Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Come Together

by Shelly Blake-Plock

Wine AND Cheese. Laurel AND Hardy. Mick AND Keef. Lennon AND McCartney.

The best things in life compliment one another.

And so it should be with Analog AND Digital.

The new paradigm shouldn't be about exclusion. It should be about dynamics. We don't exclude Paper because we include Digital. Rather, we strive to exclude the static modes of thinking often represented by paper -- but also easily represented by poorly-used digital.

The new paradigm shouldn't be about closing down schools and taking learning exclusively online. A computer screen will never replace a football field. A smartphone will never replace a theater. A Skype chat will never replace a high-five.

But neither will arguments berating tech alter the fact that digital tech is the context of the present and that we owe it to our kids to educate them in the world in which they find themselves living and not in the world some of us may wish still existed.

And so we look to augment one with the other to the exclusion of neither. We seek to bring the speed and democratizing openness of the digital to the solidity of the analog and bring the warmth and experience of the analog to the cool intelligence of the digital.

Schools themselves are changing and they will continue to change. So let's use what we've got -- both analog and digital -- to the full benefit they both offer. We don't need a classroom in which to learn poetry. A tree and some shade will do. In winter, we can take inspiration from the museum school model and take the kids directly into the experience. In the meantime, use all that space in the old classrooms to do what those types of building do well: let them be labs, let them be community spaces. Turn your rooms into STEM innovation centers. Let the science loose. Let the math live and let it get messy. Use your on-site tech and know-how to train, empower, and embolden the children AND adults in your community.

While we're at it, create those partnerships with museums, historical societies, libraries, state parks, local farms, and public institutions. Spend Mon, Wed, Fri in the lab and Tues and Thurs taking in Van Goghs, or farm animals, or new friendships and alliances through community outreach.

Teach English by reading about whatever it is that you are doing. Make art on the move and in the field. Learn history by learning how to talk to strangers; make new friends who are not like you, and listen to perspectives different than your own.

Keep those smartphones handy all the while.

Turn lab time into bring-a-scientist-to-school time. Turn math into a worldwide problem solving mission. Pull out that smartphone and turn a stroll through the art gallery into an augmented trip through history.

Try things out. See what happens.

Bring the Analog and the Digital together. The life of the heart and the life of the mind. The mathematician and the poet.

Enough with the idea that one thing excludes another. The only thing worth excluding is fear. Fear, ignorance, and banality.

Write that out on a Post-It and stick it to your monitor.


  1. The failing of schools does not lie with the teacher or even the over dependence on technology. So to build up another divide to debate is another log on the fire of fear, ignorance and banality. Over the years and it's been a few, I've wondered why is it, we spend so much time in a room, yet when we get out of "school" the reality places us into a world of independent learning and the expectation of exemplifying/applying our knowledge. Maybe we need, as educators need to take a step back and review and rethink this tower of knowledge, "school". YouTube, Twitter, and all the networking systems place us all in a redefined role of learning. The speed of disseminating information is phenomenal. So, how does a room suit this flash learning? It doesn't. Think for second, how much have we learned about plate tectonics, tsunamis, nuclear energy and geography in the last few days?

  2. A great teacher can teach using a stick and some sand, luckily most of us don't need to do this. In our school we blog and we write. We practise handwriting, wonderful for small motor skills. We create digital art and we paint and collage and dye and draw. A lot. We use online maths activities,an interactive whiteboard, physical materials and mental strategies for maths activities, learning and practise. We read from screens and books. We blog and podcast and make movies. We use you tube and DVDs. We use the itouch to help learn Te Reo Maori and to make our photos and movies look amazing, as well as to record student learning. We use every tool we can to enhance learning and excite learners. It's not about the tool it's about what as educators we enable students to do through our combined content, pedagogical and technological knowledge.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more. I don't understand why people tend to take sides and assume that we must either be techies or Luddites. Like our lives, we must meld the two. I use the term organic over analogue, but have been saying exactly what you said so eloquently in your post.

    Well done. Thanks

  4. Lets all just keep the paychecks coming. The rebellion is over.....it is not about analog or digital, it is about human freedom and not many people seem to get it!

  5. A well summarizes article which can be rarely seen.

  6. My kids learn about plate tectonics and tsunamis through NASA educators page. Yes! Technology based. How else can they see pictures of Japan up close without sattelite access. There are also thermo charts to explore data. You can see through NASA telescopes from your classroom. Hands on investigation along side excellent educational web tools inspires creativity, investigation, and higher order problem solving. Reading about the first humanoid robot in space with small discussion does not inspire true mastery of content. Tweet with the robonaut and live views along side questioning an expert in the field via video conferencing creates a sense of meaning and power of learning. When was the last time your students were excited to be challenged with engineering, science or mathematics real world problem solving. Have your students become a air traffic controller for math tomorrow. Try smart skies. Then do the typical paper pencil drills. Don't unplug students from access to web tools and media. Combine them. You will see a new attitude about investigation, cooperation and work habits.


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