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Top: Thomas Edison, Alan Turing, Nikolas Tesla Middle: Walt Disney, Mary Cassatt, Marie Curie Bottom: Galileo Galilei, Claude Monet, Albert Einstein
What are the characteristics of an apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci? First, the people above would all qualify as apprentices of Leonardo. All of them grew up in a world of conformity, established beliefs, and standards. All challenged the established beliefs and traditions. Each one was ridiculed, smeared, or shunned. You see, traditions and conformity go hand in hand. Once accepted, anyone who confronts the established validity, framework, or rules is no longer accepted by the masses.
Each above approached his work and then asked a simple question, “What if. . .” It is not just the question(s) they asked it’s the action they all took. They all shifted 90 degrees, and as strange as it seems, their actions caused the rest of the world to eventually accept and benefit from their ideas, visions, and dreams.
My personal 90-degree shift occurred back in 1995. It started with a simple question, “What if my students could collaborate with another school, in another state, on a science project–online?” My school, Don Bosco Technical Institute, in 1995, did not yet have the Internet. But I did on my personal account with AOL. I contacted AOL and asked if we could set up an electronic schoolhouse. I helped to develop the format, and then launched my program, “Space Island’s.” I developed a project that involved a virtual space station orbiting earth. Each participating school would have its own lab onboard to conduct experiments. In 1995, websites were still rare and all communication was done via emails and FTP settings.
By 1996, the program had gone viral with 2.3 million students and teachers in forty nations, ranging from elementary schools to universities. In that same year, the U.S. Congress placed my program into the Library of Congress as a historical event. It was documented as the first successfully launched long distant educational program ever completed online. Today, many universities and educational institutions benefit from online distant learning, and it all began with a question.
In 2005, I had two new questions. “What if educators, who are trained to teach, actually were given the chance to do just that?” Question number two, “What would happen if educators took back the reigns from businesses and politicians that now run education?” In that year, Leonardo’s Apprentice was born.
Leonardo’s Apprentice is about taking a 90 degree shift from the present course we have all been put on by both politicians and big business and giving control back to where it belongs, with the educators. It’s about giving the professional educator the respect and right to plan the strategies of engaging student learning. This is not about creating a new model or template. It is about generating visions, ideas and action that will bring efficacy to future generations. Generations who, in turn, will learn to make their own 90 degree shifts.
The upcoming series will not be a monologue but a dialogue of exchanges. Exchange of ideas, questions, doubts, and most importantly–movement! It will all start by taking the 90 degree shift from conformity and tradition into exploration and discovery. The first dialog will be on, “How To Engage Students.” I look forward to our future discussions and sharing your ideas and visions. Begin by leaving a comment or questions below and registering your email for my future book, “Making A 90 Degree Shift: Learning how to become a Leonardo’s Apprentice Educator.”
Question: What does a 15th Century oil painting have to do with the development of NASA’s Augmented Reality iPad App?
I’m always interested in the connections that today’s digital devices have with history. Take for example, NASA’s Augmented Reality App (http://bit.ly/GA82dS). Imagine printing a simple image from your inkjet printer. Then placing the printed paper on your desk, and then turning on your NASA app and iPad camera to scan the printed image on the desk (fig. 1). Suddenly, as if by magic, up pops up a model of the Mar’s Rover, with the appearance of taking up space and volume, but no weight!? (fig. 2). Finally, you have the ability to pick up the model and view it from 360 degrees, as well as animate many of its functions (activating its’ antenna, or moving it a few degrees.) (see figures 1-3)
Fig 1. Printed paper being scanned by iPad camera
Fig 3: Rover can be turned and viewed in 360 degrees.
As I viewed the image on my iPad and enjoyed the ability to see a 3D image that I could move and maneuver in the palm of my hand I marveled with the science fiction I was playing with. In the palm of my hand was the result of years of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and yet, one crucial element in history had been overlooked. In order to appreciate the full visual affect I was enjoying with this Augmented Reality App I wondered if this was the same wonderment experienced by the few people who saw Filippo Brunelleschi’s painting of the Baptistry in Florence, Italy, 600 years ago. Brunelleschi was a man who was an engineer, architect, artisan, mathematician, and inventor.
Prior to Brunelleschi’s work, artist’s painted and drew in a flat plane with figures that had no weight and sometimes seemed to float in space. Perspective was not important. For example, the castle in the painting (Left) looks like some child’s doll house with no depth, no perspective. The three figures behind the churchman also seem to have no order of depth–no perspective.
