Finding the Story Thread

"Once upon a time..."

And so the story begins. Sometimes though it's really hard to find the story thread. That's the way I'm feeling after a day of attending Educon virtually.

Too many tweets perhaps. Too much information to absorb, digest and structure meaningfully.

Last night, after listening to the opening panel, I thought I'd found a thread. A story about story. The importance of narrative.

It started with a comment by Aaron Gross about how various well-known authors had started to write about food and industrial agricultural, and how this was helping his Farm Forward movement.

That made me wonder why there were so few authors -outside the usual education experts- writing about schools, pedagogy, educational technology, and the neo-conservative assault on public education.

So I wrote this tweet, and sent it off into the Educon tweet stream.

Importance of story. Where are the novelists supporting an innovative and humane approach to education? #educon

Hiram Cuevas replied with the following.

@ fascinating how tech hasn't been mentioned re: storytelling. It's nvr been about the tech. It's about the connections. #educon

I'm not sure quite what he meant -the wonderful ambiguity made possible by compressing a thought into 140 characters- but chose to read his response as a confirmation of what my question implied. I responded to Hiram with the following.

@ One of the few writers I've encountered who has built a positive story around technology and education is

Vernor Vinge is my favorite science fiction author. If you work in edtech and haven't read his Rainbows End you are missing a treat.

Anyway, the webcast panel discussion continued, other topics came to the fore, and I eventually went off to bed.

This morning, settling down in my favorite chair with coffee, iPod Touch and notebook, I thought I'd try and puzzle out the story concept a bit. I wrote a few lines in my notebook, starting with "Once upon a time." then had the thought that of course there is a popular writer who has written seven books exploring schools, pedagogy, etc.. I sent these two tweets.

Thinking about the power of a story. The most popular story of our time involves a school that embraces risks and magic.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." A.C. Clarke Let's use magic.

Looking at the tweets now, I'm not sure what I meant was clear (that tweet ambiguity again), but if you substitute information technology for magic, much of what J. K. Rowling writes can be read as a story supporting progressive education and the intensive integration of technology.

Schools don't need to be like factories. We don't need to be driven by the narrative being pushed by neo-conservative corporate deformers. Using information technology we can rebuild schools to be places of wonder, adventure, risk, innovation, caring, challenge and collaboration. Places in which each student develops mastery in the content and skills most meaningful to her or him. With this developing mastery they can reach out and work to make the world a better place.

That's the thread I want to hold on to.

2 responses
I am on board with radical education reform. Within the past few months I have been giving "21st century learning" (we need a new term for this) more boots on the ground in my computer lab. This is how and where the story unfolds for me in palpable ways. A true story of love and commitment.

I believe the magic is in the creative empowerment of children, to which end the technology can easily be the catalyst. I am reminded of something Michael Wesch said in a interview with Alan November last year: "when the technology amazes us, we lose our initiative to shape it".

Pat, I wish we would have our students study our 'magic' even a small percentage of the time the Hogwarts students spend studying their magic. It is interesting that Rowling has the major goal of the Hogwarts students to be able to understand and manage magic for their own purposes. Technology is amazing but we also need to learn to shape it for our purposes. Fred