Sunday, July 22, 2007

BLC Weaving together one little bit of what I learned.

I am home from BLC but I have not quite left the conference yet. On the plane I was reviewing podcasts and at home I have been reading others reflections and the skypecasts of the various sessions. I am not very effective at blogging conferences because others are able to record the content much faster than I am and it takes me time to figure out what I am taking away. As I was reflecting on my BLC experience once again (as at NECC) the personal face to face conversations had a big impact as did the skypecasts conversations because they continue to form and inform my personal learning network (PLN) which will sustain my work and my growth. ( Of course it also just plain fun to hang out with people from all over the globe who share your passion).

As I continue to sort through everything I heard and saw one idea seemed to keep resurfacing in different contexts. That was the concept of place. We often talk about things like global connections, flat world, spikey world and the breaking down of walls in classrooms/schools. But I heard something a little different at BLC, something more fundamental and more foundational about redefining how we think about place. Fittingly the first presentation I attended was by Dean Sharenski titled “Moving Beyond the WOW Factor in Google Earth”. It was a great presentation for me on both a practical and theoretical level. But in terms of place it served to remind us that the access to physical locations is almost limitless and the wow was the application called unype which mashes GE and skype and allows for 3d walk arounds.

This practical look at places is an essential starting point but it is only one dimension of place. Ewan McIntosh challenges my sense of place asking about public and private, implicit and explicit at once challenging our judgments and our ability to be transparent in our work/our classroom/our schools. The keynote presentation by Dr Zhao challenged the concepts of world and place looking at virtual space, cultural space and economic space. Joyce Valenza challenged the concept of library as place and talked about being available where and when she was needed by students. Finally all of this came together in Chris Lehman and Christian Long’s discussion of the creation of SLA. The question of design was a question about essential purpose of this place/space.

When we think about knowledge in relationship to place the traditional concepts of the last few hundred years has centered on books, libraries, scholars or teachers and schools. These are relatively static places and we have now entered a dynamic age. The challenge which Ewan left us with and Chris and Christian raised was that in thinking of “school” we need to reinvision our sense of place. We need to identify our goals, our essential purpose and then we need to design a public, explicit and transparent place which allows learning and the process of learning and creating to take center stage.

In the skypecasts of Chris and Christians presentation I pondered: Can we empty our rooms before school begins and challenge ourselves to start from scratch rather than automatically putting in 30 desks 2 file cabinets etc. I was challenged by David Jakes: Empty rooms, but also empty ourselves, use the empty room and starting over as a metaphor for improved teaching and learning.

If anything has and is changing radically in our world it is this sense of place and as we struggle with how it forms and informs our world I need to struggle with school as place and it begins with our goals. Schools must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate .... it should be a place of performance, invention resourcefulness, and networking . It should be a space that encourages us to negotiate and explore new places and that is what technology enables.
Technorati Tags:


Cathy Nelson said...

I've seen you in a lot of other pictures from BLC! I am so jealous that you were so connected. Thanks for making my BLC experience wonderful.

Cathy Nelson

Jennifer Bouani said...

Barbara - I found your blog on the ShiftHappens wiki. I'm not a teacher and was not aware of the discussions going on about rethinking the composition of a classroom (30 desks, 2 file cabinets, etc.) until I read this post. How exciting! I share your convictions that we have to find new, creative ways to teach kids the essentials in life, because the old methods are no longer effective in our ever-changing world. My attempt to contribute to the solution is my kids' book series, a set of fantasy stories, that teach business concepts: inventing, marketing, networking, etc. What I liked hearing in your post is that educators are radically rethinking the space we call school from the ground up.

I'd love to know more about the discussion. Thanks for posting this--it really got me thinking.

Carolyn Foote said...


I appreciate how you have pulled all these threads together so well.

I wondered if you had seen DesignShare's book on school design?

While this is about the physical design of the school, and I know you mean much more than that, it opened my eyes to some new ways of thinking about a school building.

I love your idea of having teachers "start" over in their rooms, and "wiping" the slate clean, so to speak.

This has been on my mind quite a bit, as we've been redesigning our library, and I've found it a challenge to wipe my own "slate" clean and to challenge my own notions of our space so we will be more "Future-proofed."

Thanks again for your insightful comments.

Barbara said...

I just heard about Desireshare's book at BLC and I have not looked at it yet. In the skypecast about Chris and Christian's presentation Ewan also gave a link to redesign without rebuilding. I have not visited the link yet but knowing Ewan, I know it will be thought provoking. Good luck with your library redesign,,,that is still on the future todo list for me.

Kern Kelley said...

Hi Barbara,
I just posted your interview by one of my students here.