?

    I completely get this point: “The existence of the button does not make good pedagogy out of the button.”

    But I don’t think that this necessarily follows from it: “if you don’t know … then you should have the humility to recuse yourself”

    Because while it may be true that “we must act as bulwarks against that decline, not accelerants of it,” it’s also true that we can’t act as bulwarks against the decline of everything. What battles do we pick? Or do we shrink back in fear of “doing it wrong” or “not getting it” and rely merely on pencil and paper?

    I suspect this is just another way of calling for a more careful attention to the tools we use and the how and why of using them. A worthy call. But this will also point to the unending struggle between the practical and the ideal.

    So, I’m genuinely asking: if you could set the bar, where would that bar be, and how would it stand in relation to the practical and the ideal? And given the constraints of time, how much would you rather teachers just don’t do versus attempt, only to execute poorly, at least at first?

    Have I said anything? Have I missed your point?

  2. on 02 May 2009 at 9:45 amDan Meyer

    Hi Eric,

    I’m all for multi-modal assessment. If a student recorded a podcast demonstrating a clear understanding of Algebra 1’s standards, I’d pass her. If a student expressed an interest in podcasting, I would point her to some hardware and software without hesitation.

    But I am not going to build a unit into my curriculum on podcasting (the awkwardness of that unit in a math course, aside) because even though the tools are everywhere I won’t buy into the technophiliac’s fantasy that accessibility and my own proficiency are equivalent. I am certain I would commit errors and put kids (inadvertently) off the path of meaningful communication.

    This, I think, is the temptation. To teach something because you love it and because the tools to do it are everywhere and free. It’s a powerful call. But unless you’re good at it (and good at explaining your good-ness) you won’t help students escape the horrible feedback loop of amateurs creating content for amateurs.

    So if you teach lit and you want to assign a video project, I think that’s great. Just don’t insert creative value judgments into the assessment rubric for a creative discipline you don’t understand. (My current frustration: “Appropriate Use Of Music.”) Assess how well the project met your literature standards, not how well it met your hazy idea of what a good video looks like.

    If you teach a generalized “Multimedia Arts” elective, then you’re in a position to inflict maximal damage on young creative-types. It’s these teachers who need to bone up, to consume all the free, excellent resources they can, to consume as much multimedia as possible, and then consume as many expert opinions on that multimedia as possible. (ie. if you teach documentary filmmaking, watch the best documentaries [ie. Morris not Spurlock] write your own reviews, read professional reviews, compare and contrast.)

    Basically, if you aren’t 100% sure you can do something to push a learner out of the amateur feedback loop, then recuse yourself from the instructor’s role. Offer assignments, prompts, tools, resources, etc., but let the student evolve creatively on her own, without the influence of your own flawed judgment.

  3. on 02 May 2009 at 2:11 pmDan Meyer

    I love happy endings.

  4. on 02 May 2009 at 2:59 pmDina

    What do you believe “quality” is, Dan? As in, “this is a quality film/blog/piece of writing?”

  5. on 02 May 2009 at 3:00 pmDina

    P.S. “Appropriate use of music” can actually be nicely folded into literature standards– particularly when one is connecting lyrics to theme.

  6. on 03 May 2009 at 6:09 amDan Meyer

    Dina, “quality” is subjective, in the eye of the beholder, etc., but if you’re going to teach art — digital or otherwise — can we agree that you should possess a comprehensive personal aesthetic that guides your creative decisions and, secondarily, an ability to help students determine their own aesthetics and realize them technically.

    I mean, personally, I like making and consuming art that makes meaningful connections between different things, ideas, or people. I can trace almost all of my creative decisions, all of my favorite movies, music, and literature, back to that (very very) broad aesthetic.

    I don’t think that kind of aesthetic clarity is too much to expect from people who aspire to teach art.

  7. on 03 May 2009 at 6:17 amEric Hoefler

    Hi Dina,

    Asking students to identify lyrics that, in tone, content, or theme, complement another text and further asking them to defend their choices is one thing … and within the scope and mastery of a competent English teacher. But I think that’s different from discussing whether or not the “music” is appropriate. (And furthermore, the reason for asking students to perform that sort of exercise should be clear to them before they begin it.)

