Disruptive technologies – exemplified by the ability to publish at will in text, audio, video formats or any combination of those – enhance our freedom of speech, freedom to assemble in virtual communities. Social networking tools like MySpace and YouTube grant freedom of speech and assembly to the masses in a way that past wars and social revolutions never could. For this reason, disruptive technologies that connect people to each other are the greatest threat to the powerful who have traditionally controlled the means of publication.Unfortunately, that includes our schools.

Presentation Outline

“The Future is Unwritten”

Tremendous changes are underway for all segments of life (e.g. business, the media, and, of course, schools). The title of this keynote was inspired by Natasha Bedingfield’s song of the same name. The lyrics of the song caught my attention, especially these:

Excerpt from the Lyrics for UnWritten

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way

Books to Read

Some of my favorite books are listed here. They include:

Pace of Change

  • The blonde antelope video shows how I felt one morning on the way to work. Hemmed in on all sides in traffic thinking about the powerful changes occurring in the world, I began to have a panic attack. Sometimes, I’ll feel like I’m running full ahead but not really sure WHERE I’m going. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging and podcasting, to begin a journey so that I might learn what I would need to move forward.
  • The fundamental dynamics points out that we’re now really moving according to digital power, or as my friend Wes Fryer says, at the speed of creativity. So, we know that the world is changing but, but do we do about it? The only reasonable answer—after you rule out sticking your head in the sand—is to start learning, asking questions, build a network of people. These type of efforts give us an edge in a world when a lot of people really do choose to look the other way and not learn. But that is not an option available to us.
  • The question is, do you know how to learn in the 21st Century? At the end of the last one, I thought I did. But then, the Read/Write Web came up and everything changed, not just for me for everyone in this room.
  • The Read/Write Web is about building those networks of trust and reliable people, of collaborating and community building. It’s about looking for knowledge in unlikely places, off the beaten path.
  • One of the main ways people are doing that—getting off the beaten path—is by building personal learning networks through the creation of blogs.
  • Blogging helps us be transparent in our learning, to lay bare the foundations and find out if what we think we know, we really know.
  • This is really less about how intelligent we are to how intelligent we are together, actively working hard to share ideas, and discover what things mean in context of all of us…if the previous generation was the “iGeneration” now we are in the “weGeneration!”
  • In business, blogs are having an impact. The power of the human voice, personalized learning is rising up against the brochure speak of yesterday.
  • In education, in our classrooms, blogs enables conversations that can extend the learning that goes in our classrooms. Learning isn’t just an 8:00–3:30 PM endeavour, an event that occurs in a certain place and time.
  • Wikis are another fantastic tool available to us, especially us non-techies to get information out there for others. Some examples of Wikis include Wikipedia, Wikihow, that revolutionize how we converse with one another.
  • There are a growing number examples of wikis in education, as well as organizational wikis.
  • So, the pace of change is affecting us all. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of the Long Tail and businesses that survive because of it. I find this idea fascinating. How is the pace of change transforming schools? Is the same true of schools? Or are we moving at the speed of mediocrity, focused more on incremental change?

Confidence Level

As educators, as parents, as citizens of connected world, we need a different level of confidence. Robert Quinn (Deep Change author) shares that there are two kinds of confidence, conditional and unconditional. It is the unconditional confidence that we need. Our old assumptions about how to do things just don’t work and are failing.

  • My favorite example is that of schools blocking access to social networking site. Each day, web sites that enable students to become content creators/producers are banned/blocked in the United States. They are blocked not because they are evil in themselves, advocating for the dehumanization of children, but because they are tools that can be used for the good and the bad. What a powerful statement about what Americans believe in regards to civil liberties and freedoms. Thank goodness New Zealanders still adhere to the higher standard of personal liberty and freedom.
  • We no longer have a choice about embracing these tools, no more choice than a person stranded on a deserted island has about trying to get back in contact with the world.

