Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let's look at IVAN ILLICH again... "Learning Webs" and BIBPenpals

It has been a while since I looked at Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich.

The book can be downloaded in pieces from here and you can get a summary on Wikipedia here.

Illich called for "learning webs" ...  here is a section of Deschooling Society that is quoted in the Wikipedia article:

The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.

A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.

I find this passage from Deschooling Society helpful in supporting the efforts to use social media in schools.  That's one of the reasons why I advocate using and to connect students in different countries.

The program "BIB PENPALS" continues to need support.  Posting notices on blogs and links to the youtube channel have resulted in just three U.S. students connecting with three students from other countries.   Donations are needed to pay for a marketing campaign to:

a) put posters on walls in schools (nothing says "DO THIS" like a poster)
b) distribute pens and other advertising specialities in schools to remind teachers about the availability of hundreds of students waiting to connect on Skype and via social media (primarily Facebook) 
c) respond to the dozens of students that I hear from each week.  This would mean hiring a college student to push 

<<< Wilson

Thank you for listening (and taking time to learn about the connection of BIBPenpals to the work of educational pioneers).  For more information about Building International Bridges, the non-profit charity that aims to reduce obstacles to intercultural communication, visit   The first photo is Joe and the second photo shows Wilson.  They are students in Brazil who want tro practice English by Skype.  Their teacher, Paloma, arranged for this connection.   You can contact Joe and Wilson through Paloma at paloma_ortegas BAT hotmail DOT com.   To avoid attracting spammers, the @ has been replaced by BAT and the dot by BOT.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The power of parents in transforming education

In June 2011 I wrote to the director of a lycĂ©e (high school) in France.  I asked a local dentist to contact the director.  I visited the office and left a letter.  The answer:  "We are too busy to give you a tour of our school.  Our teachers are too busy to spend time meeting with you."

In September 2012 I visited the same town and left a packet of information at the same lycee.   No reply.

However, I explained the situation to a local mother and she went to the primary school and asked the director to meet with me.   The director introduced me to Anne Noisette, an English speaking teacher.  That's the power of a parent.

Here is another story (in Italy):

I spoke to Giovanni's head teacher this morning, Professora X. from the Scuole B.  She was taking down notes while I was introducing your projects and she was very interested even though we didn't spend a lot together.
Prof. X. is interested to meet you on Skype maybe with the English tutor and discuss together about having the internet in the classroom  always available (we don't have it yet as a habit); 
She also wants to review your system of teaching i.e. "A GuideOnTheSide" system that you suggest, the peer -to- peer teaching, free access to e-books, etc.
I mentioned her the 3 main points that you put in the Big Picture book:
a) Robert Reich (it is not necessary to teach the same subjects that we learned 50 years ago)
b)  grades and narratives  (it is better to ask a teacher to write two pages of words instead of giving only a single letter "A" or "B")
c)  tests and exhibitions  (it is better to ask a student to stand and talk about what he knows instead of asking only for writing)
And then I spoke just a very brief intro about the space project.  (Students today need a BIG GOAL that they can all work together to achieve).
 ..that is a huge one and it's good you may introduce and expand yourself when you contact Professora X.  through the web.
I left her also the sheets to photocopy and put into the classrooms (to discuss the quotations), the Dennis Littky book and all the CDs to copy .  I hope they will contact you soon!
Something interesting she says: it is more difficult to engage the young teachers to change rather than older teachers, since the more experienced teachers are more confident and conscious.  The newer teachers are more scared about losing their authority...

That is the power of a personal visit to a school by a parent.  That's the power of the parent.   

I invite parents to go to the directors of their children's schools and ask the directors to visit and the International Network of Educators (INoE) at 

Send me your invitations at

The photo is added to give casual readers something to look at... and because the mother in Bologna made this dish (excellent photo, Isa!)