    It’s important to clearly define what a “qualified teacher” is, but it’s also difficult and complex. In this area, though, I side with Dan (now that I better understand him): teachers should only attempt to “teach” and “assess” areas in which they practice and consider themselves to have some level of mastery. This is why, for example, English teachers who rarely write anything drive me crazy … how can they possibly help students become better writers if they aren’t constantly practicing and improving their own craft?

    This is not to prohibit teachers from encouraging students to express their learning through methods beyond the teacher’s domain of mastery. Students need a chance to make sense of the world through the skills/disciplines/arts that best suit them. But encouraging or allowing students to develop a musical montage that, at least to them, helps express their understanding is different from requiring and then grading the merits of the musical choices … unless, perhaps, you’re a musician and the student is completing a project for music class.

    Teachers should be masters of the disciplines they teach, but they should also value and respect the mastery of other disciplines enough to admit their lack of mastery, to value the exploration of those other disciplines by interested students, and to not insult those disciplines by assuming no real mastery is necessary in order to adequately teach and/or assess them.

  8. on 03 May 2009 at 9:17 amDan Meyer

    Exactly. Especially that last graf. There is an interesting thesis to be written (interesting to me, anyway) on the confusion of a) free tools and free distribution with b) perceived mastery.

  9. on 03 May 2009 at 6:32 pmDavid Cox

    Glad I could help stir the pot. When I made the original comment, I was thinking as a math teacher. But the thread of comments have me thinking about my “other” class.

    The two incomplete thoughts seem fairly complete. I think I completely agree with #1. But for #2, is it enough for a teacher to merely help students with the technical aspect of digital storytelling and merely ask the student to justify her decisions.

    For example, I have a video production class whose main objective is to get today’s announcements on TV. I am “the guy” for the same reason Greg Brady became Johnny Bravo…I fit the suit. I am no expert in production or design and don’t pretend to be, but I am not afraid to try things and tech doesn’t scare me. The best I can do is ask students to have a reason for doing everything they do. Or maybe not…maybe I just haven’t pursued an understanding of my own asthetic and need to do so.

    So for a guy like me, who really doesn’t have the option to “rescue myself” because the next person to fill the suit probably wouldn’t even be asking the questions…where do I start to learn about helping students develop their own asthetic?

  10. on 05 May 2009 at 7:42 amMeghan Foster

    Regarding thought #1, have you read Edward Tufte’s essay “The cognitive style of PowerPoint”? It essentially says the same thing: don’t confuse pedagogy and knowledge with the tool used to express that knowledge.

  11. on 05 May 2009 at 11:18 amJerram Froese

    My incomplete thoughts:

    1) Technology, itself, is an accelerant. It makes a good teacher better and a bad teacher worse. But what good does it do to direct a teacher with poor pedagogy to simply stop doing what they are doing? Singularity in approach is idealistic in expectation. It sounds good, but what impact will it have on helping a teacher improve?

    2) I heard it somewhere and have been repeating it for a while: ‘To see a blog applied out of context, start a teacher blogging’.

    3) Student creativity can be unlocked by the connection a student has with the TEACHER, not with the tool introduced or applied by the teacher. Missing out on the opportunity for an amateur teacher to unlock the creativity in a child seems to be high cost.

    4) ‘But if my audience won’t know the difference, should I take the time to learn it?’ :: The world has innate truths that are perceived but not necessarily understood by ‘the common human.’ I am not beguiled by math, but there are truths in mathematics that, without me knowing it, impact my experience of watching, say, a movie. Not knowing should not keep me from being humbled by greater knowledge, nor should it stop me from wanting to teach what I know with my own limitations to others. Perhaps my limited observations of mathematics will one day unlock inspiration in a student or my own child.

  12. on 05 May 2009 at 3:45 pmDan Meyer

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jerram. A couple of responses:

    The issue here is worse than poor pedagogy (per your first remark) rather it’s an admixture of ineptness and hubris, the sort that says, “I can teach what I want to teach.”

