Thursday, January 27, 2011

The health benefits of low hanging fruit.

I have a confession to make. When it comes to cell phones and driving I am not always the best role model. I have an eighty minute commute to and from work and most of that time is spent on a rural highway. When driving conditions are good I often, even though when I bought my current phone I said I wouldn't...tweet. I know, I know, it is bad for me, it's not safe, I need to pay attention to the road, etc. etc.

One of the other dangers of tweeting from my phone is the limitation it puts on my ability to communicate. I run the risk of posting something or getting into a conversation that really requires a longer format to make myself understood by others. I ran into this problem today with this tweet:

@garystager @djakes I'm thinking sometimes eating the low-hanging fruit is good for you.less than a minute ago via Mobile Web

to which Jakes replied:

@anderscj Not sure what you mean.less than a minute ago via web

I believe I owe David an Gary an explanation.

"Low hanging fruit" is a reference to a part of Gary Stager's talk from Tuesday with Steve Hargadon on his Future of Education series. In that talk Stager describes the "edtech" stuff regarding Web 2.0 as "low hanging fruit" and calls for educators to go beyond that and discover how technology can truly have a transformational impact on learning and schools (Gary, I am with you on this). He then announced his new project, The Daily Papert, which attempts to draw attention to some of the fruit higher up on the tree.

In the car on my way home I began to reflect on Gary's talk and started to think back to two blog posts I read this week: David Jakes' post Change Change and Deven Black's post The Worst Words in Education, and to the State of the Union Address Obama gave on Tuesday.

In his post, Black does a wonderful job of describing the problem we have with our nation's current mindset regarding education and how it is harmful for children. That same mindset we all heard Tuesday night immediately following Stager's talk when the president spent a considerable portion of his state of the union speech on education. The wrong-headed conception of education as something that is competitive and that, as Gary pointed out, it is "a scarce resource" was clearly on display. This view of education and schooling is clear from the namesake of programs like Race to the Top and from the following statements given Tuesday:

If we want to win the future—if we want innovation to produce jobs in America—then we also have to win the race to educate our kids. #SOTUless than a minute ago via HootSuite


"We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated but the winner of the science fair"less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

And as Heidi from New Jersey pointed out from the speech,

this is all particularly important and relevant bc reformers cite models of military as models for education. Teachers are "Nation builders"less than a minute ago via web

All of which beautifully describes the situation we are up against that David Jakes responds/reacts to in his post. That which creates conditions and mandates that "are real and you have to respond." In that post Jakes also explains:

If you face these initiatives, you don’t really worry about Facebook, you don’t worry about social media, you don’t worry about the “conversation,” and you certainly could care less about a disjointed, abstract set of tweets on a Tuesday night in Twitter, all centered around a hashtag.

You don’t even have time for listening to presentations from a “reform” conference. That’s on a Saturday, and I think I’ll spend it with my family, thank you very much. I already know about social bookmarking.

Both Jakes and Stager are addressing the same issue albeit in rather different ways. And both are classifying things like the Reform Symposium and the #edchat conversations that happen as "low hanging fruit." I too have felt this frustration as I believe anyone who has had a deeper experience with how technology can change the nature of learning both for themselves and for their students. I even wrote about it last summer: #edchat You Ain't Got No Pancake Mix!

Today Gary announced his new project, The Daily Papert, and solicited people to send him their favorite Seymour Papert quotes. While not necessarily my favorite, one that has stuck with me because I believe it addresses this issue perfectly comes from chapter 3 of The Children's Machine:

"From an administrator's point of view, it made more sense to put the computers together in one room--misleadingly named "computer lab"--under the control of a specialized computer teacher. Now all the children could come together and study computers for an hour a week. By an inexorable logic the next step was to introduce a curriculum for the computer. Thus, little by little, the subversive features of the computer were eroded away."
That erosion has so fully damaged our school system that today even the "low hanging fruit" has a subversive effect. At the end of the day, after being exhausted and beaten down by the mandates and initiatives forced upon teachers that Jakes and Black describe, the low hanging fruit is often all there is energy left to reach. I know we should strive for more and we absolutely should set higher expectations than just learning about the latest web 2.0 tool but low hanging fruit is still fruit and fruit is still good for you. And, eating the low-hanging fruit will likely make people hungry for what is a little harder to reach.

So, while driving and away from access to a more dynamic way of expressing my thoughts, this is what was going through my head when I posted that tweet about low-hanging fruit.

1 comment:

Mrs. Tenkely said...

I think the key is not to make a complete diet of the low hanging fruit. Often that low hanging fruit is what bridges the connection to the higher fruit. Just as you stated in the end of your post, that low hanging fruit can make people hungry for the higher hanging fruit. The bigger problem I see is that many educators aren't even reaching for the low hanging fruit. That is a problem.