It Takes a Village meets “It takes a Generation”

Buried in an article appearing in the New York Times this week (by columnist David Brooks) is a reference to ‘Wrap-around Education.’

Brooks comes up with a novel opinion –that we have probably placed too many eggs in the early childhood education basket. I’ll leave that debate to the rest of the education heavyweights, as I don’t quite agree. That might be a biased opinion because my wife runs a Montessori, and I’ve read plenty of studies that point me in that direction.

But let’s unpack what Wrap-around Education is all about. The idea stems from Robert Putnam of Harvard, who has been called the most influential academic for a reason. His book, Bowling Alone, was all about the need to seriously invest in social capital.

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Will books become ‘less like glorified PDFs’ (and more like wikis)?

I’m anxious to see how book publishers address the challenge of enabling a more engaged classroom. Actually I’ve been watching this engagement space for years, covering employee engagement until recently.

So this statement from Pearson, about making digital content look “less like glorified PDFs” begs the question: What kinds of skin does it plan to give the information that once belonged in books? Less like PDFs and more like Videos? Games? Chat rooms? Blogs?

The gravitational pull of tablets will be hard to resist, for Pearson and its competitors McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Miflin Harcourt. Last year Pearson commissioned research on students’ tablet use and found that:

  • Seven in ten college students (70%) have read digital textbooks (from 62% a year ago)
  • Six in ten high school seniors (58%) have read digital textbooks (up from 41% a year ago)

Luyen Chou, a former teacher, and now in charge of content at the company must know this shift is happening faster than schools, publishers, and state education policy wonks could keep up.  To get a sense of where these content gardens might spring, and which engaged spaces we might be moving into, listen to Chou (who got my attention sometime back because of his reference to Maria Montessori). It’s a pre-Pearson speech at a TedTalks event.

So will the new digital books –let’s call them Un-Books for now– move fast enough so that :

  • We teachers might be able to tweak knowledge that is ‘born digital’?
  • Someone could effortlessly curate the material, enhance a chapter here, drop in a slide show, or embed a sound bite captured on a field trip?
  • I could give Peter a slightly different version of my walk down Boston’s Freedom Trail, from the version I give Paul? Could Peter and Paul add a Waymark of Benjamin Franklin’s print shop to the class wiki? (What’s Waymark? Short explanation here.)

I don’t see these un-books as a threat to the ones on our library stacks, any more than I fear that the camera phone is going to kill the SLR.

Perhaps Chou has some ideas.

Student outshines Obama as 2012 Person Of The Year

This month, with the spotlight on the attack of innocent children in their classrooms, it is fitting to recognize the other student who was targeted by gunmen, for standing up to her rights to education.

Malala Yousafzai was like any other student, with her Harry Potter bag, love of books, popcorn, and attending after-school tuition classes. She also stood up to the force of evil in her country that attempts to deprive young girls of education. She was shot in the head and survived the attack of October 9th, 2012

Beside Barack Obama, awarded Time magazine’s Person of the Year, she looms larger. In her speeches, amazingly articulate ( no teleprompter in sight!) for a 14 year old at that time, and in her blog, she courageously stood for what so many students take for granted.

Time is good at stirring up controversy over its covers, especially the Person of the Year issues. Having worked with the media, I understand why they do this. But this is a sad, missed opportunity. They barely covered the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary in this issue, probably saving up the material for their next issue.

Shame on Time for eclipsing a student with someone who’s got too much media coverage anyway.