    It isn’t unlikely that a strong-willed art student will eventually push past misleading instruction to a complete aesthetic anyway, but I hate to see teachers function as retardants, especially when the solution is simply the humility to say, “I’m not ready to teach this.”

    Per your last, though, I’m all for engaging students in creative dialogue, trading enthusiasms, but I cringe when I see creative value judgments or assessments issued by people who have no idea what they are talking about.

    @Meghan, indeed, Tufte has a lot to say about this.

  13. on 06 May 2009 at 5:48 amJerram Froese

    So, sacrifice the ignorant for the greater cause? I guess I’m not seeing how this malformed teacher gains such insight into their own practice to then, with their eyes now wide open, say, ‘I must stop!’

    I completely get what you are saying, and agree with a good part of it. Too often I see lessons and projects that focus on the aesthetics of the tool (or product as a result of the tool) without looking deeply at what that project was designed to teach. But it seems the only advice offered:

    Basically, if you aren’t 100% sure you can do something to push a learner out of the amateur feedback loop, then recuse yourself from the instructor’s role. Offer assignments, prompts, tools, resources, etc., but let the student evolve creatively on her own, without the influence of your own flawed judgment.

    …is a path I can’t follow completely. Working in a district that is low economic, our students need every opportunity they can get to learn how to work with/interact with computers. I can’t sacrifice that opportunity to only those teachers that are ‘100% sure’. However, I will do my best to seek them out and help them move to a place where they CAN teach better – either by designing better rubrics focused on instruction or by increasing their skills in relation to the tool or project with which they are working.

  14. on 06 May 2009 at 6:48 amDan Meyer
    I will do my best to seek them out and help them move to a place where they CAN teach better – either by designing better rubrics focused on instruction or by increasing their skills in relation to the tool or project with which they are working.

    Right. I can live with that, though the cool thing about teaching now rather than decades ago is that it’s never been a better time to be autodidactic, to shove a few feeds in a reader or visit a few websites regularly. Low-SES or not. The knowledge is free. I’d rather teachers took that kind of self-study on themselves rather than waiting for an administrator to recommend it or, worse, never taking it on at all, which, on the evidence, is too often the case.

  15. on 06 May 2009 at 7:41 amDavid Cox

    “…to shove a few feeds in a reader or visit a few websites regularly…”

    But, where do you start? I know you have a bunch of sites you visit frequently, but how does a novice even know which feeds to put in the reader?

  16. on 06 May 2009 at 6:55 pmMrTeach

    as far as feeds go, I’m a trial and error guy. Throw them all in and see what they have. After a month, I review them.

  17. on 08 May 2009 at 5:06 pmD.C. Hess

    I take it from your assertions Dan that you don’t agree with teaching from within Vygotsky’s “Zone of Proximal Development.”

    I don’t think its necessary to be an expert to teach something, just more capable than the student. If the teacher can make the student as capable as their self what’s wrong with that?

    We are talking basic knowledge, high school entry level survey style classes right? You don’t expect a high school student in math to be capable of mastering spectral theory just because you teach math. Likewise, I don’t expect a student making a movie for class to have to be on par with professional film makers, but I don’t see why assessing a student’s level of craft in relation to one’s own is in violation of the principles of teaching.

    I would certainly think that you don’t have to be a professional to teach something. I don’t even think an English teacher needs to be writing constantly to teach a student to write an essay. Once you know the form and are familiar with it, you don’t need to be a novelist to teach the skill.

    That’s like saying cross curricular instruction isn’t viable because teachers must be experts in everything before teaching even rudimentary skills in anything.

    Send me to the firing squad. I’m no expert but I think I can teach anything I know a little in.

  18. on 09 May 2009 at 11:31 amDan Meyer

    D.C., I don’t think expertise is a necessary prerequisite for teaching. I think it’s a necessary prerequisite for good teaching, however, especially good teaching to a group of students.

