Seen at a school information night.
Any information parents want to give the school which would be helpful for the student’s educational placement, needs to be addressed to the grade level counselor, and received no later than…
I wonder if I should submit a response like this…
My child needs active, engaging, teachers who work with technology as a platform for instruction, extension, investigation, revelation, inspiration, engagement, collaboration, innovation, authentic experience creation, and connection to the world. He needs teachers who won’t assume that learning results from assigning worksheets and who use homework as a leveraged investment in the educational process. He should be placed with teachers who hold themselves to the same standards they hold their students. He should be placed with teachers who have high standards without being rigid. He should be placed with teachers who have figured out that they teach kids, not subjects. He should have teachers who have been given the freedom to do all of these things by their leaders and have chosen to do so even though it may not necessarily be easy or convenient. He should be placed with teachers who value and engage in professional collaboration for the good of their kids. He should be placed with teachers who will never call themselves digital immigrants or him a digital native. He should be placed with teachers who have been given the resources they need to accomplish all this. And, he should be placed with teachers who get paid enough not to have to choose between gas and groceries.
The TxDLA has wrapped up but not before Gary Stager called himself a crackpot and gave a thought provoking presentation. The crackpot reference to himself came in the context of one who proffered so-called “crazy” ideas. I don’t know about crazy, but he definitely has some serious upstream opinions. He gave us a serious drink from the Stager firehose. In fact I’m still processing some of those ideas and deciding where I land. People like Gary Stager are like that, though. One minute I’m nodding my head in complete agreement and the next I’ve got the mental brakes pressed to the floor. Regardless, he’s a passionate educator who will leave you thinking.
Here’s some ideas from his presentation as they are filtered through my processing and frenetic note-taking. I have added the categories above the bullets for reflection more than anything else.
Stager cites a quote from Daniel Hillis’ Pattern on the Stone book [extended slightly for context]: “The computer…is a device that accelerates and extends our process of thought. It is an imagination machine, which starts with the ideas we put into it and takes them farther than we could ever have taken them on our own.”
If your classroom questions can be answered with a Google search, then let them.
Learning occurs in a community of practice where expertise is distributed.
Eliminate self serving and schizophrenic practices and policies.
We shouldn’t think of education as a competition.
Be open to emerging technologies and decentralizing tools.
The tools don’t matter unless they get in the way.
Collaboration begins at home.
We have operated on the SDSU curriculum for too long (Sit Down and Shut Up).
He routine meets kids who have never had a meaning conversation with an adult.
For faculty, collect the experts you want to study with.
Create a community of practice.
We should use technology to create authentic experiences in more domains in ways never possible before.
Stager doesn’t really care for Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and wrote an article called The Worst Book of the 21st Century – a review.
It would seem to be a little incongruous for me to have a few posts ranting against the corporate influences in our school and then write so much about a business book. Essentially, I think we must look beyond the rigid structure of American education and begin the discussions that will take us there. That’s the take-away of Pink’s book for me even though Pink never intended this book for education.
ISTE should take a stand on how computers should work.
He said something like this very quickly and got a smattering of applause. I’m not sure where he was going with this, but to generally discount the efforts of ISTE leaves me cold.
An educational revolution will not result from web 2.0.
Maybe not completely, but it certainly could provide the spark. Indeed, many have suggested it already has.
Also, I think he may have thrown a backhanded insult at those of us who consider ourselves bloggers for education, saying we are standing outside the circle of expertise. He seemed to contradict himself when he asserted that a way to join the community of practice was to learn from our [experienced] elders and emulate their behavior and practices. I’m not sure what to do with that. Maybe I should ask Karl Fisch, Wes Fryer, Alan November, George Siemens, David Thornburg, Dave Warlick, or any of the other educational leaders that write on The Pulse blog.
There’s nothing new about 21st Century Skills. They are simply the skills that rich people wanted their kids to have in the 20th century.
I would like to see a little more from him here than a simple dismissive attack.
Every course should be taught as liberal art.
He didn’t spend enough time here to give me a good picture and I’d like to know more.
