Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Paradox Of Web 2.0 - Part 2: What You Really Need To Teach Your Kids

The Paradox of Web 2.0 is the realization that the big transformations and changes sweeping the worlds of communication, marketing and new media, from bottom-up participation to sharing and open collaboration are light years ahead and as distant as a far away galaxy from the education and schooling worlds where we supposedly prepare and nurture our kids to become the bright minds of our future.

Photo credit: Markus Angermeier

In this second part of my presentation at theEVO 2009 Multiliteracies event, I focus on further exemplifying what learning really is by showcasing my personal experience with Seymour Papert's Logo turtle, a fantastic tool to learn math and geometry, as well as my frustration in learning to play percussions with my own music teacher.

From these two simple stories you can see how much the diving into, the being part of, the loving of something are so essential components of the learning process. Actually, I would even venture to say that those extra factors characterize a true, deep form of learning, vastly distant from what, although normally called learning, is just rote memorization with little or no understanding.

I then explore again some of what, inspired by Stephen Downes' own list of true critical things to learn in life, should be some of the core topics of mandatory learning curricula everywhere. It is in fact, by realizing how distant the topics we force our kids to study are from those skills and abilities that can effectively help any human to communicate, listen, be creative and move swiftly through the many perils and surprises that life has in store for us.

Here Part 2 (Part 1):




The Paradox Of Web 2.0 - Part 2: What You Really Need To Teach Your Kids

by Robin Good

Robin's Speech - Audio

Duration: 23' - The audio is edited to play Robin alone. Full audio (65') available here.

Full English Text Transcription

Do You Know About the Turtle?


Let me take some real-life examples, which I think can be quite illuminating for supporting my topic.

The turtle first of all. What is the turtle? Many of you may know about the turtle from the language LOGO developed by Seymour Papert, a great computer scientist, educational scholar and researcher, who over 20-30 years ago, developed this programming language that would allow kids to learn mathematics, and geometry in a way that was very engaging, playful, and which allowed them to discover those things by themselves and become one with them.

For those of you who haven't had the experience to try this, it may sound a lot of abstract good thinking. In reality, I had an experience which showed me with my own kid how powerful this is, because he is going to school, and he was going for a while to a private teacher, and the mathematics teacher have him to do a lots of assignments, and getting a little bored on this, and so one day on the motorbike, we were just talking about the turtle, and I say: "Do you know about the turtle and what it does?", and he said: "No, I don't know." So, i said: "Let's download it when we are at the office."

So, we downloaded this tool, there are many different versions available for all you to use, and they are all free, many open-source, and you get a very simple interface where you can give some simple task commands, and there this apparent turtle, it's just a circle in some cases, that moves.

You say "forward 100", and the turtle goes for 100 steps leaving a trail. So, by moving forward, right, left, top and down, you can actually design shapes, geometrical shapes, and so it was very easy for him to create a triangle, by learning a few commands, and then a square. And then I asked him to do a square had some extra-sides, a bunch of extra-sides. Don't do me just four sides, do me a square with ten sides.

I then said: "Oh, why don't you do a circle?", and my son Ludovico said: "I don't know how to do a circle, because there must be a command to do a curve, and I don't know that command unless you tell me." I said:

"Look, there's no command to do a circle. You can discover it yourself. Just look at the square you just did with ten sides. Doesn't it look like a little circle, tough a little rough? What if you wanted to make it more circle-like?"

And so, he lit up in a second, and he said: "Daddy, not only I know that I can make a circle now, but I also know how many sides it has to be. And the number of sides is 360." He had that number sitting in there, inside his head, from before, from school, and so he decided that those two things now finally made sense if you create a 360 size of 1 pixel each, you are going to get a circle. He tried out and blam! There he had a circle.