    Mostly because, with expertise, comes a disciplinary understanding that enables a teacher to explain not just concepts in isolation but concepts as they relate to the larger whole.

    For example, I don’t doubt that an amateur videographer can explain to a novice how to edit dialogue, but the amateur won’t teach that skill with an understanding of why we edit?, which isolates the skills of videography and complicates their instruction, rather than unifying them and simplifying it.

    That puts the teacher on shifting sand. That’s why we insist that our core curriculum teachers are “highly qualified.” (Leaving aside the issue of how well we certify those qualifications.)

    David, the question where do I start? might have been a significant limiting factor centuries ago, when resources were scarce but, c’mon, it’s 2009. Google search “videography tutorial.” Throw in the first RSS feeds you find and then dump them in a week after you notice them all linking to the same, better blog higher up the information food chain.

    The first step, in this particular case, for me, was to watch as many movies that I could and then ask myself “did I like that?” and then “why?” I wrote 400 words about one new movie every week to thirty readers for a few years. That did me a lot of good.

    I respect time constraints, obviously, but more and more it takes a concerted effort not to improve as a professional.

  19. on 09 May 2009 at 9:12 pmDavid Cox

    Dan
    I get you point. But I happen to see the overabundance of resources as a limiting factor for one who doesn’t know how to filter out the junk to get to the good stuff–especially in an area where one has limited knowledge. It can be paralyzing at times. To be honest, I didn’t know what a ‘reader’ was until recently. I may be the only one on my campus who knows what an rss feed is. Trust me, I am not trying to blame time constraints nor am I trying to stay in the dark. Thanks for the input.

  20. on 12 May 2009 at 7:58 amDave Bonar

    Dan I have a serious problem with your combination of the statement that you need to be an expert to be a good teacher and the method of reading RSS feeds for a few weeks. It sounds like you are suggesting that one can become an expert in a short period of time purely through self instruction. In which case why don’t we just get the students into the same cycle of reading and filtering RSS feeds.

    Certainly I can gain a lot of knowledge with the resources freely available. From my experience I believe I am better at this then most of my students (more experience and previous knowledge provides better connections and filters). But I can not become an expert in anything worthwhile in the short time that your RSS feed comment implies.

  21. on 13 May 2009 at 8:27 amDan Meyer

    I thought I was pretty clear that RSS feeds and autodidacticism are at best starting points. They’re too often neglected, though, so they were worth mentioning.

  22. on 14 May 2009 at 3:53 pmD.C. Hess

    “I think it’s a necessary prerequisite for good teaching, however, especially good teaching to a group of students.”

    If you honestly ascribe to this as the basis for all education then you are either kidding yourself or have unreasonable expectations for teachers and education in general.

    There are just not enough experts in the world (who also have time to teach) to educate everyone.

    I’m more than happy standing on the shoulders of giants and dwarfs alike. Either way gets me higher than I was to start.

    While I agree, teachers need to do more than stay ahead of the kids in the textbook to be good teachers, I don’t agree that you need to be an expert to be a good teacher. Just an expert at teaching.

    More often than not, its our pedagogy that is lacking not our subject matter competency.

  23. on 14 May 2009 at 6:12 pmDan Meyer

    I can’t really counter this. I’ll just restate then, my goal to pursue the intersection of good pedagogy and content-area expertise as you describe it. I enjoy teaching much more when I understand not just how the gears operate in isolation but how the gears operate the machine as a whole.

    Pedagogy held constant, I don’t see how anyone can argue that expertise isn’t preferable to amateurism. My point in all this, then, is given the vast opportunities for autodidacticism in the 21st century, why aim at the bar the amateurs have set?

