A Closing Note from the Master Learner
As the Master Learner for the second Telesis Digital Ethnography Group I thought I would close our project by offering some closing thoughts on the finished product and the eleven young men and women that created it. These young people represent the future and any observations I make may be indicators of what the future holds.

First, though, I’d like share what the Digital Ethnography Working Group is all about. Digital Ethnography is a form of Participatory Anthropology specifically intended to provide learners with the opportunity to make observations about their world. This wiki is a slight twist on that idea, but that twist leads to what is most important about the DE class at Telesis: The class operates on what I believe to be the future paradigm of education.

This presents a difficult challenge I must overcome with each group. In essence, I’m trying to overcome the many years of indoctrination they have received regarding school and the role they play. My primary goal with this class is to turn students into learners; they must realize the project is their responsibility. They decide the direction, set the time frame, and recognize they have sole responsibility for meeting them. My role is to advise and assist as necessary. I assist with technical issues, offer advice when asked, make occasional general observations, and monitor the project like Schrödinger and his cat.

We modify the traditional teacher/student relationship; we blur the line that separates one from the other, thus our labels become master learner/learner and my position moves from in front to behind or beside. The emphasis is on learning instead of teaching; they assume the leadership role.

For better or worse, this wiki is their work. You may see errors in spelling and grammar; you may see places where the tone and style of the writing is a little off. It would be simple to point out the errors, but that isn’t how learning works. They have the choice to find and correct mistakes or improve the language, or not (just like in real life). The final product is the result of those decisions. Note: In their defense, I can find multiple errors on every page of our local newspaper.

Since this is a school project there must be a method to assign each learner a grade. This grade is not intended as a measurement of their learning; it’s a reflection of the product they created. In keeping with the collaborative nature of our group, we all decided how grades would be determined. Each learner will be graded on the overall quality of the site as determined by several Telesis staff members and by my assessment of the amount and/or quality of their individual work. Wikis track every change made by every learner, so I’m able to who did what. I will also take into account how certain learners assumed leadership roles that were critical to certain aspects of the wiki. My view will certainly contain some subjectivity, the group decided to trust me on that. I’m honored by their confidence.

So, what does the future hold?

If the young men and women I have worked with are examples of the next generation to assume leadership; I’m optimistic about our future. They all displayed creativity, responsibility, and enthusiasm for the challenges they faced. If I could ask one thing of our current leaders it would be to give these learners a chance to express themselves in their way not our way. I hear lots of people talking about giving our learners wings, but I don’t see many allowing them to actually spread them. This wiki is the result of attempting to allow them to spread their wings. Like any new flier they fell down sometimes; but it’s not whether they fall, it’s whether they get back up. These learners never stayed down. They made mistakes, but their ideas and creativity can be seen throughout this site.

Observing how the site grew; how the very simple first pages became increasingly interactive. As the group members gained knowledge about their topics, their pages expanded and the links grew. They became involved the ideas they were exploring. Opinions were formed and many were moved to take action outside class. Many learners became citizens, active members of society trying to make changes that could affect us all. A campaign to outlaw texting has gained a number of supporters based upon knowledge gained through their research. An important lesson about citizenship and personal power created an activist.

In closing, I’d like to thank my group, the many staff members that offered suggestions, the support received from our parents, and the school leaders that allowed us to form this group. It’s an ongoing process defining the continuing purpose of this class and I hope Telesis continues to offer Digital Ethnography. I also hope my colleagues throughout the world of education will follow the example we've created. The nature of our profession must adapt to the challenges of the 21st Century by creating an environment of collaboration between both sides of the classroom. The traditional teacher/student relationship must be replaced by blurring the line that separates us; master learners and learners must work together to create something that more accurately reflects the world they will be working and living in. Technology is not the end, but a means to the end. It is the forum within which they will be working and living.