In that moment, my son had created a circle himself, and he was one with that circle, knowing that he had created a circle, and knowing perfectly how it was made. In fact, it became an enjoyable game from there on to go on with things like: "Now let's make it bigger, let's make it half the size...", and while we were doing this we were learning lots of formulas but without that dry, cold feeling of learning stuff that you're just memorizing but has no meaning. We were creating and changing reality, though abstract reality, with our own thinking, and that was very powerful, enjoyable, and certainly a memorable experience, whereby mathematics for him is not now anymore for him something dry to memorize.


My Percussion Teacher Is Wrong


Let me take you also to another place. I myself am a buddying percussionist. I love Latin music. I love soul music, I like very much the rhythms that come from Africa, and so since I was a kid I liked to bang on something at the rhythm of the groove. So, on and off, I started at applying myself to it, and recently I signed myself to a percussion music school. I broadcast very often what we do there, if you go from the platform where I use my little portable video camera. You can see some of our playing couple of times a week.

Anyway, I have there a private lesson with a teacher, and once a week we sit down in front of each other in sound-proof room, and we try to learn something.

My teacher is a great musician, is really charismatic. I really like him, but he teaches just like a very traditional teacher. He has no 2.0 stuff. So what he will tell me is:

"There are four beats in this, and on the up of the second beat you're going to hit with your right hand with an angle of 45° down this way, and then as soon as that finishes you see there's an up note so you'll have to go "pick, pick" with the other hand, while you hit the bass with this. So, it's 1, 2, and then there's a third one like we saw... ok, now do it".

When he says: "Now do it", I can't do nothing, nothing at all. Because my brain when it comes to music, doesn't work like that, and for most people that I talk to, those who have made their brain work that way, it has take them a lot of effort, and they really have had to re-wire their brains; or they're great musicians, who have had the opportunity to learn this technical know-how straightforward, serialized learning, after they had learned music through personal direct learning.

So my music teacher goes mad. He goes mad because he knows that I have a good ear, good sense of music, good rhythm, good timing, and I'm not just a stupid guy. He knows because he sees, and he's a human being.

But when he sees that I cannot make a step, that I'm all blocked, he just doesn't know what to do. So, I take over subliminally, and I use all my smart brain technology and I say to myself:

"Look, if he's going to get mad, he's going to try to play that rhythm back to me. So, I just wait for the time he's going to get so mad, that he's going to play it again for me. And when he plays it for me, what do I do? I just listen and record. I just simply record with my brain."
It's a function you have by default, you don't have a driver to install, you don't need a plugin there. You just say to your brain: "Record." That's it. It works.

Then, as soon as he stops, or while he's going, you start playing back the recording, and then you tell your hands to do that rhythm. PU-PU-PA PU-PU-PA-PA. You don't know that the third beat is done with a 45° degree angle, and... but you can do it.

Again, here learning is very much getting into the music, many of you know this, and it's not transmittable by way of words, diagrams, or charts. Those can be of great help, ONCE YOU KNOW the rhythm and can play it, and then these can give you great extension of your vision, and more in-depth understanding, but not without FIRST getting your hands dirty.

And so my teacher puts in a very frustrating situation many of the learners, because he doesn't realize this.


What Do We Really Need to Learn


Another point if Stephen Downes would be here now, reminding us of the little time left would be:

"Robin the approach of teaching is evidently not right, and if we look at learning, and the way it happens, in real life, just like you have made examples now, you've modeled for us now, it really looks like something different."

So, one thing that we have set aside is that the paradigm shift is made up by realizing, in acknowledging, that teaching is not equal to learning in very deep, meaningful ways.

But what do we really need to learn is very much about what we would teach our kids on that spaceship we have left before, and that certainly again is not going to be very much about the seven kings of Rome, or some other dry notionistic stuff.

It's going to be more like something that they can bring anywhere they can go. Any country, any region, any planet...


1. Live Healthy


Biologically, how am I made up? How do I work, is it good if I drink 20 Coca-Cola everyday or not, what difference does it make?

