Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

When the Pupil is ready… the Master appears…” Buddhist Proverb
This semester’s endeavor succinctly boils down to a single all-encompassing goal: Save Education.  I like a challenge.  Not so many jokes aside, a significant portion of my graduate work to date has actually been largely student-centric, a sort of Texas-based quest aiming to understand how the emerging digital landscapes can be leveraged to better prepare the world’s future work force.  And although countless articles linger as quality resources both digitally and in hard copy (taking up a room without apology in my home office space) – Howard Rheingold’s works still remain supreme… for reasons totally unrelated to hat choice.

Let’s entertain for a moment that in the not so distant future – one morning all 7 billion global citizens awake and as if by magic – sitting in close proximity neatly next to them are the following three things: #1) some type of tasty breakfast beverage i.e. coffee #2) A copy of Rheingold’s Smart Mobs #3) and a essay entitled The Art of Hosting Good Conversation Online also by Rheingold.

The above scenario operates under the idea that universal literacy exists, so if necessary will pretend the magic hit all individuals aspiring to positively change education.  We’ll also play the curiosity card here.  Moving on…

I’m going to go Dr. Sesus for a moment and offer that I don’t necessarily care where these individuals who’ve just been magically gifted the two most important works by Rheingold to date read them.  They could read them in a chair, or they could read them without hair.  They could read them on a dock, or they could read them next to a clock.  The only thing that matters at all is that they read them cover to cover, or in the essay case, page to page.  The end result?  When they’re done with these readings we will now have a significant/arguably influential population savvy to Rheingold’s teaching philosophies, applicable to reinventing the classroom space.

These symbiotic texts discuss several perspectives which directly impact a myriad of educational components such as classroom participants, curriculum, research methodology, etc; but moreover they also take care to address educational settings that both include and exclude online connectivity.  Smart Mobs examines how certain types of super-efficient mobile communication devices spread instant, ubiquitous communication rampantly. This lends way t a fundamentally new form of connectivity (in the classroom, in the home, in the government, etc) and what consequences/cultural shifts will appear.

Comparatively, the Rheingold essay mentioned itemizes several governing categories that any proactive online discussion wanting to bring about change must include.  Rheingold systematically organizes his thoughts similarly to how Washington lists the 110 ‘Rules of Civility’, and any leadership entity that wishes to impact education proactively online will benefit reading the essay.  The commandant lists under ‘A Good Online Discussion is…’ even offers an incredibly helpful check list.

Although the road to reconfiguring educational environments so that they leverage the powerful digital tools avaiable to remains fraught with challenge; each time a colleague sends over an email of thanks for sharing Rheingold’s teachings, I chant the mantra ‘Read Rheingold, Save A School’ just a little louder and my optimism that things will slowly evolve increases.  Thanks for being Howard and showing us that our educational systems can still be influential, even when they avoid the Almanac teaching tool.

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