Brunelleschi’s work would literally change history and how people would view the world because of rediscovered geometry called “linear perspective.” Without linear perspective today’s video games, movies, holographic projections, virtual reality, and apps like Augmented Reality would not exist. Brunelleschi was the first to introduced the geometry that would gave way to these discoveries and inventions. Using a mirror, he was able to understand how all lines converged to one point. Mapping this information out on a canvas he painted the Baptistry building in Florence, Italy. People were encouraged to view the painting by looking through a hole made at the bottom of the canvas and placing a half mirror at a distance (see figure below) that would reflect the artists work and then give view to the real building. The whole experience had a wow affect. This new discovery would change how artists would paint, and even how maps were to be made. In effect, our 21st Century GPS also has its history to this same event in history. Art is another form of recording data and information, and yet it is many times over looked and shoved aside due to bias and ignorance.
Leonardo da Vinci said, “There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown Those who do not see.” It’s important to remember we see and think in images not words. Technology won’t motivate, but Art has the power to motivate and create, and in the end, isn’t that what we, as educators, are striving for, ways to motivate and encourage our students?
Would you consider a pencil a tool? If you said yes, then it should have its own rubric along with the rest of the technology requirements being given to students today.
I had some fun putting this rubric quickly together. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but so is the idea that technology will motivate students. The 16mm films didn’t do it, nor the filmstrips, even with sound; and when television and VCR’s were put into the classroom that technology didn’t motivate students. VCR were eventually replaced with DVD’s with the same results. Computers are common place today, students are quite comfortable with iPads and e-books. But, math scores are still low, reading is still average, and students are dropping out of school at all levels.
Bill Ferriter, who runs his own blog, recently did a simple hand drawing on the topic, “What do you want kids to do with technology?”, and posted on the Net (which got a pretty good response.) He pointed out that today’s students are motivated by opportunities created by the students not the technology they are using. I agree, and add that the mighty little pencil is still being used by the top designer, architects, and computer leaders today.
Interesting enough during the 1960’s, NASA spent $12 million dollars to develop a pen that could be used in zero gravity. Those pens were eventually sold by Fisher Pens and called, “Fisher Space Pens.” I remember buying one, it cost $1.98, which was expensive at that time. Meanwhile, our competitor for the space race, Russia, invested in pencils and mechanical pencils, and saved millions of dollars. Considering there is no place on our planet that has zero G, unless you are falling out of an airplane and writing your Will on the way down, there is no way a Space Pen can give you any clear advantages or better grades. But, better grades was one of Fisher’s selling points, along with the ability to close sales, think clearly, and clear up acne (Okay, the last one wasn’t in the original marketing makeup).
So, if you agree that a Space Pen, or any pen or pencil will not help you get better grades, what makes you think buying a computer, iPad, or e-book will? Some might say, “Today’s technology has access to the World Wide Web, Multimedia, it’s interactive, it has the ability to cross communicate with all kinds of digital devices, it’s…it’s…it’s a tool!” In the end, it’s simply a tool. I’m open to comments, send them.
- Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms
- against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.”
- Macbeth, Shakespeare
- Interesting enough when a change occurs it is not the change that causes attention, but the future results because of that change. Back on March 18, 1997, the science and technology committee, assembled by President Clinton, finished their 80 page report (Becker, H.J. et al., 1997) called, “Report to the President on the Use of Technology to Strengthen K-12 Education in the United States.” The report carefully outlined all the issues and problems that would face educators to implement any technology program(s) into their schools. So, I am not sure if it was news pressure or political agenda, but after the report was made public, President Clinton in 1998, increased resources for educational technology by over 3,000 Percent, including training over 600,000 new teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom. The training was at best at the level of ‘computer literacy.’ The edict was given with no instructions on how to implement technology based programs into the classroom, or by what weight success would be measured. Interesting enough, no one seemed to read the last sentence of the report, which read, “The Panel does not, however, recommend that the deployment of technology within America’s schools be deferred pending the completion of such research.”
- With no weights or objectives given to educators from the government other than ‘make it happen,’ the conditions were now set for the Bush Administration on how to find and develop accountability.
- In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, and Standardized testing became the benchmark panacea for all Federal programs including STEM. Since then, many of the online STEM software companies have developed either their own benchmarks for STEM or have developed their software programs under NCLB policies. In either case, after 20 years and billions of dollars spent on implementing technology into the classroom arena, the United States report card from PISA² is still showing average readers, and below average test scores in mathematics and the sciences. Back to Hamlet “…or not to be that is the question.”
- Therefore, do we answer the question of “to be” by having our children, our future, suffer the slings and arrows of a political agenda that has had twenty years to prove itself, and hasn’t; or, do we now face the reality of blunders and mismanagement and oppose it by developing new entrepreneur solutions ? The apprentice of Leonardo seeks to develop alternative solutions. Acta non verba!
- Becker, H. J., Shaw, D. E., Bransford, J. D., Davidson, J., Hawkins, J., Malcom, S., … Young, J. (1997, March). Report to the President on the use of technology to strengthen K-12 education in the United States [Scholarly project]. In Technreporttopresident. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from http://tacticalthinkers.com/technology/Teacher %20Resources/technreporttopresident.html
- ² Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/pisa_19963777