Tuesday, June 02, 2009

We Can Do This. We Should Do It.

I'm way behind in my "personal professional development through RSS" (i.e., I have a lot of unread items in Google Reader), but luckily I took the time to read this post by Scott McLeod. Scott embeds two presentations given by Dr. Richard Miller, the Chair of the English Department at Rutgers University.

I'm also going to embed the two presentations below (the second one is in two parts), and I think it's well worth your time to watch both of them, particularly if you teach Language Arts, but really if you care about education at all. After each presentation I've pulled a few select quotes that really resonated with me.

The Future is Now: Presentation to the RU Board of Governors

We're living in the time of the most significant change in human expression in human history.
Do you agree? If so, what implications does that have for the way we teach Language Arts? What about other subject areas?
This is the room we're particularly proud of - the Collaboratory.
OK, when I build my school, I'm so going to have a Collaboratory. Actually, every room will be one. Perhaps that should be the name of the school?
To compose, and compose successfully in the 21st century, you have to not only excel at verbal expression, at written expression, you have to also excel in the use and manipulation of images. That's what it means to compose.
Shades of "The Yancey." Note that this is additive - no one is suggesting that words don't matter, that what we traditionally think of as "writing" is no longer important, but that the very nature of composition is more complex now, and that our instruction, our pedagogy, our learning spaces need to reflect that.
This is all building towards a larger vision of the humanities for the 21st century.
. . . In the New Humanities what we imagine at the center is this collective, collaborative kind of composition.
Social construction. Social composition.
The real function of the humanities is to engage in the art of creativity - moment by moment - to improve the quality of the world we live in.
I'm certainly not a linguist, but doesn't that get back to the root of "humanities?" And have perhaps some of our academic treatments of the humanities forgotten the human part that should be the center of our work?
That's writing in the 21st century. It's multiply authored, it's multiply produced, and that's where English is going.
Is that where English is going in your school?

This Is How We Dream (Part 1 and Part 2)

It has never been a more important moment for this profession, or for people who take reading and writing seriously.
Do you agree? If so, what implications does that have for your school? Your classroom?
I spent my time understanding writing as a solitary activity . . . I'm a person of the book.
Writing (composing) is no longer exclusively a solitary activity. And we need to expand our definition of composition beyond only text and beyond only a specific medium (book, research paper, academic journal).
An assignment for a class I taught for first year students called Creativity and Collaboration.
This is a class I'll be offering in my new school (The Collaboratory).
Ideas don't belong to us individually, but they belong to us as a culture. And that we as educators must be in the business of sharing ideas freely.
Shades of Pesce.
The limits and restrictions are largely ones we put on ourselves.
No excuses.
This is a way to push ideas into our culture. Why wouldn't we be at the front edge of that?
Yes, why wouldn't we?
We do not have a pedagogy on hand to teach the kind of writing I'm describing. It needs to be invented.
Alan Kay said the best way to predict the future is to invent it. The best way to figure out what composition should look like in the 21st century is to co-create it.
We can do this. We should do it.
We should get started.


  1. Interesting! I will share this with my HS colleagues.

  2. As a literacy person, and someone interested in learning in the 21st century...I say, it's about time! I am a little concerned that he dismisses libraries in his process. I think that librarians are information specialists that can help us teach our students how to find the information that will help them to communicate. Will that go away? I think that schools are there to teach our students how to do this better than they could on their own, offering them tools, ideas and habits of mind that they might not get on their own. K-12 must have someone who helps kids to do this, and for now, teachers are not trained information managers or specialists, we need these experts to assist us.
    The collaboratory is fantastic. And what a great model for sharing a straightforward lecture... there are layers of goodness here. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. Speaking of 21st Literacies, and directly to the effectiveness of human collaboration as a function of "fitting" synergies... and more to the core of it in that all "fitting synergy" is controlled by the quality of "complementarity" as combine-ations of YOUnique participants and this happening BEST when we Self-Know.

    My faceted angle: we must Learn-2-Evolve, and as it is my life work, this is a form of 21sLiteracy - the abilty to effectively and continuously evolving one's Self... discovering, nurturing, managing and Living one's innate talents, gifts and dispositions...

    BEing YOUnique and living unique and syn-full (synergy-filled) lives is the key, IMHO, to effectively collaborating and synergizing fully in and with our world - past, present and future(s).