More about Gary Stager so you can check it out for yourself…
Dave Carey, a POW in Vietnam from 1967-1972, spoke today using the analogy of his life in captivity as lessons for educators. As a side note, he wasn’t actually at the conference here in Galveston, but delivered his presentation via videoconferencing technology from Austin. I thought that was a great way to spotlight that kind of technology at a Distance Learning Conference. (Harriet gives her take on the talk as well.)
He prefaced his talk by saying he is most often asked variations on the question: “How did you do it?” As he spoke, he repeated several main points (among others) that translate to our journey as educators.
Do what you have to do.
Fix the communications.
Decide to grow as a result of and through your experiences.
Keep the faith in each other and beyond yourself.
Learn from each other.
Use your sense of humor.
He mentioned that we initially may think that we, as educators, may not have a whole lot in common with POW’s and their struggle, but he repeatedly brought his story back to us and illustrated the connections. At the beginning he referenced that his captors firmly believed in the divide-and-conquer through isolation and the prisoner’s way through that was to develop a system of communication so they could share and transmit their common knowledge and experiences. The POW’s, used their collected knowledge, simply, to survive. They relied on the experiences and knowledge of everyone to educate, entertain, and, even in a POW camp, grow. It’s a great illustration of how a community of connected individuals united under a common purpose does more than just survive.
Today I’m attending the Texas Distance Learning Association Conference in beautiful Galveston, Texas. Alan November delivered the opening keynote and had a follow-up breakout session. At both presentations he
rather strongly suggested insisted that we redefine student roles in the classroom. I have included an excerpt from his page below.
Student as Contributor: Digital Learning Farm
Before tractors and combines, more that 60% of the population in North America was involved in farming. Today less than 2% lives of the population works on farms. Farm children made a vital contribution to the family with real chores. While technology eventually eroded the meaningful work of children, we have enough technology today to restore the dignity of real work in school. All of our students can use collaborative online tools and research and global communications skills to add value to the learning community.These contributions include:
* Curriculum Review Team
* Tutorial Creation/Organizing/Design Team
* Global Communication Team
* Official Scribes
* Resource Finders
* Technical Editors
If you are unfamiliar with Alan November, I would encourage you to check out the November Learning website and all the resources there. I’ve already registered for his Building Learning Communities Conference in July. Alan is crazy. I heard him say so today. And you know crazy people have dangerous, sometimes blasphemous ideas. The excerpt above makes
myhis point. That’s dangerous stuff when you think about it. Are we ready to have kids do those things? (For an expansion on those ideas, check out TxDLA’s “blogstress” Harriet Watkins’ post about the keynote.)
As for his blasphemy, he suggested we actually let kids use Wikipedia with all its errors and unreliability! Only he took the insanity one step further when he suggested that we use that type of technology to give our students a global platform for publishing, commenting, and idea refinement. That kind of crazy talk will surely have some reaching for their benzodiazepines. (If you are going to click on that link to see what that word means, you are risking your educational sanity by using an unreliable source even if you get everything you need to know in the first sentence. You’ve been warned!)
Maybe we only want to give lip service to this whole 21st Century Learning stuff. Alan doesn’t. He made his doctoral students actually contribute to a Wikipedia article for their peers to review. Wow! I want to be crazy like Alan November!
Boy: “Dad, why do I have to take the CSAP tests this week and next week?”
Dad: “Son, the CSAP tests are part of the Colorado Student Assessment Program and, look here, the law says so, ‘Every student enrolled in a public school shall be required to take the (state) assessments (in the content areas and grades administered). – Colorado Revised Statutes [22-7-409(1.2.a.1.d.I)].’”
Boy: “When will I know how I did?”
Dad: “Four or five months from now.”
Boy: “When I’m in the next grade? Will my new teacher tell me how I did?”
Dad: “Well, they send the Performance Report home and the results get stored in a data warehouse that your teacher has access to.”
Boy: “If I do well, how will that help me in school?”
Dad: “It won’t; it shows your teacher, school, and district did a good job. It helps them.”
Boy: “What if I don’t do well?”
Dad: “Well, they might put you in a different class to help you get better.”
Boy: “With other kids who didn’t do well? You know, some kids just write anything in their tests. Will any teachers want to teach that class? It sounds like a tough job.”
Dad: “I’m sure the teacher will do her best.”