Knowing a little bit of the biology, chemical made-up of your organism, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad, what you need to put inside to get outside energy, coming out of your pores, and bloods, and veins? That's what we need to know. What is good food and what is not without having to be sold to anyone line of thought, nor medicine, pharmaceutical, nor alternative, but understanding the information and where to get it so I can make my own choices without having to depend on prescriptions from somebody else.

That would be number one for me.


2. Know How to Read


Number two, because we know that without health we can't really do nothing, Stephen Downes suggests, and I take directly him up on this, understanding really how to read things. Not how to read for the sake of knowing the letters and the words, but being able to read in a way that is the exactly the opposite of what my kids are being taught in school, which is to memorize flawlessly what is written there, and specifically the terms that are in the books.

This is completely useless. Because if it's then asked them what they just said, and they don't know what those words mean, and why things should be that way or another. It's just self-brainwashing. They are not being brainwashed. They allow themselves to brainwash themselves with word that have no meaning.

Stopping and understanding all, to read in a meaningful way, and what are the techniques, the methods, the approaches, the strategies to do that, it's very very valuable, and that's something we should learn, in the time we dedicate to what we now call school.


3. How to Learn


Same thing would be how to learn. How to learn is not sitting in front of a teacher and listening, and looking quiet and educatedly posed with your body.

It's about learning a very extended number of approaches, about exploring, trying out, making mistakes, summarizing, reviewing, sharing, planning out, using techniques that whereby you have a piece of paper and a pen you can do a thousand useful things with other people, to explore new grounds, to inventory new ideas.

I didn't get any of this when I went to university in Rome, Italy, or San Francisco, California. Very little of this. Maybe one per cent of the overall curriculum is dedicated to that, but if you're going to another planet, don't you think this would be quite useful, to be able know how to learn? I'm sure I'm not the first telling you this, and I'm sure you're more convinced than me since earlier times.

So, what else would me or Stephen Downes bring in here?


4. How to Be Creative


How to be creative and understanding! This is not a gift sent by God into your DNA, this is a faculty that anyone can develop by learning about the fact that creativity is all about knowing, enjoying how to solve problems.

Then, if those problems are more in the visual or auditory reality you tend to fall in the more classic, artistic fields, but you can be very artistic and very creative also when you fix some of your kitchen problems or electricity ones. Creativity is everywhere, and it can be measured by your ability to think differently. To think outside of the box, to think with your lateral thinking as Edward De Bono would say. That's something else I would like to teach my kids on the spaceship.

And then what else?


5. How to Empathize


This is one of the things we miss the most, that is: Being able to put myself inside the shoes of whoever I'm talking with.

We're here conferencing, chatting, and this and that, but many times, many of us, when confronted with another two eyes, and a mouth in front of us, are just competing for time in which they introduce their own words and share their ideas, but that sharing is very much one-way.

The ability to listen-in and listen-in between the words is really all about understanding pro-actively what the other is saying and what the other is craving for. Not just adding up: "Oh you know this, and this..." sometimes gets to be a little arid.

It's not a competition for who has the last word, or for whoever knows most. It should be an exchange, and the exchange should be dictated by curiosity or by desire to help others. And so by stopping and looking at what it's not been said, one can see where the other is wanting some gratification, reward, or wants to establish himself even if the others don't want to and can be proper way with that desire if the setting and opportunity allow it. Isn't that much better than wasting lots of words for nothing.

And so to empathize is to put oneself in the shoes of the person in front of you. We dedicate so very little time to this, in a practical, pragmatical way, so that we exercise this function and master it in our daily life, we could have lot of less hassles in our living rooms, without families, with boring friends, and girlfriends... how much frustration would we save ourselves in our lifetime just by mastering a little more of this discipline instead of knowing when the... whatever.


6. How to Tell Truth From Fiction


Let's take a few more of these key topics that we never cover in the ideal learning classroom.

How to tell truth from fiction. The media literacy that many advocate today is very much important.

