Conversations: Our Way of Taking Charge of Change
by Ferdi Serim, Editor, MultiMedia Schools

“People of Earth…
“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.”
The Cluetrain Manifesto [www.cluetrain.com]

Education is at the top of this election year national agenda, yet so much of what’s being said seems to originate from a planet other than the one where we spend our professional lives. If you are reading this, either in the print version of MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS magazine, or online, you are among a self-selected group of people who are many times more likely to have experienced the power of change, with respect to new ways of teaching and learning made possible through technology. The gulfs of understanding between practitioners, policy-makers, and the public are yet to be bridged by shared experiences of compelling models that light the way to improvement. Each group spends more effort cursing the dark than reaching across traditional boundaries, leaving us preaching to the choir. This scenario is about to change.

The George Lucas Education Foundation has launched a new initiative designed to help the public understand the contexts within which educational improvement can flourish. Their new project, Teaching in a Digital Age, avoids the trap of focusing on wires and boxes and provides a window into a transformed world of learning. It speaks with a human voice and provides levels of detail that meet the needs of crucial but different audiences: parents, educators, community leaders. It uses the full range of media to reach us: video, Web site, and print. However, its true power is harnessed only when we use it as the focus for conversations with the people we serve: our communities.

Meanwhile, a book with a radical vision is spreading like wildfire, bringing a message of transformation to both corporations and markets: The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. As the Internet brings networked markets together with networked workers, traditional barriers to conversation become easily bypassed. The authors’ central point is that technology allows us to rediscover the human voice, and it is this opportunity that drives the millions who have flocked to the Internet in such a remarkably short time. Beyond this, the compelling desire to connect with each other, between those who work as providers and users of services and products, free of the mind-numbing distractions of PR hype and organizational happy-talk, is causing a seismic wave to shake the very foundations of how we organize ourselves.

Although this tsunami has yet to reach the shores of education, have no doubt that it’s on its way. If you have faith that all will automatically work out for the best (the Rip Van Winkle gambit), your 20-year doze may take less time than you imagine. The charter school movement, home school movement, vouchers, for-profit school management, and a host of other initiatives are emerging from the dissatisfaction with the results our current system generates for far too many students. While our schools and official channels may still be clueless about whether to respond, or how to respond, as individuals we have great contributions to make simply by telling our own stories in our own human voices.

MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS magazine is designed to be a catalyst for real-life conversations between three groups of professionals who too rarely chat: school library/media specialists, classroom teachers, and tech coordinators. Teaching in a Digital Age gives us a unique opportunity to expand these conversations by involving our communities so that we can rediscover our voices as we articulate our vision and leverage the success of others to make them real.

While the Cluetrain Manifesto authors play off of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, education readers can easily substitute the words education/learning for markets in this document and realize the incredible opportunity each of us has to initiate informed dialogue with our communities in order to secure the support we need to do our work. You can either visit their Web site or purchase their book for a deeper look into what’s reshaping the agreements that are the foundation of our society. Already these changes are limiting our choices within education, and unless our voices are added to these vital conversations, we’ll be forced to react, rather than to guide the changes in a positive direction.

The final Thesis reminds us, “We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.”

Communications to the author may be addressed to: Ferdi Serim, MultiMedia Schools, 11 Palacio Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505; 505/466-1901; fax: 505/466-1901; ferdi@infotoday.com.

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