    Here’s DFW, just because I think his description of the pedagogy/expertise intersection is just right:

    It might be that one of the really significant problems of today’s culture involves finding ways for educated people to talk meaningfully with one another across the divides of radical specialization. That sounds a bit gooey, but I think there’s some truth to it. And it’s not just the polymer chemist talking to the semiotician, but people with special expertise acquiring the ability to talk meaningfully to us, meaning ordinary schmoes. Practical examples: Think of the thrill of finding a smart, competent IT technician who can also explain what she’s doing in such a way that you feel like you understand what went wrong with your computer and how you might even fix the problem yourself if it comes up again. Or an oncologist who can communicate clearly and humanly with you and your wife about what the available treatments for her stage-two neoplasm are, and about how the different treatments actually work, and exactly what the plusses and minuses of each one are. If you’re like me, you practically drop and hug the ankles of technical specialists like this, when you find them. As of now, of course, they’re rare. What they have is a particular kind of genius that’s not really part of their specific area of expertise as such areas are usually defined and taught. There’s not really even a good univocal word for this kind of genius—which might be significant. Maybe there should be a word; maybe being able to communicate with people outside one’s area of expertise should be taught, and talked about, and considered as a requirement for genuine expertise.

  24. on 14 May 2009 at 8:29 pmJerram Froese

    haha…

    Maybe there should be a word; maybe being able to communicate with people outside one’s area of expertise should be taught, and talked about, and considered as a requirement for genuine expertise.

    Isn’t that just P.O.V.? :) The ability to see things from someone else’s perspective? Heck, if you can see it, it’s gotta be more likely than not that you can communicate it.

    Dan, you’re right on target, but the target is so small. Additionally, I don’t know that it is the amateur’s that are creating the target. Doesn’t autodidactology self assumingly prescribe to the notion that it is the individual that creates the bar? Amateurism as a measurement against self seems like a cop-out in an era of self responsibility.

    If nothing else, I’m having fun following the post… :)

  25. on 14 May 2009 at 9:21 pmD.C. Hess

    No doubt, expertise is preferable to amateurism, but is it a prerequisite to good teaching? Whatever happened for the desire to create renaissance men? Jacks of all trades? Amateurism has its place, especially when it broadens our horizons beyond disconnected specialization.

    You keep talking about how the gears operate in the machine as a whole, but that actually requires more than field specialization. That requires big picture thinking which necessitates familiarity with a broad field of disciplines. That leaves little room for expertise in everything. At some point, there is going to be some amateurism.

    I don’t need to be a published historian to teach history, but it doesn’t hurt that I can relate the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima with some basic isotope theory in chemistry. I’m no expert in science, but that’s where my amateurism comes in handy.

    In the end, isn’t that exactly the idea behind liberal arts education?

  26. on 15 May 2009 at 6:29 amDan Meyer
    D.C.: You keep talking about how the gears operate in the machine as a whole, but that actually requires more than field specialization. That requires big picture thinking which necessitates familiarity with a broad field of disciplines.

    Absent any examples, I don’t see how this is true. And certainly not universally true. My ability to explain the overall narrative arc of Algebra (teaching early concepts with an eye for how they’ll pay off with later concepts) is dependent on nothing more than my expertise in Algebra.

    Jerram: Isn’t that just P.O.V.?

    Yeah, or empathy maybe. Whatever it is, its application certainly isn’t confined to the classroom.

    Jerram: Additionally, I don’t know that it is the amateur’s that are creating the target. Doesn’t autodidactology self assumingly prescribe to the notion that it is the individual that creates the bar? Amateurism

    You’re right, of course, assuming this is a capable autodidact. I am completely unburdened by any evidence here but I have noticed that when autodidacts cluster in the edublogosphere the standards they set for themselves tend to regress to the mean. This troubles me, though only enough to write this post and not enough to commit to some basic field research. So there ya go.

  27. on 15 May 2009 at 8:09 amJason Dyer

    I just want to bring the hammer down a moment and note my specific example of a teacher with a lack of media criticism background causing things to go awry:

    http://numberwarrior.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/when-video-is-made-uncritically/

    Just because I’m not the English teacher doesn’t mean I should encourage bad writing habits.

  28. on 15 May 2009 at 1:28 pmD.C. Hess

    “Absent any examples, I don’t see how this is true. My ability to explain the overall narrative arc of Algebra is dependent on nothing more than my expertise in Algebra.”