Today’s Presentation – 4 points

  1. New technologies allow for creative conversations, collaborations, and connections.
  2. Openness and transparency are disruptive
  3. The need to engage in passion-based learning
  4. Understand the use of technology in our classroom

Point #1 – New Technologies allow 4C

  1. Today, we’re seeing the value remixing content, of being unafraid to share content with one another via Creative Commons Copyright and remix it.
  2. We have to be unafraid to get our hands dirty as we learn to play with new technologies. LEARNING has always been a hands-on process to be effective, and now teaching, being a student and leader in today’s school must be as well. We have to be prepared to deal with what show up and what doesn’t.
  • This is about learning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You take your breaks as you go, because creativity isn’t something you can switch on or off like a factory conveyor belt.
  • It’s about being transparent, both as a learner and content creator and consumer. Don’ be afraid to challenge big business. My recent experience with Bloglines.com and their Image Wall, not to mention the positive action they took as a result of the worldwide conversation regarding their product, convinces me that I am no longer powerless.
  • It’s important for people to be able to connect anytime, anywhere so that they can tap into a worldwide power grid of knowledge, and effort and share their creativity.

Point #2 – Opennness and Transparency are disruptive.

  • When I began writing and publishing my articles in the 1990s, I worked through an editor of a magazine. I never imagined my writing was good enough to get published, but when I started teaching 3rd grade, I decided to try writing a publishable article. I wrote 3 articles, and shared them via a statewide network known as the Texas Education Network (TENET). An editor saw the first one I posted and offered to publish it. SO began my avocation as a published writer.
  • To get to my audience—other teacher-practitioners—I had to work through established outlets (e.g. magazine editors and magazines). They decided what I wrote, what people thought was interesting. But my creativity was greater than what they could publish. Let me say that again. The creativity of any one human being is unlimited.
  • What if the middle were gone? How would things be different? Fortunately, we don’t have to imagine that. Two companies that have taken out the middle man include Dell Computer and Amazon.com…do you know of others?
  • Since the middle man is gone, how does this impact social justice issues? Consider the UCLA Police Taser Student in Powell video.
  • How can our students take advantage of this? How can this all be used to deal with the reality of the Read/Write Web, where anyone can publish anything?
  • While these are obstacles we need to deal with, it’s clear that students who are engaged, self-motivated will learn.
  • Self-motivated learners are able to find knowledge in unlikely places, able to go off the beaten path of learning and learn more than what we expected. Some examples of this type of learning that “finds its own way:”
  • I never imagined that someone could make a living doing these things WITHOUT a college degree. It involves a profound break with tradition, a willingness to reach out to others. More importantly, it means allowing children to discover their passions and actively encouraging them to pursue them, even when they may NOT be the super stars we imagine now. The power of the Long Tail makes each of us superstars because it allows billions of people to access our work.
  • Here are some people that broke with tradition. Are we brave enough to do the same?

Point #3 – Passion-Based Learning

  • John Seelye Brown introduced me to the concept of Passion-based learning, but for me, the words “passion” are powerful. For me, passion symbolizes enthusiastic embrace of powerful ideas, a willingness to be emotionally engaged, to be on fire. Brown sees it in this way:
“We are learning in and through our interactions with others while doing real things,” Seely Brown said. “I’m not saying that knowledge is socially constructed, but our understanding of that knowledge is socially constructed.”
  • Our understanding of knowledge is socially constructed…this is a WOW concept. Wikipedia is an excellent example of this.
  • New technologies like blogs, wikis, and podcasts can help us reach out to each other, to find people that are connected like we are, but who might be ignored otherwise. The Internet brings us all together, people like you and me, having a conversation about what we’re passionate about—learning and sharing that love of learning with others.
  • When we connect and collaborate with others about what we care about, come to engage in “weLearning” rather than “iLearning,” we are not only experiencing the world alone but coming to understand it together.this is passion-based learning.

Point #4 – Understanding the use of tech in your classroom


  • As educators, the future is unwritten…it is up to us along with our students—to write that future, to define it for ourselves, to construct a social understanding of knowledge.
  • As we explore the different Read/Write Web tools, it’s easy to notice that they are all personal in nature. That’s because in a world where information is everywhere, it’s about trust and relationships, making connections. It doesn’t invalidate what we know, only transforms our understanding of that knowledge making it richer and livelier…in a connected world, we can’t survive alone.
  • As human beings, we have the opportunity to…

Live our lives with arms wide open
Begin a new book today
To break tradition, to try new things, to make mistakes.
* In the words of this Maori saying, it is important…

Let us keep close together, not far apart.

In a connected world, the Read/Write Web can help us do that better than we ever imagined. Are you ready to embrace that future? Well, neither am I…not alone.


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