Boy: “Our principal came on the announcement speaker and said we should get lots of rest and eat a good breakfast the day of the test. How come he only says that during testing time? Is it okay to stay up and skip breakfast the rest of the school year?”
Dad: “No, you…”
Boy: “And how come we don’t have any homework for the testing weeks? My teacher said it’s because they want us to concentrate on our work. How come we don’t do that all the time?”
Dad: “Well, see…”
Boy: “I kinda like testing time. We actually don’t do that much work in class for almost two whole weeks. And I can’t wait until I get to my junior year in high school. Those kids don’t have to come in until noon because the freshmen and sophomores are testing all morning. Except one day when only sophomores take the Science test. And some kids’ parents say they don’t have to take the test. Our principal says that those kids’ tests count against our school.”
Dad: “That last part is true, but it may be changing.”
Boy: “Do the teachers still get paid for not teaching those weeks?”
Dad: “Yes, it’s part of their jobs.”
Boy: “Wouldn’t they rather be teaching?”
Dad: “Without a doubt. But some people say this will help them teach better.”
Boy: “But our teacher says that our 5th grade class will be compared to next year’s 5th grade class. Is that right? I mean, we’re pretty smart but the fourth graders are a bunch of booger pickers.”
Dad: “Um, the State is working on that. They are trying to look at how you do and, hopefully, improve each year.”
Boy: “That makes sense. How come they haven’t been doing that all along?”
Dad: “What else have you been told about the CSAP tests?”
Boy: “Somebody named Nickelbee made the schools give us all these tests. We have one or two administrators who are in charge of the tests and some secretaries that help sort and bubble the outside of the tests with information about us and if we finished the tests. In fact, we had a visit from a nice lady from the district office who says her only job is to coordinate all the tests the kids in the district take. She’s nice, but I think she likes numbers a little too much.”
Dad: “Now be nice. You know if a teacher messes up and give the wrong test or a kid goes ahead, she gets blamed?”
Boy: “When you add up all the teachers, support staff and secretaries, paraprofessionals, building adminstrators, district administrators and support staff, and all the people at the state level, and all the paid test graders, for all the 477,000+ kids in grades 3-10 in all the schools in all the districts in the entire state and multiply that by the three or four tests each kid must take over multiple days, that seems like lots of time and money.”
Boy: “Dad, is it worth it and where does all that money go?”
Passion. Called to the profession. Inspired by another teacher. Making a difference.
Those are the top reasons the book study participants gave today when I asked them to tell their story and frame it within the question of why they got into education. Empathy, chapter 7, in A Whole New Mind contains a portfolio section called Empathize on the Job. In activity #2 How Did I Get Here? Dan Pink writes “Sometimes you work near people for years but have little idea about the path that brought them alongside you.” So today I asked. We, at the request of the group, modified the activity and had each person tell his/her own story to the whole group. I took notes on one side of a notecard and listened for themes in each person’s story. The dominant ones are at the top of this post. The word passion came out of every story directly, simply, plainly, and unflinchingly. This, from a group that ranges in experience from only a few years to 20+.
I wasn’t surprised about passion, being influenced by another teacher, or making a difference. Those seem to be very common bonds among educators. The other, called to the profession, surprised me a little. Many in the room spoke about being called to the profession, having it in their blood, or simply knowing from an early age they were supposed to be in education. More than one took a circuitous path, some resisting, but we all ended up here. It seems to be somewhat anachronistic, especially in today’s postmodern technological realm, to respond to a call.
This identification of purpose or meaning (Chapter 9) resonates and grounds people, making them unshakable stalwarts. Passion permeates what they do, who they are. Not all educators reside here, but the ones who do simply radiate and attract kids (and adults) to themselves. It’s not out of ego or grandiosity; it’s their quality. The same thing happens when the sunrise stops us or a piece of poetry gives us pause. We cannot really quantify it, but we can see its results. Kids, other staff, parents, even you know who these people are.
The ones who answer their calling are not limited to education, but few other vocations so poignantly intertwine people and purpose, message and meaning, wisdom and wonder. Can we teach kids to answer a call regardless of vocation? I’m not sure, but we can prepare them to be ready, receptive, and reflective. The purpose of education starts there.