    If you are an expert in Algebra only, then how do you connect any of the abstract concepts of mathematics to real world examples? I’m guessing you draw upon your personal experiences, many of which involve things you are not an expert in. For instance using variables to determine batting average doesn’t necessitate that you be an expert in baseball.

    I feel like our disagreements on this issue stem more from our personal interpretations of amateurism and expertise. After reading Jason Dyer’s blog article on the same topic, I think I see more where you are coming from. I just don’t think we need to be experts with a technology before we use it as a medium in class. We need to be more cognizant of the purpose of using these mediums and focus not on simply using it, but on what we are using it to achieve. When the video becomes the objective we have lost our direction.

    Otherwise this mentality precludes a lot of engaging activities and relegates much of our instruction to paper and pencil work simply because the teacher is not an expert in film making or technology. I see no harm in teaching children the basics and then letting them learn from there.

    Given the limited time frame of the typical school year, much of what we teach will necessarily be without great depth. It is largely up to educators (at our level) to stimulate curiosity and to give students the tools to continue their education. We ought not to be expected to be the font of all knowledge, but rather be seen as fellow learners.

    Perhaps we just define expertise differently. I am happy to call myself an amateur historian, but that doesn’t mean I can’t describe the overall narrative arc of history and its my amateurism in a variety of other disciplines that enables me to make the connections that make what I teach relevant.

    I think you have more of an issue with people who use technology for the sake of using technology, than with techno-amateurs teaching. It’s the amateur thinkers turned educators who attempt to integrate technology without thinking out the implications and objectives we need to worry about.

    Using photography in our lesson plans doesn’t require us to be expert photographers. Anyone can click and point a camera. When using it to instruct in our disciplines we should approach it from our own instructional objectives not from those of photography and aesthetics. I don’t need to be an expert photographer to realize that, just an amateur photographer and an expert teacher.

  29. [...] Does a teacher have to be an expert in a given medium or tool in order to be able to teach it?  Dan Meyer comes down firmly on the affirmative side when talking about the use of videos and music.  As an [...]

  30. on 23 May 2009 at 11:13 pmFrank Krasicki

    Dan,

    I think you are misunderstanding what is happening in the relationship between technology and humans and education.

    First, a teacher’s true job (not the NCLB agenda) is to nurture the child’s learning ability and skills. The idea that the teacher should master every medium is last century’s paradigm.

    The mediums change far too frequently to waste your time. But this doesn’t mean that you should bury your head in the sand or throw up your arms in despair. If a student knows more than you then learn from them and let them teach others.

    Teachers need to be learners themselves and learning today is not at all about memorizing facts but about skimming, assimilating, and re-evaluating information *all the time*.

    These days the technologists who remain vital are not experts and not generalists but rather techo-existentialists. The mantra is learn what you need for NOW and let it go – chances are it will change by the time you need or use it again.

    So teachers – instead of teaching to tests – need to become multi-media experimenters. They need to demonstrate how the raw becomes cooked so that the learning process is exercised in ways that promote continuous improvement and sophistication of thought and taste.

    A few years ago I encouraged our teaching staff to start blogging about what their classes were doing. I was told that they weren’t “trained”. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Do you know English, how to type, and how to get to a blogging url? – What do you think you’ll be doing, preparing for a spacewalk?”

    This idea that there’s a right way to create content is so wrong that I don’t know where to start. Our times require teachers who are self-propelled learners – not sheep or 20th century union belligerents.

    Not only has the democratization of media content improved the availability of information and media, it changes the definitions of quality, ownership, art, and intelligence itself. And that will happen with your students as well. They will redefine the standards by their own experimentation.

    Teachers have to give up on being judge and jury of quality and learn to become agents of learning development in which the quality of the by-products is secondary to the effect it has in promoting that student’s intellectual, social, and personal development.

    For example, I recently was working as a software engineer in a major manufacturing environment and had a conversation with a senior engineer who was shaking his head. He was doing so because the latest CAD/CAM versions no longer relied on uniformly mathematically trained engineers. The program worked better with engineers who were spatially gifted. In other words, sculptors.