We have the situation all around where many people have a very hard time separating truth from fiction, propaganda and the protection of self-interests and so on. It becomes very hard for people to tell with their own heads how things really went, whether that is Gaza or whether that is 9/11 tragedy.

People are less and less equipped to evaluate by themselves the information that is given to them, and they have sold their beliefs system to newspaper, television, and radio mainstream channels.

I think this is very bad for this planet in general, not because of the news being brought forward or what they represent, but because it takes away from the thinking muscle. If you don't exercise that muscle, is going to get loose, is going to get weak, is going to get like a mozzarella. In a world that keeps changing and where mainstream media is more powerful than ever, if Fox is your God, go for it. But if it's not, think about it.


7. How to Predict Consequences


Look at the future is now what am I advocating, to look in the crystal ball, but many of our kids do very stupid things. Not because they don't listen to us. I think they have all of the right not to listen to us and verifying things, but they don't have the frame of mind, have not given the frame of mind, to think about what is going to happen next.

We ourselves sometimes don't do it. Quite often. It doesn't matter if you're publishing a blog post, or if you're shooting some firecracker out of the windows for new year's eve. What are the consequences of doing that? Too many times we act like actors in a movie, like Tom Cruise's of the situation, but the situation doesn't warrant us to act like Hollywood stars, because there is no end of the movie, and the consequences are real. Way too many times we just don't think.

So what about training a little bit myself and everybody around me in thinking a little more, in stopping and thinking before doing something. Yes there are some of us are very undecided in life, and that is not the point we're trying to cure. We're trying to cure when we act too much out of impulse, when we act not thinking about the consequences, whether that is electricity we're wasting, or pollution, or doing sex without thinking, it makes a big difference what type of human being and civilization we create for the future. Having that skill coming up as a key one and not just as a secondary "I happen to learn abut this during my life" would be really valuable.


8. How to Value Yourself


Learning that is not a matter of getting good grades, but learning how to give yourself the opportunity to explore new grounds independently of the judgement of others and maybe sometimes against the judgement is very important.

Try also to question, and question, and and put yourself in front of the question forever: "Where the hell am I going, and why am I going there?" It's got to be some of the time that I spend if I have an ideal classroom or space ship that I'm on to, and that I want to use to make my time useful.

Where the hell am I going? Trying to answer this question and putting your energies and slotting your time so that you can fulfill it in your lifetime, I think brings great rewards. Not all the time great money, but I don't think that's the key to living a successful life, or to really learn what is key to survive in any type of situation.


9. How to Communicate Effectively


Last but not least: How to communicate effectively.

I think myself that this is probably the one most important thing and most approachable thing to learn.

Spending time learning, mastering, discovering, exploring how to communicate better. To the person next to you, with voice, as well as with the most sophisticated technologies: from video to blog, RSS, P2P, whatever that is.

Mastering this allows you not only to live a better life, but to build opportunities for survival, that have been unthinkable of until today.

Because tomorrow many of us are going to be teachers, and guides, and many will be paid for doing this. So it's not that it is going to be a commercialization of the teacher, but in this world of fast change and of knowledge economy it's evident that there is going to be a lot more learning that is going to happen, and it's not going to take any place in the classroom.

So someone is going to got to go and do it. And unless these people can communicate clearly including showing me the rhythm by doing PU-PU-PA PU-PU-PA-PA instead of telling me, we're not going to learn very much.


10. How to Ask Good Questions


Last and closing.

I think we got to learn very well how to do what we just did until now, which is to keep asking ourselves great, fastidious, tremendously fastidious, uncomfortable questions so that we can open new gateways, new doors, new roads, make some mistakes, and find where we really want to go and how to get there.

End of Part 2 (Part 1).


Robin Good Shares the Key Resources For Good Learning - Video

Duration: 23' 26"

Originally recorded by Vance Stevens for Vance's GeekSpeek on February 26, 2009 as "The paradox of 2.0, an EDUPUNK perspective".

Robin Good -
Reference: Vance's GeekSpeek [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Saturday, March 21 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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