    These days compilers will gladly swallow really bad programming code and scrub it under the covers to produce world-class compiled code. programs no longer are written for the smartest people, they’re written to accept the flaws of normal people and enhance their productive output.

    Education is still selling this “we have to compete globally” nonsense when it no longer matters.

    So teachers need to accept their insecurities in not being masters of this stuff and just use it. The stuff knows you don’t know and its okay.

    – krasicki

  31. on 25 May 2009 at 11:01 amDan Meyer
    Frank: The mediums change far too frequently to waste your time [mastering the media].

    This isn’t true. The tools for realizing the media have changed (cave drawings, hieroglyphs, quill pens, movable type, blogging, etc.) but the media, themselves, have not. The rhythms of editing, the structure of a story, the establishment of character, the persuasive essay, none of that has changed in centuries. (Millenia?) Edubloggers, meanwhile, fawn over new tools for realizing ancient media which they do not understand and, off all available evidence, have little interest in understanding.

    Frank: The mantra is learn what you need for NOW and let it go – chances are it will change by the time you need or use it again.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I agree with much of your assessment of how learning, technology, and creation are changing, but this is too much.

    What’s needed NOW are people who can communicate clearly across a variety of mediums, using any available tool. I’m very interested in how clear cinematic communication has changed since The Jazz Singer first deployed synchronized music and dialogue in 1927.

    We shouldn’t expect our teachers to be experts in every tool (Final Cut Pro, iMovie, AfterEffects, Maya, Blender, etc.) but media expertise isn’t just another desirable characteristic in a media teacher, it’s essential.

  32. on 30 May 2009 at 9:39 pmFrank Krasicki

    Dan:The rhythms of editing, the structure of a story, the establishment of character, the persuasive essay, none of that has changed in centuries. (Millenia?)

    I disagree. We are seeing wholesale changes in the way information is being processed, in the volumes of information that we all have to process, and in the very manipulation of information. It is only in schools that we see teachers making the claim that there’s a ‘right’ way to do such and such. In the real world, everything is being re-invented and often. And few things are sacred or fixed.

    For example, check out Google’s latest announcement; Waves. This is a technology that obsoletes and reinvents email, documents, language processing, editing and collaborative information sharing that is human language neutral (And more).

    And it takes no genius to see that teaching and learning will never be the same as well.

    http://tinyurl.com/GoogleWaveIntro

    Another example is the reinvention of tabs from the traditional typewriter convention to an intelligent digital alternative.

    http://nickgravgaard.com/elastictabstops/

    Or this short story:

    http://imgur.com/9on89.jpg

    The problem with educators is that they were taught and believe that being slow and methodical and putting together five year plans is the way things work. That’s way not true anymore.

    The point you may be missing is that I agree with you in that “we shouldn’t expect our teachers to be experts in every tool”. In fact I don’t think experts are what we want at all. We need teachers smart enough to move with the times and the technology by freeing themselves of the idea that the schools can afford training that doesn’t exist, tools that teachers need to be aware of because the kids are using them, and so on.

    Teachers need to know lots of tools but not necessarily every tool within a genre (say, movie-making). You are correct it is not about the tool but it very much is dependent on using a tool rather than not.

    The human condition is cybernetically enhanced, like it or not. To deny kids this extension of the human experience is unforgivable.

  33. on 31 May 2009 at 3:52 pmDan Meyer

    Two things.

    1. Google Wave is a pre-release product demo and yet, at this early point, you’re crediting it with everything but resurrecting John Dewey and bringing about the Singularity. Don’t our students deserve more pragmatism than that? Don’t our classroom teachers deserve more restraint?

    2. We can expect a needlessly messy transition into the future of edtech if we reject every underpinning from the past. I would still like to understand how you think the fundamentals of cinema communication (for example) have changed in the past several centuries. I would like to know how that short story you linked up reflects the “cybernetically enhanced human condition.” Or how it advances in any appreciable way on the short fiction of Hemingway c. 1927.

    Absent any satisfying answers to these questions, it makes sense to me to retain a few people who understand these media while at the same time promoting the technology changing around them.